When I met M.M. Choinaurd, and heard about her book THE DANCING GIRLS, I knew I had to spread word about this crime thriller series and its amazing heroine. The second book, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order on Amazon:
When Jeanine Hammond is found dead in a hotel in the picture-perfect town of Oakhust, newly-promoted Detective Jo Fournier is thrown into a disturbing case. Who would murder this shy, loving wife and leave her body posed like a ballerina?
Jo wants to know why Jeanine’s husband is so controlling about money, and where Jeanine’s wedding ring is, but before she and her team can get close to the truth, another woman is found strangled in a hotel, arms placed gracefully above her head like a dancer.
While digging through old case files, Jo makes a terrifying link to a series of cold cases: each victim bears the same strangulation marks. But the FBI won’t take Jo seriously, and if she disobeys direct orders by investigating the killings outside of her jurisdiction, it will mean the end of the career she’s already sacrificed so much for, even her relationship.
Just as Jo is beginning to lose hope, she finds messages on the victims’ computers that make her question whether these small-town women were hiding big lies. Jo thinks this is the missing link, but she knows the murderer is moments away from selecting his next victim. Will it lead her to the most twisted killer of her career in time, or will another innocent life be lost?
When a girl’s body is discovered in a park in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Oakhurst, local detective Jo is shocked to the core. Because the girl is the second innocent victim to turn up dead in three days. And just like the first, a tarot card has been left by the body. The meaning of the card: betrayal.
After uncovering a series of threatening messages targeting the girl, a student at the university, and the first victim, her teacher, Jo thinks she’s locked the killer in her crosshairs. The primary suspect is a volatile ex-military student with an axe to grind for failing grades, and the frightened town is out for his blood. But the next day, a much-loved member of the community is found dead in her home, a tarot card in her mail. There’s no clear motive to link her death to the others, and the message on the card this time is even stranger: domestic bliss.
With a fourth body and card appearing the following day, Jo knows she’s running out of time to crack the code and bring the killer to justice. And the pressure only gets worse with heart-breaking news about Jo’s father forcing her to choose between helping her family heal or the victims’ families get justice. Can Jo find the twisted murderer sending the town into a panic before another life is lost? Or this time, will the dangerous killer find her first?
You are the owner and operator of Lacquer Or Leave Her!, a nail polish and nail art blog. What originally got you interested in nail art?
I’ve always loved nail polish, to the point where an ex-boyfriend teased me once that my nails were only ever without polish for the time it took me to remove and reapply. Fast forward years to me as a professor working such crazy long hours and combine that with a niece who started sending me all sorts IG photos and YouTube videos of cool nail art. I’d given up all the artistic outlets in my life because of the hours I was working, so nail art seemed like a relatively low-time investment artistic outlet. I discovered nail stamping and it became a first step on my journey to find balance.
A journey to find balance is definitely relatable. I love the character of Jo Fournier in THE DANCING GIRLS. Did Jo come to you fully formed or did she develop as you wrote her?
I’m so glad you like her! She developed over time, or rather, she revealed herself to me over time. My first attempt to write a detective was influenced by the ones I’d fallen in love with as a young girl—Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, etc—mostly males. But as I wrote my male detective, I struggled to write one that interested me and that I wanted to spend time with—and if I didn’t want to spend time with them, my readers certainly wouldn’t. I stepped back and thought it through with the help of my critique group, and realized that as much as I loved those characters, I didn’t connect with them on a personal level the way I did with my favorite PI, Kinsey Millhone. So, I switched gears and wrote a woman detective, one who struggles with issues more in line with those that professional women deal with (at least, in my experience). While her specific struggles are different than mine, the more I write her, the more I believe they share something universal with the choices all woman have to make, and with the societal pressures on women. Jo’s specific struggle to find balance is different than mine, but the general struggle is universal across women—we all have to decide how many of our very limited hours we’re going to spend on career, family, self-care, and we all have to deal with the consequences of those choices. But despite those struggles, I also wanted to write a woman who was damned good at her job without turning into a mega ball-breaking bitch in the process; I think that’s an unfortunate corner many women are backed into if they want to be taken seriously. And as I write her, Jo teaches me something new in each book about what strength really means, and how much more powerful it is when paired with compassion.
Wonderfully put! You’ve also published flash fiction pieces. What do you like most about writing within a smaller story space?
I love the time I get to take on each word in the story. It’s like a puzzle you’re trying to solve, trying to get as much impact into every word as possible. I love reading a flash piece that takes a just a few minutes to read but stays with me for days—flash pieces are like stealth punches in the gut!—so trying to craft that myself is a lovely challenge. And it’s a fun way to use ideas I have that won’t work for a whole novel.
It is indeed! What are some of your current projects?
My second book in the Detective Jo Fournier series, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order. I also have a traditional mystery about a woman who solves her late husband’s murder—and two others—with the help of an enchanted tarot deck that I’m trying to find a home for. And I’m currently writing a stand-alone thriller about a mysterious old-school text adventure game that appears on the dark web and turns out to have clues the players must hunt down in the real world—to deadly consequence, of course.
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