October 22, 2020
Tamara Lush likes to write in coffee shops and she may or may not be eavesdropping on you to get snippets of conversations to ramp up the sinister. At the least, she might take note of the unique way you sip your cappuccino.
The pandemic has put a crimp on her ability to hang out with convivial folks at places like St. Petersburg’s Kahwa, Black Crow or Bandit, but like everyone in this high-speed connected world, she is making due virtually. Lush gets her café ambiance fix from Coffivity, an app that re-creates the sounds of espresso machines and clattering coffee talk. She launches the app, puts in the buds and starts writing to the sounds of a Parisian café.
It all makes sense since Lush’s latest book Grounds for Murder (Crooked Lane, 2020) is the first in her Coffee Lover’s Mystery series.
Lush is a longtime journalist who by day (and often nights and weekends) covers Florida news for the Associated Press. Several years ago she took a detour in her spare time and began writing romance novels. Now, after 15 novels dripping with love and sex she’s turned her attention to mystery novels dripping with caffeine and intrigue.
Grounds for Murder, which she has written as Tara Lush as not to confuse her romance book fans, will be published in early December and is available for pre-order. The genre is what’s called a “cozy mystery,” which means no sex, no swearing and plenty of happily-ever-after. The heroine and amateur sleuth is laid-off Miami journalist Lana Lewis who returns to the fictitious Florida island town Devil’s Beach (think Sanibel) to take over the aptly named Perkatory, her late mother’s café.
Murder, mayhem and mocha lattes ensue. There’s a little romance too but for now, no recipes.
Many writers of romance and mystery novels set in bakeries, cafes and restaurants include recipes in their books. (Lucy Burdette sets her food critic mystery series books in real and imagined restaurants all over Key West and was interviewed on the Zest in 2019.) Lush said that readers love getting the scoop on how to make the pies and fancy drinks mentioned in stories and she is considering adding recipes to upcoming books.
Lush is a coffee drinker but more research was needed to bring the details of Perkatory to life. As a journalist, Lush knows how to gather information for stories and she puts those skills to use in her books with first-hand reporting.
She managed to squeeze in a tour with St. Pete Coffee before the pandemic changed the business landscape. The tour took her to several cafés where she got educated not only on the care that goes into roasting beans and making a decent cup of Joe but also the creativity needed to conjure coffee drinks that include savory herbs and floating dried flowers.
Though just starting to percolate again, the vibrant Tampa Bay coffee scene has been full of inspiration for Lush. Readers of Grounds for Murder will find evidence of that throughout the book.
Lush’s website features information about all her books and a sign-up for a free mystery newsletter that includes news of her own work and a list of what she’s reading.
Explore The Zest
Host: Janet Keeler
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Tamera Lush