Nov 7 2017 3:00pm

Q&A with Ellen Crosby, Author of The Vineyard Victims

Read this exclusive Q&A with Ellen Crosby, author of the Wine Country Mystery series, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Vineyard Victims!

Ellen Crosby is back with another Wine Country Mystery! Beginning with The Merlot Murders, Lucie Montgomery returns for her eighth mystery in The Vineyard Victims (out today!), where the death of a former presidential candidate in a fiery car crash at her Virginia vineyard has ties to a 30-year-old murder, as well as to Lucie Montgomery’s own near-fatal accident ten years ago, as she searches for a killer who now may be stalking her.

Recently, Ellen took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about her latest book, the transformation from economist to novelist, and what she's currently reading in this exclusive Q&A!

If you could team Lucie up with any other detective, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

If I could team Lucie up with any other detective, it would be Jessica Fletcher. Years ago, when I first showed up on the doorstep of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg, Virginia, to ask Juanita Swedenburg, the late owner, if she’d be willing to teach me about the business of growing grapes and making wine because I wanted to set a murder mystery at a vineyard, she said yes because she was a huge fan of the Murder, She Wrote series. I never forgot that statement and was glad that, years later, I was able to tell Donald Bain, who wrote the books (and sadly just passed away), about Jessica Fletcher’s influence on my wine country mysteries.

See also: Donald Bain: A Personal Remembrance

So the eponymous victim is a presidential candidate with a billion-dollar real estate operation. That seems pretty timely. Was that your intention, or does life just have a way of imitating art? What is your brainstorming process/how do you come up with those ideas?

A lot of celebrities own vineyards—including several in Virginia—so this seemed like a good vein to mine in my Wine Country series. When I first got the idea for The Vineyard Victims, Donald Trump hadn’t even decided to run for president—and Jamie Vaughn not only loses the election, but he dies under mysterious circumstances in Chapter 1. So art quickly stopped imitating life!

As for “brainstorming,” I’m always on the lookout for ideas; I keep a notebook with me wherever I go and am constantly jotting down my thoughts or someone’s comments or something I read or see that intrigues me. Invariably, my saved string sparks an idea, and I find I’ve got enough to germinate into a possible plot. Next, I head to the library and check out any book I can find on the subject—that usually leads to even more ideas, and it goes on from there.

What was the transition like from economist on Capitol Hill to freelance journalist to author? What draws you to crime fiction?

It was totally random and completely unplanned. I quit my job as an economist on the Hill when my journalist husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, many years ago. Suddenly, I had a lot of free time on my hands and a one-year-old at home. To keep out of trouble—when I wasn’t working on learning French—I thought I’d try writing a novel. How hard could it be, right? It took 16 years and a segue into journalism before my first book was published in 2001 in London, and another five years before my next book was published in the US.

As to what draws me to crime fiction: in this day and age, when there is so much uncertainty and unease and people are anxious about what’s happening around them, I like writing about a world where there are justice and goodness, and people are punished for their wrongdoings.

What is the significance of setting your novels in Virginia?

Though I was born in Boston, I have lived in Virginia long enough to call it home. It’s a beautiful and history-rich state, and I can’t imagine setting my series anywhere else. 

What's your favorite line from The Vineyard Victims and why?

“My mother warned me to stay away from bad boys even before I started dating, but she’d married one herself—my father—and, as they say, apples don’t fall too far from the tree.”

Read an excerpt from The Vineyard Victims!

It’s the first line of the book; I’ve always believed you’ve got to have a dynamite opening line because that’s what everyone reads first—hopefully, it’s what hooks them and makes them decide they have to continue reading.

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I want them to be extremely tired and grumpy because they stayed up all night reading my book, which they simply couldn’t put down.

What would be your murder weapon of choice?

What else? Poisoned wine!

What are you currently reading?

The Planets by Dava Sobel and The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee (the latter recommended by Barbara Peters of The Poisoned Pen, when I was at the bookstore last year for The Champagne Conspiracy).

I just blurbed a new book that will be out from Minotaur next year called Murder at the Mill by M. B. Shaw, which I loved. And when I was in Toronto for the Bouchercon mystery conference a few weeks ago, I picked up several new books from the Sleuth of Baker Street, including Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn (whom I met in Toronto as well). Since I used to live in Switzerland near where the book is set, it’s right up my alley.

Are there any TV shows you're currently watching?

The Good Doctor, a new show on ABC, which is, interestingly, based on a South Korean television series. The main character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, is an American surgical resident who happens to be autistic and also has savant syndrome. My youngest son is autistic and works at a medical research laboratory—like Shaun Murphy, he has an amazing memory for certain things and remembers facts and events my husband and I have long forgotten.

Freddie Highmore, who plays the main character, is actually British and lives in the same part of north London where my family and I lived for 5 years. He’s only 25, and he’s also one of the show’s producers.

Describe The Vineyard Victims in five words or less.

Ex-presidential candidate dies, trouble follows.

Take a visual tour of The Vineyard Victims with GIFnotes!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your username appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your username appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Vineyard Victims Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/11/qa-with-ellen-crosby-author-of-the-vineyard-victims-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 7, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET November 14, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mystery series, which began with The Merlot Murders. She has also written a mystery series featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, and Moscow Nights, a standalone. Previously she was a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Eric starker
2. starkeee
Sounds like a great read - would love a chance to win!
Nora-Adrienne Deret
5. NoraA
Of course Virginia has wines... In fact Rita Mae Brown's character put land into grapes for extra income.

I'd love to win your book and add it to my sub collection of books that take place in wine country.
Sue Farrell
6. Suekey12
I really enjoy the wine country settings.
Michael Carter
7. rubydog
Looks good!
Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks ---
Autumn Trapani
8. aut1063@gmail.com
This sounds like a fun read. Thank you for the giveaway!
9. nellgirl
looking forward to reading this one!
10. janedoe
Interview was interesting and already love this series.
11. Carl Scott
I agree, Donald Bain's recent passing was very sad, but he left us with some great stories. This series sounds excellent I'd love to win a copy of this book. Thanks.
ellie lewis
12. italia
Wonderful series. This mystery sounds intriguing.
pearl berger
13. beach
Fabulous series which I would enjoy.
Pearl Berger
14. Sunshine
Enjoyed the interview and this book is captivating.
Darlene Slocum
16. darandsam
It seems that I would enjoy this book and probably would continue to follow the series.
Jacki Robertson
18. 1228jcr
Jacki R.
Have loved the other books in this series and can't wait to read this newest one.
Jacki Robertson
18. 1228jcr
Jacki R.
Have loved the other books in this series and can't wait to read this newest one.
L Peters
19. leepcat
sounds like a really interesting book. can't wait to read it. thanks
Lori Provenzano
20. Mountainesque
I'd be pleased to pernoctate with your books. Already have the tired and grumpy part down pat, and the satisfaction of having finished a great read would be bonus!
John Smith
23. jsmith2jsmith
"Vineyard Victims" looks good! And "The Planets" has an incredible cover!
Barbara Bolam
25. Toodles
This sounds like a "must read" book and being familiar with Virginia makes it that much more interesting.
Barbara Bolam
26. Toodles
This sounds like a "must read" book and being familiar with Virginia makes it that much more interesting.
Jackie Wisherd
27. JackieW
Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.
susan beamon
28. susanbeamon
I like wine. I used to drink lots of it. Now I like books even more This one needs to be in my library.
Jennifer Hodges
31. ViolinGeek
Ah! Wine and mystery! What could be better?
Richard Brandt
32. rsbrandt44
Well, life could have imitated life just a LITTLE more.
Pat Dupuy
33. Pat D
Wine. Murder. Virginia. I don't think we need too much more. Looking forward to reading this book!
34. maryc
Looking forward to reading the latest Vineyard mystery.
36. Polly Barlow
"The Vineyard Victims" sounds like a great addition to the Wine Country Mysteries. I do want to read the latest by Ellen Crosby.
Susan Morris
37. Samfor3
Thank you for the chance to win a copy of "The Vineyard Victims".
Marisa Young
38. Risa
Love the Wine Country mysteries. Can't wait for this one.
Joyce Lokitus
39. Joyce710113
So much I enjoy about your books, but probably most would be the vineyard element and the characters, and I also enjoy the Murder She Wrote books so that was interesting to read your connection.
Suzanne Timmsen
43. bowlinsuzy
You are an author that is keeping us moving to new places.
Kristi Beard
44. KBeard
I always love a good read and winning is a plus! Thanks :)
Kristi Beard
44. KBeard
I always love a good read and winning is a plus! Thanks :)
Jane Schwarz
45. Janeschwarz
Nice interview. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of "The Vineyard Victims".
Marilyn Gallant
47. Refwife
I love these mysteries! As a native Washingtonian and former resident of Northern Virginia, I am familiar with many of the landmarks. My husband and I met Mrs. Swedenburg. She was a feisty lady! It was a sad day when her winery was sold after her passing. Thank you for the opportunity to add this novel to my collection of your books.
Barbara Bates
49. BadBarbie
Sounds like a good one! Thank you for the chance to win!
Barbara Bibel
50. bbibel
I enjoy this series and can't wait to read the new one.
51. LStirling
Wine and a murder mystery....what a combo!
52. Shannon Baas
I would like this.
Sandy Klocinski
53. attea2d
Looks like an interesting read. I'd love to win. Mysteries are my favorite
Sandra Slack
55. mz.pembroke
Thanks for the chance to enjoy this new book.
56. jpl123456
Love a good mystery.
This will be first time to read Ellen Crosby.
I read great things about her books.
Mallory Bailey
57. mallorybailey1
Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the chance!
Mallory Bailey
57. mallorybailey1
Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the chance!
61. binabug
I'm starting to run out of books to read (I love re-reading books though)
Carol Ezovski
63. cezovski
I love the cover on the book. Poisened wine would be a great way to go. LOL.
66. Leela
Thanks for the giveaway!
71. Stephanie Liske
Thank you.
Terry Hodges
I love Ellen Crosby books and would love to read this one too.....sounds very interesting.
Terry Hodges
I love Ellen Crosby books and would love to read this one too.....sounds very interesting.
76. Fredrick Pauly
looking for a good book.
77. Jodi Hassel
Thanks for the chance to win!
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