Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Author Joyce Yarrow: Female P.I.s and a Special Offer

Please join me in welcoming delightful author Joyce
Yarrow here today to talk about her writing and to tell you about a wonderful special offer concerning her latest release, THE LAST MATRYOSHKA.

Thanks to Joyce and the good folks at Istoria Books, THE LAST MATRYOSHKA is FREE in the Kindle store today (Wednesday, March 14) and tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) only! Be sure to get your copy before the offer expires.

Here’s a brief description of THE LAST MATRYOSHKA: Full-time private investigator/part-time poet Jo Epstein travels to New York and eventually to Russia to help clear her emigre stepfather—who is framing him for murder and who is sending him threatening messages in Russian nesting dolls (matryoshkas). Her investigation takes her on a journey into her stepfather’s past and into the honor-bound code of the “vory,” a Russian criminal syndicate.

Here are what people are saying about the book:
*  "Intricately layered like the Russian nested doll of the title..." Library Journal
*  "You'll want to discover the secrets buried in The Last Matryoshka..." Lesa Holstine, Lesa's Book Critiques
*  "Joyce Yarrow....may very well prove herself to be the Mickey Spillane of the 21st century...." Seattle Post Intelligencer

Joyce joins us now to talk about ‘writing the female P.I.’

“Sisters in crime” is so much more than a phrase Last Matryoshka Final Coverused to describe female felons. It’s the name of an organization I’m proud to belong to that promotes the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry. It also aptly describes the fraternity of fictitious female private investigators (P.I.s) and sleuths who entertain and thrill us by putting their brains to work and their lives on the line.

Since Marcia Muller introduced Sharon McCone, followed five years later by Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhouse, female P.I.s and detectives have bounded across the pages—and now the e-reader screens—of innumerable mystery novels. Elizabeth George’s Barbara Havers, J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum blend the best characteristics of both sexes as they vanquish evil, combat their own flaws, and prove that law enforcement can no longer be defined as a man’s world. 

So what, if anything, distinguishes the female P.I. from her male counterpart? Physically, her arms may not be as strong, yet her reflexes are equally sharp. Her contacts in a male-dominated police department and DAs office can be problematic. And although likely to have a drinking problem-- my bet is that Philip Marlowe and V.I. Warshawski are equal in that department—she will be more discreet about it. Given her bruising schedule, the female P.I.’s love life is as prone to disaster as a male’s. On the other hand, she tends to be a ‘type-A’ personality—out to prove herself as most minorities are. It is this last quality—resulting in her no-holds-barred commitment—that I believe makes the female P.I. so appealing to readers of both sexes.  

It is no surprise that when creating Jo Epstein, I envisioned her joining the impressive company mentioned above. The model I chose for her, however, came from an entirely different source.
Allison D. was the emcee of the Seattle Poetry Slam in the mid-90s. One night, as I listened raptly to her banter, laced with just the right mix of disrespect for convention and love of the spoken word, it came to me. What if a streetwise but practical poet graduated from criminology school in New York and got her license? I imagined her providing security services at Scandals, a bar on West 23rd Street that hosted the New York Slam team on Tuesday nights. She had red hair and freckles and a no-quit attitude. 

Although Jo Epstein stepped into the world modeled on a poet, I immediately introduced her to my brother Rick, who has worked as a private investigator for more than 40 years. From Rick, Jo learned how unromantic the average P.I.’s day can be, sorting through people’s garbage looking for evidence, videotaping perpetrators of insurance fraud mowing lawns when they claimed to be confined to a wheelchair. What good fortune for Jo and me to be able to draw on Rick’s expertise and have access to his many colorful friends—some law-abiding, others not so much—as we tackled criminals from around the globe.

From the beginning, Jo Epstein’s male and female sides have been pretty well balanced. If she feels insecure, it’s from losing a bout at the poetry slam rather than being disrespected by a sexist NY Police. She has no trouble asking Sanyo out on their first date, and when the time comes to rescue him, and herself, from certain death, she is totally up to the job. As one reviewer, FC Etier, observed: “Epstein can kick your teeth in and leave you with an extemporaneous haiku to ponder while you nurse your wounds.”

To be honest, I hope this topic I am blogging about – The Female PI – may soon become as irrelevant as discussing the Jewish or the Caucasian Detective. This shows my own bias in favor of a color-, religion-, and gender-blind society Whenever I see a black actor cast in Elizabethan garb by the BBC, or read a story where the sex of the protagonist remains in question for the first 50 pages or so, I feel a twinge of hope. 

Joyce, thanks so much for guest blogging. I love stories that feature a female P.I. I love the way you have combined several interesting features to create your protagonist.

Joyce Yarrow was born in the SE Bronx, escaped to Manhattan as a teenager and now lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Along the way to becoming a full-time author, Joyce has worked as a screenwriter, singer-songwriter, multimedia performance artist and most recently, a member of the world music vocal ensemble, Abráce.

Joyce is a Pushcart nominee, whose stories andistoriabooks logo poems have been widely published. Her first book, ASK THE DEAD (Martin Brown 2005), was selected by The Poisoned Pen as a Recommended First Novel and hailed as “Bronx noir”. Her latest book, THE LAST MATRYOSHKA, takes place in Brooklyn and Moscow. It was published in hardcover by Five Star/Cengage and is now available for Kindle through Istoria Books ( It will be available for Nook and other e-readers within three months.

Joyce considers the setting of her books to be characters in their own right and teaches workshops on "The Place of Place in Mystery Writing."

You can read more about Joyce’s writing journey, her P.I. brother, her childhood in the Bronx, her use of place as character in her books at Istoria Books

Hear Joyce read a snippet of THE LAST MATRYOSHKA in this book trailer below:

Look at other Istoria Books offerings here. Istoria Books: eBooks You Want to Read at Prices You Want to Pay.

Do you enjoy books that feature a female P.I.? Does it matter if the P.I. is male or female to you as long as the story captures your attention? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Remember, THE LAST MATRYOSHKA is FREE in the Kindle store today (Wednesday, March 14) and tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) only!



  1. Thank you for your hospitality, Mason - I look forward to meeting and interacting with new friends here.
    All the best,

  2. Hi, Joyce,

    I do love reading female P.I. books. You named several of my favorites. Of course, my all-time favorite is Sara Paretsky. I believe she started Sisters In Crime. I felt honored that she was willing to read and blurb my first
    Five Star/Gale mystery, The Inferno Collection.

    Wonderful offer of a free read of your critically praised novel!

  3. Matryoshka dolls are such a beautiful form of art, and so intriguing. What a great concept to incorporate into a storyline. Best wishes with your book!

  4. It's a wonderful book -- and already at #29 in "Women Sleuth" ebooks this a.m. I'm sure it will climb higher as the day goes on!

  5. Joyce, thanks again for guest blogging. I enjoy your take on female P.I.s. Wishing you much success.

    Hi everyone, thanks for dropping by.

  6. I just picked it up! It sounds wonderful.

  7. Thank you Jacqueline and it's lovely to hear your book was blessed by the great Sara Paretsky to whom women mystery writers owe so much!

  8. Thanks Joanne - as I delved into the history of the matryoshka doll (an art form imported to Russia from Japan in the early 20th century) I found so many opportunities to deepen and embroider the plot line of The Last Matryoshka. It's amazing how "telling" an object can be.

  9. Thanks a bunch Southpaw - hope you enjoy!

  10. Thank you Libby - the book is at #19 in the Women Sleuths category and climbing...

  11. I have several friends in Sisters In Crime.
    This sounds like a good read. I'm ordering it today.


  12. Thanks so much, Sia - hope you enjoy!

  13. I belong to Sisters in Crime, too. I'm going to go check on your book now. Nice to meet you, Joyce.

    Waving to Mason!

  14. Sounds like an exciting book. Thanks for the review.

  15. Hi Carol - nice to meet you too! See you around - perhaps at a SinC event sometime.

  16. Thanks Clarissa - hope you enjoy the read!

  17. Mason - thanks again for hosting me - I enjoyed meeting some new people and will stop by to say hello again.

    Also - feel free to visit my blog at anytime.

    All the best,


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.