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Devil’s Kiss: A Small Batch Mystery
by Michelle Bennington
About Devil’s Kiss
Devil’s Kiss: A Small Batch Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Kentucky
Level Best Books (May 31, 2022)
Paperback : 278 pages
ISBN-10 : 1685121128
ISBN-13 : 978-1685121129
Digital ASIN : B09Z3G9VZ9
Rook Campbell is broke, divorced, jobless, and in desperate need of steady employment, which is hard to come by in the small town of Rothdale, Kentucky. With the help of her friend and neighbor Bryan, she lands a good job at the Four Wild Horses Distillery and meets an attractive co-worker with lots of dating potential. Her life is finally headed in the right direction until a co-worker dies under suspicious circumstances and a shipment of rare small-batch bourbon goes missing. Worse, her personal life begins to unravel as her beloved grandmother falls ill. Normally she can depend on her ex, Cam, for help, but his new fiancée’s jealousy is getting in the way. As the body count rises, Rook becomes ensnared in discovering who’s committing the crimes—or she might be the next to die.
Thank you for the opportunity to welcome y’all to the small town of Rothdale, Kentucky in my book Devil’s Kiss, which is the first book in the Small Batch series, featuring amateur sleuth Rook Campbell as she tackles crime in the Kentucky bourbon community.
I’ve always been fascinated by the creative process of artists, specifically writers—how they develop ideas and how they create worlds and characters. And I’ve always wondered how much of a story is inspired by an author’s real life. In this case, real life did inspire some of my story.
Devil’s Kiss was almost a very different book. At first, Rook was going to be an adjunct instructor at a university who became entangled in solving crimes on campus. As it happened, at the time, I had been an adjunct instructor in English at a local university and had quit not long before writing the book. I’m still interested in developing that campus series someday, but the story I had started for what would become Devil’s Kiss took a turn when I attended a bourbon distillery tour at the famous Buffalo Trace.
I have long loved bourbon-flavored foods and wanted to know more about how bourbon is made and I’d heard good things about Buffalo Trace. When I looked up tour dates, I discovered they were offering ghost tours! Really, does it get any better than a ghost tour at a bourbon distillery?
And Buffalo Trace with its history stretching back to the late 1700s was a potential gold mine for ghost stories. Now, we all know that ghost tours are really just thinly-veiled history tours, but they’re one of my favorite things to do. For me, history and the supernatural married together make for a fun time.
Since that Buffalo Trace visit, I’ve become a little obsessed with touring distilleries now, too—and I rarely drink! But I love seeing how the bourbons are developed, how each distillery is unique, and discovering how each brand is distinct from another. I now have my Kentucky Bourbon Trail Field Guide and am working my way through the Bourbon Trail to get a stamp in my “passport” for each site I visit. But back to the book….
The tour began at dusk in October where we wound through various buildings hearing stories about people of yesteryear whose spirits might still haunt the premises. After the tour and the tasting, with my mind full of fanciful ghost stories, I headed home. Night had descended completely and I passed down the long, dark drive, my car’s headlights casting an otherworldly glow on the canopy of trees, adding to the spookiness of the evening.
Then in a blink my mind played a quick association game. Ghosts. Dead people. Distillery. As we writers know, every story begins with What If. And before I knew it, the What If popped up: What if someone were found murdered during the ghost tour I had attended? From there I began spinning a basic plot for a murder mystery at a distillery. But, as always, other questions appeared. Why would someone be murdered at a distillery? Who commits the murder and how? I played a few scenarios in my mind, but wasn’t really happy with any of them. Back to the drawing board.
Fast forward a few months, I read a news story about the Pappy Van Winkle heist, which rocked the bourbon world. (Recently, Netflix produced a two-part documentary about the crime on their mini-series titled Heist). For those who don’t know, “Pappy,” as it’s commonly known, is a 15 to 25-year-old, rare, expensive bourbon that can go for thousands of dollars per bottle. In fact, at the time of this post, there’s a 25-year-old 750ml bottle for sale on winesearcher.com that is going for $49,995-$64,999! But I digress. The point is of telling you about the Pappy heist is that Eureka! I had found my reason for a murder at a distillery!
I should note that in the real-life heist, no one died and, in many ways, the true event is wilder than my story. As the English poet Lord Byron once noted in his poem, Don Juan (1823),
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
Nevertheless, the bourbon crime, combined with my experience at the distillery ghost tour inspired Devil’s Kiss.
About Michelle Bennington
Born and raised in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky, Michelle Bennington developed a passion for books early on that has progressed into a mild hoarding situation and an ever-growing to-read pile.
When she’s not creating contemporary or historical fictional worlds full of mysteries, she obsesses over all things British and historical. In rare moments of spare time, she can be found engaging in a wide array of arts and crafts, dance, and attending ghost tours.
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