Apodaca, Jennifer

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Apodaca, Jennifer


Born in Anaheim, CA; married Daniel Apodaca, November 6, 1982; children: Matthew, Gary, Paul. Education: Studied marketing.


E-mail—[email protected].




Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America.


Dating Can Be Murder, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.

Dying to Meet You, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.

Ninja Soccer Moms, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2004.

Batteries Required: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.

(With others) Wicked Women Whodunit, Kensington Brava (New York, NY), 2005.

Thrilled to Death: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.

The Sex on the Beach Book Club, Kensington Brava (New York, NY), 2007.

(With others) Sun, Sand, and Sex, Kensington Brava (New York, NY), 2007.

Extremely Hot, Kensington Brava (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of a blog, Jen's Attic.


Born and raised in Southern California, romantic mystery writer Jennifer Apodaca is married and has three sons. After the birth of her children, Apodaca went back to school. Although she originally intended to earn a degree in marketing, she ended up becoming a writer.

On her Web site, Apodaca commented: "First I tried to tame my naturally edgy voice into writing romance, but dead bodies and quirky humor turned up with alarming regularity. So did rejection letters in my mailbox!" Her husband asked her to write a contemporary story that was funny, her mother said she should write something "modern," and her sister said she should write comedy—or perhaps a mystery. Finally, she decided to give it a try and write a modern mystery.

Apodaca's first novel, Dating Can Be Murder, stars amateur detective Samantha Shaw. Sam, who has two sons and a bit of a weight problem, is determined to change her life. Her late husband, Trent, was killed when he ate peanuts, to which he was fatally allergic. After his death, Sam discovers that he had been cheating on her—and what is worse, everyone in town knew it. His death leaves her in debt, so she is forced to sell her house, her van, and one of his classic cars, and she and her sons move into her grandfather's house.

Sam uses the money left from the sale of her house and possessions to make over her body and her life. She has plastic surgery, loses a little weight, gets some stylish clothes, and buys a business—"Heart Mates," the dating service through which she met Trent. When a man follows and attacks her, demanding a half-million dollars that Trent had embezzled from the business, she finds out that Trent was actually selling cocaine through the dating service. She later tracks down the thug who attacked her and, finding him dead, embarks on a dangerous adventure. Sam tries to locate the money, keep her two sons safe from the shady characters mixed up in the events, and find a little romance for herself, all with the help of good-looking ex-cop Gabe Pulizzi. In the meantime, she becomes known as an investigator to the mothers in the PTA, some of whom ask her to help with their own problems. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described the novel as "fast-paced and witty," and praised Apodaca's characterization and pacing.

Apodaca's second book, Dying to Meet You, which also features Samantha Shaw, was published in 2003. In this outing, Sam investigates the death of Faye Miller, a former client of Heart Mates and a graphic artist Sam has hired to create a brochure for her dating firm. Initial suspicion falls on Faye's estranged husband, but Sam discovers that the case may be more complicated after she researches Faye's dating history. Gabe offers some not-always-welcome advice to Sam as she sleuths her way to the real killer. A critic for Kirkus Reviews was not impressed by this second installment, concluding: "Helter-skelter plotting and frequent random rehashing of old business get in the way of what might have been a pretty decent mystery." However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly had a more positive assessment, praising the "knock-down, smashing climax," and Romance Reader contributor Wendy Crutcher observed: "With steam aplenty, amusing moments, and a solid mystery, readers will be dying to get their hands on this one."

Sam's third adventure, Ninja Soccer Moms, finds the slightly incompetent amateur sleuth investigating possible embezzlement by the local soccer coach, Chad, the ex-husband of one of Sam's good friends. However, when Chad turns up dead, Sam once again finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation in a book that "places Apodaca firmly on the map," according to Crutcher, writing in Mystery Reader. A Kirkus Reviews critic also had praise for this third novel in the series, finding it "a lot racier and a smidge better plotted than the usual gutsy-single-mom-with-her-own-business" novel.

In Batteries Required: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, a sample kit of sex toys ultimately leads Sam into another murder investigation. Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, praised Apodaca's "cozy wit" in this novel. With Thrilled to Death, the fifth in the series, Sam decides to join Gabe's detective agency; meanwhile, her magician grandfather is accused of killing a rival magician, and she is in the thick of homicide once more. Library Journal reviewer Jo Ann Vicarel found this work "funny, sexy, and fast-paced." Similar praise came from Romantic Times Online contributor Catherine Witmer, who termed Thrilled to Death "a winning effort."

Apodaca introduces a new detective heroine in her 2007 title, The Sex on the Beach Book Club. Private investigator Holly Hillbay becomes a member of a book club run by Wes Brockman, owner of a local bookstore called Books on the Beach. She is less interested in books than in Wes, the lover of her client's wife. Looking for information on Wes, Holly gets more than she bargained for: a dead body is found in the bookshop, and Wes hires her to investigate. Jennifer Madsen, writing in Romantic Times, praised the "funny array of characters" the author creates, while Curled Up with a Good Book contributor Jilian Vallade called the book "a spicy blend of romance and mystery." Vallade went on conclude that The Sex on the Beach Book Club is "a quick read with memorable characters, a perfect beach read."



Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of Dating Can Be Murder, p. 369; March 15, 2003, review of Dying to Meet You, p. 428; March 15, 2004, review of Ninja Soccer Moms, p. 250; January 15, 2006, review of Thrilled to Death: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, p. 62.

Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Dating Can Be Murder, p. 138; May 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Ninja Soccer Moms, p. 143; April 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Batteries Required: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, p. 74; February 1, 2006, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Thrilled to Death, p. 58.

MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of Wicked Women Whodunit.

New York Times Book Review, August 21, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, "A Girl's Guide to Killing."

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of Dating Can Be Murder, p. 44; March 31, 2003, review of Dying to Meet You, p. 45; April 18, 2005, review of Batteries Required, p. 47.


Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (April 16, 2007), Jilian Vallade, review of The Sex on the Beach Book Club.

Fresh Fiction,http://www.freshfiction.com/ (March 9, 2007), Jennifer Vido, "Jen's Jewels: Chatting with Jennifer Apodaca."

Jennifer Apodaca Home Page,http://www.jenniferapodaca.com (April 16, 2007).

Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (April 16, 2007), Wendy Crutcher, reviews of Thrilled to Death and Ninja Soccer Moms.

Romance Reader,http://www.theromancereader.com/ (April 16, 2007), Wendy Crutcher, review of Dying to Meet You.

Romantic Times,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (April 16, 2007), Cindy Harrison, review of Batteries Required; Robyn Glazer, reviews of Dying to Meet You and Ninja Soccer Moms; Jennifer Madsen, review of The Sex on the Beach Book Club; Catherine Witmer, review of Thrilled to Death.