Wrapping Up a Series: Poppy Harmon’s Last Case and #giveaway – Welcome Lee Hollis

By Liz, excited to welcome Lee Hollis back to the blog! Lee’s here talking about wrapping up the Poppy Harmon series today – which we’re all sad about but thankful to have a chance to meet these delightful characters. Take it away, Lee!

When I started writing the fifth book in my Desert Flowers mystery series, I did not know it would be the last. Sometimes series can last for years (our 16th Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery, “Death of a Clam Digger” will be out next month with three more novels and three more holiday novellas in the pipeline) and my Maya & Sandra mysteries keep chugging along (with “Murder at the Spelling Bee” out in June 2024). But although the first two Poppy books performed well, the last two have lagged in sales, and during the development of Poppy #5, it became clear I should make a decision with my editor about wrapping up the series. 

It was not an easy one to make. 

When you write five books with the same set of characters, you spend a lot of time with them and you grow fond of them. Every time you sit down to write a chapter, it can be like spending time with old friends. I loved Poppy. I had based her on a Hollywood actress named Francine York, who had played the mother of a character I played in a long running web series I co-created and co-starred in called “Where the Bears Are”. Francine, who passed away in 2017, was so regal, so elegant, but had a sharp wit and a wonderfully naughty subversive side whenever she’d draw you in with one of her jaw-dropping, gossipy Hollywood stories. She was eighty years old when I met her, having first made a splash as a blonde bombshell in the 1960s appearing on popular TV shows such as “Batman”, “Lost in Space”, “Bewitched”, “Gomer Pyle: USMC”, “Green Acres”, “The FBI”, “Ironside”, “I Dream of Jeannie”, and so many others, all the way up to more contemporary shows like “Hot in Cleveland” and “The Mindy Project”. Francine never stopped working until the day she left us. But Poppy did. In my version, Poppy hated staying too long in such an ageist business and retired in Palm Springs with her husband Chester. Unfortunately, when Chester died suddenly, Poppy discovered her husband had an undisclosed gambling problem and had left her penniless. Her Screen Actors Guild pension would not not enough to cover her husband’s crushing debt let alone her monthly bills, so Poppy had to do something drastic. Her solution? She got her private investigator’s license. I mean, how hard could it be? She had played the loyal secretary Daphne to hunky TV detective “Jack Colt, PI” for three seasons on ABC in the 1980s. She could just transfer that experience to real life and call her own shots. It gave her life fresh purpose. 

And to make it more fun, she recruited her two best friends, plain-speaking German Iris and sweet-natured retired high school principal Violet to form the Desert Flowers Detective Agency. These two characters were also based on a pair of wonderful women who, lucky for me, came into my life when I moved to Palm Springs, Brigitte and Helen.

Rounding out the agency were Violet’s grandson, Wyatt, a computer whiz with an impressive knack for hacking, who proved invaluable in navigating the digital world, while Matt, the charming and handsome actor, added a touch of Hollywood glamour to the agency. Matt initially came on board as the face of the firm, the actor playing the of character Matt Flowers, the head of Desert Flowers, when the ladies discovered to their dismay that many people were hesitant to hire women of a certain age to solve their cases. Poppy, Iris and Violet did all the work and Matt got all the credit in a nod to the classic TV detective show “Remington Steele”. But over the course of the books, Matt took a back seat and just became one of the gang, loyal to the core. Together, the group formed a formidable team, their individual strengths complementing one another perfectly.

The cases were mostly set in Palm Springs, but given my history as a Hollywood screenwriter, they always seemed to have a Hollywood connection. There was the murder of an actress writing a juicy tell all memoir in a retirement community in “Poppy Harmon Investigates”, the murder of one of Poppy’s fellow jurors after a court trial who had a mysterious connection to the rebellious daughter of Poppy’s TV co-star Rod Harper in “Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury”, the mercurial star of a Netflix reboot of “Palm Springs Weekend” was suffocated in her trailer in “Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer”, and a murderous reality TV star loose on the set of a Bachelorette-type show in “Poppy Harmon and the Backstabbing Bachelor”. In her final case, Poppy’s new client is a former acting rival who hires the agency to do a background check on the man she is about to marry, and then winds up plugging a would be burglar with three bullets days before the wedding in “Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star”. 

Once it became clear this would be Poppy’s last case, I had to decide how to wrap it all up. I won’t spoil the ending, but I knew I wanted readers to believe that Poppy would continue  her life as a successful private eye, no doubt well into her seventies and perhaps eighties. She had come too far, discovered hidden reservoirs of strength and resilience within herself. There would be no point in stopping now.

No, the final chapter had to be personal. Starting with the second book, the series had featured a love triangle between Poppy, her “Jack Colt PI” co-star Rod Harper (think Tom Selleck), and Sam Emerson, a former law enforcement officer turned TV cop show scriptwriter and consultant (think Sam Elliot). I was not above taking advantage of that classic cozy mystery trope of “Who will the heroine choose?” Would it be Rod or Sam? Or neither one of them? I wanted to show that Poppy’s growth as a detective has paralleled her journey to find love again, and that finally she would find fulfillment in both. I will not spoil the ending of Shooting Star for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I hope that when you do say goodbye to Poppy in that last chapter on page 281, those of you who have grown to love her as much as I do will have a big satisfied smile on your face.

Readers, what series (besides Poppy) were you sad to see end? Leave a comment below – three readers will win a copy of Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star!

Lee Hollis is the pen name for a brother and sister writing team. Rick Copp is a veteran film and television writer/producer and also the author of two other mystery novel series. He lives in Palm Springs, California. Holly Simason is an award winning food and cocktails columnist for the Mount Desert Islander newspaper in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she resides. Find out more on Lee’s website.

36 Thoughts

  1. I so miss Elaine Viets series Dead End Jobs and am still so sad that it ended. I think I will cry the day I hear that your Haley Powell series ends. I love it so much. I’m sorry about Poppy Harmon ending but I thank you for the chance at you giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

  2. It’s never fun to end a series, but how great that you knew (not always the case) and could send Poppy out on her own terms.

    I still miss Sheila Connolly’s County Cork series, which ended with her passing, not because of a publisher – and Sheila herself. The stories were so filled with her beloved Ireland.

  3. I’m sorry to hear about The Desert Flowers series ending. It’s never fun to learn a series you like is heading off to permanent hiatus.

    I was saddened when Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series ended. Other series ending that I wish were still going include Sheila Connolly’s County Cork and Orchard series, M.D. Lake’s Peggy O’Neil series and Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife Mysteries series.

    1. Thank you Jay. I also loved the White House Chef series, but Julie was able to end that on her own terms, too, as I did with the Quaker Midwife stories.

  4. Sarah Graves’ Death by Chocolate plus her Home Repair series.

  5. Sorry to see this series end, but understand that sometimes even what we love has to change direction.

    For me, I think it’s the A Local Foods Mystery Series by Edith Maxwell mainly because it was this series that introduced me to the cozy mystery genre and reacquainted me to my love of reading after many years of life interrupting it. I’m sure just as soon as I hit send there will be others I’ve found along the way that I’d should have added, but figured this one should stand out the most since it as the best, the first and most importantly it got me to reading again.

    Thank you for the wonderful chance to win a copy of “Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star:! Can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review this book on my TBR list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. I also miss dead end jobs and a local foods series

    fruitcrmble AT comcast DOT net

  7. Kudos, Lee, for recognizing the need to make a tough decision. We’re sad to see our character friends go, but that gives us an opportunity to develop new ones.

  8. So sorry to read this is the last of Poppy! She’s quite the character and gives huge hope to women of a certain age.

    I was sorry to see the Diane Mott Davidson series end. It was the first culinary mystery series I discovered and provided lots of recipe staples for my family. I also missed the Margaret Maron Bootlegger’s Daughter series. So much so that I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the last of the books!

    1. Kait, thank you for the reminder of Margaret Maron. Unreliable memory had the Deborah Knott series ending with Ms Marion’s death. Looking to Google, I discovered the series ended about six years prior. ( Although short stories were collected in a book about a year before.) I miss not only the writing, but from her appearances on blogs, Ms Maron.

  9. Welcome back! I’m so sorry that Poppy is ending. Like you said you spend so much time with the characters it is hard to say goodbye!

  10. Whaaaaa…I am sad to know that Poppy will not return to us soon… It is hard to read the last book in a beloved series because you do become virtual friends with the characters…Fortunately we still have more journeys to enjoy with Hayley Powell 🙂 I was sad to read the last book in “The Cat Who…” series by the late Lilian Jackson Braun… Thank you for giving me hours and hours of fun adventures with your protagonists and their cast of characters. I can always re-read 🙂 luis at ole dot travel

  11. Sorry to see a series end. I felt very sad when another author decided to end a series. You get so attached to them it’s hard to see it end.

  12. It is sad to hear it ended but good things do come to an end. I am just starting the series and so excited to read thru it. 😊

  13. Welcome, Lee! How delightful to find you here. I will miss Poppy, but as others have said, how great is it that you got to end it on your own terms.

  14. As much as I hate it when a series I enjoy ends, I am always happy when an author has a chance to wrap things up. Sounds like you’ve taken full advantage of that chance.

    So many series I have loved have ended. All the Wickeds. But one that just popped into mind was the Teddy Bear Collectors series by John J. Lamb. It was a delightful series and I would have gladly kept reading it for years.

  15. So sorry to see this series end. It’s nice to know when a series is ending and also that the author is able to wrap up the storyline. Series I was sorry to see end were the Cajun Country series by Ellen Byron and The Tradd Street series by Karen White. They both did a good job ending their series.

  16. Books By the Bay Mysteries by Ellery Adams gets my vote. I gave the final book a five star rating on Goodreads. To quote my review, “The ending was very poignant, and I am still shaken up….I am going to miss ALL of the Bayside Book Writers!! The entire book was a page turner. I was happy when I discovered that some of the characters reappear in other series written by Ellery Adams.

  17. There are so many that I can’t remember the names of all the authors. I agree on the Teddy Bear series. Also the Southern Sisters, LeeAnn Sweeney, Diane Mott Davidson, Elizabeth Peters, and so many more. Although if they were all active, I don’t know how I would keep up with my favorites and the many new series.

  18. So enjoyed this wonderful series. You get so involved. I was disappointed that Eva Gates, Lighthouse Library Mysteries ended. Victoria Abbott , Book Collector Mystery Series. I love the Chet and Bernie series.

  19. I miss Dianne Mott Davidson’s Goldy cater series, the apple orchard series by Shelia O’Connely & a few others of hers.

  20. I had heard a rumor that the Rizzoli and Isle’s series is ending by Tess Gerrison. I am not sure if it is true or not. I love the characters. I would hate to see it end. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  21. I was so sad when Margaret Maron stopped her Judge Deborah Knott series, the Sue Grafton Kinsey Milhone series, Sheila Connelly’s Ireland series, and loads more!!! I would love to win a copy of the last one of your series!

  22. Poppy will be missed by many. I also miss so many series: anything written by any of the Wickeds; Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand; Sheila Connolly’s Irish books; Elizabeth Peters’ Amanda Peabody; Charlotte MacLeod’s Sarah Kelling & Max Bittershon; Joan Hess’ Maggody series; Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country; and Laura Bradford’s Amish mysteries. Yes, I could go on and on. I feel as if so many of my “friends” have died or moved to another planet.

  23. While I am always sad to see a series end I also think it is better for an author to be able to finish it on their own terms. I like good closure in the stories. I hated to see Bree Baker’s Seaside and Ellen Byron’s Cajun series come to an end.

  24. I’m sorry this ended. I was also sorry that The Dog Club by V.M. Burns ended. And The Garden Squad by Julia Henry.

  25. I’m sorry to hear this ended. Some of my favorites that ended are Sara Graves and Shelia O’Connely.

  26. I can’t wait to read Poppy’s happy ending. I enjoy Maya and Sandra. I’ve had a couple of characters whose evolutions put me off and I stopped following them. What nerve to think I know how they should develop better than their creator does. LOL.

  27. This looks like such a good series! I have never really read a series before. I would love to read this one however!

  28. I am so sorry this is coming to an end. A lot of series I have enjoyed have ended but we still have Maya and Sandra and Hayley! Thank you for all your books!!!!

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