STARLING ARTIST — Welcome Back Wendall Thomas

Welcome back to the funny, talented, and very kind Wendall Thomas! She’s here celebrating the release of Cheap Thrills the fourth book in her fabulous Cyd Redondo mystery series!

Wendall: It all started with a news story about a man stopped at LAX with a monkey down his pants and snakes in his socks. Ever since then, my screwball mysteries, which star Brooklyn travel agent Cyd Redondo, have tried to walk a fine line between Bringing Up Baby and PBS, and to shine a light on the plight of endangered species and wildlife crime around the world.

In each book, Cyd stumbles across a threatened creature she knows nothing about, and winds up having to protect it on the run, usually employing her red vintage Balenciaga bag and all the essentials—including various pieces of Tupperware—she carries inside it. That’s the screwball part.

But the endangered species part is deadly serious, and perhaps never more than it is in Cheap Trills, which is set in Bali and focuses on that island nation’s only indigenous bird, the Bali starling.

The Starling is treasured for its songs and its incredible beauty, and is so important to Balinese culture that it appears on their 200 rupiah coin. This is Cyd’s description: “The bird was a snowy, almost arctic white, with a Lone Ranger mask of cobalt blue skin around its black eyes, an Andy Warhol quiff—in a good way—on its head, and just a tiny hint of black at the end of its tail.”  

bali mynah

At the time the book is set—2007, in the immediate wake of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat Pray Love—there were reported to be only seven Bali Starlings in the wild. Seven.

So when Cyd witnesses the poaching of two of that seven, she takes on the responsibility for their eggs, and later their chicks. They are, as you might imagine, high maintenance, especially when it comes to their “every two hour” feedings. She goes to her grudging compatriot, animal activist Grey Hazelnut, for instructions: 

“For the first couple of days, bugs only. Crickets are best, but you have to pull the legs off or they get stuck in their throats.”

“The crickets will be dead, right?”

“No, alive. Everything they eat has to be alive.”
            “I have to pull the legs off live crickets?”

“They have a high pain threshold.”

“Really? And you know that, how?”

“I wrote a paper on it. The chicks eat mealworms, too, but for the first few days they can’t handle the exoskeleton of the adults, so you’ll need to sift through the worm basket to find the molted white ones.”

           “I’m not sure I heard anything after worm basket.”

In the end, Cyd thwarts the villains and delivers the chicks to the newly established Starling Sanctuary on the island of Nusa Penida. Thankfully, that Sanctuary still exists and there are now an estimated 100 starlings in the wild, with around 1000 in captivity in zoos and breeding programs.

But, they are still critically endangered and are threatened on a daily basis by not only poachers, smugglers, and songbird collectors, but by natural predators, like snakes and geckos, who live beside them on protected land.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Bali Starling, or making a contribution by “adopting” one, you can find info here:

Otherwise, I hope you’ll join Cyd on her “Eat, Pray, Barf” trip to Bali in Cheap Trills.

Readers: Do you have a cause that’s dear to your heart?

After her mother sneaks off on an Eat, Pray, Love tour to Bali that goes horribly wrong, travel agent Cyd Redondo must fight a ring of songbird smugglers and take on a killer, all while trying to keep three orphaned, endangered Bali Starling chicks alive in her purse.


It’s 2007 and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn has Eat, Pray, Love fever. Every book club in town is devouring the bestseller and all of Cyd’s Redondo Travel senior citizen clients are dying to head to exotic Bali. But the travel agent in Cyd only sees its dangers—three active volcanos, six venomous snake species, no wheelchair ramps, about fifteen possible tropical diseases, the death penalty for smugglers, and only one hospital. 

So she’s hurt and furious, but also terrified, when her mother Bridget sneaks off with two friends on a Bali tour booked by Cyd’s arch nemesis, Peggy Newsome. Not surprisingly, Bridget and her friends wind up stranded, and smack dab in the middle of a local murder investigation, where Bridget is a suspect. 

Now Cyd must navigate the complex Balinese culture, battle songbird smugglers, thieving monkeys, and snake removal experts, commandeer a funicular railway, infiltrate an underground Tupperware network, frame Peggy Newsome, and find the real killer, all while trying to keep three orphaned, endangered Bali Starling chicks safe and alive.


Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as film and television writer. Her Cyd Redondo mystery, Lost Luggage, garnered Lefty and Macavity nominations for Best Debut, Drowned Under was nominated for a Lefty for Best Humorous and an Anthony for Best Paperback Original and Fogged Off also nominated for Best Humorous Mystery Lefty. Her short fiction appears in LAdies NightLast Resort, the Anthony nominated Murder A-Go-Gos, and Crime Under the Sun. Info at and you can find her at @ewendallthomas on Twitter and Instagram as well as @Wendall Thomas, Author on Facebook.

25 Thoughts

  1. Well, you had me at Bringing Up Baby, the very best movie with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant!! And I just had Road to Bali with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on television last night lol. Wonderful cause of rescuing animals in your books, I’m looking for them today.

    1. Kathy! How very kind of you to check the series out. I hope my screwball stands up!

  2. Thanks so much, Sherry, for having me and Cyd today and for the kind words!

  3. What a gorgeous bird – and what funny passages from the book, Wendall! Congratulations on the book. Please say more about your research for this story – did you head to Bali and interview a starling specialist?

    1. Hi Edith, and thank you so much for your kind words. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t actually travel to Bali. But one of the reasons I chose it is because I had three friends who had lived there and happily, there are tons of books and travel vlogs, etc. that helped me. In terms of the starlings, I was lucky enough to have the help of Lori Rogalski, of the LA Zoo’s Avian Conservation Center, who has not only traveled to volunteer at the Starling Sanctuary in Bali, but helped to hand-raise two clutches of Bali starlings at the Center. So all the details about the feeding and behavior of the birds is from her–she also sent me video she’d shot and I watched it endlessly. In terms of the poaching, Dr. Chris R. Shepherd of the Monitor Conservation Research Center headed up TRAFFIC Southeast Asia — an NGO that monitors all illegal wildlife trade– for 20 years and has spent a lot of time in the bird markets. The character of Stu Capistranis is my homage to him in the book. If anyone wants more details about my research, you can check out my “Bali Why?” post from Oct. 19th over at Murder is Everywhere. Thanks again, Edith!

    1. Thank you, Dru Ann! You’ve been a total support from the beginning, can’t thank you enough. xx

  4. “Cheap Thrills” sounds amazing! Love that it deals with a serious problem as well as entertain the reader too. The Bali starling is a gorgeous bird. As one who loves photography, I wish more could learn to “hunt” these special birds (and all critter) that are so extremely low in their numbers with the camera instead of doing harm to the species. Can’t wait for the opportunity to read this book, which is now on my TBR list.

    Personally, I love anything that has to do with saving the underdog (of any species) and helping them to recover for release or placed to a loving home. Everything deserves a chance and to be loved – whether from a distance or up close.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi Kay. Thank you for the kind words and I am 150% with you on wishing people used a camera rather than a net! Glad that you are an animal and underdog lover and hope you enjoy the book.

    1. Yes, Liz, they really are stunning, which of course, is part of the problem. Thank you for posting!

  5. This sounds fabulous and the bird – wow. Glad that the survival rate is increasing.

    A cause dear to my heart? Yes, indeed. Animal rescue. Not too far away from the plight of endangered species.

    1. Hi Kait — yes it’s a stunning and fascinating bird, so you can see why I wanted to throw some light on its condition in the world. Yes, animal rescue of any kind is so important. Glad you are focusing on that!

  6. This sounds like such a fun read! I love animals and one of my favorite causes is Saving the Blue. I learned about it from watching SharkWeek. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

    1. Thank you so much for posting. I LOVE Saving the Blue — it’s a great organization. I am so glad you’re a supporter!

  7. What lovely birds! It’s so sad that species are dying out. Especially lovely ones like those. And the fun we get when Cyd gets involves is a joy.

    Now, if only something like mosquitoes could become endangered.

    1. Thanks for posting, Mark! Yes, the horrible fact is, the more beautiful the bird, the more trouble it’s in. The mosquito idea is genius, can you please get someone on that? Glad you liked Cyd’s interactions with the chicks.

    1. Thank you so much, Julie. It’s a bit of a tightrope, but I try. Kind of you to post!

  8. Yes, I have two. Compassion International as well as Proverbs 31 Ministries are the two that are close to my heart. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    1. Good for you, Debbie. I’m sure they both do good work and appreciate your support.

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