Sunday, 19 April 2015 03:04

scottolinelisa EveryFifteenMinutes
In a way, each crime fiction novel delves into psychology, whether it is the psychology of the main character or the psychological makeup of the villain.

But at least four authors use psychology as the top spin for their novels.  

In the past few weeks, Lisa Scottoline and Sandra Block have both come out with novels in which the main character is a psychiatrist, and both novels are involving.

Lisa Scottoline, Every Fifteen Minutes
Lisa Scottoline is best known for her engrossing legal thrillers featuring strong characters and hefty plots. That approach earned her the nickname “the female John Grisham.”

Scottoline shows she’s just as adept at delving into the complicated world of medicine and psychiatry in the thrilling Every Fifteen Minutes.

In this 24th novel, Scottoline looks at the inner workings of psychiatry as well as the motives of a sociopath.

Dr. Eric Parrish, chief of the psychiatric unit at Havemeyer General Hospital in a Philadelphia suburb, is at the top of his career since his hospital unit has just been named No. 2 in the country.

However, his personal life is a different story. He is about to be divorced and he can’t spend more time with his seven-year-old daughter, Hannah, with whom he is very close.

Then one of his patients has violent thoughts about a teenager, who is later murdered. His staff and supervisors lose respect for him when Eric is accused of sexual harassment.

Is Eric guilty or is he being targeted by a sociopath?

In Every Fifteen Minutes, Scottoline deftly shows how sociopaths can live among us undetected and that we may never see their destruction coming. Scottoline expertly ladles out the clues.

Sandra Block, Little Black Lies
blocksandra littleblacklies
Sandra Block shows how the subconscious can dredge up memories and feelings we are not prepared to accept in her debut Little Black Lies.

Zoe Goldman, a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo, New York hospital, was adopted by a loving couple when she was about four years old. Her birth mother was killed in a fire from which Zoe was rescued.

For years, she was plagued by nightmares about that night, but those nightmares stopped when she was a teenager. But lately, Zoe has had some uncomfortable nightmares about that night, dreams that are a bit different than when she was in high school.

These dreams lead Zoe to discuss these nightmares with her own therapist and try to find out more about her biological mother.

The subconscious becomes a major theme in Little Black Lies, as does family dynamics. Zoe is close to her adopted mother and there is never any question that this woman, who lovingly raised her, is her true mother; nor is there any question that her brother is her real brother. The bonds are strong because of love, not blood.

Block has delivered an outstanding debut in Little Black Lies that she will follow up with her next Zoe Goldman novel, The Girl Without a Name, which is due out in September 2015.

Jonathan Kellerman, Alex Delaware
Jonathan Kellerman has been using psychology for decades in his involving Alex Delaware novels. A child psychologist by trade, Alex consults for the L.A. Police Department.

Well, mainly he consults for his friend, homicide detective Milo Sturgis.

Their friendship plays a major part of the foundation of each of Kellerman’s novels, as does Alex’s insight as a psychologist.

The latest Alex-Milo adventure is Motive.

Dennis Palumbo
Dennis Palumbo was one of the scriptwriters for one of my favorite movies—My Favorite Year.

But since he left the movie business, Dennis Palumbo became a licensed psychotherapist in private practice.

He also is author of the series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who is a consultant with the Pittsburgh Police Department.

Like Alex Delaware, Daniel Rinaldi’s cases take him to a variety of homes and patients.

In his fourth novel, Phantom Limb, Daniel looks at the dark side of fame with his new patient, Lisa Harland, who made a splash in Playboy before bottoming out.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 04:04

bloodline netflix1
I admit that I am behind on my TV watching—it’s all those mystery novels that take up my time!

So I have just discovered two new—well, new to me—TV shows that mystery fans will be interested in, and which may be the best new series around. One is Empire, which I am still watching, and the other is Bloodline, which I just finished.

Bloodline is following the new trend by not being launched on a network, but on Netflix, and making all the episodes available at the same time. This is what the producers of Bosch, the series based on the Michael Connelly novels, did on Amazon Prime. Bosch has been picked up for a second season. (See my review here or in the current issue of Mystery Scene.)

And Bloodline also has been picked up for a second season.

So here is why you should binge away on Bloodline, as I did during a recent long weekend.

1. Bloodline takes a familiar story line and turns it inside out, adding a heavy bit of noir and secrets you don’t see coming. The wealthy family that is systematically brought down is a timeless tale, but so often it is a family who the viewer—or the reader—hopes will get their comeuppance, and their failures become a nice bit of revenge for all. But in Bloodline, we are immediately drawn to the Rayburns, who live in the lovely Florida Keys.

bloodline netflix2
The Rayburns are a nice family—well-to-do, yes, but not the wealthiest family. But the Rayburns also are among the most respected and beloved in their Islamorada community. They have worked hard to get where they are and they still work hard. Robert Rayburn (Sam Shepard) and Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek) are devoted to their four children and have tried to raise each with love, respect, and as strong a work ethic as they have. Robert and Sally run a successful hotel in Islamorada, the kind of upscale resort that draw visitors to the Keys, and makes them want to stay.

Three of the Rayburn children also are hard-working and well-respected by the community.

John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) is a detective with the Monroe County sheriff's office. Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini), the only daughter and the youngest, is an attorney. Youngest son Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz), who has a quick temper, refurbishes boats at Indian Key Channel Marina.

And that leaves the oldest son—Danny—the family black sheep.

3. Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Danny, isn’t your typical family outsider. This Australian actor brings a cunning shadiness to his role. “Something’s not right with Danny,” says John’s lovely wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), and she couldn’t be more right. Danny is apart from the family for several reasons, which are revealed during the course of the series. Yet he is more than a drifter. He is a con man who observes the family and sees exactly where their weaknesses are and goes after them. Mendelsohn exudes danger—whether he is about to give a toast at his parents’ party or getting his brother John drunk or just watching everyone.

4. The rest of the cast. Who wouldn’t want to have Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek as their parents? Or a big brother like Kyle Chandler or a sister like Linda Cardellini? And having seen Norbert Leo Butz a few times on Broadway, I am always on his side—even when his character is being a jerk.

bloodline netflix3
The Florida setting. Those of us who live in Florida know how beautiful it is, and yet, how the darkness simmers just beneath surface. That pristine blue water can churn up danger. Those clear skies can turn into a storm in seconds.

6. The pacing. The Rayburns have a lot of secrets, which multiply in the course of the series. These are doled out like candy at Easter.

7. The supporting cast. I come at this as a regular attendee of regional theater in South Florida. (My husband is a theater critic so we see everything.) South Florida theater has a good number of excellent actors, many of which have been on Burn Notice, The Glades, and Magic City when those series were filming here. While these actors frequently are on the stages in South Florida, it is great to see them on the screen. So kudos to (and I hope I don’t forget any) Paul Tei, Betsy Graver, Todd Allen Durkin, Chaz Mena, Karen Stephens, Lela Elam, Matthew Chizever, and Avi Hoffman.

And please, bring them back, and hire more local actors. Their cameos are terrific.

8. The creative team. Bloodline is created by the Damages trio of Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman.

Now, back to Empire, which mystery fiction fans also will enjoy. Go Cookie.

Photos: Top, Kyle Chandler and Linda Cardellini; second, Ben Mendelsoh, left, with Kyle Chandler; bottom, Ben Mendelsoh. Photos/Netflix

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 03:04

malice domestic


The Agatha Awards honor “traditional mysteries” (containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence). Winners will be announced at the 27th annual Malice Domestic Conference, in Bethesda, Maryland, from May 1 to 3.



The Good, The Bad and The Emus, Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Demon Summer, G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
Truth Be Told, Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
The Long Way Home, Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Designated Daughters, Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Hunting Shadows, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
An Unwilling Accomplice, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, D.E. Ireland (Minotaur Books)
Queen of Hearts, Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder in Murray Hill, Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Andi Under Pressure, Amanda Flower (ZonderKidz)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion Books)
Uncertain Glory, Lea Wait (Islandport Press)
The Code Busters Club, Case #4: The Mummy’s Curse, Penny Warner (Egmont USA)
Found, Harlan Coben (Putnam Juvenile)

Circle of Influence, Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Tagged for Death, Sherry Harris (Kensington Publishing)
Finding Sky, Susan O’Brien (Henery Press)
Well Read, Then Dead, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley Prime Crime)
Murder Strikes a Pose, Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink)

400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, Adam Plantinga (Quill Driver Books)
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, Hank Phillippi Ryan, ed. (Henery Press)
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice, Kate Clark Flora (New Horizon Press)
The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley (Pegasus Books)
The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor, Stephen Bates (Overlook Press)

“The Odds Are Against Us,” Art Taylor, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2014
“Premonition,” Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“The Shadow Knows,” Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny,” Edith Maxwell, Kings River Life Magazine, January 4, 2014
“The Blessing Witch,” Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, eds. (Level Best Books)

Charles and Caroline Todd

Ann Cleeves

Sara Paretsky