Tuesday, 07 December 2021

Looking for a few gifts so good they're practically criminal? Well, look no further. We've compiled a few Mystery Scene favorites perfect for stuffing those stockings.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be CrossedJust perfect for slipping easily into someone’s stocking, and an ideal time killer for that interminable wait between the gift orgy and the arrival of the blessed bird, is Scandinavian Grand Master Helene Tursten’s An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed ($14.99, Soho Crime), the follow-up to her equally adorable An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good from a few years ago. Once again, it follows the charming homicidal problem-solving of cranky elderly Maud, a retired Swedish schoolteacher with absolutely no qualms about bumping off people who get in her way, this time journeying to Africa on a long-anticipated holiday. A pretty little hardcover decorated with seasonal and floral graphic embellishments that reek of innocence, it’s in reality a nifty how-to guide to homicide, with a tantalizing list of ways to set the world right (i.e., the way you want it), concluded with a couple of recipes for ginger snaps (in both “naughty” and “nice” versions). See? Perfect for the holidays!

Sherlcok Holmes SocksThe game is afoot when your Holmie toes the line with these always fashionable Sherlock Socks ($12; outofprint.com). Discreetly stylish, tastefully rendered as a series of tiny brown silhouettes of the Great Detective himself on a field of tan with reinforced toes and heels, they’re a sturdy blend of cotton, polyester, and spandex available in small or large sizes. As an added bonus, a portion of all proceeds go to funding literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

Murder on the Orange Express Lip BalmKillers come and go and bad puns can mortally wound, but chapped lips are pure murder, especially for those in wintry climes. So pucker up and try some Murder on the Orange Express Lip Balm ($9; literarylipbalms.com). Billed as a seductive mélange of “alluring florals and sweet citrus,” this handmade, gently moisturizing balm made with organic shea butter, botanical extract, and pure essential oils hints at sophisticated intrigue with its ooh-la-la combination of sweet orange, mandarin, clary sage, rose geranium, and ylang ylang. And if it doesn’t conjure up sweet memories of the mysterious Orient Express that has influenced so many thriller writers, most famously Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming, then you’re just not trying hard enough. It comes in a classy recyclable tin containing a generous 10 ml of balm—about twice as much as those tiny ocean-clogging plastic tubes.

Another day, another murder. But with gun sales soaring and everybody mad at each other, it’s sometimes hard to keep track, which is why the 2022 edition of A Year of True Crime Page-a-Day Desk Calendar ($15.99; Workman Publishing) is thumbs-up for the murderino in your midst. Why worry about tomorrow’s headlines when you can kick off your shoes, double check the alarm system, and relax at home, poring over the bloody past? This handy-dandy desk calendar offers a full year of lovingly detailed homicidal highlights perfect for the Dateline-addicted, featuring darkly humorous takes on everything from murders dark and gory to bizarro headlines (“Headless Body Found in Topless Bar”!). Loaded with trivia, suggested crime documentaries, words of wisdom from serial killers and mystery authors, and career advice for would-be criminals, this is the ideal gift for those who think a Lester Holt tattoo is perfectly normal.

Jinkies! There’s always this cute but-to-the-point I Heart Mysteries Button ($2.99; RainbowPunchPress), featuring the brains of Mystery Incorporated herself, the one and only Velma Dinkley, originator of geek chic, a book and a message that says it all.



Gamache Coffee MugDespite my usual grinchiness and the sad admission that the world we all live in definitely needs some work done, I continue to believe, and finish off with something from the infinitely better world of my homie Louise Penny’s beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The tiny Livres Lac-Brome/Brome Lake Bookstore (bromelakebooks.ca) in Knowlton, Quebec (the real-life Trois Pins/Three Pines), offers the usual beaucoup of author merchandise, including “What the Duck” Greeting Cards ($15), Three Pines T-shirts ($30), a “Mélange Gamache” Coffee Blend ($7), and more. But to me, the most perfect gift is a simple white ceramic 12-ounce “Goodness Exists” Coffee Mug ($20), perfect for café-au-lait, tea, or Scotch, adorned on one side with the Three Pines logo and on the other with the author’s (and Armand’s) personal credo, cribbed from a poem by W.H. Auden: “Goodness exists.”


Excerpted from the "Mystery Scene 2021 Gift Guide" in the Winter 2021 Issue #170 print edition.

2021 Mystery Scene Gift Guide Stocking Stuffers Edition
Kevin Burton Smith
Monday, 22 November 2021

Daniella BernettA slip of the tongue is a dangerous thing. Not only does it expose indiscretions, it also can lead to murder. The latter especially applies to me. Like other authors, particularly women, I’m a very good listener. My smile encourages and emboldens my interlocutor to chunter on with innocent abandon. Although I’m not inherently patient (far from it, I must confess), when it comes to telling a story I can bide my time until that tempting little idea insinuates itself into the conversation. Then, I pounce with covetous glee. The poor layman would be shocked and scramble to understand this phenomenon, at last settling on the term “inspiration.” But it is even more simplistic. My Muse and I shamelessly justify this as necessary for the sake of art and, more importantly, my dear readers.

Thus was the case when I set out to write Viper’s Nest of Lies, the seventh book in my mystery series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon. The book is set in London and Malta. The plot came to me several years ago, when I was on a cruise around the British Isles. At the welcome dinner, everyone took a turn introducing himself or herself. Over the meal, it came up that I am a mystery novelist. Several of my fellow travelers were mystery fans and asked me about my books. One couple became quite enthusiastic and started offering me ideas for future stories. One suggestion stood out: What if someone arrives home after a vacation and finds a bloody knife in his or her luggage?

A Viper's Nest of Lies by Daniella Bernett

My brain tingled with excitement. This is precisely the predicament I plunged Emmeline into when the book opens. Weary after a trip to Scotland, she and Gregory land at Heathrow Airport desiring nothing more than to go home. However, a security officer is conducting a random search and asks her to open her bag. She’s stunned when he discovers a stiletto knife with a crust of dried blood. Alas, this triggers an avalanche of trouble that only Pandora could have viewed with merriment. This tangled web of revenge also entraps her friends, Detective Superintendent Oliver Burnell of Scotland Yard and Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office.

Setting always plays an important role in my books, so I decided that Gregory and Emmeline’s quest for the truth would lead them to Malta. This Mediterranean island nation was a British colony from July 1813 until it was granted independence in September 1964. Built by the Knights Templar, Malta’s history goes back centuries. The Romans and Ottomans, among others, found their way there at one point. During World War II, King George VI awarded the George Cross to Malta for “acts of greatest heroism” fighting the Nazis.

The picturesque Lower Barrakka Gardens, lovely baroque buildings, palaces and fortifications of Valletta, the capital, were a feast for my senses. But sometimes, it’s a curse to have an author’s curiosity.

I also learned that Malta is the playground of the super-rich and an international money-laundering haven. Criminals with money can buy a Maltese passport, known as a “Golden Visa,” which allows them to move freely and make investments in EU countries. In my research, I came across articles about Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption journalist who was murdered in 2017. Yes, indeed. Corruption, murder and cover-up. They go hand in glove. So, you understand why Malta sent the adrenaline sluicing through my veins.

The taking of a human life is an absolute taboo. Emmeline and Gregory will never forgive me for what happened on beautiful Malta. I can’t blame them. But all I’m guilty of is listening. Is that a crime?

Daniella Bernett is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, and is currently working another Emmeline and Gregory adventure. Viper’s Nest of Lies (Black Opal Books) September 2021, $15.99


Viper's Nest of Lies
Daniella Bernett
Thursday, 18 November 2021

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the annual author luncheon sponsored by the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.

The guest of honor was Michael Connelly, interviewed by his long-time friend, author Scott Eyman.

Connelly, of course, is the author of the series about detective Harry Bosch.

Eyman has written several best-selling biographies on movie stars, the latest of which is Grant: A Brilliant Disguise. Eyman’s newly released book is 20th Century Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio.

The banter between the two authors was entertaining and illuminating as Connelly discussed his work. One question: Did Connelly base Bosch on himself or someone else? Connelly said Bosch is a combination of many traits.

“I just wrote about a guy who I thought I’d like to ride with,” Connelly said.

And I think readers would agree—we all like to ride with Bosch.

Asked which authors he reads, Connelly mentioned that he often rereads Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, especially Chapter 11, which is “a driving tour around L.A.,” he added.

In Connelly’s latest novel The Dark Hours, Harry Bosch again teams up with Det. Renée Ballard.

I love both those characters but I have to say my favorite character in The Dark Hours is Pinto, a Chihuahua mix “with golden eyes and a sincere look.”

The Dark Hours touches on how the pandemic has affected the police department.

Ballard used to pitch a tent and sleep on the beach, accompanied by her dog Lola. But the beaches were closed during the pandemic, forcing Ballard into an apartment.

In The Dark Hours, Ballard is still mourning the loss of Lola, who succumbed to bone cancer. Lola was Ballard’s protector and her companion.

But Ballard misses having a dog so she goes to the website of Wags and Walks, a real rescue group in L.A., where she finds Pinto. (The description of Pinto reminds me of our little Dot, a terrier-Chihuahua mix.)
It isn’t giving away any plot secrets to say that Ballard adopts Pinto and it’s a winning situation.

Pinto proves to be a good companion to Ballard, who makes sure Pinto is safe. If she knows she will be working late, she checks Pinto into an all-night dog care center.

Connelly shows how important dogs are to people and how they can help our mental health.

In one scene, Ballard has just come face to face with evil. To shake off what she has just witnessed first-hand, Ballard calls up the kennel’s camera to see what Pinto is doing. Seeing Pinto, she was “better braced for her dark thoughts.” It’s a lovely scene and very telling about Ballard’s personality.

I love that Connelly uses a real rescue group and hope the publicity helps the dogs at Wags and Walks be adopted.

I also support adopting rescue dogs, as they make great companions. That’s our Dot, who also is a rescue, in the second photo.

Wags and Walks sounds like a great organization, as are most local rescue groups. Our other dog, Max, came to us from Good Karma Pet Rescue in South Florida.

The Dark Hours ranks as one of Connelly’s best in a series of excellent novels.

Happy reading.

Michael Connelly, Harry Bosch, and Pinto
Oline H. Cogdill