Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
Eileen Brady

Ever wished you could experience a Georgian Christmas at an English country estate? In this 12th installment of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mystery series, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, your wishes will come true. The Austen family has been invited by Elizabeth Chute to spend Christmas, 1814, at the Chute’s majestic ancestral home, The Vyne. There will be 12 days of celebration, culminating in the Twelfth Night’s Masked Ball, also known as the Children’s Ball.

The contrast between the modest parsonage where Jane grew up and the opulence of The Vyne, home of the well-connected and political Chute family, is an obvious one. But their wealth can’t protect them when first one guest dies, then a second is found dead of an apparent suicide. The specter of sabotage and the possible theft of important documents impact the festivities, as Jane discovers the fatal accident was really murder in disguise.

Political intrigue raises its ugly head, as a spy for the French works behind the scenes. Stephanie Barron painlessly brings readers up to date with just enough history (Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat and the capture of Washington, DC, by British troops) to understand her characters’ motivations.

And there are a wealth of characters here: notably Jane’s aunt, the miserable Mary; nasty aristocrat Lady Gambier; hunt-happy brother James; a delightful young niece, Caroline; plus a mysterious dark stranger, the yummy Mr. Rachael West. Jane herself is portrayed as smart, approachable, but not always admired for her writing. (One guest at the manor calls her work “outrageous nonsense.”)

As the search for the killer continues, its repercussions involves not only a British general and the Treaty of Ghent, but the honor of the British parliament. Even readers unfamiliar with the genre can and will enjoy this story, released just in time for the Christmas holidays.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-03 16:21:15

barronjaneandtwelvedaysofchristmasHistorical holiday fun for Austenites and mystery lovers alike

Harry Hunsicker on His First Literary Loves
Harry Hunsicker

hunsiker harry2Photo: Nick McWhirter

They are old friends, the paperback novels that fill the bookshelves in my office.

The spine of each serves as a tiny reminder, a nebulous mnemonic aid of the book’s story and the pleasure it brought. A scene half-remembered, the dangerous feeling at the climax of a plot, a character who stuck around long after the book was finished. The moments of a reader’s life, some more poignant and memorable than others. Fiction, the printed kind, has been my refuge since almost before I can remember, a warm, inviting place where I could lose myself for hours. The world of make-believe was more real to me in many ways than what lay on the other side of the book’s jacket.

Early on, my friends were the indefatigable Jupiter Jones, Peter Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, the heroes of the Alfred Hitchcock series The Three Investigators, a softly paranormal young adult series about a trio of youthful sleuths. In later years, I would discover two prolific writers who would have a huge impact on my writing: Louis L’Amour and John D. MacDonald.

In between those two periods I met a character who has been in my head in one form or another for decades. Let’s call her my first literary love: Noelle, the beguiling antihero in Sidney Sheldon’s steamy masterpiece The Other Side of Midnight.

I was 13. She was ageless, seemingly old and young at the same time, from an infant to her twenties in just a few pages.

Noelle and her creator were the first to make me truly realize the unbridled power of fiction in the printed form. In my mind, Noelle and the characters who filled her life were real. I felt what they felt, hurt when they hurt, loved when they loved.

For those of you who might be rusty on the oeuvre of Sidney Sheldon, The Other Side of Midnight is an epic love story set against the backdrop of World War II. Noelle, a French girl from Marseille, was born poor but beautiful, determined to rise above her humble origins. She used sex—lots and lots of graphic sex—to get her way.

I’m not going to lie. The sex is what attracted me to Noelle. That and her steely determination to get ahead no matter what the cost. But mostly the sex.

Now she is but one of many on my bookshelf, a spine that reminds me of happy times and the power of the printed word.

Harry Hunsicker is a novelist and former executive vice-president of the Mystery Writers of America. He pens the Jon Cantrell thriller series and the Lee Henry Oswald PI series. His work has been short-listed for both the Shamus and Thriller Awards. Hunsicker’s story “West of Nowhere,” originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, was selected for inclusion in the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2011.

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews December 2014 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-03 17:02:37

hunsiker harry2They are old friends, the paperback novels that fill the bookshelves in my office.

My Book: Phantom Limb
Dennis Palumbo

palumbo phantomlimbIn my new Daniel Rinaldi thriller, Phantom Limb, one of the main characters is an Afghan vet who lost his leg to an IED while out on patrol with his unit. Now, stateside, he struggles with a growing substance abuse problem, as well as some of the predictable psychological aftereffects of such a life-changing trauma.

Moreover, he often experiences the bewildering sensation that his missing limb is still attached to his body. It itches, aches, or feels cold. Often, at night, while his prosthetic leg is propped against the wall across the room, the former Marine tosses and turns in bed, maddened by the tingling, burning sensation in his “phantom limb.”

Prior to becoming a licensed psychotherapist, I did intern work at a private psychiatric facility where I encountered a number of amputee patients suffering from this condition. But it wasn’t until I began researching the new novel that I discovered that up to 80 percent of people with amputations experience phantom limb sensations. Fortunately, in most cases, the symptoms lessen over time.

But what causes this extraordinary syndrome? At present, there’s no exact answer. For many years, the accepted theory was that once a limb is amputated, the severed nerve endings continued to send signals to the brain. Which then re-wires itself to adjust. To put it simply, from the brain’s standpoint, this meant the severed limb was still “there.”

However, more recent research suggests that phantom limb sensations originate in the peripheral nervous system, not the brain. They are the result of alterations in the body’s wide neural network, outside the primary areas in and around the brain. Of course, none of these theories do much to reduce or eliminate the patient’s uncanny experience. Just as most treatment methods have shown less than hoped-for results. Patients have been prescribed everything from anti-depressants to biofeedback, muscle relaxants to hypnosis. In some cases, doctors have tried electrical nerve stimulation. For example, inserting an electrode into the spinal cord, and then delivering a small electric current to relieve discomfort.

Regardless of treatment approaches, both the sudden loss of an arm or leg, as well as the phantom limb symptoms that often occur, are indicative of the psychological trauma accompanying such extreme injuries. Whether caused by an explosive device buried in the sand or as the result of an auto accident, the sudden loss of a limb is an emotional as well as a physical disruption of a person’s world.

In my novel, the character’s phantom limb symptoms serve as a metaphor for the sense of absence we all feel when a part of us—either due to an actual physical injury or some deep personal loss, such as a painful divorce or the death of a loved one—is wrenched away. Leaving nothing, to our mind’s eye, but a persistent, almost palpable ghost. Gone, and yet not gone.

Dennis Palumbo, Phantom Limb, Poisoned Pen Press, September 2014

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #136.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-03 17:45:34

palumbo phantomlimbA character’s phantom limb symptoms serve as a metaphor for the sense of absence we feel when a part of us is wrenched away.

My Book: Wouldn't It Be Deadly
D.E. Ireland

ireland wouldntitbedeadlyTake one witty, marvelous play by George Bernard Shaw, two longtime friends and Anglophiles, and many months of research into the Edwardian era. The end result? A new mystery series.

The two of us—Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta—had often talked about collaborating on a book. All we needed was the perfect idea. That idea finally materialized during one of Meg’s trips across Michigan to visit Sharon as she listened to the soundtrack of My Fair Lady. What if Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins turned their talents to solving crime?

My Fair Lady, of course, is a 1956 Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical based upon George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. Eliza Doolittle is a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady and help Henry win a bet.

“By George, I think we’ve got it!”

We soon realized the story possibilities with these two characters were endless. After all, the scholarly Henry had entrée to the upper crust, while Eliza was all too familiar with London’s dangerous East End. Together they had intimate knowledge of a wide spectrum of Edwardian England. Throw in their friend Colonel Pickering’s years in India, and our series could explore suspects and victims with experience in the British Raj as well.

Despite the initial inspiration from My Fair Lady, we used Shaw’s public domain play Pygmalion as our Bible. Shaw wrote extensively about his characters after their premiere in 1913, and amended the play before the 1938 movie, adding the famous embassy ball scene where Eliza successfully poses as a duchess. We needed a victim for the first novel in our series, and this time Sharon had the “aha” moment. Shaw had served up the perfect murder victim in that scene when linguistics specialist Emil Nepommuck boasts to Henry that he makes his students pay for more than just lessons. A blackmailer in plain sight! All we had to do was kill him off and create suspects.

ireland deMeg Mims (left) and Sharon Pisacreta have partnered as D.E. Ireland to write Wouldn’t It Be Deadly.

Unlike Eliza and Henry, both of us are close in age and have remarkably similar backgrounds. Still, although we had published books on our own and even won awards for our writing, the idea of a collaboration seemed daunting. We had no doubt we could write the book, but would our friendship survive?

A year later, we had a finished manuscript set in 1913 London, which included all of Shaw’s beloved characters. Of course, our book added several new faces such as Eliza’s cousin Jack Shaw, a detective inspector at Scotland Yard, and Eliza’s new stepmother Rose Doolittle. We also used locations found in Pygmalion, notably 27A Wimpole Street, Covent Garden Market, and the Chelsea Embankment flat of Higgins’ mother. The story allowed us to expand the play’s scope as Eliza and Higgins explore London to question suspects and try to confirm the professor’s alibi for the time of the murder. The action concludes at the Drury Lane Theatre in a rousing performance of Hamlet that is not likely to be seen again.

Now we’re happily waiting for our debut book Wouldn’t It Be Deadly to hit the shelves. Even better, we’re still talking to each other.

D.E. Ireland, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, Minotaur, September 2014, $24.99

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #136.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-03 18:05:32

ireland deTake one witty play by George Bernard Shaw, two longtime friends and Anglophiles, and a passion for the Edwardian era. The end result? A new mystery series from Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta (aka D.E. Ireland).

MS Gift Guide 2014: TV Tech

Anyone who hasn’t been in a bomb shelter for the last 60 or so years knows that American mystery fans are no longer afraid to read beyond their borders—witness the huge stateside success of everyone from about a zillion Scandinavian’s to Lousie Penny’s Trois Pins series. But due to international regulations and outdated regional restrictions, there are a slew of foreign film and TV shows on DVD still unavailable to American viewers—they just won’t play on standard American DVD players. But multi-region (aka “region-free”) players have never been cheaper to own, or easier to find. Even fancy pants models are now less than a hundred bucks, and even much less expensive models, such as the DVP2880 Multi Region 1080p HDMI Upscaling DVD Player (Phillips, $79.00, but shop around) will do the trick. It’s guaranteed to play any DVD from any country without a special TV, and comes with plenty of upscaling and other software to guarantee a high-def picture that’s sharper than a killer’s blade.

And if the plethora of foreign DVDs available online somehow isn’t enough to satisfy your lust for global murder and mayhem, then it’s time to get streaming. All you need is a wi-fi connection, a TV and a set-top streaming media box. There are plenty of them out there, but the original is still the King. The Roku 3 (Roku, $99.99) is the latest version, their fastest and most powerful model yet, able to handle up to 1080p HD video. And for your inner geek, it comes with a remote that features one of the coolest additions ever: a headphone jack, so you can listen to every single blood-curdling scream and sphincter-grating woop-woop-woop French police car siren without waking up the whole house. They’re a snap to install, and besides the hundreds of free channels offering cut-rate public domain crime and mystery films, TV and old-time radio shows, there are numerous subscription channels available (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Acorn, Amazon, Warner Archives, MHz, etc.) for far less than you’re probably paying for cable or satellite right now. Now, at last, you don’t need a passport, a Swiss bank account or a time machine to bring the whole world of mystery into your living room. Whether it’s a cheesy re-run of Hawaiian Eye (starring Troy Donahue and his hair) or the latest Scandinavian bleakness fest featuring depressed detective Olaf Olaffsen and his depressed AND suicidal blonde partner Svenson Svenson Svenson, it’s out there somewhere.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-04 17:15:24
Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Tech for Your 'Tec Lover

$79.99 Philips DVP2880 Multi Region 1080p HDMI Upscaling DVD Player


Anyone who hasn’t been in a bomb shelter for the last 60 or so years knows that American mystery fans are no longer afraid to read beyond their borders—witness the huge stateside success of everyone from about a zillion Scandinavian’s to Lousie Penny’s Trois Pins series. But due to international regulations and outdated regional restrictions, there are a slew of foreign film and TV shows on DVD still unavailable to American viewers—they just won’t play on standard American DVD players. But multi-region (aka “region-free”) players have never been cheaper to own, or easier to find. Even fancy pants models are now less than a hundred bucks, and even much less expensive models, such as the DVP2880 Multi Region 1080p HDMI Upscaling DVD Player (Phillips, $79.00, but shop around) will do the trick. It’s guaranteed to play any DVD from any country without a special TV, and comes with plenty of upscaling and other software to guarantee a high-def picture that’s sharper than a killer’s blade.

$99.99 Roku 3


And if the plethora of foreign DVDs available online somehow isn’t enough to satisfy your lust for global murder and mayhem, then it’s time to get streaming. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection, a TV and a set-top streaming media box. There are plenty of them out there, but the original is still the king. The Roku 3 (Roku, $99.99) is the latest version, their fastest and most powerful model yet, able to handle up to 1080p HD video. And for your inner geek, it comes with a remote that features one of the coolest additions ever: a headphone jack, so you can listen to every single blood-curdling scream and sphincter-grating woop-woop-woop French police car siren without waking up the whole house. They’re a snap to install, and besides the hundreds of free channels offering cut-rate public domain crime and mystery films, TV and old-time radio shows, there are numerous subscription channels available (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Acorn, Amazon, Warner Archives, MHz, etc.) for far less than you’re probably paying for cable or satellite right now. Now, at last, you don’t need a passport, a Swiss bank account or a time machine to bring the whole world of mystery into your living room. Whether it’s a cheesy rerun of Hawaiian Eye (starring Troy Donahue and his hair) or the latest Scandinavian bleakness fest featuring depressed detective Olaf Olaffsen and his depressed AND suicidal blonde partner Svenson Svenson Svenson, it’s out there somewhere.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-04 17:20:36

roku3Two tech tools for film and TV 'tec lovers

#GiveaBook Campaign for Gifts

coben harlan-credit-Claudio-Marinesco small
We are officially in the holiday season and that means gifts—those you buy and those you receive.

After all, books can make the best presents for the reader on your list.

And what started as a small campaign to encourage book buying—and support literacy—seems to have grown by leaps and bounds.

Penguin Random House has launched its #GiveaBook social media campaign that encourages books as gifts and works as a way to help donate books to U.S. children.

Each time the hashtag #GiveaBook is used on Facebook and Twitter by Dec. 24, the publisher will donate a book to the aid organization Save the Children. The publisher is committed to donating up to 25,000 books.

And this campaign has taken off with other publishers, libraries, and bookstores getting into the act, not to mention many authors. People are creating videos of themselves naming a book they are giving to someone and why and then challenging at least two others to make their own #GiveaBook video.

Among the mystery writers who have posted #GiveaBook videos are Sara Paretsky and Harlan Coben, left.

Other mystery writers who are posting about their #GiveaBook ideas are Megan Abbott, Dennis Tafoya, Laurie R. King, and Gary Phillips.

Also doing #GiveaBook are J.D. Robb and Nora Roberts (presumably they have discussed this between them) as well as many others from all genres.

Put #GiveaBook at the top of your list.

And if we have left out any other authors participating in the #GiveaBook campaign, please add your name.

Oline Cogdill
2014-12-09 21:22:49
At the Scene, Holiday Issue #137

137cover250Hi Everyone,

The appeal of crime fiction knows no borders, as Fuminori Nakamura ably demonstrates. He’s a growing force, both in his native Japan and in the West, and he recently received the David L. Goodis Award for Noir Fiction at the NoirCon convention in Philadelphia. Nakamura says his influences range from Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Rashomon, Hell Gate) to Dostoyevsky to Camus to...Agatha Christie, surprisingly.

Ed Gorman makes an equally interesting connection by proposing we look at Charlotte Armstrong as a purveyor of suburban noir. While most readers will remember her for classic thrillers like The Gift Shop or A Dram of Poison, Gorman points us to Armstrong’s grittier side.

Few children would ever suspect their mother of having been a masked crimefighter back in the day. Raymond Benson took this unlikely premise and turned it into rousing good fun in the Black Stiletto series. The final book, Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings, is out now. Every one of my four sisters highly recommends this series!

Joseph Goodrich relates the delightful tale of how one brief telephone conversation with Dilys Winn, founder of the world’s first mystery bookshop, set his 13-year-old self on the path to a literary career.

Jeff Cohen and E.J. Copperman are collaborating on a new series about a detective with Asperger’s syndrome. The two writers have a lot in common—which makes sense since they’re one and the same person. Cheryl Solimini explains.

Roy Huggins named names of possible Communists in the McCarthy era. Should that influence our opinion of his work as a mystery writer and one of the most successful television producers of all time? Read Jake Hinkson’s profile and decide.

Our annual gift guide is back and this year I received my present early: an introduction to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the TV show based on Kerry Greenwood’s delightful novels about a flapper detective in 1920s Australia. I also have my eye on the Nancy Drew booksafe and the Vive Gamache! Café au lait mugs, and the Mockingbird Necklace... You’ll find lots of good ideas, too!

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015!

Kate Stine

Teri Duerr
2014-12-11 14:07:01
Holiday Issue #137 Contents



Fuminori Nakamura

This young gun of Japanese hardboiled fiction is gaining international acclaim.
by Tom Nolan

The Question of the Collaborating Crime Writers

E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen team up to write a new series featuring a detective with Asperger’s syndrome.
by Cheryl Solimini

Dilys Winn’s Magical Mystery Tour

Even though he never took it, a “Mystery Readers’ Tour of Britain” led by the celebrated bookseller started a young boy on the journey of a lifetime.
by Joseph Goodrich

The Black Stiletto

Raymond Benson’s saga about a Mad Men-era female vigilante comes to a rousing conclusion.
by Oline H. Cogdill


Charlotte Armstrong (1905-1969), creator of unsettling “suburban noir;” Edward Mathis and his PI Dan Roman.
by Ed Gorman

Roy Huggins: Too Late for Tears

TV titan Roy Huggins, creator of The Rockford Files, The Fugitive, etc., also had one film noir masterpiece to his credit, the newly restored Too Late for Tears.
by Jake Hinkson

The 2014 Mystery Lovers Gift Guide

Books, DVDs, jewelry, mugs and more for all the good little mystery fans on your list.
by Kevin Burton Smith

“Down These Mean Streets” Crossword

by Verna Suit


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

Macavity Awards, Barry Awards, Anthony Awards, Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards, British Crime Writers Association Dagger Awards, Part II

New Books

The Bulletin Board and the Writer
by Betty Webb

The Hook

First lines that caught our attention


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews


The Docket


Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info

Teri Duerr
2014-12-11 14:19:39
Holiday Issue #137
Teri Duerr
2014-12-11 14:22:40
Lois Duncan, James Ellroy: MWA Grand Masters

duncan lois
Each year the Mystery Writers of America pick an author—sometimes two—to be named a Grand Master.

This isn’t some random title but an honor to recognize those authors who have made contributions to the genre by setting a new course through their works.

I hate the term “transcend the genre,” because I don’t think the genre needs transcending. Instead, a Grand Master is an author whose work enhances, expands, and energizes crime fiction.

Two authors have been named the 2015 Grand Master and while Lois Duncan, at left, and James Ellroy, below right, couldn’t be more different, they are each deserving of this honor.

The Grand Masters will be presented their awards during the Edgar Awards on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Lois Duncan’s work has been familiar since the mid-1960s. Duncan was only 13 years old when she sold her first short story to a national magazine. She was 18 years old when her first novel, Debutante Hill, came out. That was in 1957. While Debutante Hill sounds like one of those simple tales about rich girls that were so popular in the 1950s, Duncan brought a sense of social issues to the novel, an approach that she would continue to expound on in all her some 50 novels.

In Debutante Hill, wealthy teenager Lynn Chambers spends her senior year hanging out with her rich friends, waiting for letters from her college boyfriend and planning to become a debutante when this tradition starts up in her hometown. But when her father refuses to allow her to participate, Lynn suddenly is no longer part of the “in crowd.” Now an outsider to her wealthy friends, Lynn becomes aware of teens who are not in the same economic class. She begins to develop strong opinions about prejudice and social status, and rethinks her relationships with her former friends.

ellroy james
Pretty heady stuff for a teen a novel in the 1950s, especially one written by an author who was a teenager herself.

But that was mild compared to Duncan’s two novels credited with revolutionizing young-adult fiction. In Point of Violence and Ransom, both published in 1966, Duncan used a realistic viewpoint, presenting her main characters with choices and decisions that had consequences, paving the way for many other young-adult authors that followed.

Social issues are a mainstay of her novels. For example, Daughters of Eve tackled societal sexism, Killing Mr. Griffin the pressure placed on teens to perform and get into good colleges, and I Know What You Did Last Summer dealt with the Vietnam War and society’s reactions to it, plus the struggles of returning veterans.

Duncan has been nominated several times for the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile, and her books have been made into films.

James Ellroy’s novels are the complete opposite of Duncan’s work. One would never mistake Ellroy’s books for young-adult novels.

Ellroy writes about a dark Los Angeles that is fueled by crime, sexism, racism, and homophobia. He lays bare those issues, showing their ugliness and the decay that chips away at society.

L.A. Confidential probably is his best-known and most accessible novel, and was made into a brilliant movie that starred Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, and Kim Basinger.

This 1997 film earned nine Academy Award nominations and took two, including best supporting actress for Basinger.

Previous Grand Masters include Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

Congratulations to both Grand Masters.

(Coming Wednesday: A look at the Raven winners.)

Oline Cogdill
2014-12-14 10:25:00
2015 Raven, Ellery Queen Awards

ravenoline mwa
The Raven Award, which is presented by the Mystery Writers of America, is one of my favorite awards.

And the reason is purely selfish. I had the honor of being presented this award in 2013, a thrill that never ends. I have my Raven placed prominently on my dresser so that each morning when I see it I never forget the prestige and pressure that comes with this honor.

So I feel a kinship with each person who is awarded a Raven, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

This year, two Ravens will be awarded to three people—each of whom is passionate about the mystery genre.

Jon and Ruth Jordan, founders of Crimespree magazine, will be awarded a Raven.

The Jordans, who met at a Bouchercon in 1999, have chaired or co-chaired and planned numerous Bouchercons through the years. We have them to thank for the outstanding Bouchercons in Baltimore (2008), St. Louis (2011), as well as others. They already are in the planning stage, along with Erin Mitchell, for the St. Petersburg Bouchercon, scheduled for 2018.

They also are the co-founders and organizers of Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, a crime-fiction conference set in a Milwaukee suburb that this year became Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee.

In addition, Crimespree magazine sponsors the Crimespree Awards.

The other Raven winner is Kathryn Kennison, the founder and “the heart and soul” of Magna cum Murder, a well-regarded Midwestern mystery conference that celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2013.

jordan jonruth
Back in 1993, Kennison suggested a three-day mystery conference in Muncie, Indiana. She envisioned a “sedate weekend affair” with about 65 people and maybe three or four authors.

Boy, was she wrong.

That first conference ended up with 265 registered guests including 40 authors, and the festival has only grown since then.

Guests of honor have included Alexander McCall Smith, Mary Higgins Clark, Donald Westlake, Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, Louise Penny, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Charles Todd, Jeffrey Deaver, William Kent Krueger, and John Gilstrap. It has retained its roots as a fan festival.
Previous Raven winners include Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, The Poe House in Baltimore, MD, and myself.


MWA also will present its Ellery Queen Award, which was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”

This year, the Ellery Queen will go to Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime, which debuted in 2004 as an homage to the great pulp fiction paperbacks of the 1950s and 1960’s.

Those years are considered to be the golden age of paperbacks. Those also are the books that helped shape and influence many generations of crime writers as well as the genre itself.

kennison kathryn
Launched by Ardai and Max Phillips, Hard Case quickly established its impact on the crime fiction world.

Domenic Stansberry’s The Confession won the Edgar Award for best paperback original and several other Hard Case authors have been nominated for Edgar Awards through the years.

Hard Case has brought back into print forgotten novels by Donald Westlake, Erle Stanley Gardner, Harlan Ellison, Pete Hamill, and Lawrence Block.

Since it was launched, Hard Case has published more than 100 books, many of which have been nominated for awards. He also published Joyland by Stephen King. 

He also acquired the rights to the lost James M. Cain manuscript The Cocktail Waitress.

Previous Ellery Queen honorees include Mystery Scene magazine, Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group, and Poisoned Pen Press, published by Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald.

The Raven and Ellery Queen honorees, along with the presentation of the Grand Masters will be held during the Edgar Awards on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Congratulations to all the Raven and Ellery Queen honorees.


PHOTOS: Top, The Raven himself; center, Jon and Ruth Jordan; bottom, Kathryn Kennison

Oline Cogdill
2014-12-17 11:45:00

jack irish
With all the holidays bearing down on us, many mystery fans are looking for those last minute gifts.

Books are always nice. Here’s a list of my picks for the year that has run in various newspapers around the country.

But sometimes you just want to watch, not read. So I am turning to Acorn Media for some of the best in mystery viewing with DVDS that can be enjoyed all year.

And these films may introduce you to the novels on which many are based.

Many of these also are available on the “best British TV streaming service” on Acorn TV…and while the streaming may not make the “present” you want to give, it will give you a break from all the holiday planning.

Jack Irish: Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) broods away as Jack Irish, a former lawyer turned private investigator and debt collector, in these films based on Peter Temple’s novels. Originally broadcast on Australian television, the Jack Irish series is addictive. Expect a lot, and I do mean a lot, of brooding, from the often scruffy Pearce who struggles with grief and bad guys.

Republic of Doyle: Set in Newfoundland, this comedy drama from Canada is as much about solving crimes as it is the relationship between Malachy and Jake Doyle, a father and son detective team. Ex-cop Malachy, played by Sean McGinley, and Jake, played by Allan Hawco, are a tight-knit family who, like any family, bicker and jab at each other. They also have their share of troubles with girlfriends, ex-wives and one rebellious teenage daughter. And how many times do we see any mystery set in the lovely St. John’s area of Newfoundland? Fortunately, the series makes the most of this area.

barbary coast
mr and mrs murder
Line of Duty:
Police corruption is at the center of this British series that examines a different case each season. As gripping as the investigations are, the characters are so well sculpted that we care deeply about their complex personalities. A true ensemble series in which each role, no matter how seemingly small, is important.

Barbary Coast: How did this short-lived American series get into this mix? Not sure. Barbary Coast aired for less than a year, beginning in 1975, and with its combination of western and espionage was, no doubt, inspired by The Wild Wild West. Set in 1880s San Francisco, it featured post-Star Trek William Shatner as Jeff Cable, an undercover government agent, and Doug McClure as Cash Conover, a gambler and casino owner whose motto was “Cash makes no enemies.” Maybe. But the two of them certainly had their share of corruption in dealing with a post-Gold Rush city rift with violence and corruption. The series holds up fairly well, and while the outlook is a bit dated, the crimes they pursued are not. Corrupt bankers, casino robberies, racketeering, stolen shipments—all that still happens in the 21st century. On a personal note, I had forgotten how handsome Doug McClure was.

Mr. and Mrs. Murder: Also from Australia is this witty series about Charlie and Nicola Buchanan who are crime-scene cleaners. Their assignments often lead them into solving the crime as well as wiping out all traces of it. The chemistry between the couple, played by Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart, comes across quite nicely. This is a couple you’d like to spend time with, but you do not ever want to visit them at work.

Oline Cogdill
2014-12-20 12:30:00
The Counterfeit Heiress
Eileen Brady

The Counterfeit Heiress is the latest outing for Lady Emily and a very enjoyable one it is. Fans of the Victorian mystery series are in for a treat, as Lady Emily and her dashing husband Colin Hargreaves attend a fancy dress ball that ends in murder. Who is the dead woman at the glittering affair posing as the shy but wealthy heiress Estella Lamar? Did the killer know the victim was an imposter? Lady Emily realizes no one has seen the real Estella in years. Clever and relentless, Emily travels to France determined to find the missing woman—whether she wants to be found or not. Helping Lady Emily as she travels across the English Channel in search of the real Estella are her friends, the delightful Cecile, the ever-devoted Jeremy Sheffield, Duke of Bainbridge, and perhaps Estella herself.

The author was inspired by two real-life incidents: finding a trove of photographs of a 1897 masquerade ball given by the Duchess of Devonshire, and reading about the life of reclusive American heiress Haugette Clark. Descriptions of the lush costumes, many couture from The House of Worth in Paris, draw you into the overall merriment. I was fascinated to find that partygoers back then had the resources to light up a crescent moon shaped headdress with electricity, making a guest glow in the dark.

Readers may be surprised at the modern psychological twist that Alexander masterfully weaves into this Victorian-era novel and an unexpected ending that is particularly ingenious.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 21:56:22
Betty Webb

Although the clues in Five are difficult (GPS coordinates, complicated math problems, references to classical composers and German poets), Five is so intriguing that few readers will mind. In fact, they’ll become increasingly intrigued.

At first, Ursula Archer’s debut mystery/thriller appears fairly straightforward. A young woman is found dead at the bottom of a cliff outside Salzburg, Austria, with her hands tied behind her back and GPS coordinates tattooed on the bottom of her foot. When Detective Beatrice Kaspary and her partner Florin follow coordinates through briars, brambles, and forest to a hidden plastic container, they discover that the killer has lured them into a game of “geocaching.”

For the uninitiated, geocaching is a modern-day form of treasure hunting, where the “owner” hides a small box called a “cache,” and leaves GPS coordinates as clues to the cache’s whereabouts. The finders remove a trinket left in the cache and trade it for one of their own, usually a coin or something else of low value. However, in Five, the cache’s owner leaves freshly removed body parts as well as complicated clues to the next cache’s whereabouts.

Before the book’s shocking ending, five caches (thus the title) have been found, and Kaspary and Florin have amassed a bloody hoard of fingers, ears, and in one particularly grisly instance, a freshly decapitated human head. Only by discovering what links the seemingly random victims—four and counting—can Kaspary and Florin hope to track down the owner and end his killing spree.

Author Archer builds her book with horror upon horror, clue upon careful clue, until Kaspary begins to crumble under the pressure. Obviously, Five is not for the weak-stomached or the impatient, but it is so masterfully written and structured that even squeamish readers probably won’t bail. What makes this all so extraordinary is that Five is not only Ursula Archer’s first thriller, it’s her first adult book. She is a children’s and YA writer, which might remind us that blood and other assorted gore are no strangers to classic children’s literature. Still, Five could scare the pants off both Brothers Grimm.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:05:23

A complex police procedural from a promising new voice in international crime writing

The Skeleton Road
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

With the Serbo-Croatian war of the 1990s as a backdrop, Val McDermid has created a modern-day cold case murder mystery featuring Scottish police, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and survivors of that cruel conflict.

When a skeleton is found hidden near the top of an Edinburgh skyscraper marked for demolition, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie must first identify the victim before she can begin the hunt for the killer. Little does she know that before the case is concluded the investigation’s trail will take her to a Croatian village, and into a political sparring contest with the former Yugoslavia’s criminal tribunal, which is searching for a serial killer of Serbian war criminals.

At more than 400 pages, this is a far-ranging novel that not only delves deeply into the horrendous Serbo-Croatian conflict, but also into the minds of some of its survivors. McDermid has obviously done a lot of research on the Balkan war. I, for one, was unaware of the centuries-old conflicts and savagery that have plagued these neighbors who would seem to have much in common. I enjoyed the intelligence and determination of Chief Inspector Pirie and the camaraderie she shares with her less intelligent but willing assistant Detective Constable Jason Murray. I even enjoyed the internecine political conflicts within the tribunal.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:11:04
Matt Fowler

Two mysteries, one involving a corpse discovered in the mountains of Colorado, and the other concerning the attempted assassination of a political candidate, converge in the novel Trapline by Mark Stevens.

In the third book in the Allison Coil Mystery series, Stevens relishes the opportunity to thoroughly discuss the topic of immigration in the US through his well-defined protagonist’s world. While Allison Coil, a hunting guide, refrains from giving a perspective on gun control, the highly charged subject matter stays at the forefront of the reader’s mind as the two investigations build to their inevitable climax—though it’s only toward the middle of the novel when the two story lines converge that the reader understands the significance of the overarching plot.

Though Trapline clearly wants to establish Coil as the star, what’s unexpected is the quality of the story’s tertiary characters: Trudy, a health food business owner, and Duncan, a news reporter, are both more distinct than Allison herself. Though the protagonist may lack more unique qualities, Allison is still likable, and readers will enjoy the fast-paced action.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:17:23
The Murder of Harriet Krohn
Robin Agnew

This excellent, if bleak, volume from Karin Fossum is a riff on Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” where the guilty party is driven crazy by his own guilt. Fossum, who is also a poet, has the poet’s gift of concise, tight phrasing and storytelling. I don’t know how her books read in the original Norwegian, but even in translation her crisp prose is high on my list of favorites.

I’m also a fan of her Inspector Sejer, a matter-of-fact detective who has a dog in his office, and who always gets his man. This novel, the tenth story in the series, features Sejer quite minimally, as it is told from murderer Charlo Torp’s perspective. It begins with a letter to Torp’s daughter, who, it becomes clear, is estranged from her widowed father. As Torp’s tale unfolds the reasons for the estrangement become clear. Torp was a compulsive gambler who was fired for embezzlement, and who even took money from his own young child. He’s lost his wife to cancer and he’s surrounded—engulfed—by unpayable debts.

Faced with despair, he makes an impossible situation worse with a desperate plan to rob a wealthy woman and use the spoils to pay off his debts. It goes horribly wrong and the old woman is murdered, an act that Charlo is able to justify to himself—it was her fault, he thinks, for fighting back.

In fact, Charlo is able to justify most everything to himself after he counts the old woman’s money, pays off his debts, and buys his daughter a horse to get back in her good graces. His daughter, only 17 and horse-mad, is charmed despite little blips of suspicion of things not quite right. Charlo is able to talk her out of her worries, but has no such luck with Sejer when the inspector turns up at his apartment to question him.

The crime is kept in the background as you follow Charlo through his life journey, one that readers may suspect will end differently from what Charlo optimistically hopes. Fossum keeps the reader firmly inside Charlo’s head throughout. I thought it was a particular achievement that, as a reader, you feel some measure of sympathy for Charlo despite his depraved behavior. You can understand his desperation and most of his actions.

The person I was left with the most sympathy for, though, was Torp’s daughter, who, after all, just wants to love her father. If there’s anyone better than Fossum at using crime to profoundly illustrate human morality and motive, I’m not sure who it would be, except perhaps for Ruth Rendell. This tense, bleak, thought-provoking novel is highly recommended.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:23:57
The Mystery of the Invisible Hand
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

This is one of the most unusual mysteries I’ve ever read. Its protagonist is a unique blend of economist Adam Smith with a dash of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot mixed in. I mention Adam Smith first because most of the book deals with economics and not murder. However, surprisingly, I enjoyed the economics even more than the mystery and its solution!

When Harvard economics professor and sometime sleuth Henry Spearman wins a Nobel Prize, he is invited to lecture at a San Antonio university for a semester at a very generous salary, and there finds himself at the center of skullduggery and a suspicious death. The skullduggery is the recent theft of very valuable paintings, and the suspicious death is that of the artist, initially ruled a suicide by hanging.

Coincidentally, Spearman’s topic for the semester is Economics and Art, and the vigorous give and take with students in the classroom is both entertaining and informative. In the end, it is this very give and take that helps solve the mystery. I must say I learned more about economics from this novel than I ever did from any economics book I’ve ever read...and enjoyed it a lot more.

The author, unsurprisingly, is a professor of economics at the University of Virginia and has coauthored three other Henry Spearman mystery novels.—Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:29:48
The Wolf in Winter
Betty Webb

John Connolly is fond of adding an otherworldly entity or two into the crime fiction mix, and his latest work is no exception. This time, instead of one lone creature (the series’ evil Travelling Man) from the netherworld, Connolly serves up an entire town.

Something is amiss in Prosperity, Maine, a picturesque little village founded in the 1600s by religious dissidents from England. The town’s idyllic appearance and lifestyle is seemingly at odds with the fact that young women have been disappearing there for centuries. When Jude, a homeless man living on the streets of Portland, realizes his daughter has gone missing after being hired by a couple from Prosperity, he amasses enough money to hire PI Charlie Parker to locate her. Unfortunately, Jude is found hanged, a probable suicide, before he can meet with Parker, but Parker takes up the investigation anyway.

Before long, Charlie zeroes in on the village’s ancient church, transported brick by brick from northeast England by Prosperity’s original founders. Despite its claims to be “non-denominational,” the church’s carvings hint at the worship of gods much older than Christianity. Accordingly, there is a Lovecraftian sense of creeping menace to The Wolf in Winter, and a slow peeling back of religious history that Connolly expands upon in the acknowledgments. We learn that one of the sects mentioned in the book did once exist, which isn’t necessarily a comforting thought.

The ability to mix fact with fiction has always been one of the great strengths of Connolly’s writing. As Lovecraft knew, there is no better way to scare the pants off a reader than to hint that vicious old gods are still beloved by the family next door. The Wolf in Winter is a terrific story, but a word to the wise: Don’t read it on a dark and stormy night.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:35:52
Die I Will Not
Sharon Magee

Dryden Leach, editor of a Tory newspaper in 1813 London, is stabbed to death by a mysterious figure who is seen running from his offices. All fingers point to a rogue using the name Collantinus to publish treasonous letters against the Prince Regent. Twenty years earlier, Penelope Wolfe’s father wrote letters under the same alias before fleeing England, and the young mother fears suspicion will fall on her and her family.

Within days of her husband’s murder, Leach’s wife Mary, an acquaintance of Penelope’s, also dies under mysterious circumstances. Even though well-respected married ladies risked disgrace by becoming involved with politics or crime, Penelope knows she must find who’s behind the murders, and whether they are connected to her exiled father. A woman in a man’s world, Penelope can’t rely on her ne’er-do-well husband (an artist who has squandered her money), so she calls on two men for help: John Chase, a Bow Street Runner (London’s first professional police force), who helps Penelope at the risk of expulsion from his department; and barrister Edward Buckler, who also puts his job and reputation on the line to assist Penelope (with whom he shares a mutual attraction).

This is the third in Rizzolo’s John Chase series to feature these three intriguing and contrasting investigators. Rizzolo neatly sets up early 19th-century London with her superb descriptions of time and place as she takes us from the stink and filth of the streets to the overheated drawing rooms of the rich and powerful. Fans of regency mysteries are in for a treat.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-30 22:40:37
The Forgers
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

If you’re looking for a challenging whodunit mystery, this isn’t it. What you have here is a first-person narrative by a high-level literary forger about a murder and its aftermath. The murder occurs very early and the victim is the brother of the narrator’s girlfriend. The brother, a reclusive collector of rare books and artifacts, is found with his hands severed and most of his collection trashed.

The identity of the murderer in The Forgers is less important than the effect of the crime on its characters. The situation is exacerbated by the appearance of a threatening letter to the narrator. As an expert forger of manuscripts himself, he recognizes the handwriting as that of a long-dead author whom he has forged over the years. When more blackmail letters appear in the handwriting of various other dead authors, he decides to set up a meeting with the letterwriter to get to the bottom of things, and the situation goes from bad to worse. One of the intriguing questions in this story is whether the narrator is a good guy at heart, despite his forgery talents.

Written by an author who obviously knows the antiquarian book world intimately, we are given a comprehensive look into the workings of literary forgery, how it is accomplished, who is involved, and how much money is at stake. Written in a highly polished style befitting an author who is a professor of literature and who has been called “one of America’s major literary voices” by Publisher’s Weekly, The Forgers is an unusual blend of mystery, romance, and the fine art of the fake.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-31 22:14:51
Riders on the Storm
Kevin Burton Smith

Here’s that damned war again. Make no mistake—Vietnam was always a presence in this acclaimed series of historical mysteries featuring Sam McCain, Black River Falls, Iowa’s “least successful lawyer.”

In the earliest books, set in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Vietnam was simply a fly somewhere out there in the dark, buzzing insistently but never quite landing. But as time marches on, the war (and the debate about it) has become harder to ignore, finally coming home to roost at the end of Bad Moon Rising (2012), when National Guardsman Sam is called up.

Riders on the Storm, then, presents the aftermath, and it’s at least as dark and unsettling as the Doors song that inspired its title. The veneer of innocence this series has always hinted at is chopped and broken. Sam is back home after months in a military hospital, his brains scrambled to the point where he didn’t know who he was for several weeks. But the cruelest irony of all may be that his injuries weren’t even received “over there”—the accident occurred stateside, while he was still in boot camp. But there’s more cruelty in store—while he was out of commission, his mother suffered a stroke and is now living in Chicago with his sister, and his fiancée sent him a Dear John letter.

Welcome home, soldier.

It’s 1971, and there’s a lot of hatred and spit in the air, directed at both anti-war protestors and returning vets, and Sam, still shaky, is caught up in the middle. But “that piece of shit war” isn’t over yet, not for Sam, or for anyone else. Soon enough he finds himself defending Will Cullen, an old friend he’s known since First Communion, a quiet-spoken, recently returned veteran who’s been charged with the brutal murder of another returning vet. Steve Donovan, a rising young pro-war politician, was found beaten to death in a parking lot with a tire iron, just hours after he had savagely pummeled Will in a very public dispute.

Nothing, of course, is quite as simple or straightforward as it seems. Not Will’s guilt or innocence, not the war, not Sam’s tentative steps back into civilian life.

In a world of black-and-white political rhetoric and dumbed-down history, the always effective Ed Gorman brings a full box of Crayolas to the party. These are not stick figures mouthing empty talking points— these are real people with real hopes and real dreams, feeling real pain.

Color me impressed.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-31 22:27:53
A Nip of Murder
Vanessa Orr

It’s no surprise that moonshine, hidden treasure, and guns are a major part of A Nip of Murder, set in the Appalachian region of southern Virginia. What is surprising is that the person taking charge of investigating the stabbing of a robber in her bakery is a young woman named Daisy McGovern, who gives the good old boys a run for their money when it comes to unraveling a series of crimes.

The main characters are likable, though as expected in a rural Southern story, somewhat eccentric—I especially appreciated the fact that everyone, from Daisy to her genteel Aunt Emily, was always ready to pick up either a gun or a glass of ’shine, depending on the situation. While some of the small-town characters are stereotypical, such as the inept sheriff’s deputy and the bad-boy moonshine dealer with a heart of gold, other characters are more cleverly drawn. Miller has a way with description, portraying not-so-bright Bobby Balsam during his school days as “the only one to eat an entire box of crayons, repeatedly,” and Daisy’s best friend, Beulah, as looking “like Medusa with a double heap of windblown snakes.”

This is a charming, easy read of a book. And while I can’t say that I was surprised by the ending, I did have an enjoyable time getting there. The action moved at a fast pace, and author Carol Miller threw in an adequate number of red herrings—as well as a geocaching conference that increased the number of suspects in town. While I’d like to see Miller use her gift of description even more in her next book, this second installment of The Moonshine Mysteries goes down pretty easily.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-31 22:33:37
Sweet Sunday
Kevin Burton Smith

Sweet Sunday is an ambitious 2003 standalone, re-released in part thanks to the belated discovery stateside of the author’s excellent Inspector Troy series, which has meandered its way, so far, from WWII to about 1963. But anyone expecting a graceful, literate period piece, full of British resolve and the stiff upper lip of aching regret, may need to adjust their expectations. Sweet Sunday, told in a series of occasionally disjointed flashbacks, offers a different time, a different war, and a different country: the sweaty, turbulent and divisive American summer of 1969.

Dropped into the maelstrom is Turner Raines, a displaced 31-year-old Texan now living in New York City. He’s a failed lawyer, disillusioned civil rights activist, and a so-so journalist who’s finally stumbled onto his niche. A little old for the love generation, maybe, but it seems Turner, now a licensed private investigator, is a whiz at tracking down young draft dodgers who’ve found shelter from the storm in Canada—and reassuring their parents that little Johnny is doing okay in Toronto.

But things take a nasty hop when Turner’s best friend, Mel Kisser, a self-styled muckraker for the Village Voice, is murdered. In Turner’s office. With an icepick in his head. Of course, when a man’s friend is killed, you’re supposed to do something about it. Was it something Mel was working on that got him killed? Turner wants to know.

Unfortunately, Lawton is so intent on nailing the flavor and texture of the times that he doesn’t so much capture its essence, as occasionally smother it. I mean, it’s all here in a mad jumble of ’60s Greatest Hits: Norman Mailer’s ill-fated bid to be mayor of New York City, the Mississippi Freedom Riders, the moon landing, the Chicago riots, the hippies and yippies, the casual sex, the generation gap, Bob Dylan, Jerry Rubin and Gloria Steinem, tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, Woodstock, and, of course, Vietnam. But the author’s insistence on Turner bearing witness to almost every key historical event makes him seem more like Forrest Gump than Sam Spade.

Nor do the holes in Lawton’s research help. A passport for Americans to get into Canada? In 1969? Really?

Still, Lawson’s great at the touchstone emotional moments. And the investigation of the case—and Turner’s personal journey—is a long, strange trip well worth going on. Once the author’s focus shifts from the headlines to the actual characters in the book, the past does come alive, and the freak flag of the era flies high and free, capturing all too well the seething, swirling turmoil of a country at war with itself.

Teri Duerr
2014-12-31 22:41:17