Death in the Pines
Kevin Burton Smith

With its New England setting and its genetically engineered whiff of the supernatural, this one suggests John Connolly on a green jag.

Former big-shot Atlanta private eye Oakley Tyler has taken early retirement (à la Travis McGee), moving to a small cabin deep in the Vermont woods, deliberately off the grid, burned out after too many deaths (parents, fiancée, business partner), and too many years in the shamus game. He just wants to reconnect with something. Anything. But, as he hastens to tell an uninvited visitor, “this ain’t no Walden Pond.”

No kidding.

That visitor is Jeremiah Smith, a persnickety old coot, determined to hire Oakley. Seems Jeremiah’s worried that “the kind of men who think they got the right to play God” may be out to kill Jerry, a local newspaper reporter and his only “livin’ relative.” But Oakley’s hesitant to take on any clients, never mind some “aging hippie” who seems more than a little paranoid—if not outright crazy.

Then Jeremiah’s truck, parked down the hill aways blows up, and someone takes a couple of potshots at the two men. Suddenly, Jeremiah doesn’t seem quite as crazy.

It’s a good start to what promises to be a solid, fast-paced bit of woodsy noir, as Oakley squares off against Caleb Benson, a notoriously ruthless local timber tycoon. There’s plenty of familiar private- eye action here: a complicated romantic relationship (with a local waitress) for the hero, several dirty secrets, more than a little greed, some murders (of course), and some damn great characters, just dripping with local color.

But the author is apparently after bigger—or at least different—game. As Tyler heads off into the woods to track down the shooter, he stumbles across a young woman with long black hair, clad in buckskins, sitting on a rock. A woman who can walk in the snow and leave no tracks. She’s enigmatic as hell, and pops in and out of the story, apparent only to Oakley, full of jargon about Spirit and suggestions that her People have—and will—always be here. And to be kind to Mother Earth— a sentiment which complements Oakley’s investigation, which leads to a sobering look at the threat genetic engineering may pose to the environment.

I don’t know. I liked the book, and I admire the message, but I’m not convinced having it delivered by Pocahontas Barbie in a series of unnatural-feeling intrusions was the best move.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 00:55:02
Long Way Down
R. T. Davis

Murder, greed, and corruption—the tried-and-true triple-threat themes in compelling crime-detective-mystery fiction. These are the centerpieces of the newest novel from Michael Sears, an author with a 20-year Wall Street career and two previous thrillers (Mortal Bonds and Black Fridays) to his credit. When Long Way Down opens, investment fraud investigator Jason Stafford is asked to apply his considerable, albeit tarnished expertise in an inquiry that will either exonerate or imprison a wealthy biofuel researcher accused of insider trading.

Stafford, as narrator, succinctly boasts of his qualifications: “I fix things. I find things.” But he also admits, “I’m a bit of a loose cannon.” Furthermore, this loose cannon—not appreciating the considerable ironies involved— also admits to being somewhat too tolerant, skeptical, thoughtful, optimistic, romantic, and forgiving.

At any rate, as the action unfolds, some people with a huge stake in the big-money worlds of alternative energy and high finance are not very happy about Stafford’s investigation, and murder soon rears its ugly head.

Long Way Down is remarkable for its crisp, natural dialogue, as well as some excellent action and suspense (albeit of the testosterone-fueled variety). The subplot involving the narrator’s autistic six-year-old son adds a compelling human interest angle, though some readers might feel as though the plot flags a bit in the first half of the book during the necessary diversions into the narrator’s backstory and personal issues. Readers who are patient will find themselves rewarded by a timely tale in which the good, bad, and ugly intersections of crime and capitalism are showcased.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:02:43
The Accidental Alchemist
Sheila M. Merritt

Born in 1679, Zoe Faust has survived centuries of ordeals to find herself settling into a newly purchased Portland, Oregon, fixer-upper. Courtesy of The Elixir of Life, the alchemist’s appearance is that of someone in her thirties.

While Zoe is unpacking her boxes from France, she uncovers Dorian Robert-Houdin, a stowaway. Dorian is a three-foot-tall, living, breathing gargoyle who is a trained gourmet cook. An even more disconcerting discovery is the murdered man Zoe finds on her doorstep—her remodeling contractor Charles Macraith.

Dorian is reverting to his old statuary state, but an antique book that he has brought with him from France has information that could halt the process and keep him mobile. He’s relying on Zoe to decipher the text, but the tome is stolen in tandem with the murder of Macraith. The crime throws the community into upheaval and introduces Zoe to the attractive Portland detective Max Liu. As a secret practitioner of magic, though, Zoe is circumspect, which puts a strain on a potential romance with Max.

The Accidental Alchemist is a whimsical and charming supernatural mystery. The rapport between Gallic gourmet Dorian and Zoe is delectable, and Zoe’s chemistry with Detective Liu is sizzling.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:07:12
The Autumn Dead / The Night Remembers
Kevin Burton Smith

If Ed Gorman were a different type of writer, I’d call this a two-fisted collection, but Gorman’s not that kinda guy. Oh, he’ll sock it to you, all right, but you’ll never see it coming. Let’s face it. Any lout in a bar can spit in your face, punch you in the gut, or kick you in the, uh, guts, but it takes a real master to look you straight in the eye and KO you before you even know you’re in a fight.

This collection rounds up two of Gorman’s better novels, both of which aptly demonstrate the author’s long-recognized ability to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

The Autumn Dead (1987) was Gorman’s fourth novel to feature Jack Dwyer, a private eye in a thinly disguised version of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A former cop who developed a taste for acting, he quit the force, figuring being a gumshoe would give him more time to pursue his passion.

But Marlowe he’s not, and he soon takes a job with a security firm to keep the wolf from the door. And then Karen Lane, a high school sweetheart, waltzes back into his life, asking him to recover a suitcase she’d left with a previous lover, figuring the now middle-aged Jack—despite being in a solid relationship—won’t be able to resist her still considerable charms. And he can’t. At least at first. But the suitcase isn’t where it’s supposed to be, and Karen hasn’t exactly been telling him the whole truth.

There’s a solid mystery here, full of murder, rape, blackmail and old secrets, but the real mysteries lie within the complicated relationships between men and women, between past and present, between what we want and what we have. Through it all, Jack displays considerable empathy and a gentle humor as he plies his trade, and brings things to a emotionally satisfying ending.

But as satisfying as that one is, it’s The Night Remembers that’s the real treasure here, a cold and bloody hallelujah tempered by Gorman’s warmth and compassion. Sixty-four years old, recently retired from the sheriff’s office, Jack Walsh is an apartment house manager who does a little private eyeing on the side, while pursuing a relationship with Faith, a much younger woman who claims her young son is his. Yet one more case of the past calling dibs on the present—a frequent theme of Gorman’s.

But the big call from the past comes in the form of a visit from the wife of George Pennyfeather, a man Jack helped send to prison on a murder rap years ago. Lisa Pennyfeather still believes her husband is innocent, and now that he’s been released, wants Walsh to clear his name. Not surprisingly, Walsh is hesitant, but when a woman is killed behind the Pennyfeather’s house and all fingers point to George as the culprit, Jack begins to have doubts and starts to poke around. It does not go well.

Gorman’s work has always had a deep and heartfelt sense of tenderness and abiding humanity in it, and if you ask me, this is his masterpiece, a quietly powerful gem of a novel, full of real people living real lives, trying desperately to hang on to the little they have, and living with real hurt. Like much of Gorman’s work, it’s drenched in nostalgia and tinged with noir, a brooding contemplation of this train wreck of existence. But the delicate fragility of life is beautifully woven into a brooding, almost Leonard Cohen-esque song of lust, violence, regret, and redemption, all minor chords and major lifts.

If this one doesn’t move you, I’m sorry, but you just ain’t human.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:18:20
The Scent of Death
Robin Agnew

Andrew Taylor has visited many different eras of history in his novels. He’s one of those authors who can not only make you see what life was like in another time, but also almost smell it (sometimes that’s unfortunate). In The Scent of Death he brings a Brit, David Saville, across to America in 1778 and plunges him into wartime Manhattan, as an observer for the “American Department.” When there’s a crime involving a Brit or a Loyalist refugee who needs assistance, Saville is called in.

The book starts off with the mysterious death of one Colonel Pickett. A young slave boy is caught and hanged for the crime; the casual brutality of it shocks Saville, but he reminds himself he is only there to observe. He is needled by doubt, though, as he’s not sure the young man was guilty.

Pickett’s murder is just the first in a series of assaults and murders that run through this vast and complicated novel. As Saville negotiates his way as an outsider through the minefield of violence, politics, and relationships in early America, Taylor’s running exploration of loyalty is examined from all angles: slave to master; wife to husband; child to parent; friend to friend; employee and employer. The changing nature of loyalty and the perception of it are his concern throughout.

While I thought The Scent of Death was slightly overlong, the writing, the setting, and the characters are all exquisitely rendered. You will have a complete picture of 1778 New York City when you are finished. The criminal mastermind behind the murders that run through the novel is a fantastic reveal, patiently laid out by Taylor for the perfect “aha” moment—a surprise, but a well set up one. And as you know how the Revolutionary War will end, you will also feel bad for the probable fate of the characters you have been reading about. I loved the flavor of the times in this novel. Much of it is brutal, especially the treatment of slaves, but it also felt real. While I love reading about the Revolutionary War, I’m glad I didn’t live through it.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:19:29
Watch Me Go
Oline H. Cogdill

Pushcart Prize winner (Stand Up, Look Good) Mark Wisniewski’s foray into crime fiction is an outstanding noir look at a man who lives his life on the edges, a consummate outsider who, because of his own inertia, is arrested for murder.

Douglas “Deesh” Sharp ekes out a life by hauling away trash for cash. It’s not much in terms of a paycheck but it pays the rent on his Bronx apartment. His latest job takes him and two friends to Poughkeepsie, New York, to haul away an oil drum. When they balk, saying that the drum is too heavy, their proffered payment suspiciously doubles—a tip-off to Deesh and his pals that “there’s death in that drum.”

Naturally, it doesn’t go well, and Deesh lands in a Bronx jail, charged with three murders. There he is paid a visit by Jan Price, a woman who says she will help exonerate him of murdering jockey Tom Corcoran—if Deesh can prove he is innocent of the other two murders, too.

Jan and Deesh alternate telling their stories, delving into their past and how their lives intersect. At 37, Deesh is looking at a life of failures, having peaked in high school as a basketball star. At 20, Jan is an aspiring jockey who, while trying to overcome the sexism that still exists in racing, becomes involved in the world of compulsive gambling.

Watch Me Go derives its atmosphere from the noir outlook of its characters, eschewing car chases and gun battles for a tough, quiet build to its intriguing end.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:27:20
Winter at the Door
Hank Wagner

Lizzie Snow thinks she knows what she’s signing up for when she accepts a position with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s department, but the reality is something else entirely. It turns out that Sheriff Cody Chevrier has a hidden agenda in hiring her—he wants Lizzie to apply the hard-won skills she’s honed as a Boston homicide detective to look into the strange deaths of several retired police officers in and around the Maine town of Bearkill. Also motivated by her own agenda (she’s recently been provided with a lead in the case of her niece’s disappearance, which brought her to the area), Lizzie agrees to do so, little realizing that her investigation will lead her into direct contact with some of northern Maine’s most dangerous denizens.

Winter at the Door is the first of a planned series featuring Snow, who made her initial appearance in Sarah Graves’ last Jake Tiptree mystery, A Bat in the Belfry. The book’s publicity materials compare Graves to Jenny Milchman, and that comparison is apt, especially in relation to Milchman’s excellent debut Cover of Snow; both authors explore similar, dark terrain, focusing on strong, but isolated women, solving mysteries in tiny, insular, and, above all, creepy old towns. Like Milchman, Graves is very comfortable in this milieu, finding both depravity and humor in her backwoods setting, and telling an entertaining story that proceeds to an explosive conclusion.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 01:30:49
Win a Signed Copy of Lis Wiehl's Lethal Beauty



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Mia Quinn is back. And you can win a signed copy of her latest case.

Mia Quinn discovers that a series of seemingly unrelated murders are linked. How far up are the strings being pulled—and what happens when one of her own is at risk?

The murder Mia is prosecuting seems like an open and shut case—until the accused claims he was the real victim and that the dead girl attacked him first. The tabloids dub her a “lethal beauty.” Still, a conviction seems imminent. Then a key witness goes missing. Just when it looks like the killer could walk free, the dead woman’s mother takes matters into her own hands.

Meanwhile, Charlie Carlson, a Seattle homicide detective, is investigating the murder of a man whose body washed up on the beach of Puget Sound, but he’s got little to go on. He has no dental work, fingerprints aren’t on file, and he doesn’t match any missing person reports. Then a church pianist is senselessly gunned down before horrified parishioners.

All three cases seem unrelated—but are they? Together, Mia and Charlie race to find the answer before another crime hits too close to home.

Visit to learn more about the author.
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Offer Terms and Conditions
Mystery Scene and HarperCollins is giving away TEN (10) signed copies of LETHAL BEAUTY by Lis Wiehl. One book each will be sent to TEN (10) eligible respondents drawn at random. ARV of each book: $26.99 US. Offer available to legal residents of the US only who have reached the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence. Limit one book per household. Offer ends April 15, 2015 , 11:59 p.m. (ET). Winner will be announced and notified by Mystery Scene.
Personal information is collected in accordance with Mystery Scene Magazine’s privacy policy.
Teri Duerr
2015-03-09 18:21:29
Cara Black on Georges Simenon's Maigret
Cara Black

cara blackKeeping Some Streets Dark in the City of Light


Georges Simenon kept his story lines simple, often using no more than a 2,000-word vocabulary and economical descriptions, keeping his stories brief to appeal to a broader audience. But deeper themes and insights into human psychology lie at the core of his characters. No penny dreadful, each Maigret novel is a quick read but makes a major impact. You can pick one up, read it, and walk away with a deeper understanding of the human psyche. His characters—from the crew at the Prefecture, investigators, and flics on their daily beat to the victims’ neighbors, hotel concierges, and even Paris itself—really speak to readers.

With countless television adaptations of Simenon’s work in the UK, France, and other parts of Europe, everyone knows of the pipe-smoking Maigret. These novels capture a time, a part of Paris that exists now only in the imagination. It was a time when cell phones and numeric-entry keypads were unheard of—one could only ring the concierge’s bell to gain entry after midnight. Everyone knew everyone else’s business in a city with enclosed courtyards, high walls, and watchful eyes. Parisians smoked and drank morning, noon, and night. Men’s wool overcoats and hats steamed as they came in from a wet winter evening to a warm, charcoal-stove-burning café. People knew their neighbors. Snitches snitched. Girlfriends chatted with each other and mother-in-laws complained—human connections abound, often forming a web of lies and deceit. But Maigret keeps at it—plodding, questioning, then throwing out those questions, lighting his pipe when it goes out, and the suspect in the chair opposite him knows it’s only a matter of time. As does Maigret. He drinks at lunch, sometimes he gets angry, even orders sandwiches and beer in the afternoon. He takes the annual August vacances with Madame Maigret unless a case comes up—but when doesn’t it?—and detains him in hot, deserted Paris. But a few of his investigations find him out in the countryside, in those small, hermetically sealed villages where observant eyes don’t miss a thing.

I confess that when I first began writing my Aimée Leduc novels, I would think, Okay. There’s a murder, a staircase dripping with blood…. What would Inspector Maigret do? That wasn’t always much help, since Aimée is a PI, not a policewoman. But then I’d consider what she might do if Maigret appeared on the scene and questioned her after she had found the body. That worked a little better. Of course, the police system in place now is different: Jules Maigret, as the head Commissaire, would certainly not respond in person. Today, it would be the Brigade Criminelle and le procureur (the equivalent of our DA) who would hotfoot it to the scene and dictate the next steps in the investigation. I had to change my way of thinking about police process in a murder investigation, my flic friends told me. The way Maigret operated didn’t make for a plausible scenario now. So I relearned in order to keep the details in my books accurate, and came to the conclusion that Maigret had it easier than a head Commissaire would today.

Is Simenon’s work dated? Historical? Timeless? I’d argue the second two. I personally like my Paris streets dark and narrow, with glistening cobblestones, the air thick with mist and suspicion. The Montmartre cemetery wall the same as it was then, hulking with old, lichen-covered stone; I’ve imagined a corpse there more than once. Returning late at night from the last Métro, walking uphill from Place de Clichy, the cinéma marquees dark, the café lights fading as I cross over the cemetery, I hear the thrum of the old Citroën or Renault engine, the shift of gears, and smell the cherry tobacco. (I like to think he smoked cherry tobacco, though I don’t know that it’s ever specified; perhaps there’s a Simenon scholar out there who can tell me.) Flashlights illuminate the corpse sprawled on the damp pavement. Maigret nods to his lieutenant and says, “Take this down," and we’re off on an investigation. An investigation that leads to the hidden life behind the walls, intrigue in the quartier, and worlds we’d never visit otherwise.

Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 14 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Cara has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

This Writers on Reading essay was originally published in At the Scene eNews March 2015 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here. 

Teri Duerr
2015-03-10 21:57:20

Keeping Some Streets Dark in the City of Light

Mystery Writers Are A-Cookin’ in new cookbooks

mysterywriterscookbook 2015

Mystery writers are always cooking up some devious plot, nasty villain, or compelling hero or heroine.

And we hope they are not cooking up bad puns like I just used.

But some mystery writers are also good in the kitchen as two new cookbooks show.  

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For, edited by Kate White, published by Quirk Books, is now on bookshelves and reading devices.

The Cozy Cookbook from Berkley doesn’t list an editor on my advanced copy but will be coming out on April 7.

Both books are chock-full of a variety of recipes that sound terrific.

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is illustrated with beautiful photography with more than 100 recipes from authors whose offerings continue the mystery theme with breakfasts, entrees, desserts..., well, you get the picture. And of course there is a section on cocktails.

The offerings are quite varied.

The description alone of Alafair Burke’s Ellie Hatcher’s Rum-Soaked Nutella French Toast alone makes me hungry. Just wait until you see the photo. But Burke’s offering, like those of the other authors, also pays homage to her series character, NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher.

Ben H. Winters’ Detective Palace’s Three-Egg Omelet also talks about how his character, Hank Palace of The Last Policeman, can’t find a good restaurant now that the world is ending.

Some are as simple as Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich, contributed by, naturally, Sue Grafton; or the Very Unsophisticated Supper Dip, courtesy of Charlaine Harris.

But nothing beats simplicity as Lee Child’s “recipe” on making a cup of coffee. Well, what do you expect from Jack Reacher, the epitome of simplicity?

cozycookbook 2015
One would expect authors of culinary mysteries such as Diane Mott Davidson to contribute but it also is nice to see offerings by Harlan Coben, Frankie Y. Bailey, Alison Gaylin, Greg Herren, Peter James, among others. And the editors have gotten a good range of authors, too, from the well known such as Mary Higgins Clark to authors you may not be familiar with, but should.

The authors featured in The Cozy Cookbook have each somehow written about food and include an excerpt from their novels to introduce a recipe.

Julie Hyzy, who writes about a White House chef, offers three egg recipes that go with the snippet from her novel State of the Onion, and then returns to offer recipes for entrees, side dishes, and more.

Cleo Coyle’s Murder by Mocha is the introduction for her recipes of Roasted Rock Cornish Game Hens with Rosemary and Lemon Butter and Clare’s Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Lime for Mike.

Chicken also is on the menu for Leslie Budewitz, who uses her segment from Crime Rib to offer The World’s Best Grilled Chicken Breasts.  

The Cozy Cookbook offers a list of novels by each author along with a short bio, a handy guide to end the book.

This is one time when I will say neither of these books belong on your bookshelf. Instead, both cookbooks deserve to be in the kitchen.

Oline Cogdill
2015-03-14 22:06:54
The Never-Open Desert Diner
Betty Webb

James Anderson’s brilliant The Never-Open Desert Diner is a tale set on Route 117, a seldom- used Utah highway. During its heyday, the diner was featured in several Hollywood movies, but now, because of its dysfunctional elderly owner, the building is as barren and windswept as its high desert location.

Driving by the diner every day is trucker Ben Jones, who is behind on his rent and his truck lease. Broke as he is, Ben can’t quite bring himself to quit delivering odds and ends to the other hardscrabble desert rats who are scratching out a precarious living in the middle of nowhere. Ben’s joyless existence changes the day he sees the silhouette of a woman playing a cello in a deserted house near the diner. Driven by curiosity, he befriends the woman and listens to her life story, which involves a broken marriage, a one-time dream of becoming a concert cellist, and a parentage as murky as his own.

Ben is a foundling, dropped off as a infant wrapped in a blanket on the steps of a Indian reservation clinic. Cellist Claire suspects, with good reason, that she is the adopted-out result of a gang rape. These two orphaned outcasts are immediately drawn together, finally daring to see a glimmer of hope in their bleak existence.

But their happiness is short-lived when a high roller claiming to be a TV producer cadges a ride-along with Ben, saying that his production company is thinking about using the area for a new reality series. At that point, everything Ben knows, or thinks he knows, about life is turned on its head. And not for the better. Rape, theft, and murder have always been lurking in the background on that lonely highway, and aided by the inclement weather (“The wind was gusting, full of sand as it crossed 117. It made the sunlight dirty, like a bandage stretched over the sky.”), the truth about Claire and her cello emerges. It isn’t pretty, but then, neither is that part of the desert.

Seldom have I read a novel more affecting than The Never-Open Desert Diner, and seldom have I encountered such memorable characters. There is Ben, a deep thinker who questions the area’s oral and written history: “History has a way of chasing gravity just like water, feeding into other parts of itself to become something else, something larger and grander, until the one pure thing it was no longer exists.” There is Preacher John, who, to atone for some long-forgotten sin, spends his days dragging a heavy wooden cross along 117. There is Ginny, a pregnant 17-year-old Walmart clerk whose family deserted her and who sees Ben as some sort of savior (although the opposite may be true). Then there is Walt, the motorcycle- collecting owner of the diner, who no longer believes in anything but revenge. But of all the book’s characters, Route 117 itself remains the most resonant. This winding piece of disintegrating blacktop provides the heart of The Never-Open Desert Diner, forever linking the desperate souls who live along it.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-15 20:44:37
The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove
Betty Webb

Age is no barrier to dreams, a truth illustrated in Paul Zimmer’s debut novel, The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove, set in a Wisconsin nursing home where the aged and infirm go to die. At least that’s the theory. But the 70-something protagonists’ last attempt at love and adventure do more than challenge that theory; they demolish it. The adventure begins when 79-year-old Cyril is taken hostage by a man known only as Balaclava, a gun-brandishing lunatic in the middle of a crime spree. Deciding that Cyril is more trouble than he’s worth, Balaclava dumps the elderly man on a seldom-traveled road in subzero temperatures.

Through grit and pluck Cyril survives, but frostbite removes several fingers and toes, as well as part of his nose. In this unlovely state, he checks into the local senior care home to await death. At the same time, Louise, also 79, admits herself into the same end-of-the-road facility after suffering yet another fall in her lonely farmhouse. When the two meet, sparks fly.

Although this sounds like a convenient setup for what could have been a cutesy-but-light sunset romance, in author Zimmer’s hands The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove becomes a treatise on what matters most in life: adventure or comfort, truth or well-crafted lies, giving or taking. Because the book is told in the first person by the two protagonists, we get their individual takes on the answers, and they are rich beyond imagining.

Cyril “collects lives.” Since childhood, he has been fascinated by biographies of the great, the near-great, and the just plain weird. He believes that everyone who lives in the small town of Soldiers Grove should hear about the fascinating people he’s just read about. Before his incarceration in the care home, this biography-sharing usually ended with him getting thrown out of a bar. Now his monologues merely result in a rapidly emptying dining hall. But the well-educated and French-born artist Louise loves to hear his “lives.” In one of the book’s most touching scenes, she interrupts Cyril in the middle of a monologue about A. E. Housman by simply reading aloud from “A Shropshire Lad.” Their growing, glowing, and sweetly described love affair is interrupted by the reappearance of the murderous Balaclava, who has grown to regret allowing Cyril to live.

There is terror here, as well as courage and self-sacrifice, and binding them all together is page after page of gorgeous prose. Zimmer, a poet and journalist, has received eight Pushcart prizes, as well as the Award for Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Although The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove is deeply original, there is one novel whose quality and content I can compare it to, and that book is, by coincidence, another flawless debut: Howard Owen’s magnificent Littlejohn. If you appreciate the very finest of American literature, read them both.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-15 20:58:48
The City of Blood
Betty Webb

In Frédérique Molay’s The City of Blood, a former abattoir on the northeastern edge of Paris has become the site of a major art installation. Samuel Cassian, a leading avant-garde artist, once held a banquet featuring meat from animals slaughtered at the abattoir (elephant ears and python being two menu offerings). Cassian then buried the remains of the feast—leftovers, banquet table, chairs, and all—with the intention of having it disinterred 30 years later.

But when the tableau-piège is dug up, the artist’s long-missing son is found murdered among the artifacts. The grisly crime sets off an investigation that brings in an unusual assortment of players, including the French Ministry of Culture, the Society for the Disinterment of the Tableau-Piège, and other art-world high rollers and hangers-on.

In an often-humorous counterpoint, Chief Inspector Nico Sirsky, whose own cultural tastes tend more toward AC/DC and Ukrainian folk art, is assigned to the case. The investigation becomes so wide-ranging that in one unforgettable scene, Sirsky finds himself dancing with another man in a Parisian gay bar.

Author Molay’s inspector is a true gem. The star of the Paris Homicide mystery series, Sirsky is hard-bitten yet open-minded, cynical but tender. Perhaps Molay’s biggest gift is in letting us see Paris through Sirsky’s eyes, where we discover a city awash in history, culture, and homicidal lunatics.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-15 21:04:12
Reel News for Mystery Readers

steinhauerolen Alloldknives
A couple of crime fiction novels may hit the movie theaters in the next couple of years. Emphasis on may, as one never knows when it comes to filmmaking.

But if these novels do become movies, we should be in for a treat.

Olen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives

Olen Steinhauer has adopted his latest novel, All the Old Knives, into a screenplay. Neil Burger (Divergent) is attached to direct the movie, which is now fully funded and casting will begin immediately, according to Variety and St. Martin’s Press, the novel’s publisher.

Principal photography is expected to begin by the end of the year.

All the Old Knives is a taut, tightly plotted story by Steinhauer, who is best known for his sweeping spy thrillers. All the Old Knives is akin to My Dinner With Andre, only with spies.

All the Old Knives starts out as a quiet little tale in which two ex-lovers—one a CIA spy and the other an ex-CIA spy—get together for dinner in the lovely town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

What could go wrong?

After all, they are just going to reminisce about the old days.

But have they come for the memories or to renew their romance? Or is something more sinister afoot?

Both were involved in the disastrous hijacking of a Jordanian plane in which everyone onboard died. Was it a conspiracy all those years ago?

leonardelmore bandits
And will each of the dinner partners survive through dessert? Or in time to pay the check?

All the Old Knives is to be the first project from the newly launched indie studio the Mark Gordon Company and Entertainment One.

Bruce Willis and Elmore Leonard
Bruce Willis “is the driving force behind” the movie adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Bandits, reports

Apparently this is the second time Willis has attempted to film the 1987 novel.

If it does happen this time, Willis wants to play the lead of Jack Delaney, an ex-con, a jewel thief turned mortician. The ensemble drama is to be scripted by Mitch Glazer, reports.

Willis first optioned Bandits shortly after it was published in 1987.

After Willis let the rights lapse, Bandits was one of the four Leonard titles that were once acquired by Quentin Tarantino.

Apparently, Tarantino let the other options lapse after he turned Leonard’s novel Rum Punch into the movie Jackie Brown.

Oline Cogdill
2015-03-18 13:49:34
Festival of Crime
Bill Crider

When it comes to short story anthologies, Sisters in Crime has you covered. From the Twin Cities chapter comes Festival of Crime, edited by Christine Husom, Mickie Turk, and Michael Allan Mallory. The book includes 19 stories about almost any kind of festival you can think of: county fairs, music festivals, carnivals, and plenty more, including a carp fest in “Carpe Diem or Murder at the Carp Fest” by M. E. Bakos. The plot also deals with the retail shoe business, which makes for quite a combination. Susan Koefod’s “Iced” has to do with creating ice sculptures for a winter festival. It has a strange apparition (or not) along with murder. The setting of D. M. S. Fick’s “Loco Motive” is Boxcar Days, and it has the full fair experience, with corn dogs, cheese curds, a Ferris wheel, and a crime. If you’re looking for fun at festivals, there are 16 more entertaining stories where those come from.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-18 19:17:48
Family Matters
Bill Crider

If you think your family has problems, check out Family Matters from the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters in Crime, edited by Anita Page, whose own story in the book, “Their Little Secret,” shows how far a girl might go to try to solve a problem in family relations. And Triss Stein opens with another problem-solver, one who discovers that solutions have unintended consequences. Terrie Farley Moran offers a car full of family violence, not all of it physical, in “Thanksgiving on Throgs Neck Bridge.” The book contains 20 strong stories that range all over New York City and through all levels of society.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-18 19:21:40
Carolina Crimes: Nineteen Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing
Bill Crider

Carolina Crimes: Nineteen Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, edited by Karen Pullen with an introduction by Margaret Maron, is from the Triangle chapter of Sisters in Crime. The stories, Maron says in her introduction, “illustrate facets of sexuality often kept hidden, and some even cross into taboo territory.” That’s not to say they can’t be lighthearted and amusing, like Meg Leader’s “Bad Hair Day,” which features a narrator who sees dead people and thus becomes “the country’s only spectral detective.”

Teri Duerr
2015-03-18 19:24:35
The Anthology of Cozy Noir: Mystery Stories With an Edge
Bill Crider

The title of The Anthology of Cozy Noir: Mystery Stories With an Edge might make you wonder just what “cozy noir” is. Editor Andrew MacRae offers a hint or two in his introduction, but he doesn’t attempt a full definition. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” things, and it’s exemplified by the 13 stories in this volume. Rob Lopresti’s “The Roseville Way” opens the book and tells the story of how some locals react to a newcomer to town and to their favorite pizza place. It’s not how you might expect. Bobbie Chukran’s “Dead Dames Don’t Wear Diamonds” has a classic noir setup and includes some nice allusions to classic hardboiled fiction. It’s nothing like Lopresti’s story, and all the stories here are different. You can decide for yourself if a new subgenre has been born.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 15:58:04
Shanks on Crime
Bill Crider

Rob Lopresti’s collection of stories Shanks on Crime features crime writer Leopold Longshanks, a fellow who can solve a crime while listening to his wife being interviewed. Nine of the stories here first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, while four haven’t seen print before. There’s some bonus material, too, including an afterword to each story. All the stories are clever, witty, and well written, and I always enjoy an author’s comments on his own work. If you haven’t met Shanks before, this book provides an excellent chance to get acquainted.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 21:42:28
Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave
Bill Crider

With multiple editors, Mark Ammons, Catherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave contains 29 stories with as much variety in setting and tone as you could hope for. For example Stephen D. Rogers’ “Wehrkraftzersetzung” is a traditional detective story set in WWII on the Russian front. Quite a combination. Mark Ammons’ “Diary of a Serial Killer” is the shortest story you’ll read this year (probably), being one word long. It’s hard to beat that.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 21:48:23
The Deepening Shade
Bill Crider

When a collection opens with quotations from Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light and Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time,” you know you’re in for a stroll on the dark side. That’s just what Jake Hinkson provides in The Deepening Shade. Hinkson’s work is raw and violent and powerful. “The Serpent Box” is all of that, but you won’t be able to look away. Hinkson can also be savagely funny in the midst of the horror of a story like “Microeconomics.” Some of the 15 stories included here have been previously published. All are memorable.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 21:56:19
The Art of the English Murder
Jon L. Breen

The print companion to the television series considers the British public’s fascination with murder in fact and fiction from the 19th-century Ratcliffe Highway Murders and Thomas De Quincey’s satirical essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” to the present day. Nonfiction subjects treated along the way include the Bow Street Runners, Madame Tussaud, Burke and Hare, Jack the Ripper (considered alongside fictional contemporaries Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Julia Wallace. Particularly interesting among the Victorian literary highlights are Lucy Worsley’s discussions of Wilkie Collins’ Armadale and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret.

While the book is consistently enjoyable reading, it falls down in familiar ways when it gets to 20th-century crime fiction. The Golden Age of detective fiction between the World Wars is oversimplified and generalized in a reductive way, with the usual excessive attention to the Crime Queens to the exclusion of equally significant figures. And there are numerous factual errors and dubious statements. Raymond Chandler is wrongly depicted as “one of the vocal enemies of the traditional English detective story,” though one of his favorite writers was R. Austin Freeman (not mentioned in the book). Ngaio Marsh’s birthdate is given as 1885 rather than 1895; the length of The Big Sleep, a full-length novel, is given as 18,000 words; a footnote says P.D. James “never felt secure enough, even in her great success as a novelist, to give up her day job in the Home Office,” though in fact, once she was successful enough, she did just that; and surely Lord Peter Wimsey, unlike Sayers’ husband, did “recover from his experiences in the First World War.”

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 22:22:35
Small Towns in Recent American Crime Fiction
Jon L. Breen

David Geherin, one of the most prolific academic commentators on mystery fiction, presents a useful guide to ten contemporary Americans who write about a small town or rural region, including biographies and book-by-book summaries: K. C. Constantine, Daniel Woodrell, Dana Stabenow, Nevada Barr, William Kent Krueger, Steve Hamilton, P. L. Gaus, Karin Slaughter, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Craig Johnson. The prospective reader will get a good idea of what each author’s books are like, their strengths and weaknesses, and which are the best and least of their works.

Geherin takes pains to disassociate his subjects from the cozy school, the source of most earlier small-town mysteries, which he stereotypes as tame and bloodless accounts of amateur sleuths. To recognize past small-town writers who did not fit that pattern, he might have mentioned August Derleth, A. B. Cunnningham, and Ellery Queen of the Wrightsville novels.

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 22:26:00
The Villainous Stage: Crime Plays on Broadway and in the West End
Jon L. Breen

One of the best writers on mystery and detective fiction is equally knowledgeable about theatre (his preferred spelling and mine), thus this survey of crime drama of the 19th through 21st centuries. Marvin Lachman takes a somewhat narrower definition of crime plays than Amnon Kabatchnik in his Blood on the Stage series, omitting classical writers like Sophocles and Shakespeare and choosing works whose crimes and situations most resemble those in books marketed as mysteries. Where Kabatchnik has a chronological arrangement, Lachman takes a topical approach. He also covers some plays not in Kabatchnik, e.g. Parker Fennelly’s 1941 espionage comedy Cuckoos on the Hearth.

Separate chapters are devoted to Agatha Christie as playwright and Sherlock Holmes as character. Among the general categories accorded chapters are comedy, courtroom dramas, psychology, espionage, musicals, series characters, and spoofs. Two chapters focus on social-problem plays, one on race, ethnicity, and religion, the other on criminal justice. This is a remarkable work of research and organization, covering a huge number of names, dates, and titles, with brief plot descriptions, quotes from contemporary reviews, and firsthand comments by the longtime theatergoing author.

An earlier version of the book was serialized in the excellent small-circulation fanzine (Give Me That) Old-Time Detection, edited by Arthur Vidro (2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743).

Teri Duerr
2015-03-19 22:29:43

One of the best writers on mystery and detective fiction shows he's equally knowledgeable about the stage.

Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Laws: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film
Jon L. Breen

As a law professor at St. Louis University, Francis Nevins developed a seminar on “Law, Lawyers and Justice in Popular Fiction and Film.” These essays on topics covered in the seminar, most of which originally appeared in books or journals directed to fellow lawyers and professors, offer plenty as well for the general reader with an interest in law, crime fiction, or film.

Following an introduction are substantial essays on the fiction of Melville Davisson Post, creator of the turn-of-the-20th-century exploiter of legal technicalities, Randolph Mason; Arthur Train, whose small-town lawyer Ephraim Tutt was a longtime Saturday Evening Post fixture; and Erle Stanley Gardner, famous for Perry Mason, as clever but not as amoral as his earlier namesake. The remaining chapters focus on film, beginning with the use of courtroom scenes in the dialogue-heavy early talkies. (Best of the lawyer films of this period per Nevins was the John Barrymore vehicle Counsellor at Law [1933], directed by William Wyler from an Elmer Rice play, which stays out of the courtroom and thus avoids the procedural absurdities common to other films of the time.)

About 90 pages are devoted to court proceedings and lawyer characters in the B-movie Westerns and TV series that are another area of the author’s expertise. Separate chapters cover at length the two versions of Cape Fear (1962 and 1991), based on John D. MacDonald’s 1958 novel The Executioners; and Man in the Middle (1963), directed by Guy Hamilton and based on Howard Fast’s 1959 novel The Winston Affair. The latter is championed as an overlooked classic of the Warren Court era to stand beside 12 Angry Men, Anatomy of a Murder, Inherit the Wind, and To Kill a Mockingbird. (Nevins states this film had never been released on DVD at the time of writing, but it has since and a viewing bears out his high opinion.)

Teri Duerr
2015-03-20 17:46:02