Murder in Westminster
Jean Gazis

Lady Abigail Worthing, a baroness through her recent marriage to Lord James Worthing, the naval hero and explorer she helped prove innocent of a murder charge, is determined to use her newly elevated social status to support the abolitionist movement in England, even though she must keep her activities secret.

As the light-skinned daughter of an English financier and a Jamaican clairvoyant, Abbie herself experiences Regency society’s prejudiced views of “Blackamoors” and knows the danger of malicious gossip for the slightest impropriety. She can’t afford the kind of scandalous rumors that swirl about the volatile marriage and tempestuous affairs of her beautiful neighbor Juliet Henderson, especially with her husband half a world away on a long sea voyage.

Lady Worthing’s relationship with the Hendersons is frosty. Stapleton Henderson, the handsome, brooding hero of the battle of Trafalgar, is building an elaborate spite fence between their properties to separate Abbie’s tiny, misbehaving terrier, Teacup, from his well-trained purebred hounds. When Teacup gets out late one night, he leads Abbie and Henderson to discover Juliet, strangled to death near the unfinished on the Worthing’s property.

The young baroness is convinced that Henderson killed his estranged wife, but he adamantly maintains his innocence. Even though the investigating magistrate is an old friend, Lady Worthing realizes that having met Henderson alone at night could generate vicious rumors, and worse, she herself might become a suspect. She can’t risk waiting for the authorities to make an arrest—she must discover the killer on her own. But Juliet’s complicated romantic escapades and isolated death mean far too many people may have had both the motive and the opportunity for murder.

Abbie is a delightful heroine: beautiful, smart, passionate about justice, and adept at treading the fine line between observing society’s rules and discreetly breaking them when necessary. The supporting characters, from Teacup to Abbie’s powerful godfather, are lively and well-drawn. The plot offers one suspenseful twist after another through the very last sentence, and the relationship between Abbie and Henderson plays charmingly on romance genre tropes—a beautiful, headstrong woman, a dark, dangerous, yet surprisingly vulnerable hero, plenty of witty, double-edged banter—with a light touch.

Abbie’s rich backstory promises interesting future developments and an author’s note explains highlights of Riley’s research into Regency-era racial diversity. The impressive debut of the new Lady Worthing Mysteries series will leave readers eager for the next installment.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:40:32
Those Who Perish
Craig Sisterson

While Jane Harper’s outback noir The Drymay have nabbed global attention first, it was Emma Viskic’s outstanding debut, Resurrection Bay—which swept several major awards in Australia the year before—that may have first heralded a new, female-led Australian crime wave. Alongside the likes of Harper, Candice Fox, and Sulari Gentill, Viskic is undoubtedly one of the modern queens of down under crime.

The fourth novel in her superb series starring deaf private eye Caleb Zelic may leave readers with mixed feelings. Not due to any dip in quality—if anything, Those Who Perish is the high point of an astonishingly good quartet—but this tale brings the series to a close, for now.

The end begins with a text, a frantic three-hour drive, and a gunshot by a toilet block near the Resurrection Bay foreshore. With his hearing aids in his pocket, Caleb doesn’t hear the crack of the rifle, but he does see his drug addict brother Ant signing, “Get out of here, run!” just before the passenger window disintegrates.

Caleb’s back with his wife Kat, an Aboriginal artist, and is an expectant father. Even with so much to lose, he can’t help himself when a body is found and the trail leads to an isolated island where Ant is rehabbing at an unusual facility. Caleb has grown over the series, but is still a stubborn and snarky work-in-progress. He once again puts himself in danger and risks his most precious relationships as he tries to ferret out the truth.

Viskic delivers a taut tale that also delivers on character and place. Twisty storytelling pulsing with humanity, Those Who Perish is a novel carried on prose that sings.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:44:19
A Bend of Light
Robin Agnew

Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, set in 1950, takes an unusual slant. Her main character, Amelia “Amie” Stilwell, a photo interpreter during the war, has just lost her job. (Surely, her boss says, she understands why the promotion went to a man with a family, who is also a vet.) As she’s a vet herself, she’s in an angry stew, but heads back home to reunite with her foster mother, Shibby Travis, and to figure out what to do next.

Shibby is well known in their tiny Maine town for taking in stray children. When she and Amie encounter a child sitting outside the diner refusing to speak or move, Shibby swoops in—and Amie soon has a new mystery to keep her busy: the little boy, whose name is Chester, turns out to have an article about Shibby in his pocket.

Now back home, Amie is also reckoning with her past, good and bad. She is also reconnecting with the town, and with various people she’d known as a child, who have, of course, changed in various ways. Most of all, she’s missing Jake, the boy she was closest to growing up. She assumes he was killed in the war, though she can’t seem to discover any details. There’s a parallel plot involving a Tom Darnay, who works for a ruthless businessman as his public face (we’d call it PR now). It’s pretty obvious that Jake and Tom are the same person, and as the story unfolds, we learn how the sophisticated Darnay reconnects with his more working-class roots.

This is far from a typical mystery novel. Jordan-Lake is very concerned with character, and she creates a wonderful canvas for the reader. The characters she writes about truly have shading and depth. When events occur, affecting characters you have grown to be attached to, it gives the story more depth and heft than it otherwise might have had. That said, there is body in a barn (Was the woman kicked in the head by a horse?) and another, truly shocking accident that turns the town inside out. This is a mystery, so of course neither of these events are accidental.

I also loved the Maine setting, which is vividly drawn and brought even more to life by Amie’s photographic outings as she works to set up a gallery downtown. Amie uses her actual skills, photography and her artist’s eye, to solve the crime. I also loved the beautiful prose. Jordan-Lake has a way with a sentence that can break your heart. A Bend of Light is a wonderful and unusual read.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:48:59
The Displacements
Eileen Brady

The Displacements is a big book—big in concept, big in story, and featuring a really big storm. Miami has been hit by an unprecedented category 6 hurricane named Luna, which displaces millions of people. Daphne Larsen-Hall, a ceramics artist, and her three children are among them, made to flee alone as her doctor husband stays to provide emergency medical care. They’re loaded onto a bus, forced to surrender their dog and relocated to a FEMA-run megashelter in Oklahoma.

In charge of housing up to 10,000 people are Rain Holton and her team. An experienced FEMA worker, she knows all the horror stories from New Orleans and is determined to avoid them. But there are no dormitories, no pre-built anything to offer the “indigent residents.” Only the flat dirt of Tooley Farm on which to pitch the 1,000 six-person tents and the 4,000 pup tents as the rain falls onto the muddy ground.

In his environmental thriller, author Bruce Holsinger does a great job helping the reader feel the entire family’s frustration, and shows the very different ways that they cope. Soon the camp becomes a microcosm of society, from the peacemakers to the bullies. Illegal drugs are sold. Children run wild, forming groups who play a bizarre game at night. As weeks drag on, musician occupants form a band to play concerts. Parents start schools, and Daphne does what artists everywhere do—she works. The resilience of the human race shines through, but so does prejudice, violence, and greed.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:51:33
Back to the Garden
Robin Agnew

Laurie King’s got game. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up one of her books, but it came back to me in a flood how she truly excels at two things: setting up her story and delineating and bringing to life characters better than almost any writer alive. Back to the Garden is a standalone, set partially in the present and partially in the past at the tail end of the early ’70s. The story takes place at the Gardener estate, a place that sounds very much like the Hearst Castle.

In the present, Gardener is run as a trust and the gardens and the house are now a museum. Midsummer Eve, a famous statue done by well-known female artist Gaddo, has perched in a field at the back of the garden for almost half a century, but now seems ready to fall over. When the estate manager, Jen, makes the decision to move it in preparation for a new base, the workers find a skeleton underneath it, apparently put there in 1972 when the original concrete base was poured.

The discovery captures the attention of Inspector Raquel Laing, who is working with a cold case team to discover all the victims of a killer known as “The Highwayman” before the old man dies. He murdered a string of women in the early ’70s and Inspector Laing thinks this might be one of his.

Laing’s story runs parallel to the story of Rob Gardener, a Vietnam vet who grew up under the care of his cold and imperious grandfather on the estate. Rob only returns to California when “the old bastard” dies and he inherits the estate, eventually turning it into a commune for several years before things fall apart. Like all the best dual narrative books, both storylines are compelling, and they eventually intersect.

There are many, many references to the Garden of Eden, starting with the statue of Eve that begins the action. Rob’s attempt at setting up the commune works—for a while. The author brings to life for the reader the hopeful days of the late ’60s, as well as when they begin to fade into the more jaded and dangerous ’70s. It’s a heartbreak to see what might have been—Rob and his friends are so optimistic.

Raquel’s careful work on the case in the present brings the novel to a denouement that makes awful sense, made all the more interesting by King’s illustration of the ways Laing hones her skills as an investigator. It’s a lesson in listening and paying attention in the right way. King threads together past and the present, hope and despair, as she writes of messy humans making an Eden—even if just for a little bit of time. Back to the Garden is a thoughtful, lovely book. One of the reads of the year.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:54:56
Jay Roberts

After a youth where she managed to survive trying any number of illicit substances and “romantic” entanglements, Clarice “Pinky” Granum is, at best, a semi-reformed hot mess. But in Suspect, Scott Turow’s new legal thriller, she’s carving out a living as a private investigator for her lawyer friend Rik Dudek, working boilerplate cases like DUIs, worker’s comp investigations, and bar fights.

But the stakes for both Rik and Pinky are raised immeasurably when they end up defending Highland Isle police chief Lucia Gomez against allegations that she extorted three officers under her command for sex in exchange for promotions. Complicating matters is the fact that Gomez doesn’t deny that she had sex with the men, just that it was in exchange for anything. Rather, she alleges that the accusations are part of a smear campaign against her by a former officer nicknamed “The Ritz,” whom she pushed off the force. He had an unsavory reputation while on the job and it seems his firing was deserved —and the Ritz’s bad behavior has continued even after being stripped of his badge.

In order for Pinky to help the chief keep her job in the midst of a challenging political election, she’s going to have to figure out the truth behind the allegations and discredit the charges. In doing so, she runs up against a number of people willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of the chief and keep their own dark secrets hidden. Along the way, she’ll also have to deal with a past love who doesn’t seem ready to let things go and a mysterious neighbor who both annoys and intrigues her.

I found myself quite intrigued with Pinky throughout the book. She knows who she is and embraces her past mistakes, all the while refusing to let the opinions of others bother her or affect her actions in the here and now. Scott Turow develops the character well, throwing in little bits of information about her past throughout, sometimes to humorous effect.

The legal case in Suspect plays into the notion of gender and sexual politics, especially as it pertains to women acting in a similar fashion to men throughout the ages. But I liked how Turow also demonstrated that just because something isn’t against the rules, doesn’t make doing it a good idea. And I liked the way he showed Rik Dudek to be a more than competent attorney despite his relatively shabby law practice. Rik knows there’s more to the case and is unafraid of confronting his client, his opponents, or the accusers.

Readers will be drawn into Suspect’s narrative and their expectations challenged at each successive development in the case. With each new revelation about the players involved, readers will be left wanting to know more about them long after the book’s somewhat abrupt ending.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 18:58:29
Should I Fall
Jay Roberts

Following the events of last year’s The Last Commandment, author Scott Shepherd’s Commander Austin Grant is back, but the happy occasion of his daughter’s marriage to NYPD Detective John Frankel gets thrown for quite the loop when Frankel’s ex-wife is found dead in his apartment. Worse yet, John is nowhere to be found.

Since the previous book, Austin has retired as a commander from Scotland Yard, but he and his journalist daughter are on the case of how John’s ex-wife turned up dead in his apartment and what she was doing in town in the first place. But once John appears, he does himself no favors by refusing to answer questions.

What was John up to? And why is he hiding the truth from his fiancée and her father, not to mention the police who consider him the prime suspect? As Austin and Rachel look into things, they soon turn up answers that cast doubt not only on John’s story, but his entire relationship with Rachel.

The trail leads to Hawaii to discover what the victim was up to while living there. Meanwhile, John goes on the run to track down more answers that will hopefully clear his name. That plan goes awry when the NYPD issues a warrant for his arrest that soon lands Frankel in a cell. This leaves him dependent on Austin and Rachel continuing to investigate on their own. With a case that is challenging on every front, Austin and Rachel will have to race against the NYPD and the actual killer to find the truth before John Frankel ends up going down for crimes they believe he didn’t commit.

Scott Shepherd develops each of his main characters from start to finish. As I read Should I Fall, I found it rather enjoyable to see Austin stepping into the fire in order to investigate the case. He may be retired from his job, but the desire to set things right isn’t something that goes away. Rachel is torn between “knowing” her fiancé is innocent but wondering why he’s holding back certain information from her and the cops. There’s a lot to dig into with the story and you will find yourself drawn into Should I Fall’s twisty plotline that takes readers in a number of directions while keeping them off balance until the final jaw-dropping reveal.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:02:09
The Forty Elephants
Sarah Prindle

In London during the Roaring Twenties, a young woman, Alice Diamond, and her family have led the Mint—their rundown neighborhood—for years, struggling to protect their community from being pulled into local gang wars. But when Alice finds out her brother owes a huge debt to one of London’s crime syndicates, she reluctantly joins a gang of female thieves called the Forty Elephants, who specialize in shoplifting from upscale stores. Initially, Alice intends to stay only long enough to pay off the debt, but she is soon caught up in the luxury, the thrill of shoplifting, and the budding friendships she develops with the other members.

Soon Alice is juggling her dual identities as the tough daughter of the Mint’s leader and as a member of the Forty Elephants, as crises in both worlds force her to take drastic action and assume the heavy responsibilities of leadership in her family and her gang. The stakes are high, and soon Alice is caught in a web of scheming, revenge, and brutality that threatens her and those she cares about.

The Forty Elephants is historical fiction but is based on a true story. Alice Diamond and the Forty Elephants really existed, and author Erin Bledsoe explores what Alice’s life might have been like, the factors that may have pushed her to become a thief, and how she maintained power in a time when women had very little of it. Alice’s story effectively explores themes of loyalty, crime, and the tug-of-war between dignity and survival that women struggled with in the 1920s.

The author immerses readers in the setting, using slang commonly heard back then and vividly describing everything from the poor section of the city to upper-class homes. The characters are diverse, spanning different levels of society and degrees of involvement in the criminal underworld. All are part of the struggle to make it in life, whether they are thieves, undercover detectives, or battered women trapped in marriages to powerful men. Readers will be pulled into the story and a world that is very different from our own—and in other ways, all too similar.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:05:27
A Dish to Die For
Debbie Haupt

Lucy Burdette’s 12th Key West Food Critic caper, featuring part-time Florida food critic Hayley Snow, finds Hayley and her friend Eric enjoying some much-needed R&R when Hayley’s dog Ziggy digs up the body of a local businessman. Even knowing her Key West cop husband, Nathan Bransford, will not be happy that she’s so close to a corpse—yet again—she’s willing to assist the detective in charge.

When Hayley agrees to help her mom cater the dearly departed’s wake, she learns that he was a cheater and a liar, not dear to many, including his own family. There’s more than a few people who aren’t too saddened by his demise. A plethora of quirky Key West characters, the tropical resort feel of the Florida Keys setting, some really delicious dishes, and a clever twisty turny plot makes this timely culinary cozy a tasty delight.

Hayley shines as do Hayley’s husband Nathan and her feisty octogenarian bestie Miss Gloria, who lights up the pages with her sage advice and spirited attitude. The recipes include a to-die-for (pun intended) Banana Cream Pie which is the pièce de résistance. Fans of this series (which is best read in order) and lovers of culinary cozies will eat this up.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:07:58
Craig Sisterson

Over the past 20-plus years, Glasgow author Denise Mina has joined modern Scottish crime writing royalty alongside the likes of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, a well-earned place as one of the finest and most interesting crime writers operating today anywhere in the world.

After three outstanding series—Garnethill, Paddy Meehan, Alex Morrow—in recent years Mina has proven something of a crime writing chameleon, shifting form book on book through a string of superb standalones. From reimagining real-life crimes in 1950s and 1960s Scotland to modern tales entwined with true crime podcasts or the unseen lives in every city, Mina has taken readers on a superb ride, the only constants being the high quality and freshness of her storytelling.

In Confidence, Mina continues the (mis)adventures of accidental podcasters Anna McDonald (a gang rape survivor) and Fin Cohen (an anorexic former rock star), whose spouses ran away together. First and last seen in Mina’s excellent 2019 novel Conviction, this time Anna and Fin are enduring a calamitous “modern family” holiday. Looking to escape, they pick up the trail of Lisa Lee, a YouTuber who previously emailed them and has now vanished after broadcasting her urban exploration of a creepy French chateau. Did Lisa find something dangerous? A priceless religious relic with a deadly history is up for auction: a silver casket reputedly tied to the crucifixion and Pontius Pilate with an eight-figure reserve.

Anna and Fin’s search is gate-crashed by South African art dealer Bram van Wyk, who has his eyes on the silver casket for desperate reasons and is dragging his 12-year-old son, whom he’s only just met, around on private planes. A helter-skelter journey ensues as the precarious quartet bounce around Europe, colliding with past secrets and present dangers along with billionaire art lovers, religious zealots, and other very dangerous people. There’s a lot to enjoy in Confidence, with Mina balancing action, intrigue, and some laughs in a thriller that veers zany at times. Having set the bar so very, very high with her past novels, this latest tale doesn’t represent the best of Mina, but it’s a good, fun read.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:10:59
Havana Highwire
Kevin Burton Smith

For your consideration: a deliciously pulpy, old-fashioned tale of betrayal, greed, lust, corruption, sex, and violence set in a pre-Castro Cuba ruled by a corrupt government, American corporate interests, and American organized crime.

Not only is Havana Highwire set in the 1950s—it feels like it was written then, possibly shortly after Mickey Spillane peed in the pool and transformed the shamus game forever. It wouldn’t have been out of place on a paperback spinner rack, possibly published by Fawcett or Signet.

But where Mike Hammer was arguably the “good” guy in his books, there’s nothing particularly heroic about Henry Gore, the opportunistic American yob who, after serving three cold years as a special investigator for the U.S. Air Force in the “snowy potato fields” of Maine, has opted for a new life: expat private investigator in the much warmer clime of wide-open Havana.

His big plan is to cater to the interests (and suspicions) of norte americanos, tailing wayward spouses and lovers on vacations and “business” trips, and hopefully grabbing a few in flagrante snapshots.

Only problem?

Gore’s partner is shady local Ramón Mercado, whom he doesn’t quite trust, and who seems more interested in running his own scams. And then, after only a month in Cuba, a simple catch ’em in the act at a local, Syndicate-controlled nightclub goes off the rails and Gore ends up being beaten and banned from most of the mob-run clubs and restaurants in town.

Things look bleak, until he’s forced by the Batista government to pose as a gunrunner to expose a secret cadre of rebels hoping to topple the regime. Seems that the government, not exactly a paragon of virtue itself, fears the police may be too corrupt to be trusted. Which they probably are. Although I’m not sure anyone in this book is to be counted on, including, possibly, Henry, who handles the narration choices.

Having no real love for the Red Menace or for starving to death, Henry reluctantly agrees. It’s a hell of a way to make a living, though, and the author tosses in all the expected pulp goodies from film and literature you’d expect: a “bad” girl (a sultry nightclub performer), a “good” girl love interest (a fresh-faced sweetie from the Midwest trying to make it as a singer), an annoyingly unctuous young street urchin companion (think Jai from the 1960s Tarzan TV series), disturbing scenes of torture, some sexy violence, some violent sex, slippery allegiances, a waterfront shootout, and plenty of shoulda-seen-it-coming betrayals.

To his credit, author John Keyse-Walker knows how to keep things moving. He may not be breaking much new ground here, and he’s no Spillane, but he makes good use of a vibrant and underused setting, and he doesn’t try to candy coat a damn thing. There are no heroes here—just winners and (mostly) losers. He also pumps a lot of local color into the proceedings that feels pretty spot on.

And while Henry may flip-flop from side to side—sometimes it’s not clear who’s zooming who—there’s no doubt where the author was heading all along: an appearance from some bandit named Castro “hiding in the mountains” is hinted at, presumably for the next book.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:16:35
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
Robin Agnew

This is an insanely readable, impossible to put down book, the story of poor little rich girl Cassie Quinn, who, as the story opens, gets a call from her brother Nate, letting her know that their brother, Billy, has been accused of rape. Nate begs her to put her Yale PhD on hold and come home to New York City. The family needs her. Once there, Jillian Medoff’s story proceeds to deconstruct the crime—and the members of the compelling Quinn family.

The father, Lawrence, seems the shaggy, more approachable parent. The mother, Eleanor, the cool, classy, and removed one. Nate, Cassie, and Billy have always been close, but when Billy gets released on bond, he is depressed and demoralized. The crisis threatens to shatter all of their relationships.

And even though Cassie’s childhood memories are idyllic, Cassie has always felt the odd one out—she was adopted. As friends of her real family, the Quinns took her in after the unexpected deaths of her parents. Author Medoff dips back and forth in time as she traces the arc of Cassie’s life.

Meanwhile, the reader experiences Billy’s trial—and the family’s reaction to it—almost in real time. The rape case, for the family, seems cut and dried. The victim was Billy’s girlfriend, a girl the family felt verged on being a stalker, and the two had apparently broken up. The Quinns do everything in their power to exonerate Billy, who mostly acts numb and hides out in his room. The press is brutal and convicts him on paper.

In almost every case when reading a story about a rape, I assume the girl is likely telling the truth. But because Medoff is able to paint Billy and his family in such a sympathetic light, drawing you into their circle, the reader feels torn. Despite the apparent evidence, is he really guilty? Is the girl actually a stalker? These things are hard to parse. And then Medoff leads you to a blindingly shocking reveal linked to Cassie’s past that impacts the trial.

To say any more would be to give away what the author has carefully set up.

The character studies and the portrait of ultra wealthy New York was really well done. I was able to have shaded opinions on every character (even the bombastic lawyer the family hires), but at the end of the book I was left strangely unsatisfied. After an enjoyable tale, I still wanted a bit more from the actual resolution, but, all in all, a good read.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:20:48
How to Kill Your Family
Margaret Agnew

First of all, if you couldn’t tell from the title, Grace, the main character of Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family, is not a good person. If not precisely a sociopath, she’s darn close. Her interior life seems to be dedicated to disliking things, which she then lets everyone know about. Grace, of course, had a deprived childhood—I guess most people don’t entertain the idea of killing their entire family without one. But even if she hasn’t gotten her “fair share” in life, are her crimes justified?

For all her talk of vengeance against her mother, Grace is similarly interested in getting her hands on her father’s vast wealth. Created from a fling between her mother, a young model at the time, and powerful businessman Simon Artemis, Grace didn’t even know her father’s name until she was older and his side of the family barely acknowledges that she exists. Her mother adored the man, and was often trying to coax her way back into his life, something Grace finds pathetic.

Grace’s own feelings toward dear old dad are far less charitable.

After her mother passes, Grace vows to make Simon feel the pain she did growing up and kill not just those family members personally close to Simon, but every potential inheritor to the fortune. It’s pretty clear she’s had some success. Shame that, in true noir fashion, Grace is currently in jail for the one murder in her life she didn’t commit.

Framed as a “how we got here” journal, Mackie’s work takes a leisurely pace. It’s a character study, and her character is acerbic and unhappy in her own skin, even as she lauds her own attractive looks. There is some comment here on how revenge doesn’t make for a good life, as well as an ironic look at Grace, who constantly rages against the wealthy upper class while dreaming of becoming one of them.

Grace is an unsympathetic, misanthropic protagonist in the vein of Patricia Highsmith. She is our villain narrator, a fascinating person backlit by green smoke who tells herself and the world with icy disdain that she was right all along. We don’t see protagonists like Grace often—perhaps there is a reason for that—but it certainly makes for a novel debut. You likely haven’t read much else like it.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:25:00
The Awoken
Hank Wagner

Katelyn Monroe Howes’ The Awoken has a very positive “Buck Rogers in the 25th century” vibe going for it; Star Trek aficionados will also respond well to its metaphorical treatment of some of today’s hot button issues. It tells the story of cryogenically frozen Alabine Rivers, who wakes approximately a hundred years after her death into a drastically transformed America. She finds herself considered a hybrid of martyr and messiah to the cause of Resurrection, whereby those who died and were frozen are revived and cured once remedies for their various maladies have been discovered.

Because things haven’t changed much, she’s also Public Enemy Number One to anti-Resurrectionists, who consider her kind to be abominations. Thrust into the middle of the ongoing conflict between the vehemently opposed factions, the ailing Alabine (a cure for her disease exists, but isn’t readily available), is forced to find her way in this strange, new world, all the while seeking out her long-lost love, also frozen, but held hostage by the insidious powers that be.

Action-packed, full to the top with intrigue and suspense, The Awoken is an impressive debut. Howes deftly handles a somewhat familiar storyline with great flair: the heroes are noble and adaptable, while the nefarious villains walk right up to the edge of mustache-twirling villainy. Readers will doubtlessly enjoy the mirror that Howes holds up to today’s America, perhaps giving them a chance to see their own deeply cherished beliefs from a different angle.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:27:38
The Best Friend
Sarah Prindle

They say old friends make the best friends, but is it true? Author Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Mystery series) explores this question and more in The Best Friend, a character-driven suspense tale about lifelong friends, Bella and Kate. The two are vastly different women. Bella is quiet and thoughtful; Kate is impulsive and rules-optional. Their friendship ebbs and flows through periods of closeness and distance, love and resentment, as they graduate, marry, have children, and grow old. Their differences often lead to misunderstandings, but regardless, they genuinely care about each other. And when violence changes their lives, it raises questions about how far one might go in the name of friendship.

The Best Friend is a succinct character study that delves into the effects and motivations for violence. Kate and Bella are fleshed out the most, but other key characters, such as Kate’s son Charlie and stepson Randall, and Bella’s daughter Georgie and husband David, also have distinct personalities and roles to play. The women’s marriages and their relationships with their children add another insightful dynamic to the story.

With short chapters and direct dialogue (sans quotation marks), Fellowes’ story makes for a quick, but rich read. It may take a minute to get used to the writing style, but the storyline is intriguing and the author skillfully guides readers through Kate and Bella’s lives, from the time they are boy-crazy teenagers to middle-aged mothers to octogenarians. Themes of loyalty, the intensity of love/hate friendships, and how such strong emotions can feed the darker aspects of a woman’s soul are explored along the way, then topped off with a wicked twist.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:31:08
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Margaret Agnew

In Gillian McAllister’s latest standalone Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Jen Brotherhood finds her life torn apart after her son inexplicably stabs a stranger. The teenaged Todd is a sweet, nerdy boy and Jen can’t figure out for the life of her what drove him to do it. But after she spends a restless night tormented by the tragedy, she finds herself waking up the day before. And then it happens again, and again, and again. Jen has been given the chance to not only undo her son’s crime, but discover what led to it.

The further back in time she gets, the more she learns about not only the fatal act, but about her own family. She may not know her amiable husband Kelley as well as she thinks, and son Todd may have known his victim better than he claims. Jen is at times driven, euphoric, lost, and even desperate, as she repeats her life from different vantage points, each one with strong emotions attached.

At first, the conceit of the story can be a little difficult to get into. Because Jen is going back every single day, it’s hard to see the actual significance of her actions. After all, when she wakes up again, everything she does, and every conversation she had the day before is erased. Slowly, though, it becomes clear that she is learning something new about the crime with every revisited experience. As the picture comes into focus, it’s hard to look away.

Jen, Todd, and Kelley are powerfully drawn. They feel like a family you know, or could even be a part of. The characters on the periphery, however, can feel roughly sketched out in comparison. Particularly as time passes, these people drift in and out of Jen’s life without making a real impression. Many never become important beyond plot points. This makes sense, given how focused Jen is on her own disaster, but the sharp focus on the main characters can make things seem a little fuzzy at the edges.

Despite this small flaw, the mystery itself is solid. The reader is pulled along by a good plot and strong central characters. There is never a moment of doubt that the ending will satisfy, and the story evokes genuine emotion as it proceeds there. Though the time travel element of being pulled back repeatedly is interesting, it doesn’t always seem crucial. A good story is a good story, even without the frills.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:33:30
Edge of Dusk
Eileen Brady

Author Colleen Coble has set her new series in a familiar place to her fans, the town of Rock Harbor, Michigan. Her heroine, law enforcement ranger Annie Pederson, has had a lot of tragedy in her life. When she was nine years old, her little sister was kidnapped right in front of her. That trauma still haunts her. Tragedy struck again when her husband and parents died in a boat accident, leaving her to run the Tremolo Resort and Marina, which is in desperate need of a face-lift.

When a body bobs to the surface in the waters of Lake Superior close to her marina, Annie finds herself working alongside head ranger Kade Matthews on the investigation, which is soon linked to other mysterious deaths along the lake.

In the midst of all this, Annie’s former sweetheart Jon Dustan arrives in town to help his elderly father. Jon somewhat mysteriously left town nine years ago shortly after a similar murder occurred. Could he be a killer? If so and despite her feelings for him, Annie needs to protect herself and her eight-year-old daughter, Kylie.

After a frightened young man is found hiding in the woods after an apparent kidnapping, it becomes clear someone is terrorizing the town of Rock Harbor and it’s up to Annie to find out who. Edge of Dusk is a solid winner for Coble’s new Annie Pederson mystery series.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:36:37
Hank Wagner

You’ll not easily forget the opening pages of this novel, as its heroine, forensic photographer Rita Todacheene, describes the way she goes about her work. In this case, she’s at the scene of a suspected suicide on a local highway. It’s entirely clinical, but somehow becomes quite graphic, as Rita describes the carnage she bears witness to through the lens of her camera. But the photographer is not particularly bothered by the blood and guts she sees. In fact, she’s more disturbed by the fact that she can see and hear the victim (a talent she’s had since she was very young), who at first pleads, and subsequently demands, that Rita look deeper into the case and bring those responsible for her grisly demise to justice.

Ramona Emerson expertly walks an extremely fine line in her terrific debut, which grabs you with its stunning first paragraph and holds you rapt for approximately 300 pages, never relinquishing its iron grip on your attention or your emotions. It’s set in a world that is at once familiar but also a bit alien (at least to this reader). Rita was raised in the Navajo Nation by her grandmother and now works for the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police force. Shutter's supporting cast is wide, varied, and captivating—especially Rita's grandmother, from whom Rita caught the photography bug. And Emerson’s prose is just gorgeous.

It’s a thriller, a ghost story, a police procedural; it’s comical, suspenseful, action-packed, often horrific (it could just as easily have been titled Shudder). On the surface, it would seem as if the novel’s contradictions might doom it; rather, they power it, creating something unique, almost transgressive. Above all, it is thoughtful. In short, it’s a splendid read.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-07 19:40:50
Ausma Zehanat Khan Introduces Detective Inaya Rahman
Robin Agnew

Ausma Zehanat Khan


"It’s wonderful to have community rooted in shared experiences or history, but it’s equally important to build a community of shared values, and that’s what my investigators are working toward."

Ausma Zehanat Khan’s first Detective Inaya Rahman book features a Muslim detective in Colorado who works for a squad called the Community Response Unit. Dealing with racially sensitive crimes, this unit allows Khan to explore cultural divisions and highlight the beauty of the Muslim community. She also writes a kick-ass police novel. This is a wonderful new series.

Robin Agnew for Mystery Scene: I know you’re originally from Canada though you’ve now lived in the United States for several years. Why did you choose the States to set your story? Is it because of our recent and unfortunate ongoing culture of division?

Ausma Zehanat Khan: I moved to the United States in 2005 and became an American citizen a few years ago. I wasn’t planning to move my green card status forward until Donald Trump began his political campaign in 2015. At that point I realized the divisive rhetoric he exemplified could pose a threat to my civil liberties and I needed the protection afforded by citizenship, which of course, is an immense privilege.

So although my first crime series, the Khattak/Getty series is set in my hometown of Toronto, Blackwater Falls is based in Colorado where I’ve lived since 2008. I felt like I’d now experienced enough of American politics and society to write about it convincingly, and I wanted to explore this significant shift to the right in the political culture, particularly given how deeply it impacts the communities I come from. I love Colorado—it exemplifies so many contradictions as a purple state that it gave me wonderful material to draw upon.

Is there a Community Response Unit (CRU) in Colordado? Would they have the authority to step in and take over an investigation?

There are various police units like hate crimes or anti-bias units in different police departments that would definitely do some of the same work that my detectives do, but I doubt they’d have the authority to supersede another police department’s jurisdiction. I’m grateful for the fictional liberties I’m able to take because they help give my stories added weight. I do think every police department needs proper community response training, but that by itself won’t be enough for systemic police reform.

Sometimes a little shift in perspective can upend a genre. Sara Paretsky did it by having a female character; Tony Hillerman did is by having a Navajo detective. I feel like you are bringing another and welcome seismic shift to the genre by illuminating cultural differences as well as (hopefully) points of connection. Can you talk about this a bit?

Detective Inaya Rahman is, as far as I know, the first American Muslim female detective in crime fiction, so she represents someone new and unfamiliar to readers. I loved the idea of depicting Inaya in the fullness of who she is, with the added benefit of giving her the context of her culture (she’s of Afghan-Pakistani background) and family.

One of the big questions we’re facing today is the over-policing of minority communities in ways that are hugely detrimental to those communities. So what happens when police officers come from those communities? How do they grapple with suddenly being perceived as not belonging in either place: on the police force or at home among their own? By writing not only Inaya, but her partner Catalina Hernandez, and her boss Lieutenant Waqas Seif, I was able to question the premise of police officer as undisputed hero. I also had the opportunity to explore the complexity of how officers of color navigate a broken system, and these are questions I think we should have been asking in crime fiction long ago.

This book is so rich in character. I loved learning about the different families and cultures. I loved attorney Areesha Adams—and I loved Inaya’s sisters who add just a bit of spark to the story. When you are telling a story do you start with character? Situation? Setting?

Thank you so much for these kind words! I normally begin with themes I want to write about—in this case, criminal justice reform—and build the book from there. I do always have a variety of characters at the back of my mind, and what I try to do is find the most effective character to explore the theme. I then begin the process of fleshing that character out. Who is she at heart? What matters to her? How do her personal values reflect upon the way she carries out her job as an investigator? Adding in her family is great for series longevity—I hope to put all these characters in difficult situations and thereby intensify Inaya’s personal conflicts, as well as her professional ones.

Blackwater Falls, by Ausma KhanI liked the tension between Lieutenant Waqas Seif and Inaya. Will that be maintained going forward?

Definitely! These two are the heart of the series and they won’t be able to resolve their complicated relationship too quickly.

Is there a version of this story where Seif and Inaya could be together? (If this is a spoiler leave it out, but I’m personally curious!)

There absolutely is, but it would involve a lot of introspection by both these characters, as well as the ability to make some foundational compromises. Inaya won’t end up with someone who doesn’t share her faith, so the challenge for Seif is to discover who he is at the core and whether he’s capable of meeting Inaya on her ground.

Incidents in the novel that involve assault and bullying, including scenes with the murdered Syrian teenager Razan Elkader that sparks Inaya's investigation, and with the investigator herself are difficult to read, but certainly has a large and powerful impact on your story. Can you talk about writing these scenes? Were they hard to write?

These scenes come out of a lot of work I do with Muslim communities, where I position myself as someone who witnesses the testimony of others, particularly my many headscarf-wearing friends. They often speak about the bullying and harassment they experience because of the hijab. I also track hate crimes against Muslims in the West, and there is definitely a gendered dimension to Islamophobia (anti-Muslim racism) because the hijab makes women easily identifiable as targets. So it’s difficult to write these scenes only in the sense that they are based on some truly horrifying facts, but I’m almost more dismayed by the fact that as time goes on, I’m becoming desensitized because of how often I have witnessed anti-Muslim hate. It’s there in the political discourse and the popular culture as a not-so-subtle undercurrent, yet so many people remain oblivious to it.

A football player who is involved with teenage bullying has a surprisingly subtle and well-delineated reaction to what occurs with Razan. I liked that this character was able to be reflective. Can you talk about this a bit?

I didn’t want to write the one-dimensional bully/jock character when it came to Campbell Kerr. I thought about the pressure we all experience to fit in, to belong, and how easy it is for young people to become radicalized either by a real-life presence like the Resurrection Church, or by their peer group or by reprehensible actors online. No one starts out wanting to be racist or thinking themselves superior to others based on race or religion—we have to be conditioned to accept those beliefs. So Campbell Kerr is the victim of the circumstances of his life, but he’s also intelligent and sensitive enough to know that he could have made a different choice, and that he has to take moral responsibility for the decisions he’s made. And he also has to accept the fact that those decisions have consequences.

I liked that faith gives the characters strength in the novel, but you are writing about different ways to be faithful. The evangelical church in the book is really a center of hatred and division, not love and acceptance. Can you talk about this dichotomy?

My personal belief has always been that the basic precepts of all faiths are the same: Most religions guide us to behave ethically in the world, the “do unto others” premise. In reality, religious institutions can be deeply problematic. Consider the Catholic church and child abuse, and how long those scandals were covered up the church. Or consider what happens when religious identity and political identity become aligned, so that you’re no longer talking simply about religion, but about political actors.

At an extreme end, you look at how institutions like the Serbian Orthodox Church of the former Yugoslavia, or the Catholic church in Rwanda gave credence to the state’s genocidal aims. Conversely, you have theocratic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and nonstate actors like ISIS and al-Qaeda who carry out horrific human rights abuses in the name of religion, and you can’t ignore these realities either.

What I’m getting at is that we can’t assume that religious institutions, political actors, or nonstate groups are inherently “good” because of the teachings of the faith or religious institutions they may be aligned with. Instead, these same actors may often incite hate and violence against other communities—the Taliban repeatedly attacking the Hazara, ISIS enslaving the Yazidi people, or churches where you have pastors openly speaking about the Islamic threat, about American Muslims as a source of evil that needs to be rooted out.

I won’t name the church in question, but the Resurrection Church in Blackwater Falls, and the sermons of its pastor, were based on a church in the United States. Whenever I think I’m going too far in my fiction, my research establishes that the concrete reality far outstrips anything I come up with in my books.

I really felt that ultimately this was a book about community, both good and bad, community support and family support versus community pressure to think or believe in a certain way. Did you feel this was an important theme of the book?

Yes, definitely. Blackwater Falls explores how we build community, and more importantly, how we determine solidarity. On the face of it, Inaya, Catalina, and Areesha don’t seem to have much in common. They speak different languages, they face different social justice struggles, and they’ve had very different life experiences. Yet the core of this series is the solidarity these three women learn to build and express, becoming a community of their own by understanding that they do, in fact, share the same struggle because of their common humanity.

I find in life, we’re always building connections that don’t necessarily align with our cultural heritage or our ethnic backgrounds. It’s wonderful to have community rooted in shared experiences or history, but it’s equally important to build a community of shared values, and that’s what my investigators are working toward.

What books or writers have influenced your work? Was there a transformation read for you at one point that changed your life?

The New Zealand crime writer Ngaio Marsh influenced me as a superb stylist of language. I’ve always loved her Detective Roderick Alleyn mysteries. Elizabeth George is a writer I very much admire because of how deeply she digs into the psyche of her characters. I love the compassion inherent in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache crime series.

But because my crime novels center on social justice issues, the most influential books I’ve read have been books with similar themes: anything by the Algerian author, Assia Djebar, but especially A Sister to Scheherazade; a prose-poem novel by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish called "Memory for Forgetfulness" and his poem "Beirut" among countless others; Raja Shehadeh’s Occupation Diaries; A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra; Anna Politkovskaya’s A Dirty War; Fatima Mernissi’s memoir Dreams of Trespass and her groundbreaking book The Veil and the Male Elite; David Rieff’s Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West; Roy Gutman’s A Witness to Genocide; Frank Herbert’s Dune for world-building; Amin Maalouf’s immense historical knowledge and the panache exemplified by his unforgettable novels Samarkand and The Crusades Through Arab Eyes; Geraldine Brooks’ The People of the Book; and of course, Ann Patchett’s gorgeously lyrical Bel Canto. For me, these were all transformative books that I read at pivotal moments in my life.

What’s next? Will there be another Detective Rahman novel? I really hope this will be a long series.

Yes! I’m thrilled to tell you that I was so excited to dive back into Inaya’s life that I’ve just finished the (unnamed) sequel, which will be published next fall.

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel, as well as a 2016 Macavity Award finalist. Works in Khan's critically acclaimed Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series includes The Language of Secrets, A Death in Sarajevo, Among the Ruins, A Dangerous Crossing, and A Deadly Divide. Khan's new crime series features American Muslim detective Inaya Rahman. Inaya investigates homicides in minority communities in Colorado with her partner Catalina Hernandez, and independent monitor Areesha Adams - a trio of Muslim, Latina and Black investigators who work to change a system impervious to reform from both the inside and the outside. The series debut is Blackwater Falls.

Teri Duerr
2022-11-09 15:46:35
Jacqueline Bublitz on the Hard-Fought Massive Success of "Before You Knew My Name"
Craig Sisterson

Jacqueline Bublitz

Fueled by personal grief and an injustice she just couldn’t let go of, debut novelist Jacqueline Bublitz overcame years of rejections to deliver a stunning, trope-busting tale that centers victims and has already won several awards overseas.

The 49th rejection didn’t sting quite as much. Not because Jacqueline Bublitz had become numb after several years of hearing publishing gatekeepers say no to her novel-writing efforts. Not because she didn’t care as much anymore. But because when the email arrived from the latest agent to say Bublitz wrote beautifully, but that her novel about two women who flee to New York City and become connected when one discovers the other’s body would be just too hard to sell given it didn’t fit neatly into any popular genre, Bublitz had already secured a great agent, and her debut had gone to auction with international publishers.

“You just can’t have an ego in this industry,” says Bublitz with a chuckle, from her home in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. “Because every time something amazing happens, then something else happens. It’s like getting one-star reviews and five-star reviews, writ large.”

While that late-responding agent was right that Before You Knew My Name, Bublitz’s trope-busting debut that centers crime victims rather than cops or killers, doesn’t neatly fit neatly into typical genre boxes, they were wrong about it selling. Published in the United States this fall, the book has already scooped numerous awards and hit bestseller lists overseas. Several translations are already in the works and Bublitz is now working on her second novel.

While readers, critics, and awards judges have been feting her book—something Bublitz is still trying to get her head around—she says it was the idea and themes behind Before You Knew My Name that kept her going through doubt-filled years in the aspiring author wilderness. And in a way, it was a tremendous personal loss that finally got it over the line.

“I had the idea in 2014 about what it would be like to be the jogger who found a dead body, but no real plot,” she recalls. “I went to New York in 2015 to ostensibly research, but the true story is I really just wanted to live in New York. The idea just wouldn’t leave me alone, and so I just worked away at it over the years after coming back from New York. It was quite an amorphous process. I don’t write sequentially, and I’m a 'pantser,' not a plotter.”

Bublitz had loved the idea of New York City since she was a story-loving kid in small-town New Zealand. She was was obsessed with Broadway musicals, along with soap operas, the Russian royal family, and the Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High books. At high school she’d applied for an exchange program to the United States, hoping to experience the big city. She secured a spot, but was instead sent to Flushing High School in Michigan.

“I ended up in a small town, similar in size to where I’d come from, which I later found out is what they do, which sort of defeats the purpose somewhat of going on a cultural exchange,” she says. “But I fell on my feet in that I had great teachers. My senior year of high school at Flushing was taking drama, singing, creative writing, journalism, criminal justice, American government, and was a year when I laid a lot of foundations for what would come.”

Though Bublitz, who moved to Melbourne, Australia, after high school and lived most of her adult life there before moving home after her beloved father was hospitalized in 2019, confesses she can be quite thin-skinned and struggles with constructive criticism.

“I want everyone to love me, or at least like me, or just ignore me,” she laughs. “So, I had to really learn with writing this book over those five, six years then going through the publication process, to toughen up. And I guess that’s how I knew as well that this was a book I wanted to stick with, that it was worth it. Because anything that sort of emotionally fraught, it must be worth it if you keep coming back to it and trying again.”


Part of the fuel was Bublitz’s “feminism with a capital F” and her rage at violence against women. She describes Before You Knew My Name —a book about death, New York, and two women called Alice and Ruby—as “an exploration of a very particular type of gendered violence and the impacts that has both on the and the people around them.”

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline BublitzIt’s a superb, affecting read.

And it’s easy to see why Before You Knew My Name won 2022 General Fiction Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards, with judges describing it as “an extraordinary, unputdownable debut novel exploring trauma, connection, and our cultural obsession with dead girls."

Bublitz’s debut opens with the arresting voice of teenager Alice Lee, arriving in New York City on an overheated cross-country bus, and bluntly telling the readers that she will die, and that she’s going to tell us her story rather than being just another ‘dead girl’ whose remains are picked over and their character created and story told by an outsider.

First-time novelist Bublitz deftly upturns the typical "pretty dead girl" tropes often seen on TV shows and in crime fiction where a young woman’s body is found by a passerby then we follow the cops on their hunt for the killer while the victim and witness become periphery.

Instead, Before You Knew My Name centers the dead girl, Alice Lee, and the person who finds her, Ruby Jones. Both women were looking to, as Sinatra sang, ‘make a brand-new start of it in old New York’. Teenager Alice is fleeing Midwest family tragedy and bad decisions with a controlling older man. Ruby is a single thirtysomething from Australia looking to reinvent herself after a going-nowhere love life with a soon-to-be-married man. Two women searching for something, perhaps themselves, whose lives intersect in the most tragic way.

A few weeks after her arrival in Manhattan, Ruby is running through a morning storm in Riverside Park when she discovers the body of a young woman sprawled on the rocks. The familiar crime show steps follow: police, crime scene tape, detectives with questions. Ruby can’t let it go—she needs to find out more about the unidentified woman who was beaten, strangled, and reduced to a Jane Doe.

Meanwhile Alice Lee watches on as the husk of who she was slots into the daily routines of those who deal with the dead. Another tragedy in New York City, splashed across newspaper headlines for a while, before everyone else moves on. Almost everyone.

Could Ruby Jones be the key to finding Alice’s killer?

Following our interview, Bublitz’s beguiling, beautifully characterized novel that deep dives into victim and witness rather than cops on the hunt, scooped another four highly regarded book prizes. In late August, Before You Knew My Name won Debut Crime Book of the Year and Readers’ Choice at the Davitt Awards in Australia. Then in September it made history by becoming the first book to ever win both Best First Novel and Best Novel at the Ngaio Marsh Awards, the annual crime, mystery, and thriller awards for Bublitz’s home country.

With its enchanting warmth despite horrifying deeds and themes, and Bublitz’s rich characterization of female lives, fears, and desires, it’s easy to see why this sublime novel has become a hit—even if it doesn’t neatly fit the usual commercial crime fiction boxes.

But four years ago, Bublitz nearly gave up on it.

Then she suffered through perhaps the toughest year of her life, and it was reborn.


In early 2019, Bublitz was working on some edits of what would become Before You Knew My Name with an agent in Australia, only to get the dreaded news of “It’s just not working.” A body blow for an aspiring author, quickly followed by even worse.

Bublitz, known as "Rock" or "Rocky" to her friends (her middle name is Rochelle and she was born just after Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky came out), returned home to Taranaki after her father had been hospitalized with a heart attack then later diagnosed with cancer.

“It was a pretty rough time for me, personally,” she says. What she thought was her big writing break evaporated, her world was rocked, and Bublitz was sorely tempted to let her novel writing dreams go. “Then the rest of 2019 was all about nursing my Dad through an illness, but I’d pick up the manuscript every so often. I was sort of licking my wounds and dealing with these life-changing events, having moved back to New Zealand from Melbourne after 20-odd years to help. Dad passed away, and that’s when I really picked up the story again. And I realized that I hadn’t got close to what I was really trying to say, which is look at what we lose when this kind of crime happens. Look at how much is lost.”

Going through her own experience of loss, Bublitz began thinking about mortality, and changed some of the narrative in Before You Knew My Name, becoming clearer on Alice’s journey after death. “I didn’t want to do a Lovely Bones kind of idea of heaven,” she says.

After her father’s death, Bublitz received a letter from a friend who’d lost her own father, sharing some advice about bereavement. “She said, and it almost line-for-line made its way into my book, that ‘You’re going to have to learn how to find him,’” says Bublitz. “That really gave me the focus with Alice and Ruby. Dad died in September 2019 and I edited the manuscript for around three months. Then in December, just quietly and not really telling everyone, I began sending it out to a few agents in Australia, the UK, and United States.”


This time, things happened quickly. Bublitz was picked up by British literary agent Cara Lee Simpson, Before You Knew My Name went out on submission, and was quickly snapped up in several territories. Bublitz smiles, calling Cara, along with her Australian editor Jane and her British editor Darcy, her “three witches,” because they helped her find the magic.

And with her US publication looming, Bublitz hopes she can return to New York City, perhaps meeting in person with some of her witches, like Cara, who she’s only dealt with remotely during the pandemic. “There’s all this life-changing stuff we’ve gone through together. I’d love to go back to New York as it’ll be six years since I’ve been there.”

She may even go for a jog in the park.

Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often.

Craig Sisterson writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries, and is an event chair, festival founder, podcast host, and book awards judge. His first nonfiction book, Southern Cross Crime, was nominated for a Macavity Award. He’s the editor of the Dark Deeds Down Under anthology series. @craigsisterson

Teri Duerr
2022-11-09 16:31:47
A Letter From Mystery Scene Editor Kate Stine on Our Final Issue
Kate Stine

Mystery Scene Issue #1Fall #173 was a benchmark for Brian and me as publishers of Mystery Scene—our 20th Anniversary Issue. Winter #174 marks a sadder occasion—the final issue of Mystery Scene Magazine after 37 years in business.

The publishing industry has changed seismically over the last two decades with the advent of the internet, publisher consolidation, the birth of social media, and the rise of Amazon. It has become impossible for us to continue to offer you the high-quality print publication in which we’ve taken so much pride.

The website will remain functioning for now, as will our monthly e-newsletter. We will be refunding readers for their outstanding subscriptions over the next few months. This is a big job, so please be patient with us. We expect to have this task done by February 2023.

We want to thank our outstanding staff, particularly the indispensable Teri Duerr for all her excellent work editing, writing, and organizing over the years. Annika Larsson made all of us look good with her outstanding design skills. The quality of our contributors is apparent to Mystery Scene readers already—but let me just say how interesting, educational, and fun it was to work with them. And we want to thank all of you—we loved bringing you the magazine. Brian and I had the best job in publishing for 20 years and we want to thank you for coming along for the ride.

Kate Stine

More Mystery Scene goodbye letters and reflections can be read here. We'd also love to hear from you, the readers. Send your thoughts to us on social media @MysteryScene.


Teri Duerr
2022-11-09 18:10:32
Farewell Mystery Scene

Katherine Hall Page, Lincoln, Massachusetts

An issue of Mystery Scene in my mailbox was always an occasion for much happiness, an occasion to give myself a nice long time to sit and read the magazine from cover to cover. Many thanks for these last 20 years of articles that were unique for the quality of the writing and the breadth of the subjects. Each issue touched upon past Golden Ages and introduced us to debut authors poised for the next. The columns illustrated just how wide the mystery world is.

It was a pleasure, and challenge, to write for you—the highlight was researching the article on Mary Stewart after I had received a letter from her shortly before her death. I know new readership resulted—especially for her gem Madam, Will You Talk?

Ave atque vale, Kate and Brian!

Robin Agnew, Ann Arbor, Michigan

What a gift this magazine has been to our community—coverage of awards, conferences, in depth interviews, and of course reviews so readers knew what to look forward to. Even though I was myself a reviewer I scoured the columns for what to read next, just like anyone else. I am deeply saddened it will no longer be around to spread the word about the greatness of the mystery genre. Many many hats off to Kate and Brian for their stellar work, with sadness and affection.

Oline H. Cogdill, Plantation, Florida

I am beyond sad that Mystery Scene is publishing its last issue.

Working for Mystery Scene has been a highlight for me, allowing me to interview some outstanding authors through the years. Mystery Scene is the pure definition of quality as the editors and writers take great care in sculpting our interviews, profiles, articles, reviews, and blogs. I have the utmost respect for Kate and Brian and the publication they have led.

John B. Valeri, Portland, Connecticut

To say “thank you” seems inadequate and yet sometimes the simplest words best express the most profound sentiments. Before I had the privilege of becoming a contributor to Mystery Scene—an absolute honor over which I’m still pinching myself (ouch!)—I was an avid reader of the magazine (still am) and would look forward to each issue with unabashed glee, knowing that I was about to “meet” new (to me) authors and books that would bring countless hours of entertainment and enlightenment.

To this day, I greet each publication with that same sense of wonderment. Whether the big, beloved authors we all recognize or lesser known (but equally talented) writers of regional or international prominence, there is always an abundance of literary gems to be unearthed. As much as I’ll miss writing for the magazine, I’ll miss reading it more. I couldn’t have asked for, or had, a better experience—as a reader or a writer. But I know that I am better for having been both, and that your influence will continue to be felt in all that remains to be read and written.

Hank Wagner, Rockaway, New Jersey

It’s hard to believe that Mystery Scene is closing up shop after nearly 35 years. I fondly recall buying the early issues in my late 20s and early 30s, eagerly absorbing sacred genre knowledge from the likes of Ed Gorman and Charles L. Grant. I feel even more nostalgic about becoming a member of the Mystery Scene family around the turn of the century, after the esteemed Mr. Gorman recommended my services to you shortly after you and Brian had taken the helm. Thanks so much for all the assignments, and for suggesting I do the "Original Thrillers Paperback" column; I’ve enjoyed the work, and working with you and Reviews Editor Teri Duerr, immensely. It was a privilege and an honor, but, most of all, it was fun.

Teri Duerr, Sr. Editor, Brooklyn, New York

When I answered an ad for an assistant editor job for Mystery Scene sometime in the fall of 2005, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that my interview with Kate and Brian at the Mystery Scene office (a fourth-floor Midtown walk-up) was in the building of the original Mysterious Bookshop. I had no clue who the bespectacled guy on the cover of Issue #90 Brian handed me was (some guy named Michael Connelly?). Believe it or not, dear readers (and it pains me now to admit it) I was not a lover of mysteries!

But boy, oh boy, has Mystery Scene ever changed that. And I’ll be forever grateful it has.

I don’t know what sort of outsized con I pulled to get hired that day, but it has paid off in spades (and then some). Over the nearly two decades working side-by-side with Kate, I’ve learned things that have opened worlds to me, made me a better reader, a better writer, and a better editor. My admiration of the genres we all know and love has grown and deepened, but I particularly value the way I earned this appreciation: through countless recommendations and shared passions from our contributors and readers, from the chance to talk with hundreds of unique and fascinating authors over the years, through reading Mystery Scene’s fascinating articles and benefiting from the knowledge of genre luminaries—I especially miss my back-and-forths with our founding father and one of the funniest, most talented, and most generous humans ever Ed Gorman, who passed away in 2016. And I’ll tell you the only person who may have him beat in the talent, kindness, and generosity department is this magazine’s current publisher and editor, Kate Stine.

There is no other publication like Mystery Scene and it will leave a very large hole in the mystery world. A big thank you to Kate and Brian for putting it into the world these past two decades (and for taking a chance on a tenderfoot like me). A big thank you to all the reviewers and contributors I’ve had the honor of working with over the years. And one final big thank you to all of our readers, many of whom I’ve also gotten the chance to know and have found to be just as storied and interesting as the books they read.

Max Allan Collins, Muscatine, Iowa

This is, obviously, terrible news—an awful blow to the genre. I was part of Mystery Scene in its earliest days, when it was just being born, kicking the concept around with Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi. For about the first 10 years, I had the film review column in the magazine. It’s a gut punch to working mystery writers, the very thought of the magazine being gone. You did a fantastic job with it and should be very proud of what you accomplished. Congratulations on a great run. This is a huge loss to the mystery community.

Joseph Scarpato, Jr., Marlborough, Massachusetts

After more than 20 years of reviewing new mysteries for Mystery Scene, I will miss it very much. I looked forward to reading about the mystery authors, new mysteries being published and the very interesting articles about all things mystery related. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute as a reviewer.

Debbie Haupt, St. Charles, Missouri

Thanks for the memories! It was late 2018 when I was invited to review for this acclaimed publication and ever since have been very proud to be a part of the Mystery Scene family. In those years I have had the pleasure of reading, reviewing and discovering many, many wonderful novels and authors who have since become go-to favorites. My editor, Teri Duerr, is super and has always made my reviews look fabulous and I will deeply miss her guidance and hope the future is bright for her and all the other staff members. It’s hard to say goodbye and so it’s with a heavy heart that I say, Adieu, Adios, Arrivederci, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen and Sayōnara.

Jay Roberts, Wareham, Massachusetts

To Kate and Brian, thanks for letting me be a part of the Mystery Scene contributors for all these years. It has been no small honor for me to be able to offer my thoughts on a variety of books in your pages. I wish this ride with you was continuing onward but just know that, to paraphrase the late great Warren Zevon, “I’ll keep you in my heart for a while.” P.S. Kate, I’m still holding out hope for a Mystery Scene logo T-shirt. To Teri, I'd like to say I don't have the words but as you can see by this letter of comment, I clearly have plenty of them. I know you work with plenty of reviewers, but I have always made sure to credit you (“my” editor) for making sure my ham-fisted first draft reviews turn into pieces with all the words in the right order and with a concise viewpoint. If I was writing a mystery novel, I’d want you to edit it. And yes, I’ll be waiting for your edits on this letter.

This may be the last issue of Mystery Scene and while everyone that played a part in creating each issue will surely miss it, we also know that we did a damn good job while having quite a blast talking about everything mystery. And for that, Mystery Scene will not be soon forgotten.

Dick Lochte, Los Angeles, California

I can’t remember exactly when I began contributing to Mystery Scene. Since I’d been co-writing the audio column "Sounds of Suspense" with Tom Nolan in The Armchair Detective during Kate Stine’s editorship there, my guess is, when she and Brian Skupin took hold of MS, the column, Tom and I followed. That would have been during 2002 or thereabouts. So, for a couple of decades—before and after Tom left to write his masterful biography of Ross Macdonald and other books—I spent untold hours listening to talented performers read crime books to me. This has been the longest I’ve ever worked at any job. Part of that was because it was a labor of love. Most of it was because of the atmosphere of professionalism and friendship and respect that Kate and Teri Duerr created. Thanks to all. I’m sorry it’s over, but it surely was a criminally fun ride.

Eileen Brady, Fountain Hills, Arizona

Our mailman usually stuffed the media mail envelope into our mailbox. On the way back to the house I’d tear open the brown paper mailer containing my Mystery Scene Magazine review books— then flip each book over and read the advertising copy. Did it sound interesting? Had I read the author before? Or why the heck did they send this one to me? Well, you really can’t tell a book by its cover, or blurbs, or quick synopsis. You simply start at page one. As a reviewer, I dug in and experienced each book aware that the author devoted a year or more of their life writing it.

Through Mystery Scene Magazine I’ve met many new authors, enjoyed familiar series, laughed, cried, and cheered characters on. Writers have surprised me with twisted endings. They’ve angered me, taught me, or simply swept me away with the power of their words. I’m a better writer, reader, and person because of them. Each issue made me proud I worked for this magazine. My thanks to editor and friend Teri Duerr, and our outstanding Publisher Kate Stine, who made it all look gloriously easy.

Pat H. Broeske, Santa Anna, California

Mystery Scene folding is a crime the likes of which even the combined talents of Hercule Poirot and Harry Bosch couldn’t solve. As an avid reader for years, I especially loved the articles on both new authors and starry veterans. As a proud contributor since 2018, it was a pleasure writing reviews and features, and my brand new (it ran for just two issues) nonfiction column, “Just the Facts.” A big thank you to the publisher, editor and staff—and the magazine’s dedicated readers. The genre community won’t be the same. Let’s hope there’s a sequel in the works.

Cheryl Solimini, Milford, Pennsylvania

Thank you, Mystery Scene (that is, Kate, Brian, Teri) for the privilege of interviewing/reviewing veteran authors (Michael Connelly, Sara Paretsky, just to name two) and then-newbies (Louise Penny, Tana French, Amy Stewart, to name just three) who have given me and so many others immeasurable hours of pleasure. As champions of crime writers, fiction and nonfiction, and their readers, you have provided a service, also immeasurable, to this community. We will all miss you!

Jean Gazis, Brooklyn, New York

I’ve been writing for Mystery Scene since January, 2016, and am endlessly grateful for the privilege. My review assignments introduced me to more than 70 new-to-me authors and an incredible array of fabulous settings, characters, and styles. I saw Regency England through the eyes of a crack present-day FBI agent with Julie McElwain, and through those of an abolitionist Black noblewoman with Vanessa Riley. I visited Colonial Boston with Chris Bohjalian, 1920s Calcutta with Sujata Massey, 1970s Afghanistan with Jasmin Aimaq, present-day Ghana with Kwei Quartey, and a post-apocalyptic future with Carrie Vaughn. I met so many characters I’d love to spend more time with, as I watched plucky young women, determined mothers, crusty police detectives, the Brontë sisters, and the late Queen Elizabeth II solve crimes, catch the bad guys, and clear the innocent.

I was riveted by seasoned pros Elizabeth Hand, Meg Gardiner, Thomas Mullen, and Philip Gray, and blown away by the debut efforts of Katie Gutierrez, Bev Thomas, Alex Michaelides, Janice Hallett, and Emma Flint. Lindsay Faye offered pyrotechnic prose; Anthony Horowitz and Elizabeth Little made me laugh; Kimberly McCreight skewered my very own corner of Brooklyn. Beyond providing top-notch entertainment, writers Naomi Hirahara, Susan Elia MacNeil, and others illuminated aspects of history and society that I wish were better known. I’ve enjoyed recommending the books I wrote about to friends, family, book groups, and local bookstores, and I’ll definitely be supporting those indie shops when these wonderful writers’ new mysteries are published.

Carol Kubala, via email

If I'm as sad as I am, I cannot imagine how hard this is for all of you. I do understand but this is the end of the best mystery publication I have been fortunate to follow. There just are no words...may your next venture in life be as successful as this one has been. You've made a difference. 

Joseph Scarpato, Jr., via email

After more than 20 years of reviewing new mysteries for Mystery Scene, I will miss it very much. I looked forward to reading about the mystery authors, new mysteries being published and the very interesting articles about all things mystery related. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute as a reviewer.

Andrew F. Gulli, Managing Editor, The Strand Magazine

Sorry to see Mystery Scene not under your leadership and Brian’s. You both did a great job and I loved reading the magazine. It’s a different landscape and some of the consolidation hasn’t helped anyone. The reading landscape will be dimmer. Good luck!

Vicky Bijur, literary agent, via email

I have only just today seen your November 9 letter. This is terrible news for everyone in the mystery community. You have done such a stellar job with the magazine, and you have provided so much support for writers. I will always be grateful to you for the platform you offered for so many of my clients. I will really miss the magazine.

If there is any outstanding balance on my subscription, please keep it. I do hope I am on the mailing list for the monthly e-newsletter. I hope we cross paths in person at whatever the next mystery event is.

Richard Ray Green, Jr., via email

So sorry to read that the mag is coming to an end. Just wanted to drop a word to you of thanks once again for featuring Joshua and myself in issues from some time ago. Joshua and his friends were so grateful that their portrayals as Holmes and Watson when they were much younger, were covered in some issues. Thanks again for all the great issues…..

Janet Grieder, Maple Grove, Minnesota

As a longtime subscriber I was deeply saddened to receive my last issue in the mail yesterday. Thanks for years of great info, interviews and fun stuff! I read many books I might not otherwise have looked at, simply because I read about them in your magazine. All the best to the entire staff and again, many thanks.

Dan Gilbreath, San Diego, California

Hi, just received my Mystery Scene and saddened to learn it is your last issue. I’ve enjoyed this magazine immensely over the years. I will miss it. Please make a notation in my account that no refund is necessary. Thank you for years of interesting and educational reading.

Sharon Fujitani, via email

I am sad to learn that I would no longer be able to look forward to receiving Mystery Scene in my mailbox. Each issue brought me information on my favorite authors as well as new ones to explore. The reviews have led me to titles to explore. I save my back issues to reread and for reference purposes. I also have a Mystery Scene bag. Thank you for providing such a great magazine over the years. Wishing you and Brian the best in your future endeavors.

James Thorpe, Burbank, California

So sad to hear the news, and your mag will definitely be missed.  Its arrival was always a bright spot in my mailbox. The years with Mystery Scene enriched, informed and inspired both my reading and my writing, and I'll always treasure my back issues.

A big thank you for all your efforts on behalf of the mystery community.  I can't even begin to imagine what it took to produce MS on an ongoing basis, and I'm sure you both are looking forward to your next adventure. 

Please don't bother refunding any outstanding sub money... consider it an appreciation donation to the cause.  

Mark Thanas, Laconia, New Hampshire

This was the news I was dreading to hear, Mystery Scene Magazine along with the New Yorker are the two magazines I look so forward to receiving.  I understand your decision, and wish there could be some way to find an angel to support the future of the magazine, even twice a year.  

However, as I said I understand and it is just one more reason that I loathe and refuse to use any social media sites. I’m not sure what is left of my subscription money, but would prefer you keep it and not worry about a refund, and use it for whatever expenses you are indebted to or give it to a charity.  

I will continue to hope that something may change and publication can resume at some point. When you said quality magazine, that doesn’t even come close to describing how wonderful and exceptional your magazine is in all respects from front to back cover.  

Janice D Burt, via email

Though I know the world is changing rapidly, particularly the world of printed word, I feel gobsmacked by the news that Mystery Scene is going away forever. To an old lady (age 87) there are fewer and fewer things of real class and substance in our world.

Thank you for many years of sheer pleasure. Each issue has been carefully perused, reviews of  books of interest highlighted and scissored out, and the resulting stack carefully consulted frequently.  What will I do now? Thank you again. For not only existing but for quality presentation of interesting content. The world is a drearier place.

Loring Silet, via email

I am so sorry that you are having to cease publication of the print version of Mystery Scene. It has been one of the last mystery publications and you have done an exemplary job editing it. I will sorely miss getting it. It is not necessary to remit what is left of my subscription. Have a cup of coffee on me.

Dennis Palumbo, author, via email

I see that you and Brian are ending the magazine, and I just wanted to thank you for all the support you've given me over the years. Every time one of my Daniel Rinaldi mysteries came out, you were kind enough to let me provide a New Books essay in reference to its theme. Again, I'm so grateful for your support and want to wish both of you the best going forward. Your magazine did more for the mystery community than you could ever know.

Janet Rudolph, editor, Mystery Readers Journal

I’m so sorry to hear the news. I think we all hoped you’d find someone to take over Mystery Scene. There’s no other magazine quite like it. Great content, terrific industry news, and equally important periodical for both fan and professional. Thank you for all you (and Brian) have done over the years. I know it’s been a lot of work, and it’s been appreciated by me...and so many others. I will miss Mystery Scene. Wishing you the best in your next endeavor.

Marianne Anderson, Kerrville, Texas

So sad to see you go. I've been a subscriber since I found Harriett when I lived in Sequim, Washington. Also have given subscriptions to my mystery loving friends. Your publication is a true loss to my monthly reading. Should a miracle happen and you begin again, I'll be ready to re-subscribe! Good luck in your new adventure, whatever it may be.

Volkan Tekeli, via email

Just close my account, please. Anything left should go to closing costs or something. I've gotten a lot of pleasure from your magazine, and it is the least I can do.

Gretchen Hall, Blackwood, New Jersey

I am so sorry to learn your wonderful magazine is ending. I’ve looked forward to every issue. Please add me to the mailing list for your monthly e-newsletter. My subscription goes until issue 179. There is no need to refund the money for the remaining issues. Please have a wonderful dinner to celebrate what pleasure you have given all of us.

Barbara Mates, via email

I am sure your inbox is filled with subscribers like me lamenting Mystery Scene ending. It was the one magazine I eagerly awaited receiving and the one when received that I  tried to read as slowly as possible to stretch the enjoyment. Then I put it down for a bit before picking it up to read through one more time to be sure I didn't miss anything before passing it on to a friends who couldn't afford to subscribe (all of us retired librarians). Best of luck to all of you and thank you for enriching me and my friends with your work.

Barry J. Evans, via email

This  is truly sad. Although I have been a subscriber for a few short years, I do not believe any other publication on mystery is as good as this one. I don't know if it would help, but you need not refund me any money if I have anything coming please use to continue whatever you wish. Thanks for the few great years I subscribed.

Cheryl Reaves, via email

I just wanted to convey how heartbroken I am at the news of your final publication. I’ve been with you from the beginning. I don’t think you’ll remember my name, but every three years for about the last 12, I would magically get you on the phone to help renew my subscription. I’m not the best with computers. You always kindly helped me with the process.

You have brought me great joy over the years. I always looked forward to getting my print copy in the mail. You are to be commended for lasting as long as you have in this changing climate. It goes without saying how much you are loved and will be missed. I’m glad to see the website and newsletter will still be up. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas. Again, thank you for the best publication available.

Mary Newell, via email

I shall miss Your magazine as no other. It has given me years of pleasure. I get excited when it arrives and I read it slowly to keep the delight going. I have found so many books to buy after reading the reviews or interviews or articles looking back at lone gone authors. I have found books from 1910 to the present. There just isn’t a good way to thank you. Be very proud of your contribution.

It will take awhile to believe. I shall wonder when it’s coming and then sadly remember it won’t be arriving Thank you, thank you, thank you. Turning 80 without you will be hard.

Meredith Phillips, Perseverance Editorial Services

The last issue arrived today, and I'm tempted to put it away for a while to postpone the pleasure. But I know I'll give in to the overwhelming temptation to read it immediately, as I've done every two months for 20 years!

Mystery Scene will be sorely missed for its professionalism, including its great design and look, and for its inclusive approach to all sorts of mysteries. As a small press publisher I much appreciated having our books reviewed and authors' photographs appear in your pages. And I still remember the thrill when Kate asked me to expand on a letter to Dorothy L to make a brief column. More than anything, MS made me feel part of the mystery world community, both as a contributor and as a reader.

Nick Wineriter, Ocala, Florida

So sorry to hear of the demise of Mystery Scene! This is so uncanny! I have always looked forward to each and every issue, and was always hoping it would go monthly, instead of quarterly. And now this?! I had a Letter to the Editor published in Issue Number 170, (An Old-School Barman), in response to an article about Elaine Viets' new book, Death Grip. That letter will now be framed in a place of honor near my bookcase.

If it wasn't for Mystery Scene, there are many writers I would have never come across. William Ard was a terrific find! Thank you Mystery Scene, for all the enlightenment you have given me and so many other readers of Mystery Scene and the entire mystery/crime literary genre!  

Ken Jobling, via email

I am so disappointed in the demise of Mystery Scene. May I wish you well for whatever comes next and if you are able please donate any remaining subscription of mine to a worthy cause.

Bill and Marie White, Wakefield, Rhode Island

My husband and I will miss you all very much. Bill will have one less Christmas present this year. We have been avid readers of Mystery Scene for many years and enjoy all the interesting stories as well as the author profiles. Best of luck to you all in your future endeavors.

Carol Rekey, via email

I can't tell you how sad this announcement makes me. Your magazine has opened so many doors for me. I have discovered dozens of authors, discovered new types of mysteries, and met so many new characters. And what will I do without your great crossword puzzles? Sometimes I opened your periodical to the back and did the crossword before I read the magazine. I read all the clues and then read the articles to find the answers. If I could not find the answers in your publication I cheated and googled them.  That introduced me to so much more to explore. Thank you for your years of a great magazine.  

Jane Denkensohn, New York, New York 

Since Mystery Scene Magazine has given me countless hours of pleasure and insight into writers, both known and new to me, I would like to decline any refund due me. Many thanks for a wonderful magazine and all the work and dedication that went into it. I’ll miss reading it!

Glen Day, via email

I am very sorry you are leaving the scene. So many of my favored magazines are. It will, I suppose, save me money, but I’d really rather have the mags! I wish you well in the future and thank you for the years you were around. And I will be paying attention to the web version!

Maria Parker, via email

I'm so sorry to hear this! I can totally understand why you have to do it, but I will miss the wonderful articles, interviews, and reviews that have introduced me to so many writers and broadened my reading horizons. I hope you will be able to keep the website and e-newsletter going; I'm sure I'm far from the only one who would be more than happy to pay for these through subscription. Speaking of which, if I have outstanding issues on my subscription, please keep whatever the refund would have been. It's a tiny token of thanks for all your efforts and pleasure the magazine gave me. 

Linden Staciokas, Fairbanks, Alaska

I have read/subscribed to your magazine for many years.  I know the world has changed but I am one of those who likes to hold what I am reading. I will miss sitting back in my recliner and reading the reviews, marking books I want to look up. It must be very hard to close down your work of so many years. I have no idea where I will go to locate new books by old and new authors!! Good luck in your future endeavors and thanks for many years of pleasure.

Lynn Markert, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I found many new books and authors from reading Mystery Scene.  Publishers should fund your publication! Very sorry to loose such a valuable resource.

Karen Muir, via email

I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed receiving copies of Mystery Scene!!!! I have saved them all Also , please no refund for me...please; use it for whatever you need it for.... In the meantime I will follow you online and hope to see you again one day With best wishes from me and from the great hotel lobby in the great dad, Don Sandstrom

Lenore Maruyama, via email

I was very sorry to read that Mystery Scene was no longer being published. I particularly appreciated the list of titles included with the articles featuring individual authors.  Best Wishes for the New Year.

Nancy Pond, via email

I am a longtime reader of Mystery Scene & have always waited eagerly for the next edition. I loved both the reviews of new mysteries and the interesting articles and interviews. There was always something fascinating to learn, like the recent article "Three Faces of Laura"—one of my all-time all-time favorite movies. There is no other magazine like Mystery Scene.

Missing Mystery Scene!


Teri Duerr
2022-11-09 18:25:53
Winter Issue #174, Louise Penny

174 Winter Cover, Louise PennyFeatures

Louise Penny

Redemption is a key theme of this beloved author’s work, and in her own life, a second chance led to love, sobriety, and success.
by Craig Sisterson

Murder in Pencil & Ink

The last two decades have seen a resurgence in crime and mystery-themed comics.
by Michael Mallory

Breakout Books

Rising stars Brendan Slocumb, Eli Cranor, Nita Prose, and Wanda M. Morris dish on their various paths to publishing success.
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Amanda Jayatissa

The author offers insight into Sri Lankan culture and traditions in her critically acclaimed thrillers.
by Oline H. Cogdill

The Biblio Files: Bookish Mysteries

Combinations of mystery and book lore so good they should be against the law.
by John B. Valeri

A Talk With Lee Child & Andrew Child

Two brothers, one iconic ex-Army lone wolf character out to right the world’s wrongs, and kick butt as necessary.
by Eileen Brady

Cornell Woolrich: Waltz Into Darkness

Since his death 54 years ago, American crime writer Cornell Woolrich has divided literary critics. Is he “the Poe of the 20th century”—or something else?
by Curtis Evans

Michael Lister

A North Florida native, Lister used his Southern storytelling heritage to create his prison chaplain detective John Jordan.
by John B. Valeri

The Annual Mystery Lovers Gift Guide

Here’s an alluring pile of loot for all the good little boys and girls of your criminal acquaintance.
by Kevin Burton Smith

The Mystery Scene Crossword

by Verna Suit



At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

The 2022 Anthony, Ngaio Marsh, Derringer, and Shamus awards, The McIlvanney Prize



Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Katrina Niidas Holm

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Hank Wagner and Robin Agnew

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short and Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Ben Boulden

Just the Facts

by Pat H. Broeske

Mystery Scene Reviews



The Docket


Advertising Info


Teri Duerr
2022-11-14 22:12:59
At the Scene, Winter Issue #174

174 Winter Cover, Louise PennyHello Everyone!

Hi everyone!

Fall #173 was a benchmark for Brian and me as publishers of Mystery Scene—our 20th Anniversary Issue. Winter #174 marks a sadder occasion—the final issue of Mystery Scene Magazine after 37 years in business.

The publishing industry has changed seismically over the last two decades with the advent of the internet, publisher consolidation, the birth of social media, and the rise of Amazon. It has become impossible for us to continue to offer you the high-quality print publication in which we’ve taken so much pride.

The website will remain functioning for now, as will our monthly e-newsletter.

We will be refunding readers for their outstanding subscriptions over the next few months. This is a big job, so please be patient with us. We expect to have this task done by February 2023.

We want to thank our outstanding staff, particularly the indispensable Teri Duerr for all her excellent work editing, writing, and organizing over the years. Annika Larsson made all of us look good with her outstanding design skills. The quality of our contributors is apparent to Mystery Scene readers already—but let me just say how interesting, educational, and fun it was to work with them. And we want to thank all of you—we loved bringing you the magazine. Brian and I had the best job in publishing for 20 years and we want to thank you for coming along for the ride.

Louise Penny is one of the most beloved mystery writers working today with every Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel an instant bestseller and a new TV series, Three Pines, launching soon. Given the quality of her work, Penny’s rise to prominence might seem preordained. Yet she faced profound challenges, challenges that are echoed in the lives of her beautifully realized characters. Craig Sisterson talks to the author in this issue.

It’s all well and good to focus on the current masters of the genre, but what about the next generation? Hank Phillippi Ryan has gathered together four breakout stars—Wanda M. Morris, Eli Cranor, Nita Prose, and Brendan Slocumb—for a chat about their bright futures.

Another newcomer who has made quite a splash is Amanda Jayatissa. Her two critically acclaimed novels draw on her firsthand knowledge of Sri Lanka and its culture and her gift for startling plot twists has made her a favorite with thriller fans. Oline H. Cogdill talks to the author in this issue.

Whether it features a bookstore owner/sleuth, a librarian-turned-detective, or a writer falsely accused of murder, John B. Valeri has ferreted out entertaining bookish mysteries for your reading pleasure. Bibliophiles will love these worthy new titles.

What is better than one writer creating an iconic character that wanders the world righting wrongs as needed? That would be two writers collaborating on the task. Talented brothers Lee and Andrew Child work in tandem to send their inimitable ex-Army cop on the road and into trouble. Learn how they do this in their chat with Eileen Brady.

Cornell Woolrich’s depressing personal life makes him something of a sad sack—but his literary work rates with the best of the 20th century. Curtis Evans give us an overview of this troubled, yet wildly talented, author’s output.

Michael Lister hit upon an underutilized profession for his sleuth—prison pastor. It’s been 20 years since that first John Jordan mystery and, as he tells John B. Valeri in this issue, there’s much more to come.

Have you been naughty or nice this year? How about your family and friends? Our favorite elf Kevin Burton Smith has gathered together a dazzling array of books, games, housewares, liquor, movies, and more to facilitate your holiday gift-giving.


Kate Stine
Editor in Chief


Teri Duerr
2022-11-14 22:34:21
Fall Issue #174, Louise Penny
Teri Duerr
2022-11-15 01:34:24