Anywhere You Run
Vanessa Orr

Despite having the right to vote in the 1960s, few Black people in the state of Mississippi chose to do so, in part because the KKK and other organizations took it upon themselves to prevent it from happening. After the murder of three college students working to secure the Black vote in 1964, Mississippi is a hotbed of tension. It is against this backdrop that two Black sisters, Violet and Marigold Richards, find themselves on the run.

Both have broken legal or social mores of the time: Violet has killed a white man and knows that she will not get a fair trial despite it being self-defense; and Marigold has become pregnant out of wedlock. Realizing that neither the law nor society will offer them justice or understanding, the two flee Mississippi in different directions, trying to escape their pasts and those in pursuit.

Even more alarming is the fact that Violet is being hunted not only by police, but by those who want to make sure that their secret, which Violet has uncovered, dies with her. The crime that they committed, and the quest to cover it up, add even more suspense to this already gripping story.

Fast-moving and suspenseful, Anywhere You Run puts the reader right at the center of this heart-wrenching tale as it follows these young women on their separate journeys as they experience racism, misogyny, domestic abuse, and manipulation—even from those who claim to be protecting them. The author doesn’t skimp on detail, and the ugliness and the hypocrisy of the times is hard to believe—as is the strength shown by the sisters.

While following Violet and Marigold as they struggle to survive their pursuers and the civil unrest of the times is exhilarating, it is tempered by the fact that this “fiction” is based on events and situations that are all too real.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 18:40:01
A Streetcar Named Murder
Debbie Haupt

T. G. Herren’s debut New Orleans Mystery, A Streetcar Named Murder, is an aptly titled dark cozy. It’s an interesting and beautifully written whodunit about starting over, secrets, lies, and murder.

Single mom and widow Valerie Cooper finds herself at loose ends when her twin boys head off to Louisiana State University. Relying on friends to keep her balanced, she spends her days rambling around her big (and now too quiet) Irish Channel antebellum house.

When she receives an inheritance from her late husband’s uncle that includes part ownership in an upscale New Orleans antiques shop, it’s a prayer answered: a new purpose and income for home upkeep. Plus, it’s a way to get rid of pesky real estate agent Collete Monaghan who’s suddenly interested in selling Valerie’s home. Curious to learn more about her mysterious benefactor, Valerie begins to look into her inheritance—but asking questions proves dangerous, even deadly.

While A Streetcar Named Murder is the first novel from “T. G. Herren,” the New Orleans- based author has written dozens of books as Greg Herren and Todd Gregory—and it shows. Herren’s handling of the quick moving and brilliantly constructed story is exceptional and his knowledge of New Orleans history distant and recent is evident, and his use of real places and events are a delightful armchair tour of The Big Easy.

Valerie is likable and relatable and together with her friend Lorna the two steal the show. Fans of strong women protagonists and New Orleans will love this series debut.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 18:50:39
The Resemblance
Jean Gazis

It’s a beautiful autumn day and homicide detective Marlitt Kaplan has just dropped in to see her mother, a German professor at the University of Georgia. Suddenly, a scream rings out. Hyper alert to the slightest hint of danger, Marlitt runs across the quad to the nearest intersection, where popular fraternity brother Jay Kemp lies in the street, killed in a hit-and-run. The eyewitnesses all agree that the driver didn’t slow down, he was smiling—and he looked just like the victim. What’s more, the preliminary investigation reveals that Jay was hit by his own car.

As she looks into the death it becomes clear that something is going on beneath the surface at Kappa Phi Omicron, but the brothers are well-connected and pose a united front. Instead of giving answers, they make thinly veiled threats; instead of solid leads, she only finds more questions. As a college-town police officer and the daughter of a tenured faculty member, Marlitt knows the dark side of campus Greek culture all too well: the abuse of alcohol and women, the hazing and cheating. What’s more, she’s despised it ever since a traumatic episode from her own college days.

She zealously pursues her investigation, interrogating frat boys and sorority girls, despite her partner’s caution and her colleagues’ concern that her personal feelings may be clouding her judgment. The investigation seems stalled and it’s obvious that Marlitt’s boss is under pressure to declare it a simple pedestrian accident and close the homicide case. Then Marlitt suffers a seeming accident while home alone, cranking up the suspense. Frantic at being sidelined from the case and unable to let go, she makes dangerous choices that risk putting others in harm’s way and losing her partner’s trust.

A loner aside from her relationship with her partner Teddy, whom she thinks of as the brother she never had, Marlitt isn’t an easy heroine to like at first with her pig-headed possessiveness, prickly personality, and bouts of self-pity. She’s also carrying a huge chip on her shoulder from her boss’ constant, condescending sexism. But her dogged refusal to give up takes her on an absorbing journey toward understanding as she begins to see the young men as more than just frat-boy clichés and confronts her own long-buried traumas and failures. Lauren Nossett’s fiction debut doesn’t just offer an authentic setting, interesting characters, and a compelling plot, it serves as a call for change.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 18:58:25
No Plan B
Eileen Brady

Want some advice? Don’t push a woman under a bus in front of former army MP Jack Reacher and think you’ll get away with it.

When the local Colorado police rule the death a suicide, Reacher steps in to do what’s right. The dead woman worked for Minerva Correction Facility, a privately run prison in Winson, Mississippi. An envelope in her purse with a name, date, and time noted has mysteriously disappeared. Phony emails from the dead woman’s computer lead to a fellow employee, Sam Roth, also recently deceased. Coincidence? You know it isn’t, and so does Reacher.

Reacher arrives in Gerrardsville, Colorado, on Monday to view a Civil War exhibition on Union battle tactics. By Tuesday someone’s trying to kill him. On Wednesday, he teams up with Hannah, Sam’s determined ex-wife, and they head to Minerva. There is a lot of mileage between Colorado and Mississippi and the bad guys are stationed at multiple points along the way with only one purpose—to stop Reacher from getting to the prison.

Meanwhile, two other people are on the same trajectory. One is Jed Starmer, a 15- year-old foster care runaway from L.A. also traveling to Mississippi. He hopes to meet his birth father, Anton Begovic, who is scheduled for release from Minerva prison. The other is a truly sadistic father seeking revenge for his son’s death from illegal drugs. Over five days all three plotlines converge in this lightning- paced third book, No Plan B, by brothers Lee and Andrew Child, the 27th in the Reacher series.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 19:01:46
Sinister Graves
Craig Sisterson

If you enjoy rural crime writing that offers unique characters and vividly evoked settings along with intriguing plotlines laced with real-life issues, then run, don’t walk to add Marcie R. Rendon’s superb books starring tough Ojibwe teenager Cash Blackbear to your must-read pile.

Set during the Vietnam War among the grain and sugar beet fields and small towns along the Red River that splits North Dakota and Minnesota, Rendon’s excellent series centers on a fascinating teenage heroine who survived family tragedy and foster care and now juggles truck driving with college classes, pool hustling, and occasionally helping her guardian and friend Sheriff Wheaton solve crimes.

In this absorbing third novel, Cash’s brother has returned to Vietnam and a snowmelt has flooded the fields and towns of the Red River Valley. The body of an unidentified Native woman is discovered among the detritus, and Sheriff Wheaton hopes Cash can help. Could the torn piece of a hymnal written in English and Ojibwe found on the woman’s body lead to her identity? Cash’s sleuthing takes her back to the White Earth Reservation, a place she once called home, as well as into the lives of an array of fascinating characters: a charismatic pastor of a fundamentalist church and his wife; a dark ghostly presence; and a medicine woman. More dead women and danger lurks everywhere as Cash drives across the prairie seeking answers.

With Sinister Graves, Rendon delivers much more than a very good murder mystery, using a character-centric tale to explore the prejudice and injustice faced by Native Americans. Cash Blackbear is an extraordinary heroine who’s easy to ride along with. Rendon strikes a great tone, with a light touch while delving into some very serious issues, such as the (mis)treatment of young women and all the ways Native peoples have been oppressed, and worse.

Only three books in, Rendon’s created an addictive series that stands out in the sea of rural mysteries. It’d be easy to say “one for fans of Tony Hillerman,” or “If you loved Winter Counts, read Marcie R. Rendon”—both of which would be true. But more than that, Sinister Graves and the entire series is something great for any fan of well-written mysteries in rural settings.

We can only hope that in the years to come many more Cash Blackbear books will fill our shelves.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 19:10:51
No Strangers Here
Robin Agnew

No Strangers Here, the first book in a new series by Carlene O’Connor, is a knockout. O’Connor’s Irish Village Mystery cozy series is also set in Ireland, but her newest tale is so steeped in setting and character, she’s pushed her writing to another level. Set in tiny Dingle in County Kerry, the book opens with the suicide—or murder—of one of the town’s leading citizens, a wealthy racehorse owner named Johnny O’Reilly. His body is found on the beach beside the words “Last Dance” spelled out in shiny black stones. This could refer to many things, but all the locals are familiar with his spectacular horse, Last Dance, who was killed shortly before he could run his first big race.

Inspector Cormac O’Brien is called in from Dublin to take on the case—and while his outsider status gives him some perspective, it also places him at a disadvantage, as there are many details of local connections and long-held attitudes that he is not familiar with. This insider/outsider (a mystery staple) is sure of one thing, however: He’s looking at a murder, not a suicide.

Into this situation comes the chaos of the Wilde family—Dimpna Wilde, a vet practicing in Dublin, hasn’t been home in years. But when her clinic is shut down because of debts left by her dead (and infamous) husband, she heads to Dingle, where she has a mountain of baggage to clear away. Her son, Ben, has never been to Dingle. She’s kept him away for a reason. Part of the baggage back home is her father, a vet suffering from dementia, which has begun to affect his practice, and her mother, who appears to have had a romance with the dead man.

When it turns out her father’s clinic is in crisis and she—and her dogs—need somewhere to stay, it seems natural that she move in and take over. Her veterinary skills are a part of the book and a part of her character, and O’Connor uses various animal situations to both advance her story and to deepen Dimpna’s character. They are memorable and make Dimpna both special and specific.

Dimpna’s trauma, based in her past, takes most of the book to unravel, and the interlocking fates of the O’Reilly and Wilde families take center stage as the investigation into O’Reilly’s death unfolds. No Strangers Here is both a procedural investigation novel with a wonderful and very human inspector at the helm, as well as a deep character study of Dimpna and a 360-degree view of the community of Dingle, warts and all.

There is beautiful writing here and the characters are rich and complicated, as is the well-told story behind the murder of Johnny O’Reilly—a mystery that is well set up and beautifully resolved. The setting of Dingle itself is also lovely and adds to the atmosphere of the novel. I loved the characters, especially Dimpna, and I cannot wait for another book in what I hope will be a very long-lived series.

Teri Duerr
2022-12-21 19:15:42
A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carre
Dick Lochte

Among the 200 or so letters by the late author of such acclaimed novels as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, curated by his son (alas, now also late as of last May 30), there is a note discussing his fondness for F. Scott Fitzgerald. But, as John le Carré, using his real name David Cornwell, wrote, "Three-quarters of Fitzgerald's letters are self-conscious crap, injurious to him and his art alike. If anybody ever went raking in my desk for that stuff, I hope to God I've managed to burn it in time."

Judging by A Private Spy, he was a little shy in feeding the flame. As wonderful a novelist as he was, many of the letters seem purposely impersonal, while others, to writers or actors he admired like Philip Roth or Ralph Fiennes, are overly effusive. The tomes that show the literary quality that illuminated his best novels involve his con man father Ronnie, his second wife Jane, his MI5 mentor Vivian Green (the model for his famous spymaster George Smiley), and correspondence regarding his love-hate feelings toward Graham Greene whose affection for the traitorous ex-spy Kim Philby former British spy Cornwell could not tolerate.

Several of the tomes suggest cracks in the author's self-imposed wall of aloof privacy. He seems almost giddy writing about dinners with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as dining with Margaret Thatcher, whom he calls "admirable," though he clearly opposed her conservatism and later on refused her offered CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

Regardless of content, actors David Harewood (Homeland and the mini-series of le Carre's The Night Manager) and Florence Pugh (Don't Worry Darling and the TV version of le Carre's The Little Drummer Girl) deliver the material with a smooth, seemingly effortless dignity that the author would have appreciated. (Note: le Carre's drawings, caricatures, and doodles that illustrate the book are, of course, not included.)

Dick LochteDick Lochte burst onto the crime-writing scene with Sleeping Dog and has continued to take the genre by storm ever since, becoming a Los Angeles Times bestselling author of 10 books of crime fiction and earning the highest honors a writer can attain in the mystery genre.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-03 16:01:04
Review: "A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré"
Dick Lochte

A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré
edited by Tim Cornwell
read by David Harewood, Florence Pugh
Penguin Audio, December 2022

Among the 200 or so letters by the late author of such acclaimed novels as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, curated by his son (alas, now also late as of last May 30), there is a note discussing his fondness for F. Scott Fitzgerald. But, as John le Carré, using his real name David Cornwell, wrote, "Three-quarters of Fitzgerald's letters are self-conscious crap, injurious to him and his art alike. If anybody ever went raking in my desk for that stuff, I hope to God I've managed to burn it in time."

Judging by A Private Spy, he was a little shy in feeding the flame. As wonderful a novelist as he was, many of the letters seem purposely impersonal, while others, to writers or actors he admired like Philip Roth or Ralph Fiennes, are overly effusive. The tomes that show the literary quality that illuminated his best novels involve his con man father Ronnie, his second wife Jane, his MI5 mentor Vivian Green (the model for his famous spymaster George Smiley), and correspondence regarding his love-hate feelings toward Graham Greene whose affection for the traitorous ex-spy Kim Philby former British spy Cornwell could not tolerate.

Several of the tomes suggest cracks in the author's self-imposed wall of aloof privacy. He seems almost giddy writing about dinners with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as dining with Margaret Thatcher, whom he calls "admirable," though he clearly opposed her conservatism and later on refused her offered CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

Regardless of content, actors David Harewood (Homeland and the mini-series of le Carre's The Night Manager) and Florence Pugh (Don't Worry Darling and the TV version of le Carre's The Little Drummer Girl) deliver the material with a smooth, seemingly effortless dignity that the author would have appreciated. (Note: le Carre's drawings, caricatures, and doodles that illustrate the book are, of course, not included.)

Dick LochteDick Lochte burst onto the crime-writing scene with Sleeping Dog and has continued to take the genre by storm ever since, becoming a Los Angeles Times bestselling author of 10 books of crime fiction and earning the highest honors a writer can attain in the mystery genre.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-03 16:11:42
Nita Prose on Her Breakout Novel "The Maid"
Robin Agnew

Nita Prose photo credit Tony Hanykphoto credit Tony Hanyk

Nita Prose’s first novel, The Maid, tells the story of Molly Gray, a woman whose obsessive cleaning habits and commitment to order and etiquette are put to fine purpose at the Regency Grand Hotel where she works as a maid. Molly's socially awkward quirks endear readers to her, but, alas, also raise suspicions against her after she finds the body of a wealthy man named Charles Black in one of the suites at the hotel.

What ensues is an absorbing and cleverly penned locked-room mystery, with a delightfully difficult and winning character as its heart. Prose obviously loves Molly and readers and critics seem to agree. The Maid took home the Ned Kelly Award for Best International Crime Friction from the Australian Crime Writers Association and was named a 2022 Goodreads Choice Winner in the mystery category.

While The Maid is the Toronto-based Prose's first novel, she's a veteran of the publishing world where she's worked ever since her early days as an intern "photocopying edited manuscripts and secretly snooping the fascinating margin conversations between editors and writers." She took some time from writing and her work as vice president and editorial director at Simon & Schuster, Canada, to share some thoughts with Mystery Scene on creating her protagonist, remembering her mother, and making the jump from longtime editor to writer.

The Maid by Nita ProseRobin Agnew for Mystery Scene: This is such a character based book—the whole plot flows from Molly’s personality and the way she sees the world. Can you talk about creating her?

Nita Prose: Molly definitely has a unique moral lens and some social awkwardness that makes navigating the world a challenge. My goal in her creation was to have the reader step into her skin, to see from behind her eyes and deep into her thoughts. There are times, of course, when as a reader you might be so frustrated with her that you want to shake her by the shoulders, but if I’ve done my job right, to live as her is to come to love her over time. In Molly, I wanted to create a character who was challenged in one way, but who was more capable of extraordinary bravery and empathy than most of us.

Before I was an editor, I worked for a time teaching high school kids with special needs. When I took my students out of the classroom on field trips, I witnessed how cruelly they were sometimes treated by so-called “normal people.” But what I also saw were kids who responded with incredible resilience and human dignity in the face of prejudice. In some ways, I think Molly is a tribute to those kids that I taught so many years ago.

How did you get the idea to set your story in a hotel?

The Maid was inspired by a chance encounter with a maid at a hotel while I was on a business trip about two years ago. I was staying at a London hotel. One day, after a meeting outside the hotel, I returned to my room and startled the maid who was folding the jogging pants I’d left in a tangled mess on the bed (embarrassing!). The second I entered the room, the maid jumped backward into a shadowy corner. It occurred to me in that moment what an intimate and invisible job it is to be a room maid. Simply by cleaning my room every day, this maid knew so much about me. But what did I know about her? On the plane home a few days later, my protagonist Molly’s voice came to me. I grabbed a pen and a napkin, and wrote the prologue in a single burst. I didn't know it at the time, but I'd just begun my debut novel.

I love Molly, but also loved the people around Molly. The way she perceives them and the way the reader begins to perceive them through her are different—and it makes it more interesting to discover their characters this way. Did you have a favorite character other than Molly?

Gran was a joy to write. She’s a fiercely loyal matriarch who will do whatever it takes to protect her granddaughter, Molly. In some ways, she’s modeled after my own mother who died a few years ago. I am fascinated by the absence that death creates and how we can sometimes create a distillation of presence beyond someone’s passing. I certainly experience this with my mother, whose wisdom and jokes I still hear in my head to this day. In The Maid, Gran died months before, and yet Molly resurrects her in her own mind. Even in her absence, Gran acts as a moral compass and a navigational force in her granddaughter’s life.

I enjoyed the references to Columbo and his detection methods—though Molly actually reminds me a bit more of Monk, or going back further, of Poirot. What were your detective fiction influences?

There are shades of all three of those characters in Molly!

As for other mystery influences, the first and foremost is the great master of mystery, Agatha Christie, who defined the genre in central ways. The second is the wonderful film Knives Out, which is a character drama that plays with classic mystery tropes but in a contemporary setting. And lastly, the board game Clue. Adding Clue was my way of inserting whimsy into the whodunit, so that the reader gets to ask similar questions to the ones asked in that game—is it the waiter with poison in the restaurant? Or is it the maid in the bedroom with a pillow?

Is there any other book you'd say was transformational for you, as a reader or as a writer (or as an editor)?

There are so many books and writers that have been transformational to me! On the one hand, Agatha Christie, for creating a style and classic tradition around the mystery genre, but on the other Gail Honeyman’s novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, for being a genre-busting book that provided a powerful answer to a difficult character conundrum: How do you love a cactus? In that novel, the main character, Eleanor, is very prickly and seems unlovable, and yet we as readers come to love her as we progress through the story. The same “cactus conundrum” guided me as I wrote Molly. I had to find my own way to make a cactus beloved.

Eleanor Oliphant in Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The plot (woman stumbles upon a murder and has to solve it to clear her own name) seems deceptively simple, but I think sometimes "simple" is the hardest to get right. How did you structure your plot and what were your guideposts?

If the structure seems simple, then I’ve done my job right; so many plots that seem simple in genre fiction are much more complicated than they appear. The trickiest part of this novel was dealing with time—how to move deep into memories in a seamless way, and then make sure that the reader wasn’t lost in time when they emerged into the present from the past. Any writer can tell you that “time management” in a novel is a very challenging aspect of structure, and literally everything in a mystery depends on it.

I have seen The Maid described as a “traditional” detective novel, though I think it’s in a space between psychological standalone and straight-up detection. Was where it fit in the genre anything that you thought about as you wrote?

I don’t feel The Maid is a traditional detective novel at all. Molly is a maid, not a detective, and she often misses clues. It’s the reader who is actually cast as the detective. I’d also say that The Maid is very character-driven, and most traditional detective novels are not. While the whodunit is certainly a driver of suspense, what most readers respond to in the novel is character, not the mystery plot.

When I began writing this book, I wanted to see if I could meld a traditional, classic mystery style with what becomes a character-driven journey of the spirit as Molly moves through a period of seismic growth in just a few days and weeks. It’s that genre-bending and blending that interests me most as a writer.

What are some of the other things you learned from or explored writing this, your first book?

I learned how to pace a scene, and I am still learning how to trust my writerly intuition. As an editor myself, I feel much more confident in that role than I ever feel when writing. But I’ve also learned that a certain amount of authorial blindness and vertigo—that feeling that I don’t quite know what I’m doing or where I’m going with the story—is an essential part of the process.

As a longtime book editor turned author, what are some of the differences you found between editing a book and writing one?

Becoming an author is a natural extension of my editorial and ghostwriting life, with the one difference that I now have to reckon with blindness in the labyrinth. When I’m editing a debut author, I often explain “the labyrinth,” a metaphor for the editor-author relationship. When a writer writes, she embarks upon a journey into a labyrinth. She’s on the ground, entering the maze. She can see what’s just up ahead, a barrier or a surprise down the corridor. She does not want to write herself into a corner. I, as her editor, am seated on a tall ladder outside of the maze. I can’t see close-up the way she can, but I have a bird’s-eye view. I can tell her that if she goes down that passage, it will lead to a dead end. Together, we work best: We help each other see.

While I knew this paradigm intimately as an editor, I had never experienced what it’s like as a novelist—to be visionary and completely blind at the same time! When I started The Maid, I knew a few things—I could envision certain twists and turns in the novel, but I didn’t know which path to take to get to the end, and for sure I didn’t know if I could make it all the way there. I have a newfound appreciation for the courage it takes to write and for just how disorienting the process can be.

What is next for you? Are you working on another book?

I’m currently hard at work on my second novel, which will be a standalone book and another genre-blender. It will feature Molly the maid and a host of new characters, too. I’m very much looking forward to sharing this work with readers, hopefully in 2024!

Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean. Visit her at or on Twitter @NitaProse.

Robin AgnewRobin Agnew is a longtime Mystery Scene contributor and was the owner of Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for 26 years. No longer a brick and mortar store, Aunt Agatha has an extensive used book collection is available at and the site is home to more of Robin's writing.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-06 17:46:18
Santa’s Little Yelpers
Debbie Haupt

In Santa’s Little Yelpers, the 26th in David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter Mystery series, fans can be sure of being entertained by the semi-retired wisecracking escapades of defense attorney Andy Carpenter, a stimulating convoluted whodunit, an interesting trial, and lots of puppies.

Andy’s hoping to surprise his family with a holiday trip to Disney World when former convict Chris Myers, one of the employees of Andy’s animal rescue organization, The Tara Foundation, asks for his help. It seems the witness in the trial that sent Chris to prison (for a crime he swears he didn’t commit) told Chris he was paid to lie and wants to come clean. Unfortunately, before the witness has the chance, the witness is murdered and Chris is arrested for the crime. Now Andy and his team have to solve the case by Christmas.

In this episode readers will enjoy a well-paced mystery with a mix of roll-your-eyes funny and deadly serious, with a little litigation etiquette and a few Ah-ha! moments thrown in, as Andy detects aided by his incredibly talented K-team (and of course his three adorable four-legged sounding boards). Rosenfelt fans and lovers of animal mysteries will find Santa’s Little Yelpers absolutely captivating, a festive and furry legal case wrapped up nicely and tied with a bow.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:29:33
Peril in Paris
Debbie Haupt

In Rhys Bowen’s 16th Royal Spyness caper starring Lady Georgiana Rannoch and her husband Darcy O’Mara, it’s 1936. The happy couple are expecting a baby and to celebrate the end of Georgie’s morning sickness, Darcy suggests they go to Paris. He has some business (she suspects spy business) to attend to and she can visit her dear friend Belinda who apprentices as a designer with Coco Chanel.

When Darcy learns that wives of a German trade delegation will be attending Chanel’s fashion show, he asks Georgie to retrieve something from one of the women. It sounds easy, but things go terribly awry and suddenly Darcy is nowhere in sight and Georgie finds herself alone and on the wrong side of the law accused of murder.

For such a long-running series, Bowen keeps the plot fresh and intriguing with the happenings in Europe in 1936. Georgie, the star of the show, is a delight: smart, strong yet feminine, and particularly vulnerable this time out, being pregnant. That doesn’t stop her from once again sticking her nose where it shouldn’t be, though.

Readers will have plenty of suspects, but will have a hard time guessing whodunit. and the characters (many of historical importance) are all fantastic. The Parisian backdrops are wonderful and the behind-the-scenes frenzy at Chanel’s show is exciting. And although the mystery is specific to the novel, reading the series in order is best.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:37:39
The Lindbergh Nanny
Robin Agnew

While the story of the 1932 kidnapping of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son Charlie is a well-known one, Mariah Fredericks’ retelling of it from the perspective of the couple’s nanny, Betty Gow, makes for a thoroughly compelling and fresh read. Told in the first person, Fredericks’ reimagines the “crime of the century” as a crime novel with vivid immediacy.

Betty is with baby Charlie for much of his life (and much of the book), as his world famous aviator parents are often off traveling for long periods of time. Fredericks paints the relationship of nanny and baby as an extremely loving one, while Charles is portrayed—with accuracy, I believe—as exacting, even with his small children. Anne is the softer, more gentle parent.

My grandmother, who was a contemporary of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, always admired her and formed me into a fellow fan of her lovely diaries. Fredericks’ writing in this novel is as beautiful and evocative as Lindbergh’s. By and large her writing is restrained, so when she does include some poetic language in her writing, it makes it even more memorable.

The author also has a way with character that is hard to match. She brings Betty Gow to life as a young Scottish immigrant trying to get by in a new country and finding herself employed by the most famous family in the world. When asked about her employers, Betty keeps her lips pretty zipped— but it emphasizes Fredericks’ point: The kidnapper needed to have some inside knowledge of the household schedule to take a sleeping baby from his crib at 10 o’clock at night without anyone in the household hearing a thing. It also makes some points about fame and notoriety and how unpleasant a prison it can be.

The reader is with Betty as she experiences the kidnapping and the following questioning by the police. The Lindbergh household and the Morrow household (Anne’s parents) employed almost 30 servants apiece, so the understructure of their lives was a vast one. The brutal police examination of the household staff, including Betty herself, is thorough and at times ridiculous as they search for any kind of clue in the backstories of the staff. Fredericks uses actual letters and courtroom testimony as well.

In the end I was convinced by the author’s theory, just as I was convinced that Betty herself had nothing to do with the crime. And what, in the end, is the point of recreating a well-known crime like the Lindbergh kidnapping? To me, it brought more illumination to the story, highlighting the emotional and personal cost to the people around the Lindberghs as well, of course, to the Lindberghs themselves. It made me feel and think about this story in a new way, and when the book covers were finally closed, it was almost jarring to find myself back in the present. This is a quality only the very best books possess, in my opinion. The Lindbergh Nanny is certainly one of the reads of the year.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:42:06
The Favor
Robert Allen Papinchak

In The Favor, their 16th standalone psychological thriller after The Unheard (2021), the married writing duo behind Nicci French, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, speculate on how long a friendship can last, what it can survive, and what you can still expect to ask of a long-lost friend.

Jude Winter and Liam Birch were a Shropshire lass and lad, romantic adolescents with seemingly forever ties and future plans. From childhood, Jude was on track to be a doctor; medical school in Bristol seemed assured after the results of her final exams. Liam was not as focused, his scores not as certain. He was “good with his hands...could fix almost anything and he could pick up a pencil and in a few strokes create something vivid, startling.” He was also sometimes volatile and violent.

They may have seemed mismatched, but after meeting at a party they became inseparable—until a two a.m. joy ride in Liam’s rusty old Fiat with friends Yolanda and Benny in the back seat upturned all their lives. Though no one was seriously injured and there were no fatalities when their car crashed, everyone involved suffered long term. Liam ghosted Jude for 11 years.

Jude went on with her plans, specializing in geriatric medicine in the casualty department of a London hospital. She moved on from Liam, planning to wed Nathaniel Weller, a public health project officer in Lambeth.

Then Liam resurfaces with a seemingly simple entreaty: drive his ancient Honda “with a bag of stuff in the boot” to Springs Cottage, an Airbnb in Norfolk. Meet him there on Saturday, return on Sunday. For old times’ sake, out of lingering obligation, Jude agrees to the favor.

Liam claims he is not asking her to do anything wrong. Yet, his only proviso is that Jude can tell no one, not even Nat. When Jude gets a call from Inspector Leila Fox with news of Liam’s violent demise, Jude’s life is sent into a tailspin and she finds herself embroiled in the tangled web of a murder investigation.

As Inspector Fox proceeds with her professional investigation, Jude decides to start her own inquiry. It engages her with Liam’s significant other, Danny Kelner, a tattooist, and their year old son, Alfie. She also encounters a motley crew of squatters sharing Liam and Danny’s dreary home.

Jude’s initial behavior seems foolhardy, but a bombshell of a revelation brings to light motivations and truths previously kept in the dark. The intense plot culminates in an eye-opening surprise conclusion that underscores the fact that while a physician’s calling is to save others, sometimes the most important task is healing oneself.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:48:00
Never Name the Dead
Craig Sisterson

Debut novelist D.M. Rowell gives readers a strong taste of her Kiowa culture with this engaging lighter mystery featuring Mae “Mud” Sawpole. Mud is drawn home from Silicon Valley by her beloved grandfather James, a tribal elder, only to find old grudges, a dead body, stolen relics, and lots of dastardly deeds afoot.

The woman her Kiowa tribe knows as Mud has left her tribal roots behind to build a high-powered corporate life for herself over the past decade in California. She’s found herself in some ways, but has she lost herself in others?

On the eve of closing a huge deal at her advertising agency, she returns to Oklahoma only to discover a tribe in disarray and her grandfather missing. Fracking is shattering their lands and dividing the community. Could frackers have kidnapped her grandfather, an artist and story-keeper for the tribe? Or is he on the run after being accused of stealing the priceless Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe’s museum? When Mud and her cousin Denny discover a body in their grandfather’s work room, the stakes could not be higher.

First-time novelist Rowell does a good job drawing readers in and seasoning her tale with lots of Kiowa culture and history, balancing action with some fascinating and memorable characters beyond the intriguing heroine. Readers who prefer staccato plotting may get impatient, but for many others—like me—the insights into Kiowa culture will greatly enrich what is an absorbing and engaging mystery.

Never Name the Dead is a solid first bow for a series that has plenty of potential.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:51:26
Racing the Light
Nathan Nance

Josh Shoe seems to have stumbled onto some important Los Angeles secrets. When Josh’s mother hires Elvis Cole and Joe Pike to find her son, she’s convinced he’s been taken to Area 51. Before Elvis can even dismiss her half-baked ideas, he’s in the middle of a bigger case than he ever imagined. Retired government operatives, Chinese real-estate magnates with ties to foreign intelligence, corrupt city planners—all of them want Josh Shoe and anyone associated with him dead. Elvis doesn’t like his odds. Then Lucy Chenier, Elvis’ old flame, comes back to town, maybe for good, and the tension gets turned up to 11 when Lucy’s past and her reasons for leaving collide with Elvis and Pike’s current case.

Robert Crais has been writing Elvis since the 1980s, but Crais doesn’t turn in a cookie-cutter story with Racing the Light. Instead, he leverages the history of his long-running series to create a fresh novel of suspense and soul, making Elvis and his taciturn partner, Joe Pike, feel more real and immediate than ever. Always the master craftsman, Crais balances Elvis’ inner turmoil with a complicated search into the shadows of the City of Angels.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-10 20:54:53
Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man
Jean Gazis

Savvy, streetwise Viviana Valentine has an affectionate, bantering relationship with her boss, the handsome, macho private investigator Tommy Fortuna. It’s June 1950, and Tommy has just been hired by the wealthy diamond magnate Tallmadge Blackstone to tail his gorgeous 18-year-old daughter Tallulah (Tally to her friends), a recent debutante whose gallivanting around town is avidly followed by the tabloids.

Blackstone wants to marry Tally off to his reclusive business partner Webber Harrington-Whitney, a WWI veteran, despite their 40-year age difference. Blackstone wants Tommy to find out if a secret boyfriend is the reason why Tally is balking at the idea. It seems like good money for easy work.

But the day after Tommy takes the case, a body shows up on the floor of his and Viviana’s office—and Tommy disappears. Viviana has no choice but to call the police, who promptly assume that Tommy assaulted the man and has gone on the lam. Is Tommy’s absence related to the Blackstone case or to the ongoing search for his missing brother, whom he believes was murdered by the mob?

Unfortunately, there’s bad blood between Tommy and the condescending and handsy detective on the case, Jake Lawson, who Viviana fears is far from an objective investigator. She needs to find out for herself what’s really going on, with some help from her housemates: teacher Dotty, nurse Betty, and fashion model Phyllis.

To make matters worse, Viviana’s obnoxious ex keeps showing up unexpectedly, and Blackstone abruptly summons her for a progress report. But when an unknown intruder attacks Viviana, she realizes that the Blackstone case has much higher stakes than she imagined—and her investigation could endanger her friends as well as herself.

Emily J. Edwards’ new Girl Friday Mystery series makes an impressive debut with this engaging spin on the classic detective novel. Viviana’s wry voice as a former country bumpkin turned street-smart New Yorker is delightful, and her keen powers of observation immerse the reader in the steamy atmosphere of summer in New York.

The other characters, from mob goons to high-society housewives, are vividly drawn, the dialogue is snappy, and the plot moves quickly, with numerous unexpected twists. Readers who enjoy strong, smart female protagonists, classic detective fiction, historical mysteries, or all three, will find themselves looking forward to Viviana’s next adventure.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 17:53:22
The Widowmaker
Margaret Agnew

Hannah Morrissey’s second novel, The Widowmaker, takes readers back to Black Harbor, Wisconsin, a place rife with crime and comfortable with its seedy underbelly. The setting may be the same as Morrissey’s Hello, Transcriber, but the characters are largely different.

Detective Nicholai Kole returns as a side character, but it is Morgan Mori and Ryan Hudson who occupy the story’s heart. Mori is back in her hometown for the first time in a long time. The photographer wears all black, has multiple piercings, and is withdrawn and mysterious, but there is something far darker in her past than her clothing. But the other lead, newly minted investigator Ryan Hudson, has a few secrets himself.

The two collide when Hudson’s former partner, Brix Garrison, is shot in cold blood in a gas station. It’s a bit unoriginal to have the “Black guy dies first” trope so front and center, with Garrison’s death happening in the first ten pages, but Morrissey spends a fair amount of effort filling out Garrison’s character (a paragon of virtue) as a means to establish Hudson’s character.

Morgan, a witness to the crime, is left shaken by the experience. And though she’s one of the only people who saw what happened, her far-from-squeaky-clean past makes her wary of the scrutiny that would come with cooperating with the police. Hudson must track her down and becomes pulled into her orbit along the way.

Of course the case Hudson is supposed to be working is not his best friend’s murder. He is the latest investigator assigned to a 20-year-old cold case, the disappearance of prominent local businessman Clive Reynolds. Though all he wants to do is put Garrison’s killer behind bars, the Reynold’s case is important for his career. As things start to unravel, it becomes clear that Garrison’s death, Morgan’s past, and the high-flying Reynold’s family might all be connected.

The Widowmaker starts slow, taking time to build its cast and present its world, but once the plot kicks in, the narrative is one twist following another. Neither Hudson nor Mori have had a peaceful time getting to where they are in life, and their rough road is far from over. But luckily for readers, their journey delivers a competent thriller with some truly killer twists.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:11:09
Fake Money, Blue Smoke
Nathan Nance

If there’s a blurb from Lee Child on the cover, you might consider reading it. Not a bad rule to follow, especially when it comes to Josh Haven’s debut crime thriller, Fake Money, Blue Smoke. Even better, this is a modern-day counterfeiting novel, which isn’t easy to find.

The book starts with Matt Kubelsky and Kelly Haggerty, former lovers estranged for years. Matt was in the Marines before he was accused of murder and sent to prison for eight years. Kelly, much to Matt’s surprise, meets him upon his parole. But she has more than a reunion on her mind. She wants to steal some Gustav Klimt sketches by hiring some unsavory characters Matt knows from prison. The catch? She wants to pay them in counterfeit money she printed herself. Matt and Kelly don’t think of themselves as bad people. They’re just trying to make ends meet, like anyone else. They think they’ve got the whole scheme plotted out. But what if one of their fellow thieves figured out they weren’t getting real cash?

Excellent pacing and crisp dialogue make Haven’s first crime novel a winner. The sharp, spare prose lends itself to the lightning-fast plot, interspersed with fascinating modern counterfeiting facts. Expect a wild ride, and you won’t be disappointed.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:15:16
The Lipstick Bureau
Jean Gazis

In 1943, Nikola Novotná Clingman, a Czechoslovakian expat who speaks seven languages and has degrees in law and journalism, joins the OSS—against the wishes of her pompous, controlling American husband George, who has just been posted to a high-level government position in Switzerland. Niki hopes the OSS will send her to Europe, where she might be able to get news of her family. She hasn’t heard from them since they refused to emigrate with her when Hitler took over their homeland. But instead of becoming a spy, she’s assigned to Morale Operations. The bureau’s mission is to disseminate propaganda behind enemy lines to discourage and demoralize Axis soldiers. Niki’s small unit is a motley bunch: Will Dewart, a wealthy publisher, Ezra Feldman, a Jewish Romanian refugee and brilliant cartoonist, and a few other men.

After a training stint in Algiers, the group is posted to newly liberated Rome, where things get complicated. After years of fascism and conflict, the city is devastated: looted businesses, bombed-out buildings, severe shortages of food and electricity. The MO team receives little supervision or support from its higher-ups, so Niki—who is brilliant at her work, and endowed with nearly unstoppable determination—devises unorthodox ways to get the job done.

Niki is an engaging protagonist who can be prickly, pigheaded, and insecure, but also smart, empathetic, and confident. Will is handsome, loyal, and humbly aware of his own privilege; Ezra is world-weary and pessimistic; Paloma, a Roman prostitute who befriends Niki, is open and down-to-earth; George is insufferably condescending; and his charming, inept sister Moggy somehow manages to be both clueless and shrewd.

Their compelling story immerses the reader in an authentic setting at a unique moment in time. While there are strong elements of danger and suspense, there’s no crime or spycraft,making this more historical novel than mystery. The questions that propel the narrative are “Will they pull it off?” and where Niki’s relationship with Will is headed along the trajectory from dislike to rapport to attraction.

Opening with Niki and her adult daughter at a 1989 formal dinner honoring the women of the OSS, a part of her life that she has never shared, Michelle Gable’s novel weaves together Niki’s wartime adventures and her feelings about them decades later until they reach a satisfying conclusion. A final Author’s Note explains the inspiration for Niki’s story, and a Selected List of Sources suggests further reading for those interested in learning more about the historical context.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:19:26
Sign Here
Vanessa Orr

Peyote Trip works in Hell, literally, for the Deals Department, which is tasked with answering the calls of humans who want to sell their souls in exchange for something they can’t live without—whether fame, riches, health for themselves or others, or answers to unsolved questions. He only needs to get one more member of the Harrison family to sell their soul before he’ll be returned to Earth alive; but of course, being Hell, there’s a catch.

Not only has Peyote been saddled with a new partner, Calamity, who may or may not be trustworthy, but he also has to watch as the Harrisons head down their own road to disaster, which could preclude any chance of his snatching one of their coveted souls.

Dark, funny, horrifying, and occasionally uplifting, Sign Here follows two separate tracks that twist and turn, showcasing Peyote and Calamity’s life in Hell, and the Harrisons’ experiences as they summer in New Hampshire. In Claudia Lux’s debut novel, the author successfully inspires reader empathy for Hell’s dealmakers, while never hiding the horror of their jobs. And though the Harrisons seems perfect on the outside, Lux slowly unveils what lies beneath, including an ugly history of marital infidelity, misogyny, and even murder.

As secrets are exposed and sins are shared, it is difficult at times to determine who should be in Hell and who should not—especially when the answers about a decades-old murder finally come to light. Whether the reader believes in redemption or damnation, watching the characters in this story battle the good and evil within themselves makes this book one hell of a good read.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:24:05
Double Exposure
Sarah Prindle

Rainey Hall is a private investigator based in Los Angeles who gets pulled into the most complicated case of her life when she agrees to take on Melia van Aust as a client. Four years ago, Melia’s ultra-wealthy parents were murdered in an attack that also left her seriously injured, and the killer was never caught. Now, someone is sending Melia gruesome threats. Thinking it might be the killer, or even her missing brother Jasper, who hasn’t been seen since the murders, Melia asks Rainey to help her.

Rainey and her fellow private investigators at Left City dig into the van Aust family’s background, as well as the neighbors, former servants, and family friends associated with them. Compelled to solve crimes after her own mother went missing six years ago, Rainey is determined to protect Melia and find out who’s threatening her. But as Rainey develops romantic feelings for her client, her judgment risks being compromised, which could put their lives in danger. Rainey will need to keep her wits about her if she is to solve this case and uncover the truth.

Double Exposure is a complex novel that weaves a suspenseful tale of murder and deception. There are many twists and startling revelations in the plotline, as well as nail-biting action scenes. that will have the reader wondering how Rainey can extricate herself from various dangerous situations. Themes of friendship and family are prevalent and the author delves into how crimes—particularly murder and missing persons—impact families and individuals.

The author’s setting of Los Angeles, a city full of glittering facades and gorgeous movie stars, but with a dark side of crime and greed, acts as an apt counterpoint to the secrets many of the characters are concealing and adds to the sense of mystery overall. Rainey’s own experiences with her mother’s vanishing and her hard work as a PI make her a sympathetic protagonist and a flawed but determined heroine to root for. Double Exposure is a fascinating, book that should satisfy readers looking for a gritty, and hard-to-solve mystery set in the glamorous—and dangerous—City of Angels.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:29:12
All the Blood We Share
Pat H. Broeske

Fans of bloodstained historical fiction and serial killer lit alike will fall prey to Camilla Bruce’s confidently crafted All the Blood We Share. Subtitled A Novel of the Bloody Benders of Kansas, this is a reimagining of the prairie sojourn of one of 19th-century America’s strangest clans. Immigrants, the Benders, lived near the small town of Cherryvale, Kansas, from about 1871 to mid-1873, during which time a dozen or more travelers met their end. Some of the bodies were later found buried in the family orchard.

Bruce’s account opens with the arrival of “Ma” Elvira and daughter Kate, as their train pulls into the train station where “Pa” William and son John are waiting. Without fanfare, the men take the women by wagon to a roughshod home near the Osage Trail. Anticipating a more desolate location, Elvira asks, “Have you forgotten what we’re running from?” The men are hoping the place will serve as an inn—for travelers needing a meal, or to stay the night—to which Kate says to John, who we’ve learned is her stepbrother, “I thought we were done with bloodletting.”

Told largely through the first-person accounts of Kate and Elvira, and the observations of a local boy named Hanson, All the Blood We Share excels at building tension via its foreshadowing. With each reveal, past experiences and familial ties materialize. Vivid descriptions of settings and dialogue utilizing the day’s vernacular give the book a sepia tone that feels authentic.

Bruce, whose last title, 2021’s In the Garden of Spite, was a fictional take on the Victorian-era female serial killer Belle Gunness, is interested in women with dark desires who defiantly chafe at the constraints imposed by the times in which they live. Thus, the fiery Kate—with her red hair, ebullient ways, and fondness for whiskey—is the focal point of this story. The only member of her German family who excels at English, she imagines herself on the stage. To get there, she’s passing herself off as a spiritualist. In the post-Civil War period (when everyone had lost someone they’d like to reach out to) it was a lucrative profession and a means of attaining fame. But Kate has other obsessions as well. Which is why Elvira sometimes expects to see “a cloven hoof” beneath the hem of her daughter’s skirt. Kate is not to be trifled with. But Ma is no picnic, either.

To this day, no one knows what became of the real-life Benders. In Bruce’s depiction, the Kansas tenure leads to the unraveling of the family’s unity, despite Ma’s long-held insistence that, “We take care of our own; the rest can fend for themselves.”

Are monsters born or created? All the Blood We Share will leave readers pondering the making of the Benders, long after they’ve ridden out of view.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:33:38
It’s News to Me
Vanessa Orr

The murder of Riley Hunt is the classic small-town girl meets big city horror story: the beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed college student from Ohio is murdered while a student at Easton College in Manhattan, and everyone wants to know why this young woman with such a bright future is dead. Especially Clare Carlson, the news director and reporter at Channel 10 News.

While the supposed killer, a troubled Afghanistan war veteran, is quickly caught, Clare doesn’t believe that that’s all there is to the story, especially when she discovers that Riley’s life was far more complicated than it first appears. Riley was dating two different men; one the son of an New York Police Department deputy commissioner, and one with ties to an underworld boss. Her picture was also posted on an escort service website. And her mother’s reaction to her daughter’s death—choosing to go straight back to work instead of taking time to grieve—makes Clare even more curious.

As a former New York City journalist, the author understands Clare’s world, and his portrayal of Clare is spot-on: She’s tough, savvy, funny, driven, and also flawed. Chasing a story to the detriment of all else, including a life outside of work, is what fuels her; she knows, and is constantly reminded, that she’s only as good as her last scoop. The characters in the newsroom are a mix of their own insecurities, including Clare’s ratings-driven new boss, the bickering married news anchors, and the attractive but unskilled field reporter.

The story moves along at a good clip as Clare uncovers more of the truth and the danger and suspense ratchet up. With Clare in relentless pursuit of the next big story, the reader has to wonder whether what happens to her as a result will become the next breaking news.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-11 21:37:25
MWA Announces 2023 Grand Master, Raven, and Ellery Queen Award Recipients
Oline H Cogdill

2023 MWA Grand Masters Michael Connelly and Joanne FlukeWe look forward each year to Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announcing the honorees of the Grand Master, the Raven Award and the Ellery Queen Award. This is the chance to honor those who have elevated the genre through their novels or by working behind the scenes such as bookstores, organizations, critics, and publications.

MWA continues those high standards with this year’s honorees.

The 2023 Grand Masters are authors Michael Connelly and Joanne Fluke.
The 2023 Raven Award recipients are Crime Writers of Color and Eddie Muller.
The Ellery Queen Award goes to The Strand Magazine.

Each is well deserving. The awards will be presented during the 77th Annual Edgar Awards ceremony, which will be held on April 27, 2023, at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York City.

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality, according to MWA press release.

Michael Connelly is one of the most respected mystery writers—that’s my observation, not any press release. He is well liked and has a reputation of being a generous writer, helping other new authors and acknowledging fellow authors in speeches and panels. For me, he is today’s most consistently excellent writer. 

According to MWA, Connelly’s nomination, citing Bosch’s mantra from the first in the series, The Black Echo, to the present day, sums up Connelly’s approach to his craft: “Everybody counts or nobody counts,” adding “What those five words have meant to the readers of mystery fiction in the past 37 years can’t be overstated.”

MWA stated that on being notified of the honor, Connelly said, “All I can say is I’m overwhelmed. When you look at the list of previous Grand Masters you see every writer that ever inspired you. So overwhelming. I first got published 30 years ago and I remember everything about it. To think that that guy of 30 years ago would end up with this honor is really quite amazing. I am truly honored.”

Connelly is the author of 31 novels, including multiple No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His books, which include the Harry Bosch series and Lincoln Lawyer series, have sold more than 74 million copies worldwide. Connelly is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels and is the executive producer of both Bosch TV series and The Lincoln Lawyer. He spends his time in California and Florida.

Newly named Grand Master Joanne Fluke launched her series 21 years ago with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (2001). Since then, she has written 30 Hannah Swenson Mysteries, the most recent being 2022’s Caramel Pecan Roll Murder. The series also has been turned into five hugely successful Murder, She Baked films for the Hallmark Channel. Fluke has also written suspense, thriller, and romance novels under her own name and pseudonyms. Like Hannah Swensen, she was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in sunny Southern California.

MWA stated that on being notified of the honor, Fluke said, “I am very grateful to be mentioned in the same breath as such legends as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John le Carré . . .  Speaking of breathing, I'm very glad I still am!”

As I can attest, anyone who has been at one of her book signings knows how delightful her talks are. She also almost always brings cookies, another plus!

Previous Grand Masters include Laurie R. King, Charlaine Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Ira Levin, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Personally, this may be my favorite award as I was honored with it—a career highlight.

This year, the award shared between the group Crime Writers of Color (CWoC) and Eddie Mueller, host of the Turner Classic Movies series Noir Alley and founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation.

The Crime Writers of Color is “an association of authors seeking to present a strong and united voice for members who self-identify as crime/mystery writers from traditionally underrepresented racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”  

Speaking for CWoC, cofounders Gigi Pandian, Kellye Garrett, and Walter Mosley wrote, “When we first started talking about the idea that became Crime Writers of Color, we never imagined the small informal group would become such a big and thriving community in just a few years. Our goal was always to create a safe and supportive space for fellow writers of color to network and thrive. So, to know that the group is making a positive impact in the mystery community as a whole is so gratifying, and to be recognized by MWA in our fifth year is such an honor! We thank you on behalf of all our 350-plus members who are in all stages of their career."

Eddie Muller is best known as the host of the Turner Classic Movies series Noir Alley, a weekly showcase for the best of crime cinema and for his lively, erudite intros and outros to these movies, in which he always mentions writers—novelists and screenwriters both—in the conversation. At the Film Noir Foundation (FNF), which makes restoring and preserving films from around the globe a priority, Muller has personally saved many motion pictures from disappearing, among them acclaimed titles like The Prowler, written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and Too Late for Tears.

Mueller told MWA that “I was completely surprised! The crime and mystery fiction community—writers, editors, booksellers, and readers—is a wonderfully warm, supportive, and generous tribe and I’m happy to have been a small part of it for the past 20 years. Having my eclectic endeavors rate a Raven—what a delightful surprise, and what an honor! I'm extremely grateful to MWA.”

Previous Raven Award recipients include Lesa Holstine, Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, The Raven Bookstore, Sisters in Crime, Kristopher Zgorski, and Oline Cogdill.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the award honors The Strand Magazine, a bimonthly periodical known as much for its incisive articles about the mystery world and its practitioners and penetrating interviews with top authors like James Patterson and Lee Child, as for unearthing lost short stories penned by now-dead literary greats, such as a 600-word short story by Raymond Chandler, written in the 1950s toward the end of his life, as well as the forgotten fiction of such giants as Dashiell Hammett, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and H.G. Wells.

According to MWA, when told of the Ellery Queen Award, managing editor Andrew Gulli said, “When The Strand started 25 years ago, we had no idea how big it would get. So, it’s great to see The Strand being honored with the Ellery Queen Award from Mystery Writers of America.”

Gulli added, “MWA has always felt more like a community—one in which I’ve formed strong friendships and where The Strand has found some of its best authors. As a print publication with a strong online presence, The Strand has had to continuously adapt to an ever-changing industry and being honored with the Ellery Queen Award from MWA serves as definite proof that print is not only alive but kicking! Here’s to another 25 years!”

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Juliet Grames, Reagan Arthur, Kelley Ragland, Linda Landrigan, Neil Nyren, Charles Ardai, and Janet Hutchings.

“Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to announce the recipients of our special awards for 2023. It’s always such a joy to recognize deserving individuals for their outstanding contributions to our genre. Michael Connelly and Joanne Fluke have contributed so much to the genre through their hard work and amazing careers, and they will continue to influence and inspire future generations of writers long after they receive their awards,” said MWA Executive Vice President Greg Herren.

“Eddie Muller’s dedication to preserving the marvelous legacy of noir and crime films by bringing classics to new generations of viewers through his work with TCM and his foundation is more than worthy of recognition,” Herren said.

“The Strand Magazine’s legacy of quality has never faltered and remains a must-read for crime fans. The impact of Crime Writers of Color, not only in crime fiction but across the board in publishing, may not be quantifiable, but can be seen at every conference, awards ceremony, and bestseller list. It’s an incredible list of honorees. We are in a golden age of crime fiction, and it’s very exciting to see.”

For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website

Photos, from top: Michael Connelly, photo by Mark DeLong; Joanne Fluke, photo by Kim Butler; CWoC, cofounders Kellye Garrett, Walter Mosley, and Gigi Pandian, photo courtesy MWA; Eddie Muller, photo courtesy MWA; Andrew Gulli, photo by Farris Gulli

Oline CogdillOline H. Cogdill is a longtime contributor to Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years, and is the mystery columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Oline Cogdill
2023-01-12 19:36:32
Elle Cosimano on Discovery in Any Genre
Elle Cosimano

Elle Cosimano photo by Powell Woulfe Photography

Photo by Powell Woulfe Photography

"If you sifted through the books in my office right now, including those I’ve written, you’d have a hard time placing me on a single shelf, and I love that."

Before I began writing humorous mysteries for adults, I was penning paranormal thrillers for teens, so it’s no surprise to me that my reading preferences straddle age ranges and span a variety of genres. As a reader, the stack of books on my nightstand is equally weighted between YA fantasies, mysterious capers, and twisty adult suspense novels.

Whether it’s a tale of self-discovery, explored through a character’s journey through their first formative experiences, or a careful unearthing of clues leading to the reveal of a culprit, it’s the discovery that has always captivated me as a reader. I’m drawn to novels that offer a slow but satisfying carving away of layers. I enjoy being along for the ride as a teen protagonist is unraveling the mystery of who they are. And I love that aha moment when their own power is revealed to them, when they realize the answer to whatever existential question they’ve been grappling with and make a conscious choice that will change the outcome of their own story. For me, it delivers the same satisfaction as the grand reveal of a crime thriller or a murder mystery, when the mask is yanked away and the bad guy finally steps out of the shadows.

In a story for any age group, in any genre, that moment of reveal should feel earned, and I gravitate toward stories that artfully craft layers of character within the plot, or the ones in which nuanced breadcrumbs are thoughtfully doled out, allowing me to make small discoveries alongside the hero. My favorite novels of all manage to do both, weaving a carefully constructed examination of a character’s formative years within the framework of a brilliant mystery or an unputdownable suspense story, like Steven Hamilton’s The Lock Artist, Megan Miranda’s All The Missing Girls, or Tana French’s The Secret Place. I balance these darker tales with lighter, more humorous ones like Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files, Darynda JonesA Bad Day for Sunshine, or Colleen Oakley’s The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise, each of which incorporates a cross-generational cast and coming-of-age themes, and all of which straddle more than one library category.

If you sifted through the books in my office right now, including those I’ve written, you’d have a hard time placing me on a single shelf, and I love that. My favorite stories (and storytellers) are the ones that defy age while bending genres.

Elle Cosimano is a USA Today bestselling author, an International Thriller Award winner, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, and an Edgar® Award nominee. Her acclaimed young adult novels include Nearly Gone, Holding Smoke, The Suffering Tree, and Seasons of the Storm. Elle’s debut novel for adults, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, kicked off a witty, fast-paced contemporary mystery series, which was a PEOPLE Magazine Pick and was named one of New York Public Library's Best Books of 2021. In addition to writing novels for teens and adults, her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post and Time. Elle lives with her husband and two sons in Virginia.

Teri Duerr
2023-01-17 18:50:40