Kinky Friedman, Greenwich Killing Time
Teri Duerr
2010-05-12 22:31:41

"Cats, as a rule, don't like lawyers. They have great insight into human character."

—Kinky Friedman, Greenwich Killing Time, 1986, by Kinky Friedman

Mitch Tobin, Wax Apple
Teri Duerr
2010-05-12 22:38:35

"Life is ten percent carrot and ninety per cent stick."

—Mitch Tobin, Wax Apple, 1970, by Donald E. Westlake writing as Tucker Coe

Amelia Peabody Emerson, the Mummy Case
Teri Duerr
2010-05-12 22:41:11

"Marriage, in my view, should be a balanced stalemate between equal adversaries."

—Amelia Peabody Emerson, The Mummy Case, 1985, by Elizabeth Peters

The 2009 Agatha Award Winners

The 2009 Agatha Awards were given May 1, 2010, during the Malice Domestic conference. Congratulations to all the winners, as well to the nominees!

Best Novel
A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press)

Best Non-fiction
Dame Agatha’s Shorts by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)

Best Short Story
“On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Quarry (Level Best Books)

Best Children’s/Young Adult
The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Teri Duerr
2010-05-13 17:06:59

The 2009 Agatha Awards were given May 1, 2010, during the Malice Domestic conference. Congratulations to all the winners, as well to the nominees!

Best Novel
A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press)

Best Non-fiction
Dame Agatha’s Shorts by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)

Best Short Story
“On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Quarry (Level Best Books)

Best Children’s/Young Adult
The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Point of View of a Serial Killer
Georgenne Parker (Lincoln, Nebraska)

I am rereading The Talented Mr. Ripley. I think Patricia Highsmith deserves a new look. Everyone is talking about the Dexter books as the first mysteries written from the point of view of a serial killer. But, although I do enjoy the Dexter books, Highsmith accomplished this 60 years ago.

Xav ID 577
2010-05-16 18:08:57

I am rereading The Talented Mr. Ripley. I think Patricia Highsmith deserves a new look. Everyone is talking about the Dexter books as the first mysteries written from the point of view of a serial killer. But, although I do enjoy the Dexter books, Highsmith accomplished this 60 years ago.

Moby Awards for Best & Worst Book Trailers
Winners of the first annual Moby Awards for the Best and Worst Book Trailers were announced by Melville House Publishing May 20, 2010 at a ceremony held at The Griffin in New York, New York. Winners were chosen from nearly 400 videos submitted to the MobyLives Academy of Know It Alls, via online poll.

Mystery and thriller-related titles that received recognition include (winners in bold):

Best Big Budget/Big House Book Trailer

{youtubejw}F_jyXJTlrH0{/youtubejw}
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Going West by Maurice Gee
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith


Best Performance by an Author

Thomas Pynchon (voice of) in Inherent Vice
Jeffrey Rotter in The Known Unknowns


Best Cameo in a Book Trailer


Zach Galifinakis in Lowboy


Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book


Sounds of Murder by Patricia Rockwell


Bloodiest Book Trailer of the Year


Killer by Dave Zeltserman


Biggest Waste of Conglomerate Money


Level 26 by Anthony Zuiker

Teri Duerr
2010-05-25 19:24:31
Winners of the first annual Moby Awards for the Best and Worst Book Trailers were announced by Melville House Publishing May 20, 2010 at a ceremony held at The Griffin in New York, New York. Winners were chosen from nearly 400 videos submitted to the MobyLives Academy of Know It Alls, via online poll.

Mystery and thriller-related titles that received recognition include (winners in bold):

Best Big Budget/Big House Book Trailer

{youtubejw}F_jyXJTlrH0{/youtubejw}
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Going West by Maurice Gee
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith


Best Performance by an Author

Thomas Pynchon (voice of) in Inherent Vice
Jeffrey Rotter in The Known Unknowns


Best Cameo in a Book Trailer


Zach Galifinakis in Lowboy


Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book


Sounds of Murder by Patricia Rockwell


Bloodiest Book Trailer of the Year


Killer by Dave Zeltserman


Biggest Waste of Conglomerate Money


Level 26 by Anthony Zuiker

What’s Happening With... Michael Kahn?
Brian Skupin

kahn_michaelMichael Kahn, author of the Rachel Gold series, returns with an eighth installment featuring the plucky Chicago attorney.

Michael Kahn and his wife were living in Chicago, near the train tracks, and at 11:30 one night when a train passed by Kahn wondered who would be traveling at that time of night, and why. He decided to find out.

“So the next night at 11:30, with my wife seeing me off at door, in tears like a war bride, I went and rode the train, and wrote an article about it for Chicago magazine.” He wrote a few more articles but didn’t try his hand at fiction.

A few years later, Kahn, a teacher, decided on a lark to apply to law school, and was accepted to Harvard.

“I couldn’t believe it! I got the elementary school teacher slot, I guess.”

After law school he joined a Chicago firm and ended up traveling a lot so he read paperback mysteries to pass the time he spent on airplanes. On his return home his wife would ask if he’d enjoyed the latest book. He often replied, “Not a bad book, Marge, but I could do better.”

Then one day after this conversation took place his wife added, “Why don’t you write a book, or shut up?”

Slightly shocked, he asked what she meant. “I don’t want to be eighty years old and hear you still saying that,” she replied.

So he started working on his first book.

“All of us have one novel in us, sickeningly autobiographical. That’s what mine became. So I set it aside and tried to think how I could avoid that. One day I thought, ‘What if the main character was a woman?’” Kahn says. “Even then, it took me ten drafts of the first chapter to get her away from being me in drag.”

Kahn wrote every night after work for three hours, and when he was done had written The Canaan Legacy, a mystery featuring Rachel Gold, a Chicago attorney who leaves a large firm to go out on her own. The senior partner of a large law firm has died, and his will specifies that a trust fund should be set up to maintain his pet’s grave, but he never had a pet…

“My wife read it, and said it would win the Pulitzer, and my mother told me it would win the Nobel, so I needed another opinion.” A friend of a friend was a junior editor at Viking, and she loved it. But the manuscript ended up on another editor’s desk for months, with no action, so Kahn used the enthusiastic response from the junior editor to attract an agent, and the book was published in 1988. “That was the coolest—I finally had something my kids could take to Show and Tell. Before that I had nothing. ‘Here’s some interrogatories.’”

Although he had no intention of writing a series, Kahn was persuaded to continue and to date there have been eight snappy legal thrillers about Rachel, her friends Jacki (formerly Jack), law Professor Benny Goldberg, and the Orthodox Jewish love interest she meets along the way, Jonathan Wolf. During this time the Kahns moved from Chicago to St. Louis, and therefore so did Rachel.

After writing Trophy Widow, Kahn took a break, which is understandable since Kahn has also raised five daughters with his wife, and maintained a high-powered legal career specializing in intellectual property law.

Readers will be interested to know that Kahn has written and published another book, using the pseudonym Michael Baron. In 2005 Doubleday published The Mourning Sexton, about an ex-convict lawyer who tries to rebuild his life and legal career after his drug habit and embezzlement lands him in jail.

Kahn has also just started work on a new book, about a mailroom employee with Asperger’s Syndrome who starts to suspect the suicidal leap off the top of the firm’s parking garage by a young female attorney was in fact a murder.

But his heart will always be with his series character, and there is good news: Kahn has just finished the eighth book in the Rachel Gold series.

“All those years, I missed Rachel. Tell your readers that I missed her more than they did.” The latest book will contain some surprises, in that it is seven years after the last book, and there is major news concerning Jonathan, who finally managed to get together with Rachel in Trophy Widow.

“She will have been through some tough times,” Kahn says, “but she’s still on an even keel, still plucky. Benny is still her best friend.

“She’s definitely still Rachel.”

A Michael Kahn Reading List

Rachel Gold Series

kahn_rachelgoldseries

The Canaan Legacy, 1988 (re-issued as Grave Designs, 1992); Death Benefits, 1992; Firm Ambitions, 1994; Due Diligence, 1995; Sheer Gall, 1996; Bearing Witness, 1999; Trophy Widow, 2002

As Michael Baron

baxton_mourningsexton

The Mourning Sexton, 2005

Teri Duerr
2010-05-28 21:23:49

kahn_michaelHear from the author of The Canaan Legacy, the mystery series featuring Chicago attorney Rachel Gold.

Sizzling Sixteen
Cheryl Solimini

As sure as the traffic tie-ups on the Turnpike, summer brings a new Stephanie Plum to slip into your beach bag. Sizzling Sixteen doesn’t plumb new depths in the life of the Trenton bounty hunter, but like the Jersey shore, it’s familiar, fun territory. And you can’t beat the roller coaster rides.

Also inevitably, readers will be divided into two camps: those who fret that their favorite series is running out of steam and those who wouldn’t change a thing. Did anyone complain when Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo tried, week after week, to con her way into Ricky’s act or take a job she was vastly unsuited for? I Love Lucy did not need to apologize for not aspiring to be Masterpiece Theater, and neither should this series. It may be that author Janet Evanovich makes her brand of zaniness seem so effortless that you might think it’s actually easy to make a laugh explode from nowhere at least once per chapter. Fuhgeddaboudit.

You know there will be doughnuts, pot roast, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket (though the fast-food fried chicken has an expanded role—who says there’s no character development?). Grandma Mazur will drop in on a funeral or two.. Buildings will burn, cars will be demolished, and Steph will be pulled like saltwater taffy between Ranger and Morelli.

This time around, though, it’s personal, when Cousin Vinnie, Stephanie’s bail bonds employer, is snatched by a local thug for running up a $786,000 gambling tab. No one is much invested in his safe return, as the vig ups the ransom price tag to over a million. So Ms. Plum, office manager Connie, and former ‘ho Lula take on the case, if only for the sake of job security. Stir in a van full of Hobbit wannabes, an unlucky lucky bottle from deceased Uncle Pip, and cattle and a gator rampaging through the Burg. The only thing missing in this cabana-cool cocktail is one of those colorful paper umbrellas.

So slip on your sunglasses, settle into your sand chair, and let Sizzling Sixteen sweep you out to sea on a wave of sublime silliness.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-15 20:10:22

evanovich_sizzlingsixteenSummer brings a new Stephanie Plum to slip into your beach bag with Sizzling Sixteen.

Summer 2010, Issue #115 Contents
Mystery Scene

115cover250

Features

Michael Koryta: Take Me to the River

Koryta charts a new course with his supernatural thriller So Cold the River.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Stefanie Pintoff: In Old New York

Broadway lore comes to life in Pintoff’s follow-up to her recent Edgar winner.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Thriller Must Reads: Peter Straub’s Koko

The horrors of the Vietnam War inform Straub’s chilling novel, which helped usher in the era of serial killer as enigmatic antihero.
by Hank Wagner

Scott Turow

The new sequel to Presumed Innocent lives up to Turow’s already impressive body of work.
by Jon L. Breen

Carolyn Hart: Parables for Our Time

Traditional mysteries weigh the moral choices of everyday life—and that’s what makes them powerful.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Vital Link: William Link Revisits Columbo

Lieutenant Columbo moves from screen to printed page.
by Tom Nolan

The Magnificent Brain of Alvin Fernald

This kid detective uses his noggin to nab bad guys.
by Steven Nester

The Murders in Memory Lane: Remembering Henry Kane

Kane was an entertaining writer and an engaging gentleman.
by Lawrence Block

What's Happening...With Aileen Schumacher

by Brian Skupin

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Hints & Allegations

Writers on Reading: Elizabeth George; 2010 Edgar Awards, Anthony Awards, Arthur Ellis
Awards, Derringer Awards.

Our Readers Recommend

by Mystery Scene readers

Writing Life: Gormania

Anne Perry; An editor’s day; John D. MacDonald; Gail Russell
by Ed Gorman

New Books Essays

Getting Old is Murder
by Rita Lakin

Son of Big Brother
by Reece Hirsch

The Panic Zone
by Rick Mofina

Killer Careers
by Simon Wood

Mirror Image
by Dennis Palumbo

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Eyewitness

Robert Culp’s Hickey & Boggs; Graphic novels by Greg Rucka and Joshua Hale
by Kevin Burton Smith

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Child's Play: Books for Young Sleuths

by Roberta Rogow

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous

The Docket

Letters

Mystery Miscellany
by Louis Phillips

Advertiser Index

Advertising Info

Admin
2010-04-06 02:39:02

115cover250

Features

Michael Koryta: Take Me to the River

Koryta charts a new course with his supernatural thriller So Cold the River.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Stefanie Pintoff: In Old New York

Broadway lore comes to life in Pintoff’s follow-up to her recent Edgar winner.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Thriller Must Reads: Peter Straub’s Koko

The horrors of the Vietnam War inform Straub’s chilling novel, which helped usher in the era of serial killer as enigmatic antihero.
by Hank Wagner

Scott Turow

The new sequel to Presumed Innocent lives up to Turow’s already impressive body of work.
by Jon L. Breen

Carolyn Hart: Parables for Our Time

Traditional mysteries weigh the moral choices of everyday life—and that’s what makes them powerful.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Vital Link: William Link Revisits Columbo

Lieutenant Columbo moves from screen to printed page.
by Tom Nolan

The Magnificent Brain of Alvin Fernald

This kid detective uses his noggin to nab bad guys.
by Steven Nester

The Murders in Memory Lane: Remembering Henry Kane

Kane was an entertaining writer and an engaging gentleman.
by Lawrence Block

What's Happening...With Aileen Schumacher

by Brian Skupin

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Hints & Allegations

Writers on Reading: Elizabeth George; 2010 Edgar Awards, Anthony Awards, Arthur Ellis
Awards, Derringer Awards.

Our Readers Recommend

by Mystery Scene readers

Writing Life: Gormania

Anne Perry; An editor’s day; John D. MacDonald; Gail Russell
by Ed Gorman

New Books Essays

Getting Old is Murder
by Rita Lakin

Son of Big Brother
by Reece Hirsch

The Panic Zone
by Rick Mofina

Killer Careers
by Simon Wood

Mirror Image
by Dennis Palumbo

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Eyewitness

Robert Culp’s Hickey & Boggs; Graphic novels by Greg Rucka and Joshua Hale
by Kevin Burton Smith

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Child's Play: Books for Young Sleuths

by Roberta Rogow

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous

The Docket

Letters

Mystery Miscellany
by Louis Phillips

Advertiser Index

Advertising Info

At the Scene, Summer Issue #115
Kate Stine

115cover250Hi everyone!

It’s always nice to see a fellow Indiana University alum do well. Of course, there are lots of reasons besides school pride to pay attention to Michael Koryta. In a short but productive career, he’s attracted plenty of admiration for the Lincoln Perry PI novels and 2008’s Envy the Night. Koryta’s new book, So Cold the River strikes out for new territory—it’s a dark thriller with supernatural overtones, à la Stephen King. It breaks Kevin Burton Smith’s heart but even this über fan of PI fiction has to admit Koryta’s on to a good thing.

Lynn Kaczmarek of Mystery News fame returns with a profile of another bright new talent—Stefanie Pintoff. In April, Stefanie won an Edgar Award for her debut novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, and Lynn gives a big thumbs up to the sequel which revolves around the 1906 New York theater world.

Oline Cogdill has an in-depth conversation with Carolyn Hart, the bestselling cozy mystery author and an incisive commentator on the state of crime fiction and publishing. You’ll learn something—I did.

When it comes to courtroom mysteries, Jon L. Breen literally wrote the book (and later won an Edgar Award for it). His take on the just-published sequel to the classic Presumed Innocent is part of an expert examination of Scott Turow’s entire body of work. Don’t miss it! Remember Alvin Fernald and His Magnificent Brain? Steven Nester does, and so do several publishers who are retuning the whiz kid detective to bookstores. Be sure to make Alvin’s acquaintance in this issue.

And just one more thing...don’t miss Tom Nolan’s entertaining visit with William Link, co-creator of TV’s beloved Lt. Columbo.

What is that Tweeting Sound?

That would be yours truly taking part in a live tweet-along during the TV broadcast of Hercule Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express. Fans have waited a long time to see David Suchet star in Agatha Christie’s most famous story—and to celebrate, we’ll take part in Twitter commentary as the show airs July 11, 9 p.m. ET on Masterpiece Mystery!/ PBS. More details to come closer to the event—be sure to check the MS website.

Future of Mystery Scene? Discuss

Last time we asked for your thoughts on e-readers and the future of books. Now we’d like to hear your opinions on our future.

What do you want Mystery Scene to be? A guide to both new and old fiction? Or only new? Do you like the mix of books, TV, film, theater, etc? Do you want more kids’ books or graphic novels? How about games? Do you want more information on collecting?

How about the color pages? If you’d like MS to be printed entirely in color, would you pay more for a subscription?

Would you consider an iPad, website or some other type of digital subscription? Or is paper the only way to go?

Knowing what our readers want is the first step. So look at a couple of back issues, check out our website, read a newsletter or two and give it some thought.

And have a wonderful summer!

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

Teri Duerr
2010-04-25 16:42:27

Read Kate's summer letter.

The Killer Inside Me
Oline Cogdill
Jim Thompson’s novels do not come easily to the screen.

This hard-boiled author, whose career began in 1942 and lasted through the early 1970s, had a noir vision that often bleak. Yet there was certain poetry in the way he could look into a person’s soul and see nothing but darkness.

[caption id="attachment_1516" align="alignleft" width="144" caption="Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me. IFC Films photo"]<a href="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer21.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-1516" src="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer21.jpg" alt="" width="144" height="96" /></a>[/caption]

The most successful filmings of his novels have been by Europeans, as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/movies/06killer.html?pagewanted=1">the New York Times </a>recently pointed out. British director Stephen Frears gave us the excellent <em>The Grifters</em> in 1990 while Frenchman Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 film <em>Coup de Torchon</em> was an adaptation of Thompson’s novel <em>Pop. 1280</em>. According to the same <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/movies/06killer.html?pagewanted=1">Times article</a>, <em>Coup de Torchon</em> is considered the best adaptation of any Thompson movie. Even Donald Westlake who wrote the screenplay for <em>The Grifters</em> liked it best.

<em>The Getaway</em>, both Steve McQueen’s 1972 version and the 1994 one with Alec Baldwin, is, admittedly a guilty pleasure, though not as faithful to the book. Both movies ended with Doc and Carol McCoy off to Mexico with a satchel of cash; in the novel, they find that money doesn’t buy them happiness, to say the least.

The latest tackling of Thompson comes from British director Michael Winterbottom whose <em>The Killer Inside Me </em>is a fascinating and quite flawed version of Thompson’s 1952 novel. It is as faithful as it can be to Thompson’s work, and that is one of its high points as well as one of its problems.

Winterbottom delivers a darker than noir journey into hell via the psyche of a serial killer that is riveting. But the scenes of women being battered are cringingly graphic. Admittedly, these scenes aren’t extensive, but they are intense.

In <em>The Killer Inside Me</em>, Casey Affleck portrays Lou Ford, a small town deputy sheriff whose cherry persona masks his cruelty, as he becomes a serial killer. At 29, Ford seems to have a good life. The son of the deceased beloved doctor of Center City, Texas, he is an up and comer in the sheriff’s department and he is engaged to one of the town’s “good girls,” Amy (Kate Hudson).

Ford’s orders to run out of town Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), a prostitute who has set up shop on the outskirts of town. Instead, Joyce unleashes Ford’s sadistic side that he had tried to keep under wraps and the two begin an intense sadomasochistic affair. The two hatch a scheme to extort money from Chester Conway, the local construction mogul (the brilliant Ned Beatty), whose dim son is in love with Joyce. To say the plan goes wrong is an understatement.

Affleck has proved his acting chops – and ability to immerse himself in his roles, beginning with one of his first roles as the high-school hit man who just wanted his CD’s in <em>To Die For</em> to <em>The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford</em> and <em>Gone Baby Gone</em>.

In <em>The Killer Inside Me</em>, Affleck is mesmerizing. He is charming and menacing, cocky and fearful, cold and calculating yet warm and affectionate. Affleck makes <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> rise above some of its unsavory aspects. Whenever he is onscreen, you cannot watch anyone else. When Affleck talks about how in a small town "everyone <em>thinks </em>they know who you are," there’s no doubt what he means.

Beatty embodies the vengeful businessman used to having his own way – and used to enjoying his revenge. Simon Baker (<em>The Mentalist</em>) does the most with the throwaway role of district attorney Howard Hendricks who sees through Ford’s charade. Elias Koteas, a character actor who’s often mistaken for Robert De Niro, is superb as a union leader and Bill Pullman shines as a self-taught bombastic lawyer.

[caption id="attachment_1517" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Kate Hudson, Casey Affleck"]<a href="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer3.jpg"><img class="size-thumbnail wp-image-1517" src="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer3-150x144.jpg" alt="" width="150" height="144" /></a>[/caption]

However, it’s the women who are pivotal to <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> who are miscast. Without her blonde locks, Hudson seems more brassy and gutsy as a brunette and gives her most nuanced performance since <em>Almost Famous</em>. Still, Hudson falls short. Hudson’s Amy has to decide if her private humiliation is worth the price to keep Ford’s interest.

Alba is too pretty, too passive and too young looking to be a hard-bitten prostitute. When she suggests the extortion scheme, it sounds as if she wants to go shopping or take in a movie. While the 1976 version of <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> with Stacy Keach was a mess, Susan Tyrrell was a better Joyce. Alba lacks the dangerous sexuality that Joyce has. This role needs a Megan Fox, but a Megan Fox who can act.

But Ford’s brutal battering of Joyce and Amy are unwatchable. These intense violent scenes of the two women being brutalized are cringingly graphic. Never mind that these scenes are actually quite brief; the unflinching rawness is disturbing and sickening. Although these scenes are not as bloody or explicit as the violence in many films, the image of women passively accepting a ferocious beating is unwatchable. Sex scenes also are quite intense though very little nudity is shown, except in some old black and white photos.

Flashbacks to Ford’s childhood and the relationship with his mother, who was battered by Ford’s dad, are confusing.

Cinematography is powerful. You can almost taste the dust in the air and the dead-end future that Ford sees for himself

Affleck and Winterbottom perfectly capture small-town 1950s ennui. But sometimes that’s not enough.

<em>The Killer Inside Me is now in wide release and also is available On Demand. Rated R: The film contains graphic violence, gore, sexual situations, nudity, child abuse, strong language and heavy drinking. 109 minutes. </em>

<em>IFC Films</em><em></em>
Admin
2010-06-21 01:40:14
Jim Thompson’s novels do not come easily to the screen.

This hard-boiled author, whose career began in 1942 and lasted through the early 1970s, had a noir vision that often bleak. Yet there was certain poetry in the way he could look into a person’s soul and see nothing but darkness.

[caption id="attachment_1516" align="alignleft" width="144" caption="Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me. IFC Films photo"]<a href="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer21.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-1516" src="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer21.jpg" alt="" width="144" height="96" /></a>[/caption]

The most successful filmings of his novels have been by Europeans, as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/movies/06killer.html?pagewanted=1">the New York Times </a>recently pointed out. British director Stephen Frears gave us the excellent <em>The Grifters</em> in 1990 while Frenchman Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 film <em>Coup de Torchon</em> was an adaptation of Thompson’s novel <em>Pop. 1280</em>. According to the same <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/movies/06killer.html?pagewanted=1">Times article</a>, <em>Coup de Torchon</em> is considered the best adaptation of any Thompson movie. Even Donald Westlake who wrote the screenplay for <em>The Grifters</em> liked it best.

<em>The Getaway</em>, both Steve McQueen’s 1972 version and the 1994 one with Alec Baldwin, is, admittedly a guilty pleasure, though not as faithful to the book. Both movies ended with Doc and Carol McCoy off to Mexico with a satchel of cash; in the novel, they find that money doesn’t buy them happiness, to say the least.

The latest tackling of Thompson comes from British director Michael Winterbottom whose <em>The Killer Inside Me </em>is a fascinating and quite flawed version of Thompson’s 1952 novel. It is as faithful as it can be to Thompson’s work, and that is one of its high points as well as one of its problems.

Winterbottom delivers a darker than noir journey into hell via the psyche of a serial killer that is riveting. But the scenes of women being battered are cringingly graphic. Admittedly, these scenes aren’t extensive, but they are intense.

In <em>The Killer Inside Me</em>, Casey Affleck portrays Lou Ford, a small town deputy sheriff whose cherry persona masks his cruelty, as he becomes a serial killer. At 29, Ford seems to have a good life. The son of the deceased beloved doctor of Center City, Texas, he is an up and comer in the sheriff’s department and he is engaged to one of the town’s “good girls,” Amy (Kate Hudson).

Ford’s orders to run out of town Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), a prostitute who has set up shop on the outskirts of town. Instead, Joyce unleashes Ford’s sadistic side that he had tried to keep under wraps and the two begin an intense sadomasochistic affair. The two hatch a scheme to extort money from Chester Conway, the local construction mogul (the brilliant Ned Beatty), whose dim son is in love with Joyce. To say the plan goes wrong is an understatement.

Affleck has proved his acting chops – and ability to immerse himself in his roles, beginning with one of his first roles as the high-school hit man who just wanted his CD’s in <em>To Die For</em> to <em>The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford</em> and <em>Gone Baby Gone</em>.

In <em>The Killer Inside Me</em>, Affleck is mesmerizing. He is charming and menacing, cocky and fearful, cold and calculating yet warm and affectionate. Affleck makes <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> rise above some of its unsavory aspects. Whenever he is onscreen, you cannot watch anyone else. When Affleck talks about how in a small town "everyone <em>thinks </em>they know who you are," there’s no doubt what he means.

Beatty embodies the vengeful businessman used to having his own way – and used to enjoying his revenge. Simon Baker (<em>The Mentalist</em>) does the most with the throwaway role of district attorney Howard Hendricks who sees through Ford’s charade. Elias Koteas, a character actor who’s often mistaken for Robert De Niro, is superb as a union leader and Bill Pullman shines as a self-taught bombastic lawyer.

[caption id="attachment_1517" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Kate Hudson, Casey Affleck"]<a href="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer3.jpg"><img class="size-thumbnail wp-image-1517" src="http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer3-150x144.jpg" alt="" width="150" height="144" /></a>[/caption]

However, it’s the women who are pivotal to <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> who are miscast. Without her blonde locks, Hudson seems more brassy and gutsy as a brunette and gives her most nuanced performance since <em>Almost Famous</em>. Still, Hudson falls short. Hudson’s Amy has to decide if her private humiliation is worth the price to keep Ford’s interest.

Alba is too pretty, too passive and too young looking to be a hard-bitten prostitute. When she suggests the extortion scheme, it sounds as if she wants to go shopping or take in a movie. While the 1976 version of <em>The Killer Inside Me</em> with Stacy Keach was a mess, Susan Tyrrell was a better Joyce. Alba lacks the dangerous sexuality that Joyce has. This role needs a Megan Fox, but a Megan Fox who can act.

But Ford’s brutal battering of Joyce and Amy are unwatchable. These intense violent scenes of the two women being brutalized are cringingly graphic. Never mind that these scenes are actually quite brief; the unflinching rawness is disturbing and sickening. Although these scenes are not as bloody or explicit as the violence in many films, the image of women passively accepting a ferocious beating is unwatchable. Sex scenes also are quite intense though very little nudity is shown, except in some old black and white photos.

Flashbacks to Ford’s childhood and the relationship with his mother, who was battered by Ford’s dad, are confusing.

Cinematography is powerful. You can almost taste the dust in the air and the dead-end future that Ford sees for himself

Affleck and Winterbottom perfectly capture small-town 1950s ennui. But sometimes that’s not enough.

<em>The Killer Inside Me is now in wide release and also is available On Demand. Rated R: The film contains graphic violence, gore, sexual situations, nudity, child abuse, strong language and heavy drinking. 109 minutes. </em>

<em>IFC Films</em><em></em>
Donna Leon Recipes
Oline Cogdill
Before my close friend <a href="http://blogs.trb.com/features/consumer/shopping/blog/">Doreen</a> and her family went to Europe last year, I wished them a very happy, safe trip and asked them to send me a postcard or two.

Since her trip had a stop in Venice, I added some weight to her luggage. I also gave her several copies of <a href="http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/author.htm">Donna Leon’s </a>lovely novels about Venice’s Commissario Guido Brunetti to get her in the vacation mood – as if she had to be prompted for that – and a copy of the tour guide <em>Brunetti’s Venice</em>, written by Toni Sepeda, a professor of literature and art history in Northern Italy who for years has conducted tours of Venetian sites visited by Leon’s hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.<strong> </strong>

<em>Brunetti’s Venice</em> (Grove Press, $16.95). features description and history of the actual place mentioned in excerpts from <a href="http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/author.htm">Leon’s novels</a>.

This year, I would probably give <a href="http://blogs.trb.com/features/consumer/shopping/blog/">Doreen, who is an excellent cook</a>, a copy of <em>Brunetti’s Cookbook</em> featuring recipes by Roberta Pianaro and culinary stories by Donna Leon (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24.95). Her birthday is coming up.

<em>Brunetti’s Cookbook</em> is more than a lovely cookbook filled with more than 90 Italian recipes and whimsical color illustrations. It also is a tour of Venice, with Leon’s original essays on food and life in Venice.

Leon talks about sumptuous meals with family and friends, about fish stalls, wine shops, and restaurants, including one that was briefly Chinese.

But she also talks about how fast food has invaded. “…when you come out of Il Fornaio with your fresh-baked bread, you are greeted by the smell coming from McDonald’s.” There also are excerpts from Leon’s novels that fit certain recipes.

Recipes are concise and easy to understand with clear instructions. No nutritional information is included, but these are clearly made for those who love to eat and want to put calorie counting on hold. (Hey, you think I only review mysteries? I also have reviewed cookbooks for more than 20 years.)

While the recipes are easy to follow, most are not quick dishes. But patience is clearly rewarded.

Fusilli With Green Olives is a lovely, savory side dish as is Penne Rigate With Beans and Bacon, which comes together with a minimum of time. Chicken Breast With Artichokes is an elegant dish. Almond Cake makes a sweet ending.

On second thought, I am keeping this cookbook. Doreen needs another pair of earrings for her birthday.
Admin
2010-06-21 01:56:45
Before my close friend <a href="http://blogs.trb.com/features/consumer/shopping/blog/">Doreen</a> and her family went to Europe last year, I wished them a very happy, safe trip and asked them to send me a postcard or two.

Since her trip had a stop in Venice, I added some weight to her luggage. I also gave her several copies of <a href="http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/author.htm">Donna Leon’s </a>lovely novels about Venice’s Commissario Guido Brunetti to get her in the vacation mood – as if she had to be prompted for that – and a copy of the tour guide <em>Brunetti’s Venice</em>, written by Toni Sepeda, a professor of literature and art history in Northern Italy who for years has conducted tours of Venetian sites visited by Leon’s hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.<strong> </strong>

<em>Brunetti’s Venice</em> (Grove Press, $16.95). features description and history of the actual place mentioned in excerpts from <a href="http://www.groveatlantic.com/leon/author.htm">Leon’s novels</a>.

This year, I would probably give <a href="http://blogs.trb.com/features/consumer/shopping/blog/">Doreen, who is an excellent cook</a>, a copy of <em>Brunetti’s Cookbook</em> featuring recipes by Roberta Pianaro and culinary stories by Donna Leon (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24.95). Her birthday is coming up.

<em>Brunetti’s Cookbook</em> is more than a lovely cookbook filled with more than 90 Italian recipes and whimsical color illustrations. It also is a tour of Venice, with Leon’s original essays on food and life in Venice.

Leon talks about sumptuous meals with family and friends, about fish stalls, wine shops, and restaurants, including one that was briefly Chinese.

But she also talks about how fast food has invaded. “…when you come out of Il Fornaio with your fresh-baked bread, you are greeted by the smell coming from McDonald’s.” There also are excerpts from Leon’s novels that fit certain recipes.

Recipes are concise and easy to understand with clear instructions. No nutritional information is included, but these are clearly made for those who love to eat and want to put calorie counting on hold. (Hey, you think I only review mysteries? I also have reviewed cookbooks for more than 20 years.)

While the recipes are easy to follow, most are not quick dishes. But patience is clearly rewarded.

Fusilli With Green Olives is a lovely, savory side dish as is Penne Rigate With Beans and Bacon, which comes together with a minimum of time. Chicken Breast With Artichokes is an elegant dish. Almond Cake makes a sweet ending.

On second thought, I am keeping this cookbook. Doreen needs another pair of earrings for her birthday.
Still Missing
Hank Wagner

In a narrative delivered during therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, Still Missing tells the story of real estate agent Annie O’Sullivan, who was abducted from an open house, taken to a remote cabin, and imprisoned by a psychopath for nearly a year. Brutally honest and open, Annie relates the horror of her grueling time in captivity, and the equally compelling story of her return to “normal” existence, where she is plagued by fears and doubts brought on by post traumatic stress syndrome and by the pressures of returning to her family, friends, and society.

Although it brings to mind elements of other stories (such as the 1986 film Extremities, or Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel The Deep End of the Ocean), Still Missing stands firmly on its own. Annie’s visceral, no-holds-barred narration brings a stunning immediacy to the tale, even the parts related through flashbacks. Readers come to feel her fear, pain, and humiliation, and to identify with her, even to the point where they can laugh at the black humor she uses as a shield. Because of this intimacy, they also share the emotions she experiences when she triumphs, as when she escapes her strange captor, and when she puts together the pieces to answer the question that plagues her post-kidnapping existence, namely, “Why did this happen to me?” The answer to that burning question is guaranteed to shake you up.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:03:25

stevens_stillmissingA brutally honest psychological portrait of an abduction survivor.

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
Sue Emmons

Tarquin Hall’s second outing for Detective Vish Puri, proprietor of “Most Private Investigators LTC,” is a delightful look at India, its customs, and beliefs. Some readers will no doubt compare Hall’s series to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (and there are similarities in humor and their use of exotic settings), but Vish Puri is thoroughly unique in both his investigative technique, and in the way he balances work and home life. In his newest case, the Eminent Dr. Suresh Sha, founder of the Delhi Institute for Rationalism and Education (DIRE), is attending a meeting of the Rajpath Laughing Club designed to relieve stress through silliness. It is no laughing matter, however, when fog appears on the ground and Kali, the mythical four-armed goddess of darkness and eternal energy, appears and plunges a knife into Dr. Sha’s chest. The killing sets off a deluge of news coverage as both enemies and supporters of the well-known doctor scramble for the spotlight. India’s most private investigator is soon on the case.

The writing in this series is exquisite and captures the flavor of Delhi, India’s capital thriving with 16 million people—some in posh surroundings, but the majority leading lives of deprivation. Despite the grim murder, there is plenty of humor in this mystery. Clever nicknames abound, as do wonderful insights into the subtleties of India’s culture. For readers new to the world of Detective Vish Puri, Hall thoughtfully includes a long glossary of the terms and language of India sprinkled throughout the tale.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:13:23

Tarquin Hall’s second outing for Detective Vish Puri, proprietor of “Most Private Investigators LTC,” is a delightful look at India, its customs, and beliefs. Some readers will no doubt compare Hall’s series to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (and there are similarities in humor and their use of exotic settings), but Vish Puri is thoroughly unique in both his investigative technique, and in the way he balances work and home life. In his newest case, the Eminent Dr. Suresh Sha, founder of the Delhi Institute for Rationalism and Education (DIRE), is attending a meeting of the Rajpath Laughing Club designed to relieve stress through silliness. It is no laughing matter, however, when fog appears on the ground and Kali, the mythical four-armed goddess of darkness and eternal energy, appears and plunges a knife into Dr. Sha’s chest. The killing sets off a deluge of news coverage as both enemies and supporters of the well-known doctor scramble for the spotlight. India’s most private investigator is soon on the case.

The writing in this series is exquisite and captures the flavor of Delhi, India’s capital thriving with 16 million people—some in posh surroundings, but the majority leading lives of deprivation. Despite the grim murder, there is plenty of humor in this mystery. Clever nicknames abound, as do wonderful insights into the subtleties of India’s culture. For readers new to the world of Detective Vish Puri, Hall thoughtfully includes a long glossary of the terms and language of India sprinkled throughout the tale.

Neighborhood Watch
Betty Webb

Every now and then a mystery comes along with an ending so unexpected that we want to scream “Foul!” But a reread of this exhilarating novel proves that the author has not only played fair, but erected house-sized signposts along the way. In Cammie McGovern’s superlative exploration into suburban ordinariness, DNA testing gets librarian Betsy Treading released from prison 12 years after she confessed to murdering Linda Sue, her neighbor. But prison, even with its backed-up toilets and sudden violence, has been the only place Betsy has ever felt at home. After leaving with “a parting package of nothing,” Betsy reluctantly moves in with one-time friend Marianne, organizer of the local Neighborhood Watch.

Suffering from a bewildering amnesia about that long-ago crime, Betsy decides to speed up her post-prison recovery by using cell block wisdom to investigate Linda Sue’s death. “Scratch a female inmate and you’ll usually find a girl whose mother had terrible taste in men,” she’s learned, so she focuses on the local marriages. As Betsy peels away their “ordinariness,” she not only discovers startling truths about her neighbors, but obtains a shocking insight into her own muddled, self-erased life. Could she, after all, have been Linda Sue’s killer?

McGovern’s affecting, first-person narrative gives us such an intimate portrayal of Betsy that when she begins to unravel the mysteries of her life, we almost feel like we’re unraveling our own. Thanks to the brilliant writing, the ensuing discomfort is well worth the trip. If suburbia isn’t always as bland as it appears, then neither is the face in the mirror.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:18:54

mcgovern_neighborhoodwatch

This brilliantly written, superlative exploration into suburban ordinariness is anything but ordinary.

Beautiful Malice
Debbi Mack

After suffering a terrible tragedy, Katie Boydell tries to escape her past by moving in with her aunt, attending a new high school, and changing her name to Katherine Patterson. A quiet, self-effacing loner who harbors a dreadful secret, Katherine lets her guard down enough to make friends with Alice Parrie, who’s everything Katherine isn’t—brash, uninhibited, and hedonistic. However, Alice turns out to have more to her than meets the eye, and Katherine’s friendship with her simply leads to more trouble. Since the book starts with Alice’s funeral and Katherine’s hateful thoughts about the deceased, it’s clear up front that their relationship won’t lead anywhere good.

Australian author Rebecca James uses words like a painter, creating the story with small, patient brush strokes. She builds suspense by dropping hints about each revelation of Katherine’s past and Alice’s dark nature before unveiling it. Katherine’s deep longing for connection and short-lived moments of happiness are moving, making the the doomed conclusion all the more powerful. The final shocking twist seems inevitable only in retrospect. Beautiful Malice is an engrossing debut tale of psychological suspense that ponders what our choices say about us and the need to forgive ourselves for our own sins.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:29:40

After suffering a terrible tragedy, Katie Boydell tries to escape her past by moving in with her aunt, attending a new high school, and changing her name to Katherine Patterson. A quiet, self-effacing loner who harbors a dreadful secret, Katherine lets her guard down enough to make friends with Alice Parrie, who’s everything Katherine isn’t—brash, uninhibited, and hedonistic. However, Alice turns out to have more to her than meets the eye, and Katherine’s friendship with her simply leads to more trouble. Since the book starts with Alice’s funeral and Katherine’s hateful thoughts about the deceased, it’s clear up front that their relationship won’t lead anywhere good.

Australian author Rebecca James uses words like a painter, creating the story with small, patient brush strokes. She builds suspense by dropping hints about each revelation of Katherine’s past and Alice’s dark nature before unveiling it. Katherine’s deep longing for connection and short-lived moments of happiness are moving, making the the doomed conclusion all the more powerful. The final shocking twist seems inevitable only in retrospect. Beautiful Malice is an engrossing debut tale of psychological suspense that ponders what our choices say about us and the need to forgive ourselves for our own sins.

Snowbound
Leslie Doran

When Rachael Innis disappears on a stormy night somewhere along an isolated, deserted highway in Arizona, her husband Will and daughter Devlin are faced with the anguish of not knowing her fate. And if Will’s loss and uncertainty aren’t enough to drive him to desperation, the fact that his daughter is weak and possibly dying with cystic fibrosis, and that the authorities have begun to suspect him of Rachael’s apparent murder, is. So, in the middle of the night, Will and Devlin disappear as well.

Five years later in southwestern Colorado FBI agent Kalyn Sharp shows up on Will and Devlin’s doorstep. Surprisingly, she doesn’t want to arrest Will, but rather to enlist his help. It seems that Rachael is not the only one to disappear under exactly the same circumstances. Their quest for answers leads them into the wilds of Alaska where, if the weather or the wolves don’t get you, something even worse just might.

Crouch has fashioned a premise that plays on readers’ most primal fears. The author throws together a very fit and prepared professional FBI agent with a geeky web designer and a sickly 16-year-old, then pits them against a group of cold-blooded villains in the middle of nowhere with Ma Nature and a blizzard to muddy the outcome. Snowbound is a gripping read for thriller fans.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:33:26

crouch_snowboundGet snowbound this summer with a chilling thriller set in Alaska.

Never Wave Goodbye
Debbi Mack

Four couples are thrown together by a parent’s worst nightmare when their children are kidnapped by a fake camp counselor and held for ransom. Lena Trainor, the protagonist, blames herself for overlooking clues that the so-called counselor was a phony, and blames her husband, David, for not being there to send their daughter Sarah off to her first overnight camp. Lena’s anguish and helplessness are expressed in vivid detail and her family’s dynamics, along with the other families’ agendas, propel the narrative—the results of which end up pitting families against one another and challenging the police investigators.

Magee also tells the story alternately from the kidnappers’ and children’s points of view, with Sarah Trainor stepping up and assuming a quasi-leadership role among the kids. The author’s habit of switching points of view within a scene creates a distancing effect at times, but the scene-to-scene perspective flipping effectively builds suspense. And though the resolution strains credulity a bit, Magee writes with the kind of emotional, dramatic punch that makes readers care enough about Sarah and her parents to stick with Never Wave Goodbye up to its finish.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:40:40

Four couples are thrown together by a parent’s worst nightmare when their children are kidnapped by a fake camp counselor and held for ransom. Lena Trainor, the protagonist, blames herself for overlooking clues that the so-called counselor was a phony, and blames her husband, David, for not being there to send their daughter Sarah off to her first overnight camp. Lena’s anguish and helplessness are expressed in vivid detail and her family’s dynamics, along with the other families’ agendas, propel the narrative—the results of which end up pitting families against one another and challenging the police investigators.

Magee also tells the story alternately from the kidnappers’ and children’s points of view, with Sarah Trainor stepping up and assuming a quasi-leadership role among the kids. The author’s habit of switching points of view within a scene creates a distancing effect at times, but the scene-to-scene perspective flipping effectively builds suspense. And though the resolution strains credulity a bit, Magee writes with the kind of emotional, dramatic punch that makes readers care enough about Sarah and her parents to stick with Never Wave Goodbye up to its finish.

Betrayers
Kevin Burton Smith

Since he first appeared in the ’70s, fedora fetishists have never been quite sure what to make of Nameless, Pronzini’s series gumshoe. Despite his obvious and deliberate roots in the lone wolf private dicks of ’30s and ’40s pulps, Nameless has always had a decidedly modern personal life. But even more disconcerting for traditionalists is that Nameless has continued to evolve. Whatever problems Pronzini originally threw at him—cancer scares, woman problems, and rogue partners—Nameless always faced them down alone. But that was then—this is now.

These days, Nameless has a name (Bill), a wife (Kerry), a daughter (Emily), and partners he can count on (Tamara and Jake). Hell, he’s even got a cat (Shameless)! He isn’t even necessarily the star of his own series anymore. Domestic crises and the (generally thematically linked) adventures of his partners have been getting equal page time for several years now. Fortunately for less hidebound readers, Nameless is still the endearingly cranky regular Joe he’s always been, combining the quiet professionalism of Hammett’s Continental Op and the gentle compassion of Thomas B. Dewey’s Mac.

In the 34th installment in the long-running series, we’re presented with three thematically linked subplots, plus a related domestic crisis in the Nameless household. Seems a vial of cocaine has been discovered in young Emily’s bedroom. Meanwhile, back at the office, Bill’s trying to figure out who’s behind the ongoing harassment of Mrs. Abbott, an elderly woman who lives alone. Jake (who has a few personal problems of his own) is also hot on the trail of a bail jumper with decidedly unpleasant relatives, and Tamara, the agency’s mercurial office manager, has taken it upon herself to go after a deceitful ex-lover. Betrayal, of course, is the theme that binds all these disparate threads together, and once again, Pronzini keeps readers off-balance, deftly weaving from plot to plot, and tying things up in the kind of emotionally satisfying conclusion the old pulps rarely featured.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:44:39

Since he first appeared in the ’70s, fedora fetishists have never been quite sure what to make of Nameless, Pronzini’s series gumshoe. Despite his obvious and deliberate roots in the lone wolf private dicks of ’30s and ’40s pulps, Nameless has always had a decidedly modern personal life. But even more disconcerting for traditionalists is that Nameless has continued to evolve. Whatever problems Pronzini originally threw at him—cancer scares, woman problems, and rogue partners—Nameless always faced them down alone. But that was then—this is now.

These days, Nameless has a name (Bill), a wife (Kerry), a daughter (Emily), and partners he can count on (Tamara and Jake). Hell, he’s even got a cat (Shameless)! He isn’t even necessarily the star of his own series anymore. Domestic crises and the (generally thematically linked) adventures of his partners have been getting equal page time for several years now. Fortunately for less hidebound readers, Nameless is still the endearingly cranky regular Joe he’s always been, combining the quiet professionalism of Hammett’s Continental Op and the gentle compassion of Thomas B. Dewey’s Mac.

In the 34th installment in the long-running series, we’re presented with three thematically linked subplots, plus a related domestic crisis in the Nameless household. Seems a vial of cocaine has been discovered in young Emily’s bedroom. Meanwhile, back at the office, Bill’s trying to figure out who’s behind the ongoing harassment of Mrs. Abbott, an elderly woman who lives alone. Jake (who has a few personal problems of his own) is also hot on the trail of a bail jumper with decidedly unpleasant relatives, and Tamara, the agency’s mercurial office manager, has taken it upon herself to go after a deceitful ex-lover. Betrayal, of course, is the theme that binds all these disparate threads together, and once again, Pronzini keeps readers off-balance, deftly weaving from plot to plot, and tying things up in the kind of emotionally satisfying conclusion the old pulps rarely featured.

Cut, Paste, Kill
Verna Suit

The opening scene of Cut, Paste, Kill will hook you: A woman scatters numbered ping pong balls and waits to see which one her cats will catch first, thus identifying her next murder victim. This cavalier attitude towards life and death sets the stage for the fourth installment in an entertaining series featuring Hollywood homicide detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs. Lomax and Biggs take investigating murders seriously, but their approach to life in general is more California lite.

The murderer they are after in Cut, Paste, Kill targets people who have done terrible things but have escaped justice. She kills her victims by stabbing them with scissors, then leaves a scrapbook behind that tells their story. Just when Lomax and Biggs think they have solved the case and put the vigilante scrapbooker safely behind bars, another scissors-stabbed body turns up, complete with scrapbooked documentation. Who, then, is the real killer?

Cut, Paste, Kill is a light and breezy police procedural that readers will fly through in one sitting. Mike and Terry are likeable and funny with unconventional families who, despite their eccentricities, are refreshingly stable. The Hollywood setting, where everyone is in the movie business or wants to be, provides its own entertaining side story when Mike’s father gets a Big Idea for a movie and talks Terry into writing the script. This fast, fun, buddy-cop book has surprising twists and wisecracking humor, but also a fascinating psychological study, and touching family scenes with emotional depth. An over-the-top cinematic climax ices the cake. Fans of the Lomax and Biggs mysteries will be happy to learn that a TV series is said to be in the works.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:48:20

The opening scene of Cut, Paste, Kill will hook you: A woman scatters numbered ping pong balls and waits to see which one her cats will catch first, thus identifying her next murder victim. This cavalier attitude towards life and death sets the stage for the fourth installment in an entertaining series featuring Hollywood homicide detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs. Lomax and Biggs take investigating murders seriously, but their approach to life in general is more California lite.

The murderer they are after in Cut, Paste, Kill targets people who have done terrible things but have escaped justice. She kills her victims by stabbing them with scissors, then leaves a scrapbook behind that tells their story. Just when Lomax and Biggs think they have solved the case and put the vigilante scrapbooker safely behind bars, another scissors-stabbed body turns up, complete with scrapbooked documentation. Who, then, is the real killer?

Cut, Paste, Kill is a light and breezy police procedural that readers will fly through in one sitting. Mike and Terry are likeable and funny with unconventional families who, despite their eccentricities, are refreshingly stable. The Hollywood setting, where everyone is in the movie business or wants to be, provides its own entertaining side story when Mike’s father gets a Big Idea for a movie and talks Terry into writing the script. This fast, fun, buddy-cop book has surprising twists and wisecracking humor, but also a fascinating psychological study, and touching family scenes with emotional depth. An over-the-top cinematic climax ices the cake. Fans of the Lomax and Biggs mysteries will be happy to learn that a TV series is said to be in the works.

The Magician’s Accomplice
Verna Suit

Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovakian police returns for a third outing in this crime series set in Europe. Jana is finally on the verge of happiness. She and prosecutor Peter Saris are about to announce their engagement when Peter is killed by a bomb. That same morning, a student is assassinated after sneaking into a hotel buffet. The coincidence of their timing leads Jana to suspect the events are somehow related, but she is barred from either case despite being the department’s top investigator.

Instead, she is sent to The Hague as Slovakia’s representative in the international police force, Europol. She soon realizes her real assignment there is to use Europol’s cross-border authority to investigate an international conspiracy that reaches high into governments, and which may be related to Peter’s death. Jana doesn’t know whom she can trust and soon becomes a target herself.

Along the way, Jana joins forces with a former magician known as “The Professor” who is the uncle of the assassinated student. Together they race around Europe one step ahead of a team of assassins. Under the Professor’s tutelage, Jana learns to use magician’s standbys of diversion and misdirection to evade their pursuers.

The Magician’s Accomplice is steeped in the remnants of communist-era paranoia, but isn’t nearly as gloomy as the series opener, Siren of the Waters. Instead it’s darkly comedic. Genelin is a master at capturing characters in a few pointed words. His descriptive powers make readers feel they are there with Jana and the professor prowling through Amsterdam, Prague, and Bratislava. The Magician’s Accomplice is an exotic, suspenseful, book-long chase scene that’s hard to put down.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:52:15

Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovakian police returns for a third outing in this crime series set in Europe. Jana is finally on the verge of happiness. She and prosecutor Peter Saris are about to announce their engagement when Peter is killed by a bomb. That same morning, a student is assassinated after sneaking into a hotel buffet. The coincidence of their timing leads Jana to suspect the events are somehow related, but she is barred from either case despite being the department’s top investigator.

Instead, she is sent to The Hague as Slovakia’s representative in the international police force, Europol. She soon realizes her real assignment there is to use Europol’s cross-border authority to investigate an international conspiracy that reaches high into governments, and which may be related to Peter’s death. Jana doesn’t know whom she can trust and soon becomes a target herself.

Along the way, Jana joins forces with a former magician known as “The Professor” who is the uncle of the assassinated student. Together they race around Europe one step ahead of a team of assassins. Under the Professor’s tutelage, Jana learns to use magician’s standbys of diversion and misdirection to evade their pursuers.

The Magician’s Accomplice is steeped in the remnants of communist-era paranoia, but isn’t nearly as gloomy as the series opener, Siren of the Waters. Instead it’s darkly comedic. Genelin is a master at capturing characters in a few pointed words. His descriptive powers make readers feel they are there with Jana and the professor prowling through Amsterdam, Prague, and Bratislava. The Magician’s Accomplice is an exotic, suspenseful, book-long chase scene that’s hard to put down.

Whiplash
Lynne F. Maxwell

Catherine Coulter is a veteran writer of thrillers, and Whiplash is the 12th entry in her series featuring FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, generally referred to by their last names. Married to each other, agents (and parents) Savich and Sherlock, are nonetheless able to maintain a balance between challenging jobs together as a professional duo and a satisfying home life—when they are home between jobs, that is. As the length of Coulter’s series suggests, these agents are in high demand and fortunately for readers, their exploits are complex and intricately plotted, providing first-rate entertainment for thriller fans. In Whiplash Savich and Sherlock land a complicated case involving corporate espionage and a Big Pharma company’s manipulation of the supply of a crucial chemo drug in order to generate inflated profits. Even before Savich and Sherlock arrive on the scene, a PI is hired to investigate the drug company shenanigans, but matters spin out of control with unexpected murders of drug company higher-ups.

Coulter’s work is best known for its frenetic action and suspense, and Whiplash is one of her best. This is ideal for summer beach reading, but it’s so engrossing readers will need to make a conscious effort to avert sunburn!

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:55:15

Catherine Coulter is a veteran writer of thrillers, and Whiplash is the 12th entry in her series featuring FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, generally referred to by their last names. Married to each other, agents (and parents) Savich and Sherlock, are nonetheless able to maintain a balance between challenging jobs together as a professional duo and a satisfying home life—when they are home between jobs, that is. As the length of Coulter’s series suggests, these agents are in high demand and fortunately for readers, their exploits are complex and intricately plotted, providing first-rate entertainment for thriller fans. In Whiplash Savich and Sherlock land a complicated case involving corporate espionage and a Big Pharma company’s manipulation of the supply of a crucial chemo drug in order to generate inflated profits. Even before Savich and Sherlock arrive on the scene, a PI is hired to investigate the drug company shenanigans, but matters spin out of control with unexpected murders of drug company higher-ups.

Coulter’s work is best known for its frenetic action and suspense, and Whiplash is one of her best. This is ideal for summer beach reading, but it’s so engrossing readers will need to make a conscious effort to avert sunburn!

Strong Justice
Betty Webb

The Texas Rangers enjoy a legendary past, and author Jon Land does nothing to dispel the myths. Superheroes? His Texas Rangers lack only capes in order to be admitted into the X-Men’s august company. Violence? Don’t ever pull a gun on a Ranger, because you’ll either wind up dead or maimed for life—and that’s before the Ranger pulls his own gun. Manly silences? Yep, even when the Ranger is a woman, especially when she’s Caitlin Strong, granddaughter of a particularly famed Texas Ranger. When Caitlin does battle with Mexican drug lords, serial killers, human traffickers, and no-better-than-they-oughta-be Texas oil billionaires, it’s like watching John Wayne single-handedly clean up a corrupt border town. This is not to say that Caitlin doesn’t have her softer side. Her warm heart emerges when she’s in the vicinity of ex-con Cort Wesley Masters and his two young sons. In between over-the-top gunfights and beat-downs, Caitlin helps Cort keep his boys out of the hands of the state’s foster care system (even though she knows he’s almost as violent as she is). In this knock-down, drag-out action thriller, standard police procedure seldom appears as Caitlin wields her cartoonish violence for the Greater Good of Texas. While Strong Justice will entertain fans of brazen mythic heroes, readers who prefer realism might be disappointed.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 15:57:54

The Texas Rangers enjoy a legendary past, and author Jon Land does nothing to dispel the myths. Superheroes? His Texas Rangers lack only capes in order to be admitted into the X-Men’s august company. Violence? Don’t ever pull a gun on a Ranger, because you’ll either wind up dead or maimed for life—and that’s before the Ranger pulls his own gun. Manly silences? Yep, even when the Ranger is a woman, especially when she’s Caitlin Strong, granddaughter of a particularly famed Texas Ranger. When Caitlin does battle with Mexican drug lords, serial killers, human traffickers, and no-better-than-they-oughta-be Texas oil billionaires, it’s like watching John Wayne single-handedly clean up a corrupt border town. This is not to say that Caitlin doesn’t have her softer side. Her warm heart emerges when she’s in the vicinity of ex-con Cort Wesley Masters and his two young sons. In between over-the-top gunfights and beat-downs, Caitlin helps Cort keep his boys out of the hands of the state’s foster care system (even though she knows he’s almost as violent as she is). In this knock-down, drag-out action thriller, standard police procedure seldom appears as Caitlin wields her cartoonish violence for the Greater Good of Texas. While Strong Justice will entertain fans of brazen mythic heroes, readers who prefer realism might be disappointed.

Black Moonlight
Dori Cocuz

It’s 1935 and war is brewing in Europe, but mystery writer Marjorie McClelland and her new husband Creighton Ashcroft simply want to enjoy a quiet honeymoon on a secluded island near Bermuda. Instead they find Creighton’s estranged family, including his overbearing father, already in residence at the family estate. The next day the old man is dead and Creighton is suspect number one. When he’s whisked off to jail, it’s up to Marjorie to wade through a sea of secrets to determine who done it. The in-laws? Ashcroft Senior’s secretary? A local mother and son duo who manage the estate?

Black Moonlight, the third in a series by Amy Patricia Meade, is a classic whodunit in the truest sense and it had me hooked by page 20. Marjorie is a compelling character, whom I wanted to get to know better immediately. Likable and ballsy at a time when women were just starting to stretch their traditional boundaries, Marjorie is easy to root for.

Meade hits a snag with the ending, which was a little far-fetched and required a second reading to understand some of the logistics. However, the book is a fun read that keeps the reader accompanying Marjorie trying to figure out whodunit before she does. Readers of traditional mysteries will find much to enjoy in Black Moonlight.

Teri Duerr
2010-06-22 16:00:44

It’s 1935 and war is brewing in Europe, but mystery writer Marjorie McClelland and her new husband Creighton Ashcroft simply want to enjoy a quiet honeymoon on a secluded island near Bermuda. Instead they find Creighton’s estranged family, including his overbearing father, already in residence at the family estate. The next day the old man is dead and Creighton is suspect number one. When he’s whisked off to jail, it’s up to Marjorie to wade through a sea of secrets to determine who done it. The in-laws? Ashcroft Senior’s secretary? A local mother and son duo who manage the estate?

Black Moonlight, the third in a series by Amy Patricia Meade, is a classic whodunit in the truest sense and it had me hooked by page 20. Marjorie is a compelling character, whom I wanted to get to know better immediately. Likable and ballsy at a time when women were just starting to stretch their traditional boundaries, Marjorie is easy to root for.

Meade hits a snag with the ending, which was a little far-fetched and required a second reading to understand some of the logistics. However, the book is a fun read that keeps the reader accompanying Marjorie trying to figure out whodunit before she does. Readers of traditional mysteries will find much to enjoy in Black Moonlight.