At the Scene, Winter Issue #118
Kate Stine

118cover_250Hi everyone!

“Characters Welcome,” the slogan of the USA Network, might also be the motto of the three authors profiled in this issue.

Robert Crais started out in the late 1980s with Elvis Cole, a quirky, funny wiseguy detective with obvious roots in earlier PI fiction. Over the years, though, Cole has developed into his own man and been joined by an intriguingly varied cast of friends and colleagues. Kevin Burton Smith dubs this colorful alternate universe “ElvisWorld” and it’s a fine place to visit.

Jill Paton Walsh didn’t invent Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, of course—that was the genius of Dorothy L. Sayers. But Walsh, a well-respected novelist in her own right, has created a richly imagined world in which the two continue to develop both individually and as a couple. While The Attenbury Emeralds has its roots in Lord Peter’s very first case soon after WWI, it’s the doings of the Wimsey family and friends in 1952 that is the real draw.

The entire premise of Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series relies on the power of character, not only to entertain but also to inspire. Old Red Amlingmeyer, a 20-something, dirt-poor cowpoke in the Old West is so enraptured by Sherlock Holmes that he eventually transforms himself into an entirely credible detective. Luckily for us, Old Red’s younger brother, Big Red, decides to emulate Dr. Watson and chronicle the rootin’ tootin’ results.

Also in this issue, Art Taylor takes us to the movies in “Deadline! Journalists in Crime Films.” J. Kingston Pierce presents a gallery of gorgeous contemporary book covers, and Lawrence Block remembers his friend Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain). Nate Pedersen finishes off his series on collecting with a guide to appraisals, auctions, and selling a collection.

We’re On the Road this Year

Brian and I will be traveling a lot in 2011. In March, you can find us at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In May we’ll be at the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention in Bethesda, Maryland, where Mystery Scene will again be sponsoring the New Authors Breakfast. And in September, we hope to see many of you at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in St. Louis where Brian and I are Fan Guests of Honor. And who knows where else we’ll pop up?

Enter Our Contest

As I write this, Mystery Scene has about 900 followers on Twitter. The day we reach 1,000 followers, every one of them will be entered to win a free year of Mystery Scene. We’ll be picking five winners so be sure to follow us at @MysteryScene.

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

Teri Duerr
2011-03-04 16:14:15

Read Kate's Winter #118 "At the Scene."

Evaluating Sleuthfest
Oline Cogdill
altBy now, the authors have gone home, even if they stayed for a Florida vacation and the posters have been stored for next year. And, just to make it official, the hotel has been turned over to another group.

But last weekend, the Hilton in Deerfield Beach, Fla., was the scene of the crime of Sleuthfest, the annual conference sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter.
Unlike other conferences such as Bouchercon, Malice and Left Coast Crime that are fan-based, Sleuthfest is geared to writers, published and unpublished, and is more of an educational conference.
Think of it like a crash course in writing. Some of the highlights of Sleuthfest 2011 include:

alt* Meg Gardiner (Liar’s Lullaby) and Dennis Lehane (Moonlight Mile) were the two guests of honor and each delivered a slam-dunk of a luncheon speech.
Gardiner talked about procrastination and how writers want to do anything BUT write. But write they must.
Lehane gave his top 10 tips for writers, which he jokingly admitted that he borrowed from many sources. Writing, Lehane said, is a seduction. Action is not an event but a character in pursuit of a goal. Story is the journey; plot is merely the car that takes you there.
(Lehane was the subject of Mystery Scene’s Holiday issue 2010, No. 117)
Lehane and Neil Nyren, publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, participated in the annual Sunday interview that I conduct. Both gave the audience
an insider’s view of publishing and their careers.
* Les Standiford and Joe Matthews gave an emotional, perspective view of their altnonfiction Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America. The two have been on myriad talk shows this past week talking about their nonfiction book that centers on the Adam Walsh case. During their discussion, it was obvious that they were not just talking about a case but were emotionally involved in finding some sort of ending to this horrific murder.

* Panels featured a mix of authors such as the session on violence that included Joel Goldman who has little violence in his novel and was able to offer a different
perspective.
* Friends. A highlight of any conference is the chance to make new friends and reconnect with others you’ve made through the years. I reconnected with four ladies I see each year, one of whom I last saw at Bouchercon.
Next year’s Sleuthfest will be about the same time. At least one guest speaker already has been signed – Jeffery Deaver.
Xav ID 577
2011-03-13 10:15:16
altBy now, the authors have gone home, even if they stayed for a Florida vacation and the posters have been stored for next year. And, just to make it official, the hotel has been turned over to another group.

But last weekend, the Hilton in Deerfield Beach, Fla., was the scene of the crime of Sleuthfest, the annual conference sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter.
Unlike other conferences such as Bouchercon, Malice and Left Coast Crime that are fan-based, Sleuthfest is geared to writers, published and unpublished, and is more of an educational conference.
Think of it like a crash course in writing. Some of the highlights of Sleuthfest 2011 include:

alt* Meg Gardiner (Liar’s Lullaby) and Dennis Lehane (Moonlight Mile) were the two guests of honor and each delivered a slam-dunk of a luncheon speech.
Gardiner talked about procrastination and how writers want to do anything BUT write. But write they must.
Lehane gave his top 10 tips for writers, which he jokingly admitted that he borrowed from many sources. Writing, Lehane said, is a seduction. Action is not an event but a character in pursuit of a goal. Story is the journey; plot is merely the car that takes you there.
(Lehane was the subject of Mystery Scene’s Holiday issue 2010, No. 117)
Lehane and Neil Nyren, publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, participated in the annual Sunday interview that I conduct. Both gave the audience
an insider’s view of publishing and their careers.
* Les Standiford and Joe Matthews gave an emotional, perspective view of their altnonfiction Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America. The two have been on myriad talk shows this past week talking about their nonfiction book that centers on the Adam Walsh case. During their discussion, it was obvious that they were not just talking about a case but were emotionally involved in finding some sort of ending to this horrific murder.

* Panels featured a mix of authors such as the session on violence that included Joel Goldman who has little violence in his novel and was able to offer a different
perspective.
* Friends. A highlight of any conference is the chance to make new friends and reconnect with others you’ve made through the years. I reconnected with four ladies I see each year, one of whom I last saw at Bouchercon.
Next year’s Sleuthfest will be about the same time. At least one guest speaker already has been signed – Jeffery Deaver.
Dennis, Tom and Stuart
Oline Cogdill
titleI’ve always said that mystery writers are among the most generous.
During a recent speech, Dennis Lehane took the time to mention two authors whose work he admired:

Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast

I so agree. Franklin’s novel has been nominated this year for both an Edgar and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Neville’s novel won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize last year; Collusion, his follow up to The Ghosts of Belfast, is nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize this year.

The Edgars will be awarded April 28 during the 65th Gala Banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded April 29, 2011, in a ceremony at the Los Angeles Times building.
Xav ID 577
2011-04-20 10:24:17
titleI’ve always said that mystery writers are among the most generous.
During a recent speech, Dennis Lehane took the time to mention two authors whose work he admired:

Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast

I so agree. Franklin’s novel has been nominated this year for both an Edgar and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Neville’s novel won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize last year; Collusion, his follow up to The Ghosts of Belfast, is nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize this year.

The Edgars will be awarded April 28 during the 65th Gala Banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded April 29, 2011, in a ceremony at the Los Angeles Times building.
Erin Brockovich: Activist to Novelist
Oline Cogdill
title
Think of Erin Brockovich and the first image that most people have is Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning performance in the 2000 movie.

In the film Erin Brockovich, Roberts showed how her character grew into an environmental activist. Although she lacked a formal law school education, Brockovich’s confidence and her sense of right and wrong set her on a new path in life.

Brockovich now can add fiction author to her resume. She’s teamed up with novelist C.J. Lyons to produce her first novel Rock Bottom from Vanguard Press.

Rock Bottom continues Brockovich’s good fight as the plot revolves around industrial pollution.

Rock Bottom revolves around Angela Joy Palladino, who was dubbed “The People’s Champion” for her work as an environmental activist. She returns to her hometown to work for a lawyer who is fighting to stop mountain-top removal mining. Of course, that job doesn’t go too smoothly.
altThis is the first novel from Brockovich and most likely will not be her last, judging from the reviews. (Mystery Scene reviewer Verna Suit looks at Rock Bottom in the latest issue, No. 118.)
Lyons has won the Golden Gateway and Daphne du Maurier awards and has been a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart.
Although this is Brockovich’s first foray into fiction, she also has written Take It From Me: Life's a Struggle But You Can Win. That nonfiction book was published in October 2001, and was on the New York Times Business Bestseller's List.
Xav ID 577
2011-03-16 10:24:13
title
Think of Erin Brockovich and the first image that most people have is Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning performance in the 2000 movie.

In the film Erin Brockovich, Roberts showed how her character grew into an environmental activist. Although she lacked a formal law school education, Brockovich’s confidence and her sense of right and wrong set her on a new path in life.

Brockovich now can add fiction author to her resume. She’s teamed up with novelist C.J. Lyons to produce her first novel Rock Bottom from Vanguard Press.

Rock Bottom continues Brockovich’s good fight as the plot revolves around industrial pollution.

Rock Bottom revolves around Angela Joy Palladino, who was dubbed “The People’s Champion” for her work as an environmental activist. She returns to her hometown to work for a lawyer who is fighting to stop mountain-top removal mining. Of course, that job doesn’t go too smoothly.
altThis is the first novel from Brockovich and most likely will not be her last, judging from the reviews. (Mystery Scene reviewer Verna Suit looks at Rock Bottom in the latest issue, No. 118.)
Lyons has won the Golden Gateway and Daphne du Maurier awards and has been a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart.
Although this is Brockovich’s first foray into fiction, she also has written Take It From Me: Life's a Struggle But You Can Win. That nonfiction book was published in October 2001, and was on the New York Times Business Bestseller's List.
Remember Michael Nava?
Oline Cogdill
titleI’ve been on a kick lately to muck out my office and get rid of ..oh…a couple of thousand books or so.

It has to be done.
While it's easy to part with some books, others I have to put aside because I remember what joy the authors brought me and wonder what ever happened to them.
For me, and I think most mystery fiction readers, the authors' characters become friends we invite into our home and whose company we enjoy. And wouldn't it be nice if we could connect with those characters again on Facebook?
In each issue of Mystery Scene, Brian Skupin writes the column “What’s Happening With . . .” In this column, Brian, who is one of Mystery Scene’s co-publishers, writes about an author we haven't heard from in a while.

The purging of my office and Brian’s column has had me also going down my own memory lane.

One author I wondered about was Michael Nava.
Nava published seven award-winning novels about Henry Rios, a gay Latino criminal defense lawyer. His first The Little Death was published in 1986 and Rag and Bone, his last, came out in 2000. Nava’s novels easily crossed over to a wide readership because of his skill at creating characters and plots.
Nava’s novels earned six Lambda Literary Awards.
Nava also is a lawyer who has served as a judge for years in California.

During 2010, he ran for San Francisco Superior Court, Seat 15. While he was the top recipient of votes in the June primary, he did not receive a majority of the votes. In a run-off with the incumbent judge, Nava lost by just under 12,000 votes.
Nava, who is of Mexican descent, is rumored to be working on an historical novel set around the time of the Mexican Revolution in Mexico and Arizona.
Xav ID 577
2011-07-13 10:21:26
titleI’ve been on a kick lately to muck out my office and get rid of ..oh…a couple of thousand books or so.

It has to be done.
While it's easy to part with some books, others I have to put aside because I remember what joy the authors brought me and wonder what ever happened to them.
For me, and I think most mystery fiction readers, the authors' characters become friends we invite into our home and whose company we enjoy. And wouldn't it be nice if we could connect with those characters again on Facebook?
In each issue of Mystery Scene, Brian Skupin writes the column “What’s Happening With . . .” In this column, Brian, who is one of Mystery Scene’s co-publishers, writes about an author we haven't heard from in a while.

The purging of my office and Brian’s column has had me also going down my own memory lane.

One author I wondered about was Michael Nava.
Nava published seven award-winning novels about Henry Rios, a gay Latino criminal defense lawyer. His first The Little Death was published in 1986 and Rag and Bone, his last, came out in 2000. Nava’s novels easily crossed over to a wide readership because of his skill at creating characters and plots.
Nava’s novels earned six Lambda Literary Awards.
Nava also is a lawyer who has served as a judge for years in California.

During 2010, he ran for San Francisco Superior Court, Seat 15. While he was the top recipient of votes in the June primary, he did not receive a majority of the votes. In a run-off with the incumbent judge, Nava lost by just under 12,000 votes.
Nava, who is of Mexican descent, is rumored to be working on an historical novel set around the time of the Mexican Revolution in Mexico and Arizona.
Save the Libraries
Oline Cogdill
We all know that libraries – along with the arts and social services – are in trouble. City and county budgets are being slashed around the country.
Desperate times require action and some authors are taking matters into their own hands with the Save the Libraries event.
Honorary chair Karin Slaughter (Broken) along with Mary Kay Andrews (Hissy Fit) and Kathryn Stockett (The Help) are teaming up with businesses and donors to offer an array of items to be auctioned off. All proceeds will go directly to the DeKalb County Public Library Foundation in Georgia.
For more information, visit http://savethelibraries.com/.
A cross-section of authors is offering up for bidding character names along with signed books. You can have your name – or even your pet’s name – in an upcoming novel by, among others, Lee Child, Lisa Unger, Mark Billingham, Alafair Burke, Mary Jane Clark and Mo Hayder. There is also a nice selection of signed books and the chance to get an advanced copy of your favorite author’s work before it is released. More items are being added.
You can also bid on a trip to New York City to have lunch with an editor at Bantam and a literary agent; a chance to have Kate Elton, publisher and editorial director at Random House U.K ., read your manuscript and offer an editorial letter; an evaluation of your work by a professional screenwriter. You can even bid on having lunch with Karin Slaughter in Amsterdam – you have to get there on your own but she promises to pick up the lunch tab.
These items will be up for auction through March 12.
The website is at www.savethelibraries.com and the Facebook page is at
www.facebook.com/savethelibraries.
Join these authors, open up your wallets, and help save the libraries. Even if all you can afford is a T-shirt, every dollar counts.
Xav ID 577
2011-03-09 00:58:36
We all know that libraries – along with the arts and social services – are in trouble. City and county budgets are being slashed around the country.
Desperate times require action and some authors are taking matters into their own hands with the Save the Libraries event.
Honorary chair Karin Slaughter (Broken) along with Mary Kay Andrews (Hissy Fit) and Kathryn Stockett (The Help) are teaming up with businesses and donors to offer an array of items to be auctioned off. All proceeds will go directly to the DeKalb County Public Library Foundation in Georgia.
For more information, visit http://savethelibraries.com/.
A cross-section of authors is offering up for bidding character names along with signed books. You can have your name – or even your pet’s name – in an upcoming novel by, among others, Lee Child, Lisa Unger, Mark Billingham, Alafair Burke, Mary Jane Clark and Mo Hayder. There is also a nice selection of signed books and the chance to get an advanced copy of your favorite author’s work before it is released. More items are being added.
You can also bid on a trip to New York City to have lunch with an editor at Bantam and a literary agent; a chance to have Kate Elton, publisher and editorial director at Random House U.K ., read your manuscript and offer an editorial letter; an evaluation of your work by a professional screenwriter. You can even bid on having lunch with Karin Slaughter in Amsterdam – you have to get there on your own but she promises to pick up the lunch tab.
These items will be up for auction through March 12.
The website is at www.savethelibraries.com and the Facebook page is at
www.facebook.com/savethelibraries.
Join these authors, open up your wallets, and help save the libraries. Even if all you can afford is a T-shirt, every dollar counts.
The Hollywood Op
Betty Webb

We travel back to the glory days of the movies in Terence Faherty’s Hollywood Op: Private Eye Scott Elliott in Tinseltown, a collection of short stories, one of which—“The Second Coming”—won a Shamus Award. In a long forward that shouldn’t be skipped, Faherty explains that these stories explore the question, “How do you live the rest of your life knowing that you’ve already done your best day’s work?” This existential crisis was best illustrated, he writes, in the period after World War II, when battle-weary heroes were welcomed home to brass band parades, only to have the celebrations eventually fade away.

Faherty warms up to his subject with “Sleep Big,”set in late ’30s, when Elliott had yet to go to war. This tongue-in-cheek-titled riff on Raymond Chandler is Faherty’s answer to another question: who killed the chauffeur in Chandler’s seminal The Big Sleep? During Elliott’s investigation, we meet Bob Hope, several seductive women, and a self-described rare book dealer who is really a hard core pornographer. In “Nobody’s Ring,” Faherty spins a yarn around a real occurrence. The author tells us he’d once attended a party where he found an expensive ring in the powder room, and no one ever claimed it. In the fiction re-telling, Elliott is working for Hollywood Security and doing investigative work for Howard Hughes. Like the author, Elliott finds a huge diamond ring; unlike in real life, the detective also finds a corpse. As in the best of noirs, there’s a doomed note to his worldview, but there’s still plenty of wit to be found in these stories, such as Faherty’s description of a femme fatale’s as having eyelashes “longer than a first mortgage.” Hollywood Op is a reverent, nostalgic look back at Tinseltown’s heyday, a time when all leading men were ruggedly handsome, all starlets had the faces of angels, and no one was a hundred percent honest—except, of course, for the private detective they so foolishly invited into their lives.

faherty_dancerinthedarkNOTE TO READERS
In April 2011, Five Star will release the first full-length Scott Elliott novel since Raise the Devil (2000). Dance in the Dark is set in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. In it, Elliott tangles with rock musicians, flower children, and motorcycle gangs while awaiting word of a son missing in action.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-10 00:11:24

::cck::3112

A Suspense Star Is Born: Tana French
Cheryl Solimini

french_tana_cr_Kyran_OBrien

This Irish author has developed a St. Patrick's Day Parade worth of fans in the US. We first talked to her in 2007 with her breakout debut, In the Woods published in the 2008 Fall Issue #106.


Photo: Kyran O'Brien

As a stage actor, trained at Trinity College in Dublin, Tana French knows that success starts small. “You work very hard for every gig and, when you get it, it’s really hard work,” she says. “You can work for ten years in theater and still be slowly, painstakingly building your reputation.”

Unlike most performers, French didn’t spend the downtime between shows waiting tables. Her temporary gigs were digs—volunteering at archaeological sites around Ireland. During one such day shoveling dirt, she noticed a tranquil forest nearby.

“My first thought was ‘Oh, that would be a great place for kids to play.’” French laughs, “Instead of stopping there, like a normal human being, I go on thinking: ‘What if three kids ran into that woods to play and only one came out and he had no memory of what had happened to the other two? What would that do to his mind? Then what if he became a detective and, 20 years later, another murder case brought him back to this wood?’ So I scribbled this idea down on a piece of paper. Then I went off to do the next show and forgot all about it.”

A year later, while moving to a new apartment, French came upon that paper, stained with jam and coffee, under a heap of phone bills. Just to find out what happened next in the story, she started to write—a page, a section, a chapter at a time when she could. “I’d written short stories when I was a teenager and the inevitable awful teenage poetry—blackmail material today,” she says. “But when I went into acting professionally, the writing went out the window. They use the same bit of your brain.”

Soon she found herself drawn more to the page than the stage. “Actors always want more work, and can’t afford to turn anything down, because you’ll never know ’til it’s too late if it’s going to be a surprise hit or your big break,” says French. “So the moment I got offered a part in a show and I said, ‘No, sorry, I can’t take that much time out,’ I realized, ‘Wow! Maybe I’m serious about this.’ That was the big, scary leap.”

Still she had no illusions that her first attempt at a mystery novel would launch her to literary stardom. “It was just an idea that bounced into my head one day and I didn’t expect anything to come of it,” French says. “Because of my acting background, I figured writing down one book probably is not going to get you very much of anywhere.”

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Instead, In the Woods (published in 2007 by Hodder Headline in Ireland and the UK, and Viking in the US) got her everywhere: With foreign rights sold to 22 territories, the novel made the New York Times and The Sunday Times bestseller lists, was nominated for Anthony, Macavity and Los Angeles Times book awards, and copped this year’s Edgar for Best First Novel. French was gobsmacked. “I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor.”

The luck of the Irish? No. For one thing, French’s pedigree is mixed: Irish, American, Russian, Italian. Born in Vermont, she’s named after a lake in Ethiopia where her mother lived. French grew up in Washington, DC, Italy, Ireland and Malawi, thanks to her father’s work with the World Bank, the UN’s World Food Program and other international agencies.

The other thing: French’s flair for the dramatic is no fluke. As in her first novel, her follow-up, The Likeness, released in July, starts with another attention-grabbing premise and builds up the same finely wrought psychological tension among fully realized characters. She does it not with gotcha revelations or rat-a-tat-tat prose, but with almost hypnotic visual descriptions and insightful inner and outer dialogue that draws the reader into the narrator’s insular world. Both focus on Dublin’s Murder Squad (though no such unit exits in the Irish Garda Síochána), so think poetic police procedural.

“I start with a premise, a narrator, a whole lot of coffee and just take it from there,” says French. In the Woods takes the viewpoint of Rob Ryan, the young detective with a shielded past, who tells us right away that he craves truth—and that he lies. Writing in the first person was French’s only option. “Just like in a stage show, my aim is to create a full three-dimensional character whom the audience will go away feeling they know intimately—but through the filter of that character’s deception, emotions, and agendas,” she says. “It never occurred to me to write third person because then you have to be detached. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

As Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, get closer to the killer of a 12-year-old girl in the same woods where this two childhood friends disappeared, his fractured memories surface and contort his thoughts and actions. Is there a link? Do readers get two mysteries solved for the price of one? Hold your breath ’til the last page…and if you’re not satisfied—“Okay, I’ve got a very specific narrator who has been damaged and admits his thinking is unreliable,” explains French. “I figured the only organic, unforced ending is this one. If I had wanted a different ending, I should have written a different book.”

french_likenessPicking up six months after the traumatic action in the first novel, The Likeness employs many of the same actors, but the storyteller this time is Cassie Maddox, who is pulled back into Undercover on an unusual assignment. French came up with the premise while procrastinating in wrapping up the first book.

“So there I was in the pub with a bunch of mates—in Dublin, every story begins that way—and we’re having a conversation about the theory that everybody has got his double out there somewhere,” she recalls. “All of us had been told at some time, ‘I saw somebody who looks exactly like you,’ but none of us had ever actually come face to face with the double. I started thinking how it might be a very strange challenge to your sense of identity to come face to face with someone who’s sharing the face that you always thought was yours alone. And what if you ran into your double when it was too late and she was already dead? Would you take this personally?”

Cassie does, especially as the murdered woman is going by the name Lexie Madison—a pseudonym Cassie herself used as an Undercover years before. So to see if she can root out the killer, she takes the place of “Lexie” in the isolated country house the victim has been sharing with four graduate students. “The preparation that Cassie does to re-create the fake Lexie, who is herself a fake, is very much a preparation that you do for a part when you’re playing a character,” notes French. “It’s things like: What angle does this person hold her head at?” She laughs. “This sounds bizarre but I really hadn’t caught on that she is doing the same thing that I’ve always done as an actor, until somebody pointed it out at one of my book readings.”

The conceit carries French—and her readers—in intriguing directions. “If you take the reflection of a reflection, then do you actually see yourself as you really appear to others?” she ask. “I was thinking a lot about the borderline between fake and real—especially with this victim, who has no fixed identity and has no fixed past to re-create. What counts as reality after a certain point? What counts as truth?”

These issues force Cassie to grapple with what she really wants in the next stage of her career and in her relationship with a fellow officer. Says French, “I like writing about the big turning point in someone’s life—the huge, sort of crucial crossroads where you know that no matter what you decide, your life is never going to be in the same place again.”

French’s books also show a modern Ireland that is itself at a crossroads. “The economic boom of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ changed things so hugely that the past and the present kind of collided going 100 miles an hour,” she explains. “Ireland was so desperately poor for so long and then, Bam! In the last decade there’s this massive influx of money and we have no healthy mechanisms for coping.”

french_inthewoodsIn In the Woods, local residents, archeologists, developers and politicians clash over a historical site slated to be churned up, then buried under a new motorway—mirroring the real-life conflict surrounding the Hill of Tara, home to Ireland’s ancestral kings. The Likeness highlights the hostility of townsfolk to the residents of an old manor, whose sale could bring prosperity to a dying village. French says there are strong arguments on both sides, with no easy answers. “How far do you go to try to preserve what has always been Irish heritage, Irish character, Irish values…and when do you say that there are benefits, too, to letting some of that go?”

For her third as-yet-untitled outing, French is letting Frank Mackey, Cassie’s boss in the Undercover unit, take center stage. “The whole heart of his job is lying, being dishonest, and deceiving people,” says French. “And Frank is ideally suited to it by personality—he really believes that the ends justify the means and he is prepared to do absolutely anything to himself or to anyone else in order to get where he is going. He’s very interesting—and fun to write!”

For now that’s enough to keep French off stage. “In a dream world, I would be balancing the two. But in acting you’re dependent on someone else to decide whether you’re allowed to work or not. Whereas, if I’ve got a pen and notebook, I can write whatever I want and there’s nobody who can stop me.”

With her strong characters and compelling plots, French may have found that long-running show.

Tana French Reading List

In the Woods (2007)
The Likeness (2008)
Faithful Place (2010)
Broken Harbor (2012)

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #106.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-10 17:48:33

french_tana_croppedA chat with Tana French, whose Faithful Place is nominated for a 2011 Best Novel Edgar Award.

Recent Articles
The Great Detective travels beyond Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories in these Titan Books reprints.
The Complaints, the third novel since Ian Rankin retired his popular Inspector John Rebus series, is just out. Read about the author, his work, and remembering John Rebus in this 2007 interview from Mystery Scene Issue #99.
Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce, two intelligent heroines for all ages.
Mystery Scene contributor Jeffrey Marks shares five favorite Scottish mysteries.
Brian Skupin
2011-03-13 18:34:00
The Great Detective travels beyond Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories in these Titan Books reprints.
The Complaints, the third novel since Ian Rankin retired his popular Inspector John Rebus series, is just out. Read about the author, his work, and remembering John Rebus in this 2007 interview from Mystery Scene Issue #99.
Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce, two intelligent heroines for all ages.
Mystery Scene contributor Jeffrey Marks shares five favorite Scottish mysteries.
Movie Review: the Lincoln Lawyer 3 Stars
Oline Cogdill
title
Photo: Matthew McConaughey (left) and author Michael Connelly on the set of The Lincoln Lawyer. Photo credit: Lionsgate

From the moment that Matthew McConaughey steps into that Lincoln and leans back, surveying his “office,” he is Mickey Haller, the title character in the excellent The Lincoln Lawyer, the film based on the novel by Michael Connelly.

McConaughey’s smooth delivery, the way he flirts with Mickey’s near-conman persona and his cynical view of the law makes us almost forget that the actor has become more famous for starring in a string of dumb comedies or being photographed running shirtless.
Instead, The Lincoln Lawyer makes us remember how good McConaughey was in such dramas as A Time To Kill and Lone Star.

McConaughey aside,
The Lincoln Lawyer works so well as a movie because it is as faithful to Connelly’s 2005 novel as it can get. It doesn’t scrimp on the twists and turns that Connelly wove into his novel nor does it neglect Mickey’s crisis of conscience, his angst about being a part-time father or the integrity that he has buried deep inside.

While a few elements of the book aren’t included,
The Lincoln Lawyer keeps the spirit of the novel. Everything that needs to be in the movie version is here, even some of the dialogue.

The movie also has the look of and affection for Los Angeles that is pure Connelly. Each of Connelly’s
novels is an homage to L.A., illustrating its best and worst. That is there on the screen including panoramic views of the cityscape.

Connelly’s
The Lincoln Lawyer set a new milestone for this best-selling author. While faithful readers had long known that Connelly was a master at creating new, intriguing characters whether in his Harry Bosch novels or his stand-alones, he took a step further in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Here was, at first glimpse, an anti-hero of sorts, the epitome of what many of us believe is wrong with defense lawyers. The kind of lawyer who specializes in getting off his bottom-feeder clients. The kind of lawyer who is proud of the ads he’s placed on bus benches and billboards.

That the lawyer conducts business from the back of his Lincoln town car added to the anti-hero mystique.
The Lincoln Lawyer made it to No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for hardcover. It won the Macavity and the Shamus and was nominated for an Edgar.

Betrayal, manipulation and greed imbue the plot. In the film and the novel, Mickey is hired to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy accused of attempted murder. Mickey is blinded by the dollar signs he sees in this case, but he also wonders if his client may be that rarity – an innocent man.

Each cast member shines in The Lincoln Lawyer. Phillippe’s wide-eyed innocence belies a seething ruthlessness. Phillippe makes us both want to offer Louis comfort and our unshakeable belief in his innocence while also making us very afraid. Oscar winner Marisa Tomei displays a steely resolve as Maggie McPherson, a prosecuting attorney who also is Mickey’s ex-wife and the mother of his daughter. The chemistry between Tomei and McConaughey shows us why their characters are divorced, yet still attracted to each other.

The always fascinating William H. Macy adds a bit of levity to his solid performance as Frank Levin, Mickey’s private investigator.
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston makes the most of his role as detective Lankford; as do country singer Trace Adkins as Eddie Vogel, the leader of a motorcycle gang; Shea Whigham (the sheriff on Boardwalk Empire) as jailhouse snitch Corliss; and John Leguizamo as bail bondsman Val Valenzuela.
Brad Furman, whose last movie was the obscure crime drama The Take in 2007, shows an affinity for directing a more nuanced film. The action never lags, even when Mickey is just tooling around Los Angeles, which is shown in all its glory – and all its grittiness.

While I still prefer the book to the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer has captured the essence of Connelly’s
solid novel.

Connelly’s next novel also is a Mickey Haller novel,
The Fifth Witness is due out April 5.
The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R for some violence, sexual content and language. Running time is 119 minutes.

Xav ID 577
2011-03-17 19:38:33
title
Photo: Matthew McConaughey (left) and author Michael Connelly on the set of The Lincoln Lawyer. Photo credit: Lionsgate

From the moment that Matthew McConaughey steps into that Lincoln and leans back, surveying his “office,” he is Mickey Haller, the title character in the excellent The Lincoln Lawyer, the film based on the novel by Michael Connelly.

McConaughey’s smooth delivery, the way he flirts with Mickey’s near-conman persona and his cynical view of the law makes us almost forget that the actor has become more famous for starring in a string of dumb comedies or being photographed running shirtless.
Instead, The Lincoln Lawyer makes us remember how good McConaughey was in such dramas as A Time To Kill and Lone Star.

McConaughey aside,
The Lincoln Lawyer works so well as a movie because it is as faithful to Connelly’s 2005 novel as it can get. It doesn’t scrimp on the twists and turns that Connelly wove into his novel nor does it neglect Mickey’s crisis of conscience, his angst about being a part-time father or the integrity that he has buried deep inside.

While a few elements of the book aren’t included,
The Lincoln Lawyer keeps the spirit of the novel. Everything that needs to be in the movie version is here, even some of the dialogue.

The movie also has the look of and affection for Los Angeles that is pure Connelly. Each of Connelly’s
novels is an homage to L.A., illustrating its best and worst. That is there on the screen including panoramic views of the cityscape.

Connelly’s
The Lincoln Lawyer set a new milestone for this best-selling author. While faithful readers had long known that Connelly was a master at creating new, intriguing characters whether in his Harry Bosch novels or his stand-alones, he took a step further in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Here was, at first glimpse, an anti-hero of sorts, the epitome of what many of us believe is wrong with defense lawyers. The kind of lawyer who specializes in getting off his bottom-feeder clients. The kind of lawyer who is proud of the ads he’s placed on bus benches and billboards.

That the lawyer conducts business from the back of his Lincoln town car added to the anti-hero mystique.
The Lincoln Lawyer made it to No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for hardcover. It won the Macavity and the Shamus and was nominated for an Edgar.

Betrayal, manipulation and greed imbue the plot. In the film and the novel, Mickey is hired to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy accused of attempted murder. Mickey is blinded by the dollar signs he sees in this case, but he also wonders if his client may be that rarity – an innocent man.

Each cast member shines in The Lincoln Lawyer. Phillippe’s wide-eyed innocence belies a seething ruthlessness. Phillippe makes us both want to offer Louis comfort and our unshakeable belief in his innocence while also making us very afraid. Oscar winner Marisa Tomei displays a steely resolve as Maggie McPherson, a prosecuting attorney who also is Mickey’s ex-wife and the mother of his daughter. The chemistry between Tomei and McConaughey shows us why their characters are divorced, yet still attracted to each other.

The always fascinating William H. Macy adds a bit of levity to his solid performance as Frank Levin, Mickey’s private investigator.
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston makes the most of his role as detective Lankford; as do country singer Trace Adkins as Eddie Vogel, the leader of a motorcycle gang; Shea Whigham (the sheriff on Boardwalk Empire) as jailhouse snitch Corliss; and John Leguizamo as bail bondsman Val Valenzuela.
Brad Furman, whose last movie was the obscure crime drama The Take in 2007, shows an affinity for directing a more nuanced film. The action never lags, even when Mickey is just tooling around Los Angeles, which is shown in all its glory – and all its grittiness.

While I still prefer the book to the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer has captured the essence of Connelly’s
solid novel.

Connelly’s next novel also is a Mickey Haller novel,
The Fifth Witness is due out April 5.
The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R for some violence, sexual content and language. Running time is 119 minutes.

Zora Neale Hurston: Girl Detective
Oline Cogdill

Zora and Me, by Victoria Bond and T.R. WoodSo often I am asked for suggestions on which book to read. Usually, I ask what is the person interested in, does he or she like the hard-edged stories or the softer ones, and even what the person’s occupation is. The answers factor into my recommendations.

Except when it comes to children.

Since I don’t read young adult or juvenile mysteries, I often am at a loss for recommendations. Time is the only issue on why I don’t read this category of mysteries.

But the next time I am asked, I have an answer ready: Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon.

Zora and Me is inspired by the early life of African-American author Zora Neale Hurston and is set at the turn of the 20th century in a southern black community.

Zora and Me is nominated for an Edgar for Best Juvenile Mystery. (The winners will be announced April 28 in New York City.)

As Nancy Drew empowered girls of another generation, so does Zora and Me, which is all about girl power.

Zora, the “girl detective,” takes her investigating very seriously, sneaking out of the house, ease dropping and following clues. In Zora and Me, Hurston is a bright fourth grader who lives with her family in an all-black Florida town, around 1900. Zora, Carrie (the first-person narrator) and their friend Teddy investigate after a man’s headless body is discovered by the railroad tracks. Sounds like a female version of Stephen King’s “Stand by Me.”

The real Hurston often wrote about racial problems and became famous as being a part of the Harlem Renaissance writers. She wrote four novels, more than 50 published short stories, and several plays and essays. Her most famous novel was Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937.

Although she died in poverty and obscurity in 1960 while living in Florida, her work continues to make an impact. About 500,000 copies of Hurston’s books are sold each year, according to the Zora Neale Hurston Trust, created in 2002.

Zora and Me is the first book not written by Hurston to be endorsed by the trust.

Now I know what to recommend the next time friends ask me what their daughters should be reading.

Xav ID 577
2011-03-20 10:34:14

title

Often I am asked for suggestions on which book to read. Usually, I ask what is the person interested in, does he or she like the hard-edged stories or the softer ones, and even whatthe person’s occupation is. The answers factor into my recommendations.

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Jon L. Breen

In The Ectoplasmic Man, Harry Houdini joins forces with Holmes and Watson is given the chance to play stooge to a genius magician as well as a genius detective. And that's only one of his new adventures....

futheradventuresholmes_titan

For reasons related more to fear of litigation by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate than any lack of irregular enthusiasm, novel-length Sherlock Holmes pastiches were rare indeed before the 1970s. H.F. Heard’s A Taste for Honey (1941) was the pioneer—the beekeeping sleuth in this novel and two sequels was known as Mr. Mycroft, but any knowledgeable reader knew it was Sherlock and not his brother. Ellery Queen’s A Study in Terror (1966), probably the first in which the Baker Street sleuth took on Jack the Ripper, was the novelization of a movie. Not until Nicholas Meyer’s bestseller The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1974) did the floodgates open. Since then there have been scores of ersatz Holmes novels. Some of them have been excellent; others have only the authors’ devotion and enthusiasm to recommend them. They take many different forms, some of them shifting the central role to another character or reshuffling canonical details in shocking ways. I prefer those that stick closest to the original pattern: told in the first person by Watson throughout, keeping to a length not much greater than Conan Doyle’s own novels, and not distorting the characters as they appear in the original stories.

Eventually some industrious Sherlockian will read all these varied offerings and produce a critical volume advising which to seek out and which to avoid. (I’ve even thought of attempting this myself but quickly came to my senses.) Until that comprehensive guide comes to pass, we have The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a new reprint series from the British publisher Titan Books, intended to single out some of the better pastiches. Their first set of four selections, distributed in the US at $9.95 per trade paper volume, illustrates some of the varied approaches taken to pastiche writing.

wellman_holmeswaroftheworldsSome writers involve Holmes with other fictional characters from outside the canon or put the Baker Street sleuth in fantastical or science fictional situations. Both these approaches are used in the earliest and least typical book chosen for reprint, Sherlock Holmes: War of the Worlds (1975) by the father-son team of Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman. It inserts both Holmes and Doyle’s science-fiction character Professor Challenger into H.G. Wells’ famous Martian invasion scenario. Some of the parts were originally published separately in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the very enjoyable volume is less a novel than a set of five linked short stories, the first three narrated by Challenger’s own Watson figure, journalist Edward Malone, the final two by Watson himself.

Other pastichers follow the lead of Nicholas Meyer in bringing real historical personages into the mix. In Daniel Stashower’s The Ectoplasmic Man (1985), set in 1910, Harry Houdini has brought his magic act to London and successfully escaped from a Scotland Yard jail cell as part of his publicity campaign. His feats are so amazing, many think he has supernatural powers. Lestrade, suspecting Houdini of a crime he initially refuses to specify, entreats Holmes to meet and observe the young American entertainer. The crime in question proves to be the theft of scandalous documents from a vault at a government residence where Houdini attended a party for the Prince of Wales, soon to be George V. The detective work and the characterization of Houdini (whom Stashower would feature in at least three subsequent mysteries) are outstanding, along with an exciting aerial action scene reminiscent of one of Houdini’s silent movies. Watson is given the chance to play stooge to a genius magician as well as a genius detective. This novel is the best of the four reprints, as well as the truest to the original stories.

davies_holmesscrollofthedeadThe Scroll of the Dead (1998) by David Stuart Davies begins with Holmes attending a séance conducted by Mr. Uriah Hawkshaw, a charlatan who has been deceiving a member of Mycroft’s staff whose son died in a boating accident. In the course of exposing Hawkshaw, Holmes meets the aesthete dandy Sebastian Melmoth (once a pseudonym of Oscar Wilde), a sinister researcher into the phenomenon of death. In 1896, Holmes again encounters Melmoth in the course of investigating the theft of an Egyptian scroll from the British Museum. The MacGuffin here represents nothing less than the secret of immortality. This is another well-made and well-told tale, most of it in traditional Watsonian style, but as the denouement approaches, the cinematic cross-cutting between first person and third-person omniscient narrative breaks the mood somewhat and probably ought to have been resisted. All the drama and all the plot points could have been achieved just as well through Watson’s narrative.

The other Davies title in the group, The Veiled Detective (2004), is also effectively written, though it belongs to that group of pastiches that turn the whole saga on its head, changing the nature of the characters and their relationships as we’ve come to know them. Admittedly, this sort of thing goes back at least to The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, but Davies’ revisionist biography is even more extreme than Meyer’s. The story begins in 1880, first in Afghanistan with the third-person account of Dr. John Walker (sic), a dispirited army surgeon, then back in London where young Sherlock Holmes is already helping out Lestrade and Gregson, and Professor Moriarty, aided by Colonel Moran, is pulling the criminal strings. Davies gives Watson a whole new dishonorable back story and alters our understanding of virtually every character in some way, with no satirical intent apparent. Holmes’ career from A Study in Scarlet through “The Final Problem” is summarized in light of the reshuffled relationships, often with direct quotes and restated storylines from the original stories. Much as I admire the skill and inventiveness of the author, I would much prefer a straightforward case.

Three out of four isn’t a bad average. The Titan series, which has gone on to publish several more in this series, deserves the Sherlockian reader’s support.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-17 14:55:38

stashtower_holmesectoplasmicmanThe Great Detective travels beyond Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories in these Titan Books reprints.

Abc’s Body of Proof
Oline Cogdill
titleThe real proof in the new medical examiner drama Body of Proof, which from a special preview looks like a run-of-the mill series, may not be in the plots, but in the appeal of Dana Delany.

Delany brings a touch of class and an emotional resolve that makes you want to root for whatever character she is playing.
Body of Proof will need every millimeter of Delany’s appeal if there is to be a future for this new ABC drama that begins at 10 p.m. EST on March 29. (Check your local listings).

Delany stars as Dr. Megan Hunt, a once-successful workaholic neurosurgeon in Philadelphia. Professionally, Hunt was brilliant, even if she often appeared cold and a bit too clinical. Then she pretty much lost everything. Following a divorce, she lost custody of her daughter and then, following a horrific car accident, lost her job.
Body of Proof picks up five years after that accident when the only job Hunt can get is as a medical examiner.

Although her confidence has been a bit shaken, Hunt is still tough as nails and sure of her skills. She also has found a new calling – speaking for the dead.

Body of Proof follows a formula set by previous cop and medical shows. Hunt will, of course, be in constant conflict with the cops with whom she works, the medical examiner’s staff and her supervisors. And she will often be right. And everyone will have a grudging respect for her.

Although Body of Proof doesn’t break any new ground, Hunt’s unresolved issues with her ex-husband and her daughter bring an undercurrent of vulnerability to the character and a hope of more complex and original storytelling to come.

Sonja Sohn (The Wire) co-stars as Det. Samantha Baker, although her role seems to be just window dressing for now.

Body of Proof replaces Detroit 1-8-7, which had an 18-episode run.

ABC’s “Body of Proof” stars Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt. (Photo/ABC)
Xav ID 577
2011-03-23 10:20:02
titleThe real proof in the new medical examiner drama Body of Proof, which from a special preview looks like a run-of-the mill series, may not be in the plots, but in the appeal of Dana Delany.

Delany brings a touch of class and an emotional resolve that makes you want to root for whatever character she is playing.
Body of Proof will need every millimeter of Delany’s appeal if there is to be a future for this new ABC drama that begins at 10 p.m. EST on March 29. (Check your local listings).

Delany stars as Dr. Megan Hunt, a once-successful workaholic neurosurgeon in Philadelphia. Professionally, Hunt was brilliant, even if she often appeared cold and a bit too clinical. Then she pretty much lost everything. Following a divorce, she lost custody of her daughter and then, following a horrific car accident, lost her job.
Body of Proof picks up five years after that accident when the only job Hunt can get is as a medical examiner.

Although her confidence has been a bit shaken, Hunt is still tough as nails and sure of her skills. She also has found a new calling – speaking for the dead.

Body of Proof follows a formula set by previous cop and medical shows. Hunt will, of course, be in constant conflict with the cops with whom she works, the medical examiner’s staff and her supervisors. And she will often be right. And everyone will have a grudging respect for her.

Although Body of Proof doesn’t break any new ground, Hunt’s unresolved issues with her ex-husband and her daughter bring an undercurrent of vulnerability to the character and a hope of more complex and original storytelling to come.

Sonja Sohn (The Wire) co-stars as Det. Samantha Baker, although her role seems to be just window dressing for now.

Body of Proof replaces Detroit 1-8-7, which had an 18-episode run.

ABC’s “Body of Proof” stars Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt. (Photo/ABC)
James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce on Hbo
Oline Cogdill
altTo most mystery fiction readers, James M. Cain remains one of the classic noir authors. His novels are still considered a major part of the crime fiction canon.

The Postman Rings Twice and Double Indemnity are terrific novels that became intriguing movies. But Cain was quoted as disliking being labeled as a hard-boiled author: “I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called.”

Cain also wrote several novels not considered crime fiction, such as Serenade.
New fans are sure to discover Cain, thanks to the excellent HBO five-part mini-series Mildred Pierce that begins at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 27.
The cable series is based on Cain’s 1941 novel, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1945 starring Joan Crawford. That original film is a personal favorite, but the HBO series starring Kate Winslet is a revelation.

True, there are no murder mysteries, guns or real crimes in Mildred Pierce, but the interlocking family drama is the stuff upon which many a crime fiction novel has been based. Evan Rachel Wood plays Veda, the treacherous daughter.
The HBO series is closer to Cain’s dark novel, keeping many of the original subplots and dialogue. Oscar-winner Winslet is, as always, breathtaking as she gets to the heart of Mildred Pierce, a waitress turned restaurateur who sacrifices everything for her daughter.

Each time a film or TV series is based on a novel there usually is a spike in the author’s work. It’s happening with Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer. I hope that will happen for Cain.

And here’s another quote from Cain from the introduction of Double Indemnity: “I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent.”
Photo: Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce. credit: HBO
Xav ID 577
2011-03-26 21:35:32
altTo most mystery fiction readers, James M. Cain remains one of the classic noir authors. His novels are still considered a major part of the crime fiction canon.

The Postman Rings Twice and Double Indemnity are terrific novels that became intriguing movies. But Cain was quoted as disliking being labeled as a hard-boiled author: “I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called.”

Cain also wrote several novels not considered crime fiction, such as Serenade.
New fans are sure to discover Cain, thanks to the excellent HBO five-part mini-series Mildred Pierce that begins at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 27.
The cable series is based on Cain’s 1941 novel, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1945 starring Joan Crawford. That original film is a personal favorite, but the HBO series starring Kate Winslet is a revelation.

True, there are no murder mysteries, guns or real crimes in Mildred Pierce, but the interlocking family drama is the stuff upon which many a crime fiction novel has been based. Evan Rachel Wood plays Veda, the treacherous daughter.
The HBO series is closer to Cain’s dark novel, keeping many of the original subplots and dialogue. Oscar-winner Winslet is, as always, breathtaking as she gets to the heart of Mildred Pierce, a waitress turned restaurateur who sacrifices everything for her daughter.

Each time a film or TV series is based on a novel there usually is a spike in the author’s work. It’s happening with Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer. I hope that will happen for Cain.

And here’s another quote from Cain from the introduction of Double Indemnity: “I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent.”
Photo: Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce. credit: HBO
Bilipo Shelves of Treasure
Brad Spurgeon

bilipo_library

BiLiPo—a French library devoted to mystery fiction—is amassing a splendid collection of vintage and contemporary crime fiction.

Photo courtesy BiLiPo

It is to be expected that quiet librarians recoil in terror upon encountering a murder victim in their place of work. But when those of the Bibliotheque des Litteratures Policieres did so at the sight of a dead body in the library’s foyer it was more than a little ironic.

As the keepers of France’s largest collection of crime fiction, they not only encounter death, deceit and destruction every day, but they also knew that the body was part of an exhibit on forensic medicine that they were about to host.

The problem, according to librarian Michele Witta was that although they knew the exhibitors were setting up their paraphernalia, they were not aware of the details.

“They put this cadaver in place at the end of the day,” she said, “having re-created a kind of maid’s quarters where there was a murder. And when you walked out of the elevator and around a false wall, you fell suddenly upon it.”

souvestre_allain_fantomasThe exhibit was a huge success for a much better prepared general public, which saw the cadaver clearly upon entering the building. Nevertheless, each of the sevenperson staff has remained a mystery fan and a devoted worker in a unique project soon to enter its 20th year.

The Paris public library system decreed in 1983 that it would create a special library of only crime fiction. The BiLiPO began as a special collection within another library on the Rue Mouffetard in 1984. As the collection flourished, the city decided to give the BiLiPO a building of its own in 1995, at a cost of $1 million.

Located behind a fire station in the Latin Quarter at 48-50 Rue du Cardinale-Lemoine, the 600-square-meter library is state of the art, with climate-controlled rooms that maintain the collection at between 15 and 19 degrees centigrade and 50 degrees of humidity. The vast stone wall in the same entry where the corpse was set up, is a vestige of the wall Philippe Auguste built around Paris in the 13th Century.

The original collection has grown from around 10,000 books to over 72,000 novels and 6,000 reference books. And with a healthy annual budget the BiLiPO continues to try to complete the historical collection of French mystery novels, which by some estimates totals 80,000 volumes.

The original base of the BiLiPO’s collection was formed by the French National Library’s official collection in the genre that began in 1927, but there were many holes, particularly for the period before that. The BiLiPO also continues to receive a copy of each new crime novel that is published and sent to the National Library, and seeks out titles that it considers part of the genre but which are not named as such.

leroux_yellowroomBut since moving to its own quarters, the BiLiPO has also vastly developed its role as a meeting place for crime fiction lovers and authors. The authors come from around the world to meet the public in readings or seminars, to meet each other and also to do research.

"What better place for an author to go to research the latest advances in ballistics, fashionable poisons, new hierarchical practices in the national Police force and penal code reform?” asked Jean-Hugues Oppel, a French mystery author. “Or even to consult a (nearly) exhaustive bibliography of a fellow writer."

And as an increasing number of university theses are being written about mystery fiction, the BiLiPO has also developed its role as a research center, since few libraries provide students with such a range of crime books under the same roof.

"It was rare 10 years ago,” Witta said, “but now we have five or six students every day working on diverse facets of the mystery novel in their theses."

During the school year they come mostly from French universities—the Sorbonne is just around the corner—but during the summer from around the world.

Director Catherine Chauchard notes that one of the BiLiPO’s biggest challenges is to attract the interest of non-specialists. The exhibitions serve in part to reach a wider public, as well as to simply show off the collection, which is otherwise locked away on the second floor and only available on demand.

leblanc_troisyeuxLast summer’s exhibition was about dogs and cats in crime fiction, and a large exhibition about crime and mystery theater in 20th-century France opened in November and is running for several more months. While that will naturally contain information and artifacts—such as posters, scripts and programs—about the Agatha Christie plays that have been produced in France, the emphasis is on French theater. It will, for example, feature material about Maurice Leblanc, who wrote plays and musical comedies about his character Arsène Lupin.

Now that the name of the BiLiPO has traveled the world, the library has also received many donations from collectors and authors. American authors such as Stuart Kaminsky and Jeremiah Healy have donated their books, while some French authors give copies of all of their books published in other languages.

A vast collection of the works of Georges Simenon was donated by a collector known only as Monsieur Ponroy, who was moving to a retirement home and could not take them with him. The American Library in Paris donates its mystery books when finished with them, and the British Council library in Paris has closed down and is donating its collection.

Among the English and American authors who drop by while in Paris are Sandra Scoppetone, Nevada Barr, Val McDermid, Walter Satterthwait, Anthony Westlake, John Harvey and H.R.F. Keating.

Peter Lovesey used the library as a setting for a murder story called, “Murdering Max,” published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2001 issue. He even included Chauchard and Witta as characters.

“Truly, the BILIPO is a house of treasures,” Lovesey wrote, and anyone visiting this impressive institution would surely agree.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #77.

Brad Spurgeon, who has lived in France for the last two decades (because he appreciates fine wine, food and travel), writes fiction and journalism, mostly about auto racing, technology and the French mystery scene.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-21 21:33:30

bilipo_libraryBiLiPo—a splendid French library devoted to mystery fiction.

Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer Movie, Novel
Oline Cogdill
titleMovies based on novels often give the books an extra push, bringing in new readers and even making those familiar with an author want to revisit those novels.

Why else would publishers re-release a novel with a photograph from the movie?
It's called tie-in, folks.
I have been a part of discussions in which readers and authors are offended by the tie-in.
Frankly, I think that anything that sells books is a plus. If it takes putting a photograph of Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller on the re-release of The Lincoln Lawyer to bring in new readers -- how can that be bad?

The paperback edition of The Lincoln Lawyer is currently on the New York Times Best Sellers List for both trade paperback and mass market paperback.
Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River got the same movie bump when the films based on his novels came out.
By the way, The Lincoln Lawyer film is quite good. Don't believe me? Then see my review on the Mystery Scene blog.
Connelly’s next novel also is a Mickey Haller novel. The Fifth Witness hit the bookstores on April 5.
I dare you not to imagine McConaughey’s performance as you read The Fifth Witness -- or The Lincoln Lawyer.
Xav ID 577
2011-04-06 10:29:05
titleMovies based on novels often give the books an extra push, bringing in new readers and even making those familiar with an author want to revisit those novels.

Why else would publishers re-release a novel with a photograph from the movie?
It's called tie-in, folks.
I have been a part of discussions in which readers and authors are offended by the tie-in.
Frankly, I think that anything that sells books is a plus. If it takes putting a photograph of Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller on the re-release of The Lincoln Lawyer to bring in new readers -- how can that be bad?

The paperback edition of The Lincoln Lawyer is currently on the New York Times Best Sellers List for both trade paperback and mass market paperback.
Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River got the same movie bump when the films based on his novels came out.
By the way, The Lincoln Lawyer film is quite good. Don't believe me? Then see my review on the Mystery Scene blog.
Connelly’s next novel also is a Mickey Haller novel. The Fifth Witness hit the bookstores on April 5.
I dare you not to imagine McConaughey’s performance as you read The Fifth Witness -- or The Lincoln Lawyer.
Castle's Tribute to Cannell
Oline Cogdill
title
The light drama Castle, starring Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Richard Castle who works with the NYPD, often featured a segment with the fictional author playing poker with real-life authors such as Michael Connelly, James Patterson and the late Stephen J Cannell.

For fans of the TV series -- and the authors -- these scenes were an extra treat, a wink for avid readers and viewers.

But the scenes haven't been a part of the ABC series since the death last September of Cannell.

The poker games will be back with Castle's April 11 episode, which airs at 10 p.m.

Richard Castle will be joined by his regular poker buddy Michael Connelly. Dennis Lehane also will be at the table. A new guy will be joining the group, too.

And the poker buddies will be commenting on the loss of their colleague.

"There's a nod to Cannell in that a chair at the poker table. [The chair] is left empty and a glass of scotch is placed there," Connelly told me in an email.

The scene is quite humorous as Connelly and Lehane -- and Castle -- talk about the movies that have been made from their novels. Connelly and Lehane prove to be quite the actors and both are a pleasure to watch. They seem as if they had a great time doing the scene.

This is a poker game to gamble on. And here's a sneak peek.

Cannell's final appearance on Castle was the May 17, 2010, episode, "A Deadly Game."

Cannell, who died from melanoma, held myriad roles in Hollywood. He produced such popular TV series as The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street and The Commish.
He wrote the Shane Scully novels; the 10th in this series, The Prostitutes' Ball (2010), was released after his death. He often popped up as cameo roles in a variety of TV series and movies. And he was considered an all-around nice guy.
Photo, from left, Michael Connelly, Stephen J. Cannell, Nathan Fillion, and James Patterson (with back to camera) in Castle. ABC photo
Xav ID 577
2011-04-10 10:49:14
title
The light drama Castle, starring Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Richard Castle who works with the NYPD, often featured a segment with the fictional author playing poker with real-life authors such as Michael Connelly, James Patterson and the late Stephen J Cannell.

For fans of the TV series -- and the authors -- these scenes were an extra treat, a wink for avid readers and viewers.

But the scenes haven't been a part of the ABC series since the death last September of Cannell.

The poker games will be back with Castle's April 11 episode, which airs at 10 p.m.

Richard Castle will be joined by his regular poker buddy Michael Connelly. Dennis Lehane also will be at the table. A new guy will be joining the group, too.

And the poker buddies will be commenting on the loss of their colleague.

"There's a nod to Cannell in that a chair at the poker table. [The chair] is left empty and a glass of scotch is placed there," Connelly told me in an email.

The scene is quite humorous as Connelly and Lehane -- and Castle -- talk about the movies that have been made from their novels. Connelly and Lehane prove to be quite the actors and both are a pleasure to watch. They seem as if they had a great time doing the scene.

This is a poker game to gamble on. And here's a sneak peek.

Cannell's final appearance on Castle was the May 17, 2010, episode, "A Deadly Game."

Cannell, who died from melanoma, held myriad roles in Hollywood. He produced such popular TV series as The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street and The Commish.
He wrote the Shane Scully novels; the 10th in this series, The Prostitutes' Ball (2010), was released after his death. He often popped up as cameo roles in a variety of TV series and movies. And he was considered an all-around nice guy.
Photo, from left, Michael Connelly, Stephen J. Cannell, Nathan Fillion, and James Patterson (with back to camera) in Castle. ABC photo
Agatha and Iraq
Mystery Scene

christie_iraq_small

Photo: Agatha Christie at the excavation of Nimrud in Iraq, 1950. Christie was an active participant in the digs led by her husband.

Among the many priceless items looted from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad in May 2003 were several that had a connection to the grand dame of mystery, Agatha Christie.

For many years Christie accompanied her husband, the archaelogist Sir Max Mallowan, on digs in Iraq. Christie used this experience in several of her novels, most famously Murder in Mesopotamia.

Many, if not most, of the antiquities recovered on these digs ended up in the Iraq National Museum. The University of Chicago's prestigious Oriental Institute—one of whose graduates is mystery writer Elizabeth Peters—has set up a website showing objects known to have been stolen. It is hoped that this will help in the effort to recover these lost treasures.

christie_murder_in_mesop_first_edition_smallchristie_come_tell_me_smallFURTHER READING Mallowan, Agatha Christie Come, Tell Me How You Live

A charming memoir of Christie’s Middle East adventures while on archaeological expeditions with her second husband, Max Mallowan, before World War II. First published in 1946. Includes photos.

Mallowan, Max Mallowan’s Memoirs

The archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan devotes four affectionate chapters to his wife’s achievements in this account of his own mallowan_nimrudproductive and adventuresome life. 1977. Photographs.

Left: Sir Max Mallowan’s scholarly account of the excavations at Nimrud shows the "Mona Lisa of Nimrud." It is one of the largest carved ivories ever recovered from antiquity (883-859 B.C.) and is now missing.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #80.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-22 18:07:55

christie_murder_in_mesop_first_edition_smallSeveral items looted from the Iraq National Museum in May 2003, had a connection to Agatha Christie.

Test

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. In ligula dui, consectetur sed mattis quis, volutpat mollis nisl. Nulla quis elementum libero. Morbi mauris velit, consectetur id scelerisque bibendum, tincidunt vitae nulla. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nunc a velit faucibus libero facilisis euismod. In pretium, leo eget pretium malesuada, mi est convallis eros, non mattis tortor arcu ut ante. Quisque egestas malesuada euismod. Ut faucibus dictum malesuada. Vivamus hendrerit purus vel lorem dictum elementum. Nulla blandit, tortor sit amet ullamcorper elementum, est nulla interdum arcu, in vehicula risus tortor rhoncus mauris. In rutrum sollicitudin enim eget pretium. Sed eget arcu ut lorem iaculis mollis et id augue. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Nulla sagittis lectus accumsan nisi vulputate porttitor. Cras enim lorem, pharetra sed posuere et, porta sit amet nibh. Quisque consectetur luctus sagittis. Duis mollis, libero et gravida dapibus, magna nunc tristique diam, a euismod lectus ligula eu orci. Vivamus condimentum, arcu et rhoncus porta, urna lectus imperdiet libero, et auctor erat justo malesuada dui. Nam id ipsum magna, eget congue felis. Cras dignissim aliquam viverra. Sed metus orci, tempor at tincidunt ut, porttitor ut nibh. Sed euismod sem et purus venenatis sit amet consectetur eros aliquet. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Etiam condimentum nibh ut lectus lacinia sodales. Duis posuere, tortor vitae malesuada placerat, nulla nisi euismod neque, non vestibulum metus sem consequat lacus. Aliquam sagittis enim id tortor lobortis a fringilla purus mollis. Nulla ornare gravida luctus. Nam quis mi ipsum, eget tristique lectus. Morbi nec quam augue. Quisque lobortis lacinia nisi, vitae sollicitudin nisl fermentum id. Donec aliquet, nisi vitae mattis ultricies, mauris lorem molestie quam, posuere tristique massa enim vitae purus. Maecenas neque nibh, aliquam eu molestie vitae, consequat aliquam lectus. Nulla convallis bibendum pretium. Nulla lacinia eros sed ligula interdum a egestas nisl venenatis. Morbi et leo et dui cursus fringilla nec quis metus. Nullam imperdiet luctus placerat. Integer pulvinar lectus eget ante vestibulum at viverra risus porta. Morbi sodales arcu turpis. Morbi in massa lectus, vel pulvinar felis. In nec lacus et diam scelerisque tincidunt. Nullam gravida, nunc ut molestie condimentum, massa mi semper leo, nec dapibus lacus elit ac lacus. Morbi eu laoreet metus. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nulla egestas cursus neque. Aenean tristique eleifend pharetra. In nec ante eget enim tristique cursus. Aenean et tellus dictum velit sagittis molestie. Aliquam faucibus, turpis sit amet pharetra ornare, lectus nibh bibendum justo, ut condimentum neque sem sit amet augue. Nullam luctus congue ligula vitae facilisis. Curabitur egestas tortor sem. Donec sed massa id urna fermentum vestibulum. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Aliquam erat volutpat. Maecenas molestie, nulla at egestas hendrerit, eros enim rhoncus magna, in interdum est lacus vitae est. Maecenas faucibus venenatis sem cursus egestas. Cras eros lorem, euismod et interdum vitae, scelerisque at libero. Nulla varius congue lobortis. Mauris diam ligula, mollis vel aliquet eget, tincidunt a tellus. Fusce blandit nunc sed est pulvinar molestie. Sed nec turpis at lacus auctor auctor. Nullam posuere pellentesque erat, non aliquam augue molestie aliquam. Nam molestie augue ullamcorper sem tempor varius. In consectetur diam ac purus convallis tincidunt. Suspendisse aliquet velit ut ipsum lobortis eleifend. Suspendisse molestie nunc in nulla bibendum in porttitor massa luctus. Nulla hendrerit mattis mollis. Ut ut lorem a nisl gravida condimentum non nec massa. Nam quis massa turpis. Maecenas eu euismod velit. Nunc accumsan rhoncus malesuada. Nullam tellus augue, ullamcorper ut tincidunt non, varius in sapien. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Proin non tellus libero. In gravida ligula id felis tempus dapibus. Aliquam nec eros eget nunc ultrices eleifend in at est. Nam at ligula vitae arcu ornare lacinia ut volutpat diam. Morbi ornare eleifend dui, id sagittis felis placerat sit amet. Aenean quis odio metus, non commodo dui. Proin pretium, ligula sed laoreet ornare, felis dolor molestie turpis, nec ultrices odio lorem aliquet massa.

Xav ID 577
2011-03-22 23:11:17

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. In ligula dui, consectetur sed mattis quis, volutpat mollis nisl. Nulla quis elementum libero. Morbi mauris velit, consectetur id scelerisque bibendum, tincidunt vitae nulla. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nunc a velit faucibus libero facilisis euismod. In pretium, leo eget pretium malesuada, mi est convallis eros, non mattis tortor arcu ut ante. Quisque egestas malesuada euismod. Ut faucibus dictum malesuada. Vivamus hendrerit purus vel lorem dictum elementum. Nulla blandit, tortor sit amet ullamcorper elementum, est nulla interdum arcu, in vehicula risus tortor rhoncus mauris. In rutrum sollicitudin enim eget pretium. Sed eget arcu ut lorem iaculis mollis et id augue. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Nulla sagittis lectus accumsan nisi vulputate porttitor. Cras enim lorem, pharetra sed posuere et, porta sit amet nibh. Quisque consectetur luctus sagittis. Duis mollis, libero et gravida dapibus, magna nunc tristique diam, a euismod lectus ligula eu orci. Vivamus condimentum, arcu et rhoncus porta, urna lectus imperdiet libero, et auctor erat justo malesuada dui. Nam id ipsum magna, eget congue felis. Cras dignissim aliquam viverra. Sed metus orci, tempor at tincidunt ut, porttitor ut nibh. Sed euismod sem et purus venenatis sit amet consectetur eros aliquet. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Etiam condimentum nibh ut lectus lacinia sodales. Duis posuere, tortor vitae malesuada placerat, nulla nisi euismod neque, non vestibulum metus sem consequat lacus. Aliquam sagittis enim id tortor lobortis a fringilla purus mollis. Nulla ornare gravida luctus. Nam quis mi ipsum, eget tristique lectus. Morbi nec quam augue. Quisque lobortis lacinia nisi, vitae sollicitudin nisl fermentum id. Donec aliquet, nisi vitae mattis ultricies, mauris lorem molestie quam, posuere tristique massa enim vitae purus. Maecenas neque nibh, aliquam eu molestie vitae, consequat aliquam lectus. Nulla convallis bibendum pretium. Nulla lacinia eros sed ligula interdum a egestas nisl venenatis. Morbi et leo et dui cursus fringilla nec quis metus. Nullam imperdiet luctus placerat. Integer pulvinar lectus eget ante vestibulum at viverra risus porta. Morbi sodales arcu turpis. Morbi in massa lectus, vel pulvinar felis. In nec lacus et diam scelerisque tincidunt. Nullam gravida, nunc ut molestie condimentum, massa mi semper leo, nec dapibus lacus elit ac lacus. Morbi eu laoreet metus. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nulla egestas cursus neque. Aenean tristique eleifend pharetra. In nec ante eget enim tristique cursus. Aenean et tellus dictum velit sagittis molestie. Aliquam faucibus, turpis sit amet pharetra ornare, lectus nibh bibendum justo, ut condimentum neque sem sit amet augue. Nullam luctus congue ligula vitae facilisis. Curabitur egestas tortor sem. Donec sed massa id urna fermentum vestibulum. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Aliquam erat volutpat. Maecenas molestie, nulla at egestas hendrerit, eros enim rhoncus magna, in interdum est lacus vitae est. Maecenas faucibus venenatis sem cursus egestas. Cras eros lorem, euismod et interdum vitae, scelerisque at libero. Nulla varius congue lobortis. Mauris diam ligula, mollis vel aliquet eget, tincidunt a tellus. Fusce blandit nunc sed est pulvinar molestie. Sed nec turpis at lacus auctor auctor. Nullam posuere pellentesque erat, non aliquam augue molestie aliquam. Nam molestie augue ullamcorper sem tempor varius. In consectetur diam ac purus convallis tincidunt. Suspendisse aliquet velit ut ipsum lobortis eleifend. Suspendisse molestie nunc in nulla bibendum in porttitor massa luctus. Nulla hendrerit mattis mollis. Ut ut lorem a nisl gravida condimentum non nec massa. Nam quis massa turpis. Maecenas eu euismod velit. Nunc accumsan rhoncus malesuada. Nullam tellus augue, ullamcorper ut tincidunt non, varius in sapien. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Proin non tellus libero. In gravida ligula id felis tempus dapibus. Aliquam nec eros eget nunc ultrices eleifend in at est. Nam at ligula vitae arcu ornare lacinia ut volutpat diam. Morbi ornare eleifend dui, id sagittis felis placerat sit amet. Aenean quis odio metus, non commodo dui. Proin pretium, ligula sed laoreet ornare, felis dolor molestie turpis, nec ultrices odio lorem aliquet massa.

Fadeaway Girl
Cheryl Solimini

Fans of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series are well-acquainted with the Girl: a self-sufficient, self-possessed preteen who suddenly materializes to captivate Jury, perhaps nudge him in the right detecting direction, only to fade into the background before the last page is turned. Did Jury imagine her or did we?

Grimes’ intermittent Emma Graham novels have brought this preternaturally wise child to flesh in a series of evocative (of what time period, it’s hard to tell), leisurely thrillers. It’s been four years since the third installment, Belle Ruin, but mere weeks since 12-year-old Emma was “near murdered” investigating past and present deaths in Spirit Lake, the far-western Maryland resort town that almost “tips into West Virginia.” As usual, tenacious Emma has not been fazed by her recent ordeal-by-gunpoint and works her status as local celebrity and star reporter for the town newspaper to continue her inquiries into the unresolved mysteries on her turf, particularly the alleged kidnapping of Baby Fay 20 years prior. The cold case reopens itself when the infant’s father, Morris Slade, and a charming (to all but Emma) stranger show up almost simultaneously.

Shades of Richard Jury, Emma, too, encounters the Girl, a young someone resembling one of the dear departed, and wonders if her vision is real. To find the truth behind both the Girl’s appearance and the baby's disappearance, Emma shuttles between her detective work and her duties as waitress at her mother’s down-at-the-heels hotel and bartender to her great-aunt Aurora, with frequent stops at the Rainbow Café and the Windy Run Diner.

As in Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction and Belle Ruin, Fadeaway Girl takes its own sweet time getting to the most recent crime and its resolution (if the loosely wrapped-up ending can be called that). It’s Emma—surrounded by adults, yet independent of them—who captivates us, with her insights as well as her innocence.

She is no Fadeaway Girl and this still-spinning story leaves no doubt that she will be Back.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 17:55:17

grimes_fadeawaygirlTwelve-year-old Emma Graham, star reporter, waitress, and sleuth, is on the trail of an old unsolved case in Martha Grimes' latest.

A Red Herring Without Mustard
Lynne Maxwell

Succeeding The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, this latest entry in Alan Bradley’s charming series is every bit as delightful as its predecessors. Bradley, of course, is the creator of Flavia de Luce, that most precocious of scientists. Flavia, an 11-year old residing in an English village, circa 1950, has two sisters who are the bane of her existence because they constantly torment her with humiliating tricks. Her father is an upper-class philatelist with rapidly diminishing means. Her obsession is chemistry, and she spends prodigious amounts of time performing experiments in her own lab. In her spare time, Flavia has a penchant for stumbling upon murder mysteries.

In A Red Herring without Mustard, Flavia attempts to assist an elderly Gypsy who is subsequently murdered. Flavia discovers the body and embarks upon her own unauthorized investigation, which expands with the addition of another corpse. The plot is engaging and complex and Bradley envelops his tale in humor which makes for a jolly good read, but it’s his characterization of Flavia that truly shines. Flavia exhibits impressive knowledge and acumen, while also revealing her own shortcomings through the first-person narrative. As an 11-year old, Flavia lacks the maturity and range of experience that would enable her to fully understand the world around her. Her involvement in sleuthing, though, increases her understanding of people, and, in this book, her sense of her own identity.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 20:16:15

Succeeding The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, this latest entry in Alan Bradley’s charming series is every bit as delightful as its predecessors. Bradley, of course, is the creator of Flavia de Luce, that most precocious of scientists. Flavia, an 11-year old residing in an English village, circa 1950, has two sisters who are the bane of her existence because they constantly torment her with humiliating tricks. Her father is an upper-class philatelist with rapidly diminishing means. Her obsession is chemistry, and she spends prodigious amounts of time performing experiments in her own lab. In her spare time, Flavia has a penchant for stumbling upon murder mysteries.

In A Red Herring without Mustard, Flavia attempts to assist an elderly Gypsy who is subsequently murdered. Flavia discovers the body and embarks upon her own unauthorized investigation, which expands with the addition of another corpse. The plot is engaging and complex and Bradley envelops his tale in humor which makes for a jolly good read, but it’s his characterization of Flavia that truly shines. Flavia exhibits impressive knowledge and acumen, while also revealing her own shortcomings through the first-person narrative. As an 11-year old, Flavia lacks the maturity and range of experience that would enable her to fully understand the world around her. Her involvement in sleuthing, though, increases her understanding of people, and, in this book, her sense of her own identity.

Falling More Slowly
Derek Hill

A bomb explodes in a Bristol city park, severely injuring two people. Is it the work of international terrorists? DI Liam McLusky, newly transferred to Bristol after suffering a serious injury in the line of duty, doesn’t think so. But when more bombings claim new victims, the issue of whether it’s committed by a militant group or by a lone, vengeful person feels beside the point—the citizens of Bristol are under attack. Meanwhile a series of brutal muggings by a scooter gang offers a different sort of havoc. Could the two series of crimes be connected in any way? Already stumbling to find his footing with his new job and city, McLusky is confounded by the wave of violence, but determined to stop it.

Fans of Helton’s previous Chris Honeysett PI novels will find plenty to enjoy here, as will readers who simply love a realistically drawn, sardonic protagonist to guide them through the darkness.

We’ve seen the likes of McLusky before, with his bullheaded resolve and crumbling personal life. But Helton’s genuinely sympathetic portrait of his shabby, chain-smoking protagonist and his trenchant observations of life in modern-day, multicultural Bristol help distinguish this new series.

Perfectly pitched between dry humor and dread, Falling More Slowly manages to convey the complexities not only of its characters, but also of Bristol itself. The city feels alive, not simply a generic urban backdrop for violence. The descriptions of the bombings are graphic, even horrifying, but McLusky’s ability to retain his own humanity keeps things engaging and recognizably civilized throughout. It’s a strong debut for a new series and bodes well for future McLusky novels. Now if only someone could find the detective inspector a proper cup of coffee.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 20:28:10

A bomb explodes in a Bristol city park, severely injuring two people. Is it the work of international terrorists? DI Liam McLusky, newly transferred to Bristol after suffering a serious injury in the line of duty, doesn’t think so. But when more bombings claim new victims, the issue of whether it’s committed by a militant group or by a lone, vengeful person feels beside the point—the citizens of Bristol are under attack. Meanwhile a series of brutal muggings by a scooter gang offers a different sort of havoc. Could the two series of crimes be connected in any way? Already stumbling to find his footing with his new job and city, McLusky is confounded by the wave of violence, but determined to stop it.

Fans of Helton’s previous Chris Honeysett PI novels will find plenty to enjoy here, as will readers who simply love a realistically drawn, sardonic protagonist to guide them through the darkness.

We’ve seen the likes of McLusky before, with his bullheaded resolve and crumbling personal life. But Helton’s genuinely sympathetic portrait of his shabby, chain-smoking protagonist and his trenchant observations of life in modern-day, multicultural Bristol help distinguish this new series.

Perfectly pitched between dry humor and dread, Falling More Slowly manages to convey the complexities not only of its characters, but also of Bristol itself. The city feels alive, not simply a generic urban backdrop for violence. The descriptions of the bombings are graphic, even horrifying, but McLusky’s ability to retain his own humanity keeps things engaging and recognizably civilized throughout. It’s a strong debut for a new series and bodes well for future McLusky novels. Now if only someone could find the detective inspector a proper cup of coffee.

Frozen Assets
Derek Hill

Nothing much happens in the small Icelandic fishing village of Hvalvik and residents aren’t complaining about it. But when a corpse is found floating in the lagoon near a soon-to-be-constructed power station, Hvalvik’s Officer Gunna Gunnhildur, a widowed, middle-aged mother of two, gruffly bullies her way toward the truth. Suspecting that the death was not the accidental drowning her superiors back in Reykjavik would like it to be, Gunna, with the help of her small-town police force and a mysterious blogger working autonomously, uncovers something much bigger than the mystery of a single drowned body.

In a world of interchangeable, cynical detectives and seen-it-all cops, Gunna is a refreshingly realistic and likeable protagonist, although far from subtle. Frequently accused of being rude, which in Icelandic society seems tantamount to committing murder, she blusters her way toward solving the mystery at hand, unafraid of what kind of political trouble she may be stirring up. That’s a police procedural cliché, of course, but Bates steers clear of serving up simple stereotypes by offering up an expertly realized main character and brilliant sense of locale, while detailing with precision how the abuse of power at the highest level of society trickles down to hurt the people below. Gunna may be bullish, but her greatest weapons are her steely resolve and sharp, uncompromising wit, effective in shattering the toughest hypocrisies. Bates’ first novel easily joins the ranks of similarly superb Northern European mysteries that have captured the attention of readers in recent years, yet stands alone in its own excellence.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 20:38:14

Nothing much happens in the small Icelandic fishing village of Hvalvik and residents aren’t complaining about it. But when a corpse is found floating in the lagoon near a soon-to-be-constructed power station, Hvalvik’s Officer Gunna Gunnhildur, a widowed, middle-aged mother of two, gruffly bullies her way toward the truth. Suspecting that the death was not the accidental drowning her superiors back in Reykjavik would like it to be, Gunna, with the help of her small-town police force and a mysterious blogger working autonomously, uncovers something much bigger than the mystery of a single drowned body.

In a world of interchangeable, cynical detectives and seen-it-all cops, Gunna is a refreshingly realistic and likeable protagonist, although far from subtle. Frequently accused of being rude, which in Icelandic society seems tantamount to committing murder, she blusters her way toward solving the mystery at hand, unafraid of what kind of political trouble she may be stirring up. That’s a police procedural cliché, of course, but Bates steers clear of serving up simple stereotypes by offering up an expertly realized main character and brilliant sense of locale, while detailing with precision how the abuse of power at the highest level of society trickles down to hurt the people below. Gunna may be bullish, but her greatest weapons are her steely resolve and sharp, uncompromising wit, effective in shattering the toughest hypocrisies. Bates’ first novel easily joins the ranks of similarly superb Northern European mysteries that have captured the attention of readers in recent years, yet stands alone in its own excellence.

Devil’s Slew
Kevin Burton Smith

Wimberly’s series character, Special Agent Barrett “Bear” Raines of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, returns in his fifth outing, an uneven but nonetheless intriguing read. Certainly, the travails of recently returned Afghanistan War vets is timely, and Wimberly displays a strong hand when it comes to his rendering of a rough-and-tumble northwestern coastal Florida “that has nothing to do with Disney World.”

The story begins when Bear is forced to shoot the son of a childhood friend, and rapidly develops into a hearty, nasty stew of violence and murder that includes severed heads, wartime atrocities, smugglers, a murdered federal agent, counterfeiters and—I kid you not—bear traps. The problem is when the author’s efforts to balance his tough, hardboiled police procedural begin to slap against the cozy domestic duties of family man Raines (baseball games with the twins, date nights with the wife, etc.) and his occasional time-outs from it all to go kayaking. That sort of stop-and-go plays hell with momentum.

In a similar vein, much is made of Bear being a black man in a “larger and dominant culture” but it’s mostly just lip service. Nothing comes of it. And the attempt to portray his French-Canadian partner as a fellow victim of prejudice, right down to suffering the indignity of “English Only” restroom signs in Quebec (yeah, right!) is spectacularly ill-informed. Similarly, do we really need to know—in the middle of rushing to a crime scene—that Bear’s beloved Malibu has a “Harley [sic] four-barrel dumping 89 octane to a ‘369’ with fresh plugs and an aftermarket ignition kit”? Still, there’s a fair play mystery at work here, the final revelation is a neat twist, and Bear is an interesting character to ride along with. Now if only the author didn’t feel obliged to stop the car so often along the way.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 20:43:09

wimberly_devilsslewSpecial Agent Barrett “Bear” Raines of Florida returns in his fifth outing.

Fatal Error
Betty Webb

While training to become a Yavapai County, Arizona sheriff’s deputy, former news anchor Ali Reynolds discovers that Brenda Riley, a once-rival newscaster, has hit the skids big time, getting fired from her job and racking up DUIs one after another. The cause of Brenda’s tailspin is Richard Lowensdale, a cyber-sociopath who woos lonely women merely for the thrill of dumping them in particularly humiliating ways. He’s a nasty piece of work, but nowhere near as nasty as Mina Blaylock, the woman he works for. When Richard is found tortured and murdered, Brenda—who was in the process of outing him to his other victims—becomes the main suspect. She promptly disappears, and the cops think she’s on the run.

Ali doesn’t believe her old acquaintance could have killed anyone, so she enlists the computer security skills of boyfriend B. Simpson to help clear Brenda’s name. As for the actual footwork, Ali prefers to handle that herself. Due to her newfound martial arts skills, she believes she can handle any physical altercation that might arise. The complicated plot bounces back and forth from Arizona to California, encompassing lonely hearts victims, a finger-amputating Serbian torturer, a dying elderly woman, and a US design firm planning to sell leftover government drones to terrorists and drug runners.

Although Ali is usually the central figure in this series (five more have appeared earlier, most recently Trial by Fire in 2009) she’s upstaged here by her old acquaintance. Brenda may be a mess, but her efforts to spare other women the heartache she’s gone through allow readers to cheer her successes and sympathize with her many missteps. Another nice addition to the series is Detective Gilbert Morris, a California cop smart enough to listen to Ali’s belief that Brenda is about to be victimized all over again, this time in a more final fashion. The partnership of Gil and Ali is almost as satisfying as that of J. P. Beaumont and Sheriff Susanna Brady in Jance’s earlier Partner in Crime.

Teri Duerr
2011-03-24 21:04:41

While training to become a Yavapai County, Arizona sheriff’s deputy, former news anchor Ali Reynolds discovers that Brenda Riley, a once-rival newscaster, has hit the skids big time, getting fired from her job and racking up DUIs one after another. The cause of Brenda’s tailspin is Richard Lowensdale, a cyber-sociopath who woos lonely women merely for the thrill of dumping them in particularly humiliating ways. He’s a nasty piece of work, but nowhere near as nasty as Mina Blaylock, the woman he works for. When Richard is found tortured and murdered, Brenda—who was in the process of outing him to his other victims—becomes the main suspect. She promptly disappears, and the cops think she’s on the run.

Ali doesn’t believe her old acquaintance could have killed anyone, so she enlists the computer security skills of boyfriend B. Simpson to help clear Brenda’s name. As for the actual footwork, Ali prefers to handle that herself. Due to her newfound martial arts skills, she believes she can handle any physical altercation that might arise. The complicated plot bounces back and forth from Arizona to California, encompassing lonely hearts victims, a finger-amputating Serbian torturer, a dying elderly woman, and a US design firm planning to sell leftover government drones to terrorists and drug runners.

Although Ali is usually the central figure in this series (five more have appeared earlier, most recently Trial by Fire in 2009) she’s upstaged here by her old acquaintance. Brenda may be a mess, but her efforts to spare other women the heartache she’s gone through allow readers to cheer her successes and sympathize with her many missteps. Another nice addition to the series is Detective Gilbert Morris, a California cop smart enough to listen to Ali’s belief that Brenda is about to be victimized all over again, this time in a more final fashion. The partnership of Gil and Ali is almost as satisfying as that of J. P. Beaumont and Sheriff Susanna Brady in Jance’s earlier Partner in Crime.