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Sherlock Holmes to Watson, "the Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual," the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"A man always finds it hard to realize that he may have finally lost a woman’s love, however badly he may have treated her."

—Sherlock Holmes to Watson, "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual," The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1894, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"Macavity: the Mystery Cat," Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"He always has an alibi and one or two to spare."

—"Macavity: The Mystery Cat," Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, 1939, T.S. Eliot

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"At gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck."

Casino Royale, 1953, Ian Fleming

Reverend Leonard Clement, the Murder at the Vicarage
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands."

—Reverend Leonard Clement, The Murder at the Vicarage, 1930, by Agatha Christie

Philip Nore, Reflex
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"Everything ends."

—Philip Nore, Reflex, 1980, by Dick Francis

Uncle Paul, Celia Fremlin
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"Infatuation means ‘A love that it is inconvenient to go on with.’"

Uncle Paul, 1959, by Celia Fremlin

Kinsey Millhone, "A" Is for Alibi
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"Too much virtue has a corrupting effect."

—Kinsey Millhone, "A" is for Alibi, 1982, by Sue Grafton

Headline in the Miami Herald
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06
Man Shoots Neighbor With Machete

—Headline in The Miami Herald, July 3, 1997

Abdullah, Commenting on His Employer, Amelia Peabody Emerson, Seeing a Large Cat
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"It is not strange. She finds them often. Fresh dead people."

—Abdullah, commenting on his employer, Amelia Peabody Emerson, Seeing a Large Cat, 1997, by Elizabeth Peters

Umberto Eco on Why He Wrote His Novel, the Name of the Rose
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"I felt like poisoning a monk."

—Umberto Eco on why he wrote his novel, The Name of the Rose, 1983

Nero Wolfe, "Black Orchids," in Black Orchids
Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

"It is surprising that Mr. Gould lived long as he did, in view of his character."

—Nero Wolfe, "Black Orchids," in Black Orchids, 1942, by Rex Stout

The War Within
Barbara Fister

Rees_Bethlehem_Souk_small

Journalist Matt Beynon Rees explores the conflicts within Palestinian society in The Collaborator of Bethlehem

Photographs: ©David Blumenfeld/ www.blumenfeld.com

In 2007, readers had the first chance to meet Omar Yussef, the first Palestinian mystery protagonist, in Matt Beynon ReesThe Collaborator of Bethlehem. Based on real events, the novel introduces readers to the inner reality of a decades-old conflict that is known to most Americans only through oversimplified headlines and overheated thrillers.

The rich authenticity of the setting and plot is no fluke. Born in Wales in 1967, Rees studied at Oxford University and the University of Maryland, then worked as a reporter in London, Washington, DC, and New York before becoming the first Middle East correspondent for The Scotsman in 1996.

In moving to the Middle East, Rees was following the path of his great-uncles who, during their British army service, rode into Jerusalem on camelback in 1917. One of them had earlier sent home a postcard that had the pyramids on one side, and on the other the message, “Dear Sis, there’s nothing here but camels, sand and shit.” Rees’ decade of reporting on the lives of Palestinians and Israelis for The Scotsman, Newsweek, and Time magazine has given him a chance to develop a more nuanced understanding of the region than his great-uncle’s first impression.

“I’m a natural anthropologist who loves to hear the stories and observe the lives of another people,” he said in an e-mail interview from his home in Jerusalem, where he can see Omar Yussef’s Bethlehem from the room where he writes. “But I’d also say it was because I felt a stake in this place, due to my great-uncles having been here in World War I. The graves of the British men who fought at their side are still here, and I visit them often.” Rees even had the time-collapsing experience of being on the edge of a gunfight in exactly the same place where one of his great-uncles was shot.

“I remember what it was like as a little boy to feel my ninety-year-old great-uncle’s unshaven cheek when he’d give me a kiss, and I’ve always thought of that as a reminder that the people who fight and die here are flesh and blood, and they should be listened to and understood as people who touch each other and love each other, not as the kinds of stereotypes into which they are pummeled by the formulaic writing of journalists.”

Rees’ belief in the humanity behind the issues is shared by his unconventional hero, the crotchety, middle-aged schoolteacher Omar Yussef, who wants to impart to his young students in the Dehaisha refugee camp that behind simplistic categories of “martyr” and “occupier” there are real people whose lives and losses are more than mere symbols.

Where did this compelling but unlikely hero come from? “Omar is largely based on a Palestinian man I know and admire,” Rees said. “The core of my admiration for him is that he’s an honorable man who questions the way society deteriorates around him and maintains his intelligence and decency even when others around him descend into hatred. In a place as violent as Bethlehem, that would be enough to make a man heroic. But I also noticed that it’s hugely frustrating to live in a lawless, radicalized society and at the same time to see through its slogans and conventional wisdom. For that reason, Omar has to have a short fuse and a wicked tongue: he holds everyone else, including his students, to his own high ethical standards and lets them know when they’ve let him down.”

Rees_Nativity_Church_smallThough most news coverage focuses on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Rees is more interested in the internecine struggles within Palestinian society, a neglected aspect of the decades-long fighting that he first explored with a novelist’s keen eye for detail and characterization in a nonfiction book, Cain’s Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East (Free Press, 2004).

“Dissatisfaction with the way their society is run is very much how ordinary Palestinians feel,” Rees pointed out. “They don’t always express it to foreign correspondents, because they’re eager to vent their frustrations about Israel and the journalists are usually keener to hear that (because their stories are usually about Israel versus the Palestinians, rather than looking at what goes on within the society).” But in fiction, Rees is able to dig deeper.

The setting of The Collaborator of Bethlehem is claustrophobic, a place under siege from outside and torn with self-destructive violence within. Though the story opens with the Israeli shelling of a Christian Palestinian’s house, the real conflict erupts when the homeowner tries to chase away the men who are using his rooftop as a position of attack. It is his challenge to a local warlord on behalf of his family’s safety that lights the fuse of the plot. “For much of the last few years, most Palestinians haven’t been able to move around the West Bank from town to town, because of Israeli checkpoints,” Rees explained. “So they stay in their hometowns and it’s the local gunmen or police who have the biggest impact on their lives. The lawlessness and corruption of their society, particularly its absolute disintegration since 2000, is the most depressing thing for the Palestinians I know best.”

In addition to the story line, ripped from headlines that have never been written, the cultural life of Palestine is vividly portrayed, including the graciousness of social customs in the face of violence and corruption. A fluent Arabic speaker, Rees has included direct translations of the greetings used in daily life which he finds “quite poetic compared to the way we speak.” Because he has been able to spend time in the homes of ordinary Palestinians, speaking with them in their own language, he is able to translate that life effectively. “Above all, I listened to ordinary people even when they expressed shocking opinions and I didn’t judge them; I let them talk and I wrote it all down”—all of which adds to the dramatic yet authentic conflict that drives the story.

The violence portrayed in the novel is equally informed by experience and has a graphic accuracy that goes well beyond CSI-style clinical gore. “I’d only been here a few weeks when I went to cover a suicide bombing in Jerusalem,” Rees said. “I was standing by a lumpy tarpaulin at the curb taking notes, when an Israeli policemen walked up to one of the members of the recovery team (these are religious Jews employed to pick up even the tiniest scraps of flesh at the scene). ‘The terrorist is under there,’ the policeman said. The recovery worker lifted the blue tarp and had a long look. So did I. It was the top half of a bearded man’s body, separated from his midriff and legs by the force of the blast he’d unleashed,” an explosion that also killed four Israelis.

But more distressing to Rees than viewing dismembered bodies is seeing the long-term effects of violence on the living. “I think in particular of a Palestinian from Hebron who I first met when he was hospitalized with part of his skull blown away. The wound had healed but there was a deep gouge in the side of his head. I couldn’t see the gouge because his hair had grown back in, but his doctor said, ‘Look, it’s right here,’ grabbed my finger and put it inside the long, boneless trench on the side of the man’s skull. The man looked at me with such horror in his eyes that even now I can feel my temperature going up a degree or two when I remember that moment.”

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics tells reporters to “give voice to the voiceless” and “tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.” Rees has applied these rules to his fiction, which he finds a more effective medium than the sound-bite culture of the newsroom. Crime fiction, in particular, is a potent vehicle for exploring Palestinian society. “First, there’s lots of real crime and a screaming need for a decent honorable man to put it right. Second, the form lends itself to the very nuanced way in which Palestinian gunmen and corrupt politicians work: It takes a lot of knowledge about the place to know who’s lying or who’s really a killer.”

Rees_Bethlehem_panorama_smallMystery fiction also offers an opportunity to develop characters with integrity. “I wanted to express through the character of Omar Yussef all that I had learned about the Palestinians and to develop that over a series of novels. When I read so-called literary fiction, I end up thinking that it’s full of linguistic pyrotechnics but has very little insight into real characters, the human situation in which the book’s characters are supposed to live. Crime fiction reverses this by making the depth of the detective’s character the real focus of the book. Yes, there has to be a mystery for him to solve and the writing should be of a Chandler-level wit and style, but I’m always interested in why that particular detective should be the one to solve it; what is it about his character which drives him to find the truth in a situation where it’d be safer to go home and ignore the bad guys? That’s the heart of Omar Yussef’s dilemma, and I believe it rings true in the book because it’s a dilemma facing decent Palestinians I’ve known well.”

But it isn’t just heroes who can be developed in crime fiction. “Sometimes I find mysteries have a great detective character, but the villains are either empty vessels or simply psychopaths.” You won’t find them in The Collaborator of Bethlehem. “Unfortunately for the Palestinian people, there are large numbers of gunmen and corrupt politicians among them who have real reasons for killing. That, for me, is the important flip side of the depth I was able to bring to the central character by writing a crime novel.”

He added, “I’ve always wanted to write fiction, since I was nine years old and my schoolteacher pinned a story I wrote on the classroom wall. I became a journalist because I was a good writer, and then realized that it could take me to places and meet people I’d never otherwise have encountered. But writing was always the heart of it for me.”

That’s led him to follow a fork in his career path. “I’ve taken a step away from journalism, a step deeper into the lives of ordinary Palestinians, and of course a step deeper into myself—because what I’m doing, like any good novelist, is to examine my own responses to the things I’ve seen over the last decade in the Middle East.”

What’s next for Omar Yussef? “I just delivered the second book in the series to my publisher,” Rees said. “It’s set in Gaza, where Omar finds himself involved in the deadly matrix of a missile-smuggling ring. I’m shortly going to get rolling on book three, which is set in Nablus. My long-term intention is for Omar to examine the full scope of the way Palestinians live today, as well as for some of his mysteries to delve into the bloody past of the Palestinians and their political infighting. I want people to be able to ‘get’ these parts of the story who might know very little about the Middle East and at the same time to be sure it doesn’t sound like a primer on the region.”

And for Matt Beynon Rees? Though he rose through the ranks to become Time’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief in 2000, he recently left that position to become an occasional contributor to Time and a full-time novelist. He has always been more interested in exploring the long-term truth of human experiences than reporting the latest news. “Journalism is an immensely flawed way of depicting reality. I’ve found that fiction gives you a much clearer picture, because it isn’t constrained by the formulas. In journalism, you end up including quotes which aren’t true, simply because you’re supposed to give the ‘other side’ of a story and have to quote some spokesman issuing a blatantly false denial. In a novel, characters lie, but in the end the reader will know it, whereas a newspaper reader ends up confused.”

He’s not worried that he will run out of material. “My intention is to write each of the Omar Yussef novels in such a way that, no matter what changes on the ground, they’ll still be valid. In other words, nothing in the novels is tied to political conditions which might make the novels seem dated.” He added, ruefully, “I don’t think that would change even if there was peace here. But that’s a hypothesis that isn’t about to be tested, sadly.”

A Matt Beynon Rees Reading List

Nonfiction
Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East (2004)

The Omar Yussef Mysteries
The Collaborator of Bethlehem (2007)
A Grave in Gaza (2008)
The Samaritan's Secret (2009)
The Fourth Assassin (2010)

Historical Crime Novel
Mozart's Last Aria (forthcoming November 2011)

Blog
The Man of Twists and Turns

Barbara Fister is a regular Mystery Scene erviewer and academic librarian and author.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #98.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 12:06

Rees_Nativity_Church_smallMatt Beynon Rees explores the conflicts within Palestinian society in The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

Deadly Row
Lynne F. Maxwell
Crossword puzzle creator Savannah Stone thought that she and hubby Zach had safely retired to rural North Carolina, but Zach, a former police chief, is summoned back to his old Charlotte beat in order to help protect the mayor, also a friend, from threatened harm. Everything goes awry, as the good guys become difficult to distinguish from the villains. Fortunately, Savannah’s superior mathematical skills and her ability to solve complex puzzles comes into play in the nick of time.
Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06
Crossword puzzle creator Savannah Stone thought that she and hubby Zach had safely retired to rural North Carolina, but Zach, a former police chief, is summoned back to his old Charlotte beat in order to help protect the mayor, also a friend, from threatened harm. Everything goes awry, as the good guys become difficult to distinguish from the villains. Fortunately, Savannah’s superior mathematical skills and her ability to solve complex puzzles comes into play in the nick of time.
Last Writes
Lynne F. Maxwell
Last Writes is Sheila Lowe’s fourth entry in her series starring Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert residing in Los Angeles. Claudia is enlisted by her friend Kelly to infiltrate a religious cult in order to rescue Kelly’s niece, who was allegedly kidnapped by her own father. Claudia’s forensic handwriting analysis skills come into play, when she is commissioned to examine handwriting samples of cult members in order to unmask an impostor. Claudia manages to accomplish that and much more. As this murderously unraveling cult hurtles to implosion—think Heaven’s Gate meets Jim Jones—Claudia’s expertise and insight enable her to pluck the little girl from certain death. Whew! And I thought the Palmer Method was torture!
Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06
Last Writes is Sheila Lowe’s fourth entry in her series starring Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert residing in Los Angeles. Claudia is enlisted by her friend Kelly to infiltrate a religious cult in order to rescue Kelly’s niece, who was allegedly kidnapped by her own father. Claudia’s forensic handwriting analysis skills come into play, when she is commissioned to examine handwriting samples of cult members in order to unmask an impostor. Claudia manages to accomplish that and much more. As this murderously unraveling cult hurtles to implosion—think Heaven’s Gate meets Jim Jones—Claudia’s expertise and insight enable her to pluck the little girl from certain death. Whew! And I thought the Palmer Method was torture!
Mortar and Murder
Lynne F. Maxwell

In Jennie Bentley’s Mortar and Murder, Avery Baker, a textile designer by profession, has defected from the rat race of Manhattan and taken up residence in Maine, where she meets handsome Derek, formerly a physician and currently a restorer of homes. Teaming up with Derek to revive neglected houses, she brings her artistic eye and skills to the process. Artistry of any sort, however, does not prepare Avery and Derek for the horrors they discover as they remodel a house on a scenic island. In traveling to the island for their day’s work, they discover corpses on several occasions.

Even more mystifying is the fact that the bodies appear to have some connection to the Ukraine, which is certainly peculiar for Maine. To add to the bizarre connection, Avery also has a Ukrainian acquaintance, a realtor in the town, who begins to act strangely when asked about the Ukrainian ties. What could be going on? Perhaps a scheme to buy Ukrainian brides?

Drawn into the case, Avery and Derek, along with their friend the police chief, get to the bottom of things to solve the mystery. Oh, yes, there’s an adorable kitten here, as well. Still, even the fetching feline doesn’t change my mind about the dangers of home repair and restoration.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06

In Jennie Bentley’s Mortar and Murder, Avery Baker, a textile designer by profession, has defected from the rat race of Manhattan and taken up residence in Maine, where she meets handsome Derek, formerly a physician and currently a restorer of homes. Teaming up with Derek to revive neglected houses, she brings her artistic eye and skills to the process. Artistry of any sort, however, does not prepare Avery and Derek for the horrors they discover as they remodel a house on a scenic island. In traveling to the island for their day’s work, they discover corpses on several occasions.

Even more mystifying is the fact that the bodies appear to have some connection to the Ukraine, which is certainly peculiar for Maine. To add to the bizarre connection, Avery also has a Ukrainian acquaintance, a realtor in the town, who begins to act strangely when asked about the Ukrainian ties. What could be going on? Perhaps a scheme to buy Ukrainian brides?

Drawn into the case, Avery and Derek, along with their friend the police chief, get to the bottom of things to solve the mystery. Oh, yes, there’s an adorable kitten here, as well. Still, even the fetching feline doesn’t change my mind about the dangers of home repair and restoration.

Dirty Old Town
Bill Crider
Nigel Bird is a well-known blogger who features authors interviewing themselves. But he’s also an accomplished short story writer, as evidenced by his ebook collection titled Dirty Old Town. The book contains eight stories, two of which are original to the collection. They’re dark and surprising and sometimes brutal. I was particularly taken by the first one, “Drinking Wine (Spo-dee-oh-dee)” because of my fondness for the old song of that name as well as some of the others mentioned in the story.
Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06
Nigel Bird is a well-known blogger who features authors interviewing themselves. But he’s also an accomplished short story writer, as evidenced by his ebook collection titled Dirty Old Town. The book contains eight stories, two of which are original to the collection. They’re dark and surprising and sometimes brutal. I was particularly taken by the first one, “Drinking Wine (Spo-dee-oh-dee)” because of my fondness for the old song of that name as well as some of the others mentioned in the story.
Discount Noir
Bill Crider
And speaking of ebooks, it would be remiss of me not to mention Discount Noir, edited by Steve Weddle and Patricia Abbott. It’s a dandy collection of more than 40 flash stories, all under a thousand words and all set in a great big discount chain store that in no way resembles any actual chain store that you might think of when reading them. Disclaimer: I have a story in this one, along with James Reasoner, Ed Gorman, Chris Grabenstein, and a host of others. My story brings back a couple of characters from my Edgar-nominated “Cranked,” in case you were wondering.
Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06
And speaking of ebooks, it would be remiss of me not to mention Discount Noir, edited by Steve Weddle and Patricia Abbott. It’s a dandy collection of more than 40 flash stories, all under a thousand words and all set in a great big discount chain store that in no way resembles any actual chain store that you might think of when reading them. Disclaimer: I have a story in this one, along with James Reasoner, Ed Gorman, Chris Grabenstein, and a host of others. My story brings back a couple of characters from my Edgar-nominated “Cranked,” in case you were wondering.
Bad Girls
Bill Crider
Poison Pixie is a new British small press with the stated goal of bringing out “economically priced, easy-to-read paperbacks in the tradition of classic mystery imprints like Gold Medal...” Their first effort is Max Scratchmann’s Bad Girls, eight dark stories about, well bad girls. Scratchmann’s writing is known for its humor, and while there’s humor in Bad Girls, it’s very dark, indeed. These stories pack a punch, and there’s always a sting in the tale.
Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06
Poison Pixie is a new British small press with the stated goal of bringing out “economically priced, easy-to-read paperbacks in the tradition of classic mystery imprints like Gold Medal...” Their first effort is Max Scratchmann’s Bad Girls, eight dark stories about, well bad girls. Scratchmann’s writing is known for its humor, and while there’s humor in Bad Girls, it’s very dark, indeed. These stories pack a punch, and there’s always a sting in the tale.
Mystery Women: an Encyclopedia of Leading Women Characters in Mystery Fiction
Jon L. Breen

The author updates her exhaustive accounts of female detectives and important secondary characters introduced in the final decade of the 20th century through a cut-off date of December 31, 2008, adding about 200 pages to the previous edition, which was published in two physical volumes in 2003. Now 85, Barnett advises that she will not be adding a volume on new sleuths from the first decade of the 21st, so this is a good time to commend her on one of the most ambitious and thorough specialized reference projects in the annals of mystery fiction scholarship.

Arrangement is by character name with indexes by author and title. There is also a chronology of characters covered in all three volumes of the set and a secondary bibliography which includes not only sources on mystery fiction but also on political, economic, social, and general literary trends over the period 1860-2009. The extensive series histories and plot summaries have their value, but frank critical judgments add considerably to the interest. Usually these are neutral or laudatory but occasionally, as in the entries on Carole Nelson Douglas’ Irene Adler and Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, they can be harsh—or sometimes funny, as in the following on the Victorian housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries (Emily Brightwell): “A reader might ask: while the servants followed lovesick young nieces, frequented seedy taverns, or set séance traps, who was feeding the horses, polishing the silver and tending to the clothes? These employees would not last a week at the Bellamys of Eaton Place.” Barnett admits to the inevitable presence of errors in a project this ambitious. Kathy Lynn Emerson was the author, not the editor, of Murder and Other Confusions. Margaret Lawrence (who writes the Hannah Trevor series) and Martha C. Lawrence (who writes about Dr. Elizabeth Chase) are two different people, and it was Margaret Lawrence who also wrote as M.K. Lorens.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:06

barnett_mysterywomen1990-2000An update to one of the most ambitious and thorough specialized reference projects in mystery fiction, this latest edition adds 200 pages of research to the original 2003 double volume.

Our Reviewers Recommend Summer 2011
Mystery Scene

The hottest, leanest, meanest, laugh-out-loudest books of the summer from our reviewers

"Our Readers Recommend" is one of our favorite ways to hear what you've been reading and what you love. To start off summer, we thought we'd return the favor by asking Mystery Scene reviewers (by extension some of the most voracious and informed readers out there) to share their top reading recommendations.

cronin_thepassage

A CHILLING SUMMER

"For me, the perfect summer read is Justin Cronin's The Passage, a looooong literary novel about the years after zombie-type vampires have sucked the blood out of America, and the few survivors are hanging on in stockades. Never has being so scared felt so classy."

—Betty Webb, Small Press Reviews

kabatchnik_bloodonthestage_new

HIGHBROW BEACH READING

"Amnon Kabatchnik's Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection: An Annotated Repertoire (Scarecrow) is the third volume of a landmark scholarly endeavor. Not traditional beach reading I grant you, but as entertaining as a reference book can be."

—Jon L. Breen, Nonfiction & Reference Reviews


nesbo_thesnowman

THE HARD STUFF

"I'm torn between two books. If you limit me to one, then it has to be Jo Nesbo's The Snowman. [Nesbo's] Harry Hole police procedurals are like manna from heaven. They just keep getting better and better, and this latest one, fourth in the series, is the best yet. And if I'm allowed two, then Lawrence Block's A Drop of the Hard Stuff."

—Bob Smith, MS Reviews

knopf_thelastrefuge

ODDBALLS & WISECRACKS

"The Last Refuge, by Chris Knopf, begins a series with wisecracking former boxer and former engineer Sam Acquillo. The dialogue snaps, there are plenty of oddball characters, and the setting reflects the beauty of the Hamptons. But Knopf's Hamptons is not only of the rich and famous who crowd it during the summer; it also reflects the blue-collar workers who live there year-round."

—Lourdes Fernandez Venard, MS Reviews

hamill_tabloidcity

NEW YORK NOIR

"Tabloid City by Pete Hamill. Grabs you on the first page and makes you weep for the decline of newspapers and their colorful array of never-to-be-duplicated characters. Add on a terrific murder plot; toss in a terrorist. Pure joy!"

—Sue Emmons, MS Reviews

abbott_endofeverything

MISSING IN THE MIDWEST

"Edgar Award winner Megan Abbott makes a couple of big shifts with her upcoming novel, The End of Everything. After her series of noir-tinged books set mostly in L.A. between the early 1930s and mid-1960s, the new book takes place in a Midwestern suburb in the 1980s. The focus on young teens—one of whom disappears—also marks some new territory for the author. But book after book, Abbott's talent has only continued to grow stronger and more confident, and this book promises yet another bold and ambitious leap."

—Art Taylor, MS Contributor

atkins_ranger

FAR-RANGING CRIME

"The Ranger by Ace Atkins. Atkins turns from his historical crime fiction to a new rousing series about a US Army Ranger who returns to his small Mississippi hometown to find it overrun by corruption, meth dealers, and shady developers. Atkins also has been tapped to continue the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series."

Oline Cogdill, MS Blog

faust_moneyshot

TOUGH & TREACHEROUS

"Crime fiction has some notable fierce heroines - Lisbeth Salander anyone? But you can easily add ex-adult movie star Angel Dare to the top of the list. Read the first eight pages of Money Shot by Christa Faust and try to put the book down. You can't. This is modern hard-boiled fiction done right - twisty, tough, and treacherous. Just like Angel."

Derek Hill, MS Reviews

pelecanos_thecut

A NEW PI ON THE SCENE

"The Cut by George Pelecanos. What's not to love? A new series private eye, Spero Lucas, a young Iraq war vet, hitting the streets of DC, from one of the genre's all-time best writers. Welcome back, George."

Kevin Burton Smith, MS Columnist

elkins_theworstthing

BEST "WORST" READ

"The Worst Thing by Aaron Elkins is a suspenseful takeoff from the question, What is the worst thing you can imagine happening to you? Whether your personal fears are spiders, heights, the dark, or confined spaces, the reality is sometimes more terrifying when events happen that are beyond what can be imagined."

Leslie Doran, MS Reviews

Submit your own recommendation and win a free book!
Email us about what you're reading here.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 02:06

kabatchnik_bloodonthestage_newThe hottest, leanest, meanest, laugh-out-loudest books of the summer from our reviewers.

Our Reviewers Recommend July 2011
Mystery Scene

atkins_rangerMore of the best summer picks from our reviewers

Feature column "Our Readers Recommend" is one of our favorite ways to hear what you've been reading and what you love. To start off summer, we thought we'd return the favor by asking Mystery Scene reviewers (by extension some of the most voracious and informed readers out there) to share their top reading recommendations.

faust_moneyshot

FAR-RANGING CRIME

"The Ranger by Ace Atkins. Atkins turns from his historical crime fiction to a new rousing series about a US Army Ranger who returns to his small Mississippi hometown to find it overrun by corruption, meth dealers, and shady developers. Atkins also has been tapped to continue the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series."

- Oline Cogdill, MS Blog

TOUGH & TREACHEROUS

pelecanos_thecut"Crime fiction has some notable fierce heroines - Lisbeth Salander anyone? But you can easily add ex-adult movie star Angel Dare to the top of the list. Read the first eight pages of Money Shot by Christa Faust and try to put the book down. You can't. This is modern hard-boiled fiction done right - twisty, tough, and treacherous. Just like Angel."

- Derek Hill, MS Reviews

A NEW PI ON THE SCENE

"The Cut by George Pelecanos. What's not to love? A new series private eye, Spero Lucas, a young Iraq war vet, hitting the streets of DC, from one of the genre's all-time best writers. Welcome back, George."

elkins_theworstthing- Kevin Burton Smith, MS Columnist

BEST "WORST" READ

"The Worst Thing by Aaron Elkins is a suspenseful takeoff from the question, What is the worst thing you can imagine happening to you? Whether your personal fears are spiders, heights, the dark, or confined spaces, the reality is sometimes more terrifying when events happen that are beyond what can be imagined."

- Leslie Doran, MS Reviews

Missed Our Reviewers Recommend I?
Read earlier recommendations from MS contributors and reviewers here.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 04:06

More of the best summer picks from our reviewers

Michael Dibdin's Zen on Pbs
Oline Cogdill

altFans of the late Michael Dibdin's novels featuring Roman police detective Aurelio Zeno -- best known as Zen -- will find much to like in Zen, the new series that is part of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! The episodes will air on three consecutive Sundays, beginning at 9 p.m. July 17, July 24 and July 31.

Those unfamiliar with Dibdin or Zen also will be so wrapped up in the evocative TV series that they will want to read the author's 11 novels.

Zen translates well to the screen, thanks in part to actor Rufus Sewell (The Pillars of the Earth) who portrays the insightful, incorruptible and compassionate Zen, and because of the respect the Left Bank Productions, and especially producer Michael Casey, have for Dibdin's work.

Dibdin's novels give an in-depth look at the vagaries of Italian police work and Italian society. Zen is an honest cop who is up against corruption each day, including from the police force. Too often, Zen battles criminals and his bosses, who seem to side more with crime gangs and want his cases wrapped up quickly to avoid political fallout. Because of this, Zen is more than a little cynical about justice and has no problems taking radical approaches or cutting corners so that he can right wrongs. Often he feels as if he is the only one interested in justice.

Zen lives with his mother (Catherine Spaak) because his marriage is failing. While he has no shortage of love interests, Zen is no lothario. He's almost too busy between his job, mom and failing marriage to think about romance. That is until he gets to know Tania Moretti (Caterina Murino) who is his chief's new secretary.

Dibdin, who died in 2007, received the Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for best novel for Ratking, the first novel in his Aurelio Zen series.

In addition to the characters, the TV series shows the breath-taking beauty of Rome and the Italian countryside that will have you wanting to pack a suitcase -- immediately.

"Vendetta," the episode airing July 17 is a good indicator of the series attention to detail and quality. In this episode, a killer is targeting those who he thinks wrongly imprisoned him. Although Zen had little to do with the man's conviction, he also is being hunted. Meanwhile, Zen is being pushed by his scheming boss to wrap up a politically charged murder.

"Vendetta" combines action and perspective on Zen. Each scene -- and this is true of the entire series -- is tightly packed so there is no lull in the story. Zen's plunge into a cave is a tension-filled scene that is beautifully filmed.

Zen, which aired last year in Britain, also is available on DVD or Blu-ray. Zen is definitely a keeper.


Zen airs at 9 p.m. July 17, July 24 and July 31 on PBS. Check your local station for additional airings or change in times.

Photo: Rufus Sewell, Caterina Murino in Zen. PBS photo

Super User
Sunday, 17 July 2011 06:07

altFans of the late Michael Dibdin's novels featuring Roman police detective Aurelio Zeno -- best known as Zen -- will find much to like in Zen, the new series that is part of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! The episodes will air on three consecutive Sundays, beginning at 9 p.m. July 17, July 24 and July 31.

Those unfamiliar with Dibdin or Zen also will be so wrapped up in the evocative TV series that they will want to read the author's 11 novels.

Zen translates well to the screen, thanks in part to actor Rufus Sewell (The Pillars of the Earth) who portrays the insightful, incorruptible and compassionate Zen, and because of the respect the Left Bank Productions, and especially producer Michael Casey, have for Dibdin's work.

Dibdin's novels give an in-depth look at the vagaries of Italian police work and Italian society. Zen is an honest cop who is up against corruption each day, including from the police force. Too often, Zen battles criminals and his bosses, who seem to side more with crime gangs and want his cases wrapped up quickly to avoid political fallout. Because of this, Zen is more than a little cynical about justice and has no problems taking radical approaches or cutting corners so that he can right wrongs. Often he feels as if he is the only one interested in justice.

Zen lives with his mother (Catherine Spaak) because his marriage is failing. While he has no shortage of love interests, Zen is no lothario. He's almost too busy between his job, mom and failing marriage to think about romance. That is until he gets to know Tania Moretti (Caterina Murino) who is his chief's new secretary.

Dibdin, who died in 2007, received the Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for best novel for Ratking, the first novel in his Aurelio Zen series.

In addition to the characters, the TV series shows the breath-taking beauty of Rome and the Italian countryside that will have you wanting to pack a suitcase -- immediately.

"Vendetta," the episode airing July 17 is a good indicator of the series attention to detail and quality. In this episode, a killer is targeting those who he thinks wrongly imprisoned him. Although Zen had little to do with the man's conviction, he also is being hunted. Meanwhile, Zen is being pushed by his scheming boss to wrap up a politically charged murder.

"Vendetta" combines action and perspective on Zen. Each scene -- and this is true of the entire series -- is tightly packed so there is no lull in the story. Zen's plunge into a cave is a tension-filled scene that is beautifully filmed.

Zen, which aired last year in Britain, also is available on DVD or Blu-ray. Zen is definitely a keeper.


Zen airs at 9 p.m. July 17, July 24 and July 31 on PBS. Check your local station for additional airings or change in times.

Photo: Rufus Sewell, Caterina Murino in Zen. PBS photo

Spend Some Time on the Open Road This Summer and Win a Sony Reader!
Mystery Scene Special Promotions

openroad_summersteals_logoopenroadintegratedmedia_logo

For a limited time only, Open Road Integrated Media is offering 50 top, selected ebooks from Jonathon King to Loren D. Estleman and Stephen Coonts to Lawrence Block for instant download, starting at just $0.99 from participating retailers!

To kickoff 50 Summer Steals, Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene are giving away a Sony Reader preloaded with 10 great mystery and crime reads!

Each favorite ebook is the first in a series or a first book.

- Motor City Blue by Loren D. Estleman
- Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow
- No Lesser Plea by Robert K Tanenbaum
- No Score by Lawrence Block
- Tropical Heat by John Lutz
- Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathan King
- The Eighth Trumpet by Jon Land
- Slow Motion Riot by Peter Blauner
- A Dark Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell
- Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply "Like" Open Road Media on Facebook and Open Road Integrated Media a wall posting letting them know you want to enter their Sony Reader Summer Steals promotion.

openroadmedia_facebook.png

You can also enter by sending a 4x6 postcard with your name and address to:

ORIM 180 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014

All entries must be postmarked by July 31, 2011. Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene are not responsible for lost or misdirected mail.

OFFICIAL PROMOTION RULES & NOTICES
- The contest will run 12:01 am July 1 to 12:00 am July 31, 2011 (ET-Eastern Time), and ALL entries must be entered via Facebook or postmarked by July 31, 2011 to be eligible.
- Contest is open only to legal U.S. residents, 18-years-old and over.
- Directors, employees, and the immediate family (spouse, parent, sibling, children, grandparent or grandchildren) and/or household members of individuals employed by, Open Road Media, Mystery Scene, and all of their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, employees, advertising and promotional agencies, are ineligible to participate.
- By entering via Facebook, you agree to the terms of usage for Facebook.
- Open Road Media and Mystery Scene will not sell your email address or any of your information.
- Winner will be determined from among all eligible entries received by the promotion deadline. Where applicable, the Winner will be notified by phone or email.
- If the Winner cannot be contacted, the Winner forfeits the Prize. In the event that a Potential Winner is disqualified for any reason, Sponsor will award the Prize to an alternate Potential Winner by random drawing from among all remaining eligible entries received. Odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received during the Promotional Period.
- By entering this Promotion, each entrant agrees to release and hold harmless Sponsor, Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene from and against any losses, damages, rights, claim or cause of action of any kind arising, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, out of participation in the Promotion or resulting directly or indirectly, from acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any Prize awarded in connection with the Promotion, including without limitation personal injury, death, and/or property damage, as well as claims based on publicity rights, defamation, and/or invasion of privacy.

Super User
Thursday, 30 June 2011 05:06

openroad_summersteals_logoopenroadintegratedmedia_logo

For a limited time only, Open Road Integrated Media is offering 50 top, selected ebooks from Jonathon King to Loren D. Estleman and Stephen Coonts to Lawrence Block for instant download, starting at just $0.99 from participating retailers!

To kickoff 50 Summer Steals, Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene are giving away a Sony Reader preloaded with 10 great mystery and crime reads!

Each favorite ebook is the first in a series or a first book.

- Motor City Blue by Loren D. Estleman
- Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow
- No Lesser Plea by Robert K Tanenbaum
- No Score by Lawrence Block
- Tropical Heat by John Lutz
- Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathan King
- The Eighth Trumpet by Jon Land
- Slow Motion Riot by Peter Blauner
- A Dark Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell
- Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply "Like" Open Road Media on Facebook and Open Road Integrated Media a wall posting letting them know you want to enter their Sony Reader Summer Steals promotion.

openroadmedia_facebook.png

You can also enter by sending a 4x6 postcard with your name and address to:

ORIM 180 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014

All entries must be postmarked by July 31, 2011. Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene are not responsible for lost or misdirected mail.

OFFICIAL PROMOTION RULES & NOTICES
- The contest will run 12:01 am July 1 to 12:00 am July 31, 2011 (ET-Eastern Time), and ALL entries must be entered via Facebook or postmarked by July 31, 2011 to be eligible.
- Contest is open only to legal U.S. residents, 18-years-old and over.
- Directors, employees, and the immediate family (spouse, parent, sibling, children, grandparent or grandchildren) and/or household members of individuals employed by, Open Road Media, Mystery Scene, and all of their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, employees, advertising and promotional agencies, are ineligible to participate.
- By entering via Facebook, you agree to the terms of usage for Facebook.
- Open Road Media and Mystery Scene will not sell your email address or any of your information.
- Winner will be determined from among all eligible entries received by the promotion deadline. Where applicable, the Winner will be notified by phone or email.
- If the Winner cannot be contacted, the Winner forfeits the Prize. In the event that a Potential Winner is disqualified for any reason, Sponsor will award the Prize to an alternate Potential Winner by random drawing from among all remaining eligible entries received. Odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received during the Promotional Period.
- By entering this Promotion, each entrant agrees to release and hold harmless Sponsor, Open Road Integrated Media and Mystery Scene from and against any losses, damages, rights, claim or cause of action of any kind arising, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, out of participation in the Promotion or resulting directly or indirectly, from acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any Prize awarded in connection with the Promotion, including without limitation personal injury, death, and/or property damage, as well as claims based on publicity rights, defamation, and/or invasion of privacy.