Project Runway and Fashionable Mysteries
Oline Cogdill

byerrumellen_veiledrevenge
I have been a fan of Project Runway since the middle of the first season. I kept avoiding it, despite the rave reviews from a deskmate.

Ah, reality shows. I could care less, I thought.

But things of changed. I admit to being a fan of the Real Housewives shows and, I also admit, that I have no excuse for this lapse in judgment.

Except….I can’t help myself.

But Project Runway was my first reality show, and remains a guilty pleasure.

For me, Project Runway isn’t so much about the clothes, although that runway show is a great bonus. Instead, I love to see the creative process, watching people see a piece of work from start to finish. I love to see how fashion designers think and how they have to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn says.

And then there is that glimpse into a world we don’t know. How many of us knew about draping or how often those sewing machines mess up or how much muslin is used? I have watched Project Runway during the good seasons and the bad. Those include the priceless episode when designer Michael Knight defended a fellow castmate who was being ridiculed by another. Knight then uttered that show stopping phrase: “I wasn’t trying to play no Captain Save a Ho.”

Or the dreadful Gretchen-gate when an irritating and not so talented designer won over the multi-talented Mondo. Really? Over Mondo.

herren_fashionvictim
Project Runway
just started its 11th season, airing at 9 p.m. EST Thursdays on Lifetime. The season already is fraught with drama, inflated egos, talent, and even pathos. And with all the backstabbing that sometimes goes on, the one ups manship that permeates the competition, I naturally thought about mysteries wrapped around the fashion world.

After all, these people work with pinking shears; and much can be done with that fabric from Mood.

Here’s a few for Project Runway fans, as well as for readers who could care less about why Michael Kors isn’t on this season. In compiling this list, I received much help from the readers on DorothyL, and I thank each of you who responded to my request both to me personally and on the site. (I won’t try to thank each person as I am sure to miss someone.)

I am not reviewing the following novels, but offering a compilation. And I am sure I have missed several, so please add to the list in our comments.

Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion mysteries feature Washington, D.C., style scribe Lacey Smithsonian, who writes about style snafus in her Crimes of Fashion columns and Fashion Bites. The series includes Veiled Revenge, Death on Heels and Hostile Makeover.

Elaine Viets’ Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series has the single mother constantly looking at fashions, including handbags in Dying in Style; high heels in High Heels Are Murder; scarves in Accessory to Murder; and lingerie in An Uplifting Murder.

Gregg Herren’s Fashion Victim is about a reporter assigned to profile a fashion designer who ends up dead 15 minutes after the interview. One blurb calls it “Devil Wears Prada meets Agatha Christie.”

ryanhank_airtime2
Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s Air Time is all about counterfeit designer clothes and purses and the crime of pirating designs. The major plot line is intrigue in the fashion industry.

Rex Stout's wife, Pola, was a fabric designer and several of his stories involved the fashion world, including The Red Box (1937) and The Red Threads (1939).

Rosemary Stevens has shown the historical importance of fashion in her series about Beau Brummell, who was the arbiter of fashion in the Regency era of Great Britain. Her Murder A Go Go novels featured the fashions of the 1960s.

Sondra Luger’s newly published Drop Me Off In Harlem is a jazz age mystery set 1927 at a NYC fashion house were a model is murdered. The suspects are two models, one white, one black who team up to find the culprit.

Margery Allingham's The Fashion in Shrouds introduced Albert Campion's sister, a successful fashion designer.

Patricia Moyes's Murder à la Mode involves Henry Tibbett's niece, who is a model, the murder of a writer for a fashion magazine and the smuggling of the latest Paris designs.

Christine DeMaio-Rice’s Fashion Avenue series include Death of a Fashion Model and Dead Is the New Black.

Xav ID 577
2013-02-03 14:17:18

byerrumellen_veiledrevenge
I have been a fan of Project Runway since the middle of the first season. I kept avoiding it, despite the rave reviews from a deskmate.

Ah, reality shows. I could care less, I thought.

But things of changed. I admit to being a fan of the Real Housewives shows and, I also admit, that I have no excuse for this lapse in judgment.

Except….I can’t help myself.

But Project Runway was my first reality show, and remains a guilty pleasure.

For me, Project Runway isn’t so much about the clothes, although that runway show is a great bonus. Instead, I love to see the creative process, watching people see a piece of work from start to finish. I love to see how fashion designers think and how they have to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn says.

And then there is that glimpse into a world we don’t know. How many of us knew about draping or how often those sewing machines mess up or how much muslin is used? I have watched Project Runway during the good seasons and the bad. Those include the priceless episode when designer Michael Knight defended a fellow castmate who was being ridiculed by another. Knight then uttered that show stopping phrase: “I wasn’t trying to play no Captain Save a Ho.”

Or the dreadful Gretchen-gate when an irritating and not so talented designer won over the multi-talented Mondo. Really? Over Mondo.

herren_fashionvictim
Project Runway
just started its 11th season, airing at 9 p.m. EST Thursdays on Lifetime. The season already is fraught with drama, inflated egos, talent, and even pathos. And with all the backstabbing that sometimes goes on, the one ups manship that permeates the competition, I naturally thought about mysteries wrapped around the fashion world.

After all, these people work with pinking shears; and much can be done with that fabric from Mood.

Here’s a few for Project Runway fans, as well as for readers who could care less about why Michael Kors isn’t on this season. In compiling this list, I received much help from the readers on DorothyL, and I thank each of you who responded to my request both to me personally and on the site. (I won’t try to thank each person as I am sure to miss someone.)

I am not reviewing the following novels, but offering a compilation. And I am sure I have missed several, so please add to the list in our comments.

Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion mysteries feature Washington, D.C., style scribe Lacey Smithsonian, who writes about style snafus in her Crimes of Fashion columns and Fashion Bites. The series includes Veiled Revenge, Death on Heels and Hostile Makeover.

Elaine Viets’ Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series has the single mother constantly looking at fashions, including handbags in Dying in Style; high heels in High Heels Are Murder; scarves in Accessory to Murder; and lingerie in An Uplifting Murder.

Gregg Herren’s Fashion Victim is about a reporter assigned to profile a fashion designer who ends up dead 15 minutes after the interview. One blurb calls it “Devil Wears Prada meets Agatha Christie.”

ryanhank_airtime2
Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s Air Time is all about counterfeit designer clothes and purses and the crime of pirating designs. The major plot line is intrigue in the fashion industry.

Rex Stout's wife, Pola, was a fabric designer and several of his stories involved the fashion world, including The Red Box (1937) and The Red Threads (1939).

Rosemary Stevens has shown the historical importance of fashion in her series about Beau Brummell, who was the arbiter of fashion in the Regency era of Great Britain. Her Murder A Go Go novels featured the fashions of the 1960s.

Sondra Luger’s newly published Drop Me Off In Harlem is a jazz age mystery set 1927 at a NYC fashion house were a model is murdered. The suspects are two models, one white, one black who team up to find the culprit.

Margery Allingham's The Fashion in Shrouds introduced Albert Campion's sister, a successful fashion designer.

Patricia Moyes's Murder à la Mode involves Henry Tibbett's niece, who is a model, the murder of a writer for a fashion magazine and the smuggling of the latest Paris designs.

Christine DeMaio-Rice’s Fashion Avenue series include Death of a Fashion Model and Dead Is the New Black.

Abbott, Gaylin Graphic Novel Optioned
Oline Cogdill


abbottmeg_dareme
Megan Abbott
and Alison Gaylin are both known for their suspense-filled novels.

Abbott often writes noir from a historical perspective such as Bury Me Deep and Queenpin.

But she also is an expert at contemporary suspense, with a twist, such as her 2012 Dare Me, which looked at the cut-throat world of cheerleading.

Dare Me
was named a “summer read” by O Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday and the Wall Street Journal.

Gaylin’s latest novel is the suspense-filled Into the Dark, the second in her new series about Brenna Spector, a missing persons whose rare neurological disorder enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life.

A couple of years ago, Abbott and Gaylin teamed up for a graphic novel Normandy Gold.

gaylinAlison_intothedark
Normandy Gold
has been described as a Tarantino-esque graphic novel about a female sheriff who comes to 1970s Washington, D.C., to avenge the murder of her call girl sister.

Perhaps that comparison to Tarantino will soon be more than just a description.

Normandy Gold
has been optioned to New Regency, with Abbott and Gaylin to adapt.

We all know that an option is a long way from a property actually becoming a film.

But it’s a good start.

And I’m looking forward to the team of Abbott and Gaylin making it to the big screen.

Xav ID 577
2013-02-06 01:17:02


abbottmeg_dareme
Megan Abbott
and Alison Gaylin are both known for their suspense-filled novels.

Abbott often writes noir from a historical perspective such as Bury Me Deep and Queenpin.

But she also is an expert at contemporary suspense, with a twist, such as her 2012 Dare Me, which looked at the cut-throat world of cheerleading.

Dare Me
was named a “summer read” by O Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday and the Wall Street Journal.

Gaylin’s latest novel is the suspense-filled Into the Dark, the second in her new series about Brenna Spector, a missing persons whose rare neurological disorder enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life.

A couple of years ago, Abbott and Gaylin teamed up for a graphic novel Normandy Gold.

gaylinAlison_intothedark
Normandy Gold
has been described as a Tarantino-esque graphic novel about a female sheriff who comes to 1970s Washington, D.C., to avenge the murder of her call girl sister.

Perhaps that comparison to Tarantino will soon be more than just a description.

Normandy Gold
has been optioned to New Regency, with Abbott and Gaylin to adapt.

We all know that an option is a long way from a property actually becoming a film.

But it’s a good start.

And I’m looking forward to the team of Abbott and Gaylin making it to the big screen.

James Grippando’s 20-Novel Milestone
Oline Cogdill

grippando_james
Publishing 20 well-received, suspenseful thrillers is a milestone.

So congratulations to James Grippando, whose thrillers deliver “ripped from the headlines” plots while offering a vivid view of life in South Florida.

Most of Grippando’s novels feature Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck. The son of a former governor and a Cuban mother, Jack’s background is steeped in South Florida lore.

But, like most mystery novels, Grippando’s stories could take place anywhere.

Grippando’s use of current events adds realism to his novels, and often brings a sense of urgency to his works.

In Need You Now, Grippando showed how the plague of Ponzi schemes, such as Madoff and their ilk, reaches into every strata, affecting the wealthy, the middle class, corporations and charities, even mobsters. After all criminals also need a place to park their money and, unlike most Ponzi victims, they tend to be bit more vengeful, as I said in my review.

Money To Burn looks at the Wall Street meltdown.

His Afraid of the Dark may be one of the scariest novels I have ever read, frightening in its uncovering a horrifying conspiracy among terrorists that most of us cannot even imagine happening.

grippandojames_bloodmoney
Afraid of the Dark
touches on terrorists, the treatment of political prisoners, cyber security, the war in Iraq and even teenage sexting. It’s a heady brew of plot points, but Grippando skillfully balances each tendril, as I said in my review of the novel. To say more would spoil the myriad twists that Grippando deftly adds to this multi-layered plot, but every plot twist, every nuance feels authentic.

And Grippando continued that focus on newsmakers in his 20th and latest novel, Blood Money. It’s also his 10th one about Jack Swyteck.

Grippando used the Casey Anthony case as the inspiration for the meticulously plotted Blood Money.

But Blood Money was not just a look at this case that is still making headlines.

Grippando spins Blood Money into an intriguing look at the media, vengeance-seeking crusaders and our perception of defendants and their attorneys, as I said in a review.

Xav ID 577
2013-02-10 02:09:13

grippando_james
Publishing 20 well-received, suspenseful thrillers is a milestone.

So congratulations to James Grippando, whose thrillers deliver “ripped from the headlines” plots while offering a vivid view of life in South Florida.

Most of Grippando’s novels feature Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck. The son of a former governor and a Cuban mother, Jack’s background is steeped in South Florida lore.

But, like most mystery novels, Grippando’s stories could take place anywhere.

Grippando’s use of current events adds realism to his novels, and often brings a sense of urgency to his works.

In Need You Now, Grippando showed how the plague of Ponzi schemes, such as Madoff and their ilk, reaches into every strata, affecting the wealthy, the middle class, corporations and charities, even mobsters. After all criminals also need a place to park their money and, unlike most Ponzi victims, they tend to be bit more vengeful, as I said in my review.

Money To Burn looks at the Wall Street meltdown.

His Afraid of the Dark may be one of the scariest novels I have ever read, frightening in its uncovering a horrifying conspiracy among terrorists that most of us cannot even imagine happening.

grippandojames_bloodmoney
Afraid of the Dark
touches on terrorists, the treatment of political prisoners, cyber security, the war in Iraq and even teenage sexting. It’s a heady brew of plot points, but Grippando skillfully balances each tendril, as I said in my review of the novel. To say more would spoil the myriad twists that Grippando deftly adds to this multi-layered plot, but every plot twist, every nuance feels authentic.

And Grippando continued that focus on newsmakers in his 20th and latest novel, Blood Money. It’s also his 10th one about Jack Swyteck.

Grippando used the Casey Anthony case as the inspiration for the meticulously plotted Blood Money.

But Blood Money was not just a look at this case that is still making headlines.

Grippando spins Blood Money into an intriguing look at the media, vengeance-seeking crusaders and our perception of defendants and their attorneys, as I said in a review.

Dana Stabenow on "the Lion's Paw" by Robb White
Dana Stabenow

stabenow_danaI was raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. In port, at low tide, it was a 42-foot climb up an often ice-encrusted ladder to get to the library, but if you’re a born reader and an icy climb is the only way you can get to the library, you climb.

The Seldovia Public Library was one room in the basement of city hall. It was open once a week, on Monday nights, for three hours, seven to ten. Because there were so few books, each patron could check out only four at a time. Susan the librarian started me on Nancy Drew.

I read all the Nancy Drew Susan had in short order, and then I read everything else on her shelves. Because I was a kid on a boat, I was always looking for stories about other kids on boats. Eventually, Susan found me a copy of The Lion’s Paw by Robb White.

It’s World War II. Fifteen-year-old Ben’s father is lost at sea in the Pacific. Penny and Nick are siblings on the lam from the orphanage that would split them up. They stow away in Ben’s sailboat, the Hard A Lee. Ben’s uncle is going to sell it, so Ben, Penny and Nick decide to run away on the Hard a Lee together.

My favorite kind of book is a how-to book. You can’t put enough detail into a book about how someone lives their life or does their job or falls in love or commits a crime to suit me. The Lion’s Paw is a how-to book. How to run away. How to sail a boat. How to be a captain. How to be crew. How to hide a sailboat in plain sight. How not to wrestle an alligator.

white_lionspawHow to go on a quest.

There is that one book every writer can point to as the story that inspired them to tell their own. The Lion’s Paw may be the first book I ever read where I looked at the author’s name on the cover and wondered, “Who is this guy? How does he know all this stuff?” and more importantly “Did he write anything else?”

He did, and I read it all. And then I started writing my own.

Dana Stabenow writes two series of mystery novels set in Alaska: The PI Kate Shugak series, and the Alaskan state trooper Liam Campbell series. She also pens the sci-fi series Star Svendotter in addition to several standalone novels and anthologies. She is a proud native of Anchorage, Alaska.

Author website: www.stabenow.com

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews February 2013 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-05 01:03:10

stabenow_danaThe Alaskan author recalls braving snow and ice for the Seldovia library and the book The Lion's Paw.

The Little Woods
Sarah Prindle

When Calista “Cally” Wood, a high school junior, transfers to St. Bede’s Academy on a full scholarship, she hopes it will begin a new chapter of her life. Soon after her arrival she makes many friends (from the popular Helen to the excitable “Pigeon”), becomes the third member in a love triangle, and begins to find a place for herself in spite of her own quirks (for instance, she shaves her head!).

However, Cally learns the “little woods” surrounding the school holds many a dark secret. A girl named Iris vanished there a few months before…just as her own sister Clare, along with her friend Laurel, disappeared from St. Bede’s ten years ago. Iris is thought to be a runaway, and the other girls were assumed to have been killed. As Cally tries to piece together what happened to her sister, Laurel, and now Iris, a body is discovered in the woods. Closing in on the truth, she risks becoming part of the terrifying history of the little woods.

While The Little Woods (McCormick Templeman’s first novel) succeeds as a mystery story, it does have a few problems. Many of the characters are well done, but some feel hollow and flat; others are hard to tell apart. The love triangle seems forced, as if it exists just to satisfy the obligation of romance. In spite of these weaknesses, the story grows more gripping and the mystery of the missing girls keeps the reader hooked throughout the last half of the book. Many twists are thrown in, along with a creepy setting, and there is a strong conclusion and a nice wrap-up of questions at the end. While The Little Woods seems to struggle at first, it is well worth the read—a chilling but charming young adult mystery.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-06 19:53:15

templeman_thelittlewoodsMissing girls, prep school, and a mysterious woods make for an atmospheric first novel.

Toby Peters Over Hollywood
Michael Mallory

hollywood_at_night_vintage

Stuart Kaminsky's Tinseltown 'tec brings the 1940s to Technicolor life

FADE IN:

1 INT. A SEEDY OFFICE IN L.A. (1943) – DAY

A man in his mid-forties sits behind a desk in a cramped office. He is TOBY PETERS—medium height, wiry, and with a face that shows even more signs of ill-use than his suit.

As the CAMERA PUSHES IN we hear...

TOBY (V.O.)
This is a job for a lazy man with muscles and not too many brains. The pay stinks, I get hit a lot, and I eat badly. So why do I do it? Because every once in a while, it makes me feel really alive.
 

Philip Marlowe may have owned the mean streets of Los Angeles, but it is Toby Peters who holds the deed to Hollywood. The downtrodden, broken-nosed hero of 24 humorous murder mysteries written by Stuart M. Kaminsky, Peters is not your typical 1940s detective. He works out of a room sublet from an incompetent dentist, which he describes as “probably the only office in California where you could get your teeth filled and your runaway grandmother found in one visit.” He’s more of a wiseass than a streetwise philosopher. He’s a terrible shot, admits he’s not the smartest shamus in the phone book, and usually gets the worst out of a fight (“You look like Daffy Duck in one of those cartoons where Bugs Bunny blows him up,” his friend Anita informs him after one encounter). Peters isn’t even his real name; it’s Tobias Leo Pevsner.

But he possesses a quality that is invaluable when dealing with the rich and famous: he can be trusted to keep a secret.

kaminsky_stuart_crJean-Luc_ValetjpgToby first got his close-up in Bullet for a Star (1977), a fast, funny B-movie of a novel set in 1940, in which Toby is invited to Warner Bros., where he once worked as a security guard, to deal with a blackmailer who has an incriminating photo purporting to show Errol Flynn in flagrante delicto with an underage girl. The blackmail case turns into a murder case, and Toby is assisted in solving it by the likes of Peter Lorre, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart.

Over the next 27 years Kaminsky turned out Toby Peters books at an amazing pace, drawing on public figures not only from Hollywood, but also from sports, politics, and the arts to populate the stories.

Stuart Kaminsky. Photo: Luc Valet.

These included Judy Garland (Murder on the Yellow Brick Road), the Marx Brothers (You Bet Your Life), Howard Hughes (The Howard Hughes Affair, which found Basil Rathbone acting as Toby’s assistant), Bela Lugosi (Never Cross a Vampire), Gary Cooper (High Midnight), Emmett Kelly (Catch a Falling Clown), Mae West (He Done Her Wrong), Eleanor Roosevelt (The Fala Factor), Joe Louis (Down for the Count), John Wayne (The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance), Albert Einstein (Smart Moves), Peter Lorre (Think Fast, Mr. Peters), General Douglas MacArthur (Buried Caesars), Leopold Stokowski (Poor Butterfly), Salvador Dali (The Melting Clock), Bette Davis (The Devil Met a Lady), Clark Gable (Tomorrow Is Another Day), Fred Astaire (Dancing in the Dark), W.C. Fields (A Fatal Glass of Beer), Cary Grant (To Catch a Spy), Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierced), and magician Harry Blackstone (Now You See It).

west_maeThe only copy of Mae West’s sizzling autobiography goes missing in He Done Her Wrong. 

In each of the books, Toby is aided (and sometimes hindered) by a regular supporting cast of characters that includes the dapper, diminutive Swiss linguist Gunther Wherthman, who had played a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz; Dr. Sheldon Minck, the butcher dentist who delusionally believes he’s an artist in enamel; mountainous Jeremy Butler, a former wrestler and poet who owns the office building; and Irene Plaut, Toby’s comically deaf landlady, whom he describes as “somewhere between seventy-five and ninety, with the constitution of [prizefighter] Primo Carnera and the energy of Ray Bolger.” The police are chiefly represented by Toby’s older brother, Lieutenant (and later Captain) Phil Pevsner, who has severe anger management problems, particularly around Toby, and Sergeant John Cawelti, who hates them both.

As time went on, the breezy lightheartedness of the early books was toned down, and Toby Peters’ adventures became a little more serious and weighty. One often-employed device was to open a novel at the story’s climax point, with Toby facing the unidentified murder, and then step back and recount the action from the start that led up to that moment. In nearly all of them, Toby’s next client contacts him at the very end of the book as a teaser for the follow-up adventure. One aspect of the series that never changed, though, was its cleverness. Kaminsky’s skill at plotting, misdirection and, in particular, setting clues was often breathtaking. A case in point was the trick he pulled in Catch a Falling Clown (1982), which also featured Alfred Hitchcock...as a suspect! Without giving anything away, the author’s handling of such a recognizable figure was one of the neatest twists of modern mystery fiction.

What makes the Toby Peters series stand out from the pack even more is that the author was also a genuine authority on Golden Age Hollywood and its stars, whom he depicts as the people they were, not simply the personas they played. In Never Cross a Vampire (1980), for instance, Toby comments on client Bela Lugosi’s oversized sense of drama, even off-camera: “Lugosi caught my eye, a massive false smile on his face, and nodded toward the door in a way that would make it clear even to the Frankenstein monster that he wanted out.”

wayne_johnToby Peters wakes up with a headache, a body on the hotel-room bed and a gun in his face—held by John Wayne—in The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance.

A cinema professor at Northwestern University, Kaminsky had already published several nonfiction books about Hollywood by the time he undertook Bullet for a Star, his first novel. He continued to write nonfiction books and somehow found the time to turn out three other long-running mystery series featuring Inspector Rostnikov (whose 1988 adventure A Cold Red Sunrise earned Kaminsky an Edgar for Best Novel), Lew Fonseca, and Abe Lieberman. He also wrote tie-in novels for The Rockford Files and CSI: New York, a few film and television scripts, and even some graphic novels.

By Now You See It, which was published in 2004, some surprising changes had taken place in Toby’s life. It is set in 1945, five hard years after Bullet for a Star, and he is now partnered with his slightly mellowed brother Phil, who resigned the LAPD after the death of his wife. The fact that no new client turns up on the final page to cue the next adventure indicates this was intended to be Toby Peters’ last case, even though Kaminsky went on to write several more books for his other series. Stuart Kaminsky died in 2009 at age 75, having received the MWA’s highest honor, its Grand Master Award, three years earlier.

The great thing about mysteries set in the 1940s is that they never get old. The great thing about the adventures of Toby Peters is that an author who knew and loved the workings of Golden Age Hollywood was happy to share that knowledge and love with the rest of us. 

MUSIC SWELLS AS WE...FADE TO BLACK

A STUART KAMINSKY READING LIST

Toby Peters Novels
Bullet for a Star (1977)
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977)
You Bet Your Life (1978)
The Howard Hughes Affair (1979)
Never Cross a Vampire (1980)
High Midnight (1981)
Catch a Falling Clown (1982)
He Done Her Wrong (1983)
The Fala Factor (1984)
Down for the Count (1985)
The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (1986)
Smart Moves (1986)
Think Fast, Mr. Peters (1987)
Buried Caesars (1989)
Poor Butterfly (1990)
The Melting Clock (1991)
The Devil Met a Lady (1993)
Tomorrow Is Another Day (1995)
Dancing in the Dark (1996)
A Fatal Glass of Beer (1997)
A Few Minutes Past Midnight (2001)
To Catch a Spy (2002)
Mildred Pierced (2003)
Now You See It (2004)

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #125.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-06 20:04:09

west_maeStuart Kaminsky's Tinseltown 'tec brings the 1940s to Technicolor life

Agatha Nominations, Child's Dagger
Oline Cogdill

malice_domestic
Along with authors and readers, I also am one of those who anticipate the annual lists of award nominations.

I love to see who gets recommended not only because I love the genre but also because I like to see how my choices line up with the judges and readers.

The Edgar Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America, will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. That’s going to be a very special night and a list of the nominees, along with the Grand Master and other awards to be given that night are at this link.

And after the Edgars, come the Agathas, just a couple of days later.

The Agatha is given each year at the Malice Domestic, a conference that celebrates the traditional mystery.Malice Domestic will be May 3-5, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bethesda, MD.

Here are the Agatha Award Nominees for books published in 2012.

And just for the record, many of my choices for best novels of the year have made it to the Edgar and Agatha lists.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

AGATHA AWARD NOMINATIONS

Best Novel:
The Diva Digs Up the Dirt by Krista Davis
A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet
The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best First Novel:
Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
A Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan
A Killer Read by Erika Chase
Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans

Best Non-fiction:
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly/Declan Burke
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 by Joseph Goodrich, Editor
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, Editor

Best Short Story:
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly (Best New England Crime Stories 2013: Blood Moon Anthology)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)
"Thea's First Husband" by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"When Duty Calls", by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel:
Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse by Penny Warner
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Best Historical Novel:
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson
An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear


CWA Diamond Dagger


And speaking of awards, it was announced this past weekend that Lee Child has won this year's Crime Writers Association's Diamond Dagger award, which recognizes an author whose career is "marked by sustained excellence" and who has "made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation." Child will be honored at a ceremony next summer.

The British-born Child, of course, writes the very American Jack Reacher series.

In making the announcement, Peter James, chair of the CWA, is quoted as saying Child "is one of the few British crime thriller authors to have become a global brand name; he is also an extremely charming and open person and a tireless promoter of our genre."

Xav ID 577
2013-02-13 11:06:56

malice_domestic
Along with authors and readers, I also am one of those who anticipate the annual lists of award nominations.

I love to see who gets recommended not only because I love the genre but also because I like to see how my choices line up with the judges and readers.

The Edgar Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America, will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. That’s going to be a very special night and a list of the nominees, along with the Grand Master and other awards to be given that night are at this link.

And after the Edgars, come the Agathas, just a couple of days later.

The Agatha is given each year at the Malice Domestic, a conference that celebrates the traditional mystery.Malice Domestic will be May 3-5, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bethesda, MD.

Here are the Agatha Award Nominees for books published in 2012.

And just for the record, many of my choices for best novels of the year have made it to the Edgar and Agatha lists.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

AGATHA AWARD NOMINATIONS

Best Novel:
The Diva Digs Up the Dirt by Krista Davis
A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet
The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best First Novel:
Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
A Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan
A Killer Read by Erika Chase
Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans

Best Non-fiction:
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly/Declan Burke
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 by Joseph Goodrich, Editor
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, Editor

Best Short Story:
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly (Best New England Crime Stories 2013: Blood Moon Anthology)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)
"Thea's First Husband" by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"When Duty Calls", by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel:
Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse by Penny Warner
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Best Historical Novel:
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson
An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear


CWA Diamond Dagger


And speaking of awards, it was announced this past weekend that Lee Child has won this year's Crime Writers Association's Diamond Dagger award, which recognizes an author whose career is "marked by sustained excellence" and who has "made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation." Child will be honored at a ceremony next summer.

The British-born Child, of course, writes the very American Jack Reacher series.

In making the announcement, Peter James, chair of the CWA, is quoted as saying Child "is one of the few British crime thriller authors to have become a global brand name; he is also an extremely charming and open person and a tireless promoter of our genre."

Andrew Klavan Focuses on Heroes, Victims
Oline Cogdill

klavanandrew_akillerinthewind

Andrew Klavan is the author of more than 15 internationally bestselling novels, including Empire of Lies, True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan’s latest novel is A Killer in the Wind.

In this mini-interview, Klavan gives Mystery Scene readers insight about his work and future plans.

A Killer in the Wind deals with repressed memory and hallucinations. What was your inspiration?
I began with an incident in my mind. A man has a dream of a woman—not a real woman, just a dream that obsesses him. Then one day, impossibly, against all logic, she washes up on the banks of a river. At first, he thinks she's dead. But then she looks at him and says, “They're coming after us!” That's where I started. So then I had to ask myself: Who's the guy? How is this situation possible? What happens next? I built the story backwards from there.

klavanandrew_killerinwindeA Killer in the Wind is unflinching in its look at child trafficking, yet the novel is never lurid. What is the greatest challenge as a novelist in using sex trafficking as a background?
You hit it right on the head. I did not want to be lurid or in any way prurient. I wanted the reader's mind and heart with the victims and with the hero at every moment. There are a lot of writers and filmmakers who pride themselves on taking a sympathetic look at evil, bringing the audience into the mind of, say, a killer. Well, I'm sympathetic toward the soul that's lost to evil—that's a spiritual tragedy—but I think fiction perverts the moral universe when it leads you into the mind of a villian without giving you a full understanding, awareness and empathy for the victims of his crime.

Will we see more of Dan Champion, the hero of A Killer in the Wind?
I don't know. This is a unique story in his life, but it could be formative, you know, the story that makes him who he is. He was a great character to write so I wouldn't say no out of hand.

So many authors are now writing Y.A., and you did too with Crazy Dangerous. How different is the approach to writing Y.A. as opposed to writing thrillers?
I've always put a bit of what you might call method acting into writing my books. That is, I've learned to inhabit the minds of the characters I write and try to write them from the inside. I didn't find it difficult to inhabit a younger person's mind, and once you do that, the point of view sort of writes itself. I don't try to pull off any hipper-than-thou slang or anything, so once I had the young person's attitude, it wasn't any harder or easier than writing books for adults.

klavan_truecrime
You’ve had success with your novels being turned into film, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. What do you think of the films based on your novels?

I think they're pretty good. True Crime is well written and Clint Eastwood is an icon. Don't Say A Word is very exciting and was a big hit. I haven't yet seen a film of one of my books where I thought—yeah, that's it. That's what I wanted it to be. But maybe that never happens.

You also have written screenplays—the film A Shock to the System based on Simon Brett’s novel is a personal favorite—do you think about how a novel will play on screen when you are writing?
Never. They're two different forms. I mean, look, I learned a lot of my plotting technique from watching Hitchcock and other suspense movies as a kid, so there's a cinematic element to what I do. But books travel on the track laid down by the consciousness of the characters, movies travel on the track of events. The structure of a movie is just much more rigid, less expansive than a novel. If you wrote your novels like movies, you'd be cheating the reader out of some very good stuff.

You have adapted the trilogy of Dynamite Road, Shotgun Alley and Damnation Street into a screenplay titled Damnation Street. What’s the status?
It's been optioned by an outfit called Fox Hill Films and they're now trying to attach a filmmaker or a star. That's kind of the new Hollywood paradigm for pictures of this sort—I mean, stuff that isn't Spider-man or something huge like that. You put the picture together first, then you get a studio to buy in.

And why did you condense all three into one screenplay?
Well, because the trilogy is this sprawling story with lots of little subplots thrown in, but the central story starts in the first book and concludes in the last. There was no way to tell that central story without taking stuff from each book.

What is the best part of being a novelist?
I love what I do. Love telling stories. Love working with language. When it goes right, it's a weirdly spiritual thing—it orders your inner universe in a wonderfully harmonic way. And then there's that great thing where what happened to you in the writing happens to a reader in the reading, when a reader writes to you and says, I loved this, I couldn't put it down, I was up all night, one of my favorite books. That's kind of magical. Plus I get to work at home and my wife makes me lunch. I'm very fond of my wife.

What is the worst part of being a novelist?
When commercial considerations limit what you feel you can do. I'm not complaining about commerciality. I think art should have to make its own living. I don't believe in government grants and such—art should entertain people enough for them to pay for it. But I like to try new things, take different tacks, create something totally different than the last time and that just hurts you in the commercial world. If people like something, they want to see it again and again. I'm a natural experimenter. It goes against my grain to do the same thing twice.

What are you working on now?

Speaking of new stuff... I'm doing a new Y.A. series with a science fiction element. I've never really done that before and it's sort of mind blowing. Plus I have a ghost story film coming out and we're already starting the sequel. I'm busy.

Xav ID 577
2013-02-17 10:30:57

klavanandrew_akillerinthewind

Andrew Klavan is the author of more than 15 internationally bestselling novels, including Empire of Lies, True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan’s latest novel is A Killer in the Wind.

In this mini-interview, Klavan gives Mystery Scene readers insight about his work and future plans.

A Killer in the Wind deals with repressed memory and hallucinations. What was your inspiration?
I began with an incident in my mind. A man has a dream of a woman—not a real woman, just a dream that obsesses him. Then one day, impossibly, against all logic, she washes up on the banks of a river. At first, he thinks she's dead. But then she looks at him and says, “They're coming after us!” That's where I started. So then I had to ask myself: Who's the guy? How is this situation possible? What happens next? I built the story backwards from there.

klavanandrew_killerinwindeA Killer in the Wind is unflinching in its look at child trafficking, yet the novel is never lurid. What is the greatest challenge as a novelist in using sex trafficking as a background?
You hit it right on the head. I did not want to be lurid or in any way prurient. I wanted the reader's mind and heart with the victims and with the hero at every moment. There are a lot of writers and filmmakers who pride themselves on taking a sympathetic look at evil, bringing the audience into the mind of, say, a killer. Well, I'm sympathetic toward the soul that's lost to evil—that's a spiritual tragedy—but I think fiction perverts the moral universe when it leads you into the mind of a villian without giving you a full understanding, awareness and empathy for the victims of his crime.

Will we see more of Dan Champion, the hero of A Killer in the Wind?
I don't know. This is a unique story in his life, but it could be formative, you know, the story that makes him who he is. He was a great character to write so I wouldn't say no out of hand.

So many authors are now writing Y.A., and you did too with Crazy Dangerous. How different is the approach to writing Y.A. as opposed to writing thrillers?
I've always put a bit of what you might call method acting into writing my books. That is, I've learned to inhabit the minds of the characters I write and try to write them from the inside. I didn't find it difficult to inhabit a younger person's mind, and once you do that, the point of view sort of writes itself. I don't try to pull off any hipper-than-thou slang or anything, so once I had the young person's attitude, it wasn't any harder or easier than writing books for adults.

klavan_truecrime
You’ve had success with your novels being turned into film, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. What do you think of the films based on your novels?

I think they're pretty good. True Crime is well written and Clint Eastwood is an icon. Don't Say A Word is very exciting and was a big hit. I haven't yet seen a film of one of my books where I thought—yeah, that's it. That's what I wanted it to be. But maybe that never happens.

You also have written screenplays—the film A Shock to the System based on Simon Brett’s novel is a personal favorite—do you think about how a novel will play on screen when you are writing?
Never. They're two different forms. I mean, look, I learned a lot of my plotting technique from watching Hitchcock and other suspense movies as a kid, so there's a cinematic element to what I do. But books travel on the track laid down by the consciousness of the characters, movies travel on the track of events. The structure of a movie is just much more rigid, less expansive than a novel. If you wrote your novels like movies, you'd be cheating the reader out of some very good stuff.

You have adapted the trilogy of Dynamite Road, Shotgun Alley and Damnation Street into a screenplay titled Damnation Street. What’s the status?
It's been optioned by an outfit called Fox Hill Films and they're now trying to attach a filmmaker or a star. That's kind of the new Hollywood paradigm for pictures of this sort—I mean, stuff that isn't Spider-man or something huge like that. You put the picture together first, then you get a studio to buy in.

And why did you condense all three into one screenplay?
Well, because the trilogy is this sprawling story with lots of little subplots thrown in, but the central story starts in the first book and concludes in the last. There was no way to tell that central story without taking stuff from each book.

What is the best part of being a novelist?
I love what I do. Love telling stories. Love working with language. When it goes right, it's a weirdly spiritual thing—it orders your inner universe in a wonderfully harmonic way. And then there's that great thing where what happened to you in the writing happens to a reader in the reading, when a reader writes to you and says, I loved this, I couldn't put it down, I was up all night, one of my favorite books. That's kind of magical. Plus I get to work at home and my wife makes me lunch. I'm very fond of my wife.

What is the worst part of being a novelist?
When commercial considerations limit what you feel you can do. I'm not complaining about commerciality. I think art should have to make its own living. I don't believe in government grants and such—art should entertain people enough for them to pay for it. But I like to try new things, take different tacks, create something totally different than the last time and that just hurts you in the commercial world. If people like something, they want to see it again and again. I'm a natural experimenter. It goes against my grain to do the same thing twice.

What are you working on now?

Speaking of new stuff... I'm doing a new Y.A. series with a science fiction element. I've never really done that before and it's sort of mind blowing. Plus I have a ghost story film coming out and we're already starting the sequel. I'm busy.

Fletch Lives: Gregory Mcdonald’s Revolutionary Sleuth
Steve Hockensmith

Mcdonald_Gregory__Cr_Nancy_CramptonFletch Lives

Gregory Mcdonald, 1937-2008. Photo: Nancy Crampton.

It’s not Gregory Mcdonald’s epitaph, but it may as well be. Mcdonald wrote 26 published books over the course of a decades-long career, yet when he died last September at the age of 71, tribute after tribute turned not only to the same novel but the same excerpt to illustrate his considerable gifts as a storyteller.

It was a fitting choice for a fond farewell, as the passage had been, years before, an introduction—a bold fanfare that announced to the mystery world that someone important had just arrived on the scene. Two someones, actually: Mcdonald and a new kind of sleuth.

But why not let those words speak for themselves?

“What’s your name?”
“Fletch.”
“What’s your full name?”
“Fletcher.”
“What’s your first name?”
“Irwin.”
“What?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked. Fair enough?”
“Is it criminal? I mean, what you want me to do?”
“Of course.”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”

Even readers who never picked it up themselves can guess the novel that begins with those punchy, pithy lines. It’s Fletch, of course.

And those readers who haven’t read the book? I can’t believe, after reading that opening, that they’re not running straight to the nearest bookstore to look for a copy. To my mind, it’s one of the great openings of the mystery genre: so compact, almost spare, yet full of intrigue, wit and promise. If people keep reading Mcdonald in the decades to come—and I believe they will—those 101 words will have a lot to do with it.

In fact, I know how sharp Fletch’s opening hook is from personal experience. I first encountered Mcdonald’s Fletch mysteries under what I’d call the ideal circumstances: I was on vacation with my wife and in-laws, and it was raining...and raining...and raining. After finishing the book I’d brought with me and growing absolutely sick of Scrabble and Rummikub, I started hunting for something else to do. Fortunately, the beach house we were renting had bookshelves lined with old paperbacks.

I remember seeing The Amityville Horror, The Ghost of Flight 401, a lot of Michael Crichton, a lot of James Michener.

And then—cue the “Hallelujah” chorus—lots and lots of Gregory Mcdonald.

mcdonald_fletchThough Mcdonald’s Fletch mysteries were hugely popular throughout the 1970s and ’80s, with tens of millions of copies in print, I somehow managed to miss the hullabaloo. All I knew were the two Fletch movies starring Chevy Chase. And, by another stroke of luck, I’d only seen the first, which ain’t too shabby. (The 1989 sequel, Fletch Lives? Shabby.)

So I slid Fletch off the shelf, glanced at those killer opening lines...and didn’t stop reading until I ran out of sequels two days later. Somewhere in there, it stopped raining, but I barely even noticed.

The books I zoomed through—the first six of Mcdonald’s nine Fletch novels—were lean but not slight, fast-paced but not frenzied, and comical but not cartoonish, all with mysteries that managed to be satisfyingly complex yet not convoluted.

And there was more to them than just good stories well told (though they certainly were that). Yes, these were traditional mysteries in the sense that crimes were committed, clues accumulated, and culprits caught. Yet the approach didn’t feel traditional at all.

There was a spartan style, whole chapters whipping by with nothing but sharp, often hilarious dialogue pushing the plot forward.

There was a unique, slightly askew world view, rebellious, sly, sometimes absurdist, with flashes of tenderhearted compassion.

And, most of all, there was a unique hero.

Of course, when the first Fletch novel was published in 1974, there’d already been mysteries that didn’t star private eyes or cops or snoopy old ladies. There’d even been some that starred (as does Fletch) a journalist. But none featured a journalist hero who was so, shall we say, ethically flexible.

Lies. Masquerades. Sex. Fletch used them all, when they suited his purposes. And he wasn’t above some wicked trickery when it came to evading his alimony-hunting ex-wives, too. Yet he had an idiosyncratic code of honor, as well: Though he won the Bronze Star while serving as a Marine, he refused to accept the award for reasons known only to himself.

Imagine that. A decorated war hero protagonist who wasn’t portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine. No, Fletch was a lover (and liar), not a fighter.

“The only question resolved by violence is who is the stronger—not the height of intelligence, interest or value,” Mcdonald said to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine columnist J. Rentilly in a rare interview shortly before his death. “A violent resolution mostly impedes understanding.”

Not that Fletch was some kind of hippie—though he did have an aversion to authority figures and (in his first adventure, at least) wearing shoes. But his cynicism and air of sardonic detachment were certainly symptomatic of the late ’60s/early ’70s zeitgeist that birthed him.

Just call him Cool Hand Fletch.

Over the years, Mcdonald launched several other, less successful series, all of them starring charming rogues who doggedly sniff out the truth without resorting to violence or macho bluster. “Sunlight mysteries,” a critic once dubbed them, and Mcdonald told Rentilly he was proud to think of himself as a master of the form.

Yet Mcdonald’s writing wasn’t all sunshine and light. His first published novel, Running Scared (1964), is about a college student who refuses to intervene when his roommate commits suicide. A later book, The Brave (1991), is a grim look at a down-on-his-luck Native American who agrees to sacrifice himself in a snuff film. And in the mid-1980s, Mcdonald abandoned the still-popular Fletch series to focus on a proposed “quartet” of philosophically minded literary novels. (Only three were published, and Mcdonald returned to writing mysteries with the Fletch spin-off Son of Fletch in 1993.)

mcdonald_souvenirs_of_blown_worldIn fact, though he was a two-time Edgar winner and a former president of the Mystery Writers of America, Mcdonald seemed to feel ambivalent about the genre that made him rich and famous.

“I think the mystery may be the greatest form for social criticism,” his official website quotes him as saying, “simply because it is pedestrian.”

High praise...or backhanded compliment?

Like his greatest creation, it seems, Mcdonald didn’t like to be pinned down.

Born and raised in New England, Mcdonald put himself through Harvard sailing and servicing yachts for East Coast blue bloods. He started writing young, working out a draft of what would become his 1988 literary novel Exits and Entrances at the age of 16 and publishing Running Scared when he was only 27. His first novel met with a mixed reception, however, and he made his living as a Boston Globe reporter and editor until the instant success of Fletch gave him the freedom to quit.

Yet he never enjoyed life as a jet-setting, best-selling publishing superstar. According to The New York Times, if a fellow airplane passenger asked he what he did for a living, he’d say he sold insurance—thus guaranteeing a quick end to the conversation. Mcdonald also complained in interviews about bookstore mob scenes and grabby female fans.

Eventually, he moved to a Tennessee farm, stopped making public appearances, and developed a reputation (in the publishing world, at least) as a recluse. When he died of prostate cancer last fall, fans hadn’t seen a new novel from him in nine years.

The man who’d won fame and fortune for beginning things with a bang had gone out very, very quietly.

Not that Mcdonald’s story is over. A Fletch film franchise reboot has been in the works for nearly a decade, with top Hollywood writers like Clerks auteur Kevin Smith and Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence hailing the original books as an early inspiration. And Vintage has been keeping not just the Fletch novels but also Mcdonald’s Son of Fletch and Flynn series in print, hopefully drawing new fans to the author’s “sunshine mysteries.”

And then there’s what I think is the best cause for hope of all: Fletch itself. And that opening.

Years after stumbling across it on that fortuitously rainy day, I reread it. Mcdonald had just passed away, and it seemed like the right time to revisit my old friend Fletch.

And wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t stop at 101 words. I couldn’t stop at one page. I had to reread the whole book. And then the next and then the next. And I don’t think I’ll be the only one who still finds that old hook as sharp as ever. The movie may have stunk, but the sentiment holds true: Fletch lives.

A GREGORY MCDONALD SELECTED READING LIST

Fletch Novels
Fletch, 1974
Confess, Fletch, 1976
Fletch's Fortune, 1978
Fletch and the Widow Bradley, 1981
Fletch's Moxie, 1982
Fletch and the Man Who, 1983
Carioca Fletch, 1984
Fletch Won, 1985
Fletch, Too, 1986

Flynn Novels
Flynn, 1977
The Buck Passes Flynn, 1981
Flynn's In, 1984
Flynn's World, 2003

Son of Fletch Novels
Son of Fletch, 1993
Fletch Reflected, 1994

Skylar Novels
Skylar, 1995
Skylar in Yankeeland, 1997

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the “Holmes on the Range” historical mysteries. The latest book is Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #108.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-14 15:09:13

fletch_splashFletch Lives!

Who Do You Love? Readers' Favorite Crime-Fighting Couples
Teri Duerr

mysteryheartcrop

In honor of Valentine's Day, Mystery Scene surveyed our romantic readers on their favorite couples of mystery and crime. And the winning couple is...

nicknorakiss

1

Nick & Nora Charles
created by Dashiell Hammett

Winners by a landslide with more than 48% of the vote, the equal parts sass-and-class duo from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man (1934) left all other couple contenders in their wake. Most readers agreed their favorite manifestation of the couple was not from Hammett's original novel, though, but rather from W.S. Van Dyke's popular films of the 1930s and '40s. Nick and Nora of the screen were played in all six films by William Powell and Myrna Loy (pictured). The Charleses also appear on radio and on stage. As voter Ann Mettert summed up, "Wit and class and equals." And as reader Kate Rohloff added, "Don't forget Asta, too!" We raise our martini glasses to our readers' all-time favorites.

tommytuppence

2 (tie)

Tommy & Tuppence Beresford
created by Agatha Christie

Thomas and Prudence "Tuppence" Beresford tied with another power couple for second place in Mystery Scene's reader poll. Tommy and Tuppence bill themselves as "two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused" in their first Agatha Christie outing The Secret Adversary (1922). The detectives go on to appear in three more Agatha Christie novels as well as several short stories. Their complementary combo of Tommy's steady focus and Tuppence's energy and insight makes for a match made in sleuth heaven. "[They] were such an interesting pair of sleuths," wrote reader Valerie Williams Tucker, "plus a very intriguing couple!"

(Pictured left is the first known illustration of Agatha Christie's characters of Tommy and Tuppence from the December 1923 issue of The Grand Magazine by Arthur Ferrier.)

wimseyvane

2 (tie)

Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane
created by Dorothy L. Sayers

Mystery writer Harriet Deborah Vane first meets lord and criminologist Peter Wimsey while on trial for poisoning her lover in Dorothy L. Sayers' novel Strong Poison (1930). Needless to say, by book's end the dashing Lord Wimsey proves that there's no antidote like true love—even if its full effects don't kick in until two books later in Gaudy Night (1936) later when the resistent Harriet finally gives in to his affections. In Masterpiece Mystery!: The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries of the 1970s, the literary and lordly Harriet and Peter are played by Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge (pictured).

russellholmes

3

Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes
created by Laurie R. King, Sherlock created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Who knew the whip-smart fifteen-year-old Mary Russell of Laurie R. King's first series novel The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994) was going to crack some serious cases and Sherlock Holmes' heart? Readers are thrilled that 14 books later, the latest of which is The Garment of Shadows (2012), the evolving relationship of Mary and Sherlock is still stronger and richer than ever.

Finally, as one voter, Airieanne Andrews, said, "...and...and...too many to choose just one." Worthy runners-up include Mr. and Mrs. North, created by married writers Frances and Richard Lockridge, Egyptologists Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson of Elizabeth Peters' popular series, and socialite Sarah Kelling and detective Max Bittersohn from author Charlotte MacLeod, plus several other great nominations from the page, stage and screen. Thank you to all our readers for your votes and comments. We will announce our free book winner soon!

With love, Mystery Scene

Teri Duerr
2013-02-14 18:52:51

mysteryheartIn honor of Valentine's Day, Mystery Scene surveyed our romantic readers on their favorite couples of mystery and crime. And the winning couple is...

Pierce Brosnan in Stuart Neville Thriller
Oline Cogdill


neville_stuartghosts2
Stuart Neville
’s noir thriller The Ghosts of Belfast was a stunning debut.

In my review, I said “Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence’s aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility.”

The novel revolves around Gerry Fegan, who is both the hero and villain in the novel.

A former IRA hit man, he spent a dozen years in prison for some of the 12 murders he committed for the cause. “He was a foot solider, and one of their best, or worst, depending on your point of view. A killer, plain and simple.”

In the past, Gerry had believed being an assassin was “a job. Just a job to be done with no care or feeling behind it. … It only took a certain hardness of the soul, a casual brutality.”

Now out of prison, Gerry is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed.

bronson_pierce2
When it was released in Europe, The Ghosts of Belfast was called The Twelve.

I am proud to say that I was a judge on the panel the year that The Ghosts of Belfast was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller.

The Ghosts of Belfast now may be coming to the screen.

It has been announced that Pierce Brosnan, right, will play the lead in the film adaptation of The Ghosts of Belfast. Neville’s novel now has a third name and has been titled Last Man Out for production.

As reported by various sources, the screenplay is being adapted for film by CBS late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson and Ted Mulkerin. Terry Loane is attached to direct and presales have begun in the European film market, it was reported in various publications.

Last Man Out is scheduled to begin shooting at the end of 2013. No other cast announcements have been made.

Xav ID 577
2013-02-20 09:00:50


neville_stuartghosts2
Stuart Neville
’s noir thriller The Ghosts of Belfast was a stunning debut.

In my review, I said “Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence’s aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility.”

The novel revolves around Gerry Fegan, who is both the hero and villain in the novel.

A former IRA hit man, he spent a dozen years in prison for some of the 12 murders he committed for the cause. “He was a foot solider, and one of their best, or worst, depending on your point of view. A killer, plain and simple.”

In the past, Gerry had believed being an assassin was “a job. Just a job to be done with no care or feeling behind it. … It only took a certain hardness of the soul, a casual brutality.”

Now out of prison, Gerry is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed.

bronson_pierce2
When it was released in Europe, The Ghosts of Belfast was called The Twelve.

I am proud to say that I was a judge on the panel the year that The Ghosts of Belfast was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller.

The Ghosts of Belfast now may be coming to the screen.

It has been announced that Pierce Brosnan, right, will play the lead in the film adaptation of The Ghosts of Belfast. Neville’s novel now has a third name and has been titled Last Man Out for production.

As reported by various sources, the screenplay is being adapted for film by CBS late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson and Ted Mulkerin. Terry Loane is attached to direct and presales have begun in the European film market, it was reported in various publications.

Last Man Out is scheduled to begin shooting at the end of 2013. No other cast announcements have been made.

Father Brown
Steven Steinbock

chesterton_frbrown_cr_Frank_G_Jefferies_1924How G.K. Chesterton’s "little priest" saved the soul of detective fiction


1924 illustration by Frank G. Jefferies

In 1910 the world was on the brink of a new era. George V succeeded his father, King Edward, to the throne of England. Halley’s Comet made its perihelion, and a day later, as he predicted he would, Mark Twain died. William James and Leo Tolstoy passed later that same year. Enrico Caruso’s performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera became the world’s first live musical broadcast on radio. Gaslit streets and hansom cabs were giving way to electric lights and motor cars.

And one humble Catholic priest from Essex was about to shake up an entire literary genre.

The priest was Father Brown, the invention of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), a novelist, poet, and general man of letters. The story was “The Blue Cross,” first published in 1910.

G.K. Chesterton eventually wrote over 50 stories about Father Brown. Their impact on crime fiction was enormous. According to critic Howard Haycraft, Chesterton’s “brilliant style and fertile imagination brought new blood to the genre; gave it a needed and distinctly ‘literary’ turn that was to have far-reaching effect.”

The character of Father Brown was largely inspired by Chesterton’s friendship with Father John O’Connor. Chesterton met the parish priest in 1904 while on a lecture tour in Yorkshire. He was struck by the deep understanding this priest had of the human condition. Far from being a sheltered innocent, in the course of his ministry Father O’Connor had observed humanity at its lowest. Chesterton wrote, “It was a curious experience to find that this quiet and pleasant celibate had plumbed those abysses far deeper than I.”

chesterton_fr_john_oconnor_1870-1952Once, when Chesterton and O’Conner were in a pub chatting with a pair of Cambridge undergraduates, one of the students commented that people like O’Connor are “all shut up in a sort of cloister” and that rather than facing the evil that’s in the world, the priest was “afraid of knowledge.” Chesterton was intrigued by the comment and the extent to which his friend was underestimated, writing, “To me, still almost shivering with the appallingly practical facts of which the priest had warned me, this comment came with such a colossal and crushing irony, that I nearly burst into a loud harsh laugh.”

Ever a lover of paradox, Chesterton began thinking about “making some artistic use of these comic yet tragic cross-purposes; and constructing a comedy in which a priest should appear to know nothing and in fact know more about crime than criminals.”

Father John O’Connor (1870 - 1952), the
inspiration for Chesterton’s clerical sleuth.

A New Kind of Detective

At the time of the publication of the first Father Brown story, crime fiction fit into three fairly distinct categories based on the type of hero in the story: Police Officers, Great Detectives, and Gentleman Thieves.

Police heroes include Charles Dickens’ Inspector Bucket in Bleak House, Wilkie Collins’ Scotland Yard detective Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone, and a host of others in the sensational periodicals of the day.

Sherlock Holmes exemplifies the Great Detective, a sleuth with seemingly superhuman intellectual abilities and often an ego and other personality flaws to match.

In 1898, E.W. Hornung updated the Robin Hood legend with his cricket-champion gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, thereby creating the third category of crime fiction hero.

In creating Father Brown, Chesterton gave an entirely fresh approach to detective fiction. As author Neil Gaiman said, Father Brown “seems created less as a detective than as a reaction to detectives.” While still in the tradition of the Great Detective, Father Brown is “Great” with a twist. He is humble, and doesn’t claim to have any extraordinary mental skills. He is neither a professional policeman nor an amateur sleuth. In his very first case, the priest outsmarts a notorious criminal, outdoes the police, and performs it all with humility and with a desire to save a man’s soul rather than to solve a crime.

“The Blue Cross,” Chesterton’s first Father Brown story, opens with a police detective determined to track down a famous French thief named Flambeau who has just arrived in London. The detective is Aristide Valentin, whom we learn is no less than “the head of the Paris Police.” Notice that already two of the traditional hero-types are on stage: the cop and the crook. Their very names give us a hint of the sort of archetypes they represent: Flambeau—from the French for “torch”—carries an implication of flamboyance, while Valentin—from the Latin for “worthy”—suggests a worthy rival, and like Saint Valentine, a pious and doggedly determined character.

chesterton_incredulity_UK_1st_Cassell_1926Valentin learns that a priest is arriving from Essex with a valuable silver crucifix inset with sapphires to present at a religious conclave. Certain he knows Flambeau’s target, Valentin sets out to trap the thief. But then Valentin loses the trail and finds himself in the wake of a series of bizarre pranks—events which have, nonetheless, led him to his quarry. He considers the odd course of his investigation as he hides behind a tree, eavesdropping as Flambeau, disguised as a priest, discusses theology with Father Brown:

But when Valentin thought of all that had happened in between, of all that had led him to his triumph, he racked his brains for the smallest rhyme or reason in it. What had the stealing of a blue-and-silver cross from a priest from Essex to do with chucking soup at wall paper? What had it to do with calling nuts oranges, or with paying for windows first and breaking them afterwards? He had come to the end of his chase; yet somehow he had missed the middle of it. When he failed (which was seldom), he had usually grasped the clue, but nevertheless missed the criminal. Here he had grasped the criminal, but still he could not grasp the clue.

The prankster, of course, is Father Brown and his purpose was to both discern the motives of the disguised Flambeau and keep Valentin on hand in case of trouble.

Despite himself, Flambeau can’t resist boasting about his criminal prowess, but he soon gets a lesson in his craft from the little Essex priest. Finally, at a word from Father Brown, Valentin and his fellow officers reveal themselves:

...the three policemen came out from under the twilight trees. Flambeau was an artist and a sportsman. He stepped back and swept Valentin a great bow.

“Do not bow to me, mon ami,” said Valentin with silver clearness. “Let us both bow to our master.”

And they both stood an instant uncovered while the little Essex priest blinked about for his umbrella.

Lofty Goals and Unusual Methods

Father Brown broke the rules—often literally—as we see throughout “The Blue Cross,” and in various other stories, allowing crimes to be committed when it served a higher purpose. He saw himself as the agent of a Divine Power with an authority that could trump the laws of man. The paramount goal is saving a soul, not catching a criminal or solving a mystery.

chesterton_Father_Brown_Film_1954Although he was perfectly capable of brilliant deductions, Father Brown, unlike Holmes, often made use of intuition to solve crimes. He knew “whodunit” because he understood the mind of the sinner.

In “The Secret of Father Brown” (1927) he describes his method with the shocking revelation:

“You see, it was I who killed all those people.”

And then he explains:

“I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”

That a man of God could look into the heart of evil is a prime example of a Chestertonian paradox. Paradox was at the heart of everything G.K. Chesterton did. He loved putting seemingly opposite ideas and images together to make a startling, and usually funny, point. He once described courage as “a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” A sane man is one “who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” In his essay “Two Kinds of Paradox” he quipped that he often saw the word cosmic misprinted as comic, but that “the two are much the same.” This sort of paradoxical playfulness permeates all of Chesterton’s writing: theology, politics, poetry, and of course, his Father Brown stories.

We find a good example of such a paradox at the end of “The Queer Feet” (1910), when Father Brown faces the wealthy and elite members of a dining club, ironically called “The Twelve True Fishermen,” and returns stolen silverware that he has taken from the repentant crook. When the club members ask about the thief, the priest responds:

“I don’t know his real name...but I know something of his fighting weight, and a great deal about his spiritual difficulties. I formed the physical estimate when he was trying to throttle me, and the moral estimate when he repented.”

“Oh, I say—repented!” cried young Chester, with a sort of crow of laughter.

Father Brown got to his feet, putting his hands behind him. “Odd, isn’t it,” he said, “that a thief and a vagabond should repent, when so many who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous, and without fruit for God or man?”

A bit later comes this exchange:

“Did you catch this man?” asked the colonel, frowning.

Father Brown looked him full in his frowning face. “Yes,” he said, “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

The Metaphysical Detective Story

Howard Haycraft said that “it may well be Chesterton’s chief contribution to the genre that he perfected the metaphysical detective story.” This last notion—the metaphysical detective story—is easily misunderstood by the modern reader. What I believe Haycraft meant was that the little detective’s task was not to solve the crime, but, in some surprising and paradoxical manner, to set the world back to some semblance of moral order.

chesterton_gk_vanity_fair_1912_by_StricklandWhat made this innocuous cleric and his exploits unique? The Father Brown stories had a depth that hadn’t been seen before in detective fiction. Chesterton infused his puzzles with profound ideas, humor, morality, and paradox. They fulfill what Chesterton saw as the essential value of detective fiction, “that it is the earliest and only form of popular literature in which is expressed some sense of the poetry of modern life.”

G.K. Chesterton in a 1912 caricature by Strickland published in Vanity Fair.

• "By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece."

G.K. Chesterton, “On Detective Novels,” Generally Speaking

• “The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool.”

G.K. Chesterton, “On Detective Novels,” Generally Speaking

Steven Steinbock is a freelance journalist living in Maine. Every Friday he blogs about mystery short stories at criminalbrief.com.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #113.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-20 19:51:02

chesterton_frbrown_cr_Frank_G_Jefferies_1924How G.K. Chesterton’s "little priest" saved the soul of detective fiction

Footprints in the Sand
Hilary Daninhirsch

Mary Jane Clark’s latest Piper Donovan mystery is an ideal accompaniment for a trip to the beach or a trip to the couch in front of a roaring fireplace. This book is the third installment in the series known as the Wedding Cake Mysteries.

Piper Donovan is a budding actress and, along with her mother, is skilled in the art of wedding cake baking and decorating. Piper and her parents fly to Sarasota, Florida, for her cousin Kathy’s wedding, but the disappearance of one of the other bridesmaids mars the festivities. When the missing bridesmaid’s body is discovered, Piper learns that the woman had connections to several other characters, some of whom would surely benefit if she were out of the picture.

Soon another death stuns the community, and a beloved elderly neighbor, who may be the only witness to the murder, is run off the road and loses her memory. As Piper tries to put the pieces together, she ends up becoming targeted by the killer as well.

Clark weaves an intriguing Amish theme into this fast-paced novel: Piper’s purchase of an Amish hex sign as a wedding gift for Kathy may have a deeper meaning than she originally thought and could end up helping her solve the case. Other Amish characters and the Amish way of life are also touched upon, though not in great detail. An underlying romance between Piper and her FBI agent boyfriend add an extra dimension to the story line.

The author skillfully aligns the suspects in an alternating-viewpoint style of writing so that the reader is kept guessing until the end. If you like your mysteries full of gore and grit, this is not the book for you; this book is about as light and breezy as a mystery gets.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 18:38:32

clark_footprintsinthesandWedding cake decorator Piper Donovan is back for matrimony and murder with an Amish twist.

Death on a Pale Horse
Sheila M. Merritt

There’s nothing elementary about Death on a Pale Horse: Sherlock Holmes on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the title clearly indicates that national security is an aspect of the plot, the novel is firmly grounded in classic Sherlockian mystery fundamentals. And while readers don’t necessarily associate espionage with the great detective, Sherlock has dealt with political treachery before. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the detective becomes involved in royal intrigue, and with “His Last Bow,” Doyle wrote a patriotic spy tale starring his sleuth. Author Donald Thomas adroitly displays his knowledge of the Doyle-Holmes canon. He laces Death on a Pale Horse with clever references, and maintains firm control of the complicated narrative.

The diabolical villain of the piece, Colonel Moran, is a sadistic blackguard with a grudge. Seeking vengeance for a humiliating punishment by a desert kangaroo court, his agenda includes sabotaging financial holdings and military operations of the British Empire. Moran is bent on retaliation: the fellow soldiers that disciplined him for heinous misconduct are also on his hit list. He is rumored to be an aide-de-camp of the fiendish Professor Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-enemy and criminal extraordinaire. Moriarty does not appear in the yarn, but his malevolent influence is echoed through the deeds of Moran, who is a kindred spirit, indeed.

Holmes and his brother Mycroft are aware of Moran’s danger to individuals and Empire. Murders that require Sherlock’s unique deduction skills ensue. Mycroft, being privy to governmental goings-on, employs his acumen to focus on the global ramifications of the case. Crossing within each other’s area of expertise allows for intellectual banter. These exchanges brilliantly reflect their ongoing sibling rivalry, and provide insight into their respective eccentricities. Mycroft’s rampant misanthropy, for example, makes Sherlock seem positively social by comparison.

Ably balancing the Holmes brothers’ cerebral contemplations with action sequences such as an exciting horse race at Epsom Downs, Thomas smooths the transitions between armchair detective cogitations and physical feats and confrontations. Shifts in locale and time frame are also extremely well executed. Through the skirmishes and sabotage, memorable characters emerge and the possibility of a sequel is set up. With six other praiseworthy Sherlock volumes under his belt, Donald Thomas is on a winning streak.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 18:44:16

There’s nothing elementary about Death on a Pale Horse: Sherlock Holmes on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the title clearly indicates that national security is an aspect of the plot, the novel is firmly grounded in classic Sherlockian mystery fundamentals. And while readers don’t necessarily associate espionage with the great detective, Sherlock has dealt with political treachery before. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the detective becomes involved in royal intrigue, and with “His Last Bow,” Doyle wrote a patriotic spy tale starring his sleuth. Author Donald Thomas adroitly displays his knowledge of the Doyle-Holmes canon. He laces Death on a Pale Horse with clever references, and maintains firm control of the complicated narrative.

The diabolical villain of the piece, Colonel Moran, is a sadistic blackguard with a grudge. Seeking vengeance for a humiliating punishment by a desert kangaroo court, his agenda includes sabotaging financial holdings and military operations of the British Empire. Moran is bent on retaliation: the fellow soldiers that disciplined him for heinous misconduct are also on his hit list. He is rumored to be an aide-de-camp of the fiendish Professor Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-enemy and criminal extraordinaire. Moriarty does not appear in the yarn, but his malevolent influence is echoed through the deeds of Moran, who is a kindred spirit, indeed.

Holmes and his brother Mycroft are aware of Moran’s danger to individuals and Empire. Murders that require Sherlock’s unique deduction skills ensue. Mycroft, being privy to governmental goings-on, employs his acumen to focus on the global ramifications of the case. Crossing within each other’s area of expertise allows for intellectual banter. These exchanges brilliantly reflect their ongoing sibling rivalry, and provide insight into their respective eccentricities. Mycroft’s rampant misanthropy, for example, makes Sherlock seem positively social by comparison.

Ably balancing the Holmes brothers’ cerebral contemplations with action sequences such as an exciting horse race at Epsom Downs, Thomas smooths the transitions between armchair detective cogitations and physical feats and confrontations. Shifts in locale and time frame are also extremely well executed. Through the skirmishes and sabotage, memorable characters emerge and the possibility of a sequel is set up. With six other praiseworthy Sherlock volumes under his belt, Donald Thomas is on a winning streak.

Airtight
Jackie Houchin

Best known for his popular Andy Carpenter novels, David Rosenfelt is gaining a broader audience with his recent standalone thrillers. Although I enjoy his dog-loving, “nice-guy” lawyer and hope to see more of him, the thrillers give Rosenfelt a chance to explore crime and justice outside the courtroom. Airtight, his fifth and most complex and suspenseful novel so far, takes readers into the minds of a cop, a soldier, and a killer. In this multiple-point-of-view story, New Jersey Police Lieutenant Luke Somers investigates the murder of a judge. Acting on a tip, he quickly moves to apprehend suspect Steven Gallagher. But in what he believes is self-defense, he kills the young man before he can be questioned. Somers’ actions are cleared when DNA evidence proves Gallagher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Or does it?

In a righteous rage at what he believes was the unjustified killing of his brother, rogue Marine Force Recon soldier Chris Gallagher sets into motion a malicious time bomb to force Somers into exonerating Steven. Racing against the clock to avoid the unthinkable, the lieutenant uncovers a more disturbing conspiracy, which makes him question who the real criminal is.

While Rosenfelt’s signature wry humor can be glimpsed in portions of dialogue in Airtight, it is his taut narration, escalating suspense, and double-twisted plot that propel readers to the final satisfying page. The ethical questions Airtight asks about whether violence is ever justified may inspire some interesting debate.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 18:49:29

Best known for his popular Andy Carpenter novels, David Rosenfelt is gaining a broader audience with his recent standalone thrillers. Although I enjoy his dog-loving, “nice-guy” lawyer and hope to see more of him, the thrillers give Rosenfelt a chance to explore crime and justice outside the courtroom. Airtight, his fifth and most complex and suspenseful novel so far, takes readers into the minds of a cop, a soldier, and a killer. In this multiple-point-of-view story, New Jersey Police Lieutenant Luke Somers investigates the murder of a judge. Acting on a tip, he quickly moves to apprehend suspect Steven Gallagher. But in what he believes is self-defense, he kills the young man before he can be questioned. Somers’ actions are cleared when DNA evidence proves Gallagher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Or does it?

In a righteous rage at what he believes was the unjustified killing of his brother, rogue Marine Force Recon soldier Chris Gallagher sets into motion a malicious time bomb to force Somers into exonerating Steven. Racing against the clock to avoid the unthinkable, the lieutenant uncovers a more disturbing conspiracy, which makes him question who the real criminal is.

While Rosenfelt’s signature wry humor can be glimpsed in portions of dialogue in Airtight, it is his taut narration, escalating suspense, and double-twisted plot that propel readers to the final satisfying page. The ethical questions Airtight asks about whether violence is ever justified may inspire some interesting debate.

The Night Ranger
Derek Hill

Four college-age American aid workers based at a refugee camp in Kenya are kidnapped by Somali bandits and held for ransom. Ex-CIA agent John Wells is convinced by his estranged son Evan to help. (Evan is seeing the younger sister of one of the kidnapped women.) Wells journeys to Kenya to ferret out the bandits and rescue the workers. That’s easier said than done, of course, and Wells finds himself in plenty of danger, dealing with al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab while also keeping the political pressure back home from ruining his chances to save the aid workers.

This seventh book featuring the resourceful Wells is gripping from its first pages and offers up plenty of plot twists as it progresses toward its satisfying finale. What makes this so splendid is how Berenson carefully balances character depth with the narrative suspense we crave in a thriller like this. It’s also filled with vivid detail. From the overcrowded refugee camps to the streets of Nairobi to the hostile, lonely expanses of desert, The Night Ranger effortlessly plunges us into some fascinating places. Happily, it doesn’t come off like an exotic travelogue or an offensive Africa-is-hell warning, using the continent as a hackneyed symbol for all things anarchic and scary beyond Western understanding. Wells, of course, does run into danger, but it’s grounded in everyday political realities. That sense of realism extends to the action sequences, Berenson knows how to deliver excitement without stretching credibility too much. It’s a solid, entertaining read.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 18:55:05

Four college-age American aid workers based at a refugee camp in Kenya are kidnapped by Somali bandits and held for ransom. Ex-CIA agent John Wells is convinced by his estranged son Evan to help. (Evan is seeing the younger sister of one of the kidnapped women.) Wells journeys to Kenya to ferret out the bandits and rescue the workers. That’s easier said than done, of course, and Wells finds himself in plenty of danger, dealing with al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab while also keeping the political pressure back home from ruining his chances to save the aid workers.

This seventh book featuring the resourceful Wells is gripping from its first pages and offers up plenty of plot twists as it progresses toward its satisfying finale. What makes this so splendid is how Berenson carefully balances character depth with the narrative suspense we crave in a thriller like this. It’s also filled with vivid detail. From the overcrowded refugee camps to the streets of Nairobi to the hostile, lonely expanses of desert, The Night Ranger effortlessly plunges us into some fascinating places. Happily, it doesn’t come off like an exotic travelogue or an offensive Africa-is-hell warning, using the continent as a hackneyed symbol for all things anarchic and scary beyond Western understanding. Wells, of course, does run into danger, but it’s grounded in everyday political realities. That sense of realism extends to the action sequences, Berenson knows how to deliver excitement without stretching credibility too much. It’s a solid, entertaining read.

A Medal for Murder
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

The traditional British mystery is alive and well, thanks in part to Frances Brody and her lady detective, Kate Shackleton. In this, her second case, the year is 1922, the place, Harrogate, England. Kate and her assistant, ex-policeman Jim Sykes, are hired by a jewelry pawnshop owner who has recently been robbed. They are to locate the original owners of the pawned items that were stolen to let them know what happened and to offer recompense for the loss. Finding the robber, with very little to go on, would be a bonus, but is not expected.

Coming across a murder is even less likely. However, in the course of the initial assignment, that's exactly what happens and, because she discovered the body, Kate is thrust into an investigation involving a kidnapping, greed, revenge, and sins from the past. Although the timing here is shortly after World War I, the circumstances surrounding the crime have more to do with the Boer War at the turn of the century.

Kate is very adept at sizing people up and maximizing the information that she can get from them. Because she is not the police, she has more access to people on a “friend” basis. Because her inside information and her insights are helpful to the detective in charge, Inspector Marcus Charles, she has access to police information as well. In fact, a romance blossoms between the two during the investigation of the case. As a result, we get to know a lot about Kate from a number of different perspectives. My only quibble is that I would like to have seen more interplay between her and Jim Sykes.

I especially liked the number of curves the author threw in toward the end of the novel.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 18:58:30

The traditional British mystery is alive and well, thanks in part to Frances Brody and her lady detective, Kate Shackleton. In this, her second case, the year is 1922, the place, Harrogate, England. Kate and her assistant, ex-policeman Jim Sykes, are hired by a jewelry pawnshop owner who has recently been robbed. They are to locate the original owners of the pawned items that were stolen to let them know what happened and to offer recompense for the loss. Finding the robber, with very little to go on, would be a bonus, but is not expected.

Coming across a murder is even less likely. However, in the course of the initial assignment, that's exactly what happens and, because she discovered the body, Kate is thrust into an investigation involving a kidnapping, greed, revenge, and sins from the past. Although the timing here is shortly after World War I, the circumstances surrounding the crime have more to do with the Boer War at the turn of the century.

Kate is very adept at sizing people up and maximizing the information that she can get from them. Because she is not the police, she has more access to people on a “friend” basis. Because her inside information and her insights are helpful to the detective in charge, Inspector Marcus Charles, she has access to police information as well. In fact, a romance blossoms between the two during the investigation of the case. As a result, we get to know a lot about Kate from a number of different perspectives. My only quibble is that I would like to have seen more interplay between her and Jim Sykes.

I especially liked the number of curves the author threw in toward the end of the novel.

A Killer in the Wind
Sue Emmons

Once a top undercover vice cop in New York City, a broken and disillusioned Dan Champion now patrols the backwoods of a small town, a man haunted by dreams—or are they hallucinations?—of his past. First, a dead child infiltrates his dreams—a young boy who first appeared to him in New York but may never have existed—as does Samantha, a lovely woman that he may have loved. Or was she, too, unreal? When a body washes ashore in his new, bucolic environment, the victim matches exactly the woman he remembers—the woman who never was. Whatever is etched in his sometimes-shaky memory, recovering addict Champion realizes he must confront his demons.

Two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan is a master at psychological suspense, and this may be his best yet. In A Killer in the Wind, an arch-villain, the infamous Fat Woman, makes her entrance with unforgettable impact. Champion failed to catch her for innumerable, unspeakable crimes in New York, but he now has a second chance. In doing so, this flawed, but likable, cop may find the answers to his own dilemmas.

This is Klavan’s 30th novel, including those written under the pseudonyms of Margaret Tracy and Keith Peterson. Two of them, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word, have been adapted as movies. He’s at the top of his game here and that is very good indeed.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:01:55

Once a top undercover vice cop in New York City, a broken and disillusioned Dan Champion now patrols the backwoods of a small town, a man haunted by dreams—or are they hallucinations?—of his past. First, a dead child infiltrates his dreams—a young boy who first appeared to him in New York but may never have existed—as does Samantha, a lovely woman that he may have loved. Or was she, too, unreal? When a body washes ashore in his new, bucolic environment, the victim matches exactly the woman he remembers—the woman who never was. Whatever is etched in his sometimes-shaky memory, recovering addict Champion realizes he must confront his demons.

Two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan is a master at psychological suspense, and this may be his best yet. In A Killer in the Wind, an arch-villain, the infamous Fat Woman, makes her entrance with unforgettable impact. Champion failed to catch her for innumerable, unspeakable crimes in New York, but he now has a second chance. In doing so, this flawed, but likable, cop may find the answers to his own dilemmas.

This is Klavan’s 30th novel, including those written under the pseudonyms of Margaret Tracy and Keith Peterson. Two of them, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word, have been adapted as movies. He’s at the top of his game here and that is very good indeed.

A Good Death
Kevin Burton Smith

This auspicious first novel starts as a classic fish-out-of-water, hardboiled detective story, but soon morphs into something altogether more engaging and original. The case seems simple enough: New England private eye Sebastian Damon, who could certainly use a break, has been dispatched to Thailand by a large US insurance company to scrape up anything he can find on the death of Linda Watt, a beautiful Laotian refugee turned promising (and heavily insured) Boston banker who apparently overdosed in a Bangkok flophouse.

Sebastian stumbles through the rounds, visiting the strip clubs, dives, and expat hangouts of a town awash in sin and corruption—in other words, about what you’ve come to expect of a novel set in Thailand, which has proven to be incredibly fertile ground of late for those working the shamus game (see: Christopher G. Moore, Timothy Hallinan, Angela Savage, et al.).

But journalist Cox takes it all one step further. Soon enough, Sebastian has left the pavement of Sin City far behind, lighting out for the territories, travelling through the wilds of Thailand and Vietnam and up into the uncharted frontier of the Laotian hill country in search of an alleged American POW from the Vietnam era who may have gone native. But in this upriver journey that recalls nothing so much as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the real horror is yet to come.

Sebastian and his small party (including Honeyman, a grizzled old military buddy of Sebastian’s disapproving father) soon find themselves in a world of danger, as ravenous global corporations, indifferent governments, and the forces of progress square off against the increasingly endangered and defiant primitive hill tribes who are every bit as capable of cold-blooded savagery as their more “civilized” foes. It’s a world where genocide, neglect, disease, laissez-faire environmental policies, superstition, ignorance, stupidity, and good old-fashioned violence are facts of life.

At one point someone says to Sebastian, “Sometimes God smiles on foolish shamans and small children...and even on wayward private detectives,” but in this downbeat and gripping adventure yarn, God doesn’t seem to be doing much smiling. Pack the mosquito netting and keep your weapon close—this one’s a keeper.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:05:18

This auspicious first novel starts as a classic fish-out-of-water, hardboiled detective story, but soon morphs into something altogether more engaging and original. The case seems simple enough: New England private eye Sebastian Damon, who could certainly use a break, has been dispatched to Thailand by a large US insurance company to scrape up anything he can find on the death of Linda Watt, a beautiful Laotian refugee turned promising (and heavily insured) Boston banker who apparently overdosed in a Bangkok flophouse.

Sebastian stumbles through the rounds, visiting the strip clubs, dives, and expat hangouts of a town awash in sin and corruption—in other words, about what you’ve come to expect of a novel set in Thailand, which has proven to be incredibly fertile ground of late for those working the shamus game (see: Christopher G. Moore, Timothy Hallinan, Angela Savage, et al.).

But journalist Cox takes it all one step further. Soon enough, Sebastian has left the pavement of Sin City far behind, lighting out for the territories, travelling through the wilds of Thailand and Vietnam and up into the uncharted frontier of the Laotian hill country in search of an alleged American POW from the Vietnam era who may have gone native. But in this upriver journey that recalls nothing so much as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the real horror is yet to come.

Sebastian and his small party (including Honeyman, a grizzled old military buddy of Sebastian’s disapproving father) soon find themselves in a world of danger, as ravenous global corporations, indifferent governments, and the forces of progress square off against the increasingly endangered and defiant primitive hill tribes who are every bit as capable of cold-blooded savagery as their more “civilized” foes. It’s a world where genocide, neglect, disease, laissez-faire environmental policies, superstition, ignorance, stupidity, and good old-fashioned violence are facts of life.

At one point someone says to Sebastian, “Sometimes God smiles on foolish shamans and small children...and even on wayward private detectives,” but in this downbeat and gripping adventure yarn, God doesn’t seem to be doing much smiling. Pack the mosquito netting and keep your weapon close—this one’s a keeper.

Crossbones Yard
Kristin Centorcelli

Alice Quentin is a London psychologist who only finds real joy when she’s running along the streets of her beloved city. A tough childhood has left her emotionally scarred, resulting in her keeping most people at arm’s length. In spite of this, she’s dating a handsome surgeon, Sean, who seems to be smitten, and her best friend Lola has recently come to stay with her while she auditions for a few stage shows. Her biggest worry is her brother Will, who, at 35, is no longer the successful trader that made all the girls swoon. He’s had a mental breakdown that’s left him unpredictable and homeless with his only belongings in a van that he sometimes keeps parked outside Alice’s flat. In spite of this, Alice is fairly comfortable with the status quo, even with her worries about Will, until, on one of her runs, she discovers the body of a woman next to a cemetery called Crossbones Yard. The markings on the body are shockingly similar to those made by a murderous couple who once ran a nearby hostel, but they’ve since been put away. Is there a copycat at work? The police seem to think the killings are connected to the couple, and they’ve asked for Alice’s help in catching him.

Crossbones Yard is the first in a new series by Kate Rhodes and is told in Alice’s voice, giving the narrative a rather insular feel. Still, Alice’s flaws and insecurities make her an endearing heroine. Alice is good at her job, but because of her childhood, begins pushing people away as soon as they get too close. When she starts helping the police with the new case, she’s instantly attracted to darkly handsome DS Alvarez and it’s pretty obvious he’s attracted to her as well. Unfortunately, the body count keeps rising and it soon becomes clear that her brother Will may be very close to the killer. Eventually the violence hits Alice very close to home and it’s a breathless race to a terrifying climax.

In Crossbones Yard, the author has given us a fresh new psychological thriller with a very likeable protagonist, strong characterizations, and taut pacing. It should appeal to fans of Nicci French and Erin Kelly.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:10:11

rhodes_crossbonesyardThis first in a new psychological suspense series, introduces London psychologist Alice Quentin.

Three Graves Full
Derek Hill

An otherwise respectable man, Jason Getty is just getting used to the idea that he has a corpse in the backyard that he put there a year earlier. Then landscapers working on his property discover another body, one that has nothing to do with Jason. When the cops begin their investigation, the secrets of the house’s previous resident come to light and Jason does his best to cooperate with the murder investigation while keeping his own crime buried for good. A number of events make that difficult, however, including the arrival of Leah Tamblin, a woman whose fiancé went missing years earlier and is presumed dead. Then things really get bad.

Mason’s assured debut is tightly plotted, and brims with a poisonously dark cosmic irony. What makes it more than just a clever yet cold morality tale, though, is Mason’s ability to burrow into the minds of her characters with darkly rhythmic prose. Jason is no cold-blooded killer, and in the book’s major flashback, we see how he was pushed to the edge when he becomes friends with a seemingly good-natured roustabout named Gary Harris, a guy who puts the alpha into the phrase alpha male. Things change quickly, though, and Gary is revealed to be manipulative and highly dangerous.

Mason skillfully and insightfully shows how a nonviolent person could shed blood if pushed too far. Killing becomes an act of salvation and survival. Where the moral line becomes fuzzier, however, is in how far Jason will go to cover up his crime. Three Graves Full is an excruciatingly tense read, reminiscent of Scott Smith’s excellent thriller A Simple Plan.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:13:55

An otherwise respectable man, Jason Getty is just getting used to the idea that he has a corpse in the backyard that he put there a year earlier. Then landscapers working on his property discover another body, one that has nothing to do with Jason. When the cops begin their investigation, the secrets of the house’s previous resident come to light and Jason does his best to cooperate with the murder investigation while keeping his own crime buried for good. A number of events make that difficult, however, including the arrival of Leah Tamblin, a woman whose fiancé went missing years earlier and is presumed dead. Then things really get bad.

Mason’s assured debut is tightly plotted, and brims with a poisonously dark cosmic irony. What makes it more than just a clever yet cold morality tale, though, is Mason’s ability to burrow into the minds of her characters with darkly rhythmic prose. Jason is no cold-blooded killer, and in the book’s major flashback, we see how he was pushed to the edge when he becomes friends with a seemingly good-natured roustabout named Gary Harris, a guy who puts the alpha into the phrase alpha male. Things change quickly, though, and Gary is revealed to be manipulative and highly dangerous.

Mason skillfully and insightfully shows how a nonviolent person could shed blood if pushed too far. Killing becomes an act of salvation and survival. Where the moral line becomes fuzzier, however, is in how far Jason will go to cover up his crime. Three Graves Full is an excruciatingly tense read, reminiscent of Scott Smith’s excellent thriller A Simple Plan.

Stakeout
Robin Agnew

This is the 18th installment in Parnell Hall’s long-lived and enjoyable Stanley Hastings series. Happily, it’s not an imperative to have read all the other 17 books before reading this one—it stands nicely on its own. It tells the travails of Stanley, an underemployed actor and the world’s worst private eye. There’s a lot of room for humor in that formula, and Hall doesn’t miss a bit of it.

This is really a standard private eye novel—starting, as the title would suggest, with a stakeout outside a seedy motel. Stanley is geeked to actually be on a stakeout rather than working his usual ambulance-chaser-type jobs (he’s on call for an ambulance-chasing lawyer). He’s so excited he’s actually brought along an empty Gatorade bottle should the call of nature need to be answered while he keeps his eye on the motel.

As Stanley sits there hour after hour—waiting to discover if this particular husband has been cheating on his particular wife—he gets bored and calls his own wife, Alice, who serves as the voice of deductive reasoning throughout the book. Alice also asks him to pick up a gallon of milk. Peeved at the way Alice is taking him for granted, Stanley decides to go up and boldly investigate (i.e., knock on the motel room door where his suspect is waiting for his lover).

When he knocks, the door falls open and he discovers, much to his horror, that the object of his scrutiny is dead on the floor, definitely a murder victim. Like any good citizen, he calls the police, who promptly arrest him. He proceeds to talk his brains out at the police station, which lands him in trouble with his lawyer, the ambulance-chasing boss Richard Rosenberg.

This whole novel is told through dialogue—not so easy a trick. The writers who are really excellent at this make it look simple—Robert B. Parker and Steve Hamilton spring to mind. Hall shares that gift. Most of the book is spent as Stanley follows dumb hunch after dumb hunch, getting into worse and worse scrapes. In this he differs from Spenser or Alex McKnight, who usually manage to get things more or less right. You are almost slapping your forehead—right along with Stanley’s lawyer—as he decides to go and question the wrong person, obtain evidence illegally, or impersonate a police officer. Of course, if he didn’t do these things, there would be no story. As Stanley lurches and jolts toward a final “aha” moment in a crowded courtroom, you’ll be rooting for him to come out, more or less, on top.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:17:12

This is the 18th installment in Parnell Hall’s long-lived and enjoyable Stanley Hastings series. Happily, it’s not an imperative to have read all the other 17 books before reading this one—it stands nicely on its own. It tells the travails of Stanley, an underemployed actor and the world’s worst private eye. There’s a lot of room for humor in that formula, and Hall doesn’t miss a bit of it.

This is really a standard private eye novel—starting, as the title would suggest, with a stakeout outside a seedy motel. Stanley is geeked to actually be on a stakeout rather than working his usual ambulance-chaser-type jobs (he’s on call for an ambulance-chasing lawyer). He’s so excited he’s actually brought along an empty Gatorade bottle should the call of nature need to be answered while he keeps his eye on the motel.

As Stanley sits there hour after hour—waiting to discover if this particular husband has been cheating on his particular wife—he gets bored and calls his own wife, Alice, who serves as the voice of deductive reasoning throughout the book. Alice also asks him to pick up a gallon of milk. Peeved at the way Alice is taking him for granted, Stanley decides to go up and boldly investigate (i.e., knock on the motel room door where his suspect is waiting for his lover).

When he knocks, the door falls open and he discovers, much to his horror, that the object of his scrutiny is dead on the floor, definitely a murder victim. Like any good citizen, he calls the police, who promptly arrest him. He proceeds to talk his brains out at the police station, which lands him in trouble with his lawyer, the ambulance-chasing boss Richard Rosenberg.

This whole novel is told through dialogue—not so easy a trick. The writers who are really excellent at this make it look simple—Robert B. Parker and Steve Hamilton spring to mind. Hall shares that gift. Most of the book is spent as Stanley follows dumb hunch after dumb hunch, getting into worse and worse scrapes. In this he differs from Spenser or Alex McKnight, who usually manage to get things more or less right. You are almost slapping your forehead—right along with Stanley’s lawyer—as he decides to go and question the wrong person, obtain evidence illegally, or impersonate a police officer. Of course, if he didn’t do these things, there would be no story. As Stanley lurches and jolts toward a final “aha” moment in a crowded courtroom, you’ll be rooting for him to come out, more or less, on top.

Daddy Love
Hank Wagner

The man the authorities know as Chester Czechi has several identities. Some know him as Chester Cash, the charismatic “Preacher.” Sadly, some young boys come to know him as Daddy Love, the name he instructs them to use after he abducts and brutalizes them, bending them to his will. These relationships last only a short time, because Daddy quickly tires of his playthings, coldly dispatching them after he finds suitable, younger replacements.

Brutal and enervating, Joyce Carol Oates’ latest tells the story of one of these boys, a lad once called Robbie, now renamed Gideon. Literally wrenched from his mother’s grasp at a local mall, the five-year-old is made to endure shocking tortures of the mind, spirit, and body while in Czechi’s “care.” Over the years, he nurtures a memory of what once was, a memory that dwindles with each passing day as he and his new “father” hide in plain sight in a small New Jersey town. As he gets older, he instinctually realizes his days are numbered and waits for an opportunity to escape.

It’s always a pleasure to read Oates, who writes some of the most beautiful prose you’ll ever encounter. Like all her novels, Daddy Love is well-written and compelling, thoroughly and unflinchingly exploring the mental terrain of all its major characters, including the creepy Czechi, Robbie, and Robbie’s real mother, Dinah. It is not, however, for the faint of heart, as Oates leaves very little to the imagination. It’s well worth your time, but the disturbing events depicted within will haunt your thoughts, especially if you are a parent.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:22:33

The man the authorities know as Chester Czechi has several identities. Some know him as Chester Cash, the charismatic “Preacher.” Sadly, some young boys come to know him as Daddy Love, the name he instructs them to use after he abducts and brutalizes them, bending them to his will. These relationships last only a short time, because Daddy quickly tires of his playthings, coldly dispatching them after he finds suitable, younger replacements.

Brutal and enervating, Joyce Carol Oates’ latest tells the story of one of these boys, a lad once called Robbie, now renamed Gideon. Literally wrenched from his mother’s grasp at a local mall, the five-year-old is made to endure shocking tortures of the mind, spirit, and body while in Czechi’s “care.” Over the years, he nurtures a memory of what once was, a memory that dwindles with each passing day as he and his new “father” hide in plain sight in a small New Jersey town. As he gets older, he instinctually realizes his days are numbered and waits for an opportunity to escape.

It’s always a pleasure to read Oates, who writes some of the most beautiful prose you’ll ever encounter. Like all her novels, Daddy Love is well-written and compelling, thoroughly and unflinchingly exploring the mental terrain of all its major characters, including the creepy Czechi, Robbie, and Robbie’s real mother, Dinah. It is not, however, for the faint of heart, as Oates leaves very little to the imagination. It’s well worth your time, but the disturbing events depicted within will haunt your thoughts, especially if you are a parent.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave
Lourdes Venard

Rebus is back. Need we say more?

This can only mean more wisecracks, attempts to foil bosses and bureaucracy, and—of course—a case that perhaps another cop wouldn’t have cracked.

Rebus, having retired, is back as a civilian employee for the Serious Crime Review Unit, chasing dead ends for cold cases, when a woman whose teenage daughter disappeared in 1999 approaches him. The old case has striking similarities to another recent missing person’s case, as well as several other disappearances of women throughout the years, all along the same highway A9. Working with his former underling, the newly promoted Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, Rebus travels the A9 searching out clues.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is on board with Rebus’ return to the force. And, with the retirement age now raised, Rebus plans to make it permanent, having reapplied for his job. It’s only been a few years since we’ve seen Rebus—Rankin handed him his retirement papers in 2007—and the former cop hasn’t changed much, still drinking and smoking as much as before, still employing unorthodox methods to catch criminals. But the police force around him has changed. Even Clarke comments to Rebus: “You’re vinyl, we’re digital.”

Rebus has always had his enemies within the police force. This time they include Malcolm Fox, an internal-affairs-type who was the protagonist of Rankin’s last two books. Likable in the last two books, he has become an implacable foe in this book. He warns Rebus: “Think you can break cases without bending a few rules along the way? We’ve no room for even one maverick these days.” Fox has an outsize dislike of Rebus, and has begun an investigation he hopes will permanently get Rebus off the force.

This 18th novel in the series is a reintroduction to Rebus, older, set in his ways, and battling a changing world. Rebus is also a little sadder: years of failed relationships have left him alone. His only regular drinking buddy is his old nemesis, former crime boss Ger Cafferty. Rebus hardly sees his adult daughter, Samantha, and when he unexpectedly stops at her house, during a road trip for the investigation, she’s not there. But as he admits to himself, he probably hadn’t wanted her to be there: “He had made the effort, without any of the possible repercussions.”

Retirement was no happy ending for Rebus; the only place he seems comfortable is the police station. And the wisecracking copper is also a very wise one. It’s a joy to see him connect the dots and go after the bad guy—and, yes, to see him break the rules as only Rebus would dare to do. Let’s hope Rebus is back for good.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:27:11

Rebus is back. Need we say more?

This can only mean more wisecracks, attempts to foil bosses and bureaucracy, and—of course—a case that perhaps another cop wouldn’t have cracked.

Rebus, having retired, is back as a civilian employee for the Serious Crime Review Unit, chasing dead ends for cold cases, when a woman whose teenage daughter disappeared in 1999 approaches him. The old case has striking similarities to another recent missing person’s case, as well as several other disappearances of women throughout the years, all along the same highway A9. Working with his former underling, the newly promoted Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, Rebus travels the A9 searching out clues.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is on board with Rebus’ return to the force. And, with the retirement age now raised, Rebus plans to make it permanent, having reapplied for his job. It’s only been a few years since we’ve seen Rebus—Rankin handed him his retirement papers in 2007—and the former cop hasn’t changed much, still drinking and smoking as much as before, still employing unorthodox methods to catch criminals. But the police force around him has changed. Even Clarke comments to Rebus: “You’re vinyl, we’re digital.”

Rebus has always had his enemies within the police force. This time they include Malcolm Fox, an internal-affairs-type who was the protagonist of Rankin’s last two books. Likable in the last two books, he has become an implacable foe in this book. He warns Rebus: “Think you can break cases without bending a few rules along the way? We’ve no room for even one maverick these days.” Fox has an outsize dislike of Rebus, and has begun an investigation he hopes will permanently get Rebus off the force.

This 18th novel in the series is a reintroduction to Rebus, older, set in his ways, and battling a changing world. Rebus is also a little sadder: years of failed relationships have left him alone. His only regular drinking buddy is his old nemesis, former crime boss Ger Cafferty. Rebus hardly sees his adult daughter, Samantha, and when he unexpectedly stops at her house, during a road trip for the investigation, she’s not there. But as he admits to himself, he probably hadn’t wanted her to be there: “He had made the effort, without any of the possible repercussions.”

Retirement was no happy ending for Rebus; the only place he seems comfortable is the police station. And the wisecracking copper is also a very wise one. It’s a joy to see him connect the dots and go after the bad guy—and, yes, to see him break the rules as only Rebus would dare to do. Let’s hope Rebus is back for good.

The Dead Shall Not Rest
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

Consider this a reverse review: after I finished reading this book, I read the very informative and highly enjoyable postscript and glossary. In them, I discovered that most of the lead characters in this 1782 London murder mystery actually existed and, further, that one of them was apparently the inspiration for both Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Dr. Frankenstein of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Wow!

Back to the beginning: the mystery here involves the murder of a young Italian castrato who has an amazing voice and is taking Europe by storm when he is brutally murdered and his voice box surgically removed. Dr. Silkstone, an early anatomist (based on another real person), is called in to inspect the corpse and determine the cause of death. The chief suspect is an older castrato who had taken on the youth as his protégé, but Silkstone doesn’t believe it, and finds himself fighting the bureaucracy to prove the older man’s innocence. His only hope becomes finding the real murderer, a person obviously adept with a scalpel.

There are two running sub-stories of interest, one involving an eight-foot-tall Irish giant (another historically real person), and a less-than-three-foot-tall Polish count (also real), as well as a romantic mystery involving Silkstone’s love interest, a woman with a tragic secret that could end their relationship.

If this sounds complex, it is, but it’s worth working through. This is the second Dr. Silkstone novel by Tessa Harris, an Oxford graduate whose first book in the series is the critically acclaimed The Anatomist’s Apprentice.

Teri Duerr
2013-02-21 19:32:48

harris_thedeadshallnotrestAn excellent historical mystery set around the the murder of a young Italian singer in 1782.