Sign of the Cross
Derek Hill

Gibraltar-based lawyer Spike Sanguinetti travels back to his homeland of Malta for the funeral of his uncle and aunt, David and Theresa. The two were involved in an ugly domestic dispute that escalated to a ghastly murder and suicide—or so the police believe. Spike isn’t so sure and starts his own investigation. The couple did not have a history of violence. Would an art historian just snap and brutally cut his wife’s throat? The police think that Theresa was having an affair and David’s jealousy led to murder. But many of Theresa’s friends don’t buy it, either, since she openly showed her devotion and love for her husband. Spike snoops around, discovering that the real killer may be connected to Theresa’s job working as a refugee aid worker. As Spike delves into the mystery, a woman from the refugee camp goes missing, as does someone else close to Spike, confirming his belief that he’s on the right track and that the police are covering something up.

Mogford’s second novel featuring his crime-solving attorney grips readers’ attention with the opening murder. The scene is ugly and vicious, destroying any notion we may have that this will be a fun romp through two inviting Mediterranean countries. Mogford does a great job of describing the locales, but the setting resonates because it feels truthful and free of romanticization, giving readers a glimpse into local life beyond a superficial travelogue. Though the book is briskly paced and thrilling, it doesn’t come at the expense of depth. Mogford packs the story with plenty of historical asides, but thankfully not in a manner that takes away from the central plot. Although he’s not a detective, Spike makes for an intriguing protagonist. Despite his reluctance to enter the fray as a detective, he feels honor-bound to do so and is tenacious enough in the face of danger to pursue a path toward the truth. Readers should greatly anticipate the next installment in this series.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-11 22:11:52

Gibraltar-based lawyer Spike Sanguinetti travels back to his homeland of Malta for the funeral of his uncle and aunt, David and Theresa. The two were involved in an ugly domestic dispute that escalated to a ghastly murder and suicide—or so the police believe. Spike isn’t so sure and starts his own investigation. The couple did not have a history of violence. Would an art historian just snap and brutally cut his wife’s throat? The police think that Theresa was having an affair and David’s jealousy led to murder. But many of Theresa’s friends don’t buy it, either, since she openly showed her devotion and love for her husband. Spike snoops around, discovering that the real killer may be connected to Theresa’s job working as a refugee aid worker. As Spike delves into the mystery, a woman from the refugee camp goes missing, as does someone else close to Spike, confirming his belief that he’s on the right track and that the police are covering something up.

Mogford’s second novel featuring his crime-solving attorney grips readers’ attention with the opening murder. The scene is ugly and vicious, destroying any notion we may have that this will be a fun romp through two inviting Mediterranean countries. Mogford does a great job of describing the locales, but the setting resonates because it feels truthful and free of romanticization, giving readers a glimpse into local life beyond a superficial travelogue. Though the book is briskly paced and thrilling, it doesn’t come at the expense of depth. Mogford packs the story with plenty of historical asides, but thankfully not in a manner that takes away from the central plot. Although he’s not a detective, Spike makes for an intriguing protagonist. Despite his reluctance to enter the fray as a detective, he feels honor-bound to do so and is tenacious enough in the face of danger to pursue a path toward the truth. Readers should greatly anticipate the next installment in this series.

Left Coast Crime: Why Go to Monterey
Oline Cogdill

parks_thegoodcop
Each mystery writers’ conference has a different tone and approach and each offers its own unique chance for readers to meet their favorite authors.

I have fond memories of the Bouchercons, Malices, Sleuthfests and the other conferences I have attended.

There was the Bouchercon when I rode to the airport with . . . nope…can’t mention that. Or, there was the Malice at which . . . oh, no . . . better not say that incident either.

Let’s just say that I have never had a bad time at a mystery writers’ conference, and quite a few interesting ones. Which is why I keep going back year after year to as many conferences as I can.

But there are conferences I have never been able to attend. Whether it’s the time of year or the location, or whatever reason, I still have not attended a Left Coast Crime.

And it continues to be on my bucket list.

Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, for mystery fans. It is held during the first quarter of the calendar year in Western North America, as defined by the Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii, according to its website.

That means that it is always held in a really nifty place to visit.

Monterey, Calif., will be the site for the 2014 LCC, which will be March 20-23.

The 2015 LCC will be March 12-15 in Portland, Oregon.

What makes LCC different than the other conferences? I asked those authors who have attended the conference before, and here are some of their thoughts they sent in emails. Whether you are a writer or the all-important reader, we’d love to have your opinion of Left Coast Crime and other conferences you’ve attended.

BRAD PARKS:
Brad Parks, the author of the Faces of the Gone, Eyes of the Innocent, The Girl Next Door, and The Good Cop featuring reporter Carter Ross, might be a bit biased about Left Coast Crime.

His novel The Girl Next Door won this year’s Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, as voted on by attendees of the Left Coast Crime conference.

The 2013 conference was his second LCC and he’s now a fan. “Going the first time made me realize it was a conference I was going to want to hit time and again,” he said.

“People often say Bouchercon is like a high school reunion, because it’s old friends getting together at the same time every year. Because of the geography, Left Coast has even more of that feel. Let’s face it, sometimes people who live on the East Coast won’t go to a west coast Bouchercon – and vice versa. Distance isn’t as much of a deterrent with Left Coast, so there’s a real core there that’s going to be there every year.”

On the size:
“To me, LCC is just the right size. It’s a nice halfway point between Bouchercon and some of the smaller conferences out there. Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely can’t beat the Bouchercon bar. And I love the conference in general. But it can be hectic. And you always feel like you’re missing something you really wanted to see—or someone you really wanted to talk to. Not so with Left Coast. It’s big enough that you feel like there’s something always going on but small enough to still feel intimate.”

On the awards:
The awards “are a half-twist from the usual—recognizing humorous mysteries, historicals or westerns, sub-genres that aren’t always at the fore when award time comes. It gives the conference a slightly different flavor and you do tend to see panels that reflect that.”

Favorite anecdote:
“This year at Left Coast, Laura Lippman was the guest of honor. I’ve admired Laura from afar for a while—and, yeah, we’re Facebook friends­—but I had never really talked to her in depth. I remedied that on Friday night, when we were able to share a drink and have a wonderful conversation about craft – just the two of us (with only occasional interruptions from people coming up to tell Laura how great she is). That talk was a real highlight of my conference. Then we continued the dialogue on Saturday. I don’t know if we could have done that at a larger conference. Both of us would have been pulled in too many different directions.”

Why he’ll return:
Parks will be the Toastmaster at the 2014 LCC in Monterey. “So I can guarantee there will be at least some entertainment value there... even if it’s just watching me make an idiot out of myself,” he said, adding a happy face to his email.

andrewsdonna_somelikeithawk
DONNA ANDREWS:
Donna Andrews is the author of 14 novels in the Meg Langslow series. Her next installment Some Like It Hawk comes out in July.

Why she returns:
“I'm a repeat offender at LCC. I first went in 2000, and I think I've only missed one since, because of a schedule conflict.

On the size:
“It's smaller than Bouchercon and thus, like Malice, it's easier to connect with people there. Because of the smaller size, it's easier for the organizers to hold it in smaller cities in more scenic places. And for those of us on the East Coast, it's a great way to build some visibility with readers at the other side of the country.”

JOHN GILSTRAP:
John Gilstrap is the author of such best-selling thrillers as Damage Control, No Mercy, Nathan's Run, and Scott Free. The 2013 conference was his second LCC.

The differences:
“One of the things that sets LCC apart . . . is the reliably engaging locales. The last one I went to was several years ago in the old, downtown part of Los Angeles where I'd never been, and it allowed me an excuse to re-establish contact with some of the movie folks out there. This year is was in Colorado Springs—I love the Rockies in winter—and next year it will be in Monterey. Can it get better than Monterey?

gilstrap_damagecontrol
What’s similar:

“Fundamentally, I think panels are panels. I always enjoy attending them and I always enjoy being on them, but I don't see a fundamental difference in panels from one venue to another. What does change is the cross section of fans. Much as Sleuthfest tends to attract fans from the southeast, and Magna Cum Murder attracts fans largely from the midwest, LCC is a largely western-dominated base. As with each of these smaller conferences, one of the great benefits over, say, a Bouchercon, is the smallness. You get to meet more people.

CHRISTINE GOFF
Christine Goff is the author of the Birdwatcher's Mystery series. She said she tries to attend LCC every year.

Who goes:
“The conference attendance ranges from about 400 to 600, a real mix of fans and writers—and a conference where writers are also true fans of the mystery. There is no differentiation between attendees. The only folks you can ID readily—except for star authors—are the booksellers, who have bookseller on their name tags—sometimes. Everyone mingles more. The accessibility to authors seems higher. The cliques seem less in existence. Editors and agents mingle with authors, fans and aspiring writers, and everyone is talking about the books. They talk about the best books they’ve read, the books that have the buzz, books that ought to have the buzz. It’s friendly and fun and all about the mysteries. And its location changes every year.

The panels:
“The panels aren’t that dissimilar to panels at other conferences, though they seem to be more about the content of the books than about selling the titles. The panels tend to be a mix of well-known, midlist and unknown writers.

The friendly factor:
“The difference between LCC and something like Malice or Bouchercon is size, accessibility and camaraderie. Bouchercon and Malice both have a tone of business to them. Authors are there expecting to see their friends, their agents, their editors. At LCC, they are there to have fun, talk about mysteries, hang out with old friends and to meet new friends. There’s a great write up of this year’s LCC that sort of gives a sense of the con. It was written by author, Mark Stevens, http://www.tellurideinside.com/2013/03/tall-tales-left-coast-crime-conference.html
I really like the friendliness and sort of laid back approach of LCC. People come to see authors, talk books and to see the area where it’s held.

The location:
“The location . . . makes a difference, too. The ’con moves around place to place, so folks also attend to see the sights. This year it was in Colorado Springs, so there were before con and after con trips to places like the Royal Gorge and Pikes Peak. People who rented cars also got to see places like the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs. It’s a chance to see the sights. [For future LCC’s] we’re entertaining South Dakota, Vancouver (Canada), Arizona. We’ve been in L.A., Santa Fe, Seattle, El Paso, etc. It’s fun to see the authors from those areas in their home domain. Bouchercon moves around as well, which is good, but there are so many folks it’s hard to really see everyone.

PAUL LEVINE:
Paul Levine writes the series about lawyer Jake Lassiter series and another series featuring lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. And, yes, Levine is a lawyer himself. Levine has been to three LCC’s—Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and the 2013 in Colorado Springs.

“I think of it as a regional Bouchercon. Heavily populated by writers/readers west of the Mississippi,” he said.

What’s similar:
“I did a legal thriller panel and a Hollywood panel. Very similar formats as B-con, Thrillerfest, Sleuthfest, etc.”

What’s different:
Twist Phelan put together an interesting panel, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. It was called “Ask the Sweethearts: Secrets of Living with a Writer.” Spouses and significant others giving away secrets. My lady, Marcia Silvers, was scheduled to be on it, but it was scheduled late Saturday afternoon, and we tried (unsuccessfully) to get the jump on a snowstorm and drove back to Denver through really bad conditions. (Sleuthfest seldom has drifting snow threatening writers’ lives). The shame is that Marcia was going to spill the beans about how excited she was when I dedicated 2012’s “Last Chance Lassiter’ to her…..then discovered three prior dedications to other women. As Jake Lassiter says, our past clings to us like mud on cleats.
(The irrepressible Twist put her husband of three days, Jack Chapple, on the panel. Now, I had questions for him!)

Why he goes:
“What I got out of LCC is pretty much the same as with the other conferences. I get to see Laura Lippman on the elliptical when we both work out early in the gym. I see friends from all over the country who I would not otherwise run into. We live solitary lives, do we not?
"You certainly don’t sell enough books at these conferences to make them commercial ventures. I think of them more as holidays. Panels are fun and there’s always time to gather in hotel bars with fellow writers, i.e, whiners, so we can complain about the business.”

ROBIN BURCELL:
burcellrobin_darkhour
Robin Burcell
is the author of the Kate Gillespie police procedurals and the Sydney Fitzpatrick forensic series; her latest is The Dark Hour.

Her first time at LCC was at Tucson, Arizona, several years ago. Last year, Burcell co-chaired the LCC in Sacramento, California. While she has missed a couple through the years, LCC is one of her "must go to" conferences.

What’s different:
The biggest thing that sets it apart is the more intimate feel of it. For someone who has never been to any conference, this is a great first to attend. You get a big conference feel without being at a big conference. It averages about 300 - 500 (depending on location.) For instance, Monterey, where it will be next year, usually has a higher attendance, just due to location. Colorado Springs was smaller, about 350, undoubtedly due to price of flights.

Why go:
“The best part in my opinion is that because of the size, it has a "friendlier" feel to it and one has more of a chance of running into authors and friends. At the same time, it's large enough to feel like one of the big cons with multiple tracks of panels and a variety of events to attend.”


CATRIONA MCPHERSON:
Catriona McPherson writes the Dandy Gilver novels, such as After the Armistice Ball, set in the 1930s. During Left Coast Crime, her novel Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award given to mystery novels covering events before 1960. That novel also is up for an Agatha at this year’s Malice Domestic.

McPherson has been to LCC twice, Sacramento and Colorado Springs; three Bouchercons, San Francisco, St Louis and Cleveland; and one Malice.

“To be honest it's all a bit of a blur still. Bouchercon is wonderful but so huge that you can be there for all three days and not see someone; LCC is big enough to be lively. There are always at least two places you'd like to be but by Sunday you can be sure you've had a chance to catch up with everyone. As I make new friends every time it gets harder and harder. I've solved it by staying up until 2 a.m.

2013 Left Coast Crime Award Winners:

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996: Brad Parks, The Girl Next Door (Minotaur)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (first awarded in 2004) is given to mystery novels covering events before 1960: Catriona McPherson, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder (Minotaur)

The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region (first awarded in 2004): Craig Johnson, As the Crow Flies (Viking)

The Watson, for the mystery novel with the best sidekick (first awarded in 2011): Rochelle Staab, Bruja Brouhaha (Berkley Prime Crime)

Xav ID 577
2013-04-14 11:12:30

parks_thegoodcop
Each mystery writers’ conference has a different tone and approach and each offers its own unique chance for readers to meet their favorite authors.

I have fond memories of the Bouchercons, Malices, Sleuthfests and the other conferences I have attended.

There was the Bouchercon when I rode to the airport with . . . nope…can’t mention that. Or, there was the Malice at which . . . oh, no . . . better not say that incident either.

Let’s just say that I have never had a bad time at a mystery writers’ conference, and quite a few interesting ones. Which is why I keep going back year after year to as many conferences as I can.

But there are conferences I have never been able to attend. Whether it’s the time of year or the location, or whatever reason, I still have not attended a Left Coast Crime.

And it continues to be on my bucket list.

Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, for mystery fans. It is held during the first quarter of the calendar year in Western North America, as defined by the Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii, according to its website.

That means that it is always held in a really nifty place to visit.

Monterey, Calif., will be the site for the 2014 LCC, which will be March 20-23.

The 2015 LCC will be March 12-15 in Portland, Oregon.

What makes LCC different than the other conferences? I asked those authors who have attended the conference before, and here are some of their thoughts they sent in emails. Whether you are a writer or the all-important reader, we’d love to have your opinion of Left Coast Crime and other conferences you’ve attended.

BRAD PARKS:
Brad Parks, the author of the Faces of the Gone, Eyes of the Innocent, The Girl Next Door, and The Good Cop featuring reporter Carter Ross, might be a bit biased about Left Coast Crime.

His novel The Girl Next Door won this year’s Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, as voted on by attendees of the Left Coast Crime conference.

The 2013 conference was his second LCC and he’s now a fan. “Going the first time made me realize it was a conference I was going to want to hit time and again,” he said.

“People often say Bouchercon is like a high school reunion, because it’s old friends getting together at the same time every year. Because of the geography, Left Coast has even more of that feel. Let’s face it, sometimes people who live on the East Coast won’t go to a west coast Bouchercon – and vice versa. Distance isn’t as much of a deterrent with Left Coast, so there’s a real core there that’s going to be there every year.”

On the size:
“To me, LCC is just the right size. It’s a nice halfway point between Bouchercon and some of the smaller conferences out there. Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely can’t beat the Bouchercon bar. And I love the conference in general. But it can be hectic. And you always feel like you’re missing something you really wanted to see—or someone you really wanted to talk to. Not so with Left Coast. It’s big enough that you feel like there’s something always going on but small enough to still feel intimate.”

On the awards:
The awards “are a half-twist from the usual—recognizing humorous mysteries, historicals or westerns, sub-genres that aren’t always at the fore when award time comes. It gives the conference a slightly different flavor and you do tend to see panels that reflect that.”

Favorite anecdote:
“This year at Left Coast, Laura Lippman was the guest of honor. I’ve admired Laura from afar for a while—and, yeah, we’re Facebook friends­—but I had never really talked to her in depth. I remedied that on Friday night, when we were able to share a drink and have a wonderful conversation about craft – just the two of us (with only occasional interruptions from people coming up to tell Laura how great she is). That talk was a real highlight of my conference. Then we continued the dialogue on Saturday. I don’t know if we could have done that at a larger conference. Both of us would have been pulled in too many different directions.”

Why he’ll return:
Parks will be the Toastmaster at the 2014 LCC in Monterey. “So I can guarantee there will be at least some entertainment value there... even if it’s just watching me make an idiot out of myself,” he said, adding a happy face to his email.

andrewsdonna_somelikeithawk
DONNA ANDREWS:
Donna Andrews is the author of 14 novels in the Meg Langslow series. Her next installment Some Like It Hawk comes out in July.

Why she returns:
“I'm a repeat offender at LCC. I first went in 2000, and I think I've only missed one since, because of a schedule conflict.

On the size:
“It's smaller than Bouchercon and thus, like Malice, it's easier to connect with people there. Because of the smaller size, it's easier for the organizers to hold it in smaller cities in more scenic places. And for those of us on the East Coast, it's a great way to build some visibility with readers at the other side of the country.”

JOHN GILSTRAP:
John Gilstrap is the author of such best-selling thrillers as Damage Control, No Mercy, Nathan's Run, and Scott Free. The 2013 conference was his second LCC.

The differences:
“One of the things that sets LCC apart . . . is the reliably engaging locales. The last one I went to was several years ago in the old, downtown part of Los Angeles where I'd never been, and it allowed me an excuse to re-establish contact with some of the movie folks out there. This year is was in Colorado Springs—I love the Rockies in winter—and next year it will be in Monterey. Can it get better than Monterey?

gilstrap_damagecontrol
What’s similar:

“Fundamentally, I think panels are panels. I always enjoy attending them and I always enjoy being on them, but I don't see a fundamental difference in panels from one venue to another. What does change is the cross section of fans. Much as Sleuthfest tends to attract fans from the southeast, and Magna Cum Murder attracts fans largely from the midwest, LCC is a largely western-dominated base. As with each of these smaller conferences, one of the great benefits over, say, a Bouchercon, is the smallness. You get to meet more people.

CHRISTINE GOFF
Christine Goff is the author of the Birdwatcher's Mystery series. She said she tries to attend LCC every year.

Who goes:
“The conference attendance ranges from about 400 to 600, a real mix of fans and writers—and a conference where writers are also true fans of the mystery. There is no differentiation between attendees. The only folks you can ID readily—except for star authors—are the booksellers, who have bookseller on their name tags—sometimes. Everyone mingles more. The accessibility to authors seems higher. The cliques seem less in existence. Editors and agents mingle with authors, fans and aspiring writers, and everyone is talking about the books. They talk about the best books they’ve read, the books that have the buzz, books that ought to have the buzz. It’s friendly and fun and all about the mysteries. And its location changes every year.

The panels:
“The panels aren’t that dissimilar to panels at other conferences, though they seem to be more about the content of the books than about selling the titles. The panels tend to be a mix of well-known, midlist and unknown writers.

The friendly factor:
“The difference between LCC and something like Malice or Bouchercon is size, accessibility and camaraderie. Bouchercon and Malice both have a tone of business to them. Authors are there expecting to see their friends, their agents, their editors. At LCC, they are there to have fun, talk about mysteries, hang out with old friends and to meet new friends. There’s a great write up of this year’s LCC that sort of gives a sense of the con. It was written by author, Mark Stevens, http://www.tellurideinside.com/2013/03/tall-tales-left-coast-crime-conference.html
I really like the friendliness and sort of laid back approach of LCC. People come to see authors, talk books and to see the area where it’s held.

The location:
“The location . . . makes a difference, too. The ’con moves around place to place, so folks also attend to see the sights. This year it was in Colorado Springs, so there were before con and after con trips to places like the Royal Gorge and Pikes Peak. People who rented cars also got to see places like the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs. It’s a chance to see the sights. [For future LCC’s] we’re entertaining South Dakota, Vancouver (Canada), Arizona. We’ve been in L.A., Santa Fe, Seattle, El Paso, etc. It’s fun to see the authors from those areas in their home domain. Bouchercon moves around as well, which is good, but there are so many folks it’s hard to really see everyone.

PAUL LEVINE:
Paul Levine writes the series about lawyer Jake Lassiter series and another series featuring lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. And, yes, Levine is a lawyer himself. Levine has been to three LCC’s—Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and the 2013 in Colorado Springs.

“I think of it as a regional Bouchercon. Heavily populated by writers/readers west of the Mississippi,” he said.

What’s similar:
“I did a legal thriller panel and a Hollywood panel. Very similar formats as B-con, Thrillerfest, Sleuthfest, etc.”

What’s different:
Twist Phelan put together an interesting panel, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. It was called “Ask the Sweethearts: Secrets of Living with a Writer.” Spouses and significant others giving away secrets. My lady, Marcia Silvers, was scheduled to be on it, but it was scheduled late Saturday afternoon, and we tried (unsuccessfully) to get the jump on a snowstorm and drove back to Denver through really bad conditions. (Sleuthfest seldom has drifting snow threatening writers’ lives). The shame is that Marcia was going to spill the beans about how excited she was when I dedicated 2012’s “Last Chance Lassiter’ to her…..then discovered three prior dedications to other women. As Jake Lassiter says, our past clings to us like mud on cleats.
(The irrepressible Twist put her husband of three days, Jack Chapple, on the panel. Now, I had questions for him!)

Why he goes:
“What I got out of LCC is pretty much the same as with the other conferences. I get to see Laura Lippman on the elliptical when we both work out early in the gym. I see friends from all over the country who I would not otherwise run into. We live solitary lives, do we not?
"You certainly don’t sell enough books at these conferences to make them commercial ventures. I think of them more as holidays. Panels are fun and there’s always time to gather in hotel bars with fellow writers, i.e, whiners, so we can complain about the business.”

ROBIN BURCELL:
burcellrobin_darkhour
Robin Burcell
is the author of the Kate Gillespie police procedurals and the Sydney Fitzpatrick forensic series; her latest is The Dark Hour.

Her first time at LCC was at Tucson, Arizona, several years ago. Last year, Burcell co-chaired the LCC in Sacramento, California. While she has missed a couple through the years, LCC is one of her "must go to" conferences.

What’s different:
The biggest thing that sets it apart is the more intimate feel of it. For someone who has never been to any conference, this is a great first to attend. You get a big conference feel without being at a big conference. It averages about 300 - 500 (depending on location.) For instance, Monterey, where it will be next year, usually has a higher attendance, just due to location. Colorado Springs was smaller, about 350, undoubtedly due to price of flights.

Why go:
“The best part in my opinion is that because of the size, it has a "friendlier" feel to it and one has more of a chance of running into authors and friends. At the same time, it's large enough to feel like one of the big cons with multiple tracks of panels and a variety of events to attend.”


CATRIONA MCPHERSON:
Catriona McPherson writes the Dandy Gilver novels, such as After the Armistice Ball, set in the 1930s. During Left Coast Crime, her novel Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award given to mystery novels covering events before 1960. That novel also is up for an Agatha at this year’s Malice Domestic.

McPherson has been to LCC twice, Sacramento and Colorado Springs; three Bouchercons, San Francisco, St Louis and Cleveland; and one Malice.

“To be honest it's all a bit of a blur still. Bouchercon is wonderful but so huge that you can be there for all three days and not see someone; LCC is big enough to be lively. There are always at least two places you'd like to be but by Sunday you can be sure you've had a chance to catch up with everyone. As I make new friends every time it gets harder and harder. I've solved it by staying up until 2 a.m.

2013 Left Coast Crime Award Winners:

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996: Brad Parks, The Girl Next Door (Minotaur)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (first awarded in 2004) is given to mystery novels covering events before 1960: Catriona McPherson, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder (Minotaur)

The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region (first awarded in 2004): Craig Johnson, As the Crow Flies (Viking)

The Watson, for the mystery novel with the best sidekick (first awarded in 2011): Rochelle Staab, Bruja Brouhaha (Berkley Prime Crime)

The Drowned Man
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

When retired Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Peter Cammon is asked to travel to Montreal simply to escort the body of a murdered colleague back to England, he suspects that there is more to the crime than his former boss is disclosing. He couldn’t be more right. In addition to the presumed motive for the murder—three letters involving the US Civil War, Canada, and John Wilkes Booth—there is the missing girlfriend of the deceased who may have been the killer, the Canadian Mafia, and ties to an emerging cricket match scandal in Pakistan.

Before he’s done, Peter will become involved not only with the Canadian police but also with the FBI, the CIA, and MI5 as he travels from London to Montreal to Washington, DC, to New York state and back to London and Montreal. Acting mostly as a detective without portfolio, since his only assignment was to escort the slain detective home to his family, he is able to pick up on clues that others have missed and, with the aid of his computer-savvy daughter-in-law who is as interested as he is in solving a mystery, follow the convoluted trail to its satisfying conclusion.

Because of the many twists and turns, as well as the number of different characters Peter meets along the way, I found myself having to go back a few times to recheck who was who. For some reason, the author sometimes refers to the characters by their first name (e.g., Peter) and sometimes by their last name (e.g., Cammon). Despite this minor quibble, I found myself caught up in the story and identifying with the main character as he uses his detecting acumen to ferret out the murderer and the motive.

This is the second book in the series by Canadian author David Whellams, who spent 30 years working in criminal law and amending the Criminal Code of Canada.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-11 22:17:38

::cck::4357

Are Travis Mcgee and John D. Macdonald Still Relevant?
Oline Cogdill


macdonald_cinnamonskin
With so many mysteries published each year by large and small publishers as well as those self-published as ebooks, it’s difficult to keep up with the newest authors. That often means the classics by such masters as Sayers, Chandler, Hammett and Christie don’t receive the attention they deserve.

So the announcement that Random House will be publishing all 70 of John D. MacDonald’s novels both in trade paperback and ebook begs the question: How relevant for today’s mystery writers is John D. MacDonald’s oeuvre?

Much has changed in the genre since the Harvard educated MacDonald introduced Travis McGee in 1964’s The Deep Blue Goodbye. Mysteries have become more character-oriented and depict heroes—and heroines—as three-dimensional people. And of course, the private eye now is likely to be a woman as a man.

McGee’s self-described beach bum and salvage expert persona seems dated, as does his propensity for bedding a lot of women. After all, even James Bond has cut back on his affairs, even with the luscious Daniel Craig as 007.

But the more things change, the more they remain the same. And MacDonald and McGee are just as important and pertinent to today’s readers as they were a half-century ago.

The Deep Blue Goodbye launched themes that reverberate today, through the works of not just Florida writers but all mystery writers. Travis McGee cared very much about the environment, overdevelopment and the political infrastructure that punished the poor and made the wealthy richer. He cared very much about justice and protecting those who didn’t feel they had a voice.

He despised drugs and racial bigotry. He also appreciated and respected women, and that parade of bedmates was never used pruriently. McGee had little use for greed or corruption and he made that clear in novel after novel.

MacDonald already had written more than 40 novels when he launched the McGee series. You could even say he was one of the first authors to “brand” his work by using a different color for each of the 21 McGee novels.

During the next couple of years, the McGee novels as well as MacDonald’s other novels such as Cape Fear (originally The Executioners in 1958) and his 1977 best-seller Condominium. About three dozen of MacDonald’s lesser known work will be reissued as ebooks starting in June 2013.

It’s about time a new generation discovered MacDonald and his most famous creation McGee who lived on his boat anchored at Slip F18 at Bahia Mar marina in Fort Lauderdale.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with a couple of Travis McGee quotes that we have used in our Daily Miscellany:

“Integrity is not a conditional word.” —Travis McGee, The Turquoise Lament, 1973, by John D. MacDonald

"There are no hundred percent heroes.” — Travis McGee, Cinnamon Skin, 1982, by John D. MacDonald

Xav ID 577
2013-04-17 11:25:18


macdonald_cinnamonskin
With so many mysteries published each year by large and small publishers as well as those self-published as ebooks, it’s difficult to keep up with the newest authors. That often means the classics by such masters as Sayers, Chandler, Hammett and Christie don’t receive the attention they deserve.

So the announcement that Random House will be publishing all 70 of John D. MacDonald’s novels both in trade paperback and ebook begs the question: How relevant for today’s mystery writers is John D. MacDonald’s oeuvre?

Much has changed in the genre since the Harvard educated MacDonald introduced Travis McGee in 1964’s The Deep Blue Goodbye. Mysteries have become more character-oriented and depict heroes—and heroines—as three-dimensional people. And of course, the private eye now is likely to be a woman as a man.

McGee’s self-described beach bum and salvage expert persona seems dated, as does his propensity for bedding a lot of women. After all, even James Bond has cut back on his affairs, even with the luscious Daniel Craig as 007.

But the more things change, the more they remain the same. And MacDonald and McGee are just as important and pertinent to today’s readers as they were a half-century ago.

The Deep Blue Goodbye launched themes that reverberate today, through the works of not just Florida writers but all mystery writers. Travis McGee cared very much about the environment, overdevelopment and the political infrastructure that punished the poor and made the wealthy richer. He cared very much about justice and protecting those who didn’t feel they had a voice.

He despised drugs and racial bigotry. He also appreciated and respected women, and that parade of bedmates was never used pruriently. McGee had little use for greed or corruption and he made that clear in novel after novel.

MacDonald already had written more than 40 novels when he launched the McGee series. You could even say he was one of the first authors to “brand” his work by using a different color for each of the 21 McGee novels.

During the next couple of years, the McGee novels as well as MacDonald’s other novels such as Cape Fear (originally The Executioners in 1958) and his 1977 best-seller Condominium. About three dozen of MacDonald’s lesser known work will be reissued as ebooks starting in June 2013.

It’s about time a new generation discovered MacDonald and his most famous creation McGee who lived on his boat anchored at Slip F18 at Bahia Mar marina in Fort Lauderdale.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with a couple of Travis McGee quotes that we have used in our Daily Miscellany:

“Integrity is not a conditional word.” —Travis McGee, The Turquoise Lament, 1973, by John D. MacDonald

"There are no hundred percent heroes.” — Travis McGee, Cinnamon Skin, 1982, by John D. MacDonald

David Morrell on Geoffrey Household
David Morrell

morell_david_2013“Your story reminds me of Geoffrey Household,” my writing teacher said. I was then a graduate student at Penn State. I’d been trying various genres without success, even producing some terrible imitations of Faulkner and Joyce. One day, responding to a powerful daydream, I wrote an outdoor hunter-hunted story that made my teacher say, “You might have found your direction.” He pulled a novel from a shelf and handed it to me. “I think you can learn from him.” The book was Rogue Male. Its author was Geoffrey Household. My life changed.

Rogue Male (1939) is about a British big-game hunter who stalks Hitler on the eve of the Second World War. On the surprising first page, the hunter is captured. On page three, he escapes. The rest of this remarkable thriller dramatizes his desperate attempts to elude his pursuers. For the last third of the book, he hides in a hole in the ground.

The inventiveness of the plot, the power of the action, and the quality of the prose opened my eyes to the wonder of suspense fiction. “I’m allowed to write this way?” I thought, feeling liberated from the dustiness of what graduate school had taught me to believe was acceptable writing.

Household, I found out, was an Oxford graduate who worked for British military intelligence during World War II. His subsequent adventurous life took him all over the world, providing bountiful material for his novels. In his long career, he wrote several more classic thrillers: Watcher in the Shadows, The Courtesy of Death, and Dance of the Dwarfs (the latter is one of the most frightening novels I ever read). Household’s specialty was breathless outdoor action with archetypal descriptions of the fields, forests, and caves through which his adversaries stalk one another. His characters tell their stories with an understated British tone that masks the primal emotions they struggle to subdue. I was—and am—in awe.

morell_murderasafineartA few years later, I finished my debut novel, First Blood. Because its fields, forests, and caves resembled Household’s universe, I sent him a copy, and he responded that my action was far too bloody for him, a comment that I treasure because it shows that a writer can be influenced without imitating. He and I continued a correspondence until his death in 1988. His complete works fill several of my shelves. I often take out Rogue Male and admire its amazing first page—and silently thank him.

David Morrell is the award-winning author of First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was created. Murder as a Fine Art is a Victorian thriller about the infamous Ratcliffe Highway killings.

Author website: www.davidmorrell.net

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews May 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
2013-04-17 20:26:29

morell_david_2013"The book was Rogue Male. Its author was Geoffrey Household. My life changed."

The Gospel According to Cane
Betty Webb

Courttia Newland’s The Gospel According to Cane, set in London, England, is one of the finest psychological suspense novels I’ve read in ages. The dread begins on page one, when Beverley Cottrell, a dedicated community volunteer who teaches creative writing to at-risk teens, finds herself being stalked by a mysterious young man. Instead of sharing her concerns with detective friend/sometime lover Seth, she not only befriends the boy, but encourages him to move into her flat. She eventually learns the teen has a police record for theft and violence, yet her belief that the boy—Wills—may be her long-lost child keeps her emotionally tied to him.

Written like a journal, the book moves back and forth through time, to the day Beverly’s eight-month-old son Malakay was kidnapped and her life fell apart. That she still hasn’t recovered from the loss becomes obvious when at one point she writes, “I am a mental patient, I am a murderer.” This revelation makes us concerned not only for the grieving mother, but for everyone around her, including the teenagers she works with, and Wills himself.

Newland’s generous novel offers so many insights into human behavior that it’s hard to know where to begin. About the urge to write, Beverley tells her class, “people write because they want to make sense of their pain.” About love, she offers, “I remembered the glow, the saturated color it gives the world, the way sounds become more acute.” But more than anything, the book is exquisite in descriptions of the pain a parent feels after the loss of a child: the terror, the bewilderment, the emptiness, the rage. The Gospel According to Cane is an in-depth study of the human heart, with all its passions and foibles—and ultimately, the continual search for meaning.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 15:41:45

newland_gospelaccordingtocaneA story about a mysterious boy who enters the life of a troubled writing teacher could be one of the finest suspense novels of the year.

Heart of Ice
Hank Wagner

Heart of Ice begins as series character Louis Kincaid takes his young daughter, Lily, on an outing to Mackinac Island, Michigan. While sightseeing, Lily becomes intrigued by a haunted house, which she runs off to explore. Poking around, she falls down a milk chute, into the building’s depths. Frantic, Kincaid breaks in. To his relief, Lily is uninjured. To his astonishment, her fall was cushioned by a pile of human bones.

Thus begins the latest Kincaid adventure, as the PI assists the locals in trying to ascertain just how, and when, the headless body came to rest in an empty lodge. It’s a complex, engrossing tale, one which involves the revelation of many a secret thought long buried, some innocent, some painful, and some potentially lethal. Kincaid aficionados will enjoy Parrish’s latest, as the PI takes significant strides in resolving some long-standing personal and professional issues. Those new to the series can enjoy Parrish’s (actually the pseudonym for sisters Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols) craftsmanship, as she again delivers an outstanding example of the modern whodunit/ procedural, a tale as well written as it is suspenseful, replete with realistic, and surprising, twists and turns.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 15:55:55

parrish_heartoficePI Kincaid's daughter literally falls into his latest case when she discovers a pile of real human bones.

Ghostman
Dick Lochte

Roger Hobbs’ bio states that he graduated from Reed College only two years ago. If so, one wonders what the curriculum (or the campus life) at Reed is like, considering his impressive knowledge of underworld argot and activity and the meticulously imagined criminal mind-set of his antihero, Jack the Ghostman.

The action in this darkest of dark noir novels—beginning with an ill-fated, blood-drenched armed car robbery—takes place in Atlantic City. That’s where the Seattle crime boss who planned the robbery sends Jack to find out why it went south. The Ghostman, an ultra-adaptable thief and/or troubleshooter so nicknamed because he usually drifts into situations, does his job, and drifts away like a ghost (think of him as a sociopath Lone Ranger), immediately runs afoul of The Wolf, a modern-day Nucky Johnson, only a bit more sadistic. (He likes to kill people with cinnamon, drain cleaner, and paint fumes.) The Wolf quickly dispatches two hit men to remove Jack. Jack kills them, destroys the Wolf’s pricey automobile, and the battle is on.

The novel is filled with what literary journals describe as “the poetry of violence,” which is to say, it’s extremely well-written and so extremely violent it may be a bit too much for even Quentin Tarantino. Narrator Jake Weber, who played Patricia Arquette’s hapless husband on the TV series Medium, is surprisingly effective handling this kind of coldly brutal material. He doesn’t just match the noir atmosphere, he darkens it, growling out Hobbs’ short, punchy sentences in an unhurried, hardboiled delivery. It’s the voice of a hard case who is confident to the point of disinterest, who lives by the rule “If you can’t reach heaven, raise hell.”

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 16:09:41

hobbs_ghostman_audioA darkest of dark noir marks the debut of an exciting new voice in crime fiction.

The Devil in Her Way
M. Schlecht

New Orleans does not have a stellar reputation if you’re talking about honest officers of the peace. Corrupt politicians and bad lieutenants come to mind. Enter Maureen Coughlin, first introduced in Loehfelm’s The Devil She Knows (2011), a former cocktail waitress and now rookie cop straight out of the academy. Couglin is trying to straighten out her life after moving from Staten Island to the Big Easy, where she hopes to prove herself against the backdrop of a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Coughlin is eager to make an impression at her new job, and succeeds—getting socked in the face by a perp on her first day. Training officer Preacher Boyd, who’s seen it all before, tries to slow her down and offer some practical advice on community relations, but the new recruit prefers charging ahead first and asking questions later. Despite her naïveté she draws the attention of Detective Sergeant Christine Atkinson, who sees potential in Coughlin’s dash toward justice.

The Devil in Her Way might be categorized as a thriller, but its strengths lie in the relationships it explores: between Coughlin and Boyd, Coughlin and Atkinson, Coughlin and her adopted city. Readers familiar with the experience of settling into a new job in a new city will find plenty to relate to here. But Loehfelm also zeros in on the unique neighborhoods of New Orleans, and the challenges that they face. He manages to avoid broad, touristic strokes (well, there is a visit to Café Du Monde, but Coughlin’s gotta take her visiting mom somewhere, right?), preferring portraits of everyday life like evening runs under night-blooming flowers and romantic liaisons over po’ boys on the stoop.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 16:18:55

loehfelm_devilherwayTough Maureen Coughlin returns as a rookie cop in the Big Easy in the followup to The Devil She Knows.

Dante’s Wood
Betty Webb

Lynne Raimondo’s Dante’s Wood brings the stunning debut of Dr. D. (Dante) Mark Angelotti, an embittered middle-aged psychiatrist who has recently lost his sight to a hereditary condition. Back at work in his Chicago hospital clinic for the first time since going blind, he is given the case of Charlie Dickerson, a mentally disabled young man who has suddenly begun having nightmares. Charlie’s overprotective mother suspects sexual abuse by a beautiful art therapy teacher at New Horizons Center, the sheltered workshop her son attends. Angelotti diagnoses the opposite: sexual frustration. The psychiatrist’s proposed “cure”? That Charlie’s father—a wealthy physician—teach Charlie how to masturbate. When the art therapist is found stabbed to death with a bloody Charlie standing over her, the boy’s powerful parents demand that Angelotti get fired for malpractice. The only way Angelotti can save his job is to track down the killer himself—not an easy task for a blind psychiatrist with no police training. This difficulty is what makes Dante’s Wood so unique. Instead of the stereotype of the noble, brave, blind person soldiering on despite his inability to see, author Raimondo paints Angelotti as a bit of a rat. He’s a cranky, self-seeking man whose only interest in others is in how he can use them to advance his lusts and/or career. As he describes himself, “After I went blind I was still the same arrogant, uncaring, self-deceptive bastard I’d always been, with special emphasis on the next-to-last point.” Watching Angelotti slowly transition from sighted to blind, from selfishness to compassion, is a joy. Throw in the gritty Chicago surroundings, a colorful cast of characters, and a shocking ending and you’ve got one of the best mystery debuts since V.I. Warshawski solved her first case.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:05:09

Lynne Raimondo’s Dante’s Wood brings the stunning debut of Dr. D. (Dante) Mark Angelotti, an embittered middle-aged psychiatrist who has recently lost his sight to a hereditary condition. Back at work in his Chicago hospital clinic for the first time since going blind, he is given the case of Charlie Dickerson, a mentally disabled young man who has suddenly begun having nightmares. Charlie’s overprotective mother suspects sexual abuse by a beautiful art therapy teacher at New Horizons Center, the sheltered workshop her son attends. Angelotti diagnoses the opposite: sexual frustration. The psychiatrist’s proposed “cure”? That Charlie’s father—a wealthy physician—teach Charlie how to masturbate. When the art therapist is found stabbed to death with a bloody Charlie standing over her, the boy’s powerful parents demand that Angelotti get fired for malpractice. The only way Angelotti can save his job is to track down the killer himself—not an easy task for a blind psychiatrist with no police training. This difficulty is what makes Dante’s Wood so unique. Instead of the stereotype of the noble, brave, blind person soldiering on despite his inability to see, author Raimondo paints Angelotti as a bit of a rat. He’s a cranky, self-seeking man whose only interest in others is in how he can use them to advance his lusts and/or career. As he describes himself, “After I went blind I was still the same arrogant, uncaring, self-deceptive bastard I’d always been, with special emphasis on the next-to-last point.” Watching Angelotti slowly transition from sighted to blind, from selfishness to compassion, is a joy. Throw in the gritty Chicago surroundings, a colorful cast of characters, and a shocking ending and you’ve got one of the best mystery debuts since V.I. Warshawski solved her first case.

Strawberry Yellow
Betty Webb

Naomi Hirahara’s Strawberry Yellow offers another intriguing look at the lives Japanese-American citizens went on to lead after they were released from internment camps at the end of World War II. Mas Arai, the hero of this tale (after Summer of the Big Bachi and others), survived the bombing of Hiroshima, then returned to the US, his native country, to work as a farm laborer in California’s Central Valley. He now owns a successful gardening business in Los Angeles, but often returns to Watsonville to help out whenever a member of his large extended family falls into trouble. This time out his cousin Shug, a successful strawberry grower, has been murdered on the eve of announcing the creation of a disease- resistant strawberry. Competing strawberry growers and hybridizers, the victim’s mistress, his grieving wife, and several other members of the Arai family all had reasons to want the shifty and cantankerous Shug dead. In author Hirahara’s deft hands (she’s an Edgar winner), the human characters, especially Mas, always make for a compelling read, but the real star of this book is the humble strawberry. Hirahara gives us fascinating details about the strawberry industry, the diseases the delicious fruit is heir to, and the startling fact (to me, at least) that each strawberry strain has a “mother” and a “father.” Hirahara also manages to combine history, science, agriculture, and family drama in such a seamless manner that most readers, after they turn the last page, will head to the Internet to learn more about strawberries—not to mention internment camps, and the long-term side effects of the Hiroshima bombing.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:16:10

Naomi Hirahara’s Strawberry Yellow offers another intriguing look at the lives Japanese-American citizens went on to lead after they were released from internment camps at the end of World War II. Mas Arai, the hero of this tale (after Summer of the Big Bachi and others), survived the bombing of Hiroshima, then returned to the US, his native country, to work as a farm laborer in California’s Central Valley. He now owns a successful gardening business in Los Angeles, but often returns to Watsonville to help out whenever a member of his large extended family falls into trouble. This time out his cousin Shug, a successful strawberry grower, has been murdered on the eve of announcing the creation of a disease- resistant strawberry. Competing strawberry growers and hybridizers, the victim’s mistress, his grieving wife, and several other members of the Arai family all had reasons to want the shifty and cantankerous Shug dead. In author Hirahara’s deft hands (she’s an Edgar winner), the human characters, especially Mas, always make for a compelling read, but the real star of this book is the humble strawberry. Hirahara gives us fascinating details about the strawberry industry, the diseases the delicious fruit is heir to, and the startling fact (to me, at least) that each strawberry strain has a “mother” and a “father.” Hirahara also manages to combine history, science, agriculture, and family drama in such a seamless manner that most readers, after they turn the last page, will head to the Internet to learn more about strawberries—not to mention internment camps, and the long-term side effects of the Hiroshima bombing.

Falling Into Green
Betty Webb

Cher Fischer’s Falling Into Green uses nature’s flora and fauna as its main focus. Ecopsychologist Dr. Esmeralda Green, who lives on an eroding Southern California coastline, suspects the death of a young girl might somehow be linked to a rash of dying bees, birds, and dolphins. Abigail Pryce was found dead at the bottom of a dangerous cliff near Green’s home, but she refuses to believe the coroner’s finding of suicide. Instead, she begins questioning the girl’s friends and dysfunctional family, making enemies along the way. No wonder. The idealistic Green isn’t always easy to like; in fact, some readers might consider her ideas radical. In addition to driving a tiny Ford hybrid, she wears bamboo clothing and divides people into two groups: sharks and dolphins (temper aside, Green is definitely a dolphin). She also considers anyone who drives a Hummer to be Satan incarnate, a point of contention with her Hummer-driving boyfriend. In the dark humor frequently found in these noirish novels, the ever eco-conscious Green delivers some pithy comments during her investigation: her boyfriend’s Hummer is “the size of dinosaur genitalia.” A billionaire’s Beverly Hills mansion is “a shrine to ecological devastation.” The mystery itself is compelling, but coupled with the ongoing ecological disasters surrounding Green’s beautiful Majorca Point shoreline, the anguish in these pages gets ratcheted up one thousand percent. My only quibble is the author’s love of incomplete sentences and her too-liberal uses of ellipses; they’re distracting.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:22:08

Cher Fischer’s Falling Into Green uses nature’s flora and fauna as its main focus. Ecopsychologist Dr. Esmeralda Green, who lives on an eroding Southern California coastline, suspects the death of a young girl might somehow be linked to a rash of dying bees, birds, and dolphins. Abigail Pryce was found dead at the bottom of a dangerous cliff near Green’s home, but she refuses to believe the coroner’s finding of suicide. Instead, she begins questioning the girl’s friends and dysfunctional family, making enemies along the way. No wonder. The idealistic Green isn’t always easy to like; in fact, some readers might consider her ideas radical. In addition to driving a tiny Ford hybrid, she wears bamboo clothing and divides people into two groups: sharks and dolphins (temper aside, Green is definitely a dolphin). She also considers anyone who drives a Hummer to be Satan incarnate, a point of contention with her Hummer-driving boyfriend. In the dark humor frequently found in these noirish novels, the ever eco-conscious Green delivers some pithy comments during her investigation: her boyfriend’s Hummer is “the size of dinosaur genitalia.” A billionaire’s Beverly Hills mansion is “a shrine to ecological devastation.” The mystery itself is compelling, but coupled with the ongoing ecological disasters surrounding Green’s beautiful Majorca Point shoreline, the anguish in these pages gets ratcheted up one thousand percent. My only quibble is the author’s love of incomplete sentences and her too-liberal uses of ellipses; they’re distracting.

Hammett Unwritten
Betty Webb

Hammett Unwritten is supposedly written by “Owen Fitzstephen,” (alert readers will recognize the name as a character from Hammett’s The Dain Curse), but actually authored by Gordon McAlpine, who also contributes notes and an afterword. This mash-up of biography and mystery novel is fascinating, and occasionally off-putting. It contains so much Hammett minutiae that the plot often seems overwhelmed. Hammett lunches with John Houston at Musso & Frank’s! Hammett types on an Underwood Champion! Hammett dines with Robert Benchley and Tallulah Bankhead at the Brown Derby! But as it turns out, there’s a good reason for this avalanche of trivia, and that’s to create an environment so believable the reader can’t tell where fact leaves off and fiction begins. Here’s the plot in a nutshell: after giving away a cheap knockoff of the famed Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett slides into a prolonged case of writer’s block (in real life, Hammett did suffer from it). In the book, he becomes convinced that his once formidable writing gifts will be restored if he can only find the missing Falcon again. So off he goes, interviewing the “real-life” prototypes for Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the Big Man, Miles Archer, etc. Thus, The Maltese Falcon gets rewritten, this time from an entirely different perspective. By the end of this fact-versus-fiction, the reader might be totally befuddled, but in the case of Hammett Unwritten, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:26:46

Hammett Unwritten is supposedly written by “Owen Fitzstephen,” (alert readers will recognize the name as a character from Hammett’s The Dain Curse), but actually authored by Gordon McAlpine, who also contributes notes and an afterword. This mash-up of biography and mystery novel is fascinating, and occasionally off-putting. It contains so much Hammett minutiae that the plot often seems overwhelmed. Hammett lunches with John Houston at Musso & Frank’s! Hammett types on an Underwood Champion! Hammett dines with Robert Benchley and Tallulah Bankhead at the Brown Derby! But as it turns out, there’s a good reason for this avalanche of trivia, and that’s to create an environment so believable the reader can’t tell where fact leaves off and fiction begins. Here’s the plot in a nutshell: after giving away a cheap knockoff of the famed Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett slides into a prolonged case of writer’s block (in real life, Hammett did suffer from it). In the book, he becomes convinced that his once formidable writing gifts will be restored if he can only find the missing Falcon again. So off he goes, interviewing the “real-life” prototypes for Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the Big Man, Miles Archer, etc. Thus, The Maltese Falcon gets rewritten, this time from an entirely different perspective. By the end of this fact-versus-fiction, the reader might be totally befuddled, but in the case of Hammett Unwritten, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Fatal Decree
Sharon Magee

In Fatal Decree by H. Terrell Griffin, retired trial lawyer and self-proclaimed beach bum Matt Royal wants nothing more than to live an indolent life of leisure on his patch of paradise, Longboat Key, an island off the Florida coast. But then the body of a woman married to a man associated with a top secret governmental agency is discovered floating in a channel, apparently the victim of a serial killer who last struck 12 years ago. Jennifer Diane (J.D.) Duncan, Longboat Key’s sole detective and Royal’s semi-secret crush, calls him in to help investigate. Then a second body appears, complete with the telltale signature of the serial killer. All signs point to Duncan as the next target. As bodies pile up, and attempts are made on Royal’s and Duncan’s lives by Guatemalan gangbangers, Royal must figure out how these attempts, the serial killer murders, and the clandestine government agency are connected, if at all. Adding to his stress, Royal must come to terms with Duncan’s plans to return to Miami.

Griffin, who, like Royal, is an attorney, leaves no doubt in this seventh book in the Matt Royal series that he has explored every inch of Longboat Key, and, judging by the many hunger-inducing references to eating out, the area’s dining establishments as well. His quirky characters, which include some often inept bad guys, and complex plotting make for a fast-paced, heart-pounding read. His Matt Royal character is often compared to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, however, where McGee is down and dirty, Royal is refined. But MacDonald’s feel of the Florida setting flows from Griffin’s prose. While his foreshadowing at the end of many of his chapters seems repetitious, in the end you can’t keep a good story down.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:37:46

In Fatal Decree by H. Terrell Griffin, retired trial lawyer and self-proclaimed beach bum Matt Royal wants nothing more than to live an indolent life of leisure on his patch of paradise, Longboat Key, an island off the Florida coast. But then the body of a woman married to a man associated with a top secret governmental agency is discovered floating in a channel, apparently the victim of a serial killer who last struck 12 years ago. Jennifer Diane (J.D.) Duncan, Longboat Key’s sole detective and Royal’s semi-secret crush, calls him in to help investigate. Then a second body appears, complete with the telltale signature of the serial killer. All signs point to Duncan as the next target. As bodies pile up, and attempts are made on Royal’s and Duncan’s lives by Guatemalan gangbangers, Royal must figure out how these attempts, the serial killer murders, and the clandestine government agency are connected, if at all. Adding to his stress, Royal must come to terms with Duncan’s plans to return to Miami.

Griffin, who, like Royal, is an attorney, leaves no doubt in this seventh book in the Matt Royal series that he has explored every inch of Longboat Key, and, judging by the many hunger-inducing references to eating out, the area’s dining establishments as well. His quirky characters, which include some often inept bad guys, and complex plotting make for a fast-paced, heart-pounding read. His Matt Royal character is often compared to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, however, where McGee is down and dirty, Royal is refined. But MacDonald’s feel of the Florida setting flows from Griffin’s prose. While his foreshadowing at the end of many of his chapters seems repetitious, in the end you can’t keep a good story down.

Fangs Out
Sharon Magee

When Cordell Logan, ex-Alpha Team assassin, flight instructor, and aspiring Buddhist, saves the lives of Hub Walker and his ex-Playboy bunny wife in David Freed’s Fangs Out, Walker offers him a job: Prove that Dorian Munz, the man recently executed for the murder of Walker’s daughter, Ruth, is truly her killer. With his last words, Munz claimed that Greg Castle, Walker’s close friend, was Ruth’s real murderer. Ruth, said Munz, was threatening to blow the whistle on Castle for bilking the government of millions of dollars, and, furthermore, Castle was the father of Ruth’s daughter. Logan is in need of cash—his flying school is on the verge of bankruptcy—so an easy ten thousand dollars and a vacation in La Jolla is enticing. But proving Castle’s innocence proves to be no slam dunk. Bodies begin to fall, he’s attacked, and his plane, the Ruptured Duck, is sabotaged. Apparently, someone will do anything to keep Logan from learning the truth.

In this, the second Cordell Logan mystery, Freed entertains us with the wisecracking Logan and a catalog of off-beat characters, such as two old pilots who live in a hangar, and Logan’s 88-year-old landlady who gets a tummy tuck and calls the Internet search engine “The Googles.” But all is not off-beat humor. Freed, whose own flying experience is front and center and woven seamlessly into the story, has crafted a fine mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:44:37

When Cordell Logan, ex-Alpha Team assassin, flight instructor, and aspiring Buddhist, saves the lives of Hub Walker and his ex-Playboy bunny wife in David Freed’s Fangs Out, Walker offers him a job: Prove that Dorian Munz, the man recently executed for the murder of Walker’s daughter, Ruth, is truly her killer. With his last words, Munz claimed that Greg Castle, Walker’s close friend, was Ruth’s real murderer. Ruth, said Munz, was threatening to blow the whistle on Castle for bilking the government of millions of dollars, and, furthermore, Castle was the father of Ruth’s daughter. Logan is in need of cash—his flying school is on the verge of bankruptcy—so an easy ten thousand dollars and a vacation in La Jolla is enticing. But proving Castle’s innocence proves to be no slam dunk. Bodies begin to fall, he’s attacked, and his plane, the Ruptured Duck, is sabotaged. Apparently, someone will do anything to keep Logan from learning the truth.

In this, the second Cordell Logan mystery, Freed entertains us with the wisecracking Logan and a catalog of off-beat characters, such as two old pilots who live in a hangar, and Logan’s 88-year-old landlady who gets a tummy tuck and calls the Internet search engine “The Googles.” But all is not off-beat humor. Freed, whose own flying experience is front and center and woven seamlessly into the story, has crafted a fine mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end.

The Christie Curse
Lynne Maxwell

The Christie Curse, Victoria Abbott’s first Book Collector Mystery, is suspiciously polished for a maiden work by a novice author. I wasn’t surprised, then, to discover that Abbott is actually a mother-daughter duo consisting of neophyte writer Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, a veteran Canadian mystery writer with three series to her name. The Christie Curse introduces Jordan Kelly, a destitute English major with a newly minted graduate degree. Jordan returns to her hometown, Harrison Falls, New York, to once again take up residence with the rather unusual (i.e., criminal) uncles who raised her. Fortunately, Jordan chances upon what appears to be the perfect job, when she answers a want ad for a research position in the home of Vera Van Alst, the last remaining member of the family dynasty responsible for making—and then breaking—the town of Harrison Falls. (When the Van Alst Shoe Company fails, so, too, does the village economy.) Jordan accepts the job, which requires her to research the life and works of—you guessed it—Dame Agatha Christie, in order to discover the whereabouts of a lost play. The Abbott/Maffini team employs a clever plot framework by invoking Christie’s mysterious, still-unexplained 11-day disappearance in December, 1926. Perhaps—just perhaps—Christie had written a play during the time she escaped the ignominy of her faithless husband. Jordan’s ultimate mission, then, is to obtain the Christie manuscript for her employer, inveterate mystery book collector Vera Van Alst. Along the way, Jordan must solve mysteries involving the suspicious death of her predecessor in the research position and the blatant murder of a local rare-book dealer. Despite the fact that it is notably improbable that small-town Harrison Falls would support a number of competing rare book dealers and that Jordan’s search could be conducted locally, The Christie Curse gains momentum as it hurtles toward its denouement. I wish, though, that “Abbott” incorporated the Christie hook as more than simply a device for framing the mystery. As a reader, I was a bit disappointed, because the title of The Christie Caper seemed to promise more than it delivered regarding Christie and her works. That being said, this is a truly enjoyable book.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 22:59:09

The Christie Curse, Victoria Abbott’s first Book Collector Mystery, is suspiciously polished for a maiden work by a novice author. I wasn’t surprised, then, to discover that Abbott is actually a mother-daughter duo consisting of neophyte writer Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, a veteran Canadian mystery writer with three series to her name. The Christie Curse introduces Jordan Kelly, a destitute English major with a newly minted graduate degree. Jordan returns to her hometown, Harrison Falls, New York, to once again take up residence with the rather unusual (i.e., criminal) uncles who raised her. Fortunately, Jordan chances upon what appears to be the perfect job, when she answers a want ad for a research position in the home of Vera Van Alst, the last remaining member of the family dynasty responsible for making—and then breaking—the town of Harrison Falls. (When the Van Alst Shoe Company fails, so, too, does the village economy.) Jordan accepts the job, which requires her to research the life and works of—you guessed it—Dame Agatha Christie, in order to discover the whereabouts of a lost play. The Abbott/Maffini team employs a clever plot framework by invoking Christie’s mysterious, still-unexplained 11-day disappearance in December, 1926. Perhaps—just perhaps—Christie had written a play during the time she escaped the ignominy of her faithless husband. Jordan’s ultimate mission, then, is to obtain the Christie manuscript for her employer, inveterate mystery book collector Vera Van Alst. Along the way, Jordan must solve mysteries involving the suspicious death of her predecessor in the research position and the blatant murder of a local rare-book dealer. Despite the fact that it is notably improbable that small-town Harrison Falls would support a number of competing rare book dealers and that Jordan’s search could be conducted locally, The Christie Curse gains momentum as it hurtles toward its denouement. I wish, though, that “Abbott” incorporated the Christie hook as more than simply a device for framing the mystery. As a reader, I was a bit disappointed, because the title of The Christie Caper seemed to promise more than it delivered regarding Christie and her works. That being said, this is a truly enjoyable book.

Nickeled-And-Dimed to Death
Lynne Maxwell

With 15 books in her popular Scumble River series, Swanson is no stranger to the mystery scene. Following close upon the heels of Little Shop of Homicide, the series debut, Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death continues to develop the character and exploits of Dev Sinclair, who owns and operates Devereaux’s Dime Store and Gift Baskets, located in small-town Shadow Bend, Missouri. Leaving her hectic financial services job in Kansas City, Dev has moved home to take care of her grandmother, who had been an ersatz parent to her. While Dev is generally pleased with her new life, she must continue to confront her “history” in the town. Principally, she attempts to avoid Noah Underwood, a prosperous high-society doctor. Years ago, Dev’s father was implicated (incorrectly, it turns out) in a bank embezzlement scandal, and Noah dumped her at his mother’s request. Fortunately, Dev has a new boyfriend, Jake; unfortunately, he is a cop who gets called away to do undercover work. What’s a girl to do, resume her old romance with Noah or move ahead with Jake? Dev doesn’t have much time to contemplate this dilemma before her best male friend, Boone, is accused of murder, and she jumps into the fray to exonerate him. Nickeled-and-Dimed adds sizzling romance to a satisfyingly resolved murder mystery, while leaving a few loose ends begging for resolution in the next book. I’m still perplexed, though. How does Dev manage to turn a profit from her shop? Maybe Swanson will divulge Dev’s business secrets in the next book. We’ll see—soon, I hope!

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 23:09:29

With 15 books in her popular Scumble River series, Swanson is no stranger to the mystery scene. Following close upon the heels of Little Shop of Homicide, the series debut, Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death continues to develop the character and exploits of Dev Sinclair, who owns and operates Devereaux’s Dime Store and Gift Baskets, located in small-town Shadow Bend, Missouri. Leaving her hectic financial services job in Kansas City, Dev has moved home to take care of her grandmother, who had been an ersatz parent to her. While Dev is generally pleased with her new life, she must continue to confront her “history” in the town. Principally, she attempts to avoid Noah Underwood, a prosperous high-society doctor. Years ago, Dev’s father was implicated (incorrectly, it turns out) in a bank embezzlement scandal, and Noah dumped her at his mother’s request. Fortunately, Dev has a new boyfriend, Jake; unfortunately, he is a cop who gets called away to do undercover work. What’s a girl to do, resume her old romance with Noah or move ahead with Jake? Dev doesn’t have much time to contemplate this dilemma before her best male friend, Boone, is accused of murder, and she jumps into the fray to exonerate him. Nickeled-and-Dimed adds sizzling romance to a satisfyingly resolved murder mystery, while leaving a few loose ends begging for resolution in the next book. I’m still perplexed, though. How does Dev manage to turn a profit from her shop? Maybe Swanson will divulge Dev’s business secrets in the next book. We’ll see—soon, I hope!

Trouble in the Tarot
Lynne Maxwell

Trouble in the Tarot is Kari Lee Townsend's third installment in her Fortune Teller Mystery series. Protagonist Sunshine “Sunny” Meadows practices her psychic arts in the upstate New York town of Divinity. Sadly, Divinity is hardly divine. When the town hosts its annual Summer Solstice Festival, discord soon divides the residents. The festival’s proceeds are donated to the charity selected each year by the townsfolk. When a new local animal shelter wins the vote, the director of a contending charity becomes disgruntled and assists in sabotaging the event. Sunny has more immediate problems, however, because she has done a tarot reading for one of the tourists, Fiona, who turns out to be the mortal enemy of Granny Gert, Sunny’s grandmother. Apparently, Granny and Fiona fought over the same man, and Granny won the contest, while Fiona married unhappily. Their rivalry spills over into the festival’s bake-off event, as they seek to outdo each other in increasingly outrageous ways. The major trouble occurs, though, when Bernadette, one of the other bake-off contestants meets a suspicious and untimely demise. Sunny investigates, raising the ire of her awkward, introverted new boyfriend. You will need to read the book to see how matters devolve from there, but it will be no mystery that Granny Gert and her archrival provide entertainment galore.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-18 23:15:38

Trouble in the Tarot is Kari Lee Townsend's third installment in her Fortune Teller Mystery series. Protagonist Sunshine “Sunny” Meadows practices her psychic arts in the upstate New York town of Divinity. Sadly, Divinity is hardly divine. When the town hosts its annual Summer Solstice Festival, discord soon divides the residents. The festival’s proceeds are donated to the charity selected each year by the townsfolk. When a new local animal shelter wins the vote, the director of a contending charity becomes disgruntled and assists in sabotaging the event. Sunny has more immediate problems, however, because she has done a tarot reading for one of the tourists, Fiona, who turns out to be the mortal enemy of Granny Gert, Sunny’s grandmother. Apparently, Granny and Fiona fought over the same man, and Granny won the contest, while Fiona married unhappily. Their rivalry spills over into the festival’s bake-off event, as they seek to outdo each other in increasingly outrageous ways. The major trouble occurs, though, when Bernadette, one of the other bake-off contestants meets a suspicious and untimely demise. Sunny investigates, raising the ire of her awkward, introverted new boyfriend. You will need to read the book to see how matters devolve from there, but it will be no mystery that Granny Gert and her archrival provide entertainment galore.

Did You Miss Me?
Hank Wagner

Karen Rose’s Did You Miss Me? tells the story of Baltimore prosecutor Daphne Montgomery, whose son Ford is kidnapped mere hours before a jury is due back with the verdict of the most important trial of her career. It’s up to FBI Agent Joe Carter and associates to find the young man before more harm can befall him. The clues don’t add up, however: Are the kidnappers out to influence the results of the trial, or has a more intricate plan been initiated? Rose slowly reveals the answers, keeping her audience intrigued and her characters guessing.

Rose’s latest is a big, big book, but almost every page is justified. A couple of sex scenes went on way too long for this reader’s tastes, but that’s a minor criticism. An experienced pro, Rose knows how to set up a scene in a convincing way, but, more importantly, she knows how to set up the next scene.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-19 16:53:06

Karen Rose’s Did You Miss Me? tells the story of Baltimore prosecutor Daphne Montgomery, whose son Ford is kidnapped mere hours before a jury is due back with the verdict of the most important trial of her career. It’s up to FBI Agent Joe Carter and associates to find the young man before more harm can befall him. The clues don’t add up, however: Are the kidnappers out to influence the results of the trial, or has a more intricate plan been initiated? Rose slowly reveals the answers, keeping her audience intrigued and her characters guessing.

Rose’s latest is a big, big book, but almost every page is justified. A couple of sex scenes went on way too long for this reader’s tastes, but that’s a minor criticism. An experienced pro, Rose knows how to set up a scene in a convincing way, but, more importantly, she knows how to set up the next scene.

Slice
Hank Wagner

Slice, by William Patterson, details the travails of Jessie Clarkson, who, through bad luck and bad decisions, finds herself married to the evil Emil Deetz. Things get worse one day as she seeks out Emil to tell him she is pregnant, only to accidentally witness him cut another man’s throat. Emil flees, but not before he sees her. Terrified that Emil will kill her, too, Jessie hides, only emerging from the shadows after being informed of his death in a Mexican drug deal gone bad.

Five years later, having made a new place for herself in the world, Jessie decides to move back to her hometown in Connecticut. Soon after her arrival, a savage killing takes place, eerily similar to the one she witnessed. As the death toll mounts, Jessie can only wonder if Emil is back, seeking revenge. The truth is far stranger than she ever imagined.

While overall very readable, Slice does have some problems with pacing, as the book drags a bit in the first few hundred pages, only to move like an out-of-control rocket during the last hundred. But the main problem is that Patterson couldn’t seem to decide just what kind of novel he wanted to write, a realistic woman-in-jeopardy novel, or a supernatural thriller. Still, Patterson’s enthusiasm, energy, and fearlessness ultimately carry the day. He also provides some cool in-jokes for those who appreciate that sort of thing, cleverly referencing material as diverse as the classic ’60s sitcom Bewitched, and Thomas Tryon’s iconic horror novel The Other.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-19 16:56:23

Slice, by William Patterson, details the travails of Jessie Clarkson, who, through bad luck and bad decisions, finds herself married to the evil Emil Deetz. Things get worse one day as she seeks out Emil to tell him she is pregnant, only to accidentally witness him cut another man’s throat. Emil flees, but not before he sees her. Terrified that Emil will kill her, too, Jessie hides, only emerging from the shadows after being informed of his death in a Mexican drug deal gone bad.

Five years later, having made a new place for herself in the world, Jessie decides to move back to her hometown in Connecticut. Soon after her arrival, a savage killing takes place, eerily similar to the one she witnessed. As the death toll mounts, Jessie can only wonder if Emil is back, seeking revenge. The truth is far stranger than she ever imagined.

While overall very readable, Slice does have some problems with pacing, as the book drags a bit in the first few hundred pages, only to move like an out-of-control rocket during the last hundred. But the main problem is that Patterson couldn’t seem to decide just what kind of novel he wanted to write, a realistic woman-in-jeopardy novel, or a supernatural thriller. Still, Patterson’s enthusiasm, energy, and fearlessness ultimately carry the day. He also provides some cool in-jokes for those who appreciate that sort of thing, cleverly referencing material as diverse as the classic ’60s sitcom Bewitched, and Thomas Tryon’s iconic horror novel The Other.

Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: the Hard-Boiled Detective Transformed
Jon L. Breen

The author argues persuasively that Marlowe, far from being a standard super-confident loner private eye, is connected to a larger society and is given to introspection and self-doubt in contrast to the rugged-individualist vigilantes of Daly, Hammett, and Spillane. He believes film versions of Marlowe in the 1940s distorted the character as a result of Production Code constraints and the inability of film to depict interior life. Chandler is defended against the supposed misreadings by his follower Ross Macdonald.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-19 17:14:00

The author argues persuasively that Marlowe, far from being a standard super-confident loner private eye, is connected to a larger society and is given to introspection and self-doubt in contrast to the rugged-individualist vigilantes of Daly, Hammett, and Spillane. He believes film versions of Marlowe in the 1940s distorted the character as a result of Production Code constraints and the inability of film to depict interior life. Chandler is defended against the supposed misreadings by his follower Ross Macdonald.

Books to Die For: the World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels
Jon L. Breen

Over 100 accomplished mystery writers celebrate their favorite novels. The editors intend their book to be “flawless in inclusion if not in omission,” and nearly all these novels are undoubtedly worthy subjects, written about entertainingly and tantalizingly, with only a handful of essays seriously letting the side down. But the overbalancing toward the recent and noirish and the token representation of classical detective fiction make for a distorted overview of the genre. Women, well-represented as essayists, are badly under-represented as subjects. (Nearly 30 female contributors wrote on male subjects, while only six or so males wrote on women.) Too many commentators feel the need to credit their subjects with saving the genre or heading it in a new direction when all they have done is written (presumably well) in an already established form. I don’t believe either Spillane or Parker rescued the moribund private eye novel, and one writer’s contention that Patricia Cornwell’s 1990 debut came at a time when “male authors dominated” and women characters appeared mostly in support is nothing short of ludicrous.

Quibbles aside, there’s some superb writing here. Though the book fails as a balanced representation of the best mystery writing, it should spur discovery or rediscovery of some extraordinary novels. Among the many fine contributions: Sara Paretsky on Dickens’ Bleak House, Chuck Hogan on Paul Cain’s Fast One, Ruth Dudley Edwards on Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop, Declan Hughes on Margaret Millar’s A Stranger in My Grave, Lauren Henderson on Agatha Christie’s Endless Night and (as Rebecca Chance) on Dorothy L. Sayers’ Have His Carcase, Mike Nicol on James McClure’s The Steam Pig, Peter Robinson on Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone, and Sophie Hannah on Jill McGown’s Murder…Now and Then.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-19 18:36:04

Over 100 accomplished mystery writers celebrate their favorite novels. The editors intend their book to be “flawless in inclusion if not in omission,” and nearly all these novels are undoubtedly worthy subjects, written about entertainingly and tantalizingly, with only a handful of essays seriously letting the side down. But the overbalancing toward the recent and noirish and the token representation of classical detective fiction make for a distorted overview of the genre. Women, well-represented as essayists, are badly under-represented as subjects. (Nearly 30 female contributors wrote on male subjects, while only six or so males wrote on women.) Too many commentators feel the need to credit their subjects with saving the genre or heading it in a new direction when all they have done is written (presumably well) in an already established form. I don’t believe either Spillane or Parker rescued the moribund private eye novel, and one writer’s contention that Patricia Cornwell’s 1990 debut came at a time when “male authors dominated” and women characters appeared mostly in support is nothing short of ludicrous.

Quibbles aside, there’s some superb writing here. Though the book fails as a balanced representation of the best mystery writing, it should spur discovery or rediscovery of some extraordinary novels. Among the many fine contributions: Sara Paretsky on Dickens’ Bleak House, Chuck Hogan on Paul Cain’s Fast One, Ruth Dudley Edwards on Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop, Declan Hughes on Margaret Millar’s A Stranger in My Grave, Lauren Henderson on Agatha Christie’s Endless Night and (as Rebecca Chance) on Dorothy L. Sayers’ Have His Carcase, Mike Nicol on James McClure’s The Steam Pig, Peter Robinson on Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone, and Sophie Hannah on Jill McGown’s Murder…Now and Then.

The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case With Science and Forensics
Jon L. Breen

An orderly account, meticulously documented, of Holmes’ use of scientific crime detection methods (the Bertillon system, fingerprints, footprints, handwriting and printed document analysis, cryptography) and his familiarity with various sciences. O’Brien persuasively defends Holmes against Isaac Asimov’s disparaging of his chemical knowledge. Many true-crime cases are referenced. An appendix debunks charges that Conan Doyle authored scientific hoaxes, including the Piltdown man. It’s a good job, though too esoteric for anyone not deeply involved with science and Sherlockian studies.

Teri Duerr
2013-04-19 18:42:09

An orderly account, meticulously documented, of Holmes’ use of scientific crime detection methods (the Bertillon system, fingerprints, footprints, handwriting and printed document analysis, cryptography) and his familiarity with various sciences. O’Brien persuasively defends Holmes against Isaac Asimov’s disparaging of his chemical knowledge. Many true-crime cases are referenced. An appendix debunks charges that Conan Doyle authored scientific hoaxes, including the Piltdown man. It’s a good job, though too esoteric for anyone not deeply involved with science and Sherlockian studies.