My Life of Crime Fiction
Allen J. Hubin

Hubin_Al_mid-1960s_wbook_copy_2Al Hubin has been one of the prime movers in crime fiction scholarship for almost 40 years, beginning with the founding of the now-legendary magazine The Armchair Detective. His career continued with his work as an influential anthologist and reviewer and somehow along the way he managed to produce the mammoth and definitive bibliography Crime Fiction, which lists and cross-references every mystery novel and writer from 1749 until the year 2000. The recent publication of the fourth edition marks a major milestone in a journey that started a long time ago in a basement far, far away.

We asked Al to tell us how it all came to pass...

Al Hubin, mid-1960s, examining some of the books in his large collection of crime and mystery fiction. Photo courtesy of Al Hubin.

I didn’t set out to be a bibliographer—reading and collecting mysteries were satisfying and sufficient for a couple of decades. Then life began to get complicated—and even more interesting. The Armchair Detective (TAD) emerged from my basement in 1967 because no one else was putting out a general mystery fanzine; who would have thought it would last (in other folks’ capable hands) nearly 30 years? Covering mysteries for the New York Times Book Review—unimaginable, until one day the editor Francis Brown phoned to ask me (with one professional review to my credit!) to fill in for Anthony Boucher. Even then unimaginable, though I lasted at six books a week for almost three years. Editing anthologies?—don’t give it a thought, until it’s Dutton on the phone wondering if I’d also carry on for Anthony Boucher with Best Detective Stories of the Year.

As for crime fiction bibliographies, that was no one’s province until Ordean Hagen appeared on the scene. I would have been happy to leave it in his hands, with Whodunit (1969) and a series of Hagen-generated successors, except that Ordean had the misfortune to die even before his maiden venture was published.

Even then my hands were plenty full without bibliographic work: a family (wife, four young children—later five), a full-time job as an organic chemist, TAD, the six books a week, a spiraling book collection, and reading—without help, mind you—every mystery short story published each year in the U.S. for those Dutton anthologies. I would have been out of my mind to add anything to this.

But certain deficiencies had been identified in Whodunit; corrections and additions were turning up. These could—with almost no extra labor—be accumulated in each issue of TAD.

And there the matter might have stood. However, the additions and corrections in TAD began to be rather numerous and random, and I had notions about how the information might perhaps be better organized than Ordean—librarian though he was—had chosen to do.

Where was Ordean’s successor when he was needed? Nowhere to be seen. Well, perhaps now (the six books a week having blessedly gone away) a little bibliographic endeavor could be managed. How about, say, a 20-page bibliographic supplement at the back of each TAD? Starting with the As, we might get to the end of the alphabet some day. And this would enable me to add a feature dear to my heart: identifying series characters and the books in which they appeared. Author birth/death dates (on a very modest scale) could also be introduced.

In those pre-computer years, I was of course using a typewriter. To avoid endless retypings (or the application of gallons of correcting fluid), the manuscript was created by cutting out error-free (well, mostly error free, but that’s another story) sections of typescript and assembling them on adhesive-coated plastic sheets.

Then the Mystery Library project at the University of California San Diego Extension (in La Jolla)—a John Ball brainchild—came into view. That too is really another story, except that the Library decided to publish a few original works, in addition to its raison d’etre of scholarly reprinting of mystery classics, and a book version of my serialized bibliography seemed to fit. By this time TAD had joined the Library project and we’d finished the alphabet by dint of a special mailing to subscribers of the S-Z section.

Simple, then, just send off the now-completed manuscript to the printers? Not quite. There had been no uniform cutoff date to the serialized version, so the A section was up-to-date through 1971 when published, and the Zs through 1975. And there were no indexes. Not very satisfactory.

So I decided, without fully appreciating the work that would be involved, to update the whole thing through the end of 1975. And to check every piece of data against other (primary) references.

You know about the National Union Catalog? About 600 humongous volumes. And the British Library Catalogue—more hundreds? And the Cumulative Book Index?—the early volumes almost required a forklift truck. Books in Print. Whitakers. All print resources in that pre-electronic era.

I did a few hundred—or was it thousands?—of hours at the University of Minnesota Library standing over shelves and piles of these megatomes, looking up citations. Fortunately Mike Nevins came along to give some help, and eventually the task was done.

Then all the information had to be whipped into a manuscript. Simple: just enter it all into a computer and let it sort and collate, right? Wrong. This was still the typewriter era. Somehow, by way of massive retyping, I had a manuscript. Of the author section.

But what about a title index? A brainstorm struck, and Mystery Library folks bought it. They hired my summerly-unemployed college-age son Loren to cut the titles from a photocopy of the author section, tape each cut-out title to a 3x5 card, print the author’s name on the card, and alphabetize the resulting thousands of cards. Then they hired a typist to produce a title index from the cards.

Isn’t technology wonderful??!!

I was not about to entrust my one and only copy of the author section to the mails, so I hand-carried it to La Jolla and deposited it directly in the hands of the publisher. In due course (1979) The Bibliography of Crime Fiction 1749–1975 appeared.

End of happy story, right? Again, not quite. Hardly had the presses run than the Mystery Library sank without a trace and owing me a goodly piece of change.

Bibliographic retirement loomed. But TAD had moved to Otto Penzler’s hands, after a Californian hiccup or two. The anthologies were done (for me, anyway), and I didn’t want to end on a sour note. I wondered if any solvent publisher would be interested. Perhaps a new feature (settings) could be added (more work!) to enhance interest. And perhaps authors cited in certain other reference works (like Contemporary Authors and Encyclopedia of Mystery & Detection) could be so identified, to tie the field together—another piece of additional work.

I sent an information packet to some half-dozen firms with experience in reference works. It turned out most of them wanted the bibliography, even to the point of bidding against each other for the pleasure. How much that would change in a few short years!

hubin_mysterylibrarytitles

Left to right: In 1967 Al founded The Armchair Detective, the first mystery fanzine. (Although “fanzine” doesn’t adequately convey its significant contributions to genre scholarship.) He followed Anthony Boucher as editor of the Best Detective Stories of the Year anthology series. His first bilbliographical efforts appeared in TAD, then in book form in 1979, followed by three more editions ending with the current Crime Fiction IV: 1749-2000. Al has won two Edgars: one in 1978 for TAD and one in 1980 (far right photo) for the first version of the bibliography.

For better or worse, I selected Garland among the bidding publishers. Time to add another five years to coverage. And to figure out how to produce the manuscript.

I had by this time invested in a computer, an Apple 2 Plus. Remember them? It had about the memory of a wrist watch. And using a computer meant that everything had to be retyped! In due course, off went a manuscript. Garland cut and pasted, and the somewhat retitled (to Crime Fiction 1749–1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography) edition came out (1984).

It sold well enough that Garland was willing to carry on, so the next incarnation was a 1981–1985 supplement. I imagine by this time I’d bought computer number two, so probably the combined memories of two wrist watches were now available. To lure a few more buyers to the supplement and the main volume another new feature was added: the identification of films (by film title, studio, year, screenwriter and director) based on print works (novels or short stories) cited in either volume. And of course the supplement provided an opportunity to fix errors of omission or commission in the 1749–1980 coverage—and many had been identified, thanks to my own researches and the generous help of mystery collectors, dealers, writers and enthusiasts.

Another five years reeled by, and print reference works were starting to give way to electronic (CD-ROM) ones; for example, the print National Union Catalog for U.S. publications disappeared about this time. And the blessed Internet was starting to blossom.

Garland was willing to do one more, and the habit of adding new features was strong: how about listing the individual titles for story collections? My own collection of mysteries, some 25,000 volumes, had been sold in 1982, years before this notion surfaced, so how was this task to be accomplished? There were a few handy reference works (such as Mundell and Rausch’s The Detective Short Story: A Bibliography and Index, which alas only listed the detective stories in mixed collections), but not nearly enough for the job ahead. However, Bob Adey came to the rescue. He’d been assiduously collecting collections for years and decorating his home in England with books by the thousands. Would he help? Would he ever!

I spent several weekends with Bob, feverishly hand-copying contents pages. And Jack Adrian, a friend of Bob’s, lived near by and knew a realtor with a photocopier. The three of us spent days filling Bob’s car with books, carting them to the realtor’s office, slapping contents pages on the copier, and scribbling author/title information on the resulting images. Too bad I couldn’t always read my frantic handwriting later…

Bob sent me dozens (maybe hundreds) of other contents lists separately by mail (a process he generously continues to the present day, now using e-mail), and the work somehow all got done. Since the 1749–1980 and 1981–1985 volumes had to be merged with the 1986-1990 and story title information, I (re)typed everything (creating some fresh errors in the process), using, as I remember, computer number three. This time the manuscript went to Garland on floppy disks, and their computer guru massaged my WordStar (anyone remember that word-processing software?) text files into the final product, Crime Fiction II: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749–1990 in two volumes (1994).

Again time passed. Garland was taken over by a European firm and lost about 150% of its interest in my bibliography, to the point of returning all rights to me. I wasn’t happy with the supplement approach tried earlier, and wanted to do a full 1749–1995 edition. But the eager suitors who’d turned up last time a new publisher was needed were nowhere to be found.

Then Bill Contento, mostly a science fiction activist and compiler of bibliographies, came on the scene. As I recall, his print publisher backed out of a contract on the grounds that Contento’s manuscript was too long, so he decided to publish it himself on CD-ROM. Thus arose Locus Press. He had an appetite to add to his product line, so we struck a deal and I went back to work. He too could handle my author files on antiquated WordStar, and he could compile all the needed indexes directly from those files: what a wonderful savings in keystrokes for me!

My standard approach over the years was to keep track of criminous works as they came out, primarily in the USand Britain, by subscribing to publishing journals and fanzines, and by spending as much time in bookstores and libraries as possible, then to check all my data against primary references as much as I could before publication. In addition, I would go through every likely published reference work, frequently page by page, looking for new information. And the stream of input from helpful users of the bibliography was bountiful and continuous.

So Crime Fiction III: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749–1995 came out from Locus in 1999. I thought it was time to hang up my bibliographic hat as I had, in 1996, hung up my regular employment one. But the year 2000, the end of the 20th century, seemed a more fitting climax to what would be more than 30 years of bibliographic effort. Contento and Locus Press were willing to publish a CD-ROM, but I’m still a book person and wanted a print version as well. Happily, George Vanderburgh and his Battered Silicon Dispatch Box in Canada agreed to publish my last crime fiction bibliography.

hubin_afamilyaffairtriptych

Dan (left), Wendy Hubin (middle) and Loren Hubin (right) were all drafted into service on The Armchair Detective circa 1974. Loren later spent a college summer creating an author index to Bibliograpny of Crime Fiction: 1749-1975.

Crime Fiction IV seemed worth all the extra effort I could give it for completeness. With the Internet as close as my computer, these steps were added to the usual data-gathering process:

a) Searching WorldCat (the combined electronic card catalogs of thousands of libraries worldwide) on keyword bases (like mystery fiction, detective fiction, crime fiction, intrigue, suspense, etc.) year-by-year back through 1978, looking for previously unnoted crime fiction. I found a great deal of it, including self-published and locally published works.

b) Looking up thousands of books in abebooks.com and the US and British versions of Amazon, checking for new settings information. Tedious but productive, and this turned up some books and film adaptations that otherwise would have been missed.

c) Checking thousands of books and bylines in the US copyright register for author dates and pseudonym/real name information. Also tedious but productive.

d) Looking for (and finding) previously unnoted death dates in the Social Security Death Benefit records.

e) Checking hundreds (at least) of entries in the Library of Congress, British Library, Canadian National Library and Australian National Library sites.

f) Running Google searches on hundreds of authors about whom (or whose works) I had questions, finding answers to many directly and querying authors in other cases when e-mail addresses turned up.

g) Searching the online catalogs of the major POD publishers (like Xlibris, IUniverse and 1st Books) entry-by-entry to scoop up their hundreds of mysteries.

h) Adding all this and the further five years to the CD-ROM version was relatively easy: I sent publisher Bill Contento files (WordStar still!) of new information and he did the integration. For the print edition I had to enter everything new into the previous WordStar files for the author section as well as all indexes. Fortunately George Vanderburgh could also manipulate WordStar files, though toward the end his yeoman work on the manuscript (would you believe he turned every author name into bold type individually?!) also included a lot of data integration into my “complete” electronic typescript.

So Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749–2000 is done, containing author and title indexes to over 106,000 books, the contents of more than 6,600 collections, identification of over 4,500 movies. If anyone is to cover 2001 and beyond it won’t be me—and it most probably won’t be anyone. It’s been an interesting 30+ years.

Although I’ll be adding no more years to coverage, I’m still gathering additions and corrections from my own browsings in connection with a little project that’s underway, and from the most welcome continuing input from users of the bibliography. These will find a home in due course, perhaps with the output of that project. In the meantime, the highlights of new information will appear in my column Addenda to CFIV in Steve Lewis’ recently revived fanzine, Mystery*File.

As for that project, I have an interest in demonstrating statistically the trends in the mystery field over the years of the 20th century, as reflected in entries in the bibliography. The project when complete will show the number of books published by year in the US and in Britain, by form (paperback or hardcover), by content (novel, collection, play), by gender of author, and by the presence (and gender) of series character. Should be interesting—at least to me. Stay tuned.

Allen J. Hubin, Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000. Print edition: The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, Box 204, Shelburne, Ontario, Canada L0N 1S0; five folio volumes, $400. CD-ROM edition: Locus Press, Box 13305, Oakland, CA 94661; $49.95 http://www.locusmag.com

“So Crime Fiction 1749-2000 is done. If anyone is to cover 2001 and beyond it won’t be me. It’s been an interesting 30+ years. Although I do have another little project underway...”

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #83.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-01 12:36:45

Hubin_Al_mid-1960s_wbook_copy_2Forty years of crime fiction scholarship: Al Hubin, founder of The Armchair Detective

Summer Issue #130 Contents
Mystery Scene

130cover250

Features

Hope & Glory

Susan Elia MacNeal’s quick-witted WWII spy Maggie Hope returns to the fray with enthralling results in His Majesty’s Hope.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Edgar Wallace: The Man Who Wrote Too Much?

Almost forgotten today, at his peak one-quarter of all books read in England were penned by Wallace.
by Michael Mallory

Nicholas Meyer: An Appreciation

Using popular art to entertain, illuminate, and—on occasion—affect the course of history.
by Joseph Goodrich

Qiu Xiaolong

Reading banned Sherlock Holmes stories during the Cultural Revolution put this author on the long march to success.
by Tom Nolan

Private Eye Parodies

You only mock the ones you love. The best detective spoofs, satires, and lampoons.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Elaine Viets

Her Dead End Job series takes a satiric look at a serious subject—the world of low-wage jobs.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Peter Lovesey

A wide-ranging talk with the Cartier Diamond Dagger winner on the occasion of his latest mystery.
by Martin Edwards

Gormania

The Return of Matt Helm, Albert Einstein’s Secret Stash, Hammer Sees Reds, Why Writers Write
by Ed Gorman

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

“M is for Mystery” Crossword

by Verna Suit

Departments


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

2013 Edgar Awards, 2013 Agatha Awards, 2013 Ellis Awards

New Books

Secret Codes of the American Revolution
by Kate Carlisle

Why Can’t They Get Irene Adler Right?
by Carole Nelson Douglas


Reviews


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info

Admin
2010-04-06 02:39:02

130cover250

Features

Hope & Glory

Susan Elia MacNeal’s quick-witted WWII spy Maggie Hope returns to the fray with enthralling results in His Majesty’s Hope.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Edgar Wallace: The Man Who Wrote Too Much?

Almost forgotten today, at his peak one-quarter of all books read in England were penned by Wallace.
by Michael Mallory

Nicholas Meyer: An Appreciation

Using popular art to entertain, illuminate, and—on occasion—affect the course of history.
by Joseph Goodrich

Qiu Xiaolong

Reading banned Sherlock Holmes stories during the Cultural Revolution put this author on the long march to success.
by Tom Nolan

Private Eye Parodies

You only mock the ones you love. The best detective spoofs, satires, and lampoons.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Elaine Viets

Her Dead End Job series takes a satiric look at a serious subject—the world of low-wage jobs.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Peter Lovesey

A wide-ranging talk with the Cartier Diamond Dagger winner on the occasion of his latest mystery.
by Martin Edwards

Gormania

The Return of Matt Helm, Albert Einstein’s Secret Stash, Hammer Sees Reds, Why Writers Write
by Ed Gorman

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

“M is for Mystery” Crossword

by Verna Suit

Departments


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

2013 Edgar Awards, 2013 Agatha Awards, 2013 Ellis Awards

New Books

Secret Codes of the American Revolution
by Kate Carlisle

Why Can’t They Get Irene Adler Right?
by Carole Nelson Douglas


Reviews


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info

At the Scene, Summer Issue #130
Kate Stine

130cover250Hi Everyone,

In early May, Brian and I went down to Virginia for vacation. We headed to Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello which was lovely, despite the pouring rain. The guide pointed out a vantage point from which Jefferson would watch the construction of the Rotunda at his beloved University of Virgina in Charlottesville during the last year of his life. He had designed the building, of course, along with the university’s open lawn surrounded by residential and academic buildings, and gardens. He also planned the curriculum, recruited the faculty, and once the institution opened in 1825, made a habit of inviting the students and their professors to Sunday dinner at Monticello. He considered the university his greatest achievement.

Why am I telling you this? Because in February 1826, Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at UVA. He is reported to have attended Jefferson’s funeral in July of that year but it isn’t known if he was ever a guest at Monticello. What is known is that the 17-yearold appreciated the end result of the former President’s labors. In a September 21, 1826 letter to his foster father John Allan he writes:

They have nearly finished the Rotunda. The pillars of the Portico are completed and it greatly improves the appearance of the whole. The books are removed into the library and we have a very fine collection.

It’s hard to imagine two more different men, but I like to think of them—one near the end of a world-altering career, the other just getting started—each contemplating a fine library and calling it good.

UVA_Rotunda

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, frequented by Edgar Allan Poe.

From the rousing derring-do of Susan Elia MacNeal’s WWII espionage to the thoughtful examination of China’s headlong modernization in Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen police procedurals to Elaine Viets’ darkly amusing take on the US economy in her Dead End Jobs mysteries, this jumbo issue of Mystery Scene is itself a guide to a library of great reading. Joe Goodrich considers the stellar career of novelist/screenwriter/film director Nicholas Meyer. (This inspired me to read A View from the Bridge, Meyer’s Hollywood memoir, and, in a word: fabulous!) Also, Martin Edwards chats with English mystery icon Peter Lovesey, Kevin Burton Smith surveys the best send-ups (or is that take-downs?) of detectives in literature and film, and much more.

Enjoy your summer and we’ll see you this fall!

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

UVA_Poe_dorm_roomUVA_east_lawn_south_from_Pavilion

Poe's old dorm room, 13 West Range, is kept as a shrine to the famous University of Virginia student. The bed is Poe's and came from the Allan home in Richmond.

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

130cover250"Hope & Glory" the books of Susan Elia MacNeal, Chinese writer Qiu Xiaolong, Private Eye Parodies, Peter Lovesey, Elaine Viets, and more

Murder by Chance
Betty Webb

Pat Dennis’ Murder by Chance is a stellar example of the Golden Rule of Writing: take a likable character, get him into trouble not of his own making, then have him solve the problem through his own efforts. And that’s exactly what we have here. Lovable, over-50, rotund, and divorced from her police detective husband, Betty Chance now survives by leading buses full of seniors on trips to various casinos. This time out, she takes a gaggle of them to a gaudy Moose Bay, Minnesota gambling palace, but after her clients debark, she finds a murdered man in the tiny bathroom of the chartered bus. When Betty herself comes under suspicion, it falls to her to find out whodunit. The plot is certainly intriguing enough, and all the characters are fun, but the runaway star of this sparkling book is Betty herself. This tour guide is a hoot: smart, loyal, and—perhaps because author Dennis is a stand-up comedian—she has the ability to fire off riotous one-liners on every page. Murder by Chance is the kind of book where, yes, you’re glad Betty has the sass to solve the crime, but sad because once she does, the book is finished. Let’s hope Betty already has the next busload of seniors lined up for another date with Lady Luck. I’ve already signed up.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:02:55

dennis_murderbychanceA comedic gamble pays off with casino guide Betty Chance behind the wheel.

The Hour of Peril: the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
Jon L. Breen

The hero of this suspenseful and enthralling history was a mystery writer. Scottish immigrant Allan Pinkerton, apart from founding a famous-albeit-controversial private detective agency, signed his name to numerous true-crime volumes that are generally considered to be at least semi-fictionalized (and in fact are included in Allen J. Hubin’s crime-fiction bibliography). In early 1861, with Southern states threatening secession and anti-abolitionist sentiments running high, Lincoln embarked on a rail trip from his home in Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, DC, for his inauguration as president. Pinkerton, initially hired to protect one of the railroad lines on the trip, discovers a plot against Lincoln that might have prevented his living to take office if he enters Baltimore. Obviously, the question is not whether Lincoln survives, but how Pinkerton will prevent his assassination. The book does not ignore the association of Pinkerton’s agency with anti-labor, strike-breaking activities, most but not all after the founder’s death, but the man himself is favorably depicted. Most of the quoted material is from primary sources, and the story is notably well-told. As a popular rather than scholarly history, the book lacks the source notes some readers might hope for, but for that information, readers are referred to the author’s website.

ALSO OF INTEREST "My Books: Dead Men Don't Crack Skulls" by author Daniel Stashower, on the writing of The Hour of Peril.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:12:57

stashower_thehourofperil The exciting true tale of Allan Pinkerton's dash to save President-elect Abraham Lincoln.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Tea Dee

“I’m supposed to give my order for my final meal,” says Noa P. Singleton, as she considers one of the decisions left to her in her remaining brief time on death row. “I’m pondering chicken parmesan, a thick New York strip steak (medium well), or a three-course meal from Le Bec Fin…. I think I’ll start off with Escargots. ‘Persillade.’ I’ve never had escargots. To be honest, I think I’m choosing it because I want to watch everyone mispronounce it…ass-car-got.” Funny. Dark. Sad. True.

Noa, 35, Pennsylvania Institute for Women inmate No. 1027198, epicurean, daughter of Miss Teenage California 1970, high school salutatorian, former U of Penn biochemistry student, and convicted murderer, is whip smart, unflinching, and loathe to reveal her vulnerabilities—especially to high-powered attorney Marlene Dixon and her idealistic English cohort, lawyer Oliver Stansted, who arrive six months before “x-day” to announce that they plan to file for a last minute stay of execution on Noa’s behalf—if Noa will tell Marlene the truth about why Noa murdered her daughter ten years prior.

And so begins the adroit unspooling of Noa’s soon-to-be truncated life with the unanswered question, “Did she, and if she did, why did she do it?” dangling just beyond Marlene’s and the reader’s reach. Author Elizabeth L. Silver bites into her debut psychological crime novel with sharp, glinting teeth, meting out small, well-rendered, deliberate scenes from Noa’s life: her childhood with an unmindful mother, a reticent adult reunion with a long-absent father, her own apathy in the face of her mistake-ridden trial, her mind-numbing time behind bars, and, of course, her crime. As readers, and Marlene, wait to discern the “Did she?” the “Why did she do whatever she did?” instead becomes the more compelling question, the answer wrapped up somehow in a messy imperfection of human vulnerabilities that are ultimately the study of this insightful novel.

The quality of Silver’s writing is just as unsentimental as her narrator, and just as smart. And as with the decision between chicken parm, steak, or Le Bec Fin, the question of guilt, innocence, and justice belies an even weightier, murkier, complicated truth about what it means to decide knowingly, deliberately how to enjoy your last meal, and likewise, to live out your last days.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:21:15

silver_executionofnoapsingletonA forceful new voice debuts in a rich novel about a young woman on death row.

The King’s Deception
Eileen Brady

Fans of Steve Berry and the popular Cotton Malone books won’t be disappointed in The King’s Deception, a novel of families, deceit, and revenge that ricochets between present-day London and Elizabethan England. The action kicks off with the imminent release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. America protests, but the British government and Scottish prison officials stand firm. Enter the CIA, whose plan to stop the release has roots stretching back to the reign of King Henry the Eighth.

While escorting Ian Dunne, a 15-year-old runaway, back to London as a favor to his former boss, Malone and his son Gary get tangled up in the intrigue. Someone wants the flash drive Ian has stolen and is willing to kill for it. Convinced by Gary to trust Malone, Ian takes them to his hiding place. What is so important in the encrypted files? How many groups are willing to fight to get it back? To force the return of the flash drive Gary is kidnapped and, in his attempt to rescue his only son, Malone takes on the CIA, the Metropolitan Police, and the Serious Organized Crime Agency (England’s FBI). With the help of feisty Kathleen Richards, a suspended SOCA officer, they race from the quiet of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the frenzy of Piccadilly Square. Giving advice is CIA agent in charge Blake Antrim, who may not be what he seems. Thwarting them at every turn is the secretive Daedalus Society whose duty is “Domine, salvam fac Regnam,” which translated means, “Oh Lord, keep the queen safe.” What queen they serve is part of the mystery.

The author plunges the reader back to the royal court of the Tudors through historical letters realistically woven into the plot. We learn of Henry the Eighth’s mistresses, his illegitimate children, and the fury mixed with fear so many well-born families felt toward the king and his bloody reign. From copies of these ancient documents Malone discovers a fantastical story that could bring down the British government and create chaos throughout the United Kingdom. The documents also hint of a vast treasure hidden hundreds of years ago by the last of the Tudors. As they travel from London to Windsor Castle to the university town of Oxford, Berry gives the reader picture-perfect descriptions of the famous sights and infamous back alleys of England. The theme of birth, deception, and family binds all the divergent stories together to finish in an explosive ending. This is the eighth Cotton Malone novel, but each is crafted to be enjoyed on its own. If you haven’t read Steve Berry yet, this would be a delicious book to start with.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:29:26

Fans of Steve Berry and the popular Cotton Malone books won’t be disappointed in The King’s Deception, a novel of families, deceit, and revenge that ricochets between present-day London and Elizabethan England. The action kicks off with the imminent release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. America protests, but the British government and Scottish prison officials stand firm. Enter the CIA, whose plan to stop the release has roots stretching back to the reign of King Henry the Eighth.

While escorting Ian Dunne, a 15-year-old runaway, back to London as a favor to his former boss, Malone and his son Gary get tangled up in the intrigue. Someone wants the flash drive Ian has stolen and is willing to kill for it. Convinced by Gary to trust Malone, Ian takes them to his hiding place. What is so important in the encrypted files? How many groups are willing to fight to get it back? To force the return of the flash drive Gary is kidnapped and, in his attempt to rescue his only son, Malone takes on the CIA, the Metropolitan Police, and the Serious Organized Crime Agency (England’s FBI). With the help of feisty Kathleen Richards, a suspended SOCA officer, they race from the quiet of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the frenzy of Piccadilly Square. Giving advice is CIA agent in charge Blake Antrim, who may not be what he seems. Thwarting them at every turn is the secretive Daedalus Society whose duty is “Domine, salvam fac Regnam,” which translated means, “Oh Lord, keep the queen safe.” What queen they serve is part of the mystery.

The author plunges the reader back to the royal court of the Tudors through historical letters realistically woven into the plot. We learn of Henry the Eighth’s mistresses, his illegitimate children, and the fury mixed with fear so many well-born families felt toward the king and his bloody reign. From copies of these ancient documents Malone discovers a fantastical story that could bring down the British government and create chaos throughout the United Kingdom. The documents also hint of a vast treasure hidden hundreds of years ago by the last of the Tudors. As they travel from London to Windsor Castle to the university town of Oxford, Berry gives the reader picture-perfect descriptions of the famous sights and infamous back alleys of England. The theme of birth, deception, and family binds all the divergent stories together to finish in an explosive ending. This is the eighth Cotton Malone novel, but each is crafted to be enjoyed on its own. If you haven’t read Steve Berry yet, this would be a delicious book to start with.

The Crypt Thief
Betty Webb

In Mark Pryor’s fascinating mystery set in Paris, the Louvre pales next to Père Lachaise, cemetery to the stars, where a nutcase called the Scarab is digging up graves and hauling away the bodies. To solve this peculiar crime wave, Hugo Marston, a former FBI profiler who is now chief of security at the American Embassy, joins forces with his old friend Tom Green, an alcoholic CIA operative. Since the book is partially told from the Scarab’s point of view, we soon learn the reason behind his fondness for the long dead: he is building a new body to house the spirit of his deceased mother. Oh, shades of Norman Bates!

While it may seem a bit degenerate to enjoy such a macabre tale, the combination of cheery expats, ever-flowing bottles of vin rouge, and the incomparable street life of Paris weave a witty tale of madness and murder. Another reason this book is so much fun is that while Marston and his drunken pal chase the Scarab through spooky old Père Lachaise, they stagger past the graves of such dearly departed as playwright Molière, Moulin Rouge dancer Jane Avril, writer Balzac, diva Maria Callas, lovers Abélard and Héloise, and pants-dropping rocker Jim “Lizard King” Morrison. Murder has never kept better company.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:37:13

pryor_thecryptthiefExpat adventure, vin rouge, and the incomparable street life of Paris weave a witty tale of murder.

The Confessions of Al Capone
Derek Hill

While World War II rages in Europe and the Pacific, the terror of homeland gangsters in America continues. The FBI’s godhead, J. Edgar Hoover, has ruthlessly clamped down on the mobsters’ power, but the mightiest and most notorious of all the gang leaders, Al Capone, is set to be released from Alcatraz. Hoover needs someone within his ranks to infiltrate Capone’s posse and help the FBI keep tabs on what’s going on with America’s former Public Enemy Number One, as well as capture any other bull-chested, trigger-happy thugs looking to take Capone’s place in Chicago. In comes agent Peter Vasco, whose father was once accidentally involved with Capone. Hoover picks Vasco to gather as much information as he can while going undercover as a priest. Vasco gains Capone’s confidence and the great violent unruly one’s story unfolds.

This deeply layered, ambitious novel from veteran writer Loren Estleman offers up plenty of rich historical detail and thematic complexity as it charts the bloodied career of one of America’s most infamous gangsters. Capone has been chronicled in popular culture countless times, appearing as a character in movies such as The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) and The Untouchables (1987), as well as being a major character in the recent HBO crime series Boardwalk Empire. He also inspired numerous fictional movie gangsters, ranging from Edward G. Robinson’s Little Caesar to both versions of Scarface, among others. But Loren Estleman discards the larger-than-life myth to capture the bruised humanity of this psychopathic yet all-too-human criminal.

Much of the novel is told from Capone’s viewpoint (transcribed by Vasco), and the story the gangster weaves covers his early days running liquor in New York to his days as the kingpin of Chicago with buckets of blood soaking his pudgy fists. In essence, The Confessions of Al Capone is the gangster’s biography if he’d actually written one. What’s remarkable—despite how many times you’ve read about Capone’s exploits or seen them distilled into fiction via the innumerable novels, television shows, and movies over the decades—is that Estleman makes Capone oddly identifiable because of his weaknesses, lending a real authenticity to the tale. Capone is certainly seen as a man of violence, but he is also viewed as conflicted at times. Vasco likewise makes for a fascinating character, at first determined to absolve his father’s guilt for helping Capone out, but growing increasingly more intimate and sympathetic to the man he is forced to monitor for Hoover. Vasco’s moral conflict gives the novel an emotional weight, lending an added dimension to this excellent historical crime saga.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-02 02:41:41

estleman_confessionsofalcaponeAmerica's infamous mafia boss comes to vivid life in this historical crime novel.

Karin Slaughter on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind
Karin Slaughter

gonewiththewind

"Not many people think of Gone With the Wind as a mystery, but I firmly believe it belongs in that category..."

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara is an epic embrace from the 1939 film adaptation of Margaret Millar's historical romance Gone With The Wind.

The first line of Margaret Mitchell's 1939 novel is perhaps the most artfully crafted in modern literature: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm…”

To me, O’Hara is the quintessential example of Flannery O’Connor’s “mystery of character.” Who is this person? What is she capable of? That first line asks a question that compels the reader to keep going: What exactly is this not-so-beautiful woman going to do?

Murder, as it comes to pass.

The passage where Scarlett kills a Yankee invader is a turning point in the story. Scarlett has returned to her plantation Tara with a very pregnant Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett's former rival for the affections of the wealthy Ashley Wilkes. Melanie's child birth was difficult, made more so by the fallout of civil war. Tara, Scarlett's home, has been looted. Food is scarce. Scarlett and her ilk are learning firsthand the horrible lives of depravation slaves were forced to endure. Then, a Yankee deserter shows up. He rifles Scarlett’s mother’s sewing box looking for gold. And then he sees Scarlett and threatens to rifle her as well. Her response? She takes out a gun and shoots the man in the face.

Mitchell writes of the immediate aftermath, “Scarlett ran down the stairs and stood over him, gazing down into the bloody pit where the nose had been, glazing eyes burned with powder. As she looked, two streams of blood crept across the shining floor, one from his face and one from the back of his head…. She had killed a man.”

slaughter_karin_CR_Alison_RosaAs a writer, I think this is a perfect example of how useful sudden, shocking violence can be in a story, even more so because of what comes next: Melanie hears the noise and runs down the stairs, dragging a saber behind her. She sees the Yankee lying dead on the floor. She sees the gun in Scarlett’s hand. Their eyes meet. Then, from Scarlett’s point of view: “There was a glow of grim pride in [Melanie’s] usually gentle face, approbation and fierce joy in her smile that equaled the fiery tumult in Scarlett’s own bosom. ‘Why—she’s like me! She understands how I feel!’ thought Scarlett…” This shared reaction to the murder serves the story in two ways: it changes Scarlett’s (and the reader’s) view of Melanie, and it also changes the direction of the story because now, instead of Scarlett being alone in her quest to survive, she has a powerful ally. Who is Scarlett O’Hara? She’s a wife, a mother, a survivor, a cold-blooded murderer and at the end of the day—a friend.

Karin Slaughter is the internationally bestselling author of several novels, including the Grant County series and the Will Trent series. According to her own bio, she splits her time between the kitchen and the living room in her home in Atlanta, Georgia. Karin Slaughter photo by Alison Rosa.

Author website: www.karinslaughter.com

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews July 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
2013-07-02 15:42:46

gonewiththewind"Not many people think of Gone With the Wind as a mystery, but I firmly believe it belongs in that category..."

Honest: Family Bonds, Honestly
Oline Cogdill

honest_bbc3
Honest. Acorn Media. DVD, 6 episodes, 2 discs. 281 minutes, plus bonus interviews. Blu-ray and DVD, $39.99


No one would mistake the Carters of being the typical TV family.

Each one, from the parents to the four children to the grandfather, is somehow involved with a few illegal enterprises.

They curse at each other, they get mad at each other and they irritate each other.

But there is real love among the Carters and their family bonds, no matter how odd, are tight.

The Carters are indeed a family of crooks and their attempts to go straight comprise the often hilarious and sometimes touching British comedy-drama series Honest.

honest_bbc2The six-part Honest, which aired in Great Britain in 2008, is a remake of Outrageous Fortune, a New Zealand series. It is now available on DVD from Acorn Media.

Crisp writing and realistic dialogue enhance Honest. But Honest’s best assets are its believable characters whose flaws keep us interested. They curse at each other, get mad but, in the end, they are a family that sticks together.

Honest is a fun romp with a family you’d like to have dinner with, as long as you watch your wallet.

Honest begins with patriarch Mack Carter, played by Danny Webb (Alien 3), being sent to prison for four years for stealing a car.

He, and the family, expected he would receive only six months but Mack is a repeat offender, a multiple repeat offender. And there is the little matter of that stolen car being used in a robbery.

That leaves it up to Mack’s wife Lindsay, played by Amanda Redman (New Tricks, Sexy Beast) to hold together the family and try to make a living. Tired of the police showing up nearly every day, Lindsay makes the bold proclamation that the family will go straight.

That is pretty near impossible.

Oh, they try.

honest_bbc5Lindsay holds down two jobs. The others give the illusion of being honest, but they really excel at low-level crime.

Son Vin is a perpetual screw up who somehow manages to come out ahead. Vin’s twin brother, Taylor, is the family’s golden boy and an attorney, whose family may be his biggest client. But Taylor got his high-level job by pretending to be a minority. The twins are played by Matthew McNulty.

Bubble-headed Laura Haddock plays daughter Kacie who is obsessed with becoming the new Naomi Campbell. Lianna (Eleanor Wyld) is the smart daughter, but she is blackmailing her school’s headmistress so she can skip school. Lianna wants to be a filmmaker and has a little scheme on the side; she also is a good little pickpocket.

And grandfather Norman Carter, played by Michael Byrne (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is an old-time safe cracker who is feigning Alzheimer’s because he’s lonely.

Honest’s six episodes are highly entertaining, an excellent way to fend off the onslaught of summer reruns.

PHOTOS: Top, Amanda Redman with Danny Webb; center, Michael Byrne and Eleanor Wyld; bottom, Amanda Redman. Photos courtesy of Acorn Media.

Oline Cogdill
2013-07-03 02:17:19

honest_bbc3
Honest. Acorn Media. DVD, 6 episodes, 2 discs. 281 minutes, plus bonus interviews. Blu-ray and DVD, $39.99


No one would mistake the Carters of being the typical TV family.

Each one, from the parents to the four children to the grandfather, is somehow involved with a few illegal enterprises.

They curse at each other, they get mad at each other and they irritate each other.

But there is real love among the Carters and their family bonds, no matter how odd, are tight.

The Carters are indeed a family of crooks and their attempts to go straight comprise the often hilarious and sometimes touching British comedy-drama series Honest.

honest_bbc2The six-part Honest, which aired in Great Britain in 2008, is a remake of Outrageous Fortune, a New Zealand series. It is now available on DVD from Acorn Media.

Crisp writing and realistic dialogue enhance Honest. But Honest’s best assets are its believable characters whose flaws keep us interested. They curse at each other, get mad but, in the end, they are a family that sticks together.

Honest is a fun romp with a family you’d like to have dinner with, as long as you watch your wallet.

Honest begins with patriarch Mack Carter, played by Danny Webb (Alien 3), being sent to prison for four years for stealing a car.

He, and the family, expected he would receive only six months but Mack is a repeat offender, a multiple repeat offender. And there is the little matter of that stolen car being used in a robbery.

That leaves it up to Mack’s wife Lindsay, played by Amanda Redman (New Tricks, Sexy Beast) to hold together the family and try to make a living. Tired of the police showing up nearly every day, Lindsay makes the bold proclamation that the family will go straight.

That is pretty near impossible.

Oh, they try.

honest_bbc5Lindsay holds down two jobs. The others give the illusion of being honest, but they really excel at low-level crime.

Son Vin is a perpetual screw up who somehow manages to come out ahead. Vin’s twin brother, Taylor, is the family’s golden boy and an attorney, whose family may be his biggest client. But Taylor got his high-level job by pretending to be a minority. The twins are played by Matthew McNulty.

Bubble-headed Laura Haddock plays daughter Kacie who is obsessed with becoming the new Naomi Campbell. Lianna (Eleanor Wyld) is the smart daughter, but she is blackmailing her school’s headmistress so she can skip school. Lianna wants to be a filmmaker and has a little scheme on the side; she also is a good little pickpocket.

And grandfather Norman Carter, played by Michael Byrne (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is an old-time safe cracker who is feigning Alzheimer’s because he’s lonely.

Honest’s six episodes are highly entertaining, an excellent way to fend off the onslaught of summer reruns.

PHOTOS: Top, Amanda Redman with Danny Webb; center, Michael Byrne and Eleanor Wyld; bottom, Amanda Redman. Photos courtesy of Acorn Media.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Film
Oline Cogdill

encyclopediabrown_books4
Is there any mystery fiction reader alive who has not heard of the Encyclopedia Brown series?

These wonderful stories were about Leroy Brown, the son of a local police chief in the fictional town of Idaville.

A smart boy with a wide range of knowledge, Leroy naturally was nicknamed Encyclopedia. His curiosity was a perfect fit for him to run his own detective agency out of the family garage.

Encyclopedia Brown’s agency helped neighborhood children solve cases for “25 cents per day, plus expenses - No case too small.”

Encyclopedia Brown often got assistance from his friend Sally Kimball, who also acted as his “bodyguard.”

encyclopediabrown_books3
And while Encyclopedia was the head of the agency, Sally held her own, especially against local bully Bugs Meany who often was the culprit in their investigations. Bugs committed many petty crimes.

Author Donald J. Sobol wrote 28 novels in the series, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, published in 1963. Sobol’s last novel in the series, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, was published in October 2012, three months after the author died from gastric lymphoma.

The Encyclopedia Brown novels have never been out of print and have been translated into 12 languages. The series also is popular with elementary school teachers as a way to encourage students to read. A 1995 study guide for use in the classroom was written by Duncan Searl, J. Friedland and Rikki Kessler.

The Mystery Writers of America honored Sobol and Encyclopedia Brown with a Special Edgar Award in 1976.

An Encyclopedia Brown daily and Sunday comic strip ran from Dec. 3, 1978, to Sept. 20, 1980. HBO premiered an Encyclopedia Brown series in 1989. The series lasted for 10 episodes, each 30 minutes, and featured Scott Bremner as Encyclopedia and Laura Bridge as Sally.

encyclopediabrown_books2
Through the years, a full-length Encyclopedia Brown film has been in the planning stages but nothing has ever happened.

Until now.

Perhaps.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Warner Bros is in final negotiations for movie rights to the Encyclopedia Brown children's book series, aiming for an adaptation to be produced by Roy Lee and Howard David Deutsch.”

I could so see this as a film that would appeal to children and adults as do the novels.

Let’s hope these “final negotiations” don’t end up as other plans have.

Apparently, director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law) was “attached” to a film version in the early 2000s and Ridley Scott also was interested at one point.

encyclopediabrown_books1
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. also looked at a film version of Encyclopedia Brown as a project for Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in the early 1980s.

Really?

Just because Foul Play worked doesn’t mean Chase and Hawn would work in Encyclopedia Brown. I mean, did anyone see Seems Like Old Times?

Perhaps what this needs is Encyclopedia Brown on the case: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Movie. My money’s on Sally.

Oline Cogdill
2013-09-01 02:52:50

encyclopediabrown_books4
Is there any mystery fiction reader alive who has not heard of the Encyclopedia Brown series?

These wonderful stories were about Leroy Brown, the son of a local police chief in the fictional town of Idaville.

A smart boy with a wide range of knowledge, Leroy naturally was nicknamed Encyclopedia. His curiosity was a perfect fit for him to run his own detective agency out of the family garage.

Encyclopedia Brown’s agency helped neighborhood children solve cases for “25 cents per day, plus expenses - No case too small.”

Encyclopedia Brown often got assistance from his friend Sally Kimball, who also acted as his “bodyguard.”

encyclopediabrown_books3
And while Encyclopedia was the head of the agency, Sally held her own, especially against local bully Bugs Meany who often was the culprit in their investigations. Bugs committed many petty crimes.

Author Donald J. Sobol wrote 28 novels in the series, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, published in 1963. Sobol’s last novel in the series, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, was published in October 2012, three months after the author died from gastric lymphoma.

The Encyclopedia Brown novels have never been out of print and have been translated into 12 languages. The series also is popular with elementary school teachers as a way to encourage students to read. A 1995 study guide for use in the classroom was written by Duncan Searl, J. Friedland and Rikki Kessler.

The Mystery Writers of America honored Sobol and Encyclopedia Brown with a Special Edgar Award in 1976.

An Encyclopedia Brown daily and Sunday comic strip ran from Dec. 3, 1978, to Sept. 20, 1980. HBO premiered an Encyclopedia Brown series in 1989. The series lasted for 10 episodes, each 30 minutes, and featured Scott Bremner as Encyclopedia and Laura Bridge as Sally.

encyclopediabrown_books2
Through the years, a full-length Encyclopedia Brown film has been in the planning stages but nothing has ever happened.

Until now.

Perhaps.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Warner Bros is in final negotiations for movie rights to the Encyclopedia Brown children's book series, aiming for an adaptation to be produced by Roy Lee and Howard David Deutsch.”

I could so see this as a film that would appeal to children and adults as do the novels.

Let’s hope these “final negotiations” don’t end up as other plans have.

Apparently, director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law) was “attached” to a film version in the early 2000s and Ridley Scott also was interested at one point.

encyclopediabrown_books1
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. also looked at a film version of Encyclopedia Brown as a project for Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in the early 1980s.

Really?

Just because Foul Play worked doesn’t mean Chase and Hawn would work in Encyclopedia Brown. I mean, did anyone see Seems Like Old Times?

Perhaps what this needs is Encyclopedia Brown on the case: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Movie. My money’s on Sally.

Chilling Effect of Mysteries
Oline Cogdill

hoagtami_9thgirl
This July is turning out to be one very hot month. Admittedly, South Florida has been a bit cooler than the western states, but it is still hot.

Meanwhile, I have been chilly and it has nothing to do with the low temperature we set the air conditioner.

Instead, it has everything to do with the novels I have been reading.

Mysteries often are set in an opposite season. That makes sense because when the temperature is rising, it is almost comforting to remember cold weather, and visa versa.

Tami Hoag’s The 9th Girl is set in Minnesota, an area known for its cold weather. But Hoag goes a further step. Minneapolis homicide cops Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska investigate a murder discovered on New Year’s Eve in The 9th Girl. Sam and Nikki have been investigating a serial killer whose crimes are committed on or near a holiday in the tri-state area. His latest victim is a teenage girl who attended school with Nikki’s son.

As I read Hoag’s novel, I could feel the chilling wind, the snow that blankets the ground and the temperature falling.

C.J. Box’s The Highway, which comes out later this month, also makes July almost the coldest month of the year. The Highway’s plot, which concerns a serial killer who is a long-haul trucker, is chilling enough. But the novel begins a few days before Thanksgiving as two sisters who live in Denver head out to spend the holiday with their father in Omaha, Neb. But first they want to take a detour to Montana. Brrr….

henrysara_coldlonelyplace
Minnesota also is the backdrop for the winter tale of William Kent Krueger’s Tamarack County. Set in northern Minnesota, Krueger’s novel has his ongoing series hero Cork O’Connor investigating the disappearance of a judge’s wife, whose abandoned car was found by a snowmobiler on a remote road in a blizzard.

With a title like A Cold and Lonely Place, the freeze factor is practically guaranteed. And Sara J. Henry makes the most of the season. In A Cold and Lonely Place opens with freelance writer Troy Chance photographing ice cutters on New York’s Saranac Lake as they prepare the ice palace that will grace the annual Winter Carnival near Lake Placid. But the work stops when the body of a man is found just below the ice’s surface.

Steve Hamilton’s Let It Burn is set near the end of summer, but summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is more like winter in some states. (My review of Let It Burn is here.)

Here is the opening of Hamilton’s excellent novel:

“Summers die hard in Paradise.

hamiltonsteve_letitburn
“The first time you live through it, and because this place still has the “MI” as part of the address, you might actually expect the summer to fade away slowly like it does below the bridge. Down there, on a crystal blue day in September, the sun shining hot and bright until it starts to go down, you might feel a slight note of coolness in the air, a note that makes you think of football and back-to-school and leaves turning and all those other bittersweet signs that the season is changing. Something so subtle you might even be forgiven for missing it the first time it happened. Especially if you didn’t want the summer to end.

"Up here, on the shores of Lake Superior, there’s a cold wind that gathers from the north and picks up weight as it builds its way across two hundred miles of open water, and then, on a late afternoon in August—hell, sometimes in July—that wind hits you square in the face and make its intention quite clear, no matter how much you might not like the message. Summer may not be one hundred percent done, not just yet, but it’s been mortally gutshot, and it’s only a matter of days until it’s gone.” (used with permission from Minotaur)

Of course, come winter many mystery novels will have readers sweating.

Oline Cogdill
2013-07-28 03:15:13

hoagtami_9thgirl
This July is turning out to be one very hot month. Admittedly, South Florida has been a bit cooler than the western states, but it is still hot.

Meanwhile, I have been chilly and it has nothing to do with the low temperature we set the air conditioner.

Instead, it has everything to do with the novels I have been reading.

Mysteries often are set in an opposite season. That makes sense because when the temperature is rising, it is almost comforting to remember cold weather, and visa versa.

Tami Hoag’s The 9th Girl is set in Minnesota, an area known for its cold weather. But Hoag goes a further step. Minneapolis homicide cops Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska investigate a murder discovered on New Year’s Eve in The 9th Girl. Sam and Nikki have been investigating a serial killer whose crimes are committed on or near a holiday in the tri-state area. His latest victim is a teenage girl who attended school with Nikki’s son.

As I read Hoag’s novel, I could feel the chilling wind, the snow that blankets the ground and the temperature falling.

C.J. Box’s The Highway, which comes out later this month, also makes July almost the coldest month of the year. The Highway’s plot, which concerns a serial killer who is a long-haul trucker, is chilling enough. But the novel begins a few days before Thanksgiving as two sisters who live in Denver head out to spend the holiday with their father in Omaha, Neb. But first they want to take a detour to Montana. Brrr….

henrysara_coldlonelyplace
Minnesota also is the backdrop for the winter tale of William Kent Krueger’s Tamarack County. Set in northern Minnesota, Krueger’s novel has his ongoing series hero Cork O’Connor investigating the disappearance of a judge’s wife, whose abandoned car was found by a snowmobiler on a remote road in a blizzard.

With a title like A Cold and Lonely Place, the freeze factor is practically guaranteed. And Sara J. Henry makes the most of the season. In A Cold and Lonely Place opens with freelance writer Troy Chance photographing ice cutters on New York’s Saranac Lake as they prepare the ice palace that will grace the annual Winter Carnival near Lake Placid. But the work stops when the body of a man is found just below the ice’s surface.

Steve Hamilton’s Let It Burn is set near the end of summer, but summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is more like winter in some states. (My review of Let It Burn is here.)

Here is the opening of Hamilton’s excellent novel:

“Summers die hard in Paradise.

hamiltonsteve_letitburn
“The first time you live through it, and because this place still has the “MI” as part of the address, you might actually expect the summer to fade away slowly like it does below the bridge. Down there, on a crystal blue day in September, the sun shining hot and bright until it starts to go down, you might feel a slight note of coolness in the air, a note that makes you think of football and back-to-school and leaves turning and all those other bittersweet signs that the season is changing. Something so subtle you might even be forgiven for missing it the first time it happened. Especially if you didn’t want the summer to end.

"Up here, on the shores of Lake Superior, there’s a cold wind that gathers from the north and picks up weight as it builds its way across two hundred miles of open water, and then, on a late afternoon in August—hell, sometimes in July—that wind hits you square in the face and make its intention quite clear, no matter how much you might not like the message. Summer may not be one hundred percent done, not just yet, but it’s been mortally gutshot, and it’s only a matter of days until it’s gone.” (used with permission from Minotaur)

Of course, come winter many mystery novels will have readers sweating.

Many Nominations, Many Awards
Oline Cogdill

searsmichael_blackfridays
Each year when award nominations come out, some authors’ works appear on a couple of different lists.

That’s understandable because these are talented authors with good books.

This year there seems to be even more overlap among the various nominees. Personally, I love it when authors on my best of the year list are nominated for several awards, as happens this year.

Please keep in mind, I am not making any predictions about who will win or who should win. There were many good books published last year, some of which are nominated for awards as well as numerous superb 2012 books not nominated in any category.

The Edgars were awarded May 2 and the Agathas were awarded May 4. The Thriller will be given during Thrillerfest July 10 to 13 in New York City. The Anthony, Shamus, Macavity, and the Barry will be given during Bouchercon, Sept. 19 to 22 in Albany, N.Y.

Here are the authors with the most nominations. If I have missed one, please let me know.

This year, two authors—Michael Sears and Hank Phillippi Ryan—tied for the most award nods with five each.

Sears’ excellent debut Black Fridays has been nominated for an Edgar, the Thriller, Anthony, the Barry and the Shamus. The only award Sears’ novel was not nominated for is the Macavity. In my review of Black Fridays, I said: “Michael Sears, who spent more than 20 years on Wall Street, delivers a thoughtful, intricate cautionary tale in his impressive debut about greed, mismanaged money and the thrill that the unscrupulous get from cheating the unsuspecting. . . . an excellent character study about a man coming to terms with his own limitations and trying to be a good father to a difficult, special-needs child.”ryanhankphillippi_otherwoman3

Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s The Other Woman picked up a Shamus, an Anthony, an Agatha, and a Macavity nods. She won the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award given during the Mystery Writers of America’s agents and editors party held May 1 during Edgar week. In my review of The Other Woman, I said “Politics, dirty campaigns and compromised candidates are a compelling plot foundation in any year, but especially in this presidential election year. The Other Woman works well as a political thriller and romantic suspense, delving into political and journalism ethics.”

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl took four nominations—Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity. Here’s what I said about Gone Girl: The “adage of no one knows what goes on behind closed doors moves the plot of . . . Flynn’s suspenseful psychological thriller. . . Flynn’s unpredictable plot careens down an emotional highway where [a] couple dissects their marriage with sharp acumen.”

Several authors earned three nominations. Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery won an Agatha and has been nominated for an Anthony and a Macavity.

Alison Gaylin’s And She Was also is a triple threat with the Shamus, the Thriller and an Anthony.

Owen Laukkanen’s debut The Professionals has a trio of awards—the Anthony, Thriller and Barry. My comments: “In his excellent debut, Owen Laukkanen mixes the economic downturn and a bleak job market for a suspenseful and insightful thriller about four out-of-work, newly graduated college friends who become kidnappers.”

Daniel Friedman’s Don’t Ever Get Old and Chris Pavone’s The Expats have each received Edgar, Macavity and Thriller nominations.

boyersusan_lowcountryboil
Some authors have double nominations.

Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night won the Edgar for best novel and also is up for a Barry. In my review, I said: “Live by Night goes beyond the life of crime, skirting that fine line between glorifying the illegal and showing the humanity behind even mobsters. In this 10th novel, Dennis Lehane examines our history, morality in an amoral world and what motivates some people to ‘live by night,’ making up their own rules as one character says.”

Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman won the Edgar for best paperback and is up for Macavity.

Susan M. Boyer’s Low Country Boil won the Agatha for best first novel and also is up for a Macavity.

Matthew Quirk’s The 500 received an Edgar nomination and is up for an Anthony. In a review for Mystery Scene, I said: “Former Atlantic reporter Matthew Quirk’s powerful debut [is] a high-concept thriller about the lure of power, money and corruption. The 500—the term refers to Washington’s 500 most powerful people—balances nonstop action with believable, appealing, easy to care about characters.”

Susan Elia MacNeal’s debut Mr. Churchill's Secretary received an Edgar nomination and is up for a Macavity. A profile of MacNeal is the current cover story for Mystery Scene.

These are all terrific authors whose novels deserve to be recognized. But I wonder. Does the recognition of the same authors come at the expense of diversity in the genre?

I'd like to know what our readers think. Please comment.

Oline Cogdill
2013-07-07 03:20:43

searsmichael_blackfridays
Each year when award nominations come out, some authors’ works appear on a couple of different lists.

That’s understandable because these are talented authors with good books.

This year there seems to be even more overlap among the various nominees. Personally, I love it when authors on my best of the year list are nominated for several awards, as happens this year.

Please keep in mind, I am not making any predictions about who will win or who should win. There were many good books published last year, some of which are nominated for awards as well as numerous superb 2012 books not nominated in any category.

The Edgars were awarded May 2 and the Agathas were awarded May 4. The Thriller will be given during Thrillerfest July 10 to 13 in New York City. The Anthony, Shamus, Macavity, and the Barry will be given during Bouchercon, Sept. 19 to 22 in Albany, N.Y.

Here are the authors with the most nominations. If I have missed one, please let me know.

This year, two authors—Michael Sears and Hank Phillippi Ryan—tied for the most award nods with five each.

Sears’ excellent debut Black Fridays has been nominated for an Edgar, the Thriller, Anthony, the Barry and the Shamus. The only award Sears’ novel was not nominated for is the Macavity. In my review of Black Fridays, I said: “Michael Sears, who spent more than 20 years on Wall Street, delivers a thoughtful, intricate cautionary tale in his impressive debut about greed, mismanaged money and the thrill that the unscrupulous get from cheating the unsuspecting. . . . an excellent character study about a man coming to terms with his own limitations and trying to be a good father to a difficult, special-needs child.”ryanhankphillippi_otherwoman3

Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s The Other Woman picked up a Shamus, an Anthony, an Agatha, and a Macavity nods. She won the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award given during the Mystery Writers of America’s agents and editors party held May 1 during Edgar week. In my review of The Other Woman, I said “Politics, dirty campaigns and compromised candidates are a compelling plot foundation in any year, but especially in this presidential election year. The Other Woman works well as a political thriller and romantic suspense, delving into political and journalism ethics.”

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl took four nominations—Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity. Here’s what I said about Gone Girl: The “adage of no one knows what goes on behind closed doors moves the plot of . . . Flynn’s suspenseful psychological thriller. . . Flynn’s unpredictable plot careens down an emotional highway where [a] couple dissects their marriage with sharp acumen.”

Several authors earned three nominations. Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery won an Agatha and has been nominated for an Anthony and a Macavity.

Alison Gaylin’s And She Was also is a triple threat with the Shamus, the Thriller and an Anthony.

Owen Laukkanen’s debut The Professionals has a trio of awards—the Anthony, Thriller and Barry. My comments: “In his excellent debut, Owen Laukkanen mixes the economic downturn and a bleak job market for a suspenseful and insightful thriller about four out-of-work, newly graduated college friends who become kidnappers.”

Daniel Friedman’s Don’t Ever Get Old and Chris Pavone’s The Expats have each received Edgar, Macavity and Thriller nominations.

boyersusan_lowcountryboil
Some authors have double nominations.

Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night won the Edgar for best novel and also is up for a Barry. In my review, I said: “Live by Night goes beyond the life of crime, skirting that fine line between glorifying the illegal and showing the humanity behind even mobsters. In this 10th novel, Dennis Lehane examines our history, morality in an amoral world and what motivates some people to ‘live by night,’ making up their own rules as one character says.”

Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman won the Edgar for best paperback and is up for Macavity.

Susan M. Boyer’s Low Country Boil won the Agatha for best first novel and also is up for a Macavity.

Matthew Quirk’s The 500 received an Edgar nomination and is up for an Anthony. In a review for Mystery Scene, I said: “Former Atlantic reporter Matthew Quirk’s powerful debut [is] a high-concept thriller about the lure of power, money and corruption. The 500—the term refers to Washington’s 500 most powerful people—balances nonstop action with believable, appealing, easy to care about characters.”

Susan Elia MacNeal’s debut Mr. Churchill's Secretary received an Edgar nomination and is up for a Macavity. A profile of MacNeal is the current cover story for Mystery Scene.

These are all terrific authors whose novels deserve to be recognized. But I wonder. Does the recognition of the same authors come at the expense of diversity in the genre?

I'd like to know what our readers think. Please comment.

Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold
Betty Webb

Real crimes committed by real people are central to Tim Chapman’s Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold. This beautifully structured first novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro, with three separate story lines leading to a stunning conclusion. During the Depression, the fictional Delroy, son of a Kentucky sharecropper, falls in with Ma Barker, her thieving sons, and the Alvin “Creepy” Karpis Gang. Goaded by extreme poverty and love for his beautiful wife Lucille, Delroy becomes a lookout for the real-life criminals until, revolted by their violence, he leaves them. The story line enters contemporary times with the torture-murders committed by Gilbert Anglin, a sadist on the trail of a cache of gold the Barker-Karpis Gang hid away before their crime spree ended. Ostensibly, the hero of this tale is Sean McKinney, the forensic scientist who has seen the results of Anglin’s blood-soaked gold prospecting, and believes that the wrong person has been accused of the grisly crimes. But it is Delroy who is the heart of this multilevel thriller. Delroy’s experiences in the Depression’s hobo jungles contrast great hardship with great compassion, and the pages describing the camps’ desperate inhabitants are reminiscent of Steinbeck. Still, this is a crime novel, and there are plenty of crimes to feast on. McKinney juggles a host of personal demons as he attempts to lead the police to the real killer (Anglin)—not the autistic man now sitting in a jail cell. A story this complex is hard to pull off, but author Chapman has the right stuff. A former forensic scientist himself, he knows that in a good novel crimes aren’t committed by cardboard characters, and they aren’t solved by them, either. The best fiction reveals great truths, and there are plenty to be had in Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold. My favorite comes from McKinney: “Law is man’s attempt to civilize society. Science is man’s attempt to reveal truth. Forensic science, then, is the intersection of civilization and truth.”

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 17:31:09

Real crimes committed by real people are central to Tim Chapman’s Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold. This beautifully structured first novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro, with three separate story lines leading to a stunning conclusion. During the Depression, the fictional Delroy, son of a Kentucky sharecropper, falls in with Ma Barker, her thieving sons, and the Alvin “Creepy” Karpis Gang. Goaded by extreme poverty and love for his beautiful wife Lucille, Delroy becomes a lookout for the real-life criminals until, revolted by their violence, he leaves them. The story line enters contemporary times with the torture-murders committed by Gilbert Anglin, a sadist on the trail of a cache of gold the Barker-Karpis Gang hid away before their crime spree ended. Ostensibly, the hero of this tale is Sean McKinney, the forensic scientist who has seen the results of Anglin’s blood-soaked gold prospecting, and believes that the wrong person has been accused of the grisly crimes. But it is Delroy who is the heart of this multilevel thriller. Delroy’s experiences in the Depression’s hobo jungles contrast great hardship with great compassion, and the pages describing the camps’ desperate inhabitants are reminiscent of Steinbeck. Still, this is a crime novel, and there are plenty of crimes to feast on. McKinney juggles a host of personal demons as he attempts to lead the police to the real killer (Anglin)—not the autistic man now sitting in a jail cell. A story this complex is hard to pull off, but author Chapman has the right stuff. A former forensic scientist himself, he knows that in a good novel crimes aren’t committed by cardboard characters, and they aren’t solved by them, either. The best fiction reveals great truths, and there are plenty to be had in Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold. My favorite comes from McKinney: “Law is man’s attempt to civilize society. Science is man’s attempt to reveal truth. Forensic science, then, is the intersection of civilization and truth.”

Signatures in Stone
Betty Webb

Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone takes us back to 1928 and the Italian countryside. Three literary Brits have subleased a centuries-old palazzo in hopes that the peace and quiet will foster their creativity. They are Daphne DuBlanc, a 50-year-old best-selling novelist; Nigel Havelon, her editor; and Clive Brentwood, her much-younger artist lover. Almost from the beginning, things fall apart. Daphne, addicted to hashish, can’t bring herself to write, and Clive, not the most faithful of lovers, flits from Daphne to Nigel, and then to Amelia, a mysterious, malicious maid. In between lusty trysts—one described in eyebrow-raising detail—Daphne allows Dr. Bridgestone, the British antiquarian who subleased the palazzo to the trio, to educate her about the spooky Sacred Wood, a garden comprised of pagan statuary. Murder, of course, ensues. Written in an elegant, relaxed style, with a plot that peels back slowly, the book bewitches and aggravates by turn. It bewitches because of its similarity to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but aggravates because Daphne doesn’t have enough sense to flee the palazzo the second time someone tries to kill her. But this temporary lapse into Gothic heroine stereotype is ultimately forgivable when we learn the reason for her inaction. And regardless of her flaws (drugs, sexual laxity, and plain old garden-variety laziness), Daphne makes a fine protagonist. She’s intelligent, sensitive, and brave despite herself. Too bad she has such lousy taste in men.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 17:41:24

Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone takes us back to 1928 and the Italian countryside. Three literary Brits have subleased a centuries-old palazzo in hopes that the peace and quiet will foster their creativity. They are Daphne DuBlanc, a 50-year-old best-selling novelist; Nigel Havelon, her editor; and Clive Brentwood, her much-younger artist lover. Almost from the beginning, things fall apart. Daphne, addicted to hashish, can’t bring herself to write, and Clive, not the most faithful of lovers, flits from Daphne to Nigel, and then to Amelia, a mysterious, malicious maid. In between lusty trysts—one described in eyebrow-raising detail—Daphne allows Dr. Bridgestone, the British antiquarian who subleased the palazzo to the trio, to educate her about the spooky Sacred Wood, a garden comprised of pagan statuary. Murder, of course, ensues. Written in an elegant, relaxed style, with a plot that peels back slowly, the book bewitches and aggravates by turn. It bewitches because of its similarity to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but aggravates because Daphne doesn’t have enough sense to flee the palazzo the second time someone tries to kill her. But this temporary lapse into Gothic heroine stereotype is ultimately forgivable when we learn the reason for her inaction. And regardless of her flaws (drugs, sexual laxity, and plain old garden-variety laziness), Daphne makes a fine protagonist. She’s intelligent, sensitive, and brave despite herself. Too bad she has such lousy taste in men.

The Bone Man
Betty Webb

Although some plot elements are gruesome in Wolf Haas’ The Bone Man, this odd little mystery (166 pages) is a sure-fire cure for boredom. Austrian detective Simon Brenner (after Brenner and God), has been called in by the manager of a popular fried chicken restaurant to solve a number of disappearances. Among the vanished are the restaurant’s manager, an artist, a prostitute, and the minor league soccer star who makes extra money by disposing of the restaurant’s chicken bones in a monstrous grinding machine. While it doesn’t take a Hercule Poirot to figure out where at least one of the missing people wound up, the whodunit and whydunit make for appetizing (sorry) reading. Along the way, we learn that our wry, sly, tongue-in-cheek narrator is God—yes, the holy one Himself. Well! And God wants us to know certain things: how to properly cook a frankfurter (we’re doing it all wrong, He admonishes), the appalling state of modern art (God has no patience with it), and how to make money off elderly tourists in Slovenia (God doesn’t disapprove of making a living). Not that God doesn’t care about the complexities of Man’s interior life; the holy one also treats us to a Hamlet-like soliloquy on the fine art of brooding. Unique, bizarre, and hilarious, this book is a treat, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for after- dinner reading. All I can say is that the Almighty must have a cast-iron stomach.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 17:47:18

Although some plot elements are gruesome in Wolf Haas’ The Bone Man, this odd little mystery (166 pages) is a sure-fire cure for boredom. Austrian detective Simon Brenner (after Brenner and God), has been called in by the manager of a popular fried chicken restaurant to solve a number of disappearances. Among the vanished are the restaurant’s manager, an artist, a prostitute, and the minor league soccer star who makes extra money by disposing of the restaurant’s chicken bones in a monstrous grinding machine. While it doesn’t take a Hercule Poirot to figure out where at least one of the missing people wound up, the whodunit and whydunit make for appetizing (sorry) reading. Along the way, we learn that our wry, sly, tongue-in-cheek narrator is God—yes, the holy one Himself. Well! And God wants us to know certain things: how to properly cook a frankfurter (we’re doing it all wrong, He admonishes), the appalling state of modern art (God has no patience with it), and how to make money off elderly tourists in Slovenia (God doesn’t disapprove of making a living). Not that God doesn’t care about the complexities of Man’s interior life; the holy one also treats us to a Hamlet-like soliloquy on the fine art of brooding. Unique, bizarre, and hilarious, this book is a treat, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for after- dinner reading. All I can say is that the Almighty must have a cast-iron stomach.

The King’s Jar
Betty Webb

Susan C. Shea’s The King’s Jar, the second in the Dani O’Rourke series (after Murder in the Abstract), finds the Devor Museum fundraiser attempting to solve the murder of anthropologist Dr. Rene Bouvier. Years earlier, he had unearthed a priceless African jar dating back to the 13th century, which he then brought back to the US for safekeeping. As the book opens, the jar is to be formally donated to the museum during a glitzy gala. Unfortunately, Dr. Bouvier’s murder threatens to derail the event. In tony soirées ranging from San Francisco to New York, Dani hobnobs with the flotsam and jetsam of the art-loving financial elite: shifty billionaires, African ambassadors, and other moneyed riffraff as she prepares the ground for the jar’s great unveiling. Along the way, she has to avoid the unwelcome attentions of her wealthy ex-husband Dickie, whom she divorced after finding him cavorting with a lingerie model. The King’s Jar is great fun, an easy novel to like, although at times it reads more like a social calendar than a mystery, and contains more chitchat than action. But Dani makes for an engaging protagonist; she’s a woman who loves art even more than she loves clothes—which is quite a bit. Dani is also a keen observer of the human condition, and knows the difference between substance and fluff. Watching her thread her way through crowds of billionaires and mere millionaires is fine entertainment.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 17:51:45

Susan C. Shea’s The King’s Jar, the second in the Dani O’Rourke series (after Murder in the Abstract), finds the Devor Museum fundraiser attempting to solve the murder of anthropologist Dr. Rene Bouvier. Years earlier, he had unearthed a priceless African jar dating back to the 13th century, which he then brought back to the US for safekeeping. As the book opens, the jar is to be formally donated to the museum during a glitzy gala. Unfortunately, Dr. Bouvier’s murder threatens to derail the event. In tony soirées ranging from San Francisco to New York, Dani hobnobs with the flotsam and jetsam of the art-loving financial elite: shifty billionaires, African ambassadors, and other moneyed riffraff as she prepares the ground for the jar’s great unveiling. Along the way, she has to avoid the unwelcome attentions of her wealthy ex-husband Dickie, whom she divorced after finding him cavorting with a lingerie model. The King’s Jar is great fun, an easy novel to like, although at times it reads more like a social calendar than a mystery, and contains more chitchat than action. But Dani makes for an engaging protagonist; she’s a woman who loves art even more than she loves clothes—which is quite a bit. Dani is also a keen observer of the human condition, and knows the difference between substance and fluff. Watching her thread her way through crowds of billionaires and mere millionaires is fine entertainment.

Saving Laura
Sharon Magee

It’s 1979, and in Jim Satterfield’s latest thriller, Saving Laura, 21-year-old Lee Shelby discovers his ex-girlfriend Laura has taken up with Aspen, Colorado’s most notorious drug dealer. Tom Tucker has not only addicted Laura to cocaine but is abusing her and allowing friends to abuse her as well. In a half-baked plan, Shelby decides to rescue her and take down the infamous Tucker. He jumps on his metaphorical white steed, robs Tucker of five kilos of Peruvian flake and $75,000 in cash, and heads for the hinterlands of Wyoming to hide out, utilizing his well-honed survivalist skills, until the furor dies down. Then he plans to return to Aspen, whisk Laura away, and live happily ever after. Not so fast. Much too soon, he discovers he’s a wanted man and heads back to Colorado to rescue the fair maiden. As he hikes, hitches rides, and dodges Wyoming and Colorado cops, good and bad, he encounters a slew of obstacles, including a gun-happy teenage couple, and a reserve deputy who is out to prove he deserves to be a “real” deputy.

Satterfield draws unforgettable characters: the cagey old hermit who’s willing to take on the law, a cross-eyed self-taught pilot with no license, a novelist with a string of ex-wives, and Jaws, a huge black beast of a dog, rescued from an animal shelter. Even Satterfield’s minor characters are memorable. While the ending may be a bit predictable, it’s satisfying, and the book as a whole is an enjoyable read.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 17:56:36

It’s 1979, and in Jim Satterfield’s latest thriller, Saving Laura, 21-year-old Lee Shelby discovers his ex-girlfriend Laura has taken up with Aspen, Colorado’s most notorious drug dealer. Tom Tucker has not only addicted Laura to cocaine but is abusing her and allowing friends to abuse her as well. In a half-baked plan, Shelby decides to rescue her and take down the infamous Tucker. He jumps on his metaphorical white steed, robs Tucker of five kilos of Peruvian flake and $75,000 in cash, and heads for the hinterlands of Wyoming to hide out, utilizing his well-honed survivalist skills, until the furor dies down. Then he plans to return to Aspen, whisk Laura away, and live happily ever after. Not so fast. Much too soon, he discovers he’s a wanted man and heads back to Colorado to rescue the fair maiden. As he hikes, hitches rides, and dodges Wyoming and Colorado cops, good and bad, he encounters a slew of obstacles, including a gun-happy teenage couple, and a reserve deputy who is out to prove he deserves to be a “real” deputy.

Satterfield draws unforgettable characters: the cagey old hermit who’s willing to take on the law, a cross-eyed self-taught pilot with no license, a novelist with a string of ex-wives, and Jaws, a huge black beast of a dog, rescued from an animal shelter. Even Satterfield’s minor characters are memorable. While the ending may be a bit predictable, it’s satisfying, and the book as a whole is an enjoyable read.

Bottom Line
Sharon Magee

In Bottom Line by Marc Davis, Nick Blake has almost reached the top. He’s senior managing partner at Martell and Company, a multinational business consulting firm, second only to the charismatic but megalomaniacal CEO and founder, Adrian Martell. Blake earns an obscene salary, receives high-value perks, and enjoys the company of a beautiful and successful girlfriend. But, it’s 2001 and the economy is tanking big time. As Martell and Company struggles to staunch the red ink on its blue-chip clients’ bottom line, it’s beginning to affect their own; they’re losing clients and are unable to replace them. When Adrian Martell is indicted for insider trading, he turns the reins over to Blake, who discovers the company has been employing creative (read fraudulent) accounting practices, not only on their own, but their clients’ financial statements as well. When Martell refuses to stop the fraud, Blake resigns then discovers that Martell has taken off along with $100 million from the partners’ special fund, $10 million of it Blake’s. He hires a PI, whom he then joins on the hunt for both Martell and the money.

Davis, a financial journalist and columnist, paints a vivid picture of white-collar crime and the machinations—good and bad—that take place behind boardroom doors, all the while educating the reader about the business world. The first half of this noirish financial thriller is compelling. It’s only when Blake turns PI and sets out to find Martell and the $100 million that this otherwise excellent novel loses some of its steam. Blake comes across as whiney and needy as he bullies the PI he has hired into letting him join the chase, which he eventually takes charge of. Davis, however, redeems himself with a fast-paced and exciting climax.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:01:00

In Bottom Line by Marc Davis, Nick Blake has almost reached the top. He’s senior managing partner at Martell and Company, a multinational business consulting firm, second only to the charismatic but megalomaniacal CEO and founder, Adrian Martell. Blake earns an obscene salary, receives high-value perks, and enjoys the company of a beautiful and successful girlfriend. But, it’s 2001 and the economy is tanking big time. As Martell and Company struggles to staunch the red ink on its blue-chip clients’ bottom line, it’s beginning to affect their own; they’re losing clients and are unable to replace them. When Adrian Martell is indicted for insider trading, he turns the reins over to Blake, who discovers the company has been employing creative (read fraudulent) accounting practices, not only on their own, but their clients’ financial statements as well. When Martell refuses to stop the fraud, Blake resigns then discovers that Martell has taken off along with $100 million from the partners’ special fund, $10 million of it Blake’s. He hires a PI, whom he then joins on the hunt for both Martell and the money.

Davis, a financial journalist and columnist, paints a vivid picture of white-collar crime and the machinations—good and bad—that take place behind boardroom doors, all the while educating the reader about the business world. The first half of this noirish financial thriller is compelling. It’s only when Blake turns PI and sets out to find Martell and the $100 million that this otherwise excellent novel loses some of its steam. Blake comes across as whiney and needy as he bullies the PI he has hired into letting him join the chase, which he eventually takes charge of. Davis, however, redeems himself with a fast-paced and exciting climax.

Screwed
Sharon Magee

Daniel McEvoy is back in Screwed by Eoin Colfer, and all is as well as it can be in his strange world. Now a budding club owner in Cloister, New Jersey, he’s romancing the beautiful, deeply disturbed Sofia. His deadly feud with Irish gangster Mike Madden is on low simmer since Madden’s mother has ordered her son not to kill McEvoy. Then Mama dies and the gloves come off. Two bad cops kidnap him for a snuff vid that stars a red sequined thong, he’s dumped in the Hudson River encased in a cab, and his grandmother—well, suffice it to say they’re not baking chocolate chip cookies in her cozy little kitchen. It’s time for McEvoy to once again clean up his world before those he loves become victims.

Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride. Author of the highly popular and successful Artemis Fowl series, Colfer’s words spew from the page at 110 miles per hour. He claims he wants to be a cartoonist, and that comes through clearly. Dialogue bubbles with “Bam,” “Pow,” and “Zonk” seem to hover over his characters’ heads. And what characters they are—quirky, weird, and, yes, cartoonish. If readers can find their way through Colfer’s sometimes rambling prose, this mostly gritty, sometimes comic crime novel will surely please.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:05:38

Daniel McEvoy is back in Screwed by Eoin Colfer, and all is as well as it can be in his strange world. Now a budding club owner in Cloister, New Jersey, he’s romancing the beautiful, deeply disturbed Sofia. His deadly feud with Irish gangster Mike Madden is on low simmer since Madden’s mother has ordered her son not to kill McEvoy. Then Mama dies and the gloves come off. Two bad cops kidnap him for a snuff vid that stars a red sequined thong, he’s dumped in the Hudson River encased in a cab, and his grandmother—well, suffice it to say they’re not baking chocolate chip cookies in her cozy little kitchen. It’s time for McEvoy to once again clean up his world before those he loves become victims.

Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride. Author of the highly popular and successful Artemis Fowl series, Colfer’s words spew from the page at 110 miles per hour. He claims he wants to be a cartoonist, and that comes through clearly. Dialogue bubbles with “Bam,” “Pow,” and “Zonk” seem to hover over his characters’ heads. And what characters they are—quirky, weird, and, yes, cartoonish. If readers can find their way through Colfer’s sometimes rambling prose, this mostly gritty, sometimes comic crime novel will surely please.

Assaulted Pretzel
Lynne Maxwell

Laura Bradford released her initial Amish Mystery just last year, and she is clearly on to something. Assaulted Pretzel, the second installment in this enjoyable romantic cozy series, again features Claire Weatherly, a gift-shop owner who has relocated from the city to bucolic Heavenly, Pennsylvania, nestled deep in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Originally lured to Heavenly by her Aunt Diane, proprietor of the town’s proud inn, Claire has fallen in love with it—and, problematically, with two of its inhabitants. The objects of her affection are Detective Jakob Fisher and gentle Benjamin Miller, a man who hews to Amish traditions. When an internationally famous toy manufacturer visits Heavenly, promising to create a new line of toys based on the Amish simplicity of design, the townsfolk rejoice at the prospect of new jobs for the area. Joy turns to betrayal, however, when the company reneges on its offer, instead attempting to appropriate the toy designs and mass produce the products elsewhere. Matters become even more dire when the manufacturer is murdered. Is it possible that someone from the Amish community could be culpable? Bradford weaves the plot around traditional Amish culture and folkways, presenting many unexpected complexities in this thoughtful book. Perhaps most complicated of all, though, is Claire’s romantic vacillation.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:16:39

Laura Bradford released her initial Amish Mystery just last year, and she is clearly on to something. Assaulted Pretzel, the second installment in this enjoyable romantic cozy series, again features Claire Weatherly, a gift-shop owner who has relocated from the city to bucolic Heavenly, Pennsylvania, nestled deep in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Originally lured to Heavenly by her Aunt Diane, proprietor of the town’s proud inn, Claire has fallen in love with it—and, problematically, with two of its inhabitants. The objects of her affection are Detective Jakob Fisher and gentle Benjamin Miller, a man who hews to Amish traditions. When an internationally famous toy manufacturer visits Heavenly, promising to create a new line of toys based on the Amish simplicity of design, the townsfolk rejoice at the prospect of new jobs for the area. Joy turns to betrayal, however, when the company reneges on its offer, instead attempting to appropriate the toy designs and mass produce the products elsewhere. Matters become even more dire when the manufacturer is murdered. Is it possible that someone from the Amish community could be culpable? Bradford weaves the plot around traditional Amish culture and folkways, presenting many unexpected complexities in this thoughtful book. Perhaps most complicated of all, though, is Claire’s romantic vacillation.

That Old Flame of Mine
Lynne Maxwell

That Old Flame of Mine, written by J. J. Cook, otherwise known as Jim and Joyce LaVerne, is a hot book in store for the season. When Chicago firefighter Stella Griffin is injured on the job and, to add insult to injury, discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she is decidedly ready for a change, which is how she ends up as temporary fire chief in Sweet Pepper, Tennessee, a town located in the Great Smokies (pun intended?). She is hired to train firefighters to staff the town’s long dormant volunteer fire company. Stella experiences extraordinary success in recruiting and training her team, but the company’s prowess is mightily tested as mysterious, deadly fires beset the community, as they had of yore. Stella recognizes arson when she sees it, and she certainly doesn’t believe in coincidence of this magnitude, so she proceeds to investigate. Fortunately, she has the perfect partner in crime-solving—the ghost of former fire chief Eric Gamblyn, who also died mysteriously and inexplicably in a fire. Sounds preposterous? But wait; there’s more. The other major plot strand in the novel involves secrets surrounding Stella’s family, in particular, those emanating from the actions of her grandfather, whom she has never met. Suffice it to say that Sweet Pepper provides the backdrop for an unusual family reunion. Remarkably, despite the unusual and improbable character and plot devices, That Old Flame of Mine actually works—in fact, the LaVernes have done a masterful job. But now for the verdict. Should temporary fire chief Stella Griffin stay, or should she go? The answer is by no means a mystery, as the LaVernes create the sparks of the next Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mystery from the embers of this one.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:26:17

That Old Flame of Mine, written by J. J. Cook, otherwise known as Jim and Joyce LaVerne, is a hot book in store for the season. When Chicago firefighter Stella Griffin is injured on the job and, to add insult to injury, discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she is decidedly ready for a change, which is how she ends up as temporary fire chief in Sweet Pepper, Tennessee, a town located in the Great Smokies (pun intended?). She is hired to train firefighters to staff the town’s long dormant volunteer fire company. Stella experiences extraordinary success in recruiting and training her team, but the company’s prowess is mightily tested as mysterious, deadly fires beset the community, as they had of yore. Stella recognizes arson when she sees it, and she certainly doesn’t believe in coincidence of this magnitude, so she proceeds to investigate. Fortunately, she has the perfect partner in crime-solving—the ghost of former fire chief Eric Gamblyn, who also died mysteriously and inexplicably in a fire. Sounds preposterous? But wait; there’s more. The other major plot strand in the novel involves secrets surrounding Stella’s family, in particular, those emanating from the actions of her grandfather, whom she has never met. Suffice it to say that Sweet Pepper provides the backdrop for an unusual family reunion. Remarkably, despite the unusual and improbable character and plot devices, That Old Flame of Mine actually works—in fact, the LaVernes have done a masterful job. But now for the verdict. Should temporary fire chief Stella Griffin stay, or should she go? The answer is by no means a mystery, as the LaVernes create the sparks of the next Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mystery from the embers of this one.

Kneading to Die
Lynne Maxwell

Kneading to Die is the first in Liz Mugavero’s Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. Newcomer Mugavero takes us back to more familiar terrain with this “pet mystery.” In this fine first novel, the characters ring true, and the plot and narration are seamless. The series protagonist is Stan (short for Kristan) Connor, a recently downsized corporate communications specialist from Chicago. After she is unexpectedly ejected from her hitherto fabulously successful career, Stan falls in love with a house in small-town, rural Frog Ledge, and with her generous severance package is able to purchase the property outright. When she moves to the country, Stan doesn’t know quite what to expect, but she certainly doesn’t expect to stumble upon the corpse of the town vet when she first brings her cat to the veterinary clinic. As has already become evident to her, though, wars over animal care are rife in the town. What is the best means of nurturing and treating animals? Traditional veterinary medicine? Homeopathic animal medicine? Stan enters the fray with convictions of her own: she espouses the use of organic products for pet treats, and she cooks wholesome meals for her cat, Nutty. In fact, now that Stan has been liberated from her high-pressure job, she has time to pursue an endeavor that she truly loves: a business baking organic pet treats. Encouraged to peddle her wares at a local farmers market, Stan’s treats are an instant hit. Animals devour them and come begging for more. Unfortunately, however, several animals become ill and Stan’s treats are blamed for poisoning the pets. Clearly, this can’t be true, since her own cat thrives on the treats and has eaten samples from the batches in question. What to do? Stan sets out to vindicate herself by doing a bit of detecting. In the course of exonerating herself, she solves the murder and other attendant crimes, thus contributing to the welfare of the town and its animals. Best of all, she embraces her new way of life. Animal lovers and cozy readers, rejoice!

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:36:36

Kneading to Die is the first in Liz Mugavero’s Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. Newcomer Mugavero takes us back to more familiar terrain with this “pet mystery.” In this fine first novel, the characters ring true, and the plot and narration are seamless. The series protagonist is Stan (short for Kristan) Connor, a recently downsized corporate communications specialist from Chicago. After she is unexpectedly ejected from her hitherto fabulously successful career, Stan falls in love with a house in small-town, rural Frog Ledge, and with her generous severance package is able to purchase the property outright. When she moves to the country, Stan doesn’t know quite what to expect, but she certainly doesn’t expect to stumble upon the corpse of the town vet when she first brings her cat to the veterinary clinic. As has already become evident to her, though, wars over animal care are rife in the town. What is the best means of nurturing and treating animals? Traditional veterinary medicine? Homeopathic animal medicine? Stan enters the fray with convictions of her own: she espouses the use of organic products for pet treats, and she cooks wholesome meals for her cat, Nutty. In fact, now that Stan has been liberated from her high-pressure job, she has time to pursue an endeavor that she truly loves: a business baking organic pet treats. Encouraged to peddle her wares at a local farmers market, Stan’s treats are an instant hit. Animals devour them and come begging for more. Unfortunately, however, several animals become ill and Stan’s treats are blamed for poisoning the pets. Clearly, this can’t be true, since her own cat thrives on the treats and has eaten samples from the batches in question. What to do? Stan sets out to vindicate herself by doing a bit of detecting. In the course of exonerating herself, she solves the murder and other attendant crimes, thus contributing to the welfare of the town and its animals. Best of all, she embraces her new way of life. Animal lovers and cozy readers, rejoice!

The Outsider
Hank Wagner

In The Outsider, Chris Culver’s series character, Indianapolis police Detective Ash Rashid, receives an unsolicited tip about an apparent homicide involving a family friend, Cassandra. Ash launches what amounts to a personal investigation, as no police reports have been filed, and witnesses are scarce and uncommunicative. It even takes several hours to locate the corpse.

As his investigation proceeds, Ash comes to realize that an entire neighboring precinct seems to be aligned against him, anxious to hide the details behind Cassandra’s death, which seems to have some connection to a high-profile case his unit, the prosecutor’s office, is currently readying for trial. The secrets he uncovers come at a painful cost, threatening his standing in the community, his job, his family, his mental stability, and, perhaps, his life.

The book’s title resonates, as Ash is on the outside of, or on the outs with, almost every community or group he encounters during his investigation. A Muslim American, he’s familiar with being labeled as an “other,” but that familiarity doesn’t help him to cope with the stress of his job. Culver does a terrific job of depicting Ash’s personal struggles, from his borderline alcoholism to his guilt at neglecting his family and his spiritual life. He’s a character that readers can easily identify with, which makes it all the more harrowing when they realize their hero might not emerge from his struggles unscathed.

Teri Duerr
2013-07-04 18:45:23

In The Outsider, Chris Culver’s series character, Indianapolis police Detective Ash Rashid, receives an unsolicited tip about an apparent homicide involving a family friend, Cassandra. Ash launches what amounts to a personal investigation, as no police reports have been filed, and witnesses are scarce and uncommunicative. It even takes several hours to locate the corpse.

As his investigation proceeds, Ash comes to realize that an entire neighboring precinct seems to be aligned against him, anxious to hide the details behind Cassandra’s death, which seems to have some connection to a high-profile case his unit, the prosecutor’s office, is currently readying for trial. The secrets he uncovers come at a painful cost, threatening his standing in the community, his job, his family, his mental stability, and, perhaps, his life.

The book’s title resonates, as Ash is on the outside of, or on the outs with, almost every community or group he encounters during his investigation. A Muslim American, he’s familiar with being labeled as an “other,” but that familiarity doesn’t help him to cope with the stress of his job. Culver does a terrific job of depicting Ash’s personal struggles, from his borderline alcoholism to his guilt at neglecting his family and his spiritual life. He’s a character that readers can easily identify with, which makes it all the more harrowing when they realize their hero might not emerge from his struggles unscathed.