Inherit the Dead
Kevin Burton Smith

Inherit the Dead is another of those sprawling, episodic, collaborative mystery efforts so popular of late (following, as it does, the similar No Rest for the Dead from 2011), perpetrated by the usual suspects (some A-listers, a bunch of crowd-pleasing mid-listers, and a few outliers), but this one is actually a private-eye novel, with the writing divvied up between Mary Higgins Clark, John Connolly, Charlaine Harris, C.J. Box, Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Val McDermid, S.J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. There’s an intro by Lee Child, and the whole thing was edited by Jonathan Santlofer.

The private eye is Perry Christo, a divorced dad and one-time NYPD homicide cop who’s been running on fumes (and parental guilt) since a corruption scandal cost him his career, his marriage, and, most importantly, time with his beloved daughter Nicky.

So when a loaded Upper East Side matron Julia Drusilla offers a load of cash for what seems like a no-brainer wandering-daughter job Perry jumps at the chance.

But tracking down the 20-year-old heiress Angel isn’t quite the slam-dunk he expected—it turns out everyone has a different reason for finding the troublesome party girl—or making sure she’s never found.

By their very nature, these sorts of multiple-author efforts are a mixed bag, the rough edges of any distinct personal style sanded away, smoothed out to better serve the project as a whole. Meanwhile, criticism of any fuzzy bits or narrative inconsistencies are generally considered bad form, to be hopefully glossed over by the fact the whole exercise is to benefit some charity or another—in this case Santlofer has arranged to donate any royalties in excess of editor and contributor compensation to Safe Horizon, a provider of services to victims of violence and abuse.

But writing is a solitary profession. Rarely do collaborations, never mind 20-member committees, deliver the sort of authorial magic readers crave. The payoff here—handled by master plotter Block—is satisfying enough, and you can almost see his style poking through, but by then, it’s too little, too late. Which is disappointing, given how much I love some of these authors, including Block. I think I’d have preferred 20 short stories about the same character by those authors (in their own voices).

So, a noble cause indeed, but just between you and me, this works better as a cause than a story.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 30 September 2013 04:09

Inherit the Dead is another of those sprawling, episodic, collaborative mystery efforts so popular of late (following, as it does, the similar No Rest for the Dead from 2011), perpetrated by the usual suspects (some A-listers, a bunch of crowd-pleasing mid-listers, and a few outliers), but this one is actually a private-eye novel, with the writing divvied up between Mary Higgins Clark, John Connolly, Charlaine Harris, C.J. Box, Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Val McDermid, S.J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. There’s an intro by Lee Child, and the whole thing was edited by Jonathan Santlofer.

The private eye is Perry Christo, a divorced dad and one-time NYPD homicide cop who’s been running on fumes (and parental guilt) since a corruption scandal cost him his career, his marriage, and, most importantly, time with his beloved daughter Nicky.

So when a loaded Upper East Side matron Julia Drusilla offers a load of cash for what seems like a no-brainer wandering-daughter job Perry jumps at the chance.

But tracking down the 20-year-old heiress Angel isn’t quite the slam-dunk he expected—it turns out everyone has a different reason for finding the troublesome party girl—or making sure she’s never found.

By their very nature, these sorts of multiple-author efforts are a mixed bag, the rough edges of any distinct personal style sanded away, smoothed out to better serve the project as a whole. Meanwhile, criticism of any fuzzy bits or narrative inconsistencies are generally considered bad form, to be hopefully glossed over by the fact the whole exercise is to benefit some charity or another—in this case Santlofer has arranged to donate any royalties in excess of editor and contributor compensation to Safe Horizon, a provider of services to victims of violence and abuse.

But writing is a solitary profession. Rarely do collaborations, never mind 20-member committees, deliver the sort of authorial magic readers crave. The payoff here—handled by master plotter Block—is satisfying enough, and you can almost see his style poking through, but by then, it’s too little, too late. Which is disappointing, given how much I love some of these authors, including Block. I think I’d have preferred 20 short stories about the same character by those authors (in their own voices).

So, a noble cause indeed, but just between you and me, this works better as a cause than a story.

The Dead and the Beautiful
Sue Emmons

Cheryl Crane returns with her third Hollywood adventure for Nikki Harper, real estate agent to the stars. Harper has an inside track, of course, since she is the daughter of Victoria Bordeaux, a legendary star whose femme fatale roles date to the golden age of movies.

In fact, the action begins at Victoria’s lavish estate when Nikki meets Ryan Melton, the stay-at-home husband of TV star Diara Elliott, who works for a soap in which Bordeaux also stars. Three days later, Melton is found dead by dog walker Alison Sahira, the sister of Nikki’s boyfriend, who soon becomes the prime suspect in the killing since Melton was strangled by a dog leash. Nikki, with her bona fide entrée into the high-end homes of her clientele, has exclusive sleuthing opportunities—much to the exasperation of the lead detective on the case, who is not too enthused to find her enmeshed in one of his cases, again.

Crane offers an awesome account of Hollywood rivalries, between both hot young stars and veteran actresses still harboring decades-long jealousies. And so she should, as the daughter of Lana Turner, a real Hollywood diva. She tucks all this neatly into a compelling murder plot, replete with red herrings, secret tapes, a suspicious phone call, romance, glitz, and a clever solution to the killing. Crane’s latest, just as with her first two Nikki Harper cozies, The Bad Always Die Twice and Imitation of Life, also cleverly hints at her relationship with Turner using plays on the titles of her mother’s classic noir films.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 30 September 2013 09:09

Cheryl Crane pens mysteries featuring the entertaining—and deadly—rivalries of Hollywood.

Detroit Shuffle
Vanessa Orr

While Detroit Shuffle is billed as a mystery on its cover, it is just as much a history lesson about the burgeoning car industry, the women’s suffrage movement, and the backdoor political dealings that helped to build Motor City. It’s both an interesting look at a bygone era and an enjoyable ride.

When car factory heir Will Anderson thwarts the intended murder of his lover, Elizabeth Hume, at a women’s suffrage rally, one would think he would be hailed as a hero. But because no one saw the would-be assassin, everyone, including Elizabeth, believes that Will hallucinated the incident as a side effect of a recent radium treatment he received at Eloise Hospital. While the details of that event, which took place in Johnson’s third novel, Detroit Breakdown, are only alluded to in this book, the fact that Will continues to suffer from blackouts and headaches makes it difficult for him to be exactly sure of what is real and what is not, lending a Hitchcockian air to the story.

While trying to protect Elizabeth and prove his sanity, Will discovers that the head of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA), who is working to defeat the passage of a women’s suffrage amendment, may in fact be part of the assassination attempt on Elizabeth. Will begins his own investigation into the MLBA’s shady dealings, which requires him to break back into Eloise Hospital. The fact that he asks two schizophrenic young men to help him in this burglary, and trusts his life to a woman who once tried to kill him, makes the reader begin to question Will’s sanity as well.

All of this intrigue is set in the city of Detroit in the fall of 1912, and D. E. Johnson, a history buff, captures the essence of the gritty, blue-collar setting perfectly, from the single-purpose “gasoline stations” that are sprouting up on every other corner to the overpriced DUR trolley that costs a nickel to ride. The reader may empathize with Will’s annoyance that gas costs 30 cents a gallon.

Tensions run high between the poor and the wealthy, and especially between the women who want the right to vote and the old-boys’ network that wants to shut them down. While the pace of the action is a little slower than in more modern murder mysteries—Will has to charge up the Detroit Electric panel truck before it can be used in a car chase—it suits the place and time perfectly.

While Johnson’s fourth book in his Detroit series will definitely appeal to auto and history aficionados, anyone who likes to root for the underdog will enjoy this tale of conspiracy and murder.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 30 September 2013 09:09

johnson_detroitshuffleDetroit Shuffle is a joy ride through Motor City mystery and history.

Multiple Exposure
M. Schlecht

As an American photojournalist based in England, Sophie Medina thinks fast on her feet. When she returns home to London after a two week stint in Iraq and finds a trail of blood inside her front door, she instantly assesses that the intruders are gone. But so is her husband, Nick, an oil executive and operative for the CIA.

Months after Nick’s disappearance, an acquaintance with contacts at MI6 claims that Nick staged his own kidnapping and has been spotted in a Russian republic where his company recently made a massive oil discovery. Sophie’s not sure what to think: Her heart tells her Nick’s not dead, but her head wonders why he hasn’t tried to communicate with her. Seeking some quiet, she quits her job at a prestigious press service and moves back to the US, accepting a low-pressure job at a small Washington, DC-based photo agency.

But she’s soon forced into quick-thinking action again. While shooting her first gig, a reception for an exhibition of newly discovered Fabergé eggs at the National Gallery, Russian oligarch Arkady Vasiliev threatens her, demanding that Nick, whom he very much believes to be alive, turn over documents that reveal oil well locations worth a fortune. Sophie also has a CIA minder watching her every move. For all her doubts, quite a few others seem very convinced that Nick is still in the game and in contact with his wife.

Crosby’s thriller gets the pacing right. Like any good journalist, Sophie has keen observational skills and is always racing toward the action, no matter how dangerous. But the plot is tied together by a few too many fortunate coincidences. Still, Multiple Exposure captures many fine shots of intrigue in the nation’s capital, and even though her career has taken an unexpected turn, Sophie is a character with a bright future ahead of her.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 30 September 2013 09:09

crosby_multipleexposureA debut thriller featuring photojournalist Sophie Medina gets the pacing right.

Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch on Screen
Oline Cogdill

wellivertitus_connellybosch
Fans of Michael Connelly have been waiting a long time for his iconic Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch to take the leap to the screen.

Any screen.

For most readers, it doesn’t matter if Bosch is made into a movie on the big screen or a TV series or a made for TV movie.

“When will the Bosch novels be filmed” is one of those questions that pop up a lot.

The good news is that Connelly’s character is getting closer to the screen with the announcement of the actor who will play Bosch.

And the better news is that it is not Tom Cruise.

Veteran character actor Titus Welliver, right, has been tapped to play the detective in Amazon’s first drama pilot Bosch.

Welliver’s name may not be familiar to most viewers, but I think that is good news. Any “star” attached to Bosch is sure cause controversy as viewers will remember past projects.

Instead, Bosch can be a star-making turn for an actor.

Welliver’s name may not be recognized, but he is one of the best character actors around and I guarantee you have seen him in myriad roles. A good character actor blends into a role and makes each role a bit different. And Welliver has done that.

He has played Senator Pratt in White Collar, Glenn Childs in The Good Wife, Jimmy O'Phelan in Sons of Anarchy, The Man in Black in Lost and Silas Adams in Deadwood. He also was in the film The Town. In Gone Baby Gone, he played Lionel McCready, the brother of Helene whose daughter is kidnapped. He also will be in Transformers: Age of Extinction to be released in 2014.

The Bosch pilot was written by Connelly and Treme co-creator Eric Overmeyer, who are executive producing with Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin and Mikkel Bondesen.

No word yet on when Bosch will be aired. Meanwhile, Connelly has written about 20 novels featuring Bosch.

Connelly’s next novel The Gods of Guilt revolves around his lawyer character Mickey Haller and is due out in December.

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 06:10

wellivertitus_connellybosch
Fans of Michael Connelly have been waiting a long time for his iconic Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch to take the leap to the screen.

Any screen.

For most readers, it doesn’t matter if Bosch is made into a movie on the big screen or a TV series or a made for TV movie.

“When will the Bosch novels be filmed” is one of those questions that pop up a lot.

The good news is that Connelly’s character is getting closer to the screen with the announcement of the actor who will play Bosch.

And the better news is that it is not Tom Cruise.

Veteran character actor Titus Welliver, right, has been tapped to play the detective in Amazon’s first drama pilot Bosch.

Welliver’s name may not be familiar to most viewers, but I think that is good news. Any “star” attached to Bosch is sure cause controversy as viewers will remember past projects.

Instead, Bosch can be a star-making turn for an actor.

Welliver’s name may not be recognized, but he is one of the best character actors around and I guarantee you have seen him in myriad roles. A good character actor blends into a role and makes each role a bit different. And Welliver has done that.

He has played Senator Pratt in White Collar, Glenn Childs in The Good Wife, Jimmy O'Phelan in Sons of Anarchy, The Man in Black in Lost and Silas Adams in Deadwood. He also was in the film The Town. In Gone Baby Gone, he played Lionel McCready, the brother of Helene whose daughter is kidnapped. He also will be in Transformers: Age of Extinction to be released in 2014.

The Bosch pilot was written by Connelly and Treme co-creator Eric Overmeyer, who are executive producing with Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin and Mikkel Bondesen.

No word yet on when Bosch will be aired. Meanwhile, Connelly has written about 20 novels featuring Bosch.

Connelly’s next novel The Gods of Guilt revolves around his lawyer character Mickey Haller and is due out in December.

Remembering Tom Clancy
Oline Cogdill

clancy_tom

Tom Clancy died in a Baltimore hospital on Oct. 1, 2013, at age 66. He was an influential writer who redefined the modern thriller genre.

Tom Clancy’s name immediately brings to mind a specific mystery genre—"techno thrillers." Wrapped in espionage, these thrillers heavily rely on technology to move the plot along with lots of military terms and a world in jeopardy thrown in for good measure.

The specific stories may have melded together, one plot a template for the other, but that never stopped Clancy’s novels from landing on the bestsellers lists, time and time again. That’s because with a Tom Clancy novel, readers knew precisely what they were getting.

Clancy, who died in a Baltimore hospital on Oct. 1, 2013, at age 66, may have been one of the first modern thriller writers to evolve his name into a brand. Clancy’s name attached to a novel or a video game or a film almost guaranteed sales.

Clancy, of course, wasn’t the first author to latch onto the branding idea. Charles Dickens knew the potential of name recognition, and I doubt even Dickens was the first.

For Clancy, it all started The Hunt for Red October, which started out as an almost insignificant novel published by the Naval Institute Press. Insignificant, that is, until Putnam acquired the rights and published it in 1984 and it became an almost instant bestseller.

The Hunt for Red October introduced Jack Ryan, a thoughtful CIA analyst who, as the novels progressed, would eventually become the US president. In the movies, he was played first by Alec Baldwin, then by Harrison Ford and most recently Ben Affleck. Each actor captured the spirit of Clancy’s character.

His string of thrillers included Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears. Each became No. 1 bestsellers as well as huge movie hits.

But the movies based on his novels also made people realize that at the heart of Clancy’s dense, tech-ridden novels was a good story.

The late Elmore Leonard was famous for saying that he left out of his novels the stuff that people didn’t read. Tom Clancy was famous for not only leaving that stuff in, but then adding to it. One could read 10 pages, 20 pages, sometimes even more, steeped in techno-speak before getting back to the story.

Clancy also was one of the first authors to see the potential in video games to reach a more adult market. In 1996, Clancy was one of the co-founders of the video game developer Red Storm Entertainment. Dozens of bestselling video game titles have prominently featured his name, including Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell.

About the only thing that Clancy didn’t put his name on was the Baltimore Orioles, of which he was a co-owner.

Clancy took a seven-year hiatus from his novels, returning in 2010 with Dead or Alive co-written with Glenn Blackwood.

Dead or Alive, which featured Ryan, among his other well-known characters, also marked a turning point for Clancy as a writer. His next several books would be written with a co-writer.

But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. For at least a decade before, Clancy’s name had been associated with a string of ghost writers. The ABC miniseries Tom Clancy’s Net Force aired during 1998, setting the path for a string of novels tied-in to the series and written by others.

Clancy’s next novel will be Command Authority co-written with Mark Greaney, to be published on December 3, 2013. The novel features the former CIA agent and President Jack Ryan and his son Jack Ryan Jr.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 01:10

clancy_tom
A look at the late author, who defined a subgenre. Clancy, passed away Oct. 1, at the age of 66.

The End of Breaking Bad, Dexter, Burn Notice
Oline Cogdill
burnnotice6_cast
In the past month or so, three long-running series of interest to Mystery Scene readers have ended.

I have hesitated to write about them until now because a) I don’t believe in spoilers b) I figured by now anyone who is going to watch the endings has by now and c) I finally decided what to write.

And just in case you haven’t seen the series’ finales, I still promise no spoilers.

Breaking Bad’s five-year run, Dexter’s eight-year-run and Burn Notice’s seven-year run kept us entertained while, in at least two of the series, pushing our boundaries on what kind of characters we should care about.

In the end, I think each series gave us the ending it should, wrapping up character arcs and letting us glimpse things to come. And also, mercifully, left no room for reunion shows.

Like many viewers, I was disappointed in the finale of the Sopranos. For six seasons, Tony, Carmela, Meadow, Tony Jr., Dr. Melfi, and Tony’s crew gave a view of the people behind organized crime that both fascinated and repelled us, but was never boring. But that ending was beyond frustration.

It wasn’t that we wanted closure with the finale Sopranos episode—we needed it. Even it was just to find out what the Sopranos ordered in that favorite diner, or to find out why in the heck it took Meadow so long to park that car.

To spend that long with characters we’ve grown to love, and in some instances hate, we need to know what happens next, in whatever form that takes.

Burn Notice

Burn Notice came in with a bang, a spy show that doubled as a private detective series.

burnnotice4_jeffdonovan
Michael Westen (played by the so-easy-on-the-eyes Jeffrey Donovan) was the spy who was fired—with a “burn notice”—during an international spy operation. He ends up back in his hometown of Miami where his mother Madeline (the superb Sharon Gless) lived. Michael’s only friends now are Fiona Glenanne, (Gabrielle Anwar) a former girlfriend who cut her arms-dealing teeth in the I.R.A., Sam Axe, (Bruce Campbell) a retired spy, and, in season four, former counter-intelligence agent Jesse Porter (Coby Bell).

While trying to clear his name, Michael works as a pseudo private detective, helping those caught up in circumstances beyond their control. The series also weaved in bits and pieces about Michael’s childhood, his abusive father and how he and his crew met. Burn Notice kept its focus with well-designed plots until the very mixed sixth season.

But Burn Notice got back on track during its last season, giving us a sometimes uncomfortable but all too realistic view of the effect Michael’s choices have had on him.

Burn Notice always was about Michael trying to get back into the spy game, even when it was obvious to the others that this was the last thing he needed in his life.

The finale kept the spirit of the series, played a bit with the series’ tag lines, and went out with a bang. I thought the ending—despite some sadness—was a satisfying finale that respected each character as well as previous plots.

Dexter

michaelchall_dextersixthseason_jpg
In many ways, Dexter on Showtime proved to be a better series than the novels by Jeff Lindsay on which it was based.

Michael C. Hall always gave a pitch perfect performance as Miami’s unusual serial killer. Dexter knew he was a monster who could not stop his homicidal urges. But Dexter had a code, devised by his adoptive father who understood who and what Dexter was. Dexter could kill only other killers, who were much worse than he ever could be—child killers, pedophiles, wife murderers, gangsters and the like.

Hall gave a stronger and more emotionally involved view of Dexter Morgan than Lindsay’s novels, which often strayed into an unbelievable realm. We could believe that Dexter was a killer for whom we could root, but some of the novel’s plots stretched credibility.

Dexter’s complicated relationship with his adoptive sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), was well explored.

But Dexter also had a lot of missteps. The murder of his wife, the Trinity Killer, LaGuerta's death left us feeling that the series had lost its way.

I have a lot of problems with the last episode and some of the choices made.

But the last 15 minutes of the finale were brilliant, a satisfying end to a good show and a redemption, of sorts, for Dexter.

Breaking Bad

breakingbad_jessewalt
No series gave us more of a character arc than Breaking Bad—to see chemistry teacher Walter White go from an ordinary family man to a ruthless drug dealer and killer was amazing.

The sharp writing coupled with Bryan Cranston’s razor edge performance made Breaking Bad one of the most intriguing series.

Breaking Bad begins with Walt White being diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife is pregnant with their second child; their oldest son has cerebral palsy. Walt doesn’t make much as a high school chemistry teacher, a job he clearly seems to hate.

breakingbad_bryancranston
To provide for his family after his death, Walt turns to crime, producing and selling meth- amphetamine.

For once, chemistry will pay off.

Walt teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), now a low-level drug dealer.

While many of us have little connection with spies or serial killers, most of us can relate to an ordinary person pushed to his limits; Walt’s decision to turn to crime actually seems plausible at times.

The sympathy that Walt elicited in the first few episodes dissipated as the series continued. But as bad as Walt became, some of the people he dealt with were worse. At the same time, Walt committed many unforgivable actions. And yet, we still rooted for Walt, at least a little bit, even as we grew to despise him.

breakingbad_season4
Perhaps because Walt begins as a powerless teacher who found his power in the worst ways. And this power turns him into an evil man.

Walt may have started cooking meth as a way of getting lots of cash for his family. But the deeper he got, the more it was evident that Walt was doing this for himself.

Even Walt admitted this to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn): “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was alive.”

Black humor cuts a wide swath through Breaking Bad. Walt talking about furniture and extended warranties with Krazy 8; a family intervention during which each family member shows their true colors; a party at an old colleague’s mansion shows Walt the kind of career he could have had; Jesse’s very awkward dinner at the Whites. And we learned that cooking meth is expensive.

When a series begins with the lead character’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, logic dictates that there can be no happy endings.

But it made for one kicking ending of Breaking Bad.

Photos: Top: Burn Notice: Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar; second photo: Jeffrey Donovan; USA Network photo
Center: Dexter: Michael C. Hall. Showtime photo
Bottom: Breaking Bad: Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston; Bryan Cranston AMC photos

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 05 October 2013 11:10
burnnotice6_cast
In the past month or so, three long-running series of interest to Mystery Scene readers have ended.

I have hesitated to write about them until now because a) I don’t believe in spoilers b) I figured by now anyone who is going to watch the endings has by now and c) I finally decided what to write.

And just in case you haven’t seen the series’ finales, I still promise no spoilers.

Breaking Bad’s five-year run, Dexter’s eight-year-run and Burn Notice’s seven-year run kept us entertained while, in at least two of the series, pushing our boundaries on what kind of characters we should care about.

In the end, I think each series gave us the ending it should, wrapping up character arcs and letting us glimpse things to come. And also, mercifully, left no room for reunion shows.

Like many viewers, I was disappointed in the finale of the Sopranos. For six seasons, Tony, Carmela, Meadow, Tony Jr., Dr. Melfi, and Tony’s crew gave a view of the people behind organized crime that both fascinated and repelled us, but was never boring. But that ending was beyond frustration.

It wasn’t that we wanted closure with the finale Sopranos episode—we needed it. Even it was just to find out what the Sopranos ordered in that favorite diner, or to find out why in the heck it took Meadow so long to park that car.

To spend that long with characters we’ve grown to love, and in some instances hate, we need to know what happens next, in whatever form that takes.

Burn Notice

Burn Notice came in with a bang, a spy show that doubled as a private detective series.

burnnotice4_jeffdonovan
Michael Westen (played by the so-easy-on-the-eyes Jeffrey Donovan) was the spy who was fired—with a “burn notice”—during an international spy operation. He ends up back in his hometown of Miami where his mother Madeline (the superb Sharon Gless) lived. Michael’s only friends now are Fiona Glenanne, (Gabrielle Anwar) a former girlfriend who cut her arms-dealing teeth in the I.R.A., Sam Axe, (Bruce Campbell) a retired spy, and, in season four, former counter-intelligence agent Jesse Porter (Coby Bell).

While trying to clear his name, Michael works as a pseudo private detective, helping those caught up in circumstances beyond their control. The series also weaved in bits and pieces about Michael’s childhood, his abusive father and how he and his crew met. Burn Notice kept its focus with well-designed plots until the very mixed sixth season.

But Burn Notice got back on track during its last season, giving us a sometimes uncomfortable but all too realistic view of the effect Michael’s choices have had on him.

Burn Notice always was about Michael trying to get back into the spy game, even when it was obvious to the others that this was the last thing he needed in his life.

The finale kept the spirit of the series, played a bit with the series’ tag lines, and went out with a bang. I thought the ending—despite some sadness—was a satisfying finale that respected each character as well as previous plots.

Dexter

michaelchall_dextersixthseason_jpg
In many ways, Dexter on Showtime proved to be a better series than the novels by Jeff Lindsay on which it was based.

Michael C. Hall always gave a pitch perfect performance as Miami’s unusual serial killer. Dexter knew he was a monster who could not stop his homicidal urges. But Dexter had a code, devised by his adoptive father who understood who and what Dexter was. Dexter could kill only other killers, who were much worse than he ever could be—child killers, pedophiles, wife murderers, gangsters and the like.

Hall gave a stronger and more emotionally involved view of Dexter Morgan than Lindsay’s novels, which often strayed into an unbelievable realm. We could believe that Dexter was a killer for whom we could root, but some of the novel’s plots stretched credibility.

Dexter’s complicated relationship with his adoptive sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), was well explored.

But Dexter also had a lot of missteps. The murder of his wife, the Trinity Killer, LaGuerta's death left us feeling that the series had lost its way.

I have a lot of problems with the last episode and some of the choices made.

But the last 15 minutes of the finale were brilliant, a satisfying end to a good show and a redemption, of sorts, for Dexter.

Breaking Bad

breakingbad_jessewalt
No series gave us more of a character arc than Breaking Bad—to see chemistry teacher Walter White go from an ordinary family man to a ruthless drug dealer and killer was amazing.

The sharp writing coupled with Bryan Cranston’s razor edge performance made Breaking Bad one of the most intriguing series.

Breaking Bad begins with Walt White being diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife is pregnant with their second child; their oldest son has cerebral palsy. Walt doesn’t make much as a high school chemistry teacher, a job he clearly seems to hate.

breakingbad_bryancranston
To provide for his family after his death, Walt turns to crime, producing and selling meth- amphetamine.

For once, chemistry will pay off.

Walt teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), now a low-level drug dealer.

While many of us have little connection with spies or serial killers, most of us can relate to an ordinary person pushed to his limits; Walt’s decision to turn to crime actually seems plausible at times.

The sympathy that Walt elicited in the first few episodes dissipated as the series continued. But as bad as Walt became, some of the people he dealt with were worse. At the same time, Walt committed many unforgivable actions. And yet, we still rooted for Walt, at least a little bit, even as we grew to despise him.

breakingbad_season4
Perhaps because Walt begins as a powerless teacher who found his power in the worst ways. And this power turns him into an evil man.

Walt may have started cooking meth as a way of getting lots of cash for his family. But the deeper he got, the more it was evident that Walt was doing this for himself.

Even Walt admitted this to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn): “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was alive.”

Black humor cuts a wide swath through Breaking Bad. Walt talking about furniture and extended warranties with Krazy 8; a family intervention during which each family member shows their true colors; a party at an old colleague’s mansion shows Walt the kind of career he could have had; Jesse’s very awkward dinner at the Whites. And we learned that cooking meth is expensive.

When a series begins with the lead character’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, logic dictates that there can be no happy endings.

But it made for one kicking ending of Breaking Bad.

Photos: Top: Burn Notice: Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar; second photo: Jeffrey Donovan; USA Network photo
Center: Dexter: Michael C. Hall. Showtime photo
Bottom: Breaking Bad: Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston; Bryan Cranston AMC photos

Homeland: Read It
Oline Cogdill
kaplanandrew_homeland
Now that the third season of Homeland is in full swing—including the seemingly relentless anti-Dana Brody campaign—the inevitable has happened.


I am talking about the novelization of Homeland.

When I was a kid, the idea of a TV show or movie spinning off into a novel was a revolutionary idea. At least to this child; and I still have the “novel” versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But novelizations seem to thrive.

Murder, She Wrote went off prime-time TV years ago, although it still thrives as reruns on various channels. But the novels about Cabot Cove continue. The latest of which just came out this week, Murder, She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by “Jessica Fletcher” and Donald Bain, who has written numerous novelizations and stand-alone novels.

Richard Castle of ABC’s Castle has at least four novels out, including the latest Deadly Heat. But do you really think Richard Castle, the fictional mystery writer on this TV police procedural, really wrote these novel, even though his name is on the cover? Or that Nathan Fillion is ghost writing between takes on the set of Castle?

Tod Goldberg has several fiction works including the novel Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He also writes the Burn Notice series, based on the USA series about the “burned” spy that recently ended its run.

Tod Goldberg’s brother, scriptwriter Lee Goldberg, also has written a slew of books based on the Monk series, in addition to his own novels and screenplays. Lee Goldberg recently teamed up with Janet Evanovich for the caper The Heist.

And that brings me back to Homeland, making its debut as a novel titled Homeland: Carrie’s Run.

The novelist is Andrew Kaplan who has written such intriguing novels as the bestselling spy thrillers Scorpion Betrayal, Scorpion Winter, and Scorpion Deception. Kaplan’s background as a novelist of spy thrillers makes him the perfect candidate to write about this intelligent spy drama on Showtime.

Homeland: Carrie’s Run takes place in 2006, long before Brody came along. Assigned to the Beirut station of the CIA, Carrie has been outed by a contact she trusted. She’s brought back to Washington, D.C., and sent to what her bosses hope is a safe assignment in the States. Of course it isn’t safe and acting on a hunch, which Carrie does a lot, she returns to Beirut.

So, Mystery Scene readers, what do you think of novelizations and do you prefer the screen or the print version? After all, Murder, She Wrote wouldn’t still be published if the books weren’t being read.

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 05:10
kaplanandrew_homeland
Now that the third season of Homeland is in full swing—including the seemingly relentless anti-Dana Brody campaign—the inevitable has happened.


I am talking about the novelization of Homeland.

When I was a kid, the idea of a TV show or movie spinning off into a novel was a revolutionary idea. At least to this child; and I still have the “novel” versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But novelizations seem to thrive.

Murder, She Wrote went off prime-time TV years ago, although it still thrives as reruns on various channels. But the novels about Cabot Cove continue. The latest of which just came out this week, Murder, She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by “Jessica Fletcher” and Donald Bain, who has written numerous novelizations and stand-alone novels.

Richard Castle of ABC’s Castle has at least four novels out, including the latest Deadly Heat. But do you really think Richard Castle, the fictional mystery writer on this TV police procedural, really wrote these novel, even though his name is on the cover? Or that Nathan Fillion is ghost writing between takes on the set of Castle?

Tod Goldberg has several fiction works including the novel Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He also writes the Burn Notice series, based on the USA series about the “burned” spy that recently ended its run.

Tod Goldberg’s brother, scriptwriter Lee Goldberg, also has written a slew of books based on the Monk series, in addition to his own novels and screenplays. Lee Goldberg recently teamed up with Janet Evanovich for the caper The Heist.

And that brings me back to Homeland, making its debut as a novel titled Homeland: Carrie’s Run.

The novelist is Andrew Kaplan who has written such intriguing novels as the bestselling spy thrillers Scorpion Betrayal, Scorpion Winter, and Scorpion Deception. Kaplan’s background as a novelist of spy thrillers makes him the perfect candidate to write about this intelligent spy drama on Showtime.

Homeland: Carrie’s Run takes place in 2006, long before Brody came along. Assigned to the Beirut station of the CIA, Carrie has been outed by a contact she trusted. She’s brought back to Washington, D.C., and sent to what her bosses hope is a safe assignment in the States. Of course it isn’t safe and acting on a hunch, which Carrie does a lot, she returns to Beirut.

So, Mystery Scene readers, what do you think of novelizations and do you prefer the screen or the print version? After all, Murder, She Wrote wouldn’t still be published if the books weren’t being read.

Sean Doolittle: You May Not Know Him—but You Should
Tom Nolan

doolittle_seanOne of the five worthy authors you may have missed from our Fall #131 feature “Hidden Gems: 5 Writers You Should Be Reading”


Photo by Scott Dobry

Sean Doolittle, with six books (including Rain Dogs and The Cleanup) to his credit, a Barry Award, and extravagant praise from such colleagues as Dennis Lehane and Lee Child, is hardly an unknown. Yet he still seems not to have gotten the sort of widespread recognition his talent deserves. Maybe it’s because he’s such an individualist.

Doolittle’s books are for the most part set in Midwestern states (Minnesota, Nebraska) populated by end-of-their-rope types whose dreams have dried up or never gotten started. The protagonists of Lake Country (2012), for instance, include a pair of post-traumatic-stressed-out Iraq War vets making threadbare livings on the fringes of society (“Sometimes,” one of them reflects, “it seemed like the universe had a sarcastic sense of humor”); a local-news TV reporter whose hotshot career-vision has become a dismal grind (“She’d made a living out of being the first person to show up on people’s doorsteps on the worst day of their lives”); a college coed held hostage to one man’s fantasy of revenge on her father; and a gambling-racket’s “numbers man” in over his head with a creepy new psycho-partner (“Bryce smiled. It looked like the bones in his face shifted position”).

doolittle_lake_countryMost of Doolittle’s characters are likeable—finding out why is half the surprise—and he sets them spinning in counterpoint against one another in sequences full of suspense, character-driven humor, realistic violence, and wonderful dialogue. Anything might happen in a Doolittle book—even a happy ending.

A SEAN DOOLITTLE READING LIST
Lake Country, 2012
Safer, 2009
The Cleanup, 2006
Rain Dogs, 2005
Burn, 2003
Dirt, 2001

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:10

doolittle_seanAn author from the Fall #131 feature "Hidden Gems: 5 Writers You Should Be Reading"

The Story Behind J.A. Jance Novel

jance_ja
Authors’ ideas come from myriad places.

Sometimes the ideas come from old friends as it did for J.A. Jance in her latest novel, Second Watch.

Second Watch finds Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont undergoing knee replacement surgery.

But he doesn’t allow himself to forget about work.

Instead, his dreams take him back to his early days as a cop with the Seattle P.D. and to his stint in Vietnam. He begins to think about his past and the people and events that shaped him.

For her 22nd novel with J.P. Beaumont, Jance bases two characters on real people from her own life.

According to Jance, Doug Davis was tall, handsome, smart, kind, and an outstanding athlete. He graduated from Bisbee High School with Jance in 1961 as valedictorian of his class. From there he went to West Point, then to Ranger School, and finally to Vietnam.

“Sometime between graduation from West Point and his arrival at Ranger School, he went on a blind date in Florida with a girl named Bonnie MacLean,” according to Jance.

janceja_secondwatch
“The two of them soon fell deeply in love and became engaged. When he shipped out for Vietnam, they corresponded faithfully until, on August 2, 1966, a few weeks before Doug's 23rd birthday, he was killed in a firefight in the Pleiku Highlands. His brave attempt to retrieve the bodies of two fallen comrades earned him a Silver Star.”

Jance said that for years she felt guilty that she had not been at his funeral to honor his sacrifice.

Doug’s widow, Bonnie, eventually remarried. She and Jance met for the first time years.

While reading one of Jance’s novels, “Bonnie encountered a scene that takes place in the same Bisbee cemetery where Doug is buried,” said the author.

To work Doug and Bonnie into her novel, Jance wrote a prequel so that the age of the characters and the era would make sense.

In Second Watch, a fictional version of Second Lieutenant Doug Davis serves as J.P. Beaumont’s commanding officer in Vietnam. Bonnie also plays into the story.

For Jance, Second Watch is more than a gripping thriller—it is a tribute to old friends and all who served in the Vietnam War as well as their families.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 12 October 2013 08:10

jance_ja
Authors’ ideas come from myriad places.

Sometimes the ideas come from old friends as it did for J.A. Jance in her latest novel, Second Watch.

Second Watch finds Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont undergoing knee replacement surgery.

But he doesn’t allow himself to forget about work.

Instead, his dreams take him back to his early days as a cop with the Seattle P.D. and to his stint in Vietnam. He begins to think about his past and the people and events that shaped him.

For her 22nd novel with J.P. Beaumont, Jance bases two characters on real people from her own life.

According to Jance, Doug Davis was tall, handsome, smart, kind, and an outstanding athlete. He graduated from Bisbee High School with Jance in 1961 as valedictorian of his class. From there he went to West Point, then to Ranger School, and finally to Vietnam.

“Sometime between graduation from West Point and his arrival at Ranger School, he went on a blind date in Florida with a girl named Bonnie MacLean,” according to Jance.

janceja_secondwatch
“The two of them soon fell deeply in love and became engaged. When he shipped out for Vietnam, they corresponded faithfully until, on August 2, 1966, a few weeks before Doug's 23rd birthday, he was killed in a firefight in the Pleiku Highlands. His brave attempt to retrieve the bodies of two fallen comrades earned him a Silver Star.”

Jance said that for years she felt guilty that she had not been at his funeral to honor his sacrifice.

Doug’s widow, Bonnie, eventually remarried. She and Jance met for the first time years.

While reading one of Jance’s novels, “Bonnie encountered a scene that takes place in the same Bisbee cemetery where Doug is buried,” said the author.

To work Doug and Bonnie into her novel, Jance wrote a prequel so that the age of the characters and the era would make sense.

In Second Watch, a fictional version of Second Lieutenant Doug Davis serves as J.P. Beaumont’s commanding officer in Vietnam. Bonnie also plays into the story.

For Jance, Second Watch is more than a gripping thriller—it is a tribute to old friends and all who served in the Vietnam War as well as their families.

25 Years of Silence of the Lambs
Oline Cogdill

harristhomas_silence25th0001
25 years can go by in the wink of an eye. At least that is what it feels like when we remember something that seems like it was just yesterday but really happened 25 years ago.

A quarter of a century ago this month, Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs was published. At the time, this was a ground-breaking novel, setting a high bar for the serial killer novel. And 25 years later, Silence of the Lambs still is the standard for the serial killer novel.

The appeal of Harris’ novel was not the details of the killer dubbed Buffalo Bill, but rather the relationship between the novice FBI agent Clarice Starling and the brilliant and deranged killer Dr. Hannibal Lector. We had seen fictional killers before but never one so intelligent, a psychiatrist no less, and so manipulative.

Silence of the Lambs, of course, made an engrossing movie starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The 1991 film won five Academy Awards: best picture, best director for Jonathan Demme; best actor for Hopkins, best actress for Foster and best writing for adapted screenplay for Ted Tally. Silence of the Lambs was third film to win those five major Oscars.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, naturally a new edition of the novel has been released. What is surprising about this new edition of Silence of the Lambs is that Harris has written an “author’s note” describing his inspiration for the novel.

Harris says that during a trip to a prison in Monterrey, Mexico, to interview an American inmate accused of murder, he met a prisoner, whom he nicknamed “Dr. Salazar.” This interaction lead him to create Hannibal Lecter.

Harris first introduced Lecter in Red Dragon and followed up Silence of the Lambs with Hannibal, a well-plotted novel that showed what happened to Lecter and Starling. We should completely forget the feeble Hannibal Rising, the fourth novel about Lecter.

I well remember staying up late to finish Silence of the Lambs.

Later, I lent the novel to my boss at the time who told me he had missed a couple of meetings because he was so engrossed in the story.

The novel still holds up.

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:10

harristhomas_silence25th0001
25 years can go by in the wink of an eye. At least that is what it feels like when we remember something that seems like it was just yesterday but really happened 25 years ago.

A quarter of a century ago this month, Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs was published. At the time, this was a ground-breaking novel, setting a high bar for the serial killer novel. And 25 years later, Silence of the Lambs still is the standard for the serial killer novel.

The appeal of Harris’ novel was not the details of the killer dubbed Buffalo Bill, but rather the relationship between the novice FBI agent Clarice Starling and the brilliant and deranged killer Dr. Hannibal Lector. We had seen fictional killers before but never one so intelligent, a psychiatrist no less, and so manipulative.

Silence of the Lambs, of course, made an engrossing movie starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The 1991 film won five Academy Awards: best picture, best director for Jonathan Demme; best actor for Hopkins, best actress for Foster and best writing for adapted screenplay for Ted Tally. Silence of the Lambs was third film to win those five major Oscars.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, naturally a new edition of the novel has been released. What is surprising about this new edition of Silence of the Lambs is that Harris has written an “author’s note” describing his inspiration for the novel.

Harris says that during a trip to a prison in Monterrey, Mexico, to interview an American inmate accused of murder, he met a prisoner, whom he nicknamed “Dr. Salazar.” This interaction lead him to create Hannibal Lecter.

Harris first introduced Lecter in Red Dragon and followed up Silence of the Lambs with Hannibal, a well-plotted novel that showed what happened to Lecter and Starling. We should completely forget the feeble Hannibal Rising, the fourth novel about Lecter.

I well remember staying up late to finish Silence of the Lambs.

Later, I lent the novel to my boss at the time who told me he had missed a couple of meetings because he was so engrossed in the story.

The novel still holds up.

Montana
Sharon Magee

Hard-edged, feisty Lola Wicks is more than angry. She’s royally pissed. In Gwen Florio’s debut novel Montana, Wicks, a war correspondent who lives and breathes her Afghanistan post, has been recalled for financial reasons by her Baltimore newspaper and assigned the drudgery of intern work. After years in Afghanistan, she sleeps in a sleeping bag, keeps her money stashed on her body, and finds the real world confusing. Sensing her unhappiness, her boss urges her to visit her friend Mary Alice who’s a newspaper reporter in Magpie, Montana, which consists of a three-block business district surrounded by sprawling ranches and the Blackfeet reservation, which is devastated by a huge meth problem. She plans to stay for only a weekend then wangle her way onto a flight back to Afghanistan.

But when she arrives at her friend’s cabin, she finds Mary Alice murdered. The sheriff, considered inexperienced and inept, won’t allow Wicks to leave until the crime is solved, so she sets out to solve it on her own. In addition to her amateur sleuthing, Wicks, who’s never owned a pet, flounders when she takes on the responsibility for Mary Alice’s animals—a dog named Bub and a horse named Spot. When it appears someone has taken umbrage at her investigation into Mary Alice’s death and wants her dead as well, she must decide whom she can and cannot trust. She’s drawn to Verle Duncan, a wealthy rancher with starched and creased jeans and a beautiful ranch home filled with Indian art. Then there’s Johnny Running Wolf, a Blackfeet who’s lived most of his life in the “white people’s” world and is campaigning to be the first Indian governor of Montana. He’s also the subject of Mary Alice’s most recent articles. Or Frank, the brain-damaged Iraq War vet, who seems to be everywhere.

Florio, a journalist twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, puts a modern twist on an Old West tale complete with cowboys and Indians, and blends it seamlessly with backstory of the Afghanistan War. She knows of what she speaks. She served as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, and now lives in Montana. Her twists are sharp, her characters vivid—even Mary Alice, who appears primarily as a corpse—and her imagery of the area flows like liquid gold. An excellent beginning to a hopefully long-lived series. A sequel is in the works for next year.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:10
::cck::4660
Massacre Pond (Audiobook)
Dick Lochte

Paul Doiron’s fourth crime novel to feature Maine game warden Mike Bowditch begins with the brutal slaying of ten moose on the estate of animal rights activist Elizabeth Morse, an ex-hippy who’s made a fortune creating head shop items. She’s using it to purchase huge parcels of timberland, hoping to turn them into a national park populated by protected beasties, a plan the local hunters and lumber mill owners and employees definitely don’t endorse. Bowditch is the first warden on the scene, but his obnoxious boss, who hates him, removes him from the frontline of the investigation. A good thing, perhaps, since progress is nonexistent and soon murder is added to the warrants. Mike’s got a few other problems. A close friend who’d been the estate’s night watchman is certain to lose his job and may even be blamed for the crimes. The love of his life is about to marry the town’s most eligible bachelor. And his mother is dying of cervical cancer. The author takes great pains to present Mike in full dimension—young, uncertain, and definitely vulnerable, but also honest and moral to what some (including characters in the book) would call a fault. Since the heroic warden narrates the solidly constructed tale, its fortunate that reader Henry Leyva’s voice couldn’t come closer to combining all of those traits if it had been computer generated by experts.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:10

Paul Doiron’s fourth crime novel to feature Maine game warden Mike Bowditch begins with the brutal slaying of ten moose on the estate of animal rights activist Elizabeth Morse, an ex-hippy who’s made a fortune creating head shop items. She’s using it to purchase huge parcels of timberland, hoping to turn them into a national park populated by protected beasties, a plan the local hunters and lumber mill owners and employees definitely don’t endorse. Bowditch is the first warden on the scene, but his obnoxious boss, who hates him, removes him from the frontline of the investigation. A good thing, perhaps, since progress is nonexistent and soon murder is added to the warrants. Mike’s got a few other problems. A close friend who’d been the estate’s night watchman is certain to lose his job and may even be blamed for the crimes. The love of his life is about to marry the town’s most eligible bachelor. And his mother is dying of cervical cancer. The author takes great pains to present Mike in full dimension—young, uncertain, and definitely vulnerable, but also honest and moral to what some (including characters in the book) would call a fault. Since the heroic warden narrates the solidly constructed tale, its fortunate that reader Henry Leyva’s voice couldn’t come closer to combining all of those traits if it had been computer generated by experts.

Bad Monkey
Dick Lochte

This is not an audiobook to take to the gym. People working out ignore Stairmaster climbers singing duets to their hidden earphones or stationary bikers nattering away to some micro mike. But if you suddenly bust out laughing, your fellow gym rats slink away as if afraid mental illness may be catching. And, should the laugh turn convulsive, you just might fall off a treadmill and hurt yourself. Bad Monkey will make you laugh. Carl Hiaasen, even in his more serious fiction, does not stint on the funny and here he’s nearing the zenith of screwball comedy. The book’s protagonist, Andrew Yancy, is a former Miami cop demoted to Monroe County Health Inspector. Though he’s had more than his share of bad luck (much of it self-imposed), and his despised job has cost him his appetite along with his self-respect, he maintains a gloriously hang-loose, optimistic outlook. For example, he sees the shark-gnawed human arm in his freezer as his ticket back to real police work. It belonged to a deceased Medicare swindler whose suddenly wealthy widow, Yancy is convinced, bumped him off. Once he proves it, he’ll be off roach patrol and back on the crime beat. But every clue leads to a dead end or a dead body. His only ally is his new girlfriend, a beautiful coroner who likes to make love in the morgue. Their quest takes them to the Bahamas and an assortment of bizarre characters including a sex-obsessed, octogenarian voodoo queen, a loathsome sociopath, his monstrous thug and, of course, the eponymous simian, an ill-tempered, molting critter whose main claim to fame is an appearance opposite Johnny Depp in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a role curtailed by a urinary outburst. The monkey’s, not Johnny’s. Though the novel is pretty much cover-to-cover hilarious, its plot devices—including several neatly dovetailed elements—should not be undersold. This is arguably Hiaasen’s best book in years, and reader Arte Johnson treats it with what might be called a comedian’s respect. The actor (fondly remembered as the “Very In-ter-rest-ing” suspicious Nazi in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) clearly understands that, in dealing with material this over-the-top wacky, it’s wise to keep the performance at a more conservative level. For example, there’s a scene in which, with a storm raging outside, the voodoo queen is whirling around a room on her motorized wheelchair, the giant thug, naked as a grape, is terrorizing the bound coroner, and the monkey, fascinated by the man’s exposed genitalia, leaps upon it and bites it. A lesser reader may have been tempted to add his own vocal flourishes. Johnson’s calm, almost matter-of-fact delivery adds considerably to the sublime giddiness of the situation.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

hiaasen_badmonkey_audioHiaasen's best effort in years now in audiobook.

The Deep Blue Good-By
Dick Lochte

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Deep Blue, the first book in the series, antagonist Junior Allen pretty well sets the standard, a shrewd, sadistic ex-con with kinks so nasty and disturbing that even in defeat he leaves McGee damaged in mind and body. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Deep Blue, the first book in the series, antagonist Junior Allen pretty well sets the standard, a shrewd, sadistic ex-con with kinks so nasty and disturbing that even in defeat he leaves McGee damaged in mind and body. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Nightmare in Pink
Dick Lochte

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Pink, the most melodramatic and least successful of this batch, the bad guys use hallucinogenic drugs and lobotomies in an attempt to pull off a $20-million scam. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Pink, the most melodramatic and least successful of this batch, the bad guys use hallucinogenic drugs and lobotomies in an attempt to pull off a $20-million scam. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

The Quick Red Fox
Dick Lochte

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. For Red Fox, McGee acts more like a private eye than an adventurer; he’s hired by a self-centered, beautiful movie star to find a blackmailer and secure the negatives of photos taken at a supposedly safe weekend orgy. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. For Red Fox, McGee acts more like a private eye than an adventurer; he’s hired by a self-centered, beautiful movie star to find a blackmailer and secure the negatives of photos taken at a supposedly safe weekend orgy. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

A Deadly Shade of Gold
Dick Lochte

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Gold, he travels to a Mexican fishing village searching for the murderer of a friend. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. In Gold, he travels to a Mexican fishing village searching for the murderer of a friend. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Bright Orange for the Shroud
Dick Lochte

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. Bright Orange is one of the author’s best. He wrote the first five books in just a year, a remarkable achievement. But he took more time with Orange and it shows. In it, McGee travels around Florida, tracking a group of cold-hearted grifters who picked clean his gentle friend Arthur Wilkinson, leaving him a physical and emotional wreck. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

Brilliance Audio has released the first few Travis McGee novels, and though early series entries, they serve as adequate reminders of the author’s strong points and weaker ones. The former are in the majority. MacDonald wrote with a seductive style that combined strong characterization with compelling plots, complete with cathartic, usually violent moments of evil’s defeat. McGee, the powerfully built, six-foot-four suntanned knight, venturing from his Fort Lauderdale-based houseboat on his “spavined white steed” to smote villains and save maidens in distress, has rightly become one of crime fiction’s iconic heroes. His world, which includes continuing characters, like his neighbor the avuncular, bearlike international economics expert Meyer, is both idyllic and believable. McGee’s foes are believable, too. Disturbingly so. Far from Napoleons of crime, they tend to be affable good ole boys with steel-trap minds or crafty ex-cons or, on rare occasions, beautiful, heartless women. Sociopaths all. Bright Orange is one of the author’s best. He wrote the first five books in just a year, a remarkable achievement. But he took more time with Orange and it shows. In it, McGee travels around Florida, tracking a group of cold-hearted grifters who picked clean his gentle friend Arthur Wilkinson, leaving him a physical and emotional wreck. Reader Robert Petkoff gets the job done in a professional and satisfactory manner. He has a way with mimicking female voices (no small talent, judging by most male readers), and he’s equally successful in delivering highly charged scenes with just the right amount of emotion. But he doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as the last McGee interpreter, Darren McGavin. On those earlier abridged audios, several of McGee’s much-too-frequent cranky rants about the changing world were excised, but those that remained were treated to McGavin’s full-out dramatic renditions that gave them almost the force of Shakespeare’s finest soliloquies. Petkoff, taking a more naturalistic approach, underscores the fact that they are the weakest parts of the books. While the series’ people and plots are, with rare exception, as contemporary as any on today’s bestseller lists, those rants and McGee’s often-fatuous views on sex and love are as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets.

Deception
Bill Crider

There are still a few writers around who specialize in short stories, and one of them is John M. Floyd, who’s written hundreds, many of them mysteries. His latest collection, Deception, contains 30 fine examples. All but two of the stories, “Redemption” and “Deception,” have been previously published in places like The Strand Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. These two are strong stories, and if you like twisty plots and dogs, “Deception” is for you. It’s one of those stories where everybody’s either being deceived or about to be, and the reader just has to hang on to find out who’ll come out the winner in the end. I’m partial to stories with titles that refer to intriguing place names, and “Blackjack Road” didn’t disappoint, with an escaped convict, a man considering suicide as he sits in a wheelchair, and a gun or two. Good stuff. Several short-shorts featuring Sheriff Chunky Jones and retired schoolteacher Angela Potts are in a lighter vein, and they’re a lot of fun.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 01:10

There are still a few writers around who specialize in short stories, and one of them is John M. Floyd, who’s written hundreds, many of them mysteries. His latest collection, Deception, contains 30 fine examples. All but two of the stories, “Redemption” and “Deception,” have been previously published in places like The Strand Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. These two are strong stories, and if you like twisty plots and dogs, “Deception” is for you. It’s one of those stories where everybody’s either being deceived or about to be, and the reader just has to hang on to find out who’ll come out the winner in the end. I’m partial to stories with titles that refer to intriguing place names, and “Blackjack Road” didn’t disappoint, with an escaped convict, a man considering suicide as he sits in a wheelchair, and a gun or two. Good stuff. Several short-shorts featuring Sheriff Chunky Jones and retired schoolteacher Angela Potts are in a lighter vein, and they’re a lot of fun.

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories From the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense
Bill Crider

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense is an important anthology. Editor Sarah Weinman has gathered 16 stories by “an entire generation of female crime writers who have faded from view,” as she says in her introduction. The stories span the time from the early 1940s to the middle 1970s, and in her excellent introductions to the volume and to each story, Weinman’s goal is to give readers an understanding of “the time and place in which these women created some of the best and most influential crime fiction ever written” and to bring proper recognition to the branch of crime fiction known as “domestic suspense.” Readers of a certain age (mine) will likely find the names of all the authors familiar, but others might not. Among them are Nedra Tyre, Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Miriam Allen deFord, and Margaret Millar. In deFord’s story there’s a dying man who just won’t die and a nurse who wants the money in his wall safe. So, she decides to kill him. It’s a twisted tale with an ending you won’t see coming. Jackson’s “Louisa, Please Come Home” is about a runaway and a change of identity. We are who we pretend to be. All these stories are top-notch.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:10

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense is an important anthology. Editor Sarah Weinman has gathered 16 stories by “an entire generation of female crime writers who have faded from view,” as she says in her introduction. The stories span the time from the early 1940s to the middle 1970s, and in her excellent introductions to the volume and to each story, Weinman’s goal is to give readers an understanding of “the time and place in which these women created some of the best and most influential crime fiction ever written” and to bring proper recognition to the branch of crime fiction known as “domestic suspense.” Readers of a certain age (mine) will likely find the names of all the authors familiar, but others might not. Among them are Nedra Tyre, Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Miriam Allen deFord, and Margaret Millar. In deFord’s story there’s a dying man who just won’t die and a nurse who wants the money in his wall safe. So, she decides to kill him. It’s a twisted tale with an ending you won’t see coming. Jackson’s “Louisa, Please Come Home” is about a runaway and a change of identity. We are who we pretend to be. All these stories are top-notch.

Once Upon a Midnight Noir
Bill Crider

Carole Nelson Douglas is well known for several successful crime fiction series, one of which features paranormal investigator Delilah Street, who operates in a Las Vegas where vampires and werewolves are commonplace. She’s featured in “Bogieman,” the first story in Once Upon a Midnight Noir, a tale in which CinSims are “peeled from silver nitrate and given latter-day life.” Hammett fans will be intrigued by this one. In another of Douglas’ series, a cat named Midnight Louie, who sounds a bit like a Damon Runyon character, sometimes takes over the narration. Usually Louie operates in Las Vegas, as he does in “Butterfly Kiss,” along with Delilah Street. In “The Riches There that Lie,” we get a glimpse into one of Louie’s past lives, in an unusual tale with Edgar Allan Poe. Readers looking for out-of-the-ordinary treats will find them here.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:10

Carole Nelson Douglas is well known for several successful crime fiction series, one of which features paranormal investigator Delilah Street, who operates in a Las Vegas where vampires and werewolves are commonplace. She’s featured in “Bogieman,” the first story in Once Upon a Midnight Noir, a tale in which CinSims are “peeled from silver nitrate and given latter-day life.” Hammett fans will be intrigued by this one. In another of Douglas’ series, a cat named Midnight Louie, who sounds a bit like a Damon Runyon character, sometimes takes over the narration. Usually Louie operates in Las Vegas, as he does in “Butterfly Kiss,” along with Delilah Street. In “The Riches There that Lie,” we get a glimpse into one of Louie’s past lives, in an unusual tale with Edgar Allan Poe. Readers looking for out-of-the-ordinary treats will find them here.

Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories
Bill Crider

I’ve mentioned before how much I like an unusual setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories in Joseph Heywood’s Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories. They take place on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and it’s a bit of a different world up there. Heywood knows it very well because he’s spent a lot of time (12 years) on patrol with conservation officers. The experience and his observations show themselves in all the tales told here. Heywood insists in his “Author’s Note” that they’re all fictional accounts, and I’m willing to believe him. However every one of them has a strong whiff of truth and seems grounded in solid reality. Some are funny, some are hardboiled, and all are great entertainment for anybody who likes unique characters and out-of-the-way locations. There are car crashes, airplane rides, Elvis impersonators, poachers, and even the occasional ghost. For fans of his regular series, Heywood also includes two longer stories, one each about Lupe Bapcat and Grady Service.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:10

I’ve mentioned before how much I like an unusual setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories in Joseph Heywood’s Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories. They take place on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and it’s a bit of a different world up there. Heywood knows it very well because he’s spent a lot of time (12 years) on patrol with conservation officers. The experience and his observations show themselves in all the tales told here. Heywood insists in his “Author’s Note” that they’re all fictional accounts, and I’m willing to believe him. However every one of them has a strong whiff of truth and seems grounded in solid reality. Some are funny, some are hardboiled, and all are great entertainment for anybody who likes unique characters and out-of-the-way locations. There are car crashes, airplane rides, Elvis impersonators, poachers, and even the occasional ghost. For fans of his regular series, Heywood also includes two longer stories, one each about Lupe Bapcat and Grady Service.

Charlaine Harris Puts the Bite on the Food Network
Oline Cogdill
harris-Charlaine-official-pic-small
I love the cooking competition shows, especially Bravo’s Top Chef and the Food Network’s The Next Food Network Star.

But I have never seen the Food Network’s Halloween Wars in which teams compete to make the most ghoulish concoctions. But I will tonight because of its special guest judge.

Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, will be the guest judge. Tonight’s theme is “When Swamp Creatures Attack.”

Surely, there has to be a vampire in there somewhere.

Halloween Wars airs tonight, Oct. 20, at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. If you miss it, there are often encore broadcasts and it is available On Demand.

The creations the teams come up with are very interesting and, while, the displays are made of food, not everything is edible. Even if these were edible, I am not sure I could eat some of these scary displays.

The teams are competing for about $50,000 in prizes. That’s a frightening amount of money.

Previous judges have been Tony Todd, who played the title role of the 1992 movie Candyman, and “scream queen” Daniele Harris, an actress who has appeared in the Hatchet films and will be in the Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D to be released in 2014.

The affable Harris, who is one of the most charming authors I have met, will certainly sink her teeth into her role as judge.

"I could never have pictured the ripple effect of the success of the Sookie books. I've had so many opportunities and experiences that never would have come my way," said Harris in an email.

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 20 October 2013 05:10
harris-Charlaine-official-pic-small
I love the cooking competition shows, especially Bravo’s Top Chef and the Food Network’s The Next Food Network Star.

But I have never seen the Food Network’s Halloween Wars in which teams compete to make the most ghoulish concoctions. But I will tonight because of its special guest judge.

Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, will be the guest judge. Tonight’s theme is “When Swamp Creatures Attack.”

Surely, there has to be a vampire in there somewhere.

Halloween Wars airs tonight, Oct. 20, at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. If you miss it, there are often encore broadcasts and it is available On Demand.

The creations the teams come up with are very interesting and, while, the displays are made of food, not everything is edible. Even if these were edible, I am not sure I could eat some of these scary displays.

The teams are competing for about $50,000 in prizes. That’s a frightening amount of money.

Previous judges have been Tony Todd, who played the title role of the 1992 movie Candyman, and “scream queen” Daniele Harris, an actress who has appeared in the Hatchet films and will be in the Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D to be released in 2014.

The affable Harris, who is one of the most charming authors I have met, will certainly sink her teeth into her role as judge.

"I could never have pictured the ripple effect of the success of the Sookie books. I've had so many opportunities and experiences that never would have come my way," said Harris in an email.

The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea
Betty Webb

Mark Douglas-Home’s The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea, his second Cal McGill mystery, is just as good as its predecessor, the wonderful The Sea Detective. In this follow-up, McGill, a marine researcher working in the Scottish Highlands, is asked by Violet Wells to find the body of the mother who gave her away at birth, then drowned herself. Cal discovers that Violet’s mother didn’t commit suicide; she was murdered. As in The Sea Detective, we learn a lot about the way bodies behave when caught in oceanic currents, but what keeps all the science from becoming too dry is author Douglas-Home’s understanding of psychology. Perhaps the most interesting of his creations is vengeance-driven Mary Anderson, once a trusted servant at the big house of Brae, now cast aside like an old dustcloth. As in real life, no character is one hundred percent good or one hundred percent evil. And that dichotomy goes for towns, too. Violet, McGill’s client, is the unmarried mother of Anna, a mixed-race child, and so is frequently the target of racism by the inhabitants of Poltown, a scenic Highlands village. As in many mysteries, the book’s setting becomes a character. Poltown’s very beauty causes fisticuffs between inhabitants who want it left unspoiled and those who, for financial reasons, prefer it be developed. A pall of grief overlays this extraordinary novel, grief not only for the murdered woman, but also for an unspoiled coastline in danger of vanishing in order to advance “progress.” So deft is the author’s handling of the emotional and ecological issues that anyone reading his book might find himself sympathizing, in turn, with each side. And even, perhaps, with a murderer.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 21 October 2013 01:10

Mark Douglas-Home’s The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea, his second Cal McGill mystery, is just as good as its predecessor, the wonderful The Sea Detective. In this follow-up, McGill, a marine researcher working in the Scottish Highlands, is asked by Violet Wells to find the body of the mother who gave her away at birth, then drowned herself. Cal discovers that Violet’s mother didn’t commit suicide; she was murdered. As in The Sea Detective, we learn a lot about the way bodies behave when caught in oceanic currents, but what keeps all the science from becoming too dry is author Douglas-Home’s understanding of psychology. Perhaps the most interesting of his creations is vengeance-driven Mary Anderson, once a trusted servant at the big house of Brae, now cast aside like an old dustcloth. As in real life, no character is one hundred percent good or one hundred percent evil. And that dichotomy goes for towns, too. Violet, McGill’s client, is the unmarried mother of Anna, a mixed-race child, and so is frequently the target of racism by the inhabitants of Poltown, a scenic Highlands village. As in many mysteries, the book’s setting becomes a character. Poltown’s very beauty causes fisticuffs between inhabitants who want it left unspoiled and those who, for financial reasons, prefer it be developed. A pall of grief overlays this extraordinary novel, grief not only for the murdered woman, but also for an unspoiled coastline in danger of vanishing in order to advance “progress.” So deft is the author’s handling of the emotional and ecological issues that anyone reading his book might find himself sympathizing, in turn, with each side. And even, perhaps, with a murderer.