Black Chalk
Robin Agnew

This novel begins, a few years back, with the arrival of American Chad Mason on the very British campus of Pitt College, a place that sounds very like a college on the grounds of Oxford University. He decides to “make a friend,” and the first person who is friendly back is a jovial soul named Jolyon.

The two quickly become fast friends, forming a small group of fellow “outcasts,” students who are at the college because of their intelligence, not their money or family connections. Casting about on the day clubs recruit new members, they stumble across a booth labeled simply “Game Soc.” The three guys standing at the Game Soc booth are standoffish and fend off most inquiries, but Chad comes up with something on the spur of the moment that sparks their interest.

And here’s where the book enters the “Had I But Known” school of writing. The basic premise of the game is that the six participants agree on consequences for losing a game played with dice and cards, with the severity of the consequences accelerating as the game moves forward, forcing players to drop out until an eventual winner is declared.

At first the consequences of losing are funny, if slightly humiliating. As the game moves forward, the players begin to react more negatively to the pressure, some more so than others. The two most realized characters are Chad and Jolyon, who are in a way opposites. Jolyon’s easy ways often nab him the girl Chad is interested in; Chad’s degree of bitterness begins to blossom as the game moves ahead. As both of them are extremely competitive, neither of them wants to give up, despite the accelerating mental torture that’s involved.

Christopher Yates layers his story with another narrative set in the present, with one of the members of the group older, living alone as a hermit, permanently traumatized.

As the two threads of the story draw closer together, the suspense amps up and the secrets hinted at—there’s a death involved—begin to be revealed. It’s clear the narrator can’t really be trusted, so the revelations must be taken by the reader with a grain of salt. This is almost pure storytelling for storytelling’s sake, and on that level I admired this book, but the characters weren’t memorable or likable enough to make me truly care about the outcome—though I admit I was a bit creeped out when I turned the last page.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-19 23:34:23

This novel begins, a few years back, with the arrival of American Chad Mason on the very British campus of Pitt College, a place that sounds very like a college on the grounds of Oxford University. He decides to “make a friend,” and the first person who is friendly back is a jovial soul named Jolyon.

The two quickly become fast friends, forming a small group of fellow “outcasts,” students who are at the college because of their intelligence, not their money or family connections. Casting about on the day clubs recruit new members, they stumble across a booth labeled simply “Game Soc.” The three guys standing at the Game Soc booth are standoffish and fend off most inquiries, but Chad comes up with something on the spur of the moment that sparks their interest.

And here’s where the book enters the “Had I But Known” school of writing. The basic premise of the game is that the six participants agree on consequences for losing a game played with dice and cards, with the severity of the consequences accelerating as the game moves forward, forcing players to drop out until an eventual winner is declared.

At first the consequences of losing are funny, if slightly humiliating. As the game moves forward, the players begin to react more negatively to the pressure, some more so than others. The two most realized characters are Chad and Jolyon, who are in a way opposites. Jolyon’s easy ways often nab him the girl Chad is interested in; Chad’s degree of bitterness begins to blossom as the game moves ahead. As both of them are extremely competitive, neither of them wants to give up, despite the accelerating mental torture that’s involved.

Christopher Yates layers his story with another narrative set in the present, with one of the members of the group older, living alone as a hermit, permanently traumatized.

As the two threads of the story draw closer together, the suspense amps up and the secrets hinted at—there’s a death involved—begin to be revealed. It’s clear the narrator can’t really be trusted, so the revelations must be taken by the reader with a grain of salt. This is almost pure storytelling for storytelling’s sake, and on that level I admired this book, but the characters weren’t memorable or likable enough to make me truly care about the outcome—though I admit I was a bit creeped out when I turned the last page.

The Outcast Dead
Robin Agnew

Elly Griffiths has created one of the more memorable female characters in contemporary mystery fiction with Ruth Galloway. Ruth is not memorable because she’s exceptional (though she is bright and accomplished) but because she’s so normal, so real. She’s a tad overweight, doesn’t care about what she wears, is juggling a baby and a career, living in a house out in the middle of nowhere, and in general seems like the neighbor or friend you might actually have.

Ruth is an archeologist at a university in Norwich on the coast of Britain, and thanks to her involvement as a consulting expert on several cases, she’s gotten to know one of the local policemen, DCI Harry Nelson. In fact, she’s gotten to know Harry so well she’s had his baby—unfortunately, he’s married, and not to her. Griffiths allows the situation to percolate in its own very lifelike messiness. Harry, Ruth, and Harry’s wife have an uneasy truce, and are all involved in the bringing up of baby Kate.

This is the background, but the story in this novel is every bit as interesting. After a ceremony for the “outcast dead,” bodies in paupers’ graves, Ruth helps to uncover the body of a woman who might be the infamous Mother Hook, notorious in the 1860s for taking children in and then killing them. A television show, Women Who Kill, is interested in including Mother Hook in their series, with Ruth as an on-camera expert.

As Ruth gets to know the TV crew, especially the attractive consulting historian Professor Chet Bruce, she and Bruce discuss Mother Hook and whether or not she was actually guilty of the crimes she was accused of. Meanwhile, Harry’s team has caught a case that mirrors Ruth’s old one: a mother who has lost three children to crib death and whom Harry thinks is not as innocent as she claims.

When other children in town are abducted, it’s unclear if the abductions are tied to Harry’s case. Meanwhile Ruth and Chet begin to make a pretty good case for Mother Hook’s innocence, but Ruth can’t help but feel for the mothers who had to leave their children in her care.

Griffiths entwines both plotlines and keeps the pace and suspense at breakneck speed. As always, she includes the backdrop of northern, coastal England, its beauty as well as its loneliness, and makes every part of her book come alive—the characters, the plot, and the setting. The resolution is complicated and surprising, yet well-grounded in the story as it has been presented. This is a satisfying read in every way.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-19 23:41:38

Elly Griffiths has created one of the more memorable female characters in contemporary mystery fiction with Ruth Galloway. Ruth is not memorable because she’s exceptional (though she is bright and accomplished) but because she’s so normal, so real. She’s a tad overweight, doesn’t care about what she wears, is juggling a baby and a career, living in a house out in the middle of nowhere, and in general seems like the neighbor or friend you might actually have.

Ruth is an archeologist at a university in Norwich on the coast of Britain, and thanks to her involvement as a consulting expert on several cases, she’s gotten to know one of the local policemen, DCI Harry Nelson. In fact, she’s gotten to know Harry so well she’s had his baby—unfortunately, he’s married, and not to her. Griffiths allows the situation to percolate in its own very lifelike messiness. Harry, Ruth, and Harry’s wife have an uneasy truce, and are all involved in the bringing up of baby Kate.

This is the background, but the story in this novel is every bit as interesting. After a ceremony for the “outcast dead,” bodies in paupers’ graves, Ruth helps to uncover the body of a woman who might be the infamous Mother Hook, notorious in the 1860s for taking children in and then killing them. A television show, Women Who Kill, is interested in including Mother Hook in their series, with Ruth as an on-camera expert.

As Ruth gets to know the TV crew, especially the attractive consulting historian Professor Chet Bruce, she and Bruce discuss Mother Hook and whether or not she was actually guilty of the crimes she was accused of. Meanwhile, Harry’s team has caught a case that mirrors Ruth’s old one: a mother who has lost three children to crib death and whom Harry thinks is not as innocent as she claims.

When other children in town are abducted, it’s unclear if the abductions are tied to Harry’s case. Meanwhile Ruth and Chet begin to make a pretty good case for Mother Hook’s innocence, but Ruth can’t help but feel for the mothers who had to leave their children in her care.

Griffiths entwines both plotlines and keeps the pace and suspense at breakneck speed. As always, she includes the backdrop of northern, coastal England, its beauty as well as its loneliness, and makes every part of her book come alive—the characters, the plot, and the setting. The resolution is complicated and surprising, yet well-grounded in the story as it has been presented. This is a satisfying read in every way.

In the Morning I’ll Be Gone
Hank Wagner

Adrian McKinty delivers the goods again in his 14th novel, which also happens to be the final installment in his Troubles Trilogy. As in the other books in this series (The Cold Cold Ground and I Hear the Sirens in the Street), In the Morning I’ll Be Gone relates the adventures of eternal outsider Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop, or “peeler,” who serves in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, circa late 1983. Finding himself at an all-time personal low (he’s been drummed off the force on a trumped-up charge), he’s offered a chance at reinstatement and redemption if he can track down fugitive IRA bomber Dermot McCann, an old schoolmate. The clock is ticking, as the authorities are convinced that McCann is in the process of engineering an act of terror the likes of which might bring down the Thatcher government.

All of McKinty’s considerable strengths are on display in this secret history of the Irish Troubles, from his tough, sturdy prose to his ability to evoke the era and the setting of the novel, the Ireland of his childhood. One example is the way Duffy compulsively checks his vehicles for mercury tilt bombs, each and every time he travels by car, a constant reminder of the danger he faces. McKinty has also created a character for the ages in Sean Duffy—a knight errant in troubled times, the sarcastic, troubled detective inspector hews to the mold of a classic gumshoe who depends on his street-honed instincts and uses his rigid internal code to guide him through perilous times, no matter the cost.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-19 23:46:46

Adrian McKinty delivers the goods again in his 14th novel, which also happens to be the final installment in his Troubles Trilogy. As in the other books in this series (The Cold Cold Ground and I Hear the Sirens in the Street), In the Morning I’ll Be Gone relates the adventures of eternal outsider Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop, or “peeler,” who serves in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, circa late 1983. Finding himself at an all-time personal low (he’s been drummed off the force on a trumped-up charge), he’s offered a chance at reinstatement and redemption if he can track down fugitive IRA bomber Dermot McCann, an old schoolmate. The clock is ticking, as the authorities are convinced that McCann is in the process of engineering an act of terror the likes of which might bring down the Thatcher government.

All of McKinty’s considerable strengths are on display in this secret history of the Irish Troubles, from his tough, sturdy prose to his ability to evoke the era and the setting of the novel, the Ireland of his childhood. One example is the way Duffy compulsively checks his vehicles for mercury tilt bombs, each and every time he travels by car, a constant reminder of the danger he faces. McKinty has also created a character for the ages in Sean Duffy—a knight errant in troubled times, the sarcastic, troubled detective inspector hews to the mold of a classic gumshoe who depends on his street-honed instincts and uses his rigid internal code to guide him through perilous times, no matter the cost.

Don’t Look for Me
Kevin Burton Smith

Detroit’s Loren Estleman punches in for another shift at the Shamus Motor Company with this, the 23rd in his acclaimed Amos Walker series, and once again the end result is one sweet ride. This ain’t no featherweight, half-plastic sub-compact running on political correctness, genteel plotting, and recycled banana peels, but a full-throttled all-metal monster powered by a mighty V8 that runs on blood and sweat, Winstons, and old issues of Black Mask; as relentless as a John Lee Hooker riff.

There’s always been something satisfyingly retro about Estleman’s private-eye hero, even if some of his anachronisms may have moved from affectation into pig-headedness by now (it’s hard to swallow any investigator worth his salt still working without a computer in 2014), but Walker remains, however much he bitches, a man of his time. This time out, it’s a runaway trophy-wife job. Mega-rich investment banker Alec Wynn wants Walker to find Cecelia, who has taken a powder and left behind the “usual” note. “Don’t look for me,” it says.

Of course, what kind of a dick would Walker be if he let a little piece of “common drugstore stationery” deter him? And what kind of a detective novel would this be if it were a simple skip trace? Pretty soon Walker’s bumping up against sexy herbalists, dead bodies, a hidden grow house, Mossad agents, porn films, assorted thugs, and a nefarious plot to corner the Detroit heroin market, concocted by an Asian supervillainess right out of the pulps.

Hokey? Maybe in lesser hands, but Estleman pulls it off with style: all big-shouldered prose, jackhammer wisecracks, and muscular plotting that doesn’t pussyfoot around, while still allowing room for the sort of mature, bruised idealism and a survivor’s watered-down dreams to bleed through.

Walker may be a man out of time, but his clear, unflinching take on the present—and the human condition itself—makes him an ideal traveling companion. The final reveal, when it comes, is as haunting as it is almost inevitable. Walker may never be trendy, but like the 1970 Cutlass behemoth he still drives, he’ll get you there. In spades. Long may he run.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-19 23:50:37

Detroit’s Loren Estleman punches in for another shift at the Shamus Motor Company with this, the 23rd in his acclaimed Amos Walker series, and once again the end result is one sweet ride. This ain’t no featherweight, half-plastic sub-compact running on political correctness, genteel plotting, and recycled banana peels, but a full-throttled all-metal monster powered by a mighty V8 that runs on blood and sweat, Winstons, and old issues of Black Mask; as relentless as a John Lee Hooker riff.

There’s always been something satisfyingly retro about Estleman’s private-eye hero, even if some of his anachronisms may have moved from affectation into pig-headedness by now (it’s hard to swallow any investigator worth his salt still working without a computer in 2014), but Walker remains, however much he bitches, a man of his time. This time out, it’s a runaway trophy-wife job. Mega-rich investment banker Alec Wynn wants Walker to find Cecelia, who has taken a powder and left behind the “usual” note. “Don’t look for me,” it says.

Of course, what kind of a dick would Walker be if he let a little piece of “common drugstore stationery” deter him? And what kind of a detective novel would this be if it were a simple skip trace? Pretty soon Walker’s bumping up against sexy herbalists, dead bodies, a hidden grow house, Mossad agents, porn films, assorted thugs, and a nefarious plot to corner the Detroit heroin market, concocted by an Asian supervillainess right out of the pulps.

Hokey? Maybe in lesser hands, but Estleman pulls it off with style: all big-shouldered prose, jackhammer wisecracks, and muscular plotting that doesn’t pussyfoot around, while still allowing room for the sort of mature, bruised idealism and a survivor’s watered-down dreams to bleed through.

Walker may be a man out of time, but his clear, unflinching take on the present—and the human condition itself—makes him an ideal traveling companion. The final reveal, when it comes, is as haunting as it is almost inevitable. Walker may never be trendy, but like the 1970 Cutlass behemoth he still drives, he’ll get you there. In spades. Long may he run.

Bred in the Bone
Kevin Burton Smith

This is the latest novel by Scottish author Christopher Brookmyre to feature Jasmine Sharp, a former actress turned rookie Glaswegian private eye, and hard-nosed cop Catherine MacLeod, a middle-aged career woman, wife, and mother to two young boys. The two aren’t exactly BFFs. Catherine considers Jasmine “a sneaky, duplicitous and thoroughly sleekit wee bitch” and Jasmine thinks the detective superintendent’s official title should be “Queen Crabbit Cow.”

Fortunately, the paths of this mismatched pair cross magnificently in this third entry, thanks in large part to the return of the shadowy Glen Fallan. A former gangster and unapologetic hard man, Fallan serves as the catalyst when he’s arrested for the fatal shooting of his old running mate, Stevie Fullerton, at a Glasgow car wash.

The case falls to McLeod and her team (the irrepressible rookie “Beano,” the ambitious Laura Geddes, et al.), and it pretty much seems a slam dunk. Witnesses, security camera footage, and physical evidence all point to Fallan. Only a viable motive is missing.

But then Sharp starts to poke around, at the discreet prompting of Geddes, who knows that Fallan and Sharp have become, despite all odds, friends of sorts; the former criminal oddly protective of the much younger investigator. The truth behind Fullerton’s murder is out there, and Geddes thinks Jasmine “may be the only person in a position to look for it.”

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:03:49

This is the latest novel by Scottish author Christopher Brookmyre to feature Jasmine Sharp, a former actress turned rookie Glaswegian private eye, and hard-nosed cop Catherine MacLeod, a middle-aged career woman, wife, and mother to two young boys. The two aren’t exactly BFFs. Catherine considers Jasmine “a sneaky, duplicitous and thoroughly sleekit wee bitch” and Jasmine thinks the detective superintendent’s official title should be “Queen Crabbit Cow.”

Fortunately, the paths of this mismatched pair cross magnificently in this third entry, thanks in large part to the return of the shadowy Glen Fallan. A former gangster and unapologetic hard man, Fallan serves as the catalyst when he’s arrested for the fatal shooting of his old running mate, Stevie Fullerton, at a Glasgow car wash.

The case falls to McLeod and her team (the irrepressible rookie “Beano,” the ambitious Laura Geddes, et al.), and it pretty much seems a slam dunk. Witnesses, security camera footage, and physical evidence all point to Fallan. Only a viable motive is missing.

But then Sharp starts to poke around, at the discreet prompting of Geddes, who knows that Fallan and Sharp have become, despite all odds, friends of sorts; the former criminal oddly protective of the much younger investigator. The truth behind Fullerton’s murder is out there, and Geddes thinks Jasmine “may be the only person in a position to look for it.”

Children of the Revolution
Robin Agnew

Peter Robinson is one of the most intelligent of all mystery writers. His plots are assembled carefully with a fine attention to detail, and his intelligence shines through in every sentence. His Chief Inspector Alan Banks belongs in the Mystery Hall of Fame. Banks is even-tempered, hard-working, sensitive (yet clueless about women), a fan of good music and good wine. In short, he’s hard to resist.

In this outing, Banks is called in when the body of an old man is found underneath a bridge. The evidence suggests murder, though the detectives work under the assumption that it could be murder, suicide, or accident. A big red flag is the discovery of $5,000 in the impoverished-looking man’s pocket, and when the detectives discover that the man is a disgraced former lecturer from the local college, who is far from as old as he looks, their interest is piqued.

As Banks dispatches his team—one segment looking into the man’s recent past, and one segment into his long-ago past (the ’60s)—he himself is called in by his boss and told his two choices moving forward are retirement or moving up. As a Banks fan, I was hoping for choice No. 2, but it’s not revealed until the end of the novel.

As the detectives excavate the life of disgraced professor Gavin Miller, his ties to the turbulent ’60s become more and more center stage. Many of the central characters in the novel, including Banks and Miller, came of age in the ’60s, and the book is a nice dissection of the paths each took after that rebellious period. One of the other main characters, a committed Marxist during college, is now a titled, wealthy wife, mother, and romance writer.

Robinson is excellent at capturing the whorls of emotion below the surface of his stories, and in using his well-drawn characters to help him explicate them. The suspenseful police work of the novel gives way to a heartbreak of an ending that is also somewhat morally ambiguous. I never close a Peter Robinson book and put it out of my mind. His thoughtful themes and characters linger, and this fine novel is no exception in his long tradition of excellence.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:06:51

Peter Robinson is one of the most intelligent of all mystery writers. His plots are assembled carefully with a fine attention to detail, and his intelligence shines through in every sentence. His Chief Inspector Alan Banks belongs in the Mystery Hall of Fame. Banks is even-tempered, hard-working, sensitive (yet clueless about women), a fan of good music and good wine. In short, he’s hard to resist.

In this outing, Banks is called in when the body of an old man is found underneath a bridge. The evidence suggests murder, though the detectives work under the assumption that it could be murder, suicide, or accident. A big red flag is the discovery of $5,000 in the impoverished-looking man’s pocket, and when the detectives discover that the man is a disgraced former lecturer from the local college, who is far from as old as he looks, their interest is piqued.

As Banks dispatches his team—one segment looking into the man’s recent past, and one segment into his long-ago past (the ’60s)—he himself is called in by his boss and told his two choices moving forward are retirement or moving up. As a Banks fan, I was hoping for choice No. 2, but it’s not revealed until the end of the novel.

As the detectives excavate the life of disgraced professor Gavin Miller, his ties to the turbulent ’60s become more and more center stage. Many of the central characters in the novel, including Banks and Miller, came of age in the ’60s, and the book is a nice dissection of the paths each took after that rebellious period. One of the other main characters, a committed Marxist during college, is now a titled, wealthy wife, mother, and romance writer.

Robinson is excellent at capturing the whorls of emotion below the surface of his stories, and in using his well-drawn characters to help him explicate them. The suspenseful police work of the novel gives way to a heartbreak of an ending that is also somewhat morally ambiguous. I never close a Peter Robinson book and put it out of my mind. His thoughtful themes and characters linger, and this fine novel is no exception in his long tradition of excellence.

The Long Shadow
Sharon Magee

Nordic crime fiction seems to be everywhere these days and Liza Marklund, sometimes called the “queen of Scandinavian crime fiction,” is one of its brightest stars.

In The Long Shadow, the eighth installment of her Stockholm newspaper reporter Annika Bengtzon series, after last year’s Lifeline, Annika’s personal life is in flux. Her house has burned down, the insurance money is being withheld as she’s considered a suspect, and she’s separated from her husband with whom she shares custody of their two children. At the Evening Post, where she’s a top-notch crime reporter, her editor has offered her a promotion to a desk job, which she turns down—she loves being in the field.

She jumps at the chance to travel to Spain’s Costa del Sol to cover the robbery and murder of former pro hockey player Sebastian Söderström and his family, including two children. Annika discovers a third child, 16-year-old Suzette, has disappeared and is presumed dead. When the teenager’s best friend begins receiving cryptic emails from an account only the two friends know about, Annika, who misses her own children, makes it her mission to find Suzette by following a trail that leads from Spain to a mysterious farm in Morocco.

It’s important to read the previous novel, Lifeline, before tackling this overly long installment. The plotlines and characters carry over and, at times, it’s difficult to follow the numerous and somewhat confusing subplots without having the background. Annika is an interesting, if flawed character. She loves her children, but tends to love the wrong men, and is a dedicated journalist and investigator, but sometimes gets too involved with the story. Even with these quibbles, the book delivers a satisfying ending.

Liza Marklund’s stories have a universal theme of good versus evil, but her writing and setting is distinctly Nordic. Her 11 novels include The Postcard Killer, which she co-wrote with James Patterson. More than 15 million copies of her Annika Bengtzon series have been sold worldwide, and ABC is in the development phase of a television series based on the series.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:10:29

Nordic crime fiction seems to be everywhere these days and Liza Marklund, sometimes called the “queen of Scandinavian crime fiction,” is one of its brightest stars.

In The Long Shadow, the eighth installment of her Stockholm newspaper reporter Annika Bengtzon series, after last year’s Lifeline, Annika’s personal life is in flux. Her house has burned down, the insurance money is being withheld as she’s considered a suspect, and she’s separated from her husband with whom she shares custody of their two children. At the Evening Post, where she’s a top-notch crime reporter, her editor has offered her a promotion to a desk job, which she turns down—she loves being in the field.

She jumps at the chance to travel to Spain’s Costa del Sol to cover the robbery and murder of former pro hockey player Sebastian Söderström and his family, including two children. Annika discovers a third child, 16-year-old Suzette, has disappeared and is presumed dead. When the teenager’s best friend begins receiving cryptic emails from an account only the two friends know about, Annika, who misses her own children, makes it her mission to find Suzette by following a trail that leads from Spain to a mysterious farm in Morocco.

It’s important to read the previous novel, Lifeline, before tackling this overly long installment. The plotlines and characters carry over and, at times, it’s difficult to follow the numerous and somewhat confusing subplots without having the background. Annika is an interesting, if flawed character. She loves her children, but tends to love the wrong men, and is a dedicated journalist and investigator, but sometimes gets too involved with the story. Even with these quibbles, the book delivers a satisfying ending.

Liza Marklund’s stories have a universal theme of good versus evil, but her writing and setting is distinctly Nordic. Her 11 novels include The Postcard Killer, which she co-wrote with James Patterson. More than 15 million copies of her Annika Bengtzon series have been sold worldwide, and ABC is in the development phase of a television series based on the series.

Bordeaux: the Bitter Finish
Sheila M. Merritt

The Latin phrase In vino veritas translates to “In wine there is truth.” With Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish, author Janet Hubbard espouses a different view—wine leads to lies...and murder. In this corker of a novel, a magnum of prohibitively expensive wine is pronounced counterfeit by renowned connoisseur and wine critic Ellen Jordan. To prove the accuracy of her statement, Ellen gets permission from the New York purchaser to bring the magnum to France for testing. She is accompanied overseas by Max (Maxine) Maguire, an NYPD detective whose French mother is a good friend of Jordan’s.

Max is smarting from a viral video showing her martial-arts-studded takedown of a rapist. Until the furor dies down, she’s given leave to pose as Jordan’s assistant. The pretense masks her real role as Ellen’s bodyguard. The critic, who can make or break reputations through her ratings, has many enemies in the wine world. When Ms. Jordan is found dead in her hotel suite, Max suspects foul play.

Max is aided in the ensuing investigation by local magistrate Olivier Chaumont. He and the striking detective have a professional and personal history. They previously worked together solving a case in the Champagne region—and became lovers. The romance gets rekindled as they formulate a list of suspects, including wine producers, purveyors, and aficionados. Gastronome Olivier mixes easily into the intertwined society, noting “the nose” of a wine while nosing around for clues.

Filled with depictions of mouthwatering gourmet meals and brilliantly described libations, the book doesn’t neglect addressing matters pertinent to the plot. Proliferation of wine counterfeiting is, for example, well detailed. And the ease of disguising poison in pungent bleu cheese from Auvergne is deliberated with expertise.

Janet Hubbard’s second fictional foray into French wine country is aptly and ironically titled: “The finish” is a wine term denoting a lingering aftertaste. The “bitter” element, in the context of the story, alludes to the wine world’s rancorous and lethal entanglements. Following on the literary heels of Champagne: The Farewell, Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish will appeal to foodies, Francophiles, oenophiles, and fans of whodunits. It is a delicious and intoxicating read.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:14:34

The Latin phrase In vino veritas translates to “In wine there is truth.” With Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish, author Janet Hubbard espouses a different view—wine leads to lies...and murder. In this corker of a novel, a magnum of prohibitively expensive wine is pronounced counterfeit by renowned connoisseur and wine critic Ellen Jordan. To prove the accuracy of her statement, Ellen gets permission from the New York purchaser to bring the magnum to France for testing. She is accompanied overseas by Max (Maxine) Maguire, an NYPD detective whose French mother is a good friend of Jordan’s.

Max is smarting from a viral video showing her martial-arts-studded takedown of a rapist. Until the furor dies down, she’s given leave to pose as Jordan’s assistant. The pretense masks her real role as Ellen’s bodyguard. The critic, who can make or break reputations through her ratings, has many enemies in the wine world. When Ms. Jordan is found dead in her hotel suite, Max suspects foul play.

Max is aided in the ensuing investigation by local magistrate Olivier Chaumont. He and the striking detective have a professional and personal history. They previously worked together solving a case in the Champagne region—and became lovers. The romance gets rekindled as they formulate a list of suspects, including wine producers, purveyors, and aficionados. Gastronome Olivier mixes easily into the intertwined society, noting “the nose” of a wine while nosing around for clues.

Filled with depictions of mouthwatering gourmet meals and brilliantly described libations, the book doesn’t neglect addressing matters pertinent to the plot. Proliferation of wine counterfeiting is, for example, well detailed. And the ease of disguising poison in pungent bleu cheese from Auvergne is deliberated with expertise.

Janet Hubbard’s second fictional foray into French wine country is aptly and ironically titled: “The finish” is a wine term denoting a lingering aftertaste. The “bitter” element, in the context of the story, alludes to the wine world’s rancorous and lethal entanglements. Following on the literary heels of Champagne: The Farewell, Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish will appeal to foodies, Francophiles, oenophiles, and fans of whodunits. It is a delicious and intoxicating read.

Deadliest of Sins
Eileen Brady

Campbell County, North Carolina, has some nasty secrets in this latest Mary Crow suspense novel, Deadliest of Sins. Antigay rhetoric from preacher Reverend Trull of the One Way Church may have contributed to the murder of Oscar-winning filmmaker Bryan Taylor. The governor’s special prosecutor, Mary Crow, is sent to investigate, but things quickly become muddied when Chase, an 11-year-old boy, shows up at her Asheville office with his own problem. His sister, Samantha Buchanan, is missing, snatched from her car on Campbell County’s Highway 74.

The boy’s outlandish story of his sister being sold by their stepfather, a former cop, is so out there that local authorities completely dismiss it. Instead, the case is classified as yet another teen runaway. I have to say the character of Charles Oliver “Chase” Buchman, from his pale face and skinny frame to his tough intelligence, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. His disastrous life rang all too true, but even an experienced investigator like Mary Crow initially dismisses him. The clues lead in a completely different direction, or so she thinks. Is handsome undercover cop Victor Galloway really trying to help Crow or could he be part of what’s rotten in this little part of North Carolina?

Author Sallie Bissell does a great job of setting the scene, but it’s the determined little boy you end up rooting for and remembering.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:19:24

Campbell County, North Carolina, has some nasty secrets in this latest Mary Crow suspense novel, Deadliest of Sins. Antigay rhetoric from preacher Reverend Trull of the One Way Church may have contributed to the murder of Oscar-winning filmmaker Bryan Taylor. The governor’s special prosecutor, Mary Crow, is sent to investigate, but things quickly become muddied when Chase, an 11-year-old boy, shows up at her Asheville office with his own problem. His sister, Samantha Buchanan, is missing, snatched from her car on Campbell County’s Highway 74.

The boy’s outlandish story of his sister being sold by their stepfather, a former cop, is so out there that local authorities completely dismiss it. Instead, the case is classified as yet another teen runaway. I have to say the character of Charles Oliver “Chase” Buchman, from his pale face and skinny frame to his tough intelligence, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. His disastrous life rang all too true, but even an experienced investigator like Mary Crow initially dismisses him. The clues lead in a completely different direction, or so she thinks. Is handsome undercover cop Victor Galloway really trying to help Crow or could he be part of what’s rotten in this little part of North Carolina?

Author Sallie Bissell does a great job of setting the scene, but it’s the determined little boy you end up rooting for and remembering.

The Body in Bodega Bay
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

If you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, you will thoroughly enjoy this murder mystery that takes place in Bodega Bay, the town where the scary avian movie was shot. The amateur detectives here are Toby Sandler, an antiques dealer, and his wife, Nora Barnes, an art historian. When Toby’s partner is found murdered, Toby references Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon: when a man’s partner is killed, he has to do something about it. So, he and Nora decide to help Deputy Sheriff Dan Ellis solve the crime.

The plot revolves around an unbelievably valuable Russian triptych dating back to pre-Renaissance times and, oddly enough, three storyboards from the Hitchcock movie. Back in the day, the Bodega Bay area was a Russian émigré enclave on California’s North Coast, and apparently some modern-day Russians are anxious to get their hands on the valuable piece. Before he was killed, Toby’s partner left some clues about the whereabouts of the Russian icon, and Nora’s expertise in art history helps in solving the puzzle.

Although the novel opens with a murder, the plot moves a bit slowly in the early chapters as the reader gets to know the people and the area and, particularly, the locations where the movie was shot (which proves very important later), but it picks up speed and finishes with a flourish and an unexpected conclusion.

The co-authors are professors emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is their second mystery novel featuring Nora and Toby, the first being Murder in Lascaux.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:22:32

If you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, you will thoroughly enjoy this murder mystery that takes place in Bodega Bay, the town where the scary avian movie was shot. The amateur detectives here are Toby Sandler, an antiques dealer, and his wife, Nora Barnes, an art historian. When Toby’s partner is found murdered, Toby references Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon: when a man’s partner is killed, he has to do something about it. So, he and Nora decide to help Deputy Sheriff Dan Ellis solve the crime.

The plot revolves around an unbelievably valuable Russian triptych dating back to pre-Renaissance times and, oddly enough, three storyboards from the Hitchcock movie. Back in the day, the Bodega Bay area was a Russian émigré enclave on California’s North Coast, and apparently some modern-day Russians are anxious to get their hands on the valuable piece. Before he was killed, Toby’s partner left some clues about the whereabouts of the Russian icon, and Nora’s expertise in art history helps in solving the puzzle.

Although the novel opens with a murder, the plot moves a bit slowly in the early chapters as the reader gets to know the people and the area and, particularly, the locations where the movie was shot (which proves very important later), but it picks up speed and finishes with a flourish and an unexpected conclusion.

The co-authors are professors emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is their second mystery novel featuring Nora and Toby, the first being Murder in Lascaux.

Hyde
Hank Wagner

It’s been popular of late for authors to offer revisions of classic tales, offering versions of those stories by adding a new element (such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), or presenting a narrative from a different perspective (like the Gone With the Wind parody The Wind Done Gone). Hyde takes the latter route, offering the viewpoint of Robert Louis Stevenson’s immortal villain, the vicious alter ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll.

In Daniel Levine’s debut novel, the surprisingly eloquent Hyde rationalizes, dissembles, and explains the events of Stevenson’s novella (helpfully included in the galley), offering a detailed first-person retelling of events. Like Stevenson’s story, the narrative delves deeply into the dark recesses of human nature, but departs from simple black-and-white explanations of the nature of good and evil, suggesting there are only confusing shades of gray. Your sympathy for Hyde will depend greatly on your personal opinion regarding the influence of nature versus nurture.

Levine’s is a winning story, well told, but the notion of a semi-heroic Hyde may leave many unsatisfied. The story of a misunderstood monster, told from the monster’s perspective, has already been done, and more convincingly—it’s called Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Although to me there’s little need to revisit this concept, current trends indicate there’s more to come. Who knows what lies ahead? It’s not so far-fetched to speculate that we may see the likes of Moby recounting Melville’s classic tale from the perspective of the great whale.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:26:33

It’s been popular of late for authors to offer revisions of classic tales, offering versions of those stories by adding a new element (such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), or presenting a narrative from a different perspective (like the Gone With the Wind parody The Wind Done Gone). Hyde takes the latter route, offering the viewpoint of Robert Louis Stevenson’s immortal villain, the vicious alter ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll.

In Daniel Levine’s debut novel, the surprisingly eloquent Hyde rationalizes, dissembles, and explains the events of Stevenson’s novella (helpfully included in the galley), offering a detailed first-person retelling of events. Like Stevenson’s story, the narrative delves deeply into the dark recesses of human nature, but departs from simple black-and-white explanations of the nature of good and evil, suggesting there are only confusing shades of gray. Your sympathy for Hyde will depend greatly on your personal opinion regarding the influence of nature versus nurture.

Levine’s is a winning story, well told, but the notion of a semi-heroic Hyde may leave many unsatisfied. The story of a misunderstood monster, told from the monster’s perspective, has already been done, and more convincingly—it’s called Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Although to me there’s little need to revisit this concept, current trends indicate there’s more to come. Who knows what lies ahead? It’s not so far-fetched to speculate that we may see the likes of Moby recounting Melville’s classic tale from the perspective of the great whale.

Overwatch
Betty Webb

What begins as your standard acronym-heavy spy thriller abruptly changes direction when “us-against-them” turns into “us-against-us.” On his first day at work at the CIA, Alex Garnett, the attorney son of a formerly high-ranking official at the agency, is told to help with the civil litigation of a CIA operative during that operative’s messy divorce case. When the operative is killed in a suspicious traffic accident, Garnett—who actually witnesses the accident—wonders if it was connected to a CIA department named Overwatch. When he shares his suspicions with his new boss at the agency, Garnett finds himself not only without a job, but on the run, as the deaths begin to pile up around him.

In the background (the story is told in multiple points of view), Iran is inching closer and closer to dropping a nuclear bomb on Israel, quite possibly because of an assassination orchestrated by Overwatch. This is a spy thriller for people who don’t ordinarily like spy thrillers. Yes, there are the usual bad guys (rogue CIA agents, Islamic extremists), and spy-versus-spy scenarios with a dollop of torture thrown in to sweeten the pot. But basically, Overwatch is about a man coming to terms with the fact that no one around him can be trusted, not even his “retired” spook father. Because of this, the book is a paranoid’s delight.

Yet Overwatch is also politically savvy, and makes a strong case that too much secrecy can and does shield evil men who are furthering their own dark plans. “In the moment, all tyrants believe themselves to be on the side of the angels,” muses Garnett, at a pivotal point in the book. “Every villain is the hero of his own story.” After detailing betrayal upon betrayal, author Marc Guggenheim delivers a hair-raising climax that perfectly punctuates his argument: Trust no one who trusts no one.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:30:49

What begins as your standard acronym-heavy spy thriller abruptly changes direction when “us-against-them” turns into “us-against-us.” On his first day at work at the CIA, Alex Garnett, the attorney son of a formerly high-ranking official at the agency, is told to help with the civil litigation of a CIA operative during that operative’s messy divorce case. When the operative is killed in a suspicious traffic accident, Garnett—who actually witnesses the accident—wonders if it was connected to a CIA department named Overwatch. When he shares his suspicions with his new boss at the agency, Garnett finds himself not only without a job, but on the run, as the deaths begin to pile up around him.

In the background (the story is told in multiple points of view), Iran is inching closer and closer to dropping a nuclear bomb on Israel, quite possibly because of an assassination orchestrated by Overwatch. This is a spy thriller for people who don’t ordinarily like spy thrillers. Yes, there are the usual bad guys (rogue CIA agents, Islamic extremists), and spy-versus-spy scenarios with a dollop of torture thrown in to sweeten the pot. But basically, Overwatch is about a man coming to terms with the fact that no one around him can be trusted, not even his “retired” spook father. Because of this, the book is a paranoid’s delight.

Yet Overwatch is also politically savvy, and makes a strong case that too much secrecy can and does shield evil men who are furthering their own dark plans. “In the moment, all tyrants believe themselves to be on the side of the angels,” muses Garnett, at a pivotal point in the book. “Every villain is the hero of his own story.” After detailing betrayal upon betrayal, author Marc Guggenheim delivers a hair-raising climax that perfectly punctuates his argument: Trust no one who trusts no one.

Under Cold Stone
Vanessa Orr

In Vicki Delany’s seventh Constable Molly Smith mystery, Under Cold Stone, the young Canadian policewoman must solve two problems: learning how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey and tracking down a murderer. When Molly’s mother, Lucky Smith, asks her to travel to Banff, Alberta, to help clear the name of her boyfriend’s son, Matt, who is accused of murder, Molly’s lack of cooking ability is all but forgotten as she demonstrates where her skills truly lie.

As Molly meets the people in Matt’s life, including his girlfriend, Tracey, his unlikable roommates, and his mother and her fiancé, it becomes obvious that there is more to the Rocky Mountain town than first meets the eye. There is definitely tension between the haves and have-nots, a sentiment that is echoed in a second story line taking place at the Grizzly Resort in Trafalgar, where Molly’s sergeant, John Winters, is dealing with warring environmentalists and developers.

While Molly’s dogged determination to solve the murder is admirable, I wish that the book had moved along a little more quickly, though this pace probably reflects a true investigation closer than a CSI-like approach in which the crime is solved in under an hour. At times, one feels for Molly, who spends a lot of time wining and dining suspects in her efforts to get them to talk, and living down her childhood name, Moonlight, while trying to be taken seriously as a cop. While a number of the secondary characters are one-dimensional, I did appreciate the fact that as the story evolved, so did Matt’s girlfriend, Tracey, a character from the “wrong side of the tracks” who turns out to be much more intelligent than she first appears.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, though readers looking for action won’t find a lot of it here. It’s not a bad way to spend some time in the Canadian wilderness, even if that isn’t as peaceful as it first sounds.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:33:53

In Vicki Delany’s seventh Constable Molly Smith mystery, Under Cold Stone, the young Canadian policewoman must solve two problems: learning how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey and tracking down a murderer. When Molly’s mother, Lucky Smith, asks her to travel to Banff, Alberta, to help clear the name of her boyfriend’s son, Matt, who is accused of murder, Molly’s lack of cooking ability is all but forgotten as she demonstrates where her skills truly lie.

As Molly meets the people in Matt’s life, including his girlfriend, Tracey, his unlikable roommates, and his mother and her fiancé, it becomes obvious that there is more to the Rocky Mountain town than first meets the eye. There is definitely tension between the haves and have-nots, a sentiment that is echoed in a second story line taking place at the Grizzly Resort in Trafalgar, where Molly’s sergeant, John Winters, is dealing with warring environmentalists and developers.

While Molly’s dogged determination to solve the murder is admirable, I wish that the book had moved along a little more quickly, though this pace probably reflects a true investigation closer than a CSI-like approach in which the crime is solved in under an hour. At times, one feels for Molly, who spends a lot of time wining and dining suspects in her efforts to get them to talk, and living down her childhood name, Moonlight, while trying to be taken seriously as a cop. While a number of the secondary characters are one-dimensional, I did appreciate the fact that as the story evolved, so did Matt’s girlfriend, Tracey, a character from the “wrong side of the tracks” who turns out to be much more intelligent than she first appears.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, though readers looking for action won’t find a lot of it here. It’s not a bad way to spend some time in the Canadian wilderness, even if that isn’t as peaceful as it first sounds.

Muzzled
Sheila M. Merritt

Muzzled is a great title for a mystery with a veterinarian protagonist. Muzzle can mean the snout, mouth, and jaw of an animal, or the business end of a firearm. Or, it can mean restraint or stifling of expression or movement. All three meanings suit Muzzled, author Eileen Brady’s first novel.

Dr. Kate Turner accepts a yearlong assignment in bucolic upstate New York to cover for a vet who is on a world-tour sabbatical. Kate is a refugee from urban life and a broken romance. The tranquility of her new home is shattered when she makes a scheduled house call and discovers the corpses of an elderly husband and wife, breeders of champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels. The spouses have been shot to death, and the local police brand it a domestic murder-suicide.

There is something amiss about the layout of the tea setting on the table near the bodies, but Kate can’t put her finger on exactly what. Also, she had previously examined each of the 27 spaniels and performed a procedure on one that necessitated the shaving of a leg. When she does a canine head count, the numbers tally, but Kate doesn’t recall seeing a dog with a recently shaved leg... All this leads the vet to suspect a third party is involved, and she is compelled to engage in sleuthing.

Continuing with her house calls allows for exchanges with the locals, many of whom relish dishing the dirt on the deceased duo. It’s well known that the couple’s estranged daughter is hungry for her inheritance, and that her parents had alienated and verbally threatened some associates and community business people.

Multiple possible motives are exposed, along with the quirks of the townsfolk. Author Brady, a bona fide professional DVM, infuses the narrative with medical expertise and astute psychological reflection upon the behavior of animals—and their attendant humans. Kate Turner’s physical resemblance to a younger Meryl Streep is perhaps noted too often, but other than that minor quibble, she is an engaging amateur detective. Brady clearly has more adventures in store for the good doctor.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:37:41

Muzzled is a great title for a mystery with a veterinarian protagonist. Muzzle can mean the snout, mouth, and jaw of an animal, or the business end of a firearm. Or, it can mean restraint or stifling of expression or movement. All three meanings suit Muzzled, author Eileen Brady’s first novel.

Dr. Kate Turner accepts a yearlong assignment in bucolic upstate New York to cover for a vet who is on a world-tour sabbatical. Kate is a refugee from urban life and a broken romance. The tranquility of her new home is shattered when she makes a scheduled house call and discovers the corpses of an elderly husband and wife, breeders of champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels. The spouses have been shot to death, and the local police brand it a domestic murder-suicide.

There is something amiss about the layout of the tea setting on the table near the bodies, but Kate can’t put her finger on exactly what. Also, she had previously examined each of the 27 spaniels and performed a procedure on one that necessitated the shaving of a leg. When she does a canine head count, the numbers tally, but Kate doesn’t recall seeing a dog with a recently shaved leg... All this leads the vet to suspect a third party is involved, and she is compelled to engage in sleuthing.

Continuing with her house calls allows for exchanges with the locals, many of whom relish dishing the dirt on the deceased duo. It’s well known that the couple’s estranged daughter is hungry for her inheritance, and that her parents had alienated and verbally threatened some associates and community business people.

Multiple possible motives are exposed, along with the quirks of the townsfolk. Author Brady, a bona fide professional DVM, infuses the narrative with medical expertise and astute psychological reflection upon the behavior of animals—and their attendant humans. Kate Turner’s physical resemblance to a younger Meryl Streep is perhaps noted too often, but other than that minor quibble, she is an engaging amateur detective. Brady clearly has more adventures in store for the good doctor.

Waiting for Wednesday
Betty Webb

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein, recovering from the attack that almost killed her in Tuesday’s Gone, ignores doctor’s orders by hunting down another murderer in this gripping mystery by the writing team of Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Klein is as intuitive and odd as ever, and it’s her very oddness that keeps giving her trouble. A victim of envy and politics, she’s been dropped by the police department that once used her as a consultant, yet she doesn’t seem to care, mainly because life has intruded upon her in a big way. Although Klein loves nothing more than being alone, her rebellious young niece has moved in with her; several children, grieving over their mother’s murder, have come to her for solace; and her lover Sandy, now living in New York, wants to reunite. To get away from the havoc, Klein returns to an old vice‚ spending the wee hours of the morning walking the seedier streets of London. But death dogs her tracks. When a therapy patient relates an unusual story someone once told him, Klein becomes intrigued by its very strangeness, and while trying to find the story’s source, she winds up in the middle of a serial killer investigation. As a protagonist, Frieda Klein breaks all the rules. She’s not always likable, often stubborn, she dislikes children, and she avoids intimacy. Ordinarily, a reader would get frustrated by such a difficult character, and in fact, that’s what happens to her friends. They worry about her, become infuriated with her intransigence, but in the end, they stick by her. We do, too. There’s something pure about Klein’s refusal to give up her quest for the origin of a strange story just so she and her friends and colleagues can sit in their warm, cozy houses, discussing the rotten English weather. Instead, she braves the storms, both within and without. In a way, especially in this edition of the Klein saga, she is an anti-Sherlock Holmes, relying more on intuition than science. For the average non-scientific reader, that’s enough. Grounding Klein’s complicated character is the authors’ sublime prose. The Thames is so real we can smell its stink; the dark city streets so vividly evoked we can see steam rising off the pavement after a rain. This is top-notch writing‚ sensual, deep, and wise.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:41:10

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein, recovering from the attack that almost killed her in Tuesday’s Gone, ignores doctor’s orders by hunting down another murderer in this gripping mystery by the writing team of Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Klein is as intuitive and odd as ever, and it’s her very oddness that keeps giving her trouble. A victim of envy and politics, she’s been dropped by the police department that once used her as a consultant, yet she doesn’t seem to care, mainly because life has intruded upon her in a big way. Although Klein loves nothing more than being alone, her rebellious young niece has moved in with her; several children, grieving over their mother’s murder, have come to her for solace; and her lover Sandy, now living in New York, wants to reunite. To get away from the havoc, Klein returns to an old vice‚ spending the wee hours of the morning walking the seedier streets of London. But death dogs her tracks. When a therapy patient relates an unusual story someone once told him, Klein becomes intrigued by its very strangeness, and while trying to find the story’s source, she winds up in the middle of a serial killer investigation. As a protagonist, Frieda Klein breaks all the rules. She’s not always likable, often stubborn, she dislikes children, and she avoids intimacy. Ordinarily, a reader would get frustrated by such a difficult character, and in fact, that’s what happens to her friends. They worry about her, become infuriated with her intransigence, but in the end, they stick by her. We do, too. There’s something pure about Klein’s refusal to give up her quest for the origin of a strange story just so she and her friends and colleagues can sit in their warm, cozy houses, discussing the rotten English weather. Instead, she braves the storms, both within and without. In a way, especially in this edition of the Klein saga, she is an anti-Sherlock Holmes, relying more on intuition than science. For the average non-scientific reader, that’s enough. Grounding Klein’s complicated character is the authors’ sublime prose. The Thames is so real we can smell its stink; the dark city streets so vividly evoked we can see steam rising off the pavement after a rain. This is top-notch writing‚ sensual, deep, and wise.

The Stranger on the Train
Vanessa Orr

The Stranger on the Train is Dublin author Abbie Taylor’s first novel, and I hope that it won’t be her last. It’s a story about a struggling single mother, Emma Turner, whose child, Ritchie, is abducted by a stranger she meets on the London Underground, and it is an excellent character study, as well as an action-packed thriller.

It’s hard at first to feel sorry for Emma, who, when she is introduced in the novel, is harried, aggravated, and extremely terse with her 13-month-old son as she waits to board a train. As the story unfolds, it turns out that at times, Emma is more than impatient; she sometimes wishes that her son would just disappear. This desire turns out to haunt her when Ritchie is stolen by a woman who befriends her on the train, and no one, including the police and her general practitioner, believes her.

Taylor does an excellent job of helping the reader identify with Emma—even though she might at first seem unlikable, she is really just exhausted, alone, and overwhelmed. When Emma truly realizes that Ritchie is gone, she is bereft, and the fact that she has no friends or family to help her makes the situation even more poignant. Emma even distrusts Rafe Townsend, a former policeman who was in the train station and who wants to help her find Ritchie, though the pair eventually team up to search for her son.

As Emma follows tenuous clues, she takes the reader on a physical as well as a psychological journey, witnessing her transformation from a scared, depressed, angry young mother to a formidable woman on a mission to overcome every obstacle in her way. At the novel’s suspenseful conclusion, there is no doubt that Emma will save her son—or die trying; true proof of a mother’s love.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:45:00

The Stranger on the Train is Dublin author Abbie Taylor’s first novel, and I hope that it won’t be her last. It’s a story about a struggling single mother, Emma Turner, whose child, Ritchie, is abducted by a stranger she meets on the London Underground, and it is an excellent character study, as well as an action-packed thriller.

It’s hard at first to feel sorry for Emma, who, when she is introduced in the novel, is harried, aggravated, and extremely terse with her 13-month-old son as she waits to board a train. As the story unfolds, it turns out that at times, Emma is more than impatient; she sometimes wishes that her son would just disappear. This desire turns out to haunt her when Ritchie is stolen by a woman who befriends her on the train, and no one, including the police and her general practitioner, believes her.

Taylor does an excellent job of helping the reader identify with Emma—even though she might at first seem unlikable, she is really just exhausted, alone, and overwhelmed. When Emma truly realizes that Ritchie is gone, she is bereft, and the fact that she has no friends or family to help her makes the situation even more poignant. Emma even distrusts Rafe Townsend, a former policeman who was in the train station and who wants to help her find Ritchie, though the pair eventually team up to search for her son.

As Emma follows tenuous clues, she takes the reader on a physical as well as a psychological journey, witnessing her transformation from a scared, depressed, angry young mother to a formidable woman on a mission to overcome every obstacle in her way. At the novel’s suspenseful conclusion, there is no doubt that Emma will save her son—or die trying; true proof of a mother’s love.

Death Among the Ruins
Eileen Brady

Arabella Beaumont, the unusual heroine in the Regency mystery Death Among the Ruins, is such a saucy character you could pour her on your pasta. After purchasing a nude statue of Pan, with, shall we say, unusual enhancements, she learns it has been stolen in transit. Unwilling to abandon her trophy, the plucky courtesan drags sister Belinda, brother Charles, and would-be suitor John Kendrick, Rector of Effing, to Italy to confront the thieves.

The staff of the hotel in the ancient town of Resina quickly discovers that Arabella is not the usual stuffy English lady on vacation abroad. As a sly joke, her first meal is pasta puttanesca, the famous Southern Italian “ladies of the night” dish. Arabella, currently the mistress of the Duke of Glendeen is deliciously unrepentant about her robust and satisfying life style. A memorable scene in the book involves another decadent feast served in a buried villa in Pompeii.

The hotel is populated by a slew of odd characters, including a terrifying priest named Father Terranova who is traveling with his mother, sister, niece, nephew, and a trio of monks. Murder ensues, of course, or does it? Mix in a mysterious professor and season with a trio of randy servants, and you end up with quite a passionate potpourri.

Seattle-based author Pamela Christie obviously had plenty of fun writing this second of the Arabella Beaumont mysteries and I’m confident you’ll have just as much fun reading it.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:47:18

Arabella Beaumont, the unusual heroine in the Regency mystery Death Among the Ruins, is such a saucy character you could pour her on your pasta. After purchasing a nude statue of Pan, with, shall we say, unusual enhancements, she learns it has been stolen in transit. Unwilling to abandon her trophy, the plucky courtesan drags sister Belinda, brother Charles, and would-be suitor John Kendrick, Rector of Effing, to Italy to confront the thieves.

The staff of the hotel in the ancient town of Resina quickly discovers that Arabella is not the usual stuffy English lady on vacation abroad. As a sly joke, her first meal is pasta puttanesca, the famous Southern Italian “ladies of the night” dish. Arabella, currently the mistress of the Duke of Glendeen is deliciously unrepentant about her robust and satisfying life style. A memorable scene in the book involves another decadent feast served in a buried villa in Pompeii.

The hotel is populated by a slew of odd characters, including a terrifying priest named Father Terranova who is traveling with his mother, sister, niece, nephew, and a trio of monks. Murder ensues, of course, or does it? Mix in a mysterious professor and season with a trio of randy servants, and you end up with quite a passionate potpourri.

Seattle-based author Pamela Christie obviously had plenty of fun writing this second of the Arabella Beaumont mysteries and I’m confident you’ll have just as much fun reading it.

The Setup Man
Betty Webb

Willie Nelson once sang, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” but, mamas, when you finish The Setup Man, you’ll be singing the same thing about baseball players. Especially the pitchers. Major League player Johnny Adcock’s pitching arm is getting creaky, and being an intelligent man, he sets up an après-baseball career by moonlighting as a private investigator. Soon other baseballers come flocking to him for help. One of them is Frankie Herrera, a fellow teammate with the San Jose Bay Dogs, who asks Adcock to find out who posted his wife’s porno video on the Internet. Adcock, eager to help a friend in trouble, agrees.

The budding blackmail case turns into murder when Herrera is killed in a suspicious car crash along with a prostitute. Neither of the Herreras, it seems, were especially faithful. But even with his friend dead, Adcock refuses to let the case go. To save the widow Herrera’s reputation, he starts sniffing around the offices of a California porno king‚ another baseball player‚ to see if the video could have been leaked from there. A warning here: details of the porno business, and Mrs. Herrera’s sex tape in particular, are described in detail. So if you’re looking for a clean-cut read, look elsewhere; The Setup Man is a raunchy book. One thing leads to another, and soon Adcock finds himself helping yet another Bay Dogs teammate dispose of a dead body.

Despite all the sex and all the murders (there are several), The Setup Man is as filled with comic relief as a caper novel. That’s a tribute to author Monday, who knows baseball backward and forward and has a ribald sense of humor, as well as a jaundiced, yet loving, view of the men who play the game. In describing one player’s sex life, he says, “The pervert is never actually the guy with the scraggly white beard. Just look at politicians.”

In Adcock, Monday has created a flawed, yet eminently likable and believable protagonist. Adcock will do anything to help a friend, even when it means endangering his precious pitching arm or his life. From start to finish, The Setup Man is a speedy, enjoyable read, and baseball fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment of Adcock’s adventures.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:50:19

Willie Nelson once sang, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” but, mamas, when you finish The Setup Man, you’ll be singing the same thing about baseball players. Especially the pitchers. Major League player Johnny Adcock’s pitching arm is getting creaky, and being an intelligent man, he sets up an après-baseball career by moonlighting as a private investigator. Soon other baseballers come flocking to him for help. One of them is Frankie Herrera, a fellow teammate with the San Jose Bay Dogs, who asks Adcock to find out who posted his wife’s porno video on the Internet. Adcock, eager to help a friend in trouble, agrees.

The budding blackmail case turns into murder when Herrera is killed in a suspicious car crash along with a prostitute. Neither of the Herreras, it seems, were especially faithful. But even with his friend dead, Adcock refuses to let the case go. To save the widow Herrera’s reputation, he starts sniffing around the offices of a California porno king‚ another baseball player‚ to see if the video could have been leaked from there. A warning here: details of the porno business, and Mrs. Herrera’s sex tape in particular, are described in detail. So if you’re looking for a clean-cut read, look elsewhere; The Setup Man is a raunchy book. One thing leads to another, and soon Adcock finds himself helping yet another Bay Dogs teammate dispose of a dead body.

Despite all the sex and all the murders (there are several), The Setup Man is as filled with comic relief as a caper novel. That’s a tribute to author Monday, who knows baseball backward and forward and has a ribald sense of humor, as well as a jaundiced, yet loving, view of the men who play the game. In describing one player’s sex life, he says, “The pervert is never actually the guy with the scraggly white beard. Just look at politicians.”

In Adcock, Monday has created a flawed, yet eminently likable and believable protagonist. Adcock will do anything to help a friend, even when it means endangering his precious pitching arm or his life. From start to finish, The Setup Man is a speedy, enjoyable read, and baseball fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment of Adcock’s adventures.

Brooklyn Graves
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

Erica Donato is an unusual amateur detective. She’s a grad student in history, the mother of a troubled teen daughter, and a part-time employee at the Brooklyn Historical Museum. In this latter category, and because she has an interest in all things Tiffany, she is asked to chauffeur an art expert to Brooklyn’s famed Green-Wood Cemetery to check out some Tiffany windows. The two are refused entry to the mausoleum they wanted to see due, they are told, to a “safety issue.” Erica begins to smell a rat. As she probes further, prodded by the art expert, it is revealed that a valuable window has been stolen from the cemetery.

Meanwhile, the Russian-born husband of one of her friends is found murdered, presumably by his brother, a member of the local Russian mob. Her friend asks Erica to be with her when she speaks to the police. An unwanted visit by the accused brother leads Erica to believe that he may not be responsible for the death, and she begins to look at possible alternatives.

As if these two “cases” weren’t enough, she is also dealing with a daughter with whom she is having trouble communicating, a father who deserted her and her mother years ago and now wants to reconcile, and a burgeoning relationship with one of the police detectives.

In addition to an unusual mystery, the author blends in the century-old history of the Tiffany art phenomenon, and a view of today’s Brooklyn with all of its warts as well as its beauty. This is the second Erica Donato mystery after Brooklyn Bones.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 02:54:11

Erica Donato is an unusual amateur detective. She’s a grad student in history, the mother of a troubled teen daughter, and a part-time employee at the Brooklyn Historical Museum. In this latter category, and because she has an interest in all things Tiffany, she is asked to chauffeur an art expert to Brooklyn’s famed Green-Wood Cemetery to check out some Tiffany windows. The two are refused entry to the mausoleum they wanted to see due, they are told, to a “safety issue.” Erica begins to smell a rat. As she probes further, prodded by the art expert, it is revealed that a valuable window has been stolen from the cemetery.

Meanwhile, the Russian-born husband of one of her friends is found murdered, presumably by his brother, a member of the local Russian mob. Her friend asks Erica to be with her when she speaks to the police. An unwanted visit by the accused brother leads Erica to believe that he may not be responsible for the death, and she begins to look at possible alternatives.

As if these two “cases” weren’t enough, she is also dealing with a daughter with whom she is having trouble communicating, a father who deserted her and her mother years ago and now wants to reconcile, and a burgeoning relationship with one of the police detectives.

In addition to an unusual mystery, the author blends in the century-old history of the Tiffany art phenomenon, and a view of today’s Brooklyn with all of its warts as well as its beauty. This is the second Erica Donato mystery after Brooklyn Bones.

Northanger Abbey
Eileen Brady

If the title Northanger Abbey seems familiar, it is. Last year was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. As part of the celebration, HarperCollins is publishing a new series called the Austen Project. It is a reimagining of Austen’s six published novels by modern writers, meant to drag her plots into the 21st century.

Val McDermid, bestselling British crime novelist, might at first seem an odd choice for this task. Known for her gritty plots and complex characterizations, I was curious how she would handle the job. No worries, Janeites. McDermid skillfully gives the story of 17-year-old Catherine Morland several modern twists, while still closely following the original. Instead of traveling to Bath, our modern Cat is invited to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by her wealthy neighbors, the Allens. Thrilled to be in the midst of an explosion of music, art, theater, and dance, she plans to experience as much as possible.

Homeschooled in Dorset, and a bit Naiive for her age, this minister’s daughter yearns for drama in her life. Enter handsome young lawyer Henry Tilney, pressed into service as her partner at a dance lesson. But when she learns strange details about Henry’s family, Cat’s imagination runs away with her. Instead of being obsessed by gothic novels, like the original Catherine, our updated heroine is into vampires and zombies. Even with tons of texting on their cell phones by all the young characters, the intrigues and romance of the story remain surprisingly intact.

One might argue, “Why rewrite Jane Austen?” I think the idea is to read the two versions of the book as companion pieces, serving as a way to introduce Austen to new readers and encourage her fans to try something familiar, but different. I have to admit, I was skeptical, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of bringing Northanger Abbey into today’s world than the immensely talented Val McDermid.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 13:51:17

If the title Northanger Abbey seems familiar, it is. Last year was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. As part of the celebration, HarperCollins is publishing a new series called the Austen Project. It is a reimagining of Austen’s six published novels by modern writers, meant to drag her plots into the 21st century.

Val McDermid, bestselling British crime novelist, might at first seem an odd choice for this task. Known for her gritty plots and complex characterizations, I was curious how she would handle the job. No worries, Janeites. McDermid skillfully gives the story of 17-year-old Catherine Morland several modern twists, while still closely following the original. Instead of traveling to Bath, our modern Cat is invited to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by her wealthy neighbors, the Allens. Thrilled to be in the midst of an explosion of music, art, theater, and dance, she plans to experience as much as possible.

Homeschooled in Dorset, and a bit Naiive for her age, this minister’s daughter yearns for drama in her life. Enter handsome young lawyer Henry Tilney, pressed into service as her partner at a dance lesson. But when she learns strange details about Henry’s family, Cat’s imagination runs away with her. Instead of being obsessed by gothic novels, like the original Catherine, our updated heroine is into vampires and zombies. Even with tons of texting on their cell phones by all the young characters, the intrigues and romance of the story remain surprisingly intact.

One might argue, “Why rewrite Jane Austen?” I think the idea is to read the two versions of the book as companion pieces, serving as a way to introduce Austen to new readers and encourage her fans to try something familiar, but different. I have to admit, I was skeptical, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of bringing Northanger Abbey into today’s world than the immensely talented Val McDermid.

The Cold Nowhere
Hank Wagner

Brian Freeman follows up his gripping standalone novel Spilled Blood with the equally impressive The Cold Nowhere, sixth in his popular Jonathan Stride series. Here, the lieutenant, feeling guilty about the death of one Michaela Mateo a decade prior, tries to help her 16-year-old daughter, Catalina. Cat, appearing on the doorstep of his Park Point, Minnesota, home out of nowhere, informs him that she narrowly escaped being murdered the night before. Feeling protective of the beautiful, homeless orphan who has taken to prostitution to survive, he decides to look into her allegations. Even though he sympathizes with her plight, he can’t be sure he’s getting the entire story out of the street-toughened teen. His investigation leads him to question whether she is a victim or a perpetrator, and he begins to question whether she might be responsible for an unsolved murder which occurred a few months prior.

As evidenced by his numerous, and well-deserved, award nominations, Freeman knows his way around a thriller, evidencing a consistent mastery in creating, and sustaining, gut-twisting tension—the author keeps both his protagonist and his audience on their collective toes, forcing them to stay alert for the clue or the incident that might blow things wide open at any moment. Even though both have been around for a few years now, neither Freeman nor Stride show any discernible signs of slowing down, good news for thriller fans everywhere.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 13:55:24

Brian Freeman follows up his gripping standalone novel Spilled Blood with the equally impressive The Cold Nowhere, sixth in his popular Jonathan Stride series. Here, the lieutenant, feeling guilty about the death of one Michaela Mateo a decade prior, tries to help her 16-year-old daughter, Catalina. Cat, appearing on the doorstep of his Park Point, Minnesota, home out of nowhere, informs him that she narrowly escaped being murdered the night before. Feeling protective of the beautiful, homeless orphan who has taken to prostitution to survive, he decides to look into her allegations. Even though he sympathizes with her plight, he can’t be sure he’s getting the entire story out of the street-toughened teen. His investigation leads him to question whether she is a victim or a perpetrator, and he begins to question whether she might be responsible for an unsolved murder which occurred a few months prior.

As evidenced by his numerous, and well-deserved, award nominations, Freeman knows his way around a thriller, evidencing a consistent mastery in creating, and sustaining, gut-twisting tension—the author keeps both his protagonist and his audience on their collective toes, forcing them to stay alert for the clue or the incident that might blow things wide open at any moment. Even though both have been around for a few years now, neither Freeman nor Stride show any discernible signs of slowing down, good news for thriller fans everywhere.

The Garden of Burning Sand
Annie Weissman

This legal mystery, set in Zambia, concerns the rape of Kuyeya, a 15-year-old with Down syndrome. Zoe Fleming, an American woman of 29, is a lawyer working for an NGO and trying to get justice for the girl. Corban Addison’s first book, A Walk Across the Sun, also featured an American protagonist who was involved in a sex trafficking case in India.

Zoe is an appealing character. Her late mother was a promoter of human rights in Africa. Her father is a senator who is running for US president. Zoe has issues with him and secrets of her own. Her interracial romance with Joseph, an officer with the Zambian Police Victim Support Unit, is well handled, as is the author’s treatment of Joseph’s positive HIV status.

The divide between the haves and have-nots in Zambia is clear, and the power of people with money is part of the plot. But there are also many middle-class Africans, such as prosecutors and judges, who are integral characters in the story.

The identity of the rapist is known early, leaving the plot and tension to focus on finding the evidence to convict him and in keeping key witnesses alive. A major tenet of the book is the unavailability of DNA labs in most African countries, and how this limits the prosecution of rapists.

The setting comes alive in Mr. Addison’s prose, especially the descriptions of the climate and the magnificence of Victoria Falls. He uses few words to paint the scene: “When Zoe emerged from the apartment, the sun hung low and molten above the horizon....”

In other hands, the book would have been a polemic. Instead, it is a riveting mystery exploring how the lack of access to modern technology can foster a culture of victimization and allow criminals to flourish.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-20 13:57:50

This legal mystery, set in Zambia, concerns the rape of Kuyeya, a 15-year-old with Down syndrome. Zoe Fleming, an American woman of 29, is a lawyer working for an NGO and trying to get justice for the girl. Corban Addison’s first book, A Walk Across the Sun, also featured an American protagonist who was involved in a sex trafficking case in India.

Zoe is an appealing character. Her late mother was a promoter of human rights in Africa. Her father is a senator who is running for US president. Zoe has issues with him and secrets of her own. Her interracial romance with Joseph, an officer with the Zambian Police Victim Support Unit, is well handled, as is the author’s treatment of Joseph’s positive HIV status.

The divide between the haves and have-nots in Zambia is clear, and the power of people with money is part of the plot. But there are also many middle-class Africans, such as prosecutors and judges, who are integral characters in the story.

The identity of the rapist is known early, leaving the plot and tension to focus on finding the evidence to convict him and in keeping key witnesses alive. A major tenet of the book is the unavailability of DNA labs in most African countries, and how this limits the prosecution of rapists.

The setting comes alive in Mr. Addison’s prose, especially the descriptions of the climate and the magnificence of Victoria Falls. He uses few words to paint the scene: “When Zoe emerged from the apartment, the sun hung low and molten above the horizon....”

In other hands, the book would have been a polemic. Instead, it is a riveting mystery exploring how the lack of access to modern technology can foster a culture of victimization and allow criminals to flourish.

2014 Anthony Awards Nominations
Oline Cogdill

bouchercon2014b
Most astute readers will recognize the majority of authors and their books listed in the Anthony nominations, which were announced. But it is always interesting to note how many of the authors also have won this year’s Edgar and Agatha awards.

Among the Anthony Award nominees are William Kent Krueger whose Ordinary Grace took this year’s Edgar for best novel and Alex Marwood’s The Wicked Girls, which won the Edgar for best paperback original.

The authors who had been nominated for an Edgar in best first novel who also are up for an Anthony in the same category are Roger Hobbs (Ghostman); Becky Masterman (Rage Against the Dying); and Kimberly McCreight, (Reconstructing Amelia).

Stephen King’s Joyland landed a nomination for an Edgar and an Anthony in the best paperback original.

While Robert Crais’ Suspect was not an Edgar finalist, he was one of this year’s Grand Masters, an honor that comes from the Mystery Writers of America. He shared that honor with Carolyn Hart.

John Connolly’s short story, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” won an Edgar and is now up for an Anthony.

Daniel Stashower took home an Edgar and an Agatha in the best fact crime category for The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War and is up for an Anthony in the same category.

Hank Phillippi Ryan won this year’s Agatha for best novel for The Wrong Girl; Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Through the Evil Days had been nominated for that same category.

Chris Grabenstein won an Agatha for his children’s book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. As he was for an Agatha, he is again up against Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing, and Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure, for an Anthony.

Art Taylor’s short story, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” took home an Agatha and is now nominated for an Anthony.

This year’s Anthony Awards include eight categories of novels, television, audio books and short stories.

Bouchercon 2014—nicknamed “Murder on the Beach”—will present the the Anthony Awards during the 45th annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention to be held in Long Beach, Calif.

Bouchercon, a do-not-miss conference, will be Nov. 13 to 16 and is expected to be one of the largest Bouchercons. This year’s guests of honor are J.A. Jance and Edward Marston with Eoin Colfer as the YA guest of honor and Jeffery Deaver taking the Lifetime Achievement Award. Toastmaster is Simon Wood.

The Anthony Awards will be voted on during the convention and presented on Nov. 15. The Anthony Award nominees have been selected by vote of the Bouchercon membership.

Here are the nominees for 2013 publications.

Congratulations to all the nominees:

Best Novel
Robert Crais, Suspect
Sara J. Henry, A Cold and Lonely Place
William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace
Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Wrong Girl
Julia Spencer-Fleming, Through the Evil Days

Best First Novel
Matt Coyle, Yesterday’s Echo
Roger Hobbs, Ghostman
Becky Masterman, Rage Against the Dying
Kimberly McCreight, Reconstructing Amelia
Todd Robinson, The Hard Bounce

Best Paperback Original Novel
Chris F. Holm, The Big Reap
Darrell James, Purgatory Key
Stephen King, Joyland
Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
Catriona McPherson, As She Left It

Best Short Story
Craig Faustus Buck, “Dead Ends”
John Connolly, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository”
Deni Dietz, “Annie and the Grateful Dead”
Travis Richardson, “Incident on the 405”
Art Taylor, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work
Maria Konnikova, Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Cate Lineberry, The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
Josh Stallings, All the Wild Children
Daniel Stashower, The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
Sarah Weinman (ed.), Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel
Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing
Margaux Froley, Escape Theory
Chris Grabenstein, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Elizabeth Keim, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure

Best Television Episode Teleplay First Aired in 2013
Jon Bokenkamp, The Blacklist, Pilot
Allan Cubitt, The Fall, “Dark Descent”
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad, “Felina”
Kevin Williamson, The Following, Pilot
Graham Yost, Justified, “Hole in the Wall”

Best Audio Book
Christina Cox, reading Crescendo by Deborah J Ledford
Robert Glenister, reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Mauro Hantman, reading Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
Davina Porter, reading Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet
Tracy Sallows, reading Hour of the Rat by Lisa Brackmann

Oline Cogdill
2014-05-20 22:13:16

bouchercon2014b
Most astute readers will recognize the majority of authors and their books listed in the Anthony nominations, which were announced. But it is always interesting to note how many of the authors also have won this year’s Edgar and Agatha awards.

Among the Anthony Award nominees are William Kent Krueger whose Ordinary Grace took this year’s Edgar for best novel and Alex Marwood’s The Wicked Girls, which won the Edgar for best paperback original.

The authors who had been nominated for an Edgar in best first novel who also are up for an Anthony in the same category are Roger Hobbs (Ghostman); Becky Masterman (Rage Against the Dying); and Kimberly McCreight, (Reconstructing Amelia).

Stephen King’s Joyland landed a nomination for an Edgar and an Anthony in the best paperback original.

While Robert Crais’ Suspect was not an Edgar finalist, he was one of this year’s Grand Masters, an honor that comes from the Mystery Writers of America. He shared that honor with Carolyn Hart.

John Connolly’s short story, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” won an Edgar and is now up for an Anthony.

Daniel Stashower took home an Edgar and an Agatha in the best fact crime category for The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War and is up for an Anthony in the same category.

Hank Phillippi Ryan won this year’s Agatha for best novel for The Wrong Girl; Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Through the Evil Days had been nominated for that same category.

Chris Grabenstein won an Agatha for his children’s book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. As he was for an Agatha, he is again up against Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing, and Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure, for an Anthony.

Art Taylor’s short story, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” took home an Agatha and is now nominated for an Anthony.

This year’s Anthony Awards include eight categories of novels, television, audio books and short stories.

Bouchercon 2014—nicknamed “Murder on the Beach”—will present the the Anthony Awards during the 45th annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention to be held in Long Beach, Calif.

Bouchercon, a do-not-miss conference, will be Nov. 13 to 16 and is expected to be one of the largest Bouchercons. This year’s guests of honor are J.A. Jance and Edward Marston with Eoin Colfer as the YA guest of honor and Jeffery Deaver taking the Lifetime Achievement Award. Toastmaster is Simon Wood.

The Anthony Awards will be voted on during the convention and presented on Nov. 15. The Anthony Award nominees have been selected by vote of the Bouchercon membership.

Here are the nominees for 2013 publications.

Congratulations to all the nominees:

Best Novel
Robert Crais, Suspect
Sara J. Henry, A Cold and Lonely Place
William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace
Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Wrong Girl
Julia Spencer-Fleming, Through the Evil Days

Best First Novel
Matt Coyle, Yesterday’s Echo
Roger Hobbs, Ghostman
Becky Masterman, Rage Against the Dying
Kimberly McCreight, Reconstructing Amelia
Todd Robinson, The Hard Bounce

Best Paperback Original Novel
Chris F. Holm, The Big Reap
Darrell James, Purgatory Key
Stephen King, Joyland
Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
Catriona McPherson, As She Left It

Best Short Story
Craig Faustus Buck, “Dead Ends”
John Connolly, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository”
Deni Dietz, “Annie and the Grateful Dead”
Travis Richardson, “Incident on the 405”
Art Taylor, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work
Maria Konnikova, Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Cate Lineberry, The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
Josh Stallings, All the Wild Children
Daniel Stashower, The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
Sarah Weinman (ed.), Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel
Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing
Margaux Froley, Escape Theory
Chris Grabenstein, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Elizabeth Keim, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure

Best Television Episode Teleplay First Aired in 2013
Jon Bokenkamp, The Blacklist, Pilot
Allan Cubitt, The Fall, “Dark Descent”
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad, “Felina”
Kevin Williamson, The Following, Pilot
Graham Yost, Justified, “Hole in the Wall”

Best Audio Book
Christina Cox, reading Crescendo by Deborah J Ledford
Robert Glenister, reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Mauro Hantman, reading Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
Davina Porter, reading Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet
Tracy Sallows, reading Hour of the Rat by Lisa Brackmann

Alex Grecian’s Crime Fiction, Comics
Oline Cogdill
grecian_alex
Many authors of crime fiction also write graphic novels and comic books. Often times the authors’ works in these two genres parallel each other.

Alex Grecian’s works are vastly different.

Grecian, left, sets his crime fiction in Victorian times with a look at Scotland Yard during 1890 when the shadow of Jack the Ripper loomed over London. This was a heady time for Scotland Yard as crime soared and the use of forensics was in its infancy.

Grecian’s novels are steeped in the history and culture of Victorian times. His latest The Devil’s Workshop is a chilling look at what happens when some of London’s worst killers escape.

Here’s a look at the trailer for The Devil’s Workshop. Grecian currently is on tour for The Devil’s Workshop.

As for Grecian’s comics, that’s a whole other world.

grecianalex_devilsworkshop
Along with artist Riley Rossmo, Grecian created the Proof series of comics that revolve around John “Proof” Prufock who is a sasquatch.

“As a Bigfoot, he is vastly larger and more powerful than a human being,” Grecian writes on his website. “Proof is exceptionally cultured for a feral beast; he is often seen wearing expensive suits and custom-made shoes.”

According to Grecian’s description, “Proof works for a top secret government agency, The Lodge, hunting cryptids with his partner Ginger Brown.”

Cryptids, apparently, are animals whose existence have been suggested, but never proved.

Like a Bigfoot.

Oline Cogdill
2014-05-21 10:32:02
grecian_alex
Many authors of crime fiction also write graphic novels and comic books. Often times the authors’ works in these two genres parallel each other.

Alex Grecian’s works are vastly different.

Grecian, left, sets his crime fiction in Victorian times with a look at Scotland Yard during 1890 when the shadow of Jack the Ripper loomed over London. This was a heady time for Scotland Yard as crime soared and the use of forensics was in its infancy.

Grecian’s novels are steeped in the history and culture of Victorian times. His latest The Devil’s Workshop is a chilling look at what happens when some of London’s worst killers escape.

Here’s a look at the trailer for The Devil’s Workshop. Grecian currently is on tour for The Devil’s Workshop.

As for Grecian’s comics, that’s a whole other world.

grecianalex_devilsworkshop
Along with artist Riley Rossmo, Grecian created the Proof series of comics that revolve around John “Proof” Prufock who is a sasquatch.

“As a Bigfoot, he is vastly larger and more powerful than a human being,” Grecian writes on his website. “Proof is exceptionally cultured for a feral beast; he is often seen wearing expensive suits and custom-made shoes.”

According to Grecian’s description, “Proof works for a top secret government agency, The Lodge, hunting cryptids with his partner Ginger Brown.”

Cryptids, apparently, are animals whose existence have been suggested, but never proved.

Like a Bigfoot.

The Hidden Child
Betty Webb

Some like to think of Sweden as a sociopolitical paradise—if chilly—but in author Camilla Läckberg’s fifth international bestseller, the Nordic country is suffering a resurgence of neo-Nazi groups, one of them ironically named Sweden’s Friends. This group immediately comes under suspicion when Erik Frankel, a historian expert on World War II and a leading voice against the neo-Nazis, is found battered to death in his Fjällbacka home.

The police investigation reveals that the solution may not be as easy as picking up Frans Ringholm, the local Nazi leader. When another suspicious death occurs, Detective Patrick Hedstrom, supposedly on paternal leave in order to help his crime-writer wife with child care, finds himself swept up in the hunt for the killer. This causes conflict between Patrick and his wife Erica, who is struggling to work on her latest book, but finds her writing time taken up by mothering duties.

Läckberg has always been interested in the domestic side of police work and The Hidden Child soon becomes more about the personal lives of the men and women impacted by the investigation than it is about the investigation itself. Thus, we learn about priggish Inspector Bertil Mellberg’s tentative steps toward salsa dancing, the truth behind detective Paula Morales’ mysterious love life, and Erica’s sister’s ongoing trouble with a rebellious stepdaughter.

The Hidden Child is an intricate, layered, and often subtle novel. Especially fine are several flashbacks to WWII and the youthful circle that included brothers Erik and Axel Frankel, a Norwegian freedom fighter hiding out in Sweden, and the vain but pretty Britta, and the young men who loved her.

The book is a family saga wrapped around a murder, but it remains a family saga nonetheless, one that builds slowly to a crescendo over 528 pages. Depending on your taste, it is either a refreshing change from the more blatant and hollow shoot-’em-ups we see all too often, or a crime novel which approaches murder too indirectly.

Teri Duerr
2014-05-21 16:42:14

Some like to think of Sweden as a sociopolitical paradise—if chilly—but in author Camilla Läckberg’s fifth international bestseller, the Nordic country is suffering a resurgence of neo-Nazi groups, one of them ironically named Sweden’s Friends. This group immediately comes under suspicion when Erik Frankel, a historian expert on World War II and a leading voice against the neo-Nazis, is found battered to death in his Fjällbacka home.

The police investigation reveals that the solution may not be as easy as picking up Frans Ringholm, the local Nazi leader. When another suspicious death occurs, Detective Patrick Hedstrom, supposedly on paternal leave in order to help his crime-writer wife with child care, finds himself swept up in the hunt for the killer. This causes conflict between Patrick and his wife Erica, who is struggling to work on her latest book, but finds her writing time taken up by mothering duties.

Läckberg has always been interested in the domestic side of police work and The Hidden Child soon becomes more about the personal lives of the men and women impacted by the investigation than it is about the investigation itself. Thus, we learn about priggish Inspector Bertil Mellberg’s tentative steps toward salsa dancing, the truth behind detective Paula Morales’ mysterious love life, and Erica’s sister’s ongoing trouble with a rebellious stepdaughter.

The Hidden Child is an intricate, layered, and often subtle novel. Especially fine are several flashbacks to WWII and the youthful circle that included brothers Erik and Axel Frankel, a Norwegian freedom fighter hiding out in Sweden, and the vain but pretty Britta, and the young men who loved her.

The book is a family saga wrapped around a murder, but it remains a family saga nonetheless, one that builds slowly to a crescendo over 528 pages. Depending on your taste, it is either a refreshing change from the more blatant and hollow shoot-’em-ups we see all too often, or a crime novel which approaches murder too indirectly.