Avery Aames on Krista Davis and Cookies: A Perfect Pairing

gerber darylwoodWhat can I say? I love food. I love reading. I love reading with food in hand. I love cooking food while reading. I write about food in culinary mysteries. I create recipes for the blog I do with other mystery writers on Mystery Lovers Kitchen. I’m a foodie and a reader, pure and simple. I have cooked all my life. I’ve read books all my life. (Well, maybe I was resistant when I was eight years old, but when I got hold of the Nancy Drew Mysteries at the age of nine, I was hooked! In fact, that’s when I knew I wanted to write.)

Reading and food simply go together for me. I’m a big fan of cozies about food, and one of my favorite culinary series is Krista Davis’ Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her protagonist Sophie Winston can put together a quickie meal. No guest is turned away. She is always prepared.

Now, understand, whatever Sophie serves, it is always gourmet, but what Sophie does prepare isn’t hard. And—big tip—she has plenty of things on hand in the freezer. She thinks ahead. I love this about her.

Sophie loves her friends and family and counts on them to sit around her table and chat. She wants to chat, too; she is not strapped to the stove. Sophie is a party planner, but she’s not even remotely a “diva.” She doesn’t make froufrou food. Most of her recipes are easy to reproduce. And her mysteries always work out in just as tasty and satisfying a way.

You guessed it. I want to be Sophie in my next life. At ease with a party. At ease with a group full of hungry people who descend upon my home. At ease solving crime.

davis divawrapsitupIn one of Davis’ latest books, The Diva Wraps It Up, which is set at Christmas, there are cookies galore. I have to admit, I suffered from cookie envy after reading it. I wanted not only to eat all the cookies Sophie has on hand in her freezer, I wanted to possess all her cookie recipes, too.

So there. That’s my pairing: Cookies and Krista Davis. Delicious. By the way, I do make a mean cream cheese sugar cookie. I’ve been known to down a handful while reading. With milk or tea or coffee as an accompaniment? Perfect!

I love cookies. I eat cookies when I read. I am very good at turning pages with a cookie in my hand.

See below for two cookie recipes perfect for your reading (and eating) pleasure.

Avery Aames is the Agatha Award–winning author of the Cheese Shop Mystery series, including Days of Wine and Roquefort, To Brie or Not to Brie, Clobbered by Camembert, Lost and Fondue, and The Long Quiche Goodbye. She loves to cook and enjoys a good wine. She speaks a little French and has even played a French woman onstage. And she adores cheese. As Daryl Wood Gerber she also writes the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.


(makes 36-40 cookies; similar to a shortbread)


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 4-6 tablespoons white sugar, for topping

In large bowl, combine sugar, butter, cheese, salt, extracts and yolk. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour.

Roll the dough into a tube about 2” in diameter. Wrap in saran. Chill the dough for 4-8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the dough in slices, lay on cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Press with spoon or wet fingers. Brush with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

You may use sugar in the raw for topping, or colored sugar. For Christmas, I used crushed candy canes for the topping.


(makes about 20 2 1/2 inch cookies)


  • 1 stick (eight tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries

Melt the butter with the sugar over medium heat. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Beat the egg well. Add a small amount of the flour mixture and beat. Add a small amount of the butter mixture and beat. Alternate adding them until incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the oatmeal and mix. Add chocolate chips and dried cherries and mix.

The batter will be very thick. Roll it into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place on parchment paper. Using your palm or the base of a glass, flatten them to about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 09 April 2015 11:04
2015 Thriller Award Nominations

thrillerawards 2015
The winners of the 2015 Thriller Awards, sponsored by the International Thriller Writers, will be announced during the annual conference, July 7-11 in New York City.

The awards banquet is scheduled for July 11.

And here are the nominees:

ITW 2015 Thriller Awards Nominees

Megan Abbott – THE FEVER (Little, Brown and Company)
Lauren Beukes – BROKEN MONSTERS (Mulholland Books)
Joseph Finder – SUSPICION (Dutton)
Greg Iles – NATCHEZ BURNING (William Morrow)
Chevy Stevens – THAT NIGHT (St. Martin’s Press)

Ray Celestin – THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ (Mantle)
Julia Dahl – INVISIBLE CITY (Minotaur Books)
Allen Eskens – THE LIFE WE BURY (Seventh Street Books)
Laura McHugh – THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Spiegel & Grau)
Andy Weir – THE MARTIAN (Crown)

Shelley Coriell – THE BURIED (Forever)
Robert Dugoni – MY SISTER’S GRAVE (Thomas & Mercer)
James R. Hannibal – SHADOW MAKER (Berkley)
Rick Mofina – WHIRLWIND (Harlequin MIRA)
Vincent Zandri – MOONLIGHT WEEPS (Down & Out Books)

Richard Helms – “Busting Red Heads” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Stephen Ross – “Pussycat, Pussycat” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Tim L. Williams – “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

Elle Cosimano – NEARLY GONE (Kathy Dawson Books)
Kristen Lippert-Martin – TABULA RASA (EgmontUSA)
Meredith McCardle – THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN (Skyscape)
Victoria Schwab – THE UNBOUND (Disney-Hyperion)
Kara Taylor – WICKED LITTLE SECRETS (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Sean Black – POST (Sean Black Digital)
Layton Green – THE METAXY PROJECT (Sixth Street Press)
Michael Logan – WANNABES (Michael Logan)
C.J. Lyons – HARD FALL (Legacy Books)
Gil Reavill – 13 HOLLYWOOD APES (Alibi)

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 09:04
“Bloodline”: Go Watch It Now, and Binge

bloodline netflix1
I admit that I am behind on my TV watching—it’s all those mystery novels that take up my time!

So I have just discovered two new—well, new to me—TV shows that mystery fans will be interested in, and which may be the best new series around. One is Empire, which I am still watching, and the other is Bloodline, which I just finished.

Bloodline is following the new trend by not being launched on a network, but on Netflix, and making all the episodes available at the same time. This is what the producers of Bosch, the series based on the Michael Connelly novels, did on Amazon Prime. Bosch has been picked up for a second season. (See my review here or in the current issue of Mystery Scene.)

And Bloodline also has been picked up for a second season.

So here is why you should binge away on Bloodline, as I did during a recent long weekend.

1. Bloodline takes a familiar story line and turns it inside out, adding a heavy bit of noir and secrets you don’t see coming. The wealthy family that is systematically brought down is a timeless tale, but so often it is a family who the viewer—or the reader—hopes will get their comeuppance, and their failures become a nice bit of revenge for all. But in Bloodline, we are immediately drawn to the Rayburns, who live in the lovely Florida Keys.

bloodline netflix2
The Rayburns are a nice family—well-to-do, yes, but not the wealthiest family. But the Rayburns also are among the most respected and beloved in their Islamorada community. They have worked hard to get where they are and they still work hard. Robert Rayburn (Sam Shepard) and Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek) are devoted to their four children and have tried to raise each with love, respect, and as strong a work ethic as they have. Robert and Sally run a successful hotel in Islamorada, the kind of upscale resort that draw visitors to the Keys, and makes them want to stay.

Three of the Rayburn children also are hard-working and well-respected by the community.

John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) is a detective with the Monroe County sheriff's office. Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini), the only daughter and the youngest, is an attorney. Youngest son Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz), who has a quick temper, refurbishes boats at Indian Key Channel Marina.

And that leaves the oldest son—Danny—the family black sheep.

3. Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Danny, isn’t your typical family outsider. This Australian actor brings a cunning shadiness to his role. “Something’s not right with Danny,” says John’s lovely wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), and she couldn’t be more right. Danny is apart from the family for several reasons, which are revealed during the course of the series. Yet he is more than a drifter. He is a con man who observes the family and sees exactly where their weaknesses are and goes after them. Mendelsohn exudes danger—whether he is about to give a toast at his parents’ party or getting his brother John drunk or just watching everyone.

4. The rest of the cast. Who wouldn’t want to have Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek as their parents? Or a big brother like Kyle Chandler or a sister like Linda Cardellini? And having seen Norbert Leo Butz a few times on Broadway, I am always on his side—even when his character is being a jerk.

bloodline netflix3
The Florida setting. Those of us who live in Florida know how beautiful it is, and yet, how the darkness simmers just beneath surface. That pristine blue water can churn up danger. Those clear skies can turn into a storm in seconds.

6. The pacing. The Rayburns have a lot of secrets, which multiply in the course of the series. These are doled out like candy at Easter.

7. The supporting cast. I come at this as a regular attendee of regional theater in South Florida. (My husband is a theater critic so we see everything.) South Florida theater has a good number of excellent actors, many of which have been on Burn Notice, The Glades, and Magic City when those series were filming here. While these actors frequently are on the stages in South Florida, it is great to see them on the screen. So kudos to (and I hope I don’t forget any) Paul Tei, Betsy Graver, Todd Allen Durkin, Chaz Mena, Karen Stephens, Lela Elam, Matthew Chizever, and Avi Hoffman.

And please, bring them back, and hire more local actors. Their cameos are terrific.

8. The creative team. Bloodline is created by the Damages trio of Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman.

Now, back to Empire, which mystery fiction fans also will enjoy. Go Cookie.

Photos: Top, Kyle Chandler and Linda Cardellini; second, Ben Mendelsoh, left, with Kyle Chandler; bottom, Ben Mendelsoh. Photos/Netflix

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 12:04
2015 Agatha Award Nominations

malice domestic


The Agatha Awards honor “traditional mysteries” (containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence). Winners will be announced at the 27th annual Malice Domestic Conference, in Bethesda, Maryland, from May 1 to 3.



The Good, The Bad and The Emus, Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Demon Summer, G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
Truth Be Told, Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
The Long Way Home, Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Designated Daughters, Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Hunting Shadows, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
An Unwilling Accomplice, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, D.E. Ireland (Minotaur Books)
Queen of Hearts, Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder in Murray Hill, Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Andi Under Pressure, Amanda Flower (ZonderKidz)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion Books)
Uncertain Glory, Lea Wait (Islandport Press)
The Code Busters Club, Case #4: The Mummy’s Curse, Penny Warner (Egmont USA)
Found, Harlan Coben (Putnam Juvenile)

Circle of Influence, Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Tagged for Death, Sherry Harris (Kensington Publishing)
Finding Sky, Susan O’Brien (Henery Press)
Well Read, Then Dead, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley Prime Crime)
Murder Strikes a Pose, Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink)

400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, Adam Plantinga (Quill Driver Books)
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, Hank Phillippi Ryan, ed. (Henery Press)
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice, Kate Clark Flora (New Horizon Press)
The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley (Pegasus Books)
The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor, Stephen Bates (Overlook Press)

“The Odds Are Against Us,” Art Taylor, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2014
“Premonition,” Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“The Shadow Knows,” Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny,” Edith Maxwell, Kings River Life Magazine, January 4, 2014
“The Blessing Witch,” Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, eds. (Level Best Books)

Charles and Caroline Todd

Ann Cleeves

Sara Paretsky


Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 11:04
The Psychology of Mysteries

scottolinelisa EveryFifteenMinutes
In a way, each crime fiction novel delves into psychology, whether it is the psychology of the main character or the psychological makeup of the villain.

But at least four authors use psychology as the top spin for their novels.  

In the past few weeks, Lisa Scottoline and Sandra Block have both come out with novels in which the main character is a psychiatrist, and both novels are involving.

Lisa Scottoline, Every Fifteen Minutes
Lisa Scottoline is best known for her engrossing legal thrillers featuring strong characters and hefty plots. That approach earned her the nickname “the female John Grisham.”

Scottoline shows she’s just as adept at delving into the complicated world of medicine and psychiatry in the thrilling Every Fifteen Minutes.

In this 24th novel, Scottoline looks at the inner workings of psychiatry as well as the motives of a sociopath.

Dr. Eric Parrish, chief of the psychiatric unit at Havemeyer General Hospital in a Philadelphia suburb, is at the top of his career since his hospital unit has just been named No. 2 in the country.

However, his personal life is a different story. He is about to be divorced and he can’t spend more time with his seven-year-old daughter, Hannah, with whom he is very close.

Then one of his patients has violent thoughts about a teenager, who is later murdered. His staff and supervisors lose respect for him when Eric is accused of sexual harassment.

Is Eric guilty or is he being targeted by a sociopath?

In Every Fifteen Minutes, Scottoline deftly shows how sociopaths can live among us undetected and that we may never see their destruction coming. Scottoline expertly ladles out the clues.

Sandra Block, Little Black Lies
blocksandra littleblacklies
Sandra Block shows how the subconscious can dredge up memories and feelings we are not prepared to accept in her debut Little Black Lies.

Zoe Goldman, a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo, New York hospital, was adopted by a loving couple when she was about four years old. Her birth mother was killed in a fire from which Zoe was rescued.

For years, she was plagued by nightmares about that night, but those nightmares stopped when she was a teenager. But lately, Zoe has had some uncomfortable nightmares about that night, dreams that are a bit different than when she was in high school.

These dreams lead Zoe to discuss these nightmares with her own therapist and try to find out more about her biological mother.

The subconscious becomes a major theme in Little Black Lies, as does family dynamics. Zoe is close to her adopted mother and there is never any question that this woman, who lovingly raised her, is her true mother; nor is there any question that her brother is her real brother. The bonds are strong because of love, not blood.

Block has delivered an outstanding debut in Little Black Lies that she will follow up with her next Zoe Goldman novel, The Girl Without a Name, which is due out in September 2015.

Jonathan Kellerman, Alex Delaware
Jonathan Kellerman has been using psychology for decades in his involving Alex Delaware novels. A child psychologist by trade, Alex consults for the L.A. Police Department.

Well, mainly he consults for his friend, homicide detective Milo Sturgis.

Their friendship plays a major part of the foundation of each of Kellerman’s novels, as does Alex’s insight as a psychologist.

The latest Alex-Milo adventure is Motive.

Dennis Palumbo
Dennis Palumbo was one of the scriptwriters for one of my favorite movies—My Favorite Year.

But since he left the movie business, Dennis Palumbo became a licensed psychotherapist in private practice.

He also is author of the series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who is a consultant with the Pittsburgh Police Department.

Like Alex Delaware, Daniel Rinaldi’s cases take him to a variety of homes and patients.

In his fourth novel, Phantom Limb, Daniel looks at the dark side of fame with his new patient, Lisa Harland, who made a splash in Playboy before bottoming out.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 18 April 2015 11:04
2015 Arthur Ellis Nominations

arthurellisaward crimewriterscanada
The Crime Writers of Canada
has announced the 2015 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing for novels published in 2014.

The Crime Writers of Canada was founded in 1982 as a professional organization designed to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers from coast to coast. Members include authors, publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and literary agents as well as many developing authors.

The winners will be announced during the banquet on May 28, 2015, at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

Best Novel
Brenda Chapman, Cold Mourning, Dundurn Press
Barbara Fradkin, None So Blind, Dundurn Press
C.C. Humphreys, Plague, Doubleday Canada
Maureen Jennings, No Known Grave, McClelland & Stewart
Alen Mattich, Killing Pilgrim, House of Anansi

Best First Novel
Janet Brons, A Quiet Kill, Touchwood Editions
Steve Burrows, Siege of Bitterns, Dundurn Press
M.H. Callway, Windigo Fire, Seraphim Editions
Eve McBride, No Worst, There Is None, Dundurn Press
Sam Wiebe, Last of the Independents, Dundurn Press

Best Novella
Rick Blechta, The Boom Room, Orca Book Publishers
Vicki Delany, Juba Good, Orca Book Publishers
Ian Hamilton, The Dragon Head of Hong Kong, House of Anansi
Jas. R. Petrin, A Knock on the Door, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

Best Short Story  
Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, McClelland & Stewart
Melodie Campbell, Hook, Line and Sinker, Northword Literary Journal
Peter Clement, Therapy, Belgrave House
Madona Skaff, First Impressions, The Whole She-Bang 2, Sisters in Crime
Kevin P. Thornton, Writers Block, World Enough and Crime, Carrick Publishing

Best Book in French
Hervé Gagnon, Jack: Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, Expression noir / Groupe librex
Andrée Michaud, Bondrée, Editions Québec Amérique
Maryse Rouy, Meurtre à l’hôtel Despréaux, Édition Druide
Richard Ste Marie, Repentirs, Alire

Best Juvenile/YA Book
Michael Betcherman, Face-Off, Penguin Canada
Sigmund Brouwer, Dead Man's Switch, Harvest House
S.J. Laidlaw, The Voice Inside My Head, Tundra Books
Norah McClintock, About That Night, Orca Book Publishers
Jeyn Roberts, The Bodies We Wear, Knopf Books for Young Readers

Best Nonfiction Book
Bob Deasy (with Mark Ebner), Being Uncle Charlie, Penguin Random House
Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder, HarperCollins
Joan McEwen, Innocence on Trial: The Framing of Ivan Henry, Heritage House
Bill Reynolds, Life Real Loud: John Lefebvre, Neteller and the Revolution in Online Gambling, ECW Press
Paula Todd, Extreme Mean, McClelland & Stewart

Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
Rum Luck by Ryan Aldred
Full Curl by Dave Butler
Crisis Point by Dwayne Clayden
Afghan Redemption by Bill Prentice
Strange Things Done by Elle Wild

The 2015 Derrick Murdoch Award Winner
Sylvia McConnell will be awarded the organization’s Derrick Murdoch Award.

In 1998, Sylvia McConnell began RendezVous Crime, a publishing house with the mandate to publish crime novels written by Canadians set in Canada. During the next 13 years she published 80 works of crime fiction, many of which were nominated for or won prestigious awards.

In its release, Crime Writers of Canada stated “For her belief in the value of Canadians telling Canadian stories, for her encouragement of new Canadian authors, and for her recognition of talent with staying power, we are proud to present Sylvia McConnell with the Derrick Murdoch award for 2015.”

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 26 April 2015 02:04
2015 Agatha Winners

The Agatha Awards honor “traditional mysteries” (containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence) and were announced during the banquet at the 27th annual Malice Domestic Conference, in Bethesda, Maryland, on May 2, 2015.

The awards honored those books published during 2014.

The winners are the first mentioned and are in bold. Congrats to all the winners and nominees.


Truth Be Told, Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
The Good, The Bad and The Emus, Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Demon Summer, G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
The Long Way Home, Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Designated Daughters, Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Queen of Hearts, Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Hunting Shadows, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
An Unwilling Accomplice, Charles Todd (William Morrow)
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, D.E. Ireland (Minotaur Books)
Murder in Murray Hill, Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

The Code Busters Club, Case #4: The Mummy’s Curse, Penny Warner (Egmont USA)
Andi Under Pressure, Amanda Flower (ZonderKidz)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion Books)
Uncertain Glory, Lea Wait (Islandport Press)
Found, Harlan Coben (Putnam Juvenile)

moranterrie wellreadthendead
Well Read, Then Dead
, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley Prime Crime)

Circle of Influence, Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Tagged for Death, Sherry Harris (Kensington Publishing)
Finding Sky, Susan O’Brien (Henery Press)
Murder Strikes a Pose, Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink)

Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, Hank Phillippi Ryan, ed. (Henery Press)
400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, Adam Plantinga (Quill Driver Books)
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice, Kate Clark Flora (New Horizon Press)
The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley (Pegasus Books)
The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor, Stephen Bates (Overlook Press)

“The Odds Are Against Us,” Art Taylor, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2014
“Premonition,” Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“The Shadow Knows,” Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays, Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, eds. (Wildside Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny,” Edith Maxwell, Kings River Life Magazine, January 4, 2014
“The Blessing Witch,” Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, eds. (Level Best Books)

Charles and Caroline Todd

Ann Cleeves

Sara Paretsky

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 02 May 2015 02:05
2015 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2014.

The Edgar Awards were presented to the winners during the 69th Gala Banquet, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

(Winners are in bold and are the first mentioned.)

kingstephen mrmercedes
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster/Scribner)
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Wolf by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press)
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown)
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter (Penguin Randomhouse/Ballantine Books)

Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books)
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur Books)
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Crown Publishers)
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur Books)

The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Albani (Penguin Randomhouse/Penguin Books)
Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers/William Morrow)
The Barkeep by William Lashner (Amazon Publishing/Thomas and Mercer)
boumantom drybones
The Day She Died
by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide/ Midnight Ink)
The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner (HarperCollins Publishers/William Morrow)
World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann (HarperCollins Publishers)
Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (W.W. Norton)
The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins)
The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House Books)
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter (Amazon Publishing)

Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)
The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis by Charles Brownson (McFarland & Company)
James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Jim Mancall (McFarland)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir by Robert Miklitsch (University of Illinois Press)
Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film by Francis M. Nevins (Perfect Crime Books)


mannwilliam 3D-Tinseltown

“What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn (Penguin Randomhouse Publishing – Ballantine Books)
“The Snow Angel” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
“200 Feet” – Strand Magazine by John Floyd (The Strand)
“Red Eye” – FaceOff  by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly (Simon & Schuster)
“Teddy” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Brian Tobin (Dell Magazines)

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Quirk Books)
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group – Kathy Dawson Books)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books - Amistad)
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)
“The Empty Hearse” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
“Unfinished Business” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (CBS)
“Dream Baby Dream” – The Killing, Teleplay by Sean Whitesell (Netflix)
“Episode 6” – The Game, Teleplay by Toby Whithouse (BBC America)

“Getaway Girl” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By Zoë Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)

Lois Duncan
James Ellroy

Ruth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder

Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Tuesday, April 28, 2015)
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)


Oline Cogdill
Thursday, 30 April 2015 02:04
Location, Location, Location

slaughter coptown
Readers know that oftentimes the location of a novel becomes as important a character any fictional person.

When you think of Michael Connelly, you think of Los Angeles. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski is forever linked to Chicago. Baltimore is as much a part of Laura Lippman’s novels as is her P.I. Tess Monaghan. Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford “owns” Florida’s Gulf Coast.

I’ve been thinking about a novel’s location a lot lately as I prepare for the panel I will be moderating during the Edgar symposium. The panel is, you guessed it, on location.

The four authors on the panel each write about a different locale and each is up for an Edgar Award.

Tom Bouman, Best First Novel nominee, writes about northeastern Pennsylvania in Dry Bones in the Valley.

CB McKenzie, Best First Novel nominee, focuses on Arizona in Bad Country.

Karin Slaughter, Best Novel nominee, showcases Atlanta in her 16th novel Cop Town.

Lisa Turner, Best Paperback Original nominee, takes us to the various parts of Memphis, Tennessee, in The Gone Dead Train.

First, I want to wish each of the nominees best wishes.

Reading and, in a couple of cases, re-reading these novels, reinforced how well each of these authors showcased the area they are writing about. Each writes about an area that has been explored before in crime fiction, yet each brings a fresh perspective.

Each of these authors shows how location affects their characters. In addition, an area’s economic situation, its isolation or proximity to urban areas, and even the weather are part of the location and also inform the characters.

For example, Bad Country doesn’t just show beautiful vistas. The empty areas provide an easy path for illegals and drug traffickers to enter the country. And the main character lives in the only habitable dwelling in the remnants of a planned community in an area appropriately called The Hole.

mckenzie badcountry
The community in Dry Bones in the Valley is grappling with the steady encroachment of gas drilling, which will bring new wealth and erode neighborly trust.

The Gone Dead Train takes us to some of the poorest areas of Memphis, where many people are squatting in vacant homes.

Unlike Slaughter’s ongoing series about Sara Linton and Will Trent, the author sets Cop Town during the 1970s when Atlanta was just starting to show signs of economic growth. Cop Town shows how women were taking their rightful place in the police department, and faced overwhelming resistance. In Cop Town, it seems as if the male cops want to punish the women cops by sending them to poorest areas.

We are going to have a great time during the panel. Come if you can, and if you can’t, happy reading.

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 26 April 2015 05:04
Why MWA and Other Writers’ Organizations Matter

bookstack open copy
My recent trip to New York City was terrific—a chance to catch up with friends, see some wonderful theater, and shop.

But the main reason for the trip was to attend the Edgar symposium, where I moderated a panel, and, of course, attend the Edgar Awards.

Now that I am unpacked, mostly, and caught up laundry, mostly, I’ve been thinking, What is the value of the Mystery Writers of America, which will celebrate its 70th year in 2016, and the Edgar Awards?

In my opinion, both matter a lot and both should be embraced by published writers, unpublished writers, planning to be writers, and, of course, readers.

Awards such as the Edgar, the Agatha and the Anthony, and organizations such as MWA and Sisters in Crime help us celebrate the genre.

And we should celebrate it.

Mystery readers, and writers, know that the genre often goes where no other form of literature can.

Mysteries, or crime fiction, or whatever label you need to use, show us who we are as a society. These novels act as today’s social novels, how we deal with contemporary issues as well as how we handle crimes and punishments.

I’ve said all that before, and why would we not want to celebrate that?

Any time the mystery community gives an award, the grumbles begin.

Actually, that happens any time an award in the arts is presented, whether it is the Edgar, the Oscar, the Tony, or any regional arts award. I hear everything from “We shouldn’t be competing against each other” to “They never honor [fill in the blank…cozies, thrillers, hard-boiled, women, minorities, etc.]” to “It’s all political” to “The awards don’t mean anything” to “When is it my turn?”.

I disagree with just about all those comments.

The awards don’t mean that authors are competing against each other; the awards are honoring some of the best books the genre has to offer. With so many wonderful books published each year, it’s fitting and right to honor as many books as possible.

Were the Edgars winners my picks?

Some were, some were not, but I am not going to elaborate on that.

It is not my place to second-guess any of the judges, of any awards.

I do an annual best-of list and some of my picks overlap the Edgars and other awards, and some do not.

And I think that is good because it points out how there are so many worthy books that no one list can have them all. I actually like when our lists contain some differences because it brings attention to more books.

And if an author’s book doesn’t make it to the list, that doesn’t mean it is bad. It just means that others were a notch above.

The genre is filled with many books I’d label B+ and A….and a large number I’d call A+. The competition is stiff, so stop grumbling about not making the list, and instead celebrate the best of the best.

The Edgars truly are the Oscars of the mystery world, and we need that.

I also love that the Agatha Awards celebrate the traditional mystery and the Anthonys are a fan-based award.

As for why MWA, Sisters in Crime, and the other organizations matter...

The mission statement says it all: “MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.”

Isn’t that enough reason?

I also am grouping Sisters in Crime, the Private Eye Writers of America, and other organizations in this. And their mission statements are similar.

Crime fiction and crime writers deserve respect and organizations fight for that respect. These groups are not just about established writers, but for anyone who is related to the genre.

These organizations educate us about the genre, keep us informed about the legalities, offer scholarships, discounts, sometimes can offer insurance, and make us think about why we love mysteries.

Sisters in Crime is entering its 28th year; MWA celebrates its 70th year in 2016; The Private Eye Writers of America has been going for 34 years.

Writing is a solitary enterprise, so having a group of others to be with is invaluable. And you cannot get that just from the Internet or social media.

One gets out of an organization what one wants to, and what a person puts into it. And these organizations are so worthwhile. Plus, the membership dues are quite affordable.

One more thing: anyone, whether a member of MWA or not, can attend the Edgars symposium, the Edgar banquet, or the seminars and workshops it sponsors around the country.

Likewise, Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and the other conferences, are open to anyone.

So all this matters; it matters a lot.

Enjoy who we are, honor the books that compose the genre, and, most of all, read and buy books.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 06:05
Key West Competition, Award to Honor Jeremiah Healy

healyjerry bobblehead
In addition to becoming an annual event, the second Mystery Writers Key West Fest will launch a writing award to honor an author who made Florida his home.

The first Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award—“The Jerry”—will be presented during the event, August 14-16 in Key West, Florida. The winner will receive a book publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free Mystery Writers Key West Fest registration, hotel accommodations for two nights, and a bobble-headed Jerry trophy (shown at left).

Healy, who died in August 2014, was the author of 13 novels about Boston-based private detective John Francis Cuddy and, under the pseudonym Terry Devane, wrote the Mairead O'Clare legal thriller series. Healy’s writing career began while a professor at the New England School of Law, where he taught for almost two decades. Healy wrote 18 novels and over 60 short stories, 15 of which won or were nominated for the Shamus Award.

A graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, Healy’s career path included stints as a military police lieutenant and a trial attorney.

For nearly 20 years, Healy lived in Fort Lauderdale, where he was active in the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the writers conference Sleuthfest. He also served as moderator and panelist at the first Mystery Writers Key West Fest in 2014.  

“The Jerry” is sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks. Candidates for the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award should submit the first three pages of a finished, unpublished manuscript no later than June 30, 2015. There is no fee to enter, finalists will be notified August 1, and will have until August 10 to submit full manuscripts.

The award judging committee will be led by Healy's fiancée, mystery author Sandra Balzo, and includes Shirrel Rhoades, author, film critic, media consultant and publisher of Absolutely Amazing eBooks; Ted Hertel, attorney, author, reviewer and immediate past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America; and Gary Warren Niebuhr, library director, reviewer and author of numerous nonfiction works on crime fiction, including Make Mine a Mystery: A Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction and Read 'em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery Book Discussions.

This year’s Mystery Writers Key West Fest—“Murder & Mayhem in Paradise”—includes multiple workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and social events with crime fiction and true crime writers.

For information on the Second Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest and complete Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award competition guidelines and submission details, visit www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 09 May 2015 06:05
Spring Issue #139 Contents


139coverB 250




John Sandford

More than 25 years into a spectacular career at the top of the thriller charts, the creator of Minnesota cops Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers is only getting started.
by Oline H. Cogdill

The Unexpected Dorothy Gilman: Creator of Mrs. Pollifax

Dorothy Gilman struck a chord with her New Jersey grandmother turned CIA agent.
by Michael Mallory

Full Stream Ahead: Crime Shows on the Internet

New streaming services are a bonanza for crime and mystery fans, offering access to foreign and vintage offerings, and even high-quality original series and films.
by Kevin Burton Smith


A chat with the versatile Libby Fischer Hellmann.
by Ed Gorman

All She Wrote: Leigh Brackett’s Spectacular Career

From screenplays for The Big Sleep to Rio Bravo to The Empire Strikes Back, Brackett spanned decades and genres with ease.
by Jake Hinkson

Peter May: The Lewis Trilogy

As Americans catch on to the lauded series set in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, this writer takes on other worlds.
by Lynn Kaczmarek

Georges Simenon’s Maigret

Keeping some streets dark in the City of Light.
by Cara Black

Roaring in Retrospect Crossword

by Verna Suit




At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

2015 Thriller Award nominations, 2015 Left Coast Crime Awards, 2015 Derringer Awards

The Hook

First lines that caught our attention

My Book

Cold Case: The Atlanta Child Murders, Wayne Williams, and the writing of Innocent Blood
by Michael Lister




Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews




The Docket


Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info


Teri Duerr
Monday, 04 May 2015 03:05





The Detections of Lillian de la Torre

A look at the historical mystery writer who put Dr. Sam Johnson on the case in witty short stories.
by Michael Mallory


Katherine Hall Page discusses her Faith Fairchild series, favorite authors, the writing life, and her new collection of short stories.
by Ed Gorman

Ben H. Winters: World of Trouble

It’s six months before an asteroid destroys Earth and detective Hank Palace continues his lone crusade to bring order to the apocalypse in the final book of this highly praised trilogy.
by KOline H. Cogdill

Paul Doiron: A Light in the Forest

It’s law and order Maine-style with Game Warden Mike Bowditch.
by Lynn Kaczmarek


This Elmore Leonard-inspired show has always had big ambitions —and the payoff is on the way.
by Jake Hinkson

Dorothy Salisbury Davis

A star in the 1950s to ’70s, Davis had a rich understanding of the human condition.
by Sarah Weinman

“Killer Wedding” Crossword

by Verna Suit




At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

2014 Anthony Award nominations, Edgar Awards, Agatha Awards, Audie Awards, Lambda Awards, Arthur Ellis Awards

New Books

by Elaine Viets

Storytelling Through Totem Poles
by R.J. Harlick

The Hook

First lines that caught our attention




Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews




The Docket


Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info


2015 Anthony Nominations

The nominees for the 2015 Anthony Awards have been announced.

These are for books published in 2014.

Winners are selected at Bouchercon by attendee vote and will be awarded during the conference, which is Oct. 8-11 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Mystery Scene congratulates all the nominees.

Lamentation – Joe Clifford (Oceanview)
The Secret PlaceTana French (Hodder & Stoughton/Viking)
After I’m GoneLaura Lippman (William Morrow)
The Long Way Home Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Truth Be Told – Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

Blessed Are the Dead – Kristi Belcamino (Witness Impulse)
Ice Shear – M.P. Cooley (William Morrow)
Invisible City – Julia Dahl (Minotaur)
The Life We Bury – Allen Eskens (Seventh Street)
The Black Hour – Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street)

Stay With Me – Alison Gaylin (Harper)
The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood (Penguin)
The Day She Died – Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
World of Trouble – Ben H. Winters (Quirk)
No Stone Unturned – James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis – Charles Brownson (McFarland)
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice – Kate Clark Flora (New Horizon)
Dru’s Book Musings – Dru Ann Love (http://drusbookmusing.com)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe – J.W. Ocker (Countryman)
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey – Hank Phillippi Ryan, editor (Henery)

“Honeymoon Sweet” Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 – Craig Faustus Buck (Down & Out)
“The Shadow Knows” Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays – Barb Goffman (Wildside)
“Howling at the Moon” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 – Paul D. Marks (Dell)
“Of Dogs & Deceit” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 – John Shepphird (Dell)
“The Odds Are Against Us” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 – Art Taylor (Dell)

FaceOff – David Baldacci, editor (Simon & Schuster)
Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 – Dana Cameron, editor (Down & Out)
Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen – Joe Clifford, editor (Gutter)
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon – Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger, editors (Pegasus Crime)
Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Love, Lust, and Longing – Karen Pullen, editor (Wildside)

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 07:05
The Immune System: A Dewey Decimal Novel
Betty Webb

We know that all good things must come to an end, and Nathan Larson’s The Immune System: A Dewey Decimal Novel gives us the final installment of one of the finest (and weirdest) thriller trilogies ever. After the apocalyptic adventures of Larson’s incorrigible protagonist in The Dewey Decimal System and The Nervous System, the author delivers a grand finale worthy of his grand—if brain-addled—hero. In the near-future, the few who survived the world-changing “Valentine’s Occurrence” are living in the rubble that was once Manhattan. This wasteland has been divided up between warring factions: the Coalition, the Chinese, the Russians, and a mysterious company called Cyna-corp. “Decimal,” as he is called since he can’t remember his own name, works as a freelance troubleshooter. In this, his last detail, he is asked to provide protection for two young Saudi royals. The job turns out to be rougher than previous assignments, because everyone in what’s left of Manhattan—and possibly the world—wants to kill them. Decimal is no fool. He realizes that given his many addictions (drugs, hand sanitizer, etc.), he should be the last person called on to protect anyone, let alone the last two surviving members of the House of Saud. Something is fishy somewhere. However, he’s also addicted to excitement, and can’t pass up the challenge. Therein begins a thrill ride of major proportions. Told in Decimal’s own brutal voice, a free-form, expletive-rife poetry rap perfectly suited to the chaos surrounding him, the plot rockets from rat-ridden basements to posh executive suites. Through it all, Decimal fights off not only outside adversaries, but also his own crazy urges. Due to an electronic implant in his neck, much of his memory has been erased and false memories implanted, so he no longer knows for certain which side he is on. This uncertainty lends piquancy to his every waking moment, because when he at long last falls in love, he can’t be sure if the emotion is real or programmed. There is physical action aplenty in this breathtaking novel—fistfights, shoot-outs, bombs, etc.— but during the finale of Larson’s glorious trilogy, we learn that in the end, the only struggle that ever mattered was Decimal’s struggle with himself.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 11:05

larsontheimmunesystemNathan Larson gives readers the final installment of one of the finest (and weirdest) thriller trilogies ever.

Ace Atkins on Elmore Leonard
Ace Atkins

Ace AtkinsLet Your Characters Do the Talking


Photo © Joe Worthem


Elmore “Dutch” Leonard died cool. There’s a certain kind of magic in a man who came of age during the Great Depression and refused to become dated, repetitive, or, worst of all, soft. Not only was he one of the best crime writers of all time, he was—no matter the year—the hippest.

When Elmore died two years ago at age 87, he was still going strong, with his hit TV show Justified and a newly published collection of short stories featuring Raylan Givens. There was a new movie in production and new fans discovering his work. His final years were peppered with some terrific books: Cuba Libre, Tishomingo Blues, Mr. Paradise, and The Hot Kid. I love the golden era of Dutch, all those gritty Detroit crime novels. But there was really something special about The Hot Kid, a meditation on storytelling and a return to Dutch’s childhood, when criminals were folk heroes.

He never tried to recycle old ideas and he never phoned it in. One of his last books wasn’t about his tried-and-true urban crime but instead Somali pirates. I think by always challenging himself, he never really got old. Or acted old. He never stopped evolving. He mastered the Western, producing stories that became classic films, Three-Ten to Yuma and Hombre. Then he ventured into the modern, real grit of Detroit, with the classics Swag, The Switch, and City Primeval. And by the time he’d become synonymous with Detroit, he moved on and arguably created the modern Florida crime novel with awesome books like LaBrava and Gold Coast. After that it was on to Cuba during the Spanish-American War, the Mississippi Delta, and Rwanda.

I was fortunate enough to know Dutch. We corresponded for several years, and I spent time with him both in my hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and at a noir festival in Frontignan, France. He was as cool in person as the characters from his books. I recall us arriving at a press event during the festival and French newspapers giving him the rock star treatment he deserved.

Like an aging gunfighter, he didn’t speak much, but observed everything around him. The first thing he did when sitting down for an interview was light a cigarette and slowly blow out the smoke. He later told me, “That’s when you see the flashbulbs popping.”

It was the image seen on newsstands across France the next day.

On the trip, he told me he’d read my third novel, and admitted, “It’s not bad, but a lot of it reads like writing.” As longtime Leonard fans know, one of his 10 Rules of Writing was “If It Sounds Like Writing, I Rewrite It.” To try and overwrite or be ornate with your language simply wasn’t cool to Dutch. You disappear as the author.

You hang back and let your characters talk. The author’s job is to listen, learn, and evolve.

And hopefully you’ll stay cool and never grow old.


Ace Atkins is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including the US Army ranger Quinn Colson series, the Nick Travers series, and the and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. A former newspaper reporter and SEC football player, Ace lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his family, where he’s friend to many dogs and several bartenders.


This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in At the Scene” eNews May 2015 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.



Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 01:05

Ace AtkinsNot only was he one of the best crime writers of all time, he was—no matter the year—the hippest.

Spouses & Other Crimes
Bill Crider

Spouses & Other Crimes is a collection of ten stories from Andrew Coburn. These aren’t mystery stories, but involve crimes of different kinds. “Bang Bang” tells about husband-and-wife vacationers who encounter the husband’s former college professor, a man who supposedly killed his wife but remains free after two mistrials. The wife finds herself unaccountably attracted to him. In “A Woolf in Vita’s Clothing,” a woman named Caroline, who has just killed her husband, meets a man named Chuck, who’s also a spouse murderer. They go on the road together in a journey that doesn’t end well for either. All the stories in this collection are written in Coburn’s finely honed prose, and are capable of creating a sense of unease as we read about what seems to be a ordinary world, but is just slightly off-center as are his characters. Spouses & Other Crimes is effective and haunting. Highly recommended for anyone looking for something a bit off the beaten track.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:05
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby
Jon L. Breen

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel The Great Gatsby (1925) is certainly a crime story, and even, in a sense, a detective story. In this enthralling blend of social history, literary criticism, biography, and true crime, Sarah Churchwell focuses on the year 1922, in which the novel was set, cutting from the action of Gatsby to the wild life of the partying Fitzgeralds to the notorious Hall-Mills murder case playing out in the newspapers of the time. The double shooting murder in New Brunswick, New Jersey, of Episcopal minister Edward W. Hall and choir singer Eleanor Mills, having an affair though both married to other people, has never been officially solved. Churchwell does an excellent job of balancing all her elements into a unified and intensely readable whole.

Forgive my airing a language pet peeve: Churchwell is guilty of repeated misuses of “begging the question,” an atrocity which seems to be diminishing in respectable circles.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:05
Hank Wagner

Elizabeth Heiter’s Vanished features Evelyn Baine, an FBI profiler who is haunted by the kidnapping and presumed murder of a childhood friend 18 years ago at the hands of the man known as the Nursery Rhyme killer. She also suffers from survivor’s guilt, after a recent revelation that she was also apparently targeted by the madman. Thus, when the killer resurfaces in her old hometown, she hastily volunteers to work the case. Little does she know that her investigation will be hindered by hostile locals, numerous suspects, and a killer with a kill-or-be-killed attitude.

Vanished is a dark and moody book; the despair is almost palpable. It’s ultimately uplifting, however, to vicariously experience Evelyn’s search for the truth. Her battle is hard fought, and vividly described through Heiter’s well-wrought, workmanlike prose. Each character is distinct and well rendered, and the plotting is admirable. A handsomely crafted mixture of police procedural and thriller, Vanished is a book whose events will haunt you well after you finish.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:05
Fry Another Day
Lynne Maxwell

Fry Another Day, by J.J. Cook (aka the indefatigable Joyce and Jim Lavene), is the second entry in the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery series, and it is a winner. Following on the heels of series opener Death on Eat Street, Fry Another Day stars Mobile, Alabama food truck owner Zoe Chase, with feline sidekick Crème Brulee. When Zoe enters her food truck, Biscuit Bowl, in a traveling cooking contest, she anticipates some stiff competition, but she certainly doesn’t expect to encounter actual stiffs. On the very first day of the contest, a fellow food truck owner meets an untimely demise when his refrigerator topples onto him. Suspecting that the death was no accident, Zoe confides her fears to a cop on the scene—and he is mowed down by a vehicle shortly thereafter. Still, Zoe and her friends—including, handsome lawyer, Miguel—soldier on, doing their best to win the competition fairly. In the end, Zoe guesses the identity of the killer, but not soon enough to avert a brush with death. The conclusion is surprising (to this reader, at least) because it defies convention. Fry Another Day is a truly satisfying cozy, and I can’t wait for the next series entrée. Guaranteed to raise your cholesterol count—but well worth it!

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:05
Backstrom: He Who Kills the Dragon
Dick Lochte

Publicity for this novel describes Detective Superintendent Evert Backstrom of Sweden’s National Murder Squad as an “irascible, obdurate...persistently repulsive yet undeniably brilliant comic creation...winding his way through the black comedy of a crime scene and managing to upset nearly everyone in the process.” This is a spot-on description of the Americanized version of the character Rainn Wilson plays in the witty, woefully underrated Fox TV series based on Leif G.W. Persson’s fiction. Judging by He Who Kills the Dragon, book two in the series, the literary Backstrom comes up a bit short on the comedy scale, and maybe a bit too long on the repulsive chart. The plot finds the boorish homicide expert investigating the murder of an elderly, generally disliked alcoholic. The unknown killer used the victim’s tie to strangle him, this after having clubbed him with a fry pan lid and a hammer. Backstrom, under doctor’s orders to give up rich food and booze, pauses long enough from complaining about his despised rehab to survey the crime scene and begin his investigation. His progress struck me as both familiar and plodding. He eventually solves the crime—at the cost of a broken nose—but his dreary railings against contemporary mores and minorities (racial, sexual and/or combinations thereof) seem waaay too heavy-handed and sour to qualify as even Archie Bunker-like, so-dumb-it’s-funny amusing. Since Persson, a criminologist as well as an author, has been writing popular crime novels for over 30 years, amassing dozens of awards in his native Sweden, I suppose the prose may have lost something in Neil Smith’s translation. And though reader Erik Davies effectively provides a slew of proper-sounding Scandinavian accents, his gruff, croaky rendition of the constantly complaining Backstrom is particularly charmless and joyless. By contrast, Wilson’s TV version (seeking justice in a perennially rainy Portland, Oregon) may have a more abrasive, sharply nasal voice, but there’s a vulnerability to the character missing in this audio, along with an upbeat energy that somehow makes his arrogant, frequently obnoxious statements seem actually funny. The TV cases have been interesting and, perhaps most important, Backstrom’s teammates offer strong support. Like his associates in the novel, they are crimefighters who’ve suffered career setbacks. Unlike those in the novel, they’re smartly developed and distinctive, with personalities that more than compensate for Backstrom’s dark cynicism and arrogance.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 07 May 2015 02:05
At the Scene, Spring Issue #139

139coverB 250Hi Everyone,

It’s quite an achievement to be well over 25 years into a literary career and still be on top, but John Sandford is no ordinary writer. Every time one of his “Prey” novels arrives, I have to pry it out of Brian’s fingers in order to send it out for review. Then a Virgil Flowers novel comes in and Teri has to pry it out of my fingers. (Luckily, Oline Cogdill gets her own review copies or there would be a riot in the Mystery Scene offices!) Oline has a chat with John Sandford, aka the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp in his private life, in this issue.

Also in this issue, Ed Gorman chats with Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of amateur sleuth and private eye novels as well as political thrillers, and Lynne Kaczmarek interviews the prolific Scottish author Peter May. Cara Black, creator of the bestselling Aimée Leduc series, considers Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and his Paris, and Michael Mallory takes a look at Dorothy Gilman, who created the beloved Mrs. Pollifax, a New Jersey grandmother turned globetrotting CIA agent. That’s quite a range of crime fiction!

From The Big Sleep to Rio Bravo to The Empire Strikes Back, Leigh Brackett’s celebrated screenwriting career spanned genres and decades. Brackett also had a great run as a novelist and short story writer with a sideline in television scripts. Jake Hinkson takes a closer look in this issue.

Kevin Burton Smith offers a survey of the new streaming services and the avalanche of films and television shows, both new and old, which are now available to crime fans. It truly is a Golden Age of Television. We’d love to hear what you’re watching these days— write and let us know!

Kate Stine

Teri Duerr
Saturday, 09 May 2015 08:05
Bridges Burned
Betty Webb

Annette Dashofy’s Bridges Burned brings back the gritty but compassionate paramedic Zoe Chambers, a woman who never flinches when she has to pull mangled victims out of car wrecks. In this recent installment (after Lost Legacy and Circle of Influence), her heart is touched by the suffering of ten-year-old Maddie Farabee, whose mother died in a fiery house explosion. Maddie’s father Holt had dropped the girl off at a babysitter’s just before the inferno. Thanks to this coincidence and rumors of her parents’ marital discord, Maddie is now in danger of losing both her parents—one to death, the other to prison. Convinced that Maddie’s father is innocent of arson, Zoe sets out to find the real criminal. This initial setup is enough to drive any mystery, but author Dashofy adds a twist. Zoe is so filled with pity towards Maddie’s plight that she invites the girl and her penniless father to move into her own home. This arrangement doesn’t sit well with her boyfriend, Police Chief Pete Adams. Jealousy isn’t the only problem here—Adams is as convinced of Holt’s guilt as Zoe is of his innocence. Adams’ own investigation uncovers the unsettling fact that technically, the Farabee family were squatters. They had been evicted from their home, only to move back in under cover of darkness. Threading everything together in this morally complicated mystery is the recurring question: What happens when decent, intelligent people—using both heart and brains— arrive at different conclusions? Bridges Burned is first and foremost a top-flight mystery, but what makes it truly shine is that it’s also an astute exploration of the human psyche.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 12:05
Empty Rooms
Betty Webb

In Jeffrey J. Mariotte’s gripping Empty Rooms, a cop and an ex-cop pair up to examine the cold case of Angela Morton, an 11-year-old girl who went missing from her Detroit neighborhood 13 years earlier. Richie Krebbs, who was fired from his job as a patrolman with the Detroit PD and now works as a security guard, catches a young boy breaking into one of the many deserted homes in a desolate section of the city. The fact that the house once belonged to the ill-fated Morton family stirs Krebbs’ interest, and while poking around the old crime scene, he runs into Detective Frank Robey. Both men agree that, after all these years, the missing Angela must be long dead, but they are haunted by the fact that her killer is still out there, possibly continuing to prey upon other young girls. Believing that the case was dropped too soon, they form an off-the-record task force of two and set off to find Angela’s abductor. Following old leads, their hunt takes them from Detroit to Arizona, Virginia, and Nebraska. They eventually find themselves tracking a serial child molester who has branched out to killing women in gruesome ways. This is not a book for the timid or easily shocked: the theme of violence against children is rough stuff. Despite this, Empty Rooms remains a highly recommended read. This atmospheric novel is notable in its descriptions of a bleak and dying city filled with people who have lost almost all hope. The Detroit setting works as a perfect metaphor for the grieving families whose children vanished. Even more bleak are the chapters written in the point of view of a man named Charlie Welker, a child molester planning the abduction of yet another “angel” to live in his “child-friendly” dungeon. It may take a strong stomach to read those pages, but for readers who are baffled by the seeming lack of conscience exhibited by people who hurt children, Empty Rooms provides an answer.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 12:05
Cold Trail
Betty Webb

Janet Dawson’s Cold Trail brings Northern California’s wine country so alive you’ll want to pack up and move there. The book’s chilling first chapter finds PI Jeri Howard standing in a cold morgue, checking to see if the body of a man found murdered is her brother, Brian. When the dead man turns out to be a stranger, Jeri is only slightly relieved. Two weeks earlier, Brian failed to return from a hike, and his wife Sheila, and the rest of the family, are distraught. Following Brian’s now-cold trail leads Jeri from a dilapidated harbor, across scenic Sonoma County, and into the wild forest of a large state park. Jeri discovers that her brother’s life held many secrets: a crumbling marriage, a mysterious job change, and the possible cover-up of a student’s attempted suicide at the school where Brian taught. As Jeri’s investigation continues, she begins to suspect that his disappearance just might be connected to the proposed sale of a coastal tract being fought over by conservationists and a less-than-ethical marina owner eager to expand. Personal problems always make delicious fodder for mysteries, but in this intriguing book, the Northern California land issues sometimes eclipse them. Dawson informs us that former apple orchards have been replaced by vineyards, and the additional water required to grow grapes has caused an alarming drop in the water table. In addition, numerous illegal pot plantations springing up in the area are siphoning off even more water at the rate of 15 gallons per plant, per day, on plantations that can each contain thousands of plants. In lesser hands, so much factual information could be overwhelming. Not here. Dawson knows how to blend real history and real crime into an intriguing mystery about a missing man and the people, and the land, he loves. Some advice: don’t neglect to read the author’s afterword at the end of the book.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 12:05
Devils and Dust
Betty Webb

In J.D. Rhoades’ excellent Devils and Dust the author blends fact with fiction, guiding us into the dark world of human trafficking. Rhoades’ Jack Keller frequently acts before he thinks, and that’s the case here. When alerted that an old friend’s two young sons, Reuben and Edgar, have gone missing while being illegally transported into the US, Jack immediately sets off to find them. A time bomb primed to explode, he knows but cares little that his quest might bring him into conflict with vicious border gangs and the US and Mexican governments. What he doesn’t know is that another foe has been added to the mix—a militarist compound that uses the coyotes’ transports as slaves. The compound is run by the only semi-sane “General” Martin Walker, leader of the Church of Elohim, a cult formed in the belief that the “mud races” were put on Earth to become slaves of the superior white race. Captives who attempt to escape are killed. Author Rhoades has wisely told his tale in several voices: Jack’s, Rueben’s, and the General’s. Thus we get to experience firsthand Jack’s increasing rage, Rueben’s desperation, and the General’s self-righteous cruelty. The result is a real page-turner, one filled with unexpected alliances and deep relationships. One caution: a lynching scene is written in such horrific detail it might be too much for sensitive readers. And don’t miss the acknowledgments page at the end.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 12:05