Oline Cogdill

The seventh and last season of True Blood—based on Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series—begins at 9 p.m. June 22 on HBO. But look for another one of Harris’ series to come to television.

Harris’ Aurora Teagarden books are going to be brought to the Hallmark Channel as a series of two-hour movies.

The movies will star Candace Cameron Bure, who you may remember in the role of D. J. Tanner, the eldest daughter, on the television series Full House, which she played from ages 10 to 18.

The plan is that these two-hour made for TV films might be on the air as early as January, but that is still to be determined. As we all know, when dealing with the film/TV industry, anything can happen.

Harris is thrilled about the prospect of bringing this much loved series to the screen.

“I am very cognizant that this will be a really different product and process from my experience at HBO, and I look forward to learning even more about how things work on the west coast,” Harris told Mystery Scene in an email.

I loved this series by Harris and it should make an entertaining addition to the Hallmark Channel. The series began in 1990 with Real Murders and Harris published six novels about Aurora Teagarden, but there is plenty of groundwork for more stories.

The Aurora Teagarden novels are set in a small Georgia town where librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden is a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. This pastime becomes real when a member’s murder eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss. Other “copycat” killings follow.

Harris’ latest novel is Midnight Crossroad, which begins a new series for this author.

Oline Cogdill

The Private Eye Writers of America announce the finalists for the Shamus Award for works published in 2013. (The categories below are in alphabetical order by author.)

The winners will be announced at the PWA Banquet at Bouchercon in Long Beach, Calif., on Friday, November 14.

Little Elvises,Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
The Mojito Coast, Richard Helms (Five Star)
W is for Wasted, Sue Grafton, (Marion Wood/Putnam)
The Good Cop, Brad Parks, (Minotaur Books)
Nemesis, Bill Pronzini (Forge)

A Good Death, Christopher R. Cox (Minotaur Books)
Montana, Gwen Florio (Permanent Press)
Blood Orange, Karen Keskinen (Minotaur Books)
Bear is Broken, Lachlan Smith (Mysterious Press)
Loyalty, Ingrid Thoft (Putnam)

Seduction of the Innocent
, Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime)
Into the Dark, Alison Gaylin (Harper)
Purgatory Key, Darrell James (Midnight Ink)
Heart of Ice, P.J. Parrish (Pocket Books)
The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie, Robert J. Randisi (Perfect Crime Books)

"So Long, Chief," Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane (The Strand Magazine)
"The Ace I," Jack Fredrickson (EQMM)
“What We Do,” Mick Herron (EQMM)
“Extra Fries,” Michael Z. Lewin (EQMM)
“The Lethal Leeteg,” Hayford Peirce (EQMM)

Murder Take Three, April Kelly and Marsha Lyons (Flight Risk Books)
A Small Sacrifice, Dana King (self-published)
No Pat Hands, J.J. Lamb (Two Black Sheep)
State vs. Lassiter, Paul Levine (CreateSpace)
Don’t Dare a Dame, M. Ruth Myers (Tuesday House)

Oline Cogdill

Giving away advanced readers’ copies of a new book isn’t exactly a new idea. Authors have been doing this for decades, to promote an upcoming book or reward devoted readers.

Yet authors are still finding ways to put a new spin on giveaways.

Susan Elia MacNeal, left, who writes the award-winning Maggie Hope series, decided to use a plot device to reward a couple of readers.

Set during WWII, the series follows Maggie Hope, who starts as a “typist” for Winston Churchill but, because of her perceptive skills, ends up becoming a spy for the British. MacNeal’s series is known for its meticulous research and complex, believable characters.

The latest novel in this series, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, opens in 1941 with Maggie working as an instructor at an agent training facility in Scotland. Maggie has been suffering from a “black dog” of depression and the instructor job is a way to get her back on her feet, and, hopefully, back in the field as Britain needs her unique talents. But a series of unusual deaths at the facility bring new lessons for Maggie.

To go with the theme of The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, MacNeal decided to find out what kind of a spy her readers would be.

“Since the SOE (Special Operations Executive) was made up of real people with little to no military/spy training, I thought it would be fun to ask folks if they thought they'd make a good spy. I have my own ideas, but I thought it would be fun to hear,” said MacNeal in an email.

(By the way, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a British World War II organization formed to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements.)

The contest was conducted via Facebook. For a judge, MacNeal turned to a very special person to make the final decision—her 9-year-old son, Mattie.

The winners are readers Megan Walline and Leila Ghaznavi.

Megan won Maddie’s vote when she stated “I would make a good spy because I will mail a box of candy to Mattie if I win the contest. Is that wrong?”

Leila said she would make a good spy because “I'd be a good spy because I'm small and would fit into tight spaces so I can ease drop on people. Also I have brown hair so I blend into the blackness of alleyways. Plus I've trained in aerial acrobatics so I can hang from high places unseen!"

A few other readers offered their ideas on espionage:

Colleen Turner: “I would make a good spy for a number of reasons: I'm super short, have a young looking face, blind hair and blue eyes and very often get taken for sweet and harmless...which I could use to my advantage to infiltrate the enemy and bring them down ! Also, I am very organized and therefore would never misplace my spy equipment or intel or forget where I hid it if the need arose to escape in a flash!”

Kelly Sullinger Bales: “I’m already a spy; I’m a teacher who hears everything without being seen; knows when the fight is going to happen and breaks it up before it begins; I am around some deviant students who pass off as harmless ones; plus I'm always on the clock. And a teacher as a spy is too cool...I've already been in the trenches and know the weapons (spit balls, paper wads, and lack of deodorant)!!”

Jennifer Marie: “I'd make a great spy. I am a mom. I watch them all day every day. I look to see if their eyes are glassy and might be getting sick. I watch to see if their smile is a touch less bright. And I can always tell when my child is lying.”

Kelly Sullinger Bales: “I've read your books to my students when we did our WWII unit so they could get a better picture of what life was like for Europeans during the war...they loved it! Me too, of course!”

Kathleen Fannon: “I would make a good spy because I have sneak skills honed by years as a mother, I know how to keep a secret because I am a good friend, I am a librarian so I know how to research anything, and since I was a kid once myself, I am good at disappearing when I don't want to do something.”

Airieanne Andrews: “I'd make a good spy because I'm a stealthy lady. I can hide in plain view, sail, shoot, smile, and waive your overdue book fees at the library.”

Sara Miller: “I would be a great spy because 1) I would be the last person people would suspect of being a spy, 2) I can get even the strangest people to talk to me and 3) Even if I tell an enemy my real name, it would be nearly impossible to track me down.”

Mystery Scene suggest our readers buy a copy of The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent and tell us what kind of spy you think you would make.

Oline Cogdill

We always hear about the demise of reading, how the public doesn’t read books anymore and book buying is going the way of the 8-track player. (Google 8-track player if you don’t know what that is.)

Well, if that is true then why has the dispute between Hachette and Amazon become national news? Even a segment on the Cobert Report?

So the demise of reading, like Mark Twain’s death, has been greatly exaggerated.

But are we also entering the world of the big book? By that I don’t mean big blockbusters or books that get big attention.

I mean the big book. BIG. The thick, more than 500 page books that could double as doorstops.

This year several of these huge tomes have crossed my desk. And I often wonder as I heft up these hefty books, are these lengths necessary? Can these stories be told in half the size, and better? In newspapers we used to have a joke—I wrote a good story that was 60 inches (which is how journalists measure articles) but turned it into a great story that was 40 inches. And of course, there is the phrase, less is more.

So let’s take a look at some of these big books, and, I have read each of them.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker, translated from the French by Sam Taylor. Penguin. Length 656 pages—This international best seller has been getting big push from its publisher and with good reason. Yes, the story is repetitive and sometimes unwieldy but it also moves at break-neck speed, entrapping the reader in the story a young author with writer’s block trying to help his mentor accused of murder. Could a 200 or 300 trim have made this a better novel? Probably. But I still enjoyed it and got wrapped in its ambitious, multi-layered story that tackles themes of loyalty, fiction vs. reality, fame, and is a mini-course in writing. Harry Quebert is one of America’s most respected and loved novelists until the remains of Nola Kellergan and a manuscript of his bestseller are found on his estate 33 years after the 15-year-old disappeared. Marcus Goldman, Harry’s successful protégé, travels to New Hampshire to try to clear his friend, and find his own next novel.

The Hidden Child
by Camilla Läckberg, translated by Marlaine Delargy. Pegasus Crime. Length: 544 pages—
Swedish writer Läckberg sets her superior novels in the coastal village Fjällbacka and each outing is unique. Her terrific fifth novel serves as a fascinating history of a family dating back to WWII while looking at the Neo-Nazi movements in Sweden. The story never lags as it shows how horrific secrets can fester, affecting the present. Läckberg’s lively plot smoothly moves from a year during WWII to contemporary times in which an old man’s murder launches a police investigation.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. Morrow. Length: 800 pages—Greg Iles’ fourth novel also is getting a big push from its publisher, with a tour and lots of publicity. Natchez Burning is a bold look at the Civil Rights Movement that smoothly alternates between 1964 and 2005. It also is way too long. Repetitive scenes and predictable villains dilute the impact of the racism and violence. Natchez, Miss., lawyer Penn Cage is stunned when his highly respected physician father, Tom, is accused of murdering his former nurse, Viola Turner, an African American who worked with him during the 1960s. I had very mixed feelings about this novel. The plot is realistic and Iles skillfully moves the story between the decades. But this is the start of a trilogy, but its length is a problem. This would have been a stronger story at 400 pages.

Ripper by Isabel Allende. Harper. Length: 496 pages—While this may be the shortest novel in this list, its overdone plot, weak characters, and uninteresting details stop this story in the first chapter. These 496 pages seemed like 800. My dislike of this novel was chronicled in a review that ran a couple of weeks before Isabel Allende called the book “a joke” during an NPR interview. “The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic ... and I’m not a fan of mysteries . . . . So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke,” according to the NPR interview. She later apologized in another interview when reader backlash began. An author’s opinions on the genre, storytelling, or readers means nothing to me, nor should it mean anything to readers. What matters—to me and, hopefully, readers—is does the story deliver. It does not. Ripper revolves around a world-wide online community of amateur sleuths united to solve a series of bizarre killings in San Francisco. The leader is high school senior Amanda Martin, who is assisted by her pharmacist grandfather, Blake Jackson.

And here another novel that I have not read but is massive in length:

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. Simon & Schuster. Length: 640 pages—To be published in August, this debut from a 39-year-old English teacher is a look at an Irish immigrant family that spans the decades. Again, I have not read it but it is garnering positive advance reviews.

Oline Cogdill

My Mondays are now booked with the return of Longmire, the western crime drama based on Craig Johnson’s series about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire.

Longmire’s third season airs at 10 p.m. Mondays on A&E, with frequent encores.

Australian actor Robert Taylor, left, plays the Wyoming lawman.

It’s not become a tradition—OK, two years in a row now—to move the publication date of Johnson’s latest novel to coincide with the start of the TV series.

The 10th Longmire novel Any Other Name (Viking) just hit the bookshelves and reading devices a couple of weeks ago.

In Any Other Name, Walt is asked by his former boss, Lucian Conally, to investigate the death of detective Gerald Holman in an adjacent county. Lucian wants to find out what drove Gerald to commit suicide.

Walt’s investigation leads to evidence concerning three missing women.

Photo: Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire. A&E photo