Friday, April 29, 2016

Winners and An Amish Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Barbara W. of Auburn, WA will receive Here Comes the Bribe. Debbie GS won Terror in Taffeta. The books will go out in the mail on Saturday.

This week, I have two mysteries set in the world of the Amish, two very different mysteries, but two of my favorite series. A Churn for the Worse by Laura Bradford features shop owner Claire Weatherly and Detective Jakob Fisher. While the story begins with the death of an Amish farmer, it takes time for anyone to realize the death is connected to a series of robberies in the Amish community.

Bradford's series is on the cozier size of the mystery genre. Linda Castillo's mysteries are not. In After the Storm, Painters Mill Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her team are caught up in the aftermath of a tornado that tore through the town. When human remains were uncovered by the storm, it's up to Burkholder to identify the bones and notify the family. But, when evidence emerges that the death was not an accident, Kate find herself looking into a thirty-year-old case that takes her deep in the Ohio Amish community.

You have two terrific mysteries to pick from, but you can enter to win both. I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win A Churn for the Worse" or "Win After the Storm." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 5 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Edgar Award Winners 2016

Congratulations to the winners of this year's Edgar Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America.

Mary Higgins Clark Award – Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
Robert L. Fish Award - Russell W. Johnson for "Ching Ling Soo's Greatest Tricks"
2016 Best TV Episode - Peter Flannery for "Gently With the Women", George Gently, Acorn TV
Best Juvenile Book – Foster Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught
Best Young Adult – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Best Critical/Biographical – A Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
Best Fact Crime – Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil
Best Short Story – “Obits” by Stephen King in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Best Paperback Original – The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Best First Novel by an American Author – The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Best Mystery Novel – Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Walter Mosley is this year’s Grand Master.
Janet Rudolph won the Ellery Queen Award.
Raven Awards went to Margaret Kinsman and SINCnational.

Extreme Prey by John Sandford

I was late coming to John Sandford's Prey books, but I'm totally hooked. I'm not going back in this series since I know what happened with Lucas Davenport's career, but I've enjoyed the ones I've read. And, Sandford's latest, Extreme Prey, is perfect for an election year.

Lucas Davenport is no longer a cop. He resigned from Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. But, when the governor, Elmer Henderson, calls, Lucas is quick to answer. His wife knows he's going stir-crazy. And, he can see himself coming back to a job with a badge under the right circumstances. This time, he doesn't have a badge, but Henderson needs his help. The governor wants to be vice-president, but he's running for president in order to get his name in front of the presidential candidate. Michaela Bowden is the leading candidate on the Democratic side. But, Henderson is a little uneasy. He's had contact with a couple people who worry him, people who seem to be threatening Bowden. She won't take it seriously, but Davenport does.

Lucas Davenport crisscrosses Iowa, and discovers there are a lot of political nuts out there. And, someone is killing them off, targeting the ones that seem willing to talk. With each death, Lucas grows a little more worried. And, the Iowa State Fair is getting closer with a presidential candidate determined to acknowledge the voters by showing up where it's harder to protect her.

Sandford's latest book is timely, and fascinating. While Davenport fumbles for answers, the reader knows who the killers are. For much of the book, Lucas suspects one political group, but misses the real culprits. As he gets closer, he becomes a target, a big target who has exposed himself to all the suspects. But, Davenport has more than his intelligence and experience going for him. He has friends he can count on.

Extreme Prey is witty, fast-paced, and timely. It's a riveting story, just perfect for this election year.

John Sandford's website is

Extreme Prey by John Sandford. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. ISBN 9780399176050 (hardcover), 406p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Are You Reading?

Well, it was a little nerve wracking for a while last night, with my cell phone, the TV, the tornado sirens, everything going off with a tornado warning here. I should have known I was OK. None of the cats panicked, and Josh just sat and tried to figure out why I was gathering things to go sit in the only inner room I have, the guest bathroom.

So, who could read last night? Not me. I am reading John Sandford's Extreme Prey, the perfect book for a Presidential election year. Lucas Davenport is no longer a cop, but that doesn't mean the governor of Minnesota doesn't call on him when he suspects there's someone threatening a candidate.

What are you reading?

(And, Jeff, did you finish your book?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

I read some of the comments about Kemper Donovan's debut novel, The Decent Proposal. While the premise is interesting, and the contrast between the characters is certainly written effectively, somehow I missed what everyone seems to find delightful. Other reviewers have pointed out the humor, and that the book is a "romantic comedy". Missed that totally.

Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, sculptured and good-looking, a partier who drinks too much, co-owner of a production company in L.A. that isn't doing well. He loves L.A., and he's broke. Elizabeth Santiago is a Latina lawyer who works so hard she's called La Maquina, The Machine. She's a voluptuous woman who loves New York, and leads a quiet, orderly life. And, some anonymous benefactor decides to offer them each a half million dollars if they'll spend two continuous hours a week for a year, talking to each other. They're not to search for the benefactor, and neither of them can figure out what they have in common or why someone selected them.

Would you do it, talk to someone for two hours a week? Richard desperately needs the money. Elizabeth has a pet project she would help with the money. While the first meetings couldn't have been any more awkward, the two finally stumble on discussions of books and movies. They're willing to give it a chance, but Richard's best friend, Michaela "Mike" Kim, isn't happy at all. Although she threw Richard over, now she's secretly in love with him, and she fears she'll lose him to Elizabeth.

Don't get me wrong. The Decent Proposal is an enjoyable debut novel with an intriguing premise. But sometimes I think I'm the wrong generation for novels that others find amusing. I fail to see the humor in sarcastic lines that cut other people down, or more than one character drinking until they pass out.

I can appreciate a premise that brings two unlikely people together for conversations about books and movies, conversations that force them to look at each other with fresh eyes. In fact, the plot seems to deal with the recent experiments with people who ask each other questions, and find they fall in love. Given two hours a week for a year, time spent in conversation, will two people fall in love? Kemper Donovan poses that interesting question in The Decent Proposal.

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062391629 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in the book tour.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Come Dark by Steven F. Havill

Every time I read one of Steven F. Havill's Posadas County mysteries, I urge readers to try one. Come Dark may be my favorite in the series, an excellent example of a small-town sheriff's department working together in a community where they know the people and the usual suspects.

NightZone is the name of the astronomy theme park that has been a dream in several of the books. It's not yet open, but it's attracting attention from the media, bringing in workers and gawkers, adding to the economy in Posadas, New Mexico.  The other attraction for the local media is the girls' high school volleyball team with their sixty-fifth consecutive win. But, when a railroad car at NightZone is tagged, and the volleyball coach is shot dead at the school, the sheriff's department can only hope the media doesn't catch wind of the latest problems in Posadas.

With a small department, it takes everyone to deal with the unusual events in one week, including the murder. There's the mother who left her child in a locked car in a parking lot, and disappeared. There's the teenage artist in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after hitting a deer and a pole. People in town, from second graders to the volleyball team, are affected by the coach's death. And, everyone from Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman to Sheriff Robert Torrez to the retired sheriff, Bill Gastner, is pulled in to help with the cases. And, they're a little shorthanded with one staff member out, nine months pregnant, and the office manager home with her baby.

The murder of the coach is a complicated, intriguing case. But, much of the pleasure in this book, and Havill's other mysteries, comes from watching the careful, step-by-step investigation of the case, with every member of the department filling their role. Over the course of the series, Gastner, and then Reyes-Guzman have been featured, but the stories wouldn't be as interesting if we didn't see the changes in the department as it truly became a diverse department reflecting the population in Posadas. And, there's the added pleasure of watching Reyes-Guzman's family grow and change.

Bill Gastner sums up this book, and so many police procedurals. "People make mistakes, you know. It all starts with some little thing, something that by itself seems of little consequence. And then, the big slide down that long, slippery slope. Sometimes we catch 'em before they hit bottom, and sometimes we don't."

If you like police procedurals, you need to read Steven F. Havill. And, Come Dark may be my favorite.

Come Dark by Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press. 2016. ISBN 9781464205255 (hardcover), 298p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Chat - May's Cozy Mysteries from Penguin Random House

Before the book chat, I owe Claire Donally an apology. She's the author of Catch as Cat Can, and somewhere on the paperwork, I had Dawn Eastman as the author. The video gives the wrong author. The listing below has it right.

Here's May's book chat, with a cameo by Jinx.

Here are the books featured this month.

A Fatal Chapter - Lorna Barrett (9th Booktown Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Gone with the Witch - Heather Blake (6th Wishcraft Mystery)
Hearse and Gardens - Kathleen Bridge (2nd Hampton Home & Garden Mystery)
Ripped from the Pages - Kate Carlisle (9th Bibliophile Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Berry the Hatchet - Peg Cochran (2nd Cranberry Cove Mystery)
Catch as Cat Can - Claire Donally (5th Sunny & Shadow Mystery)
A Finely Knit Murder - Sally Goldenbaum (9th Seaside Knitters Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Murder at Lambswool Farm - Sally Goldenbaum (11th Seaside Knitters Mystery, hardcover)
Don't Go Home - Carolyn Hart (25th Death on Demand Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Seams Like Murder - Betty Hechtman (10th Crochet Mystery)
Mrs. Malory and Death is a Word - Hazel Holt (19th and final Sheila Malory Mystery)
Irish Stewed - Kylie Logan (1st Ethnic Eats Mystery)
Newlywed Dead - Nancy J. Parra (3rd Perfect Proposals Mystery)
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue - Victoria Thompson (17th Gaslight Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Murder in Morningside Heights - Victoria Thompson (19th Gaslight Mystery, hardcover)
Checked Out - Elaine Viets  (14th Dead-End Job Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
The Art of Murder - Elaine Viets (15th Dead-End Job Mystery, hardcover)
A Useful Woman - Darcie Wilde (1st Rosalind Thorne Mystery)

And, here's Jinx, preparing for his role. He really would like a speaking part. You can tell since he's sitting on the script.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Mary Margaret Miller. Mimi. Meem. Even Babe. Whatever name she goes by, Mary Margaret is one of the most memorable narrators I've met in a long time. She's matter-of-fact as she tells the bittersweet story of the home she loved her entire life in Anna Quindlen's latest novel,  Miller's Valley.

Mimi's mother became important when she married a Miller, and moved to his farm in Miller's Valley. And, she was a nurse, a self-assured woman. So, everyone in town waited for Miriam to speak up, to fight for Miller's Valley when the government announced their plan to resettle everyone and drown the town. But, Miriam saw change coming long before everyone, even her daughter. And, Mary Margaret never did understand her mother and why her mother seemed so ready to let everything disappear.

Mimi, a quiet girl, watches her parents as her father farms and works as a fix-it man for the entire community. Her mother is a nurse, working long shifts at the hospital. Mimi's Aunt Ruth lives in a small house on the back of the family farm, and refuses to leave the house, even when the valley floods. Mimi's brothers are much older. Ed is already gone, in college, and then working as an engineer. Tommy. Tommy, the light of his mother's eyes, is idolized in town, but once he enlists during Vietnam, he'll never be the same. And, of course, there's Miller's Valley, the town Mimi loves, threatened for years by floods, and by government plans to flood the town.

The line I see quoted from this book is "But no one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, even if they go." It's a line that summarizes the book better than any book review does. How do you sum up a book that covers years in a family and a community? This is Mary Margaret's story to tell, and she tells is better than any reviewer. She's reflective, serious as she tells the story of her life and her family's lives. It's an unpretentious story that tells the truth, the good and the bad. But, it's told from Mimi's viewpoint, and she doesn't always understand her parents or her brother, Tommy. They're real people, leading ordinary lives, sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful.

As Mary Margaret looks back at Miller's Valley, back at the people she loved, she's matter-of-fact, telling the story as it was, from her standpoint. It's a bittersweet story. But, Mary Margaret Miller, with her candid conversation about the town and her family, brings them to life in Anna Quindlen's quietly powerful, unforgettable, Miller's Valley.

Anna Quindlen's website is

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen. Random House. 2016. ISBN 9780812996081 (hardcover), 259p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.