Thursday, July 02, 2015

August Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

Today, I'm leading off the August releases with my personal pick. But, Louise Penny's eleventh Chief Inspector Gamache novel would be my personal pick no matter what month it came out. I'm prejudiced, though.

In The Nature of the Beast, Penny introduces us to a nine-year-old boy who cries wolf, making up stories of invasions in Three Pines. When the boy disappears, though, the villagers, including the now-retired Gamache, realize one of the boy's tall tales might be true. It's a story that leads to murder, to an old crime, to betrayal, and to an old poet. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Journalist and former Parade editor-in-chief, Janice Kaplan, writes of one year being grateful in The Gratitude Diaries. On New Year's Eve, she vows to take a year to be grateful and look at the bright side of everything. As she gets advice from psychologists, academics, and writers, she takes readers on her journey. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

The second nonfiction entry is Alex Kershaw's Avenue of Spies. The author tells the true story of an American doctor and his family in Paris, and their heroic espionage efforts during the Second World War. As the war raged, all three Jacksons were drawn deeper into the Resistance, although almost every building on their exclusive residential block had been commandeered by the Nazis. And, when their secret was finally discovered, they were forced to undertake a dangerous journey across the war-torn continent. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Sophie Littlefield's The Guilty One is a novel about the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves. Maris' world was shattered when her daughter was murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman's boyfriend. Now, Maris herself holds a man's life in her hands. At the other end of the phone is the boyfriend's father. He's standing on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump, if Maris tells him to. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

James Marrison introduces us to a new police inspector in his debut novel, The Drowning Ground. Chief Inspector Guillermo Downes, a native of Argentina, now heads up the police department in the English Cotswolds. When a young girl disappears, the second girl in two weeks to go missing, Downes makes a rash promise to the child's mother to find her no matter what. Ten years later, the promised is still unfulfilled. And, then a local man, once suspected of killing is wife, is found dead. And, the dead man might have a connection to those missing girls. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

The Intruder is Hakan Ostlundh's crime novel about betrayal and dark secrets. The Andersson family is being sent scary letters without a sender's name. Gotland policeman Fredrik Broman and his colleagues take the threats seriously, but they don't rule out a tasteless joke. When the threats escalate, and the couple's daughter disappears, all doubts vanish. And, the disappearance is only the beginning. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti is faced with his most troubling case yet in Lynne Raimondo's  Dante's Dilemma. Asked to evaluate the estranged wife of a slain University of Chicago professor, he's forced to help the prosecution. And, his evidence all but convicts her. When a tip connects the case to another suspected murder and evidence that she may not be guilty, Angelotti discovers someone will do anything to guarantee that she takes the fall. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Inspector Alan Banks returns in Peter Robinson's In the Dark Places. It's a double mystery. Two young men have vanished, and the investigation leads to two troubling clues in two different locations. And, then a freak truck accident leads to the discovery, not only of the driver's body, but also of a body that was dead before the crash. As snow falls, the body count rises in Banks' complex case. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

James Sie's debut novel is Still Life Las Vegas. Walter Stahl's life will always be marked by the day his mother disappeared when he was five, driving off, never to return. Even though he never even saw a picture of her, twelve years later he continues to watch for her in the groups of tourists he caters to in his dead-end job along the Vegas Strip. Then, as he searches for clues as to her disappearance, he's forced to face the truth about himself and his family history. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

 Here's an unusual viewpoint. Bradley Somer's Welcome to the Fishbowl features a goldfish named Ian. Longing for adventure, Ian escapes his bowl and finds himself plummeting twenty-seven stories toward the street below. As he descends, he witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents, each facing a decision that will affect the course of their lives. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Denise Grover Swank's first Rose Gardner mystery is being re-issued in hardcover. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes introduces the employee of the DMV. She's had plenty of visions, but this one is unique. She's seen herself dead, but her overbearing momma winds up murdered instead of Rose, making Rose the prime suspect. With her death looming, Rose lists twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. And, as things get worse, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than her list. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Former Sports Illustrated reporter and editor Bill Syken's fiction debut, Hangman's Game, is set in the world of pro football. Nick Gallow lost his starting position as a college quarterback, turning himself into a punter who made it to the pros. But, after five years, his career no longer looks bright. But, he's unexpectedly thrust back in the spotlight when he witnesses the murder of the new all-star draft pick. Nick doesn't plan to get involved until a second attack hits closer to home, and the police go after the wrong man. Nick finds himself driven by the chance to be a hero again. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Brian Thiem brings his experience, twenty-five years with the Oakland Police Department, to his debut novel, Red Line. When a teenager from a wealthy suburb outside of Oakland, CA is dumped at an inner city bus stop, homicide detective Matt Sinclair catches the case. It's his first since being dumped to desk duty for a bust that went south. It's the worse kind of case, and it only gets worse as the bodies start to pile up - first at the same bus bench, then around the city. Sinclair is unable to link the victims to each other, and the killer is just getting started. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

And, the last novel is Gabriel Urza's All That Followed. Auriga, a quiet town in Spain's northern Basque Country, has more secrets than residents. Five years after the kidnapping and murder of a young local politician, but, now the townspeople want answers. Everyone knows who pulled the trigger five years earlier, but is the young man behind bars truly to blame. The story peels back the layers of a crime complicated by history, love, and betrayal. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

I know which books I'm anticipating in August. Which ones do you want to read?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

August Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

Prepare yourself. August has innumerable book releases, and I have quite a few of them for the Treasures in My Closet posts. There's something here for everyone, I hope. Let me know which forthcoming books you find exciting.

I'll lead off with my personal pick, Linda Fairstein's Devil's Bridge. Detective Mike Chapman is spotlighted in this one when he has to investigate the disappearance of Alex Cooper. There are some complications. Coop's put countless criminals behind bars in her decade of work. There's been a recent security breach. And, there's the change in her relationship with Mike, who will do anything to get Coop back. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

This time, Meg Langslow has to save Halloween in Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews. The mayor of Caerphilly, Virginia is turning the town into Spooky City, USA. When a suspicious fire burns down the Haunted House, Meg agrees to lend her home for the replacement. But, when a real body turns up, Meg has to save the holiday. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Egypt's most popular novelist, Alan Al Aswany, brings us The Automobile Club of Egypt. It's the story of a family caught up in the social unrest in post-World War II Cairo. The Automobile Club is a place of refuge and luxury for its European members, but Egyptians are only servants there. When politics leads to social upheaval, the Egyptians of the Automobile Club have two choices: live safely but without dignity as servants, or fight for their rights and risk everything. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Susan Barker's The Incantations weaves Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics into the story of a taxi driver, Driver Wang. While driving in Beijing during the preparations for the 2008 Olympics, the first letter falls into his lap as he flips down his visor. The writer claims to be Driver Wang's soulmate, someone who continues to send more letters telling stories of their lives, bound together over centuries of betrayal and intrigue. Driver Wang becomes convinced someone is watching him, someone who is getting closer. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

In Paula Brackston's latest novel, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey, a young artist goes to the Welsh mountains in search of love. Laura Matthews and her husband move to an ancient house in the hills, hoping to inspire her to produce her art, and hoping for the baby they both want. But, Laura discovers a charismatic man who pursues her, a wise old woman who talks in riddles, and a mysterious man from the past, Merlin himself. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

I'll be honest and say, not having read Brene Brown's Rising Strong means the summary of the nonfiction book sounds a little unusual. It's a book about vulnerability. "If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall." It's a book about what it takes to get back up, "and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write daring new endings." Dr. Brown covered this topic in a 2010 TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability", and she now writes about it. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Dale Brown returns with a military thriller, Iron Wolf. A resurgent Russia inflames sectarian unrest and violence in Ukraine and Poland, setting off a stealth robotic war and escalating an international crisis. When NATO refuses to act in response to Russian actions, the former U.S. president and the Polish president launch Operation Iron Wolf without the knowledge of the Americans or their NATO partners. It's a battle to determine the fate of Eastern Europe. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Here's one of the debuts for August, Ellen Byron's Plantation Shudders, a Cajun Country mystery. Prodigal daughter Maggie Crozat returns home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana just in time for the local food festival. And, she's just in time to become a murder suspect when two guests, a couple, keel over dead within minutes of each other. In order to clear her name and hold the family business together, Maggie investigates, uncovering decades-old secrets. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha finds Juniper Song, a licensed private detective, handling her most unusual case yet. Rubin Gasparian hires her to follow her cousin,  Lusig,a surrogate carrying Rubina's baby. Lusig might be endangering the baby as she hunts for her best friend who is missing, a woman involved in the battle to erect an Armenian genocide memorial. Juniper's search leads her deep into a tight-knit immigrant community and the groups opposed to it. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Stephanie Clifford's novel, Everybody Rise, is a story of social climbing and entrenched class distinctions. In 2006 in Manhattan, money and ambition consume the city as a new generation jockeys for social power. Class, especially on the Upper East Side, is still important, and Evelyn Beegan really wants to work her way up the social ladder. In order to pass as upper class, she has to lie about her background. And, it won't be long until those lies start to give way. (Release date is Aug.  18.)

In Douglas Corleone's Gone Cold, former US Marshal Simon Fisk searches from the U.S. to the UK and Ireland for his missing daughter. Twelve years after his six-year-old daughter Hailey was abducted, Simon finds an urgent message comparing two images, a computer-generated image of Hailey, and the sketch of a young woman wanted for murder in Ireland. Fisk goes hunting for the people responsible, and hopes to find Hailey. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

I always look forward to Bill Crider's new Dan Rhodes mysteries. Between the Living and the Dead finds Clearview, Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes dealing with ghost hunters, runaway bulls, and assorted low-level crimes, including prosecuting people who don't use their turn signals. It promises to be another fun mystery. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Jennine Capo Crucet's debut novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is the story of what it means to be an American today. Lizet, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, is accepted into an elite college, although her parents are furious at her decision to leave Miami. And, then her home life in Miami unravels, as her parents divorce and her father sells her childhood home. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

No Virgin Island is C. Michele Dorsey's mystery debut. Sabrina Salter traded a high-pressure job for life as an inn-keeper on St. John. Then, Sabrina finds a guest dead, murdered, and she was the last person to see him alive. With Sabrina's checkered history, the police mark Sabrina as the prime suspect, so she has to find the true killer. But, Sabrina's search catches her up in a net of adultery, kidnapping, identity fraud and murder. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Philip Mercer, geologist with a taste for international adventure, returns in Jack Du Brul's The Lightning Stones. Mercer rides an elevator two thousand feet into the earth of a Minnesota mine, just in time to hear automatic gunfire, and find his mentor and an entire research team brutally executed. Mercer's hunt for revenge and the killers sends him on an international chase, one that involves the rare and powerful crystals, lightning stones, rumored to have been on Amelia Earhart's plane when it vanished in 1937. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

What a difference a year makes in Lauren Fox' Days of Awe. One year, Isabel Moore was married, adored by her ten-year-old daughter, and thought she knew everything about her best friend. A year later, her husband has moved out, her daughter is a moody insomniac, and her best friend was killed in a single car accident. All of her relationships changed in that year. Now, who is Isabel Moore? (Release date is Aug. 4.)

You might want to try Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy if you were a fan of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Todd, an autistic man in his 50s, tells his story. He's been in his current group home for decades, and he's pretty happy there. But, then a new menacing staff member arrives, and he finds a new love interest who convinces him to stop taking one of his medications. They both serve to shake him out of his complacency, and set some events in motion that stir up family secrets and memories. (Release date is Aug. 24.)

Joshua Hood's Clear by Fire is a military thriller about an American hero, Mason Kane, who, in order to clear his name, must take down a highly classified band of solders that has gone murderously rogue. Kane is a proud member of the elite, off-the-books Anvil Program, a group of black ops soldiers who wage war from the shadows. But, Kane refuses to obey his commander when the team is ordered to kill an innocent Afghan family in order to force America's continued involvement in the Middle East. Hunted by his former comrades, Mason's mission is to unravel a conspiracy that reaches into the President's inner circle, and stop the world's most dangerous soldiers from completing their plan. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

In Alaric Hunt's Godless Country, Clayton Guthrie and Rachel Vasquez must track a gruesome stalker in New York City. Guthrie is a private fixer for the aristocracy of New York City. His latest job is to protect a Manhattan heiress from a dangerous talker. Hiring a retired bodyguard to protect her, Guthrie teams up with his young operative, Rachel Vasquez, to run a trap operation as they pursue the stalker. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

So, the colors of August appear to be blues and shades of orange and gold. It's easy to judge the covers; not so easy to judge the books. Are there titles here that appeal to you? If not, check back tomorrow for August Treasures in My Closet, Part 2.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page

It doesn't matter if you read Katherine Hall Page's mysteries about caterer Faith Fairchild or not. Page's collection includes Faith in many of the short stories. And, an anthology can be picked up any time. This one came out a year ago, however it fit my mood when I went looking for the perfect book. You really just need to enjoy mystery stories to appreciate Small Plates.

Most of Page's stories are set in New England, everywhere from Maine to resort areas to Boston and the surrounding communities. A couple feature the old families, the Winthrops and the Cabots. There are even a couple Christmas mysteries for those of us who love them.

I had two favorite stories. "The Proof Is Always in the Pudding", the first of two Christmas mysteries, involves Faith's husband's family. When Faith's mother-in-law says she needs a man, it kicks off the story of the Fairchild Christmas Dinner Curse, a story going back to the late eighteen hundreds. It's a story of class and deceit and love. And, it's a story of murder.

Then, there's "Sliced". Anyone who watches food television shows will recognize a reality TV show in which chefs get eliminated if they don't prepare the most appealing appetizer, entree and dessert. Faith is not happy to be participating in the show for a local charity, but her best friend asked her. And, she really regrets her agreement when she meets her competition, three chefs who dislike Faith. Any one of them would like to eliminate her for good.

There are nine mysteries and a couple recipes in the book. Page's collection is an appealing taste of New England crime, with the inclusion of a familiar character for comfort. Although not all the entries include Faith Fairchild, the ones that do may just whet your appetite for longer stories, Katherine Hall Page's books that feature the caterer. Small Plates is the perfect appetizer, a sample of the storytelling skills of an author who has honed her skills over the course of twenty-two mysteries. Welcome to Katherine Hall Page's world, enchanting settings disturbed only by the intrusion of a killer or two.

Katherine Hall Page's website is

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062310798 (hardcover), 223p.

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Ready for an atmospheric, traditional police procedural? Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany was a bestseller for many months in Germany after its 2012 publication there. It's not a fast-paced thriller, though, so it won't make the bestseller lists here. It's for those of us who appreciate a thoughtful police officer and the slow unraveling of a crime. In addition, there are the beautiful small towns of Brittany to entice a reader.

Commissaire Georges Dupin was banished from the Paris police force, sent to the remote Breton coast. However, he enjoys his mornings in Concarneau, sipping coffee at a waterfront cafe, away from the politics of Paris. But, the murder of a renowned ninety-one-year-old hotelier in nearby Pont-Aven threatens to thrust his latest case into the spotlight. Pont-Aven and the Central Hotel played host to Gaugin and other artists in the 19th century, building its reputation on the connection to the artists. Now, the death of Pierre-Louis Pennec throws the entire region in an uproar.

Dupin finds everyone shocked by the murder, but no one is particularly helpful when it comes to investigating the crime. And, a break-in at the crime scene only muddies the waters. It seems everyone associated with Pennec and the Central Hotel has a closely-guarded secret. It will take a few walks and a few cups of coffee for Dupin to dig through his thoughts for the truth.

Dupin, with his love of coffee, good food, and walks by the sea, is only slightly eccentric as a detective. His biggest flaw is his inability to hold his tongue, so he tries to avoid conversations and confrontations with the higher ups.  And, with the trace of humor in this book when it comes to Dupin, he acknowledges that. "He found it a bit sad, because he lacked some of the 'hidden depths' which now seemed a quasi-requirement for his profession: drug addiction, or at least alcoholism, neuroses or depression to a clinical degree, a colourful criminal past, corruption on an interesting scale or several dramatically failed marriages. He didn't have any of those things to show off about."

Spend a day or two with Dupin, walking the paths of small-town Brittany, exploring the cafes and side streets, while pondering the mysteries of murder, Death in Brittany. It's a charming quiet mystery that introduces a traditional police detective and a story that reaches into the past.

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250061744 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Currently Reading?

I know I don't put this in my signature line as often as I should, what I'm currently reading. It's the
perfect question, though, for all of us who love books. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading a book that was a bestseller in Germany in 2012, and comes out Tuesday in this country. Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec (a pseudonym), represents one of my favorite types of mystery, the police procedural. It introduces Commissaire Georges Dupin, exiled from Paris to the remote Breton coast. He's enjoying his morning coffee when he's called to a sleepy community that was once a gathering point for artists, Pont-Aven. Someone killed a ninety-one-year-old man, owner of a legendary hotel. And Dupin, not exactly known for his tact with the politically powerful, has to juggle phone calls and a murder investigation.

I'm spending my weekend with Commissaire Dupin in Brittany. What are you currently reading?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards

I always have a hard time reviewing story collections, no matter how much I enjoy them. Do you just want to take my word that readers who appreciate the Golden Age mystery classics will appreciate Resorting to Murder? No?  Well, then take editor Martin Edwards word for it.

There are fourteen stories in this anthology. Edwards, himself an award-winning crime writer, calls these "vintage stories written over a span of roughly half a century, and which have a backdrop of a holiday". This is not a holiday as Americans think of it, Christmas or Thanksgiving. A holiday in this case is a trip or vacation, "enjoyable escapism" as Edwards says. Yet each story tells of a murder, "enjoyable escapism" for the reader who gets to watch a classic sleuth solve the crime in most of the stories. And, who better to kick off the anthology than Arthur Conan Doyle with the story of Sherlock Holmes' case in Cornwall, "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot"?

Edwards provides an introduction to each author and story. Some of the authors may be familiar to those who love older British mysteries. G.K. Chesterton and R. Austin Freeman have always been a couple of my favorites. And, somewhere or another I must have read Basil Thomson's "The Vanishing of Mrs. Fraser" before. It's just as fascinating as the first time I read it or something similar, the story of a young woman who leaves her ailing mother at a hotel, goes in search of help, and returns to find her mother gone, and the hotel staff denying everything. It's a must-read.

The collection is part of the British Library Crime Classics series, edited by Edwards, and published in this country by Poisoned Pen Press. I have two mystery novels in the series, ones I haven't had a chance to read yet. But, I'm looking forward to them.

Now that it's summer, I'd recommend a trip back in time if you enjoy and appreciate the classic British mystery. Resorting to Murder will serve as an introduction to both well-known and lesser-known authors, and some stories you may not have seen elsewhere. Trust Martin Edwards to tell you the background of the stories and authors.

Martin Edwards' website is

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203756 (paperback), 278p.

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winners and Give Me an H Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Kate White's The Wrong Man. They're going to: Susan S. from Valatie, NY, Mildred B. from Great Neck, NY, and Kay S. of Georgetown, TX.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries by two authors whose last name begins with H. Let's start with Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand mystery, Don't Go Home. Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, may have promised her husband, Max, that she wouldn't get involved in any investigations, but when a friend is in trouble, Annie can't let her down. Successful author Alex Griffith returned to Broward's Rock, promising to reveal secrets about the town's residents. Marian Kenyon was the last one seen having an argument with Griffith before he was killed. But, Annie believes that her friend didn't kill him, and she can't let a friend be wrongfully convicted, even if she does put herself in jeopardy.

Or, you could choose to head out west with Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito in Anne Hillerman's Rock with Wings. Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, have plans for a short vacation, but two cases, one near Shiprock, the other at Monument Valley, will send them on their separate ways. While Chee deals with a missing woman, a thug, and a mysterious mound where it shouldn't be, Bernie copes with a drug bust that went wrong and the federal repercussions, problems with her sister, and an ambitious solar energy company. And, despite his continuing physical problems, Leaphorn is able to guide both of them.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Please include your name and mailing address. Your subject heading should read either "Win Don't Go Home" or "Win Rock with Wings." Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 2 at 6 PM CT.