Sunday, May 19, 2019

Have You Heard? Julie Hyzy's Hail to the Chef

Because I'm on my way home today from a quick out-of-town trip, Sandie Herron stepped in with a Have You Heard? post. She reviews the audiobook, but, of course, you can always pick up the book itself. Today, she's reviewing Julie Hyzy's Hail to the Chef.

Hail to the Chef                                                                              
White House Chef Mystery, Book 2
Written by Julie Hyzy
Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook
Audible Studios (February 11, 2014)
Listening Length:  9 hours, 2 minutes

Thanksgiving is only days away.  Executive Chef Olivia Paras is meeting with the First Lady when a Secret Service agent abruptly escorts them into the bunker along with the First Lady’s nephew Sean.  Ollie concocts a delicious lunch for the three from rations and freeze dried food. Hours later they rejoin others in the White House and learn it was a faux bomb that set off the alarm.

Returning to the kitchen, Ollie resumed working with her staff only to see lights flash and hear a scream.  She rushes toward the sound and finds the head electrician electrocuted. Ollie does what she can until the medical staff arrives.  No one seems to know why this happened.

Ollie is working late when the First Lady calls her to prepare an informal dinner for three.  Co-owners of a medical research facility with the First Lady are trying to coerce her into selling it.  A heated discussion over dinner ensues with Ollie privy to all of it. She knew from her time in the bunker that the First Lady’s nephew Sean is against the sale, as is the First Lady, but pressure from others is mounting.  Ollie is as shocked as others when a Secret Service agent appears in the room with bad news. Sean is dead, possibly by suicide.

Teaching everyone on staff about explosives and how to spot them is difficult to squeeze into the holiday schedule.  After working late one night Ollie is walking to her apartment from the Metro when she is attacked by two men. Showing up to work the next day with bandaged hands, she cannot prepare food so gets Christmas decorations out of storage.  When she puts the empty boxes back, she notices a box out of place. Inside she discovers an incendiary device and evacuates everyone in the area. Secret Service takes over once alerted. Ollie’s training is paying off; the bomb was live.

At this point I could not put this book down.  I listened to over half the book without a break.  I was enthralled with the action and how tension mounted, especially as the opening of the White House for all to see the decorations approached.  All of the plot lines turned out to intersect and twine around each other until an explosive conclusion. This is an excellent mystery that made sense, was substantial, realistic, and full of suspense.

Eileen Stevens did a superb job narrating.  Her style is quite clear and precise without bringing any attention to herself with deep breaths or swallowing.  Her portrayal of several distinct voices was excellent. I couldn’t believe how she could switch from narrator/Ollie to the male electricians and Secret Service agents.  The transition to the Southern drawl of the First Lady was astounding.

I very much enjoyed Hail to the Chef, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Have You Heard? - Donna Andrews' Cockatiels at Seven

Sandie Herron has done a terrific job organizing her reviews so they are easier for me to access. Thank you, Sandie, for sharing your review of the ninth Meg Langslow mystery. Cockatiels at Seven was reviewed from the audiobook.

Cockatiels at Seven
Meg Langslow Mystery Book 9
Written by Donna Andrews
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Unabridged Audiobook
Dreamscape Media, LLC (April 18, 2017)
Listening Length: 7 hours and 18 minutes

When her friend Karen drops by with her two-year-old son Timmy asking that Meg Langslow babysit “just for a little while,” Meg takes on the challenge.  After all, what’s so hard about playing with a toddler?  Meg puts away the blacksmithing project she’d just begun in preparation for a craft show, and goes through what Karen left with Timmy, finding several sets of clothes, diapers, bedding, Timmy’s favorite blanket, and a bedraggled stuffed kitty named Kiki.  After dinner, Timmy is still with the Langslows, and Karen isn’t answering Meg’s phone calls. 

When Karen hasn’t shown up for Timmy by morning, Meg begins to investigate.  Taking Timmy with her, she starts her search by visiting Karen’s workplace in the financial offices of the college.  A paranoid supervisor is more intent o
n where Timmy’s hands are going than talking about Karen.  Later a co-worker pulls Meg aside and confides that something is seriously wrong.  Police are raiding Karen’s rundown apartment when Meg arrives.  She chides Chief Burke for treating Karen like a criminal when she is missing.  Karen’s ex-husband had supposedly left town, but perhaps he has taken her.  Could Timmy be the target of kidnappers?  Could Karen be hiding from bad guys?  Could she be a bad guy?

Meg continues to follow clues with the help of her large extended family.  Meg’s brother Rob has been slowly moving into a third floor bedroom and has been missing for blocks of time.  Meg’s dad and her newly discovered grandfather, Dr. Montgomery Blake, renowned zoologist, have been hiding some finches on the third floor and snakes in the basement.  Meg learns of an old bird farm out in the country next door to a relative of Karen’s husband.  Just what has her father been up to?  Meg seems to be one step ahead of Chief Burke at every new discovery.

Babysitting alone is topic for a funny mystery, but Donna Andrews has expounded on this theme in so many ways.  Embezzling, kidnapping, killing, and real estate schemes round out this zany story.  While being hilariously funny, this ninth outing of Meg Langslow and family are a tad less madcap.  With the welfare of a child at stake, the investigators are following all leads.  They can’t control the trouble they get into checking them out! 

Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Winners & Humorous Mystery Giveaways

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. A Deadly Turn is going to Kara M. from Adrian, MI. Headlong goes to Trish R. of Decatur, GA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I have humorous mysteries to give away. Antiques Ravin' by Barbara Allan puts antique
dealers Vivian Borne and her daughter, Brandy, into the middle of an ill-fated Edgar Allan Poe festival. Vivian is now county sheriff, so she's called in when some businesses in Antiqua are broken into. But, when bodies are found, the two realize someone is recreating Poe's mysteries.

Or, you could win Jill Orr's The Bad Break. Riley Ellison gave up her job at the Tuttle Corner Library for the world of print journalism. When her former co-worker Tabitha finds her soon-to-be father-in-law dead, Riley is asked to write the obituary. Then, when they discover Tabitha's finance's knife sticking out of his father's chest, Riley finds herself with a murder investigation to cover as well.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Antiques Ravin" or "Win The Bad Break." Please include your name and address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 23 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

What Are You Reading?

Are you reading or have you read any of the Anthony Award nominees? The award nominees were announced yesterday, and they will be voted on, and presented at Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas on November 2. Before you tell us what you're actually reading, here's the list of Anthony Award nominees.

Bouchercon 2019 — “Denim, Diamonds, and Death” — will present this year’s Anthony® Awards in five categories at the 50th annual Bouchercon® World Mystery Convention to be held in Dallas, October 31 to November 3. The Anthony Awards will be voted on by attendees at the convention and presented on Saturday, November 2.


Best Novel 
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown and Company)
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
Blackout by Alex Segura (Polis Books)

Best First Novel
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday)
Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus Books)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (Ecco)

Best Paperback Original Novel 
Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)
A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Best Short Story 
“The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)
“Bug Appétit” by Barb Goffman, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (November/December 2018)
“Cold Beer No Flies” by Greg Herren, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2018)
“The Best Laid Plans” by Holly West, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work 
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Mastering Plot Twists: How To Use Suspense, Targeted Storytelling Strategies, and Structure To Captivate Your Readers by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
Pulp According to David Goodis by Jay A. Gertzman (Down & Out Books)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Ecco)

The Anthony® Award is named for the late Anthony Boucher (rhymes with “voucher”), a well-known California writer and critic who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times Book Review, and also helped found Mystery Writers of America. First presented in 1986, the Anthony Awards are among the most prestigious and coveted literary awards. Bouchercon®, the World Mystery Convention founded in 1970, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization celebrating the mystery genre. It is the largest annual meeting in the world for readers, writers, fans, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and other lovers of crime fiction. 

So, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cleaning the Gold by Karin Slaughter and Lee Child

This past weekend, I actually read an eBook. I don't often, but Karin Slaughter and Lee Child teamed up for a short story, Cleaning the Gold, and I can handle reading short stories digitally. Best of all, for those of you who don't care to read eBooks, it will be available as a paperback next week.

Slaughter's character, Will Trent, is an investigator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation based in Atlanta, but his boss sends him to Kentucky to work on a cold case. More than twenty years earlier, there was a shooting of a policeman in a small Georgia town. That policeman just died, so now it's a murder investigation. And, the local librarian described a man that fits Jack Reacher's description.

After someone pulls a few strings, Trent is sent to Fort Knox where he's assigned a physically taxing job working next to Jack Reacher. Trent may be tall, but Reacher is taller and bigger. Neither man is much for conversation while they spend their days cleaning and moving gold bullion. But, when Reacher tracks an officer, and Trent follows Reacher, they have a discussion. Jack Reacher also has a case. He's looking into an officer who is an enforcer when someone gets over their head with a loan. But, this man enjoys picking on women and children.

While both men are interested in a resolution to their cases, it soon becomes clear there is something seriously wrong at Fort Knox. If they team up, Trent and Reacher might be able to handle the trouble without throwing the entire country, and the world, into chaos.

Cleaning the Gold is a short story designed for those of us who are already familiar with both characters. There's little introduction because there's none needed for fans of the two bestselling authors. Just settle in for an entertaining story if you pick up the book.

Karin Slaughter's website is

Lee Child's website is

Cleaning the Gold by Karin Slaughter and Lee Child. Harper Collins, 2019. ISBN 9780008358938, 120p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Roger Wall, Guest Author

When Wiley Saichek of Saichek Publicity asks if I'll host a guest author, he usually suggests that the author write about libraries. Wiley knows how much I appreciate those types of posts.

Today, I'm hosting author Roger Wall, whose novel, During-the-Event, is speculative fiction. Here's Wall's biography.

Roger Wall lived throughout the United States before ending up at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied fiction writing. He lives in New York City and the Catskills. During-the-Event is the 2018 Permafrost Book Prize in Fiction selection. Visit his website at

Here's the summary of During-the-Event.

For D.E., only two certainties exist: his grandfather is dead and life will never be the same.    
During-the-Event is a dystopian adventure that roams across a fallen United States, introducing an unforgettable cast of characters along the way. In the near future, climate change has ravaged the United States, leading the government to overcorrect through culls and relocation. Those who survive the mandated destruction are herded into “habitable production zones,” trading their freedom for illusions of security. The few who escape learn quickly that the key to survival is to stay hidden in the corners of the country. For seventeen years, During-the-Event, or D.E., has lived free in a pastoral life with his grandfather in North Dakota. But when death reaches their outpost. D.E. is forced on a journey that will change his life—and reveal surprises about his past.
Once taught that strangers are only sources of pain, D.E. must learn to trust the people he meets on his journey. During-the-Event is a soaring coming-of-age story that grapples with achingly familiar issues: coming to terms with loss and loneliness, finding what our identities really mean, and searching for love in an often strange and bewildering world.

Thank you, Roger, for taking time to write the following post.

Books and libraries, then and now

As a child, books, except for the Bible and two sets of encyclopedias, were not omnipresent in our household. The Bible was a source of stories early on, as was perhaps an anthology of children’s stories. My elementary school bookshelf didn’t contain literature, though, but a collection of manuals on how to survive in the wild. It’s hard to believe anyone actually tested this information, or used it; I read it as adventure writing. It stoked my imagination for grand backyard adventures.

When I was fourteen, I read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It wasn’t a school assignment but the first novel I bought on my own—a maroon paperback from a mall bookstore. I read it one Friday night, alone in bed.

I suppose I liked what a lot of people like about the book: the first person voice, the disgust with phonies, and the adventure of trying to be seen as an adult in a New York that no longer exists. Salinger’s personal mythology, a hermit in the Vermont woods who shunned people and wrote, also appealed to me.

In college I sought out libraries for their tranquility and privacy, an escape from group living and dormitories. Yet, it wasn’t until I began going to the library with my own child that I came to appreciate the book-lending service of libraries. Once or twice a week we spent a few hours in the Philadelphia Free Library before loading the stroller with the allowable limit of books. My son never minded walking home.

For a few years in New York I made a home in NYU’s Bobst Library. Early in the morning or during academic breaks the Bobst Library was quiet, and the stacks were filled with rarities. Once I found a book from the early twentieth century about the country Chad, with hand-drawn maps of exploration routes. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t in a rare book collection. Now I wonder if it has been sent off-site for deep storage or scanned into a digital file with the original thrown out to make room for more computer terminals and collaborative work areas. A realtor once stood in my apartment and pointed to the bookshelves. “Books,” he said, “you don’t see many of them anymore. It’s a nice touch.”

Most recently two of my favorite authors published books. Haruki Murakami (Killing Commendatore) and Michael Ondaajte (Warlight). Both of these works share the characteristic of creating realities that the reader can’t resist occupying. A another book, Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders, also achieves this state, as does HernanDiaz’s In the Distance.

Roger Wall - Credit Heather Phelps, Lipton Photography

Monday, May 13, 2019

Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon

Marcie R. Rendon's Girl Gone Missing, the second Cash Blackbear mystery, is a strong followup to Murder on the Red River. Only a member of a Native American nation, as the author is, could tell such an authentic story of a brooding, displaced young woman.

Although she's most comfortable drinking and playing pool in her favorite bar in Fargo, North Dakota, Renee "Cash" Blackbear is enrolled in college at Moorhead State in Minnesota, thanks to Sheriff Wheaton. He's taken an interest in the nineteen-year-old ever since he pulled her from a car accident when she was three.

Now, Cash has aged out of the system, escaped foster homes and abuse. She's called Cash because she works for cash, and pays cash. She's a loner at school, one of a handful of Indians enrolled there in the late 1960s. Before she even learns about a girl's disappearance from school, Cash dreams about a blonde girl calling for help. Then she hears the stories of Janet Tweed's disappearance. Cash's dreams change to include two blondes when another girl disappears. Neither young woman is the type to run away. They're good students with families and small communities that are proud of them.

Because of her dreams, Cash asks questions at school and at work, but it isn't until she makes her first trip to the "Cities", Minneapolis and St. Paul, that she herself is pulled into the room where the lost girls are kept.

Rendon looks back at a tragic period in American history. She juggles white slavery, Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, and young Native Americans lost to their families. Girl Gone Missing offers a strong sense of place and historical atmosphere. It's a bittersweet, melancholy mystery with an unusual amateur sleuth.

Marcie R. Rendon's website is

Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon. Cinco Punto Press, 2019. ISBN 9781947627116 (paperback), 208p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of the book to review for a journal.