Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Books Read in May

Good month, with a couple very good mysteries. Here's the list of books I read during May.

Consigned to Death by Jane K. Cleland - A debut mystery that introduces Josie Prescott, antiques dealer and appraiser in New Hampshire who becomes the primary suspect when a client is murdered.

Man O'War by Dorothy Ours - The story of the great racehorse, and the people that surrounded him.

Days of Summer by Jill Barnett - When a car accident kills a singer, the repercussions reverberate through three generations.

Blondes Have More Felons by Alesia Holliday - This fun debut mystery introduces December Vaughn who opens a Florida law firm, but doesn't expect sleezy lawyers or alligators in her office when she takes a major case.

The Killing of Strangers by Jerry Holt - Sam Haggard gets caught up in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings twenty-five years later.

Crime Beat by Michael Connelly - A decade of newspaper columns from Connelly's crime beats in Florida and LA.

Choosing Blue by Stephanie Hoppen - The interior designer demonstrates the use of blue in interior decoration.

Dead Man Running by Rett MacPherson - Torie O'Shea's enemy, the mayor, disappears soon after mysterious men are seen stalking him.

Mad Mouse by Chris Grabenstein - In the sequel to Tilt-A-Whirl, Danny Boyle and his friends are targeted as the summer ends on the New Jersey shore. Danny teams up with policeman John Ceepak to find the sniper.

Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes by Cathy Holton - Three wives of partners in a Georgia law firm decide to get revenge when they discover their husbands cheated on them each year at the annual hunting getaway.

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read - Debut mystery introducing Madeline Dare, a reporter who searches for the killer of two girls when her favorite cousin's dogtags turn up as evidence.

Busted Flush by Brad Smith - A decent man has to deal with thieves and con men when he makes an historic discovery in Gettysburg.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Busted Flush

Brad Smith created a hero for his novel, Busted Flush, that I wish I knew. Dock Bass is a decent, down-to-earth, honest man with a sarcastic, dry humor. Unfortunately, when we first meet Dock he's stuck in a real estate job he hates, working for a dishonest boss, and living with a money-grubbing wife. The inheritance of a piece of property in Gettysburg offers him the chance to escape.

Dock's inheritance is a rundown farm, and he immediately sets out to renovate the house. While doing so, he knocks out a back wall, and discovers a treasuretrove of Civil War memorabilia. Dock's lucky enough to form friendships with two professors who realize he has rare plates that show pictures of Abraham Lincoln, along with a rare recording machine that may actually have a voice on it from the 1860s. He needs all the luck he can get because suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork, looking for a piece of the action. One is a television reporter, set on the trail by her boss. Others include a dishonest antiques dealer and his partner in scams, Stonewall Martin.

Brad Smith's enjoyable novel is a study in character and opportunity. Given the opportunity for fame and fortune, would a man give up his decency and character? Many of the characters in residence in Gettysburg in Busted Flush would eagerly sell anything for fame and fortune. Does Dock Bass have a price?

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Field of Darkness

It's odd, but after reading comments on Cornelia Read's website from some of the authors, I felt as if I read an entirely different book. I liked her main character, Madeline Dare, but I didn't find her as funny as many of the authors. Instead, in this character-driven mystery, I felt she was a lost child, searching for answers, family and home. I felt a great deal of sympathy for her, but I didn't find her or her circumstances funny.

Madeline is a reporter in Syracuse, NY in 1988. She's also a reporter that hates Syracuse. She comes from a monied background, although she herself has none. Her comment? "My money is so old there's none left." She feels out of place in Syracuse, a working man's community, and she has a hard time identifying with the people there. However, with her parents' divorce and odd upbringing, she is also out of place in her extended wealthy family. Her husband, who is working in Canada, is her lifeline and her support. She's dragged back into her family by the story of a nineteen year old murder.

In 1969, two unknown girls who had attended a fair were found murdered in a field, heads crowned with roses. Madeline is jolted into the investigation with the discovery of dog tags in the field; dog tags that belonged to her favorite cousin. Against the wishes of her husband, she pours herself into the investigation, hoping to clear her cousin's name.

I found A Field of Darkness to be a complicated character study of Madeline, a young woman yearning for attachment and a place to call home, and not finding it in Syracuse, a city foreign to her upbringing. The most poignant part of the book? On p. 244, she asks herself, "What was it about them that has such a hold on me? Sophisticated young women, near my age, lost forever in Syracuse, a town that seemed completely uninterested in them, in what their presence here had ultimately cost them. Oh...right. I'm afraid they're me."

If you're looking for a dark read with a complicated, sympathetic character, you can't go wrong with Cornelia Read's A Field of Darkness.

Cornelia Read's website is

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jim on Lee Child's blog

I think I took a pretty good picture. Lee Child's publicist posted the picture of Jim, Lee Child and Cornelia Read on Lee's blog. Here's the address.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lee Child At The Poisoned Pen

Saturday, my husband, Jim, and I went to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale to see Lee Child and Cornelia Read. Jim was surprised when Lee Child started speaking to find out he was British. I kidded him and told him he didn't read the back flap. Jim has never liked British authors, and refuses to read them. In fact, he's always told people that I tricked him into reading what he now calls his all time favorite book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer. So, he was surprised to find out Child was British. But, he and Child both said he doesn't write "British." In fact, in his current book, he takes Jack Reacher to England, and writes as if he were a stranger to England. Child kidded and said he wished he were.

Child is not only good looking, but has a great sense of humor and is a very good speaker. He said he's never going to write a standalone because readers start to count on a series character. He talked about discovering Cornelia Read when he was teaching at a conference, and had to read three manuscripts. Hers was the third, and the only good one. He recommended that she submit it. When I emailed Louise Ure, she said she recommended Cornelia submit it to her publisher, which is why she's thanked in the acknowledgments.

Jim asked Lee Child whether he had experience in Special Ops, and he said, no, he read a lot, and wrote from that knowledge. Jim had me ask how he captures the loner character, and Child said Reacher is him, and he's a loner.

I felt sorry for Cornelia. She was very good, but really a warm-up act for Lee Child. He had suggested she tour with him to give her exposure. It does that, but I still felt bad when 60-70 people were lined up to get his autograph and only a few for her. She was a very good speaker, a natural at presentation with her sense of humor. I'm sure this will help expose her to mystery readers.

We waited in line so Jim could meet him, and he asked him about being a Yankees fan. Since Jim was wearing a Detroit hat, the two talked baseball for a few minutes. I told him I was going to Thrillerfest, and that I'd recommended a "hole-in-the-wall" Mexican restaurant to Louise. He said he'd let me know how it was, and if it wasn't any good, he'd have to hunt me down and kill me.

Very nice afternoon with a very gracious author. Lee Child's new book is The Hard Way. Cornelia Read's first book A Field of Darkness.

Left to right in foreground - Jim in Detroit hat, Cornelia Read, Lee Child.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes

Cathy Holton's first novel was a hit with me. Anyone who has ever longed for revenge on anyone, or felt cheated by a husband or significant other will find satisfaction in this book.

Three women, Eadie Boone, Nita Broadwell, and Lavonne Zibolsky are captives of their husbands' careers since their husbands are all partners in a a law firm in Ithaca, GA. Eadie's husband is leaving her for another woman. Nita is addicted to soft porn romances and longs for the handyman. Lavonne's dissatisfaction comes out with a desire to eat constantly. Following the annual company party, though, they discover their husbands' annual hunting trip involves more than hunting animals. Each year they've been taking that trip, girls have been flown in for their entertainment.

Eadie, Nita and Lavonne plot their revenge, and, possibly divorce. All I can say is, their revenge is very sweet. Nancy Thayer, author of The Hot Flash Club, is quoted on the front of the book. Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes is much more fun than The Hot Flash Club.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hot Summer Reads

Next Tuesday, May 23, I'll be hosting my annual brown bag luncheon. A few people (wish I had a few more!) bring lunch and I tell them about 15 books that they might be interested in. I try to give them a mixture, but, naturally, with my love of mysteries, it tends to be a little heavy on the mystery side. Here's my list for the group.

Hot Summer Reads 2006

Allgor, Catherine – A Perfect Union – (92 Madison, Dolley) Very readable biography of
Dolley Madison & the U.S. The burning of the White House in 1814 brought the
country together, made DC the Capitol & guaranteed Dolley’s place is history.

Cleland, Jane K. – Consigned to Death (Adult Fiction) In a traditional mystery, Josie
Prescott, a New England antiques dealer and appraiser, becomes the primary
suspect in an elderly client’s murder.

Crusie, Jennifer & Bob Mayer – Don’t Look Down (Adult Fiction) Fun, sexy romp in
which a movie director and a former Green Beret team up to stop the sabotage
of a film.

Ervin, Sharon – The Ribbon Murders (Adult Fiction) A cub reporter and a state cop team
up to find the murderer who leaves men dead with a telltale clue.

Fowler, Earlene – The Saddlemaker’s Wife (Adult Fiction) When Ruby McGavin’s
husband dies, she finds out he lied about his past, and she discovers a ranch,
a family, and secrets she didn’t know about.

Lakin, Rita – Getting Old Is Murder (Paperback Mystery) In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida,
75-year-old Gladdy Gold and her friends are suspicious when retirees start
dying too quickly in their retirement village.

Lende, Heather – If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name (917.98 L564i) Haines,
Alaska is a small town where the author writes the social column and obits
for the local newspaper.

Leonard, Mike – The Ride of Our Lives (917.304 L581r) The NBC Today show
correspondent packs up his eighty year old parents and his kids and heads
across country in 2 RVs.

Mayes, Frances – A Year in the World (914.04 M468y) The author of Under the
Tuscan Sun celebrates travel and food throughout Europe.

McManus, Patrick – The Blight Way (Adult Fiction) Two Idaho country sheriffs
investigate the killing of an LA man in a pasture in this funny mystery.

Radish, Kris – Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral (Adult Fiction) If you’re
over 30, you’ll appreciate this story of a group of women celebrating their
friend’s death.

Rosett, Sara – Moving is Murder (Adult Fiction) A terrific debut mystery in which an
Air Force wife snoops when squadron wives in her neighborhood are murdered.

Samuel, Barbara – Madame Mirabou’s School of Love (Adult Fiction) A woman who
struggles after her divorce finds friends and a new career with her love of

Shuman, George D. – 18 Seconds (Adult Fiction) Blind investigative consultant Sherry
Moore “sees” the deceased last 18 seconds of memory, and helps to track a
serial killer.

Tesh, Jane – A Case of Imagination (Adult Fiction) Former beauty queen turned private
investigator takes on haunted houses and a jinxed beauty pageant.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mad Mouse

Mad Mouse is the worthy sequel to Chris Grabenstein's first mystery, Tilt-A-Whirl. It's not easy to maintain the high standards of a successful first book, but Grabenstein does an excellent job. John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, cops in the New Jersey resort town of Sea Haven, make a welcome return.

It's the end of the summer in which the episodes of Tilt-A-Whirl occurred, and Danny and his friends are celebrating at the beach when they are violently attacked by paintballs. Even though one girl's eye was injured, they didn't realize the actual seriousness of the act until Ceepak discovered a bullet during his investigation. When the violence escalates, Ceepak and Danny realize his friends may be the target of someone with a vendetta.

Mad Mouse is an exciting ride, but the characters are the most interesting part of this book. Danny must mature quickly, in order to help his friends, and receive a promotion. Ceepak is as fascinating as an investigator as always, but this book shows him with a personal life. When Grabenstein delved a little deeper into his characters' lives, he polished his work. Mad Mouse is an enjoyable book with terrific characters.

Chris Grabenstein's website is

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dead Man Running

Rett MacPherson's latest Torie O'Shea mystery is the ninth in the series, and the strongest one to date. Torie feels uneasy when the local newspaper editor asks her to check the genealogy of two candidates in the mayoral race in the tourist town of New Kassel, Missouri. One is her stepfather, the local sheriff. The other is the current mayor, her neighbor and a man who detests her. She has other cause for uneasiness. Her daughter is dating for the first time. She's building a new house outside her beloved New Kassel. The sheriff's new deputy dislikes her. And, bodies start appearing at the worst time - a local parade, a hayride. Suddenly the mayor she doesn't trust is running from slimy men who may be mobsters.

Torie's grown as a character throughout the series. This book is the best one yet in the continued saga of New Kassel's favorite genealogist.

The Killing of Strangers

First, I need to say that I went to Kent State University from 1975-1978, and the Kent State shootings were still an important part of campus life and history at that time. There were still candlelight vigils in the parking lot. I lived in Prentice Hall, and there were still bullet holes in the building. We studied books on the shootings in English class. Alan Canfora and some of the other students spoke in our dorm. By the time I was a senior, there were protests again on the hill, and our professors were camping out to protest the building of a gym on the site. At least while I was there, the May 4, 1970 shootings haunted Kent State.

So, I was very interested when I read about Jerry Holt's novel, The Killing of Strangers. The story revolves around two people who were involved in the shootings, what Holt refers to as, "one of the unsolved mysteries of the century." In 1970, Lucifer Jones and his wife, Crystal, were hippies brought in to take part in the events at Kent. Lucifer Jones disappeared that day, and Crystal, since she was pregnant, was hustled off to Yellow Springs, OH. Twenty-five years later, when a drunken Crystal swears she saw Lucifer in her backyard, their daughter hires ex-cop and fired security guard Sam Haggard to investigate. Haggard was in Vietnam on May 4, but he knows the story of Lucifer Jones. As Sam is drawn to the story, he finds himself attracted to Crystal's daughter, Corrie, and intrigued by the possibilities of the past.

The Killing of Strangers is a novel that suggests what might have happened at Kent State, and that repercussions are still felt a quarter of a century later. Holt's novel, like Sam's life, is "alive with possibilities." It's a haunting story for any Kent State grad.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blondes Have More Felons

I haven't had so much fun reading a mystery since the early Janet Evanovich books. Author Alesia Holliday introduces a fun character when she writes about December Vaughn, a blonde lawyer who just opened a practice in Florida. Three weeks later, she is attacked by a senior citizen, the victim of unscrupulous lawyers, and has an alligator in her office. If she falls for attractive private investigator Jake Brody, she might be in even more trouble. This lawyer with a heart of gold is a fun addition to the mystery scene. Let's hope Holliday can keep up the humor and suspense in another December Vaughn mystery.

Holliday's website is

Monday, May 08, 2006

Man o' War

I have been in love with Man o' War since I was about thirteen and read Walter Farley's book about the great horse. My parents took me to Lexington, KY and let me stand at his statue and grave and cry. So, I was really looking forward to Dorothy Ours' book, Man o' War. I was disappointed. The excitement of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit wasn't in this book. I know it would be possible to make Man o' War's life exciting because he was named the greatest American racehorse of the 20th century. Walter Farley made it work. Dorothy Ours doesn't. Now, my next complaint might be changed by the actual book since I read an Advanced Reading Copy. But, there was no listing of his progeny in the back of the book. Knowing that War Admiral, Seabiscuit and so many others were descendents of Man o' War, I was expecting to see that list. That disappointed me, and so did the book.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Consigned to Death

Jane K. Cleland's debut mystery introduces Josie Prescott, an antiques appraiser and dealer in New Hampshire. I felt immediate sympathy for her when she became the primary suspect in the murder of an elderly client, a man she had liked. Since she had left a job because she was a whistleblower, she had already experienced the press attention and publicity. Now, she's scared, alone, and still in mourning after her beloved father's death. However, she uses his business advice to help her through this latest crisis. She's fortunate to have a lawyer she trusts, and a police chief who doesn't rush to judgment.

Cleland's book is a fascinating glimpse into the world of antiques and stolen art. However, her greatest strength is her character development. Josie, her lawyer, Chief Alvarez, and Josie's staff are all interesting people. I hope Cleland takes us back to Josie's world soon.

Jane Cleland's website is

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Earlene Fowler at The Poisoned Pen Central

I was able to make it down to The Poisoned Pen Central to meet and hear Earlene Fowler today at lunchtime. She started everything out on a light note by passing around a scrapbook with pictures of her Welsh Corgi, Boo.

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, was the wonderful moderator for a fun event with just eight of us in attendance. They started out by discussing Earlene's Benni Harper mystery series. That series, set in San Celina, CA, is actually based on San Luis Obispo. In the first book, Fool's Puzzle, Benni is a recent widow. Earlene said she was once told to write what you fear the most. Since she had known her husband since they were fifteen, married at nineteen, and they've been married for thirty-three years, what she fears the most is life without him. In one of the books, she has Benni say she knew her husband before he could shave. Earlene said that's about her husband.

Ruby McGavin, in Fowler's first standalone, The Saddlemaker's Wife, is also a recent widow. As a waitress and cook at thirty-five, she had given up on love when she met her husband. Six months later she was widowed and discovered he had lied about his life and his family. When she went to Cardinal, CA (based on Bishop), she discovered that his family had secrets they didn't want to share. Earlene said the character of Ruby, a loner, is based much more on her than the character of Benni.

It's always enjoyable and enlightening to hear an author talk about her books and her life. Worthwhile trip downtown!