Thursday, November 30, 2006

Congratulations to Robert Fate & Troy Cook

Congratulations are in order to Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark, and Troy Cook, author of 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers. Both authors are published by Capital Crime Press, a small press. So, congratulations to Capital Crime Press, as well!

Baby Shark received one of two Editor's Choice 2007 nominations in the Mystery Genre by All Book Reviews.

Cook's mystery, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, was the mystery nominee for the All Book Reviewer's Choice Awards.

And, for anyone who loved Baby Shark, here's a sneak preview of the cover of the sequel, Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues.

Look for a review of that here, in the next couple weeks.

Books read in November

I know I'm not going to get a chance to finish Troy Cook's 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers tonight, so here's my list of books read during November.

Hundred-Dollar Baby - Robert B. Parker - I love Parker's Spenser books, with the witty language and the characters of Spenser and Hawk. In this one, April Kyle returns, twenty years after Spenser helped the teen runaway hook up with a high-class madam. Now, April needs help again.

The Worst Person in the World - Keith Olbermann - One year's worth of commentary from Olbermann's MSNBC TV show.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson - Idyllic memoir of life in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s.

A Final Judgment - Michael A. Black - Third Ron Shade mystery in which the Chicago private investigator takes on two cases without all the facts.

Don't Murder Your Mystery - Chris Roerden - Advice for those who want to write mysteries.

Fools Rush In - Sunny Frazier - Christy Bristol, a police clerk, is abducted by a meth dealer so she can do his horoscope.

G'Day to Die - Maddy Hunter - Tour guide Emily Andrew takes her Iowa senior citizens to Australia, where she suspects a tour member has been murdered.

The Handmaid and the Carpenter - Elizabeth Berg - The story of Mary and Joseph.

Philippine Fever - Bruce Cook - ATF agent Sam haine finds himself in a political mess in the Philippines.

First Impressions - Nora Roberts - Reprint in which two people fall in love, despite their misunderstandings and past.

Still Life - Louise Penny - First mystery. A traditional mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigating the suspicious death of an elderly woman in a small village in Quebec.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Question for new authors

Sandra Ruttan asked a question of new authors today on the blog, Killer Year-The Class of 2007,, "If there was an author moment that you could harness like a ship in a bottle, what would it be? What's the moment you'd like to preserve and be able to relive forever, or a pivotal moment that made a huge difference for you?"

Cornelia Read, author of A Field of Darkness answered, "I don’t know if this counts as the most exciting moment, but I think the moment that I was most nervous about that turned out okay was during my first joint signing with Lee Child.

We were at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, which I had heard so many great things about that just being there was intimidating, much less to be sitting up on a barstool holding a microphone in one hand and a bottle of water in the other in front of a couple of hundred people who were there to see Lee.

He gave me the kindest introduction I could ever have imagined, and was of course totally witty and charming and articulate, and then it was my turn to say something.

I remember thinking, “okay, I now have to open my mouth, so I just hope it’s not to throw up AND that I don’t make him look totally nuts for having invited me to do this.”

I had no idea what I was going to say, and I don’t actually remember anything I DID say (something about Lawrence Welk and Jell-O salad?), but the people in the room laughed, and after that I knew it was going to be okay.

That was an amazing day. I still don’t quite believe it actually happened.

Of course, the next day at the sublime Murder by the Book in Houston I actually *did* throw up—right before we started the gig there–but luckily it wasn’t in front of anyone. Lee especially."

Jim & I were there for that first appearance by Cornelia at The Poisoned Pen. She sold me. I went home, read the book, and raved about it here.

Cornelia Read
Author of A Field of Darkness

Check out the Killer Year blog for other answers.

Still Life

Louise Penny's first mystery, Still Life, is the best traditional mystery I've read this year. I even contacted a friend who has been missing Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet to tell her she'll appreciate Penny's book. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec is a wonderful character, worthy of taking Thanet's place.

In the small village of Three Pines, there has been no crime, and no need for a police force. When Jane Neal, a retired schoolteacher, is found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving weekend, Gamache and his team is called in to investigate the death. Armand informs the townspeople that they harbor secrets they might not even know, and somewhere in those secrets is the cause of Neal's death.

Gamache, in his mid-50s, is the head of homicide for the province. His lack of cynicism is one reason he might not have risen higher in the force. He's a fascinating man. He's been married for thirty-two years to a wife he trusts with the information about his cases. He has acted as mentor to a number of young people on the force, and has a loyal team working with him. He is not perfect. A subordinate realizes that his fatal flaw may be his desire to help people. Armand Gamache is a kind man, civil even while he investigates a death.

Penny has given us a wonderful new character, and set him down in a fascinating environment. I haven't read about such a self-absorbed village since reading Val McDermid's A Place of Execution. The characters are as intriguing as the setting. Still Life, which won the Arthur Ellis award for best first crime novel, is well-deserving of accolades.

Louise Penny's website is

Still Life by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2006, ISBN 0312352557 (hardcover), 312p.

Monday, November 27, 2006


If you are a subscriber to Lesas Book Critiques through bloglines, you may have suddenly received an update of the last 25 posts. I know I did. Those of us who have blogs through blogspot, and switched to the new Beta version, noticed that there was no update since Nov. 16 through bloglines. They could no longer pick up the feed. I have the feeling the problem was not with bloglines, but was with the server for Lesas Book Critiques when they switched to the Beta version. I know a number of other blogs were affected.

Hopefully, everything is fixed now, and the blog feeds should be back to normal.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

First Impressions

Nora Roberts' romance is a reprint of a 1984 publication. In First Impressions, she creates two likeable characters who fall in love, despite their misunderstandings.

Shane Abbott returned home to Western Maryland after her grandmother's death. She inherited the rundown home, which she planned to renovate into a museum and antique shop. When Vance Banning bought the property next door, she hired the unemployed carpenter to work on her house. The bitter, angry man agreed to help, not telling her he was President of Riverton Construction, Inc., a successful company. Banning had been hurt once by his late wife. He never intended to let a woman hurt him again.

Roberts presents an enjoyable, romantic story, with a Christmas ending. It's a pleasant tale for the holiday season.

Nora Roberts' website is

First Impressions by Nora Roberts. Silhouette Books, ©1984, ISBN 0373285388 (hardcover), 301p.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Philippine Fever

Sam Haine feels like he's "in quicksand, sinking fast" in Bruce Cook's first novel. Here is he, a simple agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Homeland Security, tracking a shipment of arms meant for a Texas paramilitary group. He didn't know what he was getting into when he was sent to the Republic of the Philippines.

Haine didn't know the Philippines was a world of payoffs. Everyone is crooked in the world of sex, sin and sales. It's a country where terrorism, the sex trade and gun-running intersect. As Sam's contact in the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, "Bogie" Lorenzano explained, the country is "Crimes layered on top of other crimes, intersections betweeen different criminal gangs."

Philippine Fever is a fast-paced story of one man's fight in a confusing world he doesn't quite understand. Haine's quest is thwarted by the American government, the CIA, Philippine politicians, and parties who are involved when no one knows it. As Cook takes Sam Haine into this strange world, he takes the reader on the same wild ride. Cook brilliantly brings all the worlds together in a smashing conclusion. After following Haine into the mire of the politics and life in the Philippines, it's almost a relief to have loose ends tied up.

(Side note - Cook's research and knowledge of the Philippines is evident, and very helpful to the reader.)

Bruce Cook's website is

Philippine Fever by Bruce Cook. Capital Crime Press, ©2006. ISBN 0977627675 (paperback), 288p.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Handmaid and the Carpenter

Elizabeth Berg's The Handmaid and the Carpenter is one of the most poignant versions of the Christmas story that I've ever read. This beautiful little book is actually the story of Mary and Joseph, their courtship and life together. In Berg's rendition, Mary is 13 and Joseph almost 17 when they fall in love. Joseph was a skillful stonemason, carpenter and woodcarver from a well-off family. Mary's mother knew the prediction of a great destiny for her daughter, a young woman who couldn't read, but loved and honored all of nature. With the other women in her family, she shared gifts of curing and strong perceptive abilities. Joseph didn't understand Mary's deepest nature and her curiousity about the world.

Berg tells the love story of this dissimilar couple. In his heart, Joseph never could understand about Mary's pregnancy, but he loved her enough to wed her and take care of her son. This is a beautiful story of love for the holiday season.

Elizabeth Berg's website is

The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg. Random House, ©2006, ISBN 1400065380 (hardcover), 153p.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

G'Day to Die

Tour guide Emily Andrew returns in Maddy Hunter's latest "Passport to Peril" mystery, G'Day to Die. This time, Emily takes her senior citizens from Iowa to Australia. Not only does Emily have to deal with the eleven eccentric travelers, but her life is further complicated by retired Swiss police detective Etienne Miceli and tour director Duncan Lazarus as the two men vie for her affections.

Along with her romantic problems, Emily always suspects the worst when a fellow tourist dies. When she realizes that feuding representatives of cosmetic companies are along on the trip, all fighting over anti-aging cosmetics, she suspects foul play when one woman dies early in the trip.

Maddy Hunter's books are filled with wacky characters from the belligerant owner of a pest control company who collects spiders to Emily's own grandmother, a lottery winner. At times, it's difficult to remember the characters. The plots are all a little outrageous. How many unnatural deaths will one tour guide encounter? Hunter does make each location interesting, with fascinating descriptions. If you enjoy cozy mysteries filled with odd characters, set in interesting locations, you might want to try the "Passport to mystery series.

Maddy Hunter's website is

G'Day to Die by Maddy Hunter. Pocket Books, ©2006, ISBN 1416523790 (paperback), 288p.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fools Rush In

I had problems with the original premise of Sunny Frazier's book. Why would an undercover narcotics cop get his ex-girlfriend, a civilian police employee, involved in a case? Not only does James Wolfe, AKA Wolfman, ask Christy Bristol to cast a horoscope for a notorious meth distributor, but he takes her joyriding to deliver the horoscope and balloons. I was afraid I wasn't going to like Christy since she was so susceptible to an expert manipulator.

But, give the book, and Christy, a chance. She's abducted by Lloyd Parr's crew in order to continue to explain his horoscope. In the time she's held captive, she uses her psychic gift to try to manipulate Parr and his gang. She knows she's in danger, and might not survive. She spins her horoscope tales just as Schererazade did, in order to keep herself alive. Despite the filth and terrible conditions she's forced to endure, Christy proves to be a fighter. You'll rapidly turn pages, hoping for Christy's success.

Sunny Frazier took a shaky start, and turned it into a successful story.

Fools Rush In by Sunny Frazier. Wolfmont Publishing, ©2006, ISBN 0977840255 (paperback)

Wolfmont Publishing's website is

Contest winner of Deb Baker's books

Congratulations to Cindy M. of Eden, UT. She's the winner of autographed copies of Deb Baker's Dolled Up for Murder and the ARC of Murder Passes the Buck. Enjoy!

Deb Baker's website is

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't Murder Your Mystery

Chris Roerden, who has been an editor for over forty years, offers advice to those who want to write, and publish, mysteries. She suggests techniques to assist writers in learning the craft. Roerden says, "Your most valuable resource for learning the craft of writing is the work of other authors." She analyzes passages from 130 published crime wriers to demonstrate successful treatment of writing techniques.

I'm not a mystery writer, and I don't intend to write. However, I think Roerden's tools are invaluable to those who want to attract readers, and interest screeners who read manuscripts. If I was planning a mystery, I would grab the opportunity to take Roerden's advice. It's offered with humor and warmth. Roerden wants writers to eliminate mistakes in their manuscripts, mistakes that lead to failure. She doesn't guarantee success. She guarantees that if you follow her suggestions, you'll be working hard, polishing your manuscript, and presenting a work you'll be proud to offer under your name.

Chris Roerden's website is

Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. BellaRosaBooks, ©2006. ISBN 1933523131 (paperback), 304p.

Contest for Deb Baker's books

Yesterday, I had the chance to meet Deb Baker at Borders in Phoenix, and she was nice enough to sign a couple books for me so that I could offer them as prizes. I have an autographed copy of Dolled Up for Murder and an autographed ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Murder Passes the Buck for one lucky winner.

All you have to do is email me at!
with the correct answer to this question. What relation is Gretchen Birch, the protagonist of Dolled Up for Murder, to Gertie Johnson from Murder Passes the Buck? The answer can be found on the Oct. 11 review of Dolled Up for Murder. Send me your answer with the Subject: Deb Baker's Books. Include your answer, name and mailing address in the email. At noon (Mountain time) on Friday, Nov. 17, I'll draw the winner. Your books will go out in the mail on Saturday!

Good luck!

Deb Baker's website is

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Deb Baker at Borders in Phoenix

I had hoped to get over to hear Deb Baker's presentation at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Wednesday, but I got caught at work. Instead, Jim and I went to Borders at Biltmore Fashion Square in Phoenix today, where she was signing books. We were lucky enough to catch her in a lull in her book signing. Deb's very warm and friendly, and it was so nice to meet the author of Dolled Up for Murder and Murder Passes the Buck. We just had a few minutes to talk since a woman approached with five copies of Dolled Up for Murder. Hopefully, its Phoenix setting helped with sales. When we left the store, Deb was still surrounded by fans.

Tomorrow, I'll be posting details about a contest for autographed copies of Deb Baker's books.

Deb Baker's website is

Picture: Left to right - Deb Baker, Lesa Holstine. Photo taken by Jim Holstine.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Final Judgment

Michael A. Black's A Final Judgment is the third novel to feature Ron Shade, a former cop turned private detective in Chicago. Shade is an intriguing character. He's a frugal loner who lives with his three cats, but has the money to be a partner in two businesses, a security firm and a gym. And the gym is his true love, because Shade is a kickboxer who might have one more chance to be the International Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion of the World.

Shade may be a loner, but he's loyal, and hates to disappoint a friend. That's how Shade ends up taking two cases with unreliable clients. When a lawyer who's an old friend asks him to assist with a wrongful death case, it's a last-minute request. The last detective on the case committed suicide, and the high-profile opposing law firm is bringing pressure to settle out of court. Shade doesn't like the pressure. And, he doesn't like the feel of the case.

At the same time, he reluctantly agrees to keep two teenagers apart, at the request of a cop he always disliked. He knows the cop's daughter is more involved than it appears, but he's stymied by her parents at every turn.

Shade is a complicated character dealing with complicated problems. Compliments to Black for such a fascinating character who makes the reader care so much. I never thought I'd care about the preparation for and the competition of a kickboxing competition. Even a reader who is not interested in kickboxing can become intrigued by Shade's world. This strong character has a bleeding heart when it comes to his friends. He also has a bleeding heart when it comes to justice, whether it's justice in the criminal world, or justice when it comes to his friend and manager in the kickboxing world. Shade will always be reaching for justice.

(As a sidenote, Julie Hyzy's investigative reporter, Alex St. James, from Deadly Interest, appears in the final scene of A Final Judgment, just as Shade appears in the final scene of her book. See the October 29 review of Deadly Interest.)

Michael A. Black's website is

A Final Judgment by Michael A. Black. Five Star, ©2006. ISBN 1594144265 (hardcover)

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

If you're at all nostalgic for the 1950s, Bill Bryson's memoir is the book for you. He and my husband have the same feeling about that era. "I can't imagine there has ever been a more gratifying time or place to be alive than America in the 1950s. No country had ever known such prosperity."

Bryson was born in 1959 in Des Moines, Iowa. His family was a little better off than most because his parents both worked, his mother as an editor, and his father as a sports reporter for the Des Moines Register. It was a time when people were unsophisticated as to food, but it was a nation free of chain restaurants, so every community had unique restaurants. Bryson discusses the fact that every community was unique as to businesses, restaurants and the communities themselves. He had a solid middle-class life in these years. It was a period in which people were in love with TV and cars. At the same time, they were threatened by nuclear war, polio and Communism. Despite an idyllic childhood, Bryson tells of these threats to the nation's happiness. He himself attacked any threats through his secret identity, the Thunderbolt Kid, a being with the superpower ability to carbonize and eliminate people who impeded his happiness.

Bryson's world was a world of "endearing innocence," and he does his best to share that innocence with his readers.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. Broadway Books, ©2006. ISBN 076791936X (hardcover), 270p.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Heads Up!

Here's a few titles coming out in December. This will give you a chance to place holds at your local library, or order them from your favorite bookstore.

Next by Michael Crichton

True Evil by Greg Iles

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers by Lilian Jackson Braun

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Worst Person in the World

Nightly on his MSNBC show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann counts down the three people in the news whose stories are offensive or stupid, or as he said, "Those "Worsts" are the mortal enemies of honesty and dignity, of selflessness and class." His latest book contains a year's worth of nominees for "The Worst Person in the World." He selects one person, and 202 strong contenders.

His strongest contenders include Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the Dept. of Homeland Security. However, there are also numerous people you never heard of. Some of the entries are even so stupid that they become funny. Olbermann's worst person in the world? FOX TV's Bill O'Reilly who was nominated for the honor over thirty times in one year.

My conclusion? There are some pretty stupid fellow human beings out there.

The Worst Person in the World by Keith Olbermann. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ©2006. ISBN 0470044950 (hardcover), 267p.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Winners of Baby Shark contest

Thanks to Robert Fate, who sent me two additional copies of Baby Shark, there are four winners of the book! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The correct answer was: Kristin was 17 when her father was murdered.

Congratulations to these winners! I'll be contacting you for your mailing addresses so I can send your book out to you. I hope you enjoy Baby Shark as much as I did.

Angie G., Longmont, CO
Linda N., Ontario, Canada
Pam N., Hobe Sound, FL
Moyra T., Blaine, WA

Robert Fate's website is

Baby Shark by Robert Fate. Capital Crimes Press, ©2006. ISBN 0977627691 (paperback), 270p.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hundred-Dollar Baby

I love Robert B. Parker's Spenser character. I have read all thirty-four of the books in that series, including this new release, Hundred-Dollar Baby. I know some people say there isn't much of a plot or much of a mystery. They're right. I love the characters of Spenser and Hawk, and the witty exchanges between the two. I enjoy Spenser's abrupt answers to people who question him. And, I'll always picture Avery Brooks as Hawk.

Twenty years after Spenser met April Kyle, the teenage runaway in the book Ceremony, April returns. Spenser was unable to change her habits, so he set her up with a high-class madam who might at least educate her. April is no longer a street prostitute. She shows up in Boston as the manager of her own high-class all-woman enterprise. However, she turns to Spenser for help, saying some men are trying to take the business away from her.

Spenser, the white knight with a code of chivalry, once again tries to rescue his damsel in distress. It's another wonderful Spenser story with the return of familiar characters. As I said, I love Spenser.

Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2006. ISBN 0399153764 (hardcover), 291p.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

By the Chimney With Care

By the Chimney With Care is a holiday crime story collection edited by Tony Burton. The anthology offers a little for everyone - murder, nostalgia, hauntings. Herschel Cozine kicks off the collection with "The Plight Before Christmas," a crime-ridden takeoff of "The Night Before Christmas." "Popcorn for Christmas" by Debra Gray De Neoux & O'Neil De Noux takes the reader to New Orleans for a sad, lonely story. Readers of Jasper Fforde will appreciate "Murder in Toddler Town" by Rob Rosen. Gary R. Hoffman's Christmas story is haunting. The entire collection of stories of crime during the holidays is a gift to the reader, introducting authors that might be unfamiliar. The authors and publisher are also making an additional holiday present. All proceeds from this enjoyable little collection benefit Toys for Tots.

The holiday season is such a busy time that reading often falls by the wayside. This appropriate collection will offer short, appropriate breaks during the hecticness of the season. By the Chimney With Care will keep you in the holiday spirit.

Wolfmont Publishing's website is

By the Chimney With Care ed. by Tony Burton. Wolfmont Publishing, ©2006. ISBN 0977840239 (Paperback), 208p.

Books read during October

Not quite as many books this month, due to the baseball playoffs and World Series.
Here's the list of books I read during October.

For One More Day - Mitch Albom - A troubled man gets one more day with his deceased mother.

All Mortal Flesh - Julia Spencer-Fleming - Terrific mystery in which Russ Van Alstyne's wife is found murdered, and he and Rev. Clare Fergusson are the primary suspects.

Wins, Losses, and Lessons - Lou Holtz - Bestseller by the college football coach discussing football and life.

Dolled Up for Murder - Deb Baker - Gretchen Birch's mother disappeared from Phoenix following the murder of a doll collector.

Fantasyland - Sam Walker - Walker spent the 2004 season playing Rotisserie (fantasy) baseball.

Shooting Gallery - Hailey Lind - Annie Kincaid finds the body of a sculptor hanging in a tree. Things go downhill from there is this fun caper.

Paper Woman - Suzanne Adair - During the American Revolution, Sophie Barton, her lover, and her brother, neutral parties, become trapped between warring forces.

Playing God - Kate Flora - A new series introduces Joe Burgess, "the meanest cop in Portland," as he investigates the murder of a doctor disliked by everyone.

Deadly Interest - Julie Hyzy - Alex St. James, a news researcher in Chicago, reluctantly investigates when her neighbor is killed.

By the Chimney With Care - ed. by Tony Burton - Holiday crime anthology.