Wednesday, February 28, 2007

April Treasures

I have seven ARCs of books coming out in April waiting in my closet. I hope these will turn out to be special books. You might want to watch for them. Here are the books.

The Silent Assassin by Lori Andrews - Geneticist Dr. Alexandra Blake, a bioterrism researcher and forensic specialist at the Armed Forces Insitute of Pathology, returns to handle the task of managing the return of several skulls that American servicemen took home from Vietnam. Somehow two cases collide, and she's on the trail of a killer.

Deadly Assassin by Jane Cleland - The Agatha Award nominee brings back Antiques appraiser Josie Prescott who hosts a gala benefit where a friend dies.

Invisible Shield by Scarlett Dean - How does Homicide Detective Lindsay Frost investigate her own murder when she's dead? By teaming up with her police officer sister.

American Detective by Loren D. Estleman - Hardboiled detective Amos Walker returns in his nineteenth story.

Damsels in Distress by Joan Hess - Bookseller Claire Malloy is right in the middle of all the action when a Renaissance Fair comes to Farberville, Arkansas.

Staying Home Is a Killer by Sara Rosett - Air Force wife and mother, Ellie Avery returns to investigate when a military wife is murdered.

Deadman's Switch by Barbara Seranella - The late author introduced a new character, Charlotte Lyon, who handles crisis management in a train derailment case.

I hope you find a good book to enjoy!

Heads Up!

Now's the time to take a look at books scheduled for release in April. The following titles will probably hit the bestseller lists, so place your holds at your local library or preorder them from your favorite bookstore.

Mary Higgins Clark - I Heard That Song Before
Joy Fielding - Heartstopper
Tami Hoag - The Alibi Man
Johnathan Kellerman - Obsession
Stuart Woods - Fresh Disasters

Tallgrass, a personal favorite of mine by Sandra Dallas, will be released in April. I highly recommend this book, and you might want to consider it for book clubs.

Tonight I'll talk about the April treasures in my closet.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Books read in February

I just finished a book today, and I won't have time to finish the other one I'm reading before tomorrow, so here's the list of books read in February. Naturally, it's heavy on the mystery side. (For reviews, check out the February listings.)

Forests of the Night - David Stuart Davies - In WWII London, private detective Johnny Hawke looks for a missing woman.

The Star - David Skibbins - Tarot card reader Warren Ritter helps his daughter when her husband takes away their baby, and then he's murdered.

When God Winks at You - SQuire Rushnell - Coincidence can be God speaking to you.

Master Detective: The Life and Crimes of Ellis Parker, America's Real-Life Sherlock Holmes by John Reisinger - Biography of the investigator who tried to solve the Lindbergh kidnapping, and died in prison.

Village Affairs - Cassandra Chan - Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons and his wealthy friend, Phillip Bethancourt, team up to solve the murder of a middle-aged widower in a small English village.

The Secret Lives of Men and Women - compiled by Frank Warren - More postcard secrets sent to Warren.

Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin - In 1171, a female forensics investigator (master of death is sent to England to find the killer of children.

Bitsy's Bait & BBQ - Pamela Morsi - When a divorcee buys a B & B over the internet, it turns out to be a Bait & BBQ in the Ozarks. She and her sister try to make a life, despite a custody fight for the divorced sister's son.

Plum Lovin' - Janet Evanovich - Stephane Plum has to play Cupid for five people.

The Commission - Michael Norman - Sam Kincaid from the Utah prison system teams up with a homicide investigator when a Parole Board member is shot down in his driveway.

Murder 101 - Maggie Barbieri - Prof. Alison Bergeron becomes a murder suspect when a dead student is found in her stolen car.

Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green - John Taylor looks for a runaway in The Nightside, the evil side of London.

Murder Off the Books - Evelyn David - The sister of the prime suspect, a private detective, three teens and an Irish Wolfhound team up in a fun mystery, trying to find an embezzler and killer.

Murder Off the Books

The debut of Evelyn David's Murder Off the Books is a treat for fans of non-stop action mysteries, fun characters and Irish Wolfhounds.

If Dan Thayer had any guts, his sister, Rachel Brenner, three teenagers, a private detective named Mac Sullivan, and his Irish Wolfhound, Whiskey, would not have been in trouble. If Dan hadn't run away from an investigation of embezzlement and murder at Concordia College in Washington, D.C., no one else would have been looking for him and a murderer. Instead, an entire cast of interesting characters finds themselves tripping over each other to find the person framing Dan.

Evelyn David has created a wonderful, strong heroine in Rachel Brenner, a woman whose greatest talent seems to be protecting her family. Mac, a former cop turned detective, is dependent on a friend in the funeral home business for his transportation, a fleet of vehicles that ranges from an ice cream truck to a bug extermination truck. Whiskey is a "pussycat" of a dog, a friendly, but protective Irish Wolfhound. Put these characters together with three teenagers playing detective, and a computer whizz, and it's non-stop humor.

I can't wait to read Murder Takes the Cake, the second Mac Sullivan/Rachel Brenner mystery. (And don't forget Whiskey.)

Evelyn David's website is

Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David. Echelon Press, ©2007. ISBN 9781590805220 (paperback), 288p.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Agatha Award Nominees

Each year at Malice Domestic, the Agatha Awards are presented. The following is from their website. "Established in 1989, Malice Domestic® is an annual convention in metropolitan Washington, D.C., saluting the traditional mystery--books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.

"The genre is loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence; and usually (but are not limited to) featuring an amateur detective, a confined setting, and characters who know one another."

This year's convention is May 4-6, and winners will be announced at that time.

Here is the list of this year's nominees. Congratulations to all the authors whose works have been nominated!

Best First Novel:

CONSIGNED TO DEATH by Jane Cleland (St. Martin's)
FEINT OF ART by Hailey Lind (Signet)
MURDER ON THE ROCKS by Karen MacInerney (Midnight Ink)
THE CHEF WHO DIED SAUTEING by Susan Smily and Honora Finkelstein
(Hilliard & Harris)
THE HEAT OF THE MOON by Sandra Parshall (Poisoned Pen)

Best Novel:
ALL MORTAL FLESH by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's)
MESSENGER OF TRUTH by Jacqueline Winspear (Holt)
THE SADDLEMAKER'S WIFE by Earlene Fowler (Penguin Group)
THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS by Nancy Pickard (Random House)
WHY CASEY HAD TO DIE by L.C. Hayden (Five Star)

Best Non-Fiction:
DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY by Chris Roerden (Bella Rosa)
MYSTERY MUSES by Jim Huang & Austin Lugar (Crum Creek Press)
THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL by Daniel Stashower (Penguin Group)

Best Short story:
"Disturbance in the Field" by Roberta Isleib (Published in SEASMOKE
from Level Best Books)
"Provenence" by Robert Barnard (Published in March/April EQMM)
"Sleeping with the Plush" by Toni L.P. Kelner (Published in May AHMM)
"The Old Couple" by Robert Barnard (Published in July EQMM)
"Yankee Swap" by Maurissa Guibord (Published in March/April EQMM)

Best Young Adult:
PEA SOUP POISONINGS by Nancy Means Wright (Hilliard & Harris)
ROOM ONE: A MYSTERY OR TWO by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster)
AMAZING ZALINDAS by Tracy Mack & Michael Citrin (Scholastic)

Frequent readers of this blog will recognize some of the titles. Special congratulations to Jane Cleland, Hailey Lind, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Earlene Fowler, Nancy Pickard, and Chris Roerden! I'm glad I don't have to vote! You're all "the best" in my book.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Winners and new contest for ARCs

Congratulations to the most recent winners of ARCs. Catherine M. from New York City will be receiving The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters. Maddy Hunter's Hula Done It? is on its way to Louise D. in Baltimore, MD. Thank you to all forty-six entrants in the contest.

I hope you're interested in one of the two ARCs offered this week. They probably have two different audiences. Murder 101 by Maggie Barbieri is a light mystery that will probably be enjoyed by fans of Sarah Strohmeyer and Janet Evanovich. The Blade Itself is the debut crime novel by hot new author Marcus Sakey.

If you'd like to win one of these two ARCs, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end at 6 pm MST next Friday night, March 2. Jim will draw the winners, and the ARCs will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Something From the Nightside

Fans of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files will want to check out the first book in Simon R. Green's Nightside series. In fact, Butcher's blurb is the first one in the book.

John Taylor is the sole employee of Taylor Investigations. There are many cases he won't take, because he has a gift. He can find things. His most recent client, Joanna Barrett, asks him to find her fifteen-year-old runaway daughter, Cathy, a girl who has disappeared into The Nightside.

Taylor is more than familiar with the Nightside since he grew up there with a father who drank himself to death after finding out that John's mother wasn't human. The Nightside is "the ancient, hidden, dark side of the city, London's evil twin." It's where the wild things are. And, John Taylor is a sucker for a hard-luck story, a white knight seeking to rescue people. So, he returns to the Nightside, a place he left five years earlier.

Green creates a fascinating, deadly world that draws the reader as much as it draws John Taylor. Like Taylor, I'll be returning to the Nightside.

Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green. Ace Books, ©2003. ISBN 0441010652 (paperback), 230p.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thank you to Blog Readers

I wanted to thank everyone who reads Lesa's Book Critiques, even if you only stop in once. The counter just showed the 10,000th visitor to the blog since March 2005. I started the blog in January, but didn't put a counter on until March. So, in less than two years, ten thousand of you have stopped by to check out the blog, look for a book, or read about an author. Or maybe it was just an accident that you stumbled across this blog.

Thank you to all 10,000 of you, and to the visitor from Thousand Oaks, CA who was number 10,000. I hope many of you find something of interest, and return to the blog. Thank you.

Murder 101

English professor Alison Bergeron was not cut out to be a murder suspect. What kind of suspect vomits all over the police officer's shoes when told a body has been found in her stolen car? Maggie Barbieri's debut mystery is a humorous look at an ordinary person caught up in circumstances beyond her wildest imaginings.

Alison was just a recent divorcee teaching at a Catholic college in the Bronx. She had no idea why anyone would want to steal her old car, let alone why the body of one of her students would be found in the car. She was gullible throughout her whole marriage, and she realizes she's still naive and gullible when it comes to murder investigations. All she can do is rely on Detective Bobby Crawford to realize she couldn't have possibly committed murder.

Despite Alison's weak stomach, Murder 101 is a fun mystery. And, it doesn't hurt to have gone to a Catholic school when you read the book. There's a reason Alison still fears nuns.

Murder 101 by Maggie Barbieri. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2006. ISBN 9780312355371 (hardcover), 272p.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mary Anna Evans and Peter May at The Poisoned Pen

Last night I went to see Mary Anna Evans and Peter May at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale.

Mary Anna Evans' third book, Effigies, is just out from Poisoned Pen Press, and it's doing so well that it's already gone through the first printing. It's a Booksense Pick for March, picked by Independent Bookstores. As I've said here before, it's always nice to see Mary Anna, because she was an emergency fill-in for me at The Lee County Reading Festival. Her first book, Artifacts, hadn't even been published yet, but she was willing to step in and do her first speaking engagement.

She brings back Faye Longchamp, her triracial archaeology student, in her third book, and takes her to Mississippi. Her next book, Findings, will send Faye back to Florida and her home.

Mary Anna's information about archaeology and the number of sites that are not worked on due to lack of funding was very interesting.

Peter May, a Scotsman who appears in his kilt, lives in France. His latest book is Extraordinary People, described by Barbara Peters, of The Poisoned Pen, as "a cross between Dan Brown and Donna Tartt set all around France." May talked about how his experiences in China and France led to ideas for his books, and publicly thanked his wife for supplying clues that he had to follow to come up with the solution for his book.

It was a wonderful evening, as always, at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Pictures - Mary Anna Evans and me (Lesa Holstine).
Peter May, Barbara Peters, and Mary Anna Evans

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Commission

Michael Norman's debut police procedural introduces Sam Kincaid in an inriquing story about the Utah prison system. Kincaid is Chief of the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Department of Corrections. When the Chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Paroles is gunned down in his driveway, Kincaid teams up with a homicide detective from the Salt Lake City Police Dept., Lt. Kate McConnell.

As they follow the victim's trail, the detectives end up looking into strip clubs and prostitution rings. However, their case goes from bad to worse when the primary suspect is found dead. It doesn't take long for the convoluted trail to lead back to the prison system itself.

Norman brings his own experience as a former police officer and member of a state parole board to this solid debut. Personally, I skimmed through one chapter that took Sam too intimately into the case for my taste. However, I enjoyed watching Sam and Kate work toward a solution to the case, and I'll be waiting for Michael Norman's sequel to The Commission.

Michael Norman's website is

The Commission by Michael Norman. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007. ISBN 9781590583586 (hardcover), 236p.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Plum Lovin'

Janet Evanovich brings Stephanie Plum back in a "Between-the-Numbers" bestseller. It's a light little book that can be read in a couple hours, but it's fun if you like Stephanie and her crazy family.

We never really know what "powers" Diesel has, but when he shows up at Stephanie's apartment, he needs her help. He has a fugitive that Stephanie is looking for, but he'll only turn Annie Hart in after Stephanie handles five cases for her for Valentine's Day. Stephanie has to play Cupid, as a "relationship expert," and help five people have a good Valentine's Day. Stephanie, who can't handle her own relationships, boldly takes on the job, with help from Lulu and Diesel.

It's a fun book for a time when you need light humor.

Janet Evanovich's website is

Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich. St. Martin's Press, ©2007, ISBN 9780312306342 (hardcover), 164p.

Bitsy's Bait & BBQ

No that isn't a mistake in the title of Pamela Morsi's latest novel. However, Katy Dodson thought she was buying the advertised B&B, a bed-and-breakfast, not an actual Bait & BBQ in the Ozarks. Despite her more practical sister's advise, Katy insisted on operating the rundown establishment. It seemed to be the only restaurant and bait shop in Warbler Lake, Missouri. Since Emma Collins had been watching out for Katy and her five-year-old son, Josh, ever since Katy's husband left her, Emma came along to run the bait shop. The woman who wanted to go to college and study anthropology could practice on the natives in the small town.

Katy and Josh loved it in Warbler Lake, despite the threat hanging over their heads. Gwen Dodson, Katy's ex-mother-in-law, decided to fight for custody of Josh in order to give him a better life. She had plans for him to take over Dodsonburger, the fast-food business, since her son Sean seemed to have little interest in it. Sean was a disappointment, with his marriage and divorce to Katy, his reluctance to work in the business, and his lack of enthusiasm for a custody case. Maybe three months vacationing and getting to know his son would be just what his mother ordered.

Warbler Lake and its residents are more than an anthropological study. They're just what Katy, Josh, Emma and Sean need to bring their lives together. Pamela Morsi brings a lot of heart to her latest novel.

Pamela Morsi's website is

Bitsy's Bait & BBQ by Pamela Morsi. MIRA, ©2007, ISBN 9780778324232 (paperback), 342p.

Winners and latest contest

Congratulations to the winners of this past week's contest. Terry in Ohio won Behind Closed Doors by Natalie R. Collins. The winner of Hope McIntyre's How to Seduce a Ghost is Joyce in Illinois.

The latest contest features two books that are very different. One is a cozy, an ARC of Maddy Hunter's Hula Done It? The other is an ARC of Minette Walters' last suspense novel, The Devil's Feather.

If you'd like to win one of these two ARCs, email me at Email me!. Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

Jim will draw the winners next Saturday, Feb. 24th. Good luck!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mistress of the Art of Death

Ariana Franklin has written an involved, intriguing historical mystery that takes the reader back to the brutality of the middle ages. However, it's also an educational story with romantic overtones. Mistress of the Art of Death is one of the best mysteries I've read this year.

In 1171 in Cambridge, England, children have disappeared, and been found murdered. The peasants and the Church blamed the Jews for torturing and killing the children, and the town's Jews were forced to shelter in the castle. Henry II, already at war with the Church over Thomas à Becket's murder, depends on the Jews for income. He asks the King of Sicily to send a person versed in the causes of death, a doctor from Salerno, Italy, to investigate the murders. So, Adelia Aguilar, "a mistress of the art of death," is sent to England with two companions to investigate the murder of the children.

Adelia finds suspects everywhere. Any man who went on the Crusades is a suspect, including Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors. He seems to be particularly interested in the crimes. Is he the killer of young children, or someone with more knowledge than he should have? Adelia needs to know Sir Rowley's interest before she reveals more than she should about the killer.

Mistress of the Art of Death brings the history of this period to life, with the fear of Jews, the knights returning from Crusades, the war between the King and the Church, the everyday life of twelfth century England. This is not a pretty book. It is blunt about everyday life and the cruelty of the crimes to the children. But it's a fascinating story, with great characters. And, it shows a side of Henry II that has seldom been presented in literature.

Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death is a powerful historical mystery.

The book's website is

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2007, ISBN 9780399154140 (hardcover), 384p.


I recently reviewed Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas for Library Journal. The review appears today, February 15, as a starred review. It's a wonderful book, worth reading for book clubs, as well as for anyone who enjoys coming-of-age novels, and strong families. I can't recommend Tallgrass highly enough. Release date is April 3.

The following is my review as it appears in Library Journal.

Dallas, Sandra. Tallgrass. St. Martin's. Apr. 2007. c.320p. ISBN 0-312-36019-3 [ISBN 978-0-312-36019-1]. $23.95. F

Rennie Stroud looks back to 1942, when she was 13, to tell a powerful coming-of-age story. That year, the U.S. government opened a Japanese internment camp outside Ellis, CO, less than a mile from where Rennie and her family farmed sugar beets. Rennie observes the prejudice of some of the townspeople as well as her parents' strong moral code and their entanglement in the emotions of the time. Her father, Loyal, not only shows open support for the Japanese, whom he views as Americans, but offers to hire them to work on the farm. When a young girl is murdered, suspicion naturally turns to the camp, and the town is divided by fear. Dallas's strong, provocative novel is a moving examination of prejudice and fear that addresses issues of community discord, abuse, and rape. Her phrasing and language bring the 1940s to life, and she has created characters that will linger with the reader. As in her previous work, The Persian Pickle Club, Dallas emphasizes the need for women to form strong networks in order to survive emotionally. Highly recommended for book clubs and public libraries.—Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Brenda Rickman Vantrease

If you live in the Phoenix/Glendale, AZ area, mark your calendars now for April 5. Brenda Rickman Vantrease, author of The Illuminator, a national bestseller, will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale that evening at 7 pm.

Vantrease's new novel, The Mercy Seller, is due out in February. This novel of 15th century Europe has something for every book club - book burnings, literacy, heretics in the Church. It should be an interesting evening when Vantrease discusses her books.

The Velma Teague Library is at 7010 N. 58th Ave. Glendale, AZ.

The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. St. Martin's Press, ©2007, ISBN 9780312331931 (hardcover), 432p.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Secret Lives of Men and Women

I've discussed Frank Warren's PostSecret books before, but I continue to find them fascinating.

The Secret Lives of Men and Women is the latest PostSecret book, a collection of postcards sent in that reveal people's secrets. Some of the messages are sad. Some are funny. Some are tragic. There are some messages that make me want to reach out to the writer because they are so needy.

These are books that really cannot be summarized well. The postcards are usually homemade, with a message of importance from the writer. An anonymous writer from Mississippi sums them up well. "Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world."

Frank Warren's website is

The Secret Lives of Men and Women compiled by Frank Warren. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 9780061198755 (hardcover).

Novelist Fred Mustard Stewart died

Did you once read all of those big family sagas? If so, you probably read Fred Mustard Stewart's Ellis Island (1983). Stewart died Wednesday, Jan. 7, of cancer, according to The New York Times.

Ellis Island is Stewart's book that I remember. It was the multigenerational story of immigrant life, made into a CBS mini-series in 1984. The book is probably only available through used book stores and public libraries now. But, it was a fascinating story when I first read it.

Stewart is quoted as telling The New York Times, "I love to do saga books, because I love to write about families. I think it's the best genre to wrtie in, because it's the least restricting. You don't have to depend on one plot device to hold it together. The family holds it together."

Some of Stewart's other books include The Mephisto Waltz, The Mannings, Century and The Titans.

I miss the old family sagas.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Village Affairs

Cassandra Chan brings Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons and his wealthy friend, Philip Bethancourt back in this sequel to The Young Widow. It's a mystery for those fans of traditional mysteries who enjoy Agatha Christie. Chan takes the reader to an English village, and introduces the characters of the town.

Bethancourt is actually pleased when a middle-aged widower is found dead in his cottage, and the death looks suspicious. He's hoping an investigation will force Gibbons out of the funk he's in, due to a failed romance. The case certainly does wonders for Bethancourt's spirits. He's a wealthy man-about-town who enjoys amateur sleuthing as a hobby.

As in any enjoyable traditional mystery, the dead man has secrets unearthed by the investigation. There are the typical characters, a vicar, a couple celebrities, a brother and sister who seem a little different, and the protective housekeeper.

In Gibbons and Bethancourt, Chan has created two interesting characters who methodically unravel a confusing case. It's a comfortable read.

Village Affairs by Cassandra Chan. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2006, ISBN 9780312337506 (hardcover), 368p.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Winners and New Contest

This entry may look like it was published on Friday, but it was actually published Saturday morning. However, I'm sharing a computer this weekend, so I had to prepare the book covers a day early. I didn't have a great number of entries in this week's contest, so there's a repeat winner for one book. Congratulations to the winners. Natalie in MA won The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King. Suspicious Circumstances by Sandra Ruttan was won by Nancy in CA.
I'm offering a chance to win two interesting mysteries this week. Behind Closed Doors is Natalie R. Collins fascinating paperback, reviewed here on Jan. 18th. How to Seduce a Ghost is an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of Hope McIntyre's lighhearted chick lit whodunit.
If you'd like to win either book, email me at with the subject line Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

Jim will draw the winning entries next Saturday, Feb. 17th. Good luck!

Master Detective

John Reisinger's book is subtitled, "The Life and Crimes of Ellis Parker, America's Real-Life Sherlock Holmes." I found the first half of the book about Parker's career as Chief Detective for Burlington County, New Jersey to be fascinating. I bogged down a little bit in the second half of the book dealing with Parker's investigation of the Lindbergh kidnapping. But, Ellis Parker's life makes for fascinating reading.

In 1891, Parker was hired full time as a detective, the same year as the first appearance of the Sherlock Holmes stories in the United States. During the course of his forty year career, he solved so many interesting cases that he was considered the greatest detective in America, and possibly the world. Newspapers called him "the American Sherlock Holmes."

Parker's downfall came with the the Lindbergh kidnapping case. He was dying to be involved, and never was convinced that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was responsible. So, Parker had his suspect kidnapped and held until he confessed. Unfortunately, following the Lindbergh case, it was a federal offense to take a suspect across state lines. As Reisinger says, ironically, "The man executed for the Lindbergh kidnapping was never tried for kidnapping, but the detective who tried to solve the case was."

If you're looking for a little known story involving the Lindbergh kidnapping, or the true story of an interesting detective, check out Master Detective.

John Reisinger's website is

Master Detective: The Life and Crimes of Ellis Parker, America's Real-Life Sherlock Holmes by John Reisinger. Kensington Publishing Corp., ©2006, ISBN 0806527501 (hardcover), 320p.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

When God Winks at You

SQuire Rushnell's book is the latest in his When God Winks series, but the first that I read. It's a fascinating book if you believe in the importance of coincidence in life. Rushnell summarizes the book as, what if God sends you a direct, personal answer through odd coincidences. This direct, personal message is what Rushnell refers to as a "godwink."

The author tells moving stories that illustrate his message about the power of coincidence, and the importance of godwinks in life at times of crisis or times of transition. My favorite story involves Emmett Kelly's daughter. When she was born, a photographer took the only picture of the famous clown smiling. Upon his death, she was on an airplane, with that picture in her lap, and the man next to her was the photographer who took the picture.

Oprah Winfrey first brought the When God Winks series to the world's attention. When God Winks at You is a warm, thoughtful book with a powerful message.

SQuire Rushnell's website is

When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell. Thomas Nelson Publishers, ©2006, ISBN 9780785218920 (hardcover), 236p.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lesa's Book Critiques was just accepted as a blog in the Blogburst network. It's an aggregation and syndication service that brings topical blogs together with high-traffic web sites.

The blog is promoted through their publisher workbench, and clicks on my byline through blogburst will bring additional traffic to the blog. Some of the publisher sites using BlogBurst content include USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post.

I don't know if I'll pick up any additional readers from this, but it's one more way to publicize books and authors.

Thanks Blogburst!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Star

For those of us who read mysteries for character as well as plot, David Skibbins' latest, The Star, is his best one yet. The third book in the Tarot Card Mystery series brings back Warren Ritter, tarot card reader, former member of the Weatherman Underground, fugitive, and a man suffering from bi-polar disorder.
This is the most intimate of the stories. Each of the books have told more about Warren and his background, but in this one, he's forced to deal with his family. When Warren's daughter, Fran, calls to say her husband took their six-month-old son away from her, and left because she is also bi-polar, and has mood swings, Warren understands her anger and frustration. And, when her her husband, a cop, turns up dead, he can't be sure his daughter didn't kill him. He can gather his friends, his resources, and his ingenuity in order to investigate and find the truth behind the murder. Warren knew it would take more than thinking to find the killer. As he said, "It was going to take dumb luck, dogged dtermination, and foolhardy courage. Now that sounded right up my alley."

This is my favorite of the Tarot Card Mysteries, but you need to read Eight of Swords and High Priestess in order to reach The Star. They're well worth checking out.
David Skibbins' website is
The Star by David Skibbins. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007, ISBN 978-312361938 (hardcover), 240p.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Love Is Murder "Lovey" Awards

The Love Is Murder Conference was held this past weekend, and awards are given to authors attending the conference. The awards are voted on by all of the attendees. These are this year's Love Is Murder "Lovey" Awards.
Best First Novel - The Chef Who died Sauteing by Honora Finkelstein & Susan Smily
Best Traditional/Amateur Sleuth - Deadly Interest by Julie Hyzy
Best Historical - The Assassin by Anne Perry
Best PI/Police Procedural - A Final Judgement by Michael A. Black
Best Paranormal/Sci Fi/Horror - Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
Best Suspense - The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard
Best Thriller - Sweetie's Diamonds by Raymond Benson
Best Series - The Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen
Best Short Story - A Family Affair by Mary Welk
Congratulations to all of the winners!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Forests of the Night

David Stuart Davies' mystery introduces Johnny Hawke, an ex-cop who lost his eye in 1939 in a training accident after joining up. With no pension and no job, he's now a struggling private detective in London in 1940.

He needs the money, so he reluctantly agrees to look for a missing twenty-seven-year old woman when her parents hire him. He discovers she led a double life when he finds her picture, and, later her body is found. And, something seems wrong when her boyfriend is arrested. And, what's the connection with a young runaway?

Davies introduces an interesting character who operates in interesting times. David Stuart Davies' Johnny Hawke is a detective in the best traditional style. He's a detective with a past, a dry humor, and a dogged determination. Here's hoping to return to Johnny Hawke's London soon.

David Stuart Davies' website is

Forsts in the Night by David Stuart Davies. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007, ISBN 9780312360009 (hardcover), 224p.


This quote was floating around on Fiction_L last week.

So where do you go to find a researcher who is intelligent, imaginative, skilled in the use of computers, devoted to discovering the truth, and knowledgeable about science, technology, history, and literature, and who usually works for dirt and gets credit for nothing? After lunch I drove to the city library on Main and asked the reference librarian ...." From James Lee Burke's novel Last Car to Elysian Fields (Simon and Schuster, 2003).

2007 Dilys Award

Last night, at Left Coast Crime, the 2007 Dilys Winner was announced, given by the Independent Mystery Booksellers to the book they most enjoyed selling during the year. The winner is Louise Penny, for her wonderful mystery, Still Life. The announcement was made by Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Congratulations to Louise Penny! I loved Still Life, and I've been pushing it at the library as the best traditional mystery I read last year. Rumors are that the second one is even better.

Friday, February 02, 2007

First February contest

Congratulations to the winners of last week's contest. Natalie in Massachusetts won Bubbles A Broad by Sarah Strohmeyer. Elaine Viets' Just Murdered was won by Gina in California. Thanks for entering the contests!

This week, I'm offering two ARCs. You can win Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli mystery, The Art of Detection. Suspicious Circumstances marks the debut of a promising new author, Sandra Ruttan.

If you'd like to win copies of either of these ARCs, email me at, with the subject line Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

My husband, Jim, will draw the winners next Saturday, Feb. 10th. Good luck!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

March Treasures in My Closet

I already posted the titles I suspect will be the hot ones during March. Personally, I'm looking forward to some of these titles more than the so called bestsellers. I'd love to see these authors hit. Here are the ARCs I have in my closet. These books all come out in March, so now's the time to reserve them at your local library or order them from your favorite bookstore.

I have:

Cold Day in Hell by Richard Hawke
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David
Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe Gwen Freeman
Died In the Wool by Rett MacPherson
Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib
Hog Wild by Cathy Pickens
In Dublin's Fair City by Rhys Bowen

They might not make the Bestsellers Lists, but I can promise there is some good reading in this group.

Heads Up!

Now's the time to put holds on March titles at your library, or preorder them from your favorite bookstore. Here are the titles that I suspect will be hot in March.

Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy
Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline
Storm Runners by T. Jefferson Parker
Hunter's Moon by Randy Wayne White

In the mystery category, I'm waiting to read a few titles. I'm waiting for Blaize Clement's second book, Duplicity Dogged the Dachschund. Joanne Fluke's latest Hannah Swensen mystery is Key Lime Pie Murder. The second Fritz Malone mystery is Cold Day in Hell by Richard Hawke. The latest Torie O'Shea mystery is Died in the Wool by Rett MacPherson.

Tonight, I'll let you know what March treasures I have in my closet.

Release date for the new Harry Potter book

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last of seven installments in the series, will be published July 21, according to author J.K. Rowling, who released the information on her website today.