Friday, March 30, 2007

Winners and first April contests

Congratulations to the winners of this week's contest. There were fifty-nine entries. Trish C. from Copley, OH won Giles Blunt's By the Time You Read This. Shannon J. of Waterloo, IA is the winner of the autographed copy of Deborah Donnelly's Bride and Doom. The books will be mailed tomorrow.

For the first contest in April, I have two ARCs to offer winners. One is Richard North Patterson's latest, Exile. The other is a traditional English mystery, Village Affairs by Cassandra Chan.

If you'd like to win one of these two books, 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 Pacific Time next Friday, April 6th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

About Alice

I finally had a chance to pick up Calvin Trillin's beautiful tribute to his wife, Alice. It's a NYT bestseller, written five years after his wife of over thirty-five years died.

At the age of 38, Alice was operated on for lung cancer. In the spring of 2001, she had bypass surgery because her heart had been weakened by all of the radiation done years earlier for the cancer. Alice hung on, married off both of the daughters, and died four months after the second daughter was married. Trillin felt she had accomplished her goal of raising her daughters, and seeing them happily married, so she could let go.

This is a small book, with a big message of love. Trillin was in awe of his wife, a beautiful, intelligent woman who he was always trying to impress. His book is a loving tribute to that woman.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin. Random House, ©2006. ISBN 9781400066155 (hardcover), 78p.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Heads Up!

Next Tuesday, April 3rd, looks like a big release date for books. Here are a couple of the big titles being released that date.

Heartstopper by Joy Fielding

I Heard that Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

And, the one I'm really waiting for,

White Night: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

(If you like the Dresden Files on television, the books are even better.)

Staying Home Is a Killer

Sara Rosett, author of "The Mom Zone Mysteries," understands what it's like to be an air force wife, on the move from base to base. In her second book, Staying Home Is a Killer, she allows Ellie Avery to remain at Greenly Air Force Base in eastern Washington State. Ellie is the wife of a pilot, and the mother of an adorable twenty-month-old, Livvy. She also runs a part-time organizing business. And, after involvement in a murder in the first book in the series, Moving is Murder, Ellie seems to have a nose for prying information out of people.

She visited with Penny Follette, a squadron wife, on the morning of Penny's death. She also received an excited phone call from her just a short time before her supposed suicide. For those reasons, Ellie can't accept that Penny killed herself. The call from Penny's widower gives Ellie the perfect opportunity to snoop. When a squadron member is poisoned from coffee beans Ellie passed on, beans that belonged to Penny, Ellie is suddenly a suspect. And, someone seems to think that Penny passed on more than coffee beans. Ellie receives mysterious phone calls, overhears comments that she might have "it," and feels threatened.

Ellie Avery is a fascinating character, a woman trying to maintain a normal life, despite her husband's irregular schedule. Sometimes she doesn't even know where he is in the world. Unlike many characters in mysteries, Ellie leads a normal life. She has to move her daughter in and out of a car seat, take her with her, or find a babysitter. She's one character who doesn't just drop her daughter when a mystery comes up. So many amateur detectives seem to drop their normal lives, their pets, their families, and just investigate. I did feel that Ellie wasn't as worried about protecting Livvy in this book as she was in the previous one. I felt she was reckless in following people and confronting them when Livvy was with her. However, Sara Rosett has created a much more believable, and likable, character than many authors do. Ellie has more changes coming in her life. I'll be waiting to see how she moves on in the next book in the series.

Sara Rosett's website is

Staying Home Is a Killer by Sara Rosett. Kensington Books, ©2007. ISBN 0758213387 (hardcover), 288p.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund

Why do I like Blaize Clement's Dixie Hemingway mysteries? First, they take place on Siesta Key in Sarasota County, and the settings are so familiar since we lived in Florida for eighteen years. Then, if you're an animal lover, you have to admire Dixie's care with pets, including aging ones. But, the main reason to enjoy them is Dixie herself. It's been three years since she lost her husband and daughter in a tragic accident, left her job with the sheriff's office and became a pet sitter, but she continues to come out of her shell. Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund gives Dixie one more opportunity to find her own strength.

Dixie doesn't realize she's waving at a killer, when she calls "Hey" to a speeding car. But, when the dachshund she's walking uncovers a body, she realizes she must have seen the murderer leave the scene, and, even worse, the murderer saw her. Lieutenant Guidry, from the sheriff's dept., once again pushes Dixie's buttons, and pushes her into an involvement in the murder investigation. When Dixie understands the murder victim's love of the Sarasota circus and clowns, she starts to dig into the background of his money, and his relationship to his brother. Once again, Dixie's pet sitting jobs gets her involved with the wrong people.

Blaize Clement does a wonderful job with Dixie, her relationship to her brother and his partner, and her developing strength and character. In this mystery, she also opens up the Sarasota circus world to outsiders. There are some difficult moments in this book, particularly if you are an animal lover, but Clement and Dixie Hemingway handle the situations with grace. I'll be waiting for more of Dixie, her animal friends, and her mysteries.

Blaize Clement's website is

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund by Blaize Clement. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007, ISBN 9780312340926 (hardcover), 228p.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

I read Anne Lamott's books for her faith, her politics, and her respect for books, libraries and librarians. Yesterday, author Roxanne Willems Snopek, who writes under the name RG Willems, commented, "Faith and irreverent humor: it can't be beat." That's one of the best reasons to read Lamott.

She comments on faith and politics on p. 18. "I know that when I call out, God will be near, and hear, and help eventually. Of course it is the "eventually" that throws me into despair. For instance, even now, I know America will be restored again, eventually, although it is hard to envision this at the moment, and it could take a century or more for the nation and the world to recover from the George W. Bush years. But they will. God always hears our cries, and helps, and it's always a surprise to see what form God will take on earth."

This is wonderful, but, as a librarian, and a reader, it's her passion for books that moves me. She's a reader who writes on p. 9, "I felt the way I had felt reading A Wrinkle in Time at eight, The Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, Virginia Woolf, Vonnegut later on, whenever a book had offered me a box with treasure inside. It was what flooded out in the quiet, intimate relationship between me and the writer, the treasure of me."

She's a reader who also wrote a beautiful chapter called Steinbeck Country about the writers and actors, and all the others who stood up for the Salinas libraries when they were going to close. And, in that chapter, she wrote, "We were there to celebrate some of the rare intelligence capabilities that our country can actually be proud of - those of librarians. I see them as healers and magicians."

All I can say is, thank you, Anne Lamott. Thank you for your humor, your angst, your faith, and your respect for life and librarians. Thank you for speaking out.

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. Riverhead, ©2007, ISBN 9781594489426 (hardcover), 253p.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kliban's Cats

I love Anne Lamott. I'm reading her latest book, Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith, which I'll review here when I finish it. She answered a reference question I've been trying to answer for over a year. On page 55, she mentioned Kliban's folksinger cat. I've been trying to remember B.Kliban's name for that long, and I couldn't come up with it on the internet or at the library because I had the name just off enough to make it hard to find.

B.Kliban drew cartoon tabby cats.

His cartoon cats, which always seemed to have small heads in comparison to their round bodies, remind me so much of my cat Dickens. The attached picture is Dickens. He's a true literary cat. He's named after Charles Dickens, and was born behind the bookcase in our bedroom. He's known books since the day he was born. He and his brother and sisters learned to climb on the bookshelves in my husband's den.

Once again, a book came through for the answer to a reference question. Thanks Anne Lamott!

B. Kliban's website is

Friday, March 23, 2007

Winners and New Contests

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest! JM Harris of Ankeny, IA won the galley of Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David. Carol Jeanne M. of Gibsonburg, OH won the autographed ARC of Wreckers' Key by Christine Kling. Thanks to everyone who entered.

And, good luck in the next contest! I'm offering two books again. One is an autographed copy of Deborah Donnelly's Bride and Doom. The second book is an ARC of By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt.

If you'd like to win one of these two books, 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 PST next Friday, March 30th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bidding for Love

If you're looking for strong female characters in fun English romantic comedies, you can't go wrong with any of Katie Fforde's books. And, her latest, Bidding for Love, is no exception.

Flora Stanza's uncle died and left her 51% of a family auction house. When she shows up to claim her share, and work in the family business, her stuffy cousin, Charles, and his fiancée, Annabelle, are not happy. Although Charles loves the business, Annabelle has plans to turn it into flats and sell it. Reluctantly, Annabelle turns over a holiday cottage to Flora, who finds herself loving the auction life, and the people of the town. She joins the choir, spends time with her cat and kittens, and starts to make a life, despite her relations with Charles and Annabelle.

As always, in a Katie Fforde book, there's romance and a happy, satisfying ending. Her books take the reader to a warm, comfortable England.

Katie Fforde's website is

Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde. St. Martin's Press, ©2007, ISBN 9780312359638 (hardcover), 390p.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gumshoe Award Nominees

The Gumshoe Awards are given by Mystery Ink each year to recognize the best achievements in the world of crime fiction. The nominated books were chosen from those published for the first time in the United States in 2006. The winners will be announced on May 1, 2007.

The nominees are:

Best Mystery:
White Shadow, Ace Atkins
City of Shadows, Ariana Franklin
The Night Gardener, George Pelecanos
All Mortal Flesh, Julia Spencer-Fleming
Hollywood Station, Joseph Wambaugh

Best Thriller:
The Hard Way, Lee Child
The Last Assassin, Barry Eisler
Prayers for the Assassin , Robert Ferrigno
Marked Man, William Lashner
The Venus Fix, M.J. Rose

Best European Crime Novel:
The Dramatist, Ken Bruen
A Walk in the Dark, Gianrico Carofiglio
By a Slow River, Philippe Claudel
When the Devil Holds the Candle, Karin Fossum
The Minotaur, Barbara Vine

Best First Novel:
Out of Cabrini, Dave Case
A Corpse in the Koryo, James Church
King of Lies, John Hart
The Shadow Catchers, Thomas Lakeman
A Field of Darkness, Cornelia Read

For more info, see

Monday, March 19, 2007


Outdoor writer and humorist Patrick F. McManus turned to mystery writing with his first Sheriff Bo Tully book, The Blight Way. Avalanche is the second mystery to feature the eccentric sheriff of Blight County, Idaho.

When lodge owner Mike Wilson goes missing for two days, his wife calls the sheriff. Tully rounds up his father, Pap, the retired sheriff, and a tracker friend, Dave Perkins, a restaurant owner who wants to be an Indian so he can open a casino. McManus' stories are filled with those kind of odd characters, including all of Tully's family and many of his deputies.

On the way to the lodge, an avalanche almost stops their trek, but they are not only able to reach the lodge, but rescue two college students on the way. Trapped at the lodge with an unusual group of people, including a former girlfriend, Bo Tully has to investigate on one side of the avalanche, while his deputies report and deal with a murder in town.

Avalanche was a disappointment. The Blight Way was a funny first novel with great characters. Already in the second mystery, the cast seems tired and there isn't as much humor. I was hoping for another fun story. This one wasn't it.

Patrick F. McManus' website is

Avalanche by Patrick F. McManus. Simon & Schuster, ©2007. ISBN 9781416532651 (hardcover), 291p.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thriller Awards

Nominees for this year's "Thriller" awards were announced today by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell, the co-presidents of International Thriller Writers.

They also officially proclaimed the recipient for the 2007 ThrillerMaster Award (an award honoring an illustrious body of work spanning two decades or more) to a true master of suspense, James Patterson.

Here is the list of nominees in each category:

Best Novel
False Impression, Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin's Press)
Killer Instinct, Joseph Finder (St. Martin's Press)
Cold Kill, Stephen Leather (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Messenger, Daniel Silva (Putnam)
Beautiful Lies, Lisa Unger (Shaye Areheart Books/Bantam)

Best First Novel
Shadow of Death, Patricia Gussin (Oceanview Publishing)
Switchback, Matthew Klein (Orion)
A Thousand Suns, Alex Scarrow (Orion)
18 Seconds, George D. Shuman (Simon & Schuster)
Mr. Clarinet, Nick Stone (Michael Joseph Ltd/Penguin)

Best Paperback Original
Skeleton Coast, Clive Cussler with Jack DuBrul (Berkley Trade)
The Deep Blue Alibi, Paul Levine (Bantam)
An Unquiet Grave, P.J. Parrish (Pinnacle)
Headstone City, Tom Piccirilli (Spectra Books/Crown)
Mortal Faults, Michael Prescott (Onyx Books)

Best Screenplay
Inside Man: Russell Gewirtz
The Departed: William Monahan
The Good Shepherd: Eric Roth
Children of Men: Alfonse Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata,
Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Casino Royale: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Hagg

Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest '07 in New York City, July 12-15.

Agents of Light and Darkness

And people thought Stephen King's dreams must be horrible! Simon R. Green brings back Jack Taylor, his investigator who has a gift of finding anything, in this second novel of the Nightside. I can say, if Green doesn't have uneasy nights, I had one while reading this book.

The Unholy Grail is somewhere in the Nightside. Judas Iscariot drank from that cup at the Last Supper. Taylor has received a nice commission to find the cup. Before he can even get started, angels from Above and Below invade the Nightside, determined to tear the place apart in their quest for the Grail. The Authorities pull out of the Nightside, allowing the angels to battle it out. Taylor, and a few friends, such as Shotgun Suzie, are left to search for the Grail, despite opposition.

The grotesque Speaking Gun is a horror out of someone's nightmares, and there are bloody, horrible deaths in this story. However, the novel, a twisted reminder of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels, is riveting. Hanging over each book is the mystery of John Taylor's mother, a woman evidently so horrible that no one will reveal her secrets. I'll keep reading these weird tales until John's family background is finally disclosed.

Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green. Ace Books, ©2003. ISBN 0441011136 (paperback), 233p.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Winners and New Contests

Congratulations to the two winners in this week's contest for ARCs. Jill G. from Bonita, CA won Rett MacPherson's Died In the Wool. The winner of Jason Starr's Lights Out was Pat R. from Kansas City, KS. The books will be mailed tomorrow.

The next contest also features two ARCs. Christine Kling sent an autographed ARC of her latest book, Wreckers' Key, so a reader could win it. The other ARC is Evelyn David's first Sullivan Investigations Mystery, Murder Off the Books. I reviewed this fun mystery on Feb. 27th if you'd like to check out the review.

If you'd like to win one of these two books, 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 PST next Friday, March 23rd. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Land of Mango Sunsets

I reviewed The Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank for the March 15 issue of Library Journal. The review appears below, reprinted with permission.

Frank, Dorothea Benton. The Land of Mango Sunsets. Morrow. Apr. 2007. ISBN 0-06-089238-2 [ISBN 978-0-06-089238-8]. $24.95. F

Even Miriam Elizabeth Swanson's mother describes her as a fussbudget who is stubborn, unrealistic in her expectations of others, and a prig. Here she gets to tell her own story of life as a lonely divorcée estranged from her grown sons, living in New York City with a gay tenant and an African Gray parrot, and begging for assignments on charity committees. On a visit to the family cottage on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina, she is shocked by her socialite mother's new hippie lifestyle of growing organic vegetables, raising goats and chickens, and no longer dying her hair. But it takes an accident and an act of violence to force Miriam to alter her own life, which means returning to the island to learn to relax and love again. New York Times best-selling author Frank (Sullivan's Island) uses a great deal of humor to tell the story of a woman desperate for change and paints beautiful word pictures of the Low Country. Although some of the characters are stereotypes and others are not fleshed out enough, this is still a memorable book that should be in all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/07.]—Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Key Lime Pie Murder

If you're a Joanne Fluke fan, you'll welcome the return to Lake Eden, Minnesota in Key Lime Pie Murder, the ninth in the Hannah Swensen mystery series.

Hannah, the owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, is still indecisive in deciding between Norman Rhodes and Mike Kingston, although both men have proposed. But, she can put that decision off during the busy time of Tri-County Fair week. Hannah is a judge in the baking competitions, her sister Michelle competes in the Miss Tri-County Fair contest, and her sister Andrea enters the mother-daughter lookalike contest. They can combine forces to investigate when one of the other judges is murdered. Somehow, the three sisters will dig out the secrets that no one knew about Willa Sunquist, student teacher and judge.

Fluke's mysteries succeed because readers feel at home in Lake Eden, comfortable with Hannah, her sisters and her friends. As always, there are wonderful recipes for baked goods included in the book. This time, there's the added mystery of problems with Moishe, Hannah's cat. Why is Moishe loitering by windows, not eating, and losing weight? Joanne Fluke's mysteries are comfortable stories, with that added comfort of food.

(OK, everyone. Should Hannah pick Mike or Norman? Or neither? If you have an opinion, drop a line under comments!)

Joanne Fluke's website is

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke. Kensington Books, ©2007. ISBN 978758210180 (hardcover), 342p.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bookseller of the Year - Changing Hands

Congratulations to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe who are the winners of the 2007 Bookseller of the Year Award. The honor will be presented at Book Expo in New York.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cold Day in Hell

Fritz Malone, the private investigator who first appeared in Speak of the Devil, returns in Richard Hawke's latest thriller. If you were hoping for a Fritz as humorous as before, or a great deal more of Margo and Charlie Burke, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for an intricate storyline, with a complicated cast of characters and a twist at the end, you won't be at all disappointed.

Fritz' girlfriend, Margo, is not at all happy with him when he takes an interest in the murder of a neighbor, Robin Burrell. Robin had been a witness in the hottest trial in New York City when her former lover and talk show host, Marshall Fox, was tried for murdering two women. Fox is sitting in jail, in the midst of the trial, when Robin is murdered in copycat style. Fritz had examined hate mail for Robin, so he's involved, despite Margo's disapproval. She feels he "slips into the lives of dead people," and Margo can't relate to that. Fritz is even more puzzled when Fox' attorney is murdered. He teams up with Megan Lamb, a detective on the homicide squad, who has her own problems. Megan killed the man who murdered her partner on the police department, and her lover. Now she's dealing with personal issues, despite the fact she's back on the job.

Hawke's latest story is a twisted one. At the end of Part One, he leaves the reader in suspense as to Fritz' fate, while he turns to Megan's story. The entire plot is complicated, with questions as to how the victims are linked, except through Marshall Fox, the man on trial when two are killed. Cold Day in Hell will leave you guessing, and probably guessing wrong, almost to the end.

Richard Hawke's website is

Cold Day in Hell by Richard Hawke. Random House, ©2007, ISBN 9781400064267 (hardcover), 320p.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Winners and the next contest

I had to end the current contest a little early because, as of 5 pm tonight, I won't have a computer again until Sunday. But, I hadn't had any entries in the last day or so, so I don't think anyone missed out. Jim drew the winners this morning.

Congratulations to Anne J. in Stoughton, WI who won Cecelia Tishy's All in One Piece. Lauren K. in Reading, MA is the winner of Poison to Purge Melancholy by Elena Santangelo. The books went out in the mail this morning.

I have two ARCs to give away this week. One is a copy of the latest Torie O'Shea mystery by Rett MacPherson, Died In the Wool. The other is Jason Starr's noir thriller, Lights Out.

If you'd like to win one of these two books, 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 PST next Friday, March 16th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, March 08, 2007


The third book in Mary Anna Evans' Faye Longchamp mystery series is the strongest one yet. Faye, an archaeology student, is working on a project in Mississippi with a crew that includes her friend Joe Mantooth when they witness a neighbor, Mr. Calhoun, trying to bulldoze an untouched mound. When they protest the action, and call the sheriff, residents show up from around the county - white farmers, blacks, and the Choctaw Indians who all have an interest in the action taking place.

When a black Congressman returns home to the county fair, and announces to everyone that he was once beaten almost to death in Neshoba County, the history of racism in the county is once again brought to the forefront. And, when Faye and Joe find Calhoun murdered in a marijuana patch on his property, everyone in the area is a suspect, but Faye's friends are the likeliest suspects. When the Congressman indicates an interest in the dead man's property, crimes start to run together, enough to keep the sheriff quite busy.

Evans' book is a complicated one to summarize with its complex storyline including the history and stories of the Choctaws, racism in Mississippi, and, of course, in a Faye Longchamp story, archaeology. Evans even introduces a romance for Faye, as an additional complication to her life. As storylines intertwine, Evans balances the suspense and education beautifully. Effigies is a complicated, intriguing story.

Mary Anna Evans' website is

Effigies by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2006. ISBN 9781590583425 (hardcover), 301p.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Libraries make business "cents"

Ernest Gallo, co-founder of E.&J. Gallo Winery, died yesterday at the age of 97. Why is this on a book blog? Because of the legend that surrounds the founding of the winery. The New York Times obituary relates the story.

"According to the legend, the two brothers, virtually penniless farm boys from the Central Valley of California, scraped together $5,900 and started their winery in a rented shed in Modesto. It was 1933 and repeal of Prohibition was weeks away. Ernest was 24, Julio 23; the two knew nothing about winemaking, according to the story, and relied on a pamphlet from the Modesto Public Library to explain their trade."

Even if this is a legend, librarians everywhere will appreciate the story. I just hope Ernest Gallo left a little something to the Modesto Public Library.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Rita Mae Brown at The Poisoned Pen

I went to see Rita Mae Brown tonight at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. Brown has a new Mrs. Murphy book out, Puss'n Cahoots, but I'm a fan of her foxhunting series featuring "Sister" Jane Arnold. She's one author I've always wanted to hear because I'd heard she was wonderful and funny. She was all of that and more. You can just tell by her dress, a purple cap, white shirt, lime green overshirt, purple belt, orange pants, and white tennis shoes, that she's her own true Southern woman who will do whatever she darned well pleases. (And wouldn't use darn in the process.)

Brown does a wonderful Southern storytelling performance, and she's a master at it. She started by talking about the mystery format. As she spoke about the conservative format, I took it to mean the traditional mystery. She said mysteries are about a community distrubed by an immoral act, and it's out of balance. The balance in the community needs to be restored by the end of the book - whether or not justice is served, the reader knows who did it, or that justice will be served, or that the balance in the community will be restored. She said genre fiction can be literature, but it's bound by its format.

Rita Mae Brown spent the next forty minutes telling stories, and answering questions. She's sixty-two. She said she doesn't mind getting old; all of the sugar's in the bottom of the cup.

She's very outspoken, but even swears with that Southern grace. She was a classics major, and knows Latin and Greek. She said our kids aren't educated today because they don't know Latin, the basis for everything from government to literature. She said we now tell kids they're not smart enough to learn Latin.

She doesn't use the Internet for research. She goes straight to the original documents, but admits that that's easy to do in Virginia. But she said you can't trust the information on the Internet.

Someone asked where she went to college, and she said she started as a scholarship student at the University of Florida, but was thrown out because of the morals clause. She was active in the civil rights movement, so was thrown out. She said white Southerners who were active in civil rights were considered turncoats to the South.

She made the comment that in the South, you can do anything you want as long as you have good manners.

She did discuss foxhunting, which she's passionate about. She said it's the oldest sport white men brought to America because Henry Hudson brought hunting dogs with him. She said hunting hasn't changed. The pyramids show the pharaohs hunting with couples, pairs of dogs on leashes. She said hunting is still done with couples of dogs.

She ended with, "If you're an adult, suck it up and take responsibility, or die and get out of the way."

Rita Mae Brown was all I had hoped for. She reminded me so much of my teacher, advisor and mentor in grad school, Caroline Arden. Caroline died a number of years ago, but she had the same husky voice from cigarettes and foxhunting. She was from an old Virginian family. She had the same small size and Southern class. I admired her so much, and at times, hearing Rita Mae Brown was like listening to Caroline Arden again.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Death and the Family Tree

Patricia Sprinkle starts a new mystery series with the engrossing Death and the Family Tree. When Katharine Murray inherits a necklace and a diary, her investigation into their history puts her home, her security, and her own sense of herself in jeopardy.

As Katharine researches the background of the Austrian village where the ancient necklace and the diary might have originated, she attracts unwanted attention. Can she even trust an old friend who is now a history professor who shows an unhealthy interest in both items? What about her niece, who spends too much time with an employee of a right-wing Atlanta family? Even the head of that family is interested in the necklace.

Katharine's search into the diary's history takes her to an interest in her family history and genealogy. Suddenly she finds shocking secrets that she never guessed. As in the recent Rett MacPherson book, Died In the Wool, family secrets lead to tragedy.

At forty-six, Katharine Murray is facing a lonely life, with a husband off on business, two grown children, and the final loss of aging relatieves. But, she's been forced to stand on her own for years, and the threats to her life may scare her, but she's still determined to dig into the past. Death and the Family Tree is a satisfying introduction to the Family Tree mystery series.

Patricia Sprinkle's website is

Death and the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle. Avon Books, ©2006, ISBN 9780060819682 (paperback), 348p.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Winners and new contests

Congratulations to the winners of this past week's contests. Janet B in Des Moines, Iowa won Maggie Barbieri's Murder 101. The winner of Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself is Lori C from Huntingdon, PA. They'll be going out in the mail tomorrow.

This week's books share a paranormal element. All in One Piece is an ARC by Cecelia Tishy, featuring Reggie Cutter, a psychic whose upstairs tenant is murdered. Poison to Purge Melancholy is a Pat Montella mystery by Elena Santangelo. Why wouldn't Pat feel the presence of ghosts while spending Christmas in Williamsburg?

If you'd like to win one of these two books, 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 9th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Died In the Wool

With each new Torie O'Shea mystery, Rett MacPherson's stories become a little darker, and a little stronger. Died In the Wool is one of the best in the series.

Torie O'Shea is a genealogist and local historian in New Kassal, Missouri, a small town of 1,000 on the banks of the Mississippi. As owner of the Gaheimer House Museum and Events Committee Chair for the town, she's involved in all of the city events. And, if she isn't involved in something, Torie doesn't hesitate to stick her nose in where it doesn't belong.

When the Kendall House goes up for sale, Torie wants to turn it into another museum. It's the local house with a history. Stories say that three Kendall siblings committed suicide there shortly after World War I. Since the current owner thinks the house is haunted by Glory Kendall, he's more than willing to have Torie purchase the quilts she made, and pry into the family history.

As always, it's fascinating to watch Torie research family and local history, looking for a solution to a mystery. The Kendall story is not a pretty one. But, MacPherson lightens the story with the family background that her fans enjoy. Torie's middle daughter, Mary, is once again in trouble. Torie's father-in-law, Colin, is bored with his new career, and begs to tag along as she investigates. And, the details about quilts and roses add depth.

Rett MacPherson's Died In the Wool is another successful combination of dark secrets and loving family life.

Rett MacPherson's website is

Died In the Wool by Rett MacPherson. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007, ISBN 9780312362218 (hardcover), 240p.