Monday, April 30, 2007

Treasures from My Closet

There are some interesting titles coming out in June. They might not be destined for the bestseller lists, but I'm looking forward to some of these more than the guaranteed hits. And, you never know when you'll make a fun discovery. These are the titles hiding in my closet, due for release in June.

Whack A Mole by Chris Grabenstein
The Short Bus by Jonathan Mooney
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Thirst by Pete Larson
Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane
The Takedown by Patrick Quinlan
City of Fire by Robert Ellis
Majestic Descending by Mitchell Graham
Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi

For June, why don't you check out at author you're unfamiliar with? You might find a treasure.

Heads Up!

Looking for the bestsellers in June, just in time for the beach? Order these titles now from your favorite bookstore, or place your hold at the library. These titles are due out in June.

Blaze (A Posthumous Novel)- Richard Bachman (No Stephen King, alias Richard Bachman is not dead. This is a novel he wrote 35 years ago.)

The Good Guy - Dean R. Koontz

The Sleeping Doll - Jeffrey Deaver

Lean Mean Thirteen - Janet Evanovich (A Stephanie Plum book)

Books read in April

In looking over this month's list, only three of the books I read were not mysteries. Hmmm. Here's the list.

A Painted Doom - Kate Ellis - Wesley Peterson investigates the murder of a rock star and a teen's disappearance, crimes that link somehow to the picture of The Final Judgment, done in the 1470s.

Nightingale's Lament - Simon R. Green - John Taylor investigates when it's rumored that a singer in The Nightside is driving people to suicide when they hear her sing.

Dark Room - Andrea Kane - Morgan Winter hires ex-cop Monty Montgomery and his son, Lane, to find her parents' killer, someone who has been out there for seventeen years.

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' - Paula Deen - Memoir of the restaurant owner and Food TV star.

Deadly Advice - Roberta Isleib - Dr. Rebecca Butterman's neighbor appears to be a suicide, but ther mother asks Rebecca to check it out.

The Alpine Scandal - Mary Daheim - When a well-liked man is murdered in Alpine, Emma Lord and her assistant, Vida, investigate.

Deadly Appraisal - Jane K. Cleland - Josie Prescott doesn't know if she's a suspect or the target when a woman dies at her auction hall.

Invisible Shield - Scarlett Dean - A dead police detective helps her police officer sister investigate her death.

Deadman's Switch - Barbara Seranella - Charlotte Lyon uses her OCD to help her in her career in crisis management, including the current case of a train derailment.

Woman in Red - Eileen Goudge - Alice Kessler's return to Gray Island coincides with Colin McGinty's arrival, a relationship that mirrors their grandparents'.

Forever and Ever, Amen - Sister Karol Jackowski - Becoming a Nun in the Sixties.

The Skeleton Room - Kate Ellis - Bodies found while investigating a shipwreck are linked, as Wesley Peterson discovers.

Dead Madonna - Victoria Houston - Lew Ferris, Chief of Police in Loon Lake, WI has two murders and a bank scam on her hands.

White Night - Jim Butcher - Ninth in the Dresden Files, in which Harry looks for someone who is killing practitioners of Wicca.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

White Night

I was sick a couple weeks ago when Jim Butcher appeared at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, and I'll always regret missing the author of the Dresden Files series.

Jim Butcher brings back some of Harry Dresden's best friends and some of his worst enemies in the ninth book in the Dresden Files series, White Night. For those not familiar with this wonderful series, Harry Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. Butcher himself may feel that he created a fantasy world, but, as a mystery fan, I see Harry Dresden as a detective who happens to be a wizard, working in a Chicago that recognizes the forces of evil. Dresden works with the police force, and some odd characters to try to maintain the power of good in the world.

Sergeant Murphy, one of Harry's best friends, calls him to a violent crime scene. Left at a couple scenes is Exodus 22:18, "Suffer not a witch to live." Someone is killing witches, women with some power, but not enough to be wizards. And, some of the clues lead to Harry's brother, Thomas, a vampire. Harry's investigations lead him to conclude that someone is trying to involve him in a battle to undermine the power of the White Council. Even friends that Harry hasn't seen in years may be needed to help him fight another battle.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are exciting adventures from page one. At times, the stories have so much tension that Harry must alleviate it with humor. Between the humor, the thoughtful commentaries, and the nonstop action, these are wonderful books. And, how can you not love books that feature that wonderful dog, Mouse? White Night may have arrived on the New York Times Bestseller List because of the Dresden Files series on the SciFi Network. However, anyone who picks up the book will be returning for the fantastic stories.

Jim Butcher's website is

White Night by Jim Butcher. ROC, ©2007. ISBN 9780451461407 (hardcover), 407p.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Winners and the New Contests

Congratulations to the winners in the last contest here. Lisa R. in Salem, OR won Wendy Howell Mills' Island Intrigue. Pattie T. in St. Louis, MO will receive David Skibbins' latest ARC, The Star. The ARCs will be going out in the mail tomorrow.

I'm offering two titles this week. The first is an ARC of the latest Philip Dryden mystery, The Coldest Blood by Jim Kelly.

I'm offering a special opportunity with the second title. I think Elizabeth Gunn is an underappreciated author. I enjoy her Jake Hines mysteries, set in Minnesota. I have enough copies of her paperback, Six-Pound Walleye, to give one to each of five winners.

If you'd like to win one of these two titles, 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 1 pm Pacific Time next Friday, May 4th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Edgar Winners

Mystery Writers of America announced this year's Edgar award winners tonight. Congratulations to the winners.

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson (Random House)

Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara (Bantam Dell Publishing – Delta Books)

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
(HarperCollins – William Morrow)

The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear
by E.J. Wagner (John Wiley & Sons)

'The Home Front' – Death Do Us Part by Charles Ardai
(Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)

Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Buried by Robin Merrow MacCready (Penguin YR – Dutton Children's Books)

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure by Steven Dietz (Arizona Theatre Company)

Life on Mars – Episode 1, Teleplay by Matthew Graham (BBC America)

The Wire, Season 4, Teleplays by Ed Burns, Kia Corthron, Dennis Lehane, David Mills, Eric Overmyer, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon & William F. Zorzi (Home Box Office)

The Departed, Screenplay by William Monahan (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Blown Away - Award winner

Congratulations to Shane Gericke, whose first novel, Blown Away, was named Best First Mystery of 2006 by Romantic Times Magazine. He'll receive the award at this week's Romantic Times Convention, currently being held in Houston.

Gericke's next crime novel, Cut to the Bone (Pinnacle) is due out in June. Check out Gericke's website at

The Romantic Times award winners in the Best Mystery Novels category are:

Amateur Sleuth - Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris - Ace, May 2006

Contemporary Mystery - Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy - Putnam, Aug. 2006

First Mystery - Blown Away by Shane Gericke - Pinnacle, May 2006

Historical Mystery - North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris - Forge, March 2006

P.I./Procedural Novel - The Finishing School by Michele Martinez - Morrow, Jan. 2006

Suspense - The Kill by Allison Brennan - Ballantine, March 2006

Award winners in other categories can be found at

Murder with Reservations - Help Elaine Viets

In the five years I chaired the Authors Programming Committee for the Lee County Reading Festival, I frequently said mystery writers are the best ones to work with. They were cooperative, easy to work with, and they enjoyed working with each other. Elaine Viets was one that was wonderful to work with. She appeared twice at the festival, and recommended other authors. She even brought a pink flamingo to the Authors' Reception. She's warm, and just fun to be around.

On my April 11 post, I mentioned that Elaine Viets had a stroke. She's recovering nicely, but she's worried about her new book. She won't be able to tour for Murder with Reservations, her latest Dead-End Job Mystery that debuts on May 1. Authors and those of us who are fans of Elaine's have rallied around. Bloggers are asking you to buy the book, or buy it for your public library, or request that they buy it. Authors are taking the opportunity to do book signings on Elaine's behalf, or appearances on behalf of her book. They're calling it Tour by Proxy. Check with your favorite bookstore to see if they're carrying Murder with Reservations. Ask if an author is making an appearance on behalf of Elaine. The mystery community is taking the opportunity to give back to an author who has given so much to others.

If you're a fan of Elaine Viets' Dead-End Job Mysteries, you know that Elaine works in every job that she assigns to her character, Helen Hawthorne. For Murder with Reservations, she took a job as a maid in a hotel. If you check out Elaine's website at, you can read about Elaine's feelings about that job.

Murder with Reservations is due out on May 1. Buy yourself or a friend a special present for May Day. In doing so, you'll be sharing in the effort to give back to a beloved author in the mystery community.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dead Madonna

Loon Lake, Wisconsin Chief of Police Lew Ferris has too many crimes on her hands in Dead Madonna, the eighth mystery in the series by Victoria Houston. Two murders and a bank scam are too much for a small town Police Chief who is shorthanded. She's so shorthanded that Dr. Paul Osborne, a retired dentist and her lover, is deputized and named acting coroner. She even has to deputize Ray Pradt, a fishing guide who is known for skirting the law. She's lucky to have such good friends who come through in a crisis.

Dee Dee Kurlander wasn't the saintly Madonna that her parents' thought. Someone could have wanted to kill her, but who would have murdered Nora Loomis? The local woman was brutally defaced in the same manner as Dee Dee. Ferris and Osborne are forced to put off their fly fishing date in order to solve the crimes.

Houston's strength is her characters. In Police Chief Lew Ferris and Dr. Osborne, she's created mature characters who are working on their relationship. Both have fascinating backgrounds, and share a love of the Wisconsin outdoors and fly fishing. Houston fills in Ferris' life with other interesting characters such as Pradt. As to the mystery, I figured out the criminal long before Lew did, but it was entertaining to watch the clues come together. I'll be returning to Houston's books for her characters.

Victoria Houston's website is

Dead Madonna by Victoria Houston. Bleak House Books, ©2007. ISBN 9781932557398 (hardcover), 236p.

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam

SAN FRANCISCO - David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who chronicled the Washington press corps, the Vietnam War generation and baseball, was killed in a car crash early Monday, a coroner said. He was 73.

According to Lisa Leff, Associated Press Writer, "After attending Harvard University, Halberstam launched his career in 1955 at the Daily Times Leader, a small daily newspaper in Mississippi. By age 30 he had won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Vietnam War for the New York Times.

He quit daily journalism in 1967 and wrote 21 books covering such diverse topics as the Vietnam War, civil rights, the auto industry and a baseball pennant race. His 2002 best-seller, "War in a Time of Peace," was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction."

Halberstam was the author of The Best and the Brightest about the Vietnam Conflict, and The Teammates, about the Boston Red Sox, among other books.

Jim and I met David Halberstam at BEA in New York in 2002. Firehouse was just out, and he autographed it for Jim.

He'll be missed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Skeleton Room

Kate Ellis' later books are not easy to come by, but they're worth borrowing through interlibrary loan if you have to. Her Wesley Peterson mysteries are a wonderful combination of the past and present as archaeological digs prove that there are no new crimes under the sun.

Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson and his boss, Gerry Hefferman, are called to the scene when workmen break through a wall, and find a skeleton sitting in a chair. Since it seems to be an old crime, they're more interested in the body brought up while Wesley's friend Neil Watson is working on the recovery of a shipwrecked ship. That body is of a woman reported missing just a few days earlier. The woman was murdered, but she was also the wife of a man connected to a computer company that just reported the theft of a large number of computers. Connections. Wesley and the police, with some help from Neil, uncovers a web of connections to murders, disappearances, and the past.

British authors such as Kate Ellis, Dorothy Simpson and Reginald Hill do a wonderful job of interweaving their characters' personal lives with their working lives. Their characters do not live in a vacuum. They have lives that affect their work. Ellis also weaves the past into the present in fascinating mysteries. The Skeleton Room is another one of her satisfying stories.

Kate Ellis' website is

The Skeleton Room by Kate Ellis. Piatkus, ©2003. ISBN 0749906200 (hardcover), 374p.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Forever and Ever, Amen

Sister Karol Jackowski's memoir is subtitled Becoming a Nun in the Sixties. I found this a fascinating book. It was very personal to me. I never intended to be a nun. But, my Great Aunt was a Notre Dame nun, and my mother has a number of cousins who were nuns. Sister Karol's book opened up a secret window. Every child that attended a Catholic school must have wondered at one time what the convent was like.

Sister Karol reveals that life in the convent was in some ways, much better than we would have thought, and, in other ways, much worse. Her book is the story of the first seven years, the formative years in becoming a nun. She joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross at Saint Mary's in South Bend, IN. The 1960s were a period of dramatic change in the Catholic Church, and therefore a period of dramatic change in the cloistered lives of nuns. More than 200,000 women left the convent in the years following Vatican II. In 1966, Vatican II changed so much more than the habits worn by nuns, and the ability to keep their own names. Sister Karol reveals the turmoil in the convents and communities, the changes brought about that were resented by many of the nuns.

Sister Karol Jackowski's years before professing final vows were not easy ones. She watched many of her friends leave the sisterhood. Many left because of the changes. Many left because the changes weren't great enough. This is a compelling examination of the state of the religious life in the 1960s, and the dramatic changes in that life. Sister Karol Jackowski herself is a surprise. Her book is an expression of joy.

Forever and Ever, Amen: Becoming a Nun in the Sixties by Sister Karol Jackowski. Penguin Group, ©2007. ISBN 9781594489372 (hardback), 306p.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Winners and the Next Contests

Congratulations to the winners of the last weekly contests here. Sue C. from Eugene, OR won Martin Edwards' The Cipher Garden. Rosemary S. from Bethel, OH will receive the latest mystery by Rhys Bowen, In Dublin's Fair City. The books will be going out in the mail tomorrow.

Once again, this week I'll be offering two ARCs. Wendy Howell Mills' latest Sabrina Dunsweeney mystery, Island Blues is due out in May, so I'm offering the ARC of the first in the series, Island Intrigue. I'm also offering the most recent Tarot Card Mystery by David Skibbins, The Star.

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 27th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Looking for a Good Book?

Every quarter, I do a brown bag luncheon for library patrons in which I talk about 15 books I read and enjoyed. The following week, I repeat the program for library staff at our Main Library. It's always a mixed bag, with a strong emphasis on mysteries. I'll be doing the first presentation next Wednesday. Unless I finish something terrific in the next few days, here are the fifteen titles I'll discuss with both groups.

Chan, Cassandra – Village Affairs – A traditional British mystery in which wealthy man-about-town Phillip Bethancourt and Scotland Yard detective Jack Gibbons investigate the death of a middle-aged widower.

Clement, Blaize – Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund – Second Dixie Hemingway, pet sitter, mystery in which Dixie waves to a passing killer, while walking a dog.

Dallas, Sandra – Tallgrass – From the author of The Persian Pickle Club comes the fascinating story of Rennie Stroud, a young girl coming of age during WWII, in a small Colorado town with a Japanese internment camp.

Deen, Paula – It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ – Memoir of the bawdy woman who overcame her past to become a successful restaurant owner and Food Network TV star.

Fforde, Katie – Bidding for Love – Fun English romantic comedy about Flora Stanza, who inherits the majority share of a family antiques and auction business, and has to cope with her stuffy cousin and his fiancée.

Frank, Dorothea Benton – The Land of Mango Sunsets – Miriam Swanson finally learns to let go and live, after her bitter divorce.

Franklin, Ariana – Mistress of the Art of Death – When four children have been murdered in medieval England, and the Jews are blamed, Richard III calls in a “Mistress of the art of death,” a forensics expert to investigate.

Hawke, Richard – Cold Day in Hell – Private investigator Fritz Malone is tangled up in the case when a woman is murdered, in the same style as other murders for which a TV star is on trial.

Kane, Andrea – Dark Room – Seventeen years after her parents’ murder, Morgan Winter discovers that the killer is still out there, and teams up with ex-cop Pete Montgomery and his son to find the killer.

Lamott, Anne – Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith – Lamott’s latest bestseller about love, life and religion.

MacPherson, Rett – Died in the Wool – Genealogist Torie O’Shea returns to investigate the story behind three suicides in a family, following WWI.

Rosett, Sara – Staying Home Is a Killer – Air Force wife Ellie Avery must deal with her toddler and her part-time organization business while trying to find the killer of a squadron wife.

Rushnell, Squire – When God Winks at You – How God speaks directly to people through the power of coincidence in life.

Trillin, Calvin – About Alice – The bestselling loving tribute to Trillin’s deceased wife.

Warren, Frank – PostSecret – Postcards sharing secrets that people never shared before.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Heads Up!

Next Tuesday, April 24th, is release date for two titles that might be of interest. Have you ordered your copies at the library or your favorite bookstore?

One is Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber, the third in her Blossom Street series. The other is Simple Genius by David Baldacci. Baldacci brings back Sean King and Michelle Maxwell from earlier bestsellers, Split Second and Hour Game. Simple Genius will undoubtedly be another bestseller.

It's a Heads Up!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Deadman's Switch

When Barbara Seranella died, the world lost a gifted writer. In Deadman's Switch, she even makes the investigation of a train derailment fascinating.

Charlotte Lyon has been widowed for nine months. It's only her successful business in disaster-planning crisis management that keeps her going. When the Sunliner passenger train derails on the way to an Indian casino in Palms Springs, CA, Charlotte is called in. She'll not only do story control in time of crisis, but she'll investigate, side by side with the NTSB. In this case, side by side with Todd Hannigan, the attractive man in charge of the NTSB team.

Seranella created a fascinating character in Charlotte. She's an intelligent woman who has found a way to use her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), to work to her advantage in her career. Even her experience as the daughter of a woman who used drugs and alcohol, and moved her daughters around, works to Charlotte's advantage. If you're looking for a fascinating investigator, check out Charlotte Lyon in Deadman's Switch.

Deadman's Switch by Barbara Seranella. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 9780312361709 (hardcover), 272p.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Invisible Shield

Scarlett Dean's Invisible Shield is a fascinating police procedural with an intriguing premise. Homicide Detective Lindsay Frost didn't believe in the paranormal at all. It's a good thing her sister, Kate, did. When Lindsay was murdered at home, she had no clue as to who killed her. She has to convince Kate, a police officer, to team up with her to find her murderer.

Lindsay is in for a shock, though. She has to learn all about her new role in the afterlife, and she's dependent on other spirits to teach her. She discovers that her detective badge is her "death tag," a personal item she has to hang onto until she works out her issues, and then she can move on to the next level. At the moment, Lindsay's issues are finding her murderer, along with the spirit who has something against her in her new world.

The action doesn't let up as Lindsay and Kate search for a killer who is always one step ahead of them.

Scarlett Dean's website is

Invisible Shield by Scarlett Dean. Five Star Publications, ©2007. ISBN 9781594145452 (hardcover), 275p.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Winners and the New Contests

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests here. Elizabeth S. in Auburn, AL will be receiving the ARC of Karen E. Olson's Sacred Cows. Robert Gregory Browne's ARC of Kiss Her Goodbye will be going to Suman A. in Plano, TX. The books will going out in the mail tomorrow.

The books offered in the new contests will take the winners across the Atlantic. This week, you can enter a contest for an ARC of the latest Molly Murphy Mystery by Rhys Bowen, In Dublin's Fair City. If you'd prefer England's Lake District, enter the contest for Martin Edwards' ARC of The Cipher Garden.

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 20th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Jill McGown

Sadly, on the heels of the announcement of Elaine Viets' stroke, comes the news of the death of mystery writer, Jill McGown. McGown, author of the Lloyd & Hill mystery series, died on April 6, following a long illness. The British author was just 59. Way too soon to lose one of our mystery writers.

Deadly Appraisal

Deadly Appraisal, Jane K. Cleland's second mystery, is a worthy sequel to the Agatha Award nominated Consigned to Death. Cleland's antiques appraiser, Josie Prescott, returns to find herself so deeply involved in a mystery that she doesn't know if she's a suspect or the target of a murderer.

The Portsmouth Women's Guild is holding their successful Gala at Prescott's auction hall, but Josie was busy missing her boyfriend, Rocky Point Chief of Police, Ty Alvarez, who was away tending to a dying aunt. Perhaps that's why she missed the clues when Maisy Gaylor was poisoned and died on stage. She was so preoccupied with her own life, she was shocked to find out that the police officer in charge thought she herself might be the target.

Josie is angry at the police, and incensed when she makes the headlines of the local newspaper. Despite her fear, she teams up with a local reporter to investigate her own past, and that of the victim.

Deadly Appraisal marks the welcome return of Josie Prescott, a lonely woman trying to reach out for friends. Despite her problems, Josie realizes she has employees to support and a job to do. The stories about antiques in the Josie Prescott mysteries are fascinating, and an integral part of the stories. It looks like Jane K. Cleland has a successful series on her hands.

Jane K. Cleland's website is

Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 9780312343668 (hardcover), 288p.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Alpine Scandal

Emma Lord returns in the nineteenth book in Mary Daheim's Alpine mystery series. Lord is the owner of The Alpine Advocate, a newspaper that serves the community of 4,000 in Washington state. When Elmer Nystrom's obituary appears at the newspaper office, Emma's House & Home editor, Vida Runkel, informs her that Elmer isn't dead. However when the two arrive at the Nystrom house, they find Elmer dead in his chicken coop. Who could have murdered the man that everyone in town seems to like?

The investigation is stymied by the sheriff's reoccurring trips to the emergency ward. As Emma and Vida dig into the local gossip, they discover that no one really knows the Nystrom family. Is there something about the family that led to Elmer's death?

This isn't the best book in the Alpine series. It seems a little stale, without much mystery to it. Even the main characters seem tired with their roles in life. Perhaps it's time for Daheim to shake up the series again.

The Alpine Scandal by Mary Daheim. Ballantine Books, ©2007. ISBN 9780345468161 (hardcover), 325p.

Paper Woman Receives Award

Congratulations to Suzanne Adair, author of Paper Woman, reviewed here on Oct. 21. Book 1 of her historical suspense series, PAPER WOMAN, has won the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award, given by the Florida Historical Society. The award will be presented on Thursday, May 24 in Clearwater, FL.

Suzanne Adair's website is

Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair. Whittler's Bench Press, ©2006, ISBN 0978526511 (paperback), 289p.

Elaine Viets

Many of you may be familiar with Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job mysteries. Elaine had a major stroke last night, and has had surgery since then. According to her blog, she is expected to make a full recovery. Please keep Elaine in your thoughts and prayers.

I met Elaine Viets twice. She appeared at the first Lee County Reading Festival, when I was chair of Authors Programming. She was a tall, striking woman who stood out in the crowd of authors, both for her poise and her sense of humor. She appeared again at the last of five festivals that I did, and I always appreciated her generosity in appearing, and, in asking other authors to appear. At one of those festivals, Elaine even brought a four foot high inflatable flamingo.

I'll be praying for Elaine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Heads Up!

For those of you who are Stuart Woods fans (my husband, Jim), tomorrow is release date for his latest Stone Barrington novel, Fresh Disasters. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Deadly Advice

Roberta Isleib introduces an Advice Column series with Deadly Advice, but I don't know how qualified Dr. Rebecca Butterman actually is to offer that advice. Butterman might be a psychologist, but she's very unsure of herself. She might write the "Late Bloomer" advice column, but her own life is a mess. She has her own problems, including a mother who committed suicide, and a divorce because she caught her husband cheating. How equipped is she to help others?

Isabel Stanton thinks Rebecca can help her. Isabel's daughter, Madeline, was a neighbor of Rebecca's until she was found dead in her condo. The verdict was suicide, but Isabel didn't believe it because the suicide note did not sound like her daughter. Rebecca feels sorry for Isabel, so she agrees to do a little checking.

She soon finds that her latest job for an on-line magazine, exploring the singles scene, is related to Madeline's personal life. Rebecca finds herself speed dating, and meeting strange men in order to find out more about Madeline.

Rebecca Butterman was described as bolting off half-cocked, and, unfortunately, I felt that she did this in Deadly Advice. As a therapist, she was a mess, in my opinion, and I had a hard time accepting that. As an amateur detective, she took too many chances. Deadly Advice could have been Rebecca's own undoing.

Roberta Isleib's website is

Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007. ISBN 9780425214749 (paperback), 272p.

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin'

I'm not ashamed to say I'm a big fan of Paula Deen's Home Cooking on Food TV. I could listen to that southern accent all day. And, she's not ashamed to enjoy food, which I love. Paula and her co-author, Sherry Suib Cohen, have brought that accent and all of Paula's warmth to the writing of her memoir.

This is the story of a bawdy southern woman who can cook up a storm. It's a warts and all tell all about Paula's life, beginning with her happy childhood, and the family she adored. At 18, she married Jimmy Deen, father of her sons, Jamie and Bobby. It was a marriage that had problems from the beginning, but it lasted over twenty years. At the age of 19, following the death of her father, Paula started having panic attacks, and the agoraphobia lasted for twenty years, keeping her from leaving the house. Finally, she made a breakthrough for herself, and forced herself to get out, and then get a job. Her first attempt at a business, The Bag Lady, started in 1989, when she and her sons sold bag lunches to businesses. If you're a fan of Paula Deen's, you probably know the rest of the details, about her restaurants, her cookbooks, her Food TV shows. Life only got better for Paula Deen when she met Michael Groover, a courtship and marriage that was well-publicized on her show.

Paula Deen's book is as warm, downhome, and honest as she appears on television. She doesn't hide her flaws, but she's overcome them. There's enough recipes included in the book to please her fans, and enough warmth to make new fans.

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' by Paula Deen with Sherry Suib Cohen. Simon & Schuster, ©2007, ISBN 9780743292856 (hardcover), 287p.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Winners and the latest Contests

Congratulations to the winners of the first contests of April. Cheryl S. in Ft. Pierre, SD won Cassandra Chan's Village Affairs. Richard North Patterson's Exile will be going to Evelyn W. in Brunswick, GA. The ARCs will be going out in the mail tomorrow.

This week I'm offering two ARCs. The first is Robert Gregory Browne's thriller, Kiss Her Goodbye. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson is the other book.

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 13th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Dark Room

I have to admire Andrea Kane as the author of a terrific romantic suspense novel, Dark Room. Some of us have complained about heroines in mysteries or romantic suspense books who are TSTL, Too Stupid To Live. Those are the heroines who go running around in the dark by themselves, head out to meet a killer or blackmailer by themselves, and are just too stupid to live. Andrea Kane has created a heroine in Morgan Winter who is admirable. She waits for security guards, checks the security peephole, and is a strong, admirable character despite what she's been through.

When Morgan was ten years old, she found her parents, slain in the basement, on Christmas Eve. She was raised by her parents' best friends, but she continued to have nightmares. The Christmas season seventeen years later was already a difficult one, when it was discovered that the man who confessed to killing her parents actually was not guilty of that crime. He was elsewhere at the time, killing a cop.

Seventeen years after their murder, Morgan turns to Pete (Monty) Montgomery for help. He was the NYPD cop who protected her following her parents' deaths. Now, he's a private investigator, determined to find the actual killer. Monty brings his son, Lane, on board, a professional photographer skilled in all the tricks needed to enhance the photos of the original crime scene. Somewhere in the past lies the truth. Morgan, Monty and Lane are determined to find it, no matter what the cost.

Dark Room is a well-written, intriguing story with likeable, strong characters and a complicated storyline. It has intrigue, betrayal and romance. I wish I had read Kane's previous book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time because it also featured Monty. I won't miss her next one.

And, I definitely recommend that readers check out Andrea Kane's website. It sets the scene for this terrific novel.

Andrea Kane's website is

Dark Room by Andrea Kane. William Morrow, ©2007. ISBN 9780060741341 (hardcover), 357p.

Brenda Rickman Vantrease at the library

Last night, Brenda Rickman Vantrease spoke at our library, the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ. She's the author of the new historical novel, The Mercy Seller, a sequel to her international bestseller, The Illuminator. Vantrease was a teacher and librarian before chasing her dream to be a writer. She had 136 rejections for the book she wrote prior to The Illuminator. The full page color ad in The New York Times publicizing that book coincided with her 60th birthday. Not a bad birthday present. That book has been optioned for film.

Vantrease said she loved the Middle Ages since she was a child reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine. She set The Illuminator in the 14th century in Medieval England. It's the story of a man who illuminates translations of the Bible. The Mercy Seller is set thirty years later, and features the granddaughter of the illuminator, as well as a pardoner, a man who sells pardons with a permit from the Catholic Church to do so. He is based on Chaucer's Pardoner, but Vantrease had the task of making her pardoner into a likeable character, despite the fact that they were despised during the Middle Ages. The Mercy Seller brings together two plotlines, one set in England and one in Prague.

Brenda Rickman Vantrease found a period in history she was interested in. She said she then found the people who were dominant during that period, and added her fictional characters. She puts together two timelines as her outlines. One is a historical timeline. One is a timeline featuring her fictional characters. She then weaves the two timelines together into her stories.

The third book in her historical fiction series will be set in Tudor England. A friend of the Vantrease family summed up The Illuminator well. He was a nonfiction reader only, but after reading and enjoying the book, he said, "This is just nonfiction with imagination."

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

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Treasures in My Closet for May

Earlier today, I mentioned some of the books that will probably hit the bestseller lists in May. Now, I'll mention a few other books to watch for, ones that will be published this month. These are the ARCs in my closet.

I'm really looking forward to Louise Penny's book, A Fatal Grace, the second Armand Gamache mystery. Once again, Gamache takes his team to Three Pines when a woman is murdered.

Bobbie Faye's Very (very,very,very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey is about a sassy, charming Cajun woman who has to outwit the police, organized crime, former boyfriends and a hostage in order to rescue her good-for-nothing brother.

William Martin brings back characters from two previous books, Back Bay and Harvard Yard, in The Lost Constitution, a novel of a treasure hunt for an early draft of that document.

And Carole Nelson Douglas brings back her beloved Midnight Louie in the nineteenth book in the series, Cat in a Red Hot Rage. This time, the Red Hat Sisterhood, and murder, hit Las Vegas.

Saturnalia is the latest Marcus Didius Falco historical mystery by Lindsey Davis. Falco investigates a disappearance and murder in Rome in 76 A.D.

Sounds like May will be an interesting month.

Nightingale's Lament

John Taylor, the private eye with the bad reputation, returns in Simon R. Green's third Novel of the Nightside. After dealing with a slight problem of sabotage at a power plant, and darkening most of the Nightside, Taylor picks up another case.

The Cavendishes, powerful owners of Caliban's Cavern, manage a singer named Rossignol, known as The Nightingale. Her father asks Taylor to check out her situation, because rumors are that Rossignol's songs have driven listeners to suicide. As usual, nothing is what it appears to be in The Nightside.

Nightingale's Lament is another strong entry in this intriguing series. I hope that Green brings back two of the characters he introduces in this book. One is Dead Boy. The other is the owner/editor of the Nightside's newspaper, Julien Advent, the great Victorian Adventurer. More wonderful characters to go along with Suzie Shooter. Tomorrow, I'll be looking for the next Novel of the Nightside.

Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green. Ace Books, ©2004. ISBN 0441011632 (paperback), 217p.

Heads Up!

Here's my Heads Up! for this month, the prospective bestsellers due out in May. Now's the time to reserve them at your local library, or preorder them from your favorite bookstore. (Although I'll be honest. If you're only now placing them on hold at your library, you may already be on a waiting list. But, I thought you might want to know some of your favorite authors have books coming out.) These are the titles that may be hot in May.

Simple Genius by David Baldacci
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
The Woods by Harlan Coben
The Overlook by Michael Connelly
All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
The 6th Target by James Patterson
Invisible Prey by John Sandford

Tonight, I'll tell you about the May Treasures in my Closet.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Painted Doom

The later books in Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson mysteries are hard to come by in this country, which is a shame. No one does a better job of interweaving an ancient murder case with the present time.

Each of the books in the series feature the same main cast of characters, Det. Inspector Wesley Peterson, his wife, Pam, their archaeologist friend, Neil, and the police officers Wesley works with, including Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Heffernan. Neil's digs offer bring up bodies or historic pieces that give Wesley clues as to a current crime. Since Wesley studied to be an archaeologist before switching careers, he's always interested in the historic stories.

Neil is interested in the remains of a house that was owned by supporters of the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses. The Merrivale family wrote letters to each other during the wars, but shortly after the 1470s, all traces of the family disappeared. One artifact that is discovered in a barn is A Painted Doom, a vivid portrayal of the Last Judgment that was often hung in churches as warnings.

Wesley doesn't have much time to spend with Neil's digs since he's working on the murder of a former rock star, and the disappearance of a fifteen-year-old boy. Both incidents have the small village of Tradmouth stirred up. This time, Wesley doesn't see a connection to Neil's dig, until a local woman is mugged.

No one shows the connection between the present and past as well as Kate Ellis. It's a shame her books are hard to find. The edition I read is a Large Type copy I had to borrow through interlibrary loan. It's worth it!

A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis. Magna Large Print Books, ©2002. ISBN 0750519207 (hardcover), 491p.

Books read in March

Good month of reading, but only three books weren't mysteries. Here's the list.

Died In the Wool - Rett MacPherson - Torie O'Shea investigates the stories behind a home where three siblings committed suicide after WWI.

Death on the Family Tree - Patricia Sprinkle - When Katharine Murray's aunt leaves her a necklace and a diary, she finds family secrets that threaten her safety.

Effigies - Mary Anna Evans - Faye Longchamp & Joe Mantooth are working on an archaeological dig near a Mississippi mound in a story of murder and racism.

Cold Day in Hell - Richard Hawke - Fritz Malone teams up with a cop when there seems to be a someone copying the crimes that a television star is on trial for committing.

Key Lime Pie Murder - Joanne Fluke - Hannah Swensen investigates when a baking contest judge is murdered at the fair.

Agents of Light and Darkness - Simon R. Green - Angels invade the Nightside, looking for the Unholy Grail.

Avalanche - Patrick F. McManus - Following an avalanche, Sheriff Bo Tully is stuck at a lodge, cut off from town.

Bidding for Love - Katie Fforde - When Flora Stanza wants to work at the auction house where she inherits a majority share, her stuffy cousin and his fiancee are opposed.

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith - Anne Lamott - Her irreverant thoughts on faith, poltics, and life.

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund - Blaize Clement - While walking a dachshund who finds a body, Dixie Hemingway waves at the murderer.

Staying Home Is a Killer - Sara Rosett - Air Force wife Ellie Avery investigates the death of a squadron wife.

About Alice - Calvin Trillin - NYT bestseller, tribute to Trillin's wife who died in 2001.

When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

Later today, I'll be posting the list of books read during March. Life interrupted, with a big surprise. In fact, it was a weekend of surprises. Sunday, April 1 was my 50th birthday. I thought it was just going to be a nice weekend with my husband, Jim, and we'd go to dinner and enjoy the time together.

I didn't expect to open the door Saturday at noon and find my mother, Liz Growel, and my two sisters, Linda Crawford and Christie Harper, standing at the door. They had flown in from Ohio to surprise me. In January, Mom decided to come out for my birthday. Christie's husband suggested she come, too. They called Linda who agreed, and then told Jim they were coming. He made arrangements for them to rent a guest suite right here on the property, which was a terrific deal, and a great place. We had a wonderful afternoon cheering for Ohio State in the OSU/Georgetown basketball game. Linda, Christie and Jim decided to "take a walk" around 5 pm, and it was just as big a shock when they walked in with Jamie Shaheen, my college roommate. Jamie and I share the April 1st birthday. It was a fun evening with lots of talk and laughter.

Sunday morning, we went to church, then met Jamie and Jim at the Coffee Bean. Linda rode home on the back of Jim's scooter. We had a quick lunch, and went out to the mall because they'd already made an appointment for us to get family pictures taken. Jamie went, too, and she and I had pictures taken together. We had a ball. It was so much fun. We played tourist for a little, and arrived home about 4:30. We crashed for a little, then everyone "took a walk through the development" before going to dinner. We never made it to dinner. We arrived at the club house; I walked in; and my library staff, the library director, and the other library managers were all there for a surprise party. It was the warmest evening, just so nice.

Jim had saved his presents to give at the party. His theme was, you're now 50, and eligible to join the Red Hat Society. So he gave me a red hat, a purple dress, and a beautiful plaque with the poem from Jenny Joseph on it.

I can't believe that all those library people gave up their Sunday night to come to my birthday party. They are so thoughtful.

I can't say enough about what a wonderful job Jim did making the arrangements and keeping it a secret since January. He said he had so much help from the staff for the party. He also said he, my Mom and the staff had a terrible time keeping the secret all that time.

They all left at 7:30 this morning, after the best birthday, and one of the nicest weekends of my life. It's not so bad turning fifty. (smile)

As Jenny Joseph says, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me....Maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised, when suddenly I am old and start to war purple."

Warning: When I Am an Old Woman and Start to Wear Purple by Jenny Joseph. Souvenir Press, ©2001. ISBN 978-0285634114 (hardcover), 32p.