Thursday, May 31, 2007

Treasures in my Closet - July books

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the projected bestsellers for July.

But, there might be some sleepers in my closet. Why don't you order some of these titles, at your local library or bookstore, to read on the beach during July? These books have publication dates scheduled for that month.

Dead Connection - Alafair Burke - A rookie detective goes undercover on the internet dating scene to draw out a serial killer targeting single women in Manhattan.

Brush with Death - Hailey Lind - The third novel in Lind's fun Art Lover's mystery series, featuring Annie Kincaid, forger turned honest faux-finishing business owner.

A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch - The debut of a Victorian gentleman detective, Charles Lenox and his friend, Lady Jane, in a mystery called "Equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Gosford Park, and P.G. Wodehouse."

Crosshairs - Harry Hunsicker - Lee Harvey Oswald faces "The Professor," a former intelligence operator, and deadly enemy.

Reduced Circumstances - Vincent H. O'Neil - When a teenage boy disappers, taxi dispatcher Frank Cole is dragged into the investigation.

Kop - Warren Hammond - Juno, a crooked cop, risks his life, his marriage, and his job to expose a cabal that would enslave the planet of Lagarto.

Check out July's books. I'm hoping for some enjoyable surprises.

Books read in May

I lost a week this month, so the list is a little shorter, but here's the books I read during May.

Hex and the City - Simon R. Green - John Taylor searches for the origin of The Nightside, and the truth about his mother.

Thistle & Twigg - Mary Saums - Introductory mystery featuring Jane Thistle and Phoebe Twigg, new friends in a beautiful area of Alabama.

The View from Mount Joy - Lorna Landvik - The story of Joe Andreson's life and his relationship to cheerleader Kristi Casey.

A Fatal Grace - Louise Penny - Wonderful mystery. Inspector Gamache returns to Three Pines when a hated woman is murdered at a curling match.

Cut to the Bone - Shane Gericke - The Illinois governor is executing a killer in the electric chair, and all hell breaks loose for Naperville cop Emily Thompson.

The Plague Maiden - Kate Ellis - Wesley Peterson investigates when a supermarket chain is blackmailed, and there's a death.

Whack-A-Mole - Chris Grabenstein - Ceepak & Boyle look for a serial killer who has been murdering teen girls for twenty years in Sea Haven, New Jersey.

Murder Can Depress Your Dachshund - Selma Eichler - Desiree Shapiro investigates the murder of a man everyone liked, whose death led to his brother's suicide.

Four Queens - Nancy Goldstone - Story of the four Provencal sisters who ruled western Europe in the mid-thirteenth century.

The Hindi-Bindi Club - Monica Pradhan - Two generations of women, one immigrants from India, the other their daughters, struggle with culture and relationships.

City of Fire - Robert Ellis - While tracking a serial killer, an LAPD detective also looks for her brother's killer.

Recent winners and June's first contest

Congratulations to the most recent winners in the book contests here. Joyce D. of Bayville, NJ will be receiving Staying Home is a Killer by Sara Rosett. The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard will be going to Evelyn W. of Brunswick, GA.

I'm starting this week's contests a day early. One lucky winner will receive an ARC of Thomas B. Cavanagh's intriguing mystery, Head Games.

Hog Wild: A Southern Fried Mystery by Cathy Pickens is the other available ARC. This one features attorney Avery Andrews who has returned to her small hometown in South Carolina.

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, June 8th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

City of Fire

Robert Ellis' latest thriller packs a powerful punch. Don't read City of Fire late at night, particularly if you're in the house alone.

LAPD Detective Lena Gamble is 29, and alone in the world. Her brother, David, had been murdered five years earlier. Lena has the time and willingness to work on the latest horrific crime investigation. She and Hank Novak, her partner on the Homicide Special Squad, are the officers responsible for the investigation into the murder of a woman found in her bed. Although all clues point to the husband, Lena soon realizes there might be a link to a previous murder. As she starts to make the connections, she realizes they're looking for a serial killer, a man soon dubbed "Romeo."

As fire season starts in LA, the Santa Ana winds fan the flames, just as Ellis builds the book's tension up so much it's almost unbearable. Lena realizes she's not only looking for a serial killer, but at the same time, she's looking for her brother's killer. And, someone in the police department wants to shut down that case, and label it solved. She no longer knows who to trust, and she doesn't want to become another victim.

Pack this book for summer vacation because you won't want to put it down. But don't read City of Fire late at night.

Robert Ellis' website is

City of Fire by Robert Ellis. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 978-0312366131 (hardcover), 368p.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club

Monica Pradhan is the daughter of parents who emigrated to the United States from India in the 1960s. She combined her experience and knowledge of other immigrants, along with her gifts from her parents, and wrote a beautiful novel of two generations of women, giving voice to each of them.

The story tells of three women, immigrants from India to the United States, close friends, members of what their adult daughters call "The Hindi-Bindi Club." Their three daughters, all in their thirties, tell their stories first, introducing their mothers. The daughters were expected to be friends, because their mothers were, but there has always been rivalries between them.

Kiran is thirty-two, a doctor who has returned home after a divorce, looking for reconciliation with parents who were opposed to her marriage. Her mother, Meenal, has kept a secret from Kiran. Meenal is very wise, and aware that a conflict in values and culture is part of the problem between her husband and daughter.

Kiran has always been jealous of Preity, the pretty one. She's happily married with two children, but she regrets a love she lost in India when she was just eighteen. Her mother, Saroj, is a culinary genius and a caterer. But, she's also the one who opposed her daughter's romance, because of ghosts in her own past. Saroj is haunted by the events of 1947 in India, the partitioning of the state, and the fallout in her own family.

Rani is the daughter of an Indian mother, Uma, and an American father. Rani is having a difficult time coping with change in her life, her husband's unhappiness with his work, and her own successful art career. However, Uma knows that her own mother committed suicide due to depression, and Rani has inherited that. Because of her own past, she's in tune with her daughter's emotions.

It's so difficult to sum up such a beautiful book, filled with Indian recipes, culture and history, but based on relationships. The Hindi-Bindi Club is more readable than Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, but it has a similar message about generational differences and culture.

Pradhan's characters give voice to her feelings about the value of the Indian culture. Kiran says of her mother, Meenal, "Even after spending her entire adult life in America and becoming a naturalized citizen, she still says, in her Indian lilt, 'I can never forget where I come from, the culture of my heritage. It will always be part of me, those first colorful threads woven into the tapestry of my life."

These are all warm, educated women that the reader would like to know. Pradhan skillfully educates the reader about Indian culture and history, while giving life to fictional characters. The Hindi-Bindi Club would be an excellent book for book discussion groups. There's so much meat to it, and so much I haven't touched on.

The poem that starts the book, by Rabindrantath Tagore from Stray Birds, sums up the book beautifully and the meaning I took from it.

Truth in her dress finds facts too tight.
In fiction she moves with ease.

Monica Pradhan's website is

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan. Bantam Books, ©2007. ISBN 978-0553384529 (paperback), 431p.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Reviewed by Liz

Reviewed by Liz is a blog that I link to here. The Summer Mystery Reading Challenge was originally scheduled to start on June 1st, but readers are eager to start, so you can start now.

What is their Summer Mystery Reading Challenge? The goal of the challenge is to read six mysteries by authors whose works you haven't read before, and you have until August 31st to do it. It gives readers the incentive to sample new and new-to-you authors. Reviewed by Liz explains the whole challenge at the website at

Are you reading a new author? I'm reading Robert Ellis' new book, City of Fire. I'm only 95 pages into this crime novel, but it hooked me.

Four Queens

Nancy Goldstone has written a fascinating history of four sisters from Provence who rose from near obscurity to become the most celebrated and powerful women of their time, the mid-thirteenth century. Through their marriages, their diplomacy, and their children, they influenced all of western Europe. They were the daughters of the Count of Provence, living in a time and place praised by poets and troubadours. There was even evidence that these cultured women could read and write at a time when few women were literate. When their mother, Beatrice of Savoy died, Europe lost an accomplished diplomat, the mother of four queens, and a woman who influenced the policies of kings for nearly a quarter century.

The oldest daughter, Marguerite, was married to Louis IX of France, a man who would later be named a saint. However, Marguerite, who went on Crusade with him, knew him for the weak man he was. She struggled against his mother, Blanche of Castille, accompanied him on a Crusade that was disastrous personally and for the kingdom, and watched his religious fervor nearly bankrupt the kingdom. She lost family members to his religious crusades. But, she became part of one of the most powerful political machines in Europe, with the influence of her family and her own political maneuverings.

Marguerite's sister, Eleanor, married Henry III of England, waged Civil War in England on behalf of her husband and son, and died alienated from the country and her son.

Sanchia, the second youngest, lacked the ambition of her older sisters, but married the man who would eventually become King of the Romans (Germany), and possibly, the wealthiest man of his time. However, she would not live long enough to reign.

And Beatrice, the youngest, inherited Provence, and grasped for more. She wanted a crown and the power her sisters had. She also did not live long enough to share the success of her husband, although she was named Queen of Sicily.

This was a fascinating book about four women who gained power through beauty and family connections, but were shrewd enough to manipulate that power for family and political gain. I had no idea of the extent to which women went on Crusades, or the disasters left behind because of the Crusades. Goldstone has done a wonderful job telling the story of four queens, and, in doing so, the story of western Europe at the time.

Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone. Viking, ©2007. ISBN 978-0670038435 (hardcover), 336p.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Douglas Brinkley

I've been a fan of Douglas Brinkley since I first read Majic Bus in 1994. Then, I turned Jim onto the book, and eventually bought him a copy. This is Brinkley's account of a bus trip across country with some of his students, as they went to historic sites, historic literary sites, and at times, were lucky enough to meet the authors. Dr. Douglas Brinkley's methods of instruction included history, literature, music, and the students' own journals of the trip. I would have loved to have had him as an instructor.

Four years ago, for my last Lee County Reading Festival, I invited Douglas Brinkley to appear at the festival. His book about Henry Ford, Wheels for the World, was just recently out, and I thought it would be of interest to the people of Ft. Myers, since Henry Ford's winter home was there. I was just as impressed with Brinkley in person. The highlight of our day was the lunch that Jim & I shared with Doug Brinkley and Rick Bragg. I was just so much in awe listening to the two of them talk.

Last year, I read his book on Hurricane Katrinia, The Great Deluge, and I thought it was one of the best nonfiction books I read in 2006.

Brinkley edited the new book, The Reagan Diaries. Jim is a much bigger fan of Reagan than I am. He went to see him in Cleveland when Reagan was campaigning for his second term, and Jim really was a Democrat for Reagan. I liked the man, but didn't agree with his politics, so I didn't vote for him. However, last night I listened to Brinkley on BookTV, where he talked about the diaries and the man, and I can appreciate Reagan as a person. Today, I bought Jim the book as an early Father's Day present. I know he'll love it, and I think I'll read it, keeping Brinkley's comments in mind.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Murder Can Depress Your Dachshund

Selma Eichler brings back Desiree Shapiro, her henna-haired, overweight private investigator, in the fourteenth book in the series. Even a murder investigation can't keep Desiree from her beloved Häagen Dazs macadamia brittle ice cream. In fact, problems with the case give Desiree one more reason to indulge.

And, who wouldn't have problems with her case? Everyone in Jordan Mills' life seems to mourn his death, even his dachshund, Tootsie. Jordy was a wonderful man, and, according to his father, Byron, and other family members, everyone loved him. Who would have wanted to shoot Jordy and hide his body in the trunk of a car? Jordy was so wonderful he was giving a kidney to his dislikable brother Cornell. Soon after Jordy's murder, Cornell committed suicide. Now, Cornell. There was a murder victim just waiting to be killed. Was he the intended victim, and Jordy was killed by mistake?

Desiree may lack inspiration, but she's determined to solve the case, if only for Byron's sake. She's only slightly distracted by problems with her love life with her neighbor, Nick, problems caused by his son. However, her personal life can't keep Desiree down forever. A little food and a little television can do wonders for a woman's state of mind. Murder Can Depress Your Dachshund is an enjoyable cozy mystery; a cozy with a well-padded, likable heroine.

Desiree Shapiro can be self-involved and insecure in her relationships, but she's a determined detective. Eichler has created a detective that most of us can identify with, not one who is so superior we can't relate to her. She's continually getting lost. She is reluctant to ask prying questions. Desiree isn't afraid to admit her faults. She's overweight, but still enjoys her food. Her family and friends bully her, even when they do it nicely. Desiree Shapiro solves crimes by meeting people and asking questions. She takes notes and studies them until inconsistencies pop out at her. And, she doesn't take unnecessary risks. Desiree is a law-abiding detective who turns her solutions over to the police.

Desiree Shapiro's cases are solved with footwork, thoughtful studying of her notes, and so much food that the reader gets hungry. She's the comfortable neighbor we'd all like to know, who just happens to be a private investigator.

Selma Eichler's website is

Murder Can Depress Your Dachshund by Selma Eichler. Signet, ©2007, ISBN 978-0451220608 (paperback), 259p.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Last Contests in May, and Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests on this blog. Pamela Y. of Highland Park, IL won Joan Hess' Damsels in Distress. CJ W. of Deland, FL is the winner of American Detective by Loren D. Estleman. The ARCs will be going out in the mail tomorrow.

I have an ARC and the trade paperback of an award-winning mystery to give away this week. Staying Home is a Killer is Sara Rosett's second Mom Zone mystery, featuring Air Force wife Ellie Avery.

Nancy Pickard's novel The Virgin of Small Plains, won this year's Agatha Award for best novel. It's just out in trade paperback, and I have a copy available.

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 one day early, at 6 pm Pacific Time next Thursday, May 31st. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Danny Boyle, the narrator of Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak mysteries, has a powerful opening line in the latest book, Whack-A-Mole. You have to read the book after reading, "I've never been what you might call an "over-achiever" but at age twenty-five I've already done the worst thing any human being can possibly do." But Danny lets the reader hang out there, waiting to find out what he did.

The John Ceepak mysteries should really be called the John Ceepak/Danny Boyle mysteries because it's been fun to watch Danny grow up from a summer cop to a full-time cop in the Sea Haven, New Jersey, Police Department. Sea Haven - a tourist's paradise during the summer - beaches, amusement parks, tourist traps, bars, bikini-clad girls, even a Sand Castle Competition. Only the body parts showing up in jars in local businesses spoil the effect.

It all started with a high school ring found by a treasure hunter on the beach. It sent Ceepak and Boyle on a search for a missing girl, only to discover a number of teen runaways who had ended up at The Sonny Days Inn, the headquarters for Reverend Billy Trumble's ministry and outreach program. However, when body parts start to pop up all over the island, it brings to mind the arcade game of Whack-A-Mole. Each time they locate one, another one pops up.

Whack-A-Mole is a study in contrasts. The summer atmosphere of a beach resort with all the trappings, and a police chief who will do anything to maintain the charming atmosphere, is a stark contrast to the hunt for a serial killer who takes trophies, and John Ceepak, a police officer who won't even lie to a killer.

As always in the Ceepak mysteries, Grabenstein is able to provide humor and light touches in the midst of a dark, creepy story. He has provided the perfect voice in Danny Boyle, a young cop, trying to follow his mentor's ideals, but falling short. Boyle still sees the humor in situations, and is always surprised when Ceepak shows a trace of humor because Ceepak knows the dark side of life. Very few authors do creepy and funny in mysteries as well as Grabenstein.

Chris Grabenstein's website is

Whack-A-Mole by Chris Grabenstein. Carrol & Graf, ©2007. ISBN 978-0786718184 (hardcover), 280p.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

MIA - Where have I been?

Sorry about the last two weeks on the blog. I was in the middle of interviewing for a promotion, busy getting ready for a presentation, and finally going through the interview process. I finished yesterday (probably won't know anything for six weeks), and can finally get back to reading.

I'm reading Whack-A-Mole, the latest John Ceepak/Danny Boyle mystery by Chris Grabenstein. Just as good as his other ones.

So, while you're waiting to read my review, what are you reading?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lee Child at The Poisoned Pen

Jim & I went to see Lee Child at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale today. His new book, Bad Luck and Trouble, was released just this past Tuesday, and The Poisoned Pen was still selling first editions, so we bought one for Jim and one for his friend in England, then grabbed front row seats.

I've seen Lee Child twice before, and he was just as much fun to hear today. He told us it was entirely in our hands if there were any more books in the Jack Reacher series. He recommended we all buy at least two books. He borrowed a book from an audience member, and he said this week was the first time he's seen the actual finished book. He said he loves to see the physical book, feel it and smell it.

He said the idea for Bad Luck and Trouble came two years ago on June 21, 2005 when he was on tour for One Shot in Chicago. He realized it was ten years to the day when he was fired from his last job, on June 21. He was thinking about the great guys he used to work with, and wondering where they were now. So, he decided to reunite Jack Reacher with the people he was close to, the remnants of his old unit. Ten years later, Jack Reacher will be like anyone else, measuring himself against the other ones from the unit. Child said he thinks of it as his Reunion book.

Someone asked how Child came up with Jack Reacher. Child said, Jack Reacher has been around for two thousand years as an archetype. He's the mysterious stranger that rides into town in the nick of time, cleans up the town, then disappears. It's used in westerns. However, it was used in medieval tales of chivalry about the mysterious knight. He said it's an important archetype if people have been telling the story for 2000 years.

I asked him if he could tell the story about his media escort in Arkansas, and he told of a retired realtor, "George," who had read one of his books, liked them so much he bought them all. He invited him over to his house for a beer when they were done for the day. Lee went, only to walk in and find the dining room table covered with guns. "George" told Lee that they were every gun Jack Reacher had used in the books. It turned out the man was a gun collector, and Lee said he hasn't been wrong about a gun since, unless "George" was wrong.

Jim asked him about writing American English for our books, and British English for the British editions, and Lee said he was bilingual. He said actually, the British publishers only changed spellings to match their spellings, but very little else.

He also said Bad Luck and Trouble was the original title for the first book in the series, and it was changed.

If you ever get the chance to see Lee Child, grab it. He has a wonderful dry humor with a very serious delivery. And, if you get the chance, check out his website for his tour blog. It's fun reading.

(I took the picture of Lee Child with my husband, Jim Holstine.)

Lee Child's website is

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child. Delacorte Press, ©2007. ISBN 978-0385340557 (hardcover), 384p.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New contests & winners

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest for ARCs. Christie H. from Bellevue, OH won Blaize Clement's debut mystery, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter. Abbey, from DorothyL, won Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland. The books will be mailed tomorrow.

This week, I'm offering ARCs of two recent books. American Detective is the new Amos Walker novel by Loren D. Estleman.

I'm also offering an ARC of Damsels in Distress by Joan Hess, her latest Claire Malloy mystery.

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, May 25th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Lloyd Alexander Dies - RIP

Fantasy and adventure writer, Lloyd Alexander died yesterday at the age of 83. He had cancer.

Alexander was the award-winning author of more than 40 books for young people. He received the Newbery Medal for "The High King," the fifth in the Chronicles of Prydain series. He received the National Book Award for "The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian," and the American Book Award for "Westmark."

I met Lloyd Alexander at the American Library Association conference in Philadelphia. I loved his books, and I was totally awestruck when I saw him. With his wonderful hooked nose, and tall figure, he reminded me of Fflewddar Fflam, the bard in the Chronicles of Prydain, and some of the wizards in his other books.

He was one of the pioneers of juvenile fantasy. I'll miss him.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Plague Maiden

Kate Ellis brings Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson back in another intriguing mystery, with a twist of history thrown in, The Plague Maiden. Peterson has cases building up while he's worried about the last month of his wife, Pam's, pregnancy. To top it off, his son, Michael, ends up in the hospital, deathly ill.

However, he still has to deal with two cases going back to 1991. A thief was convicted of murdering Rev. John Shipborne that year, however twelve years later, a woman shows up with an alibi. The body of a young woman is uncovered at an archaeological dig, a woman who disappeared a week after the minister was murdered. And, who is trying to shut down a popular supermarket chain, by sending threatening letters indicating an item on the shelf has been poisoned? These cases are definitely a team effort, as different members of the police force hold pieces to the puzzles.

Ellis' books are intriguing because of the historical element, but also because of the characters. Wesley's boss, Gerry Hufferman sometimes surprises the reader with his shrewd insight, as when he's dealing with his own boss. Neal Watson, Wesley's archaeologist friend, is enthusiastic about his job, but has never quite grown up. The other members of the police force are brought to life, not only through their work, but through their personal lives. This book is dependent on family and personal relationships, as Ellis' other ones are. The Plague Maiden is just another example of Ellis combining history, mystery and character for a well-written story.

Kate Ellis' website is

The Plague Maiden by Kate Ellis. Piatkus Books, ©2004. ISBN 0749934611 (paperback), 362p.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Charlaine Harris in The Arizona Republic

There has been a great deal of chatter all over the blogs and book listservs about newspapers cutting back on their book reviews. The Arizona Republic usually only devotes one page to book reviews on Sundays, but one thing they do well is author coverage. They did a nice interview with Brenda Vantrease Rickman when she came to our library. Charlaine Harris will be at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale tomorrow night to publicize her latest book in her Southern Vampire Mystery series, All Together Dead. Kerry Lengel did an interview that appears in the Arizona Republic today under the title "Sexy vampires waking up mystery genre." It's at

Television rights to Harris' character, Sookie Stackhouse, have been picked up for a series in development by HBO. Despite Sookie's popularity, Harris' Lily Bard still remains my favorite character. The "Shakespeare" series is much darker, but if you haven't ever read about Lily Bard, pick up Shakespeare's Landlord.

Charlaine Harris' website is

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cut to the Bone

Shane Gericke introduced Naperville, Illinois police officer Emily Thompson in the award-winning Blown Away. He brings her back in Cut to the Bone, set two years later. It's another non-stop thriller, one that the reader can't put down.

Governor Covington has built his "Justice Center" in Naperville, a place to execute death row prisoners in the electric chair. In the week leading up to Corey Trent's execution, the world's eyes turn to Naperville. Those eyes include the Executioner's, a man who starts by killing a receptionist at a spa where Emily and Martin Benedetti are enjoying the mud baths. The police department and Sheriff's office put together a joint task force following the murder of a cop. As suspicions build about a serial killer, the Naperville forces are under the gun to track the killer before Friday, the Governor's target date for Trent's death.

James Patterson's fans should take a look at Gericke. His chapters are short, and his stories just as exciting as the bestselling author's. Cut to the Bone is a book that's hard to put down. If you appreciate the characters, you'll enjoy the developing relationship between Emily and Marty. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing until the last few pages, with abrupt changes of direction. Gericke's second novel is a heart-stopper.

Shane Gericke's website is

Cut to the Bone by Shane Gericke. Pinnacle Books, ©2007. ISBN 978-0786018147 (paperback), 384p.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Give Me a "C" Contest & winners

Congratulations to winners of the most recent contest. Pam S. in Kissimmee, FL won the autographed copy of Eight of Swords by David Skibbins. Nancy F. in Valley Village, CA won Forests of the Night by David Stuart Davies. The books will be going out in the mail tomorrow.

This week I'm holding a Give Me a "C" Contest. Both authors of the ARCs for giveaway have names beginning with the letter "C".
The first mystery is an ARC of Jane K. Cleland's recent book, Deadly Appraisal.

The other book is the ARC of Blaize Clement's debut mystery, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter. (No animals are injured in the course of this book!)
Clement's second book, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, is just out. Now's the time to try to win a copy of her first book, if you haven't read it.

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, May 18th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

A Fatal Grace

Louise Penny won the Dagger and Arthur Ellis awards for her first mystery, Still Life. The second, A Fatal Grace, is even better. As a traditional mystery, the highest compliment I can pay is, it's a very satisfying story. I read mysteries for character, so I love Inspector Armand Gamache. If you enjoy setting and appreciate Julia Spencer-Fleming for that reason, Penny's books are just as satisfying.

Still Life was set in autumn, and it's now Christmas in the small Quebec village of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers, her daughter Crie, and her husband, Richard Lyon, have bought a house in town. CC is dislikable. She despises her daughter and husband, the townspeople, and even her photographer lover. Penny indicates what kind of person CC is in the opening sentence of the book. "Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift." Three Pines is described as a magical life, the setting of a department store Christmas window. But, CC de Poitiers brought something unsavory to Three Pines.

Inspector Armand Gamache was with his wife, selecting the case of a dead bag lady to investigate, when he was called to Three Pines. CC had been electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, at a curling match. He was at "the beginning of another mystery. But Gamache knew the mystery, like all murders, had begun long ago. This was neither the beginning nor the end."

Louise Penny brings Gamache and the villagers of Three Pines to life. The reader learns more about all of them in A Fatal Grace. Gamache and his wife are brought to life, and the story is told about the investigation that has haunted Gamache and his superiors. It continues to hang over his head, and the series. Penny's books do not hide the cruelty of murder. But in Gamache, she has created a man who loves other people, and tries to understand the murderer as well as the victim. Her mysteries, and her characters, have a strength and beauty.

Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace is one of the best mysteries I've read this year.

Louise Penny's website is

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 9780312352561 (hardcover), 320p.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Books and more in Libraries

Today's Arizona Republic had an article by Emily Seftel called "Libararies reaching beyond books to remain relevant in Internet Age." The article, which focused on Glendale, Phoenix and Scottsdale Libraries, is at

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Philip R. Craig - R.I.P.

We've lost another mystery author. Philip R. Craig has died at 73. He was the author of the J.W. Jackson mysteries, set on Martha's Vineyard. He collaborated with his friend, author William G. Tapply, for a series of books that brought Jackson together with Tapply's Brady Coyne.

He will be missed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Young people DO read

There's been discussion lately on DorothyL, the mystery list, about young people not reading. I beg to differ. Yesterday, PW had a picture from Austin where 1600 parents and kids showed up for author Rick Riordan, debuting the third book in a trilogy, The Titan's Curse. It make take that long for some authors to build an audience.

We asked Stephenie Meyer to appear at the library here when her first book, Twilight, came out. Meyer made her first appearance at any library at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ. She drew a small crowd.

Now, teenage girls are flying in from all over the country, and even London, to attend Eclipse Proms, held at Arizona State University's Tempe campus. Changing Hands Bookstore sponsored the events, which drew 500 teens to each of two proms. Eclipse doesn't even come out until August, but readers wanted the chance to meet Stephenie Meyer.

Geri Koeppel tells the story in today's Arizona Republic.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Social Networks

Oh, the heck with MySpace. If you're a reader and love books, you might want to check out a couple Social Networks designed for us. These are places where book lovers can get together, authors, readers, publishers, librarians, and talk about books. If you like crime fiction, join us at If you just want to talk about books, try Warning! These sites are addicting, and you can find yourself talking about books instead of reading them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Thistle & Twigg

Mary Saums introduces two delightful characters and a beautiful setting in the mystery, Thistle & Twigg. The charming ladies, Jane Thistle and Phoebe Twigg, along with the untouched forest lands in Tullulah, Alabama, will have the reader yearning to find that enchanting town.

Jane Thistle was drawn to Tullulah when she drove through it twenty years earlier, as a military wife. Now, as a widow, she buys an enormous house out in the country. On her first trip to town, she meets Phoebe Twigg,a lifelong resident of the small town, who knows everyone. Jane and Phoebe, who couldn't be more dissimilar, do enjoy a love of adventure. When Cal Prewitt, Jane's reclusive neighbor, is framed for murder, Jane and Phoebe are determined to find the real killer. They are only slowed when Phoebe's house is firebombed.

Phoebe is a feisty, talkative woman who enjoys a good story and a good gossip. Jane, originally from England, is a little more reserved. However, she immediately takes to Cal, who shoots at her when she tries to meet him, and then shows up drunk on her porch. She can see through to his kind soul, just as she can see the ghosts that inhabit the area. As Cal shares his secrets of the land, she keeps a few important secrets to herself. Jane will need all of her secretive background to protect the place she's growing to love.

Saums' first Thistle & Twigg mystery is delightful. The two women are allowed to relate the story in their own voices. Their differing viewpoints are part of the fun of the story. Saums has brought two original characters to life.

Mary Saums' website is

Thistle & Twigg by Mary Saums. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 9780312360634 (hardcover), 277p.

Agatha Award Winners

Rumor on the street is that these are the winners of the Agatha Awards. The awards were presented this weekend at Malice Domestic. They represent mysteries that reflect the traditional mystery novel, as written by Agatha Christie. Congratulations to all of the winners and the nominees!

Nancy Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains won Best Novel.

The Best First Novel was Sandra Parshall's The Heat of the Moon.

Chris Roerden won in the Best Non-Fiction category for Don't Murder Your Mystery.

Toni Kelner's story, "Sleeping with the Plush," which was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in May 2006, won Best Short Story.

Nancy Mears Wright won in the category of Best Children's/Young Adult Novel for The Pea Soup Poisonings.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Latest contest and the winners

I'm doing this a little backwards because I'll only have computer access today for a couple more hours. So, instead of notifying the winners first, I'll announce it here, and then notify them. Congratulations to Jack Q. of Birmingham, AL, winner of The Coldest Blood by Jim Kelly. The winners of the copies of Six-Pound Walleye by Elizabeth Gunn are: Sandi L. from Monroeville, PA, Kyle N. of Palo Alto, CA, Betsy R. of Tacoma, WA, Sherry M. of Carrollton, TX and Pattie T. of St. Louis, MO. Copies will all be going out in tomorrow's mail.

This week, I'm giving away an ARC and an autographed paperback. Forests of the Night by David Stuart Davies in an ARC. The story introduces private detective Johnny Hawke in a story set in wartime London.

I also have a signed paperback of Eight of Swords, the first mystery by David Skibbins that introduces Tarot card reader Warren Ritter.

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, May 11th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Saturday. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hex and the City

With everything else I have to read, I seem to get to Simon R. Green's Nightside series about once a month. Hex and the City was worth the wait.

John Taylor is a private detective in The Nightside, "that hidden magical heart of London, where gods and monsters walk side by side, and sometimes attend the same self-help groups." It's a place that "runs on secrets and mysteries." Knowing his skill is finding things, Lady Luck hires John to find the origins and true history of The Nightside. He knows the Authorities oppose this quest, so he signs up an interesting crew, Madman, Sinner and a demon, Pretty Poison. His quest leads them to some of the oldest Powers in The Nightside, and each clue leads him closer to finding the truth about his mother, a truth so horrible that his father committed suicide rather than reveal it.

Hex and the City is the fourth in this compelling series. If you decide to read the series, you'll be signing on to a stomach-churning roller coaster ride. Worth the thrills.

Hex and the City by Simon R. Green. Ace Books, ©2005. ISBN 0441012612 (paperback), 246p.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues

This is the invitation to the book launch of Robert Fate's Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues on Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 pm at Mystery and Imagination Bookshop in that other Glendale - Glendale, CA.

The third quote is a quote from my review. It says, "Kristin Van Dijk and Otis Millett are just waiting for the right actors to play them in an action film. Fate has another winner on his hands. Hollywood, are you reading this?"

Lesa Holstine - Lesa's Book Critiques

Here's the entire review.

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues

Baby Shark is back in Robert Fate's second novel, and once again, the body count is high, the action non-stop, and the story makes your pulse race. Kristin Van Dijk (Baby Shark) is now a private investigator, a partner in Otis Millett's agency. What are the two partners doing now? Otis sums it up when he says, "Well, take a hopped up heiress, a couple stiffs, stir some speed into the mix along with a hundred G's in cash, and I'd say you're gonna come up with something nasty for sure."

Kristin and Millett thought they were rescuing a kidnapped heiress. Throw in drugs, a crime boss, a streetsmart waitress, and a sexy cop. Set the whole story down in 1950's Ft. Worth/Dallas, and you have a successful suspense novel. Otis insists, "We ain't killed nobody who didn't come out here set on killing us." Kristin Van Dijk and Otis Millett are just waiting for the right actors to play them in an action film. Fate has another winner on his hands. Hollywood, are you reading this?

Available May 2007
Published by Capital Crime Press
ISBN: 0977627624
Trade Paperback 286 pages

Good luck, Bob!