Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Awards Contest and Latest Winners

Congratulations to the winners in last week's contest. John P. in Washington, D.C. won the ARC of Hidden Moon by James Church. Unspoken by Mari Jungstedt will be sent to Kayce C. in Knoxville, TN. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, the contest has an award connection. As promised, when I went to hear Louise Ure talk about her latest book, The Fault Tree, I bought a copy of her first book, Forcing Amaryllis. This autographed book was the Shamus Award winner for Best First Novel. Set in Tucson, Arizona, it's a beautifully written mystery about a jury consultant who stumbles into clues about her sister's past.

John Hart's Down River was just nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. I'm offering an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this story of a man who returns home to North Carolina, only to confront family secrets and the troubles that drove him away.

So, Forcing Amaryllis or Down River? You can enter twice, once to win each title if you so choose.

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

The contest will end Thursday, February 7 at 6 a.m. MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Four Wives

Wendy Walker takes readers to Hunting Ridge, a wealthy New York suburb, in her debut novel, Four Wives. She clearly defines four women who are very different characters, although I was disappointed in some of the pat resolutions of their storylines. The four wives are connected by a social group they belong to, and also by their problems in their marriages.

Janie Kirk's story opens when she's sneaking back into the house where her husband and four children are sleeping, after sleeping with a neighbor. Janie is perhaps the least defined of the characters. Her story is really defined most by her affair, although Walker leaves the reader in suspense until close to the end as to when the neighbor's name will be revealed.

Love Welsh is married to a doctor. Despite their home in Hunting Ridge, they lack the wealth of the other families there. Love has three children, and a past secret with her father that causes her pain. Love Welsh's story was built up so much, and its climax was disappointingly flat.

Gayle Haywood Beck takes antidepressants to get her through a marriage to an abusive husband. She lives only for her son.

Marie Passeti left a high-powered job in a New York law firm to move to a suburb with her husband and two kids. Now, she takes on divorce cases in a small office while her husband works in a job he hates, and plays golf.

Walker's four wives had to reach crises in their lives before they revealed their fears and secrets to each other. She tells a story of four women who found their money couldn't protect them from problems. It was a competent debut, however, it left me dissatisfied. Walker never found the heart of the women in this novel. Instead, they were stereotypes of the bored wealthy housewives. Lorna Landvik did a better job with a group of women in Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. Wendy Walker tells the story of Four Wives, but it's not a story that lingers with the reader.

Four Wives by Wendy Walker. St. Martin's Press, ©978-0312367718 (hardcover), 368p.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Writers Plot

Thank you to the authors of Writers Plot. Sheila Connolly, Lorraine Bartlett, Doranna Durgin, Jeanne Munn Bracken, and Leann Sweeney share a blog, and they invited me to visit. Join me there on Saturday, Feb. 2 when I talk about the relationship between authors and librarians.

In the meantime, check out their blog, Writers Plot.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Meet Josh, Our New Kitten

Yesterday, we adopted a new kitten from Maricopa County Animal Control. Meet Josh! He's a six-month-old cuddly, playful kitten, with a purr that can be heard across the room. This is his first picture.

Our three older cats are not exactly sure what to make of him. There's a lot of growling and hissing, but they'll come around. When Nikki was a kitten, it took about a week for everyone to settle in. In the meantime, Jim and I are exhausted babysitters. He wants attention all of the time, and we wear out before he does. However, he's just a lover, as you can see in the picture with Jim.

We do have proof that he rests occasionally, though.

So, what's the connection to books in this post? Well, first, if you've entered my contests, you've read that Jim picks the winners. So, the picture of Jim with Josh is a picture of my husband, who loves to read as much as I do. And, the first person who comments on the blog, with the title of the book on the arm of Jim's chair, will receive a free book.

Cats, books and booklovers. They go together.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Louise Ure at The Poisoned Pen

It was so great to see Louise Ure back at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale today. I first met Louise at the Poisoned Pen three years ago after Forcing Amaryllis, her Shamus award-winning mystery, was published. I went to see her because I had read the book, and loved it. Since then, I had lunch with her during Thrillerfest, and we've been corresponding occasionally. She'll be back in Arizona in May to speak to librarians, and we might just be able to book her for the Velma Teague Library as well.

It was a very informal conversation at the bookstore. Louise is relaxed in speaking with the group. She introduced herself, and then talked, while fielding questions. One man there today went to her high school. She said she went to the University of Arizona, and has one of her Master's degrees from Thunderbird.

Louise said so far she has only written standalone mysteries. The one thing that is consistent in the books is their Arizona setting. She said she is better at writing about Arizona since she moved away. She does go back to Tucson to visit, and, if she needs additional information, she can call up one of her contacts in her family that is 400 strong for background or help.

In responding to a question about how she started writing, she said she was always a voracious reader. She said one of the rooms in her home has bookshelves on all four walls. The mysteries there are categorized by geography. Lee Child and Martin Cruz Smith kill her arrangements because their books are all over the room.

Louise said after 9/11, a friend asked her what she always wanted to do, and she said write a book. Forcing Amaryllis was the result. She told the story about calling her mother, and saying, "Mom, I won the Shamus." Her mother's response? "You won a shameless award, and you're proud of it?"

In talking about Arizona, Louise said, "The Urgency of Shadows." When Ken Bruen heard that, he said that should be the title of her next book. She said at the moment, her working title for that one is Liars Anonymous.

The Fault Tree is the book that was just released. It's also set in Tucson. Cadence
Moran is a blind auto mechanic. In order to create Cadence, Louise met a blind auto mechanic and watched him work. Then she did the same things, blindfolded, to make sure it would work. She challenged herself by describing Arizona through the eyes of a blind woman, who "witnessed" a murder. Much of Cadence's experiences came from a blind friend. Louise said she would not want to write another book from the point of view of a blind person.

Her next book features an On-star operator, who responds to an accident by saying to a customer, you had an accident. Do you need help? He responds no, gets out of the car, and she hears him get murdered. All she has to go by is what she heard.

She was asked about her work day, and she said she sits down in the morning, but she gets seduced by blogs and emails. The internet is a time waster.

She said she doesn't outline. Ridley Pearson doesn't start work until he has his entire book laid out on sticky notes, with plot, characters, etc. Louise said she'd know how the book came out, and she'd be bored.

When asked about mystery series, Louise said publishers and readers like series. They know the characters, and there's a comfort there. She said some day she'd love to know write a series, know her characters and their backstory.

She said she refers to these three books as her Arizona trilogy. She doesn't know what she'll do next. Maybe cities that begin with S.

Louise's phrasing in her books is wonderful. She even uses words beautifully while she speaks. She said in the past when she received a bad review, she broke like a potato chip. The Fault Tree has done really good with reviews.

When asked what she liked to read, she said The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is probably her favorite book of all times. She's reading one she recommends, Pyres by Derek Nikitas, that was nominated for an Edgar for Best First Mystery. With author Rhys Bowen in the room, she said she also likes Rhys Bowen's books, particularly the Molly ones. Lately she's been reading books set in the U.K. and Britain.

If you haven't read Louise Ure's books, you're missing some special mysteries. To give you that chance, watch for next week's contest.

Louise Ure's website is

The Fault Tree by Louise Ure. St. Martin's Press, ©2008. ISBN 9780312375850 (hardcover), 352p.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Leighton Gage at the Velma Teague Library

Leighton Gage, author of Blood of the Wicked, appeared at the Velma Teague Library last night, as part of the Authors at the Teague program. If you get a chance to hear him, grab it. He's a man who can discuss everything from Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose to Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado. He has the sense of humor to compare his writing to that of poor Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and say he feels good that his own writing isn't used for a contest that celebrates the worst of all possible sentences, "It was a dark and stormy night." Gage writes vivid scenes of violence with the soul of a poet. He has a love of world travel that was inculcated by a sea captain grandfather, and he brings Brazil to life in living color.

Gage said it's important to put Blood of the Wicked into context. The murders that take place in the mystery could only have occurred in modern Brazil. Although he talks about the socio-economic status and politics in Brazil, he feels if you keep the reader intrigued and happy while reading the book, you can slip in other things. This book discusses the social, economic, and religious issues in Brazil. His second book, which will be out next January, is about organ theft in that country, a real problem. The third one will deal with child prostitution.

Blood of the Wicked deals with the conflict between rich and poor, the landowners and the landless. There is a thin layer of the very rich in Brazil, then a big space before the next class. There is a great deal of wealth in the country, and a disproportionate of it is held by a very few. Brazil is a very wealthy country. They used ehanol 25 to 30 years ago. They are mineral-rich. They are rich in natural gas and petroleum. The Amazon River is the source of 25% of the world's fresh water. It's a wealthy country, with a large underclass. And, it's a place where life is cheap. In the northern part of the country, it only takes $200 to have an ordinary person killed. Over 1,500 people have been killed in the land wars in Brazil.

Gage discussed the theology of liberation, an important concept in Blood of the Wicked. This is a theory that the Catholic Church is holding back the poor, with the promise of heaven in the next world, rather than the promise of what they can have in this world. Many priests who believed in the theology of liberation, and that they should be involved in this movement, have been forced to go underground after the Society for the Propogration of the Faith in Room said there is no theology of liberation, and priests should not be involved. It has actually caused a schism in the Church.

An other issue in the book is the corrupt police, which is very common, south of the border. In that part of the world, cops are often kidnappers, assassins and robbers in their day jobs. So, who do you trust? Gage's protagonist is a federal cop, Mario Silva. He's based on two people Gage knows. He made him a federal cop to allow him to roam the entire country, to deal with a number of crimes.

One man who is the source of Mario Silva is a friend who attended the FBI national academy in Quantico, which is a program that gives some FBI expertise to law officers with at least five years experience. Twenty-five policemen from other countries are invited each year. This builds informed contacts in other countries.

Gage introduced his wife, Eide, when he said she was Brazilian, and every single member of her family has been assaulted at one time by gunman. He said everybody in the country gets stuck up at gunpoint. It's a situation he uses in Blood of the Wicked. He said when the dictatorship fell apart in the late 80's, everything became lax under democracy. Crime rates exploded. It got so bad that people didn't even talk about it, possibliy in denial. They live with that in Brazil. The violence in the book reflects the reality of life in Brazil.

He said he lives in Brazil by choice because he loves it. He said it has a natural beauty, and it's the most beautiful harbor in the world. He said the people are nice. But, it's an accurate portrayal of the crime in the country. He suggested people read the author's notes in Blood of the Wicked before reading the story, in order to understand the background.

The second cop who is the basis of Mario Silva is his brother-in-law's closest friend. Senior police must have a law degree in Brazil. This man is the Head of the Murder Squad in Sao Paulo, with a staff of 750, and he feels he's understaffed. That says a great deal about the number of murders in a city of 11 million people. Drug gangs even attack police stations and kill cops. There are shantytowns around the major cities, and criminals come down from the hills. He said it's very important not to react to a stick-up. Don't stop at red lights. Slow down, and go through the light, or you will be accosted. Brazil has the largest fleet of armored personal vehicles in the world.

In answer to a question, he said everyone takes time off for Carnival, and Eide said, even the criminals. He said he loves the sense of humor of the people. Leighton Gage quoated Edgar Lee Masters in saying his heart answered to Brazil, and that he found the melody that harmonized with his heart.

Gage said he had been in advertising, and that's a young man's business. He decided to write a book, and it's not easy. He said it took him four or five books before he found his voice.

Leighton Gage's next book is due out in January 2008. I'm very honored that Velma Teague is the only library he visited on his tour of the U.S. I hope he and Eide come back.

Leighton Gage's website is

The Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage. Soho Crime, ©2007. ISBN 978-1569474709 (hardcover), 324p.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winners and a Foreign Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the "Give Me an R" contest. Sue F. in Crosslake, MN won Natalie Roberts' two books, Tutu Deadly and Tapped Out. Marilyn W. in Miramar Beach, FL won Laura Joh Rowland's The Snow Empress. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm offering two ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of crime novels set in foreign countries, Unspoken by Mari Junstedt and Hidden Moon by James Church.

Mari Jungstedt's Unspoken is set in Sweden, where Inspector Anders Knutas and his team investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Is it connected with the murder of a photographer? Knutas may find himself too close to the crime.

James Church's Hidden Moon takes the reader to North Korea, where police officer Inspector O probes the secrets behind a bank robbery that no one in the government seems to want to solve. Church, a former Western intelligence officer, knows nothing is as it appears in North Korea.

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

The contest will end Thursday, January 31 at 6 p.m. MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett's slight novel, The Uncommon Reader, is delightful and entertaining. Anyone who loves books should appreciate this enchanting story of the unnamed current Queen of England, who discovers the world of books.

Following her dogs, the queen finds the City of Westminster travelling library. When she goes on it to apologize, she feels it's her duty to check out one book. The following week, she returns with the book, looking for something else. Along with the librarian, a young man from the palace kitchen, Norman, suggests some books. Within a short time, the queen is hooked on books, and Norman has been moved into the library.

How can anyone resist a queen who realizes, "What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do"? Or there's the time she tells Norman she would excel at the pub quiz because she's been everywhere and seen everything. She totally disrupts her household, and the routine, by stopping to ask her subjects what they are reading.

The queen is truly "The Uncommon Reader," in this enjoyable book with a twist at the end.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-374-28096-3 (hardcover), p. 120.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl

John Feinstein's mystery, Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl might feature two fourteen-year-olds, but it's a timely, and topical, book. Feinstein created an imaginary Super Bowl XLII, set in Indianapolis, instead of Glendale, Arizona. The featured teams are the Baltimore Ravens, and the "Dreams." And, he thrusts his two young reporters into the midst of a current scandal, steroids.

Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson are young journalists who have covered the U.S. Open and Final Four. As a result, they were given a television show, Kid-Sports, with an all-sports cable network. When Stevie is let go on the eve of the Super Bowl, a Washington newspaper, and CBS, ask him to work for them. Stevie and Susan set out to cover a sporting event, but once again, as at previous events, they find themselves uncovering a story when a doctor lets it slip that some of the Dreams failed a drug test.

As always, John Feinstein does a wonderful job bringing a national sporting event to life. He is knowledgeable about the events, and the people involved. His inclusion of celebrities helps to bring realism to the stories. Feinstein mentions celebrities such as Wayne Gretzky, Tom Cruise, Bob Costas, and Billy Joel. Everyone has an interest in the Super Bowl. Cover-Up is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the Super Bowl, with a recognition of some of the problems that go hand-in-hand with the enormous amounts of money involved in sports. It's a fascinating mystery, with two likable characters, slimy villains, and perfect timing.

Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein. Alfred A. Knopf, ©2007. 978-0375842474 (hardcover), 298p.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Middle Place

Kelly Corrigan's moving memoir is the story of one year in her life, but it's the story of a lifetime. And, it's the story of every woman who was daddy's little girl, doted on by a loving father, and adoring him in return. The Middle Place might be a story for the sandwich generation, but it reaches beyond one group to touch so many. It's the story of cancer patients, cancer survivors, mothers, fathers, daughters, and andy family members who love each other, and fear the death of the people they love. Her autobiography is her personal story, a tribute to her family, but, in some ways, it's a tribute to every loving family.

Although Kelly Corrigan was in her late thirties, married to a loving husband, and father of two young daughters, she still defined herself as George Corrigan's only daughter. She was the adored daughter of "Greenie," a Catholic, loud, funny man. And, his love was reciprocated. Although she had two brothers, and a mother who loved her, as the youngest child, and only daughter, she felt as if she was her father's princess.

However, in 2004, Kelly discovered a lump in her breast, and the diagnosis was breast cancer. And, for the first time she found herself in that "middle place," what she realized was "that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap," when you're still someone's child while being a parent. Kelly wanted her parents, at the same time she needed to help her young daughters through her cancer.

And, it only became worse when her father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She had to try to live for her children, and fight against her cancer, while railing against the cancer that threatened her father's life, a seventy-four-year old man who had to deal with treatments.

The Middle Place is the story of a spoiled daughter, who craved her father's attention. At the same time, it's about a woman growing into her adult life, accepting her role as a wife and mother, trying to leave the same kind of memories for her daughters that her father gave her. George Corrigan was a vital force in Kelly's life. Now, she wanted to leave traces that she was once alive, memories for her children.

Kelly Corrigan's memoir moved me to laughter, while at times, it made me want to tell her to grow up. The story will provoke tears, laughter, and, sometimes, frustration. It's the story of one year of crisis in her life. It's even more, with the anecdotes about her entire life with her father. If you're a daughter who lost a father prematurely, for whatever reason, the book will evoke memories and longing. The Middle Place will bring back all of the love you shared with your father. Kelly Corrigan can count herself lucky that George Corrigan was in her life.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. Hyperion, ©2008. ISBN 9781401303365 (hardcover), 266p.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues

Blaize Clement thrusts pet sitter Dixie Hemingway into a hornet's nest in the latest book in the series, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues. After her husband and daughter's death, Dixie's only looking for stability and safety. However, someone is manipulating her into involvement in a case of murder and industrial espionage.

Dixie innocently agrees to take on an unknown client, and tend to an iguana, only to discover there's a dead guard at the house. Even worse, Dixie stopped at the gatehouse earlier in the day to get out of the rain, saw the dead guard, and fled. Now, she's caught up in a complicated case. Who was the unknown caller with the Irish accent who sent her to the house? What's the story behind the blue man who owns the iguana? There's a dead guard, a missing nurse, and Dixie's suddenly a murder suspect. Dixie had the "sure and certain knowledge that I was too involved in something bizarre and dangerous."

Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues in another intriguing mystery. At the same time, part of the interest in this series has to be due to Dixie Hemingway's difficult life. Clement has given Dixie Hemingway the time she needs to move beyond the tragedies in her life. She's a complex character, with a great deal of depth. She's learning that she must choose to love again, and she has the opportunity to at least accept the challenge of dating. Because Dixie was a cop, she's capable of putting together the pieces to a mystery. Because she's also a human, she has a difficult time putting together the pieces of her life. Mystery readers will be waiting for the next book in this enjoyable series. Dixie Hemingway's fans will be waiting for the next stage in her life.

Blaize Clement's website is

Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues by Blaize Clement. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 9780312340933 (hardcover), 256p.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Edgar Award Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for this year's Edgar awards. Edgar Week is April 27th to May 2, and the winners will be announced that week.

Best Novel Nominees are:

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
Priest by Ken Bruen
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman
Down River by John Hart

Best First Novel By An American Author Nominees:

Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell
In the Woods by Tana French
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard
Head Games by Craig McDonald
Pyres by Derek Nikitas

Best Paperback Original Nominees:

Queenpin by Megan Abbott
Blood of Paradise by David Corbett
Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks
Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill
Who is Conrad Hirst by Kevin Wignall

Best Critical/Biographical Nominees:

The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction by Patrick Anderson
A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by Maurizio Ascari
Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction by Cristiana Gregoriou
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley
Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy by Jean Gould O'Connell

Best Fact Crime

The Birthday Party by Stanley Alpert
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi
Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit by Kerry Max Cook
Relentless Pursuit: A True Story of Family, Murder, and the Prosecutor Who Wouldn't Quit by Kevin Flynn
Sacco & Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders and the Judgment of Mankind by Bruce Watson

Best Short Story

"The Catch" - Still Waters by Mark Ammons
"Blue Note" - Chicago Blues by Stuart M. Kaminsky
"Hardly Knew Her" - Dead Man's Hand by Laura Lippman
"The Golden Gopher" - Los Angeles Noir by Susan Straight
"Uncle" - A Hell of a Woman by Daniel Woodrell

Best Young Adult

Rat Life by Tedd Arnold
Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney
Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin
Blood Brothers by S.A. Harazin
Fragments by Jeffry W. Johnston

Best Juvenile

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
Shadows on Society Hill by Evelyn Coleman
Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh
Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things by Wendelin Van Draanen

Best Play

If/Then by David Foley (International Mystery Writers' Festival)
Panic by Joseph Goodrich (International Mystery Writers' Festival)
Books by Stuart M. Kaminsky (International Mystery Writers' Festival)

Best Television Episode Teleplay

"It's Alive" - Dexter, Teleplay by Daniel Cerone (Showtime)
"Yahrzeit" - Waking the Dead, Teleplay by Declan Croghan & Barbara Machin (BBC America)
"Pie-Lette" - Pushing Daisies, Teleplay by Bryan Fuller (ABC/Warner Bros Television
"Senseless" - Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Teleplay by Julie Martin & Siobhan Byrne O'Connor (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"Pilot" - Burn Notice, Teleplay by Matt Nix (USA Network/Fox Television Studios)

Best Motion Picture Screen Play

Eastern Promises, Screenplay by Steven Knight (Focus Features)
The Lookout, Screenplay by Scott Frank (Miramax)
Michael Clayton, Screenplay by Tony Gilroy (Warner Bros. Pictures)
No Country for Old Men, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (Miramax)
Zodiac, Screenplay by James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award

"The Catch" - Still Waters by Mark Ammons

The Simon & Schuster - Mary Higgins Clark Award

In Cold Pursuit by Sarah Andrews
Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault
Inferno by Karen Harper
The First Stone by Judith Kelman
Deadman's Switch by Barbara Seranella

Grand Master - Bill Pronzini

Raven Awards -

Center for the Book in the Library of Congress
Kate's Mystery Books (Kate Mattes, owner)

The website for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards is

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winners and Give Me an R Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the humorous mystery contest. Kathy S. in Hailey, Idaho won the copy of Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen, and Janet W. in Fort Worth, TX won the copy of Troy Cook's 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers. Cheryl S. from Fort Pierre, SD will receive the autographed copy of Some Like It Hot-Buttered that will be sent to her from Jeff Cohen. I hope you all enjoy your books.

This week, I'm offering books written by authors whose last names start with R. One lucky winner will receive Natalie M. Roberts' first two books in the Jenny T. Partridge series. Tutu Deadly introduces Partridge, a dance instructor and studio owner. The second fun book, Tapped Out, takes her to a dance competition. These two paperbacks will both go to the same reader.

I'm also offering the ARC of a thriller. The Snow Empress by Laura Joh Rowland features her inspector, Sano Ichiro, in a story set in 17th century Japan.

So, would you like Natalie M. Roberts' humorous mysteries, or a thriller by Rowland? If you'd like to win one of these books, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...Roberts or Rowland, whichever author you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, January 24 at 6 a.m. MT. Thursday night, I'll be meeting author Leighton Gage at the Velma Teague Library. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Dilys Award Nominees

Congratulations to this year's nominees for the Dilys Award, sponsored by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, recognizing the book that member bookstores most enjoyed handselling.

Nominees are: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

The winner will be announced at Left Coast Crime in Denver, March 6-9.

I'm particularly pleased because Rhys Bowen will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.

The Times-Picayune - The Reading Life

As newspapers across the country cut their book sections, it's a hopeful sign whenever a newspaper adds something. Let's hope that the New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune, will be successful with their new Wednesday feature, The Reading Life. It debuted today.

Book editor Susan Larson welcomed readers to The Reading Life by saying they are beginning a shared adventure with their new Wednesday coverage about books, writers and everyday readers. Today's coverage includes an article about New Orleans writer Joshua Clark, a National Book Critics Circle nominee for his memoir, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone. There are book reviews, listings of new books for the week, a local calendar of events, and an article on book clubs.

I can't say that I knew how The Times-Picayune covered books before, so I don't know if it's an improvement. I can say that anytime I see a newspaper promoting something called "The Reading Life," I'm excited. I'll be checking back on Wednesdays.

Larson said, "The reading life is more important to some of us than to others, depending on time and money and circumstance. But for all of us, the reading life is there, part of time passing." If you're reading this blog, then the reading life is probably important to you. You just might be interested in another view of The Reading Life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Tribute

Shadow July 4, 1995-January 15, 2008

Today, we put Shadow to sleep. He suddenly grew old, just within a week, and let us know he was ready to die.

I've known Shadow since the week he was born. His mother, a stray calico, had a litter of four male kittens in the ditch behind our house in Florida. She trusted me enough to let me see her new kittens. And, then she brought them up to our rose garden, taught them to play and take care of themselves, and left them there. My father-in-law, Harry, had one of those small sheep made of wood and covered with material to look like wool. It stood in the middle of the rose garden, but by the time the kittens learned to attack it, it no longer stood. We always said the four boys killed that sheep.

Shadow was the one we adopted, a plush kitten with the softest black fur in the world. He was scared to death of thunder and fireworks, probably from being born around the 4th of July, and listening to summer thunder in Florida. He might have been a scaredy cat, but he was the gentlest cat in the world. As he grew older, he adopted our younger cats, and we always called him Uncle Shadow.

When we moved from Florida to Arizona, we put Shadow in the cage with Dickens. Dickens hated car travel, and cried all of the time. Shadow took care of him on the trip across country, and we didn't have to worry about a crying cat. Our biggest problem coming to Arizona? Shadow got out of the cage in a hotel parking lot in Texas, and for an hour we searched for him. He almost ended up living in Texas, but Jim & I were not going to give up, and leave him there.

Shadow had a wonderful retirement in Arizona. Very little thunder. No weekly fireworks from a baseball stadium behind the house. He would lay on the back of the couch, watch out the window, and flirt with the children and women who went to the swimming pool behind our apartment. He enjoyed his last years with Dickens, Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly and Nikki, our other cats.

And, me? I never had a cat who sat in my lap and looked at me with that much love and adoration in his eyes. He had the loudest purr in the world, and would stare at Jim in bed at night until Jim would pet him.

Thank you, Shadow, for all the love you gave us. Rest in Peace.

Killer Year: Stories to Die For...From the Hottest New Crime Writers

Many people don't read short stories, but when there's a collection by some of the new, innovative crime writers, it demands attention. When Lee Child, author of the bestselling Jack Reacher novels, edits a collection called Killer Year: Stories to Die For...From the Hottest New Crime Writers, fans of crime fiction should pay attention.

Child refers to this anthology as a sampler. There are stories by thirteen new authors, and three with more familiar names, such as Ken Bruen. The thirteen authors all had their first novels published in 2007. They banded together to create some buzz about their work, forming a group to publicize Killer Year 2007. They also wrote a blog to encourage each other other, and generate some noise in the thriller world. Their work was good enough, and their buzz loud enough to attract the attention of International Thriller Writers (ITW). Members offered to act as mentors and introduce the authors to the world.

The anthology serves to introduce the authors as a group. I found a few of the works particularly fascinating, and I'll be looking for the books by those authors. Brett Battles' story, "Perfect Gentleman," is set in the Philippines after the American forces moved out. I felt sympathy for Robert Gregory Browne's ex-cop, Jennings, in "Bottom Deal." Gregg Olsen's "The Crime of My Life" appears to be a tantalizing glimpse into his life as a true crime writer. If you enjoy thrillers, there are probably at least a couple stories that will suck you in.

There are enough stories here to interest any reader of dark crime fiction. It's a compelling book, hard to put down. The writers have created characters and scenarios that capture the imagination. The narrators are detectives, killers, and even victims. Killer Year provides the perfect opportunity to discover new authors in the crime field. Or, as bestselling author Laura Lippman says, the "young writers heading straight for a life of crime."

The Killer Year Blog is at

Killer Year: Stories to Die For...From the Hottest New Crime Writers ed. by Lee Child. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 0312374704 (hardcover), 304p.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sara Paretsky - Award Nominee

Congratulations to mystery author, Sara Paretsky, who has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography for her memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence.

I haven't had an opportunity to read her account, which is supposed to be passionate about the Patriot Act and the Bush Administration, among other things. I'm looking forward to reading it. The politics interest me, but also the section about the influence of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women on her life, since that is one of my all-time favorite books.

Congratulations to Sara Paretsky. It's always nice to see a mystery writer recognized.

The article listing all ot the award nominees can be seen at

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Library Cat

I'm published! (Sort of.) Marisa D'Vari has a website called A Library Cat. She's collecting cat stories, tales cats tell about their public libraries, and the books they are reading. She'll be publishing the stories in a downloadable e-book for National Library Week in April.

I submitted Nikki's story. The format of the story was required, so Nikki was able to write her autobiography, with a little help from me. Since I retain the rights to the story, here's Nikki's life story, as reported on A Library Cat.

Nikki reports from Glendale Public Library, AZ

Nikki speaks about the Glendale Public Library, Glendale, AZ

A Library Cat Story Submitted by a feline named Nikki

Translated from meow by Cat’s human, Lesa Holstine,

Library where Nikki hangs out: the Glendale Public Library, Glendale, AZ

Book Nikki reads: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Once upon a time, there was a kitten, a little grey kitten with big blue eyes. That was me, Annika Nicole Holstine (Nikki), part of a litter of six kittens. No one deserves to be a library cat more than I do. For one very, very cold morning, early in December, my brothers and sisters and I were wrapped in a Christmas box, and dropped at the back door of the Main Library in Glendale, AZ. There we were taken in by a group of animal lovers, who tried to feed us tuna, even though we were only five weeks old. We were too young to leave our mother, but waiting at the library, we found a group of aunts, Michele and Su and Marianna, and their boss, Rodeane, who took us in a cuddled us. A cry went out over email that there were six kittens that needed homes, and my brothers and sisters were all scooped up.

That left me, and I hollered and roared and cried every time someone picked me up. I was waiting for that special person, my Dad, Jim Holstine, who wanted and needed a blue-eyed kitten. (Boy, did I fool him because my eyes aren’t blue anymore.) Mom had other cats, but Dad’s cat had died, and I knew he needed me.

So, when he showed up, I clung to him, and cuddled down, and found a new home.

So, the Main Library will always have a special place in my heart, even though Mom works at the Velma Teague Branch. It must be special there, too, because she brought home the book I’m reading now. It’s called Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, with illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. It’s about a lion that loves the library, attends story time and saves the librarian when she has an accident. And, that lion roared almost as loud as I did while I was waiting for Dad to save me.

And, no cat, even a lion, loves the library more than I do. The Glendale Libraries are special places, filled with animal lovers, who rescue cats and dogs, and even feed peacocks and roosters in the parking lot. Aunt Marianna even owns two library dogs, Beth and Booker, who spend time in Library Processing, and appeared on television. But, all of my aunts still ask about Nikki, the kitten who found a home, and lived happily ever after. I’m three years old now, but this is my true library fairy tale.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Note from Jeffrey Cohen

Well, Jeff tried to sneak in while I wasn't looking, but I caught him. I wanted to thank him for writing a note to the readers, and, for offering to send an autographed copy of Some Like It Hot-Buttered. I think you'll want to read it, after reading his note. So, don't forget to enter the contest! And, if you don't win, I suggest you buy a copy of this Lefty Award nominee.

Dear Readers:

I've snuck in here while Lesa wasn't looking to tell you about the book she's giving away (for NOTHING! How's a guy supposed to send his children to college when people run around giving away his books for NOTHING???) this month: I know it relatively well, since I wrote it a while back. It's called SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED, and no, it's not a porno book. Although I'm told those are quite lucrative, but I can't write and giggle at the same time.

SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED is the first book in the Double Feature Mystery series, featuring Elliot Freed, a recovering writer who sold a book to Hollywood and invested the money he received (as well as some alimony from his ex-wife the doctor) in a decrepit one-screen movie theatre he's re-christened Comedy Tonight, since Elliot shows only comedy films, one classic and one contemporary each week. Elliot, the classic comedy fan, is trying to prove to the world that he's right and it's wrong, and it's not going well.

It's especially not going well one night after a showing of Young Frankenstein (the movie, not the musical), when one patron is found dead of poisoned popcorn. Elliot takes this as a personal insult, both to himself and to Mel Brooks, and decides to investigate.

I decided to write about Elliot when Aaron Tucker, my previous protagonist (As Dog Is My Witness and two other novels), was asking for a larger publishing house, and I didn't have one. Turns out large publishing houses want their own series, and not one that someone else published already, so I invented Elliot, who is sort of Aaron if he had taken a left turn instead of a right at exactly the right moment. Elliot's marriage didn't end up as well as Aaron's, and he has no children, no suburban house and no dog.

He does, however, work in Aaron's home town of Midland Heights, New Jersey, because I just wasn't done with it yet. And I hope that Elliot won't be done with it for quite some time. The second book in the series, IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE, will be published in July, and I'm writing the third (title TBA) right now. So get in on the ground floor: SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED has been nominated for this year's Lefty Award for Most Humorous Mystery--what's not to like?

I'll tell you what: In addition to the book Lesa's giving away, I'll throw in a copy of my own, and I'll sign that one. Can you ask for more (well, you can ask, but that's as far as I'm willing to go)?

If you're a fan of the Aaron Tucker books, I promise you'll enjoy SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED. If you've never heard of the Aaron books before, why not enter a contest and take a chance? And if you detested the Aaron books, well, what the heck am I talking to YOU for?

I hope you like the book. Let me know at jeffATjeffcohenbooksDOTcom, and thanks to Lesa for featuring my book.

Jeffrey Cohen's website is

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Winners and New Contest for Humorous Mysteries

I've had questions from contestants, so I just wanted to mention one of the facts about the book contests. You can enter to win both books. Some people thought they had to pick which book they wanted. If you send two separate entries, one for each book, you have two chances to win. And, just a reminder. I need your name and mailing address when you enter. Don't worry. I delete them all after the contests are over.

Congratulations to the winners of the Donis Casey books. Annette T. from Albion, IL won the autographed ARC of Hornswoggled, and Sara S. of Los Angeles, CA won the autographed copy of The Drop Edge of Yonder. The books will go in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm offering two humorous mysteries. One is the award-winning crime caper, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, autographed by Troy Cook. This fun novel was nominated for a Lefty Award last year, as best humorous novel. The second mystery offering this week is one of this year's Lefty Award nominees, Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen. The paperback tells of Elliott Freed's attempt to save his movie theater after a murder.

Would you like an autographed copy of 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, or a copy of Some Like It Hot-Buttered? If you'd like to win one of these 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 Thursday, January 17 at 6 pm MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Plum Lucky

Janet Evanovich's latest holiday novel is Plum Lucky, featuring Stephanie Plum and the usual cast in a St. Patrick's Day romp. What more do you want than a man who thinks he's a leprachaun, a horse, mobsters, and Gramdma Mazur on the loose? How about Lulu back in a casino in Atlantic City?

Evanovich definitely knows how to please her fans, writing a caper novel in which Grandma Mazur steals a million dollars from a man who stole it from the mob. When she disappears, Stephanie, Connie, and Lulu, along with Diesel, track her down to an Atlantic City casino. From previous books, you know you can't let Lulu loose in a casino. And, Grandma Mazur as a kidnap victim? Think "Ransom of Red Chief."

It's a little slow starting, but towards the end, I was laughing out loud. Grandma Mazur and Lulu are just plum funny in Evanovich's latest, Plum Lucky.

Janet Evanovich's website is

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich. St. Martin's Press, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-312-37763-2 (hardcover), 166p.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Left Coast Crime

Congratulations to the nominees of awards to be presented at Left Coast Crime in Denver, in March.

The Lefty - Most humorous mystery published in 2007

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews
Stuff to Die For by Don Bruns
Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeff Cohen
Knee High by the Fourth of July by Jess Lourey
Murder with Reservations by Elaine Viets

The Rocky - Best Mystery set in the Left Coast Crime geographical region in 2007

Free Fire by C.J. Box
Lost Dog by Bill Cameron
The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel
Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny
False Fortune by Twist Phelan

The Arty - Best Cover Art On a Mystery Novel

Queenpin by Megan Abbott
Isabella Moon by Laura Benedict
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bown
Silent Counsel by Ken Issacson
Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny

I wish all of the nominees good luck. I've only read a few of the books. Jeff Cohen's Some Like It Hot-Buttered was a fun debut of a new series. Margaret Coel's The Girl with Braided Hair was up to her usual high standards, a fascinating book. We're lucky enough to have Rhys Bowen appearing at our library on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 pm. And, what can I say about Tim Maleeny? (grin)

The Fault Tree

When Louise Ure's first Arizona mystery, Forcing Amaryllis, debuted in June 2005, I was impressed with the compelling story and the stunning cover. It went on to win the Private Eye Writers of America's Shamus Award for Best First Novel.

The Fault Tree, the second book in Ure's Arizona trilogy, was just released, and it won't disappoint any of her fans. Hopefully, it will introduce a whole new audience to this talented author.

Cadence Moran is thirty-one, and an auto mechanic who works nights at Walt's Auto Shop in Tucson. Walking home from work one night, she hears a scream, laughter, and a car tear away. Cadence has just heard the end of a murder. Although Cadence is a witness, she's blind, and can only depend on her other senses to tell the police what she "knows".

Cadence is reluctant to get involved. Eight years earlier, she was the driver in the accident that blinded her, and killed her niece. She's lived with her blindness, and her blame every since. One of the officers on the case is reluctant to believe her, but Detective Dupree has a feeling that Cadence is reliable.

As the police blindly search for killers who seem to have no connection to the victim, the killers are searching for Cadence. She's suddenly a target, a witness to a crime that the killers don't realize she never actually saw. Ure increases the tension, telling the story of Cadence's fear and her clues, the police investigation, and the killers' attempt to eliminate any witnesses. Cadence's clues lead the police in the wrong direction, while the killers make serious mistakes. The three storylines increase the suspense, driving the three groups together.

Louise Ure has written a powerful story of disfunctional families, blame, and responsibility. It's a mystery that starts on a somber, but riveting, note. "At the end, there was so much blame to spread around that we could all have taken a few shovelfuls home and rolled around in it like pigs in stink." The rest of The Fault Tree captures the reader, and doesn't let you go until the final sentence.

It's early in the year to predict another award winner, but I predict that Ure's The Fault Tree will once again vie for the mystery awards. Readers interested in a fascinating character, or one of the best mysteries you'll read in 2008, should pick this one up.

Louise Ure's website is

The Fault Tree by Louise Ure. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-312-37585-0 (hardcover), 352p.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Note from Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ on January 24 at 7 pm. He was willing to write to readers about his debut mystery, Blood of the Wicked, which is released today.

Just before Christmas of 2007, with another three weeks to go before the official publication of Blood of the Wicked, I found myself at a party standing in front of a lady I’d never met and who I’d just learned was the book critic for a Very Important Newspaper.

“So what’s your book about?” says she.

And did I have a succinct answer to that question? No, dear reader, I did not.

Put up your hand if you’re familiar with the rhyme:

Backward, turn backward

Oh time in thy flight

I’ve thought of a comeback

I needed last night.

Hm. Not many hands.

But we’ve all had the feeling, right?

So there I stood with the proverbial egg on my face.

I had maybe ten seconds to get the VIN’s book critic to agree to look at my work.

And I screwed up.

I waffled.

I stammered.

Now, she’s a nice lady, and I think she took pity on me, so she might review it anyway (he said, hopefully), but I still felt like an absolute idiot.

Dammit, I knew what Blood of the Wicked is about. I mean, after all, I wrote it didn’t I?

But I’d never really thought about how I was going to explain it to people.

Now I have. And what I’m going to say is this: Blood of the Wicked is a mystery, but the action takes place in a country where paid assassins and drug dealers often have day jobs – as cops. It takes place in a country where people still get killed over the ownership of land, where the prostitution of children is commonplace, where death squads practice vigilante justice.

The country is Brazil. The time is now.

From the foregoing, you might derive that I have something against Brazil. Nothing could be further from the truth. My wife is Brazilian. Three of my children are Brazilian. The first book I ever wrote was in Brazilian Portuguese. I know the country from North to South, from East to West, and I have been in love with it for more than thirty years.

And I’m not alone. Almost anyone who has ever spent time there, and has made the effort to learn the language, will tell you that Brazil has some of the nicest people, some of the prettiest girls, some of the most handsome men, some of the best music on the face of the earth..

And natural beauty? It can take your breath away. There is nothing to compare with sailing into the harbor of Rio de Janeiro at sunrise. Sydney can’t beat it. Neither can Capetown. (And, yes, dear reader, I have sailed into all three of them at sunrise. And I thank my lucky stars that I have had those experiences.)

But as you might expect from a place where the income distribution is only slightly more equitable than that of Bengladesh, crime is rampant. There are people in Rio (and São Paulo, and any other large city in Brazil) who will kill you for your pocket change or for your cell phone. Every single member of my wife’s family (and it’s a big family) has been robbed at the point of a weapon. So have I. So has my wife. So has one of my daughters.

But forget the crime for a moment. (Just a moment.) Consider some things you might not have known about the place: it’s huge, larger even than the continental United States; it’s got a population larger than any country in Europe; it’s mineral rich, getting to the point where it no longer needs to import oil or natural gas. It has the world’s second-largest fleet of private passenger jets and second-largest fleet of helicopters. The Amazon River alone pumps out twenty-percent of all of the fresh water on the planet. There are more varieties of fish swimming there than there are in the whole of the Atlantic Ocean. The largest city in all of the Southern Hemisphere is São Paulo. (Which is not the capital of Argentina. Don’t laugh. Lots of Americans think that.) There are wetlands that make the Everglades seem small. There might be as many as forty thousand indigenous people who have never had any contact with modern civilization.

Doesn’t that sound like a place to you’d like to learn more about?

Doesn’t it sound like a great place to set a murder mystery in?

I thought so.

That’s why I wrote Blood of the Wicked. I hope you read and enjoy it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Challenge

In my last blog post of 2007, I mentioned that I read 164 books that year, and hoped to read 165 in 2008. Within a couple days, I heard from my niece, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is 9, and in the thrid grade. She challenged me, and said she was going to read 166. Her mother told her if she was going to do that, she had to keep track of her books.

I accepted Elizabeth's challenge, and sent her a purple notebook, with a matching pen. I told her not to worry how many books she actually read, but to have fun. I also told her that her great-grandmother kept track of her books, and her grandmother does. I've been keeping track of the books I've read for years.

I'm already losing. As of today, Elizabeth's read nine books this year, and I've only read three. And, one of the librarians at work reminded me that Elizabeth gets summer vacation, and I don't. I'm in trouble.

Blood of the Wicked

In three weeks, I'll have the chance to meet Leighton Gage, a man who sounds as fascinating as the lead character in his debut mystery, Blood of the Wicked. The book has already received rave reviews, but it doesn't hurt to add my praise. It's a brutal, graphic story at times, but Gage's notes at the end show he knows the Brazilian world he portrays. Leighton Gage's knowledge of the political, economic, and religious problems in Brazil is shown in his vivid descriptions of the cruelty of life.

Blood of the Wicked introduces Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters in the Brazilian Federal Police. He's a well-educated man, with a law degree and training with the FBI. And, he's a complicated character. It's well known in the country that Brazilian justice is subject to bribes, money and power. When Silva's father his brother-in-law were killed in the early years of Mario's career, he took matters into his own hands. Silva understands that sometimes "Brazilian justice" isn't actually justice.

Silva's latest case starts out as a problem, and only grows more complicated. Before it's over, it involves landowners and the landless, the state police, the media, street kids, and the Catholic Church. It begins, and ends, with the death of priests. When a bishop is assassinated, Silva's dislikable political boss sends him to take charge. He arrives to find his case entwined with a recent death of a family in the landless movement. Brazil has a constitutional obligation to confiscate untilled land and give it to the landless. The landowners fight back. The landless occupy land they don't own, and violence results. And, the corrupt police support the landowners in many areas.

As Silva and his small team from the Federal Police investigate, they only face opposition from the state police and the landowners. Before Silva can put together the facts, he finds events escalating out of control, as reporters are murdered, the families occupying land are massacred, and each clue leads to more violence. And, suspicion alone can't solve the case.

Leighton Gage has written a powerful debut mystery. He brings Brazil to life, with the complex politics, and ugliness of the poverty, and, at times, the life. For those who object to the brutality in the book, the author explains that documented deaths are over 1,500 in Brazil's land wars. Gage shows the extremes of poverty and wealth, capturing it vividly in two scenes linked by one character, the mother of a street boy. He tells of the family tragedies in Brazil, and the crime. And everything is linked together, the lifestyles, the police, the politics, and the Church. Chief Inspector Mario Silva himself, is a complex man, who has witnessed, and lived, the contradictions of Brazilian life and "Brazilian justice."

I'm waiting for the return of Silva in the sequel to Blood of the Wicked. And, I can't wait to meet the man who can bring a character, and a country, so vividly to life.

Leighton Gage will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 pm.

Gage's website is

Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage. Soho Crime, ©2008, ISBN 1569474702 (hardcover), 324p.

Lonnie Cruse's Virtual Tour

Lonnie Cruse, author of the new mystery, Fifty-Seven Heaven, and the Sheriff Joe Dalton Metropolis mysteries, is making a virtual tour of blogs this month. I appreciate her willingness to stop here for readers. Here's Lonnie.

The Internet – Gotta love it!

My friend, Jen, just spent an hour or so teaching me how to play a virtual game of GO FISH with each of us meeting on the Internet from separate locations at opposite ends of town. The game ended in a tie, in case you were wondering. Okay, you’re all thinking I need to get a life, right? I have one, thank you very much, and it’s quite full. The purpose of the lesson in cards was to teach me how to navigate a certain famous children’s website so I can teach my grandson. It’s a fascinating site, loads of things for children to learn and it even teaches a bit of responsibility. What’s not to like?

Navigating this site made me realize for maybe the millionth time just how varied and interesting the Internet is. And how useful. For anyone, really, but in my opinion, particularly for authors. We can research any subject we need to for our writing and learn all sorts of interesting things, like how to kill off people we don’t like (in fiction of course, what did you think I meant?) and what dead bodies look like before the funeral home makes them look “like they’re only asleep.” Yeah, right. Where was I?

Once the manuscript is written (for me, on the computer, with spell check checking at full speed and the ability to move large paragraphs with a single click of the mouse) authors can meet other authors in writers’ groups to receive critiques, support, swap suggestions and information, and network with each other. Manuscript completed, the author can use the Internet to search for, meet, and submit queries to agents and/or publishers. Contracts can be faxed back and forth for signatures. Edits can be done over the Internet, through e-mail. Then the real fun begins, promotion.

Authors now have a multitude of venues to get our names before the reading public. Sites such as reader discussion lists like DorothyL, library sites, review sites, web groups like MySpace, MyShelf, Squidoo, Author’s Den, writer’s groups like SINC, MWA, RWA, and a zillion more. Getting our names out there is not nearly as difficult as it was before the dawn of the Information Age.

Of course, using the Internet doesn’t always make the author’s life easier. We have to visit and/or update our pages on these sites regularly and stay in touch with what’s going on in publishing in order to stay alive in it. That takes a lot of time. Time the author would love to be writing a new story. Still, the Internet gives us a lot of opportunities we didn’t have before. And yes, I know there are a lot of dangerous areas on the Internet, areas particularly dangerous to the young. But with a bit of sense, we can avoid them, and block them from our kids. But I’m very grateful for sites like Lesa’s that review books and allow authors to chat, touting our latest books. Right now I’m doing what’s known as a “virtual tour.” Which means I’m visiting various blogs and websites this month, chatting about my books in particular and writing in general. Thank you, Lesa, for this opportunity to stop by.

My latest book, by the way, is Fifty-Seven Heaven, featuring baby boomers Kitty and Jack Bloodworth and their trophy winning 1957 Chevy. When they find the dead body of Kitty’s irritating cousin, Will Ann Lloyd stuffed in the trunk, the Bloodworths must take a long hard look at their nearest and dearest. The book was released by Five Star in December. I hope you all will want to check it out, literally, at your local library, or nab a copy at your local bookstore. For more information, click on my website at where you’ll find a list of other Internet places I hang out. Quick game of virtual OLD MAID, anyone?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Note from Donis Casey

Two lucky readers will receive autographed copies of Donis Casey's books this week in my blog contest. Donis was kind enough to write a note to readers to discuss her books, and her character, Alafair Tucker.

Dear Readers,

I write a historical mystery series set in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in the 1910s. Thus far, three novels in the series have been published, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, and the recently released The Drop Edge of Yonder. I'm just finishing the manuscript for the fourth novel, The Sky Took Him. (You read it here first.) I chose to write about the early 20th Century in Oklahoma partly because most people don't know much about either one. The 1910s in Oklahoma was a time of tremendous upheaval, with people coming in droves from all over the world to make their fortunes in land, and cattle, and oil. And make their fortunes they did. It was still the Wild West, and yet it was wealthy and modern, as well. People in that time faced many of the same frightening, world-altering situations that we're facing now at the beginning of the 21st Century. It's a wonderful time and place to set a murder mystery.

My sleuth is a forty-ish woman by the name of Alafair, who lives with her husband Shaw and their ten children on a prosperous farm. She never sets out to solve murders, but all those pesky half-grown kids keep getting themselves involved in unsavory situations, and need their mother to help them get out. I've been amazed and gratified at how people love Alafair. Maybe it's because she's the mother everyone either wishes they were or wishes they had. Her family matters to Alafair more than anything, and yet being loving doesn't make her weak in the least. It makes her tough as nails. It makes her dangerous.

How Alafair came to be is a wonder. This series is different from anything I'd ever written before, because it's about a traditional woman. I was a big feminist in my youth, but when I got to a certain age, it began to dawn on me that perhaps by so totally rejecting the qualities that have always been associated with women, I was buying into the idea that there was something inferior about them! And that's not a very good thing for a big feminist to think.

The character of Alafair is inspired by my grandmothers, and my mother,and my mother-in-law, and she's quite a bit like me, too, if I were entirely different than I am. I do a lot of research. I love to create a world in which the reader can feel like she's really there. I try to get Alafair's world right, and I've discovered that there's a lot more to getting it right than just getting your facts straight. I would like for readers to feel like Alafair is a real person, with a life that matters to them. I'd like for you, Dear Reader, to know her and her family, to care about them. I want you to say, "Oh, no! What is she going to do now?"

A character, like a real person, is a product of her past, her place, and her time. Nothing annoys me more than a character in a historical novel who thinks and acts like a modern person. I want to know where she lives, how she talks and thinks and relates to her place and situation. I want to believe in her.

One of the most important things about writing fiction, I think, is that it's the delicious little details of life that make a story ring true. I learned early on about the effective use of detail from my mother, from letters she wrote me, back when people still wrote letters. She was a great letter writer. She wrote about nothing, but somehow her letters were endlessly fascinating. Little details can show a reader something about the place, the times, the character with just a few words, an image. Just the right image can give a reader a jolt of recognition; or a feeling of discovery, as though she's seeing a place or meeting a person for the very first time.

So I write about what's for dinner. If you have ten kids, you're always thinking about what to fix for dinner. I write about doing the laundry, and mopping the floor, and weeding the garden. Because if I want to be realistic, Alafair has to take care of the business of living at the same time she's trying to solve a murder. And she's always having to stop and deal with the kids. Anybody who has kids knows that they don't care what important issues you're involved with. They have their own agenda.

Writing is not easy. And I'm not talking about the sheer work it takes to sit down every day without fail and face page after blank page that you have to fill with brilliant words when you don't feel very brilliant. I think that in order to be at all successful as a writer, you have to be incredibly brave and willing to tell your own truth in spite of what people may think of you. And I don't mean that you have to be shocking, either. Sometimes it takes infinitely more courage not to try to be shocking or cutting edge, but to be plain and true! At least that's the way it worked for me. The plain truth is plenty shocking as it is.

I hope you'll visit Alafair's world, Dear Reader. I think you'll recognize it, no matter where you're from. And drop by my website ( sometime and let me know what you think. Thanks to Lesa for allowing me to join you today, and for all the wonderful support she gives to us toiling authors.

Happy New Year,

Blog Anniversary

Today is the third anniversary of this blog. I posted the first entry on January 6, 2005, using the name, Nikki's World. Nikki is my husband, Jim's, cat. In 2005, she was young and curious, and interested in exploring everything.

I hope I've brought some of that same curiousity to the exploration of books in the last three years. Although I'm a big mystery fan, I've also reviewed childen's books, fantasies, women's fiction, history and biographies, with a few odds and ends thrown in.

Thank you to all of the readers who have read the blog, and cared enough to come back. Thank you to the authors who sent Notes to Readers, commented on the blog, sent books for prizes, and wrote all of the books I've reviewed over the past three years.

I'll do my best to make this an interesting blog that entices you back for more book reviews, more book contests, and more glimpses at authors.

On to the fourth year!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives

After finishing The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley, I can definitely say I prefer Al Roker's Book Club to Oprah's. Roker's latest choice for his Today Show book club aimed at fourth, fifth, and sixth graders has suspense, exciting characters, and two likable kids as the heroes. And, I didn't find this book depressing, as so many of Oprah's selections are.

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have been in and out of an orphanage and foster homes since their parents mysteriously disappeared a year and a half earlier. At eleven, Sabrina feels it's her duty to protect her seven year old sister. Time after time, she led their escape from abusive foster parents. Finally, they're sent to live with Relda Grimm, a grandmother they didn't know existed because their father told them she was dead. Sabrina is suspicious of this weird woman who lives outside of Ferrypoint Landing, New York, insisting she and Daphne must plan their escape.

It's only when they try to escape the house and are chased in the woods that their Grandmother reveals the family secret. As descendents of Wilhelm Grimm, the co-author of Grimms' Fairy Tales, they must now play their role in the community. For Ferrypoint Landing is the home of Everafters, the people from fairy tales who were persecuted in Europe and escaped to America to live in secret in this town. And the town actually has a spell over it so that the Everafters cannot leave as long as a Grimm is in town to keep the spell intact. To do that, the Grimm family members must serve as fairy-tale detectives, tracking down evildoers.

Sabrina reacts angrily in disbelief, while Daphne falls wholeheartedly under her Grandmother's spell. However, when their Grandmother and her mysterious friend are captured by a giant, even Sabrina must admit the stories are true. Now, it's up to the Sisters Grimm and a new friend to rescue the family they just discovered.

Buckley has brought to life the characters readers will remember from Grimms' Fairy Tales and other stories. He successfully uses the popular motif of children on their own, forced to take heroic action against villians. Readers will recognize it from the Harry Potter stories, and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives is another promising start to a series. Congratulations to Al Roker for bringing this series to the attention of readers.

Michael Buckley's website is

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley. Amulet Books, ©2005, ISBN 0-8109-5925-9 (hardcover), 284p.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Donis Casey's Books - First Contest of 2008

As promised, I'm kicking off 2008 with a contest featuring two of Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker mysteries, Hornswoggled and The Drop Edge of Yonder. Donis appeared at the Velma Teague Library on November 29, and I blogged about her appearance the next day, linked here.

Donis was nice enough to autograph an ARC of Hornswoggled, the second book in her series. The Alafair Tucker mysteries are fascinating mysteries, set in Oklahoma in the early twentieth century. Alafair, the mother of ten, finds herself investigating murders in order to protect her children.

She also donated an autographed copy of her latest book, The Drop Edge of Yonder. This time, Alafair is a little too protective. Her daughter, Mary, is trying to remember what she saw the day her uncle was murdered, but Alafair is afraid that Mary is a target.

Would you like an autographed ARC of Hornswoggled, or an autographed copy of The Drop Edge of Yonder? If you'd like to win one of these 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 Thursday, January 10 at 6 pm MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Halloween in Oz: Dorothy Returns

The summer after fourth grade, I spent one Saturday reading three of L. Frank Baum's sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, Rinkitink in Oz, and The Scarecrow of Oz. Reading Leo Moser and Carol Nelson's marvelous book, Halloween in Oz: Dorothy Returns, brings all of those memories back.

Moser and Nelson wrote their own sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in a Halloween story featuring Dorothy Gale, an orphan living with her aunt and uncle on a remote Kansas Farm in 1900. The eleven-year-old blond is lonely, and her only friend, Tim Gault, along with her aunt and uncle, thinks she shouldn't do things "girls" don't normally do. Dorothy is rebellious, and believes with a new century, girls should be able to do anything boys do.

Dorothy is particularly lonely since she lost her only picture of her parents in her trip to Oz. Suddenly, she starts to dream about that picture, and her parents telling her she needs to return to Oz, because it's Halloween, and trouble in brewing. The unusual purple and silver ribbons found by Tim allow Dorothy and Toto to return, only to run into a boy who resembles Tim, a boy named Mitt who tends pigs for an old woman named Salmanta who is trying to gather magic during the thirteen days of Halloween in Oz.

Readers will recognize some of the characters in this book, Tin-man, Scarecrow and Glinda, the Good Witch. Other characters will be familiar to readers of Baum's books, Punk N Hedd, the pumpkin who becomes a man, and Tik-toc. This is a comfort read for anyone raised on L. Frank Baum's books.

However, nothing is comfortable in Dorothy's adventures. As in all good fantasy books, Halloween in Oz is a story of good versus evil. Dorothy and Mitt must gather than friends, and rally the troops for a large battle of the good animals and people of the land opposing Salmanta's magical forces. Moser and Nelson have written an exciting story that keeps the reader turning pages to see how Dorothy will deal with the wicked woman and her magic. The humorous touches relieve the anxiety. Mitt himself is funny at times, as are some of Dorothy's other friends, such as Punk N Hedd, with his fear of rotting or being eaten. In Oz, Dorothy argues with Mitt, instead of Tim, about a girl's ability to do anything a boy can do.

Just as Baum did, Moser and Nelson leave questions unanswered that allow room for sequels. Anyone who enjoys the fantasy stories that preceded C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, will appreciate Halloween in Oz: Dorothy Returns.

The website is

Halloween in Oz: Dorothy Returns by Leo Moser and Carol Nelson. Whitfield & Dodd Publications, Alpimar Books, ©2007. ISBN 978-0979856204 (paperback), 553p.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

February already? Treasures and Bestsellers

It's only January 1, but it's already time to talk about February books. Since I only have a few treasures in my closet, let's talk about those books first. These are scheduled for February publication.

Maise Dobbs returns in Jacqueline Winspear's new novel, An Incomplete Revenge. The fifth book in the series takes Maisie to a small village in Kent, a village shrouded in secrecy, beset by fires and petty crime.

No. Rosemary Harris' debut mystery, Pushing Up Daisies, has nothing to do with the television series. When Paula Holliday leaves a media job to take over a landscaping business in Connecticut, she didn't expect to find a mummified body on an estate. Soon, the landscaper is unearthing secrets that could kill.

Steve Hockensmith's brings "Old Red" Amlingmeyer, and his brother, "Big Red," back, sending the two cowpokes to San Francisco, where the Sherlock Holmes fans end up facing Chinese Tong members. When old friends turn deadly, "Old Red" and "Big Red" know they're in trouble.

What are the possible bestsellers in February? I predict someone with the last name beginning with P will make the list. Michael Palmer's new novel, The First Patient, features a physician who becomes his roommate's doctor. But, his former roommate is now President of the United States. Or, Robert B. Parker. He brings back Jesse Stone in Stranger in Paradise. T. Jefferson Parker pits Deputy Charlie Hood against a female version of Jesse James in L.A. Outlaws. And, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro bring back the Women's Murder Club in 7th Heaven.

Attorney Mary DiNunzio tries to unmask a killer in Lisa Scottoline's Lady Killer. Lt. Eve Dallas, and her husband, Roark, return in J.D. Robb's latest book, Strangers in Death.

It may be just the start of January, but now is the time to reserve these books at your local public library, or order them from your favorite bookstore.

Looks like there might be some fun books for us in February.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Welcome to Lesa's Book Critiques in 2008! I hope it's a wonderful year for readers, authors, books, and this blog.

Resolved: To offer interesting book reviews, beginning with tomorrow's Halloween in Oz. I hope you find the reviews fun to read.

Resolved: To offer free books in weekly contests, beginning with two books by Donis Casey. The first contest will start this Thursday, Jan. 3. Check it out!

Resolved: To share author pictures, meetings, and stories of events I attend. Leighton Gage will kick off January, when he appears at the Velma Teague Library on January 23.

Resolved: To continue to offer the best blog I can, with book news, book reviews, and a little personal information.

I'm looking forward to 2008! I hope you'll join me here.