Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany

In the Shadow of the Glacier is the book that launched Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith series. What a wonderful introduction to Smith, Detective Sergeant John Winters, and, most of all the slightly off-beat town of Trafalgar, British Columbia.

There are less than 10,000 people in Trafalgar, a town that welcomed draft dodgers from the United States during Vietnam, and still accepts young people who drift into town. But, the town is up in arms over two possible changes. Reg Montgomery and his business partner are planning the Grizzly Resort, a development some townspeople accept as necessary for jobs and tourism, while others view it as a desecration of the land. The other change is the proposed Commemorative Peace Garden, dedicated to Vietnam War protesters. Molly Smith's mother, and other sixties rebels, are up in arms, supporting the garden, and opposed to the resort.

When Constable Molly Smith finds Montgomery's body in an alley, she's asked to provide local background for Winters, a new addition to Trafalgar's police department, although he was in homicide in Toronto. Molly's thrilled to work on her first homicide case. She's not as thrilled to see her parents as torn apart by the town's troubles as the town itself.

Delany creates a vivid setting in Trafalgar. And, she skillfully combines a police procedural with a traditional mystery, set in a small town. Her police officers don't have the luxury of working just one case. They have their hands full with a murder investigation, stolen bikes, an American journalist who stirs up the town, and protests. And, Molly, a rookie, has to learn to cope with her job, and her personal life, as she watches her parents fight, and her best friend cope with a stalker.

In the Shadow of the Glacier is an outstanding introduction to a promising mystery series.

Vicki Delany's address is www.vickidelany.com

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007. ISBN 9781590584484 (hardcover), 302p.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Congratulations to the winners of the last contest on my blog. Vicki Delany's Valley of the Lost will go to Shirley N. of Columbus, OH. Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson will go to Donna S. of St. Louis, MO. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Since this contest announcement was delayed because of the splint on my hand, I'm going to wait until Thursday night to start the next contest. That will put it back on schedule.

In the meantime, you have one more day to enter the Women's History Month contest, if you're interested. Jim will draw those winners on Wednesday morning.

Good luck! And, thanks for waiting until I was able to stop wearing the splint. I just hope my hand heals properly now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nominated for Best Reviewer!

I'm hunting and pecking on the computer because of the splint on my finger on my left hand, but the following news was too exciting to wait until I get this darn thing off my hand. I was jusr nominated in the category of Best Reviewer for the 2009 Spinetingler Awards. These awards are given out by Spinetingler Magazine.

I'm very surprised and honored to be in the company of some outstanding reviewers.

Best Reviewer:
• Ali Karim
• Larry Gandle
• Lesa Holstine
• Karen Chisholm
• Glenn Harper

And, you can vote. According to Sandra Ruttan, editor of Spinetingler Magazine, "Winners in each category will be determined by public vote. Voting will be open until April 25, 2009. Please follow this link to cast your vote in any or all of the categories, to see the covers nominated and to follow the links to the short stories."

Here is the full list of nominees.

New Voice:
• Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow (Harper)
• The Price of Blood, by Declan Hughes (Morrow)
• Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, by John McFetridge (Harcourt)
• Borderlands, by Brian McGilloway (Minotaur Books)
• Go With Me, by Castle Freeman Jr. (Steerforth Press)
• The Crazy School, by Cornelia Read (Grand Central Publishing)
• Who Is Conrad Hirst?, by Kevin Wignall
• Crimson Orgy, by Austin Williams (Borderlands Press)

Rising Star:
• When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson (Black Swan)
• No More Heroes, by Ray Banks (Polygon)
• Money Shot, by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
• The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
• Savage Night, by Allan Guthrie (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
• A Nail Through the Heart, by Timothy Hallinan (Morrow)
• Empire of Lies, by Andrew Klavan (Harcourt)
• Victory Square, by Olen Steinhauer (Minotaur Books)

• Hit and Run, by Lawrence Block (Morrow)
• Nothing to Lose, by Lee Child (Delacorte Press)
• Chasing Darkness, by Robert Crais (Simon & Schuster)
• Leather Maiden, by Joe R. Lansdale (Knopf)
• The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
• Dooley Takes the Fall, by Norah McClintock (Red Deer Press)
• A Darker Domain, by Val McDermid (Harper)
• Salt River, by James Sallis (Walker & Co.)

Graphic Novel:
• 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
• Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
• Femme Noir, by Christopher Mills and Joe Staton
• Hawaiian Dick, by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin
• Incognegro, by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece
• Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera

Best Editor:
• Ben LeRoy, Bleak House
• Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime
• Neil Nyren, Putnam
• John Schoenfelder, Thomas Dunne

Best Reviewer:
• Ali Karim
• Larry Gandle
• Lesa Holstine
• Karen Chisholm
• Glenn Harper

Best Publisher:
• Bleak House
• Hard Case Crime
• Soho Press

Special Services to the Industry:
• Declan Burke, Crime Always Pays
• Barbara Franchi, Reviewing the Evidence
• J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet
• John and Ruth Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
• Peter Rozovsky, Detectives Beyond Borders
• Ruth Jordan and Judy Bobolik, Bouchercon 2008

Best Cover:
• At the City’s Edge, by Marcus Sakey (St. Martin’s Minotaur)--cover design by The DesignWorks Group
• Death Was the Other Woman, by Linda L Richards (St. Martin’s Minotaur)--cover design by David Baldeosignh Rotstein
• Empty Ever After, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House)--cover design by 2Faced Designs
• Fifty to One, by Charles Ardai (Hard Case Crime)--cover design by Cooley Design Lab
• Mad Dogs, by Brian Hodge (Cemetery Dance)--cover design by Jill Bauman
• Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow (Harper)--cover design by Leah Carlson-Stanisic

Best Short Story on the Web:
• “Cold Rift,” by Sandra Seamans (from Crooked)
• “Fruits,” by Steve Mosby (from Spinetingler)
• “Hard Bite,” by Anonymous-9 (from Beat to a Pulp)
• “Lenny and Earl Go Shooting Off Their Mouths,” by Ray Morrison (from Word Riot)
• “Random Acts of Fatherhood,” by Robert Pesa (from Darkest Before the Dawn)
• “Red Hair and Black Leather,” by Jordan Harper (from ThugLit)
• “She Watches Him Swim,” by Claude Lalumiere (from Back Alley)
• “Sisters Under the Skin,” by Naomi Johnson (from A Twist of Noir)
• “They Take You,” by Kyle Minor (from Plots With Guns)
• “Wishing on Whores,” by John Weagly (from Thieves Jargon)

So, if you'd like to vote, vote here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Out of Commission

No, it isn't that bad. I had a stupid accident yesterday, and my left hand is in a splint. I'm typing this with my right hand, awkwardly. I have to keep the left hand elevated.

I'll announce the winners to the contest on Monday night. Hopefully, the doctor will say I can use my hand again then.

Thanks for your patience. See you Monday night.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

If you’re a dog lover, or someone who appreciates humor in mysteries, Spencer Quinn’s Dog On It is a must read. The book introduces two of the most lovable characters I’ve met in recent mysteries, Bernie Little, founder and part owner of the Little Detective Agency, and, most important, Chet, the narrator. Chet is a dog. Chet doesn’t speak. He doesn’t do anything that isn’t dog-like. But, he is a full partner in Bernie’s life and business. And, Chet tells a very good story.

Bernie is divorced, and owes alimony and child support. The business has been relying on divorce cases lately, but, according to Chet, they specialize in missing persons. When Cynthia Chambliss wants to hire Bernie to find her missing fifteen-year-old daughter, Madison, he’s a little reluctant. Madison might not have come home from school, but she hasn’t even been gone overnight. And, Bernie is right because Madison shows up with some story about a movie she saw. The case is over, but Bernie knew Madison lied.

When Madison disappears again, Cynthia returns to Bernie asking for help. This time, Cynthia's ex-husband becomes involved, insisting Madison just ran away to Vegas. Bernie and Chet dislike Madison's father, Damon Keefer, immediately. Bernie has problems with developers, and Damon is not only a developer, but he doesn't seem concerned enough about his daughter, a girl that Bernie and Chet both liked. Something is definitely wrong in Keefer's story.

As Bernie and Chet investigate, followed by Suzie Sanchez, a reporter who wants to write a story about a day in the life of a private investigator, the case takes an unusual turn, heading for the desert. And, all three of these characters show unexpected resourcefulness.

As I said, this is a must-read for dog lovers. If readers don't laugh aloud at Chet, they will at least be smiling. Chet's adventures with a group of bikers, and his day at the golf course are wonderful parts of the book. And, Bernie is not the loser that he appears at first glance. He has some hidden qualities that serve him well.

I can't recommend Dog On It highly enough. Chet is one of the best narrators since Danny Boyle in Chris Grabenstein's Ceepak mysteries. This book is a treat. And, it's even a bigger treat to know this is the first in a series.

Chet's website is Chetthedog.com

Chet also Twitters at twitter.com/ChetTheDog

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn. Atria Books, ©2009. ISBN 9781416585831 (hardcover), 320p.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

It's been over ten years since Spencer Johnson's bestseller, Who Moved My Cheese? was published. At the time, it swept the business and government worlds. I know I went to presentations while working for one city government and one county government, where that book was the featured topic, since we all seemed to be dealing with change. Now, Johnson's latest book, Peaks and Valleys: Making Good And Bad Times Work For You-At Work And In Life, is timed perfectly, hitting when people are coping with terrible times at work and home.

Once again, Johnson uses a parable to get his point across. The narrator is a woman, telling the story to a man facing problems at work and home. She relates the story of a young man who lives in a valley, where it's comfortable, and everything is the same day after day. Most people are content to remain in the valley, but the young man is restless, and wants to see the view from the nearby peak. After a difficult climb, he finds a wise man at the top, who guides him through lessons about life, and encourages him to find his own path. However, it's not easy to spend more time at the peak, when life in the valley, or on a plateau, can be lazy and easy.

Johnson's latest book will probably be a bestseller, with the pithy messages that will be seen as answers to problems within the workplace. One message is, "The path out of the valley appears when you choose to see things differently." It's definitely a timely book with a hook. However, it probably will not make it as big as Who Moved My Cheese? That book came out in a time of high employment, when workers were only facing change in the workplace. This book, with a message that you need to learn how to look at the good and the bad, may not be quite as well received when people are losing their jobs and their homes. Or, if they themselves are not out of work, they are the employees left behind as others leave or retire. It will be interesting to see if Peaks and Valleys takes off.

The website for this book is www.PeaksAndValleysTheBook.com

Peaks and Valleys: Making Good And Bad Times Work For You--At Work And In Life by Spencer Johnson. Atria Books, ©2009. ISBN 9781439103258 (hardcover), 112p.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke

Joanne Fluke's cozy Hannah Swensen mysteries have one thing in common with Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. Neither character can decide between two good-looking men. And, after eleven books, it's time that Hannah made a decision because it's getting a little old. If Hannah doesn't make a decision after the events of Cream Puff Murder, she's not very bright.

Hannah is the owner of the Cookie Jar, a bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota. But, her lifestyle is not conducive to a petite figure, so she discovers she can't get into the Regency style dress her mother, Delores, would like her to wear for her book launch party. Together with her sister, Andrea, Hannah starts working out every morning. When Ronnie Ward shows up as the fitness instructor, though, it's not a pleasant workout experience.

Ronnie Ward works as a fitness instructor at a local spa, but also at the police station, because Andrea's husband, the local sheriff, hired her back when her engagement fell through. Unfortunately, Ronnie is the town flirt, and most men in town are caught in her snare, while the women detest her. That's obvious when there's a fight at the local pizza parlor, where Ronnie holds court until she's attacked by a police officer's mother for messing with his marriage. Ronnie is probably the most hated woman in Lake Eden. But, it's the men who are the suspects when Hannah finds her body in the spa's jacuzzi. And, some of those men are police officers, including Hannah's off and on again boyfriend, Detective Mike Kingston. Since the police are suspects, it's up to Hannah, her sisters and friends to find a killer.

Fluke's mysteries are always fun, and, after eleven books, familiar. For those of us who read the series, it's comfortable to return to the characters. Hannah's cat, Moishe, usually provides a light touch of humor. And, of course, there are the delicious sounding recipes. But, darn it anyways. Hannah has two choices. She can pick the good looking police detective, Mike, who is a flirt, and doesn't treat her right. Or, she can pick Norman, the dentist, who built a house for her, cares for Moishe, and helps her investigate murders. Give readers a break, Hannah, and make the smart decision. Cream Puff Murder should have made the decision easier.

Joanne Fluke's website is murdershebaked.com.

Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke. Kensington Publishing Corporation, ©2009. ISBN 9780758210227 (hardcover), 288p.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Artscape by Frederick Ramsay

I found a new series to put in my current list of top "favorites". I had to read the fourth book in the series recently, Stranger Room, and I discovered Frederick Ramsay's Sheriff Ike Schwartz mysteries. Then I went back to start at the beginning. After reading Artscape, the first book, I knew I had found an author who writes meaty crime novels with solid, interesting characters.

Summer in southwest Virginia looked like it would be just more of the ordinary crimes in a small county for Sheriff Ike Schwartz and his department, until the board of trustees met for the Dillon Collection South. Callend College, the local women's college in Picketsville, housed an art collection worth half a billion dollars. When the board voted to move the collection within three weeks, they set off a chain reaction.

A mysterious group planned to steal the collection in July, and hold it for ransom. Now, their plans had to be moved up. Only a former FBI agent, skilled in security, would be able to help them. Once they put the right pressure on him, the theft could move forward smoothly. But, no one counted on a security guard who liked to watch young people in Lovers' Lane. And, the thieves didn't count on a car parked in Lovers' Lane.

When Sheriff Ike Schwartz finally had a chance to take inventory, he realized he had "Contract professionals, murder, possible kidnapping, possible Mafia, a rogue FBI man, and not a clue why the job was done." Oh, and of course that didn't include the art theft, or the college president, Ruth Harris, a woman who disliked Ike on sight.

Ramsay's small-town sheriff is a man with depth, and a secret past. The author is as skilled at revealing Ike's secrets as Schwartz is at his job. It's going to be a pleasure to return to Ike Schwartz' community in the two books I haven't read. And, fortunately, there's another book due out in June, Choker. I'll be caught up by that time, waiting for the next outstanding book in this mystery series.

Frederick Ramsay's website is www.frederickramsay.com

Artscape by Frederick Ramsay. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2004. ISBN 9781590581223 (hardcover), 260p.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Salon - Blog Awards!

I wanted to thank Kathrin and Yvonne for the blog awards today. It means a lot to me. Kathrin presented me with three of them. She's been an online friend for three or four years on ARM, a mystery list. She's a college student in Germany who blogs at Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic. When Kathrin presented me with awards, I became an international award winner! (smile)

Thank you, Kathrin!

And, Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews presented me with the Sisterhood Award.

Thank you, Yvonne!

I understand these awards are all supposed to be passed on. I also know that each award asks the recipient to nominate ten more people. I'm going to accept the awards graciously, and just ask that you read some of the blogs on my blog list. I wouldn't be following them if they weren't good blogs. So, I nominate everyone I follow because they have interesting blogs. Enjoy them!

Sunday Salon - Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement

Blaize Clement's pet sitter character, Dixie Hemingway, is a survivor, although she's a troubled woman. She lost her job as a deputy in Sarasota County, Florida, after she broke down following the tragic death of her husband and daughter. She turned to pet sitting, and, in the course of earlier books, she struggled to cope with her life, and other people. The animals, and her brother and his partner, have helped to get her through. In Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, she just might be ready to take the next step in adjusting to life.

Dixie's first step is to reach out to a friend. She likes Laura Halston when she first meets her, and thinks she's made a connection. Laura tells her she's hiding from an abusive husband, and Dixie believes her. But, when Laura is murdered, Dixie finds that everything she believed is wrong. Dixie is forced to examine her own behavior, when she realized she fell so easily into Laura's story. How can she trust her own judgement about men, deciding between two sexy men, a lawyer and a homicide cop? As Dixie herself says, "There was absolutely no way I could have known that my chance meeting with Laura Halston would one day haunt me, or that knowing her would ultimately make me question myself in a way I'd never done before."

Blaize Clement's mysteries continue to be some of my favorites. Who can resist the wonderful Siesta Key setting? Clement's characters are likable, from Dixie, to Lieutenant Guidry, to Dixie's brother Michael and his partner, Paco. This book introduces another marvelous one, Pete Madeira, a former circus clown. There's always humor, and, of course, the pets. And, so far, Clement has remembered the rule, "Don't kill of a pet."

Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof is another enjoyable, solid entry in this series. It's a book that allows Dixie to continue to grow as a character. Dixie's job allows her access to so many different types of people and households. Let's hope this pet sitter continues to stumble on crime for quite a long time.

Blaize Clement's website is www.BlaizeClement.com

Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312369552 (hardcover), 288p.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Caravaggio's Angel by Ruth Brandon

My review of Caravaggio's Angel, as it appears in Mystery News.

Caravaggio's Angel
by Ruth Brandon
ISBN 978-1-56947-519-5
October, 2008
Amateur Detective

Ruth Brandon debuts the first book in a series featuring Dr. Reggie Lee, an art curator for the National Gallery in London. Brandon combines art history and French politics in a mystery that falls flat.

Reggie's discovery of a rare pamphlet at a school fair leads to an obsessive three-year quest. The pamphlet tells the story of the theft from the Louvre of Caravaggio's painting, St. Cecelia and the Angel. The painting spent two weeks traveling around France, and when it was returned to the Louvre, the small pamphlet was released, with photo's of the painting's journey. Shortly afterward, a young painter was found hanging, with the pamphlet beside him. The pamphlet, the painting, and the story became part of art history.

Reggie wants to put together a small exhibition with the three known copies of the painting. The Getty agrees to loan their copy, and, at first, the Louvre agrees. However, suddenly, Antonie Rigaut, in charge of the museum's Italian collection, withdraws permission. Reggie thinks she can pull strings, but all doors are shut in her face at the Louvre, and she can't connect with Rigaut. Frustrated, she finds herself at the address where the painter died, and is amazed to find Manu Rigaut living there, nephew of Armand. Manu knows the story of the pamphlet because it is a family story. His grandmother found the young man's body because he was her brother. Manu sends Reggie to meet his grandmother, Juliette.

Juliette has stories to tell Reggie, and a copy of St. Cecelia and the Angel on her wall. But, all of Reggie's attempts to uncover more about the artwork are blocked by Manu's father, Jean-Jacques Rigaut, the Interior Minister of France, a man with higher political ambition. Suddenly the opposition turns to death, and Reggie doesn't know where to turn. But, she's determined to exhibit the paintings, and she's not going to let death or politics stand in her way.

I couldn't feel any sympathy for Reggie Lee, who became a dislikable character by the end of the book. Although she seemed timid and unsure of herself at times, she was obsessed with two things, the Caravaggio paintings, and men. Nothing was going to stand in Reggie's way when it came to either of them. Throughout the course of the book, she continued to try to impress an ex-boyfriend who had dumped her. She slept with a married journalist, although she liked his wife and children. She even fantasized about her sexual attraction to Jean-Jacques Rigaut, a man who has shown that he's brutal and powerful.

At the end of the book, Reggie proved to be as manipulative as the Interior Minister in order to get her exhibition. She might have brought down a killer, but it felt as if she used blackmail and duplicity to bring about a resolution that would benefit her, not to successfully resolve a mystery.

There were also too many unexplained French sentences in the book, which I found troublesome. Other readers might feel the same way.

If a reader is looking to learn about art while reading an enjoyable crime novel, I would recommend Hailey Lind's books, rather than the Reggie Lee mysteries.

Reprinted, with permission, from Mystery News, Volume 27, Issue 1, Feb/March 2009.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - The Old Man in the Corner

I loved Baroness Emmuska Orzcy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. That story, and its sequels, are probably better known than her mystery stories. The Scarlet Pimpernel was even made into a musical. But, I remember reading her short stories about the Old Man in the Corner with fondness. It's nice to know they are back in print.

This anonymous character, known only as the Old Man in the Corner, was one of the earliest and greatest of the armchair detectives. The first story appeared in a magazine in 1901. Polly Burton, a young reporter of the Evening Observer, brought cases to him, where he sat in his chair in a London tea shop. Without leaving that chair, he would unravel the complex cases, as he tied and untied complicated knots in a piece of string. He's a brilliant man, who uses his intelligence to successfully find a resolution to each story. He is also unusual in that he often feels sympathy for the criminal.

For anyone who enjoys complicated short mysteries, these are a treat. And, it's a treat to see them back in print, in hardcover, paperback, and even large print.

The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy. 1st World Library, published 2006. ISBN 9781421800103 (hardcover), 296p.

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at www.pattinase.blogspot.com, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Winners and Hot or Cold Mystery Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The autographed ARC of Cara Black's Murder in the Latin Quarter will go to Mindy A. of Bronx, NY. Claude Izner's Murder on the Eiffel Tower will go to Marta H. from Wapakoneta, OH. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Since we just hosted The Hot and Cold Mystery Tour at Velma Teague this week, I'm offering the Hot or Cold Contest. I have autographed ARCs of the latest books by both Vicki Delany and Deborah Turrell Atkinson.

Pleasing the Dead is the latest Storm Kayama mystery by Debby Atkinson. It's a fascinating book, as Storm tries to help a woman set up a new dive shop, and is caught up in the snares of the Yakuza, the Japanese crime organization.

Or you could win Valley of the Lost, the second

Constable Molly Smith mystery, set in Trafalgar, British Columbia. The mystery combines the best of the traditional mystery with a police procedural.

So, do you want Debby Atkinson's hot Pleasing the Dead or Vicki Delany's cold Valley of the Lost? If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: lholstine@yahoo.com. Your subject line should read either Win "Pleasing the Dead" or Win "Valley of the Lost". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, March 26 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

The Hot and Cold Mystery Tour for Authors @ The Teague

Vicki Delany and Deborah Turrell Atkinson brought their Hot & Cold Mystery Tour to the Velma Teague Library on March 18. Vicki's British Columbia setting represents the cold, although the temperature is 107° in her latest book, Valley of the Lost. Deborah's Storm Kayama mysteries, including her new book, Pleasing the Dead, are set in Hawaii. They represent the hot, even though the temperature is moderate there.

Debby said she and Vicki paired up for the tour because they have the same sense of setting. She said that setting is one of the most important elements in mystery novels, not as important as the characters, but sometimes the setting can almost become a character.

Delany discussed her book, Valley of the Lost, the second book in the Constable Molly Smith series. When she decided to write a series, after writing two standalones, she had to pick a setting. She has a daughter who lives in Nelson, British Columbia, a small town eight hours east of Vancouver. Spokane, Washington is actually the closest city, so the nearest city is across the border. Nelson is a small town, with an insulated feeling because it's in the valley, surrounded by steep mountains. Vicki described some of the residents of Nelson as neo-hippies, sometimes transients. The girls have long hair and colorful skirts. The men have lots of facial hair, full beards, and sometimes dreadlocks. They are looking for peace and tranquility in Nelson, but often find they can't afford to live there. One group of residents are the comfortably retired, with lots of money. They are escaping to Nelson, so the town has, until recently, been expanding as much as it can. However, that's limited because the town is confined by the mountains. The third group of people is the long-time residents who aren't happy because their kids can't afford to live there. According to Delany, conflict is the heart of a novel. In Valley of the Lost, the beautiful scenery is part of the conflict. Delany changed the name of Nelson to Trafalgar for her novels. Then she mentioned that if anyone has seen Steve Martin's movie, Roxanne, it was filmed in Nelson.

When it was Debby's turn to discuss setting, she said she was always an avid mystery reader. When she read Tony Hillerman, she thought, nobody is doing the legends and folklore of Hawaii like Hillerman does for the Navajo and the American Southwest. Atkinson went on to say all of the Hawaiian islands are different. Kauaʻi is the oldest one, and it's velvety green. To the east is the big island with volcanoes. It's still growing. The beaches there are small with black sand. Hawaii has five out of the seven climate zones. She said it's easy to get rid of a body there because there is a great deal of wilderness. Atkinson tries to give readers a feeling of the islands as the people who live there see them. She said there are lots of different cultures, which leaves room for conflict.

Both authors then read from their latest books. When Delany read from Valley of the Lost, she introduced her character, Constable Molly Smith as a young woman born and raised in Trafalgar. The scene was a cop in the street scene in which Molly arrests a man for smoking a marijuana cigarette in front of her. The police in Nelson have a reputation for being lenient about marijuana use, but people can't flaunt it. She asked if any of us knew what the second most profitable industry was in British Columbia, after forestry. It's growing marijuana, called BC Bud.

Before reading from Pleasing the Dead, Atkinson said this one is set in Maui, where Storm Kayama, a fledgling lawyer trying to grow her practice, is working with a dive shop. The scene she read showed Storm going diving with the dive shop owner, Laura.

Afterward, Debby described Storm, as half Hawaiian and half Japanese. Her mother committed suicide. Depression and diabetes are prominent in these people. Storm didn't want to take her mother's aumakua, the family totem, because she was afraid she might have inherited some of her mother's tendencies. So, she took her aunt's aumakua, the pig. When a family member dies, people believe they come back in the form of the family aumakua to help the living. People believe in their totem, and they are proud of it. The scene read from Pleasing the Dead features Laura's aumakua, the shark. People who have the shark as their aumakua seem to be particularly proud of it.

Vicki Delany said she had been at a mystery conference, Left Coast Crime, in Hawaii, before coming to Arizona, and she took a tour of the islands. She picked up a piece of volcanic rock, but she was told it was bad luck to take it from the islands. There's always the feeling that maybe you shouldn't tempt fate, so she didn't take it.

The islanders believe in ghosts and spirits. According to Debby, some stories are about Madame Pele. If you see an old woman with streaming grey hair, pick her up. People have said they picked her up, and then looked over, and she was gone. Another story is about the Nightmarchers, who march on the routes of the old warriors. If you hear drums, you must hide your face, and not look. When people are found dead by the road, islanders say they shouldn't have looked at the Nightmarchers.

Delany said she called her book Valley of the Lost because she heard that native Canadians said Nelson was in the Valley of Lost Souls. But, that's not true, so she was glad she didn't use the entire name. But, Nelson attracts the kind of people who want to believe it sits on ley lines. That isn't true either.

Since Atkinson and Delany were headed to Sedona, audience members mentioned that it sounded as if Nelson and Sedona had a lot in common.

They were asked about the titles of their books. Vicki said her first book was called Scare the Light Away. It's a standalone, and in one scene a woman is in a dark cellar with a flashlight, and the dog snaps at it to scare the light away. The woman also had other reasons to want to do that. But, many people thought it was a horror story because of the word scare in the title, and they didn't want to read it. Delany said she struggled with the title of Burden of Memory. But, her first Constable Molly Smith book, In the Shadow of the Glacier, has her least favorite title. That title was a group effort.

Debby Atkinson said some titles were easy. Her second Storm Kayama book, The Green Room is a term surfers use when they are held under the water by a wave, and don't know which way is up. Her latest book, Pleasing the Dead, refers to Storm and Laura's past. In that book, Storm runs into the Yakuza, a Japanese crime ring. The Yakuza cut off their fingers to show allegiance. They also have many tattoos. In the book, they are trafficking in young women, called selling spring.

When asked how they became interested in writing, Delany said she had three kids, and while they were growing up she thought someday she would write a book. They say ten million people in the United States plan to write a book. When her kids grew up, she started writing. Vicki said she had been a systems analyst for a bank. She said that's very similar to writing mysteries because she designed computer systems, and had to know the end results. Now, when she writes, she knows who id it and why. She knows the ending first, then has to write the book.

Atkinson said she traveled all over Hawaii as a pharmaceutical rep, but when she had her first son, she retired. He's now a junior in college, but it took her that long. She took writing classes. Debby said her background is in the sciences, a methodical field. Like writing mysteries, that was solving puzzles.

Vicki Delany's next Molly Smith mystery, Winter of Secrets, will be out in December. She has a historical, Gold Digger, coming out next month form Rendezvous Books. She hopes to do two books a year. Debby said she's working on a standalone, and has an idea for the next Storm Kayama mystery.

Vicki Delany's address is www.vickidelany.com

Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781590585955 (hardcover), 312p.

Deborah Atkinson's website is www.debbyatkinson.com

Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-597-9 (hardcover), 296p.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock

My review of Elizabeth Flock's Sleepwalking in Daylight appears in the March 15 issue of Library Journal. It's reprinted here, with permission.

Flock, Elizabeth. Sleepwalking in Daylight. Mira: Harlequin. Mar. 2009. c.352p. ISBN 978-0-7783-2513-0. $21.95. F

"Do you ever want to walk away from your life?" is the question that hangs over Flock's (Me & Emma) latest novel. Samantha Friedman's marriage is slowly eroding from lack of interest, something she suspected as early as her honeymoon. The adoption of Cammy, a two-year-old crack baby, and the subsequent birth of twin sons failed to improve the marriage. Samantha's friendship with a married man and her self-absorption in her own problems blind her to her daughter's cries for help. Now 16, Cammy feels unwanted and unloved, and turns to drugs and sex. This is a story that can only end in heartbreak. Unfortunately, it is not a particularly original one. With its language, sex, and drugs, this dreary tale is recommended only for those libraries that need additional books for readers who enjoy "problem fiction," as popularized by Oprah's Book Club picks.—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

Copyright © 2009 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany

There are some outstanding traditional mysteries coming out of Canada. Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mysteries immediately come to mind. Although I missed Vicki Delany's debut novel, In the Shadow of the Glacier, after reading Valley of the Lost, I'm willing to put her up there with the other Canadian authors who write intriguing police novels.

When Lucky Smith found a dead woman in the bushes near the Trafalgar Woman's Support Center, the former hippie brought home the baby that was beside her. Lucky's daughter, Molly, wasn't happy because as a police constable on probation, she needed her sleep. But, despite the baby that cried all night, Molly willingly teamed up with Sergeant John Winters to try to find the woman's killer. But, Ashley's past isn't easy to track down. No one knows her last name; she seemed to be off heroin, but died of an overdose. Is it just one more death to be attributed to the current rash of drug crimes in Trafalgar?

While Winters struggles with the case, his wife, Eliza, is struggling with her own issues. As a high-profile model, she's in demand to act as a spokesperson for a resort development that is tearing apart the community. And, since they only moved to Trafalgar after Winters left a job as a homicide cop in Vancouver, she'd like to fit into the community.

Delany's mystery combines the best of traditional mysteries with my beloved police procedurals. There is a focus on the investigation, but the author doesn't neglect the other people involved, Molly's parents, Winters' wife, a local newspaper reporter, Ashley's former roommate. Anyone could be connected when the police don't know who the victim is. Winters is very frustrated when he says, "A murder investigation starts with the victim....Who hated/feared/loved/had an accident with/even a chance encounter with the victim so that he or she ended up killing her? It all flows from there."

And, Vicki Delany successfully brings all of that flow together in a fascinating mystery, Valley of the Lost. Delany is an author to watch.

Vicki Delany's address is www.vickidelany.com

Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781590585955 (hardcover), 312p.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

When Deborah Turrell Atkinson first started her Storm Kayama mysteries, I had a hard time with them. Although the Hawaiian setting was beautiful, the early books had too many Hawaiian words, too much surfing, and they were too foreign for me. However, with her last book, Fire Prayer, and, now, with the new one, Pleasing the Dead, she has come into her own. The stories are stronger, the unfamiliar terms are used appropriately, and Atkinson captures the islands vividly. In these last two books, the legends, language, and descriptions serve to enhance the suspense and the stories.

Storm Kayama, a lawyer from Oahu, goes to Maui for what she assumes will be a short trip with a possible new client. Lara Farrell is a former windsurfer opening a new dive shop, and she needs legal advice as to the property and insurance. But, when Storm arrives, Lara doesn't seem to have time for her. Instead, she's involved with her business plans while her boyfriend, Ryan Tagama, is involved with his father's real estate business. The delays only serve to allow Storm to get involved where she shouldn't. The day she arrives, someone bombs a restaurant. The subsequent suicide of one of Lara's employees, and his attempted murder of his two young daughters shock her. When Storm attempts to help a surviving daughter, she becomes emotionally involved with some of Lara's staff.

Before she knows it, Storm is poking around where she shouldn't get involved. Somehow, all the violence seems to turn back to the Yakuza, a violent Japanese crime organization, with connections deep in the local community, including businesses, politics, real estate and child prostitution. It's enough to make a lawyer curious and angry. And, it's enough to make Storm Kayama a target.

Atkinson skillfully pulls all of the strings together in this mystery. All of the characters, from Storm to her boyfriend, Hamlin, to Lara and her employees, are three dimensional characters with complex motivations. Even minor characters, such as Sergeant Carl Moana of the Maui Police Department, are well done. Deborah Turrell Atkinson's last two books are fast-paced, exciting stories. And, Pleasing the Dead is a fascinating story that can be recommended to any reader for the suspense, storyline, characters, and local color. Now, I can highly recommend these books.

Deborah Atkinson's website is www.debbyatkinson.com

Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-597-9 (hardcover), 296p.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Salon - When March Went Mad by Seth Davis

Today is the perfect day to review Seth Davis' book, When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball. Without the 1979 NCAA final game between Michigan State with Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Indiana State with Larry Bird, Selection Sunday for March Madness might not be the big day it is. Davis, a sports analyst for CBS, tells readers how we arrived at today.

It's been thirty years since Magic and Bird faced off in that game, but there was a great deal that led up to it. Davis combines the stories of the two players, their coaches, and the teams in a story that is still suspenseful, even though many readers will know how the game ended, and we all know what happened to the two stars. One quarter of all television sets tuned into that game on March 26, 1979. But, people probably had no idea they were watching a change in sports.

Davis tells revealing stories of Bird and Johnson. They both wore #33. They were both skilled passers who were competitive players. But, this book reveals how different the two young men actually were, and how different were the paths they took to that ultimate game. The book examines their stories, their lives, and their relationships on the teams.

The book unfolds in the entire season that led up to the NCAA final game. It's a compelling story, hard to put down. And, that season, and that game, led to changes in the coverage of NCAA basketball, changes in the NBA, and changes in how we watch sports. ESPN grew into a powerhouse, covering NCAA basketball. When these two stars showed up, they drew audiences to college basketball, and then to professional basketball.

And, here we are today, at "Selection Sunday". College basketball tournaments have riveted our attention. The selections today will be watched all over the United States. Many of us will fill out our brackets, and talk basketball every day for the next few weeks. Seth Davis does a wonderful job relating how two college basketball players, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, brought us to this point, with one game. If you love basketball, check out When March Went Mad.

When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis. Henry Holt & Company, Inc., ©2009. ISBN 9780805088106 (hardcover), 336p.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Winner of Wicked by Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom

Just a quick note to say the winner was drawn for the copy of Linda Wisdom's Wicked by Any Other Name. Congratulations to Shannon J. of Waterloo, IA. Linda's publicist will be sending the copy of the book.

For those who didn't win, thanks for entering. And, remember, the book is a paperback. Maybe you can pick up a copy at your local bookstore. Give yourself a present (I'm sure you deserve one!), help an author, and help your local bookstore.

And, remember, I'm running two other contests this week, so you still have a chance to win!

Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion

If you've ever dreamt of taking to the road for a year in an RV, Doreen Orion's funny travelogue, Queen of the Road, is a must read. Subtitled "The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own", the story will either make you reconsider or itch to hit the road.

Doreen and her husband are both psychiatrists. She was perfectly happy handling her job for insurance companies from her bed, working in her pajamas and seldom leaving the house. But, her husband, Tim, had a dream of converting a bus and traveling the United States for a year. In a weak moment, Doreen agreed. She never thought of the small amount of clothes and shoes she could take, the life her pets would have on the road, or, worst of all, actually having to ride and live on the bus.

Queen of the Road is a delightful story of two people who learned how much they enjoyed each other as they spent 24/7 together. I've been in most of the fifty states, so I appreciated the descriptions of the spots they visited on their trips, tourist traps and all. As an extra bonus, Orion includes recipes for the various drinks she had along the way, the alcoholic beverages that kept her sane despite her fear of the bus. Queen of the Road is a book to pick up before you make that final decision to take to the road.

Doreen Orion's website is www.queenoftheroadthebook.com

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion. Bantam Books, ©2008. ISBN 9780767928533 (paperback), 272p.

Friday, March 13, 2009

For Book Club Members-Survey & Free Book Giveaway

Reading Group Guides is giving away a free book, while supplies last, if book club members answer a survey.

What are book clubs reading? How often do they meet? Do they enjoy speaking with authors? We're going to find out the answers to these questions and more with the 2009 ReadingGroupGuides.com survey. The goal is to identify trends and topics that are of interest to book groups. The information will be shared with publishers and authors so they can provide the resources needed to enhance book group meetings and discussions. The survey is only open to readers who are in book clubs.

The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=JZxioOza4dvM_2byCHuqQb0A_3d_3d

We estimate that the survey will take about 12-15 minutes to complete. As a token of their appreciation for filling it out, ReadingGroupGuides.com will award all participants (U.S. and Canadian residents only) with a free book, generously provided by our publishing colleagues. See the full list of 28 titles, each of which is perfect for a book group discussion, at: http://www.readinggroupguides.com/surveys/2009-reader-survey.asp.

The survey will close on April 30th, or as soon as 2,500 prizes have been awarded, so visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=JZxioOza4dvM_2byCHuqQb0A_3d_3d to answer the survey now!

Women's History Month Book Giveaway

Thanks to Hatchette Book Group, I'm giving away eight books for Women's History Month. Five lucky winners will receive the entire set of books. The contest will end at midnight on Tuesday, March 31. I'll announce the winners on April 1 (no joke!), and Hatchette will send the books to the winners.

These are the eight books you could win.

1. My Little Red Book By Rachel Kauder Nalebuff ISBN: 0446546364

2. See Jane Lead By Lois Frankel ISBN: 0446698113

3. Galway Bay By Mary Kelly ISBN: 0446579009

4. Mistress Bradstreet By Charlotte Gordon ISBN: 0316169048

5. Dream in Color By Linda Sánchez , Loretta Sánchez , Richard Huskin,
Nancy Pelosi ISBN: 0446508047

6. Kiss Off By Mary Esselman , Elizabeth V?lez ISBN: 0446690287

7. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven By Susan Gilman ISBN: 0446578924
8. Put Your Dreams First By Thembisa S. , Vanessa Williams
ISBN: 0446409464

If you'd like to win, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: lholstine@yahoo.com. Your subject line should read "Women's History Month." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S. or Canada, please.

The contest will end Tuesday, March 31 at midnight PT. Once the winners are drawn, Hatchette will be notified, and they will send out the books.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Winners and Paris in the Springtime Book Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The autographed copy of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs will go to Molly T. from Olathe, KS. Joanne S. from Poughkeepsie, NY will receive Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

I'll admit it isn't quite spring yet, but, by the time the winners receive these ARCs, it will be springtime. I have two mysteries set in Paris, so the winners can escape. Murder in the Latin Quarter is autographed by author Cara Black. It's the latest book in the Aimée Leduc Investigation series.

Or you could win an ARC of Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner. This is the first book in the Victor Legris mystery series, introducing the young bookseller who is present at the new Eiffel Tower in 1889 when a young woman collapses and dies. He doesn't believe it was a bee sting that killed her, and is determined to find out what really happened.

So, if you can mentally escape to Paris in the springtime, would you pick a trip to the Eiffel Tower in 1889, or the Latin Quarter in 1997? If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: lholstine@yahoo.com. Your subject line should read either Win "Latin Quarter" or Win "The Eiffel Tower". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, March 19 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Cara Black Appears for Authors @ The Teague

Cara Black appeared at the Velma Teague Library to discuss her mystery books, the Aimée Leduc Investigation series. She introduced Aimée as half American and half French. She's the owner of a computer security firm, with her partner René, who is a dwarf. There is a DeLuc Detective agency in Paris, so Black reversed the name. Aimée inherited the business from her father. She rides a scooter, and likes bad boys.

Like Jacqueline Winspear when she appeared for Authors @ The Teague, Black referred to Stephen King's book, On Writing, when she talked about her latest mystery, Murder in the Latin Quarter. She said King talks about writers, where they get their ideas, and how it all comes together. She said she thinks of the process as rocks, several of them. First, you hear about an idea, and then something comes together. Rocks need to ignite and fuse together. That's how the ideas come together for a book.

Black's editor provided the first rock or idea for the latest book. She said Aimée Leduc has never had a case on the Left Bank, so maybe she should cross the river in this one. Cara rode her bike up and down a boulevard, but each area she saw was too different to provide one setting. Paris is divided into 20 districts.

The second rock came from a friend in Paris who had a daughter in high school. The students there met urban explorers who went in the underground tunnels in Paris. They explored them, and partied. Cara asked if she could go down in the tunnels. So, they received permission to go underground beneath the high school.

The third rock came from a friend, a Commissaire, a high-ranking inspector in Paris. Cara takes him to dinner when she goes to Paris, plies him with drinks, and asks what he is working on. She once asked him why he talks to her, and he said because he wants her to get it right. In 2007, he said he had just come back from his final testimony in England, where he spent five hours testifying in English. When she questioned for what, he said, oh, I guess I didn't tell you. He was in charge of the Princess Diana investigation, and this was the final inquiry in London. When asked, he said their findings were that the chauffeur was high on alcohol and drugs, and blood levels showed that.

Black decided then to set her story, Murder in the Latin Quarter, in September 2007, two weeks after the car crash, at a time when the world was still watching. The Aimée Leduc series is set in the mid-90s. And, people don't remember what was happening at that time.

In setting the book in the Latin Quarter, Black picked one of the oldest parts of Paris. The Gauls and Romans were there, and there is still a great deal of Roman influence left in Paris. There was a Roman road running through it. Black asked a man what the scallop shell on a building meant, and he said it was part of the old pilgrimage route to Spain. The Sorbonne is in the Latin Quarter. It was the first university, and everyone from Europe came there. They spoke Latin at the Sorbonne, hence the name, the Latin Quarter. The Grandes écoles were here. In order to get in, students must take competitive written and oral exams. The graduates became part of the old boys' network, the power base of France. Aimée would have hit against that wall.

After reading from Murder in the Latin Quarter, Black took questions. The first one was about her love of Paris. She said she grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and attended a French Catholic Girls' School. Her father was a Francophile, who liked art, and loved good food and wine. While Cara was in high school, she read a book by Romain Gary, the French author who won the Prix Goncourt twice. He was married to the actress Jean Seberg. Cara wrote a fan letter to Gary, and when she received a thank you note back, with his address in Paris on the back, she took it as a personal invitation to visit. When she was backpacking in Europe at 18 or 19, she went to Paris, and decided to go see Mr. Gary. She found the address, a beautiful building, and went up an elaborate staircase. When a man opened the door, she told him she had written a letter, and he answered. He told her just a minute, and slammed the door. When he reopened it, he said, how about coffee. They went down the street to a cafe, where there was an espresso and a cigar waiting for him. When asked, what about her, Gary replied, she'll have the same. So she had her first espresso and her first cigar, and tried to act sophisticated without getting sick.

When Black went back to Paris in the 1980s, a friend took her to the Marais, and showed her where her mother lived as a hidden Jewish girl during the Second World War. She wore the yellow star, and hoped she would be reunited with her family, but after the war, she found her family had died in Auschwitz. In the 90s, Cara went back to France, and had one night in Paris and went back to the Marais. This story led to the first Aimée Leduc Investigation, Murder in the Marais. Her friend's story was one of the rocks that led to the book. In addition, Black was reading P.D. James. She appreciated the psychological depth and social context of the books. She appreciated An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, the book that introduced Cordelia Gray, an investigator. She wanted to do something similar in her first book. She was asked if she knew of any French women detectives, and she said in 1994 there were three women who owned their own detective agencies in Paris, and Black met them all.

She was asked to go back and discuss the tunnels and catacombs under Paris. She said the catacombs had lots of piles of skulls and bones. She said you have to go deep under ground, and it's very tiring. The city is built on limestone, that was dug out to for buildings, and the bones were moved to the limestone pits. There are different levels under Paris; for the sewers, catacombs, metro level, and more.

Cara said her next book is done, and was sent to the editor yesterday. It takes place a month after Murder in the Latin Quarter, in October, 1997. It's called Murder in the Palais Royal. She said she didn't take that cover photo, but it's a great one, showing the arcade with its gilded fence. The fence is gold-tipped. And, it has a woman running in high heels. Cara Black said she could just see her character, Aimée Leduc.

Cara Black's website is at www.carablack.com

Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black. Soho Press, Incorporated, ©2009. ISBN 9781569475416 (hardcover), 304p.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black

Cara Black will appear at the Velma Teague Library today to discuss her latest Aimée Leduc mystery, Murder in the Latin Quarter. Each of Black's books deal with a particular section of the city of Paris. This complex story takes readers to the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of the Seine, in the old university district of Paris. It takes us back to 1997, in the weeks following Princess Diana's death, when the police, and the world, were caught up in that story.

Aimée Leduc and her business partner, René, are building their company, Leduc Detective. However, Aimée is a lonely figure. She lost her father and her fiance, and her mother disappeared years earlier. So, she's susceptible when an illegal Haitian immigrant named Mireille shows up in the office, claiming to be her half-sister. She desperately wants to believe her, but when Mireille sets up a meeting place, Aimée stumbles over a murdered body. Aimée flees from the scene when the police arrive, but soon finds herself running from other unknown figures. René tries to convince her that Mireille set her up, and isn't actually her sister. Despite René's insistence that she needs to concentrate on their work, "A supposed half-sister entering her life and then disappearing, followed by a murder made it hard to focus." But, when Mireille shows up at Leduc's apartment, Aimée doesn't have enough time to probe the story before the police show up, and Mireille escapes.

Aimée's need for answers sends her into the convoluted world of Haitian politics, history and religion. There's also a story of illegal immigration, and people seeking asylum. Black builds the suspense in a story of an unfamiliar culture, and the consequences of past actions. Aimée Leduc's life will never be the same after an investigation that becomes much larger than whether or not has a sister.

Just a note that Cara Black takes the photographs that become the covers of her Aimée Leduc mysteries. To see more gorgeous pictures of Paris, and read about the books and Cara Black, check out her website at www.carablack.com

Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black. Soho Press, Incorporated, ©2009. ISBN 9781569475416 (hardcover), 304p.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stranger Room by Frederick Ramsay

In the last week, I've discovered some wonderful mystery authors who I plan to continue to read, and two of them were published by Poisoned Pen Press. First, I read Mark de Castrique's Blackman's Coffin. Then, Sunday I read Stranger Room by Frederick Ramsay, an excellent police procedural with a wonderful cast and a 150-year-old cold case. Strong characters, a cold case, and a police procedural are hard to beat, in my opinion. Throw in not one, but two, locked room murders, and Stranger Room is a treat.

Jonathan Lydell III is proud of his family history, including a family that was one of the First Families of Virginia. He's planning to exploit that history by renovating his ancestral home, and opening it to the public. So what if a man is murdered in the locked stranger room on his property? He was a stranger, after all, or he wouldn't have been staying in the room designed for paying guests. And, it isn't as if someone hadn't already died in that room, even if it was 150 years earlier.

But, Sheriff Ike Schwartz and FBI agent Karl Hedrick aren't impressed with Lydell's family history, or his present life, living with an adult daughter rumored to drink heavily. They are intrigued with the murder in a locked room, and it's not easy to investigate. Both men also have other problems. Schwartz still has to deal with former cops who were crooked, but still try to stir up trouble in Picketsville. Karl, who is on loan to the sheriff's department, is waiting for the results of an FBI investigation to see if he'll be reinstated. And, then there are the problems with their personal relationships. Since Schwartz is dating the local college president, and Karl is living with a white policewoman, the townspeople don't always hide their disapproval. But, no matter what they're dealing with, they can't escape the strange happenings at Lydell's house.

Ramsay skillfully handles the cast of characters in a complex crime novel that also examines social prejudices. Ike Schwartz is a wise sheriff, who deals with his staff, the community, and his relationship with a touch of humor. I'm sorry I missed the Ike Schwartz mysteries that came before Stranger Room. I won't miss future books in this series.

Frederick Ramsay's website is www.frederickramsay.com

Stranger Room by Frederick Ramsay. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781590585351 (hardcover), 268p.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Guest Author - Linda Wisdom

It's a treat for me to bring you guest author, Linda Wisdom. I enjoyed her books, 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover, and Hex Appeal, with her witches and vampire characters in light romantic suspense novels. Who can resist the bunny slippers, Fluff and Puff? I have her new book, Wicked by Any Other Name, in my closet, and I'll be reading it shortly. It should be just as much fun as her other books. (And, if you read all the way to the end, you might be able to win a copy of the new book.)

So, thank you, Linda, for taking time to blog today. Tell us about Wicked by Any Other Name, please. It's all yours.

Witchy BFFs 700 Years Later
By Linda Wisdom

There’s nothing more important than a best friend. She’s the one who’s there when times are good and even better, when times are bad. She’s the one handy with an alibi and a shovel.

I have a very good friend who tells people she stands by with bail money when I go to conferences. And people are never sure if it’s a joke, but if something happens, I know I can call her and she’ll be there.

Just think if your BFFs have been around for more than 700 years. That’s a lot of girlfriend time, even if you might not see each other for ten, forty, 200 years.

Stasi Romanov has friends like that. She even shares a building and home with one, fellow witch Blair. They’d been living off and on in Moonstone Lake since the Gold Rush era and this time around, thanks to lots of tourist traffic, Stasi owns a successful lingerie boutique that also carries romance novels. She even has bespelled sachets to inspire love and romance. Too bad that’s what gets her into trouble.

As in a human woman suing her for alienation of affection when a sachet doesn’t bring back the woman’s cheating husband (and could there be a reason why?), and Cupid isn’t happy that Stasi’s dabbling in his venue. After all, he’s the God of Eros! But Cupid has ways of getting even and when sexy wizard lawyer Trev Barnes shows up, the wizard is wearing red hearts over his head. The same red hearts Stasi now has. Cupid’s way of telling them they’re soul mates.

And now the lake that the witches seek each full moon has been harmed by an unknown magick and the town that’s embraced them since their witch pasts are revealed is turning on them. Stasi relives a dark past when she’s called witch. She was lucky during her time in Olde Salem throughout the Witch Trials because ironically, no one saw her as a witch, but this time is different and frightening.

So much is against Stasi as she sees so many upheavals with the coming of Samhain, a lunar eclipse that night and Mercury Retrograde. The people she considered friends now see her as a monster and she’s even fighting attraction for Trev who’s clearly attracted to her, hearts or no hearts.

That’s where BFFs come in. Stasi is the sweet witch, the one who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But with so much happening she’s ready to kick magick booty and it helps to have Blair and Jazz along for the ride. Trev is willing to back them up as does Jazz’s vampire lover, Nick and even Fluff and Puff want to do their part along with Horace, Stasi’s gargoyle who makes his home in the lingerie boutique.

Finding out what’s affecting the lake and then a major snowstorm that blocks the town from the outside world along with a power outage is a big job for anyone, even one witch. But that’s why she has her BFFs to help her out.

What about you? Do you have a BFF like that?


Thank you, Linda. Now, I really can't wait to read Wicked by Any Other Name. And, if you like the sound of the book, Linda's publicist is offering one lucky winner a copy of the book. You must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada. And, since we're talking about witches, I'll run this contest through Friday the
13th. I'll announce the winner on Saturday, March 14.

If you'd like to win, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: lholstine@yahoo.com. Your subject line should read Win "Wicked". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S. or Canada, please.

The contest will end Friday, March 13th at the witching hour of midnight. Jim will draw the winner on Saturday morning. I'll notify the winner, and Linda's publicist so she can send you the book. Good luck!

Wicked by Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom. Sourcebooks, Inc., copyright 2009. ISBN 9781402217739 (paperback), 376p.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Salon - Blackman's Coffin by Mark de Castrique

Mark de Castrique was a new discovery for me. I'd never read his other series featuring Barry Clayton, an ex-cop who returns home to help run the family funeral home business, in Gainesboro, North Carolina. If that series is as fascinating as Blackman's Coffin, I don't know why I haven't heard anything about de Castrique.

Sam Blackman was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Criminal Investigation Detachment of the U.S. military, until he lost a leg in Iraq. He stirred up too much trouble in Washington, D.C., testifying about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed, so he was sent to Asheville, NC Veteran's Hospital for rehabilitation. He was a little angry and curt when Tikima Robertson showed up at his hospital bed, but the former vet and security consultant finally got through to him. So, it came as a shock when he learned she was murdered the same day she visited him.

Sam invited himself to Takima's funeral, and his courage in speaking at the service, brought Nakayla Robertson, Tikima's sister, to the hospital. And, she brought along a journal that told a story about a young boy, an amputee, who lost his leg to a bear trap on the Biltmore Estate. Before Sam and Nakayla can discover the secret behind the journal, Tikima's apartment is trashed. It takes a ninety-year-old secret, two murders, and a break-in to arouse Sam's interest in the case. Before he knows it, he's deeply involved in an investigation, after the police missed some clues in Tikima's car.

Mark de Castrique skillfully brings a cold case and a modern murder together in a story of family secrets. Sam Blackman is a realistic character, struggling with the loss of his leg, his parents, and the relationship with his brother. Tikima and Nakayla Robertson successfully restore his confidence, in their need of assistance. Blackman's Coffin brings together diverse elements; the history of Biltmore, a cold case involving murder, a modern-day murder, the author, Tom Wolfe, and two determined investigators. It's a compelling, fascinating story. I couldn't put this book down, so I'm hoping there will be another Sam Blackman book in the near future.

Mark de Castrique's website is http://mark-et-al.com

Blackman's Coffin by Mark de Castrique. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781590585177 (hardcover), 255p.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Loss of Another Mystery Author - Barbara Parker

The mystery world lost another author today when Barbara Parker died at 5:30 this morning, after a long illness, according to Elaine Viets who wrote to fans, readers and authors on DorothyL.

Parker gave up practicing law in order to write mysteries. She's best known for her “Suspicion” series featuring Miami lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana, although she also wrote standalones. I was lucky enough to meet Barbara when she appeared at our Lee County Reading Festival in Ft. Myers, FL.

I'm sure Elaine won't mind if I pass on the closing details from her email.

"Barbara requested no flowers. Instead, she and her family prefer
donations that can help writers. Please send your donations to the

Mystery Writers of America
1140 Broadway
New York, NY 10001
and indicate that it is for the Author Sponsorship Fund.

Plans for a celebration of Barbara's life are pending and will be
announced soon."

Barbara Parker will be missed by family, friends, and all of us mystery fans who appreciate the time and talent of our favorite authors.

Posed for Murder by Meredith Cole

My review of Posed for Murder as it appears in Mystery News.

Posed for Murder
by Meredith Cole
St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN 978-0-312-37856-1
Amateur Sleuth

This winner of the St. Martin's Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition introduces Lydia McKenzie, a photographer with an unusual slant to her artwork. Intrigued by a true crime book about cold cases, Lydia used friends as models, posing them as the victims of the unsolved crimes, ones that took place in her New York neighborhood of Williamsburg.

Lydia's first gallery show doesn't draw a large crowd, and the gallery owner is a louse, but her problems only grow worse when NYPD Det. Daniel Romero and his partner show up. Soon after she learns that one of her models was murdered, and the crime scene resembles her photograph, Lydia shuts down the exhibit. She feels threatened by the use of her photographs by a murderer, and she's determined to protect her friends and models. The closer the murderer comes, the more Lydia realizes someone knows more about her close circle of friends than they should.

Meredith Cole's debut shows promise, but the pace grew a little tedious at times as one friend after another was picked off by the killer. If the friends had been better developed as characters, it might not have seemed so repetitive. It's hard to see a sequel about Lydia's photography career, since her interest was crime scenes, but there is potential in the secondary plot. Lydia is a secretary for a run-down detective agency owned by two brothers, still under the thumb of their domineering Italian mother. Perhaps I'm too old to appreciate Lydia's obsession with vintage clothing, and her life in her rat-trap apartment building. However, there's humor and promise in the detective business, and a possibility of romance with Det. Romero. It will be interesting to see what direction Cole takes if she continues with a series.

Rating: 3 1/2

Reprinted with permission, from Mystery News, Vol. 27, Issue 1, Feb./March 2009.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - DeKok and the Dead Harlequin by A.C. Baantjer

It's not that Baantjer's DeKok mysteries are forgotten. I just don't think they're well-known in the United States, although he's one of the most widely read authors in the Netherlands. I've enjoyed some terrific police procedurals in the last year, so the discovery of Baantjer's Dutch Homicide Inspector DeKok was a welcome addition to the collection. There are sixty novels in this series, so those of us who are just discovering him have a wealth of reading ahead of us. I'm glad I finally discovered them with DeKok and the Dead Harlequin.

Inspector DeKok works out of the police station at the edge of Amsterdam's Red Light District, in the busiest police station in Western Europe. His career has lasted over twenty years, so he's not easily surprised. But, when he receives a letter announcing the attention to murder someone, and the letter writer asks for an appointment to meet with DeKok, he's intrigued. When Pierre Brassel shows up, on time, and meets with DeKok and his partner, Vledder, he has an alibi when a man is murdered exactly when and where Brassel predicts.

From the moment he receives the letter, DeKok knows this is an unusual case. Although the "dead harlequin" of the title refers to the position the body was found in, I kept returning to the thought that a puppeteer, Brassel, was manipulating DeKok and the police throughout the entire investigation. And, this is an absorbing, interesting investigation that leads DeKok from the police station to a hotel, to thieves and watchmen and accountants, but, always, back to the harlequin.

It was a pleasure to meet Inspector DeKok, an intelligent man with unusual ways of investigating, methods not always approved by his supervisors. He is over 200 pounds, but can move lightly when necessary. He is well-respected, even on the streets of Amsterdam. He's a fatherly figure, who doesn't like strong language. He's a friendly man, who resembles his boxer. He can read people, and, it is people that are important to DeKok, not rules and regulations. This is certainly obvious in the turn taken in the course of DeKok and the Dead Harlequin.

Baantjer was a police inspector of the Amsterdam police. This beloved Dutch author uses his expertise and skill to bring his Inspector DeKok to life. DeKok and the Dead Harlequin might serve to bring a "forgotten" author to American audiences.

DeKok and the Dead Harlequin by Baantjer. Speck Press, 2009. ISBN 9781933108278 (paperback), 208p.

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at www.pattinase.blogspot.com, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Winners & Maisie or Stephanie Book Contests

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The autographed copies of Rosemary Harris' Pushing Up Daisies will go to Kelly G. from Gastonia, NC and Phyllis G. from Cheyenne, WY. Dan Waddell's The Blood Detective will go to Margie B. of San Jose, CA. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Maisie Dobbs or Stephanie Plum? A few of us might read mysteries about both characters, but the books featuring them are very different. I have an autographed paperback copy of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. This novel won the Agatha for Best First Novel when it came out, and was a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards. It's the book that introduces Maisie Dobbs, a young woman, returned from WWI, now opening her own detective agency. These mysteries are fascinating, with the background of post-war England.

There's nothing serious about the latest Janet Evanovich novel, Plum Spooky. This fun Stephanie Plum story is the best of the recent books in the series. I have an ARC of the enjoyable book. How can you miss Stephanie Plum and a monkey?

So, would you like to win Maisie or Stephanie? If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: lholstine@yahoo.com. Your subject line should read either Win "Maisie" or Win "Stephanie". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, March 12 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

April Book Releases

It's hard to believe, but there are other books scheduled for publication in April that are not in my closet. Here are the ones that I wanted to mention.

David Baldacci - First Family - The First Lady enlists Sean King and Michelle Maxwell when a kidnapping at a children's birthday party at Camp David becomes a national security nightmare.

Nevada Barr - Borderline - Anna Pigeon and her husband, Paul, take a trip to south Texas, but, even on vacation things happen around Anna, as the couple is sucked into intrigue after a grisly discovery.

Elizabeth Berg - Home Safe - When a widow discovers her husband led a double life, her investigation leads to a new adventure.

Jim Butcher - Turn Coat In the latest novel of the Dresden Files, the Warden Morgan has been accused of treason, and is on the run. Harry Dresden must keep Morgan hidden while trying to uncover a traitor.

Mary Higgins Clark - Just Take My Heart - Emily O'Connor's life changed forever when a childhood friend ended up on life support, after an incident that was no accident. Now Emily's life is at risk, too.

Diane Mott Davidson - Fatally Flaky - Goldy Schulz spent the summer working with the bride from hell, but now, the town's beloved doctor, and his best friend die, and Goldy wants answers.

Iris Johansen - Deadlock - Emily Hudson devotes her life to rescuing artifacts and relics from war zones. When she and her team are trapped, the CIA calls on John Garrett to rescue them.

Alexander McCall Smith - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built - The return of Mma Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

James Patterson & Maxine Paetro - The 8th Confession - The hunt for two criminals tests the skills of the entire Women's Murder Club.

Lisa Scottoline - Look Again - Journalist Ellen Gleeson can't stop thinking about the photo she received of a missing child, one who looks just like her adopted son.

Stuart Woods - Loitering with Intent - Stone Barrington and his sidekick track the missing son of a wealthy man to Key West, but he may have a good reason for not wanting to be found.

If you're a fiction reader, and you don't find something enticing in this list, or my treasures in the closet, you might not be in the mood for fiction. There's something here for everyone's taste. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Guest Author - Don Bruns

Today, I'd like to welcome guest blogger, Don Bruns.

“Don Bruns is a musician, songwriter, advertising executive and award-winning novelist.

Bruns is the author of Jamaica Blue, Barbados Heat, South Beach Shakedown, St. Barts Breakdown and the forthcoming Bahama Burnout, a mystery series featuring rock and roll journalist Mick Sever. Bruns is also the author of Stuff to Die For and Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

Bruns has also authored several short stories and served as editor of the anthology, A Merry Band of Murderers, which reached #5 on the Independent Mystery Bestsellers List in 2006. He is also a frequent contributor to The Little Blog of Murder.

A former road musician who traveled and performed throughout the US with major entertainment acts, Don Bruns recently released a CD of original songs called Last Flight Out, and performed two original songs at the 2004 Edgar Awards ceremonies.

Don Bruns divides his time between Ohio and South Florida. His website is DonBrunsBooks.com.”

Thank you, Don, for taking time to blog today. Now, I'll turn it over to him.


Underappreciated Authors?

I'd always heard that you can't sell books unless you get reviews. Well...be careful what you wish for. I've had my share of reviews, and sometimes a reviewer doesn't see the work the way you did. Sometimes they can be down-right nasty. And then sometimes, they get it exactly right. Like my March release, Bahama Burnout. Here is part of Library Journal's review.

”Bruns's sixth mystery captures the flavor of living in a tropical paradise and is another great read from an underappreciated mystery author.” —Library Journal

So what is an underappreciated mystery author? I always suspected I fell into that category. I mean, The New York Times hasn't exactly been hounding me with phone calls.

Publisher's Weekly, until this book, has always been tepid in their response to my writing, and sales have been modest at best. My website isn't deluged with hundreds of fascinated readers (although I did get a note that I could refinance my home at a lower rate yesterday), so I think that all qualifies me as an underappreciated mystery author.

And there are hundreds of us out there. And without really doing much research, I suspect there have always been hundreds of underappreciated mystery authors. My guess is that at one time in his life, John D. McDonald was underappreciated. Certainly Edgar Allan Poe was underappreciated. At one time he was not appreciated at all. (I sincerely hope that I don't have to die in a ditch in Baltimore to finally get recognition.) Sue Grafton once told me she'd written five books before she even had one published, and Keziah Dane didn't exactly set the world on fire. Sue was underappreciated.

I have a lot of writer friends who feel very underappreciated. Some who have been touted as the next breakthrough author, five or six books ago. My good friend, Jay Waggoner, who reviews books for Deadly Pleasures, sees wonderful historical mysteries come across his desk and he can't understand why these writers don't break out. So I guess being underappreciated puts me in pretty good company. I don't want to stay here forever, but for the time being, it beats not being published at all!

Thank you, Don. It really makes me think about other authors who I think are underappreciated.

Don Bruns is giving away a signed copy of his book, Bahama Burnout, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to Don’s book tour page, http://don-bruns.omnimystery.com/, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 7466, for your chance to win. Entries from Lesa's Book Critiques will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Don’s book tour page next week.