Friday, July 31, 2009

August Coming Attractions

August looks busy, so, along with book reviews and contests, I thought I'd give you a preview of events here on Lesa's Book Critiques. Our Foothills Library in Glendale, AZ will host J.A. Jance on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 3 PM. Look for the summary on Sunday Salon, the next day. Jance is on tour for Fire and Ice, a crime novel that brings together her characters, J.P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady.

On Saturday, August 15 at 2 PM, Authors @ The Teague will host three authors, Ann Parker, Juliet Blackwell, and Sophie Littlefield. The panel of three mystery authors will talk about writing strong heroines in crime fiction. Ann Parker will talk about her Silver Rush series, including Leaden Skies, the new release.

Juliet Blackwell debuts a new series with Secondhand Spirits. You might know Juliet for the mysteries she wrote as Hailey Lind.

A Bad Day for Sorry is Sophie Littlefield's debut mystery.
It should be a fun afternoon! If you can't join us, my summary will be on the blog for Sunday Salon on Aug. 16th.

Tuesday, Aug. 18 marks the national launch for Brent Ghelfi's new Volk crime novel, The Venona Cable. I'm attending the book launch party at the Arizona Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri in Phoenix. It kicks off at 7:30 PM. You're all welcome! If you can't make it, I'll have pictures and coverage later that week.

Then, there will be some guest visitors on the blog. Tim Hallinan, author of
Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller, will be guest blogger on Monday, Aug. 24. On Wed., Aug. 26, I have an interview with Sandra Dallas, author of Prayers for Sale. And, the next day, Aug. 27, brings a fun interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan and her investigative reporter character, Charlotte "Charlie" McNally, as they discuss their careers, and Charlie's latest adventures in Air Time.

August looks fun, and that doesn't even include the book reviews, contests, Treasures in My Closet, and other blogs. I hope you stop by and visit!

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt

Susan Runholt's debut teen novel, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia was the runner-up for the Debut Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain. The first book in the Kari & Lucas Mystery series takes the two teens from St. Paul, Minnesota to London, Paris and Amsterdam. As Kari's mother says, "This is the story of how two teenagers from Minnesota lived a tale of adventure involving a woman from ancient Rome, a seventeenth-century painter, forgery and murder, abduction and rescue, disguises and deductions, two continents, three museums, four countries, a criminal hideaway, and two nuns from Amsterdam's famous Quarter."

Kari Sundgren tells the story of the adventures she and her best friend, Lucas Stickney have as they uncover an international art crime. The two girls met while taking art classes at the age of ten. Four years later, that interest took them back to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see the exhibit of both of Rembrandt's paintings of Lucretia. It was there they noticed the man they called "Gallery Guy", in an incident that triggered there adventures. If he hadn't snarled at Kari, they might not have remembered him when they saw him again at an exhibit in London.

Kari's mother, Gillian, worked for a magazine, one that allowed her to travel occasionally, taking the two girls with her. When the two girls discovered "Gallery Guy", they spied on him, until they were convinced there was something fishy about the man. Their activities may have gotten them in trouble with Kari's mother, but, when a third "Lucretia" painting was "found", even Gillian had to admit the girls were on to something.

Runholt's debut mystery is a sophisticated story of two fourteen-year-old girls who love art, and decide to play detective. The teens are knowledgeable about art, and quickly learn how to get around museums and European cities on their own. The information about the museums, tourist sites, and Rembrandt's art is fascinating. Runholt expects her audience to be sophisticated enough to appreciate the art, and understand the information about the runaways and prostitutes in Amsterdam. At the same time, her line, "what a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night it had been" is a tribute to a favorite childhood book that her readers might remember, Judith Viorst's Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Runholt shows a great deal of respect for her readers' knowledge while taking the teens into a dangerous, high-stakes adventure. It's a terrific mystery for the sophisticated young teen reader.

And, just because I was interested, here's Rembrandt's Lucretia.

Susan Runholt's website is

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. Penguin Group (USA), 2009. ISBN 9780142413388 (paperback), 304p.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Winners and a Margaret Grace Miniatures Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. S.J. Bolton's Awakening will go to Dorothy D. from Troy, IL. The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson goes to Robert M. from Thomasville, NC. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away the first three books in Margaret Grace's Miniature Mystery series. All three books are autographed. And, check out the gorgeous covers. I know two out of the three were done by Ben Perini. Thank you to Margaret (Camille Minichino) for donating the books for this contest.

As I said in my July 16 review, Murder in Miniature introduces the series, and Geraldine Porter. She's a retired widow, devoted to her granddaughter, who is visiting in this book. The family relationships are very special in this series, and cozy readers will appreciate Geraldine and her family. Geraldine's role as chairwoman of the local Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair puts her in the proper place to observe some unusual behavior amongst friends before two people are murdered.

Or you could enter to win Mayhem in Miniature. Wouldn't you think a retiree would have enough on her hands creating a miniature Victorian room box for the holiday auction, teaching crafts at a retirement home, and watching her visiting granddaughter? No. Gerry Porter has to add a murder investigation on top of her everyday duties. It's a perfect way to bond with a granddaughter!

Malice in Miniature reunites Gerry with her beloved granddaughter, Maddie, when her son's family comes to visit. But, it wouldn't be a Miniatures Mystery if Maddie and Gerry didn't get caught up in a murder while completing a miniature room box.

Which Miniatures Mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win all three, but I need three separate entries for that. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Murder" or Win "Mayhem" or Win "Malice". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, August 6 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!

Tim Myers Appears for Authors @ The Teague

Tim Myers, on tour to promote his new mystery, A Slice of Murder, written under the name of Chris Cavender for Kensington Publishing, appeared at the Velma Teague Library. His appearance opened with a short biographical sketch.

Tim Myers is an Agatha Award nominated author who has published nineteen novels and has appeared on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association national bestseller’s list ten times, ranking as high as #2. Under the name Tim Myers, he writes the Lighthouse Inn mysteries, the Candlemaking mysteries, and the Soapmaking mysteries, as Elizabeth Bright the Cardmaking mysteries, and as Melissa Glazer the Clay and Crime mysteries. One of Tim’s books was chosen by The Mystery Guild as an Editor’s Choice, and was also named one of their Ten Most Wanted books. There have been ten large print editions of Myers’ books as well. In addition, he has published over 80 mystery short stories, and has been nominated for three Derringer awards for excellence in short mystery fiction. His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies The Haunted Hour, Mystery Writers of America’s A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime, and Murder Most Crafty. He is currently writing the pizza shop mysteries for Kensington as Chris Cavender, and has eight more books under contract with Kensington, St. Martin’s, and Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime.

Tim's presentation was quite funny at times. He said he got started as a writer because Dr. Seuss was driving him crazy. He never intended to become a stay-at-home dad, but, eighteen years ago, when his daughter was born, and he held her in his arms, he told his wife he wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. But, at that time in the South (North Carolina), it was unusual for a man to do that. He became alienated from all the groups he had belonged to, and most mothers didn't welcome him. Intellectually, it isn't very stimulating staying home to take care of a baby. So he decided to try to write. And, it was logical for him to try mysteries because he loves to read mysteries. At the age of nine, he discovered Agatha Christie. He surprised his father when he asked for a complete collection of Christie at that age. His father wasn't a mystery reader, and probably only read one of Myers' books before he died.

Myers said he tried to write, and his first efforts were derivative. But, one of his early short stories was accepted by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine for its Department of First Stories. So, he thought he had it made. But, his next 123 submissions were rejected. Some stories were rejected multiple times. Tim told his wife when he hit 100 rejections, he'd be done. Then, when he passed 100, he told her he'd quit at 200 rejections.

Tim worked on short stories while his daughter napped. He and his wife had agreed he would go back to work when their daughter entered kindergarten. But, at that point, he told her he had the bug, and he would like to write. So, she told him to give it a year, and try to write a book. He wrote a couple that weren't any good. Every fall they would have "The Conversation" about what Tim would do for the rest of his life. His wife never lost faith in him.

One day, Myers thought about the fact that he loved lighthouses and mountains, so maybe he'd try to write a story about a lighthouse in the mountains. He drove to the Outer Banks, and took 200 pictures. He mentioned that North Carolina should really be two states because the Scots settled the western part of the state, and the English settled the east. Myers' family, who were Scots, were there for many generations. In writing the story, he wanted to put a lighthouse in the mountains, and had to come up with a reason for it. So, his lead character's great-great-grandfather had built the lighthouse for his wife, and she died in childbirth three days before the lighthouse was finished. Tim's wife read the book, and was upset when she reached that point, and hasn't read another one of his books.

Myers said, unlike his previous attempts, when he wrote this book, everything made sense. His characters started to behave logically. He was proud of the book. He sent it to his agent. Two weeks later, she called, and said she loved the book, but he had to take the lighthouse out of the mountains, saying he couldn't do that, and he would have to make a change. He said, you're right. I do have to make a change. If you don't understand the story, you're fired. So, he sent it to another agent, who accepted it. Myers wrote five of the lighthouse mysteries.

Craft mysteries were just starting to be published, and his agent asked if he could do any crafts. He said, sure, he did crafts. He was a stay-at-home dad. So, when asked if he could do candlemaking, he said sure. He admitted to the us that he never had, but he writes fiction, so people shouldn't believe everything he says. Myers went to a craft store and bought four kits and six books about candlemaking, and stayed up until 3 AM. He said he wasn't very good at it, so he couldn't pretend to be a professional. Tim tried to decide why someone who making candles who wasn't proficient, and realized if they inherited a business because a relative died it would work. Mystery = someone dies, so Harrison Black inherited At Wick's End candle shop from his great aunt. Tim killed her early in the book, At Wick's End.

Someone at NAL contacted Tim's agent, and said she loved Tim Myers' books, and did the agent know anyone who wrote like him for a crafting mystery. Tim said he's always made cards with his daughter, and he suggested card-making. But, the publisher wanted a female author because the audience for crafting mysteries tend to be female. Myers said he knows that 90% of his readers are female, and he said he could do it. The publisher was doubtful, but gave him a chance saying she wanted fifteen pages, written in first person, in a female voice. She didn't think he could do it. He came up with Jennifer Shane as the character, a spunky, young woman, not afraid to make mistakes. He likes Jennifer, and the publisher liked the synopsis, so wanted thirty to forty more pages. Tim said he heard Jennifer's voice in his head. They liked the material at NAL, but wanted him to use a female pen name. He hesitated since he's always said, if he gets arrested, he wants his name spelled right, Myers, with only one e. He likes to go into bookstores and see his name spelled right, and have former girlfriends from high school see his name on book covers. But, he decided his name on the cover wasn't as import as getting the books published. Those books were published under the name Elizabeth Bright. The Elizabeth was after his late friend, Elizabeth Daniels Squire. And, he went to a bookstore, trying to pick a last name. Tim said there was nothing between Lilian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown, so he came up with Bright. He thought that was a good place to be in the alphabet. His degree is in marketing, and he said his business background has been invaluable in his writing career.

According to Myers, in publishing cozy mysteries, almost every time an author loses an editor, the next editor dumps him. He said his first three series had characters who were single, without many family connections or love interests. So, for his next series, he wanted to give his character a big family. Tim's wife is from a large family, so he observes their holidays and times together. Ben Perkins is the oldest of six who work in a soap factory. He's the troubleshooter of the family in books with titles such as Dead Men Don't Lye and A Pour Way to Die. But the editor of his soapmaking series left, and the new editor wanted a new series written under a new name. Myers, who had been in Vermont for a few hours, set a pottery series in that state, picked the name Melissa Glazer, and named his character Carolyn after author Carolyn Hart.

Tim said he had done lots of craft mysteries, and wanted to write a food one. He watched the Food Network, and decided a pizza place would be great. A Slice of Murder, written as Chris Cavender, features Eleanor Swift, a widow who is fiercely independent. Tim, who has been married for twenty-eight years, and dated his wife for seven years before that, gave Eleanor that type of relationship. In contrast, he gave her a sister, Maddy, who is often-married, and often divorced. She's spunky, has tried all of the crafts that Myers' wrote about, and keeps Eleanor from taking herself seriously.

All of Myers' books are set in small towns based on towns near where he lives in North Carolina. He goes to the towns, takes pictures, draws maps, and moves shops and buildings around. In one town, he saw a group of shops, and one was painted a bright blue. He said that had to be the pizza shop, so he put the pizzeria in a blue building, and called it A Slice of Delight because that's what pizza is to him, a slice of delight.

Tim said he has a contract with St. Martin's, and all he can say is that it will be a food-related mystery that comes out sometime in the next fifty years. Then Berkley asked him to do a series. According to Myers, it's lots of work to do multiple series, so he wasn't sure he wanted to do it. But, Berkley bought his next idea, based on the first draft. So, he'll be doing another series for them as well.

Some reviewers have commented about the many levels in some of his books, including A Slice of Murder. Tim finds that funny because he said he makes up the stories as he goes along. He wants to see what happens, and he often doesn't know who did it. He's quite proud that his eighteen-year-old daughter is his first reader. He pays her now to read his work because she'll catch mistakes, and make suggestions.

After reading from Chris Cavender's A Slice of Murder, Tim Myers ended with one of his favorite stories. As Elizabeth Bright, he received a letter from a reader who told "Elizabeth Bright" that she just loved her, and she hated it when men wrote cozy mysteries, particularly that Tim Myers. By that time, Tim could reveal that he was actually Elizabeth Bright, so he wrote her back saying he and Elizabeth both appreciated her comments.

Chris Cavender's website is

A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender. Kensington Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780758229489 (hardcover), 304p.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lisa Jackson - Guest Blogger

Lisa Jackson's new thriller, Chosen To Die, has just been released, so it's a pleasure to have her do a guest blog today. And, she seems a little surprised about the typical question she gets about her books. Thank you, Lisa, for addressing this vital question.


Invariably, and usually from a man who has just finished reading one of my books, I get the question: "How do you know so much about sex?"
Even one of my male friends (married to one of my female friends) asked, and he's a doctor!

Really, after reading one of my books, this is the question? Not about police procedure, or a serial killer's motive, or the profession of the heroine or even how to kill someone? Not about racking up the pages and trying like hell to make the story arc make sense? Not about spending days and nights writing under a deadline? Not about creating the characters?

Nuh-uh. It's how I know so much about sex. Usually, I sarcastically toss back, "Because I've lived it all. I only write about what I know personally." Oh, sure. That sets them back a step or two. Then I say, "It's fiction and I'm blessed with a great imagination." That's the true part. And I do know they're just asking--that it's almost a compliment. Really. But I find it a little odd.

Anyway, I think every writer has their assets and flaws. I am a horrible speller and really don't type all that well, or didn't when I started writing. I repeat myself and don't see the errors in my manuscript, but man, oh, man, can I visualize a scene. That's what I mean by the great imagination. I do see the book as a movie. However, putting that scene on paper so that the reader sees what I see and feels what the characters feel is really difficult. Yes, even sex scenes. And that's what they're called by the people who ask about them. They never inquire about a "love" scene.

Now, I'm not fifteen years old. I AM a mother. I HAVE been married. I HAVE had sex (please, don't tell my mom!) Is it really such a stretch that I can write about sex as well as I can write about a car chase, or walking a dog, or waiting tables? Of course sex is not as comfortable (for me) as writing about some other subjects, but it's a part of life and part of my stories, so I try to write really good ones.

I worry about them, just as I worry about every scene. While writing CHOSEN TO DIE, for example, the hero and heroine are separated right from the get go. In fact, the heroine, Regan Pescoli, a tough as nails detective for the Sheriff's Department, has been kidnapped by the killer, so I had to really work to get a love scene into the book. Why bother? Because I think it was important. Now, not every book I write has a love scene, but in the case of Pescoli and CHOSEN TO DIE, it just felt right to let the readers know of the passion she feels for the hero; the love scenes propelled the heroine and hero and hopefully helped the reader understand the characters better.

We'll see if, after someone reads the book, I get asked that same old question.

Lisa Jackson's website is

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson. Kensington, ©2009. ISBN 9781420102772 (paperback), 480p.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson

I'm usually not a fan of what I call "women in jeopardy" novels, in which the woman is a victim or captive throughout the book. But, Lisa Jackson kept me turning pages in Chosen to Die.

Regan Pescoli, a detective with the Pinewood County, Montana, Sheriff's Department, is already angry at her ex-husband, but his demands for full-time custody of her two teenagers, just before Christmas, only infuriates her more. As she charges across snow-covered roads toward Lucky's house, she becomes another target of the Star-Crossed Killer. The sheriff's department and the FBI have been working the case of the killer who shoots out the tires of his victims, causing a car accident, then nurses them back to health, only to leave them tied to a tree to die in Montana's inclement weather. When Regan heard the gunshot, and felt her jeep swerve out of control, she knew she was the killer's latest victim.

As I said, I might not normally read a story in which a woman has to fight her captor through the entire book. But, Jackson adds a a police procedural element. Selena Alvarez, Regan's partner, is part of the team trying to find Regan, and the reader gets to follow Selena. The book has multiple viewpoints, that of Regan, Selena, the killer, Regan's boyfriend, and even her son. Jackson skillfully juggles people and storylines. The inclusion of the Long family provided motivation for the killer, but Padgett Long's story seemed out of place in the book. In fact, that storyline was left hanging. Perhaps for a future book?

Chosen to Die, with its police procedural elements, romance, and interesting characters, kept me reading. It should be another success for Lisa Jackson.

Lisa Jackson's website is

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson. Kensington, ©2009. ISBN 9781420102772 (paperback), 480p.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender

Chris Cavender introduces a new mystery series with
A Slice of Murder, and it's a saucy debut. The two main characters are fun together; there's a vast selection of possible villains, and it's a small town cozy mystery. It has all the ingredients needed for an enjoyable treat.

Eleanor Swift is a widow who owns a pizzeria in a small town, Timber Ridge, North Carolina. With the help of her sister, Maddy, she makes pizza, buses tables, and, when her staff fails to show up, even delivers pizza. Unfortunately, it was a pizza delivery that put her in hot water. One night, she took a pizza to a house where she found a body. She immediately called 911, but, since she had publicly slapped the victim, the chief of police, Kevin Hurley, thought she was the perfect suspect. It didn't help that she had dated Hurley in high school. In fact, it came as an added insult when he told his son he couldn't continue to work at the pizzeria.

When Eleanor feels her restaurant is threatened, she falls in with Maddy's scheme to investigate the murder. Maddy, who devours mysteries, feels they know enough of the gossip and people in Timber Ridge to find the killer. It's a small town, with a number of people who had reason to kill the victim, from the mayor and his wife, to the victim's neighbor and sister. So, which of those suspects is shooting at Eleanor?

A Slice of Murder is a promising start to a new mystery series. Eleanor and Maddy are mature characters, sisters who are supportive of each other, which is a welcome departure from many mysteries. Eleanor has some problems getting close to people. "Since my widowhood, I'd become fiercely independent, almost too proud or stubborn to take help from anyone else." But, Maddy keeps her grounded. Although Maddy has been married four or five times, she's the one with a sense of humor, the one who insists on calling the police for help.

A Slice of Murder might be the first book written under Chris Cavender's name. But, the name is a pseudonym for author Tim Myers, who has written other successful cozy mysteries under his own name, as well as the names of Elizabeth Bright and Melissa Glazer. This book might be just a slice of Myers' mystery background, but his writing style is now well-seasoned. A Slice of Murder is a savory treat for cozy mystery lovers, and we'll be waiting for seconds. "More, please," Chris Cavender.

Chris Cavender's website is

A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender. Kensington Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780758229489 (hardcover), 304p.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon- Visions of America by Joseph Sohm

I can't remember when I've had the chance to review a book that was so perfect to share with readers of Sunday Salon. Joseph Sohm's stunning Visions of America: Photographing Democracy is his view of the United States. There are over 1300 photographs and twenty-one essays in a book that leaves the reader in awe of the beauty of this country, and its people.

Sohm spent thirty years on this book, a celebration of American democracy, not our politics, but the freedom we have to celebrate our diversity. This book celebrates who we are as a people, and where we came from. Sohm honors everyone in this book, and each state and corner of the country. He wanted to "understand our past and how it impacts our future".

To try to understand this country, Sohm divided the book into thirteen themes, and each one of those themes is beautifully exemplified by his gorgeous photographs. Sohm, who once taught American History, considers himself a photo-historian. With that background, he's the perfect person to devote thirty years to telling our story. His themes include, "In Pursuit of Happiness", "Native America - Peoples,
Landscapes and Animals", "From Africa to America - Red White BLACK". Sohm covers the roots of our country, showing reenactors. He takes us to farms, small towns, and cities.

Although Sohm's photographs celebrate the beauty of the country and its people, he isn't blind. He doesn't hesitate to show us the worst of ourselves, the LA riots, the homeless, the pollution, the endangered animals. He talks about global warming, and our challenges as we continue to grow as a country.

But, I have two favorite sections of the book. "Welcome to America" takes us to all fifty states, showing our state capitols, our flags, and our welcome signs. And, the section, "Avenue of the America: Building Castles in the Sky", shows the skylines of our cities.

This book is just one part of a multi-media package that Sohm wrote, photographed, and produced, "Photo Symphony Concert for America". It premiered in Philadelphia with Peter Nero conducting the Philadelphia Pops just after President Obama's Inauguration. Sohm's story of his journey to photograph democracy was read by Clint Eastwood, and it will soon be available on Sohm's website.

"Visions of America recently won the Gold Medal (IPPY) for the 13th annual Independent Book Publishers Award for best coffee tabletop book," according to the letter I received from Sohm. Deservedly so. Sohm spent thirty years trying to photograph every corner of this country, to tell our story.

After photographing landscapes, cities, our small towns and farms, our people, and our sporting events, Sohm felt as if he was missing something. And, he said he realized he was missing the element that ties us together as a country. What unites us is our voting. Three hundred million people unite to vote. It's part of the ritual that makes us a country.

Sohm's Visions of America is a magnificent tribute to this country. It's a wonderful legacy he'll leave as his life's work. If you've been lucky enough to see so many parts of this country, as I have, it will bring back memories. If you haven't had that opportunity, Sohm willingly shares his photographs. My blog doesn't do justice to the photographs I was able to share with you, with Sohm's permission. Check out his website to see a video and more photographs. Better yet, pick up a copy of Visions of America: Photographing Democracy.

Joseph Sohm's website is

Visions of America: Photographing Democracy by Joseph Sohm. Visions of America, LLC, ©2009. ISBN 978-0970795717 (hardcover), 312p.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mystery Readers Journal

I just received my copy of Mystery Readers Journal: The Journal of Mystery Readers International, and I was very excited to actually hold it in my hand. Janet Rudolph, Editor of the magazine, had asked me if I'd like to become one of the reviewers. I was very honored to be asked to participate.

I was even more honored when I read her online comments earlier this week, and then her commentary in the journal itself, "From the Editor's Desk". She made the comment, "There are so many great blogs out there, too, with wonderful reviews. Case in point is Lesa Holstine's Lesa's Book Critiques ( What an avid reader and terrific reviewer. I'm thrilled to announce that Lesa has joined Mystery Readers Journal as a reviewer. Her first reviews appear in this issue."

Thank you, Janet! It's an honor to be included. This issue covers Los Angeles Mysteries, and there are so many of them that it's "Los Angeles Mysteries I", to be followed by a second issue covering LA.

And, Janet's commentary is worth reading all by itself, filled with news. She's planning to have Mystery Readers Journal available soon as a PDF. She includes her blog and Twitter addresses. And, she quietly mentions that she's the Fan Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime in 2010.

The back of the Journal lists all of the Macavity Nominees. It's a pleasure to have a little part of this magazine that includes authors such as Bruce Cook, Lee Goldberg, Gregg Hurwitz, Kris Neri, and Linda L. Richards, among authors. I have some fun reading ahead of me, in this entire issue devoted to Los Angeles.

Mystery Readers Journal: The Journal of Mystery Readers International, Vol. 25, Number 2, Summer 2009.

Abracadaver by Peter Lovesey

Peter Lovesey's Abracadaver was part of his eight book Sergeant Cribb series published in the seventies. The series led to a BBC movie and series. It's been twenty-nine years since I read these books, but when Soho Press re-released them in paperback, I was eager to rediscover these stories.

Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray of Scotland Yard investigate crimes in venues typical of Victorian London. Abracadaver takes them into the music halls, entertainment for the masses, and in a more risqué form, for the rich and powerful. In a short period of four weeks, accidents have occurred to performers at some of the music halls - two trapeze artists had ropes cut, an illusionist accidentally stabbed his assistant. In every case, the performers were made to look ridiculous, and would never be able to appear on stage without humiliation. After Cribb receives a note predicting an accident, he and Thackeray are on hand to witness a weight-lifter's accident. Thackeray thinks they've solved a minor crime, but Cribb isn't surprised when the accidents escalate to murder.

Lovesey doesn't tell the stories popular today, with fast-paced thrillers and a great deal of action. His skill lies in his storytelling, as he brings Victorian London to life, with its class differences, even within Scotland Yard. And, the relationship between Cribb and Thackeray, and their investigations, are humorous. Lovesey sets poor Thackeray up to be a fall guy when he introduces him, taking classes, hoping to advance to the department, classes Thackeray has been taking, and failing, for four years. Time after time, Thackeray is forced to take on ridiculous roles in their investigations because he's in a lower position than Cribb. But, don't worry. In Lovesey's books, Cribb might solve the crimes, but his superiors never let him forget his own position, in the department, and in society.

If you read Lovesey's Sergeant Cribb books, you'll be reading for the humor, the characters, and the eye on Victorian life. Abracadaver takes Cribb, and the reader, into the world of music halls. It's a world that Thackeray, Cribb, and the reader, will not forget.

Peter Lovesey's website is

Abracadaver by Peter Lovesey. Soho Press, reprinted 2009. ISBN 9781569475614 (paperback), 233p.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wishworks, Inc.

I haven't yet read Stephanie S. Tolan's Newbery Honor Book, Surviving the Applewhites, but after reading her new juvenile book, Wishworks, Inc., I'm looking forward to the earlier one.

Max's parents recently divorced. He moved to an apartment with his mother and younger sister, Polly, and he's in a new school mid-year. It's tough enough to be the new third grader, but it's even worse when there is a trio of bullies in the class. On his second day of school, they steal his lunch and throw it in the toilet.

But, Max uses his imagination to escape his problems. During what he calls Adventure Time, Max and his dog, King, a beautiful reddish-brown big dog with a plume tail, save the world from dragons, monsters and scourges. Max would just like a dog, but his mother continues to say no. One night, during Adventure Time, Max finds a store, Wishworks, Inc., where he can buy a wish. It's guaranteed to come true, so Max wishes for a "real, live dog". But, the little skinny female with a ratty tail that shows up at the door isn't quite what Max had in mind. She sure isn't "King".

Wishworks, Inc. is designed for ages 7 to 10. Tolan's book is a fun book, with an imaginative boy who learns something about friends, and dogs. Girls will certainly read it, but this is a perfect book for boys of that age. It's not always easy to find fun books for books, but Max and his imaginary adventures, his dog, and his eventual friend should be appreciated. Tolan skillfully handles issues of divorce and bullies. I appreciated the honesty in this book. Every divorced parent isn't perfect. Bullies don't always become friends. Tolan doesn't sugarcoat life, but she proves the importance of imagination and creativity in survival. I highly recommend this enjoyable, insightful story.

Stephanie S. Tolan's website is

Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie S. Tolan. Scholastic, Inc., ©2009. ISBN 9780545031547 (hardcover), 160p.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Winners and The English Contest

Congratulations to the winners of Ann Parker's autographed Silver Rush books. I'll pass your names on to Ann, and she'll be sending the books out. Silver Lies will go to David B. from Valley Stream, NY. Leaden Skies goes to Michelle St.J from Brockton, MA. Thank you, Ann, for providing the books!

This week, I'm offering two books with English characters. The Baker Street Letters is Michael Robertson's debut novel. Two brothers lease legal offices on Baker Street in London. They are required to answer letters that arrive at 221b Baker Street, addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Everything is fine, until one of the brothers decides to help out a young woman who sent a letter years earlier from LA when her father disappeared. Now, it's a mad chase around LA, with one brother a murder suspect, and the other just trying to find him.

I also have an ARC of Awakening, S.J. Bolton's terrific new thriller. But, don't try to win this book if you can't read about snakes! Clara Benning, a wildlife veterinarian in a small English village, receives an emergency call from a neighborhood who finds a snake in her baby's crib. There seems to be an invasion of snakes in the village, something that reminds older villagers of secrets from fifty years earlier.

Do you want to win a fun caper, The Baker Street Letters, or a terrific thriller, Awakening? You can enter to win both, but I need two separate entries. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Baker Street" or Win "Awakening". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, July 30 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!

Tim Myers: A Slice of Mystery

The Authors @ The Teague presents Tim Myers: A Slice of Mystery, an author talk and signing featuring four authors in one. Wednesday, July 29 at 3 PM at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ, Myers will discuss his new mystery from Kensington Publishing, A Slice of Murder, written under the pen name of Chris Cavender.

Myers, who has written cozy mysteries under his own name, and as Melissa Glazer and Elizabeth Bright, debuts a new series and a new name with A Slice of Murder. The books feature two sisters and a pizzeria.

Following Myers' program, books will be available for sale and signing, courtesy of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. The Velma Teague Library is at 7010 N. 58th Ave., Glendale, AZ. Call 623-930-3431 for details.

My review of A Slice of Murder will appear here on Monday, July 27. If you can't make it to the program, the summary, along with pictures, will be posted on Thursday, July 30.

If you're in Arizona, we'd love to see you here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

For some reason, mysteries and food often seem to go hand-in-hand. And, they definitely go together when talking about cozy mysteries. Six mystery writers have a new blog for "cooking up crime...and recipes." Mystery Lovers' Kitchen is written by authors Avery Aames, Julie Hyzy, Jenn McKinley (aka Lucy Lawrence), Riley Adams, Cleo Coyle, and Krista Davis. If you're interested in recipes and mysteries involving food, you'll want to check out this fun new blog.

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen is at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey

It's release day for Kathryn Casey's second mystery, Blood Lines, and I'd recommend that you pick it up as soon as you can. This book marks the return of Texas Ranger Sarah Anderson, an investigator and a mother. Those jobs can't be separated in this wonderful character.

After the events of Singularity, Sarah, her daughter, Maggie, and her mother needed time to adjust. But, Maggie's mom is dating, and it's time for the rest of the family to move on. Sarah agrees to go back to work part-time, and her first case is intriguing. Why would a wealthy, successful young businesswoman kill herself? Billie Cox' sister is convinced she didn't kill herself, and she has enough clout to force the rangers to take a second look at the death. It's the clues that Billie's sister has that interests Sarah, and she's willing to dig a little deeper into the life of this woman and her dealings in the oil business.

Even with the case, Sarah's first loyalty is to her daughter, whose mare is in danger of dying before she gives birth. The family is spending nights in the barn with Maggie's horse, but Sarah's boss needs her to spend a little time on another case. A teen singing sensation is threatened by a stalker, and she's convinced he's in Texas. Sarah and the rangers need to track him down before Cassidy Collins' Texas concerts. But, the need to protect Cassidy could tear Sarah from Maggie just when Maggie is depending on her. However, the captain, and FBI profiler David Garrity think Sarah's the only one who can deal with a teenage star, one who is also a rich brat.

Casey is a best-selling true crime writer, but her two crime novels featuring Sarah Armstrong are intense, superb stories. Casey skillfully combines Sarah's skills as an investigator with her need for a family life, giving readers a well-rounded character. It's another superb police procedural from an author yet to be discovered by many readers. Blood Lines is the perfect title for this story of an investigator pulled by two cases and her family needs. Blood Lines builds on all of the strengths of Singularity. They are both solid, outstanding novels. You're missing something special if you haven't met Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong.

Kathryn Casey's website is

Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780302379513 (hardcover), 294p.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Singularity by Kathryn Casey

For some reason, I missed Kathryn Casey's debut novel last year. After reading Singularity, I won't make that mistake again, and I already have her new book, Blood Lines. The author, a best-selling true crime writer, doesn't miss with her outstanding police procedural.

Sarah Armstrong is a Texas Ranger, and the only one of the Rangers' criminal profilers. The Rangers work out of the Department of Public Safety, but they report directly to the governor. With a scandalous double murder on Galveston Island, Sarah's sent to the scene. A wealthy businessman has been shot, posed in bed with his dead mistress. Sarah is not happy with the local investigation, but she's even more unhappy when two powerful families go to war over the ramifications of the murders, and the FBI is called in. Sarah's late husband never liked Agent Scroggins, but the other agent, David Garrity, is a profiler who seems to understand Sarah's interpretation of the case.

Two of the officers blame the new wealthy widow. But Sarah and David see the hand of a serial killer. They go off on their own tangent, and their investigation indicates there's someone out there who likes to pose his victims. They're convinced there is a ruthless killer who seems to strike throughout Texas. But, Sarah's fighting a losing battle with the Galveston local jurisdiction over the murders that started the entire case.

Sarah Armstrong is an outstanding investigator, dedicated to her job. She's also a recent widow, whose husband died the previous year, and it's affecting her eleven-year-old daughter, Maggie. Sarah's frequent absences on cases take her away from her daughter. Fortunately, they live with Sarah's mother on a ranch, but a grandmother doesn't always make up for the absence of parents. And, this case could permanently separate her from her needy daughter.

Casey's first novel is a fascinating police procedural. But, it's even more than that. Casey has created an intriguing character, with a complicated family life. The family issues add to the richness of this story. Singularity was a terrific debut. I can't wait to move on to Blood Lines.

Kathryn Casey's website is

Singularity by Kathryn Casey. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 9780312379506 (hardcover), 320p.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Salon - Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

If you can go way back in your memory to James Patterson's early Alex Cross books, you will understand the pleasure of reading Linda Castillo's debut thriller, Sworn to Silence. The excitement, the fast pace, and the serial killer reminds me of the best of early Patterson.

Kate Burkholder is the police chief in Painters Mill, a small town in Holmes County, Ohio, Amish Country. She's only been on the job two years, hired to come home because she had grown up Amish, could speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and could work with the ordinary townspeople as well as the Amish. But, her background as a police officer, and a homicide detective, might not be enough when a young woman's body is found. Kate and the coroner both recognize the killer's trademark, something that hasn't been seen on a body in sixteen years in Painters Mill.

Now, Police Chief Burkholder has to look for a killer, while keeping at bay her own demons, memories from sixteen years earlier, when a fourteen-year-old Kate thought she faced down that same man. She's eager to keep the case under wraps, and keep her own secrets. When the town council calls for help from the local sheriff and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Kate has to cover up her past. But, it's going to be hard to keep secrets from John Tomasetti, the cold-eyed investigator, a rogue himself, who is sent in from the BCI, an agency with its own agenda.

Castillo's Sworn to Silence marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in crime fiction. It's a voice that introduces a flawed character, Police Chief Kate Burkholder, a woman with a fascinating, unfamiliar background. Amish Country has been used as a background for crime novels and movies, including Witness. But, Burkholder, with her feet straddling both the Amish and the modern world, is a welcome addition to those books. Sworn to Silence is violent and graphic, with the details of torture and death. The contrast to the peaceful Amish world, and a quiet January in Painters Mill, makes the thriller that much more powerful. Castillo, and Police Chief Kate Burkholder, are worth watching.


I stand corrected. Although Sworn to Silence is Castillo's first thriller, it is not her first novel. Actually, she's an award-winning author of romantic suspense. My mistake. But, she is worth watching as a thriller writer, and as the author of this series.

Linda Castillo's website is

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312374976 (hardcover), 336p.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans

The fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina brings readers two very different crime novels. Kenneth Abel's forthcoming Down in the Flood takes readers into the heart of the storm and the following flood, with all of its violence. Mary Anna Evans' Floodgates is set in the present, but the viewpoint of an archaeologist looking back is equally powerful.

Faye Longchamp and her small crew is excavating a plantation site near Chalmette, the site of Andrew Jackson's 1815 victory. Faye is visiting a park ranger's neighborhood to see the destruction when a church group uncovers a body. But, as an archaeologist, Faye doesn't like the appearance of the bones. Her suspicions are shared by Detective Jodi Bienvenu who believed Faye, and thought the house was a crime scene.

The people of New Orleans might have been used to bodies turning up for quite a while after Katrina, but Faye did not expect to learn that the body was that of a fellow archaeologist, Shelly Broussard. Shelly was a friend to Nina, a woman on Faye's crew. And, Shelly had been as outspoken about the failing levees as Nina herself was. When Nina has an accident, the question is, was it because of her televised comments about the levees, or because of her friendship with the dead woman?

Detective Bienvenu hires Faye and her fiancé, Joe Wolf Mantooth, as consultants in her investigation. She respected their intuition, their curiosity, and their knowledge. And, as the two questioned others as to Shelly's last days, rescuing people from Katrina, they began to respect the dead woman. And, Faye and Jodi did not want to see a murderer get away. Faye said it. "Maybe somebody needed to dispose of a corpse in late August 2005. What better solution than to take that body to a flooded-out house and sink it to the floor? It would be weeks before anybody found it and, when they did, nobody would look at it and think, Murder victim. Nope. The long list of lives taken by Hurricane Katrina would simply be inflated by one...and a murderer would walk free."

Floodgates looks at Hurricane Katrina from a historian's viewpoint. In the course of Faye's investigation, she meets with other archaeologists, historians and engineers who know the history of New Orleans, the levees and the flooding of the city. All of those elements are important in the loss of life in New Orleans. This is the fifth in the Faye Longchamp series, but it's one that seems to bring Faye to life even more than previous mysteries. Her investigation makes her aware of her own life, her love of Joe, her need for a friend. She works a case in which she's respected from the very beginning, and Faye's working in a city where her multiracial background isn't unusual. Evans' own love of the city comes through in Faye's pleasure in it. This is a quieter story of Katrina than Abel's book. This one looks back through a historian's eyes. But, Faye's eyes are worth looking through, to understand our own recent past as history. Readers interested in what happened in New Orleans can read this book, without having read the previous ones in the series. Floodgates is the most polished, and most fascinating, of Evans' books. She skillfully mixes history, engineering, and the story of the city, with a mystery. Faye Longchamp has grown into an accomplished woman, and a knowledgeable amateur sleuth. She's an outsider looking back at New Orleans, but, she's an outsider that shares a love many people feel for that lost city. Floodgates is a powerful mystery of a city, and people, that embody love and loss.

Mary Anna Evans' website is

Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781590585917 (hardcover), 256p.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite - RIP - And That's the Way It Is

Walter Cronkite is dead at 92. He was the voice so many of us grew up with; the person that ended Lyndon Johnson's Presidency; the most trusted man in America. He was probably the last great TV journalist, one who saw news the way it should be, an educational and informational tool, not as a tool of the entertainment industry. He hasn't been on the news in recent years, but for those of us who are news addicts, Walter Cronkite was THE newsman. R.I.P.

And, it's ironic that the best voice I can imagine telling the story is Brian Williams' on MSNBC, not a CBS journalist.

Word Verification

I'm sorry to have to add word verification to the comments section of the blog, but I seem to have a bunch of garbage comments lately. Hopefully, this will clear it up. Thanks for your patience!

Point No Point by Mary Logue

Mary Logue's seventh Claire Watkins mystery, Point No Point, is a hot and steamy summer book. The setting, a sweltering Wisconsin community, just reeks of sex. It's a book charged with emotion, including Claire's.

Deputy Sheriff Claire Watkins is the chief investigator for Pepin County, the smallest county in Wisconsin. So, when three departments argue over a body found in Lake Pepin, the smallest force gets the case. Who is the man found floating near Point No Point? The only clue is his unusual tattoo. But, before Claire can get too far into the case, Claire's boyfriend, Rich, is called to his best friend's house. There, he finds Chet in bed, cradling his dead wife. Did Chet shoot her, or was it a suicide? With Rich defending his friend, and Claire doing her job, they soon find themselves on opposite sides.

Claire has her hands full. "Suddenly it felt like a hole opened up in the floor and she got sucked down into a vortex of panic: her life was falling apart. Rich had moved out, Chet's wife was horribly dead, her own arm was broken. She was going into menopause and probably had osteoporosis. If there was a bad way to look at something, it presented itself to her at that moment." These problems don't even mention her daughter, Meg, a sixteen-year-old pondering whether to have sex with her boyfriend.

It's a hot summer in Wisconsin. As the small department deals with a murder case, and another case they're not sure of, they start to feel the pressure. Claire isn't the only one to lose control in the heat. Everyone is under a great deal of stress. Sex can be as oppressive as a torrid Wisconsin summer in Mary Logue's Point No Point. And, sometimes, people live to regret their actions.

Logue is a master at the quiet mystery, the small police department dealing with humanity. And, the quietness, the small town nature of the book, make the crimes seem that much worse, and that much bigger. If you haven't read a Claire Watkins mystery, summer is the perfect time to start with Point No Point.

Mary Logue's website is

Point No Point by Mary Logue. Bleak House Books, ©2008. ISBN 9781606480069 (hardcover), 240p.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Winners and Leadville Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Killer Summer contest. Five autographed copies of Ridley Pearson's book will go to Heather S. from Georgetown, IL, Sandra B. from Surfside Beach, SC, Luanne O. of Granton, Ontario, Canada, Lori W. of Reston, VA, and Lois P. from Jonesboro, AR.

This week, two lucky winners will get the chance to win autographed books set in Leadville, Colorado, the home of Ann Parker's Silver Rush mystery series. Ann's been nice enough to offer autographed copies of two of her books for the latest contest.

Silver Lies, the first book in the series, introduces Inez Stannert, owner of the Silver Queen saloon. In 1879, Leadville is a boomtown, filled with silver fever. It's a fascinating introduction to this historical mystery series, as Inez pokes around when a man is found dead behind her saloon.

Leaden Skies is the third book, and latest in the series. Inez has to cope with her own worries, as she files for divorce, signs an agreement that may turn out to be a devil's pact when a prostitute is murdered, and holds her head high as she attends events for the visiting former President Ulysses S. Grant. It's never dull in a mining town, as evidenced in these books.

Would you like to win Silver Lies or Leaden Skies? You can enter to win both, but I need two separate entries. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Lead" or Win "Silver". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, July 23 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!

Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace

In the publishing climate in which authors must continue to build an audience or they're dropped, many cozy mystery writers use pseudonyms to write multiple series. Alice Kimberly is actually Clea Coyle. Sheila Connolly writes under her own name and Sarah Atwell. Tim Myers, who will debut his new book, A Slice of Murder at the Velma Teague Library at the end of the month, wrote that book under Chris Cavender. But, he also uses Tim Myers, Melissa Glazer and Elizabeth Bright. And, Camille Minichino, who wrote a series I liked about retired physicist, Gloria Lamerino, is now writing a miniature mystery series under Margaret Grace.

Grace's first book, Murder in Miniature, does have a great deal in common with the Gloria Lamerino stories. Both series feature mature characters, women in their fifties. And, the women both find themselves alone, having to make a life. Geraldine Porter, in Murder in Miniature, was an English teacher, but retired to take care of her husband as he died of cancer. Two years later, it appears that she's moved on, continuing to volunteer, agreeing to be Dollhouse Committee Chair at the Lincoln Point, CA Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair. And, she's always willing to help a friend, but her demanding friend, Linda, takes advantage of her.

First, Linda deserts her table at the fair, leaving Gerry to man both tables, while trying to tend to her other duties. Then, even though Gerry has a visiting granddaughter, Linda calls her for a ride in the middle of the night. Gerry packs up Maddie, and the two drive to a deserted gas station. Linda refuses to answer questions as to why she was there, but, when it's reported a woman was murdered there that night, Gerry and Maddie both knew they were at the murder site. Maddie is eager to report all of her knowledge to Gerry's nephew, Skip, a police officer, but Gerry isn't quite as excited about turning on her friend. Since Linda's son is a suspect in a jewelry store robbery, she has enough problems. And, it doesn't help when Maddie and Gerry visit that same jewelry store shortly before another incident at the store.

Have you ever been disappointed in a character? Gerry Porter almost lost my empathy, and Maddie's admiration, but she pulled through. When she agreed to keep a secret from Skip, I almost threw the book down. But, I held on a little longer until she admitted, "I had to get my priorities straight. Loyalty to Linda and Jason should not take precedence over other obligations. Skip deserved to be working with the entire truth, as I knew it." Fortunately, Skip and Gerry worked out the problems, and Skip handled the situation with a great deal of love.

Margaret Grace's debut mystery in this series has the best elements of her other series. There's a close-knit family group, supportive of Gerry Porter. Gerry's relationships with her sister-in-law, her nephew, and her granddaughter are wonderful to watch. It's a pleasure to read about a mature amateur sleuth. Murder in Miniature is an enjoyable addition to the current crop of craft mysteries.

Margaret Grace's website is

Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425219805 (paperback), 256p.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ghost and the Femme Fatale by Alice Kimberly

I'm a year late in reading Alice Kimberly's The Ghost and the Femme Fatale, but sometimes it's nice to have a backup. Kimberly's fifth book in the Haunted Bookshop series, The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion, is already out. So, I still have one to anticipate. Since these books just get better, I'm looking forward to the next one.

There's nothing better than a cold case mystery. It's even better when the amateur sleuth has the help of a detective who remembers the cold case, a ghost who lived that past. In 1948, Jack Shepherd, a private investigator, was tailing the New York City's DA, when he witnessed the death of a movie studio executive. The scandal destroyed actress Hedda Geist's career, when her ex-boyfriend went to prison for killing her married lover, despite the fact that she held the weapon.

Sixty years later, when the town of Quindicott, Rhode Island premieres the restored movie theater with a film noir festival, Hedda Geist is a surprise guest of honor. Bookshop owner, Penelope Thornton-McClure is handling the book sales for the festival. When a speaker falls on stage as Hedda speaks, Pen and Jack suspect it's not an accident. As the bookshop's resident ghost, Jack is more than willing to speak up, and let Penelope know his opinion. But, when one of the week's guest authors dies in the bookshop, and the police chief claims it's an accident, Jack and Penelope know they have to combine forces to find a killer. And, it might be Jack's case of sixty years earlier that is the key.

Kimberly's mysteries have a unique blend of elements that combine for stories that are a treat. The Haunted Bookshop mysteries have cold cases combined with contemporary murder, an amateur sleuth and a hardboiled detective, who happens to be a ghost, and a bookshop. The Ghost and the Femme Fatale has humor, sexual tension, and an enjoyable cast of returning characters. It's hard to go wrong with those ingredients. And, there's nothing wrong with this case that a ghost and a bookstore owner can't figure out.

Alice Kimberly is actually Clea Coyle. Her website is

The Ghost and the Femme Fatale by Alice Kimberly. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425218389 (paperback), 256p.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Presenting Terry Pratchett

I'm very excited about announcing the following event. Authors @ The Teague is hosting Terry Pratchett, author of the worldwide bestselling Discworld novels on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 1 PM. Because we're expecting a large crowd for this free event, it will be held in the City Council Chambers in Glendale, AZ. The address is 5850 West Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301. Call 623-930-3431 for information.

We're fortunate to have Terry Pratchett as the guest speaker. We're tagging on to The First North American Discworld Convention, which will be held Sept. 4-7 in Tempe, Arizona. There are less than 150 spots available for attending the convention, so now is the time to sign up if you're planning to attend. The website for the convention is

Monday, July 13, 2009

Awakening by S.J. Bolton

If you couldn't watch the snake scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, S.J. Bolton's Awakening isn't for you. If you're in the mood for one of the best, imaginative suspense novels I've read this year, you'll want to check out the book. But, don't read it if you can't stand snakes. You've been warned.

Clara Benning is a wildlife veterinary surgeon working in Dorset, England. Animals are her refuge from the cruelty of humans, who often shudder when they see her deformed face. But, Clara's neighbors reach out to her in desperation when the village seems to be invaded by snakes. Once they knew she saved a baby from a bite from a venomous snake, they know she's an expert. Despite her unwillingness to talk to people, she's drawn into a neighborhood meeting to discuss the problem. At that meeting at the manor, she sees the local celebrity, owner of the manor, and meets Matt Hoare, a man who seems to have a great deal of influence in the community. Following the incident with the baby, and a night chasing snakes with Matt, Clara turns for advice to Sean North, the world's best known herpetologist. Neither Clara nor Sean think a local man was actually bitten by an adder. They think he was murdered, with an adder's venom.

While her village is invaded, Clara faces her own demons. She's loath to return home after her mother's death because she has never forgiven her for the incident that ruined her face. Clara is the daughter of an archdeacon, and an alcoholic mother who was drinking when her daughter was injured. She spends most of her life avoiding attention. "I have a chip on my shoulder the size of a boulder, as my sister frequently and accurately reminds me. I am painfully shy, permanently short-tempered and totally self-obsessed." She's definitely not willing to step into the role of heroine.

But, Clara isn't the only one haunted by the past. As she interviews village elders, she continues to stumble across stories of a local church, and the fire that burned it down in 1958. Fifty years ago, those same people spoke of snakes. Now that snakes have returned to the village, invading houses, some of those elders are dying. And, Clara, the loner with knowledge of snakes, suddenly seems to be a good suspect.

Bolton's debut novel, Sacrifice, was a powerful novel featuring another lonely woman. However, it dragged at times, and it was obvious it was a first effort. Awakening is a compelling story with a complicated character, and a plot that entwines snakes, religion, the past and the present. Bolton has found her voice with this novel. She portrays the darkness and secrets of the isolated British village as successfully as Val McDermid did in A Place of Execution. Now is the time to discover S.J. Bolton's Awakening.

S.J. Bolton's website is

Awakening by S.J. Bolton. St. Martin's Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780312381141 (hardcover), 400p.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Salon - Leaden Skies by Ann Parker

Who would expect that Sunday Salon would find me discussing bordellos, politics, saloons and murder? But, Ann Parker's new book, Leaden Skies, takes readers back to Leadville, Colorado, and Inez Stannert's world in 1880.

Leaden Skies follows hard on the heels of Parker's Iron Ties. Former U.S. President and Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant has arrived in Leadville, and it seems as if half the town of 30,000 turned out to welcome him, including someone who tried to assassinate him, since the former general isn't popular with some of the southerners who moved to Leadville after the war. But, Inez Stannert, owner of the Silver Queen Saloon, made her way in the mud and the muck to see him arrive by train. When the gun and fireworks go off, Inez loses control of her horse, and almost runs over a surveyor and mapmaker, Cecil Farnesworth. But, she's easily distracted when she sees a fire on State Street, where her saloon, and a bordello are located.

That fire is just the first of Inez' problems. The dark clouds that hang over the city during Grant's visit seem to hang over Inez' life right now. With her husband missing for a year, she's ready to file for divorce. And, the whole issue with her husband leaves her in limbo. She's uncertain about her share in the business, worried about the divorce, and yearning for her two-year-old son, living in the east with her sister. When she tries to make a business deal with Flo, the owner of the bordello, hoping to buy her property, Inez Stannert makes a deal with the devil, a deal that only leads to more trouble, as Flo is arrested, one of her girls in murdered, and another girl becomes a suspect. And, the trouble just seems to swirl around Inez. Even when she tries to help her lover, Reverend Sands, she puts herself in more danger, catching the attention of a policeman.

Ann Parker packs a great deal of social history into a mystery. Leadville, Colorado is a growing town in 1880, involved in politics, mining, and, even the suffragette movement. It's a mining town in which the saloons and bordellos play host to the men from the mines, as well as visiting dignitaries. And, it's a culture in which women who want to be independent business owners don't have a great deal of choices. Even when they hope to become independent, they still must deal with the powerful men who control the town.

Readers should really go back and read the previous two books in the Silver Rush mystery series, Silver Lies and Iron Ties. Most of us aren't familiar with this post-Civil War part of our history in the West. And, it's a fascinating part of our history. Parker skillfully, and vividly, portrays it. The Silver Rush in Colorado brought all kinds of people to Leadville, saints and sinners. And, they were all trying to make a killing of some sort. Parker's book is intriguing, both as a mystery, and, as a social history.

Once you've read these three books, pick up Vicki Delany's Gold Digger, and compare the lives of the two saloon owners, Inez Stannert during Leadville's mining days, and Fiona MacGillivray's during the gold rush in Dawson, Yukon Territory in 1898. The authors gave us two strong women, trying to make a living in a man's world. However, Inez Stannert is due for a break sooner or later, and it doesn't appear to be sooner. Ann Parker's character seems doomed to live her life under Leaden Skies.

There is a downloadable copy of the Author's Note that was omitted in the first printing. If you'd like to read it, go to, and click on "Click to read the Author's Note."

Ann Parker's website is

Shop Indie Bookstores

Leaden Skies by Ann Parker. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781590585771 (hardcover), 298p.

Ann Parker will appear at the Velma Teague Library on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 2 PM, with authors Sophie Littlefield (A Bad Day for Sorry) and Juliet Blackwell (Secondhand Spirits). They'll discuss Strong Heroines in Crime Fiction.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Erratum by Walter Sorrells

Walter Sorrells' Erratum is aimed at readers ages 9 to 11, but I can't imagine reading, and enjoying, this book when I was eleven. It was a fascinating novel. I just don't think I would have understood many of the concepts in the book, a story that covers everything from string theory to quantum physics to dark energy.

Jessica Sternhagen was different. Even her mother said, "There's something different about Jessica." The seventh grader didn't like sports or have many friends. She didn't quite fit in with her family or most of the people in Alsberg, Minnesota. While many of the residents only read Pork Processing Monthly, because the economy depended on the local sausage factory, Jessica liked to read. And, it was at a new bookstore, that just seemed to spring up from nowhere, that she found a book called Her Lif, a book that told of Jessica Sternhagen's life in 621 pages. But, when she flipped to the end, she found out she was killed in the bookstore. When she saved herself, the ending of this odd book changed.

When Jessica showed the book to her best friend, Dale McDuffie, the ending indicated that they went to the Map Room at the local library, the biggest library in the world, built by the owner of the sausage factory. Between the information they discover at the library, and a fortune cookie, Jessica and Dale learn she is the "guardian of the true and correct universe." What if every time you made a decision, it affected your world, changing it? Jessica is told that her decisions, and Her Lif, have that power.

It's an unusual book, with a villain who introduces himself, saying, "I'm the villain." There's a hole that can suck everything up, and destroy the universe. And, Jessica and Dale see their lives change, as Jessica's actions now change the past, which changes the present.

"Erratum is a writer's or publisher's error in a publication; such errors or a list of them with corrections." Her Lif is a book filled with erratum. Each time Jessica changes course, the book corrects itself because books are word machines that can be used to change reality. As a reader, book lover, and librarian, it was upsetting, and fascinating, to watch the burning of the books, and the library. The President told the people they didn't need books, while one of the librarians told Jessica that "Books hold our memory." In order to take over the world, "They're taking our memory first," by destroying the books. Without books, the President had ignorant citizens, obedient zombies without memories.

String theory, the universe, books as memory, black holes sucking up the universe. It's all fascinating. Would you give it to most readers ages nine to eleven? I doubt it. Just like Her Lif, Walter Sorrells' Erratum needs to find its audience.

Walter Sorrells's website is

Erratum by Walter Sorrells. Penguin Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780525478324 (hardcover), 288p.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Poisoned Pen WebCon

Robert Rosenwald from Poisoned Pen Press gave me permission to quote his press release. If you missed this announcement, you might be interested in a reasonably priced convention for mystery fans.


Publishers, writers, and fans participate in virtual meeting to pursue their passion

Online conference allows for deeper conversation at minimal expense

Scottsdale, Arizona (July 4, 2009) - Thousands of mystery fans are expected to participate in the world's first-ever virtual mystery convention, dubbed the Poisoned Pen WebCon, on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009.

Co-hosted by The Poisoned Pen mystery bookstore and Poisoned Pen Press, the convention hopes to meet the rising demand for the booming mystery genre. Fans will be able to participate in live interactive discussions, author panels, on-demand videos and audio presentations, exclusive articles, book trailers, live chat rooms, and other interactive web-based events.

"Traditional mystery conventions are as popular as ever. The Poisoned Pen WebCon will let us extend our reach and satisfy an even larger audience. This online format will let us bring together mystery fans, authors, and editors from opposite ends of the world to collaborate, interact, and discuss all things related to mystery writing and publishing" says Robert Rosenwald, publisher of Poisoned Pen Press.

The Poisoned Pen WebCon will commemorate the 20th anniversary of The Poisoned Pen, A Mystery Bookstore… and more and is hosted by its owner, Barbara Peters, and her husband, Robert Rosenwald, publisher of Poisoned Pen Press.

"This event has been 20 years in the making. I don't want to say that we had this idea 20 years ago, but we are always looking for ways to serve mystery fans and support mystery writers. Those are the interactions that drive us, and now we are making those interactions interactive," said Peters.

The duo also hopes that the low costs will make the conference more accessible, especially in light of the economy. "This convention will have everything you'd find at the traditional mystery convention, without the hotel and travel expense," says Robert Rosenwald, publisher of Poisoned Pen Press. "It will allow mystery fans around the world to be part of the fun without having to leave home."

Barbara Peters believes that The Poisoned Pen WebCon will enable mystery fans to participate at a deeper level. "The conversation will be guided by their questions and interests. They'll be able to participate directly in more events and more author conversations than they would at a traditional convention."

The Poisoned Pen WebCon Guest of Honor will be author Dana Stabenow, whose A Night Too Dark is the 17th title in the Kate Shugak mystery series. The International Guest of Honor will be Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher series, which was recently cited as the best-selling mystery series in the world by The Daily Telegraph. The Fan Guest of Honor will be noted freelance journalist and event organizer, Adrian Muller. The Behind the Scenes Guests of Honor will be Tom and Enid Schantz, publishers of Rue Morgue Press; Kate Stine, editor and co-publisher of Mystery Scene Magazine; and Kate Miciak, Editorial Director of Bantam Dell at Random House Publishing Group.

Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald were the 2008 recipients of the "Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award" for their contributions to the mystery field.

Fans and authors can register for the event at The $25 registration fee will enable online access and full participation to all of the virtual convention events. Like traditional mystery conventions, all registrants will receive a "Goodie Bag," which will include a book voucher, free E-books and privileged interactive access to live events. More information about The Poisoned Pen WebCon is available at

I'm signing up today!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Winners of Those Sheriffs Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the "Those Sheriffs Contest". Steven F. Havill's The Fourth Time is Murder will go to Sheila C. from Pulaski, VA, and Charline S. of Central City, KY won Choker by Frederick Ramsay. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

And, if you're just reading this now, you didn't miss this week's contest. Check out the interview with Ridley Pearson. At the end of the interview, I give details as to entering this week's contest. You could win one of five autographed copies of Pearson's new book, Killer Summer. Good luck!

Interview with Ridley Pearson & Autographed Books

I was very honored to have the chance to ask Ridley Pearson a few questions in the midst of his book tour for Killer Summer. Unfortunately, I had to work the night he was here locally, at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, so I didn't get the chance to meet him. Even so, I have five autographed copies of Pearson's latest book, Killer Summer, to giveaway. After the interview, look for the details. Here is the interview with Ridley Pearson.

Lesa - Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. Ridley, you write so many types of books, everything from the thrillers featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming to paranormal to juvenile and young adult books, some with Dave Barry. You’ve written television documentaries and movie scripts. Do you find one type of writing more enjoyable than others? How did you move from one format to another?

Ridley - I'm a storyteller. This is at the root of everything I write. I try to find characters that interest me (either real life or imaginary) and place them into an extraordinary world, whether Sun Valley, Idaho or Disney World. Readers respond to stories that make sense to them and characters that interest them. The writer's job is to continually pursue that goal of balancing character issues with plot, setting and pace.

Lesa - Would you tell us about Killer Summer?

Ridley - Killer Summer is a high octane caper novel about an attempt to steal rare wine and a teenager's desire to grow up too fast. At the story's center is Sheriff Walt Fleming (based on the real life Blaine County, Idaho sheriff, Walt Femling), a down to earth cop in a community of super rich (Sun Valley, Idaho) who must juggle his own personal family matters and a demanding job. It is written in the spirit of a heist movie like Thomas Crown Affair, or The Italian Job.

Lesa - You’ve been writing for a number of years now. Is there anything that still
surprises you about the writing profession?

Ridley - The profession is always surprising: that is, book selling changes and reinvents itself constantly -- or should be doing so! That's the "business of writing" side. The actual writing is a haven for me. I start early and stop late, and love every moment in between. It's never the same, and rarely right--so the work is never done.

Lesa - I was lucky enough to see the Rock Bottom Remainders in concert in NYC at
Webster Hall. I understand you’re a founding member. Would you tell us about the group? My husband loved Mitch Albom’s version of Jailhouse Rock. What’s
your favorite number? What instrument do you play?

Ridley - I've been the bass guitarist in the Remainders since the band was formed. We are no better now than we were then, but we do it for a good cause. When you're with Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Greg Iles, Kathi Goldmark--what's not to like?

Lesa - I understand you just returned from Shanghai. Can you tell us what project you were working on?

Ridley - I taught creative writing (in English) at the university level. (The first time creative writing was taught in English in China) and had a memorable and fascinating year.

Lesa - I’m a public librarian. I always end interviews with the same question. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Ridley - My writing career started thanks the Perot Library in Old Greenwich, CT, in the 1950s. My mother served on the board for 40 years. I now serve on a Friends board of the St. Louis County Library. When living full time in the Sun Valley area, I took over 80 books out of the library--some through inter-library loan--to write my first novel, Never Look Back. Libraries have played a key role in my writing career.

Thank you again, Ridley. My review of Ridley Pearson's Killer Summer appeared June 16, here.

Ridley Pearson's website is

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Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson. Penguin Group, ©2009. ISBN 9780399155727 (hardcover), 384p.


If you'd like to win an autographed copy of Killer Summer, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win "Killer Summer". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S. and Canada, please.

The contest will end Thursday, July 16 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The 5 winners will be notified, and the books will be sent from Penguin. Good luck!