Saturday, October 31, 2009

December Treasures in My Closet

I only have eight December treasures in my closet, books scheduled for December release. Actually, that's great. It gives me time to catch up on my backlist of books. But, in that box are a few of my favorite authors.

Robin Burcell brings back Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick, forensic artist to the FBI, in The Bone Chamber. Sydney's working on a case, when her friend and assistant is killed in a hit-and-run, and a covert government team takes over the investigation. But, Sydney knows her friend's murder is linked to her original case, and she continues to investigate.

Anthony J. Cardieri's debut crime novel, Luck of the Draw, is set at Christmastime in New York City. But, it's not going to be a happy Christmas when the city is terrorized by a vicious killer, wiping out entire families. And, Detective Deke Durgess' investigation doesn't go exactly as planned.

Daphne du Maurier turns sleuth in a new series by Joanna Challis, beginning with Murder on the Cliffs. The young Daphne du Maurier finds a body on the cliffs in Cornwall, and can't resist the mystery. It's fresh inspiration for her writing, and she is fascinated by the allure of grand houses and long buried secrets.

Eggs Benedict Arnold is the second Cackleberry Club mystery by Laura Childs. Suzanne, Toni, and Petra opened the Cackleberry Club Cafe, but they're also working as sleuths. When Suzanne delivers a pie to the local funeral home, she finds a corpse, and ends up drugged with chloroform. It's up to the women to find a killer before one of them ends up dead.

Doesn't Holly Jacobs have the greatest cover for her Christmas romance, Everything But a Christmas Eve? Nana Vancy Bashalde Salo is bored now that the family curse is broken, so friends convince her to try her hand at matchmaking. We're guaranteed a warm, charming romance with another book in this Everything But...series.

Stan Jones brings us the latest Nathan Active mystery, Village of the Ghost Bears. Alaska State Trooper Active must figure out the connections between a dead hunter on a remote Arctic lake, a year old fatal plane crash, and a fire that claimed eight people.

According to his editor, Barbara Peters, Frederick Ramsay's Predators "is Donald E. Westlake meets Alexander McCall Botswana." But, it's a rougher landscape than Smith's Botswana. There's a parallel between an aging lion, and an aging CEO, Leo Painter, in a story of greed and ambition, with enormous stakes at risk.

And, of course, there's Betty Webb's latest Lena Jones mystery, Desert Lost. It's a story we've been waiting for, that of Arizona's "lost boys." These are the boys who are expelled from Second Zion, an infamous polygamy cult in northern Arizona. The secrets of Lena's own past converge with her investigation, and a friend's problems that take the investigator to Beverly Hills. It's sure to be another powerful story from Webb.

So, can I entice you with any of these treasures? If not, tomorrow's blog will feature some hot titles. I'm sure you'll find a book or two to excite you in one of these lists.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Welcome to Hallopalooza! You've arrived at Stop #16 in the contest. Do you know what you're playing? Let me quote from Evelyn David.

Do you have plans for Halloween? How about an on-line mystery Scavenger Hunt with free prizes?

On Oct. 30, 2009 at 8 AM, the 1st Annual Stiletto Gang Hallopalooza begins. Or at
least we hope it's going to be an annual event. Everything depends on you, our

What is Hallopalooza? It's an on-line mystery scavenger hunt. Twenty-three
of the best, most interesting, coolest blogs on the net have agreed to participate. There will be lots of great prizes! Lots of fun! Lots of clues!

Yes, clues. The Stiletto Gang has written a short story - did I mention it's a murder mystery - just for the event?

How do you play?

Let's start with when you play - the Scavenger Hunt starts at 8 AM Eastern on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. It ends at 5 PM Eastern on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009. Winners will be announced at noon eastern on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009.

What are you hunting? A killer! Okay, really you'll be hunting clues to the killer's identity and motive. You will move from blog to blog reading the mystery and gathering clues. Each blog will give you a link to the next blog in the Scavenger Hunt line-up.

You will start at The Stiletto Gang, then move to the next blog. There are 23 blogs in the chain. The winner is not the one who finishes first, just the one who finishes by the deadline with the correct answer. So you can come and go as you please during the three days of the event. Go Trick or Treating! Toilet paper a house! Party with goblins and witches! Then come back and celebrate with us.

What are the prizes? The Stiletto Gang is offering a grand prize of a $50 U.S. gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice - on-line or bricks & mortar. If you're not in the U.S., we'll send you an Amazon gift certificate and let you figure out how to use it.

If more than one person qualifies for the Grand Prize, then all winners will be put into a drawing for the $50 gift certificate. Runners-up will win an autographed book from a Stiletto Gang author, including Evelyn David's new book, Murder Takes the Cake. We will award up to a maximum of ten books. If there are more winners than books, we'll have a drawing among the Runners-up for the books.

And, here's the special part - you can win prizes on the individual blogs during the hunt too! The participating blogs will have contests/drawings for great stuff! Autographed books, promo items, and other "I won! I won!" things to make all your friends envious.

There is no charge to play or win. You don't have to buy anything. You just have to participate, solve the mystery, and tell us about it using the comment feature on The Stiletto Gang blog site or by sending an email to the Stiletto Gang at


Happy Halloween! Here's your clue, and the link to the next stop. Then, continue reading to discover my giveaways for this event. Good luck!

Lesa's Book Critiques – post #16

The conservatory was supposed to be empty, but Milla knew she wasn't alone. Experience, training, or maybe just her "spidy-sense" urged her to take care.

She was glad that she had taken the time to slip her shoulder holster on under her leather jacket. She carried the same Glock 19 she'd used as a police detective. She clicked her flashlight off. Drawing her weapon, she moved away from the door and crouched down.

She sensed movement in the far right corner of the glass enclosure – the corner where Walter Jester had reportedly buried his "insurance." Waiting, she let her eyes adjust to the darkness.

A shuffling sound came from the same corner.

Moving slowly, she made her way down the path between the rows of leafy plants and exotic blooms. If she remembered correctly, the greenhouse was set out in a rectangular grid pattern – like city blocks. Someone was about two blocks south and a block east.

She was quiet, but not quiet enough. Something soft, plastic, dropped over her head, shoulders, and upper arms. Not only did the plastic blind her, but it also trapped her arms against her body.

She still clutched her gun, not that she'd be able to hit whoever was behind her. Of course they wouldn't necessarily know that. "Stop. Or I'll shoot."

There was a sharp pain in her side and all the muscles in her body contracted at once.

Damn. The next to last thought she had as she lay on the wet concrete floor was she was going soft with her cushy private eye job. Twenty years ago as a beat cop no one would have been able to get the drop on her. Her last thought was that she shouldn't have mentioned the gun.

Next Clue Location -


In celebration of Hallopalooza, I'm giving away books to two lucky winners. You could win a copy of Linda Wisdom's Hex in High Heels, or Sharon Fiffer's Scary Stuff. Just leave a comment on the Hallapalooza page here, with your email address, and tell me which book you'd like to win. I'll email the winners after 5 PM PT on November 1. And, have fun!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winners and a Libby Fischer Hellmann contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Deadly Debuts giveaways. Tracy Kiely's Murder at Longbourn will go to Jennifer S. from Tucson, AZ. Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger goes to Mary B. of Westminster, MD. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have two autographed books by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Winners will also receive a copy of a special short story, "The Murder of Katie Boyle," telling how Libby's characters, Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis, first met. Five other people will also receive copies of the short story, thanks to Libby.

You could win an autographed copy of An Image of Death, the 2003 Anthony Award Nominee that introduced video producer Ellie Foreman. When Ellie receives a mysterious package with a video inside, showing the murder of a young woman, she has to find out who the victim was. And, why did Ellie receive this video?

Or, you could win an autographed ARC of the latest book to bring Georgia Davis and Ellie Foreman together, Doubleback. An incident in an elevator, and a kidnapping, lead Georgia from Chicago to Wisconsin, and then to an Arizona border town. How do drug smugglers and a company of mercenaries link to a stuck elevator?

So, would you like to win An Image of Death or Doubleback? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. 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 "An Image of Death" or Win "Doubleback." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Nov. 5 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!

Libby Fischer Hellmann for Authors @ The Teague

What a treat to host Libby Fischer Hellmann for Authors @ The Teague! After I introduced Libby to the audience, she reintroduced herself as "The best author you've never heard of."

Libby told us about the first four books in her Ellie Foreman mystery series. The books are Chicago-based. Ellie is a video producer, a single mother of a teenage daughter, who has a senior father. These books are not cozies. Hellmann said she wanted to write suspense. She loves staying up late, reading suspenseful, fast-paced books.

In her third book, An Image of Death, a character popped up that Libby knew she wanted to write about again. Ellie is outgoing, with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and, if you went to lunch with her, she'd tell you everything about her life. Georgia Davis is just the opposite. She was a cop, with serious baggage. Hellmann said she's still learning about Georgia's baggage. But, she's a darker character, and Libby waited to write more about her, wanting the right story.

Libby said she found Georgia's story about five years ago, an incident that led to the first Georgia Davis book, Easy Innocence. Five years ago, there was a hazing at Glenbrook High School, in a suburb of Chicago. Senior girls were hazing junior girls, and six of them ended up in the emergency room. This resulted in all kinds of lawsuits, parents suing each other, the school, the police. Hellmann said mystery writers play a what if game. What if this happened? That hazing incident took place in a forest preserve less than one mile from Libby's house. And, she had a daughter in high school. So, it led her to play the what if game. What if a girl was murdered? Who would have done it? Was it another girl? Was it someone else? This was the perfect vehicle for Georgia.

According to Libby, she's made a number of mistakes in her career, but she did one smart thing. At the end of An Image of Death, she suspended Georgia from the police force. Hellmann said she didn't think she could continue writing about Georgia as a cop. In Easy Innocence, she's a private investigator. It did well, and it went into three reprints. It's a book that peels the layers off North Shore society. There are two groups of North Shore residents. There are the affluent parents whose daughters can get everything they want as to cars and phones and other toys. But, there's an equal number of families who moved there for good schools and good neighborhoods, and those families can't afford all of the toys for their daughters, all of the toys that are badges of acceptance for teenage girls. So, what do those girls do to get money? Libby wouldn't tell the audience what they do in Easy Innocence, but said they go to absurd lengths to get the money to buy the things to be accepted by their peers.

Hellmann's latest book, Doubleback, is the sequel to Easy Innocence. The realism factor forced her to write a new series. By the fourth book in the Ellie Foreman series, Libby knew she was running out of credible reasons for Ellie to get involved in murder investigations. But, it's a lot easier to write about a private investigator as the main character.

There's an implicit contract between writers and readers, according to Hellmann. Whether it's an Ellie book or a Georgia one, readers suspend disbelief, and accept the fact of the murder or crime. In exchange, Libby promises to give readers the most credible, realistic read. The setting and location will be accurate. The motivation of the characters will be realistic. There will be logical development of the plot. She takes that contract seriously. She will research so her facts are correct, and her characters do the logical thing.

In Doubleback, Hellmann gives Ellie a rest as the sleuth. Ellie and Georgia were friends, and she brings the two characters together in this book, but Georgia's the one with the active case.

Libby said if we knew her better, we'd know she's neurotic. She hates to fly. She hates bees. And, she hates the idea of being stuck in elevators. So, the first chapter of Doubleback opens with six people stuck in an elevator in an office building on the Loop in Chicago. It stops abruptly; there's chaos in the elevator, and then a minute later the gears grind, and the elevator starts up. When it arrives at the ground floor, people are still afraid and angry. But, the last man out looks at his watch, and says, "Right on schedule."

Hellmann started to get the idea for this book when Blackwater was all over the news. The head of Blackwater claimed his employees, mercenaries, were not really military personnel, so they weren't responsive to military law. But, they were not really civilians, so they were not accountable to civilian laws. Libby said she was angry, and then she discovered that private security firms were often hired to protect the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Private security firms were hired by some of the towns. And, the borders in Arizona re the most porous. So, she created a border town in Arizona that looks a lot like Douglas. She changed the name to Stevens, and made its Mexican sister city Esteban. Douglas was the perfect town because there had been rumors in Douglas that the brother of the mayor had a drug tunnel under his property.

The story has drug smuggling, and mercenaries who are supposed to be guarding the boarder. But, what if those mercenaries were available to the highest bidder? It was an interesting subject, with great opportunities for conflict and danger. That opening scene with the elevator is linked to the contractors.

Doubleback starts in Chicago, goes to Wisconsin, back to Chicago, and the last third of the book is set in Arizona. Ellie's in the book, but Georgia does the "heavy lifting." Ellie's learned not to endanger herself, because she has a family.

When asked, Libby said she doesn't outline. She did three practice novels that she outlined, and they were never published. She thinks she was writing the outline instead of backing off, and letting the characters lead the story. That might sound spooky. But, Hellmann said she has to get out of the way, and let the characters tell the story.

She does have 10-pole scenes, important scenes where she thinks things will happen. But, Libby said she has the most fun when the character does or says something, and she doesn't know why the character is doing that. It's like magic when, 100 pages later, she realizes why the character did what she did.

She also finds the research fun. It gives her story an angle, such as when she discovered that security contracting firms were hired domestically. She's now writing a book that takes place in Iran during the Iranian Revolution, in 1979 and 1980.

When writing An Image of Death, she knew there was a woman murdered, but she didn't know who that woman was. She decided she was Armenian, and had to research Armenia. In 1988, 20,000 people died in an earthquake in Armenia. Russian troops were sent in on a humanitarian effort, but the troops that went in got sick. The rescuers had to be rescued. So, she decided the woman met a Russian soldier in the hospital, moved with him to Georgia, in the Soviet Union, and was caught up in the fall of the Soviet Union.

Hellmann admitted she has changed her mind as to the ending of books. While writing both Easy Innocence and Doubleback, she changed her mind as to who did it. In her Iran book, a woman falls in love with an Iranian student, moves back to Iran with him, and he's murdered. She's the primary suspect. Hellmann originally planned to have the student's first girl friend as the killer, a woman whose engagement had been arranged, and he broke it off. But, Libby started to like that character, and changed who the killer was.

Libby said her craft just wasn't ready when she wrote her first three books. She hadn't elevated the craft yet. She was telling, and not showing. Her pacing and dialogue weren't right. It takes time to refine it. So, her fourth book was her first one published.

Hellmann said she never thought she'd be a writer. She wanted to be a filmmaker, and her graduate degree is in film production. But, she discovered she wasn't going to make a name for herself there, and she didn't want to be a starving artist in a garret. So, she worked in TV news, since she'd been a history major. If you grow up in D.C., as she did, the national news is about your neighborhood. She worked eight years at different networks. But, when she was forced to work the overnight shift at NBC news, she quit, and moved to Chicago. She worked for a PR firm for eight years to prove she could stay in one job. By then, she had married and had a son, and went freelance, but kept her hand in the film business.

At the time, Libby was reading thrillers, suspense and espionage - Ludlum, Len Deighton, le Carré, but they started to all seem the same. She complained to her mom, who at 90 is still an avid mystery reader, and her mother gave her Jeremiah Healy's The Staked Goat, and said, try this. She loved it. Fifteen years ago, Healy was popular. He wrote about issues, and the Vietnam war. He had a "ballsy" character, John Cuddy. Now, Libby's writing an article for January Magazine's The Rap Sheet about a forgotten mystery that shouldn't be forgotten, and she's writing about The Staked Goat.

So, Hellmann read widely in the mystery field, finding books she loved, such as ones by James Lee Burke, and she said she couldn't ever write a paragraph as well as he did. Then there were the books she threw across the room, saying I can write better than that. So, four months after father died, she emerged from the basement with the worst mystery novel ever written. But, she joined a writers' group, and twelve years later, she's still in it. Most of the writers are published, and most are mystery writers. She will never leave that group.

With her second novel, Hellmann was accepted by a New York agent. By the time she started her third novel, he told her she needed to change voices, plots and agents because he couldn't represent her anymore. So, she did what anyone else would do, cried and drank a lot of wine. She also wrote short stories, which she really likes. Libby said short stories are like an affair, and a novel is a like a marriage. She wrote a short story set in the 1930s in a thriving Jewish Chicago community. It was about a boy with eyes only for an actress who had a thing for a man who might or might not have been a gangster. The story was called "The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared," and the story won awards and was published. It was set in 1938.

Then, Libby had her Eureka moment. What if she moved the characters ahead in time. The boy, Jake, would be in his 70s. His daughter, Ellie, would be a video producer with a daughter, and live in the suburbs. Libby lived in the suburbs, was a video producer, and had a daughter. This sequel to the short story became the novel An Eye for Murder. Hellmann rewrote it three times, then sent a query letter. She found a new agent who sold the book ten days later to Berkley. But, she had a very savvy editor there, who contacted Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen Press, and suggested they publish the hardcover, and a month later, Berkley would come out with the book in paperback. All four of the Ellie books were published that way, and then Berkley dropped them. But, Barbara Peters kept her in print, and reprinted Ellie in trade paperback. Now, Hellmann is with Bleak House, and they publish both a hardcover and a trade paperback at the same time.

Hellmann said writing is the hardest thing she's ever done. She loves writing dialogue, and has an ear for people talking. She should be writing plays. She said she's good at pacing. But, she struggles with narrative. But, she's just learned to write ugly, and dribble it. She quoted Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott about writing, about writing "Shitty first drafts." It gave her permission to write ugly. Libby said she hates to write, but loves to edit. So she writes ugly, and now edits it six or seven times. If there wasn't a deadline, she would always be editing. She rewrote her fourth book three times, and that was the first one published.

In Doubleback, Hellmann writes Ellie in first person, and Georgia in third person, because that's how the characters came to her. Some readers have problems with that, but she said Robert Crais did it in LA Requiem, and won an Edgar.

She was asked about sources for her research, and Hellmann said she does a workshop on research. She uses primary sources, such as interviews, field trips, and conversations with people. When she wrote her first book, she took an Armenian family to breakfast, and had a list of questions about growing up in Armenia in the 1970s under Russian occupation. Then, the grandma told about the Armenians and Turks in the country, and having to do a forced march on foot across Armenia, and that's where she met her husband. She also uses the Internet for research. There are good sources there, but you have to check their authority. In preparing for her Iran book, Libby read 12-14 books, fiction and nonfiction, about the Iranian Revolution. She also has five Iranian friends who she emails with questions.

Hellmann said she did go to Douglas to research Doubleback. She and a friend stayed at the Gadsden Hotel, went to the border, crossed over and back, and took pictures. She also has a friend who moved to Douglas who is a big help, and read the parts set there.

It takes Hellmann about a year to write a book. She gets distracted, with writing, promoting, her family, and an occasional day job. In her day job, she trains people for better presentations, to be better speakers, and consults, but she doesn't market that anymore, and her client base has dropped off.

Libby just got back from Bouchercon, an annual mystery convention. She said last year when she was there, she got the idea for her Iran novel. When she's sixty to seventy pages from the end of the book, she gets antsy for her next idea. This year, at Bouchercon, she got the idea for her next Georgia book. In An Image of Death, she left one thing pending, and the book stems from that. It's going to be a dark novel.

When asked her favorite books, she said that's like choosing between your children. But, An Image of Death is her favorite Ellie book. She's happy with both Georgia books, Easy Innocence and Doubleback.

Libby was asked her favorite mystery novels, and she answered with William Kent Krueger, Dennis Lehane, C.J. Box, Zoë Sharp, Jerry Healy. She loves them. Hellmann said she likes darker stuff.

Libby Fischer Hellmann ended her program by saying when she starts a book, the world is in order. A murder, or other crime causes the world to go into chaos. The sleuth brings the world back into order. The book may not have a happy ending, but justice is served.

Libby Fischer Hellmann's website is

Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Bleak House, ©2009. ISBN 9781606480526 (hardcover), 344p.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Double-Jack Murders by Patrick F. McManus

I was enticed by Patrick F. McManus' first Sheriff Bo Tully mystery because I knew his reputation for humorous writing about the outdoors. These mysteries successfully combine the outdoors, humor, and a little bit of mystery. The Double-Jack Murders is the latest enjoyable story, filled with innuendo, and good-hearted verbal sparring between the characters.

Meet Sheriff Bo Tully, the latest in a string of Tullys who have been sheriff in Blight County, Idaho. He's a successful politician, as evidenced by the fourth annual Sheriff Bo Tully Empty the Freezer Day, when he and his deputies bring out all the meat still in the freezer, and provide a free picnic to the county citizens. Even Tully's father, Pap, the former sheriff, is jealous that he never thought of that political ploy.

But, Tully has problems this year. Everyone in the county knows Lucas Kincaid, a murderer, has escaped from prison after only two months, and he's out to get Sheriff Tully, the man who arrested him. Tully has a plan, though. He and Pap, and their friend, Dave, will go camping, setting themselves up as targets, while Deputy Brian Pugh sets himself up to take out Kincaid.

And, while they're camping, Tully just might look into the disappearance of two men eighty-two years earlier. So, even while he's out camping, he can charge his expenses to the county. It's "The Blight Way." And, if his plan gets Kincaid at the same time, all the better.

McManus' latest mystery is filled with funny comments and situations. Only McManus gives readers Clarence, the dog who is a criminal, arrested a couple times for hiding under cars and biting at ankles. Or Pap, the dirty old man who can sleep between two coffins, scaring someone to death when he suddenly sits up. I was half-way through this book before I realized I enjoy the books because there is no foul language, no sex scenes, but plenty of eyebrow-wiggling innuendo. It's fun to meet the eccentric characters of Blight County, Idaho. You can't go wrong with Patrick F. McManus for a fun story of a sheriff who continues to run the county in "The Blight Way." McManus doesn't disappoint readers with the third book in the series, The Double-Jack Murders.

Patrick F. McManus' website is

The Double-Jack Murders by Patrick F. McManus. Simon & Schuster, ©2009. ISBN 9781439131350 (hardcover), 228p.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

High Crimes on the Magical Plane by Kris Neri

Samantha Brennan "Went through life in search of naked emperors to snicker at." As a fake psychic, she thought she knew all of the tricks. But, she didn't know anything about Celtic goddesses, shape-shifters, flower fairies, or murder. She'll learn about all of that in Kris Neri's fun mystery, High Crimes on the Magical Plane.

Molly Claire was a movie star who had been stalked by four guys dressed as clowns. When Samantha Brennan saw a clown car leaving the parking garage where Claire lived, she saw a way to capitalize on that knowledge. She worked her way into Claire's apartment, only to find a dead man there. But, Samantha's plans were foiled by FBI Special Agent Annabelle Haggerty. Imagine the shock of a fake psychic when she sees an actual vision of the missing woman. Imagine Samantha's shock when she realizes she's seeing those visions because Annabelle is an actual Celtic goddess with unusual powers. And, Annabelle can use Samantha to channel those visions.

It's a good thing that Samantha's aura is "Very happy, carefree...But really simple and childlike." She's able to accept gods and goddesses and winking gnomes, but she's a better student of human nature than she gives herself credit for. And, when Molly Claire shows up at bank robberies, à la Patty Hearst, Samantha is dragged further into the investigation. And, what is Molly's connection to an exhibit of Egyptian art? Samantha wanted to be the center of attention, but she hadn't wanted the attention of someone powerful enough to kill clowns, and force an actress into a life of crime. Samantha thought she was just a fake psychic, but Annabelle Haggerty brought out hidden strengths in her.

This Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty mystery was full of surprises, humor, and a little romance. The two women are a complimentary pair; Samantha, so light-hearted, harmless, and, at times, clueless, and the powerful Celtic goddess, Annabelle, who takes her job so seriously. It takes two women with a psychic link to solve the crimes that could send Los Angeles up in flames. High Crimes on the Magical Plane may have started out with clown cars and a fake psychic, but it rushes into danger and excitement at a fast pace. Neri's mystery is suspenseful, and fun, with an original pair of heroines.

Kris Neri's website is

High Crimes on the Magical Plane by Kris Neri. Red Coyote Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780976673354 (paperback), 224p.

***FTC Full Disclosure - Kris Neri, one of the Desert Sleuths, will appear at the Velma Teague Library on Saturday, Dec. 5. Her publicist sent me this review copy, in hopes of a review.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann

It started with just a stuck elevator, and a missing little girl. But, if the little girl hadn't mysteriously returned, and a woman hadn't been traumatized by the elevator problem, Georgia Davis might never have become involved in a complicated case that took her from Chicago to Wisconsin, and then to Arizona. Libby Fischer Hellmann's Doubleback is a troubling case for her PI, and her friend, Ellie Foreman.

In fact, it's Ellie, a video producer who calls Georgia Davis, a former police officer turned PI, when Christina Messenger's daughter is kidnapped. Ellie likes Christina, but Georgia doesn't trust her. And, when the little girl shows up, Georgia thinks something is really strange. But, Georgia agrees to investigate when Christina calls again, if only for the sake of that little girl, Molly. And, that's when everything starts to fall apart.

Christina works in IT at a bank, and suspects something is strange when her boss dies in a car "accident." She only has time to tell Georgia that she made a mistake before she herself dies as well. Christina's ex-husband offers Davis the case, since he's afraid his ex-wife may have been over her head, and Molly still might be in danger. Georgia, whose mother walked out on her when she was young, is drawn to vulnerable kids, especially girls, so she agrees to take a case that will lead her into danger.

Davis' case leads from the bank to Delton Security, a company similar to Blackwater, and then to Arizona. It's a story of mercenaries, greed, illegal aliens, drugs, and drug cartels, so, of course it involves an Arizona border town. Georgia flew into Tucson, driving past Tombstone, Bisbee, and Douglas, on her way to the border. And, a reporter gives her a warning that sums up the entire book. "Despite the appearance of civilization, this is still the Wild West. People like to take the law into their own hands." It's the story of Georgia Davis' entire investigation, a complex story that will keep the reader guessing until the end. It's the story of people who take the law into their own hands, whether it's in Chicago, Wisconsin, or Arizona. And, readers will discover it's the story of Georgia Davis, a complex woman, who is out on her own, in a frightening story, in Doubleback.

Libby Fischer Hellmann's website is

Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Bleak House, ©2009. ISBN 9781606480526 (hardcover), 344p.

***FTC Full Disclosure - My copy of Doubleback was a review copy, sent to me by the author, after Libby agreed to appear at the library as part of the Authors @ The Teague series.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Salon - PPWebCon 2009

As author Vicki Delany said, history was made on Saturday, Oct. 24 when Poisoned Pen Press presented the first mystery virtual conference. For just $25, anyone had the chance to talk with authors such as Lee Child in the "coffee shop," listen to live panels, and ask questions, and discuss mystery and crime writing with authors from France to Alaska.

The morning was kicked off when Robert Rosenwald, owner of Poisoned Pen Press, officially opened PPWebCon by live video from Scottsdale, Arizona, as people logged in from North Carolina, Texas, Alaska, California, Arizona, all over the country. Immediately following Rosenwald's welcome, visitors could watch and listen to Peter May in France, discussing "Behind the Scenes with the Beijing Homicide Squad." May's videos of ordinary people in China were much more impressive than most scenes of China. Just as intriguing was the book trailer for his forthcoming book, Virtually Dead, set in the virtual world of Second Life.

Participants could move from May's discussion to a live video with Lea Wait from Maine, where she discussed "The Traditional Mystery: How to Avoid the Dreaded Cabot Cove Syndrome." After listening to that for a while, it was time to drop into the coffee shop, where I ran into Internet friends Kaye Barley, Kay Stewart and Jen Forbus. And, it was a pleasant surprise to have Lee Child drop in for a few minutes before his live interview.

For ten hours, participants could move from live events, where we could listen to, and question authors, to "on demand" recordings, where we could watch book trailers, listen to eighty interviews of authors, done by Barbara Peters from the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. She did one live interview with Dana Stabenow from Alaska, to give us a taste of the in-depth discussions. Some of the live events were broadcasts via BlogTalkRadio, giving us the chance to listen to authors who were all over the world.

No, we didn't get to actually meet authors as at an actual convention. But, participants are lucky enough to have access to all of the interviews and panels for the next year, so if there are any we missed, we can go back and catch them. And, we received a goody bag filled with downloadable short stories and excerpts to read from authors such as Clea Simon, Ann Parker and Frederick Ramsay. There was music with Jeff Cohen performing, "It's Just a Mystery," a tongue-in-cheek song for aspiring mystery authors. And, it was an honor to be mentioned in Pat Browning's essay, "Blogging 101," with her reference to Lesa's Book Critiques. We even received a $20 gift certificate to the Poisoned Pen.

Author panels, interviews, time in the coffee shop, book trailers. In a tight economy, PPWebCon 2009 offered mystery lovers ten hours of fun, discussion and debate, and we didn't even have to leave home.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) by Gina Misiroglu

If your kids (or you) have questions about the world, Gina Misiroglu's The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) is a fun place to start.

The book is broken into ten sections, made up of questions, and, in most cases, one paragraph answers. The book has been updated from the earlier edition, with questions about the Internet, cyberbullying, and smartphones. It's an attractive, easy-to-read format, with scattered colored pictures and colorful section tabs.

Chapters include Outer Space, Planet Earth and Our Moon, Creatures Big and Small, Plants, People Around the World, Politics and and Government, How Things Work, Math, Measurement, & Time, All About My Body, Daily Life. I'd judge it as a perfect book for an audience of curious children ages eight to thirteen or so, and the parents of children who like to ask questions.

There are questions such as, "Why do deserts have special plants and animals?" "Can it rain cats and dogs?" Kids will enjoy "How do you stop a brain freeze?" And, of course, there's that boys' favorite, "What is a booger?" My own personal favorites are, "Why should I visit the library often?" and "What is the librarian's job?" It's a book with 800 questions, and fascinating facts.

Ok, full disclosure here. I was one of those nerdy kids who read the American history encyclopedia my parents bought, beginning with volume one. I would have been a prime candidate for The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents). This is a fun book for the curious kid in your life.

The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) by Gina Misiroglu. Visible Ink, ©2009. ISBN 9781578592197 (paperback), Second Edition, 292p.

***FTC Full Disclosure - This was a review copy, sent by the publicist, with the hope I would review the book.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

There are some elements of mystery in Emily Arsenault's debut novel. There are definitely "literary" elements, with the focus on words and description. It's difficult to "define" The Broken Teaglass, an oddly compelling book.

Billy Webb, just out of college, takes a job at Samuelson Company, the oldest name in American dictionaries, in Claxton, Massachusetts. He had been a philosophy major, and found his way to this quiet company where he was given assignments to read about the dictionary and words, but never introduced to the staff. His boss, Dan Wood, mentored him, telling him about answering letters about words and definitions, and pointing out the cit files, a giant set of old-fashioned catalogues, filled with citations, cards to consult, that were rumoured to go back 100 years.

Billy doesn't know what to make of his job, but he's the one who discovers an odd citation, pointing it out to co-worker Mona Minot. One of the entries is from a book called The Broken Teaglass, dated 1985, but when Mona investigates, she can't find that book. She and Billy do discover a link to the citations themselves, and they think they recognize Samuelsons in the citations. This would have been just an interesting story, if Billy hadn't began to suspect he knows some of the people in the pieces of story. And, when some of the definitions hint at blood and a shared secret, Billy and Mona know they have to dig deeper into the secrets in the cit files.

"Secrets in the cit files." Sounds like a Nancy Drew mystery, doesn't it? But, this is the story of two young people looking for answers for their own lives, as well as the story of a woman who worked there years earlier. Billy tells the story, but he keeps the secrets of his own past from Mona, not sure if he should ever tell her. The Broken Teaglass is a story of lost possibilities, a lost past, and two young people unsure how they themselves will cope with their own past, and write their own future. Who ever thought the stories hidden in a dictionary company could be so fascinating? Emily Arsenault's The Broken Teaglass reveals the hidden depths in the quietest people and places.

Emily Arsenault's website is

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault. Random House, ©2009. ISBN 9780553807332 (hardcover), 384p.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Winners and Deadly Debuts

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. S.J. Bolton's Awakening will go to Michelle B. of Pinellas Park, FL. Red Bones by Ann Cleeves will go to Cynthia C. from North Canton, OH. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have ARCs of two debut mysteries to offer, strong offerings from new
mystery authors. Tracy Kiely introduces us to Elizabeth Parker in Murder at Longbourn. New Year's Eve with Elizabeth's Aunt Winnie sounds fun, particularly with the "How to Host a Murder Party" at her new Cape Cod B&B. It isn't as much fun when a local man is killed at the party, and Winnie is the primary suspect. You don't need to have read Jane Austen novels to enjoy this fun mystery, but that might add extra spice.

Charlotte Hinger is a Western Kansas historican who edited more than five hundred family submissions for county history books before turning to crime. Deadly Descent introduces historian Lottie Albright, who ignores her twin sister's warning to combine her historical research with a job as a deputy following the murder of a woman with a family story others would prefer to hide. It's a terrific story, set in Western Kansas.

So, which debut mystery would you like, Murder at Longbourn or Deadly Descent? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. 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 "Longbourn" or Win "Deadly Descent." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Oct. 29 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!

Elizabeth Zelvin, Guest Blogger

Today, I'd like to welcome Elizabeth Zelvin as guest blogger. Liz is the author of Death Will Get You Sober, and the new mystery, Death Will Help You Leave Him . Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist who has directed alcohol treatment programs and lectured widely on codependency, addictions, and relationships. Her author website is She currently treats clients online at Death Will Help You Leave Him is the second novel in her series about recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler, which also includes three published or to-be-published short stories; one of these was nominated for an Agatha award. Thank you, Liz!

What next? When your fictional alcoholic sleuth doesn’t relapse

In 1935, when a failed stockbroker and a drunken doctor met in Akron, Ohio and founded Alcoholics Anonymous, it was well known that alcoholics didn’t recover. No treatment that worked existed back then, and for decades, the growing network of sober alcoholics in the church basements of AA remained pretty much a secret. The novels and movies of the time reflected that fact. Hard-drinking cops and PIs were the norm in mystery fiction.

The turning point came in 1982, when Lawrence Block’s detective Matt Scudder got sober. Over the next 25+ years, Matt has continued to go to AA meetings. He had a sponsor until the poor guy was killed by one of Scudder’s enemies by mistake. And he hasn’t had a drink in all that time. He’s cleaned up his act, gotten his PI license, and married Elaine, who goes to Al-Anon. But his cases are still dark, and he’s not exactly “happy, joyous, and free.” He doesn’t party with AA buddies, go to therapy, or find his way to other twelve-step programs.

When I created my protagonist, Bruce Kohler, who started out hitting bottom in detox on the Bowery in Death Will Get You Sober, I wanted to fill a gap in the annals of fictional alcoholics. Some terrific writers, including Ian Rankin and Ken Bruen, have protagonists whose battle with booze is never done. Other equally terrific writers, such as Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill, have characters who skate on the edge of what I’d call probable alcoholism, though they may not. And Block and James Lee Burke are masters of the character for whom sobriety is not exactly fun.

For many recovering alcoholics, not drinking is just the beginning. As they work the twelve steps, they grow more honest with themselves and make extraordinary efforts to change. Those who are lucky enough to connect viscerally with AA—usually not at once, but as their heads clear and they start to take in the unconditional acceptance and camaraderie of meetings—go from being terminal loners (yep, every one of them) to folks who value the community (or fellowship, as it’s usually called) of twelve-step programs. It surprises many people that there is so much hilarity in meetings. It shouldn’t. Comedy is usually based on someone’s foibles. And people in recovery who are working the steps develop an eagle eye for their own foibles.

Even my editor kind of expected Bruce to go on struggling with the booze after the first book. No way! The first step of both AA and Al-Anon, the program for family and friends of alcoholics, starts, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.” In real life, even as a therapist and former treatment program director, I can’t make anyone in the world stay sober. But Bruce has to do what I tell him to. (Well, sometimes. As any fiction writer knows, he sometimes tells me what he will or will not do.) I’ll be darned if I’ll let him relapse.

So what next?

One of the dubious benefits of alcoholism is that it masks emotions and allows the alcoholic to skim lightly over the surface of relationships—or more often, embark on relationships and quickly screw them up. When Bruce gets sober, he has to deal with his feelings—rage, fear, grief, shame, the whole megillah—and form healthy relationships with other people. In Death Will Help You Leave Him, Bruce is not only drawn into trying to help others—Luz, whose abusive boyfriend Frankie is found dead in her apartment, and Bruce’s ex-wife Laura, whose new lover is also violent toward her—but into his own relationship addiction. Laura has no boundaries and no respect for Bruce’s. Self-destructive and emotionally labile, to use the shrink term for up and down like a roller coaster, she is not only going down the drain, but will take Bruce with her if she possibly can.

So does that mean Bruce isn’t just an alcoholic, he’s a codependent too? That’s exactly what I mean. In Death Will Help You Leave Him, I’ve tried to show what I’ve been telling clients and mental health professionals for years: addicts and codependents are not two separate sets of people. Most of any alcoholic’s relationships while drinking are with other alcoholics: drinking buddies who enable and sometimes exploit them, and whom they sometimes enable and exploit in turn. In fact, both Bruce’s father and his best friend Jimmy’s were alcoholics, so they also have to deal with the complex consequences of being children of alcoholics. For many alcoholics, once they divest themself of the alcohol coverup and start peeling away the layers of denial and avoidance, what comes after recovery in AA may be Al-Anon, the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) program, Debtors Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, Survivors of Incest Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous.... Oh, and therapy.

Thank you, Liz, for taking time to discuss alcoholics in mysteries, and, in reality. Good luck with Death Will Help You Leave Him.

Elizabeth Zelvin's website is

Death Will Help You Leave Him by Elizabeth Zelvin. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312582661 (hardcover), 288p.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Crafty Teddy by John L. Lamb

The Bear Collector's mystery series by John J. Lamb grows
stronger with each entry. The Crafty Teddy, the third in the series, provides more motivation for Brad Lyon and his wife, Ashleigh, to investigate murders in the Shenandoah Valley.

Kitchener, the Old English sheepdog, woke Brad, who discovered a burglar in the house. Although Brad was armed, he didn't want to shoot at the man, but he should have. As he fled, the burglar shot at Brad, but he also stole a valuable anniversary bear, and tried to destroy two other collectible ones. So, when Brad and Ashleigh discovered the theft of two other valuable teddy bears, they were suspicious.

That theft, though, involved murder. The local museum director was found crushed under an oak china cupboard. While assisting local sheriff Tina Barron at the crime scene, Ashleigh noticed the display bears and "antique" quilt were actually fakes. And, suspects certainly were plentiful - everyone from the director's lazy wife, to his lover's husband, to three Yakuza, Japanese gangsters who had been directed to the museum by Brad, of all people.

Cozy readers will never be disappointed by these books, but these are solid police procedurals. Brad is now a paid consultant for the small sheriff's department, providing a reason for him to be involved. And, before this book ends, Ashleigh adds another logical reason for involvement.

The combination of Ashleigh's insight into human nature, and her knowledge of teddy bears, along with Brad's police experience, makes for an excellent team of sleuths. Add in two other characters, with prominent roles in the series, Sheriff Tina Barron, and restaurant owner, Sergei Zubatov, and it's a strong cast. This is one of my favorite lighter mystery series right now. I just can't get enough of Brad and Ashleigh Lyon, bear collectors and sleuths. The Crafty Teddy provides one more reason to visit old friends in the Shenandoah Valley.

John J. Lamb's website is

The Crafty Teddy by John J. Lamb. Penguin Group (USA), ©2007. ISBN 9780425218853 (paperback), 304p.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Death Will Help You Leave Him by Elizabeth Zelvin

Elizabeth Zelvin brings back recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler, and his friends, Jimmy and Barbara, immediately thrusting them into the middle of a murder investigation in Death Will Help You Leave Him.

When Barbara's Al-Anon sponsee, Luz, calls for help, she said she returned home to find her lover, Frankie, stabbed to death. The police suspect Luz, so Barbara drags her boyfriend, Jimmy, and his best friend, Bruce, along to the apartment. It's a three-ring circus there, where Luz' Puerto Rican aunts console her, and try to invade the crime scene. Since Luz is the primary suspect, and Barbara doesn't believe she killed the man she loves, Barbara agrees the three will investigate.

Investigation leads to the funeral home, where the friends meet Frankie's pregnant widow, his mourning parents, his relatives, and friends from rehab. They suspect everyone, and their investigation leads them all over the poorer sections of New York.

At the same time Bruce and his friends look into the life of a two-timing, abusive druggie, Bruce has to deal with his ex-wife, Laura. She's bipolar, and threatens suicide, or demands sex. She's still Bruce's worst addiction, although she torments him, and is dating an abusive man. And, he can't break away from her.

Psychotherapist Elizabeth Zelvin handles Bruce's feelings, and the recovering addicts and alcoholics with gentleness and care. The personalities in this mystery are more interesting than the mystery itself, since Frankie was scum, and most readers won't really care who killed him, except as it threatens Luz. But, readers will care deeply about Bruce, and his feelings and relationships.

Despite the fact that Zelvin understands AA and Al-Anon members, I found one aspect of this story very disturbing, and unrealistic. I can't accept that Barbara, as a counselor, would take her sponsee to visit a drug dealer, knowing the two of them had to get high in order to even have a conversation with him. This chapter was totally unacceptable with the role of the counselor. I understand Barbara is sometimes pushy, forcing Bruce and Jimmy to assist her, but no counselor would take a sponsee to a dealer, knowing they'll all use drugs.

Death Will Help You Leave Him does a very nice job exposing abusive relationships, physical and psychological ones, showing the effect on others. Those readers who feel compassion for Bruce and Luz will appreciate Zelvin's second mystery.

Elizabeth Zelvin's website is

Death Will Help You Leave Him by Elizabeth Zelvin. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312582661 (hardcover), 288p.

***Full disclosure - Review copy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Full Disclosure for the FTC Ruling

Jen Forbus recently mentioned on her blog that the FTC has a new ruling that bloggers who blog about any goods or services and receive compensation for said goods or services must disclose the connection to the provider of the goods or services. According to the FTC this constitutes an "endorsement."

Jen responded much better than I can, but, as she said, I'm willing to make a full disclosure here. I have never accepted anything other than review copies of books. I have never accepted money for reviews. No author, publicist or publisher has ever influenced my reviews. Even when I accept review copies, no one has ever been guaranteed a positive review of any sort.

I have, at times, mentioned bookstores, but I have never received any gifts or money from those bookstores. I have mentioned them because I attend programs at the bookstores, or have worked with them for an author program, but I've never been paid for any comments about bookstores, books, or authors.

And, authors have become friends over the years, but even they have never been promised a positive review, or even any review, in exchange for that friendship.

In case you wonder, the choice of books to review, except when I reviewed books for Library Journal or Mystery News, has always been my choice. I receive a number of review copies, but no one is ever promised a review of any sort, positive or otherwise. It's very important to me that I continue to offer my honest opinions of books. I try to have reviews my readers can respect, knowing I am not influenced.

So, this is the full disclosure blog. Jen's statement on the top of her blog is too good to pass up. I'm going to post a similar statement on my blog, even though this ruling doesn't go into effect until December.

But, now you know. I receive review copies only, and will mark them as review copies in the book reviews. I never receive any other compensation.

Anthony Award Winners

I missed the announcement of the Anthony Awards at Bouchercon this weekend. Here are the award winners.

Best Novel: The Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)

Best First Novel: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Best Paperback Original: State of the Onion, by Julie Hyzy (Berkley)

Best Short Story: “A Sleep Not Unlike Death,” by Sean Chercover (from Hardcore Hardboiled, edited by Todd Robinson; Kensington Publishing)

Best Critical Non-fiction Work: Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography, by Jeffrey Marks (McFarland & Company)

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel: The Crossroads, by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Best Cover Art: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, designed by Peter Mendelsund and written by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Special Service Award: Jon and Ruth Jordan

Congratulations to the winners!

The Holstine Family Cats

Well, I was told traffic goes up on your blog when you post pet pictures. (grin) Although, honestly, there's a reason I'm following up Buckley's Story with my cats. Jim and I did not have the best weekend. I've had a cold, and slept a lot, but was interrupted on Saturday by a phone call from the fire department, saying Jim had an accident with his motor scooter. Totalled. A woman pulled out right in front of him (she was cited), and he laid his bike down rather than going over the hood of her truck. Not a good weekend.

I haven't had time to finish a book. I could have shared the pictures of Jim's injuries with you, or I could share the cat pictures today. Since all of our adoptees, except Dickens, were strays or adopted from the Humane Society, it's a perfect follow-up to Ingrid King's Buckley's Story.

I've told the stories before. Our oldest, Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly, is thirteen. She showed up at our house in Florida on a rainy night, so she was named after the weather, and a baseball player - Roy "Stormy" Weatherly.

The next picture, top to bottom, is Annika Nicole (Nikki), Dickens, and Josh. Nikki is our library cat, dumped at the Main Library, with her litter of brothers and sisters when she was only five weeks old. She's our princess, and the sign in our living room says "Nikki's World." Dickens was born in our Florida house, behind the bookshelves, so he became Dickens. And, Josh was adopted two years ago from the Humane Society.

And, now we've added Jinx, another Humane Society kitten. He's two and a half months old. Meet Jinx, who is all set to go to the library with me. Welcome, Jinx!

(Back to book reviews tomorrow.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Salon - Buckley's Story by Ingrid King

Most true animal stories will break your heart, and Buckley's Story by Ingrid King is no exception. At the same time, when pet lovers take the time and energy to share the story of their beloved animal, they're sharing the love and joy that animal brought to their life. King's book, Buckley's Story, is subtitled Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher because of the lessons the author learned in three short years from her beloved Buckley.

King first met Buckley at an animal hospital in Virginia, where she worked as office manager. The tortoiseshell cat immediately captured King's heart, and in the next year, Buckley's spirit pushed King to spread her own wings, going into business for herself. She started a business called Healing Hands, doing Reiki for animals and humans, but it took her a couple tries to make the big step of bringing Buckley home from the office, and adding it to her small family, Ingrid and her cat, Amber.

Unfortunately, Buckley had health problems, and over the next couple years, they only grew worse. But, Buckley had taught Ingrid lessons in that short period of time. One lesson involved enjoying every day, and focusing on the joy of life. So, King says, "Rather than telling the story the way it was - she had been diagnosed with a serous heart condition and had been given a poor prognosis - I choose to tell the story the way I wanted it to be: she was a happy little cat who was enjoying her life to the fullest."

Anyone who regularly reads animal books will know where Buckley's Story ends. Even so, it's always inspiring to read of the love that animals bring into lives, and the changes they cause. Ingrid King choose to tell Buckley's Story to share those lessons of day to day life, lived with joy and love.

Ingrid King's website is

Buckley's Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher by Ingrid King. iUniverse, ©2009. ISBN 9781440166242 (paperback), 132p.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Scary Stuff by Sharon Fiffer

The fifth book in the Jane Wheel series is the best one yet. I had problems with Hollywood Stuff, the fourth book. Jane and Tim were out of their element when they went to California. But, Jane's reunion with her brother, and the return to Illinois, lead to old familiy secrets. Sharon Fiffer's Scary Stuff is the perfect autumn book.

Scary Stuff takes place in just a short period of time, over a weekend, but there are major changes in Jane's life. "Jane Wheel, accidental private eye, finder of dead bodies, spotter of antique forgeries, champion of the innocent." And, Jane is all of those in this book, beginning with champion of the innocent. It's Jane's brother, Michael, who sets everything in motion when he says he's been verbally attacked three times by men who misidentified him as a con man who sold them items over the Internet. Jane's trail leads her right back home to Illinois, where she uncovers theft, scams, and attempted murder. Along the way, she learns more about her mother, Nellie, a formidable figure who always scared her. Michael's problems lead to destructive family secrets. Throw in a woman who lives in a Halloween house, and it's Scary Stuff indeed.

Scary Stuff is the most revealing Jane Wheel mystery, as the reader learns more about Michael and Nellie. Jane is going to have to adapt to major changes in her life, but she knows she'll have the support of her family, and her friends, Tim Lowry and Bruce Oh. Any additional information will spoil the book for readers, but Jane is going to be tough enough to handle all the Scary Stuff life throws at her.

Sharon Fiffer's website is

Scary Stuff by Sharon Fiffer. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312387785 (hardcover), 304p.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spine-Chilling Book Giveaway, Courtesy of Hatchette Book Group

This week, I'm fortunate to be able to offer a spine-chilling book giveaway, courtesy of Hatchett Book Group. Three lucky winners will have the chance to win a spooky group of five books, courtesy of Hatchette Book Group.

If you win, you'll receive all five titles. They are:

The Heretic's Daughter By Kathleen Kent ISBN: 031602449X

Sins of the Flesh By Caridad Piñeiro ISBN: 0446543837

When Ghosts Speak By Mary Ann Winkowski ISBN: 044658133X

BoneMan's Daughters By Ted Dekker ISBN: 1599951959

The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova ISBN: 0316070637

This contest has a few rules. Hatchette Book Group restricts winners to the U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. Boxes. (Sorry!) One entry per person, please.

To enter the contest, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read, Win "Spine-Chilling Books". Your message should include your name and mailing address.

This Spine-Chilling Book Giveaway will run until Sunday, Nov. 1 at 6 a.m. PT. No entries accepted after that time. The winners will be drawn on Sunday morning, posted on the blog, and forwarded to Hatchette Book Group.

Thank you to Hatchette! Their website is

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winners and Death in a Small Village Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The autographed copy of Alan Jacobson's The 7th Victim will go to Phyllis A. of Carlisle, AR, and Chelsea Cain's Evil at Heart goes to Jennifer M. of New York City. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Small villages often contain dark mysteries, and this week's books are perfect
examples of that type. I'm giving away an ARC of the third book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet, Red Bones. Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate when it appears that an elderly matriarch is accidentally shot on Whalsey. When a second death occurs, Perez knows his sense of unease is warranted. An archaeological dig on the island stirred up a troubling past.

When I originally gave away an ARC of S.J. Bolton's Awakening, I warned it's not a book for you if you don't want to read about snakes. Venomous snakes are suddenly invading houses in a small English village, and Clara Benning, a wildlife veterinary surgeon must search into the myserious past of the town in order to find an evil killer.

So, would you like Red Bones or Awakening? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. 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 "Red Bones" or Win "Awakening." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Oct. 22 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!

Bouchercon Awards

The following awards were announced at Bouchercon in Indianapolis today.

Derringer: Edward D. Hoch Memorial Award for short story lifetime achievement -- Clark Howard

Crimespree Awards: Jack Reacher Award -- William Kent Krueger

Crimespree: Crimespree Contributor of the Year -- Jeremy Lynch

Crimespree: Best Paperback Original -- Christa Faust's Money Shot

Crimespree: Favorite Novel -- Sean Chercover's Trigger City

Crimespree: Favorite in an Ongoing Series -- Robert Crais's Chasing Darkness

Crimespree: Favorite graphic novel writer -- Brian Azzarello

Macavity Awards: Best Historical Mystery -- Rhys Bowen's A Royal Pain

Macavity: Best short story -- Dana Cameron's "The Night Things Changed" from Wolfsbane & Mistletoe

Macavity: Best non-fiction/critical -- Frankie Bailey's African American Mystery Writers

Macavity: Best first mystery -- Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Macavity: Best mystery novel -- Deborah Crombie's Where Memories Lie

Barry Awards: Lifetime achievement in mystery fandom -- Art Scott

Barry: Best short story -- James O. Born's "The Drought" from The Blue Religion(edited by Michael Connelly)

Barry: Best paperback original -- Julie Hyzy's State of the Onion

Barry: Best British novel -- Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Barry: Best thriller -- Brett Battles's The Deceived

Barry: Best first novel -- Tom Rob Smith's Child 44

Barry: Best novel -- Arnaldur Indridason's The Draining Lake


Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda Janzen has a Ph.D., teaches at a college, and has been the University of California Poet Laureate, but when her life fell apart, she returned home to her parents and a simpler life in their Mennonite family in order to put herself back together. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is her memoir, the story of her return home.

Janzen admits she should have left her husband years before her marriage ended. He was bipolar, and she lived with his depression, changing herself to meet his demands. She should have left when he told her he didn't care what happened to her. Instead, Nick left her when he met a guy named Bob on The same week, she was hit head-on by a drunk driver. At 43, she had broken bones, broken ribs, a broken marriage and life. She went home to California, to the Mennonites.

By this time in her life, her father had retired as head of the North American Mennonite Conference for Canada and the United States (the Mennonite equivalent of the pope.) Her mother was a nurse, a serene woman who accepted her rebellious daughter, a warm woman who always found the bright side in life.

Rhoda Janzen chronicles the story of her early life in a Mennonite home, including stories of embarrassment in the dress she wore to school, and the school lunches she carried. Even in those early years, she yearned for a glamorous life outside of the Mennonite lifestyle. Her education and her marriage moved her farther away from that life. But, she admits to the peacefulness in the harmony and music of the Mennonite life, a world that recognizes simplicity, home cooked food, prayer, and peace, a life of service. It takes a while, but she claims that life as her heritage.

Janzen spends quite a bit of time in Mennonite in a Little Black Dress analyzing her marriage. That aspect of the book becomes a little tedious, but it's natural for her to go into detail, with the length of the marriage, and the hurt she suffered. On the other hand, the story of her recuperation at her parents' home is fascinating. Most of us know little about the Mennonites, and she includes a humorous chapter examining the history of the sect, including the difference between Mennonites and the Amish.

In the end, Janzen finds peace with her past, and her life. Her return home was restorative. She comes to terms with the destruction of her marriage. Her sister and friends help her to move on. But, it's her mother, and the gentleness of the Mennonites themselves, that seem to bring her to acceptance. It's a story I'd recommend to book groups interested in memoirs. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is Rhoda Janzen's memoir, but it's also an acknowledgement that she might have missed something growing up as a Mennonite, something invaluable to adult life.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen. Henry Holt & Company, ©2009. ISBN 9780805089257 (hardcover), 256p.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom

Linda Wisdom brings back her sexy, delightful witches in Hex in High Heels. It's another sexy, suspenseful romp that will delight old fans, and make new ones.

Once upon a time, there was a group of thirteen witches who were kicked out of the Witches' Academy in 1313. It's been at least 200 years since they all were able to get together, but as many as can gather at the full moon at Moonstone Lake. The witches own the land, but their ownership is about to be challenged by a nasty group of Werewolves.

That property won't be given up if Blair Fitzpatrick and Staci Romanov have anything to do with it. They're the witches that live at the lake. Blair runs Blast from the Past, a vintage store, and Staci owns a lingerie boutique, Isn't It Romantic. Staci has found her soul mate, a wizard and lawyer. But, Blair's love interest hasn't fallen as hard as she'd like. Jake Harrison is a Were Border Collie who has his own issues. He was an outcast from his Were Pack, since he was a throwback, so he choose to leave. Unfortunately, it's his Pack that purchased the local lodge. His brother, Roan Thorpe, is heir apparent to the Pack, and he's determined to get the land.

No one combines suspense, sex, magic, and humor as well as Linda Wisdom. Witches and Weres in combat provide the suspense and magic. And, she brings back the magic bunny slippers Fluff and Puff as tattoos. There's Horace, the eight-inch live gargoyle, and a group of unruly elves. And Wisdom's witches always find time for a couple hot sex scenes.

If you haven't met Linda Wisdom's witches, October is the perfect time to do it. It's another suspenseful, fun trip to Moonstone Lake in Hex in High Heels.

Linda Wisdom's website is

Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom. Sourcebooks, Inc., ©2009. ISBN 9781402218194 (paperback), 341p.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bibliophile's Devotional by Hallie Ephron, PhD

Hallie Ephron knows how to write books that satisfy a book addict's craving for another list. First, she gave us 1001 Books for Every Mood. Now, we have another comprehensive compilation, The Bibliophile's Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics. What reader won't be satisfied with 365 nutshell summaries of classics, ideas for future reading?

In an attractive, gift-size book, Ephron offers readers a classic a day. Each summary begins with the opening line from the book. There's a summary of the story, a discussion of the book's place in literature, awards received, and a final, short commentary by a critic or author. Add the index (unseen in the Advanced Reading Copy), and it's the perfect collection for any reader of classics.

Hallie Ephron knows how to make classics accessible to the everyday reader. This book can be pulled out to suggest titles for the college-bound, or the lifelong learner wanting to continue reading. It's the perfect little book for sampling, giving a taste of authors, well-known titles, and a few not so well-known.

The book contains a selection of international reading. Just paging through January, there are authors from Britain, Russia, the United States, India, the West Indies, France, and Italy. Male and female authors are represented. This is not a selection dominated by white Western Hemisphere males. Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Martin Luther King, and Laura Esquival have works in the book.

Ephron includes some pleasant surprises in The Bibliophile's Devotional. Georgette Heyer is included, but, she does represent the classic in her field. The Hobbit, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Wind in the Willows are covered, so don't look at this book as a compilation of stuffy old books.

In her introduction, Ephron says this is just a preview of 365 handpicked books. This is for those of us who "are unabashed bibliophiles who would, if we could, line our walls with books and read as many as our busy lives permit. We savor the heft of a book in our hands. Thrill at reading a book's opening paragraphs and slow down to delay reaching The End despite a bedside table stacked high with books beckoning to be read."

If you're like me, you'll be paging through The Bibliophile's Devotional, looking for the books you've read, noting the ones you've always meant to read, and marking the books you've never come across. Buy this for the reader in your life. It's the perfect Christmas gift, birthday gift, or the gift to share when you both delight in books. Your reading friends will thank you for Hallie Ephron's latest, The Bibliophile's Devotional.

Hallie Ephron's website is

The Bibliophile's Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics by Hallie Ephron, Ph.D. Adams Media, ©2009. ISBN 9781605501055 (hardcover), 400p.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

I'd never want to live in the Shetland Islands. Ann Cleeves portrays them as beautiful, but isolated, lonely, hard on the women. The third book in the Shetland Island Quartet, Red Bones, is no exception to that atmospheric, but lonely existence. These are all quiet mysteries that unfold as slowly as life on the islands.

When bones are found at at archaeological dig on Whalsey, one of the Shetland Islands, it's an exciting find. But, the death of Mima Wilson, the owner of the archaeological site, changes everything on the island. One of the islanders admits he may have accidentally shot her, and Inspector Jimmy Perez arrives via ferry to investigate. Ronald Clouston's account of drinking and hunting rabbits is plausible, but something doesn't sit right with Perez. When there's another death, Perez is glad he convinced the Fiscal (a cross between a a magistrate and a prosecuting lawyer) to hold off on a verdict.

Each time Jimmy Perez investigates, he finds a small isolated community with their own secrets. Even the local officer, Sandy, is related to half of the islanders. He's intimidated by his mother, scared of appearing inadequate, and caught up in Whalsey's stories. Sophie, a grad student working at the dig perfectly describes the atmosphere in the closed community. "I hate it here," she said. "Everyone knowing each other's business....Once the fog rolls in you feel as if the world outside doesn't matter at all. People here lose any sense of proportion. Tiny incidents that happened years ago fester and take over their lives."

No one creates an atmosphere ripe for murder as Ann Cleeves does. It's up to Inspector Jimmy Perez to pierce the murky secrets, to find those tiny incidents that might have led to death in Cleeves' latest quiet, but powerful, mystery, Red Bones.

Ann Cleeves' website is

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312384340 (hardcover), 400p.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Salon - Camille Kimball for Authors @ The Teague

Camille Kimball, author of A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter, appeared for Authors @ The Teague in order to honor the victims, and thank the heroes who solved the case, and brought Dale Hausner to trial. She brought pictures taken during Hausner's trial, pictures of some of the crime scenes, and two retired Phoenix police detectives who had been involved in the Phoenix Serial Shooter case. Phoenix Police Detectives Darrell Smith and Cliff Jewell's contributions to the program were fascinating.

From May 2005 to July 2006, the Phoenix Shooter was credited with shooting at 27 people, and knifing two victims. Of those, eight people died. Five horses and eight dogs were shot. Buildings and cars were shot at, and buildings burned. As the back cover of the book says, Phoenix "fell victim to one of the most publicized serial killing sprees in history....Often using shotguns with buckshot, Dale Hausner and Sam Dieteman tormented the city for an entire year....They took aim at men and women, white and black, Latino and Indian, homeless and rich - even horses and dogs."

Camille said her book was a tribute to the victims, the forgotten people who were shot, and the ones who died, on the street. She showed photos of Hausner in the courtroom, and said some of the pictures showed his personality, as he peaked at her through his hands, and fidgeted with papers throughout the trial. The witnesses against him were nervous when they saw him at the table, unshackled, but they weren't aware that he was wearing a shock belt around his waist that would shoot 50,000 volts of electricity into him, if the guard needed to shock him. Family members had expressed their fear of Dale Hausner when they had to cross in front of him on the way to the witness stand.

One of the photos was of Vincent Imbordino, prosecutor, whose closing argument, included in A Sudden Shot, was so moving that people cried. There were hours of testimony, and Kimball's photos included pictures of witnesses, among them some of the women who testified. Dale Hausner was quite successful with women. One witness was a school principal and professor at ASU who dated him. He tried to use her as an alibi. Dale's ex-wife drove in from Texas to testify against him, and she was so terrified she trembled, and had to be reminded to speak loudly. Another woman who dated him was a student teacher, who denied that she was with him when he tried to use her for an alibi.

There was even a child with Hausner in the apartment when he was arrested. Kimball quoted the mother as telling her, "We were delivered from evil." Hausner himself had a little girl who suffered from an illness, and he lied to play up her illness for sympathy, saying his little girl wouldn't make it to first grade. She's in first grade, doing fine.

Kimball even showed pictures of Buddy, the burro, "the first victim she interviewed." Buddy had been shot from 30 to 40 feet away. Almost all of the animals shot had been in fenced yards, and they were shot at night. Buddy might have been the least of the victims, but he had been purchased as a pet for the owners' foster children.

Detective Cliff Jewell, the detective followed through the book, said he believed Dale and his brother, Jeff Hausner, shot all of the animals, but they only charged them for the cases where the shell cases or a bullet was left at the scene.

Included in the photos were ones of victims and their families. Paul Patrick, was shown in several pictures and he is shown in a YouTube video with Kimball.

When asked, Camille said the victims, and their families, have appreciated the book, saying they saw it as an opportunity to have their loved ones introduced to a larger audience.

After the pictures, Kimball introduced both detectives. She said usually Detective Cliff Jewell speaks first because he has the longer arc in the book, but since Darrell Smith had closest connection to Glendale, he spoke first.

Smith said he entered the case when Wal-Mart went up in smoke in June 2006, because he was investigating the arson. He became involved in the shooter cases after the fires. The ATF and fire departments worked hand in hand in the arson cases, and Smith and Kimball acknowledged Mike Blair from the Glendale Fire Department. With the Wal-Mart fires, the police now had video of cars, and pretty good ones of the suspects in both stores. Following that information, Darrell Smith received a phone call from a woman who said she thought she knew who one of the men was. Everyone met at the Phoenix Police Department because Smith had the computer equipment. They ran the information about the suspect, Sammy Dieteman, but he had no history of arrests.

Besides the fire, Smith received a phone call claiming the shooter shot at a bicycle at 89th and Camelback, and gave the date and person involved. After checking with the assault team, that was just one of the calls that didn't match the facts.

Then, the police pulled what phone records they could. As Kimball reminded us, just three years ago, they couldn't pull cell phone records like they can now.

The police hit bars and apartment complexes in West Phoenix, looking for the car from the Wal-Mart videos, but couldn't find it. They were deadended. They then joined a task force; hundreds were brought in to combat the serial shooter case. The police would sit on street corners at night, listening for shots. It didn't work. Darrell Smith said he lived in the West Valley, and he always watched for the car when he was out. He and his wife even hit bards, looking for that car. There were stakeouts, and they couldn't find the two men.

But, Smith had a "file stop" on Sammy. In July 2006, he received a call from Silent Witness. A man named Ron Horton wanted to talk to someone about the serial shooter. He said a man named Sam Dieteman was the guy doing this.

Horton, who looked like a scary man to meet, was, according to Smith, "the meekest, mildest person to talk to and interview." He said Sammy had once said to him, "Do you know what it's like to kill someone," but Ron blew it off because they were drinking in a bar. But, Ron was able to tell Detective Smith details that Sammy had told him, including that a .410 shotgun had been used to kill people, a fact the police had not revealed. Ron Horton said he was sure Sam was one of the killers, but he didn't know the second shooter. After the videotaped interview, Smith took the tape downtown, and things moved quickly. He then went back and videotaped Ron again, and he told the same story.

Darrel Smith said he did phone calls and surveillance, the interesting work, and didn't have to do the paperwork. He said the asked Ron to get Sam to meet him somewhere Finally Sammy agreed to meet Ron at the Star Dust Bar. There were hundreds of police there, hidden, when two men drove up. Sammy was dropped off, and the car left. Darrell followed the car to Metro Center, where the driver went in. The car license plate was registered to Dale Hausner. Smith followed Dale into a video store in the mall, where he stayed long enough for the police to put a GPS on Dale's car.

Smith said he wanted so badly to see the case through that he slept in his van two nights with other detectives, two nights in July. But, that night, Sam and Ron went to another bar, and then the casino at Wildhorse Pass. The police kept getting calls from Ron, reporting in. But, Sammy said he'd have a friend pick up him, and Dale came by and picked him up. Then they cruised Gilbert and Chandler for three hours. Smith is convinced they were stalking people, but it had started to rain, so there were not a lot of people out. He said as the police followed them, that was a terrible fear, that they couldn't get to them fast enough if they pulled out a shotgun and shot someone. In the wiretap room, they couldn't believe the things they heard the two men say.

Detective Darrell Smith said he never testified at the trial because everything he knew was hearsay from Ron Horton. And, Ron died before the trial, so Darrell couldn't testify, saying yes, Ron said that to me. But, in thirty-one years as a cop, he never got closer to a snitch as he did to Ron. Horton did get the reward, and, after he died, there was a fundraiser for him at the Star Dust Bar, a biker bar. Smith said he felt out of place there when he went, but the family welcomed him, and introduced him. The mayor had given a coin to everyone who worked on the case, and Smith gave his to Ron's family.

Ron Horton said when Robin Blasnek, the last victim, died in July, he knew he had to come forward. When asked, Smith said he had been involved in an incident when Ron went to pick up the reward money. The detectives knew when he'd be picking it up, and, knowing it was a lot of money, they worried about him. They went in a van, grabbed him when he came out with the money, told him they were there to protect him, and take him to his bank so nothing would happen to him. He gave away a lot of his money before he died. His friends don't regret what Ron did.

Following Detective Smith's presentation, Camille Kimball introduced Detective Cliff Jewell, "a real hero," and the main hero in A Sudden Shot. Cliff said he became involved several months earlier than Darrell. When Kimball said it was a dogged investigation, Jewell said he counted over 200 times he was mentioned in the book, so it was embarrassing. Three hundred forty-eight people were involved in the case. The Glendale Fire Department, a civilian volunteer with the Glendale Police Department, the Mesa and Scottsdale Police Departments were involved.

Jewell said Jeff Hausner, Dale's brother, lived at 91st and Camelback. Cliff believes Jeff and Dale shot all of the animals, and started shooting people. They told Sam they shot a bunch of people downtown. They all hung around the west side where Jeff lived. Camille's pictures included one of a church at 9th Avenue and Woodland, south of Van Buren. There were shootings outside that church on December 29. One witness survived, Timmy Tordai, but he was a registered sex offender, and not a good witness. They did have five surveillance cameras on a nearby parking garage, but they didn't know what vehicle they were looking for on the cameras.

Then, there were the stories they had to chase down that turned out to be false. One was a detailed story of how the December 29 shootings occurred. One was from a man who said he rode to work with the shooter.

Cliff Jewell mentioned the various cases that eventually came together, but seemed unrelated at the beginning. He heard from people in the Tolleson area about animal shootings, and someone who lost their dog gave him the casing. Dale Hausner complained that when Jeff shot someone, he put the gun too far out the window, and the casings went out the car. That's why they didn't find casings or shells at all of the scenes.

Dale Hausner took classes at ABC Bartending School in Tempe, and remained friends with someone there. When a car windshield was shot out at the bartending school, there were six shell casings found, but that case wasn't connected at the time.

When discussing serial killers, the FBI says serial killers don't change weapons. But, there was a .22 and shotguns used. It's not typical of serial killers to change weapons. Jewell had a case with dogs shot, and shell casings left. The same night, a prostitute was shot, and it was the same shell casings.

At the same time the Phoenix Shooter case was going on, the police were investigating the Baseline Killer case. Homicide was all tied up in that case, so Jewell had little help.

On April 15, he went on America's Most Wanted. He was upset that the show mentioned the .22 caliber because they weren't releasing it. He knew the shooters would then change guns.

Detective Jewell said he asked the FBI to come out and give him a profile. They told him it was a white male 18-24, alone, but the shotguns and .22s were not connected. They said, "Cliff. You're wrong. The cases aren't connected." Cliff still thought they were wrong. He got called in as part of the Task Force toward the end. He did get to call the FBI, and say, "I was right." He got his credibility back with the department. It was a fifteen month investigation.

The audience was asked if we'd heard of Charlie Starkweather, a spree killer. Dale Hausner had red hair, and was from Omaha. Charlie Starkweather had red hair and was from Lincoln. They thought Hausner was emulating Starkweather.

Dale Hausner was a serial killer with no criminal history, but profiling is based on generalities. Hausner is not stupid. He did things to change the scenario. He set dumpsters on fire, and Wal-Marts on fire.

Hausner won't talk to the cops, and didn't talk to Camille. He's appealing his conviction. On the other hand, Sam Dieteman is remorseful, and says he has no idea how he allowed himself to get involved. He met Dale through Dale's brother, Jeff. Sam lived with Jeff, and, when he had an argument and moved out, Dale went looking for him. It was that night, driving around, that Dale shot someone, then gave the gun to Sam. Sam shot Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, and killed her.

Someone mentioned alcohol and drugs. Sam was educated, and an alcoholic. They would shoplift liquor from Target, Walgreens, and grocery stores. They stole dozens of bottles of liquor. They stole videos, and Dale sold them to people at the airport. Dale got Sam on meth.

The final question was about the caliber of the guns, and why it was a .22. We were told it was part of a game they would play, experimenting to see what the different guns would do.

But, Camille Kimball said her feelings are that their personalities and characters are specific to them. It wasn't the drugs or alcohol that made them do it.

Camille Kimball's book, A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter, and the program at the Velma Teague Library, with Detectives Cliff Jewell and Darrell Smith, showed the importance of dogged police work, and heroes - heroes such as Cliff Jewell, Darrell Smith, Glendale fireman, Mike Blair, and Ron Horton, along with the victims, their families, and the witnesses in the trials.

Camille Kimball's website is at

A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter by Camille Kimball. Penguin Group (USA), ©2009. ISBN 9780425230190 (paperback), 336p.