Friday, April 30, 2010

This Year's Edgar Award Winners

This was the release from Mystery Writers of America after last night's Edgar Awards ceremony.

"Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the Winners for the
2010 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction,
non-fiction and television published or produced in 2009. The Edgar®
Awards were presented to the winners at our 64th Gala Banquet, April
29, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City."


The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)


In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)


Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn Press – Castle Street Mysteries)


Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette Book Group - Twelve)


The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story
of Their Greatest Detectives
edited by Otto Penzler (Hachette Book
Group – Little, Brown and Company)


"Amapola" – Phoenix Noir by Luis Alberto Urrea (Akashic Books)


Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Children’s Books)


Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperTeen)


"Place of Execution," Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (PBS/WGBH Boston)


"A Dreadful Day" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Dan Warthman
(Dell Magazines)


Dorothy Gilman


Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Zev Buffman, International Mystery Writers’ Festival


Poisoned Pen Press (Barbara Peters & Robert Rosenwald)

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 28, 2010)

Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)

Congratulations to the winners!

June Treasures in My Closet

There's only ten books in my closet right now with June release dates. But, they're all treasures to tease you with; books you might be interested in reading. Don't wait too long to order them from your favorite bookstore, or place them on hold at your public library.

Of course, I have to start with Juliet Blackwell's A Cast-Off Coven. Lily Ivory is a witch who runs a vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora's Closet. In exchange for the investigation of paranormal activity at San Francisco School of Fine Arts, she's been promised a trunkful of Victorian clothes. But, instead of paranormal activity, Lily finds a body. I'm looking forward to the book, but I'm also looking forward to hosting Juliet as part of MysteryPalooza - Women Who Kill, on June 24th, for Authors @ The Teague.

S.J. Bolton writes enthralling books with unusual settings and characters. Blood Harvest is set in Heptonclough, a small English village that isn't too welcoming to the Fletcher family. A series of pranks aimed at the family's young son take a sinister and dangerous turn, turning their lives into a nightmare. It seems as if the village's evil secret may become impossible to ignore.

Linda Castillo's debut, Sworn to Silence, was a New York Times bestseller. Now, she brings back Painters Mill Police Chief Kate Burkholder in Pray for Silence. Once again, evil stalks the small community when an Amish family of seven is found slaughtered.

So many of my favorite mystery authors blurbed the first book in E.J. Copperman's Haunted Guesthouse mystery series, that I knew I wanted to read Night of the Living Deed. It's hard to resist Julia Spencer-Fleming's comment, "Fans of Charlaine Harris and Sarah Graves will relish the original, laugh-laden paranormal mystery featuring reluctant ghost whisperer Alison Kerby, a Topper for the twenty-first century." The book has been called "the world's first screwball mystery." If Juliet Blackwell and Chris Grabenstein loved this story of a divorced mother intent on renovating a guesthouse despite the resident ghosts who claimed to have been murdered, I'm all set to enjoy this mystery.

Crashers is Dana Haynes' thriller, introducing a colorful team of NTSB experts. Usually they have months to investigate a downed plan. This time, they have only three days before terror strikes again.

Mick Herron's Slow Horses takes readers to Slough House, a dumping ground for British Intelligence agents who screwed up in one way or another. River Carter, is one of those "slow horses," but he's bitter about his failure and his current job. The kidnapping of a young man, and the subsequent threats, present an opportunity for River to redeem himself.

Lee Kravitz' memoir, Unfinished Business, sounds fascinating. When he lost his job in his midfifties, Kravitz took stock of his life, and realized he was disconnected from the important people in his life. His memoir is the story of an entire year devoted to reconnecting with the people who mattered most, and making amends.

Bones of Contention is Jeanne Matthews' debut novel. Dinah Pelerin's wealthy American uncle has sumoned his entire family to a remote lodge at the Top End of Australia, a land teeming with crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and Aboriginal myths. There are so many secrets to uncover, and Dinah, a wannabe anthropologist has family stories to discover, while struggling to solve two bizarre murders. Like Juliet Blackwell, Jeanne Matthews will be appearing for MysteryPalooza - Women Who Kill.

It's been twelve years since the last Ballad Novel by Sharyn McCrumb. So, it's a treat to see The Devil Amongst the Lawyers. In 1935, Erma Morton, a beautiful young mountain woman is accused of killing her father. Soon reporters from all the national publications are sending reporters to the remote Virginia town. Carl Jenkins, a novice jouranlist from Tennessee, isn't interested in making up stories. He wants to set the story straight, so he contacts his young cousin, Nora Bonesteel. If you've met Nora Bonesteel in previous books, you'll remember she's gifted with the "Sight." Jenkins hopes his cousin can help him.

Rounding out the list is Susan C. Shea's Murder in the Abstract. It's a mystery that moves through the fashionable worlds of San Francisco and Santa Fe. When Dani O'Rourke's gala evening at the Devor Museum ends with a young artist plummeting from an office office, it's labeled murder, and Dani's a suspect. As the museum's chief fund-raiser, she's determined to find the motive for murder.

It's a terrific collection of June releases, isn't it? I hope you find a book or two to place on hold or order from a bookstore, something that catches your attention. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Winners and a Soho International Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Ambre W. of Syracuse, UT will recieve Laura Childs' Tragic Magic. Murder on the Cliffs will go to Helen K. from Winchester, VA. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

If you're not familiar with mysteries from Soho Press, you're missing some of the best police procedurals set internationally. So, I'll give you the chance to win one. Garry Disher's Blood Moon is set in Australia. It's an Inspector Hal Challis and Sergeant Ellen Destry Investigation, as Challis and his team deal with the beating of a private school chaplain, a murdered planning official, Christian fundamentalists, racist bloggers, and hordes of vacationing teenagers. I really like these traditional detective stories, with solid police work, as Marilyn Stasio said in The New York Times Book Review.

If you prefer your police investigations in Brazil, you could win Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage, a Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation. When a dog uncovers a human bone, Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Federal Police and his team are called in. It isn't long before they uncover a clandestine cemetery. Someone has disposed of hundreds of bodies, sometimes burying them in family groups. Gage never pulls his punches when dealing with Brazil, its politics, and its crime.

So, you could win Blood Moon or Buried Strangers, published by Soho Press. You can enter to win both books, 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 "Blood Moon" or Win "Buried Strangers." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, May 6 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder by Sara Rosett

I've been following Sara Rosett's Mom Zone Mysteries since the first one, Moving is Murder. Her first one showed promise. It was a pleasure to read about a mother, an amateur sleuth, who didn't neglect her children in the course of an investigation. The third book took Ellie Avery, an Air Force wife out of her comfort zone, and it was slightly disappointing. But, Rosett is at the top of her game in the fifth book, Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder. Even if you've never read one of the books, you can pick this one up, with the promise of a riveting traditional mystery.

Ellie Avery is an Air Force wife with a busy life. Between her husband, Mitch, her two children, her part-time business organizing spaces, and her involvement with other military wives, she hardly has time to breathe. Now that they're stationed it Georgia, their lives are even busier since she and Mitch can host his family reunion, fifty competitive Avery family members. And Mitch and Ellie think his cousin, Dan, was lucky to collapse during a jog the day of the reunion. He could have been a victim of a gunshot, because he fell just as everyone heard a gunshot.

Dan was luckier than anyone knew. When Mitch's commander, Colonel Lewis Pershall, is found dead on the golf course, Ellie feels sorry for his wife, Denise. But, Denise has suspicions, and she draws Ellie into an investigation, asking her to check on a couple people. Ellie's investigations don't go far, though, before Mitch has a string of accidents, a leaf blower that backfires, a blown tire. Mitch always worried about Ellie while she investigated cases. Now, Ellie's worried as Mitch tries to watch his back, while trying to discover why he's a target.

Rosett has grown quite skillful at intermingling the Averys' family life with Ellie's cases. This latest book includes base politics, family life, and crime investigations. And, it has the added depth of a case that's threatening Mitch. There's the added pressure of the beginning of kindergarden for their oldest child. Rosett never forgets that Ellie Avery is a wife and mother. Rosett's Ellie Avery mysteries are successful because of those complicated issues that work well together. Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder is the most successful yet.

Sara Rosett's website is

Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder by Sara Rosett. Kensington Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780758226839 (Hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Sara Rosett, the author, sent me a review copy, in hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

Anyone who never returned for their class reunion wonders what it might be like. And, the longer it's been since graduation, the more curious you become. Elizabeth Berg takes that curiosity, anticipation, and dread, and packages it all in her latest book, The Last Time I Saw You.

It's been forty years, and it's going to be the last reunion for a class from Clear Springs, Ohio. Berg picks a handful of people from that graduating class to focus on. Dorothy Shauman still has two loyal friends from those years, but she's divorced now, and still longs for Pete Decker, the high school quarterback. And, she's dieted, primped, and she's ready and willing to finally have another crack at the hottest male in their class. Decker himself cheated on his wife, and is now eager to get back with her, although she's seeing another man. There's Candy Sullivan Armstrong, who was the hottest girl in class, and now faces a health crisis, and a husband she fears. And, there's the two people that seemed to be losers to their classmates, Lester Hessenpfeffer and Mary Alice Mayhew.

At eighteen, we never really know what's going to happen to us, or our classmates. Berg's story really has no surprises. Those five characters relate their thoughts, fears, and hopes. There are some happy endings wrapped up a little too neatly. Even so, it's fascinating to watch people return for a dreaded or anticipated reunion. One of the characters sums it up neatly when she says, "It's not that you can't go home again; it's that you can never leave." And, in some ways, we always carry that insecure eighteen-year-old, and our class relationships, with us. Elizabeth Berg acknowledges the immaturity in each of us in her knowing book, The Last Time I Saw You.

Elizabeth Berg's website is

The last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg. Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9781400068647 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

90% of the Game is Half Mental by Emma Span

I bought a number of baseball books in memory of Jim with the money friends sent for the library. Emma Span's 90% of the Game is Half Mental And Other Tales form the Edge of Baseball Fandom was the first one to arrive.

Span took the title from one of those quotes purported to come from Yogi Berra. It was an appropriate title for the author, a fan of the New York Yankees. She admitted that "fandom, like religion, is largely an accident of birth, a matter of geography and parenting." It explains why she was a fan of the New York teams, why Jim was a Cleveland Indians fan, and later a Detroit Tigers fan since Jim Leyland, the manager of the Tigers, is my mother's cousin. It was "an accident of birth, a matter of geography and parenting."

Jim would have enjoyed Span's book as she told about acquiring her baseball habit and love of the Yankees from her father. Then, her baseball blog brought her a job covering sports for the Village Voice . Span enjoyed the behinds-the-scene look at her beloved Yankees, but felt uncomfortable with the men she had viewed as a fan, and found it hard to leave her fandom behind. When she finally lost the job, due to a change in management, she hoped to write a book about the 2007 baseball season, with the New York teams as background. Unfortunately, neither team did well enough for a book. Instead, she wrote this one, discussing her love of baseball, sports writing, even movies about baseball.

Baseball fans will appreciate a fresh perspective of the game. And, considering the importance of baseball in Jim's relationship with his father, and then our relationship, he would have appreciated her comment. "Sports matter, although they really shouldn't...No one who loves both a father and a sports team" will doubt that. Emma Span's baseball book tells about her love of baseball. She found it an easy and safe way to communicate with her father, and friends. So did we.

Emma Span's website is

90% of the Game is Half Mental And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom by Emma Span. Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9780345501752 (paperback), 192p.

FTC Full Disclosure - library book

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber

Once again, bestselling author Debbie Macomber has a hit on her hands. Hannah's List is warm and pitch-perfect. Fans won't want to put it down once you meet Dr. Michael Everett, his brother-in-law, Ritchie, and the soon-to-be women in Michael's life.

Michael Everett hasn't slept well in a year, hasn't eaten well, and spends long days at his job as a pediatrician. His brother-in-law, Ritchie, knows that when he hands Michael a letter from his deceased wife, Hannah, on the one year anniversary of her death. When Hannah knew she was dying of ovarian cancer, she wrote Michael a letter, telling him he had to get on with his life. Then, she shocked the man who loved her, by telling him she wanted him to marry again, and giving him the names of three women who she thought might fit the bill.

Michael's angry. No one, even Hannah, can tell him when it's time to stop grieving. But, he realizes he did stop living, and he decides he will at least call the women. Hannah suggested her cousin, Winter, a chef who owns a shop on Blossom Street, Leanne Lancaster, Hannah's oncology nurse, and Macy Roth, a part-time model who made Hannah laugh. Although Michael might not be ready, and brings the ghost of Hannah to a new relationship, each of Hannah's choices also has their own baggage.

As usual, Debbie Macomber has written a charming, relevant story. Her characters don't have easy lives, as they cope with everything from cancer deaths to Afghanistan and abusive relationships. However, if you're a fan of Debbie Macomber's, you know there will be the promise of a happy ending. Macomber's latest novel is just as delightful as any of her other books, with characters to root for, hoping they'll find happiness. Hannah's List doesn't disappoint.

Debbie Macomber's website is

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber. MIRA, ©2010. ISBN 9780778327806 (hardcover), 416p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I picked up my ARC in the review room in the library.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Salon - May Book Chat - Penguin Group USA

May looks fun at Penguin Group USA's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. Today, I'll talk about seven books. Three of those are debuts, and it seems that the South is a favored setting this month. I'm looking forward to these books. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cutting Libraries in a Recession...

"Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague."

I picked this up from Stephen Abram's website, Stephen's Lighthouse, where he said, "Print, enlarge, and post everywhere."

A Nancy Drew Birthday Party

Do you know what April 28th is? It's the 80th birthday of Nancy Drew! And, the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona is hosting a party that night.

Here's the information from Poisoned Pen's event calendar. "Celebrate with Jenn Fisher, our local Nancy Drew crew leader. Bring your favorite Nancy to discuss and/or a Nancy Drew story to share. Jenn is the author of Clues for Real Life: The Wit and Wisdom of Nancy Drew. We will have giveaways and a couple of prizes. And we hope to have local librarians join in to this landmark occasion." It's at 7 p.m. at the Poisoned Pen, on Wednesday, April 28.

I'm one of the librarians who will be there. And, I have a couple stories to tell. My father took us camping all over the United States, and, for years, he tried to teach me the word spelunking, asking me, "What's cave exploring called?" And, I'd always look at him blankly. Finally, I read the word, in context, in a Nancy Drew book. I'm a visual learner, and once I saw the word, spelled out, in context, I never forgot it.

My other story has to do with applying for the job of Director of my hometown library in Huron, Ohio. I wanted that job so much, and while I waited to hear, and waited, and waited, I couldn't concentrate on any books. I couldn't read anything, except Nancy Drew mysteries. For some reason, they were the perfect escape. I read one of them after another while I waited.

Do you have any Nancy Drew stories?

Here are just a few points from Jenn Fisher, as quoted on Poisoned Pen's website.

1. Edward Stratemeyer, of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, created
Nancy Drew in 1929.

2. The first three books in the series: The Secret of the Old
, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery all
debuted on April 28, 1930.

3. Carolyn Keene is a pen name for various ghostwriters who
have written the books over the years. The first Carolyn Keene
was Mildred Wirt Benson who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy
Drew books.

Jenn Fisher's website

Happy Birthday, Nancy Drew!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Changes by Jim Butcher

There were only four books in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files when I started reading the series. I loved the books, and whipped through them when I read them. However, Changes, the twelfth book, is one to be savored for every detail of Harry Dresden's tortured life. Who knows how long Harry can survive everything that is thrown at him? Changes is the best book in the series.

It truly is a time of changes for the only wizard in the Chicago yellow pages. Susan Rodriguez shows up on Harry's doorstep, asking for his help. It seems Harry's ex-lover, who vanished in South America after vampires of the Red Court infected her with blood lust, has a daughter. That little girl, Harry's daughter, has been kidnapped by Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court. Susan and Harry both know that Maggie is a powerful tool for Arianna to use against Harry, the one Arianna blames for the death of her husband.

Harry Dresden's fight against the Red Court is now personal. But, as he tries to gather allies, he finds even the White Council of wizards is too preoccupied to help. And, someone always seems just one step ahead of him, as he searches for a way to rescue one little girl, held captive in Mexico. As buildings blow up around him, vampires attack, and Dresden knows he and a small group of friends might not come out of this adventure alive. They may have to strike at the Red Court on its own territory. Finally, Harry Dresden is willing to make some deals he's never been willing to do, in order to save one little girl.

Changes is an appropriate title for a story that will forever change Harry Dresden. With the knowledge he has a daughter, he's willing to do anything to protect her. That urgency brings actions that we've never seen from the principled wizard. And, Butcher skillfully pulls the strings in this complicated story of a complex man. If Harry Dresden survives this ordeal, he'll never be the same. Changes is one more outstanding book in this urban fantasy masterpiece of a series.

Jim Butcher's website is

Changes by Jim Butcher. Penguin Group (USA), ©2010. ISBN 9780451463173 (hardcover), 448p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Winners and Give Me a "C"

Congratulations to the winners of the two contests from the past week. Talitha L. of Phoenix, AZ will received The Desert Hedge Murders by Patricia Stoltey. Susan Cummins Miller's Quarry will go to Alexa W. from Birmingham, AL. Copies of Amy Dickinson's The Mighty Queens of Freeville will be sent to Jerrie S. of Kent, WA and Gwen R. from Osage City, KS.

This week, it's a "Give Me a C" Contest, with authors whose last names begin with "C". Maybe you want to win Laura Childs' Tragic Magic, a story of murder in New Orleans just before a horror convention. Two shop owners are assisting with the conversion of an old mansion for the event. Carmela Bertrand, owner of Memory Mine scrapbook shop, and her best friend, Ava Gruiex, owner of Juju Voodoo, hope to find the killer who threw their client's flaming body from Medusa Manor. With DiscordaCon, and a big Galleries & Gourmet celebration, no one wants the moneymaking events ruined by murder.

Or maybe you'd like to win Joanna Challis' traditional mystery, Murder on the Cliffs. It marks the debut of a new series, featuring Daphne du Maurier as an amateur sleuth. When the young woman is walking on the cliffs of Cornwall, she stumbles across the drowned body of a woman. As the daughter of a famous man, Daphne is welcomed into the mansion of the dead woman's fiancé. When the death is proven to be murder, Daphne is even more intrigued. It's a story she might be able to use as inspiration for her writing.

Would you like to win Murder on the Cliffs or Tragic Magic? You can enter to win both books, 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 "Tragic Magic" or Win "Murder on the Cliffs." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 29 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

April Brown Bag Luncheon

I'm a little off schedule for the brown bag luncheons, since I wasn't able to present the staff one in February. So, yesterday I talked about these books at a library staff luncheon, open to staff of all three libraries. (It's my favorite meeting.)

Allen, Sarah Addison - The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Adult Fiction) When Emily Benedict arrives in the town of Mullaby, NC, she’s not prepared for the reaction of the town who rejected her mother, nor the magical town itself.

Berney, Lou – Gutshot Straight (Adult Fiction) A caper novel involving an ex-con, a kidnap victim, Las Vegas, and Panama. Who can you trust?

Brett, Regina – God Never Blinks (Adult Nonfiction) – 50 lessons for life’s little detours from the Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist.

Corrigan, Kelly – Lift (Adult Nonfiction) – Corrigan’s letter to her daughters, telling about her life, and her love for them.

Gilmour, David – The Film Club (Adult Nonfiction) A father allows his son to drop out of school, providing he watches 3 movies a week with his dad.

Hannah, Kristin – Winter Garden (Adult Fiction) The Whitson sisters are forced to confront each other, and their relationship with their Russian mother when their beloved father dies.

Harvey, Michael – The Third Rail (Adult Fiction) – Ex-cop, turned PI, Michael Kelly is on the platform at Chicago’s El when a shooter kills a woman. But, he suspects the spree that follows might be personal.

Kaufman, Thomas – Drink the Tea (Adult Fiction) Will Gidney’s childhood shouldn’t have led him to a career as a detective, but his past leads to a strange case of a missing daughter.

McKinlay, Jenn – Sprinkle with Murder (Paperback mystery) 1st in a new series, set in Scottsdale, when the owners of a cupcake bakery are catering a wedding, but the bride from hell ends up dead.

Morris, Bob – Baja Florida (Adult Fiction) Missing daughters seem to be a great problem this month, as Zack Chasteen searches for the daughter of a dying man.

Ramirez, Misa – Hasta la Vista, Lola! (Adult Fiction) When Lola Cruz, a private investigator, learns she’s supposed to be dead, she has to find why anyone would want to steal her identity.

Rogers, Stephen D. – Shot to Death (Adult Fiction) Crime short stories with twisted O. Henry-like endings.

Solheim, Beth – At Witt’s End (Adult Fiction) Sadie Witt, co-owner of a Minnesota resort, helps the dead on their next journey, until she finds a murder victim on her property.

Stanton, Mary – Avenging Angels (Paperback mystery) After law school, Brianna Winston-Beaufort inherited her uncle’s law firm, one that handles investigations for the death, as she defends them in the Celestial Courts.

Stepakoff, Jeffrey – Fireworks Over Toccoa (Adult Fiction) Lily Davis Woodward was only married a short time when her husband left for WWII. Just before his return, she meets a fireworks expert.

There's nothing any more fun at work than getting the chance to talk about books!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lift by Kelly Corrigan

When I reviewed Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place, her memoir of the year she discovered she had breast cancer, I said it moved me to laughter and tears. I also commented, "The Middle Place is the story of a spoiled daughter, who craved her father's attention. At the same time, it's about a woman growing into her adult life, accepting her role as a wife and mother, trying to leave the same kind of memories for her daughters that her father gave her." Now, with her latest book, Lift, she's leaving those memories.

Corrigan's book is a letter to her daughters, Georgia and Claire. Knowing we seldom know what our parents were like, she revealed a little of her life, but she focused on them. She told them she always wanted children, and they were her dream. Kelly's idol, her cousin, Kathy, told her, "We're never ready for the things that happen. When the big stuff happens, we're always looking in the other direction." When that big stuff happened, Claire's meningitis, Kelly and her husband realized they would never stop trying to protect their daughters. They knew children meant love and pain and terror, but that love was worth it. They shared the feeling of so many people who realize how deeply they love another. "Risk was not an event we'd survived, but the place where we now lived."

Kelly Corrigan's Lift is a message of love, and strength in the face of tragedy. She not only left memories for her daughters, but her book will bring memories of love and childhood to many parents and children. Corrigan truly has grown up since the writing of The Middle Place.

Kelly Corrigan's website is

Lift by Kelly Corrigan. Hyperion, ©2010. ISBN 9781401341244 (hardcover), 96p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Third Rail by Michael Harvey

Three years ago, I reviewed Michael Harvey's debut crime novel, The Chicago Way, for Library Journal. In that review, I said, "Debut author Harvey borrows elements from Chandler and Robert B. Parker's Spenser to create an appealing, crusading sleuth." Despite those comparisons, and the familiar staccato style of writing, Harvey's Michael Kelly is his own man, created by his life in Chicago.

Ex-cop turned private investigator, Kelly was on the platform of Chicago's El when a woman was killed by a sniper. Giving chase, he was dropped in an alley, but his survival became an issue for the cops, the feds, and Kelly himself. Something felt wrong, and as the spree killer continued to target people throughout the city, Michael began to suspect he was somehow linked to the killer. The terror in the city escalates, while Michael Kelly runs his own undercover investigation. Together with a friend who is a computer hacker, Michael Kelly digs into his own past, and a tragedy on the L thirty years earlier. When his girlfriend, Judge Rachel Swenson, is caught up in the city's crisis, Kelly's instincts might not be enough to shut down a killer.

Michael Kelly is a fascinating, complicated man. In Rachel's eyes, "What you do is dangerous. You work alone. No, you don't work. You hunt. That's what you do. You hunt human beings. Human beings who often hunt human beings themselves. You carry a gun and routinely use it. You have no backup, no safety net....Worst of all, you like it." Rachel may have one part of that wrong. I don't think Michael Kelly really likes to kill. In fact, he's haunted by his own past. When a friend is found dead, he thought, "He walked away from my touch and took his spot in the gallery of dead faces, waiting, apparently, to witness my grief."

Michael Harvey's investigator, Michael Kelly, is a creation of the city where he grew up. He's cynical, worldly, with little trust in politicians, the FBI, or the Catholic Church. And, he's caught up in a bigger disaster than anyone comprehends. If you thought of Boston as Spenser's city, you'll find Chicago is Michael Kelly's. Chicago, and Michael Kelly, are brilliantly brought to life in a book that's impossible to put down, Harvey's terrifying The Third Rail.

Michael Harvey's website is

The Third Rail by Michael Harvey. Alfred A. Knopf, ©2010. ISBN 9780307272508 (hardcover), 304p.

Here's the book trailer for The Third Rail, but, to be honest, it doesn't do the book justice. The book is much more intense than the trailer.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received my review copy from Michael Harvey's publicist, in hopes I would review it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck

If you're hungry, now is not the time to read about Jessica Beck's Glazed Murder. If you're not hungry for a donut and a cup of coffee after reading the first in the Donut Shop mystery, you're a stronger person than me. (And, I don't even drink coffee.)

It was so early in the morning that Suzanne Hart, owner of Donut Hearts, was probably one of the few people awake in April Springs, North Carolina. She was making donuts at 2 a.m., when someone dumped a body on her doorstep, the body of a friend, banker Patrick Blaine. And, Suzanne feared the killer might have seen her in the light from her shop.

Since the local police chief isn't particularly fond of Suzanne, and she doesn't know the attractive state police officer working the murder case, Suzanne is a little uneasy. When she realizes that her own life might be in danger, she starts her own investigation. Despite protests from her mother and the police, Suzanne and a couple friends take matters into their hands. Their investigation uncovers money problems, business problems, and women problems for the banker Suzanne thought she knew.

Glazed Murder marks the solid debut for a new series. Sometimes it's hard to accept an amateur sleuth poking around in an investigation. In this case, Suzanne feels threatened, and the local and state police don't trust each other. It seems a natural move for the donut shop owner to take action to protect herself.

Beck provides readers with recipes, humor, interesting characters, a hard-working sleuth, and keeps readers guessing to the end. Glazed Murder is an appetizing treat, hopefully, a taste of more mysteries to come.

Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck. St. Martin's Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780312946104 (paperback), 301p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this ARC from the publisher, in order to review it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Salon - The Salem Witch Trials with Guest Blogger M.E. Kemp

I have a treat for everyone fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials. Guest blogger, M.E. Kemp is the author of a mystery series set in Colonial New England with two nosy Puritans as detectives. Today, she's going to discuss the Salem Witch Trials, the setting for her latest book, Death of a Bawdy Belle. Thank you, M.E.!

The Salem Witch Trials

I write a series set in Colonial New England with two nosy Puritans as detectives. (Puritans were encouraged to keep an eye on their neighbors' doings to keep them on the Godly path; hence I figured they would make good detectives because they were allowed to be nosy. Hetty Henry is a wealthy widow, mid-twenties, with connections to high and low society. Increase "Creasy" Cotton is a young minister trained to seek out the guilty secrets of the soul. Creasy was originally supposed to be the detective but Hetty Henry showed up and Hetty is such a pushy broad she took over the book and the series.

I base all my books on a true bit of history, so the first book took place in 1689 at the time of the hated Royal Governor, Edmund Andros. The next book I set in Dutch Albany (DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE) that involved a real case of land fraud. Since I was writing in chronological order, the next year was 1692 and I could not ignore the major happening in that year, the Salem Witch Trials. This is an easy period to research since so much has been written about the trials, so when I have the Salem sheriff find an extra body hanging on the gallows, I knew his reaction would be one of anger. Who would dare hang somebody without his authorization? (By the way, I think the first line of DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE is rather catchy: "Which witch is which?")

Hetty and Creasy are asked to investigate. The victim turns out to be Arabella Edwards, a lady with lots of admirers. When Hetty gets too close to the solution she is accused of being a witch by the killer, which means she has to go into hiding. People who were smart did just that during the hysteria. I include a brief sample of actual trial testimony in the book. With all the research I did, I had enough to give talks on the subject, which I offer to libraries and to historical societies. There is something about this incident in our history that continues to fascinate people today! I like to point out that we may have legally executed twenty people for witchcraft in 1692, but in Europe at the same time and well beyond, thousands were burned as witches. (We never burned people, we hung them and in one case, pressed a man to death with heavy boulders.) I also point out that the trial verdict was later reversed, the dead declared not guilty, and relatives received government payment as a recompense. Did that ever happen in Europe? I doubt it.

There have been many books written about the causes of the Salem trials; from the French and Indian Wars to ergot, a rye disease, to real witchcraft going on, to village quarrels. The fact is that two pre-teen girls were frightened by scary stories told by a West Indies slave and the grown-ups decided they were bewitched. Then a group of unmarried older girls in their late teens and twenties decided to get into the act. They were bored following a long winter and "must have their sport," as one of them said, so they started accusing old women and anyone else who opposed them. They were referred to as "the afflicted children," but they were hardly children, even by colonial terms. Some adults used the opportunity to settle old scores and pretty soon hundreds were in jail -- so many that the Salem and Boston jails were filled to overflowing. Poor Cotton Mather, the stereotype of Puritan clergy, is still accused of causing the crises, but the truth is Cotton Mather was only twenty-six years old and the judges were all colleagues of his father so he could not bring himself to criticise his elders. There is no evidence he attended any of the trials, although he did write to the judges cautioning them about the use of "spectral evidence," i.e. -the testimony of ghosts. If the ghosts couldn't testify, that pretty much would have ended the trials right there. However, it took the return of Cotton's father, Increase Mather, from England and the accusation that the Governor's wife was a witch, to put an end to the trials. Increase Mather gathered the ministers of Boston together to write a protest called: "Cases of Conscience." Of the two Mathers, father and son, the son is remembered in history but the father was the greater man, as Cotton Mather would have been the first to declare.

The real mystery about Salem is why more of the accused did not confess! If you confessed, you weren't hung. You were left to repent your sins. Twenty people died because they would not lie. Talk about Faith! I know I would've confessed to signing the Devil's book, to riding through the air on a stick or to turning myself into a snake to seduce honest Puritan men- whatever it took to keep from the gallows! Still in all, the fact remains that this was a one-time event in our history, that we learned from it and that it produced a major work of art in Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible."

Thank you, M.E. Kemp! The Salem Witch Trials are a fascinating subject for a guest blog. I know my readers will be interested.

M.E. Kemp's website is

Death of a Bawdy Belle by M.E. Kemp. Hilliard & Harris Publishers, ©2008. ISBN 9781591332350 (paperback), 212p.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

I have a confession to make. I love historical fiction, and yet I had never read any of Karen Cushman's novels, even though The Midwive's Apprentice won the Newbery Medal, and Catherine, Called Birdy, was a Newbery Honor Book. But, I was browsing in Changing Hands Bookstore on Sunday, and Cushman's new book caught my eye. My former children's librarian would be proud of me because Karen Cushman was always one of her favorite authors.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann brings the London of 1573 vividly to life, as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl new to the city. Meggy is a lame girl, who can only walk with the aid of two sticks. Fresh from the country, she's been sent to assist her father, an alchemist, a man she never knew existed. And, when he sees a daughter, instead of the son he expected, and a crippled daughter at that, he slams off in anger, leaving Meggy with only her goose for company. If it hadn't been for her father's former assistant, Roger, Meggy wouldn't have had anything to eat. Fortunately, Roger is good-natured, because Meggy's ill temper and insults would have sent most people fleeing in the opposite direction.

Times are changing in Elizabeth I's London, and not everyone is afraid of the disabled. Even so, Meggy faces the same sort of insults and mockery she faced in the country. She's determined to find a place for herself in the strange laboratorium where her father is trying to make gold, and find "the secrets of immortality and eternal youth." It's a lonely life for a girl who has to struggle to walk down the streets, or climb the steps to work for her father, a man who refuses to even say her name.

Cushman's book is written for junior high readers. It's skillfully done, historical fiction with humor and a determined young girl. Most adolescents will appreciate insults such as, "You wart-necked, flap-mouth maggot". They can watch Meggy change from a girl who knew others cursed her, and called herself, "The ugglesome crookleg, the foul-featured cripple, the fearful, misshapen creature marked by the Devil himself." It's filled with details of the dreams of an alchemist, and the lives of other tradespeople such as printers, coopers, and the players not allowed to perform unless they had a nobleman's sponsorship. It's the story of a girl who sees London as gloomy, noisy and smelly, but learns, as Roger did, to see possibilities.

Roger summed it up, "'Tis all here, the fine and the ragged, the rotten and the pure. London may reek with old dirt, but her streets are filled with new hopes, new dreams, and new ideas. You are fortunate to be here, Margret Swann." And, we're fortunate to have Karen Cushman's story of those times, Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

Karen Cushman's website is

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman. Clarion Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780547231846 (hardcover), 167p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ask Amy - Interview with Amy Dickinson

It isn't everyday that I get to interview a popular newspaper columnist, but Amy Dickinson, author of "Ask Amy," wanted to talk about her "Second Chances." And, her book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville was just released in paperback, so it was the perfect time to talk to her. Plus, check out the end of the blog for details about a special contest.

Lesa - Thank you, Amy, for taking time to answer a few questions. With the support of some strong women in your life, you’ve had a second chance. Would you tell readers about your personal second chance in life?

Amy - My fresh starts occurred, as they usually do, as the result of some really tough times in my life. When my husband left me with a baby to raise, I had to figure out how to start over. Fortunately for me, I had the support and counsel of the women in my life. They literally took me and my daughter in. They cheered me on – and they let me blubber over the sink, when absolutely necessary.

After living in my hometown for several months where I tried to figure out where to go and what to do, I started over in a new city, found work, found friends, and built a life. And then, many years later because of a job opportunity, my daughter and I moved again. We started the whole process all over again.

Then, when my dear girl went to college, I returned back to my hometown and back to the women who had helped raise me. It felt like I was going full circle – returning in that way – but the surprise here was that I was in for yet another second chance – this time, at love.

And so I took it, and another adventure began.

Lesa - Last year, I reviewed your book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville. Now, the paperback is due out. Even though you were already writing a column, I’m sure book publishing is different. What surprised you about writing and publishing a book, as compared to your column?

Amy - The “Ask Amy” advice column is a daily job – though it’s far from “everyday.” The column is the bedrock of my work, and after seven years I still enjoy it as much as ever.

Writing a book is different; it’s important to sustain the tone over much more than the length of my column. I saw the book as an opportunity to tell the “backstory” of my life – the quirky and individual chapters that I would never think to tell in the space of a column. The pleasure I took in the writing is pretty evident on the page.

The publishing process can be grueling – certainly after the quick hits of the column – but I was lucky to work with women at Hyperion who believed in me and in the book. It really was a challenge, but also a joy.

Lesa - Would you tell us about the new website,

Amy - I was inspired to gather “second chance” stories based on how women were responding to my book. They identify with me – with the challenges I’ve faced and the real-world issues I’ve dealt with in my own life. And they have gotten in touch to tell me about their lives. Women have an incredible resilience and I’ve been amazed and inspired by how often we choose (or are forced) to start over. Some of this is based on the challenges facing a lot of us because of the economy. We are forced to recalibrate.

Lesa - You already have the “Ask Amy” column. Is your new column, “Second Chances” going to alternate with that? If not, how are you planning to handle both columns?

Amy - I’ve told “Ask Amy” readers that I will run their second chance stories in my advice column in order to let their true life tales inspire other readers. So it won’t be two columns, but a regular recurring feature in the Ask Amy column.

Lesa - Would you update us as to your life since the publication of The Mighty Queens of Freeville?

Amy - Well, my book ends on a real life cliffhanger. And I’m happy to say that my “Lifetime Movie” happy ending really happened. I am now a middle age newlywed with five daughters and two elderly mothers to worry about. Still surrounded by wonderful women, and very very happy. And because I like you so much, I’m going to throw in a bonus link:

Lesa - This is the question I normally save for last, but I have one more for you. I’m a public librarian. Do you have a story you can share about your experiences with a library?

Amy - Libraries are a cause very close to my heart. Because I grew up in a very rural area with limited resources, our public library was (and is) a very important part of my family’s life. My mother would take us there once a week and the books I always chose were from a biography series featuring lots of stories about women: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and lots of athletes like Babe Didrickson and Wilma Rudolph. My sisters liked fantasy but I liked these real life stories. I now realize, of course, that these stories were teaching me to be brave and to go out into the world. I loved their pluck, courage and determination. And I think I tried to be like that.

I’m happy to say that the Dryden Public Library, where I first checked out these books, still carries the very same books on the shelves and I can see that I signed them out with my first library card, over 40 years ago. Hyperion recognized my commitment and so when they agreed to publish this book, they generously offered to donate 1000 books to my library.

Lesa - What a wonderful story about libraries. Thank you, Amy, for sharing that, and sharing with the Dryden Public Library. Now, my final question. OK, “Ask Amy,” what would you like to tell my readers that we haven’t covered?

Amy - Mainly that writers wouldn’t be anywhere without readers. I came into this as a reader and I’ll be a reader, God willing, long after I’m done writing. Writing this book was an act of love for me. Telling the world about the amazing women in my life has been a pleasure. Sharing their second chance stories and my own is a joy. I think I’ll always feel this book is a special gem. But the response from readers is so lovely, so generous, and so heartfelt that it makes me feel great. I’m really proud of it. And that’s a good thing, because there’s another book just waiting to be written.

Amy, thank you for answering my questions. Good luck with the paperback, and continued good luck with your column.

On Amy Dickinson's new site,, readers can join the virtual hometown community, watch inspiring interviews conducted by Amy, browse book club discussion questions, view photos and "Bring Amy to Your Hometown" with live chat, podcasts, and book signings.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. Hyperion, 2010. ISBN 9781401310127 (paperback), 240p.


Special contest - Thanks to The Book Report Network, there will be copies of Amy Dickinson's The Mighty Queens of Freeville given to two lucky winners. The contest is open to anyone in the U.S. and Canada.

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 Win "The Mighty Queens of Freeville." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants from the U.S. and Canada only.

The contest will end Thursday, April 22 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and they will receive their books from The Book Network. Good luck!

The Big Chile - Left Coast Crime 2011

So, are you ready to head to New Mexico after a week with DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD? A number of us are heading to Santa Fe in March for Left Coast Crime 2011, The Big Chile. The conference will be March 24-27, 2011 at the historic La Fonda Hotel. Steven F. Havill is one of the guests of honor, along with Margaret Coel. Martin Cruz Smith will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Steve Brewer will be Toastmaster, and Marvin Lachman will be Fan Guest of Honor.

I've never been to Santa Fe, but I'm looking forward to discovering the city. If you'd like to learn more about the city, check out the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Or, sign up for an insider's view of Santa Fe. Jenny Kimball, Chairman of the Board of La Fonda on the Plaza, the conference hotel, blogs at View from the Plaza.

Better yet, sign up for Left Coast Crime 2011, and join us in Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Check out the other blogs participating in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD. Jen has links to all of them, along with information about the scavenger hunt, here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Winners and an Arizona Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will go to Kay Z. from Austin, TX. Buddy G. of Jefferson, GA will receive Hailey Lind's Shooting Gallery.

We're celebrating Steven Havill's New Mexico mysteries this week for Detectives Around the World. Unfortunately, I don't have any books to give away that are set in his desert county. However, I do have two mysteries that include murders in Arizona. Quarry is an autographed mystery by Susan Cummins Miller. Geologist Frankie MacFarlane is working on her dissertation when a police investigation reopens a case. A body found in the desert had been identified as her ex-fiancé, but that might not be the truth. As an unknown assailant attacks members of her dissertation defense board, Frankie seems to be the center of a violent case.

Or, you could win Patricia Stoltey's The Desert Hedge Murders. When the Florida Flippers head to Laughlin, Nevada, and then an Arizona ghost town, it's a mad-cap adventure for a group of seniors in their seventies and eighties. It's up to Sylvia Thorn, escort to her mother's group, and her clairvoyant brother, Willie, to keep those feisty seniors out of trouble, while looking for a killer, who seems a little too close for comfort.

Would you like to win Quarry or The Desert Hedge Murders? You can enter to win both books, 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 "Quarry" or Win "Desert Hedge." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 22 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking by LeAnn Bird

Check out the chiles on the cover of LeAnn Bird's cookbook, Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking. The title may say "Mexican," but that's perfect for a week celebrating Posadas County and New Mexico. Here's a hint. That's the meaning behind Steven F. Havill's Red, Green, or Murder - chiles.

Bird discusses Mexican cooking, saying her favorite recipes come from her memories of growing up in Arizona, and spending time in the desert. Her description of Arizona's desert matches Havill's Posadas County, "It's beautiful, wild, arid, and yet so full of life." Her Mexican food would be typical of a border county in New Mexico as well.

This book is called Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking because Bird says everyone can prepare Mexican recipes with basic ingredients, and they can be kept in a recipe. Staples of Mexican cooking include tortillas, refried beans, salsa, cheese, green chiles, corn masa, dried chile pods, rice, canned chipotles in adobe sauce, along with basic spices.

I was impressed with the recipes included in this book. The author breaks recipes down so they seem easy to make. She does recommend homemade flour and corn tortillas, but there are very good colored pictures in the book, showing techniques. Each recipe includes a colored photo. And, for the New Mexico connection, she recommends dried New Mexico chiles, particularly for the red color in her posole and Chile Colorado Sauce. And, of course there are traditional recipes for desserts, sopapillas and flan.

LeAnn Bird's cookbook is subtitled, "Economical Ways to Stretch Your Budget Without Cutting Back On Flavor." With 100 recipes, colored photos, and easy-to-follow recipes, Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking is a keeper.

LeAnn Bird's website is

Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking by LeAnn Bird. Outskirts Press, Inc., ©2009. ISBN 9781432740160 (paperback), 100p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Check out the other blogs participating in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD. Jen has links to all of them, along with information about the scavenger hunt, here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Steven F. Havill's Red, Green, or Murder

Red, Green, or Murder is the most recent Posadas County Mystery by Steven F. Havill. During DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD week, I introduced you to the first book, and the last one in Havill's series. In the year I reviewed for Mystery News, I discovered a few authors, including Steven F. Havill. His books have become some of my favorite. My last review for Mystery News is reprinted here, with permission.

Red, Green, or Murder
by Steven Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN 978-1-59058-665-5
Police Procedural

Former Posadas County, New Mexico, Sheriff Bill Gastner retired, and is now working as a Livestock Inspector for the state. It’s a job that fits him. He can still visit friends, and he has a chance to travel the rural county. His knowledge of old friends, and the county, will stand him in good stead in this mystery.

Gastner’s official visit to Herb Torrance’s ranch sends him hurtling toward an ambulance, carrying the rancher’s son, after the young man’s knee was crushed in an accident. That one accident allowed for the opportunity for two other tragedies.

When Gastner was running late, due to the accident, he cancelled lunch with an old friend, George Payton. It wasn’t more than a couple hours before Bill received a phone call saying his protégée, Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, wanted to see him at Payton’s house. Payton’s son-in-law found him dead, and, as much as Gastner, wanted to think the old man’s time was just up, Estelle thinks there is something suspicious about the death.

If one incident wasn’t bad enough, Gastner received another phone call, saying Torrance’s cattle were in the road, herded by a dog. While the rancher was at the hospital with his son, his ranchhand disappeared, along with his truck, leaving the cattle and dog behind. Gastner, an old sheriff who knows people, doesn’t believe the young man would have left his dog behind, and he travels those familiar county roads, looking for evidence.

Red, Green, or Murder is the sixteenth book in Havill’s Posadas County series. Havill does so many things well in his novels. His descriptions of the border county are vivid, showing the dry, empty land – “the broad sweep of the dry short bunch-grass prairie, rugged mesas with rims crumpling, arroyos so deep you could effortlessly hide a herd of cattle or a tractor trailer.” Havill understands the issues and politics of a border county, and those issues are vital to the storylines. The characters in this series, particularly Bill Gastner and Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, come alive, as police officers, and, as people. They are involved with the community, and their knowledge of the people assists in their cases. These are solid police procedurals, involving multiple investigations at the same time. Best of all, Havill’s Posados County mysteries, including this one, are riveting, well-developed stories.

Rating: 5

Courtesy Mystery News, Vol. 27/Issue 5, Oct/Nov 2009.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received Red, Green, or Murder from Mystery News so that I could review it for publication.

Check out the other blogs participating in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD. Jen has links to all of them, along with information about the scavenger hunt, here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Steven F. Havill at the Poisoned Pen

In November, Steven F. Havill appeared with other Southwestern authors at the Poisoned Pen. My summary of Havill's appearance is perfect for DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD week.

Barbara Peters introduced Steven Havill. His first book, Heartshot, came out in 1991. Peters said when she was dating her husband, Rob, she thought they were going to live in New Mexico, since he went to St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Instead, they ended up in Scottsdale.

Heartshot is set in Ruidoso, New Mexico, in southwestern New Mexico. Havill said in the Posados County novels, he invented his own county. That's a hoot for a fiction writer. But, he forgot an important element. He didn't put a railroad there, and that could have been a nifty plot device. Peters reminded him he
had all kinds of small airports. He said if you fly over New Mexico, there are all kinds of small gas company runways, because they would fly in to check on the gas. Drug runners and student pilots love those short little runways, but they have to remember they're very short, usually with barbed wire.

Havill made Posados County a border county. His character in Heartshot, Bill Gastner, was sheriff, but he was not a young man when the series started. . Gastner was already 60, smoked too much, and had a heart attack in the book. Then he sold it, and had no clue for the followup. In Bitter Recoil, Gastner is recovering. It's the only book set outside of Posados County. But, Havill locked himself into a real-time series, and Bill is getting older. But, the series that started out as a Bill Gastner mystery is now a Posados County series. In the first book in the series, Deputy Estelle Reyes is single. As time passes, she's engaged, married, then gets pregnant and has kids. Gastner retired from the sheriff's department, and took a job as a livestock inspector. Estelle Reyes-Guzman took over the series as the new Undersheriff, and Bobby Torres is the Sheriff.

The action in the latest book, Red, Green, or Murder, goes back in time. It takes place immediately after Dead Weight, and before Bag Limit. Red and green are chile choices in New Mexico, and one of them will kill you, which is where the title comes from. The book didn't fit in the sequence. It was a transition book, and St. Martin's Press didn't want to publish it since it was out of sequence. So Barbara published it with Poisoned Pen Press. She said it was weird to step into a series as editor, when it was a series she read as a reader. Havill said sometimes an author goes too long before running into a hard-core editor. Stephen King said, "Editors may be wrong, but they're always right." Steven Havill said he listened to Barbara Peters, and thinks it's a better book because of that. Barbara said as an editor, she's a really good reader, and if she doesn't get it, others won't either.

According to Havill, the art of the writing business is storytelling. A good editor finds places where the story is too opaque. An editor says, the story loses me. Find a way to get me back. A good editor finds a way to write stuff without putting their footprints all over it.

Havill had a good editing story. he wrote a western Timber Blood, published by Walker in New York. His editor sent him one of those dread four page letters, single-spaced. It said, I like it, like it, like it, however the story is set in winter, but you don't know much about how much snow falls there on average. You have horses prancing through snow, and men walking through thigh high snow. Havill never thought of that. He made the amount of snow in the manuscript consistent.

Barbara mentioned that Havill is taking a different route for a new series, setting Race for the Dying in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. Havill said he wasn't leaving Posadas County forever. It has the highest crime rate in the U.S., he thinks.

But, he's always been interested in the history of medicine. It's a hobby. So, he wrote an historical medical adventure. He found a report done by the AMA called Nostrums and Quackery. It included things such as mail-order diagnoses, and getting the desperately ill hooked on drugs.

The protagonist in Race for the Dying is a University of Pennsylvania medical school graduate, Dr. Parks. He made him a graduate of that school because Havill owns an 1890 edition of Modern Surgery, written by Dr. Roberts, who was on the faculty there. Havill's character, as a graduate of the school, would own a copy of that book. And, the book gave Havill the mindset and medicines of 1891.

Dr. Parks went to the Puget Sound area because his father suggested it. He wanted to practice trauma medicine, and the lumber industry would provide a danger. A rule for a writer is that it has to be an uncomfortable life for the hero. Dr. Parks is hideously hurt, and has to cope while trying to treat new patients.

From there, the conversation went to medicines and Coca Cola, and the early ingredients. In 1910, fussing babies were given opium. Havill said, well look at the trip they've taken, and where they've just been. Wouldn't you be fussy?

During the Civil War, there was no anesthesia. Speed was important in surgery; how fast you could do things. Surgery was sometimes so fast, and so rough, that it would put back the convalescence.

Steven Havill said there will be more Posadas County books, but there will also be sequels to Race for the Dying.

Steven Havill will be one of the Guests of Honor at Left Coast Crime in March 2011 when it's held in Santa Fe.

Check out the other blogs participating in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD. Jen has links to all of them, along with information about the scavenger hunt, here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Detectives Around the World - Steven F. Havill's Posadas County Mysteries

When Jen Forbus asked me to participate in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD theme week, I immediately jumped at the chance to talk about Steven F. Havill's Posadas County Mysteries. I had missed this author, and his books, and only discovered them when I received one to review for Mystery News. And, with Left Coast Crime 2011 to be held in Santa Fe, it seemed appropriate to talk about New Mexico. But, the first book in the series, Heartshot, shows this certainly isn't the same New Mexico as we'll see in Santa Fe.

Posadas County, New Mexico is a border county with a small population. But, it's a large enough county to cause problems for the sheriff's department. When a car accident kills five teens, Undersheriff Bill Gastner reports to the scene. When $150,000 worth of cocaine is found in the car, he calls for his best detective, Estelle Reyes.

Gastner is over sixty, overweight, and smokes too much. But, he's totally committed to his job, and he and Reyes won't quit until they find the person behind the drugs. But, suddenly, they have two more deaths on their hands. Gastner is determined to restore peace, and find a killer, or die trying.

It's refreshing to read a police procedural in which the department works together, and respects each other. In many books, it wouldn't come as a surprise to find the sixty-year-old white male cop who doesn't like the Hispanic female deputy. Havill's characters respect each other, and work together to solve crimes. This is a satisfying series for those of us who love interesting, well-developed characters, a large number of books in which to read about those characters, and fascinating plots.

If you love good police procedurals, you won't want to miss Steven F. Havill's Heartshot, or the other fifteen books in the series.

Heartshot by Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press, published 2000. ISBN 9781890208295 (paperback), 208p.

Check out the other blogs participating in DETECTIVES AROUND THE WORLD. Jen has links to all of them, along with information about the scavenger hunt, here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

God Never Blinks by Regina Brett

Jim would have turned 61 today. And, I can't tell you how much it means to me that so many of you gave books to libraries in his memory. There will be books in Jim's memory in Alaska, England, Ireland, Florida, Utah, Texas, and small towns all over the country, especially Ohio, and, of course, in the Glendale Library System, where I work. So many of you gave money to my library that I've been able to order books Jim would have appreciated - books on baseball, thrillers, history, biographies, and physics. I ordered four books by Life that should be beautiful, on subjects such as Benjamin Franklin, and American history.

But, I wanted to tell you about one I discovered that was so special that I used some of the money to buy copies for every library in our system, in Jim's memory. It's a book that helped me get through the last two months. I read a few essays, then put it down. But, it means so much to me. Regina Brett's God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours was the book I needed. And, Tuesday is release date for the book.

Before I tell you about the book, let me tell you about Regina Brett. Brett was born in Ravenna, Ohio in 1956. Ravenna is in Portage County, neighboring Mahoning County, where I was born in 1957. Regina Brett and I were at Kent State Unviversity at the same time. I never knew her, and she quit school when she became pregnant, but it seems so odd that someone with that similar beginning has written a book that means so much to me.

When I turned fifty, Jim threw a surprise party I will never forget, bringing in my family without tellng me, and secretly working with my staff. When Regina Brett turned fifty, she wrote a newspaper column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer about fifty lessons life had taught her. Her lessons came from her life as a single parent, working on her problems with her relationship with God, battling cancer, and her difficult childhood as one of eleven children. The column went viral, appearing in church bulletins, newsletters, and small-town newspapers. That popular column became the book, God Never Blinks, with Brett's soul-searching essays.

If you haven't read the book, Brett's lessons sound like platitudes. There are titles such as, "Life isn't fair, but it's still good." That one hit my heart. How about "Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does." There's the lesson, "All that truly matters in the end is that you loved." And, perhaps, Brett's most important message is, "No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up for life." These stories are honest, and heartfelt. They touched me, moved me, and made me cry at times. I haven't argued with God about Jim's death. I didn't need Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

I needed the lessons of Regina Brett's God Never Blinks. For Jim's birthday, I wanted to share this book with you. And, it may be an important book to share with others who are going through hard times. Life goes on. It was my mother who said, "Life will be different. It will never be the same. It can be just as good, but it will be different." These are two wise women from Ohio, my mother, and Regina Brett, with lessons to help people keep on living.

Regina Brett's website is

God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours by Regina Brett. Grand Central Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780446556521 (hardcover), 241p.

FTC Full Disclosure - My review copy was an ARC I picked up at our Main Library, where it had been sent for librarians to preview.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Perfect on Paper by Maria Murnane

"Life has its ups and downs right? Honey, if you're talking about my weight and my bank account, the unfortunate answer is yes, in that order." "Afraid that your childhood will haunt you forever? Honey, it will. Now get over it." If you like Honey Notes, you're going to love Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson by Maria Murnane.

On the surface, Waverly Bryson seems to have the perfect life. She has a high-powered job in sports PR, and gets to fly all over the country for sports shows, working with athletes and the media. She has two great friends, lives in San Francisco, and had a wealthy fiancé. Notice that last phrase, she "had" a wealthy fiancé, but he dumped her shortly before the wedding. And, Waverly didn't have the guts to tell anyone she'd been dumped. What's even worse, she's back in the singles scene at the age of twenty-nine. Together with her friends, McKenna and Andie, she can laugh at one disastrous date after another. But, secretly, she's writing ironic "Honey Notes" to express her feelings about the single life. Because if Waverly can't drink away her frustrations, or laugh about them, she might just cry.

Honestly? I thought I was through with books about single women and their frustrations with their dates, women who had glamorous lives, and drank too much. But, Waverly Bryson and her friends are just too much fun. Without McKenna and Andie, Waverly might just come across as obnoxious. But, those two women keep her grounded, and laugh at her. Since Waverly can ruefully laugh at herself, doing it through her "Honey Notes," she becomes a character to root for. I wanted Waverly to find happiness, somehow, in her life.

Maria Murnane's Perfect on Paper is a fun book with an enjoyable group of women. Check out the book for Waverly and her friends, or just check it out for those charming "Honey Notes." "Ever feel like you don't know anything at all? Honey, congratulations. At least you finally know that."

Maria Murnane's website is

Perfect on Paper: The Mis(Adventures) of Waverly Bryson by Maria Murnane. AmazonEncore, 2010. ISBN 9780982555040 (paperback), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist for this book sent me the review copy, hoping I would review the book.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie

Soho Press excels in finding new voices writing crime fiction set in exotic locations. Think of Leighton Gage's Brazil, Cara Black and Paris, Garry Disher and Adrian Hyland for Australia, and debut author Shilpa Agarwal for Bombay. Now, add Jassy Mackenzie and South Africa to that illustrious company. In Random Violence, Mackenzie introduces private investigator, Jade de Jong, and an extremely brutal world.

After ten years in exile in the U.K., Jade de Jong returns home to Johannesburg, South Africa, where she's met by police Superintendent David Patel. David was an assistant to Jade's father, a police commissioner. When Jade's father was murdered, she fled, but circumstances are ripe for her return just at this time.

David has a complicated case he wants Jade to help investigate. A woman was carjacked at the gates of her own house, and killed. Her husband is the primary suspect, but, while digging around, Jade finds a pattern of such crimes in Johannesburg, "the crime capital of the world." It's a city where she herself, even as a cop's daughter, never felt safe. She's living in a rented cottage where, "She had what she needed. Steel security gates, burglar bars on all the windows and an alarm system that was linked to an armed response company."

Mackenzie describes a dangerous Johannesburg, where it's only safe to live behind barriers, with private security guards. Even then, it's easy to become a victim. She calls South Africa, "A country where breaking the rules was practically a national hobby, where people drove without licenses, dodge taxes, and employed illegal immigrants."

And, Jade is a part of that country. Although she's working with David, she has her own agenda. She's killed in the past, and plans to kill again, a secret she's keeping from the man who was always an older brother figure. Now, she's running straight into trouble as she runs from her own memories.

Random Violence is graphic at times, with a killer who thrives on torture. At the same time, the book introduces a fascinating, complicated investigator. Jade de Jong is as complex as the country and city she calls home. Jassy Mackenzie shows star power with her debut.

Jassy Mackenzie's website is

Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie. Soho Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781569476291 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I read a review copy, sent by the publisher, in hopes I would review it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Winners & Autographed Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the Touch of Europe contest. Murder in the Palais Royal by Cara Black will go to Barbara W. in Cary, NC. Norma Jean G. of Hershey, NE is the winner of Victoria Laurie's Ghouls Gone Wild. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have two autographed mysteries to give away. Nowadays, you might know the author as Juliet Blackwell. But, Julie Goodson-Lawes is half of the writing team of Hailey Lind. Under that name, there will be a new book out this year, Arsenic and Old Paint. I have an autographed ARC of Shooting Gallery, the second book in the Art Lover's Mystery series to give away. Annie Kincaid has been working as an honest faux finisher in San Francisco. So, why does she continue to get caught up in crime? This time, she's the one who discovers the body of an artist at a prestigious gallery's new exhibition. Then there's that missing Chagall.

Or you could win Alan Bradley's debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. If you haven't met Flavia de Luce, now is your chance to meet the young aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. Oh, and did I mention that Flavia is only eleven, lives in a rambling mansion in 1950s England, and finds a dying man in the family cucumber patch? Bradley's book won the 2009 Dilys Award for the book that independent mystery booksellers most enjoyed selling last year. Now is your chance to own an autographed copy of it!

So, do you want to win Shooting Gallery or The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie? You can enter to win both books, 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 "Shooting Gallery" or Win "Sweetness." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 15 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Jacqueline Winspear Returns for Authors @ The Teague

What a treat to welcome New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Winspear back for Authors @ The Teague! The audience packed the Velma Teague Library to see her on her tour for her new Maisie Dobbs novel, The Mapping of Love and Death.

Jacqueline signed books before the program, and then slid the table out of the way, saying when she did her student teaching, she had been told to never use a table as a barrier between the kids and herself. If the supervisor came in and found the teacher behind a table, you'd be in trouble. To this day, she doesn't like a barrier between her and the audience.

Winspear introduced The Mapping of Love and Death so she could tell us about the inspiration for the book. The story begins with a young man, an American, Michael Clifton. He has just bought land in a valley above Santa Barbara, California. His father emigrated from England, married for love, and invested in land. He made good. So, Michael believes in buying land. He's a cartographer and surveyor He believes there is oil beneath the land he bought. He's getting ready to return home when he hears a newsboy outside his hotel shouting, "Britain goes to war! Kaiser to fight whole world!" (Even then the headlines were outrageous.) There's a march to war in Europe, and Michael makes the decision to go back to his father's homeland, and fight. He knew he'd have adventures to talk about because the war would be over by Christmas.

Of course, the war wasn't over by Christmas, and Michael went missing in France. His remains were found sixteen years later. And, that's where Maisie Dobbs, Winspear's investigator comes in. Michael Clifton's parents came to her, bringing a collection of love letters, with the hope she could find the woman who wrote them.

Now for some background. Winspear said she's been to the Somme and Ypres battlefields several times in northern France and Belgium. It just breaks her heart with the sheer numbers of missing involved in World War I. She knows what it meant to the countries involved. One memorial was to 54,000 missing from the Britain and the Commonwealth. There are a number of memorials to the missing, and that's all families ever knew, that a son, or husband, a loved one was missing. The graves at battlefields read, "A soldier of the Great War, known only to God." The British used a composite material for dog tags, and it would disintegrate with time, that's why there were so many bodies found with no dog tags, and no identification.

There was a great sadness in Britain, with so many known to be missing. A military chaplain had the idea to create a public memorial to the unknown soldier missing at the time of war. The king thought it was a ridiculous idea, but within three days of the war ending, people realized their loved ones were not coming back. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a great significance in Britain. So, bodies of four unknown soldiers were taken into a room, and a general put his hand on one, and said this one, for the one to be in The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The day the gun carriage took the casket to Whitehall, 100,000 people turned out. Winspear brought tears to eyes as she asked, "Is that my boy?" "The love of my life?" "The boy I grew up with?"

Jacqueline Winspear said she always knew she wanted to address the missing in one of her books. And, then she was given an article ripped from the local rag, the Santa Barbara Independent. The Nov. 24, 2005 article was a letter to the newspaper, a letter so striking the newspaper featured it. It was written by David Bartlett, an ex-British policeman who runs battlefield tours for small groups, often groups doing research. He was helping to track down identities of the missing. There are bodies still be uncovered. Just a couple years ago, 200 bodies of mostly Australian, but some British soldiers were found near the French/Belgian border.

Bartlett's letter was about a body that had been found. The man had been buried with reverence, holding a Dutch Bible. There were no dog tags. There was service equipment, and a watch that wouldn't open. There were little details in the description. There was a cap, with the badge in the soldier's pocket. That wasn't unusual, because if they lost their badge, they had to pay for it, so they often took it off, and, if they survived, put it back on the cap. There was American money in the wallet, from the bank of Santa Barbara, which is why Bartlett wrote to the Santa Barbara newspaper. The body was taller than most British. And, there were expensive colored pens, like engineers would use.

Winspear said her character, Michael Clifton, was not based on that young man, but she was inspired by that young man. She breathed life into a young man, wondering why he was inspired to leave beautiful Santa Barbara and go to war.

Jacqueline mentioned that the last time she was at Velma Teague she quoted Stephen King from his book, On Writing. He said when two ideas come together, a story is born. That's what happened to her. She had a deep reverence for the missing. The catalyst for her idea for a story was that letter in the Santa Barbara newspaper.

In The Mapping of Love and Death, Dr. Charles Hayden referred Edward and Martha Clifton to Maisie Dobbs. Winspear read an excerpt from the book in which the Cliftons brought Michael's journal and some letters to Maisie. Martha wants the letter writing identified. Edward wants more, because he knows his son was murdered.

Once Winspear left us hanging, with the comment about murder, she took questions. When asked about her interest in World War I, she said she's been curious about it since childhood. Her grandfather survived the Great War, but he was wounded, shell shocked and gassed. To the day he died, he was picking shrapnel out of his leg.

She was asked about her process, and how she keeps it all strength. Jacqueline said she wished she knew. But, she said she can't be guided by her research. She doesn't have to put everything into a book that she learns. Research is like an iceberg. Only 7% is over the surface. She learns what her characters are doing in each chapter, and then weaves in the historical details to support the story. Winspear said she's a storyteller, not a writer of history. She's going with the flow of the story. She asks what happened to the characters today. What might inform the future as well?

When someone mentioned that Maisie Dobbs was very independent for the age, Winspear disagreed. She said many women were independent in that era, and Maisie is a woman of her time. The Great War broke down barriers. Women went to war, and went into every field of endeavor. Lloyd George and the suffragettes were in collusion. After the war, there was a surplus of two million women. In 1921, single adult women only had a 1 in 10 chance of marrying. Virginia Nicholson wrote a book, Singled Out: How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men After the First World War. Women moved into public life, travelled, became Justices of the Peace, wore trousers. They were independent, strong, opinionated women. The archetype of that type of British woman was born then. They were different from American women at the time, much more like the southern women after the Civil War. The effect of that era stayed in Britain for a long time. During World War II, American soldiers stationed in England were given a handbook as to how to behave. They were told to always salute a woman in uniform, no matter what her rank, because women had earned their place in Britain. She said Britain wouldn't be what it is without those women. They have health service there because of the women. The women got the vote, and there were more of them to vote.

Someone asked how she found the time to write, and Winspear said it's her job. A professional writes, just as a plumber goes to his job. Everything revolves around her job.

A reader familiar with Maisie Dobbs asked what was the inspiration for Maisie's meditation. Jacqueline said at the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th, people of a certain class had a great interest in Eastern philosophy. There are books from then about yoga. People had a great interest in the psyche. The original meaning of Freud's psyche was soul, rather than ego. So, Maisie's meditation has historical underpinnings, and she would have been exposed to the people interested in it.

Asked about her education and teaching, she said her original degree was in Education and English, but, when she graduated, there was a surplus of teachers, and she couldn't get a job. She went to work for an airline, so she could travel.

The perfect concluding question was, do you have long term plans for Maisie. And, to laughter, Jacqueline Winspear said, yes, she did have a long term plan. But, she wasn't going to tell us.

Jacqueline Winspear's website is

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear. HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9780061727665 (hardcover), 352p.