Monday, January 31, 2011

Brad Parks, Guest Blogger

Brad Parks won both the Shamus and Nero Awards for his debut novel, Faces of the Gone, a first time achievement for an author.  His second Carter Ross mystery, Eyes of the Innocent, is due out tomorrow.   I know Brad is funny because I follow his posts on Twitter.  So, when I asked Brad to do a guest blog, I suggested he write something funny that readers would enjoy.  Instead, he wrote something that touched my heart, and made me cry.   Thank you, Brad, for an untraditional guest blog.

By Brad Parks                                                                                        

Guest Blogger

Exactly twenty-six years and five months ago, at the end of a hot and dusty Connecticut summer, in a time of desperation the likes of which I can now barely describe, I committed a heinous crime.

I stole from a public library.

Let me explain. I was 10 years old. I had a bad case of swimmer’s ear, which meant I couldn’t go in the neighborhood pool. For the first time in my life, all I could do is read. And the book that ignited my imagination was “Gentle Ben,” Walt Morey’s classic story about a boy and his pet grizzly bear.

According to the fading stamp on the title page, I checked it out of the Ridgefield (Conn.) Public Library on Aug. 9, 1984. It was due back 21 days later. As such, on Aug. 31, 1984, I became a criminal. And I have been one every day since, because I still have the book, dog-eared, water-stained and sun-faded from the dozens of readings to which I ultimately subjected it.

I think of “Gentle Ben” often these days, every time I read about another library having to slash its budget, eliminate staff or close down branches. It makes me wonder if some kid out there is going to lose a chance to find his own “Gentle Ben,” a book that fuels a lifelong love of written words.

There’s no question this is a discouraging time for libraries, those who value them and those who work in them. Across the country, library budgets are being assaulted, and not just with the kind of single-digit cuts that can be swallowed by bumping down the thermostat a few degrees. These are major, double-digit hacks.

I got an e-mail last month from a dear librarian friend of mine talking about just how devastating it’s been. She’s the director of a large library system in New Jersey and she catalogued her list of woes – having to fire dozens of employees, putting her entire staff on rotating furlough, closing down branches.

But the really heartbreaking part of the e-mail was when she talked about her fear of what might come next, how paralyzing the uncertainty was, and how she felt like it was interfering with how well she could do her job.

And, believe me, I understand how that feels. I know what it’s like to see good friends and valued colleagues walk out the door because no one wants to pay their salaries anymore; to live with the anxiety of knowing the worst might not be over; to feel like you are failing a public that put its trust in you to deliver something so vital to Democracy.

I know, because I used to be a newspaper reporter.

The financial difficulty libraries are going through now is sort of like what newspapers began experiencing in about 2001. Or maybe it was 2004. It was a storm that eventually claimed me as a victim – I took a buyout in 2008 to pursue a career as a novelist – but not before I spent several long years working in an industry immersed in a total financial apocalypse.

And, yeah, I let it get to me. It got to everyone at times. Newsroom morale was in the tank. We walked around like zombies half the time. We consumed endless energy speculating when the next staff cut or pay cut was coming. It was depressing and debilitating.

So it’s hard to watch the public library, this institution I value so much, go through its own bloodletting.

I’m not here to opine about how wrong it is from a policy standpoint (though, unquestionably, it is). I’m not here to debate the wisdom of savings pennies at the library when there are still twenties and fifties to be saved elsewhere (though, really, libraries are such a slim portion of municipal spending, can’t you balance your budget somewhere else?). I’m not even here to point out that the library is the one public amenity that serves absolutely everyone in a community (though it does).

I’m here to say to all you library scientists out there:

Don’t give up.

Don’t let it get to you.

Don’t be discouraged.

We need you. Now more than ever. Many of our most cherished American ideals – like the concept that a poor, mixed-race kid could grow up to be President – are predicated on the notion that knowledge is available to all, not just those wealthy and privileged enough to afford Kindles and trips to Barnes & Noble.

And, yeah, it’s easy to get dragged down in the gloom. But if I learned one thing from watching a newspaper melt down around me, it’s that you can also make the choice not to get derailed by it. You can realize you’re still fortunate enough to do a fulfilling job, a profession that you (and a whole lot of other people) really value, whether they remember to stop and take the time to say it or not.

For me, I worked hard to find satisfaction in putting a well-written story in the newspaper, something that touched people, exposed a wrong, or made the world better in some small way. Those kinds of victories are always out there to be found. You just have to remember to look for them and hold onto them.

Think back to why you became a librarian. Was it because the duly elected knuckleheads on the town council would show the wisdom to keep your funding at an appropriate level? Was it because of some action in the state legislature? Of course not. It’s because you love books and connecting readers to the wisdom and wonder that lies inside of them.

It’s because somewhere out there, there’s a kid looking for his own “Gentle Ben.” Please help him find it.

Just make sure he returns it.

Brad Parks’s debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book ever to win the Nero Award and Shamus Award, two of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His next book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, releases tomorrow from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut.” For more Brad, visit his website (, follow him on Twitter ( or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook (

And, thank you, Brad, for reminding me, in what is a hard time for librarians, why I originally went into the profession, for boys who loved Gentle Ben, and for boys like my husband, who loved a book so much, he hid it under his bed so he didn't have to return it to the library, and, to the day he died, was proud of reading the most books one summer at his library's summer reading club.  Libraries, and librarians, do make a difference in people's lives.

Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks.  St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2011. ISBN 9780312574789 (hardcover), 304p.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian Feb. Releases & Cats

Today's video of the Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian releases for February, from Penguin Group (USA) features guest appearances by two cats.  I know people complained that last month's video lacked cats.  You'll have to watch all the way to the end for Stormy's appearance, though.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crying Blood by Donis Casey

Donis Casey has taken an unusual turn in this fifth book in her Alafair Tucker series.  The mysteries tell the story of Alafair, her husband, Shaw, and their ten children in the early twentieth century in rural Oklahoma.  Each of the earlier books found one of Alafair's older children involved in a murder, with the protective mother taking over in order to keep her child from harm.  And, in each book, we learn a little more about ranch life in the 1900s from the woman's viewpoint, cooking, doing laundry.  Casey is a master at providing details that bring the time period to life.  But, Crying Blood departs from that pattern.  In this book, we see life from the male point of view, and Shaw takes center stage.  Fans of this series should be very pleased to get to know the husband and father of the Tucker family as he becomes the sleuth.                                                                                                

Shaw, his two sons, his brother, and his sons, went hunting in the fall of 1915 on property that belonged to Shaw's stepfather.  But, the first day they flushed quail, one of the dogs returned with a boot with bones in it.  When they followed the dog to the burial site, they found a body, shot in the head.  And, Shaw, for some reason he didn't understand himself, took a snake necklace from the site.  That night, while the others slept, Shaw saw moccasins outside the tent, and heard his name called.  He didn't find anyone.  The next day, after reporting to the sheriff, the men went home early, but someone followed them.  And, Shaw remained uneasy, questioning his stepfather, only to hear that the land was haunted, and they stay away from it.

Trying to forget about that body isn't too hard, when there is butchering to do for the winter, and Casey does her usual excellent job of providing the details of everyday life.  But, that night, after the first day of butchering and preparing meat, someone takes a hunk out of one of the hogs.  Shaw tracks the thief, returning home with a young Indian boy of 15, who tells a story of a white haired man who murdered his brother.  Before Shaw can learn more, the boy he thought was called Crying Blood is murdered in the barn that night.  Shaw suggests Alafair accompany his cousin, the sheriff, to find the minister who raised the boy, while he, unbeknownst to Alafair, sets out to avenge the boy's death.

Donis Casey excels at the details of ordinary life in Oklahoma.  She's told us stories of doing laundry, cooking for a large family, preparing for a funeral.  Now, she gives us hunting trips, butchering hogs, and preparing the meat, along with breeding horses.  And, she puts Shaw, the son of a Cherokee mother, on the trail of a killer, in a story about the Indians and land claims in Oklahoma.  Crying Blood is a fascinating glimpse into the past, and, for a change, into the life of Shaw Tucker.

Donis Casey's website is

Crying Blood by Donis Casey.  Poisoned Pen Press, ©2011. ISBN 9781590588314 (hardcover), 250p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I read an advanced copy on my Kindle, courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Last Train by Gordon Titcomb, paintings by Wendell Minor

Sometimes, a children's picture book tugs at your memories, as well as your heart.  The beautiful book, The Last Train does that for me.  Gordon Titcomb, a composer and musician wrote the words, and the paintings are by Wendell Minor.  And, if you're anything like me, The Last Train will take you back home.

The book tells the story of a small Midwestern town where the freight trains came through.  The story is told by the grandson of a railroad man, and the son of one, as he looks back on his childhood memories of the trains and the melancholy sounds.  That town lost the trains when the last freight train went through, and the narrator has a box full of memories.  It's a story of imagination and memory.

And, Minor's illustrations are gorgeous, capturing the trains, the Midwest, and the people who worked on those trains.  But, don't take my word for it.  If you love trains, take the time to watch the video trailer, hear the haunting music and song by Gordon Titcomb, and watch those illustrations come to life.

Does it bring back memories?  There was nothing I enjoyed more as a child than lying in bed in the upstairs bedroom at my grandparents', listening to the sound of the train at night.  And, now, when I return to my mother's in Ohio, I can hear the trains go through my hometown.  I showed the book to a co-worker, who said her grandfather worked in the depot, and she and her brother used to be able to go out on the rails on the small car with the men when they repaired the tracks.  Her face lit up when she talked about the depot.  I loved trains so much that a friend's family gave me an electric train when I was in high school.

The Last Train isn't just a picture book to share with small boys who like trains.  This is a trip through the past to share with anyone who remembers trains with longing, and love.  It's a trip back to our childhood.

Gordon Titcomb's website is

Wendell Minor's website is

The Last Train by Gordon Titcomb, paintings by Wendell Minor.  Roaring Brook Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781596431645 (hardcover), 32p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winners and Good Old USA Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the historical mysteries.  Carol K. Carr's India Black is heading to Judith K. from Arlington, VA.  And Jed Rubenfeld's The Death Instinct will go to James K. of Nashville, TN.  The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in the U.S.  Todd Ritter's Death Notice is set in a small town in Pennsylvania.  Perry Hollow, Pennysylvania has never had a murder, at least as long as Kat Campbell has been police chief.  And, the first one, the murder of a local farmer, might be the work of a serial killer that is being tracked by the FBI.  A serial killer in Perry Hollow?  But, there must be a local connection since the newspaper's obituary writer received a notice before the victim died.

Or, you could read Tami Hoag's Secrets to the Grave.  An artist is murdered, leaving her young daughter as the only witness.  In the early days of criminal profiling, before DNA analysis, that little girl may be the key element to solving the crime.  When Sheriff's deputy Tony Mendez calls in child advocate Anne Leone, he opens up a hornet's nest.

Would you like to win Death Notice or Secrets to the Grave?  You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject lines should read either, "Win Death Notice," or "Win Secrets to the Grave." Include your name and mailing address. Entrants from the U.S. only please.

The contest will end Thursday night, Feb. 3 at 6 PM MT. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Prey on Patmos by Jeffrey Siger

What can be worse than Greek politics?  Maybe Greek politics involving the church, and that's what Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is caught up in with the latest pageturner by Jeffrey Siger, Prey on Patmos.

Patmos is the eastern Greek island on which Saint John lived when he wrote the Book of Revelation.  When a beloved monk from the thousand year old monastery is murdered in the town square one morning during Easter Week, Andreas is sent to the scene of the crime.  When he and his assistant, Kouros, discover that the body was moved, the townspeople trampled all over the crime scene, and no one wants to cooperate, it feels as if the "Police chief, the mayor, and the head of the monastery are working together to screw up the investigation."  But, it's only going to get worse for Andreas' case in this tense political drama. 

Who is actually behind the murder?  Andreas knows it isn't a random mugging, but rumors abound.  There are stories of Russians, political infighting in the Orthodox Church, and mysterious monks.  And, Vassilas, the dead monk, was a scholar, a researcher who had uncovered secrets someone wanted to hide.  As Kouros said, their investigation involving stories of the Antichrist and Russians was "Beginning to sound like one of those books by that American, Dan Brown."

Poor Andreas.  Siger traps him in Greek politics and church politics, and even his personal life is not exempt.  This son of an policeman who killed himself, is now a father-to-be, afraid to propose to his baby's mother, Lila, daughter of one of Greece's oldest, wealthiest families, and a socially prominent widow.  Fortunately, Andreas is a cynical, powerful cop himself, with a sense of humor.  Siger surrounds him with wonderful characters, his assistant, Kouros, an intelligent man who provides comic relief, Tassos, Andreas' mentor, who knows where all the bodies are buried, and Maggie, who runs Andreas' office, and probably the entire Athens General Police Headquarters.  Then there's Lila herself, a wonderful loving woman, but a force to be reckoned with. 

Jeffrey Siger's mysteries are complicated, entrancing stories, wrapped up in politics.  This one adds church politics and family pressure.  Siger skillfully adds the wonderful Greek settings and intriguing, realistic characters to the mix for a book that appeals in so many ways.  The books immerse the reader in the Greek culture, with all of its traps and dangers.  Prey on Patmos is a powerful mystery of pride and temptation and politics played out on the Greek stage.

Jeffrey Siger's website is

Prey on Patmos by Jeffrey Siger.  Poisoned Pen Press, ©2011. ISBN 9781590587669 (hardcover), 250p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy for my Kindle so I could review it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Notes

I just had a few important book related items to mention, so I'm interrupting the week.

I'm sorry I missed the original announcement from Publishers Marketplace of the sale of the next book from author, and friend, Beth Hoffman.  Beth is the author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  Pamela Dorman of Viking/Penguin bought world rights to Beth's next book, Looking For Me, based on a seventy page draft.  According to Publishers Marketplace it will be about “a woman who leaves her hardscrabble Kentucky farm life behind for the seductive world of antiques dealing in Charleston, SC, but is drawn home after her brother’s disappearance.”  And, Beth told me there are two mysteries in the story.  Congratulations, Beth!

In other news,  the nominees have been announced for four awards to be presented at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March.  They are for books published in 2010.  Conference attendees will vote on the awards.  (Me!  I'm going to Left Coast Crime.)

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996. This year's nominees are:

Donna Andrews, Stork Raving Mad (Minotaur Books)
Laura DiSilverio, Swift Justice (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne Books)
Donna Moore, Old Dogs (Busted Flush Press)
Kris Neri, Revenge for Old Times' Sake (Cherokee McGhee)
J. Michael Orenduff, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein (Oak Tree Press)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award, first awarded in 2004, is given for mystery novels covering events before 1950. This year's nominees are:

Rebecca Cantrell, A Night of Long Knives (Forge Books)
Robert Kresge, Murder for Greenhorns (ABQ Press)
Kelli Stanley, City of Dragons (Minotaur Books)
Jeri Westerson, The Demon's Parchment (Minotaur Books)
Jacqueline Winspear, The Mapping of Love and Death (HarperCollins)

The Hillerman Sky Award is a special award given this year, in honor of the convention's New Mexico location, to the mystery that best captures the landscape of the Southwest:

Sandy Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Christine Barber, The Bone Fire (Minotaur Books)
Margaret Coel, The Spider's Web (Berkley Hardcover)
Deborah J Ledford, Snare (Second Wind Publishing)

The Watson is another special award given this year to the mystery novel with the best sidekick. The nominees are:

Sandy Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Rachel Brady, Dead Lift (Poisoned Pen Press)
Chris Grabenstein, Rolling Thunder (Pegasus)
Craig Johnson, Junkyard Dogs (Viking)
Spencer Quinn, To Fetch a Thief (Atria)

Congratulations to all the nominees, but especially to my fellow Desert Sleuths, Deb Ledford and Kris Neri.

The nominees have also been announced for the 2011 Dilys Award, “given annually since 1992 by IMBA [Independent Mystery Booksellers Association] to the mystery titles of the year which the member booksellers have most enjoyed selling.” The nominees are:

Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill (Soho Crime)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur Books)
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow)
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Once a Spy by Keith Thomson (Doubleday)
Savages by Don Winslow (Simon & Schuster)

The Dilys Award winner will also be announced during the Left Coast Crime convention.

My niece, Elizabeth, who once challenged me to see who could read the most books in a year, has extended the challenge again.  She's in sixth grade now, and quite busy, so we'll see if I can beat her this time.  Elizabeth, I've read 16 so far in January.  And, since she hasn't sent me the picture I asked for, here's the picture.  This is Elizabeth, Fred, and me last August.  Two of us are participating in the reading challenge.

And, finally, Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine's Bookshelf, makes the following announcement.

"12 book bloggers... 30+ literary prizes...

...One swoony month of Heroine Love!

Join The Heroine's Bookshelf for Heroine Love Feb 1-18 (

Celebrate literary heroines with guest posts from 12 amazing book bloggers

Win audiobooks, autographed copies, and more every week day

Qualify for a Grand Prize Pack on Feb 18...just enter a weekday giveaway!

Featured Bloggers

Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters, (The Debutante Ball)

Rebecca, Book Lady's Blog

Beth, An Accomplished Young Lady

Buried In Print

Sandra, Beyond Little House

Jennifer, The Literate Housewife

Chandra Hoffman, author of Chosen

How We Do Run On: a GWTW Scrapbook

Nicole, Linus's Blanket

Jen, Devourer of Books

Leah Stewart, author of Husband and Wife

Laurel Ann, AustenProse

30+ prizes were donated by yours truly, my fabulous guest bloggers, HarperCollins, and Blackstone Audio! "  It's at

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cozy Authors at the Poisoned Pen

On Sunday, the Poisoned Pen had a wonderful turnout for a program featuring cozy authors.  Rhys Bowen, who acted as host, said now she knows the secret to marketing.  Promise cupcakes.  Bowen, the author of three series, Her Royal Spyness, Molly Murphy, and Evan Evans, was a terrific host.

Left to right - Hannah Dennison, Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle, and Rhys Bowen

Rhys introduced the authors by saying they all are attractive women who kill people for a living.  And, their books make you chuckle and feel good.  She asked each author to introduce their characters.  Kate Carlisle's Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder who does rare book restoration.  Every time she works on a book, someone dies.
Jenn McKinlay's current book features two friends, Mel and Angie, who own a cupcake bakery in Scottsdale's Old Town.  And, Jenn brought the cupcakes for the program.  They came from the cupcake bakery, Butter & Me.  And, Jenn was so pleased because they made the cupcakes look like the cover of her latest book, Buttercream Bump Off.                 

Hannah Dennison is the author of the Vicky Hill mysteries, set in England in Gipping-on-Plym.  And, bodies start off dead in Dennison's books because Vicky is an obituary writer.  Vicky is loosely based on Dennison's life in another century, when she worked as an obituary writer, and stood in church doorways taking down the names of the mourners.  Vicky's parents are criminals, wanted by Interpol, so she's not comfortable falling for policemen. 

Since Dennison's character was loosely based on her, Rhys Bowen asked Jenn and Kate if they were in their books.  Jenn said she and her sons made all the recipes in the back of her books, but a bakery life isn't for her since bakers have to be at work at 4 or 5 in the morning. 

Kate said she took lots of bookbinding classes, and she aspires to other aspects of Brooklyn's life.  She took everything she loves and put it in the books.  Brooklyn lives in San Francisco, and Carlisle loves that city.  Her character was raised in a commune in Sonoma where the members grew grapes, and eventually became wealthy due to their winery.  And, of course, Kate has to do hours of research.  So, her books include wine, San Francisco and books.

Rhys said she loves the research.  The last book in Her Royal Spyness series is set in Nice, so she had to go there and spend two weeks checking out the city and the bistros.  So, Kate's an author after her own heart.

Bowen asked the authors to tell the audience about their latest book.  McKinlay's Buttercream Bump Off is the second book in the series.  She laughed and said one reader complained they knew who the murderer was too soon, and Jenn said she couldn't remember who it was.  She wrote the book a year ago.  It's the second adventure for Mel and Angie.  Mel's mother, Joyce went on a date, and her date dies.  It was her first date in thirty years.  She blamed her dress, but the police suspect Joyce.  So, Mel and Angie have to find out who really killed him.

Hannah Dennison said her books feature unusual British pastimes.  The fourth one is Thieves!  Morris dancing, based on folklore, is important to the plot.  In the book, there is a Morris dancing danceathon, an annual event at the Grange.  Gypsies camp there, and someone dies.  As an aspiring investigative reporter, Vicky Hill works on the case.  (Dennison said she wanted to be an investigative reporter when she was writing obituaries.            

The Lies That Bind is the third book in Kate Carlisle's series.  Brooklyn
Wainwright is back in San Francisco teaching a class in bookbinding.  But, the artistic director of the center is horrible, so she has to die.  There's a book within the book.  Oliver Twist sets the story going.  The center has a Twisted Festival to raise money, and there is a band of thieves as in Oliver Twist.

Rhys Bowen said, oh yes, it's very therapeutic to kill off people you don't like.  Then, she said Kate had a background in TV.  She wrote for The Gong Show.  Bowen asked if Carlisle had thought about writing screenplays.  Kate said she did try to be a screenwriter, but it's much harder.  She needed more stuff to go on than could in a screenplay.  She went to law school, for one year.  Then she started writing and killing off truly evil professors.

Bowen said Jenn McKinlay writes a few series, which is why she has a hard time remembering her killers.  Jenn said she has loads of personalities.  As Lucy Lawrence, she wrote the decoupage series.  The last book in that series will be out in March.  It wraps up the series.  Jenn said that's OK because it was a perfect three book series.  It looks like the cupcake series, written as Jenn McKinlay will be going for a while, at least until people get tired of cupcakes.  And, she's launching the Library Lover's Mystery series, set in Connecticut, where she grew up and got her degree.  As Josie Bill, a third identity, she'll write a thrift series.  Jenn said she's Scottish and cheap, so she loves thrift.  She said there will be thrift tips in the books.

Bowen, like Dennison, was from England, so she asked Hannah if she could only write about England after she left.  Hannah said she couldn't wait to leave England for California.  Then the only stories she could tell were about the place she left.  Devon, where she sets her books, is fifty years behind the world, in a simpler time.  The books have weird backdrops, some her editor discovered.  They've featured snail races and hedgejumping.  Hedgejumping is not done on horseback.  It's a serious hobby.  Hannah learned a lot eavesdropping on a conversation in a bump when a woman told her husband he had to stop stopping the car to jump hedges.  Rhys agreed that there were unusual hobbies there, mentioning the man who was the last mud sled fisherman in England, taking a sled out on mud to catch shrimp.

The authors were all asked how they managed an outside work life and writing.  Carlisle said she quit working in July.  She had worked for lawyers.  She wrote for three hours before going to work at 8:30, and on weekends.  She was determined to keep writing, despite hundreds of rejections.  She said you learn by writing.

Jenn has a part-time job at the Central Library in Phoenix.  She's afraid to leave and lose her material.  When Buttercream Bump Off made the extended New York Times Bestseller list, everyone at the library asked if she was going to leave.  She didn't know where she'd get her material if she left.

Hannah is working for an advertising agency, for the chairman.  She said it's crazy there.  She writes beofre work, and gets up at 4:30.  She wants to transition into writing full-time, but the stories in advertising are so good.

Rhys said the all write cozies, a term she finds insulting.  How did they feel about that term?  Kate answered that she also writes romance, so cozies are a step up for legitimate writing.  She wrote murders for years, and didn't know what a hook is.  Now, she knows what a hook is, and that she's in the right place.  She's happy where she is.

Jenn also came from romance.  She wrote a few Harlequins.  She tells the story that her husband doesn't sleep at night, knowing she's better at writing murders than romance.  She said Agatha Christie is a cozy writer, so I'm fine with it.  She's not a thriller writer.  And, she said, it depends who says "cozy."  If it's one of the boys, it's usually denigrating.  But, a reviewer who says it's a wonderful cozy and the characters kick, means cozy is fine.

Hannah said she's warped.  She really likes murdering people, and she wants to make it funny.  She wants to write an escape from reality, so people can enjoy it with chocolates and cats.

Rhys Bowen said cozy writers see society as a complete whole, and, if murder happens, it disrupts the whole.  The sleuth puts the world back again.  Noir writers see the whole world as warped, and they only put a piece of the world back in place.

They were asked how they manage to maintain their relationships with writing and working.  Jenn had the best answer.  "My husband's a musician, so I look good."  Kate said her husband is supportive, and even does all the shopping.  Hannah said her husband feels as if she's physically not there since she's at work, or mentally not there since she's writing.  He drifts around her orbit.  Actually, he's a copywriter and writes screenplays, so they're permanently tormented together.

Then they were asked how they write such realistic, three dimensional characters.  Jenn said hers are composites.  They are her and every best friend she's had.  She's been lucky to always have a buddy.  Buddies are good because everyone has insecurities and flaws.  It's the buddy that makes everything OK.
Hannah said Vicky is her, young and insecure.  She was a freak at school.  But, she loves watching people.  She takes a character and takes them to the extreme.  Her unusual, quirky characters are based on people who really exist.  Kate said, "Brooklyn is a little younger, taller, small, deeper, and more heroic me."  Kate was a loner whose family moved a lot.  She lived in her own head.  So Brooklyn has friends, and a strong sense of justice.  Carlisle said her books are so character driven that the plot falls by the wayside.  She's all about the character.  When someone asked about Brooklyn's archenemy, Minka, Kate said she's bubonic plague for books.  Carlisle knew someone like that when she was working in TV.

When they were asked who their favorite authors were, Hannah said, "Rhys Bowen, Kate Carlisle, Jenn McKinlay."  Then she said, and of course, Agatha Christie.  Jenn agreed with Agatha Christie, but added that she has eclectic taste since she works in a library.  She doesn't read many mysteries.  Since she's working with young adults, she reads YA books.  She said there's really good stuff there.  Teen is an incredible market, with people open to everything.  They're looking for unique voices and unique stories.  The books are more cutting edge in the YA market.  They're not looking for a hook as much as a unique story.

Kate said she reads, Rhys, Hannah, Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters mysteries.  She reads Juliet Blackwell.  She loves her witch books, and the Art Lovers books.  She loves the two men fighting over the character in the Art Lovers mysteries.  Speaking of two men, she reads Janet Evanovich.  Then there are Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, the godmothers of the genre.  Carlisle reads mysteries and romance.

So, Rhys said, OK, speaking of romance; how much sex is in your books?  Jenn's books don't have much sex.  She doesn't like scary or noir.  She likes cozies because they just hint at sex.  Dennison's Vicky will not have sex, and it's unlikely she ever will.  The editor doesn't want her to.  Like Hannah herself, Vicky is a late starter.  Vicky is obsessed with getting a front page scoop, as Dennison was.  If Vicky does have sex, it will just be to get it out of the way, as Hannah's mother advised her to do. 

Kate's Brooklyn met a man, is happy now, and the relationship has progressed.  Mystery readers aren't always interested in seeing everything on the page.  So, Carlisle either closes the door or the couple is interrupted.  But, the fourth book in the series features an antique copy of the Kama Sutra.  Rhys called out, "More research!"

Hannah had mentioned that the Vicky Hill mysteries were probably not going to continue here, but she has sold more books in that series in the U.K.  Asked about more odd hobbies, she said one will feature tar barrel racing.  On Nov. 5, they hold races.  The barrels are filled with tar, and then there are separate races for men, women and children.  They run holding the barrel aloft with one glove, like a cooking mitt.  Rhys and Hannah agreed that when you move away from home, you get nostalgic for the time, not the place, but you never feel at home again.

When Rhys asked what was coming next, Kate Carlisle said the Kama Sutra mystery is called Murder Under Cover.  There's danger between the sheets.  Jenn's next cupcake mystery is Death by the Dozen, scheduled for October.  She was inspired by the Scottsdale Food Festival.  There's a challenge for the chefs, and Mel and Angie enter the desserts competition.  Mel's mentor from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute is murdered, so naturally, they become involved.  Hannah said if she has to tie the series up, she'll make sure Vicky has sex.  Maybe she'll run a quiz, and have people write in and suggest the lucky man.

Rhys Bowen's next book is due out March 1, Bless the Bride.  It's a Molly Murphy mystery.  Molly has promised Daniel she won't investigate cases after the wedding.  But, just before the wedding, she becomes involved in one in New York's Chinatown.  The next book in Her Royal Spyness series is set in Nice.  It will be called Naughty in Nice.  And, it features Coco Chanel, the Duke of Westminster, and jewels that were lent to Queen Mary. 

Once again, the Poisoned Pen presented a fun author program, complete with cupcakes.

Hannah Dennison's website is

Jenn McKinlay's website is

Kate Carlisle's website is

Rhys Bowen's website is

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman

If you've never read Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan mysteries, you can still pick up the series with The Girl in the Green Raincoat, the eleventh in the series.  This novel, originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine, brings together so many of the characters in Tess' life in a clever tribute to Rear Window and Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.  At the same time, this is uniquely Lippman, marking a milestone in Tess' life.  Read it as a lover of Tess Monaghan's stories, or as someone discovering them, but you won't regret it.

Tess is 35, with a high-risk pregnancy, put on bed rest with at least two months to go.  As an active private investigator, she's anxious and antsy already on her first day of confinement.  Once Crow brought her binoculars, she could lay on the sun porch and watch people, particularly the people walking their dogs in the dog park across the street.  She immediately focused on a miniature version of her own greyhound, walked by a woman in a green raincoat every day.  But, on the sixth day, when the greyhound ran through the park without its owner, Tess' perspective changed.  What happened to the woman that her dog was running without her?

Tess might be bedridden, but she's still as curious as ever, determined to solve the mystery.  Despite Crow's admonitions that she needed to keep her blood pressure low, she set an investigation in motion, recruiting her employee, Mrs. Blossom, and her best friend, Whitney Talbot.  But, when the investigation snowballs, Tess makes a mistake that could be tragic.

The Girl in the Green Raincoat succeeds on so many levels.  The author's notes pays homage to Lippman's inspirations.  She also said the serialized format gave her the opportunity to allow other characters to tell their stories, Mrs. Blossom, Tess' father, Whitney.  So, don't hesitate to pick it up, even if you've never read a previous Tess Monaghan book.  And, if you've read everything, welcome to a new stage in Tess' life.

Laura Lippman's website is

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman.  HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780061938368 (paperback), 158p.

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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Susan Pohlman for Authors @ The Teague

Susan Pohlman, author of Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, is one of the most inspirational authors I've ever heard.  Her program for Authors @ The Teague was a treat.

Pohlman said she didn't expect any of those experiences to happen to her, from the story in the book, to writing the book, so she was just going to speak from her heart.  She and her family were living in Los Angeles.  Her husband was in the radio business.  They had been married for sixteen years, together for five before that.  They had two kids, and their marriage had just run its course.  There comes a time in so many marriages when they've just run its course.  And, that hurt.  Susan was a teacher who devoted her life to supporting families.  So, she was heartbroken, but, without telling her husband, Tim, she went to a lawyer. 

Then her husband came home and asked if she wanted to go with him on an incentive trip to Italy.  Before the economy went bad, radio and TV stations offered incentive trips.  If you spent X amount of money, you'd be taken on a trip.  So, they would be entertaining clients on this trip.  Susan didn't think it was a good idea to go on the trip with things falling apart.  But, her husband kept pushing, and at the last minute she decided she could suffer through Italy and go on the last trip.  They were taking forty clients for six days.  They arrived in Florence, and it just knocked her sideways; it was so beautiful.  There was something spiritual about it with the ancient streets and building, and the artwork. 

Pohlman said she was overwhelmed at feeling so alive.  In LA, you can get caught up in all the nonsense, and lose your soul.  But, she was knocked off her axis in Florence.  Tim felt the same way.  On day four, they went to Liguria in northwestern Italy.  It's a tiny area, and they were in the town of Santa Margherita.  It was a free day, and Tim and Susan had to spend the day together.  They planned to rent Vespas, but when they arrived at the Vespa store, it never opened.  So, they walked back along the water, and Tim said, "I could live here," and, she agreed, and thought, but not together.  And, he repeated, "No, I could REALLY live here," with a look in his eyes that said let's move her.  Susan said that's not a good idea, but he wouldn't let up.  They had a conversation, asking what happened to us.  He said he would quit his job if she'd consider it.  She knew how serious he was because he was in his early 40s, in charge of six radio stations, what he'd worked for his entire life.  So, she said, if there's an American school, I'll consider it. 

They headed to Genoa, the largest city in the area, a very Italian city.  They found the American school, and the principal was even there that late in the day.  He said they were really crowded, but when he heard their children were 11 and 15 at the time, he said, what a coincidence.  Those were the only two classes with openings.  So Tim and Susan agreed they only had one day to find a place to live.  If they could do that, they would move there.  There's only one realtor for the area, and the realtor said there was one apartment, but they couldn't see it until 5 at night.  And, the whole time, Susan's mind was saying no, but her heart was saying yes.  It was a very spiritual moment.  When they arrived at the apartment, they found a seven-story building with a very tiny elevator.  And, Susan said, if it's a dump, we're not staying.  They agreed, if it wasn't a dump, they'd stay.  And, all along she thought it's going to be a dump.  The apartment was on the top floor, and when they stepped in, they were hit by a wall of glass overlooking the Ligurian Sea, just a beautiful place with wooden floors.  So, they agreed they'd have to do this.  Against all intelligence, Susan Pohlman signed her name to a lease in Italian that she couldn't read.  She was forty-four.  Her family was falling apart.  The stress of his job was killing her husband.  And, they decided to take a risk.

They went back to LA.  Susan's husband quit his job.  They sold their house (at a time when houses still sold), and sold other stuff.  That's what they lived on.  Within eight weeks, they had packed up their kids, Katie and Matt, and were living in Italy.  They decided to put their lives in God's hands, and see what happened.  They experienced adventure and the Italian culture.  Tim and Susan didn't work for a year, and when school started the kids were in school.  They saved their family, and renewed their marriage.

This was in 2003, the same year Elizabeth Gilbert was there working on Eat, Pray, Love.  That was the summer there was a heat wave, and thousands of people died in Europe.  They were all hot and sweat.  They had two kids with them.  They were all displaced and didn't speak the language.  They put all the pettiness aside, and built a home again.  They travelled extensively, but never took the kids out of school.  The kids blossomed there.  They had no car.  And, the kids developed a deep friendship, something that might not have happened in this country with the two of them in different schools, different sports, and going different directions. 

Pohlman said they had the emotional space there to start over, and they found each other.  Americans live exhausting lives.  But, the Pohlmans ran out of money eventually.  They couldn't work there, so they came back to LA.  It was a harder transition coming back to our culture than it was going there.  But, they started over, and did it peacefully, after seeing the downside of abundance.  In a nutshell, that's what the book, Halfway to Each Other, is about.  The book ends the day they leave Italy.

Asked how the book came about, Pohlman said before they went to Italy, she had been learning to write screenplays.  She studied it, and how to write scenes.  One girlfriend told her not to go, that it was a big mistake.  But, others asked her to write and tell them what it was like, with no holds barred.  So, Susan wrote to her friends, telling about moments, and writing them in scenes.  Soon she had a little following.  The family arrived in Italy in July.  In November, a friend who worked for the Washington Times wrote, saying he thought she should quit sending the scenes because she just might have a book.  So, she kept writing those series of moments.  When she finished writing, she tried to find an agent, which is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  When she did, the agent tried to sell it, but it was hard to sell after Eat, Pray, Love

The book has finally started taking off a little because it's striking a chord.  People are struggling in this economy.  Families are struggling, and people are losing everything.  They are finding great hopefulness in this story.

Asked about her daughter, who didn't want to leave Italy at the end of the book, Susan reminded us that Katie was fifteen when they got there in July.  By the end of October, she was settled in with friends.  She just blossomed, turning into a woman.  With the buses and trains, she could travel without her mother driving.  She had friends from all over.  For the first time, she had relationships not based on social pressure.  There was no materialism in those friendships, just young people having fun. 

It was hard for Katie when they got back.  They immediately put her into school, and it was the same culture as when they left.  She was in a school with kids with lots of money.  And, they were mean girls.  Katie was now a junior, and everyone was mean to her.  So, they moved her to a larger school, with a more diverse population, and it clicked.  She's twenty-two now, living in San Francisco.  She's going to be a teacher, and she minored in Italian.  She's going to bring a global view to her classroom. 

Matthew was the easygoing one, so he was happy to be anywhere.  He's going to be attending Ohio State. 

They had returned home, and neither Tim nor Susan had jobs.  Tim said he'd like to start his own business.  It would take the last of their savings, but Susan said she'd learned the secret to surrendering.  Within six months, he had a partner, and bought two radio stations in Phoenix, and two in Las Vegas.  She got a job as an assistant principal.  And, then it started all over again.  Tim was never home, since he had to travel.  So, she said, they needed to honor their family, and move to one of the markets.  They moved to this area, but he eventually lost the business as the economy went to hell.  So, here they were in Arizona, and neither of them had jobs.  But, now Tim runs the three CBS radio stations here.  She said she wouldn't have changed it all all.  They like it here in Arizona.

Asked if they've been back, Susan said they can't stay away.  They've been back to Italy three times.  They took clients.  Katie went to school in Florence, and they went then.  They still know people there.  Facebook and Skype has helped, and they remain friends.

When she was asked if they picked up the language, Pohlman said somewhat by the time they left.  She found it hard.  It took a while to pick up enough to understand.  The kids had it in school, so it was easier for them.  Susan still couldn't really learn it.  She said she could understand and use nouns.  It's a tough language.

One question was about health care.  She said they have socialized health care, so you can go right to the hospital and they'll take care of you.  Her daughter got sick, and they took care of her.  But, there are private clinics, too, where they speak English.  And, doctors still make housecalls.  When Matt ran a high fever, the doctor came to the house with his little black bag. 

One couple was particularly interested in going to Italy, so Pohlman recommended, a company her parents use.  It covers the hidden infrastructure.  It finds you a place to live, a car, the what happens if.  It's a safety net while you stay in another country.

Asked what next, Pohlman said they're going to be empty nesters with their son going to college.  She's writing another book.  She's developed her voice.  And, she thinks she's more savvy about the marketplace.  Marketing her book is the hardest thing she's ever done.  And, she knows she has to look at evergreen topics.  So, she's found a topic that people want.  Pohlman just turned fifty.  It's a transition.  So, she's writing about it.  It's a topic that should be attractive to book buyers. 

Susan said they stay the same place everytime they go back to Italy.  They learned to relax about life.  Here, we worry about wasting time.  There, she learned not to mind about wasting time.  It was important just to be there, and live that life. 

She admitted the only thing she would have done differently was probably learn the language a little earlier before going, but they only had eight weeks to get ready, so there really wasn't time.

Susan Pohlman had an important message for closing.  "If you have an adventure in your heart, DO IT!"

Susan Pohlman's website is

Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home by Susan Pohlman. Guideposts, ©2009. ISBN 9780824947804 (hardcover), 272p.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Tidbits

Did I tell you I did a short interview for Woman's World magazine?  The January 31 issue just hit the newstands, grocery stores and drug stores.  On page 34 is an article called "You Deserve The Best...New Mystery Novel."  I'm not going to tell you what we recommend, but I'm honored to be in wonderful company.  We each highlighted one book in a category that was given to us.  They interviewed Stefanie Pintoff, the award-winning author of In the Shadow of Gotham (, Sarah Weinman, crime fiction columnist for the Los Angeles Times, David J. Montgomery, the thriller/mystery critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Molly Weston (, and me.  You can pick up a copy for just $1.79 for about another week.  And, I have no idea who gave them my name, but I appreciate it!


Oh, I have a fun giveaway this week.  The contest will run until Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6 PM MT.  It's a promotion for the upcoming March movie release of THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo and more.

I have 5 movie posters and 5 copies of THE LINCOLN LAWYER mass market paperback to give away.  So, five lucky winners will receive both a movie poster and a book.  I'm not sending them out; the publicist is.  But, you need to send me your name and mailing address in an email to  Your subject line should read, "Win The Lincoln Lawyer." 

Would you like to see the trailer for the movie?

Fun contest!  And, Michael Connelly's next Mickey Haller novel, The Fifth Witness, will be released April 5.  Michael Connelly's website is   Good luck!

And, if you are one of those lucky people who received an ereader over the holidays, a group of suspense writers have an offer for you.  I recently received this news release.

Navigating the Sea of E-Books

Nine top suspense authors join forces to promote quality e-books

The e-book market is exploding. With over 700,000 e-books currently available and hundreds more added every week, it’s growing increasingly difficult to distinguish quality books from those that are unedited and written by inexperienced authors.

That’s why nine established, professional authors have formed Top Suspense Group, a site where readers are guaranteed to find top-notch, award-winning authors in multiple genres who deliver a great e-reading experience in their dozens of highly-acclaimed books.

"Readers can count on us," acclaimed author Max Allan Collins explains. "Every member of our group has already made his or her mark on genre fiction, whether it's noir, crime, mystery, thriller, horror or Westerns, and in some cases, several of these genres."

Top Suspense authors have each:

• Published multiple novels with traditional publishers

• Won or have been nominated for major literary awards

• Been internationally published

• Received critical acclaim from national publications

Many of the authors have graced the national bestseller lists and have had their work produced or optioned for film (the Oscar winning “Road to Perdition”) and television (the Emmy winning “Monk”). Our authors include:

Max Allan Collins • Bill Crider • Lee Goldberg • Joel Goldman • Ed Gorman • Vicki Hendricks

Paul Levine • Harry Shannon • Dave Zeltserman

This unique site provides a one-stop-shop of quality suspense fiction. As the e-book market continues to flood and overwhelm readers, Top Suspense will remain a succinct guide to quality, professional e-books written by today’s leading authors.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Brown Bag Luncheon

Normally, I discuss the quarterly brown bag luncheon I host for library patrons, in which I discuss fifteen books while they have lunch.  Then, the following week, I repeat the program at a brown bag luncheon for library staff from the entire system.  This is fun because we have staff from our Tech Services Dept., Youth Services, and all the branches.  It's a great opportunity to share books.  The other months of the year, we all bring a book or two to a monthly lunch.  Everyone in the system is invited, and attendance varies, depending on schedules.  My next public brown bag luncheon is in February, but the staff one was this week.  I thought I'd give you the list of books I shared with the library staff.

Casey, Kathryn – The Killing Storm. As a hurricane bears down on Houston, Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong frantically searches for a missing child.

Davidson, Hilary – The Damage Done. Learning of her sister’s death, travel writer Lily Moore returns home to NYC, only to discover the body found in the bathtub was not her sister’s.  While the police want to identify the body, Lily wants to find her missing sister.

DeSilva, Bruce – Rogue Island. An investigative journalist in Rhode Island is helpless when his childhood neighborhood is burning down, building by building. (Just nominated for an Edgar Award for best first mystery.)

Evans, Mary Anna – Strangers. Faye Longchamp’s new archaeological consulting firm gets the job of renovating a B & B in St. Augustine, a house haunted by the past.
Gaus, P.L. – Blood of the Prodigal. When a young Amish boy goes missing, his grandfather, the Bishop, turns to a pastor and a professor, instead of the local sheriff.

Genova, Lisa – Still Alice. Alice Howland, a brilliant Harvard professor, learns she has early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50. (I also discussed Genova's new book, Left Neglected, particularly following the shooting of Rep. Giffords.)

Goldberg, Whoopi – Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out there? Goldberg reflects on a lack of courtesy, respect and responsibility nowadays.

Lackey, Mercedes – Trio of Sorcery.  Three heroines in urban fantasy, three views of the modern world, and magics, ancient and cutting-edge.

Mayes, Casey – A Deadly Row.  Math Whiz and puzzle creator is on hand to help her husband, a retired police chief, when Charlotte, NC calls on him for help when the mayor becomes the target of a killer.

Pohlman, Susan – Halfway to Each Other.  How a year in Italy brought Pohlman’s family back together. (Pohlman will be a guest author for Authors @ The Teague on Saturday, Jan. 22.)

Ritter, Todd – Death Notice. It isn’t often an obituary writer receives a death notice before the victim dies, but it’s happening in a small Pennsylvania town.

Scottoline, Lisa – My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space.  Humorous, and thoughtful newspaper columns about daily life from the mystery writer and her daughter.

Senate, Melissa – The Love Goddess’ Cooking School.  Holly is searching for happiness when she inherits her grandmother’s Maine island house, continues her Italian cooking school, and finds unexpected friendships with the four students who take her class.

Trigiani, Adriana – Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers. Stories and lessons from Trigiani’s Italian grandmothers.

Viorst, Judith – Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations. Light verse from the author, who has turned eighty.

And, I was halfway through Eleanor Brown's debut novel, The Weird Sisters, so I gave an audience of book lovers a preview of that wonderful book.

And, as a final note, I had dental surgery following this program, and told the dentist and his assistant that I had just finished a program in which I talked for an hour.  They couldn't believe it, saying they'd never heard me say much, and I said, oh, I can talk about books for an hour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winners and a Historical Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the cozy mysteries.  Wendy Lyn Watson's Scoop to Kill will go to Kat B. from Winterset, IA.  And, Kevin R. of Plano, TX will receive E.J. Copperman's Night of the Living Deed.  I'll put them in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away copies of the two fascinating historical mysteries I reviewed earlier this month.  Carol K. Carr's debut mystery, India Black, takes readers back to Victorian England where India Black, a madam, tries to hide the body of a man who died in her house, only to be blackmailed into a deadly spy game.  This debut has a wonderful cast of characters, and a non-stop plot.

If you prefer the United States and Europe in the twentieth century, you might want to read Jed Rubenfeld's The Death Instinct.  Rubenfeld built an intriguing story around events that aren't well-known, including a Wall Street bombing that killed 400 people in September 1920.  Whether it's an investigation of the bombing, or medicine on the battlefields of World War I, this is another powerful historical mystery, involving characters such as Sigmund Freud and Madame Curie.

So, which mystery would you like to win, India Black or The Death Instinct? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject lines should read either, "Win India Black," or "Win The Death Instinct." Include your name and mailing address. Entrants from the U.S. only please.

The contest will end Thursday night, Jan. 27 at 6 PM MT. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

It's not always easy to write about a debut novel that catches you up in its magic.  There was so much talk ahead of time about Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters.   Everything you might have heard is true.  It's beautiful, poignant at times, touching.  It's a lyrical book, filled with quotes from Shakespeare.  It's definitely a book lover's story, with a family of readers, a small public library, and comments such as, "There is no problem a library card can't solve."  If you're looking for a novel for a book discussion, this debut might be it.  And, don't take my word for it.  Pick up a copy of The Weird Sisters.

There were three Andreas sisters, Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, named by their father, a professor of English at Barnwell College in Ohio, and a lover of everything Shakespeare.  They were raised on Shakespeare, could talk in couplets, and, it was a quote from Shakespeare that informed them their mother had cancer, and asked them to come home.  So, Rose, a college professor at 33, returned home to take care of the household.  And, Bean, at thirty, fled New York, where she had stolen from her employer, and gone into debt.  And, Cordy, the youngest at twenty-seven, drifted in after seven years on the road, knowing she was pregnant.  And, none of the sisters were happy to find the others there.  As they said, "See, we love each other.  We just don't happen to like each other very much."

Each woman brought her fears with her, fears that were theirs because of their place in this unusual family.  And, they might not like each other, and they knew how to press each others' buttons, but sometimes, they knew how to take care of each other as sisters.  This is a book about relationships and individuals, family relationships, and how a family forms the people we become.  But, it's about women who needed to see themselves, not just as sisters, but as individuals, with their own strengths.  And, the three women, who saw themselves as failures, would find a way to their own strength. 

Eleanor Brown uses an unusual voice for this book, a voice that says "We" in the course of the narration.  It's a unified voice, the voice of the three sisters, the family together.  And, that voice of "We" works beautifully, somehow connecting with the Shakespeare to form a unique style for The Weird Sisters.

Shakespeare, books, libraries, sisters.  Eleanor Brown's debut glorifies all of them.  If you love books, even if you're not a fan of Shakespeare, you'll want to try this novel.  But, if you love Shakespeare as well, The Weird Sisters is pure magic from the first pages. 

Eleanor Brown's website is

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.  Penguin Group (USA), ©2011. ISBN 9780399157226 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I asked the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Edgar Award Nominees

Today, Mystery Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at the Gala Banquet, April 28, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


Caught by Harlan Coben (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Faithful Place by Tana French (Penguin Group USA - Viking)
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)
I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins – William Morrow)


Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates – Forge Books)
The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon (Simon & Schuster)
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Snow Angels by James Thompson (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)


Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)
The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn (Henry Holt)
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski (Minotaur Books)
Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)


Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry (University of Nebraska Press – Bison Original)
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in Jim Crow South by Alex Heard (HarperCollins)
Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the International Hunt for his Assassin by Hampton Sides (Random House - Doubleday)
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr (Alfred A. Knopf)


The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making  by John Curran (HarperCollins)
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder (Wiley)
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendevouz with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton)
Thrillers: 100 Must Reads edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing)


"The Scent of Lilacs" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
"The Plot" – First Thrills by Jeffery Deaver (Tom Doherty – Forge Books)
"A Good Safe Place” – Thin Ice by Judith Green (Level Best Books)
"Monsieur Alice is Absent" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Stephen Ross (Dell Magazines)
"The Creative Writing Murders" – Dark End of the Street by Edmund White (Bloomsbury)


Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)
The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee (Feiwel & Friends)
Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)
The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters (HarperCollins Children’s Books)


The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price (Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)


The Psychic by Sam Bobrick (Falcon Theatre – Burbank, CA)
The Tangled Skirt by Steve Braunstein (New Jersey Repertory Company)
The Fall of the House by Robert Ford (Alabama Shakespeare Festival)


“Episode 1” - Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Episode 4” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Full Measure” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“No Mas” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“The Next One’s Gonna Go In Your Throat” – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)


"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Evan Lewis (Dell Magazines)


Sara Paretsky


Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, Illinois
Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minnesota


(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 27, 2010)

Wild Penance by Sandi Ault (Penguin Group – Berkley Prime Crime)
Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Down River by Karen Harper (MIRA Books)
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins - Avon)

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Fool Me Once by Rick Lax

Last May, I reviewed Richard Roeper's Bet the House, a book about his gambling experiences.  When Rick Lax of Las Vegas Weekly read that review, he agreed with my opinion that it was repetitious, and asked if I'd review his book, Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas.  Lax' book is his own story of his first experiences in Vegas, when he accidentally moved there.

Rick Lax had a disastrous experience with a girl in Chicago who had been conned by a drug dealer, graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and, instead of backpacking through Europe as other law school grads did, packed his magic kit, and headed to Las Vegas with his mother for a short stay.  Knowing his girlfriend had been the victim of a scam, he intended to learn everything about deception, so he could protect himself.  But, as the woman who became his roommate told him, "The city sucks people in.  Nobody under thirty moves out of Vegas."  Lax is still in Vegas, where he learned quite a bit about deception, and quite a bit about himself.

Lax' roommate, a Russian dancer, provided access for him to clubs, and other people.  Along the way, he dated a bartender, but never trusted her, hung out with other magicians, studying them, and their deception, played poker, and watched other card players.  He does tell stories of hustlers and hookers.  It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the people tourists never think of when they think of Vegas, the hard-working people.  But, Lax is careful to point out how deceptive the entire town is, from the giant hotels to the allowance of free admission to casino staff at clubs so crowds attract tourists.

Fool Me Once is Lax' own admission that he went to Vegas looking for deception and lies, found some, and, created his own reality.  Lax is an intelligent man, widely read, who can quote experts and psychological studies.  And, he's very self-aware, that, in looking for deception, he overlooked the truth.  It's an interesting story of fakes and fraud in Vegas.  But, it's also a sad confession of what Rick Lax had made of himself, in expecting to find cheaters.  And, I have the feeling Rick Lax won't fool himself twice.

Rick Lax' website is

Fool Me Once by Rick Lax.  St. Martin's Griffin, ©2011. ISBN 9780312545703 (paperback), 288p.

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