Wednesday, August 31, 2011

October Treasures in My Closet

Hard to believe August is almost over, and it's already time to look at the October books piled up in my closet. What a mixed collection this is!

It doesn't matter what other book jacket I show. Nothing is going to make people go "Awww," the way Jill Abramson's The Puppy Diaries will. Abramson wrote a blog for The New York Times' website about the joys and trials in raising her new golden retriever puppy, Scout. Now, she expands on that with the chronicle of Scout's first year.

Tasha Alexander brings back Lady Emily Hargreaves in her latest novel of suspense, A Crimson Warning. Secrets prove deadly in this story. Some very prominent people in London wake up to find their doorsteps smeared with read paint, the warning that someone is about to reveal a dark secret. With all of London high society in fear, Lady Emily and her husband, favorite agent of the crown, must uncover the twisted mind who delights in destroying others.

 Skeleton Letters is Laura Childs latest Scrapbooking mystery. When a fellow scrapbooker is bludgeoned to death in New Orleans' historic St. Tristan's Church, Carmela Bertrand and her friend Ava team up with a police detective to find a killer whose theft of an antique crucifix may be the clue needed to put the final touches on the record of a murder.

Like Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily Hargreaves, Inspector John Carlyle must investigate the murky world of the British ruling classes in James Craig's debut political thriller, London Calling. In the middle of a General Election, a murderer is stalking the man about to be the next Prime Minister, a man who might take the law into his own hands, if Carlyle doesn't track down the killer first.

Stolen Souls is described as Stuart Neville's "most gripping Belfast thriller yet." It's up to Inspector Jack Lennon to locate a runaway Ukrainian sex slave. She killed a crime boss, and his brother wants revenge. She fled, only to face a serial killer. It's up to Lennon to track her down before the violence spins out of control.

Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels. Now, she brings us The Lady of the Rivers, "weaving witchcraft, passion, and adventure into the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses."

In The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman combines imagination and research to tell the story of Masada. Nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans in 70 C.E. Hoffman bases her novel on that event, telling of four women who arrived at Masada.

 Arnaldur Indridason, author of Jar City and Hypothermia, brings us his first standalone thriller, Operation Napoleon. In 1945, a German bomber, with both German and American officers on board, crashes on a glacier. One man walks away, and disappears. Today, the bomber has been discovered, but a rescue volunteer disappears, setting his sister on a dangerous journey to search for him, and the the key to the riddle of Operation Napoleon.

Drama: An Actor's Education is John Lithgow's autobiography. In his memoir, Lithgow tells the backstage history of his struggles, crisis, and discovery, writing a tribute to the most important influence in his life, his father, the man who brought theater to John's life.

It must be the month for theater. Tony Award-winning producer Mitchell Maxwell sets his first novel, Little Did I Know, in the seventies, when a young man dreams of producing vibrant musicals in a refurbished historic theater in Massachusetts. While building his dream of being a Broadway producer, Samuel August also builds a romance with a local woman, one that isn't what either of them expected.

Eduardo Sacheri's The Secret in Their Eyes is available for the first time in English. The crime novel follows a recently retired detective in Buenos Aires who decides to write a book about a period of his life that haunted him, when he couldn't bring a case to justice because of dirty politics, and when he missed the opportunity for love.

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff is the story of an artist. Ella Saville is a successful portrait painter, with a distinguished record. But, three portraits will change her life forever.

Quite a mixed selection of books for October. And, tomorrow you can read about the possible hot titles for the month.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Call by Yannick Murphy

It's hard to top James Herriot's beloved veterinarian stories. The unnamed veterinarian/narrator in Yannick Murphy's novel, The Call, isn't Herriot, but there's something lovable about this man and the story of a rough year in his family.

The Call is written in the form of a journal, one year in the life of the New England vet, his unnamed wife, referred to as "The wife," and their three children, Sam, Sarah, and Mia. Life goes along, as the narrator writes about "The call," each call to attend to an animal. Since he doesn't handle small animals, most calls are for farm animals, horses, cows, even a sheep that lives in the house. Interspersed between calls, actions taken, and his musings on his drive home, are the accounts of meals, conversations with the wife and kids, and stories of a spaceship.

And, then one fall day, the vet takes his twelve-year-old son, Sam, hunting. A stray shot from an unseen hunter knocks Sam from his tree, leaving him in a coma.  Somehow, between visits to the hospital, life must go on. The narrator continues to answer calls, but, at each one, he finds himself searching the eyes of a neighbor who might have shot his son.

Murphy's journal forces the narration into the format of an account of daily life. But, it's the hunting accident that defines the year. The vet and his wife confront their feelings, their relationships, and their beliefs, whether it's a belief in spaceships, medicine, or their lives. The Call won't be what you expect. It's a story filled with humor despite the accident, and hope. Most of all, it's a warm story of family love, no matter how family is defined.

Yannick Murphy's website is

The Call by Yannick Murphy. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780062023148 (paperback), 225p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, after I requested it for review.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Every year, I read Louise Penny's books thinking she can't continue to get better. Every year, she proves me wrong. A Trick of the Light, the latest Armand Gamache novel, takes readers into the dichotomy of the soul, the dark and light, the good and evil sides. It's another masterpiece.

It's finally time for Clara Morrow's solo art show in Montreal. The art community has gathered, and Clara's friends from Three Pines are also there, for the event Clara has dreamed about for years, and now dreads. Behind frosted glass doors, she can envision every dream, and every nightmare that portends her future. It's not Peter, her husband, but her friends who whisper in her ear, offering her reassurances. She can live through the event. And, she survives, to be swept home to Three Pines, to a celebration with prominent members of the art world, and then the next morning's tragedy.

When a body is found in Clara's garden the morning after the party, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec brings his investigative team to the village. He and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir joke that they need to move the entire department to Three Pines, and Gamache's daughter calls murder a cottage industry in the village, but Gamache understands the depth of feeling that brings someone to murder. Once again, someone has brought fear and hatred to the peaceful village that appears to be a little bit of paradise. One of Gamache's favorite quotes, repeated in the book defines it perfectly. "There is strong shadow where there is much light."

No one can identify the dead woman, a woman whose red shoes, and position under Clara's bushes remind Peter and Gabri of the Wicked Witch of the West. The revelation that she's Lillian Dyson, a childhood friend of Clara's whose criticism of her early artwork caused the final destruction to their friendship, made the old quote relevant. Lillian Dyson destroyed many careers with her reviews, before disappearing. Few in the art world would disagree that "The witch was dead." But, who feared and hated her enough to kill her? And, why was the body in Clara Morrow's garden in a village that wasn't on a map?

No one entwines the past and present as skillfully as Louise Penny, past events that continue to resonate years later. There are consequences to evil comments, to fear, to hatred. And, Penny links so many comments and actions in this book. A Trick of the Light may be the story of a murder, but it's so much more. Penny's previous books have led to this one. How many years has Peter been jealous of Clara's gift? Beauvoir has known Gamache's daughter, Annie, for years, but the previous year's police  tragedy changed that relationship. No one, not Gamache or Beauvoir, Olivier, Peter, nor Clara, can forget the past. But, what about forgiveness?

What other author gives us characters to love, and a place to return? Armand Gamache, still with those kinds eyes, despite the tragedy of the last year. Jean Guy Beauvoir, admiring his mentor, but struggling with the last year's events. Clara Morrow, who, along with Oliver Brulé, really only wanted to belong somewhere. Peter Morrow, who has been petty and jealous for so many years, but has also been loved by Clara. And, then there's Ruth Zardo, whose poetry is so essential to the spirit of every book in this series, while her rude behavior adds humor. Ruth, whose small acts of compassion tie books and people together, while her longing for a duck offers hope. Isn't that what Three Pines and its people represent to all of us? A place of hope, a place you can only find when you're lost because no map will get you there.

Penny delves deep into the world of art, and the world of Alcoholics Anonymous, to explain pain and fear. At the same time, A Trick of the Light, presents a world of contrasts. Both worlds offer the opportunity for hope and change, for light, in contrast to living in shadow and fear. Life is a world that continues to offer surprises. Gamache finds a world where no one is what they appear to be. What is a trick of the light, and what is reality? Leave it to Louise Penny to continue to ask important questions. How can anyone question the importance of the mystery genre when Penny asks, what is truth and what is A Trick of the Light?

Louise Penny's website is

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780372655457 (hardcover), 352p.

And, if you get the chance to listen to the audio, grab it. Ralph Cosham's beautiful reading, with the French pronunciation, and the perfect pauses, brings the book to life. I read the book, and listened to part of the audio. I'm going to finish listening to it.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. Macmillan Audio. ©2011. Read by Ralph Cosham. 9 cds. ISBN 9781427213204. unabridged.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

September Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Jinx & I welcome you to this month's book chat about mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. Jinx has a walk-on part this month. Next month, he'll probably demand a speaking role. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Is there a reluctant middle school reader in your family? Tommy Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading might be the perfect book to give that kid who needs to read a book for school, something over 150 pages, but hates to read.

Charlie Joe Jackson has a reason to hate books. His father once ruined his birthday by presenting him with all kinds of books, including the entire works of Mark Twain. It was enough to traumatize him for life, and turn him off of reading. But, Charlie Joe has made an art of not reading. His schemes to avoid it in school are just wonderful. Up until this year, he's been able to bribe a friend with ice cream sandwiches to read the books for him, and summarize them. But, now, that friend wants more than just one ice cream sandwich. Charlie Joe's schemes involve getting girls to go out with his friends, and bribing the girls. Anything to avoid reading! He even encourages a friend to date the one girl Charlie Joe has always admired. And, for a few moments, it appears that Charlie Joe might just succeed. But, the kid who never reads doesn't expect a plot twist.
Adults will find Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading to be charming. He writes his books for other non-readers, promising short chapters and lots of lists. Who can resist his tips? Tip #21 - "There are things you need to make sure you know when telling someone you did read a book, when you actually didn't read the book." Number one is "The title." And, of course, there's Tip #12. "The library can be your friend."

Greenwald's book is fun. Even that reluctant reader might want to try Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading.

Tommy Greenwald's website is

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald. Roaring Brook Press. ©2011. ISBN 9781596436916 (hardcover), 220p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson

Under the name Josephine Tey, Elizabeth Mackintosh wrote mysteries in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The  Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair were "re-workings of historical crimes." Now, in the third book in her mystery series, Two for Sorrow, author Nicola Upson supposes that Josephine Tey planned another historical mystery, working on it in 1935.

In 1903, two British women were hanged at Holloway Prison for the deaths of newborn babies. Amelia Sach and Annie Walters were known as the notorious "Finchley baby farmers," and it's that story Tey intends to fictionalize. As Tey researches the stories of the two women, she shares chapters of that intended book. But, the actions of those women, and those around them, have consequences that reach into Tey's own life.

Tey is staying in London at Cowdray Club, a social club for nurses and other professional women. Celia Bannerman, who manages the club, had been one of Josephine's teachers during the war. She was also one of the wardens who watched over Amelia Sach before her death. But the people, and the relationships, are very complicated in the book, in Tey's life, and in the story of Sach and Walters.

Josephine's lover was killed at the Somme, and his closest friend, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, is her friend as well. Archie's cousins are two well-connected designers who are creating gowns for  women for the Cowdray Club's upcoming gala. When a young seamstress is brutally murdered in their shop, with another body found at the bottom of the stairs, Archie and his assistant, Sergeant Bill Fallowfield, investigate the case, discovering unusual connections to Amelia Sach.

Upson brilliantly incorporates true crime, actual celebrities of Tey's time, such as Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward, and fictional characters. Through Tey's writing, she brings the story of Sach, Walters, and other baby farmers to life, women who made money out of the large number of unwanted children in the early 20th century in England. She also brings the 1930s to life, with stories of life in England after WWI. Women took on new roles during the war, lost prospective husbands, and were then sometimes pushed aside when the war ended, expected to return to their old roles. Upson's writing is lush, evocative of the period.

Two for Sorrow is not just a mystery. It delves into Josephine Tey's personal life. Who was this woman who had two pseudonyms, lived in various locations, was a successful, famous author? Was she attracted to other women, as indicated in a diary written by an actress? In this book, she struggles with emotional involvement, torn between Archie and a woman, two people who claim to love her. An Expert in Murder and Angel with Two Faces introduced Nicola Upson and her version of Josephine Tey to crime fiction readers. Two for Sorrow delves deeper into the mystery of Tey herself.

Archie Penrose is actually the detective in the book, building on the research Tey already did. Penrose, in fact, is the more sympathetic character. He's a police detective who is struck with the realization that the young seamstress' death has an affect on the atmosphere in the building, as well as all the people connected to the victim. He doesn't see a murder as the story of a crime or an investigation, but the story of "how people pick up from there and carried on with their lives." That phrase sums up the murders in 1935, as well as the events surrounding the baby farmers. How did people carry on with their lives?

Upson succeeds in forcing readers to question beliefs. Who was Josephine Tey? Where is the equality in the justice system? Is it different for men and women? There are important questions in this quietly powerful mystery. What are repercussions of murder? Two for Sorrow asks readers to think about the consequences to all actions. How do people carry on with life after tragedy?

Nicole Upson's website is

Two for Sorrow by Nicole Upson. Harper. ©2010. ISBN 9780061451584 (paperback), 488p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent this book to participate in the TLC book tour.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winners and a Thrilling Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Kate White giveaway. Judy S. of Scottsdale, AZ and Sue F. of Crosslake, MN will receive Hush from the publicist. I will be sending The Sixes to Theresa N. of North Augusta, SC and and Pam K. of Elizabethtown, PA. The Sixes will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, we'll go to the thriller side for the giveaways. I have an autographed ARC of William Dietrich's Blood of the Reich. Bill just appeared for Authors @ The Teague, discussing this book that goes back to 1938 and a Nazi expedition to Tibet, with consequences that affect a young woman in present-day Seattle. Her car exploding in a parking lot is only the beginning of her race to understand why Neo-Nazis are after her, and what she has to do to prevent evil from arising in the world again.

Or, you could win another complex thriller, John Verdon's Shut Your Eyes Tight. It's graphic at times, but it presents a fascinating puzzle to retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney. Who killed a bride on her wedding day, disappearing without a trace? It's a story of evil that crosses generations.

Which thriller would you like to win, Blood of the Reich or Shut Your Eyes Tight? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win "Blood of the Reich" or "Win Shut Your Eyes Tight."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator. I'll notify the winners, and the books will go out the next day.

William Dietrich for Authors @ The Teague

I introduced William Dietrich as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for his coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but said he was at Velma Teague to discuss his fiction, particularly his latest book, Blood of the Reich. He's a New York Times bestselling author, and his books have been published in 31 languages.

He told the audience he grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in the Tacoma area. He wrote all his life. But, he needed to make a living, so he was a newspaper reporter for 35-40 years, much of that for the Seattle Times. In the 80s and 90s, he covered some interesting stories, including the Exxon Valdez, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Dietrich said his claim to fame was his book, The Final Forest, which was set in Forks, Washington. He wrote the entire book with no vampires in it. (Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books are set in Forks.)

Dietrich wrote nonfiction to make a living, books about the Columbia River, plants. But, he had a hankering to do fiction. He covered science for the Seattle Times, and had been to Antarctica twice under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. He wanted to write about it. The Nazis had sent an expedition to Antarctica before World War II. They wanted to claim a piece of it for Germany. They hoped to get sperm whale oil for fighter engines, because it was the best oil. That was the kernel of Bill's first novel, Ice Reich. It went from Alaska to Germany to Antarctica.

William Dietrich writes both fiction and nonfiction. He's written ten novels, what he calls historical thrillers. They all have some grounding in history. Two are set before World War II. There are four Napoleonic books. One is set in the Australian Outback. Bill said he is interested in geography and science. He likes interesting settings such as Egypt during the Napoleonic period. His next book, coming out in June is set in the Caribbean. He said it's the greatest scam in the U.S., to be able to travel, and write it off on taxes. It's fun. He's curious about science, history, geography. He likes to put something in fiction that is based on history. He told us that he reads boring things so you don't have to, and then he puts the juicy parts in his novels.

Bill's first three novels were published by Warner; then he switched to HarperCollins. Two books were set in the late Roman Empire. Hadrian's Wall was set in Scotland. The follow-up, The Scourge of God, was about Attila the Hun. The main character in that is based on a real-life person, a negotiator for the Romans.

The Roman novels are a little serious. Dietrich lightened up his next series, creating Ethan Gage, a rogue, a wastral, a gambler, a sharpshooter, and a womanizer. The books are set in the Napoleonic era. In Napoleon's Pyramids, Gage's gambling wins him a medallion that is part of the plot. He's caught up in the Egyptian campaign of 1798 in which Napoleon conquered Egypt. He also tried to conquer the Holy Land, which few people seem to know. There are signs in the Holy Land indicating Napoleon's route on that campaign. This book, though, involves the mystery of the Great Pyramid. Men found there way in, but there was only an empty sarcophagus.

In The Rosetta Key, Ethan is embroiled in the search for the Book of Thoth and the Rosetta Stone. Part of the book is set in Jordan at the ruins of Petra.

The Dakota Cipher finds Gage in trouble with Napoleon's married sister, a bit of a rogue herself. The mystery involves the Kensington runestone, a stone that seems to indicate that the Norse were in the middle of Minnesota over one hundred years before Columbus came to the New World.

Photo by Bette Sharpe, Glendale Daily Planet
The most recent book in the series, The Barbary Pirates, takes Ethan back to the European theater, to the Mediterranean. This story involves the legendary mirror of Archimedes, a giant mirror that was supposed to have been able to focus the sun's rays and set opposition ships on fire. It was supposedly used against the Romans in 213 B.C. The story also incorporates the fact that Robert Fulton built a working submarine for the French in 1800. They decided it was impractical, and that was the end of the submarine for decades, until the American Civil War. But, in The Barbary Pirates, Ethan enlists Robert Fulton and other scientists to use the weapons against the Pasha of Tripoli. Bill that this was a timely book, with recent developments in the news with pirates and this area. The next Ethan Gage book is due out June 1, 2012.

Dietrich's latest book, Blood of the Reich, is the most complex in terms of structure. It takes place in Tibet. In 1938, Tibet was the forbidden kingdom, the home of the Dalai Lama, who was three years old at that time. No one was able to get in, except for the British, who bludgeoned their way in. Tibet was a tremendous mystery in 1930. James Hilton used it in his book, Lost Horizon, which came out a few years before 1938. His book was based on the legend of the lost kingdom of Shambhala.

In real life, the Nazis were intrigued by Tibet. There were odd stories of that country, stories of strange flying machines, and Tibetan holy men with strange powers. One legend was of a secret energy source, Vril. If the Germans could find it, and tap it, it would give them a leg up.

As background, Dietrich used a nonfiction book called Himmler's Crusade, about SS Nazis in Tibet in 1938. No one is sure what they were doing there. Were they looking for underground caverns? Were they looking for the truth about the Aryan race? Goebbels sent a message to the German newspapers saying this was a political and military expedition, not a scientific one, and it was not to be covered. When the Nazis returned, war broke out, and no one ever found out what the expedition actually was about.

So, William Dietrich wrote Blood of the Reich, a fiction story, saying that expedition to Tibet was critical to WWII, and critical to today. The story begins in Berlin in 1938, with a meeting between Himmler and the villain, Kurt Raeder. Raeder had been on an expedition to Tibet, financed by American explorer Benjamin Hood. Now, Himmler sends Raeder and an expedition back to Tibet, to search for the truth about the secrets there.

Bill told us Heinreich Himmler was the second most powerful man in German. He was also a mystic, and a romantic. He was a fan of King Arthur, and thought he himself was the reincarnation of a medieval king. There seemed to be a connection between Germany and Tibet because the swastika was based on the Hindu and Buddhist symbol of good luck. In Blood of the Reich, he sends a research team of SS men to Tibet to test his wacky theories.

In the second chapter, Dietrich takes readers to modern day Seattle, and introduces Rominy Pickett, who is shopping at a grocery store when she notices a man in the frozen foods who seems to be following her. Rominy has her own wacky theories of what a future partner should be buying in the store, not frozen food. She prefers the wine section. But as the man follows her, she begins to worry, and hurries out of the grocery store. He tackles her in the parking lot, just as her beloved Mini Cooper explodes. He says, "I just saved your life." Jake Barrow, a journalist with the Seattle Times, tells her a story of her ancestor Benjamin Hood, and her own past, including a story of an inheritance, and that she is not really Rominy Pickett. There are connections to the past, and now Neo-Nazis are hunting her. Rominy and Jake unravel the mystery.

Back to 1938, when the Nazis are going to Shambhala. The American government has dispatched Benjamin Hood to Tibet, to learn what the Nazis are doing. He has the help of a female biplane pilot, dispatched by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.

As a science reporter, Bill is fascinated by physics and particle detectors. He incorporated that in the book. If the Nazis are after Vril, he can imagine such an energy that hasn't been detected yet. Physicists say 96% of the universe is made of stuff we don't know what it is. Physicists infer its presence because of galaxies clumping together, and the way they are flying apart. In real life, there is a Super Collider in Switzerland in which scientists are searching for the fundamental particles of the universe, the "God particle."

Blood of the Reich has a lurid title, but it has action, romance, and love triangles. Dietrich said he was puzzled by the appeal of Nazi leadership. But, many subcultures, including some fundamentalists, find great comfort from identity with a group, and take pride in being told they are special. The Nazis told the German people that they're better than others. They're the Master Race, the Aryan race. They appealed to the German heritage and genealogy and told them they were special. Bill said he plays around with the people and relationships in the book. Who are they really?

When Bill was asked how he dreams up this stuff, he said it's hard to explain to his wife that he's hard at work when he's lying on the couch staring at the ceiling. He gets lots of his ideas from nonfiction. He's also inspired by place. He loves research.

He sets Raeder's meeting with Himmler at Hinnler's castle, Wewelsburg. Himmler modeled a lot of it on the Vatican. He modeled the SS on the Jesuits with their black clothing. He wanted to create his own knighthood. There's an observatory there, and a crypt, although it isn't clear who was to be buried in the crypt. There's a sunwheel in the middle of the castle, and there was to be a round table there, inspired by King Arthur. The twelve chairs around it were designed for the SS, and, after the war, they would rule the world from there.

One man in the audience mentioned the war against the Nazis in Italy, and wanted to know why there wasn't much written about that. Dietrich answered that authors have a problem. Publishers only want stories about what people already know. He was at a conference for historical fiction novelists when they discussed that.

In answer to another question, he said he does do his own research. He can't afford to hire someone to do it, and he likes to control his research. James Michener did have staff members do research. Some authors, such as James Patterson and Clive Cussler, are so successful they don't write their own novels. Bill saw five people on a panel who were writing Clive Cussler's books. Dietrich still writes his books the old-fashioned way.

Fiction or non-fiction? He likes writing fiction better because he can make things up. He has the freedom to invent characters and make things up. He can say anything he wants in fiction.

William Dietrich then closed out the program with the book signing for Blood of the Reich.

William Dietrich's website is

Blood of the Reich by William Dietrich. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780061989186 (hardcover), 432p.

William Dietrich and Lesa Holstine (photo by Bette Sharpe, Glendale Daily Planet)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel

Don't pick up Margaret Coel's The Perfect Suspect expecting to find a Father John and Vicky Holden mystery set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Denver is the second home of the Arapaho, and it's the home of Coel's other series character, investigative journalist Catherine McLeod. The other thing you don't want to do is pick this up expecting a traditional mystery. The Perfect Suspect is a suspense novel in which we know the murderer from the first page. But, Catherine McLeod needs to show the world who the killer is. Who would believe the investigating police detective killed a gubernatorial candidate?

Ryan Beckman killed David Mathews because the ambitous frontrunner in the race for governor wanted to end their affair. And, the police detective knew how to leave no traces, how to plant the evidence on Mathews' estranged wife, and how to uncover the few witnesses who might be able to link her romantically to the victim. She was so lucky to be assigned the high-profile case. She wasn't as lucky that an anonymous witness called Catherine McLeod, and the journalist believed the caller.

There are actually no spoilers in that summary. The Perfect Suspect pits two strong women against each other, one digging for truth while the other covers it up. The reader sees the inner workings of the murder case from three sides, two of them belonging to Ryan Beckman. Beckman is a killer, and the investigating detective who makes the case against someone else. Catherine McLeod suspects Beckman, and understands why the anonymous witness can't call the cops. Beckman is stacking the deck in her favor. McLeod, who was forced to kill a man to save herself, still has problems with that death. So, she can't understand the ruthless Beckman. "What kind of woman can shoot a man - and go on killing?" It's not in Catherine's nature to do that. But, it is in her nature to continue to fight for the truth while placing herself in danger. Catherine is the biggest threat to Beckman's story, something Ryan Beckman knows

The Perfect Suspect is a novel of deception. David Mathews wasn't the man he appeared to be. Beckman certainly isn't the good officer she appears to be. She's a ruthless killer, willing to eliminate anyone who can tie her to Mathews. Even Catherine McLeod is forced to deceive her police detective boyfriend as she investigates a fellow officer. And, The Perfect Suspect itself? It's not a mystery. It's an intriguing novel of suspense.

Margaret Coel's website is

The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2011. ISBN 9780425240480 (hardcover), 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sandie's Corner - Happy Birthday, Sandie

Free Fcebook Orkut and My Space Happy Birthday Graphics Glitters

There really is a book review today. Sandie did a book review of Tess Gerritsen's latest book, The Silent Girl. You can read it below. But, I wanted to take a moment to wish Sandie Herron a Happy Birthday. She's one of the best friends a mystery writer, reviewer, or reader can have.

Happy Birthday, Sandie!

Sandie's Corner - The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

By Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books 2011 (July 5, 2011)
ISBN 9978-0-345-51550-6

I had the temptation to write this review “Jeopardy” style giving you the answers and then you finding the corresponding question.  Why?  Because there is so much detailed information given in Tess Gerritsen’s tenth entry in the Rizzoli and Isles mystery series. 

First of all, the book is written mostly from the point of view of Boston Homicide Detective Jane Rizzoli, but occasionally it switches to another character.  While firmly rooted in today, the book refers often to events from 19 years ago.  Multiple families and detectives are involved.  There are three distinct lines of crime interwoven with each other.  If I had this book as an assignment to write, I think I would have a huge white board covered with scribbles to help me keep everything straight because as the author, I wouldn’t want to confuse the reader by slipping up even once.  As a reviewer, I made a mini version of just that, and it measures 8 ½ x 11 inches. 

I hope I haven’t scared you away.  In the end, I didn’t need my “cheat sheet,” and neither will you.  Tess Gerritsen is a master of storytelling.  The fact that she can tell a multi-level story in multiple layers of time and bring them all together in the end shows how phenomenal an author she is.  And these aren’t just nice stories about the weather.  These are solid mysteries with lots of suspense and thrills that tingle your spine and set your hair on end.

In today’s time period, we are quickly introduced to murder.  A severed hand is found on the street in Boston’s Chinatown, so the homicide squad is called.  It is dark, but Jane Rizzoli and her partner Bobby Frost go up to the roof of the nearby building where they find the body the hand belonged to with its throat almost slashed through.   The people in Chinatown are fearful and say many ghosts live there.  By dawn medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles is checking over the body to allow it to be moved.  One thing beyond the obvious stands out as unusual – several silver strands of hair on the victim’s black clothing.

The victim had a GPS unit with two locations input – one is for retired Detective Lou Ingersoll’s home where we are introduced to one plot pointing to the past – the disappearances of many young girls over 20 years ago.  In addition, by the time Jane and Bobby reach Ingersoll’s house, he has been murdered.  The perpetrator is just fleeing the scene so Jane and rookie Detective Tam chase after him for several blocks when Jane suddenly receives assistance in stopping the perpetrator and saving her own life.  She sees the same face Bobby Frost saw on that rooftop of a tall monkey with a black face and silver hair and carrying some kind of sword that makes a swooshing sound through the air when used.  Now Jane begins to doubt herself until Bobby verifies her story and pulls a few of those silver hairs from her blood-soaked clothing.

Getting back to the lab with Lou Ingersoll’s body, both Bobby and Jane talk with Maura Isles.  She does not help them feel any better.  She has just received word from a wildlife institute where she sent one of those gray hairs; they belong to a monkey.  When the three look up a photo, it is exactly what Bobby and Jane have seen.  Seeing the same photo, Detective Tam walks over to them and explains the Chinese legend of the Monkey King.  “He is from sacred flesh and travels to heaven to learn the wisdom of the gods, but he gets into all sorts of trouble.  He is not evil, just impulsive and mischievous, like a real monkey.”  There are many, many stories of him doing both good and causing trouble.  Almost like fairy tales or today’s superheroes.  Now we have all learned something based in the past intertwined with something in the present day.  It gives me chills.

The second entry in the GPS unit of the murdered woman from the rooftop was that for the Dragon and Stars Martial Arts Academy run by Iris Fang.  All are surprised when she acknowledges that she knows Lou Ingersoll. 

Criminal psychologist Lawrence Zucker puts the detectives’ confusion straight when he explains the biggest piece from the past, one that retired Detective Ingersoll was looking into . . . Nineteen years ago there was a massacre at the Red Phoenix Chinese Restaurant.  The owner and cook, Wu Weimin, came out of the kitchen and killed his waiter and friend, James Fang, husband to Iris Fang.  Customer Joey Gilmore, waiting for his boss’s takeout order, was shot in the back of his head; Joey’s boss was a man connected to organized crime.  Diners Arthur Mallory, CEO of an investment firm, and his new wife Dina Mallory were murdered next.  And then Wu Weimin shot himself.  Weimin was a married Chinese illegal immigrant whose wife and daughter disappeared quickly after he died.  According to Zucker, this was a case of “amok” followed by suicide.  Jane described it more like “going postal.”  Somehow Ingersoll saw a connection to the fact that Laura Fang, then 14 years old, vanished two years before her father died.  Charlotte Dion, daughter of Dina Mallory, disappeared while on a school field trip at age 17. 

There is more investigation into the girls disappearing, but I don’t want to spoil the story or the ending of this awesome mystery.  There are many, many more details, clues, and investigation into all the aspects of the massacre and Ingersoll’s death.  How Tess Gerritsen ties them all up, quite satisfactorily, too, is amazing.  We even learn more about the monkey king.

I have always been a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s writings.  From the first suspense/thriller she wrote, HARVEST, I have enjoyed her books.  They have all been impressive.  THE SILENT GIRL is no different.  It is a spectacular work of art, a magnificent novel.  I don’t think the girl was quite so silent after all.

Tess Gerritsen's website is

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn

I loved Carrie Vaughn's Discord's Apple, and hosted her for Authors @ The Teague shortly after that book came out. But, I never read any of the Kitty Norville books, the stories of the werewolf and radio personality, the novels that made Vaughn a New York Times bestselling author. Kitty's Greatest Hits, a collection of stories, is the perfect place to start for an introduction to Kitty, her friends, and her world.

I'd recommend readers start with the Author's Notes at the back of the book before even starting the first story. There, Vaughn gathered her thoughts to discuss the origin stories for Kitty and her friends. These are stories of supernatural beings forced to cope in the "real world." And, then she provides a short analysis for each story, telling why the adventure fits in the body of work, who the characters are. Quite often, these stories were the genesis for ideas that grew into the novels.

Even if you're tired of those romanticized vampire stories, don't hesitate to pick up this anthology. Vaughn doesn't glamorize the life of a werewolf or a vampire. These are fascinating, realistic accounts. "The Book of Daniel" is an interesting interpretation of Daniel in the lions' den. Two of the stories feature Cormac Bennett, a hunter of werewolves. The novella here even finds him jailed for manslaughter, trapped in a haunted prison. Vaughn accounts for supernatural beings in all aspects of history, from ancient Babylonia and medieval England to the contemporary world and a secret government laboratory. And, of course, there are a couple Kitty Norville tales.

I'm impressed with Carrie Vaughn's imagination and creativity. Kitty's Greatest Hits provided an opportunity for her to explore time periods and different characters. She has wonderful storytelling skills. Although all but one of these was a short story, Vaughn is still able to develop her characters, and give them depth. I finished the book as a fan of the storyteller. Now, I need to find  time to go back and read her Kitty Norville novels and meet up with these characters again.

Carrie Vaughn's website is

Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn. TOR, from Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. ©2011. ISBN 9780765329578 (paperback), 320p.

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

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SoWest, So Wild by Desert Sleuths Chapter Sisters in Crime

I always pick up a new story collection by Desert Sleuths Chapter Sisters in Crime with anticipation. What twisted stories of crime will they offer now? They've taken us through the holidays with the anthology, How NOT to Survive the Holidays, and shown us how threatening it can be to leave home with How NOT to Survive a Vacation. Now, twenty authors prove that the West is just as violent, just as dangerous as it ever was, in SoWest, So Wild, a collection of original Wild West tales.

When the members of Desert Sleuths, the Arizona Chapter of Sisters in Crime, were invited to submit stories for this anthology, they were given just a few guidelines. The story had to be previously unpublished and less than 4,000 words. The story could be set in any time period, but it had to be set in the Southwestern United States. This left the creative opportunities wide open.

And, the authors certainly used that creativity. There are stories of Navajo ghosts and murder; the age-old rivalry between brothers and sisters, with an unusual twist with sisters. There are stories that prove the Old West wasn't quite as romantic as pictured. These are stories of a haunted West where assistance comes from unexpected quarters. Many of the stories show the influence on the past in present-day Arizona and the Southwest. There's even humor in some of the crime stories, such as the one in which a Jewish detective from the East ends up dealing with cattle-rustling.

In stories of Native Americans, ghosts, murder, and dastardly deeds, the Desert Sleuths capture the atmosphere of violence that still lingers in the Southwest today. The Southwest never was a peaceful place, and twenty authors manage to put their fingers on a pulse that still throbs with heat and passion. Don't think that the unusual characters and the violence in the West ever died. The Desert Sleuths Chapter Sisters in Crime prove otherwise in the collection filled with criminal mischief, SoWest, So Wild.

Desert Sleuths' website is, and purchase information is available on the website.

SoWest, So Wild: Twenty Wild West Tales from the Desert Sleuths Chapter Sisters in Crime. DS Publishing. ©2011. ISBN 9780982977418 (paperback), 217p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of the book in order to blurb it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hot, Shot, and Bothered by Nora McFarland

Don't let the cover of Nora McFarland's Hot, Shot, and Bothered fool you. It's far from a chick lit mystery, although the jumping character might give you that idea. It's a mystery involving TV news, a wildfire, environmental issues, and, most important in a murder mystery, someone who truly cares about the victim.

Lilly Hawkins is a TV news photographer, a shooter, for a small station in Bakersfield, California. She's covering what could be the biggest assignment of her career, a deadly wildfire heading toward the town of Elizabeth Lake. But, Lilly recognizes a second story when she sees it, the coroner's van heading into the mountains, while other cars are heading out of town. She follows her instincts, only to be disappointed when she learns the body of a drowning victim was pulled from the lake. Not quite the story she was looking for, since everyone tells her it was a woman who drank and partied, and no loss to the community. But, pushy Lilly thinks she can make a story by interviewing the victim's brother, a hotshot, one of the men on the frontline fighting the wildfire. Lilly's blindsided when she realizes she knew the victim, someone from the years when she herself was reckless and irresponsible, a reputation she deserved, but the victim, Jessica Egan, didn't. And, the fact that no one cares about Jessica, including her brother, bothers Lilly, a lot.

One other thing bothers Lilly. Jessica had a shoulder injury, and couldn't have started the motor of the old boat she was supposed to have been in. The Jessica Lilly knew wasn't irresponsible. In fact, she had taken a hit for Lilly's bad behavior and covered for her. Even then, in her teens, Jessica was concerned about the environment, fighting to save a salamander that made its home in the preserve now endangered by the fire. Something didn't sit right, and Lilly is determined to investigate the death she thinks was murder, even if it means she is "Fixin' to lose your job, your man, and get ill of the cops all in one night." The TV station and the media world might have thought the wildfire and the governor arriving were the story of the day. To Lilly, the story is the possible murder of someone who took the responsibility for her own impetuous, careless actions. And, she will use everyone, including her boyfriend, Rod, and her uncle, to make her case.

Hot, Shot, and Bothered is the second mystery to feature Lilly Hawkins, following A Bad Day's Work. McFarland, who worked for CNN, understands the news junkie, the person who will do anything for a story. Lilly is a fascinating character, a woman determined to be independent and strong in a man's world.  She's afraid to be vulnerable, and hides her vulnerability behind her camera.  Even so, this woman with a tough exterior cares about a victim she hasn't seen in years. In the Jessica Egan the community thought they knew, Lilly Hawkins sees herself and her past. In so many ways, she needs to make amends.

McFarland fills the story with intriguing characters, Lilly, Rod, Lilly's Uncle Bud, and the entire TV news team, as well as the female firefighter, Tracy Bell. Bud, the endangered salamanders (not lizards), and some of the staff of the TV station add touches of humor. Nora McFarland adds themes of a dangerous wildfire, an environmental group, the news business, and, of course, the tragedy of a death. Lilly Hawkins might be an adrenaline junkie, but the reader will feel as if they've been running on adrenaline after reading Hot, Shot, and Bothered.

Nora McFarland's website is

Hot, Shot, and Bothered by Nora McFarland. Simon & Schuster. ©2011. ISBN 9781439155561 (paperback), 304p.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kate White at the Poisoned Pen

It must not be easy to be Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. When Barbara Peters from the Poisoned Pen invited me to a small luncheon to meet her, and hear White talk about her latest book, The Sixes, I panicked. What do you wear to lunch with the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan? I had to get a new dress. And, I know I wasn't the only one who went out to buy something new. Lunch was wonderful at T.Cook's. But, most important, Kate White was warm and charming. It was a treat to meet her, and hear her. I was so impressed I went to the Poisoned Pen that night to hear her presentation.

Barbara Peters introduced Kate White, saying she first met her through her friend, Sarah Ann Freed, White's editor at Mysterious Press. White is the author of five books in the Bailey Weggins mystery series, as well as two standalones, Hush and The Sixes, her latest book involving mean girls. Then, Peters turned the program over to Kate.

White told us she needed a break from Cosmopolitan, a break from writing cover lines such as, "Mattress Moves So Hot His Thighs Go Up in Flames." When we laughed, she asked, "Who do you think writes those lines?" Kate always wanted to write mysteries and thrillers. She was a Nancy Drew fan as a kid. She went to New York after college, thinking she would write plays, write for newspapers and magazines. Then she realized she had to pick one. She had won a contest for Glamour, so she picked magazines. And the dream of writing mysteries faded as she worked for Redbook.

White said her New York experience didn't start out as she expected. Her brother, Jim, took her to the train station. Then, he pointed out an older man, and told her he asked him to keep track of her on the train. Kate felt as if she was handcuffed to him, because he stuck with her, and sat with her. She noticed a number of strange looks, but just thought it was the older man, younger woman situation. It was only when she returned from the restroom that she realized why people gave her those looks. She noticed the emblem on his blazer, Green Haven Correctional Institution.

By the time White was a wife and mother, and editor of Redbook, she realized she still wanted to try to write mysteries. She had to try. She said you could drain the swamp at the same time you slayed the alligators. Draining the swamp was the big picture of writing mysteries, while the alligators represented the day-to-day life. So, she decided to write just on Saturdays and Sundays, for at least fifteen minutes. By the time she had four chapters written, Sarah Ann was interested.

Then, thirteen years ago this week, on a Sunday, her boss asked her to come in to work. She drove in, and was told she was going to be the new editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. There had been no rumors of a turnover. When Kate's husband came home with the kids, he asked about the news. When she told him about her new job, he had a big grin on his face, and said, "Wait. I'm going to bed tonight with the editor of Cosmo?" She said it wasn't like she was given the Kama Sutra, and learned it in four hours. Once again, her mystery was set aside.

At Christmas, White pulled out the four chapters to look at them and see if there was any chance she could get back to writing the book. Then, she saw she had killed off the nanny, and she had her lying on a copy of Cosmo. She took that as a sign, and went back to her Saturday and Sunday writing sessions. In March 2012, her sixth Bailey Weggins will be out.

Kate did a quick summary of The Sixes. Phoebe Hall, a celebrity biographer leaves town to lick her wounds while teaching at a small college. She had been accused of plagiarism. The university president was an old friend. They had both been scholarship students together at a boarding school. When a missing girl turns out to have been drowned, there are rumors she had been in The Sixes, a group of mean girls. However, there's another drowning and a murder, and Phoebe isn't sure if The Sixes are responsible.

Then, White said she was going to answer three questions that are asked often. What is your writing process? She was in her late 40s when she started to write fiction. Kate calls the process "Writer's souffle." It takes certain ingredients to make it come together. In her twenties, she never got around to writing. Even the right kind of desk comes into play. At one time, she had a rolltop, and she felt penned in. She can only write early in the morning. And, she found the genre she wanted to write. Mysteries and thrillers are her thing.

Kate had a joke. A woman went to a fortune teller, and gave her $20. The fortune teller looked at her palm, and gave her the money back, saying I can't tell you. But, the woman insisted, saying she could take it. The fortune teller said, "I see a man, maybe your husband, in a pool of blood. He has seventy stab wounds." The woman thought a moment, then said, "Will I be acquitted?" White said she loves those kind of questions.

Where do you get your ideas is the second question she's asked. They're from the outside in. She pulls together germs of ideas. She used The Sixes for an example. She had a mean girl experience herself at seventeen. She was intrigued by someone regrouping her life. There were stories of a series of male college students in the Midwest who had drowned. White clips things. The ideas "hook up."

The third question is, how do you do it with a full-time job. Kate considers herself a serial achiever of things. She didn't fiction while her kids were little. Accepting that starting to write in your 40s isn't terrible.

White used an anecdote to tell what her life was like when the kids were small. Her husband anchored the news in NYC at night, so she was essentially a single mom at night. One night he called, and she told him what they'd done that evening, they had dinner, and she and Hudson did baths, etc. There was a pause, and he said, "His name is Hunter, not Hudson."

She told us she read two time management books that were particularly helpful. One was How to Get Control of Your Life. The other was a book by Ed Bliss. He told a story about slicing the salami. He said it's hard to do anything with a big piece of salami. But, it's like doing a project. If you slice the salami into pieces, put it on a beautiful white Italian platter, it's appealing. So, she decided she could break the writing down. She began by writing for fifteen minutes on Saturday and Sunday. Now, she writes for four hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Barbara Peters said she couldn't stay silent any longer. She wanted to talk about The Sixes. It's a different kind of story. It's Gothic and creepy. It's a campus mystery with terrible crimes and the halls of academia. It's kind of like a country house mystery, with an Agatha Christie community.

Kate said she loves Agatha Christie books with the weekend type whodunits. She loves the idea of setting mysteries someplace like a country house. White is intrigued by campuses. She went to college at an old campus, founded in the 1700s. She was in the first co-ed class. Theoretically, there was a ghost at the school. She researched the ghost, and found out it was the 300th anniversary of the ghost that year. The ghost even appeared in a listing of ghost hauntings in schools. A couple months later, a guy was sent to see her because he had a weird experience. He was walking above Jackson's Garden, and he was hurled across the road. When she checked on it, she discovered it happened on the 300th anniversary to the day of the ghost's death.

Peters and White mentioned Sherlock Holmes and the "Hound of the Baskervilles" while discussing big houses in mysteries. Peters said the revival of Gothics demands big houses. People's taste in reading runs in cycles, and it appears the Gothic novel is back with the heroine in peril. Kate said Bailey doesn't fit in the Gothic mode. She's too flip and irreverent. Barbara quoted P.D. James with one of her favorite lines about the Gothic atmosphere. It's "Wonderful to lie in your bed and know the footstep you hear is not for you."

Peters liked the celebrity biographer as a sleuth. Some have used true crime writers. Nancy Pickard comes to mind. But, a celebrity biographer is different. Kate agreed, saying even hard-boiled thrillers demand a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Phoebe Hall, a celebrity biography, brings her skills to bear. She has research skills, and she's a good listener. She uses those skills. And, there have been a number of accusations of plagiarism lately. Barbara commented that plagiarism is harder to define with the Internet. It's easy to steal, and easy to be caught, too.

Barbara asked Kate what she sees as the future of print magazines, as the editor of a major magazine. White said she doesn't know. They're preparing many platforms at Cosmo. There are over 6 million unique hits on their website. That has different content from the magazine. There's a Cosmo for Guys that is online only, an app for the iPad. There's Cosmo for Nook. She's assuming that Cosmo will still be around twenty years from now, in a print version, but different, probably with a smaller format.

Peters has said before that digital books are wonderful for backlist and short stories. For instance, Marcia Muller's earlier books are out of print. White said she thinks people will always want to give hardcover books as gifts. What neither of them really understood, although Peters has seen it, is why anyone would want authors to sign their electronic device.

They said no one predicted blogs ten years ago. You just have to be nimble, light on your feet. We don't know what's happening in the future. White said when she took over at Cosmo, it was the first time she wasn't in the age group of the target audience of the magazine. She's a solid baby boomer, and the magazine targets Gen X and Gen Y. That's who she works with at the magazine. It's their point of view. She aware of the youth culture. They're unafraid of technology. Kate said when she leaves Cosmo, she wants to stay involved somehow with the younger audience and the technology.

Barbara said one thing she learned from Cosmo was about the little bags packed to take to work, containing the little necessary items in case you "hook up" and sleep over. White said it's so lame to show up for work the next day in the same outfit. She has a girl do that in the Bailey Weggins book, and try to cover by wearing her jacket differently.

After she leaves Cosmo, Kate would love to do a book a year. She'd like to be active in social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as other authors do now. It's hard to do with a day job.

Hush, Kate White's other standalone, just came out in paperback. That's about a woman who works in marketing. White likes to have heroines related to her world, so she can do research. The woman is doing marketing work for a consulting company. She's in a custody battle with her husband. Then, she has a one-night stand with a doctor. She wakes up in the morning, and the doctor was stabbed to death. She leaves the scene because of the custody battle, and then senses someone is stalking her.

What triggers her ideas? She keeps clips. She heard a great idea from Laura Day about the creative process. When stuck, put the idea out to the universe. She did that, and was on the phone one day when the whole plot to her first book came to her. She has done that with, "How do I take Cosmo into the next decade?" You have to be receptive to things in the universe for your subconscious to work. With her second book, she was at the spa, and saw some of the tools there. That book takes place in a spa.

She tells people starting in the work world that they need to be receptive to the universe. A fashion editor told her about traveling in Egypt at a time she was undecided about her future. It was on that trip she realized she wanted to work with fashion. "Sometimes you have to be on the bus to Cairo to find what you want." White compares it to an amoeba. Ideas find each other. The more you can input, the better.

Why was there a five-year gap between Bailey Weggins mysteries? She was in the process of negotiating her contract. Her publisher at the time was pushing the series as chick lit, and White didn't see them that way. So, she changed publishers, and HarperCollins wanted her to wait to add any more Bailey Weggins books. So, she did two standalones before the next Bailey. She hopes people still want to see them.

I have my own autographed copy of The Sixes, and now, two lucky people could win autographed copies as well, and two will win a copy of Hush. Check Thursday's contest blog for details.

The Poisoned Pen did a webcast of Kate White's event. Here's the link,, if you'd like to see it. Or, you can watch it here.

Kate White's website is

The Sixes by Kate White. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780061576621 (hardcover), 384p.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Winners and a Kate White Contest

Congratulations to the winners in the Cleo Coyle contest. Murder By Mocha will go to JoAnn P. of Staten Island, NY. Patricia M. from San Antonio, TX won Roast Mortem. I'll notify Cleo tonight, and she'll be sending the books.

Yesterday, I reviewed Kate White's new book, The Sixes, and tomorrow I'll recap her program at the Poisoned Pen. So, I'm giving away Kate White's standalones this week.

Hush, was recently released in paperback, so the publicist is offering two copies of that novel.It's the story of a woman trapped by one mistake. The morning after a one-night stand, Lake Warren finds her partner murdered. She flees the scene, knowing if she's found there, she jeopardizes her custody battle. She's forced to lie to the police, and look for answers herself. However, Lake's secrets could prove to be deadly.

I have an autographed hardcover and an autographed ARC of Kate White's latest suspense novel, The Sixes. When a celebrity biographer tries to escape her notoriety by teaching at a small college, she finds herself caught up in the investigation of a secret group of girls, a mean group rumored to be "The Sixes." It's an investigation that leads to terror, and memories of her own past at a boarding school. Two lucky winners could get this terrific suspense novel.

Hush or The Sixes? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win Hush" or "Win The Sixes"  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, Aug. 25 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator. I'll notify the winners, and the books will go out the next day.

No Rest for the Wicked by Elizabeth C. Main

Elizabeth C. Main knows the way to a mystery reader's heart. No Rest for the Wicked is centered around an independent book store in which a small group of people form an unconventional book club, the Murder of the Month Book Club. After they solved one murder mystery in Murder of the Month, some of the members are chomping at the bit to be involved in a crime again.

Jane Serrano, the only sensible member of the group, manages Thornton's Books in Juniper, Oregon. She just wants life to return to normal so she can explore her feelings for Nick Constantine, a local attorney. However, things may never be back to normal. The murder of a con man has one group member convinced that someone from SOS, Save Our Seniors, might be the killer. After the group  met to discuss scams against the elderly, Minnie was willing to lead her friend Velda on a wild goose chase as they follow some of their elderly neighbors. Laurence Thornton, the bookstore's owner, is acting so strange that his sixteen-year-old grandson worries about his sanity. Jane's daughter, Bianca, is convinced her mother can solve the crime. When suspicion falls on Alix Boudreau, owner of Wedding Belle Bridal Shop, and Bianca's boss, everyone knows the sheriff has made a mistake again. But, no one knew Alix had once been married to the dead con man. When Alix asks Jane to help, the Murder of the Month Book Club rides again.

No Rest for the Wicked is a funny, touching mystery. The humor is wonderful. How can you resist a "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" wedding theme, with a one-eyed dog, Wendell, as a wedding escort, who happens to tangle with a porcupine? Main alleviates the weight of a mystery centered on elderly abuse, with quirky characters and funny scenes. She recognizes that even a con man has a grandmother that loves him, while showing the evil involved in scamming the elderly.

And, for those of us who are mystery lovers, there are book titles and authors discussed, everyone from Donna Leon to Eliot Pattison. However, the characters add the depth and variety to this story. It's wonderful to watch such a diverse group of characters come together to help each other in the Murder of the Month Book Club. The group ranges in age from sixteen to eighties, with the narrator, Jane, a forty-three-year-old widow.

Humor, a diverse cast of friends, a murder mystery, an independent book store, and, even a dog, are all brought together in Elizabeth C. Main's entertaining treat, No Rest for the Wicked.

Elizabeth C. Main's website is

No Rest for the Wicked. Elizabeth C. Main. Gale Cenpage Learning. ©2011. ISBN 9781432825041 (hardcover), 256p.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Sixes by Kate White

I originally picked up Kate White's latest suspense novel, The Sixes, knowing I was going to have the chance to meet her. But, somewhere in the first couple pages, she hooked me. I found her protagonist, an author named Phoebe Hall, interesting. Before I knew it, I was riveted, caught up in the story of Lyle College, a small Pennsylvania college with more than it's share of terrible problems. I was just as intrigued as Phoebe Hall was.

Phoebe originally took a short-term job teaching at Lyle College because she needed a place of refuge. Her life had crashed around her. Seven months earlier, her partner, Alec, left her for someone else, just after she returned from her latest book tour. Then, Phoebe, who made a living writing celebrity books, was falsely accused of plagiarism. The author who made her name exposing others' flaws found herself in the middle of a media frenzy. So, when her friend from boarding school, Glenda Johns, president of Lyle College, asked her to teach for a couple terms, she jumped at the chance to teach nonfiction writing courses. Maybe she could reinvent herself at a new location. Phoebe Hall should have looked before she leaped.

Lyle College was no refuge. When a student went missing, Glenda was afraid the disappearance might have something to do with a secret group of girls on campus, known only as The Sixes. With Phoebe's background in research, Glenda asks her to quietly dig around; see what she could learn about the group. It isn't long before Phoebe's questions led her back to her own past, when she herself was the target of a group of bullying mean girls. When the missing girl turns up dead, Phoebe suspects the girl might have been a member of the Sixes. When a second body turns up, it's not clear whether this group of girls is responsible. Could intimidation and bullying have led to murder, or are the rumors of a serial killer true? All signs seem to point back to the same students, girls who seem determined to scare Phoebe away from her investigation. How far could she push without arousing the ire of a killer? And, how evil could a group of college girls become?

Kate White's The Sixes is intense, and riveting. With cases all over the media about groups of girls who gang together for intimidation, the novel is timely. However, White skillfully twists the story so it's fresh, and surprising. Phoebe Hall works as a protagonist. She's an excellent researcher, a perfect amateur sleuth who uses her research and interviewing skills to great advantage. She's also a woman with her own past who can be scared and intimidated. Phoebe is not invincible, but she fights to survive. If you've been scared by the label that calls it a thriller, don't worry. White's book is creepy at times, but not graphic. It's in the vein of a Gothic novel, rather than a graphic thriller. White creates an atmosphere of shadows and fear that works perfectly. The Sixes is a suspense novel worth every fingernail biting moment. 

Kate White's website is

The Sixes by Kate White. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780061576621 (hardcover), 384p.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Merciless by Diana Palmer

Once again, I had the chance to read a bestselling author I've never read. Diana Palmer combines romance, suspense, and a fast-paced story in her latest novel, Merciless. I have a couple quibbles with the book, one of which has nothing to do with the author. But, even with the few issues, it was a book I couldn't put down.

Jon Blackhawk is an FBI agent in San Antonio who works on the Violent Crimes Squad, responsible for kidnapping, human trafficking, with crimes against children as his speciality. And, the crimes against his brother's family are ones that still haunt him. His brother, federal agent McKuen Kilraven, lost his wife and little girl to a gunman. But, the criminal family involved in the shootings continue to find a way to escape punishment.

Jon would be the silent, brooding type of agent, if it wasn't for his administrative assistant, paralegal Joceline Perry. She's smart, funny, and forthright. And, she runs Blackhawk's office efficiently. In fact, she's adept at protecting Jon, even if it's only from scheming women
who want to date him, or his overbearing mother, Cammy. And, Joceline, a single mother with a son to care for, can't let her attraction to her boss, interfere with her professionalism.

It's that same family of criminals who may interfere with their relationship. When Harold Monroe is released from jail, everyone knows he's threatened Jon for arresting him. And, Harold married into the family suspected of killing Kilraven's family. Connections are deeper than anyone suspected, and someone seems to know all of Jon's moves. It isn't long before the threats to Blackhawk extend to everyone he cares about, including Joceline and her son.  And, those threats just might drive them closer together, revealing secrets Joceline has tried to hide from everyone.

Diana Palmer creates terrific characters. I loved Joceline Perry from the beginning, with her wit, intelligence, and courage. Jon Blackhawk is a hunk, good-looking, intelligent, and compassionate. And, Palmer beautifully combines humor, suspense and romance in a fast-paced story. These are all the reasons she's a best-selling author, and deservedly so. As I said, I read Merciless straight through.

However, I did have two problems with the book. Palmer's complicated crime family, and various law enforcement agencies, made it difficult to follow the crime aspect of the story. There were too many people involved in that dimension of the story. Granted, such a complicated case would involve a number of agencies, but it took me a while to get a handle on the various characters involved.

My other issue with the book has nothing to do with the author. Check out the cover of the book, with the silhouette of a cowboy against a fiery sky. What does this have to do with the FBI in San Antonio and a romance? Granted, there is a section of the book set on Blackhawk's ranch in Oklahoma. But, there is no cowboy in the book, and no one rides a horse. Palmer may have a number of other romances featuring Texas ranchers, but, I don't think the publisher or the illustrator did Diana Palmer any favors with this cover illustration. Merciless is a romantic suspense novel with most of the story set in the city of San Antonio, and much of it in the offices of the FBI, not on some range.

That said, if you can get past the cover, which has nothing to do with the book, Diana Palmer's Merciless is an enjoyable romantic suspense novel with two terrific protagonists. So, pun intended, considering the cover, enjoy the ride.

Diana Palmer's website is

Merciless by Diana Palmer. Harlequin. ©2011. ISBN 9780373775798 (hardcover), 296p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sandie's Corner - Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles Books

Sandie's reading Tess Gerritsen's latest Rizzoli and Isles book, The Silent Girl, and hopes to have a review for us soon. In the meantime, she thought it might be interesting to take you back a little to a time when Gerritsen thought there would be just two books, not the successful series it has become, and eventually a TV series. Sandie's sharing her reviews of the first two books to feature Rizzoli and Isles.

By Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
August 21, 2001

Relentless.  Exhausting.  Exhilarating.  I find myself still reeling from the chase and the terror of this suspenseful tale.  I wanted to look away yet found myself so engrossed that I could not.  Everything in my life took a second seat as I raced through this new book by Tess Gerritsen.

Dr. Catherine Cordell has found a new life in Boston.  She has created a sterile sanctuary to which she can retreat in safety after her long days as a gifted surgeon.  She will no longer be out of control of any aspect of her life.  Safety and organization are keywords in her existence.  It is the horror and the terror of her attack in Savannah, Georgia two years before that drives her.  Those closest to her do not even know of these prior events, so powerful is her desire to not remain a victim.  The single outlet to her repressed pain is an anonymous Internet chat room.

And then the murders begin anew.  How could they?  She had killed her assailant.  Shot him herself.  There is no way that anyone could know all the details of the vicious assaults on the victims in Atlanta and then in Savannah.  The Boston police department is now examining three more identical attacks.  No one else could possibly be as cruel in their methods of torturing helpless women.  Yet the reality was indisputable. 

His nickname is The Surgeon.  These women in Boston are just practice until he can beat Catherine Cordell back in to submissive fear and terror.  Will she let him succeed?

The pace of this book was absolutely unmerciful, almost like The Surgeon himself.  Following the Boston Police Department piece together the details of numerous assaults was fascinating.  I had no time to think ahead of them, to come to my own conclusions, so quickly was the information presented. 

I found myself cheering on the character of Catherine Cordell, vulnerable from her previous encounter with a serial killer who viciously attacked her, afraid to get close to any man, wondering if she could ever trust again.  She is cool and detached in her professional life, expertly handling traumas in the ER, yet inside yearns for peace.  Never again would she not be in charge of her own life, as she had been once while lying helpless at the mercy of a serial killer.  She is frustrated that she cannot remember more of her own attack to help the Boston detectives catch this new murderer.  When a key detail is revealed, I was breathless with exhilaration to see where it would lead.

Having read Tess Gerritsen’s previous books Harvest, Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity, I was hoping to enjoy a fast paced, expertly told tale by this physician-turned-writer.  I was not the least bit disappointed.

One caveat to the reader.  Do not read this late at night and alone on a hot summer evening leaving your windows open for a breath of fresh air.  It could be deadly.


And now, if you’re ready, here’s the sequel…

By Tess Gerritsen
Pocket Books, August 20, 2002

It’s cliché to say a book kept you up all night, but in this sequel to last year’s THE SURGEON, there is no other way to say how riveted I was to turning the pages in this novel.  I found myself skipping over words to get to the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next step in figuring out who was killing in Boston.  And then the Surgeon is loose.

Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to the scene of a Newton homicide with hallmarks of the Surgeon written all over it.  A couple was brutalized, the man forced to watch his wife violated and then his throat was slashed.  A teacup left on his lap.  At first, all Rizzoli can see are similarities to the case she worked the summer before.  The one where she, herself, was a victim, still bearing the scars.  Then she tries to shake it off and go back to her own caseload spilling over her desk.

But it won’t go away.  A body is found in a city park, just days after her death.  Appallingly another body, this time months beyond death, is found nearby.  And then Warren Hoyt, the Surgeon, escapes from the operating room of a local hospital, leaving blood spurts on the walls from his new victims and a chilling clue on a videotape only Rizzoli will understand.

The tension just never lets up.  Rizzoli is still the only female detective in the Boston PD homicide division.  She feels the need to measure up to the guys and exceed their expectations.  She won’t let herself break down or crumble, even when viewing the autopsies of the bodies.  Yet her authority as lead on the case is being questioned by a “fibbie”, an FBI agent from Washington requested from higher authorities difficult to question.  Her lieutenant is concerned that her personal involvement with the Surgeon will underscore her new case.  Rizzoli professes that her fear will not interfere with the execution of her job.

Part of that job is attending the autopsies, which are vividly portrayed, definitely not for the weak of stomach.  The smells from the autopsy table wafted under my nose, so intense is the portrayal of the best of the best medical examiner teamed up with a forensic anthropologist.  We learn about the tiniest details that help identify the victims, including such facts as the stage of development of the fly papillae left behind, what evidence is left behind on the adhesive of duct tape, what happens to hair as it stays in a decomposing body, and how wounds taped back together can reveal the weapon that split it apart.  Fascinating medical and forensic information is included.

Yet what it all really gets down to is human emotion.  Tess Gerritsen has taken a chilling look at a vicious killer and entered his mind.  We learn of his fantasies, his secrets, his ambition.  Gerritsen also takes us into the mind of a fiercely determined female homicide detective and finds the source of her strength and her vulnerability.  What a fascinating dichotomy we witness.

Breathtaking in its intensity, this book raised the hairs on my arms, gave me shivers, fascinated me at every turn.  I won’t escape its images very soon.  Gerritsen took me on a roller coaster and loved watching me enjoy the thrills and chills of that ride.  She can sure write, and I hope she never stops.