Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Green Place for Dying by R.J.Harlick

It's not every author who can make a reader care deeply for a character despite a major flaw. R.J. Harlick manages that in the latest Meg Harris mystery, A Green Place for Dying.

Something in Meg Harris' background compels her to seek comfort in alcohol. Although, she knows she has a problem, and, despite help from friends, she continues to drink. Even when helping friends from the Migiskan Anishinabeg First Nations Reserve, she still finds herself drinking too much, woozy, and having trouble driving home. However, it's a wise woman from that tribe who helps her find answers. And, she in turn, is more than a friend to the women who live on the reserve.

Marie-Claude is French Canadian, but she's married to an Algonquin. When her daughter, Fleur, went missing after moving to Ottawa, she waited to reveal it, hoping her husband would find the missing young woman. It was only when the body of another young woman was found that Marie-Claude turned to the community for help. Even the local police chief, Will Decontie, is frustrated. The police in Ottawa and Quebec didn't want to waste money looking for an Indian. Meg's hands aren't tied, though. Her questions lead her to a job and social center for members of the First Nations. However, they also lead her to a biker gang, bars and prostitutes.

Meg is stunned to learn there are more than 580 missing aboriginal women in Canada. "In most cases nothing is being done to find them." Meg has made a promise to search for Fleur. However, she has help from Teht'ae daughter of the band chief, Erik Odjek. Erik was once Meg's lover, but the two broke up when Meg couldn't reveal her secrets, and she turned down his marriage proposal. When Meg and Teht'ae learn Erik is also missing, the search turns personal.

Harlick's A Green Place for Dying is a compelling story for so many reasons. It's shocking to read about the lack of interest in searching for missing women. Here in the southwest, we may be familiar with the murdered and missing women of Juarez, Mexico, but we know nothing about the Indian women missing in Canada. The story of the search for Fleur, and the mystery behind the disappearances, is riveting. Harlick includes details of native life, and the isolated world near the reserve. Meg Harris lives is a beautiful area of Canada, and Harlick is skilled in setting the reader in that region.

And, then, there's Meg Harris herself. As I said earlier, she's a flawed character. She drinks. She has a history of emotional problems. At the same time, she cares deeply for her friends, and endeavors to help them. Harlick makes us care for Meg, for the missing young women, and for other characters in the book. Harlick's books may not be well-known in the U.S., but, they're worth looking for. Anyone who appreciates complex, realistic characters, and a strong traditional mystery set in an unfamiliar environment should make an effort to look for A Green Place for Dying. You'll be shocked to discover what you've been missing.

Although the Kindle version of A Green Place for Dying is already available, the paper version will not be available until next week. And, Amazon will be carrying it, no matter how it looks at the present time.

R.J. Harlick's website is

A Green Place for Dying by R.J. Harlick. Dundurn. 2012. ISBN 9781926607245 (hardcover), 424p.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Upcoming Events

I just couldn't get through 400 pages in R.J. Harlick's A Green Place for Dying in one day. Review tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll just fill you in on a few of my upcoming book activities.

Saturday, March 10, I'm moderating a mystery panel at the Tucson Festival of Books. It's called "Cozies Deserve Respect, Too." It's a terrific slate of authors, Earlene Fowler, Avery Aames and Kate Carlisle. We'll be talking about their most recent books, and, of course, why cozy mysteries deserve respect. Earlene's most recent book is Spider Web. Clobbered by Camembert is Avery Aames' new book. And, Kate Carlisle's latest best seller is One Book in the Grave. I've hosted all these women for Authors @ The Teague, and they don't need a moderator. I'm sure it's going to be fun. If you're in Tucson on March 10, the panel is at 4 p.m.

The Monday after the Tucson Festival of Books, March 12, I'll be hosting three of the authors who appeared at the festival. Appearing for Authors @ The Teague at 2 p.m. that day will be Rhys Bowen, author of Hush Now, Don't You Cry, Cara Black, author of Murder at the Lanterne Rouge, and Libby Hellman, author of the forthcoming book, A Bitter Veil.

I'm truly honored to have the next opportunity. Barbara Peters from Poisoned Pen asked me to host Jacqueline Winspear for a Cheesecake and Crime Afternoon. Here's the information as it appears on Poisoned Pen's website. Join Jackie at T Cook’s Restaurant at The Royal Palms for a social hour and program about her new Maisie Dobbs mystery Elegy for Eddie (Morrow $26) while enjoying cheesecake, tea or coffee. Librarian Lesa Holstine is your host. It's $48. That includes a copy of the book. It's Monday, March 26 from 2:30 to 4. Here's the link to the Poisoned Pen's website, if you'd like the address, more information, or to make reservations.

April is busy, too. But, I'll save details until the events get closer. Two Authors @ The Teague events, Brad Parks and Jenn McKinlay; an interview with Cara Hoffman at The Poisoned Pen, and Kevin Hearne's release party for his new book.

A couple busy months coming up with book activities. And, the most important activity of all is at the end of March. Mom's coming to visit. Sorry, everyone. Can't top that. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

Anyone who follows this blog regularly knows I'm a sucker for good characters. And, no one creates better characters than Deborah Coonts. Las Vegas is the perfect setting for eccentric, odd, larger-than-life characters. Deborah Coonts' Lucky O'Toole is a star in the world of Las Vegas. And, she's the star in another top-notch funny, romantic story, So Damn Lucky.

Don't mess with a six-foot sexually frustrated woman. Lucky O'Toole's job as Head of Customer Relations, or "chief problem solver" at the Babylon, a megacasino on the Las Vegas Strip, might be exciting and interesting, but her love life is the pits. Her best friend and lover, Teddie, is somewhere in Europe, discovering himself as a rock star. Their conversations have been few and far between, and Lucky is beginning to suspect they might be drifting apart. So, she's fired up when she has to deal with the closing of an old casino, her manipulating parents, and Halloween in Vegas.

Ah, Halloween in Vegas. For Lucky that means the Bondage Ball, the Houdini Seance, the UFO crowd, and a group of magicians. And, the combination of the UFO crowd, Area 51, and those magicians spell trouble for Lucky, particularly when one of the magicians dies during a show. Then he, his assistant, and the paramedics all disappear.

It isn't long before Lucky is caught up in stories about Area 51, mind-control experiments, along with suspicions of a subject that went rogue and became a killer. How are the magicians involved in those activities? It will take some digging, but Lucky is nothing if not determined, even if it means digging for the truth in the tunnels under Las Vegas. With her heart already bruised, she needs a mystery to occupy her mind.

I adore Lucky O'Toole, the smart troubleshooter with a smart-alecky mouth and a damaged heart. It's tough to grow up at a whorehouse, not knowing who your father is. She's tough, witty, with a heart of gold. And, she deserves a man to love her. In the midst of all of Lucky's adventures, she's surrounded with good-looking men in Las Vegas; Paxton Dane, who works for the Gaming Control Board, John-Charles Bouclet, the new French chef at the Babylon; and, of course, the missing Teddie Kowalski.

She's also surrounded with well-developed characters in Miss P, her assistant, who is dating The Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock, a private detective; Lucky's mother, Mona; her father, The Big Boss, and all the staff at the Babylon. Then, there are her friends, Romeo, a police detective, and "Flash" Gordon, a reporter. Add in the customers in the Babylon, with all their, ahem, "unusual" behavior away from home, and Coonts has created a delightful cast to populate her Las Vegas.

I've referred to Coonts' Las Vegas mysteries as capers in the past. These are wonderful stories filled with outrageous behavior. There's witty conversations, puns, and a great deal of humor. Add, sexual innuendo, and amusing characters. Coonts' books are formulas for entertainment. So Damn Lucky, the third in the series, can certainly stand alone, but why would you want to miss the previous books? If you like the perfect setting for amusing behavior, over-the-top characters, and intriguing mysteries, try Deborah Coonts' Wanna Get Lucky?, Lucky Stiff, and So Damn Lucky.

Deborah Coonts' website is

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts. Forge. 2012. ISBN 9780765330062 (hardcover), 400p.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff's debut novel, Living Proof, examines the state of medicine in the U.S. in the near future, following "the day when science died." It's a thought-provoking, frightening book, a "what-if." What if the religious right took over politics with a conservative agenda, and controlled medicine? What if it was illegal to destroy embryos, and a doctor caught with one destroyed embryo would be charged with first-degree murder? Peikoff pits medicine and science against religion in a novel set in 2027, just fifteen years from now.

Dr. Arianna Drake runs a fertility clinic in Manhattan, but the success of her clinic raises suspicion at the New York Dept. of Embryo Preservation. And, Arianna's background is suspicious. When the DEP was created in 2011, her father, a scientist, declared they were "Freezing science itself," because they had outlawed the destruction of human embryos, and were stopping research in the name of religion. And, while in college, Arianna supported a biochemist who had been doing illegal research.

Now, it's Arianna's turn to come under the microscope. Gideon Dopp, a former priest, is determined to root out heretic killers. And, he needs to find someone committing illegal acts soon since the department is under scrutiny. They haven't shut down a clinic in two years. Dopp recruits one of his staff, Trent Rowe, a former investigative reporter, to try to become close to Arianna and earn her trust. He's convinced she's up to something illegal, and Trent might be able to worm it out of her.

Dr. Arianna Drake does have a secret, but so does Trent Rowe. He's suffering from a crisis of faith. Despite his job and his parents' strong convictions, Rowe isn't sure the Church and the DEP are always right. And, as he learns more about Arianna, he fears he might have encountered the bravest woman he ever met.

The mix of medicine, science, politics and religion will make this a controversial book. Peikoff could touch off a powder keg with her "what-ifs." At the same time, though, she has written a love story, a story of two people meeting across the chasm of opposing viewpoints. What if Trent Rowe can succeed by bringing down a doctor practicing illegal medicine? What if Dr. Arianna Drake can convince a DEP agent that science is more important than religious belief? The two protagonists are dealing with life and death and even love at a time when religious fanatics are allowed to carry guns into fertility clinics, and scientists are under microscopes. Living Proof is a startling, perceptive debut that examines repercussions for the future if emotion is allowed to trump knowledge.

Kira Peikoff's website is

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff. Tom Doherty Associates. 2012. ISBN 9780765329301 (hardcover), 368p.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Desert Wind by Betty Webb

On the jacket of Betty Webb's latest Lena Jones mystery, Desert Wind, David Morrell is quoted as saying, "A must-read." It is. Webb has tackled tough subjects before, everything from polygamy to genital mutilation on young girls, but Desert Wind may be her most controversial and powerful book yet. It's a book that should scare everyone living in the Southwest.

In 1954 in Snow Canyon, Utah, Gabe Boone was a horse wrangler on the set of the filming of The Conqueror, a film that starred John Wayne as Genghis Khan, and Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead. Gabe idolized Wayne, who treated all the cast and crew as friends, including the Paiute Indians. But, Gabe did notice that the red dust got in people's lungs, and there were even blisters in the mouths of the horses. The Paiutes themselves had blisters in their mouths. Although Gabe didn't realize it at the time, he was witnessing death.

Almost sixty years later, Lena Jones arrives at her office at Scottsdale, Arizona's Desert Investigations to find her partner, Jimmy Sisiwan, missing. Her uneasy feeling only grew when she received strange messages saying he'd be out for a week or longer, so she tracks him down in Walapai Flats in northwestern Arizona. His brother had been put in jail as a material witness in a murder, and now Jimmy is in jail as well. Lena interferes with Jimmy's plans, and takes it upon herself to find the person who killed the PR man for Black Basin Uranium Mine. The mine, just about to open, is controversial. Many of the residents hope for jobs at the mine, but Jimmy's sister-in-law, an outspoken opponent, was killed in a shooting, and that killer is still loose.

Lena finds resistance in the community, people unwilling to answer her questions. And, Gabe Boone, with his knowledge of the past, might have the key to reveal the secrets of Walapai Flats. Generations of lies and secrets, of scars,  may have led to murder in present-day Arizona.

Each time readers pick up a Lena Jones mystery, we hope to learn a little more about Lena's mysterious past. There have been glimpses into her traumatic childhood, and her time in foster homes. Webb still gives us a glimpse here and there in this book, but Lena's past isn't the focus of this latest crime novel.

Instead, this is about crime on a grand scale, with implications for all Americans, especially those of us who live in the Southwest, I'm not going to spoil Webb's story by giving away too much. She unravels the past beautifully, along with the repercussions. I'll just say, Desert Wind, the latest Lena Jones mystery, is powerful, political, and a book that serves as a warning. David Morrell is right. It truly is "A must-read."

Betty Webb's website is

Desert Wind by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 978159089793 (hardcover), 318p.

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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beth Aldrich for Authors @ The Teague

Most of the authors who appear for Authors @ The Teague are mystery authors since the library often partners with The Poisoned Pen bookstore. Beth Aldrich appeared on Sonoran Living, though, to discuss her book, Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food, Lose Weight, and Feel Fabulous. She was willing to come to the Velma Teague Library while she was in the Valley.

When Aldrich appeared on Sonoran Living, she fixed three of the recipes from her book. There are one hundred recipes in it from mom-bloggers who submitted them to Aldrich's website.

Aldrich's book contains a ten part plan to help people have a love affair with food, yet still lose weight or maintain the weight they want to be. The book's content will help readers enjoy food, but not become caught up in the food.

Beth Aldrich is a holistic health counselor. She once had her own PBS TV series in Chicago, but she was in a serious car accident there one January. It made her re-evaluate her life. She loved food and cooking. She loves the smell of food, and loves to prepare food. She even went to culinary school. She decided it was time for a shift in her life. She stopped filming, and went back to school. At the time, she went one weekend a month in New York to become certified through Columbia University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She had classes with Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Oz, and other well-known practitioners. Now, you can take those classes online.

Aldrich is a health counselor, not a registered dietitian. She looks at a person's entire lifestyle. The holistic health model covers four areas: spirituality, career, relationships and exercise. It looks at all aspects of life. Aldrich breaks diets apart.

People have love affairs with eating. Aldrich examines the beginnings of our excitement about food. There is nostalgia wrapped around food. Think about Sunday dinner at Grandma's. She examines our eating habits and where they come from. Real Moms Love to Eat contains various vignettes in which Aldrich reminisces about moments in life that influence our relationships with food. There are emotions attached to food, and it's important to honor where we come from. At one point in the book, she asks readers to list ten foods they like, and ten foods they don't like. Then, she helps people customize plans to plug in what they love in their diet, and take out the foods they don't love. Throughout the book, she tells stories people can relate to. Everyone has love affairs with their favorite meals.

It's important to indulge in the foods we like. But, we can indulge in a little cupcake, not the entire cake. She encourages people to indulge in four colorful foods a week, and gradually make changes in their diets.

Beth did say you don't have to be a mother to read this book. However, in order to market the book, it had to be positioned for a certain market. That market was mothers.

She told us she includes tips for sustainability in the book as well. There are opportunities within your own kitchen to live a more sustainable life. Look at the containers used, pots and pans. Be aware of what's going on. She also includes holistic health tips between recipes in the book.

Beth Aldrich concluded by telling us the chapters of Real Moms Love to Eat are densely populated with information to help readers do an entire makeover. Looking at life as a whole is the holistic model.

Beth Aldrich blogs at

Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food, Lose Weight, and Feel Fabulous by Beth Aldrich. New American Library. 2012. ISBN 9780451235589 (paperback), 306p.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winners and More Award Nominees

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Krista Davis' The Diva Haunts the House will go to Nancy R of St. Clair Shores, MI. Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen will go to Eileen K from Providence, RI. I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two more award nominees. Ann Parker's Mercury's Rise is up for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Inez Stannert, owner of a saloon in Leadville, Colorado, travels to Manitou to see her son. It's a story set in 1880 at a spa proclaiming medicinal cures, a story filled with deceit and murder. I do want to mention you do not have to have read previous books in this series to appreciate this one since Inez is in a strange environment. And, Ann Parker will send an autographed book to the winner of Mercury's Rise.

If you would prefer contemporary travel of an exotic nature, you could enter to win Janice Hamrick's Death on Tour, nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Death on Tour takes a teacher on her dream trip to Egypt. But, when Jocelyn Shore suspects a fellow tourist's death is murder, she finds herself caught up in an adventure that could end not only her trip, but also her life.

Would you like to win Mercury's Rise or Death on Tour? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Send your entry to me at Your subject headings should read either "Win Mercury's Rise" or "Win Death on Tour." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The contest will end next Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. MT. Good luck!

Hilary Davidson for Authors @ The Teague & The Poisoned Pen

The recap of Hilary Davidson’s Phoenix-area appearances is split between two events, a Feb. 21 event at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, and the Authors @ The Teague event on Wed. Feb. 22. Hilary appeared both places on her book tour for The Next One to Fall, the second book to feature travel writer Lily Moore.

Before even starting the program at the Poisoned Pen, though, Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen, introduced another author in the audience, Rhys Bowen. Rhys’ next book in her Molly Murphy series, Hush Now, Don’t You Cry, is due out next month. (Rhys will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library on March 12, along with Cara Black and Libby Hellmann.) The book is set in Newport in the early 20th century, amid all the fabulous estates. Molly and Daniel went there on their honeymoon, but, even though Molly promised him she wouldn’t work after they were married, she can’t resist getting involved in another investigation.

To introduce Hilary, Barbara showed the Jan/Feb issue of Crimespree Magazine with Hilary’s picture on the cover. Ruth Jordan and Jen Forbus interviewed Hilary for the cover article.

Hilary’s first mystery, The Damage Done, came out in 2010, and went on to win the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Hilary said that’s why her second book was a little delayed. Her publisher released The Damage Done in paperback in January, so release date for The Next One to Fall was pushed back. The new book takes travel writer Lily Moore to Peru.

Together Barbara Peters and Hilary Davidson provided a fascinating glimpse at Peru, using slides and their accounts of their travels to the country. Barbara warned us. Travelers always know not to drink the water in Peru, but they forget that they shouldn’t drink anything with ice in it. And, she said the altitude is so high, you must wear a hat. She didn’t heed either warning on her first trip to Peru in 1975, and she became sick. In January 2010, she and her husband, Rob, went on a cruise that ended in Lima. They planned to go to Machu Picchu, and they flew to Cuzco. It’s a shock to the system to go from sea level to 11,500 feet. She and Rob planned to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but they were evacuated before they could go. That was the year of the flood and mud slides and people died. There were 15,000 people there with no way to evacuate them except by helicopter. The helicopters could only take thirty people at a time, and the ruins were weakened by the helicopters having to land there.

So, Barbara and Rob spent a week in Cuzco. Rob loved it because it’s an eater’s paradise.

Hilary and Barbara discussed the statue of the black Christ in Cuzco. It’s called the Lord of the Tremblers. Inca structures were built with no mortar and they have stood the test of time. But, in the mid-sixteenth century, there was a huge earthquake. The church brought the black Christ out, and the earthquake stopped. So, the natives decided that was a powerful God, and many converted. When Barbara was there, they brought the statue out for the first time in years. There was a Mass in the square; they prayed for the rains to stop, and they walked the statue around the square.

While we viewed slides of the markets, Hilary told us there are 800 kinds of potatoes in Peru. According to an article in Smithsonian, before the Europeans took potatoes back, there had never been enough food in Europe. The population boomed because potatoes became a vital food staple.

They also mentioned coca tea, which is in urns in all the hotel lobbies. People are encouraged to drink the coca tea, and are told it will help them adjust to the altitude. Coca comes from the same plant as cocaine. People chew the leaves. There's coca candy. Coca Cola was called that because cocaine was an ingredient in it at one time.

Hilary mentioned that she has a gluten-free website because she has Celiac Disease. She didn’t know what she could eat in Peru, but it’s gluten-free paradise with potatoes, corn and quinoa. The Incas farmed for self-sufficiency, and the terraced hills at Machu Picchu were designed so the community would be self-sustaining. Asked how people made a living there, Davidson told us there is a theory that Machu Picchu was a royal retreat. It may have been a summer home, and the nobles built houses around it.

She and Barbara both mentioned there is a medication to help people breathe at the high altitude. You need to start it 48 hours ahead of time. If not, you can end up breathing so shallowly that you’ll wake yourself up at night, thinking you’re suffocating. That scene when Lily has that problem in the book is realistic.

Davidson also told us about the Cuzco School of Art. Artists came from Spain to work with the native artists. However, the native artists put their own interpretation on the religious art. For instance, there’s a painting of the Last Supper in a cathedral. Jesus and his apostles are eating guinea pig. And, the native artists did not think it was respectful to portray Jesus in a loin cloth. Instead, they painted him in the linen skirt of the Inca nobility.

They both discussed the train in to Machu Picchu. There’s no road. And, if there’s an accident, people have to be airlifted out. People do fall and die at that remote location.

Hilary made her trip to Peru at the start of the rainy season at the end of October. She stayed for three weeks, and she was hard hit by altitude sickness because she tried to go without the medication. She was still doing travel writing at the time, and her trip to Peru convinced her to set up the Gluten-Free Guidebook, an online resource. She learned a lot in three weeks.

On Wednesday, Hilary introduced her character Lily Moore to the audience at the Velma Teague Library. Lily first appeared in the Anthony Award-winning mystery, The Damage Done. She was a travel writer living in Spain, who was called back to New York because her sister had died. But, when she arrived, she found the body was another woman who had stolen her sister’s identity, and was living in her apartment. This is a dark book, and Lily spends the rest of the book looking for her sister. By the end, she discovered she had been betrayed by lots of people who were close to her.

The Next One to Fall starts three months later. Lily still trusts her best friend, Jesse. He’s a travel photographer who asks her to accompany him to Peru. He wants to spend time with her, for one thing. And, he’s been to Peru before, and finds it beautiful, just breathtaking. He thinks a trip there will get her out of her dark mood. But, they hear a couple arguing, followed by a scream, and then they find a woman at the bottom of a stone staircase. Before Jesse runs for help, Lily glimpsed a man running away from the scene. With Jesse gone, the woman reveals information about the man, and then dies.

Lily knew the dead woman was traveling with a man, but he doesn’t come forward. And, the police dismiss it as a woman on drugs who had an accident. Lily hunts for him, and finds he’s the son of a very wealthy man, and there are a number of dead and missing women in his past. His first wife died in an accident. His second disappeared in Peru. Now, this woman died. Lily feels he must be stopped, and she wants justice for the women.

Once Hilary introduced her books, we showed a slide show about Machu Picchu that she has on her website. Machu Picchu is the Lost City of the Incas, although it was not lost to the Incas. The Spaniards never found it. 2011 was the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of the city. It’s remarkable because, although it’s in an earthquake zone, it was not damaged by earthquakes. All the damage there is man-made.

She told us Cuzco, the Inca capital, became a Spanish city. They knocked down the Inca temples and used the stone for their churches.

Davidson told the audience that her three week trip there in 2007 inspired this story. She was there during the rainy season. When the fog burned off, she said, “This would be a perfect place to kill someone.” Her husband, who was with her, said he didn’t think he wanted to travel with her again.

She also mentioned the breathing problems people have at the high altitude in Cuzco. They become sleep-deprived, and can’t fall asleep. Lily was in that state at the beginning of The Next One to Fall, and she had trouble trusting her own perceptions.
When questions were asked about tourism and crime, Hilary said tourist sites are reluctant to publish information about deaths at the sites. The Natalie Holloway case is a good example. No one wanted to deal with her disappearance, but the suspect was arrested later for murdering a woman in Peru. He’s in prison now. It’s easier for people to get away with committing crimes in foreign locations.

Asked about rules for tourism at Machu Picchu, Davidson answered there are now new rules since so much of the damage there is man-made. They’re trying to limit the number of tourists. The site has been loved to death. At its peak, there were 3500 visitors a day. The site wasn’t built to handle that many people. Now, the maximum number allowed per day is 2500. And, a permit is required to go to Machu Picchu. It costs $150 per person per day. In the last ten years, Peru has tried to preserve its history. Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu took many of the artifacts back to Yale. Yale has told the Peruvian government they will return them once Peru is able to be caregivers for them. Until now, they have not been able to do that.
Hilary told us she’s fascinated by the Incas. The character of Jesse reflects that interest. He describes many of the Inca traditions in the book. For instance, the stones in their buildings fitted together without mortar. And, they couldn’t use llamas to transport much of the stone because llamas can’t carry heavy weight. And, this was a society that never discovered the wheel. There’s no description as to how they transported all the stones. They didn’t really have a writing system. Their method of tying knots to communicate is described in the book. And, they had symbols imprinted on silver and gold to communicate. Some of those symbols explained their theory of the cosmos. But, that silver and gold was shipped back to Spain and melted down. Everything they represented in silver and gold has been lost. They were astronomers. And, the Temple of the Sun has a series of windows through which constellations could sometimes be seen. But, no one knows how they utilized that knowledge.
Peru attracts some bizarre tourists. There are drug tourists because there are drugs that are legal to use in Peru. Marijuana is legal there. There’s also a natural LSD that is legal, and it’s traditional for tribes to take it together and have group visions.

Then there are the people who go to Peru to find UFOs. There was a pre-Inca civilization who carved designs in the earth. They’re called Nazca Lines, and many of them depict animals. But, the designs can’t be seen from the ground, only from the air. So, there’s a culture of UFO hunters in Peru. They’re part of the book, but not at the core of the story.

Hilary Davidson concluded the presentation by discussing her third book. She always had three books in mind, although she initially had a two-book contract. She has another two-book deal. The third Lily Moore story is the first of those two books. It’s set shortly after the end of The Next One to Fall. It starts in Acapulco, which has been luring travel writers. Lily goes there with another journalist, and the other woman vanishes. It’s then she learns the property where she is has been bought by her former boyfriend’s company.

Hilary Davidson takes readers into Lily Moore’s world, and the world of Peru in her latest book, The Next One to Fall.

Hilary Davidson's website is

The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson. Tom Doherty Associates, ©2012. ISBN 9780765326980 (hardcover), 352p.

Hilary Davidson and Lesa Holstine



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Book in the Grave by Kate Carlisle

One Book in the Grave, the latest best seller in Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile mystery series, spins off the restoration of one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast. But, who actually is the beauty, and who is the beast in this intriguing story?

Bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright is always pleased with a commission from the Covington Library in San Francisco. But, this time, she is reluctant to take on the task, knowing the copy of Beauty and the Beast she’s asked to restore was stolen from a friend. Shortly before Max Adams’ tragic death three years earlier, Brooklyn had given the book to Max and his fiancée, Emily, at their engagement party. Immediately after Max’ death, Emily’s apartment was broken into, and the book was stolen. Brooklyn can’t resist a puzzle, though, and she heads to the book dealer who sold the book to the Covington Library.  Once again, Brooklyn is the person who finds a murder victim. The book dealer has been killed, Brooklyn’s tire is slashed, and all the clues point to Max Adams.

It doesn’t take long for Brooklyn to gather allies in her search for answers. Her boyfriend, Derek Stone, of Stone Security, shows up, along with the mysterious, sexy Gabriel (think Ranger in the Stephanie Plum books). And, Brooklyn and SFPD Detective Inspector Janice Lee finally admit to a friendship after Lee calls Brooklyn, “My favorite dead-body magnet.” The search for answers will lead into the past to the Sonoma Institute of the Arts where Max once taught. And, the search takes Brooklyn, Derek and Gabriel to Dharma, the commune where Brooklyn and Max grew up, where they are shocked to learn their assumptions are all wrong.

Carlisle’s mystery is filled with wonderful characters, from Brooklyn and her delightful family, to the sexy men involved in the case. There’s also an interesting assortment of villains, including Brooklyn’s archenemy, Minka LaBoeuf, two controlling faculty members at the art institute, and a group of survivalists. And, Brooklyn is my favorite type of amateur sleuth, one who calls the police, and calls for help, instead of trying to take on a killer on her own.

Oh, and the beauty and the beast? Max and Emily? The pair of suspects from the art institute? In my favorite version of the story, the beast is hunted by the villagers and the villain. And, someone made a point of making Max' life miserable. Once Brooklyn is involved in the case, she's the recipient of unwanted gifts as someone continues to follow and find her.  It's up to the readers to put their own spin on the definition of Beauty and the Beast.

Kate Carlisle mixes the book world and eccentric California residents with a little romance and humor in One Book in the Grave.  Once you’ve been introduced to Brooklyn Wainwright, her friends and family, you’ll understand why the Bibliophile mysteries continue to attract readers and hit the best seller lists.

Kate Carlisle’s website is

One Book in the Grave by Kate Carlisle. Obsidian. ©9780451236128 (paperback), 291p.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chrystle Fiedler, Guest Blogger

Today, I'd like to welcome Chrystle Fiedler, author of Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery. Her book comes out today from Simon & Schuster. Thanks for taking time to write, Chrystle!

First of all I’d like to thank Lesa for having me as a guest on her blog! Thanks Lesa! I’m here to talk about my new book DEATH DROPS: A NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY which goes on sale today and features Willow McQuade, ND, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in natural cures. When her aunt Claire is murdered, Willow takes over her health food store Nature’s Way Market & Cafe and sets out to solve the crime with a hunky ex-cop.

Not only is Death Drops a fun cozy mystery it also has over 2 dozen natural remedies you can try at home. You’ll find everything from yoga to meditation, from vitamins to herbs and homeopathic medicines.

You may be wondering why write about natural remedies? Well, when I was growing up my mother practiced natural cures such as tea bag baths for sunburn, homeopathic remedies for colds and allergies (she even had her own homeopathic kit), arnica oil for sprains and bruises and, of course, chicken soup with garlic was always a staple. I knew that natural remedies worked and became a believer. This interest became the thread that would run through my entire career as a writer. 

So, after I graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications, I dabbled in various vocations including advertising and television production (Designing Women, Evening Shade, Early Edition) in Hollywood, I became a journalist specializing in natural health. I’ve written about natural cures for Natural Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Prevention, Vegetarian Times, The Health Monitor Network and was the Good Nature columnist for Remedy magazine. 

In 2009 I followed my interest in natural remedies into non-fiction. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Remedies (Alpha, 2009), was followed by Beat Sugar Addiction Now! (Fairwinds Press, 2010 4th printing), and the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! Cookbook (Fairwinds Press, 2012) both with noted holistic physician Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. and The Country Almanac of Home Remedies (Fairwinds Press, 2011) with herbalist Brigitte Mars.
So it was only “natural” that when it came to fiction, I’d focus on natural remedies too. In 2011, my life-long dream came true when Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster bought my natural remedies series. 

Now, I’m looking forward to sharing Willow’s (and my) passion for natural remedies with readers. Today, since it’s cold and flu season I thought you might find these natural cures helpful. See you between the pages!  
1.      Vitamin C and zinc.  Vitamin C stimulates your immune system to fight that cold.  Take 1000 mg. (to bowel tolerance) up to three times daily to shorten the duration of a cold. This is confirmed by over 30 studies that were analyzed by the Cochrane Database Systematic Review in 2004. Zinc, especially in the form of lozenges helps prevent viral replication of the cold virus in the throat by stimulating T-cell response. Stay under 50 mg. daily. 

2.      Elderberry can minimize the duration of flu symptoms including chills, headache and respiratory infection.  According to a 2004 study published in The Journal of International Medical Research, when people were given elderberry syrup, (the brand name is Sambucol), 90% felt better after just three days! Elderberry syrup is also delicious! Take a dose every couple of hours you are awake when fighting something off. Decrease as you improve. 

3.      Drink two teaspoons each of apple cider vinegar and honey in a cup of hot water three times daily to break up mucus congestion. Diluted lemon in hot water or berry juices can help relieve fever.

4.  Soothe a sore throat with a nice cup of licorice root tea. It eases irritated mucus membranes and stimulates the immune system. 
5.      Soaking in a hot bath is good for colds and flu. Draw a bath and add a cup of Epsom salts and 7 drops of essential oil of eucalyptus or ginger to promote sweating release of toxins. You can also sip some diaphoretic herbs in the tub such as elder flower and ginger.  Afterwards dress warm and rest. Feel better! 

If you have a medical condition check with your doctor before using these natural remedies.

About Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery:   
Dr. Willow McQuade, N.D., a twenty-eight-year-old naturopathic doctor specializing in natural remedies, has decided to take sabbatical and visit her Aunt Claire, the owner of Nature’s Way Market and Cafe in idyllic Greenport, Long Island. But the idea of rest and relaxation is quickly forgotten when Willow arrives from a morning meditative walk to discover her Aunt Claire dead in the store, a strange almond-like smell emanating from her mouth and a bottle of flower essences by her side.

Despite her Zen nature and penchant for yoga, Aunt Claire had a knack for getting into confrontations with folks. An activist, she held weekly meetings for different causes every week in the store. The police want to believe the death is accidental—but Willow thinks she may have been poisoned. 

Things get worse when Aunt Claire’s valuable recipe for a new natural age-defying formula, Fresh Face, is stolen during a store break-in, and an attempt is made on Willow’s life. Desperate for a way out of the mess, she turns to a handsome young cop Jackson Spade. Together the two set about solving the case the natural way—through a combination of hard work, common sense, and a dose of luck.

Thank you, Chrystle. And, I wish you a dose of good luck with Death Drops

Chrystle Fiedler's website is

Death Drops by Chrystle Fiedler.  Gallery Books, 2012. ISBN 9781451643602 (paperback), 288p.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg

I come from a long line of single women, so Eric Klinenberg's sociological study, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone was an appealing book. Sounds funny to say a long line of single women, doesn't it? But, my grandmother lived a lone for a number of years after my grandfather died. My mother was widowed at fifty-five, and has made a very successful life for herself. I was widowed at fifty-two. We're just one group of people studied in this book.

Klinenberg's introduction covers the history of humanity, from a society that originally organized itself around groups that lived with others, to the current situation in society. Using "singletons" for people who live alone, he says, "For the first time in human history, great numbers of people - of all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion - have begun settling down as singletons."

Naturally, as a sociologist dealing with a study, Klinenberg presents a number of statistics to show this trend worldwide. But, he also presents the human side of this study, interviewing people who live alone. There are those young people who chose to live in apartments or buy houses, living alone. May of them delay marriage while fostering their career. And many discover that they enjoy that lifestyle. Living alone is no longer stigmatized as it once was, although women often deal with that issue more than men do, because they don't marry and have children.

Some people come to the single lifestyle through death of a partner or divorce, and then often discover they are comfortable with themselves. Klinenberg points out that often the benefits of marriage are not there. Sometimes people are lonelier in a bad marriage than they are if they are single.

Although many of Klinenberg's singletons enjoy their lives, he also discusses groups of men often forced to live in substandard housing and in poverty. Sometimes this is due to drug or alcohol problems, a criminal record, but sometimes it's due to a loss of work.

There is much that is positive in Klinenberg's study. But, he also covers the issues of the elderly, sometimes with no one left in their lives, and sometimes ending up in poor conditions due to the lack of family and support from society. It's the one fear that many singletons face. However, when offered the choice of marrying, and sometimes dealing with an ill partner for years, or remaining single, many people prefer to continue to live alone. As people age, those fears of being alone or sick near the end of life often creep into conversations.

Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo is not light reading. However, he points out that, "Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million - roughly one out of every seven adults - live alone." It's important to understand that those of us who live alone have often made choices to live that way. He discusses the economic clout this group has. He mentions how cities and culture flourish because this group supports the arts, restaurants, culture, and this group volunteers more than other groups. Klinenberg points out that, if organized, this section of society could also have enormous voting power. Going Solo is a fascinating examination of a group of people who have great potential for the future.

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg. Penguin Press. 2012. ISBN 9781594203220 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of this book to participate in a blog tour.

If you would like to see additional reviews of Going Solo, tomorrow it will be reviewed at, and on Thursday, it will be covered at

Blank Journals

I never intended to show the three blank books I bought at Barnes & Noble the other day. Then, a friend asked me on Facebook if I was going to review them on my blog. I know she was kidding. But, why not? So many of us love blank books. I had a hard time stopping with just three. There were some gorgeous ones there, but I just bought the few I needed.

The first one is rather plain, but it has one special feature many others lack. It lies flat. I take copious notes at all the author events I attend, either at Authors @ The Teague or at the Poisoned Pen. It's so much easier to take notes when I'm not fighting with the book. I've almost finished my current book that holds the recaps of author events. It was time to find a new one. This one is going to work perfectly.

What can I say about the second one? I just loved it. I liked the words on the front, "Inspire, Dream, Hope, Beliee, Imagine, Create." I like the magnetic closure. Pages are lined with faint outlines of flowers. This one just makes me feel good. I have no idea what I'm going to use it for, but it will find its purpose.

Don't you love this third one? Maybe I liked it because I was going to see Wicked. Of course, I always liked The Wizard of Oz, and it has personal connections with my college roommate. Maybe it was just the vivid colors on the cover.

When I opened it, I found faint illustrations of the witch on every page.

It's just fun. And, this one will eventually become my new journal for the listing of the books I've read. I have years of those accounts, with short annotations about each book. This one is perfect.

I just love blank books or journals, in the same way I enjoy photos of doors. There's magic and possibility there.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Penguin's March Mysteries - Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian

March brings eight new mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. I hope you enjoy the chat!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Mortsafe by Lillian Stewart Carl

Lillian Stewart Carl calls her latest book, The Mortsafe, "A Short Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery." Yes, it's short at 184 pages, but it's dense, filled with Scottish history, ghosts, relationships and people that a new reader needs to struggle to understand. Saying all that, Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron are a remarkable team, and the mystery is fascinating. It's worth a little struggle for a mystery that combines all those elements.

Jean Fairbairn is an American, a historian now working in Edinburgh, Scotland as a journalist for Great Scot. She recently married Alasdair Cameron, who retired from his position as Detective Chief Inspector for the Northern Constabulary. He's now with Protect and Survive, a company that specializes in security for historic properties, which is why he is called in when the wall in a pub collapsed into a an underground vault beneath South Bridge in Edinburgh. It was what was found in the vault that caught Jean and Alasdair's attention, two bodies, one fairly recent, and one much older. How did the bodies get into a mortsafe, an iron cage locked over graves to thwart body snatchers? And, who were those bodies?

It isn't long before the pair are caught up in the most recent case after learning the body was that of a college student who disappeared fifteen years earlier. And, there are a number of other people interested in that story as well. There's the host of an American TV show who specializes in vampires and spirits who hopes to capitalize on murder and ghosts who might walk. What about the owner of Lady Niddy's Drawing Room, a high-class restaurant adjoining the pub? Both properties are owned by the same person. And, he seems to have an odd assortment of employees, including a mysterious businesswoman and a man who is a little too fond of his alcohol.

Jean and Alasdair team up with the police investigating the cold case, particularly after a constable guarding the property is knocked out. Their search leads them back to a time when musicians and students partied in the vaults, to a time when a young woman could easily disappear. And, it leads them into the history of Edinburgh, a story of bodies stolen, of rebellious religious sects, of hangings and violent death. Their search leads both of them into danger, and it leads them directly back to Lady Niddy's Drawing Room and a party where the police and the suspects all gather.

As Jean says, "It's a locked room mystery." How did the two bodies get into the vault? It's a cold case, a ghost story, and a history lesson. Murder, the paranormal, and history all seem natural in Edinburgh, a city with an intriguing, sometimes horrifying, past. And, that history and setting are essential to this story.

Carl has created fascinating characters in Jean and Alasdair, two people whose careers are grounded in reality, while they themselves can actually see and experience feelings surrounding ghosts. And, they are two adults who found each other rather late in life. They are attracted to each other physically. They understand each other, and are united in their abilities to see ghosts. But, they are also attracted to each other's intellect. Jean thinks of Alasdair as having an unthreatening face with unremarkable features, but "It was the mind behind it that would leap out of hiding with blinding brightness and fearsome will." And, they work together so well that she thinks, they used to be a complete brain by themselves, "But neither of them had ever been a complete heart, not alone."

The Mortsafe is a journey into the mystery and history of Edinburgh. It's a ghost story, a murder mystery, with a blend of romance and the past. It may be a "short" mystery, but it's complex and captivating, a story worth the time and the journey.

Lillian Stewart Carl's website is

The Mortsafe by Lillian Stewart Carl. CreateSpace. 2011. 9781468134636 (paperback), 184p.

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

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jen's Book Thoughts - Heroes vs. Villains

I'll admit I was exhausted Thursday night. Two blogs each day for the last two days. They may seem quick, but they each take some time to write. And, with meetings after meetings at work lately, I haven't even had my hour lunch hour to read. But, I had to write something here today. My family thinks I'm sick if nothing shows up. (grin - And, I love them for checking on me like that!)

So, while I finish the latest book, I'm going to send you to Jen Forbus' blog, Jen's Book Thoughts. Jen kicked off the nominations for her annual Crime Fiction Bracket Tourney this week. This year's theme - Heroes vs. Villains. Right now, you have the chance to nominate your favorite crime fiction heroes and villains for the tournament.

Check out Jen's blog for details about the tournament and the nominations.

Me? I'm writing this at 9:15 p.m. on Thursday night. I'm heading off to bed. Long, long days right now.