Monday, March 31, 2014

J.J. Cook, Guest Blogger

I do monthly book chats featuring mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. This week, I'm hosting three of the authors who have April releases. Today, please join me in welcoming J.J. Cook (sometimes known as Jim and Joyce Lavene) as guest blogger. Cook is launching  Death on Eat Street, the first Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery.


Spotlight Guest Post for Berkley Prime Crime
By Jim Lavene

Writers frequently have what they call AH-HA! moments that are usually followed by a rush of what we hope will be great brainstorms that end up being awesome books.

That being said, it doesn’t always happen.

Many ideas that seem wonderful at 2 a.m. when they wake you, are lackluster in the cold light of morning (after coffee). The plot isn’t workable, or the characters that sounded good, aren’t. You might walk around in a fog all day trying to make the pieces fit.

Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

With our new Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries, it was one of those moments that worked out as well as we hoped it would. I say we because my wife and I write together. You don’t even want to know what kind of vetting process it takes for both of us to agree on an idea.

Our heroine, Zoe Chase, emerged full of insecurities and fear about her upcoming thirtieth birthday. Passed over for promotion one time too many at the bank where she worked, Zoe decided to do something about it. 

I am happy to admit that the whole, deep-fried-biscuit-bowl idea was mine. No, I never made a biscuit in my life, though I enjoy eating them. My mother knew her way around a biscuit. Maybe she inspired me.

I was actually thinking about doughnuts when the idea came to me. Then I think I was possessed by Zoe, who was experimenting with her creation at the time. We didn’t even own a deep fryer, but I convinced my wife that we needed one.

Zoe is a much better cook that either of us. She spends all her time watching cooking shows, and looking for new ways to make delicious foods. Her cat, Crème Brulee, helps her. This was my wife’s idea—name the cat after food. It worked for me.

We have this one, unbreakable rule when we’re writing together. We never put anything into a story unless we agree on it. It may sound simple, but it’s not. We have been up at all hours trying to work around some problem one of us have with a character or plotline.

Zoe grabbed our hearts right away, and hasn’t let go. It has been a pleasure to get to know this brave young woman as we write about her. Going into business for yourself is hard work. Your family being dead set against you makes it harder. Luckily, there were some friends waiting in the wings for Zoe who could help with her problems.

Working together is always better. My wife and I live it everyday. Zoe, Ollie, Crème Brulee, Uncle Saul, and Delia do too—at least in the pages of the Biscuit Bowl food Truck Mysteries!




Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook. Berkley. 2014. ISBN 9780425263457 (paperback), 304p.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

April Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian

Penguin sent me 12 birthday gifts, cozy mysteries that will be released on April 1. Jinx and I are going to chat about them.



I hope you enjoy the chat. And, here's an easy way to remember the books, the list of new titles.

Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig Albert  - 21st in the China Bayles series
Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen - 1st Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery
A Roux of Revenge by Connie Archer - 3rd Soup Lover's Mystery
A Killing Notion by Melissa Bourbon - 5th Magical Dressmaking Mystery
Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack - 2nd Elizabethan Mystery
Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook - 1st Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery
Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara - 1st Officer Ellie Rush Mystery
Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian - 4th Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery
Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay - 6th Cupcake Bakery Mystery
The Blackwoods Farm Enquiry by Ann Purser - 5th Ivy Beasley Mystery
The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan - 1st Second Chance Cat Mystery
A Second Helping of Murder by Christine Wenger - 2nd Comfort Food Mystery


Saturday, March 29, 2014

May Treasures in My Closet

It's a hectic week coming up, so I thought I'd better talk about May's forthcoming books before the blog gets too busy with author visits and book chats. April is a busy month.


Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's novel, Bittersweet, is the story of a young woman, a scholarship student at a prestigious college who is welcomed into the home of her college roommate, a world of wealth, friendship, and a place where she feels she belongs. But, when she becomes an insider, she makes a terrible discovery that leads to shocking violence and dark secrets. (Release date is May 13.)






The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird's portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most improtant operatives in CIA history, a man who, had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between the West and Arabs. (Release date is May 20.)






Invisible City is Julia Dahl's debut novel, the story of an up-and-coming journalist Rebekah Roberts. Just months after Rebekah was born, her mother, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her baby and Christian boyfriend to return to her religion. Now, Rebekah finds herself drawn into her estranged mother's world when she's assigned to cover the murder of a Hasidic Jewish woman in Brooklyn. (Release date is May 6.)





Looking for an espionage thriller? "In a seedy hotel near Ground Zero, a woman lies face down in a pool of acid, teeth missing, fingerprints gone. The room has bee sprayed with a DA-eradicating antiseptic. A legendary, world-class secret agent, later codenamed Pilgrim, quickly realizes that all of the murderer's techniques were pulled directly from his own book - a cult classic of forensic science written under a pen name." Terry Hayes' thriller, I Am Pilgrim, takes readers from Manhattan to Afghanistan, to a chemical warfare factory in Syria, an ancient port in Bosnia, and numerous locations between. (Release date is May 27.)


Peter Heller, bestselling author of The Dog Stars, returns with The Painter, a story of an artist trying to outrun his past. Jim Stegner, a well-known expressionist painter shot a man in a bar years earlier. After serving his time, Jim lives a quiet life, trying to control his dark impulses. But, when he sees a man beating a horse, his rage returns, and he kills the man. Now, he must escape the police, Dell's gang, and try to make sense of his own actions. (Release date is May 6.)




I'm looking forward to Cassandra King's slight book, The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a a Failed Southern Belle. It's a gift-sized book with Mother's Day and graduations in mind, a lovely book filled with inspiration and advice, Southern style. It draws inspiration from King's bestselling novel, The Same Sweet Girls. (Release date is May 1.)






Kendel Lynn brings back Elliott Lisbon in the mystery Whack Job. Elli is the director of the Ballantyne Foundation, blending that job with her PI-in-training status by planning parties and performing discreet inquiries for charitable patrons. But the annual Wonderland Tea Party turns everyone mad as a hatter, and Elli is pulled into a shooting, a swindle, and the hunt for a Faberge egg. (Release date is May 13.)




Don't you think an Emmy-winning actress, who spent thirty-two-years on a soap opera would be able to play the role of amateur sleuth? Meet Veronica Walsh in Jeanne Quigley's All Things Murder. After all those years on a soap, Veronica can't land a new part, so she returns to her Adirondack hometown for what she hopes is a short visit. But, it isn't long before she's caught up in the turmoil caused by her neighbor. And, when that powerful businesswoman ends up dead, and Veronica finds her, she's up for the role of her life, sleuth and heroine. (Release date is May 21.)



I don't know about the book itself, but the cover of Ruth Reichl's debut novel really is Delicious! When an iconic food magazine shuts down, Billie Breslin finds the magazine's library, where a hidden room holds the letters of Lulu Swan a twelve-year-old who corresponded with legendary chef James Bead during World War II. Those letters provide Billie with a deeper understanding of history - and the history of food. And, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own life. (Release date is May 6.)



Linda Rodriguez' half-Cherokee heroine, Skeet Bannion, has her hands full as she juggles murder and trick family ties in Every Hidden Fear. Skeet is still trying to adjust to living with her teenage ward, Brian, when hr Cherokee grandmother moves in. Then, a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, now a wealthy developer, comes to town, and stirs up trouble, splitting the town. When he ends up dead, it's his angry son, who just learned who is father is, who is the main suspect. Although Skeet's job is to provide security and investigate on the local college campus, it's hard to resist when Brian asks for help in saving his friend. (Release date is May 6.)


Travel to Victorian London in Will Thomas' Fatal Enquiry. Thomas Llewellyn finally learns everything about private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker. The two detectives have to evade the law in London while the pierce together a plot devised by a man who betrayed Barker once before, almost costing him his life on the battlefield during the Boxer Rebellion. (Release date is May 13.)





Conway Sax is back in Steve Ulfelder's Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage. He has to track down and rescue Kenny Spoon, a washed-up TV star who has been kidnapped by gangsters. It's a favor for Eudora Spoon, a dear friend and fellow member of the barnburners, the tight-knit maverick AA group whose members Conway has sworn to help. But, when Eudora is murdered on her own estate, Conway, who vows to find her killer, finds himself in danger. (Release date is May 6.)




And, the final treasure of May is a memoir, Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, he was a trained composer with a variety of off-beat interests. When he decided to open a pizza restaurant, she was supportive, thinking it would never happen. They ended up building the restaurant, Delancey, together. When it became a success, Molly was forced to admit she hadn't been honest with herself or Brandon. (Release date is May 6.)

I hope you find this collection of books as fascinating as I do. Is there anything that excites you on this list of books?


Friday, March 28, 2014

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

Once again, Debbie Macomber takes readers into the cozy world of Blossom Street in Seattle, Washington, where women's romances and friendships help them triumph over adversity. Macomber's readers who are familiar with the series will recognize characters and welcome the new ones in Blossom Street Brides. New readers will feel welcome in a charming world of small shops, family and romantic difficulties, and happy endings.

Macomber's latest novel focuses on three women who are friends, Lydia Goetz, Lauren Elliott, and Bethanne Scranton. Lydia owns A Good Yarn, and is happily married with two children. But, her daughter is struggling with nightmares while Lydia struggles with answers to a strange question. Who is leaving baskets of yarn around town, encouraging people to knit for the homeless, and then visit A Good Yarn.

Lauren and Bethanne run into each other at A Good Yarn, both looking for yarn for a baby basket. Bethanne's daughter-in-law is expecting. She's ecstatic, but she also worries about seeing that grandchild. Should she keep her business in Seattle, or move to California where her new husband lives and owns a wine distribution company? As much as she loves Max, it's her ex-husband who is always on her doorstep, begging her to take him back.

When Lauren learns her younger sister is expecting, she realizes it's time to dump a boyfriend who won't commit, and move on with her life. But, is she really prepared to fall head-over-heels for someone the first time they meet?

Macomber excels at creating likable, strong women whose businesses and relationships complicate their lives. In other words, these women could be the women down the street, which is the charm of the Blossom Street books. Their lives aren't easy, but that doesn't mean they can't find friendship and love to help them through. Blossom Street Brides takes readers back into the warm stories that continue to entertain and enchant.

Debbie Macomber's website is www.debbiemacomber.com

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books. 2014. ISBN 9780345528841 (hardcover), 318p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book



Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Reading Circle by Ashton Lee

Once again, Ashton Lee takes readers back to Cherico, Mississippi where a small-town library is
threatened for "the greater good". Lee's Cherry Cola Book Club novels symbolize the threats to public libraries throughout the country. Details may vary city to city, but the underlying theme for the books remains the same: libraries are threatened in a battle that often pits infrastructure against libraries. Lee's The Reading Circle puts Maura Beth Mayhew, a library director, right in the middle of the battle for libraries.

If it had been up to Councilman Durden Sparks, the Cherico Public Library would have been closed long ago so he could use the budget to build an industrial park. Sparks considered the library "a luxury the City Council could no longer afford", but Maura Beth won the first round of the battle. Her Cherry Cola book club and a petition provided a little breathing room. She had a year to prove the library was needed, and deserved to stay open.

Maura Beth knows the library needs more than a book club. It needs computers, money for books, more staff, better parking. But, her first hurdle had been to build support using the book club. Suddenly, even her beloved book club seems to be a problem. As more people attend, they have opinions as to what should be read. And, the book selections divide the people Maura Beth has grown to consider family. Even the teacher she was interested in seems to put his own interests before the library's. And, a house divided can easily fall. Councilman Sparks is counting on that.

Ashton Lee brings back the charming residents of Cherico in a novel that once again stresses the importance of libraries while also emphasizing personal relationships. Lee is skilled at introducing characters who leap from the page with all their eccentricities and habits. Maura Beth Mayhew continues to grow, changing from an insecure young woman into a library director more comfortable with fighting a political war. Lee knows the value of libraries, and he uses his storytelling skills to emphasize their importance.

Whether you see The Reading Circle as a battle cry for libraries, a story of strained relationships, a novel featuring tasty recipes, or a charming story of the South, Ashton Lee's latest novel is entertaining and thought-provoking.

Ashton Lee will be appearing at the Red Bank Branch Library of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library on Wed., May 14 at 6:30 p.m. Details are available here, http://www.evpl.org/events/search/event.aspx?id=37685. And if you would like to know him better, check out the five questions we asked him at that site.

Ashton Lee can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashtonlee.net

The Reading Circle by Ashton Lee. Kensington Books. 2014. ISBN 9780758273420 (paperback), 242p.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Quotient of Murder by Ada Madison

I just love cold cases. And, I love it when an author links a cold case and a contemporary one. Ada Madison tells an absorbing story in her latest Professor Sophie Knowles mystery, The Quotient of Murder.

Sophie Knowles is a math professor at Henley College in Henley, Massachusetts, where the carillon facility has been renovated, and will soon reopen after twenty-five years. Although Sophie grew up in Henley, she never knew the story of the French major, a sophomore girl, who jumped from the carillon tower twenty-five years earlier. And, she's a little peeved that no one ever told her the story. She did ask herself why she cared, why she was curious enough to dig around in that old story. She tells herself it's because of the natural curiosity of a mathematician and puzzle maker. But, when one of Sophie's students, Jenn Marshall, is found on campus, badly beaten, Sophie becomes suspicious. Jenn was a carillon player, and Sophie's convinced the two stories are somehow linked. It doesn't appear that way to the police, but Henley Police Detective Virgil Mitchell allows Sophie to play detective.

I'll admit that Ada Madison and I have had friendly discussions about Sophie's tendency to keep secrets from the police. However, The Quotient of Murder works beautifully because of the cold case scenario. The police are only politely interested in Sophie's ideas because they don't believe there is a link. But, she's willing to cooperate and hand over any actual clues.

For those of us who find cold cases appealing, The Quotient of Murder presents some unusual angles. It's an enjoyable puzzle, and Sophie Knowles is an appealing amateur sleuth with a mind for mystery.

Ada Madison (Camille Minichino) has a website at www.minichino.com

The Quotient of Murder by Ada Madison. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425262702 (paperback), 291p.

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Left Coast Crime 2014 - Calamari Crime

By now, I'm sure you know I had a wonderful time at Left Coast Crime in Monterey. It felt as if I was back home with family, spending time with friends and all those mystery authors I love. But, what did I do besides walk the trail and attend the banquet? I'm sorry this summary is late, but the Internet was lousy at the hotel. Other than that, the hotel was wonderful.

I'm sharing this first picture because I spent so much of the time with wonderful friends, beginning with dinner on Wednesday night before the conference. Kris Neri is missing from this picture, but a lot of my time was spent with Chantelle Aimee Osman, author Kelli Stanley, and Kris. Here's Chantelle and Kelli at dinner.

Chantelle and Kelli

I kicked off the conference itself attending a program on Thursday morning called Left Coast Crime 101. I had been to LCC in Santa Fe, but I was right to think I might get some tips from Janet Rudolph, Bill Gottfriend, Toby Gottfried, and Brad Parks.

I attended a program called Jumping Genres: Writers Who Have Switched. It was moderated by Patricia Rice. Panelists were Dianne Emley, Yves Fey, C.T. Jorgensen, and Sharan Newman. Then, I was off to the panel I moderated, Juggling Characters: Writers with Multiple Mystery Series. It was fun to ask questions of Laura Bradford, Nancy Baker Jacobs, and Camille Minichino. We gave away books, and I finally met Laura, author of the Amish Mystery series. I headed to Bobbies vs. Mounties: A California Cop Mediates. Moderator Kathy Bennett really didn't need to intervene. Brenda Chapman, Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny were terrific panelists. The last program I attended on Thursday was Toastmaster Brad Parks' interview with Sue Grafton. What a fun interview!

Dinner was at Fisherman's Wharf with friends. Good seafood, including calamari. And, then a fun end of the evening in the bar, where all mystery conferences seem to end every day. Noir in the Bar, with mystery authors reading from their novels, was quite an experience.

Even after a late evening, I was up bright and early on Friday to attend the "Meet the New Authors Breakfast." There were over forty new authors who had the chance to plug their new book for only a couple minutes.

I wish I had been close enough to get pictures of the next panel, but, after attending the breakfast I wasn't one of the early arrivals to the session. It was called "In the Beginning...Reminiscing", featuring Jan Burke asking questions of Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller. It was a fascinating panel for anyone interested in the early years when women were finally recognized in the mystery writing field in the U.S.

Manors & Manners: Murder Beyond Downton Abbey featured Catriona McPherson as moderator and Rhys Bowen, Carola Dunn, and G.M. Malliet.
Catriona as moderator
I'll admit I did sneak out a few minutes early so I could get Craig Johnson's autograph in a copy of The Spirit of Steamboat, the book that is the current read for One Book Wyoming.

But, I made it on time to a panel featuring cozy mystery authors, A Taste for Murder. Daryl Wood Gerber also writes as Avery Aames. Nancy J. Parra is also Nancy Coco. Penny Warner moderated. Jenn McKinlay and Edith Maxwell rounded out the panel about food mysteries.
Darryl, Nancy, Penny, Jen and Edith

Haunted by Death, the next panel, was "On the Paranormal Side". Dianne Emley moderated the panel consisting of Juliet Blackwell (Hailey Lind), Molly MacRae, and Kris Neri. I finally met Molly MacRae, author of the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries!
Juliet, Dianne, Molly and Kris

I like mysteries that feature journalists, so I headed to Extra! Extra! Journalists Turned Crime Novelists. Andrew E. Kaufman moderated. Panelists were Bruce DeSilva, Carla Norton and Brad Parks. It was a fascinating panel.

Brad, Bruce, Carla and Andrew

I was in the very back row of a crowded room for Social Media: Getting the Word out in Today's Digital Day, so there are no pictures. Jen Forbus moderated. Maddee James, August McLaughlin, Chantelle Aimee Osman and Janet Rudolph took on Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and Pinterest.

The International Guest of Honor, Louise Penny, was interviewed by her publisher from Minotaur Books, Andrew Martin. And, I wish I had taken notes from this remarkable interview, but it was moving and beautiful, and I just sat and absorbed it instead of writing. It was special.

After Friday's full day, I actually took Saturday off. Chantelle and I walked for four hours, stopping only for breakfast overlooking Monterey Bay. I took a break in the afternoon, and then the Awards Banquet actually went from 7:30 to 10:30 or so.

Most of my friends left very early Sunday morning stayed for the end of the conference. I went to the last panel, Voices in Our Heads: Our Protagonists & What They Do so I could hear Terry Shames. The panel was moderated by Peg Brantley. The other panelists were Donnell Ann Bell, Warren C. Easely, and Cathy Perkins.
Peg, Donell, Warren, Cathy and Terry

The reason I wanted to hear Terry? When I was at the Public Library Association conference (PLA), I discussed Terry's books when we each talked about an up-and-coming author. (Check out Terry's Samuel Craddock books, beginning with A Killing at Cotton Hill.)

And, I ended the conference on a wonderful note.  First, a last short chat with Brad Parks. We seemed to run into each other throughout the conference.

With Brad Parks

We were both there for the final program. Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, the Lifetime Achievement Honorees were interviewed by Bette Golden Lamb and J.J. Lamb. Two remarkable authors.
Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
I enjoyed Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe two years ago, but this Left Coast Crime was the best mystery conference I ever attended. Kudos to Janet Rudolph, Lucinda Surber, Stan Ulrich, Robin Burcell, Terry Jacobsen, Noemi Levine, Bill and Toby Gottfried, and everyone else involved. And, now that they announced that Left Coast Crime 2016 will be in Phoenix, I know where my next LCC conference will be.

*****
You may skip this if you want, but, I'm going to thank everyone that made this conference special for me - everyone I had a chance to talk to, some for quite a while, some just for a few minutes. (I know there were 800 people here, but I didn't talk to ALL of them.) I already thanked friends Chantelle Aimee Osman, Kelli Stanley, and Kris Neri. I also want to thank Margie and Mike Bunting. I enjoyed your company, and talking mysteries and books with you. I know I'm going to miss someone, but thanks to Mary Jane Maffini (as she said, another short librarian), Lou Berney, Cara Black (congratulations!), Dorothy Black Crow, Juliet Blackwell, Rhys Bowen, Susan M. Boyer, Laura Bradford, Robin Burcell (Thanks for asking me to moderate the panel. It was fun!), Kate Carlisle, Erika Chase, Marcia Clark, Ann Cleeves (Thank you for your kindness), Deborah Coonts, Deborah Crombie, Kendel Lynn, Jen Forbus, Daryl Wood Gerber, Christine Goff, Diana Gould, Timothy Hallinan, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Sara J. Henry, Nancy Baker Jacobs, Terry Jacobsen (Thanks for the advice!), Darrell James, Maddee James, Rae James, Craig Johnson, C.T. Jorgensen, Deborah J. Ledford, Con Lehane, Sophie Littlefield, Jess Lourey, Molly MacRae (and your delightful husband!), G.M. Malliet (who also has a kind husband), Jeanne Matthews, Edith Maxwell, Jenn McKinlay (Good luck! So good to see you!), Catriona McPherson (Congratulations! And, I can't wait to post that picture you photobombed), Camille Minichino, David Morrell, Carlene O'Neil (Good luck! I'll be waiting.), Gigi Pandian, Ann Parker, Brad Parks, Louise Penny (hugs and congratulations!), Barbara Peters (So good to see you!), Frederick Ramsay, Rob Rosenwald, L.J. Sellers, Terry Shames, Susan C. Shea, Jeffrey Siger, Rochelle Staab, Jeri Westerson, Ingrid Willis, and Simon Wood.

And, for all of those readers who said they read my blog, and enjoyed it, thank you. It's a pleasure to share books with you!




Monday, March 24, 2014

Left Coast Crime Awards Banquet 2014

Some of the pictures in a banquet hall at 10 at night can be a little dark, but I'm sharing them anyways. I thought the Left Coast Crime Awards Banquet on Saturday night was a lot of fun, beginning even before the banquet. I was posing for a picture with Margie Bunting when Catriona McPherson called "Photobomb!", and hopped into the picture. Love it!
Catriona, Margie and Me


Brad Parks was Toastmaster. I sat at his table, and joked with him that his father was a wonderful host. Brad had to save his voice for a long evening.

People really clean up nicely for an awards banquet, beginning with the Toastmaster.

And, check out his warm-up poses to prepare for the evening, taken from a TED talk.


He even led the crowd in "Happy Birthday" to Jen Forbus, who works on his website. Many of you know Jen from her terrific site, Jen's Book Thoughts.

After his trademark songs, and his poses, Brad turned to introducing the Guests of Honor for Left Coast Crime, beginning with the Fan Guest of Honor, Sue Trowbridge. The U.S. Guest of Honor was author Cara Black.
Cara Black and Brad Parks

The International Guest of Honor was Louise Penny.

And, the Lifetime Achievement Honerees were Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini.

From there, it was time to bring in former Toastmasters to present the awards.
Two toastmasters, Alan Russell and Brad Parks

William Kent Krueger

Alan Russell announced that William Kent Krueger won the Squid Award for best mystery novel set within the United States for his book, Ordinary Grace.

Catriona McPherson
Catriona McPherson was a popular winner. She won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses.
Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips came to the stage to introduce the winner of The Calamari, the award for the best mystery novel set anywhere else in the world.

Louise Penny won for How the Light Gets In.



And, the final award of the evening, appropriately enough, went to our Toastmaster, Brad Parks. He won the Lefty for the most humorous mystery for The Good Cop.

It was a fun evening, filled with song, humor, wonderful mystery authors, ending in a party in the bar. (Don't all mystery conferences end in the bar?)



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Monterey Bay

I finally have some Internet access, and I want to share some pictures. Conference photos later, but today pictures of the peacefulness of Monterey Bay. It's beautiful here.

These are sea lions on their dock down at Fisherman's Wharf.

And then today, Chantelle Aimee Osman did what left Coast Crime called "The Calamari Crawl". We walked the length of the trail from our hotel to the aquarium and back. We didn't do it for the certificate, but after waking it, paid $25 for a certificate saying we had done it. The money actually goes to the Monterey Public and County Libraries.

We stopped on the way for breakfast at the Monterey Hotel and Spa where we had a stunning view of the bay, and the best meal I've had on the trip. Maybe it was the company. I've missed Chantelle. We stopped into a jewelry shop, a local little store, and the gift shop of a historic site, buying along the way.

But, it was the seals, the view as we walked, and the company that made it special.








Thursday, March 20, 2014

Monterey

I'm afraid there might not be too many blog posts until I get back from Left Coast Crime. Great hotel, but lousy Internet in the rooms. I can write this because I'm using my IPad mini on cellular, but that doesn't mean I can actually use pictures until I can use my laptop.

So had a wonderful day on Wednesday with greetings or hugs from Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Janet Rudolph. But the best part was dinner and evening spent with wonderful friends. I've missed Chantelle Aimee Osman, Kelli Stanley, and Kris Neri. We had dinner at a British pub, and then walked to Fisherman's Wharf to watch the sea lions. And, of course, ended up in the bar, where we talked to Deborah Coonts. It wouldn't be a mystery conference if you didn't end up in the bar.

Watch for pictures later, unless I find time to use my laptop in the lobby.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monterey, California

No real blog today. I'm in Monterey, California for Left Coast Crime, but I arrived after about thirteen hours in airports and of travel. I'm looking forward to a day of checking out Monterey before the conference starts. And, I'm looking forward to catching up with my friends from the "Left Coast". So, just a peek at conference headquarters, the Portola Resort and Spa in Monterey.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Madness in Miniature by Margaret Grace

I don't know why I've missed the last couple Miniature books by Margaret Grace. Madness in Miniature, her latest one, reminded me that they're terrific mysteries featuring an astute amateur sleuth. And, it reminded me that I love the relationship between Gerry Porter and her eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maddie.

School's out for the summer, so Maddie can spend more time visiting her grandmother in Lincoln Point, California. They're carrying one of Gerry's dollhouses to a new store, SuperKrafts, when they come across an argument between the two store owners who sold out to the giant chain craft store. All along, Gerry has been a little uneasy about the store coming to town. What are they sacrificing, "the homey feel of our downtown or the disruption of the careers and livelihoods of our friends"? One of Gerry's friends, Bebe, seems to think she sold out so that a box store could take over the craft market in town. Catherine Duncan, the PR emissary for the store, hopes that Gerry can act as liaison as she has in recent months.

At first, a death at SuperKrafts is attributed to an earthquake, but it doesn't take long for Gerry's nephew Skip, a homicide detective, to tell her it was murder. It's one thing for him to question Catherine, a fellow member of the management staff, but when he invites Bebe to the police station, Gerry grows concerned. Would one of her friends kill to prevent the store from opening? Gerry uses all of her knowledge of the community, and Maddie's computer skills, to dig into the mystery.

Margaret Grace is skillful in bringing the clues together in this intriguing mystery. But, she's also skilled in writing about family relationships. Gerry finds herself juggling a murder investigation with her worries about an unhappy granddaughter who is on the outs with her best friend. And, Skip spends as much time consulting his aunt and filling her in as he does on the investigation itself. But, that's part of the joy of this series. The family relationships and love bring this series to life.

Madness in Miniature is another successful, enjoyable mystery in my favorite series by this prolific author.

Margaret Grace (Camille Minichino) has a website at http://www.minichino.com

Madness in Miniature by Margaret Grace. Perseverance Press. 2014. ISBN 9781564745439 (paperback), 246p.

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



Monday, March 17, 2014

Remnants of Murder by Elizabeth Lynn Casey


Shouldn't a ninety-one-year-old man be allowed to die in peace? That's what Tori Sinclair and the women of the Southern Sewing Circle think. And, their interference puts them in opposition to most of the townspeople of Sweet Briar, South Carolina in Elizabeth Lynn Casey's Remnants of Murder.


When Library Director Tori Sinclair is forced to cut the budget, she also has to let go of her predecessor, Dixie Dunn. But, Dixie quickly finds a job as a volunteer for Home Fare. She doesn't have much time to get to know her client, Clyde Montgomery, before she finds him dead. But, it doesn't feel right to Dixie, and she works on Tori until the librarian finds a possible cause of the man's death. Someone in town might have resorted to poison to kill a ninety-one-year-old man. Unfortunately, it could be almost any businessperson in town. They all coveted Clyde's land.

Clyde Montgomery owned the best piece of land in town, with a spectacular lake view. Convinced a resort would mean new roads, more money for schools, income for the town and store owners, many of the business people urged Clyde to sell his land. Even bribes of chocolate-covered cherries and homemade pie didn't work. But someone didn't want to wait for an old man to die.

As Tori helps Dixie and other members of the Southern Sewing Circle investigate, she also finds herself in trouble, neglecting her fiancé. Soon, he's convinced she would rather spend time hunting for a killer than hunting for a wedding dress. And, Tori, sensitive to the moods of all around her, is under pressure to find a killer and a cake.

Elizabeth Lynn Casey brings us another small town mystery filled with a charming cast of characters. There's laughter, as some of the characters have a few eccentricities, and a few vocal feuds. But, Casey is quick to point out that there's a killer walking the streets of Sweet Briar, and no one should be eager to celebrate the death of a victim. It's up to Tori Sinclair and her friends in the Southern Sewing Circle to put aside their personal worries, and find the killer in their midst. Remnants of Murder succeeds as a cozy mystery with a fun cast, a touch of romance, and, of course, tragedy resolved.

Elizabeth Lynn Casey's website is http://elizabethlynncasey.com/blog

Remnants of Murder by Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Center Point. 2013. ISBN 9781611738629 (Large Print hardcover), 335p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Public Library Association (PLA) Conference

The Public Library Association holds a conference every other year. This year, it was in Indianapolis, so we were able to send a number of staff members. Good programs, and, for me, the chance to hear some authors, and catch up with old friends.

The exhibits featured all kinds of vendors who deal with libraries, but, I spent some time meeting up with my friend, Talia Sherer from Macmillan. I saw Virginia Stanley from Random House and Dominique Jenkins from Penguin. And, of course, old and new friends from Sisters in Crime. That led to a fun dinner in the bar at the Hyatt one night with Hank Phillippi Ryan and fellow librarians who are involved with SinC.

I was too far back to get pictures of Jane Pauley when she talked about her latest book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. But, thanks to Talia Sherer, I had a seat at a front table for the Audio Books dinner. Of course, that meant I was at an angle for the photos of Mary Kay Andrews, Andre Dubus III, and Rainbow Rowell. That was a fun evening. All of the authors poked fun at themselves. And, for your Mary Kay Andrews fans out there, her new book, Save the Date, is due out June 3.






Mary Kay Andrews

Andre Dubus III

Rainbow Rowell

Friday's lunch meant hearing Craig Johnson and Lisa Unger interviewed. I always enjoy hearing Craig. The author of the "Longmire" books is the best storyteller I've ever heard.

I had to run without getting books signed because I was on a panel right after lunch, but I did have time for a hug and greeting from Craig.

I was on a fun panel, "Doing Time with Sisters in Crime." Mary Boone organized it. Author Laura DiSilverio was the best moderator. She made it easy for us, and fun for the audience, as she played "Let's Make a Deal", asking them for items relating to mysteries. One audience member actually had duct tape and a scissors! Laura said she wouldn't ask. The rest of the panel consisted of authors Catriona McPherson and Frankie Bailey, along with one of my idols, the amazing librarian and author Joyce Saricks.

With Joyce Saricks


It was great to see my friend Stacy Alesi (BookBitch), first at her program, Cooking the Books, and then in the audience for our program. Stacy took that picture of me with Joyce Saricks.

The conference ended on a high note. David Sedaris read to a packed house, so we ended with a great deal of laughter.

I arrived home late Saturday afternoon. Back to work on Monday, but then I head to Monterey for Left Coast Crime. Hopefully, lots of pictures of authors. (Hopefully, I'll know how to download from my new camera by then so the pictures will be better.)