Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page

It doesn't matter if you read Katherine Hall Page's mysteries about caterer Faith Fairchild or not. Page's collection includes Faith in many of the short stories. And, an anthology can be picked up any time. This one came out a year ago, however it fit my mood when I went looking for the perfect book. You really just need to enjoy mystery stories to appreciate Small Plates.

Most of Page's stories are set in New England, everywhere from Maine to resort areas to Boston and the surrounding communities. A couple feature the old families, the Winthrops and the Cabots. There are even a couple Christmas mysteries for those of us who love them.

I had two favorite stories. "The Proof Is Always in the Pudding", the first of two Christmas mysteries, involves Faith's husband's family. When Faith's mother-in-law says she needs a man, it kicks off the story of the Fairchild Christmas Dinner Curse, a story going back to the late eighteen hundreds. It's a story of class and deceit and love. And, it's a story of murder.

Then, there's "Sliced". Anyone who watches food television shows will recognize a reality TV show in which chefs get eliminated if they don't prepare the most appealing appetizer, entree and dessert. Faith is not happy to be participating in the show for a local charity, but her best friend asked her. And, she really regrets her agreement when she meets her competition, three chefs who dislike Faith. Any one of them would like to eliminate her for good.

There are nine mysteries and a couple recipes in the book. Page's collection is an appealing taste of New England crime, with the inclusion of a familiar character for comfort. Although not all the entries include Faith Fairchild, the ones that do may just whet your appetite for longer stories, Katherine Hall Page's books that feature the caterer. Small Plates is the perfect appetizer, a sample of the storytelling skills of an author who has honed her skills over the course of twenty-two mysteries. Welcome to Katherine Hall Page's world, enchanting settings disturbed only by the intrusion of a killer or two.

Katherine Hall Page's website is www.katherine-hall-page.org

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062310798 (hardcover), 223p.

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Ready for an atmospheric, traditional police procedural? Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany was a bestseller for many months in Germany after its 2012 publication there. It's not a fast-paced thriller, though, so it won't make the bestseller lists here. It's for those of us who appreciate a thoughtful police officer and the slow unraveling of a crime. In addition, there are the beautiful small towns of Brittany to entice a reader.

Commissaire Georges Dupin was banished from the Paris police force, sent to the remote Breton coast. However, he enjoys his mornings in Concarneau, sipping coffee at a waterfront cafe, away from the politics of Paris. But, the murder of a renowned ninety-one-year-old hotelier in nearby Pont-Aven threatens to thrust his latest case into the spotlight. Pont-Aven and the Central Hotel played host to Gaugin and other artists in the 19th century, building its reputation on the connection to the artists. Now, the death of Pierre-Louis Pennec throws the entire region in an uproar.

Dupin finds everyone shocked by the murder, but no one is particularly helpful when it comes to investigating the crime. And, a break-in at the crime scene only muddies the waters. It seems everyone associated with Pennec and the Central Hotel has a closely-guarded secret. It will take a few walks and a few cups of coffee for Dupin to dig through his thoughts for the truth.

Dupin, with his love of coffee, good food, and walks by the sea, is only slightly eccentric as a detective. His biggest flaw is his inability to hold his tongue, so he tries to avoid conversations and confrontations with the higher ups.  And, with the trace of humor in this book when it comes to Dupin, he acknowledges that. "He found it a bit sad, because he lacked some of the 'hidden depths' which now seemed a quasi-requirement for his profession: drug addiction, or at least alcoholism, neuroses or depression to a clinical degree, a colourful criminal past, corruption on an interesting scale or several dramatically failed marriages. He didn't have any of those things to show off about."

Spend a day or two with Dupin, walking the paths of small-town Brittany, exploring the cafes and side streets, while pondering the mysteries of murder, Death in Brittany. It's a charming quiet mystery that introduces a traditional police detective and a story that reaches into the past.

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250061744 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Currently Reading?

I know I don't put this in my signature line as often as I should, what I'm currently reading. It's the
perfect question, though, for all of us who love books. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading a book that was a bestseller in Germany in 2012, and comes out Tuesday in this country. Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec (a pseudonym), represents one of my favorite types of mystery, the police procedural. It introduces Commissaire Georges Dupin, exiled from Paris to the remote Breton coast. He's enjoying his morning coffee when he's called to a sleepy community that was once a gathering point for artists, Pont-Aven. Someone killed a ninety-one-year-old man, owner of a legendary hotel. And Dupin, not exactly known for his tact with the politically powerful, has to juggle phone calls and a murder investigation.

I'm spending my weekend with Commissaire Dupin in Brittany. What are you currently reading?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards

I always have a hard time reviewing story collections, no matter how much I enjoy them. Do you just want to take my word that readers who appreciate the Golden Age mystery classics will appreciate Resorting to Murder? No?  Well, then take editor Martin Edwards word for it.

There are fourteen stories in this anthology. Edwards, himself an award-winning crime writer, calls these "vintage stories written over a span of roughly half a century, and which have a backdrop of a holiday". This is not a holiday as Americans think of it, Christmas or Thanksgiving. A holiday in this case is a trip or vacation, "enjoyable escapism" as Edwards says. Yet each story tells of a murder, "enjoyable escapism" for the reader who gets to watch a classic sleuth solve the crime in most of the stories. And, who better to kick off the anthology than Arthur Conan Doyle with the story of Sherlock Holmes' case in Cornwall, "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot"?

Edwards provides an introduction to each author and story. Some of the authors may be familiar to those who love older British mysteries. G.K. Chesterton and R. Austin Freeman have always been a couple of my favorites. And, somewhere or another I must have read Basil Thomson's "The Vanishing of Mrs. Fraser" before. It's just as fascinating as the first time I read it or something similar, the story of a young woman who leaves her ailing mother at a hotel, goes in search of help, and returns to find her mother gone, and the hotel staff denying everything. It's a must-read.

The collection is part of the British Library Crime Classics series, edited by Edwards, and published in this country by Poisoned Pen Press. I have two mystery novels in the series, ones I haven't had a chance to read yet. But, I'm looking forward to them.

Now that it's summer, I'd recommend a trip back in time if you enjoy and appreciate the classic British mystery. Resorting to Murder will serve as an introduction to both well-known and lesser-known authors, and some stories you may not have seen elsewhere. Trust Martin Edwards to tell you the background of the stories and authors.

Martin Edwards' website is www.martinedwardsbooks.com

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203756 (paperback), 278p.

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winners and Give Me an H Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Kate White's The Wrong Man. They're going to: Susan S. from Valatie, NY, Mildred B. from Great Neck, NY, and Kay S. of Georgetown, TX.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries by two authors whose last name begins with H. Let's start with Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand mystery, Don't Go Home. Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, may have promised her husband, Max, that she wouldn't get involved in any investigations, but when a friend is in trouble, Annie can't let her down. Successful author Alex Griffith returned to Broward's Rock, promising to reveal secrets about the town's residents. Marian Kenyon was the last one seen having an argument with Griffith before he was killed. But, Annie believes that her friend didn't kill him, and she can't let a friend be wrongfully convicted, even if she does put herself in jeopardy.

Or, you could choose to head out west with Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito in Anne Hillerman's Rock with Wings. Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, have plans for a short vacation, but two cases, one near Shiprock, the other at Monument Valley, will send them on their separate ways. While Chee deals with a missing woman, a thug, and a mysterious mound where it shouldn't be, Bernie copes with a drug bust that went wrong and the federal repercussions, problems with her sister, and an ambitious solar energy company. And, despite his continuing physical problems, Leaphorn is able to guide both of them.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Please include your name and mailing address. Your subject heading should read either "Win Don't Go Home" or "Win Rock with Wings." Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 2 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble's Whisper Beach surprised me. I expected the typical summer book about women who reunite after twelve years, discovering romance and rediscovering friendship at a resort. It was anything but typical with a cast of characters that were grittier with more realistic problems than many of the characters in these type of books. Even the setting was a working class setting, the small-town diner and bars of a New Jersey town, as seen by the residents, not the tourists.

Vanessa Moran had escaped from Whisper Beach when she was eighteen. After witnessing the love of her life with another girl, she got drunk, got pregnant, and her father kicked her out of the house. Two friends helped her run; one gave her money; one showed up when she lost the baby. Now, she's a successful businesswoman in Manhattan, only returning for a funeral when her cousin's husband dies. Van hopes to escape quickly, but a couple friends have other plans.

Dorie, the woman who owns the pier's Blue Crab Restaurant, took in all the stray teens who worked for her, including Van. Now, she needs help to keep her restaurant going. With a little pressure, she gathers her "girls" around her one more time - Suze, wealthy socialite turned professor; Van's cousin, Gigi, a lost widow at thirty-one; Dana, the sarcastic one who Van blames for ruining her life; and, of course, Van. It's good to see some old friends, but Van has no interest in seeing Joe, the boy she wanted to marry at one time, or her father who kicked her out. Sometimes, though, life doesn't go as planned, and Van should know that. She appreciates the quote, "You Can't Go Home Again," but Van will learn home isn't what you thought you knew at eighteen.

The women's fiction that deals with friendship seldom deals with working class families and problems with family fights, drunkenness, abuse, pregnancy, illegal workers, all issues that come up in Whisper Beach. When I summarized it to a friend, he thought it sounded depressing. It isn't. In fact, Whisper Beach is a refreshing change from the expected storyline. Even the ending isn't the typical, "And, they lived happily ever after" ending. It's much more realistic, leaving doubt as to what will happen to the characters and their relationships. It's actually a treat to discover Shelley Noble's story of ordinary people coping with life.

Shelley Noble's website is www.shelleynoble.com.Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062319166 (paperback), 416p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in the TLC book tour.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Chat - July Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Did you catch Jinx' cameo? He was only there long enough for that quick appearance, and then went off to take a nap. But, he and I want to share this month's titles. Here are the July cozy mysteries from  Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Spellcasting in Silk by Juliet Blackwell - 7th Witchcraft Mystery
Butter Off Dead by Leslie Budewitz - 3rd Food Lovers' Village Mystery
Fatal Reservations by Lucy Burdette - 6th Key West Food Critic Mystery
Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates - 5th Magical Bakery Mystery
Peaches and Scream by Susan Furlong - 1st Georgia Peach Mystery
Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton - 3rd Merry Muffin Mystery
Wound Up in Murder by Betty Hechtman - 3rd Yarn Retreat Mystery
Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy - 6th Manor House Mystery
Dead Men Don't Eat Cookies by Virginia Lowell - 6th Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery
Death Under Glass by Jennifer McAndrews - 2nd Stained-Glass Mystery
Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran - 2nd Read Em and Eat Mystery
Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed - 2nd Scottish Highlands Mystery
Macaroni and Freeze by Christine Wenger - 4th Comfort Food Mystery

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

That Chesapeake Summer by Mariah Stewart

Nothing says summer like escaping to St. Dennis, Maryland with Mariah Stewart in her latest Chesapeake Diaries book. This year, she sends an author on a life-changing trip to St. Dennis in That Chesapeake Summer.

Jamie Valentine is a bestselling author, a media star with her books about leading an honest life. But, she's only a mourning daughter as she cleans out her parents' house following her mother's death. It's then that she discovers she may have built her entire career on a lie. She uncovers a letter from an attorney in St. Dennis, congratulating her parents on her adoption as a newborn. When she confronts her only remaining relative, her aunt confirms that her father wanted to tell her, but her mother could never bring herself to reveal the secret. At thirty-six, she doesn't know who she really is. While she waits for the state to respond to her request to open her records, she heads to St. Dennis to see what she can discover.

What Jamie discovers is the Inn at Sinclair Point, Grace Sinclair, the owner of the local newspaper who knows all the town secrets, and a man she could love. And, she discovers a charming town of unique little shops and welcoming people. But, will they still welcome Jamie Valentine if she uncovers one of the town secrets?

Grace Sinclair, with her unusual gift of knowledge introduces us to this story with her diary entry. The characters and the setting are appealing. There's always a problem, and a romance. So, welcome to St. Dennis, where the townspeople invite us into their historic town. It's a place for healing and romance. That Chesapeake Summer is as delightful as all the previous entries in the series.

Mariah Stewart's website is www.mariahstewart.com

That Chesapeake Summer by Mariah Stewart. Pocket Books. 2015. ISBN 9781476792576 (paperback), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book when I agreed to participate in a blog tour.

Monday, June 22, 2015

See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy

See also: one of the best mysteries I've read in quite a while. Larry D. Sweazy is an award-winning author of westerns, but the first of his Marjorie Trumaine mysteries is a winner as well. See Also Murder introduces an unusual amateur sleuth, and puts her into a gritty environment, the plains of North Dakota in 1964. It's a tough life for anyone, but Marjorie Trumaine has a rougher life than most.

Marjorie never wanted to live anywhere else or be anything more than farm wife to her beloved husband, Hank. They had gone through some rough times, and Marjorie learned to be an indexer to make extra money. Then a tragic hunting accident left Hank blinded and paralyzed, unable to farm. Marjorie was left to keep the house and farm going with help from the farm boys next door, Jaeger and Peter Knudsen. She was barely keeping her head above water when someone killed her neighbors, Erik and Lida Knudsen, slaying them while they slept, leaving their sons to find them in the morning. When Sheriff Hilo Jenkins informed her of the murders, he also asked for Marjorie's help. He knew as an indexer she would be fascinated by the story behind an unusual amulet. In Marjorie's eyes, that amulet leads to nothing but trouble, as more murders occur, and she feels isolated, as if she's being followed, and alone.

Sweazy's book is gritty, but not in the graphic sense used in most novels. It's the lifestyle on the plains in 1964. The characters lead a tough life, trying to eke out a living in an unforgiving environment. And, maybe that's the best description of the setting and the story, unforgiving. It's a beautifully written, atmospheric story that reminds me of some of my favorite mysteries, ones that set a stage that is uniquely theirs. It takes me back to the first time I read Jonathan King's The Blue Edge of Midnight, set in the Everglades, or Donis Casey's Oklahoma mysteries. These stories all evoke a strong sense of place that is vital to the story. And, it takes just a few phrases to set the time frame; the party line, Marjorie's typewriter, the fear of the Communists and nuclear war. It's a mystery perfectly set in its location and time period.

In Marjorie Trumaine, Sweazy has created an unusual character. She's a woman in a job that requires isolation and quiet, an indexer. But, she's forced into that environment as well, living with a man confined to his bed, who seldom talks, and wishes he could die. She's far from any neighbor, alone on the farm. She's a woman who forces herself to take action and appear strong, while she is lonely, cries   in the truck by herself, and smokes under stress, hiding it from her husband. And, she depends on the border collie, Shep, for protection and comfort.

Anyone who appreciates a solid mystery with an intelligent amateur sleuth who confronts the problems of life and death under harsh conditions should pick up See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy. I'd file it under See Also Outstanding Crime Novel.

Larry D. Sweazy's website is www.larrydsweazy.com

See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy. Seventh Street Books. 2015. ISBN 9781633880061 (paperback), 250p.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

July Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

Some people may think the second book on today's list should be the highlighted title. But, since I'm highlighting the ones I'm most anticipating, here's my pick, a crime novel.

Brad Parks' latest Carter Ross novel is The Fraud. Investigative reporter Carter Ross is assigned the story about a rash of carjackings when one results in the murder of a wealthy banking executive. Tired of only writing about stories that are about the rich and white, Carter finds a Nigerian immigrant who was also killed during a recent carjacking. When he learns the two victims knew each other, Carter plunges onto the trail of a band of thieves, a hunt that puts his unborn child in harm's way. Now, Carter will stop at nothing to rescue the baby, even if he has to choose to save the unborn child instead of himself. (Release date is July 7.)

Circling the Sun is Paula McLain's first novel since her bestselling The Paris Wife. This time, McLain  takes readers to Kenya in the 1920s to tell the story of a captivating woman, Beryl Markham. Markham was a trailblazing horse trainer and record-breaking aviator. She's also known for the tragic love triangle with safari hunter Denis Finch Harron and Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. The fearless woman, author of West with the Night, is a worthy subject for McLain's latest book. (Release date is July 28.)

How about a memoir, Layne Mosler's Driving Hungry? It's a story that takes readers from Buenos Aires to New York City to Berlin, following the author whose adventures became the basis for her blog, Taxi Gourmet. In Buenos Aires, she impulsively asked a taxi driver to take her to his favorite restaurant. That kicked off her adventurous food quest, as she follows taxi drivers' advice in international cities, and even becomes a driver herself. (Release date is July 14.)

If not a crime or historical novel, or a memoir, are you looking for a debut? Julia Pierpont brings us Among the Ten Thousand Things, the story of the possible breakup of a family during one tumultuous summer. Deb Shanley left a career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. And, all along, she's ignored the weaknesses of Jack, an artist and her husband. But, they're all brought to light when a package is delivered, addressed to Deb, but opened by her daughter. It's a collection of emails detailing Jack's extramarital affairs. One-by-one, the family members come home to this catastrophe, and, over the course of the summer, have to decide how to cope. (Release date is July 7.)

Natasha Pulley's debut novel is a historical fantasy, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. In 1884, Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, warning him of a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. When he goes searching for the watchmaker, he meets Keita Mori, a man who remembers the future. (Release date is July 14.)

"Old Rivalries Never Die. But Some Rivals Do." That's the cut line for Lori Rader-Day's Little Pretty Things. Juliet Townsend is used to losing. Even in high school, she lost every track race to her best friend, Madeleine. Ten years later, she's still running behind, stuck in a dead-end job cleaning rooms at the Mid-Night Inn. But one night, Maddy checks in. And, when she checks out of life, permanently, Juliet is no longer jealous. She's the chief suspect in Maddy's murder, forced to investigate to protect herself. (Release date is July 7.)

Authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment are writing as A.J. Rich in The Hand That Feeds You. It's the unsettling suspenseful story of an accomplished woman involved with a man. It's only when he's found dead, mauled to death, that she learns he's an imposter. Everything he told her was a lie, and one by one the other women involved with him are murdered. (Release date is July 7.)

Don't you love the cover of David Rosenfelt latest Andy Carpenter mystery, Who Let the Dog Out? Attorney Andy Carpenter isn't as excited about practicing law as he is about the dog rescue operation, the Tara Foundation. When one of the dogs is stolen, and Andy and his business partner track the dog down, they discover it standing next to a dead body. Andy's curiosity gets the better of him, and he starts to investigate, uncovering information that convinces him the police arrested the wrong man. (Release date is July 21.)

Scott Sigler's Alive is the first in his science fiction Generations trilogy. A group of teenagers wake up in a mysterious corridor, with no knowledge of who they are or how they got there. There only hope lies with a young woman whose name is engaged on the foot of the coffin where she wakes up. M. Savage is determined to lead the others out, and make sure they all survive. (Release date is July 14.)

Bennington Girls Are Easy is Charlotte Silver's coming-of-age novel featuring two recent Bennington grads, girls known as free spirits, who are determined to make it in New York City. Heartfelt and funny, it's a novel about female friendships. (Release date is July 14.)

When you think thriller, do you think of Chevy Stevens? Those Girls is the story of Dani, Courtney, and Jess Campbell who live on a remote ranch in Western Canada, dreaming of the day their alcoholic father would disappear. When their wish comes true, they must assume new identities and forget the past. Eighteen years later, though, Jess' own teenaged daughter is asking too many questions. (Release date is July 7.)

Professional thief Crissa Stone has spent a year without pulling a job. Now, in Wallace Stroby's The Devil's Share, she takes a thief-for-hire job. When what should have been an easy theft, stealing from a man who wants to be robbed, turns deadly, Crissa is on the run again, with both an ex-military hit squad and her own partners-in-crime in pursuit. (Release date is July 7.)

Quite a collection, isn't it? What titles jump out at you? There should be plenty of titles released in July for all readers. And, just think, the August Treasures in My Closet will be coming soon. And, later this week, the book chat featuring July mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. I put those mysteries aside to save. So, you and Jinx can watch for the book chat, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

July Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

I didn't do the July Treasures in My Closet post because I was in New York, and didn't have time ahead of time. But, one of my readers, Cindy, asked if I would still post it. It was a compliment to be asked, especially when Cindy said I post some titles here that she doesn't see elsewhere. Thank you. So, here's Part 1 of the Treasures in My Closet, July's forthcoming books. Once again, I'm splitting it into two days.

We all know I don't have time to read all the books I have, but I can highlight them. But, I'm going to put a slight twist on it, starting now. I'm going to lead off with the one or two books that I'm most looking forward to reading. I always enjoy surprises, so I'll always find something unexpected to appreciate. But, the highlighted title will often be from a favorite author. I have a highly anticipated crime novel in both Part 1 and Part 2.

So, here's my personal pick for today, Linda Castillo's After the Storm. I'm a big fan of the Kate Burkholder series. When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder has to identify bones. When evidence shows the death was no accident, Kate finds herself plunged into a thirty-year-old case that takes her back into the Amish community to which she once belonged. (Release date is July 14.)

Now, on to the other titles. The late Leighton Gage, author of the intriguing Mario Silva crime novels set in Brazil, probably would have appreciated Juliana Barbassa's Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink. The award-winning journalist turns her eye on Rio, a city "ravaged by inflation, drug wars, corrupt leaders, and dying neighborhoods", but now preparing for the world stage with the 2016 Olympic Games. The book introduces the reader to a city of extremes, and the people who make up that city. (Release date is July 28.)

Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, returns with Armada, "at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming-of-age adventure, and an alien-invasion take like nothing you've ever read before." Zack Lightman wishes the real world was more like the fictional ones he escapes to. But, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality, until the day he sees the flying saucer. But, that UFO seems to be right out of a popular game, and millions of gamers across the world will be needed to actually protect the Earth from alien invaders. But, even as Zack and the other gamers scramble to prepare, he can't help thinking the scenario seems a little familiar. (Release date is July 14.)

In P.T. Deutermann's Cold Frame, an American government official dies suddenly in a restaurant, but the coroner cannot determine the cause of death. When a second bureaucrat dies, D.C. detective Av Smith discovers they were both members of a secret committee known only as DMX. As he digs deeper, Smith finds himself the target of a plot that reaches into the darkest areas of the government. (Release date is July 14.)

I love the sound of Wendy Sand Eckel's cozy debut, Murder at Barclay Meadow. After Rosalie Hart's world is upended by her husband's confession of an affair, she exiles herself to her late aunt's farmhouse on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Everything at Barclay Meadow is in disrepair. And, then Rosalie finds a body floating in her marsh grasses. Despite the declaration that the death is an accident, Rosalie is unconvinced. Together with her friends in her creative writing class, Rosalie decides to find out the truth. (Release date is July 28.)

Open Grave is Kjell Ericsson's sixth book to be published in the U.S. In the latest Ann Lindell crime novel set in Sweden, an aging professor has been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine. The news causes problems in his otherwise quiet neighborhood, and eventually Police inspector Ann Lindell becomes involved in the case that transports her back into her own past. (Release date is July 14.)

There's already been a lot of buzz about Lissa Evans' novel, Crooked Heart. This black comedy set in World War II England tells of the unlikely alliance between a small-time con artist and a ten-year-old orphan evacuee who wants in on her plans. (Release date is July 28.)

Nadia Hashimi, author of the bestseller The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, now brings us When the Moon is Low. When the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is forced to flee with her three children, hoping to seek refuge with her sister's family in London. The harrowing journey turns her family into desperate refugees. And, then in a busy market in Athens, Fereiba's teenage son becomes separated from the rest of the family. Separately, mother and son cross border after border, trying to find a place where they can be a family again. (Release date is July 21.)

A Study in Death is Anna Lee Huber's fourth Lady Darby mystery. Lady Kiera Darby is finally engaged, but her sister's plans to make the wedding the event of the season drive her to escape. She accepts a commission to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, a woman whose brusque treatment by her husband reminds Kiera of the torment caused by her own late husband. When she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, everyone is satisfied with calling it a natural death, except Lady Darby. (Release date is July 7.)

Benjamin Johncock's debut novel, The Last Pilot, explores the inner life of Jim Harrison, a test pilot in the U.S. Air Force, scheduled to participate in Project Mercury. But, when his wife learns she's pregnant with their long-awaited baby, he turns down the chance in order to become a father. But, his life as a father and pilot grinds to a halt when his daughter dies at the age of two. The devastated man throws himself into his work, and, when the next opportunity comes along, he takes it, without consulting his wife. As Harrison trains to become an astronaut, his daughter's death takes a greater toll than he ever expected. (Release date is July 7.)

The back cover of Kevin P. Keating's novel, The Captive Condition, says it delves "into the deepest recesses of the human capacity for evil". A seemingly idyllic Midwestern college town turns out to be a nexus of horror. When Emily Ryan is found drowned in the family pool, pumped full of barbiturates and alcohol, a series of events with terrible consequences ensues. Guilt, anguish, criminal activities, and retribution for evil deeds. All of these take place in a town that buzzes into decadent life after sundown. (Release date is July 7.)

Victoria Laurie's latest Psychic Eye mystery is Sense of Deception. Abby Cooper senses a convicted killer is innocent, but she'll need hard evidence to save the woman before it's too late. When Abby is tossed into jail for contempt of court by a ticked-off judge, she meets a woman facing a much more serious sentence. Skylar Miller faces the death penalty for the murder, and everyone believes she's guilty, except Abby, who sets out to prove otherwise. (Release date is July 7.)

I know I already mentioned Patrick Lee's Sam Dryden novel Signal somewhere or another. The action-thriller takes ex-Special Forces Op Dryden into a battle against the deadliest enemies he's ever faced. And every innocent life he saves put millions more in danger. (Release date is July 7.)

But I haven't mentioned Peter Lovesey's latest Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond Investigation, Down Among the Dead Men. The fifteenth installment in the series has a full cast of characters and "Lovesey's signature masterful plotting". Follow Diamond as he stumbles into a complicated web of disappearances in a Sussex town on the southeast coast of England. (Release date is July 7.)

And, follow me again tomorrow when I lead off the second part of July Treasures in My Closet with a crime novel by one of my favorite authors. In the meantime, what did you see here that's worth following?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Winners and The Wrong Man Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Donna Fletcher Crow's A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary will go to Debora H. of New Castle, DE. And, I'll be sending a copy of G.M. Mallet's A Demon Summer to Charlotte W. from Covington, GA.

This week, I have three copies of Kate White's novel of suspense, The Wrong Man, to send to winners from the U.S. or Canada. It's the story of a woman who decides to be more bold and adventurous in her personal life, and decides to be risky on vacation. When Kit Finn bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel in the Florida Keys, she decides to act on her attraction. But, when she arrives at his luxury apartment in New York, ready to pick up where they left off, she finds a man she doesn't recognize there. Kit soon realizes she's been thrown into a treacherous plot, deadlier than she could have imagined. In order to protect everything she loves, she has to find the true identity of the man behind the plot.

If you'd like to win a copy of this book, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win The Wrong Man." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, June 25 at 6 PM CT.
This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer's latest novel, The Guest Cottage, is a charming summer book. Set on Nantucket, it's the story of two people escaping their troubles, only to find family, and each other.

At thirty-six, Sophie Anderson has been content to be the perfect wife, the perfect hostess, and the perfect mother. But, when her successful husband announces that he's in love with someone else, she asks what about the children. He points out that she's more concerned with their two children than she's in love with with him. She begs for time, and rents a house on Nantucket for the summer, to give her time to absorb the changes, and to protect her fifteen-year-old-son and ten-year-old daughter.

Trevor Black is a thirty-year-old widower with a four-year-old son, Leo, who seems to be having problems dealing with his mother's death, although Trevor was always the stable one in the family, the stay-at-home father. So, sight-unseen, Trevor rents a house on Nantucket to find a refuge, an escape where he can spend time with Leo. When Trevor pulls up to the island retreat, he finds Sophie's family already in residence. It seems two cousins each rented the house to a friend, without informing the other. So, Sophie and Trevor establish a few ground rules, and decide to try living in the house for two weeks.

Thayer's novel is about family, and discovering what makes a family. It's about two people finally forced to honestly face their own past history. It's a delightful story of a summer escape, the lazy days of a beach vacation. And, it's a romance between two grownups, discovering there is life after the first  love of your life.

Looking for a summer novel that captures the magic of the beach, family and love? Nancy Thayer's The Guest Cottage is a light, enjoyable treat.

Nancy Thayer's website is www.nancythayer.com

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer. Ballantine Books. 2015. ISBN 9780345545510 (hardcover), 321p.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One to the Wolves by Lois Duncan

Basketball coach Jim Valvano is known for saying, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." That could be author Lois Duncan's motto. One to the Wolves is her second book to recount her ongoing, heartbreaking story to uncover the truth about her daughter's murder. Duncan is best known for her suspense novels for young adults. But none of those books had the twists and turns of the true account of her search for answers and justice.

In July 1989, Duncan's eighteen-year-old youngest daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette was killed in a "drive by shooting" in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her first book about that tragedy, Who Killed My Daughter?, Duncan discussed the search for answers. Duncan and her husband trusted the police department to find the killer, but when the case went unsolved, she and her husband turned to investigative psychics, informants, and anyone they could find to help. Now, in her latest book, she reports everything she and her husband have done while continuing to plea for help.

Author Ann Rule wrote the introduction, saying "Mothers seeking justice for their murdered children are not a rarity." In this case, though, Lois Duncan was a successful author who set aside her career to search for answers. As she gathered statements and articles, she began to see that her daughter was targeted. Her book is a powerful account of an investigation, still unfinished, that points to wrongdoing within the Albuquerque Police Department, not only with Kait's murder, but with the deaths of numerous other young people who accidentally fell in with the wrong people. And, Duncan points to lies, cover-ups, disappearing evidence, scare tactics, threats and scandals that reach into high places in New Mexico. She and her husband were forced to move from their home, their family was scattered, and Duncan herself suffered from a stroke and seizures as a result of the ongoing investigation.

One to the Wolves is a follow-up to Who Killed My Daughter?, but it stands alone. Duncan uses newspaper articles to re-introduce the story of Kaitlyn's killing, so the reader new to the story can easily understand the background. Twenty-six years after Kaitlyn Arquette died, Lois Duncan has found a network of survivors, but also continues to build a network of people who are searching for the truth. It's a heartbreaking, frightening account of broken trust, lies, cover-ups, and murder.

Followup - Lois Duncan left a comment that her daughter's case is being investigated by the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute. The following link takes you to an interview with the founder of that institute, an interview that mentions the Arquette investigation. http://www.the-line-up.com/cold-case-investigative-research-institute-interview

Lois Duncan's website is www.loisduncan.arquettes.com

One to the Wolves: A Desperate Mother on the Trail of a Killer by Lois Duncan. Planet Ann Rule. 2015. ISBN 9781940018515 (paperback), 212p.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis

Anyone who follows Krista Davis' Domestic Diva series knows that the book really should have been called The Diva and the Kiss of Death. Anytime Sophie Winston shows up in a book, there will be a murder. Actually, her latest bestseller, The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss is a celebration of chocolate, with a murder or two thrown in.

Sophie is responsible for all of the Old Town events surrounding the 60th anniversary of Amore Chocolates in Alexandria, Virginia. She has her hands full when domestic diva Natasha Smith starts bad-mouthing the family-owned company. However, Sophie is skillful enough to manipulate Natasha, the chocolate contest winners, and all of the events. It's harder to deal with the disappearance of Joe Merano, the CEO of the company, who goes missing the night of the anniversary party. And, it's even more difficult to handle a murder at the event, especially when Sophie becomes the number one suspect in the death of another chocolatier. As she desperately digs for answers, she finds a number of Merano family members have reasons to want the man dead. But, which of them really has collected all the ingredients for a recipe for murder?

Davis' latest mystery finds Sophie a little too willing to fall in with the ridiculous sleuthing plans of her best friend, Nina. That only leads to trouble, pitting Sophie against the police who ask her to stay out of the investigation. But, Merano family members push Sophie to look for the missing Joe even while they keep secrets. This story becomes a little too tangled for my taste, with a few too many characters involved with the dead chocolatier. And, Sophie certainly seems to involve herself with the wrong men. Any reader can see the end of her current relationship on its way.

Sophie Winston is just a little too pushy in this particular story. The book itself contains hints and suggestions about using chocolate, along with a selection of recipes. Even with the character issues in this book, Davis' The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss is still a fun romp through the world of chocolate.

Krista Davis' website is www.kristadavis.com

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425258156 (paperback), 289p.

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Noontime Follies by Elizabeth Gunn

I usually put every other book aside to read Elizabeth Gunn's latest Jake Hines mystery. There's just something logical and satisfying about these police procedurals set in Rutherford, Minnesota. Noontime Follies is no exception.

Jake Hines runs the detective division of the Rutherford police department. And, the department always seems to have strange crimes. This time, the head of the Property Crimes unit reports they've had fourteen break-ins in five days. Offices were broken into, and nothing was taken. Most of the companies were start-ups, and there were messages left behind warning them about messing with the science, GMOs, and the earth. It seems there's some quiet protest movement against genetically altered foods. And, then one of the scientists is found dead.

Usually, Gunn combines stories of the personal lives of Jake and his department with the story of the investigation. It was slightly disappointing that there was very little about the detectives' lives. It may be that Jake and his team are not currently in the stages of upheaval they've dealt with in the past.

Despite the lack of personal stories, Noontime Follies, is an enjoyable procedural. The team works together to track down the answers, investigating step-by-step. For those of us who appreciate the logic, the carefully measured strategy of a police investigation, the Jake Hines mysteries are engaging  crime novels.

Elizabeth Gunn's website is www.elizabethgunn.com

Noontime Follies by Elizabeth Gunn. Severn House. 2015. ISBN 9781847515964 (paperback), 188p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Family Trip to NYC - Day 4 & 5

We packed so much into Thursday in New York. Christie selected a tour of Rockefeller Center as one of her three picks, and Linda wanted to go to either the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. So, we combined those two wishes.

The tour of Rockefeller Center was terrific. We had a great tour guide. I'd recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys history and art. Most of the tour was outside, and it lasted over an hour. We learned how Abby Rockefeller loved modern art. Most of the art around Rockefeller Center is there because of her. It was her collection that helped establish the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA. And, we learned how her husband, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was so conservative he wouldn't even enter one of the entrances of Rockefeller Center because he didn't approve of the art over the doors. (Go Abby!)

The art over the door John D. Rockefeller, Jr. would use.

We also appreciated the story of the sculpture of Atlas and the bishop at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The bishop didn't like the statue of Atlas. The artist told Rockefeller not to worry. He knew what he was doing when he designed it. He showed the bishop the back of the sculpture, designed to be seen from behind facing the doors of the cathedral. No more problem.

The view from the Top of the Rock is stunning. Central Park is beautiful from there. And, one view shows the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty all at once.

At Top of the Rock

After Rockefeller Center, we stopped in at Christie's. You can tour some of the art exhibits there, and attend an auction if you want. No auction that day, and I have to say the art certainly wasn't our type. I guess we weren't interested in giant insects.

Linda wanted to see St. John the Divine, so we took a bus there, and, because we were close, we went to Grant's Tomb. My parents always took us to Presidential sites when we traveled, so it felt right to go there.

Christie outside Grant's Tomb Memorial


After hearing the history behind Hurley's Saloon and Restaurant, Linda and I decided that was the perfect spot for our last dinner in New York. Hurley's was once located at Rockefeller Center, and became a favorite spot for NBC employees. In fact, they rigged up lights to let the employees know when they needed to return to the studio. Hurley's moved, but we still wanted to check it out. We had a terrific dinner there before heading to the theater.

Fish and chips, my favorite dish at an Irish pub

MMMM. A Pink Lady

Our final show was an original musical comedy written by David Hyde Pierce, and starring Tyne Daly and Sierra Boggess. "It Shoulda Been You" was just fun, the story of a wedding with both families not to happy about the marriage. Tyne Daly was wonderful. There was a really fun twist to the show. And, those of you who remember "Cagney and Lacey" with Tyne Daly as Lacey and Sharon Gless as Cagney, might appreciate the fact that Sharon Gless and her husband were sitting in front of us. When the show was over, she turned around and said to me, "That was fun."

Friday was our last morning in NYC before heading home. We separated until noon. Mom and Christie headed back to St. Patrick's to tour the cathedral. Linda and I bought umbrellas because we had already packed ours, took a few pictures, and went back to Grand Central Station. Since our tour guide at Rockefeller Center said everyone should have a red velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery, we split a cupcake before walking to St. Patrick's to join Mom and Christie for Mass.

Fun week in NYC, and then we flew home, staying at Mom's overnight before I took Linda and Christie home. It was a great week with family. Mom summed it up beautifully when she said it was one of the best weeks of her life. I think we all felt that way since we shared the trip together.