Saturday, April 29, 2017

Family & Chicago

We're off to Chicago, leaving a friend and her daughters to play with the cats. My Mom and sisters came in from Ohio yesterday. We're heading to Centralia, Illinois to take the train up to Chicago. It's an overnight trip to see "My Fair Lady". It's at the Lyric Opera House for one month. It stars Lisa O'Hare, Richard E. Grant, and Bryce Pinkham. Can't wait!

So, there will be no blog on Sunday. Next week, though, kicks off with the Treasures in My Closet, followed by some terrific books. See you Monday!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The 2017 Edgar Awards

Last night, Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2017 Edgar Awards. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Hachette Book Group – Grand Central Publishing)
Before the Fall
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Random House – Penguin Press)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (W.W. Norton - Liveright)
"Autumn at the Automat” – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Lawrence Block (Pegasus Books)

OCDaniel by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)

"A Blade of Grass" – Penny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)

"The Truth of the Moment" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine  by E. Gabriel Flores (Dell Magazines)

Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart

Dru Ann Love

Neil Nyren
The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Winners and Humorous British Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. This week, both books are going to Missouri. Joyce K. from Farmington will receive Murder Ties the Knot. Mary H. of St. Louis won Extra Sensory Deception. The books will go out in the mail today.

Would you like to win a mystery set in England? These two books are marked by wit and humor. If you haven't yet discovered Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell, you'll want to win A Curious Beginning. Fans of Elizabeth Peters' books will find the young woman delightful as she teams up with Stoker, a reclusive natural historian to discover who tried to abduct her. Together, they go on the run, while they search for a killer.

Most of you probably know Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness mysteries. I have a hardcover of Malice at the Palace in which Lady Georgiana is asked to be the companion for Prince George's future wife. But her assignment grows complicated when she finds a dead woman at the palace, a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George's mistresses. (If you've already read it, you might want to win it and give it as a gift.)

Which British mystery would you like to win? Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win A Curious Beginning" or "Win Malice at the Palace." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 4 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I just started Edith Maxwell's second Quaker Midwife book, Called to Justice, on my lunch hour yesterday. That means I'm not very far into it, and I really only know that midwife Rose Carroll will be investigating the murder of a young woman who works at the mill with Rose's niece.

What are you reading this week? I've finished ten mysteries for Library Journal, and you'll be reading reviews of those June and July releases on my blog, close to publication date. What are you reading? Mysteries, story collections, nonfiction? Or a book in another category? We'd love to know! Please share.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Have You Heard? Spellcasting in Silk by Juliet Blackwell

Once again, thanks to Sandie Herron for jumping in while I'm busy. I appreciate her reviews of audiobooks. Spellcasting in Silk
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: July 7, 2015

I very much enjoy Juliet Blackwell's books, either the renovation series or this Lily Ivory story of a young witch finding a place to belong in the world.  Her vintage clothing shop is jumping as patrons prepare for the Summer Festival of Love.  
In the midst of a very busy and happy time, San Francisco's police department's Carlos Ramirez calls Lily to serve as their informal assistant in cases involving paranormal circumstances.  He is currently trying to discover why a botanica shop's contents are flying around the shop and slowly destroying it in the process.  
At the same time, the SFPD are looking into a woman who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge to her death.  As Lily looks into this case, she finds it may be connected to the mysterious botanica where the owner has been arrested for possible connections to the dead woman as well as the fact that her young teen granddaughter is missing.
Only Lily can follow the wild theories that defy logic to find answers and the granddaughter, who will be hard to hold onto, since she is very much like a young Lily.  Powerful magic is used, but Lily and Sailor and Aidan team up to overcome them.
The mysteries were easy enough to follow when the author spelled out what she discovered.  Left to my own devices, I've never would have figured this out in my mind.  I very much enjoyed following Lily and her cohorts.
On a special note, I continue to thoroughly enjoy the narration of Xe Sands.  She brings the words to life without overdoing characters' voices or accents.  Yes, there are differences when she reads different characters, but they aren't overdone.  She's a woman, and reading a man's lines does not involve pushing her voice as low as possible.  Rather she uses a subtle accent or other device to make each character's voice their own.  Her melodious and clear voice brings life to the words and is a good part of the reason why I love listening to audiobooks.  The great writing and storylines of Juliet Blackwell are other big parts!  
Now I'm off to read another of her many fine books.  I think I'll jump to the renovation series this time..

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

Rosemary Simpson uses historical accounts and actual figures to bring her debut historical mystery to life. What the Dead Leave Behind, set during New York City's Gilded Age, is a story that crosses all classes, running from a wealthy household on Fifth Avenue to Irish saloons. And, the opening scene, an actual event, could not be more dramatic.

There were two hundred people killed in New York City in the March 1888 blizzard. One of them is lawyer Charles Linwood, the fiance of heiress Prudence MacKenzie. He's found frozen on a bench, hit on the head by a tree branch. In his hand is an ace of spades, a signal to his old friend, ex-Pinkerton agent Geoffrey Hunter, that something was wrong. His death leaves Prudence trapped with her stepmother as her trustee, a woman Prudence doesn't trust. When Prudence can break herself from the sway of the laudanum her stepmother, Victoria, doses her with, she turns to her father's lawyer, Roscoe Conkling, for help. Together, Prudence and Conkling enlist Hunter in the search for answers. Who was Victoria MacKenzie before her marriage? And, what hold did she have on Prudence's late father, a well-respected judge?

While Hunter does much of the outside investigation, Prudence continues to put herself in danger in a household that has changed drastically since her new stepmother took over. Prudence can only trust an Irish maid and the stableman. But, her search for answers even endangers them, as an accident leaves one of them struggling for life.

Hunter and Prudence put together an unlikely team. As they coerce answers from a doctor and a mortician, they turn to others for help. There's an ex-policeman with connections with everyone from an underworld boss to people who sympathized with the lost cause of the Confederacy. They work with a blind code breaker and his skilled daughter. And, there's an entire group of retired servants and a hansom cab driver who are eager to assist them.

Simpson's debut mystery crosses classes in an investigation into the past of an evil woman and her brother. Someone knows the truth in this suspenseful story that successfully incorporates real people and actual events. What the Dead Leave Behind is a fascinating historical mystery featuring an intrepid young woman, and the people who are willing to help her.

What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson. Kensington Books. 2017. ISBN 9781496709080 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review it for a journal.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Chat - May 2017 Cozy Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime

Here's the book chat featuring forthcoming mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. If it sounds a little choppy at times, blame Jinx. Jinx fans will appreciate that he's there for almost the entire video. However, it's a little unsettling to try to film around a cat.


Here's the list of books in this month's book chat.

Killer Characters by Ellery Adams (8th Books By the Bay Mystery)
Ghostal Living by Kathleen Bridge (3rd Hamptons Home & Garden Mystery)
Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong by Emily Brightwell (35th Victorian Mystery)
Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley (2nd Writer's Apprentice Mystery)
Books of a Feather by Kate Carlisle (10th Bibliophile Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Nightshade for Warning by Bailey Cattrell (2nd Enchanted Garden Mystery)
Dead and Berried by Peg Cochran (3rd Cranberry Cove Mystery)
Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart (26th Death on Demand Mystery, hardcover)
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (19th Gaslight Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson (20th Gaslight Mystery, hardcover)
The Art of Murder by Elaine Viets (15th Dead-End Job Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
A Purely Private Matter by DarcieWilde (2nd Rosalind Thorne Mystery)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Have You Heard? Home for the Haunting by Juliet Blackwell

Thank you to Sandie Herron for the review for Have You Heard?

Home for the Haunting  Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #4
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audio, Listening Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio Release Date: December 3, 2013
ASIN: B00GY8D180

I loved this new entry in Juliet Blackwell's Haunted Home Renovation Series. Mel Turner, general contractor, is working on a home for a disabled man who uses a wheelchair. They plan to build a ramp, several specific projects, and generally tidy up. Some of Mel's workers are at the house on a Saturday along with many neighborhood residents to help as best as they can.

Before the charity work can begin, Mel's sister Cookie arrives without her husband or children. She wants to show that she is important as Mel, so accompanies Mel all day to learn what her job is like.

Cookie shows how little she knows by wanting to just pop into numerous boutiques, eat out, and then go to Mel's evening class as well. In a comical scene, Mel tries to drop Cookie at a Bart station so she can get within a few blocks from home. Cookie objects so vociferously that she take Cookie part way home where she is picked up by family to get home.

The next day brings the charity work day. They soon discover that the house next door is known as the Murder House where a man shot his daughter and wife with his son and second daughter hiding in an upstairs bedroom. The father then shot himself, and the remaining children crawled out a window to escape and to gather help. Ghosts are known to exist there introduced by loud banging of the front door knocker in a repeating pattern.

Mel has begun working on learning more about ghosts via classes with a renowned professor on the subject. He helps Mel set up a séance on the 25th anniversary inside the Murder House. Mel has even become friendlier with the SFPD detective that seems to show up in each book.

I am truly impressed by how much Mel has grown, up to and including this book in the Haunted House Mystery series. This book could stand alone, but I believe it was so very much richer having read it in publication order, just as this series has become.

Sandie Herron

Saturday, April 22, 2017

No Saturday Post

No, nothing is wrong with me. But, last night, just as I sat down to dinner, the power went out. And, it didn't come back on until late in the evening. No power = no Internet = no opportunity to write the blog post.

Enjoy your Saturday, even if it's chilly and damp, as it is here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Winners and A Woo-Woo Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of A Twist of the Knife. The ARCs are going to Kathy S. from Alba, TX, Doreen D. of Long Beach, CA, and Nancy M. fro Joliet, IL. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries with a paranormal connection. Extra Sensory Deception is Allison Kingsley's Raven's Nest Bookstore Mystery. Cousins Stephanie and Clara Quinn are booksellers, and Clara has an ability to read minds and see the future. Clara's boyfriend invites her to the rodeo to meet a high school buddy and expert calf roper. But, Clara's reluctant when she has a vision involving a rodeo clown. Of course, there's a dead body, and Clara needs to use her Quinn Sense to keep that calf roper from prison.

Christy Fifield's Haunted Souvenir Shop mystery is Murder Ties the Knot. The tourist trade in Keyhole Bay, Florida may be slow, but souvenir shop owner Glory Martine has her hands full. She's juggling her best friend's wedding, a haunted parrot, and plans to catch a killer.

Which cozy mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at The subject line should read either "Win Extra Sensory Deception" or "Win Murder Ties the Knot." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 27th at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's all up to you today. I'm in the middle of reading this month's pile of mysteries for the June 1 issue of Library Journal, so I can't really talk about my current book. You'll see all the books reviewed here sooner or later, though. So, just think, ten mystery reviews!

What are you reading? I'll jump in between meetings today, but I know I can count on some of you to get involved in the conversation. I love to see those titles. Thanks for reading with us!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Have You Heard? Tammy Kaehler's Dead Man's Switch

It's been a month since I shared one of Sandie Herron's Have You Heard? posts with you. Sandie listens to audiobooks, which I don't do. This is an opportunity for other listeners to discover titles they might have missed. Here's the note I run periodically before one of Sandie's reviews.

“Have You Heard?” is a column featured only on Lesa’s Book Critiques.  It features many reviews of audiobooks (fiction, with a concentration in mysteries) but these reviews will include recent and past books for an interesting mixture of titles. Content is usually written by Sandie Herron.  It also covers news of note and not generally available, such as ASAP publishing a limited edition for a certain author or perhaps something important out of Publisher’s Weekly.  The column is published sporadically, so you’ll want to watch for it!

Thank you, Sandie. (Racing fans may want to listen to this one.)*****
Dead Man’s Switch
Series: The Kate Reilly Mysteries, Book 1
Written by Tammy Kaehler, Narrated by Nicole Vilencia
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 53 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio (August 2, 2011)
**** stars

Kate Reilly is looking for a “ride” at Lime Rock Park speedway in Lakeville, Connecticut on the 4th of July weekend where the American Le Mans series (ALMS) is racing its Corvettes.  Kate’s level of experience means that she must become a part of a racing team in order to be taken seriously as a driver.  Turning up at the track says that she is ready and willing just in case a team needs a driver.  

As luck would have it, Kate discovers a body by barely hitting it when she arrived and parked her car.  That body is Wade Becker, driver of the 28 Corvette on the Sandham Swift racing team.  She runs for help and finds Stuart Telardy, VP of operations and communications for ALMS, 33, and handsome.  When the police arrive, the detectives question her repeatedly, wondering why she had found Wade’s body.  She is incredulous when they ask for her alibi for the previous night.  At least she’d been with her friend Holly from Western racing team, who takes Kate under her wing after the police release her on that Saturday morning.

Jack Sandham finds Kate in Holly’s team’s paddock.  He hires Kate to drive for Wade for this race with possibilities for the remainder of the series.  Kate is thrilled when her dreams come true and she is hired as the second driver.   The rumor mill explodes, and Kate is considered a prime suspect in Becker’s murder.  However, Wade was not a popular driver, so many will not miss him.  They are happy to see what Kate can do.  Many others believe a woman does not make a good race driver and let her know it.  She’s a 24-year-old female who has been working her way up in the racing world since she was 12 years old.  But she knows she is stepping into a chaotic situation full of emotion.

Sandham Swift is a private team racing two C6R Corvettes purchased from the manufacturer, numbers 28 an 29.  The cars competed in GT1 (Grand Touring 1) along with large Ferraris, Vipers, Mazaradis, Astin Martins, and Selenes.  Other classes include the GT2 and Le Mans prototype classes 1 and 2.  Two drivers share the car in every race, with more drivers for longer races.  Kate had joined this team for the third stint at the end of Sebring’s 12-hour race the year before so knew the car, the team, the pit crew, the owner.  

Kate immediately meets with the crew, learning more about the car and the track.  She will only have an hour to practice in the car before the race.  She needed to convince the detectives she didn’t commit murder while getting to know the car and track as best she could.

When race time arrives, we are treated to a step-by-step rundown of what goes on inside the race car.  With each turn of the car, Kate describes the actions needed to navigate the turns, the straights, and pit lane.  She has done this a million times before she ever attempts it in the car.  It is as close to a personal tour of the track as the reader can get without being there.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Cubs by Scott Simon

I'll admit I picked up Scott Simon's My Cubs: A Love Story because I enjoy Scott Simon as an NPR host. I've heard him speak before, and he's an excellent speaker who tells enjoyable stories. I like baseball, but I'm not one of those life-long Cubs fans. Simon, a Chicago resident, is. My Cubs is the story of his passion for the team, the people who love the Cubs, and even the history of the team.

Simon is proud of his allegiance. "I am a Cubs fan. A husband and father, an American, a Chicagoan, and a Cubs fan....But being a Cubs fan is my nature, my heritage, and probably somewhere in my chromosomes." He relates stories of growing up as a Cubs fan, attending games, listening to the sounds as he sat in classrooms. There's nostalgia and humor in all of his stories. There's humor even when you read the story of the Marine who survived Vietnam just to learn the Cubs blew it again in 1969.

Because Simon is a journalist and has a few connections with the Cubs, he's able to gather stories from everyone from that Santa Cubs fan to Tom Ricketts, one of the owners of the team. And, he tells of going to the White House with the team when President Obama welcomed them. He even rewrites poems to tell the story of the team and the players over the years.

"The Chicago Cubs - historically one of the most beloved, but easily the most cursed, hexed, and jinxed franchise in sports history." That's the team Scott Simon loves. He wasn't on the bandwagon. He shares intimate stories about his family, personal notes that show how important the team was to him, to his father, and, now, to his daughters. It's a charming, loving account, made even better by Gary Bullock's illustrations. If you love the Cubs, enjoy Scott Simon's stories, or appreciate sports storytelling, Scott Simon's My Cubs is a fan's enjoyable homage.

Scott Simon's website is

My Cubs: A Love Story by Scott Simon. Blue Rider Press. 2017. ISBN 9780735218031 (hardcover), 145p.

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

I'm the wrong demographic for Alyssa Mastromonaco's story of her time working for Barack Obama, in his Senate office, his political campaigns, and the White House. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is subtitled "And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Won in the White House". I guess I thought a forty-year-old would write a thoughtful book, maybe with some humor since it does have that title and jacket cover. But, it's really meant for fifteen to twenty-five-year-old young women to demonstrate the political opportunities out there. And, the humor and comments about knocking back a drink before every big event is definitely for a younger demographic.

Mastromonaco was one of the youngest women ever to be a deputy chief of staff for the President of the United States. Her first two years of college showed her politics could be exciting. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in political science. She was a press secretary for a congressman, then scheduler for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign. When she was asked to work in Senator Barack Obama's office after Kerry's run was over, she was hopeful. "I really wanted to work for Obama. After the brutal Kerry defeat, I especially wanted to work for someone who was not going to run for president."

The book is about Mastromonaco's hectic life as first the director of scheduling, and then Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. If at times, it seems overwhelming, it was. The author is quite honest about the lack of sleep, the busy schedule, the improper diet, one crisis after another. She's honest about her admiration for President Obama. And, she tells how she just wore out in the job, and needed to quit.

Alyssa Mastromonaco found she had to break ground for other women at times. Facilities in the White House were not exactly what one would expect. As I said, the book was not targeted to women my age. Even so, I found the behind-the-scenes glimpses fascinating as the author toiled in a vital job that only becomes visible to the public when something goes wrong. She succeeded beautifully, if not always easily, as she relates in Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler. Twelve. 2017. ISBN 9781455588220 (hardcover), 248p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Devil's Breath by G. M. Malliet

Max Tudor comes out of retirement (was he ever really in retirement?) to assist MI5 and DCI Cotton with a case out of Agatha Christie in G. M. Malliet's latest mystery, Devil's Breath. It's a mystery for those who appreciate convoluted, character-driven mysteries.

When a body washes up onshore at Monkslip-super-Mare, it isn't long before it's identified as Margot Browne, a faded actress who was sailing on director Romero Farnier's yacht. The news story is only of slight interest to Father Max Tudor, but then he's called by MI5. He retired from there to become an clergyman, but now a former lover and colleague wants his help. She was onboard the yacht, undercover, but she was just about to leave the ship because of her pregnancy when Margot was killed. And, DCI Cotton is convinced it was murder.

Who would want to kill the aging actress who drank too much? Was she putting too much pressure on Romero for a role in his next film? What about the young actor who was rooming with her? Or, Romero's latest actress/lover who might have been jealous of Margot. And, why was MI5 interested in the yacht?

While Malliet handles the locked room mystery with ease, there's a lack of emotion in this latest story. Perhaps it's because Max is out of his element, away from the villages and the gossip and close-knit community. The people on the yacht lack any connection to him, or even a community. They are cold-blooded Hollywood types and hangers-on, without much emotion. I never really connected with any of the characters. This book just seemed like a textbook investigation for Max and Cotton.

Saying that, fans of Max Tudor and DCI Cotton will still want to catch up with their latest exploits in Devil's Breath. The conversations between Max and Cotton are delightful, adding humor to the story. And, their friendship is unique. It's worth reading the book just to see these two interact.

G. M. Malliet's website is

Devil's Breath by G. M. Malliet. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250092786 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Souls of Men by A. R. Ashworth

A. R. Ashworth's debut police procedural, Souls of Men, is not for the weak of heart. The crimes are vicious. The villains are true villains. And, his lead detective, Elaine Hope, is in for the fight of her life in this book.

Detective Inspector Elaine Hope is partnered with Benford, a Detective Chief Inspector probably investigating his last major case since he retires in thirty days. The victim is a teenage girl, brutally beaten, stomped, and slashed with a knife, and then her body was dumped. Fortunately, in London, there are cameras that show the girl getting on a bus, and getting off, followed by a man. The camera leads point to a loner, a surgeon. Although Elaine doesn't believe he's the killer, Benford demands a fast arrest. But, in the middle of the interrogation, Benford suffers from a health emergency. Now, the newly named Acting Detective Chief Inspector, Elaine Hope is handed a bungled case while the tabloids demand action.

Although she has limited manpower, Hope puts together a dedicated team who are willing to put in the time necessary to catch the killer. And, when a possible witness is brutally killed, she's able to add a couple more officers to the group. Part of the pleasure in reading a police procedural comes from watching the team track down the clues, eliminate suspects, and plod through the case to a successful conclusion. DCI Elaine Hope is determined to do everything she can to find justice for the victims, and her team works diligently toward a case that can be laid out for the prosecutor. But, the people behind the vicious deaths are as intelligent and wily as Hope.

I appreciated the logical development of the investigation in Souls of Men. I didn't feel as if Hope truly came alive in the book. She lacked emotional depth, although her intelligence and capabilities are outstanding. But, it's obvious that Ashworth is setting the groundwork for an ongoing series, and the story of an officer who is knocked down, but determined to fight back.

A.R. Ashworth's website is

Souls of Men by A. R. Ashworth. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683311171 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review it for a journal.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Winners and A Twist of the Knife Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Trish R. from Decatur, GA won Pushing Up Daisies. A Death By Any Other Name goes to Sharon B. of Albuquerque, NM. The books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away three copies (Advanced Reader's Copies) of Becky Masterman's thriller A Twist of the Knife. Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn leaves Arizona, flying to Florida to be with her mother after her eighty-three-year-old father's hospitalization. While she's there, a former colleague asks her to assist with an Innocence Project investigation. She's working to exonerate a Death Row inmate who was convicted fifteen years earlier of killing his wife. His three children have been missing since the night of the murder. Brigid believes the man is guilty but agrees to investigate.

If you would like to win a copy, email me at Your subject heading should read "Win A Twist of the Knife." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 20 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's reached the point where I miss talking about books "WITH" you rather than at you, so I'm even ensuring I have a day free to ask what you're reading. Thanks for sharing, and, often, carrying the burden of the conversation when I'm busy at work.

I'm halfway through Anne Lamott's Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. It's introspective, philosophical, a little religious, quite thoughtful. In other words, it's typical Anne Lamott.

What are you reading or listening to today? I'm eager to talk about books!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Interview with Jill Orr

I had the opportunity to read Jill Orr's debut mystery, The Good Byline, several months before it was released. So, I was pleased she agreed to answer interview questions. I think you'll be able to tell which was my favorite answer. Thank you, Jill.

Jill, would you introduce yourself to the readers?
My name is Jill Orr and I am the author of The Good Byline, the first book in the Riley Ellison mysteries. Undoubtedly, the most interesting thing about me is that when I was 13 years old, I spent a weekend in Lake Geneva, WI, at the same summerhouse as Oprah and Stedman. That has nothing to do with my book or with me as an author, but I like to work it into as many conversations as possible.
Tell us about Riley Ellison.
Twenty-four year old Riley Ellison lives in the small town of Tuttle Corner, VA, where everybody knows your name— and your business. This hasn’t worked out especially well for Riley. Her odd preoccupation with obituaries combined with a very public meltdown over her grandfather’s suspicious death and her inability to pick up the pieces after being dumped by her longtime boyfriend have caused the residents of Tuttle Corner to unofficially change her name from Riley Ellison to Riley Bless Her Heart.
Tell us about The Good Byline, without spoilers.
When the book opens, Riley learns her childhood best friend, Jordan James, has just committed suicide. So when Jordan’s family asks Riley to help write the obituary for the local newspaper, Riley agrees as a way to learn why this dynamic young woman would suddenly opt out. Riley eventually becomes convinced that Jordan’s death was no suicide. She teams up with Will Holman, an oddball reporter with a penchant for conspiracy theories, to find out what really happened to her friend. Their investigation leads down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks!
Because this is the first in a series, can you tell us anything about the second book?
The second book finds Riley officially working for the Tuttle Times as a reporter and obituary writer. The first obit she is asked to write is for beloved local cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Davenport who is found with a knife sticking out of his chest by his soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Tabitha. Things get really complicated when Tabitha’s fiancé is arrested for his father’s murder and, with the desperation that comes from facing a conjugal visit honeymoon, Tabitha begs Riley to prove Thad didn’t do it. Holman is away on an undercover assignment, so Riley has only her instincts (and the guidance from a virtual life coach courtesy of a 30 day free trial from’s sister company) to guide her as she discovers the good doctor may not have been so good after all...  
What were you doing when you learned The Good Byline had been accepted for publication? Who did you tell first?
It felt completely surreal. I equate it to getting married because it’s one of those things you think about and dream about forever and then when it finally happens you don’t really know how you should feel. One minute you’re single, the next you’re married; one minute you’re an aspiring writer, the next you’re a published one. I was thrilled, of course, but I probably spent more time than I should have thinking, “Is this how I’m supposed to feel?” But after I got off the phone with my agent, I immediately told my husband and then called my best author friend, Laura McHugh. That night Jimmy and I planned to take the kids out and surprise them with the good news, but they were both highly suspicious about why we were going out to dinner on a Monday night and they ended up guessing before we even got to the restaurant. But by the time we sat down to dinner, the happy news started to sink in and the night concluded, of course, with champagne!
As a wife, mother, blogger, writer, tell us about juggling your schedule to find time to write.
My kids are both in school so I write when they’re out of the house. The hours between 2:30 and 8pm are reserved for driving them around town to their various activities (and listening to podcasts and audiobooks!) but after that I’ll often end up working for another couple of hours. I write when I can, so sometimes I have long stretches and sometimes I have twenty-minutes here and there. I take the time where I can get it!
If someone comes to visit, where do you take them to show off Columbia, Missouri?
Oh, I love this question! Shakespeare’s Pizza is a must, as is Booches for the best burgers you’ve ever had served on little slips of wax paper. I like to take people for a walk through the quad on Mizzou’s campus (where I went to undergrad and graduate school), and if it’s football season I love to take friends to tailgate and cheer on the Missouri Tigers! Columbia also has a super cool downtown and it’s always fun to walk around the little shops and restaurants down there. In addition, Columbia is a town of great festivals, so depending on the time of year, there is always the possibility of a fab festival happening around town!
What authors have inspired you?
There are so many, but the ones that top my list are authors who are able to combine humor and heart like Maria Semple, Janet Evanovich, Darynda Jones, Lisa Lutz, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Alan Bradley. I also love essayists Lisa Kogan and Colin Nissan when I want some non-fiction humor.
What’s on your TBR pile right now?
So many good books! I’m reading Lady Kopp Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart and have book three in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries queued up and ready to go. Next up on my list after those are Karen Katchur’s The Sisters of Blue Mountain, Gina Sorell’s Mothers and Other Strangers, and Emily Carpenter’s The Weight of Lies. I could go on and on! One of the very best parts about writing mysteries is getting to meet so many other writers through social media and conferences and discovering all these new authors I might not have found otherwise!
As a librarian, I always end my interviews with this. Please tell us a story about libraries or librarians.
I really believe that my love of books and reading is due in large part to the library at Ravinia Elementary School, where I attended first through fifth grade (just outside Chicago in Highland Park, IL). The school was in an old brick Tudor style building and at the top of the A-frame peak, was the library. But it wasn’t called the library. It was called the Treehouse, and it was magnificent. It was a sun-filled space lined with multi-paned windows and loads of odd angles that created the perfect cozy nooks in which to curl up and read a book. It was always warm in there and the librarians always knew just what book the day called for. It was there I discovered that Frog and Toad were friends, Ramona was a pest, and bawled like a baby as I read Where the Red Fern Grows while Mrs. Lovey handed me tissues from the box on her desk. I’ve since been to many an amazing library, but the Treehouse will forever have a special place in my heart as the place where my love of books really took root.
Thank you, Jill! Jill's website is
The Good Byline by Jill Orr. Prospect Park Books, 2017. ISBN 9781938849916 (paperback), 280p.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Good Byline by Jill Orr

Bless her heart. Riley Ellison is the talk of her hometown in Virginia. She's also the amateur sleuth in Jill Orr's fun debut mystery, The Good Byline. It's a mystery for readers who enjoy quirky characters in a Janet Evanovich-style caper.

When Riley's grandfather died, she tried to convince everyone in town that he did not commit suicide. Everyone, from the newspaper staff where he worked, to the police department, scoffed at her. Now, the twenty-four-year-old has spent too much time mourning after the love of her life dumped her after seven years. The people of Tuttle Corner know she's single, and depressed. When she's asked to judge the three-legged race at the annual festival, Riley knows it's time to change her life. She signs up for a dating service, and tries to contact her childhood best friend. But, Jordan, a newspaper reporter, just died from an insulin overdose. Another suicide? To Riley, it's another suspicious death.

Riley isn't the only one who finds it suspicious. Jordan's co-worker, Will Holman, has his own theories. In fact, he's a conspiracy nut, and has all kinds of theories. But, he enlists Riley when he convinces her to dig into Jordan's life. Before long, Riley's life is truly out of control. Her boss at the library has an accident with a gun, followed by a handcuff event. Her first date ends after she rides a roller coaster and vomits all over. Her ex comes back to town. And, then she inherits Jordan's dog who flunked his training as a police dog because he was afraid of guns. Ah, Riley. Bless her heart.

Riley Ellison is an accidental sleuth who bumbles her way through an investigation. But, she'll remind readers of Stephanie Plum, another inept amateur sleuth. Orr's debut mystery is a funny selection with quirky characters. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with Riley's friends and her love life in future books.

Jill Orr's website is

The Good Byline by Jill Orr. Prospect Park Books. 2017. ISBN 9781938849916 (paperback), 280p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review it for a journal.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

If you have a secret, and someone threatens to reveal it, would it feel "like the world was closing in"? Lori Rader-Day, award-winning author of The Black Hour and Little Pretty Things, takes readers into the life of a flawed, determined character in The Day I Died. It's a story and character that won't easily be forgotten.

Anna Winger and her son, Joshua, have been on the run for thirteen years. As a handwriting analyst, she can work and communicate with her government contact from any location. Whenever she feels threatened, she picks up and moves. Did someone recognize her in Chicago? Move on. But, it's in a small town, Parks, Indiana, where everything falls apart.

As a favor for her boss, Anna agrees to look at a couple notes when a toddler disappears. Sheriff Russ Keller is skeptical. Handwriting analysis is a little too woo-woo for him. But, the town is on high alert, the mother has disappeared, and the media is all over the case. When the nanny is found murdered, Keller admits he'll take any assistance to find the missing child. Anna realizes she's more interested than she should be, but she identifies with the runaway mother. She's been protecting her son for his entire life. Now, at thirteen, Joshua is rebellious and questioning. When he, too, goes missing, Anna can no longer hide from her past.

No review of Rader-Day's powerful standalone is going to do it justice. There is so much that can't be said. From the gripping opening to the satisfying conclusion that offers closure, there's no wrong step in the story. Anna Winger sees herself only as a mother trying to protect her son. Is she a reliable narrator? Can the reader trust a character who has been running for years? What is the truth when Anna introduces the story by telling about "the day I died"? She's a character that never doubted what she was doing was right, until the day her son disappears. Then, her determination to find him leads her to find unknown strength.

Powerful. Intense. This intricately plotted story, and Anna Winger, are unforgettable. Lori Rader-Day's The Day I Died is one of the best books I've read this year.

Lori Rader-Day's website is

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day. William Morrow. 2017. ISBN 9780062560292 (paperback), 432p.

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

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Murder in All Honour by Anne Cleeland

Doyle and Acton are back! Anne Cleeland's latest mystery, Murder in All Honour, is not a jumping off point for the series. Her stories are as interconnected as Louise Penny's, and readers need to have read earlier ones to keep the characters straight, and to pick up the pieces of the plot. But, fans of the series will be satisfied as the storyline continues.

Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle is pregnant, and she doesn't need the worry of the latest cases to catch the attention of tabloids. Although Acton does his best to keep the stories under wraps, pregnant women have been murdered, and their babies have been taken. How does this connect with the death of a nun? Because Doyle is always on high alert when her husband is involved in a case, she asks a few questions, tracks down some witnesses, and heads off in the wrong direction.

Lord Michael Acton, also Detective Chief Inspector Acton, is juggling the investigation into corruption at the highest level at the Met, along with the murders he's trying to keep secret, and family problems. And, of course, the man who is obsessed with his wife, Doyle, tries to keep secrets from her. Finally, even Doyle has to admit some secrets should be kept. Unfortunately, her "gift" of knowing when others lie make it hard for her to butt out of Acton's business.

Although the current case seems somewhat convoluted in this book, the characters are as delightful as ever. Murder in All Honour is set at Christmastime, and part of the enjoyment comes from Doyle's uncertainty as to appropriate gifts. It's a treat to catch up with Acton and Doyle again, their butler, Reynolds, Williams, and even the criminal, Savoie. Cleeland continues to reveal bits and pieces of Lord Acton's family history. More than the criminal investigations, the characters bring readers back to Cleeland's novels. Her characters are clever, sometimes amusing, but always fascinating.

Anne Cleeland's website is

Murder in All Honour by Anne Cleeland. Artemis Press. 2017. ISBN 9781543168624 (paperback), 256p.

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

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Date with Death by Julia Chapman

The title of Julia Chapman's debut mystery, Date with Death, doesn't do it justice. Neither does the book jacket. The title and cover make it appear to be a cozy mystery. It is not. It's a traditional mystery. It's meaty with great characters. Don't hesitate to pick it up because of the title or cover art.

Samson O'Brien always felt like an outsider in Bruncliffe, the village in the Yorkshire Dales. His father was the town drunk after his mother died. Then Samson left town abruptly, and the gossip started. It only grew worse when he didn't return for the funeral of his best friend, Ryan Metcalfe, when Ryan was killed in Afghanistan. Now that he's back, Ryan's sister, Delilah, welcomes Samson with a punch to the face. But, the laugh is on her. Samson is her new tenant, and Delilah, with two struggling businesses, is desperate for the money. No one in town believes that Samson's Dales Detective Agency will make it, though.

But, when a dead man's mother hires Samson, everything changes. She's convinced he didn't commit suicide. As Samson investigates, Delilah realizes the three dead men in town were all clients of her dating agency. Because she could lose her business to gossip, Delilah hires Samson to find a killer. And, what better way to do it than to use Samson as bait?

Bruncliffe is a village struggling with folding businesses. As the setting for this English village mystery, it's home to an unusual group of people. It's fascinating to watch the relationships and personalities in this town. Chapman skillfully sets the scene and introduces the characters in a new series, with hints of an ongoing mystery. Date with Death is an intriguing mystery that shows great possibilities for the future.

Julia Chapman's website is

Date with Death by Julia Chapman. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250109361 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book for review for a journal.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Winners and a British Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Candy K. from Erie, PA won The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford. Celia F. from Aspen, CO won Susan Wittig Albert's Blood Orange. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, we're going to England as the setting of the mysteries.

It's getting closer to the start of WWI in Tessa Arlen's latest Edwardian mystery, A Death by Any Other Name. The elegant Lay Montfort and her pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Jackson are called on to help a cook who was framed and dismissed for poisoning a guest of the Hyde Rose Society. The pair head to the countryside to investigate after promising to help the cook regain her job and her dignity.

In Pushing Up Daisies by M.C. Beaton, Agatha Raisin teams up with a handsome retired detective to investigate two murders. All the villagers are relieved when a wealthy land developer dies before his plans for a housing estate can go through. They must untangle quite a web when a second murder follows.

Which British mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win A Death by Any Other Name" or "Win Pushing Up Daisies." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 13 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Actually, I just finished a book, a marvelous book that made me nostalgic for the years when I was an adolescent reader. Author Ann Hood is only a few months older than me, so some of the books that she read and loved were ones I read around the same age. She talks about them in a wonderful book that is scheduled for release on August 1,Morningstar: Growing Up with Books. We didn't have the same childhood, and I was lucky to have a public library for all of my reading youth, which Hood did not. But, we shared one memory she only touches on.

How many of you remember the Childhood of Famous Americans series? Hood describes them as orange-covered, and they were in the Huron Public Library where I read them. On LibraryThing, there is a list of those books.   The titles bring back such memories! I remember Elizabeth Blackwell: Girl Doctor. I know I read Annie Oakley: Little Sure Shot, and I was positive that an insect would fly into my ear, and then I'd go deaf or die from it. I read Lotta Crabtree: Gold Rush Girl. I know I read all of them the library had, which wasn't a lot. When I look at that list on LibraryThing, I wish we'd had more of them.

Memories. The book I just read brought back memories. What are you reading right now? Is it a book  that resonates with you? I hope you're enjoying whatever book you're going to share with us!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Interview with Rebecca Cantrell

I've known Rebecca Cantrell since her third Hannah Vogel book, A Game of Lies, came out. I met her at The Poisoned Pen, spent time with her at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, and, best of all, had ice cream with her at The Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale. Now, I have the chance to ask Rebecca a few questions. Thanks, Rebecca!

Rebecca, would you introduce yourself to readers?
Hi! I’m Rebecca Cantrell. I live in Hawaii with my husband and son where I work full time as a cat slave and fit in writing around the kitty’s needs. I like ice cream and chocolate and chai. Luckily, Twinkle the cat has no problem with this. She’s sitting on my ottoman right now, so I can’t move my feet and have to type this at an uncomfortable angle, so I’m getting even in the interview. I know, I know—she doesn’t care! But it’s the only victory I’m likely to win.
Tell us about the variety of books you’ve written.
Sit down and have some tea. This might take a while. I started out writing the Hannah Vogel mysteries. They’re set in Berlin in the 1930s and feature a crime reporter turned spy. Although they started as mysteries, they are often reviewed as thrillers. The first one is A Trace of Smoke. You can read them out of order, but I’d start with Smoke anyway because there is a key relationship that develops across the books. No spoilers beyond that.
Which brings me to thrillers. I write the Joe Tesla thrillers set in the tunnels under New York that feature a software mogul who suffers from drug-induced agoraphobia—fear of going outside. He and his service dog, Edison, work to keep the world above safe. Everyone loves the dog best. Spoiler for nervous readers: the dog lives. The first one in that series is: The World Beneath. Again, these can be read out of order. Actually, you can totally read them out of order.
Speaking of thrillers, I wrote a gothic thriller trilogy with James Rollins called the Order of the Sanguines about an ancient order of Catholic priests who are actually vampires subsisting on the blood of Christ. Lots of action, Biblical history, vampires, and international conspiracies that stretch across centuries. Read these in order or you might have trouble following them. The first one is The Blood Gospel.
I also wrote a couple of YA cell phone novels (iDrakula and iFrankenstein) back when everything was “i.” Great fun and they got some kids reading! If you know any reluctant readers, these books can really move them along, particularly 6th to 9th graders.
Not satisfied with that, I turned my hand to comedy and wrote a supremely silly mystery series with Sean Black about a child star who plays a detective on TV and grows up and resolves to become a detective in real life. Not that it’s easy going undercover when people keep coming over to get your autograph, but Sofia Salgado persists. These can be read in any order, and they’re alphabetized. The first one is A is for Actress.

I want to ask a few questions about the Hannah Vogel books. Tell us about Hannah and the setting of the books.
Hannah Vogel starts out as a crime reporter in Berlin in 1931. When she discovers her brother’s death photo in the Hall of Unnamed Dead, she investigates his murder—a trail that leads to an orphaned boy, a glitzy cabaret, and the top ranks of the Nazi party. In the 1930s, Berlin was on the cusp of change. The first book, A Trace of Smoke, is set in 1931, where the Nazis are gaining seats in the government, but haven’t yet come to power. The second book, A Night of Long Knives, is set in 1934 during the first bloody purge. The third, A Game of Lies, is set during the Berlin Olympics, where the Nazis are trying to present their capital city as an international paradise instead of the fascist state it actually was. The fourth book, A City of Broken Glass, follows Hannah from the refugee camps in Poland to Kristallnacht in Berlin marking the terrible crackdown against Germany’s Jews. History is the backdrop for the relationships and struggles of the humans going through it. Hannah falls in and out of love, adopts a child, and tries to help or at least bear witness to the atrocities going on around her.
I’m a bit of a research junkie, and this is a time period where there are so many secondary and primary sources available that I can bury myself in diaries, newspaper articles, films, and books.

Why are you reissuing the Hannah Vogel books?
I felt like they were languishing with my publisher, so I procured the rights for myself and I’m bringing out my own new editions—new covers, light editing, and new books coming soon. I just completed the first work in Hannah’s Berlin yesterday! It’s a long short story (or a short novelette) called Cigarette Boy about her brother, Ernst, and his world in the gay cabarets of Berlin before the first novel takes place. He tries to solve the murder of cigarette boy in his club and is confronted with the harsh and seductive reality of the Nazis.
It was so much fun to finally get back to Berlin. Of course, ironically, I wrote the first four Berlin books while living in Hawaii, then moved to Berlin for four years and wrote several books not set there. Then I moved back to Hawaii and quickly started the first Berlin short story. It’s like I try to make my life difficult.

Is this a good time to be a crime fiction author?
So far, so good.
Before I move on to unrelated questions, is there anything more you would like to say about this series?
I feel like this series is more relevant than ever before. We, too, are going through a period of tremendous change in the United States, and I think looking to history to see how others have weathered (or not weathered) such moments can give us comfort and direction.
What’s your favorite book you’ve written, and why?
I can’t answer that. All my other books will be angry with me! I love them all equally. I love the Hannah Vogel series because it’s close to my heart and is set in one of my favorite cities on earth and I got to do tons and tons of research to write them. I love the Sanguines series because it was fun working with Rollins and making up an entire vampiric mythology that spanned two thousand years. I love the Joe Tesla series because it’s fascinating to spend time in the in between world of the New York subway and find out what lives in the spaces most of us pass through without ever looking. I love the iMonsters series because writing cell phone novels was a fascinating new way to tell stories. And I love the Malibu Mystery series because they are silly, wonderful fun and that gives me a nice break when my other series are too dark—Sean Black and I work hard to crack each other up.

You’re back in Hawaii after living in Germany. What’s your favorite spot to take visitors in both places?
In Hawaii, I love to take visitors to the volcano. The park is amazing—giant fern trees, lava tubes you can walk through, and a huge glowing lava lake. I also used to take people down to the end where you can see the lava flow into the sea (just at a distance, as steam) and witness the birth of the newest land on earth.
In Berlin, I like to start at the Brandenburg Gate and wander through the Tiergarten to the Victory Column and climb up and see the city spread around us. Or a day on Museum Island looking at treasures and history collected from across the world. Or a driving tour through the city using old East German Trabants. Or...lots of stuff... Throw in a döner kebap or a curry wurst, and any one of those is a great day.

What’s on your TBR pile right now?
Let me see. Luna Wolf Moon by Ian Macdonald just arrived today. It’s the second in the Luna series, a Game of Thrones-esque series set on the moon. I also just started Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler. I just finished The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before, and I’ll be getting the next books in that series soon. I recently finished The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova-Bailey about a woman confined to her bed with illness and how she rediscovers the world through a snail her friend brings her. Mystery thriller wise I just tore through Andrew Peterson’s Nathan McBride series, Moriarity by Anthony Horowitz, and I keep re-reading my son’s fantasy novel, A Tale of Gods, Mortals, and Jell-O Shooters because it’s just so damn funny. He wrote it when he was 16, and it’s available on Kindle and I just love it! (yes, I’m a very proud mother)

OK, Rebecca. Since I’m a librarian, tell me a story about libraries or librarians.
I went to a pretty nasty junior high school in Alaska where I saw a guy get knifed in the cafeteria on the first day. He didn’t die, but the experience was scary enough to put me off lunch entirely. I would go into the library during third period and prop open the back door with a little paperback and then come back during lunch when the library was closed and slip in through that door and read until lunch was over. I thought I was getting away with something, but by the end of the year I realized the librarian was on to me and letting me get away with it. I’ve always loved libraries—the library is the first place I seek out in a new place, and I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. I almost majored in Library Studies but ended up going for Creative Writing at the last minute.

Rebecca Cantrell's website is, and you can see the new covers of the Hannah Vogel books on her site.