Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

How many of you had heard of the fire that destroyed almost half a million books and damaged several hundred thousand more at the Los Angeles Central Library? It happened on April 29, 1986, but the Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26, 1986, so the eyes of the world were focused on that earlier accident. But, Susan Orlean covers the library and the fire in  The Library Book. I'll admit, I had a difficult time with the first thirty-nine pages. I had to quit, and come back to the book later because I found a scene too difficult to get through. The library staff had to stand outside and watch the library burn. "According to librarian Glen Creason, the breeze was filled with the smell of hearbreak and ashes."

Although Orlean begins with the fire, the subsequent investigation, and the suspicion that a man named Harry Peak started the fire, there's so much more in the book. She covers the history of the Los Angeles Central Library, the eccentric and practical librarians who managed the building, the building itself, and some of the current staff and customers. She also mentions the campaign to raise funds to replace the lost books, valued at fourteen million dollars.

Orlean has done her research. She not only deals with the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, she's written a history of libraries, and discusses the future of libraries. She treats all of the staff, the customers, and the characters that circle throughout the building's history, with a great deal of respect.

As with so many other people who love public libraries, Orlean's love was instilled by her mother. Several times, she mentions her trips to the library with her mother. She says her mother always said if she could have chosen any profession in the world, she would have been a librarian.

The Library Book may have started out as an exploration of a mystery. What happened and who set the fire that burned the Los Angeles Central Library? But, Orlean's book became deeper and more compassionate than just one fire and one library. It became a search for the purpose and value of libraries. Why do people use and cherish libraries? In examining that second question, Susan Orlean has told the story of a love and respect for knowledge and information, a story shared worldwide.

Susan Orlean's website is

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Simon & Schuster, 2018. ISBN 9781476740188 (hardcover), 336p.

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Winners and the Sherlock Holmes Connection Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jana B. from Smyrna, TN and Marie R. from Horseheads, NY won copies of Dig Your Grave. Charlotte W. from Covington, GA and Bill T. from St. Clair Shores, MI won the copies of The Guilty Dead. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries with a Sherlock Holmes connection. I have one ARC of Sherry Thomas' latest Lady Sherlock mystery, The Hollow of Fear. Charlotte Holmes uses the cover of "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective" to investigate crimes. This time, the estranged wife of her dear friend Lord Ingram is found dead on his estate, and all of society suspects him. Charlotte disguises herself to find the truth.

I have two copies of Bradley Harper's A Knife in the Fog. The debut mystery brings a young Arthur Conan Doyle to London where he teams up with his mentor, Professor Joseph Bell, and a journalist, Margaret Darkness to search for the killer who will become known as Jack the Ripper. It's an intriguing story featuring actual people.

Which 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 The Hollow of Fear" or "Win A Knife in the Fog." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday morning, November 22, at 10 AM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! I'm excited about the book I'm going to share today. My best friend, Donna, pointed this one out to me. I bought it as a gift to myself. It's a perfect gift for book lovers. It's called Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. She illustrated books, bookstore cats, beloved bookstores. There are all kinds of lists, quizzes, and gorgeous pictures. This is scary, though. The first line of her introduction says, "The goal of this book is to triple the size of your To Be Read pile." Ha! I'd be in trouble. This is a browsing book. I even bought a box of notecards with piles of books. The notecards include classics, children's picture books, mysteries. (Don't tell Donna, but she's getting the first notecard.)

What are you reading today? And, what's your weather? As I'm writing this on Wednesday night, we're expecting over three inches of snow through tomorrow. If any of you know me well, you know I hate snow, cold weather, and winter.

So, let's talk about books so I don't have to look out the window.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

William Ian Grubman - Author Interview

William Ian Grubman has a fascinating background. He doesn't quite touch on it enough in his
answers, but I think you'll find the author of The Storm Over Paris is an interesting person. Here's our interview.

Q - William, you have so many aspects to your life, it's hard to know where to start. Would you introduce yourself to readers?

There are many aspects to my life - - - frankly, I'm a work in progress. I spent the greater part of my life in corporate America. From board rooms to factories to construction sites, I've worn many hats. Additionally, I've done a great deal of volunteer work and fundraising for those in need. When I decided to retire, I began a new journey, one that would include performing and writing. I'm pretty much a Renaissance man.

Q – Tell us about Mori Rothstein.

Mori is focused and smart. He knows his craft. Unfortunately, he’s missed the signs of impending destruction and finds himself and his family, whom he loves dearly, in the center of a Nazi occupied city, and at the mercy of Hitler’s highest ranking officer. He quickly learns how to balance on the fine line he walks.

Q – Would you tell us about The Storm over Paris, without Spoilers?

In 1942 Paris, Mori Rothstein—an art dealer and expert in master paintings from the Renaissance to Realism—has been sought after by every major museum in the world. Also hunting him down is Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.

Goering intends to exploit this Jew’s knowledge in service to the Fuhrer. Reluctantly, Mori cooperates to keep his family safe and begins the task of appraising stolen French art. As his friends and fellow Jews disappear, he forges a questionable relationship with one of the most notorious Nazis in Europe—his fidelity and morals tested daily.

Amidst the plundered art that shows up in Mori’s workspace is a painting Mori himself procured for a client. As more and more of his clients’ paintings appear, Mori’s sense of duty, and his ire, change the course of his work for Goering. With the help of his son Emile, Mori sets in motion a plan, walking himself and his family into a web of intrigue, kidnapping, and murder.

Q – How did your knowledge of art history influence this book?

I can’t really say my knowledge of art history influenced this book, but certainly it made the task of research much easier.

Q – Everyone has a different story about their publishing journey. Would you tell us about yours?

The road to publishing was much longer than I imagined. Because this is my first book, I naively thought I would just send my manuscript to an assortment of agents and presto, they would be begging for my story. I learned very quickly the meaning of rejection. I even found in a few instances, I received rejections within five minutes of submitting my work. Some of those agents must be really fast readers.

Q – The next question comes from my own interest, and that of some readers, in theater. Would you tell us about Act Three?

Several years ago, I joined with two friends to begin a new journey. All three of us had dreamed of a life in musical theater, but real-life responsibilities moved us along different paths. At a time when most people would be planning for retirement, we made a bold decision to resurrect our faded dreams. Our trio, ACT THREE, performs standards from Broadway, Jazz, and The Great American Song Book. We have performed at UC Irvine, The Samueli Theater at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, The Metropolitan Room in New York, Vitello’s Supper Club, The City of Beverly Hills Concerts In The Park series, and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

ACT THREE is also the subject of the award-winning documentary film, ONCE UPON A DREAM, directed by Carl Borack and narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, which chronicles the group’s journey to Carnegie Hall. Our debut CD was recently released.

Q – What has been the highlight of your writing career?

Well, this is it. Finally my novel is being published. Now on to the next book. The Storm over Paris is the first installment of three books based on the same family.

Q – what Authors influenced your work?

I can’t say for sure that I was influenced in writing The Storm over Paris, however, Hector Feliciano’s “The Lost Museum,” gave me a great deal of insight regarding the art world of Paris and the Nazi looting of art during WWII.

Q – What author or book do you think is underappreciated?

My taste for reading material tends to lean toward thrillers and mysteries. I also like historical fiction. As far as works or authors being underappreciated, I enjoy all the books I read and I appreciate the time and effort the authors put into creating something that entertains me.

Q – I’m a librarian, so I always end with this question. Would you share a story about a library or librarian?

When I was a child, around five or six, I recall my mother taking me to the library. I loved stories and a trip to the library was like being taken to a candy store. The choices were endless and I was only allowed to check out five books at a time. I would search through every book until I found the perfect one with the best pictures.

Thank you, William. William Ian Grubman's website is

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany

It's always a treat to catch up with Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. Vicki Delany has given us a delightful, idiosyncratic character whose brain resembles Holmes'. She lacks empathy and social skills, though, and just doesn't understand why people don't appreciate her matter-of-fact comments. She's doing a little bit better in the fourth in this charming series, A Scandal in Scarlet.

Gemma is walking her dog late one evening when they discover the Scarlet House, a local museum, is on fire. Because so much of it is destroyed by the fire, the museum needs to host a fundraiser. Gemma's friend Jayne Wilson, co-owner of Mrs. Hudson's Tearoom, offers to hold an auction there. Before the auction even starts, the chair of the Scarlet House board, Kathy Lamb, has an argument with one of the shop owners, Maureen Macgregor. When Gemma finds Kathy murdered int he backroom, all the witnesses point to Maureen.

Gemma and Maureen dislike each other, but that doesn't mean Gemma will allow Maureen to be wrongly accused. Kathy had her share of people who didn't like her, including her ex's new wife. But, even Gemma, with her uncanny ability to analyze people, comes up blank. There are too many suspects, although Gemma has her theories. However, a second murder throws Gemma off her game.

Although it's fun to laugh at Gemma, and entertaining to follow her thought processes, there are times the reader feels sympathy for her. She's knows she bungled her earlier romance with Police Detective Ryan Ashburton, just by being the all-knowing Gemma. But, she sums up a common problem in mysteries featuring amateur detectives. "The path of true love never runs smoothly, but never less than between an ambitious and very good police detective and a well-meaning but highly perceptive member of the law-abiding public."

Anyone who enjoys quirky amateur sleuths or Sherlock Holmes pastiches should try Delany's A Scandal in Scarlet. It's fun to read the entire series, but there's no reason you can't start with this one.

Vicki Delany's website is

A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683317906 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon

Joy Avon's debut mystery, In Peppermint Peril, is the first "A Tea and a Read Mystery". This one is set in the Christmas season, while the second one will take readers back to Heart's Harbor, Maine, for the Fourth of July celebration. Meet Callie Aspen and her Great Aunt Iphegeneia (Iphy).

Iphy owns the vintage tearoom Book Tea. She loves mysteries and puts clues on her pastries. When Callie, who is visiting for the Christmas holiday, is dispatched to Haywood Hall with a special cake, she's curious about Aunt Iphy's mystery with this one. But, neither mystery fan realize they'll be caught up in an actual murder mystery at Haywood Hall.

There's a lot of tension. Mr. Leadenby, the retired gardener, doesn't get along with Sheila, Callie's childhood friend. They're snipping at each other at the door. Dorothea Finster, the oldest resident in town at 93 is throwing the tea party at her beloved home. She's about to read her will, and she's invited family and the important people in town, while Iphy and Callie are catering the party.  Sheila has her own plans. She wants her daughter's boyfriend to propose to Amber during the party, and she puts a ring box in the center of the cake.

But, everything goes wrong during the party. The ring is missing; the young people are upset about the pushy engagement plans. Dorothea never gets to read her will after Amber finds a body in the conservatory. Callie, who loves Haywood Hall and her memories, believes she has to do something to  make sure the killer is caught, but she doesn't want to put anyone under suspicion of murder. "In true Agatha Christie style, the will reading had led to murder." And, Callie isn't willing to share information with Deputy Falk who seems too inexperienced to solve the case.

The setting of In Peppermint Peril has potential, but this first mystery is weak. It feels rushed, as if the author threw in everything she knows about cozy mysteries. While there are comments about Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters, it feels more like the game of Clue, with a character stabbed in the conservatory. All the characters are amateur sleuths, even the deputy, who relies too much on Callie for information after initial conflicts. Every character lies, and they all rush around trying to cover their tracks. Avon tries for the cozy hometown atmosphere, but she's trying too hard. Let's hope the next mystery in the series is warm and cozy with characters who have a little more depth.

In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683317937 (hardcover), 283p.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Beyond Absolution by Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison's Reverend Mother mysteries, set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s, are certainly realistic. She doesn't sugarcoat the conditions of life at that time, or the brutality and deaths during the period of rebellion. She doesn't hesitate to injure or kill characters that the reader has grown to care for, because that's life. It's one more reason to encourage readers to start with the first book in this series, A Shameful Murder. Once you've read the first couple books, the repercussions of a murder in the third book, Beyond Absolution, are all the more shocking.

When Reverend Mother Aquinas sees Father Dominic's body in the confessional at Holy Trinity Church, she knows he was murdered. She sends for the police doctor so he can confirm that the priest's death was not accidental. He was stabbed through the ear by someone on the other side of the confessional. The murder of a priest becomes the talk of Cork. Reverend Mother wants to find the killer, but she wants to know what Father Dominic did in the days leading up to his death that led someone to be so desperate as to need to kill a priest.

Why would a Capuchin Friar who took a vow of poverty spend time at a local antiques shop? Reverend Mother once again calls on her acquaintances and former students to help in her probe for answers. Dr. Scher is not only the police doctor; he regularly calls at the convent to treat the nuns. Reverend Mother's cousin, Lucy, is well-married and still connected to society. Inspector Patrick Cashman, a former student, can be advised and encouraged in his investigation. Another former student, Eileen MacSweeney, is a member of the Republican Party, and knows all of the people involved with the antiques store. Reverend Mother knows how to pull strings to get answers.

Reverend Mother Aquinas may be able to pull strings and solve murders, but she can't prevent accidents or murder. As I mentioned earlier, these books reflect a realistic view of the brutality of life in 1920s Cork with it's poverty, disease, and death. But, Reverend Mother's depth of knowledge and understanding, and the authenticity of these books, will draw readers who appreciate historical mysteries.

Cora Harrison's website is

Beyond Absolution by Cora Harrison. Severn House, 2017. ISBN 9780727887139 (hardcover), 250p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan

There's a list of twenty-four other novels by Jenny Colgan in the front of Christmas on the Island, but I've only read one, The Bookshop on the Corner. I've picked up, and even brought home some of the books. The titles can be appealing -Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris. But, this one takes place on a small Scottish island. Since I hope to go to Edinburgh in September, it was time to try another one of Colgan's novels. This is the third in a series, but, of course, I picked up the third because it's new and it said "Christmas".

Mure is a tiny island off the coast of the north of Scotland. As the story opens, Bramble, the retired sheepdog that belongs to the MacKenzies, makes his way around, a perfect introduction to the center of town. Flora MacKenzie is the owner and baker at Seaside Kitchen. She's in her thirties, and returned home from London a year earlier. She fell back in love with the island, and with the lawyer, Joel Binder. That's Flora's problem. She's pregnant, and afraid to tell Joel because he was a foster child who never knew a loving family, but only abuse.

Flora's best friend is Lorna MacLeod, headmistress of the primary school. She longs for a man who became her best friend, but has distanced himself since discovering how much she loves him. Saif Hassan is one of the two doctors on the island. He's a refugee from Syria, living on Mure with his two young sons. But, his wife may be alive. He doesn't know, and he can't move on with his life.

Colgan's moving novel is about love, loss, and moving on in so many ways. Joel's employer is Colton Rogers, a wealthy American who moved to the island with the intention of changing it. Instead, he fell in love and married Flora's brother, Fintan. But, Colton is dying of cancer. When Tripp, Colton's brother from Texas shows up in the village, he only comes to ask for money for the family.

Everyone is going to change in the course of the few weeks before Christmas. The newcomers, Colton, Joel, Saif,Tripp, and even some Russian sailors, change the islanders and island life. Every encounter affects the life. Even those chance meetings are important to the world.

Christmas on the Island is a loving, emotional story of life. How do strangers change us? The world moves on, whether it's because of a death or anger or love. Although everyone doesn't have a happy ending in the book, the stories and their conclusions are appropriate. That's why Colgan's book is so moving. It's about realistic people, trying to deal with day-to-day life while sometimes fumbling with their feelings and relationships.

Looking for a story set at Christmas, without the syrupy feelings of so many Christmas stories? Jenny Colgan's Christmas on the Islands, beginning with a dog's tour of Mure, might just be it. Or, if the setting and Flora's story appeals to you, you might be smarter than me and start with the first in the series, The Cafe by the Sea.

Jenny Colgan's website is

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan. William Morrow, 2018. ISBN 9780062869203 (hardcover), 340p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, November 09, 2018

Winners and a Police & Partner Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. John S. from Iowa City, IA won Death in the Stars. Carola Dunn's The Corpse at the Crystal Palace goes to Robin C. from Ashtabula, OH. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away copies of book that feature the police working with an outside partner. I have two copies of each book, so there will be four winners. The latest Monkeewrench book is P.J. Tracy's The Guilty Dead. Minneapolis police detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are investigating the death of a philanthropist. But, when they team up with the software experts at Monkeewrench, they discover a link between that death and a larger plot.

Or, you could head to Arizona for Steven Cooper's Dig Your Grave. Phoenix Police Detective Alex Mills doesn't hesitate to ask for help from a friend who is a psychic, Gus Parker. Several prominent victims have been discovered in graves they seem to have dug themselves. Ghoulish signs warn of more deaths to come so Mills is going to need Gus' help. And, then Gus disappears.

Which book do you want to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win The Guilty Dead" or "Win Dig Your Grave." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, November 15 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! Time to share what we've been reading this week.

I'm just starting the fourth Reverend Mother mystery by Cora Harrison, A Gruesome Discovery. This is a fascinating historical series set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s. Reverend Mother Aquinas is a prominent figure in the city. She came from a well-off family, and knows many of the people of Cork, from the wealthy to the poorest people whose children often attend the convent school. She taught a young woman who is one of the rebellious Republicans, and she taught an inspector with the Civil Guards. Unfortunately for me, I read the fifth book first, so I'll be finished with the series until a new one comes out.

What are you reading this week? Any books you'd like to share with the rest of us?

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Fool's Moon by Diane A.S. Stuckart

Sandie Herron and I both read Diane A.S. Stuckart's new mystery, the first in a series, Fool's Moon. It's not my type of book because I'm not fond of talking animals. However, Sandie had a much better reaction than I did. So, instead of sharing my review, I'm sharing Sandie's today.

Written by Diane A. S. Stuckart
The Tarot Cats Mystery Series #1
Midnight Ink
November 8, 2018

FOOL’S MOON is the charming first entry in the Tarot Cats Mystery series.  The action starts immediately with two sibling black cats being thrown away in a box onto the streets.  While they’d been adopted as kittens by a wealthy, elderly woman and had enjoyed her mansion and grounds, she recently died. The two are split up right away with Ophelia being rescued by a white pit bull on her walk with Ruby Sparks, half sister to the owner of Botanica Santa Rosa, a New Age shop offering tarot card readings.  Brandon is taken in by a pawn shop owner nearby.  However the brother and sister do not know where the other has gone.

Zuki, the gentle pit bull, introduces Ophelia to her home and housemates which include a psychic koi who will answer but one question a day, in verse.  The animals talk to each other but not aloud in human language.  However, a suspension of disbelief is required to follow the animals communicating with each other.  Ophelia closely watches Ruby do tarot card readings and discovers a hidden talent for turning cards herself.

Zuki helps Ophelia find Brandon with clues from Philomena, the koi fish.  My own heart quickened during these journeys, and I cheered at their reunion.  They immediately put together the clues from their life at the Palm Beach mansion with what their former housekeeper Luciana had shared during her own tarot reading with Ruby. She suspects her former employer, Hilda, did not die an accidental death but was murdered. When Luciana dies under suspicious circumstances, Ruby gets involved because of what she had shared during their reading. Hilda’s family members also get involved as does the pawn shop owner Luis who claims Brandon is his cat.

Four special animals and two human beings all are looking into why the two women died.  The journey from mansion to new age shop was quite compelling, and the journey from shop back to the mansion is more gripping.  First the cats return with secret help separately from Zuki and Luis and Ruby, and then they return covertly with the same three, but this time all are searching for answers together.  What they find is a surprise to all but the koi, who knew all along.

Diane Stuckart, also the author of the Black Cat mystery series written under the name of Ali Brandon, has penned a delightful and enchanting adventure.  The reader learns a bit about tarot card reading while getting to know the cats and pit bull.  When not just one but two suspected murders take place, the animals deploy their skills and get their humans involved.  All together they solve both mysteries in a surprising and satisfying finale.  I highly enjoyed this heartwarming story and hope for many more entries in the Tarot Cats Mystery series.

Diane A.S. Stuckart's website is

Fool's Moon by Diane A.S. Stuckart. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738757087 (paperback), 336p.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Sandie's Corner - A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle

You're used to seeing Sandie Herron's name connected with the audio book reviews here under the topic, "Have You Heard?" Today, she has a review of Kate Carlisle's lastest book, A Wrench in the Works. (Thanks, Sandie!)

Written by Kate Carlisle
A Fixer-Upper Mystery, Book 6
Berkley Prime Crime, November 6, 2018
·         Mass Market Paperback

Contractor Shannon Hammer is happy to welcome her contractor sister Chloe back home.  It’s been ten years since she last lived in the family home in Lighthouse Cove.  She left after high school to find her way in Hollywood, and she became one of the stars of the Home Builder’s Network show “Makeover Madness.”  They want to film several episodes in Lighthouse Cove focusing on the Victorian architecture so prevalent in this historic town.  Chloe co-stars with Blake Bennett, an older man with whom she has a terrific stage presence.  They are complimented by a devoted crew headed by Sergio, a strong, handsome carpenter full of charm. 

It isn’t until the entire crew arrives in town that Shannon meets the executive producer, Bree Bennett, wife of star Blake Bennett.  Bree keeps the show running, making most of the important decisions and carrying them out.  However, she has a nasty temper and is rude to most of her immediate staff as well as the stars and workers on the show.  Bree routinely fires them, never meaning for the firing to stick, until she fires her husband Blake.  The network has decided to start a new show without Blake and featuring Chloe and Sergio as soon as these segments are complete.

Chloe has recruited Shannon to be on the show while in town.  They arrive at the Bloom house, a rundown but appealing, well-designed Victorian home, early on the first day of shooting.  As they examine the house, they discover Bree’s dead body on the fireplace hearth.  Shannon calls the police chief, Eric Jensen, who promptly arrives and cancels any shooting within the home.  As Jensen processed the scene with his own crew, a search is made to find Blake Bennett.  He is discovered drugged in his trailer where he slept the night before.  Could he have killed Bree in his present state?  How many other disgruntled employees could have done the deed?

The next day Shannon discovers another dead body on the porch of the mansion.  The town’s rich kid, now an annoying adult, is actually the reason Chloe has stayed away so many years because of an incident in high school.  Later, while filming some outdoor shots, Chloe falls from an extension ladder rigged to fail.  Who would want Chloe dead?

This was a charming, very cozy mystery centering on Shannon and Chloe yet involving many other characters with distinct roles.  The plot advanced smoothly with several twists to follow.  The suspense ratchets up when Chloe becomes a target.  There is speculation on which the villain is, townspeople or TV crew, as everyone discusses events, yet this is not excessive.  The action keeps going without stalling on any one event or person. 

A very delightful journey following our charismatic and compelling heroines in the sixth entry of the fixer-upper mystery series.  I hope to visit with them again soon.

Kate Carlisle's website is

A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle. Berkley Prime Crime, 2018. ISBN 9780399586484 (paperback), 304p.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Terrence McCauley - Author Interview

I know this will sound odd for me, but I recently bought Terrence McCauley's new western, Where
the Bullets Fly. I read an article he wrote for Criminal Element, and the book appealed to me. I just haven't read it yet. But, it was one more reason to interview him.

Thank you, Terrence, for taking time to answer questions.

Terrence, would you introduce yourself to readers?

I’m an award-winning writer whose work spans across several genres, including crime fiction, spy thrillers and westerns. I’ve written about ten novels and several short stories.

Tell us about Charlie Doherty.

Charlie Doherty is a character who appears throughout my 1930s series PROHIBITION, SLOW BURN and THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT. He’s a corrupt Tammany Hall cop; part of the political organization that ran New York City for decades. He’s the kind of character that wouldn’t steal your wallet, but would try real hard to talk you into giving it to him. He also discovers that he’s more than that as the series of novels go on. He doesn’t change, per se, but he definitely learns more about himself as the reader learns more about him, too.

Would you tell us about The Fairfax Incident, without spoilers?

The Fairfax Incident is a complicated novel set in 1933 New York City. It’s a rich tale of noir, espionage and good old fashioned mystery. That’s about as much as I can say without giving up too much of the plot, except to say that the book has received some solid reviews that might make it worth your time.

I read a recent piece you wrote for Criminal Element, “The Old West: A New Frontier in Crime Fiction”. I won’t ask you to summarize the piece, but talk about your fascination with “the Old West”. 

I think the Old West is one of the least understood eras of our history. Some only want to concentrate on the conquest of the Native American people. That’s certainly part of it, but far from all of it. Some want to focus on the gunfights on Main Street at high noon. Those didn’t happen often, either. You’d probably be more apt to be beaten to death or knifed in a bar fight than duel with your enemy. My fascination with the Old West is its vastness in that it’s almost impossible to encompass all of it in a single setting. It often reflects the sensibilities of the era that’s examining it. For example, in the 1940s and 50s, they had patriotic themes. In the 60s and 70s, we saw an increase in counter-cultural and revisionist westerns where Custer was seen as a lunatic and the cavalry were butchers. In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw more action-oriented stories, whereas the 2000s have given us more reflective westerns. I’m fascinated by how one time period can be so well documented, yet so misunderstood.

Would you tell us about Where the Bullets Fly? How would it fit in the crime fiction genre?

Where the Bullets Fly is definitely a traditional western with plenty of crime and action elements to it. The town of Dover Station, Montana might be fictional, but it’s accurate enough to be lots of towns of the time. It’s a town that enjoys a healthy cattle industry, mining and logging all with access to a train line to bring their goods to market. Sheriff Aaron Mackey and his deputy Billy Sunday are put to the test when marauders lay siege to the town and make off with captives. It’s a solid western tale that’s familiar enough to be relatable for people who like westerns, but different enough to attract people who aren’t familiar with the genre.

There are so many ways to research now. You’re writing historical fiction, in several genres. What’s your favorite research tool?

The internet is my favorite tool. Google is indispensable, particularly Google Maps to help me get the feel of a place I’ve never visited like London or Germany.

You have several different publishers. Would you tell us about your publishing journey? Everyone’s is different.

My journey is as long and heartbreaking as many other writers. I lost out on a big publishing contract in 2008, couldn’t get a publisher to take on my work and never gave up. I wasn’t just persistent. I took every bit of criticism I received and used it to make my work better. Ultimately, my work found a home with a small publisher – Airship 27 – and, eventually, I caught the notice of larger publishers who have been very good to me. I’ve been very fortunate.

What authors influenced you?

James Clavell, James Ellroy, Richard Stark/Donald Westlake, Nelson DeMille, Elmore Leonard and Richard Matheson all come to mind.

What author or book do you think is underappreciated?

Richard Matheson is a great writer who a lot of people might not realize they know. If one were to Google him, I think they’d realize they’ve either read or seen at least one adaption of his work in one form or another. Not all of his books were five stars, but the diversity of his voice and talent are admirable and worthy of study.

I’m a librarian, so I always end these interviews with the same question. Do you have a story about a library or librarian that you can share?

I certainly do. I was never a big reader as a kid. I got bored quickly and preferred to draw or write or watch movies. It wasn’t until college that I was able to fully enjoy a library, not only because of the books I needed for research, but as a quiet place to study. I spent some of the best times in college in the library, where the peace and quiet allowed me to concentrate on my studies and become the person I am today.

Thank you, Terrence. Terrence McCauley's website is

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza

Let's start with the definition of "throwing shade" from Merriam-Webster. The dictionary says it's a "subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone - sometimes verbal, and sometimes not." When White House photographer Pete Souza started posting his photos on Instagram, contrasting pictures of President Obama with tweets from Trump, readers started commenting that he was throwing shade. The title of Souza's latest book is Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.

Souza started using photos of President Obama's actions in contrast with Trump's tweets as early as January 2017 when Trump insisted the inauguration had "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." Well, no. According to Souza's photo, "The biggest crowd in history was really on January 20, 2009", and he illustrated that with a two-page spread showing the crowds on the Mall during President Obama's inauguration.

Month by month, sometimes day by day, he examines the outrageous tweets made my the current resident of the White House, including comments about the White House itself, "this incredible house or building, or whatever you want to call it." Yes, it's called the White House. Souza's comments and photos go from Jan. 21, 2017 to June 14, 2018.

Sometimes, Souza's comments and accompanying photos cause laughter. Other times, it's hard to comprehend the lack of knowledge exhibited in those tweets. In my case, I felt nostalgia and sadness that we're missing dignity and a sense of humor in the White House. We're missing respect for the office of the Presidency and for people in this country, no matter who the people are.

The only way to end the commentary about Shade is to end with a few of Souza's final comments. "Throwing shade is one thing, but it's time for us to take the next step. It's not enough to voice disbelief at what's taking place. Let's use our energy to do something about it."

"Vote, for one. Help others get to the polls. March in the streets for issues that are important to you. Write or call your Congressperson about how you feel. It all matters."

Pete Souza's website is He's on Twitter and Instagram @petesouza.

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza. Little, Brown & Company, 2018. ISBN 9780316421829 (hardcover), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Echoes of Evil by Heather Graham

Echoes of Evil winds up the current storyline about the McFadden brothers in Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunter series. Brodie, the youngest brother, is the featured player. There's not much interplay with the FBI this time, but there's no doubt that the youngest brother, who can see and talk with ghosts, will end up with the Krewe of Hunters.

Brodie McFadden is actually on vacation in Key West, diving on the historical wreck of a British slave ship, when he finds a body. It's a recent corpse, though, not a body from two hundred years earlier. Because of an earlier connection, working a case with Liam Beckett of the Key West police force, Brodie is brought in to the case. He's also interested when a musician dies while performing at a bar. Is there a connection between the two dead men?

Dakota (Kody) McCoy isn't the one who discovers the link, but it's her Key West museum, the Haunts and History Museum, that links the two dead men. Cliff Bullard, the dead musician, is an old friend whose picture hangs in the museum, along with that of Kody's late father, a famous guitar player/songwriter. And, the dead man Brodie found on the shipwreck? He was about to donate family material from his slave-owning ancestors to the museum.

There are other links, but they're part of the plot, and I try not to reveal spoilers in my book reviews. Why do I continue to read the Krewe of Hunters books? For me, it's the combination of history, interesting locations, the paranormal, and the romance. I'm drawn, first, though, to the history elements. Graham does an excellent job ferreting out little known historical facts about the cities where her books are set. Those historical gems are fascinating, and I find they make the city more interesting. They may be background for some readers, but the background is foremost for me.

Graham's lead characters are always empathetic people who want to stop a killer, find justice for the dead, and restore order. I read mysteries because I want to see order restored when there's been an upheaval caused by evil and evil actions. The Krewe of Hunters series just happens to use dead souls, ghosts, as a weapon in the hunt for justice.

You can read any of the books in the Krewe of Hunters series, in any order. But, there is a small trilogy featuring the McFadden brothers, and it's helpful to read Fade to Black and Pale as Death before wrapping it up with Echoes of Evil.

Heather Graham's website is

Echoes of Evil by Heather Graham. MIRA. 2018. ISBN 9780778368748 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, November 02, 2018

Winners and Murder in the 1920s

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Christi K. from Arlington, TX won Haunted Hayride with Murder. Sue R. from Allen, TX will receive Death Bakes a Pecan Pie. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in the 1920s. In Carola Dunn's The Corpse at the Crystal Palace, Daisy Dalrymple's casual outing to the Crystal Place in London takes a mysterious and murderous turn. Daisy brings family members and Nanny Gilpin to the Palace, but the nanny goes off to the ladies room and fails to return. When Daisy goes looking, she finds another woman dead, dressed in a nanny's uniform, and Daisy's stepdaughter finds Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake. Together with her husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alex Fletcher, Daisy looks into the mysterious case of nannies.

It's 1927 in Frances Brody's Death in the Stars. Eclipse fever grips England, and Kate Shackleton agrees to accompany Selina Fellini, a theater star, to a viewing party. But, Selina's co-star disappears during the eclipse, and is later found dead. Kate soon finds that two other members of the theater troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. Kate sets about investigating, but when Selina's husband shows up, a man who had been injured in the war and is subject to violent mood swings, Kate wonders what else is in play.

Nannies or theater? Which 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 Nannies" or "Win Theater." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, November 8 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

December Treasures in My Closet

First, a note. If you're looking for "What Are You Reading", check yesterday's post. I'll probably answer sooner than I did for the poor people who answered yesterday. Our Internet was completely down until late in the day, so I didn't get back to anyone.

There aren't as many books being released in December as other months. At least, there aren't as many in my closet. Well-known authors continue series. We hear from a few who haven't written in a while. And, there's even a wonderful nonfiction title in the December releases. (How often do I discuss nonfiction?) Here's the list of the December Treasures in My Closet.

Let's kick off the list with a holiday mystery, Laura Childs' Eggs on Ice. The women of the Cackleberry Club must track down the Ghost of Christmas Past. "You would have to have a dickens of a time finding someone who liked" Allan Sharp, a crusty attorney cast as Scrooge in the Kindred Players production ofA Christmas Carol. But, it comes as a shock when the Ghost of Christmas Past stabs him during the first rehearsal, and then disappears down an alley. (Release date is Dec. 4.)

Professor Kate Hanson and the Unsolved Crime Unit are tasked with re-examing a case in A.J. Cross' Cold, Cold Heart. An appeal judge has decreed the forensic evidence in the murder of Della Harrington is unsatisfactory. David Lockman has been serving a life sentence for that murder for the past ten years. When Kate follows a hunch, her professional decision undermines her colleagues and threatens her future with the unit. (Release date is Dec. 1.)

Maddie Day launches the Cozy Capers Book Group mystery series with Murder on Cape Cod. Mac Almeida expects an influx of tourists at her bicycle shop in Westham, Massachusetts. Instead, she finds a body, and recognizes the weapon as belonging to her brother. Her only experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book club, the Cozy Capers. To find the killer, Mac summons help from her Cozy Capers co-investigators "and a library's worth of detectives' tips and tricks." (Release date is Dec. 18.)

Trouble comes in threes in Dawn Eastman's Do No Harm.  Dr. Katie LeClair sees a new patient who was just released from prison for a murder he says he didn't commit. Then, he goes missing. Matters take a more sinister turn when a college student is found dead in the woods. And, he was investigating an old murder case in which Katie was involved. (Release date is Dec. 11.)

J. C. Eaton takes readers back to Arizona in Botched 4 Murder.  Once again, Phee Kimball is dragged into the drama of her mother's retirement community. A new board member upsets everyone with plans to get rid of two golf courses and replace them with eco-friendly parks. Then, there's a friend of Phee's mother, Myrna, who is so bad at bocce that when a community member is found dead while Myrna's practicing, everyone assumes her errant balls killed the woman. Then, the police find an arrow in the victim's neck. (Release date is Dec. 18.)

Simon R. Green brings back Ishmael Jones, an alien from another planet, in Murder in the Dark. Ishmael and his girlfriend, who investigate unusual events for the Organization, are sent to an archaeological dig where a man disappeared into a dark hole. While Ishmael tries to protect the scientists in the new investigating team, they're determined to check out the hole and put themselves in danger. (Release date is Dec. 1.)

It's been a few years since Bryan Gruley had his award-winning Starvation Lake series. He returns to Michigan, to a new town, in Bleak Harbor. Serenity Bleak may be the wealthiest woman in Bleak Harbor, but she has nothing to do with her daughter and her grandson. When fifteen-year-old Danny disappears, his mother and stepfather worry the boy, on the autism spectrum, may have run away. But, privately, they each fear their secrets, or Serenity's money, may have led to a kidnapping. (Release date is Dec. 1.)

Ann Hood's wonderful collection of essays is Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food. Hood tells of her life, the love, loss, through recipes and stories of cooking. She tells of learning to cook, coping with divorce, and, heartbreakingly, with loss. (Release date is Dec. 4.)

Final Shadows is the latest in Kay Hooper's Bishop Files series. Tasha Solomon's world turns upside  down when the psychic abilities she had tried to live with in secret make her a target stalked by unseen enemies. John Brodie, by training, and instinct, is a Guardian. It's his job to keep Tasha alive long enough for her to learn to use her abilities to save people she doesn't know, and maybe even the world. (Release date is Dec. 31.)

The new Kurland St. Mary mystery is Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to Bath. Major Sir Robert Kurland and Lady Lucy Kurland relocate to Bath so Robert can take the waters and recover from his injury from the battle of Waterloo. It's at the Roman baths that he befriends an elderly businessman. When the man is found drowned in the baths, Robert vows to find the killer, with Lucy's help. (Release date is Dec. 18.)

Jason Y. Ng and Susan Blumberg-Kason are editors of Hong Kong Noir, a collection by fourteen authors who explore the dark side of the city in "haunting stories of depravity and despair". (Release date is Dec. 4.)

In Sins as Scarlet, the follow-up to Nicolas Obregon's Blue Light Yokohama, Inspector Iwata now lives in Los Angeles. He quit his job as a police detective in Tokyo, and he's now a private investigator in LA. Iwata has an old contact whose daughter was murdered. The case has been closed, unsolved, and Iwata agrees to take on the case out of loyalty. When a homeless witness recalls words from the killer, Iwata's search leads from Skid Row to the Sonoran Desert as he tracks a heartbreaking puzzle. (Release date is Dec. 18.)

Hearts of the Missing is the debut from 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize recipient Carol Potenza. When a young woman linked to a list of missing Fire-Sky tribal members commits suicide, Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews is assigned to the case. Nicky discovers the victims are chosen and murdered because of their genetic makeup. And, in a vengeful twist, "the killer ensures the spirits of those targeted will wander forever, lost to their family, their People, and their ancestors." (Release date is Dec. 4.)

Nora Roberts follows up Year One with the second Chronicles of the One, Of Blood and Bone. In a story of terror and magic, those like thirteen-year-old Fallon Swift, gifted with magic, are hunted. In a mysterious forest shelter, Fallon begins her training with Malick, whose skills have been honed over centuries. Fallon must learn to use her powers, and take up the sword when her identity as the One can no longer be hidden. (Release date is Dec. 4.)

In Clea Simon's first Witch Cats of Cambridge book, A Spell of Murder, three cats with magical powers fear for their owner, a woman who found the body of a friend, a fellow member of a small coven.  (Release date is Dec. 11.)

The third Pacific Homicide novel is The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley. LAPD Homicide Detective Davie Richards works cold cases in between catching cases. The one she finds fascinating is the supposed suicide of a woman in a gun shop. She doesn't believe it, and neither did the detective who originally worked the case. It becomes even stranger when Davie finds out the woman had disappeared once before. (Release date is Dec. 8.)

In Post Facto, Daryl Wimberley introduces readers to Clara Sue Buchanan, owner/editor/reporter at Clarion, the smallest newspaper in northern Florida. Used to big city investigations, she has to juggle local politics and advertising while trying to figure out claims of paranormal appearances for everything from aliens to "a lady". Then, there's the death of the most powerful landowner in town. (Release date is Dec. 31.)

I've already read six of the books on this list, and five more of these are on my TBR pile. I hope you find a few titles that interest you. Or, do you have some other December titles to share?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I know. We're a day early, so I hope everyone finds the post and tells us what you're reading. Tomorrow is November 1, so Treasures in My Closet will be up. If I'd remembered last Thursday, I would have reminded everyone.

I'm starting Jenny Colgan's Christmas on the Island, a novel set on a remote Scottish island. I finished the third in Heather Graham's recent Krewe of Hunters trilogy, Echoes of Evil. And, the real reason I read both of them? Susan Orlean is breaking my heart with her latest, The Library Book. I know it's going to get easier to read, but I found myself gasping and tearing up as I read the first 35 pages, the actual account of the fire at the LA Public Library. I was reading it on my lunch hour, and I was getting too choked up. I needed a couple novels. I'll get back to The Library Book.

What are you reading this week? Would you share?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Libby Fischer Hellmann - Author Interview

I can't tell you how many times I've hosted Libby Fischer Hellmann at a library, or heard her speak at other venues. She's written a guest post about libraries for this blog. But, I've never actually interviewed her. It's time. Libby has a new Georgia Davis mystery, High Crimes, so it's a perfect time to talk with her. Thanks, Libby, for answering questions.
Photo Credit: Michael Candee, First Light Creative

Libby, As long as we’ve known each other, I’ve never done a Q&A with you. You’ve written for the blog, but it’s been a few years. Would you reintroduce yourself to readers?

Hi, Lesa and her readers. I’ve known Lesa for at least 10-15 years when she was still in Arizona. Not sure how we avoided doing an interview, but I’m thrilled we’re doing one now. Short version: I am an award-winning Chicago crime thriller author, and HIGH CRIMES is my 15th novel. I’ve also written about 25 short stories and novellas. I used to work in broadcast news, and then public relations, and I grew up in Washington DC many years ago. I was the National President of Sisters in Crime ten years ago, and I interview other authors on a streaming TV show called SOLVED!.

Please introduce us to Georgia Davis.

I write two series (as well as historical thrillers). Chicago PI Georgia Davis, a former cop, is the protagonist of one series. HIGH CRIMES is #5 in the series. When you first meet Georgia in EASY INNOCENCE, the 1st in the series, you’ll find she’s a loner. She’s recovering from a love affair gone bad, she has baggage, and she doesn’t trust easily. While my other protagonist, video producer Ellie Foreman, will go to lunch with you and give you TMI about herself, Georgia won’t go out to lunch with you at all. However, over the five books, Georgia slowly undergoes changes in her life, which I won’t ruin for you here. Above all, Georgia has a finely tuned sense of justice, and she’s not afraid of threats or bruises. One caveat: the books are dark, sometimes hard-boiled. Definitely not cozy.

Tell us about High Crimes, without spoilers.    

It’s fourteen months after the 2016 election and a robust Resistance movement has targeted the man who assumed the Presidency. At a demonstration in Grant Park, the leader of a Resistance FB group is assassinated. The gunman dies in an explosion shortly afterwards. The family of the dead girl asks Georgia to investigate after they receive an anonymous email questioning the gunman’s “guilt.” Her investigation takes her from Chicago, to Washington DC, to a Minnesota lake and back. At the same time Georgia’s mother, who abandoned her when Georgia was young, returns to Chicago, and Georgia must confront all her unresolved family issues.

What inspired High Crimes?

Rage. Not about conservative policies—in fact, I’ve become more conservative as I age—but about the man who now occupies the Oval Office and what I believe is the fraudulent way he was elected. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t do much of anything except read and vent. (I lost FB friends because of it). I also joined a FB group whose founder and members felt similarly. After about a year, I realized I was giving him way too much power over me, and I began to think about writing again. It was one night when I was reading the posts from the FB group that the idea came to me: What if the founder of an Anti-Trump FB group was murdered? I knew immediately from the spark in my gut that THIS WAS THE STORY I HAD TO WRITE. So I did.
Everyone has different publishing stories, and I know yours has changed over the years. Would you tell us about your publishing journey?

In a word – it’s been a roller coaster. I started out at Berkeley Prime Crime with my Ellie Foreman series. Those novels were simultaneously published in hard cover by Poisoned Pen Press. Then I moved to Bleak House for the first 2 Georgia novels. Then to Allium Press of Chicago for 2 historical stand-alones, then back to Poisoned Pen for a fifth Ellie book. Along the way, I also wrote several indie thrillers, filling in the Georgia series and publishing a collection of my short stories. So I’m now a hybrid author. Which has been fun (I’m a Type A personality)… but it’s also a lot of work. The advantage is that I know a lot about publishing. Which should have made me a genius, except that the industry is constantly changing, so just when I think I have it down, everything turns inside-out, and I need to start over. Hopefully, that means I’m a survivor. I think.

Would you tell us about “Second Sunday Crime”?

That show is on hiatus because I’m now doing a streaming TV interview show for the Author’s Voice network. My show is SOLVED! and I interview crime fiction authors, both local and national. The only requirement is that they need to be in Chicago when we do the interview. We broadcast on Facebook Live, then the recording stays up on FB. It also migrates to YouTube. It’s allowed Author’s Voice to vastly expand its audience, and people seem to like the shows. I’m finishing up my second year with them. They operate out of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago, which, speaking of Chicago sights, is a fascinating place to visit.

I have a personal question. Where do you like to take people when they come to visit Chicago?

Great question, Lesa! Beyond the typical sites like Sears Tower, Millennium Park, the Art Museum, and a boat tour on Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, I would go to the Museum of Science and Industry. Then we’d get deep dish pizza at Uno’s. Then we’d go to a Blues joint, like Buddy Guy’s Legends.  The next day we’d go to the Bahai Temple in Wilmette and the Botanic Gardens in Glencoe. They’re both magnificent settings.  

What authors influenced you?

There are so many it’s hard to narrow them down. I’m more partial to modern authors, so Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid, Tess Gerritsen, and Karin Slaughter would be in the first tier. More literary writers like Jodi Picoult, Kate Atkinson, and Kristin Hannah as well. If I could spend a year just reading, I’d be in heaven.

What author or book do you think is underappreciated?

Jeremiah Healy, who is no longer with us, wrote a fabulous series with a Boston PI, Cuddy. I loved that series and wish it was ongoing. THE STAKED GOAT was especially good.

Libby, what’s next in the pipeline for you?

Interesting question. I’m not sure. I’m thinking about a new Ellie Foreman mystery (that’s my other series for your readers who don’t know)… BUT… I’m going to Vietnam and Cambodia next March. Since I was alive, and more important, sentient during the Vietnam war, I may have to write a historical novel set largely in Vietnam during the war. We’ll see.

Thank you, Libby!

Libby Fischer Hellmann's website is

High Crimes by Libby Fischer Hellmann. The Red Herrings, 2018. ISBN 9781938733956 (paperback), 329p.