Wednesday, July 30, 2014

August 2014 New Mystery Releases!

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems as though summer is flying by at the speed of light. Since this is my prime reading season when I really clear spaces on my to-be-read shelves, I'm torn between wanting to read faster! faster! and wanting to saunter my way through volumes, savoring each page. Hopefully I'll find a way to do both!

I may be clearing shelf space, but I'm still keeping an eye peeled for intriguing new mysteries. The following list contains my picks for new crime fiction available in August. The books are grouped according to their release dates, and I've included all the information you'll need to find them at all your favorite book spots. Synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Happy Reading! 

=== August 1 === 

Title: Tahoe Ghost Boat
Author: Todd Borg
#12 in the Owen McKenna P.I. series set in Lake Tahoe, California
ISBN: 9781931296229
Publisher: Thriller Press
Paperback, 384 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Gertie O'Leary is a 15-year-old girl with a messy bird's nest of red hair, a serious softball pitch, and a dream to be a movie director. She also has a $2 million price on her head.

When a gang led by a killer the FBI calls Mikhailo the Monster takes Gertie as the centerpiece of an extortion plot, the girl's mother calls Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna for help.

McKenna finds out that Gertie's stepfather has just died in what looks like a boating accident and that Gertie's mother cares more about not losing money to blackmail than saving her daughter.

As the unwanted child of divorced, self-focused parents, Gertie has no defenders. So McKenna appoints himself her savior. But McKenna is one man up against a small army of twisted murderers whose orders are to kill the girl...."

Title: The Devil's Chair
#5 in the Coroner Martha Gunn series set in Shrewsbury, England
ISBN: 9780727883896
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "In the peaceful setting of the National Trust near Church Stretton, south of Shrewsbury, Tracey Walsh drives herself and her four-year-old daughter, Daisy, up the remote Burway in the early hours of the morning, tragically loses control of her car and crashes into the valley below.

Tracey is rushed to hospital, but where is Daisy? She has vanished, provoking an intense police search of the area around the Devil’s Chair, land that is rife with legends and strange stories of witchcraft, sorcery and unexplained disappearances. Detective Inspector Alex Randall, the senior investigating officer, soon admits to coroner Martha Gunn that he is baffled by the case.

Alex and Martha must sift through fact and fiction, folklore and reality in their search for answers

=== August 5 ===

Title: If Catfish Had Nine Lives
#4 in the Country Cooking School cozy series set in southern Missouri
ISBN: 9780425269282
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Betts Winston has inherited more than her cooking skills from her grandmother—she can also see and talk to ghosts of people that once roamed the streets of Broken Rope, Missouri, in the days of the Old West…

With Gram’s Country Cooking School on spring break, Betts and Gram are taking part in this year’s cowboy poetry convention, offering lessons on frying catfish over an open campfire. But when a staged gunfight ends in real death and her brother Teddy becomes a prime suspect, Betts may be the one to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

After her ghostly guardian Jerome appears to watch her back and a spectral Pony Express rider gallops into town with some unfinished business, Broken Rope starts to seem more like a cowboy ghost convention. With trouble on both sides of this mortal coil, it’s up to Betts to clear her brother, put the spirits to rest, and make sure the true killer doesn’t become the one who got away.

Title: Murder in the Mystery Suite
Author: Ellery Adams
#1 in the Book Retreat cozy series set in rural western Virginia
ISBN: 9780425265598
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving.

But when the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a resort full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There’s no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up…

Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Rhys Bowen
#8 in the Royal Spyness historical series set in the U.S.
ISBN: 9780425260364
Publisher: Berkley 
Hardcover, 304 pages

Synopsis: "My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.

Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.

Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!

Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…

Title: Paw and Order
Author: Spencer Quinn
#7 in the Chet and Bernie series set in Washington, DC
ISBN:  9781476703398
Publisher: Atria Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Chet and Bernie pay a visit to Bernie’s girlfriend, Suzie Sanchez, a crack reporter living in far-off Washington, DC. She’s working on a big story she can’t talk about, but when her source, a mysterious Brit with possible intelligence connections, runs into trouble of the worst kind, Bernie suddenly finds himself under arrest.

Meanwhile Chet gets to know a powerful DC operative who may or may not have the goods on an ambitious politician. Soon Chet and Bernie are sucked into an international conspiracy, battling unfamiliar forces under the blinking red eyes of a strange bird that Chet notices from the get-go but seems to have slipped by everybody else. Most menacing of all is Barnum, a guinea pig with the fate of the nation in his tiny paws.

As Harry Truman famously quipped, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Too bad he didn’t get to meet Chet!

Title: The Counterfeit Lady
Author: Kate Parker
#2 in the Victorian Bookshop cozy series set in Victorian London
ISBN: 9780425266618
Publisher: Berkley
Paperback, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Who would suspect antiquarian bookseller Georgia Fenchurch of leading a double life—as a private investigator for the clandestine Archivist Society in Victorian London? When England’s national security is compromised, Georgia must pose as a titled lady to root out a spy…

A cousin of Georgia’s dear friend, Lady Phyllida Monthalf, is brutally murdered in her home during the theft of blueprints of a new battleship designed by her husband—who now stands accused of her murder…and treason. The Duke of Blackford, in service to Whitehall, enlists Georgia and the Archivist Society to assist in the investigation. Playing the part of the duke’s new paramour, Georgia gains entry into the upper echelons of London’s elite, where amidst elegant dinners and elaborate parties a master spy schemes to lay hands on the stolen plans.

The duke is no stranger to the world of international espionage, but Georgia is out of her element in more ways than one. She must not allow her genuine attraction to the duke—or her obsession with finding her parents’ killer—to distract her from her role. But when a mysterious stranger threatens to expose her, the counterfeit lady may be in real trouble…

Title: Well Read, Then Dead
Author: Terrie Farley Moran
#1 in the Read 'em and Eat cozy series set in Florida
ISBN: 9780425270288
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Nestled in the barrier islands of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Fort Myers Beach is home to Mary “Sassy” Cabot and Bridget Mayfield—owners of the bookstore café, Read ’Em and Eat. But when they’re not dishing about books or serving up scones, Sassy and Bridgy are keeping tabs on hard-boiled murder.

Read ’Em and Eat is known for its delicious breakfast and lunch treats, along with quite a colorful clientele. If it’s not Rowena Gustavson loudly debating the merits of the current book club selection, it’s Miss Augusta Maddox lecturing tourists on rumors of sunken treasure among the islands. It’s no wonder Sassy’s favorite is Delia Batson, a regular at the Emily Dickinson table. Augusta’s cousin and best friend Delia is painfully shy—which makes the news of her murder all the more shocking.

No one is more distraught than Augusta, and Sassy wants to help any way she can. But Augusta doesn’t have time for sympathy. She wants Delia’s killer found—and she’s not taking no for an answer. Now Sassy is on the case, and she’d better act fast before there’s any more trouble in paradise.

=== August 12 ===

Title: An Unwilling Accomplice
Author: Charles Todd
#6 in the Bess Crawford historical series set during World War I
ISBN: 9780062237194
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "Home on leave, Bess Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a wheelchair to Buckingham Palace, where he’s to be decorated by the King. The next morning when Bess goes to collect Wilkins, he has vanished. Both the Army and the nursing service hold Bess negligent for losing the war hero, and there will be an inquiry.

Then comes disturbing word from the Shropshire police, complicating the already difficult situation: Wilkins has been spotted, and he’s killed a man. If Bess is to save her own reputation, she must find Wilkins and uncover the truth. But the elusive soldier has disappeared again and even the Shropshire police have lost him. Suddenly, the moral implications of what has happened—that a patient in her charge has committed murder—become more important to Bess than her own future. She’s going to solve this mysterious puzzle, but righting an injustice and saving her honor may just cost Bess her life."

=== August 14 ===

Title: No Safe House
Author: Linwood Barclay 
Follow-up to No Time for Goodbye
ISBN: 9780451414205
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Hardcover, 464 pages

Synopsis: "Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his familywho first appeared in No Time for Goodbye, experienced a horrific ordeal that nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry’s wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents’ seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn’t fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable

=== August 19 ===

Title: Windigo Island
#14 in the Cork O'Connor series set in Minnesota
ISBN: 9781476749235
Publisher: Atria Books
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "When the body of a teenage Ojibwe girl washes up on the shore of an island in Lake Superior, the residents of the nearby Bad Bluff reservation whisper that it was the work of a mythical beast, the Windigo, or a vengeful spirit called Michi Peshu. Such stories have been told by the Ojibwe people for generations, but they don’t solve the mystery of how the girl and her friend, Mariah Arceneaux, disappeared a year ago. At the request of the Arceneaux family, Cork O’Connor, former sheriff turned private investigator, is soon on the case.

But on the Bad Bluff reservation, nobody’s talking. Still, Cork puts enough information together to find a possible trail. In Duluth, Minnesota, he learns from an Ojibwe social worker that both Duluth and the Twin Cities are among the most active areas in the US for sex trafficking of vulnerable women, many of whom are young Native Americans. As the investigation deepens, so does the danger. Cork realizes he’s not only up against those who control the lucrative sex enterprise—he must also battle government agencies more than willing to look the other way.

Yet Cork holds tight to his purpose—Mariah, an innocent fifteen-year-old girl at the heart of this grotesque web, who is still missing and whose family is desperate to get her back. With only the barest hope of saving her, Cork prepares to battle men whose evil rivals that of the bloodthirsty Windigo and who are as powerful, elusive, and vengeful as the dark spirit Michi Peshu

=== August 26 ===

Title: Left Turn at Paradise
#2 in the digital Rare Book series set in Kansas City, Missouri, and New Zealand
Publisher: Random House Alibi
eBook, 250 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Michael Bevan is barely scraping by with his used bookstore and rare book collection when he discovers a timeworn journal that may change everything. Dating back to 1768, the tattered diary appears to be a chronicle kept during the first of legendary seafarer Captain James Cook’s three epic voyages through the Pacific islands. If it’s as valuable as Mike thinks it is, its sale may just bring enough to keep his faltering used bookstore afloat for another year.

Then he meets a pair of London dealers with startling news: Adrian Hart and Penelope Wilkes claim to possess the journal of Cook’s second voyage. Is it possible a third diary exists? One which might detail Cook’s explosive final voyage—and his death at the hands of native Hawaiians? Together, all three would be the holy grail of Pacific exploration. But before Mike can act, the two journals are stolen.

Chasing them down will sweep Michael, Adrian, and Penelope across the globe—past a dead body or two—and into a very sinister slice of paradise. High in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, in a remote and secretive Maori compound, a secret rests in the hands in of a man daring enough to rewrite history . . . and desperate enough to kill.

Title: The Long Way Home
Author: Louise Penny
#10 in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series set in southern Quebec, Canada
ISBN: 9781250022066
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 384 pages

Synopsis: "Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.”

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. “There’s power enough in Heaven,” he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, “to cure a sin-sick soul.” And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river.  To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it the land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul."
What an embarrassment of riches! Which titles caught your fancy so much that they made it to your wish list? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Death in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope

First Line: That October was much as usual-- blowy, damp, mild, the leaves still green on the boughs, the sheep fat-bottomed and clean with their new fleece, complacent from the attentions of the tup.

House sitting in the Cotswolds hasn't turned out exactly as Thea Osborne planned. After becoming entangled in murder investigations during her first two jobs, she's more than happy to spend a quiet week with Detective Inspector Phil Hollis and their dogs to nurture their developing relationship. Even meeting Ariadne, Phil's prickly childhood friend who lives across the street, can't tarnish Thea's happiness.

But the house sitter on vacation must have been born under an unlucky star. Ariadne finds the body of her friend laid out like a sacrificial victim in Notgrove Barrow, and the two women are repeatedly thrown together as they conduct their own investigation. It doesn't take long for them to discover that several people in the beautiful little village have secrets, but which one would kill to keep theirs hidden?

One of the things I enjoy about this series is "visiting" all these lovely little villages in the Cotswolds in England. The villages actually exist; the author has just taken artistic license with the people, the houses and the businesses. Despite the necessary changes, the reader is able to learn about the area, and the setting adds a great deal of flavor to each book. (In Death in the Cotswolds, I learned more about sheep, about spinning and dyeing wool, and about the care and feeding of a pig, among other things.)

Tope tries something a little different in this third book in the series. The story is told from the point of view of Ariadne, not Thea. This is tricky-- and it doesn't always work-- but Ariadne is so eccentric, so prickly, that I found her side of things fascinating. She tells us about herself, from childhood to the present, and she certainly isn't shy about voicing her opinions. In addition, the author's turning Ariadne into the storyteller means that we get to see Thea Osborne from a completely different perspective-- and one that isn't always flattering. As the two women find themselves spending more and more time together, it's interesting to see how Ariadne's opinion of Thea changes. Moreover, all the time these two women are searching for a killer, Ariadne also begins learning some home truths about herself. She's a complex and ultimately sympathetic character that I hope to see in future books.

Speaking of complex, the plot itself certainly fills that bill. Tope plants clues all along the way, and I don't know if I was enjoying Ariadne and her interactions with Thea too much or what because I saw the clues and refused to admit where they were leading. That'll teach me! Hopefully I'll remember this lesson learned when I pick up the next book in the series!

Death in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
ISBN: 9780749080648 
Allison and Busby © 2008
Mass Market Paperback, 382 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #3 Thea Osborne mystery
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap 

Monday, July 28, 2014

What Decade Are You a Child Of?

You Are a Child of the 1960s


The world has changed a lot since the innocent days of your childhood, and you're still getting used to it. You remain idealistic, upbeat, and happy. Things may not be as simple as they once were, but you try not to make them too complicated.

You are easily pleased, and you don't need many material possessions to be content. You love good company and a home cooked meal. You value real connections and true friendships. You believe that the most meaningful interactions still happen face-to-face. 


@ The Poisoned Pen with Ben H. Winters!

If you've been paying any attention at all to my blog, you know that I've loved Ben H. Winters' Last Policeman trilogy from the very first book-- so much so that Denis is now in the process of reading the first one-- The Last Policeman. It's no wonder that the two of us jumped in the Jeep and headed for our favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen, for a chance to meet the author.

Let me rephrase that. With the temperature at 113°, we dripped into the Jeep and headed to Scottsdale. While Denis headed back to the new comfy wingback chair, I made my purchase (Scott Graham's Canyon Sacrifice, J.A. Jance's Remains of Innocence, and Kate Parker's The Vanishing Thief) before joining him. I think I managed to read a couple of chapters of Dorothy L. Sayers' Whose Body? before one of my favorite authors, Betty Webb, came in and the three of us got to chatting. (Her work on The Puffin of Death is moving along well, and her latest Lena Jones book Desert Rage will be out in October. Yes!)

Who is that cute kid with the messenger bag?

Left to Right: Ben H. Winters, Patrick Milliken
Now... I'd noticed this cute young kid with a big messenger bag slung across his shoulder. He looked like a freshman who might've just gotten out of class at ASU and stopped in to see if they'd gotten the book he'd requested. Friendly, talkative, he came in a couple of times, but I didn't think much of it. The penny didn't drop until I heard his voice again and saw him heading toward us with The Poisoned Pen's interviewer of the evening, Patrick Milliken. This "kid" was Ben H. Winters! (Maybe I should make a point of looking up all the author photos before I head out to the bookstore? I'm blaming my lack of deductive skills on the heat!)

The two immediately mentioned the Last Policeman trilogy and its timing. The first book, The Last Policeman starts off the tale of a young detective who's working hard to solve a mystery when no one else cares. You see, a huge asteroid will be slamming into Earth in ten months, and people are acting more than a bit squirrely. (Some of the enjoyment in reading this book is in finding out all the ways people are acting strangely.) The second, Countdown City, takes place with 77 days before the asteroid hits, and the third, the just released World of Trouble, begins with only three weeks left before the end of the world.

To understand Winters' trilogy, we needed to know about his relationship with his publisher, Quirk Books. Quirk Books is a small publisher that looks for "something with a big hook." Their first big success was a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and when they asked Ben if he wanted to write Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, he jumped at the chance for his entrée into publishing.

After the Sea Monsters...

Ben H. Winters
As he was working on Sea Monsters, he was already planning his next book. He wanted to find a way to contemplate mortality and other big topics within the framework of a detective story. The birth of The Last Policeman followed. 

Although Winters read and enjoyed post-apocalyptic classics like Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Nevil Shute's On the Beach, he didn't want his books to have that sort of time frame. He wanted a pre-apocalyptic vision of the world in which he could explore all the different ways people would react to the news of the asteroid and the end of the world. 

For example, the first book in the trilogy shows people splintering, moving away from everyone else in an "every man for himself" sort of mentality. The second emphasizes people who have sought a communal approach to the coming calamity, and the third shows how one particular group of Amish-- people who have traditionally always shunned modern technology-- have reacted. 

"As I was reading, I found that there seems to be a psychological need for people to find somebody to blame," Patrick commented. "The behavior of some of the people in your books also reminded me of Anthony Burgess, who wrote A Clockwork Orange. He was diagnosed with a inoperable brain tumor. Fortunately the diagnosis was incorrect, and he lived to write over thirty books and many other things. But his behavior certainly changed over a certain period of time!"  

"It's not got enough of the end of the world!"

Winters described his main character, Hank Palace, as "the quintessential nerd-- very focused, very diligent, with an almost physical need to do his job." After admitting that he's been keeping track of reviews at places like Amazon, Ben mentioned reviewers who were complaining because World of Trouble didn't have enough of the end of the world to suit them. Laughing and shaking his head, he said, "That was never the focus of the books-- to have everything blow up at the end. The asteroid is an obstacle to be overcome, and I wanted to show how Hank and others tried to get beyond it."

Going on to speak more about his main character, Ben said, "A promise is a promise. Hank Palace believes that if we all did what we should be doing-- what we said we would do-- everything would be fine until the asteroid hit."

If we were wondering just how attached Winters was to his creation, he let us know with his next words: "Hank Palace is the cop who cares when no one else does, but that doesn't mean that I always believe he's doing the right thing-- especially when he insists on pulling someone away from his/her equally important priorities to help him with something."

"Hank's sister Nico is the polar opposite of her brother in a thousand different ways," Ben said in a little preview of World of Trouble. "She gets involved with a shadow organization that works to prevent the end of the world, and then she disappears."

Crossovers and Musicals

Ben Winters' lanky frame with its computer posture exudes enthusiasm for his writing and for books in general. I like the fact that he has strong opinions and isn't afraid to voice them, even though he may offend some of the thinner-skinned. Since we couldn't talk in depth about the books because of the very real possibility of spoilers, talk began to move to the author's writing and research.

"I know! I'll write a detective story and put an asteroid in it! Well, what I didn't realize is that the asteroid makes my books science fiction whether I wanted them to be or not. It has given me a crossover audience though, which is a good thing."

Ben continued, "I really enjoy musicals, and I learned very quickly that every musical has a big 'I Want' song. Annie wants parents...."

"'If I Only Had a Brain' for The Wizard of Oz?" Patrick offered, to laughter from us all.

"Exactly!" Winters exclaimed. "World of Trouble has its own 'I Want' song-- or mission statement-- and it's on page 34 whenever you get a chance to read it." (He did read it aloud to us, but I decided not to type it all out for you.) However, he did conclude with "This time, it's personal."

I would imagine that most authors really do not appreciate the time they have to spend selling their books on blogs and social media platforms, and Winters is no exception. He told us that he'd been writing so many guest posts for blogs lately that he'd lost count. "I really don't want to remember," he admitted. "Even the word 'blog' still makes me slightly nauseous." Prime opportunity for me to get offended, wasn't it? I didn't bother wasting my time, especially since I've always hated the word 'blog.' It sounds like someone is in the process of throwing up. Bleurgh.

Ben went on to tell us that there are currently ten foreign language deals in the works for his books. He's thrilled. "These types of deals make me feel like a real author."

"Is that possible?"

Someone asked Winters how much research he'd done. "I talked with several astrophysicists, economists... people like that," he said. "One of the people I talked with most was Dr. Timothy Spahr. I wanted an asteroid big enough to destroy the planet, yet have it be something that we wouldn't have seen coming from a long way off. I asked him if that were possible. Dr. Spahr looked at me and smiled. 'I'll get you your asteroid,' Spahr told me."

Winters continued to field questions from us. His books are officially under option to a company that's pitching them to various cable television outlets. "I'm not going to waste my time wondering and asking what's going on with it. Not when I'm  busy working on the next thing," he said.

"What is the next thing?" I asked.

Winters looked as though he wished no one had asked, but he'd opened that door, and I just had to walk through.

"I'm working on a sort of alternative history slash crime novel set in Indianapolis where I currently live. It involves race relations and is centered on an African American vice cop," Ben said. "I can't tell you how much fun it is not to write as Hank Palace. I'm having a lot of fun!"

Another person asked him about his reading, and Winters recommended Clockers by Richard Price. "It's one of my favorite books. I also like Gillian Flynn, Lauren Beukes, and Patricia Highsmith. Personally I have issues with Highsmith [she was a bigot]... but-- her books!!!" He put in a good word for Tim Johnston's book Descent which is coming out next year, and he also recommended John LeCarré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Patrick Milliken added, "Didn't he coin the term 'mole'?" Winters nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! The people at the Oxford English Dictionary contacted him about it!"

Available Now!
Winters also mentioned the trend of adults reading young adult books. He doesn't like it. "I want adults to read grown-up books!" I sat there thinking of several book bloggers who would have been offended if they'd been there. (Even I've read young adult books from time to time. But it was so nice to listen to someone who wasn't afraid to voice a real opinion!)

Another fan asked him if he'd always known how his trilogy was going to end, or if he'd figured it out as he wrote. "I always knew how I wanted to end it-- right from the beginning."

Although he admitted that it would be possible to write a follow-up, he's not interested. "There are so many excellent post-apocalyptic novels available that I certainly don't need to attempt to add to the list."

The last thing we talked about that evening was eBooks and how Winters felt about them. Although he doesn't have anything against eBooks as a medium ("If they get more people to read more books...."), he is worried about them for another reason. "There's tons of stuff being published with 99¢ or $1.99 price points, and I'm afraid that book buyers are rapidly getting unrealistic expectations of book prices. And as more people turn to eBooks, booksellers are having a harder and harder time making a go of it," Ben said. "Publishers are giving booksellers a lot less attention. It's becoming difficult for authors to go on tours to promote their books. I would hate it if touring stopped completely because I love getting out among people and talking about my books-- well, about books in general to be honest!"

Ben Winters' smile and his enthusiasm for writing and for books is contagious, and I'm so glad Denis and I went to The Poisoned Pen to meet him-- even if I did think he was a cute kid with a messenger bag at first!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The One-Armed Paperhanger Weekly Link Round-Up

It's been one of those weeks. You know-- when your to-do list is five miles long, but you only have a half mile's worth of time to get it all done in? This is where the post title ties in. Back where I grew up, we had a saying for when you were so frazzled: "Busier than a one-armed paperhanger with the hives." That's me right now, and next week doesn't look to be any better, so I'm going to warn you right now-- Don't be surprised if there's no link round-up next week. Unless I turn into Popeye and someone feeds me a can of spinach....

On to the links! (And please don't worry. It's all good. I'm just busy!)

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • In Florida there's a barbershop that serves up a side of books with its haircuts.
  • Libraries are not a Netflix for books.
  • A plan to turn California into six states may actually make it to the ballot. Personally I think they need to mull this over a while longer.
  • One of my favorite actors, James Garner, has died at the age of 86. Mom didn't wash her hand for three days after he kissed it at the Illinois State Fair, smiled at her, and called her honey. I've loved him since forever. His grin and wry sense of humor were perfect for "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files." R.I.P., you gorgeous man.
  • It seems that Singapore has had second thoughts about destroying children's books depicting gay and lesbian characters.
  • We'll soon be able to read 15 heretofore unpublished stories written by Elmore Leonard.
  • Amazon isn't killing writing, the market is.
  • Amazon makes Kindle Unlimited official, and Oyster responds. So does the Huffington Post.
  • Great movies that had no business being great. 
  • Is Amazon trying to buy Simon and Schuster?
  • Still on the busy bee front, an Amazon Kindle "pleasure reading house" has opened in China.

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones 
& David Attenborough
  • A huge new crater has been found in Siberia, and theories are thicker than a swarm of bees. 
  • Archaeologists are hard at work excavating a colonial battleground in New York state.
  • Other archaeologists have discovered a rare Roman "free choice" cemetery.
  • A shipwreck site is yielding gold bars and thousands of coins.
  • You've probably heard about the "great Pacific garbage patch"-- halfway between California and Hawaii-- but did you know that it's forming islands? (If this keeps going, they're all going to want admission to the UN....) 
  • Money grubbers just can't leave well enough alone. They won't give up trying to build all around the edges of Grand Canyon National Park. I have just one question for them: Where's the water coming from? (The obvious answer isn't necessarily the correct one in this instance.) 

I  ♥  Lists & Quizzes

Book Candy

That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by two weeks from now when I'll have a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend!

      Thursday, July 24, 2014

      Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth

      First Line: It was an hour before dawn when Detective Constable Ben Cooper first began to get the news.

      It is a bitterly cold and snow-filled winter in England's Peak District, and problems begin to pile up as high as the snow for Detective Sergeant Diane Fry and Detective Constable Ben Cooper. First there's the man crushed by a snowplow on a road going over a high pass. Then there's a woman who, from all outward appearances, simply curled into a ball in the snow on Irontongue Hill and waited to freeze to death. And what about the body of a baby that was discovered in the hulk of a World War II bomber?

      Fry needs all the help she can get, but her extremely limited patience is wearing v-e-r-y thin. Every time she looks for help from Cooper, he seems to be with a Canadian woman who's come to the area to find out the truth about the disappearance of her grandfather during World War II. Can't that man ever concentrate on what's important?

      It took me a while to pick up this third book in the Cooper and Fry series, and I'm glad I finally did. Blood on the Tongue is an excellent blend of old crime and new. Many threads in the story go all the way back to World War II when a bomber crashed on Irontongue Hill, and-- rumor has it-- the Canadian pilot walked away with a very large shipment of money they were transporting to another airbase. It's a complex and very gratifying plot that Booth has created, and I certainly enjoyed trying to piece together all the clues.

      I continue to have mixed reactions to the author's dynamic duo of Fry and Cooper. Ben Cooper is the kind of man everyone seems to like and to go to for help. He's nice, he's easy-going, and he has some good intuitive skills that are handy in police work. Him I like, although I should probably be ashamed of falling for him so easily. I'm normally not such a pushover.

      On the other hand, Fry continues to rub my fur the wrong way, even though I know what happened in the past to help turn her into a person who acts more like a starving pit bull with toothache. I find that I quickly become exasperated with her when she's on the scene. Fortunately she's seldom in the spotlight in Blood on the Tongue, so I never wanted to throw the book at the wall.

      Even though it has little to do with the actual merits of this book, I think my reading enjoyment was enhanced by a trip to the UK last year in which I experienced blizzard-like conditions, road closures and the like in the Peak District. I found myself being able to picture the countryside, feel the bite of the wind, and hear the crunch of the snow under my feet. Even without my "insider's" knowledge of the weather, I think any reader can and will appreciate those outdoor scenes.

      Now that I've thawed out enough to share my opinion of this book, I find myself looking forward to reading the next in the series. If only I could find some way not to react so strongly to Diane Fry!

      Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth
      ISBN:  9780743236188
      Scribner © 2002
      Hardcover, 387 pages

      Police Procedural, #3 Cooper and Fry mystery
      Rating: A
      Source: Purchased from Book Outlet 

      Wednesday, July 23, 2014

      White Heat by M.J. McGrath

      First Line: As she set a chip of iceberg on the stove for tea, Edie Kiglatuk mulled over why it was that the hunting expedition she was leading had been so spectacularly unsuccessful.

      Half Inuit Edie Kiglatuk is a part-time teacher at the local school and also guides hunters out into the  Canadian Arctic that she knows so well. She's working hard to help her stepson Joe Inukpuk pay for his nurse's training. When one of the hunters she's guiding is shot and killed, her carefully balanced life begins to teeter. The Council wants to call it an accident, but Edie and police sergeant Derek Palliser are suspicious. Then the other hunter goes out into the tundra again and disappears. Regardless what the Council says, Edie is determined to find out what's really going on.

      White Heat is one of the best evocations of place that I have read in a long, long time. I'm fortunate that I decided to read the book in the summer; otherwise, I might have gotten frostbite. McGrath paints a fascinating portrait of the Inuit people high up in the Canadian Arctic: what the typical village is like, the typical home, transportation, medicine, education, Inuit customs and history, and more. All this information blends seamlessly into the story. Some of the information is disturbing, some of it makes good appetite suppressants (I'll never visit the area to sample its cuisine), and all of it is fascinating.

      Add in an intriguing mystery that has everything to do with the landscape, a remote chapter of its history, and bad guys whose motives are unclear, and you've got two-thirds of an excellent mystery.

      The final third is the cast, and McGrath has created two very memorable characters in Sergeant Derek Palliser and Edie Kiglatuk. Palliser falls in love with the wrong women and spends a lot of time studying lemmings instead of doing police work, but that doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with how well he does his paying job. This man has depth.

      What Edie Kiglatuk has goes way beyond mere depth. This woman is an ex-polar bear hunter-- one of the best in the entire area before she began drinking too much. To be a polar bear hunter, you have to be smart, you have to be able to think and react quickly, you have to know your terrain, and you have to be brave. Edie is all of these. She's also an excellent teacher, and I loved the scenes showing how she manages to teach her class of Inuit children how to survive in their own world as well as the world of the white man. If Edie has a flaw, it's her emotional entanglements, and those can and do lead her astray.

      After reading the digital short story "Edie Kiglatuk's Christmas," I had the feeling that I would really enjoy the series, so I'm very glad I bought the first two books. When I'm ready to risk fictional frostbite once again, I have the second book, The Boy in the Snow, waiting for me.

      White Heat by M.J. McGrath
      ISBN: 9780670022489
      Viking © 2011
      Hardcover, 400 pages

      Amateur Sleuth, #1 Edie Kiglatuk mystery
      Rating: A
      Source: Purchased from Book Outlet

      The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber

      First Line: The scream froze me in my tracks, but the shout that followed propelled me out of my indecision and around the hedge line of the maze.

      Following the death of her husband and the ensuing scandal, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her brother-in-law's estate in northwestern Scotland. Kiera appreciates being able to live quietly and focus on her painting, so she's anything but happy when her sister and brother-in-law decide to have a house party for the cream of society. With her sister needing her help at such a busy time, Kiera must join in with people who are convinced that she is just as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who forced her to illustrate his work at the dissection table.

      When a house guest is murdered, her brother-in-law allows no one to leave until the police from Inverness arrive to investigate. In the mean time, another house guest, inquiry agent Sebastian Gage, will begin speaking with the other guests and conducting his own investigation. To Kiera's horror, her brother-in-law asks her to help the insufferable Gage in examining the body because of her knowledge of human anatomy. The two learn to work together, as fingers point at the unnatural Lady Darby and wagging tongues name her as the killer. As Kiera begins receiving threatening notes telling her to stop investigating, she knows that she and Gage must work faster. She must protect her family and prove her innocence before she becomes the next victim.

      Anna Lee Huber has given us an excellent blend of mystery and historical detail wrapped up in a country house party. There's even a touch of romance as the story unfolds. The mystery is a complex one due to the background of the victim and the victim's interactions with everyone else at the country house. It takes time to sort through everything, and while I was sorting, I was enjoying Huber's look at high society in the year 1830. Having Kiera be so utterly reviled by everyone gives us a chance to see how the rich and shameless behave around her, and their behavior tells a great deal about them as people and as suspects.

      Lady Darby's married life has given her some of the skills needed to be a good investigator. Already a talented artist, her husband nevertheless honed her skill by forcing her to notice minute details while he dissected and she drew. She also learned much in the way of medical matters, and by the same token she learned how to persevere  through extremely unpleasant tasks.

      Now that she and Gage have learned to value each other's investigative skills, it's going to be interesting to see them work together again.  The rogue and the recluse. The private inquiry agent and the artist. The sought-after and the universally reviled. I'm definitely looking forward to the second book in this series.

      The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber
      ISBN: 9780425253281
      Berkley © 2012
      Paperback, 368 pages

      Historical Mystery, #1 Lady Darby mystery
      Rating: A-
      Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.