Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 2014 New Mystery Releases!

Summer always goes by too quickly for me. I read twice as many books during the summer months as I do the rest of the year. Since my pool season was cut short by flooding, I'm already getting reacquainted with the inside of my house. Normally I wouldn't be, but all the standing water rapidly bred swarms of mosquitoes, and I can't stay outside for any length of time without making involuntary blood donations-- or covering myself from head to toe with some sort of chemicals. Once everything dries out, they'll disappear, but at the moment I'm suffering from the skeeter grumps.

What better thing to do to get my mind off pests than to look for new books? I've pared down my list of intriguing October mysteries to these. I've grouped them by release date, and I've included all the information you'll need to find them at your favorite book procurement locations. All book synopses are courtesy of my favorite online showroom: Amazon.  Happy Reading!

=== October 1 ===

Title: Death in Elysium
Author: Judith Cutler
Series: #1 in the Jodie Welsh series set in rural England
ISBN: 9780727883964
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "High-flying city career woman Jodie Welsh was prepared for a dramatic change in lifestyle when she met and married the Reverend Theo Welsh, settling down to an entirely new kind of life as the wife of a country vicar in the picturesque village of Lesser Hogben. But if she thought life as a city deal-maker was tough, nothing could have prepared her for the emotional roller coaster of local church and village politics. As a newcomer, Jodie encounters hostility and disapproval from several of the villagers, particularly in her efforts to engage and assist Lesser Hogben’s disaffected youth.

When a local lad Jodie employed to help in her garden disappears, along with Jodie’s expensive camera, everyone around her is inclined to assume the worst. Only Jodie and the missing boy’s friend Mazza are convinced of his innocence. But Burble’s disappearance marks the start of a series of disturbing incidents which escalate in intensity – until the body shows up, and Jodie must use her well-honed negotiating and networking skills to unmask a ruthless killer.

Title: The Question of the Missing Head
Series: #1 in the Asperger's Mysteries set in New Jersey
ISBN: 9780738741512 
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Samuel Hoenig answers questions for a living. And as a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, his unique personality helps him ferret out almost any answer there is. But his latest question is a rather odd one—who stole a preserved head from the Garden State Cryonics Institute?

Arriving at the scene of the crime accompanied by his new colleague, Ms. Washburn, Samuel finds that what started out as a theft has escalated to murder. With suspects and motives emerging at a rapid rate, one final question remains—can Samuel’s powers of deduction uncover a killer in the face of overwhelming odds?"

=== October 7 ===

Title: A Demon Summer
Author: G.M. Malliet
Series: #4 in the Father Max Tudor series set in the village of Nether Monkslip in England
ISBN: 9781250021410
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 400 pages

Synopsis: "Agatha Award-winning author G. M. Malliet has charmed mystery lovers, cozy fans, and Agatha Christie devotees everywhere with Wicked Autumn, A Fatal Winter, and Pagan Spring, the critically acclaimed mysteries featuring handsome former-spy-turned-cleric Father Max Tudor.

In A Demon Summer, someone has been trying to poison the 15th Earl of Lislelivet. Since Lord Lislelivet has a gift for making enemies, no one—particularly his wife—finds this too surprising. What is surprising is that the poison was discovered in a fruitcake made and sold by the Handmaids of St. Lucy of Monkbury Abbey. Max Tudor, vicar of Nether Monkslip and former MI5 agent, is asked to investigate. But just as Max comes to believe the poisoning was accidental, a body is discovered in the cloister well."

Title: Desert Rage
Author: Betty Webb
Series: #8 in the Lena Jones P.I. series set in Scottsdale, Arizona
ISBN: 9781464203107 
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 300 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Ferociously ambitious U.S. Senatorial candidate Juliana Thorsson has been keeping a secret. The horrific slaughter of a prominent doctor, his wife, and their ten-year-old son inside their Scottsdale home brings Thorsson to Private Investigator Lena Jones. The slain family’s 14-year-old, Alison, and her boyfriend, Kyle, have confessed to the murders. Thorsson wants to hire Lena to discover if Alison is telling the truth, but before accepting the job, Lena demands to know why a rising political star wants to involve herself with the fate of a girl she’s never met. Desperate for Lena’s help, Thorsson reveals her explosive secret—that Ali son is the candidate’s biological daughter, a fact she’s kept hidden for years. But that’s not all. Thorsson then confides something even more unusual than a mere hidden pregnancy, something that could ruin her political plans forever. Suspecting that Alison’s parents had secrets of their own that could have led to the murders, Lena finally accepts Thorsson’s assignment. But interviewing those who knew the family well soon puts Lena—now a strong defender of the two teens—in danger of her life. Fast-paced, probing, and ¬ filled with the trademark twists of the Lena Jones series, Desert Rage once again shows that Betty Webb is unsparing of her characters yet writes their stories with wit and compassion.

Title: Off Kilter
Author: Hannah Reed
Series: #1 in the Scottish Highlands series
ISBN: 9780425265826 
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages 

Synopsis: "After the recent death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, thirty-something Eden Elliott is seriously in need of a fresh start. At the urging of her best friend, bestselling author Ami Pederson, Eden decides to embark on an open-ended trip to the picturesque village of Glenkillen in the Scottish Highlands, to do some hands-on research for a book of her own. But almost as soon as Eden arrives in the quaint town, she gets caught up in a very real drama…

The town’s sheep shearer is found murdered—clipped with his own shears—and the locals suspect Vicki MacBride, an outsider whose father’s recent death left her the surprise heir to his lucrative sheep farm. Eden refuses to believe the affable heiress is a murderer, but can she prove that someone is out to frame her new friend before she finds herself on the receiving end of more shear terror?

Title: Murder Off the Beaten Path
Author: M.L. Rowland
Series: #2 in the Search and Rescue series set in California
ISBN:  9780425263679
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "As a member of a mountain search and rescue team, Gracie Kinkaid routinely volunteers to put her life on the line. But it’s at her new day job at a residential camp in the mountains of southern California where she finds her life is really in danger…

As a volunteer for Timber Creek Search and Rescue, Gracie responds to a call out for a car that’s gone over the side of a treacherous mountain road. The crash, which Gracie quickly suspects is no accident, proves to be one in an escalating and deadly series of events that lead her right back to Camp Ponderosa, a church-owned camp where she works as Program Director. As Gracie probes more deeply into the dark secrets at the camp, she unearths a hidden world of illegal activities, including murder…and finds herself going head-to-head with desperate perpetrators who will do anything to silence her forever.

Title: Sons of Sparta
Author: Jeffrey Siger
Series: #6 in the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series set in Greece 
ISBN: 9781464203169
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Paperback, 250 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Did the warriors of ancient Sparta simply vanish without a trace along with their city, or did they find sanctuary at the tip of the mountainous Peloponnese? That stark, unforgiving region’s roots today run deep with a history of pirates, highwaymen, and neighbors ferociously repelling any foreigner foolishly bent on occupying this part of Greece. Less well-recorded are the Mani’s families’ strict code of honor and their history of endless vendettas with neighbors and with their own relatives. No wonder their farms look like fortresses. When Special Crimes Division Detective Yiannis Kouros is summoned from Athens to the Mani by his uncle, Kouros fears his loyalty to his boss, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, is about be to be tested by family pressure on the detective to act in some new vendetta, for this uncle once headed the Mani’s most significant criminal enterprise. Instead, Kouros learns the family is about to become rich through the sale of its property—until the uncle is killed, and thus the deal. Acting swiftly to head off a new cycle of violence, Kouros satisfactorily solves the murder. Or so it seems until, back in Athens, Kaldis’ probe into deeply entrenched government corruption leads straight back to the Mani. Both cops now confront a host of unexpected twists, unanticipated players, unanswered questions—and people yet to die." 

Title: Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past
Author: Sharyn McCrumb
Series: #10.5 in the Ballad series set in Appalachia
ISBN: 9781426754210
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Hardcover, 160 pages (novella)

Synopsis: "When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls.

On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home. In a story of spirits, memories, and angels unaware, Sharyn McCrumb revisits her most loved characters who know there is more to this world than the eye can see, especially at Christmastime."

=== October 14 ===

Title: Murder at the Brightwell
Author: Ashley Weaver
Series: #1 Amory Ames mystery set in 1930s England
ISBN: 9781250046369
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who questions her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the luxurious Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim

Title: The Life We Bury
Author: Allen Eskens
ISBN: 9781616149987
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Paperback, 303 pages

Synopsis: "College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.

Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

=== October 16 ===

Title: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen
ISBN: 9780525427247
Publisher: Viking
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books

=== October 21 ===

Title: Wait for Signs
Author: Craig Johnson
Series: Short stories featuring characters from the Walt Longmire mysteries
ISBN: 9780525427919
Publisher: Viking
Hardcover, 192 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Ten years ago, Craig Johnson wrote his first short story, the Hillerman Award–winning “Old Indian Trick.” This was one of the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on to star in Johnson’s bestselling, award-winning novels and the A&E hit series Longmire. Each Christmas Eve thereafter, fans rejoiced when Johnson sent out a new short story featuring an episode in Walt’s life that doesn’t appear in the novels; over the years, many have asked why they can’t buy the stories in book form.

Wait for Signs collects those beloved stories—and one entirely new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns”—for the very first time in a single volume, regular trade hardcover. With glimpses of Walt’s past from the incident in “Ministerial Aide,” when the sheriff is mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where the majority of the action takes place in a Port-A-Potty, Wait for Signs is a necessary addition to any Longmire fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming." 

=== October 28 ===

Title: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
Series: #12 in the Jane Austen series set in England
ISBN: 9781616954239
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 336 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?


Hopefully I managed to include a title or two that made its way onto your own wishlists. There are several favorite authors of mine represented in October, and you long-time readers will recognize them. As far as the new authors go, there's at least one you long-timers will know the reason for its inclusion. (Of course I would want to read a mystery set in the Highlands!)

Of the new authors' books, I have to admit that the synopsis for Allen Eskens' The Life We Bury really spoke to me, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book.

How about you? Which titles spoke to you? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert

First Line: Elizabeth Lacy had been a member of the Darling Garden Club ever since Mrs. Blackstone started it in 1925, and president for the last two years.

It's 1930 in Darling, Alabama (population 907), money is scarce, and everyone is making do. The ladies of the Darling Dahlias Garden Club are looking forward to sprucing up the neglected gardens of their new clubhouse, which they inherited after the club's founder, Mrs. Dahlia Blackstone died. However, there's plenty going on in town to distract them.

There are rumors floating around that the Darling Savings and Trust may be in trouble, and there's been a prison break, but what has the lion's share of club president Elizabeth Lacy's attention is the disappearance of drugstore clerk, Bunny Scott. 

Bunny was known to be flighty and man crazy, and she was always talking about moving to New York, but Liz Lacy and fellow club member Verna Tidwell know good and well that a woman doesn't leave for New York City and leave all her clothes, jewelry and cosmetics behind. When Bunny turns up dead in a stolen car, the Darling Dahlias decide to do some investigating on their own-- even if a ghost does seem to be digging around the old cucumber tree at night.

Susan Wittig Albert almost immediately transported me to Depression-Era Alabama in this first book in the series. She's done her research, and her mentions of songs playing on the radio and the movies that were showing at the theater in town created a lot of the needed ambiance. Her research shows up everywhere-- in the prices people were paying for things, in their recipes, in the fear that swept through the community when rumors of a bank closure and a prison break began to circulate-- and all these details fit into the story seamlessly. 

Add an intriguing mystery to a perfect setting, and you've got a good book to read. In fact there are several little mysteries running throughout this book. Some are easily solved, but others require much more thought and deduction.  What raises the bar even higher is Albert's cast of characters. The main garden club members come from all walks of life-- there's the mayor's wife whose husband is always telling her not to worry her pretty little head, there's a legal secretary, a probate clerk, and women who run the local diner and moonlight as telephone operators. If these women don't have their fingers on the pulse of Darling, Alabama, then no one does!

We get to know Lizzy Lacy the most in this book, and I like her a lot. She's what would have been called a spinster back then, since her domineering mother got it into her maternal head that Lizzy was going to be her live-in doormat forever more. But lest you get the idea that Lizzy has no spine, think again. I guarantee you're going to like her. I look forward to learning even more about the rest of the characters because just enough of their backgrounds were given to let readers know that there's much more to their stories, too. 

Albert also includes "making do" tips and recipes at the back of the book, and reading them brought back many memories for me, having grown up with a grandmother and mother who lived through the Depression. And although I did notice the slow pace of the book throughout the first half, I just chalked it up to setting the stage for this new series. History, mystery, characters, food, music, and flowers. I'm already looking forward to the next book!

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert
ISBN: 9780425234457 
Berkley © 2010
Hardcover, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #1 Darling Dahlias mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Paperback Swap 


Monday, September 29, 2014

What Part of Italy Are You?

You Are Venice


You are a true romantic, and you appreciate a slower, more old fashioned pace of life. You like to travel, but you don't need to see the world all at once. You are content to stay in one place for a while.

You appreciate culture, art, and history. You like to dig deep and discover the things that aren't in books. You are a dreamer, and you love to be inspired. In the perfect setting, you feel anything is possible. 


At The Poisoned Pen with Deborah Crombie!

With the rain and flooding in the Phoenix area canceling an author event that we'd planned to attend, it had been a while since Denis and I headed over to our favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen, in Scottsdale. With our trip up to Black Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim area, we had been refreshed with our sightings of mule deer, golden-mantled squirrels, Stellar's Jays, a Cooper's Hawk, and a Belted Kingfisher, and were more than ready for some culture. I made my usual purchase (this time Weave of Absence by Carol Ann Martin and To Dwell in Darkness by tonight's author Deborah Crombie) and made my way to the back to sit and read. 

A very shiny floor and some early birds....

I'd no more stuck my nose into Charlie Lovett's First Impressions when The Poisoned Pen's technical guru, Ariel, asked me if I'd noticed that the bodies were gone. Now, I'd noticed that the floor was so shiny you could count the pores on your face, but I hadn't noticed that those crime-scene-tape yellow "chalk" outlines of two bodies were missing! Seems the company that cleans the floor was so zealous that they polished them right off. I asked Ariel if she was going to lay on the floor to provide the outlines again, and she said she probably would-- but she was thinking of adding blood splatter as well. Sounds good to me!

I never did get back to reading because a steady stream of familiar Deborah Crombie fans kept coming in, and naturally we had to share our opinions of recent books we'd read.....

"If you don't send me to The Poisoned Pen..."

L to R: Barbara Peters, Deborah Crombie
The evening truly began when Barbara and Deborah took their seats at the front of a large group of enthusiastic fans-- most of whom seem to have read every single one of her books. (This would include Denis and me.) Barbara looked over at Deborah and said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we've been together for every book?" Crombie replied, "Yes, we have... well... maybe not the first one. And I think for one of the Bantam books they told me that they weren't going to be sending me to The Poisoned Pen, and I told them, 'If you don't send me, I'll pay to go myself!" (They sent her.)

Barbara replied, "Publishers seem to wax and wane about how they want to publicize their books. Deborah's just begun a five-week book tour-- and other times she has to offer to pay her own way. You just never know how it's going to work out!"

Barbara once interviewed Deborah during a Left Coast Crime conference, which is where she learned she'll never be able to keep one of Crombie's titles straight: "I've never been able to keep the title Leave the Grave Green straight... I've called it Leave the Grass Green forever!" Deborah laughed and said, "My agent calls it Leave the Grass Green, and we refer to it as 'the fertilizer mystery'."

Although most of Crombie's books are set in various London locations, she has set a few in other UK areas. For years, Barbara used to campaign for a "pottery" book (one set amongst all the china and pottery factories of Staffordshire), but she told us, "I've decided that I'm going to have to write it myself and put Deborah's name on it." Deborah did say that she'd love to write Barbara's pottery book, but that she wrote herself into a bit of a corner, and now she needs to deal with that first.

"It's sort of ticking quietly in the background..."

Deborah Crombie
"It started at the end of No Mark Upon Her where something happened that was not what it appeared to be," Crombie said, "and I knew it wasn't what it appeared to be when I wrote it. I sort of knew what really happened and what the consequences were going to be, and it was something that couldn't be resolved in that book. Then The Sound of Broken Glass... it kind of simmered under the surface a bit, and you get more of it in this book... and then in the next one, I'm going to have to deal with it. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do yet!"

"I figured you were postponing it because you didn't know what you were going to do," Barbara said, "but I like it. It's sort of ticking quietly in the background, and it could go for a while."

"I've had a couple of people ask me after that book came out why I ruined a perfectly good crime novel with an unresolved conspiracy," Crombie went on to say. "I did it because I thought it was interesting. And if you just write the same thing... this is my sixteenth book, and if you just write the same thing all the time you get bored, and readers will get bored. If people want to read the same book, they can reread all the others. I'm being tacky, I know! Of course I want people to love the books I write, but it was just something I wanted to do. "

"I agree that if you aren't enthused about what you're writing, readers won't be either," Barbara said, "but I also wondered if Rob and I hadn't been influenced by MHZ TV that you can get through Direct TV. We've been watching these European crime stories that run on for episodes, and believe me they can go on forever---"

"Story arcs!" Deborah blurted out.

"Yes," Barbara agreed. "Even Call the Midwife. I know it's not crime fiction, but I absolutely love it. I think I've gotten more accustomed to long-running story lines."

Crombie then mentioned that she'd had various ongoing relationship threads in her books as well as investigations, but she felt that "at least one story line needs to be resolved or the reader feels cheated."

"I'm not a fan of repeat serial killer characters," Barbara added. "I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell when a serial killer had already appeared twice and then came back a third time as a ghost. Just come up with a new serial killer! Why are you recycling the same one?"

"...nothing to do with the London Eye!"

Deborah Crombie
As talk began to turn to her newest book, To Dwell in Darkness, Deborah assured us that it had "absolutely nothing to do with the London Eye. The London Eye just makes a striking cover!"

She described this book to us as a "continuation of my love affair with Victorian architecture." Crombie loves St. Pancras International Railway Station in London, and knew that she would one day set a book there. "I think it's the crowning achievement of Victorian architecture," she told us.

"We might want to say a few words about how the train stations in London work," Peters said, "because you can't just take a train from any London station to go anywhere."

"Yes, that was the big thing about St. Pancras because it would take the trains coming from the north. Trains coming from the west will go to one station, those from the south to another, and so on. What station you go to in London depends upon which direction you're traveling," Crombie said.

This talk segued nicely into Barbara Peters' favorite P.D. James story in which James was talking about letters she'd received from fans. In one of her Adam Dagliesh mysteries, James sent one of her characters off from the wrong station, and she received lots of mail about her error-- to point it out and to complain. All except one woman, whose letter began, "I, too..." and then went on to explain that she'd also tried to leave from the wrong station, listing all the stations, trains, and lines she had to take to get to where she wanted to go! We were all laughing when Deborah said, "J.K. Rowling goofed too, but at the time it had been years since she'd been to London. She has the Hogwarts train leave from King's Cross, but she's actually describing Paddington Station." (All  this talk of trains and stations made me think of the trip to Scotland Denis and I are currently planning in which we intend to take the night train from London to Inverness. Something tells me I'm incessantly going to be doublechecking the station from which we leave!)

From St. Pancras to trains to Crombie's latest book, the author told us that at the beginning of To Dwell in Darkness, Duncan is still trying to make sense of his abrupt transfer from Scotland Yard to an area murder investigation team for the borough of Camden that works out of Holborn Station. He's not getting along well with his team, and he's unaccustomed to being disliked. But all that takes a backseat when a white phosphorus grenade is set off in St. Pancras Station. He and his team have to learn-- and learn quickly-- if this was an accident or an act of terrorism. It's the main case in the book, with Gemma's case taking on a secondary role, which is only right since she had the lead in The Sound of Broken Glass. Crombie did want, however, for something in Gemma's case to give Duncan insight into the identity of the murderer in the investigation he's running. "So I gave Gemma this case, and then I realized I was going to have to solve it. It was hard!

Peters said it sounded as though this book had been difficult to write. "It was really a challenge," Crombie agreed. "It's certainly not the longest book I've ever written. That was Water Like a Stone which was 'the book that wouldn't die'! It was something like 650 pages in manuscript. To Dwell in Darkness was a challenge. Everything happens in four days. It was a very tight timeline. I felt as though I were writing an episode of 24. So everything had to count. There were so many different story lines, so many different characters... and everything had to be blocked together. I hope I pulled everything off."

"I think you did," Barbara said. "So... what happens to the kittens?"

"Ah, everyone wants to know about the kittens, although when my editor was reading the manuscript, she kept saying, 'Enough of the kittens!' But then I'd tell her 'There's a reason why the kittens are there!'" Crombie went on to tell us more about the kittens, but I'm only going to say that Kit and Toby find a starving mother cat and four kittens and wind up bringing them home.

Tea at the Ritz!

Available Now!
Barbara and Deborah then proceeded to tell us about the time that they had tea at the Ritz and then went to Buckingham Palace when it first opened to the public in order to raise funds for the repairs to Hampton Court Palace, which had had a devastating fire in 1986. After getting sidetracked, Barbara said, "So we had tea at the Ritz and then went to Buckingham Palace and went through it, and even then you were kvetching about being late with a book! I didn't want to say whining. So it's been sort of a constant...."

Deborah laughed and replied, "If you do the math it's been twenty-one years since A Share in Death was published, and I've written sixteen books. So it's not that..."

"I didn't mean that you were chronically late," Barbara rushed in to say. "I meant that you were chronically anxious that you won't get it done and bring it all together."

"Yes, and it hasn't gotten any better," Deborah said. 

"I think you've had an endless quest for perfection and that makes it harder for you," Peters commented.

"My agent (we've been together for twenty-three years) has asked me why I can't just write a draft. But it's never worked that way for me. My friend Louise Penny writes a draft, and then she writes another draft. I can't do that. I outline."

"Whatever works for you," Peters said.

"I have to figure out how all the pieces fit together before I can actually sit down and start writing." To illustrate how much she can agonize over her writing, Crombie then told us that she turned in the manuscript for To Dwell in Darkness on July 1-- which cut it close for all the finishing touches to be done. "I have to turn in my next manuscript on March 1, and how that is going to happen, I do not know! I know what's going to happen in the next book... and that's about it! Now what I need is uninterrupted time where I can lock myself away and just write."

As the evening began to draw to a close, other tidbits surfaced:

Deborah highly recommends Connie Willis's Blackout and All Clear as "the best description of the Blitz I've ever read. Everyone should really read these books!"

Barbara then mentioned having her wallet stolen in Covent Garden-- just as she exited the Police Museum.

Perhaps the biggest news came at the very end: a British production company has bought the option for Crombie's series in hopes of turning it into a television series for BBC or ITV.  One of the stars who has been mentioned is Joe Armstrong, son of Alun Armstrong who will be very familiar to any New Tricks fans out there (like Denis and me). I can't wait to see what happens!

After getting my book signed, Denis and I stopped at the Cornish Pasty for dinner, and talked books all the way home. Haven't read Deborah Crombie? You just have to change that-- she is an incredible writer!

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Refreshed and Renewed Weekly Link Round-Up

This week brought a much-needed break up in the White Mountains. Denis and I try to go up to Black Canyon Lake before the snow has a chance to fly so we can make sure the critters are stocked up on raw peanuts and sunflower kernels for those long winter evenings. This was a very special visit indeed. Not only were the golden-mantled squirrels shoveling goodies into their cheek pouches as fast as they could, the Stellar's jays were practicing aerial bombardment-- swooping in with talons extended to snatch up a peanut to take it to a pine tree and stash it for a future snack.

Mule deer at Black Canyon Lake
Those are the regulars that Denis and I are used to seeing, but I'm thrilled to announce that we saw some other critters that aren't so regular-- at least for us.

I saw a bird swoop down over the water, snatch something up and then fly over to a tree root and perch. It was quite a distance away, and I could only hope that my camera would be able to zoom in close enough so that I would be able to get home and identify the bird. Well, not only was I able to identify the bird as a belted kingfisher, I managed to get a couple of shots of it with the fish in its beak! I'm thrilled because this is the first time I've ever seen a kingfisher. I've heard them at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but had never seen them before today.

Then on the way back on the fire road that takes visitors to the lake, Denis and I saw not one but two mule deer in the trees. One was very kind, letting Denis stop, put the Jeep in reverse, slowly back up, and giving me time to take a couple of photos. Of course I said, "Thank you!" when I was finished. Going out in nature is always good for what ails me. I'll be refreshed when Denis and I head to The Poisoned Pen to see Deborah Crombie!


Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • Have you ever wanted to track your reading on a spreadsheet? I do, and it's simple once I set up a routine. As a result, I can pull up all sorts of statistics for my year-end blog posts. Here's some help setting up a spreadsheet.
  • Fans of the cancelled televison program Longmire aren't taking kindly to the fact that A&E thinks they're too old. 
  • Some tidbits about upcoming Star Trek 3 are coming to light.
  • The population of the internet-- in one map. 
  • The first "Gone Girl" movie reviews confirm that the book's ending hasn't changed, and it's an Oscar contender. (I couldn't finish reading the book; I wonder if I'll like the film any better?)
  • eBook piracy is fast becoming a top concern. 
  • I may not like Budweiser, but I tend to love their commercials. They've got another winner out now.

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones
  • The second-ever photo of Billy the Kid has emerged.
  • Think hair extensions are relatively new? Think again!
  • Last week I mentioned the divers searching the ship graveyard in the San Francisco Bay. This week, news of the discovery of historic ghost ships is rising to the surface.
  • Child goldsmiths went blind making some of the treasures at Stonehenge.
  • It took eight long years, but archaeologists managed to uncover the hidden death chambers of Sobibór
  • Archaeologists are still discovering all sorts of things at Stonehenge
  • Sunk off the coast of South Carolina 157 years ago, the SS Central America-- otherwise known as the "Ship of Gold"-- is giving up a fortune in gold and jewels.
  • The search for a 500-year-old shipwreck could rewrite Australia's history. 
  • Follow a journalist inside the long-unopened storage locker of the Beatles' American lawyer.
  • More than 50 geoglyphs have been discovered in Kazakhstan. 
  • The discovery of a 4,000-year-old shipwreck could be the world's oldest.

I  ♥  Lists

Book Candy
  • 25 vintage international book covers for H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
  • 3 innovative outdoor libraries in Russia. (I wouldn't mind having the tube-shaped one to put in a private garden setting.)
  • 9 charming things every book lover needs.

That's all for now! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll have a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure. Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

    First Line: Vera Stanhope climbed out of Hector's ancient Land Rover and felt the inevitable strain on her knees.

    Even though she tends to be a solitary person, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope has made friends with her free-spirited neighbors. After all, they keep her supplied with conversation and bottles of home brew. But talk and ale only go so far, and she doesn't want to become bosom pals. That may be about to change when neighbor Jack tells Vera that Joanna is missing. Against her better judgement and her inclination, she agrees to track the woman down. 

    She finds Joanna at the Writer's House, a country retreat on the Northumberland coast where aspiring authors attend lectures and work on their books-- and that's not all she finds. Someone is dead, and Joanna has been found with a knife in her hand. The crafty D. I. manages to hold on to the case, even though she is a friend of the prime suspect, but she and her team can't seem to find a motive-- even when another body is found.

    I have long been a fan of Ann Cleeves' writing, in particular her Shetland series and these Vera Stanhope novels. Vera is a favorite of mine. She's not young, she's definitely not pretty, and she tends to be a grouch. Her life with her eccentric father shaped her, but it does not define her. This woman has a mind like the proverbial steel trap, and not much gets past her gimlet eye.

    What's new for Vera this time around is the fact that she's paying more attention to children and mothers, and she's wondering if perhaps she should've given motherhood a try herself. When a woman is childless past a certain age, it's natural to think about what if's... and Vera might even be wondering who's going to take care of her when she no longer can.

    Cleeves' strengths are in evidence here: characterization, creating atmosphere, her ear for dialogue, and plotting, and I always enjoy how she includes her own interests in her books-- like the beautiful county of Northumberland, birds, and this time the world of writing and publishing. I was slightly disappointed in that I knew the identity of the killer immediately, but I think it was more the case that I instinctively distrust certain types of characters rather than any sort of weakness on the author's part. 

    What I am sure of is my affection for Vera Stanhope. Whenever Vera has a new case, you can be certain that I'll read all about it.

    The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves
    ISBN: 9780230762862 
    Pan Macmillan © 2012
    Paperback, 374 pages

    Police Procedural, #5 D.I. Vera Stanhope mystery
    Rating: B+
    Source: Paperback Swap

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Death of an Old Git by Andrea Frazer

    First Line: The village of Castle Farthing drowsed in the heat of the July sunshine, postcard-pretty with its diamond-shaped green, duck pond, and Saxon church.

    Old Reg Morley is the man everyone loves to hate there in the village of Castle Farthing. He's a petty thief, a peeping Tom, a troublemaker who insists that children should be neither seen nor heard, and he seems to have trained his dog to defecate on demand in his neighbors' gardens. When he's found strangled to death in his kitchen, the entire village breathes a sigh of relief.

    When Detective Inspector Harry Falconer and his partner, Acting Detective Sergeant Davey Carmichael, drive from Market Darley to begin their investigation, they discover most of Castle Farthing's residents hovering as near to old Morley's place as they can get-- and that the local constable has let the vicar into the crime scene. They've barely gotten their bearings when Falconer realizes that practically everyone in the village had a reason to want the old man dead. Uncovering all the village secrets-- and the killer-- is going to be a long, hard slog, but Falconer will not rest until the case is solved.

    I was first attracted to this book by its title, which is proof that, not only am I an Anglophile, I have an English husband as well. But trouble quickly loomed on the horizon. The writing was stiff, and there was far more telling me what was going on rather than leaving the characters alone to show me. Just as I was thinking of stopping and choosing a different book to read (at the end of chapter two), something shifted and all the separate parts of this little mystery clicked into place. From a book I'd decided not to finish, Death of an Old Git turned into a very fun, enjoyable read.

    The reason for this abrupt about-face is the author's marvelous sense of humor. I lost count of the times Andrea Frazer either made me smile or made me laugh out loud. Falconer is one of those fussy men; everything-- from his clothing and appearance to his home, car, and office-- must be just so before he's happy. Imagine this meticulous man partnered with "the human ironing board" Acting Detective Sergeant Davey Carmichael-- a towering young man who has all the fashion sense of a manic, colorblind stork. To Falconer's astounded and agonized eyes, Carmichael's choice of clothing alone sets the tone for each day of the investigation. And the humor certainly isn't limited to clothing.

    The plot of Death of an Old Git isn't complicated. Falconer and Carmichael go 'round and 'round Castle Farthing reinterviewing all the suspects until they finally piece things together. The identity of the killer should be rather clear, and Frazer even has an interactive element in the story when Falconer finds something at the crime scene, slips it into his pocket, and promptly forgets it. Each time it was mentioned, I wanted to grab Falconer by his freshly starched and ironed collar and shake him just a little bit. See? Interactive!

    So... a shaky start and a simple plot usually elicits a thumb down from me, but not this time. I was quite frankly hooked and bedazzled by Frazer's wit, humor, and her two main characters. I already have the next book in the series lined up and ready to read. 

    Death of an Old Git by Andrea Frazer
    ASIN: B00F54ZHQI
    Accent Press © 2014
    eBook, 210 pages

    Cozy/Police Procedural, #1 Falconer Files
    Rating: B+
    Source: Purchased from Amazon.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    The Kill Switch by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood

    First Line: Doctor Paulos de Klerk packed the last of the medical supplies into the wooden trunk and locked the three brass clasps, mumbling under his breath with each snap.

    Sigma Force is given a vital mission that must be carried out immediately, and Tucker Wayne and his partner, the retired war dog Kane, are the only ones close enough to get in quickly and get it done. Escorting the pharmaceutical magnate out of Russia and into the United States isn't easy from the first second Tucker and Kane set foot in Siberia. Someone knew he was coming, and now Tucker has to try to outfox the group that wants to keep Abram Bukolov in Russia. Bukolov holds the secret to a deadly bioweapon that's going to take them on to South Africa and Namibia before the billionaire ever has a chance to see America.

    James Rollins knows how to take interesting tidbits from history and science and turn them into an adrenaline-fueled thriller. In the case of The Kill Switch, the history is the Boer War and the science involves something that could very well be the stem cells of the plant world. Add to the history and science the intriguing duo of Tucker Wayne and Kane, and the enjoyment factor increases tenfold.

    Having already read a bit about this man and his dog, I was looking forward to a little background on the two of them, and I was not disappointed. Tucker's childhood and his service in the military have led him to make rules for himself that can cause problems. One of those rules is that he won't kill a dog. Dogs have given him the love, the friendship, and the loyalty that humans never have, and although his "rule" makes sense to him, it is something that does put him and the others at risk. Kane, the Belgian shepherd, is just as devoted to Tucker as Tucker is to him. He is intelligent, extremely well-trained, and I can see some readers turning the pages of The Kill Switch and thinking that Kane is Super Dog, a fantasy of Rollins' imagination. Truth is, anyone who knows what these war dogs are capable of doing says that Rollins downplays their abilities.

    I enjoyed this book for increasing my knowledge about Tucker and Kane, and I found the tie-in to the Boer War and the science fascinating. The action is almost non-stop, but if there is a weakness in this book it is the fact that too much of that action is predictable. However, I look forward to seeing what's in store for these two.

    The Kill Switch by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
    ISBN: 9780062135254
    William Morrow © 2014
    Hardcover, 388 pages

    Thriller, #1 Tucker Wayne
    Rating: B+
    Source: Amazon Vine