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  • We'll soon be able to read 15 heretofore unpublished stories written by Elmore Leonard.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. 

      Tuesday, July 22, 2014

      Mykonos After Midnight by Jeffrey Siger

      First Line: The man kept pressing on the doorbell.

      Although Greece deals with a dire financial crisis, there are people who live on the island of Mykonos who are some of the country's wealthiest people due to the island's status as a tourist mecca and summer hangout for the world's rich. No Mykonian has played his cards better than nightclub owner, Christos Vasilakis-- until he's found bludgeoned to death in his home. Everything seems to point to robbery by thugs, but Tassos, head of the Cycladic Islands' homicide unit, thinks differently. Rumor has long had it that Vasilakis had many of the country's most powerful people dancing to his tune, and small clues in the dead man's home have the Greek homicide inspector calling in the big guns: Andreas Kaldis, head of Greece's special crimes division.

      Kaldis agrees with Tassos' assessment and they begin poking around. These men soon find themselves at war with a clandestine group that's determined to gain control of Mykonos and all the resident opportunities for wealth. The people who want control of Mykonos are willing to do whatever it takes to win. Kaldis and his men are going to have to be every bit as determined to prevent them.

      What can I say? Jeffrey Siger always delivers. As soon as you begin reading any of his Inspector Kaldis novels, you are instantly transported to Greece-- not only by the sights and smells and sounds, but by the customs, the people, and the political atmosphere. Whenever I want to immerse myself in another country, Jeffrey Siger is one of the writers I turn to first.

      The plot of Mykonos After Midnight is fast-moving and hard-hitting. The clandestine group fighting for control of Mykonos is utterly believable because of the people its leader targets to recruit: "...the camaraderie they shared as ignored and undervalued human beings united by a common lack of faith in governments and endless suffering at the hands of society's empty promises. They were the disenchanted, the crazies, the betrayed, the outcasts, the exploited."  There are plenty of people like that in the world. Why wouldn't some of them begin banding together to attain their own ends?

      The story gathers speed like an avalanche rumbling down a mountainside, and as a result, some of my favorite characters in crime fiction are put in terrible danger. Kaldis and his men are smart, funny, honest, and dedicated to their jobs. They are also quite good at thinking outside the box in order to bring the bad guys to justice, but they aren't bulletproof. Knowing that harm can come to these characters makes me even more invested in the story's outcome.

      But Kaldis and his men do not rule the roost. Not by a long shot. There are two women I love even more than Kaldis and Tassos: Kaldis' wife Lila and his secretary Maggie. These two are every bit as smart, brave, and determined as the men-- and they are even funnier.

      Are you like me and reading your way around the globe? Take it from me, one of your stops must be Jeffrey Siger's Greece.

      Mykonos After Midnight by Jeffrey Siger
      ISBN: 9781464201837
      Poisoned Pen Press © 2013
      Paperback, 259 pages

      Police Procedural, #5 Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery
      Rating: A
      Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen 

      Monday, July 21, 2014

      What Type of Bee Are You?

      You Are a Drone Bee


      It may sound like you're the type that just follows the herd, but you are actually the type most likely to be a free spirit. You are adventurous and likely to wander. You tend to have a very different personality from those around you.

      You are more of a searcher than most people. It hasn't been easy to figure out your purpose in life, but you're getting there. You have never been one for a desk job; you would rather get out there and explore. And you have friends who are just as antsy as you are. 


      Scene of the Crime with Author Sheila Connolly!

      Not all that many authors like their book tours to stop in the Phoenix metropolitan area in July and August, and I can understand why. These two months try everyone's air conditioning, patience, and deodorant. Since I'm not haring off to The Poisoned Pen every week, I thought it was high time I resurrected one of my favorite features, and the very first author I thought of contacting was Sheila Connolly, author of the County Cork mysteries, Buried in a Bog and Scandal in Skibbereen, that I've enjoyed so much. I posted my review of Buried in a Bog earlier this summer, and my review of the second book just went live, but in the meantime, I think you'll enjoy getting to know this very talented writer of four series and several standalones!

      Sheila Connolly
      As usual, I've gone detecting throughout the internet, looking for links so that you can learn even more about Sheila Connolly and her books. Let me share the wealth here before we continue:

      Now let's get to the fun part-- the interview!

      What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

      Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. It was released in 1955, which is just about the time I read it. Yes, I read it—I was a precocious child, and could read early. Why did I find it so appealing (apart from the fact that I could read it all by myself)? It was about an inquisitive kid who liked to explore things, and it was a wonderful tribute to a child’s imagination. I wish I had that original copy (which my mother gave away at some point), but I did buy one as an adult.

      Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

      There are two ways to answer that. The first is: what the heck is free time? The second is, I love to write, and I find that almost anything I do I consider research for some future book. So when I’m excavating a trash pit under my house (which I did), I’m thinking, what does this stuff tell me about the people who lived here? Why did they throw this particular batch of trash away? (It included a Civil War cannonball and a coffin plate.) I do love to restore things, large and small—houses, furniture, broken china. I used to knit, but now I have three unfinished projects sitting around making me feel guilty (the earliest dates to 2002). And I love to travel— which is why I set my three series in places I like to visit anyway, so work and play blend seamlessly.

      If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

      "Plimoth Plantation 2002" by Nancy
      Well, that kind of depends on what I consider my hometown, if I even have one. I’ve lived in quite a few states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, California, North Carolina and Massachusetts), but not for very long in any one town (except Swarthmore, PA, with a record-breaking 16 years in the same house!). I went to high school in New Jersey but haven’t spent more than two days in the area since. Massachusetts was my first and lasting choice for home state, but I still feel like a newcomer in the town where I currently live. If you arrive in a new place and don’t have kids in the local school system, it’s hard to get to know people.

      Locally…I would send people to Plimoth Plantation, for a taste of life in 1627. Or Old Sturbridge Village (about an hour away), which covers New England life between 1790 and 1840. Then there’s the herring run on the Nemasket River, that runs through town here. Thousands of herring swim upriver each spring, and it’s quite a sight to see—the water is silver with flashing bodies fighting the fish ladders (now don’t you want to know what those are?).

      You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

      Laura Linney
      Funny you should ask—last year I wrote a book loosely based on an actual trip to Italy with 40 college classmates (Reunion with Death, only nobody died on the real trip), and since the others thought I should write about it, we kicked around who to cast for which person in the movie. The narrator was more or less based on me. First I thought of Meryl Streep (who, by the way, attended high school in the town next to mine), no surprise, but then I decided she’d have more fun with the sidekick role. So instead I chose Laura Linney. She’s intelligent, quiet but observant, and has a sense of humor, as well as a great voice.

      Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

      Dorothy Sayers’ Harriet Vane. I first read Gaudy Night when I was in college (and will be eternally grateful to the person who handed the book to me and said, “Read this!”), and then worked through the whole series—and a lot of other mystery series after that. What I love about Harriet is that she is intelligent but shows her uncertainties, which makes her convincingly real. (And thank goodness she doesn’t do stupid things like putting herself at risk for the sake of the plot!) I’m still looking for my own Lord Peter.

      If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

      Gaudy Night (see above). There is no other single book that has had such an impact on my life. I own three copies (including that first one), only because I can’t bear to see them orphaned at book sales. I confess I have checked out autographed first editions on antiquarian booksellers’ websites, but they’re a bit out of reach. Although one book might not be enough, because what is so impressive to me about the series is how the author created characters who grow consistently and increase in complexity from start to finish.

      How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

      Like so many writers, selling a book was a long and rejection-filled process for me. I had submitted to my current agency (among many) four times, with four different books, but the last rejection got lost in the mail (only the empty envelope arrived), so reluctantly I emailed the agent just to confirm that yes, it was a rejection. But then, to my surprise, the agent apologized for the mix-up and said, would you be interested in trying out for a Berkley Prime Crime for-hire series? Of course I said yes. They liked it, and when the agent called to tell me, I was naïve enough to say, “Does that mean you’re representing me?” So it was a two-fer: a great agent and a major publisher. The rest is a blur—there may have been champagne involved.

      Name one thing on your Bucket List.

      Buying a cottage in County Cork (preferably one with indoor plumbing).

      You've just received a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?

      Yikes! I’ve got two, I guess: locally, the New England Mobile Book Fair, where (full disclosure) my daughter worked for four years after college. It’s an independent bookstore and it’s huge, with something for everyone— and plenty of mysteries. 

      But I’m also fond of Hodges Figgis in Dublin, in part because it’s the only place in any country where I’ve found an entire section proudly labeled “Cozies” (in two languages, no less!).

      Available Now!

      Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Sheila. It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you a little better! I doubt that many of your readers have ever found a cannonball underneath their house.

      If none of you have read Sheila Connolly's County Cork mysteries, I recommend them highly!


      Sunday, July 20, 2014

      Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly

      First Line: Now that the high season had arrived, Sullivan's Pub was busier than Maura Donovan had ever seen it.

      Maura's only been in Ireland for three months, and she's been a pub owner for an even shorter length of time, so the tourist season means she's had to hit the ground running. Having had a chance to do little but give the pub a good clean, at least Maura's settling in her new home.

      The pub has drawn many a tourist in through its doors, but none stranger than Althea Melville, fresh from New York City and hot on the trail of an extremely valuable Van Dyck painting. Rumor has it that the only place in County Cork where the painting may be found is at Mycroft House, home of the Townsends. Although Althea is one of the rudest, pushiest people Maura has ever met, she reluctantly agrees to help the New Yorker meet the Townsends-- partly because she's learned that her grandmother used to work there before she immigrated to America. But in no time at all, the gardener at the manor house is murdered, and Maura begins to question Althea's motives. This pub owner is going to have to delve into the local history a bit to find the painting and to catch a killer.

      Sheila Connolly scores once again with her second mystery set in County Cork, Ireland. She is adept at adding just enough local history and flavor to make her setting shine without making it confusing to those unfamiliar with the Auld Sod. The book would be worth reading for the setting alone, but wait-- there's more!

      Add to the sparkling setting a complex mystery. I always love mysteries about long-lost masterpieces, so Connolly had me at Van Dyck. However, there are also people and motives galore, and it takes time to sort through them all. Fortunately Maura runs a pub, and while she pulls pints and clears tables, she can learn all sorts of things about the area and its people.

      Setting and plot are all well and good, but no cozy is worth its salt unless it has a good, solid cast of characters. Scandal in Skibbereen delivers the goods in this respect, too. Maura Donovan is a strong, intelligent woman who-- whether she likes it or not-- is a natural born leader and authority figure. She's only been in Ireland for three months, but her friends, co-workers, and those who come into the pub want her included on anything that's being planned. Part of the reason for that is that she's willing to learn about the local people and their history. She's not the type of person to wade in and insist, "We never did it this way in Boston!" She's also learned that family means a great deal in this area. There are people who remember her grandmother and other family members who used to live there, and that carries weight in the community.

      In stark contrast to Maura is fresh-from-the-Big-Apple Althea Melville. If it's not done the way it is in New York City, Althea doesn't like it. Althea also has no concept of personal space, dressing appropriately... or even of being polite. I would imagine most townspeople wanted this abrasive woman to be paired with their new pub owner in hopes that Maura might rub off on her.

      Maura and Althea aren't the only characters to enjoy in this book, however. Maura even has a bit of a love interest in this book, and it's fun to watch her deal with it. From Maura to the man and his daughter who work in the pub, to her grandmother's friend, to the old man who practically lives at the pub, all the way to those in residence at Mycroft House, there are plenty of characters to savor along with the setting and the mystery.

      The only thing left for me to say is, "Bring on book three!"

      Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly
      ISBN:  9780425252505
      Berkley Prime Crime © 2014
      Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

      Cozy Mystery, #2 County Cork mystery
      Rating: B+
      Source: Paperback Swap