Friday, August 28, 2015

A Hair-Raising Weekly Link Round-Up

Perhaps it's because I spent the first twenty years of my life further north, but the change from summer to autumn seems very sudden to me down here in Phoenix. One of the things I had the most difficulty adjusting to was the lack of any real dusk or twilight-- and the lack of lightning bugs (fireflies). The best time to hunt lightning bugs is at dusk. But there are no such varmints here. The sun either seems to be shining, or it's dark. One day it's not dark until 8 PM, and the next it's dark before 7:30 PM. Sometime last week, I'm pretty sure I heard the click when the earth settled on its axis and began downshifting for autumn. Before last week, when shadows covered the pool deck, it meant that it was past 6:30. Now it's 5:45. Part of me is already in mourning.

Yes, I know. There was nothing hair-raising in what I just said. That bit is coming now. Denis drives a rental car bus around the terminals at Sky Harbor Airport. Recently a monsoon storm struck-- literally. Denis was 100 feet away from a palm tree when it was struck by lightning. Big chunks of the tree were blown everywhere, and I would imagine Denis's heart went pitty-pat for a minute or two. I know mine would have! I thought you might like to see the event. The photo was taken by one of the airport surveillance cameras on the control tower. Yikes! (You can click on the photo and it will open in a new window automatically if you'd like to see more detail.)


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • Can you identify these classic novels from their closing lines
  • Here are the trailers for two films that I'm adding to my Must Watch List: Victor Frankenstein and The Martian
  • Australian parents are angry over books being put in Happy Meals
  • That time Yvonne Craig ran over Vincent Price with the Batgirlcycle
  • Why you need an app to understand Iain Pears' latest novel
  • Let authors take the quiet road. 
  • Google's Project Sunroof tells you how much solar energy is hitting your rooftop.
  • Should we care if yet another F. Scott Fitzgerald story is "discovered"? I'm a Fitzgerald lover, and my answer may surprise you. 
  • If you like thrillers, you may want to take a look at The Big Thrill, the online publication of the International Thriller Writers.
  • Beloit College has an annual mindset list for professors and counselors to show them which references no longer mean anything to incoming freshmen. If you take a look at the list, a few gray hairs may pop out on your head. 
  • Kathleen and I are keeping an eye on the situation with Harper Lee. Seems that Lee's lawyer is creating quite the stir in Monroeville, Alabama.

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Photos have shown the first wild California wolf pack in nearly a century. 
  • Although long misunderstood, we are learning that a hummingbird tongue works like a micropump.
  • I don't drink coffee (told you I was strange), but I'd patronize this Japanese coffee shop because of its mascots
  • After three long years, this Army dog gets the homecoming he well deserves.

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • The best New York City novels by neighborhood. 
  • Tourism gone vintage. (I love old travel posters.) 
  • Earth in July was the hottest month on record. (August hasn't exactly been a picnic either. Phoenix had a four-day stretch this month where the average temperature was 103.7°.) 
  • The 50 most visited national parks. (I shouldn't have been surprised at #1.) 
  • Do you want to take a vacation and sell books? I'd be tempted simply because I'd be going to Wigtown-- the booktown of Scotland. 
  • There's a city in Romania that gives free bus rides if you read a book.

►I ♥ Lists◄

►Book Candy◄
  • A Parisian flat designed for a couple with two children (and books)! 
  • Inspiring workspaces. (If this opens and just looks like a narrow ribbon, click on the ribbon and it should open to full size for you.)
  • Book cover twins. (You may have to scroll down a bit. This site has a Donald Trump ego-sized header.)
  • Inside the Folger Library's beautiful reading room.

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

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Death in August by Marco Vichi

First Line: Inspector Bordelli entered his office at eight o'clock in the morning after an almost sleepless night, spent tossing and turning between sweat-soaked sheets.

It's the summer of 1963 in Florence, Italy, and Inspector Bordelli is one of the few detectives left in the city. If it weren't for the relentless heat, he'd really enjoy the nearly deserted streets. As it is, he is looking forward to a holiday at the beach once everyone else has returned to town.

The only thing to keep him from routine paperwork is the death of a wealthy elderly woman. Her companion says the woman was murdered. The postmortem is in favor of natural causes. However, once Bordelli begins looking around inside the dead woman's villa and taking a look at the woman's family, he very quickly sees that things just don't add up. With all this heat, Bordelli can't sleep anyway, so he may as well solve a murder.

When I saw that Death in August was translated by Stephen Sartarelli, I could have done a happy dance. Sartarelli is a superb translator, and I love the work he's done with Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mysteries. Then I began to read. I was hooked by page three and the description of Bordelli's meeting with his boss. There is wit and humor in this book, and I loved every bit of it.

Inspector Bordelli is fifty-three, and although he's still looking for Miss Right, he's beginning to wonder if he's too old for her. His investigation is not told in a linear fashion either, but interspersed with his dreams, his childhood memories, and memories of fighting in World War II.

Although the heat could be considered a character in this book, I was rather disappointed that its setting of Florence didn't have a more commanding presence. However, the most charming scene in Death in August is the dinner party Bordelli has for his friends. Not only is it a celebration of wonderful food and drink, but quite an eclectic-- and happy-- gathering of people as well.

The investigation quickly proves that Bordelli doesn't have to figure out WHOdunnit, but HOW they done it, and the way he does so is rather ingenious and certainly entertaining. Piras, the young policeman who helps him solve the crime, brightens things up for Bordelli, especially when the inspector finds out he is the son of his old war buddy. 

Although there are some similarities to Camilleri's Montalbano mysteries, I did not find this book to be a pale imitation. In its own way Death in August is every bit as good as its Sicilian counterpart, and I certainly look forward to reading more.

Death in August by Marco Vichi
Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli
ISBN: 9781444712216
Hodder and Stoughton © 2011
Paperback, 240 pages

Historical Mystery/Police Procedural
#1 Inspector Bordelli mystery
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath

First Line: Edie Kiglatuk had no way of knowing how long the bear had been looking at her.

Against her better judgement, Edie Kiglatuk promised her ex-husband that she would help him in his bid to win the Iditarod-- the most famous sled dog race in the world. Edie's never been so far from home, and she misses it terribly, especially when she stumbles upon the frozen body of an infant on land belonging to an exiled Russian Orthodox religious sect.

Edie's blocked at almost every turn in her attempt to find out what happened to the baby. It's election time, and candidate Chuck Hillingberg doesn't want an inconvenience like a dead child to damage his chances of becoming the next governor of Alaska. Hillingberg hasn't come up against anyone quite so stubborn as this half-Inuit, half-white woman though. Edie's not going to quit. Because she's not only fighting for justice for an innocent child, she's fighting demons from her own past.

Anchorage, Alaska is the farthest south Edie Kiglatuk has ever been, and she doesn't like it much. For one thing, there's too many trees. For another, it's almost impossible to find anything that's fit to eat. A good deal of my enjoyment in reading The Boy in the Snow came from watching her try to acclimatize to Alaska. It's something that I certainly would have to do as a bonafide desert dweller, but I'd certainly be coming at it from an entirely different direction!

I was rather sad that the book has more to do with politics and greed than it does the Iditarod, but that's the way this story panned out, and I adjusted well. McGrath shows that Alaska still has ties to Russia (something that I hadn't thought of but should have), and if anything there were a few too many bad guys roaming around. I almost needed a scorecard.

Having read the first book in this series, White Heat, as well as a short story, I found that I had the most difficulty with Edie herself. I don't remember her being quite so ill-tempered and combative. Of course, her behavior undoubtedly has a lot to do with those demons from her past, the dead baby, and her dislike of Alaska. Edie is used to getting from place to place on foot, with a dogsled, or possibly on a snowmobile, but here she has to drive cars and trucks. This isn't a good mix for woman nor machine. As someone with her says, "Edie doesn't drive. She bulldozes." And that's how Edie investigates, too. She doesn't pay attention to the good advice her friends give her; friends who'd help her more if she let them. All in all, Edie is her own worst enemy here, and I'm hoping that she's on a more even keel in the third book.

The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath
ISBN: 9780670023691
Viking © 2012
Hardcover, 384 pages

Native American Mystery, #2 Edie Kiglatuk mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet. 

September 2015 New Mystery Releases!

In many areas of the world, summer is already waning, but fortunately for me my favorite season still has most of the month of September to run. I'll have to drain what I can of it to the very dregs because I'm going to be incredibly busy this month-- so much so that it will be October before I can tell you what I've been up to.

But no matter how busy I am, you know that I always keep my eyes peeled for new crime fiction! These are my picks for new mysteries being released during the month of September. I've grouped them by release date, and I've included all the information you'll need to find them at all your favorite "book procurement" sites. Book synopses are courtesy of Amazon. 

Happy Reading!

=== September 1 ===

Title: A Curious Beginning
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Series: #1 in the Veronica Speedwell series set in Victorian England
ISBN: 9780451476012
Publisher: NAL
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

Title: All Sales Final
Author: Josie Belle (AKA Jenn McKinlay)
Series: #5 in the Good Buy Girls cozy series set in Virginia
ISBN: 9780425271377
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages

Synopsis: "There’s something 100% off about Maggie and her fiancé Sam’s new dream home in the historic section of St. Stanley. The lights flicker, the doors blow shut, and their cat, Marshall Dillon, hisses at empty space. And there’s something in the basement that’s definitely not a bargain . . .

After Maggie discovers a skeleton in the root cellar, she’s convinced her house is haunted by a murdered man’s ghost. With the help of her Good Buy Girls, Maggie works to tag a killer. But she’ll need to be careful as she digs into the history of her new digs. Someone is willing to keep the truth buried at all costs
. . ." 

Title: Booked for Trouble
Author: Eva Gates (AKA Vicki Delany)
Series: #2 in the Lighthouse Library cozy series set on North Carolina's Outer Banks
ISBN: 9780451470942
Publisher: NAL
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Lucy has finally found her bliss as a librarian and resident of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. She loves walking on the beach, passing her evenings with the local book club, bonding with the library cat, Charles, and enjoying the attention of not one, but TWO eligible men. But then her socialite mother, Suzanne, unexpectedly drops in, determined to move Lucy back to Boston—and reunite her with her ex-fiancé.

To make matters worse, Suzanne picks a very public fight at the local hotel with her former classmate Karen Kivas. So, when Karen turns up dead outside the library the next morning, Suzanne is immediately at the top of the suspect list. Now Lucy must hunt down a dangerous killer—before the authorities throw the book at her poor mother

Title: Knot the Usual Suspects
Author: Molly MacRae
Series: #5 in the Haunted Yarn Shop cozy series set in Tennessee
ISBN: 9780451471314
Publisher: NAL
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages

Synopsis: "It’s time for Handmade Blue Plum, an annual arts and crafts fair, and Kath and her knitting group TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber) plan to kick off the festivities with a yarn bombing. But they’re not the only ones needling Blue Plum. Bagpiper and former resident Hugh McPhee had just returned after a long absence, yet his reception is anything but cozy. The morning after his arrival, he’s found dead in full piper’s regalia.

Although shaken, Kath and her knitting group go forward with their yarn installation—only to hit a deadly snag. Now, with the help of Geneva, the ghost who haunts her shop, Kath and TGIF need to unravel the mystery before someone else gets kilt!

Title: The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady
Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Series: #6 in the Darling Dahlias series set in 1930s Alabama
ISBN: 9780425260623
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "The eleven o’clock lady has always been one of garden club president Liz Lacy’s favorite spring wildflowers. The plant is so named because the white blossoms don’t open until the sun shines directly on them and wakes them up.

But another Eleven O’Clock Lady is never going to wake up again. Rona Jean Hancock—a telephone switchboard operator who earned her nickname because her shift ended at eleven, when her nightlife was just beginning—has been found strangled with her own silk stocking in a very unladylike position.

Gossip sprouts like weeds in a small town, and Rona Jean’s somewhat wild reputation is the topic of much speculation regarding who might have killed her. As the Darling Dahlias begin to sort through Rona Jean’s private affairs, it appears there may be a connection to some skullduggery at the local Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Working at the camp, garden club vice president Ophelia Snow digs around to expose the truth…before a killer pulls up stakes and gets away with murder.

Title: The Girl in the Spider's Web
Author: David Lagercrantz
Series: #4 Lisbeth Salander mystery continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium series
ISBN: 9780385354288
Publisher: Knopf
Hardcover, 416 pages

Synopsis: "She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

Title: The Marsh Madness
Author: Victoria Abbott
Series: #4 in the Book Collector cozy series set in New York State
ISBN: 9780425280348
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Jordan works hard to improve Vera Van Alst’s collection of classic detective stories. So when Chadwick Kauffman—heir to the Kauffman fortune—offers a very good price on a fine collection of Ngaio Marsh first editions owned by his recently deceased stepfather, she is thrilled to meet with him at his fabled summer estate, Summerlea.

The next day, Jordan and Vera are shocked to read that Chadwick has died in a fall from the grand staircase at Summerlea. But when the picture in the paper is of a different man, it becomes clear that the ladies are victims of a scam. And they’ll have to unmask the imposter fast, because someone is trying to frame them for murder…

Title: Dark Places
Author: Reavis Z. Wortham
Series: #5 in the Red River historical series set in 1960s Texas
ISBN: 9781464204241
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Paperback, 370 pages
Synopsis: "At the tail end of 1967, the Parker family once again finds it impossible to hide from a world spinning out of control. Fourteen-year-old Top still can't fit in with their Center Springs, Texas, community or forget recent, vicious crimes. His near-twin cousin Pepper, desperate to escape her own demons, rashly joins the Flower Children flocking to California―just as two businessmen are kidnapped and murdered in the Red River bottoms on the same night a deadly hit and run kills a farmer. Constable Ned Parker wonders if these crimes are connected, but he goes after Pepper, leaving the investigation in the hands of Sheriff Cody Parker. Parker hires Deputy Anna Sloan, an investigator with an eye toward detail as everyone is eyeing her. Yet it is instinct that propels her after killers through a world nearly forgotten, the hunt’s backdrop one of continuous rain, gloomy skies, and floods. When she’s ambushed, the investigation accelerates into gunfire, chases, and hair-raising suspense. What of Pepper? Out on Route 66, the Mother Road to California, a man named Crow isn't what he seems. Lies, deceptions, and a band of outlaw motorcyclists proves to the Parkers that no matter where you turn, no matter what you do, the world is full of such darkness that even grandmothers are capable of unspeakable deeds." 
Title: The Dungeon House
Series: #7 in the Lake District series set in England and featuring historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett
ISBN: 9781464203183
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 276 pages
Synopsis: "The magnificent Dungeon House and gardens overlook Cumbria's remote western coast with its mix of beaches, dunes, and fells, Roman ruins, and nuclear plant. Twenty years ago the wealthy Whiteleys called it home. But not a happy one. Malcolm Whiteley had begun to disintegrate under financial and emotional pressures. He suspected various men in their social circle of being his wife's lover. After a disastrous party for the neighbours, Lysette told Malcolm their marriage was over. Sadly an old Winchester rifle he had been hiding was at hand…. Fast forward to today. Hannah Scarlett's cold case team is looking into the three-year old disappearance of Lily Elstone whose father Gray had been Malcolm's accountant. The investigation coincides with yet another disappearance of a teenage girl: Shona Whiteley, daughter of Malcolm's nephew Nigel, who now lives in the Dungeon House despite its tragic history. As Hannah's team digs down into the past, doubts arise about what really happened the night Malcolm killed his wife and 16-year-old daughter Amber, then himself. Most of the people once close to the Whiteleys still live nearby. And one Joanna Footit, and her secrets, now returns from London. While Hannah leads the complex police inquiries, it is her lover, historian Daniel Kind, who supplies Hannah with the lead that unlocks the whole. Does it come too late?"
Title: A Beam of Light
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Series: #19 in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano police procedural series set in Sicily
ISBN: 9780143126430
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback, 288 pages
Synopsis: "When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant's young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn." 

=== September 8 ===
Title: Make Me
Author: Lee Child
Series: #20 in the Jack Reacher series
ISBN: 9780804178778
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Hardcover, 416 pages
Synopsis: "“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.

Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me
=== September 15 ===
Title: The Zig Zag Girl
Series: #1 in the Magic Men historical series set in 1950s England
ISBN: 9780544527942
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, 336 pages
Synopsis: "Brighton, 1950. The body of a girl is found cut into three pieces. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is convinced the killer is mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old war friend of Edgar’s. They served together in a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, a special ops troop that used stage tricks to confound the enemy. 
Max is on the traveling show circuit, touring seaside towns with ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. He’s reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate, but advises him to identify the victim quickly — it takes a special sidekick to do the Zig Zag Girl. Those words come back to haunt Max when the dead girl turns out to be Ethel, one of his best assistants to date. He’s soon at Edgar’s side, hunting for Ethel’s killer. 
Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max are sure the answer to the murders lies in their army days. And when Edgar receives a letter warning of another “trick” on the way — the Wolf Trap — he knows they’re all in the killer’s sights.

=== September 22 ===

Title: Those We Left Behind
Series: #4 in the Belfast series set in Ireland
ISBN: 9781616956363
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 368 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books
Synopsis: "Ciaran Devine, who made Belfast headlines seven years ago as the “schoolboy killer,” is about to walk free. At the age of twelve, he confessed to the brutal murder of his foster father; his testimony mitigated the sentence of his older brother, Thomas, who was also found at the crime scene, covered in blood. But DCI Serena Flanagan, the only officer who could convince a young, frightened Ciaran to speak, has silently harbored doubts about his confession all this time.

Ciaran’s release means several things: a long-anticipated reunion with Thomas, who still wields a dangerous influence over his younger brother; the call-to-action of a man bent on revenge for his father’s death; and major trouble for Ciaran’s assigned probation officer. Meanwhile, Serena Flanagan has just returned to the force from her battle with breast cancer, only to endure the pitying looks of her coworkers and a mountain of open case files. She will soon discover that even closed cases can unleash terror on the streets of Belfast
Another good month for crime fiction, isn't it? Which books made it onto your wish lists? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Threads of Evidence by Lea Wait

First Line: One black Town Car, one blue Subaru, and a dented red pickup were parked in the driveway of the old Gardener estate.

Aurora, the crumbling Victorian mansion that's part of the old Gardener estate, has stood empty for the past quarter of a century. Some in Haven Harbor, Maine, say it's haunted by the ghost of young Jasmine Gardener who died there in 1970. But Aurora will no longer be cursed by neglect for famous Hollywood actress Skye West has bought it. Intending to renovate the old house, she asks Angie Curtis to appraise the house's contents so they can be cleared out and sold. She wants the remodel to begin as quickly as possible.

When Angie begins the process of restoring a series of needlepoint pictures created by the dead girl's mother, she finds clues that seem to point to the fact that Jasmine's death was murder, not an accident. When she tries to stitch everything together, it becomes crystal clear that the murderer wants the truth about Jasmine's death to remain buried.

With just two books in the Mainely Needlepoint series so far, I confess that I'm hooked. Lea Wait has a series that delivers when it comes to needlepoint (this time restoring old damaged pieces) without going overboard. That can be a tricky path to tread, but if there's needlepoint in the cozy I'm reading, I want its percentage to be somewhere between just walking past a shop window and saying, "Oh look at that needlepoint pillow!" and doing so much stitching that the characters don't have time to stick their noses outside to solve a murder. The author has the perfect blend in this series, and that really ups the enjoyment factor for me. 

Threads of Evidence also started like gangbusters with Angie and her friend clearing out that marvelous old house and getting ready for a sale. As long as that was going on, I refused any and all attempts to get me to come up for air. What's wonderful is that once the sale was over, the story and the characters assumed control and kept me turning the pages enthusiastically.

Angie is one of the best amateur sleuths going because she worked for a private investigator in Arizona. She's familiar with how to do things, and if she needs some help, she can always phone up her former boss. She's also very level-headed and smart. Life dealt her some hard knocks rather early in life, so even though she's positive and upbeat, she's still a bit reserved. (Have some fun, but don't be surprised if someone wants to shove you into the handbasket to Hell.)

There's some competition between Angie and her friend, and other Mainely Needlepointers do their part to help solve the crime. If that's not enough, there's Angie's grandmother's wedding to keep tabs on. I only solved half the mystery which is always a plus-- and I have a confession to make. I wish that Hollywood actress had chosen a screen name that didn't make my eyes hiccup every time they saw it. It probably won't bother you a bit, but since I'm from Phoenix, Skye West just sounds like a blend of Sky Harbor Airport and the old America West Arena-- or the name of an airline. I know. Silly, aren't I?

What's not silly is how much I enjoyed this book, and how highly I rate this series. Bring on book three! I can't wait to see what happens next to Angie and the Mainely Needlepointers.

Threads of Evidence by Lea Wait
eISBN: 9781617730078
Kensington Books © 2015
eBook, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #2 Mainely Needlepoint mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Truth by Peter Temple

First Line: On the Westgate Bridge, behind them a flat in Altona, a dead woman, a girl really, dirty hair, dyed red, pale roots, she was stabbed too many times to count, stomach, chest, back, face.

Inspector Stephen Villani, head of homicide in Melbourne, Australia, feels as though he's in charge of keeping all those plates spinning in the air at the carnival, but there are too many, and some of them are beginning to wobble. A dead woman in a penthouse apartment. A failed marriage. Three men butchered in a rampage. A teenage daughter determined to run completely off the rails. And the shady world of political ambiguity.

Somehow, some way, Villani has navigate through a maze of inept police bureaucrats while maintaining an "all's well" facade to the press. It's the furthest thing from easy. His family, his workload, and his own past are conspiring to break him.

If you're the type of reader who prefers to have at least one likable character in the fiction you read, Truth may not be for you. There's not one single person I cared for in this book. If you're the type of reader who prefers a linear plot that moves straight and true from Point A to Point B, Truth may not be for you. Main character Stephen Villani has a tendency to wander back and forth between the present and various chapters in his past. If you're the type of reader who doesn't care for short, sharp sentences, or ones that look a lot like lists, Truth may not be for you. Peter Temple's writing style reminded me of another favorite author's-- Ken Bruen. And lastly, if you're the type of reader who is deeply offended at the liberal use of a four-letter obscenity that begins with "c," you should probably give Truth a miss. It's there, and in quantities that could easily put some readers off. I know I tired of it and wished that some of the characters would turn to the D's in their dictionaries.

Now that I've listed all the reasons why you shouldn't read Truth, let me tell you why I kept on reading from first page to last and wound up giving it a high rating: Peter Temple's story grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go.

When he was a boy, Stephen Villani and his father planted a forest:

"From the time the trees were head high, every time he walked the forest he heard new bird calls, saw new ground covers spreading, new plants sprung up, new droppings of different sizes and shapes, new burrowings, scrapings, scratchings, new holes, fallen feathers, drab ones and feathers that flashed sapphire, scarlet, blue, emerald, and soon there were tiny bones and spike-toothed skulls, signs of life and death and struggle among the arboreal mammals."

The forest represents all the promise of Villani's youth, all the goodness that his life can contain. When new to the force, he was trained by the legendary Singo, a police officer with the sensibilities of the USA's Harry Bosch. Everyone counts, or no one counts. Do the job right regardless what the brass tells you. But Villani's life is under serious threat-- just like the wildfires that are threatening his beloved forest. It is our job as readers to see the deadfall begin to accumulate, to watch as each fallen limb, each bit of dead brush, slowly chokes the goodness from this man's life and makes it ready for the flames. We can see how each decision he made slowly transformed him into a man we don't like very much.

The mystery's gripping, too, but for me this book is mainly a riveting character study of a man I'll not soon forget. Villani believes himself to be a blurred copy of all the important men in his life with their worst bits magnified. Is Stephen Villani beyond redemption? That's for you to discover for yourselves-- and I hope you do.

Truth by Peter Temple
ISBN: 9780374279370
Farrar, Straus and Giroux © 2010
Hardcover, 400 pages

Police Procedural, #2 Broken Shore mystery
(Reads very well as a standalone.)
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet


At The Poisoned Pen with P.F. Chisholm and Diana Gabaldon!

A word to the wise: if you're going to The Poisoned Pen to see Diana Gabaldon, show up extra early (like 2½ hours) so you can reserve decent seats. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance if you don't feel like browsing the shelves that long. 

Personally, I wasn't going there to see Diana Gabaldon, it was the second name on the bill that had me doing a happy dance. P.F. Chisholm writes the Sir Robert Carey novels, one of my favorite historical mystery series, and since she's British and living in Hungary at the moment, she doesn't get over here all that often.

Yes, Diana tends to pack fans in whenever she appears, and I can certainly understand why. She writes fantastic books, and she's an absolutely fascinating speaker. P.F. Chisholm is one of Gabaldon's favorite writers, and Diana had asked Barbara Peters if she could be the one to talk with Patricia. (The "P.F." stands for Patricia Finney.) Would you say no? I didn't think so. Neither would I!

I thought I would get some reading done before the event started, but I thought wrong. I'd forgotten that Gabaldon tends to bring in very interesting fans-- like the woman who opened an email from The Poisoned Pen, read that Gabaldon was going to be appearing, and decided to hop in her car and drive here. From Texas. We were soon joined by a mother and daughter and a husband and wife, and we all nattered away quite happily. It's getting easier to pick each other out in the crowd, since the wife asked me, "Have you been to Scotland yet?" as they took their seats.

Since both women were busy signing books in the mail order room, host and bookstore owner Barbara Peters sat down to talk with us for a few minutes. Chisholm is a particular favorite of several authors who visit The Poisoned Pen-- Dana Stabenow, Diana Gabaldon, and Sharon Kay Penman have loved her books for years. 

Available October 27!
Barbara also told us that The Official Outlander Coloring Book and The Outlandish Companion Volume II would both be available on October 27, and although Diana wouldn't be able to appear at The Poisoned Pen to launch these two books, she would be signing them. Contact The Poisoned Pen for details! 

One of my favorite moments of the evening then followed, and I'm going to warn you in advance-- Diana and Patricia are both marvelous speakers, and the two of them should take their show on the road, but since I can't write as fast as they can talk, I couldn't get every bit of wit and wisdom down for this recap. I advise you all if you can to see and hear this event on The Poisoned Pen's Livestream channel. You'll get every last drop of brilliance that way! 

"Back in about 1988 or 1989," Barbara told us, "we had this woman who was ordering all sorts of weird books about Scotland, and we didn't know why." She stopped for a moment to tell us that they called each other "B" and "D." "One day D walked up to me holding a large book with 'Cross Stitch' on the cover and told me, 'B, I'm going to be published!' My first thought was, 'Oh my God, it's a book about embroidery!' but Cross Stitch is the British title for Outlander. When I asked her, 'What's it about?' the poor woman couldn't tell me. At that time there was no vocabulary for the type of book she'd written. No 'time jump.' No 'time slip.' Can you imagine?"

Barbara then told us something that had happened recently. "D emailed me to say that she'd been asked to write a short story. I clicked on the attached PDF file to open it, and it was 75,000 words. I wrote her back saying, 'D, you wouldn't recognize it, but it's a novel!'"

"Bad to the Bone!"

L to R: Diana Gabaldon, P.F. Chisholm and behind the table top, Barbara Peters.

Gabaldon began the evening by letting us know the correct way to pronounce her name. It rhymes with "bad to the bone." Ah well, I had it right except for that long O at the end. She really didn't want to spend a lot of time talking about herself; however, she wanted to know what Patricia has been up to.

Finney quickly obliged. "My mother is Hungarian and a Jew, so she had a very interesting war. I'm now living in Hungary, trying to figure out which of my mother's stories are true and which ones she's told to her advantage." Finney has a very expressive voice and face, and it became clear very quickly that she was going to make us laugh. A lot. (While I remember, I'd better tell you that you should also read her blog. I love it!)

"I'm also learning to speak Hungarian. It is a very different language. The word order makes your mind boggle; the language works more like Korean or Japanese."

At a prompting question from Gabaldon, Finney went on to tell us that she's busy writing the next two Sir Robert Carey books. She's finishing one of her Elizabethan spy thrillers, and is putting the finishing touches on the second James Enys mystery, which she referred to as a bit of "Elizabethan noir." Having read a short story she wrote featuring Enys, I'm looking forward to reading the first Enys novel, Do We Not Bleed? Enys is a very interesting Elizabethan lawyer, and if you listen closely to the Livestream event, Finney makes a tiny, tiny slip that may give you a clue as to one reason why Enys is so interesting. 

"I always said that I would never write a serial killer book, but I did." [Referring to the second Enys book.]

"It's the most unusual reason for a serial killer that I've ever read," remarked Diana.


A fan wanted to know more about Finney's mother, who didn't know she was Jewish until she was seven years old. "The servants told her," Finney replied, "and I wasn't told until 1998 when my father was dying."

Diana Gabaldon and her Diet Coke
"There's always been a legend in my family that they were converso Jews in Spain," Gabaldon said. "I was appearing on a book program for Radio Shalom in Canada and happened to mention that when I was asked about my background. A man in the room said, 'It's more than a legend. My family is from the next village over, and they're all Jews up there!'"

"I've always wanted to tell my mother's story," Patricia said. "She turned twelve on April 12, 1945 in Budapest."

"Tell us a bit about A Chorus of Innocents," said Gabaldon.

"The latest Sir Robert Carey book is more about Elizabeth Widdrington, who was in fact Robert Carey's wife," Finney said, "but only after her bloody annoying husband died."

"That's what we're all waiting for!" said Diana.

"I can assure you he will have a very unpleasant death," Finney continued. "I haven't exactly decided what yet, but I do know that it will be very nasty."

Once our laughter had died down, Diana told us, "I am very much in love with Sergeant Dodd [another character in the Carey books]," and some heads nodded in agreement. Gabaldon also referred to Carey as "the world's first fashion victim." Finney agreed wholeheartedly and mentioned that the debts Carey ran up-- a good portion of which were for all the latest fashions-- amounted to $3-4 million dollars in today's money. Can you imagine? For clothes? (And yes-- Sir Robert Carey was a real person.)

"Forsoothly Writing"

Finney then gave us a little information on Carey's background. His grandmother was Mary Boleyn, more compliant sister of Anne Boleyn, and his grandfather was Henry VIII. Carey's father was Henry Lord Hunsdon, who was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth I-- a position that was only given to family. Carey's royal connections may have been on the wrong side of the blanket, but they were acknowledged. Carey was Hunsdon's seventh son, so he didn't inherit a bean-- one of the reasons why he was constantly in debt. The toothache he has in A Chorus of Innocents is based on one Finney herself had while on vacation in Greece.

Gabaldon praised Finney for avoiding the flowery prose of the times in her books. "I call that 'forsoothly writing,'" Finney said. "One of the things that drew me to Sir Robert Carey was reading his journal and discovering that his own prose style was simple and conversational. No forsooths in sight."

Finney stumbled when asked about a book that had been published several years ago. "I have four books in my head right now, and it's driving me nuts. I have to admit that I'm more interested in the books that I'm writing than in books I've already written [a common refrain I've heard from authors], so I have to  be reminded by someone who's actually read them!"

Patricia Finney AKA P.F. Chisholm
She then told us about "a brilliant idea I had in the middle of a double roundabout in Truro," which led Gabaldon to share a story of driving somewhere and "I just realized that Jocasta Cameron is blind!" Gabaldon's daughter replied, "I don't care. You just missed our turn."

"Books can be very dangerous!" Finney exclaimed.

Gabaldon asked Finney about how she writes. "I tend to take my characters out for a test run draft to see what works and if it's something I want to do. Once I've actually begun a book, I write in a linear fashion.

Children and Writing

Talk then turned to combining motherhood and writing. "They say you lose two books for a child," Finney told us, "and I think it's true. At least two books! My second book, A Season of Knives, was written in desperate haste in my car around the corner from where my son was with his play group." After receiving permission from her son who was in the audience, Patricia told us that he really didn't like one of the play group workers, who was very bossy. Even though Patricia told him that he had to get along with her, the day arrived when enough was enough. The little boy backed himself into a corner and laid into the bossy worker with a plastic boat. "It took a lot of fast talking to keep Bill in the play group so I could keep writing my book," Finney said. "I'm sorry about that, Bill! Thankfully that worker tended to steer clear of Bill the rest of the time he was there!"

Available Now!
Three months after the birth of their first child, Gabaldon's husband left his job to start his own business. This left Diana as the sole support of the family for a time. "I had two full-time jobs and three children under the age of six, so I don't want to hear anyone telling me they don't have time to write a book!

"One thing that was to my benefit was that my husband had set up an office in our converted garage that had an outside door so his clients could come and go without entering the house.

"In the mornings, I would go out the outer door and around to the office very quietly. Yes, there was a garage door, but the lock was on their side and if they heard me they'd be all over me like a shot. The only bad thing was that at some point in the morning, I would have to sneak out, get into the car, and drive to the mall so I could go to the bathroom!

This and That

When asked about writers who have influenced her, Patricia mentioned (more than once) The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser, the man who wrote the Flashman novels. "It's about the Border Reivers and one of the funniest historical non-fiction books I've ever read," Finney told us. She also listed Robert Louis Stevenson, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy L. Sayer, and John D. MacDonald as other writers who have influenced her.

Diana told us that she'd been asked about the possibility of large print editions of her books. "You couldn't lift them," she told us amid gales of laughter. "I have one word for you: eReader!" She also let us know that she'd writing a script for season two of "Outlander" just the night before. "Now that I think of it, I've finished writing two books in the Algonquin Hotel at 6 AM!"

As Barbara Peters had mentioned earlier, adult coloring books are the latest fad, and George R.R. Martin and Diana Gabaldon are going to have their very own coloring books. Gabaldon really liked the cover of George's book, but has had difficulties with Random House over the cover of hers. Sony owns the images of Sam and Catriona, the actors who portray Jamie and Claire, and Random House hasn't chosen well with their substitutes. Let's just say Diana knows how to stand her ground! (And if you really want to know what she said, watch that Livestream video!)

Speaking of George R.R. Martin, if there's any other author alive who knows what that man goes through as he's writing, it's Diana Gabaldon. When opened up for questions, one person in the audience asked the inevitable, cringeworthy, question: "When will your next book be out?"

Diana Gabaldon has the nicest, politest, putdowns I've heard in a long, long time. "If it follows the usual procedure, it will be out six weeks after I've finished writing it."

But the fan wasn't backing down. "Are you in the process of writing it now?"

Neither was Diana. "No, I'm sitting here talking with you."

To end the proceedings and start forming some very long signing lines, Diana asked Patricia, "Why Sir Robert Carey? Why did you choose him as your main character?"

"I've always loved Elizabethan clothes, but as for Carey, when I read that, at the age of 42, Sir Robert Carey rode from London to Edinburgh in two days to tell James VI that Elizabeth was dead and he was King of England, I was hooked! As George MacDonald Fraser once said, Carey was 'the quintessence of Elizabethan England.'"

As we folded chairs and looked at the numbers on our slips to find our places in the signing lines, I looked around. Yes, the signing line for Diana Gabaldon was massive. I expected no less. What made me happy was the length of Finney's line-- and several standing in it were holding more than one of her books. As I waited, I asked some of those standing behind me if they'd read any of the Sir Robert Carey books before. None of them had, but all of them said that the books did look good, and-- after all-- Diana had recommended them herself.  I added my recommendation to hers even though I knew it meant little to them. 

But I smiled all the way home, knowing how much enjoyment they had in store for them!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Crispy Critter Weekly Link Round-Up

Many of you have probably heard of the blast furnace week we've had here in Phoenix. 118°F. (48°C.) is a tad crispy. Even sitting in the pool in the shade on that 118° day, I thought it was excessively warm. People are being warned again not to leave children and pets in their vehicles because they can die within minutes. However, one thing you don't hear about is being thoughtful when it comes to wildlife. I can make one entire blog post using nothing but photos of birds I've seen that are suffering from the heat. It's one of the reasons why I have several birdbaths that I keep filled. It's why I put out citrus. These poor critters don't have air conditioning or ice water. (I'd say something about taking a cold shower or bath, but there's no such thing as cold water coming from our taps in August. We're lucky if it cools down to tepid. Want instant scalding hot water? Here in Phoenix, we turn on the cold water tap.)

When it's August in Phoenix, birds with their beaks open aren't singing, they're trying to cool off. Having the pool's waterfall turned on brings relief to even more birds, and can bring the very shy out of hiding, like the migrating Bell's Vireo to the left.

But some birds just aren't equipped to handle this desert heat. I've lost count of the number of European Collared Dove corpses I've had to deal with. This makes me sad, but it also angers me. Why are the collared doves suffering more than other species? The clue is found in their name. European Collared Doves belong in Europe, not Arizona. Just another instance of some idiot bringing an animal or plant with them to their new residence so they'll have something that reminds them of home. Photographs would be better.

Last week a toxic spill in the Animas River. This week non-native species. This heat seems to be making me a bit cranky, don't you think? I'd best shut up and round up those links. Head 'em up, move 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are teaming up again. This time for Devil in the White City
  • Too bad I didn't go for a dip in this German lake
  • After taking an online poll asking which author's books would you want with you on a desert island, which writers do you think were the top three? 
  • How Princess Reema is opening doors for women in Saudi Arabia.
  • Shall I compare thee to an algorithm? The Turing Test has gotten a creative twist.
  • Some folks in Tallahassee have caused The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time to be pulled from a children's summer reading list. 
  • Ursula K. Le Guin is breathing fire to save American literature.
  • George R.R. Martin says that the ending of Game of Thrones will be "bittersweet." 
  • The ecological lessons of Frank Herbert's Dune were ahead of this sci-fi masterpiece's time.
  • An infographic that shows us data never sleeps.
  • I've loved Sam Elliott since 1976....
  • The strange case of Agatha Christie's secret photo album
  • Reading doesn't seem to be a high priority in Russia
  • Yikes! 503 books are going to be hitting UK bookstores on the exact same day-- Thursday, October 8.
  • Europeans are fed up with high eBook prices.

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • A mysterious sunken ship may have belonged to a French baron. 
  • Greece's financial woes have brought work to a screeching halt at Amphipolis, the archaeological site that was a worldwide news favorite last year. 
  • Looters and vandals are threatening archaeological sites in the Verde Valley in Arizona. 
  • Combating book theft in medieval times. 
  • Interesting article about the "Pompeii of the East" in China.
  • Has Queen Nefertiti's tomb been found? 
  • A mysterious Stonehenge-like monolith has been found off the coast of Sicily
  • The last time this looked at the world, Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus were still living.
  • The bones of Napoleon's soldiers have helped to uncover many mysteries. 
  • I love it when this happens: seeds uncovered by archaeologists have been planted and have sprouted to life: a 2,000-year-old Judean date palm, and a (gasp) 32,000-year-old flowering plant native to Siberia. Will mammoths and dinosaurs be far behind?

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Capturing the secret lives of squirrels
  • 20 animals trying to become professional photographers. 
  • Blakely the dog has a very important job: nanny to rejected zoo babies.

►Book Candy◄
  • Book storage in tiny houses.
  • eReader cases that look like beautiful old books. (I'm drooling over the blue marbled beauty-- the fifth one down.)

►I ♥ Lists◄

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

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!