Thursday, August 28, 2014

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

First Line: It was just by chance he turned down Orchard Street and saw the window when he did.

Ray Kilbride has come home to Promise Falls, New York, to take care of the details of his recently deceased father's funeral and will-- and to see that his schizophrenic brother Thomas has the proper care. It's not going to be easy. Thomas spends almost his entire day on his computer logged into Whirl360, his self-appointed task to memorize the details of every street in every city.

When Thomas sees what he believes is a woman being murdered in an apartment window in Manhattan, he insists that Ray do something about it. Ray is well-acquainted with his brother's illness, and he knows that if he doesn't make at least a token effort, Thomas will make life impossible. But what Ray doesn't realize is that, by going to the art supply store and stopping by a Manhattan apartment building, the world is going to come crashing down on the two Kilbride brothers.

Many readers think of thrillers as the wham, bam, thank you ma'am genre, with everything sacrificed to an adrenaline-charged plot. That's not the type of thriller that Linwood Barclay writes. Trust Your Eyes is filled with wonderful, nuanced characters and a thick, meaty plot that knows when to take it nice and easy.

Thomas's illness is sympathetically and realistically drawn. His memory is prodigious, his routines are set in stone, he can be charming, frightening, infuriating, and endearing. No less real is his older brother Ray, who's made a home and a career for himself away from his father and brother. When he finally loses patience with his brother, it's all right, because we've lost patience, too. When he feels shame for giving in to his anger and feeling of hopelessness, we do, too. Barclay has drawn us completely into the lives of these two brothers.

And these two (basically) ordinary men are rapidly drawn into an extraordinary, life-threatening situtation. The author has created a tightly woven mesh of subplots. There's the worry about Thomas and his obsession with Whirl360 and talking to people who aren't there. Did he really see a murder? Who was murdered? Who are the killers? Is there something wrong with that riding lawnmower at the bottom of the slope? So many questions unfold themselves and spread their wings that you'd think I'd get hopelessly lost. But no, I didn't because I was so immersed in the story that I remembered every character, every plot twist, and I read faster and faster to see how Barclay would bring all these elements back into some sort of resolution.

The mood in Trust Your Eyes gets increasingly tense, and it was good to see the flashes of Barclay's humor that I enjoyed so much in his Zack Walker book, Bad Move. The author knew to place his hilarity in just the right spots so it would surprise a laugh out of the reader and relieve the almost unbearable tension.

I don't know what kept me away from Linwood Barclay's books for so long, but I do know one thing: I've got a lot of good reading ahead of me as I catch up. 

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
ISBN: 9780451414175  
Signet © 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 592 pages

Thriller, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap


Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley

First Line: My fingernails dug into the soggy dirt as my body lurched closer to the sheer cliff face.

Unemployed journalist Meg Reed is camping out on her best friend's couch when she gets the opportunity to apply for a position at Northwest Extreme magazine there in Portland, Oregon. Lying through her teeth about her outdoor sports skills, she gets the job and eventually finds herself scrambling up steep trails to cover a reality TV adventure show.

Climbing a 2,000-foot mountain peak absolutely terrifies her, but when she witnesses someone plummet off the cliff, Meg discovers that she has a murder to investigate-- because the killer thinks Meg has seen too much.

This is the beginning of a new cozy series that shows a lot of promise. Meg is a good-hearted, and sometimes bumbling, young woman fresh out of college who's always wanted to follow in her talented father's shoes as an investigative journalist. Her best friend Jill has a nice apartment in Portland and is more than willing to put up with Meg's slovenly ways. There are suitable romantic interests for our heroine, and Dyer-Seeley has created a cast that should stand up well to future adventures even if it does contain my least favorite character-- the impossible mother.

The Portland setting with nearby sites and hiking trails made me want to go up there and experience it for myself. Scene of the Climb is a nice blend of the traditional cozy and an adventure with an edge to it, and the series should do well-- especially if a couple of things are addressed.

Meg being a couch potato who has to go out there and learn outdoor skills is going to have a wide appeal among readers; however, I found two of her behaviors to be rather disturbing. She doesn't seem to have a complete understanding of the word "deadline" although she certainly has time to go out for coffee or meals with her friends. This might just mean that I haven't fully recovered from being one of those Type A personalities, but the other thing well and truly drives me up a wall. Without going into too much detail, she knows that her life is in danger, but instead of exercising at least a bit of common sense and caution, Meg just keeps going out to test her luck.  Not. Good.

The other thing that bothered me is something I normally do not mention, but I feel I have to here. Incorrect punctuation a time or two, the wrong word in a sentence... if they happen less than five times in a book, I ignore it. But it happened over and over and over in this book. The proofreading and editing were abysmal. Countless instances of missing or extra words, "air" being used instead of "err," and a scene in which Meg was called first thing in the morning to meet someone who was an hour away. Meg left almost immediately, but as she was driving non-stop to her destination, the sun had set. 

As I said before, this series has a lot of promise. I'm hoping that Meg locates her common sense, and that the next book is edited more carefully because then the promise will begin to be realized.

Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley
ISBN: 9780758295316
Kensington © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 299 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Pacific Northwest mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

September 2014 New Mystery Releases!

I'm not ready for summer to be over yet, so I'm glad the heat lingers here in Phoenix. (Perfectly suited to this climate, aren't I?) I've been out in the pool all summer with a succession of tall, cold drinks and books so good that they make me lose track of time. If Denis and I ever win the lottery and get this pool heated, my toes would undoubtedly be permanently webbed!

As usual I've been keeping track of crime fiction that will be released throughout the month of September. I'm sharing my list of my top dozen picks along with all the information you'll need to find them at your favorite book procurement locations. Book synopses are courtesy of Amazon. Happy Reading!

=== September 1 ===

Title: The Edison Effect
#4 in the Professor Benjamin Bradshaw historical mystery series set in early 1900s Seattle, Washington
ISBN: 9781464202520
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Paperback, 250 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Inventor Thomas Alva Edison is also a ruthless businessman, intent on furthering his patents and General Electric and beating rivals like Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse. Edison has agents in place in Seattle but he’s come himself in pursuit of a mysterious invention lost in 1901 in Elliott Bay. When Edison asks for information, few refuse. But not University of Washington Professor Benjamin Bradshaw who’s earned a reputation as a private investigator where science—electricity—is concerned. Bradshaw hopes that the lost device, one conceived in anger by an anarchist and harnessed for murder, will elude Edison’s hired divers. _x000D_ Soon, one December morning, 1903, the Bon Marché’s Department Store electrician is found dead in the Men’s Wear Window clutching a festoon of Edison’s new holiday lights. Bradshaw believes Edison had set a dangerous game in motion. Motives multiply as the dead man’s secrets surface alongside rivalries at the Bon Marché. Bradshaw, his sleuthing partner Henry Pratt, and the Seattle PD’s Detective O’Brien pursue leads, but none spark Bradshaw’s intuition. His heart is not in the investigation but in a courtship that will force him to defy his Catholic faith or lose his beloved, Missouri. Then a crossroads in the case forces him to face his personal fears and his first professional failure. Whatever the outcomes, his life is about to change…."

=== September 2 ===

Title: Marked Down for Murder
Author: Josie Belle (AKA Jenn McKinlay)
#4 in the Good Buy Girls cozy series set in Virginia
ISBN: 9780425271360
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Between spending Valentine’s Day with her sweetheart, Sam, and shopping upcoming Presidents’ Day sales with the Good Buy Girls, everything is coming up roses and bargains for Maggie Gerber. But when the mother of Maggie’s nemesis comes to town, things stop looking so rosy. Summer’s mom is hoping to set her spoiled daughter up with Sam, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make the match happen.

When Maggie heads to her romantic rival’s house to put a stop to the scheming, she discovers Summer standing over a dead body—holding a weapon. As much as Maggie would love to see Summer get her just desserts, she can’t shake the feeling that the meddling menace is, in fact, innocent. Now Maggie and the Good Buy Girls will have to sort through racks of suspects to find a killer—or Summer will wind up getting a truly raw deal

Title: Night of the White Buffalo
Author: Margaret Coel
#18 in the Wind River series set in Wyoming
ISBN: 9780425264652
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Hardcover, 304 pages

Synopsis: "A mysterious penitent confesses to murder, and then flees the confessional before Father John can identify him. Two months later, Vicky discovers rancher Dennis Carey shot dead in his truck along Blue Sky Highway. With the tragic news comes the exposure of an astonishing secret: the most sacred creature in Native American mythology, a white buffalo calf, was recently born on Carey’s ranch.

Making national headlines, the miraculous animal draws a flood of pilgrims to the reservation, frustrating an already difficult investigation. As visitors throw the reservation into turmoil, Vicky and Father John try to unravel the strange events surrounding both Carey’s murder and the recent disappearances of three cowboys from his ranch.

It could be coincidence, given the nomadic life of the cowboy trade, but when one of them fails to appear in court to testify on an assault charge, Vicky wonders if Arnie Walkfast and his Arapaho buddies are guilty of more than just assault. And at the back of Father John’s mind is the voice from the man in the confessional: I killed a man

Title: The Wolfe Widow
Author: Victoria Abbott
#3 in the Book Collector cozy series set in New York state
ISBN: 9780425255308
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "As Thanksgiving approaches, Jordan Bingham is grateful for her job researching rare books for Vera Van Alst, the infamous curmudgeon of Harrison Falls, New York. But when an uninvited guest makes an appearance, much more than dinner is disrupted—and Jordan is thankful just to be alive…

Vera Van Alst doesn’t normally receive visitors without appointment, but she agrees to see the imperious Muriel Delgado upon arrival. Shortly thereafter, Jordan is told that her position is being terminated. Evicted from the Van Alst House, Jordan is determined to find out what hold Muriel has over her erstwhile employer.

It seems Muriel has designs on Vera’s money and property—not to mention a particular interest in her collection of Nero Wolfe first editions. When Jordan discovers a deadly connection between Muriel and the Van Alst family, it’s up to her to put the house in order and stop a killer from going back to press.

Title: The Low Road
Author: A.D. Scott
#5 in the Highland Gazette historical series set in 1950s Scotland
ISBN: 9781476756165
Publisher: Atria Books
Paperback, 336 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "The fifth gripping and beautifully written entry in A. D. Scott’s mystery series finds star journalist John McAllister caught up in the razor-gang warfare of 1950s Glasgow.

A. D. Scott’s extraordinary mystery novels have been called “beautifully written and atmospheric” (New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen), “a visit with an old friend in front of a fireplace” (Suspense Magazine), and “must-reads” (Booklist).

John McAllister has come to a crossroads, torn between the stability of his life in the Highlands and the thrill of working as a renowned journalist in Glasgow at a national daily newspaper. Can he accept that this exciting new phase is over? That it is time to settle down?

Before he knows it, McAllister is in the midst of a fast-paced hunt for his good friend Jimmy McPhee, who is involved in a blood feud with a murderous razor gang. With a fiercely ambitious young crime reporter, he tracks down Jimmy, but the gang finds them. Only when another violent clash breaks out do they have the chance to escape. Soon McAllister finds himself in danger of losing everything he holds dear—his mother, his fiancée, his friends, his integrity, and his life.

And Joanne Ross, recovering from horrific injuries, senses McAllister’s ambivalence about their forthcoming marriage, and she knows she can only wait for him to return to her.

From the wilderness of the Highlands to the desolation of Glasgow’s slums, book five in Scott’s mystery series is a portrait of extremes: between city and glen; between the rule of law and the laws of the streets; between safe, enduring love and unreasoning passion

=== September 4 ===

Title: Sinking Suspicions
#3 in the Sadie Walela series set in Oklahoma
ISBN: 9780816531073
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Paperback, 224 pages

Synopsis: "Suspicions run high when murder mixes with identity theft in the latest installment of the popular Sadie Walela mystery series set in Cherokee Country. No sooner does Sadie embark on an unexpected business trip to the beautiful island of Maui, when her long-time neighbor, Buck Skinner, a full-blood Cherokee and World War II veteran, goes missing and becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a petty identity thief.

Iconic lawman Lance Smith joins a community-wide search, but Buck is nowhere to be found. As evidence mounts against her old friend, Sadie rushes to return home to help—only to be delayed by an island-wide earthquake and her own sinking suspicions.

A diverse cast of characters weave together a breathless story of murder, thievery, and the toll of war on the human spirit. In her effort to restore balance to her neighbor’s life, Sadie not only uncovers the truth, but unravels much more than a murder.

=== September 15 ===

Title: Darkness, Darkness
Author: John Harvey
#13 in the Charlie Resnick police procedural series set in England
ISBN: 9781605986166
Publisher: Pegasus
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "Thirty years ago, the British Miners’ Strike threatened to tear england apart, turning neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife, father against son—enmities which still smolder.

Charlie Resnick, recently promoted to Detective Inspector and ambivalent, at best, about some of the police tactics used in the Strike, had run an surveillance-gathering unit at the heart of the dispute.

Now, in virtual retirement, the discovery of the body of a young woman who disappeared during the Strike brings Resnick back to the front line to assist in the investigation into the woman’s murder—forcing him to confront his past—in what will assuredly be his last case . . . as well as John’s Harvey’s final Charlie Resnick novel

Title: The Coniston Case
Author: Rebecca Tope
#3 in the "Simmy" Brown series set in the Lake District of England
ISBN: 9780749016159
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "Simmy is busy at her flower shop in the run up to Valentine’s Day. She has a number of anonymous messages and flowers to deliver around the Lake District, but finds these messages are not welcome upon delivery.

One recipient, Mr. Hayter, has been reported missing and the other, Tim Braithwaite, is reported dead. Meanwhile, Simmy’s friend Kathy has come to stay. She has been worried about her daughter, Joanne, who has fallen in love with her university tutor. Kathy confronts Baz and finds he hides a sinister side, which leads to trouble

=== September 16 ===

Title: The Stone Wife
Author: Peter Lovesey
#14 in the Peter Diamond police procedural series set in Bath, England
ISBN: 9781616953935
Publisher: Soho Press
Hardcover, 368 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "At a Bath auction house, a large slab of carved stone is up for sale. At the height of what turns into very competitive bidding, there is a hold-up attempt by three masked robbers. They shoot and kill the highest bidder, a professor who has recognized the female figure carved in the stone as Chaucer’s Wife of Bath. The masked would-be thieves flee, leaving the stone behind.

Peter Diamond and his team are assigned to investigate, and the stone is moved into Diamond’s office so he can research its origins. The carving causes such difficulties that he starts to think it has jinxed him. Meanwhile, as Diamond’s leads take him to Chaucer’s house in Somerset, his intrepid colleague Ingeborg goes undercover to try to track down the source of the handgun used in the murder.

=== September 23 ===

Title: Silent Murders
Author: Mary Miley
#2 in the Roaring Twenties historical mystery series
ISBN: 9781250051370
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance in The Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she's taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

Title: To Dwell in Darkness
#16 in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James police procedural series set in England
ISBN:  9780062271600
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Recently transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his new murder investigation team are called to a deadly bombing at historic St. Pancras Station. By fortunate coincidence, Melody Talbot, Gemma's trusted colleague, witnesses the explosion. The victim was taking part in an organized protest, yet the other group members swear the young man only meant to set off a smoke bomb. As Kincaid begins to gather the facts, he finds every piece of the puzzle yields an unexpected pattern, including the disappearance of a mysterious bystander.

The bombing isn't the only mystery troubling Kincaid. He's still questioning the reasons behind his transfer, and when his former boss—who's been avoiding him—is attacked, those suspicions deepen. With the help of his former sergeant, Doug Cullen, Melody Talbot, and Gemma, Kincaid begins to untangle the truth. But what he discovers will leave him questioning his belief in the job that has shaped his life and his values—and remind him just how vulnerable his precious family is."

=== September 24 ===

Title: Bright Hopes
Author: Annette Mahon
#5 in the St. Rose Quilting Bee cozy series set in Arizona
ISBN: 9781432829506
Publisher: Five Star
Hardcover, 310 pages

Synopsis: "Loud explosions are ruining sleep for hundreds of Scottsdale residents in the hot July nights, including members of the St. Rose Quilting Bee. Things become serious when Maggie's police officer son is injured by one of the blasts. Then a church member dies when an explosion topples a roof onto the lounge chair where he lies sleeping. The women think bored teenagers may be playing with fireworks, but Edie is thinking terrorists. The others scoff, until a bomb at a power substation throws the entire neighborhood into darkness. Suddenly terrorism is a real possibility."

For me, this is a really good mix of favorite authors and intriguing new ones. I can't wait to dig in-- and I hope I've managed to list a title or two that made it to your own Gotta Get lists!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Left Turn at Paradise by Thomas Shawver

First Line: I still see him before drifting off to sleep.

Michael Bevan has done everything he can think of to keep his used bookstore afloat, and just when he thinks he's going to have to call it quits, he takes another look at one of his finds. What he realizes makes his jaw drop-- the timeworn diary which dates back to 1768 looks to be a sailor's chronicle of the first of the three voyages the legendary Captain Cook made through the Pacific islands. If it's as valuable as he thinks it is, selling it may keep his bookstore open for another year.

When he meets a pair of London book dealers who claim to have the journal of Cook's second voyage, all three begin to speculate about a third which would tell all about Cook's third and final voyage when he met his death in Hawaii. All three volumes would be the nonpareil of Pacific exploration. Before Mike can take any action, the two journals are stolen, and he and the two London dealers find themselves on a deadly quest that takes them all the way to the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Author Thomas Shawver knows how to grab my attention. Of course a book lover like me would like to read about an antiquarian bookseller, and Michael Bevan is just the sort of nuanced character that I like to follow. For being such a good guy, he's still made plenty of mistakes in his life, and he's still paying for some of them-- especially where his daughter is concerned. But he is trying, and he is also working hard to keep his bookstore a going concern.

Where Shawver really grabs my attention in Left Turn at Paradise is with the prize at the end of the chase: those three journals describing the voyages of Captain Cook. I came very close to drooling over the very thought of such books existing and of what a media sensation they would be. (I could even see myself buying my own copies if they were published.) As you can see, my imagination was well and truly hooked.

Where I began to slip off the hook was when Bevan and the other two dealers made their way to a secret Maori compound high in the mountains in New Zealand. The entire scenario was a bit over the top for me and severely strained my credulity with the leader of the Maori group and the actions of his minions. Be that as it may, I still found this book to be an enjoyable read, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next in the series.

Left Turn at Paradise by Thomas Shawver
Random House/Alibi © 2014
eBook, 208 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #2 Rare Book mystery
Rating: B-
Source: NetGalley 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Boba Tea Test

You Are Observant

You may not be the most social person in the world, but you like to be out in the mix among people. You are a great people watcher and even a bit of a harmless gossip. You know a lot about the world around you.

You are a big picture person, and you integrate details around you well. You draw connections that others don't realize. You aren't greedy, but you would love to make a lot of money - preferably in your own business. And you would give most of that money away. 


@ The Poisoned Pen with Susan Slater and Reavis Z. Wortham!

When Denis and I headed over to The Poisoned Pen last Thursday, it looked as though we might get caught in a rainstorm-- the sky over the Valley was filled with several large groups of very dark clouds. 

It made me glad that we were traveling in the Jeep, which had an extended lift installed when we bought it to help us traverse some of those very rough trails here in the state. One night when Denis came home from an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, he discovered that the extra lift also helps keep us above water in flooded streets. 

But nary a drop of rain fell on us, and we made our purchases, reserved our seats, and sat at the table at the back of the store to read our books and chat with anyone who stopped by to see how we were doing.

There were plenty of special surprises in store that evening: Barbara Peters' husband, Rob, had cooked up a big batch of chili and jalapeño cornbread; Barbara and Rob had also brought their dogs-- Odin, a 7-year-old Wire-haired Fox Terrier, and Nala, a 10-month-old bundle of sweetness the couple had recently rescued from a local animal shelter-- and when that evening's authors arrived, they brought a third with them. Not only would we be seeing Susan Slater, author of the Ben Pecos and Dan Mahoney mystery series set in New Mexico and Reavis Z. Wortham, author of the Red River mysteries set in 1960s Texas, Donis Casey had stopped by, too. I love Donis's Alafair Tucker mysteries set in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Oklahoma, and she's so nice and so much fun that it's always a treat to see  her. 

"Why do you write mysteries?"

L to R: Donis Casey, Reavis Wortham, Susan Slater

If you look closely at the picture above, at the bottom of it you will see Denis's arm as he gives Odin a good scratch, and Odin was appreciating it so much that Donis and Reavis were laughing. It was such a relaxed, informal evening that Barbara just had the authors take the conversation wherever they wanted. 

Susan Slater began by pointing out the twelve-year gap between her Dan Mahoney novels, Flash Flood and Rollover. She'd received emails from female fans who wanted "more Dan Mahoney," whom they likened to Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire, and she was more than happy to oblige. 

L to R: Susan Slater, Barbara Peters
"Ever since I wrote The Pumpkin Seed Massacre I knew I wanted to go back to Wagon Mound, New Mexico, which is the site of an unsolved crime. It's a true story that's always fascinated me... of a bank robbery that targeted the safety deposit boxes instead of the vault," Susan told us.

She also told us of attending the Taos Writers Conference and talking with award-winning authors Tony Hillerman and Norman Zollinger. "Zollinger asked me 'Who tells you how to write from a man's point of view?' I didn't realize that it was supposed to be difficult for a woman to do that. He then told me, 'I've never said this to a beginning writer before, but-- quit your day job!'

"Some of you have probably heard my answer to anyone who asks me why I write mysteries," Susan said. "It's to stave off Alzheimer's by coming up with plots that aren't easy to solve!"

When Slater then said that she's been told she should not have given her insurance investigator Dan Mahoney a girlfriend, a woman from across the aisle said (with feeling), "Shoot her!" to which Barbara jokingly replied, "Better her than the dog!" and the room erupted in laughter. (To tell you the truth, that "Shoot her" comment-- although made in jest-- made me wonder if the woman didn't take her fiction a little too seriously!)

For many years, Slater lived in New Mexico, but now she calls Florida home. Barbara asked her about an incident that occurred in a pizza place near where Slater lives, and Susan was more than happy to fill in the details. It seems that the government had put someone in the Witness Protection Program, moved him down to Florida, and given him a job at Goomba's Pizza. The man broke his cover when he pistol-whipped a customer for bringing back an underdone calzone. Yikes!

 "Aunt, I made that stuff up!"

Reavis Z. Wortham
There's something about Reavis Z. Wortham that says Texas. It might be the name. It might be the hat. Or the mustache and goatee. Or the jeans. Could even be those boots that have something to do with it. He writes the Red River mysteries, historical thrillers set in the 1960s that feature the first official black deputy in Lamar County, Texas. Vengeance Is Mine is the latest book in the series about a mobster who decides to hide out with his blonde bombshell of a girlfriend in small town east Texas. Those of us who grew up in small towns were very aware of one fact: there's no way someone like those two could hide out in a small town!

Wortham has had readers take offense at the way dogs are treated in his books, saying that too many die-- all the while looking at him as though he's the murderer. "I don't kill dogs, my characters kill dogs!" Wortham states emphatically. "Why is it that you can kill 100 people in your book and people applaud, but if you kill one dog, you will get hate mail the likes of which you will not believe!" All the authors, as well as Barbara Peters and several of us in the audience, thought that people today do not realize that attitudes towards dogs were very different in the 1960s, and in particular the attitudes of people who lived out in the country.

Wortham had an aunt chew him out for airing the family linen in his books where millions of people all around the world ("I wish!") were reading about it. "Aunt, I made all that stuff up!" Wortham told her. The aunt proceeded to hang up on him.

"The way I grew up has disappeared."

Donis Casey
Donis Casey said, "The way I grew up has disappeared. People were self-sufficient and raised their children to be the same way." She went on to tell us that she set her Alafair Tucker series in the 1910s on purpose because "when most people think Oklahoma and historical series, they think Depression. During the time that I'm writing about, Oklahoma was one of the most progressive states in the country. There was a lot of wealth in the state, and it was also very strongly into unions. In fact, more more Oklahomans voted socialist than in any other state during that time period."  

Casey and Wortham then talked a bit about the mountains of eastern Oklahoma which is a very rough area in which people go to hide when they don't want to be found. (And they aren't.) Wortham is very familiar with the area because it's so close to his own neck of the woods in Texas. Back in the time period of the Alafair Tucker novels, there were a lot of stills and moonshine in that eastern section of Oklahoma. Now instead of stills, you'll find crystal meth.

An Englishman and a dozen goats....

Available Now!
With all the talk swinging back to crime, Susan Slater told us more about her latest book, Rollover.  

Her main character, insurance investigator Dan Mahoney, has been sent to Wagon Mound, New Mexico, because one of the safety deposit boxes that was broken into during the Bean Days celebration belonged to 85-year-old Gertie, and her extremely valuable diamond and sapphire Tiffany necklace is gone. The necklace had been in her family for generations and survived the sinking of the Titanic-- but it couldn't survive the Wagon Mound bank robbers. 

In fact, the necklace seems to be the focus of the robbery-- until other safety deposit box owners claim that they have items missing, too. 

Slater went to Wagon Mound and interviewed residents, finding that the robbery is still a hot topic of conversation even though it took place almost twenty years ago. "Everyone I interviewed said the same two things: it had to be an inside job, and it had to have something to do with drugs," Susan said.

The conversation took a bit of a bizarre turn when Slater mentioned wanting to leave Albuquerque after having lived there for several years. "I picked up an Englishman and a dozen goats... not necessarily in that order... and I moved," she told us. "It doesn't say much about a relationship when the best thing you did together was dehorn baby goats," she added. The look on Wortham's face was priceless, and I wished I hadn't put my camera away.

Donis Casey quickly said, "I had a great idea for a murder that hinged on dehorning...." When everyone looked at her in abject puzzlement, she told us that in doing some research, she'd learned that the scabs that form when the horns are removed are extremely poisonous to humans-- but she could never figure out how to administer the poison in any way that made sense. (You can bet the farm that if I read any crime fiction in the future that makes even the slightest reference to dehorning, I'm immediately going to become suspicious!)

What's Next?

Available Now!
As the evening began to draw to a close, Barbara asked the authors what they're working on now. Susan Slater told us that Dan and Elaine would next be seen in Florida, and Reavis Wortham said that his next Red River mystery would take place in 1967 and involve three missing businessmen. Donis Casey said, "I'm going to have to deal with World War I. I'm learning that President Wilson wasn't that great a guy. He took away some of our civil liberties, and he made miscegenation [marriage between races] illegal, for example."

Someone in the audience asked Wortham about the way he writes his books. "I don't know what's going to happen until I write it," he said with a laugh. "No, it's true! Burrows? The entire thing was a dream." He went on to explain that he often has recurring dreams and that they sometimes work themselves out in his books as he writes.

As we adjourned to talk books and enjoy more of Rob's chili and cornbread, I had Susan and Reavis sign my books, and we talked for a bit about life in small towns. Denis had-- as usual-- looked up their books on his phone during the event and ordered  available audiobooks, and-- as usual-- we enjoyed talking over our favorite parts of the evening on the way home in the rain. I've already read and enjoyed Rollover, and after reading the first fifty pages of The Rock Hole (the first Red River mystery), I can tell that I'm already falling for Wortham's books.

I will never, ever run out of good books to read-- especially if I keep going to the author events at The Poisoned Pen!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Bald Patch Weekly Link Round-Up

I'm the type of person who gets a computer and then uses it till it doesn't run anymore. I can't remember how long I'd had the one I just replaced. It certainly saw the birth of this blog in 2008-- and probably a lot more before that "momentous" event. 

This new one flies, and it has so much storage that I can't imagine being able to fill it all. But I hate breaking in a new computer. Regardless how careful you are, files go astray, and-- the worst-- the new operating system figures you're an imbecile so it insists on doing things its way no matter what you tell it to do. And then there's the different touch of a new keyboard. (Thank heavens they haven't gotten rid of the backspace key!) Hence the bald patch of my title. I've been refraining mightily from both throwing this new computer out the window and from ripping my hair out. There's a good reason why I'm no longer known for my patience.

A very very very bright spot this week was the contents of a package that was delivered. Author Jenn McKinlay (who's even more awesome in person than her books are to read) has dedicated her yet-to-be-released Good Buy Girls mystery, Marked Down for Murder, to three book bloggers. I'm one of the three (and am I ever in good company with Lesa Holstine and Dru Love!)-- and I've been gobsmacked over this incredible honor. Jenn sent me all kinds of goodies. The cool Library Lovers book bag as well as the "Murder, Mayhem, Mysteries" pen was taken with me to The Poisoned Pen Thursday night. It held a 8 x 11 notepad, pens, two Kindles, four paperbacks, and a small camera. I love it! You can also see a pile of autographed copies of Marked Down for Murder. I will be sharing the wealth sometime next month, so be on the lookout for a giveaway!

Here, linky, linky, linky! Now... where on earth did those links go? Ah-- I see 'em!

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • It's been a century since the first destruction of the University of Leuven Library
  • Kate Atkinson's new book will be revisiting characters in Life After Life. (Which reminds me to get a move on and read that book!)
  • Here's a fun list of the different words that the British and Americans use for various foods. I loved it-- but even my British husband had never heard of the usage of "bladdered"!
  • Here's something  you don't see every day: W.H. Smith in the UK is stocking Thomas & Mercer (AKA Amazon) paperbacks.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder's unedited draft of her autobiography-- Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography-- will be giving a gritty view of prairie life.
  • There's a controversy flapping over an adult cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • If only I could win the lottery: the UK mainland's most remote bookshop is up for sale. (Yes, it's in the Highlands of Scotland.)
  • Here's something to make you feel good: this mother asked for pictures of horses for her disabled daughter, but I don't think she was expecting what she received!
  • J.K. Rowling has written a 500-word piece on a minor Harry Potter character.
  • A couple in Tehran turned their taxi into a rolling library.
  • The X-Files star Gillian Anderson has written a Sci-Fi novel.
  • Going to Thailand? Don't take your copy of 1984.
  • Are your kids ignoring your calls? There's an app for that.
  • Can't remember where you parked? Google Now has an app for that.
  • What the 'death of the library' means for the future of books.

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones
  • Bone chemistry is revealing the royal lifestyle of Richard III
  • 200-year-old booze (that's still drinkable) has been found in a shipwreck.
  • New research suggests that humans did not wipe out the Neanderthals.
  • Ancient Maya cities have been found in the jungle. Speaking of finding things, I also found an article with more photos of the discoveries.

I  ♥  Lists

That's all for this week. I hope I managed to include an item or two that tickled your fancy. 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, August 21, 2014

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams

First Lines: There were books everywhere. Hundreds of books. Thousands of books.

Storyton Hall is a book lovers' retreat nestled in the hills of rural western Virginia. As manager, it is Jane Steward's job to think of ways to entice more bibliophiles to come and spend money so badly needed repairs (like a new roof) can be done. Her first idea is for a Murder and Mayhem Week for mystery fans to gather together for a little role playing and "crime" solving. However, Felix Hampden, the winner of the scavenger hunt, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won is missing. It doesn't take much for Jane to realize that she's got a murderer on the premises. For the safety of her family, her guests, and her business, she's got to catch a killer.

I think Adams' Books By the Bay series are some of the very best cozies being written today. I love them, so I was excited to learn that she was writing a new series, and I bought a copy as soon as it arrived at my local bookstore. From the first paragraph, I was in heaven. Storyton Hall is any serious book lover's perfect world, and the countryside and village outside its walls complete the dream scenario. There are times when I read that I want to be drawn into the type of world that should exist but doesn't outside of my imagination. This is the sort of world that Ellery Adams has created in her first Book Retreat mystery. 

I was enchanted. Jane's aunt and uncle are still deeply in love after decades of marriage. Jane deals with the public the way everyone wants to be treated. Her twin sons Hem and Fitz (Hemingway and Fitzgerald) are a pair of typical, high energy, ornery six-year-old boys. The staff working at Storyton Hall and even the small business owners in the nearby village are lovingly drawn individuals. Jane and her sons bicycle back and forth to the village. It was plain to see that the pages of this book were liberally sprinkled with fairy dust.

There are touches of humor throughout the book as well, but the scene that literally made me laugh out loud was the description of the garden in front of the Cheshire Cat Pub and what would happen some evenings when the pub patrons and local felines would gather together.  

The mystery was a good one, keeping me guessing all along the way, but something happened in Murder in a Mystery Suite that just didn't set well with me. Problem is, I can't talk about it without screaming SPOILER ALERT in fluorescent pink flashing neon ten feet high. Spoiler alerts in reviews just aren't my style, so suffice it to say that the suspension bridge of my disbelief collapsed like "Galloping Gertie" did in 1940. That's all I'll say on the subject, but if any of you read the book and want to talk about it, feel free to email me.

I may have just scared some of you away from reading this book, but don't forget that mileage can certainly vary when it comes to reading books. Your suspension bridge may be much more stable than mine, so don't be afraid to give this book a try. If you're still feeling nervous, then head on over to Ellery Adams' Books By the Bay series. It's marvelous.

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
ISBN: 9780425265598
Berkley Prime Crime © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Book Retreat mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.