Monday, July 31, 2017

Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt

First Line: Mom Chao Cherry hunched forward in a broken wicker chair and stared anxiously across the Mississippi River toward the University of Minnesota campus.

A millionaire who made his fortune launching a home shopping network sees all his hopes dashed when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky. Family liaison officer Afton Tangler and her partner find themselves investigating family members and business associates-- anyone who could want the man dead. They discover that he wasn't as squeaky clean as he was portrayed. He crossed the wrong person-- and revenge will be carried out until the killer is completely satisfied. If Afton isn't careful, she's going to wind up as collateral damage.

I found Gerry Schmitt's first Afton Tangler thriller (Little Girl Gone) to be quite good-- and much more to my liking than the cozy mysteries she writes as Laura Childs. I was eager to read this second book in the series, and I was not disappointed. Shadow Girl is a tense, fast-paced mystery with an appealing main character.

Afton Tangler wants with all her heart to be a detective, but her superiors keep making excuses even though they keep assigning her to work with Max, a seasoned homicide detective. Excuses or not, Afton's family liaison skills come in handy during investigations: she has a knack for calming distraught people and getting them to open up to her.

This case takes us all over the Minneapolis - St. Paul area. We know the identities of the bad guys, the trick is in apprehending them all. Shadow Girl is filled with good action sequences, and although there is violence, it is never graphic. Schmitt knows how to let readers' imaginations do most of the work.

I enjoy the rapport Afton has with Max. It's an important relationship, since Max has a lot to teach this wannabe detective. The investigation may be deadly serious, but there are flashes of humor throughout, and Bonaparte the dog has is a moment or two in the spotlight.

Something that's said at the end of Shadow Girl lets readers know that things will be changing for Afton in the next book. Afton is a strong, intelligent woman who deserves to be a detective. I'm looking forward to finding out what's in store for her in book number three.

Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt
ISBN: 9780425281789
Berkley © 2017
Hardcover, 320 pages

Police Procedural, #2 Afton Tangler mystery
Rating: A
Source: the publisher

Fiona Barton at The Poisoned Pen!

Saturday, July 22 found me back in my old routine: Denis at work and me on the road to my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen. Arriving in plenty of time to grab my preferred seat, I went up to the front desk and got the books they were holding for me, then back to the back of the bookstore I went to sit and read. Time flew, and before I knew what was happening, Barbara Peters and author Fiona Barton were sitting in front of us and beginning to speak. 

L to R: Barbara Peters and Fiona Barton

Barton had come to The Poisoned Pen last year in January or February before her first book (The Widow) was published-- and she complained of the heat then. I can't begin to imagine what she thought of our July weather! The Poisoned Pen was the only bookstore on her short tour last year, and the entire thing was a learning experience for her. Book publishing in the UK is a much smaller scene, and authors are not used to self-promotion or talking about themselves.

Barbara described Barton's two books as domestic suspense, or what she calls "Trust No One," and The Child brings back one of the characters from The Widow-- the journalist Kate Waters. 

Fiona Barton
As Barton explained, Kate wasn't the main character in The Widow. "I needed more voices so readers would learn not to trust what they were hearing. Of all the characters in that book, Kate was the one readers kept asking about."

At this point, Barbara and Fiona made it clear that The Child was not a sequel; this new book just happens to have one character from the first book. 

"There are books that I wouldn't want to have a sequel to," Peters said. "Like Scarlett O'Hara returning to Tara; you don't want to know what happens, you want to imagine it." They both agreed that an upcoming book, Shari Lapena's A Stranger in the House, is another one that should not have a sequel. 

Barton wanted a character who's a journalist to show that they aren't all bad. She herself has challenged the stereotype when people would express surprise that she was affected when she listened to a woman whose child had been murdered. "What? You didn't think we were human beings?" She then disclosed that in her next book she's torturing Kate by giving her a techno savvy young sidekick.

Available Now!
Barton believes that we live in a confessional age, an age in which people no longer need to talk to journalists in order for their stories to be told. Instead, all we have to do is go online to Facebook or Twitter. This gives us the power to present ourselves as we want others to see us... and to hide things about ourselves that we want no one else to see.

Fiona had been an award-winning journalist for thirty years and remembers seeing an article in the newspaper about the discovery of a mummified body of a baby. That image had stayed with her over the years. At the time, she thought of some of the same questions Kate did in her book, The Child.

When it was time to come up with the idea for her second book, she had one. This image of the mummified baby was something that she referred to as "a back of a fag [cigarette] packet idea." When her editor didn't like her original idea for the second book, she talked about this image that had stayed with her for so long, and her editor liked it a lot better.

Fiona Barton
Barton then went on to show us how a story can spread in the press. Kate Waters saw the story about the mummified baby in a local paper. She knew there was a story there, so she wrote an article that appeared in a national paper and that paper's website. "I don't think I could write these books without my experience as a journalist," she said.

Barbara Peters then talked a bit about how-- almost always-- the second book an author writes is never as popular as the first. Fiona nodded her head. "Some of the fairy dust has fallen off," she said.

"I was fifty-one, our children were raised, when my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and do volunteer work in Sri Lanka. This was in 2008 when I'd been a journalist for thirty years. Doing this allowed me to have some time, to have some space in my head, and an idea began to cook

"My idea was about the women one finds on the edge of stories-- what they knew, what they didn't want to share. When we returned from Sri Lanka, I began to write. It turned into ten chapters which I then put in a drawer, as you do. After two years, we moved to France. I joined a writing group which was a great help. But in many ways I think my experience as a journalist made it harder for me to write. I had the facility of writing-- I could write a thousand words about any given subject at a moment's notice, but writing about something that wasn't real was anathema to me, and I had to overcome that."

Fiona Barton
"The great thing about your professional background is that you've heard a lot of stories, and that also had to be a great help in writing dialogue," Peters observed.

Barton agreed, but stressed, "Kate is not me, but I've worked with Kate.

"I think when people think of journalists, they think of them pounding on doors and shouting through letterboxes, but that was never my way. I always wanted to make a human connection.

"There was one news editor who famously suggested that we have a Cornish pasty in our pocket-- do you know what a Cornish pasty is? [with the Cornish Pasty-- PAST-ee-- Company a block away most of us knew]-- so that if we had someone who told us that they didn't want to talk to us, we could pull the pasty out and say, 'All right, but could I just step inside for a minute to warm up my pasty in your microwave?'"

Barton's editor insisted that the journalists dress as though they were going to tea with the Queen or to speak to someone bereaved, so she was used to being very formally dressed. In fact, she once found herself wearing her high heels in an elephant enclosure in the dark in order to get a story about cruelty to elephants. "I was in mud up to my ankles," she said.

In talking about the titles of her books, Barton told us that The Widow had been the one and only title, but that 'The Silence' eventually became The Child. There is no working title for the third book "that I'll share." She then mentioned the marked difference between the UK and US covers for her books, so don't be surprised if she's the subject of my cover comparison post on Wednesday!

I will now encourage you to watch the Livestream recording of this event so you can see everything and hear every word. For those of you who do decide to watch the video, the very low-pitched whispering you hear about midway through comes from a man in the back corner who was reading a book to his young son sitting on his lap. The conversation between Barbara and Fiona is still perfectly clear.

I think I could sit and listen to Fiona Barton tell stories for hours-- and I'm wondering what that untitled third book is all about. While I'm wondering, I did pick up a book or two to tide me over....

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Food of Summer Weekly Link Round-Up

Sometimes I think the world is going out of its way to make me feel like an old fart. Someone on Facebook is constantly sharing a photo of something and asking those who know what the item is to raise their hands. It's always something that was quite common when I was a child. One of these days, someone may actually post something I don't recognize. Well... I can dream, can't I?

From the Museum of International Folk Art

Somehow this got me to thinking about cooking, food, and summer. When I was a child, foods were actually seasonal. There was none of this shipping fruit and who knows what all thousands of miles around the world so it can show up on our grocery store shelves. This seasonality meant that many foods were special. I was lucky because gardening was an important part of my family's summers. My grandmother had her garden, which was mostly different kinds of fruit, and Mom and I had our larger one, which was vegetables. Weeding was one of my chores, and I was my grandmother's chosen strawberry picker because she'd actually get enough to do something with. (Not so if my grandfather or my mother was asked to do the honors!)

My summers were filled with garden fresh, home grown tomatoes, rhubarb, corn on the cob, green beans, onions, black raspberries, strawberries, watermelons, potatoes... and whatever we didn't gorge ourselves on, my grandmother canned for the gloomy months of winter. Once you've had home grown, so much of what you bring home from the produce section of the grocery store tastes like rubber or cardboard.

My favorite summer meal? Ham, green beans, baby potatoes, and tiny onions-- with my grandmother's black raspberry cobbler for dessert. Well, this was smart, Cathy. Now I'm hungry! I'd better head on out to the link corral. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my mind off that cobbler.... Head 'em up! Moooooooooove 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • Websites that post fake and satirical stories
  • I've been listening to a series called A Stab in the Dark, a UKTV Crime Podcast hosted by Mark Billingham. Good stuff, and brought to my attention by one of you readers out there. Ken, was it you??? 
  • When reading a book was a group activity.
  • My grandmother made most of my clothes growing up so I might take a trip down Memory Lane at this online database containing 83,500 vintage sewing patterns from Vogue, McCall's, Butterick, and Simplicity.
  • Plan a rainy day and the folks at BuzzFeed will reveal which book you should read next. 
  • The word choices that explain why Jane Austen endures.

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • Scientists in Peru have reconstructed the face of a woman who ruled 1,700 years ago
  • Colombia is working to salvage a Spanish treasure ship loaded with an estimated $1 billion in gold and jewels. 
  • A sacrificial wolf elaborately adorned with some of the finest Aztec gold ever found and buried more than five centuries ago has come to light in the heart of downtown Mexico City. 
  • Meet the forgotten Middle Eastern queen who was protected by a curse and crowned with gold. 
  • An album of drawings by 18th Century painter Thomas Gainsborough has been discovered in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! 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, July 27, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

First Line: Deep in Honduras, in a region called La Mosquitia, lie some of the last unexplored places on earth.

For hundreds of years, there have been rumors of a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the interior of Honduras. Called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God, natives have spoken of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish-- and they also warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. 

In 1940 Theodore Morde claimed to have found the city but committed suicide before revealing its location. In 2012, bestselling author Douglas Preston joined a team of scientists who were going to use the latest technology to find this lost city. They did, fighting nearly insurmountable odds to do so, but it wasn't until they returned home that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted a horrifying-- sometimes lethal-- and incurable disease in the uncharted jungle of Honduras.

As much as I've enjoyed the books of the writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, I have to admit that I prefer the solo books that Preston writes, and The Lost City of the Monkey God is no exception. Preston's descriptions of the landscape and wildlife of the jungle re-enforced my opinion that the best way for me to explore these fascinating places is by reading books. (The insects and snakes alone would probably drive me insane.)  

Preston covers all the bases in telling his story, and every one is spellbinding. From the history of Honduras to the history of searching for the lost city to how the language of archaeology is changing and on to the actual discovery of the city... I couldn't get enough.

But the book hit high gear once Preston and the others returned home. From an archaeological search for an ancient city, the book changes into a hair-raising tale of the spread of a horrific disease. Even Preston's explanation of the differences between the spread of disease in the Old World versus the New World kept me turning the pages.

Ultimately The City of the Lost Monkey God is a cautionary tale that infuriated me. Today the only diseases for which cures are being avidly sought are the ones in which the pharmaceutical companies can make lots of money. If the disease affects mainly poor people, forget it. They can't pay, so it's not worth trying to find a cure. But as Preston so ably tells us, disease can spread long distances, and ignoring the "no profit" ones is putting us all in grave danger. 

The Lost City of the Monkey God is a book that satisfies on many levels, and I highly recommend it.


The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
ISBN: 9781455540006
Grand Central Publishing © 2017
Hardcover, 336 pages

Non-Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

First Line: It wasn't as though the farm hadn't seen death before, and the blowflies didn't discriminate.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk left his hometown of Kiewarra twenty years ago, and if he had his way, he'd never go back. But the receipt of a note demanding his presence and the knowledge that his childhood friend Luke and Luke's entire family have been slaughtered has him returning to a place where once Falk and his father were accused of murder.

When another childhood friend, Ellie, was found dead twenty years ago, the only thing that saved Falk and his father from prosecution was Luke's claim that the two boys had been together at the time of the crime. Now more than one person knows they didn't tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. The small Australian town is enduring the worst drought for a century, but it's time for Falk and a local detective to uncover the truth about what happened to Luke and his family--- and what really happened to Ellie all those years ago--- whether the town wants them to or not. 

In Jane Harper's The Dry, readers are given two mysteries to solve: who killed Aaron's friend Ellie twenty years ago, and who killed Luke and his family now. In this debut that certainly doesn't read like a first book, both mysteries held my interest throughout. On multiple occasions I thought I knew what the solutions were going to be, but I was always wrong. Harper doesn't take the obvious way out when it comes to solving crime.

The setting was claustrophobic: a small town filled with people who take everything at face value and never look for a deeper meaning (let alone the truth). A town that just might be a little crazed from the never-ending drought, dust, and heat. With this backdrop, Aaron Falk shows himself to be an extremely stubborn man who sticks to his investigation even when the townspeople show him repeatedly that he's not wanted. The local detective, Sergeant Raco, is new to the area, so he hasn't formed any strong attachments yet to Kiewarra or the people living there, but he does have a strong attachment to the truth, and this makes him an excellent partner for Falk.

Jane Harper combines strong characterizations, a vivid setting, and a compelling mystery with a fast-moving pace that relentlessly uncovers many of Kiewarra's nasty little secrets. I hear that Aaron Falk will be making another appearance, and that's just the type of news I like.

The Dry by Jane Harper
ISBN: 9781250105608
Flatiron Books © 2017
Hardcover, 336 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Aaron Falk mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen. 

August 2017 New Mystery Releases!

As always, summer is running through my fingers as quickly as the proverbial sands through an hour glass, and one thing that I've noticed is that I've been more easily distracted. As a result, I'm at least a dozen books behind my normal reading pace at this time of year. I tend to be a competitive person if I'm not careful, so falling behind means that a part of me wants to drop everything and concentrate on reading to get myself back on track. Another part of myself tells me to cool it; that I'm allowed to take it a bit easy once in a while.

I may be behind in the total number of books I've read, but that doesn't prevent me from keeping track of new mysteries coming out. The following are my picks of the new crime fiction being released during the month of August. The books are grouped by release date and have information that you'll need to help you add them to your Must Read lists. Book covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon. 

=== August 1 ===

Title: Shadow Girl
Author: Gerry Schmitt
Series: #2 in the Afton Tangler police procedural series set in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can’t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.

Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case. As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again—and succeeds—in a brazen hospital room attack.

The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person—and she’s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage...

Title: Murder in Disguise
Author: Mary Miley
Series: #4 in the Roaring Twenties historical mystery series.
240 pages

Synopsis: "Employed by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Jessie Beckett has a busy time as Script Girl for Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. Yet she also has a reputation as a skilled amateur sleuth. So when a projectionist is shot dead and his grieving widow asks Jessie if she can find out who killed him, Jessie is determined to find the killer and his motive. But who was the mysterious man in the red coat who fired three shots at Joe Petrovitch? And how could he enter and leave a crowded theatre without being noticed? To find the answers, Jessie must delve into the dead man’s past and uncover dark secrets from another continent and another era. As she is to discover, the past has a long reach..."

Title: A Tangled Yarn
Series: #5 in the Yarn Retreat cozy series set on the northern California coast.
304 pages

Synopsis: "Casey Feldstein has her hands full with preparations at the Vista Del Mar hotel on the scenic Monterey Peninsula as another yarn retreat begins. The retreaters will be thrown for a loop this time, learning the trendy art of arm knitting and finger crocheting. 

But not everyone is enthusiastic about trying something new, and Casey is forced to come up with an alternative craft for her less adventurous pupils. Things go from worst to worsted when a travel writer from a neighboring retreat group is found dead in his room among a sea of feathers. When one of the owners of Vista Del Mar pleads for help, Casey gets hooked into the case and must unravel a delicate skein of secrets to catch a killer.

Title: On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: #11 in the Royal Spyness historical mystery series
304 pages

Synopsis: "In the new Royal Spyness Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Crowned and Dangerous, Lady Georgiana Rannoch juggles secret missions from the Queen, Darcy, and her mother. But it’s all in a day’s work when you’re thirty-fifth in line to the British Crown.

When Darcy runs off on another secret assignment, I am left to figure out how to travel to Italy sans maid and chaperone to help my dear friend Belinda, as she awaits the birth of her baby alone. An opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way—my cousin the queen is in need of a spy to attend a house party in the Italian lake country. The Prince of Wales and the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding. 

What luck! A chance to see Belinda and please the queen as I seek her permission to relinquish my claim to the throne so I can marry Darcy. Only that’s as far as my good fortune takes me. I soon discover that Mummy is attending the villa party and she has her own secret task for me. Then, Darcy shows up and tells me that the fate of a world on the brink of war could very well depend on what I overhear at dinner! I shouldn’t be all that surprised when one of my fellow guests is murdered and my Italian holiday becomes a nightmare...

Title: Tahoe Payback
Author: Todd Borg
Series: #14 in the Owen McKenna thriller series set in Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada.
352 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "When a man tells Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna that his girlfriend disappeared, McKenna wonders if the woman got cold feet and ran away. But when she turns up murdered on Fannette Island with red roses in her mouth, McKenna discovers that she used a scam charity to steal millions.

A second victim is found with a tennis ball crammed into his mouth. A third has military medals in his cheeks. McKenna suspects that these victims also ran fraudulent charities.

While McKenna investigates the murders, his girlfriend Street Casey has reason to believe that her ex-con father, who's jumped parole, wants revenge for her testimony that put him in prison decades ago.

It appears that the victims are all payback targets of a vigilante killer. McKenna finds lots of potential suspects. But he can't link any of them to the crimes. What he doesn't know is that both he and his girlfriend are about to face someone who wants them very dead...

=== August 8 ===

Title: The Paris Spy
Series: #7 in the Maggie Hope historical series set in World War II Paris, France
321 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.

Title: Hunting Hour
Series: #3 in the Timber Creek K-9 police procedural series set in Colorado
320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Deputy Mattie Cobb is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to work on issues from her past. When she and her K-9 partner Robo get called to track a missing junior high student, they find the girl dead on Smoker’s Hill behind the high school, and Mattie must head to the Walker home to break the bad news. But that’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek because soon another girl goes missing―and this time it’s one of Cole’s daughters.

Knowing that each hour a child remains missing lessens the probability of finding her alive, Mattie and Robo lead the hunt while Cole and community volunteers join in to search everywhere. To no avail. It seems that someone has snatched all trace of the Walker girl from their midst, including her scent. Grasping at straws, Mattie and Robo follow a phoned-in tip into the dense forest, where they hope to find a trace of the girl’s scent and to rescue her alive. But when Robo does catch her scent, it leads them to information that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case.

=== August 15 ===

Title: The Rat Catchers' Olympics
Series: #12 in the Dr. Siri Paiboun historical series set in 1980 Moscow, Russia
288 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "1980: The People’s Democratic Republic of Laos is proud to be competing in its first-ever Olympics. Of course, half the world is boycotting the Moscow Summer Olympic Games to protest the Soviet Union’s recent invasion of Afghanistan, but that has made room for athletes from countries that are usually too small or underfunded to be competitive—like Laos.

Ex-national coroner of Laos Dr. Siri Paiboun may be retired, but he and his wife, Madame Daeng, would do just about anything to have a chance to visit Moscow, so Siri finagles them a trip by getting them hired as medical advisers to the Olympians. Most of the athletes are young and innocent village people who have never worn running shoes, much less imagined anything as marvelous as the Moscow Olympic Village. As the competition heats up, however, Siri begins to suspect that one of the athletes is not who he says he is. Fearing a conspiracy, Siri and his friends investigate, liaising in secret with Inspector Phosy back home in Laos to see if the man might be an assassin. Siri’s progress is derailed when a Lao Olympian is accused of murder. Now in the midst of a murky international incident, Dr. Siri must navigate not one but two paranoid government machines to make sure justice is done.

Title: Dog Dish of Doom
Series: #1 in the Agent to the Paws cozy series set in New York and New Jersey
304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Kay Powell wants to find that break-out client who will become a star. And she thinks she’s found him: His name is Bruno, and he has to be walked three times a day.

Kay is the Agent to the Paws, representing showbiz clients who aren’t exactly people. In fact: they're dogs. Bruno’s humans, Trent and Louise, are pains in the you-know-what, and Les McMaster, the famous director mounting a revival of Annie, might not hire Bruno just because he can’t stand them.

This becomes less of an issue when Trent is discovered face down in Bruno’s water dish, with a kitchen knife in his back. Kay’s perfectly fine to let the NYPD handle the murder, but when the whole plot seems to center on Bruno, her protective instincts come into play. You can kill any people you want, but you’d better leave Kay’s clients alone.

=== August 29 ===

Title: Death by His Grace
Author: Kwei Quartey
Series: #5 in the Darko Dawson police procedural series set in Ghana.
272 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Accra, Ghana: Katherine Yeboah’s marriage to Solomon Vanderpuye is all the talk of Accra high society. But when it becomes apparent that Katherine is infertile, Solomon’s extended family accuses her of being a witch, hounding her until the relationship is so soured Solomon feels compelled to order Katherine out of the house they shared. Alone on her last night there, Katherine is brutally murdered by an intruder.

Chief Inspector Darko Dawson of the Ghanaian federal police has personal as well as professional reasons to find the killer fast: Katherine was the first cousin of his wife, Christine, who is devastated by the tragedy. As Darko investigates, he discovers that many people close to Katherine had powerful motives to kill her, including Solomon, her husband; James Bentsi-Enchill, her lawyer and ex-lover; and her filthy rich pastor, Bishop Clem Howard-Mills. In order to expose the truth, Darko must confront the pivotal role religion plays in Ghana—and wrestle with his old demons the investigation stirs up.

Title: Glass Houses
Author: Louise Penny
Series: #13 in the Armand Gamache police procedural series set in Quebec, Canada.
400 pages

Synopsis: "When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead.

From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment.

Title: A Knit Before Dying
Series: #2 in the Tangled Web cozy series set in Connecticut.
288 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Shop owner Josie Blair is finally settling into the pace of living in Dorset Falls, Connecticut. Between running Miss Marple Knits, jumpstarting a blog, and handcrafting items with the help of her knitting pals, Josie’s too preoccupied to worry about her past in New York. And thanks to Lyndon and Harry, the owners of the brand-new antique shop next door, she has another project in her midst—repurposing a box of vintage crocheted doilies adorned with the most curious needlework . . .

But before Josie can formally welcome her neighbors, she discovers Lyndon on the floor of his shop stabbed to death by a rusty old pair of sheep shears. Police have pinned Harry as the killer, but Josie isn’t so sure. Now, she’s lacing up for another homicide investigation—and no eyelet or stitch can go unexamined, lest she herself becomes ensnared in the criminal’s deadly design . . .

Title: Macramé  Murder
Series: #3 in the Cora Crafts cozy series set in North Carolina.
352 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "As the head of a bustling crafting retreat, Cora Chevalier could use a break of her own. So she and her creative cohorts temporarily swap small-town Indigo Gap for the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat, where they teach classes and create beachy crafts like shell mosaics and sea glass chimes. Cora and her boyfriend Adrian are enchanted by their surroundings—especially the stunning wedding and blissful newlyweds they encounter on the beach. But awe becomes shock when the bride turns up dead the next day . . .

The woman’s death appears to be the result of a severe jellyfish sting. But when it’s revealed that she was murdered and Adrian becomes a suspect, Cora must hitch the real culprit to the crime—and fast. Because it just might take everything she has to crack a case more twisted than her most complex macramé knot!

Another month with an embarrassment of riches, eh? I'll let you in on a little secret: as I've been devouring my advance reading copies, I've added a title or two from this list to my Best Reads of 2017!

Which titles made it to your own wish lists? Which covers did you find the most striking? Inquiring minds would love to know!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Mexico Road Trip: Museum of International Folk Art, Final Chapter

Since today is the final chapter of our visit to Santa Fe's wonderful Museum of International Folk Art, I feel as though now I really am saying goodbye. I would love to go back again someday, but we'll just have to see what happens.

This post is all about their exhibit called "No Idle Hands: The Myths & Meanings of Tramp Art."  Tramp art is a style of craftsmanship that uses discarded things to make all sorts of items-- recycling before recycling was cool. (Something our forebears did all the time.) Let's take a look at the items that caught my eye. If you'd like to see any of the photos in greater detail, just click on one, and a new window will automatically open.

This quote is on the front of the museum as well as here in the entrance.

One of the display cases showing a wide variety of items.

Bank with applied wood horse, anchor, birds & hearts. USA ca. 1880s-1907

Cigar-silk pillowcase. USA, late 19th-early 20th century

Detail of pillowcase

Satchel made of wood, leather & metal. France, late 19th century

Detail of satchel

Miniature dresser with acorn from Mark Twain's home. Possibly Missouri, late 19th-early 20th century

Wooden Marriage Bench. France, late 19th-early 20th century

Crown of thorns frame with photographs of actresses from the London stage. Brenton Reef Lightship, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, 1890s

Detail of crown of thorns frame and photograph

"In God We Trust" hinge-topped keepsake box with glass bead details and applied wood rondelles, hearts & birds. USA, 1935

"Valencia" by Freeland Tanner, 2016

Another piece of art from Freeland Tanner, this time with a secret drawer. 2016

"Hermosas Flores" by Freeland Tanner, 2016

Those of you who have been reading Kittling: Books for a while know that I love Dia de los Muertos art. Although I do love it, I've never purchased any for myself, partly because I wanted it to be special when I did. Well, after spending so many amazing hours at the Museum of International Folk Art, I could think of nothing better than visiting their gift shop on the way out and purchasing my Dia de los Muertos art there!

This is called the "Skully Love Retablo" (altarpiece) made in Peru in 2016 by Alcidez Quisper.

No artist's name was given for this hand-painted and carved wooden skull, but I love how the photo turned out!

My tour of Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art is now concluded. I hope you enjoyed it!