Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trying to Take a Shower This Wordless Wednesday

Click to view full size. More Wordless Wednesday.

June 2011 New Mystery Releases!

With the beginning of June, we've moved right into my prime season for reading. Nothing beats reading in the shade out by the pool with a cold drink close at hand. Beautiful sky, flowers, birds singing, fresh air, sunshine, cool water, and books-- wonderful books. I can't ask for much more than that!

Another thing that's so exciting about June is that there are tons of good books being published, and I have the pleasure of sharing with you the ones that I am anticipating.

The titles are grouped by release dates, and I've included the information you'll need to find them at all your favorite book spots.  I hope you're looking forward to reading one or two of these titles outdoors in beautiful summer weather, too!

===June 1===

Author: Amy Myers
Series: #1 in the Jack Colby Car Detective series set in Kent, England
ISBN: 9780727880185
Publisher: Severn House, 2011
Hardcover, 224 pages

Classic car enthusiasts will relate to Jack Colby, the appealing hero of this series debut from British author Myers. During a walk in the Kent countryside, Jack spots a possible project for his classic car restoration business, "a dark-blue 1938 or '39 V12 drophead coupé Lagonda," tucked away in a barn. He's confronted by the owner, widow and former news anchor Polly Davis, who rejects his offer to restore the vehicle. Jack's later efforts to court Polly romantically are cut short by her murder. At the request of Polly's grown daughter, Bea, Jack brings detecting skills acquired helping the police with auto theft cases to bear on finding the killer. Readers, even those neither interested nor versed in the lead's field of expertise, will enjoy this lively, fast-paced mystery and look forward to the sequel.

===June 2===

Author: Craig Johnson
Series: #7 in the Sheriff Walt Longmire series set in Absaroka County, Wyoming
ISBN: 9780670022779
Publisher: Viking Adult, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages

Well-read and world-weary, Sheriff Walt Longmire has been maintaining order in Wyoming's Absaroka County for more than thirty years, but in this riveting seventh outing, he is pushed to his limits. Raynaud Shade, an adopted Crow Indian, has just confessed to murdering a boy ten years ago and burying him deep within the Big Horn Mountains. After transporting Shade and a group of other convicted murderers through a snowstorm, Walt is informed by the FBI that the body is buried in his jurisdiction-and the victim's name is White Buffalo. Guided only by Indian mysticism and a battered paperback of Dante's Inferno, Walt pursues Shade and his fellow escapees into the icy hell of the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, cheating death to ensure that justice-both civil and spiritual-is served.

===June 7===

Series: #4 in the Brett Kavanaugh tattoo shop series set in Las Vegas, Nevada
ISBN: 9780451233790
Publisher: Signet, 2011
Paperback, 320 pages

Dee Carmichael, lead singer of the pop sensation The Flamingoes, has been one of Brett Kavanaugh's most dedicated customers at her tattoo shop. When Dee is discovered dead surrounded by ink pots and needles, Brett is branded a suspect.

It seems that someone is impersonating Brett. And if she doesn't act fast, the killer is sure to put the dye in dying once again... 

Title: Dire Threads
Author: Janet Bolin
Series: #1 in the Threadville mystery series set in Elderberry Bay on the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania
ISBN: 9780425241899
Publisher: Berkley, 2011
Paperback, 336 pages

Threadville has everything - a fabric store, yarn shop, notions store, quilting boutique, and Willow Vanderling's brand new shop, In Stitches, a hit with tourists eager to learn embroidering in the latest way, with software and machines.

But when the village's bullying zoning commissioner picks a fight with Willow and turns up dead in Willow's yard, the close-knit community starts unraveling at the seams.

Willow must stitch together clues and find the real murderer, or the next thing she embroiders may be an orange prison jumpsuit...

Title: Sentenced to Death
Author: Lorna Barrett
Series: #5 in the Booktown mystery series set in Stoneham, New Hampshire
ISBN: 9780425241868
Publisher: Berkley, 2011
Paperback, 352 pages

As the owner of Stoneham, New Hampshire's mystery bookstore Haven't Got a Clue, Tricia Miles can figure out whodunit in the latest bestseller long before she gets to the last page. But when her friend is killed in a freak accident, Tricia must use her sleuthing skills to solve a murder mystery that promises to be much more sinister than the books on her shelves. 

Title: Escape Artist
Author: Ed Ifkovic
Series: #2 in the Edna Ferber series
ISBN: 9781590588499
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 2011
Paperback, 254 pages

In 1904 Edna Ferber is a nineteen-year-old girl reporter for the Appleton, Wisconsin Crescent, an occupation that many townspeople, including her own family, consider scandalous for a proper young girl. By chance, she interviews Harry Houdini, in town visiting old friends. Houdini, as Ehrich Weiss, spent his boyhood years in the small town. When Frana Lempke, a beautiful young German high-school girl, disappears and is soon discovered murdered, Edna asks Houdini for help in solving the murder.

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton
ISBN: 9780307716514
Publisher: Crown, 2011
Hardcover, 336 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered.  Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess's apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister's life--and all its secrets.

Title: To Sketch a Thief
Author: Sharon Pape
Series: #2 in the Portrait of Crime mystery series
ISBN: 9780425241929
Publisher: Berkley, 2011
Paperback, 304 pages

After a stray dog named Hobo leads former police sketch artist turned paranormal private eye Rory McCain back to his owner's corpse, she finds herself involved in another homicide case-- not to mention the new owner of a lovable pooch which makes Rory's ghostly partner, Zeke, more than a little spooked.

Title: Now You See Me
Author: S.J. Bolton
ISBN: 9780312600525
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2011
Hardcover, 400 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot. Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.

No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself.

===June 21===

Series: #3 in the Kate Burkholder series set in the Ohio Amish country
ISBN: 9780312374990
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages

The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death—clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish? 

Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes—and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community. 

Title: A Bad Day for Scandal
Author: Sophie Littlefield
Series: #3 in the Stella Hardesty series set in smalltown Missouri
ISBN: 9780312648374
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2011
Hardcover, 304 pages

When Prosper homegirl turned big-city businesswoman Priss Porter returns to town with a body in her trunk, she calls Stella Hardesty to dispose of it. Her uppity ways don’t convince Stella to take the job, and Priss attempts to blackmail her with a snapshot of Stella doing what she does best: curing woman-beaters by the use of force.      
Stella refuses to cooperate and goes home, only to hear later that Priss and her brother, Liman, have gone missing after calling in a disturbance. Stella is implicated when Sheriff “Goat” Jones discovers the scarf she left behind at the house. He warns her to stay local but Stella and her partner, Chrissy Shaw, go looking for Priss in Kansas City, where they discover that she runs an unusual business. When Priss herself—along with two other bodies—turns up in a pond belonging to one of Stella’s ex-clients, Stella must investigate a host of suspects, including a crooked but libidinous female judge, a coterie of jealous male escorts, and a Marxist ex-professor.

===June 24===

Author: Stephen Besecker
ISBN: 9781610880091
Publisher: Bancroft Press, 2011
Hardcover, 352 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

As a kid, Kevin ''Hatch'' Easter never had it easy, growing up half Seneca Indian in a mostly white society. Following the tragic death of his parents when he was only nine, Hatch found himself living on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation with his shaman grandfather.

But as an adult, he's found a job he believes in--tracker for the Central Intelligence Agency--and a wife, Karen, he cherishes. That life is shattered on a hot August night in New York City when a mob collection gone wrong leaves three people dead, Karen Easter among them. Just a few days later, police find the gunman dead, the murder weapon on him, and the criminal case is all but closed. Except someone doesn't buy it. Someone thinks the guilty parties are still out there. And that someone wants revenge.

Now, a highly professional hunter stalks the streets of New York City, taking out anyone who may have had a hand in the murders. As the city threatens to descend into all-out war, one question is paramount: Who is the hunter killing the killers, and how can he be stopped?

===June 28===

Title: Lake Charles
Author: Ed Lynskey
ISBN: 9781434430465
Publisher: Wildside Press, 2011
Paperback, 188 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Ed Lynskey, one of the most acclaimed modern crime noir authors, returns to the Smoky Mountains with a new hardboiled tale of murder, passion, and intense action. 

Title: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma
ISBN: 9781439167397
Publisher: Atria, 2011
Hardcover, 624 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

The phenomenal international bestseller set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time is a page-turner that boasts a triple play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens if we change history? Félix J. Palma explores this question in The Map of Time, weaving a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting—a story full of love and adventure that transports readers to a haunting setting in Victorian London for their own taste of time travel. 

See what I mean about June being loaded with books that scream to be read? Which ones did you add to your own wish lists? Do tell!

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Title: Sworn to Silence
Author: Linda Castillo
ISBN: 9780312374976
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2009
Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Kate Burkholder mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: She hadn't believed in monsters since she was six years old, back when her mom would check the closet and look beneath her bed at night.

Kate Burkholder was born and raised Amish in small Painters Mill, Ohio, but a traumatic event when she was fifteen made her turn her back on her upbringing and leave her home. Now she's back in Painters Mill as police chief, and although her people tend to pretend she isn't there, she's well thought of in the community, and she's hired good people to work with her. Her job is everything to her.

But the nude, tortured body of a young woman throws Kate's life right back into the nightmare that occurred when she was fifteen. The murder has all the earmarks of the Slaughterhouse Killer who plied his horrible trade in the area sixteen years ago. Whispers begin to circulate, but Kate knows it has to be the work of a copycat. Why? She knows why the murderer stopped killing all those years ago. It's a secret that she has to try to keep while she's working this current case.

Convinced that she alone has the solution to the investigation, Kate is slow to ask for help from other law enforcement agencies, so the town politicians take matters into their own hands and set up a multi-jurisdictional task force with the county sheriff and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent, John Tomasetti, lending a hand. The sheriff is all sweetness and light around anyone in a position of greater authority, but his real agenda is to undermine Kate's credibility. Tomasetti, on the other hand, is an entirely different piece of work, called "dead weight" and a "train wreck" by his superiors. Tomasetti has been sent in hopes that he will fail brilliantly and allow the BCI to get rid of him.

So there are all sorts of things swirling around in Sworn to Silence. The two main characters, Burkholder and Tomasetti, are the type of character that I enjoy reading about: strong, intelligent and flawed. It's how they work past their flaws that makes this book so strong.

The plot is well-paced, and I only had the vaguest inklings of the identity of the Slaughterhouse Killer. Castillo does reveal the killer's identity toward the end, which left me to wonder how long it would be before Burkholder figured it out. This device certainly ratcheted up the suspense.

The depiction of a small town in Amish country was well done, especially in the way that the Amish tried to keep themselves separate from the rest of the community in an attempt to handle situations according to their own beliefs.

The characters were vivid in my mind, especially the graveyard dispatcher, whose role models are Kate and Stephanie Plum. Since the book tends to be grim, humorous tidbits like this added a welcome touch of lightness.

Even the landscape played a part in the book. There can be something more than a little spooky about farm country in the winter:

My speedometer hits eighty miles per hour on the highway, but I slow to a reasonable speed once I reach Thigpen Road because it's slick with snow. The Huffman place is down a short lane and surrounded by skeletal trees, like bony fingers holding the place together.

Strong story and strong characters mean that this is a series I will be visiting again and again.

What Does Your Birth Season Say About You?

You Are Open

You are an accepting and adaptable person. You let yourself go with the flow.

You are interested in world ideas. You're much more concerned with how the world could be than with how it is.

You are idealistic and philosophical. You're always thinking of ways to improve the lives of others.

Social justice and equality are very important to you. Even if you aren't political, you have causes close to your heart.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Pepper Smith

My regular readers will know that I've recently discovered the Patty O'Donnell series written by Pepper Smith, and I've really been enjoying them. In fact, I'm going to go through withdrawal after I've read the third, Reef Runner.

Instead of making a pest out of myself by begging for new books, I thought I'd ask Pepper if she'd be willing to be interviewed here on Scene of the Crime, and I was thrilled when she accepted.

Pepper lives in Arkansas with her husband, son, and two cats. When she's not writing books, she volunteers as a suspense instructor at the Muse Online Writers Conference, which is held in October. She's also a singer, musician, artist, and photographer.

Pepper Smith
I couldn't find any links to Facebook or Twitter for her, but she does have a website and a blog. (Where would we be without blogs?) I enjoyed her most recent blog post because she talks about the books she's read recently. Being a total bibliophile, I not only like to read what authors write, I also like to find out what they've been reading.

Pepper's Patty O'Donnell series currently numbers three books: Blood Money (2010), Rio Star (2010), and Reef Runner (2011). Patty is a young woman from Arizona who goes to Ireland, and meets and marries an Irishman in the horse racing business. The books take place in Ireland, Italy, Argentina and Australia. If you like a strong, intelligent female lead who doesn't panic under the most stressful of circumstances, you're going to love these books that have a bit of horse racing, a bit of sunken treasure, a touch of larceny, and lots of danger.

Let's get to the interview!

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

I have to admit that I’m not sure how to answer this question.  My mother began teaching me to read when I was a year old, out of self-defense, because I’d given up taking naps and she wasn’t getting any time for quiet and rest.  I grew up a voracious reader, but I don’t remember details of a lot of them.

My love of horses came from a teacher reading Misty of Chincoteague to us in the 4th grade.  The Black Stallion series was responsible for my early interest in horse racing.  Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys fed an interest in mysteries.  I remember being fond of Robert Heinlein’s books, especially Podcayne of Mars and The Puppet Masters, and Slan, by A. E. Van Vogt.  At this point, I can’t tell you why those last stories appealed to me in particular.

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

I like to read, which after question 1 probably goes without saying.  If I don’t have a book waiting to be read, or am between books and want a break, I like to make jewelry.  I also enjoy singing.

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

I live in a small bedroom community on the outskirts of a college town, and there isn’t anything in my town that I would direct you to that would be worth your time.  In fact, I think most anything worth seeing in the area is already in the guide books.

In the college town, Nightbird Books would be a definite place to go, especially for a book lover.  For mystery lovers, a drive past the old train depot on Dickson Street might be worth it, especially if you’re a fan of Joan Hess, who based her college town of Farberville and Claire Malloy’s The Book Depot on Fayetteville and the old train depot.  There’s Bikes, Blues and Barbecue in October, which is a big biker rally with concerts and street vendors selling food, also on Dickson.  If you’re there in the spring, the flowering trees are beautiful, and depending on the weather, the leaves in the fall can be spectacular.

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

I cringe at the thought of someone making a movie based on my life.  I think I’d procrastinate in choosing for so long that they’d abandon the idea of making it.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I think it would be a tie between Amelia Peabody Emerson and Vicky Bliss, both of whom are characters written by Elizabeth Peters.  There’s something about both characters that appeals to me greatly.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

There were a long string of stories I wrote with a school friend about my series character, her twin sister, and her brother and cousins on their ranch in Arizona, beginning in her childhood.  I also wrote numerous science fiction stories, including a piece that was published in a college sci-fi zine, and a couple of Doctor Who fanfics published in a zine called Time Winds.  There are four stories previous to my novel Blood Money, which publishing houses wisely turned down, that chronicle Patty’s adult adventures from the trip to Ireland where she met her future husband, though their third year of marriage.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

Like most of us, I think I wanted to run up and point at it on the shelf, so everyone in the area would come see what was going on.

I’m pretty certain that when I found out I was going to be published, I let out a yell that had my son running into the room to see what was wrong.  I don’t remember doing anything special to celebrate it, though.  That was one of our moneyless periods.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

I love that video.  Having seen accounts by other authors about book signings, that’s probably pretty close to what they’re like for a lot of authors.

I’ve only done one book signing.  Our local indie bookstore, Nightbird Books, has a wonderful policy of featuring local authors, and had me scheduled with another author for a Saturday evening.  The other author cancelled, and only two people showed up for the signing, although a third arrived late, after I’d already read excerpts and answered questions for a bit.  Nightbird were wonderful hosts, and it was only later that we realized there was a big off-Broadway show just down the street at the Walton Arts Center, which may have had an impact on how many people showed up for the signing.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author? 

I think that when something new comes out, some people have a tendency to jump on the new and turn on the old with a ferocity that’s undeserved.  There have been a lot of overreactions on both sides, with some proclaiming the death of the print book, and others proclaiming as loudly that you can have their print books when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers.

Personally, I have both a large collection of print books, and a growing collection of ebooks, and add regularly to both.  There’s no way I would take my Nook to the Laundromat and risk having someone snatch it while I’m transferring clothes from the washers to the dryers, but I have little fear about leaving a paper copy sitting while I’m busy across the room with the clothes.  My Nook only has about six hours of battery life to it, so I’d probably take something print if I had to fly somewhere, and use the Nook where it could be plugged in and recharged.  The Nook has a backlit screen, so I can read in bed while my husband is sleeping and not worry that I’m disturbing him.

As an author, I’m not worried about the ebook revolution—in fact, my publisher was one of those far-sighted companies that was releasing books in both e- and print-format in the early part of the last decade, before the advent of the Kindle and the big publishing houses realizing that maybe there was something to this ebook thing after all.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, Pepper. It's been a pleasure!  I look forward to reading many more of your stories.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: The Pros

This post wraps up my celebration of Jewish Heritage Month with taking a look at four authors who have given us characters who are police detectives, private investigators and secret agents.

I can't stay away from a good police procedural, and I know many of you feel the same way. Or... you're just as passionate about private investigators or secret agents. Whichever you prefer, I think one of these authors will have books that you just have to read!

As ever, I'd like to thank my 4 Mystery Addicts crime fiction think tank for helping me narrow down all my choices!

Stuart Kaminsky
Stuart Kaminsky was a mystery writer and film professor who is known for his series featuring Toby Peters, a private investigator in 1940s Hollywood; Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, a Moscow police inspector; and Lew Fonseca, a process server from Sarasota, Florida. However, it's another of his series that I'd like to spotlight this week.

Abe Lieberman is a sixty-something Jewish police detective in Chicago, Illinois. There are ten books in the series featuring Lieberman: Lieberman's Folly (1990), Lieberman's Choice (1993), Lieberman's Day (1994), Lieberman's Thief (1995), Lieberman's Law (1996), The Big Silence (2000), Not Quite Kosher (2002), The Last Dark Place (2004), Terror Town (2006), and The Dead Don't Lie (2007).

Here is the synopsis for the first book in the series, Lieberman's Folly:

Sixty-year-old Chicago police detective Abe Lieberman is having all the troubles he can handle when Estralda Valdez, a stunning Mexican prostitute, comes to him with a proposition he can't refuse: Estralda will help him with valuable information if he'll get a john off her back. But Lieberman's good intentions pave the way for a brutal murder. A murder that will lead Lieberman into the darkest depths of Chicago crime and corruption, and into the kind of trouble that could get him killed.

Jon Land
Jon Land is the bestselling author of over twenty-five novels. He often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research.

He has written a series of seven books featuring Ben Kamal, a member of the Palestinian police force on the West Bank and Danielle Barnea, a Shin Bet (Israel's FBI) agent in Israel: The Walls of Jericho (1997), The Pillars of Solomon (1999), A Walk in the Darkness (2000), Keepers of the Gate (2001), Blood Diamonds (2002), The Blue Widows (2003), and The Last Prophecy (2004).

Here is what Library Journal had to say about The Walls of Jericho:

In an attempt to preserve an uneasy peace between their peoples, Palestinian cop Ben Kamal and Israeli government agent Danielle Barnea team up to catch a West Bank serial killer. With the assistance of a motley assortment of helpers picked up along the way, they quickly find their killer but soon discover that there is something even more sinister behind both the murders and their forced collaboration. Thanks to intriguing characters, a timely backdrop, and short, action-packed chapters, Land delivers more than just your average thriller. Fast, exciting, and, even more important, believable.

Reed Farrel Coleman
Reed Farrel Coleman is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University, teaching writing classes in mystery fiction and the novel.

Probably his best known series of books features Moe (Moses) Prager, an ex-cop private investigator in 1980s New York City. The series currently has six books: Walking the Perfect Square (2002), Redemption Street (2004), The James Deans (2005), Soul Patch (2007), Empty Ever After (2008), and Innocent Monster (2010).

Publishers Weekly loved Walking the Perfect Square:

Raymond Chandler once advised that when things get slow in a story, have a man with a gun come through the door. What's most remarkable about Coleman's first mystery to feature Brooklyn PI Moe Prager is that he never resorts to such a crude device. Rooted in the late 1970s, the story is so solid, the characters so compelling, the pace so expertly driven that he can dispense with the usual genre stitches. If the one murder in the book occurs off-stage, there's no lack of suspense. The author makes us care about his characters and what happens to them, conveying a real sense of human absurdity and tragedy, of the price people will pay to get ahead or hide their true selves. Moe's job (he's an ex-cop forced to retire because of a knee injury) is to find the son of another cop, a young man who left a party one night and hasn't been seen since. So many people have been searching for Patrick Mahoney in the 20 years since his disappearance that Moe doesn't expect to be successful. As his investigation proceeds, he finds himself looking for two Patricks: one a choir boy lookalike and the other described by those who knew him as "weird" and "strange." But why? Is it possible Patrick's father really doesn't want to find his son? Patrick stands at the core of the novel, and the intricate tale of what happened to him makes for a first-rate mystery. Moe is a fine sleuth. Coleman is an excellent writer.

Daniel Silva
Former journalist Daniel Silva is an award-winning #1 New York Times- bestselling author. He's written a series of ten books featuring Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and Israeli secret agent.

The books in the series are: The Kill Artist (2000), The English Assassin (2002), The Confessor (2003), A Death in Vienna (2004), Prince of Fire (2005), The Messenger (2006), The Secret Servant (2007), Moscow Rules (2008), The Defector (2009), and The Rembrandt Affair (2010).

Publishers Weekly said this about The Kill Artist:

The tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and despair of its resolution provide the backdrop for Silva's heart-stopping, complex yarn of international terrorism and intrigue. Israeli master spy Ari Shamron sets an intricate plot in motion to lure deadly Palestinian assassin Tariq al-Hourani into his net. Art restorer Gabriel Allon, a former Israeli agent whose family was killed by Tariq, is lured back into the fray by Shamron and teamed with Jacqueline Delacroix, a French supermodel/Israeli secret agent whose grandparents died in the Holocaust. Gabriel sets up in London to monitor Yusef, Tariq's fellow terrorist and confidant. Jacqueline is assigned to seduce him in hopes of intercepting Tariq, who is devising a plan to kill Israel's prime minister during peace talks with Arafat in New York and he has similar plans for Gabriel. The tortuous plot leading the various parties to the showdown in Manhattan is a thrilling roller-coaster ride, keeping readers guessing until the mind-bending conclusion. Sensitive to both sides of the conflict, the narrative manages to walk a political tightrope while examining the motivations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The duplicity and secret financial juggling to keep government hands clean is personified in publishing mogul Benjamin Stone, who backs the Israeli efforts. He is just one of many larger-than-life characters (both real and invented) thrown into the mix-- Arafat himself has a tense encounter with Tariq that underscores the volatility of terrorist loyalty. An array of global locales adds to the complexity and authenticity of the dizzying, cinematic plot.

Wow! I don't know about you, but I just added several books to my wish list!

Stop by next weekend when June will start off my celebration of mysteries that spotlight the Great Outdoors.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The New Freezer Arriveth Weekly Link Round-Up

It is now official. I'm 56, and I'm just now getting into cooking a bit more. I'll never love it, but at least I can see the value of having things on hand that I can turn into meals. Why am I saying this? Because a new upright freezer was delivered this week. Now I've got to go to the grocery store and buy things to put in it. However, if I play my cards right, I'll be cutting down the amount of time I spend shopping. That's a good thing because I don't like buying groceries.

Some new cushions for the patio furniture were also delivered, and I'll be taking some photos of my outside reading spaces for you to see some time in the future.

I have been sitting outside every afternoon, and I've been getting a lot of reading done. I've also been watching the wildlife. Have you ever seen two butterflies duke it out over some flowers? I have. A Cloudless Sulphur and a Giant Swallowtail. I've also been watching the verdins feed their young. (I intend to have a post about these funny little birds soon.)

The absolute hit of my afternoon wildlife listening has been the resident mockingbird who's learned how to imitate the clang of the light rail bell as it goes down the tracks a couple of blocks away. That's not the best in his repertoire, though. His best is singing the opening notes of "La Cucaracha". The first time I heard that, I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

Where are the links? Oops. This is the link round-up, isn't it? Let me see what I've been saving for you!

Bookish News & Other Fun Stuff


New to My Google Reader

That's it for this week! Stop by next weekend when I'll have a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nails by Peter Bowen

Title: Nails
Author: Peter Bowen
ISBN: 9780312312077
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2006
Hardcover, 240 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #13 Gabriel Du Pré mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: Du Pré looked east.

A family member has returned from Iraq missing a leg, an eye, and his grip on reality. His hellion of a granddaughter, Pallas, has returned from her studies in Washington, D.C., and a vanload of fundamentalist Christians has arrived in Toussaint, Montana. Du Pré is pretty sure he's going to have his hands full for a while.

Graffiti on the door of Father Van Den Heuvel's church and a panicked phone call from an unidentified girl cause people in the town of Toussaint to be worried, and when the nude body of a young girl is found by the side of the road, Du Pré and the others know it has something to do with the newly-arrived fundamentalists. The trick is in finding out how and why.

It is depressing when a much-loved series of books comes to an end, but in many ways, Nails is a fitting end to the story of Gabriel Du Pré and the people of Toussaint, Montana.

Throughout the series, Father Van Den Heuvel has been seen as a lovable but almost fatally clumsy man-- a figure of fun. In Nails, we are given a chance to see him fleshed out, and it becomes clear why the townspeople love him.

Gabriel Du Pré lives where he should-- in a land of fiercely independent people who take care of their own and who take responsibility for their own actions. He is the furthest thing from politically correct. He ignores the speed limit, smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, and drinks whisky like most people chug down bottled water. But he also plays fiddle like an angel, takes care of his friends, and defends the weak. These are his passions, and he serves them well.

Throughout the book are little stories that don't do much to advance the plot, but they make me smile and love these characters even more. These people are not rednecks. They are living the life they want to live and raising their families. Their children are scattered around the globe, serving in the military, working for oil companies, studying art.

A friend read one of these books. I had carefully told her about the non-PC elements because I didn't want her to have any rude shocks. When she was finished reading, she started to rant about child abuse and the myriad other things she found wrong. Well... she's thirty years younger than me. She's come to believe that parenting is in effect wrapping children in cotton batting so nothing can hurt them and giving them everything they want. When I read about Du Pré and Madelaine's methods, it feels familiar. I see lots of love, and I see people raising children to be responsible and to work for what they want. If this makes me an old fart, then that's what I am.

Nails is touched with sorrow, showing a small town that's dying around the edges. As a local schoolteacher says, "These days, if you don't have an education and often enough if you do, you work for nothing and you get nothing for a life of work." This book, more than all the others, shows how ignorance and fear beget violence.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew exactly what he was talking about when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Peter Bowen reminds us all that there are still people who do not fear to do what is right, and I cherish his portrait of them.

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Title: The Cold Light of Mourning
Author: Elizabeth J. Duncan
ISBN: 9780312558536
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2009
Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Penny Brannigan
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: Emma Teasdale had been ill for some time and on a cool evening in early June, alone and peacefully, she died.

When visiting the market town of Llanelen in North Wales as a young student, Penny Brannigan was taken under schoolteacher Emma Teasdale's wing. They became fast friends, and Penny moved from Nova Scotia in Canada to Llanelen where she opened a small nail salon. As the years passed, the two women shared their lives with each other just as a mother and daughter might. Emma's death, although expected, has greatly shaken Penny, leaving her feeling at loose ends.

Perhaps that's why she takes such an interest in the disappearance of bride-to-be Meg Wynne Thompson. Self-made Meg Wynne was about to be married to the local landowner, and townspeople didn't like her much. But when the young woman vanishes on the morning of her wedding and Penny is the last person to see her alive, Penny feels that she should do everything she can to help the police solve the mystery.

Although the identity of the person responsible for Meg Wynne's disappearance was rather transparent to me, there was so much that I liked about this book that I didn't care.

Starting out with the stock characters of a typical small town, Duncan has added layers to them and created a wonderful cast. Penny's troubled youth in Canada has made her an adult who prefers to be in her own company, but she is a genuinely observant and caring person. Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies and Detective Sergeant Bethan Morgan are the sort of police officers you want to show up in your town to look for a missing person. Davies in particular quickly learns to appreciate Penny's eye for detail.

Penny isn't the typical amateur sleuth that she describes to friends:

"What, you mean like those dotty middle-aged amateur lady sleuths that you see in books? Tramping all over the evidence, touching things they shouldn't, putting themselves in harm's way, and just generally annoying the police?"

When she feels that she has something important that will help the police find Meg Wynne, she immediately calls them. It certainly is refreshing to have an amateur sleuth be level-headed and sensible, and it's fun to watch the inspector start to take a shine to her.

Although the villain of the piece was easily guessed, what wasn't easy was figuring out how it was all done. Between the characters and the crime details, this was a very enjoyable, light mystery, and I look forward to meeting Penny again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Scene of the Blog Featuring Robyn of You Think Too Much!

It can be a lot of fun surfing the internet because I never know just what-- or whom-- I'm going to find. On one of my wanderings I discovered the blog of a woman with a strong sense of place who loves to read and play the fiddle. Serendipity took me straight to Robyn of You Think Too Much.

Robyn is a sociologist, a stepmother, a reader, cook, baker, and grower of things who lives in a 170-year-old house in Madison, Indiana. Besides learning the fiddle, she's also recently taken up knitting (and I hope she has more success with it than I did).

When you read Robyn's blog, you'll not only be reading reviews of the books she's read, but you'll be learning about where she lives with posts about Madison like the one about her local library. She also hosts the Blog in Place Blog Hop in which she asks participants to tell us about the places in which they live.

Please make a point to visit Robyn's blog You Think Too Much, and say hello while you're perusing all the goodies. Before we start our tour of Robyn's creative spaces, don't forget that you can click on each photo to see it in a larger size. Let's get started!

As someone who loves place and thinking about places, I’m so excited to be featured on Scene of the Blog.  I love looking at the pictures of the places where folks live and read and blog.  I love being able to imagine my favorite bloggers sitting in those spaces and crafting their posts.  So, thanks for featuring me, Cathy!

Upstairs bookshelves
I’m a roaming reader/blogger.  I wrote most of my 543 page sociology of gender textbook in this chair next to my upstairs window.  At the time, the beautiful bookshelves built for us by our friend and neighbor were not there.  These bookshelves are shared by my husband and I, and it was my idea to paint the back of the shelves this lovely blue.  Our friend built the shelves at his workshop and then brought them in to install, and like most things in our small, 1840s house, the shelves didn’t fit in the door.  He had to stand on the roof and get these through my stepdaughter’s bedroom window.  Thankfully, I wasn’t home when that was happening.  Not all of our books actually fit here, as we’re both academics and both prolific owners of books, so down the road, our friend will be building us more bookshelves.

The couch and Kevin
This is where I do most of my reading and knitting, some writing, and a lot of blog trolling.  Some reading happens during baseball games watched by my husband, though you can pay a surprising amount of attention to a baseball game while reading.  In the window in the background is Kevin, our cat.  Kevin is a girl cat, named by our stepdaughter, perhaps after Kevin the bird in the movie "Up".  No reading or blogging takes place during NFL football games, though, and especially not the Bengals (yes, there’s a sad and ugly secret revealed—I’m a Bengals fan).

My bookshelf

This is my bookshelf, as in all my books, all the time.  As you can see, it’s generally pretty chaotic.  I’m trying to cull it down to only the books I absolutely must own, but in the meantime there’s a revolving door of library books, and ARCs and used books, and borrowed books.

605 Grille
I’ve blogged quite a bit about the 605 Grille, my family’s home away from home.  Here you see my computer set up for a morning of writing with my cappuccino, but just one.  More than one cappuccino means I’m jangly like a rodent or other prey animal for the rest of the day and likely to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep.  Not pictured here are Julie-Kate and Elissa, my faithful cappuccino providers, and my husband, who is often next to me before heading off to teach, or any of the other morning regulars.

Dining room table
Note that there are no pictures of an office included here.  I do have one, as well as an actual job.  But I’m on sabbatical right now, so I go there as infrequently as possible, and when I want to do any kind of work that’s not talking to students, I generally don’t do it in my office.  But sometimes you need to put your laptop somewhere besides your lap (or so my chiropractor tells me), so sometimes I write here at our dining room table.  This is our old dining room table.   Our new dining room table was also constructed by our friend and neighbor, and also did not fit in most of our doors.  At least 4 doors had to be removed before the absolutely gorgeous dining room table made from old pine wood we found in our attic successfully entered our house.

The kitchen couch
This looks like the other couch, but this is our kitchen couch.  Yes, we have a couch in our kitchen.  It is simply one of the best ideas I have ever had.  It happened because we have a large kitchen and a small living room, with no room for a couch and a love seat.  So when I moved into our house, we just put the couch in the kitchen and then never moved it.  Because a couch in the kitchen is freaking brilliant!  Whoever is not cooking can lounge while the other person cooks.   If someone is watching noxious t.v. in the living room (which usually means something from the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon), there’s another couch space available.  While the water is heating to boil the pasta, oh, look, there’s a comfy couch to sit and wait!  I’m writing this on the kitchen couch as we speak.  I should also point out that in my experience, every time you have a party, everyone goes immediately to the kitchen.  Why fight that?  Provide some comfy seating instead.  Also, you can peruse the contents of our pantry.

Robyn's fiddle
And finally, just for fun, this is my beautiful old fiddle.  Isn’t it lovely? Hope you enjoyed this tour of my particular scene!  If you’re interested in thinking about places in general, check out my new blog hop that also has is all about place, Blog In Place.  Thanks again, Cathy!

The pleasure is all mine, Robyn! I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel as though I've just had a nice chat with an old friend-- with the added bonus of a tour of her wonderful old house. I don't know where I want to go first: give Kevin a scratch, check out those handcrafted bookshelves upstairs, sit on the couch in the kitchen... argh!... what tough decisions! Hmm... perhaps a look at the upstairs bookshelves, then a sitdown on the couch in the kitchen to give Kevin that scratch while I listen to Robyn play the fiddle. What do you think? Sound like a plan?

Thank you so much for sharing your creative spaces with us, Robyn. It's too bad I'm so far away because I'd love to have that friend of yours build some furniture for me!

Scene of the Blog may be taking a short hiatus next Wednesday because none of the many book bloggers I've been in contact with have been able to send me any goodies. Hopefully that will change, so keep your fingers crossed! (If you haven't been asked and would like to participate, I am a firm believer that volunteers are wonderful. Just use the contact form up top in my header!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where Is She This Wordless Wednesday

Click to view full size. More Wordless Wednesday.

A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan

Title: A Nail Through the Heart
Author: Timothy Hallinan
ISBN: 9780061257223
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks, 2008
Paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #1 Poke Rafferty
Rating: A+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Moon and river.

Poke Rafferty had been making his leisurely way around the world, writing a series of travel books for young and terminally bored males. First came Looking for Trouble in the Philippines, then Looking for Trouble in Indonesia, but when it was time to write Looking for Trouble in Thailand, he found the country had an unbreakable hold on him in the form of two women: beautiful former go-go dancer Rose, whom he wants to marry, and Miaow, a tiny young girl Poke rescued from the streets, whom he wants to adopt.

Unfortunately he was once very lucky in finding someone, and that luck has come to haunt him. Poke reluctantly agrees to try to locate an Australian woman's missing uncle, and even more reluctantly takes on the assignment of locating a blackmailer. He needs the money to speed the adoption of Miaow. To top it all off, that tiny urchin insists that he take another street child under his wing-- a very scary young boy known as Superman. Things are about to become very, very complicated. Not only is Poke not a real investigator, he really doesn't understand the country in which he's living, and that is a volatile and dangerous combination.

I could go on and on about characters that immediately latched on to my heart, a setting that I could taste and smell and feel, and a plot that flowed smoothly to its conclusion, but I won't.

What struck me most forcibly in reading A Nail Through the Heart was a true feeling for the culture of the people of Thailand. I have long been a fan of the novels of John Burdett which are also set in Bangkok. Featuring Royal Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, they also are fascinating portraits of the Thai culture. In them, however, I will never be anything other than a farang-- an outsider, a foreigner, a crass American who will never truly understand the Thai people. Although keeping me at that remove is a good thing for maintaining necessary humility, I found Poke's sometimes bumbling attempts to understand a very different culture made me an ally who was more willing to open her mind and her heart. As Poke learned, so did I.

Heart. Not only is heart in the title of this book, it is also on every page. As each chapter flowed into the next, I felt that Hallinan wrote this with a great deal of heart, of emotion... of love. As a result Thailand became alive to me in a way that it never had before.

Timothy Hallinan, you are jai dee.

What Is Your Feng Shui Color?

Your Color is Blue

You are a calm and content person. You find that the key to life is easy... just be yourself!

You believe in the importance of letting go. You release your anxieties and welcome renewal.

You are a generous person, and you look for the best in people. You promote peace and trust.

You value intellect and experience. Unlike most people, you truly respect your elders.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author I.J. Parker

Today on Scene of the Crime, I have the pleasure of interviewing the author of one of the best historical mystery series going.

Award-winning author, I.J. Parker, former Associate Professor of English and Foreign Languages, writes the Sugawara Akitada mysteries set in 11th century Japan.

Here's a brief description of Parker's main character from her website:

His noble family fallen on hard times, Sugawara Akitada works as a minor official in the Ministry of Justice in Heian Kyo, capital of Japan in the 11th century. The post is boring, but there are bills to pay, servants to maintain and a diminished estate to keep up as best he can. However, Akitada also has a sharp mind and an inquisitive nature, both of which get put to the test as he unravels murders and mysteries that carry him from the depths of the most common peasant hovels to the sacred halls of the Imperial Palace itself. Bound not only by his sense of decency and honor, but the strict codes and social structure of Ancient Japan, Akitada must step carefully while gathering clues to solve the puzzles before him.

The series numbers eight books, and here they are listed in series chronological order. (Don't let the publishing dates confuse you!)-- The Dragon Scroll (2005), Rashomon Gate (2002), Black Arrow (2006), Island of Exiles (2007), The Hell Screen (2003), The Convict's Sword (2009), The Masuda Affair (2010), and The Fires of the Gods (2011).

To whet your appetite, here's what Publishers Weekly has to say about her latest book, The Fires of the Gods:
Starred Review. Parker raises the stakes considerably for her fallible but honorable series sleuth in her excellent eighth mystery set in 11th-century Japan. Ministry of Justice senior secretary Sugawara Akitada is already on edge with the impending birth of his second child, having lost his firstborn to illness, when he receives devastating professional news. As a result of interference by controller Kiyowara Kane, Akitada has been demoted to junior secretary, with his incompetent subordinate promoted to his old position. The outraged Akitada seeks an interview with Kane, only to be left waiting in the antechamber without getting an explanation for the slander campaign against him. To make matters worse, he soon comes under suspicion of murder, and he must disobey his superiors to solve the crime himself and clear his name. Parker masterfully blends action and detection while making the attitudes and customs of the period accessible.

If you'd like to learn more about I.J. Parker, you can visit her website, or "like" her page on Facebook. Now on to the interview!

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

I stayed up all night reading GONE WITH THE WIND and FOREVER AMBER when I was a teen.  I suppose it had something to do with my age and gender, but the books were also paced well.  I’m well over the romance genre by now.

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

I keep a garden.  The mixed border is my specialty, but a part of my property is for cottage garden flowers.

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

I live near the ocean and the bay.  A number of rivers feed into those waters and driving or riding a bike around those gorgeous waterfront neighborhoods is a great pleasure.  A lot of waterfowl, like ducks, Canada geese, egrets, herons, and pelicans have their habitat here, and the grounds are generally beautiful.

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

Helen Mirren
Probably Helen Mirren because I like her work.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Oh, God!  I have so many I cannot pick only one.  There are characters I miss terribly:  Keating’s Inspector Ghote, Dexter’s Inspector Morse, Wingfield’s Frost.  And there are a few I look forward to meeting again:  McCall-Smith’s Mma Ramotswe, for example, or Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe, or Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

Professional articles on the Romantic poets and some fairly awful regency romances. (I shouldn’t admit to the latter).

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

I’m not one of those people who get thrilled by seeing themselves in print. So holding the book in my hand does nothing for me.  In book stores or libraries I’m more likely to get depressed when the books aren’t there or aren’t all there, though in a library that may mean they are checked out.  There was no celebration for the first book, or the first story.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy signing the contracts.

I know that research for your series is done with translations and the help of scholars who specialize in that period of Japanese history. How do you go about finding these scholars to ask them for help?

By now I own almost all the books that are useful for my period in Japanese history.  In addition, I’m a member of Premodern Japanese Studies, an online site where I can ask questions of the scholars if necessary.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

I.J. Parker
Yes, I have seen it.  And it’s hilarious, if you don’t find yourself in that situation. I have been there a number of times, alas.  In fact, I cannot remember a signing that went smoothly and sold enough books to make my expenses worthwhile.  And there are always expenses, even when the publisher pays for the tour.  The worst one was at a Barnes & Noble store where my little group and I were directed to a corner that also served as sleeping quarters for a homeless man.  He was very put out by our presence and let us know it by constant complaints. I persisted for an hour or so, because people had questions, but I did not sell a single book that day.  I no longer do book signings.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?

I like the advent of electronic publishing.  My experience with print publishers (and I have been with two of the big houses) has not been stellar.  I like the fact that authors have an option now and may do much better financially by self-publishing via Kindle and the other formats.  In fact, I’ve just put four of my novels on Kindle at a much lower price than my publisher-owned Kindle books. I also like the fact that I have control over pricing and cover designs.

What will happen to traditional publishing is another question.  The industry is in trouble.  I still love a book where you can turn pages, and so I hope that there will always be those, but we may get to the point where only bestselling titles will be available in print, and a reader’s choices will become very narrow.

I hope you're wrong about there only being bestsellers in print, but I don't think you are. I foresee in the near future that publishers will only have advanced reading copies in electronic form, which means I'll have to adapt.

Thank you so much for spending this time with us. I hope there will be many more adventures for Sugawara Akitada!