Friday, 06 January 2017 09:01


lehanecon Murderatthe42ndStreetLibrary
Ah, the library—a bastion of knowledge, a home for books of all kinds, a place where one can relax and read or research.

And a pretty good place to set a mystery.

I love libraries.

I spent a lot of my childhood happily in the library of my small Missouri town, reading just about everything in the children’s section. 

That’s why I gravitated to mysteries so early—I needed another kind of book than those for children.

And I am happy to give presentations or speeches at area libraries.

Libraries have been able to change with the times, offering audiobooks, DVDs, and ebooks, and that makes them as relevant today as ever.

May libraries and librarians rule forever.

Lately, it seems as if there has been an explosion of mysteries set in libraries—which makes perfect sense to me.

In large libraries, there are lots of places to hide among the stacks or conduct clandestine business or spy on people, and that leads suspense.
jamesmiranda arsenicandoldbooks

So here are a few library-based mysteries worth checking out.

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris: After a 13-year absence, Lawrenceton, Georgia librarian Aurora Teagarden makes her return in this lively novel. Charlaine Harris put Aurora on hiatus back in 2003 after Poppy Done to Death. Understandable, since Harris has been a bit busy with other kinds of novels. As usual, Harris uses her amateur sleuth to look at contemporary issues such as bullying and entitlement.

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane: What better place to launch a new series than the beautiful and iconic New York Public Library on 42nd Street in Manhattan, with its stone lions in front, multiple levels, and history? Here, librarian Raymond “Ray” Ambler heads the library’s crime fiction section, and his insight into the workings of the criminal mind go beyond his job. Readers will enjoy an inside look at the building’s various floors, forgotten stacks, and the veranda overlooking Bryant Park.

Better Late Than Never by Jenn McKinlay: This series has an apt subtitle—”The Library Lover’s Mysteries.” As the director of the Briar Creek Public Library, Lindsey Norris handles patrons and authors with skill. In her latest adventure, Lindsey finds that the Briar Creek Public Library’s first overdue-book amnesty day—no fines for late returns—brings in more materials than she or her staff can handle. But what is that copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye doing there? It was checked out more than 20 years ago by Candice Whitley, a  school teacher who was murdered. Her killer was never found. (McKinlay’s previous effort, A Likely Story, is also just out in paperback.)

Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James: Miranda James’ novels about Mississippi librarian Charlie and his Maine Coon cat Diesel are just delightful. There is no other word for them. Subtitled “Cat in the Stack Mysteries,” the six novels are an homage to libraries, cats, and small towns. In Arsenic and Old Books, Charlie is asked to preserve and to substantiate a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. Miranda James is the pen name of Agatha Award-winning author Dean James, who writes several series.


Saturday, 17 December 2016 09:12


hurwitz thebookofhenry
Most movies have what seem like endless previews, clips, and ads—by the time the film actually does come out, we almost know too much about it.

No so The Book of Henry.

This film has been kept so under wraps that up until recently only the director, Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), and the cast, including Naomi Watts and Susan Silverman, had been announced.

The latest press release gives scant information: “The Book of Henry is the story of a single mother raising two boys, one of whom is a genius.”

That’s the same description that was sent out last year, just before Mystery Scene ran an interview with Gregg Hurwitz, the thriller writer who wrote the screenplay for The Book of Henry. (Hurwitz is profiled in the Winter Issue 2016, No. 143.)

There’s a bit more about The Book of Henry on its Facebook page.

Hurwitz write the screenplay of The Book of Henry more than 18 years ago.

Hurwitz is best known for his series of standalone, high-energy thrillers. His career as a novelist took a different turn last year with the release of Orphan X, the first in a new series about Evan Smoak, who was trained to be an assassin under the government’s secret Orphan Program since he was a child.

It wasn’t difficult teaching him to kill, Evan’s handler told him, “The hard part is keeping you human.” Evan leaves the program to become a rogue operator known as The Nowhere Man, with a mission to help those in need. His payment is that each client refers him to another innocent person in trouble. Orphan X perfectly blends an action-packed plot with realistic characters worth caring about and the finest in high technology.

(For my annual best mysteries list, Orphan X ranked high. The complete list is here.)

The second in Hurwitz’s new series, The Nowhere Man, will be published in February 2017.

And look for The Book of Henry to be released in select cities on June 17, 2017.

Saturday, 10 December 2016 02:12

grippandojames daughterAinsley James Grippando is known for his hard-edged thrillers, and readers will have to wait until February for his 25th novel, Most Dangerous Place, which continues his series about Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck.

But Grippando’s latest work is his first novella, and for this book, he has a co-author, of sorts.

The Penny Jumper introduces Ainsley Grace, a brilliant young astrophysicist who writes complex codes for Wall Street traders to pay off her college debt. The job takes a turn when she discovers the secrets of ruthless power brokers.

There is a real Ainsley Grace: Grippando’s daughter, who gave him the idea for the novella. Ainsley Grace Grippando isn’t in college yet—she’s a sixth grader.

A lovely photo of Ainsley Grace and James Grippando is at left; the photo was taken by Tiffany Grippando, Ainsley's mother and James' wife.

But the real Ainsley Grace has had a lifelong interest in science. At age three, she told her parents she wanted to grow up to build the world’s largest telescope.

His daughter’s interest inspired Grippando to research what exactly an astrophysicist is.

“Then a weird fact caught my eye: over 2,000 astrophysicists are currently working on Wall Street. They create the algorithms that identify trading patterns and allow Wall Street’s most profitable firms to exploit discrepancies in price that exist for only a matter of microseconds,” Grippando said in an email.

“More than 70 percent of trading on stock exchanges is now done by computers, and the big winners are the high-speed traders who can buy and sell in the blink of an eye. This kind of speed and time synchronization, it turns out, is right up the astrophysicist’s alley,” he added.

Ainsley Grace has joined her father at several book signing events.

“Early on, we knew Ainsley was special,” said the proud father. “Three months before her third birthday, we were at a Thanksgiving gathering at a friend’s house. The host offered the kids cupcakes. The decorative icing on each cupcake was unique: a pilgrim, a turkey, or some other symbol of the holiday.

“The host bent over and presented the tray to Ainsley. “Sweetie, would you like the CHOC—OH—LIT, or the VAH—NIL—LAH?” she asked, thinking that her overworked enunciation might help Ainsley understand. ‘I’ll have the cornucopia,’ said Ainsley, using a five-syllable word that the old children had never heard in their lives,” said Grippando, adding that he used that true-life story in the opening chapter of The Penny Jumper.

The Penny Jumper also includes other works by Grippando. “Death, Cheated” is a Jack Swyteck short story he wrote years ago, when he and his editor were deciding whether Jack—introduced to readers in The Pardon (1994)—should return as a serial character. It is the only Jack Swyteck written in first person; the series is in third person.

Also included is “Green Eyed Lady,” a short story featuring FBI Agent Andie Henning, who is now part of the Jack Swyteck series.  

Grippando also has included an essay that always makes me cry. “Sammy and Me” is a short nonfiction tribute to Grippando’s four-legged companion for his first 10 novels. This heartfelt tribute first appeared in newspapers after Sammy’s passing in 2006. It’s tailor-made for those of us who love our pets.

And here’s a little bit of family trivia about Grippando’s novels. Each has been dedicated to Tiffany, his wife.