Saturday, 21 September 2019 16:19

Stumptown, debuting at 10 p.m. Sept. 25 on ABC, has the kind of crime fiction pedigree that has been missing from TV for several years.

First, the lead character Dex Parios, played by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Avengers), will find her calling as a private detective, a job that will allow her to channel her propensity for action and justice.

Second, and perhaps most important, Stumptown is adapted from Greg Rucka’s graphic novels, Stumptown. Mystery readers also may recognize Rucka’s name from his series of well received mystery novels.

Beginning with Keeper in 1997, Rucka wrote seven novels about professional bodyguard Atticus Kodiak, published by Bantam. I was a big fan of this series, which went on hiatus following Walking Dead (2010) as Rucker began to concentrate on his graphic novels and other works.

In my Sun Sentinel review of Smoker (1999), I wrote “. . . Greg Rucka easily melds the thriller and mystery genres in a cohesive, complex plot that turns on its own unpredictability. Surveillance scenes, usually a plot-stopper, have a real sense of urgency.

Smoker seals Rucka's status as a rising star whose books crackle with energy while examining current issues…

“Rucka's characters have depth. In Atticus Kodiak, Rucka designs a true modern hero whose vulnerability and toughness are interlinked. Self-doubt fuels his personality and makes him more cautious, but does not keep him from taking action when required.”

My reviews also mentioned Rucka’s flair for realistic women characters, which he has also brought to Stumptown and the character of Dex Parios.

Smulders may always be remembered for role in the comedy How I Met Your Mother—after all that sitcom seems to be in reruns as least twice a day, like Law & Order is.

But she shows a different range in Stumptown, which is, oddly, billed as a dramady.

Well, OK, there is humor but the focus in Stumptown seems to be more drama. Those a scene featuring a Neil Diamond song is pretty funny.

Dex is a veteran, adrift after leaving the service about a decade before. A heavy drinker with a heavier gambling debt, Dex can’t keep a job. She also suffers from PSTD, the result of her military tours, and cares for her brother who has Down Syndrome.

A redemption, of sorts, comes with her becoming a private investigator.

She’s not particularly good at it, but she tries.

The setting of Portland, Ore., which is nicknamed Stumptown, should lend itself to good background shots.

Brash and often out of control, Dex is the kind of character more seen on cable shows than a mainstream network.

I am looking forward to that edgy character and, I have high hopes as Rucka’s source material is solid.

Stumptown will air at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

Photos of Cobie Smulders/ABC

By Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 31 August 2019 11:46

Mystery readers also will be able to see some favorites on the screen.

Jonathan Lethem

The film version of Jonathan Lethem’s compelling 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn is set to have its New York premiere during the closing night of the 2019 New York Film Festival on October 13.

The official trailer also has been released.

The trailer looks good and the movie has a good pedigree.

Edward Norton wrote, directed and stars in Motherless Brooklyn.

The Motherless Brooklyn cast also includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

Set in 1950s New York, the very noir film revolve around lonely private detective Lionel Essrog (Norton) who has Tourette syndrome. With scant clues and his own obsessive mind, Lionel investigates the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Willis). As the case takes several twists, Lionel uncovers myriad secrets of the city.

Tragedy struck the filming of Motherless Brooklyn during March 2018 when a fire broke out below the set that engulfed the building. New York City firefighter Michael R. Davidson died after he was separated from his fellow firefighters in the thick smoke.

Residents of the Harlem building sued Norton's production company Class 5 Films and the property's owner for $7 million each, claiming claimed that the production company kept highly flammable equipment in the building's basement. The New York Fire Department ultimately determined that a boiler venting heat was the cause of the fire, according to news reports.

Lisa Lutz
Fox Entertainment has acquired the rights to The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz’s highly entertaining six novels about the Spellmans, a family of private investigators.

The novels, which were launched in 1997, are to be developed as a drama series. No word, yet, as to the progress of this deal or when it might be filmed, or who might play Isabel Spellman.

Lutz’s novels are a fine mix of solid plotting and wry humor, especially in the character of Isabel, a 28-year-old private investigator whose past includes many romantic mistakes, excessive drinking and a bit of creative vandalism. She also is addicted to Get Smart reruns and is quite adapt at entering homes through windows.

Isabel is a juicy part and there are many young up-and-coming actresses who could nail this role.

Lutz’s latest novel is The Swallows, about a New England teacher who starts a gender war at the prep school where she works.

Emily St John Mandel

Readers may be familiar with Emily St John Mandel’s first four books—Last Night In Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, The Lola Quartet and Station Eleven, which was nominated for a National Book Award and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

But her fifth novel The Glass Hotel already is causing a buzz, and it won’t be out until March 2020 from Knopf.

The Glass Hotel may become a television series as NBCUniversal International Studios has acquired the rights.

Mandel will write the pilot, her first television screenplay.

In The Glass Hotel, the disappearance of a woman from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania eventually leads to a massive ponzi scheme New York that destroys many fortunes and lives. The action moves from Manhattan to northern Vancouver Island. The novel is described as a dark look at “greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts,” according to a press release.

By Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 24 August 2019 12:40

Those of us who review mystery fiction also receive press releases explaining why we should take another look at a particular novel.

I found a release accompanying Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen (Flatiron) rather effective because it gives tidbits about the book and the author, at left. The tagline to Cavanagh’s fourth novel says it all: “The Serial Killer Isn't on trial... He's on the Jury.”

That tagline may attract readers and they will not be disappointed by the involving plot, a creepy bad guy and a flawed hero. Action is well placed and the novel offers an interesting look at the legal system.

And since the novel is titled Thirteen, the publicist included 13 reasons to highlight it. I’m only including 11 of those reasons.

1) The TV and film rights to Thirteen were recently bought by Topic Studios, which has produced TV's shows like Netflix's thriller The Fall.

2) A No. 1 bestseller in Ireland and a Sunday Times bestseller in the U.K., Thirteen has been shortlisted for two prizes: the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Daggar Award and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

3) In the U.S., it has two starred trade reviews from and PW and Booklist, as well as rave reviews from Mystery Scene and the Associated Press.

4) It's been included in three most anticipated books of the summer list, including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who called it "cleverly plotted thriller" and "a blockbuster"

5) Thirteen is the fourth in his series that features former con-man-turned defense lawyer Eddie Flynn, who the Irish Times described as “Jack Reacher’s younger, hotter-headed brother.”

6) The book also features Joshua Kane--one of the summer's most sinister serial killers, akin to Ted Bundy, who frames a movie star for the murder Kane committed and then kills to get on the trial's jury.

7) Cavanagh came up with the novel's hook--"The Serial Killer Isn't on trial... He's on the Jury."--before he even wrote one sentence of the story.

8) Born and raised in Belfast, Cavanagh was one of Ireland's most notable civil rights attorneys before he retired to focus on writing. He was involved in several high profile cases, including a 2010 case in which he represented a factory worker who suffered racial abuse in the workplace and won the largest award of damages for race discrimination in Northern Ireland legal history.

9) Cavanagh inadvertently signed up for law classes: The morning Steve was to sign up for degree classes at university in Dublin, he was severely hungover, got disoriented, and signed up to study law instead of business/marketing as he planned.

10) The idea for Eddie Flynn, the conman-turned-defense-lawyer, came to Steve in the middle of a trial. As he sees it trial lawyers and con artists share the same skills – persuasion, misdirection, distraction, manipulation. Eddie cons juries, judges and prosecutors – but he’s always doing it for the right reasons.

11) Although Thirteen is set in Manhattan, Cavanagh had never even vacationed in New York City before writing the first two books in the Eddie Flynn series, The Plea and The Defense.

Photo of Steve Cavanagh by Credit Kelly M Photography

Oline H Cogdill