Criminal Offense: Women Writers Overlooked
Kate Stine

mcdermid_valIn case you think that discrimination in the crime writing world is a thing of the past, here’s an incident recounted by the Scottish writer Val McDermid. It appeared in The Scotsman, August 15, 2007:

McDermid said she was sitting next to the thriller-buyer for a major chain at a trade dinner: “He was … talking about his new job, and he said, ‘I had no idea of how much reading was going to be involved in this.’

“Then he said, ‘Of course, I don’t read books by women.’ And this is one of the most powerful purchasers in the country. And he doesn’t read books by women.

“What I wanted to do was to grab him by the throat, smack him against the wall and say, ‘You stupid a***hole!’ But what I actually said was, ‘Perhaps you might like to try one of mine?’”

Congratulations to Val on her restraint!

From Mystery Scene blog, August 2007.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-06 16:52:48

mcdermid_val_cropped

Author Val McDermid keeps it lady-like in the face of industry chauvinism.

Deep Shadow
Jim Winter

Doc Ford, a marine biologist with a temper, is making a return engagement in Randy Wayne White’s latest, Deep Shadow. In Shadow, King and Perry are two murderers on the run who figure on stealing a pickup brought by four divers to the Florida lake where the crooks are hiding out. Unfortunately for them, they’ve just crossed Doc Ford.

In this 17th in the series, Ford, sea dog Arlis, mellow hippie Tomlinson, and troubled Indian youth Will, are diving to recover a Cuban plane full of gold, which may have crashed into the lake back in 1958. Soon the diving expedition is face to face with three unknown dangers: King and Perry, armed and not all that bright (a deadly combination); dangerous diving conditions posed by the unique geologic makeup of the lake; and something else, something living in the lake...something that's been killing and eating the local cattle.

As longtime fans of White know, Ford is an engaging character, smart, stubborn, with a bit of a mean streak all his own. In ways, he’s not all that different from the story’s two slow-witted villains, except that he has a moral compass–and an IQ over 100. It's an entertaining cast of characters, which includes Ford's companions, an eclectic mix of cranky old man, mellow shaman, and troubled youth. Even the dynamic between King and Perry works as Perry realizes his partner is an egotistical idiot. Most of the novel is a battle of wits pitting Ford and Arlis against the two ex-convicts in a nonstop game of survival with life and death stakes. Randy Wayne White knows how to keep pages turning.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-07 03:54:38

white_deepshadow Marine biologist with a temper Doc Ford is back in Randy Wayne White's latest. See also Mystery Scene's cover feature with White in the print issue of Winter #113.

Collecting Ephemera
Kate Stine

Convention Program Books offer essays about and by mystery authors. If the author you’re collecting has been a Guest of Honor, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, or even just a contributor, you’ll want to get that particular program. Some to look for: Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Crimefest (UK), Magna Cum Murder, and Deadly Ink.

The Mystery Writers of America puts out an Annual written by its members every spring at the time of the Edgar Awards. These can offer fascinating insights into an author’s career and personality.

FAN Magazines such as The Armchair Detective (1967-2007) offer interesting collecting opportunities. Cover articles, interviews, and critical assessments are all of interest and many writers contributed articles and letters. Copies are often available on or at mystery specialists. Other magazines: Mystery Scene, Deadly Pleasures, CADS, Mystery FANcier, Mystery News, Mystery Readers International, and Crimespree.

Author Newsletters by Janet Evanovich, Lawrence Block, Bill Crider, and Elizabeth Peters, among others, are still floating around in print, with many more in electronic formats. There have also been Fan Newsletters devoted to John D. MacDonald, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and many more.

Chapbooks are sometimes given to customers by booksellers and small presses. Short story specialists Crippen & Landru publishes two notable series, one for C&L customers and another for Malice Domestic attendees. These have featured original short stories by: Peter Robinson, Margaret Maron, Tony Hillerman, Edward Marston, Ed Hoch, and many others. (A full list is available at the Mystery Scene website.) The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City has also published a number of chapbooks with stories by Donald E. Westlake and Lawrence Block, among others.

Biographical materials such as high school yearbooks and birth, marriage and death announcements from newspapers, can all add interest and information to your collection. Does an author mention a youthful poem published in his hometown newspaper? Track it down!

PROMOTIONAL ITEMS such as bookmarks, drawings, recipe cards, maps, music CDs, etc., are often given away at conventions or book signings. Of particular interest are items that the author had a hand in creating.

bruns_jamaicacoaster child_enemy_medal2004 pickard_drcouchsavesabird pelecanos_hardrevolutionsoundtrack

From L-R: Jamaica Blue coaster from Don Bruns event, The Enemy medal from Lee Child's event, Dr. Couch Saves the Bird Nancy Pickard chapbook given out by Crippen & Landru to their regular customers, Hard Revolution soundtrack from George Pelecanos.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-07 13:41:41

mwa1995annualgoreyLearn how collecting specialty and companion items to your favorite books can be both fun and valuable.

The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

Teddy Ruzak is a weird cross between Sam Spade and Woody Allen’s film persona. Like Spade, Ruzak has a strong moral compass, good detective instincts, and a sharp, good-looking and loyal receptionist. Like Woody Allen’s schlemiel, he’s bumbled his exam to become a licensed detective. As a result, he is in danger of being shut down by a dogged local official who doesn’t buy his office sign that reads: Research and Analysis, LLC. He is also in danger of being thrown out of his no-pets apartment because he has a dog. What’s worse, the dog seems to like everyone else except him.

As Plays the Fool opens, a beautiful blonde walks into his office and asks him to get the dirt on her husband’s infidelity. It seems like a simple enough case for a pseudo private investigator, but all is not as it seems and the case takes one bizarre turn after another, including a sudden disappearance and a possible murder.

It’s hard not to like Ruzak. His offbeat sense of humor and his verbal jousts with just about everyone he encounters are highly entertaining, and his stubborn determination to do the right thing makes you root for him all the more.

This is the third in the series by Richard Yancey, which also includes The Highly Effective Detective (2006) and The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs (2008). It’s a quick, easy, and enjoyable read and will be highly effective in cleansing the literary palate in between other, generally darker, murder mystery fare.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-08 16:25:43

The latest in the highly hilarious series featuring PI Teddy Ruzak.

Watchlist: a Serial Thriller
Tom Nolan

Twenty-one of the world’s greatest thriller writers including Jeffery Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child, Joseph Finder, David Hewson, and S.J. Rozan write a chapter each for "two serial thrillers in one killer book."

Writers tend to be solitary creatures: planning and creating stories all by themselves. As bestselling thriller-maestro Jeffery Deaver says, “I never collaborate with other authors in actually writing a short story or novel. I guess you would say I don't play well with others.”

So what happens when a professional loner like Jeff Deaver accepts an assignment to be one of nearly two dozen writers working in virtual tandem on a couple of collectively-authored original tales?

What happens is Watchlist (Vanguard, $25.95)—“two serial thrillers in one killer book”—which has good cause to justify being described (by James Rollins, a non-Watchlist participant) as “innovative and unique.”

For starters, Jeffery Deaver and his fellow participants—who included such well-known names as Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Lisa Scottoline, Peter Spiegelman, Linda Barnes, Jim Fusilli (who also served as the project’s editor), Joseph Finder, and S.J. Rozan—all worked for free: Both stories, the initial “The Chopin Manuscript” and its successor “The Copper Bracelet,” were done as fundraisers for The International Thriller Writers, Inc.

In addition, each of Watchlist’s two prose-tales began life as an audiobook performed by actor Alfred Molina and released by Audible.com—with “The Chopin Manuscript” later winning an Audie Award as best audiobook of the year, and “The Copper Bracelet” becoming Audible’s number-one bestseller on its release.

And making each story in Watchlist even more singular, neither was written with benefit of outline. In each case, Jeffery Deaver began the tale, then passed it on to the next author to add to and forward in turn—with no writer knowing where his or her successor would move the plot. It was Deaver’s added duty, near the end of each chronicle, to receive the collective results and resolve them in a fitting denouement.

“There was no framework at all,” Jeff Deaver confirms. “I of course had a few ideas about where I would have taken the story had I been writing ‘The Chopin Manuscript’ or ‘The Copper Bracelet’ by myself. But the whole point of this very exciting project was for each author to take the story where he or she thought best.”

“Jeff was fairly amazing,” says Jim Fusilli, who’d never met Deaver before “The Chopin Manuscript” began. “When he sent me the first chapter, I contacted him and asked if he was sure he wanted to give it away; I think it was brilliant.”

barnes_lindabattles_brettchild_leecorbett_david

Pictured L-R: Linda Barnes, Brett Battles, Lee Child, and David Corbett

That first story turns on a secret message embedded in the score of an unpublished composition by Frederic Chopin; its sequel involves an international plot that could plunge the world into nuclear war. Overarching both tales is the saga of War Criminal Watch, a nonprofit group devoted to tracking down human rights violators wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and other tribunals. WCW, like the authors’ group cooking up their adventures, operates pro bono: “Since they were not affiliated with any law enforcement agency or non-governmental organization and made virtually no money for their work,” to quote a chapter written by Deaver, “they were known as the Volunteers.” “Jeff established the style, and I tried to keep us consistent,” says Fusilli (whose comments to Mystery Scene, like Deaver’s, were made in the same mode as the book was assembled: by email). “The trick was to allow the authors to retain their own voice.”

Despite its improvisatory nature, Fusilli says, and a trajectory that ranged from Europe to America to the Middle East, Watchlist’s high-wire act was executed with surprising ease: “These writers are seasoned professionals who know how to serve the story. … When readers see what P.J. Parrish did in ‘The Chopin Manuscript’ and what Lisa Scottoline did in ‘The Copper Bracelet,’ they’ll know the authors had the freedom to go where they wanted to. In ‘The Copper Bracelet,’ we had no idea Joe Finder was going to take us to Russia.”

Jim Fusilli kept running-summaries of the storylines and sent them to each author after each chapter was added. “The challenge,” he says, “was to keep the summaries transparent—that is, not to tip the story in any direction that would suggest to an author where I thought it should go...I was always surprised and a few times I was knocked out by how inventive our contributors were—though I shouldn’t have been surprised: These are some of the best thriller writers in the business.”

Jeff Deaver was startled too by what his colleagues had wrought from his openings: “The entire manuscript was full of unexpected surprises, which was of course the purpose of the project: to create a very fast-paced thriller filled with twists and turns. In both stories in Watchlist I found only a few places where I needed to go back to the original author of a chapter or two and ask if it was all right to make a minor change; not that there was anything wrong with the original chapter, but I felt to create the greatest impact of surprise a little adjustment earlier on would have made sense. After all, this is the way we all work as thriller-writers. In those few instances, the other authors were generous and accommodating. That in fact was the attitude of everyone involved in the project.”

These cooperative collaborators produced a pair of adaptable tales equally suited to being heard through the ear or read on the page. Has Watchlist caught a multimedia wave of the future?

“I think all of us in the business of creating entertainment for our audience should be aware of the convergence of media,” Jeffery Deaver says. “But whether one reads, listens or watches, a good story is always a good story.”

Jim Fusilli hopes there is room in that media-convergent universe for more adventures of the War Criminal Watch team. “I’d love to see these characters return,” he says. “In some cases, they have major issues that have yet to be resolved. The world needs the Volunteers.”


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Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 13:17:43


deaver_watchlistThe story behind how 21 of the world's best thriller writers came together in one killer new book.

A Thousand Cuts
Betty Webb

In an anonymous city in England, recently hired history teacher Samuel Szajkowski shoots and kills several students and a colleague before he kills himself. Once the bodies have been carted away, author Lelic gives us a horrific yet masterfully written tour of the crime scene by Detective Inspector Lucia May, as the DI envisions the fear and disbelief on the victims' faces when the gun was turned towards them. Fear and disbelief are no strangers to DI May. After joining the police force, she became the target of bullying and extreme sexual harassment by her fellow officers. This close-up experience with workplace cruelty makes her more willing than others to delve into Szajkowsk's possible motives. Had the teacher been bullied? The answer appears to be yes. May's investigation uncovers a school run by a headmaster so insensitive he should never have been allowed anywhere near a child nor a vulnerable adult. And following the headmaster's example, student bullies have also been terrorizing the school to the point of beating one already-disfigured boy so badly that he had to be hospitalized.

There are no heroes in A Thousand Cuts (named after the ancient Chinese torture, Death of a Thousand Cuts ), just victims, sadists, and example after example of man's inhumanity to man. Even May, in her pursuit of truth, appears oddly loath to rise to her own defense. But the lesson of Lelic's thoughtful book is that despite so-called political correctness, society's propensity for sexual and cultural cruelty remains astounding.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 16:02:01

A dark, but thoughtful novel from journalist and author Simon Lelic.

The Information Officer
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

During the early stages of World War II the island of Malta was a strategic target of the Axis forces. It stood as the only holdout in the Mediterranean against Germany and Italy and allowed the Allies to intercept shipping between Europe and North Africa. By May of 1942, enemy planes were carrying out multiple bombing raids every day to bring the island to its knees.

As Information Officer on the island, Max Chadwick s job was to report the news in as positive a light as possible to help maintain the morale of the small contingent of troops as well as the citizenry of Malta. Even under normal circumstances, this would have been an extremely difficult assignment; but to make matters worse, there may be a sadistic serial killer of young women on the island and a clue left at one of the murder scenes apparently links the killer to an officer of the British forces.

Because of the potential negative fallout if the killer turns out to be a British serviceman, the military powers aren't in a rush to investigate and they discourage Max from delving further into the mystery. Torn between his duty as an officer and his conscience, Max secretly hires a local detective to quietly investigate. To complicate matters further, Max is also torn between two women on the island, one of whom is married to a fellow officer who may or may not be under suspicion for the crimes. Under a nearly constant barrage of bombs and unsure who he can trust among his colleagues, Max must move cautiously, not only to stay alive, but to protect the women close to him.

As a World War II history buff, I enjoyed learning more about a part of the war with which I wasn t that familiar. But whether you have an interest in that era or not, I think you ll enjoy this exciting and informative novel which is part mystery, part history and part spy thriller.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:08:45

During the early stages of World War II the island of Malta was a strategic target of the Axis forces. It stood as the only holdout in the Mediterranean against Germany and Italy and allowed the Allies to intercept shipping between Europe and North Africa. By May of 1942, enemy planes were carrying out multiple bombing raids every day to bring the island to its knees.

As Information Officer on the island, Max Chadwick s job was to report the news in as positive a light as possible to help maintain the morale of the small contingent of troops as well as the citizenry of Malta. Even under normal circumstances, this would have been an extremely difficult assignment; but to make matters worse, there may be a sadistic serial killer of young women on the island and a clue left at one of the murder scenes apparently links the killer to an officer of the British forces.

Because of the potential negative fallout if the killer turns out to be a British serviceman, the military powers aren't in a rush to investigate and they discourage Max from delving further into the mystery. Torn between his duty as an officer and his conscience, Max secretly hires a local detective to quietly investigate. To complicate matters further, Max is also torn between two women on the island, one of whom is married to a fellow officer who may or may not be under suspicion for the crimes. Under a nearly constant barrage of bombs and unsure who he can trust among his colleagues, Max must move cautiously, not only to stay alive, but to protect the women close to him.

As a World War II history buff, I enjoyed learning more about a part of the war with which I wasn t that familiar. But whether you have an interest in that era or not, I think you ll enjoy this exciting and informative novel which is part mystery, part history and part spy thriller.

City of Dragons
Kevin Burton Smith

Chesterfield-puffing, .22-toting, Miranda Corbie, the heroine of Kelli Stanley's finely realized and unapologetically hardboiled historical noir, is a welcome blow of secondhand smoke straight into the face of all those squeaky clean amateur sleuths who have flooded bookstore shelves recently. The former escort is now a gumshoe in 1940s San Francisco, with an office on the fringes of Chinatown—a place where the Chinese and other Asian communities seek refuge and safety in numbers from the city's dominant white majority who think can't tell them apart anyway. But it's a fragile peace at best that Chinatown offers thanks to the Japanese invasion of China and the subsequent Nanking Massacre of 1937. The rising political and racial tensions between the communities are threatening to explode. Into this powder keg struts Miranda, simply seeking a shortcut home through the crowded streets where a giant combination Chinese New Year/Rice Bowl Party (to raise money for war-torn China) is in full steam. Then Eddie Takahashi, a Japanese youth and runner for a local gangster, keels over on the sidewalk right in front of Miranda. In the confusion and firecrackers, it takes her a moment to realize that this isn't simply a case of someone partying too heartily—the boy has been murdered. Miranda doesn't particularly want to get involved, but when the authorities try to sweep it all under the carpet, she rises to the occasion, not just talking the talk but walking the walk, like the long-lost soul sister of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.

The period detail seems spot-on and never gratuitous, Miranda's wry observations sharp and to the point, and the political and racial nuances of the era (Miranda's still hurting from the loss of her love in the Spanish Civil War) finely-etched and sympathetically drawn. And yet Stanley never lets her eyes off the prize. Deep down, it's the story that matters, not its setting, and Miranda's search for the truth, if not justice, is one that will reverberate and leave a gritty aftertaste long after the covers have been closed on this one. One of the most convincing and intriguing PI debuts I've read in a while, and certainly the most fully realized historical private eye to come down the pike in a long time. Abbott? Collins? Watch out.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:15:14

Chesterfield-puffing, .22-toting, Miranda Corbie, the heroine of Kelli Stanley's finely realized and unapologetically hardboiled historical noir, is a welcome blow of secondhand smoke straight into the face of all those squeaky clean amateur sleuths who have flooded bookstore shelves recently. The former escort is now a gumshoe in 1940s San Francisco, with an office on the fringes of Chinatown—a place where the Chinese and other Asian communities seek refuge and safety in numbers from the city's dominant white majority who think can't tell them apart anyway. But it's a fragile peace at best that Chinatown offers thanks to the Japanese invasion of China and the subsequent Nanking Massacre of 1937. The rising political and racial tensions between the communities are threatening to explode. Into this powder keg struts Miranda, simply seeking a shortcut home through the crowded streets where a giant combination Chinese New Year/Rice Bowl Party (to raise money for war-torn China) is in full steam. Then Eddie Takahashi, a Japanese youth and runner for a local gangster, keels over on the sidewalk right in front of Miranda. In the confusion and firecrackers, it takes her a moment to realize that this isn't simply a case of someone partying too heartily—the boy has been murdered. Miranda doesn't particularly want to get involved, but when the authorities try to sweep it all under the carpet, she rises to the occasion, not just talking the talk but walking the walk, like the long-lost soul sister of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.

The period detail seems spot-on and never gratuitous, Miranda's wry observations sharp and to the point, and the political and racial nuances of the era (Miranda's still hurting from the loss of her love in the Spanish Civil War) finely-etched and sympathetically drawn. And yet Stanley never lets her eyes off the prize. Deep down, it's the story that matters, not its setting, and Miranda's search for the truth, if not justice, is one that will reverberate and leave a gritty aftertaste long after the covers have been closed on this one. One of the most convincing and intriguing PI debuts I've read in a while, and certainly the most fully realized historical private eye to come down the pike in a long time. Abbott? Collins? Watch out.

Death of a Valentine
Mary Helen Becker

Fans of Hamish Macbeth will welcome this latest addition to the series. Set in the hamlet of Lochdubh in Sutherland, the northernmost part of the Western Highlands, it contains the colorful characters, village activities, and delightful scenery and customs that Beaton fans have come to expect. This, the 25th or 26th adventure depending on who' s counting, contains a bit more violence than the typical tale. Hamish has been promoted to sergeant, a worry for him since he always fears that promotions will land him in the Chicago-like crime-ridden town of Strathbane. He has also been assigned a constable of his own, a young female named Josie McSween, who has fallen in love with him from afar she saw him one day in Strathbane, but he didn' t notice her. Josie daydreams of getting rid of Lugs and Sonsie, the sergeant's beloved pets, and redecorating the police station where he lives.

The story opens with the humorous crimes readers have come to expect, but there is soon the death by letter-bomb of Annie Fleming, the local beauty queen and mantrap. Soon Hamish is trying to solve the crime while dodging Josie' s plots to drug and ensnare him. One of her efforts actually saves his life when a hit man drinks Josie 's drugged whisky and then fails to kill him. The real mystery here is whether Hamish can escape the dreadful marriage that the alcoholic Josie has planned for him. Readers owe M.C. Beaton a debt of gratitude for the many hours of enjoyment she has given them in this much loved cozy series.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:23:15

Fans of Hamish Macbeth will welcome this latest addition to the series. Set in the hamlet of Lochdubh in Sutherland, the northernmost part of the Western Highlands, it contains the colorful characters, village activities, and delightful scenery and customs that Beaton fans have come to expect. This, the 25th or 26th adventure depending on who' s counting, contains a bit more violence than the typical tale. Hamish has been promoted to sergeant, a worry for him since he always fears that promotions will land him in the Chicago-like crime-ridden town of Strathbane. He has also been assigned a constable of his own, a young female named Josie McSween, who has fallen in love with him from afar she saw him one day in Strathbane, but he didn' t notice her. Josie daydreams of getting rid of Lugs and Sonsie, the sergeant's beloved pets, and redecorating the police station where he lives.

The story opens with the humorous crimes readers have come to expect, but there is soon the death by letter-bomb of Annie Fleming, the local beauty queen and mantrap. Soon Hamish is trying to solve the crime while dodging Josie' s plots to drug and ensnare him. One of her efforts actually saves his life when a hit man drinks Josie 's drugged whisky and then fails to kill him. The real mystery here is whether Hamish can escape the dreadful marriage that the alcoholic Josie has planned for him. Readers owe M.C. Beaton a debt of gratitude for the many hours of enjoyment she has given them in this much loved cozy series.

Phi Beta Murder
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

While visiting his son at a Florida college, Scottish barrister and part-time amateur sleuth Rex Graves is present when the body of his son s classmate is found hanged in a dorm room. Because the door was locked from the inside and instructions for hanging oneself are found downloaded on his computer, everyone assumes it was a suicide. But Rex isn' t entirely satisfied. There was no suicide note, and neither the young man's friends nor his girlfriend noticed anything particularly unusual with him that day. After talking to the dead boy' s parents, who aren' t convinced that their son committed suicide, Rex is asked by them to investigate. Even if he had taken his own life, they want to know why it happened and what drove him to it. Complicating matters, a mentally unstable former girlfriend of Rex s follows him to Florida to try to rekindle their relationship, even though she knows Rex is now committed to someone else.

This is a well-paced mystery that plays fair with the reader and provides a satisfying and surprising conclusion. The writing is crisp and dialogue-driven, as evidenced by its less than 200-page length. Phi Beta Murder is the third Rex Graves mystery by C.S. Challinor who, though born in the US, was educated in Scotland and England, and now lives in Florida.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:28:39

While visiting his son at a Florida college, Scottish barrister and part-time amateur sleuth Rex Graves is present when the body of his son s classmate is found hanged in a dorm room. Because the door was locked from the inside and instructions for hanging oneself are found downloaded on his computer, everyone assumes it was a suicide. But Rex isn' t entirely satisfied. There was no suicide note, and neither the young man's friends nor his girlfriend noticed anything particularly unusual with him that day. After talking to the dead boy' s parents, who aren' t convinced that their son committed suicide, Rex is asked by them to investigate. Even if he had taken his own life, they want to know why it happened and what drove him to it. Complicating matters, a mentally unstable former girlfriend of Rex s follows him to Florida to try to rekindle their relationship, even though she knows Rex is now committed to someone else.

This is a well-paced mystery that plays fair with the reader and provides a satisfying and surprising conclusion. The writing is crisp and dialogue-driven, as evidenced by its less than 200-page length. Phi Beta Murder is the third Rex Graves mystery by C.S. Challinor who, though born in the US, was educated in Scotland and England, and now lives in Florida.

Ticket to Ride
Bob Smith

For true mystery lovers, little surpasses the pleasurable anticipation of starting the latest book in a favorite series knowing that the next few hours will be happily spent in the company of old friends. Ed Gorman. of the popular Sam McCain books, is one of those authors who rarely disappoints. In Ticket To Ride, Gorman gives small-town Iowa lawyer Sam not just one, but two, puzzling murders to tackle.

The time is the mid '60s, America is in cultural turmoil with the British invasion of the Beatles and Stones, and a groundswell of protest against the Vietnam War. Black River Falls is divided between those for and those against the War, with Sam siding with the protesters. When Lou Bennett, a former military man who is equally adamant in his support of the war and his hatred of those who oppose it is murdered, the inept Sheriff arrests Harrison Doran, one of the leading voices in the anti-war movement. Sam is hired to represent Doran, something he isn' t keen on since he knows Doran to be an egotistical phony, but he believes him innocent, and sets about finding the real murderer. When a second murder occurs, Sam suspects that there' s more to the crimes than pro and anti-war disagreements. Black River Falls has its share of colorful characters including the righteous but bumbling Reverend Cartwright who organizes community burnings of Beatle records with hilarious results. Along the way, Sam' s sleuthing makes for some enjoyable reading for Gorman fans.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:36:15

For true mystery lovers, little surpasses the pleasurable anticipation of starting the latest book in a favorite series knowing that the next few hours will be happily spent in the company of old friends. Ed Gorman. of the popular Sam McCain books, is one of those authors who rarely disappoints. In Ticket To Ride, Gorman gives small-town Iowa lawyer Sam not just one, but two, puzzling murders to tackle.

The time is the mid '60s, America is in cultural turmoil with the British invasion of the Beatles and Stones, and a groundswell of protest against the Vietnam War. Black River Falls is divided between those for and those against the War, with Sam siding with the protesters. When Lou Bennett, a former military man who is equally adamant in his support of the war and his hatred of those who oppose it is murdered, the inept Sheriff arrests Harrison Doran, one of the leading voices in the anti-war movement. Sam is hired to represent Doran, something he isn' t keen on since he knows Doran to be an egotistical phony, but he believes him innocent, and sets about finding the real murderer. When a second murder occurs, Sam suspects that there' s more to the crimes than pro and anti-war disagreements. Black River Falls has its share of colorful characters including the righteous but bumbling Reverend Cartwright who organizes community burnings of Beatle records with hilarious results. Along the way, Sam' s sleuthing makes for some enjoyable reading for Gorman fans.

Think Twice
Cheryl Solimini

Lisa Scottoline fans, do yourselves a favor: Do NOT read the book jacket, flap copy or any reviews (except this one) of Think Twice. You know those misguided movie trailers that give away a key plot twist destroying the delicious tension of not knowing what will happen next? Well, there is no way to describe Scottoline s 17th page-turner without issuing a blanket spoiler alert.

So suffice it to say that, after a standalone thriller (Look Again) and a collection of humorous essays (Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog), Scottoline brings us back into the arms of Rosato & Associates. But expect no front-page murder or high-profile lawsuit to put the all-female Philly firm through its paces. This time, it's personal.

Think twice, too, if you are expecting the usual by-the-book Bennie, meek Mary and jaunty Judy. As circumstances unfold, coworkers, friends, and lovers find themselves re-examining their lives and their relationships. Even Ma and Pop DiNunzio' s marriage is on the line here.

All this upheaval is jump-started by the return of Alice Connolly, Bennie s sister and the very definition of evil twin. Alice almost meets her match in the Queen of the Witches Mary 's oft-widowed cousin, Fiorella Bucatina, a sexy septuagenarian visiting from Italy.

The spotlight, though, is on Alice. While much of the novel is laugh-out-loud funny, she ratchets up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Her diabolical acts are nearly excused by their brilliance. If only she used her talents for good instead of &. Heck, who would want that? Otherwise, Think Twice wouldn t be half as entertaining or enthralling. And everyone in this long-running series is better for it.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:41:56

Lisa Scottoline fans, do yourselves a favor: Do NOT read the book jacket, flap copy or any reviews (except this one) of Think Twice. You know those misguided movie trailers that give away a key plot twist destroying the delicious tension of not knowing what will happen next? Well, there is no way to describe Scottoline s 17th page-turner without issuing a blanket spoiler alert.

So suffice it to say that, after a standalone thriller (Look Again) and a collection of humorous essays (Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog), Scottoline brings us back into the arms of Rosato & Associates. But expect no front-page murder or high-profile lawsuit to put the all-female Philly firm through its paces. This time, it's personal.

Think twice, too, if you are expecting the usual by-the-book Bennie, meek Mary and jaunty Judy. As circumstances unfold, coworkers, friends, and lovers find themselves re-examining their lives and their relationships. Even Ma and Pop DiNunzio' s marriage is on the line here.

All this upheaval is jump-started by the return of Alice Connolly, Bennie s sister and the very definition of evil twin. Alice almost meets her match in the Queen of the Witches Mary 's oft-widowed cousin, Fiorella Bucatina, a sexy septuagenarian visiting from Italy.

The spotlight, though, is on Alice. While much of the novel is laugh-out-loud funny, she ratchets up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Her diabolical acts are nearly excused by their brilliance. If only she used her talents for good instead of &. Heck, who would want that? Otherwise, Think Twice wouldn t be half as entertaining or enthralling. And everyone in this long-running series is better for it.

Broken Places
Verna Suit

Broken Places is third in Parshall's excellent series featuring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. Like the first two books, award-winning Heat of the Moon and Disturbing the Dead, Broken Places concerns a crime that has its roots in the past. In 1968 the War on Poverty project first brought outsiders to rural Mason County, Virginia as VISTA workers. Some of them, like the Taylor family, stayed on. Fast forward to the present. Local newspaper publisher, Cam Taylor, has been murdered, his house burnt down, and his wife found dead with no apparent motive for these shocking crimes.

The newly transplanted cartoonist Ben Hern was heard arguing with Cam before his death and becomes the chief suspect, but Rachel is quick to defend her friend's innocence. Her boyfriend, Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger, becomes jealous of her new friendship; and just to complicate romantic matters further, his ex, Lindsay Taylor, arrives on the scene of her family tragedy and decides she wants Tom back.

The scenic but poor Appalachian setting of Broken Places becomes so real on the page that one can almost smell the wood smoke. With its well-paced suspenseful plot, romantic tensions, and touch of history Broken Places makes for a great read. And the animals in this book, seen through the compassionate eyes of veterinarian Rachel, will win animal-loving readers over all by themselves.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:46:59

Broken Places is third in Parshall's excellent series featuring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. Like the first two books, award-winning Heat of the Moon and Disturbing the Dead, Broken Places concerns a crime that has its roots in the past. In 1968 the War on Poverty project first brought outsiders to rural Mason County, Virginia as VISTA workers. Some of them, like the Taylor family, stayed on. Fast forward to the present. Local newspaper publisher, Cam Taylor, has been murdered, his house burnt down, and his wife found dead with no apparent motive for these shocking crimes.

The newly transplanted cartoonist Ben Hern was heard arguing with Cam before his death and becomes the chief suspect, but Rachel is quick to defend her friend's innocence. Her boyfriend, Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger, becomes jealous of her new friendship; and just to complicate romantic matters further, his ex, Lindsay Taylor, arrives on the scene of her family tragedy and decides she wants Tom back.

The scenic but poor Appalachian setting of Broken Places becomes so real on the page that one can almost smell the wood smoke. With its well-paced suspenseful plot, romantic tensions, and touch of history Broken Places makes for a great read. And the animals in this book, seen through the compassionate eyes of veterinarian Rachel, will win animal-loving readers over all by themselves.

Gator A-Go-Go
Mary Helen Becker

Serge Storms, everybody s favorite psychopathic killer, is back, along with his perennially drugged-out sidekick Coleman. Gator A-Go-Go is Dorsey s 12th wild adventure featuring Floridians you mostly don' t want to meet. Tired out from his long struggle to rid his beloved state of the low-lifes that he thinks are polluting Florida, Serge is on vacation in March, when hundreds of students from around the country gather in various beach communities to party around the clock. Serge has taken up filmmaking and plans to do a history of spring break, going backwards in time from today' s festivities in Panama City Beach, back to Daytona Beach, and finishing in Fort Lauderdale where it all started. Coleman immediately becomes a hero to the party animals when he teaches them to cool their beer to perfection, to hide booze in an orange, and 101 ways to open a beer bottle without an opener. Although in previous adventures he has been diagnosed with various mental illnesses, in this one Serge seems more grounded than many of the other characters except when he is practicing his peculiar version of pest control. One case involves a creep who plans to kill an elderly tourist for his money, but instead meets his end in one of Serge' s famous Rube Goldberg death traps (a garage door made into a guillotine). A truly vicious Miami gang, headed by a woman the others call Madre, are out to eliminate the college student son of one of their enemies, and Serge vows to protect him. The gang kills anyone in the way, creating plenty of collateral damage. Dorsey presents the craziness and excess of spring break with all the humor and wackiness his readers have come to expect. He is often compared to Carl Hiaasen, another Florida newspaperman turned comic crime novelist. For readers who appreciate Dorsey' s brand of humor, this makes a perfect winter (or Springbrook) getaway.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:51:07

Serge Storms, everybody s favorite psychopathic killer, is back, along with his perennially drugged-out sidekick Coleman. Gator A-Go-Go is Dorsey s 12th wild adventure featuring Floridians you mostly don' t want to meet. Tired out from his long struggle to rid his beloved state of the low-lifes that he thinks are polluting Florida, Serge is on vacation in March, when hundreds of students from around the country gather in various beach communities to party around the clock. Serge has taken up filmmaking and plans to do a history of spring break, going backwards in time from today' s festivities in Panama City Beach, back to Daytona Beach, and finishing in Fort Lauderdale where it all started. Coleman immediately becomes a hero to the party animals when he teaches them to cool their beer to perfection, to hide booze in an orange, and 101 ways to open a beer bottle without an opener. Although in previous adventures he has been diagnosed with various mental illnesses, in this one Serge seems more grounded than many of the other characters except when he is practicing his peculiar version of pest control. One case involves a creep who plans to kill an elderly tourist for his money, but instead meets his end in one of Serge' s famous Rube Goldberg death traps (a garage door made into a guillotine). A truly vicious Miami gang, headed by a woman the others call Madre, are out to eliminate the college student son of one of their enemies, and Serge vows to protect him. The gang kills anyone in the way, creating plenty of collateral damage. Dorsey presents the craziness and excess of spring break with all the humor and wackiness his readers have come to expect. He is often compared to Carl Hiaasen, another Florida newspaperman turned comic crime novelist. For readers who appreciate Dorsey' s brand of humor, this makes a perfect winter (or Springbrook) getaway.

The Serpent Pool
Mary Helen Becker

Martin Edwards writes some of the finest traditional English mysteries being published today. The Serpent Pool is the fourth in his Lake District series. Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett, her romantic partner bookseller Marc Amos, and former Oxford historian and author Daniel Kind, as well as various other series characters get involved in a case that has peculiar similarities to the writings of Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts.

Historian Daniel has returned from several months in America to write a book on de Quincey, a Lake District writer, and has agreed to be keynote speaker for an upcoming de Quincey festival. Meanwhile Hannah, as head of the Cold Case unit is investigating the murder of a young girl who was bound and drowned in the Serpent Pool six years earlier. When two book collectors are murdered, both good customers of Marc's used and rare book business, Hannah begins to see connections. Edwards develops memorable, complex characters who come to life in his novels. This makes his antagonists much more terrifying than the one-dimensional villains of the typical crime novel. He also makes the most of his chosen settings in the Lake District, using its geographical and historical features to excellent advantage. Lonely landscapes and literary lore enrich his stories. The personal relationships and neighbors knowledge of everyone' s business are as important as they are in Golden Age English villages. Even though aspects of Edwards plot would suit de Quincey better than Agatha Christie, wit and humor keep the tale from becoming too grim. The Serpent Pool is a first-rate psychological mystery.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 17:55:11

Martin Edwards writes some of the finest traditional English mysteries being published today. The Serpent Pool is the fourth in his Lake District series. Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett, her romantic partner bookseller Marc Amos, and former Oxford historian and author Daniel Kind, as well as various other series characters get involved in a case that has peculiar similarities to the writings of Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts.

Historian Daniel has returned from several months in America to write a book on de Quincey, a Lake District writer, and has agreed to be keynote speaker for an upcoming de Quincey festival. Meanwhile Hannah, as head of the Cold Case unit is investigating the murder of a young girl who was bound and drowned in the Serpent Pool six years earlier. When two book collectors are murdered, both good customers of Marc's used and rare book business, Hannah begins to see connections. Edwards develops memorable, complex characters who come to life in his novels. This makes his antagonists much more terrifying than the one-dimensional villains of the typical crime novel. He also makes the most of his chosen settings in the Lake District, using its geographical and historical features to excellent advantage. Lonely landscapes and literary lore enrich his stories. The personal relationships and neighbors knowledge of everyone' s business are as important as they are in Golden Age English villages. Even though aspects of Edwards plot would suit de Quincey better than Agatha Christie, wit and humor keep the tale from becoming too grim. The Serpent Pool is a first-rate psychological mystery.

Dusted to Death
Lynne F. Maxwell

As though running a cleaning business weren' t a dirty enough job, Charlotte LaRue, New Orleans owner of A Maid for a Day, has an uncanny knack for stumbling upon murder scenes and for conducting her own investigations. Dusted to Death begins innocuously enough with a tantalizing job offer for Charlotte. One of her clients has agreed to rent her house out to a movie film production company, and recommended Charlotte' s cleaning services to the producers. How could Charlotte resist the opportunity to meet a favorite film star and to work on an actual film set? Indeed, she accepts the job, but her grievous error becomes immediately evident when she witnesses the temper tantrums of prima donna star Angel Martinique and her violent quarrels with her boyfriend, Nick. Things become even messier, though, when Charlotte discovers Nick's bloody body in Angel s dressing room. While Charlotte knows that Angel is no angel, is the young star really devil enough to have done away with vile Nick? Charlotte thinks not, and Angel hires her to prove her innocence.

Colley' s A Maid for a Day mysteries are always entertaining. Charlotte, a mother and grandmother, is likable and clever, a character one would love to know personally. Her practical perspective on the operations of the world and her intimate knowledge of New Orleans render her an informative tour guide for the armchair sleuth. Also, she's no slouch in the romance department, as indicated by her burgeoning attraction to neighbor Louis. A clean sweep!

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:00:03

As though running a cleaning business weren' t a dirty enough job, Charlotte LaRue, New Orleans owner of A Maid for a Day, has an uncanny knack for stumbling upon murder scenes and for conducting her own investigations. Dusted to Death begins innocuously enough with a tantalizing job offer for Charlotte. One of her clients has agreed to rent her house out to a movie film production company, and recommended Charlotte' s cleaning services to the producers. How could Charlotte resist the opportunity to meet a favorite film star and to work on an actual film set? Indeed, she accepts the job, but her grievous error becomes immediately evident when she witnesses the temper tantrums of prima donna star Angel Martinique and her violent quarrels with her boyfriend, Nick. Things become even messier, though, when Charlotte discovers Nick's bloody body in Angel s dressing room. While Charlotte knows that Angel is no angel, is the young star really devil enough to have done away with vile Nick? Charlotte thinks not, and Angel hires her to prove her innocence.

Colley' s A Maid for a Day mysteries are always entertaining. Charlotte, a mother and grandmother, is likable and clever, a character one would love to know personally. Her practical perspective on the operations of the world and her intimate knowledge of New Orleans render her an informative tour guide for the armchair sleuth. Also, she's no slouch in the romance department, as indicated by her burgeoning attraction to neighbor Louis. A clean sweep!

Long Time Coming
M. Schlecht

The action in Long Time Coming unfolds along two timelines. In the year 1976, Stephen Swan learns that his uncle Eldritch has just been released from an Irish prison. The news is surprising, not least because Stephen has always been told that his uncle died in the London Blitz during WWII. When the two finally meet, Eldritch won' t say much about his past, claiming that his silence is a condition of his parole.

It's not long before the revelations and action heat up, however, as the novel jumps back to 1940 and Eldritch' s activities as a young man are slowly revealed. What connects the dots between past and present are a disputed collection of Picasso masterpieces and the family of an Antwerp diamond dealer desperate to prove their rightful inheritance. Eldritch had been an assistant to the now-deceased Isaac Meridor, and the dealer's granddaughter Rachel Banner is justifiably suspicious of Eldritch's role in the disappearance of the paintings.

Now that he s been released, someone has hired Eldritch to help prove that the paintings are fakes. Stephen accompanies him on the mission, and manages to convince Rachel they are on the same team. Goddard's historical suspense novel twists and turns in order to hit as many key notes as possible. An uncertain prewar Europe for Jews, art world intrigue, British/Irish relations, class conflict, and a little bit of romance are all in the mix. Alternating chapters between 1976 and 1940 help to keep the complex plot straight, but sometimes at the expense of the flow of action.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:04:56

The action in Long Time Coming unfolds along two timelines. In the year 1976, Stephen Swan learns that his uncle Eldritch has just been released from an Irish prison. The news is surprising, not least because Stephen has always been told that his uncle died in the London Blitz during WWII. When the two finally meet, Eldritch won' t say much about his past, claiming that his silence is a condition of his parole.

It's not long before the revelations and action heat up, however, as the novel jumps back to 1940 and Eldritch' s activities as a young man are slowly revealed. What connects the dots between past and present are a disputed collection of Picasso masterpieces and the family of an Antwerp diamond dealer desperate to prove their rightful inheritance. Eldritch had been an assistant to the now-deceased Isaac Meridor, and the dealer's granddaughter Rachel Banner is justifiably suspicious of Eldritch's role in the disappearance of the paintings.

Now that he s been released, someone has hired Eldritch to help prove that the paintings are fakes. Stephen accompanies him on the mission, and manages to convince Rachel they are on the same team. Goddard's historical suspense novel twists and turns in order to hit as many key notes as possible. An uncertain prewar Europe for Jews, art world intrigue, British/Irish relations, class conflict, and a little bit of romance are all in the mix. Alternating chapters between 1976 and 1940 help to keep the complex plot straight, but sometimes at the expense of the flow of action.

The Crimson Rooms
Helen Francini

Courtroom drama, murder, recent history, family secrets, romance McMahon' s new novel has it all. In 1924 London, Evelyn Gifford mourns her brother James, killed in the Great War. She lives with her mother, grandmother and aunt, all of whom she supports as an apprentice lawyer. A Canadian nurse, Meredith, lands on their doorstep with her young son in tow, claiming that James was the boy's father, although she wears no wedding ring. Seemingly unrelated are Meredith' s two current cases: a woman whose children have been placed in a home and who wants them back, and an old friend of her boss who stands accused of murdering his newlywed wife. As Evelyn investigates her cases, battles chauvinism from all sides at her job, and copes with her attraction towards a male colleague, she realizes all is not as it seems about Meredith.

The author keeps several balls in the air for a long time, although the separate threads do eventually all merge. The Crimson Rooms is at its heart an examination of the lives of women after WWI as breadwinner; destitute mother; unwed mother; murder victim; and as grieving family members. However, the language is not always authentic. It is very strange to see an English attorney repeatedly using the word lawyer solicitor and barrister are completely absent.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:09:42

Courtroom drama, murder, recent history, family secrets, romance McMahon' s new novel has it all. In 1924 London, Evelyn Gifford mourns her brother James, killed in the Great War. She lives with her mother, grandmother and aunt, all of whom she supports as an apprentice lawyer. A Canadian nurse, Meredith, lands on their doorstep with her young son in tow, claiming that James was the boy's father, although she wears no wedding ring. Seemingly unrelated are Meredith' s two current cases: a woman whose children have been placed in a home and who wants them back, and an old friend of her boss who stands accused of murdering his newlywed wife. As Evelyn investigates her cases, battles chauvinism from all sides at her job, and copes with her attraction towards a male colleague, she realizes all is not as it seems about Meredith.

The author keeps several balls in the air for a long time, although the separate threads do eventually all merge. The Crimson Rooms is at its heart an examination of the lives of women after WWI as breadwinner; destitute mother; unwed mother; murder victim; and as grieving family members. However, the language is not always authentic. It is very strange to see an English attorney repeatedly using the word lawyer solicitor and barrister are completely absent.

Fired Up
Helen Francini

If you want a change of pace from the usual murder mystery, Fired Up may be just what you' re looking for. This romantic suspense novel is the first in the planned Dreamlight Trilogy that deals with the paranormal. Jack Winters is a psychic venture capitalist with a problem: he may have inherited a curse from his ancestor, legendary alchemist Nicholas Winters. Believing the only thing that might save him is a lost artifact called the Burning Lamp, he asks PI Chloe Harper with her ability to see dreamlight (a kind of psychic print) to find it.

Chloe locates the powerful lamp easily enough, but Jack and Chloe s problems only begin when it puts them in direct conflict with Nightshade, an unscrupulous arcane society that promises to boost its members psychic powers. Action, psychic warfare, and steamy sexual tension ensue.

This story is ensconced firmly in the realm of the theoretical, and readers of a classical scientific bent may balk at all the talk of psi energy waves and the ability to harm someone just by thinking at them. But others will enjoy Krentz's rich atmosphere, heady romance, and the concept that someone' s thoughts may be just as deadly as a loaded gun.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:13:43

If you want a change of pace from the usual murder mystery, Fired Up may be just what you' re looking for. This romantic suspense novel is the first in the planned Dreamlight Trilogy that deals with the paranormal. Jack Winters is a psychic venture capitalist with a problem: he may have inherited a curse from his ancestor, legendary alchemist Nicholas Winters. Believing the only thing that might save him is a lost artifact called the Burning Lamp, he asks PI Chloe Harper with her ability to see dreamlight (a kind of psychic print) to find it.

Chloe locates the powerful lamp easily enough, but Jack and Chloe s problems only begin when it puts them in direct conflict with Nightshade, an unscrupulous arcane society that promises to boost its members psychic powers. Action, psychic warfare, and steamy sexual tension ensue.

This story is ensconced firmly in the realm of the theoretical, and readers of a classical scientific bent may balk at all the talk of psi energy waves and the ability to harm someone just by thinking at them. But others will enjoy Krentz's rich atmosphere, heady romance, and the concept that someone' s thoughts may be just as deadly as a loaded gun.

The Bell Ringers
Bob Smith

Will 2014 be the new 1984? In The Bell Ringers Henry Porter has created a frightening, but all too possible England, not unlike that of Orwell' s masterpiece. The government has penetrated all electronic devices computers, phones, and the stationary cameras located throughout the country, and is using these technical surveillance devices to exert control. It is foisted on the unsuspecting public under the guise of national security via an ultra-secret operation dubbed Deep Truth. Sound impossible? Maybe in practice, but in theory the concept is only too real. In this modern age, Big Brother can indeed be watching.

The book opens with the official inquiry into the death of David Eyam, once head of intelligence, but now out of favor for opposing Deep Truth. To Kate Lockward, his estranged lover and the beneficiary of his estate, matters don't seem right. Slowly she uncovers clues Eyam left behind revealing the government plot. Kate gets closer to the truth, but at her own peril. She discovers that Eyam and a group of like-minded recruits called Bell Ringers had an elaborate plan to expose the government. It is now up to Kate to bring Eyam' s plan to fruition.

Porter's Bell Ringers is a political polemic wrapped around a thriller plot, the main interest of which is to expose the evils of big government. The book may confuse American readers a bit with its emphasis on British laws, but it builds steadily to a rousing climax set in the halls of Parliament that will leave thriller lovers more than satisfied.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:17:55

Will 2014 be the new 1984? In The Bell Ringers Henry Porter has created a frightening, but all too possible England, not unlike that of Orwell' s masterpiece. The government has penetrated all electronic devices computers, phones, and the stationary cameras located throughout the country, and is using these technical surveillance devices to exert control. It is foisted on the unsuspecting public under the guise of national security via an ultra-secret operation dubbed Deep Truth. Sound impossible? Maybe in practice, but in theory the concept is only too real. In this modern age, Big Brother can indeed be watching.

The book opens with the official inquiry into the death of David Eyam, once head of intelligence, but now out of favor for opposing Deep Truth. To Kate Lockward, his estranged lover and the beneficiary of his estate, matters don't seem right. Slowly she uncovers clues Eyam left behind revealing the government plot. Kate gets closer to the truth, but at her own peril. She discovers that Eyam and a group of like-minded recruits called Bell Ringers had an elaborate plan to expose the government. It is now up to Kate to bring Eyam' s plan to fruition.

Porter's Bell Ringers is a political polemic wrapped around a thriller plot, the main interest of which is to expose the evils of big government. The book may confuse American readers a bit with its emphasis on British laws, but it builds steadily to a rousing climax set in the halls of Parliament that will leave thriller lovers more than satisfied.

Winterland
Betty Webb

The Ireland of Glynn's new suspense novel isn t the jolly, Emerald Isle of legend; it s a hard, gray country populated by hard gray men to whom friendship and family ties mean little compared to the billions of dollars to be made in property development. The action begins immediately, when Noel Rafferty is shot dead in a Dublin pub. No surprise there, because the thuggish Noel is involved in numerous illegal activities. However, later that night, Noel's uncle also named Noel Rafferty is killed in a car wreck. But this Noel was an upstanding citizen, a structural engineer on a major Docklands construction project. Winterland is no whodunit, and we soon learn that this case of mistaken Noels was set in motion by Paddy Norton, a Rafferty family friend.

Thus begins what can more accurately be called an economic thriller, where multi-national financing and fierce competition for the project s naming rights have overtaken any perceived benefit of the new Docklands development. Gina Rafferty, a bright software developer and kinswoman of the dead men, is drawn into a morass of evil which include various Irish politicians, an American financier, and even a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In trying to find the truth, Gina discovers a corrupt, conniving world where money rules and morals are little more than memories. Utterly devoid of cheerful pubs, twinkling priests and other standard Irish sentimentalities, Winterland sheds light on the dark side of modern-day Ireland, a country which seems disturbingly like our own. A gripping, revealing read with one caveat: the book's tiny typeface could present a challenge to some readers.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:22:06

The Ireland of Glynn's new suspense novel isn t the jolly, Emerald Isle of legend; it s a hard, gray country populated by hard gray men to whom friendship and family ties mean little compared to the billions of dollars to be made in property development. The action begins immediately, when Noel Rafferty is shot dead in a Dublin pub. No surprise there, because the thuggish Noel is involved in numerous illegal activities. However, later that night, Noel's uncle also named Noel Rafferty is killed in a car wreck. But this Noel was an upstanding citizen, a structural engineer on a major Docklands construction project. Winterland is no whodunit, and we soon learn that this case of mistaken Noels was set in motion by Paddy Norton, a Rafferty family friend.

Thus begins what can more accurately be called an economic thriller, where multi-national financing and fierce competition for the project s naming rights have overtaken any perceived benefit of the new Docklands development. Gina Rafferty, a bright software developer and kinswoman of the dead men, is drawn into a morass of evil which include various Irish politicians, an American financier, and even a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In trying to find the truth, Gina discovers a corrupt, conniving world where money rules and morals are little more than memories. Utterly devoid of cheerful pubs, twinkling priests and other standard Irish sentimentalities, Winterland sheds light on the dark side of modern-day Ireland, a country which seems disturbingly like our own. A gripping, revealing read with one caveat: the book's tiny typeface could present a challenge to some readers.

Skin
Hank Wagner

You have to feel for Mo Hayder' s characters, as she never makes things easy for them. Besides dealing with truly dreadful adversaries, her protagonists must also cope with horrible personal lives, torment from dreadful pasts, and failed intimate relationships. While Hayder' s harrowing stories end on positive notes, in that evil is usually defeated, the personal hells of her characters continue.

That's certainly the case with Skin, which features Detective Inspector Jack Caffery (star of Hayder's Birdman, The Treatment, and Ritual) and police diver Flea Marley (who first appeared on the scene in Ritual). Caffery becomes involved in a missing persons investigation, which he proceeds to solve almost on pure instinct as he obsesses over a recent case, and continues to obsess over his brother's death many decades before. Marley also becomes involved in the case in a surprising and disgustingly intimate way that proves how no good deed in a Hayder novel goes unpunished. Both emerge from the experience battered, bloodied, but unbowed.

The joy of reading a novel like this comes from vicariously experiencing the characters misery, always knowing that you can escape by merely putting the book down for a moment. Hayder puts you squarely inside the heads of her characters and in the moment with them. This brings an intensity to the reading experience that s truly rare, as you experience almost firsthand the disorientation Marley feels when diving at dangerous depths, or the claustrophobia and pain Caffery endures after he is subdued by a murder suspect. That intensity makes Skin required reading for thriller fans.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:25:42

You have to feel for Mo Hayder' s characters, as she never makes things easy for them. Besides dealing with truly dreadful adversaries, her protagonists must also cope with horrible personal lives, torment from dreadful pasts, and failed intimate relationships. While Hayder' s harrowing stories end on positive notes, in that evil is usually defeated, the personal hells of her characters continue.

That's certainly the case with Skin, which features Detective Inspector Jack Caffery (star of Hayder's Birdman, The Treatment, and Ritual) and police diver Flea Marley (who first appeared on the scene in Ritual). Caffery becomes involved in a missing persons investigation, which he proceeds to solve almost on pure instinct as he obsesses over a recent case, and continues to obsess over his brother's death many decades before. Marley also becomes involved in the case in a surprising and disgustingly intimate way that proves how no good deed in a Hayder novel goes unpunished. Both emerge from the experience battered, bloodied, but unbowed.

The joy of reading a novel like this comes from vicariously experiencing the characters misery, always knowing that you can escape by merely putting the book down for a moment. Hayder puts you squarely inside the heads of her characters and in the moment with them. This brings an intensity to the reading experience that s truly rare, as you experience almost firsthand the disorientation Marley feels when diving at dangerous depths, or the claustrophobia and pain Caffery endures after he is subdued by a murder suspect. That intensity makes Skin required reading for thriller fans.

Blacklands
Barbara Fister

Blacklands is one of those excellent books that is hard to recommend, a debut novel that is both compelling and deeply disturbing. Twelve-year-old Steven is on a mission. His Nan has never recovered from the disappearance of her son Billy. She still waits for him, though police are certain he was killed and buried like many other children on Exmoor. If Steven can only find Billy' s remains, his Nan will be able to relax her vigil and find closure to the misery stemming from Billy' s abduction. Young Steven imagines he might become famous, and that there might be a reward, and his family would heal. All he has to do is find Billy 's bones.

Once Steven hits on the idea of writing a letter to the killer, he begins a duel of wits, evading the prison censors to tease information out of a sickeningly evil man who is planning his escape so he can meet the boy who has become his obsession. Blacklands provides an outstanding character study of a young boy facing a challenge and rising to it. On the down side, the challenge he faces is finding out from an imprisoned pedophile where he buried one of his victims and the insight and literary skill that make the boy' s experience so real also make the book deeply troubling. One might wish Belinda Bauer had chosen a less distressing subject, but there' s no denying that Blacklands is a powerful, suspenseful, and extraordinarily evocative novel by a talented writer.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:29:54

Blacklands is one of those excellent books that is hard to recommend, a debut novel that is both compelling and deeply disturbing. Twelve-year-old Steven is on a mission. His Nan has never recovered from the disappearance of her son Billy. She still waits for him, though police are certain he was killed and buried like many other children on Exmoor. If Steven can only find Billy' s remains, his Nan will be able to relax her vigil and find closure to the misery stemming from Billy' s abduction. Young Steven imagines he might become famous, and that there might be a reward, and his family would heal. All he has to do is find Billy 's bones.

Once Steven hits on the idea of writing a letter to the killer, he begins a duel of wits, evading the prison censors to tease information out of a sickeningly evil man who is planning his escape so he can meet the boy who has become his obsession. Blacklands provides an outstanding character study of a young boy facing a challenge and rising to it. On the down side, the challenge he faces is finding out from an imprisoned pedophile where he buried one of his victims and the insight and literary skill that make the boy' s experience so real also make the book deeply troubling. One might wish Belinda Bauer had chosen a less distressing subject, but there' s no denying that Blacklands is a powerful, suspenseful, and extraordinarily evocative novel by a talented writer.

Lullaby
Betty Webb

Jess Finnegan, newly-married to the man of her dreams, is shocked out of her rose-hued world when during a visit to a London museum, her husband and baby disappear. When Mickey Finnegan is found, he has been badly beaten, but the baby, which he had been carrying, remains missing. Through 442 terror-filled pages, the police search for little Louis, uncovering lie after lie told by people close to Jess' heart. Mickey isn't the dreamboat Jess had imagined, and her friends and family turn out to have agendas more commonly found among enemies, not confidants.

In her debut novel, Seeber has taken a great risk with her portrayal of Jess. This grieving/maddening mother is an alarmingly self-centered protagonist who, when she's not stone-walling the police, shrieks and faints as often as the most vaporish Victorian heroine. Even more disturbing are Jess' ongoing control games with the cops who are trying to help her, going so far as to forget information that would help bring Louis home. But Jess' very perversity is one of Lullaby's major attractions, forcing the reader to ask, What in the world is wrong with this foolish woman? Plenty, as we find out. Events in her past have made Jess her own worst enemy, permanently crippling her ability to tell friend from foe. Lullaby can be a difficult ride at times, but it never fails to be an intriguing one.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:34:31

Jess Finnegan, newly-married to the man of her dreams, is shocked out of her rose-hued world when during a visit to a London museum, her husband and baby disappear. When Mickey Finnegan is found, he has been badly beaten, but the baby, which he had been carrying, remains missing. Through 442 terror-filled pages, the police search for little Louis, uncovering lie after lie told by people close to Jess' heart. Mickey isn't the dreamboat Jess had imagined, and her friends and family turn out to have agendas more commonly found among enemies, not confidants.

In her debut novel, Seeber has taken a great risk with her portrayal of Jess. This grieving/maddening mother is an alarmingly self-centered protagonist who, when she's not stone-walling the police, shrieks and faints as often as the most vaporish Victorian heroine. Even more disturbing are Jess' ongoing control games with the cops who are trying to help her, going so far as to forget information that would help bring Louis home. But Jess' very perversity is one of Lullaby's major attractions, forcing the reader to ask, What in the world is wrong with this foolish woman? Plenty, as we find out. Events in her past have made Jess her own worst enemy, permanently crippling her ability to tell friend from foe. Lullaby can be a difficult ride at times, but it never fails to be an intriguing one.

Antiques Bizarre
Lynne F. Maxwell

This is the fourth book in the Trash 'n' Treasures mystery series, and it showcases the comic talent of the authors, the husband and wife team consisting of seasoned mystery writers Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins. The series features Brandy Borne, a 30-something divorcée, and her colorful mother, Vivian. Since family relationships are a bit complicated here, I won t spoil the surprise for first time series readers. Suffice it to say that readers will laugh aloud at the screwball dynamics between Brandy and Vivian as they bumble their way through murder investigations in far-from-serene Serenity, Iowa.

In Antiques Bizarre, Brandy has gone off Prozac because she has elected to become a surrogate mother for her best friend and her husband. Fortunately, Vivian, who is bipolar, continues to take her meds, but she still manages to get into trouble when she decides to organize an antiques bazaar featuring an auction to raise money for victims of a local flood and to get free publicity. As is the case with all of Mother's ventures, chaos ensues, along with the customary suspicious deaths. If you delight in the absurd and enjoy manic humor, you ll treasure the Trash ' n' Treasure mysteries.

Teri Duerr
2010-04-14 18:39:21

This is the fourth book in the Trash 'n' Treasures mystery series, and it showcases the comic talent of the authors, the husband and wife team consisting of seasoned mystery writers Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins. The series features Brandy Borne, a 30-something divorcée, and her colorful mother, Vivian. Since family relationships are a bit complicated here, I won t spoil the surprise for first time series readers. Suffice it to say that readers will laugh aloud at the screwball dynamics between Brandy and Vivian as they bumble their way through murder investigations in far-from-serene Serenity, Iowa.

In Antiques Bizarre, Brandy has gone off Prozac because she has elected to become a surrogate mother for her best friend and her husband. Fortunately, Vivian, who is bipolar, continues to take her meds, but she still manages to get into trouble when she decides to organize an antiques bazaar featuring an auction to raise money for victims of a local flood and to get free publicity. As is the case with all of Mother's ventures, chaos ensues, along with the customary suspicious deaths. If you delight in the absurd and enjoy manic humor, you ll treasure the Trash ' n' Treasure mysteries.