Home Sweet Home
Dick Lochte

On literary vacay from her FBI agent Anna Grey series (North of Montana, White Shotgun), Smith journeys back to the not-quite-fabulous ’50s for a standalone tale of McCarthyism, evil politicians, the madness of crowds, and eventually homicide, all, alas, based on a real-life tragedy, the 1985 murders of a family in Seattle. Double alas, the novel’s mood seems uncomfortably close to today’s unpleasantly political, fear-mongering, fake-news-spewing atmosphere. The plot focuses on the Kuseks—Cal, a heroic WWII pilot and attorney, his wife Betsy, a nurse, and their two children Jo and Lance—who leave the concrete jungle of Manhattan for a small-town ranch in Rapid City, South Dakota, a gateway to Mt. Rushmore. Though strong Democrats, Cal and Betsy prosper in this bucolic Republican paradise, making friends and enjoying life—until Cal is tapped to run for the US Senate and his obnoxious right-wing brother learns of Betsy’s youthful flirtation with the Communist Party. He notifies the FBI, rumors abound, and Cal’s slimy con-man opponent, Thaddeus Haynes, concocts enough false news to turn Donald Trump’s hair, ah, white, pitting friends, neighbors, town, and state against the Kuseks. The novel opens in the mid-1980s, with an adult Jo reacting to the murders, then leaps back to the 1950s and the events that led up to them. Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress Cady McClain (Outstanding Supporting, 2004, As the World Turns) smartly captures each chapter’s mood—Jo’s reaction to the murders, the wariness of the Kuseks as they enter a new town and a new social scene, etc. With notable versatility she catches Cal’s easy self-confidence, Betsy’s general uncertainty, and their children’s early rebelliousness, which, after hearing the news about their “pinko” mother, morphs into confusion and fear. She’s also developed appropriate voices for a few loyal friends, like Cal’s business partner and his sweetly silly wife, and Verna Bismark, a hardboiled, progressive town doyenne who talked Cal into running for the Senate. McClain is equally successful in presenting the villains: the despicable blowhard brother, the faux-good-ol’-boy Hayes, assorted neighbors who slide from friendly chatter to sharp condemnation, and Jo’s lifelong opponent, snake-bad from youth to old age, with the deceptively innocent-sounding name of Honeybee Jones.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-19 17:41:20
A Great Reckoning
Dick Lochte

In each of Penny’s novels, and this is number 12, her main task, aside from preparing the jigsaw mystery with all parts fitting, has been to get her protagonist, Armand Gamache, formerly the homicide chief of the Sûreté du Québec, and his equally charismatic wife, Reine Marie, back to their, and readers’, beloved village of Three Pines, where dwells a fully developed cast of good Canadian companions—from eccentric artist Clara Morrow to the ultra-feisty old poet Ruth Zardo (and her pet duck). After his early retirement from the Sûreté, it would have been a simple matter for Penny to allow Armand and Reine Marie to settle down with their dog Henri in Three Pines and solve his crimes there. But the author, like her hero, prefers not to take the easy way. So, the ex-inspector, mainly recovered in body if not in soul from his last adventure and bored to the eyebrows with the sweet and simple life, has accepted a different assignment with the Sûreté, heading and improving its demoralized police academy. There he is confounded by the murder of a professor and the challenge of keeping four of the top cadets in line, concentrating, for some reason he doesn’t understand, on the pierced, tattooed, and surly Amelia Choquet. As an exercise, Gamache presents his cadet quartet with a mysterious old map found stuffed between the walls of the Three Pines bistro, tasking them to use teamwork to identify the mapmaker, his purpose, and why it was hidden. Reason enough for all to wind up in the snow-covered remote village. Reader Robert Bathurst (Downton Abbey’s Sir Anthony Strallan), who also narrated the last Gamache novel, The Nature of the Beast, has one of those crisp British voices that manage to dramatize without sacrificing clarity or elocutionary elegance. His Gamache is thoughtful, intelligent, and purposeful. The cadets’ voices are higher pitched and arch just enough to indicate their youth and impatience and his presentation of the prominent citizens of Three Pines seems on target, right down to Ruth Zardo’s rude squawks.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-19 17:44:55
LIFE Sherlock Holmes: The Story Behind the World’s Greatest Detective
Jon L. Breen

The celebrated Life magazine, though long gone as a topical weekly, lives on in one-shot newsstand items like this one, a compact illustrated summary of the life of Conan Doyle and the history of his most famous character. The spare but well-written text includes quotes from eminent Sherlockians Otto Penzler, Leslie Klinger, and Lyndsay Faye. Actors who played Holmes are pictured prominently, including William Gillette, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Robert Downey, Jr. but not (as some online reviewers have lamented) Jeremy Brett. Novice fans and completist collectors will find this of interest, but there is little new for knowledgeable buffs. Though it will disappear from magazine racks in April, it will continue to be available through Amazon.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-19 17:48:41
Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall
Jon L.

The 1969 demonstrations protesting a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, galvanized the homosexual rights movement. Three years before, George Baxt had introduced the flamboyant Pharoah Love, usually considered the first openly gay sleuth in mainstream US publishing, in A Queer Kind of Death, and one year later Joseph Hansen’s more down-to-earth insurance investigator Dave Brandstetter would debut in Fadeout. But long before the 1960s, crime writers had included gay characters, whether direct or implied, comic or tragic, disparaging or sympathetic. Mystery historian Evans and his contributors consider some of these in an excellent collection of essays, most original, all marked by strong scholarship and readability. The only two reprints are taken (“in different form”) from Lucy Sussex’s 2015 biography of Fergus Hume and Rick Cypert’s 2005 book on Mignon G. Eberhart. Among other authors discussed (some gay, some straight) are Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, Josephine Tey, Todd Downing, Beverley Nichols, and Patricia Highsmith. Tom Nolan adds new details to his previous writings about Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar. The last two essays consider works by Hansen and Baxt.

Editor Evans, arguably his own best contributor, discusses G.D.H. Cole, the team of Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler (a.k.a. Patrick Quentin, Jonathan Stagge, and Q. Patrick), two gay writers who had appeared in drag in Ivy League college shows (Yale’s Rufus King and Dartmouth’s Clifford Orr), and Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box.

The gay sensibility of writers like Downing, King, and the Quentin team, which seems so obvious when read now, presumably sailed over the heads of most of the authors’ 1930s and 1940s readers.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-19 17:51:38
William Kent Krueger on Formative Bedtime Stories
William Kent Krueger

krueger williamkent 2Our lives are forged on the anvil of our childhood. What we experience as children shape us in ways, good and bad, that influence everything that comes after. I could talk about the bad. Couldn’t everyone? It’s such a juicy topic and deliciously informative in its own way. But let me talk about the good instead. Because in the end, for all of us, what was good about our early lives becomes the firm ground on which we stand when the rest of the world seems to be going to hell. So let me talk about stories, how I came to them early because of my father, and what this has meant to me across six decades.

My father was a high school English teacher, a man who appreciated poetry especially. Before the financial needs of our family forced him to leave college, he’d planned to write his master’s thesis on e.e. cummings. My earliest best memories are of his sonorous voice reading poetry to my brothers and my sister and me to quiet us at bedtime. Although he did sometimes read e.e. cummings—“In just spring when the world is mud luscious”—more often he chose the great story poems, perfect for firing a child’s imagination. I grew up on The Highwayman (“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees”), The Charge of the Light Brigade (“Half a league, half a league, half a league onward), Little Orphan Annie (“An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you ef you don’t watch out”), and Gunga Din (“Though I’ve belted you and flayed, By the livin’ Gawd that made you, You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din”). Every night, we lay rapt as my father read, and when he’d finished we’d sometimes beg him to read the same one again. The poems became so familiar that to this day, for many of them, I can still recall every verse.

Like everyone’s childhood, mine had dark periods. My mother was hospitalized for long stretches, months on end. We moved around a good deal, and our lives were often about starting over somewhere new, strangers in a strange land. There weren’t a lot of constants to keep us grounded. But the poems and the sense of peace that always descended on us when my father read them was one.

krueger sulfurspringsAs a storyteller, I garnered a great deal from that bedtime reading ritual: an appreciation for the beauty of perfect cadence, admiration for just the right word in just the right place, an understanding of the emotional power wielded by a good story or poem, and maybe most especially, the mysterious way in which words themselves can move us so very deeply. When I write, as I write, I read my work out loud. Although I don’t sound exactly like my father, I still often hear the echo of his voice and feel the peace that comes with it.

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last seven novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

Ordinary Grace, his standalone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. Sulfur Springs, number 16 in his Cork O’Connor series, will be released in September 2017.

This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in “At the Scene” enews May 2017 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 15:34:29
A Welcome Murder
Jay Roberts

Meet Johnny Earl, former Major League Baseball player turned cocaine dealer. Earl is just out of prison, looking to get his hidden stash of drug money and split town to start a new life somewhere far away from Steubenville, Ohio. His plan and fortunes take a downward turn, though, when the FBI informant who helped send him to prison turns up murdered and Johnny is arrested as a suspect.

The use of the first-person point of view is a time-honored way of telling a story (Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels being just one prime example), and Robin Yocum gives readers not just Earl's, but four other major characters' first-person narratives as well. As the story unfolds, Yocum slowly reveals that the victim is someone everyone wanted dead, and that each character, from the local sheriff to Johnny Earl's lunatic ex-girlfriend, has their own motive for committing the crime.

From their personality quirks and character flaws, there's a seeming level of honesty coming from each one's point of view, particularly when they describe their failings. No one seems deluded into thinking that they are better than they actually seem. It says something about this particular group of people when the most "honorable" person in the mix is the one who just got out of prison.

With five different points of view to keep track of, the story inevitably reads more like entries in a rather twisted version of a diary instead of a murder investigation. When the actual killer is revealed, the denouement is less about whodunit and more about why they did it. Yocum's commentary on human nature and gritty nature of the story's setting may leave readers with the urge to take a shower after the resolution to the book. Anyone with a need to believe in heroes will surely have that belief tested by A Welcome Murder, as there are no heroes here.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 16:18:40

yocum awelcomemurderA gritty and dark crime novel featuring a Major League Baseball player turned cocaine dealer.

Bound by Mystery
Ben Boulden

Bound by Mystery is a celebratory anthology commemorating Poisoned Pen Press’ 20th anniversary. Edited by Diane D. DiBiase, it includes an impressive number of stories, 34 in total, rich with diversity and high on both entertainment and quality. The majority of the tales reside firmly within the mystery genre, but it also features a handful of outliers that are something else entirely. The writers are all Poisoned Pen Press alumni and include luminaries Laurie R. King, Kerry Greenwood, James Sallis, and so many others I blush at the prospect of listing only a few.

Reavis Z. Wortham’s “Gold Digger” begins with what appears to be a passion-fueled murder at an East Texas barn dance in 1934 and ends with a surprising twist in the same barn 80 years later. “Gone Phishing” by Tim Maleeny, perhaps my favorite story in the anthology, features a scheming, small-time hacker who, after stealing the digital identity of a pedophile, finds himself the target of a sinister gang. It ends with a satisfying climactic twist and an even more satisfying slice of vigilante justice. Vicki Delany’s “Her Mama’s Pearls” is an eerie, atmospheric horror tale grown from the seeds of murder. When a traveling salesman stops in a washed-up roadside town he finds a celebration for the prison release of a woman convicted of murdering her abusive husband. The town is more, or perhaps less, than it appears and what happens leaves the salesman wondering about his own sanity.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 16:31:06
Anatomy of Innocence
Ben Boulden

Anatomy of Innocence is a different kind of anthology. Its stories are written by highly regarded, often bestselling mystery writers such as Sara Paretsky, Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, and Jan Burke. The tales are fantastic enough to be fiction—a woman wrongly convicted of shaking a baby to death on the testimony of an uncredentialed expert witness using bad science, an easygoing man with a nearly deaf defense attorney convicted of raping a young girl despite multiple alibis—but they are frighteningly true.

Included are 15 stories of men and women exonerated of wrongful criminal convictions. Each is told with the visceral flare of fiction, focusing on a moment of the journey to prison—arrest, interrogation, trial, incarceration—rather than the clinical chronology of events. Sara Paretsky’s “The Trip to Doty’s Road” narrates the interrogation of a young African American, David Bates, suspected of murdering a drug dealer. Taken to Chicago’s infamous Area Two headquarters on 111th Street, he falsely confessed to the murder. The interrogation lasted 24 hours and included physical beatings, “slapping, kicking, and punching,” torture, and humiliation. With “Descent,” Michael Harvey adroitly describes the horror of conviction and incarceration in a maximum-security prison, and Jamie Freveletti relates the emotional roller coaster experienced by an inmate during the long and often discouraging process leading to a convict’s exoneration in “The Last Bad Morning.” The stories are all nonfiction, but this anthology should appeal to anyone who enjoys reading modern crime fiction.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 16:36:11
The Third Hell
Betty Webb

Connie Dial’s The Third Hell is a discomfiting, although meticulously plotted, mystery in which Matt Angelo, a 12-year-old boy, goes missing. Matt’s father, retired LAPD Detective Nino Angelo, is certain his son isn’t just another Los Angeles runaway, but the higher-ups in the department disagree. And with good reason. The relationship between the two has been declining ever since Angelo’s divorce from Matt’s mother. After a few weeks, the LAPD pretty much drops the case. Oddly enough, one of the only detectives determined to keep the investigation alive—although sub rosa—is Detective Reggie Madison, Angelo’s ex-wife’s boyfriend. The two make an unlikely pair as they interview Matt’s friends and comb through wooded canyons for any trace of the boy. Their investigation leads them to Saint Mark’s, a tony private school headed up by Sister Domenic, who at first appears to be no more helpful than the brass at LAPD. Despite the nun’s intransigence, Angelo and Madison discover a link between Matt and the wealthy Goldberg family. At this point, the already dark plot takes an even darker turn when they interview Magdalene Goldberg, an obviously disturbed young woman who keeps talking about “the evil one.” Besides the fascinating characters, one of the book’s strongest points is its insider look at the LAPD (author Dial is a retired LAPD captain). In one section, when entering a bar named Code-Four, Angelo observes, “Policemen were pack animals that tended to eat and play together.”

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 16:40:09
The Scientology Murders
Betty Webb

William Heffernan’s The Scientology Murders isn’t friendly towards the secretive organization, and it’s not even a mystery since we find out whodunit on page 42. So, no, this religious thriller doesn’t offer many surprises. What it does offer is an admittedly fictional look inside Scientology’s bureaucracy. In this case, the power structure is attempting to keep a serial killer (a Scientologist) from being brought to justice because he is more useful to the organization on the loose than he would be locked away in prison. When young Mary Kate O’Connell, a retired policeman’s daughter, joins Scientology, she is ordered to cut all ties with her family. And when she is suspected of being a lesbian—homosexuality being anathema to the church—she is ordered into “auditing” on a Sea Org ship. Mary Kate eventually winds up dead at the hands of Scientology’s pet serial killer (remember, this is fiction). That’s when Harry Doyle, a friend of Mary Kate’s father, enters the case. Doyle is known as the Dead Detective because when he was a child, his psychotic mother tried to kill him—and succeeded. He was brought back to life by an EMT, but his younger brother wasn’t as lucky. Doyle’s escape from death has changed him, however; he can now talk to the dead, and they talk back. Scientologists will no doubt be offended by this book (just as some Catholics were offended by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code), but many readers will enjoy the peek inside the organization’s hierarchy. Also enjoyable is the spirited romance between Doyle and Vicky Stanopolis, his partner in more ways than one. And the surprise ending is a wowser. I’d tell you more, but that would spoil the one secret The Scientology Murders manages to withhold until the final pages.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 17:14:54
Child’s Play
Betty Webb

Merry Jones’ Child’s Play is an entertaining, if sometimes irritating, thrill ride. When Ty Evans, a teen found guilty of killing his abusive father, is released from prison and bodies start piling up, Elle Harrison, his former teacher, wonders if Ty is killing again. In this way, the plot is similar to Lisa Gardner’s Right Behind You, but where most of Gardner’s characters are law enforcement professionals, author Jones’ characters are mostly elementary school employees: principals, teachers, janitors, and the like. This makes a big difference in their behavior. Elle, whose friends constantly accuse her of “pulling an Elle”—meaning that she zones out when confronted with stress—is hysterical throughout much the book. She’s not the only one. Her three friends—Becky, Susan, and Jen—often resort to screaming hysterics, and like Elle, not just about big stuff. The weakness of Child’s Play is that all this global hysteria damages what could have been a more suspenseful book if its characters had been handled with more subtlety. When characters are constantly emoting about trivia, it can be hard for a reader to remember that people are being murdered. Still, the plot, when not interfered with by flawed characterization, packs a wallop by asking an important question: Once you have killed, are you likely to kill again? By the end, the body count of Child’s Play adds up to eight (plus one rape), and delivers the shocking answer.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 17:20:07
The Shill Trilogy
Dick Lochte

This trilogy by Shamus Award-winner Shepphird sets a new high standard for woman-in-jeopardy fiction. It consists of three linked novellas that follow the travails of Jane Innes, a likable but hapless underemployed actress whose string of bad luck takes her ever deeper into noir, but not without moments of dark humor. Trouble appears in the form of Cooper Sinclair, a handsome newcomer to her acting class, who romances then seduces her, both literally and into a life of crime. Confessing to being a con man, he outlines a can’t-fail scam involving the sale of a supposed fortune in diamonds to a lecherous wealthy realtor. Against her better judgment, she agrees to play the role of the shill—the accomplice who adds credibility to the con, in this case by portraying a sexy heiress. Of course, things go awry all the way to murder, with Jane left to face the cops with a corpse in her car trunk. Released after suffering a brutal attack in prison, she’s approached by an FBI agent who tells her she’s been used by a powerful gang of swindlers who now want her dead. Determined not only to survive but to settle the score with the con artists, she agrees to help the agent find them. The trail leads from L.A. to Sarasota and another murderous attack on Jane. Then, traveling alone, she heads to Miami and the Turks and Caicos, where once again she winds up in jeopardy. Battered but unbowed, Jane survives and continues her quest back to California for more danger, leading to a final explosive confrontation. Reader Kera O’Bryon uses a soft, almost flirtatious narration that is surprisingly effective in rendering the action-packed, heavily plotted yarn. She capably presents a protagonist forced by circumstance to cope with shocking twists, turns, deceitful allies, and an assortment of imaginative perilous situations, eventually leading to a discovery of her full potential. Including a pair of vicious but oddly amusing villains, nicely interpreted by O’Bryon, this is entertainment, unpretentious and nonstop.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 17:31:33
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction
Jon L. Breen

Typically of the distinguished series to which it belongs, this book does an excellent job of identifying characters, locales, themes, and other allusions; summarizing novels and stories and their critical reception; and providing biography, bibliography, and chronology of a significant contributor to crime fiction. The mild caveats that follow do not contradict that in any way.

A common pitfall in the course of celebrating a particular author is the tendency to exaggerate the subject’s importance by denigrating the genre to which she belongs. This book inaccurately stereotypes hardboiled private-eye fiction pre-Paretsky to make her stand out. This is not necessary. Paretsky’s record as writer and social activist doesn’t require artificial propping up.

An article on “Hard-Boiled Subgenre” refers to “trigger-happy detectives such as Race Williams, Philip Marlowe, and the Continental Op” who “dominated the hard-boiled subgenre.” Were these characters trigger-happy? Race Williams, maybe; the Continental Op, in the late stages of Red Harvest perhaps, but it bothered him; certainly not Marlowe. If this characterization were accurate, would Paretsky have enjoyed their works and wanted to write in their tradition? And was Paretsky’s selection of Chicago as a locale rather than “more traditional literary and film settings” New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco really so risky and did her use of it “put Chicago on the pop-culture literary map”? Had the author of this article never heard of Craig Rice, Thomas B. Dewey, John Evans (Howard Browne), Fredric Brown, or Jonathan Latimer, all of whom set their novels in Chicago? The difficulty of selling Paretsky’s first book probably had more to do with resistance to a female private eye than to one of America’s greatest cities.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 17:36:59
Towards Sherlock Holmes: A Thematic History of Crime Fiction in the 19th Century World
Jon L. Breen

An Australian academic scholar of crime fiction makes an important contribution to its early history. The opening chapter is a very meaty and informed account of early American mystery fiction, including its pre-Poe development, while the next two summarize the French and English products. Other topics include women fictional detectives in the Victorian age, contributions of mainstream novelists to the genre (Dickens, Collins, and the “sensation” writers), the success of Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, and Conan Doyle’s evolving view of empire.

Apart from occasional academic jargon, Knight is a highly readable writer, and I trust him on facts. However, he repeats the odd misconception that Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case was a locked-room mystery.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-20 17:41:22
The Adventures of the REAL Tom Sawyer: A Memoir: The Story of a Very Fortunate Life
Jon L. Breen

Sawyer spent 12 years as a writer for Murder, She Wrote, the last five as showrunner, and has written a couple of expertly crafted thrillers that illustrate his suspicion of underexamined history (The Sixteenth Man on the JFK assassination; No Place to Run on 9/11). But there’s much more to the engrossing story of his eventful life: his uneasy relationship with his parents, Army black-market activities while stationed in Japan during the Korean War, marriages (two unsuccessful, the third very successful), work as a cartoonist (including a failed attempt to unionize his colleagues), life-changing psychoanalysis, experiences in advertising and short-film making, collaboration on the libretto of an opera about John F. Kennedy, and entry into the world of Hollywood, initially as a director but later as a much-in-demand TV writer. Apart from his undeniable readability and storytelling knack, Sawyer’s openness and honesty is remarkable.

One surprise is the contempt in which Sawyer holds the clued mystery genre to which Murder, She Wrote belongs. He got his first job on the show in its initial season after telling Peter Fischer, the showrunner and co-creator with William Link and Richard Levinson, he wouldn’t write the traditional whodunit as he understood it but would write in the spirit of The Maltese Falcon (which, by the way, is a whodunit and is not devoid of clues).

The account is often vague about dates, especially early on, and Sawyer cops to shaving years off his official age to compete in youth-obsessed Hollywood, but readers like me who compulsively do the math will find ample clues to how old he is.

Sawyer is such an excellent writer, it’s puzzling that at no point in the writing or editing process did anyone weed out what must be a world record for dangling and misplaced modifiers. Along with its virtues, the book is a gold mine for English teachers looking for examples.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 20:03:45
The Purple Flame and Other Detective Stories
Ben Boulden

The Purple Flame and Other Detective Stories is a collection of 15 fetching traditional mystery stories by Frederick Irving Anderson. The stories originally appeared in magazines as diverse as Adventure, The Saturday Evening Post, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine between the years 1912 and 1951. Sleuths Oliver Armiston, “the extinct writer,” and Deputy Inspector Parr appear in the majority of the stories. Armiston is an extinct, or retired, writer because one of his tales was used as a blueprint for a very clever and damaging crime, but, with some insistence from DI Parr, his assistance is usually available to the police for solving the most puzzling crimes. The stories are nicely plotted traditional mysteries with a touch of humor and an appealing social commentary of the era. The collection is edited by Benjamin F. Fisher and includes an informative critical essay about Frederick Irving Anderson.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 20:15:18
Alice and the Assassin
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

When I first started reading this book, I knew very little about Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, but as I continued reading, I became intrigued. Surely the author was taking liberties with the character. No one at age 17 could be as pretty, bold, and unconventional as the Alice depicted in Alice and the Assassin. So, after the first few chapters, I looked her up online. It turns out that she was even more unconventional and memorable in real life!

Here, in 1902, shortly after the assassination of President William McKinley, whose death resulted in her father becoming president, she becomes intrigued by questions about who was behind the killing, despite the investigation’s result that it was a lone anarchist who committed the crime. At about the same time, she is put under the watchful eye of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, a former Wyoming cowboy who was a trusted officer with Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

When Alice decides that she wants to interview Emma Goldman, a notorious anarchist who was connected with the assassin, St. Clair, responsible for her safety, is against the plan. But he is no match for Alice when she decides to do something. Thus, begins an investigation that takes the unlikely pair from dank Bowery barrooms to high-class New York mansions and brings them closer and closer to an unexpected and dangerous denouement.

What really enhances this mystery is the relationship between Alice and St. Clair, which starts out a bit prickly, but develops into a partnership that works. Once St. Clair accepts the fact that Alice is a smoker, a drinker, and an occasional visitor to illegal bookie shops, things go much more smoothly. There is even a bit of growing attraction between the two to keep things interesting.

Just as an aside, the real Alice lived to age 96, never changed her persona, and is responsible for a number of famous quotations, including: “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 21:29:38
Miguel’s Gift
Matt Fowler

In Miguel’s Gift, Bruce Kading, a former special agent in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), throws the reader into the gritty world of illegal immigration. Set in Chicago, the story begins with Nick Hayden, a newcomer to the INS as he acquaints himself with the job and the people in the unit. Nick quickly proves valuable in the fight to pick up illegal immigrants. His success leads him to get heavily involved in a case against the predominant provider of counterfeit immigration papers and he enlists Miguel Chavez, a man from Mexico, unlawfully in Chicago, to help with his investigation. Along the way, the reader learns Nick may be harboring secrets about an old case that ended with an agent dead.

Kading’s first novel is written with vibrant energy as the author throws the reader into the world of INS officers. The plotting is intricate, shifting from subplot to subplot, which helps make the novel feel linked together and as a result whole. And although Hayden himself oftentimes feels too vanilla to exist in such a complicated world, there is at least a passing examination of characters with problematic viewpoints who are constantly finding way to express those viewpoints. Hayden’s working relationship and growing friendship with Miguel adds nuance to the ambitious INS agent’s character.

In all honesty, it is the tertiary characters, such as a scorned woman who was tricked into a marriage and a grizzled veteran who has trouble saying goodbye to the only real career in the INS he’s ever had, that really stick long after the novel has concluded. Ultimately, while the resolution involving Nick’s case and Miguel’s fate feels too simplistic and easy to be believable, the novel remains readable.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 21:36:45
If I’m Found
Sharon Magee

Casey Cox is one gutsy gal. Even when she’s running from the law for a crime she didn’t commit, she stops along the way to help others in need—an abused child, and a man wrongly accused of abuse—even though to do so may result in her capture. If I’m Found is the second in Terri Blackstock’s If I Run three-book series (the first was 2016’s If I Run). Accused of murdering her best friend, Brent—her DNA was all over the crime scene—Casey is on the run. She’s pursued by the only person who may be able to help her, PI Dylan Roberts, a vet suffering from PTSD. He’s been hired by Brent’s family to find Casey and bring her back to stand trial. Also on the hunt are two corrupt detectives whose goal is to make sure Casey won’t make it out of jail alive. After studying every aspect of the case, Dylan lets Casey know through secret email communications with her that he believes in her innocence. But Casey’s not sure she can trust him, even though when he found her once before, he let her walk away. Slowly, as she continues to run, changing her appearance along the way, she dares to hope.

Author Terri Blackstock, a writer with more than 40 titles to her name, says she was inspired to write this series about a wrongly accused woman running for her life by the TV series and movie The Fugitive. Because there are many mentions of the incidents from the first book in this series, readers are encouraged to read it before tackling this latest entry.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 21:46:13
Trumpet of Death
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

It is not often that the prime crime solver in a murder mystery is a 92-year-old, but Victoria Trumbull is not your average nonagenarian. She still loves hiking the beautiful trails near her Martha’s Vineyard home, she writes a weekly column for the local newspaper, and she knows most of the people on the island, including the local female police chief, Casey, one of her best friends.

In this 13th mystery in the series, the charred body of an unidentified male is found in a purposely set fire that destroyed an old parsonage on the Vineyard. Not long afterwards, while out walking with a young boy to a Little League baseball game, Victoria comes across the body of a young woman, half buried under a pile of leaves with the back of her head bashed in. Is there a connection between the two tragedies?

When it turns out that the prime suspect in the young woman’s death is a naive young man to whom Victoria was renting a room, she decides to get involved in the case. Although her tenant was romantically involved with the young woman, as were half the males on the island, she believes that he would be the last person to commit so brutal a crime.

The title of the book refers to a type of mushroom called black trumpet of death, a delicious non-poisonous delicacy that becomes a factor in the case.

If you like small village mysteries, solved by an elderly woman, à la Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, you’ll enjoy this updated version while getting an enjoyable tour of one of New England’s most beautiful attractions.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 21:53:51
The Wages of Sin
Eileen Brady

In 1882 the University of Edinburgh accepted the first women students into their prestigious medical school. The medical establishment didn’t want them, and their fellow male students were openly antagonistic. In her first novel, The Wages of Sin, author Kaite Welsh takes us into this pivotal early fight for women’s rights. Twenty-seven-year-old Londoner Sarah Gilchrist has been exiled to Scotland by her upper-class family for an unforgivable indiscretion: she has been raped. Determined to go to medical school, she lives on the charity of her aunt and uncle who would prefer to marry her off to a suitable young man.

Just going to class takes steely fortitude, as she endures cruel jibes from both male and female medical students, especially Julia Latymer, who knows of Sarah’s secret past. When a patient from the women’s clinic Sarah volunteers at shows up on a medical school autopsy table, Sarah thinks foul play. Although the justification for suspecting murder is weak, the story only briefly falters before roaring back on track. Sarah persists in trying to find out the truth, risking not only dismissal from medical school, but her very freedom in an era where headstrong women were frequently dosed with laudanum (a type of opium) and confined to mental institutions “for their own good.” I found this a fascinating read and a reminder of how difficult life was for women, especially the poor, not more than a century and a half ago. The Wages of Sin is an excellent debut novel that is both entertaining and educational.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-21 21:59:13
2017 Edgar, Agatha Winners
Oline H. Cogdill

MWA Winners AslanChalom
Mystery Scene
magazine congratulates those who took home an Edgar Award this week, as well as those who were nominated. Each category had terrific nominees.

Given by the Mystery Writers of America, the Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2016.

The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at the 71st gala banquet on April 27, 2017, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The winners in each category are listed below in bold with two asterisks.

THE EDGAR AWARDS


BEST NOVEL
**Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Grand Central Publishing)

The Ex by Alafair Burke (Harper)
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
**Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Books)
Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown Publishing Group)
IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books)
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Dancing With the Tiger by Lili Wright (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Lost Girls by Heather Young (William Morrow)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
**Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street Books)
Shot in Detroit
by Patricia Abbott (Polis Books)
Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts (Thomas & Mercer)
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)
A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum (Seventh Street Books)
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

BEST FACT CRIME
**The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)
Morgue: A Life in Death
by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s Press)
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (William Morrow)
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus Books) While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders (Viking Books)



BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
**Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life
by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese)
Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967 by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal (Liveright)

BEST SHORT STORY
**“Autumn at the Automat by Lawrence Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
“Oxford Girl” by Megan Abbott (Mississippi Noir, Akashic Books)
A Paler Shade of Death by Laura Benedict (St. Louis Noir, Akashic Books)
The Music Room by Stephen King (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
The Crawl Space by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE
**OCDaniel by Wesley King (Paula Wiseman Books)
The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Framed! by James Ponti (Aladdin)
Summerlost by Ally Condie (Dutton BFYR)
Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (Paula Wiseman Books)

BEST YOUNG ADULT
**Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown BFYR)

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon Pulse)
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Henry Holt BFYR)
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen)
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor (Dial Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
**“A Blade of GrassPenny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)
Episode 1 - From the Ashes of TragedyThe People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Teleplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (FX Network)
The Abominable BrideSherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
Episode 1 - Dark RoadVera, Teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)
Return 0Person of Interest, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Denise The (CBS/Warner Brothers)
The Bicameral Mind” – Westworld, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (HBO/Warner Bros. Television)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
The Truth of the Moment by E. Gabriel Flores (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTERS
Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart

RAVEN AWARD
Dru Ann Love

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD
Neil Nyren

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
**The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub (William Morrow)

The Charles Todd Award
PJ Parrish

THE AGATHA AWARDS

The Agatha Awards also are one of the top awards for mystery fiction.
The Agatha Awards were presented April 29, 2017, during the Malice Domestic banquet.
The 2016 Agatha Awards will be given for materials first published in the United States by a living author during the calendar year 2016.
Winners in each category were decided by the attendees of Malice Domestic 29.
Congratulations to all the winners, and nominees

The 2016 Agatha Award winners in each category are listed below in bold with two asterisks.

BEST CONTEMPORARY NOVEL
**A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

BEST HISTORICAL NOVEL
**The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao (Berkley)
Get Me to the Grave on Time by D.E. Ireland (Grainger Press)
Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
**The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press)
Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (Forge Books)

BEST NONFICTION
**Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats by Jane K. Cleland (Writer's Digest Books)
A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden's 25 Years in the Maine Woods by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora (Skyhorse Publishing)
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland Books)

BEST SHORT STORY
**"Parallel Play" by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Press)
"Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story" by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
"The Best-Laid Plans" by Barb Goffman in Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional (Wildside Press)
"The Mayor and the Midwife" by Edith Maxwell in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 (Down & Out Books)
"The Last Blue Glass" by B.K. Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine


BEST CHILDREN/YOUNG ADULT
**The Secret of the Puzzle Box: The Code Busters Club by Penny Warner (Darby Creek)
Trapped: A Mei-hua Adventure by P.A. DeVoe (Drum Tower Press)
Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster)
Tag, You're Dead by J C Lane (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos (Balzer & Bray)

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Charlaine Harris

POIROT AWARD
Martin Edwards


Photo: MWA 2017 Edgar winners. Photo by Aslan Chalom

Oline Cogdill
2017-04-30 05:15:00
A Twist in Time
Jean Gazis

In this smartly entertaining sequel to A Murder in Time (2015), star 21st-century FBI agent Kendra Donovan remains trapped in 1815 England, trying to make the best of her strange situation while still hoping to find a way back to her own era. When her powerful protector, the wealthy and scientifically minded Duke of Aldridge, receives word that his handsome nephew—and Kendra’s would-be suitor—Alec, Marquis of Sutcliffe, is under suspicion for murder, the duo rush off to London to clear his name. Finding the truth of who brutally stabbed and mutilated Lady Dover, a stunningly beautiful young widow with whom Sutcliffe had a brief affair, turns out to be far more complicated than anyone imagined. The victim’s many romantic conquests included both the rich and powerful, as well as Bear, an underworld gang leader who threatens horrific vengeance against Sutcliffe.

For Kendra, navigating London’s high society with its arcane rules of etiquette is as daunting as confronting its seedy underworld. Aided once again by Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly and the progressive, spirited Lady Rebecca Blackburn, Kendra races against time to discover the real killer and save Sutcliffe’s life and reputation. She follows each lead through foggy streets, candlelit drawing rooms, and elegant ballrooms, shocking polite society with her unconventional methods and behavior. In this rigidly stratified society, appearances are paramount, and stepping out of bounds can have dire consequences. Meanwhile, she struggles to balance her fervent desire to return to her own time with her growing affection for and attachment to her 19th-century friends and companions. With its engaging characters, vivid and authentic settings, and intriguing mystery, this is the kind of book the reader wishes wouldn’t end.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-24 15:37:47
Deep Down Dead
Craig Sisterson

Among the recent surge of domestic noir and psychological thrillers, British debutant Steph Broadribb offers something deliciously different for thriller fans. True, her heroine is a young mother dropped in perilous situation, but Lori Anderson is no passive, middle-class suburban housewife.

The rough and rugged world of bounty hunting: that’s how Florida-based solo mom Lori provides for her cancer-stricken daughter. Backed into a corner financially, Lori takes a high-paying gig traversing the southern states, her daughter in tow, to collect her former mentor JT. Now a captured fugitive, the bounty rather than the hunter, JT is a man who knows the dark secrets from Lori’s own past.

But is JT a formerly good man, now corrupted, or is something else going on?

Broadribb’s writing is fresh and vivid, crackling with life. There’s a really strong narrative voice, and the first-time author adroitly draws us into Lori’s world as she takes readers on an action-packed road trip through the gritty and grimy parts of the Deep South. Across the board, Deep Down Dead is an impressive thriller, the kind of book that comfortably sits alongside seasoned pros at the top of their game. Sultry and suspenseful, it marks a welcome first bow for an exceptional new voice.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-24 15:41:26
The Day I Died
Sharon Magee

Anna Winger has been on the run from an abusive boyfriend since she was a pregnant teenager who faked her own death. Now, she and her rebellious 13-year-old son, Joshua, have settled in Parks, Indiana. But she knows it is temporary. As soon as there is a whiff that someone has discovered her secret—and there always is—she and Joshua will pack up their few belongings and hit the road, looking again for anonymity. Anna hopes it won’t be too soon.

She enjoys the small-town atmosphere of Parks. And as an expert handwriting analyst, she’s just signed on to help the county sheriff’s office with the case of a missing boy, even though the sheriff thinks her craft is mumbo jumbo. Adding to her desire to stay, is Anna’s attraction to the sheriff, although she normally shies away from any type of relationship.

In the case of the missing boy, she finds herself siding with the mother, who is accused of kidnapping him during a custody battle with the father, who is rumored to be abusive. Anna knows from personal experience what a mother will do to protect her child. Then, Joshua goes missing. In desperation and despair, she finds herself on the run again and looking for her son. It is a quest that leads her back to her hometown, where it all began 13 years before.

Lori Rader-Day is a Mary Higgins Clark Award winner, and deservedly so, but in this latest offering, a coincidence that is key to the plot severely tests the reader’s threshold for suspending disbelief. Other than that shortcoming, the story is compelling, the characters interesting, and the theme of a mother’s love universal.

Teri Duerr
2017-04-24 16:22:58