Saturday, October 30, 2010

New to the Mystery Shelves

Are you in the mood for a haunting tale of Hollywood noir?  Jeff Sherratt has just released Detour to Murder: a Film Noir Mystery.  The latest in his Jimmy O'Brien series is already generating a buzz.  The book has been listed on the International Thriller Writers' Picks of the Month for October. 

In 1945, the semi-nude body of a woman is found in a two-bit motel, a telephone cord wrapped around her throat.  The stolen car of a murdered motorist is parked in the motel parking lot, the owner lying broken and dead on the side of an Arizona highway.

Al Roberts confesses and has spent the last 29 years in prison.  Now, nearly three decades after meekly confessing, the aged Roberts swears his innocence.

Jimmy O'Brien, defense attorney to the dregs of the criminal world, must find our why.  Why did Roberts give a false confession?  And why has he waited 29 years to tell the truth?  O'Brien digs into the past, igniting a powder-keg that threatens to expose the long-held secrets behind Detour, the iconic Hollywood film documenting Roberts' story -- secrets that could destroy the underground aristocracy that has held power in Los Angeles, city of broken dreams, for years.

Check out the trailer for the 1945 film:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Halloween Sampler

I have to say that Halloween is my most favorite holiday.  Maybe it stems from a childhood spent watching all those classic horror movies on TV.  Having grown up on Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and other haunted characters no doubt had an dark influence on my reading selections.  So in keeping with the holiday spirits, here is a selection of stories for that next dark and stormy night.

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell
Death by Horoscope -- a collection of tales edited by Anne Perry
Witch Hunt by Shirley Damsgaard
Blackwork by Monica Ferris
Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
The Year of Disappearances by Susan Hubbard
Ghost a la Mode:  a Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Murder in Vein by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
The Wolfman by Nicholas Pekearo
Dracula: the Un-dead by Dacre Stoker

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blooming Murder Mysteries -- Unpotted

 Why does florist Abby Knight keep finding corpses? If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, you may want to pursue this question with  Dirty Rotten Tendrils, the 10th Flower Shop Mystery, that hit the bookstores on October 5th.

Without coming straight out and interrogating author Kate Collins, it did occur to me that Kate’s fellow authors on the Cozy Chicks blog might be forthcoming with details about Abby Knight and Kate Collins. Here’s what Deb Baker, Maggie Sefton, JB Stanley, Heather Webber, Lorna Barrett, and Leann Sweeney had to say. We begin with the most pressing query and phrase it as delicately as possible.

Ten-plus murders! Ten! That’s an awful lot of bodies surrounding florist Abby Knight. And in Shoots to Kill, she’s even arrested for murder on page one! She admits to having a short fuse. Is Abby really so unlucky, or is author Kate Collins trying to cover up her protagonist’s nefarious past?

From Leann Sweeney: Unlucky? No. Who wouldn't want a smart, curious, intuitive woman ready to step in and solve a murder? We all have things we like to do besides work at the day job. Like quilting or painting or gardening or catching murderers.

Abby Knight is both a florist and a crusader. Her mother teaches kindergarten and engages in a long list of creative endeavors, such as making designer candy. Are energetic, multi-tasking women like these purely fiction? And what exactly is a Dancing Naked Monkey table, one of Maureen Knight’s many creations?

From Maggie Sefton:  Abby Knight delights readers with her creativity, her crusading spirit, and her tenacity in finding clues and figuring out murders.  She may even take after her energetic, multi-tasking, and creative mother, Maureen.  As for the Dancing naked Monkey table?  Maureen really knows.

Abby's fiance, ex-Army Ranger Marco is described as tough and sensitive--a man who could cook up an omelet and take down a killer in the same day.  The couple has already called it quits once.  Any guesses on whether we'll hear wedding bells in the future?

From Lorna Barrett/Lorraine Bartlett:  Does this give you a clue:  Dum dum de dum.  dum dum de dum.  Dumm dum de dum dum de dum dum de dum.  (And Abby's had the wedding flowers designed for ages.)

This is just between friends, and I'm not asking because I'm jealous (my thumb is a distinct shade of brown), but is author Kate Collins actualy good with plants?

From Deb Baker/Hannah Reed:  Kate is the queen of green thumbs and can dish dirt better than anyone else!  Uh, I mean, mix dirt.

Abby seems a little self-conscious that she flunked out of law school.  What advice would you give her to help get her over her perceived failure?

From JB Stanley/Ellery Adams:  I'd tell Abby that when one door closes, another opens.  After all, if she hadn't flunked out of law school, how could she have become the engaging sleuth and skilled florist that we all know and love?  Her "failure" has become a source of delight and enjoyment for readers across the globe!

For readers who haven't enjoyed the florist Shop Mysteries, can they jump right in with book #10?  And what kind of read can they expect?

From Heather Webber:  As with all Kate's books, Dirty Rotten Tendrils is filled with humor, fantastic characters, twisty-turny plots, a bit of romance, and a warmth that's just Kate's natural voice.  You absolutely don't have to start at the beginning of the series to enjoy Kate's books.  Jump right in with Dirty Rotten Tendrils, and then once Kate has you hooked (and she will), go back and fall in love with the rest of the Flower Shop Mysteries.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ten Crime Novels You Must Read Before You Die

Declan Hughes
One of the hardest decisions you have to make at Bouchercon is...which of the many fascinating and stimulating panels are you going to attend.  This one was a no-brainer.  I had discovered and enjoyed the novels of Declan Hughes and he was one of the authors I intended to see at last week's mystery convention.  So of course I made my way to a lunchtime panel with Hughes and  Irish novelist John Connolly to hear their top ten list of crime novels.

Declan Hughes is the author of the Ed Loy PI series that started with The Wrong Kind of Blood (winner of the Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel).  His most recent is City of Lost Girls.  Hughes is also an award winning playwright and screenwriter.  John Connolly was born in Dublin.  His first novel, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999 and introduced Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter.  His latest Charlie Parker novel is The Whisperers
  1. The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (closely tied with his Red Harvest)
  2. The Long Good bye by Raymond Chandler (tied with The Big Sleep)
  3. The Chill by Ross Macdonald
  4. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
  5. Anything by Ed McBain (such as Cop Hater or Fuzz)
  6. Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
  7. Any of the books by James Lee Burke
  8. Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar
  9. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  10. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Monday, October 18, 2010

Award Winning Mysteries

I'm back from Bouchercon with stacks of books to read, new authors to pursue, and lots of great memories!  One of the best things about these conferences is the opportunity to meet favorite authors face to face, perhaps have a little chat.  It's all good!  In upcoming posts I'll share some of the discoveries I made at the convention, including a new book I'm currently reading -- and loving!

Here are three of the awards announced at the convention.  All the nominated books are winners, but when titles pop up on several lists and win numerous awards, one must sit up an take notice. 

BARRY AWARD (voted on by readers of Deadly Pleasures Magazine)
Best Novel:  The Last Child by John Hart
Best First Novel:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Best British Novel:  If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
Best Paperback Original:  Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Best Thriller:  Runnng from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti
Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade:  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
Best Short Story:  "The High House Writer" by Brendan DuBois (AHMM, July/August)

MACAVITY AWARD (nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International)
Best Mystery Novel:  Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman
Best First Mystery Novel:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Best Mystery Non-Fiction: Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James
Best Mystery Short Story:  "On the House" (Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers) by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Sue Feder Historical Mystery:  A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

Best Novel:  The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Best First Novel:  A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
Best Short Story:  "On the House" (Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers) by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Best Paperback Original:  Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Best Critical Non-fiction:  Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Poacher's Son [guest review]

As a long time fan of mystery novels, I’m always thrilled to discover a new author. I recently had the pleasure to read The Poacher’s Son, an impressive mystery series debut by journalist Paul Doiron. The story is set in the woods of Maine where main character Mike Bowditch is a rookie game warden. Bowditch’s life and career are turned upside down when his father Jack, a notorious poacher, is accused of murder. Doiron blends mystery, outdoor adventure and a story about personal relationships to create a page turner that has received rave reviews. I highly recommend The Poacher’s Son, especially to readers who enjoy authors like Nevada Barr or C. J. Box. Paul Doiron is definitely an author to watch and I'm looking forward to reading future books in the Mike Bowditch series.

Thanks to Patrice for the review.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bouchercon By the Bay

This year's world mystery convention, Bouchercon, is being held in San Francisco, Sam Spade's old stomping grounds.  And for the first time, I will be going to this prestigious gathering, something I've always wanted to do.  Named for Anthony Boucher, one of the founders of Mystery Writers of America, this convention will be well represented by mystery authors both domestic and international.  Check here for a list of attendees.

Several mystery awards will be announced during the convention.  How many have you read this year?

Best Novel
The Last Child by John Hart
The Mystic Arts of Erasing all Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan

Best First Novel
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

Best Paperback Original
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman
Quarry in the Middle by Max Allan Collins
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet
Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best Short Story
"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" by Ace Atkins, Crossroad Blues
"Femme Sole" by Dana Cameron, Boston Noir
"Animal Rescue" by Dennis Lehane, Boston Noir
"On the House" by Hank Phillipi Ryan, Quarry
"Amapola" by Luis Alberto Urrea, Phoenix Noir

Best Critical Non-Fiction Work
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James
The Lineup:  The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives by Otto Penzler, ed.
Haunted Heart:  The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak
Dame Agatha's Shorts:  An Agatha Christie Short Story Companion by Elena Santangelo
The Talented Miss Highsmith:  The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

2010 BARRY AWARD NOMINEES (from Deadly Pleasures Magazine)
Best Novel
The Gates by John Connolly
The Hidden Man by David Ellis
Spade & Archer by Joe Gores
The Last Child by John Hart
Locked In by Marcia Muller
Shangai Moon by S.J. Rozan

Best First Novel
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

Best British Novel
Awakening by S.J. Bolton
The Lovers by John Connolly
Midnight Fugue by Reginald Hill
If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
Still Midnight by Denise Mina
Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson

Best Paperback Original
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
Quarry in the Middle by Max Allan Collins
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gutenkauf
Fatal Lies by Frank Tallis
The Herring-Seller's Apprentice by L.C. Tyler

Best Thriller
No Survivors by Tom Cain
Running fro the Devil by Jamie Freveletti
The Gray Man by Mark Greaney
Columbus by Derek Haas
House Secrets by Mike lawson
Walking Dead by Greg Rucka

Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade
The Guards by Ken Bruen
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
Still Life by Louise Penny
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Best Short Story
"My Mother's Keeper" by Barbara Callahan (EQMM June 2009)
"Erin's Journal" by David Dean (EQMM December 2009)
"Real Men Die" by John H. Dirckx (AHMM September 2009)
"The High House Writer" by Brendan DuBois (AHMM July-August 2009)
"A Hollywood Ending" by Melody Johnson Howe (EqMM July 2009)
"Hard Blows" by Morley Swingle (The Prosecution Rests)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Way Out

I must admit that this was my first Joel Goldman thriller, but I promise you it won't be my last. No Way Out is the third entry in a series featuring ex-FBI agent Jack Davis, one of more interesting characters I've come across.  While most protagonists have obstacles to overcome, be it alcoholism, failed relationships, or physical diabilities, Jack has a rare movement disorder.  Temporary tics, spasms, and shakes can come upon him, often in moments of stress.  Maybe not fatal, but certainly inconvenient if driving a car or pointing a gun.

Jack works part-time for a private detective agency run by computer whiz Simon Alexander and his field investigator/girlfriend, Lucy Trent.  Their latest case involves two missing children.  On their way to interview the inmate father of the kids, Jack and Lucy stop for lunch at a roadside barbecue joint. A shootout disrupts their meal, however.  What looks like a domestic disturbance erupts into gunfire with Jack and Lucy trapped between the shooters.  The young bookkeeper, who fortunately handles a gun as well as she does a spreadsheet, disarms the killer and saves the day for Jack and his partner.

When it turns out that one of the guns used in the shootout was traced to a robbery, things get very interesting for Roni Chase, the attractive accountant.  Jack is determined to help Roni out of her legal difficulties, but the web of deceit surrounding her just keeps getting stickier.

No Way Out is set in Kansas City, which is as much a key element of the story as the cast of complex and intriguing characters.  Everytime you think you have it figured out, a new piece of the puzzle is thrown into the mix until finally all the seemingly unrelated threads are pulled together and the picture's complete.  All in all, a compelling read that will keep you turning the pages.  Visit Joel Goldman's website here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mystery Solved!

Burbank READS, the Burbank Public Library's "One Book, One City" campaign, comes to a close this Saturday when author Jan Burke makes a guest appearance at the program finale.  During the past six weeks the library has been encouraging the city to read Goodnight, Irene, the first of Burke's Irene Kelly series of mysteries.

Ms. Burke will be speaking at a tea in her honor on October 9 at 2 PM in the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library.  Space is still available if you would like to attend.  RSVP to 818-238-5562.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Remembering Stephen J. Cannell

It was very sad to learn that Stephen J. Cannell passed away last week from complications of melanoma.  He was 69 years old.  Many remember him as the prolific writer-producer of TV series, including The Rockford Files, Black Sheep Squadron, Baretta, 21 Jump Street,  and The A-Team, among so many others.

Cannell turned his focus to crime fiction in recent years and had published sixteen novels, including the Shane Scully series and several stand-alones.  He was a frequent guest speaker at many conventions including Left Coast Crime and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  Many crime fans will remember his guest poker-playing cameos on ABC-TV's Castle

He will indeed be missed.