This past year has been an extremely hectic one for me, leaving me less reading time than I would have liked. So I say good riddance to 2011. In the days ahead, we'll be seeing what books are being considered the "Best of 2011." But on this last day of the year, here is a little informal list of favorites.
My friend, Morgan, sent me a list of her favorite reads for the year:
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
The Night Season by Chelsea Cain
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
books by Magdalen Nabb
The Inspector and Silence: an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakah Nesser
The Priest by Gerald O'Donovan
Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline (2008--new to her)
Another friend, Melissa, has discovered the award-winning books by Louise Penny, including the latest, A Trick of the Light. She also enjoys the books by Tana French, Rhys Bowen, and is starting in on Deborah Crombie's list of mysteries.
Finally, here are some of the books that I enjoyed this past year:
It's 1938 Hollywood. While the Great Depression still haunts Americans and war clouds are gathering in Europe, the golden age of movies reigns in this southern California enclave of glamour and glitter. Gone with the Wind is still in production and manic munchkins are creating havoc for MGM in Culver City where the Wizard of Oz is being filmed.
But it's also a time when even the slightest whiff of scandal could torpedo a promising film career. Former LAPD detective Chris Blanchard is a "fixer" for MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. It's his job to make sure the MGM contract players stay out of trouble and keep any smell of scandal away from the studio.
When one of the starlets cries "murder," Blanchard's search for the killer could become fatal for both of them. Hollywood secrets, blackmail, Nazis, commies, and more bodies begin to pile up. One minute our Chandleresque hero is dancing with a good-lookin' dame at the Coconut Grove, the next, he's trying to outrun a Nazi gunman on Catalina Island.
Robert S. Levinson at a recent visit in Burbank
I highly recommend this noir thriller, especially if you'd like a trip back to Hollywood's golden era. Levinson peppers his delightful dance with hundreds of details about Los Angeles during the thirties. Colorful characters, both real and imagined, waltz their way through snappy dialogue and an action-packed plot.
Are you jingle-belled out? Perhaps you'd like to sit down with an exciting thriller and escape the manic hordes at the malls? Here's a suggestion, The Inside Ring by Mike Lawson. I missed this one first time around, but now that it's been released in paperback, I have a second chance to discover Seattle-based Lawson's intriguing series.
The Seattle Times selected The Inside Ring as one of the ten best thrillers of 2005 and it's the debut of the Joe DeMarco series. The book starts out with an assassination attempt on the president. Although the president is wounded, his best friend and secret service agent is killed. Then the man claiming to be the assassin is found dead in his house.
Washington, DC lawyer Joe DeMarco is a "fixer" for House Speaker Mahoney. When the Secretary for Homeland Security reveals to the Speaker that prior to the attempt on the president, he had received a note warning of the danger and implicating the secret service agents on guard duty. Rather than take this information to the FBI, the Secretary asks Mahoney for help. DeMarco is assigned the job of determining if the Secret Service is indeed involved.
Interesting characters, humor, and action-packed scenes keeps you turning the pages of this political thriller. To read more about the Joe DeMarco books and their author, check out his website.
Well, after some computer issues, Aunt Agatha is back on the case! Congratulations to two recent awardees: Louise Penny was presented the Nero Award for 2011 at the recent Black Orchid Banquet in New York. Her book, Bury Your Dead, was awarded the Nero for literary excellence in the mystery genre. If you haven't read Louise Penny, check out her website and see what you've been missing.
The Crime Writers Association presented the Ellis Peters Award to Andrew Martin for his book The Somme Stations, the seventh in the series featuring railway detective Jim Stringer and set during World War I. Learn more about this series on Martin's website.
Ever since this peerless consulting detective sprung fully formed from the mind of Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes has continued to capture the hearts and imaginations of the reading public. While there were 56 short stories and four novels in the established Holmes canon, Sherlock has been featured in hundreds of books, plays and films. Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows starring Robert Downey, Jr. opens in a few weeks and we can look forward to another season of the BBC television series, Sherlock.
Now, for the first time in its 125-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has authorized a new Sherlock Holmes novel. The anointed one, British author Anthony Horowitz, has just released The House of Silk: a Sherlock Holmes novel -- and he's produced one darn good tale!
It's a year after the death of Sherlock Holmes and the elderly Dr. Watson is determined to put pen to paper once again, perhaps for the last time. He feels the need to recount Sherlock's adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk. Why were they not written before? As Watson explains, "...the events which I am about to describe were simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print..."
As Watson's story unfolds, the good doctor transports you back to 1890 London. Step inside 221 B Baker Street and join the Great Detective for tea and scones. Familiar characters make an appearance: Lestrade, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, and the Baker Street Irregulars. Sit back and prepare to be entertained. Indeed, the game is afoot!
For those of you unfamiliar with Anthony Horowitz, he is one of the UK's most popular children's authors. His Alex Rider series, which features a teenage spy, enjoys worldwide readership. Horowitz has also written or created some of Britain's most successful television series including Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Robin of Sherwood, and Foyle's War. Most recently, he wrote the sequel to Steven Spielberg's Tintin movie and is at work on the screenplay with Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Learn more about Anthony Horowitz on his website.
November always seems like a short month, perhaps because of all the holidays. I've already started a reading stack, so come my week off at Thanksgiving, I'll have an ample pile of books to enjoy. Here is a selection of the latest releases for you to check out and keep you reading right into the holidays.
Zero Day by David Baldacci (a lone Army Special Agent takes on the nation's toughest crimes)
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause by Mignon F. Ballard (Life in small town America during WWII where the residents battle crime at home, as well as abroad)
Physical Education by Maggie Barbieri (College English professor and sometimes sleuth, Alison Bergeron takes over the basketball team when the coach dies of a heart attack. Or is it?)
Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-up by Emily Brightwell (More holiday homicide with Inspector Witherspoon's sharp-witted housekeeper)
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (The precocious Flavia de Luce is sleuthing again at the holiday-flavored crime scene)
A Dark and Lonely Place by Edna Buchanan (Intrigues, drama, romance and tragedy in this sweeping epic novel)
Blink of an Eye by William S. Cohen (An all-too-real political thriller by Clinton's former Secretary of Defense)
The Drop by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch is back, tackling a cold case with chilling consequences, and a current case involving a long-time nemesis)
Micro by Michael Crichton (completed by Richard Preston) (The book pits nature against technology in true Crichton fashion)
Devil's Gate by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
The Alpine Winter by Mary Daheim (Holiday dilemmas face Emma Lord in this deliciously chilling treat)
Scotch Mist by Elizabeth Darrell (Military mystery with plenty of suspense)
A Corpse's Nightmare by Phillip DePoy (a beguiling tale with an unconventional narrative that provides an intriguing take on family history as mystery)
Swift Edge by Laura DiSilverio (Madcap adventures of an unlikely pair of partners-in-crime solving)
The Templar Magician by P.C. Doherty (Murder and mayhem during the Crusades)
Coffin Man by James D. Doss (Another witty ride through the wild west of Charlie Moon, Colorado rancher and part-time tribal investigator)
Broken Music by Marjorie Eccles (Post WWI Britain struggles back on its feet and former police sergeant Herbert Reardon has returned to his village, determined to solve an old murder)
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (19th century Europe abounds with the mysterious and the ghastly in this much anticipated novel)
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch (The 5th Charles Lenox outing is at once a murder mystery, spy story, and journey with the Victorian British navy)
The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (paroled prisoner-of-war Jamie Fraser is summoned by Lord John Grey for a dangerous mission)
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
Murder in the Minster by Susanna Gregory (This is the 17th episode int he popular Cambridge series of medieval mysteries featuring physician-sleuth Matthew Bartholomew)
Dead Last by James W Hall (thorn must confront an assassin whose victims are taken straight from the script of a popular TV show)
Deed of Murder by Cora Harrison (Irish history and legal arcana provide the background for this 17th century whodunnit)
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill (Freak weather and flash floods uncover a decades-old cold case for Simon Serrailler to solve)
Dead Man's Grip by Peter James Sussex Detective Superintendent Roy Grace ( a haunting thriller that combines psychological suspense and police procedural)
The Gravedigger's Ball by Solomon Jones
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Danish thriller)
Cat Telling Tales by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (Feline PI Joe Grey sniffs out another mystery)
Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo (Psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi is called in to question the sole survivor of a hostage situation)
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker (The latest in Parker's Silver Rush series is an appealing quilt of intrigue, deceit and greed in 1880s Colorado)
Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (Malcolm F ox and his colleagues in the Internal Affairs department conduct an inquiry into a neighboring police force)
When you think hard-boiled detective fiction, three names should instantly come to mind -- Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. Kenneth Millar, who wrote under the Macdonald pen name, created the iconic detective Lew Archer, a Southern California P.I. who cracked dangerous cases in the '50s and '60s.
Deadline New York reports that Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to the Ross Macdonald mystery series and they plan to launch a franchise starting with the 1959 book, The Galton Case. The eighth book in the series, The Galton Case follows Archer as he's hired to track down the missing heir to a fortune.
Paul Newman portrayed Lew Archer in two films, the 1966 Warner Bros. film Harper and The Drowning Pool in 1975. But don't judge a book by its film. If you haven't read Ross Macdonald before, you might like to sample his writing style with the short story, "Find the Woman," in the anthology, Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics edited by Denise Hamilton.
An excellent biography is Tom Nolan's 1999 book, Ross Macdonald: the Life of a Mystery Writer.
According to Deadline Hollywood, Scandinavian crime novels are the next big thing in Hollywood. With the upcoming opening of the Americanized version of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, production companies are looking at international bestselling authors for inspiration.
There's talk of an American version of Norwegian author Jo Nesbo's new TV series Occupied, which is set in the near future where Russia has invaded Norway's oil fields and now occupies the country. The film version of Nesbo's novel Headhunters recently played at the BFI London Film Festival and Summit Entertainment is adapting it for a US version. A feature film version of The Snowman is also in development by Working Title.
Jo Neso's books starring detective Harry Hole have sold 9 million copies world wide. Reviewers have called Harry Hole a "laconic hero as doggedly stubborn as Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch." If you haven't read this awesome series, now might just be the best time to start:
I have to admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Maybe it has something to do with all those classic horror films I watched on TV when I was gr owing up -- Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman... Anyway, here is a spooky selection of mysteries to get you into the Halloween spirit.
Witches’ Bane by Susan Wittig Albert (Cozy)
Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan (Cozy)
Aunt Dimity, Vampire Hunter by Nancy Atherton (Supernatural Cozy)
Cast Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell (Supernatural Cozy)
The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian J. Braun (Cozy)
The Hunt Ball by Rita Mae Brown (Amateur Sleuth)
Fiber and Brimstone by Laura Childs (Cozy)
Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie (Detective Mystery)
A Catered Halloween by Isis Crawford (Culinary Cozy)
Crimes by Moonlight (Anthology edited by Charlaine Harris)
Witch Hunt by Shirley Damsgaard (Supernatural Cozy)
Ghostly Murders by P.C. Doherty (Historical Mystery)
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich (Humorous Mystery)
Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Culinary Cozy)
Skeleton Key by Jane Haddam (Amateur Sleuth)
Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (Supernatural Mystery)
Southern Ghost by Carolyn Hart (Cozy/Amateur Sleuth)
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Suspense)
Baited Blood by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Vampire cozy)
Poisoned Tarts by G.A. McKevett (Cozy)
Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier (Cozy)
Murder for Halloween: Tales of Suspense
The Night Country by Stewart O’Nan (Horror/Mystery)
The Body in the Moonlight by Katherine Hall Page (Cozy)
The BBC has released the poster for the second season of the Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as the ever-loyal Dr. John Watson.
In this contemporary update of Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective, the new season will feature three episodes adapted from short stories "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Final Problem," and novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles."
While we haven't heard when the second season is scheduled in the UK, Criminal Element is reporting that it will air in the US next May as the 2012 season opener of PBS's Masterpiece Mystery.
It's 1969 and Neil Armstrong is putting man's first footprints on the moon. In rural Pennsylvania, ten-year-old Charlie Olmstead is so captivated by this historic event, he jumps on his bike amd heads out into the dark night, hoping to get a better look at the moon. Charlie is never seen again.
Perry Hollow Police Chief Jim Campbell later finds the boy's bicycle at Sunset Falls and everyone assumes Charlie fell in the water and drowned. Everyone except his mother, that is. She's certain that he was abducted and she spends the rest of her life searching for clues to his whereabouts.
Years later, Eric Olmstead, now a famous author, returns to Perry Hollow to bury his mother and fulfill her last wish --- find out what happened to his brother Charlie. Eric looks for help from the current police chief, Kat Campbell, who just happens to be Jim Campbell's daughter and Eric's high school sweetheart. Together they learn that Mrs. Olstead's obsessive search for her son led her to uncover other disappearances in the area. Charlie wasn't the only victim!
Bad Moon is the second in the Kat Campbell series and I must say I'm enjoying it tremendously. From the first page the reader is drawn into this web of small town deception and lies. The characters are well-defined, the dialog is snappy, and Ritter's plotting is fast paced. Placing the story against the backdrop of the moon landings of the sixties and seventies is an absorbing ploy that gives a surprising spin to the story.
Todd Ritter will be out on his Magical Mystery Tour in the next couple of months. Check his website to see if he'll be appearing at a town near you.
Variety today reported that Warner Bros. Studios and Robert Downey, Jr. are teaming up to bring Perry Mason to the big screen. The plan is to relaunch the franchise as a feature film.
Downey's production team is currently looking for a writer to pen a script based on an original story by Robert Downey, Jr. and David Gambino.
Like the original books by Earl Stanley Gardner, the remake will be set in the Chandleresque world of 1930s Los Angeles. Expect to see the usual suspects including Della Street, Mason's secretary, and P.I. Paul Drake.
Robert Downey Jr., who next stars in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," is currently reprising his role as Iron Man in Marvel's "The Avengers."
Being such a huge fan of British crime fiction, I don't know how I could have missed Susan Hill's excellent Simon Serrailler detective series. I was familiar with her name, of course, and she was on my "To-Read" list, but somehow or other I never got around to picking one up (you know my theme song, "So Many Books, So Little Time"!). Therefore, it was with a certain amount of glee that I grabbed the advance reader copy of The Betrayal of Trust from my inbox.
The quiet Cathedral town of Lafferton is struck by a flash flood that unearths a sixteen-year-old cold case. A shallow grave holding the remains of missing teenager Harriet Lowther is revealed as the flood waters recede and Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler has been assigned to reopen the case.
One of Cat Deerbon's patients, a middle age woman named Jocelyn, has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Rather than face a slow, painful death, she begins to consider assisted suicide before becoming totally incapacitated. Meanwhile, the Chief Constable is on sick leave and sends Simon Serrailler to the Lord Lieutenant's banquet in her place, with life-changing results.
Hill ties all these threads into a captivating narrative that is part thriller, part police procedural, and part morality play. Her characters are truly engaging and nicely balanced. I thoroughly enjoyed The Betrayal of Trust and would highly recommend it to fans of Deborah Crombie and Elizabeth George. This is the sixth entry in the Simon Serrailler series and while it certainly stands alone, it's always most rewarding to start the series at the beginning.
If you haven't read Hill's series, here are the books in order:
The Betrayal of Trust will be released in the U.S. on November 10.
An interesting aside -- Susan Hill is also the author of the ghost story, The Woman in Black. This 1983 novella was staged as a play that has been running in London's West End since 1988. The story has been filmed and should premiere this coming February and stars Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) and with screenplay by Jane Goldman.
Organizers have announced Scotland's first international crime writers festival to be held September 14-16, 2012 in Stirling. What a perfect time and place to celebrate Scotland's favorite genre! Next year is also full of pertinent anniversaries -- 125 years since the first Sherlock Holmes story was published, 35 years since William McIlvanney's influential novel Laidlaw, and 25 years since the first publication of Ian Rankin's Rebus novels.
Scottish crime writers Denise Mina, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Stuart McBride and Louise Welch will join international guests for workshops, dinners, and "meet the author" events. More to come early next year. Read the article in The Scotsman.
Award-winning short story writer Darrell James has just launched his first novel, Nazareth Child, featuring Del Shannon, a gutsy, young investigator. Del has quickly earned a reputation for sucessfully tracking down missing persons, but the one person she has not been able to locate is the mother she never knew. Working out of a field office in Tucson, Arizona, Del is approached by the FBI to help them in an investigation they're conducting in rural Kentucky.
Del is stunned to learn that her father owns an abandoned house in the Appalachian hills. The Feds are focusing on Nazareth Church, an isolated religious compound under the leadership of a charasmatic faith healer, Silus Rule. But who is Rule and what secrets are hidden in his clannish community? With the hope of discovering the whereabouts of her mother, Del agrees to be recruited by the FBI and travel undercover to Kentucky with ATFE agent Frank Falconer.
Nazareth Child is a gripping thriller with power-punch characters and dialogue. Yes, we're all going to want to see a lot more of Del Shannon.
Mystery Readers International announced the 2011 Macavity Awards last night during Bouchercon, the mega-conference being held in St. Louis. The Macavity Award recognizes outstanding crime fiction and non-fiction. Congratulations to all!
Best Mystery Novel -- Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Best First Mystery Novel -- Rogue Island by Bruce De Silva
Best Mystery Non-Fiction -- Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: 50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran
Best Mystery Short Story -- "Swing Shift" in Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side by Dana Cameron
Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery -- City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley
John Wells Productions has sold Easy Rawlins to NBC broadcast television. The series is based on Walter Mosley’s best-selling novels about African-American P.I. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, who solves crimes and deals with the changing world around him in 1960s Los Angeles. A reluctant, self-taught P.I. with a conscience and a soul, Easy slips between white Los Angeles and the black underground with remarkable ease.
The Easy Rawlins series is set from the 1940s to 1960s and spans eleven books. Mosley will write the series adaptation with Southland co-executive producer Cheo Coker.
If you're in the Los Angeles area on Saturday, September 17, stop by the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library for a fun and informative writer's workshop. Sue Ann Jaffarian, one of the hardest working authors in L.A., will be presenting "Turning Agent Woes into Agent WOWS!"
Author of the Odelia Grey series of mysteries, the Ghost of Granny Apples series, and her new Madison Rose Vampire mysteries, Jaffarian will show writers how to put their best foot forward when approaching agents, whether in person or by query. Click here for details.
Fans of Sue Ann Jaffarian should be on the lookout for the second of her vampire mysteries, Baited Blood. It was released this month.
Tracy Kiely has hit upon a very clever twist to frame her contemporary cozies. Each of her mysteries takes its inspiration from a Jane Austen novel. Murder Most Persuasive is the third in the series, and as you can probably infer from the title, it gives a nod to Persuasion.
Elizabeth Parker, a major Jane Austen fan, is a newspaper copy editor and sometimes amateur sleuth. Her wacky family have come together at the funeral of her great-uncle Martin Reynolds. That's when the proverbial "poop" really hits the fan!
After the family home in the picturesque town of St. Michaels is sold, the new owners dig up the swimming pool and discover the body of a man who supposedly ran off eight years earlier with over a million dollars embezzled from the family business.
Now the question is, what really happened to the money? Elizabeth's cousin Ann is beginning to look like the number one suspect -- and to make matters worse, Ann's old boyfriend, Joe Muldoon is the police detective investigating the murder. Eight years before, Ann reluctantly broke off her relationship with Joe due to pressures from her family. Is it too late to rekindle the old flame? Or will Joe arrest Ann for murder? Elizabeth must track down the real killer and at the same time, hopefully bring about a reconciliation between Ann and Joe.
This is a delightful romp sure to be enjoyed by Jane Austen aficionados as well as cozy lovers. Read and enjoy!
Sometimes you just don't have a big block of time to indulge your passion for reading. When time is tight, that's when you should pick up one of these great anthologies. They feature intriguing mysteries by many of your favorite authors. And just the right size to fit into your busy schedule!
Black Noir: Mystery, Crime and Suspense Stories by African-American writers, edited by Otto Penzler
The Dark End of the Street: New Stories of Sex and Crime by Today's top Authors; edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozan
Dead man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table, edited by Otto Penzler
Eighteen by Jan Burke
Hollywood and Crime: Original Crime Stories Set During the History of Hollywood, edited by Robert Randisi
Hook, Line & Sinister, edited by T. Jefferson Parker; sixteen of America's favorite author-anglers spin tales of mystery and fishing
Los Angeles Noir 2: the Classics, edited by Denise Hamilton; classic stories by the genre's masters -- Raymod Chandler, James M. Cain, Ross MacDonald, Margaret Millar, and others
The Mighty Johns, edited by Otto Penzler; an anthology of original stories centered on crime and football
Mystery Writers of America Presents the Blue Religion: New Stories About Cops, Criminals, and the Chase, edited by Michael Connelly
A Night in the Cemetary and Other Stories of Crime and Suspense
Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down, edited by Clive Cussler; some of the top suspense authors contributed to this heart-pumping collection of original stories
Shane Brennan, executive producer of NCIS and NCIS: LA, recently announced his newly formed production company will adapt the King & Maxwell series of novels by David Baldacci.
Introduced in the 2004 thriller, Split Second, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are former Secret Service agents who each lost a protectee in separate incidents. Now the uneasy partners work together as security consultants for hire.
The series is tentatively titled King & Maxwell. Because a television series usually calls for 22-24 episodes a season, Brennan said that "we'll take the characters further than David would do, but we will be very true to the mythology of the characters he created." David Baldacci has offered to help bring his heroes to the screen.
An interesting trend these days seems to be taking real-life characters - be they historical or literary - and plopping them down in the middle of a mystery novel. Elliott Roosevelt did it for years, casting his mother, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, as an amateur sleuth. This type of premise is the basis for a 2012 film, The Raven, starring John Cusak as Edgar Allan Poe. The thriller focuses on the last days of the writer's life as he pursues a serial killer whose murders mirrors Poe's own stories.
Here are more along that vein:
The Tale of Oak Cake Crag: the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron
The Pale Blue Eye (Edgar Allan Poe) by Louis Bayard
Murder on the Cliffs: A Daphne du Maurier Mystery by Joanna Challis
Death to Spies: a Novel of the Espionage Adventures of Ian Fleming by Quinn Fawcett (aka Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
The List of Seven (Arthur Conan Doyle) by Mark Frost
Elementary, My Dear Groucho (Groucho Max) by Ron Goulart
Benjamin Franklin Takes the Case: the American Agent Investigates Murder in the Dark Byways of London by Robert Lee Hall
The Ninth Daughter: an Abigail Adams Mystery by Barbara Hamilton (aka Barbara Hambly)
The Alchemy of Murder (Nellie Bly) by Carol McCleary
The Detective and Mr. Dickens: a Secret Victorian Journal Attributed to Wilkie Collins by William J. Palmer
The Dracula Dossier (Bram Stoker) by James Reese
Murder at the President's Door: an Eleanor Roosevelt Mystery by Elliott Roosevelt
Bedlam: the Further Secret Adventures of Charlott Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland
The Tainted Snuff Box: a Beau Brummell Mystery by Rosemary Stevens
One of the best things about lazy summer weekends is that it gives one a chance to dig into the pile of "To Read" books taking up a corner of the end table. This weekend I took a little trip to Siena, Italy -- by way of April Smith's White Shotgun. Not quite as good as a drive through Tuscany, but pretty darn close!
Smith doesn't churn out a book a year as do some mystery writers, nonetheless she delivers power-packed punches with each of her Special Agent Ana Grey novels. Her books are tightly written with a detailed focus on characters and their relationships with each other.
So what is a Los Angeles-based FBI agent doing in Italy, butting heads with both the local mafias and the Italian police?
It all starts when Ana witnesses a drive-by shooting at an Italian restaurant in London while on leave from the Bureau. Her training kicks in as she helps the victims and gives a report to the police. When the Bureau contacts Ana, she's shocked to learn that she has a half-sister living in Siena. Cecilia is married to wealthy coffee magnate Nicoli Nicosa, who is suspected of having international mafia connections. The FBI wants Ana to infiltrate the household and search for any incriminating evidence.
As Ana becomes aquainted with her new family, all Siena is gearing up for the pageantry of their annual horse race -- Il Palio. The medieval town is bursting it's seams with the thousands of visitors arriving for the spectacle. In spite of the color and frivolity, dark forces are at work under the surface. When her nephew is stabbed and her sister goes missing, Ana's faced with the complicated choice between duty and family.
Good Morning, Killer, the second of the Ana Grey books, is being filmed for TNT's new Tuesday night mystery movie series. April Smith wrote the screenplay and Catherine Bell is set to star as Ana Grey. Read more about the author and her series here.
John Gray, who created the Ghost Whisperer series, has optioned the film rights for Bryan Gruley's thriller The Hanging Tree. Gray plans to write and direct the project.
The Hanging Tree is the second entry in Gruley's Starvation Lake mystery series. In the book, Gus Carpenter, a former Detroit Times reporter/detective tries to solve the mystery of how a former resident of the Michigan resort town ends up hanging from a tree after she returns home.
ITV has announced it commissioned a made-for-television film that will introduce a younger version of Inspector Morse. The film "Endeavour" (Morse's first name) will be shot in Oxford this fall and will probably air early in 2012.
Shaun Evans (The Take, Come Rain Come Shine) has been cast as the young Morse and will be stepping into the shoes of John Thaw who portrayed Colin Dexter's iconic character from 1987 to 2000. The film will give the audience a chance to discover the origins of Inspector Morse and his love of classical music, crosswords, real ale, and classic cars.
"Endeavour" is set in 1965 and follows the hunt for a missing schoolgirl. The investigation brings Endeavour Morse back to Oxford -- a place that will ultimately shape his destiny.
The film is co-produced with Masterpiece and Rebecca Eaton is Executive Producer for Masterpiece. Read more here.
Many a suspense yarn has been touted as the “Next Da Vinci Code.” Dublin-born Glenn Meade's latest thriller The Second Messiah is a worthy successor. I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a riveting tale filled with high-octane chases, stolen ancient documents, and Vatican intrigues.
Archaeologist Jack Cane discovers a fragment of Dead Sea Scrolls with enigmatic references to a “second Messiah” at the time of Jesus. But the scroll is stolen before it can be fully translated and one of Jack’s colleagues is killed. Investigating the murder is an old friend of Jack’s, Israeli police inspector Lela Raul.
Meanwhile back in Rome, a charismatic American priest is elected Pope, which sends shock waves throughout the Vatican. The hierarchy of the Church is split between those who fear the new Pope is the anti-Christ and others believing he’s the Church’s salvation. But will the new Pope’s ties to Jack help or hinder the investigation into the missing scroll? As Jack and Lela outrace assassins, Vatican machinations may suppress the scroll’s contents permanently.
Be prepared to read The Second Messiah in one sitting! You won't want to put it down.
In looking over a list of new paperback releases, I was quite tickled by some of the cozy mystery titles out there. What diversity! In this sub-genre you can find just about any locale, hobby, or culinary fancy to enjoy. So to whet your taste for cozy comfort reads, here is a baker's dozen of recently released mysteries:
A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady -- the start of a new series featuring New Orleans pastry chef Rita Lucero
Books Can be Deceiving by Jenn McKinley -- A Library Lover's Mystery with Lindsey Norris, Library director of Briar Creek Library in Connecticut
A Good Day to Pie by Carol Culver -- Hanna Denton, pie shop owner (recipes included)
Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio -- Emma-Joy Ferris is a former military police, now mall cop
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend -- Sunny Meadows, fortune teller
Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames -- Charlotte Bessette, owner of The Cheese Shop
Evil Eclairs by Jessica Beck -- Suzanne Hart is a donut shop owner in a small southern town (great donut recipes included)
Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell -- Olivia Grayson owns The Gingerbread House, a shop that specializes in all things cookie
A Parfait Murder: a Mystery A La Mode by Wendy Lin Watson -- Tallulah Jones is an ice cream shop owner in a Texan town
Sentenced to Death: a Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett -- Tricia Miles is the proprietor of a mystery bookstore
Pie a La Murder by Melinda Wells -- Della Carmichael is a cable TV cooking show star and owner of a Santa Monica cooking school
Finger Lickin' Dead by Riley Adams -- Sixty-something Lulu Taylor runs Aunt Pat's Restaurant in Memphis
Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle -- Clare Cosi is a single mom and coffee house manager who sleuths on the side (chocolate recipes included)
It was announced that BBC America has ordered 10-episodes of an original drama series called Copper. Hailing from Canadian-based Cineflix Studios, the show will center on a young Irish cop working the immigrant communities of 19th century New York.
Co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos (Monster's Ball), Copper will start production in the fall in Toronto. The series is expected to premiere in the summer of 2012.
Advance Reader's editions of upcoming mysteries frequently find their way to my desk. I must say, when I picked up G.M. Malliet's Wicked Autumn, I was totally intrigued. Of course, I was familiar with Malliet's DCI St. Juste series, starting with the award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer in 2008. But when one happens upon an Agatha-Christie-style English village mystery where the series hero is former MI5, now Anglican priest, one is undeniably hooked!
The small village of Nether Monkslip is no Saint Mary Mead, however. The quirky residents are definitely 21st century and their hunky vicar, Father Max Tudor, make this new series a deliciously wicked read. Fed up with the life of a spy, Max has retreated to the relative peace and tranquility of Nether Monkslip, along with the village's urban escapees, yoga teachers, artisans, crafters, and new agers. The only fly in the ointment is Wanda Batton-Smythe, the bossy and unpopular president of the Women's Institute.
Surely it's no surprise when Wanda is whacked at the Harvest Fayre. While the death looks like a tragic accident, Max's training kicks in and he's sure it's murder -- "the snake in his Garden of Eden," as it were. Max finds himself being drawn deeper into the investigation, which stirs up his own personal demons from the past.
This delightfully witty cozy is sure to make many of the Best of 2011 lists. Wicked Autumn is scheduled for a September release date. Read more about G.M. Malliet and her books on her website.
"It was the egret, flying out of the lemon grove, that started it."
--opening line from Mary Stewart's 1962 classic, The Moon-Spinners
If your mystery reading diet has lately consisted of serial killers, mutilation, and gore, it may be time to add a little literary spice (cleanse the palate, so to speak). Mary Stewart has long been acknowledged as a spellbinding storyteller who could create a mounting level of suspense without resorting to dismemberment.
If you've never read a Mary Stewart novel, you're in for a magical treat. And for those of you familiar with Stewart's classics tales of romantic suspense, maybe a lazy summer afternoon is the perfect time to revisit her works.
I first discovered Mary Stewart as a young teenager, graduating from the Nancy Drew mysteries. Stewart's books transported me to exotic locales -- the Greek Isles, Provence, Vienna, the Pyrenees, England, the Scottish Highlands, among others -- and imbued in me a love of travel that endures to this day. Her beautifully described settings immerse the reader without detracting from the action.
Stewart's heroines are timeless -- independent young women whose curiosity and penchant for risk-taking invariably lead them into all sorts of dangerous situations. Yet their strong-minded search for truth and justice enable them to fend for themselves and rescue others as well.
Madam, Will You Talk? was Mary Stewart's first book, published in 1954, and it was followed over the years by fourteen more novels of romantic suspense:
Wildfire at Midnight
Thunder on the Right
Nine Coaches Waiting
My Brother Michael
The Ivy Tree
The Moon-Spinners (filmed by Walt Disney in 1964)
This Rough Magic
Airs Above the Ground
The Gabriel Hounds
The Wind Off the Small Isles
Touch Not the Cat
Stewart turned her sights on Arthurian legend with her Merlin series, starting with The Crystal Cave in 1970. Set in 5th century Roman Britain, the five historical novels illustrated her brilliant scholarship and imaginative narrative skills.
Mary Stewart once said that there are only two kinds of novels: badly written and well written. If you're in the mood for well written novels brimming with adventure, memorable characters, romance, and lyrical language, you can't go wrong with Mary Stewart. Check out this excellent fan site here.
Jan Burke has just released her 10th Irene Kelly mystery, Disturbance, and the consensus among those who have already read it is -- you can't put it down. From what I've read so far, there is much that's disturbing in this thriller.
Irene receives the bone-chilling news that serial killer Nick Parrish (last seen in the 1999 Edgar Award-winning Bones) has recovered from his spinal injuries and paralysis. Yes, he's still in prison, but he vows revenge on the person responsible -- Irene Kelly. He's connected to the outside world by his online groupies who call themselves the Moths.
As a further blow to Irene's peace of mind, she is facing unemployment due to the demise of the La Piernas News Express, a fate many news agencies across the country are experiencing. Will Irene be able to reinvent herself? Does she want to?
Read more about Disturbance on Jan Burke's website.
The New York Times reports that a late addition to the Masterpiece Mystery lineup is Case Histories based on the book by Kate Atkinson. Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) stars as Jackson Brodie, a detective in Edinburgh. Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of Masterpiece Mystery, just negotiated a deal to include Case Histories, beginning October 16 for three weeks. I'm really looking forward to that!
Don't forget the debut of Zen, based on the books of Michael Dibdin, which stars Rufus Sewell as the modern-day detective in Rome. The series premiers this coming Sunday, July 17, and continues on July 24 and 31.
Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox are back as Inspector Lewis and DS Hathaway. Inspector Lewis: Series IV premieres September 4th and continues on September 18, 25, and October 9.
How lovely! So many Sherlock Holmes adaptations to anticipate. BBC's Sherlock, which was such a hit on PBS last fall, is currently filming Season 2. The episodes will be based on "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Hound of the Baskerville," and "The Final Problem." Season 2 of Sherlock should air in the UK next month, but those of us on the other side of the pond will have to wait a bit longer.
Photographer Alun Vega caught the cast and crew on a London-looking street in Cardiff Bay back in June. For more photos, check out Vega's Flickr page.
The movie posters for the Sherlock Holmes sequel, A Game of Shadows, just appeared online so you know the trailer can't be far behind. In fact, all those moviegoers who attend the long-awaited Harry Potter finale this coming weekend in the U.S. will get the first peek at the trailer.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles of Holmes and Watson in the Guy Ritchie sequel. Jared Harris portrays arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty and Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) plays the gypsy Sim.
You can view some of the movie stills at this site.
I discovered author Michael Harvey last year and enjoyed meeting his tough-talking Irish cop-turned-PI, Michael Kelly. Basically, I bought The Third Rail because I had Irish roots in Chicago, but I soon became caught up in the fast-paced action and the series' multi-faceted protaganist (you gotta love a gumshoe who can spout quotes from classical Greek works!).
So when I was asked if I'd like an advance copy of Harvey's fourth installment, all I could say was "Yes! Please!!" Needless to say, I spent the weekend glued to We All Fall Down.
Picking up where The Third Rail left off, the fourth book in the series finds Michael Kelly called in to supply security when two scientists reveal their bio-warning devices in a subway tunnel has detected the possibility release of a dangerous pathogen. They need to visit the site and want Kelly to accompany them. Somewhat skeptical, Kelly soon learns that a "super-bug" is loose in Chicago and bodies are beginning to pile up. As parts of his city is quarantined, Kelly races to track down the truth and discover who's behind the act of bio-terrorism.
This nightmare scenario makes for exciting reading, but how realistic is it and is the government prepared? In his research for We All Fall Down, Michael Harvey refers to an actual Pentagon report that was issued in 1993, "Terror 2000." Intended to be a real-life assessment of terrorist threats to the United States, among the report's listed scenarios was anthrax being released in a subway and commercial jets being flown into government building and the World Trade Center. So, yes, the events Harvey describes in his books are all too realistic.
We All Fall Down was released on July 12th. For those readers in the Chicago area, Michael Harvey is holding a launch party at his saloon, The Hidden Shamrock, on Sunday, July 17th. Meet the author and chat up like-minded individuals. Get more info on that event at Harvey's website.
Writing is a solitary practice, but revision requires feedback. Most aspiring authors send their manuscript to friends and family, others meet with a critique group, and some enroll in an MFA program.
In April, Penguin Group (USA) launched Book Country, a website dedicated to genre fictionreaders and writers. focused on romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and thriller, Book Country helps new authors hone their craft as part of a genre fiction community.
Users upload their novels (or a portion of their novels) for peer review. Book Country’s unique genre map helps writers categorize their novels, and lets readers find books similar to ones they love, which they then read and provide detailed critiques. Book Country brings the peer feedback and community feel of a critique group, online.
Another key feature is discoverability. If you’re working on a novel, publishing professionals won’t see it until you begin sending out query letters. Book Country gives agents and editors a place to discover new talent; for this reason, many publishing professionals have already signed up. Book Country also allows avid readers and bloggers to discover budding talent and use their reading experience to offer helpful feedback.
As the world continues to shift online, Book Country creates a community that was once only available in metropolitan areas. Now, genre fiction authors all over the world can come together online to exchange feedback, engage in discussions, and have their work discovered.