Monday, October 31, 2011

The Return of Lew Archer

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dark Tales to Disturb Your Sleep

As we edge ever closer to All Hallow's Eve, we look to the creepy, scary, and dark stories to get us into that Halloween mood.  Here is a haunting selection to keep you awake:
  • Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The Glass Demon by Helen Grant
  • Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • The Year of Disapperances by Susan Hubbard
  • 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
  • So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
  • Hell House by Richard Matheson
  • The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston & Lincoln Child
  • Relic by Douglas J. Preston & Lincoln Child
  • San Francisco Thrillers:  True Crimes and Dark Mysteries from the City by the Bay
  • Faces of Fear by John Saul
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Level 26:  Dark Origins by Anthony Zuiker

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nordic Noir Hot in Hollywood

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:
  1. The Redbreast
  2. Nemesis
  3. The Devil's Star
  4. The Redeemer
  5. The Snowman
  6. The Leopard

Monday, October 17, 2011

Witches and Vampires and Ghosts...Oh My!

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) 
  • Night Hunter by Michael Reeves (Horror/Mystery)
  • A Hole in Juan by Gillian Roberts (Cozy) [All]
  • Dracula: the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker (Horror)
  • Ghost Story by Peter Straub (Horror)

Friday, October 14, 2011

BBC releases new poster for Sherlock

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.

(hat tip to Omnimystery)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Aunt Agatha is Reading -- Bad Moon Launches Today

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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Sherlock Holmes to Perry Mason?

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."

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Betrayal of Trust

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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Harvest This Crop of October Mysteries

No matter what your mystery-reading tastes, this crop of offerings has something to whet your appetite.
  • A Crimson Warning (Emily Ashton series) by Tasha Alexander
  • The Fine Art of Murder (Murder She Wrote) by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
  • As the Pig Turns (Agatha Raisin series) by M.C. Beaton
  • Seance in Sepia by Michelle Black
  • The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
  • Murder Unleashed (Mags Rogers & Baxter) by Rita Mae Brown
  • Headstone (Jack Taylor series) by Ken Bruen
  • The Chocolate Castle Clue by JoAnna Carl
  • The Affair (Jack Reacher series) by Lee Child
  • Skeleton Letters (Scrapbooking series) by Laura Childs
  • The Infernals (Samuel Johnson series) by John Connolly
  • Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  • The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (Sunday Philosophy Club) by Alexander McCall Smith
  • City of Whispers (Sharon McCone series) by Marcia Muller
  • Stolen Souls (Jack Lennon series) by Stuart Neville
  • A Chrismas Homecoming by Anne Perry
  • Seizure (YA / Torie Brennan series) by Kathy Reichs
  • Bad Moon (Kat Campbell series) by Todd Ritter
  • The Strange Death of Father Candy by Les Roberts
  • Cell 8 (Eewert Grens series) by Roslund-Hellstrom
  • Shock Wave (Virgil Flowers series) by John Sandford
  • Black Thunder (Ella Clah series) by Aimee and David Thurlo
  • The Chalice of Blood (Sister Fidelma series) by Peter Tremayne
  • Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp) by  Vince FLynn
  • The Litigators by John Grisham
  • Bonnie (Eve Duncan) by Iris Johansen
  • Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson
  • The Dark at the End (Repairman Jack series) by F. Paul Wilson