Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye to 2011

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: 
  • The Silenced by Brett Battles
  • Disturbance: an Irene Kelly novel by Jan Burke
  • The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
  • The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
  • Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris
  • We All Fall Down by Michael T. Harvey
  • The Mozart Conspiracy by Scott Mariani
  • Second Messiah by Glenn Meade
What would you recommend for the best of 2011?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Rhumba in Waltz Time

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Thrilling Escape

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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aunt Agatha's List of Holiday Homicide

The weather outside may be frightful, but wouldn't be so delightful to sit by a roaring fire with a cozy cup of cocoa or tea...and one of these holiday favorites:
  • Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton
  • Ben Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder by Robert Lee Hall
  • The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page
  • Busy Body by M.C. Beaton
  • Candy Cane Murder, novellas by Joanna Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier
  • Cat Crimes for the Holidays, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Ed Gorman, and Larry Segriff
  • Cat Deck the Halls: a Joe Grey Mystery by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
  • A Cat on Jingle Bell Rock by Lydia Adamson
  • A Catered Christmas: a Mystery with Recipes by Isis Crawford
  • Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop: 'tis the Season to be Deadly:  Stories of Mistletoe and Mayhem from 17 Masters of Suspense
  • A Christmas Oddyssey by Anne Perry
  • Christmas Cookie Murder by Leslie Meier
  • The Chrismas Crimes at Puzzel Manor by Simon Brett
  • The Christmas Garden Affair by Ann Ripley
  • Christmas Mourning by Margart Maron
  • Classic Christmas Crime edited by Tim Heald
  • A Cold Christmas by Charlene Weir
  • The Con Artist of Catalina Island by Jennifer Colt
  • Corpus Christmas by Margaret Maron
  • A Crossworder's Gift by Nero Blanc
  • Dashing Through the Snow by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Dons and Mr. Dickens: the Strange Case of the Oxford Christmas Plot by William J. Palmer
  • Frost at Christmas by R.D, Wingfield
  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
  • Hard Christmas: a Cat Marsala Mystery by Barbara D"Amato
  • A Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton
  • Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle
  • Holmes for the Holidays edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Carol-Lynn Waugh
  • Inspector Proby's Christmas by John Gano
  • Kissing Christmas Goodbye: an Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton
  • A Kudzu Christmas: Twelve Mysterious Tales edited by Jim Gilbert & Gail Waller
  • The Last Noel by Heather Graham
  • Mad as the Dickens by Toni L.P. Kelner
  • Merry, Merry Ghost by Carolyn Hart
  • The Midnight Before Christmas by William Bernhardt
  • A Midnight Clear by Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn
  • More Holmes for the Holidays edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Carol-Lynn Waugh
  • Murder for Christmas edited by Thomas Godfrey
  • Murder for Christmas and Three Other Great Mysteries by Agatha Christie
  • Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke
  • The Queene's Christmas by Karen Harper
  • A Rumpole Chrismas by John Mortimer
  • Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
  • Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark
  • Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris
  • Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews
  • Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson
  • The Twelve Deaths of Christmas by Marian Babson
  • A Wee Christmas Homicide by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Award Winning Writers

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.