Saturday, July 26, 2008

THE GARDEN OF EVIL by David Hewson (Delacorte Press)

The back copy on the advanced reader's copy reeled me in: "Looming over the corpses is a haunting Caravaggio masterpiece…" What an opportunity for me—a modern thriller set in Rome with an opportunity to learn more about one of my favorite painters. 

A grisly murder scene leads Detective Nic Costa into a chase he'd much rather not make, one that leads to personal tragedy, to having to work outside police confines, and to confronting a society of wealthy aristocracy who have plunged into depravity. The Caravaggio painting is central to finding the answers to all Nic's questions. 

I found myself carrying this book with me from room to room until I'd finished!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SINGULARITY by Kahtryn Casey (St. Martin's Minotaur)

This debut thriller is everything I wanted: a protagonist I liked, a fast pace, and fair play from the author. Widowed mom Sarah Armstrong is a profiler for the Texas Rangers who faces antagonism from some local law enforcement officers and FBI personnel alike.

When a prominent businessman and his mistress are found murdered, Sarah suspects a serial killer, but the locals suspect the wife. Subsequent murders convince Sarah she's right, but there are enough differences that she can't convince her superiors. When Sarah becomes the target, her theory is proven—but is it too late?

I look forward to more from Casey, a former true crime writer.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Somebody Knows Your Mama (first printed in "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence"

My husband and I made a two-week trip across the Deep South in May to visit daylily gardens and to attend the national daylily convention. As I planned our stops, I was reminded of an axiom familiar to everyone who grew up in the South (or probably in a small town anywhere else!): No matter where you go, somebody’s gonna know your mama!

Turns out, that is true in the world of mystery readers and writers, too. The first hint I got that I’d be in mystery company was when reading the list of gardens on the conference tour. One was in Alvin, Texas. A light bulb immediately flashed above my head—that’s the home of Bill Crider. If you’re not familiar with Bill’s Texas sagas (and he’s got several excellent series), you’re in for a reading good time. The garden was beautiful, but there wasn’t a mystery writer in sight. I was able though to get an opportunity to suggest his books to several gardeners.

Since our conference was held in Houston, I knew I’d absolutely have to make a pilgrimage to the bookstore Carolyn Hart used as a prototype for her wonderful Death on Demand series featuring Annie Darling. In fact, when I visited with Carolyn when she was in North Carolina in April, she reminded me to spend some time at Murder by the Book. Would you believe that Ben Rehder was speaking there the same night we were due to arrive in Houston? I had just finished reading and reviewing Holy Roller and was delighted to get the opportunity to meet him (and buy the early books in this hilarious down home series).

Ben Rehder was kind enough to pose for a photo with me.

I spent a couple of hours in the wonderful store, salivating over the huge selection of mysteries. Naturally I didn’t confine myself to buying just what was on my list. I knew they’d carry titles by Jimmie Ruth Evans aka Dean James. (He managed the store for many years.) I was right, and I thoroughly enjoyed Bring Your Own Poison, the latest entry in his Trailer Park series. I also bought several titles recommended by the knowledgeable staff. (I’m still working on reading that stack.) Noel just shook his head when I came out of the store. Could it be because I already had a huge tote bag stuffed with books to occupy me on the trip?

We really did have an unusually large number of books with us. I had offered to donate a mystery basket as an auction item for the conference. I arranged about twenty books, a cotton lap throw, assorted teas, and chocolate to tempt mystery readers— in a huge basket all tied up with crime scene tape. When Noel loaded the car, he awarded a spot in the back seat to the basket. (We had to put our bottled water in the trunk to assure the safety of the basket!)

As one always does at a national conference, we met people from all over the country. Often when I met someone, their name tag indicated they lived in a place where I knew a mystery writer or where a particular series is set. I didn’t find a soul who knew the writer in question, but I always assured them they would enjoy reading the author. Several actually took notes! When I saw someone from New Iberia, Louisiana, I merely said to her, “James Robichaux country.” She nodded her head enthusiastically.

When we rode by a Mississippi River levee, I was reminded of the wonderful mysteries set just after Hurricane Katrina. As we drove through Mississippi, Noel commented on the canals diverting water for barges for casinos. That reminded me of the library in Tunica where I gave a library talk on southern writers, “Sweet Tea and Murder.” One of the authors I featured was Charlaine Harris. Several of the ladies in the group said as one, “Tunica is her hometown!” Charlaine knows that wherever she goes, somebody’s gonna know her mama!

As we rode through Birmingham, Alabama, I craned my neck to see the statue of Vulcan that Anne George often mentioned in her Southern Sisters mysteries. I didn’t see him, but I relived many happy hours spent with the delightful Patricia Anne Hollowell and Mary Alice Crane. Going through Atlanta always recalls the work of Kathy Hogan Trocheck (and her new pseudonym, Mary Kay Andrews) and Patricia Sprinkle.

Surely the world of mystery is populated with folks I know and love—and I’d be proud to introduce them all to my mama!