Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I occasionally get emails with photos captioned something like, "If FDR married Marilyn Monroe, their kids would look like this:" Well, if Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse wrote a book together, it would be something like this one. Malliet adheres to the traditional mystery framework endorsed by Christie and enriches it with high jinks worthy of Plum himself.

The setting is a house party in a Cambridgeshire mansion. Best-selling mystery writer Sir Adrian Beauclerek-Fisk has invited  his four not-so-successful adult children to his wedding to a widow with a dubious past. Naturally, the children are not pleased with the proposed alliance; neither is Sir Adrian's cook, Mrs. Romano. Murder is inevitable.

I was a bit skeptical when Donna Andrews almost forced me to buy this, but I'm oh, so happy she did. Save this for a Sunday afternoon in front of the fireplace—with a cup of tea by your side.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Authors YOU Should Know

We had a good time at the Cary Library last week when we talked about some of the authors I think everybody should be reading. It was fun not having any particular topic but just telling folks about some of the folks I've enjoyed reading—recently and over the years. If you'd like to compare likes, try downloading the handout

MURDER IN FOUR PARTS by Bill Crider (Minotaur)

Sheriff Dan Rhodes figures there's something fishy about an invitation to join a barbershop chorus. After all, he's not much of a shower singer. Before he can figure out the motive behind his invitation though, he's out on a call to catch the alligator in a drainage ditch. And the alligator leads to chickens…

Yep, it's pretty much business as normal in Blacklin County, Texas, and Rhodes has just about all he can handle even before a murder in the barbershop group. Once again, Dan manages to keep his wits about him despite continual heckling from his staff and misdirection from those he's sworn to protect and serve. 

I'll take a trip to this part of Texas any time!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NEVER TELL A LIE by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow)

Ivy Rose is in definite "nesting" mode. Eight months pregnant, she's having a yard sale to clear out the junk that came alone with her Victorian house. One of the customers is a former high school classmate of Ivy's and her husband David. Melinda White, also pregnant, manipulates David into letting her look inside the house—where she used to play as a child. Although David returns to the yard sale, Melinda doesn't come out of the house. When a full-blown police investigation centers on David, Ivy realizes that she doesn't know him as well as she thought. 

Just as I thought I saw where this truly creepy thriller was headed, Ephron snatched the rails of the roller coaster and twisted them into a whole new ride. Fortunately, I started this book early in an afternoon and was able to finish it before burning the midnight oil. I suggest you do the same. Don't miss Ephron's debut solo novel. It's on sale January 6, 2009.

A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS by J. F. Englert (Dell)

Crime novels often require that the reader suspends disbelief for one reason or another. For instance, private investigators simply don't work on open murder investigations. Amateur sleuths rarely discover bodies. Animals don't talk.

Manhattan native Labrador Retriever Randolph doesn't talk. He communicates with his owner via Alpha-Bits cereal. He also reads and writes books, and he surfs the Web for clues to crime. In his second appearance, Randolph goes undercover at the U.N. as a therapy dog for a depressed diplomat. 

Beth says, "My dog is just as smart as Randolph, and I suspect that the cats alter the shopping lists. This is a fun read. I'm looking forward to another mystery with Randolph." 

GOODY GOODY GUNSHOTS by Sammi Carter (Berkley)

The fourth "candy shop mystery" set in the Colorado Rockies won't make you gain weight unless you indulge in the recipes at the end. In this outing, Divinity candy shop owner Abby Shaw witnesses a a man being gunned down, but there's no proof. Could a body that turns up days later possibly be related? Abby's got plenty to do running her store, training a new employee, and working with her nephew's basketball team, but she's always got time to ply her sleuthing skills. Interesting, well-drawn characters propel this well-paced story to the perfect ending.

--Beth Carroll

A New Reviewer is Heard…

We've all heard the phrase "so many books, so little time" often. I thought I'd have more time to read when I retired (I used to read about 250 mysteries a year), but I find I spend a lot of time now writing about books, talking about books, and getting ready to talk about books. Of course, I also spend considerable hours looking for books and other things I've misplaced. Recognizing my inability to keep up with all the reading I should do, I've begun asking friends to help out occasionally by sharing their thoughts.

Beth Carroll absolutely loves cozy mysteries. I've been loaning bags of them to her for years. She keeps a note in the bag explaining that "these books belong to Molly Weston" in case something happens and she doesn't get to return them. We laugh about that. Now, I've begun targeting new cozies that I think she'll like and she's agreed to let you know about them.

Welcome, Beth!

Harris & Kelner Updates

I just saw some great news on Publishers Lunch about two of my long-time mystery buddies:

"Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner's Death's Excellent Vacation, an anthology crossing genres from the sci-fi/fantasy, mystery and paranormal genres, with each story revolving around death and a holiday, in the similar spirit of their earlier anthologies Many Bloody Returns (vampires and birthdays) and Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (werewolves and Christmas)…for publication in Spring 2010…"


"NYT bestselling author Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly #4… for publication in Fall 2009."

It looks like the good times will keep rolling! Congratulations, gals!