Thursday, July 30, 2009

DeKOK AND THE MASK OF DEATH by Baantjer (Speck)

The "Dutch Conan Doyle" has done it again. Two young women are reported missing under mysterious circumstances: They are accompanied to the hospital for a blood test and vanish. The hospital personnel deny ever having seen them. As DeKok (with a K-O-K) and his young partner Vledder investigate, things become cloudier, not clearer. When DeKok's feet show signs of tiring, he knows the cases are going poorly. Eventually, with steady investigation, knowledge of the Amsterdam underworld, and a keen intellect…

Each of the Inspector DeKok stories is a jewel. This one shines like its peers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE CUTTING by James Hayman (Minotaur)

Sometimes you just can't get away from it. Detective Michael McCabe thought he'd done it. After all, how could Portland, Maine compare to homicide in Manhattan. Of course, that was before the body of a young teenager was found with her heart surgically removed from her body. Then, amazingly, a young woman disappears on the same day the body is found. Portland's crime rate is soon to skyrocket. The Cutting is a hard-hitting police procedural with no quirky characters or comic relief. It is the story of a horrific crime spree and the efforts of a caring detective who works desperately to end it. Michale McCabe is a cop you'd want on your side if the unthinkable happened to you or your family.

ROYAL FLUSH by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)

Being thirty-fourth in line to the throne doesn't convey wealth (witness the shabby gentility of Bowen's protagonist Lady Georgiana), but it does open some rather grand doors. When customers of Georgie's house-cleaning business leave London for the country, she has to find another source of income—quickly. Planning to advertise herself as a witty dinner companion (for pay), in her naivety, she misrepresents herself with near-dangerous results.

To get her out of the limelight, Georgie is sent in disgrace to her ancestral home, Castle Rannoch, in Scotland where she's doomed to endure her spineless brother, Binky, and his ramrod stiff wife, Fig. The Castle is hosting a house party of Americans, and Her Majesty offers Georgie an opportunity to redeem herself: All she has to do is keep Wallis Simpson from seducing the Prince of Wales.

This delightful cozy offers an entirely different view of the woman I saw Edward R. Murrow interview many years ago on Person to Person. Somehow, I believe Bowen's version is closer to reality.

THE DARK HORSE by Craig Johnson (Viking)

I became a fan of Sheriff Walt Longmire when I read The Cold Dish. Every succeeding book has confirmed my good opinion of Craig Johnson's writing. Not only are his characters compelling, each story is completely different—no changing the characters and altering the situations here. In this latest outing, a young woman confesses to killing her husband (all reports suggest that, as we say in the South, he needed killing). Walt doesn't believe she did it, and he puts himself at risk, both personally and professionally, to prove it. His efforts take him to places he left behind, embroil him with people who are trying to kill him, and to levels of personal courage to which no one should have to travel.

The Dark Horse is a complicated mystery that deserves a reader's time to concentrate on its wonders. Beautifully written, it lingers in one's mind.

MURDER OF A ROYAL PAIN by Denise Swanson (Obsidian)

I've been reading the Scumble River mysteries since Denise began writing them, and I truly believe this is my favorite. School psychologist Skye Denison has to face her own fears when she's compelled to take part in a Halloween fund-raiser. Turns out her fears are justified when she stumbles over a body. Discovering the murderer is complicated by pushy moms battling for their daughters' being prom queen, an ingratiating new social worker, and Skye's love life—which is more complicated than usual.

If you're not already a Scumble River fan, I suggest you check out this Agatha-nominated series, beginning with Royal Pain. New readers won't miss a step—every character is introduced completely enough for you to read without question.

Marcia Talley Short Story Free On Line

I got an exciting email from my friend Marcia Talley this week. Her short story, "Can You Hear Me Now?," which is featured in Elizabeth's George's new collection Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed and Murder was selected by Harper Collins as the story that pops up, full text, when you click Read Excerpt on the Sony ebooks website. I just read it—it's a story of our time. I think you'll enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TRUST ME by Jeff Abbott (Dutton)

I've been following Jeff Abbott since he's been writing mysteries, and I can say without reservations that he develops some of the most compelling characters I've ever met! I never start one of his books without allowing time to finish it in one reading. His newest outing introduces Luke Dantry, a psychology graduate student at the University of Texas. Luke's parents are dead, but he's very close to his step dad, whose Washington think tank works with the government to identify terrorist groups. As part of his research, Luke joins his stepfather's efforts.

Because this is a thriller, you know things will go wrong—terribly wrong. Abbott takes his readers on a roller coaster ride that must be experienced firsthand.

I'm not the only reader who wants to share this book. Check here for a review in the Dallas Morning News.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Reading Suggestions

Looking for a good mystery? Try my Summer Reads.

NC Men of Mystery

Get ready! I'm pleased to announce a tour of six—count 'em SIX—North Carolina men mystery writers will be together in the Triangle for a mini tour. Tim Myers asked me to help make this happen, so I sent emails to Robert K, Brown, Mark deCastrique, Bryan Gilmer, A. J. Hartley, and J. D. Rhoades asking if they were interested. To my great surprise and delight, all of them accepted. You're all invited to a venue near you.

Saturday, August 8
2:00 McIntyre's, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro
Note: A. J. Hartley will not be at this event

Monday, August 10
2:00 West Regional Library, Cary
7:00 Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, sponsored by the Cary Public Library

Tuesday, August 11
12:00 Eva Perry Library, Apex — (Brown Bag Lunch)

This is sure to be a lively panel. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Alexandra Sokoloff Wins Thriller Award

One of the nicest ladies to come from the West Coast to Raleigh just sent a modest announcement. Her story, "The Edge of Seventeen," in The Darker Mask anthology, has won the International Thriller Writers Thriller award for Best Short Fiction.

Alex's newest book The Unseen is one you want to read with a good friend in the room and you don't want to read after dark!

Alex will have a radio interview with Randy Walker on WSGE-FM which airs Monday, July 20, from 6:00 to 6:30 EST.

She'll be at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham on Wednesday, July 22, at 7:00 for a reading and signing. Alex will also be at the Cary Barnes & Noble Mystery Book Club for a discussion and signing on July 27, at 7:00.

To keep up with Alex's schedule, check her website.

210 Mystery Trip to Devon, Cornwall & Bristol

I got an email from mystery friend Kathy Ackley yesterday that she asked me to share with others in the mystery community. Here's her note:


I wanted to tell you about a new mystery trip that I'm planning for May 16-25, 2010. This trip to Devon, Cornwall, and Bristol trip will be quite different from my London/Oxford trip. We will stay in the Grand Hotel in Torquay, where Christie spent her honeymoon, and the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel; we'll have a Blue Badge guide for all tours (including the same guide who does Smithsonian's mystery trips for the pre-CrimeFest tour in Devon and Cornwall); and we will have John Curran as our guide for Christie's home, Greenway, in Torquay. Curran was a consultant on the refurbishment of Greenway and is author of a new book on Christie due out in the fall. Writer and critic Peter Guttridge will give a talk on Holmes, and we are still negotiating for an expert on DuMaurier.

CrimeFest in Bristol began several years ago when Left Coast Crime was held there. That conference was so successful that the organizers have decided to have an annual mystery & crime conference in Bristol and it, too, has been well attended. Guest authors confirmed so far include Colin Dexter and M. C. Beaton.

Please note that there are only 6 single sea view rooms in Torquay, so we're assigning them on a first-come, first-served basis, though there are many single rooms elsewhere in the hotel. All people sharing a room will be in sea-view twin-bedded rooms, and of course will avoid the single supplement in Bristo

Also, we have had a very strong response to this trip and will have to limit participants to 30.

Attached are files describing the trip. I have a PDF file of the Factsheet if you can't open these, and I am happy to mail paper copies if you prefer.

Please e-mail for more information or go to my website or the website for CrimeFest.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

MURDER UNDER A MYSTIC MOON by Yasmine Galenorn (Berkley)

Galenorn is authentically motivated to write about Woo-Woo Land as she has been in the craft for 25 years and knows whereof she speaks. This is obvious as the reader is taken into the energetic reality that is invisible to most people. The main protagonist (there are several) is Emerald O'Brien, owner of the Chintz and China Tea Room, who offers tea and petit fours as standard fare, but on the side offers not-so-standard fare—namely tarot readings and other helpful things like seeing auras and sensing energies that could have disastrous effects on people. She's a single mom of two precocious kids (14 and 9), business woman, good friend, lover, seer, and all-round honorable, spunky, and courageous woman.

The plot is a good one and the many subplots reveal the interesting complexities of life. The stories are woven together well and there are many interesting characters that dot the landscape of the story line. For example, there's a biker enclave nearby and as we meet individuals from this group, we are reminded again that the cover doesn't always reflect the content of the book accurately. There are romantic interests that keep us rooting for true love. There are wonderful neighbors who express our need for community. There are bad guys who cause trouble in big and small ways. There are shallow, rude, annoying characters whom we want to throttle. There are ideals and values and principles. There are myths and magic and moments of mystery that remind us that there is more to life than the obvious. We get glimpses of Dreamtime, the aboriginal concept that many think is not real, but is. Emerald balances her psychic abilities and "normal" life with grace and grit, and we are given peaks at the ways in which witches use their abilities for the good of the earth and its inhabitants. Life is a composite of the primal and the routine, of the high joys and low traumas, the incredible and the boring and everything else in between. This world is driven by greed and fear and although this isn't a primary or obvious thrust in this book, the lessons for this are there to be learned. The price we pay for our fears and greed can be seen in the way the lives of the characters unfold. It goes without saying that we can and should learn something from every experience, and we need to honor the possibilities inherent in the invisible reality which we, literally and metaphorically, can't see. Keep an open mind and allow the possibility for the invisible to touch your life. This book has much to offer, and it's a good read.

—Diane Esterly

SECONDHAND SPIRITS by Juliet Blackwell (New American Library)

For all wannabe witches or just those who are curious about witchy things, this is a fun and funny book. Lily Ivory is a semi-witch who is not sure about her powers. She never finished training with her grandmother and she finds herself in situations that make her wish she had. Her witchy ways have made her feel left out and alien, but she is determined to make friends and become "normal" by opening a legitimate business in San Francisco. She wants only to be accepted by people and so she tries to hide her witchy ways, but, of course, that is impossible. She is who she is. Aunt Cora's Closet, a vintage clothing store, seems to be a natural for her. Her store is a success and she is slowly becoming part of a community. Naturally, though, her paranormal abilities lead her on various excursions—both funny and dangerous—into the otherworldy spheres of reality. Lily loves her store because she can sense vibrations from the past from the clothing and jewelry, and she has a knack for fashion that attracts customers, both innocent and malevolent. Aunt Cora's Closet is a hit, but when a client is murdered and a child disappears from the Bay Area nearby, she may be the only one who can unravel the crime. Two men, one a sexy "myth buster" and the other a powerful male witch, offer complications and drama.

All the characters here are likable and pretty well drawn. Murder aside, this is a good, fun story. As is true with all of us, Lily has to confront her abilities and weaknesses and try to find a way to live meaningfully and compassionately with her God-given traits. For those who want to learn a little bit about the paranormal, this is a good way to do it. It's not overloaded with spells and magic, but it gives the reader some insight into the ways of those who have psychic abilities and the ways in which invisible reality interacts with the visible.

—Diane Esterly

Thursday, July 02, 2009

SWORN TO SILENCE by Linda Castillo (Minotaur)

When I read an advance copy of Sworn to Silence, I knew it was one of those books. In the first place, I literally couldn't put it down. It's a little hard to read while loading the dishwasher, but where there's a will…

Today's edition of "The Labyrinth," Minotaur's monthly newsletter, has a letter from the author introducing her debut novel. Linda Castillo describes the chilling story far better than I could.

How far would you go to keep a secret? What if keeping that secret threatened your safety? What if it threatened the lives of the townspeople you've sworn to protect and serve? These are some of the questions Chief of Police Kate Burkholder must ask herself in my debut thriller, SWORN TO SILENCE.

The book is the first in a series set in bucolic Painters Mill, which is in the heart of Ohio's Amish Country. I've always loved stories that juxtapose good and evil, and I couldn't have asked for a more fitting locale. The tranquil beauty of Painters Mill and the gentle hearts of the Amish stand in stark contrast to the evil stalking the town.

Kate is a far cry from your typical cop. Born Amish, she chose the "English" way of life over her Amish roots after a life altering event during her teens. She's a troubled, complicated and imperfect woman-with a harrowing secret that pits her on a very personal level against a depraved adversary she may have faced once before. Throw in a rogue state agent and a town council full of politicos, and Kate has her hands full.

If you like edgy thrillers chock full of ambiguous characters, SWORN TO SILENCE will fit the bill.

Take a tip from me: Don't start this before bedtime!!!