Monday, April 30, 2012

Fun House by Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein, one of my favorite authors, just won the Agatha Award for Best Children's/Young Adult Novel for The Black Heart Crypt. And, if you tell me you never heard of Chris Grabenstein, I'll know you haven't been paying attention when I raved about his John Ceepak mysteries, or as I prefer to think of them, the Ceepak/Boyle mysteries. I'll forgive you, though, if you try his latest mystery, Fun House. As much as I love his children's books (which I do), I promise you the Ceepak mysteries are not for children.

Although Fun House is the seventh book in the series, Grabenstein makes it easy for new readers to start at this point. Danny Boyle, the narrator of the books, introduces John Ceepak, his fellow police officer and mentor. Within two pages, Danny brings the reader into Sea Haven, a resort town on the Jersey Shore, and tells how he and Ceepak became involved in a reality show filming there. "Fun House" featured five boys and five girls in their 20s who liked to tan, drink and party. Danny said, "Think Jersey Shore meets Big Brother meets Survivor." And, Ceepak, a veteran of the Iraq war, found the language and the lifestyle a little sleazy. It didn't help that his arrest of one of the stars was broadcast on the TV show.

Danny blamed himself for Ceepak's overnight fame. He met Layla Shapiro when she was scouting locations for the new show. Now that the show was filming in Sea Haven, the mayor was ecstatic. Following Ceepak's TV appearance, he agreed that Ceepak and Boyle would head up SHPD's Fun House security detail. It wasn't fun anymore, though, when Skeletor, a local drug dealer, showed up. And, it was even less fun for Danny and Ceepak when Skeletor made fools of them, and the TV ratings shot sky high. Add in a murder or two, and the bloodthirsty TV audience can't get enough. It's only Danny and Ceepak who take the murders seriously.

For those of us who have followed this series, it comes as a shock to read that Ceepak is considering a job in Ohio. It also shocks Danny. Through Danny's eyes, we've watched their relationship change as Danny matured from a cocky summer cop to a twenty-six-year-old veteran of the force. Danny doesn't hesitate to credit Ceepak, his mentor, and the lessons he learned. His admiration for the man who lives by the West Point code of honor, and "will not life, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do," is obvious.

If you haven't read these mysteries, I hope you take the time to try one of the wittiest series around. I've often compared Ceepak and Boyle to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. It's a series narrated by the bright, cocky sidekick. There's humor along with a sharp poke in the eye at our culture and the obsession with reality TV. At the same time, Danny and Ceepak take their jobs seriously. They are determined to find a killer, and it doesn't matter who the victim was. Every victim deserves justice.

How do you promote an intelligent mystery series that is also witty? Chris Grabenstein's books cannot be compared to Janet Evanovich or others who write humorous mysteries. The outrageous activities in this book have everything to do with the filming of a reality show, and nothing to do with incompetent detectives. And, I'm afraid the pastel book jackets do nothing to attract readers to these books. These are not fluffy mysteries. These are serious murder mysteries that are set in a resort community, hence the carnival rides on the covers. 

I hope you trust my judgment. Try Grabenstein's Fun House. It's my chance to introduce you to two of my favorite characters, John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, and one of my favorite authors.

Chris Grabenstein's website is www.chrisgrabenstein.com

Fun House by Chris Grabenstein. Pegasus Crime. 2012. ISBN 9781605983363 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kevin Hearne's Release Party - Atticus & Oberon's Sausage Fest

Poisoned Pen Bookstore presented the release party for Kevin Hearne's Tricked, Book Four of the Iron Druid Chronicles. Kevin Hearne made it fun for fans. His Atticus & Oberon's Sausage Fest was held Saturday, April 28 at Rula Bula, an Irish pub in Tempe.



Ticketholders only were allowed on the patio from 3 PM to 6 PM. We picked up our books and gift bags at the patio entrance.

Lea and Patrick from the Poisoned Pen Bookstore


















While a musician played and sang Irish music, we enjoyed drinks and dinner. Since Atticus always raves about the fish and chips at Rula Bula, naturally it was one of the three entrees available with a ticket. The other choices were Oberon's favorite bangers and mash or a chicken strawberry salad.

Rula Bula's famous fish & chips

At one point during the party, Kevin took the stage to read the beginning of Tricked.



While we ate, Keven went around and talked to everyone, posing for pictures. (If you missed the release party, Kevin will be at the Velma Teague Library on May 19 at 2 p.m. to discuss and sign Tricked.) Two of our friends couldn't make it, so Kevin & I sent greetings to Terry and Chrisite.

Hi Terry!
















Hi Christie!





















Thanks to Kevin for posing for all the pictures!

We didn't buy just dinner for the ticket price. We also received a bag of swag, an autographed copy of Tricked, a poster from Atticus & Oberon's Sausage Fest, a bookmark, and a great glass with Oberon on it.



So, here's a toast to Kevin Hearne and Tricked, along with his characters, Atticus and Oberon. Good luck with Tricked, Kevin. Great release party!




Saturday, April 28, 2012

Agatha Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Agatha Awards, announced tonight at Malice Domestic.

Best Novel - Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Best First Novel - Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)

Best Non-Fiction - Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linder)

Best Short Story - "Disarming" by Dana Cameron, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - June 2011

Best Children's/Yong Adult - The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Best Historical Novel - Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)

And, a special shout-out to Chris Grabenstein, because he and I share a love for "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh."

Along with a note. Rhys Bowen said she had to fly home from Malice. She fell at a restaurant, and broke her pelvis. Sending good thoughts your way, Rhys.

In Pursuit of Spenser, ed. by Otto Penzler

The title of this book was so long, I couldn't fit it in the title slot on the blog. Otto Penzler edited and wrote the introduction to the fascinating book, In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero. It's a book that is going into my permanent collection. Any fan of Robert B. Parker's Spenser will want to read this tribute.

Penzler, along with thirteen authors and Parker himself, deconstructs Parker's writing and the character of Spenser. Penzler traces Spenser's roots, and all of the authors add him to the original pantheon of American detective writers, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. Penzler calls Spenser one of the great heroes of our time.

But, it's Ace Atkins, who continues the character of Spenser in the forthcoming book, Lullaby, who adds poignancy to the image of Spenser as hero. His essay, "Songs Spenser Taught Me," relates his own experiences, as a young college student, a football player, whose father died when he was in college. Needing a role model, he discovered Spenser. Atkins says Spenser taught him about being a man after his father's death.

And, Dennis Lehane, a fellow Boston resident, and a fan, writes about Parker's Boston, and the voice of sarcasm that represented the city. Lehane includes hints of so many of the essays that follow in the book, Susan Silverman, "a polarizing character;" Hawk as the dark side of Spenser; Parker's writings about feminism and gays at a time when it wasn't popular.

Writers from Lawrence Block to Loren D. Estleman to S.J. Rozan stepped up to talk about all aspects of Parker and Spenser, from the cooking and food, Spenser's loyalty to one woman, to feminism. The authors all put a great deal of thought into portraying the author and detective that served as role models for so many of them, some in life as Ace Atkins, and for some in their writing.

Naturally, Spenser as Parker's character is the primary focus of the book, however Parker's other writings are not neglected. There are comparisons of Jesse Stone with Spenser. One essay examines Parker's westerns, while another takes a look at the TV shows and movies. And, Parker himself wrote a piece called "Spenser: A Profile," that is reprinted here, giving Parker the last word about his character's life.

If you're a fan of Robert B. Parker's work, particularly the Spenser novels, you won't want to miss this book. For those of us who felt as if we lost a favorite author, and a favorite character, with Parker's death, this extensive profile brings both of them back to life for just a little while. Robert B. Parker had the final word about his character. However, it's Parker's widow, Joan, who sums up In Pursuit of Spenser. "A close and revealing examination of Robert B. Parker - the author, the man, and the husband - brought to life by the observations and insights of fellow authors who knew him and his work. Extraordinary!"

In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero edited by Otto Penzler.Smart Pop Books/ BenBella Books, Inc. 2012. ISBN 9781935618577 (paperback), 257p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Recap - Michael Norman for Authors @ The Teague

I had never met Michael Norman before he appeared for Authors @ The Teague, although I had read his debut mystery, The Commission, a fascinating look inside the Utah Department of Corrections. He is now on tour with his fourth book, Skeleton Picnic.

Michael told the audience he had seven events in Arizona. He introduced himself as a recovering cop and college professor. He worked in Washington and then Colorado, so he could be a little closer to skiing. He was one of those people who kept getting degrees. He taught criminology at a junior college, and discovered he enjoyed teaching more than being a policeman. So, he went into teaching full time. Then, because he wanted to teach at the university level, he went on to get his doctorate in criminal justice. He spent the rest of his career teaching at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Eventually, he retired to write fiction.

The Commission, Michael's first book, took him five years to write. He was lucky when he was searching for a publisher that Barbara Peters bought it for Poisoned Pen Press.He followed that book with the another in the Sam Kincaid series, Silent Witness.

J.D. Books is the character is Norman's second series. Where did Books come from? When Michael was still teaching there was a job fair on campus, and he went to it to see what criminal justice agencies were represented. He recognized one man in a uniform for the Federal Bureau of Land Management. He was a ranger with them, and he had graduated from Weber State's program. He is now a Law Enforcement Ranger on the Arizona Strip. He invited Norman to tour Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. When Michael went there, he realized how easy it would be to die out there. It covers almost 1.9 million acres.

Grand Staircase-Escalante was named a national monument when Clinton was President. There's a great deal of resentment of the federal government in Utah because they own so much land in ten western states. There is so much resentment that they had to dedicate the monument on the Arizona side because the Utah senators and other officials would not attend. The rangers cover remote areas, and Michael saw how alone a ranger is as a cop because the ranger arrested two drunk men with guns while they were out there.

Michael spent three days there in Kanab, Utah. There is a lot of anger and hostility in the community. Norman realized this was perfect for crime writers. Community dysfunction works well with family dysfunction.The community has ranger types, along with hobby ranchers and environmentalists. None of them like each other. The Bureau of Land Management is a big presence there. Michael's ranger friend pointed out a family store where the federal employees won't even enter. He said the family that owns it hates the feds, and they're loud about it, so they weren't going to get even a nickel from the federal staff.

When Norman wrote On Deadly Ground, the first J.D. Books novel, he gave Books a western sounding name. And, he intended the book to be a standalone. It's the story of a prominent environmentalist who is opposed to mining, timber, and cattle. He's at loggerheads with the people who have been in Kanah for generations. He goes hiking one weekend, and fails to show up for work on Monday. The man's body was found by a bunch of German tourists. Tourists come to Kanab because there were a number of Westerns filmed there. McKenna's Gold starring John Wayne was filmed in Kanab, as were some of the Gunsmoke episodes. The tourists in On Deadly Ground found the environmentalists body hanged. But, he had been shot, and the body moved. There was also a note saying this is what happens with environmentalists. BLM Law Enforcement Ranger J.D. Books works with the local sheriff on the case.

Michael's editor liked On Deadly Ground, and wanted him to write another book. He said it was a standalone, and he wanted to go back to the Sam Kincaid series. But, she wanted another J.D. Books mystery.

Skeleton Picnic, the latest book in the J.D. Books series, is set in the Four Corners area. That's the heart of pot hunting country. There are Anasazi bones and pots. A baby's grave can be worth thousands of dollars.

 Michael told us he did more research for Skeleton Picnic than for any of his other books.He came across the term "Skeleton Picnic," and was told that was an old term. Generations of people grew up pot hunting in the Four Corners area. They did it socially and for recreation. Families and friends would get together on the weekends. They would have a picnic, and then pick up artifacts. That tradition was handed down, hence the title, Skeleton Picnic.

In 1906, the Archaeological Protection Act made pot hunting illegal. It forbids the collection of artifacts on federal and tribal lands. Norman recommended a nonfiction book on the subject, Finders Keepers by Craig Childs.Childs said pot hunting is a four to eight billion dollar a year business. Collectors all over the world will buy the artifacts.

Many pot hunters have the Indiana Jones syndrome. For them, it's more about the thrill of the hunt than the money. It's not illegal to possess artifacts. Some hunters will own a half million to three quarter million dollars worth of artifacts. If asked, they will say they've been in the family since before 1906, or that they got the artifacts off private land.

Skeleton Picnic is about Rolly and Abigail Rogers, a prominent retired couple. Their families have been pot hunters for generations. Spring and fall are the best time of year to do pot hunting. They set off for a trip along the Arizona Strip, and disappear. When the couple, religious Mormons, fail to show for church on Sunday, the police are called. J.D. Books has formed an alliance with the local sheriff, and they work together.

In researching and writing Skeleton Picnic, Michael had to examine his own attitude. He tends to think like a copy. Everything is black and white. People are divided into good ones and "assholes." Cops tend to miss shades of gray. He had to think about the grey with this book. There are the mom and pop pot hunters. Then, there are the commercial hunters who come in with backhoes and rip the site up for commercial gain. There are not many clean hands when it comes to artifacts, including gallery owners and museums. Some gallery owners are not concerned with provenance. In doing his research, Norman came across a story about the University of Utah, and a professor in the 1920s who hired pot hunters so they would send the artifacts to the university.

Nowadays, many of the pot hunters are dangerous. The commercial ones are certainly armed. A lot of the diggers are meth addicts. BLM calls them "twiggers," meth addicts who are diggers. And off terrain vehicles that cut new roads, just increase the ease and availability of land for pot hunters.

Michael Norman has followed one case. In June 2009, the feds raided Blanding, Utah in the heart of Four Corners. The people there don't care for the federal government. They have a pot hunting tradition. The feds indicted twenty-six people from Blanding. They hired an informant who, over a period of twenty-four months, purchased 256 Anasazi artifacts. It cost $335,000, so imagine what they would cost if they were sold as individual pieces. The feds built their cases, and then raided the town with over 100 federal cops. There were terrible feelings afterward. There were three suicides. A prominent doctor killed himself after he was released on bail. The informant killed himself. Most of the twenty-six received probation, a fine and community service. So far, only one person got jail time.

Skeleton Picnic is a fictional story built around a serious problem in the Southwest. Archaeologists go absolutely nuts about pot hunters. They document each artifact. However, there are a few crooked archaeologists as well.

In 1990, a law was passed that allow Native American groups to seek repatriation of bodies and funeral objects. The Smithsonian Institute is said to have 18,000 bodies.Tony Hillerman wrote a book about the subject, A Thief of Time, featuring his two Navajo police officers, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

In 1979, the feds updated the 1906 law. Jimmy Carter was President at the time, and he wanted to exempt arrowheads from the law. He had found memories of collecting arrowheads when he grew up in Georgia.

Michael said he's back to Sam Kincaid in his fifth book. It will be called Slow Burn. Now, he'll probably alternate writing the series. He never intended to write two series because On Deadly Ground was meant to be a standalone.

Asked how long it takes him to write a book, he said it doesn't take him five years since he's retired. His books are between 70,000 and 80,000 words. He has a writing goal. He tries to write five days a week, 500 words a day, 10,000 words a month. So, it should take him seven to eight months, but it probably takes eight to ten months since he might take vacations.

Michael said writing has been a fun second career. He gets to make stuff up. You can't make up stuff when you're in academia. But, a friend who read most of his academic writing said that read like fiction.

When he was asked if he received rejection notices, he said he had fifty rejection letters for The Commission. He thought he needed an agent, and fifty agents rejected it. You do need an agent for the large publishers. But, he submitted The Commission to Poisoned Pen Press in October, and he had his first response the following March. Barbara turned him down twice, and told him he had one more chance to get it right. She even gave him books to read, such as Dennis Lehane.

As he finished, Michael told us he doesn't work with an outline. When he sits down to write, he looks forward to it, wondering where the story will go that day.

Michael Norman's website is www.michaelnormanauthor.com

Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 9781590585551 (hardcover) or 9781590586112 (trade paperback).

(And, yes I know my eyes are closed, but it's better than the picture when we were both blinking.)









Thursday, April 26, 2012

Edgar Award Winners - 2012


Congratulations to tonight’s Edgar Award winners, announced by Mystery Writers of America.

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY - “Pilot” – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)

BEST PLAY - The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)

BEST JUVENILE - Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT - The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)

BEST FACT CRIME - Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (Random House - Doubleday)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL - On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)

GRAND MASTER - Martha Grimes

RAVEN AWARDS -
M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA
Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD -
Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group

BEST SHORT STORY - “The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL - The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR - Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)

BEST NOVEL - Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)


THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD was presented last night to Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group)

Winners & Mysteries in Europe's Past Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Miranda James' File M for Murder will go to Wendy A. of Ferndale, WA. And,  Becky K from Grayslake, IL will receive Lucy Arlington's Buried in a Book. I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away autographed mysteries set in the past, Jacqueline Winspear's Elegy for Eddie and Cara Black's Murder at the Lanterne Rouge. You can escape into England between the wars, or to Paris in 1998. Both books are ARCs, Advanced Review Copies.

Elegy for Eddie is the latest entry in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie takes on a personal case, one that will take her from her childhood neighborhood in London where men who worked with her father ask for her help, to the highest echelons of power, parties in which Winston Churchill is present. In April 1933, a group of men seek answers to a death. Eddie Pettit's death was reported to be accidental, but the men think he was murdered. This story hints at the European troubles to come.




Murder at the Lanterne Rouge finds Cara Black's investigator, Aimee Leduc, leery about her business partner's new girlfriend. However, when that woman disappears in the middle of her birthday party, Aimee goes looking for the missing woman. It's a search that will take her deep into Chinatown and a case that involves illegal immigrants, dirty police, and lost secrets of the Knights Templar.

Do you want to win Elegy for Eddie or Murder at the Lanterne Rouge? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject headings should read either "Win Elegy for Eddie" or "Win Murder at the Lanterne Rouge." Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email. Entrants from the U.S. only, please.

The contest will end Thursday, May 3 at 6 PM PT. I'll select the winners, using a random number generator, and notify them that night. Good luck!

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen's books of essays always make me think. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake celebrates life as a mature woman. It's reflective, thoughtful. I can't relate to all of it because I don't have kids. But, there are so many times she addresses my life and my feelings.I enjoy being in my fifties, and I wouldn't trade it for the chance to be younger. Quindlen points out the joy of maturity in this collection.

Quindlen mentions that a Gallup poll of 340,000 people showed we get more contented as we get older. And each essay in her book illustrates the experience and self-acceptance that only comes with age. I love the chapter, "Stuff," telling how we accumulate so much, and reach a time when we actually use less and less. I could identify with one statement. "I finally know who and how I'm dressing. I'm dressing a person who has eighteen pairs of black pants and eleven pairs of black pumps." I'll admit, I didn't go into my closet and count the pairs of black paints when I read that. I don't have eighteen pairs, but at least ten.

I loved Quindlen's essay about enjoying solitude, needing time to be alone. Her chapters about our mothers and grandmothers was educational and fascinating. Then there was the piece about the near misses in life. What if we had picked a different college, went a different direction? Where would we be now? "Girlfriends" reminded me of my mother and her best friend. I love to hear how they talk on the phone every day, even after just having been together. I may not have a friend I do that with, but I know how important the women in my life were when my husband died. Two were there that morning, another to see me through the evening. And, my mother and one of my sisters were here as soon as they could be. "Girlfriends" is about the women we need in our lives.


Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake celebrates life and choices. For me, Quindlen's wisdom and book can be summed up with, "I wouldn't be twenty-five again on a bet, or even forty...Many of us find ourselves exhilarated, galvanized, at the very least, older and wiser." Thank you, Anna Quindlen for that philosophical truth.

Anna Quindlen's website is www.AnnaQuindlen.net

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen. Random House. 2012. ISBN 9781400069347 (hardcover), 182p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I asked the publisher for a copy of the book, in order to read it.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas

The best of Sandra Dallas' books are truly memorable. The Persian Pickle Club and Tallgrass are two of my favorites. Now,  her latest novel, True Sisters, joins that collection.

In 1856, a group of Mormon converts, emigrants from England and Scotland, set out on a difficult trek to Salt Lake City. The Martin Handcart Company was the fifth group to make the trip from Iowa City to their Zion, the fifth to endeavor to make the trip using two-wheeled handcarts, as ordered by Brigham Young himself. Three of the companies made the trip with few difficulties. The fourth, the Willie Company, encountered snow and lost sixty-seven people. And, then there was the Martin Company, the company that left even later, the company that saw the greatest loss of life, "the single greatest tragedy in the history of America's westward expansion."

True Sisters is the powerful story of the women who set out to walk to Salt Lake City, thirteen hundred miles across prairies and mountains, in heat and then snow. Sisters Nannie Macintosh and Ella Buck traveled with Ella's husband after Nannie's husband-to-be dumped her on the day of her wedding, sending a letter saying he was marrying someone else. Anne Sully was a reluctant participant in the trek. When her husband converted, he sold their business and threatened to take the children if she didn't accompany him. A pregnant Anne refused to convert, but she set out with her two children. Louisa Tanner was proud to be the wife of Thales Tanner, the missionary who converted her whole family. And, everyone in Louisa's family traveled with Thales, a captain on the trip with 100 people in his group. Jessie Cooper refused to marry Thales, but she and her two brothers, three strong young people, were converts who wanted to start a new farm in the promised land. This is the story of women who made the journey, a journey that didn't turn out to be what they had been promised.

True Sisters isn't a happy story. But, it's a powerful story of strong women, women who found the way to go on through loss, starvation, and tragedy. Dallas brings a group of women to life on these pages. In doing so, she brings the story of the Martin Handcart Company to life in a way that nonfiction seldom does. She puts faces on this tragic expedition. True Sisters is a story you'll never forget. It's one more memorable book from a gifted storyteller.

Sandra Dallas website is www.sandradallas.com

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas. St. Martin's Press. 2012. ISBN 9781250005021 (hardcover), 341p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book from the publisher so I could read it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jenn McKinlay for Authors @ The Teague



It's always a pleasure to welcome Jenn McKinlay, author and fellow librarian, to the Velma Teague Library for Authors @ The Teague. And, this time, she even brought me a present, the ARC of the July release of Red Velvet Revenge, the fourth book in her Cupcake Bakery mystery series. This creative author is currently writing books for four series!

Jenn was a familiar face to many in the audience, so they jumped in immediately to ask questions. Which series does she prefer? Right now, it's the one she's working on, a London Hat Shop mystery series. The first in that will come out sometime in 2013. Jenn loves hats, and was all caught up in the royal wedding. In fact, halfway to Velma Teague, she was thinking about the book, and knew one of her characters wouldn't act that way, so she pulled over, and changed her character's action. She said she still takes notes the old-fashioned way. Her husband, though, is a techie, married to his e-reader. She's his second wife now.

With the London Hat series, Jenn will have written five series. The character in that series is 27, while the women of the Good Buy Girls in her Bargain Hunters series are in their forties.

Jenn McKinlay is a true storyteller who loves humor, so she said she had a funny story to tell us about the Tucson Festival of Books. She was in the hospitality lounge with authors Avery Aames and Kate Carlisle, who are friends. The three of them are going to Malice Domestic together, then a mystery conference, and then to Cozy Con at the Phoenix main library, Burton Barr. She said they'll be sick of each other. Anyways, I joined the three of them, telling them I had just come from Kevin Hearne's panel. Jenn asked who he was, and I explained he was a fantasy author from the Valley, who wrote the Iron Druid Chronicles. Jenn was interested because he's local, and she tries to keep up with the local authors.

Avery, Kate and I left for our panel, and Jenn pulled out her computer to work since she writes ten pages a day. (That's how she keeps four series going.) Then, T. Jefferson Parker sat at the table next to her. She said she's a complete geek who worships everyone. While she was talking to him, two guys sat at her table, and completely ignored her when she sat down again. So, she ignored them. And, she couldn't see their badges, so didn't know who they were. When James Owen came over, one of them got up and shook hands with him. Afterward, Jenn said, he's really nice. And, Sam Sykes said, yes, he blurbed my first book. Sam writes sword and sorcerer books. The other author introduced himself as Kevin Hearne. So, they started talking, discovering they all live in the Valley and they all have the same sense of humor.

Then, some crazy-looking woman who appeared to be about 110 years old, with her hair in braids, came up to the table, and said, I can make you famous, as famous as Casey Anthony. Sam asked, "Do I have to kill someone?" And, she answered, "It would help." As soon as she could, Jenn escaped, saying she had to go to a panel. Then, she started getting texts from Sam and Kevin. "Can't believe you ditched us." Jenn's husband, when he heard the story, said, "So, in other words, if you were Ron, Harry and Hermione in the bathroom fighting trolls, you ditched."

That wasn't the end of the story. The next day, Jenn and Kate Carlisle were to sign at the Poisoned Pen's booth. Kate was all excited because Diana Gabaldon was signing just before them. Jenn said she had met Diana, but she wouldn't know her. When they arrived at the booth, Gabaldon was signing, alongside Sam Sykes. Sam saw Jenn, and said, "YOU! You ditched me with a Gollum!" And, Diana Gabaldon turned around and said, "You ditched my son with a Gollum?" Jenn said, well, Diana Gabaldon knows who she is now.

Then, McKinlay said she recommends that anyone who loves books attend the Tucson Book Festival. After just four years, it's considered one of the best festivals in the country.

Asked about writing, Jenn said she used to write romances, but she wasn't any good at it. She kills people better than she writes love scenes. She originally went into romances because she thought it was a good way to break in. However, she discovered it's hard to write romance. You have to be good at it. Jenn found out that she has to have a dead body in her books.

McKinlay found an agent who liked the mysteries she submitted, but she couldn't sell them. Then, she said Berkley Prime Crime wanted someone to write a decoupage series. She said she'd write decoupage. The series didn't do well, but they liked her. And, she knew these mysteries were her window. She's the one who submitted the idea for the Cupcake Bakery series. They liked that, and they liked her idea for her library lovers' series. You have to find your way in to writing with a publisher.

McKinlay is writing under the name Josie Belle for The Bargain Hunter series. Her agent said Berkley was looking for someone to write about bargain hunters. Jenn said she's a bargain hunter, and she could write it. But, maybe she is taking on too much now, writing four series at once. Avery Aames said they had been taking bets on how long it would take for Jenn to realize that.

Jenn said she thought the trend for cupcakes would be over by now. She was paranoid the Cupcake Bakery series would end. But, she's contracted now for eight books in series, and six in the Library Lovers' series.

In response to a question, she said the library series is the hardest to write. She knew nothing about cupcakes, other than she likes to eat them.  She toured kitchens and looked in refrigerators. When she was looking in refrigerators, the people in the bakeries said, "Oh, yeah, you're a writer." She had no preconceived ideas about the bakeries. But, as a librarian, she knows too much about the library business. That could be the most boring series ever if she put in too much information about policies, local government, and how libraries operate.

Jenn's books cover a number of age groups. She's fond of the women in the cupcake books. They're in their 30s. The forthcoming London Hat Shop series features women in their 20s. And, there are women in their 40s in the bargain hunters books. That's a fun series to write.

In the past, she's known about the locations covered. The decoupage books were set in New England where she grew up. The cupcake one is set in Scottsdale. The library mysteries are set in Connecticut, where Jenn lived and went to school. She's never been to London, though, the setting of the next series. But, Google Earth is wonderful. She can see Portobello Road and the shops. She can see the roads, and how long it would take to get somewhere. McKinlay's greatest fear is that she'll write something that the entire country of England would hate her for writing. She's even planning to ask a friend here in Arizona if she can use his pub as the British setting so it's a pub everyone in the country doesn't know. She came up with the idea for this series when she watched the royal wedding. She was obsessed with the hats. And, how do they keep those fascinators on their heads?

Asked about the books she writes under another name, she said those names belong to the publishing company. She has the copyright for the books written under her own name. Some other mystery writers, such as Lorna Barrett, do the same thing. They write books for the company under  pseudonyms, and others under their own names. That's how some slid in the back door to writing under their own names.

Since there were a number of questions about writing, Jenn warned that she's self-employed, and she pays lots of taxes. You get checks for signing a contract, delivery of the manuscript, and a check when the book is published. Then you'll get royalty checks. Her trip to London will be deductible, but she sees she only gets forty-some dollars a day for food, and she knows she's going to eat more than that. Unfortunately, she can't write off taking her kids, and she thinks it's a good opportunity to take them. She had hoped to go during the summer, but the Olympics are in London this summer. So, they'll have to work around school breaks.

Why does she write so many series? Is it that she's driven, lucky, or likes money? Jenn answered that she writes ten pages a day for all of the above. She's a book nerd. Her mother was a librarian. Books were her alternate world. When something was bad, she got a new book. If she did something good, she got a new book.

Jenn McKinlay wanted to be a writer when she saw "Romancing the Stone." Kathleen Turner was a writer with that gorgeous New York apartment. But, by the time she was an adult, she had a full-time job, and writing was hard. While she was in Connecticut, she met Mary Higgins Clark. She was widowed young, left with five children. She had a full-time job as a technical writer. She was motivated. She got up at 4 a.m. to write before going to her job. Jenn wasn't willing to get up at 4 to write before going to work.

Then, she moved out here in the 90s, when it was the cost-of-living was still affordable. She thought she could get a part-time job at a library, and still have time to write. Jenn wrote two historical romances and three contemporaries. Then she met her husband and got married. She wrote a romantic comedy. She had a baby when Harlequin called, and wanted to buy the romantic comedy. That was the only good romance she wrote. It was funny, and had a mystery in it. That should have been Jenn's first clue. She wrote a couple more romances, but they were awful. Jenn writes comedy. She only writes and reads comedy. She waits for the first joke of the day. But, she doesn't think publishers know how to market romantic comedy. Harlequin killed their romantic comedy line.

Jenn told her husband she really wanted to write mysteries, but she didn't think she was smart enough. Her husband is the kind of person who cuts right to the important point. He told her to write it backwards. That's how she wrote her first mystery and got an agent. That got her in. She wrote three mysteries that were not published, but it did get her the agent.

Jenn's books are heavy with character and dialogue. Elmore Leonard says readers skip over chunky paragraphs of description. Mary Higgins Clark says the same thing. Don't write "She walked through the room and her skirt swished as she moved." Write "She walked."

McKinlay sent her enquiries to forty agencies in order to get her first agent. Three wrote back.One was excited. One said she could work with the book. And, the third, a male, said it had fallen through the crack between his desk and the wall. Naturally, she went with the agent who was enthusiastic, and then she left the agency. Jenn used Literary Marketplace and Writer's Market to find agents. Jenn said agents will sign you if they think they can sell you.

Asked about self-publishing vs. formal publishing, she said she feels as if she needs all those people raking through her materials, the agent, the editor, the copy editor. She repeated that she is contracted for eight books in the Cupcake Bakery series, six in the library mysteries, and the decoupage series is dead.

Jenn was asked if she has trouble switching gears when she goes from one series to another. She said she caught herself putting the wrong names in one book, and had to search and find.

Her character is Scarlet in the London Hat Shop series. She excited about that, and it reminds her of Agatha Christie. She had the idea, and then put it aside because she didn't know enough to write a British main character. But, the idea wouldn't go away. Then, she realized she could make her character an American who moves to London. So, Scarlet lived in Florida. She and a cousin in London inherit their grandmother's hat shop. Scarlet needs to leave the country after her personal life implodes and goes viral online. Her cousin tells her it's time she comes to London, and takes responsibility for her share of the hat shop. When Scarlet arrives, her cousin is missing.

The final question was about the dog in McKinlay's latest Library Lover's mystery, Due or Die. She said the dog in the book is part schnauzer, part pit bull. He's based on Jenn's schnauzer, Otto. Her standard poodle had died, and her husband kept asking what kind of dog she wanted. She kept saying, I don't want another dog; I don't want a dog; I'll take a schnauzer because they make me laugh. Otto is like a toddler. He's with her constantly, and he loves her more than anything. Then, she found a pit bull in the alley outside their house, a gentle pit bull. So, the dog in Due or Die is part schnauzer, part pit bull.

As usual, when Jenn McKinlay appears for Authors @ The Teague, it was a fun afternoon that covered a range of subjects.

Jenn McKinlay's website is www.jennmckinlay.com




Monday, April 23, 2012

Every Last Secret by Linda Rodriguez

Linda Rodriguez was the winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition for her debut, Every Last Secret. Some of my favorite books have won this award, The End Game by Gerrie Ferris Finger, The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan, and one that led to a number of wonderful mysteries, In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming. I'm hoping Rodriguez' mystery launches a successful series.

Marquitta "Skeet" Bannion thought she had fled from her demons when she left Kansas City behind. She left the police force there, leaving behind the legend and then the disgrace of her father, Big Charlie. And, she left a jealous ex-husband who was also on the police force. She only moved twelve miles away to a college town. But, she owns a house, a collie and a cat. And, she is chief of police on Chouteau University's campus. Some of her team isn't happy with a female chief, but she isn't afraid to handle campus and police politics.

Fortunately, she has a team that unites behind her when the college's newspaper editor-in-chief is found dead in his office. There were sexual assault and theft claims against Andrew McAfee, and he might not have been the nicest student on campus, but Skeet feels responsible for the safety of all 8000 students there. And, Skeet's Cherokee grandmother taught her well. "The Cherokee are big on balance. They think imbalance allows dangerous forces into the world. I had to agree. My job was to bring this small world back into balance again."

Skeet and her department have an enormous task ahead of them. As she uncovers dirty secrets in the campus community, she stirs up the hierarchy, who are not happy with a criminal investigation on campus. And, it gets worse, as some of the secrets lead to powerful people at the university. Skeet takes her job seriously, though, and she's going to do her best to protect the students, her neighbors, and a vulnerable teenager who needs her help. "Some bastard came to my peaceful town, my campus, and killed a student." Skeet is determined to find the killer who turned the community upside down.

Rodriguez' debut is perfect for those of us who admire the traditional mystery. Skeet is a flawed protagonist whose relationship with her father strengthened her as an officer, but left her vulnerable, not trusting her instincts in personal relationships. Every Last Secret is the story of a determined search, step-by-step, for a killer. And, the author recognizes the importance of an out-of-balance world, and the restoration of balance, that is a vital part of so many traditional mysteries. It's a pleasure to watch Skeet, her friends, and her team, work together to find a dangerous predator and restore peace.

Rodriguez built her own world, peopled it with Skeet Bannion and an interesting cast of supporting characters, and then allowed violence to tear at the heart of the world. Linda Rodriguez and Every Last Secret live up to the billing as the winner of a traditional mystery competition. Every Last Secret is an exciting debut mystery, filled with the promise of a new strong female character. Now, I'm hoping for Skeet Bannion to have a lengthy career as chief of campus police. It will mean years of enjoyable reading for fans of traditional mysteries.

Linda Rodriguez' website is www.lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

Every Last Secret by Linda Rodriguez. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9781250005458 (hardcover), 289p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

May's Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Here's the book chat featuring the May cozy mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian. And, there's a cameo appearance by a "Big Kitty" of my own, Nikki.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gold Mountain by Vicki Delany

Fiona MacGillivray, heroine of Vicki Delany's Klondike mysteries, called her latest adventure, Gold Mountain, "dramatic foolishness." And, that's precisely what Delany writes in her historic mystery series. She takes aim at the history of the Klondike gold rush, and adds humor and suspense.

In each of the books in this series, we learn a little more about Fiona's past. She's a survivor who fled one tragedy after another, only to end up in Toronto, where her theft of jewels forced her to move on with her son, Angus. In 1897, they ended up in Vancouver, where they heard about gold in Alaska. Hoping to open a theater in Skagway, Fiona discovered that town did not welcome her, unless she was willing to work with the local crime boss, Soapy Smith, or put up with the admiration of one of his men, Paul Sheridan. So, Fiona and Angus moved on to Dawson in the Yukon Territory.

In Dawson, Fiona is queen of her Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall. When Paul Sheridan shows up there, though, he has other ideas. He has a map to Gold Mountain, where he has dreams of striking it rich. And, he's determined to take Fiona with him, and make her his queen. Despite her protests, he drags her with him, leaving Angus to call out the troops, Corporal Richard Sterling of the North-West Mounted Police, and an odd assortment of townspeople. Angus and Sterling are determined to find Fiona. Some of the townspeople might be just as determined to find the riches promised by the name, Gold Mountain.

As Fiona fills in the details of her youth, it will come as no surprise to readers that she just might be able to take care of herself on her travels with Paul Sheridan. She's street-smart, cunning, and, except for one naive mistake when it came to Sheridan, she's a shrewd judge of character.

Once again, Delany has managed to bring the wild years of the Klondike Gold Rush to life. It was a time and place filled with unusual characters, mad schemes, violence and greed. All of that comes to light in Delany's Klondike mysteries. However, in Gold Mountain, she adds just a little bit of mysticism in the legends of the land beyond the river. Readers who enjoy humor mixed with history and mystery might appreciate Delany's stories of Fiona MacGillibray, the self-proclaimed most beautiful woman in Dawson. Gold Mountain is one more story to add to Fiona's legend.

Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com

Gold Mountain by Vicki Delany. Dundurn. 2012. ISBN 9781459701892 (paperback), 328p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Cozy Con

If you're a fan of traditional and cozy mysteries, and live in Arizona, you might want to check out Cozy Con. The Poisoned Pen Bookstore and Phoenix Public Library Present: Get Cozy @ The Phoenix Public Library. It's Saturday, May 5, 11 am - 4 pm at Burton Barr Central Library.

Check out the authors who are going to be there! Carolyn Hart, Earlene Fowler, Hannah Dennison, Paige Shelton, Jenn McKinlay, Beth Kendrick, Rebecca Hale, Jane Cleland, Kate Carlisle, Donis Casey, Betty Webb and Avery Aames.

Registration is only $25, and that includes access to all panels, lunch and snacks. Call The Poisoned Pen to register, 480-947-2974. I'm registered! Hope to see some of you there!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Barnstorming by Laura Crum

Laura Crum's twelfth mystery to feature equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, Barnstorming, is a mystery involving horses and murder. But, it's also a story about mid-life decisions, and having the courage to face life head-on.

At fifty, Gail McCarthy has decisions to make. She tells her own story in first person, present tense. She was once an equine veterinarian with a passion for work. But, she took ten years off to raise and homeschool her son, Mac. Now that her husband, Blue, has inherited enough money for them to live on, she has a tough decision. What does she want to do with her life? Blue retired happily. Does she want to go back to her job as a vet? Does she want to just enjoy life with her husband, son, and horses? Or is there something else?

For Gail, those decisions can be reached on horseback as she rides the trails near her house. But, those trails have not been so friendly to riders lately. One man sics his dog on them. Someone is blocking the trails. And, some of the residents in the new subdivision near the woods have made it plain they don't like horses or riders in the backyards. And, when one of Gail's acquaintances is shot out in the woods, soon after Gail met her on the trails, the woods and trails seem more dangerous than ever. Did someone target Jane, or is someone targeting women riding their horses on the trails?

Gail turns all her information over to the investigating police officer. As a former vet with numerous friends in the local horse community, Gail uncovers a great deal of information that she passes on. She's afraid. She's angry. She loves those trails and her horses. And, she's resolved to take a stand. "I'm not standing still for this evil. I'm fighting."

For those not interested in horses or the trails through the woods, Barnstorming might feel as if it drags. Others will find an engrossing story of an evil that invades a close-knit community, and a woman determined to fight back, not allowing fear to rule her life.

Laura Crum's Author's Note in this story is fascinating in itself. She informs readers that it's quite possible this will be the last book in the series. She discusses the relationship between Gail and the author, the similarities in their lives, and the differences. The author, like her character, may be moving on to another stage in life after fifty. She allows the readers to observe some of that thinking process in the course of the mystery. And, that process makes Barnstorming a richer, deeper story than it would be if it was just a mystery involving horses.

Laura Crum's website is www.lauracrum.com

Barnstorming by Laura Crum. Perseverance Press. 2012. ISBN 9781564745088 (paperback), 192p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, hoping I would review it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Winners and a Book Lover's Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Cynthia H. from Norman Park, GA will receive the autographed ARC of Brad Parks' The Girl Next Door. Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Scandal will go to Virginia D. of Tempe, AZ . I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

This week, it truly is a giveaway for book lovers because both mysteries relate to books. I'm giving away Lucy Arlington's Buried in a Book and Miranda James' File M for Murder.

Arlington's Buried in a Book features a journalist who becomes an intern at a literary agency, only to find a murdered man on a couch in the agency when she returns from lunch on her first day of work. Since no one seems to take the man's death seriously, she plunges into the investigation.



Miranda James' File M for Murder features librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat, Diesel. Charlie's thrilled to have his daughter stay with him while she subs for a professor during the fall semester. But, when a famous playwright is murdered, and Laura used to date him, she becomes a suspect. Charlie and Diesel follow the trail of former lovers, enemies, and research in order to prove Laura is innocent.

Which book-related mystery do you want to read, Buried in a Book or File M for Murder? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email your entries to me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject headings should read either "Win Buried in a Book" or "Win File M for Murder." Please include your name and mailing address in the email. Entrants from the U.S. only please.

The contest runs until 6 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 26. I'll pick the winners using a random number generator. Good luck!

Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford

It has been years since I read one of Barbara Taylor Bradford's books. A Woman of Substance remains one of my favorite books, one I still remember all these years later. Bradford's newest novel, Letter From a Stranger, can't top that one. Even so, it's an enjoyable story partially set in a romantic, beautiful city, Istanbul, Turkey.

Documentary filmmaker Justine Nolan had just returned to the Connecticut home she shared with her twin brother, Richard, when she found a letter addressed to their mother, with no return address. Since their mother, a businesswoman, was in California, Justine opened the letter that would change so many lives. Inside, she found a note from her grandmother's best friend, Anita, saying Gabriele missed her family. Justine and Richard were shocked. On the day of the college graduation ten years earlier, their mother told them their grandmother, Gabriele, had died in the crash of a private plane.

Richard and Justine hatched a plan for Justine to leave for Istanbul to find their beloved grandmother. They used a friend's connections, and Justine's instincts as a journalist to track down the woman they thought had died, the grandmother they missed in their lives.

In finding Gabriele, Justine found a city to love, a man to love, and a family history neither she nor Richard had ever known. Gabriele had painful secrets, stories she had never told her family. It was those stories that tore the family apart, and those same stories that would restore a family. Gabriele's story took the family back to Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, to the story of a courageous young woman with equally courageous friends.

Bradford manages to turn Letter From a Stranger into a romance, a story of tragedy and war, and a story of courage. The characters themselves may come across as stereotypes. Everyone is tall, gorgeous, and wonderful, except for the horrid mother. Even so, the story is enjoyable. And, it's the details of Istanbul, the city with its sounds and smells, that truly bring the story to life. Those details are just as exquisite when she describes Gabriele's magnificent gardens.

It might take a little time to get caught up in the story, but once Justine arrives in Istanbul, Letter from a Stranger becomes a captivating book. It's another success for Bradford. (It still isn't A Woman of Substance, though.)

Letter From a Stranger is also available as an unabridged audio from Macmillan audio. Here's a clip if you'd like to listen to it.  http://media.us.macmillan.com/video/olmk/macmillanaudio/LetterFromAStrangerclip.mp3


Barbara Taylor Bradford's website is www.barbarataylorbradford.com

Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford. St. Martin's Press. 2012. ISBN 9780312431680 (hardcover), 422p.

Macmillan audio. ISBN 9780007430635 

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested the book from the publisher in order to read and review it.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Staff Brown Bag Luncheon

Once a quarter at a brown bag luncheon for the library staff, I book talk fifteen books. Most of them are recent releases, with a few older titles thrown in once in a while. It's a chance for the library staff to learn about some titles they might have missed. Then, they can share these books with the library patrons. Here's the list of books I'm presenting today.

Staff Brown Bag Luncheon – April 2012

Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan.  Subtitled a Persian Heart in an American Kitchen, Bijan’s story of growing up in Iran, and her cooking experiences as an adult.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates.  Debut novel telling of Sergeant Hallie Michaels’ return from Afghanistan in order to deal with her sister’s death, a suspected suicide.

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts. Another fun romp through Las Vegas with casino troubleshooter Lucky O’Toole as she deals with disappearing magicians & Halloween.

The Unseen by Heather Graham. When women go missing in San Antonio, a Texas Ranger & a U.S. marshal are part of the team who have psychic abilities to deal with the dead.

Play Nice by Gemma Halliday. An assassin tries to leave the field, only to be tracked to San Francisco by a hired gun planning to kill her, who ends up saving her life.

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman. Multiple narrators tell the disturbing story of a New York small town and the tragedies that hit it.

Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by Beth M. Howard. After the sudden death of her husband, Howard can’t cope with life until she returns to making pies.

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son by Anne Lamott. Lamott and her son, Sam, team up to tell the story of the unexpected pregnancy of Sam’s girlfriend when he’s only nineteen, and the first year of the baby’s life.

Cloudland by Joseph Olshan. When she finds the body of a woman who has been missing for months, former news reporter Catherine Winslow teams up with a forensic psychiatrist to find the killer, someone she might know well.

Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly. When a young woman’s husband dies, she feeds breakfast and dinner to a group of bachelors in Philadelphia’s Italian community.

The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks. Investigative journalist Carter Ross is convinced he knows who killed a newspaper delivery person, and sets out to find the story.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. A story that weaves together reincarnation, ancient Egypt, international intrigue, and a lost book of fragrances.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. A charming story of two newspaper employees who e-mail each other, knowing someone is monitoring it, and the man who can’t resist reading their correspondence.

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. The epic love story between two Italians who emigrate to the U.S., and through the years, can’t seem to find their way to each other.

So Pretty It Hurts by Kate White. True crime journalist Bailey Weggins is on the scene when a supermodel is killed and all the suspects are trapped together by a blizzard.

This is always a fun day. I wish you could all join us!