WEYCOMBE by G. M. Malliet

October 15, 2017

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G. M. Malliet brings us a well-written whodunit set in an upscale gated community in England called Weycombe. The novel is set up with the main protagonist, Jillian White, as the narrator and analyzer of the events portrayed.

Jillian is an American living in Weycombe with her English husband whom she met while attending Oxford. He is a member of the British peerage, has a title, and an excellent career which allows him to provide the wherewithal to live in Weycombe, even when Jillian loses her job with the BBC.

The novel begins as Jillian, finishing her morning exercise run, spots the dead body of a woman near the road. The police are called and determine that the lady was murdered, starting an investigation in which Jillian and her neighbors are questioned. Jillian decides that since she has the time she will also attempt to solve the crime.

With a very pleasing tongue-in-cheek style, Malliet describes Jillian’s findings when she questions her neighbors as to their views of the murder. In what is certainly the manner that these types of investigations proceed everywhere, Jillian finds that most of what she finds is a mixed bag. Most of the people questioned have opinions and most of what they say conflicts with every other opinion.

Adding spice to an already excellent read, Jillian is faced with the probability that her husband has been cheating on her. She realizes that her marriage is in trouble and has to deal with that situation while looking into the murder. I found myself immediately drawn into the novel and couldn’t put it down until finished.  I am now a Malliet fan and look forward to her next book.

10/17 Paul Lane

WEYCOMBE by G. M. Malliet. Midnight Ink (October 8, 2017).  ISBN  978-0738754260. 360p.

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THE PRAGUE SONATA by Bradford Morrow

October 13, 2017

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A beautifully written book set against the background of the international world of music, both classic and general. Otylie Bautosova is a young girl that we meet in 1918 as she is saying goodbye to her father, a Czech soldier who is returning to the front at the very end of World War I. His parting words to Otylie are that music is everything and even the horrors of war revolve around it. He gives her a music manuscript that is clearly old and which her father tells her to guard and keep safe because it will ensure her future. Her father is then killed, becoming one of the last casualties of the war.

Years later, Otylie marries but the second world war intervenes. Her husband joins the partisans fighting the Nazi invaders but is unfortunately killed. With enough tragedy for several lifetimes, the capstone is the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Stalin and the Russians. Otylie manages to escape to England and works for the Czech government in exile while there. She later moves to the United States and her fate ties in with the second half of the book and the activities of an American pianist named Meta Taverner.

Meta lives in New York with the ability to become a great pianist. Unfortunately, she suffers an injury to one arm which takes away her ability to perform as required in playing great classical music. She is advised by a friend that there is a valuable undiscovered sonata in Prague. Meta makes the decision to try and locate the piece and return it to its rightful owners.

The search for the sonata is described beautifully by the author, whose expertise in the world of music makes this book a truly wonderful read. The reader is introduced to a world not often touched upon by most authors and introduces creativity given to some people that cause happiness in our world. This is truly a haunting book that will stay with the reader for a long time to come.

10/17 Paul Lane

THE PRAGUE SONATA by Bradford Morrow. Atlantic Monthly Press (October 3, 2017).  ISBN 978-0802127150. 528p.

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Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton

September 4, 2017

A Kinsey Millhone Novel, Book 25

In 1979, a local private school became the site of an academic scandal that turned into murder. Two students were kicked out for cheating and a third, blamed for tattling, was shunned and then killed. Of the boys involved in the crime, only two actually served time­—one escaped and the other was given immunity for testifying. But the case had another twist to it: rumor has it the murder wasn’t over the cheating scandal at all, but a tape the girl was said to have stolen. A tape that was never recovered in the investigation.

Ten years later, the two boys who served time for the crime have been released and the parents of one have called Kinsey. It seems the rumored tape is not only real, it’s being used for blackmail and the parents want Kinsey to find out who is behind it all.

Kinsey’s latest case is something of a pain in the ass. A group of rather well to do (for the most part) teens gets caught up in a cheating scandal that goes south when one of the teens, gun in hand, accidentally kills a classmate. Ten years later, that teen is now a young man, newly released from his time served. But his parents are concerned that he’ll be arrested again when a sex tape from those same high school surfaces.

Everyone involved in making the film claims it was a lark, a joke with outtakes that show the kids laughing and goofing off. But the only actual evidence that seems to remain is the one tape, and there’s no question that it would lead to another trial. The biggest mystery isn’t just who is behind the blackmail, but where the video has been all this time. As Kinsey investigates answers are few and far between, though.

There are a few subplots. First, Kinsey has a stalker who’s returned from a previous case. Then there’s drama in the neighborhood as well, including Henry’s new houseguests, all of which commands some of Kinsey’s time and attention. But, as per usual, never causes her to lose her wits or cool.

I adore this series and I have loved each and every installment. Y is for Yesterday is no exception. Kinsey has grown so much over the course of the series and has learned a lot about herself and her family. Grafton has built a strong support system of characters around Kinsey as well, making each new book a welcome return not only to the PI we all know and love, but to Henry, Cheney, Rosie, and newer additions like Anna as well.

I can’t stress enough just how much I’ll hate saying goodbye to this series. I’ve been reading alongside Kinsey  and her cases for almost two decades now and I’ve loved each and every entry. With Y, there’s now just one more book to go.

9/17 Becky LeJeune

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton. Marian Wood Books/Putnam (August 22, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399163852. 496p.

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THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

August 10, 2017

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If you are not familiar with Joshilyn Jackson, you should be. She writes Southern stories with a touch of mystery and memorable characters, and this book is terrific.

Leia Birch Briggs is an author – she wrote a graphic novel that was a mega success and went on to write for many of the superhero series. At comic book conventions, she is a superhero herself, but her family doesn’t get it, they think she is barely scraping by with her doodles.

At one such convention, Leia has a bit too much tequila and goes back to the hotel with Batman – a black, good looking Batman. A few months later she finds out she is pregnant, and she doesn’t even know the father’s name.

Before she can tell her family or do anything about it, she receives word that her grandmother, who she is very close to, has apparently lost her mind. She immediately heads down south, with her niece in tow. Her almost perfect stepsister is in the middle of a knock down, drag out fight with her husband, and needs some time alone.

Turns out grandma Birchie, as she is best known, does have an illness but her closest friend, daughter of the black maid that raised her, has been taking care of her. The two of them are over 90 years old, so it is a bit of the blind leading the blind, but they have been managing, until now.

When the two old ladies talk their neighbor into moving a trunk out of the attic and into Leia’s car and they try to steal said car before crashing it, all hell breaks loose. There is a skeleton in the trunk, and the cops are investigating.

This is a story about racism and family and love and Dixie. The characters are all well developed, interesting and real and I was so sorry this story had to end. It is at times, laugh out loud funny and often touching. The process of creating a graphic novel is fascinating, too, adding another dimension to this story. That aspect put me in mind of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but that was a book for young adults, and this book ultimately has more depth. If you are new to this author, try it, and if you are a fan, you will love it.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson . William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 11, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062105714.  352p.

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DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner

September 27, 2016
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Detective Billy Able series, Book 3

Memphis police detective Billy Able lands a murder case with his new partner, the ambitious Frankie Malone. The victim, Caroline Lee, found dead wearing her wedding gown in her car in a cow pasture, is Billy’s old high school girlfriend. It’s been years since they’ve been in touch, so it seems there’s no conflict.

The Lee family is Memphis royalty; the mother runs the family law firm where Caroline worked, and they own other businesses in town. The person who found her body, a recently released felon, is a suspect, but there are others, most notably her ex-fiancé. Lee broke off her engagement to the arrogant Indian doctor, who feels humiliated and has been stalking her.

The Lee family has skeletons in the closet, and the investigation deepens into the family history, which causes Billy to examine his own. Frankie proves to be a good partner, as much a workaholic as Billy, and together they chase down every possible lead until the surprising conclusion.

A good Southern police procedural and should appeal to Caroline Haine or Margaret Maron readers.
Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner. William Morrow Paperbacks (September 27, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062136213. 352p.

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DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn

June 30, 2016
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Eddy Harkness Novels (Book 2)

They call it Dark Horse and it’s a bit of an anomaly in the drug market: an almost pure heroin sold and darkened as though it’s not. And it’s deadly, resulting in death by overdose all over Boston. Eddy Harkness and his fellow Narco-Intel team members have had their eye on it for some time, but when a hurricane rips through the city a discovery of a large cache of the drug offers their first possible break in the case.

But while Dark Horse and Boston’s drugs are supposed to be the focus of their efforts, Eddy soon realizes there’s something larger going on in Boston’s neighborhoods – the Lower South End in particular. And when citizens of the neighborhood begin taking up questionably legal residence in Eddy’s old hometown, it’s inevitable that he’ll get involved.

I would love for more people to discover this fantastic series. Harkness is a man with a troubled past, much of which is covered in Dark Horse’s predecessor, Third Rail.

In this second of the series, Eddy has put much of that trouble behind him, regaining his place as head of Narco-Intel. He’s also in a much healthier relationship than his last and considering making it permanent.

A literal (and figurative) storm is brewing in Boston when the book begins, and Eddy finds himself caught in the very center. His actions have him branded a hero but it’s clear he may soon make some very powerful enemies.

This is a perfect follow up to Third Rail, another smart installment in what is a real standout series.

(I’d suggest reading them in order as there are some callbacks to Third Rail throughout Dark Horse.)

6/16 Becky LeJeune

DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 7, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0544253247. 240p.

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HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

June 22, 2016
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For three hundred years, the town of Black Spring has lived under the dark cloud of a curse. And that curse is named Katherine van Wyler, or The Black Rock Witch. Katherine, a Dutch colonist who lived in the village when it was called New Beeck, was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death after villagers claimed she raised her son from the dead. Since then, she’s wandered the town leaving fear and death in her wake.

Today, the townspeople of Black Spring have adapted, they even have a special office tasked with managing the witch and use an app to track her movements. Their goal is to keep Katherine contained and never to allow outsiders to discover her existence. In fact, Black Spring residents have to follow a strict set of rules meant to keep their secret from ever making its way across the town line. This is in part protection and preservation: no one knows what Katherine will do if her precarious peace is disturbed.

But Black Spring has grown lax. When a group of teens tired of the restrictions and rules begins to test Katherine, it sets off a chain reaction that could unleash an evil that will devastate Black Spring.

From the start, Thomas Olde Heuvelt carefully and quietly builds an atmosphere of utter and complete dread. When we meet Black Spring, they’ve grown a bit ambivalent and have started to take Katherine for granted. Some folks fear her, sure, but others mock the witch and flaunt the town’s centuries-old laws concerning her. This is due in part to the fact that no one has really witnessed Katherine’s powers for quite some time: the last real incident was back in the 60s, after all, and though everyone knows of the deaths that occurred then many of them have brushed it off.

It’s clear from the start of Hex that something bad is coming and that tension and suspense escalates fabulously throughout the book, bringing it to an eventual frenzied climax of some of the most awesome horrific imagery ever.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s US debut is exactly the kind of book any horror fan will delight in reading and I absolutely can’t wait to see more from this Dutch author.

6/16 Becky LeJeune

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Tor Books (April 26, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0765378804. 384p.

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THE ART OF MURDER by Elaine Viets

June 4, 2016
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Dead-End Job Mystery (Book 14)

The Bonnet House is a lovely old house that has been turned into a museum and gardens. This Fort Lauderdale landmark  is where Viets has set her latest Dead End Job mystery.

I was aware of the hot Miami art scene, but did not know that Fort Lauderdale also has its share of artists and galleries. In this book, a young woman is taking an art class at the Bonnet House, and collapses in the parking lot surrounded by witnesses. She is dead by nicotine poison – Viets is nothing if not cutting edge here – vape liquid is the murder weapon. There are plenty of suspects and a friend of the victim hires Helen Hawthorne to find the killer. Well, she really wants Helen to prove that the victim’s ex-husband is the murderer, but Helen is keeping an open mind, especially after she finds out the current husband has taken out a large life insurance policy on his wife.

Meanwhile, a small enclave of expensive condos known as “Little New York” is having a raft of burglaries of gold coins. When an elderly man is killed during a robbery, the security team steps up and hires Coronado Investigations to find the robber.

There are lots of red herrings and a lot of fun along the way to Helen and her hot hubby solving these mysteries. Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors.

6/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ART OF MURDER by Elaine Viets. NAL Hardcover (May 6, 2014). ISBN 978-0451476135. 304p.


PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton

May 15, 2016
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Book 1 in the Van Shaw Series

“Come home, if you can.”

Van Shaw might have chosen to ignore his grandfather if Dono hadn’t added the latter part of the request. And if he wasn’t already laid up recuperating from a recent surgery. The request is an odd one considering the two men haven’t spoken in a decade, but the fact that Dono reached out to begin with leads Van to believe it must be serious.

Unfortunately, Van arrives in town and at his grandfather’s house just moments after the old man has been shot and left for dead. Before he can even connect with 911, the police have arrived and it’s only a neighbor’s confirmation that Van appeared after the shots were fired that saves him from becoming a suspect. Dono has always been into shady business but nothing that would have him gunned down in his own home. And with his grandfather laid up in a coma, it’s up to Van to find out exactly who has it in for the old criminal.

Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut is the start of a brand new series featuring a kick ass hero.

Van Shaw is an ex criminal himself, trained at his grandfather’s knee from a very early age. But Van left that life way behind him the day he joined the military. His leaving was prompted by circumstances that also caused the two men to break any and all contact, circumstances the author lays out through a series of flashbacks outlining Van’s life with Dono.

Van dons the hat of amateur investigator, using the skills and connections Dono himself passed on, at the risk of angering the local authorities but (of course) turns out to be much better equipped for breaking Dono’s case than anyone else. It makes for fabulous reading and is sure to be a hit for readers looking for another Reacher-esque hero/antihero to follow.

5/16 Becky LeJeune

PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton. William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 23, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0062344564. 448p.

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MWA Announces 2016 Edgar Award Winners

April 29, 2016
Edgar Statues

April 28, 2016, New York, NY:  Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 70th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

 

BEST NOVEL

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

BEST FACT CRIME

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins)

BEST SHORT STORY

“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)

BEST JUVENILE

Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins Publishers – Katherine Tegen Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTER

Walter Mosley

RAVEN AWARDS

Margaret Kinsman
Sisters in Crime

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD

Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International

THE SIMON SCHUSTER – MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)