Fiction Review

Robert Lloyd in Conversation with Lee Child

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Robert Lloyd’s debut novel, The Bloodless Boy, is the topic of his conversation today with Lee Child. It’s on Facebook Live as well as YouTube at 1 PM, MST. You can order copies of the book through the Web Store.

Here is the description of The Bloodless Boy.

“Wonderfully imagined and wonderfully written . . . Superb!” — Lee Child

Part Wolf Hall, part The Name of the Rose, a riveting new literary thriller set in Restoration London, with a cast of real historic figures, set against the actual historic events and intrigues of the returned king and his court …

The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, and rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound.

When the body of a young boy drained of his blood is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River, Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments at the just-formed Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge, and his assistant Harry Hunt, are called in to explain such a ghastly finding—and whether it’s part of a plot against the king. They soon learn it is not the first bloodless boy to have been discovered.

Meanwhile, that same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out, and a disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.

Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using scientific evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken.

The Bloodless Boy is an absorbing literary thriller that introduces two new indelible heroes to historical crime fiction. It is also a powerfully atmospheric recreation of the darkest corners of Restoration London, where the Court and the underworld seem to merge, even as the light of scientific inquiry is starting to emerge …

Robert Lloyd, the son of parents who worked in the British Foreign Office, grew up in South London, Innsbruck, and Kinshasa.  He studied for a Fine Art degree, starting as a landscape painter, but it was while studying for his MA degree in The History of Ideas that he first read Robert Hooke’s diary, detailing the life and experiments of this extraordinary man. After a 20-year career as a secondary school teacher, he has now returned to painting and writing. The Bloodless Boy is his debut novel. He is at work on a sequel.

Lee Child was born October 29th, 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV’s “golden age.” During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.

Before today’s conversation, you might be interested in the Q&A with Robert Lloyd that appeared in The interview is available here.

10 Delightful Debuts

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All the social media sites and magazines seem to be sharing their “Best Books of 2021” lists. John Charles from The Poisoned Pen chose to share something a little different, “10 Delightful Debuts”. It’s an excellent list of suggestions for yourself or for gift giving, so don’t forget to look for the books in the Web Store. Thank you, John.

10 Delightful Debuts

This year instead of trying to winnow down the amazing number of terrific books that were published to just ten, I want to offer the literary debuts that dazzled me as a reader.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser.

After her personal and professional lives implode, Thea Mottram packs up her bags and leaves Chicago for Baldochrie, Scotland, where she has just inherited a small estate and collection of books from her late great uncle Andrew. Once there, Thea quickly finds she is warmly welcomed by everyone in the small town, except cranky bookseller Edward Maltravers. Who wouldn’t want to escape life’s stresses and strains (even if only for a few hours) by running away to a charming town in Scotland?

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun.

As a hopeless romantic, Dev Deshpande loves working as a producer on Ever After, but getting the show’s latest Prince Charming – geeky tech billionaire Charlie Winshaw – to connect emotionally with one of his Princess candidates is an uphill battle. Could it be because Charlie isn’t looking for a Princess with whom to fall in love but rather a Prince? Cochrun delivers everything readers expect in a great rom-com while at the same time giving a clever wink and nod to the insane popularity of reality dating shows like The Bachelor.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse.

Forced to take a “vacation” by her boss, British police officer Elin Warner and her boyfriend travel to Le Sommet, a former tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps now converted into a luxury hotel and spa, to celebrate Elin’s brother Isaac’s engagement to Laure Strehl, the assistant manager at the hotel. However, when Laure mysteriously vanishes, Elin’s police training kicks in and she begins investigating only to discover Laure is not the first women to disappear from Le Sommet. Fans of Ruth Ware’s One by One or Lucy Foley’s The Guest List will gobble up this eerie, mesmerizing tale.

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney…and a relationship with a rich, charming executive, who just happens to be her married boss Michael. But when Ellice arrives early one morning for a meeting in the executive suite and finds Michael dead with a gunshot to his head, she fears her personal relationship with him will now become common company gossip. So, Ellice retreats to her own office to wait for someone else to discover the body. However, once the police arrive, what was initially thought to be a suicide becomes a murder investigation. Reading this exemplary debut reminded me of when I first discovered John Grisham via The Firm decades ago. As with that twisty thriller, I was completely hooked on Morris’ addictively readable tale of murder and shady dealings at a high-end law firm told in Ellice’s vibrant, compelling voice.

How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish.

Amelia Crofton’s plans for marrying the Duke of Wildeforde come to an end when she is found in a compromising situation with Benedict Asterly. Forced to marry Benedict, Amelia, whose domestic skillset consists of knowing how to embroider a pillow and arrange flowers, now finds she has a husband who expects her to do things like cook and clean their house! Parish’s dazzling debut is a fresh take on the classic, old-school historical romance.

A Low Country Bride by Preslaya Williams.

NYC wedding dress designer Maya Jackson thinks she is just putting her career on hold temporarily when she travels to Charleston, S.C. to help her father recover from a broken hip. But once there, Maya finds she may be there longer than she expects leaving her to accept a temporary job working at a bridal shop owned by single parent Derek Sullivan. Williams effortlessly transports readers to South Carolina in this warm and wonderful debut that beautifully celebrates the culture and history of Charleston.

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff.

It’s 1938, and the Westbury family and assorted friends have gathered at the family’s country home for the holidays. But this year’s festivities will be a bit different when one of the footmen discover the body of David Campbell-Scott, a wealthy ex-pat who has just returned home to Great Britain, dead in the snow. Moncrieff’s debut is very much an homage to those wonderful mysteries written during the Golden Age of crime fiction. Some readers may find the writing a bit too twee for their literary tastes – think Agatha Christie meets P.G. Wodehouse – but I thought Moncrieff did a brilliant job channeling her inner Edmund Crispin.

The next trio of titles are not technically “debut novels” since the authors all have YA books to their credit. But since in each of their cases these are their first adult novels, I am counting it as close enough.

The Ex-Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon.

Shay Goldstein has spent ten years working her way up the career ladder in public radio, but now the only thing everyone at the station where she works can talk about is new reporter Dominic Yun. Things go from bad to worse, however, when the podcast idea Shay pitches to her bosses about a relationship advice show hosted by exes, is picked up but with the caveat that Shay and Dominic be the hosts. For classic movie fans, think a 21st century spin on Desk Set but taking place in the world of NPR.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Sutanto’s publisher is promoting this zany (in the best way possible) book as Crazy Rich Asians meets Weekend at Bernie’s, which is one case where their marketing is right on target. In the book wedding photographer Meddelin Chan’s blind date goes horribly wrong, and now Meddy need the help of her meddling mother and aunts to clean up afterwards. But when the body accidently ends up at a wedding party Meddy and her family are catering, things get really crazy. This fast-paced mix of mystery caper and rom-com is fresh, fun, and fabulously entertaining.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano.

When a stranger overhears romantic suspense novelist Finlay Donovan discussing her latest project with her editor and mistakes Finlay for a killer for hire, the woman hires Finlay to bump off her cheating husband. Of course, that’s when things get really interesting. Not since Evelyn E. Smith created genteel, lady hitman Susan Melville with her book Miss Melville Regrets has there been such a clever use of the premise of an accidental hitman as a protagonist.  Writing with a deliciously acerbic sense of wit and the perfect sense for the ridiculous in life, Cosimano hits all the marks with this fun and funny series debut that is wonderfully reminiscent of Susan Isaacs at her best (think Compromising Positions).

The Poisoned Pen’s Events

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I’m sure many of you receive the email newsletters from The Poisoned Pen, but, in case you don’t, I’m sharing the recent list of upcoming events. Don’t forget to check the Web Store for copies of books by your favorite authors!

Here’s the latest newsletter.

Our December Events and on into Early January
Here is our December Calendar of Events
All Events Are on MST
Watch them on our Facebook Live Video or on our YouTube Live Video
or any time thereafter
Listen to the podcasts
 But First: our final LIVE event for 2021
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 30 7:00 PM Live National Book Launch (masks required)
Jeffery Deaver discusses The Midnight Lock (Putnam $28)
Lincoln Rhyme
Books signed at The Pen, short (5 word) inscription requests available if ordered by noon November 30
Robert Lloyd with Lee Child
Lloyd discusses The Bloodless Boy (McSweeney $29.99)
An astonishing historical mystery debut by an author living in Wales
Signed bookplates in stock along with this special limited edition for the Welsh author’s heralded debut
Meg Waite Clayton discusses The Postmistress of Paris (Harper $27.99)
Signed books in stock

Matt Coyle and Maegan Beaumont
Beaumont discusses The Darkwater Girls (Bookouvure $15.99).
Coyle discusses Last Redemption (Oceanview $26.95)
PI Rick Cahill
Signed books in stock for Coyle
Paige Shelton discusses Dark Night (St Martins $26.99)
An Alaska Wild mystery
Signed books in stock
SJ Rozan discusses Family Business (Pegasus $25.95)
A Lydia Chen and Bill Smith PI novel
Signed books in stock
Stephen Spotswood discusses Murder Under Her Skin (Knopf $27)
A Pentecost and Parker 1946 mystery
Signed books available
Ted Bell and Luke McCallin
Bell discusses Sea Hawke (Berkley $28)
An Alex Hawke thriller
McCallin discusses From a Dark Horizon (Penguin $28)
Lt. Gregory Reinhardt WWI Thriller
A modern swashbuckler and a WW1 dark investigation
Jungle Reds Christmas Cheer Celebration
Pour your favorite beverage and join us
Rhys Bowen, Lucy Burdette, Deborah Crombie, Hallie Ephron, Jenn McKinlay Hank Phillippi Ryan, Julia Spencer-Fleming
Kevin Hearne Party
Bring your books to a meet and greet with Hearne
Croak & Dagger Discussion Club Christmas Party
The Club discusses Rhys Bowen’s The Twelve Clues of Christmas ($7.99)
Jane Cleland discusses Jane Austen’s Lost Letters (St Martins $26.99)
A Josie Prescott Antiques mystery
Signed books available
Hardboiled Crime discusses William Boyle’s Gravesend ($16.95)
Attendees may want to discuss Boyle’s November release Shoot the Moonlight Out ($25.95 Signed) as well
SciFi Friday discusses CL Polk’s Witchmark ($15.99)

We are closed December 25 and January 1 and close at 5:00 PM on December 24 and 31. 

This January listing is not complete but the below events are confirmed. I can’t promise that the omicron COVID variant won’t shut down the Live Events but let’s hope not

JOIN US LIVE JANUARY 4 7:00 PM National Book Launch
James Rollins discusses The Starless Crown (Tor $28.99)
Moon Fall #1, Epic Fantasy
Signed books available PLEASE ORDER NOW!!
WEDNESDAY January 5 5:00 PM
Emily Levesque with Dana Stabenow
They discuss The Last Stargazers ($16.99)
Jillian Cantor with Heather Gudenkauf
Cantor discusses Beautiful Little Fools (Harper $26.99)
Signed books available
THURSDAY JANUARY 6 5:00 PM from Australia
Michael Robotham discusses When You Are Mine (Scribner $27)
Peter Mann debuts The Torqued Man (Harper $26.99)
Signed copies available
MONDAY JANUARY 10 5:00 PM National Book Launch
James Patterson and Mike Lupica discuss The Horsewoman (Little Brown $28)
Signed bookplate available
MONDAY JANUARY 10 7 PM National Book Launch
T Jefferson Parker discusses A Thousand Steps (Forge $27.99)
A Laguna Beach 1968 story
Signed copies available
TUESDAY JANUARY 11 7:00 PM Live National Book Launch
Brad Taylor discusses End of Days (Morrow $28.99)
Pike Logan
Signed copies available
Spenser #50 Party
Ace Atkins discusses Robert B. Parker’s Bye Bye, Baby (Putnam $28)
Signed copies available
Alafair Burke discusses Find Me (Harper $26.99)
NYPD’s Ellie Hatcher
Signed copies available
Croak and Dagger Club discusses Damien Boyd’s As the Crow Flies ($15.95)
Britain’s DI Nick Dixon #1
SATURDAY JANUARY 15 2:00 PM Live National Book Launch
Dana Stabenow discusses Disappearance of a Scribe (Zeus $29.95)
Eye of Isis Series
Signed copies available

The Hot Book of the Week – War Women

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War Women is the fifteenth book in Martin Limon’s Sergeants Sueno and Bascom series. It’s also the Hot Book of the Week at The Poisoned Pen. Signed copies of it are available through the Web Store.

Here’s the description of War Women.

Tasked with covering up a tabloid report about high-ranking officers, US Army CID Agents George Sueño and Ernie Bascom discover a dark web of systemic issues that have potentially fatal consequences.
South Korea, 1970s: Sergeant First Class Cecil B. Harvey, a senior NCO in charge of 8th Army’s classified documents, has long been a friend (willing or unwilling) to Sergeants George Sueño and Ernie Bascom. So when he goes missing with a top-secret document that even a glance at could get an officer court-martialed, Sueño and Bascom take it upon themselves to find him.

Meanwhile, Overseas Observer reporter Katie Byrd Worthington is back to make life difficult for top Army brass. When she lands in a Korean jail cell, Sueño and Bascom are sent to get her out—and negotiate against the publication of an incriminating story about the mistreatment of women in the military that could land important officials in hot water. But what they learn will make it hard for them to stay silent.

Martin Limón retired from military service after twenty years in the US Army, including ten years in Korea. He is the author of fourteen previous Sueño and Bascom investigations: Jade Lady BurningSlicky BoysBuddha’s MoneyThe Door to BitternessThe Wandering GhostGI BonesMr. KillThe Joy Brigade, The Iron SickleThe Ville RatPing-Pong HeartThe Nine-Tailed Fox, and The Line as well as the short story collection Nightmare Range. He lives near Seattle.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Shop Small Business Saturday

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I’m borrowing this from Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

Small Business Saturday All Day November 27
This annual event is so special. It applies to all sorts of businesses. It gives you a chance to sustain and thank them for sticking around. For surviving!

We will have treats and some special deals to offer you. Pat leads the Saturday team and excels at making the love for books and for you felt. He’s worked at The Pen since he was a 16 year old intern!

Dana Stabenow, wintering here with us, and I, Barbara, will be at the store talking books and such from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Please stop by.

David Baldacci Launches Mercy

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The Poisoned Pen’s recent virtual event launched David Baldacci’s latest Atlee Pine thriller, Mercy. You can still order copies of the book. There are shipping and Thanksgiving holiday delays, so don’t panic. Check the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Mercy.

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s harrowing search for her long-lost sister Mercy reaches a boiling point in this breakneck thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci. 
For her entire life, FBI agent Atlee Pine has been searching for her twin sister, Mercy, who was abducted at the age of six and never seen again. Mercy’s disappearance left behind a damaged family that later shattered beyond repair when Atlee’s parents inexplicably abandoned her.
Now, after a perilous investigation that nearly proved fatal, Atlee has finally discovered not only the reason behind her parents’ abandonment and Mercy’s kidnapping, but also the most promising breakthrough yet: proof that Mercy survived her abduction and then escaped her captors many years ago. 
Though Atlee is tantalizingly close to her family at last, the final leg of her long road to Mercy will be the most treacherous yet. Mercy left at least one dead body behind before fleeing her captors years before. Atlee has no idea if her sister is still alive, and if so, how she has been surviving all this time. When the truth is finally revealed, Atlee Pine will face the greatest danger yet, and it may well cost her everything.

DAVID BALDACCI is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world’s favorite storytellers. His books are published in over forty-five languages and in more than eighty countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit him at and his foundation at

Enjoy the launch and discussion of Mercy, as well as other books.

Karen Odden Discusses Down a Dark River

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Karen Odden’s recent event at The Poisoned Pen was one of those rare events, a combination in-person and virtual event. Odden discussed her novel, Down a Dark River, the start of a new series. You can order a signed copy of Odden’s mystery through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Down a Dark River.

In the vein of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, Karen Odden’s mystery introduces Inspector Michael Corravan as he investigates a string of vicious murders that has rocked Victorian London’s upper crust.

London, 1878. One April morning, a small boat bearing a young woman’s corpse floats down the murky waters of the Thames. When the victim is identified as Rose Albert, daughter of a prominent judge, the Scotland Yard director gives the case to Michael Corravan, one of the only Senior Inspectors remaining after a corruption scandal the previous autumn left the division in ruins. Reluctantly, Corravan abandons his ongoing case, a search for the missing wife of a shipping magnate, handing it over to his young colleague, Mr. Stiles.

An Irish former bare-knuckles boxer and dockworker from London’s seedy East End, Corravan has good street sense and an inspector’s knack for digging up clues. But he’s confounded when, a week later, a second woman is found dead in a rowboat, and then a third. The dead women seem to have no connection whatsoever. Meanwhile, Mr. Stiles makes an alarming discovery: the shipping magnate’s missing wife, Mrs. Beckford, may not have fled her house because she was insane, as her husband claims, and Mr. Beckford may not be the successful man of business that he appears to be.

Slowly, it becomes clear that the river murders and the case of Mrs. Beckford may be linked through some terrible act of injustice in the past—for which someone has vowed a brutal vengeance. Now, with the newspapers once again trumpeting the Yard’s failures, Corravan must dredge up the truth—before London devolves into a state of panic and before the killer claims another innocent victim.

Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture(Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy.

Enjoy the recent event featuring Karen Odden.

November/December Virtual Events with Authors

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There are only a couple virtual events left for the rest of November, but you can’t go wrong with Patricia Cornwell one day, and Jeffery Deaver the next. Check out the list of author events coming up, and then make sure you order the authors’ books through the Web Store.

Just look at this schedule!

Patricia Cornwell
Jeffery Deaver
Robert Lloyd/Lee Child
Meg Clayton
Beaumont / Coyle
Paige Shelton
S.J. Rozan
Stephen Spotswood
Bell / McCallin
Jungle Red Writers

Richard Paul Evans’ The Christmas Promise

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With the kerfluffle that will live forever, as Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen said, you’re lucky you’re catching up with Richard Paul Evans’ virtual event now. Evans has written a number of Christmas books, including his new title, The Christmas Promise. There are signed copies available in the Web Store.

Here is the description of The Christmas Promise.

This holiday season, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Noel Collection returns with another heartwarming story of secrets, heartbreak, forgiveness, and the true meaning of Christmas.

On the night of her high school graduation, Richelle Bach’s father gives her and her identical twin sister, Michelle, matching opal necklaces. “These opals look identical,” he tells them, “but the fire inside each is completely unique—just like the two of you.”

Indeed, the two sisters couldn’t be more different, and their paths diverge as they embark on adulthood. Years pass, until—at their father’s behest—they both come home for Christmas. What happens then forever damages their relationship, and Richelle vows never to see or speak to her sister again. In their father’s last days, he asks Richelle to forgive Michelle, a deathbed promise she never fulfills as her twin is killed in an accident.

Now, painfully alone and broken, caring for the sickest of children in a hospital PICU, Richelle has one last dream: to be an author. The plot of her book, The Prodigal Daughter, is a story based on her sister’s life. It’s not until she meets Justin Ek, a man who harbors his own loss, that a secret promise is revealed, and Richelle learns that the story she’s writing is not about her sister, but about herself.

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box. Each of his more than thirty-five novels has been a New York Times bestseller. There are more than thirty-five million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated into more than twenty-four languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Mothers Book Award, the Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, the German Audience Gold Award for Romance, five Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Awards, The Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award, and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children. You can learn more about Richard on Facebook at, or visit his website

You’ll want to watch this virtual event, because there’s so much background provided about Richelle Bach, the protagonist.