Fiction Review

Scottoline & Dugoni, Former Lawyers Discuss Books & Justice

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Lisa Scottoline, author of Someone Knows, and Robert Dugoni, author of The Eighth Sister, were at The Poisoned Pen recently, in conversation with Barbara Peters, owner of the store. It was a rambling discussion about their latest books, film options, Bradley Cooper. Most of all, though, it was about justice. You’ll want to hear this conversation, but you’ll also want to know you can order copies of all the books discussed, including signed copies of Scottoline and Dugoni’s latest books. Check the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

When Barbara Peters hosts an event, the authors don’t talk much about their books. Here are the latest books, and the summaries.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Scottoline reaches new heights with this riveting novel about how a single decision can undo a family, how our past can derail our present, and how not guilty doesn’t always mean innocent.

Allie Garvey is heading home to the funeral of a childhood friend. Allie is not only grief-stricken, she’s full of dread. Because going home means seeing the other two people with whom she shares an unbearable secret.

Twenty years earlier, a horrific incident shattered the lives of five teenagers, including Allie. Drinking and partying in the woods, they played a dangerous prank that went tragically wrong, turning deadly. The teenagers kept what happened a secret, believing that getting caught would be the worst thing that could happen. But time has taught Allie otherwise. Not getting caught was far worse.

Allie has been haunted for two decades by what she and the others did, and by the fact that she never told a soul. The dark secret has eaten away at her, distancing her from everyone she loves, including her husband. Because she wasn’t punished by the law, Allie has punished herself, and it’s a life sentence.

Now, Allie stands on the precipice of losing everything. She’s ready for a reckoning, determined to learn how the prank went so horribly wrong. She digs to unearth the truth, but reaches a shocking conclusion that she never saw coming–and neither will the reader.

A deeply emotional examination of family, marriage, and the true nature of justice, Someone Knows is Lisa Scottoline’s most powerful novel to date. Startling, page-turning, and with an ending that’s impossible to forget, this is a tour de force by a beloved author at the top of her game.

*****

A pulse-pounding thriller of espionage, spy games, and treachery by theNew York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series.

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.

Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.

Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

*****

You’re going to want to watch the whole event. You have to listen to Robert Dugoni’s story about his trip to Russia. And, of course, Lisa Scottoline is always funny. But, there are serious discussions of justice and bullying. Take a look.

Hot Book of the Week – The Better Sister

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Alafair Burke’s latest novel, The Better Sister, is the Hot Book of the Week at The Poisoned Pen. Burke will be at the bookstore on Wednesday, April 17 at 7 PM, along with Lori Rader-Day, author of Under a Dark Sky. Both authors will discuss and sign their books. The books are carried in the Web Store, including signed copies of the current Hot Book of the Week, The Better Sister. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here’s the summary of The Better Sister.

Recommended by Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, Popsugar, Goodreads, CrimeReads, BookBub

Keep your enemies close and your sister closer.

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be the one in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky—always restless and more than a little reckless—was the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed that both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenage stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, In Tribute and In Sorrow

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The fire in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris was a loss to that city and the world yesterday. There are no words to describe the tragedy of the destruction of that beautiful building and its treasures. At this time, we can only share some of the history of Notre-Dame, and express sorrow at the loss of a treasure that was built beginning in 1163. The New York Times posted a short history. https://nyti.ms/2VLaIvV

Barbara Peters wrote, “We at The Pen with our deep connection to murder mystery are sensitive to the death of people.

But what of the death of an icon? That stands in the heart of Paris? The tragic loss of centuries of architecture, of art, of history, of its glorious glass, of artifacts stored in its Treasury?

Notre Dame. Irreplaceable. We must all mourn.”

Here’s just a short tribute, in pictures.

Writing that Second Novel

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Annie Hogsett and Thomas Kies are authors whose first and second books came out from Poisoned Pen Press at about the same time. Their third books are scheduled for release this fall. You can order their books through the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com

While we’re waiting, we’ll share a conversation they had with Michael Barson about writing that second novel. Hogsett talks about Murder to the Metal, and Kies’ second book was Darkness Lane.


Michael Barson – What was the single biggest roadblock you discovered in writing your debut novel that affected the way you approached your second book?

 Tom– When I wrote RANDOM ROAD, I didn’t envision that it would be a series. My first book has a very neat ending. Everything is tied up at the end. Everyone, with one notable exception, lives happily ever after. In writing DARKNESS LANE, I had to quickly deconstruct all of that and recreate the flaws that made Geneva Chase interesting in the first place.

Annie– I know this may sound like a flippant answer, but I’m serious: Looking for a publisher. As committed as I was, pre-Poisoned Pen Press, to the story of TOO LUCKY TO LIVE, and to Allie, Tom, and Tom’s accidental $550 million jackpot—all that writing and rewriting often felt like putting a message in a bottle and dropping it into deep water. For MURDER TO THE METAL, knowing someone was actually waiting for the second novel introduced the most compelling incentive I could have imagined. A deadline. Yikes! 

2) You each appeared at a number of public events to promote your first book when they were published… Was there anything about those events, and interacting with the public, that detoured from your expectations? 

Tom– Yes, some of them were very well attended and those events are a hell of a lot of fun. And then…there are the book signings where nobody knows you. Bookstores where the customers didn’t know who Thomas Kies was and had never heard of RANDOM ROAD, customers straining to avoid eye contact. We always managed to sell enough copies that the bookstores have asked me back but sometimes it felt awkward. I will say, the best events are the ones serving alcohol. Don’t know why, just sayin’. 

Annie—Wow. I wish I’d kept a journal last year. Every event I did—a hundred attendees or four—had unexpected moments that were amazing to me. Even sitting behind a stack of books, like a puppy at the pound—that eye contact thing is a bear, Mr. Kies—yielded conversations I loved. One highlight. Tom Bennington, lucky-unlucky lottery winner and significant other of my protagonist, is blind. The Cleveland Sight Center has been a wonderful source of information, inspiration, and friendship for me. They invited me to their book group discussion of TOO LUCKY TO LIVE. It was the rowdiest, warmest, best four-hour book group ever. 

3) Did you find writing the second book in a series more or less difficult than writing the first? Why so? 

Tom—It was nice revisiting the recurring characters. It was like catching up with old friends. But it felt like there was more pressure. The national reviews for RANDOM ROAD were good and I make sure I read every review and comment on Amazon and Goodreads, even the critical ones. And not everyone is going to love, love, love your book. I kept those people in mind as I wrote DARKNESS LANE, determined that the second book would be even better than the first. Even so, I worried. You can ask Annette, my editor, but when I sent her the manuscript, I was a puddle of insecurity.

 Annie—Well, both more and less. A deadline ratchets up the pressure. I had seven years with the first book. About seven months for the second. So, there’s that “Yikes!” again. But in some ways it was easier. I was able to focus and keep going because someone was waiting this time. All that good advice about “sit down and write like it’s your job” is more compelling when it is your job. And writing for publication made my readers more real to me. It was thrilling and energizing. And when it was all done, I was so tired. 

 4) Now having two published books under each of your belts, what advice would you have offered your younger selves as you prepared to begin the work of writing your first mystery novel? 

Tom– When writing your first mystery, don’t hold back. Put everything you’ve got on those pages. Don’t worry about the second book or the third book. From the very first sentence, there has to be tension. Never let up. And remember, dialogue is not action. Tell the reader what your characters are doing as they’re talking to each other. Put the reader in the scene. What does it look like, sound like, smell like? It took me a long time to get RANDOM ROAD published. I wish I knew when I started writing, what I know now. 

Annie– Thanks, Tom. That’s all excellent advice. Now you’ve got me quizzing myself about dialogue v. action. My advice to the younger me is: Trust yourself. I wrote myself a note sometime during the first few days of MURDER TO THE METAL, and it says, “Trust whatever you’re writing while you’re writing it.” I am an incorrigible second-guesser, so that’s what I needed to hear. Also, by the time I got to the second book I understood my characters better, their personalities were more developed. More surprising too. Sometimes they tell me the story. 

5) You both write your novels in the first person– but while Annie’s protagonist Allie Harper is a woman like herself, Tom’s equally convincing protagonist, Geneva Chase, is a woman UNlike himself. Annie, do you have a hankering to try your hand at a first-person male lead someday? And Tom, have you had to do any extra-curricular research to get the voice and thoughts of Geneva to come across persuasively? 

Tom– I enjoy the company of women. I enjoy spending time with them. I watch, observe, and listen. Um…in doing so, one must remember that it’s a fine line from being observant and being creepy. Geneva Chase, the recurring protagonist in the series, is loosely based on two women I worked with at a newspaper in Connecticut. What she looks like, how she moves, her dialogue, the fact that she’s a snarky smartass…all comes from those two lovely ladies. And if I get into a bind, I ask my wife. She keeps me honest. And sometimes, my wife is gobsmacked when she reads something she’s said in the character’s dialogue. Because she doesn’t think I’m listening to her. 

Annie— I handled many of my “write outside your comfort zone issues” by creating a black, ex-CIA agent guy as the first-person protagonist of an earlier, still-unpublished novel. Ill-advised as that may have been, it was a worthwhile exercise. I learned a lot about the challenges of inhabiting a character’s mind and world. I’m not sorry about that guy, but I’m more at home with Allie Harper. I heard her voice before I knew anything about her story. “You know you live in a rough neighborhood when somebody honks at a blind man in the crosswalk.” That was Allie Harper talking to me for the first time. She’s the voice I’d been waiting for. 

Jeffrey Siger & The Mykonos Mob

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“The pitch-perfect setting, an intriguing mystery, a humdinger of a showdown at book’s end, AND some fantastic characters. Is The Mykonos Mob a winner? You’d better believe it!” That’s Cathy Cole’s summary at Kittling: Books, http://bit.ly/2v8YVvD of Jeffrey Siger’s latest Andreas Kaldis mystery, The Mykonos Mob. Siger will be at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, April 16 at 7 PM to discuss and sign his book. You can order Siger’s books, including a signed copy of The Mykonos Mob, through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2KOiKQ6[

Here’s the description of The Mykonos Mob.

“A perfect setting and first-rate storytelling.” —Ragnar Jónasson, bestselling author of The Dark Iceland series

When corruption lies deep beneath the surface, how can the truth come to light?

The case begins for Athens’ Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis with a literal bang when a corrupt former police colonel who runs a protection racket on Mykonos is gunned down. Suddenly, Athens’ Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is face-to-face with Greece’s top crime bosses on an island whose natural beauty and reputation as an international playground belies the corruption lurking just beneath the surface.

While Andreas and his Special Crimes unit wrestle for answers, Andreas’s wife, Lila, meets an American expat named Toni, a finder of stolen goods and a piano player in a gender-bending bar who has a zest for life and no apparent regard for rules. As Lila and Toni bond over a common desire to mentor young island girls trapped in an exploitative and patriarchal culture, they soon find that their efforts to improve the lives of the Greek girls they’ve come to care about intersect with Andreas’ investigation in ways that prove to be dangerous for all involved…

The Mykonos Mob is a thrilling police procedural, perfect for readers of Martin Walker and Donna Leon!

Additional Praise for the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Series:

“[A] suspenseful trip through the rarely seen darker strata of complex, contemporary Greece.” —Publishers WeeklyTarget: Tinos [is] another of Jeffrey Siger’s thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales.”—New York Times
“Siger paints travelogue-worthy pictures of a breathtakingly beautiful—if politically corrupt—Greece.” —Publishers Weekly STARRED review for Sons of Sparta“Siger brings Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis some very big challenges in his seventh mystery set in troubled contemporary Greece…The final plot twist proves well worth the wait, but it won’t take readers long to get there as they will be turning pages at a ferocious clip.” —Booklist STARRED review for Devil in Delphi
“Fans of Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy books and other police procedurals that handle violence and political issues with black humor will welcome this outstanding crime novel.” —Library Journal STARRED review for An Aegean April

Anne Hillerman, In Conversation

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Did you miss Anne Hillerman’s appearance at The Poisoned Pen the other night? She’s on book tour for the Hot Book of the Week, The Tale Teller. She not only has tales to tell about Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito, but also told tales about her father, Tony Hillerman. Anne Hillerman has now appeared at The Poisoned Pen for all of her books, including her nonfiction title, Tony Hillerman’s Landscape. The books are available through the Web Store, including signed copies of The Tale Teller. http://bit.ly/2Gk15PG

Here’s the summary of The Tale Teller.

Legendary Navajo policeman Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn takes center stage in this riveting atmospheric mystery from New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman that combines crime, superstition, and tradition and brings the desert Southwest vividly alive.

Joe Leaphorn may have retired from the Tribal Police, but he finds himself knee-deep in a perplexing case involving a priceless artifact—a reminder of a dark time in Navajo history. Joe’s been hired to find a missing biil, a traditional dress that had been donated to the Navajo Nation. His investigation takes a sinister turn when the leading suspect dies under mysterious circumstances and Leaphorn himself receives anonymous warnings to beware—witchcraft is afoot.

While the veteran detective is busy working to untangle his strange case, his former colleague Jim Chee and Officer Bernie Manuelito are collecting evidence they hope will lead to a cunning criminal behind a rash of burglaries. Their case takes a complicated turn when Bernie finds a body near a popular running trail. The situation grows more complicated when the death is ruled a homicide, and the Tribal cops are thrust into a turf battle because the murder involves the FBI. 

As Leaphorn, Chee, and Bernie draw closer to solving these crimes, their parallel investigations begin to merge . . . and offer an unexpected opportunity that opens a new chapter in Bernie’s life.

*****

Anne Hillerman’s conversation with Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, and Hillerman’s discussion of her book and its background is fascinating. You might want to pretend you’re at the event.

Introducing David R. Dow

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I know Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, is eager for people to show up to support another debut novelist, David R. Dow. (Everyone did such a wonderful job showing up for John McMahon when he toured for The Good Detective.) Confessions of an Innocent Man is Dow’s debut mystery. It’s the April selection for the First Mystery Book of the Month. Remember, in future years, you’ll be able to say you were at the bookstore on Monday, April 15, 2019 at 7 PM when he appeared with this book.

Dow is not unfamiliar with writing, though. He is professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center and an internationally recognized figure in the fight against the death penalty. He is the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Project. His nonfiction includes The Autobiography of an Execution and Things I’ve Learned From Dying. Those books, along with Confessions of an Innocent Man, can be ordered through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2VyMYet

Here’s the summary of Confessions of an Innocent Man.

“Every person wrongfully convicted of a crime at some point dreams of getting revenge against the system.  In Confessions of an Innocent Man, the dream comes true and in a spectacular way.”—John Grisham, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckoning 

A thrillingly suspenseful debut novel, and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant. A pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon. A bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse—billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell—sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him. 

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment—to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world.

*****

If you check out CrimeReads.com, you can find an exclusive excerpt from Confessions of an Innocent Man. https://crimereads.com/confessions-of-an-innocent-man/

If you can’t make it Monday, April 15 at 7 PM to meet David R. Dow, you can still order a signed copy of Confessions of an Innocent Man. But, it’s always a treat to meet a debut novelist.