Fiction Review

Rebecca Roanhorse, in Conversation

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When readers think of The Poisoned Pen, they tend to think of crime fiction. However, the bookstore sells all genres of fiction and nonfiction. In fact, Patrick King from the bookstore recently hosted Rebecca Roanhorse during debut week for the first book in her new trilogy, Black Sun. You can order Roanhorse’s books, including signed copies of Black Sun, through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3dMJoao

Here’s the summary of Black Sun.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

*****

Here’s the recent virtual event featuring Rebecca Roanhorse.

Sara Johnson’s New Zealand – The Backstory

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Sara Johnson is the author of the Alexa Glock Forensics Mysteries set in New Zealand. Molten Mud Murders introduced Alexa Glock a year ago. The latest book in the series, The Bones Remember, is now available through the Web Store as well. https://bit.ly/3kiQ96x

Sara E. Johnson lives in Durham, North Carolina. She worked as a middle school reading specialist and local newspaper contributor before her husband lured her to New Zealand for a year. Her first novel, Molten Mud Murder, is the result.

Johnson is going to reveal the backstory behind The Bones Remember.

*****

Jaws Down Under by Sara Johnson

            Fur seals, especially plump pups, are what lure the great white sharks to Stewart Island, New Zealand. Its remoteness is what lured my husband and me. It’s a large island – 650 square miles – but there are only sixteen miles of road. The rest is national park wilderness. It’s the perfect setting for my second Alexa Glock forensics mystery, The Bones Remember, which was released in September.

            “Do you want to shark cage dive while we’re there?” my husband asked.

            “What?”

            “It’s a great white shark hot spot.”

            Gulp.

            In The Bones Remember, Alexa’s friend Mary asks her to go cage diving too. Not happening, Alexa replies.

            We were living in New Zealand for nine months, and determined to explore its nooks and crannies, even if that meant an hour-long ferry crossing to reach Stewart Island. The Mäori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, call the winds whipping the strait separating the South Island and Stewart Island hau-mate, or death wind. Our ferry was canceled twice because of roller coaster seas.

            Alexa Glock arrives by ferry too – rather seasick – to investigate the remains of a missing hunter. Her expertise in teeth will help her identify him. ‘Through tapering rain, she could see the ferry leaving, causing her a flutter of panic. Stranded on a remote island. And Then There Were None, and all that.’

            Oban, the island’s only settlement, overlooks Halfmoon Bay like a cat on a windowsill. The bay is dotted with well-loved fishing boats, dauntless shabby pleasure craft, and a curious lack of kayaks skimming its crystalline depths.

            My husband and I asked the owner of the lodge about renting kayaks. “Might not want to do that,” she said.

            This was in 2014, seven years after the first shark cage diving companies opened on the island.  Anywhere from 60 to 120 great white sharks migrate seasonally to the island’s waters, making it the perfect place – if you don’t mind rough seas and cold water – to dangle eye to eye with Jaws.

            Our stay there was as tourists, skimming the surface of a picturesque island. It has been through research and writing The Bones Remember that I learned the caging industry has riven the islanders.

             Locals, who have always coexisted with the sharks and rarely seen them, believe luring sharks to boats using bait and chum (a noxious slurry of blood and minced fish guts) has changed the sharks’ behaviors.

            In a 2016 Guardian article, a local Māori elder said, “It is quite amazing the level of interaction between humans and sharks now. We see them all the time and not just one, sometimes three or four surrounding our boats.”

             I discovered a Stop Shark Cage Diving on Stewart Island Facebook page. “Sharp-cornered steel cages dropped daily into a protected animals’ environment; berley poured into the water followed by hunks of tuna on rope tossed repeatedly into the sharks’ natural feeding ground. What a horrible example of interacting with nature: Sharks injured by contact with steel cages; sharks teased and baited and fed; sharks taught year after year that humans in water and the sound of boat engines equate a quick easy meal. We want this operation GONE.”

            The page has over 2000 Likes. In another article, a local says, “We are waiting for the first maiming, for the first death because of the law of this land.”

            The New Zealand courts have struggled with the legality of cage diving operations. First it was legal. Then it was illegal. As of 2019, it’s legal again. There is one dive company still operating in the Stewart Island waters, and to date there have been no fatalities.

            Not so in The Bones Remember. When a shark-ravaged body washes up on Ringaringa Beach, Alexa believes the inevitable has happened. Blame it on the apex predator.

            Or not. Read The Bones Remember to find out.

            My husband and I ended up birding instead of shark cage diving. I’m glad we spent our time with wekas, bellbirds, and kakas. Alexa Glock believes we should leave the sharks in peace, and I do too.

*****

Here’s The Bones Remember.

A new title in the Alexa Glock Forensics Mysteries. When bodies wash up on the beach, is man or animal the culprit? It’ll take everything forensic specialist Alexa Glock has to seek out the truth. Because lips may lie, but teeth never do…These thrilling New Zealand mysteries are:Perfect for Fans of Kathy Reichs and Candice FoxFor readers of forensic mysteries and international mysteriesFor lovers of police procedurals and marine science

At first, Alexa Glock’s initial case as a traveling forensic investigator seems straightforward—her expertise in teeth helps her identify the skeletal remains of a hunter found on the remote Stewart Island in New Zealand. But when she realizes the bullet lodged in his skull was not self-inflicted, and then a second, shark-ravaged body washes up on Ringaringa Beach, it’s clear that something dangerous is lurking in the beautiful waters surrounding the island.

The disturbing sight seems to confirm what locals have hashed out in the pub: shark cage-diving, lucrative for owners and popular with tourists, has changed the great white sharks’ behavior, turning them into man-eaters. Tensions between cagers and locals mount as Alexa—christened the “shark lady”—dives into the harrowing case. While measuring bite patterns, she makes a shocking discovery that just might lead her to who—or what—is behind both deaths.

Alexa Glock, an expert in teeth and bones, finds herself playing shark detective in the newest book of Sara E. Johnson’s acclaimed forensic mysteries. But she’ll soon learn that there are dark things lurking beneath the water, something far worse than a natural born predator…

Alexa Glock Forensic Mysteries:
Molten Mud Murder
The Bones Remember

C.J. Box, The Highway, & Big Sky

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By now, we all know when a book series is adapted for television, they won’t be the same. That may mean, though, that when ABC’s Big Sky comes out, that C.J. Box’s books will become better known outside of the world of crime fiction readers. The first show in the series is based on Box’s book, The Highway. You can find The Highway, and Box’s other books in the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3jaOiiM

Here’s the summary of The Highway.

The inspiration for the new ABC series Big Sky.

Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the New York Times bestselling author of Back of Beyond and Breaking Point and the creator of the Joe Pickett series is back.

“If CJ Box isn’t already on your list, put him there.”–USA Today

When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them again. The girls—and their car—simply vanish. Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety. Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, he begins the drive south to the girls’ last known location.

As Cody makes his way to the lonely stretch of Montana highway where they went missing, Cassie discovers that Gracie and Danielle Sullivan aren’t the first girls who have disappeared in this area. This majestic landscape is the hunting ground for a killer whose viciousness is outmatched only by his intelligence. And he might not be working alone. Time is running out for Gracie and Danielle…Can Cassie overcome her doubts and lack of experience and use her innate skill? Can Cody Hoyt battle his own demons and find this killer before another victim vanishes on the highway?

*****

Are you ready for the trailer for the TV show, Big Sky?

Laura Jensen Walker’s Backstory

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Laura Jensen Walker has an unusual backstory for a mystery series. However, I’m going to let her tell you about it. So I don’t spoil her post, I’m not going to include her author’s biography until after the piece. However, she is the author of The Bookish Baker Mysteries. The first one, Murder Most Sweet, was released in September. Her first Faith Chapel Mystery, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse will be out in January. You can order Walker’s books through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/37rvXMd

Here’s Laura Jensen Walker’s surprising backstory.

*****

Breasts and Backstory in the Bookish Baker Series

Guest Blog by Laura Jensen Walker

Happy Anniversary! You have cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after my first wedding anniversary at age thirty-five. My mom was holding one hand, my new husband the other, when the doctor gave me the bad news after my biopsy. I burst into tears at the word “cancer” thinking it was a death sentence. After starting and stopping school several times over the years I had finally just graduated from college with a degree in journalism and was eager to start my professional writing career. I was also in the honeymoon stage of my marriage to Mr. Right after too many years of Mr. Wrongs.

How could this all be taken away?

Thankfully, the only things taken away were a breast, some lymph nodes, the contents of my stomach, some pounds I’d been trying to lose for years, and later, temporarily, my hair. Today, I am grateful to be 28-years cancer free.

Five years ago I chose to go flat and have my second breast removed due to some pre-cancerous lumps and my genetic predisposition to get cancer again. No thanks, I’d rather live. Twenty years ago I wrote about my cancer journey in Thanks for the Mammogram! the non-fiction book of my heart.

This fall, in time for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my publisher rereleased Thanks for the Mammogram in a revised, updated version for a new audience of women. My prayer is that it will provide encouragement, hope, and a healthy dose of laughter to those going through breast cancer.

This fall is also when my first cozy mystery, Murder Most Sweet, debuted. As a former journalist, my authorial career began with non-fiction books years ago. Fiction has always been my greatest love, however, so I’m grateful and thrilled to be back writing it once again after more than a decade away. I’m even more thrilled to be writing mysteries—my favorite genre.

When I decided to write cozies, I wanted to see a character like me; a breast cancer survivor who chose to go flat. My protagonist, Teddie St. John, is a strong, funny single woman in her forties who doesn’t let her flat state stop her from anything, including leading a fun, well-rounded life as an author and baker. Her lack of breasts doesn’t define Teddie, it’s just a part of who she is.

I also wanted to show that Teddie’s breastlessness doesn’t stop her from being attractive and desirable. Luckily, I was married to a supportive husband when I went through breast cancer all those years ago. Not everyone is so lucky. As I traveled the country on the cancer speaking circuit back in the day, I met single women in their thirties and forties who were concerned that their lack of breasts might hinder their romantic prospects. I also met women whose husbands had left them because they had a mastectomy. Jerks. (There’s a stronger word I usually use to describe those men, but in deference to my cozy readers, I’m keeping it G-rated.)

In honor of those survivor women I met, and because of my own backstory with breast cancer, I wanted to create a strong, engaging character in her early forties whose breast cancer and subsequent breastlessness doesn’t prevent her from living her best life. Or from catching the eye of a dashing Brit.

Breasts don’t make a woman.

I hope readers will be captivated by my fun, resilient writer and baker Teddie St. John in my first Bookish Baker Mystery, Murder Most Sweet. And since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I also hope readers will remember to get their mammograms!

About Murder Most Sweet:

Everyone in Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, knows Teddie St. John. Tall, curly-haired Teddie is a superb baker, a bohemian bon vivant, breast cancer survivor, and a mystery writer. Teddie is walking her American Eskimo dog, Gracie, when her four-legged friend finds Teddie’s missing silk scarf. Only problem: the scarf is tied tightly around the neck of a beautiful blond woman, the fiancée of a touring British author.

Before you can say “Wisconsin kringle,” Teddie becomes a murder suspect. Everyone in town knows all too well that the distinctive scarf was hers. When a second murder shocks the community, Teddie stands accused of not one, but two, murders. With the help of her Three Musketeers friends Sharon and Char, can Teddie clear her name and deliver a killer’s just desserts?

Bio

Laura Jensen Walker has loved mysteries ever since she read Trixie Belden in the fourth grade. A former journalist, Laura is the author of several chick-lit novels and humorous non-fiction books. She lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband and their canine daughter Mellie and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Murder Most Sweet is Laura’s first mystery. Her second, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse, releases in January 2020. Find out more about Laura at www.laurajensenwalker.com and follow her on Twitter @LauraJensenWal1.

*****

You can order Murder Most Sweet now, and pre-order Hope, Faith, & a Corpse. Thanks for the Mammogram! is also available through the Web Store.

In the tradition of M. C. Beaton, Hope Taylor, pastor of a small-town California church, tries to find out who sent a church elder to Heaven.

Hope Taylor arrives in Apple Springs to start her new life as the first female pastor of Faith Chapel Episcopal Church. The northern California town’s quaint cottages, bungalows, and shops promise a fresh start for the 42-year-old widow and Bogie, her scruffy black Labrador. But where is Father Christopher? The kindly old rector who hired Pastor Hope was supposed to meet her upon her arrival, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Hope’s faith springs eternal, so she explores the little white church hoping to find Father Christopher. But when she enters the columbarium, she instead finds church elder Stanley King–his skull crushed by a fallen burial urn.

Hope had made Stanley’s acquaintance before, and had struggled to take a charitable view of his character. Stanley was as wicked as he was wealthy, as petty as he was pious. His soul may have been holy, but his behavior was wholly rotten. The last time Hope had seen him, he had shouted drunkenly that she would preach at Faith Chapel over his dead body.

Many of the townsfolk witnessed the altercation, so Hope finds herself as the prime suspect in Stanley’s murder. With Bogie’s four-footed assistance, Hope is determined to find the real killer and clear her name…even if it will require a bit of divine intervention.

*****

The Anthony Award Winners

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This year’s Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, was virtual, as so many conventions have been. The Anthony Awards were announced virtually this past weekend. Check the Web Store for the winning titles. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Congratulations to all the winners.

BEST NOVEL
The Murder List, by Hank Phillippi Ryan

BEST FIRST NOVEL
One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Alchemist’s Illusion, by Gigi Pandian

BEST CRITICAL NON-FICTION WORK
The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, by Mo Moulton

BEST SHORT STORY
“The Red Zone,” by Alex Segura (appearing in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

BEST ANTHOLOGY OR COLLECTION
Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons

BEST YOUNG ADULT**
Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry, by Jen Conley

The Barry Award Winners

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It’s award season although mystery conventions aren’t being held this year due to the pandemic. Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced the Barry Award Winners during the virtual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Check the Web Store for the books. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Best Mystery/Crime Novel

THE LOST MAN, Jane Harper


Best First Mystery/Crime Novel

THE CHESTNUT MAN, Soren Sveistrup


Best Paperback Original Mystery/Crime Novel

MISSING DAUGHTER, Rick Mofina

Best Thriller

THE CHAIN, Adrian McKinty

Best Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade

SUSPECT, Robert Crais

Finishing Out October – Virtually

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It might be close to the end of the month, but The Poisoned Pen still has a great schedule of authors who will be appearing virtually for Facebook Live events. Here’s the slate of authors, but check the website regularly for time changes, updates, or new events. Then, check the Web Store to order the new books by your favorite authors, or maybe favorite books by them. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Mary Anna Evans/Sara Johnson
Lee Child / Andrew Grant
John Connolly
Stephen Spotswood
Richard Paul Evans
Chris DeRose

John Grisham, in Conversation with Ace Atkins

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It’s a special virtual event when John Grisham has a new book out. Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, and then Ace Atkins, author of The Revelators, talked with Grisham about his career and his books, including his latest one, A Time for Mercy. I won’t promise anything because all signed copies may be gone, but you can still purchase a copy through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/2H5pITf

Here’s the summary of A Time for Mercy.

Jake Brigance is back! The hero of A Time to Kill, one of the most popular novels of our time,  returns in a courtroom drama that The New York Times says is “riveting” and “suspenseful.”
 
Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid sixteen-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Jake’s fierce commitment to saving Drew from the gas chamber puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line.
 
In what may be the most personal and accomplished legal thriller of John Grisham’s storied career, we deepen our acquaintance with the iconic Southern town of Clanton and the vivid cast of characters that so many readers know and cherish. The result is a richly rewarding novel that is both timely and timeless, full of wit, drama, and—most of all—heart.
 
Bursting with all the courthouse scheming, small-town intrigue, and stunning plot twists that have become the hallmarks of the master of the legal thriller, A Time for Mercy is John Grisham’s most powerful courtroom drama yet.
 
There is a time to kill and a time for justice. Now comes A Time for Mercy.

*****

John Grisham and Ace Atkins share a connection to Oxford, Mississippi. If you’re a fan of Grisham’s books, you’ll appreciate this conversation.

Stuart Turton & The Devil and the Dark Water

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Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviewed author Stuart Turton in a recent virtual event. He’s the author of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. His latest novel, The Devil and the Dark Water is inspired by a true event. Turton and Peters discuss that historical event. You can order copies of Turton’s new book through the Web Store. It comes with a signed book plate and a special tote bag. https://bit.ly/3502hmi

Here’s the description of Turton’s The Devil and the Dark Water.

“[An] outstanding whodunit…Fans of impossible crime fiction won’t want to miss this one.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

The extraordinary new thriller from Stuart Turton, author of the bestselling murder mystery The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, winner of the Costa Best First Novel Award.

A murder on the high seas. A remarkable detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.

But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. Anyone could be to blame. Even a demon.

And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

For fans of Steven King, The Devil and the Dark Water brings a chilling new spin to the Sherlock Holmes detective duo in a thriller of supernatural horror, occult suspicion, and paranormal mystery on the high seas.

*****

Enjoy the virtual event.

Ian Rankin’s “A Song for the Dark Times”

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As Patrick Millikin from The Poisoned Pen says, the title of Ian Rankin’s new Rebus novel, A Song for the Dark Times, seems very appropriate. Rankin looked at some photos of Edinburgh, and described Edinburgh during COVID-19. If you’ve wondered about the city, you’ll want to watch this video as Patrick and Rankin discuss Edinburgh, while he discusses the book with Barbara Peters.

You can order A Song for the Dark Times through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2MyxBgY

“He’s gone…”

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.

Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.

He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever.  But is he going as a father or a detective?

As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…

A thrilling new Rebus novel about crime, punishment, and redemption, from the Edgar Award-winning “genius” of the genre (Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series)

*****

I think you’ll enjoy this virtual event.