Fiction Review

Upcoming Virtual Events @ The Poisoned Pen

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The Poisoned Pen is ending October on a high note, and kicking off November in the same way. Just check out these upcoming programs. Then, check the Web Store to order books by your favorite authors. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Watch for these events. They’re now streamed simultaneously on Facebook and YouTube.

Lee and Andrew Child
Colleen Cambridge
Scott Carson/Richard Chizmar
Gregory Galloway
Howzwell Hall / Angoe
Cherie Priest
Goldberg / Witten
Dennis Palumbo
Janet Evanovich
Jenn McKinlay
Sherry Thomas

Catherine Prendergast & The Gilded Edge, True Crime

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As Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen says, true crime is not new. Catherine Prendergast covers true historical crime with her new book. Her first book of narrative nonfiction for the general reader is The Gilded Edge: The Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America. There are copies available in the Web Store, and they come with signed bookplates. https://bit.ly/3b2IYML

Here is the description of The Gilded Edge.

One of Book Riot‘s Anticipated 2021 Nonfiction Books

“The Gilded Edgeis a compelling read from start to finish. Gripping, suspenseful, cinematic. This is narrative nonfiction at its best.”–Lindsey Fitzharris, Bestselling Author ofThe Butchering Art

Astonishingly well written, painstakingly researched, and set in the evocative locations of earthquake-ravaged San Francisco and the Monterey Peninsula, the true story of two women—a wife and a poet—who learn the high price of sexual and artistic freedom in a vivid depiction of the debauchery of the late Gilded Age

Nora May French and Carrie Sterling arrive at Carmel-by-the-Sea at the turn of the twentieth century with dramatically different ambitions. Nora, a stunning, brilliant, impulsive writer in her early twenties, seeks artistic recognition and bohemian refuge among the most celebrated counterculturalists of the era. Carrie, long-suffering wife of real estate developer George Sterling, wants the opposite: a semblance of the stability she thought her advantageous marriage would offer, now that her philandering husband has taken to writing poetry.

After her second abortion, Nora finds herself in a desperate situation but is rescued by an invitation to stay with the Sterlings. To Carrie’s dismay, George and the arrestingly beautiful poetess fall instantly into an affair. The ensuing love triangle, which ultimately ends with the deaths of all three, is more than just a wild love story and a fascinating forgotten chapter. It questions why Nora May—in her day a revered poet whose nationally reported suicide gruesomely inspired youths across the country to take their own lives, with her verses in their pockets no lesshas been rendered obscure by literary history. It depicts America at a turning point, as the Gilded Age groans in its death throes and young people, particularly young women, look toward a bright, progressive, more egalitarian future.

In an unfortunately familiar development, this vision proves a mirage. But women’s rage at the scam redefines American progressivism forever.

For readers of Nathalia Holt, Denise Kiernan, and Sonia Purnell, this shocking history with a feminist bite is not to be missed.


Catherine Prendergast is a Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fulbright Scholar. Interviewed by NPR and New York Magazine, she has written on battles over school desegregation, anxieties over the global spread of English, and recognition of disability rights. Dr. Prendergast’s previous (scholarly) books include Buying Into English (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008) and Literary and Racial Justice (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003). The Gilded Edge is her first work of narrative nonfiction.
 
Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in central Illinois with her husband and son.


Enjoy the discussion of history of California and The Gilded Edge.

Clea Simon & Hold Me Down

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Clea Simon’s latest suspense novel, Hold Me Down, is much darker than her cozy mysteries. It involves PTSD, rape, abuse, and the music business. You can order a copy through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/2WEzn72

Here’s the description of Hold Me Down.

A riveting work of dark suspense from acclaimed author Clea Simon Gal, a middle-aged musician, is back in Boston to play a memorial for her late drummer/best friend, when she finds herself freezing on stage at the sight of a face in the crowd. The next day, she learns that the man she saw has been killed – beaten to death behind the venue – and her friend’s widower is being charged in connection with his death. When the friend refuses to defend himself, Gal wonders why and, as the memories of begin to flood back, she starts her own informal investigation. As she does so, she must reexamine her own wild life, her perception of the past, and an industry that monetizes dysfunction in a dark tale of love, music, and murder.


Before turning to a life of crime (fiction), Clea Simon was a journalist. Starting as a rock critic, she ended up writing about books and other arts. A native of New York, she came to Massachusetts to attend Harvard University, from which she graduated with high honors, and never left. The author of three nonfiction books and seven mysteries, she lives with her husband, the writer Jon S. Garelick, and their cat, Musetta. She is the author of the Witch Cats of Cambridge mysteries from Polis Books: A Spell of Murder, An Incantation of Cats, and A Cat on the Case. You can find her online at @Clea_Simon.


While anyone will appreciate this virtual event, if you’re interested in the music industry you’ll really want to listen to this conversation with Clea Simon.

John Connolly’s 19th Charlie Parker Novel

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John Connolly recently appeared for The Poisoned Pen to discuss his new Charlie Parker novel, The Nameless Ones. If you order it through the Web Store, there’s some swag that comes with it, a signed oversize playing card, and a custom book tote. Here’s the link to order The Nameless Ones. http://bit.ly/2MdULvW

Here’s the description of The Nameless Ones.

“One of the best thriller writers we have.” —Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author

From the international and instant New York Times bestselling author of The Dirty South, the white-knuckled Charlie Parker series returns with this heart-pounding race to hunt down the deadliest of war criminals.

In Amsterdam, four bodies, violently butchered, are discovered in a canal house, the remains of friends and confidantes of the assassin known only as Louis.

The men responsible for the murders are Serbian war criminals. They believe they can escape retribution by retreating to their homeland.

They are wrong.

For Louis has come to Europe to hunt them down: five killers to be found and punished before they can vanish into thin air.

There is just one problem.

The sixth.

With John Connolly’s trademark “dark, haunting, and beautifully told” (Booklist) prose and breathless twists and turns, The Nameless Ones is an unputdownable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of thrillers, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, the Samuel Johnson Trilogy for younger readers, and (with Jennifer Ridyard) the Chronicles of the Invaders series. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.


John Connolly is a true Irish storyteller. You’ll want to watch the virtual event.

Lori Rader-Day, Death at Greenway

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Lori Rader-Day’s Death at Greenway is a departure from her earlier books. It was the British Crime Club pick for The Poisoned Pen. Catriona McPherson was special guest host for the bookstore’s recent virtual event. You can order Death at Greenway through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2Pa2pFO

Here’s the description of Death at Greenway.

“Irresistible… a Golden Age homage, an elegantly constructed mystery that on every page reinforces the message that everyone counts.” –New York Times Book Review

From the award-winning author of The Day I Died and The Lucky One, a captivating suspense novel about nurses during World War II who come to Agatha Christie’s holiday estate to care for evacuated children, but when a body is discovered nearby, the idyllic setting becomes host to a deadly mystery.

Bridey Kelly has come to Greenway House—the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie—in disgrace. A terrible mistake at St. Prisca’s Hospital in London has led to her dismissal as a nurse trainee, and her only chance for redemption is a position in the countryside caring for children evacuated to safety from the Blitz.

Greenway is a beautiful home full of riddles: wondrous curios not to be touched, restrictions on rooms not to be entered, and a generous library, filled with books about murder. The biggest mystery might be the other nurse, Gigi, who is like no one Bridey has ever met. Chasing ten young children through the winding paths of the estate grounds might have soothed Bridey’s anxieties and grief—if Greenway were not situated so near the English Channel and the rising aggressions of the war.

When a body washes ashore near the estate, Bridey is horrified to realize this is not a victim of war, but of a brutal killing. As the local villagers look among themselves, Bridey and Gigi discover they each harbor dangerous secrets about what has led them to Greenway. With a mystery writer’s home as their unsettling backdrop, the young women must unravel the truth before their safe haven becomes a place of death . . .


Lori Rader-Day is the author of Death at GreenwayThe Lucky OneUnder a Dark SkyThe Day I DiedLittle Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She is a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, winning the award in 2016. Lori lives in Chicago.


Enjoy the conversation with Lori Rader-Day.

Chet and Bernie Are Back! (Along with Spencer Quinn)

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Peter Abrahams, aka Spencer Quinn, is back with a Christmas/holiday-themed Chet and Bernie book. There are signed copies of It’s a Wonderful Woof available in the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3rEKdJm

Here’s the summary of It’s a Wonderful Woof.

Spencer Quinn’s It’s a Wonderful Woof presents a holiday adventure for Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in crime fiction” (Boston Globe), and his human partner, PI Bernie Little.

Holiday time in the Valley, and in the holiday spirit—despite the dismal shape of the finances at the Little Detective Agency—Bernie refers a potential client to Victor Klovsky, a fellow private eye. It’s also true that the case—promising lots of online research but little action—doesn’t appeal to Bernie, while it seems perfect for Victor, who is not cut out for rough stuff. But Victor disappears in a rough-stuff way, and when he doesn’t show up at his mom’s to light the Hanukkah candles, she hires Chet and Bernie to find him.

They soon discover that Victor’s client has also vanished. The trail leads to the ruins of a mission called Nuestra Señora de los Saguaros, dating back to the earliest Spanish explorers. Some very dangerous people are interested in the old mission. Does some dusty archive hold the secret of a previously unknown art treasure, possibly buried for centuries? What does the Flight into Egypt—when Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus fled Herod—have to do with saguaros, the Sonoran desert cactus?

No one is better than Chet at nosing out buried secrets, but before he can, he and Bernie are forced to take flight themselves, chased through a Christmas Eve blizzard by a murderous foe who loves art all too much.


Spencer Quinn is the pen name for Peter Abrahams, the Edgar-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle-grade readers. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Diana and dog Pearl.


Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, talks about winter in Arizona, winter holidays, and Chet as narrator with Spencer Quinn/Peter Abrahams. Fans of Chet will want to watch the virtual event.

Authors Sheila & Gerhardt Roberts

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John Charles from The Poisoned Pen recently hosted two authors. Sheila Roberts is the author of A Little Christmas Spirit. Gerhardt Roberts’ book is called Safe Harbor. You can order copies of both books through the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here’s the description of A Little Christmas Spirit.

“Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Sheila Roberts story . . . a heartwarming confection that’s as sweet as a sugarplum, and as deeply moving as snowfall.” —Susan Wiggs

The best Christmas gifts—family, friendship and second chances—are all waiting to be unwrapped in this sparkling new novel from USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts.

Single mom Lexie Bell hopes to make this first Christmas in their new home special for her six-year-old son, Brock. Festive lights and homemade fudge, check. Friendly neighbors? Uh, no. The reclusive widower next door is more grinchy than nice. But maybe he just needs a reminder of what matters most. At least sharing some holiday cheer with him will distract her from her own lack of romance…

Stanley Mann lost his Christmas spirit when he lost his wife and he sees no point in looking for it. Until she shows up in his dreams and informs him it’s time to ditch his scroogey attitude. Stanley digs in his heels, but she’s determined to haunt him until he wakes up and rediscovers the joys of the season. He can start by being a little more neighborly to the single mom next door. In spite of his protests, he’s soon making snowmen and decorating Christmas trees. How will it all end?

Merrily, of course. A certain Christmas ghost is going to make sure of that!


Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book, Angel Lane, was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel, The Nine Lives of Christmas, was made into a movie for Hallmark . You can visit Sheila on Twitter and Facebook or at her website (http://www.sheilasplace.com).


Gerhardt Roberts’ Safe Harbor is described here.

In World War II Berlin, Jews such as Erich Reinhold, who can pass for Aryan, and his sweetheart, Nessa Baumgartner, go underground. In a city where Jewish life is being snuffed out, they soon find themselves in a world of false identification papers and forged ration cards, risking their lives to help others escape to freedom. Safety is a foreign word, danger is everywhere and love is a luxury they can’t afford. But maybe, in spite of danger and separation, they will find their safe harbor.

Enjoy the conversation with the Roberts.

Jeffrey Archer, Over My Dead Body

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The Poisoned Pen had never hosted Sir Jeffrey Archer for an event. He discusses his latest crime novel, Over My Dead Body. Although it’s part of the William Warwick series, he has said the book also stands alone as a story featuring four cold cases. Hopefully, you can still order signed copies of the book through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3AKIEg5

Here’s the summary of Over My Dead Body.

THE SIGNATURE EDITION. ORDER NOW TO RECEIVE YOUR STUNNING LIMITED EDITION HARDBACK.*While stocks last. First print run only* 

An unputdownable story of murder, revenge and betrayal from international number one bestseller Jeffrey Archer.


Jeffrey Archer, whose novels include the Clifton Chronicles, the William Warwick novels and Kane and Abel, has topped bestseller lists around the world, with sales of over 275 million copies. He is the only author ever to have been a #1 bestseller in fiction, short stories and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries). A member of the House of Lords for over a quarter of a century, the author is married to Dame Mary Archer, and they have two sons, two granddaughters and two grandsons.

Enjoy the conversation about history, literature and Sir Jeffrey Archer’s books.

Ed Tarkington in Conversation with Ashley Winstead

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According to Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, Ed Tarkington’s latest novel, The Fortunate Ones, shares some common elements with Ashley Winstead’s In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, so she put them together for a recent conversation. You can order the novels from both authors through the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here’s the summary of The Fortunate Ones.

The perfect read for fans of The White Lotus or Succession

“As a novelist, Tarkington is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience.”

—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

For readers of Wiley Cash, Ann Patchett, and Pat Conroy, The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.


Ed Tarkington’s debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.


Here’s Ashley Winstead’s In My Dreams I Hold a Knife.

“[A] mordant debut novel….examines what it means to covet the lives of others, no matter the cost.”—The New York Times

“Tense, twisty, and packed with shocks.”—Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Survive The Night

Six friends.
One college reunion.
One unsolved murder.

Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.

But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.

Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read you won’t be able to put down.

“Beautiful writing, juicy secrets, complex female characters, and drumbeat suspense—what more could you want from a debut thriller?”—Andrea Bartz, author of Reese’s Book Club pick We Were Never Here


Ashley Winstead directs communications for a national philanthropy. She holds a Ph.D. in contemporary American literature and a B.A. in English and Art History. She lives in Houston, TX.


Here’s the conversation between Ed Tarkington and Ashley Winstead.

L. Alison Heller’s Hot Book of the Week

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The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller is the current Hot Book of the Week at The Poisoned Pen. Heller recently discussed women’s fiction and suspense with Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore. There are still copies of the book available, and the copies will come with signed bookplates. You can order them through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3AL2LL1

Here’s the summary of The Neighbor’s Secret.

“Addictive, suspenseful and masterfully written…will delight fans of Big Little Lies.” —Michele Campbell“[A] witty, hyperlocal mystery…With a light, Liane Moriarty-esque touch…” —New York Times L. Alison Heller, whose work has been praised by Liane Moriarty as “warm, witty…refreshingly true to life,” explores the ultimate sacrifices of parenting in The Neighbor’s Secret, a propulsive and juicy novel filled with gripping twists and instantly recognizable characters. How well do you really know your neighbors? With its sprawling yards and excellent schools, Cottonwood Estates is the perfect place to raise children. The Cottonwood Book Club serves as the subdivision’s eyes and ears, meeting once a month for discussion, gossip, and cocktails. If their selections trend toward twisty thrillers and salacious murder mysteries, it’s only because the members feel secure that such evil has no place in their own cul-de-sacs. Or does it? What happened to Lena’s family fifteen years ago was a tragic accident, and she will never admit otherwise. Devoted wife and mother Annie refuses to acknowledge—even to herself—the weight of a past shame. And new resident Jen wants friends, but as always, worry about her troubled son gets in the way. When late-night acts of vandalism target the women of the book club in increasingly violent and personal ways, they will be forced to decide how far to go to keep their secrets. At least they all agree on what’s most important: protecting their children at any cost—even if it means someone has to die.


L. Alison Heller is a lawyer and author of contemporary women’s fiction novels THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS and THE LOVE WARS.


Here’s the conversation between L. Alison Heller and Barbara Peters.