Fiction Review

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter

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Have you heard of the hot science fiction thriller, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch? We now have signed copies in the Web Store. And, it’s a pick for the SciFi, Fantasy, Horror Club.


If you’d like to read about Dark Matter, and read an interview with Crouch, check out Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Elaine Viets – In the Hot Seat

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August 2 is release date for Elaine Viets’ Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman, Death Investigator book. It’s one of The Poisoned Pen’s Book of the Month Club picks for August.

Brain Storm

There’s also an unusual story behind it. Some followers of Viets’ may know a little of the background. This courageous woman was kind enough to take the time to answer questions for one of the “In the Hot Seat” interviews. Thank you, Elaine.

Elaine Viets


Elaine, would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Brain Storm is my 30th mystery and my fourth series. I’m best known for writing the traditional, humorous Dead-End Job mysteries, set in South Florida, where I live. The Art of Murder, my 15th Dead-End Job mystery, is just out in hardcover from Penguin. I’ve also written 10 cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and four Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries. Francesca was my first series, and it was dark. Brain Storm is a return to my dark side. I’m married to writer Don Crinklaw, and we live in Fort Lauderdale with two cats, Harry and Mystery.

Would you tell us about the character of Angela Richman, Death Investigator?

Angela is a death investigator for mythical Chouteau County, Missouri, home of the one percent and the people who serve them. The major town is Chouteau Forest. It’s similar to the rich part of St. Louis County. I was a newspaper reporter in St. Louis and knew a lot of insider details about that area. The Forest likes to hire its own, and Angela is the daughter of servants and lives on the Du Pres estate, so she’s both an insider and an outsider: She belongs, but not really.

At a crime, the death investigator is in charge of the body, and works for the medical examiner. The police handle the crime scene. Many people would be horrified by the sights and smells of death, but Angela believes that the dead are trying to tell us what happened and it’s her job to listen to them, and perform this last service for them. Angela is also a survivor. After a grueling death investigation for a teenage girl killed in a car crash, Angela suffers a series of migraines. She goes to the hospital, where she’s misdiagnosed by a respected neurologist as “too young and fit to have a stroke.” He sends her back home, where she has a series of strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and needs brain surgery. Angela will spend some three months in the hospital recovering and re-learning simple skills, including walking.

Can you summarize Brain Storm without spoilers?

Death Investigator Angela Richman is misdiagnosed by Dr. Porter Gravois, a wealthy Chouteau Forest insider. Angela has six strokes, and needs brain surgery. She’s saved by a brilliant outsider, surgeon Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt. She wakes up from a coma, drug-addled and hallucinating. The doctor who misdiagnosed her is murdered. He and Dr. Tritt were bitter enemies. Tritt is arrested while Angela is in the hospital. Bald, crippled and crazy, Angela fights to save the man who saved her. I lived this story.

Elaine, please tell us about your interest in strokes and brain trauma.

In April, 2007, I had a series of blinding headaches, which I thought were migraines. After four days, I had trouble talking and doing everyday tasks, such as tying a bow in my robe belt. I couldn’t figure out which end of a fork to use to scramble a breakfast egg. If you know my cooking skills, this sounds like a fair description, but I seriously could not figure out that fork. I was determined to ignore these symptoms and drive 40 miles to give a speech, but my husband took away my car keys and called my primary doctor, who sent me to the ER. The neurologist on call said I was “too young and fit to have a stroke” and sent me home. I was supposed to report that Wednesday for a PET scan, but Wednesday never happened. Instead, I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and brain surgery. I was in a coma for a week and spent more than three months in the hospital. I used a walker for six months and a cane for two years. I’ve made a nearly complete recovery, but that took more than four years.  

Moving off topic, your character Helen Hawthorne has worked a series of jobs. Other than author, what’s the most interesting job you ever had?

Really enjoyed volunteering for the Bonnet House, a Fort Lauderdale museum, for my new hardcover, “The Art of Murder.” Bonnet House is the whimsical 1920s mansion-turned-museum owned by artists Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife, Evelyn Lilly Bartlett. Unlike many rich people, the Bartletts had mastered the art of living, and Bonnet House and its grounds are filled with life and color – exotic orchids grow in the trees and swans swim in the pond. Some of Evelyn’s pet Brazilian squirrel monkeys still roam the grounds. They escaped from a bar. (Hey, it’s Florida.) And speaking of bars, Frederic built Evelyn her own Bamboo Bar for her birthday. This was a little bijou building where the clock was always set at 5 p.m.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Miss Marple. She’s too easily dismissed as a fluffy old woman, but Miss Marple is shrewd and relentless. She once said, “I am Nemesis” and meant it. Favorite villain is Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis.

You live in Florida, so I’m sure, over the years, you’ve had visitors. Where do you like to take them?

To the ocean, which is eternally beautiful, and favorite restaurants by the water. Butterfly World and now, Bonnet House. Florida is ruled by the water, and I can see the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean from my condo.

Neil Gaiman said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?

“Brain Storm.” It took me eight years to get the courage to write this novel based on my personal experience. I had to relive one of the worst times in my life. I battled reoccurring nightmares and panic attacks, plus my own anger at the hospital billing office that cheated me and at the doctor who misdiagnosed me and stole four years of my life. That man will never be brought to justice – though he does die in my book. To get the death investigator details right, I went back to college – St. Louis University – and took the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training course for forensic professionals.

And, last, what’s been on your TBR pile this summer?

So many books. Looking forward to Ann Cleeves’s Dead Water, in her Shetland series. Charlaine Harris’s Night Shift, the third Midnight, Texas novel. Marcia Talley’s Daughter of Ashes and Frances Brody’s Murder on a Summer’s Day. Also books by Jeff Abbott, Brendan DuBois, William Kent Krueger, Alison Gaylin, David Ellis, PJ Parrish. I could keep going, but we’re running out of room.

Thank you, Elaine, for your time. Readers who are interested in Brain Storm might want to check out our Web Store.

Atlas Obscura – Scandalous Zines

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I love Atlas Obscura. It’s a web site,, and soon will be a book. It has such fascinating articles. Today, I’m linking to one called “The Scandalous Zines of Renaissance England”.

The article is all about broadsides, what they call the Facebook and Twitter of their day. Brutal murders. Bloody ballads. Witchcraft. According to the article, “Many of the pamphlets distributed along with broadsides contained longer, juicy stories with gratuitous, gory scenes.” Sounds as if broadsides would provide perfect material for a crime fiction writer.

In the Loop

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Just a short post today with a few reminders. Linda Castillo and Linda Fairstein made back-to-back appearances at The Poisoned Pen. If you would like to see the events, check out the Livestream links.

Here’s Linda Castillo’s for her Among the Wicked book tour.


And, here’s Linda Fairstein’s program for the Killer Look tour.

Killer Look

Don’t forget that you can buy either book, signed, through the Web Store.

What’s on the agenda for this coming week? While there are no events at the store, I do have a couple interviews coming up on the blog. Stop back during the week to read an interview with Elaine Viets, author of Brain Storm, one of our featured books for August. She’s a courageous woman. Rhys Bowen, author of Crowned and Dangerous, took time to answer questions as well. So, you’ll want to watch for that interview later in the week.

Stop back often. I try to keep you in the loop.

Nerd Trivia Challenge – Comic-Con Authors

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Patrick Rothfuss, Pierce Brown, Sam Sykes, V.E. Schwab, Duane Swierczynski. Recognize these names? They’ve all appeared at The Poisoned Pen, and some of them appeared in the last few months. They were also on a panel called Nerd Trivia Challenge – Author Edition at San Diego’s Comic-Con. Here’s the whole list of authors on it: Patrick Rothfuss
(THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE), Pierce Brown (RED RISING), Romina Russell (ZODIAC), Chuck Wendig (INVASIVE), Sam Sykes (THE CITY STAINED RED), Cecil Castelucci (STAR WARS: MOVING TARGET), V. E. Schwab (A GATHERING OF SHADOWS), Camilla D’Errico (POP MANGA, POP PAINTING, POP MANGA COLORING BOOK), and Duane Swierczynski (REVOLVER). Moderated by Brandon T. Snider (WHAT WOULD CAPTAIN KIRK DO?)

I have a video from Penguin Random House, which I have permission to share. It’s lengthy, but, if you’re a fan of these authors, it’s worth watching.

And, don’t forget to check for your favorite authors at the Web Store.



“Every Summer Has a Story” – Glen’s Picks

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Glen Erik Hamilton

I asked one of my favorite debut authors to suggest some titles for “Every Summer Has a Story”, although by now Glen Erik Hamilton has two books out. Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut PAST CRIMES has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Macavity, and won the Strand Critics Awards for Best First Novel.  His follow-up in the Van Shaw series, HARD COLD WINTER, was published in March by William Morrow (US) and Faber & Faber (UK).  A native of Seattle, Glen now lives in California but frequently returns to his hometown to soak up the rain.  Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @GlenErikH.   Thank you, Glen.


Happy Heat Wave, everyone!  These may be the dog days of summer, but there’s no time for lethargy — I’m into the final weeks of work on the manuscript for my third book.  When my brain gets overheated, I blow off some steam by reading exciting stories from some of my favorite authors.  I’ll be done with the manuscript by Bouchercon, and fittingly, a lot of my picks are award nominees past and present.  Here’s how I’ve been fighting fire with fire:
Hitmen vs. hitmen — talk about getting caught in the crossfire.  Holm’s fast and action-packed adventure finds time to muse on doing something bad to accomplish the greater good moral quandaries, in between the gunfights.  Nominated for an Anthony Award this year.
Killing Kind
Catriona McPherson — THE DAY SHE DIED
An intricate and creepily effective chiller about a small-town shopkeeper who tries to help an handsome stranger and his children, and quickly finds herself uncertain of whom to trust, and why she’s now being stalked at all hours…   An Anthony Award winner and Edgar nominee.
Day She Died
Ingrid Thoft — BRUTALITY
Tough P.I. Fina Ludlow becomes enmeshed in a lawsuit between a collegiate soccer star and her university, which may have gone from rough play on the field to much rougher attacks in Fina’s home turf of Boston.   A Shamus Award nominee this year.
Rebecca Schurm — UNBECOMING
A wonderful character study of a woman running away — far away — from her past mistakes, and keeping a step ahead of pursuers.  But her flight may take her full circle, forcing her to confront both her bad (?) decisions and her future prospects.  An Edgar Award nominee.
Johnny Shaw — BIG MARIA
Digging up a fortune in buried gold?  Great!  When that gold is buried in the middle of a massive and very active artillery range?  Ummm…  Shaw specializes in fringe characters who are only occasionally as clever as they try to be, and their wild and very funny schemes make for terrific yarns.  An Anthony and Spotted Owl Award winner.
Big Maria
James W. Ziskin — HEART OF STONE
Ziskin’s Ellie Stone series features his reporter heroine battling early 1960’s social mores and stumbling across the occasional dead body.   Think Mad Men with murders.   In the latest (and possibly greatest), Ellie is on holiday in the Adirondacks when two men plunge to their death nearby. If your own vacation needs a little spicing up, invite Ellie along.  The previous entry in the Stone series is an Anthony Award nominee this year.
Heart of Stone
Thank you, Glen. Glen Erik Hamilton’s two Van Shaw novels, Past Crimes and Hard Cold Winter, are both available through the Poisoned Pen’s Web Store,, as are the books he picked for “Every Summer Has a Story.”

Linda Fairstein on Writing Skills

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Linda Fairstein, author of Killer Look, just appeared at The Poisoned Pen. Before becoming a full-time writer, Fairstein was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

I don’t have the photos yet from Linda’s appearance. I do have a video, though, in which she discusses three writing skills she learned while practicing law. (Used with permission from Penguin Random House, Videracy.)

Linda Fairstein_Videracy_play button (1)

If you’d like to order a signed copy of Killer Look, the eighteenth book in the series, you can order it through the Web Store.

Killer Look