Fiction Review

The Upcoming Week of Events

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It’s been a while since I shared the schedule of upcoming events. Check out this next week’s events, and then check the Web Store for the featured authors and books.

As always, it’s a terrific schedule.

Jayne Castle
Kyle Mills/Don Bentley
Anne Perry
Scott Turow
Historical Quartet

Joel Dicker Discusses The Enigma of Room 622

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Karen Shaver recently welcomed Joel Dicker to The Poisoned Pen where he discussed his Hot Book of the Week, The Enigma of Room 622. There are signed copies of Dicker’s book available in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of The Enigma of Room 622.

“Dicker salutes Agatha Christie even as he drops the reader through one trapdoor into another, so that by the end, we doubt we’ve ever read another novel quite like it. (We haven’t.) Fans of Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley will hug this book in between chapters; the many readers who love Anthony Horowitz’s mysteries will celebrate. And me? I’ll be reading it again.”—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window 

A burnt-out writer’s retreat at a fancy Swiss hotel is interrupted by a murder mystery in this metafictional, meticulously crafted whodunit from the New York Times bestselling author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

A writer named Joël, Switzerland’s most prominent novelist, flees to the Hôtel de Verbier, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. Disheartened over a recent breakup and his longtime publisher’s death, Joël hopes to rest. However, his plans quickly go awry. It all starts with a seemingly innocuous detail: at the Verbier, there is no room 622

Before long, Joël and fellow guest Scarlett uncover a long-unsolved murder that transpired in the hotel’s room 622. The attendant circumstances: the succession of Switzerland’s largest private bank, a mysterious counterintelligence operation called P-30, and a most disreputable sabotage of hotel hospitality. A European phenomenon, The Enigma of Room 622 is a matryoshka doll of intrigue–as precise as a Swiss watch–and Dicker’s most diabolically addictive thriller yet.

Translated from the French by Robert Bononno

JOEL DICKER was born in Geneva in 1985, where he later studied Law. His first novel was awarded the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (La Verite sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert) was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens.

SAM TAYLOR is a novelist and journalist who has lived in France for more than a decade. His first literary translation was Laurence Binet’s HHhH, which was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Enjoy the event with author Joel Dicker.

John Crawley’s The Yank

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Michael Barson recently interviewed John Crawley, author of the memoir, The Yank, for He’s allowing us to use the interview. And, Crawley wrote a piece that I’ll link to in CrimeReads. After you’ve read the pieces, you can order a copy of The Yank through the Web Store.

First, here’s the description of The Yank.

1975: A young Irish-American man joins an elite US Marine unit to get the most intensive military training possible — then joins the Irish Republican Army, during the days of some of the bloodiest fighting ever in the Irish-British conflict . . .
The Irish “Troubles” were at a murderous fever pitch when John Crawley volunteered for the IRA. Bloody Friday, Bloody Sunday, the bombing of the British Houses of Parliament, and other deadly incidents had recently unfolded or were about to … Civilian casualties were common as British soldiers, Republican militants (who wanted the UK out of Northern Ireland) and Unionist police and militants (who wanted to remain in the UK), engaged in gun battles and car bombing throughout Northern Ireland. The death toll numbered over 1,000.
The IRA split over how to react between the old-line IRA, and the new Provisional IRA — the Provos, mostly impassioned young men who were not hesitant to resort to violence.
In a powerful, brutally honest, no-holds-barred recounting of his experience, John Crawley details, first, the grueling challenges of his Marine Corps training, then how he put his hard-earned munitions and demolitions skills to use back in Ireland in service of the Provos. It is a story that will see him running guns with notorious American mobster — and secret IRA fundraiser — Whitey Bulger; running, under cover of night, from safe house to safe house in the Irish countryside, one step ahead of British troops; being captured, imprisoned, and being part of a mass escape attempt; fending off a recruitment offer from the CIA; and being one of the masterminds behind a campaign to take out London’s electrical system.
Along the way, Crawley is blisteringly candid about the memorable people he worked with, including behind-the-scenes portrayals of revered IRA leader Martin McGuinness, and of the psychopathic Whitey Bulger, as well as others in the Boston IRA support network. There are vivid portraits of colleagues and enemies, and Crawley is unflinching in his commentary on IRA leadership and their tactics, both military and political.
Through it all comes the steadfast voice of a man on a mission, providing an evocative, detailed, and passionate recounting of where that mission led him and why — as well as why, to this day, he remains ready to serve.

John Crawley was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents, and moved to Ireland as a young teenager to attend school. Inspired there by the struggle for Irish freedom against British rule in the North of Ireland, he returned to America to receive military training in an elite, special forces “Recon” unit of the US Marine Corps. Afterwards, he returned to Ireland to volunteer for the IRA and conducted many missions, including gun-running from the US, working with Boston criminal head Whitey Bulger. Crawley would be captured and imprisoned twice, both in Ireland and in England, while on major missions, done in both times by informers. He is now retired and married with a family, and lives in County Monaghan, Ireland. He remains as committed as ever to the ending of British rule in Ireland and the establishment of a united Irish Republic.

Here’s Michael Barson’s interview with John Crawley.

In 1975, John Crawley joined an elite US Marine unit to get the most intensive military training possible. He then joined the Irish Republican Army during the days of some of the bloodiest fighting ever in the Irish-British conflict. In THE YANK, Crawley details the grueling challenges of his Marine Corps training and how he put his hard-earned munitions and demolitions skills to use back in Ireland in service of the new Provisional IRA (known as the Provos). In this interview conducted by Michael Barson, Senior Publicity Executive at Melville House, Crawley talks about what inspired him to write a memoir about his remarkable life history, the biggest challenge he encountered as a first-time author, and his plans for a second book, which is already in the works.

Question: For how long had you been pondering the idea of turning your remarkable life history into a book? And what provided the impetus for you to finally attempt it?

John Crawley: Being a member of a secret army means that one is organically primed to keep secrets. A guerrilla learns quickly (and too often the hard way) that survival, of both the individual and the group, depends on maintaining the tightest operational security. Coming from this organizational culture writing a memoir is not the first thing that springs to mind. I pondered writing a memoir for many years. For one personal or political reason or another, the time never seemed right until now.

My principal motivation was to challenge the false narrative that the struggle for complete Irish freedom was simply about reuniting Ireland in whatever political form, even if that meant preserving constitutional divisions between pro-British Irish unionists and Irish nationalists in a unitary state. A unitary state in which the British royal family would continue to play a role in representing a minority of our citizens as some form of post-colonial garrison. Our struggle was fought to completely break the connection with England and forge a joint national citizenship based upon democracy, equality and fraternity. I wanted to explain that a so-called “New” Ireland, predicated on all the old divisions, is not what our struggle was about. I also wanted to highlight the unsung heroism of the humble patriots whose sacrifices essentially have been written out of history.

Q: Was there one memoir in particular you had read that inspired you to attempt writing your own?

JC: I have always been a deep admirer of Ernie O’Malley, who fought in the Irish War of (Partial) Independence between 1916 and 1921 and on the republican side in the Civil War in 1922 and ’23. His memoir, ON ANOTHER MAN’S WOUND, is one of the best books about the Irish independence struggle during this period. O’Malley illustrates how an unforeseen event can fundamentally alter an entrenched narrative.

His light bulb moment came during the 1916 Rising in Dublin when he came close to joining his fellow University students in taking up arms against the rebels. Some inner ancestral voice caused him to hesitate. Later, while walking down O’Connell Street, he chanced upon the Proclamation of the Irish Republic pasted onto Nelson’s Pillar: “On the base of the Pillar was a white poster. Gathered around were groups of men and women. Some looked at it with serious faces, others laughed and sniggered. I began to read it with a smile, but my smile ceased as I read….” O’Malley immediately took up arms against British Crown forces and became one of the Irish struggle’s most influential and inspiring patriots. Reporting directly to Michael Collins during that phase of the struggle for independence, he took the republican anti-Treaty side during the Irish civil war. His memoir of the Irish civil war, THE SINGING FLAME, is as thrilling and enthralling as his earlier memoir. I could never hope to emulate his writing talent, but his example inspired me to try.

Q: Being a first-time author, what did you find to be your biggest challenge as you began writing THE YANK?

JC: My biggest challenge was figuring out what to say without incriminating myself or anyone else. The Irish Republican Army is still an illegal organization in Ireland and Britain. I hope I have managed to do that. Another challenge was simply remembering. Some of these incidents happened over 40 years ago. Having said that, many are seared into my memory and will never be forgotten. Furthermore, I had never previously written with a view toward publication and didn’t know if I had the ability to do so. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

Q: Your training in the United States Marines during the 1970s provided you with an expertise that often left you at loggerheads with the IRA leadership once you had joined to become a soldier for them. To what do you ascribe their counterproductive stubbornness in ignoring your professional advice?

JC: The Irish Republican Army was an all-volunteer organization staffed and officered primarily by civilians. The entire leadership of the IRA came from a civilian background. Not one of them had professional military experience. This led to a rather haphazard and ad hoc approach to military training. Especially in the use of small arms and military tactics. It sometimes struck me as the blind leading the blind. Although men did volunteer for the IRA who had served in the Irish army, the British army, the US military and even the French Foreign Legion, I found that just because someone has learned something themselves doesn’t mean they have the ability or skill to teach it to others. I discovered that, in some quarters, training was not respected and often undervalued.

For example, I heard a member of the Army Council (the IRA leadership body) say, “You could train a monkey to shoot.” I told him you could probably teach a monkey to point and pull, but you cannot teach him marksmanship fundamentals such as sight picture, sight alignment and trigger control. Nor can you train monkeys to move, shoot and communicate as part of a cohesive team. I firmly believe a small but influential element within the IRA command structure had a vested interest in keeping things at what became known as an “acceptable level of violence” to avoid provoking a British reaction that could jeopardize their leadership position within the movement. To keep the pot simmering, but never let it boil over. They would deny that, of course.

Q: If you had a time machine, is there one decision you made during your time as an active IRA soldier that you now wish had been different?

JC: I wish I had better political insight into the negotiations and machinations between the IRA leadership and the British government. It was held as a point of principle that we would never agree to an internal settlement on British terms, which is precisely what they did. That we would never allow the British government, who was ultimately responsible for the war in Ireland, to define the very concept of peace. Had I known any of this, I would never have joined the IRA.

Q: Having successfully written a first book about your own life, do you have an idea for a second book yet? And if so, how might you approach its writing differently from your writing regimen for THE YANK?

JC: I have a substantial outline of a novel I have been working on. It is also about the conflict between the IRA and the British, but I can be more forthcoming about certain aspects of the war as it is in fiction form based on real events. I expect to be busy with marketing and publicity with THE YANK for a month or so after its release. I then hope to spend most of my time concentrating on finishing the novel.

Q: Looking ahead, what do you see as the key changes most likely to occur over the next 20 years between Ireland and England?

JC: I see little prospect for change in the constitutional status quo in the next 20 years. In 1998, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the British government would never be persuaders for Irish unity and that not even the youngest person alive at the inauguration of the Good Friday Agreement would live to see a united Ireland. The British exit from the European Union in January 2020 has undoubtedly destabilized the situation but not to the degree that will lead to a British rethink on their claim to jurisdiction in part of Ireland. I think British strategy will continue to be what it has been since the mid-19th century, encouraging, manipulating and co-opting as many Irish citizens as possible into becoming willing accomplices in their country’s constitutional division.

If you still are interested, check out Crawley’s piece at, “Buying Guns For the IRA from Whitey Bulger.”

Kristina McMorris & The Ways We Hide

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John Charles recently welcomed Kristina McMorris, author of The Ways We Hide, to The Poisoned Pen. There are signed copies of the book in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of The Ways We Hide.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sold On A Monday—over a million copies sold!—comes a sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.

As a little girl raised amid the hardships of Michigan’s Copper Country, Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival. That ability sustains her even now as the Second World War rages in faraway countries. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to an unruly escape artist, behind the curtain she’s the mastermind of their act. Ultimately, controlling her surroundings and eluding traps of every kind helps her keep a lingering trauma at bay.

Yet for all her planning, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by British military intelligence. Tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, MI9 seeks those with specialized skills for a war nearing its breaking point. Fenna reluctantly joins the unconventional team as an inventor. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the fray, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past. 

Inspired by stunning true accounts, The Ways We Hide is a gripping story of love and loss, the wars we fight—on the battlefields and within ourselves—and the courage found in unexpected places.

The Queen’s Gambit meets The Alice Network in this epic, action-packed novel of family, loss, and one woman’s journey to save all she holds dear?including freedom itself.” ?Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars

Kristina McMorris is a New York Times bestselling author of two novellas and six novels, including the runaway bestseller Sold on a Monday. Initially inspired by her grandparents’ WWII courtship letters, her works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards. Prior to her writing career, she owned a wedding-and-event planning company until she had far surpassed her limit of YMCA and chicken dances. She also worked as a weekly TV-show host for Warner Bros. and an ABC affiliate, beginning at age nine with an Emmy Award-winning program. A graduate of Pepperdine University, she lives near Portland, Oregon, where (ironically) she’s entirely deficient of a green thumb and doesn’t own a single umbrella.

McMorris talks about her new book, and the inspiration for the book in the event.

Deanna Raybourn & Killers of a Certain Age

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John Charles recently hosted Deanna Raybourn at The Poisoned Pen when she appeared to discuss her delightful new book, Killers of a Certain Age. There are copies of the book, a former Hot Book of the Week at The Pen, available through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Killers of a Certain Age.

Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon.

They’ve spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they’re sixty years old, four women friends can’t just retire – it’s kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller by New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they’ve been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman—and a killer—of a certain age.

Deanna Raybourn is the New York Times bestselling author of the Edgar Award–nominated Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey series and several stand-alone works.

2022 Anthony Award Winners

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The final awards presented at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention are the Anthony Awards, named for Anthony Boucher, well-known writer and critic. Check the Web Store for the winning books.

Congratulations to the 2022 Anthony Award winners.

Best Novel

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby 

Best First Novel

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala 

Best Paperback/Ebook/Audiobook Oriignal

Bloodline by Jess Lourey

Best Anthology

This Time for Sure: Bouchercon Anthology 2021, Edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best Short Story

“Not My Cross to Bear” by S.A. Cosby

Best Critical/Non-Fiction

How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America edited by Lee Child with Laurie R. King 

Best Children’s/Young Adult

I Play One on TV by Alan S. Orloff

Mike Lupica discusses Robert B. Parker’s Fallout

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Patrick Millikin recently welcomed Mike Lupica for a virtual event to discuss the latest Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker’s Fallout. Millikin provides all the background for the writers who picked up Parker’s various series. You can find signed copies of Robert B. Parker’s Fallout in the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Fallout.

When two seemingly unconnected mysterious deaths occur on his watch, police chief Jesse Stone must pull out all the stops to unravel the truth and stop a killer from striking again.

The small town of Paradise is devastated when a star high-school baseball player is found dead at the bottom of a bluff just a day after winning the team’s biggest game. For Jesse, the loss is doubly difficult—the teen was the nephew of his colleague, Suitcase Simpson, and Jesse had been coaching the young shortstop. As he searches for answers about how the boy died and why, he is stonewalled at every turn, and it seems that someone is determined to keep him from digging further.

Jesse suddenly must divide his attention between two cases after the shocking murder of former Paradise police chief, Charlie Farrell. Before his death, Farrell had been looking into a series of scam calls that preyed upon the elderly. But how do these “ghost calls” connect to his murder? When threats—and gunshots—appear on Jesse’s own doorstep, the race to find answers is on. Both old and new enemies come into play, and in the end, Jesse and his team must discover the common factor between the two deaths in order to prevent a third.

Robert B. Parker was the author of seventy books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, the novels featuring Chief Jesse Stone, and the acclaimed Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch westerns, as well as the Sunny Randall novels. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, he died in January 2010.
Mike Lupica is a prominent sports journalist and the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including cowritten novels with James Patterson. A longtime friend to Robert B. Parker, he was selected by the Parker estate to continue the Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone series.

Enjoy the event as Mike Lupica talks about the world of Robert B. Parker.

Barry Awards 2022

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It’s that time of years when various crime fiction awards are announced. The Barry Awards, voted on by the readers of Deadly Pleasures magazine, were announced this week at the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Check the Web Store for the books.

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Best Mystery/Crime Novel

RAZORBLADE TEARS, S. A. Cosby (Flatiron Books)

Best First Mystery/Crime Novel

SLEEPING BEAR, Connor Sullivan (Emily Bestler/Atria)

Best Paperback Original

THE GOOD TURN, Dervla McTiernan (Blackstone)

Best Thriller

FIVE DECEMBERS, James Kestrel (HardCase Crime)

Macavity Awards 2022

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The Macavity Awards were presented at Bouchercon on Thursday, Sept. 22. Congratulations to all of the winners! Check for the books in the Web Store.


Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby (Flatiron Books) 


Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Berkley)


“Sweeps Week,” by Richard Helms (EQMM, July/August 2021)


How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America edited by Lee Child with Laurie R. King (Scribner)


Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Crime) 

Mike Maden & Clive Cussler’s Hellburner

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Clive Cussler’s Hellburner is the most recent Oregon Files novel. Mike Maden, author of that book, recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen, and he signed copies of the book. You can order signed copies of Clive Cussler’s Hellburner through the Web Store.

Here’s the description of Clive Cussler’s Hellburner.

Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the Oregon must track down a nuclear torpedo before it unleashes World War III in this electrifying new installment of the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

    When Juan Cabrillo fails to capture the leader of Mexico’s most dangerous drug cartel and loses an Oregon crew member in the process, he’s determined to get revenge. Little does he know that the explosion he just narrowly escaped was merely the latest flash of violence from a machine of war that has existed for decades, dating from the bloodiest episode in Armenia’s history.

    Cabrillo’s Corporation of mercenaries may have finally met its match in The Pipeline—a criminal syndicate passed down from father to son across generations. A group that sits with its finger on the trigger of a torpedo so deadly it could level entire cities. With millions of innocent civilians hanging in the balance, the Oregon’s crew must unravel a tangle of drug-smuggling routes and international conspiracies spanning from the Aegean Sea to the Indian Ocean, putting their lives on the line to find the weapon before its countdown hits zero.

Clive Cussler was the author of more than eighty books in five bestselling series, including Dirk Pitt®, NUMA Files®, Oregon Files®, Isaac Bell®, and Sam and Remi Fargo®. His life nearly paralleled that of his hero Dirk Pitt. Whether searching for lost aircraft or leading expeditions to find famous shipwrecks, he and his NUMA crew of volunteers discovered and surveyed more than seventy-five lost ships of historic significance, including the long-lost Civil War submarine Hunley, which was raised in 2000 with much publicity. Like Pitt, Cussler collected classic automobiles. His collection featured more than one hundred examples of custom coachwork. Cussler passed away in February 2020.

Mike Maden is the author of the critically acclaimed Drone series and four novels in Tom Clancy’s #1 New York Times bestselling Jack Ryan Jr. series. He holds both a master’s and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Davis, specializing in international relations and comparative politics. He has lectured and consulted on the topics of war and the Middle East, among others. Maden has served as a political consultant and campaign manager in state and national elections, and hosted his own local weekly radio show for a year.

Mike Maden talks about Juan Cabrillo, drones, adventure, and future warfare in this latest event.