Fiction Review

Tasha Alexander’s Death in St. Petersburg, Reviewed

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Tasha Alexander will be at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 PM to sign her twelfth Lady Emily mystery, Death in St. Petersburg. Signed copies are available for order through the Web Store.


Here’s the summary from the Web Store.

After the final curtain of Swan Lake, an animated crowd exits the Mariinsky theatre brimming with excitement from the night’s performance. But outside the scene is somber. A ballerina’s body lies face down in the snow, blood splattered like rose petals over the costume of the Swan Queen. The crowd is silenced by a single cry— “Nemetseva is dead!”

Amongst the theatergoers is Lady Emily, accompanying her dashing husband Colin in Russia on assignment from the Crown. But it soon becomes clear that Colin isn’t the only one with work to do. When the dead ballerina’s aristocratic lover comes begging for justice, Emily must apply her own set of skills to discover the rising star’s murderer. Her investigation takes her on a dance across the stage of Tsarist Russia, from the opulence of the Winter Palace, to the modest flats of ex-ballerinas and the locked attics of political radicals. A mysterious dancer in white follows closely behind, making waves through St. Petersburg with her surprise performances and trail of red scarves. Is it the sweet Katenka, Nemetseva’s childhood friend and favorite rival? The ghost of the murdered étoile herself? Or, something even more sinister?


If you’d like to see a review, check out Angie Barry’s review in Criminal Element.

John Sandford & Virgil Flowers

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John Sandford appears at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 PM. Sandford brings back Virgil Flowers in Deep Freeze, reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in her recent New York Times column, “The Latest in Crime Novels: Bad Mothers, Bad Memories and Bad Sex Toys”,

Deep Freeze

Here’s the summary from the Web Store, where you can buy a signed copy that comes with a custom designed magnet of the high school crest from the book.

Class reunions: a time for memories—good, bad, and, as Virgil Flowers is about to find out, deadly—in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series.

Virgil knows the town of Trippton, Minnesota, a little too well. A few years back, he investigated the corrupt—and as it turned out, homicidal—local school board, and now the town’s back in view with more alarming news: A woman’s been found dead, frozen in a block of ice. There’s a possibility that it might be connected to a high school class of twenty years ago that has a mid-winter reunion coming up, and so, wrapping his coat a little tighter, Virgil begins to dig into twenty years’ worth of traumas, feuds, and bad blood. In the process, one thing becomes increasingly clear to him. It’s true what they say: High school is murder


Ruth Rendell & PD James

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Two of the late masters of British mysteries have story collections. The Guardian recently reviewed Ruth Rendell’s A Spot of Folly and PD James’ Sleep No More. You can order both collections through the Web Store.

Check out Sarah Perry’s review of the two books.    Her final paragraph alone is worth reading. It will make you search for copies of these collections.

“Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”

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Check out this scene.

Nutshell Library

This is just one of the scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee, the woman called the “Mother of Forensics”. Atlas Obscura has an article by Anika Burgess that shows other dioramas and tells the story behind Lee’s career and contributions to the field of forensics. It’s a fascinating article for those of us who are interested in crime fiction and nonfiction. Here’s the link.

Left Coast Crime, William Kent Krueger & Sulfur Springs

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Bouchercon may be about to start, but it’s never too early to talk about Left Coast Crime. LCC is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, “both readers and authors”. It’s normally held somewhere in Western North America (hence, Left Coast), other than that one time it was held on the left coast of the United Kingdom.

In 2018, the convention will be held in Reno, Nevada where Naomi Hirahara and William Kent Krueger will be the guests of honor. Krueger recently added his greetings to the LCC newsletter.

“A big Western howdy to everyone! I’m William Kent Krueger, but please just call me Kent. It’s my privilege to be one of the guests of honor at the 2018 Left Coast Crime: Crime on the Comstock.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with my work, I write the Cork O’Connor mystery series, which is set in the great Northwoods of Minnesota. I’ve published sixteen novels in the series and won a few awards along the way. I also wrote Ordinary Grace, which received the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Novel. I live in Saint Paul, a city I dearly love, and I do all my writing in some wonderful little coffee shops there.

One of the most amazing blessings that comes to an author in our genre is the discovery of the whole mystery community. At conferences like Left Coast Crime, the energy is so very positive and incredibly infectious. The fans are smart and enthusiastic, and among the mystery writers themselves there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie that’s unique in the world of the arts. Despite its size, Left Coast tends to feel like an intimate conference. Because of that and the fabulous settings and the careful preparation that goes into it every year, this is always one of my favorites.

This fall I’ll be touring with Sulfur Springs, the newest Cork O’Connor novel. By the time Left Coast Crime rolls around, I’ll have completed #17 in the series, which will be called Desolation Mountain. God willing, I’ll be hard at work on the companion novel to Ordinary Grace.

Next March, I’m looking forward very much to visiting Reno, a city in which I’ve never set foot. Although the setting will be a new one for me, I know I’ll see lots of familiar faces there. I hope yours is one of them. Yeehaw! Let’s have some fun!”


The Poisoned Pen has signed copies of Krueger’s Sulfur Springs available in the Web Store.

Here’s the summary.

In William Kent Krueger’s latest pulse-pounding thriller, Cork O’Connor’s search for a missing man in the Arizona desert puts him at the center of a violent power struggle along the Mexican border, a struggle that might cost Cork everything and everyone he holds most dear.

On the Fourth of July, just as fireworks are about to go off in Aurora, Minnesota, Cork O’Connor and his new bride Rainy Bisonette listen to a desperate voicemail left by Rainy’s son, Peter. The message is garbled and full of static, but they hear Peter confess to the murder of someone named Rodriguez. When they try to contact him, they discover that his phone has gone dead.

The following morning, Cork and Rainy fly to Coronado County in southern Arizona, where Peter has been working as a counselor in a well-known drug rehab center. When they arrive, they learn that Peter was fired six months earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. So they head to the little desert town of Sulfur Springs where Peter has been receiving his mail. But no one in Sulfur Springs seems to know him. They do, however, recognize the name Rodriguez. Carlos Rodriguez is the head of a cartel that controls everything illegal crossing the border from Mexico into Coronado County.

As they gather scraps of information about Peter, Cork and Rainy are warned that there is a war going on along the border. “Trust no one in Coronado County,” is a refrain they hear again and again. And to Cork, Arizona is alien country. The relentless heat and absence of water, tall trees, and cool forests feel nightmarish to him, as does his growing sense that Rainy might know more about what’s going on than she’s willing to admit. And if he can’t trust Rainy, who can he trust?

Featuring Krueger’s signature talent of “creating strong characters, building drama and conflict, braiding in Indian legend and spirituality, and spinning a good yarn” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Sulfur Springs is a fresh, exhilarating, and white-knuckle mystery starring one of the greatest heroes of fiction.


And, did you catch this important line in his newsletter post? “God willing, I’ll be hard at work on the companion novel to Ordinary Grace.”  I can’t wait!

Mark de Castrique’s Hidden Scars

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Mark de Castrique will be speaking to readers at The Poisoned Pen via SKYPE on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 PM. He’s going to discuss his latest Sam Blackman mystery, Hidden Scars. Copies of the book are available through the Web Store.

Hidden Scars

You can get a sneak peek at the book via the trailer on YouTube.

Or, you can check out the summary of Hidden Scars.

asked by an eighty-year-old client to investigate the suspicious death of her brother, they warn her there is little chance of success. Paul Weaver died nearly seventy years earlier. The only documentation she has is the sole surviving copy of a coroner’s report stating his death was caused by an accidental fall while hiking.

There’s a red flag: local son Weaver knew every inch of the mountain trails. The returning World War II veteran had enrolled at Black Mountain College, a liberal local school with an international reputation for innovation, thanks to its stellar faculty and advisers like Buckminster Fuller and Albert Einstein. The college of the 1940s is currently being portrayed in a film being shot on the site of its former location. The plot is based on a book by a local author. The research behind both may provide a lead in the Weaver case.

One is drawn from movie crew member Harlan Beale, an octogenarian mountaineer who knew Weaver. In a late-night voice message, Beale tells Sam he’s found something to show him. Then Beale is discovered dead in the Black Mountain College Museum. His murder turns the cold case white hot. When a second killing follows, the question becomes how to separate dark doings in the present from dark days and hidden scars of the post-war past. In typical de Castrique fashion, the answers aren’t what you expect.

No-nonsense Nakayla and veteran Sam with his prosthetic leg love their investigations which always carry a thread from the past, and love each other. An interracial couple in the South, even the new South around Asheville, they’ve surrounded themselves with a terrific support team including an unorthodox lawyer and a veteran cop, and use humor both to bind them all together and to deflect insults. Plus, it helps deal with the tragedies their work uncovers.

Will Thomas’ Old Scores – Hot Book of the Week

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This week, The Poisoned Pen features a historical mystery as Hot Book of the Week. Will Thomas’ latest Barker and Llewelyn novel, Old Scores, is this week’s pick. Signed copies are available through the Web Store.

Old Scores

Here’s the summary of Old Scores.

In 1890, the first Japanese diplomatic delegation arrives in London to open an embassy. Cyrus Barker, private enquiry agent and occasional agent for the Foreign Service Office, is enlisted to display his personal Japanese garden to the visiting dignitaries.

Later that night, Ambassador Toda is shot and killed in his office and Cyrus Barker is discovered across the street, watching the very same office, in possession of a revolver with one spent cartridge.

Arrested by the Special Branch for the crime, Barker is vigorously interrogated and finally released due to the intervention of his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, and his solicitor. With the London constabulary still convinced of his guilt, Barker is hired by the new Japanese ambassador to find the real murderer.

In a case that takes leads Barker and Llewelyn deep into parts of London’s underworld, on paths that lead deep into Barker’s own mysterious personal history, Old Scores is the finest yet in Will Thomas’s critically acclaimed series.