Fiction Review

Lescroart & Parsons @ The Poisoned Pen

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John Lescroart (Fatal) and Kelly Parsons (Under the Knife) recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen to discuss their latest books with Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, and a receptive audience.

You can watch the event, via Livestream.

There are also photos.

Meet John Lescroart
Here’s Kelly Parsons
The entrance
Lescroart and Parsons, interviewed by Barbara Peters



Book signing

As I said, you can watch the event on Livestream.

You can purchase signed copies of Fatal and Under the Knife through the Web Store.

Hank Phillippi Ryan “In the Bleak Midwinter”

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I’m always happy when Hank Phillippi Ryan has time to participate in one of the features here. She was quick to say yes when asked to talk about winter reads. Do you know Ryan and her books?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 33 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. The bestselling author of nine mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “superb.” Her novels have been named Library Journal’s Best of 2014 and 2015 –now Ryan’s newest novel SAY NO MORE is a Library Journal Best of 2016 and a Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha Award nominee. Hank is a founder of MWA University and 2013 president of National Sisters in Crime.


Thank you, Hank, for finding time!


Do we want to read “cold” in the winter, or warm? My book THE WRONG GIRL takes place in the dead of winter, but I was writing much of it over the summer in sweltering Boston. To keep the book on climatological track, I put a yellow stickie on my computer to remind me: “It’s Cold!”

So let’s go for cold.

The classic winter story? Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Remember?


A master class in plot, and unexpected connections. Right? And brilliant, because (no spoilers) it reveals Poirot’s true heart. And as a mystery, it completely holds up. (And when you read the book again, it makes you remember how the movie is top of your mind—from the opening scene, it’s very different!)

Have you ever read City of Light by Lauren Belfer?


I read it years ago, and it’s stayed with me ever since. One classic and chillingly chilly scene takes place in the dead of winter…and it’s brilliant. I’ve just read The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore…such a cool and clever book about the battle for electricity between Edison and Westinghouse. (It’s mostly fiction, but I’m recently fascinated by books where real people are characters.) Trust me. Fascinating.


And I promise you’ll be enchanted by Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin.


Magical realism, gorgeous writing. A story of love and murder and journalism and chance and a flying horse. And the ice-covered sheen of Helprin’s astonishing the Lake of the Coheeries will make your own weather circumstances seem like the tropics.

And yes, I’m behind, but never too late for a terrific book. I’m reading Devil in the White City.


Erik Larson’s riveting true crime story is about the 1893 World’s Fair– and a terrifying serial killer. Proves you cannot make this stuff up. Even though we try.

(My new book takes place in the summer, and we’re in a blizzard right now! I need a new yellow stickie, I fear. Happy winter, all!)


Hank Phillippi Ryan’s website is And, she can often be found on Facebook. Thank you, Hank.

Hank’s book, Say No More, and her winter reading suggestions, can be found in the Web Store.

Tea with Deborah Crombie & The Todds

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If you love mysteries set in Great Britain, you won’t want to miss Deborah Crombie and Charles and Caroline Todd when they appear together at The Poisoned Pen, Saturday, Feb. 18 at 2 PM. Crombie will be signing Garden of Lamentations, and the Todds will sign the latest Rutledge book, Racing the Devil.

I was lucky enough to attend a tea, sponsored by HarperCollins, the authors’ publishers, when I was at Bouchercon in September. I’m going to share that post because I hope to entice you to come to The Poisoned Pen to hear the authors.


HarperCollins invited a small group of bloggers, librarians and booksellers to a two-hour tea with Deborah Crombie and mother-son team of Charles and Caroline Todd. While the attendees were at small tables, Charles, Caroline and Deborah talked, and then joined us at the tables.

Caroline Todd led the conversation, asking Deborah Crombie about her next book featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Garden of Lamentations comes out in February, and Deborah did have the cover art to show us.

Deborah Crombie

And, then Caroline said Duncan and Gemma are the modern equivalent of the Todds’ Rutledge and Bess. She said that’s one reason they love each other’s books, and, they did even before they met or toured together. And, speaking of touring, they told us about the story of a Florida book tour. They were to appear at a library, and they were dropped at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. When they asked about food, they were pointed to a small shack. But, the food was so good. And, people were feeding alligators nearby. There were signs, though, saying do not take the path after dark. The food at the shack was good, but if you took the path at night, you might be eaten on the way.

Caroline asked Deborah about going to England to research the places for her mysteries. Deborah said you have to go. The Sound of Broken Glass takes place at the Crystal Palace in South London. Deborah’s guide told her you could get stranded there if the weather is bad, and people had been stranded there for three days by an ice storm. No one could get in or out. She knew she had to use that as part of the story. Charles and Caroline went on to tell their own story about the Crystal Palace. There are trees in it, and it’s built of glass. When it was first built, sparrows got in there. They didn’t know how to get them out. They couldn’t shoot them because of the glass. The Duke of Wellington only said one word. “Sparrowhawks.” And, that’s what they did. They let sparrowhawks loose to get the sparrows.

The tidbits of conversation from the three authors were so enjoyable to listen to. In comparing characters, they said Crombie’s Duncan stands back and analyzes as Rutledge does, and Gemma, like the Todds’ Bess Crawford, tackles troubles head-on.

Caroline Todd said they put Inspector Rutledge in Scotland Yard because they could send him to other parts of England. Everyone did London, so they wanted to explore crimes in other parts of the country.

Charles and Caroline Todd

Caroline said they explore villages because there’s more opportunity for murder. People in villages know each other. She said the friend who takes them around when they explore will contact them, saying, “I have found the loveliest place of find a body.” They said the villages have the same social structure as London, but in the city, the classes may never mix. In the villages, everyone interacts. Charles said he was a corporate troubleshooter, and he knows what it’s like to show up and not be welcome in a village, so outsiders may not be welcome, and may be shut out. He said it’s important to explore the villages, to see the details. All three authors agreed that pubs are the perfect places for people watching.

Charles described the correct way to draw Guinness in England. He said there’s a line on a standard clear glass pint. When it’s done right, there’s no foam below the line. The foam is all above the line, and they leave room to form the clover leaf.

In The Shattered Tree, the latest Bess Crawford mystery, the Todds deliberately sent her to Paris. They wanted to see how she would deal when she was out of her comfort zone with no support.

In talking about research, they all agreed they do extensive research, but there are stories they couldn’t use. They discussed clothing. Women wore military-style gowns during World War I. They couldn’t get feathers. The British wore dark styles while in mourning, but Paris refused to do that.

For The Shattered Tree, they had to know that the French lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans in the Prussian War. After the war, the official language was German.  And, Bess has a patient who speaks German when he has a shock. Is he a German spy? Or, something else? Then, Charles gave a great deal of information about the Paris gun. It fired from eighty-two miles away. There was a great psychological effect because people couldn’t hear it go off. It was a four hundred pound plus bomb, but it only made a four foot wide hole. It was not very accurate, and not highly explosive. But, the people suffered from horrific terror during the summer of 1918 because they never heard the bomb coming.

Asled about outlining, Caroline said she never could outline. Even in college, she would write the paper and then outline it afterward. They let the story tell itself. They know the first scene. She said the characters will tell you what will happen next if you listen to the characters.

Charles said as a mystery author, they need to be one step ahead of the reader. But, they have to play fair. If the reader goes back, they have to be able to make sense of the story. “Readers keep us honest.”

Deborah agreed. Garden of Lamentations has multiple viewpoints and storylines. She doesn’t like keeping things from the reader. She believes in fair play and the traditional formula. That’s what made traditional mysteries popular. Can you catch the killer?

I waited to thank Deborah and the Todds, and I was able to get final pictures of the authors after the entertaining program.

Deborah Crombie and Caroline Todd
Charles Todd, Deborah Crombie, Caroline Todd

Watch for signed copies of Garden of Lamentations and Racing the Devil in the Web Store. And, I hope you can make it to the program on Saturday.

Coonts, Cumming & Howe in Conversation

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Hope you can make it to The Poisoned Pen on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 PM when Stephen Coonts (Liberty’s Last Stand) moderates a conversation with Charles Cumming (A Divided Spy) and K.J. Howe (The Freedom Broker).

For those who can’t make it, signed books will be available through the Web Store.

Alexandra Burt & Robert Knott at The Poisoned Pen

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Authors Alexandra Burt (The Good Daughter) and Robert Knott (Robert B. Parker’s Revelation) recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen.

Patrick Millikin interviewed Burt.

Millikin and Burt
Alexandra Burt


Here’s the summary of The Good Daughter, from the Web Store.

“From the author of Remember Mia comes the tale of a young woman in search of her past, and the mother who will do anything to keep it hidden…

What if you were the worst crime your mother ever committed?

Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence traveling the country with her eccentric mother. Now grown, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions.

In order to understand her past, Dahlia must go back. Back to her mother in the stifling town of Aurora, Texas. Back into the past of a woman on the brink of madness. But after she discovers three grave-like mounds on a neighboring farm, she’ll learn that in her mother’s world of secrets, not all questions are meant to be answered…”

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviewed Robert Knott.


Here’s the summary of the new Robert B. Parker’s Revelation.

“Itinerant lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch return to confront an escaped criminal in the grittiest entry yet of the New York Times bestselling series.

Territorial marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch figured things had finally settled down in Appaloosa when Boston Bill Black’s murder charge was dropped. But all that changed when Augustus Noble Driggs was transferred to a stateside penitentiary just across the border from Mexico. Square-jawed, handsome, and built like a muscled thoroughbred stallion, Driggs manages to intimidate everyone inside the prison walls, including the upstart young warden.
In a haunting twist of fate, Driggs and a pack of cold-blooded convicts are suddenly on the loose—and it’s up to any and all territorial lawmen, including Cole and Hitch, to capture the fugitives and rescue the woman kidnapped during their escape. But nothing is ever quite what it seems with the ever-elusive Driggs. Finally free, he’s quickly on his own furious hunt for a hidden cache of gold and jewels–and for the men who betrayed him and left him for dead.
With an unlikely and unconventional Yankee detective by their side, Cole and Hitch set off on a massive manhunt. As horses’ hooves thunder and guns echo deadening reports, Driggs discovers one of the lawmen on his trail is none other than a fellow West Point graduate he’d just as soon see dead. Ruthless and willing to leave a bloody path of destruction in his wake, Driggs seeks vengeance at any cost.”

Alexandra Burt and Robert Knott signed copies of their books.


That means there are signed copies available through the Web Store if you would like to buy one.

Sarah Pinborough, Behind Her Eyes – Live

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How much can be said about Sarah Pinborough’s psychological thriller, Behind Her Eyes, without giving away the ending?


That’s the challenge Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, faced when she interviewed Pinborough. You can see how they did with that discussion, and watch it on Livestream.

But, first, there are some great pictures of this event, including photos of a couple authors who came to hear Pinborough. It looks like everyone had a great time.


Sarah Pinborough in conversation with Jeffrey Siger, author of the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novels, set in Greece.
Barbara Peters with Sarah Pinborough



Author sighting – Far left – Sam Sykes, author of epic fantasies
Author sighting – Far right – Jeff Siger
Sarah Pinborough signs more than books
Sarah Pinborough with fans

Intrigued? If you would like to buy a signed copy of Behind Her Eyes, check the Web Store.

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It’s just one more place for those of us who love mysteries and crime fiction to find information. Here’s the news release for

Writerspace, a high-traffic, online community and home to more than 100 authors and 150,000 readers of romance, mystery, women’s and young adult fiction, announces the launch of

“For years we have offered a broad representation for the fiction community, but recently authors and readers of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels have advised us they want an online home dedicated specifically to those genres,” said Writerspace proprietor Cissy Hartley from her Mobile, AL, office. “Since our soft launch of the site a couple of months ago, almost 40,000 readers have opted into the KillerBooks list, which shows the immense popularity of these related genres.”

Modeled after’s successful platform developed over the last twenty years, KillerBooks provides readers of the edgy genre grouping with information about their favorite authors’ new releases. Readers of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels receive a monthly newsletter with information on new releases, can find blogs by authors and industry professionals online and are offered the opportunity to participate in seasonal online events and enter monthly contests sponsored by the authors.

Current members of the Killer Books author community include national bestsellers Christina Dodd, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Laura Benedict, Kylie Brant, Allison Brennan, Stella Cameron, Tricia Cerrone, Ann Christopher, Lyn Cote, Margaret Daley, Kyra Davis, Veronica Forand, Dara Girard, Laura Griffin, Carolyn Haines, Linda O. Johnston, Melinda Leigh, Kat Martin, Cheyenne McCray, Linda McDonald, Deanna Raybourn, Karen Robards, Karen Rose, Alexandra Sokoloff, Harry Squires, Wendy Corsi Staub, Mariah Stewart, Kate White, Danica Winters, and Rebecca Zanetti—and more are coming on board, Hartley advises.

“With a database of nearly 10,000 mystery, suspense and thriller novels, and more being added daily, is an excellent resource for the busy reader of these novels,” Hartley said. “Authors of mystery, thrillers and suspense are encouraged to sign up and add their books to the site, free of charge.”