Fiction Review

Michael Punke in Conversation with CJ Box

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Michael Punke, the author of The Revenant, just released a new novel, Ridgeline. Ridgeline was last week’s Hot Book of the Week. CJ Box just hosted him for The Poisoned Pen. You can order signed copies through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/2S8eClX

Here’s the description of Ridgeline.

The thrilling, long-awaited return of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant

In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier—a clash of cultures between the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries and a young, ambitious nation. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.

As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, wants to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.

Throughout this taut saga—based on real people and events—Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.


Michael Punke is the author of several books including The Revenant, a #1 New York Times bestseller and basis for the Academy Award–winning film. In his diverse professional career, Punke has served as the US ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, history correspondent for the Montana Quarterly, and an adjunct professor at the University of Montana. As a high school and college student, he worked summers as a living history interpreter at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming. He lives with his family in Montana and is an avid outdoorsman.


Enjoy the conversation.

Debut – J.A. Jance Discusses Unfinished Business

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J.A. Jance debuted her latest Ali Reynolds mystery, Unfinished Business, for a Poisoned Pen virtual event. Signed copies of the book are going fast, so check the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3fQACe6

Here’s the summary of Unfinished Business.

In this heart-pounding and sharply written thriller from J.A. Jance, the “grand master of the genre” (The Providence Journal), Ali Reynolds’s personal life is thrown into turmoil just as two men show up on the scene—a former employee of her husband’s who has just been released from prison and a serial killer who sets his sights a little too close to home.

Mateo Vega, a one-time employee of Ali Reynold’s husband, B. Simpson, has spent the last sixteen years of his life behind bars. According to the courts, he murdered his girlfriend. But Mateo knows that her real killer is still on the loose, and the first thing he’s going to do when he gets a taste of freedom is track him down.

After being granted parole, a wary Mateo approaches Stu Ramey of High Noon Enterprises for a reference letter for a job application, but to his surprise, Stu gives him one better: He asks him to come on board and work for B. once again. Just as Mateo starts his new job, though, chaos breaks out at High Noon—a deadbeat tenant who is in arrears has just fled, and tech expert Cami Lee has gone missing.

As Ali races to both find a connection between the two disappearances and help Mateo clear his name with the help of PI J.P. Beaumont, tragedy strikes in her personal life, and with lives hanging in the balance, she must thread the needle between good and evil before it’s too late.


J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ali Reynolds series, the J.P. Beaumont series, and the Joanna Brady series, as well as five interrelated Southwestern thrillers featuring the Walker family. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. Visit her online at JAJance.com.


Here’s the virtual event with J.A. Jance and Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

And, for J.A. Jance’s fans, here’s a little extra, an article she wrote for http://CrimeReads.com. You can find it here. https://crimereads.com/the-art-of-balancing-multiple-mystery-series/

Shamus Award Nominees 2021

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So many books to watch for with this list of nominees. This week, The Private Eye Writers of America announced the Shamus Award nominees for 2021. The nominees come from works published in 2020. Check the Web Store for copies of the books. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Congratulations to all of the nominees, listed below.

Best Original Private Eye Paperback

Farewell Las Vegas by Grant Bywaters / Wild Rose Press

All Kinds of Ugly by Ralph Dennis / Brash Books

Brittle Karma by Richard Helms / Black Arch Books

Remember My Face by John Lantigua / Arte Publico

Damaged Goods by Debbi Mack / Renegade Press

Best Private Eye Short Story 

“A Dreamboat Gambol” by O’Neil De Noux in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

“Mustang Sally” by John M. Floyd in Black Cat Mystery Magazine

“Setting the Pick” by April Kelly in Mystery Weekly Magazine

“Show and Zeller” by Gordon Linnzer in Black Cat Mystery Magazine

“Nashua River Floater” by Tom MacDonald in Coast to Coast Noir

 Best Private Eye Novel

What You Don’t See by Tracy Clark / Kensington

Do No Harm by Max Allan Collins / Tor Forge

Blind Vigil by Matt Coyle / Oceanview

House on Fire by Joseph Finder / Dutton

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall / Tor Forge

Best First Private Eye Novel

Squatter’s Rights by Kevin R. Doyle / Camel Press

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa / Epicenter Press

I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff / Down & Out Books

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey / Soho

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden / Ecco

Michael Punke’s Hot Book of the Week

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I won’t promise there are still signed copies of Michael Punke’s Hot Book of the Week, Ridgeline, after C.J. Box hosted him last evening. Check the Web Store to order copies. https://bit.ly/2S8eClX

Here’s the description of Ridgeline.

The thrilling, long-awaited return of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant

In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier—a clash of cultures between the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries and a young, ambitious nation. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.

As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, wants to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.

Throughout this taut saga—based on real people and events—Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.


Michael Punke is the author of several books including The Revenant, a #1 New York Times bestseller and basis for the Academy Award–winning film. In his diverse professional career, Punke has served as the US ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, history correspondent for the Montana Quarterly, and an adjunct professor at the University of Montana. As a high school and college student, he worked summers as a living history interpreter at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming. He lives with his family in Montana and is an avid outdoorsman.

Mette Ivie Harrison & The Prodigal Daughter

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Mette Ivie Harrison has a fascinating background. Patrick Millikin from The Poisoned Pen asks her to discuss that before they talk about her latest Linda Wallheim mystery, The Prodigal Daughter. Signed copies of her book are available through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3vNyREo

Here’s The Prodigal Daughter.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, has it become easier to speak out about sexual assault in religious communities?

Linda Wallheim, increasingly disillusioned with her religion, has begun marriage counseling with her husband, Kurt, a bishop in the Mormon Church. On other days, Linda occupies herself with happier things, like visiting her five grown sons and their families.

When Linda’s eldest son, Joseph, tells her his infant daughter’s babysitter, a local teenager named Sabrina Jensen, has vanished, Linda can’t help but ask questions. Her casual inquiries form the portrait of a girl under extreme pressure from her parents to be the perfect Mormon daughter, and it eventually emerges that Sabrina is the victim of a terrible crime at the hands of her own classmates—including the high school’s golden boys and future church leaders.

Linda’s search for Sabrina will lead her to the darker streets of Utah and cause her to question whether the Mormon community’s most privileged and powerful will be called to task for past sins.


Mette Ivie Harrison is the author of the Linda Wallheim mystery series, as well as numerous books for young adults. She holds a PhD in German literature from Princeton University and is a nationally ranked triathlete. A mother of five and member of the Mormon Church, she lives in Salt Lake City.


Here’s the conversation between Mette Ivie Harrison and Patrick Millikin.

June Virtual Events

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Just look at these events that kick off June at The Poisoned Pen. You can see all of them live at https://www.facebook.com/thepoisonedpenbookstore, and catch many of them later on YouTube. Check out the authors’ books at the Web Store. Some will be signed! https://store.poisonedpen.com/

J.A. Jance
Michael Punke/CJ Box
Laurie R King
Clinton/Patterson/Child
Don Bentley/Brad Taylor
Sujata Massey/Nev March
David Swinson
Kristan Higgins

John Mullan & The Artful Dickens

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Don’t you love the subtitle of John Mullan’s book, The Artful Dickens: The Tricks and Ploys of the Great Novelist? He and Patrick Millikin from The Poisoned Pen talk about the fact that some of the techniques used by modern novelists are not new. Dickens did it first. You can order a copy of the book through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3p4EbAl

Here’s The Artful Dickens: The Tricks and Ploys of the Great Novelist.

‘One for your Christmas list … A feast of Dickensian knowledge’ The Times

‘This is a marvellous, endlessly illuminating book … It doesn’t go on the shelf alongside other critics; it goes on the shelf alongside Dickens’ Howard Jacobson

Discover the tricks of a literary master in this essential guide to the fictional world of Charles Dickens.

From Pickwick to Scrooge, Copperfield to Twist, how did Dickens find the perfect names for his characters?

What was Dickens’s favourite way of killing his characters?

When is a Dickens character most likely to see a ghost?

Why is Dickens’s trickery only fully realised when his novels are read aloud?

In thirteen entertaining and wonderfully insightful essays, John Mullan explores the literary machinations of Dickens’s eccentric genius, from his delight in clichés to his rendering of smells and his outrageous use of coincidences. A treat for all lovers of Dickens, this essential companion puts his audacity, originality and brilliance on full display.


John Mullan is a professor in the English department at UCL. He writes the regular ‘Guardian Book Club’ column on fiction in the Guardian and frequently appears on the BBC’s Review Show. He was a judge of the ‘Best of the Booker Prize’ in 2008 and a judge of the Man Booker Prize itself in 2009. He has lectured widely on Jane Austen in the UK and also in the US, and makes regular appearances at the UK literary festivals.


Enjoy the conversation.

Ben Winters, in Conversation

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There were a few technical difficulties with the scheduled Poisoned Pen virtual event for Edgar Award-winning author Ben Winters’ The Quiet Boy, so people missed it. Now, you have the chance to see/hear him in conversation with author Duane Swierczynski and Patrick Millikin from the bookstore. There are signed copies on the way to the bookstore. You can order them through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3yTYB3V

Here’s The Quiet Boy.

From the “inventive…entertaining and thought-provoking” (Charles Yu) New York Times-bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State, this sweeping legal thriller follows a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time—and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up. 

In 2008, a cheerful ambulance-chasing lawyer named Jay Shenk persuades the grieving Keener family to sue a private LA hospital. Their son Wesley has been transformed by a routine surgery into a kind of golem, absent all normal functioning or personality, walking in endless empty circles around his hospital room.  In 2019, Shenk—still in practice but a shell of his former self—is hired to defend Wesley Keener’s father when he is charged with murder . . . the murder, as it turns out, of the expert witness from the 2008 hospital case. Shenk’s adopted son, a fragile teenager in 2008, is a wayward adult, though he may find his purpose when he investigates what really happened to the murdered witness.

Two thrilling trials braid together, medical malpractice and murder, jostling us back and forth in time.

The Quiet Boy is a book full of mysteries, not only about the death of a brilliant scientist, not only about the outcome of the medical malpractice suit, but about the relationship between children and their parents, between the past and the present, between truth and lies.  At the center of it all is Wesley Keener, endlessly walking, staring empty-eyed, in whose quiet, hollow body may lie the fate of humankind.


Ben H. Winters is the New York Times bestselling author of Underground Airlines and the Last Policeman trilogy. The second novel in the trilogy, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick award. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award, and was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate. Ben lives with his family in Los Angeles, CA.


Jeff Guinn & War on the Border

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The Poisoned Pen has “a dwindling supply of signed first editions” of Jeff Guinn’s War on the Border, according to Patrick Millikin. You can find those copies in the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3yHOVJn Patrick is fascinated by the history of War on the Border: Villa, Pershing, The Texas Rangers, and an American Invasion, so I think you’ll enjoy their conversation about the history book.

Here’s the summary of War on the Border.

A dramatic account of the “Punitive Expedition” of 1916 that brought Pancho Villa and Gen. John J. Pershing into conflict, and whose reverberations continue in the Southwestern US to this day.

Jeff Guinn, chronicler of the Southwestern US and of American undesirables (Bonnie and Clyde, Charles Manson, Jim Jones) tells the riveting story of Pancho Villa’s bloody raid on a small US border town that sparked a violent conflict with the US. The “Punitive Expedition” was launched in retaliation under Pershing’s command and brought together the Army, National Guard, and the Texas Rangers—who were little more than organized vigilantes with a profound dislike of Mexicans on both sides of the border. Opposing this motley military brigade was Villa, a guerrilla fighter who commanded an ever-changing force of conscripts in northern Mexico.

The American expedition was the last action by the legendary African-American “Buffalo Soldiers.” It was also the first time the Army used automobiles and trucks, which were of limited value in Mexico, a country with no paved roads or gas stations. Curtiss Jenny airplanes did reconnaissance, another first. One era of warfare was coming to a close as another was beginning. But despite some bloody encounters, the Punitive Expedition eventually withdrew without capturing Villa.

Today Anglos and Latinos in Columbus, New Mexico, where Villa’s raid took place, commemorate those events, but with differing emotions. And although the bloodshed has ended, the US-Mexico border remains as vexed and volatile an issue as ever.


Jeff Guinn is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Go Down Together, The Last GunfightManson, and The Road to Jonestown. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and is a member of the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.


If you’re interested in the history of Mexico and Texas, and how we got to where we are today, you might want to listen to the conversation.

Off to Ohio with Jess Montgomery

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Jess Montgomery admits she made up the Ohio county for her Kinship series. The Stills is set in southeastern Ohio in coal mining country. She and Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, discuss that section of Ohio, coal mining, Prohibition, and, of course, Montgomery’s series. There are still signed copies of this third book in the Web Store. You can also find copies of her earlier books, The Widows and The Hollows. https://bit.ly/3vs8V0F

Here’s the description of The Stills.

With compassion and insight, Jess Montgomery weaves a gripping mystery and portrait of community in The Stills, the powerful third novel in the Kinship series.

Ohio, 1927: Moonshining is a way of life in rural Bronwyn County, and even the otherwise upstanding Sheriff Lily Ross has been known to turn a blind eye when it comes to stills in the area. But when thirteen-year-old Zebediah Harkins almost dies after drinking tainted moonshine, Lily knows that someone has gone too far, and—with the help of organizer and moonshiner Marvena Whitcomb—is determined to find out who.

But then, Lily’s nemesis, the businessman George Vogel, reappears in town with his new wife, Fiona. Along with them is also her former brother-in-law Luther Ross, now an agent for the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition. To Lily, it seems too much of a coincidence that they should arrive now.

As fall turns to winter, a blizzard closes in. Lily starts to peel back the layers of deception shrouding the town of Kinship, but soon she discovers that many around her seem to be betraying those they hold dear—and that Fiona too may have an agenda of her own.


JESS MONTGOMERY is the “Literary Life” columnist for the Dayton Daily News and writes a new Writer’s Digest magazine column, “Level Up Your Writing (Life).” Based on early chapters of the first in the Kinship Series, The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and named the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.


Enjoy the conversation between Jess Montgomery and Barbara Peters.