Vicki Delany – “In the Bleak Midwinter”

I am not a fan of winter. Perhaps, it’s because when I think of winter, I think of Christina Rossetti’s poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter”.  The first stanza reads,

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.”

So, I turned to some authors to make suggestions as to what we could read on cold winter days (or warm ones if you’re in Arizona). Would these authors suggest books about warmth or cold?


Vicki Delany understands cold weather. She lives in Price Edward County, Ontario, Canada. She’s also the President of Crime Writers of Canada. One of her mystery series, the Year-Round Christmas books, is set in a community that always celebrates Christmas. Her Constable Molly Smith mysteries, including the most recent, Unreasonable Doubt, are set in British Columbia.


So, I was very interested to see what Vicki would say about the theme, “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Thank you, Vicki.


This February, the world seems colder and darker than usual.

For those of us in northern climes, it’s time to huddle by the fire, grab a comfy blanket, pour ourselves a hot (or cold as per one’s preference) beverage, and read. I love to read books “˜in season’. Beach reads at the beach and winter scenes in the winter. Some people love the contrast between what they’re reading and where they are, so some of these books might also suit you if you’re heading off to a Caribbean vacation, and like to get into a book when you have the time.

First up is White Heat by M.J. McGrath.


McGrath created a character and a location you don’t hear much about in crime fiction: An Inuit woman named Edie Kiglatuk living on Ellesmere Island. (In Canada’s North. Way, way north.) I loved the first book in the series, White Heat, and the third, The Bone Seeker. The second is called The Boy in the Snow, and it didn’t hit me as anything special, probably because its characters go to Alaska for that one, and it lost that spark of real originality. (Although I did get a chuckle out of how Edie just can’t understand these Southerners (The Alaskans) and their strange ways.) It’s been some years since The Bone Seeker, and I couldn’t find news of another, so it looks asthough the series might be finished. Which is a pity.

Want to continue to really get away from it all: Try The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni.


This one is set, unbelievably if we’re taking remote, off the coast of California. But on a very isolated archipelago accessible only for scientific research. Miranda, a nature photographer, spends a year living on a rock. A great crime novel, in which the nature studies are integrated and fascinating and don’t overwhelm the story. A fascinating portrait of a small group of people living in close quarters and isolation. One of the best “setting-based” books I’ve ever read.

Back to Canada now, and north again, although not quite as far as Ellesmere Inland, for Elle Wild’s debut novel, Strange Things Done.


If you’re enjoying the Icelandic police drama Trapped on Netflix, this is right up your alley. Set in Dawson City, Yukon, when winter arrives, the road to the outside closes, and the few remaining residents of the town hunker down. And, as in Trapped, when trouble arrives outside help is far, far away.

Winter is also, for me, the time for serious reading. And I mean serious. I have been recommending The War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan to everyone I know.


She discusses the lead up to 1914, and her question isn’t why did war begin, but why did a peace that lasted for one hundred years end. And end so suddenly, in a period of only five weeks from the assassination of the Archduke to the outbreak of total war.


Thank you, Vicki, for kicking off “In the Bleak Midwinter”, a series with authors telling us what they’re reading this winter. There will be more posts during February on the subject.

Vicki Delany’s website is  You can find her books, and the books she recommended, at The Poisoned Pen’s Web Store.



Betty Webb, In the Hot Seat


Betty Webb is going to be at The Poisoned Pen on Saturday, February 4 at 2 PM. She’ll be talking about, and signing, her latest Lena Jones mystery, Desert Vengeance. I’ve mentioned before, it always feels funny to interview a journalist. But, I’ve known Betty Webb for a few years, so she was kind enough to answer questions.

Betty, would you introduce yourself to readers?

I was a journalist for 20 years, interviewing astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and U.S. presidents. After such a deadline-intensive life, I decided to relax by writing mystery novels. Boy, was I wrong! Being an author is the opposite of “relaxing,” but I’ve learned a lot of fun facts that I didn’t know before ““ such as how long it takes a dead body to develop rigor mortis.

Lena Jones has an interesting background, or maybe non-background. Would you tell us about her?

At the age of four, Lena was found lying in a Phoenix street with a bullet in her head. The bullet erased all her memories, so she no longer knew her name or who her parents were. When no one claimed her she was turned over to the foster care system, where in one home she was raped by her foster father. She survived her horrible childhood, became a police officer, and eventually became a private investigator. Now, while tracking down murderers, she is also trying to find her birth parents.

Without spoilers, tell us about Desert Vengeance.


“Desert Vengeance” begins the day “Papa Brian,” the foster father who raped Lena when she was nine years old, is released from prison. In the prison parking lot, Lena is waiting for him with a knife. Days later, after the rapist and his wife are found murdered, Lena becomes the most likely suspect. But there are others who wanted the man dead. Chief among them are four women whose children disappeared from the area before “Papa Brian” went to prison.

Your Gunn Zoo mysteries are so different from the Lena Jones ones. How did you start writing the Gunn Zoo ones?

After I retired from the newspaper, I needed something to get me out of the house so I could have a more or less normal life. Since I’ve always loved animals, I decided to do volunteer work at the Phoenix Zoo. In my years working there, I learned so much about exotic animals that I wanted to share their lives and personalities with other animal-lovers, so I started writing about them ““ basically just for fun. The first was “The Anteater of Death,” about a wonderful giant anteater named Lucy who stole my heart. Little did I know that my “just for fun” books would become as successful as the Lena Jones books.

I could go on about some of your Desert books. I’m fascinated by the history behind Desert Run and Desert Wind. What’s your favorite book you’ve written, and why?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves the most! I love the first book, “Desert Noir” because it started my career as a mystery novelist, but I also love the next book, “Desert Wives,” because it revealed the problem Arizona was having with a real-life polygamy cult. The publicity generated by “Desert Wives” was enormous ““ especially when the New York Times gave the book a rave review. Because of all that publicity, the book’s self-described “prophet” Warren Jeffs is now serving 25 years to life in prison for child rape. Yes, I love “Desert Run” and “Desert Wind,” too ““ as well as the other Lena books, but I love them all for different reasons.

Which book did you enjoy researching the most?

For the sheer fun of it I have to admit I loved researching “The Puffin of Death” the most because it took me to beautiful Iceland! Some people left their heart in San Francisco, but I left mine in Vik, Iceland, where much of the story takes place. However, the John Wayne research I did on “Desert Wind” really opened my eyes about the Nevada A-bomb testing during the “˜50s. I even took a trip to the A-bomb museum in Las Vegas.

Why did you want to write crime novels?

While I was still working for the newspaper they made me their book reviewer, and I started receiving around 100 books per week ““ no exaggeration! I could pick the books I wanted to review, and after a few months, I noticed that at least half of them were mysteries. That started me thinking, “Hey, I wonder if I could write a mystery.” So I wrote “Desert Noir.” Looking back, I see that my first five novels were all written while I was still at the paper ““ I’d get up at 4 in the morning, write until 8 a.m., then go to the newsroom, where I’d write all day. Then I’d come home and write some more. Of all literature genres (or non-genres) I find mysteries most often meet my desire for justice, because in mystery novels, the killer is caught and punished, therefore justice and balance are restored to the world. In real life, that doesn’t always happen.

What authors influenced you?

J.A. Jance, Tony Hillerman, Peter Robinson, Kate Atkinson, and writers of that ilk. I like writers who delve deeply into their characters while paying close attention to their physical environment.

Other than your own, name a couple books you would never part with.

David Morrell’s trilogy about English writer/opium addict Thomas De Quincey ““ “Murder As a Fine Art,” “Inspector of the Dead,” and “Ruler of the Night.” Morrell autographed them for me at a signing, and you’d have to shoot me dead to get them away from me.

As a journalist and reviewer, you’re well-read. What author would you like to recommend who you think has been underappreciated?

I know this will come out of left field but a mystery novelist I think is sorely unappreciated is Christopher Fowler, who writes the wild and wacky Peculiar Crimes Unit mysteries. They star two old coots (one who is obviously suffering from dementia) who solve “impossible” crimes in contemporary London. The books are both funny and compassionate, and unlike anything else I have read. Start off with “Full Dark House,” move on to “The Water Room,” and then read your way through them. Delightful! Now for “non-genre” novels, I’ve recently fallen in love with “Good Morning, Midnight” by Lily Brooks-Dalton, a novel that flips back and forth from the POV of a female astronaut coming back to Earth after a mission to Jupiter, and a lonely, elderly scientist stranded in the Arctic. This book that really makes you think. Another unsung writer I adore is Emily St. John Mandel, a genre-jumping Canadian author who wrote “Station Eleven,” “The Singer’s Gun,” and several other fine, fine novels.

Betty Webb’s website can be found at On Saturday, Feb. 4, she can be found at The Poisoned Pen at 2 PM. And, her books can be found at the Web Store,


Mindy Mejia & Everything You Want Me to Be

Looking for a thriller? How about Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be?


Just check out the summary from the Web Page.

People‘s Best New Books Pick

The Wall Street Journal‘s Best New Mysteries

“Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl will devour this fast-paced story.”—InStyle

“Readers drawn to this compelling psychological thriller because of its shared elements with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Mejia’s confident storytelling pulls those themes into an altogether different exploration of manipulation and identity.” —Booklist (starred review)

2017’s Best Fiction Books—Bustle

12 Books Gone Girl Fans Should Have on Their Wish List —BookBub

“Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?”

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviewed Mindy Mejia, and you can watch the interview on Livestream.

If you’d like to buy a signed copy of Everything You Want Me to Be, check the Web Store.

Jeff Guinn at The Poisoned Pen

Westerns usually have the good versus evil theme in common with detective stories. Just check out the summary of Jeff Guinn’s Silver City.


“Cash McLendon faces stone-cold enforcer Killer Boots in an Old West showdown, in New York Times bestselling author Jeff Guinn’s riveting follow-up to Buffalo Trail, winner of the TCU Texas Book Award.

Cash McLendon, reluctant hero of the epic Indian battle at Adobe Walls, has journeyed to Mountain View in the Arizona Territory with one goal: to convince Gabrielle Tirrito that he’s a changed man and win her back from schoolteacher Joe Saint. As they’re about to depart by stage for their new life in San Francisco, Gabrielle is kidnapped by enforcer Killer Boots, who is working on orders from crooked St. Louis businessman Rupert Douglass. Cash, once married to Douglass’s troubled daughter, fled the city when she died of accidental overdose—and Douglass vowed he’d track Cash down and make him pay.
Now McLendon, accompanied by Joe Saint and Major Mulkins, hits the trail in pursuit of Gabrielle and Killer Boots, hoping to make a trade before it’s too late.”

Jeff Guinn was recently at The Poisoned Pen, interviewed by Patrick Millikin.

Left to right – Patrick Millikin, Jeff Guinn

If you would like to see the event, you can watch it on Livestream.

You can order a signed copy of Silver City through the Web Store.

Clare Mackintosh – Tea & Conversation

Sometimes, afternoon programs at The Poisoned Pen become tea and conversation with the author. This time, it was Clare Mackintosh who was at the bookstore for a sneak preview of her book, I See You.


We have a number of photos.

Clare Mackintosh, before the program
Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviews Mackintosh
Clare Mackintosh
Clare Mackintosh signing books
Clare Mackintosh, at The Poisoned Pen

Would you like to see the event? You can watch it via Livestream.

And, if you would like a signed copy of I See You, you can order it through the Web Store.

Gregg Hurwitz, On Tour for The Nowhere Man

Gregg Hurwitz is on tour for The Nowhere Man, the second Orphan X novel, and he appeared at The Poisoned Pen.


We have photos from the program.

Gregg Hurwitz coming over from the backroom where he was signing stock.
Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, introduces Hurwitz.
Hurwitz answering questions
Gregg Hurwitz


If you missed the program, and would like to see it, you can watch it on Livestream.

You can still buy a signed copy of Gregg Hurwitz’ The Nowhere Man through the Web Store.

Casey & Ramsay – Live at The Poisoned Pen

Two Poisoned Pen Press authors, Donis Casey (The Return of the Raven Mocker) and Frederick Ramsay (Copper Kettle), were recently at The Poisoned Pen to talk about their new books.

The books by both authors are set in the same period, 1918-1920. Here are a few photos of the event. The authors were interviewed by Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

Patrick Millikin watches Frederick Ramsay pre-sign books
Fred and Donis before the event
Fred, Donis and Barbara

And, if you would like to “attend” the program, you can watch it via Livestream.

Signed copies of both books are available through the Web Store.

Agatha Award Nominees

It’s that time of year when the books nominated for various mystery awards receive recognition. Yesterday, the Agatha Award nominees were announced. The Agatha Awards honor traditional mysteries written in the style of Agatha Christie. The awards will be presented at the Malice Domestic banquet on April 29. Congratulations to all of the nominees.

Best Contemporary Novel

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Best Historical Novel

Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao (Berkley)
Get Me to the Grave on Time by D.E. Ireland (Grainger Press)
Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel

Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press)
The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (Forge Books)

Best Nonfiction

Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden’s 25 Years in the Maine Woods by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora (Skyhorse Publishing)
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland Books)

Best Short Story

“Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story” by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
“The Best-Laid Plans” by Barb Goffman in Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional (Wildside Press)
“The Mayor and the Midwife” by Edith Maxwell in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 (Down & Out Books)
“The Last Blue Glass” by B.K. Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
“Parallel Play” by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Press)

Best Children/Young Adult

Trapped: A Mei-hua Adventure by P.A. DeVoe (Drum Tower Press)
Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster)
Tag, You’re Dead by J C Lane (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos (Balzer & Bray)
The Secret of the Puzzle Box: The Code Busters Club by Penny Warner (Darby Creek)

Don’t forget to check the Web Store if you’d like to buy a copy of any of the nominees.

Clare Mackintosh & I See You

Clare Mackintosh’ I See You really isn’t released until February 21. And, The Poisoned Pen won’t release signed copies until that date.


But, almost a month ahead of time, an audience at The Poisoned Pen was lucky enough to meet the author, and hear Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, interview her. And, you can watch that event now, via Livestream.

Here’s the summary of the book from the Web Page.

“The author of the New York Times bestseller I Let You Go propels readers into a dark and claustrophobic thriller, in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world…

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…”


Enjoy watching the Livestream event. Then, if you’re interested, order a signed copy of I See You through the Web Store. They’ll be sent out after the release date of Feb. 21.