Preparing for the Holidays

Eric Grundhauser recently wrote a piece for Atlas Obscura called “How to Appease Household Spirits Across the World”. It falls under their discussions of “Rituals Week”, discussing worldwide rituals. In this case, Grundhauser says as you prepare your home for the holidays, keep in mind the rituals needed to appease those spirits who tidy the house. Here’s the link.

Kate Carlisle’s Hallmark Debut

Since Kate Carlisle appears regularly at The Poisoned Pen, it seems appropriate to congratulate her on her good news.


Here’s what she released in yesterday’s newsletter to her readers.

“The Fixer-Upper Mysteries are coming to the
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel!!!!!

That’s right, Shannon Hammer is coming to the small screen. She’ll be played by Jewel, who’s best known as a singer-songwriter but who is also a very talented actress. (And beautiful, too!) Colin Ferguson will play her love interest.

Yes, the location scenes have already been filmed—this is a done deal. They were filmed in western Canada, near a stunning lighthouse.

The first Fixer-Upper Mystery movie will air early next year on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and we hope there will be many more after that.”

Congratulations to Kate! And, for those of you looking for her books, they’re available through the Web Store.

Diana Rowland, Author Shorts

What scares Diana Rowland? Maybe it’s book deadlines? Check out the Author Shorts video from Penguin Random House.


Rowland is the author of the fantasy, The Legacy of the Demon. Here’s the description from the Web Page.


The demon invasion of Earth has begun, and as the world’s top arcane expert, demon summoner Kara Gillian is leading the battle against them. Unnatural catastrophes, odd plagues, and martial law of the norm, and Kara is hard-pressed to keep up with the mounting threats. Add in the arrival of demonic lords with conflicting goals, and she has the perfect recipe for global disaster.

Yet when a centuries-old scheme puts the future of humanity on the line, Kara must scramble to stop the machinations, though treachery, hidden dangers, and ancient enemies block her at every turn. Soon she uncovers the disturbing legacy of the demon realm and the hideous betrayal at its core. However, before Kara can unmask the one behind the assault on Earth, she’ll need to perform the most dangerous summoning ever attempted”•and if her enemy has its way, it may just be her last.

But no matter how much of her own blood she has to spill, it’ll be a cold day in hell before she surrenders.

You can order it, or other books by Rowland through the Web Store.

Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case on TV?


A Carl Hiaasen book may finally be appearing as a series for TV, filled with hijinks in Florida. Keith Rice discusses the news in his article, “Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case Makes First Step to Small Screen”, written for

Here’s the link.

Here’s the description of Basket Case from The Poisoned Pen’s Web Store.

Jack Tagger’s years in exile at the obituaries desk of a South Florida daily haven’t dulled his investigative reporter’s nose for a good story. When Jimmy Stoma, the infamous front man of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies, dies in a fishy scuba accident, Jack sees his ticket back to page one—if only he can figure out what really happened. Standing in his way are, just for starters, his ambitious young editor, who hasn’t yet fired anyone but plans to “break her cherry” on Jack; the rock star’s pop-singer widow, who’s using the occasion of her husband’s death to relaunch her own career; and the soulless, profit-hungry owner of the newspaper, whom Jack once publicly humiliated at a stockholders’ meeting. Following clues from the late rock singer’s own music, Jack tries to unravel the lies surrounding Jimmy Stoma’s strange fate.

You can order a copy of Basket Case through the Web Store.

Julia Buckley’s Favorite Christmas Mystery


When I asked friends in the mystery community to tell me about their favorite Christmas mystery, Julia Buckley didn’t even mention her own book. Julia writes two series, the Writer’s Apprentice mysteries, and The Undercover Dish series. Her most recent book in that second series is Cheddar Off Dead. Because it has a Christmas season setting, I’ll include the blurb from The Poisoned Pen’s Web Store.


Caterer and cook Lilah Drake is up to her elbows in deadly trouble in the latest mystery from the author of The Big Chili…
The Christmas holidays are one of Lilah’s favorite times of the year, filled with friends, family, and, of course, tons of food orders for her covered dish clients. But Lilah’s Yuletide cheer ends when she sees a most Grinch-like crime: the murder of a Santa in a school parking lot.

It turns out the deceased Kris Kringle was a complicated tangle of naughty and nice, with a long list of people who might have wanted him dead. And whoever did the deed wants to make sure that Lilah keeps quiet. Now, Lilah will have to team up with her former fling, Detective Jay Parker, to unwrap the mysteries of a deadly Christmas killer and stay alive long enough to ring in the New Year…


But, we’re really here to allow Julia, a mystery writer from Chicago, to tell us about her favorite Christmas mystery. Thank you, Julia.

I discovered the novels of Martha Grimes in the early 1990s, and I proceeded to devour her entire Richard Jury mystery series.  Grimes named her books after British pubs; one of the best was called The Jerusalem Inn, a moody and evocative story set at Christmastime. Grimes was great at contrasting the intense melancholy and loneliness of her main character, Jury, with the often humorous exploits of Jury’s friend and fellow investigator, Melrose Plant, along with the irritating but hilarious shenanigans of Plant’s horrible Aunt Agatha.

In Jerusalem Inn, she captures the lonely beauty of the Christmas holiday in poetic description. Jury meets a woman in a cemetery and finds himself attracted to her, but days later the woman has turned up dead, and Jury wants to investigate her murder. Meanwhile his friend Melrose is snowed in with an interesting cast of suspects in a setting worthy of an Agatha Christie novel.

I saved all of my Martha Grimes books, and in 2017 I think I’ll make a point of re-reading them from the start.

We don’t have The Jerusalem Inn in the Web Store.  We do have an extensive collection of mysteries by Martha Grimes, though.

And, we have Julia Buckley’s books in the Web Store.

Susan McBride, “In the Hot Seat”

Photo credit: Sarah Crowder

You might know Susan McBride as the author of the Debutante Dropout mysteries. Or maybe you remember the books she wrote about Detective Maggie Ryan. But, she’s launching a new series. You can either find out about it on Susan’s website,, or, better yet, you can enjoy the interview here. Susan graciously agreed to sit “In the Hot Seat.”

Susan, would you introduce yourself to readers?

I’m a writer with around twenty books to my credit, a breast cancer survivor who’s done lots of public speaking, and a full-time mother of a four-year-old. I’m pretty much either moving at full-speed or sound asleep.

Tell us about Detective Jo Larsen.

She’s a woman who’s still trying to figure out her own life, yet spends her days figuring out other people’s deaths. Her childhood pretty much sucked, but it’s given her great empathy for victims. She feels like she speaks for them and stands up for them. I recently told someone that Jo is my version of Jack Reacher, as she’s a bit of a loner and desperately wants justice served. But she works through the system and doesn’t physically kick anyone’s ass. I admire her inner strength, and I understand her trust issues. She’s a work-in-progress…and she knows it. I feel like there’s a lot still to learn about her, and I look forward to doing exactly that.


Without spoilers, tell us about Walk Into Silence.

I once stumbled upon a web site that featured unsolved FBI cases. There was a story about a woman whose body turned up in a quarry. I imagined an abandoned pit filled with murky glass-green water, and I wondered how she got there and what happened to her. My imagination turned that missing-persons case into Walk Into Silence. It’s the tale of Jenny Dielman, a quiet, unobtrusive Texas housewife on her second marriage, who disappears one evening after going shopping at a local warehouse club. By all appearances, her current husband is a control freak. He admits that his wife was being treated for PTSD after losing her only child, a tragedy that broke up her first marriage. Her ex-husband cheated on her and was potentially abusive.  So where is Jenny? Did she harm herself? Did someone else harm her? That’s what Jo Larsen, a detective on the Plainfield, Texas PD, has to find out.

Susan, what’s it like to start writing a darker series than you’ve written before?

I actually started my career with two small-press books that were pretty dark mysteries. More recently, I wrote a creepy mystery called Very Bad Things for the young adult market. So even though I’m better known for my humorous mysteries, aka, The Debutante Dropout books, it’s not unfamiliar territory. It’s just a bit trickier plotting a bigger book with more complex layers. I’m generally a very happy person (so much so I’ve been labeled “perky” once or twice), but my brain likes to lurch into worst case scenarios. I wish it didn’t, but that’s just how I’m wired. It’s actually cathartic. There’s so much bad in the world these days, I like knowing there will be resolution in my books. It’s interesting to explore the psychology of some of this bad stuff without delving into too much blood and gore.

Why Texas as the setting of your book?

I lived in Texas for 20 years so it’s a big part of my life. It’s a very colorful place in so many ways: the landscape, the people, and a Wild West mentality that lingers. I’ve set more books in Texas than in the Midwest, where I now live. I’m just drawn to it as a writer. Texas is a character in itself.

Changing subjects. What authors have inspired you?

Books like Eva Moves the Furniture by Margo Livesey and Lying Awake by Mark Salzman stick in my brain because they’re so unique and so compelling. I love Sarah Addison Allen’s tales of magical realism and the sweetness and Southern charm they evoke. Kent Krueger’s mysteries have such a rich, emotional feel and his Minnesota locales come so vividly to life. When I get lost in wonderful books by authors like these, it makes me want to do better.

One of my favorite quotes by an author is from Neil Gaiman. He said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into story? What was it?

Hmm, when I was a college freshman pledging a sorority filled with Texas debutantes, I envisioned writing a book someday that featured an anti-deb who rebelled against her posh childhood and her socialite mother. I got my wish with Blue Blood and all the Debutante Dropout Mysteries that followed. I still love the characters of Andy, my deb dropout, and Cissy, her Chanel-wearing mama. They are great company and much more fun than watching fledging debs practice their curtsies in study hall.

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

Iron Lake by Kent Krueger, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, Eva Moves the Furniture, Lying Awake, Stephen King’s On Writing, Letters to a Fiction Writer (edited by Frederick Busch), and my Harry Potter books. Oh, yeah, and my collection of Nancy Drews with the yellow spines that I plan to give my daughter someday!

What author would you like to recommend who you think has been underappreciated?

I love Maggie Barbieri’s books. She’s written lighter and darker, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

Because this will run before Christmas, tell us about your favorite Christmas book.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a Christmas book, but I’d have to say In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. It’s a collection of humorous essays from his childhood in Indiana, some of which became “A Christmas Story.” I have a very well-read copy on-hand, and, of course, I love watching the movie every year, too.

Thank you, Susan, for taking time for the interview.

If you’re interested in Walk Into Silence, we’ll be glad to order it for you through the Web Store.


Don Winslow’s Next Novel & Film


In a seven-figure deal, 20th Century Fox recently bought the rights to Don Winslow’s next crime thriller, a book that doesn’t even have a title yet, although it will be published in June. Fox also bought Winslow’s last bestseller, The Cartel, possibly for Ridley Scott’s next directing project.

Winslow’s previous books have attracted filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.


James Rollins, according to Robert Aglen


James Rollins will be in town on Tuesday, December 13 to discuss his latest book, The Seventh Plague.


Robert Anglen, writing for The Arizona Republic and,  wrote a combination review and article about Rollins.

Here’s the information, if you want to attend the event.

What: James Rollins will sign and discuss his latest Sigma Force thriller, “The Seventh Plague.”

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Where: Hilton Resort, 6333 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale.

Admission: Free, $27.99 for the book.

Details: 480-947-2974,

And, of course, you can purchase a signed copy  through the Web Store, even if you’re unable to attend the event.

Hot Book of the Week

The Hot Book of the Week at The Poisoned Pen is James Church’s The Gentleman from Japan.


Of course you can order a signed copy through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of the book.

James Church, a former Western intelligence officer, returns to the secret world of North Korean intelligence with another crackling good” (The Washington Post) story in his critically acclaimed Inspector O series.

Under the guise of machinery for making dumplings, a Spanish factory near Barcelona is secretly producing a key component in the production of nuclear weapons. When information finds its way to the inboxes of Western intelligence agencies that this “dumpling maker” is meant for North Korea, orders go out that the shipment must be stopped. Either the machine must be disabled while still in the factory, or the transportation route must be discovered so the equipment can be intercepted before itreaches its destination. An old friend recruits Inspector O to assist in the complex operation designed to disrupt the plans for shipping the machine.

Carefully planted bits of information and bizarre events have led both the Spanish factory and those trying to intercept the machine to conclude that Japanese criminal organizations are involved in buying and transporting the “dumpling” machine in order to hide the involvement of North Korea. A flurry of murders puts the focus on the northeast Chinese city of Yanji, near the border with North Korea, where O’s nephew Major Bing is the Chief of State Security. Bing has his own problems dealingwith a corrupt local mayor who is out for his head, coping with a new deputy who cannot be trusted, and figuring out why a Chinese gangster he’s worked for years to chase away has suddenly returned.

Church – hailed as “the equal of le Carre” by Publishers Weekly – takes O deep into a maze of cracked mirrors that hide the exits from an elaborate, deadly double blind in his most elaborate mystery yet, The Gentleman from Japan.


Mary Miley’s Favorite Mysteries

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Mary Miley is the author of three historical mysteries set in the Roaring Twenties. The third in the series, Renting Silence, was just released in the U.S. The books feature Hollywood “script girl” Jessie Beckett. Mary summarizes the book. “This latest book takes Jessie from silent films back into the world of vaudeville to track down a performer with something to hide. At the request of her silent film star boss, Mary Pickford, Jessie uses her vaudeville talents the investigate the murder of an extra by a Hollywood actress already sentenced to death for the crime. Her inquiries lead to the discovery of a blackmailer and more than a dozen actors facing ruin or even death if their secrets are exposed. If the convicted actress is innocent, then who killed the blackmailer?”


You can find out more about Mary Miley at her website, And, we can order Renting Silence and Miley’s other Roaring Twenties mysteries through the Web Store.

Mary responded when I asked mystery authors to tell me about their favorite mysteries of 2016. She picked two.

“I write historical mysteries because I love reading historical mysteries, so it is no surprise that I’m blogging today about two of my favorite historical mysteries that were published this year.”


1. MURDER AT HESSIAN’S BRIDGE by Rod Sterling, published by Silver Leaf Books. A paratrooper hero of D-Day survives the war in one piece only to be beheaded by evil spirits in his home town – or was he? While being initiated into a secret society, George Panabaker must spend the night on a so-called haunted bridge. The next morning his body is identified only by the Airborne tattoo on his arm because his head is missing. The locals hush it up to avoid negative publicity. So it’s up to George’s paratrooper buddy, private detective Tony Donohoo, to get to the bottom of the story. With the aid of his sexy, mouthy, red-haired girlfriend, Mindy McCall, he unravels the mystery. This is the third in Sterling’s series set in New Jersey in the 1950s. Since the author is a former investigator who worked in New Jersey in the 1950s, the story reeks of authenticity, with many of the details borrowed from his own experiences. Readers who grew up during the Fifties will delight in the subtle references to people, movies, food, and clothing of the era; those for whom the Fifties are ancient history will get a kick out of Sterling’s fresh voice and off-beat sense of humor. MURDER AT HESSIAN’S BRIDGE is a romp back in time.
2. JOURNEY TO MUNICH by Jacqueline Winspear, published by Harper. Maisie Dobbs goes undercover for the British Secret Service to escort an elderly British citizen home. On the surface of it, not a particularly difficult an assignment . . . but of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. Mystery readers love a series where they can really come to know the characters, and Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs is one of the best. This is Winspear’s 12th book, set in 1938 in Hitler’s Germany just before the outbreak of World War II. The author capably portrays the tension in pre-war Europe while delivering what I would call a spy story more than a traditional mystery. My suggestion to readers is to begin at the beginning of the series—and not as I did, in the middle—so the characters and overarching plot will be clear.
We’ll have to special order the books for you, but give Poisoned Pen a chance through the Web Store.