Fiction Review

Riley Sager in Conversation with May Cobb

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Riley Sager’s latest novel, Survive the Night, is one of the hot thrillers of the summer. He did a recent virtual event for The Poisoned Pen, hosted by Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, and May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives. Both authors have books available through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Survive the Night.


One of New York Times Book Review‘s “summer reads guaranteed to make your heart thump and your skin crawl”; An Amazon Best of the Month Pick; Named a must-read summer book by The Washington PostUSA TodayVultureBuzzFeedForbesEntertainment Weekly, CNN, New York PostGood HousekeepingE!PopSugarCrimeReadsThrillist, and BookRiot

It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

Survive the Night is the fifth thriller from Riley Sager, the pseudonym of an author who lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Riley’s first novel, Final Girls, was a national and international bestseller that has been published in more than two dozen countries and won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel. Sager’s subsequent novels The Last Time I LiedLock Every Door, and Home Before Dark, which received the Crimson Scribe Award by Suspense Magazine, were New York Times bestsellers.

Enjoy the conversation, shared from YouTube.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, When Stars Collide

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Fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips will recognize the title When Stars Collide as part of her Chicago Stars series. She recently talked about the book with John Charles, The Poisoned Pen’s romance expert. John said there are still some signed copies of When Stars Collide available through the Web Store.

Here’s When Stars Collide.

#1 New York Times bestseller Susan Elizabeth Phillips returns to her beloved Chicago Stars series with a romance between a Chicago Stars quarterback and one of the world’s greatest opera singers—and a major diva.

“Re-entering the world of the Chicago Stars is like a beloved friend come to call.” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr

Thaddeus Walker Bowman Owens, the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, is a team player, talented sideline coach, occasional male underwear model, and a man with a low tolerance for Divas.

Olivia Shore, international opera superstar, is a driven diva with a passion for perfection, a craving for justice, too many secrets—and a monumental grudge against the egotistical, lowbrow jock she’s been stuck with.

It’s Mozart meets Monday Night Football as the temperamental soprano and stubborn jock embark on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Along the way, the combatants will engage in soul-searching and trash talk, backstage drama and, for sure, a quarterback pass. But they’ll also face trouble as threatening letters, haunting photographs, and a series of dangerous encounters complicate their lives. Is it the work of an overzealous fan or something more sinister?

This is the emotional journey of a brilliant woman whose career is everything and a talented man who’ll never be happy with second place.  Tender and funny, passionate and insightful, this irresistible romantic adventure proves that anything can happen…when two superstars collide.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a New York TimesPublisher’s Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author, known for her lighthearted, sparkling, and addictive contemporary romance novels which include the Chicago Stars series, the Wynette, Texas series, and multiple stand-alone books. She has published more than twenty books including It had to be YouFirst Star I See Tonight, and Dance Away with Me. Her novels have been published in more than 30 languages and appear on bestseller lists worldwide. Visit Susan’s website at

Enjoy the conversation between two people who enjoy chatting about books.

Kate Carlisle & Rebecca

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Kate Carlisle recently appeared virtually for The Poisoned. She and Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen, discussed Rebecca and other gothic novels as they talked about Carlisle’s latest Bibliophile mystery, Little Black Book. Unfortunately, all signed copies of the book are sold, but you can still order a copy through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Little Black Book.

San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright is on the case when a rare edition of Rebecca leads to murder in this latest installment of the New York Times bestselling Bibliophile Mystery series.

Brooklyn and her hunky husband, security expert Derek Stone, have just returned from a delightful trip to Dharma, where the construction of their new home away from home is well underway, when a little black book arrives in the mail from Scotland. The book is a rare British first edition of Rebecca, and there’s no return address on the package. The day after the book arrives, Claire Quinn shows up at Brooklyn and Derek’s home. Brooklyn met Claire when the two women worked as expert appraisers on the television show This Old Attic. Brooklyn appraised books on the show and Claire’s expertise was in antique British weaponry, but they bonded over their shared love of gothic novels.

Claire reveals that during a recent trip to Scotland she discovered her beloved aunt was missing and her home had been ransacked. Among her aunt’s belongings, Claire found the receipt for the package that wound up with Brooklyn and Derek. Claire believes both her own life and her aunt’s are in danger and worries that her past may be coming back to haunt her.

But just as Brooklyn and Derek begin to investigate, a man who Claire thinks was following her is found murdered, stabbed with a priceless jeweled dagger. With a death on their doorstep, Brooklyn and Derek page through the little black book, where they discover clues that will take them to the shadows of a medieval Scottish castle on the shores of Loch Ness. Under the watchful gaze of a mysterious laird and the irascible villagers who are suspicious of the strangers in their midst, Brooklyn and Derek must decode the secrets in Rebecca to keep their friend’s past from destroying their future….

A native Californian, New York Times bestselling author Kate Carlisle worked in television for many years before turning to writing. A lifelong fascination with the art and craft of bookbinding led her to write the Bibliophile Mysteries featuring Brooklyn Wainwright, whose bookbinding and restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery, and murder. She is also the author of the Fixer-Upper Mysteries featuring small-town girl Shannon Hammer, a building contractor specializing in home restoration.

If you want an interesting conversation about gothic novels, check out this virtual event with Kate Carlisle and Barbara Peters.

Elly Griffiths & The Night Hawks

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The Night Hawks is the thirteenth Ruth Galloway mystery by Elly Griffiths. Griffiths recently appeared for The Poisoned Pen for a virtual event. That’s one advantage of Zoom, that the British authors can appear for the bookstore. Griffiths’ books are available through the Web Store.

Here is the summary of The Night Hawks.

There’s nothing Ruth Galloway hates more than amateur archaeologists, but when a group of them stumble upon Bronze Age artifacts alongside a dead body, she finds herself thrust into their midst—and into the crosshairs of a string of murders circling ever closer.

Ruth is back as head of archaeology at the University of North Norfolk when a group of local metal detectorists—the so-called Night Hawks—uncovers Bronze Age artifacts on the beach, alongside a recently deceased body, just washed ashore. Not long after, the same detectorists uncover a murder-suicide—a scientist and his wife found at their farmhouse, long thought to be haunted by the Black Shuck, a humongous black dog, a harbinger of death. The further DCI Nelson probes into both cases, the more intertwined they become, and the closer they circle to David Brown, the new lecturer Ruth has recently hired, who seems always to turn up wherever Ruth goes.

ELLY GRIFFITHS is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series, as well as the standalone novels The Stranger Diaries, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and The Postscript Murders. She is the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She lives in Brighton, England.

Enjoy the conversation about Elly Griffiths’ The Night Hawks and her other books.

Paul Doiron Goes to the Cats

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Well, really, you need to watch the virtual event to understand why I said Paul Doiron, author of the Mike Bowditch mysteries, has gone to the cats. His latest book is Dead by Dawn. Watch for the cats at his place, and with guest host Luanne Rice. Then, pick a signed copy of his book from the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Dead by Dawn.

Maine game warden Mike Bowditch finds himself in a life-or-death chase in this next thriller in the bestselling mystery series by Edgar Award nominee Paul Doiron, Dead by Dawn.

Mike Bowditch is fighting for his life. After being ambushed on a dark winter road, his Jeep crashes into a frozen river. Trapped beneath the ice in the middle of nowhere, having lost his gun and any way to signal for help, Mike fights his way to the surface. But surviving the crash is only the first challenge. Whoever set the trap that ran him off the road is still out there, and they’re coming for him.

Hours earlier, Mike was called to investigate the suspicious drowning of a wealthy professor. Despite the death being ruled an accident, his elegant, eccentric daughter-in-law insists the man was murdered. She suspects his companion that day, a reclusive survivalist and conspiracy theorist who accompanied the professor on his fateful duck-hunting trip—but what exactly was the nature of their relationship? And was her own sharp-tongued daughter, who inherited the dead man’s fortune, as close to her grandfather as she claims? The accusations lead Mike to a sinister local family who claim to have information on the crime. But when his Jeep flies into the river and unknown armed assailants on snowmobiles chase him through the wilderness, the investigation turns into a fight for survival.

As Mike faces a nightlong battle to stay alive, he must dissect the hours leading up to the ambush and solve two riddles: which one of these people desperately want him dead, and what has he done to incur their wrath?

A native of Maine, bestselling author PAUL DOIRON attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English. The Poacher’s Son, the first book in the Mike Bowditch series, won the Barry award, the Strand award for best first novel, and has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards in the same category. He is a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine with his wife, Kristen Lindquist.

Enjoy the conversation between Paul Doiron and Luanne Rice. And, watch for cats!

Jake Tapper in Conversation with David Baldacci

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July 4th is the perfect day to do an encore performance because there were technical difficulties the first time. David Baldacci is the guest host at The Poisoned Pen’s virtual event featuring Jake Tapper, author of The Devil May Dance. There may be a few signed copies of Tapper’s book still available in the Web Store.

Charlie and Margaret discover the dark side of Hollywood in Jake Tapper’s follow-up to New York Times bestseller The Hellfire Club—an “excellent”cocktail of corruption and ambition (Publishers Weekly). Charlie and Margaret Marder, political stars in 1960s Washington DC, know all too well how the tangled web of power in the nation’s capital can operate. But while they long to settle into the comforts of home, Attorney General Robert Kennedy has other plans. He needs them to look into a potential threat not only to the presidency, but to the security of the United States itself.

Charlie and Margaret quickly find themselves on a flight to sunny Los Angeles, where they’ll face off against a dazzling world of stars and studios. At the center of their investigation is Frank Sinatra, a close friend of President John F. Kennedy and a rumored mob crony, whom Charlie and Margaret must befriend to get the inside scoop. But in a town built on illusions, where friends and foes all look alike, nothing is easy, and drinks by the pool at the Sands and late-night adventures with the Rat Pack soon lead to a body in the trunk of their car. Before they know it, Charlie and Margaret are being pursued by sinister forces from Hollywood’s stages to the newly founded Church of Scientology, facing off against the darkest and most secret side of Hollywood’s power.

As the Academy Awards loom, and someone near and dear to Margaret goes missing, Charlie and Margaret find the clock is not only ticking but running out. Someone out there knows what they’ve uncovered and can’t let them leave alive. Corruption and ambition form a deadly mix in this fast-paced sequel to The Hellfire Club.

Jake Tapper
 is the author of The Hellfire Club, which is being turned into a TV series by HBO Max, and The Outpost, which became a celebrated film released in 2020. An award-winning anchor for CNN, he joined the network in January 2013. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, daughter, and son.

Enjoy the conversation between Jake Tapper and David Baldacci.

CWA’s Dagger Awards

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Congratulations to all the winners and nominees of the British Crime Writers’ Association’s 2021 Dagger Awards. After you see the winners and nominees, check for them in the Web Store. Several awards aren’t covered here, but you can find the complete listing at

Chris Whitaker won the CWA Gold Dagger for the crime novel of the year. Congratulations!

Highly commended: Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby (Headline); House of Correction, by Nicci French (Simon & Schuster)

Also nominated: City of Ghosts, by Ben Creed (Welbeck); Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere); The Postscript Murders, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus); and Midnight Atlanta, by Thomas Mullen
(Little, Brown)

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:When She Was Good, by Michael
Robotham (Sphere)

Also nominated: Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere); The Nothing Man, by Catherine Ryan Howard (Atlantic); The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton (Raven); One by One, by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker); and We Begin at the End, by Chris Whitaker (Zaffre)

John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:The Creak on the Stairs,
by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir (Orenda)

Also nominated: City of Ghosts, by Ben Creed (Welbeck); The One That Got Away, by Egan Hughes (Sphere); The Bone Jar, by S.W. Kane (Thomas & Mercer); Fortune Favours the Dead, by Stephen Spotswood (Wildfire); and Three Fifths, by John Vercher (Pushkin Press)

Sapere Books Historical Dagger:Midnight at Malabar House,
by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton)

Also nominated: Snow, by John Banville (Faber and Faber); The Unwanted Dead, by Chris Lloyd (Orion Fiction); The City Under Siege, by Michael Russell (Constable); Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons, by David S. Stafford (Allison & Busby); and The Mimosa Tree Mystery, by Ovidia Yu (Constable)

ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-fiction:Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind, by Sue Black (Doubleday)

Also nominated: We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence, by Becky Cooper (Heinemann); These Are Not Gentle People, by Andrew Harding (MacLehose Press); Dancing with the Octopus: The Telling of a True Crime, by Debora Harding (Profile); The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us, by Nick Hayes (Bloomsbury Circus); and Agent Sonya: Lover, Mother, Soldier, Spy, by Ben MacIntyre (Viking)

Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger:The Disaster Tourist, by Yun Ko-eun, translated by Lizzie Buehler (Serpent’s Tail)

Also nominated: Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman, translated by Neil Smith (Michael Joseph); The Coral Bride, by Roxanne Bouchard, translated by David Warriner (Orenda); Three, by D.A. Mishani, translated by Jessica Cohen (Riverrun); To Cook a Bear, by Mikael Niemi, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press); and The Seven Doors, by Agnes Ravatn, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda)

Dagger in the Library (“for a body of work by an established crime writer that has long been popular with borrowers from
 Peter May

Also nominated: C.L. Taylor, Lisa Jewell, James Oswald, Denise Mina, and L.J. Ross

Martina Cole received the 2021 Diamond Dagger award for lifetime achievement.

T.J. Newman, “Falling” into The New York Times

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T.J. Newman, debut and local author, is the subject of a recent New York Times article by Elizabeth Egan, “A Flight Attendant Drafted Her Novel on Cocktail Napkins. It Took Off.” Here’s the article, Newman will be appearing both live and virtually for The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, July 6 at 7 PM PDT, 10 PM EDT. You can order a copy of her novel, Falling, through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Falling.

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks and scares…Chilling.” —Lee Child
“The perfect summer thriller. Relentlessly paced and unforgettable.” —Janet Evanovich

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

T. J. Newman,a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. She wrote much of Falling on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Falling is her first novel.

Here’s the information about The Poisoned Pen’s event.

T.J. Newman discusses Falling.

click here to order a signed first edition! 

The first 25 to purchase a (signed) copy of Falling and request a ticket will gain admittance to the live event. Our space is modest so we offer  limited, distanced seating. Please request a ticket when placing your order and a book and ticket (if you are within the first 25) will be saved for you

Rather than step into the controversies around vaxxing, we are making it simple: attendees must be masked. The author and I will be distanced, and unmasked. You must wear your mask in the signing line as well.

Sarah Stewart Taylor in Conversation with Carlene O’Connor

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We’re off to Ireland with Sarah Stewart Taylor, author of the Maggie D’Arcy mysteries. A Distant Grave is the second one. Taylor discussed Ireland, gravestones, and books with Carlene O’Connor, author of the Irish Village mysteries, and Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen. You can find copies of books by both authors, including signed copies of A Distant Grave, in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of A Distant Grave.

In the follow up to the critically acclaimed The Mountains Wild, Detective Maggie D’arcy tackles another intricate case that bridges Long Island and Ireland in A Distant Grave.

Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy and her teenage daughter, Lilly, are still recovering from the events of last fall when a strange new case demands Maggie’s attention. The body of an unidentified Irish national turns up in a wealthy Long Island beach community and with little to go on but the scars on his back, Maggie once again teams up with Garda detectives in Ireland to find out who the man was and what he was doing on Long Island. The strands of the mystery take Maggie to a quiet village in rural County Clare that’s full of secrets and introduce her to the world of humanitarian aid workers half a world away. And as she gets closer to the truth about the murder, what she learns leads her back to her home turf and into range of a dangerous and determined killer who will do anything to keep the victim’s story hidden forever.

With the lyrical prose, deeply drawn characters, and atmospheric setting that put The Mountains Wild on multiple best of the year lists, Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers another gripping mystery novel about family, survival, and the meaning of home.

SARAH STEWART TAYLOR is the author of the Sweeney St. George series and the Maggie D’arcy series. Taylor grew up on Long Island in New York and was educated at Middlebury College in Vermont and Trinity College in Dublin. She lived in Dublin, Ireland in the mid-90s and she now lives with her family on a farm in Vermont where they raise sheep and grow blueberries.

If you want to hear about Ireland or the books by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Carlene O’Connor, you’ll want to watch the video.

Fabian Nicieza & Suburban Dicks

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The recent event at the virtual event celebrated release date for Fabian Nicieza’s debut novel Suburban Dicks. It’s a fascinating discussion of comic books and Nicieza’s life. Nicieza signed a number of copies for The Poisoned Pen, and you can order them through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Suburban Dicks.

From the cocreator of Deadpool comes a hilariously entertaining debut featuring two unlikely and unforgettable amateur sleuths. An engrossing and entertaining murder mystery full of skewering social commentary, Suburban Dicks examines the racial tensions exposed in a New Jersey suburb after the murder of a gas station attendant.

Andie Stern thought she’d solved her final homicide. Once a budding FBI profiler, she gave up her career to raise her four (soon to be five) children in West Windsor, New Jersey. But one day, between soccer games, recitals, and trips to the local pool, a very pregnant Andie pulls into a gas station–and stumbles across a murder scene. An attendant has been killed, and the bumbling local cops are in way over their heads. Suddenly, Andie is obsessed with the case, and back on the trail of a killer, this time with kids in tow.

She soon crosses paths with disgraced local journalist Kenneth Lee, who also has everything to prove in solving the case. A string of unusual occurrences–and, eventually, body parts–surface around town, and Andie and Kenneth uncover simmering racial tensions and a decades-old conspiracy. Hilarious, insightful, and a killer whodunit, Suburban Dicks is the one-of-a-kind mystery that readers will not be able to stop talking about.

Fabian Nicieza is an Argentine-American comic book writer and editor who is best known as the co-creator of Marvel’s Deadpool and for his work on titles such as X-MenX-ForceNew WarriorsCable, and Thunderbolts. Suburban Dicks is his debut novel.

Enjoy the conversation between Fabian Nicieza and Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.