Fiction Review

Laura Lippman’s Sunburn

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Why is Laura Lippman’s latest novel, Sunburn, paired with James M. Cain’s classic The Postman Always Rings Twice? According to Patrick Anderson in The Washington Post, her noir novel is partially inspired by her admiration for Cain’s book. You can find the entire article here.

You can order both or either book through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Lippman’s Sunburn.

“Every time Laura Lippman comes out with a new book, I get chills because I know I am back in the hands of the master. She is simply a brilliant novelist, an unflinching chronicler of life in America right now, and Sunburn is her dark, gleaming noir gem. Read it.” -Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred PierceSunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.

A Thriller Trio

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How about a few thrillers today? Alison Flood recently reviewed three of them for The Guardian

You can order copies of all of them in the Web Store, although Mick Herron’s London Rules doesn’t come out until June in the U.S.



Hot Book of the Week – Walter Mosley’s Down the River Unto the Sea

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Walter Mosley will be at The Poisoned Pen on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 PM to sign his new book, Down the River Unto the Sea. But, even if you can’t be there, you can order a signed copy of the current Hot Book of the Week through the Web Store.

Down the River

Here’s the description of Down the River Unto the Sea.

“Mosley writes with great power here about themes that have permeated his work: institutional racism, political corruption, and the ways that both of these issues affect not only society at large but also the inner lives of individual men and women.” —Booklist (starred review)

Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators, until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault by his enemies within the NYPD, a charge which lands him in solitary at Rikers Island.
A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure while behind bars, his work and his daughter are the only light in his solitary life. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid to frame him those years ago, King realizes that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of–and why.
Running in parallel with King’s own quest for justice is the case of a Black radical journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers who had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and women within the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Joined by Melquarth Frost, a brilliant sociopath, our hero must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all keep his daughter far from the underworld in which he works. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: King’s client’s, and King’s own.

Steven Saylor via Livestream

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Did you miss Steven Saylor’s event at The Poisoned Pen the other night? Saylor is the author of the Gordianus the Finder series, and he’s finally addressing the most famous murder in history in The Throne of Caesar. Signed copies are available through the Web Store. They come with  a Poisoned Pen Exclusive Bookmark designed by Steven Saylor.

Throne of Caesar

This is an unusual event. Saylor appears at the bookstore along with his long-time editor from St. Martin’s Press, Keith Kahla. Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviews both of them. And, you can watch it on Livestream.

Alafair Burke’s The Wife

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If you haven’t picked up a signed copy of Alafair Burke’s The Wife, you might want to do it now. Check the Web Store.


Here’s the latest news about The Wife.

Amazon Studios Lands Alafair Burke Novel ‘The Wife,’ A Thriller In #MeToo Moment

by Mike Fleming Jr

February 23, 2018 9:24am

 EXCLUSIVE: In a seven-figure deal, Amazon Studios has acquired the rights to the Alafair Burke novel The Wife, with the author set to write the feature script. Published in January by Harper, the novel seems a perfect fit for this #MeToo moment. Book deal is high six figures and scripting fees put it into seven-figures.


Angela, a woman who suffered extreme trauma in her teen years, learns that her celebrity husband may be a sexual predator. Jason Powell is a handsome NYU prof whose book on socially conscious investing called Equalonomics is a raging bestseller. He runs a successful consulting firm and hosts a top-rated podcast that has enabled Angela and her husband to live an idyllic life with their son in Greenwich Village. Then, his intern files a complaint at the NYPD Special Victims Unit claiming he made inappropriate sexual suggestions at the office. A second alleged victim surfaces and soon there is a murder and Angela has to confront past personal trauma she thought was far in the rear view mirror.

Amazon Studios won the book in a bidding battle that involved five suitors.

It is the 13th novel for Burke, the bestselling Edgar Award-nominated author who is a Stanford Law grad and former prosecutor. She’s also a professor of criminal law and procedure at Hofstra University.

Harper Collins president/publisher Jonathan Burnham said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to see Alafair Burke’s new novel take her renown and sales to a new level: it is a narrative that couldn’t be more timely, and a brilliantly twisty tale that shows Burke at her very best.”

The deal was made on behalf of the Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency by Hotchkiss & Associates.

Rhys Bowen’s The Tuscan Child

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Rhys Bowen returns to The Poisoned Pen on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 PM to discuss and sign her new book, The Tuscan Child. You can order your signed copy through the Web Store.

Exclusive for Poisoned Pen customers! Your copy comes with a special recipe card from Rhys! It contains two recipes from her Tuscan travels. *While supplies last*

Tuscan Child

Here’s the description.

From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…


And, here’s a sneak preview – the book trailer.

Michael Barson interviews Donis Casey

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As I recently mentioned, Donis Casey will be at the Poisoned Pen on Saturday, February 24 at 2 PM, joining fellow authors Dennis Palumbo and Priscilla Royal. Casey is the author of the Alafair Tucker mysteries. Her latest one is Forty Dead Men.

Donis Casey interview

Signed copies of Forty Dead Men are available in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of the book.

Some people who have experienced a shocking, dangerous, or terrifying event develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is recognized today as a debilitating but potentially treatable mental health condition. Military veterans are a vulnerable group. But PTSD can deliver a knockout blow to anyone, as the remarkable unfolding of the tenth Alafair Tucker Mystery, Forty Dead Men, shows.

World War I is over. Alafair is overjoyed that her elder son, George Washington Tucker, has finally returned home from the battlefields of France. Yet she is the only one in the family who senses that he has somehow changed.

Gee Dub moves back into his old bunkhouse quarters, but he’s restless and spends his days roaming. One rainy day while out riding he spies a woman trudging along the country road. She’s thoroughly skittish and rejects his help. So Gee Dub cannily rides for home to enlist his mother in offering the exhausted traveler shelter.

Once made comfortable at the Tucker farm, Holly Johnson reveals she’s forged her way from Maine to Oklahoma in hopes of finding the soldier she married before he shipped to France. At the war’s end, Daniel Johnson disappeared without a trace. It’s been months. Is he alive? Is she a widow?

Holly is following her only lead – that Dan has connected with his parents who live yonder in Okmulgee. Gee Dub, desperate for some kind of mission, resolves to shepherd Holly through her quest although the prickly young woman spurns any aid. Meanwhile, Alafair has discovered that Gee Dub sleeps with two cartridge boxes under his pillow – boxes containing twenty “dead men” each. The boxes are empty, save for one bullet. She recognizes in Gee Dub and Holly that not all war wounds are physical.

Then Holly’s missing husband turns up, shot dead. Gee Dub is arrested on suspicion of murder, and the entire extended Tucker family rallies to his defense. He says he had no reason to do it, but the solitary bullet under Gee Dub’s pillow is gone. Regardless, be he guilty or innocent, his mother will travel any distance and go to any lengths to keep him out of prison.


Michael Barson recently interviewed Donis Casey for

Here’s a teaser.

“Question: FORTY DEAD MEN is your 10th Alafair Tucker novel. When you wrote the first book in the series, THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING, did you ever foresee that you would reach 10 books, and counting?”

“Donis Casey: When I created Alafair and her family, it seemed natural that each book in the series be based around one of Alafair’s nine (and later, 10) children, so I started out with the idea of writing 10 novels. I’m lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to carry on with the series as long as I have. I love historical novels and novels set in exotic locations, because when I read, I like to go to a place and live there for a while. I wanted to write a series of historical mysteries that contained all the things I love to read myself. I wanted the books to have a great deal of humanity, a warm central character, a detailed evocation of the time and place. But in order to make the world as real as I could, I “wrote what I know” — my own family background. Many of the details of farm life, such as using kerosene-soaked corn cobs to start a fire, I learned from my mother, who grew up on a subsistence farm in Oklahoma during the Depression. The characters began as composites of family members, but they have become their own people.

“FORTY DEAD MEN is the 10th book in the series, and now we’ve reached the end of the 1910s. But I can see that there is more of the Tuckers’ story to be told. All kinds of wild things happened in the 1920s that I could use as a basis for a rollicking mystery, so there will be more Alafair Tucker novels in the offing.”


If you want to read the rest of Barson’s interview with Donis Casey, you can find it here.