Fiction Review

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It’s just one more place for those of us who love mysteries and crime fiction to find information. Here’s the news release for

Writerspace, a high-traffic, online community and home to more than 100 authors and 150,000 readers of romance, mystery, women’s and young adult fiction, announces the launch of

“For years we have offered a broad representation for the fiction community, but recently authors and readers of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels have advised us they want an online home dedicated specifically to those genres,” said Writerspace proprietor Cissy Hartley from her Mobile, AL, office. “Since our soft launch of the site a couple of months ago, almost 40,000 readers have opted into the KillerBooks list, which shows the immense popularity of these related genres.”

Modeled after’s successful platform developed over the last twenty years, KillerBooks provides readers of the edgy genre grouping with information about their favorite authors’ new releases. Readers of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels receive a monthly newsletter with information on new releases, can find blogs by authors and industry professionals online and are offered the opportunity to participate in seasonal online events and enter monthly contests sponsored by the authors.

Current members of the Killer Books author community include national bestsellers Christina Dodd, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Laura Benedict, Kylie Brant, Allison Brennan, Stella Cameron, Tricia Cerrone, Ann Christopher, Lyn Cote, Margaret Daley, Kyra Davis, Veronica Forand, Dara Girard, Laura Griffin, Carolyn Haines, Linda O. Johnston, Melinda Leigh, Kat Martin, Cheyenne McCray, Linda McDonald, Deanna Raybourn, Karen Robards, Karen Rose, Alexandra Sokoloff, Harry Squires, Wendy Corsi Staub, Mariah Stewart, Kate White, Danica Winters, and Rebecca Zanetti—and more are coming on board, Hartley advises.

“With a database of nearly 10,000 mystery, suspense and thriller novels, and more being added daily, is an excellent resource for the busy reader of these novels,” Hartley said. “Authors of mystery, thrillers and suspense are encouraged to sign up and add their books to the site, free of charge.”

Tea with Kristan Higgins

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Readers and even a few authors showed up for tea with Kristan Higgins, and discussion of her new book, On Second Thought.

Before photos, here’s the summary of On Second Thought, from the Web Store.

“Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed novel If You Only Knew, multi-bestselling author Kristan Higgins returns with a pitch-perfect look at the affection—and the acrimony—that binds sisters together 

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is for Eric to blindside her with a tactless breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her half sister, Kate, who’s already struggling after the sudden loss of her new husband.

Kate has always been so poised, so self-assured, but Nathan’s death shatters everything she thought she knew—including her husband—and she learns that sometimes the people who step up aren’t the ones you expect. With seven years and a murky blended-family dynamic between them, Ainsley and Kate have never been overly close, but their shared sorrow dovetails their faltering worlds into one.

Despite the lifetime of history between them, the sisters must learn to put their differences aside and open their hearts to the inevitable imperfection of family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.”

Now, photos from the tea and program.


Kristan Higgins talks to attendees before the program
There, in the chairs in the back – recognize authors Jenn McKinlay and Paige Shelton?
John Charles, from The Poisoned Pen, interviews Kristan Higgins


3 authors at The Poisoned Pen – Kristan Higgins, Jenn McKinlay & Paige Shelton
To the right – The signing line for books

If you would like a copy of Kristan Higgins’ On Second Thought, check the Web Store.

Julia Spencer-Fleming – In the Bleak Midwinter

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Julia Spencer-Fleming at The Poisoned Pen

It was Julia Spencer-Fleming’s debut mystery in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series that was actually the inspiration for this February feature.


If you haven’t read that award-winning book, you missed one of the outstanding debuts in the last twenty years. Here’s what the Web Store has on it.

“It’s a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn’t know what to make of her, or how to address “a lady priest” for that matter.

The last thing she needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds. When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married police chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against a killer’s icy heart.

In the Bleak Midwinter is one of the most outstanding Malice Domestic winners the contest has seen. The compelling atmosphere-the kind of very cold and snowy winter that is typical of upstate New York-will make you reach for another sweater. The characters are fully and believably drawn and you will feel like they are your old friends and find yourself rooting for them every step of the way.”

Julia Spencer-Fleming was the first author I asked to suggest titles for winter reading. Thank you, Julia, for inspiring this month’s feature, and thank you for participating.


It’s fifteen below and the snow is up to your windowsill. The car sounds like a dying walrus when you try to crank the engine, and the only time you feel truly warm is when you wrap up in a blanket and stand over the furnace vent. When winter hits hard, you have two options when cracking open a book. You can opt to escape with fiction where characters frolic on sandy white beaches and fall in love beneath swaying palm trees, or you can meet your enemy head-on with a mystery where the only thing deadlier than the bad guys is the weather. Here are a few of my favorite winter reads.

THE COLD TRUTH by Jonathan Stone.


Part twisty psychological thriller, part police procedural, this 1999 book takes a young detective trainee from New York City and thrusts her into the brutal winter of the remote Adirondacks, where she learns the ropes from a legendary lawman faced with one last cold case on the eve of his retirement. Don’t read anything else about it – this is a novel that works best if you come to it cold, as it were.

TAMARACK COUNTY by William Kent Krueger.


Few writers do winter as well as Kent Krueger, who revisits the season regularly in his series set in northern Minnesota. In the thirteenth Cork O’Conner novel, the wife of a prominent local judge goes missing in a blizzard, setting off a series of increasingly violent events that force the ex-sheriff to revisit his investigation of a crime from twenty years before. The isolation and claustrophobia of the heavy snow mirrors that of the characters trapped by their own pasts.

ARCTIC RISING by Tobias S. Buckell.


This genre-blending science fiction mystery begins with a bang as Anika Duncan, a pilot for the United Nations Polar Guard, is framed for a crime she didn’t commit. She goes on the lam in a melting, ice-free Arctic where nations, corporations and individuals will stop at nothing to gain control of its resources. Exhilarating as well as chilling, and an excellent introduction for mystery readers who might be sci-fi- curious.

CHANCE OF A GHOST By E.J. Copperman.


Winter is way off-season for innkeeper Alison Kerby, who runs a New Jersey Shore guesthouse that happens to have some permanent ghostly residents. In fact, a blizzard is on the door in the fourth book in the Haunted Guesthouse series. But snowdrifts, a bum car heater and drafts coming through the windowsills won’t stop Alison and her whacky crew from helping a deceased actor figure out who helped him shuffle off this mortal coil. The perfect read for when you want to be really cozy.

Finally, for those of you who love nonfiction: ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing (1999).


There are hundreds of accounts of various expeditions mounted during the great age of polar exploration, but Lansing's meticulously-researched look at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 Antartica venture remains one of the best. Shackleton and his men kept diaries, took photographs and otherwise documented their year-long ordeal as they waited, walked, drifted and rowed their way out of the ice. Read this one with a warm drink close at hand as you marvel at the greatest mystery – human endurance.


Thank you, Julia, for finding time to work on this project. Julia Spencer-Fleming’s website is at

I would suggest if you’re looking for Stone’s The Cold Truth that you check with your local library. If you’re looking for any of the other titles, please check the Web Store.

Betty Webb in Crimespree

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Betty Webb, author of Desert Vengeance (Poisoned Pen Press), recently discussed her new book and her character, Lena Jones, for Crimespree Magazine. Check out her article, “When Characters Overrule Their Author.”

Then, if you’re intrigued by Lena, you can buy a signed copy of Desert Vengeance through the Web Store.

Six Four – A Japanese Best Seller?

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Can a Japanese thriller do what Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did? Will Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama become a best seller in the United States?


It was a best seller in Japan, and made into a movie. Last year, it was a best seller in Great Britain. Check out Motoko Rich’s article “A Japanese Crime Thriller in Which Crime Is the Least of It”, from The New York Times

And, if you’re interested, you can buy a copy through the Web Store.

Larry D. Sweazy – “In the Bleak Midwinter”

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“A sad tale’s best for winter.” That’s what William Shakespeare wrote in “The Winter’s Tale.” It’s perfect for “In the Bleak Midwinter”. It’s also a perfect quote for books by today’s crime fiction author, Larry D. Sweazy. His Marjorie Trumaine mysteries set in North Dakota are dark. His latest mystery, Where I Can See You, features a sheriff’s deputy haunted by his own past.


Here’s the description from the Web Store.

“Haunted by the disappearance of his mother when he was eight years old, detective Hud Matthews begins his own investigation to find out what really happened so many years before. When a rare murder occurs in the lakeside community, Hud’s veteran skills are called upon to capture the killer. Pulled deep into the threads of the community with ties to the past, Hud quickly becomes a target, not only of the killer, but of those who wish the past to be left alone. As Hud gets closer to discovering the truth about the crimes, he has to face a choice of enforcing the law, or stepping outside of it to make sure that his version of justice is served.”

Sweazy is a fellow Indiana resident. He said yes when I asked if he would tell us about his reading “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Thank you, Larry.


One my favorite crime novels is Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.


On the surface it’s not your typical genre novel, and that’s why I like it so much. It’s not a genre novel, but it is definitely a crime novel. Winter’s Bone is short (224 pages), sparse, and one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read in the last ten years. Set in the poverty-stricken Ozarks, 17 year old Ree Dolly is forced to take care of herself, her two younger brothers, and her emotionally disabled mother. Her father, a meth addict and dealer, has put their house up for bond and has disappeared. Faced with losing everything, Ree goes searching for her father, and finds far more than she bargained for. The crimes are human crimes, deep and emotional, and much like True Grit (I think Ree Dolly and Mattie Ross are literary cousins), Winter’s Bone is a coming-of- age story that lives in your mind and soul long after you’ve set the book down.

A non-fiction title that I have been singing the praises since it was published is H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.


Set in England, after naturalist Macdonald’s father dies, she grieves by turning falconry, capturing and training a goshawk she names Mabel. Moody, poetic, and moving prose jumps off the page unexpectedly. Like Winter’s Bone, this is a quest novel, a novel about healing and hope, and the difficulties of hanging on to it. Part memoir, part academic study, and training novel, I go back this book over and over just to spend time with the characters and the writing.

Finally, since winter is gloomy and bleak, a little fun should be had, too. I really enjoyed The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey.


Set in Dublin, Ireland this quirky crime novel is a not-so- subtle excursion into black humor, though-provoking emotion, and laugh-out-loud adventure. This is a comedy, love story, and crime novel all rolled into one. Paddy Buckley works at the local funeral home and after he accidently runs over kills the brother of the local crime boss, hilarity ensures. A bookseller (from Faulkner’s in New Orleans) put this book in my hand and assured me that I would love it. She was right.


Thank you, Larry. Check the Web Store for all of these books, and for Larry D. Sweazy’s crime novels and westerns.

And, check out Sweazy’s website at

April Smith & Michael Gamble at The Poisoned Pen

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Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, hosted two authors the other evening. April Smith is the author of Home Sweet Home.


That book is the Hot Book of the Week. Here’s the summary, from the Web Store.

“From the widely praised author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey series and A Star for Mrs. Blake, this riveting epic drama follows the Kusek family from New York City to America’s heartland, where they are caught up in the panic of McCarthyism, a smear campaign, a sensational trial, and, ultimately, murder.

Calvin Kusek, a WWII pilot and attorney, and his wife, Betsy, escape the 1950s conformity of New York City to relocate to a close-knit town in South Dakota. They settle on a ranch and Betsy becomes a visiting nurse, befriending a quirky assortment of rural characters. Their children, Jo and her brother Lance, grow up caring for animals and riding rodeo. Life isn’t easy, but it is full and rewarding. When a seat in the State Assembly becomes available, Cal jumps at the chance to repay the community and serves three popular terms.
Things change when Cal runs for the U.S. Senate. The FBI investigates Betsy, and a youthful dalliance with the Communist Party surfaces to haunt the Kuseks. Mass hysteria takes over, inflamed by Cal’s political enemies. Driven by fear and hate, their neighbors turn, condemning them as enemies and spies. The American Dream falls apart overnight as the Kuseks try to protect their children from the nightmare that follows. The family is vindicated in a successful libel lawsuit, but the story doesn’t end there: years later, Lance Kusek and his wife and son are brutally attacked, and the mystery then unfolds as to who committed this coldblooded murder, and are they related to the stunning events of decades earlier?”

There are a few photos.

Left to right – April Smith, Barbara Peters


April Smith

Michael Gamble not only discussed his mystery, Murder By Tango, but also demonstrated the tango with his wife as his partner.

Michael Gamble and Barbara Peters




Listening to April Smith and Barbara Peters


If you would like to hear the authors, watch the program, and see the tango demonstration, you can watch the program on Livestream.

And, you can order the books through the Web Store.