Fiction Review

Carolyn Hart’s Choices – Clever Mysteries

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I’ve been posting “Every Summer Has a Story” posts from various authors. Great minds must think alike, although I’d never presume to put mine in the same class as author Carolyn Hart’s. She recently wrote an article about clever mysteries, which fits in perfectly with our summer theme.

Carolyn Hart has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. She also is, in my opinion, an expert on the subject of the traditional mystery. So, I’m excited to share her choices with you. However, it’s a long article, so I’m splitting it into two parts. Come back tomorrow for the second half. Thank you, Carolyn, for allowing us to publish this here.

 

                                                       CLEVER MYSTERIES

                                                       My Personal Choice

                                                            By Carolyn Hart

Five authors put the boot to the calumny that mysteries are written by rote, predictable, plodding, plot-driven. These titles offer readers a glimpse of incredibly fertile, funny, and original minds at work.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (American title) by Agatha Christie (1939)

And Then There Were None

Excerpt: Into that silence came The Voice. Without warning. Inhuman, penetrating  . . .

Christie maroons ten individuals, each harboring an ugly secret, on an island with no means of escape. Nine are guilty of murder. The tenth is their executioner. When I first read the novel, I could scarcely wait to finish one page before beginning another. Who were these people with apparently nothing in common? Why didn’t they know the identity of their host? When it became clear that each was slated to die, shock, fear, and desperation permeated each page.

As a mystery writer, I‘m fascinated by the perfection of the novel. Christie not only devised a unique set of circumstances, she created individuals whose character and temperament lead them to doom. She envisioned the exact personalities she needed to make a complex plot work yet each person is believable.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, butler and cook, are in residence when the others arrive. Mr. Rogers informs them their host will arrive tomorrow. The guests find the modern house attractive, their rooms comfortable. The dinner is excellent. There is a moment of light conversation about the curious centerpiece on the dining room table, ten china figures, the Ten Little Indians of the nursery rhyme.

The group gathers in the drawing room for after dinner coffee and drinks. Genial conversation ends abruptly when the Voice speaks, a Voice without an apparent source. The Voice cites each person by name with an accusation of murder. The first death occurs within minutes. One Indian figure is missing from the centerpiece. Deaths occur one by one until at last no one is living and all ten china figures are gone from the table.

And Then There Were None is a marvelous achievement, suffused with human emotion yet as precise and perfect as a mathematical equation.   

MURDER’S LITTLE SISTER by Pamela Branch (1958)

Excerpt: Disheveled, irascible YOU Editor Sam Egan implores his staff: “. . . as a team let’s have a stab at Misadventure, mm? If some swine’s found a clue, we gradually introduce Suicide. Soft pedal it. Nothing of interest to a lurking journalist. Nothing definite, nothing chatty, nothing squalid. Remember, we don’t want suicide and I absolutely refuse to have Murder.”

 

I love laughter and Pamela Branch entertains from the first page to the last. There are a great many clever mysteries, but the heights of hilarity achieved by Branch are unmatched. Her laughter is well-earned, unerring depictions of sometimes malicious inner thoughts seasoned by the self-preoccupation that leads most of us to always respond in terms of how does it affect me.

Unpleasant, ill-tempered Enid Marley is the wildly popular advice columnist for YOU, a down-at-heels magazine always teetering on extinction. Enid knows her colleagues despise her, but she is essential to YOU’s survival. Thrice-married, twice-divorced Enid is furious at her third husband’s involvement in a torrid affair. In an attempt to salvage her marriage, though she cares nothing for him, she decides to stage her suicide, though, of course, never intending to perish.

She edges out onto the ledge of her fifth floor office window. Vertigo sends her tumbling though someone – she can’t imagine who since she is universally loathed by the staff- tries to grab her. Her spectacular dive is broken by a restaurant awning. Unhurt, she flees the scene, desperate to avoid jail for Attempted Suicide. The magazine staffers and Enid herself wonder what is the most advantageous claim, Suicide, Murder, Manslaughter, Misadventure, or a tie between Suicide and Murder.

Branch’s imaginative leaps careen from pugnacious brawlers to knitting patterns to inchoate introspection of staff, police, press, and public. Yet Branch pulls together every thread in a universe only she could have created.  

Evenings spent gurgling with laughter are rare and precious. Thank you, Pamela Branch.

 

And, thank you, Carolyn Hart. I hope readers come back tomorrow to see the other three choices.

Linda Castillo, In the Hot Seat

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Linda Castillo, author of the Kate Burkholder novels, will be at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, July 26 at 7 PM. She’s on book tour for Among the Wicked, her latest novel that takes the police chief out of Ohio’s Amish Country.

Among the Wicked

She was kind enough to take time for an interview. Here’s Linda Castillo, In the Hot Seat.

Linda, I’m so pleased you agreed to sit in the hot seat for an interview. Would you start by introducing yourself to the readers? 

Linda Castillo

Thank you for having me, Lesa.  I love talking about the books (and the hot seat just happens to be my favorite spot!)

I’ve been reading about Kate Burkholder since you first introduced her in 2009, but some might not be familiar with her. Would you introduce Kate?

Kate Burkholder is the chief of police in the small town of Painters Mill located in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.  What sets Kate apart is that she was born Amish.  Readers learn in the first book that something terrible happened to Kate when she was a fourteen year old Amish girl that eventually lead to her leaving the fold when she was eighteen.  Kate is an imperfect character, but feels things deeply.  Early in the series, she is a little rough around the edges, but as she finds her feet as chief and begins a relationship, she becomes more even keel.

Tell us about Among the Wicked, without spoilers.

I’m so excited about AMONG THE WICKED.  Kate is approached by law enforcement in rural upstate New York after a young Amish girl is found frozen to death inside a mysterious Amish community. The girl’s death is suspicious and rumors abound about the sect—especially with regard to the children.  Kate travels to New York, infiltrates the Amish settlement, and goes deep undercover.  At first, everything seems fine—but nothing is as it seems and evil lurks in the most unexpected places.  In the coming days, she unearths a world built on secrets, a serious of shocking crimes and herself alone, isolated and trapped in a fight for her life.

How do you do your research about the Amish? 

I travel to Ohio’s Amish country every year during book tour (one of the highlights of being an author!)  One of the wonderful librarians I’ve become friends with knows the local Amish community and we’ve visited two Amish families.  One of the families runs a dairy operation.  It was so fascinating just to sit down and chat. Once, while we were visiting another family, we were sitting on the deck having coffee and iced tea, and the Amish gentleman asked me if I’d like to take a buggy ride.  Of course, I took him up on the offer.  He must have seen my excitement because once we got on the road, he asked me if I’d like to drive.  It was a terrific experience—and a lot of fun.

You wrote romantic suspense before you started this series. What made you turn to crime?

While I really enjoyed writing romantic suspense, I feel as though I’ve always been much more suited to writing crime fiction.  During the early days of my career, I found myself always pushing the envelope—and my editors constantly pulling me back.  It was then that I wrote SWORN TO SILENCE, the first book in the Kate Burkholder series.  I just sort of cut loose and, as a writer, it was a wonderful, liberating experience.  I’d found my niche.

Off the writing topic. How did you become interested in barrel racing?

I’ve always loved horses and learned to ride when I was very young.  I’ve always like a bit of speed, too.  (If you’ve ever watched a barrel racing video, you’ll know what I mean!)  Feeling that kind of power from such a majestic animal is such an exhilarating, all encompassing experience. You have to be in the moment and basically forget about everything else (at least for those sixteen or seventeen seconds!)  That is made all the more special when you love your horse the way I do.  All of that said, we’re not very fast.  My mare (who loved barrels) is now semi retired due to arthritis and my gelding is getting up in years.

Where do you take friends when they come to visit? 

My husband and I are very much outdoor types (and homebodies to boot!)  But when we want to show people around, we’d probably take them to Palo Duro Canyon.  It’s the second largest canyon in the US and, some say, Texas’ best kept secret.

Pretend you have the money to live anywhere. You can’t pick Texas. Where would you move, and why?

Okay, since I can’t choose Texas ( J ) I’d have to say north Florida.  My husband and I drove through the area a few years back and there are a  lot of gorgeous horse farms, rolling hills and massive live oak trees.  It’s beautiful country and the perfect place for a ranch.

What’s on the top of your TBR (To Be Read) pile?

I just finished an amazing book by John Hart titled REDEMPTION ROAD.  What a tremendous read.  He’s such a beautiful writer.  Before that, I read Sandra Brown’s MEAN STREAK.  It was quite the thrill ride.  On deck is Nora Robert’s THE OBSESSION.  She’s an amazing writer.

Kate’s job involves sizing up people. What 5 words or phrases would she use to describe you?

I’d love to sit down with Kate and have a beer.  She’s much more interesting than I could ever hope to be.  If I had to come up with a word she might use to describe me . . .   She’d probably think I was pretty boring. J

Thank you! 

Thank YOU, Lesa, for the great questions and for featuring me on your blog.

Linda Castillo’s website is www.lindacastillo.com, and her books are available through the Web Store, http://bit.ly/1UmpCA3.

Hope you can make it Tuesday, July 26 at 7 PM to meet her!

 

“Every Summer Has a Story” – Brad’s Picks

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brad-parks-smile-225

If you know Brad Parks, this is an unusual post, lacking most of Brad’s trademark humor. Brad’s the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Award-winning author of the Carter Ross books, beginning with Faces of the Gone. And, in March, his first thriller will be out, Say Nothing.

Brad took my request seriously when I asked him to pick up to five selections for summer reading. Here are Brad Parks’ suggestions.

THE STEEL KISS by Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme is one of the most vivid characters in all of crime fiction—and the fact that he’s quadriplegic is only about the seventh on the list of why. You never know what Rhyme is going to come up with next, and Deaver is so sure-footed with procedural stuff every twist is as believable as it is shocking.

Steel Kiss

 

YOU WILL KNOW ME by Megan Abbott

What? You don’t know Megan Abbott? My goodness, drop everything. She’s got an unforgettable voice and does more in one sentence than most authors do in a paragraph (or even a page). Her writing is to be savored.

You Will Know Me

 

THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON by Steve Hamilton

This one got a lot of buzz—both for the waves it created in the publishing world and because of the forthcoming movie—and I’m here to say it’s equal of the hype. People who know the business know how good Hamilton is (The Lock Artist is only one of the best crime fiction novels of the millennium), and it’s great to see him getting his due.

Second Life

 

GUILTY MINDS by Joseph Finder

I’m writing this on July 19, so this just arrived at the top of my TBR. I know it has something to do with a Supreme Court justice, which tells me it’s going to be Finder at his best: writing about powerful people who are seriously screwed. And that’s just good fun.

Guilty Minds

THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz

Lisa Lutz is one of those writers who makes me feel dumb, because she’s just so brilliant. In this one, she chronicles a murder suspect on the run, and it’s an exhilarating trip for the character and the reader alike. This is darker than the Spellman books, for which Lutz became known, but it’s mighty tasty.

Passenger

*****

Thank you, Brad! And, for those of you interested in picking up signed copies of the books Brad Parks mentioned, this is perfect timing. You can find signed copies of most of the titles in the Web Store. http://store.poisonedpen.com/

And, since Joseph Finder, author of Guilty Minds, was just at The Poisoned Pen, we have a special giveaway with sales of his book.

“Our copies come with a Pocket-sized (3.5” x 5”) official Heller Associates Field Journal designed by the author of the sort used by Nick Heller on assignment, modeled on the field notebooks traditionally used by military and intelligence operatives to make observations, on the run or in the field. Perfect for grocery lists — or for your next mission. Or to keep as a collectible.”

Daniel Silva at The Poisoned Pen

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Daniel Silva recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen on his book tour for The Black Widow.

Hot Book of the Week (32)

How would you like to have been in the audience? This is a picture of anticipation.

Daniel Silva audience

Then, Silva made his entrance through the audience.

Daniel Silva entrance

He was interviewed by Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

Daniel Silva interview

He signed the poster that will hang in the store.

Daniel Silva signing poster

Daniel Silva and Barbara
Barbara Peters and Daniel Silva

And, of course, he signed copies of The Black Widow.

Daniel Silva signing better

Now, if you’re interested in a signed copy of the latest Gabriel Allon thriller, we have them available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2a7ZApU

Debut Authors – Megan Miranda & Lili Wright – Livestream

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Meet debut authors Megan Miranda and Lili Wright. Well, actually, Megan, author of All the Missing Girls, writes young adult books. This book is her first adult suspense novel. Wright’s debut is Dancing with the Tiger.

We’d love to “introduce” both authors to you. Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interviews them here on Livestream. http://livestream.com/poisonedpen/events/5619218

right again - Lili Barbara Megan
Left to right – Megan Miranda, Barbara Peters, Lili Wright
Lili signing
Lili Wright signing copies of Dancing with the Tiger

Would you like signed copies of either book? You can purchase them at the Web Store. http://store.poisonedpen.com/

“Every Summer Has a Story” – Nancy’s Picks

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Nancy Herriman

Nancy Herriman writes historical mysteries. Her first Mystery of Old San Francisco was No Comfort for the Lost. Her new one, No Pity for the Dead will be released on August 2. You can order or pre-order them through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/29yIHia

Nancy’s one of the authors who responded when I asked people to share their suggestions for summer reading. Check out her picks!

She says, “I almost exclusively read historical mysteries (no surprise that I write them, then), so my recommendations are all set in the past:”

Ruth Downie’s Medicus series; Vita Brevis is the latest. Brings Roman-occupied Britain to life.

Vita Brevis

Alan Bradley’s wonderfully witty Flavia de Luce books set in 1950s England; start at the beginning with ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ and just plow right on through.
Sweetness at the Bottom
Without a doubt my favorite series is Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody books, which take place in turn-of-the-century Egypt and involve the redoubtable archaeologist, Amelia. Such a shame that Elizabeth Peters has passed away, but there are 19 books in the series to enjoy. (Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first in the series.)
Crocodile
I also love the slyly amusing Marcus Didius Falco series written by Lindsey Davis. Although Falco has retired and handed over the reins of his investigation business to his adopted daughter, the original series is still a hoot to read. (Silver Pigs is the first in the series.)
Silver Pigs
If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, hopefully Nancy Herriman mentioned a series or two you might not have yet read. You can get any of these titles, including Nancy’s, through The Poisoned Pen’s Web Store. http://store.poisonedpen.com/

Photos – Outlander Kitchen Signing Party

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Now, here’s the party you really wanted to be at, right? It was The Poisoned Pen’s signing party for Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander books, and Carle-Sanders both signed it.

Outlander Kitchen book

Here’s the book teaser before the photos.

“Take a bite out of Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling Outlander novels, the inspiration for the hit Starz series, with this immersive official cookbook from OutlanderKitchen.com founder Theresa Carle-Sanders!

Claire Beauchamp Randall’s incredible journey from postwar Britain to eighteenth-century Scotland and France is a feast for all five senses, and taste is no exception. From Claire’s first lonely bowl of porridge at Castle Leoch to the decadent roast beef served after her hasty wedding to Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, from gypsy stew and jam tarts to fried chicken and buttermilk drop biscuits, there are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.

Now professional chef and founder of OutlanderKitchen.com Theresa Carle-Sanders offers up this extraordinary cuisine for your table. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Following the high standards for prodigious research and boundless creativity set by Diana Gabaldon herself, Carle-Sanders draws on the events and characters of the novels to deliver delicious and inventive dishes that highlight local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Yet amateur chefs need not fear: These doable, delectable recipes have been updated for today’s modern kitchens.”

Can’t you see yourself sitting in this audience?

Outlander audience

Better yet, can’t you see yourself waiting for Diana Gabaldon to come in, followed by Theresa Carle-Sanders, only to find out that they’re being piped in?

Outlander piped in

Outlander piping in

People even came to Arizona from Southern California for the signing.

Outlander SoCal

Here’s author Theresa Carle-Sanders, Diana Gabaldon, and Poisoned Pen Bookstore owner, Barbara Peters.

Outlander kitchen signing - Barbara

Have I enticed you? Does a menu entice you? “Here are just a few of the dishes that will keep the world of Outlander on your mind morning, noon, and nicht:

• Breakfast: Yeasted Buckwheat Pancakes; A Coddled Egg for Duncan; Bacon, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Omelette
• Appetizers: Cheese Savories; Rolls with Pigeons and Truffles; Beer-Battered Corn Fritters
• Soups & Stocks: Cock-a-Leekie Soup; Murphy’s Beef Broth; Drunken Mock-Turtle Soup
• Mains: Peppery Oyster Stew; Slow-Cooked Chicken Fricassee; Conspirators’ Cassoulet
• Sides: Auld Ian’s Buttered Leeks; Matchstick Cold-Oil Fries; Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash
• Bread & Baking: Pumpkin Seed and Herb Oatcakes; Fiona’s Cinnamon Scones; Jocasta’s Auld Country Bannocks
• Sweets & Desserts: Black Jack Randall’s Dark Chocolate Lavender Fudge; Warm Almond Pastry with Father Anselm; Banoffee Trifle at River Run

With full-color photographs and plenty of extras—including cocktails, condiments, and preserves—Outlander Kitchen is an entertainment experience to savor, a wide-ranging culinary crash course, and a time machine all rolled into one. Forgetbon appétit. As the Scots say, ith do leòr!”

Now, if you would like to order a signed copy, you can get them online only through our Web Store. http://bit.ly/29VYAC2