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Jesse & Jonathan Kellerman @ The Poisoned Pen

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Jonathan Kellerman and his son, Jesse, have teamed up to write novels before. Now, they introduce a new character, a coroner’s investigator, in their book, Crime Scene. Signed copies are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2w0YgdP

Crime Scene

Here’s the description.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A former star athlete turned deputy coroner is drawn into a brutal, complicated murder in this psychological thriller from a father-son writing team that delivers “brilliant, page-turning fiction” (Stephen King).

Natural causes or foul play? That’s the question Clay Edison must answer each time he examines a body. Figuring out motives and chasing down suspects aren’t part of his beat—not until a seemingly open-and-shut case proves to be more than meets his highly trained eye.

Eccentric, reclusive Walter Rennert lies cold at the bottom of his stairs. At first glance the scene looks straightforward: a once-respected psychology professor, done in by booze and a bad heart. But his daughter Tatiana insists that her father has been murdered, and she persuades Clay to take a closer look at the grim facts of Rennert’s life.

What emerges is a history of scandal and violence, and an experiment gone horribly wrong that ended in the brutal murder of a coed. Walter Rennert, it appears, was a broken man—and maybe a marked one. And when Clay learns that a colleague of Rennert’s died in a nearly identical manner, he begins to question everything in the official record.

All the while, his relationship with Tatiana is evolving into something forbidden. The closer they grow, the more determined he becomes to catch her father’s killer—even if he has to overstep his bounds to do it.

The twisting trail Clay follows will lead him into the darkest corners of the human soul. It’s his job to listen to the tales the dead tell. But this time, he’s part of a story that makes his blood run cold.

*****

If you missed the event at The Poisoned Pen, you might want to check out the photos.

Kellerman event
Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, with Jesse Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman

Crime Scene books

You might also want to check out the Livestream program in which the Kellermans discuss the coroner’s investigator. You might be surprised. (And, give the video a moment. The sound doesn’t start immediately.)  https://livestream.com/poisonedpen/events/7718490

Ann Cleeves Talks with “Vera Stanhope”

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Ann Cleeves latest Vera Stanhope mystery, The Seagull, has just been released. You can order it through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2f3Y2Ac

Seagull

Here’s the description.

A visit to a local prison brings Inspector DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy-former detective superintendent, now inmate, John Brace. Convicted of corruption and involved in a suspicious death, it seems that Brace has mellowed in prison. Notorious wheeler and dealer Robbie Marshall has been presumed missing, but Brace knows he’s dead and points Vera in the direction of his grave.

The grave site is a shocking surprise, and the cold case takes Vera back in time-and close to home. Brace, Marshall, and a mysterious stranger known only as ‘the Prof’, were all close friends of her father, Hector. Hector was one of the last people to see Marshall alive before he disappeared in the mid-eighties from the faded seaside town of Whitley Bay, a wild, sleazy place. The one sophisticated establishment in the town at the time was The Seagull. Everyone involved in the case seems to be connected through the bar, including Brace’s lover, the exotic waitress Mary-Frances Escuola who disappeared at the same time Marshall was killed.

To dig up the truth, Vera must overcome her prejudices and confront unwanted memories. Vera’s vulnerability and her strength are on full display as she lends support to John Brace’s motherless daughter, and comes to terms with the lack of a mother figure in her own life.

*****

But, you’re probably here to see Ann Cleeves talk about “Vera” and The Seagull with Brenda Blethyn, the actress who plays Vera Stanhope. Thanks to Pan Macmillan, the publisher in England, you can watch their conversation on YouTube.

Vicki Delany & Sherlock Holmes

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Today is release date for Vicki Delany’s second Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, The Body on Baker Street. It can be ordered through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2whztSN

Body on Baker Street

Vicki wrote a post for us, telling the story behind her series. Thank you, Vicki.

Vicki Delany2

Sherlock Holmes and Me

By Vicki Delany

There is, as we are always being told in creative writing classes, no such thing as a new idea.

It’s all been done before. Take the story of an orphaned boy: a lowly (and lonely) childhood; a hidden, ever-watchful guardian; dangerous times; an eternal enemy; the big reveal of the boy’s true identity; then, armed with knowledge of his destiny, boy saves world.

It’s been written a hundred times, from the tales of King Arthur to Star Wars to Harry Potter.  (Why it’s always a boy, is a post for another day.)

The trick is not to come up with an original idea, because you probably can’t, but to make it your own.

Enter Sherlock Holmes. I don’t have to tell you how popular Sherlock is right now, from movies to TV (two series!) to more books than you can count. Colouring books, puzzles, mugs.  Old books reissued and re-illustrated, new ones being written.

Favourite characters reimagined.

Make it your own, they say.

And so I created Gemma Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium.

I’m a cozy writer and I’m also a keen mystery reader. When I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun.  The idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes.

When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea.  You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock.  Not only things I mentioned above but all the stuff that goes with it: playing card sets, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, cardboard cut-out figures. The list is just about endless. Throw in all the modern pastiche novels, nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era. And, presto, a fully operational bookstore. What would a bookstore be without a cat?  In this case, one Moriarty, who has a strange antipathy to Gemma.

I’ve enjoyed stocking my bookstore, and as befits a book about a bookshop, I drop a lot of names of real books.  Many I have read, some I haven’t, but I enjoy fitting the book to the imaginary character buying it.

Because cozy lovers (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.

My original intent was that the main character would be a normal cozy character. A nice young woman who owns an interesting bookshop, lives in a pleasant community (in this case, on Cape Cod), and has a circle of friends.

But, by the time I got to page two, Gemma Doyle had become “Sherlockian”.

And that’s been enormous fun to write. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. Jayne is ever-confused, but always loyal.

Like any modern Sherlock, such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation, Gemma deciphers cell phone signals and finds clues on the Internet. Like any Sherlock, her relationship with the local police is complicated, but in her case it’s because she’s in love with Ryan Ashburton, the town’s lead detective, and he with her, but they broke up because he couldn’t be with a woman who sometimes seems to be able to read his mind. Detective Louise Estrada (Estrada/Lestrade. Get it?) doesn’t trust her one bit.

But Gemma Doyle investigates nonetheless, because:

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

But sometimes, as Gemma learns, people don’t like having the obvious pointed out to them.

At that moment, Ellen, one of my regular customers, dropped a copy of Hudson House on the counter. “I’ve been so looking forward to this one. I wish Renalta Van Markoff would write faster.”

“You’ll have plenty of time to get into it,” I said. “Now that your husband’s moved out of the house.”

She stared at me. “How do you know that?”

“Didn’t you mention it, Ellen?”

“I most certainly did not. Not to you or to anyone.”

“Just a guess.” I busied myself arranging the volumes.

“That was quite the guess,” Ashleigh asked once Ellen, giving me more suspicious glances, had left.

“I never guess. Ellen comes in here once a month or so. She’s very fond of gaslight mysteries and buys her favorites in hardcover as soon as they come out. An excellent customer.

She’s always dressed well and groomed to the nines. I once overheard her complaining to a friend that her husband was drinking more than she liked. Today, I noticed that her engagement ring is dirty, meaning she’s been fingering it a great deal lately and not taking the time to clean it. She’s wearing sandals, but the paint on her toenails is chipped, indicating a lack of interest in her appearance. As does the unraveling hem in her blouse and the stain on the front.”

“Maybe she got the stain at breakfast and hasn’t been home to change.”

“It was at least two days old.”

“I hope you’re not able to tell my innermost secrets by the way I dress or if I washed my shirt since last time I wore it.”

“You,” I said, “are an enigma.”

“And proud of it,” she replied.

Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, reimagined as modern young women just trying to get on with life. And solve mysteries.

*****

Thank you, Vicki. Vicki’s website is http://vickidelany.com

Matt Goldman & Gone to Dust

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Did you miss Matt Goldman at The Poisoned Pen yesterday, on book tour for Gone To Dust? You can still order a signed copy through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2wiJ1NJ

Gone to Dust

Here’s the description of the book.

Set in Minnesota,Gone to Dust is the debut private eye murder mystery from Emmy Award-winning Seinfeld writer Matt Goldman.

“Sharp wit, complex characters, and masterful plotting makes Goldman a writer to watch. Irreverent and insightful, private detective Nils Shapiro is sure to become a fan favorite.”—Harlan Coben,New York Timesbestselling author

A brutal crime. The ultimate cover-up. How do you solve a murder with no useable evidence?

Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible.

Suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, all potential DNA evidence obscured by the calculating killer.

Digging into Maggie’s cell phone records, Nils finds that the most frequently called number belongs to a mysterious young woman whose true identity could shatter the Somerville family–but could she be guilty of murder?

After the FBI demands that Nils drop the case, Nils and Ellegaard are forced to take their investigation underground, where the case grows as murky as the contents of the vacuum cleaner bags. Is this a strange case of domestic violence or something with far reaching, sinister implications?

“A perfect blend of light touch and dark story—I want more of Nils Shapiro.” —Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author.

*****

You may have missed The Poisoned Pen event with Matt Goldman, but Shelf Awareness Pro interviewed Goldman on Aug. 25. We’d like to share it.

Reading with… Matt Goldman

photo: Peter Konerko

Matt Goldman is an Emmy Award-winning television writer/producer. He was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for his work on Seinfeld. His credits also include Ellen, Coach and The New Adventures of Old Christine. He is in production on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Goldman splits his time between Minneapolis and Los Angeles. He has two children and a giant poodle that does not have a poodle haircut because those are embarrassing for everyone. Gone to Dust (Forge, August 15, 2017) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It’s unusual and beautiful and hilarious. I’m a big Saunders fan. The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke. Good writing (vs. plot) matters to me, regardless of whether it’s literary fiction or genre; good writing can make them the same. I just finished the book, my first of Burke’s, and he’s so good from word to word he makes plot a bonus. Little White Lies by Ace Atkins. In addition to his wholly original work, Ace writes Robert B. Parker’s character Spenser. I’ve read Spenser novels, but never written by Ace. I love Ace’s writing. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I watched HBO’s Big Little Lies, loved it, then heard the book was so much better. Really looking forward to this one.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. I loved the adventure and humor and pushback against authority. Big wish fulfillment for a kid.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel García Márquez, Philip Roth, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain and–sorry to sound like a jerk–Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The latter could convey volumes of insight in one sentence.

Book you’ve faked reading:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. And I don’t know if faked is the right word–maybe failed. I sure carried it around for a long time. I will try again.

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Dennis is mostly known for his mysteries like Gone Baby Gone, for Shutter Island and Mystic River and for his television work on The Wire. The Given Day is about the Boston police strike in 1919 and a whole lot more. It’s beautiful, human historical fiction and, I think, one of the greatest American novels ever written.

Book you’ve bought for the cover:

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø. I’d never heard of the Norwegian crime writer. I loved the title and simplicity of the cover, so I picked it up, read the back cover and bought it. The book turned out to be book 3 in the Harry Hole series. I’ve since read every one.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hate to disappoint, but I don’t believe I hid books from my parents. I hid other things. Sometimes inside books.

Book that changed your life:

Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut. I’d already graduated from college. It was the first Vonnegut book I read, and it made me want to be a writer. I aspire to achieve his simple use of language.

Favorite line from a book:

In Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, he describes a Beverly Hills office building and its tenants: “They had half the second floor of one of these candy-pink four-storied buildings where the elevator doors open all by themselves with an electric eye, where the corridors are cool and quiet, and the parking lot has a name on every stall, and the druggist off the front lobby has a sprained wrist from filling bottles of sleeping pills.” Accurate description, social commentary, great joke.

Five books you’ll never part with:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. The High Window by Raymond Chandler. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Essays of E.B. White. Most of all an essay entitled “The Death of a Pig.” I love White’s prose, humor, and mining of big truths in small details.

Hot Book of the Week – Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling

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Alexandra Alter said of Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, “My Absolute Darling seems poised to become the breakout debut of the year.” That was just one review, from The New York Times. Signed copies of My Absolute Darling are available through the Web Store.  http://bit.ly/2gSEA6n It’s the Hot Book of the Week at The Poisoned Pen.

My Absolute Darling

Do you want more?

Absolute Darling

Here’s the summary of this hot title.

A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul.

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

*****

If you like debut novels, you might want to order a signed copy of Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling.

Michael Brandman, Robert B. Parker & Missing Persons

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Missing Persons isn’t Michael Brandman’s first novel, but it’s the first in his Buddy Steel mystery series. Signed copies are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2xjFYtk

Missing Persons

Here’s the description of the book.

MISSING PERSONS is the first book in the new Buddy Steel mystery series by New York Times best selling author, Michael Brandman.

Steel…smart, aggressive, ironic, spare and cynical…has been content working homicide at the LAPD until his father, the legendary Sheriff Burton Steel, falls ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Sheriff Steel is headquartered in Freedom, a privileged coastal community located a hundred miles north of Los Angeles. His health failing, he asks his son Buddy to come home to cover his back and to groom him to be his successor.

Buddy reluctantly agrees. He returns to Freedom despite having outgrown its small town limits, wary of his father’s authoritarianism.

No sooner does he hit town than Buddy learns the wife of the high-flying star of a Freedom based world-renowned television ministry has gone missing. A visit to the woman’s home leads to a hostile confrontation with her husband’s family and Buddy’s realization that something greater than simply a missing person is at stake.

Allegiance between father and son provides the backdrop for Buddy’s complex investigation of twisted families, avaricious con artists, violent gangs, drugs, corruption, and murder. And added to the mix is an enigmatic femme fatale who succeeds in upending Buddy’s tenets regarding contemporary relationships.

MISSING PERSONS is its own book, yet crime fiction fans will find it a joy to trace its literary lineage from Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker through to Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly.

*****

What’s all that have to do with Robert B. Parker? Brandman wrote a couple of the Jesse Stone books after Parker’s death. But, he’s the screenwriter and producer of Jesse Stone movies. He talks about it, and the connection with Robert B. Parker on Livestream. https://livestream.com/poisonedpen/events/7649432

 

Stephen Weeks’ The Countess of Prague

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The summary in the Web Store beautifully introduces Stephen Weeks’ novel The Countess of Prague. It says, “The Countess of Prague is the wonderfully exciting introduction to Beatrice von Falklenburg, known to her intimates as Trixie, who will lead us from Prague through Europe and occasionally beyond on a ten-book set of investigations that begins in 1904 and finishes in 1914.” (You can order a signed copy here. http://bit.ly/2gPt2Vl )

Countess of Prague

Stephen Weeks wrote a piece that gives some background.

WRITING THE COUNTESS

by Stephen Weeks

I moved to Prague in 2003. I was drawn to it not only as a ‘romantic’ city (ie by the broad river, the high Castle and the baroque houses and churches) but also because for 40 years up to the end of 1989 the place had been allowed to decay and fall apart under the iron fist of Communism. When I had first visited Prague in 1995 there were only about 8 proper restaurants in the City, and they closed at 9pm – or were empty but mysteriously ‘fully booked’. In the rest of the country, the Czech Republic, were more than 600 derelict castles…

Being also a castle restorer, as well as a writer and film-maker, I was intrigued. I was asked to restore all the interiors of a princely palace some 30 miles from Prague, and the owners were surprised that I intended to replicate all the servants’ rooms and special corridors – to show how they lived and worked alongside their masters. After all, there were more servants living in grand houses and castles than aristocratic family members. When this country palace did open to the public, as a heritage attraction, the public flocked to it. The State Castles – those confiscated by the State and opened as museums – never mentioned servants, missing, I would have thought, a great opportunity for some socialist propaganda. Eventually I found out why: when the Communists took over the country in 1948, they rounded up all the senior servants (having already imprisoned or sent down coal or uranium mines those land/castle owners who’d been foolish enough not to flee) and they asked them what it was like to toil for those wicked masters. ‘Quite good,’ many replied, citing the good company, the wonderful environment of a fully-furnished mansion or castle, not to mention the schools and hospitals often erected on the estates at the noblemen’s expense… So it was down the mines too with butlers and major-domos – and orders issued to the State Castles not to mention servants!

One might restore buildings, but they needed peopling… and that I could do by writing. I’ve said a lot about servants, for sharing one’s life with servants is the defining difference between our lives of today and those of, say, pre-1939. That is, all of history to 1939. The labour shortage after the millions killed in WWII led to the invention of the domestic washing machine, then the dishwasher – and the idea that you didn’t need an employee to push a Hoover around, you could do it yourself!

But what about The Countess herself? I started early making – ie directing – films. I was scouting for locations when I was 23 and ended up at an amazing palace in Scotland. The Marquess of Bute had the archetypal butler, who’d been with the family for over 40 years… his name was Buick, who carried a bottle of tonic water to me as if it were a vintage wine, label tilted for me to read (and it wasn’t Schweppes but the local supermarket brand!). The house itself had endlessly long corridors, a tall gothic chapel in white marble, staircases with carved gargoyles… I was dizzy with it all. When summer came, I devoted several months to scouring Britain for a castle that (a) attracted me, and (b) I could afford by selling the little 2-up and 2-down house I’d bought in Fulham in London a couple of years before. I found a 12th century castle in Wales, mostly ruined – and, full of youthful confidence and ignorance, set about restoring it. There were the usual difficult times, such as waking up one morning with frost on the bedclothes when the roof was being mended, but it all worked out and visitors really enjoyed the growing collection of curiosities with which I filled it. I lived there for 25 years, selling it to move to Prague for the second huge adventure in my life.

But owning a castle in Britain meant that I was approached by the Historic Houses Association, a body of owners of mostly far greater and wealthier castles and palaces than mine. I soon found myself on various committees of this august organisation, sometimes the only member without a title (I am from a humble background). Once the minutes of a meeting were sent to me… Lord this, the Duke of that – and at the bottom (it was in alphabetical order) Lord Weeks. The typist has obviously concluded that the committee secretary must have simply forgotten my title.

For some years I worked (this was a voluntary body) with a charming Marchioness who owned a country house (as we call houses like the fictional Downton Abbey) in rolling Welsh countryside, amidst a working forestry and agricultural estate which could produce enough income to fix – then gloriously restore – the crumbling old mansion. She was brave, independent (going through a divorce when I met her) and, when she’d been 28, the perfect model for my Countess – although at that stage she hadn’t even been dreamed of. In Prague I came across an English lady (daughter of a lord) who had moved there during Communism to be with the man she’d fallen in love with. Despite being the model for Socialist hatred, the Secret Police left her alone – they thought anyone coming to Communist Czechoslovakia must be mad, rather than bad! The third inspiration for The Countess is this lady’s daughter, simply because she has all the charm and spunk of her mother, but she was then the right age for my heroine.

Visiting large numbers of country houses thanks to the HHA, sometimes staying as a house guest or going shooting on their estates (don’t worry, I didn’t kill anything) I got to know the aristocratic way of life – with its phlegmatic ease yet socially responsible, leavened by good humour – and to know that at one time it was spread throughout Europe. The so-called Belle Epoque was an idyllic time before the First World War – and all that happened as a result of it – killed it off. But in my imagination, Trixie lives… and with her the whole world she inhabits, which I hope I bring to life so that you might travel back with me yourselves to those years bathed in a golden sheen…

© Stephen Weeks 2017