Connie Berry’s Pandemic Books

Have you “met” Connie Berry, author of the Kate Hamilton mysteries? The latest one is The Shadow of Memory, which I’ll introduce later. In the meantime, let me introduce Connie before she discusses her “Pandemic books”.

Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie. You can learn more about Connie and her books at her website

You can find her books, and her book suggestions, through the Web Store.

Connie Berry’s Pandemic Books

Everyone knows how stressful the pandemic years were—isolation from family and friends, confusion over conflicting information, the reordering of common tasks, and most of all, dealing with the unknown. During that time, I turned to the comfort of old book friends plus new books by authors whose work was familiar to me. When I couldn’t travel, I escaped to worlds where the pandemic didn’t exist. In fact, I read more books than ever during that time. Here are five of my favorites.

A Line To Kill by Anthony Horowitz is the third in the Detective Hawthorne series and, in my opinion, the best so far. Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his Captain-Hastings-like chronicler, Anthony Horowitz (yes, the author writes himself into the story) are invited to a literary festival on the tiny Channel island of Alderney. When a local peer is murdered and the island is locked down, Hawthorne and his sidekick must find the killer hiding in plain sight. With a bizarre murder, a limited number of suspects, and a classic puzzle-plot, Horowitz evokes the finest traditions of the Golden Age—with a modern twist.

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves is the ninth in the Vera Stanhope series. I binged on Vera during the pandemic, devouring both the novels and the long-running television series starring Brenda Blethyn. The Darkest Evening combines a cracking mystery with an intriguing glimpse into Vera’s troubled past. Set in Northumberland in December, the book begins when prickly Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope becomes lost on a snowy country road and finds an abandoned car with its doors open. In the rear seat is a toddler, nearly frozen and strapped into a car seat. Where is the child’s mother, and why would she leave her child behind? Vera rushes the child to nearby Brockburn, the once-grand house where her father, Hector, grew up. A Christmas party is in full swing, and Vera’s relatives, whom she hasn’t seen in years, aren’t exactly chuffed. As the police launch an investigation into the identity of the child and the whereabouts of its mother, Vera learns uncomfortable truths about her family history. I loved the mystery, but it’s the character of Vera that keeps me coming back for more.

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries,edited by Martin Edwards, is a collection of twelve short stories by such masters as GK Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh, Carter Dickson, Margery Allingham, and Cyril Hare (one of my all-time favorites). Each is a jewel in its own right, but my favorite is “Persons or Things Unknown,” first published in 1938 by Carter Dickson, pen-name of John Dickson Carr (1906 – 1977). Carr loved history (as I do) and specialized in ingenious locked-room mysteries. This story is set in a country house in Sussex where, in the 1760s, a local farmer was stabbed to death in a locked room with an invisible knife. Can the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, a guest at the country house, solve the case almost two hundred years after the crime was committed?

The Complete Mapp & Lucia, Volumes 1 and 2, include six comic novels published by E. F. Benson between 1920 and 1939. The small, fictional seaside village of Tilling is the scene of a battle for social dominance between the pretentious and domineering Mrs. Emmeline Lucas (known by her friends as Queen Lucia) and the devious and manipulative Miss Elizabeth Mapp. Lucia’s friend Georgie Pillson and the Tillingites—Diva Plaistow, Major Benji Flint, Mr. and Mrs. Wyse, the Padre and his wife, and Quaint Irene—takes various sides as the tide of battle swings back and forth. Frivolous? Yes, as only British comedy can be. But these gentle satires on human frailty have always been one of my cures when reality becomes a bit too stressful. Like the novels by P. G. Wodehouse, they never get old.

Castle Shade by Laurie R. King is the seventeenth book in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Russell and Holmes travel to Castle Bran in Transylvania to help Queen Marie of Roumania, a famous beauty and the granddaughter of both Queen Victoria and the Russian Tsar, Alexander II. The Queen is adored by her subjects, but a series of vague threats, strange accidents, and the disappearance of a young woman hint at an enemy that might not be exactly human. King weaves a suspenseful tale of history, folklore, old secrets, and…vampires?  While this wasn’t my all-time favorite in the series, spending time in the company of Mary and Sherlock was pure pleasure—and the intriguing associations of Bran Castle and Transylvania added layers of intrigue.

I warned Connie Berry that if she didn’t mention her latest Kate Hamilton, I’d write about it. She’s okay with that, but I’m actually using the summary on The Poisoned Pen’s web page. Berry gets better with each book, and The Shadow of Memory is my favorite in the series, so far.

In Connie Berry’s fourth Kate Hamilton mystery, American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton uncovers a dark secret buried in Victorian England.

As Kate Hamilton plans her upcoming wedding to Detective Inspector Tom Mallory, she is also assisting her colleague Ivor Tweedy with a project at the Netherfield Sanatorium, which is being converted into luxury townhouses. Kate and Ivor must appraise a fifteenth-century paintingand verify that its provenance is the Dutch master Jan Van Eyck. But when retired criminal inspector Will Parker is found dead, Kate learns that the halls of the sanatorium housed much more than priceless art.

Kate is surprised to learn that Will had been the first boyfriend of her friend Vivian Bunn, who hasn’t seen him in fifty-eight years. At a seaside holiday camp over sixty years ago, Will, Vivian, and three other teens broke into an abandoned house where a doctor and his wife had died under bizarre circumstances two years earlier. Now, when a second member of the childhood gang dies unexpectedly—and then a third—it becomes clear that the teens had discovered more in the house than they had realized.

Had Will returned to warn his old love? When Kate makes a shocking connection between a sixty-year-old murder and the long-buried secrets of the sanatorium, she suddenly understands that time is running out for Vivian—and anyone connected to her.

Jeffery Deaver & Hunting Time

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, recently welcomed Jeffery Deaver to the bookstore to talk about his fourth Colter Shaw novel, Hunting Time. You can listen to Deaver reading part of Hunting Time, and you can order a signed copy of the book through the Web Store.

Here’s the description of Hunting Time.

The New York Times bestselling master of suspense is back with a riveting thriller, as reward seeker Colter Shaw plunges into the woods and races the clock in a case where nothing is quite what it seems.

    Allison Parker is on the run with her teenage daughter, Hannah, and Colter Shaw has been hired by her eccentric boss, entrepreneur Marty Harmon, to find and protect her. Though he’s an expert at tracking missing persons—even those who don’t wish to be found—Shaw has met his match in Allison, who brings all her skills as a brilliant engineer designing revolutionary technology to the game of evading detection.

    The reason for Allison’s panicked flight is soon apparent. She’s being stalked by her ex-husband, Jon Merritt. Newly released from prison and fueled by blinding rage, Jon is a man whose former profession as a police detective makes him uniquely suited for the hunt. And he’s not alone. Two hitmen are also hot on her heels—an eerie pair of thugs who take delight not only in murder but in the sport of devising clever ways to make bodies disappear forever. Even if Shaw manages to catch up with Allison and her daughter, his troubles will just be beginning.

    As Shaw ventures further into the wilderness, the truth becomes as hard to decipher as the forest’s unmarked trails…and peril awaits at every turn.

Jeffery Deaver is the #1 international bestselling author of more than forty novels, three collections of short stories, and a nonfiction law book. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. His first novel featuring Lincoln Rhyme, The Bone Collector, was made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. He’s received or been shortlisted for a number of awards around the world, including Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers and the Steel Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association in the United Kingdom. In 2014, he was the recipient of three lifetime achievement awards. A former journalist, folk singer, and attorney, he was born outside of Chicago and has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Fordham University.

Enjoy the event from The Poisoned Pen.

Vicki Delany’s Pandemic Busting Reads

I love it when an author puts a different spin on my request for a blog post. Vicki calls her piece “Pandemic Busting Reads”. Let me introduce you to her before I turn her loose.

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than forty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Tea by the Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane Books, the Catskill Resort mysteries for Penguin Random House, and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates) for Crooked Lane. Hopefully, you’re a fan of one of these series, or are interested in sampling some of her books. You can find her books in the Web Store.

Thank you, Vicki.

Pandemic Busting Reads              

By Vicki Delany

November 2022

Like most of you, I’ve been anxiously looking forward to getting back to travelling and having adventures out in the world now that the pandemic, in some ways, seems to be behind us.

I went to Italy for three weeks in November.  And it was marvellous. Everything was open, the streets were packed, the hotels and restaurants welcoming.

I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, but never to Italy. I know! So I opted to take a full-country tour for my first time rather than concentrate on one place. I enjoy reading about a country before I visit so over the months before my trip, I was stocking up on all things Italy.  Here are some of the reads I enjoyed.

The Venetian Game and The Angels of Venice by Philip Gwynne Jones 

These books are part of a series, set in modern day Venice, featuring British translator and Honorary British Consul, Nathan Sutherland.  The blurb on the cover says:  “An unputdownable thriller.” In my opinion, the books are nothing of the sort, but rather a light, humourous romp with a great, self-depreciating character in a fascinating place.  A touch of art and history and the amazing city itself provide an extra oomph to a fun plot.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

This book is set in Florence from 1944 to the 1970s.  It’s not a mystery novel, and doesn’t really have much of a plot, but it’s about friendship and making family, and a touch on the whimsical side as a group of misfit English people decide on the spur of the moment to move all the way to Florence in the 1950s. A wonderful group of characters, plenty of art and art history, and a great feel for that magical city.

The Color Storm by Damian Dibben

“The Color Storm” apparently refers to the influx of color, and new ways of making color, bursting into art at the beginning of the Renaissance. The protagonist of this fictional story is a real artist, Giorgione “Zorzo” Barbarelli, and is set in Venice in 1510. A quick read of the painter’s bio told me he died in 1510, at the age of 33, of the plague. Dibben weaves a fascinating story of the artist’s hunt for the perfect colour, along the way becoming captivated by a rich man’s wife and getting himself involved an attempted murder scheme. A fabulous depiction of the life of a struggling, but extremely good, artist in the early Renaissance. Incidentally it’s believed that Giorgione would have been as well known today as the likes of Titian and Bellini had he lived longer. When in Italy, I made a point of seeking out his work, particularly Portrait of Warrior with his Equerry at the Uffizi in Florence. He’s generally known in the art world as Giorgione Da Castelfranco.

Portrait of Warrior with his Equerry

As we are talking about pandemics, I think it’s not a minor point that Giorgione died of the plague. The book was published this year, so the author is surely referencing COVID. Spoiler alert – our character catches the disease from a boatman when he returns to his city, from which everyone is feeling when a ship illegally breaks quarantine, to rescue his workshop workers. (The word Quarantine, for those who aren’t aware, comes from the forty days that foreign ships were required to anchor off Venice before sailors could come ashore, in an attempt to keep the disease out) Perhaps he should have worn a mask? And the outcome would have been very different if he’d had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

I never write when I travel (too busy adventuring!) but otherwise I’ve had a busy year with four (yes, four) new books coming out in 2023.  Please look for THE GAME IS A FOOTNOTE, the 8th Sherlock Holmes Bookshop book in January.

Superspy Science: Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, was eager to discuss Superspy Science: Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond with author Kathryn Harkup. They also discussed Agatha Christie and her work in the course of the conversation. You can find Superspy Science in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of Superspy Science.

The adventures of James Bond have thrilled readers since Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale was published in 1953, and when the movie of Dr No was released in 1962, Bond quickly became the world’s favourite secret agent.

Science and technology have always been central to the plots that make up the world of Bond, and in Superspy Science Kathryn Harkup explores the full range of 007’s exploits and the arms, technologies, tactics and downfalls of his various foes. From the practicalities of building a volcano-based lair, to whether being covered in gold paint really will kill you, and – if your plan is to take over the world – whether it is better to use bacteria, bombs, or poison – this book has all the answers and more.

Could our favourite Bond villains actually achieve world domination? Were the huge variety of weapons and technology in Bond’s arsenal from both the films and books ever actually developed in real life? And would 007 actually escape all those close shaves intact? From the plots to the gadgets to the ludicrous ways that his life is threatened, Superspy Science takes an in-depth look at the scientific world of James Bond.

Kathryn Harkup is a former chemist turned author. She writes and gives regular public talks on the disgusting and dangerous side of science. Her first book was the international best-seller A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, which was shortlisted for a Mystery Readers International Macavity Award and a BMA Book Award. She has also written Making the Monster: The Science of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts, and her latest book, Licence to Kill: The Science of James Bond.

Don’t you love that? “She writes and gives regular public talks on the disgusting and dangerous side of science.” Enjoy the conversation. It’s been sixty years since Dr. No, and Harkup has a great deal of science to talk about.

Lauren Nossett, Debut Author

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, recently welcomed debut author Lauren Nossett to the bookstore for a virtual event. Nossett’s debut novel is The Resemblance. Ashley Winstead, author of In My Dreams I Hold a Knife and The Last Housewife, was guest host for the event. You can still find signed copies of Nossett’s The Resemblance in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of The Resemblance.

Lauren Nossett’s artfully written debut, The Resemblance is an exhilarating, atmospheric campus thriller reminiscent of The Secret History and The Likeness.

Never betray the brotherhood

On a chilly November morning at the University of Georgia, a fraternity brother steps off a busy crosswalk and is struck dead by an oncoming car. More than a dozen witnesses all agree on two things: the driver looked identical to the victim, and he was smiling.

Detective Marlitt Kaplan is first on the scene. An Athens native and the daughter of a UGA professor, she knows all its shameful histories, from the skull discovered under the foundations of Baldwin Hall to the hushed-up murder-suicide in Waddel. But in the course of investigating this hit-and-run, she will uncover more chilling secrets as she explores the sprawling, interconnected Greek system that entertains and delights the university’s most elite and connected students.

The lines between Marlitt’s police work and her own past increasingly blur as Marlitt seeks to bring to justice an institution that took something precious from her many years ago. When threats against her escalate, and some long-buried secrets threaten to come to the surface, she can’t help questioning whether the corruption in Athens has run off campus and into the force and how far these brotherhoods will go to protect their own.

Lauren Nossett is a professor of German language and literature. Her scholarly work has appeared in journals and edited volumes. She attended the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop in 2015 and 2017. The Resemblance is her first novel. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Enjoy the conversation about dark academia.

Jack DuBrul & Clive Cussler: The Sea Wolves

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, recently welcomed Jack DuBrul to the bookstore. DuBrul’s latest novel is Clive Cussler: The Sea Wolves, featuring Isaac Bell. There are signed copies of the book in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of Clive Cussler: The Sea Wolves.

Detective Isaac Bell battles foreign spies, German U-boats, and an old nemesis to capture a secret technology that could alter the outcome of World War I in the latest adventure in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Clive Cussler.

As New England swelters in the summer of 1914, Detective Isaac Bell is asked to investigate a cache of missing rifles—only to discover something much more sinister. Whoever broke into this Winchester Factory wasn’t looking to take weapons, they wanted to leave something in the shipping crates: a radio transmitter, set to summon a fleet of dreaded German U-boats. Someone is trying to keep American supplies from reaching British shores, and if Bell doesn’t crack the conspiracy in time, the Atlantic Ocean will run red with blood.

Bell must hunt down a new piece of technology that is allowing the Germans to rule the seas from New York to England. With the outcome of the war at stake and Franklin Roosevelt’s orders on the line, Bell will risk everything to stop the U-Boats before they strike again.

Clive Cussler was the author of more than eighty books in five bestselling series, including Dirk Pitt®, NUMA® Files, Oregon® Files, Isaac Bell®, and Sam and Remi Fargo®. His life nearly paralleled that of his hero Dirk Pitt. Whether searching for lost aircraft or leading expeditions to find famous shipwrecks, he and his NUMA crew of volunteers discovered and surveyed more than seventy-five lost ships of historic significance, including the long-lost Civil War submarine Hunley, which was raised in 2000 with much publicity. Like Pitt, Cussler collected classic automobiles. His collection featured more than one hundred examples of custom coachwork. Cussler passed away in February 2020.

Jack Du Brul is the author of the Philip Mercer series, most recently The Lightning Stones, and is the coauthor with Cussler of the Oregon Files novels Dark Watch, Skeleton Coast, Plague Ship, Corsair, The Silent Sea, and The Jungle, and the Isaac Bell novels The Saboteurs and The Titanic Secret. He lives in Virginia.

Enjoy the discussion of aviation, war and Clive Cussler: The Sea Wolves.

Rebecca Roanhorse, in Person

Rebecca Roanhorse is on her first book tour since COVID. She appeared at The Poisoned Pen, hosted by Patrick King from the bookstore staff. She’s touring to talk about Tread of Angels. There are signed copies of Roanhorse’s western noir in the Web Store.

Here’s the description of Tread of Angels.

Celeste, a card sharp with a need for justice, takes on the role of advocatus diaboli, to defend her sister Mariel, accused of murdering a Virtue, a member of the ruling class of this mining town, in a new world of dark fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse.

The year is 1883 and the mining town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity from the high mountains of Colorado with the help of the pariahs of society known as the Fallen. The Fallen are the descendants of demonkind living amongst the Virtues, the winners in an ancient war, with the descendants of both sides choosing to live alongside Abaddon’s mountain in this tale of the mythological West from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.

Rebecca Roanhorse is the New York Times bestselling author of Trail of LightningStorm of Locusts, Black Sun, and Star Wars: Resistance Reborn. She has won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards for her fiction, and was the recipient of the 2018 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She lives in New Mexico with her family.

It’s a fascinating conversation with Rebecca Roanhorse as she describes the background of the book.

Anthony, Lefty & Shamus Award-winner Matt Coyle

Patrick Millikin from The Poisoned Pen welcomed Matt Coyle, introducing him as the Anthony, Lefty and Shamus Award-winning author. Joining Millikin was Robert Anglen from The Arizona Republic. They tag-teamed to talk with Coyle about his latest Rick Cahill novel, Doomed Legacy. There are signed copies of Doomed Legacy available in the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of Doomed Legacy.

A sinister private detective agency, a shady shell corporation, and a dead friend—Rick Cahill is on his most dangerous mission yet

Private investigator Rick Cahill has been running from his past and chasing the truth his whole life. But his past is relentless—and so is his CTE, a disease caused by repeated head traumas that has attacked his body and his mind. As his CTE progresses, he realizes that the disease not only threatens his life but also endangers his family’s wellbeing.

As Rick struggles to keep his family together, he does a favor for Sara Bhandari, a business contact. Then, Sara is murdered, and the police believe her to be yet another victim of a serial rapist who has been terrorizing greater San Diego. But Rick has reason to question their theory. Determined to find the truth at any cost, and against his wife’s warnings, he investigates on his own.

Along the way, he bumps up against a sinister private investigative agency and a shady shell corporation that may be hiding more than company secrets. As Rick digs for the truth about Sara’s death, he risks his own life and the lives of countless innocents caught in his relentless crusade. Ultimately, Rick must decide if his quest is worth the risk of losing his family forever.

Perfect for fans of Michael Connelly and John Sandford

While all of the novels in the Rick Cahill PI Crime Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Yesterday’s Echo
Night Tremors
Dark Fissures
Blood Truth
Wrong Light
Lost Tomorrows
Blind Vigil
Last Redemption
Doomed Legacy

Matt Coyle is the best-selling author of the Rick Cahill PI Crime Series. He was named the 2021 San Diego Writer’ s Festival Mystery Writer of the Year, and his novels have won the Anthony Award, the Shamus Award, the Lefty Award, the San Diego Book Award, among others. He has also received nominations for numerous Anthony, Macavity, Shamus, and Lefty Awards. Doomed Legacy is the ninth in this award-winning series. Matt is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and lives in San Diego.

Coyle discusses his books and the consequences of Rick Cahill’s actions. Check out the conversation.