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Monday, February 28, 2011

TV Mysteries

If you love mysteries then you have found at least some television mysteries throughout the years that you enjoyed and perhaps current shows too.

Remember Columbo, Father Dowling Mysteries, Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, MacMillan and Wife, Perry Mason Returns, Ironside, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Remington Steele, Simon and Simon, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Quincy, Brother Cadfael, Ellery Queen, Charlie's Angels, Profiler, Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett), Jake and the Fat Man, Nero Wolfe, PBS Mystery (Poirot, Miss Marple), Thin Man-movies, Charlie Chan-movies and many more?

On television currently we have Castle, Criminal Minds, the CSI suite of shows, Psych, Mentalist, Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order, Sherlock, Jesse Stone etc.

My question is in two parts.  1)  What past mystery shows were your favorites and 2)  what current shows do you enjoy?

I loved the old Remington Steele, Brother Cadfael and the Perry Mason Returns shows.  Currently I clear everything Monday nights for Castle!  I enjoy Criminal Minds in small doses, the new Sherlock is unique and Mentalist has some great moments.

What are yours? 

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review - If Walls Could Talk

Juliet Blackwell is one of my favorite authors.  She writes with her sister under the name Hailey Lind and writes the Witchcraft Mysteries under her own name.  When I heard she was starting a new series I jumped on board to review it.  Juliet was also one of the first authors to give me an interview (see that here.) 

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: Dec 2010 (Signet) 316 pgs

Series: 1st in Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Melanie Turner, owner & operator of Construction Company

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco California

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Melanie took over the construction company from her ailing father - and after her bad divorce she is living with her dad too.  The story starts out with Melanie checking in with a friend (aged former rock star Matt Addax) who is attempting to fix and flip a run down mansion.  It is the day after a "demolition party" that was more party than any real work and Melanie finds Matt passed out.  Melanie and Matt also find Matt's business partner, Kenneth, tortured with a nail gun and his hand cut off.   Melanie cradles Kenneth until EMTs arrive.  Kenneth dies and all he remembers is that Mel held him so his ghost feels connected to her.  

Mel has enough on her mind without worrying about why she is seeing Kenneth.  She has a former boyfriend who works at OSHA investigating to see if her construction company is liable if it is an accident.  Matt is arrested for Kenneth's murder.  Melanie's father wants her married.  Melanie had stored some of Matt's property until construction was done - her garage is broken into and the piano demolished and the rest in the storage locker is also trashed.  Apparently there is something that people are looking for.  Could it be the box she found in the wall with a vintage old journal and a bogus map to a mine?

Melanie is a great character, rebounding from an ill-fated marriage where she put who she was on hold for her husband.  Melanie is piecing herself back together and since her plans to move to Paris have been thwarted she is dealing with the hand she has been dealt.  Melanie is a natural at restoring old homes, taught the trade by her father, she enjoys saving homes and restoring them to glory.  Melanie's dad is cantankerous and the live-in disabled friend who handles the company books is looking to be a wonderful character too.  The potential love interest is a complicated man from Mel's past and while she is still attracted to him they still have "issues". 

The renovation business that the story revolves around works well in this case, not too much on the construction details and I feel I know more of what a hectic business it really is.  The "seeing-dead-people" is not a major focus in this debut novel but promises to be a recurring and perhaps more central theme in subsequent books.  I liked how the ghostly aspect was handled and there are some hints she inherited this capability.  This was a slight bit more of a suspense novel than just a cozy, a few curse words (maybe 10 in the whole book) and at times it is a little "heavier" than a strict cozy.

The plot was pretty good, several suspects are sifted through and there is a suspenseful climax - which I always enjoy the best.  Melanie finds that the old axiom "trust nobody" is paramount as she tries to help her friend Matt and find out what happened to Kenneth so he can move on and leave her alone.  Great new series that I think will be a big hit.

I just had to share a video of everyone's favorite renovation show - Home Improvement - bloopers!

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Edgar and Agatha Awards

Nominations for the 2010/2011 Top Mystery Awards are in.  Below are the Agatha and Edgar nominations, including for children and young adults.

The nominees for the 2011 Edgar Awards marking the 202nd anniversary of his birth are:

Best Novel:
  • Caught by Harlan Coben (Dutton Adult/Penguin)
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
  • Faithful Place by Tana French (Viking/Penguin)
  • The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller by Timothy Hallinan (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
  • The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)
  • I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (William Morrow/HarperCollins)

Best First Novel By An American Author:
  • Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty/Forge Books)
  • The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
  • The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon (Simon & Schuster)
  • Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
  • Snow Angels by James Thompson (Putnam/Penguin)

Best Juvenile:
  • Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
  • The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)
  • The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee (Feiwel & Friends)
  • Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg (Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group)
  • The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Best Young Adult:
  • The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books)
  • 7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando (Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books)
  • The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price (Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)
  • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group)

Agatha Award Nominees for books published in 2010:

Best Novel:
  • Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
  • Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
  • The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard (Ballantine)
  • Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Mira)
  • Truly, Madly by Heather Webber (St. Martin's Paperbacks)

Best First Novel:
  • The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames (Berkley)
  • Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden (Obsidian)
  • Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower (Five Star/Gale)
  • Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill (Wildside Press)
  • Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff (Midnight Ink)

Best Children's/Young Adult:
  • Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham (Dutton Children's)
  • Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R. L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin)
  • The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee (Candlewick)
  • Virals by Kathy Reichs (Razorbill)
  • The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith (Atheneum)

I have a question for you - Do you keep track of the mystery book awards and do you specifically read the winners?

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review - The Corpse Wore Tartan

 I am one of those people who actually attends Scottish Highland games and loves a rousing rendition of Scotland the Brave. I thought this cozy mystery would be fun.  I haven't read a Cat Who mystery with its rich Scottish flavor and small Moose County community in a long time, so I got this book to review from LibraryThing.  Grab some tartan plaid and let's go to the small town of Moosetookalook Maine for a formal Scottish dinner.

Author: Kaitlyn Dunnett

Copyright: Nov 2010 (Signet) 271 pgs

Series: 4th in Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Liss MacCrimmon, proprietor of a Scottish Emporium

Setting: Modern day, small town of Moosetookalook, Maine

Obtained Through: Library Thing for an honest review

The story starts with the preparations for the Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society's yearly Burns Night Supper (celebration of Scotland's beloved poet, Robert Burns).  During the dinner Phineas MacMillan's speech harshly insults several members.  By the time the dinner is over tempers are hot and a record breaking snow storm has downed trees and power lines.  Guests are stranded at The Spruces Inn.  With a hotel full of angry Scots, what could possibly go wrong?  Well...Phineas's twin brother, Phil is found in the basement with his throat slit.  Was it a case of mistaking one twin for another?

Liss was in attendance as a liaison between Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society and the hotel.  She became the gal Friday in the event planning as well as running the gift shop with merchandise from her Scottish Emporium, providing a good way to question guests.  Meanwhile, the body of Phil is being guarded in the frigid basement until state authorities can make it to the Inn to take over the investigation.  Liss is at odds with the local police woman Sherri Willett, who insists on keeping Liss out of "police business".  

Contemptuous Phineas shows no grief for his slain brother but thinks he needs protection.  One of Liss' suitors declares his love for her complicating her life just a little more.  Can Liss piece together the scant clues and figure out what happened before everybody busts loose to go home and the killer gets away with murder?

This was my first Liss MacCrimmon mystery.  I was anticipating a cross between "The Cat Who" for cozy setting and Agatha Christie's "Then There Were None" for the trapped in a hotel suspense.  I was mistaken in my preconception, it was neither.  The story seems a bit slow and plodding until about the last fifty pages.  The setting of an old stately hotel with half fully remodeled and half still being renovated is a good setting and could have been used to heighten the suspense more.

I didn't get much of a feel for Liss.  She remained stiff to me.  Her relationship with Dan, one of two beaus in her life, seemed odd to me.  He came across as overbearing and at times even bossy.  For instance when he instructs her to blow out all her candles so she doesn't fall asleep with them on.  So the romantic interest was a bust in-my-opinion.  I have to wonder if the situation of being cut off from the town and its people robbed the story of more developed characters and thus left it a bit un-cozy.  There were several missed opportunities to bring a few characters more to life.  The story was populated with mostly strangers and other than a few tidbits here and there none of the characters were developed much, with the exception of perhaps Sherri - the Police officer called over a claim of petty theft. 

Sherri had a past that came back at her during the murder investigation.  She is plagued with wanting to do everything correctly, not screw up the crime scene or evidence until the State police arrive, filled with self doubt and painfully aware of her troubled past by a hotel staff member.  Sherri came to the rescue in saving this story from being mediocre.

It isn't all bad.  It is a nice whodunit, without being convoluted.  The climax has its tense moments and the wrap up has an "ahhhhh" moment.  I would be willing to try another and see if the characters of the townspeople are better developed.  An overall pleasant mystery to while-away a cold day with some tea and scones.

To get you into a Scottish frame of mind, here is a Scottish Tatoo.  Please give it a try, especially if you have never really dipped your toe into the bagpipe and drum corps lake.  This is 2010's opening parade of massed pipe bands at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. This annual grand celebration invites the finest Drum and Pipe bands in the world.  Give it a try :-)


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Mystery Valentine

Whether you think that this holiday is too commercial or you revel in it, I wish you the best day!  

This may sound a little bit odd for a question to readers, but here goes.  I know we all have favorite characters in the books we read, but which character in a crime fiction novel would you want to go on a date with...if they were to spring out the pages of the book and be real???

Would it be Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe novels or maybe boyish Ellery Queen?  Would it be Hamish Macbeth, Inspector Arthur St. Just or maybe Marco Salvare from the Flower Shop mysteries is your idea of a hot date?

I don't want to leave anybody out, so anybody our there think Stephanie Plum, Kinsey Millhone, Stieg Larson's Lisbeth or chef extraordinaire Goldy Korman would their idea of a great date? 

There are some great characters in the thousands of crime fiction books around us that there must be somebody for everybody.  So, fess up and share who your mystery valentine would be!!

Let's get some lively comments flying back and forth - let your imagination go and have some fun with this ;-)

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review - One Grave Less

I reviewed Beverly Connor's prior book The Night Killer here, so I was looking forward to this new novel in the series.  This book grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very last page.  Let's go to Amazon for a deadly fight for survival.

Author: Beverly Connor

Copyright: Dec 2010 (Signet) 356 pgs

Series: 9th in Diane Fallon Forensic Investigations

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Police Procedural - Suspense

Main Character:  Forensic Anthropologist Diane Fallon, Director of Museum and crime lab

Setting: Modern day, part in South American Amazon and part Georgia's River Trail Museum of Natural History

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

The story starts with Forensic Anthropologist Lyndsey Chamberlain caged in the Amazon jungle, her captors thinking she is Diane Fallon.  Then a mere child proceeds to break her out of captivity so she can get her back to her mother - the real Diane Fallon.  The child is the believed-dead Ariel, Diane's adopted child.  A few years ago Diane was part of a World Accord International team investigating a dictator's crimes by exhuming mass graves when Diane adopts an orphan only to loose her to the dictator's goon squad that massacred the mission and base of operations for the team.

But the next moment the reader is back at the River Trail Museum in time for Diane to find Simone, another of the old World Accord International team survivor seriously wounded.  Simone manages to share "it was one of us" before lapsing into unconsciousness.  Fake paramedics arrive and a fire breaks out, but Diane manages to keep herself and Simone safe, but will Simone ever come out of her coma to tell what she has uncovered about the massacre from their time in the Amazon?

This is the beginning and the novel keeps a fast pace throughout.  I honestly had a hard time putting this book down at all.  The two story lines just ratchet the suspense up.  It becomes clear that somebody with international connections is involved.  The plot is great and doesn't let you stop reading for a minute.  The character of Diane's daughter is stellar and Lyndsey is believable, gutsy and brave.  

The betrayal of one of the team members strikes very close to Diane.  The climax is gripping and the wrap up short but complete.  The only thing is that the story ends before we know if Simone will make it or not. 

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival for February 2011

It is time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  It is my hope that the blog carnival gives ideas for crime fiction so readers may try authors they might not otherwise.   Below is the line-up.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link - even if there is no typical underline.

Police Procedural & PI Book Reviews

MYSTERIES in PARADISE reviewed The  Rule Book by Rob Kitchin.  This was a very ambitious first novel. So much action occurs in just 12 days, so much blood is shed, and from a writer's point of view, so many threads to be tracked, so many characters to be fleshed out. And for me, this is the best novel I've read so far this year.

MYSTERIES in PARADISE reviewed Bury  Your Dead by Louise Penny.  This is #6 in a wonderful series by an accomplished Canadian crime fiction author. Try to read them in order so that the scenarios grow around you.

Amateur Sleuth book Review
Mystery Page Turners reviewed The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr

Cozy Mystery Book Review

Cheeky Reads reviewed Buffalo West Wing By Julie Hyzy.


I'm Booking It reviewed To Have and to Kill by Mary Jane Clark

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Books You'll Love from Books We Love reviewed Mardi Gravestone and No Rain, No Rainbows

The Book Roster reviewed The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran. The two main characters are a detective and a killer, though their roles are not as straightforward as that. 

The Dusty Bookshelf reviewed What the Night Knows.  Is he simply paranoid, bordering on delusional, or is evil really slipping in with the intention of ruining his life and claiming the one victim that got away all those years ago? 

The Book Frog  reviewed The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian. Trevanian's great spy spoof is as action packed, intelligent, and fun to read today as it was when it was first published, nearly forty years ago. Find a copy and read it!

Author Interview

Video interview with Elaine Viets

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review - Home for a Spell

For those of you awaiting a review on the new Bewitching Mystery, I finally got to it.  If you like cozies but have never tried this series, you maybe surprised.  Let's go to small town Stony Mill Indiana for murder.

Author: Madelyn Alt

Copyright: Jan 2011 (Berkley Hardcover) 290 pgs

Series: 7th in Bewitching Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Romantic cozy

Main Character: 
Maggie O'Neill

Setting: Modern day small town Stony Mill Indiana

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

I have classified this as a romantic cozy rather than a paranormal mystery because there is a minuscule amount of anything related to the paranormal or witches.  Maggie is sporting a cast on her foot and her boyfriend Marcus is caring for her.  But when Marcus puts off his regular pursuits for Maggie and even postpones taking college classes, Maggie decides to find an apartment she can manage even with her cast.  She finds a newly renovated apartment complex and the manager makes her a deal she can't turn down.  But the morning she shows up to sign the lease, she finds the manager floating in the pool.  Maggie's ex-boyfriend Tom is not happy to find her in the middle of yet another murder investigation.  The manager had a prior record and disciphering what got him killed may take uncovering what illegal activity he was involved in.

Maggie gets to investigate more in this book, even with her cast.  Even Tom and Marcus both are involved in Maggie's sleuthing which lends some jealous tension to the story.  The mystery doesn't have any immediacy and is just a puzzle to solve.  Maggie is a charming main character and of course Marcus's character is continually developed.  Like many cozies, visiting with your favorite characters is a main attraction and that is true in this installment of the Bewitching Mysteries.  The killer is a surprise with an interesting twist.

There is a change in the cold war between Tom and Marcus, Stephanie is getting married and her fiance will be taking a job in another state so Maggie is loosing her BFF.  There was far too little of Felicity in the book (again).  It seems there has been a definite shift from the first book till this one and it is away from the paranormal and more toward light romance.  Unfortunately, I like when there is actual paranormal or witchy things so this is disappointing.

Also in keeping with a cozy, the mystery stays light and not too dark, but sadly I must say that combined with moving away from the paranormal/witchy and the stories becoming even "lighter" I don't know that I will read the next in the series.  I say this with a heavy heart since I eagerly devoured the first in the series and anxiously awaited each new release.  But they just aren't for me any longer. That isn't to say that you won't still enjoy them.  Especially if you are looking for a lite and romantic mystery.

Here is a really amazing recipe for you!

Nutella Cheesecake

    *  2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    *  1 egg
    *  1 teaspoon Vanilla
    *  1/2 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts
    *  1/2 cup ghiradelli dark chocolate pieces
    *  1 (13 ounce) jar chocolate hazelnut spread (nutella)
    *  1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust (alternatives: chocolate crust or regular frozen pie crust baked first)


   1. Sprinkle chopped nuts and ghiradelli dark chocolate pieces in a thin, single layer on the bottom of the crust. Then bake at 350 for 7-8 mins to melt.
   2.   In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and egg until smooth. Blend in Nutella and vanilla until no streaks remain. pour into crust. Bake for an additional 30 mins.  Chill it overnight (about 8-9 hours).
   3.  Before serving top it off with whipped cream.

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