Share This

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall is here

Fall is moving in.  In higher elevations around here, the trees are turning beautiful golds and russets.  Has autumn made its appearance in your area yet?  I enjoy the fall colors and the invigorating feel in the air.  

I found some fall decorating ideas and thought I would share them here for your enjoyment.  Some are small and simple enough for apartments or even a dorm room.  Click on the links below

Use natural elements for fall decorations

Easy Fall Decorating

Fall centerpieces

Next Monday will be the next edition of the Mystery and Crime Fiction Blog Carnival.  If your blog reviewed mystery/suspense books in the last month or so, please submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (
Each October is paranormal mystery month here.  I review books that are of a paranormal flavor during the month.  They will all be mystery or suspense novels and quite often are cozies.  I don't do horror or really frightening, but I wanted to just give you a heads up.  

Also coming up is the Spooktacular Blog Hop.  This will be the third year that I have participated in this large blog hop.  I will be giving away several paranormal mystery books as part of the hop, so stay tuned for that.  

HOW do you enjoy fall in your home?  Any special activities or decorations?  A favorite soup perhaps?  Here is a delicious soup recipe, just because.  :-)

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

    4 Tbsp unsalted butter
    2 medium yellow onions, chopped
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    2 teaspoons curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
    3 (15 oz) cans 100 percent pumpkin or 6 cups of chopped roasted pumpkin*
    5 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)**
    2 cups of milk
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup heavy cream

*To make pumpkin purée, cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, lie face down on a tin-foil lined baking pan. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour. Cool, scoop out the flesh. Freeze whatever you don't use for future use.

**If cooking gluten-free, use gluten-free broth.


1 Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.

2 Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

3 Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan.

4 With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. If a little too spicy, add more cream to cool it down. You might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

Serve in individual bowls. Sprinkle the top of each with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Yield: Serves 8.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review - Murder at Hatfield House

This week we look at a new historical mystery series set in the tumultuous and terrifying time of Queen Mary reigning in England.  I eagerly read this book because this time period is fertile for a suspenseful murder mystery.

Author: Amanda Carmack

Copyright: October 2013 (Signet) 288 pgs

Series: 1st in Elizabethan Mysteries series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Characters: Kate Haywood, 18 year old musician in the employ of princess Elizabeth

Setting: 1558, England (during the rule of Bloody Mary)

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

The reigning queen is Mary, Daugter of Henry VIII, and a rabid Catholic. Her reign was filled with executions of Protestants, thus earning her the name "Bloody Mary."  Mary took control of the government after the failed attempt by Henry VIII's only legitimate son, Edward VI, to by-pass Mary and turn the throne over to his cousin Lady Jane Grey.  Mary seized the throne and had her cousin Jane publicly executed. Being of the protestant faith would get you killed under Mary's rule as a heretic and traitor.  It is in this highly charged political atmosphere that this story takes place.  Catholic Queen Mary has a protestant sister, Elizabeth, who has the only other legitimate claim to the throne.  Elizabeth tries to live a quiet life at Hatfield manor house and avoid her sister's wrath, which means enduring Mary's agents who regularly search her home trying to find Protestant teachings or bibles to try her as a traitor. 

The story starts as one such agent from Queen Mary, Lord Braceton, is approaching Hatfield house and his assistant is shot with an arrow and dies. Needless to say, Braceton proceeds to make Elizabeth and her household suffer for the murder of his assistant.  Elizabeth, under house arrest, begins turning to Kate to secretly be her eyes and ears.  Kate vows to help her princess and uncover who the murderer is, even if she is placed in increasing peril.

Kate Haywood is a kind girl in a harsh and dangerous time. She loves her father and is devoted to her friends and the Princess. She is brave in her desire to help others and was a heroine that I found easy to root for her success.  Her father, Matthew Haywood, lives for his music and is a delight. Princess Elizabeth Tudor is portrayed as loyal to those who have been loyal to her, fierce in her sense of duty to those who rely on her, has a terrible temper that she holds in check, and very politically savvy. I really liked the portrayal of a steely woman caught in the middle of dangerous political plots.  I must mention Anthony, the young law apprentice who likes Kate more than as a friend, even if she doesn't realize it.  Ned, a mute kitchen boy, is a bittersweet character.  Lord Braceton is portrayed to give a sense of just how scary the times were with powerful bullies throwing their weight around. I both feared the character and what he might do while wishing for him to get justice delivered upon him.

Most of the story takes place at Hatfield House or the nearby
Hatfield House, Princess Elizabeth's residence
town. The photo shows what Hatfield House really looked like rather than the book cover.  There are a few scenes at other manor houses.  The dark hallways, tower rooms, and hidden passageways add to the historical time and the sense of danger.  The village is also a great setting with danger seemingly in every encounter.

The plot presents a well hidden enemy who clearly has an agenda against the Queen and any of the Queen's officials. The  killer is quick and deadly, can strike with an arrow or a knife.  But why and who is elusive.  I was guessing until close to the reveal.  The pace kept steady as Kate investigated and more incidences of murder occured. 

The climax with Kate and the killer is intense and dramatic. I did feel the resolution to the killer confrontation was sudden and seemed a let down.  The wrap-up nicely setups the next book and promises to provide even more political intrigue for Kate.

I found this a great historical suspense with a solid murder mystery and very enjoyable heroine.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Here is a short video that gives the setting of Queen Mary's horrifying reign that is central in the novel. Warning: references to violence and bloodshed

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Book Week 2013

I came across the development that London's Sunday Times broke the news on July 14th that Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo's Calling, is in fact the pen name for...J.K. Rowling.  This was news to me, so I wanted to pass it along.  The book has been getting critical acclaim before it was leaked that Rowling was the real author.  "Rowling switches genres seamlessly...a gritty, absorbing tale." (People (3.5/4 stars)).  Now onto our main feature story.

Celebrate the freedom to read and the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week!  Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States.

Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.

In many cases, learning about why a book has been challenged or banned is an education in itself.  In celebrating Banned Book Week, we are celebrating freedom in the United States to read broadly.  Naturally, parents may feel some material is not age appropriate for their child, and that is each family's individual call.  But over this week we celebrate our freedom to read, rather than live in a country were censorship is the order of the day.

Find out about the ten banned books that shaped America (click here.)   Here is a brief discussion regarding the censorship in Tucson Unified School District for the widely praised Mexican-American Studies program (click here.)   Also, find out about frequently challenged books (click here.)

Since the inception of Banned Books Week in 1982, libraries and bookstores throughout the country have staged local read-outs—a continuous reading of banned/challenged books—as part of their activities. For the third year in a row, readers from around the world can participate in the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out by creating videos proclaiming the virtues of the freedom to read that will be featured on a dedicated YouTube channel -- click here.    More information and criteria to participate can be found here.  

Check your local library to find events all this week.

Short video of the Top 10 Banned Books and why

A Sara Paretsky, author of V I Warshawski detective novels participating in Virtual Read-out for Banned Book Week.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review - Bran New Death

Today is National Talk-Like-a-Pirate day, which has nothing to do with the book review this week at all.  I just had to share it.  Today we enter a rural town in upstate New York and a family Castle.  This is a debut of a new series by the author of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries.  We will also hear some great tidbits about muffins.  I found out that muffins are essentially bread based verses cupcakes that are cake based.  So let's set sail for the North East and watch your backs, arrrrrg!

Author: Victoria Hamilton

Copyright: September 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Merry Muffin Mystery

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Merry Wynter, former Plus size model

Setting: Modern day, Upstate rural NY (Autumn Vale)

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Merry Wynter is still grieving the death of her husband from seven years ago.  She leaves the New York fashion scene after some financial gambles that fail and a bad experience with her super-model boss.  She had inherited a house and property from an estranged uncle several months ago and now goes to find why it isn't selling because she could use the money.  She finds she has inherited a castle and untended grounds.  The property has been dug up leaving large gaping holes all over -- no wonder it won't sell.  She decides to stay and fix the grounds and castle so it will sell.  

Her good friend Shilo, a thin model, comes out to stay with her.  Soon, the Autumn Vale residents slowly share that her uncle had been suing a construction company and some folks even believe her Uncle Melvyn had killed the owner of Turner Construction, Rusty Turner, before he then died in an auto accident.  But Merry is also told that even her uncle's death is suspicious.  There are secrets within secrets in this town. Then there is a murder on the grounds of her new property and she doesn't know what to believe.  

Merry loves to bake muffins, and begins baking several batches a week for the local assisted living home.  Thus the muffin theme.  Recipes included.

Merry Wynter is a former plus sized model (so I already love the break from the perfectly thin character.)  She is directionally challenged, grieving yet strong, independent, smart, creative, and caring. An all-around great main character.  Shilo, the BFF, never shares about her past and thus mystery surrounds her. She is a great friend to Merry and provides a little whimsy.  Sheriff Virgil Grace has trust issues and is too serious - but he naturally is the potential romantic interest.  Jack McGill is the easy going realtor who falls for Shilo.  Although he is often around in the story, he is somewhat in the background.  I would like to have him in the forefront more because he is an interesting character.  Binny Turner is the owner and baker of the local specialty pastry shop and the daughter to Rusty Turner who is missing but presumed dead. Gogi Grace, the Sheriff's mother, created and runs the Golden Acres assisted living home and is a force of nature.  I think she is a breakout character in this novel.   Lizzy is a local teenager, living with her grandmother who doesn't know who her father is.  Lizzy discovers major pieces to the puzzle and is also a great breakout character. 

The quirky but economically challenged town of Autumn Vale grows on you. It is rural, with street names that change so a map is useless.  The castle interior is sparsely used in this debut, but I look forward to more in the next installments.  But the grounds of the Wynter Castle are used to great effect.  The Arboretum, a botanical garden containing living collection of trees, on the vast grounds is a significant location in the story during the climax.  It was nicely utilized in a few instances. 

This cozy novel holds some surprises in the layered plot and subplots involving the characters.  There is more than you initially suspect in this novel.  The plot has some good twists and I did not foresee a few of the surprises thrown at the reader.  The climax was dramatic and exciting, which always makes me like a book.  The wrap-up sets up the next book perfectly and has the reader anxiously anticipating when the next in the series will be released.

This debut novel provides a great cast of characters and an engaging plot in a beautiful setting.  The story pulls the reader in and by the end, you will feel as though you know the people and want to return to visit soon.  As if that weren't enough, the included recipes are great.  I made the Bacon Cheddar Muffins and they are scrumptious.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 16, 2013

DIY World Mystery Book Tour

I came across this great listing at and it occurred to me this provides an amazing listing to create your customized World Mystery Book Tour.  Check out the variety available.


    Grace Brophy writes the Alessandro Cenni series, Commisario, state police of Umbria, Italy

    Andrea Camilleri writes the Inspector Montalbano series, detective, Sicily

    Michael Dibdin writes thethe Aurelio Zen series, Italian police inspector, various Italian locations

    Conor Fitzgerald writes the Alec Blume, ex-pat American and Commisario of Police, Rome

    Michele Giuttari writes the Michele Ferrara, Squadra Mobile, Florence, Italy

    David Hewson writes the Nic Costa series, police detective, Rome, Italy

    Christobel Kent writes the Sandro Cellini, cop turned PI, Florence, Italy

    Donna Leon writes the Guido Brunetti series, police inspector Venice

    Carlo Lucarelli writes the Commissario De Luca series, policeman in post-Mussolini Italy

    Carlo Lucarelli writes the Grazia Negro series, police inspector, Bologna

    Beverle Graves Myers writes the Tito Amato series, castrato opera singer, 18th century Venice

    Magdalen Nabb writes the Salvatore Guarnaccia series, Carabinieri Marshall, Florence

    John Maddox Roberts writes the Decius Caecillius Metellus, sleuth in ancient Rome

    Steven Saylor writes the Gordianus the Finder, an early PI in ancient Rome in the time of Caesar

    Valerio Varesi writes the Commisario Soneri, Parma, Italy

    Marco Vichi writes the Inspector Bordelli, Florence in the '60s

    Jan Merete Weiss writes the Natalia Monte, police captain, Naples, Italy

France (plus Belgium)

    Cara Black writes the Aimee LeDuc series, Franco-American PI in Paris

    Michael Bond writes the Monsieur Pamplemousse series, French culinary critic

    Alexander Campion writes theCapucine Tellier, policemwoman married to food critic, Paris

    Claude Izner writes the Victor Legris, bookseller in 19th century Paris

    Gerald Jay writes the Inspector Paul Mazarelle, Paris cop now in the Dordogne region

    M.L. Longworth writes the Antoine Verlaque, magistrate Aix-en-Provence

    Adrian Magson writes the Inspector Lucas Rocco, 1960's Picardie France

    Peter May writes the Enzo MacLeod series, Scottish forensic scientist, Toulouse, France        

    Georges Simenon writes the Maigret series, police detective, Paris, France---220 mysteries

    Peter Steiner writes the Louis Morgan and Jean Renard, retired CIA agent and village cop in south of France

    Fred Vargas writes the Det. Commissaire Jean-Baptise Adamsberg series, Paris, France

    Martin Walker writes the Bruno Courreges, chief of police, south of France

    Michelle Wan writes the Mara Dunn series, sleuth, Dordogne

  Pieter Aspe writes the Inspector Pieter Van, Bruge Belgium


Germany & Austria

    Jakob Arjouni writes the Turkish-German PI Kemal Kayankaya

    Rebecca Cantrell writes the Hannah Vogel, journalist in pre-war Berlin

    David Downing writes the John Russell, Anglo-American journalist in pre-war Berlin

    Philip Kerr writes the Bernie Gunther, PI in pre and post-war Germany

    Jonathan Rabb writes the Nicolai Hoffner, police detective, pre-war Berlin

    Morley Torgov writes the Herman Preiss, police inspector 1868 Munich

    Wolf Haas writes the Simon Brenner, ex-cop, Vienna Austria

    Oliver Potzsch writes theJakob Kuisly, town hangman and his daughter Magdalena, 16th century Bavaria


    Jussi Adler-Olsen writes the Inspector Carl Mork, cold case squad, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Karin Alvtegen writes the standalone crime novels, Sweden

    Blaedel, Sara writes the Louise Rick, Detective Inspector Copenhagen, Denmark

    K.O. Dahl writes the Frank Froelich, detective inspector Oslo, Norway

    Ake Edwardson writes the Erik Winter series, chief inspector, Gotesborg, Sweden

    Kjell Eriksson writes the Ann Lindell series, Police inspector, Libro, Sweden

    Karin Fossum writes the Konrad Sejer series, police inspector, Norway

    Anne Holt writes the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, police detective Oslo, Norway

    Anne Holt writes the Joanna Vik and Adam Stubo series, former FBI profiler and police chief, Oslo Norway

    Matti Joensuu writes the Timo Harjunpaa, detective sergeant, Helsinki, Finland

    Lene Kaaberbol writes the Nina Borg, nurse, Copenhagen Denmark

    Mons Kallentoft writes the Malin Fors, policewoman, Fjallbacka, Sweden

    Lars Kepler writes the Detective Inspector Joona Linna, Tumba, Sweden

    Camilla Lackberg writes the Patrik Hedstrom, detective, Fjallbacka, Sweden

    Asa Larsson writes the Rebecka Martinsson series, tax attorney, Sweden

    Stieg Larsson writes the hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikail Blomkvist, Stockholm, Sweden

    Henning Mankell writes the Kurt Wallander series, police detective, Sweden and others

    Liza Marklund writes the Annika Bengtzon, reporter, Sweden

    Jo Nesbo writes the police inspector Harry Hole, Oslo, Norway

    Hakan Nesser writes the Inspector Van Veeteren series, detective inspector, in a country much like Sweden

    Kristina Ohlsson writes the Alex Recht, Swedish National Police, Stockholm, Sweden

    Anders Roslund writes crime novels set in Stockholm, Sweden

    Yrsa Sigurdardottir writes the lawyer Thora Gudmundsdorrir, Reykjavik, Iceland

    James Thompson writes the Kari Vaara, police inspector Finland

    Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo writes the Martin Beck, police detective, Sweden

    Helene Tursten writes the Inspector Irene Huss, Goteborg, Sweden

    Jan Costin Wagner writes the Detective Kimmo Joenta, Turku, Finland

Other European locations

    Michael Genelin writes the Jana Martinova, police commander, Bratislava, Slovenia

    Vilmos Kondor writes the mystery set in pre-war Budapest Hungary

    Anne Zouroudi writes the Hermes Diaktoros, enigmatic detective, Athens, Greece

    Jeffrey Siger writes the Andreas Kalidis, Chief Inspector, Greek National Police

    Janwillem VandeWetering writes the Grijpstra and de Gier, Amsterdam cops


    John Burdett writes theSonchai Jitpleecheep, police detective Bangkok, Thailand

    James Church writes the Inspector O series, North Korean police detective

    Colin Cotterill writes the Siri Paiboun, coroner in mid-seventies Laos

    Colin Cotterill writes the Jimm Juree, crime reporter rural Thailand

    Shamini Flint writes the Inspector Singh, Singapore

    Timothy Hallinan writes the Poke Rafferty series, expat American travel writer, Bangkok, Thailand

    Keigo Higashino writes the Detective Galileo, Tokyo, Japan

    Natsuo Kirino writes the various standalone crime novels

    Diane Wei Liang writes the PI Mei Wang, Beijing China

    Martin Limon writes the George Sueno & Ernie Bascom, Army CID investigators, 1970s South Korea

    Peter May writes the Li Yan and Margaret series, Chinese police detective and American forensic pathologist, Beijing, China

    Sujata Massey writes the Rei Shimura series, Japanese American antiques dealer

    Christopher G. Moore writes the American expat PI Vincent Calvino, Bangkok Thailand

    I. J. Parker writes the Akitada Sugawara series, civil servant turned sleuth, feudal Japan

    Eliot Pattison writes the Shahn Tao Yun series, disgraced Chinese policeman in Tibet

    David Rotenberg writes the Zhong Fan series, homicide detective, Shanghai, China

    Lisa See writes the Liu Holan series, police detective, Beijing, China

    Nuryi Vittachi writes the C.F. Wong, Feng Shui consultant, Singapore

    Michael Walters writes the Inspector Nergui series, Serious Crimes Unit, Mongolia China

    Qiu Xiaolong writes the Chen Cao series, Shanghai police inspector

Egypt, the Middle East, Turkey and India

    Esmahan Aykol writes the Kati Hirschel, mystery bookstore owner, Istanbul, Turkey

    Paul Doherty writes the Amerotke series, Chief Judge of 18th Dynasty Egypt

    Kishwar Desai writes the Simran Singh, social worker, Punjab India

    Nick Drake writes the Rahotep, detecive dynastic Egypt

    Zoe Ferraris writes theKatya Hijazi, medical examiner, Jidda Saudi Arabia

    Batya Gur writes the Michael Ohayon, police detective Israel

    Tarquin Hall writes the Indian PI Vish Puri

    Joseph Kanon writes the standalones, settings include Germany, Venice and Istanbul

    Barbara Nadel writes the inspector Cetik Ikmen, Istanbul, Turkey

    Michael Pearce writes the Gareth Owen series, Mamur Zapt in 1905 Cairo Egypt--WWI

    Elizabeth Peters writes the Amelia Peabody series, Edwardian archaeologist, Egypt

    Mary Reed writes the John the Eunuch series, Lord Chamberlain to Justinian 6th Cent

    Matt Beynon Rees writes the Omar Yuseff, schoolteacher Bethlehem, West Bank

    Mehmet Murat Somer writes the drag queen sleuth, Istanbul, Turkey

    Paul Sussman writes the Yusuf Khalifa series, Inspector, Luxor, Egypt

    Jenny White writes the Kamil Pasha, magistrate in 19th century Istanbul, Turkey


    Suzanne Arruda writes the Jade del Cameron, photojournalist 1920's East Africa

    Nick Brownlee writes the Jake and Jouma, retired Scotland Yard detective and poiice detective, Mombasa, Kenya

    Nina Darnton writes the standalone set in Nigeria

    Adimchinma Ibe writes the Nigerian detective Peterside

    Jassy Mackenzie writes the PI Jade DeJong, Johannesburg, South Africa

    James McClure writes the Kramer and Zondi series, a white detective and his Bantu sergeant in apartheid South Africa

    Deon Meyer writes the several standalone crime novels set in South Africa

    Tamar Myers writes the missionary Amanda Brown, 1950's Belgian Congo

    Malla Nunn writes the 1950's South African cop Emmanual Cooper

    Kwei Quartey writes the Inspector Darko Dawson, Ghana

    Alexander McCall Smith is well known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series

    Roger Smith writes the standalone crime novels set in Capetown, South Africa

    Michael Stanley writes the David "Kubu" Bengu, assistakient superintendent, Botswana

    Robert Wilson writes the Robert Medway, fixer, East Africa



    Boris Akunin writes the Sister Pelagia series, Russian Orthodox nun, czarist Russia

    Boris Akunin writes the Erast Fandorin series, suave, young policeman in Tsarist Russia

    Sam Eastland writes the Inspector Pekkala, czarist-era cop in 1930's Stalinist Russia

    Brent Ghelfi writes the Alexei Volkovoy series, Russian undercover agent

    Andrey Kurkov - aspiring writer Viktor Zolotaryov and his penguin Misha, Kiev, Russia

    R. N. Morris writes the Porfiry Petrovich, Czarist-era policeman

    William Ryan writes the Alexeii Korolev, policeman in Stalin-era Moscow

    Martin Cruz Smith writes the Arkady Renko series, police detective, Moscow, Russia


    P.J. Brooke writes the Max Romero, inspector, Granada, Spain

    Arturo Perez-Reverte writes the Diego Alatriste series, swordsman, 17th century Spain

    Rebecca Pawel writes the Carlos Tejada series, cop in the Guardia Civilia, civil war-era Spain

    Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett writes the Petra Delicado series, police detective, Barcelona, Spain

    Robert Wilson writes the Javier Falcon series, policeman, Seville, Spain

    Manuel Vazquez Montalban writes the Pepe Carvalho, PI, Barcelona

South of U.S.

    Annamaria Alfieeri writes two historical mysteries set in Paraguay and Bolivia

    Lisa Brackmann writes standalones set in Mexico

    Hilary Davidson writes the travel writer Lily Moore, 2nd book set in Peru

    Joan Druett writes the Wiki Coffin series, Pacific Islander linguist, 1838 Exploring Expedition

    Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza writes the Inspector Espinosa series, police detective, Rio de Janiero,


    Leighton Gage writes the Mario Silva series, Chief Inspector, Federal Police, Brazil

    Guillermo Martinez  writes the Book of Murder,a standalone

    Leonardo Padura writes the Mario Conde series, police lieutenant, Havana, Cuba

    Steven Torres writes the Luis Gonzalo, sheriff of Angustias, Puerto Rico,


    Peter Corris writes the Cliff Hardy series, Australian PI

    Garry Disher writes the Hal Challis series, Detective inspector, Melbourne Australia

    Garry Disher writes the bank robber Wyatt

    Kerry Greenwood writes the Phryne Fisher series, '20 sleuth, Australia

    Kerry Greenwood writes the Corinna Chapman series, bakery owner, Melbourne, Australia

    Adrian Hyland writes the Emily Tempest series, half-Aboriginal tribal police officer

    Peter Temple writes the Melbourne homicide cop Joe Cashin


    Benjamin Black writes the Quirke series, pathologist, Dublin, Ireland in the '50s

    Ken Bruen writes the Jack Taylor series, ex-cop, Galway Ireland

    Tana French writes the Cassie Maddox series, police detective, Dublin Ireland plus other standalones

    Cora Harrison writes the Mara the judge, 16th century Ireland

    Declan Hughes writes the Edward Loy series, PI, Dublin Ireland

    Brian McGilloway writes the Benedict Devlin series, Garda Inspector, Ireland

    Adrian McKinty writes the Michael Forsythe series, Irish mercenary

    Stuart Neville writes the several interconnected books set in Northern Ireland

    Gerard O'Donovan writes the Mike Mulcahey, det. insp., Dublin Ireland

    Ian Sansom writes the Israel Armstrong series, bookmobile librarian

    Peter Tremayne writes the Sister Fidelma series, 7th Century Irish Nun, Ireland

There you go!  Plenty of international writers of mystery to design your own world tour.  Were any missed?  Tell us about them in the comments.


Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review - Mortal Arts

Today I get to review the second in the Lady Darby mysteries.  I had reviewed the first book in the series The Anatomist's Wife (click here)  and was honored to interview the author (click here.)  Let's return to rough and alluring land of Scotland for the second in the series. 

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: September 2013 (Berkley Trade) 384 pgs

Series: 2nd in Lady Darby Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Character: Lady Kiera Darby, an accomplished artist and widow, social outcast

Setting: 1830, Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Kiera and her sister's family are traveling to Edinburgh so that pregnant Alana can be close to better medical care. Still en-route, a rider delivers an urgent appeal to Phillip.  Lady Hollingsworth, Phillip's aunt, demands his presence at Dalmay House with no explanation.  The family quickly makes their way to Michael Dalmay's family home to find that Michael is to marry Caroline except for a glitch in the engagement... Michael's older brother.  William was believed to be dead for the past five years, but he had been thrown into an asylum, Larkspur Retreat, by his father.  This means that Michael will not be the one to inherit the title nor the property, so the wedding is on hold. 
On top of that, William has been released by his brother's hard work and is back living at Dalmay House. 
William was Kiera’s art tutor when she was fourteen.  Kiera feels for Williams’s plight since there had been talk of committing her after her deceased husband was discovered to do dissections and she was forced to draw the bodies, branding her as "un-natural."  Then a local girl, Mary Wallace, goes missing and Michael fears everyone will suspect his brother just because they are fearful. Kiera insists on staying behind when her sister and family continue to Edinburgh and trying to prove that William had nothing to do with Mary Wallace's disappearance, but things are never that easy.

Lady Kiera Darby was more emotional in this book, giving in a bit to her old fears from the nightmarish time when she had to face the possible fate that William suffered through. In some ways she was a bit too adamant in helping William, which felt a tad out of character for the Kiera in the first book.  Sebastian Gage is too tight lipped, and where this may be an attempt to create an air of mystery about the man, by the end of the book it came across as toying with Lady Darby's feelings when he has no intention of being invested in their "relationship".   Michael Dalmay seemed more tortured than his traumatized brother, which resulted in his hiding important facts. A few instances this felt more contrived to draw the story out.  William Dalmay was a character I liked. He doesn't exactly trust himself, but wants to do the right thing inspite of his nightmare for the past 10 years. The reader is torn between suspicion and believing he is innocent.  Great tension created there.  Elise Remington is a spoiled and pampered society teen who needed to be slapped across the face in one instance.  She creates complications for Sebastian and Kiera. 

Dalmay House on the Firth of Forth and the deteriorated ruins of Banbogle Castle are great locations filled with shadows and a sense of hidden dangers.  The specter of Larkspur Retreat, the asylum, on isolated Inchkeith Island nearby is always looming in the background.

There were a few glitches with the plot, particularly with Kiera's staunch insistence on helping William when there is no indication that she had really thought about or grieved for him over the ten years she believed he was dead.  In a few instances characters acted in improbable ways.  The climax was spot on and a nail-biting suspenseful ride where all the lurking fears come out to haunt and chase and deliver a twist or two.  The wrap-up was anti-climatic and, sorry to say, unsatisfying. 

The second book in a series is perhaps the hardest.  The author must deliver the same success but on a deadline, all-the-while knowing the high expectations of the audience.  This was a solid entry with a few minor glitches.  I found myself completely absorbed and felt like I had been through the story personally and needed a breath when I closed the book.  It was only in looking back to write this review that I realized the few issues I mentioned, so they didn't jump out at me as I read.

Ratings: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

Below is a brief video of Delmeny House, which is the inspiration for the main setting of Dalmay House.

Below is Carnassarie Castle, one of two castles used as inspiration for the deteriorated ruins of Banbogle Castle

To understand the location of the setting, here is a map of the Firth of Forth.  In the center, you can see Inchkeith Island where the asylum was,  just left of Edinburgh is Cramond where the story takes place.   Banbogle Castle sits on the banks of this large waterway.


Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 9, 2013

Author Interview - C.S. Harris

This week C.S. Harris, the author of the Sebastian St. Cyr series, answered several interview questions for us.  Ms. Harris is a bestselling, award-winning author.  She has also written a nonfiction historical study of the French Revolution.  She earned a degree in Classics before going on for a MA and Ph.D. in history.  Ms. Harris taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University and also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites.  She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, her two daughters, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

I hope you are excited as I am to get some insight into her writing process and characters.  Let's give her a warm welcome. 

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?

I write because I must; I have these stories in me that I simply must tell and characters that I must breathe to life. When the writing is going well, I love it. But sometimes the writing does not go well, and I am abjectly miserable. I can’t say I love having done it, because I’m never satisfied with what I’ve written until about ten years have passed. Then I’ll go back and reread a book and think, “Oh, that’s so much better than I remembered it being; I could never write that good of a book now.” In other words, like most writers, I’m neurotic and more than a bit crazy.

What is your routine when you're facing your next novel?  Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I don’t think I’ve ever started with the killer. Sometimes I start with how the victim is found—Where Shadows Dance, for instance, started with the idea of having the surgeon, Paul Gibson, realize that a body he bought from the resurrection men was murdered. Other times there’s an historical event or situation that I want to tie into. What Darkness Brings was inspired by the fact that the Hope Diamond briefly surfaced in London in September 1812. The idea for the ninth book in the series, Why Kings Confess, due out in March 2014, came from some of the research I’d for What Darkness Brings. Basically, the books start with several tiny germs of ideas I think I can weave together. Then I go hunting (in my imagination, in research, and lots of long brainstorming sessions) for the identity and background of my victim, the killer, other suspects, and events for my plotline.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc.) before sitting down and writing?

I do outline, very meticulously, laying out the events and progression of each scene, and sometimes even snippets of dialogue. I have used the three-act structure in the past, but I now tend to divide a book into eight segments, with a significant event tripping the storyline from one segment to the next. I use 3x5 index cards, one card for each scene, and spread them out on my dining room table as I structure my plot. I even color code the scenes, with different colors for each suspect, and I also have color codes for action/danger scenes, emotional personal scenes, etc. It’s a very visual process. If I ever went blind, I’d have to quit writing.

What do you and Sebastian St. Cyr &/or Hero and yourself have in common? How are you different?

I suppose Sebastian shares my moral sense and my weird mix of idealism and cynicism. I wish I were as brave, confident, and self-possessed as Hero!

Sebastian St. Cyr is a captivating character (described as Mr. Darcy with a James Bond Edge), as well as the rest of the memorable crew.  So memorable that fans have formed team Kat and team Hero camps!  What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?  How do you handle minor characters?

I have never used pictures, worksheets, letters from the characters, or any of those methods; I know they work for some people but I find them too artificial. But before I ever began the first book in the series, I spent years thinking about Sebastian, Hendon, Hero, Jarvis, and Kat, about who they were and why they were that way. My approach to the characters who appear in the individual books is very different: I simply start writing, and they come. Sometimes they don’t come, or they don’t come right, and then I have a terrible time. But in the end, they come. The subconscious is a wonderful thing.

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

No. Sometimes I listen to classical music, but I’m more likely to do that if I’m having trouble and I’m hoping the music will help me relax. If I’m stuck, I’ll often go for a walk or wander around my garden for a while, or do laundry, or play my guitar (I’m terrible, by the way). I write all over the house—in my office, on the living room sofa, at the breakfast room table, on the porch swing, up at our lake house. I’ve written at the pool while my kids were having swim lessons, by lantern light in the middle of a hurricane, at my mother’s bedside when she was dying. I write by hand on legal pads, so it’s very portable.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

I’m a very slow writer, although some books seem to be harder to write than others. Usually it takes me about a year to write a book, including the thinking, plotting and revision time. As for my schedule, I get up whenever I wake up (that’s one of the nicest parts of being a writer), sit down and start writing while I’m still eating breakfast, and keep at it most of the day. I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to stop at eleven and practice my yoga. I have been known to write for 18 hours a day, day after day, when I’m under deadline pressure (that’s one of the worst parts of being writer). But I must admit I’m not as disciplined these days as I used to be. And life sometimes gets in the way of writing. A lot. At the moment, we’re fixing up my mom’s old house to put it on the market, and that’s taking a lot of my time and focus. Anything that distracts my focus is a disaster for my writing.

Being a historical mystery set in regency era, how much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go to transport your reader back in time?

I do a lot of research, because each book is different. The book I’m writing now, Who Buries the Dead, has Jane Austen in it, and in preparation I’ve read half a dozen Austen biographies, I’m rereading all of her books, and I’m watching the various versions of the films made from her books. It’s overkill, I know, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with less. As I’m writing, I’ll frequently stop to look up details of various things, but most of the research is done at the plotting stage, since many of the ideas for scenes come from the research.

Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, how did you pick your setting and how do you like to interject a sense of place?  Do you use places that you know well for your settings?

I like to use setting to help create mood or build tension or for characterization, rather than simply for its own sake, although a certain amount is always needed to help readers visualize what is happening and why. As for where I get the details, it’s now possible to download free e-books of all sorts of early nineteenth-century guidebooks to London, which are very useful because I’m always trying to find new, interesting places in London to set scenes. I have old maps of the city that I consult constantly, and a six-volume history of London from the Victorian period that basically goes street-by-street and is full of all sorts of useful little historical anecdotes and facts. I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the years, but it has changed so much that I try not to think too much about the modern city as I write.

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries?

Ha. Well, I’ve certainly never been a cop or a court reporter or a private investigator. But since I write historical mysteries, I’m able to use my training as an historian. And the time I spent as an archaeologist studying human osteology and digging up graves sometimes comes in handy.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character?

Arkady Renko.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

In terms of mystery writers, my favorites are Martin Cruz Smith and James Lee Burke. But when it comes to all writers, I’m a huge Dorothy Dunnett and Georgette Heyer fan from way, way back.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?

I had a hard time first getting published because I was living in the Middle East and then Australia, and in those days you had to send queries and manuscripts snail mail. That was an expensive proposition, so if an agent rejected one of my manuscripts, I was reluctant to send it out again. Finally, a published friend in the U.S. recommended the fourth manuscript I’d written (Night in Eden) to her literary agency, and they snapped it up.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling?

Believe it or not, I’m still stunned when people tell me how much they love my books. It’s very humbling, and I never get tired of hearing it.

If your Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?

People are always asking me this, and I honestly don’t know! I can’t think of anyone that quite captures the image I have of the characters in my head. Frequently readers will give me names of actors they think would make a good Sebastian or Hero or Kat, but when I Google them, I’ll think, “Really?” I suspect we each have our own, unique vision of the characters.

Tell us about your next book in the series - or next

project?  What is your biggest challenge with it? 

The ninth book in the series, Why Kings Confess, is already in the hands of my publisher and will be out soon. I’ve been having fits with the book I’m writing now, Who Buries the Dead, I suspect because working on my mom’s old house has stirred up my grief over her death. I’ve written through all sorts of crises, but I’ve found I have a difficult time writing through grief. My writing comes from my subconscious, as does my grief, so when I try to tamp down the grief I simultaneously shut the door to my subconscious.

Do you have a newsletter or blog for readers to stay informed of your news?

I have a newsletter that readers can sign up for on my website, at I also have a blog at I am on Facebook but I don’t post very often because I can never think of anything to say!


THANK you C.S. Harris for a great interview.  Readers, any surprises?  What was particularly interesting for you?  I found the research she does quite fascinating and extensive.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review - A Serpent's Tooth

I have been following this series before it became a television series, so I have a few prior reviews available you can read.  #8 As the Crow Flies (click here,) #7 Hell is Empty (click here,) #6 Junkyard Dogs (click here,) and and author interview (click here.)   This newest release has a different flavor, so read on and see what you think.

Author: Craig Johnson

Copyright: June 2013 (Viking Adult) 352 pgs

Series: 9th in Walt Longmire series

Sensuality: adult references, "F" bombs

Mystery Sub-genre: Police Procedural-Western

Main Characters: Sheriff Walt Longmire 

Setting: Modern day, Absaroka county in Wyoming

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

The beginning has an element of humor to it.  Barbara Thomas claims she has an angel that does whatever chores she needs.  She leaves out a list of maintenance jobs in her house and leaves, when she returns the work is done...along with some food. Walt has to figure this mystery out and quickly discovers a young boy living in her pump house, who helps himself to the food and in exchange does the work.  But Walt finds more than just a runaway,  Cord is an outcast from a Mormon splinter group called The Apostolic Church of the Lamb of God and has a personal protector who thinks he is a two hundred year old notorious Mormon endowed with immortality by Joseph Smith himself. What starts as Walt searching for Cord's mother, who he suspects has been killed, turns into uncovering everything from a well armed cult to an old CIA operative. 

Walt displays more of a western macho attitude.  In this book Walt seems to have more exagerated bravado, and some violent confrontations that didn't seem reasonable nor in character.  Deputy Victoria Moretti, the love interest, seems hard core just for the shock value.  Although I did get more of an idea about her character than in the last books.  Of course the star, in my opinion, is really Henry Standing Bear (that Walt calls "the Cheyenne Nation").  Henry gets to shine in this book since he is incorporated into quite a bit of the story.  The other deputies like  Saizarbitoria, Double Tough, and Frymire are present and add some emotional depth to the story.

It took awhile for me to get hooked by this book.  There just seemed to be a slow build-up from the boy Cord to the real situation that Walt must confront.  The last half of the book is when I felt compelled to read it.  The plot, in looking back, is bigger and bolder than most of the series. The bigger concept ultimately didn't appeal to me nearly as much as the more local drama of past books.  But that may just be me.  Wyoming's more sparse and open spaces are spotlighted which supplies a sense of isolation, and at times slightly melancholy touches.

The climax was a nail biting, hair raising ride.  This is where the pay off really awaits.  It was also a bigger scale, more along the lines of a Burn Notice episode than a county sheriff's job.  The wrap-up had some tears and sadness alongside potential for Walt's future.

This book in the series seemed to be moving into bigger scale plot concepts that changes the feel a bit, but remains multi-layered with the classic Longmire wit and humor in tact.

Rating: Good - A fun read but didn't seem to be the best in the series. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - September 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome. 

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein and shares The title is perfect, is the legal system corrupt or the church? I bet you won't figure this one out.

Buried Under Books reviewed Rules of Crime by L.J. Sellers

Booking Mama reviewed The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith and shares it is a debut mystery in a classic vein featuring Detective Cormoran Strike who investigates a supermodel's "suicide."

Buried Under Books reviewed Beware this Boy by Maureen Jennings

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Tarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwell

Buried Under Books reviewed Bonereapers by Jeanne Matthews

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti by Bailey Cates

Buried Under Books reviewed Dark Passage by Marcia Talley

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick

Booking Mama reviewed The English Girl by Daniel Silva, the newest Gabriel Allon novel.

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz and shares it is a character driven suspense novel that is a great read.

Booking Mama reviewed Pray for Us Sinners by Patrick Taylor and shares: this is a well-paced political thriller about the conflict between the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the British in 1973.

Booking Mama reviewed The Dinner by Herman Koch and shares it is more of a quiet psychological suspense book.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails