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Monday, June 28, 2010

Winners of Giveaway and Question

Winners of the last book giveaway for Photo Snap Shot by Joanna Campbell are Mystica and Stella.  Congratulations guys.  They were the only ones who entered, so we won't be having any book giveaways for awhile since that doesn't seem to be of interest.  Perhaps everybody is out playing in the summer sun!

Question for everybody - Do you read more or less in the summer?  We hear about "Beach Reads"  but how much do you really read during the summer heat?  I don't think I vary too much by season really. 

Does your taste in books change from summer to winter?  This is not a scientific survey :-) but I am curious.  Please chime in.

On a completely different topic, some of you may have noticed how I have a siamese cat as the mascot of the blog.  That is in honor of my best furry-friend who died about 4 years ago.  This weekend I went to a local pet rescue and adopted an adult siamese who has had a rough time of it.  She was in a family but the toddler apparently was not cat-friendly and she has been living from cage to cage since then.  Just as this sweet cat was starting to bond to the rescue person she is being carted around to pet fairs.  I had found her online in my search - even got to email the family who had to give her up.  She came home with us Saturday and she is having a rough adjustment period.  I have been bit a few times that have drawn blood (OUCH!) but overall I think she is beginning to settle in a bit - I hope.  This gal's name is Paris (originally Sky, but we will be working on changing that.)  She is apparently camera shy as well - she would turn away from the camera no matter what I did.  So please welcome the newest addition to our little family. 

Please consider adopting from a shelter if you are looking for a pet.  I used and found they gather information from multiple shelters.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review - Murder on Lexington Avenue

Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: June 2010 (Berkley); 326 pgs

Series: #12 in The Gaslight Mysteries

Sensuality: Victorian mild

Mystery sub-genre: Historical Police Procedural/Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Det. Sgt. Frank Malloy & Midwife Sarah Brandt

Setting: turn-of-the-20th-century New York City

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

The book starts with Det. Sgt. Frank Malloy being called to investigate the murder scene of a wealthy man in his office.  He was beat on the head with a trophy cup.  The victim, Nehemiah Wooten, has a deaf daughter and thus Det. Malloy is on the case since his son is deaf.  What Malloy finds is that there is a split among attitudes towards the deaf and Mr. Wooten was a disciple of Alexander Graham Bell who put forth his belief that deaf people bred deaf people (Eugenics) thus they should be forced to learn lip reading and not sign language (which would engcourage they keep company with other deaf people).  Therefore Mr. Wooten had sent his daughter to a school to learn lip reading - but she had defied her father and paid to be taught sign language...and now wanted to marry her deaf sign teacher!  Then Mr. Malloy stumbles upon the victim's wife is pregnant from the partner's son.  Which allows the midwife Sarah Brandt to enter the household and snoop for him.  The people who had motive to kill the iron handed Nehemiah Wooten are adding up and Sarah is in the household investigating while Malloy runs down other leads.
The story grabbed my attention immediately and I hated leaving it.  I sailed through the middle hardly able to wait for what was coming.  The plot may not be highly complex but it is told well - invoking your emotions and pulling you into the drama.  The issues surrounding the deaf community play a part of the murderous web and are surprising and illuminating.  The cast of potential killers rang from the deaf daughter, Electra, the son Leander, the teacher who taught Electra to sign, the partner, and the partner's son and even the wife.
Mrs. Wooten had risen to her feet, and Frank saw that the girl's appearance had shattered her calm.  Suddenly, she looked almost frightened.  "Electra, go to your room.  I'll explain later."
Electra.  The deaf girl.  That explained her odd-sounding voice. 
"Annie said something happened to Father," she was saying.  "Tell me!"
...Frank knew that the students at the Lexington Avenue School could speech-read.  He wasn't sure how difficult it was for them to do, so he spoke slowly and distinctly, just in case.  "Your father was murdered."
She frowned, her lovely brow wrinkling in confusion.  She turned back to her mother.  "Murdered?" she asked.
'Yes," Mrs Wooten said with great reluctance.  "Your father is dead."
Electra obsorbed the news for a second.  Frank waited, expecting an explosion of of tears, but none of the emotions playing across her face was grief.  The one she finally settled on looked very much like satisfaction, and then she lifter her pert little chin and said, "Good."
Sarah and Det. Malloy are enjoyable characters who clearly are attracted to each other in a delightful way.  Malloy respects Sarah and her opinions that she shares, enjoys discussing the case with her and bouncing ideas back and forth.  They both "light up" when the other is around.  I enjoyed them and their banter that borders on flirting.
There is a subplot of Sarah's adopted daughter starting to recall some traumatic memories that has me hooked to find out how that develops.  But I must be honest that I would have liked to see Malloy's deaf son take more of a spotlight and Malloy himself make an effort to learn sign language more.  There is a lack of scene development that could have added more period awareness and made the story come more alive.  At times I could have forgotten it was the early 1900s because of the lacking details - which is such a shame.
The climax has a victorian style chase scene with a tense confrontation and a twist.  The wrap up with Sarah and Malloy promises more to come in their simmering relationship to keep readers coming back. 
If you enjoy historical mysteries I think you will like this one.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Author Interview - Lorna Barrett

Welcome the bestselling author Lorna Barrett to Mysteries and My Musings .  Lorna Barrett is the nom de plume of author Lorraine Bartlett.  Lorraine's other alter ego, L.L. Bartlett, writes psychological suspense and the Jeff Resnick mystery series.  She's done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood, and lives a life of crime in western New York.

I am so tickled that Lorraine graciously gave an interview to our little slice of the blogosphere!  You can read the review I did on her latest book in her Booktown Mystery Series, Bookplate Special, HERE.  Please give a huge welcome to Lorraine!!

- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

Actually, I start each book with the opening scene and let the story develop around it. Often I’ll know something very basic about the plot. For instance; in Bookplate Special I knew I wanted to write about food pantries but I had no idea how I was going to introduce the subject or that the whole food aspect of the book would be so great.

- 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 have a vague idea of what the book is going to be about, because my publisher requires a synopsis, but I rarely stick to it, and so far have had no complaints. I try to make sure that everyone in the story has something to do, or if they don’t, that I am setting them up for something in a future book in the series. (I find that a lot of fun.)

- I enjoy Tricia and her supporting cast, 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?

Occasionally I find a picture that helps me develop the characters. I found a picture of a woman in a decorating magazine that was definitely how I pictured Angelica. When I blogged about it, some of my readers came back with very unflattering remarks about her. (Saying, for one, that the woman in the picture was TOO OLD to be Angelica. But to me, this picture WAS Angelica in the flesh (so to speak). It just goes to show that everyone interprets the characters differently. And they do reveal themselves to me as I write. I seldom know too much about them before I start.

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and 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?

I have to actually carve out time to work. For years, I found it best to write in the morning. Now I find afternoons are better because I can get my promotion and networking done in the morning, plus answer emails, etc.

I don’t seem to be able o write in my “office” anymore. There are too many distractions. I get a lot of my writing done on my laptop on the dining room table. Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, I’ll go sit in my car with a legal pad and a pen. I often find I get my best ideas that way.

I cannot stand working in dead silence. In fact, my life is set to music. I turn on my stereo with new age the minute I get up in the morning, and I even go to sleep listening to a rain/music CD. I find the sound of rain on the roof to be very soothing. (I’m listening to one of those “rain” CDs as I type this.)

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

As I mentioned, I like to write in the afternoons, and generally do it between 1-5 p.m. (But if the muse is really on fire, I’ll continue to write until I hit a roadblock.) I like having at least nine months to write a book. I need to read my contracts a bit closer, because for the last year or so I’ve had to write two a year, which can sometimes be difficult—especially as there are other things going on in my life.

- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

Absolutely nothing. I didn’t decide I wanted to write until I was about 19, and I don’t have an English degree. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write professionally, and dabbled at it for a lot of years. Then in the early 1990s my husband encouraged me to start thinking about writing professionally. It took me 11 years to see my first “traditionally published” novel in print.

- Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?

I am not a big believer in how-to-write books, although I did love Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird. The best piece of writing advice I ever got from a how-to book was by Natalie Goldberg who essentially said that the best way to learn how to write is to sit down in front of your keyboard (or with pen in hand) and just do it.

- What are you currently reading?

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingels Wilder. I either read non-fiction or children’s books while I’m writing one of my own books. I definitely avoid cozy novels a good part of the year, which means I have a read-a-thon of my friends’ books when I’m in between writing my own books. About the only exceptions are when my publisher asks me to read a manuscript for a blurb. That’s fun—especially if I’m doing it for a friend. I loved Hannah Reed’s Buzz off and Avery Aames’s The Long Quiche Goodbye—which were lovely diversions.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have one.

- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

I used to rely on a critique group before I was published. The best place for unpublished mystery authors to find help learning about the craft and the publishing business is the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime. ( A good critique group can be invaluable. A bad critique group can set you back years. I’ve had wonderful critique partners who genuinely wanted me to succeed, and other’s who tried to sabotage me. I think online groups can be more effective than face-to-face groups, which often degenerate into just social gatherings. Online critiquing keeps you focused on the work at hand.

Now I rely on first readers and other published authors to critique my work, and only with completed drafts. I no longer find chapter-by-chapter input to be of much use.

- I understand you have another book due to be released August 3rd, please tell us a little about it.

Chapter & Hearse is the 4th book in the bestselling Booktown Mystery series. (I also write the Jeff Resnick Mysteries as L.L. Bartlett, and the Victoria Square Mysteries (which will debut in Feb. 2011) as Lorraine Bartlett.) It was a difficult book to write, because my father was very ill and ultimately died during that time period. But I was glad to escape into Tricia’s world for a couple of hours every day. Stoneham may have it’s problems, but there’s also a lot of love and friendship there, too.

Here’s a description of the book:

Tricia’s sister, Angelica, considers herself to be the next celebrity chef. To celebrate her first cookbook, Angelica hosts a launch party, but sadly the only guest is an oversized cutout of herself. Worse than the lack of fans is a nearby gas explosion that injures her boyfriend, Bob Kelly, the head of the Chamber of Commerce.

Tricia’s never been a fan of Bob, but when she reads that Bob is being tight-lipped about the “accident” and how it killed the owner of the town’s history bookstore, it’s time to take action. As the incriminating details emerge, Tricia gets wrapped up in a murder that proves to be as spine-tingling as the books that line her shelves…

Lorna Barrett writes the New York Times Best selling, and Agatha nominated Booktown Mystery series. You can find her website at and her blog at

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Lorraine/Lorna for such a great interview.

So readers, I loved what she is currently reading and how her life is set to music.  Any thoughts, what did you find interesting in the interview?

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Review - Death In Show

I am an animal lover so I had been interested in this series since I stumbled across it.  I jumped at the chance to read and review the latest entry in the series when the book was sent to me.  Besides, I am one of the people who actually watches the dog shows on television and routes for my favorite so the subject and setting immediatly appealed to me.

Author: Judi McCoy

Copyright: June 2010 (Signet); 317 pgs

Series: #3 in The Dog Walker Mysteries

Sensuality: sexual references of a Chic Lit variety

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Professional dog walker Ellie Engleman

Setting: Current day New York

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review
Ellie can hear dogs thoughts and her ability has made her a popular dog walker.  One of Ellie's dog walking clients invites her to be a guest at the dog show and witness her dog in competition.  Lulu, the snooty prize-winning Havanese is competing at the Mid-Atlantic Canine Challenge with hopes riding on her to go all the way to Westminster.  But during the very first competition Lulu's handler drops dead before a stadium of witnesses.  Ellie's elderly client pleads with Ellie to fill in as handler for Lulu despite her longtime fears of being on display in front of people.  Ellie's boyfriend, Detective Sam Ryder, becomes demanding about Ellie not getting involved in the suspicious death and sparks fly.  Ellie naturally ends up conducting her own investigation while she is showing Lulu and continues after the awards are presented and finds out just how serious the competition is.
The book is hefty for a cozy with 317 pages but managed to keep moving along.  The plot was crafted well enough to be interesting and the murder "weapon" was a nice twist on an old theme.  This book proves that a cozy does not have to be set in a small town.  The high rise clients and their pets that Ellie walks create a community background for the cozy.  This author also injects a bit of her chick lit publishing background into the story with the running theme of "when will Ellie and Sam sleep together again?" which I felt got old.  Apart from that, we see their relationship go through spats and even a meeting of the parents.
Ellie makes a likeable main character, although not best friend material for me.  She is spunky and bright, but a few times came across as dense - even her dog Rudy told her so!  She is totally a dog person and at one point shares how she feels dogs are better than cats.  I am a cat lover, but I didn't take offense.  She just hasn't been introduced to the correct felines.  Ellie's main motivations are a sense of loyalty to her clients and their pets.  
Ellie opened her mouth, then swallowed a gasp of air.  "Me?"  Oh, no.  I couldn't.  I don't know a thing about the job.  I'm inept, a klutz.  I'd trip over my own feet."
Flora patted Ellie's hand, then held tight to her fingers.  "Nonsense.  You observed everything that went on before and during the competition.  I could tell from your comments you understand exactly what's entailed in becoming a professional handler.  You already walk Lulu and she loves you."
"I wouldn't go that far," Lulu gruffed.
"But - but - the judges don't know me.  I'd have no credibility," she said, hoping to squelch the ridiculous notion.  "I'd only hinder Lulu's chances of winning."
"Hold on!  Let's think this through," yipped the Havanese.
I enjoyed the elderly Flora and her prima donna dog Lulu.  But the character of boyfriend Sam didn't particularly win me over.  There are a few scenes from Sam's point of view to show he isn't just being demanding of Ellie but actually is concerned about her safety.  But even with those scenes I wasn't convinced I liked him.  I am in good company though, Ellie's dog Rudy doesn't like him either.  Perhaps it is just that I have grown very tired of the conflict in stories being over the sleuth poking around in the first place.  
The killer was rather easy to identify and for the most part the how is fairly easy too - but with a creative twist.  This is a solid cozy for fans of that particular sub-genre, but I suspect it may not be able to cross over to the amateur sleuth fan due to the talking-to-dogs factor.  If you are a dog lover or ever watch the dog shows on TV, you will find the details in this book interesting.

For the complete video of the 2010 Westminster finale - Best of show, click here

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Giveaway: Photo, Snap, Shot

JUNE 15th is "National Give a Girlfriend a Book Day"
A book is a thoughtful gift, it tells how you are interested in the inner being of your friend. 
Whether it is for inspiration, self improvement, knowledge or a fun escape, giving a book shows you care.

The author has graciously provided 3 copies of Photo Snap Shot by Joanna Campbell Slan for promotional giveaway.
Old money and tradition are the hallmarks of the St. Louis prep school that Kiki Lowenstein's daughter Anya attends. But the elite academy is stamped with scandal when Anya finds the dead body of teacher Sissy Gilchrist in its elegant theatre. Even worse, Anya might have seen the killer.

Pegged as a shameless flirt and a lousy teacher, Sissy would've made everyone's "least popular" scrapbook page. Especially for those who were seeing red over Sissy's mixed-race romance with a colleague. Fearing her daughter is in danger, Kiki sifts through the school community's many shocking secrets to pin down the murderer, while doing all she can to avoid starring in her own memorial album.

Includes scrapbooking tips and a special offer from the sponsors of Spotted Canary!

Please read the directions carefully as I have changed one or two things.

How to Enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post (or possibly in an email.)

I will stop taking entries for this giveaway Friday June 18 at midnight and will announce the winner Monday  June 21.

For each point you earn you will have one entry in the random drawing. There is a chance for 9 points total for each contestant and thus 9 entries each.

+1 for leaving a comment with your correct email information. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your email in a comment, please email me your information at: mysterysuspense1 at gmail dot com.

+2 for posting on your blog about this giveaway with a link back, please supply link to your blog post in the comments

+2 for each new member you bring to this blog (you must identify the new member you brought) limit of 1 new per contest

+1 for having this blog's button in a side bar of your blog with a link back, please supply link in comments

+2 posting on Facebook recommending this blog or post, please supply link in comments

+1 for tweeting about this contest, please post link in comments

Comment/email example:

+1 here is my email address so you can notify me I won _ _ _ _ _ @ _ _ _ .com

+2 here is the link to the post I did on my blog for this giveaway proclaming how great your blog is( giveaway hurry)

+2 for new google member Sadie197 I brought to your blog

+1 for adding your blog button to my blog sidebar (

+2 here is the link to my facebook entry about your giveaway and how great your blog is (

+1 here is the link to the tweet I did on this giveaway and your great blog(

Thank you for participating and good luck!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Now for a little Summer Fun ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Easy homemade Ice Cream
Ingredients/Materials Needed:
* 1 pint of half and half
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 4 tablespoons of your favorite instant pudding mix (chocolate was used here)
* 10 cups ice
* 1 1/2 cup rock salt (kosher salt or sea salt can be used too)
* 3-pound coffee can, emptied and rinsed
* 1-pound coffee can, emptied and rinsed
* Duct tape
1. In a medium bowl, combine half and half, sugar, and pudding mix with a whisk until thoroughly mixed.
2. Place 1-pound coffee can inside the 3-pound coffee can and pour ice cream mixture into smaller can. Cover the smaller can with it's corresponding lid and seal with duct tape.
3. Surround the smaller can with ice and salt by layering 5 cups of ice with 3/4 cup of salt.
4. Use duct tape to seal the 3-pound can with its corresponding lid and start rolling. Have the kids face each other and roll the can back and forth on its side for 10 minutes.
5. After 10 minutes, open the cans and check the ice cream. Remove the smaller can and check the ice cream. The mixture on the sides of the smaller can will set up faster than the center. Use a rubber spatula to quickly scrape down the sides and give the ice cream one stir.
6. Next, reseal the lid on the smaller can with duct tape, and set it aside. Quickly dump the melted ice water from the large can, and place the smaller can into the larger can again.
7. Now you need to surround the smaller can with remaining ice and salt by repeating step 3. Once that is done, put the lid on the larger can and seal with duct tape again.
8. Ask the kids to roll the large can for 10 minutes more.
9. Once they're done, open the cans again and serve the ice cream to your little helpers!


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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - Murder In Paradise

Thursday I provided a teaser about this and I finished on the plane flying home today.  I am happy to be home and glad to finish the book so I can share it with you.  I was quiet surprised while waiting for my connecting flight that the gentleman reading right across from me at the gate handed me his book when he was finished.  Reading people are the BEST! 

Author: Alanna Knight

Copyright: October, 2009 (Allison & Busby); 374 pgs

Series: #14 in The Inspector Faro Mysteries

Sensuality: Some mild references

Mystery sub-genre: British Police Procedural

Main Character: Inspector Jeremy Faro

Setting: 1860 Kent countryside

Obtained book through: LibraryThing
The novel is comprised almost entirely from a flashback of Inspector Faro of one of the darkest moments of his career - the chase of the notorious Macheath, a murderer and cunning jewel thief.  He has been sent, seemingly as punishment from a petty superior, alone to chase Macheath.  Upon arriving in town Faro finds an old school chum is living with several famous artists at the Red House and insists that Faro be a guest.  His old school chum, Erland, confides that he is ecstatic with his upcoming wedding and Faro simply must stay and attend. 
When Faro is introduced to Erland's fiance, he recognises her instantly as the woman who got away with poisoning a lover a few years prior.  This aspect of the story embellishes on a historical account of Madeleine Smith who had received a "Not Proven" verdict in a highly publicized trial of that time (referred to as Victorian Scotland's trial of the century) .  Speculation of her guilt or innocence still surrounds her today and the trial was considered very risque for that time.  When Faro learns that a wealthy acquaintance has recently proposed to Lena (aka Madeleine) the situation is far too similar to the motive for the last lover's death and Faro is undecided while he watches a drama unfold around his chum Erland.
Close on the heals of Faro arriving in town, a manor house has a minor break-in that Faro believes was actually Macheath gathering some supplies while he is on the run.  But the maid at the manor house goes missing and the local towns people are unconcerned since she had a "loose" reputation.  Is Macheath still around or has he long since moved on?  How does the missing maid figure in?  What about the pot-shot at Faro one morning? 
Changing the subject he said quickly, "You get along very well with Lena."
She nodded.  "I do indeed.   She is my best friend.  From the moment she arrived with Erland.  I would do anything for her.  She is a wonderful person, so kind and understanding with everyone."
They were no longer alone in the garden.  A lot of unseen activity nearby indicated the gardeners were approaching.
A group of hooded figures came into view.  Sacking over their heads and shoulders, protection from the weather and doubtless the falling apples they gathered, transformed them into medieval figures from an ancient pastoral tapestry, a picture of harmony in keeping with their surroundings as they toured the gardens with their wheelbarrows.
There are some interesting characters in the story, the seemingly moody loner in a cabin adjoining the manor house's property, or the local constable who is the epitome of small town police with nothing more than an occasional drunk for experience, to the colorful and eclectic assortment of people at Red House.  Faro himself comes across as fallible and young, with a few missteps here and there, but a decent bloke trying to determine the best course in confusing circumstances.  The characters are all well done - except perhaps Macheath who you only know by reputation for the most part.
The setting of Red House is also a case of incorporating some more specific history into the story - Red House truly does exist and was an artist's bohemian getaway with William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites in residence.  It provides a great setting, lending some gothic touches to the tale as well as some authenticity.  It makes the tale of Inspector Faro seem a bit more real.
The writing style is modern but reminiscent of Victorian times with an emphasis on a running narrative and less on action scenes. This is a difficult point - some love this style and others hate it. It takes me awhile to get into the story but once I have adapted to it I can enjoy it. That was the case here as well - it took awhile for me to be enveloped in the story. This writing style can easily feel slow, and it certainly did feel slow.
It isn't until the last few chapters that things really start cooking, as though the various ingredients had simmered long enough and everything was coming to a boil at once.  There was a surprise element that really doesn't surface until late even though slightly hinted at earlier on - but I felt a little blindsided by that development.  Was it literary cheating - you will have to read it to decide for yourself.  As historical police procedurals go, I enjoyed it and will probably read another in the Faro series - but to be honest, it wasn't in my favorites list either.
If you enjoy Victorian mysteries this may be just what you are looking for, but if you crave more modern or spicy tales this may not sustain you. 

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teaser Thursday

I am still on business travel and have not finished this book I thought I would wet your appetites with a teaser quote from the book.  My review will hopefully be Saturday again.

So this was his beloved Lena.  Erland, wreathed in smiles, turned, saw him and waited, leading Lena forward to be introduced.

Faro stepped back in astonishment.

She was no stranger.

He had seen her before.

At the Edinburgh High Court three years ago in July 1857 where she had emerged from a murder trial, accused of poisoning her lover, walking free, set at liberty by a Not Proven verdict...

Whatever the jury, seduced by her youth and charm, might decide, Faro was sure that there had been a serious miscarriage of justice.  As he listened to the evidence, he was certain that she was guilty of poisoning her lover Emile L'Angelier by putting arsenic in his cocoa and that only her youth - she was twenty-one years old - her beauty and her place in the echelons of Glasgow society had saved her from the gallows.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival June 2010

Enrich your children's summer with this fun mystery reading program (ends August 1)  Your child can also join the year long celebration at Year of the Children's Mystery Book at

The blog carnival relies on submissions from bloggers - so please pass this along to mystery and crime fiction bloggers to join us each month.  It is easy to submit an entry by going here

Police Procedural Book Review 
 KerrieS presents THE SILENCE OF THE RAIN by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza.  Set in Rio de Janeiro, translated from Portuguese, the first novel in the Inspector Espinosa series.

A Few More Pages presents A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry.   William Monk is an inspector for London's new Metropolitan Police Force set in Victorian England in the mid-1800s.

KerrieS presents THE SNOWMAN, Jo Nesbo.  Scandinavian crime fiction that you shouldn't miss.

Reactions to Reading gives us A Death in Tuscany by Michele Giuttari.

Mark presents Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein

  Private Investigator Book Review 
 Mysteries in Paradise presents B-Very Flat by Margot Kinberg.  In true Agatha Christie style the reader is led to consider a range of evidence, to discount the red herrings, and work out who is not telling the truth.

Mysteries and My Musings presents the historical mystery Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson.

Amateur Sleuth book Review 
 S Krishna's Books presents Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell. The greatly anticipated second book after Carrell's Interred With Their Bones brings an original manuscript of Macbeth, one that Kate, our Shakespearean expert and sleuth, has to find.

Jules' Book Reviews gives us The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton.
The murder of a renowned expert in Mayan history lures Lara into the jungles surrounding Merida, Mexico. For in this lush paradise are the temples of the Mayan gods--and the camps of modern-day rebels fighting to save their Mayan heritage. As the body count escalates, Lara must uncover the secrets of the Mayan underworld known as Xibalba--and the journey into the very heart of darkness.

Mysteries and My Musings presents A Cast Off Coven by Juliett Blackwell.

Cozy Mystery Book Review 
Book girl's Nightstand presents Pretty in Ink by Karen Olson. Another madcap adventure awaits talented tattoo artists and business owner, Brett Kavanaugh in Pretty In Ink, the entertaining second installment of the Tattoo Mystery series.

Mason Canyon presents Half-Price Homicide by Elaine Viets.

Mysteries and My Musings presents Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett.

 Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review 
 Missy Frye presents The Ark by Boyd Morrison.  With a chilling premise and a blistering pace, Boyd Morrison combines all the best elements of a blockbuster thriller with an intelligent and fascinating exploration of one of the Old Testament’s great mysteries. 

Blogging Mama Andrea presents Deadline Man by Jon Talton. It is a wonderful first thriller for Jon Talton whose fast pace style and likeable but flawed characters keep the reader wondering what else is peeking around the corner.

Chick Lit Reviews presents Desire by Louise Bagshawe. Lisa Costello is leading a charmed life - until she wakes up the morning after her glamorous Thailand wedding to find her new husband Josh dead in their bed, the murder weapon in her hand.

Mark presents The 9th Judgment by James Patterson

Author Interview 
Mysterious Writers provides a great interview with Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block, bestseller and winner of four Edgar and Shamus awards.

Nigel Beale provides us with an audio interview with William Deverell on How To Write a Great Crime Novel.
 Mysterious Writers provides another great interview with Chris Grabenstien.

Nigel Beale provides another audio interview, this time with crime novelist Denise Mina.
Writing Tips and Advice
Writer Sense gives us Writing Scene Transitions.

Writer Sense gives us Setting Part 1 and Part 2

Heidi Thomas give us Bookkeeping for Writers.

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

For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

And please help spread the word about this Blog carnival, it is very easy to submit a post to be included.

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Now for a grin and giggle:

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review - Junkyard Dogs

Today I am finally reviewing the newly released book by Craig Johnson.  You can read the interview he gave me here.  Take a look at the review - it might surprise you, it sure did me.

Author: Craig Johnson

Copyright:  May 27, 2010 (Viking Adult); 306 pgs

Series: #6 in The Walt Longmire Mysteries

Sensuality: Some "F" words and swearing throughout, otherwise mild

Mystery sub-genre: Small Town Police Procedural

Main Character: Sheriff Walt Longmire

Setting: Current day Durant, Wyoming
Obtained book through: Publisher supplied in exchange for an honest review

The Sheriff, and his deputies Victoria (Vic) and Santiago(Sancho) are out in sub-zero temperatures investigating the local junk man who got dragged behind a car for a few miles and survived it (he had been on any icy roof cleaning the chimney and secured himself by rope to the car).  That is how this novel begins, somewhat tongue-in-cheek but three deaths later it is clear that the rural community of Durant Wyoming has a winter crime spree going.  The sheriff has to pick through the first two incidents piecing together the unlikely criminal alliances that had breed in the small town between a junkman, a land developer and a sleeper Aryan Nation gang member.

This book is a soft hard-boiled with humor to keep from getting too bleak.  In line with the somewhat hard boiled aspect the characters are well defined and layered.  Under-sheriff Victoria is a hot-blooded Italian and prior Philadelphia police officer and has the killer attitude to go along with it all.  Santiago is of Basque decent and recently had a close call in the line of duty and is now experiencing post-traumatic-stress from the incident while dealing with a newborn at home.

Walt is the Sheriff you want on your side.  He has a heart way under his sheriff-tough-hide and all the scars he has accumulated from his job. Walt's closest friends are his Saint Bernard/German Shepherd mix dog - named Dog, and Henry Standing Bear (Walt fondly refers to as The Cheyenne Nation) and prior sheriff Lucian.  Walt is a widower of six years now and finds that his body is showing the wear of getting beat up by the job and his heart is dangerously opening to his own deputy - Victoria.
"How's your ass?"

I responded conversationally.  "Fine, how's yours?"


David Nickerson, Isaac's new resident, was on EMT duty and had just finished stitching up my posterior when Vic barged in...

"You always provide us with the most pleasant environs for our work."

"I try."

"I guess I should congratulate you on finding an entirely new place on your body for scars."

Nickerson straightened behind me.  He had applied a large gauze patch over my wound, or at least that's what it felt like through the dull ache of the local anesthetic with which he'd shot my right cheek.  "That's it."..

"You're sure I'm not going to need cosmetic work; that is my best side."
The plot is finely crafted with some ins and outs with a twist here and there. It all wraps up well and feels satisfying, well rounded and complete.  Good wrap up and I really liked the ending.  I didn't know what to expect from this book and I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised.  The writing style easily grew on me with its easy and homey element and I definitely will be visiting Durant Wyoming again.

If you like a bit more grit in your novels without a full hard boiled detective dosage, this is probably the ticket for you.  Give this book a try, I think you will be surprised like I was.

I couldn't resist sharing this video with you - enjoy!

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Author Interview - Craig Johnson

 Today we have an interview with Craig Johnson, author of the Sheriff Walt Longmire novels.  His latest book, JUNKYARD DOGS was just released May 27th.  I will be reviewing it (hopefully Saturday).  I am on business travel for that pesky day job!  But I am sure you will enjoy this wonderful interview. Mr. Johnson's writing style is much like his personality in this interview, sparkling and unpretentious, which equals highly enjoyable.

-  What do you enjoy the most about being an author?
Probably the relationship I have with my readers. I enjoy the in-person events and the emails. I think it’s a chance to get to know people and let them get to know me better than any other way. The novels provide a context for the relationship that seems to continue with the series. With all the modern technology, it’s a great time to be an author. I’m a story teller, and you have to have people to tell your stories to—maybe that’s a result of living on a ranch where the nearest town has only twenty-five people in it… By spring, they’re really tired of hearing my stories.

-  You have recently spent some time in Paris related to your writing.  Please share what were the highlights for you as an author during your visit? 

My wife spent another afternoon in the Louvre, and I waited reclining on the steps underneath the archway Denon in the great courtyard, I like art, but I think it’s important to set limits in any relationship. I’d already traipsed through a half-dozen museums looking over the heads of Japanese tourists and their cameras, so I decided to forgo the greatest art museum in the world and, instead, do a little people watching. Of course now to watch one must be willing to be watched—that’s just the way the rules are written. 

            After about an hour, I was getting a little bored, so I slipped my cowboy hat down over my eyes, crossed the pointed toes of my size twelves, and closed my eyes. I’d been that way for about twenty minutes when I heard some whispering and shuffling on the steps below. I raised the brim of my hat and saw three little boys about seven years of age with their backpacks and matching red caps studying me. “…Le cow-boy.” 

            They retreated behind the nearest hundred and fifty foot tall column and disappeared. I lowered the brim, but after a moment I heard more whispering, so I re-raised my hat and discovered that they had doubled in size and there were six of them now. 

When they saw me looking back at them, they scampered again. 

            I didn’t lower my hat quite as low this time ‘cause I wanted to see if they were going to continue to multiply in multiples of three. After a moment, a pretty young woman came around the corner with, you guessed it, nine little boys, and asked in perfectly serviceable English. “Excuse me, but you are a cowboy?”

            I guessed it was a reasonable question, me being out of context. “Yes, Ma’am.”

            “The boys of the class, if it would not be an imposition, would like to have lunch in your archway?”

            I looked around at my archway, as big as the end zone on a football field. “Um, that’d be fine.” 

            She looked around the column and nodded, whereupon thirty or so little boys in matching red caps and backpacks came running around and into the archway—they completely surrounded me. The French, even the very young French, have no problems with personal space, besides, I was offered morsels of sandwiches, treats, and fruit as they peppered me with questions about cowboys, Indians, horses, and the literary life Occidental.

            When my wife found me surrounded by this gang in my archway, I raised my hands and introduced my posse. “Les cow-boys…”

Do you start each mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
Definitely with a plot idea. I like to think that I’m writing socially oriented mysteries and that usually starts with a social or cultural problem that I want to address. The majority of my books get their seminal idea from a newspaper of magazine article which keeps the novels grounded in the culture of the American west. I refer to it as my ‘burr-under-the-saddle-blanket’ syndrome. There’s something I’m not satisfied with, and I’ve found that dissatisfaction is great fuel for writing. 

- 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 think when you’re writing socially-responsible crime fiction you really have no choice but to outline the living-daylights out of your novels because it seems that one of the biggest statements you’re making is who done it—so it follows that you should maybe know that before you start. I’m very detailed in my outlines because I think there’s a tendency to forget what the initial catalyst for a novel is in the long run. Of course all of this doesn’t disqualify the improvisational element where the plot and especially the characters can have a way of startling you. If your story has a chance of surprising you, then you’ve got a shooting-match’s chance of surprising the reader.

- 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?
Most of the characters in my books were introduced in the first novel, The Cold Dish, which had a decade-long preparatory period. By the time I sat down and started writing, the characters were closer than family. As to the consequent ones, they’ll develop as tools to tell the story. My first and foremost thought is always going to be—how are they going to help me tell this story? I rely on real people to assemble my characters; bits and pieces, like a Doctor Frankenstein. A gesture, a phrase… Anything can inform a character.

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and 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?
I’m a blue-collar writer; I get things squared away here on the ranch, and then make a big pot of coffee and sit down and write. I think if you get too precious about the conditions of where, when and how you write—you’re just setting yourself up to not write and I don’t have time for that.

- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
Mornings are my most productive time and I try to write about six days a week. It usually takes me about six months to write a first-draft, but then I re-write it until the editor takes it away from me and won’t let me have it anymore.  

- Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, any tips on conveying a sense of place well?
Be specific. Most writers fail in attaining that universality of people and place by thinking that they can get away with being vague—don’t do it. Be as detailed and as exact as you can. Notice the things that say something about where your story takes place; environment, not inventory. Like Chekhov used to say, “There can be a rifle over the mantelpiece in the first act, but the damn thing better go off by the third.”

-  Your novels are uniquely a mix of modern western and mystery, was that simply a case of writing what you know or was that by design? 
Well, it’s where I live which makes my job easier but I think the two genres work well in conjunction with each other. There’s a lot of baggage that goes with both western and mystery, but I’ve found that a liberal dose of humor goes a long way in keeping the novels fresh. I enjoy both, so it was an easy choice for me. You better write what you read, or else you’re going to be in deep trouble pretty soon.

- What are you currently reading?
Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. I got to meet him at the Tucson Book Festival this year after reading his The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint and he’s wonderful.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Keeping weapons on my desk; anybody ever comes for me while I’m writing—they better be loaded for bear. Just kidding… Actually, I find it useful to be able to handle the things my characters are handling in the novels, and weapons are kind of in the forefront of crime fiction.

- How did you get your first break towards getting published? Was it sending in a query or meeting an agent at a writing conference etc?
Pounding the pavement in New York shopping the manuscript to a handful of agents; I got lucky and got picked-up by one of the greatest which led me to Viking/Penguin and I never looked back.

 Thank you so much Craig for that wonderful interview!

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