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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review - Murder on the House

I have been following this series since it began. I have reviewed them all as well. The first in series "If Walls Could Talk" (click here) and second "Dead Bolt" (click here).  I have interviewed this author twice now.  The most recent interview (click here) and an older interview (click here).  So I looked forward to this addition to the series that sprinkles San Francisco history, architecture, and a sprinkling of ghosts in with murder.

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: December 2012 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Haunted Home Renovations Mysteries

Sensuality: a few heated kisses

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Mel Turner, woman construction renovation Owner/Operator

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mel is bidding on the renovation contract for a large old Victorian home, but the potential buyers are hoping to cache in on the supposed haunted status of the house by turning it into a haunted Bed and Breakfast.  Mel is in competition with another construction company and the two, Josh and Mel, must stay overnight in the house to win the contract.  Mel is the favorite since the owner's are hoping she can talk to the ghosts about cooperating with the B&B idea and not terrorize the home.  

But the little old lady who currently owns the home for the past few decades doesn't last the night and is found at the bottom of the garden well.  Mel believes the resident child ghost, Anabelle, probably witnessed what happened to sweet old Mrs. Bernini.  Her body is barely found when several people claim they were to inherit the house.  While ownership is being contested, Mel is trying to get back in and spend some time with the ghostly family of the original family to find out what they may know of the death.

Melanie is smart and capable in construction, just a little jaded from her divorce, and struggling to embrace the ghost whisper in herself.  Her dad is always a great addition to the stories.  The "complicated" relationship with her high school flame and current love interest, Graham is touchy.  Occasionally he starts to harp about her asking around about the death.  His character tries not to nag, but he comes close in this one.  I do really appreciate that he is not the standard cop boyfriend and is even in the construction industry too.  Surprisingly, the ex-husband has a decent moment revealed as well, which made me wonder if this will be a new wrinkle for Mel in coming books.  Anabelle is a great character that you aren't sure about her motivations until the end, which adds to the spookiness of this story. 

The setting is the famous Castro district and the house in this one just grabbed me.  I really enjoyed the descriptions and ambiance that was generated.  This book has a bit more of the spooky vibe than the past books, not horror scary but some good atmospheric chills that I personally liked.  They weren't overdone but added to the story of the house's tragic past when you understand what happened there.

The mystery plot had some good points.  Was Mrs. Bernini killed to get the house and antiques or was it something else?  Was the original family that all died one night in the house murdered by a rival neighbor?  Were the ghosts somehow involved with Mrs. Bernini's death?  The challenge between Mel and the Avery construction to stay overnight seemed a tad contrived - but you hear about people accepting challenges to stay in haunted house in real life so...

The resolution of whodunit was okay, not as exciting as the last book, but there was some suspense in finding out what happened to the original family.  I liked the status of the house at the end and how the ownership was worked out. 

Rating:  Good - A fun, quick read with a delightful splash of spookiness.

You can read an excerpt of the beginning of the book (click here.)

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Left Coast Crime Awards - 2013

I enjoyed attending Left Coast Crime for the first time.  It is a fantastic writer's conference with something for everyone.  I am already excited about next years.

I have listed all the award nominees and the first listed is the winner for that category.  I have included links to any reviews of those books that I had critiqued.  Enjoy the list, for you may discover a new book.  If your TBR pile is anything like mine, this probably only increases the pile.  I am right there with you, for I bought several books at LCC.

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996. This year’s nominees are:

• Brad Parks, The Girl Next Door (Minotaur) *** Winner
• Mike Befeler, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder (Five Star)
• Laura DiSilverio, Swift Run (Minotaur)
• Jess Lourey, December Dread (Midnight Ink)
• Lisa Lutz, Trail of the Spellmans (Simon & Schuster)
• Nancy Glass West, Fit To Be Dead (Southwest Publications)
The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (first awarded in 2004) is given to mystery novels covering events before 1960. This year’s nominees are:

• Catriona McPherson, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder (Minotaur) *** Winner
• Rhys Bowen, The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Berkley Prime Crime) Click here for my review
• Rebecca Cantrell, A City of Broken Glass (Forge)
• Dennis Lehane, Live by Night (William Morrow)
• Jacqueline Winspear, Elegy for Eddie (HarperCollins)
The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region (first awarded in 2004). The nominees are:

• Craig Johnson, As the Crow Flies (Viking) *** Winner 

Click here for my review
• Margaret Coel, Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now (Berkley Prime Crime) Click here for my review 
• Chuck Greaves, Hush Money (Minotaur)
• Beth Groundwater, Wicked Eddies (Midnight Ink)
• Darrell James, Sonora Crossing (Midnight Ink)

The Watson, for the mystery novel with the best sidekick (first awarded in 2011). The nominees are:

• Rochelle Staab, Bruja Brouhaha (Berkley Prime Crime) *** Winner
• Juliet Blackwell, In a Witch’s Wardrobe (Obsidian) *** Won my vote

Click here for my review
• Robert Crais, Taken (Putnam)
• Chris Grabenstein, Fun House (Pegasus)
• L.C. Hayden, When the Past Haunts You (CreateSpace)

There was plenty of fun and humor amidst the workshops, such as the Truth or Dare panel of authors, and this short clip from the Concealed Weapons Fashion Show featuring Parnell Hall as his fictional character Cora Felton. 


And now for Parnell Hall signing the theme song 
for the conference "Murder is the Last Resort"

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review - Unnatural Habits

I had intended to begin this series several times and just never got to for one reason or another.  I finally took the plunge with the newest in the series.  I found out that this series has been made into a TV murder mystery show (ABC1’s 13-part series) that began airing in 2012 in Australia (click here for more information.)  So what is all the fuss about?

Just a quick note that I am attending West Coast Crime for four days.  Today was the first day and it was great.  One of the best writing conferences I have attended yet.   

I am including this in my Historical Mystery Reading Challenge.  You can still join us (click here.)

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Copyright: January 2013 (Poisoned Pen Press) 250 pgs

Series: 19th in Phryne Fisher Mysteries

Sensuality: adult situations discussed or referrenced

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical PI

Main Characters: Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher, independent liberated woman

Setting: 1929, Melbourne Australia

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

An ambitious girl reporter, Polly Kettle, who has no sense of self preservation, decides to work as an investigative reporter rather than the fluff pieces she has been assigned. The story opens with Phyrne rescuing Polly from a gang intent on beating her and Polly shares the story she is investigating, girls are going missing in Melbourne. Little, pretty golden-haired girls. And not just pretty.  Three  of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalene Laundry.  Shortly after Phryne rescues Polly, she goes missing herself.  

Detective Inspector Jack Robinson enlists Phryne's assistance to investigate Polly's disappearance, which means she must investigate the Laundry, which is run by a convent - so it will be a field of land mines to investigate and require all of Phryne's abilities.  Additionally, in investigating the young pregnant girls, it becomes clear that they were all victims of rape.  Somebody seems to be avenging the girls by knocking the men unconscious and surgically altering the rapists to prevent any further unwanted pregnancies.  There is also a code (SS 5.10 BM) that seems to keep coming up in association with the missing girls which Phyrne and her household have difficulty deciphering.  There is a sense of urgency to find the pushy Polly Kettle and the other missing girls.

Phyrne has money, which allows her to live independent and outside many of the social restrictions on women at the time.  She is smart and capable as an private investigator, assisting the police in this instance.  She is also gutsy.  This makes for a great character who is ahead of her time and enjoying it.  Phyrne has a penchant for taking in strays.  She employs several young people fondly called her minions, who live under her care, who assist by researching and providing light footwork on the investigations.  Chief among these is Dot, who appears to be the eldest of Ms. Fisher's odd assortment.  Dot is shy, proper, and loyal to Ms. Fisher.  Dot is the counterpoint to Phyrne's free spirit, blushing at the slightest mention of male/female relations.  The newest addition to the household is fourteen year old Tinker who wants to apprentice with Phyrne to be a cop one day.  Tinker is amazed at having regular meals and his own space, since he came from abject poverty.  Tinker begins to blossom during the investigation, even finds he enjoys playing chess with Jane. Tinker is a great character and his progress draws the reader into the household.

I enjoyed 1920s Australia as the setting.  The details of Melbourne and small towns are clear and visceral, including the political climate.  I am surprised it hasn't been used for more mystery settings.

The plot is solid, I found myself drawn in and hooked right away.  The only aspect I stumbled over was the rescue of Polly at the beginning.  Phyrne and her good friend witness Polly being surrounded by a gang and Phryne turns to her contingent of bodyguards provided by Lin Chung, her Chinese boyfriend, to rescue Polly.  This seemed odd since those bodyguards are never really explained as to why they are present at that moment but not present again in the rest of the book.  The pacing moves along as the investigation progresses and anxiety over the missing girls increases. 

I loved the climax.  Phyrne is in the middle of the action and plausibly pulls of a daring rescue in tandem with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.  The wrap up ties up loose ends and clears the decks for the next adventure.  That was a great climax.

This was my first book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries and I now I have the dilemma of finding the time to read the previous eighteen books in the series.  I began the book curious and quickly became a fan.  This is not a cozy, it is a well plotted and written private investigator story that uncovers some unsavory deeds.  I would say it is soft boiled PI. 

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

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Author Interview: Carol Carr

This week we have an interview with the author of the India Black historical espionage series, Carol Carr.  I have reviewed two of the books in the series: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (click here) as well as India Black and the Widow of Windsor (click here.)  Welcome Ms. Carr and thank you for the interview.

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
Many years ago I read a book that was so bad it made me think that I could write a better one. Ah, the arrogance of youth. I’d like that to be my excuse, but actually I was old enough to know better. Of course it’s not that easy to write a novel. I wrote one really bad novel, and then a less bad one, and finally produced the first India Black novel. (I have also learned a lesson in humility along the way, but that’s a different answer to a different question.) I will admit that I do not enjoy the writing process. After all, it’s work. But I do love the satisfaction of having completed a book that people enjoy reading. And that, in the end, is what motivates me: telling a story and hoping that people like it.

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 generally have an idea for a plot, which is usually a topic that I’m interested in and want to know more about. It’s a great excuse to read more history. In the case of the third book, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, it was the history of the anarchist movement and its impact during the late Victorian era. I actually moved up the time frame a bit, as my book is set in 1877 and the anarchists didn’t really start blowing up people until a decade later, but why let the facts get in the way of the story? After settling on an idea, I’ll do research: Who were these anarchists? What were they trying to accomplish? How did they make their bombs? My reading usually generates characters. Many anarchists fled to England in the 1870’s because of pressure in their home countries. Hence I have Russians, Germans and French among my anarchists. The plot develops also as I read, but my plots are fairly simple. The emphasis is on action and character, though I do weave in a bit of mystery.

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’m a plotter,” she confessed in a hushed tone. Yep, I work from a detailed outline. I do a shorter outline for my editor, but my working outline will have scraps of dialogue, character descriptions, settings, and all sorts of details in the margins. This works best for me. I’m a lawyer by training, so I prefer taking a logical approach to writing. Nothing would scare me more than to write without an outline. It would be like walking the high-wire without a net. With an outline in hand I know what each scene needs to accomplish and I’m free to use my imagination in the writing process as opposed to trying to figure out what comes next.

India Black is a memorable character who has had a tough life. What do you and troubled India have in common? How are you different?
Well, I’m a lawyer and she’s a prostitute. I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Aside from the similarities of our professions, India and I are quite alike in character. We’re both snarky. Neither of us cares much for authority. Nor do we care for do-gooders of any sort. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do, even if it’s for our own good. We’re both realists, we’re both cynical and we both tend to leap before we look. On the other hand, I am quite well-behaved and can be taken out safely in public. India is much more outspoken than I am, and she’s much harder. I have a marshmallow center. India does not.

India, French, Vincent and the rest of the cast are all great. 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?
India and Vincent sprang fully-formed into my mind. I have to work a bit harder at French as he’s a bit of a cypher, even to me. Sometimes I see him as a sort of super secret agent, and sometimes I can’t resist making him a bit buffoonish. I suppose that just reflects India’s ambivalence toward him. I use minor characters to support the story line, or to provide a foil to India and French. Minor characters never fail to surprise me. I started the second book knowing that India would be working for an elderly aristocrat. I was shocked when the Marchioness showed up and just took over. When I finished that book, I realized I couldn’t let her go. I had a similar experience with the third book. The character of Bonnaire started out as an entirely different sort of man. He just wouldn’t do as he was told. Finally, I gave in and let him be the character he wanted to be. I know, a writer is supposed to be in total control of her characters. Not so. They have minds of their own.

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 was probably the only kid in college who studied without any music in the background. I can’t write if it’s playing, either. I need total silence. I write in my office upstairs, sitting in a recliner bought expressly for the purpose, using a laptop. Occasionally, if the weather is nice, I write on the porch. I don’t have any rituals I have to follow and I don’t need anything special to work. The only mildly superstitious thing I do is to avoid reading historical mysteries when I’m writing. I wouldn’t want any outside influence showing up in my work.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
My books are about 90,000 words in length, and when I’m in full flow I strive to write 2,000 words per day, five days per week. More than that, and my head explodes. This can take three hours if things are going really well, or six if they are not. I’ll use the time when I’m not writing to do odds and ends of research about issues that have popped up when I am writing. I can finish a first draft in 9-12 weeks, but then I’ll spend several weeks reading and re-reading. I hate proofing, but it’s critical.

Being a historical mystery, how much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?
I’m a history buff and Victorian England is a favorite period of mine. Consequently, I’m already familiar with the major events and people from the era. Once I’ve settled on the topic for the next India, I’ll do some specific reading. My local library is excellent in sourcing material for me. And I really appreciate the fact that they deliver books about bombs and prostitutes without blinking an eye. I also use the internet. How did people write historicals before the world wide web? I finish most of the research up front, but there’s always something that I need to know more about and don’t realize it until I’m writing.

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, have visited personally, or are familiar with for your settings?
I do try to evoke a strong sense of setting in the books. London was, and is, a character in and of itself. It is an endlessly fascinating place and must have been remarkably atmospheric during the 1870’s, with the fog, the smoke, the mass of unwashed humanity, the horse-drawn conveyances, the smell of the river. I have visited many of the places I write about, and I spend a lot of time with old maps and photographs, trying to visualize what England was like at that period, including odors and sounds.

What in your background prepared you to write not just mysteries, but historicals too?
I am captivated by history, and I’ve been a serious student of it for over forty years (oh, how I hate to write that bit). Mysteries are my other love. My grandmother kept a collection of Agatha Christie’s novels in her bookcase and I must have been about 9 or 10 when I started reading those. It seemed only logical to combine my two great reading passions when I started to write.

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

Jane Marple, George Smiley, Jack Reacher, Tom Ripley. I could go on, but I’ll spare you an exhaustive list.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

George MacDonald Fraser, who wrote a series of historical adventures about Harry Flashman, a womanizing, cowardly, drunken poltroon, who ended up playing a part in several important historical events and always came out smelling like a rose. I thought it would be fun to write a female character who did not fit the stereotype of the Victorian lady of quality.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
Ye Olde Query Letter. I sent out about twenty, pitching the first India Black to a number of agents, and was lucky enough to find Ann Collette. She responded to the letter within a week, requesting a copy of the manuscript. Other agents were interested, but Ann worked fast and was a straight-shooter.

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

Hmmm. That’s probably a comment from a reader who took exception to India’s remarks about Queen Victoria’s weight in India Black and the Widow of Windsor. The reader said I must have issues with my own body image. Lighten up, honey. It was a joke.

If your India Black mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles? My first choice would be Emily Blunt, an English actress who has terrific comedic talent. She played Emily Charlton in The Devil Wears Prada. 

Tell us your thoughts on the importance of historical mysteries and their popularity.

I think it’s easier to explain the appeal of mysteries: usually they end with justice being done and evil being punished and we like that. The historical element has added an additional dimension to the mystery genre and I’m very glad to see that. Some historical mysteries are factually accurate and some aren’t, but I think any story that sparks an interest in history is a good thing. More people should read history. Want to know the future? Read some history and look at the parallels with our own age.

Tell us about your next book in the series - or next project? What is your biggest challenge with it?

The fourth book in the series, tentatively titled India Black and the Gentleman Thief, is sitting on my editor’s desk, waiting to be read. I’m hoping that the big challenge was writing it, and not that the editor wants major changes. That book marks the end of my present contract. If a contract is offered for a fifth book, India, Vincent and French will be traveling to South Africa to sort out a little problem with the Zulus.

I’m also working on the outline of a thriller, and I’m writing a second India short story, which will be digitally published late this year or early next. The biggest challenge is always the same – plopping down in the chair and staring at a blank screen.

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

I do. I blog at I talk a bit about writing, reading, publishing, extraordinary women and men, and rugby (my favorite sport).


THANK You Carol for that great interview.  Many fascinating tidbits.  I love the humor about the similarities between yourself and India Black!  I wish you continued success with the series and hope it enjoys a long run.  

These should be everywhere vending machines are located

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review - Clobbered by Camembert

 This is the first book in the Cheese Shop Mysteries that I have read.  I decided I needed to jump into the series that received the Agatha Award for best first novel with "The Long Quiche Goodbye."    

Quick reminder to join the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

Author: Avery Ames

Copyright: February 2012 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Cheese Shop Mysteries

Sensuality: mild romance

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Charlotte Bessette, proprietor of Fromagerie Bessette - aka the Cheese Shop

Setting: Modern day, Providence, Ohio

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The town is gearing up for the Winter Wonderland fair where the Cheese Shop will have a booth.  Kaitlyn Clydesdale, who grew up in Providence. breezes into town with grand plans of buying up land and starting a competing honeybee farm.  Kaitlyn proves to be a cut throat business woman and is killed in short order.  Unfortunately, the prime suspect - the established honeybee farmer, is the boyfriend of Rebecca, Charlotte's employee.  Charlotte is also working out some questions surrounding her boyfriend, Jordan with the added complication of her ex-fiance Chip in town on Kaitlyn's payroll, trying to win Charlotte back.

Charlotte seemed nice enough but rather easily pushed around. This is my first book in the series so I can't judge whether this is the usual or just unique to this book.  In particular I am referring to her employee Rebecca giving Charlotte orders, sending her on investigations rather than handle business during the faire (which meant dual hours for the shop and the fair booth.)  If a small business owner really let an employee take off on a whim and dictate to the boss, she would be out of business quickly.  This was just too unrealistic.  Matthew, Charlotte's cousin and business partner was a good character and his twin daughters are a delightful touch.  Matthew's ex-wife Slyvie is over-the-top in clothes and pushy which I wasn't finding beneficial to the story.  Rebecca, former Amish, is hyper-emotional and just grated on me.  Then there is Jordan, the handsome cheese-maker and love interest.  I liked Jordan's character and would have liked more page time in this book.  The standout character was Tyanne, who gets hired at the Cheese shop and despite her soon-to-be-ex flaunting a younger woman she throws herself into the job.  Tyanne was in pain but showed her metal.

The setting seemed like a standard small town for a cozy with nothing exceptional.  The winter fair was the best part of the the setting and gave the town more of a realistic touch. The cheese shop theme gives you tidbits about cheese that I personally enjoyed - but I love cheeses.

The plot was a basic cozy mystery with a few suspects.  The mystery unfolds as more information is doled out about Kaitlyn and her deals.  The biggest key to the mystery is finding the actual murder weapon, which is elusive until the end.

The killer confrontation was nicely suspenseful, the way I like them. The wrap up, down to the last sentence, is touching and sets up the next book expertly.

This is a good cozy mystery with plenty suspects and suspicions.  My only reservation is the character Rebecca and her unrealistic sway over her employer, as mentioned before.  

Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.  If you are already a fan, you will want to read this book but it may not be the best to start with.

There are book club questions available on the author's website (click here.)

Here is the short book trailer for the book.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Best Mysteries of All Time

In 1995, the Mystery Writers of America comprised a list of the top 100 crime novels of all time.  Some time has past since this compilation, the most recent publication date is 1990.  So I wonder if there are one or two other mysteries that people would have felt deserved on this list??  

Perhaps there are titles that may not be "all that" on this list.  What do you think?  Do you have an addition or two, or are there some listed that you question?  Please leave comments and share your thoughts.  

I will start, just to get the conversation started.  Dracula, as phenomenal as the book is, I don't think it fit the category.  Ditto for Rosemary's Baby.  But I don't know which books I would suggest, that is a tough one.  Anyone?

  1.     Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927)
  2.     Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon (1930)
  3.     Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery & Imagination (1852)
  4.     Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (1951)
  5.     Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987)
  6.     John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963)
  7.     Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868)
  8.     Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep (1939)
  9.     Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938)
  10.     Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (1939)
  11.     Robert Traver: Anatomy of a Murder (1958)
  12.     Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
  13.     Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye (1953)
  14.     James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
  15.     Mario Puzo: The Godfather (1969)
  16.     Thomas Harris: The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
  17.     Eric Ambler: A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939)
  18.     Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night (1935)
  19.     Agatha Christie: Witness for the Prosecution (1948)
  20.     Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal (1971)
  21.     Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  22.     John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)
  23.     Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (1980)
  24.     Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment (1866)
  25.     Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle (1978)
  26.     John Mortimer: Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)
  27.     Thomas Harris: Red Dragon (1981)
  28.     Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (1934)
  29.     Gregory Mcdonald: Fletch (1974)
  30.     John le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)
  31.     Dashiell Hammett: The Thin Man (1934)
  32.     Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White (1860)
  33.     E. C. Bentley: Trent's Last Case (1913)
  34.     James M. Cain: Double Indemnity (1943)
  35.     Martin Cruz Smith: Gorky Park (1981)
  36.     Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison (1930)
  37.     Tony Hillerman: Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
  38.     Donald E. Westlake: The Hot Rock (1970)
  39.     Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest (1929)
  40.     Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase (1908)
  41.     Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
  42.     John Grisham: The Firm (1991)
  43.     Len Deighton: The Ipcress File (1962)
  44.     Vera Caspary: Laura (1942)
  45.     Mickey Spillane: I, the Jury (1947)
  46.     Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö: The Laughing Policeman (1968)
  47.     Donald E. Westlake: Bank Shot (1972)
  48.     Graham Greene: The Third Man (1950)
  49.     Jim Thompson: The Killer Inside Me (1952)
  50.     Mary Higgins Clark: Where Are the Children? (1975)
  51.     Sue Grafton: "A" is for Alibi (1982)
  52.     Lawrence Sanders: The First Deadly Sin (1973)
  53.     Tony Hillerman: A Thief of Time (1989)
  54.     Truman Capote: In Cold Blood (1966)
  55.     Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)
  56.     Dorothy L. Sayers: Murder Must Advertise (1933)
  57.     G. K. Chesterton: The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
  58.     John le Carré: Smiley's People (1979)
  59.     Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  60.     Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
  61.     Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana (1958)
  62.     Charles Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
  63.     Peter Lovesey: Wobble to Death (1970)
  64.     W. Somerset Maugham: Ashenden (1928)
  65.     Nicholas Meyer: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson (1974)
  66.     Rex Stout: The Doorbell Rang (1965)
  67.     Elmore Leonard: Stick (1983)
  68.     John le Carré: The Little Drummer Girl (1983)
  69.     Graham Greene: Brighton Rock (1938)
  70.     Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
  71.     Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
  72.     Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop (1946)
  73.     John Grisham: A Time to Kill (1989)
  74.     Hillary Waugh: Last Seen Wearing … (1952)
  75.     W. R. Burnett: Little Caesar (1929)
  76.     George V. Higgins: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972)
  77.     Dorothy L. Sayers: Clouds of Witness (1927)
  78.     Ian Fleming: From Russia, with Love (1957)
  79.     Margaret Millar: Beast in View (1955)
  80.     Michael Gilbert: Smallbone Deceased (1950)
  81.     Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (1948)
  82.     Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975)
  83.     P. D. James: Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
  84.     Tom Clancy: The Hunt for Red October (1984)
  85.     Ross Thomas: Chinaman's Chance (1978)
  86.     Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent (1907)
  87.     John D. MacDonald: The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1975)
  88.     Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key (1931)
  89.     Ruth Rendell: A Judgement in Stone (1977)
  90.     Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar (1950)
  91.     Ross Macdonald: The Chill (1963)
  92.     Walter Mosley: Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
  93.     Joseph Wambaugh: The Choirboys (1975)
  94.     Donald E. Westlake: God Save the Mark (1967)
  95.     Craig Rice: Home Sweet Homicide (1944)
  96.     John Dickson Carr: The Three Coffins (1935)
  97.     Richard Condon: Prizzi's Honor (1982)
  98.     James McClure: The Steam Pig (1974)
  99.     Jack Finney: Time and Again (1970)
  100.     Ellis Peters: A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977) Tied with Ira Levin: Rosemary's Baby (1967)

 I hope this list also inspires you with some classics that you haven't read yet - it sure has for me.

Reminder: don't forget to join the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge, there is still plenty of time (click here.)

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review - India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy

I have reviewed the book just prior in the series, India Black and the Widow of Windsor (click here) and found I was looking forward to reading this addition to the series.  I am counting this towards my Historical Mystery Reading Challenge, which you can still join (click here).

Author: Carol K. Carr

Copyright: February 2013 (Berkley) 321 pgs

Series: 3rd in  Madam of Espionage Mystery

Sensuality: Some adult conversation and innuendo (period euphemisms)

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Espionage

Main Characters: India Black, madam of the London brothel, Lotus House, catering to gentlemen and part-time British Spy

Setting: 1876, London and Scottland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Prime Minister Disraeli summons India to his office, to meet with him and Superintendent Stoke of Scotland Yard. Anarchists are on a killing spree, murdering lords and earls in a reign of terror.  Disraeli and Stoke want India to work solo and infiltrate the anarchist group called the Dark Legion to determine who the leader is, and put a stop to the killings.  India has to steal a "working girl" with connections to the Dark Legion away from a lesser class brothel and win her trust to get introduced to the Dark Legion.  This enrages the Madam of the other brothel and has several attempts to teach her a lesson, while India walks a dangerous path with the paranoid anarchists plotting large scale attacks to bring Britain's government to her knees.  She still finds time to concern herself with French and their nebulous kinda-sorta relationship.  On top of all this, India is trying to uncover her deceased mother's genealogy since the last book had the Marchioness of Tullibardine mention knowing India's mother. 

India is a hard as nails character who grabs at the chance to prove herself as a spy. She is resilient, making it through several attempts on her life while keeping cool infiltrating the Dark Legion.  She multitasks continuously, juggling her business, spying, searching for her mother's history, and trying to figure French, the man who recruited her, and his secrets out.  She has an honest and dry sense of humor that had me laughing often.  French is even more of an enigma in this book.  It seems the more that is revealed about French, the more questions there are.  Vincent, the smelly street urchin that idolizes French, is utilized often in this operation and he proves handy - if only he would bathe.  I find I don't care for India's drunken cook - Mrs. Drinkwater, but that is a small hiccup.  The anarchists are each interesting, the debonair Frenchman Bonnaire, or the emotionally unhinged Russian Flerko are just a few, but Thick Ed - the bomb maker, is the surprise in that bunch.  For being a basic secondary character, he is meticulously drawn and you want to understand him and what motivates him.

London is portrayed in all her deplorable conditions and her glory in this book.  From fancy homes to Seven Dials slums, it is all here bringing the time period, the politics, and the class divisions on display.

The plot is convincing and there is a great sense of immediacy throughout the book.  India feels the pressure of this sensitive and tricky operation and comes up with several good strategies, showing her worth as a spy.  The Dark Legion scenario is convincing and the need to thwart such a lethal group would be imperative to any government.  The pacing remained steady and kept me flipping pages throughout.

The climax was top notch, which is saying something for the level of tension throughout the book makes a satisfying ending a challenge.  This was Hitchcock level suspense for the climax and the wrap-up leaves the reader dangling on India's mother and French with a promise of surprises to come.

Top notch historical espionage with danger lurking in every shadow and surprises and twists keeping the reader on his or her toes.  Excellent writing, snarky humor, solid characters, and witty dialog.  I found this one better than the last book and hope that India will be given more assignments that give her abilities credit.  I do believe I am hooked.

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

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - March 2013

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

Reminder of the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

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

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Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Marisa Wikramanayake reviewed Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Dying on the Vine by Aaron Elkins

Tea Time with Marce reviewed The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver

Booking Mama reviewed FIREPROOF by Alex Kava

Swapnil Book Reviews gives us a brief review of The Curse of the Goddess by Satyajit Ray

Carstairs Considers reviewed Suspect by Robert Crais

Booking Mama reviewed Standing In Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

Carstairs Considers reviewed Mr. Monk Gets Even by Lee Goldberg

Booking Mama reviewed THE FORGOTTEN by David Baldacci

Booking Mama reviewed THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME by Holly Goddard Jones

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander

Book of Secrets reviewed DEADLY PATTERNS (A Magical Dressmaking Mystery, #3) by Melissa Bourbon

Booking Mama reviewed Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

Book of Secrets reviewed MURDER ON THE HOUSE (A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery, #3) by Juliet Blackwell

Marisa Wikramanayake reviewed Murder On The Apricot Coast by Marion Halligan

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Holiday Buzz by Cleo Coyle

Book of Secrets reviewed FEINT OF ART (An Art Lover's Mystery, #1) by Hailey Lind

Carstairs Considers reviewed Arsenic and Old Puzzles by Parnell Hall

Books to the Rescue reviewed I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Final Settlement by Vicki Doudera

Stuff and Nonsense reviewed Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly

Book of Secrets reviewed THE MIDWIFE'S TALE by Sam Thomas

A Date with a Book reviewed Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun by Lois Winston

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Dogs Don't Lie by Cleo Simmons

Book of Secrets reviewed IT TAKES A WITCH (A Wishcraft Mystery, #1) by Heather Blake

Book of Secrets reviewed BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BISCOTTI (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #2) by Bailey Cates

Books to the Rescue reviewed Photo, Snap, Shot by Joanna Campbell Slan

Book of Secrets reviewed SCENT TO KILL (A Natural Remedies Mystery, #2) by Chrystle Fiedler

A Date with a Book reviewed Cut, Crop & Die  by Joanna Campbell Slan

Book of Secrets reviewed EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK (A Novel Idea Mystery, #2) by Lucy Arlington

Books to the Rescue reviewed Falling to Pieces by Vannetta Chapman

Books to the Rescue reviewed A Perfect Square by Vannetta Chapman

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Carstairs Considers reviewed Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

A Date with a Book reviewed The Big Exit by David Carnoy

Joanne Guidoccio reviewed Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed City of Exiles by Alec Nevala-Lee

Booking Mama reviewed The Start of Everything by Emily Winslow

A Date with a Book reviewed Vows to Kill by Mark Capell

Books to the Rescue reviewed An Ordinary Decent Criminal by Michael Van Rooy

Author Interview

ThorNews gives us an interview with Bestselling Mystery Writer Zoë Ferraris

Fantasy Scroll gives us "How to Self-Edit Your Novel"

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

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: (


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