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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review - The Hit

Although I was holding out hope for another Camel Club release from Mr. Baldacci, I was enticed by the blurb on this book.  I did not read the first book that debuted the character Will Robie, but this second in the series is on par to best the Camel Club (hard to imagine, I know.)

Author: David Baldacci

Copyright: April 2013 (Grand Central Publishing) 400 pgs

Series: 2nd in Will Robie-Assassin Thriller series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller

Main Characters: Wiliam Robie, a U.S. sanctioned elite assassin

Setting: Modern day, Washington DC

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

The book opens with Doug Jacobs, a handler, watching a live feed of a planned assassination.  From everything that he observes, including a shot of the assassin's sniper position, the hit will take place as planned.  What he didn't know was that it was smoke and mirrors, the assassin was actually in Washington D.C. targeting him.  The shot hits its Doug Jacobs instead of some Middle East wannabe to the shock of the intelligence community.  Will Robie is called in and given the assignment to track down and kill the person believed behind the killing of Doug Jacobs -- Jessica Reel, another elite U.S. assassin who seems to have gone rogue.  Jessica and Will know each other, and they know each others strengths and training.  But Will starts to uncover that there is something more going on, the information he has been given to track Jessica down is redacted and the crime scene was cleaned before he could see it.  What is the government hiding, and is Jessica Reel a traitor or a patriot?  Will Robie has suspicions that all is not as it appears, so what does he do about tracking down and killing Jessica Reel? 

Will Robbie is a smart character and a very deadly opponent.  He makes a great anti-hero in that his job and ingrained training dictates he should just follow orders.  But, he can't ignore all the clues that there is something deeply wrong in his own agency.  Jessica Reel is a dynamite character.  She is hardened and jaded, and every bit as lethal as Will Robie.  I loved her character and look forward to her in future Robie books.  FBI agent Nicole Vance, who made her appearance in the first book "The Innocent" is back.  She proves herself to be a critical player in key parts of the book, due to her working with Robie in the last book.  Julie, a teenage girl also from the prior book, is present in this story as Robie struggles with being in her life.  A standout character in this book is known only as "Blue Man".  Blue Man is Robie's immediate superior and displays a political acuman as he advises Robie.  Blue Man is somewhat an unsung hero in the tale because he works in the background, but I appreciated him so much.

The setting is mostly Washington D.C. with additional scenes in the Middle East, and New York.  These settings are related through an assassin's eyes, evaluating aspects that are not usually portrayed.

The plot is spot on and continues to grow in magnitude the further you read.  Some sections are written from Jessica's viewpoint, which heightens the tension significantly. This maintains a thriller's sense of urgency and seems rocket fueled. 

The climax is gripping and meets expectations fully.  The wrap-up is dramatic yet nuanced, lingering on the mind long after the book is closed.

"Page-turner" does not even begin to describe this gripping race through a governmental conspiracy at the highest levels.  I devoured this book.  It is a rush, yet the voice is so finely developed that it encompasses wisdom regarding damaged souls as well.

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

Here is a short interview with David Baldacci on this book.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Third Annual Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

We are celebrating Midsummer here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the third year!  Shakespeare even wrote about it - when we have the longest daylight hours and shortest night.  I love summer, don't you?

If you are joining us as part of the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!


$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles by Parnell Hall


Death Without Company (Walt Longmire mystery) by Craig Johnson

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire mystery) by Craig Johnson

A Serpent's Tooth (Walt Longmire mystery) by Craig Johnson

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

Entry for giveaway lasts until June 30 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.
I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

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

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  June 30.   
 I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.
Other participating blogs:

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review - The Christie Curse

We have the first book in a new cozy mystery series written by the mother/daughter team of Victoria and Mary Jane Maffini as Victoria Abbot.  Mary Jane Maffini is most recently known for her Professional organizer Charlotte Adams mysteries.  Let's see how well this collaboration worked.

Author: Victoria Abbott

Copyright: March 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Book Collector Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Jordan Bingham, needing a job and place to live

Setting: Modern day, Harrison Falls NY

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Jordan loves the uncles who raised her (shady business dealings aside), but she would like to live on her own now and pay off her student loans.  She answers an ad for a research assistant to an  eccentric book collector that includes room and board. It sounds like the ideal job for her.  She is hired on the spot and adores her own rooms that she refers to as her garret apartment.  But Jordan soon discovers that the man she is replacing had suspiciously been pushed onto the subway tracks while doing the very research project Jordan is hired to do.  

Her assignment is to locate and acquire a never before mentioned Agatha Christie play (supposedly written during her eleven-day disappearance) that may have gotten the last researcher killed.  Her new employer is not just eccentric, but cranky, surly, and hated by everyone in town.  Then there is the ever present Harrison Falls cop popping up regularly as if he is following Jordan.  It takes all the street smarts her uncles taught her to do her research while investigating the murder of her predecessor.  She may even have to call upon her uncle's unique skill sets to help her out.

Jordan is a refreshing cozy heroine.  She is street savvy plus has a masters degree.  Her parents died when she was young and she was raised by her uncles.  She has taken an unconventional upbringing and sees the positives in it.  Uncles Lucky and Mick are the two primary uncles who raised her and she currently lives with.  They are shady in non-specific ways, but the local crime boss, Salvatore Tascone, attended her first communion and owes Mick a favor if that tells you anything.  Other uncles are introduced, but these two are great characters that I will relish getting to know better.  Vera Van Alst is a curmudgeon that just may have more feelings than she likes to admit to.  The combination of Jordan and Vera is a great mix and I think will continue to work as the series progresses.  Tyler Dekker, the enigmatic policeman nicknamed "Officer Smiley" added interest throughout.  The reader is never quite sure what his agenda is until the end. The handsome librarian, Lance DeWitt, gives librarians everywhere a new persona as the flirtatious romantic interest.  I love the change-up of the hunky library dude for a potential romantic interest rather than the now over-used cop boyfriend.

The setting was the aged Van Alst mansion mixed up with small town Harrison Falls and neighboring towns.  The mansion is a good setting, but I hope it is used as more than a backdrop as we move forward with the series because it has tremendous potential.

The plot of a potential new play by Agatha Christie and what people might do for such a valuable collectable piece of literary history was nicely constructed and played out.  The role of this possible play with the overall mystery was dead on.  The pacing kept a steady level of interest with danger lurking and a few good twists.  The voice of Jordan is not as chatty as some, but follows her smart and savvy makeup.  I found the voice to be engaging.

The climax was a one-two punch.  Just when you thought things were wrapped up, the other shoe drops.  Kudos on that.  The wrap-up was just priceless as well. 

This is a fantastic debut of a new cozy series with a refreshing heroine and sparkling cast of characters with smart plotting. 

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

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tami Hoag Book Giveaway

Tami Hoag began her writing career at the age of nine with the self-published, self-illustrated third-grade hit Black Pony.  The school project—a tale of two children sharing a pony named Smoky—sparked Hoag’s love for storytelling, and set her on a collision course with destiny, which would be reached in 1988 with Bantam Books’ publication of Hoag’s first novel, The Trouble With J.J.

A favorite of readers and critics alike, Hoag began her career writing for Bantam’s Loveswept line of romance novels, penning sixteen titles in five years.  Never wanting to be pigeonholed, the novels ranged from romantic comedy to romantic suspense, with richly drawn characters and sharply written dialogue the hallmarks of Hoag’s style.  These traits carry through to her thrillers, along with fast-paced plots and dead-on police procedure.

Born in Iowa, raised in Minnesota, Tami Hoag left the frigid north for warmer climes in 1998.  An avid competitive equestrian in the Olympic discipline of dressage, Tami currently lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, where she competes her horses on the prestigious winter show circuit.

Here is a publisher provided interview:
Kovac and Liska, the homicide detectives in THE 9th GIRL have previously appeared in ASHES TO ASHES,  DUST TO DUST, and PRIOR BAD ACTS.  What made you decide to return to these characters?
I missed Sam and Nikki. I first met them in ASHES TO ASHES, where they were only intended to be secondary characters.  But they were so strong and vivid and funny that they came right back with a book of their own in DUST TO DUST. They’re like old friends now.  I’ve had many reader requests to bring them back, and I wanted to go see what they were up to. It’s safe to say this won’t be the last we see of them, either.

Your primary victim in this case is a very conflicted and complex 16-year-old girl. Her friends and enemies have key roles. This is the first time teenage characters have played such a large role in one of your novels. What was that like? How did you get in their heads?

It was an interesting experience that was a little intimidating in the beginning. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager. But I became very attached to my kids, particularly Brittany, who feels like she’s in a tug of war. She wants to be accepted by the popular clique, but also feels loyalty to friends who are considered outcasts. And I’m absolutely in love with Liska’s son, Kyle. He’s sweet and loyal, and working hard at growing up to be a good man. He really stole my heart. I talk about him like he’s a real kid and I’m his proud auntie!

Kyle is a 15 year old who is experiencing bullying at school. Why did you feel it was important to discuss this issue in the story?
Bullying is such a prevalent and pernicious blight on our society, particularly with all the social media outlets kids have access to today. So many kids suffer because of bullies, and so many adults carry the scars of bullying they experienced growing up. It’s a terrible injustice that serves no one. Bullies ultimately don’t benefit from being bullies. The world doesn’t benefit from having bullies. We all have to wise-up to the fact that we can influence the world in a positive way through positive actions and by accepting one another. Being kind and generous of spirit is so much more rewarding.

Kyle’s favorite sport—and yours—is mixed martial arts. How did you come to that sport, and what about it speaks to you?
I started working out with a trainer who has fought professionally and competes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I knew nothing about either. After I’d been working with him for a few weeks, he said to me, “You should watch a fight. I think you might like it.” What an understatement that turned out to be! I fell in love with it immediately, and am a hardcore fan.

Kyle’s mom, Nikki Liska, is struggling to balance her roles as single mother and homicide detective. How does she represent the American woman today? If you were to meet her in real life, is she someone you would have as a friend?

Nikki and I would get on famously! She’s sassy and smart-mouthed with a quick wit. We would be hell on heels together. She’s tough as nails on the job, but also vulnerable, and fiercely devoted to her boys. I think a lot of women can identify with her struggle between career and her role as a mother. She’s basically working two full-time jobs that aren’t very compatible. She has to earn a living to support her sons, but her job takes her away from them far more than she would like. She loves her career, but she loves her boys, too. It’s the conundrum of the modern woman.

A tattoo plays an important role in The 9th Girl. Tattoos have become almost mainstream in our society, particularly among younger people. What did you learn about the tattoo culture while you were researching the subject? Do you have any tattoos yourself?
Before writing The 9th Girl I had no interest in having a tattoo, but as I researched the subject, my opinion changed 180 degrees. I came into contact with many people who had multiple tattoos, and learned the reasons behind their choices. From twenty-something young men to sixty-something grandmas, all shared the same basic belief that their tattoos told a story about their life. They had something to say and felt committed enough to have it inked ’t care what anybody else thinks about it. That kind of passion speaks to me.

I now have two tattoos. One that says “Stronger,” which means something to me and says something about me, and the tattoo from THE 9TH GIRL: Chinese characters that express tolerance and acceptance of people as they are. “Be who you are” is a sentiment I believe in strongly—unless you’re a jerk. Don’t be a jerk!

In THE 9TH GIRL, the police are trying to figure out if the victim knew her killer or if she was the target of a stranger. Which do think is scarier: the devil you know or the devil you don’t?
I think we all fear the unknown, the random act of violence, but in my personal experience there is nothing more frightening than finding out someone close to you has a side you never imagined possible. In that terrible moment of revelation we realize that we can never truly know anyone. Both kinds of evil are present in THE 9TH GIRL. We’ll see which scares readers the most!

Now for some fun questions! Writers always joke about wearing pajamas to work. What do you wear to the office?
Either baggy old jeans or sweatpants and a fight t-shirt. Function over fashion. Comfort keeps the words flowing.

Who are the top five artists on your iPod?
Maroon 5, Train, Matchbox 20, Tristan Prettyman, and Jason Mraz.

American Idol or The Voice?
The Voice. I love the mentorship aspect of the show.

Football or baseball?
Neither. I don’t follow team sports. I can’t stand to have that many people disappoint me all at the same time.

What would we find in your magazine rack?
Fighters Only, Inked, Psychology Today, Dressage Today, and Architectural Digest.

What’s the screen saver on your phone?
Shirtless Channing Tatum. That boy is mighty fine to look at!

If you could live abroad for a year, where would go?
Italy. I’ve always been obsessed with ancient Rome. I would go there and soak up as much as I could.

Your secret crush is . . . ?
Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  Book Giveaway ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We are running a special giveaway of Tami Hoag's most recent book, "The 9th Girl" to one lucky winner as well.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag brings back her fan-favorite Minneapolis investigators Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska in the haunting new thriller The 9th Girl.

On a frigid New Year's Eve in Minneapolis a young woman’s brutalized body falls from the trunk of a car into the path of oncoming traffic. Questions as to whether she was alive or dead when she hit the icy pavement result in her macabre nickname, Zombie Doe. Unidentified and unidentifiable, she is the ninth nameless female victim of the year, and homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are charged with the task of not only finding out who Zombie Doe is, but who in her life hated her enough to destroy her. Was it personal, or could it just have been a crime of opportunity? Their greatest fear is that not only is she their ninth Jane Doe of the year, but that she may be the ninth victim of a vicious transient serial killer they have come to call Doc Holiday.


Single book giveaway

Entry for giveaway lasts until Wed. June 5 8:00 p.m. (MST).

The publisher will ship the book to the winner.

How to enter:

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

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway Tuesday June 18 beginning at posting time through to 8:00 p.m (MST) on Friday June 21.  United States only please.

I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already, and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense. 

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review - Peril in Paperback

I reviewed the third book in the series, The Lies that Bind (click here), and the fourth, One Book in the Grave (click here.)  This is the sixth book in the series, let's see how this addition to the series stacks up.

Author: Kate Carlisle

Copyright: August 2012 (Signet) 304 pgs

Series: 6th in Bibliophile Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Brooklyn Wainwright, book binder and restorer

Setting: modern day, San Francisco and countryside

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Brooklyn is invited to the fiftieth birthday party of her neighbor Suzie’s aunt Grace for a week of festivities. Grace, now retired, was the founder of a major video game corporation.  The party is at Grace's Lake Tahoe Mansion that she has enhanced with everything from pinball machines and giant props to secret passageways and trap doors. Brooklyn is excited to discover Grace’s extensive collection of rare paperback pulp fiction.

Early on Grace, who doesn't have a psychic bone in her body, leads a séance that turns deadly.  A cocktail intended for Grace was poisoned and took the life of another guest. Immediatly suspicion turns to the auto-biography that Grace had finished and was about to publish. This sets up a classic manor mystery with a cast of strange guests to investigate.

Brooklyn is not her usual loving and enlightened self in this edition.  There are two guests that she can not stand, really can't stand.  It doesn't help that Derek has been in France...or is it Belgium, working a case and when Brooklyn called, a women made it clear Derek was unavailable. So she is under a little stress with her imagination running wild.  Derek doesn't make an appearance until later in the book so not much to add there.  Gabriel pops up at the Lake Tahoe mansion, somehow personally knowing Grace (I suspect auntie helped Gabriel with some high tech gadgetry in the past.)  Gabriel has really grown on me and in this book he lets slip a few words that make it seem he cares more for Brooklyn than anyone thought possible.  Grace may be turning fifty, but she is a hoot. She springs the biggest surprise on everyone that provides a great twist in the plot.  I enjoyed her character and look forward to reading more about her.  We get to know Susie and Vinnie, neighbors in San Francisco, a little better.  The pair gets quite a surprise during the week with Aunt Grace. Their lives are forever changed, in a good way. 

The mansion is primarily the setting and not so much Lake Tahoe.  The mansion sounds fascinating and provides a great setting for this mystery to play out.  The plot is solid cozy mystery fare with being stranded by snow until the murderer can be caught.  The pace kept up well with sub plots developing and several twists and excitement.

The climax was a good romp complete with revelations and a few surprises.  The wrap-up had some heartwarming moments and leaves the reader feeling good, looking forward to another outing with Brooklyn. 

This addition to the series is a solid cozy mystery with plenty of interesting characters and excitement. If you aren't a fan already, this could make one.

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

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - June 2013

This month the blog carnival is on the second Monday of the month. I hope that delay didn't confuse too many readers.  I was just so excited to have Hy Conrad's guest post that I did not want to delay it.

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

Carstairs Considers reviewed  Free Fall by Chris Grabenstein saying, "Ceepak and Danny's latest case finds them helping one of Danny's friends while dealing with Ceepak's dad who is back in town."

Carstairs Considers reviewed 12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro saying, "The latest Women's Murder Club book finds the ladies tackling a ton of cases at the same time."

Back to Books reviewed Muscle For the Wing by Daniel Woodrell, saying, "southern fiction, crime noir."
Back to Books reviewed The Nightmare by Lars Kepler saying, "Scandinavian Crime"

Books to the Rescue reviewed The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Homicide Hustle by Ella Barrick, saying, "When Ballroom with the B-Listers comes to DC, Stacy gets involved when one of the show's producers is murdered."
Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Artifact by Gigi Pandian
Carstairs Considers reviewed Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Glee Club Mysteries #1), saying, "Show choir coach Paige Marshall steps in to investigate when one of her students is accused of killing the rival school's coach."

Back to Books reviewed The Woodshed Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner saying, "Children's mystery"
Booking Mama reviewed Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

Blog Critics reviewed Murder for the Halibut by Liz Lipperman
Back to Books reviewed The Thirteenth Rose by Gail Bowen

Date with a Book reviewed Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Booking Mama reviewed Killer Crinolines by Duffy Brown
Books to the Rescue reviewed Dishing Up Death by Marie Celine

Books to the Rescue reviewed Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner

Date with a Book reviewed Scent to Her Grave by India Ink
Books to the Rescue reviewed That Old Flame of Mine by J. J. Cook

Books to the Rescue reviewed A Brew to a Kill by Cleo Coyle

A Date with a Book reviewd Death in Daytime by Eileen Davidson

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review
Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Undercurrents by Pamela Beason
Carstairs Considers reviewed His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal, saying, "The third Maggie Hope book finds her behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany."

Mysteries and My Musings also reviewed His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal
Back to Books reviewed The Strand Magazine Feb-May 2013, saying, "Doesn't really fit any category.  Anthology magazine of short stories by mystery writers."

Booking Mama reviewed No Way Back by Andrew Gross
Books to the Rescue reviewed So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

Books to the Rescue reviewed The Summons by John Grisham

Books to the Rescue reviewed The Diviners by Libba Bray

Writing tips and advice
Lauren Sapala presents Why You Can’t Finish 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: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (


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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review - The Paris Affair

The Blog Carnival will be next Monday, so please send in your mystery book reviews this week (click here to submit an entry).  

I am new to the  Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch series, but I jumped at the chance to read it for the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.) 

Author: Teresa Grant

Copyright: March 2013 (Kensington) 436 pgs

Series: 3rd in Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch Historical Mysteries

Sensuality: Adult topics but no details

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue

Main Characters: Suzanne Rannoch, Former spy for Napoleonic France

Setting: 1815 -- shortly after Waterloo, Paris France

Obtained Through: purchased

It has been two months since Napoleon's defeat  at Waterloo and Paris is a hot bed of unrest.  The old French royalty are being reinstated to the rule the country and British soldiers are everywhere.  It is a powder keg waiting for a spark.  Malcom and Suzanne meet in a public bar to meet Antoine Rivere, a french double agent and blackmailer.  He manages to share to tidbits of information before a brawl ensues and Rivere is killed without Malcom and Suzanne witnessing who did it.  They begin to investigate what little Rivere had told them and begin to uncover spies, double agents, falsely accused spies, indiscretions, and secrets. The path to the truth of who killed Rivere and why is a long road with several eventful twists.

Suzanne Rannock has some big secrets she is hiding from her husband, and throughout the investigation of Rivere's murder she worries about the fallout if they ever come to light. she manages to even smuggle an old spy friend out of the country before the new regime can arrest her, and without Malcom knowing.  Suzanne isn't a coddled society lady, she has an unreputable past that comes dangerously close to her new life in this novel.  Malcom is a British attache and intelligence officer who wonders at this wife's abilities by his side as they investigate.  One of Rivere's bits of information touches on Malcolm's personal life and he takes some risks and uncharacteristically must confide in friends to gain their aid.  He is a nicely complex character.  Raoul, a former lover and Suzanne's prior spymaster is a complication as well as an ally in an era of uncertainty.  He apparently has a history with Malcolm too.  Rupert Caruthers and his wife Gabrielle Caruthers are integral parts to the unwinding plot, and they are both tragic in their own ways.  They stand out in the whole of the story.  Colonel Harry Davenport and Cordelia Davenport assist in a bit of the investigation and some clandestine maneuvers too.

The atmosphere of post-war France, with the Allied Powers restoring the Royalists to the throne, and the conquered Bonapartists being imprisoned becomes a part of the plot as well.  The volatile atmosphere is vivid throughout the story.

The plot is gradually uncovered during the investigation with several twists and revelations.  The complexity and danger grows as the story develops and the characters face their own vulnerabilities.  The climax is riveting and the wrap-up answers many questions and provides a second chance in one case.

Overall, this is an excellent novel with intrigue, secrets, twists, danger, heroics, and fine characters set in a historical setting rife with human drama.

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

For an added summer treat, try this Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade


makes 2 quarts

    8 cups cubed seeded watermelon

    1 cup fresh strawberries, halved

    1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

    1 cup white sugar (or equivalent substitute)

    2 cups water


    Combine the watermelon, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and water in a blender. Blend until smooth.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Guest Post - TV MONK vs. BOOK MONK

The Blog Carnival will be next Monday, so please send in your mystery book reviews this week (click here to submit an entry).  

This Monday, we have a very special guest post by Hy Conrad.  Hy was one of the original writers for the highly successful television series, Monk. He worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Series.” Hy now writes the Monk book series.  We are happy, and deeply honored, to have Mr. Conrad with us today.  

Many years ago, before Lee Goldberg so graciously agreed to write the Monk novels, Penguin had approached me.  I considered it.  But I was busy with the TV show, and I had never written a novel at the time and, most crucially, I had no idea how to transform Monk and his twisty little stories into books.  I let Lee do the grunt work and he turned it into a wondrous franchise – 16 of them to date.  Fifteen for him; one for me.

It’s not as easy as it may seem to transform a well-loved show into a novel.  There are hundreds of choices to make and problems to solve along the way.

From the beginning, the most important choice was point of view.  Telling the stories in the third person seemed too impersonal for such a character.  And using the first person, through Monk’s eyes, would have been maddening.  (I can just see writing an entire chapter about vacuuming the herringbone nap on his living room rug.)  Lee’s solution, and mine, was to tell things through Natalie’s eyes.  It was the best alternative, giving the stories a “Watson” character as well as a sympathetic woman’s perspective.

But even this solution isn’t perfect.  For one thing, when Monk is alone, getting into trouble, we can’t be there with him.  We hear about it later, either from Monk or someone else.  And when Monk goes in for his private sessions with Dr. Bell…  Well, you may have noticed that Dr. Bell doesn’t play much of a role in the novels.  Maybe I can figure a way to get him in there.

Another difference is the size of our stories.  In TV, we had 42 minutes to tell a mystery.  They were clever but very simple.  When you have 70,000 words to kill – I mean fill – you either have to make the stories complex, which is not really the Monk way, or you have to throw in some fancy footwork.  The Monk books often spend the first two chapters on a “starter mystery”, one that has no connection to the rest of the book but may help set up Monk’s emotional track.

Then there may be a few fast cases thrown in along the way, things that show off his brilliance but are really just there to entertain.  Plus the novels tend to tell two mysteries at once, switching back and forth until we let loose with two climactic scenes in the last fifty pages.  I’m probably making this sound like a formula. It’s not.  We prefer to call it a template, and every mystery writer has one.  That’s also what keeps fans coming back, a feeling of familiarity, even if the story is brand new.

Another problem; visual vs. literary. In the show, the clues we used were often visual.  We even wrote them into the action lines, for the director’s benefit.  Here is one, word for word: “A television plays in the bg, showing a clip of Darryl Grant breaking the home run record.  The camera lingers on a man in the stands who catches the priceless ball.  Not really lingers.  We barely see his face.  Forget I even mentioned it.”  Obviously, you can’t do this in a book.  You have to find other ways to sneak in your clues.

Tied in closely with this visual challenge is the subject of humor.  On the screen Monk can shrug and it’s funny.  Stottlemeyer can growl and do a slow burn five times a show and it works.  But try ending a chapter with, “Monk did a funny little shrug and Captain Stottlemeyer growled in reply.”  Okay, that’s not funny.  In a novel you have to rely on situations and dialogue, along with the voice of your narrator.  It’s always a compromise to make Natalie funny but not too funny, and to keep Monk from being too talkative.  Which brings me to my last point.

One of the most important differences between the show and books is Monk’s voice.  You may not have noticed, but on the show Monk isn’t a big talker.  He rarely says more than two sentences in a speech, except when it comes to the solutions in Act Four where, for the good of the viewer, he becomes practically verbose, going on for page after page and using flashbacks.  Tony Shalhoub is an actor who does so much with his body and face that we didn’t have to give him a lot of lines.  He didn’t want them.  But it’s darn hard to get that kind of nuance across in a plot-driven mystery, at least the ones I write.

The sad truth is that the books will never be the show.  All the actors have moved on.  They've all gotten older, except for Traylor Howard.  All the writers have relegated Adrian Monk to a fond memory, except for me.  But the books are their own thing, continuing to exist because they’re good.  And because, luckily, Monk fans can read.

I was talking the other day with Andy Breckman, the man who took the suggestion, “Why not do a show about a cop with OCD?” and turned it into a phenomenon.  We were discussing the Monk novels and Andy said, “Well, you’re it, kid.  The last one.  Keeping Monk alive.”

I like to think that we’re all keeping Monk alive.  You as the reader and me now as the writer.  Here’s to many more.

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

Thank you very much Hy Conrad for your guest post.  Your perspective of the unique challenges of taking the TV series to a book format are fascinating.  We all thank Andy Breckman for his initial idea that  created such a memorable character, and the series writers that showcased the talents of the cast.

We are running a special giveaway of the most recent book,
"Mr. Monk Helps Himself" to one lucky winner as well.

Single book giveaway
Entry for giveaway lasts until Wed. June 5 8:00 p.m. (MST).

The publisher will ship the book to the winner.

How to enter:

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

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway Monday June 3 beginning at posting time through to 8:00 p.m (MST) on Wednesday June 5.
I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already, and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

Thank you blog readers, and a big thanks to Hy Conrad.

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