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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review - The King's Deception

I have reviewed a couple of the prior Cotton Malone books including #7 The Jefferson Key (click here)  and #5 The Paris Vendetta (click here).  This particular book grabbed my interest and really got me looking up historical details on my own.  Check out what captured my attention in this book.

Author: Steve Berry

Copyright: June 2013 (Ballantine Books) 432 pgs

Series: 8th in Cotton Malone series

Sensuality: Suspense violence

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense/Thriller

Main Character: Cotton Malone, former Dept. of Justice (Magellan Billet)

Setting: Modern day, London Britain

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Cotton is doing a favor for his former boss at the the Justice Department by taking Ian, a petty thief, from Atlanta to London and turn him over to police custody.  But that was never the full plan, a secret society named Daedulus wants Ian dead because he witnessed a murder.  On the drive from the London airport, events take a menacing turn and Gary, Malone’s 15-year-old son who was returning to his Copenhagen bookshop, is briefly kidnapped.  Cotton realizes he is in the middle of a much bigger plan and has to figure out what the agenda really is and who is involved to save his son, Ian, and himself.  He never expected an international operation code named King’s Deception engineered to leverage secrets about Tudor Queen Elizabeth I to prevent the release of a terrorist. Meanwhile the Daedulus Society is hell bent to prevent those secrets from being proven or used.  The story makes a case for history being important, so that even events nearly 500 years ago can seriously impact a nation today by utilizing the true historical characters of Elizabeth I and her most trusted advisers William Cecil and son Robert Cecil and the mystery of Henry VIII's rumored lost treasure. 

Cotton Malone is dealing with family drama with his ex-wife Pam and his son Gary (which precipitates Gary coming to Copenhagen to stay with Cotton for a while).  How he deals with this stress in addition to being thrown in the middle of a dangerous plot says a lot about him.  Gary Malone is a fifteen year-old pawn being manipulated who struggles to understand the forces at work around him.  Kathleen Richards of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) is much like Cotton, and thus in trouble with her superiors, when the British MI5 and Daedulus Society bring her into the mix mistakenly thinking she can be herded and used.   Blake Antrim, the CIA operative in charge of King’s Deception, is a master manipulator who doesn't blink at killing and specially requested Cotton bring young Ian to London and thus both into his cross-hairs.  Thomas Matthews is Britain's chief spy who is working to keep England's interests safe and secrets still secret.  Ian Dunne is a young pickpocket who picked the wrong pocket and ends up with a memory stick seconds before the man is killed.  Ian is streetwise and has a highly developed self preservation instinct that kicks in to keep both himself and Gary alive.  Adult twins Tanya and Miss Mary and the breakout stars of this tale, bringing history to life with enthusiasm and shrewd insight.  I have to give kudos on the well portrayed women characters of Kathleen Richards, Tanya, and Miss Mary who were smart and capable in their own rights.  Suspense and thriller novels can falter in this area, but not in this fine example.

London and its historical sights are utilized for not only their historical significance, which is part of the plot, but also for their atmosphere and connections to centuries of intrigue.  London's underground rivers with old bridges and long forgotten rooms was an ideal location for the climax. The underground rivers of London are the tributaries of the River Thames and were built over during the city's growth. The River Fleet, which in one place is now 40 feet below street level, is the largest of London's subterranean rivers and the section near Blackfriars station is featured in this novel.  This added an extra sense of danger to those scenes.

The logic in the plot has some holes, but that was in hind-sight as I thought back, so it didn't distract at the time. I have taken that into account, but it still makes for a solid novel with the other elements making up for those logic problems.  Without giving away much, the idea of using a politically explosive revelation, albeit nearly 500 years old, that would have actual dire consequences today was fascinating, and I thought was presented and argued well- making it quite possible.  The author's notes at the end of the book and the copies of paintings throughout helped bring the past and the suspicions vibrantly to life. 

The climax was set up well and brought four different aspects together for a tense showdown where the many deceptions are unveiled.  Tough decisions must be made and the truth of each character's true self is revealed.  I have to admit it was well done.

In the span of roughly forty hours, the reader races along with assassins, traitors, spies, and deadly members of a secret society with explosives, kidnapping, and a blend of history with international intrigue for a riveting ride. 

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and if you haven't read any of this series before, put this author on your watch list.

Steve Berry and his wife started History Matters (click here) to assist communities around the world with historic restoration and preservation because they believe history matters.  

Here is a book trailer for this book - enjoy!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Fill in the Blank Game

We have not had a game for a while, so it is time for one.

The idea is to try and fill in the blank of each of these mystery book titles. These are all books from the same author and series. 

In a few days I will provide the answers and you can share how well you did.   

Let's give this a try.

1)  The ________ Way

2)  _______ Waits

3)  Listening _______

4)  Dance ________ of the Dead

5)  The Wailing _______

6)  A _______ of Time

7)  The Shape _________

8)  The _________ Wind

9)  __________ Woman's Daughter

10) The __________ Eagle

Answers:  1)  The Blessing Way 2)  Coyote Waits 3)  Listening Woman 4)  Dance Hall of the Dead 5)  The Wailing Wind 6)  A Thief of Time 7)  The Shape Shifter 8)  The Dark Wind 9)  Spider Woman's Daughter 10) The First Eagle.  The author is Tony Hillerman.

I hope you enjoyed this mystery game. 
Are they too easy?  Did you get who the author is?  Please leave a comment and let me know how well you did and if you like such games. 

Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake
Moist, simple, and delicious


    2 cups white sugar
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 eggs
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup boiling water


1. Spray crock of a large slow cooker with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in the boiling water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.

3. Pour the cake batter into the prepared slow cooker.

4. Set slow cooker to "Low". Cook until cake has no wet spots on top and has pulled away from the sides of the crock, about 3 hours. Turn off slow cooker and allow cake to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Author Interview - Catherine Dilts

Last week I reviewed the debut novel in the new Rock Shop mysteries (click here).  Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” 

This week we feature an interview with the author, Catherine Dilts.  To Ms. Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors.  Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, but this is her first mystery series.  Please welcome Ms. Catherine Dilts to M&MM.

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

I have been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. The process of getting that first rough draft down is difficult, yet exciting. During the writing process, I sometimes experience what other writers call being in the zone. I’m completely immersed in my story, and the words seem to flow effortlessly. The feeling is similar to runner’s high. Of course, like running, writing is most often hard work. One my favorite moments is typing “the end,” not because I’m finished, but for the sense of accomplishment. I definitely like the writing. The end product is a bonus.

Part of my motivation is the desire to write the stories I want to read. Another is that I have always loved to read, and writing justifies spending more time in the world of books. There is also the dream that I can eventually quit my day job to write full time.

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?

A story or novel begins to form when a snippet of a scene pops into my head. Stone Cold Dead was inspired by a visit to a rock shop, but the scene that got the story rolling came to mind while I was hiking. I felt very alone that day. Having once seen a dog on that trail that strongly resembled a bear, the dangers of hiking went through my mind. I played with several “what if” scenarios, arriving at an encounter with a body. I tried to capture that feeling of vulnerability in my novel.

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 need a road map before I get started. I create a combination outline and timeline. Once I get into the story, I toss my map aside and head cross country. I need to know where I’m going before I can start writing, but at some point the characters take over. What makes sense in the skeletal form of the outline doesn’t work when fleshed out with characters who have their own histories and motivations.

What do you and Morgan Iverson have in common? How are you different?

There are several things I share with my novel’s protagonist. Both Morgan and I experienced dramatic midlife changes, and ended up in places we did not expect. Like Morgan, my children are grown. The transition from mother to a woman free of parenting responsibilities left us both with a case of empty nest syndrome. Also like Morgan, I was wrangled into participating in 5K races in my forties.

Where we differ is that Morgan finds her new life in a rock shop. I threw myself into my writing. I had been writing, on and off, but now I had the time to get serious about getting published. Morgan Iverson is unique character, and the rest of the crew is great as well.

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write? How do you handle minor characters?

I have tried creating character biographies in the past, and that just didn’t work for me. I learn who my characters are by putting them in situations and watching what happens. I do keep a spreadsheet with names, ages, occupations, defining physical features, that sort of thing, in an attempt at consistency. I usually develop that as I go.

I have to be careful not to let minor characters run away with the story. They can be fun. Like Del, the old cowboy who hangs around the rock shop. He began as a minor character. By the end of the story, he had grown into a secondary character. Writing short stories has helped me unleash some quirky characters in their own brief tales. If someone demands too much attention, I might move him or her to a short story, like Trudy in my short story Tweens. She was too strong to remain in the background of someone else’s story. 

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 work full time. One thing I learned about three years ago is that I cannot afford to place limitations on myself. If I have fifteen minutes to write, I have to use that time whether I am feeling creative or not. If I have to write in the car or in the lunchroom at work, so be it. My happiest writing time was in a tent in the mountains. (see tent photo) In nice weather, I like to sit on the deck with my laptop. Other writers may wait patiently for their muse to inspire them. I have to lasso and hogtie mine.

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

I try to get up early enough on work days to write for a few minutes before heading off to my day job. When I get home, I might work from thirty minutes to two hours or more. Sundays are my best chance for a writing marathon, when I can go for a five or six hour stretch. I keep a writing log, so if I am not spending enough time writing, I will see it. Kind of like the jar idea in your January 3 blog, Ariel. We need to keep track of our goals in concrete ways. Of course, there are interruptions in my schedule. Holidays, family events, home improvement projects. But I try to get back on track as quickly as possible.

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries?

Other than a curious mind, not much. To make up for that lack of training, I attended our county DA’s Citizen’s Academy, and I read writer’s forensics and police procedure books. There are resources galore on the internet, including blogs and loops, from which to learn. And of course writing groups like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime (SinC).

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

Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series was the first to capture my heart. I like characters who are much more than they appear to be on the surface.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

That is impossible to say. I have an English degree with an emphasis on literature. Every author I have read influenced me in some way. I particularly like American authors. I read Moby Dick twice, once for a class, and again for fun. I love the modern Western mystery authors like Margaret Coel, James Doss, and Craig Johnson. There are so many people writing good mysteries set in the American West, I won’t try to start naming them all.

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

I am working on the next book in my rock shop mystery series. Staying true to the tone of book one is my biggest challenge so far. I’m also coming up with enough ideas for three or four books, so I have to stay focused on the main plot, and save some stuff for future books.

My next short story “Tweens” appears in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, which will be available starting February 25.

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

My blog is on my website at

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Thank you Ms. Catherine Dilts for the interview.  I too am a Mrs. Pollifax fan and agree on there being so many worthy  American West mystery authors!

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review - Stone Cold Dead

This week I am reviewing a debut novel set in my home state of Colorado, in the nosebleed mountainous areas.  Let's see how it does on the setting with a native.

Author: Catherine Dilts

Copyright: Jan 8 2014 (Five Star) 332 pgs

Series: 1st in Rock Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Morgan Iverson, a widow stuck with her brother's Rock Shop, Rock of Ages

Setting: Modern day, Golden Springs, Colorado

Obtained Through: Author for honest review

Morgan believes she is visiting her brother for two weeks in the small mountain town of Golden Springs to cover while her brother and wife take a vacation. Upon arriving, she is informed that her brother and wife and not planning to return from their mission trip but rather stay in South America. Morgan finds a run down and failing rock shop thrust upon her. The next morning the two rock shop resident donkeys, Houdini and Adelaide, bust loose and neighbor/employee Del and Morgan go searching to round them up. In the course of the search, Morgan finds the body of a young woman, obviously Goth, with a gargoyle tattoo. The news quickly spreads and the town newspaperman, who dresses as if he were a 1940's reporter, makes Morgan front page news with a hint that she may have seen something important.

Morgan has several incidents that seem to be questionable near-accidents. In the midst of staying alive, Morgan is learning the local politics involved with running the rock shop, joins a church lickety-split, finds the dead girl made accusations against a local pastor, mixes with New Age shop owners, is cleaning and rejuvenating the rock shop, and joins a running club.

Morgan is pleasantly a mature woman having raised two children and recently lost her husband. She is a little out of shape. I liked her good heart and persistance. Delano (Del) Addison is an old cowboy that works in the rock shop and becomes protective of Morgan. There is some potential for this character to develop into a complex element. Bernie is a cafe owner and operator who is fast becoming Morgan's best friend. Kurt Willard, the retro fashion newspaper man turns out to be more than first impressions hinted at. Piers is a suave New Age shop owner who remains a mystery through most of the book. Trevin, the boyfriend of the goth girl, is perhaps my favorite surprise character. Then there is Houdini and Adelaide, the donkeys, who become celebrities in the course of this adventure.

Golden Springs and nearby "big town" Granite Junction in the winter are chillingly portrayed. I got cold reading the blizzard parts. Living in Colorado all of my life, it is a good representation of a small mountain community and I have been in many a rock shop that could have been Rock of Ages.

The story took a little while to really capture my interest, but once it did everything rolled along. The story had a good variety of suspects and some thrilling moments. There is attention given to the town, the rock shop business, and the town's people, which is to be expected in a cozy.

The killer reveal came about in a nicely thought out situation that created plenty of tension. The wrap up was heart warming and left me with a smile.

The mountain setting creates a unique setting for this cozy that provides plenty of interesting characters and a level headed mature heroine that gives this debut a special blend. If you like small town cozy mysteries, this is a special mountain edition for you.

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

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - January 2014

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

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

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

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

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Death on the Greasy Grass by C.M. Wendelboe

Back to Books reviewed Police (Harry Hole # 10) by Jo Nesbo 

Buried Under Books reviewed Not Dead Yet by Peter James

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Back to Books reviewed The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

Booking Mama reviewed One We Were Brothers by by Ronald H. Balson and shares "This novel had a little bit of everything -- elements of a love story, a courtroom thriller and a mystery.

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

A Date with a Book reviewed One Dog Too Many by Lia Farrell

Carstairs Considers reviewed Secondhand Stiff (Odelia Grey #8) by Sue Ann Jaffarian and shared "When Odelia accompanies her husband's cousin to a storage auction, the last thing they expect is a dead body in one of the units."       

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Pumpkin Muffin Murder by Livia Washburn

Carstairs Considers reviewed Brush with Death (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries #5) by Karen MacInerney
A Date with a Book reviewed Murder She Barked by Krista Davis 

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle

Back to Books reviewed Close to the Heel by Norah McClintock and shares "An intense YA mystery"

Carstairs Considers reviewed End Me a Tenor (Glee Club Mysteries #2) by Joelle Charbonneau 

A Date with a Book reviewed A Basket of Trouble by Beth Groundwater

Buried Under Books reviewed A Secondhand Murder by Lesley A. Diehl

Carstairs Considers reviewed Duck the Halls (Meg Langslow #16) by Donna Andrews

A Date with a Book reviewed A Fine Fix by Gale Deitch

Booking Mama reviewed The Round House by Louise Erdrich and shares "The book is just a treat to read, but it also provides lots of content for further discussion."

A Date with a Book reviewed Murder of a Barbie and Ken by Denise Swanson

Carstairs Considers reviewed Stone Cold Dead by Catherine Dilts and shares "Morgan Iverson is struggling with taking over her family's rock shop, but that nothing when she finds a body on a trails behind the store. Only when she comes back with help, the body is gone."

A Date with a Book reviewed Murder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed  The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker

Back to Books reviewed The Cleaner by Paul Cleave

Buried Under Books reviewed The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr.

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Cry in the Night by Carolyn Hart

Carstairs Considers reviewed Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz

Booking Mama reviewed Trouble in Paradise (Rachel Knight short story) by Marcia Clark

Crime Fiction Collective reviewed The Accused (Rosato & Associates #12) by Lisa Scottoline and shares "This is a little lighter and more romantic than Scottoline's earlier novels in the series"

Back to Books reviewed The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell and shares "This is more of a crime noir, as an old lady tells the story of a fire that killed many people back in the '30s which no one was ever arrested for setting - but in the end, the mystery is solved."

Buried Under Books reviewed In the Blood by Sara Hantz

Crime Fiction Collective reviewed Evil in All Its Disguises (Lily Moore #3) by Hilary Davidson

Lucy Chen reviewed The Shocking Truth About Fame and Art by B.A. Shapiro and shares "fictional story based on a real event – the biggest art theft in history, where two men dressed as police officer went into the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum and stole over $500 million worth of art works.  More than 20 years later, the case remains unsolved."

Author Interview
A Date with a Book interviewed Author LynDee Walker

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

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.
Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

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!!!

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Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year

My reading has suffered again this week.  I do have a confession, I have been cheating...I have gotten sucked into a few urban fantasy novels and the mystery books have been neglected because of it.  I don't read fast enough to read both and review a mystery book each week...torn between two lovers and all that.  Confession is good for the soul :-)

With the new year comes the idea of a fresh start, and thus goals for making changes or attaining something, whether that is fitness, eating healthier, loosing weight, getting a promotion...or a job in this economy, or just being more positive.  Here is an idea that might appeal to some.  It is simple and has a great reward at the end.

52 Week Money Saving Challenge

This is from the Life as You Live It! Blog.

Save up for something really nice at the end of the year -- or money for gift giving next December.  Just pick something that you would normally never splurge on and seems slightly out of reach… then break it down however you like in terms of your weekly amount to save.  

Keep it realistic and all that remains is to watch your jar fill up and your goal become a reality.  This is great for all ages.  It teaches kids the concepts of budgeting and saving and it reminds us adults that we can splurge too by using a little delayed gratification (I know, I said it.)

Just get a big jar and print out the table to follow and check off and tape it to the outside with a pencil close for checking each week off.  You can find the templates on the blog (click here.)   Now, what would you like to save for?  I am thinking a vacation...but where should I go?

Variations on this theme could be to write on a slip of paper each week what you are thankful for to help you be more positive and mindful of the blessings in life.  Imagine reading 52 weeks worth of blessings at the end of the year!  Or a small token like an iTunes gift card / amazon card etc for each week you successfully workout 3x.  

If you have children at home, perhaps a jar just for the siblings to write a note each week to each other of what they appreciate about their brother/sister.  Or a couple could do this each week for what they appreciate about their loved one.  Let your imagination go and see what you come up with -- please share here so we can all gain from the ideas.  

If you would like to do some self improvement over the new year, but finances are tight check out MIT's class materials on line.  For the list of courses, click here and get ready to expand your world free.


I wish you a healthy and prosperous new year my virtual friends.

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