Bestselling Author

“Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt

Book-Cover-Pictures-of-You-LG

 

We all have certain expectations of our spouses. In the best scenarios, we picture loving each other robustly, tenderly and forever. In those pictures we raise marvelous children, and journey through life’s adventures with our best friends. ‘When we are not so busy’ or ‘when the children are grown’ we’ll have time to sort out all the nagging relationship issues. Unless the sand in the hourglass runs out before we get that chance.

 

In “Pictures of You,” two women’s lives intersect in a tragic auto accident. April dies when Isabelle swerves into her on an unfamiliar road in the fog. Isabelle, a photographer, is haunted by what she has done, even though she is cleared of any wrongdoing. She can’t forgive herself, so she doesn’t really blame anyone else in the community for ostracizing her; even welcomes being left alone. The fact of her husband’s infidelity has taken a back seat to her guilt.

 

The little boy, Sam, who survived the accident, has lost his mother and a grieving husband, Charlie, doesn’t understand why his wife, April, would have been on that road with their son at that time of day. Secrets are revealed about April that astound her husband. He no longer knows the woman with whom he shared his life. Charlie is helpless to comfort his son, ineffective in dealing with so many ‘after death’ issues. How many of us would be any better at it?

 

What follows is the tragic tale of three people aching for love; raw emotions and devastating truths revealed as they find a way to heal. No plot spoiler here, but photography plays an important role in the storyline.

 

Sam is so well written, with always age appropriate vocabulary, that the reader completely understands when he feels responsible for his mother’s death. Sam mistakes Isabelle for an angel and with his nine-year-old logic, mixes reality with his desperate wish to see his mother again. Leavitt creates a world in which the reader wants to hold this little boy, take away his heartache.

 

In an effective subplot, Isabelle suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which Leavitt depicts with insightful clarity. Isabelle shakes uncontrollably, sweats and feels nauseous when she sets foot in a car after the accident and for months afterward, must walk or ride a bike to go anywhere. Having been in a terrible car accident myself many years ago, I sympathized with the realistically intense stress the woman was going through, cringed at the nightmares she experienced. Leavitt herself, has an acute fear of being in cars, so brings considerable, painful  authenticity to the reading experience.

 

We tend to dismiss the importance of the small choices we make in life – not kissing a loved one goodbye or taking the time to listen when we’re running behind schedule – until it’s too late to get a do-over. We look back after a disaster and think: if only I had been a better dad, a better son, a better wife. If only I had stayed, or been there, or did what she/he asked. Everything would have been different. If only.

 

Beautifully written, exquisitely shared.

 

Caroline Leavitt’s latest novel, “With or Without You,” was published in August, 2020.

For more information about Ms. Leavitt and her books, visit www.carolineleavitt.com

 

 

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Author Profile: Jessica Ellicott/Jessica Estavao

Jessica Estavao has always known that she wanted to be a writer. Lucky for us, she is now a talented, award-winning, bestselling author from New England with more than one alter-ego working at her computer.

As Jessie Crockett, she wrote the Sugar Grove Mysteries and “Live Free or Die,” a Daphne du Maurier winner.


As Jessica Estavao, she penned the Agatha nominated Change of Fortune Mysteries.


As Jessica Ellicott, she works on her current series, the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

Meet the writer that composed all those wonderful pages, sometimes while listening to sounds of the ocean. She outlines all her books, always works in a comfortable space with a flask of coffee at the ready, and likes to begin new projects with special notebooks, colorfully filled fountain pens, wet erase markers, and a glass ‘scrawl wall’ to plan the story.

NBR: You’ve written several series, each with different time periods, and now the Beryl & Edwina books set in England. How do you choose the time period and the setting? How much time do you spend on the research before starting to write the book? Where do you get all those terrific details in the Beryl & Edwina books and are you continuing the research as the series evolves?

JE: I love historical novels in general and mysteries in particular, so it is a real pleasure to write about different time periods. I choose those that interest me for whatever reason feels intriguing at the time.

 

Some stories grow out of a particular time period like the Change of Fortune series set at the end of the Gilded Age. Since it involved Spiritualists and also the burgeoning tourist industry in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, that was the right time to set it as those things were at the fore then and there. For the Beryl and Edwina books I wanted to look at a lasting friendship between women during extraordinary times. The period between the world wars in the United Kingdom provided a good way to look at that very notion.

 

I love the research phase of any book and I enjoy doing quite a bit of it for each novel I write. The Beryl and Edwina books have been especially fun for this. It is such fun to look into the particular aspects of each mystery like the world of pigeon racing, the role of the Women’s Land Army, or the way the census was taken in 1921.

 

I look to resources like the Imperial War Museum, the National Archive, watch documentaries, and read newspapers and magazines of the day to provide details of life during that time and in that place. 

 

NBR: Some of the initial scenes in Edwina’s kitchen in “Murder in an English Village” revolve around the meager food supplies. That changes as the book develops and Beryl’s contributions improve the situation. Was this approach a result of the post-war research?

JE: I did make decisions about the available food for my sleuths based on research into the economic climate of the time. The U.K. hit a severe economic slump before the States did and for women like Edwina, things were especially difficult. It was a pleasure to give her some respite with Beryl’s arrival.

 

NBR: Do you like to cook? What are your favorite foods?

JE: I have lots of foods that I like but my two favorites are Thai Spring Rolls and Cheese Fondue. I often like to cook but don’t do it as often now that most of my children are grown as I did in the past. I may end up more like Beryl than Edwina for most of the time once the last one heads to college!

 

NBR: Are Beryl and Edwina based on historical figures?

JE: Beryl and Edwina are not based on historical figures. I adore books that feature actual people from history, but wanted to feel free to do just as I pleased with the pair of them. I decided to create them from imagination and a bit of wishful thinking!

 

NBR: People can truly identify with the women in the books. You’ve given Edwina a lovable small black and white dog, named Crumpet. Do you have pets?

JE: I do have a pet. I have a small white poodle named Sam. He’s almost two years old and he is wonderful company for me. He has a bed in my office and he does a great job of getting me to go out for some exercise a few times each day. His schedule helps me to plan my own and I am really grateful for what he brings into my life. 

 

NBR: Beryl’s car is a character in itself. Are you a fan of fast cars?

JE: I am not necessarily a fan of fast cars but I do love ones with distinctive style! And I am partial to those that are cherry red! Someday, I would love to own a car just like Beryl’s!

NBR: What do you like to do when you’re not hard at work, writing in wintry New Hampshire or on the coast of Maine in the summer?

JE: I have a lot of interests. I love to travel. I love long walks, especially on the beach. I am an avid knitter. I adore throwing parties. I recently began running with some regularity and have also started to learn to paint. 

 

NBR: What fun! You can stay physically fit, develop plot points, and do research, all while participating in activities you enjoy. Many thanks for taking time out to visit with the Nightstand Book Reviews community!

JE: Thanks for inviting me for the interview!

 

She loves to keep in touch with readers through her newsletter and hopes you will sign up at https://www.jessicaellicott.com/newsletteri-wanted-to-check/

 

Please check out Jessie’s Book List found here. Links to more information about all her books is included, as well as links to my reviews of several of the titles. The banner below shows the book cover for the new book in the Beryl & Edwina series.

 

The photos are from Jessie Ellicott’s Facebook page as well as her website.  🙂

 

 

 

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Macavity Awards – 2020

Each year the members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers of Mystery Readers Journal (and friends of MRI) nominate their favorite mysteries in five categories from the previous year for the Macavity Awards. The winners of this coveted award will be announced at opening ceremonies at the Virtual Sacramento Bouchercon, in October, 2020.

Mystery Readers International, Mystery Readers Journal, and the Macavity Awards, were created by Anthony Award winner, Janet Rudolph.

 

Best Mystery Novel 
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
The Murder List by Hank Philippi Ryan
Sarah Jane by James Sallis

 

Best First Mystery 
The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski
Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

 

Best Mystery Short Story 
“West Texas Barbecue” by Michael Chandos (The Eyes of Texas, edited by Michael Bracken—Down & Out Books)
“Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman (Crime Travel, edited by Barb Goffman—Wildside Press)
“The Cardboard Box” by Terence Faherty (EQMM, Jan/Feb 2019)
“Whiteout” by G.M. Malliet (EQMM, Jan/Feb 2019)
“Brother’s Keeper” by Dave Zeltserman (EQMM, May/June 2019)
“Better Days,” by Art Taylor (EQMM, May/June 2019)

 

Best Mystery Nonfiction/Critical
Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer
Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story by Laird R. Blackwell
Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan by Ursula Buchan
Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan
The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and Her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, by Mo Moulton
Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin

 

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery
Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins
The Pearl Dagger by L.A. Chandlar
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman
Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey
Charity’s Burden by Edith Maxwell
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

 

Congratulations to all for writing such a marvelous group of works from which to choose!

 

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Shamus Awards 2020

 

 

The PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA (PWA) is an organization devoted to Private Eye fiction. A Private Eye is defined as “a private citizen (not a member of the military, federal agency, or civic or state police force) who is paid to investigate crimes. A Private Investigator can be a traditional private eye, a TV or newspaper reporter, an insurance investigator, an employee of an investigative service or agency, or similar character.”

The SHAMUS AWARDS 2020 are for works published in 2019. Winners are indicated in red.

 

Best Original Private Eye (Paperback) 

The Skin Game by JD Allen

Behind the Wall of Sleep by James DF Hannah

Paid in Spades by Richard Helms

Ration of Lies by M. Ruth Myers

The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin

 

Best Private Eye Short Story 

“The Smoking Bandit of Lakeside Terrace” by Chad Baker in EQMM May/June

“Sac-A-Lait Man” by O’Neil De Noux in EQMM Sept/Oct

“The Dunes of Saulkrasti” by William Burton McCormick in EQMM Sept/Oct

“The Fourteenth Floor” by Adam Meyer in Crime Travel anthology from Wildside Press

“Weathering the Storm” by Michael Pool in The Eyes of Texas anthology from Down & Out Books

 

 Best Private Eye Novel (Hardcover)

The Tower of Songs by Casey Barrett

Lost Tomorrows by Matt Coyle

The Shadows by Matt Goldman

Below the Line by Michael Gould

Cold Way by Julia Keller

 

Congratulations to all!

 

 

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Jump into June with Four Books, Four Genres

 

 

The books couldn’t be more different, but each is a great read in its own genre. Each has the potential to be fodder for a TV or big screen movie, with thoroughly interesting characters and visually descriptive writing.

 

Cozy Mystery

“Kernel of Truth” by Kristi Abbott, is the first in her Popcorn Shop Mystery series set in Grand Lake, Ohio. It’s an engaging murder mystery, complete with a personable poodle and a gourmet popcorn shop.

Rebecca Anderson hesitates when she hears screams coming from outside, having to choose between taking her sauce off the stove and investigating the screaming. Her conscience and her dog’s interest prevail and she discovers that the screams are from her friend’s chocolate shop next door. Her beloved friend, Coco, is dead and Rebecca’s life is about to change in unexpected ways.

 

While coping with the shock, Rebecca’s ex works to get her back, and Coco’s niece publicly denounces Rebecca with having ulterior motives. Accused of theft, her popcorn business in peril, and her reputation besmirched, Rebecca must solve the murder of her friend in order to regain the trust of the customers and the town. The characters are well-drawn in this nicely plotted beginning to the series. Recipes included.

 

Thriller

Nick Heller is back in “House on Fire,” the fourth entry featuring the former Special Ops soldier, now Boston P.I. An Army pal dies from a drug overdose and Heller is drawn into an investigation about the death. Who’s responsible? The easy answer is to blame the buddy himself, but Heller agrees to dig deeper.

 

In typical Finder fashion, “House on Fire” combines current events with a page-turning thriller. Undercover work reveals a surprising ally and loads of twists to surprise the reader. Family politics, personal tragedy, greed, government contracts, and billions at stake drive the story. Who can be trusted? Will Heller get out of this alive? Not everyone does. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

 

Legal Suspense

Functioning within the limitations of sporadic donations, the overworked guardians find the evidence to exonerate the wrongly incarcerated. The ‘Guardians’ in the title refers to Centurion Ministries, an organization that Grisham learned about some years ago while conducting research for another project. The work the Centurions did and still do, stuck with Grisham and this story is based on an actual case written about in the New York Times in 2018.

 

Grisham’s writing is compelling as fictional Cullen Post, a pastor and lawyer, doggedly pursues every lead to help those with one last hope. Post is not in it for the money, only justice for those less fortunate. The process followed to uncover new evidence in the various cold cases, with some witnesses long dead, and evidence lost or buried, is grueling and sometimes dangerous. A well-written, fascinating read, one of Grisham’s best.

 

Non-Fiction

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglas Preston, is non-fiction, but the events described are so wildly dangerous that it reads like page-turning fiction. The search for the ancient White City begins deep in a Honduran rainforest, probably untouched for hundreds of years.

 

Preston presents a fascinating look at the tremendously complicated planning that a legitimate investigation of a major archeological site requires. Helicopters, sophisticated technology, local government with access to permits and soldiers to guard the expedition, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent even before the explorers put boots on the ground, the right people to pull it all together, all come into play.

 

The field of archeology appears to be highly competitive and the expedition itself was surprisingly controversial, but the group of which Preston was a part, was the first to document their expedition and findings and go through official channels. The book includes photos of the search, finding the astonishing cache of artifacts, and an insane snake story, but also discusses Preston’s serious brush with death. Preston and half of his (and subsequent) expedition people contracted a potentially lethal parasitic tropical disease, one that is hundreds of years old. The interviews and research in “The Lost City of the Monkey God” are thoroughly footnoted and documented, and also reference modern epidemics and pandemics. Excavation of this extraordinary site continues today.

 

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Pandemic Themed Fiction and Nonfiction

 

You asked for it. A list of books that deal with pandemics. In the past, we’ve watched the pandemic movies and TV shows and a few thriller authors have addressed the topic in their fiction. But, here we are in 2020, fighting a real life pandemic. Don’t read any of these books if you want to be reassured. Some, although written decades ago, are eerily predictive of our current worldwide battle with the Coronavirus, Covid 19.

Bobby Akart series: Starts with “Pandemic: Beginnings: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller Series”

Michael Crichton: “The Andromeda Strain”

Molly Caldwell Crosby: “The American Plague” (nonfiction)

Stephen King: “The Stand”

Dean Koontz: “The Eyes of Darkness”

Emily St. John Mandell: “Station Eleven”

William Maxwell: “They Came Like Swallows”

Thomas Mullen: “The Last Town on Earth”

Katherine Ann Porter: “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”

Richard Preston: “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus” (nonfiction)

Mary Shelley: “The Last Man”

Karen Thompson Walker “The Dreamers”

Do you have a favorite pandemic themed book that’s missing from the list? Let us know in the comments below.
 

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Irish Fiction & Mysteries – 2020 List

 

View from Blarney Castle

 

St. Patrick’s Day will be here soon! For those of you that focus your reading on holiday/cultural themed books, the list below features Irish writers, mysteries/suspense set in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day murders, or titles with Irish characters central to the plot. Some are modern classics, some are newbies, but all are entertaining reads. You’re sure to find a story in the updated list of 38 Irish Fiction & Mysteries–2020 List that you will want to read again and again. (Links included for bold titles)

 

Lisa Alber: “Path into Darkness
Maeve Binchy:  “Chestnut Street
S. Furlong-Bollinger: “Paddy Whacked
Declan Burke: “The Lost and the Blind
Steve Cavanagh: “Th1rt3en
Sheila Connolly: “Fatal Roots
Kathy Cranston: “Apple Seeds and Murderous Deeds
Sinead Crowley: “One Bad Turn
Kathi Daley: “Shamrock Shenanigans
Frank Delaney: “The Last Storyteller
Nelson Demille: “Cathedral
Patricia Falvey: “The Yellow House
Tana French: “Broken Harbor
Alexia Gordon: “Murder in G Major
Andrew Greeley: “The Bishop at the Lake
Jane Haddam: “A Great Day for the Deadly
Lyn Hamilton: “The Celtic Riddle
Lee Harris: “The St. Patrick’s Day Murder
Erin Hart: “The Book of Killowen
Jonathan Harrington: “A Great Day for Dying
Mary Anne Kelly: “Twillyweed
Amanda Lee: “The Long Stitch Good Night
Dan Mahoney: “Once in, Never Out
Caimh McDonnell: “A Man with One of Those Faces
Brian McGilloway: “Preserve the Dead/The Forgotten Ones
Adrian McKinty: “The Chain
Ralph M. McInerny: “The Green Revolution
Leslie Meier: “St. Patrick’s Day Murder
Stuart Neville: “So Say the Fallen
Carlene O’Connor: “Murder in an Irish Cottage
Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: “Death Takes Up a Collection”
Helen Page: “Equal of God”
Louise Phillips: “The Doll’s House
Janet Elaine Smith: “In St. Patrick’s Custody
Jo Spain: “Beneath the Surface
Patrick Taylor: “An Irish Country Family
Peter Tremayne: “Blood in Eden
Kathy Hogan Trochek: “Irish Eyes

 

 

 

If your favorite Irish Fiction & Mysteries titles are not on the list, let me know and I’ll add them! Happy choosing and reading!

 

 

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