Mystery

Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year 2020 – McIlvanney Prize

Covid19 has caused another mighty crime fiction conference to cancel its gathering. But the writers did the amazing work and the prizes will still be awarded. The Bloody Scotland organizers have announced the shortlist for the Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Book of the Year and the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The McIlvanney Prize recognizes excellence in Scottish crime writing, and includes a prize of £1,000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. This time, I’ve indicated the winners in red, as well as sharing the Bloody Scotland photos of the prizes.  🙂

 

Debut Short List

Deborah Masson, Hold Your Tongue

 

 

 

 

Stephen O’Rourke, The Crown Agent
Marion Todd, See Them Run
Francine Toon, Pine

 

 McIlvanney Prize Shortlist for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year
Andrew James Greig, Whirligig
Doug Johnstone, A Dark Matter
Ambrose Parry, The Art of Dying  aka Chris Broomyre and Marisa Haetzman
Francine Toon, Pine

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

 

 

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Writer Mark Stevens, and His Books

Mark Stevens at BoucherCon

Mark Stevens is an award-winning Colorado writer, former journalist, now PR and Communications Specialist, whose work caught my eye on Twitter a few years ago. He tweeted about the country’s environmental challenges, a subject near and dear to my heart, and I readily ‘followed’ him. He mentioned that his second book in the Allison Coil Mysteries, “Buried by the Roan,” had recently been published, so I picked it up. I was hooked by the topical storyline and the multi-faceted characters caught up in events tearing their beloved landscape apart.

 

The lead protagonist, Allison Coil, is a big game hunting guide in the Flat Top wilderness of Colorado. And lest you think that a woman might not really choose this as a career, Coil is based on a real-life guide that Stevens met while pondering the setting and the focus character for the series.

 

Each of his books could have been ripped from the headlines and in always absorbing writing, deal with hot-button topics, such as human trafficking, marijuana laws, undocumented workers, fracking, big game hunting, drought, and wilderness protection. But, in addition to these and other ‘big concept’ themes (and the murders) Stevens’ stories are grounded in real life, with his core characters facing the challenges of rebuilding a life in a new location, managing a small business, finding/trusting love after heartbreak.

 

Colorado’s majestic wilderness plays a major role and Stevens’ imageries put us right in the saddle as Allison rides through the Flat Tops. The big game hunts and plots unfold against a backdrop of rich country that everybody wants a piece of, but few acknowledge that through the very development they seek, the land as they know it will disappear.

 


“Antler Dust,” the book that started it all.

 

 

 

 

“Buried by the Roan”    Review here.

 

 

 

 

“Trapline”      Review here.

 

 

 

Book Cover "Lake of Fire"

 

“Lake of Fire”  Review here.

 

 

 

“The Melancholy Howl,” the fifth in the series, reveals more in the background of each of the central characters, some of it a bit edgier than before. There are glitches in the love lives of the two continuing couples and one major character has a whopper of a secret that tears at the core of his public persona. These are flesh and blood people, some with serious flaws and baggage, but all have each other’s backs in a crunch.

 

The ‘big concept’ in “The Melancholy Howl” deals with medical marijuana (legal in Colorado) and how its use and the industry has changed since the first stores opened. There is loads of money to be made, but as it turns out, there is a gap between the perceived need and the actual market, and not everyone is following the law. A plane crash, an ‘illegal’ grow, con- artists, tragedy, drought, and greed, all play a part in this gripping page-turner.

 

Mark Stevens also writes short stories, the most recent of which, “A Bitter Thing,” appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

 

Please visit https://www.writermarkstevens.com/  for the latest news about his books and the fascinating podcasts he produces.

 

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“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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Book List: Author Liz Mugavero/Cate Conte

 

Liz Mugavero, a delightful New England writer that lives in Connecticut, has written three series, all three with animals as pals (and clue finders) for the lead characters. The first book in her first series, “Kneading to Die,” garnered her an Agatha nomination for Best First Mystery. It was clever, funny, and the beginning of one of the best cozy series out there, the Pawsatively Organic Mysteries. Who can forget the kibble on the body?  Lolol  Cate Conte, Mugavero’s alter ego, pens the second series, the Cat Café Mysteries, also a big hit with the fans. Click on the titles (and a few reviews) to find out more about the enjoyable, wonderfully written books. The third series, featuring a witch as the lead character, Full Moon Mysteries, has recently been launched and is getting happy, great reviews.

 

As Liz Mugavero: 

Pawsatively Organic Mysteries:

Features Stan (Kristan) Connor, an Ex-Corporate PR Exec, & Nutty, her Maine Coon Cat. Among the fully fleshed out characters is a hunky bar owner boyfriend and his dog, making Stan’s life interesting as she navigates her new life in a small town and keeps finding bodies. Why the name for the series? Stan wants to open an organic animal treats business. Recipes included!

 

Kneading to Die” –   review here

 

A Biscuit, A Casket”   review  here

 

The Icing on the Corpse

 

Murder Most Finicky

 

Custom Baked Murder”    review here

 

Purring Around the Christmas Tree

 

Murder, She Meowed

 

As Cate Conte:   https://www.cateconte.com

The Cat Café Mysteries

Maddie James has a successful juice bar business on the west coast, but returns to her hometown of Daybreak Island off the coast of Massachusetts to take care of family matters. Maddie and a stray cat (based on one of Liz’ own cats) get caught up in murder! Maddie is a thoroughly enjoyable new character, with equally appealing love interests. The reason for the title of the series? Maddie is opening up a Cat Café, complete with cats for locals to adopt.

 

 

Cat About Town”  – review here

 

Purrder She Wrote

 

Tell Tail Heart

 

A Whisker of a Doubt,” coming in December, 2020.

 

You can read Liz Mugavero’s Author Profile here.

 

Cate Conte’s first title in The Full Moon Mystery series is the entertaining “Witch Hunt,” out now.

Happy Reading!  🙂 

 

*Many thanks to Liz/Cate for the photos and book art!  🙂

 

 

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2020 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards

From the Killer Nashville site: “We believe all engaging stories have three elements: mystery, thriller, and suspense. Since 2008, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards have recognized the best stories from the previous year told through various media utilizing the elements of mystery, thriller, and/or suspense. Judges are professional writers, book reviewers, librarians, academics, and—in specialized cases—specific industry peers. Focus is on quality, not popularity.”

 

Due to the Covid19 Pandemic, the conference was cancelled for this year, but voting was conducted with the registered expected attendees. The winners were announced on August 22 and are indicated in red.

 

Best Mystery
Connie Berry A Dream of Death

Carl & Jane Bock The White Heron
Iris Chacon The Mammoth Murders
Richard Conrath Blood Moon Rising
John DeDakis Fake
Jeanine Englert Lovely Digits
Henry Hack The Marsh Mallows
Karen McCarthy Murder at the Candlelight Vigil
Jane Suen Murder Creek
June Trop The Deadliest Thief

 

Best Thriller
Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson Red Specter

Simeon Courtie All Hollow
Shirley B. Garrett Deadly Obsession
James R. Hannibal The Gryphon Heist
Sue Hinkin Low Country Blood
Thomas Kelso Hyperion’s Fracture
Leslie McCauley Rise
Caroline Mitchell The Secret Child
Dana Perry The Silent Victim
Dana J. Summers Downhill Fast

 

Best Suspense
Kathryn J. Bain Fade to the Edge

R.G. Belsky Below the Fold
K.P. Gresham Murder on the Third Try
Bradley Harper Queen’s Gambit
J.E. Irvin The Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone
Kathryn Lane Revenge in Barcelona
Dianne McCartney The Daughter of Death
Kelly Oliver VIPER, A Jessica James Mystery
Dana J. Summers Downhill Fast
Claudia Turner The Scions of Atlantis

 

Best Action or Adventure
Paul A. Barra Westfarrow Island

Toni Bird Jones The Measure of Ella
Jenna Kernan Dangerous Conditions
Jim Nesbitt The Best Lousy Choice
Tj Turner Angel in the Fog

 

Best Cozy
Debra H. Goldstein Two Bites Too Many

Gemma Halliday A Sip Before Dying
Linda Lovely Bad Pick
Susan McCormick The Fog Ladies
Bonita McCoy Twisted Plots

 

Best Procedural or P.I.
Carmen Amato Russian Mojito

Mark Bergin Apprehension
Peter W.J. Hayes The Things That Are Different
Richard Helms Paid in Spades
Jean Rabe The Dead of Summer

 

Best Juvenile or Y.A.
Susan K. Flach Daughter Undisclosed

Liana Gardner Speak No Evil
James R. Hannibal The Clockwork Dragon
Kelly Oliver Kassy O’Roarke, Cub Reporter
Lori Roberts This Dark and Bloody Ground

 

Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror
Tosca Lee The Line Between

Tosca Lee A Single Light
Valerie Nieman To the Bones
Palmer Pickering Moon Deeds
Maggie Toussaint Dreamed It

 

Book of the Year
Bradley Harper Queen’s Gambit

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!

 

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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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