murder

Summer Shorts, 2015 – Three for the Beach

 

There are two kinds of Beach Reads:

  • Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading
  • Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time


Action-packed Beach Reads are books that you can take with you on vacation, or allow you to immerse yourself between the pages if you can’t get away. They transport you to a place and time you will most likely never see and the heroes and heroines are super at what they do. A great action Beach Read delivers pure escapism.

 

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

Stacy Allen’s debut novel, “Expedition Indigo,” introduces us to Dr. Riley Cooper, a Professor of Archeology at a renowned university, an expert in Mediterranean history, a certified diver, but not so expert in picking the right guy, or staying out of danger.

 

The Under Water Sea Adventures salvage company has discovered a sunken ship off the coast of Italy that may hold Charlemagne’s coronation cross, thought to have been lost forever. When Cooper’s boss is injured in a mysterious accident, she gets the chance of a lifetime to work in the field to verify the cross’ authenticity, but suspense and intrigue surrounding the find may be her undoing. The Vatican wants her help, a rival salvage company wants people dead, her love interest may have too many strings attached, and Riley just wants to do her job.

 

Cooper’s refreshing naiveté in the cutthroat world of treasure hunting, and the fascinating look at the world of archeology, combine to make this an entertaining (as well as educational) Beach Read, with plenty of action to boot. Nominated for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.

 

Visit www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

Fiona Quinn, “Weakest Lynx” – In Quinn’s first solo novel, she delivers an absorbing spin on the thriller genre with an under-the-radar, 20 year old psychic, Lexi Sobado, at the center. When a creepy stalker threatens her life, she receives round the clock protection from the Special Ops teams she has helped in the past. 

 

Quinn’s writing style is taut, as Lexi deals with the stalker that never stops coming, a honeymoon cut short, and constant psychic and physical challenges. Not to give anything away, but Lexi’s recovery from an accident is particularly hair-raising. Her psychic sensations will give you chills and the disturbing stalker will make you think about getting a security system installed before you finish reading the book. With a forbidden love interest, and loads of action from start to finish, this is a wild Beach Read and a Kindle Scout winner. Book 2 of the series, “Missing Lynx,” is out now.

 

Visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com

 

 

For something more mellow, look to…

Book Cover - braun1

 

Lilian Jackson Braun, “The Cat Who…” series

The prolific Lilian Jackson Braun wrote the extremely popular ‘Cat Who’ series of twenty-nine books between 1966 and 2008. They starred James Qwilleran, former newspaper reporter who inherits a large fortune in the fictional small town of Pickax. In order to accept the inheritance and manage a worthy Foundation, he must move to the town. A man of simple means and a huge mustache, this grates against his nature, but the greater good changes his mind.

 

Coming from the big city, Qwilleran isn’t used to the scrutiny of small town living, but settles in with two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum-Yum. They help him solve cases, mostly murders, by doing what cats do best, knocking over books which miraculously open to pages indicating clues, chasing each other through the Apple Barn (in which he lives for most of the books) when something happens they don’t like. They have diets of salmon and other expensive tidbits – they eat better than most people – and won’t settle for ordinary food. Delightful series, quick gentle reads for those that want to enjoy quirky characters, solve the mystery, and de-stress while on vacation.

 

As always, Happy Reading, whether at the beach or staying home with a tall glass of sweet tea and a great book.  What's your favorite Beach Read? Let us know in the comments below.  🙂

 

 

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“A Biscuit, A Casket,” by Liz Mugavero

 

A Biscuit A Casket.jpg

 

Liz Mugavero, the author of “A Biscuit, A Casket,” has delivered more murder and mayhem into Stan (short for Kristan) Connor’s life. Connor, a former PR executive, settled in small town Frog Ledge, Connecticut, in order to change her life for the better. Her life certainly changed, what with finding a body after moving in, surviving murder accusations, starting a new business, and making great new friends in the opening book of the Pawsitively Organic series, “Kneading to Die.” (Read review here.)

 

“A Biscuit, A Casket,” takes place in the weeks before Halloween. Stan’s organic pet food business has been embraced by the townspeople and dogs and pet parents alike seek out her treats. The Hoffmans, owners of the Happy Cow Dairy Farm, have even provided space for her to host a doggie birthday party near their Halloween frights-and-sights corn maze. But, Hal Hoffman is found dead in said corn maze – face down in the mud with a sickle in his back – and nobody is singing Happy Birthday.

 

It has been said that the majority of murders are committed by someone close to the victim, and Emmalee Hoffman (Hal’s wife) may have had a motive, given their less than perfect marriage. But then, so did Hal’s business partners, his questionable buddies, as well as some of his employees. Did somebody try to collect what was owed, but killed Hal instead? As the well-developed plot unfolds, we discover how co-op farming (and especially dairy farming) works, and motives fly faster than an angry cow kicks.

 

With several solid and sometimes nasty suspects to investigate, Stan puzzles through the list and even chats with her cat, Nutty. If you’re a cat owner, you will recognize these chats as perfectly reasonable and spot-on. Nutty responds with eye-glints and tail-flicking that keep the delightful conversations going.

 

Relationships shift in “A Biscuit, A Casket,” as misunderstandings and Hal’s business dealings come to light, but solid friendships remain and flourish. Local bar owner, Jake, has more to offer than was shown in the first book, and the possible romantic connection between him and Stan is explored as they get to know each other.

 

Mugavero artfully has family members play a larger role, as Stan finds her place in the community. Stan’s naïveté about the dangers of country life provides fodder for her getting into more trouble as the series continues, a happy prospect for the readers. 

 

There are yummy organic pet treat recipes at end of “A Biscuit, A Casket.” The pumpkin one looks great – just add some people sugar and I’m good to go. In case you are unaware of the organic pet food market, and wonder if it’s fact or fiction, I assure you that it is quite real. I passed a store recently that carried only hand made treats for dogs and cats. The pet bakery, located at a major mall, was quite busy. Moms and Dads relaxed at tables with beverages in hand, while pets chomped on their own nutritious snacks.

 

Mugavero has cleverly wicked causes of death in her novels. The previous book served up kibble on the body in a vet’s office. “A Biscuit, A Casket,” features the sickle in the farmer’s back. I can’t wait to see how the corpse gets done in, in the third, "The Icing on the Corpse," just released. “Murder Most Finicky,” book four of the series, is due out at the end of 2015.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for information about Ms. Mugavero’s books, as well as her marvelous work in the animal rescue community.

 

 

 

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Top 100 Mysteries of All Time

 

MWA logo

I admit it. It is great fun being a member of Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Conferences and seminars on the schedule during the year are informative and… I get to hobnob with some great writers at those events.

 

Back in the mid 90s, voting members of the MWA community selected their 100 favorite mysteries of all time and for mystery lovers, it is a marvelous list! Take a look and see how many you have read.

 

TOP 100 MYSTERY NOVELS OF ALL TIME Selected by Active MWA Members (mid 1990s)

  1.   The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle Including these individual high   vote-getters:

The Hound of the Baskervilles
A Study in Scarlet
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Sign of Four

  2.   The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett

  3.   Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Edgar Allan Poe

Including these individual high vote-getters:

The Gold Bug

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

  4.  The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

  5.  Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow

  6.  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré

  7.  The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

  8.  The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  9.  Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

10. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

 

  11. Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver

  12. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
  13. The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
  14. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
  15. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
  16. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
  17. A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
  18. Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
  19. Witness for the Prosecution, Agatha Christie
  20. The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth


  21. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  22. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
  23. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  24. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevski
  25. Eye of the Needle, Ken Follett
  26. Rumpole of the Bailey, John Mortimer
  27. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
  28. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers
  29. Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald
  30. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carré


  31. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
  32. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  33. Trent’s Last Case, E.C. Bentley
  34. Double Indemnity, James M. Cain
  35. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
  36. Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
  37. Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman
  38. The Hot Rock, Donald E. Westlake
  39. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
  40. The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rinehart


  41. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  42. The Firm, John Grisham
  43. The Ipcress File, Len Deighton
  44. Laura, Vera Caspary
  45. I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane
  46. The Laughing Policeman, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

  47. Bank Shot, Donald E. Westlake
  48. The Third Man, Graham Greene
  49. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
  50. Where Are The Children?, Mary Higgins Clark

 

  51. “A” is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
  52. The First Deadly Sin, Lawrence Sanders
  53. A Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman
  54. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  55. Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household
  56. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers
  57. The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton

  58. Smiley’s People, John le Carré
  59. The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler
  60. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee


  61. Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
  62. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens

  63. Wobble to Death, Peter Lovesey
  64. Ashenden, W. Somerset Maugham
  65. The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer

  66. The Doorbell Rang, Rex Stout
  67. Stick, Elmore Leonard
  68. The Little Drummer Girl, John le Carré
  69. Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
  70. Dracula, Bram Stoker

 

  71. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
  72. The Moving Toyshop, Edmund Crispin
  73. A Time to Kill, John Grisham
  74. Last Seen Wearing, Hillary Waugh
  75. Little Caesar, W.R. Burnett

   76. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins

  77. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers
  78. From Russia, With Love, Ian Fleming
  79. Beast in View, Margaret Millar
  80. Smallbone Deceased, Michael Gilbert

        

  81. The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey
  82. Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
  83. Shroud for a Nightingale, P.D. James
  84. The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
  85. Chinaman’s Chance, Ross Thomas
  86. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
  87. The Dreadful Lemon Sky, John D. MacDonald
  88. The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett
  89. Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell
  90. Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
 
  91. The Chill, Ross Macdonald
  92. Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
  93. The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
  94. God Save the Mark, Donald E. Westlake

   95. Home Sweet Homicide, Craig Rice
  96. The Three Coffins, John Dickson Carr
  97. Prizzi’s Honor, Richard Condon  
  98. The Steam Pig, James McClure
  99. Time and Again, Jack Finney
100. A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters,
100. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin (tie)


 

 

The MWA members are in the process of voting for their current faves of all time. I don’t know about you, but I wonder which older titles will pop up on the new list. There are some truly classic mysteries here, several of which went on to be made into movies and/or TV series. But the intervening twenty years have given us some remarkable writers and deliciously wicked new mysteries.
 

Save this list and compare it with the new one when it is announced later this year. In the meantime, cozy up to a great mystery and happy page-turning!
 

But, better keep the lights on.  😉


 

 

 

 

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“Ransom River” by Meg Gardiner

 

Book Cover - Ransom River

In Meg Gardiner’s “Ransom River,” lawyer Rory Mackenzie reluctantly returns home to Ransom River, California, after funding for the charity for which she worked, dries up. There was no place else to go, but her memories of the people in the place she grew up still haunt her. And she immediately gets called to jury duty on a high profile case. Not a great start to her homecoming.

 

She is chosen as juror #7 and settles in for the duration, notebook in hand. From Rory’s point of view, the capital murder case looks like an easy win for the prosecution, given the obvious false testimony of the two police officers on trial for killing a teenaged burglar. (The officers were having an affair, the teenager broke into the house on a dare, and everything went south.) The jury is watching a crucial piece of evidence, a video of the shooting itself, when two men storm the courtroom and take everyone hostage. Shotguns are very convincing persuaders as the jurors and spectators are threatened into following orders, and the casualties mount.

 

The action rapidly unfolds and the hostages are rescued, but the question remains, what did the kidnappers want? Rory had tried to signal for help from the courtroom windows and becomes a suspect for her troubles. The cops have her in their sights, needing someone to pin the courtroom debacle on. Her skanky relatives show up, and add to her misery, feigning interest in her well being, but looking as if they want to cash in on her sudden fame. The dead teenager’s father, a local crime boss, thinks she knows more than she’s telling.

 

But, Rory doesn’t know what she knows, except that the past is encroaching on the present in ways that terrify her. Seth, her old boyfriend (childhood friend and a former cop) gets involved and he’s about the only hope she has for getting at the truth. Gardiner has created another strong, yet vulnerable, young woman in Rory Mackenzie – worthy of her own series of books, although “Ransom River” is a stand-alone – and Seth is a convincing complement to her.

 

 

There are a number of twists and jaw-dropping surprises in “Ransom River,” and several well-written, deliciously slithery characters. Old friends may not actually be friends and help comes from unexpected places.

 

If I mention which people truly gave me the creeps and made me wonder if I really wanted to read into the night – that would be telling. I quashed the creepy feeling and kept going. Gardiner has a knack for writing ‘stay-awake-reading’ and I did need to find out how Rory got out of each of her dangerous situations. The reason behind the courtroom drama is much more complex than it first appears, and the ensuing action is non-stop in this intense thriller, as greed rules the day.

 

I must say that Meg Gardiner’s “Ransom River” has an ending that will blow your mind. Hopeful and a little scary at the same time.

 

Read my review of Ms. Gardiner's "The Memory Collector," here.

Please visit www.meggardiner.com for more information about her recent book releases, awards and appearances.

 

 

 

 

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“The Memory Collector” by Meg Gardiner

 

memorycollectorbook

 

 

Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist who works as a consultant with the San Francisco Police Department to determine the ‘why’ of a crime. In “The Memory Collector,” Beckett is called in to do a psych evaluation when a plane from London lands and one of the passengers will not get off. The crew thinks that Ian Kanan is full-on crazy because one minute he calmly wonders where he is and the next, is completely belligerent.

 

Beckett realizes that Kanan has anterograde amnesia (an actual condition), which keeps him from making new memories. He recalls everything that happened before he got on the plane, knows his trip started in Africa, and believes he might have been poisoned. But, every five minutes his brain resets, he loses his present, and has to be reminded of recent events.

 

Beckett needs to figure it all out before something disastrous happens. Tests reveal that Kanan has something wrong with his brain, but did a virus cause it? Other people who came in contact with him on the plane are behaving erratically as well, but Kanan has an agenda of his own and no interest in helping the police.

 

Corporate greed, a missing family, bio-warfare, and people who are not what they seem, complicate a pulse-pounding race against time. The bad guys become all the more sinister as they coldly discard inconvenient people along the way. There is a lot at stake for all parties concerned, and good or bad, everyone is working hard to reach their goals.

 

Fans of bestselling Meg Gardiner’s strong female leads will enjoy the fully realized Jo Beckett: smart, recently widowed, immersed in her work and good at what she does, a dedicated rock climber, in the beginning stages of moving on as she connects more deeply with Gabe (a search and rescue friend who had informed her of her husband’s death in an earlier book).

 

The supporting cast in “The Memory Collector” – a sister, a hunky almost boyfriend, a truly wacky neighbor, and a testy police investigator – is a group of complex characters that play nicely against Beckett. All can be counted on when she needs their help.

 

I discovered Meg Gardiner during a crime writers’ webinar, where she introduced herself by saying, “I lie for a living.” She is thoroughly charming, funny, and a former California lawyer, now living in London and Texas. The first Gardiner book I picked up was “China Lake,” a chilling tale with Evan Delaney as another convincing  protagonist with her own series, but with a military background. “China Lake” was an Edgar Award winner.

 

Ms. Gardiner can lie to me anytime she likes.

 

Read my review of Ms. Gardiner's "Ransom River" here.

Visit www.meggardiner.com for information about Ms. Gardiner, her various series and stand-alone novels.

 

 

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