Tuesday, September 29, 2009

THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

If you haven't yet  discovered Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, you are in for a treat. The Brutal Telling, Penny's latest outing, returns to Three Pines, a picturesque  village in Quebec. The novel opens with the telling of a tragic mythical tale which weaves its way through the novel.

Olivier, the charming and successful bistro owner, is rudely awakened to the news that the body of an unknown man has been found in his restaurant. Threatened by the eminent opening of a rival spa and inn, Olivier and his partner, Gabri, are for the first time unsure  of their business and friends in Three Pines. Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir set up homicide investigation headquarters in the old Railway station.

The return of such memorable characters as poet Ruth Zardo and her sweater wearing duck Rose, is like meeting up with old friends. Clara and Peter Morrow continue their artistic pursuits. Havoc Parra and his family keep secrets about their Czech community. The investigation takes Gamache beyond Three Pines and Montreal to the Queen Charlotte Islands on the Canadian Pacific Coast.

Louise Penny's stories are told in the traditional Agatha Christie mystery style. With the setting as  much a character as dear Inspector Gamache and his team. I personally recommend Penny's series be read  in order for all the intricate back stories to fall in place. Louise Penny's characters, settings, multi-layered plots, and beautiful prose are always a joy to read. Thank you, Ms Penny.

--Karen Kiley

Karen is one of the driving forces in mystery at the Cary (NC) Public Library. This is her first review, but I hope she'll write many more!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Christmas and the Late Bailey Ruth Raeburn

Carolyn Hart

When families gather at Christmas, there can be old resentments, present passions, failed relationships. Yet there are other ghosts of Christmas, memories of happy times and loving faces no longer present, generosity and unselfishness, and, always, the ineffable grace of the Child in the Manger.

This year for me there is also my own special holiday ghost, the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, who first appeared last fall in Ghost at Work. Bailey Ruth’s new adventure - Merry, Merry Ghost - is a Christmas mystery.

And oh what a glorious, happy, rollicking time I spent with my impetuous, redheaded ghost.

I’ve truly never had as much fun writing as I have had in penning three tales about Bailey Ruth. (Ghost in Trouble will be published in Fall 2010.) I first met Bailey Ruth in Ghost at Work as she swung around a cumulous cloud on her way to apply at Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions to return to earth to help someone in trouble. When she was a young girl, she was rescued from drowning. She went on to have a long and happy life. In Heaven, she realizes she would like to help someone in turn.

Her association with the Department and Wiggins, its supervisor, has its ups and downs. Bailey Ruth is impetuous, impulsive, and scarcely ever met a rule that she wouldn’t ignore if she felt the circumstances warranted. She well understands this is likely why she hasn’t been called for a second assignment.

However, she decides to try again, this time vowing that she will be careful, circumspect, avoid appearing (Wiggins frowns upon emissaries appearing), and generally remain unobtrusive.

When she arrives at the Department of Good Intentions, Wiggins admits she’s been on his mind for a particular assignment because she loves Christmas. Bailey Ruth, true to her impulsive nature, responds immediately in this passage from Merry, Merry Ghost:
I was swept by that wonderful feeling of the season when workaday cares recede and we glimpse a world bright with love. “Ooh. Christmas.” Every Christmas Eve, Bobby Mac (a robust tenor) and I (an energetic soprano) entertained Rob and Dill with our duet of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as we pulled a sled laden with gifts into the living room. A two-foot tall stuffed reindeer with a shiny red nose was harnessed to the sled.
I came to my feet, quickly attired in my best Mrs. Claus suit and floppy red Santa hat, and belted out my most spirited version of Rudolph. Tap was popular when I was young and the wooden floor of the station a perfect venue. . . . four slap ball changes, four shuffle hop steps, a shuffle off to Buffalo . . . Sweeping off my Santa hat, I ended with a flap cramp roll and a graceful bow.

Flushed with success, I lifted my gaze to Wiggins.

He sat, brown eyes wide, expression bemused.

Had the man never seen a hoofer before? Had I blown any chance for adven - to be of service? Had my impetuous nature once again landed me in trouble?

So, yes, Bailey Ruth loves Christmas, and Wiggins dispatched Bailey Ruth to her beloved hometown of Adelaide. I hope you will enjoy going home for the holidays with Bailey Ruth as she protects a little boy, assists a determined grandmother, encourages young lovers, and corrals a killer in time to put the sparkle back in Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Carolyn Hart

To learn more about Carolyn Hart, vist her website.

Katy Munger (aka Chaz McGee)

Katy, urr Chaz, will be at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh Friday night, Sept. 25, at 7:30 to talk about her new book Desolate Angel. She's bringing along her friend Joe Newberry, an old-timey & bluegrass musician, who will play the song he wrote by the same name as the book. I hope to see lots of friends at this fun event!

Carolyn Hart

Carolyn will be a guest blogger tomorrow, Friday, September 25. She'll write about holidays, her newest protagonist, Bailey Ruth Rae Raeburn, and the second Bailey Ruth mystery Merry, Merry Ghost. Please join us!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

THE LAW OF SECOND CHANCES by James Sheehan (St. Martin's Paperbacks)

I just got an email from James Sheehan. The sequel to the fabulous Mayor of Lexington Avenue has just come out in mass market paperback. If you've not met Sheehan's protagonist, Jack Tobin, there's no better time to get acquainted. Both books are now available for less than the cost of a movie and popcorn—and far more satisfying!

SCARY STUFF by Sharon FIffer (Minotaur)

Antiques picker Jane Wheel's family is front and center in this latest outing. While visiting her brother in California Jane learns he is being accused of swindling folks on eBay. On a stop to visit her parents at their EZ Way Inn on the way home, she offers to help Swanette, an old customer who is moving to a retirement apartment, determine if her family's collections are worth selling. They are.

Before Jane and Tim (her best friend and successful antiques dealer) can begin to sort through the house and several barns, Nellie, Jane's mom, takes her to a fully decorated Halloween house and introduces her to elderly Cousin Ada, "Her hair hung to her waist, gray and knotted, and her hands were as gnarled as the roots of those oaks… One held…a knife. It was a large, gleaming silver knife, with an evil serrated blade, pointed directly at Jane.

From one case of, hopeful mistaken identification, and two opportunities for her antiques business, events soon provide Jane with three cases for her new private detective career. Readers will realize they've learned a lot about the "junk" in their attics.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Joyce & Jim Lavene Featured

I knew this husband and wife team had been writing great mysteries together, but I didn't know how it all began. Cabarras Now Magazine gives a great profile on the two.

Joyce and Jim came to our daylily farm and gave a great program about poisonous plants soon after their first Peggy Lee garden mystery was published. Time surely flies—their fifth, A Corpse for Yew, was released this spring. The second in their Renaissance Fair series, Ghastly Glass, is on my nightstand now.

Craig Johnson…

just posted on Facebook that he's doing a "happy dance." Another Man's Moccasins just won the Mountain and Plains Independent Bookseller's Fiction Book of the Year. Congratulations, Craig!

If you've not read this wonderful series, what are you doing on the computer?