Saturday, July 30, 2011


The first Sisters in Crime Guppy short story anthology (Guppy refers to the "great unpublished), Fish Tales features 22 tales of murder and mayhem from the rising stars of mystery. Taking its theme from the Guppy name, all stories are water related and feature locked room puzzles, police procedurals, cozy characters, and hardboiled detectives.

Four of the Fish Tales writers will read in the Triangle on Friday, August 19.

2:00 - McIntyre's, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro
7:30 - Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh

Come out and meet these new authors. It's a great way to brag later, "I knew them when"!

Free E-Books

Tyrus Books is giving away a free crime fiction ebook every week in a "Summer of Crime" promotion. Downloads are available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I just downloaded Dead Deceiver by Victoria Houston. That one's available through August 1.

Please let me know what you think. If you're interested in reviewing one of these books, please let me know when you post your comment. Happy reading!

The upcoming schedule follows:

Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela S. Choi (8/1 – 8/8)

Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff (8/8 - 8/15)

The Wind Knot by John Galligan (8/15 – 8/22)

Untouchable by Scott O'Connor (8/30 - 9/6)

Friday, July 22, 2011

LOUISE'S WAR by Sarah R. Shaber (Severn House)

It's been a long wait, but this first in a new series is well worth it! Young widow Louise Pearlie has landed a government job in World War II Washington. For the first time in her life she's not only making good money but she's doing something she considers worthwhile—she's a file clerk for the Office of Strategic Services, charged with handling "for eyes only" documents.

Louise is horrified to see the name of Rachel Bloch's husband on one of these documents. Rachel was not only Louise's college roommate and best friend; she is now living in Vichy France. Realizing Rachel and her family must be in peril, Louise takes the file to the only person she knows who can act on it. Before any action can be taken, the file disappears and someone dies.

While Louise is trying desperately to help her friend, Shaber is giving the reader an excellent lesson of war-time Washington—from the boarding house where Louise lives, to race relations, to paranoia, to rationing, and even to a glimpse of the ultra wealthy.

Now, after devouring this slim volume, I dread the wait for the next one!

CHIHUAHUA OF THE BASKERVILLES by Esri Allbritten (Minotaur)

I love it when an author makes me overcome a bias! Folks who know me know I'm too much a pragmatist to read paranormal mysteries. So, when I saw a halo above the white chihuahua on the cover of this one, I almost passed on it. Having just read a thriller, I was ready for something light and decided to give Chihuahua a chance while soaking in the tub. The bath proved to be longer than planned—I was hooked.

Tripping Magazine focuses its articles on vacation spots which feature paranormal activities. Just before the low-budget rag folds, the owner's wife gets a phone call from her cousin. Charlotte Baskerville owns a company that designs and sells high-end clothing for small dogs. She's convinced that her late dog, Petey, has been appearing (and calling) to her and she's willing to have Tripping's reporters document the appearances.

The Tripping team arrives in Manitou Spring, Colorado just before the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race (just one of the paranormal events sure to delight their readers). Very soon they realize that encountering a ghost dog might be the most pleasant event during their stay.

Chihuahua is a great read for a hot summer—its not quite over-the top characters are well drawn, genuinely funny, and the puzzle is perfect. I look forward to more adventures with Angus, Michael, and Suki—the Tripping crew.

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


This delightful debut mystery was literally a lagniappe, tucked in with a book I had requested from the publisher. The setting, France's Aix-en-Provence, delivers mouth-watering descriptions of gourmet food and excellent wines.

The death of a nobleman—a fall from an attic window at his crumbling ancestral chateau, brings former lovers Antoine Verlaque (investigating magistrate) and Marine Bonnet (law professor and childhood friend of the deceased) together for a sparkling investigation. Although thoroughly contemporary, the story's telling is a throwback to the Golden Age. Characters are incredibly well developed, even those with minor roles. Readers are drawn into the everyday life of Verlaque and Bonnet, yet no detail fails to propel the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Chateau Bremont. What a relief for a hot summer day!

FTC Disclaimer - Book was provided by the publisher.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Sorry I forgot to post this earlier. The winner is Stephen Bank of NC. Congratulations, Stephen!

Friday, July 15, 2011

KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill (Minotaur)

Jimm Juree, first-person narrator of this excellent mystery, is a crime reporter out of a job—not because of the economy nor that she's a poor writer. Her mother, who's showing signs of early onset dementia has sold the family home and business and relocated to southern, rural Thailand, where the local paper already has a crime reporter. Jimm's grandfather, a retired cop, rarely talks and her younger brother who wants to be a world-class body builder moved with the family; her older brother, a transgendered former beauty queen stayed behind in the city where s/he is in seclusion running a computer hacking business.

Jimm feels her life is over before she hardly got started on her career, but suddenly, things begin to happen in her new village. First, a Volkswagon van, complete with two skeletons, is discovered by a well-digger. Then, a visiting Buddist abbott is violently murdered shortly after Jimm meets a nun and a monk who become suspects in the case.

As Jimm works the case, hoping to break back into news, she finds allies in unexpected places.

The charm of Whim isn't the crime story. It's the characters, the whimsey, and the humor woven subtly through the novel that make it a cut above the rest. Of course, the chapter headings, quotes from President Malaprop, are well worth the read. Don't miss the beginning of this excellent new series!

NOTE: Many readers will remember Cotterill's wonderful series about Dr. Siri, a 70-something Laotian county coroner. I predict even more fans for Jimm!

FTC Discloser - This book was provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Jeff Abbott Talks about ADRENALINE

International best-selling author Jeff Abbott's latest thriller, Adrenaline, became available to U.S. readers last week. Already garnering rave reviews (Starred Review in Publishers Weekly, a Good Morning America Summer Read an Entertainment Weekly Book of the Day, and an Amazon Best Books of July pick), Adrenaline is an absolute page-turner from beginning to end.

First in a new series, Adrenaline introduces CIA agent Sam Capra, a young man who has it all—great beginnings of a new career, a post in Paris, a beautiful wife, and a baby on the way. Suddenly, with just one phone call, he loses everything—everything except his life and the skills he will employ trying to find out what went wrong.

After spending hours on the edge of my seat with Sam in his horrific quest, I spoke with Jeff about Adrenaline, Sam, and Sam's future.

You've always written stand-alone thrillers. How did you decide to let Adrenaline be the beginning of a series? And why did it debut first in Britain?

Two years ago, I switched publishers. I've always wanted to write series and take what I learned about suspense and apply it to series characters. The new publisher didn't have a spot available in the U.S. last year. It came out in Britain in 2010.

Did you plan the arc for the series before beginning to write?

Before I wrote a word, I though about it a lot. I didn't want to write to a market. I wanted to differentiate this from other thrillers. Trust me, it serves readers bests if the author knows what a character is going to be like over different books. I sold the book on a one-page proposal: Sam would be young, ex-CIA, and I knew he would own bars.

Then, I had to decide how he could get this way. How could someone this young be so focused, so comfortable owning businesses. So, I gave him parents who'd worked at relief agencies around the world, a nomadic childhood where he picked up languages, friends, skills (he learned how to pick pockets in China because he was bored). His brother followed in their parents' footsteps, was kidnapped and killed.

I wanted Sam to have the connection, the comfort of having been a spy—but I wanted him not bound by bureaucracy. I wanted him to have baggage but be taken into a world where he would find his own quests. That's why I centered on finding his wife and child. He had a good life, but I had to strip that away.

Your characters are always so well defined readers don't have trouble knowing who is speaking. Do you have a special gift for this?

Anything I do is a result of work, not nature. Alternating first and third person narrators helped. And I tried to make every character very distinct. Because in future books, Sam will be based in different bars in different countries, there will be different characters in each book—but that will also allow me to bring back those characters who resound with readers.

Sam himself has two sides—and we'll see more of both sides as the series goes along. If you can describe a character in one sentence, it feels like you've struck gold when folks react, so it's interesting that some people are already referring to him as Jason Bourne meets Rick Blaine from Casablanca. He owns a bar where interesting things happen, yet he has to fight his way out of situations. Of course, the bars are the ticket to further adventures.

Sam's workouts take running to an extreme level. What exactly is parkour?

It's actually a popular sport in France, and there are runs in London. It's fascinating because you don't have to go to a special place. The city is the arena. The whole point is to make a run using the least amount of distance—not running around a building but through or over it to accomplish the goal. It's both graceful and dangerous. I wanted Sam involved in parkour because it's a good metaphor for going over seemingly impossible obstacles. He's young, green—just starting his life rather than being settled. He's still discovering the person he's going to be. I became interested in the sport when it was featured in Casino Royale and then I saw it live. It's now in programs in schools to help kids develop confidence.

You've chosen great cities as locations in Adrenaline. How familiar were you with them before writing?

I'd been to New York and London often over the years, but I'd never been to Amsterdam. I not only went for research, but my Dutch editor actually told me about some real dives after I asked "what's an awful bar?" I found places so gross I couldn't have made them up—and they still had karaoke!

Fortunately, I already knew what kind of action Sam would be involved in, so it was easy to recognize the place once I saw it.

How far do you think this series can go?

The Brits have already bought books three and four. Three is due in a month. I know what number five will be. Sam is a character who seems to be generating ideas for me. The settings and characters will change and give lots of openness. Ideas are simply frothing up with me. Hopefully I'll keep writing them as long as people want to read them. He's fun to write.

Judging from personal experience, I'd say it's even more to read about him!

I have a copy of Adrenaline for someone who convinces me s/he's interested in burning the midnight oil with this fantastic new thriller. Just email me at mysteryheel @ and tell me. I'll pick the lucky winner next Tuesday evening, July 12.