Saturday, July 27, 2013


I read a lot of great books, but this one is outstanding! I resented every moment I had to be away from it—and I read it from cover to cover today.

Literary agency Jo Donovan has a gift for choosing winning manuscripts and nurturing her authors. Unfortunately, she also has to say no more often than not. One aspiring author, however, just won't take no for an answer—"Sam Spade" accosts her outside her office, insisting she's the only agent for him. Quickly, Jo's whole world is turned about—from sabotage to her agency to her personal life. 

While telling her story, Jo gives the reader a full insight into the publishing business as only an insider could. She should—her creator, Barbara Rogan once owned a literary agency. She now teaches writing.

A Dangerous Fiction will get my vote for best mystery novel next year.

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rosemary & The Camel

In a comment to my guest blog today at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen Rosemary Harris mentioned a yard sale we went to when she toured in this area a few years ago. I responded that she should have bought the life-sized camel—and the comments continued from there.

I thought I'd better post what I was talking about

—and then I remembered that Noel and I had visited Don Shadow's fabulous place in Tennessee where I fell in love with the real camels.

I wasn't brave enough to let one of them kiss me though—I've heard they spit!

Friday, July 19, 2013


Titles and being heirs to the throne didn't mean much to most British families during the Depression years: Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 35th in line and her brother is a Duke, but the coffers are quite empty. Georgie has tried several unsuccessful careers during this delightful series, but usually the most she earns is her room and board—and the opportunity, urh—obligation to solve a murder.

In this outing, Georgie thinks she may have landed in a comfortable spot when the Queen suggests she help a dowager duchess groom her son's newly discovered heir (from the Outback of Australia) to to be in position to take his place in society. No reader will be surprised when Georgie finds a knife in the back of the current Duke; I suspect few, however, will suspect the perpetrator.

The "Royal Spyness" series gets stronger with each title. I always look forward to Georgie's adventures.

FTC Disclaimer -- This book was provided by the publisher.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Iconic NC Bookstore Has New Owner

RALEIGH, NC. — A member of a well-known Raleigh family is the new owner of Quail Ridge Books & Music.  Bookstore owner Nancy Olson turns the reigns over to Lisa Robie Poole, a 49-year-old mother and wife. Poole is the wife of Ven Poole, CEO of Waste Industries in Raleigh.

Poole is a Raleigh native, who grew up in the same neighborhood as humorist David Sedaris. Her father was the beloved pediatrician, Dr. Bill Robie. She’s excited about starting this new chapter in her life as a bookstore owner. “I have two daughters departing the nest, leaving just one behind, and the opportunity to add something to my life seemed interesting,” she says.

Poole says she will continue the tradition of Olson. “I am in awe of everything that goes on in that store,” she says. “From the author events, to the book clubs, the award winning children’s section, and the wonderful collection of Southern writers…I can’t imagine changing the book store into something other than what Jim and Nancy Olson have made it.”

“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to carry on the traditions of Quail Ridge Books,” says Poole, who hopes to add new books to her large children’s book collection intended for her future grandchildren.

“I know they will be good stewards of the bookstore,” Olson says. “They are very down-to-earth and easy to work with. We are going to have a good time.”

Olson will serve in an advisory role to the store to help the new owner make a smooth transition. The new owners also will inherit the store’s 24 full- and part-time staff members, which have an average of 15 years of book-selling experience.

“I think we are really fortunate to find a new owner with roots in Raleigh who values books, and values the store the way it is and wants to keep it a strong presence in the community,” says Sarah Goddin, the store’s manager. “Nancy will still be involved for a long time and the staff will continue as well. So, there will really be little visible change except some new faces. I know our customers will find Lisa and her family a delight to get to know.”

There will be lots of new people for Poole to meet. The store has nurtured scores of North Carolina writers, including Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons and Jill McCorkle. Many of them had their first readings at Quail Ridge Books. Olson’s taste for good books has earned her a national reputation for turning hard covers such as Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” into best-sellers. The store sold 6,000 copies of his first novel, 1,200 of them at his first reading.

Olson created a gathering place for the Triangle’s book-loving community. For 28 years, she’s been wooing customers to her store again and again with genuine Southern hospitality, a knowledgeable staff and a carefully curated selection of books. This is no small feat in the competitive book-selling climate of e-books and Amazon. More than 17,500 households belong to the store’s loyalty program, and her staff can call most customers by their first names.

In 2011, Quail Ridge Books, located in Ridgewood Shopping Center, sold $3 million in books, cds, stationery, calendars and gift items. The 9,400-square-foot store also has a children’s book and music department and stocks about 70,000 titles.

Since its founding in 1984, the bookstore has attracted local and national authors, including Michael Chabon, Amy Tan and Walter Mosley, and celebrities including President Jimmy Carter, humorist David Sedaris; and radio host Garrison Keillor. The store also sponsors hundreds of events each year, including community discussion groups and town hall meetings.

Quail Ridge Books has received numerous awards. In 2001, the store was named Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year. That same year, the store also received the Pannell Award for Excellence in Children’s Bookselling and the Haslam Award for Excellence in Bookselling. Poole plans on keeping up the tradition.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THE MAN FROM BERLIN by Luke McCallin (Berkley)

It's the latter part of WW-II in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. A German officer  and a popular Yugoslavian  photographer, Marija  Vukic have been murdered. Both bodies turned up in her apartment. Now it is the job of German detective Gregor Reinhardt to try to solve the double homicide. His competition is the local police in the form of a detective named Padelin. Although it appears that they  are  working together,  Padelin has his own agenda. He is interested only in getting  Vukic's killer while Reinhardt wants to solve both murders.

Reinhardt is complicated. He served his country proudly in WW-I but is definitely unhappy with the way Germany has evolved in the 30s and 40s. He declined working with the Gestapo and is reasonably content to work as a detective. Many factors are playing into this case: The Croats are looking for a scapegoat whil Reinhardt’s personal internal conflicts will complicate things.

The Man From Berlin is McCallin’s first book. It appears that his research is solid. For those who love mysteries with a mixture of historical fiction, I believe this author has created a well-written book.
—Steve Bank

FTC Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben (Dutton)

OK, you lost the love of your life and she is marrying some guy named Todd. You can't make up your mind, but you decide to attend the wedding. When Julie tells you, "Promise me, Jake, promise me you'll leave me alone," you return to your job as a professor at a small liberal arts college.

Thus begins Harlan Coben's latest thriller.

Now six years later, Jake Fisher is still single. He reads on his office computer that Todd has passed away. He  decides to attend the funeral to see if there is any spark left from that long ago romance. But, there are very strange discrepancies: There are two teenage children and the widow is not  Julie! As Jack digs into the past to bring it in line with the  present nothing fits nor is there anyone who can help him. 

Ask yourself what would you do if EVERYTHING you knew to be true six years ago does not exist anymore—that's where Jake Fisher is!
If possible, Harlan Coben gets better with age. This one kept me guessing for the length of the book. You will have to pay attention in this fast-paced novel to help Jake put together all the pieces.

—Steve Bank

Note from Molly

I don't often get NYT and Edgar winners ask someone to make a photo of him with me, but Harlan did just that at Malice Domestic in May. We've been friends since he was writing paperback originals.

Friday, July 05, 2013

TROUBLE VISION by Allison Kingsley (Berkley)

The play on words in the title—double vision/trouble vision—alludes to the protagonist's dubious paranormal gift. She wishes she didn't have this interited special ability, the "Quinn Sense." Clara Quinn resists the visions that come to her without warning or permission, mostly because they seem unhelpful and unpredictable. Clara has grown up with her cousin, Stephanie, and they are like sisters, being only weeks apart in age and both being only children. 

Clara moved to New York City but returned to Finn's Harbor, Maine when she was jilted by an obviously unscrupulous man. She hasn't told anyone why she's moved back home, but those who know her know it must have been for a profoundly painful reason. Stephanie owns the Raven's Nest bookstore and the cousins run it. Stephanie would love to have the Quinn Sense, so that every time Clara has a vision, Stephanie is right there, wanting to know the reason and meaning while Clara tries to ignore it.
In this story, a hotel resort is being built on the edge of town and there's plenty of conflict and opposition. The mayor calls a meeting to give citizens the opportunity to express their concerns and to voice opinions. The meeting escalates into an actual fistfight, and Clara gets a premonition and vision that spells nothing but big trouble.
When a customer comes into the bookstore talking about a man's fatal fall from the scaffolding at the construction site, the profound sadness about his widow and young children leave Clara no choice but to pay attention to the Quinn Sense. The sheriff has concluded the death was an accident, but a vision tells Clara he was murdered. Clara's realizes she will have to do something. She sticks her nose into the whole nasty and dangerous situation, riling the sheriff and putting herself in danger with her questions. People who think it's OK to murder someone are not people who take her nosy questions lightly. Clara soon faces a life or death situation.

A nice twist to Clara's paranormal talents is that she and her dog Tatters can understand each other. Tatters plays a role in the resolution.The plot has an interesting-but-not-heavy peripheral mother-daughter relationship situation (Clara is living with her mother until she can get her feet on the ground after coming home).

For book lovers, dog lovers, and paranormal mystery aficionados, this is a treat.
—Dian Esterly

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.

TARNISHED AND TORN by Juliet Blackwell (Berkley)

Juliet Blackwell is a pseudonym, but there's nothing pseudo about her paranormal mysteries. Although paranormal mysteries have twists that most crime fiction don't, usually there's a sleuth with special abilities. In Blackwell's books, there's a further twist because there IS a protagonist with witchy abilities, but there are also a bunch of other witches, male and female. 

The setting is San Francisco and there probably isn't a city that has more quirky characters. The protagonist is Lily Ivory, owner of a popular vintage clothing store. Off Lily goes to a gem show, in search of antique jewelry for her store. It turns out not to be that simple because she meets Griselda, a vendor at the gem show, who gives her faint, vague signals about something she can't describe. Lily wonders if Griselda is a fellow practicing witch, but about the time she decides that's probably the case, Lily finds Griselda murdered. There's no doubt it's murder because the way in which she died is the way witches were put to death centuries earlier during the infamous witch hunts. Pressing!! I'll leave you to read the book to discover this awful way of dying.
Lily was brought up by her grandmother and hasn't seen her father in years, but wouldn't you know that he turned up during this time, shocking Lily into reliving painful memories and wondering about her father's activities. This was certainly a blast from the past, and although she wanted to talk to him, she was fairly sure that he didn't appear at this time just to get to know her. He is a powerful witch himself and pitiful person that he is, he begs Lily to help him. He obviously doesn't deserve it, but Lily is determined to clear his name and solve a murder that's muddy with emotions and people and all sorts of witchy characters. 
During the process of trying to solve the mystery of Griselda's death, the strands of many peoples' lives are intertwined and it's up to Lily to tease out the ones that will help resolve this horrible murder. Many paths seem to have potential but turn out to be dead ends. Even those are very interesting and create the plot and subplots. Somewhere along the way, a former boyfriend shows up and Lily is drawn to him again—or yet.
The book is entertaining and even informative, if you want to delve into the many facets of paranormal abilities. It's infinitely fascinating to contemplate the limitless potential and unusual qualities of humankind. The reality of the invisible world is there for us to question—and maybe even begin to answer.
Blackwell is an anthropologist who has studied systems of spirituality, magic, and health across cultures and throughout history. Her credentials for witchcraft are apparent as she weaves the many unusual facts into her mysteries.
Read her and then look for her other series. One series is written with her sister. Interesting author!

—Dian Esterly

FTC Disclosure—This book was provided by the publisher.

DYEING WISHES by Molly MacRae (Berkley)

Welcome to Blue Plum, TN or welcome back. This is the second book in this haunted yarn shop mystery series. The story has many quirks, not the least of which is Geneva the ghost who more or less lives with Kath Ruthledge, owner of The Weaver's Cat yarn shop which she inherited from her much loved grandmother, who had paranormal abilities and a proclivity for solving murders. Geneva lives in the attic and has a mind of her own. She is dismal, direct, droopy and as much a hindrance as a help in all things.

The hub of this delightful small town is the yarn shop and the TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Fiber) needlework and fiber group which meets regularly learning the art of dyeing. This group is close-knit—as ardent in their friendships as in their needlework love. Kath is unsure of her special abilities but is drawn into the paranormal because of Geneva. The communication between Kath and Geneva is two-way—they understand and sort of take care of each other. Despite Geneva's tendencies toward drama and doom, she loves to play assistant sleuth,  so she watches out for Kath.
The story opens at Cloud Hollow Farm where the TGIF group is meeting. The friends head out to greet the sheep, owned by Debbie, a member of the group who is recovering from a broken marriage. The sheep are all standing near a tree in the pasture and not paying attention to the women. This is unusual, so the women decide they have to investigate. They find two dead bodies—and one is someone they know.
Each woman's story is disclosed as they try to solve the murders. Naturally, they fear for their lives when another murder pops up. Romantic relationships muddy the waters (literally and figuratively) before the mystery is solved.
The small town setting is one where everyone cares about others. The TGIF club has unusual and very different characters—and all their quirks and sometimes droll senses of humor make the book a nice read.
I'll be happy to return to Blue Plum, TN for the next adventure.

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.

MURDER ON THE ROCKS by Allyson K. Abbott (Kensington)

For anyone who loves bars and bartenders, this is a good read. Drink recipes included !

Mack's Bar is on of those nice friendly places where everybody knows your name. The Mack is a woman—.real name MacKenzie. Her father, Mack, owned the bar and when his wife died, he brought his daughter, Mack, up in the bar. It sounds like a bad idea, but in reality the regulars were upright citizens and helped keep little Mack occupied when she was awake. Mack received lots of attention and was never neglected and she learned how to mix drinks and run the bar by the time it was necessary for her to take over. Everyone loved her dad. He was an upright and good man, so the fact that he was murdered and found in the alley behind the bar made no sense. Obviously, someone didn't like him. The case was still open many months later when Mack found another body in the Dumpster in the alley behind the bar.

The story evolves in the bar due to the presence of a hunky cop who pretends to be a new employee as he tries to eavesdrop on the many customers. He and Mack, herself a wily and intelligent amateur sleuth, work together to solve the mystery of the second murder, a woman known to Mack and to the customers. The woman was involved romantically with her father and Duncan, the cop-turned-bartender, believes the murders are connected. Lily herself is a suspect, as are several regulars, including her bouncer with a police record. All her regulars have suspicious lives that could lead to murder, yet they all have the appearance of normal people.
Mack's bar is in Milwaukee and Mack has unusual abilities. Her special "thing" is that she has synesthesia, an unusual neurological glitch that gives her extra perceptive senses. Her sensory perceptions are mixed. She can hear and smell various things when she sees something or someone. These abnormal senses are confusing and she's spent a lifetime trying to avoid them. Sometimes she isn't sure if they're real or if she has sensed things normally. To solve this case, she has to try to use them and, more importantly, discern their meaning.
The author's name is a pseudonym for a woman who works as an ER nurse and lives in Wisconsin.
This is interesting thriller, partly because synesthesia is a departure from witches, psychics, and othernormal paranormal sleuths.


—Dian Esterly
FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

FREE e-book Give Away

A. J. Hartley just announced that he's giving away copies of his first archaeological thriller (and it definitely IS a page-turning Thriller!!!) on Amazon July 3-4! That's today and tomorrow only. This is a perfect holiday read—on the beach or in your backyard hammock.