Dec 182014

The end of the year is fast approaching - and so are the deadlines for registering for some of next year's great mystery conferences and saving yourself a bit of money, too.

Let's start with Left Coast Crime, coming up in Portland, OR, March 12-15. Register by December 31 and the price is $175. Dawdle until January 1 and it goes up to $195. Also, early registrants (prior to January 23) will be able to take part in the nominating process for four categories of awards. Click here for their registration page.

Next up is Malice Domestic, that annual celebration of the traditional mystery held each year in Bethesda, MD. In 2015, the conference will be held from May 1 through May 3. Price varies (depending on whether you want to attend the Agatha Awards banquet, which you should), but all prices increase on January 1. Those who register before December 31 get to help select the final nominees for the awards. Click here for registration information.

And in the fall, there is Bouchercon 2015, the oldest and largest of the conferences, coming up in Raleigh, NC, from October 8 through October 11. The price for this one is $175 until January 1, after which it goes up to $195. Their registration page is here.

Never been to a mystery conference? Maybe this is the year for you to try one. Each of these conferences attracts hundreds of mystery authors and more hundreds of readers who want a chance to meet and mingle with their favorite authors - and to learn about new authors and books they might enjoy. There are entertaining and informative panel discussions, rooms full of book dealers, prestigious awards, well-known guests of honor, autograph sessions, welcoming bags filled with books to take home, and the opportunity to make a great many new friends. I attended all three this past year; in 2015, I'll be missing Malice (much to my regret), but looking forward to attending all of them again in 2016. Try one. You'll enjoy it.

Dec 122014

The calendar says it is still 2014, but the Mystery Writers of America have named the recipients of some very special 2015 awards, which will be presented at the annual Edgar Awards banquet next April.

The 2015 Grand Masters Awards, which are really life/career achievement awards, go to two fine, long-standing authors, Lois Duncan and James Ellroy.

The group is also awarding two Raven Awards, which are presented for outstanding achievement outside the field of creative writing. The awards will go to Jon and Ruth Jordan of Crimespree Magazine and to Kathryn Kennison, the founder of the Midwestern mystery conference Magna Cum Murder - a conference I haven't yet attended, meaning I ought to get up and go. 

The MWA is presenting its 2015 Ellery Queen Award to Charles Ardai, the editor of the publishing (and republishing) house, Hard Case Crime. The award is designed to honor writing teams (such as the team that was Ellery Queen) and/or leaders in the mystery publishing industry.

You can find full details about the awards and the winners here. They will all receive their awards at the Edgar banquet in New York on April 29, 2015. Congratulations to the honorees!

Hat tip to Xavier Lechard, of the At the Villa Rose blog (via Facebook).

Dec 082014

Sorry I had to miss the Wolfe Pack's annual Black Orchid weekend in New York. The annual events, which include a gala banquet, take place each year on the first full weekend of December, in honor of author Rex Stout's birthday.

At the banquet, the annual Nero Award, presented to an author "for the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories," was given to this year's winner, David Morell, for Murder as a Fine Art. The winner and runners up:
  • Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell, Little, Brown & Company
  • Ask Not, Max Allan Collins, Tor & Forge Books
  • Three Can Keep a Secret, Archer Mayor, St. Martins Press 
  • A Study in Revenge, Kieran Shields, Crown Publishing Group
  • A Question of Honor, Charles Todd, William Morrow/Harper Collins

Working jointly with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the Wolfe Pack also presented the annual Black Orchid Novella Award to author K. G.McAbee for his novella, "Dyed to Death." The award celebrates the novella, the long short story/short novel format at which Rex Stout excelled. 

Congratulations are in order for the winners and all the runners-up. From what I hear, it was - as usual - a pretty fabulous event.

Dec 062014

Another new month (well, a few days old, anyway), another new "Getting Away with Murder" column from Mike Ripley in the Shots Crime & Thriller eZine. 

Among the many items on the agenda this month:

  • Interesting notes from the Autumn Lunch of the Margery Allingham Society;
  • From that lunch, a review of an interesting-sounding mystery by Jane Stevenson;
  • A new Sherlock Holmes exhibition in London;
  • A list of Ripley's favorite mysteries of 2014;
  • A couple of newly-reissued Golden Age classics which I must check out quickly;
  • Lots of reviews of new books published, or about to be published, in the UK;
  • And concluding with a hearty "Merry Crimbles to One and All" from The Ripster.

It's a great way to keep up with what our friends across the pond are doing to keep crime fiction alive and well. Enjoy your reading!

Dec 042014

As any reader of this blog is aware, I have been taking part in the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge at Bev's terrific My Reader's Block blog. The idea was to read books that would - in Bingo fashion - make up horizontal or vertical lines on the challenge image - this one:

Vintage Golden Card 001

This Golden card was to be filled with mysteries published before 1960. There was also a Silver card for mysteries published between 1960 and 1980. I chose to concentrate on the Golden card.

Of course, we were also challenged to try filling in the ENTIRE card. And I'm pleased to say that this is exactly what I have done. For those who either want to check my honesty or - perhaps on a brighter note - read my reviews, here are links to all of them. I am listing them by row from top to bottom, in order going across left and right.

Row 1:

Row 2:

Row 3:

Row 4:

Row 5:

Row 6:

That's 36 books, 36 reviews, 36 squares covered. Whew. And now, time to get ready for Bev's 2015 challenge - same idea, different categories. Where to start, where to start...

Dec 012014

Talk about Cyber Monday book sales - our friends at Open Road Integrated Media (who publish the Mysterious Press line of e-book mysteries) are having a huge sale TODAY (MONDAY) ONLY- with prices up to 80% lower than normal. Most books are $1.99. Full list of Kindle versions and more info at this link. For other formats, please visit here for Nook titles and here for Kobo titles. You can also try Apple's iTunes store, but I can't seem to get the proper link for that one. Again, the prices are only for today. There's a lot of great mystery titles - and a lot of other books available as well. As we say, check 'em out.

Nov 292014

As we reach the holiday shopping time of year, here's a reminder: if you are planning to buy from Amazon, and order via this website, I get a (surprisingly) small percentage of the sale. It costs you nothing over the regular sale price. I get the credit if you use the Amazon search box on the upper right corner of this page, or if you simply use this link to get to

As always, if you are going to order books, I would much prefer that you order directly from your favorite independent bookseller, especially if that bookseller specializes in mysteries. On other items (for Amazon sells just about everything these days), or if you don't have an indie bookseller, I'd very much appreciate the help in defraying the costs associated with this site and the podcast. Thank you, and enjoy your shopping.

Nov 272014

Word from the BBC this morning that British mystery author P. D. James has died. She was 94 years old.

While she was not a favorite of mine, I did, and do, admire many of her books, particularly the early ones. She was also a thoughtful critic of mysteries, both Golden Age and modern. She was certainly a powerful voice on behalf of the genre, and she will be missed.

Hat tip: Laurie R. King via Facebook

Nov 242014

If diamonds are a girl's best friend (as Carol Channing used to sing), then surely, if they are stolen, a fingerprint is a police officer's best friend? Well, perhaps not. For the young man whose bloody fingerprint was found inside the safe from which the diamonds had been stolen insisted that he had had nothing to do with the crime. And it was up to Dr. Thorndyke to show a criminal court - and the world - how that could be. You'll find the story in The Red Thumb Mark, by R. Austin Freeman, one of the earliest practitioners of the "scientific" detective story. The Red Thumb Mark is the subject of today's book review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.

Originally published in 1907,The Red Thumb Mark is not a murder mystery. Instead, it is focused on the theft of a valuable packet of diamonds. They have been stolen from the office of Reuben Hornby's father. In the safe where the diamonds had been kept, there is a bloody thumb print – the “red thumb mark” of the title. The thumb print matches that of Reuben Hornby. The expert witnesses for the police and the prosecution say it is an open and shut case: given the enormous odds against two people having the same thumb print, its presence at the scene of the crime must mean that Reuben is the thief. Dr. Thorndyke, however, believes there is a rational and convincing explanation of what really happened – and that explanation will exonerate Reuben Hornby. Fingerprints, in 1907, were still a relatively new tool for the police, and it was up to Dr. Thorndyke to prove that the police were wrong to place so much emphasis on what they were sure was incontrovertible evidence.

The Red Thumb Mark was the first of many novels written by Freeman about Dr. Thorndyke, whose detection was always firmly rooted in scientific fact. Freeman was very influential in the development of the American detective story, and this book, while there are no murders, manages to maintain a nice level of tension. It is long out of copyright, and there are a good many inexpensive and even free sources for the book. I think you'll enjoy reading it.

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one medical mystery featuring a doctor or a nurse. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.

Nov 192014

Regular visitors to this blog know that stories about crimes committed inside locked-and-bolted rooms, or other impossible locations such as murders where the killer left no footprints in the snow, are among my favorites.

One of the panel discussions at the recently-concluded Bouchercon in Long Beach this year was "Murder in a Locked Room: Solving the 'Perfect' Crime." Moderated by Bill Gottfried, the panel of authors included Janet Dawson, Jeffery Deaver, Laurie R. King, Marvin Lachman and Gigi Pandian. Those of us who attended the discussion were given a list of recommended locked room books for our own reading pleasure. It is NOT all-inclusive - it is intended as a starter-guide and contains some of the panel's favorites. Bill Gottfried kindly allowed me to put it here for my readers.

Here are their suggested books with links, where available, to Amazon; if you have a local bookstore, PLEASE let them get it for you or find you a second-hand copy:

Again, that's far from an inclusive list. Personally, I would add Hake Talbot's brilliant and frightening Rim of the Pit and another "Carter Dickson," The Plague Court Murders. Also The Burning Court isn't one of my favorites, and there are a couple on there I don't know - yet. And for those who would like to start (or finish) with some short stories about impossible crimes, I would have to add the newly-published The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original), edited and with an introduction by Otto Penzler, which includes 937 pages-worth of classic locked room mysteries. According to the front cover, it is "the most complete collection of impossible-crime stories ever assembled." I'm looking forward to cold winter nights and a lot of locked doors.