Apr 012015

So here we are at April 1, when, we were assured by Mike Ripley, we would see his final “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots eZine.

Not so fast there, pardner. That “final” column – column 100 – has just been published. And Ripley isn’t going anywhere. He explains:

“Well if Richard III can make a triumphal comeback after 500 years, so can I, although I admit the circumstances are slightly different. After all the weeping down a hundred telephones, the thousands of letters (many in green crayon) and a petition with almost a million signatures demanding that Jeremy Clarkson be given my job (surely some mistake – Ed), I have decided to continue to write this monthly missive for the outstanding organ that is Shots.”

May I see the hands of all those who are shocked and surprised? (Yes, thank you, Mrs. Ripley.) For the rest of us, however, who have become used to this entertaining monthly melange of news and gossip about the crime fiction scene, particularly in the UK, it is welcome news.

This month’s column includes news and brief reviews of some new thrillers and other mysteries, including a couple of books based on (and written for) the actor George Sanders, short lists for a number of relevant awards, some intriguing-sounding spy thrillers by Alexander Wilson published before 1940, some thoughts on a recipe in the new Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, a new serial killer book being blurbed by Lee Child, previews of some more books due for publication in May, and republication of a 1953 “lost” pulp novel by Cameron Kay – a pen name for Gore Vidal. 

Whew. Can’t wait to see what he’ll have for next month – and glad he’s sticking around to show it to us.

Left Coast Crime Awards

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Mar 152015

At the 25th annual Left Coast Crime conference in Portland Oregon this evening, the annual Left Coast awards were presented at the group’s gala banquet.

The winners (highlighted) and the runners-up:

The Lefty Award (most humorous mystery published in the 2014 print year)

  • Herbie’s Game, by Timothy Hallinan
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, by Donna Andrews
  • January Thaw, by Jess Lourey
  • Dying for a Dude, by Cindy Sample
  • Suede to Rest, by Diane Vallere

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award

  • A Deadly Measnure of Brimstone, by Catriona McPherson
  • Queen of Hearts, by Rhys Bowen
  • From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins
  • City of Ghosts, by Kelli Stanley
  • Cup of Blood, by Jeri Westerson

The Rose (best mystery novel set in the LCC region)

  • Pirate Vishnu, by Gigi Pandian
  • One Kick, by Chelsea Cain
  • Glass Houses, by Teri Nolan
  • Deadly Bonds, by L. J. Sellers
  • Plaster City, by Johnny Shaw

The Rusebud (best first mystery novel)

  • The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens
  • Kilmoon, by Lisa Alber
  • Ice Shear, by M. P. Cooley
  • the Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day
  • Mistress of Fortune, by Holly West

As always, congratulations to all the honorees. The winners are determined by votes from the more than 600 readers and authors attending the annual LCC conference.

Extra: “Artifact” and the Jaya Jones Mysteries

 Extras, Jaya Jones, Modern Masters, mysteries, mystery, thrillers, Treasure Hunt Mysteries  Comments Off on Extra: “Artifact” and the Jaya Jones Mysteries
Mar 122015

While we’re talking about mysteries that offer some insight into earlier cultures – not to mention archaeology – let me point out a young, relatively new author who is now writing very good, traditional mysteries that include some fascinating insights into remote cultures. I recently read Gigi Pandian’s first book, Artifact, which is the first of her “Treasure Hunt” mysteries featuring historian Jaya Jones, whose ancestry – Indian and Scottish – comes into play in Artifact. 

To quote the blurb:

“When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact from India, she discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. But she’s not the only one on the trail.”

It’s an interesting traditional mystery, with some thriller/chase elements as well, well-clued, with a lot of very interesting details about both Indian art treasures and Scottish folklore. There are some interesting twists in the story as well. It’s a light and entertaining read. Artifact, published in 2012, was the first book in a series which is continuing (as far as I know), and I’ll be looking for her other books as well.

Mar 112015

The troops are gathering in Portland, OR, for this year’s Left Coast Crime conference, also known as Crimelandia. There are awards to be presented, books to be given away, more books to be autographed, and hundreds of authors and fans eager to renew old friendships and start new ones. Mystery people are a remarkably congenial crowd, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that so many attendees know lots of interesting and undetectable (at least in fiction) ways to get rid of you…

At any rate, I’ll try to check in from time to time to update you all on the events at Crimelandia. Off now to help stuff the book bags to be given away at registration. If any of my readers are attending, please come visit!

Mar 022015

Mike Ripley’s new – and, he says, final – “Getting Away with Murder” column has now been published in Shots Ezine. As usual, it contains a wide-ranging ramble through the current mystery scene, particularly as it appears in the U. K. Among the topics this month:

  • Another new Albert Campion book, Mr. Campion’s Fox, which Ripley has written with the blessing of the Allingham Society;
  • A reflection on an anonymous literary agent’s bad choice;
  • The seemingly endless parade of  nominees for mystery awards;
  • A recommendation for a new mystery that counts SIX different narrators;
  • Announcements about several other newly-published-in-the-UK books;
  • Books he’s reading for the Chianti Crime Festival in Siena, Italy, later this Spring;
  • Reviving some old TV serials;
  • Lots more book reviews;

And a possible farewell of sorts. This is column #100 for “Getting Away with Murder.” Ripley, who has insisted that column #100 would be his last, runs down a list of people who, he says, are some of the candidates to replace him – well, that’s what he says, though the biographies are, er, highly dubious at best.  I hope it’s somebody with Ripley’s quirky sense of humor, very much on display again here, which has made his columns required reading for me. It occurs to me, however, the next column being dated April 1, and therefore quite possibly an appropriate time to introduce any of these candidates, that it would be wise to withhold lavish displays of grief. At least for now…

Feb 202015

“Eve is like a kid with an ant’s nest – one of those glass-sided jobs. She knows that if she goes poking round, ordering ’em about, she won’t learn much, so she just sits and watches. It’s her toy, and she won’t let any of the other kids touch it.”

As the book featured on this week’s podcast, Lament for a Lady Laird, stars an anthropologist by profession, I thought this might be a good time to mention another classic where anthropology and an anthropologist play a central role. The book, The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest, by much-honored British author Peter Dickinson, is being re-released next week in e-book formats from Open Road Media (which provided me with a copy for this review).

The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest, first published in 1968 in the U.K. with the title Skin Deep, was the first of Dickinson’s mysteries featuring Superintendent James Pibble. Jimmy Pibble seems to have a talent for solving quirky, unusual cases, and he certainly finds one here. We are presented with the surviving members of a primitive New Guinea tribe, transported to London after most of the tribe was wiped out by a Japanese massacre during World War II. The survivors are living in a home owned by an anthropologist, who studies and records their behavior. When the leader of the tribe, Aaron Ku (the tribe is known as the Kus, and all the members have the surname “Ku”) is murdered, Scotland Yard moves in quickly and sends Jimmy Pibble, because of the unusual nature of the case and, frankly, because it doesn’t seem important enough to warrant sending anyone else.

What we have in The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest is a novel that was somewhat ahead of its time, dealing as it does with unusual and primitive rituals, black-and-white relations and even gender role reversals. The anthropologist, Eve, holds some of the keys to the mystery, and serves as Pibble’s guide (and ours) to understanding the behavior of the Kus. The book was awarded the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association as the best book of the year when it was published. There are elements of both police procedural and traditional mystery here, plus more than a hint of modern noir, along with memorable and very unusual characters including the rather unheroic Jimmy Pibble. It’s quite a book.


UPDATED to add the words “is murdered” after the parentheses in the first paragraph, inadvertently omitted in the original post.


Feb 062015

Word today from the British Crime Writers’ Association (via Janet Rudolph and Mystery Fanfare) that the Crime Writers’ Association will present this year’s prestigious Diamond Dagger Award to Catherine Aird. The award honors her long – and, happily, continuing – career as a writer of traditional mysteries, including the long-running series called “The Calleshire Chronicles” featuring Inspector C. D. Sloan of the Calleshire police.

I have had the pleasure of writing about several of Aird’s earlier novels – you can find my podcast reviews on this blog’s backlist page – several of which have been republished by the Rue Morgue Press. Her books can be fairly hard to find in the US, which I think is almost criminal negligence. Her mysteries are stylish, with some police procedural elements, some very interesting plots, delightful characters, and witty and often quite deliberately funny writing (Sloan, for instance, usually finds himself stuck working with Detective Constable Crosby, who is known behind his back among his colleagues as “the Defective Constable).

The CWA explains its Diamond Dagger this way: “Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime writing published in the English language, whether originally or in translation.” Congratulations to Catherine Aird for a well-deserved honor. The award will be presented in London in June.

Jan 312015

Malice Domestic, the organization of traditional mystery writers and their readers, has announced its list of nominees for the Agatha Awards, the awards named after Agatha Christie and inended to honor authors who continue to follow those traditions.

The nominees are:

Best Contemporary Novel

  • The Good, the Bad and the Emus, by Donna Andrews
  • A Demon Summer, by G. M. Malliet
  • Truth Be Told, by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
  • Designated Daughters, by Margaret Maron

Best Historical Novel

  • Hunting Shadows, by Charles Todd
  • An Unwilling Accomplice, by Charles Todd
  • Wouldn’t it Be Deadly, by D. E. Ireland
  • Queen of Hearts, by Rhys Bowen
  • Murder in Murray Hill, by Victoria Thompson

Best First Novel

  • Circle of Influence, by Annette Dashofy
  • Tagged for Death, by Sherry Harris
  • Finding Sky, by Susan O’Brien
  • Well Read, Then Dead, by Terrie Farley Moran
  • Murder Strikes a Pose, by Tracy Weber

Best Nonfiction

  • 400 Things Cops Know: Street Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, by Adam Plantinga
  • Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice, by Kate Flora
  • The Art of the English Murder, by Lucy Worsley
  • The Poisoner: the Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor, by Stephen Bates

Best Short Story

  • “The Odds Are Against Us,” by Art Taylor
  • “Premonition,” by Art Taylor
  • “The Shadow Knows,” by Barb Goffman
  • “Just Desserts for Johnny,” by Edith Maxwell
  • “The Blessing Witch,” by Kathy Lynn Emerson

Best Children’s/Young Adult

  • Andi Under Pressure, by Amanda Flower
  • Greenglass House, by Kate Milford
  • Uncertain Glory, by Lea Wait
  • The Code Busters’ Club, Case #4, The Mummy’s Curse, by Penny Warner
  • Found, by Harlan Coben

The winners will be announced at the Agatha Awards Banquet on May 2, 2015, part of the annual Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, MD. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Jan 302015

Perhaps British author, critic and man-about-town Mike Ripley needs to check his calendar. Although we are still in January, he has just published his February column for the Shots Crime & Thriller eZine, “Getting Away with Murder.” As always, it’s a good look at the state of crime fiction in the U. K. (primarily).

In this month’s edition, Mike is off on his usual round of publishers’ parties, drinks, new books, drinks, new publications, new/vintage Penguin Book covers (take heart, Green Penguin fans!), old mystery movies, a French police drama series on TV, and drinks. Also: a former US basketball star’s first mystery for adults, starring Sherlock Holmes’s older brother Mycroft; Sarah Weinman’s new blog, including her critique of some narrators of new “domestic suspense” novels who appear to be “TSTL” (Too Stupid To Live); a couple of James Bond, er, “continuation novels”; a forthcoming mystery convention in Italy sponsored by Chianti producers (yes, please); and some chatty previews of books coming down the road – at least, so far, in the U.K. Go read, go enjoy. By the way, this is his 99th column – and he insists the next one, number 100, will be his last…