Nov 242014

A frequent visitor here, Joan Kyler, has been kind enough to point out a special sale TODAY ONLY, Monday, November 24, of Kindle e-books featuring 15 mysteries in the Mrs. Bradley series by Gladys Mitchell - on sale for $1.99 each. 

As I have said (many times) before, Mrs. Bradley is something of an acquired taste. Long regarded in the U.K. as the Golden Age equal of Christie and Sayers, Gladys Mitchell remains largely unknown in the U.S. It's good to see a lot of them back at least in electronic editions.

By the way, a cursory examination of the site shows that nearly all (maybe all) of Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley books are available - the regular price appears to be $3.99. So even if you don't go for the specials today, they're still pretty attractive at the regular price.

In looking back, I find that I've posted reviews here in the past of four of the books on sale today - The Rising of the Moon, The Devil at Saxon Wall, The Saltmarsh Murders and Laurels Are Poison. If you're interested, just click through to those posts (you'll find links there as well to the podcasts with audio reviews of the books). If you enjoy English eccentrics at their most eccentric, you may like the amazing Mrs. Bradley.

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 242014

I’ve really missed Breen and Tozer, the detectives in William Shaw’s mysteries set in 1968 London. This February they return to solve a crime set in the swinging art scene, but you can start reading The Kings of London over Thanksgiving break by requesting a free galley from Goodreads.

Nov 202014

Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella

Sebastian Rotella signing galleys of his forthcoming novel, The Convert's Song.

Richard Lange

Sebastian Rotella and Simon Wood

David Morrell signing galleys of his forthcoming novel, Inspector of the Dead.

Duane Swierczynski's signing line for CANARY

Oh, don’t mind us. Just looking over our photos from Bouchercon while listening to sad jazz and missing our authors. :’-(

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.

Nov 172014

When you pick up a Margery Allingham mystery for the first time, you can never be sure exactly what you'll get - a traditional puzzle-plot mystery, a thriller, a psychological drama, or something indescribable. In the case of Look to the Lady, her third Albert Campion book, published in 1931, Allingham gave us a thriller combined with some other, less easily described moments. Look to the Lady is the subject of today's Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.

At the heart of this book is a plot to steal a priceless, ancient relic, a chalice, a treasure that has been held on behalf of English royalty by the Gyrth family for a millennium or so. A gang, working on behalf of a nameless unscrupulous collector, will stop at nothing to steal the Gyrth Chalice. There seems to be some terrible family secret concerning the chalice – and the locals do talk of a supernatural guardian that helps to keep it safe. Enter Albert Campion, the rather vague young man who seems to know a great deal about the effort to steal the chalice – and who may be the last, best hope of averting the national disaster which would accompany the theft of the priceless relic.

In the course of this duel to the death between the defenders and the thieves, we will be treated to – in no particular order – murder, kidnappings, art forgery, a cross-country car chase, a dramatic ride to the rescue on a wild and dangerous horse, witchcraft, gypsies, a gang of thugs, some horror that hides in the woods on the family estate, hidden rooms and panels, an elaborate secret family ritual and an ultimate resolution that may or may not have supernatural overtones. And I’m quite sure I’ve missed several elements in that list.

Quite clearly, Look to the Lady is more of a thriller than a traditional puzzle mystery. We learn the identity of the primary villain about two-thirds of the way through the book. The real fun, and it is real fun, comes in seeing the battle between the villain and the chalice's defenders. It's delightfully silly, as any good thriller should be, and we are introduced to several memorable characters. Originally published in the United States as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery, Look to the Lady has been republished by the Felony & Mayhem Press under its original name. I think you'll enjoy 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 book with a woman in the title. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.

Nov 162014

The Anthony Awards for 2014 were presented tonight at Bouchercon 45, in Long Beach California. Attendees at the conference voted to present the awards. (Winners are in bold print below):

Best Audio Book:

  • Deborah J. Ledford, Crescendo, read by Christina Cox
  • Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo's Calling, read by Robert Glenister
  • G. M. Malliet, Death and the Lit Chick, read by Davina Porter
  • Lisa Brackmann, Hour of the Rat, read by Tracy Sallows
  • Sean Ferrell, Man in the Empty Suit, read by Mauro Hantman

Best Television Episode Teleplay First Aired in 2013:

  • "Pilot" - The Blacklist, Jon Bokenkamp
  • "Felina" - Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan
  • "Dark Descent" - The Fall, Allan Cubitt
  • "Pilot" - The Following, Kevin Williamson
  • "Hole in the Wall" - Justified, Graham Yost

Best Children's or Young Adult Novel:

  • Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing
  • Margaux Froley, Escape Theory
  • Chris Grabenstein, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
  • Elizabeth Kiem, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
  • Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work:

  • Maria Konnikova, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
  • Cate Lineberry, The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
  • Josh Stallings, All the Wild Children
  • Daniel Stashower, The Hour of Peril: the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
  • Sarah Weinman (ed.), Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

Best Short Story:

  •  Craig Faustus Buck, "Dead Ends"
  • John Connolly, "The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository"
  • Denise Dietz, "Annie and the Grateful Dead"
  • Travis Richardson, "Incident on the 405"
  • Art Taylor, "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants"

Best Paperback Original Novel:

  • Chris F. Holm, The Big Reap
  • Darrell James, Purgatory Key
  • Stephen King, Joyland
  • Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
  • Catriona McPherson, As She Left It

Best First Novel:

  • Matt Coyle, Yesterday's Echo
  • Roger Hobbs, Ghostman
  • Becky Masterman, Rage Against the Dying
  • Kimberly McCreight, Reconstructing Amelia
  • Todd Robinson, The Hard Bounce

Best Novel:

  • Robert Crais, Suspect
  • Sara J. Henry, A Cold and Lonely Place
  • William Kent Kreuger, Ordinary Grace
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Wrong Girl
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming, Through the Evil Days

In addition to the literary awards, the David S. Thompson Special Service Award was presented to Judy Bobalik.

As always, congratulations to the winners and to all the nominees. Bouchercon will wrap up with its final sessions Sunday morning.

Nov 142014

David Morrell won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery.

Duane Swierczynski on the "Crime Goes Visual" panel.

David Morrell accepting the Macavity Award for his novel, Murder as a Fine Art.

Josh Kendall and David Morrell: proud editor and author!

Macavity Award winner David Morrell flanked by Wes Miller and Pam Brown of Mulholland Books.

Our first day at Bouchercon. We’re having a blast seeing our authors on panels and catching up with mystery fans!

Nov 122014

We have arrived in Long Beach for Bouchercon 2014. We'll spend today helping with part of the setup - stuffing bookbags - and then get ready for four days of talking and breathing fine mysteries. We've already seen some of our old friends from prior conferences. I think we're supposed to have about 1500 or so this year. I'll try to post updates as things really get rolling. I'm moderating a panel Thursday afternoon (4:30 PM) about mystery authors who are/were journalists and write about journalists as protagonists, and I'll be part of another panel Friday morning called Collecting 101 (at 8:30 AM), to help readers build a collection of books they want to own. Add in a Wolfe Pack banquet Friday evening and, of course, the Anthony Awards (and others) on Saturday, plus a great many old and new friends, and it should be a great week. Will you be there? If so, please stop by and say hello!

Nov 102014

A candle most certainly can be an invaluable tool for providing light in dark places. Sometimes, too, it can shed light on an otherwise mystifying crime. That's certainly what happens in The Case of the Crooked Candle, an Erle Stanley Gardner mystery from 1944 featuring one of fiction's most famous lawyers, Perry Mason. The Case of the Crooked Candle is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.

The story begins with what seems like a routine, minor accident: a collision between a truck and a passenger car. Nobody is seriously hurt, but the truck driver refuses to let the driver of the other car write down any information about the truck. So the driver goes to Perry Mason. Then a curious thing happens: a lawyer representing the truck driver (or his company) calls Mason offering to settle the case quickly, out of court - and agrees to pay an enormous, unjustified, amount of money to settle things.

This, of course, intrigues Mason, and he launches his own investigation. Before you know it, there is a murder, on board a millionaire's yacht, and Mason winds up representing the man accused of the murder. The solution will only appear when Mason discovers the significance of that crooked candle, and the enormous impact it has in explaining the solution of a seemingly impossible crime. It all concludes with one of those brilliant courtroom scenes for Perry Mason, scenes which Gardner excelled at writing.

The Case of the Crooked Candle has all the elements that made Perry Mason such a popular character – and, according to Wikipedia, made Erle Stanley Gardner the best-selling author in the U. S. at the time of his death in 1970. It has a very complex plot, and the usual assortment of familiar characters from the series is augmented by the interesting and well-developed characters caught up in the mystery. This one can be highly recommended. It is out of print, but available as an e-book; there seem to be a number of used copies for sale as well.

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 book with a lawyer, courtroom, judge, etc.. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.