Gerald Elias: an eclectic anthology of 28 short mysteries to chill the warmest heart

One of my favorite book events of all time was one for Gerald Elias’ first Danial Jacobus mystery, Devil’s Trill (2009).  Elias, himself a violinist (at the time associate concertmaster for the Utah Symphony), brought what he referred to as his “fiddle” to the event, and gifted the audience with a short performance.  I’ve never forgotten it.

I was also a fan of the books, based on the odd-ish premise that a blind violinist could be a detective, his remaining senses sharpened by the lack of his eyesight, heightening his deductive reasoning abilities.  This is actually pretty classic Sherlock Holmes territory, the “Watson” being Daniel’s former musical partner and friend Nathaniel.  The mysteries, while utterly traditional, also gave the reader a bird’s eye view of the music world.  Jacobus lives in seclusion in the New England countryside but is drawn out to the city for different reasons. read more

Allison Montclair: The Right Sort of Man

This is one of the most intelligent and funny first novels I’ve read in a long while.  Set in immediate post WW II London – any fan of Call the Midwife will be familiar with the setting – it’s a period of time still governed by rationing and coupons, and people who have suffered some war trauma, be it loss, living through the Blitz, or actually fighting in the war.

Our two central characters are Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge.  Iris has a secret history of resistance fighting and espionage, none of which she can talk about; Gwen, an almost titled member of the upper classes, has lost her husband and is raising her son at her mother-in-law’s after a stint in a mental asylum.  She refuses to talk about it. read more

November Book Club: A Borrowing of Bones

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 6 p.m. at the Session Room to discuss Paula Munier’s debut, A Borrowing of Bones.  This well written novel focuses on Mercy (human) and Elvis (canine), both back from Afghanistan and both suffering from PTSD.  Together they form a good team.  Setting, character and plot are all excellent – all are welcome to join our discussion! Read my review here

Deborah Crombie: A Bitter Feast

I don’t think there was a book I was more excited to read this year than this one and happily, I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s been three long years since the last novel, The Garden of Lamentations, and I have missed Crombie’s perceptive take on human nature.  It’s character that dominates her novels.  Characters are the alpha and omega of her writing, and this book is no exception to the rule.

I have to say I nearly swooned when I discovered the book was set in the Cotswolds.  There can be no more English village-y type setting, and contemporary writers from Erin Hart to Elizabeth George to G.M. Malliet have taken this classic setting and run with it.  There’s a depth to Deborah Crombie’s writing that sets her apart, and it percolates through every detail of her novels, from setting to plot to whatever she has chosen to examine in a particular book. read more

D.M. Pulley at the downtown library

Meet D.M. Pulley at the downtown library (lower level event space) on Saturday, October 19 at 2 p.m.  Easy parking directly next to the library.  She will talk about her thriller, a multi generational ghost story set in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The abandoned buildings, haunted houses, and buried past of the Rust Belt continue to inspire her work.  Read a review here

Author Interview: L.A. Chandlar

L.A. Chandlar is the national best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series: The Silver Gun (2017), The Gold Pawn (2018), and The Pearl Dagger (2019). She also wrote the nonfiction book, Brass: Fight to Keep Creativity Alive (2015). She grew up in Michigan.  Fans of the Phyrne Fisher books or Rhys Bowen’s Lady Georgie books would enjoy these reads.

Carin Michaels, a freelance journalist and playwright, interviewed L.A Chandlar during her book tour stop in Ann Arbor.

Michaels: I met you on May 18, 2019 at an interactive workshop that you held for writers called Keep Creativity Alive at a Michigan Sisters in Crime conference. This local chapter of writers is great because it promotes professional development of women crime writers. read more

D.M. Pulley: No One’s Home

Meet D.M. Pulley at the downtown library on Saturday, October 19 at 2 p.m.

This is an honest to god ghost story, inspired by Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House.  It’s guaranteed to give you the shivers.  Threading together the stories of several – very tragic –families who have shared the same house from 1922 to the present, the connections move into sharper focus as the book unfolds.

The story opens with the Spielman family, who are making a move from Boston to the wealthy Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, where they are amazed by the amount of house they can get for their money.  While Rawlingswood seems impressive, it’s also a graffiti covered wreck, with stripped pipes and broken windows.  The graffiti is more than disturbing, calling the house a “murder house” and referencing dead girls. As Myron and Margot check the place out, Myron gets more and more excited, and Margot, more and more worried.  Despite her objections they buy the house and begin to renovate it immediately, where all kinds of things go wrong, spooking the contractors, who eventually refuse to go up into the attic at all. read more

American Police novels

At a book club recently, one of the members asked what were my favorite police novels?  The obvious answer, Michael Connelly, sprang up, but the writers who drew me in to this particular sub genre were women.  One of the true pioneers in this sub genre, Lillian O’Donnell, is one of my favorite writers.  My late father in law introduced me to her in the 80’s and I’ve gobbled up everything I could find by this talented and to me, ground breaking  writer.

Lillian O’Donnell started her career as an actress, but when her husband asked that she not be on the road so often, she decided to try writing.  She wrote and sold her first mystery in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1972 that she created the character of policewoman Norah Mulcahaney.  The Norah Mulcahaney books stretch from 1972-1998, finding Norah starting her career, climbing the ranks, marrying, becoming a widow, and along the way battling the sexism inherent in a very male environment. read more

Jorge Zepeda Patterson: The Black Jersey

Review by Mike Simowski

In the colorful setting of the Tour de France (the world’s greatest bicycle race), murder and mayhem ensue in this unique and compelling thriller. Marc Moreau is a professional cyclist and one of the best in the world. But on his top-notch team, he is relegated to supporting his best friend who has won the Tour several times and is gunning for another against stiff competition. In this highly competitive atmosphere, accidents, crashes and other incidents occur at a rate that is both suspicious and alarming. Marc, a former military policeman, agrees to assist the French police in an undercover manner on the investigation, while still competing in the high-pressure 2,000-mile race. read more

Nannies & Governesses in Crime Fiction

From Nurse Matilda to Nanny McPhee to Mary Poppins to Jane Eyre, the governess or nanny has proved to be a fascinating character in literature, and mystery fiction has it’s share of them.  Interestingly, both Nurse Matilda and Nanny McPhee where created by mystery writer Christianna Brand (1907-1988), beloved by mystery readers for her Inspector Cockrill novels.  Here are a few of my “nanny” favorites.

Patricia Wentworth’s sleuth, Miss Sliver, is a former governess, so the lions’ share of governesses come from her pen. While Miss Silver is now a comfortably employed inquiry agent, she retains some of her governessy characteristics and appearance, a great advantage when she aspires to invisibility within a household where a murder has taken place. Two of my favorites are Wicked Uncle (a.k.a. Spotlight, 1947) where penniless Dorinda Brown takes a job as governess to a spoilt little boy. It’s rare to have the governess be the main protagonist, and this is one of the few examples. The suspense is provided by Dorinda’s fear of her “wicked uncle” who turns out to be her new employer’s neighbor. He is so unpleasant he is of course murdered, but this is one of the most charming of Wentworth’s books. read more