Ellen Hart: In a Midnight Wood

Ellen Hart knocks another one out of the park.  I continue with my mantra: if you love traditional detective fiction, few writers are doing it better than Ellen Hart at the moment.  The air is sucked out of the room by some of the writers of traditional fiction set in England (Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie) or Canada (Louise Penny), but make no mistake, Ellen Hart is treading the same ground.  She’s just doing it in Minnesota instead of London or Montreal.  As much as I love Cleeves, Crombie and Penny, I love Hart every bit as much, and with 27 books in her Jane Lawless series (and counting) there’s plenty to embrace. read more

Margaret Mizushima: Hanging Falls

This novel will be published on September 8.  You can pre-order it here.

Margaret Mizushima must have been a fan of Nancy Drew as a child, as she has the narrative gift familiar to lovers of Carolyn Keene of leaving a little cliff hanger at the end of each chapter (or novel, as the case may be).  I love series fiction for many reasons, but a big reason is visiting and checking in with the continuing lives of characters I’ve come to know and love, just as I loved checking in with Nancy, George and Bess when I was a girl. read more

Elizabeth Penney: Thread and Dead

There are all kinds of cozies involving small businesses, but this is the first series I’ve read where the small business in question sells vintage aprons and other types of vintage linens – sheets, dishtowels, etc.  As described by Penney, the shop sounds not only mouthwatering but fairly realistic.  Iris and her Grammie, who brought her up, run the apron store in Blueberry Cove, Maine (maybe it’s near the more famous Cabot Cove?) and she’s surrounded with a great mix of friends and a great setting. read more

Julia Spencer-Fleming: Hid from Our Eyes

If you’re a fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s, you’ll be delighted to know that Hid From Our Eyes picks up right where One Was a Soldier left off.  Since it’s been awhile I’ll recap: Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her husband Russ Van Alstyne have welcomed their first child (read the book to find out the child’s name and sex).  Clare is in addiction recovery, and believably – for anyone familiar with addiction – she teeters from sober to wishing she wasn’t.  That’s the rich background. read more

Emily Littlejohn: Shatter the Night

I am smitten with this series, now four books in.  Slight spoiler:  Detective Gemma Monroe is planning her wedding to Brody, father of baby Grace.  This is more or less background, however, as Gemma deals with a car bombing that takes place in the first chapter.  Set during Halloween, this novel is atmospheric and embraces the fear inherent in Halloween, rather than the cute ghostie trick or treating aspect of this now huge holiday.  Littlejohn goes back to the root: scary things that go bump in the night.  In this case, literally, an explosion. 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

Ellen Hart: Twisted at the Root

The 26th novel in the Jane Lawless series is as good, as crisp, as memorable, as the first in the series. Jane, the calm center of every storm in her life, agrees to investigate a closed case (the alleged perpetrator is in prison) when her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, asks. The case involves the murder of one partner by another – the partner was an obvious choice as the killer and was duly convicted. But.

Everyone Jane talks to – including her old friend, the flamboyant Cordelia – affirms the man’s goodness, and their disbelief that he could harm anyone. Many threads swirl around the case, which at first looked like a suicide. Ellen Hart, in her masterly way, uses these many threads to paint her complex portrait of a crime. read more

The Cozy: a Purely American Art Form

In 1962, a woman named Phyllis James sat down and wrote Cover Her Face, the first Adam Dalgleish mystery.  Two years later, in 1964, Ruth Rendell wrote her first Reg Wexford mystery, From Doon with Death.  These two women pulled the golden age format created by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers into the present, and as they wrote, they deepened the form psychologically, writing darker, more intense and longer books as their careers progressed.  They were the godmothers of what I think of as the contemporary noir police novel, and writers like Jill McGowan, Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Elizabeth George and many others have carried it forward. read more

Annelise Ryan: Needled to Death

This book has a cozy look, but I wouldn’t say it’s a cozy. It’s kind of a half cozy, but if you shop by cover art, the cute dog isn’t going to quite give you the picture of what’s inside. I’m a fan of Ryan’s Mattie Winston series because of the complex characters and situations, and this book, the first in a “new” series, actually features a character introduced in the last Mattie Winston book, Hildy Schneider.

Hildy is a hospital social worker who leads a grief group. As the book opens, the group is meeting, and a new member to the group has lost her son to addiction, a sadly unremarkable story. What’s different is that the woman insists her son wasn’t involved with drugs and that he was murdered. The cops are skeptical and have closed the case – the young man was found with a needle hanging out of his arm, and after all, does a parent always know what their child is up to? read more

Terry Shames: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

This is the first Samuel Craddock mystery I’ve read, largely on the advice of other readers I met at Left Coast Crime this year.  As when I had a bookstore, the best recommendations often come from fellow readers, and I decided to give this one a try.  I was intrigued when I sat next to Terry at a panel and she told me this was a police series, by far one of my favorite sub genres.  This is a softer police story than say, one by Michael Connelly, but it’s still a police novel and a very good one. read more