November’s Newzine

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      Serious Stuff

My Family Story of Love, the Mob, and Government Surveillance 

Samuel Little: FBI confirms ‘most prolific’ US serial killer

How Did a Serial Killer Escape Notice? His Victims Were Vulnerable and Overlooked

The Green River Killer and Me

The British Spy Who Tried to Stop the Iraq War 

Cameron’s Books & Magazines, a Portland institution since 1938, is closing

New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail is to close 

Seattle hosts true crime event hunting for fresh clues in decade-old murder case 

Appeals Court Set To Weigh In On Request To Access Testimony From 1946 Lynching Cold Case. Can and Should Grand Jury Material ever be Made Public?

Famed NYC ME Baden Says Examination of Jeffrey Epstein Death Points to Murder

      Words of the Month

myrmidon (n): One of a warlike people of ancient Thessaly, legendarily ruled by Achilles and accompanying him to Troy, c. 1400, from Latin Myrmidones (plural), from Greek Myrmidones, Thessalian tribe led by Achilles to the Trojan War, fabled to have been ants changed into men, and often derived from Greek myrmex “ant” (from Proto-Indo-European *morwi (see Formica (2)), but Watkins does not connect them and Klein’s sources suggest a connection to Greek mormos “dread, terror.” Transferred sense of “faithful unquestioning follower,” often with a suggestion of unscrupulousness, is from c. 1600. (thanks to etymonline)

      Book Stuff

The Global War on Books, Redux: Governments are spending a remarkable amount of resources attacking books — because their supposed limitations are beginning to look like ageless strengths.

Author Jenny Lawson Aims to Create a Sanctuary With Nowhere Bookshop

Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed Through Infrared Imaging 

Light Billions of Times Brighter Than the Sun Used to Read Charred Scrolls From Herculaneum

Diary of a small town sensation: how the Wimpy Kid author built his dream bookshop

“Me Before You” Author Jojo Moyes Has Been Accused Of Publishing A Novel With “Alarming Similarities” To Another Author’s Book

From The Crime Hub – Some of the Best Legal Thriller Writers

Australia’s First Published Dictionary Was Dedicated to ‘Convict Slang’

Home on the Range ~ Craig Johnson – ‘Land of Wolves’ author moseys between stacks at the ranch 

Celebrating Elmore Leonard’s “Rules for Writing”

“My Ties to England have Loosened”: John LeCarré on Britain, Boris and Brexit 

John le Carré: ‘Politicians love chaos – it gives them authority’

Every Child Can Become a Lover of Books 

When True Crime Gets Personal 

Removing the Mystery From Mystery Writing: 13 Tricks Used by Acclaimed Novelists 

Tana French Is Our Best Living Mystery Writer 

One Neat Trick to Writing Great Mystery Plots (in which Charles Finch raves about Tana French)

The 20 essential L.A. crime books

New Hunger Games prequel gets a compelling title, book cover  

Oxford University professor accused of selling ancient Bible fragments 

The Booksellers is a fascinating look into the world of rare book dealers 

Writer Nicholas Meyer on the Inspiration Behind His Latest Sherlock Holmes Tale

How to Write Hercule Poirot in 2019 

Learning to Write Mysteries the Mystic River Way

The Crimes Never End: A Guide to Mystery’s Biggest and Longest-Lasting Book Franchises

What It’s Like to Build and Operate a Tiny Traveling Bookshop

Diaries Expose “Strong Brew’ of Ripley Novelist Patricia Highsmith’s Dark Thoughts

The State of the Crime Novel: A Roundtable Discussion with Crime Authors

The Hunt for Shakespeare’s Library: I Couldn’t Stop Looking If I Wanted To

      Words of the Month

Calliope : 1. the Greek Muse of heroic poetry 2. a keyboard musical instrument resembling an organ and consisting of a series of whistles sounded by steam or compressed air

With a name literally meaning “beautiful-voiced” (from kallos, meaning “beauty,” and ops, meaning “voice”), Calliope was the most prominent of the Muses—the nine sister goddesses who in Greek mythology presided over poetry, song, and the arts and sciences. She is represented in art as holding an epic poem in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The musical instrument invented and patented in the 1850s, played by forcing steam or compressed air through a series of whistles, was named after the goddess. Because its sound could be heard for miles around, the calliope was effective in luring patrons to river showboats, circuses, and carnivals, which is why the instrument continues its association with such attractions today.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      Other Forms of Fun

ABC’s Stumptown is the scuzzy private-eye show we need right now  (it’s also ‘set’ in Portland)

Knives Out director Rian Johnson explains how to build a great whodunnit mystery

Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile Starts Filming With An All-Star Cast

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Her Enduring Relavence 

Nancy Drew Is Not Who You Remember ~ The girl detective gets a CW reboot, but is she more than endlessly recyclable intellectual property?

The Seductive Power of the Femme Fatale

Is the time finally right for a “Friends” reboot?

Sesame Street to cover addiction with new muppet Karli

Marvel Comics at 80: From bankruptcy threat to billions at the box office 

Motherless Brooklyn Is a Warning About the Dangers of Unchecked Political Power 

true love meets true crime

      This ‘N’ That

Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink

JUNIE B. JONES: NIGHTMARE CHILD OR FEMINIST ICON

       Author Events

November 1: Ann Cleeves, UBooks at University Temple United Methodist, 7pm

November 6: Curt Colbert (with Jake Rossiter!), Third Place/LFP, 6pm

Noveber 13: Warren C. Easley, Powell’s 7pm

November 13: Clyde Ford, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

November 15: Daniel H. Wilson (and the Andromeda Strain), Powell’s, 7:30pm

November 16: Clyde Ford, Village Books, 4pm

November 16: Rick E. George, Village Books, 7pm

November 23: Ace Atkins (with Spenser), Third Place/LFP, 6pm

      Words of the Month

Triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13

It’s impossible to say just how or when the number thirteen got its bad reputation. There are a number of theories, of course. Some say it comes from the Last Supper because Jesus was betrayed afterwards by one among the thirteen present. Others trace the source of the superstition back to ancient Hindu beliefs or Norse mythology. But if written references are any indication, the phenomenon isn’t all that old (at least, not among English speakers). Known mention of fear of thirteen in print dates back only to the late 1800s. By circa 1911, however, it was prevalent enough to merit a name, which was formed by attaching the Greek word for “thirteen”—treiskaideka (dropping that first “e”)—to phobia (“fear of”).

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      Links of Interest

September 26: Sold ~ Charles Dickens’s Liquor Log

September 30: Piece of missing L.A. Library sculpture found in Arizona. Where are the other two?

October 1: The Messy Consequences of the Golden State Killer Case

October 1: Japan’s last pagers beep for the final time

October 3: How Mary Roberts Rinehart, Queen of the Mystery Novel, Was Very Nearly Murdered  (And don’t miss Amber’s write up further along!)

October 3: Gandhi’s ashes stolen and photo defaced on 150th birthday

October 4: ‘Object, matrimony’: The forgotten tale of the West Coast’s first serial bride killer

October 4: Herculaneum scroll: Shining a light on 2,000-year-old secrets

October 5: Playing Catch a Killer With a Room Full of Sleuths – At a forensic conference in California, law enforcement officials grappled with how to avoid destroying one of the field’s biggest innovations in decades.

October 5: John Dillinger: US gangster’s body set to be exhumed

October 6: The peculiar bathroom habits of Westerners

October 7: The Comic That Explains Where Joker Went Wrong

October 7: Paul McCartney’s psychedelic Wings tour bus rediscovered

October 7: Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons

October 8: Rube Goldberg: celebrating a remarkable life of cartoons and Creations

October 8: Here Are All the Aston Martins Confirmed for James Bond’s “No Time to Die”

October 8: Inside the abandoned Soviet base the Cold War left behind

October 8: See How The Foremost ‘50s Pulp Fiction Illustrator Anticipated Fake News In This Unusual Museum Show

October 10: Harry Potter first edition sells for £46,000 at auction

October 12: How to protect your books with medieval curses

October 14: After years searching, I found my sister next door

October 15: Blooming fakes: Amsterdam tourists hit by tulip scam

October 16: The art of doing makeup on a dead body

October 16: Would You Buy Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy’s Property?

October 16: Egypt archaeologists find 20 ancient coffins near Luxor

October 16: For Sale: Jane Austen’s Wince-Inducing Descriptions of 19th-Century Dentistry

October 16: The mysterious ‘inverted tower’ steeped in Templar myth

October 17: Why is Banksy vetting the customers of his online store?

October 17: Leonardo da Vinci feud: The ‘earlier’ Mona Lisa mystery

October 18: Fierce Australian dust storm turns day to night in seconds

October 18: Fearless, free and feminist: the enduring appeal of Jack Reacher

October 20: Longtime Universal boss Ron Meyer sues art dealer over ‘forged’ Mark Rothko painting

October 21: Australian newspapers black out front pages in ‘secrecy’ protest

October 21: Why Do We Rewatch Our Favorite Films?

October 21: Franco exhumation: Why is Spain moving a dictator’s remains?

October 24: Roy DeCarava’s photos of jazz greats

10/26: Defying the Cosa Nostra: The Man who Accidentally Bought a Mafia Stronghold

October 27: Kurt Cobain cardigan sells at auction for $334,000

October 27: Cimabue painting found in French kitchen sets auction record

October 28: Mystery of the skeleton hijacked by Nazis and Soviets

October 26: Ted Bundy Said an Entity Made Him Murder. These Ghost Hunters Went Searching for It

Oct 28: Want free barbecue for life? Help catch the burglars who stole from this restaurant

October 30: Australian police freeze multi-million dollar properties in Chinese crime link probe

      Words of the Month

Scaramouch: 1.  a stock character in the Italian commedia dell’arte that burlesques the Spanish don and is characterized by boastfulness and cowardliness 2a cowardly buffoon

In the commedia dell’arte, Scaramouch was a stock character who was constantly being cudgeled by Harlequin, which may explain why his name is based on an Italian word meaning “skirmish,” or “a minor fight.” The character was made popular in England during the late 1600s by the clever acting of Tiberio Fiurelli. During that time, the name “Scaramouch” also gained notoriety as a derogatory word for “a cowardly buffoon” or “rascal.”

Today not many people use the word (which can also be spelled “scaramouche”), but you will encounter it while listening to Queen’s ubiquitous rock song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in the lyric “I see a little silhouetto of a man / Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?”

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      R.I.P.

October 7: Rip Taylor Was In On The Joke

October 12: Robert Forster, Oscar-Nominated ‘Jackie Brown’ Actor, Dead at 78

October 13: Hitchhiker’s actor Stephen Moore dies aged 81

October 21: Nick Tosches, writer of great variety, dies at 69

October 28: Robert Evans, Chinatown producer, dies at 89

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Today on Finder of Lost Things...Beatrice stuns Little Ben with a compliment of sorts, Phoebe gives him some much needed advice all before dinner arrives at their table!

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Miss Pinkerton – Mary Roberts Rinehart

When you start this mystery, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

One, Miss Pinkerton reads differently than most modern mysteries. Due in large part to the had-I-but-known writing device, Rinehart is credited with founding. Meaning? Sprinkled here and then in the narrative are tantalizing hints of what’s to come — placed there by Rinehart to keep her readers turning the page late into the night.

By today’s standards, this method of storytelling is considered old fashioned. But it makes sense as most of Rinehart’s work was initially serialized in magazines, so she used this style of foreshadowing to hook her readers into buying the next edition of said publication. Initially, until I read enough to understand her style, it felt very staccato. But now that you’ve been forewarned, this shouldn’t be a problem for you!

(I didn’t find out any of this background information until after I finished the book – because I don’t read introductions until I finish said story, due to the shocking number I’ve read which contained inadvertent spoilers for veteran readers.)

Second, Rinehart not only was a novelist but a trained nurse as well. This hands-on experience allows Rinehart to infuse nurse Hilda Adams with some real depth, allowing our amateur detective to rise above her cookie-cutter counterparts in other mysteries of a similar vintage.

Not unlike Agatha Christie’s Superintendent Battle, who uses his police uniform to dupe the unsuspecting into thinking him dull and slightly stupid. Miss Adams uses her crisp white uniform to fade seamlessly into the background of a household to become a police detective’s ‘man on the inside’ and help solve a murder or two.

Third, similar to Georgette Heyer mysteries, Rinehart adds several different types of love/romantic entanglements to her story. Each fitting well into the narrative, they add extra layers to the story and the characters.

This touch of romance didn’t bother me in the least as Rinehart wove it into the text seamlessly. However, I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m letting you know. (BTW – it isn’t sappy and provides motive – so if you’re on the fence never fear it only adds layers.)

Overall I enjoyed reading this book.

In fact, the byplay between Miss Adams and her police counterpart intrigued me enough I’m going to hunt down the rest of the Miss Pinkerton mysteries! Because I’d really like to know where Miss Adams’ story started and where it ends since Rinehart provided just enough hints to make me want to find out.

   Fran

9781501998096I know, I know, you’re going to say, “Oh look, Fran’s touting a book by William Kent Krueger. So what? She always does.” It’s true. I do.

But wait, hear me out! STOP SCROLLING, DARN IT!

Desolation Mountain (Atria) is somewhat different from the rest of the Cork O’Connor books, and in an intriguing – if dark – way. Now I’ll grant you, I’ve spent several years poking around the North Country with Cork and his family, so in the first chapter I knew who the two people talking were even before I read the names. And what’s exciting about Desolation Mountain is it taps into something Kent is really good at: coming-of-age stories.

Go re-read  Ordinary Grace and tell me I’m wrong.

Stephen is really growing up, and I can see him eventually taking Cork’s place as an investigator, even though that’s not his path. But in addition to becoming a Mide, Stephen has a powerful need to know, to understand. And he has to learn who he is first, hence the coming-of-age bit. Granted, he’s 20 now, but sometimes I still think he’s 6. It’s been a delight watching Stephen grow up under William Kent Krueger’s skillful hands, and he’s becoming a powerful character on his own, which is fantastic.

But the other seriously cool aspect to Desolation Mountain is that Kent brought in a character from his stand-alone book, The Devil’s Bed. Bo Thorsen is involved in the same investigation as Cork and Stephen, but he’s not necessarily their ally. It makes for some off-the-charts tension.

So yeah, I’m pushing a book by William Kent Krueger, and it’s not a surprise, but the book itself, Desolation Mountain, really is! And if you haven’t read any others and pick this one up to start with, like my wife did, you’re gonna want to go back to the beginning and start with Iron Lake.

*************************************

Note from the real crime world – I’ve been reading a lot of police reports in my job, and I can now definitively say that every crime, every last one, is made infinitely worse when you read, “The suspect was wearing a clown suit.”

     JB

Blowout came from an interesting question. 9780525575474

Rachel Maddow wondered why Putin would risk messing with the 2016 US election. In hindsight, we know they did and, to some point, it was worth it – but it clearly wouldn’t have been a sure  bet. Had Clinton won, the full weight of the US government would’ve been pointed at Russia in retribution. So why the risk? It is an interesting question.

“The meek may inherit the earth, but the bold could certainly screw it up in the interim.”

And that’s where the book goes. Along with way, she provides a succinct and entertaining history of the oil industry and the birth of fracking. She overlays it with the growth of Exxon/Mobil, the corporate rise of Tillerson, the political rise of Putin, the growth of Russia’s kleptocractic state, and the economic pit Putin drilled for himself and his country.

And the center of it all is Ukraine. The Ukraine of Crimea, and Manafort, and the crippling sanctions affixed by the Obama administration due to Russia’s interference in Ukraine and its elections, and their military incursions. Ukraine remains in the center of things, now thanks to Drumpf and his quid pro quo, Giuliani and his buddies, and, of course, Putin’s schemes. Power, money, oil, natural gas, and more power.

“Putin and his techno-warriors figured out what differences and disagreements and prejudices were corroding the health and cohesion of American society. They found the most ragged faults and fissures in our democracy: immigration, race, religion, economic injustice, mass shootings. Then they poured infectious waste into them.” Putin just hack America. She adroitly shows he fracked us.

It’s a book with a broad topic but written with confidence and comedy – that which makes no sense is not spared her wit and scorn. What is or was farce is clearly shown to be. You hear her voice in her words as clearly as if she was sitting at your side reading it to you.

Blowout is a gusher of info and a barrel of fun. It is also a serious work.

9780982565087A while ago, I wrote a couple of posts about a trip to San Francisco and taking the Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour. It took me a couple of weeks but I hunted down a copy of Don Herron’s out-of-print book about it. It is great fun. It provides an entertaining and informative biography of Hammett as the tour proceeds around the city, telling you what he did when he lived at this address or that address, why this building or that building is mentioned in The Maltese Falcon and what the support of that conclusion is (the late PI and crime writer Joe Gores plays a hefty part in the opinions), and includes photos and maps of the routes. If you find a copy, and it is the 30th Anniversary edition with forwards by Hammett’s daughter Jo and by crime writer Charles Willeford, snag it.

 

Lastly ~ My Latest Seattle Mystery Bookshop Dream!

Bill Farley and I were some kind of contractors, doing painting in someone home (certainly affected by my current work in a hardware store). We walked into the bookshop – which was in a dingy area of town but not on Cherry St, I don’t think, the street was level – and it was clear it had just moved into this smaller space. Empty bookshelves were stacked to the left side of the door in front of a big window. There were also some that were jammed with books – I think it was the beginning of the alphabet. There were shelves lining the walls and Amber was busy loading books into them. There weren’t very many people in the shop at that moment but more began to come in. I stepped behind the register to ring someone up and there was suddenly a long line of people plus a cranky old woman who wanted to ask question NOW. Then the space was much smaller and it was hard to move around the shelves that cluttered the space. and the jam of customers.

Once again, Fran wasn’t in the dream. Not sure what that means…

But it was nice to spend time with Bill again!



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Another Review!

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Home Sweet Homicide – Craig Rice

Amber’s Review: So here’s the thing, I’ve never read a Craig Rice mystery, well other than Home Sweet Homicide. So in preparation for writing this review, I did some research on Rice and her writing style.

This is where things got interesting.

Well more interesting, as her book was entirely engrossing.

At first blush Home Sweet Homicide doesn’t appear to be a typical Craig Rice novel. Her primary detectives are three kids, ages 14, 12 and 10. There isn’t a drop of alcohol anywhere to in the pages which, according to my reference books, is unusual. As Rice’s detectives typically spend an inordinate time throwing the sauce back. In addition, the kids work loosely with the police, which her hard-boiled detectives rarely consider a worthwhile option.

However.

Digging further into her other mysteries, I began to glimpse Rice’s genius for the absurd and her flair for recycling old tropes into fresh plot devices.

Need an example of her absurd literary recycling? When short of the necessary pocket change, our junior detectives in Home Sweet Homicide would hit up the owner of the soda fountain for a malt on credit. Then pay off their debt when they managed to get two nickels to rub together. Archie, Dinah, and April were also not above hustling an unsuspecting mark to obtain a free malt or two or three.

This complicated relationship with the soda fountain, its owner and malts – bears all the hallmarks of Rice’s most famous detective of John J. Malone. Who favors whiskey over malts and Angel’s City Hall Bar over the dimestore on the corner.

And it works!

Another intriguing facet of this work is Archie, Dinah and April’s mother Marian Carstairs.

Marian Carstairs is considered by most an imperfect self-portrait of Craig Rice herself. Both were at one point crime reporters, freelance writers, and mystery novelists – who published under several nom de plumes. Even more telling? Their writing style. Both women simply rolled a blank sheet of paper into their typewriters and started typing. Neither woman constructed outlines, character lists, the major plot points, or even the solution until they punched it out. They just sat down at the typewriter and typed until they reached the end!

(btw- I’d be lost without an outline.)

This mystery was witty, smart, and fun to read.

I would recommend this zany mystery to anyone who could enjoy a plot which at one point or another – rests of a band of grubby boys, a mother’s day present and an impromptu dance party.

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P.S. – The picture, above my review, is of a Rue Morgue edition I bought at the shop years ago and is unfortunately out of print now.

But never fear! Otto Penzler has reissued this great mystery in his American Mystery Classic series. So you click on the green cover above the postscript to go to Otto’s site and grab yourself a copy of this great book!

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P.P.S. – Don’t forget to check out this week’s edition of Finder of Lost Things – Penny In The Air!

Both Wood and Orin come clean about the shenanigans they both pulled on Phoebe this evening!

An Extra Review!

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(The cookies in the picture are garam-masala chocolate gingerbread cookies – I use a different recipe than the one Nancy Atherton put in her book because it required nuts and I’m allergic!)

Aunt Dimity & the Heart of Gold 

by Nancy Atherton

Did you ever wonder how Miss Marple honed her investigative abilities? Or in fact, how she remained so sharp in between each case?

I believe she kept her wits keen through continual practise. Miss Marple not only investigated the occasional murder that crosses her path – but all the little mysteries that popped up in her village of St. Mary Mead as well.

Now you shouldn’t confuse the word little with unimportant.

As Miss Marple’s learned the small mysteries (and therefore their solutions) are often analogous to the bigger mysteries, like murder and blackmail.

Which I think explains how Miss Marple was able to solve Colonel Protheroe murder in her first full-length mystery, Murder At The Vicarage. She’d already had decades worth of parallels to draw from and years of practice finding answers to prickly questions.

Now you might be wondering why on earth I am talking about Miss Marple in a review for an Aunt Dimity mystery.

The answer is this: Lori Sheperd (our sleuth), in many ways, reminds me of Miss Marple.

Go with me for a minute here.

Married with three children, an American and decades younger than the Grand Dame herself – I know superficially, Lori doesn’t appear to resemble Miss Marple in the slightest. However, if you take a closer look at their traits, striking similarities start popping out of the text.

Both women are fixtures in their community, volunteer their time, help their friends, and enjoy a good chat with their neighbors.

This “chatting” is where we find one of the most significant similarities between these two extraordinary women – their marked partiality to obtaining and occasionally disseminating village gossip. This “newsgathering” allows them both to acquire a richer view of the villages in which they reside and a better understanding of human nature – which is essential in solving mysteries.

The other important trait Lori shares with Miss Marple is her love of solving little mysteries. Any curious puzzle that pops up in Finch – Lori wants to solve it. From a quilting bee that ends with a revelation of a widow’s curse to a mysterious wishing well – very little can stop Lori from pursuing the truth.

And by keeping this murderless mystery series, Nancy Atherton has successfully avoided the Cabot Cove Syndrom which oftentimes plagues series of this length (24 books and counting). Meaning? We aren’t left wondering why anyone would live in the small village of Finch if people keep getting shot, stabbed, poisoned or garrotted in it.

Similarly, Agatha Christie was able to neatly sidestep this Syndrome by only penning twelve full-length titles and of those she set a fair few of those outside the borders of St. Mary Mead. (Atherton’s done this as well only her mysteries are set outside Finch – though wouldn’t it be fun if Lori visited St. Mary Mead? Or is that to on the nose you think?)

The most notable difference between these two ladies that I think needs addressing is their outlook on life. Miss Marple’s take on the world is one of pronounced pragmatism. Over the years, Miss Marple’s heard a plethora of rumors and solved a multitude of crimes. This knowledge has lead to the understanding that while not always pleasant, the dimmest view of someone’s motives is often the most accurate. While Lori, who hasn’t seen nearly as much, holds a far more upbeat vision of the world and the people in it. Perhaps in time, Miss Marple and Lori’s world views will align, but only time will tell.

Until then Lori will continue to hone her skills (much as Marple did) solving every niggly little puzzle that creeps up in Finch.

Such as the latest installment, Aunt Dimity & The Heart of Gold. A lovely mystery which uses Christmas/winter as a backdrop/springboard to propel this mystery forward. Where a mysterious motorist crashes a Christmas party, then discovers a Hindu alter hidden in a priest hole no one, including the homeowners, knew was there!

Lori really has her hands full in this one…

I thoroughly enjoyed every page in this book. Atherton does a great job in balancing the mystery with the Christmastime theme. Happily, she never succumbs to the syrupy sweetness that often plagues book set in December! Again using the time of year to move the mystery forward – not stall it under a ton of garland.

Now, if Atherton’s backlist daunts you, don’t worry. So long as you understand you are not starting with the first book and are willing to roll with it, you’ll be fine. As it was, I was a few books (six) out of date and had no problems picking up the thread of the series again. Now I normally recommend you start with the first book first, so you understand the hint of magic eddying around the fringes of this series, but it’s not required.

All that being said, I must say I couldn’t put this book down until I finished the very last (and highly satisfying) page. And the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is that I needed to get some sleep!

I would recommend this book to anyone like me who loves a great mystery and/or enjoys reading Christmas books in July!

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Don’t Forget to check out my other blog – Finder of Lost Things!

This week, Dourwood decided is the perfect time to execute The Brace Affair…what could go wrong?

Need A Mother’s Day Gift Idea?

      Amber Here

Do you have a mother who enjoyed playing Lego’s with you as a kid?

Or a mom with a sense of humor, who appreciates you gifting her with a set to reminisce over – i.e. stepping on your missing brick, with bare feet, in the middle of the night?

I have just the set for you – a Pop-Up Book!

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Complete with two different stories – Little Red Riding Hood or Jack And The Bean Stalk! (Jack’s not pictured here. I like Red better.)

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Will Red save Grandma from the Wolf? Depends on the story!

(They didn’t include a Huntsman or his knife – perhaps Lego felt it was a bit to bloody?)

      Review

This is a way easy build (so long as Mom follows the instructions) by comparison to the other buildings I’ve shared with you! I finished in a hour or two watching MLS soccer a few Saturdays ago, so it shouldn’t eat up to much time out of your Mom’s day – especially if you build it together.

The final fairytale tome fits easily on a bookshelf (it’s about the size of a hefty hardback). The only downside is the Red, Grandma and the Wolf  don’t fit inside when the book is closed. So there’s a slight risk of them getting loose and straying under her foot…again.

But that will bring back fond memories of your youth and remind her how much you’ve grown and what a fine job she did raising you…Right? Definitely won’t have her cursing your name…

      P.S.

Don’t forget to check out my other blog: Finder of Lost Things!

This week Wood and Phoebe get confused by a conversational wizard!

Crime In Bricktown….

      Amber Here

Remember way back in December when I posted pictures of the seedier side of Lego’s “Modular Building Sets” (I dubbed it Bricktown just now as it’s easier to type)? The main attraction for SMB was the fact it had a Private Detective’s Agency on the second floor!

As it turns out there was a bit more intrigue to be found next door to the PI’s Office…

(Which of course is a separate build….)

The Brick Bank located next door to the PI’s office is getting robbed!

(Which incidentally is why my brother bought the set for me, he thought it was hilarious and the perfect compliment to my first set!)

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Here’s our Bank Robber preparing to enter the air duct which is conveniently is bereft of security features.

No one in the building suspects that a heist is happing right now! Not the staffer sitting next to the air shaft; nor the lady in the laundromat on the other side of the vault; even the bank teller is unaware of what’s happening a few short paces away!

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Our thief is positively giddy at the sight of his new found loot! All he needs to do now is make a clean get away – thru the secret passage way of the barbershop next door…

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Unfortunately our sleuth missed his opportunity to catch the thief in the act, as he was solving another puzzle (The Case of the Missing Tuna Sandwich).

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But he’ll be hot on the thief’s trail soon…

      Review

This build was perhaps a bit easier than the PI’s Office. Due to the fact you weren’t required to build so many secret nooks, exits and hidden holes. And while those made the PI’s office more difficult to build – it also made it more entertaining.

The Bank build was more straight forward. It contained a complicated aspects, such as the chandelier and the working vault door, it did grab me the same way the previous or my next build has.

(Though, to clarify it is still an Expert build – kids who are either veteran Lego build masters or kids able to follow step by step instructions without frustration or a combo of kids/older kids/adults working together to complete – should tackle this build.)

However, it does complete a great story and for that I found The Brick Bank build worth my time!

      P.S.

Don’t forget to check out my other blog: Finder Of Lost Things!

I promise it has nothing to do with Legos! And everything to do with murder.

Though in tomorrow’s episode Phoebe will enter Wood’s doghouse after a disturbing idea strikes her!

Another April Review!

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Amber Here!

Don’t forget to check out my other blog Finder of Lost Things! This week Phoebe nearly kills herself running up a mountain chasing possibilities!

Anne Bishop – Wild Country

Fran reviewed this novel in the April newzine – but because I love this series (and this book) so much I must add my review on top of hers! So here it is…

What do you get – when you mash together Stephen King’s The Stand with a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western populate the town with werewolves (and every other kind of were-predator you can think of) and a fringe of humanity?

Anne Bishop’s Wild Country.

This book invokes such a feeling of the old west that all I could think of was Aaron Copland’s Rodeo while I was reading it (and if you aren’t familiar with the Copland click here – ignore the first few seconds where there’s a woman speaking and focus on the music – the ballet – meh – but the music is one of my all-time favorite works). From the saloon run by Madame Sythe – complete with alcohol, gambling, and flirty girls (who ONLY flirt) to livery stables, cattle ranches and mounted police – Bishop did a great job of establishing the old west feel without taking it over the top. It was wonderful!

And here’s where I must echo Fran’s review – the events that occur in Wild Country happen concurrently with those in Etched in Bone – so in order to eke out every nuance from this story – you must read both books. You don’t have to if you don’t want to – I think you can pick up a lot in context – but not every event will make complete sense (and again you’ll miss the subtlety in Bishop’s plot). But if you mainline the entire series, starting with Written In Red, you’ll be in good shape! (And in for a treat – I adore every one of Bishop’s books.)

Either way, this book is an excellent read and distracted me from finishing my work so entirely I finally had to sit down and finish it in one marathon session so I could get things done – and because it was so good, I didn’t even feel guilty!

(And I feel guilty about virtually everything!)

Another March Review!

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Amber Here!

This book/series is so brilliant it deserves a second review!

Don’t forget to check out my other blog – Finder of Lost Things! This week Phoebe winds up in another shed waiting for a man about a boat on the way to the gang’s group vacation!

Maureen Johnson – The Vanishing Stair

Now Fran reviewed this book back in March’s Newzine -but I must add my own words to the wonderfulness that is this book! So read her excellent review (click here then scroll down or reread the whole newzine – your choice), then read mine.

Because we both agree you need to start this series posthaste!
Maureen Johnson should sideline as a magician.

Why? She has some serious skill in sleight of hand!

Like any skilled magician, she draws her audiences eye in one direction – while the real trick is occurring someplace else – leaving her readers to sit in awe of her skill.

By the end of The Vanishing Stair, Johnson gives us the answers we were looking for at the end of Truly Devious; who the pair in the picture were, who kidnapped Ellingham’s wife and daughter, what happened to the missing student and many other solutions besides.

But our author is tricksy.

While giving us the answers we crave – Johnson gives us more questions, complicated questions and subtly unravels a case we thought neatly sewn up at the end of Truly Devious. All without her readers fully realizing what’s happening until the final chapter’s finished.

Seriously this book is excellent.

If Johnson’s aiming for a trilogy, then this is one of the best, outstanding and brilliant middle books I’ve read in a very long time. In fact, it’s just a clever mystery on its own – but you have to read the first book first thus making this a superb middle mystery.

What’s even better? I have a sneaking suspicion Johnson’s sleight of hand doesn’t end in this installment – I think both our cold, unraveled & current cases link together to form something far more sinister than we currently suspect. Something which will impact Stevie (our heroine) in ways that she and we cannot yet foresee.

I cannot wait to see where exactly the next book leads us!