December’s Newzine

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JB would like to say how delightful it was to have Elaine W. wander into where he works. She was a long-time customer at SMB, really more of a family member. She’d been with us so long it is impossible to say how long. It was wonderful to see her!

      Awards!

The 2019 Shamus Awards were announced at the beginning of November at the annual Blouchercon, this year held in Dallas. Here are the lists of those nominated in four categories, with the winners in bright, bloody red. Congratulations to all!

Likewise, here are the 2019 Anthony Awards, nominees and winners, also announced at Bouchercon.

Donald Trump To Award National Medal of Arts To Jon Voight, Alison Krauss, James Patterson

Jack the Ripper victims’ biography wins book prize

Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims? 

‘Mouthful by mouthful’: the 2019 Bad Sex Award in quotes

      Serious Stuff

Part 1: ‘Men without faces’ led teen girls down ‘primrose path to hell’ in 1950s Portland prostitution scandal, Part 2: Revenge of Portland’s ‘blonde babe’: Teen prostitute told all about reform-school lesbians during 1959 vice scandal 

Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, a Stasi spy puzzle remains unsolved 

Privacy Issues Surrounding Popular DNA and Ancestry Tests

US domestic abuse victim pretends to order pizza to alert 911

      Words of the Month

miser (n): From the 1540s, “miserable person, wretch,” from Latin miser (adj.) “unhappy, wretched, pitiable, in distress,” a word for which “no acceptable Proto-Indo-Eeuropean pedigree has been found” [de Vaan]. The oldest English sense now is obsolete; the main modern meaning of “money-hoarding person” (“one who in wealth conducts himself as one afflicted with poverty” – Century Dictionary) is recorded by 1560s, from the presumed unhappiness of such people. The older sense is preserved in miserable, misery, etc. Besides general wretchedness, the Latin word connoted also “intense erotic love” (compare slang got it bad “deeply infatuated”) and hence was a favorite word of Catullus. In Greek a miser was kyminopristes, literally “a cumin seed splitter.” In Modern Greek, he might be called hekentabelones, literally “one who has sixty needles.” The German word, filz, literally “felt,” preserves the image of the felt slippers which the miser often wore in caricatures. Lettish mantrausis “miser” is literally “money-raker.”

      Books, Writing and Publishing

In 2018, Otto Penzler (owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC, publisher of the late, lamented Mysterious Press, and publisher of various presses still working) put his personal collection up for auction. See the photo below, and commence drooling.
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He now has a memoir about his years of collecting, Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector. At this link, you can read more about Otto and the collection.  At the far end of the lower floor, you can see a desk. On it, at the far corner by the window, you can see a Maltese Falcon statuette. ON the floor, leaning against the desk is what we assume to be the original art for the dust jacket of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia – published by Mysterious Press.

Oh to have had an afternoon to wander the shelves, look at the spines, and to possibly hold some of these books, the finest copies of legendary crime and mystery novels.

Garry Disher ~ Being a crime writer doesn’t mean I condone murder. Do I even have to say it? 

America’s First Banned Book Really Ticked Off the Plymouth Puritans


New Library Is a $41.5 Million Masterpiece. But About Those Stairs  

AND

The $41 Million Hunters Point Library Now Has A Leak Problem


Here’s Why You Should Preorder All of Books from Independent Bookstores 

Dublin Murders Makes a Murky Mess of Tana French’s Lyrical Crime Novels

Whodunnit in the Library: Someone Keeps Hiding the Anti-Trump Books 

‘Extraordinary’ letters between Ian Fleming and wife to be sold 

Dean Koontz reveals 6 new thrillers — and why you won’t find them in bookstores 

How the salacious double murder of a minister and a choir member in 1922 inspired one of the earliest legal thrillers. 

Why Penny Dreadfuls Scandalized Victorian Society—But Flew off the Shelves 

Martha Grimes Has Plenty of Style 

26 Years Later, Nicholas Meyer Is Returning to Sherlock Holmes. Why Now? 

Judi Dench appeals for public help to bring rare Brontë book to UK as auction looms 

Miniature Manuscript Penned by Teenaged Charlotte Brontë Will Return to Author’s Childhood Home

The Uncertain Future of the World’s Largest Secondhand Book Market 

After moving ‘about 20 feet,’ Burien’s Page 2 Books is reconnecting with its community

Shakespeare & Co. at 100 years 

Lin-Manuel Miranda Is Officially A Bookstore Owner After Purchasing The Drama Book Shop In New York City

12 Books Like ‘Knives Out’ For Fans Of Family Sagas, Murder, & Knitwear

Louisa May Alcott’s Forgotten Thrillers Are Revolutionary Examples of Early Feminism

Interview with an Archivist: Randal Brandt on Berkeley’s Legendary Detective Fiction Collection

The Rise of E-Books:The Last Decade Has Been Tumultuous For The Publishing Industry

      Other Forms of Fun

American Icons: The tales of Edgar Allan Poe

Jack Goldsmith discusses his book, “In Hoffa’s Shadow”, at Politics and Prose.

Serial didn’t invent true crime, but it did legitimize it 

The case for spoilers. Some people avoid them at all costs. I seek them out — and I’m not alone.

7 International True Crime Podcasts You Should Be Listening To 

Noah Hawley and Billy Bob Thornton Look Back at the First Season of Fargo 

Where does fake movie money come from? 

Shedunnit – how Agatha Christie became cinema hot property

Dutch police podcast unearths clues to decades-old murder  

Did you know about this deleted subplot in You’ve Got Mail featuring a creepy author?

‘Your throat hurts. Your brain hurts’: the secret life of the audiobook star

      Author Events

December 4: Warren C. Easley, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

December 7: Tamara Berry in conversation with M.J. Beaufrand, University Books, 3pm

      Words of the Month

polysemous (adj) 1884, from Medieval Latin polysemus, from Greek polysemos “of many sides” etymonline

polysemy (n) a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. dictionary.com

      Links of Interest

November 1: Indiana woman found dead with python wrapped around neck

November 3: Musician Stephen Morris’ shock as lost £250,000 violin returned

November 3: Olivia Newton-John’s Grease outfit fetches $405,700 at auction

November 3: Kazimir Malevich: A mystery painting, either masterpiece or fake, puzzles experts

November 4: The World’s Oldest Recipes Decoded

November 7: Mystery of Napoleon’s missing general solved in Russian discovery

November 7: What is Collins Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year?

November 8: 75 books from university presses that will help you understand the world

November 9: Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks

November 10: Sesame Street at 50: Five defining moments

November 12: Lady in a Fur Wrap: Mystery of Glasgow painting revealed

November 13: ‘The Soprano’s’ Lorraine Bracco Shares Memories Of James Gandolfini: ‘I Have A Profound Love For Him’

November 13: HUNTER: Sementilli murder an echo of 1944 film noir classic?

November 14: ‘The Preppy Murder’ Has a Very Different Take on Linda Fairstein’s Legacy

November 14: Rembrandt theft foiled at Dulwich Picture Gallery

November 14: Switzerland’s plan to stop stockpiling coffee proves hard to swallow

November 15: ‘One in a million’ three-antler deer spotted in US

November 18: Police break up archeological crime gang in Italy 

November 18: The Secret Life of Plants as Murder Weapons

November 19: Professor who is expert on corruption charged with laundering money

November 20: What can 200-year-old DNA tell us about a murdered French revolutionary?

November 20: Marco Polo parchment sheds light on last year of his life in Venice

November 20: Film Noir Perfectly Captures the Mass Torment and Paranoia of the Mid-Twentieth Century

November 20: Owner reunited with cat found 1,200 miles from Portland home

November 21: Aya de Leon on ‘Hustlers’, social justice, and the complicated intersection of feminism and crime.

November 21: Detectorists stole Viking hoard that ‘rewrites history’

November 21: Cambridge’s ‘Pink Floyd’ pub Flying Pig saved from demolition

November 23: Egypt animal mummies showcased at Saqqara near Cairo

November 24: Don Johnson: ‘I didn’t expect to live to 30, so it’s all been gravy’

November 25: Dresden Green Vault robbery: Priceless diamonds stolen

      R.I.P.

November 4: Yvette Lundy, French resistance heroine, dies aged 103

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November 15: Remembering Russell Chatham, landscape painter and writer.

From what we remember, the story on Chatham’s Clark City Press was such that if he chose to publish an author, they got to pick which of Chatham’s paintings that would grace the cover   of the trade paperback. And then they got that painting as a gift. The one we remember was the only novel by noted PNW poet Richard Hugo (he memorialized in the name The Hugo House) which was the outstanding mystery,  Death and the Good Life. The current edition of the book has a different cover but I remember when we had this one in the shop. It was lovely. ~ JB

November 15: Inventor of the famed ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’ dies

November 20: Walter J. Minton, Putnam Publisher Who Defied Censors, Dead at 96

November 22: Michael J. Pollard Dies: Oscar-Nominated ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ Actor Was 80

November 22: Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89

November 22: Jane Galloway Heitz dies aged 78

November 26: Soviet Spy who Foiled Nazi Plot to Kill Allied Leaders Dies, Aged 93

      Words of the Month

evagation (n.): The “action of wandering,” 1650s, from French évagation, from Latin evagationem (nominative evagatio), noun of action from past participle stem of evagari, from assimilated form of ex “out, out of” (see ex-) + vagari, from vagus “roving, wandering” (see vague).

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Last week on Finder of Lost Things…Marshmallows and music distract Phoebe from realizing something important is happening in Nevermore….

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Gail Carriger – Reticence

Weddings and funerals.

The two events which bring together friends, family, and tangentially attached relations together in one place then ply them with alcohol. What could go wrong? Add in werewolves, vampires, were-lioness, intelligencers, and inventors you’ve got the makings of a smashing party or a brawl.

Or both.

However, Reticence actually starts with a job interview and the hiring of a new doctor for the Spotted Custard. Then we segue seamlessly into a wedding.

It makes sense when you read it.

However.

For one to fully understand and appreciate Reticence, you need to have read the other three Custard Protocol books – plus the Parasol Protectorate & Finishing School series. As many, many of the main players from each of these other series pop up in this installment.

It’s what happens at weddings, everyone turns up to wine, dine, and dance to the happy couple.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps it felt a hair rushed at the end – however – Carriger does a beautiful job of winding up the series in an elegant and humorous way. Leaving herself just enough wiggle room, should the whim seize her, she could continue to write of Rue and her crew’s adventures. Or start an entirely new series set in the same universe.

Either way, Reticence won’t leave you disappointed. I know I wasn’t.

(And if you haven’t started reading Ms. Carriger’s books, you should! They are lovely, full of whimsy, tea cakes, supernatural creatures, the occasionally soulless, complicated inventors, steampunk, politics, and hats.)

Fran

November was kinda sucky for me. Let’s just say that I need two new knees, and our beloved but aged cat died.

I tend to read David Eddings when I’m down, 9780451488558but I found a “Death on Demand” book by Carolyn Hart I hadn’t read: Walking on my Grave (Berkley). It was the perfect read.

Okay, so I figured out who did it early on, and the big twist wasn’t really a surprise. But you know how it is when you visit old friends; sometimes you just need time in their company, listening to the old stories. Walking on my Grave reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, in the very best ways.

Granted, I still didn’t get the paintings at the end right, and I love that she always surprises me there. I’ll be Amber would have gotten them, though.

Oh, and be sure to read the chap-books at the end!

   JB

Shop dream: the shop was small, cramped, and we were running around looking for the Xmas books. Oddly, none of the usual ones were on the shelves. Authors’ books were missing those titles. Behind a bunch of movable displays, I saw that there was an alcove with a bunch of tables. The books on those tables badly needed to be returned. They were old and had dust on the jackets (so they were doing their jobs!).  Again, Amber was in the dream but not Fran. I really don’t understand why Fran isn’t in the dreams but the last couple have had the need to do returns, which probably goes back to trying to keep the place afloat.

Fran here – Yeah, why is that? I could help return books (after I snag the ones I want to keep, that is!)


Fran and I have had an on-going discussion about the cosmology in John Connolly‘s Charlie Parker series. Certainly, there’s a great deal of spirituality. There are figures of good and figures of great evil. There are actual spirits or should they be called ghosts? There are beings that are more – or worse – than human, whose lives are longer than those of normal humans. The figures of evil lay out their schemes and keep track of Parker. It is pretty clear that by now they’re afraid of him. Is it because he’s dangerous, or because he’s a figure of “good” who seems indestructible? There are “bad” gods, something unseen but referred to as The Buried God. Does that mean there’s a corollary Good God? I’m not a fan or a believer in organized religion but there’s a battle going on in these books between the destroyers and those who are out to stop them. I’m not ready to say that Parker, as well as Louis and Angel, are avenging angels in the classic, halo-wearing sense, but they certainly scare the shit out of the bad guys. And that is a great thing.

A Book of Bones is the 17th novel in the series. 9781982127510Fran and I would urge you to read them if you like lyrical prose and characters who are not all black or white. There’s lots of blood, sure, but gentle humor between friends as well as ribald laughs springing from the oddities of the human race. These are not books for the squeamish, but for readers who appreciate a challenge. If you do start the series, read them in order. That’s the best way to see the story lines unfold. If you do, you’re lucky, for you have a long line of books to consume. For us who have been following the series all these years, we have to endure the wait for next year’s book and pray it is a Parker book, not something else. Lord have mercy if we have to wait two years. Especially now, as  this latest book’s very last sentence is a twist you can’t see coming. It’s a game changer. Can’t wait to see where John takes us next!


Movie Review: The Irishman

I admit that I had high hopes for the new Scorsese movie. The cast would be stellar, the story interesting and, after all, it’d be a Scorsese mobster movie. The cast was great – Pacino as Hoffa was outstanding, Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino had a stunning stillness, Harvey Keitel appeared in a few scenes with a quiet menace, and De Niro was, well, DeNiro (I’ve always been a fan but just seems to be doing the same thing film after film – his expressions never change). But I must say it was a let down. It fizzled to it’s end and all you could say was “huh”. It is no Goodfellas.


Don’t judge a book by its cover. This cover is wrong. Don’t recall any trees in the entire story. This cover says “spooky”, even haunted”. Maybe so. But the spook is a good guy.

Evidently unsettled, too, by Reacher’s gaze, which was steady, and calm, and slightly amused, but also undeniably predatory, and even a little unhinged.”

Things are the usual with this book. Even normal. Except when they’re not. Reacher gets off a bus. He helps an old guy. He’s drawn into trouble. He gives better than he gets. Bad guys go down. There are some differences.

First, this reads like an homage to Red Harvest. Two rival gangs rule a town. They’re set against one another. Second, Reacher gathers a little team with whom he does his damage. Third, he talks about knowing someday he won’t win. Says he knows he’s old but not that old.  Lastly, he asks the woman to leave town with him. 9780399593543

Blue Moon – the title is as nonsensical as the cover art – but ignore it. This is one of the best Reachers in years. Good, hard, mean fun. It even touches on current issues. An easy triple. Maybe even an in-the-park homer.

But you should look up the meaning of “gamine”.


Shop dream: it was near the end of the month and I suddenly realized that the newsletter hadn’t been proofed, it wasn’t in the format for the printer and there was little time to get it done before it had to be mailed out… Did it have to do with needing to finish up this edition of the newzine as we near the end of November? WHO KNOWS!


Support Individuality, Neighborhoods & People

Shop Small Businesses!

August

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      Presents

If it hadn’t been for Seattle Mystery Bookshop, I would never have met Jonathan Santlofer (whose memoir THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK just went on sale, complete with his original art illustrating it – you want it, you really, truly do!), and who just sent me a print of his original drawing of Anthony Bourdain.

Thank you, Jonathan! It’s amazing!

Santlofer's Bourdain

Jonathan's signature

Jonathan's inscription

~ Fran

        Special News from Hard Case Crime!

Friends —hard-case-crime-logo

Over the years, many of you have asked us if you could get posters or prints of Hard Case Crime covers. The answer has always been no — until now. We’ve just teamed up with the incredibly talented Paul Suntup who produces gorgeous, hand-crafted special editions of classic books and comparably gorgeous art prints of classic book covers. Together, we selected 14 of our favorite covers — by Robert McGinnis, Glen Orbik, and Gregory Manchess — and Paul has put all his enormous skill behind reproducing these covers at poster size (16.5″x24″) as giclee prints on acid-free art paper.

My jaw dropped when I saw just how beautiful these look, and I think you’ll be really pleased too. If you want to see for yourself and maybe order some to decorate your walls or for your Hard Case Crime collection, visit Paul’s website:
https://shop.suntup.press/collections/hard-case-crime. And if there are covers we haven’t done yet that you wish you could order, feel free to email me to let me know: editor@hardcasecrime.com.

But for now: please check out Paul’s beautiful prints. You won’t be sorry you did.

Best regards,
Charles
———–
Charles Ardai
Editor, Hard Case Crime

           New Book from an Old Friend!

Every now and then, one of the shop’s long-time customers let us know that they have published a book. We used to tell such folks “get it published and we’ll give you a signing”. We can no longer offer that but we can still give ’em a plug.

Henry Berman was one of those long-time customers. He’d come in and we’d talk mysteries and he and JB would talk baseball. Recently, he wandered into the hardware store where JB now works – to the delight of both, we think – and mentioned he had written a book. JB offered to mention it in the next newzine, so here’s the info. It’s not a mystery, but it sounds interesting:

Teens and Their Doctors: The Story of the Development of Adolescent Medicine, by Henry Berman, MD, and Hannah Dashefsky, BSN, RN, traces the development of the field from the first program, opened by Ros Gallagher at Boston Children’s Hospital, in 1951, to the creation of the Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM), in 1968.

The book describes the growth of the specialty in those two decades, including how it was influenced by changes in society, and how practitioners responded to social change with approaches created to care for alienated youth, such as free clinics, mobile medical vans, and teen hotlines. The core of the book is composed of interviews with more than
eighty specialists in adolescent medicine, all of whom were trained by the pioneers of the field.

It also tackles the question asked of specialists in adolescent medicine: “What is adolescent medicine, anyway?” No simple answer is proposed, but the role these physicians play in caring for teens, and the characteristics of those who choose the field, are dramatized by scores of stories—from the humorous, to the poignant, to the heart-breaking.

Henry Berman is a board-certified pediatrician who has been practicing adolescent medicine since 1972. He is a Clinical Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and is on the staff of Seattle Children’s Hospital. [and he likes reading mysteries and the Seattle Mariners!]

        Author Signings

August 2nd, 7pm: Heather Redmond, Third Place/Lake Forrest Park

August 2nd, 7pm: Owen Hill (one of the authors of The Annotated Big Sleep – see JB’s write- up) University Books

August 7th, 7pm: Laurel K. Hamilton, University Books

August 15th, 7pm: Carola Dunn, Powell’s

        Words of the Month

squalid (adj): From the 1590s, from Middle French squalide and directly from Latin squalidus “rough, coated with dirt, filthy,” related to squales “filth,” squalus “filthy,” squalare “be covered with a rough, stiff layer, be coated with dirt, be filthy,” of uncertain origin. Related: Squalidly; squalidness; squalidity.

squalor (n) : from the 1620s, “state or condition of being miserable and dirty,” from Latin squalor “roughness, dirtiness, filthiness,” from squalere “be filthy”.

thanks to etymonline.com

        Links of Interest

The Daily Beast, February 27, 2016: My Lunch with ‘The Spider’ Who Nearly Wrecked the CIA

The Guardian, June 29th: Robert Harris: I’m Not Sure You Can be the World’s Superpower and Remain a Superpower

The Daily Beast, June 30th: The Kenyan Beach Town Malindi Is a Tropical Paradise—With a Mafia Problem

The Guardian, July 2nd: Alternative Nobel literature prize planned in Sweden

Seattle Times, July 2nd: Lit Life: Three true-crime stories that are stranger than fiction

Seattle Times, July 2nd: Adam Woog – Two new crime-fiction novels draw from real events

The Guardian, July 4th: Top Ten Books About Gangsters

AtlasObsucra, July 6th: Send Us the Greatest Note You’ve Found Written in an Old Book

The Guardian, July 6th: Gillian Flynn: Books That Made Me (“Agatha Christie blew my mind. Every character was evil”)

BBC, July 9th: How ‘Vertigo’ foreshadowed catfishing, AI and #METOO

Slate, July 9th: Raymond Chandler in the Age of #METOO by Megan Abbott

BBC, July 10th: The Ancient Library Where the Books are Under Lock and Key

BBC, July 10th: Original 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh map sells for record £430,000

BBC, July 11th: Joaquin Phoenix becomes the latest Joker

The Guardian, July 12th: Die Hard at 30: how it remains the quintessential American action movie

Live Science, July 13th: Possible Oldest Fragment of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ Discovered in Greece

Seattle Times, July 15th: A Book Lover’s Lasting Legacy: 5,000 Books Given to Yakima Valley Libraries

NWNewsNetwork, July 16th: We Might Have Been Looking For D.B. Cooper In Wrong Place For All These Years

King 5 News, July 18th: Seattle is home to the Northwest’s first “death museum”

New York Times, July 19th,  : Karin Slaughter: By the Book

LA Times, July 19th: Lawrence Osborne does Raymond Chandler quite well, thank you

Bustle, July 21st: Reading True Crime Makes Me Feel Less Anxious — And I Think I Know Why

KNKX, July 21st: Pinball In Seattle Had Corrupt And Violent Beginnings

Seattle Times, Sunday, July 22nd:

Adam Woog – Three New Crime Fiction Novels by Northwest Authors

Lit Life: Climb Above the Chaos of the Pike Place Market into a Book-Lined Oasis of Calm

  Megan Abbott Talks TV Projects, Raymond Chandler, and Women-Centered Crime Fiction

Washington Post, July 24th: A modern twist on a classic Agatha Christie novel

The Independent, July 24th: The Book List: The titles in ex-Talking Head David Byrne’s private library[this is a weekly column and past lists can be seen here.]

Bustle, July 25th: In The Era Of #MeToo, I’ve Realized Just How Rebellious ‘Gone Girl’ Really Was

BBC, July 26th: Sean Connery Co-Wrote a Bond Film That was Never Made

Bustle, July 27th: Thrillers Have Always Been A Feminist Battleground — We’re Just Finally Noticing It Again

The Daily Beast, July 27th: Inside the Fiery Massacre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen Estate

The Guardian, July 27th: ‘Dire statistics’ show YA fiction is becoming less diverse, warns report

BBC, July 29th: Tsundoku – the Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them

Bustle, July 30: Books From Thomas Jefferson’s Personal Library Were Discovered In A Dumpster — But The Man Who Found Them Didn’t Realize It Until It Was Too Late

The Guardian, July 30th: Accidents at Amazon: Workers Left to Suffer After Warehouse Injuries

The Guardian, July 31st: ‘Spectacular’ ancient public library discovered in Germany

        R.I.P.

The Guardian, July 7th: Spider-Man Co-Creator Steve Ditko Dies Aged 90 (JB is heartbroken…)

Vulture, July 13th: Stan Lee Remembers Steve Ditko: ‘His Talent Was Indescribable’

 

        What We’ve Been Up to

    Amber

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So my least favorite time of year is upon us – sticky, sweaty heat filled long July & August days. Other than giving me something to look forward to (i.e., September and October) I struggle this time of year…However the one positive thing which comes out of me turning into an immovable lump of Amber on hot days is I read to distract myself!

My current fixation is Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, yes I know I’ve written about them before, but I think they are wonderful so I’m reviewing them again! I absolutely adore these witty, smart mysteries and right now I can’t get enough of them! And I believe anyone who likes an excellent light classic mystery should check these books out – post haste!

The series is set in and around Egypt (a place hotter than where I currently reside). Each features some kind of archeological (occasionally straying into anthropological) endeavor. But Peters’ doesn’t limit herself to just Egyptian history, she also adds in the build-up of WWI and WWII and how these events impact Peabody, her family and their activities in Egypt. With so many layers of history in these books, you might assume that they would be dry and dull affairs…

Let me dissuade you of this very erroneous notion!

While Peters does a fine job with the history, she never lost sight of the fact she was penning mysteries. They are hilarious, adventurous and clever in their construction. While not necessarily always playing fair with the reader her solutions never come out of left field and still make sense. She adds and subtracts characters from her narratives at will, so they never become stale – even main characters who we grow to love aren’t always safe. Which makes (me at least) need to read each book carefully – but rapidly – to make sure my favorites are still breathing at the end!

One other thing I appreciate about these books, which other double-digit-length-series should emulate, Peters never repeats the same introduction to her characters from book to book. She found inventive ways to introduce new readers to her well-established cast without her longtime readers skipping the whole first chapter because she cut-and-pasted the same intro from one book to the next.

You can pick up the series anywhere and start reading – Peters herself skips around in time when she wrote them – but I would recommend you read The Crocodile In The Sandbank first. It will give you the essentials, after that you can read the rest of the books at will.

In that way, Peters reminds me of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (though don’t read them thinking Peabody is like Poirot, you will be sorely disappointed) after you read the first, you can skip around. Neither author is particularly bloody, but I would not place them in the cozy range – there’s too much meat in their mysteries for that categorization. In my mind, both writers created classic detectives and puzzles for them to solve.

Now to segue into another historical adjacent mystery…

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Meaning? The history isn’t particularly accurate – being steampunk in nature with a side of vampires, werelioness, and a ghost inhabiting a dirigible. While perhaps not the most accurate in its’ historical essentials the characters possess such wit coupled with impeccable manners you can skate right over any other irregularities.

What I am trying to say is that Gail Carriger finally came out with the third book, Competence, in her Custard Protocol series!!

The Spotted Custard (the aforementioned dirigible) and her crew are back and on a brand new adventure! This time they find themselves in South America on a mission to save the last remaining Peruvian vampires. On said mission of mercy, they will navigate unknown currents, pirates and the local’s mistaken notion that several of the Custard’s crew are Nuns working for the Spanish Inquisition!

While Competence never loses sight of the fact that it’s an adventure story, the most interesting storylines occur amongst the ship’s crew. Trying to ethically reform Rue’s soulless cousin (so he doesn’t murder everyone on the ship). Percy Tunstell’s shocking discovery that he’s actually having a rather good time floating around the globe. And finally, Primrose Tunstell must figure out where her heart lies – with her fiancee back in England or with the werelioness courting her.

I could not put this book down! I loved reading about the Spotted Custard’s adventures (mainly) from Primrose and Percy’s point of view! It was refreshing! Their roles on the dirigible, personalities, and sensibilities are very different from Rue’s. This extra attention allowed for a higher amount of character development for the twins than occurred than in the first two installments.

Plus from start to finish this book was all go! There literally was never a dull moment! I had a tough time putting it down! I just had to know what happened next. I cannot wait for the last book of the series, Reticence to come out next year, to see where this self-proclaimed band of misfits winds up!

    Fran

9781633884397I’ve always maintained that Kat Richardson is one of the most intelligent writers I know, and that statement still holds true. Writing as K. R. Richardson, her new novel, Blood Orbit (Pyr tpo, $18.00) is thought-provoking, dynamic, complex, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Unfolding her world deliciously slowly, Kat introduces us to a world that is basically run by the Gattis Corporation, and where rookie cop Eric Matheson and his training officer, Santos, run into a nightclub, a jasso, with seventeen murder victims inside. Almost immediately, Matheson is assigned to assist Chief Investigating Forensic Officer J. P. Dillal, and they’re given a very tight timeline to figure out what happened. Otherwise, in this Company town, the Gattis Corporation will come up with a solution that will suit its own ends, regardless of the truth.

And if that isn’t enough pressure, CIFO Dillal has been cybernetically altered, but the modifications are new, untested, and in fact, not completely healed. And he’s disturbing to look at, which makes him unsuited for undercover work.

The world created by K. R. Richardson is so layered, so complete, and so alien that it will take several books, I suspect, to really get a grasp on it, but it is well worth the effort – and I promise you, it’s an easy effort! Her writing is so smooth, so well narrated that you’ll find yourself learning about the various people, the races, the government, the corporation, all of it without really trying. It just seeps into your brain until you can see the world.

And her people! Oh man, I love her people! For one of the races she’s developed a patois that I desperately want to hear spoken! I suspect it’s beautiful, and strange, and I find myself using some of the language, which gets me the odd head tilt. I’m good with that.

Make no mistake, Blood Orbit is a police procedural, and it’s noir. Very bad things happen to those we care about, and events unfold in complicated and dark ways, but the truth is out there, if Matheson and Dillal (and you with them) are willing to do what it takes to find it.

I absolutely have to re-read this book because I know I missed a lot of nuance in my rush to find out what happened, and I’m already vibrating in anticipation of a sequel.

Keep writing, Kat! We need more of this!

    JB

I’ve been reading James Lee Burke since I joined the staff of SMB in 1990. I was struck by Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell on an almost visceral level. There’s something about those two that resonated with me, both through Dave’s narration and Burke’s words, and the actions of the “Bobbsey Twins from Homicide”. I’ve had my criticisms of the series: how many goombas did Dave go to school with in this smaller Louisiana town, and weren’t these best friends getting a bit too old to be pulling the shit they were doing if they were in ‘Nam in the early years? I’ve been willing to ignore those quibbles because I loved these guys so much. But it started to feel as if it was time to retire the series, really, and I thought that the end of Light of the World would’ve been the great way to do it:

“I placed my arm around his waist, and together we limped up the slope, a couple of vintage low-riders left over from another era in the season the Indians called the moon of popping cherries, in the magical land that charmed and beguiled the sense and made one wonder if divinity did not indeed hide just on the other side of the tangible world.”

9781501176845But then came Robicheaux last January and of course I’m going to read it. There’s no way to NOT read a book about Dave and Clete. But I have to say this is an odd book. It is jumbled with Dave doing and saying things that Clete would normally say, and vice versa. Dave’s fictional daughter Alafair has become even more a depiction of Burke’s real daughter, the wonderful writer Alafair Burke. A noted, local, fictional novelist in this book is said to have thought his best book is one that got little notice, White Doves at Morning – which is a wonderful Civil War novel that James Lee Burke published in 2002. There’s continual reference to a series of murders and there’s a bit about them in the Author’s Notes at the front of the book, but there’s nothing in this book that really addresses those crimes and those references just seem misleading. Dave feels lost and makes comments to Clete about their ages. And though I enjoyed the sheer pleasure of Burke’s writing I finished the book not really understanding who did what and why they did it.

Oh well. At least I got over 400 pages of Dave and Clete, Alafair and Helen, and that alone is well worth the time.

Killing King by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock continues the recent books and research on the assassination of Dr. King by filling in our knowledge of how organized and active what most of us have thought of as the KKK in the 1960s and showing the national efforts and range of these “humans”. The Klan was just one element of this crowd and, indeed, many of actors in this story were not members of the clan. They didn’t need it, they thought it too soft. Imagine that. The Klan just targeted blacks. These guys wanted the Jews targeted as much, if not more. They’re truly creepy.

The subtitle tells a great deal; “Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, and the Plot to 9781619029194Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr.” Do they say who fired the shot? I’m not sure. It’s a fascinating book but not for what it says about that horrifying day in Memphis but for what it says about the Southern white racists.

In light of Charlottesville, the recent press given to neo-Nazis, and the “alt-right”, this book shows once again how active these “people” have been all along and we who are humans and people have been fooled into thinking they’d gone away. But they’ve never gone away. They’ve been an ugly part of the American quilt all long. I don’t think I was naive about this but Killing King powerfully details their plots and plans, and makes it show in a different light.

One of the central ogres in the story is Wesley Swift, a preacher of hate and racial genocide whose rants had wide-ranging effects mainly due to tapes of his “church”. He and his followers were hoping to nudge the country into racial violence and, eventually they hoped, into a race war that would cleanse the continent. If you thought Charlie Manson was far out with Helter Skelter, the Caucasian monsters in this book were well ahead of Charlie.

What kept coming to me as I read this history was the racial terrorism that has continued since: Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations in Idaho; Robert Matthews, the guy who robbed the bank at Northgate and who split off to form The Order; what prison story or movie doesn’t mention the Aryan Brotherhood? Christian Identity, domestic terrorists – it all stinks of narrow-mindedness and a blood-thirsty belief that “we’re right, they’re wrong so they can die”… Where does it end?

Guess it doesn’t.

Lastly, I have to say something about Megan Abbott and Raymond Chandler and all of teeth-gnashing over are his books acceptable in the days of #METOO.

The new Annotated Big Sleep is a great deal of fun – mostly. 9780804168885It provides no end of local color to Chandler and LA at the time the book was written and published and does a great job explaining and showing how he cannibalized his short stories to be elements of his novels – in the case of The Big Sleep they do it nearly line by line. There are lingo explanations and word derivations. There are photos and illustrations – the original book on the left and the annotations on the right. As Otto Penzler is quoted on the back of the trade paper original, “What a great excuse to read this masterpiece again! The annotations are addictively fascinating, educational, and almost as compulsively readable as the novel.”

One complaint I have about the annotating authors is that they are far too PC. They’re putting today’s views onto an author who wrote this book 80 years ago!

Deciding who to read or not read now based on what and how they wrote 50 or 500 years ago is inane. Yes, in the hardboiled fiction of the early 1900s, women were demeaned and slapped around and viewed as dames and femme fatales. Some were portrayed as weak and some as praying mantises. Deciding to stop reading the authors now because they don’t measure up to our current political correctness or #METOOishness is as pointless as the arguments a few years ago to stop reading Mark Twain because he wrote the “n-word”. Guess that would ban Blazing Saddles, too… There’s a movie that couldn’t be made today and more’s the pity.

In no small way this is censorship.

Certainly we can take the authors’ time and atmosphere into account when we read their words but mature adults do that anyway, don’t we? We don’t think Shakespeare was anti-women because he manipulated Othello into murdering his wife, nor do we think it because Lady Macbeth was such a blood-thirsty femme fatale. Should “Hamlet” never again be taught or staged because he made Ophelia a “frail” who was so weak a woman that she drowned herself? 

The point is to not overlay our present views on the artists of the past because it isn’t fair to them or useful to us. “Present views” are continually changing like the width of ties or the height of hemlines. The shop once had a customer who actually professed that they’d never read a book in which the characters smoked. Imagine that! Let your mind wander and consider all that such a rule would eliminate from your culture. Isn’t there smoking in Some Like it Hot, West Side Story? There’s probably some in Mary Poppins! Egad!

Read Raymond Chandler for the beauty of his words, for the way he constructs a sentence, for the sparkle of his art because that’s what it is. Who really gives a damn who killed Owen Taylor? I never have and it’s never stopped me from loving the book. Let the things that make you cringe slide off to the side, don’t let them bother you, and slip into his pages.

“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.”

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