January 2022

The stuffed toys that inspired A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

NYC Public Library’s Cabinet of Wonders Opens Wide

Words for the Month

pilpul (n.) A pointless argument. (Says You! #919)

HUH? Stuff

A first edition of Harry Potter is now the most expensive modern work of fiction ever sold.

On the Murder Mystery Movie Written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins

The Underappreciated Genius of William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley [the remake by Benicio Del Toro comes out soon]

See the Real Live Man Who Grew Up in a Carnival

Nuclear Experts: Hey, So, Those Anti-5G Radiation Necklaces Are Actually Radioactive

Wait, is ‘Die Hard’ a remake of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’

Can you solve the very first published crossword puzzle?

Indiana Jones’ Rabbi Thought He Found the Ark of the Covenant and Nearly Started a War

The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2021

Did Philip K. Dick discover the real-life Matrix in 1977?

Serious Stuff

Retail Theft Has Gotten Very Organized

Israeli spyware was used against US diplomats in Uganda

The CIA Is Deep Into Cryptocurrency, Director Reveals

10 Books Texas Officials Want to Ban From Schools

Crime Prediction Software Promised to Be Free of Biases. New Data Shows It Perpetuates Them

To Investigate Serial Killers with the FBI, First She Had to Pass the Test

The FBI’s Legendary Mindhunter Wonders, Did He Get It Right?

‘JFK’ at 30: Oliver Stone and the lasting impact of America’s most dangerous movie

Inside the Disastrous Conspiracy Roadshow That Likely Killed a COVID-Denying Ex-CIA Agent

The meaning of words: Orwell, Didion, Trump and the death of language

Local Stuff

‘You don’t know how to grieve’: Loved ones of missing Federal Way teen gather 24 years later

Cold case detective, forensic DNA scientist hope to inspire others after solving infamous Spokane crime

Oregon-based Dark Horse Comics sold to Swedish video game company

Rethinking mugshots: Online era means they live forever so states, including Oregon, are moving to limit release

Words for the Month

oojah (n.) An object whose name one can’t remember. (Says You !#916)

Odd Stuff

Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story

How the CIA Took Over a Florida Island

Hackers Are Spamming Businesses’ Receipt Printers With ‘Antiwork’ Manifestos

TikTok isn’t just for tearjerkers—it’s also for obscure 1930s literary puzzles, apparently.

Who Owns a Recipe? A Plagiarism Claim Has Cookbook Authors Asking

The ‘Home Alone’ house could be yours for a night

Ransomware Jerks Helped Cause the Cream Cheese Shortage

Ohio police ask for help finding thieves who stole entire bridge

He was close by for three presidential assassinations. Including his dad’s.

Man Who Tried to Kill the Queen With a Crossbow Made Darth Vader Terror Video Before Breaking into Palace

9 Spine-Tingling True Crime Relics Sold in 2021

SPECTRE

Amazon’s Dark Secret: It Has Failed to Protect Your Data

What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Most of Amazon’s Pollution-Spewing Warehouses Are Built In Communities of Color

This Amazon program has funneled thousands to anti-vax activists during the pandemic

Amazon Delivery Workers Threatened With Firing, Told to Keep Driving During Tornadoes

Words of the Month

cumberground (n.) Totally worthless object or person; something that is just in the way. (fishofgold.net)

Awards

Here are the winners of the 2021 Hugo Awards.

Hugo Awards Host DisCon III Apologizes for Taking Money From Defense Company

Martha Wells continues run of female Hugo award winners

Survey says: the Booker is the most important literary prize in the world.

Book Stuff

Emma Straub on Opening Her Bookstore, Books Are Magic

Millions of followers? For book sales, ‘it’s unreliable.’

Feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate

Library audio and ebook loans in 2021 reveal unexpected stars

Chris Cuomo’s Upcoming Book Pulled by HarperCollins

Penguin Random House Defends Effort to Buy Simon & Schuster

Lawrence Block: The Thrill of Discovering the Novels of Fredric Brown

Co-founder of independent bookstore in Hong Kong, Jisaam Books, shares why she continues even if it makes no profit

True Crime Is Changing (And That’s A Good Thing)

Nothing Like a Mad Woman: 11 Unexpected Thrillers About Female Rage

The New Outliers: How Creative Nonfiction Became a Legitimate, Serious Genre

Writing Sex Scenes in the Realm of Mystery

‘Don’t start a sex scene when your mother-in-law is visiting’: how I wrote a novel in a month

The Books Briefing: The Quiet Skill of Mass-Market Novels

Lost library of literary treasures saved for UK after charity raises £15m

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem: A Town with a Dark History of Brutality and Murder

Poor, Black and in Real Trouble: The Baltimore Noir of Jerome Dyson Wright

One of world’s smallest books sold at auction for £3,500

How Many Books Does It Take to Make a Place Feel Like Home?

Inside Yu and Me Books, Manhattan’s first Asian American woman-owned bookstore/café.

Politics and Prose employees moved to unionize—then the store owners hired an anti-union law firm.

This village was a book capital. What happens when people stop buying so many books?

Other Forms of Entertainment

8 True Crime Podcasts You Need to Listen to This Winter

‘I’ve healed. I don’t want to be the badass’ – Noomi Rapace on beating her Dragon Tattoo trauma

How HBO’s Love Life addresses the whiteness of the publishing industry

James Bond: acclaimed writers explain how they would reinvent 007

Sylvester Stallone to Star in Taylor Sheridan/Terence Winter Contemporary Kansas City Mob Drama for Paramount+

Mannix Was Vintage TV’s Perfect Savvy PI

Our 15 Favorite Underrated Film Noirs

The Real Story Behind ‘Casablanca’

The Best Crime Movies of 2021

Dirty Harry at 50: Clint Eastwood’s seminal, troubling 70s antihero

Vincent D’Onofrio on Wilson Fisk’s Hawkeye Return: “He Wants His City Back”

Rat Pack Crime Cinema

Spectre Cut Twist Would Have Revealed Ralph Fiennes’ M As Blofeld

The Black Neo-noirs of the ’90s

10 Best Neo-Noir Thrillers To Watch Like Nightmare Alley

Words of the Month

vada (n.) Damp or moist (Says You #1025)

RIP

Dec 1: Here’s our tribute to G.M. Ford

Dec 1: Philip B. Heymann, 89, Dies; Prosecuted Watergate and Abscam

Dec 5: Martha De Laurentiis, Producer on ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Red Dragon,’ Dies at 67

Dec 11: Anne Rice, who spun gothic tales of vampires, dies at 80

Dec 15: Trailblazing feminist author, critic and activist bell hooks has died at 69

Dec 23: Joan Didion has died at 87

Dec 27: Sarah Weddington, attorney who won Roe v Wade abortion case, dies aged 76

Dec 27: Andrew Vachss died at 79. At this time we have no details

Dec 29: David Wagoner, prolific poet of the Northwest, is dead at 96

Dec 30: Assunta Maresca, first female boss in Camorra mafia, dies aged 86: Maresca, known as Pupetta, or ‘Little Doll’, found fame when she shot dead her husband’s killer in Naples at the age of 18

Links of Interest

Nov 30: Inside the FBI’s Unlikely Undercover Operation Infiltrating a Radical Militia in Kansas

Dec 1: Serial killer’s confessions have LA detectives chasing ghosts

Dec 1: Dickens letter brings Victorian dinner drama to life

Dec 2: A Prolific Art Thief Got an Incredible Sentence

Dec 3: The Ponzi of Paris: The Greatest, Wildest Confidence Artist in French History

Dec 4: Police may have discovered source of the “bags and bags” of money in wall of Joel Osteen’s church

Dec 7: Hedge Fund Billionaire Surrenders $70 Million in Looted Art

Dec 9: Encrypted Phone Company Backdoored by FBI Will Lead to ‘Years’ of Arrests

Dec 9: Mom Charged for Telling Daughter to Punch Opponent in High School Basketball Game

Dec 9: The Tragic Misfit Behind “Harriet the Spy”

Dec 11: Secret Customs and Border Protection Unit Snooped on Journalists, Gov’t Officials

Dec 14: N.Y. Ethics Board Tells Former Gov. Cuomo to Return Book Money

Dec 14: Mysterious 40-Year-Old Remains ID’d as Member of Soul Outfit the O’Jays

Dec 14: OJ Simpson a ‘completely free man’ after parole ends in Nevada

Dec 15: Meet MS-13’s ‘Black Widow’ Who Tricked Men Into Marriage and Killed Them

Dec 16: The lawyer who tried faking his death, and the writer exposing his crime dynasty

Dec 26: 6 of the Biggest Crypto-Heists of 2021 – Gizmodo

Words of the Month

ultracrepidarian (adj.) Noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise. (fishofgold.net)

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

Liz Ireland – Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide

What do you get when you take Christmas, Halloween, murder, and whiz it up in a blender?

This book.

Okay – now you need to trust me on this one.

April Claus married into one of the most famous families in the world, which initially didn’t impact her life a whole lot – as her husband was heir to the mantle of Santa Claus. Sadly, thru a series of unfortunate and murderous events, both she and her husband were thrust into the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus on a strictly interim basis. (The details of how this came about are detailed Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings.)

Now having a whole year of Mrs. Claus duties under her belt and being the new blood of the clan April is keen on introducing the elves of Christmastown to another holiday, her (previous) favorite Halloween, an idea which proves somewhat controversial in a town dedicated to all things Christmas.

A small but vocal contingent of elves believes Christmastown should remain a single celebration city. The most vocal critic of All Hallows Eve is Tiny Sparkletoes – who unfortunately – is found dead not long after a greenhouse full of pumpkins is vandalized…

Now I picked up this book based on the mash-up of holidays promised in the title – and it did not let me down. In fact, it utterly beat my expectations! The setting of Christmas town, the entertaining character names, and the reindeer (oh, the reindeer!) are treated so off-handedly that it successfully neutralizes the sweetness that could’ve crept into this narrative. April Claus just happens to live at the North Pole with her husband in Kringle Castle.

No big deal.

It also helps that April finds herself hip-deep in investigating a case of vandalism but a potential murder. Then there’s the problem of her best friend’s creepy boyfriend, drunk reindeer, and a mother-in-law who isn’t ready to cede her status as the numero uno – Mrs. Claus.

Seriously, Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide is a well-paced and surprisingly nuanced themed mystery that will have you turning the pages quicker and quicker to find out whodunit!

Fran

HAPPY MERRY JOLLY!

So, how was your holiday season? We spent ours being all trendy, having the newly fashionable COVID Christmas, and it was just as spectacular as you might imagine.

I hope you didn’t participate, and if you did, I hope you’re feeling much better. We are, thank you for asking. That’s very sweet of you, but we’re vaccinated and boosted, so we were just unhappy, not in danger. Mostly we were blearily waiting for Barnaby to solve the Midsomer crime of the day. He’s reliable, is Barnaby. We needed that. Thank you, Caroline Graham!

I didn’t read a lot during this time. Brain fog is a real thing, hence the need for Barnaby to solve the cases. But I did read a YA book that was tons of fun, and perfectly suited my mood – Maureen Johnson’s Devilish.

While I never attended a religious prep school on the East Coast, any high school student will be able to relate to the issues facing Jane Jarvis, who doesn’t quite fit in, is too smart for her own good, and is worried about her bestie, Allison Concord. See, Ally’s changed, and while on the surface it seems to be a good thing, Jane is concerned because the changes in Ally are so radical. I mean, who gets a scholarship that pays for you to go shopping? To change your entire personality and become the Cool Kid? Something is suspicious, and Jane is going to find out what.

What I love about Maureen Johnson’s writing is how very relatable all her people are. While I’ve never been in the circumstances Jane finds herself in – and I’m grateful for that, by the way! – I know her, and Ally, and Owen, and Elton, and even the nuns.

Devilish is a quick read, which is perfect for this time of year, and definitely worth your while. If, however, you decide to save it for a summer beach read, I totally understand. The important thing is that you read it. Which you will, right?

BEST OF THE NEW YEAR TO ALL!

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

December 2021

A Word for the Wet November

obnubilate (v.): “to darken, cloud, overcloud,” 1580s, from Latin obnibulatus, past participle of obnubilare “to cover with clouds or fog,” from ob “in front of, against” (see ob-) + verb from Latin nubes “cloud,” from PIE *sneudh– “fog” (see nuance). Related: Obnubilated; obnubilating. Middle English had obnubilous “obscure, indistinct” (early 15th C.). (etymonline.com)

10 Perfectly Plotted Murder Mysteries That Take Place During Christmas [she missed Criss Cross by Tom Kakonis]

10 Thrillers You Forgot Take Place During Christmas [left out was Lethal Weapon!]

Is your Christmas present spying on you? How to assess gifts’ privacy risks

Engraved on a tombstone almost 2000 years ago, this is music’s oldest surviving composition

Remember when the Grateful Dead did a 12-minute freestyle based on “The Raven”?

Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie by Carla Valentine review – science and skullduggery

Who will buy the extremely rare concept art book for Jorodowsky’s unproduced Dune?

Rare Einstein Papers Containing Early Relativity Calculations Fetch $13 Million At Auction

Bishop Who Left Clergy for Erotica Writer Accused of Being ‘Possessed’

Dubbing ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ to spread the Navajo language

Huge Roman Mosaic Depicting Scenes From the ‘Iliad’ Found Beneath U.K. Field

On the only mystery novel written by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh

obloquy (n.): From the mid-15th C., obloquie, “evil speaking, slander, calumny, derogatory remarks,” from Medieval Latin obloquium “speaking against, contradiction,” from Latin obloqui “to speak against, contradict,” from ob “against” (see ob-) + loqui “to speak,” from PIE root *tolkw- “to speak.” Related: Obloquious. (etymonline.com)

Serious Stuff

What is the ‘international’ hand signal to indicate you are in danger and where does it come from?

A parent wants to criminally prosecute librarians for sharing a book about a genderqueer kid.

Conservatives Are Just Openly Endorsing Book Burning Now

Burning books: 6 outrageous, tragic and weird examples in history

We’re Preparing For a Long Battle.’ Librarians Grapple With Conservatives’ Latest Efforts to Ban Books

Fairfax schools will return 2 books to shelves after reviewing complaints over content

A woman murdered every month: is this Greece’s moment of reckoning on femicide?

Two men convicted in assassination of Malcolm X to be exonerated

Denver area worst in U.S. for porch pirates, study suggests

Local Stuff

The Monsters of Maple Falls

‘Case of the century’: Lawyers, judges and journalists reflect on case of Kevin Coe, Spokane South Hill rapist, 40 years later

Powell’s Books survived Amazon. Can it reinvent itself after the pandemic?

What About Ann Rule? An ode to the original queen of true crime, who focused on victims, not perpetrators; lessons, not details; and loss, not violence.

Seattle pair charged with stealing $1 million in jobless benefits, small business loans

Nancy Pearl, Seattle’s most famous librarian, looks back on a lifetime of books

In a Confessional Book, a Nike Exec Omits the Name of the Man He Murdered

Omak Library may close if anti-mask aggression continues

BookTree in Kirkland entices with new and used books; here’s what its customers are reading

The 10 Weirdest Revelations from the FBI Files on D.B. Cooper for the 50th Anniversary of His Escape

Odd Stuff

Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year

‘Plastic and Lies’: Murder Charges Expose Vast Underground Butt-Injection Operation

Michael Corleone, Role Model

Quentin Tarantino is selling Pulp Fiction all over again – this time as art

Of Course True Crime Fans Are Guilty: For Fyodor Dostoevsky, that was the point.

SPECTRE

[seriously, we were honest in our belief that it wasn’t worth including stories about Amazon. We’ve waged a war against the behemoth for 20 years and few have paid attention. But the stories keep piling up, sooo…..]

Bookshops thrive as France moves to protect sellers from Amazon

Interview: The Every is about an all-powerful monopoly that seeks to eliminate competition’: why Dave Eggers won’t sell his new hardback on US Amazon

Elizabeth Warren’s concerns over COVID book sold on Amazon draw Seattle lawsuit

In the supply chain battle of 2021, small businesses are losing out to Walmart and Amazon

Amazon takes its war to get products to our door to the high seas

Amazon push for lower prices could be bad for shoppers everywhere

Tom Morello Signs Open Letter Denouncing Amazon’s Palm-Scanning Concert Tech

Forget Amazon. The Best Gifts Are Closer Than You Think

Amazon Will Face Black Friday Strikes and Protests in 20 Countries

Amazon agrees to pay $2.5M to settle pesticide sales lawsuit

How Amazon may change America’s chicken economy

Higher prices on Amazon cause a retail ripple effect

Words of the Month

obscurantism (n.): “opposition to the advancement and diffusion of knowledge, a desire to prevent inquiry or enlightenment,” 1801, from German obscurantism, obscurantismus (by 1798); see obscurant + -ism. (etymonline.com)

Awards

Here are the winners of the 2021 National Book Awards

National Book awards: Jason Mott wins US literary prize for ‘masterful’ novel Hell of a Book

Book Stuff

Texas School District Tells GOP Rep to Shove His Silly Book Burning Crusade

Justice Dept. Sues Penguin Random House Over Simon & Schuster Deal

Authors Guild calls for DoJ to block Bertelsmann’s S&S purchase

The Century-Old Russian Novel Said to Have Inspired ‘1984

James Bond: Kim Sherwood to write trilogy as first female 007 author

Sally Rooney novels pulled from Israeli bookstores after translation boycott

Paul Newman Will Tell His Own Story, 14 Years After His Death

What Agatha Christie’s Novels—And Life—Have to Teach Today’s Crime Writers

Lisa Lutz, Author and Secret Sharer

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen on the History of Libraries

Hollywood Loves Books… And authors are cashing in big-time

Code Blue: Ballard, Bosch and a City in Crisis in Michael Connelly’s The Dark Hours

In the Middle of Infrastructure Talks, Joe Manchin Has Pursued a Book Deal

Bob Eckstein Illustrates New and Renovated Bookstores and Libraries from Around the Country

A Case for Football as the Most Literary of American Sports (Baseball Has Reigned Long Enough, Says Corey Sobel)

WATCH: Bill Fitzhugh on Finding Satire in the Serious

Getting It Wrong: How Thomas Perry Learned to Live With His Books’ Errors

Luis Soriano Had a Dream, Two Donkeys, and a Lot of Books

When the Heart of a Beach Town Is an Indie Bookstore

How a Cairo bookshop beat the odds to write its own story

Persephone Books: Finding Space for Women Writers For Two Decades

Making Good out of Murder: On Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, Crime Reporters and Crime Writers

Neal Stephenson recommends 6 books on information manipulation

Ann Patchett on Creating the Work Space You Need

Inside story: the first pandemic novels have arrived, but are we ready for them?

It was a call to arms’: Jodi Picoult and Karin Slaughter on writing Covid-19 into novels

UK officials still blocking Peter Wright’s ‘embarrassing’ Spycatcher files

Other Forms of Entertainment

Alan Cumming Answers Every Question We Have about Goldeneye

It’s a wonderful life? The darker side of James Stewart’s screen persona

Blaxploitation Considered Anew In Exhibition at Poster House New York

Dexter Always Gets His Man. Even When It’s Michael C. Hall.

Please Stop Asking How I Wound Up in Fargo

Columbo’s First Case: How One of TV’s Most Iconic Detectives Got His Start

Why ‘Narcos: Mexico’ Is Ending With Season 3

When The Mob Gets a Podcast

A New ‘Thing’ Comic by Walter Mosley Should Inspire ‘The Fantastic Four’

10 Underappreciated American Noirs of the Late 1950s and the 1960s

Nice Heists: Movies Where the Big Score Basically Goes According to Plan

Sopranos Lorraine Bracco Disliked Dr. Melfi’s Final Exit

Yellow, Stranger: The Color Theory of Zodiac

‘No Way Out’ and the Best of “Social Message” Film Noir

Words of the Month

obreption (n.): “the obtaining or trying to obtain something by craft or deception,” 1610s, from Latin obreptionem (nominative obreptio)  “a creeping or stealing on,” noun of action from past-participle stem of obrepere “to creep on, creep up to,” from ob “on, to” (see ob-) + repere “to creep” (see reptile). Opposed to subreption, which is to obtain something by suppression of the truth. Related: Obreptious.

RIP

Oct 28: Peggy York dies; first woman LAPD deputy chief, inspiration for TV’s ‘Cagney & Lacey’

Nov 5: JoAnna Cameron, an Early Female Superhero on TV, Is Dead at 73

Nov 9: Dean Stockwell, “Quantum Leap” and Blue Velvet actor, dies aged 85

Nov 14: Wilbur Smith dead: International bestselling author dies aged 88

Nov 15: NPR books editor Petra Mayer has died at 42

Links of Interest

Nov. 2: The Manhattan ‘Madam’ Who Hobnobbed With the City’s Elite

Nov 3: Locusta of Gaul: Rome’s Imperial Poisoner and Possibly the World’s First Serial Killer

Nov 3: A Painting Stolen in East Germany’s Biggest Art Heist May be an Unknown Rembrandt

Nov 4: Bones in the Backyard: How Police Cracked a Grisly Cold Case

Nov 7: Italian Mafia: ‘Ndrangheta members convicted as Italy begins huge trial

Nov 9: What lies beneath: the secrets of France’s top serial killer expert

Nov 10: The Great Age of the Celebrity Crime Reporter

Nov 10: A solar firm owner is sentenced to 30 years over a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme

Nov 10: Fate of Al Capone’s former home uncertain after new owner hires an architect

Nov 11: Father and Daughter Tortured and Killed Over Valuable Stradivarius Violins, Prosecutor Says

Nov 11: The Rise of the London Police and the 1877 Scandal That Nearly Shut Down Scotland Yard

Nov 11: The Never-Ending Hawaiian Lawsuit and the Search for Yamashita’s Gold

Nov 12: The Real Stories That Inspired ‘Casino Royale’

Nov 14: After a 52-year chase, authorities ID the man behind an infamous Ohio bank heist

Nov 14: How the Mob Made Pinball Public Enemy #1 in the 1940s

Nov 14: The Story of Espionage Is (Often) the Story of Incompetence

Nov 15: A Utah company says it revolutionized truth-telling technology. Experts are highly skeptical.

Nov 16: New York ethics board rescinds approval for Cuomo’s book deal

Nov 17: The Story of the Jonestown Massacre Is About Much More Than Jim Jones. We’ve Been Fighting to Tell It for Decades

Nov 17: Wikipedia and Google Identified Wrong Man as a Serial Killer for Years

Nov 18: Tiny Gold Book Found in English Field May Have Ties to Richard III

Nov 18: ‘Everybody’s Absolutely Horrified’: High Society Is Bracing Itself for Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial

Nov 19: The Mark Twain House Is America’s Best House Museum

Nov 19: Rare First Printing of the U.S. Constitution Is the Most Expensive Text Ever Sold at Auction

Nov 20: South Carolina Residents Find Elderly Neighbor Dead—Then Learn He’s One of FBI’s 15 Most Wanted Fugitives

Nov 20: Two hundred years later, a long-lost document sheds light on the purchase of Liberia

Nov 20: Candy Rogers Was Murdered in 1959. Cops Finally Know Who Did It.

Nov 20: A Woman’s Quest to Solve Her Grandma’s 40-Year-Old Motel Murder

Nov 21: California Nordstrom Pillaged in 1 Minute by Gang of Thieves

Nov 22: What Bob Dylan Does—Or Doesn’t—Know About the Assassination of JFK

Nov 22: Crime Fiction Is Ridiculous. We Might As Well Have Fun With It.

Nov 23: Man detained more than 2 years because of mistaken identity sues Hawaii

Nov 23: Doctors Declared This Man Dead. He Came Out Alive From a Freezer 6 Hours Later

Nov 24: After 40 years, the man wrongfully convicted of Alice Sebold’s rape has been exonerated

Nov 25: Teen Accused of Rigging School Contest Faces Decades in Jail

Nov 26: ‘Zodiac Killer’ Gary Francis Poste led posse of ‘thrill kill’ assassins

Nov 29: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Detection Dogs

Words of the Month

subreption (n.): “act of obtaining a favor by fraudulent suppression of facts,” c. 1600, from Latin subreptionem (nominative subreptio), noun of action from past-participle stem of subripere, surripere (see surreptitious). Related: Subreptitious. (etymonline.com)

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

The Box In The Woods – Maureen Johnson

The Box In The Woods is probably one of the finest transitional books I’ve read – period. 

A bold statement, to be sure, but I think an accurate one nonetheless.

The Box in the Woods is a continuation of Johnson’s Truly Devious series. 

In that, a brand new cold case reunites Stevie and company during their summer vacation. Even better, if you’ve skipped reading the Truly Devious series and aren’t sure you want to sink in the extra time reading the trilogy (though you really should, they’re great), you don’t need to. Johnson brilliantly catches you up – without ruining the first three books! 

Seriously, you don’t know how rare this is.

For some insane reason, mystery writers (or I suspect their editors as the more likely culprit) love revealing the ending of a previous mystery in newer installments! A feature that is fantastically frustrating if you accidentally start in the middle of the series. Thankfully, Johnson neatly sidesteps this common transgression. 

But I digress.

Another reason why I enjoyed reading this book is Johnson makes use of two very well-known tropes and cunningly freshens them up. 

Trope One: The horrors of summer camp as popularized by the Friday the 13th franchise. 

Set a month or two after Stevie solved the Truly Devious case, Stevie’s hired to investigate the notorious Camp Wonder Falls murders, a cold case from 1978 where four camp counselors sneak out to hang out one summer night and are found murdered the following morning. Amplifying the horror of the crime is the fact neither the Sherriff nor State Police solved the crime. Leaving Barlow Corners, where Camp Wonder Falls and all four victims called home, in a state of animated suspension.

Amplifying this trope: Stevie and friends are hired as counselors to the newly revitalized (and renamed) summer camp as cover for said detecting. 

While writing this review, I began to wonder: Does this trope have any real-world roots, or is it a purely fictional construct?

The answer sent me down an hours-long rabbit hole.

More specifically, I discovered an unsettling case dubbed the Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders. In 1977, Michele Heather Guse (9), Lori Lee Farmer (8), and Doris Denise Milner (10) were raped and murdered during a thunderstorm while attending Camp Scott (which was later shut down).

The Sherriff honed in on an escaped felon and convicted rapist who grew up in the area as his prime suspect. Gene Leroy Hart, said offender, was found not guilty of the girl’s murder in 1979. Other suspects have surfaced over the years, but no convictions have come about. Nor has DNA testing helped, as the biological material has deteriorated enough over the years that finding usable samples has become increasingly difficult.

Hauntingly, two months prior to the three little girl’s murder, a room was ransacked during a counselor’s training session. The perpetrator left a note stating, “We are on a mission to kill three little girls in Tent One.”. 

The note, deemed a prank, was unfortunately tossed out. 

(Click here if you’re interested in reading Tulsa World’s coverage of the tragedy. Or here for an alternate suspect theory.)

But back to The Box In The Woods.

The second trope Johnson used is one I’ve read at least a dozen times before – yet Johnson disguised it so cleverly I didn’t see it coming. Which I think is the mark of a great author and an excellent book.

Unfortunately, I can’t explain the trope any further. Otherwise, I will ruin the book for you. This is one where you need to trust me – the trope’s there, and it’s well-executed.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA detectives (though it is only YA due to the ages of the sleuths and a few hormones) and/or those who enjoy Agatha Christie-esque mysteries. 

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about The Box In The Woods!

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death – Essay & Photography by Corinne May Botz

Interestingly, the review of the Nutshell Studies is directly linked to The Box In The Woods. When Stevie is first approached about investigating the cold case at Wonder Falls, she knows her folks won’t be keen on the idea, as they don’t understand or entirely approve of her fascination with true crime. So Stevie devises a strategy – which involves using a book filled with photos of the Nutshell Studies – to secure her parent’s permission to become a counselor at the notorious camp.

Intrigued by Johnson’s description, I found the book Stevie was reading.

Whereupon I discovered I’d seen homages to these scaled works in Elementry, CSI: Las Vegas, and Father Brown.

Created by Frances Glessner Lee, the mother of forensic science in the United States, these dioramas are intended to help train investigators on how to approach and analyze crime scenes.

Each scene is a 1-foot to 1-inch scale replica of crime scenes Lee either read about or visited. And much like Dragnet, Lee altered the specifics of each case she used, lest the detectives already know the solution. Though small, these gruesome dollhouses are fully immersive crime scenes where only one of three outcomes were acceptable – accident, suicide, or murder.

Brining us to Botz’s book.

Botz’s photography of these tiny worlds is both haunting, eerily lovely and acquaints her readers with the specter at the feast. All the while keeping true to Lee’s goal for the Nutshell Studies.

And this is where my criticism of this book lies.

Authors and Readers don’t always have the same agenda when beginning a book. And that’s okay. However, it is the duty of the author to set a clear message for their audience – particularly when dealing with such a tantalizing and fascinating subject like the Nutshell Studies.

Because, much like Stevie in The Box In The Woods, I wanted to hone my own critical thinking skills and eye on dioramas meant to do just that.

And this is where the rub of the book lies.

Botz waited until page 220 of 223 in a footnote, no less, to inform her readers she only included the solution to five out of twenty Nutshell Studies. (And one other tiny pet peeve the few provided solutions aren’t listed in the order the cases were presented in the previous chapter.) In any case, the reason for this purposeful omission is due to the fact law enforcement still use the Nutshell Studies as training tools. So they asked Botz not to reveal three-quarters of the solutions.

Which is entirely understandable and isn’t the basis of my quibble.

My objection lies in waiting until the last four pages to finally elucidate this crucial detail – Botz could’ve just as easily placed the footnote in her prologue (which would’ve avoided a great deal of frustration and annoyance).

Admittedly, in Botz’s preface, she does allude to this contentious detail. Stating she set out to photograph the Nutshell Studies, “With the resolve of an investigator at the scene of a crime (yet with no interest in solving it)…” (pg. 12). Additionally, Botz felt a kinship with Lee – which meant Botz kept true to Lee’s intent for the Nutshells, “…they were not supposed to treat the Nutshells as ‘whodunnits’…they are, rather, designed as exercises in observing and evaluating indirect evidence…” (pg. 29).

This obfuscation of information continues with the photographs, as Botz only gives the audience small slices of these miniatures to study. Now, these slices are spectacular in their incredible detail, meticulous craftsmanship, and atmospheric perspective – but they do not afford the same opportunity for the reader as they do investigators.

Happily, Botz does include the background info written by Lee for each diorama. Then provides a crime scene diagram of each overall scene where Botz highlights investigative features, the personal quirks Lee buried within the rooms or just general fun facts. They draw the reader’s eye hither, thither, and yon much like a red herring in a mystery novel.

Now, with all this being said – and I know my criticism is rather long – I would still highly recommend reading this book. Although, with the caveat, the cases may leave you a bit frustrated with not knowing the answers…In any case, the sheer precision and accuracy of Lee’s dioramas is astonishing, and Botz’s photography elevates the Nutshell Studies to a whole new level. Making Botz’s book The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death deserving of your time and energy. Because I bought this book several months back, and I still find something new each and every time I reread it.

BEST OF THE NEW YEAR TO ALL

MAY WE ALL HAVE THE

HOLIDAYS WE DESERVE

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

October 2021

Seriously Scary Stuff

Gabby Petito’s disappearance, and why it was absolutely everywhere, explained

Gabby Petito’s Family Asks ‘Amazing’ Social Media Sleuths to Help More Missing Persons

Femicides in the US: the silent epidemic few dare to name

Craig Johnson on Spirituality, the West, and the Plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: From the introduction to Craig’s new Longmire:

“The plight of missing an murdered indigenous women is so great that I had to reassure my publisher that the statistics contained in this novel are accurate. The numbers are staggering, and they speak for themselves. What if I were to tell you that that the chances of a Native woman being murdered is ten times the national average, or that murder is the third leading cause of death for indigenous women? What if I told you that four out of five Native women have experienced societal violence, with having experienced sexual violence as well. Half of Native women have been stalked in their lifetime, and they are two times as likely to experience violence and rape than their Anglo counterparts. Heartbreakingly, the majority of these Native women’s murders are by non-Natives on Native owned land.

“The violence is being addressed, but there is so much more to do. Jurisdictional issues and a lack of communication among agencies make the investigative process difficult. Underreporting, racial misclassification, and underwhelming media coverage [emphasis from us] minimize the incredible damage that is being done to the Native communities as a whole.

There are a number of wonderful organizations that are attempting to make a difference, the nearest to me being the Native Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in Lame Deer, Montana.”

Please join us in donating.

Seasonal Stuff

Remember the creepy house from The Silence of the Lambs? Now it’s a vacation rental

Company Apologizes for Sending Clowns to Schools and Terrifying Parents

Words of the Season

rougarou (n.): “Rougarou” represents a variant pronunciation and spelling of the original French loup-garou. According to Barry Jean Ancelet, an academic expert on Cajun folklore and professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in America, the tale of the rougarou is a common legend across French Louisiana. Both words are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana. Some people call the monster rougarou; others refer to it as the loup-garou. The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations, either directly from French settlers to Louisiana (New France) or via the French Canadian immigrants centuries ago. In the Cajun legends, the creature is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans, and the sugar cane fields and woodlands of the regions. The rougarou most often is described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend. (wikipedia)

Something for Bill: Detroit Crime Fiction: A Literary Tradition Like No Other (but he’d fidget that Rob Kantner and Jon A. Jackson weren’t included…)

Cool Stuff

Anthony Sinclair’s “Goldfinger Suit” lets you dress like Bond – with stitch-perfect authenticity

Don’t despair: LeVar Burton has designs on his own book-themed game show

James Patterson and Scholastic are joining forces to mitigate illiteracy

Bookseller of Kabul vows to stay open despite only two customers since the rise of the Taliban

Serious Stuff

So Sally Rooney’s racist? Only if you choose to confuse fiction with fact

Biles: FBI turned ‘blind eye’ to reports of gymnasts’ abuse

They Follow You on Instagram, Then Use Your Face To Make Deepfake Porn in This Sex Extortion Scam

Three former U.S. intelligence operatives admit to working as ‘hackers-for-hire’ for UAE

There Are Too Many Underemployed Former Spies Running Around Selling Their Services to the Highest Bidder

Stephen King has released a new short story, with profits going to support the ACLU

Long-Secret FBI Report Reveals New Connections Between 9/11 Hijackers and Saudi Religious Officials in U.S.

After student protests, a Pennsylvania school district has reversed its ban on diverse books

In 1865, thousands of Black South Carolinians signed a 54-foot-long freedom petition

She bought her dream home; a ‘sovereign citizen’ changed the locks

CIA Reportedly Considered Kidnapping, Assassinating Julian Assange

Paper shortage hits American retailers when they need it most

Everything you need to know about the current book supply-chain issues—and how you can help.

How can independent bookstores begin to pay their booksellers a fair and living wage?

America Is Having a Violence Wave, Not a Crime Wave

Local Stuff

More fallout from how we’re defunding Seattle police backward, this time in Pioneer Square

Portland Cop Who Was Caught on Video Bashing the Head of a Protest Medic Won’t Be Charged With a Crime

Bitcoin uses as much electricity as Washington State. How is that possible?

Proud Boy Shot While Chasing Anti-Fascists as City Fears More Violence

Huge hack reveals embarrassing details of who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right websites

This was the worst slaughter of Native Americans in U.S. history. Few remember it.

Joie Des Livres brings life and culture to Tiny Seabrook

Odd Stuff

30 delightful puns from the Victorian Era

When Ray Bradbury Asked John F. Kennedy if He Could Help with the Space Race

Bart’s Books, an Ojai landmark, is a Central California destination unlike anything you’ve ever seen

Mom and Daughter Killed Adult Film Actress With Backyard Butt Implants, Cops Say

Accused cannibal gets prison time for botched castration in remote cabin

New Zealand Covid: Men caught smuggling KFC into lockdown-hit Auckland

Far-Right Group Wants to Ban Books About MLK, Male Seahorses

Read Herman Melville’s embarrassingly short, typo-marred obituary.

Awards

Washington State Book Awards 2021 winners announced (congratulation to Jess Walter!)

Here are the finalists for the 2021 Kirkus Prize

Read the short story that won this year’s Moth Short Story Prize

Here are the recipients of the 2021 American Poets Prizes.

Analysis: the 2021 Booker shortlist tunes in to the worries of our age

Here’s the longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction

Announcing the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees

Here’s the longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature

Here are this year’s Dayton Literary Peace Prize honorees

Words of the Season

soucouyant (n.): The soucouyant is a shapeshifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes. Soucouyants suck people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning. If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree. To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act. To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in Guyana, Suriname and some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, Haiti and Trinidad. The skin of the soucouyant is considered valuable, and is used when practicing black magic. Many Caribbean islands have plays about the Soucouyant and many other folklore characters. Some of these include Trinidad Grenada and Barbados. Soucouyants belong to a class of spirits called jumbies. Some believe that soucouyants were brought to the Caribbean from European countries in the form of French vampire-myths. These beliefs intermingled with those of enslaved Africans. (wikipedia)

Book Stuff

Bristol manuscript fragments of the famous Merlin legend among the oldest of their kind

Beautiful, Decorative, and Sometimes Crude: Illuminated Manuscripts and Marginalia

S.A. Cosby, a Writer of Violent Noirs, Claims the Rural South as His Own

Michael Connelly Can’t Stop Chasing Leads

Why William Gibson Is a Literary Genius

My First Thriller: James Grady

This Gemlike Library Put America on the Architectural Map

Top 10 books about lies and liars

Newly discovered Tennessee Williams story published for the first time

Women Crime Writers Discuss Violence, Women, and What Readers Will and Won’t Accept

What Is Crime in a Country Built on It?

Peek inside Waseda University’s brand new Haruki Murakami library

Ken Follett Returns to Espionage Thrillers

Zibby Owens to publish books using a company-wide profit-sharing model

Lena Waithe, Gillian Flynn to Start Book Imprints

Sara Gran Talks Publishing, Sex Magic, and Ownership for Authors

A Brief History of Giallo Fiction and the Italian Anti-Detective Novel

This new vending machine will provide New Yorkers with short stories on the go

Love in the Bookshop: A Mystery Writer’s Ode to Bookstore Romances

Democracy is Cheap, but the Constitution Expected to Fetch at least $15M at Auction

He Taught Ancient Texts at Oxford. Now He Is Accused of Stealing Some

Edwin Torres’ Way

This year’s literary MacArthur fellows on the best writing advice they’ve received (and more)

They’ve Seen the Future And They Don’t Like It: The Year’s Best Scifi Noir (So Far)

The Real-Life Political Scandal That Inspired Jean-Patrick Manchette’s First Thriller

Other Forms of Entertainment

Vince Vaughn to star in film version of Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s HiddenLight Options Maisie Dobbs Series of Novels

Quentin Tarantino: ‘There’s a lot of feet in a lot of good directors’ movies’

30 Things We Learned from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘True Romance’ Commentary

How British Crime Dramas Became Appointment TV

David Chase Chose Journey for ‘Sopranos’ Finale Because Song Was Hated by Crew

Michael Gandolfini and the Riddle of Tony Soprano

Narcos: Mexico’ to End With Season 3 at Netflix

Ray Liotta Says Iconic ‘Goodfellas’ Tracking Shot Take Was Ruined by Line Flub

Here’s the tantalizing first trailer for Denzel Washington’s Macbeth

No Time To Die: The Inside Story Of Daniel Craig’s Final Hurrah

Why the world still loves 1970s detective show “Columbo”

Apple bags rights of Brad Pitt, George Clooney’s new thriller

Words of the Season

manananggal (n.) The manananggal is described as scary, often hideous, usually depicted as female, and always capable of severing its upper torso and sprouting huge bat-like wings to fly into the night in search of its victims. The word manananggal comes from the Tagalog word tanggal, which means “to remove” or “to separate”, which literally translates as “remover” or “separator”. In this case, “one who separates itself”. The name also originates from an expression used for a severed torso. The manananggal is said to favor preying on sleeping, pregnant women, using an elongated proboscis-like tongue to suck the hearts of fetuses, or the blood of someone who is sleeping. It also haunts newlyweds or couples in love. Due to being left at the altar, grooms-to-be are one of its main targets.The severed lower torso is left standing, and is the more vulnerable of the two halves. Sprinkling salt, smearing crushed garlic or ash on top of the standing torso is fatal to the creature. The upper torso then would not be able to rejoin itself and would perish by sunrise. The myth of the manananggal is popular in the Visayan regions of the Philippines, especially in the western provinces of Capiz, Iloilo, Bohol and Antique. There are varying accounts of the features of a manananggal. Like vampires, Visayan folklore creatures, and aswangs, manananggals are also said to abhor garlic, salt and holy water. They were also known to avoid daggers, light, vinegar, spices and the tail of a stingray, which can be fashioned as a whip. Folklore of similar creatures can be found in the neighbouring nations of Indonesia and Malaysia. The province of Capiz is the subject or focus of many manananggal stories, as with the stories of other types of mythical creatures, such as ghosts, goblins, ghouls generically referred to as aswangs. Sightings are purported here, and certain local folk are said to believe in their existence despite modernization. The manananggal shares some features with the vampire of Balkan folklore, such as its dislike of garlic, salt, and vulnerability to sunlight. (wikipedia)

Links of Interest

Sept 1: How Ireland’s First “Assassination Society”–The Invincibles–Was Formed

Sept 3: All I Really Need to Know I Learned Covering Homicides

Sept 7: Why some people think this photo of JFK’s killer is fake

Sept 8: A Cop Killed Another Cop. A Woman Was Charged Instead

Sept 9: Georgia DA Already Charged for Parking Lot Donuts Now Accused of Trying to Frame Man for Murder

Sept 10: Spider-Man beats Superman in record $3.6m comic sale

Sept 10: Italy seizes 500 fake Francis Bacon works

Sept 10: Books, churches, what will Canadians burn next?

Sept 11: ‘Every message was copied to the police’: the inside story of the most daring surveillance sting in history

Sept 11: Louis Armstrong and Spy: How the CIA Used him as a “Trojan Horse” in Congo

Sept 11: Lead FBI Agent in Whitmer Kidnap Plot Is Fired After Swingers Party Incident

Sept 12: The Terror and Agony of Being a Mexican Hitman’s Son

Sept 13: Why Use a Dictionary in the Age of Internet Search?

Sept 13: Capitol Police Suspect Something Amiss With Swastika-Covered Nightmare Truck, Find Driver With Machete

Sept 14: 14 Defendants Indicted, Including the Entire Administration of the Colombo Organized Crime Family

Sept 14: Austin Funeral Homes Regularly Pour Blood and Embalming Fluid Down the Drain

Sept 14: Monkey Thieves, Drunk Elephants — Mary Roach Reveals A Weird World Of Animal ‘Crime’

Sept 15: A Bonkers South Carolina Crime Saga Has Taken Another Bonkers Twist

Sept 15: Fred West: Future victim searches need strong justification, say police

Sept 17: Denmark moves to bar some prisoners from meeting new lovers after submarine killer romance controversy

Sept 19: FBI says fortune seized in Beverly Hills raid was criminals’ loot. Owners say: Where’s the proof?

Sept 20: Police Arrest 106 Tied to Mafia-Connected Cybercrime Group

Sept 21: Caril Ann Fugate and the Presumption of Guilt

Sept 21: Two Cops Are Accused of Hiring Hitmen to Take Out Their Enemies

Sept 21: Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to be formally handed back to Iraq

Sept 21: Salisbury poisonings: Third man faces charges for Novichok attack

Sept 22: Joshua Melville’s Search for the Truth About His Radical Bomber Father, Sam Melville

Sept 22: Carlos the Jackal seeks to reduce life sentence for deadly 1974 grenade attack

Sept 23: JetBlue Passenger Storms Cockpit, Strangles Flight Attendant, Breaks Out of Restraints

Sept 24: Snapchat Is Fueling Britain’s Teen Murder Epidemic

Sept 24: The Heist of the Century: Who Cracked the Manhattan Savings And Loan Safe?

Sept 24: Mexico’s Soccer League Colluded to Cap Women’s Salaries, Regulator Says

Sept 24: Mississippi woman Clara Birdlong likely Samuel Little victim

Sept 24: How Chippendales’ Male-Stripping Empire Ended in Bloody Murder

Sept 27: Judge orders ‘unconditional release’ for Reagan shooter Hinckley

Sept 28: Texas nurse faces capital murder trial for 4 patient deaths

Sept 29: For $84,000, An Artist Returned Two Blank Canvasses Titled ‘Take The Money And Run’

Sept 30: Afghans artists bury paintings, hide books out of fear of Taliban crackdown on arts and culture

Sept 30: Yale Says Its Vinland Map, Once Called a Medieval Treasure, Is Fake

RIP

Sept 6: Michael K. Williams, ‘The Wire’ Star, Dies at 54 [Joe R. Lansdale Remembers The Genesis of Hap and Leonard and Pays Tribute to Michael K. Williams]

Sept 22: Melvin Van Peebles, Godfather of Black Cinema, Dies at 89

Words of the Season

Chonchon (n.) The Chonchon is the magical transformation of a kalku (Mapuche sorcerer). It is said only the most powerful kalkus can aspire to master the secret of becoming this feared creature. The kalku or sorcerer would carry out the transformation into a Chonchon by an act of will and being anointed by a magical cream in the throat that eases the removal of the head from the rest of the body, with the removed head then becoming the creature. The Chonchon has the shape of a human head with feathers and talons; its ears, which are extremely large, serve as wings for its flight on moonless nights. Chonchons are supposed to be endowed with all the magic powers of, and can only be seen by, other kalkus, or by wizards that want this power. Sorcerers take the form of the chonchon to better carry out their wicked activities, and the transformation would provide them with other abilities, such as drinking the blood of ill or sleeping people. Although the fearsome appearance of a chonchon would be invisible to the uninitiated, they would still be able to hear its characteristic cry of “tue tue tue”, which is considered to be an extremely ill omen, usually predicting the death of a loved one. (wikipedia)

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village – Maureen Johnson & Jay Cooper

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village is exactly what it claims to be – a guide. Elucidating all the things a tourist needs to know about a quiet English village in order to navigate it and the inevitable undercurrents successfully (i.e. not get murdered).

Its’ also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

Aimed at the lovers of classic manor house and/or English village mysteries (think the Queens of Crime, Georgette Heyer, Francis Duncan, Patricia Wentworth) it takes the stock characters, architecture, and events found within those pages and gives them an irreverent, rib-tickling, and on the nose descriptions.

There’s even a quiz at the end to test your prowess.

I died twice…on the same page.

What I love even more – is how many of the people, places, and things Johnson describes in Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered that I recognize either from reading them or from watching tv shows like Father Brown, Death In Paradise, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves classic mysteries and has a very good sense of humor – Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered will not let you down!

Fran

This is not a political post, but the book I’m talking about has its roots in politics, specifically the 2016 election. When the results were tallied, many people were upset, and out of that visceral reaction a new publishing house was born, Nasty Woman Press, the Creative Resistance.

Spearheaded by the glorious Kelli Stanley, Nasty Woman Press, a 501(c)(4) non-profit, decided to use literary creativity to bring awareness and aid to those who are struggling. To quote Kelli, “Our plan is to publish anthologies of captivating fiction and thought-provoking non-fiction, each built around a general theme – the theme itself tying in to the non-profit for which the book is raising money.”

That’s right. The profits from the sale of each book go to a cause. In the case of the the debut anthology, Shattering Glass, the theme is empowered women, and the profits go to Planned Parenthood.

Now, I know that a lot of you don’t like short stories, but here’s where you trust me. The fiction is amazing, and not all the authors are female. Anyone who says that men can’t write accurately about women needs to read some of these stories. Men can and do understand women, and know how to write them as believable characters.

But it’s not just the stories. One of the essays, written by Jacqueline Winspear about women firefighters, has stayed with me since I read it, and even as I type this, California is on fire, and I want to sit down with Jackie over a pot of tea and listen to her, because she knows her stuff.

The opening essay by Valerie Plame – yes, THAT Valerie Plame, outed CIA spy turned politician and novelist – is definitely thought provoking and erudite. I’ve read it a couple of times now.

But in the end, you’re going to love this anthology and come back to it. Parts of it will leave you aching, sometimes you’ll be so pissed you want to throw things, and at other times, you’re going to laugh out loud at the audacity. You will not remain unmoved. And that’s because these people can Write.

Who, you might ask? Well, I don’t want to spoil surprises, but if you like the writing of people like Cara Black, Catriona McPherson, Anne Lamott, Joe Clifford, Senator Barbara Boxer, Jess Lourey, and Seanan McGuire, you’re in for a treat.

Trust me.

JB

Pickup up a copy of Scott Turow’s The Last Trial. It’s one of those many books by favorite authors that I missed after the shop closed. It’s all that you’d expect from Turow – no one else plots such stunning and sinuous legal thrillers. But the wonderful part of the book, for me, was spending time with defense attorney Sandy Stern. While the lawyer is described differently, it’s impossible for me to not picture and hear Raul Julia as him, and since it is likely to be the last book with Stern and Julia’s sadly dead, it was so nice to be in their company one last time.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There are words authors use that are too fancy for the stories they’re telling. In a way, it’s showy. It’s proving you have a large vocabulary. “Verdant” is one. It is almost always out of place. And, please – PLEASE – can we retire “plethora”!

But, having blurted that out of my head, I am here to HIGHLY RECOMMEND Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby. A new book is out now in hardcover. It’s getting high praise. I thought I’d go back and start with his first and – man – the guy can not only write beautifully but plot a tight, thrilling story.

“That was the things about his mother. She could be emotionally manipulative one minute then making you laugh the next. It was like getting hit in the face with a pie that had a padlock in it.”

Beau is a young guy whose stuck in a thicket of bills – mortgage on his garage, his dying mother’s healthcare is a mess, his youngest daughter needs money for starting college. He’s turned his back on his past livelihood – get-away-driver. His father was a noted driver and Beau doesn’t want to follow that path. “But when it came to handling his responsibilities we both know Anthony Montage was about a useful as a white crayon, don’t we?”

But the bills are demanding and off we roar into a series of sharp turns and dead ends that threaten everything he cherishes. Danger is his passenger and worse follows. “Reggie jumped like a demon had spoken to him.”

This is great noir, a great crime novel. I believe it is a stand-alone. I don’t think his books are connected. And I look forward to reading more. Cosby writes with a fluid, memorable style. How can you not want to read an author who comes up with a line like this: “She was wearing a tank top and shorts so tight they would become a thong is she sneezed.”

Here’s a great interview with Cosby. And a piece he wrote about his philosophy of writing.

Bought his new hardcover.

But it’ll have to wait ’til I finish the new Longmire.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The new James Ellroy, Widespread Panic, is everything you’d expect from an Ellroy book – literately lurid, speedily sleazy, and full of film faces. The narrator is real-life reprobate Fred Otash, a former cop, LA fixer, and all-around asshole. He’s into everything, everyone and everywhere. The book takes the form or a sort of memoir, a look back on a set of years in the 1950s. Naughty and nefarious nostalgia.

As with any Ellroy, when finishes, it is difficult to remember if there were any good people in the story. As with any Ellroy, the story is stocked with actual people. How does he get away with it without being sued out of his bowtie? Elizabeth Taylor in a three-way romp? James Dean, Nick Adams, Nicholas Ray and many others as reprehensible souls involved in rampant raids, reprobates riding roughshod over rights! None are alive now, but….

You enjoy Ellroy? Dig it!

SHOP SMALL ~ BUY SMALL

SUPPORT SMALL

March 2020

March jpg

Pardon the slide into politics, but… British man found guilty of trying to steal Magna Carta. Guess he needed the Senate behind him…

And photos of a library to make you drool: Inside the ‘Vibrant Intellectual Ecosystem’ of Larry McMurtry’s Home Library:Bibliostyle_McMurty-p112_B-1

See our old stomping grounds in a photo from 1880 – Cherry Street in the snow

      Serious Stuff

Nambi Narayanan: The fake spy scandal that blew up a rocket scientist’s career 

The art heists that shook the world – in pictures

Police suspected a crime lab technician of murder. Their mistake led him to hang himself, his widow says.

CIA and German intelligence controlled global encryption company for decades, says report

Corruption, Inc.: Andrea Bernstein on the Trumps, the Kushners, and the Age of the Oligarchs

After a night at the cinema in 1986, Olof Palme was assassinated on Stockholm’s busiest street. The killer has never been found. Jan Stocklassa discusses whether novelist Stieg Larsson’s theory can provide any answers. 

Authors Guild releases grim 50-page report on “The Profession of the Author in the 21st Century”

Opening a Pandora’s box of truths about rape kits 

Two teens held on manslaughter charges in deadly California library fire

Did Medgar Evers’ Killer Go Free Because of Jury Tampering? 

Piled Bodies, Overflowing Morgues: Inside America’s Autopsy Crisis

      Words of the Month

ekphrastic: of poetry, words to describe a work of art.    (thanks to Says You!, show 2101)

      Awards

John Le Carre’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Olaf Palme (take the time to read this, it is worth it!)

Nominees for the 2020 Barry Awards have been announced. You can find them here. We don’t recall if they’ve done this before but, at the bottom, are the nominees for Best of the Decade.

Here’s the longlist for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. 

Announcing the finalists for the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize. 

The L.A. Times announces its 2019 Book Prize finalists and a new award for science fiction.

      Words of the Month

griffonage: illegible handwriting     (thanks to Says You!, show 2101)

       Author Events

March 4: John Straley, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

March 6, John Straley, Powell’s, 7pm

March 6: J.P. Gritton, Third Place/Ravenna, 7pm

March 7: Phillip Margolin, Third Place/Ravenna, 6pm

March 8: Michael Christie, Powell’s, 7:30pm

March 12: Anne Bishop, Powell’s, 7pm

March 13: Emily Beyda, Powell’s, 7:30

March 14: Phillip Margolin, Everett Public Library, 2pm

March 16: Anne Bishop & Patricia Briggs, UBooks, 6:30pm

March 17: Matt Ruff, Elliott Bay, 7pm

March 17: Phillip Margolin, Powell’s, 7pm

March 19: Matt Ruff, Powell’s, 7:30pm

March 23: Jason Pintor, Third Place/Ravenna, 7pm

March 24: Matt Ruff, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

      Book Stuff

New Nancy Drew comic celebrates beloved sleuth’s 90th birthday by killing her

Carl Hiaasen: A Crime Reader’s Guide to the Classics


Review: Sam Wasson takes a deep dive into Chinatown

And a sample from the book: How Raymond Chandler and the Tate-LaBianca Murders Inspired the Making of Chinatown

See JB’s section for his review of the book


The Belgrade Book Collection That Survived War, Fascism, and Neglect. One family has kept it going—and growing—since 1720.

Taking Maigret’s first case in for questioning 

‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club 

Patti Smith pitches in to help burgled Oregon bookshop 

Everyone Can Be a Book Reviewer. Should They Be?

New women’s fiction prize to address ‘gender imbalance’ in North America 

How not to separate your church from your state: Tennessee seeks to make Bible “state book.”

NYC Books Through Bars explains how you can support prison books projects—or start your own 

Printing Novels in the Gulag: How Soviet prisoners turned to 19th century detective fiction to while away the long hours.

Georges Simenon’s remarkable novel manages to make its loathsome protagonist compelling company 

Sophie Hannah on the recipe for a perfect crime novel – books podcast

Heroic Librarians: Unexpected Roles and Amazing Feats of Librarianship 

The Great Los Angeles Crime Novel—And the Women Who Are Revitalizing It 

The strange quest to crack the Voynich code

Not a Cult, a new bookstore in Los Angeles, puts authors of color at the forefront. 

The Books Briefing: A Study in Sleuthing 

Spanish-language newsstand, a 1940s Boyle Heights gem, braces for the end

Who Should Decide What Books Are Allowed In Prison?

Jane Goodall’s next book, ‘The Book of Hope,’ to be released in fall 2021  

The Life and Work of C.W. Grafton: Crime Novelist, Lawyer, and Father to a Mystery Icon

The Cozy Mysteries of the Pacific Northwest

Take a walking tour of Seattle’s liveliest literary neighborhood: Pike Place Market

      Other Forms of Fun

Jodie Foster Set To Direct Drama On 1911 Theft Of Mona Lisa; Los Angeles Media Fund-Backed Film

“Back To The Future” is being rebooted – on stage, not on screen

‘Friends’ to reunite for one-off special

The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life

Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse 

Doc Savage: Man of Bronze – Classic Pulp Hero Headed to Television 

These Famous Noirs and Mysteries Were Inspired by Real-Life Crimes 

Juries and Judgement in Hollywood Cinema

Perry Mason returns to TV later this year


Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time

Mystery power house Otto Penzler gives his list of the 106 best crime films. You may have quibbles of his rankings as we did (The Fugitive is #54 yet Bullitt is #98?!?) but it’s a fun and informative list. Click on each title to get the skinny!


      Words of the Month

foe (n):  Old English gefea, gefa “foe, enemy, adversary in a blood feud” (the prefix denotes “mutuality”), from adjective fah “at feud, hostile,” also “guilty, criminal,” from Proto-Germanic *faihaz (source also of Old High German fehan “to hate,” Gothic faih “deception”), perhaps from the same Proto-Indo-European source that yielded Sanskrit pisunah “malicious,” picacah “demon;” Lithuanian piktas “wicked, angry,” peikti “to blame.” Weaker sense of “adversary” is first recorded c. 1600. (etymonline.com)

       Links of Interest

January 30: Agatha Christie’s Greatest Mystery Was Left Unsolved

January 31: New Clue May Be the Key to Cracking CIA Sculpture’s Final Puzzling Passage

February 3: The Oxford Professor Who Kept Tabs on His Student—Who Turned Out To Be a Conman ~ The (Mostly Unknowable) Life of a Fraud

February 3: Amazon knows more than just what books I’ve read and when – it knows which parts of them I liked the most

February 4: Never Do That to a Book ~ Sure, you love books. But is it courtly love or carnal love?

February 5: My Uncle, The Librarian-Spy ~ In 1943, a Harvard librarian was quietly recruited by the OSS to save the scattered books of Europe. 

February 7: Why Avocados Attract Interest Of Mexican Drug Cartels

February 9: Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Mystery To Rest

February 10: Whitechapel mural will celebrate the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims

February 10: Stolen Art, Nazis, and the Eternal Search for Justice

February 11: How the Earliest Crime Scene Investigators Identified Murder Victims

February 12: ‘Trust your dog’: extraordinary pets help solve crimes by finding bodies

February 13: Objects Made by Prisoners in the United States

February 13: Rebels of Black History: The Life and Legend of Madam Stephanie St. Clair

February 14: Bookshop burglary foiled after prosecco distracts raiders

February 14: The Legend of a Cave and the Traces of the Underground Railroad in Ohio

February 14: How a Trashed Italian Manuscript Got Sewn Into a Sweet Silk Purse

February 14: The Lancashire hideaway of an Italian mafia boss

February 14: In 1933, two rebellious women bought a home in Virginia’s woods. Then the CIA moved in.

February 17: Facial Recognition Technology Is the New Rogues’ Gallery

February 18: The Best James Bond Themes that Never Made it to the Screen

February 18: PenguinRandomHouse Makes Progress in Green Initiatives

February 18: Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade

February 19: Compassion fatigue is taking its toll on librarians.

February 19: How to Murder Harry Potter ~ In “deathfic,” writers of fan fiction find unexpected comfort in killing off their favorite popular characters.

February 19: Date night couple foil attempted armed robbery

February 19: The NYT Spelling Bee Gives Me L-I-F-E by Laura Lippman

February 20: How a stolen safe changed a burglar’s life

February 21: Romulus mystery: Experts divided on ‘tomb of Rome’s founding father’

February 21: Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson once beat a murder charge by translating some Latin.

February 23: Brockport book shop makes plea to customers and community

February 24: People v. Gillette: How an Obscure Execution in the Finger Lakes Inspired Generations of Storytellers

February 25: France rock riddle contest gives meaning to mysterious inscription

February 25: The unbelievable history of con artists ~ The neuroscience of why we believe hucksters has made fraud a steady business over the centuries.

February 26: The Best Gifts for Writers, According to Writers (From John Waters to Jeremy O. Harris)

February 27: Don’t Pick Your Nose, 15th-Century Manners Book Warns

      R.I.P.

Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103 on February 5th. There will have been a yuge number of articles about him, his life, career, and personality. They’ll have written about Sparticus and on and on. We’d like to narrow our view to one timeless, classic performance – badman Whit in Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 film noir masterpiece Out of the Past. Along with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, the triangle at heart of this clash of love and power is the epitome of noir. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and see it. ~ JB

February 8: Robert Conrad died at 84. We remember him for his 1959 TV show “Hawaiian Eye” and, with “West, James West”, bringing James Bond to “The Wild, Wild West” in 1965. Great theme song, great opening credits, great train full of gadgets.

February 13: Charles ‘Chuckie’ O’Brien, who called himself Jimmy Hoffa’s ‘foster son,’ dies at 86

February 18: True Grit author Charles Portis dies aged 86

February 19: The Computer Scientist Responsible for Cut, Copy, and Paste, Has Passed Away

February 20: Frank Anderson, former CIA spymaster in the Middle East, dies at 77

February 23: Walter Satterthwait, dead at 73

February 24: Katherine Johnson: Nasa mathematician dies at 101

February 26: Creator of New York City subway map Michael Hertz dies

February 26: Clive Cussler: Dirk Pitt novels author dies aged 88

       Words of the Month

fustigate (v.)”to cudgel, to beat,” 1650s, back-formation from Fustication (1560s) or from Latin fusticatus, past participle of fusticare “to cudgel” (to death), from fustis “cudgel, club, staff, stick of wood,” of unknown origin. De Vaan writes that “The most obvious connection would be with Latin -futare” “to beat,” but there are evolutionary difficulties.

       What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Finder of Lost Things

I’m working furiously and I’m nearly finished writing Season Two of Finder of Lost Things! Then comes editing and photography so I’m hoping it will be out in the next month or two! I’ll keep you guys posted.

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Golden In Death – J.D. Robb

I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the mystery as this is quite literally the fiftieth installment in the ‘In Death’ series.

Suffice to say there’s a murder in New York and Eve’s on the case.

Despite hitting this landmark installment number, don’t look for this book to get mired in nostalgia for Eve and her crew. Golden In Death is a very mystery-centric story uncluttered by unnecessary parties, conflicts, and dramas (aside from the whole murder thing). All of our favorites Mavis, Leonardo, Trina, and Nadine (and her new rocker boyfriend), Peabody’s family – are all included – but in a nebulous and natural fashion. Giving us just a glimpse of what they’re up too, without losing the momentum of the case at hand.

Even better? The standard boilerplate descriptions of Eve and Roake have been rejiggered and reworked, so they feel fresher to the well-indoctrinated eyes of Eve Dallas fans!

I really enjoyed this book. The mystery is one that I found interesting and relevant to this milestone installment. (Which, truth be told, is the real reason why I didn’t write a synopsis – as I did not want to spoil a single twist in this book!) I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page and stayed up well past my bedtime in order to finish it – as once again – I couldn’t help myself.

BTW – if you haven’t started this series yet, because you’re intimidated by the sheer length and breadth of it, never fear. You can start with this book and be just fine. Though if you want to avoid spoilers and giveaways, I’d suggest going back, after finishing Golden In Death and start with Naked In Death. I know there’s a lot of books in between these two – but having read them all already – you have at least two hours* of fun ahead of you!

(*Which is only a rough estimate as I’ve no clue how long it would take to read this series – and I love you guys – but I’m not going to time myself to find out!)

   Fran

Truly Devious

And the mystery is solved! Do you know who did it?

We first met Stevie Bell in Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious, where we learned about the famous Ellingham Academy – what would you be accepted for? – and the troubles that happened there back in the 30’s. Stevie’s determined to solve the mystery of whatever happened to young Alice Ellingham, but trouble besets her in her current life.

In The Vanishing Stair, things get even more complicated. Stevie’s not even supposed to come back to Ellingham, but fate conspires in her favor. Still, now she has more mysteries to unravel.

Finally, in The Hand on the Wall, Stevie figures things out. But what’s the price? And does she really see a moose?

In this trilogy, Maureen Johnson has created a fabulous homage to the Golden Age mystery writers, especially Agatha Christie, but she’s put a decidedly modern twist on it, and it works perfectly. And of course the Dorothy Parker style poem adds flair! But it takes a special talent to combine the subtle clues and genteelly labyrinthine story with modern day complexities, and there’s no one quite like Maureen Johnson, who takes on this challenge and not only makes it work, but keeps it riveting and thought-provoking.

These are considered young-adult novels, but trust me, you don’t need to be a tween to enjoy this trilogy, and I promise you that you will!

   JB

My love of Chandler, my adoration of Chinatown, 9781250301826and my interest in history and true crime smash together in San Wasson’s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

The basics of the book are the story of the movie – the initial conception, the years of work to get it in filmable shape, filming, and its reception. But the book is jammed with so much more.

The story told contains the sense of LA at the time, the impact of the Manson murders on LA and Hollywood, where the various participants came from, and how they came together to make this remarkable movie. It then tells the story of the movie making and how each participant moved on from there. And, really, how this was the height of a creative period in Hollywood that was supplanted by the era of the blockbuster and the takeover of the studios by money people interested more in return than film making, than in “art”.

Overall, this is a melancholy book, itself a story that ends badly, like all noir must. There are Robert Towne’s battles to get the thing written and then seeing it overtaken by Polanski. There are Polanski’s experience of horrors – the loss of his mother in Auschwitz and the murder of his wife. There are Robert Evans’ battles with those above him who wanted something different, something better, out of the movies he was producing. There was Nicholson who was dealing with personal nightmares throughout the period and whose dream of a fabled trilogy of Gittes films never came to pass.

But it is a story of lightning in a bottle. That all of these figures came together at this time and managed to create this singular movie is a demonstration of the odds against such a thing happening at all.

Wasson’s book is  well crafted and informative, and never fails to surprise and never fails to show the entire period with all of its faults, ugliness, astonishments, and creativity. And, like all true noir, no one leaves the story unmarred. In the end, we are all left with a stunning work of art, a movie that shows what can emerge out of human minds, out of human suffering.

 

Buy Local ~ Support Local

The Best of the 20 Teens

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Fran here. Happy New Year, everyone!

I was so proud of myself! I got my Best Of for the decade done, and down to a total of 10! I’ve NEVER done that before, so I was strutting!

Granted, a bunch of them were series, and that means ALL of the series, so it’s not like I read only ten books over the decade. We know me better than this. And the series are, in no particular order:

Louise Penny’s “Inspector Gamache” series. I came late to this party, but I am fully onboard!

Anne Bishop’s “The Others” series, including the follow-ups after the original five.

Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London” series. I think I’ve read the entire thing seven times.

Everything by Christine Feehan except the vampire and leopard series. Everything else. And I haven’t gotten to those yet, so stay tuned.

Carolyn Hart’s “Death on Demand” series. Seriously, I need these books.

William Kent Krueger’s “Cork O’Connell” series. They’re family to me.

Maureen Johnson’s “Truly Devious” series. And that’s going to spill over into this decade.

And then I had a few individual titles. But then, see, I remembered all the books I hadn’t thought of, not because they were bad, but because a decade is a really long time in the book world, and I hadn’t really given the whole ten years – which included the shop being open for most of it.

So I’m going to throw out authors and titles, and if you have questions, just ask. Because this is gonna be a LOT longer than just 10! Ready? Here we go:

Joshilyn Jackson – I love all of hers, but The Almost Sisters is my favorite. So far. Until she writes the darned phone book.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which has its own cult following, and I’m so pleased!

Seanan McGuire’s “Toby Day” series, along with everything else she writes.

Speaking of series I forgot before, Mike Lawson’s “Joe DeMarco” series. Now and always!

AND Tim Maleeny’s “Cape Weathers” series! Holy cats, I want more!

How could I overlook Craig Johnson’s “Longmire”? I don’t know what I was thinking.

John Connolly’s “Charlie Parker” series. More on that later.

Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook. Amber’s recommendations must be heeded.

Everything by Ben Winters (including grocery lists, I imagine) but especially Golden State.

Toni McGee Causey’s Saints  of the Lost and Found.

Seriously, anything by J. T. Ellison and Hank Phillippi Ryan. I love them both so much!

Alan Bradley’s “Flavia de Luce” series, as well as Ian Hamilton’s “Ava Lee”. Nothing in common except brilliant writing, and  cultural appreciation.

Can I throw in here Amber’s “52 Weeks with Christie”? Because wow. And her new blog, The Finder of Lost Things, is going to find a publisher soon, I’m positive.

To those of you whom I’ve missed, I’m so sorry! I really do love you! Blame it on my cold.

I’m going to stop here, but now it’s up to you. What did I recommend to you over the last 10 years that you loved? Or hated? I’m always interested where I missed as well as where I might have accidentally gotten it right.

A decade’s a really long time, y’all, especially when you read! Happy New Decade!

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!

March Newzine

SMB

      Podcasts / Shows

We’re late coming to this: TNT Unveils new Podcast Series: Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia. It debuted Feb. 13th.

The “Sherlock Holmes of Wood” and the Lindbergh Kidnapping.

If you enjoy supernatural mysteries/thrillers check out the Netflix original The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Russian Doll & The Umbrella Academy! They are all dark and addictive series that will leave you with more questions than answers & wanting more. I Love Them All!

And this looks promising: “Highwaymen” Trailer: Costner & Harrelson Go After Bonnie & Clyde

      Words of the Month

petard (n.): From the 1590s, “small bomb used to blow in doors and breach walls,” from French pétard (late 16th C.), from Middle French péter “break wind,” from Old French pet “a fart,” from Latin peditum, noun use of neuter past participle of pedere “to break wind,” from Proto-Indo-European root *pezd “to fart” (see feisty). Surviving in phrase hoist with one’s own petard (or some variant) “blown up with one’s own bomb,” which is ultimately from Shakespeare (1605):

For tis the sport to haue the enginer Hoist with his owne petar [“Hamlet” III.iv.207].

thanks to etymonline

       Book Events

Phillip Margolin, March 7, 7pm Powell’s, March 12, 7pm Third Place/LFP

Joe R. Lansdale, March 19, 7pm, Powell’s, March 20, 7pm, Third Place/Ravenna

Glen Erik Hamilton, March 27, University Books, 6pm

      Links of Interest

January 30: How do you compost a human body – and why would you?

February 1: Fragments of Early Arthurian Legend Found in 16th-Century Book

February 2: Unique ‘dialectogram’ drawings capture a regenerating city

February 3: Thieves stole architectural gems from USC in a heist that remained hidden for years

February 4: Pierce Brosnan on GoldenEye: crazy stunts and thigh-crushings from Xenia Onatopp

February 4: Meet the Journalist Who Interviewed Ted Bundy for Months

February 5: Life-size Star Wars walker saved

February 5: James Brown: Lost in the Woods with James Brown’s Ghost -The Circus Singer and the Godfather of Soul (this is a three-part investigative epic that reads like a multi-episode true crime series, interesting and detailed ~ JB)

February 5: ‘I Am the Night’ Unearths New Details of Hollywood’s Black Dahlia Murder

February 6: How a Book Gets to the Perfect Cover

February 7: George Orwell gets food essay apology

February 7: Here we go again… the painting of the woman who painted the bird has arrived

February 7: Danes find secret beer trove

February 7: Overdue Library Book Returned in Maryland After 73 Years

February 8: IS THAT A HAND? GLITCHES REVEAL GOOGLE BOOKS’ HUMAN SCANNERS

February 8: The British Library’s Dirtiest Books Have Been Digitized

February 9: Emiliano Sala: Who owned the plane the Cardiff player died in?

February 11: Stolen statues of King Billy and Oliver Cromwell found

February 11: Why Reading A Book Can Increase Your Longevity

February 12: “I Knew Right Away It Was My Dad” A conversation with the daughter of the serial killer BTK.

February 12: Confessed serial killer draws portraits of his victims, and the FBI asks for help naming them

February 12: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was a beloved cult hit. Now there’s a movie, out this year.

February 13: Move Over, Lady Psychopaths: The Locked-Room Mystery Is Back

February 14: Burglar hits legendary bookstore, steals rare edition of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

February 14: Why do so many book covers still use the phrase for works of fiction?

February 14: Some people go to Vegas to gamble, others to buy really rare books

February 14: Breaking Bad film release date, trailer, cast, plot, spoilers – everything we know so far about Greenbrier

February 14: Why did Victorian-era gravestones include so many images of clasped hands?

February 15: Vodka firm loses valuable iceberg water in apparent heist

February 15: Does Rembrandt’s Night Watch Reveal A Murder Plot?

February 16: Bond 25 – Daniel Craig’s Final 007 Film Delayed (a bit)

February 16: Tana French: ‘Nobody with imagination should commit a crime. You wouldn’t handle the stress’

February 17: Loose lips sank this plot to assassinate George Washington: new non-fiction book by Brad Meltzer


February 18: Don Winslow Digs Into Modern Drug War With New Novel ‘The Border’

February 19: ‘The Border’ author Don Winslow wants to debate Trump about the wall, and Stephen King wants to pay for it


February 19: The Lab Discovering DNA in Old Books

February 19: McDonald’s hands out free books in New Zealand to encourage children to read more

February 20: Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson Lay Down the Law in ‘The Highwaymen’ Trailer

February 22: In letters, Whitey Bulger fondly recalled old days, Alcatraz


On Plagiarism: These should be Read In Order

Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot.

February 22: PLAGIARISM, THEN AND NOW

February 23: NOT A RANT, BUT A PROMISE


February 25: Secondhand books: the murky world of literary plagiarism

February 25: Never forget David Bowie masterminded ‘the biggest art hoax in history’

February 25: This bookseller gives kids books in exchange for empty cans and bottles

February 25: How To Cultivate A Reading Habit

February 26: ‘We donte want to hurt anney one’: Bonnie and Clyde’s poetry revealed

February 26: ‘Bond 25’ Official Title Revealed, Plus Everything We Know About The Next 007 Movie

February 27: ‘Bond 25’ Exclusive: Rami Malek in Final Negotiations to Play Villain

February 27: Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery granted right to appeal after new evidence

      Words of the Month

tenebrous (adj.) “full of darkness,” late 15th C., from Old French tenebros “dark, gloomy” (11c., Modern French ténébreux), from Latin tenebrosus “dark,” from tenebrae “darkness” (see temerity). Related: Tenebrosity. (thanks to etymonline)

      R.I.P.

February 4: Julie Adams: Creature from the Black Lagoon star dies

February 8: Albert Finney dies at aged 82

February 22: W.E.B. Griffin, 89, Dies; a Best-Selling Novelist Dozens of Times

February 23: Stanley Donen, 94, director of ‘Charade’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’

      Words of the Month

Necropolis – especially : a large elaborate cemetery of an ancient city; Cemetery – 1st known use was in 1819

With its polis ending, meaning “city”, a necropolis is a “city of the dead”. Most of the famous necropolises of Egypt line the Nile River across from their cities. In ancient Greece and Rome, a necropolis would often line the road leading out of a city; in the 1940s a great Roman necropolis was discovered under the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Some more recent cemeteries especially deserve the name necropolis because they resemble cities of aboveground tombs, a necessity in low-lying areas such as New Orleans where a high water table prevents underground burial.

Entomology/History – Borrowed from Late Latin, “cemetery,” & from Greek Nekrópolis, literally, “city of the dead,” name of a large cemetery in a suburb of ancient Alexandria, from nekro – NECRO- + -polis -POLIS

Anagram – prosocline – meaning slanting forward

(Thanks Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

      What We’ve Been Doing

    Amber

 Finder Of Lost Things

Don’t forget! Check out my mystery blog! This last week we’ve discovered who our Pink Lady is and almost met the Librarian Extraordinaire Mrs. Schmit! Tomorrow Beatrice & Wood help Phoebe move the rest of her stuff into the shed in penance for their friendly early morning torture… 

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J.D. Robb – Connections In Death

The newest Eve Dallas mystery, Connections In Death, came out on February fifth! What wasn’t so great was the fact I’d started a completely different book prior to its release. Then attempted to continue reading it while my favorite guilty pleasure sat on top of my to-be-read pile…

Needless to say, I caved.

It was snowy! I needed something fun to read while watching the drifts pile up…That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

In any case, this installment of the In Death series was everything you’ve come to expect from Eve and her team, starting with a murder dressed up to look like an overdose which connected back to Crack and his new lady whom Eve met just the night before…

Now I must place a slight caution – not on the writing or storylines (all of which were great) – but you need to have read the last couple of books in the series to fully appreciate every event Eve finds herself attending. As there are subplots in this book which link back to previous cases and if you’re not up on them – you’ll miss some of the significance of the action unfolding in the pages of this book. You won’t get lost mind you – but Robb doesn’t use any of her usual boilerplate catch-ups in this book (thank goodness for us long-time readers), she ‘s assuming you’ve read and remembered her previous books.

I would recommend this book to any of the Eve fans out there! This book went flat out from the first page and didn’t stop until its last. Even if you missed the previous book or two, you wouldn’t be lost, but you’ll want to go back and read them – because Nadine won a huge award which makes Eve both happy (for her friend) and irritated (as a cop) at the same time!

    Fran

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Alrighty then, I’m about to ask you to follow another link for a moment, but first I gotta tell you that the second book in the  Maureen Johnson “Truly Devious” trilogy is out – The Vanishing Stair (Kensington) – and ohmygoodness you have to read it, but you absolutely have to have read Truly Devious first.

If you’ve forgotten about it, see if this jogs your memory: Click here

You have to scroll down, but you’ll recognize it by the cut-and-pasted threatening note. Of course, re-reading the whole newzine is perfectly okay, but remember to come back here.

Okay. So here we are, back at Ellingham. Sort of. See, Stevie’s parents have pulled her out because of that horrible mess at the end of the last book, and the only way she can get back is to make a deal with the devil. At what point do your wants overcome your morals? It’s a tough question at any age, and Stevie is seriously torn.

Again, we jump between the two time periods, 1930 and now, and again both are riveting. We learn about the story behind that chilling note. If you thought it had a Dorothy Parker flavor, you’re right and it was intentional. The imagery is deliberate and perfect, but then it would be since Maureen Johnson is a brilliant writer, and she picked the highly talented Sarah Weinman’s  brains and gaspingly deep knowledge of that time period. I must admit I squeed a bit when I discovered they consulted for this book. If you haven’t read any of Sarah’s writing, you’ve been remiss. Fix that, but after you’ve read The Vanishing Stair.

Make no mistake, though. The 21st century has much to offer in Johnson’s capable hands. And she ties the two eras together perfectly.

“Detection has many methods, many pathways, narrow and subtle. Fingerprints. The lost piece of thread. The dog barking in the night.       

“But there is also Google.”

So yes, once again I am stalking you across the shop floor, eyes gleaming madly, shoving this book in your hand and insisting you read it. I’m pushy like that, but I have my reasons, and once you’re immersed in this strange academic world, you’ll understand why.

And, on a personal note to Maureen, congratulations on your marriage to Oscar! And deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved rescue dog, Zelda. You embrace both joy and tragedy so profoundly, and I am in awe.

shadowgamelgI blame one of our customers, Helen T., for this one. Yes, Helen, it’s all your fault, and I’m not sure if I’m deeply grateful or want to rough you up. In the nicest possible way, of course. I mean, there I was, reading the first in one of her series, and Lillian walked past, stopped, stared for a moment, then asked, “Are you reading a bodice ripper?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

And I’m loving them.

Which ones, you ask? And you’re giving me that side eye, aren’t you? Tough.

Helen told us how much she loved Christine Feehan’s books. I figured I needed some mind candy, so why not? I’ll tell you why not. They’re bloody addicting. Seriously, I reached the end of a series and thought, “Wait, no more Feehan in the house? That’s not acceptable!” I’ve really got it bad.

It’s her characters, because you know I’m all about the characters. There’s a mystery in all of them, but the damsels do a lot of the rescuing, which I like. Granted, all the men are broodingly handsome and the women are gaspingly beautiful, and there’s lots of steamy stuff (which I skip, ‘cause I always do in every book, including JD Robbs. Just not my thing but I imagine these are well done. Dunno. Don’t care), but the subjects Feehan tackles are often timely and bitterly dark, which I love. There’s lots of violence and death, and our heroes often are the recipients. So far, every one of our protagonists is damaged in some way, and frequently it’s the ladies to the rescue. And not just with “steamy” solutions. Asses are frequently kicked.

Christine Feehan has seven series, and I’ve read two all the way through. Learn from my mistakes – you want to read the “Drake Sisters” series first, and in order, then go to the “Sea Haven” series. After that, you can go to the “Torpedo Ink” series. They all tie together. The “Shadow” series stands on its own.

It was in the “GhostWalker” series (15 books so far) that I came to truly admire Feehan’s talent. One of the books had a couple I didn’t much care for. They just didn’t click for me. But I devoured the book anyway, because I still cared what happened to them. And I’m realistic enough to know that she writes for her, not me, and others are going to adore this book and dislike others. Doesn’t matter. I haven’t tackled the “Leopard” series (only 11), much less the “Dark Series” which is her largest – so far there are 33 there, but I’m kinda vampired out for the moment. But at least I have plenty to keep me occupied! Christine Feehan is really, really good at writing paranormal romance, and I’m grateful.

I think. *studies bookshelves looking for more space*

    JB

While walking my dog Parker one recent, snowy afternoon, I glanced across a street to see a duplex, both having the same street number but were differentiated by a letter after the numbers. Got him thinking – – who lived at 221A Baker Street????

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