Sunday, July 24, 2011

Murder in the Warsaw Ghetto: Richard Zimler, THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS

When I first read the Nancy Drew books -- and then the James Bond books -- and all the various mysteries, thrillers, and espionage that delighted me in the first half of my life, I wished I could be taking those adventures, solving those puzzles, defying evil and being decisive, clever, and (let's hope) wise.

But I always pictured doing those things with the advantages of youth, health, and strength.

Now Richard Zimler's THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS dares us to consider what it would be like to chase down evil when our legs tremble, our minds are fragile, our families vanished. In Erik Cohen, an elderly psychiatrist, Zimler presents the most difficult challenges of life trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940: being human.

Erik Cohen has enough foresight to move himself into the noted Jewish district before the Nazis force his neighbors to do the same, in autumn 1940. So he has some of his books, and a sense of control of his life -- which is quickly crushed as he takes up residence in tight quarters with his niece Steffa and Stefa's nine-year-old son Adam. And  when Adam goes missing, then is revealed as brutally murdered and mutilated, Cohen's barely balanced emotions and living space undergo perilous changes.

What Zimler portrays brilliantly is how Cohen forms alliances with other elderly (and not so elderly) Ghetto residents, and takes on himself the challenge of discovering the cause of little Adam's terrible death. And in choosing toinvestigate, he'll run counter to the wishes of a representative of the Ghetto's Jewish Council:
'Spreading news of what's happened could cause panic. And since this is an isolated case, it's best if we just . . . well, I think you know what I mean.'

'No, actually I don't,' I told him.

'A little discretion will go a long way in keeping things under control,' he observed.

When he shook my hand to take his leave, I snarled, 'Do you really believe that keeping things under control is of any importance to me now?'
Unlike any other "World War II" novel or thriller, THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS weaves the dark details of captivity  into Cohen's determined investigation, with all the daily risks of violence and horror that we shudder to remember -- and that fuel our sympathy for this frail old man in his often haunted journey of discovery.

Richard Zimler's eight novels have been widely translated, and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon brought him critical acclaim and award nominations. THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS will surely do the same. Many thanks to The Overlook Press for embracing a deep and daring work of suspense and survival.

Intense Thriller, Worth Reading: ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott

How fast-paced do you like your thrillers? And how close do you dare to get to what happened on September 11, 2011 -- a date about to be honored with intense and uncomfortable awareness of how the American view of the world changed in an instant, and has continued to change. Life seems a lot more dangerous than it used to. When partisan politics mingles with insanity to kill more than 80 people at a summer camp in Oslo, in real life, the events of Jeff Abbott's newest book, ADRENALINE, cut close to our own tensions.

The book opens with Sam Capra, a brilliant CIA agent on assignment in the UK, taking a quick round of fierce exercise in the discipline of parkour -- a kind of rapid running with leaps, climbs, and major obstacles along the way. Home from the workout, for breakfast with his heavily pregnant wife Lucy, Sam has no realization that this will be his last moment of serenity. His life is about to literally explode. And as the lone survivor of a bombing that takes out his workplace and colleagues, Sam is suspect number one. Somebody has deliberately betrayed the group. If it wasn't Sam, it must have been Lucy -- who is either already dead, or kidnapped, and the time for that baby's birth is racing toward everyone.

Jeff Abbott
Two of Abbott's earlier seven thrillers, Panic and Collision, are headed for Hollywood, and it's clear that ADRENALINE will soon follow. So -- unless you really like reading the book after the movie -- now's a good time to pick up a copy and enjoy a fast, intense summer read.

Professional, Polished Espionage: RIP TIDE by Stella Rimington

US cover
When the former director general of MI5 writes another Liz Carlyle novel, who can resist picking it up for a good summer read? And, as I've mentioned already, RIP TIDE offers opportunities to enjoy the differences between British and American publishing, as the UK version came out last week, and the American one is scheduled for August 30 release. Here, again, are the two jacket designs -- and now, a look at what Rimington is doing with this volume.

MI5 intelligence officer Liz Carlyle is well connected. She has to be. Informants, teammates who are loyal to her, multiple connections among the other intelligence services likely to work with her -- these all help get the job done. For the first time in a while, Liz is feeling almost settled in a comfortable relationship, too, with a French international agent who's got about the same amount of responsibility and outreach as Liz -- meaning that it's easy to balance their careful agreement of "no details" in terms of work discussions.

Then, gently tilting things off balance, Martin Seurat asks Liz to consider moving to France, because he misses her when they can't see each other for, say, a month of busy operations. How is Liz is supposed to think that through when international crises are demanding her attention? That's OK -- Rimington doesn't push the romance beyond the frame of the action, as the demands for intelligence and action multiply in Liz's work life.

Is it religion that's pushing international violence, and is that why two members of a radical Muslim group drag Liz into an alley, threatening at a level well beyond a mere questioning? Or is it money and power, leaking through the plans of an otherwise inoffensive Athens-based aid organization -- and somehow connecting with both terrorism and piracy?
'Do you think the French have really caught a Brit among a gang of African pirates?' said Peggy, pushing her glasses higher on her nose as she gazed at her computer screen. 'I bet it's just a stolen license that's found its way out there and that the guy turns out to be another Somali.'
'I'm not so sure,' said Liz. 'Apparently the French Captain reported there was something odd about him -- he wasn't really one of the gang. ... He seems to understand English, though he's hardly said anything.' ... And overnight Peggy had managed to assemble a few facts about Amir Khan. ... So Liz was  trying to keep an open mind, though she was curious about what mixture of motives, inducements, or grievances might have led young Khan, if indeed it was he, to the Indian Ocean, to enter the hijacking business that she had previously believed to be the preserve of Somalis.
Rimington spins a neat set of interwoven subplots, threats, and violent interludes, brisk and well paced. I enjoyed the book, although there were moments when the author's agenda seemed designed to "teach" the issues of the day, rather than drive the story. The good guys are a bit more tolerant than the bad ones; passions are one-dimensional; "mistakes are made" with only a few characters being intentionally deceptive. Emotions, other than concern about being beaten or killed, stay tame and simple.

On the other hand, I enjoyed what Rimington chose to show of the "office politics" of government-sponsored spying. Her playing off of women versus men rings true, along with the costly choices that have to be made from day to day.

UK cover
Summing up, I'd say Rimington hasn't put a lot of her beliefs and passions into RIP TIDE -- but she's loaded it with the more believable tracks of her own experience. As the first female director general for MI5, she knows the terrain of gender wars well, but she doesn't try to blame results (or the lack of them) on these conflicts. Liz Carlyle may not be the most exciting spy to cross our paths, but she may well be one of the sanest ones. And that, as a plot and character device, is actually quite intriguing. I look forward to the (clearly planned) sequel.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Weather, Good Books, Good Company!

Okay, I admit it -- I've spent some of my reading time in the past two weeks going back through the Harry Potter series, getting ready to see the summer's blockbuster "young adult" film. What can I say? But I've also been savoring books scheduled for late summer release, and I've got to recommend the new Stella Rimington espionage novel, RIP TIDE. Released in the UK last week, it's coming out in the US on August 30. I'd suggest adding both the UK and US versions to the shelf; the contrast of covers is always interesting.

I also really, really like the Jeff Abbott thriller, ADRENALINE. I got my copy in the same week when the book was released, so I'm not offering "advance" comments -- just enthusiasm. I'll give details this weekend, when the workload slows down a bit here.

Work -- well, that includes picking raspberries and peas, as well as slipping Brodart protectors onto the dust jackets of the latest titles Dave has added to the shelves. I saw quite a few espionage titles among the stacks he gave to me ... must be the season. I've got a book of my own coming out in September (, so that too takes attention, lining up a Vermont tour and a few other places to travel with this "young adult" mystery. I love my new publisher, VOYAGE, the new fiction imprint of Brigantine Media.

Fred Lichtenberg at Kingdom Books
Finally, everything in summer gets put on hold when clients and guests arrive. Along with welcoming some seasonal "regulars" this past week, and attending poet Jane Shore's annual presentation to Advanced Placement teachers (yes, poetry does connect with pace and plot), we were especially excited to meet crime fiction author Fred Lichtenberg and his wife Sonia, touring New England with Fred's first published work, HUNTER'S WORLD. This debut, set on Long Island, has brought Fred a lot of attention. And guess what -- he's got two more books already done, so count on savoring more from this enthusiastic writer. It's great to connect at the start of a career -- and it's clear that Lichtenberg will be expanding his presence in the crime fiction scene. Thanks, Fred, for stopping in!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Calendar Reminder: Eliot Pattison Here, July 31

Eliot Pattison's 2009 visit to Kingdom Books
Presenting the first book of his new detection series, set in America after the nuclear bombs, is Eliot Pattison -- here to discuss ASHES OF THE EARTH. He'll be at Kingdom Books on Sunday July 31 at 7 p.m., and we are excited and honored to welcome him again.

Pattison's first mystery series features Shan Tao Yun, a former Beijing police inspector, now ardently protecting -- as best he can -- the remaining monks of Chinese-occupied Tibet. The first book in the series, The Skull Mantra, won a prestigious Edgar Award.

His second series, the "Bone Rattler" books, takes place in Colonial America. When an exiled Scotsman and a Native American shaman forge a friendship out of shared need -- and shared survival of their battered spirits -- forensic detection becomes a tool to manage the effort against evil around them.

With ASHES OF THE EARTH, Pattison dares to imagine communities struggling with the after-effects of radiation poisoning, the collapse of urban America, and the loss, within a generation, of necessary knowledge and wisdom. For survivor Hadrian Boone, the colony of Carthage is as much a prison for the soul as it is a remnant of home. The book probes the emotions of midlife, of loss, of grief -- and of that pure anger that insists on fueling the struggle for community and long-term peace in a ravaged landscape. Here's our earlier review.

Please join us to welcome Eliot Pattison back to Vermont. Contact Dave to reserve your book (802-751-8374 or And if you can't be here in person but would like a book signed and shipped to you, we're glad to do that, too. Just let us know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shivers! The ITW Thriller Awards Go To ...

Here's the final list of award winners from the International Thriller Writers, announced this past weekend at ThrillerFest in New York City:
Best Hard Cover Novel:
BAD BLOOD, John Sandford

Best Paperback Original Novel:

Best First Novel:
STILL MISSING, Chevy Stevens

Best Short Story:
"The Gods for Vengeance Cry," Richard Helms
And here are the special awards in addition: R. L. Stine was named ThrillerMaster, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the genre; Joe McGinniss won the True Thriller Award; and Karin Slaughter took home the Silver Bullet Award.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY: The Fourth Commander Jana Matinova Investigation, from Michael Genelin

This week's best crime fiction news is the release of Michael Genelin's fourth book, REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY. Because the publisher, Soho Crime, is relatively small, you may not see big full-page ads for the book in the national newspapers. And because the setting is Slovakia -- not exactly on the movie-script list of sexy places -- this one probably won't get turned into a TV show or movie in the near future.

Ah, if only it was on the screen: The grainy shots of the bureaucratic leftovers of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain. The exotic accents, the challenges for a woman detective, the lure of Paris -- not nearly as far away as its way of life. And best of all, Matinova: impatient with incompetence, willing to nag her own boss into becoming an instant "human shield" in a threatened assassination, isolated by her gender and profession and longing for contact with her distant granddaughter, someone who deeply loves her.

And that's what REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY paints most eloquently. Don't get me wrong, this isn't "literary fiction" and you won't find long, descriptive passages -- just a steady press of plot, motive, and increasing urgency. But in Genelin's hands, Jana Matinova's real longings for an affectionate side of life, an area where she can touch and trust and care, make her vulnerable to a cannily constructed criminal maneuver that soon infiltrates her home, her career, and her thoughts.

The book begins with two deaths: one that takes place in Paris and is linked to Slovakia only through an odd tattoo on the victim, and one of a gypsy boy who has clearly been the victim of a gun accident. Despite her conclusions, though, the boy's family won't accept her decision on the death.
Jana sighed as she closed the door. It was always like that when people abruptly lost a loved one, particularly when it involved a violent ending. There was never enough satisfaction for victims in any investigation or prosecution. There was no way that any police officer could bring the dead back to life or give the relatives of the deceased anything approaching what they really wanted: to see, to hold, to kiss their loved one more time. In that way, every case was unwinnable ...
Then the third direction opens, as Matinova accompanies her boss, Colonel Trokan, to a birthday reception for a ruthless local businessman making his way to international success. "Oto Bogan had mysteriously avoided criminal prosecution and so was still on the 'we can associate with him' list for police officers."

When a well-planned assassination occurs at the party, Jana's attention to the dead gypsy boy, and the tattooed victim whose case has been sent to her from Paris, must end, as she tackles the major case. Yet the team investigating the assassination claims she can't take part, because she's been wounded herself. The involved prosecutor is hiding something. Matinova's going to have to cross national borders herself, to reach police teams who'll be honest with her.

Soon, connections emerge that involve not only two of the three cases, but also Slovakia's disturbing past role in the opening of World War II. And Matinova questions the most important parts of her own existence, while pressing to capture the criminals involved.

I hope you can tell from the material I've quoted that this book has an unusual rhythm to the writing, a hint of Eastern Europe as if caught in a slightly awkward translation. Actually, there are no translators involved -- Michael Genelin graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as from its law school, and worked for the U.S. State Department in Central Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as Haiti. But whether this is his natural style of writing, or one crafted to accompany Jana Matinova, it works well to hint at the vast differences in culture that framed this small and violently occupied nation.

Genelin's earlier three books in the series are Siren of the Waters, Dark Dreams, and The Magician's Accomplice. It's not necessary to read them before this new one. On the other hand, if you enjoy REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY the way I have (twice!), you may want them all.

N.B.: It's long past time for American readers to catch up with the status of the Rom -- the gypsies -- in Europe. Genelin's book handles this very differently from the way it enters The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon (2008). Might as well encourage your local bookshop to stock both. That's how we handle it here. Dave is still marveling that our international section of the shop has grown so rapidly in the past five years. Works for me ...

Friday, July 08, 2011

Attention, Donald Westlake Collectors! (A Note from Dave)

A July mention of a piece to watch for, for fellow collectors of Donald E. Westlake and Richard Stark material. This image shows a magazine that is written in French and published in Paris, France. This issue features an extensive interview with mystery and crime writer Donald E. Westlake, as well as several articles concerning Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, and Timothy J. Culver (all Westlake pseudonyms).  The issue also includes fiction by Westlake, Ruth Rendell, Brian Garfield, Luc Chomarat, and Alain Paucard. There are also a number of photographs and movie stills. Published January, 1982, as Issue 22.
Let me know if you locate other copies. I'm keeping this one. I wish I could read the French language! (If your French is pretty good, look at this Wikipedia page on the publisher.) An interesting Westlake/Stark publication.

Diversion: Collecting the Works of David R. Godine, Publisher

The Literary Tourist has just released a half-hour-long interview with publisher David R. Godine of Boston, on collecting the works of his press. What a delight! Too often, fine press leaders immerse themselves in their work so deeply, fiercely, and for so long that they don't take time to give the rest of us a perspective of their "list." But with a full bibliography of the press scheduled to release at the end of the year, Godine is giving presentations at various venues to mark 40 years of "DRG."

If I were to place the origins of the press, I'd call it a love child of The Stinehour Press and artist Leonard Baskin, with blessings from master printer Harold McGrath. Roderick (Rocky) Stinehour continues to influence the fine press work of the East Coast, and his friendship with Godine created a two-way path of influence between the presses.

Kingdom Books made a sorrowful choice when the recession arrived, releasing our fine press specialties and our enormous poetry collection (more than four thousand volumes between the two), in order to focus on mysteries. But of course we've gathered poetry again, and it turns out that we never did quite let go of our Godine and Janus Press work (also that of Dean Bornstein, who designed many a book for Godine and Stinehour). I just did a quick count and we have a dozen and a half of David Godine's books, including several of the ones mentioned in the Literary Tourist interview. I especially like an early elegant one by Joel Barlow called The Hasty-Pudding; the slender book (in boards) by Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland; and Mary Azarian's classic The Farmer's Alphabet.

Thank you, Nigel Beale, owner/publisher of and Host of The Biblio File Radio Show, for bringing us this wide-ranging and exciting interview. It's made a lovely morning interlude for me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

CARTE BLANCHE 007: Newest James Bond by Jeffery Deaver. ALSO: Other Signed Books Stacking Up

Jeffery Deaver
Dave practically jumped up and down when the package arrived -- three brand new copies of CARTE BLANCHE 007, the brand new James Bond novel, signed by author Jeffery Deaver. You probably know Deaver's writing already (my favorites are in the Lincoln Rhyme series). And of course you know "Bond. James Bond."

The novel brings Bond into the 21st century, and the tangle of intelligence, counterintelligence, and espionage is so intricate that Deaver provides a glossary of names and acronyms! And the plot ... well, if those old James Bond paperbacks on your shelf seem well-loved but just a little dated in pace, brace yourself for a superb and suspenseful thriller instead.

As they say along the midway at the summer fairs up here, "Get 'em quick, while they're hot!" Click here to order.


A short list for the benefit of collectors who say to us, "Let me know whose signed work is arriving at the shop, would you?" (You know who you are.) We've got stacks of Dave Zeltserman and Lea Wait, from readings here at Kingdom Books this summer; a nice supply of Eliot Pattison that we expect will shrink rapidly as people arrive for his July 31 reading and signing here (have you read his new Ashes of the Earth yet?); and we thank award-winning Canadian author Howard Shrier for signing some lovely archival bookplates for us, to accompany his books here -- a good placeholder until we can lure this powerful writer "south of the border." More, of course, soon to come.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Great Store -- and a Place to Talk Mysteries!

It's "road destruction" season in northern Vermont, and the rebuilding of US Route 2 in nearby Danville -- a project in the works for years -- now ties up traffic in both directions on any given weekday. But it's worth the time and effort to get to the center of this classic country town, where some of our favorite businesses carry on, despite the road work. We love breakfast at the Danville Inn & Restaurant, treat ourselves to dinner at The Creamery Restaurant, and dive into the Diamond Hill Store to pick up favorite cheeses, chocolates, antiques, porcelain and glass, even cigars (well, for Dave to smoke out on the deck!). Co-owners Tom and John always have something new to show us, and we like listening to explanations of where the new pillows came from or which wines have become popular.

In addition to co-owning the shop, John Dauteuil is an ardent reader of mysteries, so we get some great conversations about our faves. With business slowed due to the roadwork, John made an offer last week for readers of the Kingdom Books blog: Stop in to purchase a bottle of wine, and he'll give you a free mystery book from the shelves where he stockpiles the ones he's ready to pass along. Ask his advice on the cheeses and other treats, too, after you've enjoyed your conversation.

Maine Crime Novel: TRESPASSER by Paul Doiron

Paul Doiron's debut crime novel, The Poacher's Son, ripped its way onto the best shelves here at Kingdom Books like a gust of forest-scented wind and rain. Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden with lots in his favor -- a fierce sense of the woods, independent thinking, energy, sufficient stubbornness to keep pursuing a case or a criminal -- is also the son of one of the state's most notorious poachers: hunters who disregard the law blatantly, in order to shoot (and usually eat) deer and other wild game out of season or without a license to do so. Mike's efforts to prove himself in the law enforcement community pitted him against his own father, while simultaneously trying to figure out whether there were parts of his father he could still embrace, and wondering how much of his dad was in him, despite his training and choices.

Now Doiron's second novel, TRESPASSER, sets Mike against his own best and worst selves, as he hunts for the murderer of a young woman from Massachusetts who struck a deer at night with her car, then accepted a ride from someone and vanished from the scene. His relationship with his girlfriend is on rough ground due to his priorities -- no matter how nicely she asks, he rarely makes it home from work on time even for guests he truly likes, like his old friend Charley Stevens, a retired warden pilot who stands as a better parent figure to him than Mike's own family can provide. And between the guilt and shame he feels about himself and his father, and habits of "self-medicating" that keep unbalancing his thinking, Mike's making some awful choices that keep setting him up for moments when his colleagues are on "the other side":
In the sharp, cold air, my senses returned. I found my cell phone in my jacket pocket. I started to key in the direct number for the Knox County dispatcher, when I heard a car coming down the drive behind us. Flashing blue lights made hallucinatory patterns in the trees. The a blinding spotlight snapped on, pinning us both in place. An electronically amplified voice boomed out, "Don't move."
Mike's discovery of one death, then another, take place with such poor decisions around them that he's soon in nearly as much trouble as the criminals, minor and major, around him. And his home life is going downhill, fast, in spite of Charley Stevens trying to help him figure out how domestic partners show love and support to each other.

Doiron spins a masterful tail, with flawless plot twists that range from police procedure to jailhouse life to managing the rigors of back-country law enforcement. He gives a great picture of the way multiple law agencies interact -- Maine's game wardens do much more than chase off-season hunters or over-eager anglers -- and of how judgment and choices can progress downhill, building momentum from each other. Mike's a complex character, and so are the people around him, whether living in trailers or teaching school or (ouch) supervising Mike.

My only (small) quibble with this book tackles the title, which is demonstrably linked to Mike's religious training as a child -- "forgive us our trespasses" -- and lack of belief, but never quite rings true as part of a Mike's fox-hole atheism. "There are no atheists in foxholes," goes the old expression, and Doiron sets Mike up in several situations to consider whether "God" has any meaning and whether the chaplain to the game warden services is worth talking with. But the references sometimes seem like surface after-thoughts. When Mike wrestled with father-son "stuff" in the first book, the pain and complexity came through loud and clear; in TRESPASSER, though, Mike's self-destructive choices cascade so rapidly that it's hard to believe he's buying into deeper self-awareness or even savoring the woodland life he's there to defend.

But that's indeed small potatoes, compared to the taut, compelling plot of this second crime novel, and I'm committing to collecting Doiron's books, hoping there will be many more to come. Mike Bowditch and Charley Stevens are unforgettable characters, people I want living in my community. (Actually, I think they do.)

Doiron's books have already been compared to those of C. J. Box; William Kent Krueger, Nevada Barr, and Steve Hamilton belong on the list of comparables, too, for the feel of TRESPASSER. Highly recommended -- and Dave and I are honored that the author will visit Kingdom Books in November.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Coming in September: A KILLER'S ESSENCE from Dave Zeltserman

While I was devouring Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist yesterday, my husband Dave was steadily consuming an advance copy of Dave Zeltserman's newest crime novel. Here's his response:

Last night I finished the best crime novel I have read in the last year -- an advance reading copy of Dave Zeltserman's book A Killer's Essence, which will be published by Overlook Press in September. The story line was superb as well as the characters, and especially the New York City Police Detective Stan Green. 
The thriller had a new angle with a witness who was a neurlogically damaged loner, and Detective Stan Green's patience and understanding of his condition.  I was also taken with the fact that a friendship developed between the detective and the witness. Dave also wove in many threads that included a bookstore owner, the Yankees & Red Sox rivalry, and a failed marriage with all the consequences. Dave nailed the atmosphere of New York City and Brooklyn. There is no question that our customers will love this book. And there is no question that I want a copy for my collection, when this comes out.

Scandinavian Crime Fiction: Lars Kepler, THE HYPNOTIST

UK cover
US cover
I'll keep this one short, because THE HYPNOTIST has already garnered huge and enthusiastic reviews, and is being heavily promoted by publisher Farrar Strauss Giroux -- you may already have seen expensive, splashy ads for the book.

Good news: It's terrific. Already a hit in Europe, it's written by the husband-and-wife team Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril under the pseudonym ''Lars Kepler" (they had to reveal themselves, because readers kept trying to attribute the book to other stellar Scandinavian writers). The authors live in Sweden, and most of the action of the book takes place in cities and suburbs there. Haunting and violent, it has two absorbing characters: psychologist Dr. Erik Maria Bark, whose extraordinary skills with hypnosis are somehow entangled in the erupting crimes; and Detective Inspector Joona Linna, a man whose gentleness in person is a startling contrast to his aggressive pursuit of criminals, insistence on running and solving cases his own way, and self-protection skills.

The thriller opens with the bloody murder of an entire family -- well, not quite. There appears to have been one survivor, Josef Ek, and Joona Linna calls in Dr. Bark for a desperate chance at getting a clue from the wounded but possibly responsive boy.

And that's the turning point, the shot that starts the action and disasters, in barely the first chapter. 

This is a scary one; the blood, death, abuse, and threat are all too real. Keep the lights on, by all means, and check the locks. But oh my gosh, what a read.

"Lars Kepler"
Even better news: The sequel's already been published in Europe. I'm hoping it's already being (or been) translated by Ann Long, who handled this first one. For an interesting perspective on the books and authors, check out the Nordic Bookblog.

Who Murdered the Used Book Business? -- Vincent McCaffrey's 2nd Book, A SLEPYING HOUND TO WAKE

You know the old expression, "Let sleeping dogs lie"? I hadn't realized there was a precursor, from Geoffrey Chaucer: "It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake."

Usually I take that to mean, "Don't encourage trouble, when you might be able to slip past it instead." But Vincent McCaffrey twists it to fresh meaning as he opens his second bibliomystery featuring Henry Sullivan, book scout -- or, as McCaffrey phrases it, "bookhound." Yes, Henry is the hound, sniffing out potential value in stacks, rooms, even houses full of old books, looking for the profitable resale.

Henry's first appearance in print, in Hound (Small Beer Press, 2009; coming out in softcover later this month), took the book scout into the library of collectors Heber and Morgan Johnson -- Heber had been an agent -- and death followed him in. To solve the escalating violence around him, Henry delved into the relationships people have with the books they own, as well as the ones they long for.

While McCaffery's "first book" status showed, painfully at times, in Hound, the book was still a must-read for those who own, cherish, or are fascinated by used book shops. And of course, if you collect bibliomysteries, the title is a necessary addition to the shelf, especially since the author owned the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop on Newbury Street in Boston for 29 years (and continues to own its new form, relocated to Abington, Mass.).

The second in the series, A SLEPYNG HOUND TO WAKE, is a delicious reward for those who decided to be patient with the author's accumulating skills. With almost none of the whiplash skip-that-scene moments that marked the first book, instead it's a lively probe into the rapidly changing book market.

Henry's dragged into an investigation of possible plagiarism, thanks to a messy situation involving his good friend and long-past lover Barbara Krouse, whose bookshop he'd helped to develop. But violence is already on his track, somehow lured by a book purchase he made, and it intensifies as he tries to sort out what's right and wrong for Barbara, for her friend Sharon, and for the continued presence in his heart of Morgan Johnson, who oddly seems connected to what's going on. Nor does the line of women end here: Henry's upstairs neighbor could be courting him when she gives him a nude photo of herself; his landlady appears interested in him beyond normal bounds; and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Della keeps sliding into his business, as well as his rented rooms. Henry's good friend Albert, who hauls "refuse," is willing to help out a bit on solving the crimes, but can't save Henry from two conclusions: that he's going to have to pick one woman or lose them all, and that the rapidly changing book business is bringing pain, anguish, loss, and grief to his book-centered friends.

Will there even be booksales for Henry to scout, in another year or so?

This is an impressive bibliomystery, wrestling with much more than the plot twists, and anyone who loves books in the physical shape of the past few centuries will wrestle with their possible demise, as Henry does. Is he really going to solve the crime of "the death of the book" or the "demise of the bookstore"?

Read on.