Monday, October 29, 2012

Collector's Corner: A Challenge from Dave

Ephemera today. This " I LIKE PIKE"  pin was handed out in 2011 at the Bouchercon Mystery Conference in  St. Louis, Mo in 2011. The author is 59 years of age and lives in Santa Monica, Ca. He is the author of 18 mystery/thriller titles. He has two series characters and he has written three stand alones. He has been nominated for many mystery award over the years. Can you name his character in the two series that he has created? By the way, we have 14 of his titles in stock at Kingdom Books.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Dilys is a Dilly - Tomorrow is the big day!!

Things at Kingdom Books have been wildly busy this week, so I haven't posted as many recaps of Dilys winners as I'd hoped to this week -- here's the list:


1992, Carl Hiassen, Native Tongue
1993, John Dunning, Booked to Die
1994, Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
1995, Janet Evanovich, One for the Money
1996, Michael Connelly, The Last Coyote
1997, Michael Connelly, The Poet
1998, Janet Evanovich, Three to Get Deadly
1999, Dennis Lehane, Gone, Baby, Gone
2000, Robert Crais, L.A. Requiem
2001, Val McDermid, A Place of Execution
2002, Dennis Lehane, Mystic River
2003, Julia Spencer-Fleming, In the Bleak Midwinter
2004, Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book
2005, Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter
2006, Colin Cotterill, Thirty-Three Teeth
2007, Louise Penny, Still Life
2008, William Kent Krueger, Thunder Bay
2009, Sean Chercover, Trigger City
2010, Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Poe
2011, Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead
2012, S. J. Rozan, Ghost Hero
 I'll toss a few quick notes here: Although Mystic River is one of the finest Dennis Lehane books for reading, I'm just plain hooked on the film version of Gone, Baby, Gone -- Dave and I must have seen it three or four times already, and I'd watch it again. I love the Boston tough-tender of Lehane's books.

Dave's the Crais reader in the house -- honey, are you listening??

Whenever I've read a not-so-great-yet author and need to get the "awkward" out of my head, Val McDermid is one of the authors I return to. A Place of Execution is stunning, and worth re-reading.

I've collected Jasper Fforde's first five or six books -- the puns are wonderful fun, although it would help if I had more of a "literary" background (I gained my book sense mostly by reading and listening, not from college classes).  But a good familiarity with Alice in Wonderland made the first few of his books hit home for me. I think of them as "caper books for classic readers"!

Darkly Dreaming Dexter proved that Jeff Lindsay's writing could reach at least two generations at once -- I like the book, gruesome though it can be, and one of my sons is an ardent fan of the TV series ("Dexter"). How about you?

Colin Cotterill writes wonderful fiction set in Laos and Cambodia; he's also a great person who sent us signed and illustrated bookplates to use in his books here. I line up his newest as a pre-order, to give myself a treat. Always a book I'll feel good about, as well as intriguing plotting.

I've written so much about Louise Penny and her remarkable arc of narrative across multiple novels that I can't add more -- browse this blog using her name if you have a moment.

Back to Dave for Krueger and Chercover. I do mean to read Krueger; we're just suffering from a scarcity of his books, and the Kingdom Books law is, you can't take a signed copy to bed with you (somehow the bottom of the spine always gets soft that way), so I have to wait until our stock of these expands. Chercover is definitely in Dave's area more than mine.

How on earth did Allan Bradley's "young adult" fantasy-mystery get onto the list of mysteries booksellers enjoyed selling the most? Simple -- it's a really, really enjoyable book, so one can't help talking it up to other readers. Bend your own self discipline and dip into this series about Flavia De Luce. Worth every minute (and a reminder that Good Books come in all age ranges).

Last: S. J. Rozan, whose Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series is both entertaining and a classic mystery series. Read about GHOST HERO here --

Tomorrow we welcome Archer Mayor, to celebrate his 23rd Joe Gunther book, PARADISE CITY. We'll nominate his work, once again, for the Dilys (maybe enough others will join us this year, to push it to the top!). S. J. Rozan is a friend of his, and we'll honor DILYS week by giving away a signed Archer Mayor book at our event tomorrow, as well as two signed copies of the trade paperback of GHOST HERO.

Are you going to be here? If not, you can still order a signed copy of Archer Mayor's PARADISE CITY -- just drop us an e-mail at before noon tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Michael Connelly, Dilys Awards, 1996 and 1997

There is actually a drawback to the phenomenal success and sales of each new Michael Connelly crime novel: Readers are always looking ahead to the next book, which now means finding out which of Connelly's two current series protagonists -- Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller -- will take the lead in the next book from this master of the detective novel. Even more intriguingly, how will the two interact, now that Connelly is bringing them into the same books?

With all that forward motion, sometimes I forget to look back at (re-read!) Connelly's earlier work. His noted The Black Echo and The Black Ice (from 1992 and 1993, his first and second books) were extraordinarily powerful early work; his fourth and fifth engaged independent mystery booksellers so securely that they swept the Dilys Award (for the book those sellers in IMBA have most enjoyed providing to readers) two years in a row.

So here's a refresher: In The Last Coyote, LAPD detective Harry Bosch goes onto "involuntary stress leave" for attacking his boss -- and finds himself investigating the murder of his own mother. And in The Poet, crime reporter Jack McEvoy begins to investigate police suicides, only to discover a serial killer at work. (The Poet was reissued in 2004 in softcover with an introduction by Stephen King.)

Although The Poet appeared to be a stand-alone diversion from the Harry Bosch series, Connelly would later tie its characters back into more of his fiction.

It's no exaggeration to say that early on, Connelly established a high standard for American crime fiction. Each of his subsequent books has been compared against that standard. No wonder we race for each new title. On November 26, the newest will release in the United States: The Black Box. It's a Harry Bosch title, dipping into 20 years of Bosch's career and files. After this Dilys week is over (and I hope you're reading ALL of our posts for it!) and the signed copies of S. J. Rozan's Ghost Hero have been awarded (here at Kingdom Books, we'll give them on Sat. Oct. 20 as part of Archer Mayor's 2 pm event), there will be about five weeks until the new Michael Connelly. Think you can fit in re-reading all the earlier titles?

I might try it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

1995 Dilys Award: Janet Evanovich, ONE FOR THE MONEY

Who would have guessed that amateur sleuth and bail bondswoman Stephanie Plum would still be arriving, fresh and funny, on our bookshelves for so many years? Not only are there 18 wonderfully wacky crime fiction titles, each with a play on words that contains the number of the book -- but Janet Evanovich has also provided novellas in between, aimed at holiday periods or quirky intermediate angles.

I particularly like the review posted on "April Books," a blog written by Lauryn April, whose specialty is young-adult fiction -- and who therefore is both delighted by the plucky sleuth, and careful to warn readers that there are real complexities mingling with the Evanovich humor, like being threatened by criminals, some violence, some friendly sex. Here is the start of the review -- read more of it at April's blogsite:
This was a very entertaining and funny read. Janet Evanovich has a wonderfully witty writing style that gives Stephanie Plum a sassy but also honest voice. Divorcee and jobless Stephanie has been selling off her furniture and appliances to keep from having to move back in with her parents. She is stubborn to the core and a little naïve, which is in part how she ends up as a bounty hunter chasing down her ex-fling Joe Morelli.

The whole book is filled with colorful and engaging characters. Grandma Mazur in particular was an awesome character, she was so funny. Everything she said had me laughing. I loved that every character had their own voice. From the hookers, to the boxer Ramirez, to good cop gone ‘bad’ Morelli, they were all well developed and interesting. This is an adult book with some adult themes, including sex and murder, but I enjoyed that. I was glad that Janet didn’t water down any of the issues she deals with.
That gives a good idea of why booksellers had so much fun with ONE FOR THE MONEY that the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association awarded the book the Dilys Award in 1995. Evanovich's series would capture a second Dilys, too, in 1998, for Three to Get Deadly

Here's the list of the 18 Stephanie Plum adventures so far -- check in at Evanovich's official website for more titles. The November 2012 release of Notorious Nineteen will give this author and her sleuth a chance to be the first to capture three (!) Dilys awards. Or do you think there's already another 2012 book that has given booksellers so much pleasure in the promotion that it's sure to win?? Let us know your guess.

Stephanie Plum Series (in order written)

  • One for the Money
  • Two for the Dough
  • Three to Get Deadly
  • Four to Score
  • High Five
  • Hot Six
  • Seven Up
  • Hard Eight
  • To the Nines
  • Ten Big Ones
  • Eleven on Top
  • Twelve Sharp
  • Lean Mean Thirteen
  • Fearless Fourteen
  • Finger Lickin' Fifteen
  • Sizzling Sixteen
  • Smokin' Seventeen
  • Explosive Eighteen

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Second Dilys Award: John Dunning, BOOKED TO DIE

John Dunning was born in 1942, and began receiving awards for his writing in 1981. His Dilys Award, however, didn't arrive until 1993, when independent mystery booksellers discovered the pleasure of pointing readers to Dunning's first Cliff Janeway detective novel, BOOKED TO DIE. Today Dave, whose expertise covers a wide range of mysteries, fills in the details:
One of my favorite mystery books is John Dunning’s first mystery in the Cliff Janeway series, titled Booked to Die. Janeway is an ex-policeman who has become a bookseller in Denver. There are five books in the series and they were all sought after by mystery collectors and readers and are considered bibliomysteries. The titles are the following:
Cliff Janeway novels
Booked to Die (1992)
The Bookman's Wake (1995)
The Bookman's Promise (2004)
The Sign of the Book (2005)
The Bookwoman's Last Fling (2006)
Dunning's awards for the Cliff Janeway series are the following:  Booked to Die won the Nero Award and was nominated for the 1993 Anthony Award in the "Best Novel" category; the book also won the Dilys Award for 1993. The follow-up to this novel, The Bookman's Wake, was nominated for the 1996 Edgar Award in the "Best Novel" category. Dunning had also been nominated early in his career (1981) for an Edgar Award (best paperback original) for his mystery by the title of Looking for the Ginger North, which was a stand-alone.

Booked to Die is one of the books that I constantly recommend because it has the themes of book collecting, bookselling, police work, and mystery. I have given more than 12 copies to friends and family over the years, and without fail everyone loves this book. Maybe that's why first edition, first printings that are signed are fetching from $650.00 to $1,200.00.

Find a copy and let us know what you think!

PS from Beth -- nice bio of John Dunning from Old Algonquin Books here. Also, if you haven't already seen it, please see our earlier post in this week's "This Dilys Is a Dilly!" We're building up to Archer Mayor's visit to Kingdom Books on Saturday Oct. 20 at 2 p.m., with a giveaway of one copy of his new book PARADISE CITY and two signed copies of S. J. Rozan's Dilly of a book, GHOST HERO.

This Dilys is a Dilly! And it started with Carl Hiassen's book ...

Actually, it all started with a group of bookstore owners -- the ones who specialize in mysteries and who formed IMBA, the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. And when these booksellers realized they had a much different view of the books in their stores than did the industry or the trade publications, they came up with a wonderful idea: The Dilys Award.
The Dilys Award has been given annually since 1992 by IMBA to the mystery titles of the year which the member booksellers have most enjoyed hand selling. The Dilys Award is named in honor of Dilys Winn, the founder of the first specialty bookseller of mystery books in the United States.   
What a great idea -- an award that reflects enjoyment in one's chosen (and delightful!) career. It's been fun every since.

The first Dilys award was given to a Carl Hiassen's book NATIVE TONGUE (check it out here: It's the fourth solo book from this (still active) journalist, sardonic and funny and also a classic caper mystery -- and set in Florida. That made Hiassen's books a 180-degree change from the Florida mysteries best known before that, the ones of John D. MacDonald. That series featured Travis McGee, attempting to live quietly on his boat but pulled again and again toward resolving some crime that hurt some friend of his -- during the course of which, McGee would fall reluctantly in love once again, and somehow lose his chance at happiness. (I don't mean to sound dismissive: I read every single one of the Travis McGee books and they were marvelous escape fiction at the time. But eventually rather predictable.)

So Hiassen's sassy journalistic tongue and willingess to offend came with a fresh breeze, and mystery booksellers got a lot of pleasure out of introducing his books to those readers who'd appreciate them.

That last sentence really sums up what independent mystery booksellers do: We get to know readers, get familiar with their tastes, and point them toward titles they haven't yet read, some of which will become new favorites and bring lots of pleasure.

Below is the entire Dilys list; we'll be exploring more of the authors and titles this week, during THIS DILYS IS A DILLY!, the celebration of 20 years of the award. 

Then, on Saturday October 20, Kingdom Books -- like other participating bookshops -- will give away two signed softcover copies of GHOST HERO by S. J. Rozan, the winner of the most recent Dilys Award. Join us also in welcoming author Archer Mayor, a Vermont friend of Rozan's and author of the Joe Gunther investigative series -- he'll be here at Kingdom Books at 2 pm for lively conversation around his own newest title, PARADISE CITY. We're giving away one of those, too!

BUT YOU NEED TO BE HERE TO WIN ONE OF THE THREE BOOKS! So please mark your calendar, and let Dave know you're coming ( and how many books you'd like to purchase. (Hint: The holidays are coming!) Join us to celebrate both the new Joe Gunther, and this Dilly of an award.

Oh yes, Archer Mayor's books get nominated for the Dilys, time and again ... maybe this will be the year he snags this enjoyable award for Joe Gunther at last.

Friday, October 12, 2012

DEATH'S DOOR: 7th Billy Boyle World War II Mystery from James R. Benn

Considering that the United States only took part in World War II for three years, James R. Benn is doing a fantastic job at packing an entire series of mysteries into the timeline. The seventh of the Billy Boyle investigations -- rich, lively, exciting, and tautly plotted -- opens in February 1944, as the Irish-American police officer recruited to assist "Uncle Ike" in Europe is juggling a mix of fear and resentment: His beloved, Diana Seaton, a special agent also working for the Allies, has reportedly been captured by the Gestapo and is being held in Rome.

And not only is Billy unable to get there, and unsure of whether Diana is alive -- he's being ordered back to England.

Luckily, by the third chapter, Billy and his close friend Kaz -- that is, Lieutenant (and Baron) Piotr Augustus Kazimierz, of the Polish Army in Exile -- have found a way to turn their backs on home and move toward Rome, where the power politics of the Vatican and the Gestapo together create a level of threat equal to, maybe even exceeding, what's come their way in earlier volumes.

Benn's dexterity with his battles-and-brigades timeline runs much deeper than a tale of war coupled with detection (Billy's role). He enriches the novel with the growth and changes of Billy and Kaz's friendship, as well as their pursuit of Diana's whereabouts and hoped-for safety. Diana's role as an agent also makes this series especially enjoyable, as she navigates the line between being Billy's lover and being a strong and savvy agent able to choose her own risks.

Most of all, Benn pushes both Billy Boyle's curiosity and our own, along with sometimes unsettling observations in the casual voices of the two friends. After Billy and Kaz search for details and truth from some of the Vatican's finest, they talk over what they've unearthed:
"Interesting," Kaz said after May had left. "Two men, Brackett and May, in the same circumstances. One retreats inward, not daring to take any chances. The other seems to thrive, rising about the situation he finds himself in."

"You never know about a guy," I said. "Before the war, Brackett was probably a big shot, and May a servant. War, even if it isn't a shooting war, puts pressure on everyone. Some can take it, others can't. There's no predicting." I looked at Kaz, who'd been a skinny student before the war. He probably never thought he'd go near a gun or harm anyone. Now he was a scar-faced killer -- wiry, wary, and strong.

"No," Kaz agreed. "Life is strange, Billy. It is why I have come to appreciate it."
DEATH'S DOOR goes onto my re-read shelf because of this willingness to explore character and change. Benn's not just taking us through the war -- he's taking us through the formation of people's inner selves. Loyalty, integrity, and courage all demand testing. I found myself cheering for Billy precisely because of the way he handles those testing moments.

How many more Billy Boyle mysteries will there be? I'm sure James Benn has it planned -- but don't tell me. I'm enjoying the suspense from book to book. I'm also appreciating Benn's ability to surprise me with intriguing details of the war, and to keep the war itself suspenseful -- even though we believe we know how that part will eventually end.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anna Loan-Wilsey, A LACK OF TEMPERANCE - Murder and Adventure Among Women Activists, 1892

Living in the place I love best -- northern Vermont -- does mean I don't travel in the South very much. That can be a drawback: I lack knowledge and experience, other than from a few short visits to, say, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, northern Florida.

But that same gap becomes a plus, when I find a well-written mystery or work of crime fiction that carries me beyond the Mason-Dixon line and brings a location vividly into my mind's eye. Karin Slaughter's Criminal did that for me this year (Atlanta, GA), and so did Julia Keller's A Killing in the Hills (West Virginia); this week, I savored another introduction to a Southern locale, with Anna Loan-Wilsey's debut mystery, A LACK OF TEMPERANCE.

You already know from the review title that this is a "historical" mystery: It takes place as American women struggled to set aside the bonds of the Victorian era, and while women's right to vote (which wouldn't arrive until 1920 in the United States) was still tightly engaged with another "family values" issue -- drinking alcohol. Prohibition, the outlawing of alcohol, would pass nationally before women voted nationally. Like the vote, thought, it was attempted many times locally, and still holds in some "dry" towns.

Loan-Wilsey opens her well-paced and adventurous tale with a scene of fiery risk, as "typewriter" (secretary/administrative assistant) Hattie Davish tries to find her new employer in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Referred to the position via telegram from her previous and much-adored employer, Hattie has no idea who "Mrs. Trevelyan" is, or even how to find her -- the hotel provides Hattie with an adjoining room, but Mrs. Trevelyan isn't on hand to welcome the secretary. What a shock to discover that the tiny elderly lady at the heart of the downtown demonstration, swinging an ax through a saloon window and screeching "Home wrecker!," is Hattie Davish's newest boss. As the police carry off the struggling anti-alcohol campaigner, Hattie's bewilderment vies with a sense of horror. She's expected to work for this?

Yet Loan-Wilsey cleverly captures the elements that readers know can lead rapidly to crime: passion, extreme commitment, public violence, gender battles, jealousy, naked ambition. About the only strong motive not in play is love, and although a touch of lust-with-romance raises its head now and then, A LACK OF TEMPERANCE avoids mushy scenes and instead presses briskly forward, attentive to the complexity of a political organization, a social crisis, and the frictions among and against a large group of committed women.

Soon Hattie herself is seized, literally, by an angry stranger on one of the resort town's near-vertical staircases, someone who's determined to dissuade Hattie from any role in the action:
"Why couldn't you leave it alone?"

"Let me go."

"Why couldn't you keep your stupid mouth shut?"

"Let me go!"

I kicked out and struck a blow with the heel of my boot. The figure yelped, releasing me from his grip. Futilely grasping for a hold, I screamed, powerless to stop my backwards fall. For a few heartbeats, I was airborne. I tried to brace my fall with my hands but my knee hit first, tossing me hard onto my back farther down the stairs. I gasped for breath. Something wet dripped down my face and I could taste blood in my mouth. Cold air pierced the exposed skin on my shoulders and legs; my stockings were in shreds. My right foot was tangled in the torn hem of my dress. My knee throbbed and the palms of my hands stung. I could feel what was left of my bonnet crumpled beneath me, the ribbon still attached to the hatpin in my hair.
(That sure puts those dated clothing items in their place, doesn't it?) Hattie's a tough cookie, and this won't slow her down. Is her new employer missing? Languishing in jail? Hiding? Davish is on the trail, and a mere brush with death won't stop her.

Harding Springs
When I finished reading A LACK OF TEMPERANCE -- which I enjoyed very much -- I checked on whether Eureka Springs was an actual place. Indeed, it is: A "Victorian resort village" with steep winding streets, it sounds like a Martha's Vineyard village turned vertical (there's my New England background coming through, sorry), and it includes more than 140 springs! Small wonder that it is both a location of Native American significance and a place where people sought cures from "the waters."

Moreover, the town for a short time was the home of Bible-toting Temperance campaigner Carrie Nation, who swung a hatchet along with her Good Book. I'm delighted to have discovered this patch of vibrant American history, in the midst of reading a lively "amateur sleuth" novel.

Carrie (Carry A.) Nation
One more detail: Although this is technically a debut book for librarian/information specialist Anna Loan-Wilsey, I can't believe it's her first book; there must be a  thick stack of earlier manuscripts in a drawer (or on a hard drive). A LACK OF TEMPERANCE brings an Ozark town and a good mystery to life, and promises more of the Hattie Davish mysteries to come. (See the author's website for details...) Well done!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Reviews This Week, and Dilys Celebration

Coming up: Much pleasure in reading a delightful debut mystery from Anna Loan-Wilsey, A Lack of Temperance. Also a discussion of the newest in the Billy Boyle series from James R. Benn, Death's Door, and a much-mulled-over  consideration of Port Villa Blues from Garry Disher.

Also, during Oct. 13-20 we're celebrating the Dilys Award, given since 1992 by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association -- check in for review of titles and authors that earned the award in the past, as well as the most recent one, Ghost Hero by S. J. Rozan.

Grand finale for the Dilys week: Meet Archer Mayor here at Kingdom Books at 2 pm on Saturday October 20. Mayor's new book Paradise City is the 23rd Joe Gunther investigation. At the end of the event, we'll give away two signed trade paperback copies of Ghost Hero courtesy of the publisher; we first met its author through Archer Mayor, so it all fits together!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Professor/Detectives: The Mysteries and Knowledge of Carole Shmurak

Carole Shmurak
It's a pleasure to welcome Carole Shmurak as guest author here today. We share authorship in Stacy Juba's amazing authors' anthology 25 Years in the Rear View Mirror -- and I was excited to discover the her extensive background in "academic mysteries." One of my (s)heroes is Harriet Vane, sleuthing partner to Lord Peter Wimsey, and I hoped she might make Carole's list, but a little research proved Harriet had not taught at her college (even though she may have prepared research on Sheridan Le Fanu). Welcome to Kingdom Books, Carole, and thanks for sharing your knowledge and research with us!
Academic Sleuths: A Brief History

Before I set out to write my Susan Lombardi series of mysteries, I had been a longtime fan of academic mysteries.  Academic mysteries are usually set at colleges or universities, although there are some set at the elite British or American private school, and more recently some at American public schools. In many academic mysteries, the protagonist is a police officer investigating a murder in the ivy-covered halls. As a cop, he or she is an outsider and the world of academe is an alien culture.  Paula Gosling’s Monkey Puzzle and Reginald Hill’s An Advancement of Learning are good examples of this.
But there is another subset of the genre: those in which the detective is an insider — a professor.  And this is the tradition that I set out to learn about before I published my first mystery Deadmistress. It turns out that the professor/sleuth has a long history.  The first academic detective, Jacques Futrelle’s Augustus Van Dusen (better known as The Thinking Machine) appeared in 1906, closely followed by Austin Freeman’s John Thorndyke. Both Professor Van Dusen and Dr. Thorndyke have multiple academic credentials, though their stories are not often set on college campuses.
I also found several trends in the history of academic sleuths:

·      With the exception of one classicist, the first professor/detectives tended to be scientists.
·      The first English professor appeared in 1944 — Gervase Fen of Oxford, the wonderful creation of Edmund Crispin.   
·      The first female professor didn’t appear until 1964, when Carolyn Heilbrun of Columbia University created her Kate Fansler series; this scarcity of female professors in detective fiction is probably a good reflection of college faculties prior to the 1960s.  (On the other hand the fictional sleuths who were K–12 teachers were all female, again reflecting reality.)

            When female detectives started to appear in large numbers in the 1980s, they occupied every rung of the social ladder and worked in a great variety of jobs: housemaids, taxi drivers, lawyers, actresses, policewomen, private eyes, and CEOs. So it was inevitable that some of these detectives would be professors, and, as it turned out, an overwhelming number of these were professors of English. Heilbrun had made mystery writing almost respectable for English professors, and many of them wrote mysteries with protagonists like themselves. So the last twenty years of detective fiction has seen a turnaround, both in the number of women and the number of English professors with a flair for the mysterious.  The scientific detective has been replaced by the literary one.
            There are no professors of education, like my Susan Lombardi, and, more surprisingly, very few professors of psychology; the only one I could find among the contemporary detectives was Maggie Ryan, an educational psychologist and statistician created by P.M. Carlson. So while I’m pleased that Susan is a part of a long tradition of academic sleuths, I’m also happy that she is unique as well.

Carole's Susan Lombardi mysteries
Below is a chronological list of academic detectives; it is a representative, rather than a comprehensive, list. For each detective, I’ve listed his/her academic field, the author who created the detective, the date and title of the first story, and whether it is part of a series.

Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., L.L.D., M.D., F.R.S., M.D.S.
Jacques Futrelle,The Thinking Machine (1906). (short stories)

Dr. John Thorndyke, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at St. Mary’s Hospital and barrister-at-law, London. R. Austin Freeman, The Red Thumb Mark (1907). (series)

Craig Kennedy, professor of chemistry at Columbia University.
Arthur B. Reeve, Silent Bullet (1912). (series)

Dr. Lancelot Priestley, former professor of applied mathematics at a British university. John Rhode , Dr. Priestley’s Quest (1926). (series)

Henry Poggiolo, professor of psychology, Ohio State University.
T.S. Stribling, Clues of the Caribbees (1929).

Cyrus Hatch, professor of criminology.
Frederick C. Davis. Coffins for Three (1938). (series)

Theocritus Lucius Westborough, professor of classics.
Clyde B. Clason, Man from Tibet (1938). (series)

Peter Utley Shane, professor sociology and criminology, University of Chicago.
Francis Bonnamy, Dead Reckoning (1943). (series)

Gervase Fen, professor of English language and literature, Oxford University.
Edmund Crispin,The Case of the Gilded Fly (aka Obsequies at Oxford) (1944). (series)

Professor Pennyfeather, professor of literature. D.B. Olsen, Love Me in Death (1951).

Kate Fansler, professor of English, large prestigious university in New York City. Amanda Cross,  In the Last Analysis (1964). (series)

Nicky Welt, professor of English language and literature, a New England college. Harry Kemelman, Nine Mile Walk (1967).

Dame Millicent Hetherege, professor of medieval literature, Wilton University, New England. Robert Bernard, Deadly Meeting (1970).

Peter Shandy, professor of botany, Balaclava Agricultural College, MA.
Charlotte MacLeod, Rest Ye Merry (1978). (series)

Nan Weaver, professor of English, University of California Berkeley.
Valerie Miner, Murder in the English Department (1982).

Sarah Deane, professor of English, Bowmouth College, ME.
J.S. Borthwick, The Case of the Hook-Billed Kites (1982). (series)

Roz Howard, professor of English, Canterbury College, ME.
Susan Kenney, Garden of Malice (1983). (series)

Maggie Ryan, educational psychologist and statistical consultant.
P.M. Carlson, Murder is Academic (1985). (series)

Loretta Lawson, professor of English at London University.
Joan Smith, A Masculine Ending (1987). (series)

Carl Burns, chair of English department, Hartley Gorman College, TX.
Bill Crider, One Dead Dean (1988). (series)

Beth Austin, professor of English, Midwestern University.
Edith Skom, The Mark Twain Murders (1989). (series)

Joanne Kilbourn, professor of political science, Canadian university.
Gail Bowen, Deadly Appearance (1990). (series)

Nick Hoffman, professor of English, State University of Michigan.
Lev Raphael, Let’s Get Criminal (1996). (series)

Karen Pelletier, professor of English, Enfield College, MA.
Joanne Dobson, Quieter than Sleep (1997). (series)

Susan Lombardi, professor of education, Metropolitan University, CT.
Carole B. Shmurak, Deadmistress (2004). (series)

Carole B. Shmurak, Professor Emerita at Central Connecticut State University, is the author of eleven books, including  Deadmistress, which introduced professor/sleuth Susan Lombardi, Death by Committee, Death at Hilliard High and Most Likely to Murder.   Under the pseudonym Carroll Thomas, she is the co-author of the Matty Trescott young adult novels, one of which (Ring Out Wild Bells) was nominated for the Agatha for best young adult mystery of 2001.
  You can find Carole online at:
Facebook author page,
SPECIAL TREAT: Pick up a free copy of the anthology 25 Years in the Rear View Mirror with this link: At checkout, type this code: KP74F. Many thanks to editor Stacy Juba for making this available! 

PS -- Beth's blogging today at Carole's site: -- come visit!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Dog Mysteries Come in Many Breeds: Spencer Quinn, Sheila Webster Boneham

A rainy week, a slow couple of days in the day-job category ... and my prize was enough time to enjoy every page of A FISTFUL OF COLLARS, the new Chet and Bernie mystery from Spencer Quinn (a.k.a. Peter Abrahams).  That was a very good thing. Usually the newest Chet and Bernie mystery erupts when I'm racing through three jobs at once, I notice that it has plenty of reviews and plenty of readers, and I zip along to something more shadowy (and less entertaining), to dig into the dark side of mysteries and crime fiction.

Spencer Quinn provides the light side. In A FISTFUL OF COLLARS, characters arrive without horrendous gaping emotional wounds causing them to grieve or suffer from depression or explore the depths of evil. Bernie Little, of the Little Detective Agency, has some issues, sure -- his ex-wife, for one, and the fact that he doesn't get enough time with his son Charlie. But to Chet, the hundred-plus-pound dog who adores Bernie and tries hard to remember what Bernie expects of him (except when a cat walks by or a hot dog is lying under a nearby bench), Bernie is the best. No question. And the two of them are the best possible team. Chet knows that every "case" will end with a finale when he gets to grab the "perp" by the leg and wrap things up. He puzzles over human phrasings -- like "clear as a bell," or "peachy" -- but never worries long. He's too happy seeing Bernie headed toward him or, hurrah, getting a good scratch on his back from Bernie.

Chet's point of view is always rich in hero worship and affection, and as a narrator, he's a hundred percent canine in viewpoint. Take this moment when Bernie's trying to get some information from his friend Gronk, whose job referral for Bernie may have been a setup.
"Spill it," Bernie said.

"You can't just leave this simply as me getting a chance to do you a small favor and seizing the opportunity?"

"Not if it didn't go down that way."

"But what's the godda** difference?"

"Life and death," Bernie said.

"I don't get it," said Gronk.

Whoa! You can smell the difference right away, poor [XXX] in the dumpster, for example. But Gronk wasn't in the business, so maybe I was expecting too much.
Yes, that's Chet's voice. (He's one of very few dogs to have his own blog:

Quinn's characters are understandable and his plots are brisk and make sense; the narrative (interrupted with Chet's quick runs in one direction or another) is enjoyable; and most of all, friendship, loyalty, and love win out. I'm putting this book on the re-read shelf, marked for opening again when I've got a cold or cough this winter -- it's the book that will get me feeling better again.

Another canine entry in the mystery field this season is DROP DEAD ON RECALL from Sheila Webster Boneham, whose 17-book writing career has been nonfiction until now, praised in the fields of cat and dog care and particularly animal rescue and canine sports. That all goes into the detailed background of interesting discoveries in this first in the "Animals in Focus" series from publisher Midnight Ink.

Pet photographer Janet MacPhail and her Australian Shepherd dog Jay won't make top rank in the American Kennel Club dog trials, mostly because Janet is relaxed and friendly toward her dog and only expects him to make a passing grade -- unlike Abigail Dorn, an unsmiling and competitive handler whose dog Pip, a Border Collie, is terribly confused by Abigail falling flat on her face in the ring. (Boneham gives a list of characters at the start of her book, including the breed of each dog; the capitalization of breeds is her style.) Quick to respond, helping Abigail's husband in every way she can think of, Janet's eagerness leads her to make moves that seasoned mystery readers will recognize as sure to bring investigation of her as a "person of interest," once Abigail's death is seen as suspicious.

Boneham, like Quinn, portrays the affection between person and pet in every chapter, but from a very different point of view, that of the responsible and concerned owner. Janet's attraction to "hunky" Tom Saunders, another dog-owning competitor, confuses her reactions in trying to straighten out what's actually happened in her ring of friends and colleagues and pets. And soon she's taking risks that put her, and her dog and cat, at serious risk from a killer growing more desperate in every turn of the plot.

Boneham's debut has some slow patches, and could have benefited from judicious cutting, but it's a good amateur sleuth tale and I'm interested in what she's got already lined up, with a promised release in 2013. Animal lovers will want to check her website for the generous ways in which she's assisting the animal health field while introducing her fiction, too:

CALENDAR REMINDER: Check in on Friday Oct. 5 for an insightful guest post from Carole Shmurak, on academic ("professor") mysteries!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Archer Mayor, PARADISE CITY: Home Is Where Your Characters Solve Crimes

PARADISE CITY is the 23rd Joe Gunther investigation from Vermont author (and EMT and part-time law office and sometimes full-time cop/detective, as well as death examiner for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner) Archer Mayor. It's a treat for long-time fans of the series, because it features Joe himself, lots of time spent with that challenging curmudgeon of crime-solving Willie Kunkle (Nam vet and pretty screwed up), Sammie Martens (still loving Willie -- and even though back on the job, she's the mom to their baby), and cameo appearances by people Joe loves and hates. Yes, you'll want to read at least a few earlier books in the series to make the most of this one.

But maybe not.

Actually, the action starts on Beacon Hill in Boston and mostly takes place in Northampton, Mass., a gritty arts locale and gay-friendly, politically active city. Sure, there's a quick visit to Tucker Peak in Vermont (scene of an earlier J. G. investigation), but the crime there is quickly tied to action of the earlier chapters. And by the time the team is assembled in Northampton -- nicknamed Paradise City, as in its annual real-life Paradise City arts fair -- the team has meshed as smoothly as it ever does. The glitches are coming from the criminals, whose choices are far from smart. And before you know it, this becomes a classic combination of burglary caper (high tech version), global criminality, and steady police work. Only Willy's itchy PTSD renders that action a bit chancy!

So you can read this one alone, actually. The thing is, those who've followed the series will resonate much more deeply with paragraphs like this one, at the star of Chapter Three:
Joe Gunther paused before reaching for the phone, blinking at the darkened ceiling of the bedroom, clearing his head of sleep. Increasingly these days, when he was jarred awake, he found himself wondering less about what lay behind a call, and more about how it might come back to haunt him. He'd been finding the toll of his profession to be mounting fast and costing him dearly as of late.
Archer Mayor has taken Joe through a lot of solved crimes, but also a lot of losses, from family to lover to police force position. Joe's confronted fires and motorcycle gangs, drug barons and sinister sneaky creeps, high-tech wizards and porn princes victimizing both the rich and the homeless, and a lot of drug users at all levels of the economic spectrum. When Joe aches from those losses, we readers ache in empathy.

Mayor also does two things in PARADISE CITY that mesh with what Canadian crime fiction phenomenon Louise Penny has demonstrated: (1) rotates an investigator who "belongs" in a specific location -- in this case, Brattleboro, Vermont -- into a fresh setting, through the connections of crime across the landscape; and (2) foreshadows more personal and professional pain for Joe, which will take place in the next book (Penny is today's master of an arc of narrative that climbs through the disturbing back story of title after title; Mayor does it more delicately).

In PARADISE CITY, the linking theme among the criminals and their actions is jewelry heists. But who is behind them, and how are the highly recognizable antique items being liquidated? Joe forms a team with his nearby police associates across the Vermont/Massachusetts border. Then Willie finds a way to screw up the plans. Or does he?

There are some loose ends in this that don't quite get knitted in, like Sam's un-motherly return to duty, and an uneasy feeling that Joe doesn't quite have control of his own career, just as he's wishing he could maybe walk away from it. But then again, Mayor has shown us, time and again, that those strands will reappear in the next book as essential strands of the continued investigations.

And with that, I suppose, I've come full circle: You can read an Archer Mayor book on its own with plenty of enjoyment. But with the extra value that comes from reading all 23 in a row, why miss out on any of them? I'm marking my calendar already for fall of 2013, and number 24.

PS: If you're a Joe Gunther series reader already, you may especially enjoy -- as I do -- taking a look at the "bio" of this character, on Archer Mayor's website:

A Sense of Place: Donna Fletcher Crow Discovers Her Sleuthing Settings

Donna Fletcher Crow, author of the Monastery Murders, visits the Kingdom Books blog today to demonstrate how place -- whether New England or England -- can evoke the twists of a mystery novel. It's a pleasure to welcome her as guest author here today. We share authorship in Stacy Juba's amazing authors' anthology 25 Years in the Rear View Mirror -- and I was excited to discover the strong connections to "place" as well as history in the books Donna writes. Thanks, Donna, for bringing us into your "sense of place."
We lived in New England for three years long ago when my husband was in graduate school. Although I was happy to return to family and friends in the West, I found myself crying every autumn. I wanted to drive down those little country lanes overhung with blazing red and gold maple trees. I wanted to stop at little roadside stands to buy pumpkins and little jars of homemade jam. I wanted to eat at some historic, 200-year-old inn. I was homesick. Nothing else looked, smelled, or felt right.

That experience played a large part in developing my sense of place and I have found over the years that it is a sense that has served me well as both a reader and a writer. A well-developed background is still one of the most important — maybe even the most important— aspect of any book for me. I know— I’m a mystery writer— it should be all about plot. But plots have to happen somewhere, and that somewhere can be all-important in how effective the things that happen there are.

Author at Work! Research ...
So it probably comes as no surprise that research is an important— and one of my favorite— parts of writing. I try never to write about a place I haven’t visited, and since I live in Idaho and most of my books are set in England, this can pose a considerable challenge. I make a research trip across the water every year or so and try to make each trip count for more than one book. This means I have to have my book or books planned before I go so that I can arrange to visit the exact sites I need.

I have found through the years, though, that too careful planning can work against me. If I focus too sharply on what I think I need to know I might very well miss what that location really has to offer.

As you would expect, since atmosphere is so important to me, I choose evocative places to set my books. Most often these are the remote sites of a crumbling monastery or a desart where an ancient Celtic saint withdrew for inspiration. Staying open to the ambiance and how it might affect my story is one of the most important parts of being there.

Let me give you two examples of how place produced plot from A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, book 2 in my Monastery Murders series which is set largely in the Norfolk Broads, a choice I made because I had heard how evocative the whole area is.

The Broads, Father Antony, explains to  Felicity, my American heroine, are, “A very unique corner of our little island.  A vast area of wetlands that were used for peat excavation from Roman times.  Sometime in the late middle ages or so the sea levels rose and the pits filled with water.  It formed seven rivers and sixty-some wide, shallow broads that were used for transportation for centuries and recreation now.”

I couldn’t wait to get there. I could already see the mist rising from the flat, green land, hear sea birds cry and long-departed monks chanting their office.

St. Benet's Abbey
My first stop was St. Benet's Abbey. I had been told the ground was so wet that the ruins simply sank into the ooze after the Dissolution. That didn't turn out to be exactly true, but it was wet enough that one could imagine it happening. And, oddly, the Victorians had built a drainage mill in the center of the ruins of the monastery gatehouse. When I entered that conical brick structure with its round roof open to a leaden grey sky I looked down at the muddy floor beneath my feet and thought, "What a place to bury a body!"

Then I visited the beautiful St. Helen's, Ranworth, known as "The Cathedral of the Broads."  I chose it for accounts of the bogs and mists being so heavy that Cromwell’s vandals couldn’t get to it to destroy it. And, indeed, the exquisite medieval paintings are still there (Yes— they serve as clues). And then I turned to the most distinctive feature of St. Helen’s— the tower. In the midst of the process of negotiating the 89 uneven steps, 2 ladders and a trap door the visitor is warned of before starting the upward climb I knew I’d found the perfect spot for a chase scene. But can Felicity manage it fast enough to save Antony's life— and her own?

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave  and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. 
To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: 
You can follow her on Facebook at: