a more-or-less monthly newsletter by
Murder by the Book, Portland, Oregon
In Portland, we’re lucky to have so many good local writers. Outside our geographic area, we’ve enjoyed other U.S. books set in Chicago, NYC, the Upper Peninsula, the Southwest, and the wild west of Wyoming and Montana, to name a few, that infuse the flavor of those regions into the stories and serve them up with a crime or two.
Here are some of this month’s “born in the U.S.A.” books:
Set in Massachusetts, Defending Jacob ($7.99), by William Landay, tells us the story of assistant D.A. Andy Barber whose happy professional and personal lives have fallen apart when his 14-year-old son, Jacob, is charged with murder. Refusing to believe his son capable of murder, Andy becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened.
In The Gods of Gotham ($16), by Lyndsay Faye, we get a glimpse of New York City in 1845. Through a set of unfortunate circumstances, Timothy Wilde has become an NYPD police officer in the city’s first police force. In the course of his rounds one night, a little girl tells him a fantastic story of bodies buried in the woods above 23rd Street. Don’t read it because it’s received accolades from many major publications, read it to get a feel for NYC in the bad old/good old days.
K. J. Larsen is actually three sisters, two of whom live in Washington state, writing under a pen name. Laugh-out-loud funny and tough-chick cute, the series started with Liar, Liar, one of our year’s best picks a few years ago. Now we have the third in the series, Some Like It Hot ($14.95), starring Cat DeLuca, the Chicago private eye with a side of sass. When an old friend opens a detective agency and models himself after Humphrey Bogart, Cat knows he’s looking Trouble in the eye and inviting it in. Cat, her mama’s canoli, her brothers’ Chicago cop connections, and her FBI boyfriend mix it up to provide a fun read.
C. J. Box brings the great outdoors of Wyoming into our homes. In Force of Nature ($9.99), the tale belongs to Nate Romanowski, the hermitic friend of game warden Joe Pickett. When Nate was in the Special Forces, his commander did a bad, bad thing. Now he’s out to eliminate anyone who remembers that incident, including Nate. Also out this month is Breaking Point (hardcover, $26.95). Joe must find the missing father of his daughter’s friend. As the British would say, everything has gone pear-shaped for the missing man, and his daughter’s only hope is that Joe will find out what happened to him.
Happily, Mas Arai is back in Strawberry Yellow ($15), by Naomi Hirahara. There was a long pause between Hirahara’s novels, but we can now stop holding our collective breaths. Mas is a Japanese-American who was caught in the bombing of Hiroshima. He is now a gardener in Los Angeles who has an uneasy relationship with his very American daughter. With her acute sense of culture, Hirahara nails the patois and lifestyle of a Japanese gardener. Mas returns to the strawberry fields of agricultural California where he grew up for a funeral and is met with a murder to solve.
Tea, scones, dead bodies, anyone? Laura Childs’ latest Tea Shop mystery is Agony of the Leaves ($7.99). The opening of the new aquarium in Charleston brings business for Theodosia Browning, but it also brings murder when the body of her ex-boyfriend is found floating in one of the aquarium’s tanks.
As an equal opportunity bookstore, we now give some time to mysteries set in foreign locales:
The Inspector Montalbano mysteries by Mr. Andrea Camilleri are very popular. Is it because of the thrill of something exotic that these Italian books bring to our American lives? Is it because the crimes are a little dark and edgy? Is it because it’s fun to say Andrea Camilleri? In The Dance of the Seagull ($15), Montalbano is just about to leave on vacation when he discovers his by-the-numbers assistant Fazio is missing. Instead of a scenic view, Montalbano gets a not-so-scenic look at sadism and extortion.
When it rains it pours il romanzo italiano. Donna Leon also has a new release this month. In The Golden Egg (hardcover, $26), Commissario Guido Brunetti has two concerns. He must look into a legal violation by a Venetian shopkeeper. Does it make a difference that she is the future daughter-in-law of the mayor of Venice? Also, a mentally and physically challenged man dies almost without notice. However, Paola, Brunetti’s wife, notices, and she’d like to know more about the man to mourn him properly. When no official record can be found of him, the tangled web snarls a little more.
Cara Black has many fans who vicariously visit the different Paris arrondissements with her many books. (Just step over the dead bodies that show up on her tour.) Cara will be at Alliance Française in Portland on March 24, at 4:30, to present her latest book, Murder Below Montparnasse (hardcover, $25.95). If you are interested in attending, contact Alliance at www.afportland.org or 503-223-8388. There is a charge.
Maybe people have figured out who “Gerald Jay” is by now, but when we first read The Paris Directive ($15), he was the pseudonymous author of this debut novel. This book is an intriguing blend of spy thriller and an astute depiction of life in a small town in the Dordogne region in France. Inspector Paul Mazarelle moved to Taziac from Paris. He hasn’t needed his Paris-honed skills as a detective until a professional hit man comes calling.
Monday, March 4, 7:00 p.m.
Ghostman (hardcover, $24.95)
Like a freight train traveling at full speed. That’s how we would describe his impact on the book scene. Amazingly, Ghostman was written between Roger’s junior and senior years at Reed College.
What makes “Jack” run? When you are a criminal who has escaped one failed caper and are asked to fix another failed caper, then running is part of the game. Jack is a ghostman, someone who makes people and problems disappear, a chameleon and fix-it person.
Meet Portland author Roger Hobbs and find out why his personal story and debut novel have captivated the local and national media. His book was recommended in Parade magazine, reviewed twice by The New York Times (in which Hobbs was called “a gifted crime writer”), and recently enjoyed quite a spread in The Oregonian.
* * * * *
Saturday, March 30, 2:00 p.m.
Ice Cold Kill (hardcover, $25.99)
Can Dana juggle his new job as Communications Director for Portland mayor Charlie Hales and his job as a writer? We hope the answer is yes, because Dana has the knack of setting us on the edge of our seats with his thrillers. We are happy to celebrate this book as one of our last events. Congratulations, Dana!
Daria Gibron, the hypnotic former Shin-Bet agent from Breaking Point, one of Dana’s previous books, has her own adventure in Ice Cold Kill. Someone has set her up to take the fall as a terrorist. Daria believes in not getting mad, she just gets even. She will have to find the real terrorist, thwart a criminal operation, and dodge the FBI until everything is resolved ... she hopes in her favor.
* * * * *
And, finally, our last event:
Wednesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.
Sleight of Hand (hardcover, $26.99)
We couldn’t think of a better last event than to host the release of the newest book by our good friend and staunch supporter, Phillip Margolin. He and his publisher have bent over backwards to accommodate us, because Phil’s book comes out on April 9! Please come and help us celebrate the newest in Phil’s long line of legal thrillers.
* * * * *
This is our last newsletter highlighting new arrivals, but we hope these aren’t our last words. We’re working on our recommendations for favorite books published in paperback during the first four months of the year.
| Don't forget to redeem your trade credit and gift certificates before April 1.|
Thank you for your continued support. We’ll be charging full steam ahead until the end of March. In April we’ll transition to whatever comes next, whether it is to a new owner or to becoming a fond memory.
Barbara, Carolyn, Jean, Nick, Jackie & Chuck