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Newsletter- April 2014

Murder by the Bye:
Murder by the Book's
monthly newsletter
April 2014 
Spring has sprung and so have the awards given out to mystery and crime writers. The Dilys Award is given for the book mystery booksellers most enjoyed selling this past year went to William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace. Best known for his series set in Minnesota featuring Cork O’Connor, Krueger’s Ordinary Grace is a coming- of- age story set in the 1960s.Ordinary Grace also won the coveted Squid Award for best mystery set in the United States at the recent Left Coast Crime Convention in Monterey, CA. Other winners at the convention included Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In, which won the Calamari Award for best mystery set outside the United States, and Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, which won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award for best historical novel.  Now we can look forward to the Edgar Awards, which are presented each year by the Mystery Writers of America.
According to the Mystery Writers of America, “As we celebrate the 205th  anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, here are the nominees for the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television, published or produced in 2013. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 68th Gala Banquet, May 1, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.”
Selected Edgar nominees:
 BEST NOVEL
Sandrine’s Case ($24.00) by Thomas H. Cook
The Humans ($25.00) by Matt Haig
Ordinary Grace ($16.00) by William Kent Krueger
How the Light Gets In ($25.99) by Louise Penny
 Standing in Another Man’s Grave ($15.00) by Ian Rankin
Until She Comes Home ($26.95) by Lori Roy
Although Louise Penny almost always wins whatever award she is nominated for, this year’s Edgar competition is especially fierce. MBTB votes for Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook.
 BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Resurrectionist ($25.99) by Matthew Guinn
Ghostman ($14.95) by Roger Hobbs
 Rage Against the Dying ($24.99) by Becky Masterman
 Red Sparrow (pb in April) by Jason Matthews
 Reconstructing Amelia by ($15.99) Kimberly McCreight
This is a tough race to call, but Ghostman by Portland’s Roger Hobbs gets our vote (and a MBTB star). We also recommend Rage Against the Dying for its tight plotting and strong characters.
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Guilty One ($14.99) by Lisa Ballantyne
 Almost Criminal ($17.99) by E. R. Brown
 Joe Victim ($16.00) by Paul Cleave
 Joyland ($12.95) by Stephen King
The Wicked Girls ($16.00) by Alex Marwood
Brilliance ($14.95) by Marcus Sakey
These nominees hail from around the world but we think Maine’s Stephen King will walk away with the prize.  However, both The Guilty One and The Wicked Girls gave us chills.
The well-written, suspenseful spy novel is alive and well!
Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, Jason Matthews Red Sparrow ($9.99) has already been given a starred review by Booklist. The action takes place in present-day Russia, where Vladimir Putin is determined to remain in power and espionage (and counter-espionage) is all part of the larger plan. Dominika Egorova has been ordered to become a “Sparrow,” trained to seduce and then gather intelligence from foreigners. Her first assignment is to get close to American agent Nathaniel West, who reportedly handles the CIA’s moles in Russia. Following Nate to Helsinki, Dominika begins to seduce and manipulate him (or is he the one who is really in charge?) and their intricate game of cat and mouse begins. In a review in The New York Times author Charles Cumming praised Red Sparrow, saying “
With the exception of Charles McCarry, there hasn’t been a first-rate American spy novelist who claims to have worked as an intelligence officer before turning his hand to fiction. Until now, that is. Jason Matthews is a 33-year veteran of the CIA. who, according to the press release in front of me, ‘served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national-security intelligence.’ Lord knows how he got the manuscript of “Red Sparrow” past the redacting committee at Langley, but he has turned his considerable knowledge of espionage into a startling debut.”
As it so happens, Charles McCarry’s, (former CIA agent and one of MBTB’s favorite spy novelists,) latest book The Shanghai Factor ($15.00) is now available in paperback. Known for his thought-provoking series featuring ex-spy Paul Christopher, McCarry now turns his attention to a shadowy US agency known as HQ. When a novice American spy is sent to Shanghai, he is told to simply absorb the culture and hone his language skills. Soon he is ordered to infiltrate a Chinese company run by a man suspected of having ties to the other CIA (the Chinese Intelligence Agency). When the young spy realizes that his every move is being watched, the line between friend and foe blurs. McCarry has been compared to John le Carre, Robert Littell, and Alan Furst, all masters of the thought-provoking modern espionage novel.
Anyone in the mood for Italian (crime)?
Donna Leon
has been writing about her adopted city of Venice since Death at La Fenice was published in 1992. Since then, she has written more than 20 mysteries featuring Guido Brunetti, everyone’s favorite Italian policeman.  Leon describes Brunetti this way: “I
knew the detective, whoever he was, would be Venetian, of a certain age, have a university degree, a wife and some kids. I wanted to make him sympathetic. I knew that he had to read, be attractive. I made him someone I would enjoy spending a year with.” Brunetti and Venice share top billing in Leon’s latest book, By its Cover ($26.00.) In his 23rd outing, Brunetti investigates a rare book theft from a Venetian library. Apparently a visiting American professor was the last one to have access to the defaced volumes but upon further investigation it turns out that the man is an imposter. When a theologian, who had spent years conducting research in the library, turns up murdered, Brunetti soon finds himself investigating the seemingly unconnected crimes. We suggest reading the series from the beginning in order to enjoy the full flavor of the setting and the characters.
Gondola
($26.00) by Donna Leon is also available this month. Leon details the colorful history of the iconic gondola that was once used as the chief means of transportation in Venice. The illustrated volume is accompanied by a CD of songs sung by the gondoliers as they navigate the canals. Bello!
 
Naples in the 1930s is a far cry from modern-day Venice. The Day of the Dead ($17.00) by Maurizo de Giovanni is the fourth in a series with the intriguing Comm. Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi. Known for his ability to solve even the most perplexing crimes, Ricciardi uses all the traditional methods of detection that were available at the time but also relies on his ability to sense the final moments of victims of violence. In his latest case, Ricciardi investigates the death of a homeless teenager while Naples prepares for a visit from Benito Mussolini.  You may want to start with I Will Have Vengeance, the first in the series.
Game for Five
($15.00) has been recently translated from Italian and is the first book in a series by Marco Maldavi. Set in a small coastal resort near Pisa, the story centers around the Bar Lume, a spot where the locals gather to discuss events of the day. A recent murder in the town has everyone on edge and barman Massimo takes on the role of amateur sleuth, assisted by a group of old friends who spend their days playing cards and sipping espresso.
Since 2014 has been declared “The Year of Reading Women,” be sure to add these titles to your “to be read list.”
Visitation Street
($15.99) by Ivy Pochoda, is a debut novel that received a star from Murder by the Book. Barbara Tom, one of the former owners of MBTB, reviewed the book, saying, “
Ivy Pochoda re-creates the spit of land that is Red Hook, Brooklyn, by her own lights, in the same way John Steinbeck could bring a neighborhood to life, with all its tragedies and comedies, odd characters, interwoven relationships, and grace. Val and June are 15-year-olds from the neighborhood. One hot summer night they float away on a pink raft and Val is discovered on the shore early the next morning, barely alive. A massive hunt begins for June, and as the search dwindles with the passing of the summer days, these characters are inhibited by their torpor, their sense of waiting for something to happen. Everyone has secrets and hopes that are heightened by June's continued absence. Although the pacing doesn't feel slow, Pochoda thoughtfully reveals her characters' stories drop by drop until the last few pages move rapidly along. Ivy Pochoda's book is sublime.”
The publishing world has always had its fair share of drama and intrigue and last year was no exception. It was revealed the debut novel The Cuckoo’s Calling ($18.00) by “Robert Galbraith” was not a debut at all and that “Robert Galbraith” was actually a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. Best known for her series featuring boy wizard Harry Potter, Rowling leaves the world of magic behind in this fast-paced detective novel that introduces Cormoran Strike.
In Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike is hired by the brother of a supposed suicide who believes that his sister was murdered. The Cuckoo’s Calling also won a star from MBTB and a glowing review from Barbara Tom, who said, “Cormoran Strike has had a complicated and heart-breaking life, although he has had a sure hand in creating some of the drama in it. Strike is the son of a high-profile aging rocker (think Mick Jagger), via a drug-addicted, narcissistic super groupie, who died a sordid and much-publicized death. He doesn't really know his father or any of his half-siblings, with the exception of Lucy, his mother's other child by a different father. The army gave Strike a home. As a successful investigator for the military police's special investigations branch, he found his place in the world, until he lost part of one of his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan. He was demobbed and thrown back into an unwelcoming civilian world. He decided to continue to do what he knew best and hung out his shingle as a private detective. Success, however, remained elusive. When Strike is first seen, he is a disheveled, distraught, and lumpy-but-strangely-attractive disaster. It is a surprise, therefore, when he proves himself to be a meticulous, observant, intuitive, and brilliant detective. Galbraith pleasantly upends stereotypes and frequently pulls out both big and little surprises.”
Susan Wittig Albert
has been writing about a former attorney turned herbalist since her series debuted in 1992 with Thyme of Death. Now, 22 years later, Widow’s Tears ($7.99), the 21st book in the long-running series, is available in paperback. The small town of Pecan Springs is home to China Bayles, the owner of a small herb shop who dabbles as an amateur sleuth. While on the way to make a deposit at the bank, she learns that the bank has been robbed and a teller killed. China becomes involved in the investigation, while at the same time helping her friend Ruby, who is busily researching the history of a supposedly haunted house in Pecan Springs. As always, Albert includes herbal lore (for instance, did you know that
in the language of flowers, widow's tears represent grief?).
Also out this month in hardcover is 
Death Comes Quickly ($25.95), which finds China investigating a cold case involving a priceless piece of Mexican art. FYI, according to China Bayles, “Death Comes Quickly, also known as Cranesbill,
was said to bring good luck, but only if it was not carried indoors. To do so invited death.”
 
When Gone Girl ($15.00) by Gillian Flynn was published in June of 2012, both critics and readers went wild. To date it has sold more than 3.7 million copies and spent over a year (!) on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. Gone Girl is Flynn’s third novel, following the award- winning Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009.) In Gone Girl, readers learn about the Dunnes, handsome Nick and lovely Amy, who are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. As plans for the happy day unfold, Amy disappears, and Nick becomes a suspect. Apparently, the “happy couple” wasn’t so happy after all. The book opens with Nick imagining his wife’s lovely head, and then picturing himself opening her skull and unwinding her thoughts, all the while trying to pin down what she is really thinking. No wonder the police, the town, and Amy’s parents all put Nick at the top of their list of suspects. And what of Amy, who kept a diary full of dark and disturbing images? Is she really the golden-haired perfect wife who willing gave up her life in New York to move to a small town in Missouri and help Nick care for his aging parents?  The bottom line is that Amy has disappeared, she is gone, and if Nick wasn’t involved in her disappearance, then who was? Gillian Flynn describes her characters like this: “Nick and Amy Dunne were the golden couple. Soul mates. They could complete each other's sentences, guess each other's reactions. They could push each other's buttons. They are smart, charming, gorgeous, and also narcissistic, selfish, and cruel. They complete each other—in a very dangerous way.”  If they haven’t already done so, book clubs will be putting Gone Girl on their lists of books to be discussed. As a matter of fact, Gone Girl is the MBTB’s book group’s pick for the month of June. The much-anticipated film based on the book will open in this Fall.
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series will welcome Leaving Everything Most Loved ($15.95) in paperback this month. The 10th in a series that began with Maisie Dobbs (2003) finds Maisie investigating the murder of Indian immigrants in 1930s London. When we first met Maisie, it was 1929 and she had just set up her own detective agency after serving as a nurse during WWI. Now several years have passed and as her skills as an investigator have grown, her personal life has become more complicated. According to a review in Booklist, “this tenth Maisie Dobbs mystery continues the series’ high quality, capturing a time and place and featuring a protagonist as compassionate as she is intuitive.”

Murder by the Book’s Book Group
Our group, led by local author Lori L. Lake meets the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Barbara Tom, one of the former owners of MBTB, chooses the book to be discussed each month.We meet at the Belmont Branch Library 1038 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. April’s meeting will be held on Tuesday April 22nd and we will be discussing Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham.
 
 
The Friends of Mystery Book Group meets at the Belmont Library on the third Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday, April 16th, they will be discussing At Risk by Stella Rimington.
Happy reading,
       Jean
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