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Newsletter- January 2014

Murder By The Bye:

Murder by the Book's

 Monthly Newsletter

January 2014

January is the time for resolutions. If you included “expand my reading” on your list for 2014, the MBTB newsletter will help you meet your goal! Each month you'll read about books written by authors both familiar and unfamiliar, and you’ll get your fill of unique characters, places and, of course, crimes.

Portland author Phillip Margolin is known for his hard-hitting legal thrillers, which often take place here in the Pacific Northwest. In Worthy Brown’s Daughter ($26.99),Margolin presents a historical mystery set in 19th century Oregon. Worthy Brown, a recently freed slave seeks the help of Portland lawyer Matthew Penny in order to free his daughter from a life of illegal servitude. Matthew takes on the case but when Worthy is accused of murder, both of their lives are in danger. Margolin, an avid history buff, has said “Writing Worthy Brown’s Daughter became a hobby and I worked on it on and off while I concentrated on my busy law practice and after almost thirty years, I had finally gotten the book right.” Also out this month is Margolin’s Sleight of Hand ($9.99) featuring private investigator Dana Cutler on the trail of a murderous lawyer.

Keith McCafferty’s debut novel, The Royal Wulff Murder was one of my favorite paperbacks of 2013. I loved the Montana setting, the quirky characters, and I even learned a few things about fly fishing. In the followup, The Gray Ghost Murders ($15.00), fisherman, painter and part-time private detective Sean Stranahan is hired by a local fishing club to find a valuable fly. The fly (The Gray Ghost) was stolen from the group’s clubhouse on the river and it seems that one of the powerful members of the club may be responsible. While Sean looks into the theft, the local police department, headed by Sheriff Martha Ettinger, has its hands full investigating the death of two men found on nearby Sphinx Mountain. Sean and Sheriif Ettinger return in Dead Man’s Fancy ($26.95) which finds the pair investigating a death on a local dude ranch. FYI: Authors Nevada Barr, C.J. Box and Craig Johnson (among others) are all big fans of Keith McCafferty.

Leighton Gage, who passed away in 2013, spent part of every year in Brazil, the setting for his series featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva. According to Gage “Chief Inspector Mario Silva has a big job, he's a Brazilian Federal Cop. In his country there's no FBI, no DEA, no Secret Service, no DHS, and most police corporations have no Internal Affairs Department. Mario and his colleagues have to do it all and more. And they do it while traveling a lot, the area of their responsibility is larger than the continental United States.”  In The Ways of Evil Men ($26.95), the Chief Inspector travels to the jungles of Para (a remote state in northern Brazil) to investigate the deaths of 39 members of the Awana tribe. When one of the two remaining members of the tribe is accused of murder, racial tensions threaten to erupt and Silva works with the local tribal relations agent to find the killer.  Readers new to the series may want to start with Blood of the Wicked, which introduces Chief Inspector Silva.

Okey Ndibe’s debut mystery Foreign Gods, Inc. ($25.00) introduces a Nigerian-born NYC cabbie known as Ike who hatches a desperate plan in order to turn his life around. Although highly educated, Ike’s accent has stood in the way of his corporate career and he supports himself by driving a cab. He learns of Foreign Gods Inc, an art gallery that sells artifacts from distant lands to wealthy Americans looking for decorative knick knacks, and comes up with a plan. He’ll travel to his home village in Nigeria, steal the village deity, return to New York, sell the statue and make a killing. Ike’s return to Nigeria is an eye-opening experience: the influences of American culture can be seen everywhere, and Ike feels no more at home there than he does in the streets of New York City.

Kate Atkinson’s series featuring Jackson Brodie (the TV show Case Histories was based on the books) was hugely popular at MBTB. Her latest, Life After Life ($18.00), leaves Jackson (and even the mystery genre) behind. In it, Atkinson takes you on a journey of several lifetimes, all belonging to one character. This starred review from Booklist gives readers a wonderful sense of the book “Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. As Atkinson subtly delineates all the pathways a life or a country might take, she also delivers a harrowing set piece on the Blitz. She shows what it is like to face the horrors of war and yet still find the determination to go on. From her deeply human characters to her comical dialogue to her meticulous plotting, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game.”

Knots and Crosses, Ian Rankin’s first John Rebus mystery was published in 1987. It introduced the Edinburgh detective who went on to appear in over 20 books and who seemingly retired as an Inspector in 2007’s Exit Music. Now, in Saints of the Shadow Bible ($26.00) it is seven years later and Rebus is back on the force, but no longer an inspector. One of his early cases is being reopened and Malcolm Fox, head of the Police Complaints and Conduct Office, is looking into the actions of officers that were involved. The brooding, rule-bending Rebus and the brooding straight-as-an-arrow Fox once again butt heads in a case with political ramifications.

From the Dead ($26.00) by Mark Billingham, is the 9th in a series featuring DI Tom Thorne, published back in 2010 in the UK but available here in the States for the first time. First seen in Sleepyhead, Thorne is a middle-aged London police inspector. In his latest case, Thorne investigates the case of a “dead” man who appears to be very much alive despite the fact that his wife was convicted of conspiring to murder him. After serving 10 years in prison, Donna Langford thinks she can put the past behind her until she receives a recent photo of her husband, looking very much alive. If he is still living, who ended up dead in his place?

Robert Crais is best known for his series featuring LA private investigator Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike. Ever since The Monkey’s Raincoat came out in 1987, we have followed Elvis and Joe as they solved cases. In Suspect ($9.99) Crais introduces fans to a new set of characters. LAPD police officer Scott James was seriously injured during an attack that killed his partner. Still suffering from the pain of his injuries and the enormous guilt he feels as a survivor, Scott has been unfit to resume his duties as an active officer. He is assigned to the canine unit where he meets Maggie, a wounded German shepherd who lost her handler during her second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Both Maggie and Scott are being reevaluated for duty, and as man and dog begin to heal and as their bond strengthens, Scott begins an off-duty investigation into the death of his partner. Scott and Maggie make a strong team and Crais allows the reader insights into not only what makes Scott tick but what motivates Maggie as well. It has recently been announced that Suspect will be made into a film.

This Dark Road to Mercy ($25.99) by Wiley Cash, tells the story of Easter and Ruby Quillby, young sisters who were abandoned by their father Wade at an early age. Now determined to reunite the family, Wade takes the girls from their foster home and disappears into the mountains. Pursued by their court-appointed guardian and by a dangerous man who believes Wade has his share of a bank heist, the family scrambles to reconnect while trying to survive. Cash’s first novel was the award-winning A Land More Kind Than Home, which I chose as a favorite paperback of 2013.

We first met David Loogan in Harry Dolan’s debut Bad Things Happen. David wants to live a quiet life in Ann Arbor, Michigan working as an editor at the mystery magazine Gray Streets. “David Loogan” however has a past (as well as another name) and as we all know, the past has a way of sneaking up on you. In Bad Things Happen, he edits crime stories and in Dolan’s second book Very Bad Men, David tries his hand at solving crimes as well. Now in Last Dead Girl ($26.95) we travel back ten years in time to when David Loogan was known as David Malone and living in Rome, New York. The police suspect David of the murder of Jana Fletcher, a young woman working for the Innocence Project. Jana was committed to helping free those who were wrongly imprisoned and in order to exonerate himself, David begins looking into the cases Jana was investigating. He soon suspects that her killer may be linked to one of her cases and becomes the target himself. How (and why) suspected murderer David Malone transforms himself into magazine editor David Loogan is just one of the mysteries revealed in this prequel.

Murder by the Book’s Book Group

Our group, led by local author Lori L. Lake meets the fourth Tuesday of month at 6:30 p.m. Barbara Tom, one of the former owners of MBTB chooses the book to be discussed each month. Meetings are held at the Belmont Branch Library, located at 1038 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. Our January meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 28th at 6:30 p.m. We will be discussing Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief.


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, January 15th they will discuss The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane.

Author appearances

Okey Ndibe (Foreign Gods, Inc.)

Monday, January 13th at 7:30 p.m. (Powell’s Books on Hawthorne)


Phillip Margolin (Worthy Brown’s Daughter)

 Wednesday, January 22nd at 7:00 p.m. (Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills)

Thanks for reading,