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Newsletter- June 2014

       Murder by the Bye:

          Murder by the Book's
    monthly newsletter
  June 2014 


Welcome to another month of wonderful reads! Once again, the offerings are varied, from the crazy adventures of a bounty hunter in New Jersey to chilling tales set in Sweden. So pull up your favorite lawn chair and settle in for some summertime reading.


For twenty years, the arrival of a new Janet Evanovich has signaled the beginning of summer. We first met New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum  in  One for the Money (1994), just when she started working for her cousin Vinnie at his bail- bond business. With the “help” of her family and her side-kick Lula, Stephanie has somehow managed to bring in more than her share of Trenton’s most-wanted. In Takedown Twenty, ($8.99) Stephanie is hot on the trail of one of New Jersey’s best known mobsters, a “godfather” who also happens to be the godfather of Detective Joe Morelli, Stephanie’s main squeeze. In addition, Ranger (main squeeze #2) needs her help solving a murder involving a woman who played bingo with Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur. Way to keep it all in the family! Also out this month, Top Secret Twenty One ($28.00), which promises death threats, highly trained assassins, highly untrained assassins and a pack of wild Chihuahuas. The characters and the action in an Evanovich story may be over the top, but that is all part of the fun. As Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times says: “Evanovich writes with flair in an absurdist vein that her imitators can only envy. (“The bacon diet is unhealthy,” Stephanie solemnly advises Lula. “You had packs of dogs chasing you down the street when you were on the bacon diet.”)




Carl Hiaasen knows a thing or two about the absurd. Ever since Tourist Season was published in 1986, he has been entertaining us with wacky tales set in Florida. Bad Monkey ($15.00) features Hiaasen’s usual blend of offbeat characters, including Andrew Yancy, a guy who desperately wants to regain his position with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Yancy is convinced that a recent boating “accident” that resulted in the death of a shady real estate developer was actually murder. How he goes about proving his theory, why he ends up with a portion of the victim in his freezer and how a monkey named Driggs figure into all of it, makes for another laugh- out- loud Hiaasen adventure. Hiaasen’s books for younger readers include Hoot (2002), which was a Newberry Honor book.



Andy Carpenter, the wisecracking main character in David Rosenfelt’s entertaining legal series, was first seen in Open and Shut. A lawyer who’d rather do just about anything than go to court, Andy is devoted to his golden retriever Tara and his close knit group of friends. As luck would have it, a sizeable inheritance insures that he only has to take cases that interest him. In Unleashed, ($15.99), the eleventh book in the series, Andy’s accountant Sam receives a call from Barry, a friend he’d lost contact with after high school. Barry needs Sam’s help and convinces him to fly with him to Maine. On the way, Sam discovers an injured dog on the road and stops to help and when he reaches Barry’s home he discovers that his friend has already left on his private plane. Sam assumes that his help is no longer needed but when Barry’s plane crashes, it is discovered that he was poisoned. With Andy’s assistance, Sam looks into the death of his friend, while helping rehabilitate the dog.



Perhaps a Swedish crime novel is more your cup of (iced) tea?


According to the Lars Kepler website: “Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril, both established writers with several published books, teamed up professionally for the first time to write The Hypnotist. The pseudonym Lars Kepler allowed them to separate their earlier, independent work, from this new common authorship, and they even submitted the manuscript anonymously. Initially, the Ahndorils did not want to reveal their true identity. With their successful separate careers, and a well-functioning family life with their three children, they felt no need to tell all. As expected, media launched a huge investigation, and it wasn’t long before one of Sweden's largest tabloids paid a visit to their summer home, urging them to confess that they had written one of the most widely read books of 2010.” Their main character, Joona Linna, is a detective inspector in Stockholm, Sweden. The Fire Witness ($16.00), the third book in the series, finds Linna in rural Sweden, investigating the case of a teenage girl found killed in a group home. Her roommate is the obvious suspect and when the girl steals a car that is later found submerged in a river, the case is closed. However, Linna has doubts about the case and his suspicions grow when a local medium shares information with him about the case. The Fire Witness earned this starred review from Booklist:This third novel featuring Joona Linna is a knockout example of the thoughtful plotting and character development, genius investigation, and unflinching examination of human evil common in Scandinavian crime fiction. But it’s the mixture of relaxed, witty dialogue and raging action scenes that will draw American readers who believe the Scandinavian subgenre is too moody for their taste.”


Asa LarssonThe Black Path (2008) won high praise (and a star) from Carolyn Lane, one of MBTB’s former owners. Until Thy Wrath Be Done ($14.99), the fourth book in the series, was first published in Sweden in 2008 and is now available in paperback in the United States. Working as a prosecutor in Kiruna, Rebecka Martinsson  is drawn into the investigation of a body found in a nearby river. Spring has come to northern Sweden (Kiruna is about as northern as you can get) and as the ice begins to melt, Rebecka is haunted by dreams of a mysterious, accusing figure. Weaving bits of the supernatural into a murder case with ties to long buried secrets involving WW II, Larsson tells a complex and chilling tale. We would recommend reading the series in order, beginning with Sunstorm (2006).


Far from the north of Sweden, Malla Nunn’s mysteries are set in South Africa in the 1950s. Present Darkness ($16.00) is the fourth in the series with Johannesburg Detective Emmanuel Cooper. It is Christmas time, and Cooper is looking forward to a well deserved vacation in Mozambique when a call comes in: a wealthy white couple has been left for dead in their home. The only witness to the crime is their teenage daughter who swears that the attacker is Aaron Shabalala, the youngest son of Cooper’s best friend, Zulu Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala. Cooper’s superiors want the case wrapped up quickly before the holidays but Cooper and Shabalala, with the help of their friend, Dr. Daniel Zweigman search for answers in Sophiatown, a section of Johannesburg. When asked in an interview how she came to write A Beautiful Place to Die (2008), the first book in her series, Nunn answered “I wanted to explore, through crime fiction, the crippling racial segregation laws that forced my parents out of Southern Africa. Any society that elevates a "pure" minority to the pinnacle has a dark underbelly. My book explores the unlit spaces in 1950's South African society.”


 Crime stories set a bit closer to home:


Michael Koryta established himself early on with Tonight I Said Goodbye (2004), his first private eye novel set in Cleveland. Published when he was 21 (!), it seemed to be the start of a long running series (or so we hoped). After only five books, Kortya struck out in a totally different direction, publishing three novels loaded with supernatural elements. The Prophet (2012) was a return to his hardboiled roots.Those Who Wish Me Dead ($26.00), tells the story of Jace Wilson, a teenage witness to a murder. The plan to stash Jace in a wilderness camp in Montana for troubled teens while the police hunt for the killers goes awry when the men discover the boy’s whereabouts. According to author Lee Child, Those Who Wish Me Dead is: "Outstanding in every way, and a guaranteed thriller-of-the-year...Stephen King would be proud of the set up, Cormac McCarthy would be proud of the writing, and I would be proud of the action. Don't you dare miss it."


Light of the World ($9.99) is James Lee Burke’s 20th Dave Robicheaux novel. First seen in 1987’s The Neon Rain, Dave is a Louisiana Sheriff’s Detective with a troubled past and his own code of honor. Even the toughest of the tough need a vacation and Dave, his friend Clete and their families are hoping for a relaxing get away in Montana. However their tranquil fishing trips and mountain hikes are interrupted by violence and it seems that the group has become a target for a criminal bent on revenge. Readers familiar with his writing know that whether he sets his stories in Louisiana or in Montana, James Lee Burke sure knows how to tell a tale.



Let It Burn($15.99) by Steve Hamilton finds former cop now private investigator Alex McKnight visiting Detroit. McKnight left the city years before, after his partner was killed and he was severely injured and now he enjoys a relatively quieter life in the small town of Paradise in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A phone call from a former sergeant brings him back to the Motor City, where he begins to question whether or not one of his old cases was truly solved. In case you haven’t read Steve Hamilton, of course we recommend starting with A Cold Day in Paradise (1998), the first in his series and winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. His stand alone novel, The Lock Artist, (2010) won a star from MBTB and an Edgar Award as well.


Megan Abbott writes non- series crime fiction and I couldn’t be happier. Although I’m a big fan of long running series where I get to know the ins and outs of the characters lives and look forward to the latest installment, there is definitely something to be said for reading stand-alones. Abbot’s first work The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir is out of print unfortunately. She has written six award winning crime novels since then, most recently Dare Me (2012). The  Fever,($26.00) based on a true story of a group of high school girls all suffering from a mysterious affliction, is an unsettling tale of friendship set in a seemingly idyllic town. Deenie, Lise and Gabby, the trio of friends at the center of the story, are an inseparable group until Lise suffers a major seizure at school and is rushed to the hospital. Soon after, Gabby collapses and the town begins to panic. What is causing healthy teenagers to fall suddenly ill? Is it something in the algae filled lake, a contaminated batch of vaccines or a case of mass hysteria? Abbott gives readers a glimpse into the complex world of teenage girls, all the while telling a tension- filled story that will keep you guessing until the final page.


Alafair Burke, a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, is a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure. She has published ten novels and her latest features series regular Ellie Hatcher, a detective for the NYPD in New York City. We first met Ellie in Dead Connection, (2007) when she goes undercover to discover the identity of a killer who is using an on-line dating service to hand-pick his victims. In All Day and a Night, ($26.99) Ellie is called in to examine evidence that links a recent murder to crimes that were committed by Anthony Amarro 20 years ago. Amarro is serving a life sentence and is now claiming that the evidence from the recent crime proves that he was wrongfully convicted. With her partner JJ Rogan, Ellie works to get at the truth, while Amarro’s legal team fights to free him. Burke, whose father is James Lee Burke, is often asked about his influence on her as a writer. In a recent interview she revealed “ the biggest influence was seeing him write when no one was reading. It taught me patience. You need to write for the right reasons; that's the most important thing he taught me."


Scene of the Climb ($7.99) is the first  in Kate Dyer- Seeley’s Pacific Northwest series. Recent journalism school graduate Meg Reed is having a hard time landing a job in her field; opportunities for journalism majors are few and far between and her dream of following in her father’s footsteps and writing for the local newspaper is just that, a dream. When offered the opportunity to write for Northwest Extreme magazine, Meg jumps at the chance, even though she is far from the outdoorsy type. Assigned to cover the Portland area leg of Race the States, she joins the film crew at Angel’s Rest in the Columbia River Gorge. Lagging behind the rest of the group, Meg is the only witness to a man falling from the rocks above her. As the remaining contestants concentrate on winning the race (and keeping secrets) Meg suspects that someone will stop at nothing to win the grand prize. Filled with loads of Portland color and descriptions of hikes in the magnificent Columbia Gorge, Scene of the Climb makes you want to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails.



At our May meeting of the MBTB Book Group, we discussed An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson. Since it was billed as “mystery featuring Josephine Tey” each of us also read a Josephine Tey novel of our choice. Reviews for the Upson book were mixed, but everyone in the group loved the Tey book they chose. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her, I’d heartily recommend any of Josephine Tey’s novels. Perhaps start with The Daughter of Time (1951)


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.

 May’s meeting will be held on Tuesday June 24 and we will discuss Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.



The Friends of Mystery Book Group meets at the Belmont Library on the third Wednesday of the month at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday June 18th, they will be discussing Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.





Happy reading,