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Newsletter-December 2013

Murder By The Bye:

Murder by the Book's

 Monthly Newsletter

December 2013

 December? How can it be December already? That means another year has flown by and the “to be read” stacks seem to be just as tall as ever. How can that be? Haven’t we been reading all year? But we must remember that around 100 mysteries are published each month and even if some of those are reissues of previously published books and some are paperback editions of books that came out in hardcover, that still leaves a lot of reading material to choose from. Hopefully, the newsletter and the monthly book list help you with your decisions and introduce you to some new and wonderful authors. Happy Holidays, happy reading and may 2014 be filled with lots of great books.

Anne Perry’s A Christmas Hope ($18.00) is the 11th in her holiday- themed series. The season is not a joyful one for wealthy socialite Claudine Burroughs, who needs more than the endless social whirl of 1860s London to feel content. Despite her husband’s protests, she manages to find a sense of purpose volunteering in the clinic for destitute women run by Hester Monk. When a young woman is found beaten at a party where Claudine is a guest, she risks alienating her social circle by coming to the defense of a young poet accused of the crime.  Booklist calls Perry’s Christmas tales "A heartwarming, if crime-tinged, complement to the holiday season."

In The Twelve Crimes of Christmas ($7.99) by Rhys Bowen Lady Georgie, still struggling to make ends meet, takes a job as an assistant to the hostess of an enormous Christmas house party. The party is to be held in the quaint village of Tiddleton-under- Lovey where coincidentally her mother the actress and one of her theatre friends (Noel Coward no less!) are staying. As always, trouble seems to follow Georgie wherever she goes and she soon discovers that crime never takes a holiday.

The Clue is in the Pudding ($7.99) by Kate Kingsbury. It is the Christmas season at the Pennyfoot Hotel and Cecily Sinclair Baxter is short one housekeeper. She is forced to make do with Beatrice Tucker, who is ill tempered both with the guests and the rest of the staff. When Beatrice serves plum pudding to a guest who later dies, she becomes the prime suspect. Of course, Cecily steps in to investigate and uncovers an ever- growing list of suspects in this Edwardian mystery perfect for the holidays. The staff and guests of the Pennyfoot Hotel also appear in Mulled Murder ($15.00) and find themselves in hot water when the plumbing goes on the fritz and a guest turns up dead.

Isis Crawford’s A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange ($24.00) is the latest featuring caterers Bernie and Libbie Simmons. The annual cookie contest put on by the Christmas Cookie Exchange turns lethal when one of the members is run off the road on her way to the event. Missing cookies, a suspicious death and holiday caterings jobs too numerous to count keep Bernie and her sister Libbie extra busy. As always, Iris Crawford includes tasty recipes.

No mystery- themed Christmas list would be complete without Hercule Poirot’s Christmas ($12.99) by Agatha Christie. First published in 1938, this classic Christie features a holiday house party, a wealthy patriarch, family secrets and the intrepid Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. The mystery was praised by the British newspaper The Guardian that said “Careful and acute reasoning is able to show that a convincing case can be made out against all the members of the family till the baffled reader is ready to believe them all guilty in turn and till Poirot in one of his famous confrontation scenes indicates who is, in fact, the culprit." (1939)

December also some brings some non holiday- themed stories of mystery and crime. From the comfort of their favorite chair in front of the fire, readers can visit the streets of L.A., the beaches of Florida, or an English village or two among other locations.

Connelly introduced readers to Mickey Haller back in 2005 and Mickey (aka “The Lincoln Lawyer”) has been entertaining us ever since. In The Gods of Guilt ($28.95) Mickey is once again back in the courtroom and defending clients whose innocence is always in question. In his latest case, his client is accused of murdering Giselle Dallinger, a high class call girl whom Mickey thought he had helped to leave L.A. and “the life” years ago. Aided by his unusual team of associates and driven to find the truth, Mickey produces a plausible alternative to the case the police have built against his client. As always, Connelly delivers an action- driven plot with a lot of heart and Mickey is a flawed character you always root for. If you haven’t read the series, start with The Lincoln Lawyer. Connelly is best known for his books featuring L.A. police detective Harry Bosch and a television series (Bosch) is now in production. The Black Echo is the first in the Harry Bosch series and serves as an excellent introduction to one of the most interesting cops in the world of fiction.
Set in Key Largo Florida, Going Dark ($25.99) is the 13th in a series by James W. Hall featuring Thorn, a private investigator who relaxes by tying flies and fishing off the porch of his stilt house. The cases he takes on often involve protecting the environment of South Florida and his latest investigation centers around the Earth Liberation Front. A member of Thorn’s family is involved with the group and his attempt to shut down a nuclear power plant attracts the attention of both Homeland Security and the FBI. There are always two main characters in Hall’s books, the Florida Keys and Thorn. As Hall said  "...I based Thorn on equal parts Travis McGee, Robert Parker's Spenser, Henry David Thoreau, Elmore Leonard's usual strong silent hero, and my next door neighbor in Key Largo. I wanted someone who was funny and three dimensional and tough. I wanted him to have a past and to be something of a brooder." The first book, Under Cover of Daylight would be a great place to start the series.
On the milder side, Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce mystery
Speaking From Among the Bones
($15.00) is now out in paperback. Flavia, the eleven- year- old English sleuth who lives in 1950s England first appeared in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie in 2009. The debut mystery won several awards including the Dilys Award, given to the book that independent mystery booksellers most enjoyed selling. In her latest adventure, Flavia, a budding chemist and aspiring sleuth, encounters the body of a recently deceased villager in the tomb of a centuries- dead saint. Of course, Flavia wants to investigate and her snooping uncovers some family secrets perhaps best kept hidden. We often recommended this series to readers looking for an intelligent and quirky detective and the eye -catching dust jackets and titles are a bonus! Look for Flavia’s next appearance in January’s The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches ($24.00.)
Speaking of quirky, The Invisible Code ($26.00) by Christopher Fowler is due this month. Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit are accurately described as “The craftiest, oldest and crankiest detectives in crime fiction today.” In their latest adventure, Bryant and May embark on a case involving the seemingly possessed wife of the head of Home Office security, Bedlam Hospital, enigmatic codes, secret societies and perhaps a curse. Slightly fantastic crimes are all in a day’s work for the elderly detectives who match wits with the most fiendish criminals and barely break a sweat. If you like to read a series from the beginning, start with Full Dark House.

Father Tom Christmas (first seen in Twelve Drummers Drumming) returns in C.C. Benison’s latest, Ten Lords A-Leaping ($25.00.) Despite Father Tom’s surname, the series does not center on the holidays. When his church in the English village of Thornford Regis is once more in need of repairs, Father Tom comes up with an unusual idea for a fundraiser. When his plan involving landed gentry skydiving above the village (thus the ten lords of the title) results in the death of one of the participants, Father Tom is once more drawn into an investigation in his seemingly idyllic village.  Kirkus Reviews says of the charming series “...a must-read for lovers of classic English mysteries, chock full of suspects, red herrings and details of village life.”

Fans of Oregon author Carola Dunn’s series starring the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple rejoice! Daisy returns in her 21st adventure, Heirs of the Body ($24.00.) When Daisy’s cousin decides to search for heirs to his estate he enlists her help in locating any legitimate offspring (the so-called “heirs of the body”). After four potential heirs are found, Daisy’s cousin invites them to Fairacres to be interviewed by Daisy and when one of the guests goes missing, suspicion falls on the remaining heirs. Readers first met the delightful Daisy in Death at Wentwater Court.

Washington author Mike Lawson has a new book out writen under the pen name M.A. Lawson. He is best known for his political thrillers set in Washington D.C. that feature lawyer Joe De Marco. Rosarito Beach ($26.95) is the start of a new action- packed series with DEA agent Kay Hamilton in the starring role. Kay has transferred to the FBI’s San Diego office after her last assignment in Miami ended badly. She’s pinned her hopes (and her career) on busting a major drug cartel based in Mexico and when the case turns personal, Kay becomes even more determined. Lawson recently won The Spotted Owl Award for Best Mystery for House Blood. The award was presented by Portland’s Friends of Mystery.

Farberville, Arkansas is the setting for Murder as a Second Language ($24.00) by Joan Hess. The latest in this long running series featuring book store owner and amateur sleuth Claire Malloy gives readers a blend of crime solving and Southern humor. Claire’s life has recently undergone some major changes; she has married, moved into a large house and hired a manager for her bookstore. While adjusting to her new life she decides to tutor at the local Literary Council and is quickly roped into serving on the Board of Directors. When one of her students is killed, Claire joins forces with the Chief of Police (who happens to be her new husband) to track down the killer. Strangled Prose is the first book in the series.

Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me ($9.99) is a collection of short stories featuring the remarkable Kinsey Milhone. We first met Kinsey back in 1982 when A is for Alibi came out and have been hooked ever since. Kinsey is a private investigator in 1980s California who relies on her skills as a detective rather than the technology available to today’s investigators. Included in this collection are nine Kinsey Milhone short stories and thirteen autobiographical pieces from Sue Grafton. W is for Wasted, the latest in the Kinsey Milhone series, came out in September.

Shunning Sarah ($7.99) by Julie Kramer is the fifth Riley Spartz mystery set in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Riley is an investigative reporter for a local TV station who is always looking for the next big scoop. She is on the scene when an Amish boy is rescued from a sinkhole that also contains a corpse and her investigation leads her deep into the Amish community. Julie Kramer draws from her own experience working as an investigative producer in Minneapolis and brings the frantic world of television journalism to life. Stalking Susan is the first in the series.

A stampede of mysteries set in the Old West round out the month’s selections.

When Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010, Ace Atkins took over writing about Spenser, Michael Brandman continued to write the Jesse Stone series and now Robert Knott is writing about the western duo Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. First seen in Appaloosa, Cole and Hitch are lawmen for hire and have cleaned up towns like Appaloosa, Resolution and Brimstone throughout the West.
In Ironhorse ($9.99) they are newly appointed as Territorial Marshalls and their first assignment is to escort Mexican prisoners to the border. Riding through dangerous territory by train with prisoners and a governor and his family is all in a day’s work. Did I mention the gold that is on board or the outlaws who are planning a robbery? Never fear, the soft spoken, quick- witted Cole and Hitch have the situation well in hand.

Elmore Leonard’s first published novel was The Bounty Hunters ($14.99) which came out in 1953. He went on to write many other westerns over the next fifty years including Hombre, Valdez is Coming and Three-Ten to Yuma, which were all made into films. In the newly reissued The Bounty Hunter, David Flynn, a seasoned cavalry man, joins with R.D. Bowers, a wet-behind-the ears lieutenant to capture Soldado Viejo who has a large price on his head. Several of Leonard’s other early westerns are also being reissued this month: look for The Law at Randado (1954,), Escape from Five Shadows (1956) and Forty Lashes Less One (1972.) The award winning and prolific Elmore Leonard passed away earlier this year.

Loren D. Estleman has written about a private eye in Detroit (the Amos Walker series), a hit man based in the same city (the Peter Macklin series), a film buff based in L.A. (the Valentino series), London’s great detective Sherlock Holmes, and over 25 westerns.
 His latest, Roy and Lillie ($14.99), tells the story of the real life Judge Roy Bean and his unusual relationship with the English actress Lillie Langtry. The Judge was known for dispensing his own style of Texas justice, and for his infatuation with the lovely Lillie. In fact, when he moved to a small town west of the Pecos River he renamed it “Langtry” and christened his saloon “The Jersey Lilly” in her honor. The two never actually met but in Estleman’s novel inspired by real life events, the Judge wrote the actress frequently and she occasionally responded. Lillie Langtry did visit Langtry Texas in 1904, but the judge had died the previous year.


Murder by the Book’s Book Group

Our group, led by local author Lori L. Lake usually 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. Due to scheduling conflict with the library, our December meeting will be held on Thursday, December 19th at 6:30 p.m.

We will be discussing Adrian Hyland’s Moonlight Downs.

 Set in Australia, this debut mystery features Emily Tempest, a half aboriginal woman who returns to her birthplace in the Australian outback after spending time abroad. The author was given Australia’s Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel in 2007 for Moonlight Downs.

The Friends of Mystery Book Group will have a special holiday meeting this month and they will be discussing Rhys Bowen’s

The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

For details, contact Susan: magsafor@gmail.com



Thanks for reading,