Murder By The Bye:
Murder by the Book's
Love is in the air this month: hearts, chocolates, flowers and, for the book lover in your life, books! This month’s newsletter will once again present old favorites, new discoveries and hopefully some books that you will love.
The Daily Mail recently listed Peter Robinson as one of the most successful living crime writers, providing the following information:
“Age/Nationality/Sales: 63, British/Canadian, 10m sales worldwide
Crime fighter: DCI Alan Banks moves to the town of Eastvale for a ‘quiet life’ – naturally, his arrival has the same effect on the murder rate as Hercule Poirot checking into your hotel.
For fans of…Normal cops.
Banks isn’t a kung fu ace, forensic whiz, or at loggerheads with the universe.
Killer book: Gallows Views. The Yorkshire tourist board can’t have enjoyed Banks’s debut, as peeping toms, glue-sniffers, and murderers run riot in a sleepy village.
Screen violence: Stephen Tompkinson is appropriately down-to-earth in ITV’s hit adaptation of the Inspector Banks novels.”
One of the strongest elements of Robinson’s books is his main character, DCI Alan Banks. As The Daily Mail said, Banks is a “normal guy,” a hardworking, dedicated policeman, who isn’t burdened by the angst that seems to weigh down so many characters in mystery and crime fiction these days. In Watching the Dark ($14.99), the 20th book in the series, Banks investigates the highly sensitive murder of a fellow member of the police force. When allegations of corruption surface, Banks is paired with an officer from Professional Standards who wants to keep an eye on Banks and his methods. The murder enquiry leads to the case of a missing Eastern European girl and when Banks follows the trail to Estonia, he discovers that the two cases are closely linked.
For the audiophiles among you, Robinson has started offering a playlist of the music mentioned in the books as a bonus for his readers, as DCI Banks has eclectic taste in music, listening to a mix of classical, country, jazz and rock. If you haven’t tried Peter Robinson’s books, start with the first in the series, Gallows View.
Kate Rhodes’s debut novel Crossbones Yard ($14.99) features Dr. Alice Quentin, a psychologist who is reluctantly pulled into a police investigation. On the surface, Alice seems to have it all: a rewarding career, a lovely home, a small circle of friends, and a handsome boyfriend who is also a doctor. But things are never quite that simple. As it happens, Alice is dealing with a troubled background and a mentally unstable brother. While out for a late evening run through London, she discovers the body of a young woman in an area known as “Crossbones Yard,” the site of a burial ground for unnamed prostitutes. Asked by the police to prepare a psychological profile of the killer, Alice discovers startling similarities to a series of brutal murders in the past. Full of twists and turns, Crossbones Yard will keep you turning the pages. Look for the second book in the series, A Killing of Angels ($25.99), due in hardcover this month.
At Murder by the Book, we loved recommending Michael Robotham to readers looking for well-written, modern British procedurals. His series often features psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and/or his friend, former Detective Victor Ruiz, In Suspect, the first book in the series, Joe consults on a case where the victim is a former colleague and soon becomes the focus of the investigation. In Say You’re Sorry ($15.00,) the seventh in the series, the body of one of two girls who went missing three years ago is found. Where had she been all this time and where is her friend? Joe is called in to help with the investigation and he enlists the help of the recently retired Victor. Alternately told from the perspective of the missing girl and those who are looking for her, this is a suspenseful tale that deals with complex characters in complex situations.
You may be familiar with Susan Hill from reading her series of mysteries with DCI Simon Serailler, but she also writes compelling ghost stories. The Woman in Black, based on one of her tales, has been running in London’s West End since 1988. In The Mist in the Mirror ($15.00), world traveler Sir James Monmouth returns to England, on the trail of explorer Conrad Vane and soon begins to experience unexplainable events. According to the author “This was my second full length ghost story and a joy to write because I used so many of my favourite settings…Edwardian London, the river Thames, the old docks, an English country house, the North Yorkshire moors. It also has some of my favourites of my own eccentric characters. I can’t often trace influences on my own books but there’s no doubt that Dickens is in here somewhere.” This sounds like a perfect book to read at night, sitting by the fire while the rain (or snow) falls outside your window.
Award-winning author Denise Mina, whose writing style has been called “Tartan Noir,” writes about the Glasgow that tourists don’t see. In Gods and Beasts ($15.00), DS Alex Morrow investigates a post office robbery that takes a deadly turn when the robber flees the building, shooting a bystander. The victim, Brendan Lyon, was a retired bus driver and activist, waiting in line with his grandson before the robbery took place. For unknown reasons, Lyon hands his grandson to a stranger and helps the robber fill his bag with cash, even holding the door of the post office open for him. Shots ring out and the gunman escapes, leaving Brendan dead. What prompted Brendan to help the robber and why had the alarm system been disarmed? The investigation takes an unexpected turn while DS Morrow deals with power struggles and hints of corruption within the Glasgow police force. Look for The Red Road ($26.00), the fourth in the series, also due this month.
Far from the mean streets of Glasgow, the Shetland Islands are the setting for Ann Cleeves’s series with DI Jimmy Perez. Readers first met the introspective detective in Raven Black, the winner of the prestigious Gold Dagger Award in 2006. In Dead Water ($25.99), Perez becomes enmeshed in a case involving a murdered journalist who left the islands years ago to pursue his career and, some say, to avoid a scandal. Rumors are spreading about why the man returned: was he there for personal reasons or was he following a story involving Shetland’s growing oil and gas industry? Locals are fiercely divided on the issue of development, some welcoming the financial stability it will provide while others fear the changes it will bring to their rugged homeland. As always, Cleeves adds her own modern spin to the classic village mystery and leaves readers waiting for the next installment. You may be familiar with another of Cleeve’s main characters, DI Vera Stanhope, the subject of Vera, the British TV series starring Brenda Blethyn.
Laura Lippman has been bringing the streets of Baltimore alive since she introduced PI Tess Monaghan in Baltimore Blues back in 1997. Recommended for fans of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, Tess was a young, investigative newspaper reporter who lost her job when the paper went through a restructuring period. Making good use of her skills, Tess started picking up odd jobs and her career as a private investigator was launched. Lippman brought the series to an end in 2011 with The Girl in the Green Raincoat. Since 2003, she has published nine non-series novels, among them 2007’s What the Dead Know, which won a star from MBTB. In After I’m Gone ($26.99), Lippman explores how one man’s disappearance impacts the lives of those he loved and left behind. Carolyn Lane, one of the former owners of Murder by the Book sums up the book this way: “After I’m Gone is really a superb book, but describing it without giving away the amazing plot is difficult. Lippman’s eye for the extraordinary to be found in the mundane is key here, and her storytelling talents have been honed to razor sharp. And a particular advantage to this novel is that, even if you can’t resist peeking ahead or turning to the last chapter, you’ll have to enjoy every page to understand the whole.”
Steven Saylor has been writing about Ancient Rome and his detective Gordianus the Finder since Roman Blood came out in 1991.The first book in Saylor’s “Roma Sub Rosa” series was set in 80 BC and introduced readers to the clever detective described by The Wall Street Journal as “a kind of Roman Sherlock Holmes.” Raiders of the Nile ($26.99) is the 14th book in the series and the second prequel. In 88 BC, Gordianus, a young Roman citizen, is living in Alexandria, scraping by as a solver of puzzles and locator of lost items. When his young mistress is kidnapped by men who mistake her for another woman, Gordianus must scour the tumultuous streets of the city, hoping to find her before the kidnappers realize their mistake. Full of the rich historical details that he is known for, Saylor’s latest gives readers a deeper understanding of Gordianus and the times in which he lived. Saylor explains the reason the series is known as “Roma Sub Rosa” this way: “In ancient myth, the Egyptian god Horus came upon Venus engaged in one of her many love affairs. Cupid, her son, bribed Horus with a rose to keep quiet; thus the rose became the symbol of confidentiality, and a rose hanging over a council table indicated that all present were sworn to secrecy. Sub Rosa (“under the rose”) has come to mean “that which is done in secret.” Thus ROMA SUB ROSA: the secret history of Rome, as seen through the eyes of Gordianus.
Readers haven’t heard from Alaskan author John Straley for a while. The Woman Who Married a Bear was the first in his Cecil Younger series set in Sitka and won both the Shamus Award for Best First Novel and a recommendation from Murder by the Book. Straley ended the series in 2001 with Cold Water Burning and published an historical mystery, The Big Both Ways, in 2008. His latest, Cold Storage Alaska ($26.95), is also the name of a tiny town that has an ordinance requiring there to be as many churches as there are bars, and it is struggling. The frozen fish industry has died off, leaving an empty plant and a town that is slowly losing its residents to places that offer job opportunities. After a stretch in prison, Clive McCahon returns to his changing hometown a changed man. He wants to make things right with his brother, Miles, who has been taking care of their mother and he wants to show the town that he has truly changed. Clive’s plan to open a bar/church (remember the town’s ordinance) is complicated by the fact that someone from his shady past is after him and the local police are itching to arrest him at the first hint of trouble. How Clive adjusts to life outside of prison and how Cold Storage adjusts to him make for another great read from Straley and Kirkus Reviews agrees, saying: “Those who like their crime with a healthy side of humor could hardly do better…Quirky, funny and compulsively readable.”
Sometimes you might feel like reading about an amateur sleuth, someone who goes about minding their own (cozy) business and this month offers an excellent selection.
Small town college librarian Charlie Harris is the main character in Miranda James’s “Cat in the Stacks” series. Charlie’s Maine Coon cat, Diesel, is the cat you’ll find in the stacks—that is, when he isn’t sitting on Charlie’s lap or going for walks on his leash. In The Silence of the Library ($7.99), the fifth book in the series, Charlie prepares for a visit from author and big-time celebrity Electra Cartwright, who penned a series of wildly popular Nancy Drew-like mysteries. When a horde of followers descend on the town, it seems that one fan has desperate plans of their own and Charlie (with a little help from Diesel) steps in to set things right. Meet Charlie and Diesel in their first adventure, Murder Past Due.
Kylie Logan wins the prize for punny-iest title this month with A Tale of Two Biddies ($7.99.) The second book in her “League of Literary Ladies” series finds B&B owner Bea Cartwright preparing her inn for the annual Bastille Day celebration. In honor of the occasion, her book club (The League of Literary Ladies) is reading Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and preparing for a lively discussion. Murder cuts short the Bastille Day festivities and once again the book club gets to work solving the mystery. This is the second book in the series, following Mayhem at the Orient Express.
Elizabeth Lee’s main character Lindy Blanchard isn’t a small town librarian or a member of a book club: she is a nut farmer. In Lee’s debut, A Tough Nut to Kill ($7.99), Lindy is struggling to keep the family business going. She tends the acres of pecan trees on the farm and sells pies at their aptly named family store, The Nut House. When she discovers her uncle dead in the greenhouse and many of her trees destroyed, Lindy finds herself on the trail of a killer.
In Beewitched ($7.99) by Hannah Reed, bee- keeper Story Fischer is ready for the swarm of tourists preparing to descend on her small Wisconsin town. Her shop, The Wild Clover, is stocked and ready with all kinds of fresh honey and baked goods and the local farmer's market is overflowing with fresh produce. When Story’s new neighbor, a self-proclaimed witch, invites her entire coven for a visit, the town worries about the effect their presence will have on the tourists. And that’s even before the body is discovered in the corn maze. Look for the honey-based recipes Reed includes in her books and start by reading Buzz Off, the first in the series.
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 February meeting will be held on
Tuesday, February 18th at 6:30 p.m.
We will be discussing
Publishers Weekly gave Portobello a starred review saying “London's Portobello Road, a street fabled for its shops and outdoor market, provides the backdrop for Edgar-winner Rendell's superlative suspense novel, which features a cast of colorful characters from varied classes and walks of life.”
The Friends of Mystery
meets at the Belmont Library on the third Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday, February 19th they will discuss Gallows View by Peter Robinson, the first in his series featuring DCI Alan Banks.
Thanks for reading,