Newsletter- December 2014


A monthly newsletter from

Murder by the Book
                                    December  2014 
The holiday season is upon us and it is time to talk books! This month’s book list will make your gift giving easy; there are cozy holiday tales, some grand reissues of classics and of course, a little something special just for you. After all, you have been very good this year, right? 

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early in the publishing world. Enjoy these recently published holiday-themed mysteries.

Mulled Murder ($7.99) by Kate Kingsbury: The final mystery in the Pennyfoot Hotel series, finds the hotel in turmoil during the Christmas season. Cecily Sinclair Brown’s staff is deserting her and guests are dropping like flies; not a very merry way to spend the holidays!  Room with a Clue, the first in the series was published in 1993. 

Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentleman ($7.99) by Emily Brightwell: Another delightful Victorian mystery featuring the determined Inspector Witherspoon and his extremely clever housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries. This time out, the pair investigates the death of a powerful London stockbroker. You may want to start with the first in the series, The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries ($25.00) edited by Otto Penzler: This collection of holiday crimes showcases sixty stories that range from Victorian cozies to contemporary tales. Included are stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Sara Paretsky, and Donald Westlake. The gorgeous, vintage-inspired cover says it all: “The most complete collection of Yuletide whodunits ever assembled.” 

Silent Night ($12.00) by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann: Completed by Parker’s longtime agent Helen Brann, this Christmas-themed mystery finds Spenser going to bat for Street Business, an organization that helps the homeless in Boston. With the help of Hawk (his friend/business associate/alter ego) Spenser takes on a criminal determined to destroy the community center and the lives of those it serves. This was the book Parker was working on when he died and his widow chose Helen Brann to complete the manuscript. 

Spirit of Steamboat ($12.00) by Craig Johnson: Sheriff Walt Longmire is spending Christmas Eve alone, reading A Christmas Carol, when a young woman comes to his office looking for help. She tells a Christmas story of her own, one that takes place on Christmas Eve in 1988 during a record breaking blizzard and involves a certain brand new sheriff on his first year on the job. Fans of the television show Longmire (which had been cancelled this summer) received an early Christmas present when they heard that the show had been picked up by Netflix! 

Here are a few more Christmas crimes that are due in December. 

Murder, Served Simply ($7.99) by Isabella Alan: The third in the Amish Quilt Shop series centers around a holiday progressive dinner that ends not with a Christmas play as planned but with a mysterious death. Set in Ohio’s Amish country, the series features Angela Braddock, who inherited her aunt’s quilt shop. This is the third in the series; you may want to start by reading Murder, Plain and Simple

Death with All the Trimmings ($7.99) by Lucy Burdette: Christmastime in Key West finds food critic Hayley Snow interviewing the chef (and owner) of the area’s hottest new restaurant. When the restaurant goes up in flames and a body is discovered, Hayley sets out to find a killer. An Appetite for Murder is the first in the series. 

Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story ($15.00) by J. Jefferson Farjeon: First published in 1937, this classic tale involves a snowbound train full of passengers anxious to make it to their destinations before Christmas. As heavy snow begins to fall and the train slows to a halt, several passengers strike out for a nearby village. There they find shelter in a seemingly abandoned farmhouse, but if no one is home, why is there a fire in the fireplace and a table set for tea? Farjeon was admired by author Dorothy L. Sayers who called him "..unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures."[ 

Classic crimes and  classic writers make for recommended reading. 

First published in 1931, Five Red Herrings ($14.99) by Dorothy L. Sayers, is the seventh in her series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and contains plenty of “red herrings”, clues that the reader is certain are vitally important, but turn out to be inconsequential and misleading. In this case, the “herrings” refer to a group of artists, one of whose body is found at the base of a cliff. Lord Peter is called to investigate, even though it appears that the man slipped and fell to his death while painting. This is truly a delightful read, or re-read for that matter. Also out this month is Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise ($14.99): In his ninth outing, Lord Peter investigates mysterious goings-on at an advertising agency in London. First published in 1933, Sayer’s behind the scenes look at the world of advertising stands the test of time. 

The World of Raymond Chandler ($27.95) by Raymond Chandler: The creator of Phillip Marlowe never wrote a biography or memoir, but by using Chandler’s own writings and letters, author Barry Day gives readers insight into Chandler’s life. The memorable quotes from Chandler and the photographs of his Los Angeles make this a perfect gift for the crime fan on your gift list. Many readers have a favorite book by Chandler, mine is The Long Goodbye (1953) which has Phillip Marlowe trying to help a poor sap named Terry Lennox. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four ($25.95) by Arthur Conan Doyle: This collection would be a fantastic introduction to Sherlock Holmes or serve as a lovely replacement for those dog-eared paperbacks on your shelves. In brief; A Study in Scarlet (1887) is a tale set in London and involves Utah pioneers, The Sign of Four (1890) concerns an Indian treasure and poison darts and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) is set on a desolate moor and has a hound with “gigantic footprints.” Jolly good fun, and just the thing to read on a long winter night! 

Moriarty ($26.99) by Anthony Horowitz: The follow-up to The House of Silk (2011) takes up the story of Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty after their struggle at Reichenbach Falls. Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase joins forces with Scotland Yard’s Athelney Jones (seen in The Sign of Four) to track down an elusive criminal determined to fill the void left by Moriarty’s death. The House of Silk was sanctioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, the first time a Sherlock Holmes novel has been authorized by the group.  Anthony Horowitz is also known as the creator of the British television series Foyle’s War (which I highly recommend) and is the author of the popular Alex Rider series for younger readers. 

Titles to add to your ever growing “to be read” list. 

The Bishop’s Wife ($26.95) by Mette Ivie Harrison: Inspired by an actual crime, this debut is set in the small town of Draper, Utah. Linda Wallheim is the wife of a Mormon bishop and as such her days are filled with giving comfort to those in need, helping her own family and supporting her husband in his work for the church. When a young mother from her church disappears, the community rallies behind the husband and the child she apparently abandoned. However Linda has her doubts, she had noticed the couples strained relationship and suspects that the husband is not telling the whole story.  Her suspicions create problems in her home and in her tight knit religious community. Publishers Weekly praised The Bishop’s Wife saying: “Harrison, a Mormon herself, easily transports readers into a world most will find as unfamiliar as a foreign country.”

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart ($26.00) by Christopher Fowler: The 11th in a charmingly quirky series that features two detectives in London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. The duo comprised of Arthur Bryant (the cranky and brilliant one) and John May (the mild mannered and brilliant one) work on some of England’s most “interesting” investigations. Their latest case involves a body that seemingly rose from the grave and the disappearance of the ravens that live in the Tower of London. A clever plot, with a touch of the occult and lots of dry humor plus a pair of crusty old detectives make for a delightful read. To fully appreciate Bryant and May, start with the first book in the series, Full Dark House (2003). 

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches ($15.00) by Alan Bradley: The return of Flavia de Luce, girl detective is cause for celebration, Flavia, first seen in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has a penchant for studying chemistry and stumbling across crimes. While waiting for  train to arrive at the station, Flavia is approached by a stranger who whispers a message in her ear. Moments later, the man is pushed under the train by an unseen hand. Determined to decipher the man’s message and solve his murder, Flavia is soon up to her neck in a mystery involving family secrets. 

Helene Tursten’s dark Scandinavian mysteries have been popular in her native Sweden since Detective Inspector Huss was published in 1998. Her latest, The Fire Dance ($15.95) finds Irene Huss investigating the disappearance of a young ballerina. Huss remembered the dancer from one of her first cases in the Violent Crimes Unit and she had remained troubled by the girl’s possible involvement in a fire that caused a man’s death. 

Bull River ($9.99) by Robert Knott is the fourth in the Cole and Hitch series. Territorial Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Everett Hitch were created by Robert B. Parker and were featured in four books, beginning with Appaloosa (2005) After Parker’s death, Robert Knott took up the reins and continued the series. In their latest adventure, Cole and Hitch no sooner capture a criminal and bring him in to stand trial when they are given the job of tracking down a bank robber and recovering the stolen money. As luck would have it, their only lead turns out to be the man they just put in jail. Although not usually a fan of Westerns, I find this series quite entertaining and I’m looking forward to Cole and Hitch’s next appearance in The Bridge ($25.95) when it comes in late December. 

Murder at the Book Group ($7.99) by Maggie King: The first in a new series with Hazel Rose, one of the founding members of her local book group, Murder on Tour. The group gathers monthly to discuss mysteries that share a geographical setting, but when one of the members keels over after drinking a cup of cyanide laced tea, they realize they’d prefer to read about crimes anywhere else but in their own town.  I certainly hope neither of the following book groups get any ideas! 

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. at the Belmont Branch Library (1038 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd.) 

Barbara Tom, one of the former owners of MBTB, chooses the books. On Tuesday, December 30th we’ll discuss 

The Last Policeman by Ben H.Winters.

The Friends of Mystery Book Group 

On Wednesday December 17th they will meet at 4:30 p.m. at the

Belmont Branch Library to discuss Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie. 

As always, happy reading,