Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry

After only two books, Leigh Perry's Family Skeleton mystery series has become one of my favorite series. The Thackerys may have an unusual family, but don't mess with any of them. If you mess with one, you mess with all of them. In The Skeleton Takes a Bow, the family love and humor are forefront in an enjoyable mystery.

Sid, the family skeleton, and Georgia Thackery's daughter, Madison, hatch a plot to include Sid in one of Madison's high school activities, the production of Hamlet. They convince Georgia that Sid can play the part of Yorick's skull, going to school every day with Madison. And, Sid enjoys all the opportunities to eavesdrop on high school romances and schemes until the night Madison accidentally leaves him at school, and he overhears a murder. Despite Georgia's attempt to involve the police, they couldn't find evidence of murder at the high school. But, Georgia knows her best friend, Sid, wouldn't lie. And, Sid, Georgia and Madison team up to find a body and a killer.

Perry skillfully weaves together Georgia's life as an adjunct professor, Madison's school life, family life, and a murder investigation. Yes, it's an unusual family, but it's charming. Here's a picture of "a homey scene. Madison curled up on the couch, Sid with his hands behind his skull and his feet up on the ottoman, and Byron gnawing happily on his bone with only the occasional longing look at Sid's femur. Admittedly, it was more Charles Addams than Norman Rockwell, but it was home." And, that unusual family, along with Georgia's gruff sister, Deborah, takes precautions to ensure everyone is safe, until one night when a crowd separates them. Then, they present one front.

There's a complicated motive and background for murder in this appealing mystery. The Skeleton Takes a Bow deserves applause for its refreshing departure from the cozy mystery formula. The cast is an unusual family including a skeleton. There's a great deal of humor, often due to the long friendship between Georgia and Sid. And, there are loving family relationships rather than romance.

Looking for charm, family, humor, and mystery? Look no further than Leigh Perry's The Skeleton Takes a Bow.

Leigh Perry's website is www.leighperryauthor.com

The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425255834 (paperback), 293p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.



Monday, September 01, 2014

October Treasures in My Closet

Ah, October. Cooler days. Here in the Midwest, leaves changing colors. And, another pile of books to entice readers. Here are the October forthcoming books I already have, books to beckon you into fall.

Tasha Alexander takes readers back to her Victorian series with The Counterfeit Heiress. After an odd encounter at a masquerade ball, Lady Emily becomes caught up in the murder investigation of a guest, an actress trying to pass herself off as a mysterious heiress who hasn't been seen publicly in years. Now, Lady Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves, journey from London to Paris looking into the truth behind two mysteries. (Release date is Oct. 14.)



Gretchen Archer's capers feature Davis Way's mishaps. In Double Strike, a storm hits the Gulf a week before the Strike It rich Sweepstakes at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino. Here's "A VIP invitation to an extraordinary high-stakes gaming event as thieves, feds, dance instructors, shady bankers, kidnappers, and gold waiters go all in." (Release date is Oct. 21.)







Robert Dugoni is known for his legal thrillers. Now, in My Sister's Grave, he gives us a whodunit with a family story at its heart, the story of a homicide detective determined to avenge the murder of her beloved younger sister, no matter what the cost. Tracy Crosswhite changed her career, becoming a homicide detective after her sister's disappearance and murder. But, twenty years after an ex-con was convicted, Tracy still questions whether the right man went to jail. Now, Tracy teams up with a friend and attorney to exonerate the convicted man, and find her sister's killer. (Release date is Oct. 14.)



Debut novel! I'm a fan of debuts, so here's Allen Eskens' The Life We Bury. College student Joe Talbert's wirting assignment leads him to interview Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam vet who spent thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder, and has been medically paroled to die in a nursing home. But, Joe can't reconcile the two sides of Carl's character, and he teams up with a neighbor to unravel the truth. (Release date is Oct. 14.)





Bailey Ruth returns! Ghost Wanted is Carolyn Hart's latest mystery featuring Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Heaven's Department of Good Intentions. And, this one involves a library! Bailey Ruth's supervisor, Wiggins, dispatches her to check on an old friend, the ghost of elegant Lorraine Marlow who haunts Adelaide, Oklahoma's college library. But, someone is making mischief in the library, stealing a valuable book, destroying property. Trouble stacks up when a campus security guard is shot, and a student is the primary suspect. It's up to Bailey Ruth to find the real culprit, and bring peace back to the library. (Release date is Oct. 7.) And, watch for my "Win It Before You Can Buy It" Giveaway in September. I have 3 autographed ARCs to give away then.

Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series returns with Shopaholic to the Stars. Becky Brandon arrived in Hollywood, all sarry-eyed, and hoping her husband would introduce her to his client, actress Sage Seymour. Becky dreams of being a personal stylist for Sage. But, she accepts a job dressing Sage's archrival. It's a dream come true of red carpet premieres and paparazzi, everything Becky always wanted. Or is it? (Release date is Oct. 21.)





I'll have a second "Win It Before You Can Buy It" giveaway in September. Although G.M. Malliet's new Max Tudor mystery, A Demon Summer, will be released in October, I"ll have galleys to give away in September. Lord Lislelivet survived a murder attempt, but he complains to the local bishop because the poison was in a fruitcake made and sold by the Handmaids of St. Lucy of Monkbury Abbey. Max Tudor, vicar and former MI5 agent investigates. He thinks the poisoning was accidental, until a body is discovered in the cloister well. (Release date is Oct. 7.)



The Margaret Mitchell estate has authorized the first-ever prequel to Gone with the Wind. Award-wining author Donald McCaig takes on the story of Mammy in Ruth's Journey, a story that sweeps from the island of Saint-Domingue to Savannah to Charleston and then Tara. Set against the backdrop of the American South from the 1820s until the dawn of the Civil War, it brings to life the story of one of the most famous supporting characters in literature. (Release date is Oct. 14.)




Hank Phillippi Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards, so, of course, her latest Jane Ryland novel, Truth Be Told, is already on my calendar. In digging up the facts on the heartbreaking story of a middle-class family evicted from their suburban home, reporter Ryland uncovers foreclosures that lead to a big-bucks scheme and players who will stop at nothing to keep their goal a secret. While she works that story, Boston police detective Jake Brogan deals with a man who confessed to a twenty-year-old crime, but Brogan isn't so sure the man is telling the truth. Once again, Ryan and her characters dig into the stories behind the headlines. (Release date is Oct. 7.)


I think most of the books I want to read are going to be released on October 7. I love Terry Shames' Samuel Craddock mysteries, so I'm looking forward to Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek. The town of Jarrett Creek, Texas is bankrupt, so retired police chief Samuel Craddock is asked to return. And, his first case involves the death of Gary Dellmore, heir apparent to the main bank. He's a man who supposedly had a roving eye, and made some bad business investments. He also took a kickback on a loan, one that led to the town's bankruptcy. It seems a lot of people in Jarrett Creek might have wanted Gary Dellmore dead. When there's evidence of another crime, the townspeople learn something a lawman always knows. A town isn't as peaceful and innocent as it appears. (Release date is Oct. 7.)

Jeffrey Siger takes readers into an unfamiliar culture and location in Greece in Sons of Sparta. In the mountainous Peloponnese, the Mani families have a history of pirates, highwaymen and endless vendettas with neighbors. When Special Crimes Division Detective Yiannis Kouros is summoned their by his uncle, he fears pressure to act in some new vendetta since his uncle once headed a criminal enterprise. But, the family is about to become rich through the sale of its property, until the uncle is killed, along with the deal. But even the solution to a murder is not simple when Greece's government corruption comes into play. (Release date is Oct. 7.)


Some Luck launches the first in a trilogy by Jane Smiley, a series of books that will take readers into the lives of the Langdon family. The Langdons are an Iowa farm family, led by Walter Langdon, the family patriarch, his wife and their five children. Each chapter covers a year, beginning in 1920 when Walter returns home from the trenches of World War I, and going up to the 1950s. The story, with roots in the story of Smiley's own family, will eventually cover a century of transformation in America. (Release date is Oct. 7.)




Night Blindness is Susan Strecker's debut novel. When Jensen Reilly was sixteen, she and her high school sweetheart are involved in a horrible accident. Since then, Jensen has been running from her past. But, when her father is diagnosed with a brain tumor, she returns home where all the memories of her old life come flooding back, along with the people she's tried to escape. (Release date is Oct. 7.)





New York Times bestselling author Colm Toibin brings us Nora Webster, a novel set in Ireland about a young widow and mother of four, navigating grief and fear, struggling for hope. When Nora's husband leaves her a widow at forty, she lost the love of her life, and the man who rescued her from her past. Fearing she'll be drawn back into it, she's drowning in her own sorrow, blind to the suffering of her young sons. But, when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds herself. (Release date is Oct. 7.)





Well, here's a book that doesn't come out on Oct. 7, Ashley Weaver's debut mystery, Murder at the Brightwell. Deborah Crombie refers to it as "An elegant Christie-esque 1930s romp...With its dash of romance, Amory Ames and her rakish husband, Milo, might just be the new Nick and Nora Charles." Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. She's looking for a change when she accompanies her former fiance, Gil, to the Brightwell Hotel to help circumvent his sister's marriage. When the groom-to-be is murdered, Gil is arrested, and Amory becomes embroiled in trying to clear his name. Matters become more complicated when Milo turns up. Now Amory must decide where her heart lies, and catch a killer before she becomes the next victim. (Release date is Oct. 14.)

Last Words is the first book in Rich Zahradnik's Coleridge Taylor mystery series. In March of 1975, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs looking for a story that will get him out from obits. It's the body of a homeless teen that gets him into trouble, when his digging reeals the boy was a spoiled society kid up to no kid, the son of a city official. And, now Taylor's trying to protect a homeless man from goons trying to kill any number of street people to cover tracks. And Taylor and his one ally in the newsroom need to wrap that story before they become part of the obits page. (Release date is Oct. 1.)

So, what do you think of the October releases? Enough to keep you occupied for the month? I know it's an enticing collection of books. Happy reading!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

The Drop, Dennis Lehane's latest book is going to be a movie, and Lehane wrote the screenplay. It's easy to visualize the characters, all of them troubled and haunted by their pasts. It's always interesting to enter Lehane's dark, lonely world.

Bob Saginowski has been a bartender, a fixture at Cousin Marv's in the Flats for years. Despite his evenings at work, he's a lonely man, living in the house he inherited, buying few possessions. "It would bring him no closer to what he wanted because all he wanted was to not be alone, but he knew there was no getting rescued from that." He has a routine. Daily mass at St. Dominic's, where he's gone his entire life. Work at night. Then, two days after Christmas, when he's walking home, he hears a noise, and follows the sound, finding an abused puppy thrown away in a barrel. And, then a woman, Nadia, calls out to him, asking about the dog. Three needy souls, needing a reason for hope in a lonely world.

But, despite his isolation, Bob's job at the bar involves him in a life he'd rather forget. There's Marv, who lost the bar to the Chechen mob; there's a man recently released from prison who knows a little too much about Bob's dog and Nadia; there's the two men who robbed the bar, taking money from the pockets of the mob; and there's Detective Evandro Torres. Torres has had his own ups-and-downs in his career, and he's convinced Bob knows more than he's telling about the robbery in the bar, and a ten-year-old neighborhood disappearance.

If The Drop doesn't sound like a story about hope, you'll be surprised. It's a short story, a novel about desperation. All the characters are desperate to survive, hoping for a better life. If you can't change the past, is there a way to live with it, and move on? Is crime and money the way to a better life? Is it a different job, a different country? Or is it a dog and a friend?

Dennis Lehane's novels always make me stop and think. Can you be a good person, and still live with your past? What means hope and success to one person may be totally different to another, particularly in a world where everyone is struggling. Every featured character has their own story of loneliness and hope in The Drop. Once again, Lehane has given readers a complex situation, with a complicated man at the center of it. Bob Saginowski really just didn't want to be alone.

Dennis Lehane's website is www.dennislehane.com

The Drop by Dennis Lehane. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062365446 (paperback), 207p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I picked up an ARC at a conference.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Favorite Blogs

Time was at a premium all this week, so I didn't get the reading done that I usually do. So, I thought I'd do something a little different with the small amount of time I have when I'm writing this late in the evening. I'm going to share the blog links for five of my favorite people who tend to write predominantly about crime fiction. There are lots of us out there who love crime fiction, and love to talk about it. And, I adore the Jungle Red Writers site, probably my favorite out there. But, today I'm going to talk about blogs written by individuals. I regularly check out these five blogs.

Let's start with Jen Forbus. I think Jen and I have been corresponding the longest, and we're both from northern Ohio. Jen writes Jen's Book Thoughts where she reviews crime fiction, interviews authors, and introduces readers to authors we might not have discovered. Jen's the one who first introduced me to Craig Johnson's Longmire books. And, over time, she has had some original ideas as to blog features. I love her Five on Friday feature where she asks an author five questions.

Wish me luck on this one. While I was writing this post, Meanderings and Muses wouldn't load for some reason. Kaye Wilkinson Barley writes this blog, a friend I've never met, but I love. She and I are rooming together for Bouchercon in 2015, though. Kaye writes some reviews, some comments about life, and she's funny, thoughtful, witty, and sometimes angry. I love her. And, if you've ever read Kaye's blog, you've "met" her adorable Corgi, Harley Barley. This year, Harley teamed up with Kaye for the book,
My Name is Harley and This is My Story. Kaye is also the author of Whimsey, a novel of magical realism. (And, if I really love a book, I could almost bet money that Kaye will too.)

My best friend from Arizona, Chantelle Aimee Osman, writes The Sirens of Suspense. It's "An Anthony Award-nominated website on all things mystery". Chantelle features blogs, reviews, interviews and giveaways on her site. She spotlights authors who often are new to me.

Kevin's Corner is by friend and reviewer Kevin Tipple. Kevin features book reviews, links to some other terrific blogs, giveaways, and sometimes roundups of other crime fiction news, as well as guest posts.

And, then there's Mystery Fanfare, written by the seemingly indefatigable Janet Rudolph. No one has the news in the mystery field any sooner than Janet. She also writes the Dying for Chocolate blog. She's the editor of Mystery Readers Journal, and director of Mystery Readers International. She is the writer/producer for Murder on the Menu. Janet covers everything mystery on her site; news, events, books, mystery cartoons. I'm in awe of Janet and her work.

Every one of us puts a little different slant on our blogs. I probably spotlight cozy and traditional mysteries more than the others do. And, I review a little of everything, with a focus on mysteries. If you're a mystery lover, you might want to check out these other five blogs.









Friday, August 29, 2014

Winners and America in the Past Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests. Charlotte W. of Covington, GA won the ebook of Lucky Catch. The autographed copies of Josie Belle's Marked Down for Murder will go to Kimberly W. of Springdale, AR, Linda L. of Lufkin, TX, Brandi A. of Fremont, CA, and Jeanette G. of Cleveland, TN. The books will go out today.

This week, I have two mysteries set in America's past. Donis Casey takes readers to Arizona in 1916 in The Wrong Hill to Die On. Alafair and Shaw Tucker traveled there from Oklahoma, hoping their young daughter would recover from her lung ailment. But, they found a lot wrong when they arrived there. Alafair's sister is having marriage problems. Tensions are high between the Anglo and Latino communities following Pancho Villa's recent raid in New Mexico. And, then Alafair finds a Mexican American man dead in a ditch, murdered.


Eleanor Kuhns takes readers even further back in Cradle to Grave. Will Rees is adjusting to life on his Maine farm in 1797, but he's already hungering for the freedom of the road. But, a letter from an old friend in Mount Unity, New York sends him there, where a friend in a Shaker community is is trouble for kidnapping five children, claiming their mother is unfit. By the time Rees realizes he can't do anything, he receives worse news. The mother has been found murdered, and Rees' friend is the prime suspect.

So, Arizona in 1916 or New York in 1797? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. The subject heading should read either "Win The Wrong Hill to Die On" or "Win Cradle to Grave." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, Sept. 4 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday's Reading

So, what are you reading today? Every time I go out in the evening, as I did for the book discussion this week, it throws off my schedule. So, I'm still reading Deborah Coonts' Lucky Catch. (And, don't forget one "lucky" reader will win an ebook copy of it.)

So, tell me what you're reading today. Or, share what's on your TBR pile. What are you planning to read over the long weekend? I'd love to know what books you're reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Deborah Coonts and Lucky O'Toole

When they asked me what Deborah Coonts could write as a guest post, I said I'd love to see an interview with her character Lucky O'Toole. Coonts' new book,  Lucky Catch, is now available, so it's the perfect time to catch up with Lucky, or, if you haven't yet read one of the books, to meet this Las Vegas troubleshooter. Thank you, Deb, and Lucky.


INTERVIEW WITH LUCKY O'TOOLE

Conducted by: Deborah Coonts

Today we are delighted to have with us, Lucky O'Toole, the Vice- President of Customer Relations at Babylon Enterprises, the parent company of major Vegas Strip properties the Babylon and the soon-to-open, Cielo.

DEBORAH COONTS; Welcome, Ms. O'Toole.

LUCKY: Delighted to be here, and call me Lucky.

DC: Vice-President - a pretty lofty title. What do you do, exactly?

LO: Titles are bones given to employees so they feel special and keep doing the work they were doing before. So, I am what I have always been, the Babylon's chief problem-solver.

DC: What does that mean?

LO: Well, if anyone in the hotel, including guests, entertainers, high-rollers, gamblers, patrons, our celebrity partners who partner with us in five star restaurants, nightclubs and performing venues, if any of them have a problem, I'm their go-to gal.

DC: Sounds juicy. Can you give us an example?

LO: Well, recently, we hosted a celebrity chef contest called the Last Chef Standing.

DC: It was hotly contested, as I recall.

LO: Yes, a couple of chefs were murdered and the prize truffle for the contest went missing.

DC: And it fell to you to help solve the crimes?

LO: It was personal.

DC: Ah, yes, your lover, Jean-Charles Bouclet was implicated.

LO: I can't talk about it. It's an ongoing case.

DC: Let me ask you this: How are you handling the triumphant return of your former lover, Ted Kowalski, also known as the Great Teddie Divine, Las Vegas' premier female impersonator? Am I right in understanding he is going to be performing in his former venue at the Babylon?

LO: We are in negotiations.

DC: I bet. Sounds...complicated.

LO: (Lucky laughs.) You have no idea.

DC: Your job sounds like it is very demanding. How did you come by the skills necessary to handle it?

LO: Being raised in a whorehouse helped. My mother is a former hooker and madam of the best whorehouse in Nevada, Mona's Place. It's in Pahrump. There I saw all manner of bad behavior. I learned to deal with it and to sometimes defend myself.

DC: You really are a walking billboard for Vegas, aren't you?

LO: My father is Albert Rothstein, one of the men who shaped Vegas from a mob-ridden speak-easy of a town to the glitz and glamour it is today. I didn't know he was my father until recently - still getting used to the idea.

DC: So, he didn't pull any strings to get you where you are?

LO: I've clawed my way up the corporate ladder like anyone else. Spent time in every aspect of the operation from bartending to housekeeping, to the banquet kitchen.

DC: And your mother?

LO: My mother is simply, Mona. And most days, she's my biggest problem of all.

*****
One lucky winner will receive an ebook copy of Lucky Catch. By 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28, either comment here with your email address, or send your name and email address to me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com if you don't want to put it on the blog. If you email me, use the subject line "Win Lucky Catch." That's all I'll need, your email address, so I can forward it to Deb's publicist, and they can make arrangements with you.

*****
More about Deborah Coonts, herself? Here's what she writes.


I am proof positive that sex sells...and persistence pays off. After fifteen years learning the craft of writing, I am now officially, an overnight success. And it's been a long road to get here...

My mother tells me I was born in Texas a very long time ago, but I'm not so sure - my mother can't be trusted. These things I do know: I was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. I've lived in every time zone in the U.S.; the most memorable stint being the time spent in Las Vegas, where I currently reside and where family and friends tell me I can't get into too much trouble...silly people.

The only constant in my life (besides my family, who deserves hazardous duty pay for sticking with me) had been change (my mother is still waiting for me to group up). Silly woman.

But all of this career ADD made me incredibly unemployable. Hence the whole writing thing.

Actually, I've known from a young age that somehow stories would be a large part of my life, but my path to telling lies for a living (okay, not lies per se, but variations of the truth, for sure) has been circuitous. If someone had just told me when I was a kid that I could actually be paid to daydream for a living, life would have been soooo much easier. But they didn't. And I never saw a 'daydreaming' booth at all those Career Days I attended.

So, initially discouraged when unable to locate anyone willing to pay me to read books, go to the movies, or attend the theatre, and in need of providing for the best child in the world, my son Tyler, I spent years being someone else - an accountant (blech), a business owner (pretty fun), a lawyer (loved law school, hated practicing law), a pilot (giddy and terrifying at the same time). but through it all, I wrote. Along the way I wrote the world's worst novel, a slightly more well-crafted buy equally as poorly plotted novel, several non-fiction feature articles (my first sales!), multiple humor columns for a national magazine (more sales!), and, finally, the novel that sold, Wanna Get Lucky?, the first in a series to be published by Forge Books. The series is a Sex and the City meets Elmore Leonard in Vegas kind of thing, if you can imagine that. Okay, have several glasses of wine, then think about it...makes imagining easier. Anyway, the books are sexy, wry, romantic, and slightly naughty mixed with a little murder and mayhem - shaken, not stirred- then illuminated by the bright lights of Las Vegas - one of the truly magical cities in the world.

Many of my friends have asked me how in the world I came up with the Lucky series. The way they asked led me to believe they thought mind-altering substances might have been involved even though they knew the worst I do is a glass of fine Pinot-Noir. The answer to their question is actually very simple: let your fifteen-year-old male child pick where you live, follow his dream to Vegas, then keep your eyes open.

Hey, it worked for me!

*****
Deborah Coonts' website is www.deborahcoonts.com

Lucky Catch by Deborah Coonts. Cool Gus Publishing. 2014. ISBN 9781621251828 (paperback), 258p.