Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Birthday Mysteries: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my Birthday. Sorry you can't be with me to celebrate, but you can read one of these Birthday Themed Mysteries. Raise a glass of champagne, eat a chocolate truffle, and grab a book, as you virtually join me Behind my Garden Gate!

Birthday Crime Fiction

Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni and Anselm Hollo
A Birthday to Die For by Frank Atchley 
The Birthday Murderer by Jay Bennett
Birthday Can Be Murder by Joyce Cato
A Catered Birthday Party by Isis Crawford
The Birthday Gift by Ursula Reilly Curtiss
Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday by Selma Eichler
The Nanny by Dan Greenburg
The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris
Birthday Party by Marne Davis Kellogg 
The Birthday Girl by Stephen Leather
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis
False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier 
Birthday, Deathday by Hugh Pentecost
Birthday Dance by Peter Robinson
The Birthday Bash by Elizabeth Sorrells
Don't Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
The Mortician's Birthday Party by Peter Whalley
The Fortieth Birthday Body by Valerie Wolzien
The Birthday by Margaret Yorke

"The Birthday Dinner" by Donna Andrews in Death Dines In, edited by Claudia Bishop & Dean James

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rhys Bowen Literary Salon: April 6

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an afternoon Literary Salon with Rhys Bowen on Wednesday, April 6 in Berkeley, 2 p.m. 

Rhys Bowen has been nominated for every major award in mystery writing, including the Edgar®, and has won many, including the Agatha, Macavity, and Anthony awards. In addition to her titles in the Royal Spyness series, she is the author of the Molly Murphy Mysteries set in turn-of-the-century New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries set in Wales. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.

Space is limited. Please leave your email address in the comments to RSVP and for directions. Potluck sweets and savories.


April 14: Reece Hirsch, Terry Shames, Susan Shea. 7 p.m.

May 3: Karim Miske 7:30 p.m.

May 11: Tammy Kaehler 7 p.m.

May 18: Brian Freeman 7:00 p.m.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Rare Books

Where My Stories Come From: Guest post by Jacqueline Winspear

Today I welcome Jacqueline Winspear. Winspear is the creator of the Maisie Dobbs novels, which have won numerous awards, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity. Originally from Kent, England, she now lives in California. Her latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Journey to Munich, launches tomorrow.

Where My Stories Come From

When Janet Rudolph, Editor of Mystery Readers Journal, invited me to contribute a blog post, I was thrilled. Then I read that it could be on any subject I wanted. Oh. Nothing like having a wide choice to throw me into a panic! Having consulted a few brain cells, I decided to use the blog to respond to a question often put to me: “Where do your stories come from?” In fact, it’s a question I love to hear other authors discuss, because I am always interested in what it was that inspired a writer to tell a story – what made them so curious that they create characters and put them in a certain place at a certain time, and then through the chaos of mystery?

In his book On Writing, Stephen King suggests that a story is born when two ideas come together. And I have found it to be so – as if kindling is laid with when the writer observes something that inspires curiosity, or reads something that makes her sit back and wonder. The nugget is tucked away in the memory, or perhaps noted in a journal, or written up and put in a file marked “Ideas” on the laptop – and it sits there, waiting for the moment when fuel is added and a flame brought close to the paper. The fuel is a second idea that gels with the first. The paper is lit by the writer’s imagination, and a story leaps into life. If I look back at my novels, that premise is probably true with each book published, even with my first novel, Maisie Dobbs. That story seemed to come out of the blue, a daydream sent to entertain me while stuck in traffic. I called it my moment of “artistic grace” – and yet those moments never happen in a vacuum. I had always been interested in the history of the Great War, and particularly the role of women in the era, and how their lives changed in a matter of just a few years. As a child I had witnessed my elderly grandfather struggling with wounds sustained during that war, so I was very aware of the challenges facing returning soldiers at a time when war was something people wanted to forget. More recently I had read about special “holiday camps” set up in France immediately after the war, so that – just for a couple of weeks – men who had terrible facial wounds could be at ease without sacks over their heads, or ugly masks. I’d wondered “What would happen if such a camp was run by someone psychologically damaged by war ? What might happen.” And the story was born. I believe questions are one of the writer’s greatest tools when developing stories – “What would happen if …?” “How would I feel, if …?” or “What if these two people met … in these circumstances?” You could come up with a whole list of questions to develop character and plot.

During the year my father passed away, Elegy For Eddie was published. It seemed so right, in its way, because the novel had its roots in a true story recounted to me by my father, of a man he knew when he was a boy in the early 1930’s. “Eddie” was born in the same neighborhood, to an unwed girl of 16. She worked as a night-time cleaner at the local brewery stables. The girl gave birth to her boy whilst at work, bringing him into the world in a horse’s stall she had just replenished with fresh hay. It was suspected that in trying to stop the baby crying, she unwittingly deprived him of air, so he grew up to be “slow” – as the local people described him. But not only was the boy fiercely protected by his community, but by the horses – his mother continued to work in the stables, bringing her child to work with her under cover of darkness. He grew up around horses and became known for the almost magical way he had with any horse – indeed, as my father told it, “Eddie” was on call to all the factories and earned money gentling horses who were giving the drivers a bit of trouble. It was when Dad told me that the young man had died in suspicious circumstances that my curiosity was piqued even more – and Elegy For Eddie was born when I put that story together with the events of the day, and with what I’d learned about the planning for another war, already in motion years before 1939.

My mother died last November, just a few months before Journey To Munich was due to be published (publication date: March 29, 2016). Journey To Munich was inspired by a story she’d told me when I was a child, of a man she’d worked for during the war. Because she reminded him of his deceased daughter, he was very supportive of her when he saw her running from work in his factory each day to get to her evening classes in book-keeping, short-hand, typing and French. He promoted her to working in the office, and over time he told her his story. He had been released from a German prison camp before the war, following negotiations instigated by the British government. It transpired that what the British knew – and what the Nazis didn’t – was that the man was an inventor, not simply someone who had been in Germany on business when he was charged and incarcerated. In the run-up to another conflict, such people were of great value – and he had a very special invention tucked away in his mind. Later, when I became a published author, I knew the story would become the backdrop for a novel – I just had to wait for the right time for Maisie Dobbs to become involved.

So always keep an eye on the kindling – you never know when the fuel might be added and the flames of story leap up and catch you!

Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in JOURNEY TO MUNICH—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling series. JOURNEY TO MUNICH will be published on March 29, 2016.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Smart Phone vs Dog

Love this. Comic by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands.

HT: Jan Burke

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival: Harrogate

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival  in Harrogate, Yorkshore, UK, has announced their Special Guest Line-Up.

Guests include Peter James, Jeffery Deaver, Martina Cole, Neil Cross, Linwood Barclay, Tess Gerritsen, Val McDermid, and Gerald Seymour. 

July 21-24, 2016. Old Swan Hotel. Harrogate

Are you going?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Easter Crime

Rowan Atkinson stars as Maigret

If you're lucky enough to get ITV1 (U.K.), you'll be able to watch the new Maigret starring Rowan Atkinson. This is, of course, Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret. There will be two Maigret specials in 2016, each 2 hours long. The first to air will be Maigret Sets a Trap (March 28).

Here are some great articles about the new productions. Be sure to scroll down to see the trailer.

Rowan Atkinson on Inspector Maigret, the artistic value of comedy, and playing an ordinary Man. (From the Independent) 

Inspecting Maigret: Rowan Atkinson puts on his thinking hat (from The Guardian)

Rowan Atkinson on ITV's Maigret: "I really wasn't sure I could do it."  (from The Guardian)

Hope these will migrate across the pond.

Maigret starring Rowan Atkinson

If you're lucky enough to get ITV1 (U.K.), you'll be able to watch the new Maigret starring Rowan Atkinson. This is, of course, Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret. There will be two Maigret specials in 2016, each 2 hours long. The first to air will be Maigret Sets a Trap (March 28).

Here are some great articles about the new productions. Be sure to scroll down to see the trailer.

Rowan Atkinson on Inspector Maigret, the artistic value of comedy, and playing an ordinary Man. (From the Independent) 

Inspecting Maigret: Rowan Atkinson puts on his thinking hat (from The Guardian)

Rowan Atkinson on ITV's Maigret: "I really wasn't sure I could do it."  (from The Guardian)

Hope these will migrate across the pond.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

PEEPS DIORAMAS: Spring Rituals

Of all my childhood Spring Confection memories, PEEPS stand out. My sister and I still buy each other PEEPS around Easter, even though neither of us actually eat the sugary marshmallow-y creatures any more--or at least I don't. She buys me purple rabbits; I buy her classic yellow chicks --the original PEEPS. You see where this is going? I'm a purist.

The Washington Post has its annual PEEPS diorama contest, and one of the winning entries a few years ago was Peepton Abbey Season 3. Perfect for Mystery Fanfare readers. See all the winning 2016 dioaramas here.


And, here are two of this year's winners.


And, since I will be spending Easter in Bodega Bay, here's my all time favorite Peeps Diorama: Hitchcock's The Birds:
A few years ago I set up a small PEEPS scenario of my own. PEEPS vacationing in Bodega Bay. Hope the Chicks don't turn rogue. They are birds, after all.

Cartoon of the Day: Can You Borrow My Book?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Crime Fiction: A List

Even if you don't live in Norway where Paskekrim (Easter Crime Fiction) is a crime fiction Easter Holiday tradition, you can enjoy reading some great mysteries that take place at Easter.  

To find out more about Paskekrim, a Norwegian tradition that takes place over 5 days from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday, when the country is caught up in watching and reading murder mysteries and detective series and publishers bring out their latest crime fiction, click here.

My Easter Crime Fiction list has been expanded from last year, and, as always, I welcome any additions. I've also added some Good Friday mysteries, rounding out the weekend.


Antiques Bizarre by Barbara Allan
Ship of Danger by Mabel Esther Allan
Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton
Death and the Easter Bunny by Linda Berry
In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen
Easter Weekend by David Bottoms
The Last Enemy by Grace Brophy
Wycliffe and the Last Rites by W.J. Burley
Papa la-Bas by John Dickson Carr
Do You Promise Not To Tell? by Mary Jane Clark
Little Easter by Reed Farrel Coleman
A Holiday Sampler by Christine E. Collier
Last Easter by Caroline Conklin
Murder on Good Friday by Sara Conway
Holy Terrors by Mary R. Daheim
Big Bunny Bump Off by Kathi Daley
Death of a Harlequin by Mary-Jane Deeb
The House of Death by Paul Doherty
Cue the Easter Bunny by Liz Evans
Death at the Wheel by Kate Flora
Deadly Sin by P.J. Grady
Precious Blood by Jane Haddam
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris 
Server Down by J.M. Hayes
Semana Santa by David Hewson
Eggsecutive Orders by Julie Hyzy
Easter Murders by Bryant Jackson & Edward Meadows
Death of a Dumb Bunny by Melanie Jackson
Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose (short stories) by Peter Lovesey
Pagan Spring by G. M. Malliet
Some Like It Lethal by Nancy Martin
Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier
Devil's Door by Sharan Newman
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
The Wolf and the Lamb by Frederick Ramsey
The Baritone Wore Chiffon; The Soprano Wore Falsettos by Mark Schweizer
Easter's Lily by Judy Serrano
Prey on Patmos by Jeffrey Siger
Tourist Trap by Julie Smith
Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming
And Four To Go includes "The Easter Parade" aka The Easter Parade Murder" by Rex Stout
Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death by Denise Swanson
The Quarry by Johan Theorin
Midnight at the Camposanto by Mari Ulmer
The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie
The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson
The Easter Egg Murder by Patricia Smith Wood

Short Story: "The Man on the Cross" by Bill Crider from the collection Thou Shalt Not Kill, edited by Anne Perry."The Rabbit Died" by Sue Ann Jaffarian.

Looking for Easter Chocolate to eat while reading? Stop by my other Blog, for some great Chocolate Easter Recipes and History and Culture of PEEPS.

Look Magazine, April 16, 1957

Joe Hart: An Apprenticeship in Magic or The Art of Storytelling

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota. Having dedicated himself to writing horror and thriller fiction since the tender age of nine, he is now the author of eight novels that include The River Is Dark, Lineage, and EverFall. The Last Girl is the first installment in the highly anticipated Dominion Trilogy and once again showcases Hart’s knack for creating breathtaking futuristic thrillers. When not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, exploring the great outdoors, and watching movies with his family. For more information on his upcoming novels and access to his blog, visit

Joe Hart:
An Apprenticeship in Magic or The Art of Storytelling

I can still remember the smell of the library my mother used to bring me to when I was a child.

It was a combination of dust and aging flowers. Something pleasantly soothing that went hand in hand with the solitude of the building itself. The smell would rush out to meet you as soon as the glass door opened that sometimes reflected a blinding sunshine day or a sky clotted with storm clouds drizzling rain. It didn’t matter what the weather was outside because as soon as I smelled that soft, dusty scent of books the world went away. By the time my mom started bringing me to the library my two older siblings were already graduated and out of the house, my sister having bequeathed me several Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels by failing to pack them when she left for college. Needless to say, I bypassed the lower children’s level of the library and accompanied my mother to the adult sections on the upper floor. At the time I don’t think she knew if I was actually reading the books we checked out or if I simply wanted to be like her.

I devoured everything I could get my hands on by King and Koontz before discovering Robert R. McCammon, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Dan Simmons, and Peter Straub. Later it was Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. But the seed had been planted early with the thrilling fear and tension I felt while reading horror and mysteries. To me, it was a type of magic to have that effect on someone who had simply read your words, a form of sorcery, and I wanted to do the same thing.

I realize now that I wasn’t simply reading the books that were in essence not age appropriate at the time, I was absorbing the way the stories were presented, how they were told. There was such eloquence to the words and how the novels unfolded, it was apparent this was where the magic came into play. When I began to try my hand at creating the same thing it fell far, far short. I recall letting my parents read my earliest work, sometime around the age of nine or ten, and having them encourage me, but I could see they weren’t experiencing the same thing I did when reading one of the many novels lining the shelves in my room. I needed to try harder. I needed to apprentice more.

So I read.

And read.

And read some more.

Over the years of continuing to read the authors I grew up on, I noticed something in my own work reflected in their fiction. It was changing. While King, Koontz, and all the others had always been masters of storytelling, their skills were becoming more and more honed. My writing had improved greatly with time and patience, but the knowledge that the people I’d been reading from a young age were still improving, still learning the craft gave me so much comfort. The idea that no matter how long I wrote I’d always be an apprentice to the magic of storytelling was humbling and exhilarating. I would imagine it’s the same feeling an astronomer gets peering through a telescope and glimpsing a distant galaxy but knowing there is so much beyond what their eyes can see.

So I owe where I am today to those who showed me the path with their words. They taught me that the magic has no end point, no pinnacle; it’s all about learning new spells along the way.


Joe Hart's THE LAST GIRL (Thomas & Mercer, March 1, 2016), is the first in his highly anticipated Dominion Trilogy. With THE LAST GIRL, a mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women. Protagonist Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population. Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests—a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Meet the Author

Norway's Paaskekrim: Crime Reading during Easter Week

I post about Paaskekrim every year, but with the increased interest in Scandinavian crime, especially the large number of Scandinavian authors now available in English, I thought I should repost about Norway's Paaskekrim (Easter Crime)! Holy Thursday through Easter Monday is a public holiday in Norway, but it's also a time when just about everyone in Norway reads crime novels. Bookstore displays are full of detective novels, television and radio stations run crime serials and newspapers publish special literary supplements.

This is a very peculiar national activity. Publishers in Norway actually time series of books known as "Easter-Thrillers"or PĂ„skekrim, and dates of publication are moved to Spring and released at this time when the sale of mysteries goes up 50%. TV stations, radio and newspapers follow suit by running detective series based on the works of famous crime novelists such as Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Simenon and Ruth Rendell. Many of the Norwegian crime series are rerun.

Why does Norway choose Easter to delve into crime solving? According to one widely accepted theory, the tradition began in 1923 as the result of a marketing coup. Advertisements that resembled news items were published on the front pages of several newspapers, shocking readers who failed to grasp that it was a publicity stunt. This idea spread like wildfire among other publishing houses, and the crime novel became one of the few forms of entertainment available during the Easter break. Cafes, restaurants and movie theatres were closed during Easter, which was supposed to be a time of introspection and repentance. There was no radio, and of course no television either. But everyone could read, and so the Easter crime novel was born.

Norwegian Crime Writers
Karin Fossum
Jo Nesbo 
Kjersti Sceen  
Gunnar Staalesen  
Jon Michelet
Anne Holt
Kjell Ola Dahl  
Pernille Rygg 
K.O. Dahl
Jorn Lier Horst
Thomas Enger 
Unni Lindell
Samuel Bjork 

Great websites about Norwegian crime writers
Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Scandinavian Books
International Noir Fiction
Detectives without Borders
Euro Crime
2 Scandinavian issues of Mystery Readers Journal 
Volume 30: 4 (Winter 2014-15)
Volume 23:3 (Fall 2007)
Hardcopy and PDF -- Reviews, articles and Author! Author! essays, many by and about Norwegian crime writers.

Subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal HERE.

Bookstore Sign of the Day

Saw this yesterday in Mrs Dalloway's (my local indie) window.  Be sure and scroll down to the second photo to see the sign in situ.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Murder Weapon

Cora Strayer, Lady Detective: Guest Post by Jennifer Kincheloe

Today I welcome Jennifer Kincheloe. Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical mysteries. She won the Colorado Gold contest for emerging writers and was short-listed for the Lefty for Historical Mystery.

Jennifer Kincheloe:
Mickeys, car chases, and younger men—The life of Cora Strayer, lady detective

Jennifer Kincheloe
During the Progressive Era, Miss Cora Strayer (1869 – 1932) ran her own detective agency in the Windy City. I discovered her while researching my debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC, set in 1907 Los Angeles. My book tells the story of a mischievous young socialite who buys off her chaperone and secretly gets a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. Naturally, she solves crimes, as real police matrons did sometimes.

So, I’m all about lady detectives, and I love women who defy society’s prescribed roles for them in order to tackle the seamy side of things.

Imagine my joy when I ran across a 1908 ad for Miss Cora M. Strayer’s Private Detective Agency. 

"Ladies, when in need of legal or confidential advice, why not confer with one of your own sex?" 

I had to know more.
Thankfully, Paul Reda had already done the legwork. His website ( features an entire page with links to newspaper articles, census data, and vital records about Cora Strayer as well as a timeline for her life. (Thanks Paul!)

In her role as a detective, Cora tackled the seamy side.

Cora married at sixteen. Her husband died when she was twenty-five. She lost her only two children. Maybe this contributed to making Cora the badass that she was. It’s hard to piece together Cora’s life because, like Anna Blanc, she could be loose with the truth. But here are some highlights.

In the early days, Cora ran her private detective agency out of a cheap, four-room apartment located above a dodgy tavern, which was frequently raided by the police for illegal poker and bookmaking operations. Cora thrived there.

Cora claimed to have practiced law for several years prior to becoming a private detective. She also claimed to have started her agency in 1890, when she was only twenty-one. So she was either a teenaged lawyer, or …

I don’t blame her for telling tales. It wasn’t easy being a lady detective—establishing credibility in man’s world. She did what she had to do, and she did it well.

In 1909, the Chicago Sunday Tribune featured Cora in an article entitled “Women Who Have Made a Success at Bossing Men.” In it, she described her success.

“At first I worked alone. But after a while I had so much work that I could not attend to it myself. Then I hired a man to help me. Shortly I promoted him to the office of superintendent. Gradually, I engaged others until I had a regular staff . . . I always superintend the work myself, too. I study out each case and give my instructions on how they are to work on it. Keeps me busy but I like the work.” 

Cora was also successful with the superintendent of her criminal department, George S. Holben—that is, they moved in together. Holben was seven years her junior (and an alleged jewel thief, but never mind.)

In 1907, a Mrs. Harris blackmailed a Mrs. Campbell, forging love letters from her husband to Mrs. Campbell in order to make it look like they were having an affair. Mrs. Campbell came to Cora for help. Cora did what any good detective would do. She got Mrs. Harris good and drunk, slipped her a Mickey, and stole the letters. Unfortunately, Dr. Harris actually was having an affair with Mrs. Campbell. Her husband found out and shot him dead.

With romantic affairs, jealous shootouts are always a risk. Cora knew this well. Three years later, a former employee named Stephen Ayers showed up on the agency’s doorstep and shot Cora’s lover, Holben, in a dispute over her affections. The agency’s maid, Mary Myers, threw herself on Holben’s assailant and wrestled him for the gun (another badass lady). Holben died from his wounds. Ayers was later sentenced to 15 years in prison, escaped, and got recaptured. Cora denied her love affair with Ayers, who was fourteen years her junior.

But Cora couldn’t deny that she went for younger men, which was sensible, given the short lifespan of her lovers. (It’s what I would do.) In 1912, she married Robert Fortune. She was forty-three, he was twenty-four. He died a year or so later from cancer of the mouth.

Cora rebounded by forming the First Volunteer Women's Cavalry Regiment to take up arms in the Border War with Mexico. Her regiment had two hundred women. Here’s a Colonel Cora quote.

"Do you want to wait until all the men are killed to do your duty, sisters? A woman that would stand and let a man do all the fighting and suffering for his country is not a soldier. She belongs in the effete ranks of those who hurry abroad when the trouble starts. Pooh! She is not even worthy of the ballot." 

Cora’s regiment was never deployed, but that left her free to do more detective work.

The last story I have about Cora involved a showgirl, a high-speed car chase, and a “love beyond the law.” (i.e. extramarital affair). As Cora soon discovered, it was no mere love triangle she investigated—it was a love pentagon. The drama culminated when Cora drove her black car, full of police detectives, in hot pursuit of a redheaded “girl of mystery” in a red car and a lavender dress. But those are all the seamy details you’ll get from me.

Here is how the Chicago Sunday Tribune described Cora.

“She has keen eyes that take in everything without seeming to notice anything: a smile that is fascinating and a manner that encourages confidences. In her voice there is an undercurrent of decision that says plainly, “I mean what I say—understand?” 

 I’ll leave you with these words from Cora herself.

“Mine is a difficult business, wearing on the nerves and depressing. At times I have gone to pieces completely and had to get away from the town. But in a few days, letters and telegrams arrive and the old eagerness to be up and at it returns. Suddenly I feel entirely recovered and come back to begin again. . . I can recommend this profession to other women who have any adaptation for it . . . It’s wonderful whatever renewing interest one can get out of work if she only puts enthusiasm into it. I certainly have a big opportunity to study human nature, but if I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed. 

I believe you, Cora.

Private Eyes and People's Trash

We all know that TV, movie, and mystery novel detectives often solve cases by going through people's trash. This is not surprising to crime fiction folks, but here's a good article about true life detectives and trash on Atlas Obscura --"Private Eyes Tell Us Abouot Digging Through People's Trash" by Dan Nosowitz.

It’s a staple of the detective montage on TV and in movies: an investigator takes a suspect’s trash, dumps it on a table and starts going to town. Often the results pay off handsomely: On a Columbo called episode “Agenda For Murder,” for instance, Columbo solves the case by stealing some gum from the murder’s garbage can and then by matching the murderer’s bite marks on a piece of cheese with teeth marks on that gum. In Sue Grafton’s I Is For Innocent, her detective, Kinsey Millhone, figures out an equally ridiculous murder weapon while digging through the victim’s garbage: a pastry baked with poisonous mushrooms.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Authors and their Cats: Lilian Jackson Braun

Happy Caturday! What better author to highlight today than Lilian Jackson Braun, author of the Cat Who series. Be sure to scroll down and see both photos.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

RT Reviewers Choice and Career Achievement Awards

Romantic Times announced the winners of the 2015 RT Reviewers Choice and Career Achievement Awards in several categories. For all the categories, go HERE.

In Career Achievement: 
Historical Mystery: Rhys Bowen
Mystery: Janet Evanovich
Romantic Suspense: Carla Neggers

The winners in mystery-related categories are:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Keyboard Shortcuts

HT: Jane Burfield

2016 Dove Award: Janet Rudolph

I usually don't share information about myself on Mystery Fanfare, but  since I try to report all awards, I wanted to let you know how excited, honored, and humbled I am to receive this award from my academic peers.


Janet Rudolph receives the 2016 George N. Dove Award for Contributions to the Study of Mystery and Crime Fiction 

Janet Rudolph, founder of Mystery Readers International, has been selected to receive the 2016 Dove Award. The honor is bestowed for outstanding contributions to the serious study of mystery, detective, and crime fiction by the Mystery and Detective Fiction Area of the Popular Culture Association. The award is named for George N. Dove, one of the area’s early members, a past president of the Popular Culture Association, and author of outstanding presentations, articles, and books on detective fiction, especially the police procedural.

The 2016 award recognizes Rudolph’s wide-ranging activities promoting the love of mystery and crime fiction, starting with her founding of Mystery Readers International, “the largest mystery fan/reader organization in the world,” which is open to every segment of the mystery-loving population, from readers and writers to editors, publishers, and critics. Other opportunities for mysterious encounters include, among others, the Mystery Readers Journal, which Rudolph edits and which is published four times a year; monthly Literary Salons with well-known crime writers in her own home in Berkeley, CA; and two blogs: Mystery Fanfare, which includes news, cartoons, and Rudolph’s views on mystery-related topics, and Dying for Chocolate, which features chocolate-related topics along with tie-ins to relevant mystery concerns. MRI is also known for sponsoring the annual Macavity Awards, for which members nominate and vote for books and short stories in several categories, and Rudolph’s website is a general resource for mystery lovers, with lists of mystery bookstores, mystery periodicals, and reading groups.

In addition to all of her work with Mystery Readers International, Rudolph is also one of the founders of Left Coast Crime, an annual convention of mystery readers, fans, and writers, 26 years ago and serves on the National Board. She also serves on the International Board of Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

As a popularizer of all things mystery-related, Janet Rudolph promotes not only the serious study of mystery and detective fiction, but also the pure enjoyment of the genre in many different forms.

The 2016 Dove Award will be announced at the Mystery and Detective Fiction Area meeting on March 25 during the PCA/ACA annual conference in Seattle (March 21-25, 2016).

Past recipients include Elizabeth Foxwell, H.R.F. Keating, P.D. James, Douglas Greene, and Frankie Y. Bailey.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Barry Award Nominations 2016

Barry Awards 2016 Shortlists from Deadly Pleasures Magazine. Winners will be announced at Bouchercon New Orleans. Congratulations to all

Best Novel 
C. J. Box, BADLANDS (Minotaur)
John Connolly, A SONG OF SHADOWS (Emily Bestler/Atria)
Owen Laukkanen, THE STOLEN ONES (Putnam)
Michael Robotham, LIFE OR DEATH (Mulholland)
Jeff Siger, DEVIL OF DELPHI (Poisoned Pen Press)
Don Winslow, THE CARTEL (Knopf)

Best First Novel 
John A. Connell, RUINS OF WAR (Berkley)
Glen Erik Hamilton, PAST CRIMES (Morrow)
Elsa Hart, JADE DRAGON MOUNTAIN (Minotaur)
Paula Hawkins, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Riverhead)
Ausma Zehanat Khan, THE UNQUIET DEAD (Minotaur)
Brian Panowich, BULL MOUNTAIN (Putnam)

Best Paperback Original 
Kristi Belcamino, BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP (Witness Impulse)
Max Allan Collins, QUARRY’S CHOICE (HardCase Crime)
Sarah Hilary, NO OTHER DARKNESS (Penguin)
Ragnar Jonasson, SNOW BLIND (Orenda)
James W. Ziskin, STONE COLD DEAD (Seventh Street)

Best Thriller 
Marc Cameron, BRUTE FORCE (Pinnacle)
Chris Holm, THE KILLING KIND (Mulholland)
M. A. Lawson, VIKING BAY (Blue Rider)
Stefanie Pintoff, HOSTAGE TAKER (Bantam)
Taylor Stevens, THE MASK (Crown)

Let's Get Lost: Guest post by Lisa Lutz

Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including the just published thriller, The Passenger (Simon & Schuster), How to Start a Fire, six novels in the Spellman books series, and Heads You Lose, co-authored with David Hayward. She is also the author of the children's book, How to Negotiate Everything, illustrated by Jaime Temairik. Lutz has won the Alex award and has been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. 

Lisa Lutz:
Let’s Get Lost

Everyone wants to disappear. Whether you’re a law-abiding citizen who simply needs a break from the grind of everyday life or a criminal on the brink of incarceration, you’ve imagined leaving your past in the dust and starting fresh somewhere shiny and new. The appeal of this notion, even to the non-felonious, goes beyond shrugging off a boring name, old job, and tiresome bills. It’s a chance for a do-over, to live your life the way you thought you would when you were a kid. It’s also a break from the monotony of being you. It seems unfair that a life can last decades, but you’re just one person the whole time.

For crime writers like me, an interest in this topic is practically a job requirement. But my fascination with leaving the past behind or starting over (however you want to look at it) predates even my earliest attempts at writing. Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be somewhere else. Traveling has never scratched the itch; the only thing that has, at least temporarily, is a full-fledged move. The result is that I tend to commit to extreme relocations every few years. My name remains the same, but everything around me changes. For the briefest period of time, when I’m freshly planted in my foreign environment, I feel like someone new.

It’s not the most convenient way to live, but maybe Agatha Christie would have understood. On December 3rd, 1926, she disappeared. An intense manhunt ensued that eventually involved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers. Eleven days later she was discovered living in a spa hotel in Harrogate under the name Teresa Neele, which was coincidentally also the last name of her husband’s mistress. Hypotheses abound regarding the episode, a fugue state prime among them. But my uneducated theory is that she just wanted to try on a brand-new identity coat. Her own felt threadbare and tired.

In my most recent novel, The Passenger, I delved deeper into my fascination with reinvention. I wrote about a woman who sheds one identity after the next as she runs from her near and distant past.

In many books, TV shows, and films, well-connected people and gangsters often seem to have easy access to document forgers, plastic surgeons, and the funds to pay for such services—not to mention a knack for ingenious schemes to evade their followers. As a result, in their new lives they have proper homes, a circle of friends, and piles of cash under the floorboards.

I was more interested in what would happen if the character’s financial means and skills of deception were closer to my own. The result was a character who could only nickel-and-dime her way across the country, always looking over her shoulder, incapable of any kind of relationship beyond a cautious acquaintance. She scrapes by as a shadow of a real human being. It takes an enormous amount of work to stay unfound.

While the trope of changing identities is fairly common in the crime genre, I doubt there is an author better versed on the subject than Thomas Perry. His Jane Whitefield series is about a woman whose job is teaching people on the run how to assume a new identity. Because she’s everything my heroine is not—expert, meticulous, well-connected—I avoided the books while writing The Passenger. But later I contacted Perry, because if there’s anyone I know who has a solid grasp of eluding pursuers, it’s him. And I thought it was time I learned how. Just in case.

As a hypothetical, I asked him what he would do if, for instance, he were guilty of a capital crime and didn’t feel like going to prison.

“I would try to get to Ireland or France, where they wouldn't extradite me to a country with the death penalty. I would do this well in advance of being arrested. Then I would get used to drinking Guinness or red wine, apply for citizenship, and never cross another border,” he said.

But the restrictions, according to Perry, would be endless: “Never get fingerprinted. Never go to public events where there are television cameras. Stay away from commercial airplanes. Stay off toll roads, where there are cameras that take your picture when you approach the tollbooth. Avoid getting money in the above-ground economy, where taxes are paid, and work only for cash. Try not to get sick or require any prescription medicines. Don't get in touch with any relatives or anybody else you ever knew. In fact, it's best not to know anybody in the present, either ...”

These restrictions, which only scratch the surface, would severely cut into one’s quality of life. And yet people disappear all of the time. Some start new lives and stay lost, either through sheer discipline or because no one is looking for them. But the ones who get caught often do so because they gave themselves away as an impostor. Memory can’t be changed; fake memories can’t become part of your psychological fabric. (Or if they do, you’ve gotten farther gone than you probably intended.) You can move across the country, change your name, dye your hair, but you’re still you.

It’s been almost four years since my last move, and I have no pressing plans for another extreme relocation. Part of me wonders whether I exorcized the urge through fiction. Perhaps it’s just lying dormant, waiting for the right opportunity. But another part wonders if I’m still too close to home.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

St. Patrick's Day Mysteries - St Patrick's Day Crime Fiction

Erin - Go - bragh! St. Patrick's Day figures in several mysteries, so here's my updated St. Patrick's Day Crime Fiction list. Irish aka Emerald Noir is very popular right now, so you can always add titles to your TBR pile from the many Irish crime writers available, although they may not take place specifically during St. Patrick's Day. Declan Burke has a great post on his blog CrimeAlwaysPays Overview: The St. Patrick's Day Rewind. Be sure and spend some time on his blog!  

Mystery Readers Journal had an issue that focused on Irish Mysteries. It's available as PDF or hardcopy.

As always, I welcome comments and additions to this list. 


Susan Wittig Albert: Love Lies Bleeding
S. Furlong-Bollinger: Paddy Whacked
Harry Brandt (Richard Price): The Whites
Isis Crawford: A Catered St. Patrick's Day
Nelson DeMille: Cathedral
Janet Evanovich: Plum Lucky
Andrew Greeley: Irish Gold
Jane Haddam: A Great Day for the Deadly
Lyn Hamilton: The Celtic Riddle
Lee Harris: The St. Patrick's Day Murder
Jonathan Harrington: A Great Day for Dying
Amanda Lee: The Long Stitch Good Night
Wendi Lee: The Good Daughter
Dan Mahoney: Once in, Never Out
Leslie Meier: St. Patrick's Day Murder
Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: Death Takes Up A Collection
Ralph M. McInerny: Lack of the Irish
Janet Elaine Smith: In St. Patrick's Custody
JJ Toner: St. Patrick's Day Special
Kathy Hogan Trochek: Irish Eyes
Noreen Wald: Death Never Takes a Holiday

Check out Dublin Noir, a collection of short stories edited by Ken Bruen, published by Akashic Books in the US and Brandon in Ireland and the UK.

Read Val McDermid's take on the Popularity of Irish Crime Fiction.

Read Lisa Alber's guest post on Travels to Ireland, or, Bah, I Scoff at "Write What You Know"

Some Irish crime writers you might want to read: Tana French, Erin Hart, Benjamin Black, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey, Brian McGilloway, Alan Glynn, John Brady, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, John Banville (Benjamin Black), Ken Bruen, Jesse Louisa Rickard, Eoin Colfer.

Who are your favorite Irish authors?

And, if you want something CHOCOLATE to go along with your stout, have a look at my DyingforChocolate blog for some Killer St. Patrick's Day Recipes including:

Guinness Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate Guinness Cake
Guinness Chocolate Stout Brownies
Chocolate Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Ice Cream
Bailey's Chocolate Trifle
You Make Me Want to Stout Cupcakes (Scharffen Berger)
Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge

Guinness Chocolate Cherry Bread & Guinness Brown Breads