Review: <i>The Janson Directive</i> by Robert Ludlum Review: The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review of the 1st book in the Janson series. <i>Pushing Up Daisies</i>: New Excerpt Pushing Up Daisies: New Excerpt M.C. Beaton The 7th book in the Agatha Raisin series. Review: <i>Panacea</i> by F. Paul Wilson Review: Panacea by F. Paul Wilson David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review of this medical thriller! <i>Lowcountry Book Club</i>: New Excerpt Lowcountry Book Club: New Excerpt Susan M. Boyer The 5th book in the Liz Talbot Mystery series.
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June 23, 2016
Cooking the Books: The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis
Doreen Sheridan
Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Thu
Jun 23 2016 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis

The 10th installment of the Domestic Diva mystery series finds our heroine, Sophie Winston, coming to the rescue of her frenemy, Natasha, when an intruder breaks into the home Natasha shares with her boyfriend, Mars (who also happens to be Sophie’s ex-husband). Someone is lurking in the shadows of Old Town Alexandria, and neither Sophie nor her friends feel safe as the culprit remains at large—particularly since no motive was apparent for the attack.

Fortunately, a diverting new restaurant has opened in the neighborhood—a lovely place specializing in tea and snacks, called The Parlour. Unfortunately, it’s closed down for investigation when new arrival to the neighborhood, handsome antiques dealer Robert Johnson, drops dead from botulism poisoning shortly after attending a literary fundraiser held there.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Tue
Jun 21 2016 2:00pm

Review: The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr

The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr is a gripping historical thriller set in sixteenth-century Spain.

What a timely, topical book. Ostensibly a medieval murder mystery, The Devils of Cardona draws strong parallels with a world currently caught up in theological hysteria, warning both of the perils of forgetting the beauty and kindnesses of religion and of allowing xenophobia to cloak cynical and selfish political machinations.

Set in 16th-century Spain, with the Inquisition dominating the daily landscape of Spanish lives, The Devils of Cardona starts with the brutal murder of an unpopular priest in a small Aragonese village near the border with France. Arabic words scrawled in the priest’s blood across the walls point the finger at the local Moriscos, former Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism.

With the nobility of Aragon prickly about their rights under Castilian rule, an adviser to King Philip II appoints a judge with a reputation for fairness and justice to travel to the remote region to investigate. With a small entourage, Licenciado Bernardo Mendoza sets out on a trip that will find him at odds with nobility and clergy, the faithful and heretics, and old friends and new alike.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Devils of Cardona...]

Wed
Jun 15 2016 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Éclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford

This sweet first novel in the Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery series is as much a treat for cozy mystery lovers as it is for bakers! Winnie Johnson is a bit of an odd duck: 34 years old, attractive, and single—she’d much rather focus on her baking and hanging out with her elderly neighbors than on dating.

But then, Winnie’s landlord raises the rent on her beloved bakery and one of her good friends, wealthy Gertrude, passes away. When Gertrude’s lawyer summons Winnie to his office, she isn’t the only one of her circle to hope that Gertrude might have left her a bequest that will help save her bakery. Instead, Gertrude has left Winnie with Lovey, a cat that has no fondness for her, and a restored antique ambulance.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Tue
Jun 14 2016 3:00pm

Review: Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell is a psychological thriller that follows two girls that were kidnapped as kids, whose lives intertwine once again, almost twenty years later, when a movie with a shockingly familiar plot forces them to confront their past (On sale today!).

I do so love a good literary mystery, especially when it explores the aspects of a crime that so often go unexamined. Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is looks at two women whose lives become inextricably bound when, at the age of 12, they are taken from their small towns in Nebraska and Connecticut by a charismatic stranger known to them only as Zed. For two months, they live in nearly idyllic isolation in the woods, until their recovery and a violent death send them back to their families. The girls’ parents decide that it’s best that they have no contact in the aftermath, despite how the girls themselves feel. Deprived of each other and Zed, the girls struggle to make sense of their lives.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Pretty Is...]

Wed
Jun 8 2016 3:30pm

Cooking the Books: Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

The second book in Ovidia Yu’s Singaporean Mystery series starring Rosie Lee—a cafe-owning widow affectionately called Aunty by all who know her—sees our intrepid, if unlikely, heroine caught up in the death of two people at an event she was catering.

Aunty Lee had prepared a delicacy that, much like the infamous fugu fish, could be deadly in less competent hands: a chicken curry flavored with buah keluak—a poisonous nut rendered edible only by fermentation.

[Read Doreen's review with two recipes included!]

Thu
Jun 2 2016 2:30pm

Review: A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah is a standalone thriller by this New York Times bestselling author, where a woman is pulled into a deadly game of deception, secrets, and lies, and must find the truth in order to defeat a mysterious opponent, protect her daughter, and save her own life.

I feel a bit as if I've jumped on a bandwagon when I say that Sophie Hannah only really registered on my radar when she was tapped by the Agatha Christie estate to write the first authorized Poirot novel since the First Lady of Crime’s passing. Given the amount of praise Ms. Hannah has received for The Monogram Murders, I was very eager to see how she does with a standalone novel, away from Dame Christie's long shadow.

Here, in A Game for All the Family, we meet Justine Merrison—a woman who has turned her back on a stressful career in London in order to move to Devon with her family and do Nothing with a capital N. Things don't quite go to plan, though.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of A Game for All the Family...]

Wed
Jun 1 2016 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu

Mystery novels are my intellectual comfort food, so when a series comes along that combines murder with my idea of actual, physical comfort food, it’s hard to resist!

Aunty Lee’s Delights is the story of Singaporean Rosie Lee, a middle-aged widow who runs a cafe more to keep herself busy than to actually turn a profit. With the aid of her Filipina maid, Nina, she has quite the tidy business, affording her time to indulge herself in both of her favorite pastimes: cooking and being a busybody (or kaypoh, as it’s known in the vernacular and lovingly explained for the reader unfamiliar with the local lingo.)

[Cook the books with us! Recipe and pictures below...]

Thu
May 26 2016 11:00am

Review: The Silent Dead by Tetsuya Honda

The Silent Dead by Tetsuya Honda follows the young Lieutenant Reiko Himekawa of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Division as she investigates a string of strange murders that might include her as the next victim.

Like many other mystery lovers, I'm a big fan of the police procedural. Most of my experience has been with series set in North America and the British Isles, with a smattering of Scandinavian and French thrown in as well. Looking further east, I've explored the inner workings of the Shanghai Police Department through the lovely, meditative fiction of Qiu Xiaolong. But, not until Tetsuya Honda's excellent slam bang, The Silent Dead, have I had the joy of becoming immersed in the gritty reality of homicide investigation in Japan.

Reiko Himekawa is a 29-year-old lieutenant with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Homicide Department. Having made lieutenant at a relatively young age, without the help of political or family connections, she trades on her intuition and mental toughness—coupled with an intrepid attitude towards both personal and professional danger—to crack an impressive number of cases. The grisly discovery of a viciously mutilated corpse in a residential district begins the case of a serial killer, whose exploits lead Reiko’s squad to the lurid horrors of an elusive website, whispered of by those in the know as Strawberry Night (also the book’s original Japanese title).

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Silent Dead...]

Mon
Apr 4 2016 12:00pm

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm is a psychological thriller involving an art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game, and a transformation of a small-town girl from Tennessee. 

In the seemingly endless parade of novels breathlessly proclaimed as the next Gone Girl (which is a book I adored, for the record), it’s hard not to view each newcomer askance. Granted, Unbecoming isn’t exactly new: published on January 22nd, 2015, it was another of those thrillers that I, weary of imitators, skipped over until it was nominated for an Edgar for “Best First Novel.”

And wow, what a debut! A lot of reviews have described Unbecoming as the story of what happens after the heist goes wrong, but I firmly believe that the heist described in these pages is merely the framework for an elegant, finely wrought portrait of a young woman who, as it happens, finds herself turned, and not altogether unwillingly, into a femme fatale.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Unbecoming here...]

Tue
Aug 11 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Dragon Day by Lisa Brackmann

Dragon Day by Lisa Brackmann is the final book in the Ellie McEnroe trilogy about American vereran of the Iraqi War currently living in Beijing (available August 18, 2015).

This novel had me hooked from the very first page, when our heroine, Ellie McEnroe, describes in her distinctively wry narrative voice not only modern China, its observers and its beliefs, but also how she relates to each:

Dragons and China. It’s the biggest fucking cliche. If you ever go looking for books about China, you know how many of them have “dragon” in the title? Like all of them, practically.

Thing is, dragons are a big deal in China [...] Out of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, Dragon is the one you most want your kid to be. Dragon babies are attractive, smart, natural leaders, bring good fortune to the family. Yeah, I know all the other animals are supposed to have positive characteristics, but come on. You’re telling me you’d choose to be a Sheep over a Dragon?

Me, I’m a Rat. Obviously I’m not winning any zodiac beauty contest. Sure, they say we’re clever survivors, and that’s useful, I guess. It’s true I’ve survived some pretty crazy shit.

On the other hand, if I’m so clever, why do I keep walking into it?

[That's a good question...]

Tue
Jul 14 2015 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen is the third thriller featuring Kendra Michaels, a law-enforcement consultant with heightened observational skills (available July 14, 2015).

I’m really not sure how I’ve managed to be an avid reader of mystery novels for this long without encountering any Iris Johansen novels before The Naked Eye. But what a great way to start – and what a promising back-catalog for me to devour! – with this exciting third installment in the Kendra Michaels books. Having no familiarity with any of Iris Johansen’s previous world-building exercises, I was pleased with how easy it was for me to make the acquaintance of Kendra and, later in the novel, Eve Duncan, the heroine of another of her best-selling series.

But Kendra is, rightly, the focus here. A modern day Sherlock Holmes due to an experimental operation that restored her sight to her after she’d spent years honing her other senses to compensate, her exceptional powers of observation are in high demand with local and federal law enforcement. Unfortunately, she’s currently at odds with them, as no one will believe that Eric Colby, the serial killer she helped put away in a previous book, is still at-large instead of dead after his state-mandated execution. Kendra still shows up at the site of certain murders upon the request of law enforcement, but mostly, she’s trying to see if Colby is back at it again. She knows he’s obsessed with her and merely waiting for the right time to strike once more.

[Well that's ominous...]

Wed
Jul 1 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler

One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler is a thriller that opens aboard a luxury yacht where a woman is thrown into the ocean in a clear case of attempted murder (available July 7, 2015).

In Elizabeth Adler’s latest thriller, a young woman named Angie is bludgeoned aboard a luxury yacht, thrown overboard, and left for dead in the waters of the Aegean. Marco Polo Mahoney, famed portrait painter, is the only witness from his Turkish seaside cottage. Despite his best efforts to rescue her — or at the very least find her body — she eludes him. Soon, he is unable to get the thought of the drowning girl out of his head. This tests his relationship with London-based Martha Patrons, a multi-talented interior decorator with a lovely, irresponsible aspiring actress of a younger sister, Lucy. Martha is as practical as she is beautiful, and though she is supportive of her lover, she has other issues to deal with, such as the foreign billionaire who has recently started showing a little too much interest in seventeen year-old Lucy. Unfortunately for Martha, Lucy’s fate is set to be intertwined with Angie’s, sucking them all unwitting into a vortex of terror and death.

Hurtling rapidly from one plot twist to the next, One Way Or Another blends the glitz of an international thriller with high Gothic touches. Remarkably, this novel reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though there is nary a supernatural element in sight in this globe-trotting tale of murder and vengeance. The villains are monstrous and mysterious, diabolical figures at odds with heroes who stand for normalcy and propriety (despite intermittent moments of weakness.) A sort of Victorian morality permeates the proceedings, with the strong, loving ties between Marco, Martha, and Lucy being the highlight of the book’s interpersonal relationships.

[Don't forget about Angie...]

Wed
Jun 10 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes

The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes is a historical thriller set in 1840s Dublin about a man who slowly begins to betray everything and everyone close to him (available June 15, 2015).

What a fascinating book. It starts out fairly slowly, in your standard “I’m a criminal looking back at my sordid history” fashion, but then unfolds into a mesmerizing, utterly convincing, utterly sympathetic tale of life in Victorian Dublin that serves as a hideous reminder of how desperate day-to-day existence used to be for the average citizen even not so long ago.

Our narrator, John Delahunt, is a somewhat indifferent student at Trinity College Dublin. His life changes when he and a friend, Arthur Stokes, go drinking with several rebellious young undergraduates, whose rowdiness soon attracts the attention of a passing policeman. A fracas ensues, the policeman is permanently deafened… and Delahunt comes to the attention of the Castle, the clandestine governmental security organization that maintains a network of spies and informants throughout the city.

[That's not a list you want to be on...]

Thu
May 28 2015 11:15am

Fresh Meat: The Darkness Rolling by Wim and Meredith Blevins

The Darkness Rolling by Win and Meredith Blevins follows Seaman Yazzie Goldman, returning to Monument Valley after WWII to bodyguard a star in a John Ford western (available June 2, 2015).

World War II has just ended, and Seaman Yazzie Goldman is raring to leave San Diego, where he was enlisted in the Coast Guard for the familiar delights of home in Monument Valley. But I should let the Blevins describe his feelings in these exquisitely written opening paragraphs:

I was itchy. Tingling. My skin felt like foaming surf breaking on sand, and my brain was buzz-busy, just like the soldiers who had decided to stay in San Diego after the war. Possibilities. Worlds of them. I felt them, too.

Women who’d traded their love for gasoline and stockings walked the singing sidewalks. High heels clicked, and the sun raised their red lipstick to a promise. Happy to have their young men back home. High times.

Yazzie is a truly delightful narrator, and it’s a pleasure to follow him from San Diego to a home that he isn’t sure he wants to make permanent any more. Sure, Monument Valley is gorgeous. Sure, it’s where his beloved mother and grandfather live. Sure, it sings to his part-Navajo, part-Jewish heart and soul. But he’s seen a little of the world and now he wants to see more, and he’s no longer sure where he truly belongs.

[It is a big world after all...]

Sun
May 24 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: One Murder More by Kris Calvin

One Murder More by Kris Calvin is the debut mystery in the Maren Kane series about a good-hearted lobbyist from Sacremento caught up in a murder investigation (available June 1, 2015).

When you hear the word “lobbyist”, the image that often first comes to mind is of some slick wheeler-dealer in the halls of power, brokering political deals for the highest bidder. You’d hardly think of a — granted, unwitting — crime-solver who happens to also save lives, but that’s exactly who Kris Calvin presents to us as the protagonist of her debut mystery novel, One Murder More.

Maren Kane is pretty much the antithesis of the kind of cynical influence-peddler we’re familiar with from pop culture: principled and determined to do what she believes to be the right thing; she doesn’t let party lines deter her from getting the job done. Granted, One Murder More doesn’t pretend that all lobbyists are like Maren. We certainly run into several whose actions are as distasteful to Maren as they are to the reader, as well as into examples of other political movers and shakers who decorate the halls of power. In fact, one strength of this novel is the insider look into the workings of state government, particularly in Sacramento. The attention to both detail and history really brings the setting alive, as here, where she’s walking with her brother, Noel:

Maren donned her coat and the siblings crossed L Street, passing through the rose garden behind the large, white-domed building that housed California legislators and their staff since the 1860s. Built in the same Roman style as the congressional building in Washington, DC, though on a smaller scale, the designers of California’s capitol building opted to literally guild the lily, setting a gold cupola atop the white dome and capping that with a large copper ball, nearly three feet in diameter, plated in gold coins. Maren once reflected that while Hollywood might be California’s uncontested modern seat of glamour, Sacramento had set the stage by dressing up its legislative quarters years earlier.

[Murder is just down the hall...]

Sat
May 16 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham is a Young Adult mystery featuring a 15-year-old girl hot on the trail of a murder (available May 19, 2015).

When I first came across Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham, what really leapt out at me from the description was the comparison to Veronica Mars. I’m not a Veronica Mars superfan by any means (by which I mean that I haven’t the personality to get as obsessive as true Marshmallows, though I really, really enjoyed what I have watched of the series), but that was enough to sell me on this YA novel featuring a sassy, savvy teenage private eye as she accepts a seemingly easy, if emotionally fraught case. A young girl is convinced that her older brother had something to do with the recent suicide of his close friend. Initially sceptical, our titular heroine soon finds herself confronted with hostile peers, mysterious symbols, and suspicious tails who follow her as she travels through the California town of Las Almas, leading to action-packed scenes such as this one, where she tries to shake them on the subway:

By the time the train screeched to a stop, I'd put three cars' worth of space between the pale women and me. The train doors opened. I hopped on. Three cars down, so did they. I hugged the pole just inside the door, fighting the crush of bodies as it tried to push me further inside, ignoring the nasty looks I got for my trouble. The platform cleared. I crouched low and waited for the recorded voice to tell us to stand clear of the closing doors. The voice came. The doors’ hydraulics kicked in. I dove for the platform.

[It's gonna be a close call...]

Wed
May 6 2015 3:30pm

Fresh Meat: Benefit of the Doubt by Neal Griffin

Benefit of the Doubt by Neal Griffin is a debut crime novel about a disgraced big-city cop who learns his tiny hometown is no safe haven from corruption (available May 12, 2015).

This gritty debut novel from a former law-enforcement officer is a hard-hitting look at police corruption in small-town America, laced with an impressive amount of insider information on police work, mentality and culture. Our hero, Ben Sawyer, was a hot-shot Oakland PD sergeant, until a moment of violent madness nearly cost him everything:

[The gangbanger]'s hands came off the [other] cop's gun and went high over his head in a clear display of unconditional surrender. His eyes filled with terror as he looked awkwardly toward the gun that was still poised at the side of his head. His expression said it all. Hector knew [Ben] would not hesitate to kill him.

It could have ended there, and if it had, Ben figured he would have received a commendation for lifesaving. Hell, not only for saving the cop, but he even managed to keep Hector alive. Avoiding an officer-involved shooting always gave the department brass something to brag about. Yep. It could have been a great day for the Sawyer legacy. A hell of a war story for the locker room: how Sawyer almost performed a gangbanger street execution with his forty-cal. But it didn't end there. Sawyer was just getting started.

[Since Ben didn't stop there, neither does the story...]

Thu
Apr 9 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Medium Dead by Paula Paul

Medium Dead by Paula Paul is the 4th installment in her Victorian-era cozy series about Doctor Alexandra Gladstone (available April 14, 2015).

I'll admit to having never heard of Paula Paul before picking up this charming installment of her Doctor Alexandra Gladstone series. It seems almost impossible to think that I’d never before encountered these tales of a plucky female doctor in Victorian England solving mysteries as she confronts social prejudices, as that kind of thing is squarely in my wheelhouse. Better late than never I suppose!

In this latest book, Alexandra is forced into uncomfortable encounters with nobility, primarily in the form of the spoiled mother of her neighbor and erstwhile suitor, William Forsyth, as the death of a local medium draws attention to secret visitors at William's seat at Montmarsh.

[Who are these mysterious visitors?]

Sun
Feb 15 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Nobody Walks by Mick Herron

Nobody Walks by Mick Herron is set in the same fictional London as his Slough House series, and now introduces Tom Bettany, an ex-spook with a violent past and only one thing to live for one thing — avenging his son’s death (available February 17, 2015).

The news had come hundreds of miles to sit waiting for days in a mislaid phone. And there it lingered like a moth in a box, weightless, and aching for the light.

So begins Mick Herron’s beautiful, bleak novel of a former spy for the MI5, come home at last to investigate the sudden death of his estranged son. After years of self-imposed exile abroad, Tom Bettany receives a voicemail that compels him to return to a London now alien to him. Grappling with the grief that has come so unexpectedly, he realizes that all is not as it seems with his son’s fatal fall from an apartment balcony. His inquiries soon have him crossing paths with high-tech billionaires and drug-dealing criminals, as well as with the weapons dealers he’d previously betrayed while in the service. And lurking in the background are his watchful former bosses, with their own secret, none-too-benign purposes.

[This will boil over soon enough...]

Wed
Dec 3 2014 4:30pm

Fresh Meat: Bad Machinery Vol. III: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Bad Machinery Vol. III: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison sees the return of the teenage Tackleford gang as they try to solve an arson case (available December 10, 2014).

I greet the publication of every new Bad Machinery collection with a thrill and a silent cheer. No group of sleuthing teens has ever charmed me as much as John Allison’s rival gangs in Tackleford, England have. Alas for our intrepid investigators though, summer term at the start of this third volume finds both groups seriously short-handed, as their respective leaders, Shauna and Jack, have finally made their romantic relationship public. As a result, Shauna and Jack have started spending more time with each other than with their friends, leading to considerable unhappiness in those left behind. In particular, Shauna’s best friend, Charlotte, takes it hard, as she and the other member of the girl’s sleuthing group hang out together:

Mildred: Where is Shauna today?

Charlotte: You know... she's gotta lot on... swimming club... she's... SHE'S BUSY BEING IN LOVE. We had a lot of plans for what we were going to do, too.

Mildred: Don't let love ruin your summer! She'll get bored of kissing, eventually your lips must get worn out.

Charlotte: No. From what I've seen, BLORG, they take breaks to do some intense staring at each other.

Mildred: I'm pretty sure your eyeballs can dry out doing that.

[No one likes a third wheel...]