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Showing posts by: Terrie Farley Moran click to see Terrie Farley Moran's profile
Fri
Dec 21 2012 1:00pm

Recently I wrote about Roman Catholic priests and nuns who entertain us as amateur sleuths. And I freely admitted that my favorite clergy/sleuth of all fictiondom is Father John Blackwood Ryan, of “Call Me Blackie” fame. I have always believed that Blackie Ryan is the alter ego of his creator, Roman Catholic priest and sociologist, Father Andrew M. Greeley.

What’s so special about Greeley? I’m glad you asked. Andrew Greeley was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1954. While working as an associate pastor (parish priest), he continued his education and received his PhD in sociology in 1962. A prolific writer, Greeley published nonfiction books regularly while also writing columns for secular and religious newspapers on topics similar to the subjects of his books: religion, ethnicity, modern American culture, and, yes, sex.

[And then came the novels...]

Fri
Dec 7 2012 12:30pm

Recently I talked about some of the clergy sleuths, I’ve read avidly through the years, and since Criminal Element folks are always ready to share, the comments of that post introduced some new-to-me clergy who are inclined to solve mysteries. At the time I said I’d come back and talk about some of my favorite Roman Catholic priests and nuns who solve murders as a sideline, so here I am.

In her wonderful post Kerry Hammond talks about many a superstar clergy sleuth, including Father Dowling. Still, I feel compelled to add a few words of my own about the highly entertaining priest/sleuth created by Ralph M. McInerny.

[And we say Amen to that!]

Fri
Nov 16 2012 10:30am

The Father Brown Mysteries by G. K. ChestertonA little more than a year ago, I talked about the enduring Father Brown mystery stories by G.K. Chesterton. I was delighted so many Criminal Element readers admitted that they, too, were lifelong fans.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about how fictional clergy/spiritual leaders couple their ecclesiastic training with their personal curiosity to solve the occasional crime that just happens to pop up.

When written, the Father Brown stories were contemporary but the first story, “The Blue Cross,” was published more than one hundred years ago, so now they have a great appeal to fans of historical mysteries. The same can be said for the Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremayne. Set in the 7th century, most of the novels take place in Ireland, with Fidelma making some journeys to other parts of Western Europe. Tremayne uses Fidelma’s role as both a lawyer and a religious figure to contrast the relatively unrestricted position of women in Irish society with the status of women in other European societies of the time.

[Enlighten us further!]

Fri
Oct 19 2012 1:00pm

A Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. DuncanA Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. Duncan is the fourth book in the Penny Brannigan traditional mystery series (available October 30, 2012).

Was it just a year ago that I was fortunate enough to read Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third book in the Penny Brannigan series A Killer’s Christmas in Wales?

That was when I discovered that in 2008  Ms. Duncan became the first Canadian writer to win the St. Martins/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. The winning book, The Cold Light of Mourning, is the first of the Penny Brannigan books set in Llanelen, Wales. I must confess that I liked Penny right away. She is a strong and independent woman who has joined with business partner Victoria Hopkirk to renovate a decrepit old building and turn it into a thriving business as a very modern spa catering to the women of the village.

[That doesn’t sound so bad...]

Mon
Oct 1 2012 1:00pm

Rest for the Wicked by Ellen HartRest for the Wicked by Ellen Hart is the twentieth Jane Lawless, restaurateur and Private Eye traditional mystery (available October 2, 2012).

I have been reading books written by Ellen Hart for—can it be?—twenty years. I started off in the early nineties when I came across a copy of Hallowed Murder on a library shelf. Written in classic fair-play murder mystery style, the novel introduced Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless and her irrepressible sidekick Cordelia Thorn. I so enjoyed their company that each year I mark my calendar, waiting for their next adventure. Along the way, Ms. Hart introduced us to another series filled with bright and energetic Minnesota residents beginning in 1994 with her first Sophie Greenway novel, This Little Piggy Went to Murder.

Apparently the years have flown and here in my hand is the twentieth Jane Lawless mystery, Rest for the Wicked. Although she still owns two restaurants, Jane has entered into a formal business partnership with Private Detective Alf Nolan and has a brand new Private Investigator’s license all her own. She’s feeling decidedly edgy and thinks the professional change will help her refocus.

[No rest for anyone here . . .]

Fri
Aug 17 2012 2:00pm

The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper by John D. MacDonaldFirst, I need to tell you that John D. MacDonald has left us a huge legacy of pulp, hardboiled fiction, and thrillers written in both novel and short story form. The scope of his work is nothing short of amazing. (You did know that Cape Fear was based on his novel The Executioners, right?)

But I think MacDonald is most widely remembered as the author who introduced Florida in all its vivid flashes of color to millions of readers when he created Travis McGee, a cool guy, who lived on an even cooler boat, The Busted Flush. The twenty-one Travis McGee novels ran the gamut of hues from The Deep Blue Goodbye (1964) to The Lonely Silver Rain (1985).

Florida is a fabulous location for any and all fiction, but especially for crime fiction. The state has a reputation for reflecting “summer time and the living is easy” twelve months a year. And while it attracts earnest citizens looking for a better life, it also attracts grifters, con artists, and ne’er-do-wells bent on creating their own brand of the high life by fleecing, threatening, or even killing the earnest citizens. And there was Travis McGee, ready and more than able, to help the earnest citizen and take out the bad guys.

[Only in Florida . . .]

Thu
Aug 16 2012 10:30am

Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen by Bil CriderMurder of a Beauty Shop Queen is the 19th book in the Dan Rhodes detective mystery series by Bill Crider (available August 21, 2012).

Nearly two decades ago, the first book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series by Bill Crider, Too Late To Die, won the Anthony Award for best first novel. Now in the 19th book of the series, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Sheriff Dan is back. (Read an excerpt of the previous book in the series, The Wild Hog Murders.) Once again readers can enjoy his quirky brand of crime solving, always sprinkled with wry humor, while he methodically dredges up clues. Not for the first time Dan Rhodes pulled me along the dusty, and sometimes, dilapidated streets of Clearview in Blacklin County, Texas.

The owner of The Beauty Shack, Sandra Wiley, opens the shop one morning, and finds one of her employees, a young, pretty hair stylist named Lynn Ashton, lying dead on the floor. I must admit that when Rhodes arrived on the scene, I was more startled by the fact that the witness called the sheriff, “Danny” than I’d been by the victim’s murder. The reason, we find out immediately, is that absolute fact of small town life—everybody knows everybody.

[Somebody thought it was to dye for . . .]

Tue
Jul 31 2012 12:30pm

Brenda and her parents at the tableEach Monday evening brings us one episode nearer to the finale of The Closer. Last night’s episode, “Last Rites,” was third from the end. So the 3-2-1 countdown has begun. The story opens with a phone call to the rectory from a doctor requesting that Father Adam Gray perform Last Rites for a dying man. In the Roman Catholic Church, Last Rites is the combination of prayers and administering of sacraments by a priest to a dying person. The three sacraments that together comprise Last Rites include Penance, (confession) Anointing of the Sick, and distribution of the Holy Eucharist (communion). The Last Rites theme is repeated throughout this episode.

When Father Adam arrives at the “sick call” address, he is murdered and his body is dumped in the schoolyard of the Saint Angelo’s Catholic School, where Father Adam was a teacher. Brenda’s team arrives and begins working the crime scene, but it appears the Archbishop has other ideas and that Chief Pope will clearly side with the Archbishop.

NOTE: We’re in the last-ever episodes after seven seasons. Recaps are bound to be spoiler-filled! If you’re sensitive to that, don’t plow ahead until you’ve watched. Then please come back and let us all know what you thought!

[A Pope and an Archbishop walk into a police station . . .]

Fri
Jul 27 2012 10:30am

Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell SlanDeath of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan is the first in the historical cozy mystery series featuring Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth (available August 7, 2012).

Come on, confess. When you see the name Joanna Campbell Slan, your first thought is the highly entertaining mystery series featuring Kiki Lowenstein, a spunky scrapbooker who manages to get involved in murder no matter where she turns. Who will ever forget Kiki’s dumpster dive for a lost paycheck that turned up a severed human body part?

Well, today’s joyful news is that Slan is introducing a new series featuring Charlotte Bronte’s classic heroine Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth. Death of a Schoolgirl is set in 1820. Jane is happily married to her beloved Edward Rochester and they have an adorable son called Ned. They now live in Ferndean Manor and Mrs. Fairfax has agreed to return as their housekeeper.

[Jane . . . Rochester?]

Fri
Jul 6 2012 10:30am

Death Makes the Cut by Janice HamrickDeath Makes the Cut by Janice Hamrick is the second in the Jocelyn Shores cozy mystery series (available July 17, 2012).

Janice Hamrick won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition for her novel Death on Tour, which featured teacher Jocelyn Shores on vacation in Egypt.

In this follow-up, amid all the craziness that comes with the start of the school year, Jocelyn intervenes in a fight between Fred Argus, a fellow teacher who is also the tennis coach, and an outraged parent. Then she discovers that her cousin and best friend Kyla has been sentenced to community service (the “why” will be important to the story later on) teaching a six-week seminar about girls in technology. And what better place to teach it, than in Jocelyn’s very own Bonham High School?

[Cousin Kyla dishes up drama . . .]

Wed
Jun 27 2012 3:00pm

Horror and The New Yorker don’t typically mix, but Shirley Jackson made it happen!Rarely does anyone think of The New Yorker magazine as a place to go to get a quick fix of horror fiction. And yet in 1948 that well-respected magazine published just such a story, which caused great controversy and stirred up a tremendous amount of hate mail. It also was the cause of numerous readers cancelling subscriptions.

The story was published during a time when many town governments across America sponsored weekly cash-prize lotteries as a means of bringing people into town from the surrounding farms to stimulate the postwar economy for the local merchants. The name of the story was, of course, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. You may read (or more likely re-read) it here.

[But she did more than “The Lottery”. . .]

Fri
Jun 8 2012 3:00pm

Bonefire of the Vanities by Carolyn HainesBonefire of the Vanities by Carolyn Haines is the 12th mystery in the highly enjoyable Sarah Booth Delaney series (available June 19, 2012).

Engaged to the handsome, dashing and overprotective actor Graf Milieu, Sarah Booth is determined not to give up her work as a private investigator in partnership with her best friend, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond. But Graf has given her an ultimatum. Now, Graf is off in Hollywood making a film, and he won’t return her calls. Glum and wallowing in Emmylou Harris music, Sarah Booth moons around her Mississippi homestead, Dahlia House. Her pity party is interrupted by Jitty, the ghost of Sarah Booth’s great-great-great grandmother’s nanny. The relationship between woman and haint has had clear boundaries since they met a few years back.

[Even death won’t stop her meddling . . .]

Sat
May 26 2012 11:00am

Handcuffs, the website logoThis post has been reposted with permission from the wonderful (if now defunct) blog, Criminal Brief. It has been slightly edited as changes have occured on the site since its original writing.

Thank you, Leigh [Lundin, of Criminal Brief], for inviting me to talk about Criminal Element, a publisher-neutral site with lots of great material written by crime/mystery fans especially for crime/mystery fans. So now we have a place for fans to gather, share news and information, banter with other fans or roam the links and investigate on their own. There is no limit to subgenre, era, or medium. Criminal Element covers dark noir to light, comedic cozies and everything in between. It’s boiled to your taste.

In a recent email exchange, Leigh mentioned that although he spends time at Criminal Element, he feels that he may only be scratching the surface of what is available to site users. Naturally, I volunteered to do a guided tour and I invite you all to come along.

[The magical mystery tour, aka the FAQ]

Sat
May 19 2012 11:00am

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona MacPhersonDandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson is an historical mystery set in Scotland after WWI (available May 22, 2012).

Upper-class Scottish socialite Dandy Gilver’s sleuthing adventures begin in earnest in 1923, when she starts out to recover some stolen diamonds and is confronted by a suspicious death in After The Armistice Ball, the first of this series. Fast forward to 1927 and we find book number six, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder. Dandy receives a note requesting her services as a detective in order to find a missing young woman. When she arrives at the appointed place and time, Dandy finds that she is not expected, and there a verbal brawl going on among the women of the house. In this passage we get the tenor of Dandy’s reaction.

In times gone by, I should not have known—as my maid Grant says—‘where to put myself’. Things being what they were these days, of course I watched all three with my piercing detective’s eye, wondering how the disappearance of a girl could produce three such very different reactions among a mother and two grandmothers, one fondly exasperated, one faint with terror and one so angry that I almost expected steam to hiss from her ears.

[It’s just not done . . .]

Wed
May 16 2012 2:00pm

Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel FriedmanDon’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman is a funny thriller featuring a feisty retiree who can still kick some serious butt (available May 22, 2012).

I can’t think of a more unlikely hero than Baruch “Buck” Schatz. Okay, so he spent decades in the Memphis PD and was quite the hotshot detective—that ended in 1973. And yeah, he had what it took to survive as an American GI in a German POW camp—but that was more than sixty years ago. The guy is eighty-seven years old. Should he even still be driving a car?

Here’s how Buck sees himself:

Rose and I buried our only son six years ago. He was fifty-two, and he’s gone. We’re still here. Dragging that reality around gets exhausting. I was a hard man, once. Immovable, like the face of a mountain. But wind and rain can erode even granite if they have enough years to do it. No matter how tough you think you are, if you live long enough, eventually you get all squishy.

[But not this ol’ guy!]

Sat
May 5 2012 5:30pm

Mary Shannon, In Plain SightDuring the first few days of May, I wandered around the In Plain Sight website, clicking here and there, remembering this and that. It was kind of like visiting the house you grew up in right before your parents move to Boca. You know that nothing will ever be the same, so you try to memorize everything.

And finally, it was here—the goodbye episode. Our last glimpse inside the life of Mary Shannon, U.S. Marshal. Crime HQ speculated back in January that Mary had a lot of issues to be resolved in the eight episodes of season five. In the countdown to the finale, Mary struggles with parenting even though Norah’s father, Mary’s longtime ex-husband Mark, is a very participatory dad. Then, Mary accidently discovers Stan’s romance with the lovely dance instructor, Lia. And we see broad hints at Washington D.C.’s plans for major changes at Albuquerque WITSEC. Then, in “The Merry Wives of WITSEC,” protecting a witness who has two simultaneous families brings up all of Mary’s issues about her father’s abandonment thirty years before. Marshall reminds Mary of his oft-repeated mantra, “Sometimes you just have to let go.”

Mary and Marshall of In Plain SightAnd what about Mary and Marshall? Could there possibly be any hope for a romantic ending? Well, when Marshall gets engaged to Abigail at the end of this episode, I felt a twinge of “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”  Still . . . maybe, I thought . . . we had four episodes to go.

(Spoilers ahead!)

 

[The end, alas, the end. . .]

Sun
Apr 29 2012 11:00am

The Magnificent SevenFor most fans, High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), and The Magnificent Seven (1960) are the Trifecta of excellence in Western movies. Which of the three is the greatest western ever made? Over the past forty or so years, I have spent many an hour in heated discussions regarding just that question.

Earlier this year, Jake Hinkson provided a thoughtful examination of High Noon in honor of the film’s sixtieth anniversary. This movie comes from the school of “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” a common western theme.  Newly married town marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) quits his job only to learn that an arch-enemy is coming to town to kill him. In spite of his wife’s pleading and in spite of no one in the town being willing to help him, Kane does “what a man’s got to do,” and stands alone to fight.

[Which in the trifecta of Westerns will prove to be the fastest gun in the West?]

Fri
Apr 6 2012 10:30am

A Teeny Bit of Trouble by Michael Lee WestA Teeny Bit of Trouble is a cozy southern mystery by Michael Lee West (available April 10).

To celebrate March Madness, Criminal Element had their own clichés of crime death brackets. The final bracket had serial killers facing off against cooking cozies. I voted to get rid of the serial killers once and for all. I’m appalled that many of you actually want to kill the cooking cozies.

Obviously you’ve never met Teeny Templeton, who first appeared in Gone with a Handsomer Man written by Michael Lee West, and now is back again.

Sure, Teeny is a super cook, excellent baker and can develop recipes that will melt in your mouth and harden your arteries all at the same time. But that is only a small part of her life.

[Wait. That’s not enough?!]

Mon
Apr 2 2012 10:30am

Poppy Montgomery plays Detective Carrie Wells in TV’s UnforgettableWas it really just a couple of months ago that we were all fussing about the abundance of good crime television on Tuesday nights? White Collar, (USA) Justified (FX) and Southland (USA) were all competing for real or DVR time, unless we resolved the conflicts with On Demand.

Being a DVR person myself, I whined in the comments of that January post complaining that the three cable programs we were trumpeting were only part of my problem. 

… [W]hat about the networks?? Unforgettable on CBS and Body of Proof on ABC.

Here is what my DVR schedule looked like: 10 pm Unforgettable and Body of Proof, 11 pm Justified; midnight Southland; 1 am White Collar. I was exhausted just doing the programming…Now I have to find time to watch it all.

[It’s all so good...]

Tue
Mar 20 2012 10:30am

Death of an Artist by Kate WilhelmDeath of an Artist by Kate Wilhelm is a stand-alone psychological thriller (available March 27, 2012).

Kate Wilhelm’s work covers an extraordinary range across the genres of science fiction, fantasy and mystery. In 1977, the World Science Fiction Society presented a Hugo Award for best novel to Wilhelm for her post-apocalyptic Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, and in 2003 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. She has long focused on mystery writing, particularly in the Constance and Charlie series and her novels featuring Barbara Holloway.

Death of an Artist  is a stand-alone, but the main characters could easily return in another book. There are so many wounded people living in this novel, it’s difficult for the reader to unravel the individual problems pulling everyone together and at the same time pushing them apart. The death of tortured but brilliant artist, Stefi, leads her mother, Marni, and her daughter, Van, to Tony Mauricio, a wanderer who stops in the small Oregon town of Silver Bay and picks up a job in woodworking to keep his hands busy while he wrestles the demons he carries from his haunted past as a New York police detective.

[Demons haunt everyone here]