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From The Blog
May 26, 2017
Putting My Hard Work to Work
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May 25, 2017
Page to Screen: Nightmare Alley
Brian Greene
May 18, 2017
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Q&A with Court Merrigan, Author of The Broken Country
David Cranmer and Court Merrigan
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Adventures in Research, Part I: Time of Departure
Douglas Schofield
Showing posts by: Deborah Lacy click to see Deborah Lacy's profile
Mon
May 8 2017 12:00pm

Review: Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan is a standalone psychological thriller and a chilling work of fiction—but based on a true story—about a friendship gone terrifyingly toxic and the nature of reality.

A few months after my last novel came out, I stopped writing. For almost three years, I didn’t write a single line. Hackneyed phrases sometimes have to be taken literally: I didn’t write a formal letter, a thank-you note, a holiday postcard or a shopping list. Nothing that required any sort of effort or necessitated any concern about form. Not one line. Not one word. The sight of a pad, notebook or index card made me feel nauseous.

As the novel Based on a True Story begins, we meet a writer named Delphine who is emotionally and physically exhausted from the unexpected success of her latest book. Endless book tours, long signings, and questions about her book that require emotional answers drain Delphine. Yes, it’s a problem many writers would love to have, but in Based on a True Story it’s this exhausted state and the fear of what to write next that makes our protagonist vulnerable to the machinations of a woman known to us only by her first initial, L. 

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of Based on a True Story...]

Fri
Apr 21 2017 1:00pm

Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is a heart-pounding thriller that raises questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Everyone has their path. The choices they’ve made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.

As Noah Hawley sets up his thriller Before the Fall, 11 people take off in a private airplane from Martha’s Vineyard that winds up crashing 16 minutes into the flight. 

On board the private plane are:

  • The owners of the plane—the rich and powerful David Bateman and his wife Maggie.
  • Their two children.
  • Another rich and powerful couple—the husband learns right as he's boarding the plane that he'll be arrested the following day.
  • A bodyguard.
  • Two pilots.
  • A flight attendant.
  • A random acquaintance who needed a ride.

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of Before the Fall...]

Thu
Apr 13 2017 1:00pm

Review: Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright

Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright is a literary thriller of propulsive force that is taut, acidly witty, menacingly erotic, and often absolutely terrifying. It is nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

She wore black, the color of nuns and witches, the color of the loneliest corners of outer space, where gravity prevents all light from escaping, the name given to boxes tucked into airplanes, the ones that explain the disaster.

As you can read in the very first sentence of Dancing with the Tiger, author Lili Wright gets straight to business. We learn so much about the main character Anna Bookman in the just first scene—she breaks up with her boyfriend, which starts off a chain of events that takes her on a wild chase from New York to Mexico, ostensibly for an ancient mask with special powers and life altering value. 

Anna approaches relatable events—like a break up or disappointment with a parent—with such panache, and Wright paints these scenes for us with writing that breathes life onto the page. It’s the break up and a problem with the credibility of a professional project—a book on ancient masks co-written with her father—that sends Anna on her quest for personal, professional, and financial redemption. But it’s her relationships after she arrives that prove to be the real test. 

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of Dancing with the Tiger...]

Thu
Mar 30 2017 1:00pm

Audiobook Review: The Lost Order by Steve Berry (Read by Scott Brick)

The Lost Order Writer’s Cut Audio Edition is written and annotated by Steve Berry and narrated by Scott Brick. It is the 12th installment in the Cotton Malone series (available April 4, 2017).

Take a visual tour of The Lost Order with GIFnotes!

Steve Berry is one of my favorite thriller writers not only because the stories are entertaining and action-packed, but also because of the way he weaves real historical events into his modern-day stories. I’ve read all of the books in his Cotton Malone series and loved them. If you’ve never read Steve Berry, think National Treasure only better. With the Writer’s Cut Audio Edition of his latest novel, The Lost Order, you get excellent narration from veteran reader Scott Brick and the occasional insight on research or characterization from Berry. 

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of The Lost Order...]

Mon
Jul 11 2016 3:30pm

Review: Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran

Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran is the 3rd book in the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series.

In the parking lot of the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Book Corner, I stood by the side of a sky blue van with oversized white letters advertising the “Gulf Coast Cab and Van” etched on the center door panel. I mentally counted the members of the Cool Reads/Warm Climate Book Club as they settled in. All six were present. My BFF and business partner, Bridgy Mayfield, was busily stowing thermoses of sweet tea and pastry boxes in the carrier right behind the driver.

Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield are at it again in Read to Death at the Read ‘Em and Eat Café. This time, they take the “Cool Reads/Warm Climate” book club on their annual field trip to the Edison-Ford estate for an outing, with their favorite driver, Oscar, at the helm. It’s a wonderful trip, and Oscar makes sure to tell them all about the history of the estate—with stories about Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone.

But, when they get back from the trip, Oscar is found dead. The book club members are immediately considered suspects, and so are Sassy and Bridgy. So, they must figure out how and why Oscar was killed.

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of Read to Death...]

Tue
Apr 12 2016 12:15pm

Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton

Past Crimes, a thriller by Glen Erik Hamilton, is the first book in the Van Shaw series. The novel has been nominated for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best First Novel.”

Army Ranger Van Shaw hasn’t heard from his grandfather, Dono, in more than ten years, but when he gets a note in Irish Gaelic that says, “Come home, if you can,” he heads home to Seattle for a ten day leave. When he arrives at his grandfather’s house, he finds him on the floor bleeding.

I had the horrible feeling of coming full circle. My last sight of Dono before I’d left Seattle, when I was eighteen, had been in the kitchen of this same house. He’d been lying on the floor then too. His face dark with rage. I’d been aiming a gun at his heart. 

But any blood Dono and I had spilled back then could be measured in drops. Not like this.

Van’s grandfather was a crook when Van left ten years ago, and was most likely still a crook. As Van tries to save the man who raised him, he can’t help wonder if his life had finally caught up with him.

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of Past Crimes here...]

Mon
Aug 3 2015 1:30pm

Major Crimes: More to the Story...Online!

This season, Major Crimes introduced webisodes – bite-sized segments of story released on YouTube and the TNT website to augment the story that aired on TV. Released each Monday night right after the TV episode of Major Crimes finishes, these webisodes star the show’s youngest character, former runaway, Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin).

Webisodes are online-exclusive mini-episodes that can reveal more background to a story or character or show what happened in-between episodes. Many shows have employed this tactic to draw in more viewers and to provide a deeper perspective on characters and situations that they don’t have time for in the usual TV format. You may have seen webisodes from shows like The Walking Dead, Parks and Recreation, Breaking Bad, Dr. Who, or Battlestar Gallactica.

Most webisodes are available on YouTube. With recent numbers released by Google showing that YouTube has more viewers in the 18-49 year old demographic than any single cable network, we may see more and more shows exploring the webisode.

[We've got you covered below!]

Tue
Jun 2 2015 1:00pm

Major Crimes Returns with Courage, Murder, and Love

Major Crimes returns to TNT this Monday night, June 8th at 9:00 pm to begin its fourth season. All of the important and favorite characters are returning, including Mary McDonnell and a terrific ensemble cast including G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Raymond Cruz, Kearran Giovani, Jonathan Del Arco and Michael Paul Chan.

This show pulls off a wonderful balance between fascinating murder cases and characters with depth. Nothing beats the bromance between Detectives Flynn and Provenza, the squad’s protectiveness of witness Rusty Beck, who’s now Sharon’s adopted son, and the charm of everyone’s favorite coroner, Dr. Morales. There’s even a former police detective on the writing team to ensure accuracy and provide ideas for cases.

Every season of Major Crimes has a theme. According to show co-creator and executive producer, James Duff, the theme of the 2015 season is courage. Many of the major characters in the show will be given the chance to be courageous…or fall short.

[Courage isn't for everyone...]

Mon
Feb 9 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

The Long Faraway Gone by Lou Berney is a standalone novel that examines two unsolved crimes from Oklahoma City and what happens 27 years later when the survivors try to discover the truth behind the tragedies (available February 10, 2015).

Lou Berney's The Long Faraway Gone starts 26 years ago in Oklahoma City, right before two crimes are about to be committed. The first crime is the murder of six movie theater employees – five of them teenagers – during a robbery. The second is the disappearance of a teenage girl during a summer fair. Both of these crimes wake up a city unused to such horrible events.

The story unfolds from multiple points of view. Berney begins the novel in the summer of 1986 from the point of view of Bingham, the movie theater manager of the movie theater before the robbery happens:

In summer, season of the Hollywood blockbuster, Bingham got to work at eight in the morning and didn’t leave until long after midnight. His only break from the movie theater was dinner at six – thirty minutes of blissful, beautiful solitude he spent parked out by the lake, eating fast-food tacos and listening to the water slop against the clay bank.

Through Bingham, we get to know the kids who work for him there and see a glimpse of his life. Then we see the robbery go down from his point of view. A boy named Wyatt is the only survivor, and no one knows why. Least of all him.

[Will it forever be a mystery?]

Mon
Jan 19 2015 11:00am

The Lowdown Calendar of 2015’s Biggest Mystery Conventions

Mystery conventions are a great way to find new mystery-loving friends and hear directly from your favorite authors – and maybe even meet some of them. All of these conventions feature keynote speeches or interviews from big name guests of honor as well as author, expert and fan panels talking about all sorts of subjects. There are parties and book signings. Some even have fan guests of honor. Many of these conventions are put on by all-volunteer, non-profit organizations, run by mystery fans who donate their time to make sure everyone has fun.

Here is a chronological rundown of five major fan conventions taking place this year.

Editor's Note: We're working on another post with smaller and/or specialty conferences, which may also include those that have a workshopping or publishing focus, meaning they're directed towards writers more than pure readers and fans. Feel free to add mentions or suggestions in the comments here, because we'll be listing as many of those as we can in another chronological rundown very soon.

[Gimme five!]

Mon
Nov 24 2014 5:30pm

Major Crimes is Back: Executive Producer James Duff Gives us the Rundown

Major Crimes returns to TNT Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. EST for its winter season of nine episodes. I recently had a chance to sit down with James Duff, executive producer and co-creator of Major Crimes (and before that The Closer) to talk about the new season. He brought a slew of people with him: Jonathan Del Arco who plays Dr. Morales, Kathe Mazur who plays DDA Hobbs, Writer and producer Adam Belanoff, executive story editor, Damani Johnson, former Detective Mike Berchem and writer Kendall Sherwood. They shared a bit about their writing process and what’s up next this season in Major Crimes. Let’s start with what he said about he writing process first and get to the spoilers at the very end.

[Proceed with caution...]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 4:30pm

Fan Favorites: 2014’s Mystery Conventions

2014 promises to be chock full of wonderful mystery conventions and conferences ranging from Bouchercon— the world’s largest crime fiction convention—to more tightly-focused conferences like Malice Domestic, which specializes in traditional and cozy mysteries. Thrillerfest is, of course, primarily about thrillers, and Left Coast Crime is regional, but also offers the year's only humorous mystery award. Most conventions feature opportunities not only to meet your favorite authors and get your book signed, but also to make tons of new friends who love crime fiction as much as you do.

So, here's a rundown of the major crime fan conventions and conventions taking place in 2014:

[And don't forget your chance to win...]

Tue
Dec 3 2013 3:00pm

The Modern Speakeasy in Ten Thirsty Stops

During the Prohibition years from 1920 to 1933, alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States. But it was still fairly easy to get a drink. One of the easiest ways was to find a speakeasy—a hidden bar that served bootleg liquor and that often required a password to get in. Legend has it that the name speakeasy came from patrons being told to “speak easy,” or softly, so the police wouldn’t hear the party.

When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933, 80 years ago on December 5th, the speakeasies disappeared. But if you want to revisit that time in a new way, you have your chance because modern speakeasies have popped up all over the country. These bars take the mystery and romance of history and create a fun atmosphere.

Hallmarks of the modern speakeasy include:

1) Individually mixed drinks with fresh ingredients, often invented at that bar. We’re talking fresh, muddled fruit and innovative concoctions. A far cry from the quality of spirits found in most speakeasies back in the day. This also means you pay more than you would for an average cocktail, and depending on the city you’re in, it can be a lot more.

 

The winking sign outside Bourbon & Branch2) An unmarked door or a misleading sign. You have to know where the speakeasy is. Most doors are unmarked, but I’ve visited one behind the façade of a Fortune Telling shop and another where you had to go into a restaurant and pick up an antique phone to gain admittance.

 

3) Reservations are commonly a must, and many times, you’ll need a password. It pays to do your research. I’ve never had trouble getting into a popular place—as long as I made a reservation and knew in advance if I needed a password.  

4) An intimate atmosphere with lots of attention from your bartender to help you get exactly what you want. These places are small (thus the need for reservatinos), and the décor is well planned. Many of the speakeasies even play the music of the time.

Are you ready to go? Some friends and I started visiting these places as we traveled, and we've compiled our Top Ten list from around the country.  So here are my favorites in no particular order:

[Suddenly... so ... thirsty...]

Mon
Nov 25 2013 5:00pm

Yes, You Must Watch The Blacklist With Me!

James Spader as criminal Red Reddington and Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen in NBC's The BlacklistBack in September, I wrote about five new crime TV shows  that I was excited to watch. Of those five: Ironsides was cancelled, Dracula was a disappointment (although I am still watching it) and I like Almost Human, but we haven’t seen much of it yet. There are only two shows of the original five that are absolute DVR Keepers: The Blacklist and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (This post is about The Blacklist, so you’ll just have to set your DVR for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and prepare to laugh really, really hard. You can watch full eposodes of The Blacklist online at NBC, too.)

So, why do I love The Blacklist? Let me count the ways and in the process tell you everything you need to know—without spoilers—to get you up to speed. (I like to do these countdowns in reverse order for maximum dramatic impact.)

Number 5 – The characters:

Red Reddingon, played by James Spader. Red is a Whitey Bulger-esque bad guy who turns himself in to help turn in other bad guys. Red mockingly calls his own super-bad guy list, The Blacklist. And that’s where the show gets its name. Red is a man who gets what he wants even when he turns himself in. He will only cooperate if he gets to work with….

Lizzie and Tom KeenElizabeth Keen played by Megan Boone, also known as Lizzie by Red. Elizabeth is literally on her first day of work as a super-secret badass special agent profiler when super-criminal and bad guy, Red, turns himself in and asks for her. She has no idea why… but she has her suspicions. Everything is suspect in her life, even her husband…

Tom Keen, played by Ryan Eggold. Red conveniently tells Elizabeth that her husband is more than he seems. Elizabeth doesn’t believe him, or does she?  One person who is quick to check out any irregularity in Elizabeth’s life is her work partner…

Donald Ressler played by Diego Klattenhoff. Donald is your typical follow-the-rules, there is no-grey-in-my-world, lawman. We have no idea what he is really thinking behind that square jaw, only the overt rule following that he shows us.

[And that's just the beginning...]

Sat
Oct 12 2013 8:30pm

Fresh Meat: Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

Dead Man's Time, a Roy Grace novel by Peter JamesDead Man’s Time by Peter James is the ninth procedural featuring Brighton's Detective Superintendent Roy Grace,  who confronts a case spanning nations and generations (available October 15, 2013).

Dead Man’s Time starts in 1922 New York, when we see a little boy lose his parents to murder. This same little boy gets shipped off to Ireland to be cared for by his aunt, but not before a mysterious stranger arrives at the dock with a valuable watch that belonged to the boy’s dead father. That’s our tie in to the book’s title: Dead Man’s Time. Without going into to too much detail, I will say that the 1922 story line dovetails nicely with the crime happening in the story in the present day in a very interesting way.

Then, we fast forward to the present day, where we have a particularly nasty career criminal by the name of Amis Smallbone (love that name) preparing to make our hero, Detective Superintendent Grace pay dearly for doing his job and putting Smallbone in jail years ago. This character is richly rendered and jumps off the page. Here’s a little peek into Amis Smallbone’s revenge-getting thought process, one that also enables him to avoid taking any responsibility for his own life:

Of course, Grace hadn’t been a Detective Superintendent back then: just a jumped-up, newly promoted Inspector who had picked on him, targeted him, fitted him up, twisted the evidence, been oh so clever, so fucking smug. It was Grace’s persecution that had condemned him, now, to this cruddy rented flat, with its shoddy furniture, no-smoking signs on the walls in each room, and having to report and bloody kowtow to a Probation Officer regularly.

He put the paper down, stood up a little unsteadily, and carried his glass over to the dank-smelling kitchenette, popping some ice cubes out of the fridge-freezer into his glass. It was just gone midday, and he was thinking hard. Thinking how much pleasure he was going to get from hurting Roy Grace. It was the one thing that sustained him right now. The rest of the nation had Olympic fever—the games were starting in a month’s time. But he didn’t give a toss about them; getting even with Roy Grace was all he cared about.

[Will revenge clean Grace's clock...]

Thu
Oct 10 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth GeorgeJust One Evil Act by Elizabeth George is the seventeenth installment of the Inspector Lynley series (available October 15, 2013).

Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers are back in the latest novel by Elizabeth George, Just One Evil Act. This book is set both in London and in Italy, which adds a fun new dimension to the book.

In Just One Evil Act, we get a great mix of my favorite regular characters from Elizabeth George’s previous novels. Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers returns at her poorly dressed but obstinate best. Inspector Thomas Lynley has regained his footing although he is a much-changed man.  One of the main reasons I love this series is the relationship between the police detective earl and his very common sergeant. 

We also see the return of Barbara’s favorite neighbors—Talmullah Azhar and his daughter, Haddiyah. The book gets rolling immediately when little Haddiyah is snatched away by her mother and taken away from Azhar. Of course, Barbara involves herself in the investigation, although Azhar was not named on Haddiyah’s birth certificate and has therefore has no legal standing as her parent.   

[This could make it difficult to get her back...]

Sat
Sep 14 2013 7:00pm

Set Your DVRs: Five New Crime TV Shows to Watch

According to TV Guide, there are fifty-seven new shows premiering this fall. Fifty-seven. That’s a lot of shows. Clearly, not all of them will succeed, but there are five new shows with criminal elements (ha) that I am excited about. So, I thought I’d share a bit about each one.

Here are my top five, in reverse order of interest (trailers included!):

5) Ironside

This is a remake of the late '60s, early seventies show starring Raymond Burr as Robert Ironside, a paraplegic chief of detectives who doesn’t mess around.  This version has been updated and features Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) as Ironside.  There has been some controversy, because a paraplegic actor was not given the Ironside role. Other stars include Brent Sexton (former Sheriff Hunter Mosely on Justified), Spenser Grammer, and Kenneth Choi.

Ironside premieres on NBC on October 2 at 10/9c.

[Rolling on...]

Thu
Sep 12 2013 10:13pm

Friday the 13th: The Evolution of a Superstition

Most Americans have known about the superstition surrounding unlucky Friday the 13th since grade school. Some people take this superstition very seriously, refusing to fly on airplanes or even leave their houses. Others joke about it, take flashlight tours of spooky houses, or watch horror movies. But have you ever wondered how Friday the 13th got such a bad reputation in the first place?

It turns out Friday the 13th draws its reputation from many sources throughout history, and our old friend Popular Culture keeps it there. The superstition stems from a marriage between the perception of the lack of luck involving the number 13 combined with a series of bad events that happened on Fridays. Here’s a quick rundown of events taken from history, myth, literature, and popular culture that may have contributed to keeping the superstition alive.

Let’s start with the ancient roots:

Norse Gods

The first reference of unlucky 13 is believed to have occurred in an ancient Norse myth, where twelve gods are eating dinner and an unwelcome guest arrives. The 13th guest, named Loki, schemes to murder Baldur for trying to get him to leave. Killing the most beloved god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation causes the entire earth to go dark in the very first “blackout.”   A worldwide blackout is very unlucky indeed.

 

[Bouncer-hating Loki is not the only unlucky 13th guest...]

The Rhyme and the Crime: Lizzie Borden’s Forty Whacks

Lizzie BordenLizzie Borden had an axe
She gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Do you remember that rhyme from childhood? A friend recently brought it up to a group of us and it just rolled off my tongue.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  But as we started talking about the rhyme none of us knew how much of this short deadly poem is true. So we decided to do a little research on those murders that took place 121 years ago this month, in 1892.

Andrew and Abby Borden were in fact brutally killed that hot August day at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, but did Lizzie Borden kill them?  The facts may surprise you.

Who Actually Died?

Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Gray Borden, Lizzie's Father and StepmotherThe body of Lizzie Borden’s father, wealthy banker Andrew Borden, was found hacked to death in the parlor of the Borden home. When police arrived on the scene and went upstairs the body of Andrew’s second wife, Lizzie’s stepmother, Abby was discovered.  The coroner at the time confirmed that Abby was killed before Andrew, so our poet got the timeline right, but Abby was Lizzie’s stepmother not her mother. They didn’t have such a great relationship, which is one of the reasons Lizzie landed on the suspect list so quickly. Lizzie and her sister, Emma, thought their stepmother was only after their father’s money. Emma was out of town when the murders went down and was never suspected.

Why Was Lizzie Borden the Only Suspect?

[Very good question!]

Wed
Jul 17 2013 1:00pm

Summer Reads with Drinks, Part Two

There were just too many great summer reads and matching drink selections for one post, so here is Part Two. Book and drink selections were matched and tested by the same dedicated team that recently brought you Summer Reads with Drinks, Part One and Halloween Drinks and Reads last October.

Now let’s get to those recommendations.

Raylan by Elmore LeonardRaylan by Elmore Leonard

I love the TV FX show, Justified, and that is based on characters created by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Elmore Leonard. In the novel Raylan, Leonard gives us a little more depth. It does touch on some of the events covered in season two of the show, but there is enough of a difference that this is worth a read for true Justified fans. If you haven’t seen Justified, you’ll want commence watching immediately and reading the book, probably at the same time. (Criminal Element also has weekly recaps while the season is running—it’s on hiatus now—but binge on previous seasons.)

[So what goes down easy for Raylan on a hot day?]