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May 26, 2017
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May 18, 2017
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Adventures in Research, Part I: Time of Departure
Douglas Schofield
Showing posts by: Elizabeth Kerri Mahon click to see Elizabeth Kerri Mahon's profile
Thu
Oct 8 2015 10:00am

An Undead Procedural: iZombie

When iZombie was first announced, I was reluctant to get onboard. I am not ordinarily a fan of Zombies. I have proudly never watched an episode of The Walking Dead. But the brains, so to speak, behind the series belonged to Rob Thomas, creator of the late, lamented series Veronica Mars. For that reason alone I had to give it a shot. iZombie turns out to be a clever riff on the detective genre not dissimilar to Veronica Mars. Both series feature twenty-something blondes who solves crimes with a voiceover narration, but there is one very big difference: Liv is of course a zombie. Veronica Mars was a throwback to film noir movies of the 1940’s and 50’s mixed with a healthy dose of teenage angst, with Veronica as the wisecracking heroine, while iZombie is more of a lighthearted comedy wrapped in the guise of a police procedural.

[Can't argue about that mix!]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Truth Be Told, a Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan novel, by Hank Phillippi RyanTruth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the third novel featuring Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan, a Boston journalist and cop, whose new investigations of murder amid shady foreclosures and the cold case of the Lilac Sunday murder become as complicatedly intertwined as their relationship (available October 7, 2014).

The novel begins on an unseasonably hot day in May. Jane Ryland is staking out a foreclosed home in a Boston suburb that’s being cleared, working on a story that has become all too common since the financial crisis a few years ago: middle-class families being evicted from their homes.

“I know it’s legal. But it’s terrible.” Jane Ryland winced as the Sandovals’ wooden bed frame hit the tall grass in the overgrown front yard and shattered into three jagged pieces. “The cops throwing someone’s stuff out the window. Might as well be Dickens, you know? Eviction? There’s got to be a better way.” Terrible  facts. Great pictures. A perfect newspaper story. She turned to TJ. “You getting this?”

It should be a routine assignment, but Jane ends up with an even bigger scoop than she bargained for when a dead body is found on the premises. The woman turns out to be a local real estate broker.  All the evidence points to the owner of the home. Could Sandoval have been pushed to the edge by losing his home? Ryan balances two completely different plots that criss-cross repeatedly during the course of the story. The foreclosures are just the beginning of an even bigger, high-stakes scheme that involves some startling players who will stop at nothing to keep their plans a secret. At the same time, Jane’s secret boyfriend, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, has a whopper of a case on his hands. A man has just confessed to the famous twenty-year-old Lilac Sunday killing, a case that haunted Jake’s grandfather for years after working the case.  

[Everyone likes a closed case...right?]

Mon
Feb 4 2013 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr is the latest Madam of Espionage mystery set in Victorian London (available February 5, 2013).

In Victorian London, India Black has all the attributes a high-class madam needs to run a successful brothel—wit, beauty, and an ability to lie with a smile. Luckily for Her Majesty’s Government, all these talents also make her a first-rate spy...

Huzzah! India Black is back and not a moment too soon. I’ve missed her sardonic wit and her unique view of Victorian London. In India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, India’s feeling a bit restless. It’s been a few months since her last adventure at Balmoral, saving Queen Victoria from a group of Scottish nationalists. The weather has been even more miserable than usual in London:

This spring, the citizens of the Big Smoke were being treated to daily deluges from the heavens. Thick clouds rolled overhead, and the crack of thunder punctuated every conversation…When rain comes down in this city, it comes down in brown sludge ruining bonnets and cloaks covering the houses with a layer of silt….The stench was overpowering; the whole city smelled fetid and sour, like a vast sewer.

[What’s a madam to do?]

Tue
Oct 9 2012 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Death on Telegraph Hill by Shirley Tallman

Death on Telegraph Hill by Shrley TallmanDeath on Telegraph Hill by Shirley Tallman is the fifth historical mystery featuring Sarah Woolson, an attorney in 19th-century San Francisco (available October 16, 2012).

For a man who has been dead for over 112 years, Oscar Wilde certainly gets around!  Not only is he the star of his own mystery series by Gyles Brandreth, he makes an appearance, in full regalia of the Aesthetic movement—knee breeches, lavender silk shirt, green cravat, and maroon velvet jacket—dripping bons mots right and left in Shirley Tallman’s new mystery, Death on Telegraph Hill, letting readers know that they are in for a wild ride. 

….but Wilde cut him off. “After all, life is too important to be taken seriously, don’t you agree? For myself, I make it a point to avoid arguments; they are always vulgar and all too often convincing.”

The year is 1882, the city is San Francisco. After enjoying an evening listening to Oscar Wilde on his first American tour, Sarah Woolson and her brother Samuel are making their way home when a gunshot sounds and a bullet pierces the fog, striking Samuel. Who could want to hurt Samuel? Was he even the intended target? Determined to find answers, Sarah discovers more murder and mayhem on Telegraph Hill. But attempted murder is not Sarah’s only problem. The local chapter of the SPCA has hired her to stop a bullfighting ring from being built in the Mission District of the city. Struggling to keep her law practice alive, Sarah takes on their case despite her misgivings about whether she can actually win and about her client’s reluctance to hire a female attorney.

[The few, the proud, the female attorneys]

Tue
Oct 2 2012 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Spy in a Little Black Dress by Maxine Kenneth

Spy in a Little Black Dress by Maxine KennethSpy in a Little Black Dress by Maxine Kenneth is the second book in the spy cozy series featuring Jacqueline Kennedy in her career as a spy before becoming first lady (available October 2, 2012).

When I first heard that there was a mystery series by Maxine Kenneth (the duo of Maxine Schnall and Ken Salikof) featuring none other than Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, I thought to myself, WTH?  How is that going to work? Surprisingly well, actually. It turns out that the authors were inspired by an actual letter found in the John F. Kennedy Library written by Jackie and revealing that she had a job offer from the newly formed CIA. Yes, that Jackie Kennedy. It appears that there was more to the lady than just the ability to wear a pillbox hat.

[We love a spy with style . . .]

Wed
Aug 29 2012 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Murder Most Austen by Tracy Kiely

Murder Most Austen by Tracy KielyMurder Most Austen by Tracy Kiely is the fourth book in the Elizabeth Parker cozy mystery series (available September 4, 2012).

“If I had known that someone was going to kill the man sitting in 4B three days hence, I probably wouldn’t have fantasized about doing the deed myself.”

An ardent Anglophile, Elizabeth Parker can’t believe that she’s actually getting the chance to not only spend a week in England but also to attend the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath. On the plane, she and her Great Aunt Winnie meet Professor Richard Baines, a so-called expert on all things Austen, who is scheduled to speak at the festival. He turns out to be one of those annoying passengers who won’t shut up once they find they have a captive audience. 

[I love those on a long flight with no escape . . .]

Tue
Feb 21 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte by Diane Kelly

Death, Taxes and a Skinny, No-Whip Latte by Diane KellyThe IRS scares me. Even Al Capone, who eluded the ATF and the FBI, finally couldn’t escape the IRS. Though I file my taxes on time, and only take the necessary deductions that I can claim as a writer (is my Entertainment Weekly subscription a legitimate expense?),  I live in fear that one day I’m going to be audited and I won’t have the necessary receipts. After finishing the second book in Diane Kelly’s new series, Death, Taxes and a Skinny No-Whip Latte, I’m even more frightened. Who knew that some of them had a license to kill? Death, Taxes and a Skinny No-Whip Latte improves on the promise of the first book in the series, filled with vivid secondary characters, and a pulse-pounding plot.

You didn’t become a member of the Treasury Department’s Criminal Investigations team without a stellar academic record, impressive career credentials, and a razor-sharp intellect, not to mention a quick hand on both a calculator and a gun. Not that I’m bragging. But it’s true.

Tara Holloway left a boring 9-5 job at a big accounting firm to work as an agent for the U.S. Treasury department’s Criminal Investigations Division. Instead of filing tax returns, she now spends her days going after the country’s biggest tax cheats. On the heels of planning a much needed break with Brett, her hottie landscape architect boyfriend, Tara and her partner Eddie have been assigned to get the goods on Marcos Mendoza, a local businessman. Mendoza has his fingers in a lot of pies, including being a suspected loan shark with connections across the Mexican border. He’s never been accused of any crimes, yet his business associates have a history of resurfacing in dumpsters all over Texas.

[Death, taxes and a license to shoot.]

Wed
Nov 9 2011 10:30am

A New World of Mysteries for Young Adults

Nancy Drew, The Secret of the Old ClockAs a voracious pre-teen reader, I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Dana Sisters and Encyclopedia Brown mystery series. I loved the idea of someone who was close to being my age solving a mystery that had the adults in the story stumped. I loved them so much that I actually decided to write one of my own, starring a young teen detective that was similar to me. I even had the guts to submit it to Grosset & Dunlop who published the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mysteries. (They rejected it, not seeing the virtue of a mystery set at a sleep-over camp, but I digress.)

But when I hit my teens, I discovered that there were no mystery series for YA readers, apart from Tin-Tin. Or at least, if there were any suitable YA mysteries back then, Sister Mary Paula didn’t know of them! So I plunged straight into the world of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and the gritty police procedurals of George Simenon. Mysteries set in small English towns, country house parties, or the mean streets of Paris were a far cry from taking exams, applying to colleges and worrying about what to wear to the Prom.

[High school can be deadly.]

Thu
Oct 13 2011 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Tasha Alexander’s A Crimson Warning

Tasha Alexander A Crimson Warning, the Sixth Lady Emily MysteryI was dancing while he burned, but I had no way of knowing that, not then, while spinning on the tips of my toes, my husband’s grip firm around my waist as he led me around the ballroom again and again, glistening beads of sweat forming on his forehead. My heart was light; my head full of joy, my only complaint the temperature of the room. Its warmth was oppressive, humid and thick; the air heavy with the oil of too many perfumes. Looking back, I realize I had not even the beginning of an understanding of real heat, or of the pain of fire with its indiscriminate implacability. How could I? I was in Mayfair at a ball. The man meeting his fiery end might as well have been on the opposite side of the earth.

Lady Emily Hargreaves is looking forward to enjoying the delights of the London season, which for her means reading The Aeneid, corrupting her best friend Ivy, and joining the Women’s Liberal Federation to win the vote for women.  Before Lady Emily has a chance to enjoy herself, however, her husband Colin, an agent for the British government, is called away to investigate the murder of a gentleman of their acquaintance under mysterious circumstances (are there any other kind?).  If that weren’t enough to keep her occupied, London society is quaking in their boots over an daring miscreant who is splashing red paint, like a giant scarlet A, on the homes of the ton. Soon, all of London society is either living in fear that they will be the next target, or reveling in the disgrace of their enemies. Are the two crimes connected?  Can Lady Emily and Colin uncover the identity of the mastermind behind it all before another innocent life is lost?

[A Bluestocking sleuth!]

Tue
Sep 27 2011 2:00pm

The Mystery Of The Historical Literary Sleuth

Dorothy Parker, Literary Sleuth?While perusing the bookshelves in the mystery section of my local Barnes and Noble, I noticed an interesting trend, that of the Literary Sleuth. Mystery novels featuring Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Daphne du Maurier, Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Bronte, to name just a few. Well besides being real life literary icons whose books are classics of literature, they all have a sideline as amateur sleuths (Dorothy Parker is so popular that she features in series by two different authors!).

[Plotting and scheming and planning, oh my!]

Thu
May 12 2011 1:00pm

The Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie

Portrait of Agatha Christie On December 3, 1926, British mystery author Agatha Christie (1890-1976)  disappeared from her home. Her car was found abandoned several miles away, with some of her clothes and identification scattered around inside.  There were no signs of foul play, but newspapers immediately reported that the car was believed to have been deliberately run down Newlands corner with its brakes off. Agatha had written several confusing letters before vanishing. One, to her brother-in-law, said she was simply going for a vacation in Yorkshire; another, to the local chief constable, said she feared for her life. A quarter-mile from where her car was found was a lake called Silent Pool which Agatha used for inspiration for one of her character’s deaths. The police organized fifteen thousand volunteers to search the surrounding countryside.

[Going, going, gone! The mystery behind the mysteries. . .]