Review: <i>The Broken Girls</i> by Simone St. James Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review! Review: <i>Death by Dumpling</i> by Vivien Chien Review: Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien Doreen Sheridan Read Doreen Sheridan's review! Review: <i>Second Story Man</i> by Charles Salzberg Review: Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review! <i>Not That I Could Tell</i>: Excerpt Not That I Could Tell: Excerpt Jessica Strawser An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn...
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Q&A with Christi Daugherty, Author of The Echo Killing
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Adam Wagner
Showing posts by: Jordan Foster click to see Jordan Foster's profile
Apr 8 2016 12:00pm

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy explores the secrets of two families touched by an evil that has passed between generations. Nominated for the Edgar Award for “Best Novel.”

Dead milk snakes, nailed up to ward off evil, amid fields of lavender and tobacco set the unsettling tone for Edgar Award winner Lori Roy’s haunting third novel, itself a 2016 Edgar nominee for “Best Novel.” In alternating time periods—1936 and 1952—and voices, Roy recounts the twisted lives of two generations of families in rural Kentucky, focusing primarily on the women who have what the country folk refer to as the “know-how,” or a sixth sense that danger, or, once in a great while, delight, is on the horizon.

The sections set in 1936 are narrated by the teenage Sarah Crowley, the elder of two sisters, and the one without the know-how. It’s her younger sister, Juna, whose black eyes—not muddy brown, or dark hazel, but true black—send spasms of fear through her own father, who possesses the gift.

[Read Jordan Foster's review of Let Me Die in His Footsteps here...]

Mar 20 2015 12:00pm

Left Coast Crime 2015: Crimelandia

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the annual Left Coast Crime mystery writers’ convention took place in Portland, Oregon, returning to the Rose City for the first time since 2002. The four-day conference, which drew roughly 650 people with an additional 30 day passes sold, was held March 12th through March 15th at the Doubletree Hotel, and gave crime writers and crime fiction fans a chance to mingle and talk about all things mystery. This year’s convention was co-chaired by Oregon authors L.J. Sellers, whose series features Eugene, Ore. detective Wade Jackson, and Bill Cameron, author of the Portland-based series with cop Skin Kadash. Long-time proponents of the genre and convention veterans—they co-chaired the 2014 gathering in Monterey—Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich, who run the popular website Stop, You’re Killing Me, acted as volunteer coordinator/sponsorship coordinator/publisher liaison and treasurer/registrar/advertising coordinator, respectively.

In addition to the on-site selection of panels and interviews, attendees had the opportunity to sign up for a field trip to the FBI’s regional crime forensics lab. Other outings included a Portland distillery tour and a trip to the city’s famous Shanghai Tunnels. Back in the hotel, the panels kicked off on Thursday, with an opening reception in the evening honoring all the nominees. The guest authors—Guest of Honor Chelsea Cain, Guest of Honor Timothy Hallinan, and Special Guest Phillip Margolin—participated in panels and interviews throughout the weekend. On Friday, the organization celebrated its 25th birthday with a party in the evening, which also honored local Fan Guest of Honor, the Portland-based group Friends of Mystery.

[To the panels!]

Feb 24 2015 11:30am

Fresh Meat: The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth is a standalone thriller narrated by three women: one who is dead, one who nearly died, and one who is the cop trying to solve it all (available February 24, 2015).

Friendships are a tricky business. Especially when that sweet guy next door, the one who introduced you to new music and drank wine with you on long summer nights in London, tried to kill you. These are the kind of so-called “friends” that populate Colette McBeth’s second novel, The Life I Left Behind. If you’re thinking, “no thanks, I prefer my chums to be of the everlasting BFF variety,” this isn’t the book for you (and neither is McBeth’s debut, Precious Thing, where a childhood friendship is put under the microscope and its grimy, murderous underbelly is exposed). Told in alternating perspectives—a dead woman, a nearly dead woman, and the cop who’s trying to piece it all together—the novel is both a whodunit and a why-dunit. Aren’t the latter infinitely more interesting, anyway? Especially when the suspect pool becomes whittled down to—you guessed it—a close-knit group of friends. Though is that really what you call a group of people who may or may not have killed a mutual acquaintance? What’s the proper collective noun in this instance?

[Cohort perhaps?]

May 8 2014 11:15am

Fresh Meat: Jack of Spies by David Downing

Jack of Spies by David Downing is the debut World War I espionage series introducing U.K. spy Jack McColl who travels the world uncovering secrets disguised as a traveling car salesman (available May 13, 2014).

Let’s face it: spying is easier with cell phones. And the Internet. Unfortunately, Jack McColl, the hero of spy writer David Downing’s new World War I-era series, lives in the telegram age. The Scottish car salesman and journeyman spy for the newly formed British Intelligence Service, Jack is tasked with being the eyes and ears of Her Majesty’s government abroad. While he’s hawking luxury cars in China (this is infinitely more exciting than hawking luxury cars in Glasgow), he’s also listening to the chatter about the Germans and their possible plans to start a war (which, spoiler, they do). Every time there’s a rumble in Shanghai—and the city is very rumble-y—Jack dutifully informs his handlers, who in turn pass it along to their boss, a shadowy figure called Cumming.

[Jack is a helluva patient guy...]

Apr 15 2014 11:30am

Fresh Meat: The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund

The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund, an Annika Bengzton novelThe Long Shadow by Liza Marklund, translated from Swedish by Neil Smith, is the eighth featuring Stockholm reporter Annika Bengzton, who'll  jet to Spain's glitzy Costa del Sol to investigate the murder of an entire family (available April 15, 2014).

Annika Bengzton is probably annoyed with you. Oh, you two haven’t met? That’s okay. The dogged Stockholm reporter star of Liza Marklund’s long-running series—this is the eighth installment—will find something you did to piss her off. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Humanity irks Annika, and yet her profession puts her front and center for an unending parade of our species’ worst moments. Perhaps if she were a different kind of reporter, the kind who wrote fluffy, feel-good pieces about abandoned puppies finding loving homes or octogenarians celebrating decades of marriage, Annika would be more receptive to the idea that all people aren’t rotten. But she covers crime. Bloody, senseless murders, in whose investigations she more often than not becomes dangerously involved. Few things, after her two young children, are more important to Annika than “The Truth.” Of course, this is a difficult commodity to come by when you’re immersed in the world of death. And when you work for a newspaper that’s often more concerned with protecting its image and reputation than reporting the unvarnished facts.

[Makes for some long, hard days in the fact mines...]

Mar 24 2014 7:30pm

Fresh Meat: Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson

Children of the Revolution, a DCI Banks novel, by Peter RobinsonChildren of the Revolution by Peter Robinson sees Yorkshire's Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks hearken back to the 1970s after a disgraced college lecturer is found dead on an abandoned railway line (available March 25, 2014).

Remember that song about teenage rebellion? No, not that one. (I know you’re thinking about a different one.) Think T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.” That’s the one that came a year after The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” and fourteen years before Sonic Youth’s “Teen Age Riot.” In other words, it’s the perfect song for Peter Robinson’s DCI Alan Banks in his latest adventure of the same name, the 21st installment of the Yorkshire-set procedural series. As Marc Bolan crows, “you can twist and shout/let it all hang out/but you won’t fool the children of the revolution.” And don’t even think that you’ll fool DCI Banks (who doesn’t drive a Rolls Royce, though it might be good for his voice).

Once again, Banks and his team are confronted with a mysterious body—it’s amazing how the population of the relatively small town of Eastvale is routinely found in various states of deadness—though this one seems at first to be a potential accident. Sure, accidents are great and all, and they produce their fare share of corpses, but Banks is, in the parlance of a gritty city far away, murder police. And we readers like someone to be behind the crimes we read about, not just an unfortunate plunge off a railroad bridge.

[Can a long drop stop the revolution...?]

Feb 25 2014 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: A Killing of Angels by Kate Rhodes

A Killing of Angels by Kate Rhodes, the second in the series, follows psychologist Alice Quentin as she sets out to catch a serial killer who seems to be targeting one of London's major financial institutions (Available February 25, 2014).

Perhaps all crime fiction stories are cautionary tales. Beyond the simple “Hey, you, don’t get killed,” the genre teaches us that some professions are more dangerous than others. Take prostitution, for example. Chances are, if you’re a prostitute in a crime fiction novel, things won’t end well for you. This isn’t a judgment of the world’s oldest profession, merely an observation that if you’re in the game and there’s a killer on the loose, statistically you’re wearing a big target. Also, kidnapped children – happy endings aren’t often in your future.

But some jobs don’t come with the baggage of previous books, reminding us of all those times that horrible things happened to person X whose job is Y. Working in finance is one of these. Sure, it’s a cutthroat world on Wall Street – or London’s version, “The City” – but it’s usually not that kind of cutthroat, not in the just-got-your-jugular-sliced sort of way. But A Killing of Angels, Kate Rhodes’ second novel featuring London psychologist Alice Quentin, is the book you might want to give that person in your life who’s considering a banking career. That is, if you’d like them to re­-consider that particular life path.

When we last saw Alice, in Crossbones Yard, she was knee-deep in dead prostitutes, the victims of a serial killer who took an interest in our dear protagonist personally. Still scarred from the case, both emotionally and physically, Alice tries to recover the best way she knows how: by throwing herself into work and running. The latter often helps her de-stress from the former, especially when patients turn violent. Turns out that, yes, you can still train for the London Marathon with bruised-maybe-broken ribs. All this is to say that she is keeping her distance from the police and the consulting work that got her into so much trouble the last time around. But we wouldn’t have a story if she wasn’t sucked back in, Godfather-style.

[Keep Reading: I know it's an offer you can't refuse...]

Nov 12 2013 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Raven’s Eye by Barry Maitland

The Raven's Eye, a Brock and Kolla mystery, by Barry MaitlandThe Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland is the twelfth in the series about Scotland Yard's DCI Brock and DI Kolla, who are trying, despite the brass's interference, to investigate a mysterious death among the houseboats that line the canals around London (available November 12, 2013).

It’s almost the holidays and some parents like to use the popular Elf of on the Shelf doll to scare their children into behaving for Santa Claus. Some entrepreneur of the Hannukah-celebrating persuasion even recently started marketing a Mensch on a Bench to keep the Menoroah-lighting tykes in line. Suffice it to say, Big Brother is watching. Whether you’re naughty, nice, or somewhere in between.

In the London patrolled by Barry Maitland’s Detective Chief Inspector David Brock and Detective Inspector Kathy Kolla, it’s more likely that you’ll run into the duo if you’re on the naughty end of the spectrum. But not necessarily. For anyone who has cut their teeth on UK crime novels—or UK crime television, because why limit oneself to one medium of murder and mayhem?— it’s common knowledge that CCTV (close-circuit television for you Americans who aren’t [yet] in the know, but are already being watched [yes, I mean right now]) is nearly everywhere in Britain. While this seems like it would a) make criminals incredibly easy to catch, and b) lead to very boring crime stories, it’s actually not true. Have you ever been suckered into watching a card trick? Sure, you can watch the whole time, but you’re not seeing the whole picture because you’re not looking in the right places.

[Misdirecting you to the rest of the post...]

Nov 5 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete FriisDeath of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis is the third crime novel featuring Danish nurse Nina Borg (available November 5, 2013).

Sometimes it’s hard to tell a story. You have to think of a character. No, make that an interesting character (or at least a character who’s boring in an interesting way). And where does your character live? You know, setting. And what does your character do? Loaf around? Eat Nutella out of the jar and watch the wheels go round? Sorry to tell you that if you’re at the loafing, Nutella-eating stage, Kaaberbøl and Friis have you beat. They’ve lapped you.

Not only does Nightingale see the return of their popular series character, Copenhagen's Red Cross nurse and perpetual do-gooder-despite-the-significant-personal-costs Nina Borg, but there’s also a mother desperate to be reunited with her child; a Danish police detective on the trail of something bigger than he imagined; and his Ukrainian counterpart who shows up in Denmark under less than official circumstances. Oh, and then there’s the intricately woven, utterly compelling backstory set in mid-1930s Ukraine, under the reign of cheery Uncle Stalin. He’s just like your favorite uncle who comes for Christmas. Except Uncle Stalin sent people to Siberia.

[Do enjoy the famine, riots, and mass graves...]

Sep 10 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

The Edge of Normal by Carla NortonThe Edge of Normal by Carla Norton is a debut psychological thriller about a young woman who escaped from captivity, and tries to recover her life while assisting new abduction victims (September 10, 2013).

Some books make you want to lock your doors and windows, and, like Santa and his list, check them twice. Carla Norton’s fiction debut, The Edge of Normal, is something to read outside. In a field. A really big field in a really flat place where you could see someone really scary coming from miles away. Think of the meadows in The Sound of Music where Maria frolics and sings and wears dresses made out of curtains. Just get rid of the Alps (such pesky mountains) and the Nazis (such pesky villains) and you’ve got the perfect setting for reading this book. Open air, flowers abloom, and no cellar torture chambers for miles (see why the Nazis need to go?).

Kidnappings aren’t new in crime fiction, nor, sadly, are they new in real life. In The Edge of Normal, 22-year-old Reeve LeClaire survived being held captive for nearly four years and she’s just starting to piece together a new life for herself. Until another 13-year-old, Tilly Cavanaugh, missing for 18 months, is found alive. While Reeve’s captor wiles away the years in a psychiatric hospital, the mastermind behind Tilly’s kidnapping, and possibly the abduction of two other teenage girls, is still at large. Along with Dr. Ezra Lerner, her psychiatrist—and perhaps the only person she truly trusts—Reeve leave the protective bubble of her daily routine in San Francisco and travels to Jefferson City, California to offer Tilly support.

[Even when their cages are gone, some remain captive...]

Aug 13 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia ReadValley of Ashes by Cornelia Read is the fourth in the Madeline Dare mystery series (available August 17, 2012).

Madeline Dare would eviscerate you with a sneer and a choice string of words I can’t print here if we compared her latest misadventures in Valley of Ashes, Cornelia Read’s fourth series installment, to that tired cliché “trial by fire.” There are trials. And there’s definitely fire. But Dare is anything but a tired cliché. Think more Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks fame whispering the title of that ill-fated prequel: “Fire Walk with Me.” Even though we don’t know it at the beginning of David Lynch’s film or Read’s novel, there’s a ticking clock for the characters, one that only becomes apparent in the book when it’s too late and impossible to stop. Time here is like a fire. It eats everything in its path and the only way is forward.

[Scorched earth . . .]

Aug 6 2012 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Viper by Håkan Östlundh

The Viper by Hakan OstlundhThe Viper by Håkan Östlundh (translated by Per Carlsson) is a noir Swedish police procedural (available August 7, 2012).

It’s not entirely clear what Arvid Traneus did in Japan besides make obscene amounts of money. And have sex with a hooker named Kass. But when he comes back home to Sweden, after spending nearly a decade in Tokyo raking in the dough and enjoying the carnal pleasures that can be purchased with that kind of wealth, it turns out maybe he should have stayed away. Granted, there wouldn’t be much of a plot if he didn’t return. But if you think of it purely in terms of character survival, bad things happen when Arvid comes home to roost. People die. And since this isn’t a cozy English village whodunit, people die in deliciously gruesome ways. Even though life might move a little slower on the isolated island of Gotland, its criminals aren’t placid.

[Welcome to the dark side of the small island mystery . . .]

Jun 5 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Carin Gerhardsen’s The Gingerbread House

Carin Gerhardsen The Gingerbread HouseThe Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen is the first in the Hammarby series of Swedish thrillers (available June 5, 2012).

“A serial murderer? You’re out of your mind! How many of those have there been in Sweden?” While this naïve Swedish detective in Carin Gerhardsen’s The Gingerbread House might win his debate on a technicality (or whatever you want to call reality), he obviously doesn’t read crime fiction. Otherwise he’d know that Sweden is crawling with serial killers. Not just serial killers but one-off murderers, too. They’re everywhere. Stockholm. Ystad. Malmo. Gothenburg. Uppsala. Fjällbacka. It’s a good thing the Swedes have universal healthcare because their crime writers are maiming and killing the (fictional) citizenry by the boatload. But in real life? Not so much.

[But fiction’s more fun . . .]

May 22 2012 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Reckoning by Jane Casey

The Reckoning by Jane CaseyThe Reckoning by Jane Casey is the second in her DC Maeve Kerrigan British procedural series (available May 22, 2012).

I have no patience for weak heroines. This is why Maeve Kerrigan and I get along well. Take her debut appearance in last year’s The Burning. This is a woman who gets kicked in the head by a serial killer and is itching to check out of the hospital to wrap up the case. Fractured skull? All in a day’s work for this London DC. She is on the Serious Crimes Squad, after all. Boots and heads don’t usually collide in white-collar crime. It’s lucky that blow to the head didn’t cause lasting damage because the brain inside that formerly fractured skull is a formidable one. Too bad her new DI is content for said brain to rattle around like a lump of unused muscle tissue as long as Maeve looks the part of the attractive female subordinate. They’re investigating the torture and murder of two men, unconnected except that both were convicted pedophiles.

[Maeve’s not the one with a damaged brain . . .]

May 15 2012 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

The Dead of Summer by Mari JungstedtThe Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt is the latest book in the Anders Knutas series of Swedish police procedural mysteries to be released in the United States (available May 15, 2012).

Crime fiction generally is not the best place to look for a vacation spot. If Hannibal and Clarice had transported their bloody tango to the sands of some tropical beach, readers probably wouldn’t be queuing up to follow suit. So why is it that, despite the body count, I’d gladly take a holiday on Gotland, the Swedish island where Mari Jungstedt sets her whodunits?

[Because you’re crazy?]

Apr 24 2012 10:30am

The Best Novel Nominees, or How To Handicap the 2011 Edgars

For the first time in recent memory (read: more than a decade), none of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award nominees for Best Novel have ever been nominated before. On April 26th, one of them will be announced from the stage at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel and take a first walk with this bust of Edgar Allan Poe. (Of course, some nominees may have practiced the victory walk in private, substituting a water bottle for Poe’s lovely ceramic visage.)

The last year a first-time nominee won the Best Novel prize was back in 2007, when Jason Goodwin’s The Janissary Tree took home the prize. 2007 was also a good year for other first-timers, with four of the six nominees logging their first nomination. This year’s crop of nominees is widely varied, but I like to think of them as a five-volume set of How-To manuals:


The Ranger by Ace AtkinsVolume One) How to Clean Up Your Home Town

by Quinn Colson, recently retired U.S. Army Ranger from Ace Atkins’s aptly titled The Ranger.

Subsections include “Mississippi Law 101, Or Welcome to Hill Country,” “If You Think That Suicide is Really a Murder, You’re Probably Right,” and “Good-bye Meth Dealers.”





[Complete the set in our easy five-payment plan!]

Mar 8 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Helsinki White by James Thompson

Helsinki White by James ThompsonHelsinki White by James Thompson is the latest in the Kari Vaara series of police procedurals set in Finland (available March 15, 2012).

There are good cops and bad cops. And then there’s Kari Vaara. This guy has not had it easy. People shoot him and he shoots back. Kari lives in Finland so this is a bigger deal than if his badge read “NYPD.” His last few cases have drained him physically and emotionally. Then there are the migraines. Scratch that. The brain tumor masquerading as crippling headaches. But at least he and his American wife, Kate, moved out of Lapland, with its months of northern Finnish darkness and a sparse but surprisingly violent population. Now they’re in Helsinki, with Kari working in Major Crimes and Kate resting after giving birth to their daughter. Did I mention she previously miscarried the couple’s twins? Life is only a few notches up from bleak for Kari. And what better way to spend your convalescence—he undergoes neurosurgery to remove the tumor—but to investigate the brutal and likely racially motivated murder of a government official? This is when Kari starts veering into the no man’s land between crime solvers and criminals.

[Where is the line between cop and crook?]

Dec 23 2011 10:30am

The Dead Wives Club: US Edition

Dead Wives Club membership cardThe Yanks refused to be outdone, and thus the American chapter of the Dead Wives Club was born. Here in the Land of Opportunity, membership is not denied to women, and two widows take their places among the grieving husbands. Just like its British counterpart, the DWC: US limits its membership to law enforcement officials and consultants who’ve lost a spouse. As you’ll see, the club is—unfortunately—not hurting for members. 

[Meet the members...]

Dec 19 2011 1:00pm

The Dead Wives Club: UK Edition

The Dead Wives Club Official Membership CardSome clubs have an exclusive membership list. It takes years or connections or both to get a coveted spot. Then there’s a group like crime fiction’s Dead Wives Club where membership is something to be avoided. And to quell any cries of sexism, women bereft of husbands are welcome, too. It just so happens that widowers currently take up all the slots, at least on the other side of the pond. Because exclusivity is the name of the name, the DWC: UK currently accepts only grieving cops or those who work closely with the police as consultants. From police constables to detective chief superintendants, rank is irrelevant. All that’s required is a deceased spouse. Misery, as history proves, does the rest.

[And now, to meet the club members:]

Dec 5 2011 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Storm Damage by Ed Kovacs

Storm Damage by Ed Kovacs

For Cliff St. James, the hard-hitting PI (literally: he dabbles in mixed martial arts on the side) in Kovacs’s debut, life has a dividing line. There’s before the Storm and after. Since he lives in New Orleans (“Nu-whohr-lins” for those of us who use books to brush up on our regional accents), it almost seems like an insult call said Storm “Hurricane Katrina.” The “K” word is barely uttered. That’s what outsiders say, people who watched the disaster unfold on TV, not the ones who still live without electricity, some in FEMA trailers, some in patched-together houses that were, only five months before we meet Cliff, submerged in water tainted with sewage and enough bacteria to leave swatches of mold in its wake. But all of this, coupled with the police department’s barely 20% solve rate for homicides, is part of the New Normal. And just as the perpetually damp buildings are prime breeding grounds for mold and decay, the struggling city is ripe for crime.

[Welcome to New Orleans...]