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Showing posts by: Kate Lincoln click to see Kate Lincoln's profile
Jul 14 2015 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis

Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis is the 3rd historical mystery in the Flavia Alba series set in Ancient Rome (available July 14, 2015).

Deadly Election, Lindsey Davis’s latest novel of ancient Rome is a rewarding read, especially given how 2016’s potential candidates are already pontificating and bloviating. Television pundits (a dirty word—not unlike the term “election” these days) discuss the race as if it were the latest episode of The Bachelor, promising the upcoming election will have all the gravitas of a TMZ broadcast. Davis’s novel beats reality. First, it isn’t depressing, because there’s no obligation to vote in the end, however odious the candidates. Second, it offers more actual information than a month’s worth of election news coverage. Third, the winner can’t screw up our lives.


May 22 2015 10:00am

Fresh Meat: The Storm Murders by John Farrow

The Storm Murders by John Farrow is the first procedural thriller in a planned trilogy featuring the retired Montreal detective Emile Cinq-Mars (available May 26, 2015).

Who was it that said the colder the climate, the more are the mysteries? Montreal, Canada sits at a latitude south of Paris while those Nordic cities many consider a current hub of crime fiction lie more than fifteen degrees further north. Yet southern Canada generates its share of good reads. Louise Penny and Alan Bradley are just two of the Canadian authors well known south of the border. Playwright and novelist Trevor Ferguson may come less often to mind, possibly because several of his novels appear under nom de plume John Farrow. His latest novel under Farrow’s name, The Storm Murders, is the first in a new trilogy featuring Émile Cinq-Mars, his recently retired Montreal city detective.

There is no mistaking this book for one of its Nordic cousins, however, despite the snow and cold that open the story. Its Canadian sensibility is as much a character within as the weather. Witness this exchange when Cinq-Mars encounters a thief in the jewelry store where he needs to drop off the requisite retirement watch for repair since it’s still under warranty:

“Hi, there,” he said.

“You old fuck, get out of my way,” sneered the thief, a belligerent, unwary lad.

Old. Cinq-Mars hoped the guy didn’t recognize him and therefore wasn’t submitting a comment on his retirement. Standing in the doorway of the slightly subterranean shop, a step up from the miscreant, his six-foot-three-inch frame towered above the imp who stood at a chubby five-seven. He could stare down the immensity of his impressive nose and assume that that would have an intimidating effect upon the man nervously, if defiantly, gazing up at him.

“How’re you doing?” he asked. From his pocket he withdrew a stick of gum—the miscreant flinched—casually unwrapped it, folded the stick in half to more easily drop it into his mouth, and did so. “My name’s Émile Cinq-Mars. What’s yours?”

[This book will have you beating the summer heat...]

May 10 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Trauma by Michael and Daniel Palmer

Trauma by Michael Palmer and Daniel Palmer is a medical thriller about a neurosurgical resident, who, after an awful mistake, retreats home, where her brother's PTSD offers an irresistible medical challenge (available May 12, 2015).

Who isn’t captured by the horror of a single error yanking a life off the rails, and not one's own, but someone else's? Most of our blunders mess up our own lives—sleeping through our big presentation, getting a facial peel at a pop-up salon, signing on for a weekend with GoT reenacters. Medical thrillers may demand patience for clinical details, a head for the jargon, or interest in fine points of the science. But few actions truly ruin others’ lives like the doctor who makes what anyone outside the profession might consider an easy error. Like Dr. Carrie Bryant does.

Carrie’s choice to jump right into triathlons was perhaps not the wisest, but she never did anything half measure. She enjoyed pushing her body to new limits. She’d also used the race to raise more than a thousand dollars for BCH: a tiny fraction of what was needed, but every bit helped.

BCH served the poor and uninsured. Carrie felt proud to be a part of that mission, but lack of funding was a constant frustration....

If the constant budget shortfalls had a silver lining, it could be summed up in a single word: experience. With each BCH rotation the hours would be long, the demands exhausting, but Carrie never groaned or complained. She was getting the best opportunity to hone her skills.

Fatigue-slammed neurosurgeon Carrie Bryant’s error costs a man the best of what’s left in his life. That’s what sets in motion Trauma by father-son duo Michael and Daniel Palmer. Based on a premise by the now-deceased Michael, his son Daniel writes the story of how a doctor claws her way back toward wholeness after such an incident. Her response to the trauma is immediate: she resigns her residency and retreats to her parents’ house, where she joins her volatile brother Adam, an army vet with PTSD, who has also gone to ground. It creates a powerful hook into a character-driven plot that elevates the tale above many medical thrillers.

[But is there any retreat from one's calling...?]

Feb 22 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes

The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes is the third book starring forensic psychologist Alice Quentin who heads to a psychiatric prison to interview an inmate (available February 24, 2015).

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Silence of the Lambs when reading Kate Rhodes’ third novel, The Winter Foundlings, which continues the story of forensic psychologist Alice Quentin. The book opens as Quentin embarks on a six-month sabbatical in an effort to recover from dangers she endured during recent work with the London police. We’d need a psychologist to explain why her choice for that respite is to study treatment methods at Northwood, England’s largest psychiatric prison, and particularly within the Laurels, which houses its most violent criminals. She’s barely settled into her closet-sized office when she is called to assist DCI Burns, with whom she’s worked before, by interviewing one of the inmates.

[That's not the sabbatical I'd take...]

Feb 2 2014 8:15pm

Fresh Meat: RedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt

RedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt, a techno-medical thrillerRedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt is a futuristic thriller about a neurosurgeon brought to assist police with a series of horrifying murders in 2053's St. Louis (available February 4, 2014).

Dr. Eric Leuthardt’s debut novel, RedDevil 4, is described as a medico-techno-thiller. It might be described also as speculative fiction, since this neurosurgeon and neuroscientist from St. Louis has set his story in 2053. He opens the book with a character that must have required a minimum of personal speculation; Hagan Maerici is a neurosurgeon whose physical description closely matches that of Leuthardt himself. And Dr. Maerici’s life does not appear so different from what an ambitious neurosurgeon’s today might be: chasing grant dollars while being pressured by his boss to develop a new treatment for erectile dysfunction. Plus ça change...?

Not quite, because Leuthardt wants us to believe huge changes have already taken place. As Maerici tells his boss,

“If we were having this conversation thirty years ago, you would be arguing against all the work that went into neuroprosthetics. Look what changed—every human’s mind is connected and augmented in every way possible. You and I, and about ninety percent of the human population, have a neuroprosthetic implanted. We can use our thoughts to engage the world beyond the limits of our bodies, brain-to-brain communication has changed the way humans interact, we can fix almost any brain injury, and the virtual reality—it’s changed the way we do everything.”

[As man becomes machine...]

Oct 30 2013 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer Fleming

Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-FlemingThrough the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the eighth novel in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series set in upstate New York, in which a house fire leads to homicides and the kidnapping of a seriously ill little girl. (available November 5, 2013).

Through the Evil Days maintains Julia Spencer-Fleming's reputation for penning engaging police procedurals that feature strong characterizations. Plenty of bad actors people her new tale, one that soon expands out of closely-knit Millers Kill to a lake fifty miles north, during deep winter, a season Spencer-Fleming always evokes with great realism.  Bitter cold backs every scene like an inescapable returning character, one soon joined by ice, ice, and yet more ice.

While providing a story that will meet her fans’ expectations, however, Spencer-Fleming offers subtle shifts in her paradigm. In addition to creating a more densely-layered plot, a critical time element is introduced early in the book.  That, and the early patency of the culprits responsible for setting the action in motion, swings the emphasis away from that of straight-up mystery.  She has given the book a nudge into thriller territory.   

[JSF is crossing boundaries again!]

Oct 9 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Crooked Numbers by Tim O’Mara

Crooked Numbers by Tim O'MaraCrooked Numbers by Tim O'Mara is the second mystery featuring former NYPD cop turned Brooklyn teacher Raymond Donne (available October 15, 2013).

A former officer and a gentle man.

Tim O’Mara hit what many declared a long ball with his debut novel, Sacrifice Fly.  He might be on a streak given his second, Crooked Numbers. Protagonist Raymond Donne displays an identifiable swing—damaged cop turned schoolteacher can’t help but get involved when a former student dies—backed by teammates who include a newspaper reporter, an uncle who is head of detectives for the NYPD, and the bar buddy who serves as a go-to guy for IT and research needs. As in his debut, O’Mara also includes a helpful kid, the dead one’s good mom suffering through loss, and the glorious and squalid backdrop that is New York City.

In the new book, Donne has been named as Dean of Students at the private school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he taught during Sacrifice Fly. When he once more looks into the death of a former student, this time at the behest of the dead boy’s mother, the trail leads west. O’Mara describes the journey from what used to be one distinct city to another this way:

If you look at the New York City subway map, you’ll see that if you want to get from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, all you have to do is jump on the L train, transfer at Eighth Avenue to the C, and you’ll be there in only forty-five minutes. Maybe less. Five miles. Geographically.

Demographically, the Upper West Side might as well be on the other side of the world. It is an area where real estate is valued by the square foot, not by how many people you can squeeze into a two-bedroom apartment. Doctors and lawyers are your neighbors, not professionals you go to on really bad days. In this part of the city, the first sign of spring is not robins, but women on cell phones suddenly walking alongside their own babies’ strollers, as women whose skin is a few shades darker push their children for them.

[So many different lives in competition...]

Sep 28 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Three Can Keep a Secret by Archer Mayor

Three Can Keep a Secret, a Joe Gunther crime novel by Archer MayorThree Can Keep a Secret by Archer Mayor is the 24th procedural mystery featuring Joe Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, in which the team is spread thin, along with the rest of law enforcement, in the disarray following Hurricane Irene (available October 1, 2013).

The mountains are alive with secrets.

Vermont’s Green Mountains are pretty as can be, right?  Depending on the time of year they’re awash with colorful foliage, maple syrup, skiers, and hay bales—and looters and criminals and the insane. Having spent summers there as a child and having enjoyed several granola-filled high-school years there during the early 1970s, I appreciate Archer Mayor’s willingness to portray the “real” Vermont. Getting it right is a more complex task than it might seem, for both writer and reader.  Mayor’s latest police procedural featuring Investigator Joe Gunther challenges just about every notion a “flatlander” may hold about the Green Mountain State.

The current release is set against a recent nemesis: Hurricane Irene. For most readers this storm may be no more than a dim recollection; in Vermont it remains the modern threshold for devastation. As the book notes, thirteen towns were left inaccessible by Irene and not all of that damage is yet repaired. 

[Amid chaos comes opportunity for crime...]

Jun 28 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Let It Burn by Steve Hamilton

Let It Burn, an Alex McKnight crime novel by Steve HamiltonSteve Hamilton’s latest, Let It Burn, drives series character Alex McKnight off Michigan’s UP (Upper Peninsula) and into Detroit. The city Alex deserted years ago is now half-empty, littered with vacant lots and empty buildings, yet retains a hold on him. The former cop returns there after hearing that Darryl King, a young man he helped imprison, is about to be released. 

Though Let It Burn is the latest in a series, one need not have read earlier Alex McKnight tales to gain a full measure of enjoyment from this one. There is more than enough backstory in the opening chapter to make clear why Alex fled Detroit for the UP following the King case. 

Darryl’s release should raise no questions but when Alex revisits the crime scene he grows as conscious of matters that remain unsettled as he is of the slug trapped next to his heart.  Alternating between present day and that summer years ago, Hamilton lays out why McKnight can’t accept the current close on the case, why he has to dig through it once more.

[Digging always gets dirty...]

May 23 2013 8:30am

Thinking of Manderley: The Strange History of Stonemere

Watching Stonemere go up in flames, I thought of Manderley. 

Yet it was a bright April afternoon when dozens of old ladies were carried by firemen and police from the hulking stone-and-shingle house. The women, on a greening lawn where they looked as helpless as newborn fawns, were wrapped in thin cotton blankets as the sky grew orange toward evening. I was twelve.

In the forty-four years since, what I’ve learned of Stonemere—in Somerset Hills, New Jersey, far from England—makes me think Manderley wasn’t entirely off the mark. The place housed secrets.

[Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home...]

May 5 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Shattered Trident by Larry Bond

Shattered Trident by Larry Bond is a submarine-centered, military thriller set in the not-too-distant future (available May 7, 2013).

China is the new Russia, a writer’s go-to country for worldwide threats. Larry Bond’s latest SUBNOV, Shattered Trident, highlights this status with an intriguing, plausible, premise:  the Chinese take over various long-disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to secure their vast oil reserves and rich fishing grounds, and control all-important shipping lanes.

The year is 2016. China’s economy appears healthy, yet party leaders cannot keep its significant flaws hidden for long while their economy slows. The Trident Operation also signals their navy’s transformation from a coastline defense fleet to a true blue-water power in the Asian Pacific.

Their first act of aggression is to torpedo a tanker that supposedly carries coal bound for Japan. The hit generates a massive explosion. Witnessing the attack is the American sub North Dakota commanded by Jerry Mitchell, who recognizes an act of war though he has no idea who the players are. A respected blogger on maritime issues from Nova Scotia catches wind of the event and calls on his readers to share what they might know about the deliberate sinking.

[Nothing peaceable about the Pacific...]

Apr 9 2013 10:45am

Fresh Meat: Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

Don't Go by Lisa ScottolineDon’t Go by Lisa Scottoline is a novel about the mysterious circumstances surrounding a woman’s death and her soldier husband’s investigation (available April 9, 2013).

Lisa Scottoline’s twentieth novel, Don’t Go, opens with the prosaic: Chloe Peterson, a young mother whose husband Mike is an Army Medical Corps reservist serving in Afghanistan, is unloading the dishwasher in her suburban Philadelphia home when a kitchen knife slips and slices open her arm. Even the fact that she’s drunk and passes out from the sight of her own blood seems unremarkable enough.

It is when someone walks into the house, sees Chloe has been dragging herself toward the door in a desperate effort to reach help, and walks out without a word that the phrase “ordinary household accident” no longer applies.

[Who would abandon a woman to die?]

Apr 13 2012 1:00pm

Penning Clues: The Truth In Our Handwriting

The Felon’s Claw: Handwriting of someone who feels guilty. How much can handwriting matter when schools debate whether to even teach it?  And given how rarely most of us put actual pen to paper these days, it seems on its way to becoming a lost art.  Let’s hope not, because unlike face or voice, the hand doesn’t lie.

One handwritten warning flag that’s easily spotted is the Felon’s Claw.  This backward-hooking stroke can appear in script or print writing. It’s unconsciously scribed by folks who feel guilty including, they say, three-quarters of those incarcerated for felony.  (On the bright side, maybe we should feel reassured that so many felons retain a conscience.)

[That’s supposed to help me sleep at night?]

Mar 17 2012 10:00am

Crime Takes a Holiday: Erin Go Gag.

You think holidays are about vacations or sales binges? Oh, but they’re so much more. Each offers its own opportunity to commit what on any other day would be a crime.  Consider St. Patrick’s Day. While public drunkenness could get you hauled to the hoosegow on, say, March 16, wait a day and you’re simply celebrating. 

That’s why, circa 1982, it was the worst day of the year for me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The museum is on New York’s magnificent Fifth Avenue, the route of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Its broad steps create a popular spot from which to view the passing panoply of dignitaries, bagpipers, marching bands and such. 

Yet the museum’s immediate neighborhood isn’t the place to grab a celebratory green beer. Watering holes suited to hoisting a few pints to the old sod are few and far between. So parade goers well-primed to warble boozy renditions of “Danny Boy” have mostly traveled there after already drinking in other parts of Manhattan, the outer boroughs, or the suburbs.

With no thought about the parade when planning my visit for that day, I found myself threading past alcohol-fueled revelers on my way up the steps and into the museum. I was there to visit my friends at the Costume Institute, where I had served as in intern back in the mid-1970s. The space was a basement-level rabbit warren, but the institute’s workrooms included a band of huge windows about six feet off the ground. From them, plenty of light shone across a table where I recalled mending a gossamer gown once worn by Katharine Hepburn, preparing it for the show “Glamorous and Romantic Hollywood Design.”

While chatting with my former colleagues, the sounds of the parade bounced betewen the Museum and the Hotel Stanhope across the avenue, people’s voices and laughter filtering past the booming of drums and humming bagpipes. Several men hooted aloud, probably sharing a joke and, tapping on the large windows, waved to invite our attention.

Before we had time to do more than wonder why they’d bother inciting a quartet of museum workers to look up at them, they’d arrayed themselves in a line and, quick as leprechauns, unzipped their pants to unleash their synchronized streams—six arcs of greenish, steaming fluid splashing the windows.  This prolific display didn’t soon enough dissolve into a half-dozen erratic rivulets as they nearly fell to the ground laughing.

Public urination, on any other day a misdemeanor, on March 17, 1982 became a six-man salute to the man who chased the snakes out of Ireland.

Erin go gag.

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