<i>Shark Island</i>: Excerpt Shark Island: Excerpt Chris Jameson A shark attack survivor believes she has already lived through her worst nightmare—she's dead wrong. <i>The Breaking of Liam Glass</i>: Excerpt The Breaking of Liam Glass: Excerpt Charles Harris A darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities. <i>Twelve Days</i>: Excerpt Twelve Days: Excerpt Steven Barnes A paranormal thriller about a family who struggles against a plot to unleash global genocide. Review: <i>Lowcountry Bonfire</i> by Susan M. Boyer Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer John Valeri Read John Valeri's review!
From The Blog
June 26, 2017
Liz Talbot: The Benefits of Writing Your Avatar
Susan M. Boyer
June 23, 2017
Thieves Steal GPS Devices that Lead to Their Arrest
Teddy Pierson
June 22, 2017
Q&A with J. Leon Pridgen II, Author of Unit 416
Crime HQ and J. Leon Pridgen II
June 16, 2017
Waiting for Nuggets Leads to 911 Call
Teddy Pierson
June 15, 2017
Adventures in Research, Part II: Storm Rising
Douglas Schofield
Showing posts by: Katherine Tomlinson click to see Katherine Tomlinson's profile
Jun 6 2017 12:30pm

9 Murder Mysteries Set During Wartime

Just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean that death takes a holiday among the civilian population. Here are nine very different views of death during wartime.

Black Dragon by Kirk Mitchell

Black Dragon is reminiscent of the history-based thrillers/mysteries of Joseph Kanon (Los Alamos, The Good German). The book (published in 1988) is hard to find, but it’s worth tracking down for its story of a murder in a Japanese-American internment camp that’s solved by an American MP and a Japanese-American criminologist internee. The character of Hank Fukuda, a Nisei (first-generation American born to Japanese immigrant parents), is particularly well-drawn, and Mitchell has done a fine job in his depiction of the virulent anti-Asian hysteria of the times. Mitchell is also the author of the mystery series featuring Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmett Parker and Alice Turnipseed.

[See what other wartime mysteries to read!]

Apr 27 2017 1:00pm

Q&A with Patricia Abbott, Author of Shot in Detroit

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 150 short stories that have appeared in print and online publications. She won the Derringer Award in 2008 for her story “My Hero.” She is the co-editor of the e-anthology Discount Noir. Collections of her stories, Monkey Justice and Other Stories and Home Invasion, were published by Snubnose Press.

In 2015, Polis Books published the novel Concrete Angel. They are also the publisher of Shot in Detroit, which has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. 

Ms. Abbott was generous enough to answer some questions about her latest novel, her Edgar nomination, and what’s next for her!

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Apr 21 2017 12:00pm

Review: Flamingo Road by Sasscer Hill

Flamingo Road by Sasscer Hill is the 1st book in the Fia McKee Mystery series (available April 18, 2017).

Sasscer Hill likes horses, and not in a “My Little Pony” kind of way. A horsewoman and horse breeder, it’s in her blood. As she explains on her blog:

I started galloping about the family farm on a stick horse when I was four years old. By the time, I was seven or eight, I was sneaking rides on the Belgian plow horses. I did this because my father didn't like horses and considered ponies dangerous. So instead, I drummed my heels on the sides of a 2,000-pound draft mare, while grasping whatever string or rope I managed to tie to her halter.

Her debut mystery series featured a young female jockey named Nikki Latrelle, and the books were atmospheric tales that brought the racing world to life more authentically than anyone had since Dick Francis died. (On her blog, Sasscer pays tribute to Dick Francis as her favorite author.)

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Flamingo Road...]

Apr 17 2017 3:00pm

Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning by New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny is the 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the town of Three Pines. It is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.

“Every mystery is not a crime. But every crime starts with a mystery.” 

In its modern use, the word “mystery” refers to “something that is difficult or impossible to explain.” However, centuries ago it was used in the theological sense to describe a “secret thing, a mystical truth with hidden meaning.” Louise Penny’s novels have always had that ancient touch of “mystery” in them, and in this latest book featuring Armand Gamache, the story’s complex interplay of murder and morality once again mixes with themes of judgment and mercy.

Two sides of a single coin—it is both a blessing and a curse that former inspector Armand Gamache can see both sides at once. He sees this dichotomy everywhere, even reflected in the snowy landscape of Three Pines, the small Québec town Gamache calls home. Up late in the study of the comfortable house he shares with his wife Reine-Marie, Gamache realizes it’s snowing, and as the first flakes of the season fall, he thinks: 

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of A Great Reckoning...]

Apr 11 2017 3:00pm

Review: Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper

Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper is the 1st book in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

I was invited to a destination wedding a few years ago—the actual ceremony took place in a picturesque, centuries-old church in a charming French fishing village. It looked like a great time, but, sadly, I did not have the cash to fly to France and stay for a week, so I had to content myself with the online photo album. Which is a real shame because I’ve seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, and I can’t help but harbor the fantasy that there might have been a handsome single Frenchman waiting for me at the rustic restaurant where everyone gathered for the wedding banquet. (Does Jean Dujardin have a brother?) 

The cozy cover of Marla Cooper’s Terror in Taffeta—a debut novel and the first in the author’s Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mystery series—clues us in to the subgenre and tone of the story, but it’s a nice surprise to find the book’s sassy narrator would not be out of place in, say, one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. She’s smart, a little snarky, and a bit lovelorn, and from her first thoughts as she observes the gaggle of young women dressing for the Mexican wedding of the bride and groom’s dreams—the mother of the bride was hoping for Napa—Kelsey is hilariously relatable. 

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Terror in Taffeta...]

Apr 6 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson

The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson is the 5th book in the Dandy Gilver Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

Dandy Gilver—forty-something wife of the phlegmatic Hugh and mother to two grown sons—has reluctantly agreed to a Christmas holiday in North Norfolk with family members keen to spend the time hunting and pursuing other activities that simply bore her to death. Moreover, going to Norfolk means Dandy will be stuck with “the wives,” whose company is so dull she tells her friend and business partner, Alec Osbourne, that they make the husbands seem as witty as Oscar Wilde. But then, a reprieve comes in the form of a letter from a certain Mr. Birchfield requesting their help.

The missive is so … peculiar … that it piques their interest.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Reek of Red Herrings...]

Apr 5 2017 1:00pm

Review: Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott

Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott is a riveting novel of psychological suspense that reveals the darkness that lies within the human heart, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

You could say Violet Hart is a troubled woman, but it would be more accurate to say that she is “messed up” in that crazy way that gets less and less interesting the older a woman gets. And Violet is getting older. 

Nearing 40 and unable to achieve escape velocity from a dying city, she sees her photography career on a downward trajectory from “on the verge of” to “never was.” And so, desperate to freshen up her portfolio, she ventures out to Detroit’s Belle Isle one early morning, when the only other people about are prostitutes and drug dealers—people Violet feels comfortable around.

She knows the abandoned waterside park will provide her some great pictures—“ruin porn” is all the rage—and she’s busy capturing those stark images when a couple of cops show up to hassle her, unwilling to believe that she could be at the location for any benign purpose. Violet doesn’t expect to be accosted, but she can deal with it, pointing out people in the park who need police attention much more than she does.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Shot in Detroit...]

Mar 7 2017 2:00pm

Review: Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolás Obregón

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas ObregonBlue Light Yokohama by Nicolás Obregón is a compelling, brilliantly moody, and layered novel that's sure to be one of the most talked about debuts in 2017 (available March 7, 2017).

Slogans, symbols, and suicide. Are they connected? If so, how?

“This is what Japan should be,” insists an insurance company slogan. “Creating Tomorrow Together,” boasts another. Vivus Construction offers, “The Good Life.”

But it’s not just companies that encapsulate their mission statements in catchy phrases and pithy sayings. A new religious movement is sweeping Japan, and bible quotes are on everyone’s lips. “The lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” When does scripture become slogan?

And what are we to make of the oft-repeated line, “The lights of Tokyo are so pretty”? Is that a reference to the soothing blue lights being installed on the subway lines in an attempt to lower the suicide rate? And what of the black sun symbol that appears in the book’s opening, when a severely troubled woman commits suicide, and then reappears at the sight of a particularly grisly murder? 

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Blue Light Yokohama...]

Jan 16 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz

The Nowhere Man by Gregg HurwitzThe Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz is the 2nd book in the Evan Smoak series (available January 17, 2017).

Once known only by the designation “Orphan X,” Evan Smoak escaped the shadow world he was trained for and now uses his skills pro bono as a near-legendary figure dubbed “The Nowhere Man.” He’s part John Wick, part Nikita, part the Equalizer, and unless you’re the one who called that encrypted phone number on his business card—1-855-2-NOWHERE—you do not want to see Evan coming. 

Hector noticed movement in the shadows and stood, revolver quickly in hand. For a time, it seemed, he kept rising.

Standing just past the semicircle of pushed-together desks, Evan looked up at him. A FUCK YOU tattoo on the front of Hector’s neck indicated that nuance was not the man’s strong suit.

Hector said, “I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but I’m gonna give you five seconds to leave before I aerate your torso.” For emphasis he kicked one of the monitors off the desk, which went to pieces at Evan’s feet, sparking impressively.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Nowhere Man...]

Dec 22 2016 4:00pm

A Criminal Christmas List

Oh no! The Discovery Channel’s talking Joe Kenda bobblehead is out of stock and you still haven’t bought gifts for your favorite crime buff.

Fortunately for you, there’s this thing called “the Internet,” and if it existed for no reason other than facilitate last-minute shopping and distributing cute kitten videos, that would be reason enough.

[Even if it were all kitten videos...]

Nov 11 2016 3:00pm

6 Books to Read if You Loved The Stand by Stephen King

The end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) has always been a reliable premise for science fiction and horror novels. From nuclear annihilation (Nevil Shute’s On the Beach) to eco-disaster (The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard) to the zombie apocalypse (World War Z by Max Brooks), writers have been fascinated with doomsday scenarios both scientific and spiritual. 

In Stephen King’s masterwork, The Stand, the horror novelist explicitly pits good and evil against each other when an accidentally released bio-warfare weapon causes a catastrophic pandemic. 

What’s different about King’s post-apocalypse novel, though, is that it ends with optimism—a reminder that when Pandora’s Box was opened and all the evils of the world were released, there was one thing left in the box—hope.

If you love The Stand (and who doesn’t?), here are some books that share the same sense that man will not merely endure, he will prevail:

[See what's just been added to your TBR...]

Oct 3 2016 1:30pm

Review: Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner

Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner sees the return of hardboiled Detective Billy Able in this dark Southern mystery about the murder of a dazzling Memphis socialite—and the scandals revealed in the wake of her death.

In the “new” South, the scab of modernity is thin. If you peel it away, you might find healthy, healing flesh beneath, but you are just as likely to reveal a raw, festering wound giving off the stench of decaying Southern aristocracy and dying white privilege.

Caroline Lee, the moneyed Memphis socialite who meets her death wearing a wedding dress of lace “made by Belgian nuns 100 years ago” is one of the city’s entitled class. Her parents run a law firm; her brother oversees the family bank. The family home is staffed by black servants and appointed with antique furniture and sterling silver handed down from generation to generation. People like Caroline are not supposed to die in muddy pastures, shot at point-blank range and left to bleed out in that heirloom of a dress.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Devil Sent the Rain...]

Sep 17 2016 12:00pm

The Best Mysteries Set in New Orleans

New Orleans...it’s not all King Cakes and muffuletta sandwiches and balconies adorned with wrought-iron lace. Beneath its flamboyant exterior, the city has always had a dark heart and an aura all its own—a humid miasma composed of equal parts dried early morning puke, rotting Spanish moss, and the scent of fresh beignets.

New Orleans is jazz and jism, Tennessee Williams and Kentucky bourbon cocktails.

It is Mardi Gras and Marie Laveau.

It is sex and death.

New Orleans is the city that put the “N” in Noir; fertile ground for crime writers to plant their bloody dreams.

[Crime and New Orleans go hand in hand...]

Aug 23 2016 12:00pm

Review: Sorrow Road by Julia Keller

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller is the 5th book in the Bell Elkins series (Available today!).

James Iacobelli designed the cover for Julia Keller’s latest Bell Elkins mystery, and it’s striking. Black and white and shades of gray, with a shocking touch of red; it is a cover that draws the eye, which is what a cover is supposed to do.

But, covers are also the public “faces” of books, the picture that is worth a thousand words. Here, Iacobelli’s work immediately provokes questions: Where are we? Who is this woman? What is she doing out in the snow? While the default assumption to a fourth question—When is this story taking place?—is always present day, you can’t necessarily tell that from the image. The woman’s coat is a silhouette that hasn’t much changed in seventy-two years. There are other figures in the background but they offer us no clue.

Iacobelli combined two photos for the cover—one of a snowy winter road and one of a woman walking down a road with an umbrella—creating one seamless visual that echoes what the author has done in her narrative: weave two seemingly disparate stories into a tale that resonates through seven decades and multiple lives.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Sorrow Road...]

Aug 16 2016 2:30pm

Review: The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder

The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder is the 2nd book in the Inspector Lefebvre historical mystery series.

It is the summer of 1890 in Paris, and Inspector Achille Lefebvre is looking forward to escaping the sticky weather, when his holiday plans are sidetracked by the discovery of a man dangling from a bridge in a pretty little Parisian park. 

The police photographer assigned to record the crime scene, Gilles, immediately assumes that the dead man is a suicide, but Lefebvre is not one to make such hasty observations. He approaches the corpse as if an artist—M. de Toulous-Lautrec is an acquaintance—and his eyes are open for clues. “There are always clues, Sergeant,” Lefebvre reminds his second-in-command, Sgt. Rodin. Rodin, who admires his boss and his use of the latest forensic techniques to solve crimes, is certain if there are clues to be found, Lefebvre will suss them out—and Lefebvre does not disappoint.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Hanged Man...]

Aug 9 2016 1:30pm

Sue Grafton Scrabble

With the release of X, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mystery series has solved almost an entire alphabet of cases. But, what’s the point of an alphabet series if you can’t have fun spelling words with the letters? And, what’s a mystery novel without a bit of DEATH?

See also: Review: X by Sue Grafton

[D-E-A-T-H. Death.]

Jul 28 2016 1:00pm

Review: The Second Death by Peter Tremayne

The Second Death by Peter Tremayne is the 26th book in the Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series.

Seventh-century Ireland—it wasn’t quite Westeros, but it was still a tough town. In this 26th book of Peter Tremayne’s Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series, we see just how dangerous it was, as murder disrupts the preparations for an annual celebration that offers citizens a nine-day respite from their toil and hardship. 

Eadulf, husband to Fidelma—no longer a “sister”—has not attended the fair in many a year, and his young traveling companion Aidan is beside himself with pride as he describes the treats in store:

‘‘The fair lasts nine days in which there are athletic sporting contests of all sorts, such as archery, and demonstrations of prowess with arms, horse racing, feats of skill from professional entertainers, feasting, assemblies presided over by the King and his Chief Brehon…why, even the great fairs of Taillteann, Tlachtga and Carman pale into insignificance compared with our fair.’’

Eadulf has every expectation that he is in for a pleasant diversion as he makes his way home. This is a summer festival, and the author’s prologue tells us the events traditionally took place “in the last days of the month once called Giblean, now April, during the approach of the Bealtaine Fair at Cashel, held on the first day of Cetsoman, which is explained in Cormac’s ninth-century Glossary (Sanas Chormaic) as cét-sam-sín, the first weather of summer, which we now call May.” There’s something deeply poetic about that sentence, which isn’t even a part of the story, though it sets the stage for what follows. 

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Second Death...]

Jun 13 2016 4:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

The Devil's Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns is the 5th book in the Will Rees Mysteries series (Available June 14, 2016).

Family. You can’t live with them and you can’t kill them.

In this latest installment of Eleanor Kuhns’s long-running historical mystery series starring Revolutionary War vet Will Rees, the focus is squarely on family. Specifically on Will’s sister Caroline, who believes Will owes them a living now that her farm has been into the ground and her brain-damaged husband Sam can’t work. Will can’t help but feel guilty—Sam’s injury is the result of a blow he struck in self-defense—but at the same time, Caroline’s sense of entitlement and lack of work ethic exasperate him, especially when he finds out that every time she pays a “visit,” something goes missing. Like the odd chicken or two.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Devil's Cold Dish...]

Jul 9 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Trials of Passion by Lisa Appignanesi

Trials of Passion by Lisa Appignanesi is a dramatic narrative that details historically significant and famous crimes committed in the name of love and madness (available July 15, 2015).

Simpson, Anthony, Knox, Arias. This book is not about them, but it is. While it dissects four notorious murder trials, it’s not exactly a true crime book, but a deeper examination of the role that love and “insanity” and media have played in the way history’s sensational trials turned out.

The Simpson murder trial was called “the Trial of the Century” and it spawned Court TV, which morphed into TruTV, and it also introduced legal analyst Harvey Levin (co-founder of the site TMZ.com) to a wider audience. The media-murder connection is now so strong that it almost feels like a citizen should be able to fulfill his/her jury duty requirement by putting in a few hours in front of a television.

But not just any murder trial becomes a media sensation (some would say “circus”). Some trials are just plain sexier than others—literally. Would anyone outside of Mesa, Arizona have cared who killed salesman Travis Alexander if the woman convicted of his murder hadn’t stabbed him multiple (27-29) times, shot him in the head, and then slit his throat? But by the end of the penalty phase (Arias was sentenced to life in prison), anyone who watched the trial had an opinion about her guilt. Was she mad (in the sense of being insane) or was she simply bad? Trial watchers were not just viewers, they were participants. They were invested in the outcome.

[And this happens all the time...]

Jun 7 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Dead Assassin by Vaughn Entwistle

The Dead Assassin by Vaughn Entwhistle is the 2nd book in the Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle where the author sets out to solve an ill-fated assassination (available June 9, 2015).

I am a great fan of Barbara Hambly’s James Asher novels, urban fantasies of Victorian vampires that place the protagonist—a former spy—right in the center of mysteries that often have political implications. The Dead Assassin reminded me of Barbara Hambly’s books in the very best way.

This is the second of Vaughn Entwistle’s Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels but the first I’ve read. I needn’t have worried that I’d be hopelessly lost, however, or scrambling to get up to speed with the series. In just a few elegant paragraphs, Entwistle catches everyone up and sets the stage—not only for his mystery but also for the milieu in which that story takes place:

A murder. Something nasty. Something twisted. Something baffling and bizarre. Why else would the police have sought me out?

Such thoughts rattled through the mind of Arthur Conan Doyle as he watched Detective Blenkinsop of Scotland Yard step into the Palm Room of the Tivoli restaurant and sweep his blue- eyed gaze across the crowded tables, searching for something.

Searching for him.

Go away blast you! Not now. Not tonight!

Thanks to the fame Sherlock Holmes had bestowed upon him, Scotland Yard often consulted Conan Doyle on crimes that confounded all conventional means of detection. They dragged to his door the most difficult cases. The inexplicable ones. The conundrums.

The impossibly knotted yarn balls the clumsy fingers of the police could not unravel. Ordinarily, he was flattered to be consulted on such cases. But on this occasion, he wished he could throw a cloak of invisibility about his shoulders.

[Don't we all wish that at times?]