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Showing posts by: Terrie Farley Moran click to see Terrie Farley Moran's profile
Oct 30 2013 9:00am

The Master of the Who-Dunnit: Dr. Seuss

Dr. SeussTheodor Seuss Geisel was born in Massachusetts in 1904. He attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he spent much of his time working on the school humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern. After Dartmouth, Ted went to Oxford University in England. While he was at Oxford, he realized that he wanted to support himself with the funny drawings he loved to sketch.

After Oxford, he moved back to his parent’s home in Massachusetts and spent all his time drawing and submitting cartoons to various markets. Finally, in 1927, the Saturday Evening Post bought a cartoon for $25. He signed the cartoon “Seuss.” That sale was enough to encourage Ted to move to New York City and try to get a job as an illustrator. He got a job at a humor magazine named Judge. Then he worked in advertising. All along he drew quirky animals and dreamed of making a living by telling their stories.

[He would draw them in a box, with a see where this is going]

Oct 27 2013 5:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange by Isis Crawford

A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange, a Mystery with Recipes, by Isis CrawfordA Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange by Isis Crawford is the 9th in the Mystery with Recipes holiday-themed cozy series about sisters and catering partners Bernie and Libby Simmons (available October 29, 2013).

In this highly entertaining series, sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons run a catering company, and no matter how hard they try to just run the business and get the food cooked to perfection, they can’t avoid getting involved in chaos and murder.

With Christmas coming, their very busiest season, the sisters are not inclined to judge a contest for the television show Baking for Life. But somehow, they wind up agreeing to select the best Christmas cookie from among the entries submitted by the members of the Christmas Cookie Club Exchange, a group of very competitive women who don’t like each other very much.

Certain that her fabulous Millie’s Majestic Meltaways are going to win the competition, eighty-two year old Millie Piedmont is in high spirits as she drives to the television studio, even though she just received an upsetting phone call. Then something that looks like a deer but doesn’t move, blocks the road and, trying to avoid hitting it, Millie plows into a tree.

[If only the deer had melted away...]

Sep 3 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh PerryA Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry, the pen name of author Toni L.P. Kelner, is the first in a humorous new series featuring an adjunct professor and mom and her friend since childhood, the family skeleton Sid (available September 3, 2013).

Mom/adjunct professor, Georgia Thackery, has taken every job offered to her on the adjunct professor circuit, and that requires a lot of moving around for her and her teenaged daughter Madison. Now she’s been offered a job at McQuaid College where both of her tenured professor parents teach. Since her parents are presently on sabbatical, Georgia and Madison are moving into Georgia’s family home, which also happens to be Sid’s permanent residence.

Georgia is delighted to once again be able to spend lots of time with her old friend, although she is irritated by the fact that he continues to refuse to meet Madison. This will give you some idea of the give and take of their friendship.

Hugging Sid is an unusual sensation. The closest thing I’ve ever felt to it was wrapping my arms around a really dried-out Christmas tree so I could lug it out to the street. Sid didn’t have that nice a scent, but then again, he didn’t leave an annoying trail of pine needles either.

“Did you lock the front door in case Madison comes back early?” Sid asked.

[Wait, the skeleton in the family...talks?!...]

Aug 16 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Holy Orders by Benjamin Black

Holy Orders, a Quirke novel by Benjamin BlackHoly Orders by Benjamin Black is the sixth novel featuring Dublin's pathologist Quirke in mid-century Ireland (available August 20, 2013).

No one even pretends that it’s a secret. Irish mystery writer Benjamin Black is the pen name of multi-award winning literary writer, John Banville. While Banville is highly acclaimed for his literary work and won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for his novel, The Sea, he decided to try his hand at writing genre fiction and he found that he enjoyed it. As Benjamin Black, Banville writes a series of mystery novels featuring Quirke (we never learn his given name), a pathologist in 1950s Dublin, Ireland, a time and a place well dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, which certainly had more power than the government. And it was a time when Irish Travelers were still called Tinkers.

In Holy Orders, the sixth novel in the series,Quirke finds that a murdered corpse brought to his pathology table is a young man named Jimmy Minor, who Quirke knows is a close and dear friend of Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe. Since Quirke and Phoebe have a relationship that is frequently tense, Quirke tries to get closer to his daughter by finding out why Jimmy was killed and who committed the crime.

[The things we do for love...]

Aug 10 2013 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: Compound Murder by Bill Crider

Compound Murder by Anthony Award-winning author Bill Crider is the 20th in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series about Blacklin County, Texas (available August 13, 2013).

So if you thought the best thing I’m going to tell you right now is there is a brand spanking new book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series by Bill Crider, you are only partly right. In and of itself, that news is spectacular enough to have me setting a pitcher of iced tea on the table by my recliner, so I don’t have to run to the kitchen for refills. But a few weeks ago, I came across an article in the venerable New York Times called “Orphans, Drug Wars and Other Mysteries” by Christopher Kelly. Lo and behold, while Kelly is praising the state of Texas for being fertile ground for fiction landscapes of every description, he points to fewer than ten mystery writers who have “an appreciation for the outsize personality of the state.”

And who do you think is on that list? TA DA! None other than Bill Crider and his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. I am so happy to see Bill and Dan get the recognition they deserve, and I also want to give you a tiny peek at the latest book in this highly entertaining series.

Compound Murder actually begins with a minor crime of sorts in the Beauty Shack, which was the very location of the murder we discover in the first pages of the recent Sheriff Dan book, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen. To get a clear sense of how interaction between Sheriff Dan and his dispatcher, Hack, can sometimes go, let’s listen in to this conversation:

[Continue eavesdropping here...]

Jul 6 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: The Cat Sitter’s Cradle by Blaize & John Clement

The Cat Sitter's Cradle by Blaize and John ClementThe Cat Sitter's Cradle by Blaize & John Clement is the eighth in the cozy mystery series featuring Florida pet sitter, Dixie Hemingway (available July 9, 2013).

Dixie Hemingway (no relation to you-know-who) is back! Dixie is a cat sitter on the gorgeous but sleepy Florida barrier island of Siesta Key. It was not so long ago that we talked about Dixie’s adventures in The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas. Now here she is in book number eight of the series, The Cat Sitter’s Cradle, written by Blaize and John Clement. And in case you’ve forgotten, I’ll let Dixie tell you exactly how she came to be a pet sitter who specializes in cats, but does sit the occasional dog, or bird or hamster.

Until about five years ago, I risked my life every day as a deputy sheriff, but after what you might call a bump in the road of life, I went a little nuts. Well, a lot nuts. The sheriff’s department and I came to a mutual agreement: I was too messed up to wear a sheriff ’s badge or carry a gun, and it was probably a good idea for me to take a break from law enforcement. That’s when I started my own pet-sitting business. Now that I’m somewhat socially acceptable again, I’m okay around guns, but I prefer working with animals to humans. Animals don’t let you down, and they’re always there when you need them.

[And sometimes, they need us right back...]

Jun 27 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Midnight by Kevin Egan

Midnight by Kevin EganMidnight by Kevin Egan is a dark legal thriller about two people desperate for a way out (available July 2, 2013).

Midnight written by Kevin Egan is a top notch suspense novel based on a unique premise. In the New York State Court System, there is a regulation that a judge’s staff, i.e., both the secretary and the law clerk, may keep their jobs until the end of the calendar year should the judge they work for die at anytime during the year.

And can you imagine the temptation if the judge dies suddenly in his chambers on New Year’s Eve and his staff, each coping with severe financial struggles, are the only two people who know he is dead?

[Ah delicious, criminally good temptaion...]

Jun 14 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Death Rides Again by Janice Hamrick

Death Rides Again by Janice HamrickDeath Rides Again by Janice Hamrick is the third traditional mystery in the Jocelyn Shore series (available June 18, 2013).

Death Rides Again is the third book in the highly acclaimed series featuring school teacher Jocelyn Shore. But before I tell you all about it, I want to remind you that Janice Hamrick won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition for Death on Tour in which the reader meets Jocelyn for the first time while she is on vacation in Egypt.

And it was just about this time last year I told you all about Jocelyn coming home and settling in to the opening of a new school year filled with chaos and murder. Death Makes the Cut is a terrific book and you can read about it right here.

I ended that post by saying I hoped we’d have another Jocelyn Shore novel soon, and finally (I was getting tired of waiting) Death Rides Again is here.

[But was it worth the wait?...]

May 16 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Smarty Bones by Carolyn Haines

Smarty Bones by Carolyn Haines is lucky number thirteen in the Sarah Booth Delaney humorous private eye series (available May 21, 2013).

 It wasn’t long ago that I was telling you how much I enjoyed reading the raucously entertaining Bonefire of the Vanities, the twelfth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney series written by Carolyn Haines. I will admit it can give the reader pause when a book is so much fun to read but is number twelve of a series. Will number thirteen prove to be unlucky or will the author move the story and characters along uproariously and at warp speed? But hey, this is Carolyn Haines and Sarah Booth Delaney we’re talking about. And don’t forget Sarah Booth’s best friend and partner in her private investigation business, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond. Not to mention Jitty, the resident Civil War-era ghost who lives at Sarah Booth’s ancestral home, Dalia House.

Fascinating as these ladies may be, I couldn’t imagine that the author would add the Lady in Red to the mix. While on a book tour, Carolyn Haines came across the Lady in Red, a corpse that was approximately one hundred years old when it was found buried in a Mississippi cemetery in 1969. The lady’s body had been preserved in alcohol and the rumors about her past were filled with mystery and legend. What better jumping off point for a paranormal, southern mystery?

[Mysterious women and others...]

Apr 11 2013 8:30am

Dashiell Hammett: One of the Most Influential American Writers of His Time

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born in Maryland in 1894. In his early teens, he left school and worked at various jobs. Finally at age twenty-one he took a job as an operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

After World War I began, Hammett signed up to serve in the Motor Ambulance Service, but during the war he contracted tuberculosis, an illness that was to give him problems for the rest of his life. While he was undergoing treatment he met Josephine Dolan, a nurse. They married and had two children. The marriage unraveled fairly quickly due to Hammett’s alcohol abuse and womanizing.

After Hammett’s release from the Army, he went back to his job at Pinkerton. The work he did clearly stirred his imagination. Popular mystery fiction in the early 1920s was reasonably genteel and the solution to a crime was reached through the intellectual endeavors of the sleuth. Hammett developed a much grittier type of story, engendering what is now commonly known as “hard-boiled” crime fiction.

[How do you want your fiction? Hard-boiled please...]

Mar 28 2013 8:30am

What Are the Grandchildren Reading?: A Kids’ Review of Two Graphic Novels

The best way to review a children’s book is to take it to the kids themselves! Blogger Terrie Farley Moran asked her grandchildren to review the graphic novels Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew: Secret Sand Sleuths by Sarah Kinney and Stan Goldberg, and The Secret of Whale Island by Thea Stilton. Here’s what they had to say (with a little help from their grandma).

I can easily trace my own love of reading to a batch of secondhand comic books my father brought home one day when I was in third grade. Beetle Bailey, Little Lulu, Nancy and Sluggo and, of course, everything Archie.

Finding “the book” that makes reading fun is like giving the child the key to a magic world. So when I had the opportunity to ask two of my granddaughters to each read a book and share what they thought, I jumped at the chance. I was curious to see how they would react to reading a book and telling us about it.

Madeline read Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew: Secret Sand Sleuths a graphic novel by Sarah Kinney and Stan Goldberg based on the series by Carolyn Keene. Here is what Madeline had to say:

[Let”s hear it...]

Feb 25 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Black Sheep by CJ Lyons

Black Sheep by CJ Lyons is the sequel to Blind Faith featuring FBI agent Caitlyn Tierney (available February 26, 2013).

As a thriller writer, CJ Lyons has a stellar reputation, but I must confess that I was never a loyal follower—until now. Oh sure, I’d heard lots of noise among readers about how they simply could not put down an Angels of Mercy medical thriller or how they got lost in one of the sexy and forceful Shadow Ops books and could barely come up for air, but I tend to prefer cozies and just didn’t think CJ Lyons wrote her stories with me in mind.

So I bypassed Blind Faith, the first book in Lyons’s new series featuring FBI Agent Caitlyn Tierney, but when I heard about the second book, Black Sheep, the plotline intrigued me and I decided it was time to give CJ Lyons a try.

[Two keys to life: an open mind and an open book...]

Jan 28 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Brooklyn Bones by Triss Stein

Brooklyn Bones by Triss Stein is a traditional mystery involving a crime from the 1960s (available February 5, 2013).

I am a huge mystery fan, no surprise there, and I especially love mysteries that have their roots in the past. Triss Stein has a real knack for melding the present and the past in her writing. How am I so sure? Well, a few years ago I edited an anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, and it included a wonderful short story that tied together odd bits of Brooklyn history as time weaved its way in and out of one man’s life. Because that story, “The Greenmarket Violinist,” was written by Triss Stein, I was anxious to see how Triss would present Brooklyn to us in her new novel, Brooklyn Bones.

Once again the protagonist is history Ph.D. candidate Erica Donato who is also an intern at a small Brooklyn museum. In the course of remodeling her “edge of Park Slope” home, Erica’s biking buddy/contractor friend Joe and Erica’s daughter, fifteen-year-old Chris have found a skeleton. When Erica hopes out loud that the bones are animal, Joe quickly points her to the hole that “Chris had smashed in the wall.”

[What’s behind the bricks?]

Jan 21 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Miss Dimple Suspects by Mignon F. Ballard

Miss Dimple Suspects by Mignon F. Ballard is the third book in the traditional mystery series set in Georgia during World War II (available January 22, 2013).

Author Mignon F. Ballard has written nearly twenty books, including a number of stand-alones, seven books in the highly entertaining Augusta Goodnight series and, to my great joy, a third book in the Miss Dimple Kilpatrick series set in the small town of Elderberry, Georgia, during World War II.

Just last year I talked about how much I loved the second book, Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause. Well here’s the good news: book number three, Miss Dimple Suspects, is another delightful and engaging story.

Miss Dimple is part of a search party looking for a little girl named Peggy Ashcroft. The situation reminds Miss Dimple of another little girl who went missing many years before, one she hasn’t thought of in a long time. Dimple is separated from the other searchers and it is dark when she finds the sick and feverish child and is not sure how the two of them can get down the hillside and safely back to town.

[The search might be over, but the mystery is about to begin!]

Dec 21 2012 12:00pm

Thank You, Father Andrew M. Greeley

Recently I wrote about Roman Catholic priests and nuns who entertain us as amateur sleuths. And I freely admitted that my favorite clergy/sleuth of all fictiondom is Father John Blackwood Ryan, of “Call Me Blackie” fame. I have always believed that Blackie Ryan is the alter ego of his creator, Roman Catholic priest and sociologist, Father Andrew M. Greeley.

What’s so special about Greeley? I’m glad you asked. Andrew Greeley was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1954. While working as an associate pastor (parish priest), he continued his education and received his PhD in sociology in 1962. A prolific writer, Greeley published nonfiction books regularly while also writing columns for secular and religious newspapers on topics similar to the subjects of his books: religion, ethnicity, modern American culture, and, yes, sex.

[And then came the novels...]

Dec 7 2012 11:30am

Trespass (Not) Against Us: Clerical Sleuths, Part 3

Recently I talked about some of the clergy sleuths, I’ve read avidly through the years, and since Criminal Element folks are always ready to share, the comments of that post introduced some new-to-me clergy who are inclined to solve mysteries. At the time I said I’d come back and talk about some of my favorite Roman Catholic priests and nuns who solve murders as a sideline, so here I am.

In her wonderful post Kerry Hammond talks about many a superstar clergy sleuth, including Father Dowling. Still, I feel compelled to add a few words of my own about the highly entertaining priest/sleuth created by Ralph M. McInerny.

[And we say Amen to that!]

Nov 16 2012 9:30am

So Help Me God: Clergy as Amateur Sleuths

The Father Brown Mysteries by G. K. ChestertonA little more than a year ago, I talked about the enduring Father Brown mystery stories by G.K. Chesterton. I was delighted so many Criminal Element readers admitted that they, too, were lifelong fans.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about how fictional clergy/spiritual leaders couple their ecclesiastic training with their personal curiosity to solve the occasional crime that just happens to pop up.

When written, the Father Brown stories were contemporary but the first story, “The Blue Cross,” was published more than one hundred years ago, so now they have a great appeal to fans of historical mysteries. The same can be said for the Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremayne. Set in the 7th century, most of the novels take place in Ireland, with Fidelma making some journeys to other parts of Western Europe. Tremayne uses Fidelma’s role as both a lawyer and a religious figure to contrast the relatively unrestricted position of women in Irish society with the status of women in other European societies of the time.

[Enlighten us further!]

Oct 19 2012 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. Duncan

A Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. DuncanA Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. Duncan is the fourth book in the Penny Brannigan traditional mystery series (available October 30, 2012).

Was it just a year ago that I was fortunate enough to read Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third book in the Penny Brannigan series A Killer’s Christmas in Wales?

That was when I discovered that in 2008  Ms. Duncan became the first Canadian writer to win the St. Martins/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. The winning book, The Cold Light of Mourning, is the first of the Penny Brannigan books set in Llanelen, Wales. I must confess that I liked Penny right away. She is a strong and independent woman who has joined with business partner Victoria Hopkirk to renovate a decrepit old building and turn it into a thriving business as a very modern spa catering to the women of the village.

[That doesn’t sound so bad...]

Oct 1 2012 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Rest for the Wicked by Ellen Hart

Rest for the Wicked by Ellen HartRest for the Wicked by Ellen Hart is the twentieth Jane Lawless, restaurateur and Private Eye traditional mystery (available October 2, 2012).

I have been reading books written by Ellen Hart for—can it be?—twenty years. I started off in the early nineties when I came across a copy of Hallowed Murder on a library shelf. Written in classic fair-play murder mystery style, the novel introduced Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless and her irrepressible sidekick Cordelia Thorn. I so enjoyed their company that each year I mark my calendar, waiting for their next adventure. Along the way, Ms. Hart introduced us to another series filled with bright and energetic Minnesota residents beginning in 1994 with her first Sophie Greenway novel, This Little Piggy Went to Murder.

Apparently the years have flown and here in my hand is the twentieth Jane Lawless mystery, Rest for the Wicked. Although she still owns two restaurants, Jane has entered into a formal business partnership with Private Detective Alf Nolan and has a brand new Private Investigator’s license all her own. She’s feeling decidedly edgy and thinks the professional change will help her refocus.

[No rest for anyone here . . .]

Aug 17 2012 1:00pm

Florida, It’s A Mystery!

The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper by John D. MacDonaldFirst, I need to tell you that John D. MacDonald has left us a huge legacy of pulp, hardboiled fiction, and thrillers written in both novel and short story form. The scope of his work is nothing short of amazing. (You did know that Cape Fear was based on his novel The Executioners, right?)

But I think MacDonald is most widely remembered as the author who introduced Florida in all its vivid flashes of color to millions of readers when he created Travis McGee, a cool guy, who lived on an even cooler boat, The Busted Flush. The twenty-one Travis McGee novels ran the gamut of hues from The Deep Blue Goodbye (1964) to The Lonely Silver Rain (1985).

Florida is a fabulous location for any and all fiction, but especially for crime fiction. The state has a reputation for reflecting “summer time and the living is easy” twelve months a year. And while it attracts earnest citizens looking for a better life, it also attracts grifters, con artists, and ne’er-do-wells bent on creating their own brand of the high life by fleecing, threatening, or even killing the earnest citizens. And there was Travis McGee, ready and more than able, to help the earnest citizen and take out the bad guys.

[Only in Florida . . .]