Sunday, February 19, 2017

Third Annual Valentines Snail Mail Revival

When you belong to the mystery and crime community of authors and readers and publishing personnel, you are set for life with great friends and great reading.  The conferences often seem like love fests as much as book fests.  We truly do love each others' company.  And, there are activities that are always bringing us together to enjoy life and have loads of fun.

Author Lisa Alber started an activity three years ago that is more fun than the law should allow.  I only joined in this year, and I can't wait to do it again next year.  Lisa is the brains behind the Annual Valentine Snail Mail Revival on Facebook (  Anyone can join in, and, well, let Lisa tell you about it in her own words:
     "For years I'd lamented the demise of the hand-written letter, and I'd find myself buying stationery and cards that I didn't use, including Valentine's cards--the cute kind kids give each other in grade school. They're adorable! Three years ago I felt a kind of desperation--I wanted to send Valentine's! I took my idea to Facebook and basically begged volunteers to exchange cards with me. The response was awesome--I was so surprised. So the annual Valentine snail mail revival was born!"

I thought it would be lovely to give Lisa credit for a great idea and post some pictures from those who participated.  So, here you are:

From the mantel of Lisa Alber

                              From the sideboard of June Lorraine Roberts

From the entry hall table of Kathy Reel

From the mailbox of Brandi Shelden

From the gathering stack of Stacy Allen

From the welcome home from Hawaii mail of Eleanor Cawood Jones

From the Mocha approved arrivals of Kirsten Hey-Yenser


Friday, February 3, 2017

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie, My Review

Garden of Lamentations is the 17th book in the Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid series by Deborah Crombie, and the many fans of this series have been waiting a bit to have questions answered brought forth by the previous book, To Dwell in Darkness.  I can tell readers that seldom has a book been so worth the wait.  Crombie writes with the agility of a high-wire performer, and the result is just as thrilling.  And, like that performer, so many things must be gotten just right and kept in balance for the success of the act.  Garden of Lamentations gets all right, and the balance of the different story threads is exquisite.  Each character, each action, each storyline is on cue.  There are indeed the awaited answers, and arriving at them is a journey through 400 pages of great suspense.   In my review of To Dwell in Darkness, I mentioned a deliberate progression of the storyline.  There is, of course, always a progression of character development and personal and work life, but the storyline progression that Crombie achieves from the cliff hanger ending of The Sound of Broken Glass through To Dwell in Darkness and into Garden of Lamentations shows a brilliance of forethought that puts Deborah Crombie in a very special class of writers.

After the tragedy at St. Pancreas Station in London in the last book, To Dwell in Darkness, Gemma and Duncan are finally settling into their new jobs, Gemma as a Detective Inspector at Brixton and Duncan as a member of the Borough of Camden’s murder investigation team at Holborn Police Station in central London.  But, before Gemma can get too comfortable at Brixton, she is requested to attach herself to Notting Hill for a case headed by DI Kerry Boatman.  A young woman, who served as a nanny at one of the affluent Notting Hill houses is found dead in a private community garden.  Reagan Keating’s death is determined to be murder, and Gemma’s connection to the dead girl is twofold.  Gemma’s son Toby takes dance classes at the same studio as Reagan Keating’s charge and one of Gemma’s best friends was using the nanny as a model.   As Gemma and Kerry get closer to the truth of this tragedy, Gemma realizes that there are other losses that will follow its resolution, and she must tread carefully with children involved and nerves unraveling. 

Duncan is at last putting some pieces together in his suspected corruption of Scotland Yard, where he worked before his boss, Denis Childs, had Duncan transferred to Holborn.  Denis had disappeared before Duncan could confront him about the transfer, but now Denis is back at Scotland Yard and requests a secret meeting with Duncan to explain his absence.  Denis is brutally attacked on his way home from their meeting, and Duncan is sure it was a calculated attempt to kill Denis, although it was unsuccessful.  Now, Duncan must determine the connection of the corruption to Childs and other officers who have died untimely deaths.  Past cases require discreet reexamination by Duncan and the only people left he feels he can trust, Doug Cullen and Melody Talbot.  Gemma is too busy with her own case, and Duncan fears for the safety of his family.  Answers will come, but at what price?    

Deborah Crombie has now written seventeen books in this series, and each one is a splendid piece of storytelling.  Crombie compares to Louise Penny in terms of developing unforgettable characters, complexly intriguing storylines, and setting as a tour de force.  It’s no surprise that readers who love one author’s series will love the other author’s series, too.  There’s a brilliance of timing in Crombie’s plots that is deeply satisfying, and her ability to keep the maze on track to its clever conclusion is masterful. 

A note about reading series.  With many long-running series, it is possible to start reading at a later point than the first book or so, and there are places in this series where that’s possible, too.  But, I highly recommend that you don’t start with Garden of Lamentations in this series.  There are issues and secrets set in motion several books back that come to resolution in this book.  It’s possible the reader could start with #16 and be okay, but I suggest that to gain the full effect of #17, the starting point would need to be #14, No Mark Upon Her.  Of course, I think that starting at the beginning of this series is the best, as every book naturally builds upon the other in terms of character development, and the characters of the Duncan and Gemma series are some of the best in my long reading history.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

February Books to Love

February 2017

Garden of Lamentations (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James #17) by Deborah Crombie (Feb. 7th)
The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel (Feb. 7th)
What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman (Feb. 7th)
Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham (Feb 7th)
Racing the Devil (Ian Rutledge) by Charles Todd (Feb. 14th)
The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Feb 14th)
The Last of August (A Charlotte Holmes Novel) by Brittany Cavallaro  (Feb. 14th)
The Dime by Kathleen Kent (Feb. 14th) (Kathleen’s mystery debut)
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (Feb. 14th)
I See You by Clare Mackintosh (Feb. 21st)
Death of a Ghost (A Hamish Macbeth Mystery) by M.C. Beaton (Feb.21st)
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (Feb. 21st)

Yes, the list of books coming out in February is spectacular.  Starting with Deborah Crombie's new Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James (#17),  February comes out of the gate with a solid winner.  Garden of Lamentations is going to knock your socks off.  Seventeen books in, and Deborah Crombie's series is still one of the best written crime/mystery series around.  Characters, setting, plot are all so perfectly orchestrated into complex, thrilling stories.  Nobody brings London alive better than Debs.

The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel is a continuation of her Louise Ricks series, of which I have recently, in the past year and a half, become a big fan.  Sara Blaedel writes with such a command of her plots and characters that it's easy to fall for this series set in Denmark, where Louise Ricks is a member of a special search team, called in when the case requires more than the ordinary attention.

If looking for an exciting YA series that happens to take on the Sherlock Holmes and James Watson oeuvre, the second book in the Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro comes out on February 14th.  The Last of August continues the tale of Sherlock's great-great-great granddaughter Charlotte and Watson's great-great-great grandson Jamie.  Although these two characters are only teens, they are deeply entrenched in their family histories and traditions.  

The Last Dime by Kathleen Kent is one I'm looking forward to, as I met Kathleen back some years ago when she was a new author promoting her book, The Heretic's Daughter.  This entry into the crime/mystery genre is sure to reflect her fine writing skills and dedication to research.  

I'm getting ready to read Clare Mackintosh's I See You, due out on the 21st, and I couldn't be more excited.  I Let You Go, Clare's sensational hit from 2016, was one of my top three favorite reads for last year, and is on my list of all-time favorites, too.  I have never seen an author do a twist like Clare Mackintosh did a twist in I Let You Go.  The unreliable narrator was perfected in that book.

And, just look at all the other major authors and books.  Reed Farrel Coleman, Mark Billingham, Charles Todd, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir!  I am trying so hard to catch up with these four authors and their books.  I've started the Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, and I can't wait to go back for more.  M.C. Beaton is an author I've read for years, and this new Hamish Macbeth will be a return to an old friend.  Christina Baker Kline's A Piece of the World has me intrigued due to its connection to Andrew Wyeth's haunting painting "Christina's World."  Kline also authored The Orphan Train, which I enjoyed.  The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan is about women staying strong in a small English village during WWII, and sounds to be a nice addition to my WWII novel reading.