Bruce Robert Coffin: Within Plain Sight Tuesday, Feb 4 2020 

Within Plain Sight, Bruce Robert Coffin’s newest Detective Bryon novel takes the best of police procedurals and adds an element of reality that others miss in his Portland-set series.

The opening scene is packs a wallop that is explained later but sets this up in a way that lets the reader know this is not your usual killing. The mutilated body of a young woman is found inside an abandoned lumber yard, and soon enough the suspect list is growing.

Det. Byron has his personal struggles but his dedication to his job is unquestionable. He’s acclimating to the first female police Chief Portland has had, stepping through the political hoops of the job he tries to avoid, when he catches a new murder case.

For Byron, this means interviews, footwork, relying on his team members to gather more information, and trying to see the pattern through the evidence. With his instincts for the job highly developed, Bryon often sees threads others miss, and this will lead him to figure out the subterfuge that’s at hand.

The city of Portland comes to life under Coffin’s talented pen. An accomplished realism painter, he applies that same technique to his writing, allowing readers will feel they’re in on the investigation. This is a series that keeps getting stronger and more satisfying. Highly recommended.
@BruceRobertCoffin

James Ziskin: Turn to Stone Wednesday, Jan 22 2020 

Please welcome award-winning author James Ziskin, to talk about his newest Ellie Stone mystery, where he takes Ellie–and us!–to Florence:

Benvenuti a Firenze! Ellie Stone goes to Italy in TURN TO STONE

I write a series of traditional mysteries set in the early 1960s, featuring plucky young newspaper reporter Ellie Stone. Since the first book, Ellie has moved around quite a bit. That’s because she’s living and working in an upstate New York mill town and I wanted to avoid Cabot Cove syndrome. You know, that disorder characterized by too many murders in a small village? Ellie has solved crimes in her adopted upstate home of New Holland, New York City, the Adirondacks, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs, and now—in the latest installment, TURN TO STONE—in Florence, Italy.

It’s September 1963. Ellie is in Florence to attend an academic symposium honoring her late father. Just as she arrives on the banks of the Arno, however, she learns that her host, Professor Alberto Bondinelli, has been fished out of the river, quite dead. Then a suspected rubella outbreak leaves ten of the symposium participants quarantined in a villa outside the city with little to do but tell stories to entertain themselves. Making the best of their confinement, the men and women spin tales and gorge themselves on fine Tuscan food and wine. And as they do, long-buried secrets about Bondinelli rise to the surface, and Ellie must figure out if one or more of her companions is capable of murder.

One of the perks of sending Ellie out on the road is that I get to write about the interesting places she visits. From Paramount Studios, Malibu, and the Hollywood Hills in CAST THE FIRST STONE, to the famed Saratoga Race Course in A STONE’S THROW, I get to accompany Ellie on her adventures. Next up is a late-summer visit to Florence. Let’s have a look at some of the sites she visits.

First, here’s a map, including a legend that identifies some of the places that appear in the book.

Number 1 is Albergo Bardi. This is a fictional hotel that I placed on the Oltrarno, the section of the city on the southern bank of the Arno river. Oltrarno, by the way, means “beyond the Arno.” You can see it identified on the map as well. The Palazzo Pitti museum and the Boboli Gardens can be found on the Oltrarno, as well as Piazzale Michelangelo, where you’ll find the best views of Florence. San Miniato al Monte is also located on the south side of the river, perched high above the city. Depending on the time of year, the basilica’s façade glows golden in the late afternoon sun. A magnificent sight to behold.

Number 2 is Ponte Vecchio. Ellie crosses this ancient bridge several times in the novel. Today, Ponte Vecchio is home to jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir shops. The famous Vassari Corridor, an enclosed passageway connecting Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, was built above the shops to provide a private thoroughfare for Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1565.

Number 3 is the Porcellino, a bronze statue of a boar in the Mercato Nuovo. This is a popular stop for tourists, who, for good luck, have rubbed the boar’s nose to a bright shine. Ellie remembers having seen the Porcellino in The Light in the Piazza with George Hamilton just a year before her visit to Florence.

Number 4 is the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. This is Florence’s town hall. Construction began in 1299. The opening ceremony of the symposium honoring Ellie’s father is held here. A large replica of Michelangelo’s David stands outside the entrance.

Number 5 is Trattoria Cammillo on Borgo San Jacopo on the Oltrarno. This is a real restaurant that has been a popular eating place since the 1940s. It’s still there today. Ellie has her first dinner in Florence there.

https://www.cntraveler.com/restaurants/florence/trattoria-cammillo

Number 6 is Ponte Santa Trinita. This is the next bridge downstream from Ponte Vecchio. It’s also the place where Professor Bondinelli’s body is first spotted in the river. Like so many other bridges and landmarks, Ponte Santa Trinita was destroyed by retreating German troops in World War II. It was rebuilt in the 1950s with many of its own stones that were retrieved from the river.

Number 7 is the Basilica of Santa Croce. Ellie recalls having visited Santa Croce in 1946 with her father when he took her to Italy for an academic tour. Dante’s empty cenotaph is located inside the church (he’s buried in Ravenna), as are the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. Ellie lights three candles here, one each for her brother, her mother, and father.

Number 8 is the Tempio Maggiore. This is the Great Synagogue of Florence. Completed in 1882, it is one of the largest synagogues in Southern Europe. Ellie meets a special witness at the temple in TURN TO STONE and gets a private tour.

Number 9 is the Church of Santa Maria Novella. The church was where the ten young people in Boccaccio’s Decameron met to begin their journey to Fiesole to escape the Black Death in 1348. This is also where Ellie and her nine companions meet to begin their trip to Fiesole.

Number 10 is the Santa Maria Novella train station, located opposite the church. Built in 1934 during the fascist Ventennio, the station is a example of Italian modernism.

Number 11 is San Domenico in Fiesole. This is near Villa Bel Soggiorno, where Ellie and her companions go for their weekend in the country.

Number 12 is Villa Bel Soggiorno itself. This is a fictional house on via Boccaccio in Fiesole, high above Florence. Ellie and her companions spend an eventful few days here, telling stories and enjoying fine Tuscan food and wine, just as the young people did in the Decameron.

Numbers 13, 14, and 15 are locations that play a role in the resolution of the story and, therefore, I will leave them to the reader to discover.

I hope you enjoy your sojourn in Florence! Buon viaggio!

TURN TO STONE launches January 21, 2020. Like all the Ellie Stone mysteries, TURN TO STONE can be read as a standalone. Readers needn’t start from the beginning of the series.

James W. Ziskin, Jim to his friends, is the author of the seven Ellie Stone mysteries. His books have been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Lefty, and Macavity awards. His fourth book, Heart of Stone, won the 2017 Anthony for Best Paperback Original and the 2017 Macavity (Sue Feder Memorial) award for Best Historical Mystery. He’s published short stories in various anthologies and in The Strand Magazine. Before he turned to writing, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. He spent fifteen years in the Hollywood postproduction industry, running large international operations in the subtitling and visual effects fields. His international experience includes two years working and studying in France, extensive time in Italy, and more than three years in India. He speaks Italian and French. Jim can be reached through his website http://www.jameswziskin.com or on Twitter @jameswziskin.

Peter Robinson: Many Rivers to Cross Tuesday, Jan 14 2020 

Peter Robinson’s 26th Alan Banks mystery, Many Rivers To Cross, brings today’s issues to the forefront in the long-running series. Robinson manages to remain timely while bringing a fresh perspective to Banks, his colleagues, and detecting.

A young Middle Eastern boy’s body is found stuffed into a garbage bin, and with no identifiers or missing persons report, it takes Banks and his team a while to find his identity.

Found on the East Side Estate, interviews with the few neighbors provide little information other than that of a car engine leaving the area of the old woman whose bin has been used as a dump site.

Then a heroin addict is found dead in his home in an estate scheduled to be torn down for redevelopment. Are the two deaths related and are drugs involved? Or are illegal immigrants and trafficking at the bottom of these deaths?

With information from other squads pointing Banks toward organized crime in his beloved Eastvale, Banks must separate the twisted threads to find out the truth.

A fascinating subplot follows a friend grappling with her past and dealing with the trauma. Add to that Banks’s musical choices, and readers will be treated to a police procedural that keeps on winning on all fronts.

MC Beaton: Beating About the Bush Sunday, Jan 12 2020 

MC Beaton brings Agatha Raisin back for a new adventure in Beating About the Bush.

The private detective’s newest case concerns an elderly woman whose body–or parts of–are found in the shrubbery on the road out of town.

Soon Agatha and her accomplice, Toni, are involved in a case of espionage at a factory. And did Auntie M mention there’s a donkey involved? And Russians?

There’s also Sir Charles Fraith back on the scene, complicating Agatha’s heartstrings.

In her 30th outing, Agatha’s irascible personality veers from harsh to witty to charming. Fans will not be disappointed, and the general consensus is that the books far outweighs the charms of the television series.

Johana Gustawsson: Blood Song Wednesday, Jan 8 2020 


Gustawsson’s third in her award-winning Roy and Castells series, Blood Song, ties in events of the heinous acts during the brutal dictatorship of Franco’s regime with a series of murders in Falkenberg, Sweden, during contemporary times.

If this seems an unlikely connection, it will be clarified as readers become involved with Scotland Yard’s newest profiler. Alienor Lindbergh’s family have died under especially horrific circumstances, murdered in the wealthy family’s Swedish home.

With her profiler mentor, Canadian Emily Roy, accompanying Alienor home for the investigation, and French true-crime writer Alexis Castells involved, the unlikely trio will soon find that there is a tie to fertility clinics as well as to the sad and terrifying brutality of the orphanages of Franco’s Spain.

As the body count continues to rise, the women use the Swedish police resources as well as their own knowledge to figure out what’s been happening. There will be side trips and tough interviews as the darkness that happened decades ago deeply shadows modern times.

Gustawsson’s Authors Note bears reading first to ground the reader in the research and reasoning in connecting the two time periods. It’s a dark and unpredictable story, with an ending that is extraordinary.

Deborah Crombie: A Bitter Feast Sunday, Dec 29 2019 

Crombie brings her married detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, outside their home turf in A Bitter Feast.

The Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent and his Inspector wife are having a lovely weekend with their three children in the Cotswolds’ Glouchestershire valley, courtesy of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s sergeant.

Melody’s palatial family home, Beck House, befits the publisher of one of London’s largest newspapers. A charity harvest luncheon will take place this weekend, catered by local chef Viv Holland, once at a Michelin-starred restaurant, now running a local pub.

But a car accident coupled with several resultant murders have a deep impact on the gathering, and lead Duncan and Gemma to lead the sleuthing, helping the locals. It’s soon apparent that there’s a strong connection to Viv’s pub, and the weekend gets getting extended as the couple, along with members of their team, try to figure out who’s doing the killing, and why.

One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s series is how deeply she researches the neighborhoods of her mysteries, and the rolling hills and golden stone homes are a delight. Vintage Crombie.

Elly Griffiths: Now You See Them Wednesday, Dec 25 2019 

Merry Christmas! And to celebrate, here’s a gift for you, a great read from Elly Griffiths:

Elly Griffiths’ Brighton series takes a leap eleven years after The Vanishing Box to 1964 in New You See Them. The swinging 60s bring readers into time of mods, rockers, and a changing culture.

An awful lot has changed in the intervening years. Edgar Stephens is now the police Superintendent, married to Emma Holmes, with three young children. His former sergeant finds being sidelined after marriage an uncomfortable place to be, even though she loves her children and husband.

Edgar’s Army pal, magician Max Mephisto, has gone Hollywood, marrying a star, with two young children of his own, after starring in a movie. His talented daughter, Ruby, took television by storm, and stars in her own British series.

They reunite in Brighton for the funeral of their mutual old friend when Edgar’s new case puts out fingers that have them all involved. A young girl from the tony girl’s school, Roedean, has gone missing. Has she really left to go to London, as evidenced by the note she left behind?

Then the connection is made between two other missing woman, all who left notes behind, and some of the Roedean girl’s clothing is found in a most unexpected place.

Exploring the dark side of Brighton in this strange new world, with change all around them, soon has each main character questioning her or her choices, as the race heats up to find the missing young women.

The period details and Griffiths’s wit add to the crackling mystery. Here she brings out Emma Holmes’ character: “Reading Film Frolics was one of Emma’s weaknesses; her photographic memory was one of her strengths.”

A highly delightful read with deeper layers to the characters than at first glance. @ellygriffiths

Vanda Symon: The Ringmaster Tuesday, Dec 24 2019 

After introducing Sam Shepherd in Overkill, the newly-minted New Zealand detective returns in The Ringmaster.

With a move to the university town of Dunedin, rooming at the home of her best friend’s aunt and uncle, Sam is a lowly detective constable with an unerring sense of human nature.

Sam clashes with her boss, who keeps her under his thumb, yet is forced to include her on the fringes of an investigation into the murder of a university researcher. The young woman’s work was the envy of her doctoral colleagues, yet Sam suspects the motive to be far more personal.

With a local circus in town, Sam connects several unsolved murders to dates of visits by this traveling circus, and soon the interviews are interminable. This is where Symon shines, as she manages to bring humanity to the various workers, and even the animals. There will be more tragedy, some that impacts Sam personally, before the stunning and unforeseen climax.

Symon brings the New Zealand setting wrapped into the story so well its stark beauty becomes another character with her vivid imagery. The series will make you want to visit the area.

But the story belongs to Sam, feeling her way in what is still very much a man’s police world here. Her wit and foibles make her a very likable and identifiable young woman, one readers will have no difficulty following.

Look for book 3 in the series, Containment, in the US in early 2020. Highly recommended. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon.

Stuart Neville: Those We Left Behind & So Say The Fallen Sunday, Dec 15 2019 

Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.

Stuart MacBride: All That’s Dead Wednesday, Dec 11 2019 

It’s been a year since the events of the last Inspector Logan McRae novel, and the detective is back at work hoping for a simple case. Assigned to Professional Standards should be an easy assignment, but nothing is ever easy for Logan.

He’s sent to follow-up and then to monitor DI King, after a reporter has sent copy he intends to publish, indicating King was once in a Scottish National terror group.

The bad press alone would be bad enough, but King has just been assigned to the disappearance of a professor known for his Scottish anti-independence stance. Nicholas Wilson isn’t at home, but the amount of blood left behind in his kitchen indicates a severe injury if not murder.

Logan will find himself seconded to the inquiry and the usual suspects become involved, from the eccentric DI Steel to his old friend Tufty. Infighting within the police appears rampant, too, with officers on both sides of the equation.

Using the political heat of the times, MacBride offers a complex and dark plot relieved by the lightness of some of his characters. Logan is the voice of reason, the sane one in the pack.

Readers familiar with the series and those new to it will find themselves swiftly submerged in the story and all of its tendrils. MacBride just keeps getting stronger with each novel. Highly recommended.

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Lee Lofland

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews