Fabulous Fiction Firsts #199

On virtually every "must read" list of 2010, Paul Doiron's The Poacher's Son*** is an outstanding debut due out in April (already on order, heavy demand is expected, and more importantly, the holds are quietly building). Early readers (I counted 6) - all agreed that this is indeed, a fabulous fiction first!

At the heart of this provocative action/mystery is a father-son relationship. Mike Bowditch, a rookie game warden is surprised to find a cryptic message on his answering machine from his estranged father Jack, a brutal drunken womanizer, legendary woodsman and game poacher. It turns out Jack is the prime suspect in a double murder involving a cop and a timber executive. As evidence and suspicion mount against Jack, Mike risks his job, his honor, and his future with the woman he loves to try to clear his father's name.

Down East editor-in-chief Doiron takes a provocative look at the ties between fathers and sons, unconditional love, and Maine's changing landscape in his outstanding debut. Fans of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett novels, and Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon novels will appreciate the wilderness setting and the suspense. Social issue-driven mystery fans might ruminate on progress versus tradition, duty versus loyalty, and expectations versus desires. The first in a projected series, readers would be pleased to know that the next adventure with Mike Bowditch is just over the horizon.

*** = Starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly

Quirky Mystery Novels starring the Quirky Spellman Family

The Spellmans are not your ordinary family, nor are they your ordinary crew of private investigators. That’s right, the Spellmans are all in the family P.I. business.

Lisa Lutz’s series starts with The Spellman Files, which introduces us to the family, and centers around the rebellious Izzy, who at the age of 28 is obsessed with Get Smart, is sneaking out of windows, assuming false identities, and performing background checks on potential boyfriends. Eventually Izzy wants out of the business (like her lawyer brother David) and her mother gives her “one last case” before she is allowed to quit. Izzy is always into trouble, and her much younger sister Rae is following in her footsteps… until she goes missing, and Izzy finds herself on the other side of the interrogation table. Will Izzy be able to call it quits?

Mom is tailing Izzy, Uncle Ray always wears his lucky shirt, and keeps going on “lost weekends” requiring the family to hunt him down and bail him out of whatever insanity he got caught up in during his black outs. His namesake, young Rae, is addicted to sugar, when she gets grounded she is denied going on stake-outs, and she won’t do anything without being paid or negotiating first. Not your typical bunch! Follow Izzy and the zany Spellman family for more adventures in the laugh out loud Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, and coming soon is The Spellmans Strike Again. (Note: The Spellman Files, won a 2008 Alex Award, given annually to ten books written for adults that appeal to young adults age 12-18.)

Kurt Wallander TV series based on the books

Henning Mankell is a Swedish all-star when it comes to writing crime fiction. His best-selling books featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander have been wooing readers for years. BBC aired a TV series featuring Sidetracked, Firewall, and One Step Behind - all based on the books of the same name- back in May. The first three are available on one DVD at AADL. Three more episodes of the Wallander TV series are set to air on BBC sometime soon. I look forward to more, as I really enjoyed these three episodes!

It’s interesting to see how Kurt Wallander is portrayed live in person, and by Kenneth Branagh no less. If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about regarding Scandinavian fiction, give the DVD a whirl. It may just encourage you to read Mankell’s books, or perhaps those by Asa Larsson, Kjell Eriksson, or Håkan Nesser- all of which are Swedish crime fiction all-stars.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy

There has been a lot of buzz the past year regarding the over-talked-about Millennium Trilogy, which includes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all bestsellers. The books seem to have shot out of the Scandinavian fiction cannon at high speed and haven’t slowed down. (Larsson was recently named 2009’s most popular author in Europe by the Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyheter.)

The most recent buzz has been the controversy regarding the deceased author’s estate, a new biography about him, the question of whether additional books exist and will they see the light of day, and finally the debate over whether or not Larsson actually wrote the books. (Larsson died suddenly just after the manuscripts were accepted by the publisher, before they were published.) The Nordic BookBlog (an excellent source of all things Nordic Lit), and other online sources have been talking for months about the author and the series. I’m not saying everything that’s being said is correct or incorrect, or that you shouldn’t read the books, it’s just something for book talkers to chew on.
LarssonLarsson

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #194

Now that Lee Child's Gone Tomorrow has snatched the top honor in the Adrenaline category of the 2010 Reading List Award, Jack Reacher fans could hardly contain themselves. While they eagerly await the next Reacher scrape, we suggest The Bricklayer.

Pseudonym for a former FBI agent, Noah Boyd's debut (and projected series opener) features Steve Vail, a former agent turned bricklayer who is recruited to solve a brilliant and deadly extortion plot by a mysterious organization called the Rubaco Pentad. One thing is clear: someone who knows a little too much about the inner workings of the Bureau is very clever —and very angry—and will kill and kill again if it means he can disgrace the FBI.

While some reviewers find fault with it being "...highly formulaic", "predictably inclusive finish with a bit of romance", most would admit that it is "pulse-pounding", and "irresistible red meat for connoisseurs of action thrillers". (150,000 first printing)

You know you are going to read it. Might as well be first on the list.

2010 Edgar Award nominees

The Mystery Writers of America proudly announce 2010’s nominees for the Edgar Award. The Edgar is given annually to the best in mystery fiction. This year’s Best Novel nominees include: The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, The Odds by Kathleen George, The Last Child by John Hart, Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston, Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, and A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn. The nominated novels offer a variety of subject matter for the avid mystery reader.

Nesbo is the only Scandinavian in the lot, and the last time a Scandinavian author won this award was 1971’s The Laughing Policeman. See here for a list of Edgar Award nominees in other categories. The winners will be announced on April 29.
MysteriesMysteries

Fabulous Fiction First #193

Tamar Myers, author of two ongoing domestic mystery series - one featuring Magdalena Yoder, an Amish-Mennonite sleuth who runs a bed and breakfast, and the other - Den of Antiquity, centers around the adventures of Abigail Timberlake, the proud owner of an antique store, now brings us a stand-alone.

The Witch Doctor's Wife* is set in tiny Belle Vue, a Congolese village in the 1950s where a prim American missionary, her cranky housekeeper, a sleazy executive, a witch doctor and a large uncut diamond all come into play. Before you know it, one of the most delightful characters is charged with murder.

Myers draws from her personal history to bring insight and local color to a specific place in time. Publishers Weekly considers this " a major breakthrough for Myers as she displays storytelling skills not seen in her previous works".

Fans of mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith , Malla Nunn, and Michael Stanley are sure to relish the opportunity to explore another intriguing area of Africa.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #192

Blacklands*** is a taut and chillingly brilliant debut by British journalist/screenwriter Belinda Bauer.

Steven Lamb, an under-sized 12 yr. old boy, armed with a shovel, could be seen digging along the wild moors of Shipcott (Somerset), oblivious to the weather. He is digging for treasure - no, not the kind fascinating to boys his age, but for his uncle’s body. 18 years ago, young Billy Peters disappeared and unhinged his family.

Dejected with the lack of results, Steven knows convicted serial killer Arnold Avery could show him where to dig. After all, he buried them. Steven writes and Arnold answers. What begins as a cat-and-mouse mind game between a naive but determined boy and a clever and sadistic pedophile turns deadly when Avery senses an opportunity to relive his crime.

"Bauer displays remarkable talent in pacing, plotting and, most important of all, getting beneath the skin of even her most repellent characters". What was originally conceived as a short story about a boy and his grandmother (from the author's note) is likely to be one of the shining stars in crime fiction this year. Shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award.

Readalikes: Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, and In the Woods by Tana French.

*** = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #189

Emily Arsenault's charming debut The Broken Teaglass* is quietly getting some much-deserved hand-selling, and I am glad.

Two young lexicographers stumble onto clues scattered among the citations file at the dictionary publishing office where they work. Written as “cits”, they reference a fictitious book called The Broken Teaglass but seem to be a confession to a decade-old unsolved murder case involving the “The Glass Girl”. What begins as curiosity for two active young minds turns strangely personal when many of the players involved clearly resemble their senior colleagues and mentors.

Clever word play, behind-the-scenes look at the dictionary publishing industry, and well-drawn characters make for a delightful, quietly humorous and off-beat mystery. The author has worked as a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster dictionary, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa.

Wordsmiths and puzzle-lovers should also try Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg.

* = Library Journal's Fall 2009 Editors' Picks

Looking for a Christmas Read?

In previous years, I've suggested popular fiction for holiday reads. This year I have decided to concentrate on two of my favorite genres: Romance and Mystery.

Recently, I buried myself in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series. The final book in this 5 part series is Wallflower Christmas. Once Lillian Bowman and the other Wallflowers are settled with beaus, it's time to find her elder brother Rafe a wife. If romance, action, mystery, and the supernatural meets your interest, try Kerrelyn Sparks' All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire part of the Love at Stake Series. If short stories are your thing try this Christmas compilation: Wish List with stories by Lisa Kleypas, Lynsay Sands, Claudia Dain, and Lisa Cach.

For good Christmas mystery reads try Deck the Halls and it's sequel He Sees You When Your Sleeping co-written by bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. Regan Reilly, Carol Higgins Clark's dynamic young sleuth, meets Alvirah Meehan, Mary Higgins Clark's famous lottery-winning amateur detective, and both embark on a desperate search for Regan's kidnapped father and then reassemble in the sequel to help a family reunite during the holidays. Additionally, there is the short story collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe with tales by talented authors such as Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn.

For more suggestions of Romance, Mystery, as well as other Fiction Christmas reads, Check out: http://www.overbooked.org/booklists/subjects/themes/christmas.html

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