Fabulous Fiction Firsts #163

This "wickedly brilliant" cozy by Canadian journalist Alan Bradley won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter's Association.

Set in a quaint English village, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie* features one of the most engaging amateur sleuths since Harriet the Spy.

11 year-old Flavia de Luce, a walking encyclopedia of the practical use of poison, is thrilled to find a corpse in the cucumber patch of the family's crumbling manor. A missing piece of custard pie, a dead snipe bearing a priceless "gift" on the door step, a retired librarian with a menacing secret and a shell-shocked WWII soldier are among her suspects but the bumbling police arrest her father for the crime. It is all up to Flavia to save the day.

Pure delight. Sequel likely, and most eagerly anticipated.

* = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #159

This delightful debut by Canadian author Elizabeth J. Duncan won the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.

In The Cold Light of Mourning*, Penny Brannigan, a Canadian expat, has made the Village of Llanelen home for decades, having been seduced but the breathtaking view of this part of the Welsh countryside as a young backpacker. Now manicurist and owner of the Happy Hands Nail Care shop, she has become an integral fabric of the community. When a young bride goes missing after her nail appointment on her wedding day, Penny gets involved.

Her budding romance with the local police inspector, colorful village personalities, quiet domestic routines and the idyllic setting will engage readers longing for a new voice in contemporary cozies. Cold will please fans of fellow Canadian Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, and brings to mind Joan Hess's Maggody series as well as the Kate Austen novels by Jonnie Jacobs, and the Ruby Crane series, set in western Michigan by Jo Dereske.

* = Starred Review

Mystery Author Night at AADL

Elmore LeonardElmore Leonard

Famed mystery authors Elmore Leonard and son Peter Leonard will make a special appearance at the Downtown Library on Thursday, May 28 at 7 PM. The format of this event is especially unique: Elmore and Peter will be interviewed by award-winning writer Loren Estleman. After a discussion of their careers and new books, the authors will be available for signing, and books will be for sale courtesy of Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop, cosponsors of this event.

In his newest mystery, Road Dogs, Elmore Leonard brings back three of his favorite characters: Jack Foley from Out of Sight, Cundo Rey from LaBrava, and Dawn Navarro from Riding the Rap. Road Dogs will be released May 12, just two weeks before this event.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Precious Romotswe may be the only lady detective in Botswana but that's not why she's No. 1. Jill Scott (Precious Romotswe) stars in the film based on the series by Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

The show starts on Sunday March 29th on HBO.

Book 1: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Book 2: Tears of the Giraffe
Book 3: Morality for Beautiful Girls
Book 4: The Kalahari Typing School For Men
Book 5: The Full Cupboard of Life
Book 6: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Book 7: Blue Shoes and Happiness
Book 8: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Book 9: The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Book 10: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Alexander McCall Smith has written his first online novel, Corduroy Mansions.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #154

A Beautiful Place to Die* is an accomplished debut in a projected mystery series by Malla Nunn.

Award-winning filmmaker Nunn sets this atmospheric police procedural in her native South Africa. Det. Sgt. Emmanuel Cooper is called to investigate the murder of an Afrikaner police captain in Jacob's Rest, a small border town with Mozambique.

1952 saw the gathering force of apartheid. New government decrees further etched the color divide. Racial tension, already ingrained, festered with secrets and lies both sordid and honorable. Cooper, being an outsider and under the oppressive supervision of the farcical government agents, must tread lightly to get at the truth.

Mystery readers might remember fondly James McClure's early apartheid procedurals, mostly out-of-print. For another current series set in South Africa, try Salamander Cotton by Richard Kunzmann.

Fans of the PBS MYSTERY! program should also check out the cinematic 1999 miniseries Heat of the Sun, about a former Scotland Yarder transplanted to 1930s Nairobi, filmed entirely on location.

* = Starred Review

Japanese translated books

Japan America flagsJapan America flags

Thanks to a grant through Toyota Motor Corporation to the American Library Association, the Ann Arbor Public Library is a proud recipient of Japanese books translated into English. The books range from adult fiction, nonfiction, and manga. We are very excited to offer these quality books to our patrons to check out. Here is a sampling of the adult fiction titles available:

Ashes by Kenzo Kitakata
Birthday by Koji Suzuki
Blade of the courtesans by Keiichiro Ryu
Boy by Takeshi Kitano
Cage by Kenzō Kitakata
Crimson labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi
May in the valley of the rainbow by Yoichi Funado
Naoko by Keigo Higashino
Now you're one of us by Asa Nonami (a mystery)
Outlet by Randy Taguchi
Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena
Poison ape by Arimasa Osawa (a mystery)
Promenade of the gods by Koji Suzuki
A rabbit's eyes by Kenjiro Haitani
Sayonara, gangsters by Genichiro

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #151

The Tourist*, a new stand-alone from Edgar-finalist Olen Steinhauer, is a spy-thriller being compared by critics to the genre classics of John leCarre, Graham Greene and Len Deighton.

Milo Weaver used to be a “tourist” - A CIA undercover agent with no home, no identity. Now retired, he has a 9-5 desk job at the Company’s New York office, a family and a brownstone in Brooklyn. However, when the arrest of a long-sought-after assassin sets off an investigation into one of Milo’s old cases, he has no choice but to go back undercover and to find out who’s pulling the strings.

This "superbly accomplished", "richly nuanced" tale introduces to Steinhauer readers (of his excellent Eastern European quintet) a new hero in Weaver - who is smart but sometimes not smart enough and who toils at a soul-crushing job utterly alone. Film rights sold to George Clooney.

* = Starred reviews

The Sir John Fielding Mysteries

If you are a reader of historical mysteries, especially if there is a nice long series of them, the eleven Sir John Fielding Mysteries, by Bruce Alexander, could be for you. In Georgian London (that is, when mad King George was sending redcoats to North America to discipline those headstrong colonialists), Sir John Fielding is the magistrate in Covent Garden. Based on a true character, Sir John was known as the “Beak of Bow Street” and was responsible for organizing the first-ever police force, known as the Bow Street Runners. With a reputation as an uncompromising, exacting man of the law, he was also one of the first to be considered fair and impartial when hearing cases involving the local riff-raff from the streets of London.

I have only read the first two, and so can’t vouch for them all, but these were perfect. Told by Sir John’s young ward, Jeremy Proctor, a foundling with a sharper-than-average mind and keen powers of observation, who becomes Sir John’s helper and co-conspirator in unraveling the dastardly crimes of Covent Garden. Oh, did I mention that Sir John was blind? Stories are told about how he could recognize 2000 local criminals by their voices alone. His astute and probing mind, his unfailing memory and keen senses, prove the undoing of the criminal element in old-town London.

Alexander sets just the right mood in foggy London with visits to the infamous Newgate Prison, "Bedlam" Hospital and Drury Lane Theatre; colorful and memorable Dickensian-style characters, including a few real ones like Samuel Johnson and Ben Franklin; really twisty plots which are hard to second guess; and a very well-crafted, lilting narrative which mimics eighteenth-century speech, but is utterly readable.

Be sure to begin with the first, Blind Justice. For a list of all the titles in the series, in order, look here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #148

Three-time Edgar Award winner Joe Gores' Spade & Archer is the only authorized (by Dashiell Hammett's daughter) prequel to The Maltese Falcon (1930).

When Sam Spade gets drawn into the Maltese Falcon case, we know what to expect -- straight talk, hard questions, no favors, and no way for anyone to get underneath the protective shell he wears like a second skin. We know that Spade is sleeping with his late partner Archer’s wife, Iva. What we don’t know is how Spade becomes who he is. Spade & Archer completes the picture, beginning in 1921 when Spade sets up his own agency in San Francisco.

"The author (who lives in Marin County in the Bay Area) not only does a brilliant job of bringing Prohibition-era San Francisco to life with street-level detail and a native's perspective, but also captures Hammett's spare style and tone perfectly".

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #144

Norman Green's latest The Last Gig* is the first in a projected series featuring teen shamus Al(essandra) Martillo - a Puerto Rican runaway from Bronx.

Tough and street-smart, Al might have taken on more than she had bargained for when hired by Mickey Caughlan, head of a local Irish mob, to uncover the traitor within.

While the storyline might have been rather straightforward, it is Al who steals the show - "She fights like a Valkyrie, loves hard, runs scared at times, stand tall when it matter, is sexy, endearing and just about the freshest heroine to enhance genre fiction in forever" ~Kirkus. Now that's sounds like a winner to me!

* = Starred Reviews

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