Fabulous Fiction Firsts #293 (Revised)

30,000 ft. over the Atlantic, the movies are mindless and sleep eludes you. Your best hope is a good book and this cozy mystery debut did not disappoint.

East bound, I was delighted with Wicked Autumn: a Max Tudor novel * by G. M. Malliet. It brings to mind the Three Pines Series by Louise Penny, with a idyllic English village setting and the usual "tangled alliances and animosities" found in small, insular communities. When the ever-unpleasant and bossy Wanda Batton-Smythe (think Hyacinth Bucket for those of you who like your humor British) is found dead at the Harvest Fayre, the suspects are many. Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent and the newly installed village vicar, finds himself quickly involved in the police investigation.

Winner of the 2008 Agatha Award for Death of a Cozy Writer (part of the St. Just Series) "G.M. Malliet serves up an irresistible English village—deliciously skewered—a flawed but likeable protagonist, and a brilliantly modern version of the traditional drawing room mystery" in this first of a projected cozy series. The sleuthing clergy frame would appeal to fans of the Clare Ferguson series by Julia Spencer-Fleming.

News Alert!!!! (November 1st)

Also just released is Canadian C.C. Benison's Twelve Drummers Drumming *, the first in a cozy series featuring the sleuthing Father Christmas (a.k.a. The Reverend Tom Christmas) - dedicated village (think St. Mary Mead) vicar, a retired magician (who still has a trick or two up his sleeves), and a single father mourning a recent loss.

Tight plotting, strong characterization, enchanting setting, "A crime novel that Agatha Christie might have been justly proud to claim as her own". ~ Margaret Maron

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #294

I saved this one for the Schiphol to DTW flight, knowing that I will need something gripping to ward off the fatigue. Most appropriately, the opening scene is set in Amsterdam.

All Cry Chaos* is the first in a proposed series introducing an aging, ailing Interpol agent Henri Poincare. American (Harvard) James Fenster, a gifted and eccentric mathematician is assassinated on the eve of a World Trade Organization meeting where he is to present a revolutionary theory. The hit is as elegant as it is bizarre. Crisscrossing the Atlantic in search of answers and more importantly, a very clever killer, Poincare meets up with more puzzles than leads. Meanwhile, a vicious war criminal with scores to settle is exacting revenge on Poincare's family in his absence.

A "masterful and gripping tale," weaving fractals and chaos theory into an international mystery that also confronts great moral and theological questions. " 'Thoughtful, beautifully written."

This accomplished debut by Leonard Rosen, an established textbook author will appeal to fans of cerebral and mathematical mysteries such as Arturo Sangalli's Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery and Michael Gregorio's Critique of Criminal Reason. Readers who favor cloak-and-dagger, globe-trotting intrigue with a flawed protagonist a bit past his prime would be reminded of recent titles of John LeCarre and Olen Steinhauer where the stake is high and the personal costs, higher.

* = starred review

Ann Arbor District Library Staff Picks Mysteries

The Staff Picks shelf is downtown on the first floor. Fresh for October, here are a few selections that the mystery loving Ann Arbor District Library staff is recommending:

R. Austin Freeman was a British mystery writer unjustly overshadowed by his contemporary Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Don’t let that deter you from reading The Stoneware Monkey And The Penrose Mystery. His main character and crime solver Dr. Thorndyke is at least as interesting and cunning as Sherlock Holmes, just not as well-known. Freeman was a physician in the Colonial Service and served in Africa where he undoubtedly led an interesting life that led to a rich imagination.

John Burdett’s Bangkok Haunts is the 3rd outing with Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep and is well-written and fast-paced. “This is surreal Thailand where a devout Buddhist cop, speaking slick Chandler-eze, avenges the death of his partner and soul brother.“ Bangkok, man? "Great city, lousy traffic." – Guardian UK

City of Lost Girls is the story of Dublin detective Ed Loy once again trying to lay his demons to rest (think drink, etc.) by solving the murders of two young cast members gone missing while making a film in Dublin. Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Declan Hughes is for "Readers who enjoy their mysteries gritty, bitter and decidedly dark will undoubtedly enjoy this literary pint of extra stout noir." – Chicago Tribune

Heartwood by James Lee Burke takes place in the Texas Hill Country with a local criminal kingpin who has a wife that our hero, Billy Bob, is in love with. “Burke is a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky, raunchy dialogue that’s a delight.” – Elmore Leonard

September's Books to Film

Drive, an action-packed speed thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night.
When he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld, he find himself shifting gears and going on the offense. Based on the mystery novel Drive by James Sallis (also available in audio).

I Don’t Know How She Does It is based on the novel by Allison Pearson. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, whose daily life is a non-stop balancing act - between her job and family. Complicating matters is Kate's charming new business associate Jack (Pierce Brosnan), who begins to prove an unexpected source of temptation.

Straw Dogs is based on The Siege of Trencher's Farm-Straw Dogs by British writer Gordon Williams. In this re-make of a 1971 film, David and Amy Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South to prepare the family home for sale after her father's death. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts re-emerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie, leading to a violent confrontation.

Killer Elite is based on a shocking true story that pits two of the world's most elite operatives --- Danny, an ex-special ops agent, and Hunter, his longtime mentor --- against the cunning leader of a secret military society. Originally published as The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.

Michael Lewis's Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game (also in audio) is now adapted in a film starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane - the Oakland A’s general manager who reinvents his team to outsmart the richer teams by signing undervalued players considered flawed but who have a knack for winning games.

What’s Your Number? is based on the novel 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak. When Delilah Darling reads a survey revealing that most people have 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetime, she begins to feel like a tramp. She’s slept with 19 men so far --- almost twice the national average. Unwilling to up her number, but also unable to imagine a life of celibacy, Delilah tracks down every man she’s ever slept with in a last-ditch effort to make it work with one of them.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #287

British television writer/producer/director Simon Toyne's Sanctus * * * opens with a heart-pounding scene high above Ruin, a city in Turkey, in which a monk climbs to the top of a mountain called the Citadel and jumps off, carrying with him an ancient secret that could shatter the foundations of the Christian Church.

American newspaper reporter Liv Adamsen learns that her phone number, carved into a small leather strap, has been found inside the monk's stomach. All signs point to the possibility that this might be her brother who went missing years ago. Trying to unravel the mystery of his death might prove too dangerous for Liv. But nothing and no one could hold her back.

This well-researched, high-concept thriller of grand conspiracies is the first in a projected trilogy. Strong female character and non-stop action make this a must-read of the fall publishing season. Foreign rights sold in 27 countries, 100,000-copy first printing.

* * * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #285 (August's Nordic Crime Fiction)

This week Denmark's best-selling crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen makes his U.S. debut with this first novel in the Glass Key Award-winning Department Q series, The Keeper of Lost Causes * * * (translated by Lisa Hartford), called "superlative" and "twisty" by reviewers.

After a near-fatal shooting that left him volatile and guilt-ridden, brilliant Homicide Detective Carl Morck is assigned to run Department Q, a new section of the Copenhagen Police dedicated to resolving the most notorious unsolved crimes.

Between napping and genial banter with his assistant Assad, Morck is surprised to find that one particular case snags his attention - the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard, a beautiful and popular politician who vanished 5 years ago during a ferry crossing and assumed dead.

Only the reader is privy to the fact that Merete is alive, imprisoned and subjected to the most horrendous treatment. "Adler-Olsen deftly advances both stories simultaneously" in this absorbing psychological thriller.

Comparisons to Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo are inevitable but this newcomer holds his own, and with strong prose and a sense of humor.

* * * = Starred reviews

Also noteworthy is Michael Ridpath's Where the Shadows Lie * *, smoothly weaving history, legend, and police procedural in the first of a crime series set in Iceland.

Boston PD Detective Magnus Jonson is on loan to the Icelandic Police Force in Reykjavik, and walks right into the murder investigation of Professor Agnar Harldsson. It is a homecoming of sorts for Magnus while keeping him out of the assassins' reach until he could testify on police corruption.

Amid the wild and desolate landscape, rumors swirl of an ancient manuscript connected to an Icelandic saga, and a precious ring of terrible power. Magnus's unorthodox investigative techniques prove problematic with his Icelandic hosts while his father's unsolved murder two decades ago inadvertently comes into play, adding to the complex storyline and the intrigue.

"Ridpath does a fine job of immersing us in Icelandic culture, and Magnus,... is a thoroughly fascinating character. Exotic and compelling, a first-class mystery. " Arnaldur Indriđason is in good company.

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #282 (Not all Arctic Crime Fiction is Nordic)

Award-winning British journalist M.J. McGrath's White Heat * is a "riveting Arctic mystery that marks the fiction debut of a wickedly talented writer." ~ The New York Times

Set in the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian High Arctic, as the lone female guide in a profession dominated by men, Edie Kiglatuk does not have it easy. Being only part Inuit does not endear her to the elders in the insular tradition-bound Ellesmore Island community either.

When one of the hunters is shot and killed on her watch, the incident is quickly covered up to protect the guide business from negative publicity. Two other suspicious deaths follow, with one of them hitting too close to home. With the help of Police Sergeant Derek Palliser, Edie is determined to find the connection in a search that would take her beyond her small village, and into the far reaches of the tundra.

"McGrath transports the reader to a land of almost incomprehensible cold and an unfamiliar but fascinating culture, taking on issues of climate change, energy exploration, local politics, and drug and alcohol abuse." Her heroine, flawed (recovering alcoholic with trouble staying on the wagon), isolated (ostracized as a troublemaker) is smart, by necessity tough and cunning, but is also warm, loyal and caring, with a keen sense of humor. I for one, am glad that White Heat is the first in a projected series.

A readalike for The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney which also captures the Canadian wilderness landscape in a suspenseful historical thriller.

Readers who appreciate a strong female protagonist in a non-traditional role (woman park ranger) would also like the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr.

* = Starred review

Attention Peaks Freaks

Have you been itching to watch the pilot episode of Twin Peaks? Thanks to some added copies in the AADL collection, you now can. It happens to come from a metallic gold case of magic and wonder. It’s the most beautiful box set to have graced my hands since I purchased the original Twin Peaks box set on VHS, which I still own.

If you’ve been meaning to watch the show for the first time, or fall in love with Agent Cooper all over again, we’ve got you covered. Also added to the collection, is Season 2, Disc 7, which is a disc with bonus features(!) including: Deleted scenes, a slice of lynch, Peaks SNL skits, "Secrets from another place" feature-length documentary, interviews with cast and crew, and much more. It. Is. Purely. Magical. If you're ready to get your David Lynch on.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #278

Your read the New York Times review, now you cannot wait to read the book. Can't blame you.

I have to admit, this is my first Colin Cotterill, (and the first of a project new series) and it is sending me straight to his Dr. Siri Paiboun series, another unlikely and exotic sleuth (a septuagenarian Laotian coroner).

The intriguing title had me laughing out loud when I realized that it is derived from one of the many George W. Bush quotes, each heading a new chapter. “Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.” (September 17, 2004) Too far-fetched? It's for real, check it out!

Killed at the Whim of a Hat * * * features Jimm Juree, a thirtysomething "sardonic, self-important 'almost award-winning' " female crime reporter who has been exiled to Chumphon, (Southern Thailand) to run a seedy and decrepit beach resort with her eccentric and loony family.

The discovery of a buried Volkswagen van from the 1970s with two buried hippie passengers brings a flurry of excitement to this tiny village and hopes for a big journalistic break for Jimm Juree. Then there is a real murder and Jimm just cannot stay away, even if her life depends on it.

You will thank me later for not giving away the plot. "Cotterill combines plenty of humor with fascinating and unusual characters, a solid mystery, and the relatively unfamiliar setting of southern Thailand to launch what may be the best new international mystery series".

British expat. and CWA Dagger Awards winner Colin Cotterill taught in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before started training teachers in Thailand. He and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand.

* * * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #277

NPR's Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer (listen to the podcast) has some fabulous titles. And no one was surprised that The Hypnotist * * featured prominently on it. Now NPR just unmasked the identity of the author(s), known until now, as Lars Kepler.

Stockholm. A gruesome triple murder. 15 year-old, the only witness/survivor, sustained 100 knife-wounds and is in shock. Detective Inspector Joona Linna's only option - to enlist the help of Dr. Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist.

The battle-worn Linna and the reluctant and scarred Bark unwittingly set off a chain of violent events that climax at a remote cabin north of the Arctic Circle.

An international bestseller and already being adapted for film, The Hypnotist is an adrenaline- and action-packed thriller, "smart and unpredictable", atmospheric as it is cinematic. A nordic crime mystery debut to rival some of the best in the genre.

* * = Starred reviews

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