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

Steve Hamilton Author Talk on Thursday

Michigan author Steve Hamilton will be giving a talk on his latest novel Misery Bay on Thursday, June 9th, at Aunt Agatha's Book Shop.

Misery Bay is set in Paradise, Michigan, and is a part of the Alex McKnight mystery series.

This year Hamilton won the Edgar Award for Best Novel and the Alex Award for The Lock Artist, also set in a Michigan town.

The talk will take place at 7pm, and admission is free. Aunt Agatha's is located at 213 South Fourth Avenue, about a block away from the Downtown branch.

Author Birthdays: Chesterton, White, Ehrlich

May 29th marks the birthday of authors G. K. Chesterton, T. H. White, and Paul R. Ehrlich.

G. K. Chesterton was an English author. He wrote mysteries, essays, biographies, and general fiction. His works on Father Brown, a Catholic priest and detective, were even adapted for television in the 70s.

Chesterton also wrote a biography of his friend and "rival" George Bernard Shaw, and the novel The Man Who Was Thursday, which involves seven anarchists in London who give themselves the names of the days of the week.

T. H. White was an English author best known for his Arthurian works The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. The musical Camelot and the Disney film The Sword in the Stone were based on his works.

White also wrote the children's story Mistress Masham's Repose, about an English orphan and her interactions with Lilliputians, a race of people described by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels.

Paul R. Ehrlich is an American writer and biologist, as well as a professor at Stanford University. His works focus on the environment and population growth. His latest book, The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution And The Environment, published in 2008, examines the relationship between the two.

Ehrlich's first big work was The Population Bomb, which discussed overpopulation and its effects on society. His later book, The Population Explosion, considers the topic further, more than 20 years afterward.

Author Birthdays: Doyle, Hergé, Peck

May 22nd marks the birthday of authors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hergé, and M. Scott Peck.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer, most known for his stories of Sherlock Holmes. According to Wikipedia, there were 56 short stories and 4 novels about the detective written by Doyle.

Doyle's other works include those that focus on the character of Professor Challenger, and quite a few historical novels such as The White Company, which was set during the Hundred Years' War.

Hergé was a Belgian comic writer. His real name was Georges Prosper Remi, and you may know him if you've ever read a Tintin comic. We even have Tintin in the original French.

While Hergé also wrote a few other comics (Quick and Flupke, The Amiable Mr. Mops), copies of them are quite hard to find.

M. Scott Peck was an American author and psychiatrist. His most well-known book is The Road Less Traveled, about human fulfillment.

Peck's others works include Glimpses Of The Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts Of Possession, Exorcism, And Redemption and Denial Of The Soul: Spiritual And Medical Perspectives On Euthanasia And Mortality, two of his more spiritual works.

Ann Arbor District Library Staff Picks Mysteries

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The Staff Picks shelf is downtown on the first floor. Here is a sampling of what the Ann Arbor District Library mystery loving staff members are currently recommending:

Anarchy and Old Dogs, one of the Dr. Siri Paiboun series by Colin Cotterill: "A series of terrifically beguiling detective novels. . . . Whimsical, more personal stories that feature Siri and an equally memorable set of supporting characters. . . . A wry, seasoned, off hand style that has been the secret weapon of this unexpectedly blithe and charming series.”— The New York Times

The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin: "Beguiling . . . You will blissfully lose yourself in Istanbul's winding back alleys and linger awhile in the city's bustling fleshpots and meet Lord Byron's physician as you watch the serenely intelligent and intuitive Yashim investigate."-- The News & Observer

The Last Fix by Kjell Ola Dahl: "Critics around the world have labeled K.O. Dahl as Norway's answer to Henning Mankell. He has been awarded with the Riverton Prize for Best Crime Novel. The author's galvanic prose style will have readers wondering why he is, so far, the least known of the ocean of Scandinavian writers washing over the crime scene.”—The Independent

Out by Natsuo Kirino: “Finally, a masterpiece in this genre . . . . a novel that realistically shows how ordinary people can be drawn into committing brutal crimes.” — Prize Jury, Mystery Writers of Japan

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