Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: Books at center of murder tale (Linda Fairstein)

From Oklahoma's NewsOK --

Book Review: Books at center of murder tale --

March 29, 2009 --

In Linda Fairstein’s "Lethal Legacy” (Doubleday, $26), Alexandra Cooper, head of the district attorney’s sex crimes unit in Manhattan, finds Tina Barr chloroformed and gagged in her Upper East Side apartment.

A neighbor tells Alex and police that he thinks she might have been sexually assaulted by a man wearing a fireman’s mask. The victim, a conservator of rare books and ancient maps, refuses to cooperate with police, leaves the hospital and disappears.

A day later, another woman is found in the same apartment, bludgeoned to death with a rare book beneath her body. The second victim’s employer, Minerva Hunt, says the book was stolen from her family.

Minerva and her brother are sibling rivals trying to persuade their ailing father, a major benefactor of the New York Public Library, to change his will so they can benefit from his estate. Barr, who had been working for a private collector, once was employed by the library and worked on the Hunt collection.

Alex and her two investigators, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, note the dead woman, wearing some of Minerva’s old clothing, might have been set up for the attack. They wonder whether the daughter of a wealthy New York family would kill for the family treasures.

The three turn their investigation to the library, where they search the great collections and make their way into the underground vaults, through the stacks of ancient volumes to a door opening to a park that once was the graveyard of New York’s early settlers. There they find Tina Barr’s body.

Numerous clues and a host of weird suspects lead readers on a sometimes confusing search, but trips through the library make it worthwhile for those who love books and maps.

— Kay Dyer

Author Lippman stays in touch with the world (Laura Lippman)

From Pittsburgh Tribune-Review --

Author Lippman stays in touch with the world --

By Rege Behe --
Sunday, March 29, 2009 --

There are clues in Laura Lippman's new novel, "Life Sentences," of what it is like to be an artist who has achieved some measure of independence.

The book's protagonist, Cassandra Fallows, is, like Lippman, a best-selling writer. At one point ,the character comments on how she had "become accustomed to how self-employment dulled the days, blurring all distinctions. Monday, Monday? She not only trusted that day, she rather liked it."

Lippman, who appears Friday at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, acknowledges the necessity of being engaged beyond one's own work.

"I need to remain in touch with the world," she says. "I work by myself. I have a very pleasant life. And if I weren't careful, I would be in such a remove from day-to-day life I'm not sure what I would have to write about. I've done everything I can to stay grounded, to stay in the world."

For Lippman, that entails basing many of her stories on real incidents. For "Life Sentences," she took plumbed details from a story that happened years ago in her native Baltimore. A mother, who was being monitored by a social-service agency, spent seven years in jail for contempt of court when she refused to answer questions about the disappearance of her son. The case still is unresolved.

Lippman took the story, changed names and wove it into Fallows' biography, giving the character another reason to investigate her childhood. The question Lippman had to answer, as she does in almost every novel, are what stories are fair game for fiction.

"I make a distinction between being inspired by something that's been in the news and ripping something from the headlines," she says. "I make that distinction, some other people don't. ... On some level, this book was written to explain that. And it would have been a little too easy, a little too pat, to make Cassandra a fabulous person, a likable person, even. It was much trickier and much more of a challenge to have this person who is not always likable and does have some real ethical problems, to say that even she is entitled to write what she wants to write. It's there in the first chapter: Why do I get to write it? Because I'm a writer. And the implication is anyone can write what she or he wants to write if she or he is strong enough to deal with the ramifications."

In "Life Sentences," Fallows has become a literary star because of two memoirs. When an attempt at fiction fails, she is encouraged by her editor to return to memoir, to find more stories that will resonate with readers.

The problem is, Fallows has exhausted the essential material: her parents' divorce, her failed marriages. When she hears a news account referencing Calliope Jenkins and her refusal to talk about her son's whereabouts, Fallows realizes there's a connection. Jenkins was a classmate in grade school. Inspired, she returns to Baltimore and starts to hunt down other classmates, many of whom are unhappy about their portrayal in Fallows' memoirs.

That her former classmates and friends Tisha, Fatima and Donna are black -- Fallows is white -- adds to the tension. For Lippman, this was potentially volatile material, given that some of her ancestors owned slaves.

"I can't make that nice," she says. "It's a sad, ugly fact to be hanging over a family, and it is my family."

But Lippman did not hesitate to write about race in "Life Sentences." She thinks that as long as a writer has listened closely to the stories and the history of race relations, anything is permissible. Lippman recounts an anecdote from her career as a journalist, when a black man came to her newspaper's office seeking a job as a reporter.

The receptionist automatically thought the man meant "porter" and told him to go to the train station.

"Imagine that experience for a college-educated man looking for a professional job, and because of the color of his skin, it's assumed he doesn't want to be a reporter," Lippman says. "These stories are out there if people will listen and pay attention. And if you listen and pay attention, again, you get to write it. I had no qualms writing about Tisha, Fatima, Donna and Callie."

Rege Behe can be reached at or 412-320-7990.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Harris' 'Dead to Worse' arriving in paperback (Charlaine Harris)

From Monroe, LA The News Star --

Harris' 'Dead to Worse' arriving in paperback --

March 22, 2009 --

Good new for Sookie Stackhouse lovers. The paperback version of "From Dead to Worse" by Charlaine Harris, the No. 8 book in the Southern Vampire Series and the literary origins of the HBO series "True Blood," will be released in paperback at the end of March.

Hot on its tail will be the hardback release of "Dead and Gone," the ninth book of the series.

"From Dead to Worse" finds Sookie back in Bon Temps after the terrorized attack on a vampire convention. The small town has its own problems, however, with a political split in the werewolf pack of Shreveport, the Louisiana vampires regrouping after Katrina devastated the queen's home in New Orleans and an old and beautiful fairy with streaks of the frightening visiting Sookie. Jason, Sookie's brother, is up to his usual irresponsible antics, Sookie's boss Sam shifts into something besides a dog this time and another witch joins Sookie's roommate to add to the mix.

If this all sounds convoluted, you haven't read a Sookie Stackhouse book. Harris throws at this poor telepathic girl every paranormal being in mythology and fiction, placing us in her shoes and being equally astonished at what she sees, yet provides us with good laughs and endless entertaining suspense.

Every book opens up a new world as well. By the time you get to the end, all of Sookie's love interests have developed in new ways, tension starts anew and suddenly her family has grown by two. Don't miss it.

And according to the jacket of "Dead and Gone," it looks like the weres may be coming out of the — woods? — and a war is brewing with "a race of unhuman beings." The book will be out in stores in May, just before HBO starts up the next season of "True Blood."

Acadiana resident Cheré Coen is an author and instructor of creative writing at UL's Continuing Education. Visit her Web site at and write her at

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: Eve Dallas on another case (J.D. Robb)

From Oklahoman NewsOK --

Book Review: Eve Dallas on another case --

fiction‘Promises in Death’ is latest in mystery series --
Published: March 22, 2009 --

Lt. Eve Dallas must crack a case with deeply personal ramifications in "Promises in Death,” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.95), the 28th book in J.D. Robb’s best-selling futuristic romance/suspense series.

When Dallas, a canny New York City homicide investigator, and her stalwart partner Detective Peabody arrive on a murder scene, they discover the victim is a fellow cop: Detective Amaryllis Coltraine, who recently transferred from Atlanta.

Coltraine also was the lover of Chief Medical Examiner Li Morris, one of Dallas’ close friends.

Vowing to catch the killer, Dallas navigates the choppy emotional waters of helping a friend through grief and investigating the resentful cops on Coltraine’s squad.

The case takes an unexpected turn when Dallas uncovers a link between Coltraine and Max Ricker, the cruel crime lord whom Dallas and her multibillionaire computer-whiz husband, Roarke, put in prison.

The mystery isn’t as strong as the last "In Death” novel, "Salvation in Death.” But "Promises in Death” delves deeper into the emotional growth of Dallas and Roarke, who both were abused as children and still struggle to form close bonds. Dallas must deal with her husband’s fear that she will someday die on the job.

The book gets comic relief in Dallas’ efforts to host a bridal shower/bachelorette party and buy a proper wedding gift for her pal Dr. Louise Dimatto. The festivities unite many of the series’ beloved secondary characters for the kind of girly-girl fun Dallas cannot abide.

In her "In Death” series, Robb (pen name for romance writer Nora Roberts) keeps bringing to life her colorful characters in New York City circa 2060.

— Brandy McDonnell

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mystery Tales of Terror, Murder and the Surreal (Jacqueline Winspear)

From The Wall Street Journal --

Mystery Tales of Terror, Murder and the Surreal --

BOOKS MARCH 21, 2009, 9:02 P.M. ET --

Maisie Dobbs, the "psychologist and investigator" in Jacqueline Winspear's popular mystery series set in England in the first decades of the 20th century, is a person ahead of her time. Dobbs is an independent woman who earns her own living (and insists on being paid well), drives a sporty MG and perceives a victim within each villain. In a Sherlock Holmesian way, she practices the Eastern art of meditation; and like a modern-day profiler, she constructs a "template" of a criminal's personality and behavior as an aid to learning his whereabouts and identity.

A certain modern tinge also attaches to the London of 1931 that we see in the sixth Maisie Dobbs novel, the absorbing and exciting "Among the Mad" (Holt, 303 pages, $25). A terrorist cell stalks the city, committing grotesque acts of violence involving chemical weapons and the murder of a junior government minister. But who are the killers and what do they want? Is it a band of Oswald Mosley's fascists? An Irish Republican Army faction? The angry supporters of shell-shocked World War I veterans who have been denied pensions? Whoever the culprits are, it's clear that they "would kill to be heard."

Miss Dobbs, mentioned by name in a terrorist note, becomes a consultant to the police and to members of military intelligence; she must tread a cautious path between these rival forces in a fast-breaking case that takes her from 10 Downing St. to the meanest of London hovels. The book's puzzle is challenging, but what charms most is Dobbs herself: a woman "not as adept in her personal life as she was in her professional domain," and all the more engaging for that.

Mr. Nolan is the editor of Ross Macdonald's "The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator" (Crippen & Landru).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Get ready for True Blood (Charlaine Harris)

From Manila Standard Today --

Get ready for True Blood --

By Deni Rose M. Afinidad --
Contributor --

They say it’s the adult Twilight, but to some, it’s no more than the wannabe Twilight. One thing is certain though, True Blood is such a hit in the United States, it would be a pity not to bring it to the Philippines.

So, guys, it’s now here!

True Blood Season 1 will be premiering on HBO Asia’s new channel, Max, on April 9 at 9 p.m. This original HBO production brought lead star Anna Paquin to her recent Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Television Series-Drama. The series was created by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball, based on the New York Times bestseller Sookie Stackhouse novels of Charlaine Harris about the tale of a perky waitress with telepathic gifts and an irresistible attraction to a vampire named Bill Compton.

“This is a dream role for me,” says Paquin who plays Sookie Stockhouse.

“She’s fragile but very intuitive; she’s had a really hard life, but she’s still innocent. She believes in love, and believes that it’s actually possible, even in circumstances that seem completely impossible. She’s brave, she doesn’t mind being the odd one out… Life’s kicked her pretty hard, but she hasn’t become bitter and she hasn’t become a totally damaged person. I think it’s an amazing quality to be able to roll with the punches and not be totally ruined as a person because life’s been rough for you. That’s a really admirable way to go through your life,” Anna says of her character.

Apart from Paquin whose first claim to fame is her portrayal of Rogue in the X-Men films, the saga stars The Starter Wife’s Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton; Summerland’s Ryan Kwanten as Sookie’s womanizing brother Jason; Rutina Wesley as the outspoken Tara Thornton; Judging Amy’s Sam Trammell as Sookie’s good-hearted boss Sam Merlotte, Nelsan Ellis (The Inside) as the iconic cook Lafayette Reynolds; and Alexander Skarsgård (HBO’s Generation Kill) as Eric, a Nordic vampire.

“I loved the way it was funny and scary and sexy and romantic, and it had a lot of interesting things to say about what it’s like to be other than mainstream. And it’s not just the vampires: Sookie is a telepath, and there are other non-human characters in the story,” says Ball on what made him want to turn Harris’ book into a sequence.

According to him, the first season is the first book in the series, with some new stories created for the characters of Jason, Tara and Sam to provide balance.

“One of the things I love about Charlaine’s books is the way she treats the supernatural world so matter-of-factly. We’re trying to do the same thing in our production design and the way we shoot everything. We want to keep the supernatural rooted in nature, so that it’s just more nature than we’re used to in everyday life,” says Ball, adding that he has been trying to avoid all the vampire clichés.

“I watched just about every vampire movie, and most of them told me what I don’t want to do. I wanted to avoid the crazy contact lenses, the opera music, the blue light… I want it to be rooted in the characters, and seem like it could be really happening, and not some fantasy world,” he explains.

In addition to Ball, the series gathers the directors of some of today’s big hits: John Dahl (Rounders), Nick Gomez (The Shield), Anthony Hemingway (HBO’s The Wire), Michael Lehmann (HBO’s Big Love), Daniel Minahan (Grey’s Anatomy), Nancy Oliver (writer, Lars and the Real Girl), Marcos Siega (Veronica Mars), and Scott Winant (Hidden Palms).

Unapologetic and irreverent, True Blood is a radical option for those who feel Twilight is teeny-bopper. This Max series has all the ingredients of a hit-maker: sex, action, mystery, violence, suspense, and rock and roll.

Even before the series’ local premiere, it has already created a following among Filipinos. Some have even recorded the series’ opening song and made it their ringtone!

Indeed, it was so popular that in conjunction with its Asian premiere, HBO Asia has also launched an online game, Fang Fighter, available at Players of the game will take on the character of a vampire who has to defeat various opponents standing in his way.

Max, which will hold True Blood’s Asian premiere, is a re-branding what was originally Cinemax. It targets a generally male market through genre-driven action, sci-fi and suspense programs presented with a bold, direct, and unapologetic attitude.

“True Blood has a much lighter tone. It’s more of an adventure. It’s a story you’ve never seen before and a world you’ve never seen before. It’s fun. It’s a show I would watch,” says Ball on why people ought to sink their teeth into True Blood, no pun intended.

Patricia Cornwell adaptations in the works

From Hollywood Reporter --

Patricia Cornwell adaptations in the works --

Brooks, Head team with Tandem Communications --
By Scott Roxborough --
March 17, 2009, 02:44 PM ET --

COLOGNE, Germany -- Stanley M. Brooks and Jim Head, together with Munich-based production group Tandem Communications, have signed on to adapt a pair of Patricia Cornwell best-sellers as telefilms for the Lifetime Network.

The two crime novels -- "At Risk," which introduced Massachusetts State police officer Winston Garano, and its sequel, "The Front" -- mark the first-ever adaptations of Cornwell's work. The U.S. author is one of the most successful writers of all time.

John Pielmeier ("Hitler: The Rise of Evil") will write the teleplays for both movies. Tandem will handle worldwide sales for the titles outside Lifetime's window stateside and will be showing the project to buyers at MIPTV this month.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Inside the List - Bloody Bake Sale: "Cream Puff Murder" (Joanne Fluke)

From The New York Times --

Inside the List - Bloody Bake Sale: "Cream Puff Murder" --

Published: March 13, 2009 --

BLOODY BAKE SALE: “Cream Puff Murder,” Joanne Fluke’s 11th mystery featuring the sleuthing small-town Minnesota baker Hannah Swensen, enters the hardcover fiction list at No. 12 this week. Unfamiliar with this leading exemplar of the “culinary mystery” genre? Think of it as “The Silence of the Lambs” for the snickerdoodle set, with lots of recipes thrown in. In “Key Lime Pie Murder,” Hannah hunts down the killer of a baking contest judge at the county fair. In “Carrot Cake Murder,” she discovers a dead body at a family reunion with ant-­covered crumbs of the title pastry scattered nearby. In the interest of fact-checking, I decided to whip up a batch of Hannah’s Viking cookies and see if any of my colleagues would dare take a bite. Reactions were largely positive. “After the initial bouquet of Tollhouse cookies dissipates, there’s a lingering effect of molasses and granola on the palate. And the nuts — macadamia? — provide a suitably neutral (almost buttery) backdrop to highlight the complex balance between spiciness and sweetness.” (No nuts, for the record: those are white chocolate chips.) One taster praised the “denticular thrill” provided by the “vigorous crunch,” though another confessed to preferring “softer, bulkier American behemoths.” But this reaction took the cookie: “Hard, rough and burly, like a Viking should be! Oaty, with a strong hint of outer and inner toughness. One more of these and I’ll be sacking Canterbury before the end of the day!” According to her Web site,, Fluke is currently testing recipes for “Plum Pudding Murder,” out in October. Warning: It includes a dead elf! The book, that is, not the pudding.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In Print : Legacy of suspense (Linda Fairstein)

From The Martha's Vineyards Times --

In Print : Legacy of suspense --

By Cynthia Riggs --
Published: March 12, 2009 --

"Lethal Legacy," by Linda Fairstein, Doubleday, New York, 2009, 372 pp., $26. --

First, a disclaimer: I will probably not be entirely objective in my review of Linda Fairstein's latest book, "Lethal Legacy," her 11th and best yet in the Alexandra Cooper series. I am a great fan of Ms. Fairstein, a mystery writer who summers in Chilmark, and who served as head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office from 1976 until 2002. The only book of hers I have not read is her non-fiction work, "Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape," but I suspect I'd find that every bit as compelling as her fiction.

Like most of the Alexandra Cooper books, "Lethal Legacy" involves one of New York City's landmark buildings, in this case the New York Public Library. The book takes us, even those who know New York well, into places only an insider can view. We explore the library from the attic to its spooky underground storage stacks beneath Bryant Park, where there are - "Books. Eighty-eight miles of books."

Along the way we learn enticing snippets of library history. An apartment was built in the library in 1908 for the building's engineer, who lived there with his family for many years. We also learn a great deal about ancient maps and the preservation of valuable books.

"Lethal Legacy" makes clear how the New York City Sex Crimes Unit must employ an extraordinary amount of tenderness, understanding, diplomacy, and strength in dealing with victims and families during an investigation.

While the setting is rich, the characters are even richer. Homicide detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace call upon Alex, who is Assistant District Attorney in charge of the DA's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit, whenever a sex crime is committed. Chapman, halfway in love with Alex, is an expert on military history, foul mouthed, outspoken, rough, and utterly dependable when it comes to Alex's safety. He is a character so real, I expect to meet him in person one of these days. Wallace, an equally dependable defender of Alex, is the peacemaker, a quiet, handsome family man. The three make an engaging team. The two detectives rely on Alex's knowledge in dealing with traumatized victims, and Alex steps back from their homicide investigations. She is thrown into some terrifying situations, but we never really worry - Mike and Mercer will show up in time to rescue her.

In "Lethal Legacy" Alex is summoned to an apartment house on Manhattan's Upper East Side where a neighbor is convinced that a young woman has been assaulted. The young woman, a conservator of rare books and maps, refuses to cooperate. This begins the absorbing tale of murder, forgeries, stolen books, ancient maps, family rivalries, blackmail, and vast amounts of money.

"Lethal Legacy" is not a quick read. There is a lot of information to absorb. At times, Ms. Fairstein seems to move away from the compelling plot by giving us so much detail on ancient books and maps, but read on. She knows what she's doing, and the pieces all fit smoothly together without a wasted word.

During the three decades Ms. Fairstein was with the DA's office, she prosecuted several high-profile cases. She left the DA's office in 2002 and continues to write, lecture, and consult.

I lost one full night's sleep by reading "Lethal Legacy." As the dawn chorus tuned up outside, and the sun rose, I closed the book, fully satisfied.

West Tisbury resident Cynthia Riggs is the author of nine mystery novels whose capers are all set on the Vineyard. Her latest book, "Death and Honesty," will be released this spring.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lady gumshoes are coming out of the woodwork (Jacqueline Winspear)

From San Jose Mercury News --

Lady gumshoes are coming out of the woodwork --

By Roberta Alexander --
Times contributor --
Posted: 03/08/2009 12:01:00 AM PST --

"An Incomplete Revenge" by Jacqueline Winspear. (Picador, $14, 324 pages). --

"Among the Mad" by Jacqueline Winspear. (Henry Holt, $25, 320 pages) --

Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, plies her trade in England in the years after World War I. Everyone has been marked by the conflict, from villages who lost most of their young men to scarred veterans to ex-nurse Maisie herself, whose lover was left a mute shell of a man.

In "Revenge," Maisie goes into a village in Kent at the behest of a developer interested in buying a local brickworks and finds problems she didn't foresee. The residents appear traumatized, and there are tensions with both the London crew and Gypsy band that have come for the annual hops picking.

The owner of the brickworks, who fancies himself lord of the manor, is clearly not liked, but is that relevant to the other problems?

In "Mad," Maisie witnesses a public suicide, which the police believe is part of a larger plot. She works uneasily with them to seek someone with a dreadful grudge.

Both stories are complex, but Maisie, strong and smart but damaged, is worth the effort.


From Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star --


Fairstein's Alex Cooper returns to readers in 'Lethal Legacy' --

Date published: 3/8/2009 --

AUTHOR Linda Fairstein brings back Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper in "Lethal Legacy."

Coop and her colleagues are looking for a man who posed as a firefighter to gain access to a woman's apartment, only to assault her. The victim, Tina Barr, a conservator at the New York Public Library, is secretive about her assault and her past.

A few days later, another woman turns up dead in her apartment. They believe it to be a wealthy heiress, but the heiress tells investigators the dead woman is her maid.

When Barr goes missing and another body is found, the mystery is in full swing.

Fairstein does a great job weaving interesting facts about New York into her mysteries. In "Lethal Legacy," readers will learn there are 88 miles of books in a library extension under Bryant Park, which was once a potter's field for those killed in the Revolutionary War.

In addition, a family of five used to live in the library. John H. Felder was the first chief engineer and moved into the library in 1910, 10 months before the famed building opened. Their third child, Viviani, was the only child ever born inside the library, where the family lived until 1941.

But among the interesting facts is an even more interesting mystery, complete with greed, family drama and ancient literary treasures that some people think are worth killing for.

Laura L. Hutchison is an editor at The Free Lance-Star.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bounty hunter’s adventures continue in new Evanovich volume

From Nashville City Paper --

Bounty hunter’s adventures continue in new Evanovich volume --

By: Ron Wynn, --
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 --

Even in the crowded universe of mystery and crime fiction, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum stands out as a distinctive and enticing figure.

Instead of being a cop or private detective, Plum’s trade is bounty hunting, which often puts her as much in conflict with the police as the subjects she’s tracking.

She has a family that can’t understand why their daughter hasn’t already settled down and had children, and wonder about the hours she works and the company she keeps. Add Plum’s romantic misadventures, which include one on-again, off-again boyfriend and another male comrade far more interested in her than vice versa, and it’s all fodder that’s helped Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series frequently top The New York Times’ best-seller lists.

Her newest entry Plum Spooky adds an extra ingredient, with the return of the enigmatic Diesel. Plum never knows when or where he will surface, and though he adores her, she doesn’t completely trust him. But now Diesel becomes her ally when Plum walks into what she thought was a simple bail jumping case, but instead evolves into a murky and dangerous investigation.

Martin Munch is a 24-year-old genius with a doctorate in quantum physics as well as some severe anger management problems. His continual battles with his lab project manager escalated into physical altercations, and Munch not only knocked the guy out, he broke his nose.

Since this looked like a rather simple assault situation with a probable fine and/or even possible probation or suspended sentence, no one anticipated that Munch wouldn’t show up for court. Instead, he’s chosen to flee, leaving Plum’s employer holding the tab for the bond.

Plum thinks this will be an easy case, because how tough can it be to run down a 24-year-old who’s never been in trouble before and probably doesn’t know anyone except other scientists?

But that assumption proves a bad one.

It turns out Munch had discovered something in the lab, and couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to him. So he’s taken his findings elsewhere, and is now squarely in the middle of something big and potentially life-changing. Plum soon finds herself battling a contract killer, camping out in a deserted New Jersey area, and frequently encountering Munch and his newly found friends in less than desirable circumstances.

As the story progresses, Plum draws closer in an odd way to Diesel, while also enlisting the help of some other favorite characters from past Evanovich novels like Lula, the tough-talking but resourceful part-time assistant and even her grandmother Mazur, the only family member who seems to get a kick out of Plum’s livelihood.

There’s a clever blend of action, humor, philosophy and pathos in Evanovich’s crime novels. Stephanie Plum doesn’t hesitate to use a gun or her fists when necessary, but can be sentimental or alluring when the occasion calls for that type of behavior.

She neither wants nor needs to be married, but enjoys companionship with males who see her as an equal rather than a competitor or a threat. Plum Spooky continues the adventures of a great character, though she sometimes will irritate or surprise as much as delight and enlighten.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Home, My Prison (Jacqueline Winspear)

From The New York Times Sunday Book Review --

My Home, My Prison --

Reviews by MARILYN STASIO --
Published: March 5, 2009 --

Jacqueline Winspear carries on her champion work on behalf of traumatized war veterans, “men who are still waiting for their armistice,” as she puts it, in AMONG THE MAD (Holt, $25), the sixth novel in an outstanding historical series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a battlefield nurse in World War I who has gone into practice as an investigative psychologist in postwar London. By 1931, England has finally begun emptying its mental institutions of the 80,000 men who’ve been given a diagnosis of shell shock, while ignoring those “who are in a cell in their mind.” But when one of these walking wounded detonates a grenade on Christmas Eve, Maisie is tapped for a government investigation into terrorist groups that recruit mentally unstable veterans to carry out their anarchist agendas.

Maisie may have tenuous credentials for serving in such high-powered company, but Winspear uses her visits to hospitals and mental asylums to document the outdated protocols used for treating war-damaged psyches. Like Maisie, the novel’s storytelling style is efficient and humorless, but deeply empathetic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maisie's world (Jacqueline Winspear)

From The Boston Globe --

Maisie's world --

By Jim Concannon --
Globe Staff / March 3, 2009 --

Author Jacqueline Winspear splits her life between homes in sunny, laid-back California and rainy, buttoned-up England. So it seems somehow appropriate that this Thursday she'll be halfway between both places on a tour through the Boston area. (And just what does the reality of that geographical midpoint make this city? A place with unsettled weather and occasionally tense people? Sounds about right.)

Winspear is the author of a popular six-book mystery series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a British psychologist and investigator during the late 1920s and early '30s. The fictional Dobbs is a woman with institutional clout and influence, a combination that might seem unusual for the times, until you realize that Britain suffered 2 million male casualties in World War I, opening the way for women in myriad professions, often by necessity, since the shortage of men also reduced prospects for a traditional family life. To put it another way, the Rosie the Riveters who took over American factories and other businesses in World War II started flexing their biceps 25 years earlier on the far side of the Atlantic.

"This is a generation of women who came of age in a terrible time, and now they had to go forward alone, responsible for their financial security, nurturing relationships to sustain them as they grew older, and creating a place for themselves in their communities," writes Winspear. "As a storyteller, I wanted the character of Maisie Dobbs to reflect the spirit of that generation, and I wanted to use the years between the wars as a backdrop for the mysteries that my characters [who often include unstable war veterans] are drawn into."

Winspear's latest novel is "Among the Mad," in which Dobbs must race to save London from a terrorist threat. Winspear will read from her book at 7 p.m. Thursday at the First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Cambridge. For advance tickets, call 617-661-1515.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NYC and its people star in 'Lethal Legacy' (Linda Fairstein)

From Pittsburgh Tribune-Review --

NYC and its people star in 'Lethal Legacy' --

By Oline H. Cogdill, McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE --
Sunday, March 1, 2009 --

A hallmark of Linda Fairstein's fine legal thrillers is the behind-the-scenes view of New York City that may be new to even those who think they are experts on the Big Apple. In "Lethal Legacy," Fairstein gives an insider's view of that most benign and sturdy of cultural institutions -- the New York Public Library.

From the catacombs beneath the building to hidden rooms and forgotten apartments, Fairstein imagines the library as a fairly spooky place where anything can happen. It takes more than just those two wonderful lions out front -- which, by the way, are named Patience and Fortitude -- to guard this New York stalwart, "the soul of the community."

But "Lethal Legacy" isn't just an armchair travel guide. Fairstein brings her A game to her 11th Alexandra Cooper novel with a top-notch plot, realistic situations and believable characters.

Alex, an assistant D.A. and sex-crimes prosecutor, is trying to help a rare-books restorer who may have been the victim of an assault. The investigation leads back to the viperous Minerva and Talbot Hunt, wealthy sister and brother bibliophiles whose hatred of each other is "as ugly as anything in Greek mythology."

Fairstein seamlessly weaves in ancient maps, manuscript restoration and rare books, illustrating that forensic science comes in many forms. Fairstein makes a trip to the library exciting and dangerous -- even if you just came for the books.

Each outing with Alex gives new insight to this character. The author is careful not to make Alex a super sleuth; she is a prosecutor whose job takes her behind the scenes of crimes but, as in real life, the detectives do the investigating. Alex's close friendship with the two detectives and their devotion to the final question of "Jeopardy" bring a texture to Fairstein's novels.

In a genre crowded with legal thrillers, Fairstein's affinity for telling stories of New York and its people stand out.