Archive for July, 2010

Hardboiled Police Procedurals with an International Flair

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

  Just arrived, Faithful Place by Tana French, the hotly anticipated third novel of the Dublin murder squad.  (Find this book in our catalog)

“Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives. But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him – probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again. Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not. Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.” (notes in our catalog)

If you like hard-boiled tales of cops in international settings, try these books available through our catalog.  Just click on the highlighted title to place your reserve and have it sent to your favorite branch to check out.

  In the Woods by Tana French.

  The Likeness by Tana French.

  Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein.  Though this is not international, it does have a setting in a resort – in New Jersey.  The straight-arrow cop John Ceepak and his wise-cracking young partner Danny Boyle are on the case, a detective/sidekick duo critics have compared to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

  Truth by Peter Temple.  This is set in the treacherous political climate of Melbourne, Australia. “Inspector Stephen Villani has a full agenda: a murdered woman in a penthouse apartment, three men butchered in a sadistic rampage, a tattoo-faced drug dealer corrupting his rebellious daughter, and a crumbling marriage.”  (catalog notes)

  Snow Angels  by James Thompson.  “The first thriller in a new series, “Snow Angels” features Inspector Kari Vaara, the haunted, hardened detective who must delve into Finland’s dark, violent underbelly.”  (catalog notes).  The ravages of Finland’s long, dark winter, tangled smalltown relationships, and lust all fuel this noirish thriller.

International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Recipients of this year’s International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards were named during Thrillerfest in New York City on July 10.  Read more…

These are some of the winners:

  Best Hard Cover Novel: The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner (Find this book in our catalog)

  Best Paperback Original Novel: The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli (Find this book in our catalog)

ThrillerMaster: Ken Follett, in recognition of his legendary career and outstanding contributions to the thriller genre

True Thriller Award: Mark Bowden

Silver Bullet Award: Linda Fairstein


Monday, July 26th, 2010

  Since the recent arrest of alleged Russian spies in New York there has been an increase of interest in tales of espionage and derring-do.  You might like to try this book, published a few weeks ago:

Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA by Susan Hasler (Find this book in our catalog)

 PW summed the plot up this way: The author spent 21 years working for the Company as an analyst.  In Intelligence, set after 9/11, Maddie James and fellow terrorism experts in “an intelligence agency” warn of another major terrorist attack. Their warnings fall on deaf ears as the administration stresses its victories in the War on Terror.  Still, the team comes close to stopping the attack. When the administration blames Iran despite a lack of evidence, the team fights all kinds of forces to make the truth known.”

Author Madison Smartt Bell called Intelligence “a riveting book–funny and frightening to the same degree–and also, a lot of it’s probably true.”

The Tomato

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
  Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato by Arthur Allen (Find this book in our catalog)
  The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman (Find this book in our catalog)
  The Tomato Festival Cookbook: 150 Tempting Recipes for your Garden’s Lush, Vine-ripened, Sun-warmed, Fat, Juicy, Ready-to-burst Heirloom Tomatoes by Lawrence Davis-Hollander (Find this book in our catalog) 
  Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark (Find this book in our catalog)

Books for Hot and Muggy Days

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

  A Question of Belief  by Donna Leon (Find this book in our catalog)

It is Venice in high summer.  The sun blasts down on the canals and campi, the stones of the pavement giving back their heat to exhaust  the unwary pedestrian.  The unrelenting heat has sapped the strength and the will of everyone, from the police in the  Questura building to inhabitants of ancient and elegant apartments in The Misericordia.  Everyone is readying to go on vacation in the annual mass exodus to somewhere cooler, and even petty crime is seeming to take a holiday before the influx of tourists which will replace the migrating locals.

Commissario Brunetti, the erudite and highly ethical chief Commissario of the detective force manages to get away by train to the Alps.  His getaway is short-lived, however, and he is recalled to Venice mid-train ride to take charge of the investigation of a  murder that he probably precipitated by his unauthorized and somewhat illegal enquiry into suspected corruption in the Venetian court system.  As always, in trying to see that right prevails, Brunetti runs into corruption and incompetence at the Questura itself.  His investigation is also complicated by a parallel one he has undertaken as a favor to a colleague to rescue his aunt from a probable scam.  Dona Leon’s Brunetti mysteries are filled with rich evocative details of Venice – the reader walks the alleys and navigates the canals with the Commissario, who is an engaging and sophisticated character, wily and perceptive of human nature and a warm family man.  Brunetti and others around him are both depressed and angered by the systematic abuse of power in the Italian political system, and yet to redress the abuses he uncovers he calls in multiple favors he has accrued over years of working in the circumscribed city where he grew up.  In Venice at least the old adage holds true: “It’s not what you do, but who you know.”

  Freeze Frame by Peter May (Find this book in our catalog)  is another mystery similarly set on an island, this time not Venice on the Adriatic but off the coast of Brittany in France.  In this book the weather also plays a large part in setting the mood and also influencing the characters.  This time the weather is stormy and chilly and rainy.  You might enjoy reading about it to alleviate some of the discomfort of a Maryland summer!  In the book, Enzo MacLeod, a forensics professor, half Scot, half Italian, undertakes to solve a cold case mystery in the isolated French community.  Again, the details of local color are absorbing if you enjoy that sort of thing, and the mystery has a moral dilemma at its roots.

  The Glass Rainbow: a Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke (Find this book in our catalog) I have not read this last in the Dave Robicheaux series, and yet I have enjoyed every other one I have come across.  Dave Robicheaux used to be in the police department in New Orleans.   He is a man with a past.   Running  foul of corruption in the big city, he has come out to a small parish out in the bayous to be its law enforcement officer, and hopefully to find some peace.  If you like the maritime setting of the first two books I recommended, you are sure to like the setting of New Iberia.  Robicheaux owns a bait and fishing store and often takes to the waters off the Louisiana coast in his boat to solve the crime.  Burke is effective in describing the weather and the tides to evoke atmosphere and drive the narrative.  I think he is especially effective at evoking smells!

In this, the latest of the series, Robicheaux has to solve two especially grisly murders.  Burke’s books are less like traditional murder mysteries that Leon’s and May’s.  The crime scene of New Orleans as depicted in Burke’s books is vicious and violent.  Robicheaux’s pursuit of the crimals usually ends up in an exciting but violent and bloody cliffhanger of a chase.

Christy Awards for Christian Fiction

Monday, July 19th, 2010
On Saturday June 26 awards recognizing the best in Christian fiction in 2009 were presented. Read more…  The Christy Awards were established in 1999 to recognize quality fiction written and published from a Christian worldview.
The winners in the adult categories include:
Best contemporary stand-alone novel:  The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson(Find this book in our catalog)
Contemporary romance: Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills (Find this book in our catalog)
Contemporary series: Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson (Find this book in our catalog)
First novel: Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent (Find this book in our catalog)
Historical: Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin (Find this book in our catalog)
Historical romance: The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen (Find this book in our catalog)

Jen’s Jewels with Deborah Clearman

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to start anew, even for just a few weeks, in a foreign country? A new identity, new customs to learn, and most especially a new lease on life! I guess if I really wanted to know the ins and outs, I could ask the members of the Russian spy ring! All kidding aside, life sometimes seems so fast-paced and all-consuming that it is difficult to find time to stop and smell the roses.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Deborah Clearman addresses this very topic in her debut novel, TODOS SANTOS. Set in Guatemala, it’s the story of one woman’s plight to start anew while coming face to face with adversity in the jungles of a third world country. Beautifully written with the richness of the countryside accenting the backdrop of her tale, it’s a novel worth the read.

As part of this interview, Black Lawrence Press has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: In order to truly appreciate your path to publication, it’s necessary to start at the very beginning. So that my readers may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.

Deborah: I graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a BA in Fine Arts, then went on to get a BFA from Cooper Union and an MFA in Painting from Indiana in Bloomington Indiana. I managed to spend most of my twenties in school, when I wasn’t working as a waitress.

Jen: Living in the Baltimore area, I found it fascinating when I read that you had grown up on a tobacco farm in Southern Maryland. Describe for us this experience and how it affected your perception of the world in which we live.

Deborah: Upper Marlboro was very much steeped in the past when I lived there, with old families who still owned farms granted to their ancestors by Lord Baltimore. The house I grew up in was built in 1820. My family (newcomers—we moved there when I was 7) rented. The owner was a Hungarian movie actress living in D.C. who had bought the house and 40 acres during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, hoping some of her relatives would get out. Apparently none did. The first few years we were there, she rented the fields out to a local tobacco farmer. I vividly remember the planting. A tractor dragged an attachment that poked a hole in the ground, into which a man or boy riding on the attachment stuck a young tobacco plant by hand, which was then watered by rudimentary container on the machine. On some farms nearby, this machine was still pulled by horse, rather than tractor. In summer the tobacco fields were lush and green. Our barn filled up every fall with the harvested plants, hung in the rafters to dry. The delicious spicy aroma of the drying tobacco filled the countryside (and I’ve never been a smoker!). In February, the farmer and his family and hired help gathered in our barn to strip the leaves off the plants, tie them into bundles—called hands—and pack them into giant barrels, called hogsheads. I helped with the stripping. It was great fun for me—work for them. There were large warehouses in Marlboro where the tobacco was auctioned in late winter, a major event in the town. Most of the buyers came from Europe. There was only one shabby hotel in town; I can’t imagine what it was like for them.

Later, with the landlord’s permission, my mother took over the fields and barn for her horses. Marlboro was also horse country and my mother rode with the Marlboro Hunt Club. To this day, in her eighties, she still owns and rides horses pretty much daily. Growing up in the country—with woods, fields, streams, and barns as my playground—had a profound impact on me. Living in New York City, I miss nature. It’s something I love about Todos Santos. As different as it is, Todos Santos reminds me of my childhood. When I see a Todosantero planting corn by hand with a digging stick, it reminds me of that tobacco planter.

Jen: Your background is unique due to your impressive artistic talents as well as numerous literary endeavors. In terms of your artwork, what is your primary style of painting and preferred subject matter? Are your works currently on display?

Deborah: My paintings are representational and often show people doing things in landscape. Long before I started writing seriously, my paintings tended to tell stories, often made-up and metaphorical stories. There’s one of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, and another of a human sacrifice on an imagined volcano-top in the Andes. A few are on display in my living room. Otherwise, they show up in odd places.

Jen: How did you become involved with the NY Writers Coalition? And, what is their mission statement?

Deborah: I met Aaron Zimmerman, the founder of NYWC, at a writing residency at Vermont Studio Center in 1999, when I was just “coming out of the closet” as a writer. At the time, he was offering a writing workshop in NYC, and I immediately joined it on my return. I was enthralled by the safe, supportive, and inspiring atmosphere the workshop created for writing. When Aaron went on to form NYWC in 2001, in trained with him to become a workshop leader. He asked me to join the organization as Program Director in 2004, and I’m still leading workshops as well.

NY Writers Coalition creates opportunities for people who have been historically deprived of voice in our society to be heard through the art of writing. Writing with others in an atmosphere of respect and acceptance, participants discover the value of their own stories, gain confidence and a stronger sense of self, and become less isolated from themselves and from society. NYWC provides free, long-term writing workshops throughout New York City for a diverse population that includes the homeless and formerly homeless, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, at-risk and poor youth, recent immigrants, war veterans, seniors, cancer survivors, and many others. With more than 1,000 workshop sessions at approximately 45 sites in a year, we are one of the largest community based writing organizations in the country.

Jen: Please share with us your “Ah! Ha!” moment that led to your pursuit of writing a novel.

Deborah: I first visited Todos Santos in 1998. Like Catherine, I was thinking of setting a children’s book there. Like Catherine, I went with a guide. I only stayed one night, but I fell in love instantly with the mountains, the terrace of the hotel (which is no longer there), and the people I met. When I got home to the US, I told a friend about the trip over lunch, and I must have sounded pretty excited. She said to me, “That’s it, Deborah—the subject for your novel!”
At the time, I didn’t know I was writing a novel.
My friend went on to add, “But your character will have to have an affair with the guide.”

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, how did you arrive at the premise for TODOS SANTOS?

Deborah: Having survived a long marriage crisis that ended in divorce, I knew that Catherine would be struggling with an unhappy marriage. I wanted her struggle to be different from my own. Catherine isn’t me. But I gave her a son who resembles my own son when he was that age. Fortunately, my son was never kidnapped. I really didn’t know what Catherine would decide to do about her marriage. I wrote the novel to find out.

Jen: Interestingly, the novel is set in Guatemala. Why did you choose this locale? And, what was the most difficult part of accurately portraying this third world country to your readers?

Deborah: I’ve had a fascination with different cultures since childhood, and in my teens thought I would become an anthropologist. Even after I changed my mind, I continued to study Spanish. In the 70s I started visiting Guatemala with a close family friend who was an anthropologist and Mayan linguist. Nora England gave me an insider’s introduction to the country and the people. When I went to live in Guatemala for a year in 2001, it was the fulfillment of a dream I’d had since childhood, to live in a foreign culture.

Whether it’s Guatemala or Nigeria or Indonesia, I think third world countries matter. I think small countries matter. Living in Guatemala changed my perspective on my own country, and my life here. My biggest challenge is not to get preachy. To present Guatemala to my readers with its beauty and its flaws and let them make up their own minds.

Jen: The story begins as your lead character Catherine and her son Isaac embark on a summer journey to Guatemala to visit with Aunt Zelda. Both mother and son have different agendas yet together they are on a journey of self-discovery. Why is Catherine so drawn to Todos Santos?

Deborah: She loves Todos Santos because it’s so far away—geographically and culturally—from her problems, so isolated, and yet so connected on an emotional level to the same questions she is asking.

Jen: Rather than attending summer school due to his errant ways, Isaac agrees to work for his aunt despite his father Elliot’s objections. Is his willingness to go a true journey of retribution? Or, is it simply his way of getting back at his Dad for the problems in their relationship?

Deborah: We don’t see very much of Isaac’s relationship with his father in the novel. Only at the end, when he’s happily eating breakfast with Elliot. I don’t think of Elliot as a bad or disengaged father, even though he may disagree with his wife on the best way to handle their son’s issues. However, I’m happy to let the readers draw their own conclusions on this question.

Jen: Along the way, Isaac finds himself in dire straits. Without giving too much away, from where does he find the inner strength that enables him to forge ahead? Is his mother Catherine the source of his inspiration? Or, is it simply his own desire that wills him to hopefully overcome the impossible?

Deborah: I see Isaac as a smart kid who gets in over his head and makes some bad decisions. I would guess his inner strength comes from confidence he has in himself, even though it’s tested. Whether his confidence comes from good parenting or the genetic roll of the dice, I’ll let the reader decide.

Jen: Catherine finds herself in a precarious position with her tour guide Oswaldo. Exactly what does she see in him that makes her even consider the possibility of throwing her marriage to Elliot away?

Deborah: Catherine was Elliot’s student before she was his wife. She continues to feel judged by him, and belittled by comparison. Oswaldo respects and admires her in a way that Elliot never could, because of the dynamic of their marriage. That respect helps her to see herself in a new way.

Jen: What did you learn about yourself as a writer by completing this project?

Deborah: Since I came back from Todos Santos late in 2002, I’ve kept a drawing taped to my refrigerator door. It was done by a friend and given to me at my going-away party in Todos Santos, and it shows a Todosantera reading a book called TODOS SANTOS. I kept it as a reminder that people there were expecting me to finish this novel. Through many later drafts, whenever I felt terror or despair that I wasn’t up to the task, I looked at the drawing and thought, I have to do it.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Will you be going on a book tour?

Deborah: I’ll start in my hometown of New York City with two events—Cornelia Street Café on July 8 and Idlewild Books on July 11. Then I’m off to visit friends and bookstores on the West Coast, including Third Place Books in Seattle on July 17 and Annie Bloom’s in Portland on July 15. Later I’ll swing through Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and more. Details of my tour are posted on my website.

Jen: As for your website, please take us on a brief tour.

Deborah: Please visit me at for an excerpt from the book, reviews, events, and a short video about me and my novel made by Olivia Carrescia, a filmmaker who has documented life in Todos Santos before and after the brutal civil war in two beautiful, award-winning films.

Jen: Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one? Will there be a Reading Group Guide available for TODOS SANTOS?

Deborah: TODOS SANTOS includes a Reading Group Guide and Author’s Q&A at the end of the novel. In addition, I’m available to visit reading groups within a drivable range of New York through my website.

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Deborah: Absolutely! After the time I’ve spent in Guatemala, I decided I had earned the right to speak in the voice of the natives. I’m working on a series of linked short stories and a novella in which the main characters are Guatemalan, and Americans are peripheral. Themes dealt with include migration, illegal immigration, foreign adoption, as well as the universals of love, loss, and family.

Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy summer schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. Best of luck with TODOS SANTOS!

Deborah: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Deborah. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of TODOS SANTOS today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail at jensjewels@gmail.comwith the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!
What is the name of Catherine’s son in the novel TODOS SANTOS?

Next month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Tilly Bagshawe, author of AFTER THE DARKNESS which is a continuation of Sidney Sheldon’s fabulous novels. You won’t want to miss it.

Until next time…


On Folly Beach by Karen white

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Set on Folly Beach, near Charleston, South Carolina, this story takes place both in the present & in the 1940s. Linking the two time periods are a bookstore, old books that have messages written in them, & the characters Emmy & Lulu. Emmy leaves Indiana for Folly Beach after her soldier husband is killed in Afghanistan. She is drawn there because of a box of books her mother has bought for her bookstore that came from Folly’s Finds. The books contain messages between a man & a woman & Emmy decides she wants to discover who these people were. Folly’s Finds is up for sale, & Emmy decides to buy it. Her story becomes interwoven with that of the two sisters, Maggie & Lulu, & their cousin Cat who lived on Folly Beach during the second world war.  Although parts of the story are very predictable, there are some surprises here & the historical aspect is interesting. Emmy’s recovery from the death of her husband & possible romance in the future gives it a sense of hope as does the redemption of Lulu. Quite a light read but not trivial, this makes for a good summer novel.

Karen White has written several other books including,

The Girl On Legare Street

The Lost Hours

The House on Tradd Street

The Memory of Water

See more of her titles at

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

  Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods (Find this book in our catalog).

This book has been receiving quite a lot of attention in the publishing world and looks set to become a word-of-mouth success.  Sarah Galvin, The Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid, N.Y., wrote this recently in PW,  “The author has captured the spirit of an animal that so many of us knew nothing about.  Her writing and research about the civil war in the Congo helps the reader to understand the impact that it has had on the bonobos.”

Vanessa Woods and her scientist fiancé settle in a Bonobo sanctuary in war-torn Congo where their research enables greater understanding of the extremely endangered apes.  At the same time the bonobos teach Woods a new truth about love and belonging.

You may also like:
  Lucy: a novel (Find this book in our catalog) by Laurence Gonzalez
An explosive, daring novel that suggests what might happen when a young girl is discovered to be the result of the experimental breeding of human and ape.

Murder On the Orient Express

Monday, July 12th, 2010

On Sunday, July 11, PBS Masterpiece Mystery! aired Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express starring David Suchet as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the first of a trio of new Poirot mysteries. Third Girl airs July 18, and Appointment With Death airs July 25.

To celebrate Christie (whose 120th birthday is this year), Poirot and Murder on the Orient Express, Masterpiece Mystery! is organizing a series of events.  Read more…

Check these out from Harford County Public Library:

Murder on the Orient Express

Third Girl

Appointment with Death