Books & Blog: May 20, 2016

Books of the Week:

  • The Dead Will Tell, Linda Castillo
  • Murder at the Manor, edited by Martin Edwards
  • Fellside, M.R. Carey
  • Burned, Benedict Jacka
  • Swimsuit Body, Eileen Goudge

Linda Castillo’s The Dead Will Tell is not the first book in her series about Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. This takes place in a small town called Painters Mill, in Amish country. In fact, Kate is a former member of that community. A long-ago crime, the murder of an Amish family, starts to surface when some people in Painters Mill receive threatening notes. Kate investigates a murder thinly camouflaged to look like suicide, and the scope of the case begins to widen. Kate is a likeable character, brave and persistent, and the ending does pack quite a wallop.

I met Martin Edwards at Malice Domestic, and I was eager to read one of his collections when I got home. Murder at the Manor is a group of country house murder short stories, and it’s peaceful reading and a lot of fun. Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Anthony Berkley, and Margery Allingham are among the writers represented. I think this is would be a great gift for almost any mystery reader.

M.R. Carey is a writer I admire immensely, and I was very anxious to read follow-up book to The Girl With All the Gifts. Color me stunned when I discovered this book was set in a privately run women’s prison, and the protagonist is a convicted child murderer who simply can’t remember the circumstances of the fire she supposedly started in which a little boy died. To say this seemed a random choice is to understate my reaction. But it’s really a great book, and beautifully written. There’s a lot about human nature, the power of dreams, and the afterlife, just to start with big themes.

Burned is the latest Benedict Jacka book about Alex Verus, a practitioner of magic who simply wants to be left alone. Verus has a very difficult past, and he does not want to get involved in the politics between two opposing political groups in the magic community. But there’s no way he’s going to get to stand by neutrally. The previous six books have led up to this moment in Verus’s life. While these excellent books can be read as standalones, to get the full flavor of the world it’s better if they’re read in sequence. This is one of my favorite series of the past few years. Verus is a tough survivor.

I had conflicted feelings about Swimsuit Body, a conventional mystery by Eileen Goudge. It came highly recommended by a trusted friend, and I was eager to read it. However, it was hard to get past the bizarre actions of the protagonist, Tish Ballard, who doesn’t want the police to suspect her of meddling . . . and yet Tish copies the contents of a murder victim’s phone onto her laptop while she’s waiting for the police to arrive. Really? However, I swallowed that lump and went on to enjoy the rest of the book. Property manager and recovering alcoholic Tish is a likeable character, and she has believable friends who lend the book warmth and charm.

Blog

Life is weird and wonderful sometimes. Hot on the heels of the excellent news that the pilot of MIDNIGHT TEXAS was picked up by NBC, I was on the plane to New York to attend the up-front extravaganza the network puts on every year for advertisers. This year, the NBC upfront was hosted by all the stations that fall under the NBC umbrella: Bravo, Telemundo, Esquire, Chiller, E!, MSNBC, and many more. So it was a briskly moving two-hour presentation. Jimmy Kimmel opened with a song and dance, and my mouth dropped open. I never expected in my life to see Kimmel in person, much less the stars who followed: two of the Kardashians, Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta, Seth Green, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keyes, Miley Cyrus, and many more. I hadn’t known what to expect, but surely not this parade of luminaries.

In the cavernous Radio City Music Hall, I was not anywhere physically near these notables, but I was quite impressed with myself since I was even in the same building.

I had really hoped that a trailer for MIDNIGHT TEXAS would be included, but I was disappointed. It appears now that it will be a midseason replacement, which is actually a good thing. I have since seen the trailer, and it’s dynamic and rich. You won’t be let down! It’s full-tilt magic from the word go.

Now I’m back to real life and real obligations, but it was really fun to live in an alternate universe for a couple of days!

Charlaine Harris