August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • The Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley
  • Downfall, Rob Thurman
  • The Skeleton Takes a Bow, Leigh Perry
  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, Diana Gabaldon

Anthony Berkeley’s wonderful mystery was originally written in 1929, and it’s still a great read, very entertaining. In the tradition of mysteries of that time, it’s lighthearted and features a group of people of varying degrees of intelligence and social status who meet to decipher a murder that has affected many of them personally. The poisoned chocolates delivered to that cad, Sir Eustace, instead killed the innocent wife of Graham Bendix. Each of the group is supposed to deliver the solution; after many ingenious theories, with a little more truth exposed each time, the most unlikely person actually solves the mystery and exposes the murderer. It’s a charming exercise in plotting. Any of Anthony Berkeley’s books are worth reading if you can find them in reprint (this one was produced by Felony and Mayhem Press).

I’ve enjoyed Rob Thurman’s books for years. Downfall is a more challenging read because it switches viewpoints from that of Cal Leandros (a half-Auph, perhaps soon to be full Auph) to that of Robin Goodfellow, who has befriended Cal and his brother Niko many, many times in reincarnation after reincarnation, only to loose them to violence. If you’ve read the other Cal and Niko books, don’t skip this one; if you haven’t, don’t start with Downfall.

My friend Leigh Perry’s new book, The Skeleton Takes a Bow, will be on the shelves Sept. 2. If you want a lighthearted mystery with a very relatable protagonist, this is your book. Perry’s Sid the Skeleton series is becoming very popular, and deservedly so. Dr. Georgia Thackery, adjunct professor, who is just scraping by making a living for herself and her daughter, returns to her family home to teach at the local college and is reunited with her friend Sid. The first book in the series tells the story of their friendship and solves the mystery of Sid’s own death. In this second book, Georgia’s daughter borrows part of Sid (his skull) for her school production of Hamlet, and Sid becomes a witness to a murder. It’s delightful reading.

Diana Gabaldon has always been one of my favorite writers, and I’m really loving Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. It’s incredibly complicated, moving what feels like a dozen characters around during the American Revolution, but well worth it. Again, it’s not the book to start reading Gabaldon on. Start with Outlander! You’ll be in for a great treat. Claire Beauchamp is one of the best characters in American popular fiction.


I’m flying over the UK later today to do some signings on my way to the ancient city of York, where I’ll be a guest of honor at Fantasy Con. I always love to meet my readers in the UK, who are invariably welcoming and polite. The compact size of the UK makes it possible for me to do two signings a day. The noon signings are designed to accommodate people on their lunch hours, so I don’t have a chance to do a talk at those. I walk in, wave, and sit down to start signing. The evening events are more relaxed, since I do get to answer questions and feel that I’ve given the audience a little bit of an experience.

After all my duties are done, I’m going on holiday with my husband. I’m pretty excited about that, since we don’t do vacations that often. I’ll check the board from time to time, I’m sure, so don’t party too hard while I’m away. It should be nice for us to get away for a while and relax. One of our friends recently suggested that we charter a private jet with Jettly to get to our destination. That would make the holiday even more exciting. We might look into that.

I hope some of you regularly visit the Femmes Fatales blog site on Typepad. We’re one of the oldest groups in existence (in Internet terms) since a core group of us did a print newsletter together before the prevalence of computers. We gradually shifted from print to Internet. Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Hank Phillipi Ryan, Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Dean James (Miranda James), Catriona McPherson, Elaine Viets, Kris Neri, and Marcia Talley – and me – try to put up a new blog each day. Some are about writing issues, some about reading, some about everyday life as a writer. I think they’re all entertaining. Over the years, the personnel roster has changed a bit, but we’re still plugging away. My blog sisters (and brother) are all smart and entertaining, so pay us a visit.

This week I sent the manuscript for Midnight Crossroad: The Day Shift to my new editor, Diana Gill, and to my agent, Joshua Bilmes at JABberwocky. I’d implemented Toni and Dana’s suggestions, which made it a much stronger book. I feel pretty confident, but nothing stops me from being jittery while I wait to hear from them. No matter how many books I write, or how good my sales figures may be, this is always a tense time for me. Other writers confess they feel the same.

So wish me luck, and I’ll “see” you again when I return.

Charlaine Harris