January Bagels and Books – now that we have all those mysteries behind us


general history

specific history

imagined history

What intrigues you about the past?  Do you like your fiction with an accurate historical background?  Do you read only non-fiction?

Is it the places, the politics,  or the people that you find most interesting?  We talked about history last year.  What have you read since then?


Follow up to December Meeting: mysteries, mysteries, mysteries

Lots of reading suggestions here – certainly enough to get you through a cold winter

We started by talking about our favorite mystery author(s) – some of us had many.  Names that were included were: Daniel Silva, Laurie King, Elizabeth George, Robert Goddard, Michael Connelly, Bill Tapply and Jo Nesbo, Craig Johnson, Harlan Coben, Peter Abrahams, William Kent Krueger, Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves, Dennis Lehane, and Kate Atkinson.

Moving on – names and titles mentioned include:

Daniel Silva – especially his non-series The Unlikely Spy

Carlos Ruiz Zafon both his first – The Shadow of the Wind and his second, The Angel’s Game – the 3rd book was not recommended.

R. D. Wingfield and his Frost series – also mentioned the follow ups to this series written by James Henry (a pseudonym for James Gurbutt and Henry Sutton) – Titles are First Frost and Fatal Frost.(Fatal Frost not available in this country yet)

Philip Craig –  wrote books based on Martha’s Vineyard (Vineyard Chill was one title) – he collaborated with Bill Tapply on at least one title.

Charlotte MacLeod – (died in 2005) – had series featuring Prof Peter Shandy and one set in Boston featuring Sarah Kelling Bittersohn and/or Max Bittersohn – Titles include Rest You Merry and The Family Vault (first in each series) and several non-series titles.

Sharon McCrumb – Appalachian “Ballad” series including She Walks These Hills.  She has received many awards for preserving Appalachian history.  She also has a NASCAR series starting with St. Dale, and an earlier series of Elizabeth MacPherson novels including If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him and The PMS Outlaws  She also has the Jay Omega Novels including Bimbos of the Death Sun – so something for everyone.

J. A. Jance – several series , her Joanna Brady one about an Arizona sheriff and the J. P. Beaumont series set in Seattle are probably the best known.

Nevada Barr – best known for her Anna Pigeon series. Anna is a park ranger and the books are set in various National parks – provide a great way to travel in your armchair.

Elizabeth Peters – aka Barbara Michaels (name was actually Barbara Mertz) – died this summer.  As Peters, she wrote a series featuring Vicky Bliss, one with Jacqueline Kirby, and the Amelia Peabody series which used her background as an Egyptologist.   There are at least 29 titles under the Michaels name starting with The Master of Blacktower.

Margaret Truman – Harry’s daughter and a prolific author writing mysteries set in various Washington locations between 1980 and 2008.  The first was Murder in the White House and the last was Murder Inside the Beltway written shortly before her death

Jane Langton – local Concord author renowned both for her Homer Kelly mysteries and her books for young readers – The Diamond in the Window and The Fledgling being two of her best known children’s titles.  Her first mystery was The Transcendental Murder (aka The Minuteman Murder).  She has a couple set around Harvard – The Memorial Hall Murder and The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels.

Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity – a YA title but excellent read.  About a couple of girls who are British spys during WWII.  She won a bunch of awards for this one – including the Edgar and a Boston Globe/Horn Books Awards Honor Book award

Dennis Lehane – has the Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro series that has 6 titles beginning with A Drink Before the War.  He is also the author of Mystic River and Shutter Island and has written two of what he says is a trilogy – The Given Day and Live by Night.

Erik Larson – The Devil in the White City – a true crime story set during the “fair that changed America”

Kathy Reichs – has the Temperance Brennan series that is the basis for the Bones television show.

Patricia Cornwell – was one of the early writers using CSI methods of crime solving – her character is a female Medical Examiner.  In checking out all her titles I discovered that she also uses food in some of her books – like Scarpetta’s Winter Table.  I think her earlier books are her best – first is Postmortem.

Truman Capote – In Cold Blood – mentioned as an English assignment on what her teacher thought was a new genre – somewhere between true crime and fiction

Linda Barnes – has a series featuring Carlotte Carlyle – a 6 ft tall red-headed taxi-driver/detective.  Her most recent book was a stand alone called The Perfect Ghost.

Hallie Ephron – also a local author whose latest is There was an Old Women.

Benjamin Black – a pseudonym for John Banville – books under the Black name include Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, Elegy for April and A Death in Summer.

Stephen Dobyns – several titles but the one most recommended is The Church of the Dead Girls.

Rebecca Stott – Ghost Walk – title that takes you to Cambridge (the one in England) in the present and the past of 17th century glassmaking, alchemy, the Great Plague and Newton’s scientific innovations

Jennifer Lee Carrill – Interred with their Bones – a story of a lost Shakespeare play – this author likes Shakespeare – another title is The Shakespeare Secret.

Leslie Silbert – Intelligencer – website says this is a PI turned novelist – another lost play – Christopher Marlowe in this one.

Douglas Adams – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency –  – and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

Jan Burke – character is Irene Kelly – she started with Goodnight, Irene.  Irene is a reporter married to a policeman – there are 10 books in the series.  They started getting more complex (and I thought better) with Hocus.  She has also made the husband Frank Harriman the main character of one title and has written some stand alones.

Rhys Bowen – traditional mysteries (read cozies) set in Wales – character is constable Evans and the titles are puns on the name – Evans Above, Evans Gate.  She also has a Molly Murphy series.  Mention of Wales led to a mention of Nancy Bond’s YA title – A String in the Harp that includes Welsh mythology.

Michael Gruber – The Book of Air and Shadows – another Shakespearean mystery

Iain Pears – has a number of titles (An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Dream of Scipio) but the ones discussed here are the art theft mysteries including The Raphael Affair, The Titian Committee, and The Bernini Bust.

Dana Stabenow – Alaskan author with a couple series, best known being the Kate Shugak series, an Aleut investigator who lives in a national park in Alaska.

Susan Conant – a Cambridge (ours) author who writes about dogs – especially about malamutes.  Her character is a writer for Dog’s Life Magazine, Holly Winter.

Sue Henry – another Alaskan author – First in her series was Murder on the Iditarod Trail.

Christi Phillips – The Rossetti Letter – set in 17th century Venice

Kate Mosse –  Labyrinth – an historical mystery set in the Pyrenees about the crusades and the true Grail.

Mystery/Detective TV shows we have enjoyed:


Death in Paradise

George Gently (based on books by Alan Hunter)

Midsomer Murders

Scott and Bailey

Not a mystery but mentioned as worth reading – The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – about mythical beings in turn of the century New York.

Selections from Lynette’s list:

Caught in the Light – Robert Goddard

Snow White Must Die – Nele Neuhaus

Ghostman – Roger Hobbs

The Andalucian Friend – Alexander Sodenberg

Capital Punishment – Robert Wilson

Tuesday’s Gone – Nicci French

Murder as a Fine Art – David Morrell

Creepers – David Morrell

Bookman’s Tale – Charles Lovett

The Redeemer – Jo Nesbo

Nine Dragons – Michael Connelly

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews

Blind Justice – Anne Perry

The Last Good Day – Peter Blauner

The English Girl – Daniel Silva

How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny

The Star of Istanbul – Robert Olen Butler

Police – Jo Nesbo

Identical – Scott Turow


The subject is mysteries.  Check out earlier posts for possible suggestions.  I just finished a light mystery in a series I hadn’t read in a long time.  The main character is a young attractive undertaker in Baltimore and the titles are a play on the word Hearse – This one is The Hearse Case Scenario.  (although his last in the series was called Back Stabber – go figure) Amusing but not really deep  – described as noir in cheek – and I think I lost interest in reading this one before the author lost interest in writing it.  He is Tim Cockey and I have always wondered if his family was the one that Cockeysville (outside Baltimore) was named for.   At any rate these were written several years ago and he doesn’t seem to be writing now.


Another media outlet heard from


The Wall Street Journal had an interesting section on books for 2013 including inviting 50 well known people to choose their favorites.  But they also had a mystery column with Tom Nolan and his list of 10 best mysteries.  What I found most appealing about his list is its international flavor.  Here are his recommendations:

 Holy Orders by Benjamin Black – When the body of his daughter’s friend is brought to his autopsy table, Quirke is plunged into a world of corruption that takes him to the darkest corners of the Irish Church and State.

 Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye – 1846: In New York City, slave catching isn’t just legal—it’s law enforcement.  Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the “blackbirders,” who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

 The Dinosaur Feather by S. J. Gazan – Winner of the Danish Crime Novel of the Decade and a national bestseller, S.J. Gazan’s debut novel The Dinosaur Feather is a classic of Scandinavian noir. With keenly observed and deeply flawed characters, this scintillating thriller uniquely employs one of the most controversial and fascinating areas of contemporary dinosaur and avian research in its diabolical twists. 

 Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton – In 1982, Sue Grafton introduced Kinsey Millhone. Today, Kinsey is an icon of detective fiction and her creator is at the top of her form. This collection is both a look at Sue Grafton’s own early life in the guise of the character Kit Blue, and a fascinating glimpse of Kinsey Millhone in nine tales featuring “the spunkiest, funniest, and most engaging private investigator [in] the entire detective novel genre.”—Entertainment Weekly

 The Rage by Gene Kerrigan – Vincent Naylor, just released from jail, resumes doing what he does best, planning for an armored car robbery. Bob Tidey, an honest policeman, discouraged by his colleagues making deals with criminals and about to commit perjury, is investigating the murder of a crooked banker. A call from an old acquaintance will change his course of investigation. Maura Coady, a retired nun living on regrets and bad memories, sees something that she can’t ignore and decides to tell someone. She makes a phone call that sets in motion a violent fate.  Winner of the 2012 Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel

 Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina – It’s the week before Christmas when a lone robber bursts into a Glasgow post office carrying an AK-47. An elderly man suddenly hands his young grandson to a stranger and helps the gunman fill bags with cash. He opens the door for the gunman and bows his head; the robber shoots the grandfather, tearing him in two. DS Alex Morrow arrives on the scene and finds that the alarm system had been disabled before the robbery. Yet none of the employees can be linked to the gunman. And the grandfather is above reproach. As Morrow searches for the killer, she uncovers a hidden, sinister political network. Soon it is chillingly clear: no corner of the city is safe, and her involvement will go deeper than she could ever have imagined.

 Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura – The second book by prize-winning Japanese novelist Fuminori Nakamura to be available in English translation, a follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed The Thief─another fantastically creepy, electric literary thriller that explores the limits of human depravity─and the powerful human instinct to resist evil.

 Under Tower Peak by Bart Paul – A missing aviator’s billion-dollar fortune and a fool’s mistake bring mayhem down on a small-town ranching and resort community in this unrelenting, tautly written debut thriller.

 The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach – The internationally bestselling courtroom drama centering on a young German lawyer and a case involving World War II

Enigma of China by Qiu Ziaolong- Zhou Keng—a trusted princeling, son of a major party member—was head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee when a number of his corrupt practices were exposed on the internet.  Removed from his position and placed into extra-legal detention, Zhou apparently hanged himself while under guard.  While the Party is anxious to have Zhou’s death declared a suicide, and for the renowned Chief Inspector Chen to sign off on that conclusion, the sequence of events don’t quite add up. Now Chen will have to decide what to do – investigate the death as a possible homicide and risk angering unseen powerful people, or seek the justice that his position requires him to strive for.

WEB Conference on trends in mystery writing

with representatives from Publishers Weekly, Severn House and Soho Publishing.  They explored a few trends in mystery writing and then the publisher reps talked about books they have coming out in the next few months.

Everyone agreed that they were seeing more cross genre writing – mysteries with paranormal content for example (although mystery romances have been a staple for years) and there was some discussion of more literary authors moving into the genre since it has been so successful.

They talked about whether Scandinavian mysteries were becoming over-published in the wake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo phenomena.  Some agreement that there was and these publishers are focusing on Asian writers and African writers although they did say some Americans were now placing their stories in Scandinavia.

A question on popularity of historical mysteries overlapped with a question on whether people were reading more escapist books (perhaps cozies) in the wake of economic hard times.  Historical mysteries remain popular and there was a feeling that current mysteries are so technology focused that there is less ‘mystery’ about them.  These publishers were seeing interest in mysteries that went back to the 80’s – so recent history – as well as the traditional medieval, tudor, Victorian and Greek and Roman series.  There was also a feeling that people found historical settings more escapist.  They also mentioned the Downton Abbey effect.

The last question considered was the effect of e-books and while the publishers were generally positive about them, the Severn House publisher said they now issue E-books at the same time as hard covers and for the first 3 months, the price is the same before the e-book price drops.  They have found this fairly successful as a way to maintain bottom line to support mid-list authors who are often dropped by larger publishers as profits fall.

Here are some of the titles they are pushing:

Mr. Campion’s Farewell – a Margery Allingham character with the book finished by Mike Repley

Even in Darkness by Lynn Hightower

Turn Left at Doheny by J. F. Freedman

The Art of the Devil by John Altman (this is an example of more recent history – an assassins attempt on Eisenhower’s life)

Jack of Spies – David Downing

Herbie’s Game – Timothy Hallinen

Murder in Pigalle – Cara Black

Cold Storage Alaska – John Straley  (he is poet laureate of Alaska – an example of cross over)

Murder at Cape Three Point by Kwei Quartey – set in Ghana (similar to #1 Ladies Detective Agency)

Questions from the audience elicited comments on the popularity of legal thrillers – waning – ; the preference of publishers to series over stand alone titles; and a question on children’s mysteries that allowed the Soho publisher to talk about a new imprint for teen mysteries.  The final question was on whether a book could be considered a mystery without a murder and while they all said they have examples of books where there are other crimes, apparently you really need a body.

Traditional Mysteries – often called cozies – for those who like mysteries but not so much the gore


 Here is how Good Reads defines these mysteries

Cozies very rarely focus on sex, profanity or violence. The murders take place off stage, and are often relatively bloodless (e.g. poisoning), while sexual activity (if any) between characters is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed. The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other. The amateur sleuth is usually a very likable person who is able to get the community members to talk freely about each other. There is usually at least one very knowledgeable, nosy, yet reliable character in the book who is able to fill in all of the blanks, thus enabling the amateur sleuth to solve the case.

 I would add that they often have a theme that they follow – cooking (complete with recipes), knitting (maybe even a pattern), book selling, house repairs, theater – it goes on and on.

The queen of traditional mysteries is Agatha Christie but lots of writers have followed in her path.  Here are a few suggestions:

 If you like to read about food and maybe even cook – Katherine Hall Page is a local author whose series about caterer Faith Fairchild has more than 20 titles – she has even put together a cookbook from the recipes included in each book.  Her latest is The Body in the Piazza. Here is a list of a few of her colleagues:

Peter E. Abresch – Elderhostel mysteries

M C Beaton – Agatha Raisin mysteries

Cleo Coyle – Coffeehouse mysteries

Diane Mott Davidson – Culinary mysteries

Katie Fforde – Second Thyme Around and Thyme Out

Joanne Fluke – Hannah Swensen mysteries

J. Lynne Hinton – Hope Springs Trilogy

Kay-Marie James – Cooking for Harry

G. A. McKevett – Savannah Reid mystery

Tamar Myers – Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries with recipes

Nancy Pickard & Virginia Rich – Eugenia Potter mysteries

Phyllis Richman – The Butter Did It and Murder on the Gravy Train

Linda Shepherd – Potluck Club mysteries

Lou Jane Temple – Heaven Lee mysteries and The Spice Box mystery 

 Knitting mysteries

Maggie Sefton has a series with 11 titles.  The first in the series is  Knit One, Kill Two.

Sally Goldenbaum’s latest in her knitting series is Angora Alibi: A Seaside Knitters Mystery

Other authors include Barbara Bretton, Rachel Herron and Gil McNeil

 To find more cozies (and more themes), check out a webpage that lists them by category and alphabetically – http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Cozy-Mysteries-by-Themes.html


BEING AN NRP FAN I thought their recommendations for best of 2013 would be worth considering.  I just pulled the titles on topic but if you want to see the entire list, check out  http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2013/

ImageHow the Light Gets In – Louise Penny – This is a mystery worth disconnecting all electronic devices and staying home for. How the Light Gets In is the ninth novel in Louise Penny’s extraordinary series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his troubled sidekick, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, of the Surete du Quebec. Penny has been working throughout her series to tap into the spiritual dimensions of the genre, consequently, this novel is one part foul play; two parts morality play. Gamache and his skeleton crew of loyal police allies must root out an epic conspiracy and the battle between good and evil that ensues rivals the faceoff between the heavenly army and Lucifer’s fallen angels in Paradise Lost.

ImageSpeaking from Among the Bones – Alan Bradley – Twelve-year-old chemist and detective Flavia de Luce is just fun to read about. In her latest book (the fifth in the series), she tries to unravel a mystery involving hidden corpses, missing treasure, secret passageways, family secrets and a surefire way to scare the heck out of the vicar’s wife.

ImageLittle Elvises – Timothy Hallinan – Timothy Hallinan, an accomplished mystery writer (check out his series set in Bangkok, featuring an American travel writer named Poke Rafferty), introduced Junior Bender in Crashed.. Bender, who lives in Los Angeles, makes his main living as a burglar. He also moonlights as a fixer: Southern California criminals know that if they get in a real jam, they can turn to Junior to get them out of trouble. When he’s hired to clear a former music industry talent spotter of murder, Junior realizes that the more he delves into the case, the more complex it becomes. And it’s likely that nobody’s going to be happy with the outcome of his investigation. The third novel in the Bender trilogy, The Fame Thief, also came out in 2013: It was a tossup for me to choose which one to include in this list. I’d recommend reading the novels in order, but you don’t absolutely need to — each one is as splendidly entertaining as the others.

Image Doctor Sleep – Stephen King – Read this book anywhere … except, say, if you’re alone and snowbound in a vacant, isolated hotel. Yes, Stephen King brings us the sequel to The Shining — and it’s almost as gripping as the original. The book follows Danny, the terrified boy from the Overlook Hotel, into adulthood in New England. King says writing a sequel to such a blockbuster was risky — “being scared is like sex,” the author says, “there’s nothing like your first time” — but he simply couldn’t resist. And neither will you after you open these pages.

Image The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – A thoroughly satisfying crime novel — even if you didn’t know it was really written by J.K. Rowling. Set in London, with a private investigator appealing enough that you’ll long for his next assignment, The Cuckoo’s Calling is tightly plotted and faithful to the genre in all the right places. More than this, it’s an original tale with robust characterization and witty, yet forceful criticism of our obsession with celebrity and of the destructive power of the press. The best part is that you won’t be able to guess, until nearly the very end, whodunit.

 ImageClaire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway – Sara Gran –  All those Vikings who’ve been taking over mystery fiction can now go jump in a fjord! Brooklyn-born author, Sara Gran, has reintroduced a distinctive American voice to the mystery in the guise of her 40-ish, bad-girl detective, Claire DeWitt. In this second outing, DeWitt’s investigations into the murder of an old boyfriend take her from the elite Bohemian Grove Club in California to New York’s Lower East Side. Along the way, her narration is infused with tough poetry. About being a teenager, Claire says: “It was a secret world you gained admittance to at fourteen and left at twenty, swearing never to repeat what you’d seen.” Wise readers will zip their lips and stay close to Claire.

 ImageOne Came Home – Amy Timberlake – The year is 1871, the setting is rural Wisconsin, and the unidentifiable dead body is not Agatha Burkhardt — or so believes her 13-year-old sister, Georgie. Determined to uncover the truth, Georgie runs away, armed with her rifle and her ardent belief that her sister is still alive. Georgie follows the trail of the pigeon hunters Agatha was last seen with, unaware that someone is following her as she heads straight for danger. In One Came Home, author Amy Timberlake seamlessly weaves together history and humor, passenger pigeons and criminals, to create a suspenseful page-turner. (For ages 9 to 12) – I included this because a good  book is a good book – not matter who it is written for.

Have you started reading mysteries yet?

Nothing like a big meal to send me to the couch with a book so post-Thanksgiving is great reading time.  I found a new mystery/thriller author – turns out to be local – named Leonard Rosen.  His first book was All Cry Chaos which introduced his character Henri Poincare, an interpol agent near the end of his career.  Described as a thinking man’s mystery (well – woman too) and a thrilling ride, this is a book that usually winds up in the category of literary thriller.  His most recent title is The Tenth Witness which is a prequel to the first book and tells you how Henri came to be an interpol agent.  I enjoyed it very much – themes  include loyalty, racial hatred and the legacy of war (in this case WWII and the Nazi concentration camps)