Crime Fiction Friday: “In The Covered Bridge” by Hallie Price

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As the students head back to college, this tale from Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series got our attention. Price has a wonderful gift of creating mood and emotion between the lines.

“In The Covered Bridge” by Hallie Price

“My life seemed great in college. I started on the college hockey team as a freshman, and my roommate was my best friend, Abby. My tuition was waived because my mom worked as a dorm janitor. She had introduced me to my fiancé, who lived in another dorm where she cleaned. My fiancé was good-looking and had money; his dad was a CEO.  Mom thought my fiancé was amazing, but I didn’t feel comfortable wearing the expensive jewelry and lingerie he bought me. After a while I wanted to call off the engagement, but didn’t because I didn’t want to deal with Mom’s disappointment.

Mom was vegan and ran every day. She was five foot ten, had long, shiny, naturally black hair, and breast implants. The college boys called her “the hot cleaning lady.” The men who went after her were carpenters and electricians, blue-collar types who worked with their hands. She wouldn’t go out with them.

My dad had never been in the picture…”

Read the rest of the story here.

MysteryPeople Review: X by Sue Grafton

xIn anticipation of Sue Grafton’s appearance here at BookPeople, here’s a review from bookseller Michael Stuart of Grafton’s latest alphabet mystery, X. Grafton comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her latest Monday, August 31st, at 7 PM. Find out more event details.

  • Post by Michael Stuart

It’s been a while since I checked in with Kinsey Millhone, the narrator of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet mysteries.” I’ve missed a few letters here and there But I’m glad I made the trip back to read Grafton’s latest mystery, simply titled X.

Although time moves a little slower in the fictional town of Santa Theresa, CA (it’s still the 1980s) the action doesn’t slow down. Kinsey is juggling several cases involving old secrets and hidden identities.

First, a wealthy heiress hires Kinsey to locate her son, given up for adoption after a youthful indiscretion. He has just been released from prison and she says she wants to make up for her mistakes. Also, while helping a fellow P.I’s widow straighten out his old business, Kinsey finds a coded message and some other items hidden in a box of old files. Her investigation might prove that he was a hero or a  villain.

Meanwhile, at home Kinsey is dealing with her landlord’s efforts to conserve water during the drought and the quirky new neighbors who may not be as neighborly as the pretend.

As always Grafton’s story flows without stopping and characters are well drawn and believable. Kinsey is as smart, funny, grumpy, lazy, hard-working and passionate as ever. I am going back to pick up the letters I missed and eagerly look forward to what “W”  will bring.


You can find copies of Grafton’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Shotgun Blast From The Past: Two Barrels of Jesse Stone

  • Review by MysteryPeople Scott

Reed Farrel Coleman’s second book in his continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series, The Devil Wins, comes out next month. Anticipating his new novel got me thinking about the first two books to introduce and feature Robert B. Parker’s tarnished police chief: Night Passage and Trouble In Paradise. Parker created Stone as a means to stretch his writing muscles in ways he didn’t get to with his popular private eye Spenser. In doing so, he created one of his more complex series characters.

In the first book, Night Passage, we get to know Jesse on a cross country trip from LA to Paradise, a small Massachusetts island town where he just got a job as police chief. As Jesse stops at motels and monuments (most notably the statue of his hero, Cardinals short stop Ozzie Smith) he asses his past, as injured minor league ball-player-turned-homicide-detective, as a failed husband now divorced, and as an alcoholic fired from from the LAPD. The trip is interwoven with a mysterious set of baddies scheming, many on the town council of Stone’s new place of residence. It’s how we learn that Jesse is hired not for his strengths, but for his weaknesses. He was drunk at the job interview, making the powers that be believe he wouldn’t notice what they are up to.

Night Passage is Jesse’s tentative first steps into a shaky rebirth. His ex moves nearby and they start a relationship that may be forgiving, but not healthy. He begins to bond with his deputies, who will be just as important to the series as himself. He shows that he has a sense of justice and will enforce the law and do what he can to bring those down, as some members on the town council soon learn.

In Trouble In Paradise, Parker pushes himself in theme and genre. The book appears to be partly inspired by Dashielle Hammett’s short story “The Gutting Of Couffigal.” The plot revolves around a group of criminals who plan to shut down, then rob, an island town. This is where Parker’s foray into third person pays off. This is the first time we really hang out with the criminals in a Parker novel and the book excels as a heist story. He even plays with subgenre, making the right hand man, Crow, the most dangerous and smartest of the robbers. He also drops in Peyton Place melodrama, dealing with the relationships and infidelities in Paradise, including those of Jesse’s deputies. Both subgenres and another investigation dovetail into the third act of the story to create a modern western with only group of rag-tag lawmen to hold back the nefarious bandits.

A western element permeates the entire series. Jesse very much asks like the sheriff, protecting the town. The switch is that the sheriff is more in the vein of Dean Martin’s wounded drunk in Rio Bravo, than a stalwart, rock steady John Wayne. He also has to protect the town from their own citizens at times.

Both Night Passage and Trouble In Paradise set up Stone as the opposite of Spenser. he’s less self-assured, more dependent and involved in those around him, with more than one woman in his life. He does share Spenser’s sense of justice and need to get the job done. It’s comforting to see a writer of Reed Farrel Coleman’s caliber taking on the character. Jesse deserves to be in good hands.


You can find copies of Night Passage and Trouble in Paradise on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Copies of The Devil Wins hit the shelves Tuesday, September 8th. Pre-order a copy now!

MysteryPeople Q&A with Richard Goodfellow

  • Post and Interview by MysteryPeople Scott

Richard Goodfellow’s debut, The Collector Of Secrets, is a fresh thriller that takes us through Japan. The main character Max Travers, an American teaching English, comes into possession of a diary that contains dangerous information. Stuck in the middle of the government, the police, and the Yakuza, Travers goes on the run with the help of his gorgeous girlfriend and a game-designing Shinto priest. We caught up to Mr. Goodfellow to ask him about the book and its setting.


MysteryPeople Scott: Many of the secrets in the book involve the Japanese royal family. Was there any actual history you used as a jumping off point?

Richard Goodfellow: Absolutely. One of the key inspirations was a book called Gold Warriors (by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave) which documents the gold and other looted treasure hidden by the Japanese royal family in the Philippines during World War II, and the subsequent secret recovery and use of that fortune for bribery, manipulation and covert operations.

MPS: Max is such a great every-man hero. How did you approach him while telling the story?

RG: There are so many books which have great James Bond or Jason Bourne ‘super characters’, but I clearly remember wanting something different with Collector of Secrets. I think a fallible protagonist struggling to survive in a mad situation is someone to which each of can personally relate, and I approached him by focusing on base-survival instincts as opposed to learned skills.

MPS: The reader gets to see a different side of Japan in the novel. What did you want to convey about the country?

RG: I wanted to convey that while Japan does indeed contain many of the common images we’ve all come to know, it’s a much richer and more complex society than we often see portrayed in Western culture. The Japanese dream is a slightly more compact version of the American dream, and it contains the same personal challenges and triumphs.

MPS: What is the biggest misconception about it?

RG: I think Toshi, the Shinto priest, summed it up best when he said the following to Max Travers. “You’ve seen what you’ve been told to see: sushi, karaoke, capsule hotels, geishas, and sumo wrestling. But you haven’t moved beneath the surface. This country has both good and bad. It shouldn’t be a shock.”

MPS: This being your first novel, did you draw from any influences?

RG: My influences are somewhat eclectic, but Dan Brown and John Grisham are at the top of the list for their action and style. But then there are other books that I’ve read several times over, like The Sparrow; Bel Canto; The Kite Runner; Memoirs of a Geisha and The Life of Pi, which inspire with amazing words and scenes that are so moving.

MPS: What made you choose a thriller for your first novel?

RG: I wanted to write what I love, and for me that’s the escapism of the thriller, especially the ones set in foreign countries. I’ve personally traveled to over 50 countries, but paying the bills requires a job, and this is where the thriller can provide that rush – that small daily escape – but from the comfort and safety of an arm chair.


You can find copies of The Collector of Secrets on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Q&A with Brad Parks

  • Post and Interview by MysteryPeople Scott 

Brad Parks is doing something I don’t see as often as I’d like: His Carter Ross book series is getting better and better. Too often authors of a book series start out strong and then start coasting or becoming a caricature of their former selves.

But Parks, with his newest book The Fraud, takes his series about Carter Ross, a journalist at a Newark, NJ newspaper, on a deeper and wilder ride than any of his previous novels. I feel a kinship with Brad since we both worked as newspaper reporters but in different regions so I have interviewed him for most of his books (read an interview with Parks about his second-to-latest novel).

Most of the books in Parks’ series involve Carter Ross encountering various barriers and obstacles while working as a journalist. To lighten things up, Carter’s lovelife is sometimes as funny as Stephanie Plum’s in Janet Evanovich’s series.

“Newspaper folks are, on average, smart as hell, irreverent, irascible and hysterical—my kind of people.”

In The Fraud, Ross investigates suspicious carjackings while his girlfriend (also his editor) is about to deliver their first baby. With each phone call he receives he, as well as the reader, wonders if this will be THE CALL. A complicated labor and delivery add suspense throughout the novel.  At first I shrugged and said, really, Brad? Carjacking? That’s so yesterday. Until he explained that at least one recent series of carjackings occurred at a green light.

Having Ross fretting over impending fatherhood while also engaging in his usual shenanigans makes for Park’s best book yet.

Parks entertained us with two particularly amusing passages from The Fraud at our most recent Noir at the Bar earlier this month, and Brad was also kind enough to answer some questions about his latest via email.


MysteryPeople Scott: How did you come up with this story, particularly the carjacking ring?

Brad Parks: Sadly, this was inspired by real events. In 2013, ten days before Christmas, a young lawyer named Dustin Friedland was shot and killed at an upscale mall in New Jersey during a botched carjacking. It made national news, and the reward for the capture of his killers swelled to $41,000. The next day in Newark—the same county as the upscale mall, just at the wrong end of it—a young man named Naeem Williams was shot and killed in the street. Very few people noticed, and the reward for the capture of his killers was $10,000. We all know that the whole All Men (Ahem, People) Are Created Equal thing hasn’t exactly play out as planned in this country. But to see such a stark difference in the two numbers made me want to write about the two very different sides of crime: the high profile kind that happens to white people in wealthy areas and the ignored kind that happens to black people in poor areas.

MPS: Does such a thing as the Newark cruise exist and, if so, how does it work?

BP: Ah, yes. The Newark cruise. It’s a small bit of civil disobedience practiced late at night in Newark and, I suspect, other down-on-their-luck cities. Basically, stopping at a light signifies to a certain subset of the citizenry that you are either looking to buy drugs, or you are looking to be robbed. Or both. The cruise is performed by approaching red lights slowly and, once you see no one is coming, continuing through the intersection. No stopping involved.

MPS:  Was it important to you, as a former journalist to have the newspaper in this series reflect industry changes, namely the layoffs?

BP: Look, I write fiction for a living, but even I couldn’t pull off having Carter Ross writing for a daily newspaper that is financially sound. The reality of the industry right now is quite dire, and Carter’s world has to show that if it is to be believable.

MPS:  Do you stay in touch with the “real” Newark newspaper? Do you remain friends with those at that publication? What I’m getting at is do they have any criticisms of how you portray it?

BP: If they do, I haven’t heard about it. And, yes, I do keep in touch with a lot of them. I spent more than a decade with them enjoined in the daily miracle that is putting out a newspaper. There’s a bond there that doesn’t go away. Plus, I like them. Newspaper folks are, on average, smart as hell, irreverent, irascible and hysterical—my kind of people.

” Look, I write fiction for a living, but even I couldn’t pull off having Carter Ross writing for a daily newspaper that is financially sound. The reality of the industry right now is quite dire, and Carter’s world has to show that if it is to be believable.”

MPS: I see that you now have little kids. Did that play a role in your protagonist, Carter Ross, being about to have his first child born?

BP: If you wanted to draw that conclusion, I wouldn’t stop you. Once upon a time, I perhaps thought Carter would stay the same throughout all the books, and that he would remain the happy, go-lucky guy he was at the start of the series, living a basically consequence-free existence. It just didn’t work out that way—for him, or for me. His relationships have deepened. He’s become more thoughtful, more mature. He’s still a bit of a wise-ass, of course. But now that he’s about to become a dad, his buy-in into this thing called life has doubled down. That the same thing seems to have happened to the author is probably not a coincidence.

MPS:  When do you miss being a journalist and when do you not? For example I’d love to cover crazy Donald Trump right now.

BP: I miss it most when something big has happened—something that shakes the way we all think about ourselves or the country we live in—and I have no immediate outlet to process it the way I do best: by writing about it. The horrible tragedy in Charleston was an example of that. I actually went on Facebook that night and uncorked a seven-paragraph rant about race in America, just to get it off my chest. But even when you get 200 likes and 50 shares, that’s just not the same as having 400,000 copies of what you’ve written come roaring off the presses. Maybe I’m just a whore for attention, but I miss being a part of the larger conversation. (And speaking of attention whores: Yes, The Donald is the gift to reporters that keeps on giving, isn’t he?)

MPS:  Is it true – as you say in the book – that every good New Jersey resident knows four different ways to reach a location?

BP: Sorry. I misstated that. It’s more like six.

MPS:  Can you say more about what you talked about on page 135 regarding your assertion that “not all [internet] clicks are created equal.”

BP: Well, since you just slid the soapbox under my feet… The newspaper world in which I was raised understood that some news is intrinsically more important—and, furthermore, understood that it had a responsibility to its readership that went beyond the mere entertainment value of its content. That is lost in the race-to-the-bottom that is counting clicks. Look, the latest celebrity gossip will click a thousand times better than the average city council meeting. But if you view the newspaper and/or its website as a public trust with a role to serve in a fully functioning democracy, then you can’t base all your decisions on the almighty click. Besides—and this is the part that really drives me nuts—no one seems to know how to monetize clicks anyway. So why drive yourself to irrelevancy chasing something that doesn’t even pay?

The best hope for newspapers might be to abandon the for-profit business model, which is hopelessly broken anyway, and go non-profit, like public radio. The revenue would come from a mix of sponsors (aka advertisers), foundations and private donors. That way, the core mission of a free and vibrant press—to serve as a watch dog, to be a voice for the voiceless, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, etc.—could return to its rightful place at the center of the decision making about what is covered (the city council meeting) and what is best left to other media outlets (the celebrity divorce).

MPS: What are you working on next?

BP: A standalone that I’m very excited about. And that’s all I’ll say at the moment. See? That’s what we call building suspense…


You can find copies of Brad Park’s latest, The Fraud, on our shelves and  via bookpeople.com. For those who wish to start the series from the beginning, you can find copies the first Carter Ross mystery, Faces of the Gone, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Crime Fiction Friday: “The Vacation” by Dorothy Stone

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This story, posted on Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder site, caught our eye. It deals with a summer vacation gone wrong with a wonderful moody twist ending.

“The Vacation” by Dorothy Stone

“Everett, Washington

She knew she was not his first. The concrete room contained evidence of several that had been here before her: photos, locks of hair, single earrings, fingernails . . .

She had awoken here, groggy, alone, and not sure where she was or why she was here. Then it slowly started coming back.

She had parked in the strip mall near the convenience store on her way home from the supper shift at the diner in Everett. She had remembered she needed to pick up milk so she could have cereal and coffee in the morning before she left to meet her two best friends at Sea-Tac Airport to leave on their long-awaited vacation to Australia.

As she started to open the car door, a man crossed in front of her vehicle.  He was on crutches and had a cast on one foot. He was carrying two plastic grocery bags. One slipped from his hand, and items spilled to the pavement. She hurried to help him, and as she bent down to pick things up, she felt something sharp enter her shoulder. Blackness enveloped her almost immediately…”

Read the rest of the story here.

Jenny Milchman’s Top Five Tales of Domestic Suspense

  • Guest post by Jenny Milchman

There’s a new genre in town, and it goes by the name of domestic suspense. Syndicated reviewer Oline Cogdill coined the term family thriller, which also suits it.

A family thriller focuses on a circumstance we can relate to. The kind of tale that could, given a slight twist of the knob, happen to us or someone we love. This novel takes ordinary people and places them in an extraordinary situation. What do they do then?

But the real question is, what would we do then? And thus may arise the growing popularity of this sort of book. Empathy is the filament of fiction; it’s what connects readers to a story. We empathize with the characters in a family thriller. In their triumph over unspeakable odds, we imagine our own.

Whether you are new to this genre, or it’s one of your favorites too, I hope the below sample, a fraction of the possibilities, will spark some discoveries.


little face1. Little Face by Sophie Hannah

Do family thrillers have particularly intriguing premises? Alice Fancourt is a new mother who leaves her infant for the first time to go on a brief excursion. When she returns home, Alice finds her baby has been swapped for another. That’s horrifying enough to a mom. But the bigger problem is that no one believes her. Copies of Little Face are available by special order in-store or via bookpeople.com.


don't look back2. Don’t Look Back by Greg Hurwitz

The family part of this thriller exists off stage, which makes it no less of a compelling tug on the tale. Eve is a newly single mother who goes on a trip to the Mexican jungle to regroup. Out on a hike, Eve sees an act of violence so ugly, her vacay turns into a fight for survival—and a battle to make it back to her son.Copies of Don’t Look Back are available on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.


24 hours3. 24 Hours by Greg Iles

Iles’ fiction has migrated to epic sagas about the legacy and power of race relations in the south, but Twenty-Four Hours is a quintessential family thriller. Perfect families are mainstays of this genre, and physician Will Jennings has a beautiful wife and five year old daughter. The latter of whom is about to encounter two criminals with a foolproof plan for the world’s perfect kidnapping.Copies of 24 Hours are available by special order in-store or via bookpeople.com.


those who wish me dead4. Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Even witness protection can’t keep fourteen year old Jace Wilson safe. So his mom comes up with a risky plan. Send Jace to survival camp deep in the Montana wilderness where he and the other boys will be pursued by the most deranged pair of criminals to hit fiction in years. As if that weren’t enough, Jace’s mother has reasons of her own to want her son gone.Copies of Those Who Wish Me Dead are available on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.


demonologist5. The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Horror, daddy lit, or both? David Ullman is an authority on demonic literature, and about to be divorced. But it’s only after David takes his twelve year old daughter on a voyage of discovery and recovery in Italy that he really learns all he stands to lose.Copies of The Demonologist are available on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.


Jenny Milchman’s third family thriller, As Night Falls, is a summer 2015 release from Ballantine Books and an Indie Next Pick. Jenny Milchman joins us Monday, August 24th, to speak and sign her latest novel, As Night Falls. Copies of As Night Falls are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.