3 Picks from Chris

Helsinki Blood by James Thompson

The fourth installment of Thompson’s Inspector Kari Vaara series is here and it’s a real winner. After the brutal conclusion of Helsinki White Kari Vaara is left crippled and alone. His wife has run off to Miami, leaving Kari to care for their infant daughter. When a woman comes to him asking for help locating her Down syndrome daughter, Kari takes it as a chance for redemption. As he struggles to find the missing girl his past begins to catch up with him. Death threats and teargas grenades coming flying through his window, reminding him that the people he crossed are not so easily kept at bay.

The Bastard Hand by Heath Lowrance

Another gem from the good folks at New Pulp Press. Charlie Wesley has escaped from a mental institution and is hitchhiking his way south. He’s been talking to his brother, but his brother is dead. He makes his way to Memphis and meets Reverend Phineas, a man with dark urges and a darker agenda. Things get weird when Charlie gets sucked into the Reverend’s apocalyptic plan. The Bastard Hand is high-quality and tons of fun.

Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

Fans of the BBC show Luther rejoice! The show’s creator has put pen to paper and written the origin story of one of televisions best new characters. In Luther: The Calling we get a stand-alone story that highlights Luther’s early days as a murder inspector. The novel hits all the right notes, and serves as a great companion for fans of the show as well as being a great story for those unfamiliar with the character. If you love the show, get this book. If you’ve never heard of the show, get this book.



MP Pick of the Month: THE RAGE by Gene Kerrigan

The Rage by Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan is an Irish author who has drawn comparisons to Elmore Leonard, probably due to his entertaining look at the mundane lives of his his coppers and villains and seemingly loose plot lines that tie together in a fitting conclusion. If the comparison is true, the books resemble those from Leonard’s “Detroit Period”. In some of his first crime novels like Unknown Man #89 and City Primeval, Leonard held more grit than his later, quirkier work. He looked at cops and working class criminals in a way that reflected the people and problems of his decaying city. The same could be said of Kerrigan’s Dublin in The Rage.

The winner of last year’s Gold Dagger award for Best Crime Novel, The Rage focuses on three characters who reflect different sides of Ireland. DS Bob Tidey is a good lawman dealing with the politics in his squad room as well as the perps on the street. Then comes Vincent Naylor, fresh out of prison and back with his old crew for a new robbery. Bringing these two together is Maura Cody, a retired nun who has only the view from her window for entertainment. What she witnesses will draw all three of them together for a violent confrontation.

Each character is loyal to a group that may not be worthy of them. While Vincent is ruthless and violent, he’s loyal to a crew that creates messes that he has to brutally clean up. Tidey has to contend with the possibility of committing perjury for some less than stellar officers, knowing his life on the job will be hell if he doesn’t. He and Maura have an interesting conversation about how they each carry the sins of their institutions, and the public scandals that color the way people see them as individuals.

While it works as an intertwined crime novel and police procedural, The Rage is basically about people trying to find there way in a society that traded Catholicism for a capitalism that failed. Each has been failed by what they serve, but they continue on in it, in some blind search for grace. Grace, itself, even comes into question near the end when Maura admits to having her doubts about confession:

“…No one has the right to the clean slate, except the people we’ve harmed. And they’re out there somewhere, struggling to get on with their lives- our guilt is not their problem.”

In Kerrigan’s Dublin, they’re not only trying to figure out where the money went, but their purpose as well.

MysteryPeople Interview: HILARY DAVIDSON

Hilary Davidson has become one of those great voices in the new generation of crime fiction. Accessible with an edge, her books, The Damage Done and The Next One To Fall, featuring travel writer Lily Moore have won a large cross section of fans. We can’t wait to see her on March 26th for the signing and discussion of her latest, Evil In All Its Disguises. Until then, here is an interview to tide you over.

MysteryPeople: How did you come to choose Acapulco for the setting?

Hilary Davidson: It was a long, strange process to find the right setting for Evil in All Its Disguises. That’s partly because the premise — a journalist going missing while on a press trip — was based on a real events. I worked for Frommer’s Travel Guides for a decade, and in May 2000, one of the editors, a woman named Claudia Kirschhoch, went missing on a press trip to Jamaica. It’s a heartbreaking story: legally, she’s been declared dead, but her body has never been found.

I didn’t want to set the book in Jamaica, because Evil is in no way a telling of Claudia Kirschhoch’s story. The book reflects certain things that happened in real life — such as the resort’s attempt to pretend there was nothing wrong, and then trying to defame the missing journalist by claiming she was using drugs and being sexually provocative — but it’s a work of fiction. I decided to move it to another Caribbean island, and chose Barbados because it’s such an amazing place, caught between the wild waters of the Atlantic and the serenity of the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, that location didn’t work at all. I love Barbados, and my affection for the place got in the way of the writing. It was turning the book into more of a travelogue, which was the opposite of the isolated, Gothic feel I wanted.

Partway through the first draft, I stopped writing and decided to find another setting. I chose Acapulco for two main reasons: it has a very glamorous Hollywood-connected history, which appeals to Lily; and it’s a place where crime is out of control at the moment. The news stories that are in the book, like the headless bodies that turn up on the beach, and the one about a drug cartel trying to extort money from the teachers’ union, are all true. They created such an atmosphere of dread about the place. Lily is claustrophobic, and I wanted to have a sense of the walls closing in around her in this book.

MP: I was glad to see you use the travel writer culture I’ve heard you talk about. What was important for you to get across about those characters?

HD: Travel writing is a particularly strange business, because it puts you in close quarters with virtual strangers and you can’t escape each other. You learn a lot about the other journalists over the course of a few days because you’re on the road together, having all of your meals together, and basically living out of each other’s pockets. Sometimes that’s a wonderful thing — some of my closest friends are travel writers I met on the road. And sometimes you encounter characters that belong in a book. The sexual harassment of female journalists and PR people is an ongoing issue in the business, and it’s an open secret in the travel-writing community who the lecherous photographer is based on. I actually stole some of his best lines for the book.

Travel writing also makes you aware of how kind people can be. There are a couple of older journalists on Lily’s trip who drive her nuts, but who rally around her while she’s down. For better or worse, a press trip is a bit like a particularly neurotic family. The people on it tend to take care of each other if someone gets sick or needs help.

MP: The hotel that Lily finds herself in almost has the persona of a classy evil henchman. How do you approach locations as a writer?

HD: I’m so glad you saw the Hotel Cerón that way! For me, a major location like that is a lot like a character, but one without any spoken lines, so it communicates differently. It has its flashy front, with its elegant lobby and dramatic public rooms. When you get deeper inside — say, into a guestroom — you start to see that it’s worn and less polished than it seemed at first. By the time Lily gets into its hidden places, you know there’s going to be something bad waiting in the darkness. It’s also why you catch glimpses of things that aren’t supposed to be there, like the snake in the first chapter, or the nasty guard who’s watching the grounds. The hotel’s staff make both disappear quickly. The hotel wants you to see its fine furniture and flowers and framed celebrity photographs, not its seamy side. In my mind, it’s a lot like a gangster in an expensive suit who’s trying to mix with nice company and hoping you won’t notice his gun.

MP: While you put Lily through hell as usual, you also have her come closer than she ever has in coming to terms with some emotional wounds. Was that an imperative for you on the third book or did it just simply work out that way because of the plot?

HD: When I was writing the first book in the series, The Damage Done, I knew what the emotional arc of the character would be over the next two books, even though I didn’t know anything about the plots of those books. For me, it’s always been about character first and foremost, and that means going deeper into Lily’s mind and heart with each book. She isn’t a naturally introspective person. Before The Damage Done, she was quite happy to run away from her problems, rather than confront them. But Lily’s life changed dramatically in the course of that book, and that forced her to change as well. In the second book in the series, The Next One to Fall, she was struggling to pick up the pieces of her life. In Evil in All Its Disguises, she’s starting to recover from some of those wounds, but she has a lot of baggage from the past that she’s never unpacked, and she’s just starting to confront it. This is why Lily needs a break for a little while. She’s been through a lot in the past year!

MP: I noticed on a list of your favorite crime novels, you had the highly underrated The Way Some People Die by Ross MacDonald. Is there anything from that book or the Lew Archer series that you try to apply to your own work?

 HD: The Way Some People Die is a masterpiece, and I wish more people would read it. One of the ways that MacDonald’s work influences mine is the understanding that the main character is carrying around wounds from the past that could split open at any time. Don’t get me wrong: Lew Archer is a cipher compared to Lily Moore, and you have to read several books in MacDonald’s series to get a strong sense of him. But once you do, you realize that Lew Archer has been damaged, and there are hints at physical abuse in his past and a dark cloud of depression that follows him. It’s something that evolves over the course of many books, and MacDonald handles it beautifully. Archer, for all of his world-weariness, cares deeply about people. There’s a lot of pain in him, and a surprising amount of empathy. If Lew Archer met up with Detective Bruxton, I think they’d have a lot of common ground.

There’s also an intensity to MacDonald’s best work that I love. Many of his novels are set over the course of two days. That was something I did with Evil: most of the book is compressed into a 36-hour period.

MP: I know you’re working on a standalone for your next book. Can you tell us anything about it?

HD: I handed it in the week before Evil came out, so it’s very much on my mind. I can tell you that it begins with the kidnapping of a wealthy, adulterous couple, and that things go wrong very quickly… so wrong that one of the kidnappers, in the aftermath of that awful weekend, tries to piece together what really happened. I’m worried that if I say more, I’ll give away spoilers! But I’ll tell you one thing I haven’t told anyone else: the working title is Blood Always Tells.

New Releases in MysteryPeople: March 19th 2013

Books on books on books. Come to BookPeople and grab one of these great new titles!

The Leviathan Effect by James Lilliefors

Homeland Security Secretary Catherine Blaine receives a frightening communication from a hacker identified only by the pseudonym Janus. The message is the latest in a series correctly predicting natural disasters around the world—disasters that, Janus claims, were manufactured, not natural at all. And, according to the email, unless the United States does as Janus instructs, another disaster is coming—a Category 5 hurricane that will hit the Eastern Seaboard and destroy the lives of tens of millions of people.

Unaware of the crisis in Washington, investigative journalist Jon Mallory stumbles on a list of seven prominent scientists who have been murdered over the past dozen years. When the person who gave him the list disappears herself, Jon realizes he has unwittingly become part of a deadly chain of events and contacts his brother, private intelligence contractor Charles, for help. Meanwhile, Catherine Blaine has also come to Charles for help tracking down the hacker Janus and uncovering the frightening new weather technology that threatens the world.

The Fallen by Jassy Mackenzie

When P.I. Jade de Jong invites Superintendent David Patel on a scuba diving holiday in St. Lucia, she hopes the time away will rebuild their conflicted relationship. Jade’s dreams are soon shattered when David calls off their affair, forcing her into the arms of environmentalist Craig Niewoudt. But the next morning, romantic issues are put aside when a scuba diving instructor, Amanda Bolton, is found brutally stabbed to death.

Amanda is a most unlikely candidate for murder—a quiet and intelligent woman who until a few months ago pursued a high-powered career as an air traffic controller. She had few acquaintances and no lovers. The only loose end is a postcard in her room from Jo’burg-based Themba Msamaya, asking how she is doing “after 813 and The Fallen.” Jade and David put their differences aside and start the deadly hunt.

The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

Athens, 460 B.C.  Life’s tough for Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in ancient Athens.  His girlfriend’s left him and his boss wants to fire him.  But when an Athenian official is murdered, the brilliant statesman Pericles has no choice but to put Nico on the job.

The case takes Nico, in the company of a beautiful slave girl, to the land of Ionia within the Persian Empire.  The Persians will execute him on the spot if they think he’s a spy.  Beyond that, there are only a few minor problems: He’s being chased by brigands who are only waiting for the right price before they kill him. Somehow he has to placate his girlfriend, who is very angry about that slave girl. He must meet Themistocles, the military genius who saved Greece during the Persian Wars, and then  defected to the hated enemy. And to solve the crime, Nico must uncover a secret that could not only destroy Athens, but will force him to choose between love, and ambition, and his own life.


Evil In All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson

We’re starting a new weekly feature with Crime Fiction Friday, showcasing short stories from some of our favorite authors. It seemed fitting to start with Hilary Davidson. Her novels featuring series heroine, Lily Moore, always have a dark undercurrent to them. That undercurrent becomes a tidal wave in her short work, like the the second in her “Bastard Trilogy” first published by Spinetingler


Hilary will be at BookPeople signing her latest Lily Moore book, Evil In All It’s Disguises, on March 26th.

Scene Of The Crime: DEBORAH COONTS

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

This month we travel to Sin City with Deborah Coonts. Deborah and her series character, Lucky O’Toole, who works in customer relations for the high end Babylon Hotel. It’s a job that pulls her into murders that reflect Vegas’ weird side. Her third book, So Damn Lucky, has just come out in paperback and her her latest, Lucky Bastard will be out in May. Deborah was kind enough to answer some question about the town that feeds her fiction.

MysteryPeople: As a writer what do you love most about Las Vegas

Deborah Coonts:Vegas–45 million people walk through here annually.  They come here from every corner of the universe with hopes and dreams, baggage and problems.  And they all are looking for something.  Whether it’s something as benign as a few good meals and a show or two with their spouse, significant other, partner or plaything, or  something more mischievous–there’s a story there. Whenever my well of ideas is running low, I wander down to the Strip, buy a yard of margaritas, and sip as I watch the herd of humanity stroll by.  It doesn’t take me long to start imagining their stories again…and I’m off and running.
MP: How does the town shape Lucky?

DC: Lucky is Las Vegas, at least to me.  She embodies the best of this town–it’s open arms, welcoming one and all.  Like Vegas, Lucky is non-judgmental, willing to take each person who crosses her path at face-value.  Vegas–the city of second chances.  No one cares where you came from or what you left behind.  Face it, most of the folks here are running from something. It could be something as simple as boredom or a failed relationship or a miserable childhood.  Or, it could be something more….sinister:)
MP: What is the biggest misconception about the Las Vegas?

DC: Everyone thinks we all live on the Strip–that that is all there is to Vegas.  Actually, Vegas is a nice town.  I tell people it’s just like southern California but without the beach…and the high taxes.

Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

MP: You’re books are known for being funny. Do you think the town is fertile ground for humor?

DC: When people come to Vegas, they usually leave good judgment at home in Iowa, or wherever they hail from.  If you don’t believe me, just go down to the Strip and look at what they are wearing!  There are clearly Vegas clothes (read: clothes you wouldn’t be caught dead in back home) and clothes for the rest of the world.  And the cops here will tell you that that whole what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas thing just made everything a bit more naughty here.  People really believe that the folks back home won’t hear about the drunken brawl at the Strip Club they started.  Wishful thinking or justification on their part, but for me, wonderful fodder for stories:)
MP: What can you do in a Vegas mystery you can’t do in another town?

DC: Be more over-the-top.  This being Vegas, most people expect things to be very silly–and they are.  But I have to take it up a notch.  I mean, no one would believe the Adult Video Awards take place anywhere else.  And, my heroine was raised in a whorehouse–can’t do that too many places and not have anyone bat an eye.  Her mother, the former madam, is considering a political career.  And Vegas truly is the only palce where a former hooker could be elected to serve the people.  Isn’t there just something so….fun…about that?
MP: For someone visiting Las Vegas, what would you consider a must-go-to place?

DC: It all depends on what you are hoping to find here.  But, I’d say you have to go to the Bellagio–it’s just the most magnificent place–the fountains, the Chihuly glass flowers on the ceiling of the lobby, the Conservatory…classy taken to a whole new level…but there for everyone.  And that, my friends, is Vegas.


Craig Johnson + French TV = Comedy Gold

Our pal Craig Johnson recently wrapped up his tour in France, promoting the translation of his fifth book, The Dark Horse. One of his stops was to this English speaking French show, where he was part possible co-host as well as guest, where he talks (or reacts to surprise questions about) Academy Award nominees and the Die Hard franchise as well as his books. They didn’t ask him to comment on the fashion segment so feel free to pose those questions when he’s at MysteryPeople on June 11th.