Crime Fiction Friday: A WARM RECEPTION by Kelly Whitley

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Kelly Whitley is a great practitioner of crime flash fiction. In this story published in A Twist Of Noir, she shows how to set up a seemingly mundane opening that promises something more dangerous and delivers in spades.

“A Warm Reception” by Kelly Whitley

Bart and Lana walked into the Four Seasons Hotel. In the Aspen Room, the reception for the new Mr. and Mrs. Blake Potowski was well underway. Guests packed the ballroom, laughing, talking, and dancing. A long table against one wall held a cornucopia of wedding gifts ranging from large boxes festooned with ribbons to demure envelopes containing monetary gifts.

Lana froze in the doorway and gripped Bart’s sleeve. “I think we might be underdressed. Everyone here is decked out for black tie. We look like we don’t belong.”

Click here for the full story.

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Escape From Winter with These Recommendations

Looks like winter is going out like a lion instead of a lamb. That’s why Molly and myself are each offering three novels to take you out of the cold and give you a warm vacation – with a little violence of course.

Scott M


THREE FROM SCOTT M.

TOURIST SEASONTourist Season by Carl Hiaasen

If the South Florida setting doesn’t warm you up, the laughter this book causes will. It starts with dead Shriner found on the beach with a top alligator stuffed down his throat and gets weirder from there. Hiaasen’s first use of the crime novel as a satire on his state pokes fun at those who live and visit there.

DAWN PATROLThe Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

This is the first book to feature Boone Daniels, part time private detective, full time surf bum. Winslow dances with his reader, starting out as a fun action private eye novel, leading you through darker depths, then spinning you back into the light, weaving Southern California history with an engaging plot. You can feel the ocean breezes while reading.

DEATH IN MEXICOA Death In Mexico by Jonathan Woods

Inspector Hector Diaz looks into the murder of an artist’s model, found in the plaza where a number of American expats live. Diaz takes the investigation over the border with a cute cop helping him go up against the rich and powerful while interfering with his beloved vices. A Death In Mexico is a fun and often funny mystery with a hero who beautifully represents his country.


THREE FROM MOLLY

THE STRANGERThe Stranger by Albert Camus

There’s nothing like a re-read of The Stranger to make you realize that Camus’ great existentialist novel is also an extremely noir story about murder, and is considered by many to be the founding text of Mediterranean Noir. As the winter storms roll over the plains and into our beautiful city, let Camus’ boiling-hot Algerian sun act as a reminder that heat equates to short tempers and bursts of violence.

secret history of las vegasThe Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

When escaping the cold of winter, what better to read than a book set in a desert? Chris Abani’s fantastic exploration of side-show freaks, mad scientists, South African war criminals, and a guerrilla army of atomic bomb radiation survivors may sound a bit like The Hills Have Eyes goes to Vegas, but Abani has written a thoughtful and carefully plotted detective novel that evokes more of Tod Browning’s Freaks or Kathryn Dunn’s brilliant satire Geek Love than C.H.U.D. Let Abani take you on a journey, from the sweltering heat of Vegas, to the stifling oppression of Apartheid-era South Africa, and back again.

smillas sense of snowSmilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

This book does not take place anywhere sunny. Quite the opposite – the icy locales of the Arctic will remind you that Texas winter (especially this one) is a joke in comparison. This is not a book to escape winter, so much as to realize that we have automatically escaped winter, merely by living in Texas. By the end of this novel, you will learn that you in fact have no idea what winter is, nor do you ever wish to find out.  Journey from Copenhagen with Smilla, Greenlander, glaciologist, and grim avenger for a murdered child, as she ventures out into the arctic find her vengeance. Prepare to realize just how warm you are, and just how cold you could be.


You can find copies of the above listed books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

The 7% Solution Book Club To Discuss BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear

birds of a feather

On Monday, March 2, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s third floor, the 7% Solution Book Club discusses Jacqueline Winspear’s second Maisie Dobb’s novel, Birds of a Feather. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club picks are 10% off at the registers the month of discussion.


Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear’s second novel starring the indomitable Maisie Dobbs, begins with a missing person. A powerful grocer hires Maisie, now out on her own working as a private investigator after the retirement of her mentor, to find his missing daughter, run away again, this time at the mature age of 32. Dobbs quickly suspects there is more to the woman’s disappearance than the vestiges of teenage rebellion. The recent deaths of several of the missing woman’s old school friends only confirm Maisie’s suspicions, and she must discover what the four estranged friends – three dead, one missing – had once shared in common to make them all targets.

Meanwhile, Dobbs must conquer challenges in her personal life, including the increasing lack of communication between herself and her own father, brought to the fore by her search for the errant daughter of another. She also must figure out a way to help Billy, her assistant, as he turns to drug use to help with the pain from his old war wounds and gas-damaged lungs. She, too, must figure out a way to heal from her own wounds, psychological and physical, left by the war.

Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs may live in the mid-1920s, but her characters exist just as much in the past as they do in the present. Their paths in their current lives are still determined by the legacy of the war as much as any attempt to move past it into the future. How can they? Many of the characters in the novel no longer have a future – the war robbed them of theirs, in the form of sons, lovers, fathers, and husbands; all gone or returned irreparably damaged. The world of Maisie Dobbs is also a world of women; women who have taken over the traditional roles of men, first in the war, and then afterwards, in the post-war context of few men and many unmarried women.

Maisie Dobbs, in her work as a private investigator, uses intuition and empathy far more than deduction. Her detecting skills offer a welcome relief from the cold logic of a Sherlock or the bumbling niceness of a Watson, and she can pick a lock or interrogate a suspect as well as the next (wo)man. Jacqueline Winspear has created a believable and heroic female detective for a post-war Britain partially defined by its dearth of men, and has been justly applauded for her efforts.


Copies of Birds of a Feather are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The 7% Solution Book Club meets the first Monday of each month. As always, books for book clubs are 10% off when purchased the month of discussion.

MysteryPeople Review: CANARY by Duane Swierczynski

canary

Duane Swiercynski is one of the most exciting genre authors practicing today. He has an ability to use his knowledge and passion for crime, horror, and sci-fi and create something fresh and unique, not just a simple homage. He also has the ability to write a different book each time, even in his Charlie Hardie trilogy. Duane proves both of these facts in his latest, Canary.

The set-up and tone for Canary’s opening chapter suggest a satirical direction like some of his previous novels, including The Blonde and Severance Package. Sarie Holland, a college freshman, drives a boy she likes to a sketchy side of Philadelphia. She learns too late that it was a drug pick up. The boy runs off, leaving her with the drugs and arrested. To avoid prosecution, she agrees to be a confidential informant for an ambitious narcotics detective. Soon, she is playing a complex cat-and-mouse game with cops and criminals while keeping it quiet from the school and her family.

Swierczynski writes to a more realistic feel than in previous books. He portrays Philadelphia’s suburbs and mean streets with equal believable detail. The cop and criminal passages have the feel of a great Seventies movie like The Seven Ups or The Friends Of Eddie Coyle. The violence is swift, random, and rarely applied with much skill.

It is in his depiction of Sarie where truly he excels. Swierczynski depicts her predicament in both a raw and sober tone, taking a girl at an age where you’re just starting to navigate the complexities of your emotions and putting those feelings through extreme circumstances. Part of this is done by with first person sections that are done in the form of Sarie writing to her recently deceased mother. Much like Tarantino at his best, Swierczynski has the ability to to deliver all the colorful genre goods, then hit us with an earned poignancy when we least expect it.

Canary has everything we like about Duane Swierczynski’s work. The dialogue is crisp, the action passages more with a visceral force, and it has a master craftsman’s pace. However that pace, is less frantic as usual. He appears to be going in a different direction, playing more to emotions, putting more faith in character. Canary shows you’ll follow Daune Swierczynski wherever he goes.


You can find copies of Canary on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

The February 16 Alibi: Noir At The Bar Round-Up

Our February 16th Noir At The Bar brought out many of Austin’s literati. In the audience were Elizabeth Crook, Stephen Harrigan, and Meg Gardiner. Since we had heavy hitters reading, everyone was right at home.

noir at the bar book spread

Jesse Sublett and myself (the only questionable author) opened the show. I read from my short story, “Red’s White F-150 Blues” that will be appearing in the upcoming Murder On Wheels anthology, featuring a tribute to Robert E. Howard and a beheading. Jesse really kicked the show into high gear by ripping into the cover of a low down and dirty Cab Calloway cover, followed by an original.

Our first guest author was Trey Barker. Trey writes Texas noir that evokes dangerous blues and greasy barbecue. He proved it by reading from Death Is Not Forever, his book that was released that day. The tale featured a crooked judge and his minions dealing with a burning dope stash.

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Bill Loehfelm was kind enough to give up his Mardi Gras to join us. Like his series character, Maureen Coughlin, a cocktail waitress-turned-cop, he’s a New Orleans transplant from Staten Island. He put us in in the shoes of Mareen’s patrolman shoes from the opening of his latest, Doing The Devil’s Work, showing how an officer can be relieved to find a dead body.

Lou Berney was our last guest author. He read from February’s MysteryPeople Pick Of The Month, The Long And Faraway Gone. It’s an ambitious book, delivering a gamut of emotions. His reading style complemented his skillful writing; he picked a passage that was an amusing look at teenagers working in a movie theater than moved into a somber poignant tone that only a master craftsman can pull off.

noir at the bar round up

Jesse Sublett wrapped up the show with the same pizzazz he showed earlier in opening it, discussing his upcoming true crime book, 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime That Rocked The Capital (release date scheduled for March 1) that looks at the Overton Gang. He talked about how one member endured the Texas Ranger version of water boarding. Look out for the book this March. Pre-order a copy early. 

We then mingled, the authors signed books for fans, and we all had one for the road. There was also a discussion about margin sizes that got lewd. Look out for the next time we’ll be at Opal Divine’s.


Thanks to all who came, and sorry to all those who couldn’t make it – you missed a wonderful evening! Noir at the Bar combines three of our favorite things – books, booze, and the powerful prose of crime fiction read aloud. Keep a look-out for more great MysteryPeople events!

MysteryPeople Review: MONDAY’S LIE, by Jamie Mason

monday's lie

Jamie Mason, author of Three Graves Full, comes to BookPeople Tuesday, February 24, at 7 pm, to talk about her new novel, Monday’s Lie. She joins us in conversation with Mark Pryor, author of the Hugo Marston novels.


– Post by Molly

Whether you’ve been reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife, or Jamie Mason’s just-released thriller, Monday’s Lie, you may notice a trend in the genre: authors are finally addressing the primacy of relationship violence as opposed to stranger danger. These three novels all explore the strange ways in which love slowly turns to hatred, and marriage becomes a battlefield with increasingly deadly reactions to ever smaller offenses.

Monday’s Lie begins with Dee, unhappily married to Patrick, and struggling to express her frustrations, fearing the loss of normality that she has worked hard to achieve. Dee’s reason for seeking a cookie-cutter lifestyle in the suburbs with a man she doubts, fights with, and possibly fears? The roots lie in Dee’s childhood, where her mother, a CIA operative gone at the drop of a hat on sometimes lengthy missions, taught Dee and her brother extensive memory and observation skills. Dee, as an adult, craves the stability and normalcy she never had as a child, and links her intensive observation skills with the unhappiness she felt at her mother’s profession. As the novel continues, and Dee’s marriage reaches a crisis point, Dee must re-activate her childhood abilities, this time not as a game, but as a matter of life and death.

Monday’s Lie is a novel of subtle, numerous ironies. The story zeroes in on how a person can ignore warning sings through the novel’s ironic depiction of a CIA-trained woman unwilling to take seriously the warning signs she can’t help but notice. Mason also explores the irony of keeping up appearances. All Dee has ever wanted was to be normal. She then realizes “normal” is based solely on the public expression of her life, and has nothing to do with who she is. By striving for normality, Dee sets herself up for the gulf between reality and appearance, a gap that grows wider as her husband becomes increasingly distant in private while presenting himself as boisterous and loving in public.

Mason has written not only a fascinating exploration of observation and deliberate ignorance, but also a darn-good thriller whose plausibility reminds us that sometimes, fear is not just paranoia, and to pretend the world, and the people in it, are harmless is to give up one’s ability to anticipate others’ actions. Mason’s protagonist is incredibly observant, and as the danger to her increases, she must come to terms with her power, and act on the things she observes, in order to preserve her own safety.

I think I enjoyed this book so much  because Mason, instead of writing a story about a woman who must learn how to empower herself, tells the story of a woman who already has agency, but must empower herself simply by being willing to use that power. Dee continually weakens herself through ignoring her own powers of observation in favor of falsely upheld notions of domestic bliss, and when she comes to terms with that which is already in her, she becomes a force to be reckoned with.

As women, we may not all have through-the-roof detection skills learned from our mothers, but we all have some knowledge, some power, that we refuse to use effectively. We may or may not feel that “normalcy” is a goal to strive for, with its implication of feminine weakness as a desirable quality, but we all could use our talents a little more, and let ourselves be blinded by our own desires a bit less. In other words, we could all benefit from a read-through of Monday’s Lie.


Jamie Mason joins us Tuesday, February 24, at 7pm on BookPeople’s second floor. She appears in conversation with Mark Pryor and will speak and sign her latest, Monday’s Lie. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Mark Pryor in the New York Times!


Mark Pryor is one of our favorite authors, local or otherwise (although he does just so happen to be local), and writes the Hugo Marston novels, starting with The Bookseller, and most recently, the prequel The Button Man. Although Pryor works as a prosecutor in town, giving him plenty of material for crime fiction, he sets his novels in the American embassy in Paris, and his novels are perfect for the armchair traveler.


Pryor was recently the subject of an AP article that landed in the New York Times with MysteryPeople weighing in on our good friend. You can congratulate Mark on the 24th when he joins us here at the store to interview Jamie Mason about her latest book, Monday’s Lie. Click here to read the full New York Times article.


Mark Pryor joins us to interview Jamie Mason about her latest, Monday’s Lie, on Tuesday, February 24, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s second floor. You can find copies of Pryor’s and Mason’s oeuvre on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.