Jennifer R. Kincheloe’s debut historical mystery, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, is just out from Seventh Street Books. Below, read event staffer and mystery enthusiast Meike Alana’s review.
Post by Meike Alana
T o all appearances (which are of the utmost importance to most people in her social circle), debutante Anna Blanc, protagonist of Jennifer R. Kincheloe’s debut, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, lacks for nothing. She and her father, a wealthy influential banker, live in a mansion in the finer part of town with a full staff of servants. Anna wears exclusive handmade fashions crafted by Vionnet at the House of Doucet, hairpieces made of yak hair, designer shoes and extravagant custom-made hats.
But Anna yearns for a different life altogether—what she really wants to be is a detective like Sherlock Holmes. She hides true crime novels and police procedurals between the covers of the classic books she that are suitable for a girl of her station. She dreams of being a member of the police force and helping to solve the crimes she reads about.
In the past few weeks, leading up to our release of MysteryPeople’s Top 100 Crime and Suspense Novels, we’ve posted numerous lists from authors, booksellers, and critics. MysteryPeople’s fifth anniversary has now been celebrated, and our top 100 list is complete, but we’ve enjoyed these lists so much, we have one more to bring you.
I reached out to my sister, Dr. Jenny Odintz, who has a PhD in comparative literature and has taught numerous classes covering the subject of noir, for her top 20 mysteries list. She responded with an eclectic group of titles, reflecting her lifelong love of the genre. The list below includes many titles to read, and then re-read.
One of the things I’ve been wanting to see is a rural noir from a female point of view. I was happy to stumble on this piece published in Shotgun Honey by Chelsea Covington Maass. She does a wonderful job of delivering her narrators voice with a pitch perfect last line.
“Tilda, I know how you hate to read. God, even when we was kids I couldn’t get you into them romance books I loved, but you always liked to hear the stories, so I figured this old tape recorder would be perfect to leave you my message.
You’re gonna be pissed when you find out I run off with Rex. I promise it’s not like before. I know he ain’t on the up and up, but it’s not drugs. I was telling the truth when I promised not to go back to that scene…”
Molly Odintz: So, I’ve read a few novels set in former Yugoslavia this year, andZagreb Cowboy is by far the most adventurous. What made you stay away from the mournful and focus on the amoral?
Alen Mattich: Zagreb Cowboy takes place just before the start of the Yugoslav war, before people realized quite how serious and tragic it was to become. There were local upheavals and stand-offs. A few shootings. But despite the tensions, mostly it was a time of uncertainty and unease rather than mourning. Many people had more pressing concerns than politics, not least how to make ends meet during a time of great inflation. In doing so, many behaved “amorally” — everyone was looking for an edge, everyone was gaming the system, corruption became a necessary way of life just to get food on the table. This was true for people in all walks of life. Economic laws that failed to account for economic reality were routinely ignored. Of course, some people do it better than others. In these circumstances, there are always Strumbićs. And I knew one who was equally lively, equally full of life and schemes and had done very well for himself. It’s hard not to admire people like that, notwithstanding their utter amorality.
I n The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest installment of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (his 16th!), the esteemed Mma. Precious Ramotswe has to deal with perhaps her most significant challenge to date—a vacation.
It’s the middle of a hot summer and business is slow at the agency, so Mma. Makutsi has persuaded Mma. Ramotswe that it is time for her to take a well-deserved holiday. Precious has misgivings—it’s difficult for any business owner to step away and leave someone else in charge. And it does seem as if Mma. Makutsi is a little too eager for Mma. Ramotswe to take a break—is this a grab for power? Mma. Makutsi has had a tendency to speak rashly and be rather too blunt in the past—will she be capable of exercising the necessary tact to handle any new cases that come in? Despite her initial reluctance, Mma. Ramotswe becomes convinced that it’s time to give her employees the opportunity to manage the agency and she agrees to take a week off.
Her week of peaceful rest and relaxation doesn’t last long, however. On her first day off she meets a young hooligan named Samuel (and the beloved little white van is the worse off as a result). As she learns more about Samuel’s situation, Mma. Ramotswe feels compelled to help him find a way out of his difficult situation. Consumption of red bush tea and fruit cake ensue.
With The Promise, Robert Crais has taken on a difficult challenge. The Promise combines two sets of characters from separate books and puts them all in a new book. I think we have all read books where authors have tried something like this and it just didn’t work. Well, good news – this one works! Crais takes K9 handler Scott James and his dog Maggie and brings them together with smartass private eye Elvis Cole and his business partner Joe Pike.
This past weekend, MysteryPeople celebrated our fifth anniversary, with a panel discussion featuring local authors Mark Pryor, Jesse Sublett, Meg Gardiner, and Janice Hamrick, and local critic Hopeton Hay.Molly and I moderated the discussion. Afterwards, we all enjoyed celebratory cake, beverages, and most importantly, trivia with giveaways.
After our anniversary party on Saturday wrapped up, we decided to share some of our favorite event moments throughout the history of MysteryPeople. Below, we’ve shared our favorite memories of the fantastic authors who came through and the fun times we’ve had with them during and after our events. Molly and myself picked six standout moments each. As you will learn, Craig Johnson in particular has gotten to be an important part of our store.