Crime Fiction Friday: “Thoroughly Murdered Millie” by April Kelly



  • Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

With graduation nearing, this Shotgun Honey story of death in a dorm room at an exclusive girl’s school seemed fitting. April Kelly shows a deft voice for her protagonist a biting sense of humor.

“Thoroughly Murdered Millie” by April Kelly

“The girl had been shot, stabbed, poisoned and garroted, so the M.E. was not so much searching for cause of death as placing the wealth of possibilities in chronological order…”

Read the rest of the story.

Shotgun Blast from the Past: THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE by Don Winslow and COTTON COMES TO HARLEM by Chester Himes

Today we bring you a special double Shotgun Blast from the Past, profiling two classic hardboiled crime novels – The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow, first published in 2006, and Cotton Comes to Harlem, by Chester Himes, first published in 1965. 

The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow

9780307277664Frank Machianno is an upstanding member of the community on the San Diego pier. To those who can remember far back, like Dave White, the cop buddy he surfs with, he was Frankie Machine, an enforcer during the Mafia’s last heyday. Through a very bad day for Frankie that reflects on a violent life, Don Winslow shows how you can’t put that past past behind you, in his character driven mob novel The Winter Of Frankie Machine.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Michael Robotham

In Close Your Eyes, Michael Robotham’s latest in his Joe O’Loughlin series, the psychologist seeks a killer on the loose, deals with some family drama, and finds a former student, billing himself as “The Mindhunter,” in his way. Along with help from friend and former Scotland Yard inspector Ruiz he dives into a dark crime that is also most human. We caught up with Mr. Robotham to talk about the book, his characters, and crime both fictional and real.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: Close Your Eyes presents some big life changes for Joe O’Loughlin. Was that your intention going in?

Michael Robotham: You’ll get no spoilers from me but I never begin a book knowing where the story is going, or might end. I begin with a premise – in this case the murder of a mother and daughter in a farmhouse – and let the story unfold. It’s a very organic way of writing but also very exciting. There are days I come in from my office (The Cabana of Cruelty) and say to my wife, ‘You would not believe what just happened!’ If I’m surprised, hopefully readers will be.

As for Joe O’Loughlin, I wanted Close Your Eyes to be as much about his family and his love for his estranged wife as it is about solving a terrible crime.

“…with all of my villains, I try to show that they are not simply born evil (few people ever are) but they are product of their upbringing and environment, as well as their genes. Society gets the monsters it deserves.”

MPS: What drew you to use Milo as a foil for Joe?

MR: In the past I’ve come across psychologists and profilers, who are like ambulance-chasing lawyers, looking for any opportunity to further their careers. The difference with Joe O’Loughlin is that he doesn’t charge for his advice and cares deeply about the victims. It’s not some intellectual parlour game for him – lives are at stake.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Jessica Knoll


Jessica Knoll comes to BookPeople this upcoming Saturday, April 16th, at 3 PM, to speak and sign her critically acclaimed and bestselling debut, Luckiest Girl Alivesoon to be made into a feature film. 

Luckiest Girl Alive follows Ani FaNelli, high-powered magazine writer, engaged to a blue-blood and about as put together as one woman can be. Behind the veneer, Ani is traumatized by a dark past, and a documentary being made about a mysterious incident during her high school days might help her heal – or it might bring her carefully constructed facade tumbling down. 

Luckiest Girl Alive is full of twists, turns, social critique, and a complex approach to female identity and the politics of reinvention – in short, I can’t recommend this book enough! We asked Jessica a few questions via email before her visit to the store. 

“In adolescence, Ani is made to feel worthless, and so many go out of their way to silence her voice—doctors, teachers, and her own mother. As an adult, Ani believes that if she can achieve success in her professional and personal lives, that she will finally command respect. It’s about being seen and believed and heard after years of being told to sit down and shut up.”


  • Interview by bookseller and blogger Molly Odintz

Molly Odintz: Luckiest Girl Alive, without giving anything away, made me think of Inception a bit while reading it – as the book progresses, the reader descends to deeper and deeper levels of Ani’s past pain and trauma, almost as if we are peeling the layers off of Ani. How did you come up with your structure?

Jessica Knoll:  It was really an organic process. I wrote the book in chronological order, exactly as the reader experiences it. The toggling between the past and present was an organic structure that just made sense as I was writing it.

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April is for Mystery Lovers: Tons of Upcoming Events!

As we all enjoy the brief Texas spring, come take shelter from the pollen counts and enjoy our full roster of mystery events coming up in April here at the store. On April 2nd, Philip Kerr started off our April events with a blast, speaking and signing his latest continuation of his Bernie Gunther series, The Other Side of SilenceIf you missed the event, signed copies of his latest, as well as many of the previous volumes in the series, are available on our shelves and via

This past Sunday, April 10th, at 2 PM, Laurie R. King, author of the beloved Russell and Holmes series, as well as the fantastic Kate Martinelli series, joined us to speak and sign her latest installment in her Mary Russell series, The Murder of Mary Russell. While I’ve been reading the Mary Russell novels for many years, King’s newest addition to the series, delving deep into Mrs. Hudson’s backstory, might be my favorite in the series to date!

For those who missed this event, library enthusiasts will be pleased to note that in support of Austin Public Library, 5% of sales of all Laurie R. King titles sold in store on Sunday April 10th and 5 % of sales of The Murder of Mary Russell the week of April 5th (ending April 12th) will be donated to the library. Come by today or tomorrow, grab a copy of King’s latest, and support Austin Public Library. Signed copies available!

Just one day after Laurie R. King’s visit, Stuart Woods and David C. Taylor will be speaking and signing their latest novels, Family Jewels and Night Work, respectively, today, Monday, April 11th, at 7 PM. This event is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with Stuart Woods on his large oeuvre of bestselling thrillers, while getting to know David C. Taylor, an up-and-coming crime novelist who started out in the film biz.

Next up, Jessica Knoll, author of the stunning debut, Luckiest Girl Alive, comes to speak and sign this amazing novel on Saturday, April 16th, at 3 PM. Knoll has worked as senior editor at Cosmopolitan. She draws on both life and fiction for her debut, an intense look at high school trauma and its lingering effects, even for those who manage to reinvent themselves in adulthood.


On Sunday, April 17th, Scott and Molly will reprise our panel discussion on how we compiled our MysteryPeople Top 100 Crime and Suspense Novels at the first ever Pflugerville Book Pfestival, happening Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th at the Pflugerville Library. The festival is sponsored by KAZI Austin, 88.7 FM, and put together by Hopeton Hay, host of Kazi Book Review with Hopeton Hay. Thanks to Hopeton and KAZI for putting this festival together and bringing the MysteryPeople Top 100 list out into world.

Then on Monday, April 18th, at 1 PM, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club will discuss The Professionalsby Owen Laukkanen, with a call-in from the author. The Hard Word Book Club, meeting Wednesday, April 27th, at 7 PM, also has a special guest calling in to the discussion – Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series, will call in to discuss his novel As The Crow Flies

Finally, we’ll finish out the month with a visit from Melissa Ginsburg on Saturday, April 30th at 3 PM. Ginsburg’s Houston-set debut, Sunset City, follows a barista on the hunt for her best friend’s murderer. Sunset City is our April Pick of the Month, and we’re glad to celebrate a powerful new voice in Texas crime fiction.

Three Picks for April

Night Work by David C Taylor9780765374851

Taylor’s follow up to his Edgar nominated debut, Night Life, has New York policeman Michael Cassidy guarding Castro during his trip to New York, protecting Castro from Cuban nationalists, the mob, and our government.  Taylor’s latest is an involving historical thriller, rich in mood and character. Meet David C. Taylor, along with Stuart Woods, at our New York State of Crime discussion – tonight, April 11th, at 7 PMYou can find copies of Night Work on our shelves and via


Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is back with a new case. Not only does he have to find the killer of a mother and daughter that could be connected to several more brutal killings, but has to contend with a fame-hungry former student who calls himself “The Mind Hunter”. One of the most fully realized heroes in current crime fiction.You can find copies of Close Your Eyes on our shelves starting tomorrow, or order via


Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

Con Lehane returns with a new character – Raymond Ambler, curator of his library’s mystery collection. Helping his cop friend solve a homicide that happened at his place of work, he travels the shadier side of the publishing world, rife with intrigue and suspects. Lehane gives a great citizen’s view of New York. You can find copies of Murder at the 42nd Street Library on our shelves and via

Crime Fiction Friday: “Nature of the Beast” by Paul D. Marks


  • Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The latest piece of fiction to be posted on Beat To A Pulp, “Nature of the Beast” by Paul D. Marks, is the story of an LA hitman whose latest assignment makes him rethink his career. It uses the city well and is hardboiled as hell.

“Nature of the Beast” by Paul D. Marks

Jack Lake was a mother—ing SOB. He knew it. He didn’t give a –. And unlike the hitmen with the hearts of gold he laughed at in the movies—hitmen who took pity on their marks and even saved their asses—he didn’t give a — about the marks, or little kids whose parents were marks. Hell, he wouldn’t have given a — if the little kids were his marks. And — collateral damage, if there was any—but he was good enough that there wasn’t. It’s an ugly, sick world. A job’s a job. And he was good at what he did.

Read the rest of the story, complete with curse words.

Get to Know a Series: Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell Novels

Laurie R. King joins us at BookPeople to speak and sign her latest novel, The Murder of Mary Russell, on Sunday, April 10th, at 2 PM. You can find copies of King’s latest on our shelves and via

In support of Austin Public Library, 5% of sales of all Laurie R. King titles sold in store on Sunday April 10th and 5 % of sales of The Murder of Mary Russell the week of April 5th will be donated to the library. This includes pre-orders or web orders for folks who can’t attend the event.


-Post by Molly Odintz

My sister and I have been following Mary Russell’s adventures since we were teenagers, the same age as Mary Russell when she first appeared in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, ready to rescue Sherlock Holmes from the provincial life and to become his partner in crime-solving. A few books later, Russell became not only Holmes’ equal in detection, but his match in life, earning the series the tagline “the world’s greatest detective — and her husband.” Their romance stems from their mutual respect, but is made practical by the lack of suitably cultivated young men in post-war Britain, and flourishes due to a non-stop set of adventures in every corner of the British Empire and every level of London society.

Laurie R. King, in creating the character of Mary Russell, has nicely adapted the Conan Doyle canon to a more feminist outlook. King discards the casual bigotry of Victorian writing, all the while glorying in the style and historical detail of her settings. By placing Sherlock Holmes in the swinging twenties with a partner who combines the soul of an antiquarian with the fashion sense of a Bright Young Thing, King re-contextualizes Conan Doyle’s stolid, nineteenth-century plots and characters in the modernist chaos of a post-war world.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods joins us at BookPeople Monday, April 11, at 7 PM, to speak and sign his latest Stone Barrington novel, Family Jewels. He will be joined by David C. Taylor, speaking and signing his second Michael Cassiddy novel, Night Work.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In Stuart Wood’s latest Stone Barrington novel, Family Jewels, the attorney/fixer gets involved with a lovely divorcée, a dead hooker, and a choker with a colorful history, all moving toward a suspenseful sting as the novel’s climax. We caught up with Mr. Woods to talk about the book, the stone, and to get some writing advice.

MysteryPeople Scott: The McGuffin of the title is a choker with a history tied to the Nazis. Is this part of your fiction based in fact?

Stuart Woods: Yes it is. They made a movie about the painting it’s seen in, The Woman In Gold. The painting found its way to the rightful owner, but the choker was still lost. That gave me a set up for the plot.

MPS: The book has many different aspects – mystery, thriller, and sting. Was there a particular part you enjoyed working with?

SW: I like giving the reader these variations. It allows me to play with things. I enjoyed the mystery element regarding the choker, because it was an actual unsolved mystery that allowed me to go wherever I want.

MPS: How did the creation of Stone Barrington come about?

SW: For New York Dead, I had this idea of a woman falling from a great height, whose night gown billows and acts as a parachute as she plummets into the dirt. I needed a witness for the event and came up with Stone.

MPS: What made him a character worth returning to?

SW: It was a while before I returned to him. Four or five books later, I wrote Dirt and needed a protagonist who had many of Stone’s qualities, so I decided to use a character I already had, fully formed.

MPS: As someone who has spent over three decades as a working author, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SW: Write something. Some people forget to do that in their aspirations.

Stuart Woods joins us at BookPeople Monday, April 11, at 7 PM, to speak and sign his latest Stone Barrington novelFamily JewelsHe will be joined by David C. Taylor, speaking and signing his second novel, Night WorkYou can find copies of Woods’ latest on our shelves and via All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. 

MysteryPeople Q&A with David C. Taylor

David C. Taylor joins us at BookPeople Monday, April 11, at 7 PM, to speak and sign his second novel, Night Work. He joins Stuart Woods, speaking and signing his latest Stone Barrington novel, Family Jewels

Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: What was the biggest difference between working on your first book, Night Life, and the follow up?

David C. Taylor: In Night Life I was going back to prose for the first time in years, and I had to shed some of the habits one picks up writing for movies and TV where you describe the scene in only the most rudimentary way, because you know that the production designer, the director, the director of photography, and all the other team members who make a movie are going to decide what everything looks like. In prose you have to build your world from the ground up. But more than that, in Night Life everything was discovery. I had to find out for the first time who my characters were, how they behaved, what they thought, their weaknesses and strengths, how they saw the world and what that world looked like, and all of that was new to me, because I had never met these people before.

In Night Work I had become more comfortable with the latitude prose allows the writer. In movie writing you try to get into a scene as late as possible, and out of a scene as early as possible, and you are restricted to telling your story in about 110 pages. You want to be disciplined in prose, but you do have more room to continue a scene, to add information, to be somewhat more discursive. And I already knew things about Cassidy and Orso and Ribera and Dylan and about Cassidy’s family, so now I could build on what I knew and try to discover things about them that I did not yet know.

MPS: What drew you to use Castro’s visit to New York as a main part of the plot?

DCT: I was looking for another historical moment on the cusp of change. Night Life takes place just as Senator Joseph McCarthy was about to lose his power. In Night Work it was Castro’s first visit to New York in 1959 when he had not yet assumed the formal leadership of Cuba. He was invited, not by our government, but by an association of newspaper editors. The Cold War was at its height. The fear of Communism was very strong in the country, but Castro had not yet embraced Communism. His brother, Raoul, had, as had Che Guevara, but Fidel was still claiming to be a socialist. However, the political climate in America at that time was “if you’re not for us, you’re against us,” and there were forces in the country who had already decided that Castro was an enemy: the Mafia, because he was taking over their casinos in Cuba, American business interests, because he had nationalized the telephone company, and they thought that was the beginning of the end of U.S. business power in Cuba, and the U.S. Government which was wary of a communist nation 90 miles from Miami. The intersection of those disparate interests with the shared goal of getting rid of Castro seemed to me the perfect petri dish in which to hatch a plot.

“Living in New York was a rush. Everything moved fast. The noise was constant. You went to sleep listening to the traffic below like the sound of a river. You woke to sirens and the rasp of the brakes on a bus. The smell of the city was ever present. Even now, years later, when I go back to New York, I pick up its rhythms very quickly. I find that I am walking faster, ignoring traffic lights, slipping through the crowds without bumping people.”

MPS: Castro is one of those characters both iconic and enigmatic. How did you approach him as a writer?

DCT: As a writer, one hopes to take the icon and make him human. There was enough available research to understand him, at least a little bit, as he was then, a relatively young man, newly triumphant, and not yetbeaten down by the burden he took on, and not yet a symbol rather than a human being. There was a wonderful, true moment during his trip when he was at the Bronx Zoo and he reached into the tiger’s cage and patted the tiger on head. It is a moment like that that reveals the man. As to the enigma, I do not know if I successfully penetrated that, but you have to remember that the Castro of 1959 did not yet carry all the mythology that has accrued to him in the last fifty some years. He was not yet a historic figure. He was a young man on the cutting edge of history, living in his present, but we view him from a distance caused by all that has happened since then. I was trying to show him as he was before his history happened, and, of course, he was not the primary character in the story, so I was able to sketch him rather than give him in detail.

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