January’s Murder In The Afternoon goes to sunny California to deal with some dark souls in Don Winslow’s earlier crime novels. The Winter Of Frankie Machine is a unique mob story in its approach and setting. It also shows the talent Winslow had early on.

The title character is known in his San Diego community as Frank Macchio, the affable older bait shop owner and surfer. When he comes home from a long day, he finds two men from his past, when he was enforcer Frankie Machine, standing in his driveway. Soon, he is chased by mobsters with no clear idea why. While alluding those after him, he examines his sordid past to figure out who is all behind this.

The Winter Of Frankie Machine will give the group a lot to discuss, the mob in Southern California, how the past is never past, reinvention. There is also a possibility Don will call into the club. We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, at 1PM Monday January 21st. The book is 10% off for those planning to attend



Matt Coyle’s Wrong Light was our December Pick Of The Month. It’s the fifth in the series featuring San Diego private detective Rick Cahill. Rick is hired to protect Naomi Hendrix, a radio personality being stalked. The problem is her tormentor could be tied to some secrets she is keeping and the job puts Rick in a plot involving the Irish gypsy con artists known as the travelers, the Russian mob, and Cahill’s own troubled past. Matt will be joining Patricia Smiley and Puja Guha on January 9th at 7pm at BookPeople. He was kind enough to answer some questions beforehand.

Wrong Light (Rick Cahill #5) Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: You had Rick go through a major character arc in the previous novels. Now that he’s come to terms with certain things from the past, what do you want to do with him now?

Matt Coyle: In some ways, Rick is now starting with a clean slate. He’s cast away one heavy anchor from his life that helped form who he is even though he learns the facts were not what he thought they were. Still, he’s more free to be the man he wants to be, but can never escape the actions he’s taken throughout his life and their repercussions. In Wrong Light, Rick is forced to confront who he has become and who he wants to be.

MPS: Naomi Hendrix is a great take on the mystery woman in P.I. fiction. How did you go about constructing her?

MC: Thanks. When I decided to write about a talk radio host being stalked, I thought back to radio personalities of the past before the airwaves became so politicized and confrontational. There used to be nighttime shows where people called in with problems and hoped for sage, soothing advice. Naomi is from that era, but I put her in today. I wanted her to be charismatic and mysterious. Once I figured out her background, which is a mystery for much of the book, she came to life and took over the rest.

MPS: You use the Irish con artists, the travelers as part of the story. What appealed to you about them for part of a book?

MC: They are very clannish and insular and I wanted that secretiveness to shroud some of the mystery of the story. I wondered what it would take to escape that world and what would happen when you tired.

MPS: What I love about the Cahill books, they have everything you want from P.I. fiction, but there is a real feel of detective work with its stake outs and tailing. What do you want to capture about the way Rick does his job?

MC: I try to show the unexciting parts of the job to make Rick’s day to day life seem real without letting the story get boring. If he’s sitting on a stakeout when, seemingly, nothing happens I like to throw in a little twist that steers the story in a different direction. My main concern, though, is showing how Rick becomes emotionally invested in some cases and how dangerous that is to him and those he tries to help.

MPS: While the books have a modern voice, there are echoes of classic hard boiled detective fiction in them. Do you draw from any influences?

MC: While I don’t consciously try to let my influences inform my work, I don’t think one can ever completely escape them. That’s probably a good thing. I read Chandler and Macdonald when I was a teenager and I’m sure they’ve influenced my work more than I realize. The one trope I’ll admit to using is the lone wolf detective. I like to think of Rick as a gunfighter who comes to town to try to right wrongs according to his own sense of justice. However, he has become more collaborative in his investigations which shows some growth on his part. Progress!

MPS: What does the private eye story allow you to do as a writer?

MC: To paraphrase what Ross Macdonald once said, a private eye can encounter all the social strata of America with the simple excuse of following where the clues of his case lead him. It’s very freeing. You’re not limited to one lane. Beyond that, I think P.I. stories are best when they examine character and crime is an avenue to do that. Stress reveals character and nothing causes more stress than the murder of a friend or loved one. Not only does the murder stress the family and friends of the victim, but also the people investigating the crime and even the murderer. Give me murder and I’ll show you character.

Meike’s favorite mysteries of 2018

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel Cover Image1. My Sister, the Serial Killer

By Oyinkan Braithwaite:

Believe the hype and grab this darkly comedic tale of 2 sisters—the younger, beautiful, favored sister with a predilection for killing boyfriends and the steady older sister who’s left to clean up the mess. A smart, funny tale of murder by a fresh new voice in crime fiction.



Give Me Your Hand Cover Image2. Give Me Your Hand

By Megan Abbott:

No one delves into the dark side of the female psyche quite like Abbott. Two young women are in competition for the coveted academic research position they’ve worked towards for years, but a long-buried secret from their shared past threatens their ambitions.



The Wife: A Novel of Psychological Suspense Cover Image3. The Wife

By Alafair Burke:

An economics professor and best-selling author with a burgeoning media career is accused of inappropriate conduct by a college intern. Initially his wife stands by him, insisting the accusations are false—but when the intern disappears, the wife is forced to take a closer look at the man she loves and the seemingly perfect life they’ve created.



Sunburn: A Novel Cover Image4. Sunburn

By Laura Lippman:

This masterwork of modern noir evokes the shadier side of summer with this searing tale of secrets and passion. A woman who has just abandoned her husband and daughter on a family vacation begins an affair with the private eye who was hired to follow her. What ensues is a twisted tale of betrayal and murder that leaves the reader guessing till the very end.


Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel Cover Image5. Into the Black Nowhere

By Meg Gardiner:

Women are disappearing in and around Austin, and newly minted FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix is called to investigate what appears to be the work of a serial killer. Her investigation zeros in on one individual and Caitlin has to use all her skills to bring him to justice.



Daughters of Bad Men Cover Image6. Daughters of Bad Men

By Laura Oles:

This gritty and suspenseful debut introduces us to Jamie Rush, a skip tracer with a particular set of skills she learned from her somewhat shady family. When Jamie goes looking for her missing niece, she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous turf war.



A Reckoning in the Back Country: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Cover Image7. A Reckoning in the Back Country

By Terry Shames:

When a visiting physician is brutally mauled by a pack of vicious dogs, acting Police Chief Samuel Craddock suspects there may be a dog-fighting ring operating in Jarrrett Creek. He balances his careful investigation with the appearance of a new woman in his life and the appearance of a new puppy. Shames’ considerable talents for portraying the darker side of small towns are on full display.


Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel Cover Image8. Dominic

By Mark Pryor:

In this follow up to Hollow Man, the titular Austin-based British prosecutor—who happens to be a psychopath—will go to any length to keep his past crimes hidden. It’s a testament to Pryor’s talents that the reader can’t help rooting for this cold-blooded killer.



The Three Beths Cover Image9. The Three Beths

By Jeff Abbott:

Three women named Beth disappear from Lakehaven, an affluent suburb of Austin. Coincidence? Read this gripping, twisty psychological thriller and see for yourself.




A Stone's Throw: An Ellie Stone Mystery Cover Image10. A Stone’s Throw

By James Ziskin:

Ziskin’s intrepid 1960’s girl reporter is one of my favorite characters in the genre, and in this latest she investigates a double murder at an abandoned stud farm in upstate New York located just a stone’s throw from the glamour of Saratoga Springs. Ziskin is particularly adept at unspooling a perfectly paced thriller with his uniquely lyrical voice.


Ken Bruen has created something that is not supposed to exist, a noir series hero. Since noir destroys the protagonist, he shouldn’t be around for another sequel. However, like his contemporaries Reed Farrel Coleman and Megan Abbott, he looks at noir deeper, with a poet’s eye. So after thirteen and right after the devastating Emerald Trilogy, Jack’s life is shattered. When hope of getting the pieces together happens, a killer who goes by the name of Silence enters his life to take what’s left. Ken was kind enough to answer some questions I had about the book, In the Galway Silence, and his character.

In the Galway Silence Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: In the Galway Silence is the first book after The Emerald Trilogy you wrote within the Jack Taylor series. How has has Jack’s time with Em affected him?

Ken Bruen: Jack’s time with Emerald has left him defeated in a whole new way, despite her actions, Em won a part of his grudging heart and it stole yet another part of his diminished soul to have to end her, in all ways, she left him bereft.

MPS: There is a theory that antagonist defines the protagonist. Silence is an unusual adversary. How do you see the way he goes after Jack?

KB: Terrific question. I believe it plays into the ‘ know thy enemy well lest you become him.’ I think the most interesting adversary are those who possess much of the same personality traits as the protagonist. Silence instinctively intuits that way to destroy Jack is to literally dismantle his whole life.

MPS: Both Silence and chess come up in the story, what did you want to explore with both of those?

KB: Chess is my endless preoccupation and trying to invent a tactic that hasn’t yet been tried, so Silence came from the dilemma of trying to invent a move that you don’t know how to counter as it has no previous form.

MPS: Children and parenting play a part in the book as well. What made you want to have Jack deal with those?

KB: Another fascinating question, I have been reading a lot about people who are made to feel less than if they have no children — Jack over the course of the series has been almost a parent, and even a surrogate one but lost them, he had a faint notion that if he had a child, he might yet be part redeemable and when the impossible happens and he has a child, he learns the harsh truth of the saying “More tears are shed over answered prayers.”

MPS: You have the current events that are going on as you are writing the books also going on in Jack’s background. Do you think the world of Trump and Brexit have affected Jack like they have everybody or does his personality take it in differently?

KB: Brexit and Trump endorse Jack’s view or rather confirm that the world is gone mad and these events and individuals ratify in his own noir sensibility that sometimes, the only recourse to such a world of awesome stupidity is a hurly and a bottle of Jameson and then, as you finally give up, it’s not the dove of peace that lights up your own personal sky but a predatory bird, the falcon, in the falcon Jack sees that in this broken world, a broken man might yet fly through a bird of prey, through indeed a darker sky but as Yeats said, amid the ‘Terrible beauty that is born’ and in this instance, that flies,(the falcon flies in the next Taylor book).

MPS: There’s times I think James Lee Burke, Reed Farrel Coleman, and you have a contest of who can make their series characters’ lives the worst. Do you see any limit to what you’d do to Jack?

KB: I have long been fascinated as to what it is that eventually breaks a man completely — not Hemingways’s theory of being strong in the broken places, in truth I have known since book six of the series exactly what would kill Jack in every sense, and I have tried to hint at the concept that it is not the major traumas that eventually destroy a man utterly but one tiny almost insignificant detail that proves literally to be the very last straw. This is shown at length in the new Jack I have finished, titled Galway Girl  and in the new book a falcon features darkly in the narrative

And is very much the ultimate chess piece/move I have searched for.



The Blood Promise: A Hugo Marston Novel Cover ImageOn December 17th, the Murder In The Afternoon Book Club will be celebrating the holidays during  our discussion. We’re bringing snacks as well as our opinions this time. I’m planning on making my Golden Grahams s’mores. we will also be joined by Mark Pryor, author of Blood Promise, the book we will be discussing.

Blood Promise is the third book to feature Hugo Marston, head of security for our embassy in Paris. He is assigned to protect a U.S. senator brokering a treaty at a country chateau. After some odd occurrences, the senator disappears. Hugo finds his search tied to an antique sailor’s box and a secret that goes as far back as The French Revolution.

Come join us on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, December 17th, at 1PM. You’ll meet some great people and a great writer. The book is 10% off for those planning to participate.

A Conversation with DCI Elaine Hope from A R Ashworth’s Elaine Hope Series

Thanks to author A.R. Ashworth for writing this guest blog post, a conversation with his character DCI Elaine Hope. Ashworth will be in the store Friday, November 2nd at 7pm.

Two Faced: An Elaine Hope Mystery Cover ImageDetective Chief Inspector Elaine Hope runs a Murder Investigation Team in the London Metropolitan Police Service. A.R. Ashworth has written two thrillers about Elaine’s cases: Souls of Men and Two Faced. He’s currently working on the third novel in the series. In early October he sat down for a conversation with Elaine. True to form, she took control almost from the start.

A.R. Ashworth: Thanks for making time, Elaine. I know you’re busy with a new case.

Elaine Hope: I am, but I owe you. You invented me. This won’t take long, will it?

AA: It shouldn’t, but with you I never know. Tell me why—

EH: I bet your readers wonder why you’re writing about me. Maybe because I’m so patient and charming. Or maybe because I’m six feet tall and I don’t give rat’s a—sorry, I forget about tender American sensibilities—I don’t give a rat’s bum about how glamourous I look.

AA: I’m certain that’s not why I write about you.

EH: Not bloody likely. It’s because I’m good at catching killers.

AA: Bingo.

EH: You live in Texas but your stories are set in London. You’re a man, writing about a woman. From what bourbon-soaked, cob-webbed corner of your brain did you conjure me?

AA: Some days I wonder that, too. You’re asking me to explain myself. I don’t think I need to; my stories stand on their own. But here’s a synopsis. I’ve spent a lot of time in London, been to the locations in the books, drank in the pubs. Besides a few mystery writers and some barmen, my Brit friends include two retired Met detectives. I got hooked on Dorothy Sayers back in the ‘70s because her writing was richer and deeper than Christie or Marsh. I’ve loved the darker British-style mysteries ever since. And female authors write about male protagonists all the time.

EH: Sayers. You once told me I have a bit of Harriet Vane in me—that I don’t need a man in my life, but I’ll listen if he makes a good case. I fight the male establishment but I’m not Jane Tennyson in so many ways.

AA: I wasn’t thinking of them when I created you. Maybe Harriet Vane a little, with Peter. But as I got to know you, I saw a few similarities. You’re gritty, strong, assertive, but never a bitch. You can be vulnerable, but never a victim. You evolve and learn on-the-fly. You never back down.

EH: You can tie a ribbon ‘round that. What were you thinking, making Peter the protagonist in the first draft of Souls of Men? I’m glad we had that talk.

AA: We? You did all the talking. I nodded and rewrote it, didn’t I?

EH: You admitted it. Peter’s a helluva guy, but it was me you turned loose on the Srecko brothers. Reviewers said Souls of Men was a strong, smart debut. Gritty, dark, satisfying. You can thank me for that. I don’t tolerate violence against women, and you dumped me right in the middle of those toerags. Talk about gritty and dark. One reviewer compared me to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. She said we’ve both seen the worst. You were damn hard on me.

AA: That was Karen Keefe from Booklist. You handled it.

EH: Yeah, the world’s full of surprises, innit? It changed my life. In Two Faced I was set on revenge, running a rogue investigation, screwed up with PTSD. Thanks for Fiona. She’s even more messed up than me, but she’s the friend I need. Barefoot Woman. That was a hoot.

AA: I gave you Peter, too. How’s that going?

EH: I miss the hell out of him. Long-distance affairs are hard, even without a six-hour time difference. He plays Sam Cooke songs to me when we Skype, so I think we’re solid. I just hope he won’t go ballistic when he hears—

AA: Stop! We agreed no spoilers. Can you tell me something about your current case?

EH: The one you’re calling If I Can’t Have You. I’m back from compassionate leave, running a murder investigation team, up to my eyeballs in—say, can you give me a hint about who wants to kill Tessa? Didn’t think so. And I’m dealing with that other, erm, possibly ballistic situation. I have a lot on my plate.

AA: You’re a London cop.

EH: I couldn’t be anything else. People need justice. Need the Met. Need me. Time to get back to the nick. You’ll see me tomorrow afternoon. We’ve got scenes to write.

AA: Yes, we do. See you then.

Great American Reads Discussion : Villains & Monsters

This Sunday a 1pm on BookPeople’s third floor, we will continue our discussions tied to PBS’s Great American Reads. The subject will be villains and monsters.

Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery will be leading the discussion along with authors Meg Gardiner, who has created many a memorable villain in her thrillers and Mark Pryor, creator of Austin sociopath, Dominic. All three have listed three of their favorite villains and monsters below

Scott Montgomery

Frankenstein’s Monster- A wonderful reflection of the protagonist and pretty much the start of the man created threat. A great example of an often interpreted monster.

Deputy Lou Ford – Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is still the most chilling novel I ever read. It is mainly do to the benign way this psychopath with a badge discusses his crimes.

Adan’ Berrera – In Don Winslow’s The Power Of The Dog and The Cartel, he took much of Narco lord El Chapo’s life and created a wily, charming, do-whatever’s-necessary crime boss who pushes DEA agent Art Keller into the dark action to take him down. No villain has manipulated a hero so thoroughly.


Mark Pryor

Professor James Moriarty – the finest example of a bad guy so captivating that, even though he was created to finish off Sherlock Holmes, he became far larger than anticipated by the author.

Hannibal Lecter – simply the gold standard for intelligent, evil, and mesmerizingly interesting antagonists.

Anton Chigurh – from No Country For Old Men, great book and great movie. He’s a hired killer, and normally those are fairly uninteresting because they have no deep-seated compulsion or motivation to kill. Yet, Chigurh’s personality quirks and ruthless make him fascinating (to me at least).


Meg Gardiner

Hannibal Lecter: So compelling that almost everybody else in the novels where he features simply seems to melt away. Everybody except the heroes, seemingly ill-equipped to counter him, who must rise to the challenge—Clarice Starling and Will Graham.

Randall Flagg: from Stephen King’s The Stand. A handsome, charismatic leader, a ruthless destroyer, the avatar of all cult messiahs who turn out—in this case, perhaps literally—to be the devil.

The shark in Jaws- voracious, relentless, and terrifying, it roams the unseen deep. It’s a primal manifestation of Nature’s dangers, and a reminder that death can rise up to rip into us at any moment.


Join us Sunday as we take a deep tour through literature’s rogues gallery.