Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald

Meanwhile there are lettersA book review by Susan Straight of Meanwhile There Are Letters:
The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Arcade: 568 pp., $35), caught my attention in the Los Angeles Times and I just had to share it with my fellow Women of Mystery, our blog pals and readers.

Susan writes: “This remarkable book collects more than a decade’s worth of written and mailed correspondence between the two writers — he who was emphatically married (though his marriage is represented as dutiful and often painful by the time of their letters) and she who remained single and died in the same town in which she was born and had nursed her brother and parents when they became ill and died.”

Click on over to ‘Letters’ inscribes a grand love affair with words between Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty to read more about it.


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Vacation Reading

In late July I wrote about the books I had saved up to read on a family vacation in Vermont vermont

and I promised reviews when I returned. I also wrote:

“But I think that lovely 2-year old might keep me more distracted than usual.”

Very much the case. ☺ I only read two of my five books, certainly a low for me on vacation. However, they were two extremely good ones. Here is my report.

The Whites by Harry Brandt. whitesThat is a pen name for highly regarded New York novelist Richard Price (Lush Life, Clockers). He is a stunningly excellent writer, whoever he says he is. The title does not refer to race but literature. Every member of a group of cops,old friends, has a case they call “the white”, the big one they can’t forget, the horrible crime they couldn’t quite pin on the person they knew was guilty. The white whale of their career. When one of those suspects turns up murdered, bleeding out at Penn Station, it looks like justice has finally caught up with him. Maybe. And maybe it is something else. crime

The story revolves around Billy, the only one still working as a cop, who has pieced together a real life. Never mind that he works nights; that his father, who lives with him, is deteriorating from dementia; that his hard-working wife suffers from bouts of depression, carrying something inside she can’t even talk about. And then an unknown someone starts to threaten his family in mysterious ways for some unknown reason.

It’s a dark story, with all the characters carrying darkness within as they deal with the darkness outside. There are only a few faint beams of light. Did I believe all of it? Or even most of it? Afterwards, perhaps not. While I was reading, it seemed as real as real life. That is the power of the writing.

A note: this is a complicated story with a lot of characters, so pay sharp attention at the beginning.

I like Ann Cleeves books a lot and have been looking forward to jumping into her most recent Shetland mystery, Thin Air. cover thin

It did not disappoint. I usually enjoy the remote, strange and beautiful setting, and must confess that though I have never been there, I have been to the Orkneys. They are almost as remote, mapshetland and I have fun picturing it all. Cleeves often weaves in old customs and old legends, without overdoing it, adding an lovely extra dimension to the story.

A group of friends have come up from London for a traditional “hamefarin”, a party to introduce a new bride to the Shetland-dwelling family and friends. And one of the women disappears. Just like that, into thin air. Of course it is not “just like that” and it becomes a job for Detective Jimmy Perez, the series protagonist and Shetland native,plus some investigators from the bigger world. It is “simmer dim”, the mysterious days of the long summer twilight. simmer Anything can happen, it seems, even the repeated appearance of the ghost of a long-ago drowned little girl. Jimmy’s job is to see through the mists and uncover the real story. shetland

It’s wonderful twisty, traditional mystery with a very rich background. I thought I’d guessed the crucial fact early on, a possible connection between characters, well-buried in the story. Nope. I could not have been more wrong. The solution was a surprise, but the kind where you say, “Ah. Now it make sense.” Who doesn’t recognize that as classic mystery writing?

Media news: PBS is running a series based on Cleeves Shetland books, and the ones I’ve seen are excellent, with actors familiar from other BBC productions and great scenery. And rumor has it that there is a movie deal for The Whites.

In case there are any doubts – ☺ – I am strongly recommending both books.

Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott

Patti Abbott, mystery writer extraordinaire, has been a  friend of the Women of Mystery for the near decade since we started this blog. Long acclaimed for her beautifully written short mystery fiction, Patti, writing as Patricia Abbott, has just released her first novel Concrete Angel


Since everyone knows I am all about the setting of a story, I am delighted that Patti agreed to tell us her thoughts about the setting of Concrete Angel.

Here’s Patti:

In some books a sense of place can dominate a story. And some writers are very talented at evoking place. It’s hard though to balance what can be an important element with other essentials like: plot, tone, character. When you are using details of your own childhood in a place you no longer live, it can become overwhelming.

I grew up in Philadelphia in the fifties and sixties so when I began to think about writing a novel, it seemed right to set it there and then. It’s a place my mind still travels to often. I think you have an almost sensate relationship with the time and place you grew up in that you never quite experience again. I know I could walk into my childhood home blindfolded and identify it by the smell alone.

My novel centers on two characters: Eve and Christine Moran, a mother and daughter. Eve is half a generation older than me and Christine more than half a generation younger. I wanted to look at Christine’s childhood through my adult eyes rather than fall too much into reliving the years of my own youth.

My favorite parts of the book are the ones that lean heavily on the Philadelphia of the sixties and early seventies though: what is was like to live in a 750 square foot row house, what is was like to go downtown to shop dressed in white gloves and high heels, how it felt taking a trolley car when they still existed, what working in a glamorous store was like, how closely you were observed in neighborhoods then.

I hope I have done the southeastern Pennsylvania of my childhood justice. I still travel those streets in my heart.

Hi, it’s Terrie again. I  finished reading Concrete Angel last night and I have to tell you that the suspense is riveting and the characters are unforgettable. Take a look at Patti’s biography since I am sure you want to know more about her.

Patricia Abbott is the Derringer Award winning author of more than 135 short stories.. She has also published two ebooks with Snubnose Press, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION. You can find her blogging at pattinase and you can read her movie reviews at CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE. Her next book, SHOT IN DETROIT, is due to appear in Summer, 2016.



Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

HainesBone to be Wild is the fifteenth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries. Sarah Booth’s old friend, Scott Hampton, is bringing his special brand of the blues back to Zinnia in the wonderful old club located at the crossroads of Sawmill and Pentecost roads. It was rumored to be “the location where the devil made more than one bargain for a musician’s soul.” Playin’ the Bones would be the happening place—unless someone kept Scott from fulfilling his dream.

See my full review at Criminal Element. Carolyn Haines is a prolific writer from Mississippi, and her heroine Sarah Booth Delaney is a charming private investigator who doesn’t let her Southern politeness keep her from digging up the truth when it’s needed.

Check out!

John Harvey: Darkness, Darkness

Darkness, DarknessDarkness, Darkness is John Harvey’s twelfth and—alas—final Charlie Resnick novel. When we leave Resnick at the end of the book he’s sipping coffee on a bench in Nottingham’s Old Market Square and contemplating a future filled with music. I don’t know that I could have forgiven Harvey if he’d killed Charlie off.

Here’s what I love about Harvey’s police procedurals: suspenseful, intelligent plots; flawless prose that seem effortless, though writing this good is never effortless; Charlie Resnick, a smart cop, a good man, child of Polish immigrants who remembers his roots, lover of jazz and cats, appealing though somewhat disheveled in his personal appearance. I could go on, but you see what I’m getting at. Resnick breathes on the page, as do all the supporting players.

Resnick’s last case revolves around the discovery of human remains that turn out to be Jenny Hardwick’s, a pro-labor activist who disappeared during the bitter battle that was England’s 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. Charlie, now semi-retired, headed a police intelligence unit during that strike and has a clear memory of Jenny. It doesn’t take much to persuade him to assist in the ensuing police investigation.

The novel is structured in alternating chapters that shift between the current investigation and the grim and often violent reality of the punishing year-long strike that divided many households, including Jenny Hardwick’s. While Harvey claims that Resnick’s short term memory is slipping (welcome to the club), he remains as astute and dedicated and empathic as ever, which makes this book a fitting final curtain for a memorable character.

I’ll let Michael Connelly have the next to last word here, this from his jacket blurb: “John Harvey writes the way we all wish we could write.”

The Missing Piece by Kevin Egan


You may recall it was not that long ago I was raving about how much I enjoyed  the legal thriller Midnight by Kevin Egan. Well I am delighted to tell you that with The Missing Piece, Egan has surpassed his own excellence.

Set in the fabled and fabulously ornate courthouse known as 60 Centre Street, Egan weaves a story about  legal wrangling and ancient treasure. That’s right, a piece of ancient treasure goes missing from a New York City courtroom and is never seen again.

And apart from the mystery of the treasure, the interpersonal relationships of the characters will keep you turning  page after page.

Click here to read my post praising The Missing Piece on Criminal Element.


Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes

Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes, one of our very own, is out today!

Hayes2Reporter Carol Rossi achieved some local notoriety with her last investigative piece for the local newspaper in Wilton, Connecticut. Still, it’s completely unexpected when she’s drawn into a case that has her trolling for information in the streets of New York City.

Kelly Singleton, a recent graduate of Wilton High School, was thrilled to take her friends to see her dorm room at NYU. The girls had begged their parents to let them learn the ins and outs of riding the subway.

However, the young women discover they’re completely out of their element when Kelly vanishes without a trace.

We met Rossi in Dorothy’s first novel, Murder at the P&Z, where she used her investigative skills to look into local politics at the Planning & Zoning Commission. She’s an interesting and innovative amateur detective who loves to rescue animals and is an uncompromising vegan.

Hayes has woven a complicated mystery with this challenging story line, set in steamy New York City in 1984. It’s obvious she did extensive research into the times and issues facing NYC during this critical time.

Check out this trailer for this suspenseful read:

For a chance to win a copy of Broken Window, check out my review at Criminal Element and enter the sweepstakes!

A dogged reporter and a missing teenager lost in a city of millions. It makes for good mystery.

Two Greats

When one of the best crime writers working today, Michael Connelly, reviews a new book by one of the other great crime writers of today, Richard Price, and it’s the front page of the Sunday New York Times book section, that is worth taking notice. 0215-bks-Connelly-articleLarge

It’s an excellent review, meaning the reviewer liked the book, and it’s an excellent review, also meaning it says some interesting things about the book, the writer, and crime writing itself. So herewith, a link, in case you haven’t read it. Enjoy!

The Whites,’ by Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt

FEB. 12, 2015

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb

Stalking has become a reality in our world. There’s even a new TV show called “Stalkers.” ObsessionIt’s the creepiest thing in the world to imagine someone being obsessed with you, with your life, with everything you do.

When Eve Dallas finds a personal message from the killer on the wall at the scene of a homicide, she knows there’s more than murder involved. A pesky defense attorney who had an adversarial relationship with Eve is her victim, and the killer makes it clear the killing was done to settle a score for Eve.

As in most of the books in this series, Obsession in Death has Eve running against this clock to solve a case. Added to the mix this time is a murderer who not only wants to help Eve,  but is obsessed with helping Eve outside the constraints of the law.

With shades of Stephen King’s Misery, Robb scores five stars with this one. I’ve complained about the last two books in the series for their lack of references to the secondary characters. This time, they’re part of the case.

I got caught up in this one and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read the series before, you can read this as a standalone, but it’ll be better if you go back to the first one, Naked in Death.

Of course, that also means you’ll be reading thirty-nine books before you get to this one!

Deirdre Verne is Drawing Conclusions!

drawing_conclusions_by-deirdre-verne-coverAnd very interesting conclusions they are, too! Well, it’s another day, and therefore, another publishing announcement for a Woman of Mystery. At least, that’s the way it feels recently, and honestly, how cool is that?!

This weekend (February 8th) marked the release day for Deirdre Verne‘s debut mystery for Midnight Ink, the first in the Sketch in Crime series featuring CeCe Prentice, an eco-conscious freegan and artist who becomes suspicious after the sudden death of her twin brother, a brilliant DNA researcher. I got the chance to read Drawing Conclusions for Criminal, so here’s a bit of what I wrote there:

We meet CeCe Prentice on her way into a Dumpster. By choice. She’s a Freegan, an eco-conscious artist in her twenties who hates waste and lives with four green friends on Long Island’s North Shore, “experimenting with organic farming and subsistence living.” They live in part of CeCe’s inheritance, the rundown former Harbor Master’s home that’s been in her family for generations… “Freegans take what they can get,” is how she explains her stance to a wary detective at the police station. But sometimes, what they get is more than they bargained:

I nodded again, pointing at DeRosa’s garbage pail with one hand while the other covered my mouth. In one quick motion, he grabbed a plastic recycling bin and shoved it under my chin. His timing was impeccable. I tossed my breakfast directly into the pail. Between the gut stabbing pains and the panting heaves, I was able to blurt out a few sentences.

“Is it just me?”

“No, your housemates are sick too.”

“I need to get to a hospital,” I burped. “There could have been rat poison in the Dumpster.”

I’ve got more to say about this unusual premise and heroine, who is far too busy living her unconventional beliefs to be hectoring others about them. CeCe’s not a broken-record, she’s a genuine iconoclast, and it isn’t easy for her. Sure, I’d love if you’d go read the whole post, but most importantly, TRY THE BOOK!