Monday, September 20, 2010

Beat the Heat with these Cold-Blooded Killers

If you're looking forward to autumn after a scorching summer, get ready for the cooler weather with some icy tales of murder by Mary Logue, Vicki Delaney and Tess Gerritsen.

Mary Logue continues the Claire Watkins series with Frozen Stiff, and it's a chiller in more ways than one. Daniel Walker, wintering in his Wisconsin vacation home, is celebrating his latest business scam with a hot sauna followed by a quick roll in the snow. But when he returns to the house, the door is locked...from the inside. Perhaps he isn't as alone as he thought, even though he recently dumped his second wife and his daughter is back in St. Paul. The next day, his frozen body is found by his returning spouse and Claire soons finds herself investigating what may be an accident, or may be something more. And considering the number of enemies Mr. Walker has made, she's suspicious. The suspect list seems to grow with every chapter, and the closer Claire gets to the answer the more danger she finds herself in. With the temperature well below zero, it only takes one misstep for her to find herself on a frozen lake falling through the ice and leaving the reader wondering if this could be her last adventure. The author keeps the suspense level high, and even when the crime is solved, manages to surprise the reader one final time before wrapping up a very satisfying story. Keep a cup of hot cocoa at your elbow as you turn the pages.

Vicki Delany has penned another fine Molly Smith mystery, Winter of Secrets, set in the small Canadian town of Trafalgar, British Columbia. Trafalgar is a tourist town, and on Christmas Eve the area is filled with vacationing skiers from the US and Canada, including a group of obnoxious and wealthy young men and women. Molly is still fairly new at her job, and still battling for respect on the police force while investigating an accident that sends two of the tourists into the river. When the autopsy reveals that one of victims actually died 24 hours before the accident, Molly gets an opportunity to accompany the local detective in the investigation. Having grown up in Trafalgar, she uses her knowledge of the town to help solve the mystery, despite a few rookie mistakes along the way. She discovers that these fine young men had spent almost as much time bedding the local girls as they had skiing, and that resentments abound among the town's residents. In the end, through a combination of insight and old fashioned police work (no CSI solutions here) Molly manages to uncover what really happened in this tight knit group of predatory, dysfunctional kids who managed to destroy themselves and damage the lives around them. It's enough to make any small town cop long for the peace and quiet of the off season. Vicki's intimate knowledge of small town personalities and conflicts makes this book a real treat and a nice change of pace from the avalanche of forensic subject matter that seems to dominate the mystery genre.

Tess Gerritsen continues her edition of Rizzoli and Isles with Ice Cold. The action unfolds in another remote small town in the dead of winter. Maura's in Colorado for a medical conference, contemplating a painful romantic breakup when she decides to join a group of new friends for a skiing trip.
This turns into a disaster when the group gets stuck on an unmarked road and find themselves hiking into the tiny town of Kingdom Come. Built by religious followers of Jeremiah Goode, a cult-life figure of authority who pushes the young men out of the community in order to prey on the young girls left behind. But when Maura and her group arrive, the town is empty. Twelve huts stand abandoned, yet there is food on the tables, windows ajar, beds unmade...and blood at the bottom of a set of steps in one house. With no transporation and one of their party severely injured, they must seek shelter in the abandoned homes. But it soon becomes apparent that someone is watching them. If the cold doesn't kill them, watchful eyes may, because there is something evil in the valley responsible for the destruction of Kingdom Come, and Maura may not live long enough to learn the secret of the town's fate.

The thermometer is still north of 90 degrees these days in Kansas City, but if you pick up any of these books, wrap a blanket around you, stoke the fireplace...and lock the front door. You'll soon feel a chill running down your spine.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Up to Date - Kansas City Mystery Authors Radio Broadcast

If you missed the recent broadcast on Kansas City's KCUR (89.3 FM) featuring three of our home grown and very talented mystery writers, you can go to the radio station's website and spend a few minutes searching through their archives to find the show (from August 18, 2010)...

Or you can simply click on the link below, which will take you right to it, for an hour of great listening.

Nancy Pickard, Joel Goldman and Michelle Black discuss how the internet has changed the mystery genre, and why Kansas City is a great setting for crime fiction.

Go ahead, click on it! (You know you want to).

Up to Date - Local Mystery and Suspense Genre Authors

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is LA still the capital of Noir Fiction?

This question is prompted by an excellent article by Tim Noah that appeared Thursday, Sept 2nd on under this link:

It's a review of "A Bright and Guilty Place", a history of the corruption that plagued Los Angeles in the 1920's and played a large role in inspiring the birth of noir fiction, according to the author. The book was written by Richard Rayner and takes a look at the dark side of the City of Angels.

Raymond Chandler, James Cain and Dorothy Hughes, among others, produced classic noir fiction that set the standard for future writers of noir and established LA as its birthplace (although fans of Chester Himes and Mickey Spillane might disagree).

But Tim Noah cotends that LA is not only the birthplace of noir, but still reigns as its capital.

I don't agree with that statement.

Plenty of contenders for the crown setting of noir fiction have emerged. Cornell Woolrich, Spillane, Himes and more recently SJ Rozan, can make the case for New York City. John McDonald and now Carl Hiassen give Florida a claim to the title. And some young writers are producing excellent noir fiction in Chicago, including (but not limited to) Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey and Libby Fischer Hellman.

There are others locales that come to mind. How about Baltimore (Laura Lippman) or Boston (Tess Gerristesen)? Take your pick and share your suggestions for the setting that truely represents todays noir fiction capital.

For myself, I'm going to say Chicago is the new capital. I'm very impressed with the breath and depth of the gritty fiction coming out of that city. But that's just my opinion.

What's yours?