Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Preditors and Editors Official Poll Results

The Preditors and Editors Official Poll Results are out and this blog finished FOURTH this year. Once again it was beat by slick team review sites that primarily focus on romance and fantasy and are heavy into interviews/giveaways. Not only does this mean the blog moved up one spot, it means the blog is still number one for those readers that are interested in mystery and all of its many flavors.

While I am very glad about the ranking, I am most gratified by the comments regarding the blog.  As a few folks are aware, with everything here I have been giving serious thought to shutting down the blog. The comments make me think that the reviews, guest posts, and other things on the blog do matter to the book community at large.  

Sandi’s Latest Projects

While her store is still up at iOffer Sandi is far too sick right now to put her recent items up for sale there. All of these were completed before she took her latest turn for the worst the day after her birthday on the 19th. Since she is so sick right now she asked me to mention them on here and see if there was any interest. Quantities are limited and are being sold on a first come first sold basis.

First up on the showcase (waves one arm to gesture at the below item) we have a maroon lap quilt. This small one measures 35x42 features six internal squares surrounded by a maroon border. It is being sold for $45 (includes $8.00 non-priority shipping by way of the post office).

Next up we have a slightly smaller lap quilt in light blue. This one measures 29x42. It features the same six square pattern Sandi uses in these along with a light blue border.  It is being sold for $45 (includes $8.00 non-priority shipping by way of the post office).

If you like the light blue border, but want more blue in the lap quilt this one might work for you.  Sandi refers to this one as her “double blue” lap quilt. It measures 32 x 46 making it slightly larger than the preceding ones. It features six squares internally in the lap quilt surrounded by the light blue border. It is being sold for $45 (includes $8.00 non-priority shipping by way of the post office).

Maybe you want to go bigger than that? Sandi has a couple that just might work for you. First up is this one that measures 43 x56. It features the usual six squares and border. In this case the dominant color is brown and used in the center of the squares as well as the border along with an off white.  Due to the larger size it is being sold for $50 (includes $9.00 non-priority shipping by way of the post office).


She also has available this one that features green with a double maroon border. It measures 44 x 44 and contains the normal six squares. It is $50 (includes $9 non-priority shipping by way of the post office).
Sandi also has some walker caddies available. Like her chemo hats, these are a huge hit in the doctor’s office when she donates them as one can put a book, reading glasses, cell phone, etc. in the small pockets of the caddy. The loops at the top of the caddy go over a bar in the walker and are held closed by a button.  They sell for $10 and that includes the same basic shipping at $4.00 by way of  the post office.  She has them currently available in purple and “winter colors.” 

Hopefully you see something you like in these. If you have any questions, please ask in the comment section below or drop me a note at kevinrtipple AT  And, if you don’t want to make a purchase, but would like to make a donation please use the PayPal widget to your left. Anything and everything helps and is very much appreciated.

Please share this post with your friends and family who might be looking for personal handmade gifts. Thank you!

Review: "The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family To The Table" by Bridget Moynahan, Wendy Howard Goldberg, and Chris Peterson

If you are familiar with the television show Blue Bloods you are aware that every episode has the family dinner scene. Despite the busy schedules of a trauma nurse, police officers, and other family members, that dinner scene always happens. That show anchor led to the creation of the The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family To The Table by Bridget Moynahan and Wendy Howard Goldberg with the help of Chris Peterson.

The book is broken into eight sections covering everything from soups to salads, main dishes, desserts, and more. Each recipe has detailed instructions regarding ingredients and how to make the meal. While there is information on number of services the dish will make, there is a lack of information regarding the dietary and nutritional information. In addition to the 120 recipes and the colorful pictures of completed dishes, there are behind the scenes details of what goes on at the set during filming. 

Along with details from the set and the recipes shared by cast members, a real highlight of the book is the section titled “Blue Bloods Family Dinner Menu” that starts on page 255. The six pages here suggest meals from appetizers to dessert with the name of the dish and page number listed. While the section references the fact there are holiday meals in the book, there are also plenty of other dishes to occupy your non-holiday cooking and eating.

A nine page index brings the nearly 300 page book to a close.

Filled with basic and holiday meals along with plenty of neat stuff from behind the scenes of the show, The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family To The Table is a good one. Despite the obvious lack of important nutritional and dietary information, it does its job of promoting the show and family dinner time very well. No matter your personal preferences, at least some of the 120 recipes included should work for you and your family. 

The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family To The Table
Bridget Moynahan, Wendy Howard Goldberg, and Chris Peterson
St. Martin’s Press
November 2015
ISBN# 978-1-250-07285-6
Hardback (also available in e-book format)
288 Pages

Material for my use was supplied by the good folks of the Haggard Branch of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: Reviewed by Jeanne In the near future, student historians will have an opportunity to do more than just research a topic from...

KRL This Week Update

Up this morning in KRL a review & giveaway of "A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder" by Victoria Laurie

And a review & giveaway of the latest Crispin Guest mystery, "The Silence of Stones", by Jeri Westerson

We also have reviews & giveaways of several new mysteries by Penguin and Kensington authors-"Murder Most Malicious" by Alyssa Maxwell, "Plain Dead" by Emma Miller, "Kingdom Come" by Jane Jensen, "Dearly Departed" by Hy Conrad, and "A Wee Dose of Death" by Fran Stewart

And we have an article about "Paradise, Passion, Murder", a mystery anthology with tales from Hawai'i that helps out literacy

You will also find the latest mystery Coming Attractions by Sunny Frazier, along with a giveaway of "Thread and Gone" by Lea Wait

And we have a review & giveaway of "Choked Up" by Janey Mack

And we have "Tall Paul", a fun adventure short story by Barry Wiley

For those who also enjoy fantasy, over on KRL Lite we have a review & giveaway of "A Deafening Silence in Heaven" by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Happy reading,
KRL is now selling advertising & we have special discounts for
mystery authors & bookstores! Ask me about it!
Mystery section in Kings River Life
Check out my own blog at

The Fair Contract Initiative (Writer Beware Blog)

The Fair Contract Initiative (Writer Beware Blog)

Beneath the Stains of Time: A Stuffed Bag of Tricks

Beneath the Stains of Time: A Stuffed Bag of Tricks: " There was a bang, a plock, and a hiss, then a smell of beer incongruously spreading into the air . " - Nicholas Blake ( T...

SleuthSayers: Short and Long, Light and Dark

SleuthSayers: Short and Long, Light and Dark: by John M. Floyd The title of my column sounds like I'm talking about days, doesn't it--or maybe types of ribs or chicken. What...

Lesa's Latest Contest-- Ghostly Giveaways

This week, I'm giving away copies of mysteries involving ghosts - Paige Shelton's If Onions Could Spring Leeks & Fran Stewart's A Wee Dose of Death. Details available on my blog, Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Lesa Holstine

FFB Yesterday

I wasn't present for FFB yesterday. Patti has the list here

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Evening Medical Update

Sandi was dizzy and running a significant fever again this morning when we got to the doctor. They pulled a bunch of blood out of her before she saw the doctor. The results from Wednesday were back and she has a pretty serious bladder infection. It would be bad deal enough on its own, but with her white blood cell count now just above 0 at .05 it is a horrendous deal. Her kidney function remains very poor which means the infection is beating the heck out of her kidneys.

So they hit her today with another of the white blood cell boosting shots as well as the big bag of saline and the IV antibiotic.

We stay put at home for the weekend. She is to keep drinking fluids--mainly water---to try and keep everything wide open and working.

We go back mid morning  Monday for the complete blood work deal as well as another bag of saline and another bag of antibiotics. Depending on those test results and how she is doing pain wise and everything else will determine what the plan for the week will be.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


No good news to report after everything today. She is in bad shape still. Two days of super antibiotics have done nothing so far but kill any interest she had in food and put her in a foul mood the limited time she is awake. We go back for more of the same in the morning.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Serious Setback

We just got home from the cancer doctor. Sandi has had a serious setback so the IVIG planned for today was shelved. She had a zero white blood cell count today, a fever of about three degrees, and some other serious blood work issues. An infection of some type is actively causing multiple issues so they took lots of blood and urine to culture to try and figure out what is happening this time.

Over a couple of hours they pumped a serious IV antibiotic into her along with plenty of saline.

We go back tomorrow and Friday for more of the same plus lab work and doctor stuff as needed.

What the treatment plan for the chemo and IVIG going forward will be determined Friday or later once they get this situation under control.

The picture is from today after we had been there about two hours and the determination had been made they would not be admitting her to the hospital and instead would treat in infusion. 

Review: "Live Free or Tri: A collection of three short mystery stories" by Judy Penz Sheluk

Live Free or Tri: a collection of three short mystery stories is exactly what it purports to be as the three short story mystery tales in this book are all good ones. At forty-five pages this very recent release is also a very fast read.

“Live Free Or Die” starts off the book where the 31 year old Jack comes to Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto, Canada. He is ostensibly there to help with their collection rates having been sent by the US Headquarters down in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After taking each staff member of the credit department out to lunch he finally gets to 21 year old Emmy. If you already know what probably soon happens you would be right. It is a classic tale of the bad man fooling around with the naive and far younger female employee. It is the aftermath where things go very differently than what one would normally expect in such a tale.

Thirty miles outside of Toronto and a world apart is the Holland Marsh. The rural area does not have grid locked traffic, high rise condos, or all the rest of the big city nonsense. It does have seven thousand acres of rich farm county that supports crops and a few locals. It also has the isolation relatively free of traffic to make learning the special skills of how to ride a bike in a triathlon.

For Carrie Anne Camack the swimming and running parts of the triathlon she can handle. Mastering the proper technique of the clipless pedal has been far more difficult. It isn’t very long till the event in July which is why she is out and about this early Sunday morning in the spring. She had a training plan and that did not include finding a body in “Murder In The Marsh.”

A triathlon also serves as the backdrop to the final story titled “The Cycopaths.” The Cycopath Triathlon Team is working the icy waters of Sunset Point Park in Colling Wood, Ontario near Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. Half dozen swimmers went into the water for the 750 meter practice course, but not everyone came back out of the cold water alive.

These three fast reads in Live Free or Tri: A collection of three short mystery stories feature a lot of depth and plenty of mystery. The characters involved in the tales have plenty of backstory that skillfully comes into play as the story works forward in real time. Each mystery is complex with more than one small twist the result is a highly entertaining read from start to finish.

Live Free or Tri: A collection of three short mystery stories
Judy Penz Sheluk
January 2016
E-Book (also available in print format)
45 Pages

Material was recently made free to all on Amazon in e-book format where I picked it up to read and review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

History’s Rich With Mysteries with Earl Staggs: AGATHA CHRISTIE – The original “Gone Girl"

Texas author Earl Staggs is back with another mystery from the past that fascinates him. This is a case I had never heard of before Earl’s piece below…


When I look at the past, I find stories about people which fascinate me, particularly those in which there is a curious mixture of fact, legend, and mysterious uncertainty. In this series of articles, I want to explore some of those stories. I think of them as mysteries swaddled in legend. While truth is always desired in most things, truth easily becomes staid and boring. Legend, on the other hand, forever holds a hint of romanticism and an aura of excitement borne of adventure, imagination and, of course, mystery. 

AGATHA CHRISTIE – The original “Gone Girl”

By Earl Staggs

Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on September 15, 1890, in Torquay, Devon, England, she married Archibald Christie, a hero of the Royal Flying Corps, in 1914. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind, and divorced in 1928. In 1930, she married Sir Max Mallowan, a noted archaeologist. She passed away of natural causes on January 12, 1976, at the age of 85.

According to The Guinness Book of World Records, she is the best-selling novelist of all time. Only the Bible and Shakespeare’s works have sold more. Her books have been translated into 103 languages, more than any other author.  

While she wrote six romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, she is best known for her novels and short stories written under her own name and featuring, among others, two of the most popular characters in the mystery genre, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. She also wrote “The Mousetrap,” a murder mystery play which opened in 1952 and as of 2015 is still running after more than 25,000 performances, making it the longest running play in history.

Her novel AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is her biggest seller with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever and one of the best-selling books of all time.

In 1955, she was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, its highest honor. That same year, her play “Witness for the Prosecution” received an Edgar Award from MWA for Best Play. In 1971, she was made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Her novel THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD was voted the best crime novel ever by 600 fellow writers of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2013.

With all those honors, awards and accolades, you’d think everything about her has been said. Not so. Among mystery readers and writers, she is also well-known for her mysterious disappearance in 1926 and reappearance eleven days later. Agatha refused to explain the incident, simply putting it down to a bout of temporary amnesia.

She reportedly said only, "For 24 hours I wandered in a dream, and then found myself in Harrogate as a well-contented and perfectly happy woman who believed she had just come from South Africa."

Few people were convinced by this explanation. In her autobiography, she made no mention of those missing eleven days. 

Over the years, a number of theories have surfaced regarding the incident. Some believe it was a publicity stunt to boost sales of THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, which was published in 1926 and became her first major success. That same year, her beloved mother died. Agatha considered her mom her best friend, confidante, and biggest supporter and felt her loss deeply. She took her daughter Rosalind to the home where she had grown up to sort through her mother’s things. Her husband Archie did not accompany them. Agatha fell into a deep depression over her mother’s death. When Archie finally came to visit, he gave her more bad news. He had become involved with a woman named Nancy Neele, and he wanted a divorce.

In an effort to save her marriage, Agatha took Rosalind and moved back home. On the evening of December 3, 1926, Archie went out alone. He said he was going to a weekend house party, but most likely, it was a rendezvous with his mistress.

Later that evening, Agatha left the house. Her maids said she was visibly upset. The next morning, her car was found abandoned an hour’s drive from home. Inside the car were clothes and other personal possessions. It appeared she had vanished into thin air.

The police launched a nationwide search involving more than a thousand police officers and members of the public, and for the first time in UK history, airplanes were used in the search effort. Two of Agatha’s fellow authors, Dorothy L Sayers and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, helped with the search. Newspapers offered rewards for information.

Many suspected her husband Archie had murdered her and disposed of the body.

Eleven days after her disappearance, she was recognized at a spa in Yorkshire, two hundred miles from home. She had registered as Theresa Neele, using the surname of Archie’s mistress. Archie traveled there to take her home.

Agatha and Archie may have tried to save their marriage after her reappearance, but it was not to be. They divorced in 1928. Archie married Nancy Neele that same year and Agatha married archeologist Max Mallowan in 1930.

Public sentiment was negative toward the disappearance. Many felt it had been a publicity stunt which had cost the taxpayers a substantial amount of money.

Some who did not believe it was done for publicity offered other theories. Author Gillian Gill said this:

“I believe that Christie had a definitive and terrible fight with her husband. It drove her over the edge. She had been depressed, now she becomes on some level psychotic. She is not herself. She wanders off. She gets on the train. She takes another name. She goes into this hotel and she lives another life. That’s very, very, very rare, but it’s known. It’s documented in the annals of psychology.”

Another author, Gwen Robyns, thought it was Agatha’s way of exacting revenge on her errant husband and said this:

“I think she took endless delight in the fact that the police shadowed Archie. He couldn’t go anywhere because they suspected him of murdering her. And I think she took marvelous delight in reading this in the papers. Again, I think in a sort of revenge and twisted up sort of way, she was thinking it was very funny.”

Laura Thompson's biography, Agatha Christie, An English Mystery, states Agatha did disappear as part of a publicity stunt. The purpose was not to increase sales in her novels, however, but to create a negative feeling toward Archie for being unfaithful. Unfortunately, instead of saving their marriage as she hoped it would, it cemented the fact that their relationship was over and could never be salvaged.

In his 1998 book, AGATHA CHRISTIE AND THE ELEVEN MISSING DAYS, author Jared Cade believes Agatha’s motive was clear:

“She wanted to disrupt his weekend with Nancy Neele and make him suffer, although she still adored him. What no one could have foreseen was the press reaction. She was propelled from being an author with a reputation into one of the most famous women in England.”

I think the best explanation of the incident comes from journalist John Ezard, writing for the Guardian newspaper in 2000. Ezard interviewed the daughter of Agatha’s sister-in-law and close friend, Nan Watts. The daughter claimed she knew the truth because she was with her mother and Agatha on the night of the disappearance. She said Agatha was hidden away by Nan Watts at their Chelsea home before being put on a train to Harrogate the following day. 

This makes a lot of sense because Agatha could not have pulled it off by herself. After abandoning her car in Surrey, she needed someone to pick her up and transport her eventually to the train station in London.

Here’s how the daughter describes it:

"She then just sat there in her hotel room, hiding away...But she had signed the guests' register in the name Neele - the surname of her husband's lover...It was carefully orchestrated...She wanted Archie back...She wanted to give him a shock...If she had had amnesia she would not have signed the register in the other woman's name...My mother helped her because she was distraught. I think she went to my mother because she had been through a divorce. Mrs Christie never did it for the publicity. That was the last thing she would have thought of. She was very upset and shocked - it all went rather wrong."

It’s interesting that she mentioned Agatha using the last name Neele. That, in my mind, rules out amnesia.  If she had amnesia, now could she have known that name?

It’s easy to compare Agatha’s disappearance and reappearance to the plot of Gillian Flynn’s novel GONE GIRL. In fact, it’s hard not to. Flynn did an excellent job with the novel and she also wrote the screenplay for the successful movie. While Flynn is a fine writer who made her novel interesting and unique in its own right, it’s easy to see examples of homage to Christie.

For example:

. . . in Flynn’s novel, a first person narrator is revealed as the perpetrator as Christie did in THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD.

. . .in both GONE GIRL and Agatha’s real-life disappearance, the plot involves a disintegrating marriage and an unhappy wife who mysteriously disappears.  

. . .in GONE GIRL, the wife disappears and lives under the assumed name “Nancy,” which was the first name of Archie Christie’s mistress.

. . .in GONE GIRL, the husband is suspected of foul play in the disappearance of his wife as Archie was in Agatha’s disappearance.

We are all free to form our own opinions as to why Dame Agatha staged her mysterious disappearance. We will never know for sure. She was the only person who knew, and she chose never to reveal exactly why she did it. That’s okay with me. For all her contributions to the world of the written word, for all the influences her literary legacy have given us, she earned that right.

Besides, once a mystery is solved, it becomes nothing more than a piece of history. An unsolved mystery lives forever and never stops taunting us from just beyond our reach.

Earl Staggs ©2016
Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIEDACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. 

He invites any comments via email at
He also invites you to visit his blog site at to learn more about his novels and stories.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Very Tough Days

Very tough days around here on many fronts. Sandi is not doing at all well and there are other issues I won't bore you with. If you have time to think good thoughts, pray, or whatever you personally do and are willing to do so on our behalf, please do so as we could use a little help right now.

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: January 25 - 31!

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: January 25 - 31!: Bookish events in Texas for the week of January 25 - 31, 2016:       Special Events: Long-Bin Chen's The Book Garden sculpture exh...

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers (The Practicing Writer)

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers (The Practicing Writer)

Monday With Kaye: "Pago Pago Tango" by John Enright (Reviewed by Kaye George)

Even if you don’t live in the latest winter storm sow zone there has been no escape from the relentless media coverage of said storm the last couple of days. For this final Monday in January Kaye George brings us word of a mystery set in a warm island in the South Pacific. This also happens to be the first book in the four book Jungle Beat Mystery Series.

Pago Pago Tango by John Enright

This mystery is set in American Samoa, partly in Pago Pago, the capital, and partly on other parts of the island, including Tafuna Plain. This last place, a dense rain forest shunned by the natives, is where most of the Americans (called palangi) working in the South Pacific paradise live on the bulldozed, flattened land in their Western-style houses.

Detective Sergeant Apelu Soifua straddles the two worlds of the natives and the Westerners adroitly and maintains the law by standing somewhere between the cultures in morals and methods. He’s worked in San Francisco for several years, but has now returned to his homeland.

A few disconnected threads get the reader started: a theft from a Western house of a VCR machine and some videotapes, Apelu’s problems with his family life (sons and wife), a death in a national park which is discovered by Apelu and a prisoner who is not supposed to be out of prison. Gordon Trurich, executive at SeaKing Tuna, doesn’t seem as concerned as his vague, drunken wife about the tapes stolen from his house. But Apelu smells a rat. He’s also concerned for their teen-aged daughter.

I loved this vicarious trip to another culture. The funeral customs of Pago Pago figure into the picture, as do Apelu’s buddies who work on recreating native sailing vessels, and a local fence whom Apelu knows quite well.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Broke, for Suspense Magazine

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Wag The Fox: Why Chimaera, Why?: a guest post + giveaway by Hun...

Wag The Fox: Why Chimaera, Why?: a guest post + giveaway by Hun...: About Hunter Shea's THEY RISE : Some call them ghost sharks, the oldest and strangest looking creatures in the sea. Marine biologist B...

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SleuthSayers: Flash Fiction– The Gamble (A Mention Of My Wife)

SleuthSayers: Flash Fiction– The Gamble: by Leigh Lundin Imagine a game I invite you to play. Here are the rules: You put down $1. Me, nothing. We flip a coin. If you win, y...

KRL This Week Update

Up this morning in KRL a review & giveaway of "Foreign Eclairs" by Julie Hyzy

And a review & giveaway of "Karma's a Killer" by Tracy Weber along with an interesting interview with Tracy

We also have a review & giveaway of "Splinter the Silence" by Val McDermid

And a review & giveaway of "Bookmarked for Murder" by Dan Andriacco

Also up an interesting mystery short story by Edith Maxwell

For those who also enjoy fantasy, a review & giveaway of "City of Light" by Keri Arthur along with a behind the book interview

While not a mystery, we also have a heartwarming post Katrina animal rescue story by mystery author Kaye George

Over on KRL Lite we have a review & giveaway of "The Man Who Wasn't There" by Judy Nedry

Happy reading, Lorie

KRL is now selling advertising & we have special discounts for
mystery authors & bookstores! Ask me about it!
Mystery section in Kings River Life
Check out my own blog at

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lesa's Latest Contest--Giveaway - 1st in New Series

This week, I'm giving away the first books in 2 new series, Julia Buckley's The Big Chili and Ellen Byron's Plantation Shudders. Details available on my blog, Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Lesa Holstine  

Friday, January 22, 2016

FFB Review: "Murder is an Art: A Mystery" by Bill Crider

Hughes Community College in Southeast Texas near Houston is a small college doing its best to survive. That means the school and its President Dr. Fieldstone can’t afford and don’t want any scandal. That includes possibly questionable artwork currently being exhibited on campus.

Dr. Sally Good has spent six years as head of the English and Fine Arts Division dealing with budget complaints, political bickering and gossip, and the other stuff that is the bane of academic heads everywhere. This is the first time she has been called in over artwork. Dr. Fieldstone has summoned her along with several other people to his office to deal with a complaint lodged by Roy Talon.

Talon is a local celebrity having made his considerable fortune as an automobile dealer. There is a painting of a goat being exhibited on campus as part of deal showcasing the work of students in the prison outreach program. Bad enough that the goat itself is a symbol of Satanism, according to Talon, but he believes that one can also see “666” painted on the goat head. Upon closer examination of the painting, not only do the staff members not see the sign of the beast, one goes so far to suggest if there is anything it might be “911” making it a sign to call the police.

As a taxpayer and very important person, Talon wants the painting gone. In any institution, bosses handle difficult issues by forming committees to study the problem and make recommendations. Doing so spreads the responsibility around and absolves the boss from having to upset any one group.  Before long, the idea is floated to have a newly created committee review entire exhibit to consider if any of the works are Satanic and thus should be removed.

One of those involved in this mess is the chair of the art department. The same department head who may have once again been stepping out on his wife. The same department head who is soon found very much dead in the art exhibit. When the local police seem to be ignoring key pieces of evidence it is left to Dr. Sally Good to solve the crime in Murder Is An Art: A Mystery by Bill Crider.

If you have read very many of author Bill Crider’s books, you will notice that he often starts with something relatively minor that either directly or indirectly leads to a murder. This is especially true in his mysteries based in academia whether it is the Carl Burns series or this one. He also blends in some misdirection with characters that are a bit out there. There is more than one such character at work here and Dr. Good’s observations about them are very funny.

My favorite in this one was Perry “A. B. D.” Johnson who goes ballistic over just about anything on a daily basis. The “A. B. D.”  nickname stands for “All But Dissertation” as he has done the entire graduate coursework and everything else required except for finishing the dissertation. Every campus has at least one. Back in my days at the University of Texas at Dallas there were at least two such people I knew of in the Literature and History Departments. Both were very strange guys. One in fact, who did lose his mind regarding a chair, so when reading the opening pages of Murder is an Art: A Mystery where A. B. D. Johnson becomes quite agitated over a chair it made this reader laugh out loud.

Laughing out loud is always a frequent danger with any work by Texas author Bill Crider. Published in 1999 the book may annoy some readers who expect the first body to fall by the third paragraph at the very latest. Instead, that will come later as the author introduces us to our fictional companions and sets the table for the mystery meal to come. First in the Dr. Sally Good series, the read is occasionally funny while taking numerous twists and turns to solve a murder or two and quite a lot more. Murder is an Art: A Mystery is a solidly good read and one very much worthy of your time. 

Murder is an Art: A Mystery
Bill Crider
Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin’s Press)
April 1999
ISBN# 0-312-19927-9
Hardback (e-book available)
256 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Design for Dying -- Renee Patrick

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Design for Dying -- Renee Patrick: Lillian Frost goes to Los Angeles in 1937 for the same reason that so many others did -- to become a movie star.  She's smart, she&#39...

SleuthSayers: Nothin' But The Best

SleuthSayers: Nothin' But The Best: by Robert Lopresti As part of my tireless effort to make the world a better place I am once again listing all the best short mysteries ...

Can Short Stories be a Promotional Tool? (Kaye George at Travels With Kaye)

Can Short Stories be a Promotional Tool? (Kaye George at Travels With Kaye)

Guest Post: Jeanne on Mystery Pet Peeves

We all have those things in a book or series that just annoy the heck out of us. Jeanne of the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library (something you should be reading if you are not already) is back today with a list of pet peeves. Like some of mine, they can be overcome by the work of a talented author.

Mystery Pet Peeves

I have been reading a number of what I refer to as my “happy little cat mysteries.”  By this I mean paperback mystery books with a cat on the cover.  There may or may not be an actual cat in the book and some of them aren’t particularly happy, but the description serves my purpose.  It means I want to be entertained and I’m willing to be forgiving in some areas providing that other aspects of the book are good. Interesting characters, for example, or learning something new, an ingenious plot, or even an unusual setting, any of these can redeem a book with problems. Give me fully fleshed out characters instead of cardboard one (and no, hobbies and quirks don’t make a character!) and I’ll happily overlook plot holes, unbelievable small town murder rates, and cops who are delighted to have an amateur poke into investigations.

However, by reading so many close together I’m finding myself frustrated by some of the same scenarios over and over.  It gives the books a cookie-cutter quality that I find off-putting.  Lesa of the incomparable Lesa’s Book Critiques blog recently wrote about one such problem, that of the dueling boyfriends and the heroine incapable of making a choice. Here are four others that I find annoying:

He Doesn’t Love Me Anymore!  I don’t mind romance in my mysteries, and a good one can turn me to mush, but I am tired of insecure heroines who suspect their partners of infidelity at every turn only to have the mysterious flower order to Ruby turn out to be a long lost aunt who celebrating a birthday.  It seems to be an attempt to add tension to a relationship, much like soap opera lovers have to have a crisis every week. Which brings me to:

You Can’t Be a Detective, You’re Married! Why is it that some authors believe that being married or being in a relationship means the heroine has to give up investigations? For the most part, it seems to me to be another cheap plot device to inject conflict.  You knew she poked her nose into murder investigations before you married her, so get over it.  And for the author:  you trust your readers to believe a small town can have at least one clever murder a year, but you don’t trust us to believe that a man or woman can deal with a spouse who sleuths? Fortunately, Mrs. Pollifax’s Cyrus doesn’t share that prejudice nor Amelia Peabody’s Radclilffe nor … well, you get the idea.  Sleuthing together can be downright romantic, in fact:  just think of the TV show Hart to Hart or Castle.

Don’t You People Ever Talk? This goes along with point one above, but can include any other relationship in the book:  parents and children, business partners, etc.  There’s a situation that has the character concerned but which could be cleared up with a simple conversation.  After 200 pages, all is revealed and it’s been a misunderstanding. As an attempt to add tension or distraction to a book, it gets old fast.

The Incredible Immovable Obstacle! Like a superhero in reverse, this character – usually a boss or authority figure—functions only to block the heroine (or hero, this one appears for both genders) from investigating.  Usually he or she is also a generally vile human being with no redeeming virtues. He’s pre-reformed Scrooge, Caroline Bingley, Mrs. Danvers, and Thenardier all rolled up into one.  (Actually, I always think of Shirley Jackson’s, “One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts.”  Sometimes it’s the only possible explanation for people’s behavior.) He or she serves no other purpose in the book than to make life difficult. 

This said, none of these are hard and fast rules.  Every objection can be overcome with good writing and purpose.  A writer once convinced me that her heroine absolutely had to go into the deep dark woods all by herself, an action that could have made me put a book down in disgust instead of willingly following her. The books that cause my irritation are ones who use the above as excuses to force the heroine to do, or fail to do, something in order to stall a solution.  This is especially true when the characters are superficial to start with.

On the other hand, there are writers who can use all of the above to great advantage.  One recent book had Our Heroine in hot pursuit of the Dream Boat, overcoming all the odds, and winning him—only to find that his love for her was conditional on Our Heroine changing her ways.  I did not audibly cheer when she dumped him, but I may have punched the air.  It lifted the book from an amusing little cozy to a memorable one, and made this a series I’ll follow. Likewise, a stock bad boss in another series has become a bit more understandable as his motivations have been revealed.  We don’t necessarily like him any better, but his actions don’t appear random and unreasonable anymore. It’s upped my interest in a series that I had viewed as marginal.

So keep those cozies coming!  

Jeanne also has some suggestions for Historical True Crime Books and recently did a guest review on The Haunted Season by G.M. Malliet