Monday, November 30, 2020

Beneath the Stains of Time: Sleightly Invisible (1986) by Patrick A. Kelley

Beneath the Stains of Time: Sleightly Invisible (1986) by Patrick A. Kelley: Back in March, I reviewed the third novel in Patrick A. Kelley 's short-lived Harry Colderwood series, Sleightly Lethal (1986), which c...

Unlawful Acts: Small Crimes for 11/30/2020

 Unlawful Acts: Small Crimes for 11/30/2020

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Jane Austen’s Emma on Film

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Jane Austen’s Emma on Film: Comments by Jeanne Jane Austen once said of Emma that the novel had a heroine whom she felt no one but herself would like.   I confess that...

Lesa's Book Critiques: DEATH AT A COUNTRY MANSION by Louise R. Innes

 Lesa's Book Critiques: DEATH AT A COUNTRY MANSION by Louise R. Innes

The Practicing Writer: Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/30/2020

 The Practicing Writer: Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/30/2020

Unlawful Acts: Incident Report No. 97

 Unlawful Acts: Incident Report No. 97

In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/30/2020

 In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/30/2020

The Rap Sheet: Views from Across the Pond

 The Rap Sheet: Views from Across the Pond

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: The False-Hearted Teddy by John J. Lamb

The Bear Collector mysteries by John J. Lamb were published between 2006 and 2009. Only five titles in the series but they earned a devoted following who still miss them. One of the perils of publishing is the compulsion to identify a niche and when a book doesn’t fit the niche assigned it especially well, readers who would love the book are more likely not to find it, losing the book essential reviews, praise, critical acclaim, and ultimately sales. This is what happened to this series, I think, which deserved more attention than it got. The teddy bear angle attracted cozy readers who didn’t bargain for the policework in the books, and police procedural readers didn’t consider them because of the teddy bears.


These books sound fluffy and cozy and they are, to the extent they are centered around an ex-cop and his second career as a high-end teddy bear artisan. However, they are also rock-solid police procedurals. Lamb writes authoritatively and with experience about the process of investigating homicides and his knowledge informs nearly every page. He is also invested in the world of artisan stuffed animals, which is big business with the potential for franchise sales to toy manufacturers and Saturday morning cartoon shows. In this aspect these books remind me a good deal of the Emma Lathen books which featured John Putnam Thatcher, a banker who was forever getting involved in murders committed for money. In each Lathen book the reader received an education in a specific industry while following the banker/amateur detective.


In The False-Hearted Teddy (Berkley, 2007), the second in the series, the economic side of the business is clearly displayed. Brad Lyon and his wife Ashleigh travel to Baltimore for a national teddy bear convention and public show. This show is important because of the industry judging and awards and the attendant sales and publicity. Receiving one of the awards can mean a significant boost to an artisan’s career. One of the exhibitors dies suddenly after being accused of stealing her bears’ designs, which a big-time toymaker had offered to buy and mass produce. Brad unofficially starts looking into the evidence, invoking the ire of the investigating officer, and is promptly arrested for the murder.


The beginning chapters of the book are mostly centered on the bears but once the murder is committed, the police procedural side takes over for the rest of the story. The comments on the traffic and area landmarks are entertaining to residents. There is an indirect reference to Mystery Loves Company, a mystery bookstore that resided in Fells Point for a long time and has since moved to Oxford, Maryland.


These books are still in print, which should tell the publisher how much of a mistake it was to drop them, and are therefore readily available. Recommended for readers of middle-of-the-road mysteries looking for a new pandemic series.


·         Mass Market Paperback: 262 pages

·         ISBN-13: 978-0425216101

·         ISBN-10: 0425216101

·         Publisher: Berkley; First Edition (June 5, 2007)



Aubrey Hamilton ©2020

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bitter Tea and Mystery: Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Bitter Tea and Mystery: Moonflower Murders: Anthony Horowitz: Moonflower Murders is the sequel to an earlier book by Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders . In both books the main character is Susan Ryeland...

Do Some Damage: Special Delivery by Claire Booth

Do Some Damage: Special Delivery: Book 4! Fatal Divisions is here. The fourth book in my Sheriff Hank Worth series comes out Jan. 5, 2021, and I just got my copies. There re...



SHOTSMAG CONFIDENTIAL: Books to Look Forward To From Europa Editions

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

KRL This Week Update for 11/28/2020

Up in KRL this morning a review and giveaway of another Christmas mystery, "Candy Slain Murder" by Maddie Day

And a review of another Christmas mystery, "A Garland of Bones" by Carolyn Haines 

We also have the latest mystery Coming Attractions from Sunny Frazier along with a giveaway of "Can't Judge a Book By Its Murder" by Amy Lillard  

For those who prefer to listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL, you can find the player here for the episode that went up this week featuring the mystery short story "No More Excuses" by Guy Belleranti, read by local actor Sean Hopper 

Up in KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and ebook giveaway of "Gooseberry Christmas" by Kathi Daley 

And a review and giveaway of "Lowcountry Boughs of Holly" by Susan M Boyer and published by Henery Press


Happy reading,




Scott's Take: The Guinevere Deception by Kirsten White (Camelot Rising Trilogy)

The Guinevere Deception by Kirsten White is the first book in a new series that is inspired by the legend of King Arthur and is billed as a retelling of it with a new spin. In this universe, King Arthur has been forced to send Merlin away due to a strict ban on magic. If King Arthur had not sent Merlin away, he would have been deposed because the people of Camelot do not trust magic. Despite the fact that King Arthur fights magical threats and uses a magical sword to defeat them, the people of Camelot want magic and anyone who uses magic---except for the King—banned from the land.  Regardless of what the people want, which King Artur will comply with not to be deposed, he still needs more than his sword. He needs a magical protector to protect him from all foes who use magic as a weapon. 


Merlin has a unique plan. He will send his own daughter to live as a deceased princess named Guinevere. She will give up her real name, her memories, and everything she has known to be Princess Guinevere. She will marry the King, become his Queen, and his protector. Merlin is sacrificing his own daughter so that King Arthur will live and fulfill his destiny. For that to happen, she will have to face enemies inside and outside of Camelot who seek to destroy the young King and Camelot itself.


This is a book that that is not easy to talk about without ruining the read. It can be said that this version of the legend blends new and old elements from the various myths and clearly is at least partially inspired by the Merlin BBC TV series.  The Guinevere Deception is an intriguing tale that mixes humor, action, drama, and magic, in a very good start to a new series.


The next book in the series is, The Camelot’s Betrayal, and it is currently on order at the library system.



The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising Trilogy)

Kirsten White

Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)

November 2019

ISBN#: 978-0-525-58167-3

Hardback (also available in audio, eBook, and paperback format)

347 Pages

My reading copy came from the Lakewood Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.


Scott A. Tipple ©2020

Friday, November 27, 2020

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 59 Calls for Submissions in December 2020 - Paying Markets

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 59 Calls for Submissions in December 2020 - Paying...: There are nearly five dozen calls for submissions in December. All of these are paying markets, and none charge submission fees. As always, ...

Beneath the Stains of Time: Sudden Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Beneath the Stains of Time: Sudden Death (1932) by Freeman Wills Crofts: This year, the Collins Crime Club imprint, of HarperCollins, reissued six long out-of-print novels by Freeman Wills Crofts in two batch...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fe...:   Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly Reviewed by Kristin   If Beth Ann Fennelly has one gift, it is the ab...

Lesa's Book Critiques: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

 Lesa's Book Critiques: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

SHOTSMAG CONFIDENTIAL: Books To Look Forward To From Michael Joseph Books

SHOTSMAG CONFIDENTIAL: Books To Look Forward To From Michael Joseph Books:  January 2021 What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for - but everything you always feared? The women in thi...

FFB Review: Instruments of Night (1998) by Thomas H. Cook Reviewed by Barry Ergang

For this final Friday in November as you surface from your Turkey driven coma, I offer you Barry’s Review of Instruments of Night by Thomas H. Cook. The review originally ran in late 2007 and then again in 2012, so it has been quite some time since it saw the light of day here. After you read his review and mosey around here, make sure you ride over to Patti Abbott’s blog as well as Aubrey Nye Hamilton’s Happiness Is A Warm Book blog and see what they suggest today. Be sure to comment with your own FFB reviews and links. 


Instruments of Night (1998) by Thomas H. Cook

reviewed by Barry Ergang


Novelist Paul Graves is a man literally haunted by his past. The ghosts of one grim and brutal night invade his thoughts daily, summoned or unbidden, and lend their power to his books.


Raised on a small farm in North Carolina, Graves was already an imaginative young man who had taken a liking to writing when his parents were killed in a car accident. Paul was twelve and his sister Gwen was sixteen. The two continued to live on the farm for about a year until the night Gwen was tortured and eventually slain by a sadist named Kessler and his tremulous sidekick Sykes. Forced to witness his sister's agonies, Paul retreated into a long silence.


In the story's present, a forty-five-year-old Graves lives a life of self-imposed relative seclusion in New York City. He's the author of a popular series of novels set in that city at the end of the 19th Century. They feature a detective named Slovak who, much like Sir Denis Nayland Smith chasing after Dr. Fu Manchu, pursues the bloodthirsty Kessler and the slavish Sykes from murder to murder, aging and wearying in the process—much as his creator has aged and wearied and considered self-extinction.


Graves is invited to Riverwood, an estate in the Hudson Valley that remains a family home and also an artists' colony, by wealthy Allison Davies, who grew up there and who has never left. She offers him an odd commission: look into the fifty-year-old murder of her closest friend Faye Harrison, who was killed at the age of sixteen, and write a story about it that will satisfy Faye's dying mother about who killed her daughter. The story needn't be true, only plausible.


Reluctant at first, Graves finally accepts the job and takes up residence at Riverwood, where he's given access to all of the information about Faye's death, including the detailed reports by the investigating police detective, Dennis Portman. He is joined by Eleanor Stern, a playwright, who is quite possibly more intrigued by the project than Graves is.


What might seem like a dry historical probe is rendered dramatic by Graves's vivid imagination. He visualizes the players and the scenes they enact so as to carry the reader into the moments Portman's summaries only sketch. His investigations lead to revelations about Riverwood and its denizens in that long-ago time, and about Graves's own past.


I should add, for Golden Age fans, that although Instruments of Night is very much a psychological thriller, it's also a fairly-clued mystery. The key clue is extremely subtle and easily overlooked.


I discovered Edgar Allan Poe in early adolescence, William Faulkner in my late teens. What struck me about both of their prose styles was the quality of envelopment: you might be sitting in a riotous, crowded stadium during the Super Bowl or the World Series, but if you were reading one of their stories, you'd feel as though you were alone in inky blackness, aswirl in the story's events. Thomas H. Cook—at least in this novel, the first of his I've read—conveys that same envelopment.


So why am I torn about this book?


It's very well-written, Cook's prose often lyrical. The characters are properly fleshed-out, the pacing spot-on, and the suspense carefully built and sustained.


But its tone is unremittingly dark. In short stories like Poe's, where uniformity of tone was a goal, that quality is tolerable. Many of Faulkner's darker novels were occasionally relieved by moments of levity. Not so Instruments of Night. Cook sometimes overdoes Graves's recollections of his own horrors. Thus, compelling as the storyline is, I found it hard to sustain long periods of reading. I can't recall ever having read anything darker: not Sanctuary, The Sound and the Fury, or Light in August. Nor Bernard Malamud's The Fixer. Not even Elie Wiesel's Night.


With that caveat in place, I can recommend Instruments of Night as worth your time.


For more on the Golden Age follow the link



Barry Ergang © 2007, 2012, 2020 

 Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of it is available at Amazon and at Smashwords. His website is where he is available for your editing needs.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving To You And Yours

Thanksgiving Day is always tough as it was this day in 2011 when the docs came in and broke the news to us about Sandi and her cancers. Our world changed that day and was never normal again. Certainly, this past year has been tough as both Scott and I have had some major medical stuff.

But, in the awesome news department, Scott has not had a seizure since the nightmare night in July and the cancer scare for me turned out to be nothing more than a scare. I am very grateful for both deals as either or both could very easily have gone the other way. We are also still here and hanging in despite everything and that counts for a lot. Yes, I am damn near broke and may have to sell the house in a year or so to survive, but we are still better off than back the apartments where we were often within hours of eviction every month those last few years.  Many of you continue to make the point here, on FB, and elsewhere, that you are thinking about us, praying for us, etc., and we both are very grateful. 

Whether or not Covid 19 was possibly lurking in every breath you take, it would be a quiet one here at the house. As always, the NFL is on and the Cowboys play later today. This year, for the first time in several, a turkey will soon be in the oven as I try to bring a little sense of normalcy back into our lives. Since  turkeys are really nothing more than chickens jacked up on steroids, I think I should be able to do this. Time will tell how well I pulled that feat off. 

Big time thank you to one and all who keep following this blog, reading my reviews and other things, and think of us now and then. Big time thank you to Lesa Holstine whose picture above on her blog this morning cracked me up and I am borrowing and using without shame. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Scott and I. May you have a wonderful one. 

The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 11/25/2020

 The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 11/25/2020

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 50 Writing Contests in December 2020 - No entry fees

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 50 Writing Contests in December 2020 - No entry fees: This December there are more than four dozen writing contests calling for every genre and form, from poetry, to creative nonfiction, to comp...

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Murmur of Bees, Bitter and Sweet, Alexander Hamilton, The Historian, Man on a Raft, Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Murmur of Bees, Bitter and Sweet, Alex...:   Reported by Kristin Nevermore began our latest Zoom book club discussing Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years by Michael E. Newt...

TOUGH: New Tough Associates!

TOUGH: New Tough Associates!: Please welcome them with open arms. You can see their bios on the Masthead page. For those curious, we'll be working over the next month...

Beneath the Stains of Time: Room 103: "The Half-Invisible Man" (1974) by Bill ...

Beneath the Stains of Time: Room 103: "The Half-Invisible Man" (1974) by Bill ...: Bill Pronzini and Jeffrey Wallman's "The Half-Invisible Man" was originally published in the May, 1974, issue of Ellery Qu...

Short Story Wednesday Review: Mystery Weekly Magazine: May 2020

Mystery Weekly Magazine: May 2020 issue opens with “The Rusted Beetle” by James Nolan. He has been able to hide in the tiny village of St. Julien in France for some time. He thought he was safe until the man with the black backpack showed up at the same time the legendary wind that is said to have made Van Gough mad started up again. He ran to escape prison, but he may very soon find himself imprisoned just the same.


It is the 60’s and the narrator wants a raise. Like all bosses, pretty much everywhere, Mel of Sweatshop Comics isn’t about to raise the pay of anyone. Certainly, he isn’t going to give our narrator one in “Letterman” by Martin Zeigler. The problem is that now that the narrator asked, Mel intends to detail why it won’t happen as things get heated in a lot of different ways.


It has been awhile, but private investigator Jack Laramie is back in “The Don Juan of Eldorado” by Alec Cizak. Dodging the sink holes in the flat roadway somewhere in central Texas was possible with the old Desoto and attached horse trailer, but when the guy in front of him lost the load of four dishwashers off his truck, the resulting shrapnel was everywhere and killed the tires on his trailer. The trip into nearby Eldorado for tires will also lead him into a murder case and more.


Ike Connolly has a tough job to do as the meeting of Chapter #231 of “The Mike Association” begins. He has to tell the assembled Mikes in the backroom of Mike’s beer emporium that one of their own is dead. Mike Cooper was murdered and while he was certainly not representative of how Mikes normally act and behave; he certainly did not deserve to be murdered. Private Eye Mike Connolly is also distressed to learn that the police have arrested Mike Witherspoon for the murder. Clearly, that can’t be right as one Mike would never kill another Mike in “Paying your dues” by Steve Schrott. It is worth noting that no Kevins were involved in any way, shape, or form in this tale and if they had been, the case would have been solved quicker and with far more style, class, and humor due to our clearly superior abilities.


The lesson Marcus Lattimer learned in the fourth grade have served his life well in “Creatures of Our Desire” by Bruce McAllister. That lesson shaped him in a way that nobody expected. He was not the only one affected by it either.


Stopping that bank robbery in the Sierra Nevada’s was a mistake as it brought him attention. The last thing he wants or needs is attention from anyone in “The Left-Handed Pistol” by Martin Hill Ortiz. He now has the full attention of Sheriff Wilton. That attention to him, his actions as well as his past, is going to be a problem one way or another.


The “You-Solve-It” in this issue is “Desperate Letters” by Stacy Woodson. Mail Carrier Mabel Fitzgibbon is asked to help out on a missing person’s case by the police chief and a U.S. Marshal. A clue could be the way he left the marquee on the old town theater. Stan and Mabel belong to the same local puzzle group so if the marquee means anything, law enforcement hopes she can figure it out.


The issue concludes with the solution to the April puzzle titled “The Purloined Pearls” by Laird Long.


As always with this publication, the read has a lot of variety across the mystery genre. Humor occasionally makes an appearance in Mystery Weekly Magazine: May 2020, but the main focus is on the mystery each tale presents. This issue is another entertaining mix of solidly good stories and enjoyable reads.



For quite some time now I have been gifted a subscription by the publisher with no expectation at all of a review.  


Kevin R. Tipple ©2020

Monday, November 23, 2020

Crime Watch Review: LITTLE CRUELTIES by Liz Nugent

Crime Watch: Review: LITTLE CRUELTIES: LITTLE CRUELTIES by Liz Nugent (Gallery/Scout Press, 2020) Reviewed by Craig Sisterson This story begins with a funeral. One of three brothe...

Crime Review Update

We feature new 20 reviews in each issue of Crime Review (, together with a top industry interview. This time it’s author Harriet Tyce in the Countdown hot seat:


We’re on Twitter at:

Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK

Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer

Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia


This week’s reviews are: 

ZERO 22 by Chris Ryan, reviewed by Linda Wilson

Despite an ambush that leaves Danny Black the only survivor of an SAS unit, it’s not long before he’s deployed again, this time to assist in the assassination of the man ultimately responsible for the attack that left so many of his teammates dead.


THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS by Elly Griffiths, reviewed by Viv Beeby

Ninety-year-old Peggy has two main interests in life – observing the comings and goings beneath her bay window in Seaview Court and murder.  So when Peggy is found dead in her favourite chair, notebook by her side, it must surely be from natural causes – mustn't it?


BROKEN by Don Winslow, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Six short stories set in the US featuring people on the wrong side of the law and those who oppose them.



by John Cleal

Railway detective Jack Wenlock, thrown out of work by the 1947 nationalisation of the industry, searches the Far East for his mother, whom he has always believed dead.


THE SUMMER OF ELLEN by Agnete Friis, reviewed by Ewa Sherman

The realities of modern Copenhagen and of Jutland farmland from the 1970s clash as Jacob Errbo, an architect drinking through his bitter divorce, must return to the area he has not visited for nearly 40 years. His very old great-uncles Anton and Anders want to find out what happened to a beautiful hippy Ellen who moved in with them from a local commune.


NEVER SAY DIE by Anthony Horowitz, reviewed by Linda Wilson

Alex Rider, traumatised by the murder of his best friend and guardian, is determined to learn more about her death, even if his quest might extinguish the tiny flicker of hope kindled by an inexplicable email.


HOUSE OF CORRECTION by Nicci French, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Tabitha Hardy is arrested for the murder of Stuart Rees. She has little recollection of the day he was killed, but is convinced she is innocent, although it seems everyone else believes she is guilty.


SAFE HOUSE by Jo Jakeman, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor

Charlie has a new life to go with her new name. But her past is closing in.


FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH by Sarah Hawkswood, reviewed by John Cleal

When the Prince of Powys’ messenger fails to reach his English destination, lord sheriff’s men Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin must check a dead man’s identity.


THE CHEMICAL REACTION by Fiona Erskine, reviewed by Linda Wilson

Chemical expert Dr Jaq Silver is in desperate need of some income. She’s got debts mounting up and no easy way of paying them off, so when she gets a job offer that involves a trip to China, beggars can’t be choosers.


MIDNIGHT ATLANTA by Thomas Mullen, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Atlanta 1956. When the black owner of the Atlanta Daily Times is shot and killed, reporter Tommy Smith is determined to find the culprit.


INVITATION TO DIE by Barbara Cleverly, reviewed by John Cleal 

DI John Redfyre discovers a body and uncovers a story of wartime betrayal and multiple murders.


CALL ME EVIE by JP Pomare, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor

A quiet beach town should be the place where Evie can heal. But Evie isn’t her name, and she is not there of her own free will.


SCAR TISSUE by Ollie Ollerton, reviewed by Linda Wilson

When former special services operative Alex Abbott’s son goes missing, he’s determined to do what he can to help, even if it means walking into a trap.


SECOND SISTER by Chan Ho-Kei, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Nga-yee is devastated when her younger sister Siu-man jumps from their Hong Kong tenement flat to her death.  She finds someone who can help her satisfy her desire for revenge on the people who drove her to it.


IMPOSTER 13 by Rob Sinclair, reviewed by John Cleal

Aydin Torkal – the former terrorist known as Sleeper 13, now working with MI6 – infiltrates a sinister new terror cell that’s planning a series of devastating worldwide attacks


THE TROPHY TAKER by Sarah Flint, reviewed by John Barnbrook

A murderer cuts off ring fingers, rips out hearts and discards them, replacing them with a token and leaves the bodies in graveyards in London. DC Charlie Stafford and her team are desperate to find this killer.


THE BRAMBLE AND THE ROSE by Tom Bouman, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Policeman Henry Farrell is called in when a body is found, suspected to be the victim of a bear. Events prove there is more than one predator in the woods.


THE FLIGHT by Julie Clark, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor  

Claire and Eva meet at JFK Airport, New York. But their encounter is brief, and their destinations could be their last.


CAST NO SHADOW by Julie Newman, reviewed by John Cleal

Young journalist Samantha investigates the story of an Indian hotelier cleared of a rape charge when he is revealed to be a she. The trail takes her into the dangerous Indian underworld, where money always talks – and life is cheap.


Best wishes


Sharon and Linda

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Archie Goes Home by Robert Goldsborough

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Archie Goes Home by Robert Goldsborough:   Reviewed by Jeanne Archie Goodwin has a lot of experience with crime detection as Nero Wolfe’s indispensable assistant, but this time he...

Crime Watch Review: CONSOLATION by Garry Disher

Crime Watch: Review: CONSOLATION: CONSOLATION by Garry Disher (Text Publishing, 2020) Reviewed by Craig Sisterson Winter in Tiverton. Constable Paul Hirschhausen has a snowdr...

In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/23/2020

 In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/23/2020

Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/23/2020

 Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/23/2020

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2020) is Milchman’s fifth book in seven years. In that time her work has achieved critical acclaim, winning the Mary Higgins Clark and Silver Falchion awards and being shortlisted for PEN/Faulkner, Macavity, and Anthony awards; receiving starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist; and showing up on Strand Magazine and Suspense Magazine's Best Of lists. She is the co-chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Program and a member of the Sisters in Crime Speakers Bureau.

Julie Weathers and her husband have been living in an alcoholic haze since the sudden death of their daughter. During an intermittent period of sobriety, she decides to leave the small town in New York State she’d lived in all her life and start over somewhere else. In her fuzzy and grief-stricken frame of mind, she decides a teaching job on an isolated island off the coast of Maine would be just right.

The island and the surrounding ocean are exquisite in their beauty. The lonely house she is given to live in on the other hand is strange. The people who lived there previously still have keys and feel free to wander in without notice. Small items appear and disappear, her dog is let out one day while she runs errands, weird sounds; in short, it’s scary. Then there’s her job. One of the children in her class is an odd youngster. His mother appears to take no interest in him, and his grandmother takes far too much. The grandmother rules the island and wants Julie to know it. She is obsessed with keeping families with children on the island to maintain its centuries old way of life and obviously to keep her power and influence which is waning as families move away. Julie is caught up right away in trying to help the grandson while keeping the grandmother at bay. She’s also unexpectedly attracted to one of the islanders.

Beautifully written, this book is billed as a psychological thriller but I heard echoes of Victoria Holt’s Gothic novels as I read. Young woman trying to escape her past – check; isolated and dangerous locale – check; resentful and powerful older woman– check; troubled child – check; attractive single man who rescues her from danger – check; old creaky house with unexplained noises – check. Pretty much hits all of the right buttons to be considered a contemporary Gothic. The icing on the cake is Depot, Julie’s huge Newfoundland-mix rescue dog, who will appeal to animal lovers everywhere. A fast-moving engaging read.


·         Hardcover: 464 pages

·         ISBN-10: 1728226368

·         ISBN-13: 978-1728226361

·         Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (August 18, 2020)

·         Language: English 


Aubrey Hamilton ©2020 

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Mystery Fanfare: THANKSGIVING CRIME FICTION // THANKSGIVING MYSTERIES: What a year! I will be glad when 2020 is behind us. Thanksgiving will be a very small event for me, and probably for you, as well, due ...

Bogey in the Covid Era (Courtesy of Barry Ergang)


Guest Post: Chicago’s Best Kept Food Secret by Chicago Foodie

Contributed by friend and Texas author, Mark Troy, who has a number of books for you to read.


Chicago’s Best Kept Food Secret


Chicago Foodie 

A little-known taco truck is rapidly gaining in popularity with late-night residents of Chicago who seek it out for the “specials” they can find nowhere else. From July through December Jesse’s Tacos serves up eclectic dishes and something extra for desperate people with a need to make a score, to even a score, or to survive. You won’t find Jesse’s Tacos advertised on television or listed in city guides. They are strictly word-of-mouth. A friend tells a friend. So where is this truck located, you ask? All over Chicagoland. There is no one location. Jesse’s moves frequently. Hey, they’re a truck. It’s what trucks do. Jesse’s has an ever-expanding customer base to keep up with, and law enforcement to keep ahead of. But if you’re jonesing for something different and spicy, for some extras you can’t find anywhere else, here is your underground guide to Jesse’s locations. Just don’t say I sent ya.


Guns + Tacos


Chicago Loop near Millenium Park. The daily special: Tacos de Cazuela. 

* A dark South Side Street (South Siders know the spot.). The daily special: Three Brisket Tacos. 

* Near Alvarado Street. The special: A Gyro. 

* Halstead Street on the South Side. The daily special: Three Chalupas, Rice, Soda. 

* Fuller Park behind a junkyard full of old cop cars. The daily special: Churros. 

* Wicker Park. The special: Burritos.


* South Clark, a few blocks from the El. Burritos again. 

* No location given. Jesse’s is lying low. The special: Jalapeño Poppers. 

* Near Princeton Avenue, just over the border from Gary, IN. The special: Four Shrimp Tacos. 

* A strip mall off South Racine near the river. Tacos are featured. 

* The Grand Crossing Neighborhood near the old Blockbuster. The special: Sopa. 

* La Villita Park. The special: Two Guatemalan Tacos.

The “Extras” 

At Jesse’s, its not the daily specials that make customers’ mouths water. It’s the “extras” that bring in the traffic. Check out the “extra” menu and see if you don’t agree:

A Smith and Wesson

A Sig Sauer

A Glock

A Kimber .45

El Burro

A Beretta (offered twice)

A Flare Gun

A Walther P.38

A Street sweeper

A Homemade Pistol

Bullets and a revolver.


Here’s what Jesse’s loyal customers are saying: 

“Left the bag . . . next to a homeless individual.” Augustina Blanchard, M.D.

“Threw the churros, which smelled like burnt hair, into the trash can.” Tucker Mitchell.

“A complex interplay of spices, dancing on the palate,” Brian Piccolo.

“Jesse wants to go straight and open a restaurant.” Tommy.

“I’d’a preferred some smack.” Homeless on Halstead.

“As much as I hated to admit it, the damn thing was tasty as hell.” Tim.

“Even prison food is better than this.” Joey.

“The capsaicin made [my] mouth burn and [my] eyes water.” Carl Ember.

“The cute Chinese cook . . . gives me a nod with barely a hint of a smile, an adorable, deadly smile.” Maureen Eckles.

“I toss the taco to a mangy dog loitering in the vacant lot.” Maureen Eckles.

“After one bite that wouldn’t go down . . . I tossed the rest of the burrito into the gutter.” Anonymous.

“The shrimp taco tasted like something [I’d] expect a pelican to throw up on the sidewalk.” Sal “Bible Boy” Anthony.

“Garlicy. A spritz of lime in the soup brought all the flavors together.” Beau.

“That bastard knows I can’t eat fried food. I think he wants to kill me.” Arturo Carrasco

“Jesse’s food makes dog shit taste good.” Tomas.

“I wouldn’t give this to un policía.” Diego.

“Not even to ICE.” Tomas.


Jesse doesn’t do mailing lists and they don’t have a newsletter, but if you’re wanting more information, start here: