Monday, January 31, 2022
The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer Alderson (Traveling Life Press, 2019) is the first Zelda Richardson mystery. Zelda Richardson was a website designer who burned out on the long days and monotonous work of the technology world. She gave up that life and moved to Amsterdam to start over. The portrayal of the Netherlands is one of the very best parts of the book. She manages to get a referral for an internship at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, which will give her an entrée to the advanced museum management program she wants to attend. The museum is working on an exhibition of unclaimed art from World War Two, hoping that the publicity will identify former owners who want their property returned to them.
A resident of Missouri appears to claim one of the paintings by an obscure artist, saying it was a portrait of her oldest sister by her artist boyfriend who did not survive the war. The museum congratulates her and themselves on linking the two until a resident of New York appears with her lawyer and documentation showing the painting belonged to her gallery owner grandfather.
Zelda became involved in researching the provenance of the painting and the backgrounds of the two claimants. The New York resident became so aggressive in her demands that Zelda began to wonder if another and more valuable painting was actually hidden underneath the visible one. She took it to the museum restoration specialist for examination, giving the author the opportunity to describe in considerable detail the technical aspects of assessing old paintings.
Several chapters of the book describe the desperation of the original owner in 1942 as he hid his collection of paintings from the Nazis and prepared to flee to safety.
This book is uneven. Parts are well done: the author thoroughly researched both relevant history and museum management and it shows. The characterization needs work, the portrayal of the original claimant from Missouri as a country bumpkin was unlikely, considering she was born and spent her early years in Germany. Likewise the hostile museum curator was extreme. The plot was not entirely credible, although the author explains in the notes section that European museums have held exhibitions of unclaimed art in order to find owners just as described.
Worth reading for the history, the description of museum operations, the technical aspects of painting evaluation, and the great portrayal of life in the Netherlands. For cozy readers.
· Publisher: Traveling Life Press (April 15, 2019)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 302 pages
· ISBN-10: 9083001113
· ISBN-13: 978-9083001111
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, January 30, 2022
Tip of the ball cap to the Dallas Public Library System who shared this earlier today....
Please welcome author Neil S. Plakcy to the blog today as he discusses his short story, "Cabbage Key," in the upcoming anthology, Cupid Shot Me: Valentine Tales of Love, Mystery & Suspense. The book will be released on February 1st.
Creating George Clay
My short story, “Cabbage Key,” which appears in the new anthology Cupid Shot Me, is the first to appear with my new protagonist, George Clay, but actually the third I wrote.
The first was for anthology call for 1960s private eyes. I was born in 1957, so my knowledge of the early sixties is slim, but I vividly recall the Nehru jackets, the tie-dyed or Indian cotton T-shirts, the bell-bottom jeans and the anti-war protests of the latter part of the decade. I thought it would be fun to place my private eye on Miami Beach, an iconic location and one that I know well.
I wanted a simple name for this new guy. George Clay. Salt of the earth. Though George is white, there’s a slight reference to Cassius Clay, as Muhammad Ali was called back then. I liked it. A solid name for a solid guy. Tall and somewhat beefy, the kind of guy who could work part time as a bouncer at a gay bar.
He’s from Tidewater Maryland, an area I find interesting because of the close connection between water and shore—something similar to Miami Beach. I thought he’d grown up without much direction, and ended up in the Navy, where he was a Master-at-Arms, the naval equivalent of the military police.
He couldn’t have become a cop after discharge, though, because he was too certain of his sexual identity, and sure that he couldn’t hide that behind a badge. So that’s why he became a private eye.
In “Cabbage Key,” George and his Cuban émigré boyfriend Alex Reyes want to sneak away for a sexy weekend, far from the prying eyes of neighbors and colleagues. But they meet another Miami couple there, also hoping to hide out. Only someone has followed the other couple to this remote island off the west coast of Florida, on a deadly mission. To protect their secrets, George and Alex must get involved.
“Cabbage Key” is only one of the wonderful stories editor Frank W. Butterfield has collected for this anthology, from award-winning authors including Michael Nava, Greg Herren and Mark Zubro.
Neil S. Plakcy is the author of over 50 novels in gay mystery, cozy mystery, gay romance and adventure. His short story “Oyster Creek” will be in the 2022 MWA anthology Crime Hits Home. His website is www.mahubooks.com.
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Up in KRL this morning we have a review of "Mimi Cracks the Code" by Jennifer Chow, along with a giveaway of book 2 in the series, "Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines", and we have a fun interview with Jennifer https://kingsriverlife.com/01/29/mimi-lee-cracks-the-code-by-jennifer-j-chow/
We also have reviews and giveaways of 3 more fun mysteries-"Renewed for Murder": A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert, "Killer Words": A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by VM Burns, and "City of Shadows": A Counterfeit Lady Novel by Victoria Thompson https://kingsriverlife.com/01/29/bookshop-library-historical-mystery-catchup-group/
And the latest mystery Coming Attractions by Sunny Frazier, along with giveaways of books by Carol Pouliot and Bailey Cates https://kingsriverlife.com/01/29/coming-attractions-love-death-and-desserts-edition/
And we have reviews of the latest seasons of 3 mystery TV shows streaming on BritBoxTV that are all based on books by Ann Cleeves-"VERA", "Shetland", and the new series "The Long Call" https://kingsriverlife.com/01/29/ann-cleeves-trifecta-vera-shetland-the-long-call-on-britbox-streaming/
Up on KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and ebook giveaway of "Mayor for Murder" by Leslie Langtry https://www.krlnews.com/2022/01/mayor-for-murder-by-leslie-langtry.html
Rambles.NET: John Floyd Reviews Valentin St. Cyr Mysteries #1: Chasing the Devil's Tail by David Fulmer
Velocity Weapon: The Protectorate by Megan O’Keefe is the first book in the series and is a very complicated science fiction read that goes beyond the skimpy plot blurb on the back of the book.
Sanda wakes up from cryosleep aboard an enemy ship, The Light Of Berossus, 230 years after her gunship exploded with her in it. She wakes up alone and less than she was as she is missing one of her legs. She is alone on the enemy ship except for an AI that controls everything onboard. The AI prefers the nickname Bero and explains that the war destroyed her home world and the enemy’s home world. They are both stranded far from any other life. Simply put, if they don’t help each other, they both will die.
This action-packed thriller with multiple main characters (most of which are not included in the book blurb on the back) is an interesting tale featuring characters with shifting agendas and plenty of politics and drama. This read is hard to explain since the book blurb does not go into most of the actual plot. Beyond that, it is so complicated to try and to explain more would reveal spoilers.
My only problem with this read is that the ending is very abrupt. The read does not end on a natural endpoint. Instead, the book just stops. This was a bit of a surprise as the read comes from a major publisher who is not known to do this sort of thing.
I highly recommend Velocity Weapon: The Protectorate by Megan O’Keefe. I am currently on hold for the sequel, Chaos Vector.
My reading copy came from the Vickery Park Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2022
Friday, January 28, 2022
There have always been those who would seek to overthrow a government, a political system, by any violent means necessary. In the year of 2059 that holds true just as it does today. The mission is their own greed and power and such forces never consider the blood of the innocents. Such is the situation in Loyalty In Death by J.D. Robb.
The terrorists in this case are known as “Cassandra” and Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York City Police and Security Division has yet to be aware of their presence. As the book begins, she is soon aware of the murder of J. Clarence Branson, who was 50, and was copresident of Branson Tools and Toys. He was screwed to death.
His mistress, Lisabeth Cook, did it by way of one of his own power drills and a bolt through the heart. She drilled him to the wall and left him mounted there before calling the police and then sitting and sipping as she waited for the police to arrive. When Lieutenant Dallas arrives, Cook voluntarily confesses to the murder and recounts how he broke their business deal so Mr. Branson had to die.
Lieutenant Dallas knows how the case will go with the way the justice system is and the defense Cooke can afford. She also does not like any of it so she will keep investigating in the hopes that she can prove the need for additional charges and resulting prison sentence upon conviction.
That ongoing investigation, as week as a tip that at first seems to be totally unrelated, will lead her to a terrorist group that calls itself “Cassandra.” As has happened before, that group soon puts not only Dallas, but her husband Roarke, as well as thousands of others in their sights as they look to change the system, one lethal terroristic attack at a time.
As always in this series, there is plenty of action and adventure, head hooping point of view, and graphic sex. Unlike most other cases, Dallas and Roarke are not the only two engaged in the sexual escapades. The chase of the terrorists is pretty good though I had figured out most of it long before we were finally brought there towards the very end of the book.
Overall, Loyalty In Death by J.D. Robb is another fast fun read. As long as one does not take those books very seriously, they are an enjoyable mind cleanser.
The series to this point and my reviews:
Naked in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 1) March 2021
Glory in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 2) April 2021
Immortal in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 3) May 2021
Rapture in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 4) June 2021
Ceremony in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 5) July 2021
Vengeance in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 6) September 2021
Holiday in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 7) October 2021
Conspiracy in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 8) October 2021
My eBook reading copy came from the Dallas Public Library System and the Libby App. Once again, I needed technical assistance from my son, Scott, to make things download and actually work.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2022
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 60 Calls for Submissions in February 2022 - Paying Markets
Please welcome author Jim Guigli to the blog today as he discusses how his short story, Looking for Mishka, in Rock and a Hard Place: Issue 7: Winter 2022, came to be. The new issue came out last week and I picked up my eBook copy as soon as it dropped.
Looking for Mishka — Why?
by Jim Guigli
My short story, Looking for Mishka, is now available in Issue 7 of Rock and a Hard Place Magazine.
This story, like most of my fiction, is about private Detective Bart Lasiter. After he had enough time serving the Berkeley, California PD, Bart moved north to open a tiny office in Old Town Sacramento.
While plotting a Bart Lasiter novel, I faced a research problem. In my respectful parody of the Marlowe/Lew Archer genre, Under the Black Flag, an important question about the laws and legal codes directing California private investigators stumped me and my inexperienced private detective.
In helping a wealthy Lake Tahoe woman deliver ransom to the kidnappers of her husband, what were Bart’s legal obligations? His client didn’t want police involvement. Was Bart required to notify law enforcement?
I couldn’t find a straightforward answer, even after a lot of online research and consulting both a working private investigator and a San Jose PD detective. My solution was to have Bart remain as unsure as his author:
Did he have to report it? He wasn’t sure. He’d never had a kidnapping case before, except for Mrs. Tereshkova’s cat.
I continued with the novel, but Mrs. Tereshkova’s cat needed a life. In time I invented the back story that became Looking for Mishka.
Another cat, Aggie/Agamemnon, appears in this story. This guy was real, our pet, until he died last year at 18. The Bart Lasiter stories featuring Aggie describe him as he was in life — except for drinking whiskey.
I hope you enjoy Looking for Mishka and Rock and a Hard Place Magazine.
As a Jack-of-All-Trades, Jim Guigli is an experienced SCUBA diver, auto-mechanic, and gunsmith, attended Gunsite for five weeks of pistol & shotgun training, worked twenty-five years as a mechanical designer for National Laboratories, served as an Army Security Agency Russian Voice Intercept Operator in Japan, toured Quantico as an FBI Citizens Academy graduate, dabbled in architecture including designing and supervising a 400 sq ft kitchen addition to our house, and earned an MA in Art (Photography).
As a member of several writers’ groups, Jim offered firearms technical advice to other writers. His website is http://www.jimguigli.com/
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue Three, Winter 2022 opens with “Oksana” by Robb T. White. Miko has a plan for he and Frank to make some money thanks to a spy camera and the wealthy women who come to the hotel. It could have worked.
Stacy also has a plan to get rich in “Soft Mouths” by Dustin Walker. Her target, Lewis, is also being uncooperative and not paying what he owes. She worked far too hard to let Lewis slide. She has to send a message and make it clear that she means business.
The fact that Danny, a friend of the family, killed Frank right in front of her made our narrator mad in “Red Heels On Linoleum” by Ethan Robles. The fact that he would walk in, put two in her husband’s chest like it was just business, and leave is not remotely acceptable. It can’t be allowed to stand.
“Simple” by Brandon Barrows comes up next where Liam Burke is deeply troubled by a secret. He uncovered what was going a few weeks back and has been justifiably upset. It has taken him some time to wrap his head around the issue and come up with a plan. The truth has not set him free, so far, but that is about to change.
“Tibet Has A Book Of The Dead, Too” by Roy Hall features a card reader who claims to be able to speak to the dead. A man who works for a rich elderly woman will bring her to him for a cut of the money she pays for the reading. The man will also provide details so that the reader can work his scam to perfection. All he has to do is reference Egyptian stuff as the woman is into the Egyptian culture and mythology. That was the plan.
He knows that the beautiful woman that just sat down two stools away from him in the bar has selected him as her target for the evening. He does not yet know why as “Mark” by Mike McHone begins. She has a plan. He does as well. The first step in his plan is to determine what she wants with him.
Bruce Harris is up next with “Aleatory” by Bruce Harris. Eddie Blunt has a facial deformity and wants it fixed. He also wants to get even with a bully from school. Both of his wants come together in a plan that he is sure will work.
The issue concludes with a detailed review by Anthony Perconti of Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck.
Having a plan is the theme of Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue Three, Winter 2022. Previous issues have established that this magazine leans toward the noir side of the crime fiction ledger and that continues here. So, there is no reader surprise when most, if not all, of the plans do not work out as originally intended. Or, just maybe, they did work out exactly as the fickle finger of Fate intended all along. One never knows if one really charts one’s own destiny or everything was set in motion before conception.
Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue Three, Winter 2022 are all good ones and with your time.
My July 2021 review of the first issue can be found here.
My September 2021 review of the second issue can be found here.
I purchased my reading copy at the pre-publication opportunity in late December 2021 before publication day on January 1st. Like everything here, I was just slow to read it and even slower to review it.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2022
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 10 Literary Magazines Open to Fiction, Poetry, Essays NOW - Paying markets
Guest Post: So Many Characters, So Few Words: Keeping Multiple Characters Memorable in Short Fiction by Eleanor Cawood Jones
Please welcome author Eleanor Cawood Jones back to the blog today as she discusses her participation in the new book, Murder in the Mountains: A Destination Murders Short Story Collection. The anthology comes out on February 1, 2022.
So Many Characters, So Few Words: Keeping Multiple Characters Memorable in Short Fiction
Writing is a weird gig. Sometimes you find yourself staring at a blank page, and sometimes you have so much material you don’t even know where to start. And still other times, you wind up with so many characters in your head you have to pick and choose who gets onto the pages, and how to keep them all straight for the reader—and for yourself. That was the dilemma I faced in my most recent writing binge, slated for the upcoming Murder in the Mountains.
Last year on Kevin’s blog, I talked about setting in “Cabo San Loco” (Murder on the Beach). In that story, I introduced five women characters who had bonded and become friends when they were on a sequestered jury during a traumatic trial. Afterward, one character decided to treat all of them, plus my narrator, Lorrie, to a vacation in Cabo San Lucas so they could move past it all. (Since this is mystery fiction, that vacation turned out to be a little stressful as well, as you can imagine.)
“Cabo” was well received, and I was delighted when I was invited to contribute to the next book in the Destination Murders series, Murder in the Mountains. I am pleased to say all six women—Lorrie, Martha, Bean, Book, Karin, and Ashley—are back for another vacation in “The Lyin’ Witch in the Wardrobe.”
On any jury, you’ll find a variety of ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds among the jurors, and our friends are no different. The youngest, Ashley, is 24, and Karin is a proud senior grandma. Three characters are in their thirties and one—celebrity Cidne “Bean” Dupont—in her forties. It’s fun to play with the life experiences of such a varied cast, but challenging to help the reader remember who they all are throughout a novelette-length story.
In “Cabo,” all the characters listed bucket list items at the beginning of the story, to create differences among them. I also gave a few of them nicknames. Bean for example, gets her well-deserved nickname because she always introduces herself as “Cidne, rhymes with kidney, like the bean.” But for Mountains, I needed to bring fresh identifiers to distinguish everyone. You can’t just repeat the same information from story one when you’re expecting most readers will already have read it.
I’m going to stop right here and salute every writer who has an ongoing series and faces this with every book. Kudos, hugs, gifts, etc. to you all.
The answer of how to keep old characters fresh and unique came in the form of a pretty weird place. A Wizard of Oz convention.
Back when I was a kid, there was this amazing theme park in the gorgeous mountains of Western North Carolina called Land of Oz. It went defunct in 1980, but enough people loved it that the owners began having reunion weekends each September, and it’s turned into a pretty big thing. I went there for research in September and stayed nearby in a castle hotel—and went to a touristy gem mine to boot. It’s the stuff dream settings are made of, and all those places have a key role in “The Lyin’ Witch in the Wardrobe.”
I didn’t find an actual Oz convention on my research trip, but I did invent one, and I finally decided the best way to tell the characters apart was to put them in costume for the weekend. The story opens in the castle hotel with the narrator, Lorrie George, enjoying her sparkly Glinda costume, while her bestie Martha McBain is mad about having to be the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with green makeup. They’re having a loud argument, and the other characters in costume enter one by one to find out what’s going on.
Glinda, the Wicked Witch, Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion are all in costume because they’re getting ready for a photo op before the convention. I thought it would be tricky inventing reasons to keep them in costume for most of the weekend, but it’s such an over-the-top scenario it turned out to be easy.
It then became logical to introduce more characters and also put them in costume. There’s an entire bevy of wicked witches staying in the castle, including one sporting an extra-large pair of ruby slippers with real stones that she never takes off, and those slippers are coveted by all her witch friends. Her nickname turned out to be Squatch, short for Sasquatch (because we’re in bigfoot country here, people). Another character, Uncle Gummy, has ill-fitting dentures and sports a winged-monkey suit.
And just as I thought I had it figured out, in my head trouble showed up when a tour bus pulled up to the castle containing a celebrity who had heard about the Oz convention and was crashing the party. She wants the ruby slippers most of all, and she’s creating a LOT of jealousy for one of my jurors as well. I tried to make her memorable too, but will skip the details here in the interest of not creating a spoiler. I will report though, that happily beta readers found the banter about her quite amusing.
I think I succeeded in making everyone at the castle and in Oz memorable. They have their own personalities, opinions and romances—quite a bit of romance in this whodunnit—and I enjoyed tremendously seeing the story unfold. (That’s a punster thing; when you don’t plot thoroughly, you often find out what’s happening the same time the reader does. I get a lot of joy out of that, because I’m not committed to one direction. But that’s another subject for another day.)
Along the way, I changed my mind about both the murder and murderee and who wore what shoes. So I had to edit myself before the editor edited me, if you know what I mean. But these things happen and the story is better for it.
I can only hope readers have as much fun with this crazy cast as I did dreaming them up and walking them onto paper. If so, my job is done. This is my fourth story featuring Lorrie and Martha, reluctant amateur sleuths, and, if response is good, I look forward to writing a fifth. (Okay, fine. I’m already writing it.)
Murder in the Mountains comes out Feb. 1 and is set for a pre-order price of 99 cents on ebook. There will be a print version as well. Over the moon to share my eight co-authors: Gretchen Archer, Leslie Budewitz, Karen Cantwell, Barb Goffman, Tina Kashian, Shari Randall, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and Cathy Wiley. The stories are novelette length, cover all four seasons, and set in a variety of gorgeous mountain settings around the world.
Eleanor Cawood Jones is a self-proclaimed romance novelist who somehow only writes short crime fiction. She won a 2021 Derringer Award for “The Great Bedbug Incident and the Invitation of Doom” (Chesapeake Crimes: Invitation to Murder). Her character Lorrie George has previously appeared in “Brayking Glass” (Murder by the Glass), “Cabo San Loco” (Murder on the Beach), and The Importance of Being Unrest (Wildside Press).
A former newspaper reporter and reformed marketing director, Tennessee native Eleanor lives in Virginia and travels frequently.