Mystery Challenge: Exotic Locales

~ by Selby G.

One of the many great things about reading a book is that it can take you anywhere. Can’t squeeze in a vacation to China? Read a book and follow the characters down alleyways in Shanghai or to a temple in Beijing. Combine those foreign landscapes with a good mystery and you get a fully immersive experience! Here are a few mysteries that will whisk you away to an exotic location.

Take your pick from books set in India, Turkey or Israel. Not only will The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tamil Hall immerse you in Indian culture, it also includes recipes. In Body Count by Barbara Nadel, we follow two detectives trying to track down a serial killer in the narrow streets of Istanbul. In Murder in Jerusalem by Batya Gur, superintendent Ohayon must track a killer through Israel’s official television station.

Click here to find The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken in the SPL catalog Click here to find Body Count in the SPL catalogClick here to find Murder in Jerusalem in the SPL catalog

Paris is a beautiful city with a dark underside in Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black. I love reading Ian Rankin novels such as Saints of the Shadow Bible because he makes me remember all the places I use to go in the historic city of Edinburgh. For a mystery set in southern Europe try Death in Sardinia by Marco Vichi.

Click here to find Murder Below Montparnasse in the SPL catalog Click here to find Saints of the Shadow Bible in the SPL catalogClick here to find Death in Sardinia in the SPL catalog

If Africa is more your cup of tea then there are many options. A mystery with strong political overtones, A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn is set in 1952 Apartheid South Africa. In Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley, girls are going missing in Botswana- possibly taken to make a witch doctor’s potion. Cop killing and a cold case feature in the book Seven Days by Deon Meyer.

Click here to find A Beautiful Place to Die in the SPL catalog Click here to find Deadly Harvest in the SPL catalogClick here to find Seven Days in the SPL catalog

For mysteries set farther afield try one of these novels set in Asia. Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett is set in the crime ridden underbelly of Thailand’s biggest city. In Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison we get a glimpse into life in a small Tibetan township where a triple murder has taken place. Death of a Red Heroine by Xiaolong Qiu mixes politics and justice in Shanghai.

Click here to find Bangkok Tattoo in the SPL catalogClick here to find Mandarin Gate in the SPL catalogClick here to find Death of a Red Heroine in the SPL catalog

These are just a few suggestions to start your worldwide mystery tour. Download and print out the checklist here to read along with our winter Mystery Challenge!

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Movie Mondays: The Year in Rock – 1984

Thirty years ago a little record label called SST released more amazing albums in a row than any music company before or since. 1984 brought Husker Du’s double LP Zen Arcade, the Meat Puppets’ masterpiece Meat Puppets II, Black Flag’s influential My War, and perhaps the greatest album in the history of recorded music, The Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime. Music at large in 1984 was no slouch either as evidenced by that year’s release of three of the best music films ever made.

The debate of whether Purple Rain is in fact a great movie will not be resolved until we all purify ourselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka but one thing is for sure: it is the gold standard when it comes to soundtracks. The concert footage of Prince performing jams like “The Beautiful Ones” and “Computer Blue” more than makes up for what some may call a ridiculous melodrama starring a velvet-draped, motorcycle-riding imp. (Not I, mind you.)

A band that took the concert film to new heights in 1984 was Talking Heads with their film Stop Making Sense. Frontman David Byrne envisioned a stage show that grew organically from song to song and director Jonathan Demme filmed the performance(s) in such an intimate way that one feels like they’re onstage singing along with the band. Byrne and company’s energetic workout through such tunes as “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House” are certainly infectious but it’s the sparse renditions of “Psycho Killer” and “Heaven” that stick with you.

Sure, Prince and the Revolution and Talking Heads are consummate performers with catalogs of brilliant songs but neither can hold a candle to the music of the majestic Spinal Tap. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls (who look suspiciously like actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer) are touring the U.S. in support of their controversial record, Smell the Glove.  Documentarian Martin Di Bergi (who come to think of it, looks a lot like Rob Reiner) was on the scene to capture every fight, mishap, and blistering performance. This Is Spinal Tap is a harrowing portrait of the sacrifices artists make to bring us the music of angels. And Sex Farms.

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Science Fiction Friday – Know Your SF

By Richard C.

Set aside those simple lists online for the best SF and Fantasy. Useful, yes. Context, no. Much in these genres stem from common themes and traditions, which is great. But many defy and transcend those patterns, which is often even better. So what’s to help us zoom out on our usual reading threads and find some stories we’d love, if we only knew where to look? Definitely check out SPL staff picks for SF and Fantasy, but also give these a try:

Click here to view Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels, 1985-2010 in the SPL catalog

Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels, 1985-2010
You can love SF, have dozens of favorite authors/titles, and then still be overwhelmed with excitement finding new names and new corners to explore. This handy book helps you do just that. Entries are pleasantly short, but long enough to put authors and works into accessible context. I came across C.J. Cherryh, Peter Watts, and Nancy Kress – all familiar names, sure, but seeing how they fit into my tastes, now I know they’re worth my precious reading time. Check out the foreward by David Pringle author of a similar/older book that treats 1949-1984. Continue reading

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Startup Weekend in a Startup Community Library!

startup weekendI just finished a great read for those passionate about supporting startups in any community.  Startup Communities, by Brad Feld, relies on the example of Boulder, Colorado to illustrate how a community can help startups thrive.  I was happy to see that the book acknowledges Seattle as another example of a community friendly to startups, and many of the concepts and efforts presented in the book will resonate with those involved in local startup efforts – you know who you are! Continue reading

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Mystery Challenge: Historical Mysteries

~by Jen B.

If you love a good historical murder mystery, you’ll be ready for sleuths to do their own leg work and be adept at deciphering psychological clues. Although they lack modern technology and forensics, these stories, set over 50 years ago, showcase the bygone talents of great minds. A few time periods provide more fodder for heinous crimes than others. For instance, the Victorian age, during which Jack the Ripper roamed East London and Sherlock Holmes gained prominence as a consulting detective of keen intellect and masterful puzzle-solving skills. The Middle Ages and early Renaissance (5th to the 15th centuries) are also periods of intrigue tapped by many authors and loved by readers – times of religious strife, plagues, brutal living conditions and truly horrible weather. Puzzlers set just after World War I and during the Roaring Twenties are also popular with readers.

Click here to find The Face of a Stranger in the SPL catalogClick here to find The Cater Street Hangman in the SPL catalog   Click here to find The Yard in the SPL catalogClick here to find Some Danger Involved in the SPL catalog
Continue reading

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Movie Mondays: Amazing Amy…Poehler

Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler? Just look at the author photo from her new book, Yes, Please and try not to crack a smile. It’s impossible, right? Let’s follow the arc of her career, from improv to television and film. Continue reading

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Science Fiction Friday – Technophiles Unite!

By Richard C.



We might very well laugh at how “flying cars” symbolized technological progress 100 years ago, or, we might think about our own symbols (fusion power, singularity, etc.) and then wonder hey what’s the damn holdup here! Physicist John Grady finds one disturbing reason for the holdup when his major discovery in gravity reflection alerts a secret menace far more devious than any alien – the Bureau of Technology Control. From the depths of a secret prison, Grady meets other dangerous minds and plans escape – both for them and for technological advancement.

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