Cool women, hot mysteries

curse-of-the-spellmans.jpgThe one thing these mysteries have in common: smart, independent, funny and resourceful women. These are today’s detectives — a little younger and a lot hipper than many of the sleuths you’ve met in long-running mystery series (you know, those series that have initials or numbers in their titles). If you’re looking for romantic suspense, look elsewhere. These women have crimes to solve.

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
P.I. Izzy Spellman’s newest obsession is unraveling the secrets of her next door neighbor (a.k.a. Subject) whose landscape business is certainly a cover for darker intrigue. Witty and oh-so-cool in San Francisco. Get to know Izzy in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series.

Christietown by Susan Kandel
Cece Caruso, an L.A. biographer of famous mystery authors, stages a Miss Marple play that brings down the house — and the leading lady. Great authentic tie-ins to Agatha Christie (and her real-life 11-day disappearance), just like Kandel wove Dashiell Hammett and Nancy Drew’s legacy into her earlier mysteries.

Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
Artist Wollie Shellie takes a silly job on a TV talk show called SoapDirt, and soon gets tangled in Continue reading “Cool women, hot mysteries”

Medieval Mysteries of Britain.

absolution-by murder book coverIf you find secret corridors and hemlock poison more interesting than gunfire, you may enjoy this collection of mysteries set in medieval England, Scotland and Ireland. Each of the books listed below is one of a series that revolves around a particularly engaging sleuth for whom the plagues, politics, and superstitions of the medieval world are normal facts of life and the best tools available for solving crimes are a keen intellect and a strong understanding of human nature.

Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne

The 17 books in the Sister Fidelma mystery series begin with this tale of murder investigated by our heroine Fidelma, who is both a nun and a “dlaigh,” or “advocate,” permitted to practice law in the Irish courts. The religious divisions, political climate and surprising degree of gender equality found in seventh-century Ireland shine in the background as our clever and diplomatic detective unlocks secrets and saves the day.

Monk’s Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters

Much-loved sleuth Brother Cadfael brings his skills as an herbalist to bear when a visitor to Shrewsbury Abbey exhibits symptoms of a dangerous poison. Though this third Brother Cadfael mystery is set in a monastery, others take place in exotic settings and in the days before Cadfael took his vows. Nearly two dozen books lie in store for the Cadfael fan.

The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer

Misery sweeps the abbey in the wake of domineering Domina Alys’s ascension to Prioress, as her unfair rules and unwise decisions threaten ruin to the nuns and their beloved home. When a family feud leads to murder, Continue reading “Medieval Mysteries of Britain.”

Sleuthing for a good mystery?

I don’t know why, but somehow reading a good mystery has a soothing effect on me. Go figure. The Library has lots of mysteries, but how to know which ones you will like? Librarians are always happy to talk to you and try to match up your tastes with the “right” book. There are also some great lists of recommended mystery reading, and here are some to get you started:

The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association has come up with a wide-ranging list of excellent mysteries, The 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century.

To see what other Seattlites are reading, check out Continue reading “Sleuthing for a good mystery?”

The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).

image-of-woman-watching-the-wire-courtesy-of-locator.jpgOkay, so it is over.  Case closed. After five captivating years, HBO’s lauded series The Wire calls it a wrap. Now what do we do? Aside from chain-watching DVDs of the series (and its excellent Baltimore precursor, Homicide: Life on the Street), we’re seeing a lot of Wire fans in withdrawal are turning to books to prolong the feeling. This is hardly surprising given the series’ strong literary ties. Here are some of our favorite gritty tales of the street from Baltimore and beyond:

  • The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Edward Burns. It all starts here, with this searing, compassionate account of the hard realities underlying America’s drug culture and its victims. Wire co-creators Simon and Burns refuse to oversimplify an intractable problem twisted up with issues of race, class and unbridled capitalism. See also Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos
    This insightful story of an old unsolved crime and its lingering effects on three police is just the latest in a succession of outstanding novels stirring up the murky moral depths on both sides of the law, by a prolific Washington DC author and Wire contributor.
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
    After penning five terrific Boston-based hardboiled mysteries, Wire contributor Lehane had a major breakthrough with this richly textured, haunting psychological thriller about the hidden wellsprings and lasting effects of crime.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
    Another accomplished writer recruited into The Wire’s stellar stable, Price’s unflinching, morally-complex crime Continue reading “The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).”

Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries

photo of author jo dereskeTurns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straightcatalogue of death book cover in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.

Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:

How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?

Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.

Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?

When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”