Hemlock Needle

Hemlock-Front-Cover-DraftSeveral years ago, when I was working on a fishing rights case, I visited the western Alaska village, Kwethluk, with other members of the law firm. Kwethluk is a spot far away from the tourist industry. To get there, we flew an hour and a half on a jet to Bethel and then traveled fifteen miles by riverboat.

The village, a collection of small houses, is built on stilts, allowing for freeze, thaw, and flooding of the river. During this visit, my group was taken to a nearby fishcamp where the locals live during fishing season and where they harvest and dry king and red salmon on outdoor racks, tossing scraps to the puppies hanging around the racks.

This is how the Yup’iks have lived for centuries, traveling the river, fishing, hunting. It is their heritage and their legacy, and it was quite an honor to visit their home. The fishcamp scene became the prologue of my second Maeve Malloy novel.

HEMLOCK NEEDLE is about a young Yup’ik chief financial officer and single mother, Esther Fancyboy, who walks out of party and into a blizzard. She is never seen again, leaving behind a seven-year-old son, Evan.

The local cops say she’ll come home when she’s done partying, but family friend Maeve Malloy doesn’t think it’s that simple. She goes looking for Esther just as she’s getting bad news of her own, a career-ending accusation.

When Esther’s body turns up in a snow berm and a witness is shot to death in front of Maeve, she suspects Evan is in danger. Maeve must race against time to save the boy – along with her career, and maybe her life.

HEMLOCK NEEDLE is being released today by Level Best Books. Available in paperback and e-book: Buy here!


What Mystery Conventions Are You Going To in 2019?

Me and Louise Penny
Louise Penny and me

I had a blast going to conventions this year. Made it to Left Coast Crime, which was held in Reno, Malice Domestic in Bethesda and Crimebake in Boston, and they were all fabulous in their own ways. Left Coast, although a fairly big conference, has an intimate feeling. It’s like going to a family reunion and seeing all of your favorite cousins. At this year’s Malice, Louise Penney, Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn (Vera) were guests of honor, and spirits were especially high with this fabulous trio of glamorous and talented ladies.

This year was my first Crimebake. Crimebake’s a little different than the other two because there is a focus on meeting and pitching to agents. It’s a smaller conference but no less inspirational. This year Walter Mosley was the guest of honor. I was so moved by his reading that I ran into the hall, bought his new book, JOHN WOMAN, and read half of it on the plane ride home.

With the entire year yawning out before me, I decided to cruise through the net and see what mystery conventions are scheduled.

Sleuthfest 2019. March 14-17. Boca Raton, Florida. http://sleuthfest.com/. Guest of honor is T. Jefferson Parker.

Murder and Mayhem. March 23. Chicago, Illinois. http://murdermayhemchicago.com/. The keynotes will be Sophie Hannah and Scott Turow.

Left Coast Crime 2019. March 28-31. Vancouver, British Columbia. http://www.leftcoastcrime.org/2019/. Guests of Honor are C. J. Box and Maureen Jennings.

Edgar Awards. March or April. New York City. Nominees are listed at: https://mysterywriters.org/edgars/currentsubmissions/

Malice Domestic 31. May 3-5. Bethesda, Maryland. http://malicedomestic.org/. Guest of Honor is Donna Andrews.

ThrillerFest XIV. July 9-13. New York City. http://thrillerfest.com/. Guests include John Sanford, Harlan Coben and Margaret Marbury.

Pulpfest. August 15-18. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. http://www.pulpfest.com/.

Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. August 10. Suffolk, Virginia. http://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

Killer Nashville. August 22-25. Nashville, Tennessee. https://killernashville.com/.

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity. September 13-15. Columbia, Maryland. http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com/.  Guests include David Mack and Julie Hyzy.

Bouchercon 2019. October 21-November 3. Dallas. Texas. https://www.bouchercon2019.com/. Guests include Peter Lovesey, Hank Phillippi Ryan, James Patterson, Deborah Crombie and Anthony Horowitz.

New England Crimebake. November. http://crimebake.org/.

Mysteristas: are there any conventions I missed? Which ones are you planning to attend?








Whale Watching

whale tailLast summer, the family and I traveled down the road to the sleepy port town of Seward for whale watching.

Seeing a gray whale is a mystical experience. Here you are in modern motor boat, drinking coffee from a paper cup and dressed to the gills in nylon rain gear, and just a few yards away are mammals that could well be 50-70 years old, cruising along doing exactly what whales have done since time immemorial, sentient and sensitive beings who well may be more intelligent than humans in different ways. It made me feel small, insignificant and very fortunate to share the planet with these creatures. There is something deeply peaceful about being in their presence.

Seward sits on Resurrection Bay, a fjord which is deep enough that migrating gray whales and orcas visit in the summer. It is the home of the Seward SeaLife Center, a research and public education facility that was funded by settlement proceeds from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The SeaLife Center also takes in orphaned sea animals that would not survive on their own.

One popular exhibit at the SeaLife Center is the stellar sea lion whicStellar sea lion and cute kidh is so big, I couldn’t get it all into the camera frame. Check out the Alaska SeaLife Center.

There are a variety of cruises that can be taken from Seward to view the whales and other sea creatures. You can go on a half-day cruise or a full day cruise. One of the cruises will take you to Fox Island for lunch at the day lodge so you can walk on the beach after feasting on prime rib, king salmon and king crab. I haven’t done that cruise but I hear the food is really good.

So here are some photos of wildlife we saw on the whale cruise: two orcas, a gray whale surfacing close to Seward (The locals go sit on the beach with a cup of coffee to watch the whales. Nice life!) and seals.

Question of the day: If you could spend a day in Seward, what animal would most like to see? The barking seals? Puffins, the sea parrots? Orca, the sea wolves? Or, the ancient and majestic whale? Me, I’m a whale person. 



Past Tense by Lee Child

Past Tense Lee ChildJack Reacher is doing a little research into his family history. The journey takes him to Laconia, New Hampshire, the town where his Marine father grew up.

At the same time, Patty Sundstrom and her not-very-bright boyfriend Shorty Fleck escape their boring lives in Canada in a worn-out Honda Civic heading for New York City with nothing more than a plan and a big heavy suitcase. When the car overheats in New Hampshire, they see a make-shift sign for a motel and follow the road through a tunnel, then into gloomy woods, and eventually pull up to a fixed-up old roadside motel which is unoccupied but for the owners. The next morning, their car mysteriously will not start.

In Laconia, Reacher finds trouble as Reacher tends to do. He interrupts an assault and puts the bully in a hospital. Unfortunately, the bully is connected with Boston mobsters so the local police try their best to shoo Reacher out of town before retribution rains down. Jack, always just a guy trying to get along, promises to leave. Several times.

Meanwhile back at the motel, the innkeepers are becoming creepier and creepier. Patty and Shorty attempt various plots to escape, but they are thwarted at every juncture. And then, the other guests start showing up.

The two stories intersect in a glorious and elegant battle between good and evil.

For me, Patty and Shorty’s story was uncomfortably reminiscent of the Bates motel and I found myself wanting to reach through the pages and shake some sense into the characters shouting: “Have you never seen a Hitchcock movie?” The release of tension was welcomed when we return to Reacher’s journey into his father’s past. It almost feels cozy to follow the footsteps of the giant with a hair-trigger temper. In the end, I enjoyed the book very much.

Mysteritas: do you read thrillers? What do you like about them?

Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday


Doc Holliday

Lisa Balamaro is an intelligent and gifted, albeit rudderless, young attorney who has drifted into a successful art law practice in San Francisco. A dream come true, right? One day, her cowboy client, former art forger, Tuck Mercer, brings her a deal: negotiate the sale of the recently discovered long-lost love letters of Doc Holliday to a western artifact collector. Recently discovered, these letters between Doc and his cousin, Mattie, who allegedly was the inspiration for Margaret Mitchell’s character, Melanie Hamilton, are highly desirable.

No big deal. Lisa flies to Arizona with Rayella Vargas, the owner of the letters, to meet the buyer at a remote hotel of his choosing. As soon as the conference room door is closed, all hell breaks loose.

Faced with layers of deception and intrigue Lisa does not yet comprehend, our young lawyer does what she knows how to do best: files suit and goes to court. While she’s lawyering, every other character is doing what they know how to do best: the crooked judge, the shyster lawyer, the cowboy vigilantes, and a small squad of battle-hardened Marines at the beck and call of good old Tuck.

The novel alternates between the contemporary story and gorgeously-written letters as they trace the separation of the star-crossed lovers. For those who enjoy the beautiful use of language, there is much to be enjoyed.

The author also masterly renders an out-of-control courtroom drama weaving in the attorney’s thought processes as she runs through procedures and arguments in a way that is understandable to the lay person, credible to an experienced attorney, and creates an exciting tension-filled scene. After court, the drama continues to escalate all the way to the end. It’s one of those stories that I know will stay with me for as I sort it all out.

Drop by Mysteristas tomorrow when the author, David Corbett, will be our guest.

Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett

Hollywood EndingThings are looking up for our hero, Dayna Anderson. Day is a former spokesperson for the Chubby’s Chicken franchise who had until recently, when she was unceremoniously let go, her own fame and fortune. Now she’s the girl that people think they remember from high school.

But losing her job didn’t get slow Day down. She and the love of her life, the up and coming actor Omari Grant, are now together. Her BFF and roommate, the reality star Sienna a/k/a Ms. Lady of the Red Vine, upgraded to a nicer apartment providing Day with a new and improved “bloset” (bedroom/shoe closet). The former cop and quirky guy, Aubrey S. Adams-Parker, whom she met in HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, has agreed to form a private investigating firm with her. And she has fabulous shoes.

In HOLLYWOOD ENDING, the publicist Lyla Davis was murdered at an ATM late one night after a party. Together with Aubrey, Sienna, and the former child star now recluse computer geek, Emma, Day treks through the glitter and glam of a Hollywood award season complete with pre-awards swag parties, appearances, and media interviews while Day’s arch nemesis, Omari’s publicist Nina Flynn, positions and connives to get him nominated for an award. Nina’s efforts are the perfect cover for Day’s investigations, if only Nina didn’t hate her, so Day is forced to walk a thin line as she tries to please and/or avoid Nina long enough to get her foot in the door.

Kellye Garrett, the self-described “recovering TV writer”, uses her inside knowledge of the entertainment business’ behind-the-scenes machinations to provide an authenticity and excitement to these Hollywood tales. Her protagonist, Dayna, is spunky, intelligent, resourceful, and downright laugh-out-loud funny and someone whom I look forward to following as this series continues. Hoorah for Hollywood!

Wrecked by Joe Ide

Wrecked by Joe Ide

Isaiah Quintabe (IQ), a young private investigator, is smarter than everyone else. He serves his Long Beach community by solving his neighbor’s problems, and he is very good at it – but not so good at getting paid, often as not accepting trade or goods in lieu of money. While he’s still waiting on a promised reindeer sweater, his long-time running buddy Dodson offers to join the otherwise successful one-man agency and turn it into a profitable enterprise while at the same time solving his own cash-flow problems. Just as IQ and Dodson’s mutual past is catching up with them, IQ’s attention is caught by the artist Grace, a complicated young woman who happens to need a private investigator. Her long-lost mother is wanted for murder. The story opens with a punch, takes off running and doesn’t let up. I read it in two days.

Each of the IQ novels is unique. The first book, IQ, is a fresh take on traditional mystery and has been nominated for just above every award out there, winning the Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus. RIGHTEOUS, a psychological thriller and second in the series, was aptly described as part Tarantino, part Sherlock Holmes.

WRECKED, the third book, is as gritty as the others, maybe even a grittier, yet also explores more tender topics. Why do people reach out to each other? What makes them resist? What bonds them? What destroys those bonds? Good and evil, love and hate, altruism and avarice, art and atrocity, loyalty and betrayal, and that strange phenomenon when someone recognizes of a kindred soul are all mixed together with two life or death ticking clocks in an ever-tightening web.

Set for publication in October of 2018, WRECKED is a thinking, feeling thriller with plenty of action and a satisfying ending. Five stars.