Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper and our first in person Mystery Book Club meeting

 For our Mystery Book Club selection for September, we read:

The Survivors by Jane Harper. 

We had read two other books by this author in the group and all really liked them.


"Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away." 

A little more info: Kieran is now married and has a baby daughter. He has brought his family back to town to help his parents pack up the house and move: his father has a dementia and needs to be moved to a facility that can care for him, his mother to a smaller place close to where his father will be.

When Kieran was a teen ager, he got himself into a situation, that he knowingly put himself in danger. He almost drown. His brother and friend did drown. Many people in town, especially the family of the friend, blame Kieran. 

When a college student, working in town for the summer, is found dead on the beach, many memories and accusations are brought back to life.

The story goes back and forth between the time of "the accident" many years ago and the current time. We read about the full story of things that happened in the past.

There are several promising suspects for the death of the college student. The author steers us to many different scenarios of what happened then and now.

The ending was a surprise to me and changed how I felt about the story actually. 

Our book club met in person at a park this past week and talked about The Survivors. All liked the book. Some did not like how the story went back and forth in different time periods. Some said they liked The Dry and Memory Man better, but did like this book.

Our Mystery Book Club met, as I said, this past week in a park. First time since March 2020. We had nine people, about half of our full group. But that was pretty good seeing as how "The Thing" is still lurking here where we live. 

This was an experiment. We still can't meet at the library. So after going over options with one member, she suggested a neighborhood park. It worked pretty well. The area I had  hoped to claim, was being used by kids playing soccer or tennis. But we did claim another table under trees with two benches. Some people brought chairs. It was good to see everyone. Some did not attend the virtual meetings we had. Not everyone does virtual. We even had a new person. It was really hot! I bet it was still in the low 90's at 7 p.m. I was impressed and happy that that many people were brave enough to come out in the heat. Did I mention mosquitos? But all said they thought it was a good choice and will plan on attending next month. One person compared it to a scout troop from childhood, that lost their meeting place at one point. They also met in a park after that until a church offered for them to meet there. 

The moral of the story was: If you don't keep the group together and allow it to disband all together for a period of time, it probably will not come back.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Revisiting Louise Penny

 A friend of mine, new to Louise Penny, called me in shock at the outcome of book five in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. 

The Brutal Telling 

"Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered.

Everybody goes to Olivier's Bistro - including a stranger whose murdered body is found on the floor. When Chief Inspector Gamache is called to investigate, he is dismayed to discover that Olivier's story is full of holes. Why are his fingerprints all over the cabin that's uncovered deep in the wilderness, with priceless antiques and the dead man's blood? And what other secrets and layers of lies are buried in the seemingly idyllic village?

Gamache follows a trail of clues and treasures - from first editions of Charlotte's Web and Jane Eyre to a spiderweb with a word mysteriously woven in it - into the woods and across the continent before returning to Three Pines to confront the truth and the final, brutal telling."

A shocking thing happed and my friend was in disbelief. Well, I didn't believe it. I couldn't remember if I read that book. I thought I had read them all but I was thinking maybe I skipped over a couple of the earlier ones. I was pretty sure I knew the outcome though, so without saying anything, I listened to book six

Bury Your Dead

"It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society - where an obsessive historian's quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. 

"It doesn't make sense," Olivier's partner writes every day. "He didn't do it, you know." As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead."

I didn't remember this book at all, so I was glad I listened to it. Just as good as all of the books in the series, we follow Gamache as he tries to heal from the events that took place in the previous book - a very traumatic experience, mentally and physically. He tries to have time to relax and reflect with Henri, his dog, but gets asked to help with a local incident that occurs. Meanwhile back in Three Pines, Gamache has asked Jean Guy to look more into what happened to Olivier. Ruth gave me plenty of laughs in what is a serious and somber mystery.

If you haven't delved in to Inspector Gamache and the Three Pines series, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent traditional mystery series. 

Book 17; The Madness of Crowds comes out August 24, 2001! 

"You’re a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the chief inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting professor of statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.    

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds."

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

You Belong To Me by Mary HIggins Clark

 I chose You Belong To Me by Mary Higgins Clark as my book for our Mystery Book Club theme of books set on a cruise, inn or hotel. 


"A killer who targets lonely women on cruise ships is at the center of Mary Higgins Clark's newest thriller "You Belong to Me," a masterful combination of page-turning suspense and classic mystery.
When Dr. Susan Chandler decides to use her daily radio talk show to explore the phenomenon of women who disappear and are later found to have become victims of killers who prey on the lonely and insecure, she has no idea that she is exposing herself -- and those closest to her -- to the very terror that she hopes to warn others against.

Susan sets out to determine who is responsible for an attempt on the life of a woman who called in to the show offering information on the mysterious disappearance from a cruise ship, years before, of Regina Clausen, a wealthy investment advisor. Soon Susan finds herself in a race against time, for not only does the killer stalk these lonely women, but he seems intent on eliminating anyone who can possibly further Susan's investigation.

As her search intensifies, Susan finds herself confronted with the realization that one of the men who have become important figures in her life might actually be the killer. And as she gets closer to uncovering his identity, she realizes almost too late that the hunter has become the hunted, and that she herself is marked for murder."

 I really liked this book. I hadn't picked up this author in many years but remembered I really liked her. I think the book was a real page turner, lots of suspense and kept me guessing. There were several good prospects as the killer, so it kept you thinking and sorting out the clues. 

Originally published in 1998, there aren't really any things that jump out and say "old". It was as suspenseful as any current books. Not of lot of time references. There was a mention of a cell phone, but also answering machines. That was the only clue as to the year.

I see I have a couple other books by Mary Higgins Clark on my shelf that I have kept. Glad I kept them.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries for August 2021 and PBS

 Well here we are, back to square 1 or maybe 2. "Cases" are way up here and it is recommended everyone go back to wearing masks in indoor public places, whether vaccinated or not. Worst yet, our Mystery Book Club was scheduled to meet in person at the library this upcoming week - first time since March 2020. The library system had to rescind their all open planned for 8/2/21. Ugh. My workplace is starting a gradual return to the office, hybrid approach 8/2. I am not scheduled until 8/30/21. Will see how that goes. At least we can get toilet paper at the store.

So what mystery movies are coming up for August? Happy to see Hallmark has three showing this month.

Sunday 8/1/21 8 p.m, c

Mystery 101: Deadly History

"Amy and Travis travel to New York to investigate after Amy's uncle goes missing, and the initial clues make them fear the worst. Starring Jill WagnerKristoffer Polaha and Robin Thomas."

8/9/21 8 p.m. c

Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

"As Hannah and Mike experience engaged life while balancing their busy careers, a murder at a 24-hour gym complicates their wedding planning. Starring Alison SweeneyCameron Mathison and Barbara Niven. "

It's been so long since one of these mysteries were on, I forgot Hannah and Mike are engaged. I sure would like to go to her bakery.

8/22/21 8 p.m. c

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder

"While on a "pre-honeymoon" getaway, Aurora and Nick discover a body, and as they get closer to finding out what really happened, danger knocks on their doorstep. Starring Candace Cameron BureNiall Matter and Marilu Henner."

I wish it was jacket and hat weather here...

As far as Masterpiece Mystery on PBS, Unforgotten continues in August with three more episodes.

I will share what our Mystery Book Club has been reading lately. Some want to continue by email for now, sharing books and reading books as a group. Fingers crossed this is just a couple more months.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

More Than Malice: And the winners are...

 I "attended" More Than Malice last week and the weekend. It was the virtual More Than Malice in place Malice Domestic. If you aren't familiar with it:

(from their FB page):

"Malice Domestic is a fun fan convention that celebrates traditional mysteries, those best typified by the works of Agatha Christie. Malice takes place each spring in the Washington, D.C. metro area and is a three day meeting which includes discussion panels, author signings, a live and silent auction, and other mystery-related events. The Agatha Awards are voted on and presented at Malice each year, and the Amelia and Poirot Awards are presented to honored guests as voted on by the Malice Board."

I probably wouldn't get out to the live convention, so this was an appreciated opportunity for me to see what it is like, and hear some authors that I have read.

The first day included a an interview with Louise Penny who writes the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series. I have read all of the books in the series. She has won numerous awards for it. She spoke from what looked like her living room, or sitting room. I know that with virtual "meetings", you can choose backgrounds to show. Her background was wonderful sunny picture window with many trees outside. If that was her actual room and outdoors, I am pretty sure she lives in Three Pines. She and the interviewer mostly talked about the beginning of Malice Domestic and the characters her her series. She assured the interviewer, she had no plans on killing off Gamache or Ruth or Rosa, although wondered how long does a duck live.

Next on the same day was Speed Dating. One hour of approximately 43 authors talking about themselves and their books in about a minute or so. It was so fast I can't tell you who I heard speak.

There were several panels the next two days. They were comprised of different categories and had authors speak that write in those categories. Luckily, everything was recorded so you could go back and watch them later, skip around, pause and go back. Here are some I listened to.

Culture Clash: A World of Crime Fiction. The author that I am familiar with in this panel was Linda Castillo. She writes the Kate Burkhold thriller series set in Amish country. A couple of things I found interesting were: she lives near Fredericksburg Tx. ( I wonder if my friend who recently move out that way may run into her.), she is not Amish but has an Amish friend who she checks things with for her books to make sure they are accurate. 

Read What You Liked: Subgenres in Crime Fiction. I enjoyed hearing William Kent Krueger speak. He is the author of the Cork O'Connor series set in the north woods of Minnesota. I have read a few of these books. 

Adrenaline Junkie: Crime Fiction At It's Action Packed Best. The authors on this panel that I am familiar with were David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer. I like both of their works. They, and Andrew Child (brother of Lee Childe) relayed how careful/paranoid they are as a result of the research they do for their crime fiction. Baldacci's daughter was on a road trip and he gave her a multitude of instructions re: safety, strangers etc. Child talked about not using valet parking, not letting anyone drive his car which is a common habit of the English. No one drives anyone else's car. I was struck how almost soft spoken Baldacci seemed, in contrast to the characters in his books. 

Past As Prologue: The Roots of Crime: I was familiar with V.M. Burns, Amanda Flower and Caroline Todd of the writing duo of Charles Todd. I have read a couple of Amanda Flowers books and I follow her on FB. She lives on an incredible farm in Ohio and I am jealous of all of the flowers and gardens she is working on. While I haven't read any of V.M. Burns and Charles Todd, I had heard of them and now I really do want to read a book of two theirs. Time...

Real Life Influence: Nice Work If You Can Get It: The familiars for me were Hank Phillipi Ryan, Marcia Clark (yes, that Marcia Clark) and Annette Dashofy. I have read books by Hank and Annette. Brad Thor also talked and I found him interesting. He worked as for Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Unit. These authors all talked about how they take things from their different non author careers, while not sharing too much reality. Hank Phillip Ryan is a T.V. reporter in Boston, Marcia Clark is a prosecuting attorney and Annette Dashofy was an EMT. All were very interesting. 

There are more to see and listen to but that is all I have gotten to so far. Not sure how long they are leaving up the recordings.

And the winners of the awards are: 


Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Fix by David Baldacci - Amos Decker #3

 I recently listened to The Fix, the third book in the Amos Decker series. I had read The Memory Man and really liked it. 

About: "Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution-style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself. 

Even with Decker's extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter--a family man with a successful consulting business--and his victim, a schoolteacher. Nor is there a hint of any possible motive for the attack.

Enter Harper Brown. An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, she orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team aren't cleared for it.

But they learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government--or worse, an international terrorist group--and an attack may be imminent."

I enjoy they Amos Decker books. The man who can forget nothing as a result of a head injury. He uses this in his job to find the bad guys though. 

Really good story with many, many twists and turns and a surprise ending. There is so much Amos and company have to figure out, and have several near misses, that the middle got a little bogged down for me. Very good ending. I maybe should go back and read book two...

I liked it enough that I do want to move on to the next book. I want to see how Decker's relationship with Jamieson develops. I am also intrigued by his memory thing. 

I also really like Baldacci's Atlee Pine series.

Morgan Station: The Last Indian Raid in Kentucky - Historical Fiction

 This book is not a mystery but wanted to share my brother-in-law's book that was just released this week. I have always enjoyed books about the settlers, pioneers etc. 


"Kentucky Gazette

NUMB. XXIX Quidquid agunt homines-nostri farrago libelli. Juv. Sat. 8. v. 8 VOL. VI


S A T U R D A Y, April 6, 1793


LEXINGTON; Printed by John Bradford at his office on Main Street: where subscriptions, (at Fifteen Shillings per Annum) Advertisements are thankfully received, and Printing in its different branches done with care and expedition:


On Monday evening last, Morgan's Station on Slate Creek, was taken and burnt by a party of thirty-five Indians; Two of the inhabitants were killed and nineteen taken prisoner; they were pursued, and within about thirty miles the whole of the prisoners were found tomahawked and scalped, one of which (a woman) was found alive and in her senses, after being tomahawked and two scalps taken off.-we have the above information from the husband of the unfortunate woman.

The above is the actual article printed after the attack. Only Robert Craig's, a fraught husband and grieving father, description of events came from desperation. Not all the prisoners were killed during the Indian's escape from Morgan's Station, and their pursuit did not end within about thirty miles of the attack. Negotiations won back several of the enslaved over the following years. But then it is also true some were never heard from or seen again. Open up the book, step back in time, become a frontiersman or woman, and see Eastern Kentucky as you have never seen it before in a true American story about the struggle for Western expansion on the Kentucky frontier, Morgan's Station.

Follow Morgan's Station Facebook group for book signing information or speaking engagements."

My sister and brother-in-law live on the property where this took place. As Chuck found out about the history, he wanted to write about it. Obviously there was a lot of research involved.

He did a very good job at telling the story of the last Indian raid in Kentucky. The characters are based on actual people and the story is based on this event. It is a quick read. It is suspenseful, a real page turner. It is also very interesting.

 The book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.