Tuesday, March 26, 2019

On the Road With Del and Louise by Art Taylor

I read On the Road with Del and Louise for the House of Clues March online book club.
It is actually a "Novel in Short Stories". Rather than chapters, the book has six stories following the escapades of Del and Louise.


"Del’s a small time crook with a moral conscience—robbing convenience stores only for tuition and academic expenses. Brash and sassy Louise goes from being a holdup victim to Del’s lover and accomplice. All they want is a fresh start, an honest life, and a chance to build a family together, but fate conspires to put ever-steeper challenges in their path—and escalating temptations, too.

A real estate scam in recession-blighted Southern California. A wine heist in Napa Valley. A Vegas wedding chapel holdup. A kidnapping in an oil-rich North Dakota boomtown. Can Del and Louise stay on the right side of the law? On one another’s good side? And when they head back to Louise’s hometown in North Carolina, what new trouble will prove the biggest: Louise’s nagging mama or a hidden adversary seemingly intent on tearing the couple apart? Or could those be one and the same?

From screwball comedy to domestic drama, and from caper tale to traditional whodunit, these six stories offer suspense with a side of romance—and a little something for all tastes.

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all".

I enjoyed this book and the characters. This book asks the question; can you root for a protagonist that is on the other side of the law? Yep Del did all kinds of small crimes. But we got to read his thought process and he really believed it was o.k., that he had good reasons for what he did. 

Del made me think of the brother and the uncle in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. While they didn't commit crimes, you just had to shake your head at how their minds worked. Louise reminded me of a the female character in a movie I just watched with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, High Sierra. Ida plays Marie who is already literally just hanging out with a couple of goof balls headed for trouble. When Humphrey Bogart shows up to run the big caper, Marie falls for him because she likes how he takes control and seems so smart...really going places. Oh brother. 

Louise actually tries to keep Del under wraps, de-escalate situations when needed. Except when she finds herself shoplifting, which leads to something a bit more serious. They are both so misguided and warped in their thinking, and don't want to hurt anyone that I had to like them. I had to laugh at some of the things they said and did. Now in real life, I probably wouldn't hang out with them.

This book won an Agatha Award in 2015 for Best First Novel and finalist for an Anthony and McAvity award.

Art Taylor: Art Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He has won three additional Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, two Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction, and his work has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories. He also edited Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, winner of the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University, and he contributes frequently to the Washington Post, the Washington Independent Review of Books, and Mystery Scene Magazine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Film Noir on TCM

Are you familiar with Noir Alley on TCM? I think I mentioned it last year. It was on hiatus for winter, but returned this month. 

What is Film Noir? I am sure you will recognize some of these movies but just in case, per Wiki:

"A cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression."

The host of Noir Alley is Eddie Muller: Muller is the founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation. He is co-programmer of the San Francisco Noir City film festival, Muller is considered a noir expert and is called on to write and talk about the film genre, notably on wry commentary tracks for Fox's film noir series of DVDs and introducing Turner Classic Movie's weekly "Noir Alley" movie block. 

His debut novel, The Distance, earned the Best First Novel “Shamus” Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Muller is a two-time Edgar Award nominee from the Mystery Writers of America and has earned three Anthony Award nominations. (I did not know that.)
This show is on Saturday nights at midnight and replays Sunday at 9 a.m. central time. Here's what's coming up. You may or may not recognize some of the main actors. I don't recognize them all but when I watch some of these old movies, I usually recognize the actors, once I see them. You will often see Robert Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart hanging around Noir Alley.
March 23, 2019: Lady in the Lake starring Robert Montgomery (Elizabeth Montgomery's father). 1946
Jayne Meadows, Robert Montgomery, and Audrey Totter in Lady in the Lake (1946)
The lady editor of a crime magazine hires Philip Marlowe to find the wife of her boss. The private detective soon finds himself involved in murder.

March 30, 2019: Border Incident starring Ricardo Montalban. 1949

Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy in Border Incident (1949)

Mexican and American federal agents tackle a vicious gang exploiting illegal farm workers in southern California. 

April 6, 2019:  99 River Street starring John Payne, Evelyn Keyes (Gone with the Wind) 1953
99 River Street (1953)

A former boxer turned cab driver has to hide from the police when his badgering wife is murdered by the jewel thief she was having an affair with

April 13 2019: Nobody Lives Forever 1946 starring John Garfield

John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald in Nobody Lives Forever (1946)

G.I. Nick Blake, a never charged con man in his pre-military life, has just received an honorable discharge from the army on medical reasons. Rather than return to his old life, he plans to settle down in New York, his hometown, with his girlfriend Toni Blackburn and the small cache of money he amassed prior to the war: $50,000. When that plan does not pan out, he decides to head to Los Angeles with his con man friend Al Doyle and live it up until he decides on a more permanent course for his life.

April 20, 2019: Woman on the Run 1950 starring Ann Sheridan Dennis O'Keefe

Woman on the Run Poster

Frank Johnson flees police after becoming an eyewitness to murder. He is pursued around scenic San Francisco by his wife, a reporter, the police, and... the real murderer.

April 27, 2019 M 1951 starring David Wayne

M Poster

Apparently this is a remake of a 1931 film. 

"When the police hunt for a child killer cramps their style, the criminal underworld tries to track him down."

This one doesn't appeal to me and I probably won't watch it, but since this post is about Noir Alley, I am posting it.

If you think you may want to keep up with Noir Alley, here is the link to the webpage. I like a lot of these movies, but some of them are too gritty and edgy for me.


Every Saturday at midnight EST



Hallmark Movies and Mysteries for April

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries has their line up of new made for TV mysteries for April.

Morning Show Mysteries: This series stars Holly Robinson Pete and Rick Fox.

Holly Robinson Peete and Rick Fox in Morning Show Mystery: Mortal Mishaps (2018)

A Murder in Mind: April 14, 2019 8 p.m. central
Billie Blessings is drawn into a murder investigation when Katie Sanders, a former server at Blessings-turned TV star, becomes the focus when it’s discovered the victim was blackmailing her. Billie must sift through the mounting evidence – and list of suspects – to get to the truth and clear her friend’s name.

Countdown to Murder: Sunday 4/21/19 at 8 p.m. central time
When a beloved supermarket owner is killed in the early morning hours before opening, restauranteur and TV chef Billie Blessings (Robinson Peete) becomes involved in the investigation of what quickly appears to be the work of a clever and darkly sinister serial killer. Even as her relationship with police detective Ian Jackson (Fox) begins to take a more romantic turn, Billie cannot resist involvement in the case, despite putting herself in tremendous danger. 

Death by Design: Sunday 4/28/19 at 8 p.m. central time
Chef Billie Blessings' best friend Marian is hired to redecorate the TV studio. When Marian's twin sister is murdered, Billie must investigate their close friends to find the killer. 

If you watched the first Crossword Mystery this month, it returns in October. I thought it was pretty good. The first one dealt with messages for art thieves about their next heist, in the weekly crossword puzzle. I am looking forward to the next one.

Of course the this channel has lots of other shows and movies to offer. You can take a look.


And I guess Garage Sale Mysteries is off for now...

Friday, March 15, 2019

Traded Affections by C.L. Hutchins

I read Traded Affections (Helen's Antique Row Mysteries Book 1) this week through The Cozy Mystery Review Crew.

I read this book through The Mystery Cozy Review Crew this week and thoroughly enjoyed it.


"Helen Waring, the "Auntie Mame" and Mayor of her small town, discovers the body of her friend, Martha Taylor. Martha owns a bookstore on "Antique Row" where Helen also owns an antique shop. Helen suspects a former employee of Martha who sold drugs out of her bookstore. Or, it might be Martha's abusive husband. Helen is shocked when Martha's son is arrested for her murder. Helen solves the crime by unraveling a decades-old secret. The secret links an elderly woman who suffers from Alzheimer's, Martha's son, and a man from Martha's distant past who now takes a romantic interest in Helen. Alone in her antique store at night, the angry killer confronts Helen."

Helen is well into her 60's, owner of an antique shop and mayor of the small town. I found it refreshing to read a mystery with the amateur sleuth of this age again. 

The mystery starts on page one and just like Jessica Fletcher, Helen jumps right in to help Skip, the Chief of Police, find out who murdered Martha. There are several viable suspects, but Helen just feels something just isn't right. We are introduced to several likeable members of the small town's members of the community, who play a part in solving the mystery. I really liked the twist of an age old mystery that people had forgotten about, that is key to Martha's murder. The story engaged me on the first page, and held my interest. It is a quick read, speeding up at the end and with a good Aha! moment for me. I always like a book with cats and dogs, and we have Oliver the resident antique store cat who inadvertently provides a clue, and of course Buster, Helen's smart and loveable dog.

C.L. Hutchins has a pretty interesting background. (Check out his website. See below.) His great aunt is the inspiration for the main character in this book. And he has too dogs, named Buster and Ollie, same as the two pets in the book. He has two other mystery series.

The Red Feather Mysteries set in a small mountain village (3 books): Jackie Reed, a young real estate agent and single mother keeps finding bodies in the small mountain village where she lives. She and her mentor, George Ferrell, who runs the village's general store, put on their detective hats to solve the mysteries.

The Rounders; set in Iowa in the 1950's (4 books): Set in the 1950s when life was without cellphones, the internet, or computers. The Rounders are six friends who meet weekly at a roadside cafe on the Lincoln Highway. They are drawn into solving local murders. 

 They look pretty good. I am going to add this author to my TBR list.

I received a free copy of this book.

Here is his website: http://clhutchins.com/

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Woman in the Window - A.J. Finn

Our Mystery Book Club (MBC) selection for March was The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. This book is a very popular psychological thriller right now. I listened to it on Audible. I know several of the MBC members were on wait lists and shared copies.



"For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.
It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock."

As I mentioned, I listened to it in Audible. I liked it pretty well. There were definitely some surprises and lots of twists. It is a long book. There are many references to Hitchcock movies and other old black and white movies. Since I like both, that was kind of fun to revisit some of those titles. The narrator was very good. She was able to change voices and was actually a good actress, putting a lot of emotion into the narration.

What did the MBC members think? (I would guess we had about 20 people in attendance.) The majority really liked it, reading this 455 page book in one or two days, "couldn't put it down", and "it was a page turner". A few people felt it was too long and could have been edited down. A couple of people started it and didn't read it. I got the impression psychological thrillers aren't their thing.

We also talked about the author; A.J. Finn. That is a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory. I will let you look him up if you like. Interesting.

This book has already been made into a movie coming out in October 2019 starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman.


Finally, I would say it really reminded me of some Hitchcock - Rear Window and Gaslight. Also there are so many girls and woman in windows, trains, mirrors etc. that I think that is overused now. 

Did you know there is a 1944 film noir titled The Woman in the Window? It stars Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. The story isn't the same but it is really good. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Game Keeper - Jack Benton

As I did the first two books, I loved this third book in the Slim Hardy series.


"Having fallen on hard times, disgraced soldier turned private investigator John “Slim” Hardy is hired by rich and enigmatic land owner Oliver Ozgood to uncover the identity of a mysterious blackmailer.

The man is demanding a fortune in exchange for his silence. He claims to be Dennis Sharp, a former employee of Ozgood, and threatens to reveal secrets that will soil Ozgood’s family name and send the patriarch to prison.

There’s only one problem.

Dennis Sharp is dead, killed by Ozgood himself.

In search of answers, Slim moves to the remote rural hamlet of Scuttleworth in the Devonshire countryside, where he will confront demons both from within and without in his most challenging case yet.

The Games Keeper is the third book in the Slim Hardy Mystery series. While the stories follow a rough sequence, they can be read in any order. "

The Slim Hardy books are thrillers. I have talked about the first two books; The Man by the Sea and The Clockmaker's Secret in previous posts. 

Slim doesn't have an office or steady clientele. His military history haunts him.  Once again Slim is down on his luck but when his friend recommends him for an investigative job he pulls it together and heads to Scuttleworth, a small village. Scuttleworth has lots of undesirables, and lots of people that don't appreciate Slim opening up old wounds. Is Dennis Sharp dead or isn't he. Who is leaving things on the porch of his rented cottage? Who is breaking in and snooping around his notes? Who is sneaking around in the woods?  There seems to be something irregular at the plant owned by Ozgood. Seems like Ozgood runs the town and some people are not too fond of him.  As Slim gets closer to finding out who the blackmailer is, he has a few near misses.  

 There are lots of twists and turns, a surprise ending. The story is fast paced and a page turner.
I can't wait to see where Slim goes next.

Book four is in the works!