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September 16, 2011 Newsletter September 16, 2011

This has been a week of coincidences and unexpected serendipity.

I arrived yesterday in St. Louis for Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, which is a true fan conference. Hundreds of readers are here, as well as mystery and thriller authors. Last evening, at the first party, it was an opportunity to catch up with friends from around the country and the world. The location for this conference moves every year, and thus it’s nice to see what overseas guests like to explore when visiting a city. The other day, Ali Karim, who is an editor at Shots E-zine in the UK, posted photos on Facebook of the Arch. Last year, when the conference was in San Francisco, he was off to Alcatraz. I joked with him that Bouchercon gives him an opportunity to tour America!

Before I left, I was reading THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, a Danish thriller (yes, another from Scandinavia) that will be in stores on November 8th, published by Soho Crime, a division of Soho Press, noted for bringing readers a brilliant selection of crime novels, including many international titles like this one. This book is a Nina Borg Mystery, with Nina, who is a Red Cross nurse, as our sleuth. In it, Nina is sent a key via a friend and is asked to pick up a suitcase at the train station. Inside the suitcase is a little boy who is naked and drugged, but alive. How he got there forms the basis for the story. So far I cannot figure out the end.

So last night, as I walked into my first event of the evening, it was lovely to see Bronwen (love that name) Hruska, who is the publisher of the house, and share my enthusiasm for THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE. Soho Press has started the careers of many well known authors, including Edwidge Danticat, Garth Stein, Jacqueline Winspear and Dan Fesperman. I was THRILLED to find out that Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis are here...and I will be meeting them later today!

On the flight out (where I was happily upgraded to first class), I was reading A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George (yes, I always seem to have more than one book going). At the start of the book, it is 1904, and Frederick and Jette, the two main characters, have set off from Germany to America. They land in New Orleans and then make their way to Missouri, settling in the town of Beatrice via St. Louis. Since I knew none of this when I opened the book, it was such fun to see we both were headed to the same place as I was reading. More on A GOOD AMERICAN next week as I am falling in love with it.

Last week, my mom went to the library near their beach house to pick up a copy of a David Baldacci book; she has been working her way through his work. She had read most of what was on the shelf and plucked a copy of the book on the right and left without looking at it. Well, she ended up picking up NEVER LOOK AWAY by Linwood Barclay. (Bar comes that closely to Bal, which makes me think that aspiring authors should select pen names that can sit on shelves near bestselling authors.) She really enjoyed it and went on to recommend Linwood to her thriller-reading friends. See, the thing about being in a place where there are books…even if you do not find what you are looking for, you probably will find something that you enjoy.

Monday night, I went to a party at the Museum of Natural History for WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick, which is my latest Bets On pick. Brian is a multi-talented creator, as well as a writer and an illustrator. In WONDERSTRUCK, as he did with his Caldecott-winning title THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, he tells a portion of the story completely in illustrations. That evening, he presented the background to the book, talking about his research, what the museum has meant to him, and why it worked so well as a backdrop. You can read more about why I loved it below and here.

And if that does not tempt you enough, here is a wonderful interview with Selznick from NPR so you can feel you too were in the room with him. On the way out of the museum, I was walking alone (the museum already was closed), a very surreal experience after having been at the museum so many times before. I found myself looking at it through Ben in WONDERSTRUCK’s eyes…as my heels tapped on the floor echoing in the empty halls. By the way, given my lack of any sense of direction, there were times I realized I could have spent a night in the museum easily by taking a wrong turn!

Our latest One to Watch Author Spotlight is featuring Hillary Jordan’s WHEN SHE WOKE, a truly original book that I really enjoyed when I read it earlier this year; I still think about it. Hillary’s debut novel, MUDBOUND, won a number of prizes and really became a reader favorite for its honest portrayal of a family struggling to make ends meet on its Mississippi Delta farm during the 1940s. WHEN SHE WOKE couldn’t be much more of a 180, as it’s a dystopian novel set in the not-too-distant future where criminals are referred to as Chromes. The skin color of all Chromes is dyed to reflect their crime, and their actions are broadcast nationwide. It’s chilling and haunting and very original. If you read MUDBOUND, you would likely never guess that Hillary’s next book would take this kind of turn. We have 20 copies of WHEN SHE WOKE to give away to readers who enter here by Friday, September 23rd at noon ET. And, by the way, I am not a fan of the futuristic or dystopian work, but this book was done so brilliantly that I was way beyond seeing its genre.

We have a great lineup of reviews this week, headlined by Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which is one of the most buzzed-about books this fall. I got a very early look at it as it was selected as a BEA Buzz title. It’s a magical story that is set at a traveling circus filled with illusionists, contortionists, fortune tellers and the like. At the center of the story is a romance that unfolds between two of the circus’s marquee performers, who learn that their lives have been forever linked. There are a lot of sensory details here that really make some parts of the story pop off the page. Reviewer Norah Piehl says, “THE NIGHT CIRCUS is the real deal, the kind of novel that will appeal to romantics, history buffs, circus aficionados, mystery fans, and lovers of a good story.” It's different from most anything you have read, and thus you will see why people are talking about it. Ah, if only I looked good wearing a red accent of anything!

This week also marks the return of linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter, the protagonist in Paul Levine’s bestselling, award-winning Lassiter legal thrillers. LASSITER marks the eighth book in the series and the first since 1997. It’s definitely a welcome return as Lassiter revisits one of his earliest cases about a teen runaway and tries to piece together the clues involving her disappearance that leads to a conspiracy involving some of Miami’s wealthiest and most powerful players. Reviewer Joe Hartlaub says, “Levine lets rip with some marvelously funny turns of phrase during the course of the book, and you will want to note these, dropping them casually into conversation.” As an added bonus, we have Paul talking to Lassiter in an interview here.

A child’s abduction and its toll on a family are at the center of Lisa Tucker’s THE WINTERS IN BLOOM. After their 10-year-old son disappears, the seemingly perfect parents must confront their own troubled pasts and long-kept secrets in an effort to find the kidnappers. Reviewer Norah Piehl says, “Lisa Tucker excels at probing family dynamics; in this case, she explores the headline-worthy phenomenon of helicopter parenting by looking at the very personal and individual situations that can result in that kind of fear and over-protectiveness. ”

Sharyn McCrumb’s THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY is our latest Historical Fiction Author Spotlight and continues her popular Ballad series. She mixes fact and fiction to retell one of Appalachia’s most famous court cases that saw a man wrongfully convicted and hanged for the murder of his mistress. Reviewer Roz Shea says, “THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY is not a whodunit, because to this day the facts remain murky. Perhaps no one will ever know who killed Laura Foster, and McCrumb doesn’t set out to solve the mystery. Instead, the story is another rich tale about the times and circumstances of one of the most conflicted eras of America’s history.”

Karl Marlantes's novel about Vietnam, MATTERHORN, was a huge hit back in 2009. He now takes on the same subject in his memoir, WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR. Reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott says, "This is a book for all of us, especially timely when we as a nation are contemplating the costs of two ongoing wars."

I am looking forward to seeing Eoin Colfer here at Bouchercon. He’s just penned his first adult novel, thus giving those who grew up loving his books --- and the parents who watch their young children absorbed with him --- a new way to enjoy his writing. We have our review of PLUGGED, where reviewer L. Dean Murphy says, "It’s one of my Top Ten for ’11 review picks."

I am off to have breakfast with Gregg Hurwitz, something that has become a tradition for us whether we are at Bouchercon or San Diego Comic-Con. As always, I look forward to hearing what he is up to. This afternoon, Gregg will be interviewing Robert Crais. They’re good friends, and Gregg’s interviews are never typical, so this promises to be quite an entertaining conversation! Later, I'll be attending a lunch with Deborah Crombie, whose new book, NO MARK UPON HER, is releasing in February 2012. I'm new to her work, which is always fun for me.

By the way, one more coincidence. The last time I was in St. Louis, I believe it was 1998. Gathered here were a group of chat hosts who were the moderators of Bookaccino, the chat room we had at the time for The Book Report, the AOL site that was the predecessor to More than two dozen folks flew and drove here to meet and talk books live instead of online; much like we now see each other in person instead of on Facebook and Twitter. I joke that bookish conversation in St. Louis has kept me from touring the city twice now. Someday I will see the Arch.

Fall is on the way…I can feel it in the air. Here’s to a great week of reading.

Carol Fitzgerald (

Now in Stores: THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern (Fiction)
The circus arrives without warning, opens at dusk and closes at dawn. And under the black and white tents are the most incredible of enchantments, delighting all those who attend. But the circus-goers must remain unaware that the tents are the setting of a binding competition, pitting two magicians against each other in this soaring tale of revelry, love and very high stakes. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY by Sharyn McCrumb

THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY: A Ballad Novel by Sharyn McCrumb (Historical Fiction)
What began as a fictional re-telling of the historical account of one of the most famous mountain ballads of all time became an astonishing revelation of the real culprit responsible for the murder of Laura Foster. Bringing to life the star-crossed lovers of this mountain tragedy, Sharyn McCrumb gifts understanding and compassion to her compelling tales of Appalachia. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Sharyn McCrumb’s bio.
-Visit Sharyn McCrumb’s official website,

Click here to read a review.
New Featured One to Watch Author: Hillary Jordan, Author of WHEN SHE WOKE

Hillary Jordan's dystopian novel, WHEN SHE WOKE, explores the relationship between crime and punishment, church and state in a not-too-distant future.

We have 20 copies of WHEN SHE WOKE, which will be in stores October 4th, to give away to readers who would like to preview the book and comment about it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Friday, September 23rd at noon ET.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Hillary Jordan’s bio.
-Visit Hillary Jordan’s official website,

More about WHEN SHE WOKE:
Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes --- criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime --- is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.

Click here to read more about Hillary Jordan and WHEN SHE WOKE in our One to Watch feature.
Now in Stores: NEW YORK TO DALLAS by J.D. Robb

NEW YORK TO DALLAS: An In Death Novel by J.D. Robb (Thriller)
When a monster named Isaac McQueen --- taken down by Eve Duncan back in her uniform days --- escapes from Rikers, he has two things in mind. One is to pick up where he left off, abducting young victims and leaving them scarred in both mind and body. The other is to get revenge on the woman who stopped him all those years ago. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker

THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker (Fiction)
Together for over a decade, Kyra and David Winter are happier than they ever thought they could be. Yet they have always feared that the life they created was destined to be disrupted. And on one perfectly average summer day, it is: their son, Michael, disappears from his own backyard. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer

PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer (Crime Fiction)
Daniel McEvoy has a problem. Well, really, he has several, but for this Irish ex-pat bouncer at a seedy, small-time casino, the fact that his girlfriend was just murdered in the parking lot is uppermost in his mind. That is until lots of people around him start dying, and not of natural causes. Suddenly Daniel has half the New Jersey mob, dirty cops and his man-crazy upstairs neighbor after him, and he still doesn't know what's going on. Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: LASSITER by Paul Levine

Author Paul Levine exchanges barbs with Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer of his legal thrillers. The occasion is the hardcover publication of LASSITER, the eighth entry in Levine’s prize-winning series of legal thrillers, and the first since 1997. Click here to read their conversation.

LASSITER by Paul Levine (Legal Thriller)

Jake Lassiter crossed paths with a teenage runaway who disappeared into South Florida’s sex trade. Now, 18 years later, he retraces her steps and runs head-on into a conspiracy of Miami’s rich and powerful, who would do anything to keep the past as dark as night and silent as the grave. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Visit Paul Levine’s official website,


Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman

THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman (Fiction)
A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name --- and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to see the reading group guide.


Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes (Memoir)
Karl Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war. He weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination, and his readings --- from Homer to The Mahabharata to Jung. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

Click here to read a review. Bets On: WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick (Fiction)
I love when creators, be they authors, musicians or artists, take risks and push themselves. Thus it was with great delight that I read WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick. While categorized as a book for ages 9 and up, I, who have many more years than that behind me, was completely captivated by this work. Let me back up a moment. For those who may not be aware, Selznick is the Caldecott Award-winning author of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, where he first worked his magic pairing a narrative with detailed illustrations that stand alone to tell some of the story.

In WONDERSTRUCK, Selznick pushes his talent even further, pairing a story told in prose set in 1977 with one told in illustration set in 1927. In the more contemporary story, the young protagonist Ben, who grew up in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, is struck deaf shortly after he learned some clues to his father’s identity; his mother has already passed away without revealing his father’s identity. Ben weaves his way to the Museum of Natural History, where readers quickly are moved to look at the scenes at the museum in a new way as they hear the story behind the exhibits. The research alone will have you look at this museum in a whole new way, no matter how many times you may have been there. Never been there? You will want to make plans to enjoy it soon.

Woven in here is Rose’s story, told entirely in detailed illustrations; she also has the museum as a key part of her past. The parallels dramatically build, and trust that when you close these more than 600 pages (do not be daunted; you will fly through them), you will realize you have read a story where a creator has completely delivered. Plus, it’s been a true experience. And the nice thing is you can share it with other members of your family of many ages. It’s a book that is destined to draw people together.

-Click here to read more.
-Click here to read a review.

Click here to see all the books we’re betting you’ll love.
An Interview with Loree Lough, Author of FROM ASHES TO HONOR

Inspirational author Loree Lough has had, at last count, 82 award-winning books, 67 short stories and 2,500+ articles in print. Her latest novel, FROM ASHES TO HONOR, is the first in a series called First Responders, about 9/11 and its emotional impacts. With the recent 10th anniversary of the tragedy, there’s no more relevant time to pick up this book. In this interview, Lough discusses the feedback she received from real first responders, as well as her hopes for what readers will come to learn and understand. She also reveals how she herself was affected by that fateful day of 10 years ago.

FROM ASHES TO HONOR: First Responders Series, Book 1 by Loree Lough (Romance)
Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who’d been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy’s school, both are stunned and wary.

-Click here to read more.
-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read an interview with Loree Lough.
This Week’s Reviews

ROBERT B. PARKER’S KILLING THE BLUES: A Jesse Stone Novel by Michael Brandman (Mystery)
Paradise, Massachusetts, is preparing for the summer tourist season when a string of car thefts disturbs what is usually a quiet time in town. In a sudden escalation of violence, the thefts become murder, and chief of police Jesse Stone finds himself facing one of the toughest cases of his career. Reviewed by Maggie Harding.

TENSION CITY: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain by Jim Lehrer (Politics)
A veteran newsman who has presided over 11 presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives readers a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections --- and with them the course of history. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

THE VAULT: An Inspector Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell (Mystery)
Chief Inspector Reg Wexford has retired, and he and his wife now divide their time between Kingsmarkham and a coachhouse in Hampstead belonging to their actress daughter, Sheila. For all the benefits of a more relaxed way of life, Wexford misses being the law. But a chance meeting in a London street, with someone he had known briefly as a very young police constable, changes everything. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum.

ON CANAAN’S SIDE by Sebastian Barry (Fiction)
Lilly Dunne Bere was born in Ireland under the veil of death, and death has followed her to America. At the age of 89, consumed by the loss of her beloved grandson Bill, Lilly records the events of her life --- beginning in Wicklow --- to her days in the United States. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

AN UNQUENCHABLE THIRST: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life by Mary Johnson (Memoir)
During her 20 years with the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Donata (as Mary Johnson was known) grappled with her faith, her sexuality, the politics of the order, and her complicated relationship with Mother Teresa. Eventually, she left the church to find her own path --- one that led to love and herself. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

THE STRANGER YOU SEEK by Amanda Kyle Williams (Thriller)
In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer is pushing the city to its breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer before another victim meets a shattering end, A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: ex–FBI profiler Keye Street. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE BURNING by Jane Casey (Mystery)
“The Burning Man” is the name the media has given a brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas of London’s parks. And now there’s a fifth. Maeve Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable who is determined to bring this killer to justice. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

This Week's Poll and Question: Library Cards

September is Library Card Sign-up Month. How often do you use your library card?

Several times a week
About once a week
About once a month
Less than once a month
I cannot remember the last time that I was there.
I don't have a library card.

-Click here to answer our poll.


What is the last book you borrowed from your library?

-Click here to answer our question.
Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You’re Reading --- and You Could Win THREE Books!

Tell us your current reading recommendations with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars. During the contest period from September 9th - September 23rd, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of THE AFFAIR: A Reacher Novel by Lee Child, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD by Rebecca Coleman, and LETHAL by Sandra Brown.

Click here for more details.

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