Five Stars For THE RAINALDI QUARTET

Rainaldi Quartet coverWish I could give this book six stars! That would be five stars for the story and the sixth star for the physical book. Sure, I love to read e-books as well, but I do love to hold a well-designed, superbly crafted trade paperback, turn the soft pages that lie flat, feel the texture of a lovely cover, and read the unique sans serif type font to follow an entrancing story.

On to the story. The Rainaldi Quartet refers to the four men who meet weekly to play in their hometown of Cremona, Italy. Two are luthers (those who make violins) as well as violin players. Rainaldi is one, the other is the narrator of the story, Gianni. A priest plays the viola and the younger, chief of police plays the cello. But it is Rainaldi, in good spirits, who chooses what they will play when the story opens. And it is Rainaldi who is murdered late that night.

The plot follows Gianni and the chief of police as they try to determine why their friend was killed, what secret he knew, what papers he had been working on, what amazing event he looked forward to. Their search takes them to the English countryside, to Venice, and to the ruins of a house burned a century ago looking for documents, then looking for a rare violin that may or may not exist.

Besides pouring over the mystery of the book, the reader will absorb bits of history, bits of the making and restoring of rare violins, and especially, the day to day life of an Italian gentleman of a certain age (as they say). Gianni’s musing on his grandchildren visiting, the changing light on the canals of Venice, and his emotions over sudden death are, surprisingly, every bit as engrossing as the search for the perhaps mythical violin and the reason behind murder.

Although this is placed in current times, history underlies the plot. And, as an American reader, I marvel at families who “remember” ancestors of a hundred or more years ago, and live in the same home, looking at the same portraits on the wall, and may not be all that impressed by the fame of the violinist in their family tree.

 

Indi Authors And Libraries

Most independently published authors have heard of J. A. Konrath. They follow his blog and his progress with his independently published books.  He took his traditionally published books back from the publisher and successfully published them himself. Others joined him. He’s the first true guru to many indi authors.

Now he’s going a step further. He has started a program that’s still in beta form, one to supply e-book manuscripts to libraries. It is called EAF-Ebooks Are Forever. Instead of a library buying a manuscript for a limited number of borrows, it will buy a copy that is good forever. (The same way libraries buy physical books.) And, just as with physical books, the e-book can only be loaned to one person at a time. For a popular book, a library would buy multiple copies, just as they do with physical books. Sounds like a good idea to me.

A full-size book would be purchased for $7.99, no matter its price on line, even if it is offered for free. It would probably already be available for sale everywhere, not locked into one venue, such as KDP.

Konrath envisions eventually offering every interested independent author’s books to libraries. I’d like to join. I tried, but the site doesn’t seem to be accepting other contributors yet. But I’ll watch for any updates. Meanwhile, to learn more, click highlighted words to see Konrath’s blog explanation. Find EBooks Are Forever here.

 

Five Stars For THE OTHER WOMAN

The Other WomanThis is an excellent week to showcase this favorite book—Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Other Woman. (See the two reasons why at the end of this post.) It’sVolume #1 of the Jane Ryland series. In this book, Jane is a journalist out of a job, in disgrace, and possibly owing a million dollars for her supposed error. The publisher’s blurb includes: “Dirty politics, dirty tricks, and a barrage of final twists, The Other Woman is the first in an explosive new series.”

But let me quote from a few reviews. One said: “Boston newspaper reporter Jane Ryland seeks to uncover the identity of the mistress of a Senate candidate. Her investigation intersects with the hunt for a possible serial killer. The book has all the necessary components for a great mystery: murders, sex, scandal, gorgeous characters, money, privilege.”

Another gives this review: “Oh man, this was a tremendously good read. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE a book that makes me sit up and take notice. The Other Woman did that, and then some. This is a page-turner from the get-go, with protagonists who are flawed but incredibly likeable, trying to solve a mystery that, believe me, turns into one very creative climax.”

When I first read this book, I commented: “There’s the other woman in the red coat, but she’s not the only ‘other’ woman in this engrossing mystery/thriller. From nuanced characters to surprising plot twists, this is one good read for anyone.”

Now for Reason Number One that this is a good week for this series: After the second book in the series, The Wrong Girl, won the Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel of 2013, the third, Truth Be Told, is up for an Agatha this year as Best Contemporary Novel of 2014!
And—Ta Da, Reason Number Two that this is a good week to showcase The Other Woman—Click here for a Goodreads giveaway going on for this book right now.

Snoop, Student, Writer

I’ve had friends ask, after reading one of my books, “Where do you get your ideas?” My husband asks, “How do you think all that up?” I’m quite sure every writer gets the same questions. And, like me, the answer might be something like, “I’m not exactly sure,” or possibly, “Or, here and there.”

writing SnoopyThe true answer is complicated. It’s a bit like the way I follow a recipe when I’m cooking. Love the picture that goes with it. Beautiful. The ingredients? Oh, sure. Except, I don’t have all of them. In fact, even if I do have an item, I really prefer another. I’ll trade off Worstershire sauce for soy sauce every time. Let’s see, unsalted butter? Heck, I have salted. No problem. Broccoli is just as green as green beans. Recipe calls for veal, but I happen to have pork. Oops, that item is one husband doesn’t like—I’ll skip that. I think I’ll serve the dish with noodles instead of rice.

You get the idea, right?

Now, how about the title of this piece. Yes, it also explains at least one writer’s system (mine). Maybe snoop is a bit extreme. Let’s say, I discover something that appeals to me. For instance, my YA Cherish, began with a road sign. “Sandy Bottom Road.” That book definitely used my recipe-following system. I’d discarded the manuscript years before, but I started with that and substituted. A skeleton became a ghost. The girls switched boyfriends. I changed names, dipped into a variety of viewpoints. I added real history to alter the story. And, I definitely updated my teens into twenty-first century kids. Those last two required the student mode with information and assistance from the internet and advice from teens.

Okay, maybe that’s not illustrating the snoop-student mode of a writer. Snoop: Scan newspapers for something new I can incorporate into a mystery. How about the item about a seven-year-old girl who takes fantastic photographs? Check. Now, here’s an item about Workampers, or people who live in their RV campers but travel around taking short term jobs to support themselves. They stop to work for a season at theme parks or a few weeks at local celebrations. Check. How about those books I’ve gathered during our sailing years at small Chesapeake Bay towns—books about local history, many mentioning the War of 1812? Check. Okay, now for the study. Read and compare those local histories. Check it out on the internet. Study reenactments, historic figures’ lives, maps for placement of my fictional town. That’s the template for my upcoming mystery, Forgotten Body, now awaiting one final run-through, formatting, and cover.

But I do have a still better example of the student mode for an author. I’m now working on a short story that may turn into a novella. I’m planning to make it permafree to interest people in my mysteries. It’s gotta be good for that. And, I’m struggling. But, I’ve found help by reading the writing blogs, newsletters, books, and magazines I’ll never abandon. That’s because, invariably, a phrase or sentence will spark an idea. Most recently it was part of a sentence in R.A. McCormick’s article in the Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter newsletter, First Draft. Quote, “surprise as the story goes in a direction that readers don’t expect.” It’s not new information to me, but those words reminded me—“Hey, that’s what I need!” The other manuscript help was a guest appearance by another Guppy, Kaye George, on B.K. Stevens’ blog, The First Two Pages. Yep, after reading Kaye’s clear show and tell of the way she added each element, I knew what I had to do. Ramp up my beginning as well as surprise the reader.

So, next time someone asks me where I get my ideas, what will I answer? “You see, there’s a talking bird—not a parrot, I’ll have to look that up, and one of those mini-houses I’ve read about that is cramped with one person, but I’m putting two in there. And there’s this guy who faked his death and will come back to upset the lady who thought she was a widow about the time she’s getting serious about someone else.” Will that be my answer?

More likely, I’ll reply, “Oh, here and there.”

As a reader, I’d probably love to hear more. But, as a writer, do I want to rattle on and bore my reader even before the book is out? Hope. How about you?

A New Review For YESTERDAY’S BODY

Okay, I gotta crow!

It’s mighty rare when one’s work is recognized so beautifully, and on the same day when I want to remind readers that my Goodreads giveaway is winding down.

Here’s the full review:

Yesterday's BodyTitle: Yesterday’s Body
Author: Norma Huss
Publisher: Sunset Cloud Mystery
ISBN: 13: 978-1466449350
Genre: Mystery

The next time you see an older woman who looks like she lives on the streets, remember to be nice, she might just be more than she seems. She could be amateur sleuth, Jo Durbin, and, if you’ve done anything bad, she might be looking for you.

Talented author Norma Huss has crafted a fun read that offers a different kind of sleuth with a very different background. Life on the streets is a hard way to live and any reader will definitely wonder how such a person, particularly a woman, could have the energy and ambition to investigate murders or other crimes.

Join Jo, and her sometime sidekick Sylvie who is also her sister, in tracking down a killer after she discovers a body in a closet with the help of her cat, Clyde, who isn’t all there.

I’m pleased to recommend Yesterday’s Body as a story any mystery fan will enjoy. The characters’ varied backgrounds blend into a story you won’t want to put down until you find out who the killer is and why they kill. You’ll enjoy meeting the realistic characters as they cross paths with Jo and yourself. You’ll find you’ve joined Jo in her investigation with Clyde and Sylvie and their threesome has become a foursome intent on solving the crimes.

Enjoy the adventure. I sure did.

Anne K. Edwards

Now for the Goodreads giveaway information—ends April 9, 2015. Giving away ten copies. Sign up here.

Next Monday, my five-star review (of other’s books) will be back. And this Thursday I’ll have something for both readers and writers.

Agatha Short Story Nominees

Agatha awards, so named for Agatha Christie of mystery writing fame, are given every year at the Malice Domestic conference. One award is given for the top short story published the previous year. This year’s nominees are all winners, even though only one will receive the tea pot that is the coveted prize. Nominated for Best Short Story are:

“The Odds are Against Us” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Magazine)
“The Blessing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave (Level Best Books)

Those who attend Malice Domestic this year are in for a dilemma. Which of these excellent stories will they vote for? What idea sparked the story? Find that answer on the Wicked Cozy Author blog, Best Short Agatha Nominees on Ideas. The Writers Who Kill blog asked each writer other questions. How many characters? How should they be developed? What comes first, story or theme? Their post is: An Interview with the 2014 Agatha Best Short Story Nominee Authors. They also have links to each story.

Wish I were going to Malice Domestic, except, then I’d have to decide which story was best. Quite an impossibility.

(Other links of interest are the Malice Domestic list of earlier short story winners and all more recent winners.)

 

Five Stars For LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER

Nancy Martin cover1I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the Blackbird Sisters mysteries by Nancy Martin, but this is my latest. (Not hers, but I’m a bit behind.) The three sisters make do without the money they grew up with (and their parents misspent before they deserted the crumbling family home). Nora tries to keep body and soul together, save the family estate, and, oh, yes, not marry the man she loves who just happens to be a semi-reformed mobster. You see, there’s this thing about any man who marries one of the sisters (there have been several) dying a sudden and usually dreadful death.

That is something that runs through all the books. But the sisters have a lot more going on. Babies, for one. That’s one sister’s specialty—she’s had many husbands. Mystery for another. A mystery that involves Nora more than anyone. In this book, Nora is sent by the new boss at her newspaper to write a profile on a billionaire fashion designer at his new high-tech organic farm. Unfortunately, he is murdered before she can complete the interview.

To quote from the Goodreads description, “If anything can bring the blue-blooded Blackbird sisters together, it’s a murder investigation involving high-society events, glamorous people, and the disappearance of a genetically perfect pig that may or may not be basking in the sun at Blackbird Farm. They’ll all have to pull together this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucolic estate for a cramped walk-up.”

The Blackbird Sisters mysteries are always great reads. I especially liked this one. Lots of fun and fashion, mystery and danger. Nora and her sisters keep me enthralled!

Goodreads Giveaway-YESTERDAY’S BODY

I’m substituting a bit of news for my usual five-star review today. I’m running a Goodreads giveaway with Yesterday’s Body, my first published mystery. The event runs from March 17, through April 9, and I’m giving away ten copies. Goodreads giveaway link here.

For a brief description: Jo Durbin isn’t under 40 or anorexic slim. Her face wouldn’t launch a thousand ships or even a rowboat. She wonders, how did she get the job with those beautiful people? And, will the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon? Did one of those beautiful people she works with kill Francine? Or, will they point to Jo?

Hard to explain that she’s only trying to revitalize a career gone south. Her plan—write a best-seller as a bag lady living on the street. Invent an imaginary cat to further her image. Collect keys that let her into unused storage and vacant homes. Get accepted by the street people. Befriend the guy who wants to “save” them all. It seems possible. Ignore the carping sister who “knows better”? That one’s tricky. Elude the killer long enough to solve the crime? You know that’s the killer question.
“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and attitude I love to read.” Chris Roerden, Author of Agatha Award-winning DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
The first edition e-book was a 2011 EPIC finalist for mystery/suspense.
The sequel, Forgotten Body, will be published later this year.

Five Star Read – EVANS ABOVE

This is the first of the series, and the first of Rhys Bowen’s three series. I discovered her third series first, then the second, and now while I’m trying to collect all the books in the second, I decided to try the first. Did not know what to expect with a male protagonist, a village constable in Wales. I must say, from my reading of the first book, that this series is just as delightful (not a term usually associated with male cops) as the other two. In this book readers are right there in Wales, along with all the frustrations, the odd goings on, and the variety of characters. Add to that a puzzling plot and a wind-up that pulls an amazing host of events together.

Evans aboveI’d like to quote from the publisher’s description — Evan Evans, a young police constable, has traded city life for that of Llanfair – an idyllic Welsh village. Nestling in the Snowdonia mountain range, Llanfair looks to Evans like a town forgotten by time, but he quickly learns that even the bucolic countryside has its share of eccentric – and deadly – characters. Evans’s new neighbors include two competitive ministers vying for the souls of their flock, one lascivious barmaid, and three other Evanses: Evans-the-Meat; Evans-the-Milk and Evans-the-Post (whose favorite hobby is to read the mail before he delivers it).

Before Evans has time to sort through the complicated relationships and rivalries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as brutal and fearsome as any he encountered in the big city. Two hikers have been murdered on the trails of the local mountain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer – who may or may not be linked to the mysterious destruction of Mrs. Powell-Jones’ prize-winning tomatoes.

Most of this series is available as e-books only. I’ve gotten them as used books through the resellers on Amazon since my husband enjoys them too, and he hasn’t converted to e-book reading. I do wish they were more widely available.

Since I mentioned the rarity of books published even as late as 2005, I wonder, do you have a favorite series that is out of print?