Five Star Read — THE ANTEATER OF DEATH

Anteater coverNow, you have to admit—The Anteater of Death is an unusu­al name for a mys­tery sto­ry. Okay—crazy! But I tru­ly like it. It’s got a lot going for it.

A. The name attracts atten­tion. (Always good.)

B. The sto­ry lives up to the title. (Also good.)

C. The anteater (in a zoo, thank­ful­ly) is not only a sus­pect in mur­der, but has a devot­ed advo­cate in the hero­ine of the story—Teddy, the ama­teur detec­tive.

This was how I put it a cou­ple of months ago when I read The Anteater of Death:

The plot is full of unex­pect­ed twists, the char­ac­ters are most­ly known to each oth­er (for gen­er­a­tions) and quite indi­vid­ual. The sus­pense is right up there, along with enough humor to fit the title. But there is also sus­pense to keep the read­er on the edge of her (or his) seat. The book starts and ends with a chap­ter in the anteater’s viewpoint—quite a bit dif­fer­ent than a human view­point. In between it’s Teddy’s sto­ry. She’s relat­ed to the wealthy zoo donors and work­ing at the zoo. And yes, there is death. Great sto­ry for those look­ing for the unusu­al sub­ject. Spiced with zoo and ani­mal infor­ma­tion.

Right now the Kin­dle ebook is $.99. Bet­ty Webb is the author. She has two oth­er zoo books, and a desert series of mys­ter­ies.

New Writers’ New Book

5-25-5th grade coverI’m one of the retirees who have been help­ing ten fifth graders who want to write. (When oth­er kids see us pass­ing through the school halls, they ask, “Are you the grand­mas?” Yep, that would be us.) This week we will deliv­er their fin­ished book. They will each get two copies—one to keep and one to give away to a favorite per­son. (Or, two to keep—their choice.)

All of the chil­dren wrote one, or more sto­ries, we edit­ed them, made sug­ges­tions, they learned that writ­ing is also rewrit­ing. Some illus­trat­ed their sto­ries. One cre­at­ed the cov­er. One boy was def­i­nite­ly writ­ing a book, but he man­aged to make a sto­ry out of the first two chap­ters. One of the girls seems des­tined to take Steven King’s place, but since she was also pro­lif­ic, we encour­aged one of her sweet sto­ries.

They accom­plished quite a bit in a half hour a week, espe­cial­ly since 5-25 5th grade kidsthere were sev­er­al late days for snow that seemed to always hap­pen on our Tues­day morn­ing at the school. They did their writ­ing on a com­put­er eas­i­ly using a hunt-and-peck sys­tem they had each worked out for them­selves. (Although it was easy to trans­fer their work, I real­ly do think it might be bet­ter to teach typ­ing skills before using the key­board. But I’m def­i­nite­ly of the old school—learned how to type in high school on a man­u­al type­writer.)

But, enough of that. I enjoyed work­ing with the kids. I’ve got to say, at least one inner city school is giv­ing the chil­dren lots of choice in their edu­ca­tion, for we could not have done this with­out some coop­er­a­tion from the over­worked teach­ers.

A Five Star Read-Under Any Title

Original Cover

Orig­i­nal Cov­er

The book is the first of the Perse­phone Cole Vin­tage Mys­tery Series tak­ing place in the ear­ly 1940s. The author is Heather Haven. I read this mys­tery a cou­ple of years ago. Was it called Perse­phone Cole and the Hal­loween Curse (the orig­i­nal title) or The Dag­ger Before Me? I don’t remem­ber. Was the cov­er the orig­i­nal one (pic­tured left) or the new one? Think it was the orig­i­nal, but, I read the book on my Kin­dle, so I’m not sure.

As I remem­ber the sto­ry, I like the first cov­er the best. Perse­phone (Per­cy for short) is big and beautiful—extra large size. She’s a sin­gle moth­er, liv­ing with the extend­ed fam­i­ly (space was a prob­lem) and help­ing her father in his detec­tive busi­ness. She’s deter­mined to suc­ceed at her first solo case. It’s in the the­ater, which is an added complication—since she doesn’t know that much about the­ater. But, she’s a good fak­er (she hopes). And so does the reader—pulling for Per­cy with every page.

There are so many great reviews of this title, I’d like to quote from a cou­ple of them:

Second Cover

Sec­ond Cov­er

Per­cy is cer­tain­ly not the stereo­typ­i­cal moth­er of the 1940s. She’s a tough woman with an atti­tude big enough to match her 5’11” frame. She pos­sess­es a sharp mind and an even sharp­er tongue. I love the way she han­dles peo­ple, men in par­tic­u­lar, who doubt her abil­i­ties as a detec­tive. Though she can be brash at times, Per­cy also knows how to turn on the charm when she needs to. I can just as eas­i­ly pic­ture her but­ter­ing up a poten­tial wit­ness with free food or rough­ing up a hos­tile one.

Here’s what anoth­er review­er had to say:

I found Per­cy engag­ing. I liked her mox­ie. Not exact­ly fem­i­nine, peo­ple “often remarked that between her wild hair, thin body, and daffy per­son­al­i­ty, she remind­ed them of a Dan­de­lion caught in a wind­storm.” (I like that word-pic­ture.) Per­cy does things like: “she popped a nut into her mouth and sep­a­rat­ed the meat from the shell with her teeth.” Haven offers delight­ful and “pun­ny” prose: “What col­or the inte­ri­or was sup­posed to be was dif­fi­cult to say. I’m going with drab.” Or how about this one—when Per­cy looks up at a man, we read: “It was nov­el, look­ing up to some­one not stand­ing on a steplad­der.”

And here’s my review:  Perse­phone Cole (Per­cy for short) is a female detec­tive in ear­ly 1940s New York dur­ing World War II. There’s great his­toric atmos­phere (sweaty because it’s a non-air-con­di­tioned heat spell) deal­ing with strange acci­dents in the the­ater dis­trict. She detects under­cov­er as a man­ag­er who doesn’t real­ly know that much about man­ag­ing, but she’s right up there with detect­ing, includ­ing gun-han­dling. The nice­ly con­vo­lut­ed plot kept me guess­ing, and the end­ing was whol­ly sat­is­fy­ing. Def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers of his­toric mys­tery (with sassy women).

I’m won­der­ing, why the title and cov­er change? I under­stand an author wish­ing to present the best face to her read­ers. And, since I do love this series, I hope it was a good choice. But I have to ask, which cov­er and which title do you like?

 

Does My Book Need a Vocabulary List?

5-14 Paper and penOkay, that’s a ques­tion I sel­dom ask myself. I write mys­tery (most­ly) tak­ing place in the cur­rent time, and in the coun­try where my books are sold. I don’t have any char­ac­ters speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage.

Oth­er books, often ones I read, are set in past cen­turies or oth­er coun­tries. They might have a list of names, or words that are unfa­mil­iar. That’s handy. There are oth­er instances that neces­si­tate word lists—often involv­ing unusu­al occu­pa­tions, or even hob­bies. But cozy, or almost cozy mys­ter­ies? Most read­ers know enough of the words used to describe recipes, needle­work, antiques, pets, and the var­i­ous occu­pa­tions of our favorite ama­teur sleuths.

Now, back to my ques­tion. One of my mys­ter­ies involves boat­ing. The fol­low­ing is a para­graph that may have non-boaters think­ing I must have missed a few gram­mar lessons in ele­men­tary school.

The coiled anchor rode smelled musty, even though it was 5-14 anchorcom­plete­ly dry. Lit­tle col­ored plas­tic tags lay, woven into the fiber to mea­sure off the feet as the line payed out. Would I have to remove all that line to see if there was any­thing under­neath? Not tonight. Too much trou­ble. I flashed around the inte­ri­or one last time. There was a small piece of paper stuck low, under a few coils of the rope. I pulled it out.”

Did I mis­spell some­thing? I checked a boat­ing site from the Great Lakes. This is a sen­tence describ­ing how to anchor a boat. “When all the rode has been payed out, gen­tly back down on the anchor to set it in the bot­tom.”

RODE — anchor chain or line (rope) that attach­es the anchor to the boat

TO PAY OUT, or PAYED OUT — to allow the rode to uncoil and leave the anchor lock­er so the anchor is low­ered

Or, is that just too much? Per­son­al­ly, I think so. I don’t mind read­ing a book with a few things I have to infer from con­text. What do you think?

Book Party for THE CLIENT’S WIFE

cover-The Clients Wife2Yes, I went to a book par­ty last week, and I tell you—Thomas Wig­gin knows how to par­ty. Big room with chairs set up—check. A show­ing of a full movie—check. Cook­ies and popcorn—check. Adult beverages—yeah! Cof­fee and tea, sure—but choice of wine as well as mar­ti­nis, both gin and vodka—check! And, icing on the cake—the read­ing of a scene by the author who made it come alive. (After all, he had a long stint as a star­ring actor of both day­time and night­time TV—not to men­tion writ­ing episodes of the day­time dra­ma, then per­form­ing a one-man show he wrote.)

Of course, that’s beside the point. The impor­tant part of a book par­ty author signing 2is the book. And, get­ting a new slant on the where, why, and how of the author’s inspi­ra­tion and car­ry-through of that book.

Thomas Wig­gin was inspired by his par­ents, the Gersh­win music they loved, and the Nick and Nora Charles movies of the 1930s. So how did those things all come togeth­er?

Mr. Wig­gin had an answer for that. In those old movies, Nick and Nora had a son, Nick, Jr. What we didn’t know is that Nick, Jr. was not into the detec­tive scene, but his daugh­ter Emma was. Yes, Emma Charles spent time with her grand­par­ents. She learned to love Gersh­win, inves­ti­ga­tions, and mar­ti­nis. As the book, The Client’s Wife begins, Emma has left her job with the police depart­ment and has begun her own detec­tive agency. All she needs is to find a man who appre­ci­ates the fin­er things of life. Gersh­win, good Eng­lish, and the kind of rela­tion­ship her grand­par­ents had. (All this, of course, while solv­ing crime cas­es.)

I’ve only start­ed read­ing my new, signed copy of The Client’s Wife. It’s head­ing toward my five-star cat­e­go­ry.

 

Agatha Winners

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillip­pi Ryan

For writ­ers of cozy, or almost cozy mys­ter­ies (think Agatha Christie), Mal­ice Domes­tic is the con­fer­ence to inter­act with their read­ers. Of course, the Agatha award—a teapot—is cov­et­ed. I was there in spir­it only. Nat­u­ral­ly, I await­ed the final word from Sat­ur­day night’s award ban­quet. And, I want­ed to see how my picks fared.

Since I men­tioned all short sto­ry authors, I can claim a vic­to­ry for that! (Art Tay­lor won.) I scored again with my write-up of Writes of Pas­sage. It won for best non-fic­tion. I’m won­der­ing, since I was one of those who con­tributed an essay, can I claim one six­ti­eth of an Agatha? (Good ques­tion.) The edi­tor who did claim the teapot, Hank Phillip­pi Ryan, also won for best con­tem­po­rary nov­el. Anoth­er of my favorite authors, Rhys Bowen, won for best his­tor­i­cal nov­el.

This is the offi­cial line-up of Agatha win­ners:

Best children’s / YA: Code Buster’s Club, Cast #4 by Pen­ny Warn­er
Best short sto­ry: The Odds Are Against Us, by Art Tay­lor
Best non­fic­tion: Writes of Pas­sage, edit­ed by Hank Phillip­pi Ryan with Elaine Will Spar­ber
Best first nov­el: Well Read, Then Dead by Ter­rie Far­ley Moran
Best his­tor­i­cal nov­el: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
Best con­tem­po­rary nov­el: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillip­pi Ryan
In addi­tion, Cyn­thia Kuhn won the Mal­ice Domes­tic Grant for Unpub­lished Writ­ers.

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.