Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cooking with Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes in Hot Water teacup
Poor Sherlock, in hot water again!
“Now, look here, Mr. Holmes, it’s half-past eleven now and I am going back right away to my hotel. Suppose you and your friend Dr. Watson, come round and lunch with us at two.”  —The Hound of the Baskervilles
When I think of Sherlock Holmes, I imagine him almost anywhere but the kitchen. And yet, there are at least three Holmes inspired cookbooks out there in the world ready to help you create a fabulous Sherlock-inspired book club meeting or themed dinner party.  If you inhale, you can smell the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The recipes range from Fried Ox Eyeballs (no thank you) to Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale (yes, please) and thankfully none of these books pretended that Holmes cooked any of these meals. They do suggest that he might have eaten a great many of them.

Ready to play Mrs. Hudson? Lets’s have a look at the books.
The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook
Tea, gentlemen?
#1 The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook by Sean Wright and John Farrell
Published in 1976, the book features a sensible approach to preparing British food from the Victorian era, while connecting actual menus to specific stories. It also has excellent cartoons of Holmes and Watson dining.
Menus are laid out by adventure such as:
The Adventure of the Devil’s Footmenu,  featuring:
  • Crab Stearndale, a la Devil’s Foot
  • Crazy Brothers’ Devils Root Foot Sauce
  • Radix Pedis Diaboli Eggs (deviled eggs with a snappy title)
 “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches menu, featuring:
  • Toller’s Gin Alexanders
  • Rucastle’s Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Violet’s Chestnut-Brown Sauce
This is my favorite of the three books. Even if you don’t feel like cooking, you can be transported to a Victorian kitchen in seconds.

#2 Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt
This book was first printed in 1976 as well and reprinted again in 1990.  Recipes are divided into different eating occasions in Holmes life, such as “Breakfast at Baker Street,” “On the Chase,” and my personal favorite, “The Horrors of a Country Inn," which breaks out meals by the name of the Inns where Watson and Sherlock dined.

Dining with Sherlock Holmes and The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook
A plethora of pleasures for the starving Sherlockian
#3 The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook: The Favorite Recipes of the Great Detective and Dr. Watson
Published in 1977, this book is laid out by type of dish – soups, salads, meats, etc, Story quotes appear at the top of each recipe. Rather than support a notion that Holmes was interested in food, the quotes reinforce how focused he was on the case at hand. The quote that appears under the recipe for Bohemian Scandal Pickled Eggs from A Scandal in Bohemia is below. You can see how little it has to do with the recipe.
“I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and I received in exchange two-pence, a glass of half-and-half, two fills of shag tobacco and as much information as I could desire about Miss Adler…”
And if we can get Holmes to stop thinking about Miss Adler long enough to eat his soup, I suggest you try this recipe from The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook. The credited source for the dish is “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” (1861), but it looks hip enough to me to appear on the menu of a cool microbrewery eatery today – although I can’t think of another time that I ever added sugar to soup.
Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale
Serves 4-6
2lb lean beef, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
5 cups beef stock
1 cup pale ale or beer
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried mint
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 bunches asparagus stalks
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dust the beef with the flour. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the meat until it browns on all sides. Add the stock, ale, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.
Add the marjoram, mint, and spinach. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Cut the top 3 inches from the asparagus stalks, and chop them into bite-sized pieces (the remainder of the stalks can be saved for vegetable stock). Add the asparagus tops to the soup and simmer until they are tender (4-5 minutes). Stir in the sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Even though these recipes aren’t found in the text of the Holmes stories, it is fun to get to know Sherlock through the food of his time period and an excellent way to create an unforgettable meal.
Now that we’ve sorted out the party food, it’s time to decorate. What would you suggest?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bran Castle, Transylvania

Kerry Hammond, our blogger and world traveler, is here today to tell us about her trip to Transylvania.

It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Romania. Transylvania has always been especially mysterious. In 1897 Bram Stoker immortalized the region when he wrote Dracula. There is a lot of speculation surrounding the author’s choice of settings. Some say that Count Dracula is modeled after Vlad the Impaler and set in Bran Castle, located near Brasov in Transylvania. 

Many skeptics claim that Stoker never visited Transylvania, and relied on written descriptions and tales from colleagues to give him the information he needed to write his novel. There are several other locations that lay claim to the inspiration for Stoker’s vampire, but Bran Castle is one of the most famous and well worth the trip.

Regardless of the background, the Transylvanian region of Romania continues to be associated with Stoker’s creation. It holds a romantic and macabre connection to many a reader. Bran Castle is steeped in history that spans a period of at least eight centuries. Vlad the Impaler’s reign began in 1448 and dealt, in large part, with the anti-Ottoman resistance.

The castle displays furniture from the era of Queen Maria of Romania at the turn of the last century. The interior is beautiful, but the courtyard is one of the highlights of any tour.

As a testament to its ghoulish visitors, the castle even displays medieval torture devices.

Whether or not Stoker's vampire can be traced to Bran Castle, it's a definite must see attraction for anyone finding themselves in the Transylvania region of Romania.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Anthony Award Nominations

The 2017 Anthony Awards have been announced by the world's largest mystery convention. There are so many great books and stories on this list. I'm proud to have a story in Blood on the Bayou, one of the nominees for best anthology. 
Congratulations to all who were nominated.
Best Novel
  • You Will Know Me – Megan Abbott [Little, Brown]
  • Where It Hurts – Reed Farrel Coleman [G.P. Putnam’s Sons]
  • Red Right Hand – Chris Holm [Mulholland]
  • Wilde Lake – Laura Lippman [William Morrow]
  • A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny [Minotaur]
Best First Novel
  • Dodgers – Bill Beverly [Crown]
  • IQ – Joe Ide [Mulholland]
  • Decanting a Murder – Nadine Nettmann [Midnight Ink]
  • Design for Dying – Renee Patrick [Forge]
  • The Drifter – Nicholas Petrie [G.P. Putnam’s Sons]

Best Paperback Original
  • Shot in Detroit – Patricia Abbott [Polis]
  • Leadfoot – Eric Beetner [280 Steps]
  • Salem’s Cipher – Jess Lourey [Midnight Ink]
  • Rain Dogs – Adrian McKinty [Seventh Street]
  • How to Kill Friends and Implicate People – Jay Stringer [Thomas & Mercer]
  • Heart of Stone – James W. Ziskin [Seventh Street] 
Best Short Story
  • “Oxford Girl” – Megan Abbott, Mississippi Noir [Akashic]
  • “Autumn at the Automat” – Lawrence Block, In Sunlight or in Shadow [Pegasus]
  • “Gary’s Got A Boner” – Johnny Shaw, Waiting to Be Forgotten [Gutter]
  • “Parallel Play” – Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning [Wildside]
  • “Queen of the Dogs” – Holly West, 44 Caliber Funk: Tales of Crime, Soul and Payback [Moonstone] 
Best Critical Nonfiction Work
  • Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life – Peter Ackroyd [Nan A. Talese]
  • Letters from a Serial Killer – Kristi Belcamino & Stephanie Kahalekulu [CreateSpace]
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life – Ruth Franklin [Liveright]
  • Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker – David J. Skal [Liveright]
  • The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer – Kate Summerscale [Bloomsbury/Penguin] 
Best Children’s/YA Novel
  • Snowed – Maria Alexander [Raw Dog Screaming]
  • The Girl I Used to Be – April Henry [Henry Holt]
  • Tag, You’re Dead – J.C. Lane [Poisoned Pen]
  • My Sister Rosa – Justine Larbalestier [Soho Teen]
  • The Fixes – Owen Matthews [HarperTeen] 
Best Anthology
  • Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns – Eric Beetner, ed. [Down & Out]
  • In Sunlight or in Shadow – Lawrence Block, ed. [Pegasus]
  • Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens – Jen Conley [Down & Out]
  • Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – Greg Herren, ed. [Down & Out]
  • Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by the Replacements – Jay Stringer, ed. [Gutter] 
Best Novella (8,000-40,000 words)
  • Cleaning Up Finn – Sarah M. Chen [All Due Respect Books]
  • No Happy Endings – Angel Luis Col√≥n [Down & Out]
  • Crosswise – S.W. Lauden [Down & Out]
  • Beware the Shill – John Shepphird [Down & Out]
  • The Last Blue Glass – B.K. Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016 [Dell]

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 Thriller Award Nominations

This week International Thriller Writers announced the 2017 Thriller Award Nominations and there are so many wonderful stories to choose from.

The 2017 ITW Thriller Award Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest XII, July 15, 2017, at the Grand Hyatt (New York City.) Mystery Playground will be covering the event conference live.

A big congratulations to all who were nominated. 

Megan Abbott — YOU WILL KNOW ME (Little, Brown and Company)
Reed Farrel Coleman — WHERE IT HURTS (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Noah Hawley — BEFORE THE FALL (Grand Central Publishing)
Laura McHugh — ARROWOOD (Spiegel & Grau)
Ben H. Winters — UNDERGROUND AIRLINES (Mulholland Books)

Bob Bickford — DEADLY KISS (Black Opal Books)
J.L. Delozier — TYPE AND CROSS (WiDo Publishing)
David McCaleb — RECALL (Lyrical Underground)
Nicholas Petrie — THE DRIFTER (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
E.Z. Rinsky — PALINDROME (Witness Impulse)

Robert Dugoni — IN THE CLEARING (Thomas & Mercer)
Anne Frasier — THE BODY READER (Thomas & Mercer)
Paul Kemprecos — THE MINOAN CIPHER (Suspense Publishing)
Jonathan Maberry — KILL SWITCH (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Stephen Maher — SALVAGE (Dundurn)

Eric Beetner — “The Business of Death” UNLOADED: CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS (Down & Out Books)
Laura Benedict — “The Peter Rabbit Killers” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Brendan DuBois — “The Man from Away” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Joyce Carol Oates — “Big Momma” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Art Taylor — “Parallel Play” CHESAPEAKE CRIMES: STORM WARNING (Wildside Press)

Pierce Brown — MORNING STAR (Del Rey)
Elle Cosimano — HOLDING SMOKE (Disney-Hyperion)
A.J. Hartley — STEEPLEJACK (TOR Teen)
Billy Taylor — THIEVING WEASELS (Dial Books)
Kara Thomas — THE DARKEST CORNERS (Delacorte Press)

James Scott Bell — ROMEO’S WAY (Compendium Press)
Sean Black — THE EDGE OF ALONE (Sean Black)
Sibel Hodge — UNTOUCHABLE (Wonder Women Publishing)
Richard Thomas — BREAKER (Alibi)

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Berlin Project & The Cherry Gimlet

Today on Drinks with Reads, Gregory Benford joins us to talk about his new novel, The Berlin Project, and match it with the perfect drink. Benaford is a long time professor at the University of California at Irvine where teaches physics. In the Berlin Project he creates an alternate history about the creation of the atomic bomb that explores what could have happened if the bomb was ready to be used by June 6, 1944. 

The Berlin Project‘s specific premise is that we don’t make the one major error in scientific judgment we did at the beginning of WW II. In the first years of the Manhattan project, to make atom bombs, the USA chose the wrong, inefficient way to separate out the useful kind of uranium. The race to develop the bomb would then have gone differently, faster—and given us the bomb a year earlier. This yields a very different World War II and the peace that comes from it.
The action follows the scientists who did the actual work, starting in 1938. It is a novel about how scientists think, how they react to the onrushing events of a world headed for the biggest war in history. At the end of The Berlin Project we get to see a different 1963, a better world.
Since this is an historical novel, it shows the reality as much as one can. It abounds in photos, posters and propaganda of the time. Some of these are made public for the first time, as with the ID badges for the Manhattan Project: a smirking Richard Feynman, a glowering General Groves.
Nearly all the characters really existed. Benford knew most of them, worked with several. Every document figuring in the drama is real, from memos to letters. The effect is this is how it really could have been. 

Benford says, “My sense of the story gathering momentum, as the war changes its flavor, drove the writing. The battles change, the possibilities blossom, surprises come from the history itself. This has been perhaps my most enjoyable project, ever—great fun to write.” 

The Drink:

Cherry Gimlet
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin, triple sec, lime juice, Simple Syrup and cherry nectar and shake well. Strain into the light blue tulip glass; if desired, garnish with the cherry. Read as you sip.

In the novel, the baseball player turned spy, Moe Berg, enjoys this drink. He truly did carry out the exploits shown in the novel, and expressly drank gimlets. He even sipped one from this glass, a tulip glass blown in Venice.

Gregory Benford — physicist, educator, author — was born in Mobile, Alabama, on January 30, 1941. In 1963, he received a B.S. from the University of Oklahoma, and then attended the University of California, San Diego, where he received his Ph.D. in 1967. Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, where he has been a faculty member since 1971. Benford is the author of over twenty novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford has also won the John W. Campbell Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1995 Lord Foundation Award for achievement in the sciences, and the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature. Visit his website at http://www.gregorybenford.com/ 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mystery Playground High Tea

It's time for high tea at Mystery Playground so we're making fun sandwiches and reading excerpts from some of our favorite mysteries. 

We made three kinds of sandwiches for our tea party and used a tea pot, cat and a cup cookie cutter to make the fun shapes. You could tell what kind of sandwich it was by the shape. I'll illustrate the technique with the Brie, Ham and Mustard Sandwich. 


  • Cutting Board
  • Maille Mustard
  • Brie
  • Ham
  • Cookie Cutters (Wilton tea themed and a cat cutter were used for this post, but you could use any one you fancy)

Sandwich I:  Brie, Ham and Mustard on Dill Rye

First you make the sandwich. I spread brie on one side of a piece of bread, and some of the mustard on the other slice. The ham went in the middle. Then I cut the whole thing by pushing the cookie cutter into the sandwich with some muscle. 

Then put them on a plate.

Other sandwich variations included:

  • Pesto, Sliced chicken and Harvarti
  • Hard boiled egg and pickles
They were all three yummy. Yes, even the egg and pickle.

If you'd like to know how to brew a proper cup of tea, here is the 10th generation heir of Twinings Tea with all the details: