Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Club: Beautiful Ruins

This month our book club read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

All the members that attended this meeting liked the book, and that hasn't happened since I joined the club. I loved the different locations in the book and the characters. The story moves back and forth between Hollywood (and other US cities) and a tiny village in Italy's Cinque Terre.

Everyone in the club agreed it's a perfect read for summer. 

Here's the description of the book:

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,

Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the star struck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. 

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Major Crimes Facebook Chat with James Duff and Tony Denison

This week’s Major Crime Facebook chat with creator/writer James Duff featuring Tony Denison. Tony plays one of my favorite Major Crimes/Closer characters, Andy Flynn. (You can read more about Tony and his on-screen off-screen pal, G.W. Bailey riding in the Bacchus parade at Mardi Gras here.) These are all James Duff's answers to questions asked by Facebook fans and because of the volume of comments it's pretty hard to match the questions to the answers. Luckily for us, James puts enough of the question in the answer, so you get the gist.
Of course, our real question is, "Will the Andy Flynn character be paired romantically with the character of Sharon Raydor?"

James Duff - Hey everyone. Here with the one and only Tony Denison! And ready to answer your questions. Hope you're watching it on television with us.

James Duff - @Courtney Gibson, Tony says the dynamic between him and Provenza is very much like what you see between action and cut in the script, with the difference being that he is slightly more funny in real life!

James Duff - Actually, I think Tony dresses better on the show than anyone else, and that Phillip (Buzz) dresses better than anyone else in real life!
James Duff - @Mara R., yes we have some things up our sleeve for Flynn. You're about to hear about one of them tonight!

James Duff - @Darrell M.,we're ready to do a season three. Right after we finish season two!
James Duff - A little sad that we only have eleven episodes this summer, but happy to be in your homes over the holidays, like we use to be.
James Duff - Melissa S@ Sharon not being promoted will again rear its head when the LAPD drops its promotion freeze. She may remind us she is waiting...

James Duff - @Scott K., we will have episodes this winter. Eight, which is three more than we usually do!

James Duff - @Roger B., next week I kind of lived the dream of having special actors. Never did I dream Tim Conway and Marion Ross and Ron Glass and Paul Dooley and Doris Roberts and Paul McCrane, all in one episode!

James Duff - Tony does get picked on. Absolutely. But it's because he loves the attention!
James Duff - Hi, Elizabeth E! We have hopes of bringing in Sharon's children this year, but no promises! Still lots of stories to break.
James Duff - Tony has done hardly anything but laugh tonight! He would fall in love with everyone who read with him.
James Duff - If you're watching, this is what happens when you misbehave in the squad room. You have to do a notification to a kid's parents. If nothing else will teach you to behave...

James Duff - @Stacey M., Tony says he's Sicilian, and that sort of says it all. I hate to agree, but I think I have to.

James Duff - I have been close friends with Tony for over twenty years, and I can tell you, he has a great sense of humor. And it is because people are always making jokes about him.

James Duff - @Julia S, Tony says the best sense of humor on set award would probably go to G.W., but that he deserves it because everyone picks on him!

James Duff - @Emanuel T., thanks so much for complimenting our episodes. I think working hard on them improves the chances they will be good. And we work REALLY REALLY hard. Also, we are extremely collaborative with each other. And Tony points out the actors are pretty good. And he's right!
James Duff - @Misty, Portions of Tony are very much like Flynn. Tony says it's hard to tell where he ends and FLynn begins
James Duff - But usually I like to cast actors. Just actors. Just very, very good actors. Hollywood is chock-a-block full of brilliant actors you've never heard of. Finding them and putting them on screen is a passion.

James Duff - @Linda Y. The actors don't get nervous when we use political events in a story line because we don't take political stands.

James Duff - It's not very often we get to play and write the same characters for such a long time. And Tony always finds amazing things. And it's worth every moment I've spent having to listen about Crime Story.

James Duff - @Gracie A, Tony says his work on The Closer and Major Crimes has taught him how enjoyable it is to spend so much time in one character, and continually explore where he and Flynn converge.

James Duff - @Rita W., Andy knew Sharon from when he was in Robbery/Homicide and her time in Internal Affairs (Professional Standards). Andy's file is very thick. Like Tony's head.
James Duff - @Teresa S., Tony should have a romantic interest. But it should take him by surprise. And while he would probably like nothing better than to audition all the people who want to play opposite him, I will not allow it!

James Duff - I'm about to be locked out for commenting too much, so Tony and I say thank you for jumping in with us and I'll be back next week for our special ep. Look! It's Lori Laughlin, one of my favorite actors on earth!

That's it for this week. You can read other Major Crimes Facebook chat recaps here.

Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard is probably best know for starting an artist's colony that was influential in the Arts & Crafts movement. But his scrap book which was published in 1923 (four years after he died during the sinking of the cruise ship Lusitania by a German U-boat) was a major best seller. Here's the description on the first page:

 "Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book Containing the Inspired and Inspiring Selections, Gathered During a Life Time of Discriminating Ready For His Own Use." 

The book is full of quotes, wits and wisdom from the man who coined the phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," among other things. It's a great resource for writing of any kind and fun to go through. 

The full text of the book is online, but the physical books are so much more fun. 

A little work, a little play
To Keep us going - and so, good day!
A little warmth, a little light
Of love's bestowing - and so good night!
A little fun to match the sorrow
Of each day's growing - and so good morrow!
A little trust that when we die
We reap our sowing! and so - goodbye!
"A Little Work", by George du Maurier

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Crime Fighter Fashion Awards

Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson with her huge purse in TNT’s The Closer

Crime fighters range from the absolutely well-dressed to those who can’t even manage to get the crumbs off their shirts. can you imagine Magnum without his hawaiian shirts or Columbo without his trench coat? Clothes make the detective, or help turn an ordinary character into an icon.  Below you’ll find the crime fighter fashion awards, the good, the bad, and the super sloppy.

The Watchman by Robert Crais featuring Joe Pike
Don’t Mess with Me Award
Winner: Joe Pike from the books of Robert Crais.

Honorable Mention: Ranger from the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich.

Joe Pike always wears his sunglasses— always—so you can never see his eyes, but the real fashion choice that delineates his character is the famous red arrow tattoos on his arms. His natural scowl and man-of-few-words-style doesn’t hurt either.

Ranger might have made it to number one, but since we always see him through Stephanie’s eyes, his description is always a bit biased. According to Stephanie, “Ranger only wears black, smells warm and sexy and is one hundred percent pure perfectly toned muscle. He gets his dark complexion and liquid brown eyes from Cuban ancestors.”

Most Feminine Wardrobe
Winner: Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, The Closer.
Instead of hiding her femininity to succeed in the male dominated world of law enforcement, southern belle Brenda Leigh Johnson wields it like a weapon. Pastel colors, flouncy flowery skirts, and twin sets make for a wardrobe that helps her lull suspects into a false sense of security while she wrings confessions out of them. And of course there is the fabulous big black bag that she carries everywhere fit to hold Twinkies and hand guns alike.

Nancy Drew and The Secret of the Old ClockHonorable Mention: Nancy Drew from the books by Carolyn Keene.
Nancy Drew always looks great in her carefully selected smart skirts and neatly pressed shirts, as she zips about River Heights in her blue convertible. From parties to kidnappings, her outfit is always appropriate for the occasion.

This Body of Death by Elizabeth George featuring Sgt. Barbara HaversMost Popular Fashion Victim
Winner: Barbara Havers from the Inspector Lynley novels by Elizabeth George.
After showing up to work in an outfit consisting of red high-top trainers with purple socks peeking out, olive corduroy trousers, and a lint-covered brown pullover, Havers’s new boss gave her a clear directive to buy new things and clean up her look. In This Body of Death, it led Barbara to turn to her little nine year-old neighbor, Hadiyyah, for fashion and shopping advice.  Barbara’s fashion choices are even more marked when compared to the easy elegance of her partner for most of the series, Inspector Lynley, the 8th Earl of Asherton. This award only applies to the print version of Barbara. Her TV version isn’t quite as sloppy or poorly dressed.
Sasha Alexander as Dr. Maura Isles of Rizzoli and IslesBest Designer Wardrobe
Winner: Dr. Maura Isles, Rizzoli and Isles, based upon the novels by Tess Gerritsen.
Despite being known as “Queen of the Dead” around the force, Dr. Maura Isles always looks like she is headed for a photo shoot instead of a crime scene. She often wears designers like Balenciaga, while her partner Jane Rizzoli wears the same suit for days in a row, and Maura’s doctor handbag is absolutely fabulous.

Major Crimes Squad of The CloserBest Dressed Police Department
Winner: Major Crimes Unit, LAPD, The Closer.
There aren’t any real slobs in this department, and Gabriel, Flynn, and Provenza spend more time talking about their wardrobe than most women I know. Where do they get the money for all of these suits? Is there a special budget line item for clothing for LAPD?
Best Hat
Winner: Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock.
Yes, the deerstalker is iconic, but I never thought they would trot it out in the series set in the current day. Surprisingly, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t look silly in this deerstalker as he dons it to hide from the press. It just looks like it belongs right there on top of his head.

 The High-Heel Detective Club
There is a large contingent of female crime fighters who love their high heels. We know they can’t possibly run in them, but somehow they do. It must be part of the magic of TV. I couldn’t think of one book in which a female detective wears heels to work.
Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett from Castle
Here are the Top Five:
Detective Kate Beckett, Castle
Deputy Chief, Brenda Leigh Johnson, The Closer
Dr. Maura Isles, Rizzoli and Isles
Captain Sharon Raydor, Major Crimes
Dr. Megan Hunt, Body of Proof

This article originally appeared on Criminal Element

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Han Solo, P.I.

I never put the characters of Han Solo and Magnum, P.I. together before I saw the video below of Han Solo mapped to the opening of the old TV 80s show Magnum, P.I. but it is super fun to watch. 

Here's the original Magnum opening. 

If you aren't familiar with the show, you can find everything you ever wanted to know here

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Criminal: Wine

We ran into this lovely bottle of wine, loved the label and had to share. The group wasn't ready for wine called, "The Criminal" quite yet, so it's waiting for another day. 

In the meantime check out Mystery Playground's summer series pairing great reads and drinks

Friday, July 26, 2013

Key Lime Pie Martini with a Side of Key West Murder

Our drinks and reads post comes to us today from mystery-themed jewelry designer and food blogger, Pattie Tierney. You can see more of her absolutely fun designs in her Etsy store. 

AN APPETITE FOR MURDER, the first in this new series by Lucy Burdette, a.k.a. Robert Isleib, is a tasty addition to the world of culinary cozies.  This book, however, does it one better, by placing the action in colorful and quirky Key West, Florida. Heroine Hayley Snow flees New Jersey and a hound dog of a boyfriend for warmer climes and a job as a food critic for Key Zest magazine. To her dismay she soon learns that her new boss is the woman who stole her boyfriend. Well, there's good news and bad.  The boyfriend stealer gets her comeuppance in the form of murder; the bad news is that Hayley is a suspect.

The descriptions of Key West will have you booking a flight, the food descriptions will leave you licking your chops, not just for the delicious dishes described, but for more of Hayley Snow. A fun book to read on the beach, or to warm your cockles in the dead of winter.  Enjoy it with a Key Lime Pie Martini. 

Key Lime Pie Martini

1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces vanilla vodka 
2-3 tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate, undiluted
1/2 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Graham cracker crumbs

Rim glass with lime juice and dip into graham cracker crumbs. Freeze. Place all ingredients (except crumbs) into a blender with 1-2 ice cubes. (One of those small, bullet-type blenders works great.). Whir until well blended and pour into glass. Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reader Favorites

It's Christmas in July...

One of my favorite ways to get book recommendations is to ask a friend, so last week on the Mystery Playground Facebook page, we did exactly that. Here are the answers to the question, "What is your favorite book so far this summer?"

 "I just love the Agatha Raisin series, by M.C. Beaton. My favorite one is Kissing Christmas Goodbye. But all of them are my favorite." 
- Cathi

"I've had a great reading summer but so far my favorite is Midnight by Kevin Egan. So New York! It was like I knew every person in the book." 
 - Terrie

"Woof at the Door by Laura Morrigan. Loved the protagonist, Grace but especially enjoyed Moss, her wolf hybrid."
- Virginia

"Re-reading a bunch of Richard Matheson's stories in his anthology, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." (Supposedly selected by the author!) 
- Jeff

"A Grand Day to Get Lost by Kris Radish. Truly enjoyed and became more informed on Florida."  
- Bette Jack

"Austenland by Shannon Hale is the best adult book. Getting ready for the movie in August." - Jeanenne

Here's the trailer for Austenland starring Keri Russell who also plays KGB sleeper agent/mom Elizabeth on The Americans (love that show).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Have a More Successful Personality

Joe Bonomo came from the same family that made the taffy.

Last year I did a post on one of my favorite little grocery store book series from the 1950s, Joe Bonomo's Handy Pocket Manuals, featuring How to Be A More Popular Hostess. But Joe Bonomo didn't stop his tiny self-help manuals there, so why should you? 

Otherwise how would you know Bonomo's Seven Success Secrets: Sincerity, Enthusiasm, Courtesy, Friendliness, Initiative, Memory and Persistence as outlined in his fan favorite, How To Develop A More Successful Personality?

Good thing scanning skills aren't on the success list.
You may know that Joe Bonomo was a famous body builder of the time and also acted as a stunt double in some Hollywood movies. He also had the recipe for a "Winning & Magnetic You."  These little guides, essentially magazine articles that promise the answers to all of your problems in easy steps are pretty funny to read now. 

All a 50s housewife had to do was buy the pocket manual and follow the easy steps to popularity.  Don't forget to look up!

Here he provides handy secrets on how to tune into power, which as every knows you can get at the grocery store for 25c:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fall TV Previews: Dracula

This fall NBC is bringing Dracula to the small screen in the form of a series starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers who played Henry VIII in Showtime's The Tudors. I think it's brilliant casting and I can't wait for this show. The premise sounds fabulous - Dracula is an American entrepreneur who's interested bringing electricity to the masses. What could be a better business for someone who can't stand sunlight. 

Check out the trailer below.

Here's NBC's description of the show:

Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors") stars in this provocative new drama as one of the world's most iconic characters.

It's the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He's especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night - useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan... until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.

From the producers of the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning hit "Downton Abbey" comes "Dracula," a twisted, sophisticated and sexy take on Bram Stoker's classic novel, proving that some stories never die. One-hour drama.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Major Crimes Facebook Chat with Michael Paul Chan and James Duff

Creator and writer of The Closer and Major Crimes, James Duff, returned to Facebook tonight with Michael Paul Chan (Lt. Tao from both shows) for a chat about Major Crimes and Chan's character. These chats are interesting because fans can ask quick questions and get answers. It's not a perfect format because things move fast and it's easy to miss both questions and answers, but the accessibility is great.  

This week's highlights were:

1) Duff told us that there is a real threat behind Rusty's letters and he'll have to deal with it by season end.

2) Michael Paul Chan is not a nerd like Lt. Tao.

3) If anyone gets promoted on Major Crimes, they would be transferred out of the division, so Duff won't promote anyone.

4) Next week's episode is about how "race lines blur our vision." It references the Trayvon Martin but isn't about him. Duff says, "I would not dishonor Trayvon's life by using him as a story mechanism."

Here are many of James Duff's answers ( I may have missed some). The abbreviation "MPC" = Michael Paul Chan, the character that plays Lt. Tao. 

James Duff @Deborah L. asks if anyone in his life has inspired MPC in his playing of Tao. He says every smart man or woman who is passionate about learning has inspired his character. So that leaves out me...

James Duff I like to learn. Maybe not so passionate about it!

James Duff @Todd H., I don't intend to ever walk on the set of the show. I have had plenty of opportunities, but those roles are mostly handled by our background artists, and I would hate to mess with someone else's job just for a flash of camera time!

James Duff @Danny K. Only Tony Denison is taken by surprise at the first read thru because everyone else reads the scripts beforehand. But sometimes MPC says he's surprised - almost always - by where the show goes. I don't believe him entirely, but I want to believe him because otherwise, I'm left thinking he only reads his own lines!

James Duff @Jaime L., MPC is nowhere near as nerdy as his character. They just sound alike, Michael says! Actually, MPC is very funny, smart and adult, plus he surfs when the weather warrants it (sometimes with Phillip Keene, who plays Buzz).

James Duff @Jaime D, yes we're going to take a stab at spreading out the diversity of the show to include everyone. Because this is Los Angeles! Los Angeles treats the diversity of our nation as a strength, and the LAPD represents that strength. It's a positive example of what America can be in the future. And Michael Paul says he would also like to see all possibilities explored.

James Duff @Denise W., I think Lt. Tao should be promoted, too. He things he should be called General Tao, which is an odd name for someone who surfs for fun. But if he got promoted, according to LAPD standards and procedures, he would have to leave Major Crimes. And that ain't happening.

James Duff @Pebby MPC loves you for loving him. And he wants your friends and family to love him, too! Thanks for watching!

James Duff Also MPC, Raymond Cruz and Phillip play golf together, including charity tournaments.

James Duff Michael Paul Chan says that in Lt. Tao's opinion he finds Provenza rougher to work with than Sharon because he's so dismissive of Tao's insights! Provenza always tells him to cut to the chase, and Tao always likes to explain things.

James Duff MPC says Brenda brought out the boyish side of Tao, and Raydor brings out his desire to do right.

James Duff @Todd H., I don't intend to ever walk on the set of the show. I have had plenty of opportunities, but those roles are mostly handled by our background artists, and I would hate to mess with someone else's job just for a flash of camera time!

James Duff @Danny K. Only Tony Denison is taken by surprise at the first read thru because everyone else reads the scripts beforehand. But sometimes MPC says he's surprised - almost always - by where the show goes. I don't believe him entirely, but I want to believe him because otherwise, I'm left thinking he only reads his own lines!

James Duff G.W. is like that! He will only flip through the script to find his part, and if the killer doesn't show up on those pages....too bad!

James Duff @Phil C. Re: doing a show about Trayvon Martin. We wrote and filmed a show in which Trayvon's name appears and it airs next week. A white home owner shoots a Latino kid who was breaking and entering. But, of course, it's more than that. The show is not about Trayvon, really, just about how race issues sometimes blur our vision. I would not dishonor Trayvon's life by using him as a story mechanism.

James Duff @January, MPC stays on top of his game by giving up things as he gets older. This year it was sugar. Next year he's thinking about giving up bread. He also spends a lot of time surfing and on motorcycles, because they get him out of his comfort zone.

James Duff @Renee H. In real life, I think of MPC as one of the serious adults in my life. He knows how to have fun, and he knows how to work, and he's always ready to do both.

James Duff Actually, MPC says the actors like to bounce off each other, so on a daily basis, he is inspired by GW, Tony, Kearran, Mary, Phillip and Ray!

James Duff @Leaslie H., I assume you're asking about Rusty's letters. I won't tell you when they'll be discovered, but the letters are serious. And in the finale of our summer season, Rusty will have to start dealing with them. Or, in other words, the threats are real.

James Duff @Katrina J., we will learn more about Buzz in the winter, but he has lots of scenes with MPC and they really like working together. Phillip and MPC make a great team.

What Would You Do if Darth Vader Got on Your Subway Car?

Anything can happen in New York City and Improv Everywhere, a NYC-based self-proclaimed, “prank collective” helps make that a reality. 

Their motto is, “We Cause Scenes.” 

They have completed more than 100 missions involving tens of thousands of undercover agents.  So what would you do if Darth Vader entered your subway car, or ghosts invaded the New York Public Library? Check out the videos below to see what happened…

This post originally appeared on Criminal Element

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Big Cats: Cat Nip and Laser Pointers

Do leopards, lions and tigers like the same things that our little domestic cats like? Big Cat Rescue attempts to answer these questions.  The video above answers the question: Do big cats like cat nip and the video below covers laser pointers. 

So what is Big Cat Rescue and what do they do? They save big cats, of course, and offer them a refuge. You can learn more about them here

Here's a lion who is partial to vanilla ice cream:

E-mail subscribers need to go to the Mystery Playground site to see the videos. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Girl Walks into a Bar at Comic Con

A girl walks into a bar at and ... has her photo taken with the cast of Revolution. This is lucky duck Jo Ann and she is in San Diego for Comic Con

From left to right in the photo above, we have JD Pardo/Jason Neville, Tracy Spiridakos/Charlie (looking a little possessed), the fabulous Jo Ann, Billy Burke/Miles Mathison (also Phillip Stroh on The Closer and Major Crimes) and Davis Lyons/Sebastian "Bass" Munroe.

Revolution is great fun. Can't wait until it returns in the fall. 

Beware of the Walking Dead...
They are having fun. 
Kristine, Martin Christopher Lawrence from the Buy More on CHUCK and Jo Ann. 

Chuck is awesome if you haven't seen it, check it out. 

Thank you Jo Ann for super photos from Comic Con. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Drinks with Reads: Dan Brown and the Aperol Spritz

Today's guest post is from Ingrid Willis. In her spare time Ingrid is planning the world's largest mystery convention in 2014...Bouchercon.  Guests of Honor for Bouchercon 2014 include Jeffrey Deaver and J.A. Jance. The convention will take place in Long Beach, CA and there are many surprises in store. 

I think a good summer book should be easy to read, be slightly adventurous, escapist, and if it takes place in an exotic location or somewhere I’ve never been, even better.  Like many people in Southern California, I work in the entertainment business.  For me, this means I move between different facilities daily, which requires I spend quite a lot of time in my car.  To make the most of it, I listen to audio books.  So, my summer read is actually a novel on CD – unabridged – naturally.

Before I tell you about my choice I need to first confess.  One of my guilty pleasers – which if asked I will totally deny – is listening to Dan Brown books.  Now, to be honest, I have a hard time actually reading his novels, but listening to them, well, that’s another story entirely…

Inferno, the audio book

Inferno is the fourth book in Dan Brown’s series featuring Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon.  As usual, Langdon finds himself in the most inconceivable situation with a smart, beautiful, and very clever woman.  Together they race to find – this time – a weapon of mass destruction created by a mad scientist within a 24-hour time limit, of course.

The big twist in this DB installment? Langdon has amnesia.

The novel opens with Langdon awakening in a hospital bed in what he soon discovers is not New England but Florence, Italy.  The last thing he can recall is walking across the Harvard campus on the way to deliver a lecture.  Leaving the hospital hotly pursued by an assassin hired by a mysterious international organization, he tries to figure out what’s happened to him, and believe me, it’s quite a bit.

We begin to understand what’s going on through each character’s flashbacks, but like Langdon, we never have quite enough information to totally piece everything together.  Langdon once again needs to use his vast knowledge to decipher symbols and interpret clues from object of art, as well as from the literature of Dante’s famous poem, leading him, with his gorgeous side-kick in tow, to travel through hidden passageways and secret spaces of museums, cathedrals, and monuments in Florence, Venice, and Istanbul.

What is the perfect drink to go along with an action-packed Italian adventure?  An Aperol Spritz, of course, a very popular drink in Italy. Aperol is an orange-flavored liqueur and mixed with Prosecco and soda, it makes for a light and refreshing drink, perfect for a summer evening or late afternoon.

3 parts Prosecco (I used California sparkling wine)
3 parts Aperol
1 splash of soda or seltzer (for a sweeter drink you can substitute seltzer with lemon-lime soda)
Serve over ice with a slice of orange.

Picturesque locations, exotic situations, multiple chase scene (including one on motorcycle), narrow escapes through secret passageways, and a double twist-ending you’ll never see coming.  Inferno is definitely the satisfying escapist read that summers were made for.  But don’t tell anyone I said so.