Saturday, August 31, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine's November Cover

The November issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine has hit the newsstands and it's full of wonderful mystery themed short stories.  This issue features a story by Women of Mystery's own Terrie Farley Moran, called 'Knowledge is Deadly.'

This Labor Day weekend you can subscribe to both Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen at 50% off the regular price. Such a deal for so many wonderful short stories. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Baldacci's The Hit and Lemonade Punch

Today Kim Hammond continues our series on summer reads with drinks with David Baldacci's The Hit and Lemonade Punch. 

Those who thought The Innocent was a great stand alone will be pleased to see Will Robie return in The Hit. Robie is tasked to eliminate one of his own, a rogue assassin named Jessica Reel. He and Reel worked together before and Robie knows she’s as good as he is, but he finds it hard to believe she’s gone to the other side. Why would she? 

He can’t argue that she killed her handler in cold blood and others are being systematically killed under very difficult circumstances that only a pro could pull off. There are two sides to every story, but Robie isn’t being paid to think on his own. When he gets into a shootout and is clearly outgunned, his life is saved by an unknown gunman that he believes is Reel. Why would she save the man she knows is out to kill her? Robie now wants to find out the truth, but is he willing to betray his country to do so?

I have been a fan of Baldacci’s for many years. I love his Camel Club series and also his King and Maxwell series (as well as the new TV show). Even though Robie kills for a living, you find yourself rooting for him. He has his own set of morals and ideas of right and wrong that I can live with. After two Robie books I hope this means we’ll be seeing more of him.

The perfect beverage to drink while reading The Hit is Lemonade Punch. 

Lemonade Punch

½ cup  lemonade flavor drink mix- I love Crystal Light so I use that
1 can  (48 oz.) pineapple juice, chilled
2 cans diet 7-up), chilled
2 cups  cold water
6 lemon slices
6  maraschino cherries- I like to live dangerously, so I use the entire jar

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher and serve right away. Hint: I add the cherry juice in too.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mapping Your Favorite Book Settings

If you've ever wondered where exactly in the world a scene in a book takes place now you can find out. I've run across a few places that can help you pinpoint locations.  

The first is Placing Literature and it's more general. It's a crowd-sourced website and non-profit project with more than 1000 data points already logged. Locations range from the locations in Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club in San Francisco to Stephen King's The Mist in Maine. You can also log in locations once you sign up to participate. 

The second is just for locations in Agatha Christie books. You pick which detective and which story, and the map reveals the locations. Here's the map for Poirot in Cat Among the Pigeons

The San Francisco Chronicle developed a beautiful Literary Map of San Francisco with quotes from books that took place throughout the city.

Finding the setting on a map adds another dimension to the reading and is also great fun.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Keats Shelley Memorial House

The view from the balcony at the museum where Keats spent his last days

During a recent visit to Rome, I went to the Keats Shelley Memorial House a museum dedicated to the romantic poets. The museum is located on the right hand side at the base of the Spanish Steps where John Keats spent his final days before succumbing to tuberculosis. He was only 25 when he passed away in 1821. His carefully reconstructed bedroom is below (although the Pope ordered everything in the original room be destroyed because he mistakenly thought TB was transferred through possessions.)


The museum has wonderful copies of early editions of work by the romantic poets and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, as well as photos and even locks of hair. It's well worth a visit.
A Drought of Sunshine
by John Keats

Hence Burgundy, Claret, and Port, 
Away with old Hock and madeira, 
Too earthly ye are for my sport; 
There's a beverage brighter and clearer. 
Instead of a piriful rummer, 
My wine overbrims a whole summer; 
My bowl is the sky, 
And I drink at my eye, 
Till I feel in the brain 
A Delphian pain - 
Then follow, my Caius! then follow: 
On the green of the hill 
We will drink our fill 
Of golden sunshine, 
Till our brains intertwine 
With the glory and grace of Apollo! 
God of the Meridian, 
And of the East and West, 
To thee my soul is flown, 
And my body is earthward press'd. - 
It is an awful mission, 
A terrible division; 
And leaves a gulph austere 
To be fill'd with worldly fear. 
Aye, when the soul is fled 
To high above our head, 
Affrighted do we gaze 
After its airy maze, 
As doth a mother wild, 
When her young infant child 
Is in an eagle's claws - 
And is not this the cause 
Of madness? - God of Song, 
Thou bearest me along 
Through sights I scarce can bear: 
O let me, let me share 
With the hot lyre and thee, 
The staid Philosophy. 
Temper my lonely hours, 
And let me see thy bowers 

More unalarm'd! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Project Monsoon Bookbag

As kids in the U.S. head back to school it is nice to hear about a project that helps African children in Malawi get much needed school supplies in water proof book bags spearheaded by a family in Eugene, Oregon. 

Here's their description of the project:

Lauren Welch Rodgers serves in the Peace Corps in Malawi. Lauren and her family have launched an educational project in the community she serves: Project Monsoon Bookbag. Project Monsoon Bookbag will distribute bags produced and donated by Seattle Sports and local business Oregon River Sports. The book bags will be outfitted with school and personal hygiene supplies, flip flops and an umbrella or poncho. Boys and girls will be selected based on need and participation in community projects. 

They are hoping to raise $5000. You can read all about it on their website or you can follow Lauren's story and see more pictures on Lauren's blog

Monday, August 26, 2013

Speakeasy Miami: The Broken Shaker

As part of our continuing series on modern speakeasiesKim Hammond & Rebecca Lugones visit the Broken Shaker in Miami. 

Even on vacation I recognize my duty to seek out and visit speakeasies. This time I was visiting my friend Rebecca in Miami Beach and we decided to let the husbands watch the kids and off we went to find The Broken Shaker.

We had GPS, so one would think our destination would be a breeze. Not so much. We drove around the same three blocks for twenty minutes trying to find this place. We pulled over, pulled out the iPad mini and went to the website again. It said the bar was in the lobby of the Indian Creek Hotel. We found the hotel and this is what we saw.

Not a very inviting picture, right? So now we’re thinking it’s closed and we needed to find a Plan B. But wait; there was a review on Yelp posted the evening before. Okay, now it was becoming a moral imperative to find this place. We vowed once more around the block and eureka, we found it.

It’s actually tucked away in the back of a hostel called the Freehand. Who would have thought? Our friendly waitress explained it was a pop-up bar (I’d been to pop-up stores, but never knew there were pop-up bars) the year before and then became permanent. The majority of the bar was outside. Hailing from Ohio I found this unique and enjoyable. However, people could freely smoke outside so we chose to sit in the small bar area that can really only accommodate about ten people.

The bar area bathed in mismatched candlelight and dim chandeliers reflected from the dark and rich colored wood. Although the decor was circa 1930s-1940s the stereo emitted tunes from the 60’s . Everything was quaint and comfortable.

The menu had some light fare and some yummy looking drinks. We were first brought water in small mason jars containing fresh cucumber and it was surprisingly refreshing.


My drink was the Hemingway Daiquiri. It contained maraschino liqueur, shaken with fresh lime, grapefruit juice and Don Q rum. Rebecca went a little more crazy with a B!$CH Don’t Kill My Vibe. It had lemongrass and Thai Basel from the garden, pineapple juice, Aperol mixed with Wodka vodka. The Broken Shaker has won a James Beard Award for their handcrafted cocktails. 

Outside was a garden area with little cozy clusters of seating. Lounge chairs, couches, even hammocks adorned the treed area and towards the back was a ping pong table and the swimming pool for the hostel. Twinkling lights were strung throughout trees which created a fairy-like ambiance.

Location and Hours:
The Broken Shaker is open daily from 6pm - 2am, but opening early on weekends at 2pm. The address is 2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, Florida. You can reach them at 305-531-2727. No password is required. 

What are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were secret bars that sprang up when alcohol was outlawed in the United States in 1919.

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. Today, there are many modern speakeasy bars that retain some of these traditions. They usually feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, in discreet locations that lack signage. Some model the decor after the periods and some require passwords. 

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Silk Premieres Tonight on Masterpiece Mystery

Tonight PBS will start the three part series of a british law drama called Silk, starring Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones. 

Two rival barristers, one an idealistic defense lawyer, Martha Costello, and the other a ruthless prosecutor, Clive Reader, compete for the prestigious appointment as Queen's Counsel in three episodes of high-stakes cases and the rivalry, tension, and intrigue on the front lines of criminal law.

The show is called Silk because barristers who are in the Queen's Counsel wear silk robes and this appointment is called "in the silk."

Here's a scene from tonight's episode of Silk

Silk premieres tonight at 9:00pm on most PBS stations with Part one. Part two will run on September 1 and part three on September 8. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz

Today's guest review of Tell No Lies is by Kerry Hammond.

Tell No LIes by Gregg HurwitzTell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz is a thriller set in San Francisco about a therapist working with ex-cons who becomes involved with a hit list of murder victims (available August 20, 2013).
Gregg Hurwitz’s latest novel is, at first glance, a fast-paced thriller. But it’s also a suspense story that unravels slowly, giving readers just enough to keep them guessing until the final pages. These two seemingly opposite characteristics really work together, and Hurwitz creates a roller coaster ride of sorts, speeding up the action and then pulling back at just the right time.
Daniel Brasher is a therapist who works nights leading a support group for convicted felons trying to get back on track. He finds letters in his work mailbox, addressed to unknown recipients, providing a kind of hit list. The deadline is midnight, and the victims are told to admit what they’ve done or they will die. When Daniel alerts the police, they are too late to save the first victim. When the second is identified, Daniel is there when the murder takes place, but helpless to stop it.  What follows is a race to find out why the killer is targeting these people, who the next victim will be, and why Daniel is caught up in the middle.
The characters are well written and extremely realistic. Daniel comes from a rich family but chooses to follow his heart rather than continue in the family business.  His wife, Cristina, is of Mexican descent and has more causes than Daniel. She works as a community organizer trying to help tenants who are being evicted from their homes. Theresa Dooley is a female, African-American homicide detective, who gains respect from other detectives for her police skills and doesn’t let her minority status affect her work.
And then there’s Evelyn Brasher, Daniel’s mother. I have to admit that Eveyln was one of my favorite characters. I say that I am admitting it because she is a truly unlikeable person.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Forensic Mystery and A Mud Cooler

Today's summer reads and matching drink guest post is from cozy writer, Amanda Flower. Cozy mysteries are murder novels written in the style of Agatha Christie. In these stories, violence and sex are alluded to, but not expressly described on the page. Amanda suggests a forensic mystery with her beverage below. Forensic mysteries place an emphasis on the science of detection. 

I love mysteries. They are my favorite books to read and favorite to write. As a cozy mystery author, cozies will always be my first love, but it can be fun to read across the genre and find up and coming authors outside of the cozy world. 

One new author I discovered this summer is Jen J. Danna. Danna is real-life scientist by day and forensic thriller author by night. Her debut novel written with Ann Vanderlaan, Dead Without a Stone to Tell It, was released in May 2013. It got an excellent review from Kirkus, which is no small feat for any author. After reading the novel I know why. The science is on point, the two lead characters Trooper Leigh Abbott and Scientist Matt Lowell are compelling, and the action is intense. I highly recommend this novel.

Since the lone bone found at the start on the novel was discovered on the muddy banks of the Essex River in Massachusetts, I found a Mud Cooler to be the perfect companion for this thriller. Extra bonus it is easy to make.

Recipe for Mud Cooler for one

1 cup Chocolate milk
1 cup Root Beer
1 scoop Chocolate ice cream

Learn more about Jen J. Danna on her website or follow her on Twitter at 

Amanda Flower (also writing as Isabella Alan) has three novels releasing in September 2013. To celebrate, she is giving away an authentic Amish Quilt hand-stitched by Amish in Holmes County, Ohio. Click here to enter.

Amanda has social media pages filled with progress on her work, info about the Amish,etc. You can find her on Facebook Twitter Goodreads PinterestHer alter ego, Isabella can be found on Facebook.

Here are all three covers for her novels coming out next month.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The BlackList

There are 57 new TV shows debuting this fall. Many of these have some mystery or thriller element, but there are precious few shows I am excited about. The Blacklist, starring James Spader, is at the top of my list. The premise is this: The most wanted criminal in the country turns himself in and claims he wants to help the government find the most dangerous criminal in the world. The criminals on The Blacklist. This is further complicated when he asks for a specific handler, a female profiler, who is brand new on the job. She doesn't think there's a connection between the two of them.

Here's the trailer: 

I love the concept. I love James Spader (who didn't love Boston Legal, really?)

In the video below taken at Comic Con, the creator says this show was inspired by what might have happened if Whitey Bulger started talking and turning in all of the criminals he knew and possibly admired. Spader was attracted to the role because of the staying power and complexity of the character that he plays. He also liked the "enigmatic quality" of the story. (The good stuff in this video doesn't kick in until after the first minute.)

The BlackList premieres on Monday, September 23rd at 10pm.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ode to Barbara Mertz

Today, Kerry Hammond offers a tribute to Barbara Mertz (AKA Elizabeth Peters).

Earlier this month the New York Times announced the death of Egyptologist and mystery author Barbara Mertz, known to many as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.  In her 85 years of life, Dr. Mertz finished a bachelors degree at the University of Chicago, then went on to get a master’s degree, and then a PhD in Egyptology.  She wrote 3 non-fiction books relating to archeology; 38 books under the name Elizabeth Peters, mostly mysteries; and 30 under the name Barbara Michaels, mostly gothic or supernatural thrillers.

I wanted to pay homage to Dr. Mertz by talking about two feisty females she created: Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss.  Both characters had a series devoted to them and were written under the nom de plume Elizabeth Peters, a derivation using the first names of her children.  

The first Amelia Peabody book was written in 1975, but is set in the late 1800s.  Amelia is an extremely fun  character who struggles with the limitations placed on women of her time.  She meets her husband, Emerson, at an archeological dig, and they go on to excavate all over Egypt and the Middle East.  Mertz wrote 19 books in the series, all with wonderful titles like He Shall Thunder the Sky and The Last Camel Died at Noon.  Amelia and Emerson meet, get married, and have a son that they name Ramses.  As time passes their adventures just get more and more interesting.  Ramses grows up and eventually has a family of his own throughout the series, which ends with A River in the Sky, set in the early 1900s.

The audio version of these books are read by Barbara Rosenblat, who is one of the best female audio voices around. She performs these books as an actress performs on a stage.  She is able to bring the characters to life and create unique accents and voices for each and every one.  I can only hope that Dr. Mertz was as pleased with her performances as I have been.  

The Vicky Bliss series is a bit smaller, containing only 6 books, and is also written under the name Elizabeth Peters.  Vicky is a professor of art history and these books contain international intrigue, a quirky German boss, and a love interest who just happens to be an art thief.  If you read closely, you will even find a connection to the characters in the Amelia Peabody series in Night Train to Memphis and The Laughter of Dead Kings.

Dr. Mertz will be missed by millions of fans worldwide, and I know that generations to come will enjoy her books as much as I have. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Elmore Leonard

It's been all over the news. Mystery Writer's of America Grand Master Elmore Leonard passed away this morning. I loved his books...Get Shorty and Out of Sight are too of my favorites. But lately I've been obsessing over the TV show, Justified. Leonard created those characters I love so much...Raylan Givens, Boyd & Ava Crowder. Don't you just love those names. Justified is based on a short story Leonard wrote called "Fire in the Hole". 

Leonard was famous for his no-nonsense style of writing, complex characters and his great dialogue.  He felt the same way about exclamation point usage as I do.

Justified fans who want more of Raylan Givens may want to check out two of Elmore Leonard's novels from the 1980s Pronto and Riding the Rap. His more recent book, Raylan, recaps a recent season of Justified and may feel familiar to current viewers. 

Thank you for the stories Elmore. Rest in peace. 

DIY Book Earrings

Step  One - Two
We love books, so why not make some book earrings? We chose to cover the little books with vintage mystery paperback covers for a little mysterious 

They are pretty easy to do and the directions are below. 

What you need:

1) Miniature books (I got these from Hobby Lobby online)
2) Glue
3) Gold marker
4) Print outs of pulp covers (you can use the Mystery Playground Pinterest board for mystery covers, just shrink them to 25% when you print them in color. 
5) Earring hooks (double the amount of books you have) You need two hooks for each book. One for the inside and one for the earring.
6) Wire cutters
7) Scissors to cut out the book covers from the Pinterest page

Step One:
Print your color covers from Pinterest and then cut them out. I used my pulp fiction cover Pinterest board and printed them out at 25%. Some of the covers weren't the right size, so we just used the ones that were. 

Step Two:
Glue the book covers onto the little books.

Step Three:
Take the gold marker and cover the page ends of the books so it looks like an old book with gold leaf. 

Step Four:
Snip the earring hook with wire cutters and glue it into the book.

Step Five:
Assemble the earrings. Add beads if you like.

Here is the final product:

If you would rather not make your earrings, you can comment below to win a free pair (US only). The giveaway ends August 20th.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Major Crimes Summer Finale Chat with James Duff, Jonathan Del Arco and Phillip Keene

For the Major Crimes summer finale, show-creator James Duff held a Facebook chat and the recap is below. This week he was joined by Jonathan Del Arco who plays Dr. Morales and Phillip Keene who plays Buzz. Both actors are fan favorites. Jonathan Del Arco may be remembered by Star Trek fans as the Borg formerly known as Third of Five, who became "Hugh" in The Next Generation. 

Major Crimes will return November 25th to start a run of eight new shows. 

What are the top three things I learned:

1) Jonathan Del Arco (Dr. Morales) thinks he looks like Mickey Mouse in this episode...

2) The biggest challenge in the series is getting the details - medical, legal and technical stuff right.

3) Major Crimes has been renewed for a third season (Ok, maybe we didn't learn that here, we heard that last Friday). 

The chat recap is below. Unlike last week, I was only able to match one question and answer, so the majority below are just the answers. There were more than 100 questions before answers started posting. James Duff does a good job of including the question in his answers so it's understandable... 

Tyler H. Love the show, it's hilarious too! Do you guys ever have to stop to laugh?

James Duff Both Phillip and Jonathan are both stopping and laughing a lot. Especially when the dead bodies talk or start snoring in the morgue

James Duff @Audrey, we make up the gross storylines by asking ourselves what horrifies us and then making it worse.

James Duff Also, reality is worse than anything we do on television.

James Duff @Jonathan del Arco thinks he looks like Micky Mouse in this ep

James Duff @Nettie, the biggest challenge about filming this series is getting all the legal, medical and technical stuff right

James Duff @Jennifer B., and for everyone else asking questions about whether or not Rusty will get to stay with Sharon, I can't say...

James Duff @Brenda C., we don't see Rusty go out and od things like a normal teenager because he's a material witness in a murder trial, and he's had threats against him. He can't go anywhere without a police escort.

James Duff Not all eps will be dark.

James Duff @Kelly. this is a darker ep than we usually do. But we have to keep changing the tone. One of the mysteries we like to tell each week is HOW the story unreels.

James Duff @Shelby, some of the things to look forward to this winter according to Phillip and Jonathan are dead bodies, murder, scary Russian kids, murder in an RV and a great big New Year's celebration.

James Duff One of my favorite lines in the winter series is when Dr. Morales looks out of the morgue at Sharon, Sykes and Emma and asks, "What is this? Charlie's Angels?"

James Duff @Gracie, Phillp says his favorite part of being involved with Rusty, besides having more lines, is getting to show the more sensitives side of Buzz. Plus he loves to work with Graham.

James Duff @Gracie, Jonathan says he's willing to go deeper into the Doctor's personal life. But we will be seeing him in a different state come episode two of our winter series.

James Duff @Cathy, it is kind of creepy seeing the killer as he goes along, but now and then we have to break point of view to show this side of things.

James Duff @Vanessa, the bodies do effect Phillip and Jonathan both. Phillip always leaves thinking about how horrible murder is and Jonathan has nightmares. Also, Phillip sometimes looks around and thinks, "Hey, that's a good place to hide a body."

James Duff @ROJELIA, as to whether Rusty is gay or confused, I will only say he is seventeen. And that seventeen-year-old boys are usually still sorting out who they are.

James Duff @Fred, the piano music is Fur Elise, by Beethoven.

James Duff The actor playing the villain is pretty new to television but his name is Chris Wood. Get used to seeing his face. He's going to be around a while.

James Duff @Carrie, we picked Akron, Ohio for the hometown of the killer because we couldn't clear the name in Dayton.

James Duff @CJ, Phillip believes he thinks much more like a cop than he did before he started doing the show and Jonathan thinks he sometimes can see the killer's pov better than he used to. Doesn't mean he agrees with it!

James Duff @Kelly T, there were a lot of reasons why Rusty broke up with Kris, and I would hate to point to any one as the answer because I don't want to shorten his story either way.

If you want more, see what James Duff had to say in this post for TV Guide