Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mysterious Puzzles

Kerry Hammond is here today to tell is about solving mysterious puzzles...

I was never a huge fan of puzzles in general. To me, putting a bunch of pieces together while staring at the image on the box wasn’t a lot of fun. Once you were finished, you just tore the pieces apart again. It also seemed like cheating, having the image right there on the box. It made it so that there weren’t even any surprises. Then one day I discovered mystery puzzles and I am now an addict.

Mystery puzzles are different from regular puzzles in two ways: (1) You don’t have a picture of the puzzle on the box, and (2) when you’re done you use the completed puzzle to solve a mystery, finding clues in the image. They’re so much fun and I find that people who like puzzles enjoy them, and people like me, who were never puzzle people, enjoy them too. I have a friend who is also addicted and we swap with each other whenever we find a new one.

The main idea is that the picture that you see when you complete the puzzle is the crime scene and contains clues. This is the main reason why the image you’re putting together isn’t on the front of the box like a regular puzzle. If it was, you wouldn’t need to do the puzzle. Inside each box is a booklet that contains a story, which is sometimes it’s even written by a famous writer. I tend to read the story once before putting the puzzle together (so the mystery is in the back of my mind while I piece things together – pun intended). Then, when I am finished with the puzzle, I read it again and then study the finished crime scene and try to solve the mystery. The booklet will usually require you to read the final page, the solution, in a mirror. It’s written backwards so that you don’t accidentally see it and spoil the fun.

The puzzles I’ve found have been anywhere from 500 to 1000 pieces. I have even done a 3D one that was shaped like a rectangle office building. I have completed several that consisted of two puzzles in one 
box. You build two different scenes: a before and after image of the crime scene. These can be harder because you don’t know which scene each piece belongs to until you start to build them and see the patterns. The clues tend to be what is changed, missing or added to the “after” scene. 

There are many different themes you can find: Murder of Course (golf course), A Recipe for Murder (cooking), Grounds For Murder (coffee), Foul Play & Cabernet (wine), you get the idea. You can even get Sherlock Holmes, Alfred Hitchcock, and I’ve completed a Da Vinci Code one. There are a few different companies that make these puzzles, one of my favorites is called bePuzzled, and you can buy them on Amazon, Etsy, and I even find them in my local thrift shop where people donate them after they’re finished. 

These are great gift ideas for mystery lovers. Getting a book is wonderful, but to get a mystery requiring you to solve a puzzle to get to the clues, well that’s just a new and unique challenge.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I'm Excited About Bouchercon

Kim Hammond is here to talk about why she's excited about attending Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery 
convention. Kim and I love Bouchercon so much that she is on the national board and I am on the committee for this years' con. So you can bet this won't be the last you hear about the conference in the coming months. 

I am a mystery/thriller genre fan. Some may even say a mystery book geek.  I only read in the mystery genre and I consider attending a book signing a great evening out. I look forward to mystery conferences like Bouchercon, and I’ve attended Left Coast Crime, Thrillerfest and Sleuthfest. There are many others on my bucket list. 

Bouchercon is one of my favorite conventions and one of the reasons is its sheer size. It is the largest fan based mystery convention in the world and typically there’s 450-500 authors attending every year. It’s four fun-filled days of panels, buying books, getting said books autographed, seeing old friends, making new ones, meeting iconic authors… you get the picture.

Imagine meeting Harlan Coben (Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis) and discussing Myron Bolitar, or sitting in a hotel bar having a drink with Lee Child and talking about why he wanted to write books. I’ve also met greats like Linda Fairstein, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Sara Paretksy, Mary Higgins Clark, and many more. These are memories that I cherish dearly. I have a fabulous collection of autographed books in my home library and I will continue to collect more, although I may need to add some new bookshelves soon.

There’s also a fabulous charity auction at every Bouchercon. You have the opportunity to be a character in a book, win a fabulous basket loaded with books, and many more tempting items. I’ve won a happy hour with Barry Eisler, a character naming in two of Chris Grabenstein’s books, and my friend won 3 days at a Daytona Beach summer house owned by Julie Compton.  I cannot wait to see what is in store this year in Long Beach.

 One of my favorite parts about these mystery conferences is the friends I’ve made. You share a kinship with the people you meet, all there for the same love of books and mysteries.  I am friends with some fabulous ladies I met almost ten years ago and we get together at these conferences whenever we can. We may not see each other but for once a year, but it’s precious time for us to catch up, laugh, talk about good books and stalk authors (we’re getting really good at it). So if you love reading mysteries like I do, I recommend coming to Bouchercon in Long Beach in November. It’s going to be a wonderful time, and maybe we’ll even teach you some stalking tricks!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: M.C. Beaton - The Blood of an Englishman

Kim Hammond reviews the latest M.C. Beaton book (for the full review, head over to Criminal Element.)

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton is the 25th cozy mystery featuring Agatha Raisin, a P.I. in the rural Cotswolds, who'll face murder amid the tormented world of amateur theatrics. .

Agatha and her crew are back, embroiled in another small-town murder. Mild-mannered Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, talks Agatha Raisin into attending a pantomime in neighboring Winter Parva.  It's an amateur play that barely keeps Agatha awake and she can't wait to leave. But shortly after her departure, Bert Simple, the local baker who played an ogre in the pantomime,  is discovered brutally killed. Agatha flies back to the scene to see what's happened and runs into her friend, Detective Sergeant Bill Wong, who is uncharacteristically distant and tells her to go home.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Illustrated Jane Eyre

I came across this illustrated copy of Jane Eyre published by Random House in 1943, and I just had to share. 

The illustrations are printed letter press from electrotypes of original wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. I hope you enjoy the pictures...

Jane and Rochester steal a moment

Jane gets a strange late night visitor

Thornfield Hall after the fire

Friday, September 26, 2014

Drinks with Reads: Summer of Long Knives with Riesling and Kir

Today Jim Snowden joins us for Drinks with Reads, pairing his book, Summer of Long Knives, with a cocktail of riesling wine and Kir. First a little about his book:

In the summer of 1936, the racial and political climate in Munich are growing tense, and Kommisar Rolf Wundt and his wife Klara are increasingly desperate to leave Nazi Germany while they still can. But when a member of the League of German Girls is found brutally murdered and posed in the yard of a dilapidated farmhouse, Rolf’s supervisor declares that they can’t leave until he’s solved the case. Rolf’s investigation leads him from the depths of the underground Communist movement to the heights of Germany’s elite Nazi society, exposing the cracks in Germany’s so-called unified society as well as the unspoken tensions in Rolf’s complicated marriage. Ultimately, long-buried secrets and overwhelming evidence are laid bare, but how can Rolf bring the killer to justice in a country devoid of justice? And how can he protect himself, his wife, and his former lover from the barbarism of a corrupt and power-hungry government?

And now Jim matches his book with a drink:

This was a tricky pick for me. When Kriminalkommissar Rolf Wundt drinks to get drunk, he drinks straight schnaps (which means something different to Germans than it does to Americans). When he drinks for pleasure, he prefers medium to dry rieslings, properly chilled. At Hermann Goering’s party, Rolf and his wife, Klara, sip champagne and try not to look disgusted by the company they’re forced to keep.  So I had to imagine what Rolf would go for if the mood for a mixed drink struck him.

Given Rolf’s tastes, I decided he’d like a riesling-based cocktail. He’s not a wine spritzer man (they’re not strong enough), and since Summer of Long Knives is set in…well…the summer of 1936, he wouldn’t plump for gl├╝hwein. What Rolf needs is a strong, cool, and refreshing beverage that mixes well with his favored Bavarian rieslings.

And so we come to Rolf’s favorite summer cocktail (a French one, ideal for annoying his superiors), the blanc-cassis, better known after 1945 as Kir. It’s a simple and delicious cocktail, easily quaffed on a hot day.


1/3 of a shot of creme de cassis (0.5 fluid ounces)
5 oz of chilled dry riesling

Pour the creme de cassis into a wine glass, then top up with dry riesling. Serve. 

Feel free to experiment with the exact ratio of creme de cassis to riesling. It’s a matter of taste.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Wall Art with Family Photos & Giveaway

Today on Crafty Thursday, author Christina Freeburn is here to tell us how to make the Family Photo Wall Art project above ((just insert your own 5x7 photo into the photos tabs) and she is giving it away to one lucky reader to celebrate the release of Embellished to Death: A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery. To enter simply comment below (US residents only).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Picture frame made for scrapbook pages. 
  • Frames for scrapbook pages have enough room between the glass and the backing board to allow for bulkier/3D embellishments.
  • Photo 
  • Title
  • Embellishments (stickers, ribbon, craft jewels, etc.)
  • Photo tape/glue

1. After choosing a photo, or as for the giveaway frame a theme, I gather up any and all items I think will go well with the picture. I put the embellishments on the table beside the frame and photo and narrow down my options. 

2. The next step is building the foundation page of the art project. The first item I chose is the background paper. You can use a pattern paper or a solid color cardstock. I went with white as this is for a gift (giveaway) and most photos look good on a neutral background. Next I tried a few placements for the title. I placed a border near the bottom as I wanted a color accent on the base color that mimicked the linear title on top.

For this project, I chose a linear style as Disney photos usually have a lot of bold colors and items in the background. While I have color-coordinated my families outfits in the past, they’re not so willing to wear outfits based on the “scrapability” factor anymore. I made this page to fit a 5x7 photograph, using a template (Kiwi Lane Designs) to represent the picture. I added photo tabs so the receiver can insert their picture into the layout without having to find photo tape or glue to use. When making layouts as wall art for gifts, it’s always better to make the project as “complete” as possible as the recipient might not have the supplies needed on hand.

3. After my foundation is complete, I tested out some placements and embellishments. I had wanted to use the “bling” camera but it threw off the balance of the page. I wanted something at the top to help draw the eye to the title and that mimicked the bottom of the page. The square gems placed at an angle were just the perfect final embellishment touch.

4. Now you just insert your layout into carefully into the frame, making sure the embellishments stay where they need to be, and your own family photo, and your done.

Don't forget to enter to win this fabulous project from Christina. You can read all about her new book, Embellished to Death below... 

When Faith Hunter agrees to help PI Bob Roget find an identity thief at a local scrapbook retreat, her friendly croppers’ weekend quickly morphs into a dangerous one. As croppers share their own memories, a killer collects them for her new identity, and doesn’t appreciate Faith in the picture. Faith struggles to balance her professional, detecting and personal lives as threats and secrets keep her off-balance. Things turn deadly when a woman is killed and Faith is blackmailed. Truth and lies collide when Faith discovers croppers aren’t the only ones embellishing, and the results might end her life. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Deadly Debut

Kerry Hammond is here to review a mystery short story collection from the New York/Tri-State Chapter of SISTERS IN CRIME called, Deadly Debut.

Mysteries come in all shapes and sizes, and I love them all. I am sometimes in the mood for a historical mystery, sometimes a cozy, sometimes a thriller. And sometimes I’m in the mood for all of the above, but don’t want to get invested in three full length novels. This is when l turn to short stories. You can find short stories in mystery magazines like Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock, or you can find them in wonderful anthologies compiled by Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. 

I recently got my hands on Deadly Debut, one of the books of short stories in the Murder New York Style series put out by the New York/Tri State Chapter of Sisters in Crime. This anthology is edited by Clare Toohey and lives up to the quality of all the others before it. The stories in Deadly Debut are well chosen and the authors include Elizabeth Zelvin, Anita Page, Lina Zeldovich, Peggy Ehrhart, Deirdre Verne, Triss Stein, and Terry Farley Moran

I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite story from the anthology because I really enjoyed them all. Let me just say that you, as the reader, will: find a body in a closet, follow a group of kids who were told not to play in the woods, attend an evening of belly dancing at Aladdin’s Cave, and help solve the crime of the stolen exam at Hudson College. Each story takes place in the New York area, and each one is unique and entertaining. You can read one at a time and savor the rest, or you can devour them like I did and then suffer until the next anthology is published. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this compilation of great authors.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lee Child - Crime & Beyond Book Club

Kerry Hammond is back with her report from the Crime & Beyond Book Club. This time Jack Reacher is in town and there's a pop quiz that should keep you on your toes. 

Crime and Beyond met this past month to discuss Never Go Back by Lee Child. Our club has read several Lee Child novels and many of us are huge Jack Reacher fans. We even had a Jack Reacher/Lee Child quiz to test our knowledge of both the character and the author. The questions are listed in this review with the answers at the end, in case anyone wants to test their knowledge.

Readers who follow the series may remember a previous book in which Jack spoke on the telephone to Major Susan Turner. Reacher really enjoyed talking to Major Turner and liked her voice so much that he decided he needed to meet her. In Never Go Back, Reacher finally makes it to Virginia to meet her, after traveling all the way from South Dakota. When he arrives he finds that she’s been arrested and being held in an army prison. Reacher knows Turner is innocent, how could someone with a voice like that be guilty? But when he starts to get involved he is reinstated to the army and charged with causing the death of a guy he beat up 16 years ago (what, Reacher beat someone up?) and is told that there is also another issue - a woman is claiming that she gave birth to his child. Said child is now a teenager and living in California with her mother. So Reacher does what anyone would do, he sets out to prove his and Turner’s innocence, and find out if he’s a father.

Never Go Back was a fun read, very entertaining and interesting. We liked the fatherhood angle because it showed some vulnerability in our manly man. Reacher always travels alone, even though he invariably stops to help people along the way. It was fun to have a sidekick for him in this book, and Turner was a great person to fill the role. There was a lot of action and some butt kicking, both Reacher’s trademarks. At least one male member of Crime & Beyond admitted to liking Reacher’s approach to life. As usual, some of the ladies questioned his disposable clothes and hygiene. Still others agree that we will take him just as he is.

So here are some fun questions to test your knowledge of Jack Reacher and his creator, Lee Child.

  •    How tall is Jack Reacher?
  •    How much does Reacher weigh?
  •    What color are his eyes?
  •    In what city was he born?
  •    What is the birth date he shares with Lee Child (month and day)?
  •    How is his full name listed on his birth certificate?
  •    What is the first book in the Jack Reacher series? 
  •    What number in the series is Never Go Back?
  •    What is Lee Child’s real name?
  •    What doesn’t Jack have that almost every other adult American has (there are a lot of answers to this, but one that really stands out)?

After reading the book, many of us could picture it turning into a movie. We looked it up and sure enough, it may be the second Reacher book to grace the big screen. I can’t wait. I wonder who will play Turner.

Highlight the text below to see the answers to the Reacher quiz.
Answers to Quiz:

(1) 6’5” (2) 250 lbs (3) Blue (4) Berlin (5) October 29 (6) Jack-None-Reacher (7) Killing Floor (8) 18 (9) Jim Grant (10) A 

Driver’s License

Monday, September 22, 2014

Favorite Fall TV Shows Return

Fall TV Shows are back, and it's time to set those DVRs, so you don't miss a thing.  Here's a run down of when some favorites return:

The Blacklist, Monday September 22nd (Tonight!)
The second season of The Blacklist, starring James Spader, starts tonight. If you missed the first season, you might want to head over to NBC.com and watch that first. You can go here for a video recap if you want to start with tonight's episode. 

Bones, Thursday, September 25th
As season nine ended, Booth and Bones, are married and dealing with a conspiracy inside the FBI. And according to the promo ads, Agent Booth is in jail, for season ten and things are going to get nasty.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sunday, September 28th
I love this comedy returning for its second year. Brooklyn Nine Nine is just thirty minutes of happiness. When we left the intrepid Detective Jake Peralta, he was about to go on a six-month undercover assignment, and he decides to tell fellow Detective Amy Santiago that he has feelings for her. And we don't know what's going on with Gina and Boyle. Or Boyle and Rosa. 

CSI, Sunday, September 28th
It's a new night for CSI as the show returns for its 15th season. Captain Brass exited the show in last season's finale. In the first show of the news season Finlay's life is in danger and Russell gets a phone call from someone claiming to be the Gig Harbor killer.

Castle - Monday, September 29th

When last we saw our favorite crime-solving duo, their wedding was not happening as planned. Rick was run off the road and Kate went out to the scene of the accident in her wedding dress. The promo tagline for the new season is an ominous, 'Till Death Do Us Part. Here's a video preview:

What old shows are you looking forward to returning? 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Agatha Christie Week: Vintage Book Covers

We finish up Agatha Christie Week with a variety of lovely vintage Agatha Christie book covers and in some cases, back covers. 

Don't forget to read the taglines...


The back cover of MURDER AT HAZELMOOR

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Poirot's Apartment

It's Agatha Christie week and this time we are venturing into the physical world of Poirot. The Agatha Christie Website has a wonderful panoramic video on their website showing details of Poirot's apartment from the BBC/Masterpiece Mystery! Show, Poirot, starring David Suchet. Once you reach their site, you click on the little bullseyes on the screen to reach the virtual adjoining rooms. Little mustaches lead you to details, like Poirot's pocket watch stored in a drawer. It's great fun. 

And before you go, don't forget to enter our Agatha Christie giveaway...

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Secret Adversary & The Brown Cocktail

Kerry Hammond joins us to for a special Agatha Christie Drinks with Reads, pairing a cocktail with The Secret Adversary...

"To all those who lead monotonous lives in the hope that they experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure."

This is the wonderful dedication at the beginning of The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. Ms. Christie is well known for her two famous sleuths: Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Some people don’t realize that she also wrote five books featuring a crime solving duo. That duo consisted of Thomas Beresford and Prudence Cowley, also known as Tommy & Tuppence. There have been movie and television adaptations of their adventures, and some credit the author for creating the template for many crime solving detective couples that came after. 

I decided to start at the beginning and write about the first book featuring Tommy & Tuppence, The Secret Adversary. This book was the second book Agatha Christie ever published. I read it many years ago, and had a lot of fun re-reading in preparation for this post. No good book is ever complete without a cocktail, so to go along with my read, I will be drinking a Brown Cocktail (you’ll know the significance of this drink name as you read on). The recipe is below.

Tommy and Tuppence have known each other since they were kids, but are reunited by chance one day in London. They decide to have lunch together and as they chat, realize that they are both not only bored, but hard up for money. They dream up a business idea and create the Young Adventurers Ltd. Their advertisement: “Two young adventurers for hire. Wiling to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good… No unreasonable offer refused.” 

Their fun idea soon gets them what they wish for. But their adventure becomes dangerous and involves espionage, a missing girl, military secrets and a master criminal named Mr. Brown, who seems to be able to disappear without a trace at a moment’s notice. Tommy and Tuppence find that adventure can be dangerous, but not knowing who they can trust can be deadly. The book is a page turner and contains enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. 

And if you like The Secret Adversary as much as I did, you can read about more of the duo’s adventures in N or M?, By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Postern of Fate, and a short story collection titled Partners in Crime

Brown Cocktail

¾ oz light rum
¾ oz gin
¾ oz dry vermouth

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, serve and enjoy!