Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is a heart-pounding thriller that raises questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.
Everyone has their path. The choices they’ve made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.
As Noah Hawley sets up his thriller Before the Fall, 11 people take off in a private airplane from Martha’s Vineyard that winds up crashing 16 minutes into the flight. 
On board the private plane are:
  • The owners of the plane—the rich and powerful David Bateman and his wife Maggie.
  • Their two children.
  • Another rich and powerful couple—the husband learns right as he's boarding the plane that he'll be arrested the following day.
  • A bodyguard.
  • Two pilots.
  • A flight attendant.
  • A random acquaintance who needed a ride.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Crime Poetry - Fair Housing

Every Saturday this month we are running a poem about crime from Gerald So's excellent blog, The Five-Two. Today were featuring a poem called "Fair Housing" by Charles Rammelkamp. You can find one of last year's selections here.


by Charles Rammelkamp

Lynette and the kids lived
in a public housing unit,
electrical sockets hanging from exposed wires
as in some demented sci-fi film,
windows loose in their frames,
leaking cold air like sieves,
a broken stove that sparked and smoked.

But when Lynette called for repairs,
the workmen who came grabbed her breasts,
demanded she suck their dicks
if she wanted the repairs.
Cocky young guys in cheap uniforms.

She complained to the housing authority staff,
but they only promised
to "look into the matter."
Went on like that for three years. 
Finally Lynette and some other women
who’d suffered the same harassment
filed a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act,
HUD and the city housing authority forced
to shell out eight million,
fifty maintenance workers losing their jobs.

"Justice, right?" Lynette told the reporter,
without a trace of triumph.

Here is the poem being read aloud:

Here is Charles' bio:

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP edits The Potomac, an online literary journal, and is the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, Maryland, where he lives. His latest book is a poetry collection called Mata Hari: Eye of the Day, published by Apprentice House (Loyola University).

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Shattered Circle & Baileys

If you love mysteries set within, above and around the law, you'll love the books by Kevin Egan. He's back today with his latest, A Shattered Circle (you can check out our review). 

Barbara Lonergan, the main character of A Shattered Circle, has a problem. She has many problems, really, but the main problem is her husband, the Hon. William Lonergan. After falling off a ladder, Judge Lonergan has shown signs of dementia. Barbara has successfully kept his condition a secret while scrambling to find a treatment that will arrest, if not reverse, his steady decline.

Then the bad stuff happens.

A persistent private investigator needs to question the judge about the murder of a country lawyer a crime that has no apparent connection to the judge. An angry litigant has filed a judicial complaint against Judge Lonergan, starting a process that could reveal the judge’s dementia. And court officer Foxx, who is trying to exonerate a dying friend of an ancient murder, has begun to ask Barbara uncomfortable questions.

No surprise that Barbara has trouble sleeping at night. She is worried, and tries to harness her worries into productive thoughts that might lead to solutions. Still, at some point, she needs to sleep and turns to a concoction her mother devised when Barbara was a girl and had a terrible toothache – Scotch and milk.  

This is not the drink to drink while reading A Shattered Circle. Barbara herself remembers the drink as “a putrid combination of two things she intensely disliked.” And the book takes place in the high summer of August, which in New York City can be a month of white hot skies and stifling humidity. What adult reaches for milk in those conditions?

My suggestion is something colder, sweeter, and less soporific (to remain awake while reading the book). It is called the Scotch Irish. The ingredients are:

1 part Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 part Scotch of your choice

Shake and serve on the rocks.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Lovin’ Mother’s Day Card

Lorraine Masonheimer, our crafter extraordinaire, has already shown us how to make a You Wrote the Book Mother’s Day card. Today she’s here to show us another book themed idea for a card to give to Mom.

8 1/2” x 11” cream cardstock
Pattern paper
Two color coordinated solid color paper
4 buttons
Blooming Lotus Outline & Background #99099 & 99097 Die-Cut
Big Shot machine
Book page
Library check-out card
ColorBox Chalk Charcoal Ink Pad
Happy Mother’s Day MOM stamp
Glue dots
X-acto blade 

Step One:  Card Base
Score an 8 ½ x 11” cream cardstock at 5 ½” and fold in half. Cut the patterned paper to 8 ½” x 5 ½”.  Cut the lighter solid to 3 ½” x 5 ½” and the darker solid to 2 ¾” x 5 ½” and glue to the front of the card.

Step Two:  Die Cut
Take a page or copy of a page from a book and cut to 5” x 5”. Using the Lotus Background die, cut the flower from the text. Take a 5” x 5” dark solid paper and cut the Lotus outline and glue together. If desired, cut an alternating color for the center. Draw and cut a flower if preferred.

Step Three:  Text Block, Embellish & Assemble
If you have a library check-out card, Stamp a mother’s day message on the card. If you don’t have a card, using the computer, create a text box about 1 ¾” x 3” and draw lines as shown. Create text boxes with the words "AUTHOR Your Daughter," "TITLE Loving Mom," "BORROWER’S NAME," "DATE RETURNED" and "happy mother’s day MOM" in the appropriate spaces. I used Berlin Sans typeface at 8 points in dark gray. Print onto a light color paper, cut to size and glue to the card as shown. Glue three buttons to the top right corner.

Step Four: Inside Message
For the inside of the card, type, cut and glue the sentiment "I love you more than books. Well…ok. Yes. Yes, I DO love you more than books. Best Mom Ever!" onto a 5” x 4” rectangle as shown. I used Berlin Sans 14 points and FreeStyle Script 20 points.

Thread a button with scrap twine through the back of the button and tie on the top of the bottom and glue to the card. Extra postage is required for the larger size card.   

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mystery Fan Facebook Groups

One way to keep up with your favorite mystery TV show or author is to join a Facebook fan group devoted to the subject. You'll see photos, videos and art. They'll be conversation and news. Many of these are closed groups and you have to ask to join using the handy button you'll see if you search for a group. Each of these groups have rules, and like any new club or group you join, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the rules and maybe watch for a day or two before you start posting. The biggest rule in most of these groups is to stay on topic and not sell anything, unless of course it's a buy/sell group. 

Here are a few mystery-themed Facebook Fan Groups for you to check out:

One of the first fan groups I joined was the Major Crimes Fangroup devoted to following TNT's Major Crimes show. One of the group admins saw my Mystery Playground posts on Major Crimes and invited me to the group (Thank you, Ilona). She lives in Poland and now I have a friend on another continent. In this group you'll see articles, comments about the show, upcoming guest stars and occasionally a post from one of the show's stars. This is a closed group, so you'll have to ask to join. 

Fans of the Miss Fisher Mysteries will love Miss Phryne Fisher's Secret Society. There's lots of tips on how to dress circa 1920 here, as well as photos and videos from the show. This is a closed group, so you'll have to ask to join. 

If you love cozy mysteries and giveaways, you'll love the Cozy Mystery giveaway page. In this open group authors and bloggers post their best giveaways ranging from books to tea cups and everything in-between.

As the name suggestions, the Reacher Creatures page is all Jack Reacher, all the time - movies and books. OK, sometimes they do talk about Lee Child or Tom Cruise. This is a must for Lee Child fans. 

Mystery Playground also has a small Facebook closed group. You can see current giveaways, new posts, ask questions about crafts and a whole lot more. 

What's your favorite mystery-themed Facebook Fan Group? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dispatches from Silicon Valley Comic Con #SVCC

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Silicon Valley Comic Con happened this past weekend in San Jose and it was a mix of real life science and science fiction. 

Let's start with the real science first. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was on hand to talk about his flight to the moon and his plan to get humans to Mars in the next few decades. He spoke candidly about what it was like to be the second person to walk on the moon, but the first person to take a selfie in space. And yes, he did the moon walk on stage. 

The NASA booth was a big hit. They had scientists on hand to explain everything from the best places to view the total solar eclipse this August (Charleston, SC is a great place) to solar powered airplanes. They also had part of a former planet's core for you to hold in your hands (see below). 

On the fictional front, we heard from one of my all time favorites, William Shatner. You haven't seen a crowd worked until you've seen Shatner on-stage. He takes questions he's heard millions of times and turns them into conversations with the audience that are authentic and entertaining. All of my main stage photos are a little washed out, but I am going to share them anyway. 

Shatner returned the next morning to host the Star Trek Next Generation panel with Brent Spiner (Data), Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker - Number One), Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) and Robert O'Reilly (Chancellor Gowron). They told stories and answered fan questions. Marina Sirtis stole the show.

There was a fun costume and prop auction on Sunday, with all of the items on display throughout the convention. Here are some of my favorites: 

Christopher Reeves Superman Costume

Star Trek Next Generation Costume

Bicentennial Man 

Storm Trooper Mask from A New Hope 

Katniss Everdeen Costume

Back to the Future Clock

Monday, April 24, 2017

Denver Speakeasy: Prohibition

Kerry Hammond is always on the lookout for new speakeasies, and she recently found a bar that celebrates the repeal of the 1920 ban on alcohol. You can find other Mystery Playground visits to modern speakeasies around the country here

During the Prohibition years from 1920 to 1933, alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States, but it wasn't too hard to find a drink. One of the easiest ways was to find a speakeasy—a hidden bar that served bootleg liquor and that often required a password to get in. Legend has it that the name speakeasy came from patrons being told to “speak easy,” or softly, so the police wouldn’t hear the party.

When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933. But if you want to revisit that time in a new way, you have your chance because modern speakeasies have popped up all over the country. These bars take the mystery and romance of history and create a fun atmosphere. 

There are lots of speakeasies across the country, and the bloggers at Mystery Playground have made it their mission to visit each and every one of them. We even like to visit bars that celebrate the era and I found one in Denver called, of all things, Prohibition.

Prohibition is located on one of Denver’s most colorful streets, Colfax Avenue, and only a few blocks from the Denver capital building. You don't need a password to get in, but the bar's front door is imposing. The place is decorated with prohibition era newspaper articles and photos. My favorite was the sign that stated the premises was closed for violation of the Prohibition Act.

Their drink menu contains many of the staples of a probation era bar, including the Sazerac and Negroni. I chose the Colfax Reviver, a play on the Corpse Reviver but Denver style. It contained St. George Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Leopold’s Blackberry and Absinthe.

If your city has a speakeasy or a bar that celebrates the end of prohibition, consider checking it out.