Friday, March 30, 2018

Drinks with Reads: The Oracle Year

Author Charles Soule joins us today on Drinks with Reads  matching his new book, The Oracle Year, with the perfect drink. Charles is best known for his comic book writing including Daredevil, Swamp Thing, X-Men, and significant work for the Star Wars franchise. Let's see what drink he picked for his debut novel which comes out next week from Harper Perennial.

The Oracle Year tells the story of Will Dando, a twenty-seven-year-old failed musician from New York City who wakes up one morning with one hundred and eight specific, unique predictions of the future in his head. He has no idea where they came from or what they mean, but once he realizes they’re beginning to come true, he launches an audacious plan to release them one by one. From there, we watch as the planet reacts to the fact that an actual prophet seems to have emerged into the world. What happens to Will, and what’s actually going on with these glimpses of the future… that’s the story. It’s a globe-spanning adventure, full of twists and turns – if there’s one thing to be said about The Oracle Year, it’s that it’s impossible to predict.

Will Dando, being a bassist used to playing ratty bars all over the city, isn’t much for cocktails. However, his creator, me – is. My main drink of choice is a Manhattan, and I came across a variant while on a trip to Austin a few years back that I think is extremely appropriate for The Oracle Year, especially since the book’s primary location is, in fact, Manhattan. It’s called a Black Manhattan, I enjoyed more than a few during the creation of the novel, and certainly if you drink enough on any given evening you’ll have no idea what the future might hold. They taste a bit more complex than a normal Manhattan, less sweet, with almost a touch of a coffee or herbal flavor. Really nice.

Here’s the recipe:

The Black Manhattan

2 oz. good bourbon or rye – I’ve been enjoying the High West Double Rye recently, but Bulleit Bourbon is also nice, because it’s a bit dryer than your standard bourbon.

¾ oz. Averna, an Italian Amaro. This can be tough to find in ordinary bars, but cocktail/mixology places should have it, and it’s pretty readily available in specialty liquor stores.

2 jots bitters – any will do. I use Peychaud’s.

One maraschino cherry – I prefer Luxardo’s. They’re darker and come in a fantastic syrup.

A swirl of syrup from the cherry jar.

Combine all of that in a rocks glass (one large ice cube if you can get it, several smaller if you can’t), stir twice and enjoy. 
Just not too many. These things are pretty much 100% booze. (Not coincidentally, also why they’re so damn good.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mystery Wednesday

Welcome back to Mystery Wednesday where I run down the best of the best in crime fiction happenings. Let's start out with TV this week, since one of my favorites -- The Americans, returns tonight on Fox (10pm ET, 9pm CT) for it's sixth and final season. 

In the fictional world of Russian sleeper spies, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, two years have passed since season five when Gabriel went home to Russia and daughter Paige started her training to possibly join her parents in their spy exploits. It's still the 1980s, and there's a lot at stake for our fake Americans. Will they stay married? Will they turn against one another and mother Russia? If they do will they leave their son here in the custody of their favorite FBI agent and neighbor, Stan? Or will they go back home and lead a quiet life of trying to find fruit at the grocery store. 

I can't wait to find out. 

Everytime I think of this season, one of my favorite short stories pops into my head, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. That isn't such good news for the Jennings.

Here's the trailer for this season:

If you love thrillers and haven't watched The Americans, it's time to start at season one, episode one and binge your way through until you catch up. And while you're at it you might want to make some Russian cabbage soup. 

Agatha Award Nominees for Short Stories...

After you're done catching up with The Americans, you might want to read through all of the excellent short story nominees for this year's Agatha Award. All of the nominated short stories are free to access at the links below. It's a great bunch of stories and I'm thrilled to see three of our favorite Mystery Playground Drinks with Reads posters nominated -- Art Taylor, Debra Goldstein and Gigi Pandian

Best Short Story

"Double Deck the Halls" by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
Whose Wine is it Anyway by Barb Goffman in 50 Shades of Cabernet (Koehler Books)
The Night They Burned Miss Dixie’s Place by Debra Goldstein in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017)
The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn by Gigi Pandian (Henery Press)
A Necessary Ingredient by Art Taylor in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Seat (Down & Out Books)

Need a Great Read...

If you need something a little longer to keep you entertained, my mom has hte book recommendation for you -- AJ Finn's, Woman in the Window. I will admit that I haven't read it yet, but it's in my bag for my next airplane ride when I will have hours of un-interupted reading time. The book is a re-telling of Hitchcock's Rear Window and trust me when I say that my mom is one tough audience. She reads everything, and isn't afraid to critique. If she says you can't put a book down, you can't put it down. And there's already a movie in the works frlomt he director of Darkest Hour, according to the Hollywood Reporter. If you've already read the book, tell us what you thought below. 

That's it for this week. See you next Wednesday,

Deborah Lacy

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: The Other Mother by Carol Goodman

Kerry Hammond is here today to review a new psychological thriller by author Carol Goodman.

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman was released in Hardcover on March 27 by William Morrow. Goodman is an award winning author of 16 novels. This is the first that I have read by this author and I was drawn in because the premise sounded very intriguing.

Daphne Marist is a new mother who is experiencing postpartum mood disorder. She joins a support group and meets Laurel Hobbes, another new mother and an exciting new friend. They bond over their situation and the fact that they each have a daughter named Chloe. When Daphne begins to feel threatened by her controlling husband, even her friendship with Laurel can’t make her feel safe. She flees with her daughter to take a job for a reclusive writer and her lodgings in the author’s home are like a fairy tale….if it weren’t for the mental institution that borders the grounds. Daphne’s sanity is put to the test as things unravel for her and she begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about herself and the people she loves.

The book was addictive, and a very wild ride. I don’t know how the author kept everything straight, and as a reader you really have to focus and pay attention. The story is a cross between Shutter Island by Denise Lehane and Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. I don’t know how the author kept track of everything, but she did and she flawlessly pulled it off. It’s one of those books where you place yourself in the characters shoes and think what would I do in the same situation? It’s a scary thought because I couldn’t come up with any answers and came to the conclusion that I would be just as lost as the characters were. This was a highly entertaining page turner of a book.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Interview with Rebecca Marks

Author Rebecca Marks joins us today to talk about her book Old Fashioned with a Twist, her protagonist and her writing process. 

Where did you get the idea for OLD FASHIONED WITH A TWIST? How did you know that was the book you wanted to write?

This is book 4 in the Dana Cohen mystery series, and although it's readable as a stand-alone, my idea for the theme of this book came from the character development of the main characters in the three previous books in the series. Dana and her ex-husband Pete have both moved on to other partners when this book opens, and not only is Dana pregnant, but Pete's new girlfriend Caterina (who was introduced in book 3) was also pregnant but has given birth to a baby boy. The first three books involve murders, so I thought it would be a nice change to have Dana solving a different but also horribly upsetting crime, in this case kidnapping. Caterina and Pete's month-old infant has been kidnapped, and Pete reaches out to Dana, who he knows is one of the best detectives, to solve the case, because he doesn't feel the police are fast enough. Dana then calls on her go-to guy, Itzy Itzkowitz, the PI who helped her solve all her other cases, and together they dig deep into what's going on in Caterina's life that might make this happen. In so doing, they uncover some very old, very buried secrets that also involve Caterina and her background. Although I started out with the idea for a kidnapping case, all the surrounding mystery came to me as I wrote, which happens frequently to me. People ask me where I get my ideas, and I tell them, honestly, my characters lead me into their own crazy worlds. I know that sounds a bit psychotic, but it happens time after time to me, and so it did in the case of this book.

Tell us a bit about Dana Cohen. Where did this character come from? Who is she?

I am frequently asked, "Is Dana Cohen you?" And I have to answer, no, not really, although as an author I'm sure I infuse parts of myself in her character. My late husband was a police detective, and for many years he talked about his cases and their twists and turns. I often tell people, Dana Cohen is more my husband than she is me. Although I've written books where the main character is a man, it's just a little easier to write a main character of my own gender. There is a certain understanding "in the DNA." So I can't imagine carrying a gun, but Dana is rarely without hers (as was my husband, even after he retired from the police department). On the other hand, my husband was of Irish Catholic extraction, which is the same as Dana's ex-husband Pete Fitzgerald. I know about that world from having been a part of my husband's family for many years. I am Jewish, and non-practicing, just like Dana. So I think that Dana is actually a composite of many different people, and of course she is her own person as well. The fun part about being a novelist is that I can shape her however I want to, give her the physical characteristics that I find interesting, and let her thrive on her own after I infuse whatever I want.

Your books have fully fleshed out supporting characters, such as Alex and Marilyn. Who were you inspirations for these characters. Are they "easy" to bring to life?

I didn't have actual inspirations for these characters per se, but I wanted them to have certain characteristics. Because Dana's first husband Pete was a philanderer, I wanted Alex to be so in love with Dana that he wouldn't think of cheating on her. Also, Pete was almost movie-star handsome, and I wanted Alex's physical appearance to be less "regular" and more "normal," although Dana thinks he's very sexy! Also, where Pete was a detective, Alex was a nurse, which is generally a profession of women. I wanted Alex to be in touch with his feminine side, to respect Dana's brilliance, which he does, although he worries about her, and to love her in every way for herself. In a sense, Pete was my inspiration for Alex, or the "yang" to Pete's "yin" if that makes any sense. I made Marilyn an African-American woman, because I wanted to show without telling that Dana takes people for what they are, not for their race, creed, or color. Marilyn is a "side-kick," but I wanted her to have a strong persona of her own, and she is, of course, a very talented former singing star. I hope these characters are easy to bring to life. That's up to my readers to determine!

Another supporting character, Dana's father, has Alzheimer's. What made you did to explore this disease? How did you approach the research into making the situation so believable?

This was real-life research. My mother, my grandfather, and my uncle all had Alzheimer's. As an only child, I was the one who was tasked to take care of my mother, and then after that became too hard, to make the decision for her to go to a nursing home. She lived for many years with Alzheimer's disease, and I have seen several TV movies (and Hollywood movies) that dealt with the disease, often in ways I didn't feel were honest. I wanted to show my readers actually what it is like to have an aging parent with this disease, and how it affects the family members who are dealing with it. So I suppose this was a bit of an ulterior motive, but I wanted to show how deeply Dana cared for her father, and how wrenching it is to see a loved one deteriorate the way Alzheimer's makes a person deteriorate.

If Dana was actually a real person, would you be friends with her? Why or why not?

Well before my husband and I had a romantic relationship, we were very good friends. Because Dana reminds me of my husband in many ways, I would be great friends with her! I love her sense of humor, her intelligence, how she listens to people, and her persistence and perseverance in getting to the bottom of things. I can imagine laughing with her, listening to her, and having her listen to me. I'd love to have a friend like her!

Your titles are clever. How did you decide to use the drink/cocktails terminology theme?

The title of book 1, On the Rocks, was a "gimme." Dana was drinking heavily until she became pregnant, and she drank her Scotch "on the rocks" with one ice cube. Then, her house was situated "on the rocks" overlooking the Long Island Sound. When I wrote book 2, I was scrounging around for a title, and talking to friends, someone said, hey, maybe you should do an alcoholic beverage theme, if you are going to write these books as a series. I thought that was a stroke of brilliance! So after that I made the decision to continue that theme of titles. Luckily, I'm good at thinking up catchy titles (perhaps I should have been an ad writer!), so it wasn't too hard. I'm currently writing book 5, but I won't divulge the title right now! Suffice it to say, it continues with the drink terminology theme!

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels?

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write fiction. Raising a family and having to work for many years (I actually worked in technical writing), I had to put off the dream. But I was determined, after my family grew up, to follow that dream. Although it's wonderful to publish novels and get good feedback from my readers, I think the best thing that's happened to me is the self-actualization. Had I never done it, I would have wondered my entire life whether it might have been possible. It's a tough business and requires that one can handle a great deal of rejection before one finally breaks through. Just having the self confidence that I not only followed my dream but was perseverant enough to keep trying until I was published, is a great feeling. It overlaps into all phases of one's life, I believe, and that has been the best thing that happened to me personally as a result of my novels.

You are a musician as well as a novelist. Has how music informed you writing, and has your writing informed your music?

Sometimes I feel that I've led a "bifurcated" life. Music is as important to me as my writing, although I did not pursue a professional music career. I find that my music--I sing with two groups in NYC and have been studying harp for several years, and now llanera South American harp, which I love--reinvigorates me and sharpens my mind. I'm constantly using different parts of my brain to accomplish creative things, and one thing feeds off the other. Sometimes, if I'm struggling with a plot point or with some other phase of a novel I'm writing, when I practice for a while, the ideas pop into my head. I've also performed in several groups that appear (although masqueraded) in my novels. Singing in Christmas Revels, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in New York City, provided the basis for the show that Dana's friend Marilyn directed in book 3, Stone Cold Sober. Music allows me to smooth out life's wrinkles in a soothing, calming way, as well as stirring up the creative juices that enable me to write novels.

What was the last mystery novel you read, other than your own, that you LOVED? Why did you love it?

Interestingly enough, I haven't been much of a mystery reader. Years ago, I really enjoyed Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason mysteries. I've read several Sherlock Holmes adventures I liked very much. And I also loved the "Deadly Sin" series by Lawrence Sanders, published in the 1970s and 1980s. All of these books were very well written, which is appealing to me, and I found that I could relate to the characters, despite the fact that they were fictional. Before I decided to write a mystery series, I did read quite a few mysteries from various authors, but I didn't really love any of them.

If you could be any character in a book, who would you be and why?
This is a really tough question! I've read so many books (and written quite a few), and "met" many many fascinating characters. So each time one comes to mind, another one pops up almost instantly. I think I prefer to be an observer of my favorite characters, rather than putting myself in their shoes.

What are you working on now, and when can readers expect it?
I am currently working on the first draft of book 5 of my Dana Cohen series, but I'm only about halfway through. So it's hard to estimate when it might be available. However, I have several more books (unrelated to Dana's story) coming out within the next year, two of which are time travel sagas that take place in present-day Boston and Alexander Hamilton's New York--About Time and About Face. For any students of the American Revolution and Alexander Hamilton's America, these might be interesting. In addition, I have a novel called Paint It Black, which chronicles the exciting and angst-filled life of a police officer in Washington, D.C. after the Vietnam War.

You can find Rebecca on Twitter @rmarksauthor.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Virgin Margaritas & Second Story Man

Charles Salzberg has been making virgin margaritas to match his book, Second Story Man. A celebrated and popular creative writing teacher, Charles Salzberg has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is a consulting editor at the webzine and co-host, with Jonathan Kravetz, of the reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB in New York City.

Francis Hoyt is a master burglar. Just ask him and he’ll tell you. Brilliant, arrogant, athletic, manipulative, he breaks into the homes of the wealthy, he follows the wealthy, moving south in the winter, and back north in the spring and summer. Two men are obsessed with bringing him to justice. Charlie Floyd, a recently retired Connecticut State investigator, is the mirror image of Hoyt: brilliant, arrogant, obsessive. He teams up with recently suspended Cuban-American Miami police detective, Manny Perez, to bring Hoyt down.

Francis Hoyt is a bad man. He steals for a living. He uses people, then when they no longer serve his purpose, he throws them away. He is also the best at what he does. Extremely athletic, he breaks into houses, often having to climb up the side of the building to gain entrance. And, when he’s finished, he makes his escape by running, sometimes as much as a mile or two, until he reaches his parked vehicle.

To keep in shape, Hoyt is a vegetarian and, although he used to drink, he now shuns all alcohol, hence this Virgin Margarita.

Francis Hoyt’s Virgin Margarita


A Virgin Margarita Mix
Fresh Mango
Fresh Cucumber
Fresh Agave
Fresh Lime (1 or 2)
Ancho powder


Open the Virgin Margarita Mix (read the directions for the amount, depending on how many glasses you are serving).

To the mixture, cut up fresh mango, cucumber, and/or agave and add to the glass. This can be done to taste. If you don't like one of the fruits, leave out.

Cut the limes and squeeze the juice into the glass, to taste.

Add ancho powder to taste.

If, unlike Hoyt, you do like alcohol in your drink, you’d then add tequila to taste or your favorite non-virgin margarita recipe. If, like Hoyt, you shun alcohol, you can add extra lime juice or lemonade.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

“I was in full work mode. I was totally focused, as I silently went over my plan in my head. I could see every step I’d make. I was in a familiar zone. I could hear better. I could see better. I could move better. I was better. I flattened myself against the hedge in front of the house then suddenly leaned my body into it, pushing myself through carefully so I didn’t make a sound. 
Crouching low, I moved quickly toward the side of the house. I pulled out the little gizmo I’d use to deactivate the alarm. But at the last second, when I noticed the electrical box, I changed my mind. I wanted a challenge. Instead of using technology, I’d disconnect the power. People are so stupid. They pay thousands of dollars for fancy, high-tech alarm systems and don’t give a thought to protecting the electrical box. The alarm installers couldn’t care less. All they care about is that their stupid system works and the monthly fees roll in. As if any system could ever keep me out. This box had such a dinky little lock on it a child could have opened it. I slipped on the surgical gloves, pulled a wad of tissues out of my pocket, wrapped it around the lock, then I used one of the knives from the restaurant to bust it open. I unhooked a couple connections. The house was now totally without electricity. Even if they had a motion detector inside the house, it would be useless. From this point on it was like cracking open a piggy bank, only easier.
I hugged the side of the house and slowly made my way toward the back, always on the lookout for the best place to make entry. A window. A back door. A storm cellar door. The best are glass doors that open up onto a pool area or the backyard. They’re  easiest to pick, and lots of times people forget to lock them at all. People with alarm systems get lazy. They rely on technology to keep them safe. Big mistake.
As I slowly edged my way back around the house, keeping one hand on the house as I felt my way in the dark, I spotted a small window by the by the back, chest-high, that had been left partially open. No more than an inch or two, but that was enough. Could they have made it any easier for me?  I wouldn’t even have to break a sweat prying my way in or risk someone hearing when I broke a pane of glass. I stood on my tiptoes and peered inside, using my small flashlight to see what was in what looked like a small room. Coats hanging from a rack on the wall and a washer/dryer tucked against the back wall, gave it away. It was the mudroom, a perfect place to land. If I did leave any residue from outside it would mix with what was already there. It was far enough from the upstairs bedrooms that I wouldn’t have to worry about any noise I might make. If there was a downstairs bedroom that was occupied, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the mudroom.
I wrapped my keychain in the wad of toilet paper so they wouldn’t jingle and give me away, then jammed them into the front pocket of my jeans. I pulled out a couple pats of tinfoil wrapped butter squares from my back pocket. They were soft, almost liquid, from my body heat. I squeezed them out on either side of the middle of the window frame so the window would slide open easily, without making noise. I carefully pushed up the window until there was an opening of about twelve inches, more than enough for me to squeeze through. I hoisted myself up on the windowsill, then went in head first. At the point at which my waist was resting on the windowsill I shimmied the rest of the way down until my hands touched the floor, at which point I pulled in the rest of my body until I was practically standing on my hands. Slowly, I leaned forward so my legs were touching the closest wall, then carefully walked them down the side of the wall until I was standing upright. 
I was in. A jolt of electricity shoot through my body ending up in my brain. It was a familiar feeling, a feeling I live for. I was Frankenstein’s monster suddenly given the gift of life.
I was now in someone else’s space, an uninvited guest. I was a ghost who could walk through that house with no one knowing I’m there. This is what I live for.
For that brief moment of time I am part of someone else’s family. I am the eccentric uncle. The prodigal son. The perfect father. The trusted family friend. I am whoever and whatever I want to be. I am taking something from them, something they will never get back. Not their most treasured valuables. Their privacy. They have been violated and their lives will never be the same.
I had no idea what the layout of the inside of the house was, but I could pretty much guess. After all, I’ve been inside enough of them. The mudroom is usually off the kitchen and this house was no different. 
The house was fifty, maybe sixty years old. I knew that from outside, by the thickness of the paint on the wood, the architecture of the house. But the kitchen is new. The refrigerator was one of those sub-zero jobs. I opened it. It was filled with food. There are leftovers from dinner. Roast beef. Broccoli. Roasted potatoes. All in blue dishes wrapped tight with Saran wrap.
I’m wasn’t hungry but still I grabbed a potato and popped it in my mouth. It was good. I took another. They probably wouldn’t even notice they were gone. But I will know there are fewer of them than there were an hour ago. That made me smile. I took out a container of orange juice from the side of the refrigerator. It was the fresh squeezed kind, not from concentrate. I opened the cap and took a swig, then put it back, not in its place on the side of the door, but in the front of the refrigerator. I wondered how long it will take for someone to realize it’s been moved. By rearranged a carton of orange juice I have rearranged lives, without them even knowing it.
I’m finished in the kitchen. The next room should be the dining room. If I was there for silver, this would be where I would find it. But I’m not. What would I do with it? Where would I put it? How would I explain it if I were caught? No, tonight is just for kicks. Just to prove how good I am.
In the dining room, I spotted the breakfront. That’s where the silver would be stored. Most of it would probably be the cheap, plated stuff. Not worth the trouble. I am curious enough to see for myself, so I opened one of the drawers. I was right. Cheap crap. I opened the glass door and took out a pitcher. This was more like it. Not antique, but real silver. I put it back. I smiled. They’ll never know how lucky they were.
I don’t want to linger long, so I moved into the living room. That’s where I really want to be. Although there might be a playroom downstairs for the kids, and a den where the man of the house can go to drink his beer and watch his football game in peace, this is the heart of the house. This is where the family meets. This is where guests are entertained.
I stood in front of the plush, cream-colored sofa and listened. There was complete silence except for the faint, harsh sound of snoring coming from upstairs. Every once in a while. there was a burst of noise, like the sound of a small cannon, but then it settled down into a monotonous mono-tonal drum beat.
I sat down on the sofa. So plush I sunk into it, as the cushion molded itself to the shape of my ass. It was more comfortable than any sofa I’d ever sat on. The couch I grew up with was hard and frayed and smelled of cat urine. I have never been in a house this long, long enough to sit and enjoy the comfort of another man’s home.
I didn’t want to get up. I wanted to stay there forever. But I knew I could not. I looked at my watch. It was twelve-thirty. I needed to get back to the motel. I will leave this burg in the morning, back on the Greyhound headed north for New York City.
I stood up but before I headed back into the dining room, on my way to the kitchen and then the mudroom, I did something I’ve never done before. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. 
There was a dish of nuts on the coffee table. I picked it up, and dropped it on the carpeted floor. It made a dull thud, and the nuts scattered all over the carpet.
I heard noise coming from upstairs. The sound of feet hitting the floor. Like someone was getting out of bed. Slower than I should have, I headed back the way I came, a smile on my face. I wished I could be here when the dad comes downstairs and finds nuts all over his floor. What the hell will he think?
But I have no time to wonder because I could hear the sound of bare footsteps starting to come down the stairs. I made it to the mudroom. I opened the window I’ve come in a little bit wider. I stood back several feet, then took a perfect dive through the window. I tumbled through the air until I landed outside on my feet. A fucking circus acrobat could not have done better.
I looked at my watch. It was twelve-thirty. I have been in the house for less than half an hour. I have taken nothing and yet I have taken everything I needed.  I was there, but I am not there any longer. 

In the blink of an eye I am someplace else.”

You can find Charles on Twitter @ CharlesSalzberg, Facebook or Goodreads.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mystery Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! It's been a crazy few weeks, but I think I am finally caught up. 

Two of my favorite shows -- Timeless & the Royals have been back on the air for two weeks now, and the mysteries in both shows are getting deeper and deeper. 

On Timeless (a TV show about time travel, and a generations-old conspiracy to control the world), Lucy's mother and the Rittenhouse seem to be changing the future at strategic points, but our heroes Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus can't quite seem to glean why. This week's trip back to the 1950s for NASCAR racing made for a fun and different episode. If you haven't gotten caught up, you might want to set aside some time. Timeless is on NBC.

On The Royals (a TV show about an alternative British royalfamily who doesn't mind committing the odd murder or two while they are sleeping around), Robert is turning out to be more of a villain than Cyrus could even imagine. I love the crazy characters on this show, the fabulous wardrobe and the mixed up plots. It's great fun. 

Moving onto the book world, Kerry Hammond (Mystery Playground's chief reviewer) and I will be at the Malice Domestic fan convention this year, where Kerry will sign her story the Malice 2018 anthology, Murder Most Geographical, at a special party on Friday night. I'll probably keep mentioning that for the next few months. We're excited. 

I'm also looking forward to seeing Ellen Byron, Catriona McPherson, Anne Cleeves, Amanda Flower and Cathy Ace at the conference. The conference runs from April 27-April 29th in Bethesda, MD. Tickets are still available. They have a great guest of honor line up this year:

Hope to see you there, but if you can't make it, tune in here and we'll share photos from all the happenings. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Carol J. Perry and It Takes A Coven

Author Carol J. Perry joins us today to brew a wicked good drink for her new novel.

The newest book in Carol J. Perry’s Witch City Mystery series from Kensington Publishing is It Takes a Coven. Seems that there’s a new Witch-hunt going on in Salem, Massachusetts. With witches dropping dead before they even come out of the proverbial broom closet, and with thousands of crows  descending on Salem, Lee Barrett’s best friend River thinks she may have unleashed a terrible curse on the Wiccan population of the city. With the aid of a talkative crow named Poe, and her clairvoyant cat, O’Ryan, Lee sets out to investigate. She learns that casting light on the wicked truth can be one killer commitment.

    The Black Crow is a well-known, simple to make old standby in rum-loving New England. Nothing fancy, but it does seem appropriate for a story involving thousands of the big black birds. Appropriately enough, the collective noun for such a gathering is “a murder of crows.”

Here’s the recipe:

Black Crow
1 part 151 Rum
4 parts Root Beer. (Lee uses Barq’s.)

Mix together with crushed ice in a glass. Garnish with mint leaves if you like.

Here's the book trailer for It Takes A Coven...


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Affliction by Beth Gutcheon

Kerry Hammond has discovered a great new author and can’t wait to tell us about it.

I am so excited to have discovered not only a new author, but a new series. The Affliction by Beth Gutcheon was published in Hardcover on March 13 by William Morrow. It’s the second book in a series that features Maggie Detweiler and her friend Hope. Maggie is a former headmistress of a private New York City school who has been tasked to evaluate the financial stability of Rye Manor School for girls. She meets the faculty and students at the school and one teacher, Florence Meagher, stands out for her peculiar affliction—she talks incessantly. When Florence’s body is found floating in the school’s pool, Maggie’s work takes on a new focus. She helps with damage control and helps investigate to find out who killed Florence and why.

Hope Babbin is Maggie’s socialite friend who is always available to drop everything to join Maggie for a little investigating. Hope’s social skills, and her ability to disarm people she wants to get information from, are invaluable to Maggie as she continues to investigate not only the teachers, but the students at Rye Manor. Maggie and Hope make quite a crime solving duo and soon get to the bottom of the mystery.

At first I wasn’t sure about this book; the title and the cover made me think it was a novel of suspense and I expected it to delve into some sort of psychological disorder. But when I read the book jacket I realized that Florence’s affliction was her inability to stop talking; I found this funny. I was also intrigued to see where the author would go with the private girls’ school setting. I wasn’t disappointed, Gutcheon has created two very appealing characters in Maggie and Hope and the setting was all I had hoped for. The plot kept me guessing and I enjoyed unraveling the puzzle. I’m looking forward to reading the first book in the series, Death at Breakfast.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Innocents and the Dirty Shirley Temple

David and Mary Putnam join us on Drinks with Reads today to talk about David's latest novel, The Innocents. The book is getting great reviews -- "Reminiscent of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch" and also compared to "...the best of Joseph Wambaugh" by New York Times best-selling author Robert Dugoni, who also writes, "David Putnam provides an insider's knowledge of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. His characters and settings are rich and authentic, and his dialogue is spot on accurate. A great novel for lovers of the mystery genre that blurs the line between good and evil and will keep you guessing until the final pages."

This first of several "The Early Years" prequels (to his Bruno Johnson thrillers: The Disposables, The Replacements, The Squandered, and The Vanquished) is chronologically the earliest in Bruno's life so a great place to jump in if you're new to the series.

In the first chapter, Bruno meets the baby girl he didn't know he had. So for this drink pairing, a "Shirley Temple" (alcohol optional) seemed like a logical fit.

Ginger ale 
Splash of grenadine
Maraschino cherries
Optional: (to make it a "Dirty Shirley") Vodka
NOT optional (half the fun, in Mary's option): Lots of parasols and perhaps pinwheels!!

Add ice to your favorite glass, perhaps a "shot" mug, directions to make your own, here:

Add ginger ale and splash of grenadine (I'd forgotten how super-sweet this stuff is! A tiny bit for color is plenty)

Of course, if you're making these drinks NOT for The Innocents, you can add some vodka to make what some call a "Dirty Shirley."

When adding all your parasols and pinwheels, you can skewer your cherries so they don't sink to the bottom, for easier snacking.

Bottoms up!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Instinct on CBS: from author James Patterson

There’s a new drama on CBS starting this spring and it’s based on a James Patterson novel; Kerry Hammond is here to tell us about it.

I am a big fan of Alan Cumming and I enjoyed every episode of the Good Wife he appeared in. I started to see previews for an upcoming CBS drama starring Cumming and I was very intrigued. When I heard it was from bestselling author James Patterson, I knew I had to check it out.

The show is called Instinct and is scheduled to air on March 18. Cumming plays an author and professor teaching abnormal behavior, Dr. Dylan Reinhart. He is also an ex-CIA agent. The NYPD pulls him into a case involving a serial killer because the killer sent Reinhart's book as a clue. Even though Reinhart really clashes with detective Lizzie Needham, who is heading up the case, they eventually realize that they have a way of working together that gets the job done.

Here’s a preview of the show.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Anthem For Doomed Youth & Lavender Lemonade

Kerry Hammond is here today to pair a historical mystery with the perfect drink.

Anthem For Doomed Youth is the 19th book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by author Carola Dunn. Dunn has just finished the 23rd book, which is due out this year, and I've always enjoyed this historical series. Daisy was born into a certain social position but has never been interested in an idle life. She works as a freelance writer and is married to a Scotland Yard Detective whose superiors are constantly bewildered at her involvement in her husband’s cases.

In this adventure, it’s 1926 and Daisy’s husband, DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, is away investigating three bodies found buried in the woods. In his absence, Daisy heads to their daughter Belinda’s school for a visit. Just when you think Daisy is staying away from all police investigations, a dead body is found on campus and she is put in the middle of solving her own murder. While Daisy tries to figure out who at the school might want the victim dead, Alex is racing against time to stop more deaths from happening.

Lavender Lemonade is a great drink to go with this book, Daisy and the friends she visited the school with were always quite parched as they chased the girls around and spent time sleuthing.

Lavender Lemonade
4 oz. Lemonade (best if made from fresh squeezed lemons mixed with simple syrup)
1 oz. Lee Spirits Lavender Gin
A dash of Strongwater small batch spirits and botanicals

Pour all ingredients over ice in a glass and gentle stir.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads I See You by Clare Macintosh

Kerry Hammond is here with her most recent report from the Denver-based Crime & Beyond book club. This month they read a new-to-them author.

This month the book club met to discuss a new-to-us author; we read I See You by Clare Macintosh. In the book, Zoe Walker is traveling home on the London Tube when she spots the photo of a woman in a classified ad and swears it’s a picture of her. The photo is advertising a dating site called and Zoe has never joined a dating site. As the days go by, Zoe sees other women in similar ads and continues to feel uneasy. When she notices that these women have been the victims of violent crimes, she contacts the police. What follows is Zoe’s realization that she might be the next victim, that she is being watched, and that she has no idea who she can trust.

We had mixed opinions of the book; some really enjoyed it and others felt that it had crossed over into what we’ve noticed is a new category of books: the whiney female victim category. Don’t get me wrong, if I were being stalked and saw my face in a personal ad I hadn’t placed, I might be a tad whiney myself. As much as we felt for Zoe’s circumstances, we at times had a hard time connecting with her.

What we all agreed on was that the premise was excellent. I won’t give any spoilers, but the meaning behind the website and the ads is chillingly realistic. Macintosh is an ex-police officer and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the club members really liked the character of Kelly, one of the police officers investigating Zoe’s case. We had a very interesting discussion of the book and many are planning to read the author’s first novel, I Let You Go.