Monday, December 11, 2017

The Yule Book Flood

RHYS BOWEN: I recently read an article about the happiest places on Earth. And at the top of the list were the Scandinavian countries. They have great social welfare programs. They pay high taxes but they know they will never be without healthcare, homeless, hungry or neglected when they are old. They have the right idea about how to enjoy life and it's not acquiring more things. My friend visited Denmark this summer and the family always ate together, spending the evening talking and laughing. They went everywhere by bicycle, took picnics, enjoyed the outdoors.

Okay, you say, but some of those countries spend half the year in darkness.  Ah, I reply. But Iceland has the Jólabókaflóð.

Yes, it's The yule book flood! On Christmas Eve everyone gives and receives a book, and they spend the night reading them. What a brilliant idea, and hooray for Iceland! What a wonderful country that values books and reading. Can you picture curling up with a rug in an armchair by the fire, a mug of hot chocolate or spiced cider and a plate of cookies beside you and reading all night? Big sigh of content.

So I’m trying to think what books I would want to give my nearest and dearest on Christmas Eve.

Daughters Clare, Anne and Jane would be easy to please because they read a lot and enjoy the same sort of books I do. So Kate Morton, or historical WW1 or 2. Then we would pass them around after we’d read them.  Of course Clare is brilliant and might enjoy a book on Quantum Physics. (yes, she reads things like that for pleasure) And Anne is an activist and dog lover. A funny book of dogs might go down well on Christmas Eve. 

Granddaughter Lizzie is going off to college so a book on
surviving alone might be good. Granddaughter Meghan loves art and design. Clare's kids love dystopian novels.(eek). A few years ago when I gave them the Hunger Games they hugged the books and jumped up and down. Tim would want something on theology, Sam on robots.

Years ago I gave son-in-law Tom a Daniel Silva and he rushed out to buy everything else Silva had written. So he’d be easy too. Dominic and Meredith are into house renovation, inspirational self-help and healthy cooking. Plenty of choice there.  I’m not sure about John. When he loves a book he has to read it straight through, not pausing to eat, sleep or visit the bathroom. But he doesn’t always love books I think he will.  One of mine would be good, but he’s proof-read them all.

And now I’m writing this I’m thinking that half the fun would be choosing the books, lying in bed and thinking which book would be perfect for which person.  I think I’d want to share the book I’d been given with those around me that night, so I’d choose a book to receive that could be read out loud. One of my favorites and perfect for the occasion would be the POEMS OF ROBERT FROST.  His poetry is so evocative and so right for cold winter evenings. What’s more his world is one of simplicity, of peace, and safe havens that so many of us crave right now. I once visited his farm with friends and we did the poetry walk, each taking turns to read the appropriate poem at the site about which it was written. One of the most memorable things I have ever done. And I am now inspired to do this myself this year: so picture me sitting by the fire and reading “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep….”

So, dear Red family, what books would you give and which would you like to receive?

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm especially looking for books for my 4-year-old granddaughter and 1-year-old  grandson. The problem is they already have SO MANY books (and toys and clothes and...) and we saved the keepers that belonged to our daughters. So finding just one special book, that's the challenge. I just bought myself a copy of Saturday Evening Girls Club by Jane Healey and I'm looking forward to curling up with it.

INGRID THOFT: Help!  I need a book suggestion for an eight-year-old!  Any thoughts?  I love to get people hooked on series, and one of the series that I find pleases just about everyone is C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett books.  Men and women, city mice and country mice alike seem to enjoy these books.  There are a couple of people on my list who would enjoy “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” the coffee table book by Pete Souza, the official White House photographer during the Obama years.  I’d love to get a dessert cookbook that isn’t too complicated, but full of yummy options.  Any favorites all of you can recommend?

RHYS: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Everyone loves that series. If the child is an advanced reader she can tackle the first Harry Potter at 8.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: OH, there's great YA mystery called SUMMERLOST,  about a young girl who gets a summer job at a local theater that does Shakespeare.  And Peter Abrahams' Echo Falls Mysteries. I think they're okay for an eight-year old...oh! The main character in the Echo Falls books is named Ingrid!  So that solves that. 

And all the Edward Eager books--like HALF MAGIC (where you only get half your wish so you have to figure that out) and KNIGHTS CASTLE (where the main characters take part in Ivanhoe). SO great.

Ben Mezrich (of the Facebook movie fame) has a new YA called Charlie Numbers--it looks adorable.

Hallie, the one year old should have Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom. I got the new book on RFK for my step son and his sons. And the Stephen Kinzer book on Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain (so fascinating--there was "fake news" back then, too, of course) for Jonathan's brother. 

For me? Sadly, I just want my own book to be finished. But I have miles to go before I sleep.

LUCY BURDETTE: A couple kids books that I recommend are Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell and Some Writer! The story of EB White by Melissa Wweet. Both are gorgeously illustrated and good for both boys and girls. I bought the first one for 18 month old Dorothea but I think it’s probably skews older than that. The second one would definitely be for a 4 to 7-year-old and her parents to read. And if you are a huge fan of Mr. White as I am, this is a great book. 

If you have someone on your list who loves food and Paris, David Lebovitz has a new memoir out called L'APPART about his travails buying and renovating his apartment in Paris. Absolutely chilling, I have assured John that I no longer want a French pied a terre for my birthday!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Ingrid, I'm going to add to everyone's suggestions: anything my Dav Pilkey for a boy (the Captain Underpants series and the Ricky Riccota's Mighty Robot series are huge at our local library. For a girl, try the Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows. 

For me, one of my cherished personal Christmas traditions is to snuggle down in the comfy reading chair in front of the fire after all my dinner guests have left, and to crack open a book I received that morning (or have been saving for the occasion.) It's lovely to get into my flannel pajamas after a long, long day and read late into the night. (Because I don't have to get up early for anything on St. Stephen's day!)

What would I gift for Jólabókaflóð? For my sister who likes to travel, National Geographic's DESTINATIONS OF A LIFETIME. For her husband, the Trekkie, THESE ARE THE VOYAGES: The Original Series, Season One. For my brother the history buff, Ron Chernow's magisterial biography GRANT. And for my sister-in-law, who loves to cook,
Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by
Ashley Christensen.

As for my fiction-loving mother, there's only one novel she wants to read... my next one! Better get cranking.

JENN MCKINLAY: How funny. I just wrote a post about Jólabókaflóð for my publisher's newsletter. They wanted me to choose the one book I would gift to a book lover for the "flood of books"? For me, it's THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. I love that book on so many levels. Now, if we're talking kids, I am all over the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Parks. June B is the sassiest first grader whoever was! I love her and most kids do, too, even boys! For me, I collect knitting books. I don't have time to knit as much as I'd like but I love reading the patterns. I recently found a book of Japanese knitting patterns by Hitomi Shida that reshaped my brain like fingers in Play-Doh. It's my latest favorite. 

RHYS: Jenn, I had to write that same post for our joint publisher--which is what gave me the idea for this! And I also love knitting patterns. When I'm next in Arizona I'll gift you a book of impossibly fabulous but difficult patterns.

So now it's your turn, everyone. What books would you like to give and receive for the  Jólabókaflóð.?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow What?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  It's snowing in Boston. Yeah, I know, it's December, whaddaya expect? But (because we're home) it's so pretty, and no scary, and not blustery. Just a gentle sweet little dusting of decoration from Mother Nature.

Here's the cast iron colt we have in our side yard. He's life size, and my constant joy.
Hank's side yard

Is it snowing where you are? Or what's it like outside your window right now? 

LUCY BURDETTE:  Oh I'm envious of that first snow, does that sound silly? But I hated worrying about driving in winter--don't miss that at all.

The front is passing through Key West now--rain, wind, and a 20 degree drop in temperature. All the tourists on Duval St. were wearing their plastic garbage bag cover-ups!

outside Hallie's study

HALLIE EPHRON: Here's the view out my window - powdered-sugar snow. And it's coming down in big fat flakes like in a snow globe. 

First snow. Love it. Hasn't gotten old...yet. As long as I don't have to drive, and I'm not going ANYWHERE until it stops. I heard this storm brought snow to Texas(!)

JENN MCKINLAY: No snow in central AZ. I've only seen it snow twice here in the twenty plus years I've been here and then it never sticks. Snow is always magical to me! But since I can't have snow I settle for amazing sunsets and holiday lights - which I put up today! 

The view from Jenn's front porch!

HANK:  Wow. Amazing, Jenn. And look at this!  
By 8:30, the snow had not stopped! This is our back yard.
And the bird bath is about two inches that many inches?

Hank's back yard--bird bath at 8:30

SO pretty, right?

Reds, what's the weather where you are?

((And the winner of Jessica Strawsers's ALMOST MISSED YOU is Mary C!  (Lucky you!) Email me at  h ryan at whdh dot com to  claim your prize!

Hurray for the Liv Constantine winners! Your books are on the way asap.)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

James Rollins, Sigma Force, and The Demon Crown

DEBORAH CROMBIE: If you love an absolutely unputdownable read, you have cause to celebrate! There’s a new JAMES ROLLINS SIGMA FORCE  novel  out this week!

Nobody writes a combination of intriguing science, well-researched history, and breathtaking adventure like Rollins, and I can’t wait to curl up by the fire and dive into this one. I asked Jim to tell us a little about the book. I've got goosebumps just reading about it.

DEBS: THE DEMON CROWN is the 13th Sigma Force novel. What new menace is threatening the planet?

JAMES ROLLINS: To quote my editor: This book is Sigma’s most frightening adventure to date. And I don’t disagree. The novel starts when a group of scientists stumbles across an island off the coast of Brazil, where all life has been eradicated, consumed and possessed by a species beyond imagination. Before they can report their discovery, the scientists are attacked and killed. Save one, an entomologist, an expert on venomous creatures. This one event soon blows up into a global threat, when the same species is unleashed across the Hawaiian Islands. As people die by the hundreds, it appears the only way to halt the organism’s spread is to nuke those islands. To prevent that from happening, Sigma Force must discover the terrifying origin of the species—and find a way to destroy it. But already the organism is changing, growing, spreading—adapting and surviving every attempt to stop it. So, yes, it is indeed a frightening story—especially so because of how real this danger actually is. Even Homeland Security maintains the threat raised in this novel to be a top priority.

DEBS: Can you tell us a little about the heroes of your stories? Who are Sigma Force?

JIM: Sigma Force is a team of former special forces soldiers who have been drummed out of the service for various reasons. But because of special aptitudes and abilities, they’ve been recruited in secret by DARPA—the Defense Department’s research-and-development agency—and retrained in various scientific disciplines to act as field agents for DARPA. Their mission is to protect the globe against various emerging threats. Basically, they’re scientists with guns.

DEBS: What is the real-life scientific danger in THE DEMON CROWN that could keep Homeland Security up at night?

JIM: Specifically, the threat posed by invasive species, those foreign invaders to our shores.  We’ve already seen how the Everglades are being overrun by pythons that are wiping out our native bird populations. Then there are Asian carp in our lakes and rivers doing the same to native fish. And it’s not just here in the States. Other examples of invasive species are plentiful and global. Most of these cases are due to accidental contaminations. What worries Homeland Security is that some hostile power might weaponize such a species and use it as means of waging war. Especially as such a threat is nearly impossible to defend against. It’s just that kind of frightening scenario that I explore in THE DEMON CROWN.

DEBS: You love to include intriguing concepts in your books. What can readers expect to discover in your newest novel?

JIM:This novel serves as a cautionary reminder that we are not living in the Age of Man, but rather—as has been true for over 400 million years—we are living in the Age of Insects. In fact, it is now hypothesized that insects contributed—if not led—to the extinction of the dinosaurs. How? You’ll have to read the book for the shocking answer. But of course, this then begs the question concerning the insects’ latest competitors for the earth’s dwindling natural resources:  Could we be their next target?

DEBS: You also fold fascinating bits of history into your stories. In this case, you deal with the mysteries surrounding the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in D.C. What made you choose to include this bit of history?

JIM: Mostly because so little is truly known about the man who founded the Smithsonian. James Smithson was a British chemist who never set foot in America, yet left his fortune to our young nation in order to establish this institution that would carry his name. He did so without warning or explanation. Then shortly after the founding of the Smithsonian, its first building—the Smithsonian Castle—was nearly destroyed by a fire during the Civil War. Most of Smithson’s books and journals, along with his vast mineral collection, were destroyed, all but erasing his heritage. Then even more intriguingly, the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, defied the regents of the Smithsonian to sail to Europe. On New Year’s Eve in 1903, under the cover of a snowstorm, he stole the bones of James Smithson from a graveyard in Italy and returned them to the States, where those bones reside today in the Smithsonian Castle. To me, Alexander Graham Bell could’ve been a member of Sigma Force. Here we have a scientist and inventor who was not above a little skullduggery…in this case, literally. In fact, many true-to-life mysteries surrounding those stolen bones are critical to the story.

DEBS: You are also active in your support of American veterans. Could you tell us a little bit about your efforts?

JIM: Sure. My support for veterans first came about after I participated in a USO tour of authors to Iraq and Kuwait in the winter of 2010. Upon coming home, I knew I wanted to do more. First, I worked with USA Cares, which raises emergency funds for vets in need, then most recently I joined US 4 Warriors as an advisory board member. The new charity started as a grassroots effort in San Diego and has since expanded nationwide. Besides helping to promote the social welfare of vets in a wide spectrum of activities, the latest endeavor also involves helping veterans tell their stories…and get published! So as a writer, I’m especially exciting as US 4 Warriors expands into this adventure.

DEBS: Here's more about THE DEMON CROWN.

Off the coast of Brazil, a team of scientists discovers a horror like no other, an island where all life has been eradicated, consumed and possessed by a species beyond imagination. Before they can report their discovery, a mysterious agency attacks the group, killing them all, save one, an entomologist, an expert on venomous creatures, Professor Ken Matsui from Cornell University.
Strangest of all, this inexplicable threat traces back to a terrifying secret buried a century ago beneath the National Mall: a cache of bones preserved in amber. The artifact was hidden away by a cabal of scientists—led by Alexander Graham Bell—to protect humankind. But they dared not destroy it, for the object also holds an astonishing promise for the future: the very secret of life after death.
Yet, nothing stays buried forever. An ancient horror—dormant in the marrow of those preserved bones—is free once more, nursed and developed into a weapon of incalculable strength and malignancy, ready to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world.
To stop its spread, Commander Grayson Pierce of Sigma Force must survive a direct attack on the island of Maui. To be there first has always been the core mission of Sigma Force, a covert team forged to be America’s front line against emerging threats. But this time, even Sigma may not be able to decipher this deadly mystery, one that traces back to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution.
With each new discovery, the menace they hunt is changing, growing, spreading—adapting and surviving every attempt to stop it from reconquering a world it once ruled. And each transformation makes it stronger . . . and smarter.
Running out of time and options, Commander Grayson Pierce will be forced to make an impossible choice. To eradicate this extinction-level threat and expose those involved, he will have to join forces with Sigma’s greatest enemy—the newly resurrected Guild—even it if means sacrificing one of his own.


James Rollins is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the "top crowd pleasers" (New York Times) and one of the "hottest summer reads" (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets--and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.
As a boy immersed in the scientific adventures of Doc Savage, the wonders of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and pulps such as The Shadow, The Spider, and The Avenger, James Rollins decided he wanted to be a writer. He honed his storytelling skills early, spinning elaborate tales that were often at the heart of pranks played on his brothers and sisters.
Before he would set heroes and villains on harrowing adventures, Rollins embarked on a career in veterinary medicine, graduating from the University of Missouri and establishing a successful veterinary practice. He continues to volunteer his time and veterinary skills in support of the local SPCA. His hands-on knowledge of medicine and science helps shape the research and scientific speculation that set James Rollins books apart.

DEBS: Like Jim, I grew up loving adventures stories. And like Jim, I loved science, and animals. (Did I mention that one of Jim's characters is a military working dog?) Readers, do you love adventure stories? What are some of your favorites?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Do You Trust Your Spouse?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  How many lives has Jessica Strawser changed? As editor in chief of Writers Digest, she's encouraged authors to work hard and be authentic and do their best. And as a result, readers get the benefits of the books that result!

And now she's taking her own advice--and hitting it out of the ball park with novels of her own.

So now-- take a look at that person sitting across the breakfast table from you. Or across the table of your best friend. How--reliable is that spouse?  

It may be a disturbing question. But it sure makes for a great novel.

(And we're giving a copy of ALMOST MISSED YOU to one lucky commenter!) 

Why Bad Husbands Make for Good Suspense

On the page as in life, there’s just something irresistible—from the outside, of course—about a marriage gone completely off the rails. The best suspense writers are skilled at tapping into our worst fears, and (death and public speaking aside) this one drives deep: It’s that horrifying idea that you might have missed some crucial undesirable something about the person you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with.

The person who shares your bank account, your address, your bed … maybe even your children.

My own 2017 novel, Almost Missed You, features a husband who makes some choices we’ll refer to as … questionable. Finn packs up and leaves his unsuspecting wife in the middle of a family vacation, and kidnaps their 3-year-old in the process. No note, no apology, no trace of where he’s gone.

The story that follows takes us, in alternate turns, back to when they met—through tangled years of fate, missed connections, and all that seemed meant to be—and forward to how she might find him now. And while I won’t hint at what happens, I will say this: The “bad” husband of my making isn’t all bad. I have a soft spot for the guy, I confess. I can’t even call him bad without using quotation marks!

Of course, not everybody feels the same about poor Finn, and that’s what’s great about fiction—just as we don’t all dole out forgiveness in equal measure in real life, in novels we’re bound to meet characters whose merits (or lack thereof) are ripe for debate. One reviewer wrote passionately about how badly she wanted to punch Finn in the face—so eloquently I had no doubt she’d do it if presented with the chance! Her visceral response, in my view, means I did my job: In her mind, he’d become real.

You’re probably thinking by now of Gone Girl—the quintessential battle of the bad spouses. Some think, not without grounds, that the book’s success spawned a rash of domestic suspense novels, but it’s also true that fraught marriages are nothing new on the shelf. And they don’t have to go so far as to involve psychotic murder setups to be compelling.

Shades of gray, after all, can be more interesting than black and white. I prefer them in my fiction and in my closet. And I’m not alone. My favorite trade review of Almost Missed You came from Booklist, which called it:

“Perfect for readers looking for something new after all of the ‘Girl’ thrillers … Gritty, witty, and a worthy addition to the recent slate of domestic dramas.”

Here are six others that have kept me good company, ranked on a sliding scale from it’s complicated to get out while the gettin’s good.

• The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: This one is a few years old now, but I feel compelled to mention it because these days so many people cite Big Little Lies as their favorite Moriarty book. This is mine. Her titular husband is in the same camp as Almost Missed You’s Finn—well meaning, to a point. The end is especially unforgettable in the way that the readers come to know more than the characters ever will. 

The Blackbird Season by Katie Moretti: Alicia’s husband is a popular teacher and coach, perhaps a bit too well liked by his female students in particular … you can guess where this is going. Alicia and the other characters come to think they can, too—but jumping to conclusions can be just as dangerous as looking the other way.

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell: The title says it all—or does it? Revealed almost entirely in flashbacks, this story’s largely unlikeable victim casts shades of doubt over every plot turn, turning friends into frenemies and bonds into betrayals.

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: Imagine: Your husband was having an affair, which you learned only when he and his mistress met an untimely end. You allow yourself to be convinced that recreating their final days might somehow be healing. What could possibly go wrong?

• The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle: The abrupt end to a perfect relationship—when a husband goes down with a plane he wasn’t supposed to be on—is the beginning of this psychological thrill ride with twists to spare.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: At the far end of the spectrum, if you prefer your bad husbands really, unequivocally, sickeningly bad, I’m not sure you’ll find one much worse than this creep.

My TBR pile wants to know: What’s your favorite book featuring a suspiciously secretive spouse, or a marriage in turmoil? And what was it about the suspense that hooked you and wouldn’t let go?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Whoa. Behind Closed Doors was so creepy! Truly disturbing. And I just read an excerpt of The Marriage Pact. Which seems interesting. (My new book TRUST ME, is about husbands, too. Just saying.)

And I will confess: there’s an arc of NOT THAT I COULD TELL on my nightstand. Lucky me. :-) 

So—marriage books?   Girl on the Train? Anna Karenina?   The other day someone mentioned Blood and Money.  (And do you think the spouses of the authors begin to get suspicious?)

Jessica Strawser  is editor-at-large of Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade. Her debut novel, Almost Missed You, was named to Barnes & Noble’s Best New Fiction shortlist upon its March 2017 release and will be new in paperback Feb. 6, 2018. Her second, Not That I Could Tell, is forthcoming in March. Connect with her on Twitter @jessicastrawser and on Facebook @jessicastrawserauthor.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Weekend in the Country?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was going to say—remember when you read your first country house mystery? But instead—let me lead the standing ovation for Katherine Hall Page. Such a talented, brilliant and hilarious person--and the most loyal and loving and generous friend. In your library? Well, of course. You want Katherine. In the kitchen? Most definitely. Katherine's an amazing cook. 

And in the trenches? Trust me. You want Katherine.

And now, astonishingly, she’s on the twenty-fourth Faith Fairchild mystery. You’ve read her “The Body in the….”  books, right?  Traditional and contemporary at the same time, witty and smart and sophisticated and clever.

The dining room at Stonehurst
Now. Remember what I said about country houses?  You want Katherine's. I mean--the one she writes about in her brand new book!

Take One Manor House, Add Murder and Stir

I’ve always wanted to write a country house mystery. One in which all the action occurs over a weekend—a “Saturday to Monday” as the British called it—with the suspects limited to the guests, staff, and host. Bumps in the night could mean discreet visits to another bedroom, or something more sinister. A push down a flight of stairs or a perilous visit to the loo tripping over the piece of string stretched across the hall that released a deadly cudgel on a nearby suit of armor. A tray of drinks passed by the butler, one lethal. And the grounds offered plenty of pitfalls resulting in an empty place at table. Endless possibilities.

Agatha Christie certainly knew this and introduced Hercule Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first of many set in similar venues. Martin Edwards has edited a superb collection of country house mystery short stories—Murder at the Manor (Poisoned Pen Press), including a very witty takeoff on the genre, “The Murder at the Towers” by E.V. Knox.

Given the popularity of the setting during the Golden Age, it is a wonder that anyone accepted an invitation to one of these stately homes.

The Body in the Casket is the 24th in the Faith Fairchild series and I decided it was more than time to try my hand at the iconic setting. It is Rowan House, near Faith’s home in Aleford, Massachusetts. She has never heard of it nor the enclave in which it is located—Havencrest.

The Rowan House is directly modeled on Stonehurst in Waltham, MA. It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson with landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted and I think it’s the only one of their collaborations that is open to the public. Stonehurst was completed in 1886 and sits on 109 acres. We live only a few miles away, but I had never heard of it (like Faith) until we went there for a friend’s wedding. 

It immediately suggested itself as the perfect place for a murder!

Rowan House’s current owner is Max Dane, legendary Broadway producer/director. He is throwing himself a weekend long 70th birthday party and hires Faith to cater it, but tells her that although he knows her reputation as a chef, it’s her “sleuthing abilities” that have attracted him.

Max’s last show, Heaven or hell The Musical was a colossal flop twenty years ago and he has not done one since. An ominous early birthday gift delivered to his door has convinced him that someone associated with the production is out to kill him. All ten of the guests he’s invited—and one uninvited—have good reasons to wish him dead.

photo courtesy Jean Fogelberg
And so we’re off with a good old-fashioned ice storm, power outage and plenty of food. Not hampers from Fortnum and Mason, but dishes referencing the musical such as Lobster Fra Diavolo and fallen Angel cocktails.

What are some of your favorite country house mysteries? And heavenly or devily delicious dishes?

HANK: Ooh, cannot wait to hear what you all say. Ten Little Indians? In a Dark, Dark Wood? What say you, Reds and readers?

Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries. The recipient of Malice Domestic’s Lifetime Achievement Award, she has received Agathas for best first mystery (The Body in the Belfry), best novel (The Body in the Snowdrift), and best short story, (“The Would-Be Widower”). She has also been nominated for the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark, the Macavity, and the Maine Literary Award. She lives in Massachusetts and Maine with her husband.
The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue.
For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn't familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.

Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith's client makes a startling confession. "I didn't hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me."
Faith's only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-oldPlaybill from Max's last, and only failed, production—Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew.

 As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.