“Rader-‐Day again proves herself (after The Black Hour, 2014) a deft manipulator of dark atmosphere, witty dialogue, and complex, charismatic characters. Highly recommended for psychological thriller groupies, especially those who walk on the literary side of the genreand favor books like Tana French’s Faithful Place (2010) and Cornelia Read’s Madeline Dare series.” ―Little Pretty Things STARRED Review, Booklist
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You’ve seen awards ceremonies. Sometimes the journalism ones are hilarious. “For Best Breaking news,” the elegantly-dressed presenter will say, “the winner is…”
“Horrific Conditions in Dog Shelter”! And the audience cheers the winner. Yay for the horrific conditions! (And then the disappointed loser gripes to himself: I was robbed. Internet Con Artists was a much better story.)
We cheer because we’re journalists, and it’s not that we have strange tastes. It’s that a good story is our obsession.
We have that in mystery world, too. Obsession. And when you think about it, obsession is in every part of our lives.
If, as the wonderful Lori Rader Day says, we are lucky.
In praise of obsession
One of the things I love best about the mystery community is that we are unabashedly obsessed with reading and watching crime stories. Obsessed with murder, actually—which is a little weird on the face of things. I’m new enough to the scene that sometimes I’ll hear something mystery-centric and it will clang against everyday reality.
Like the Malice Domestic session this year titled “Iron Coffin Boy.” The description in the schedule read: David Hunt and Deb Hull-Walski, Forensic Anthropologists, talk about how researchers solved the mystery of a boy in an iron coffin discovered by utility workers. (Feel free to bring lunch and eat during the presentation.)
People say “obsession” like it’s a bad thing. Maybe they’re thinking of “compulsion,” something you’re forced to do, something you can’t help but do (the characters in my books have a few of these). Or maybe we’ve just come to believe that anything that is felt so strongly must be out of our control, unseemly. Not ladylike. Don’t get me started on why “guilty” pleasures only seem to occur to women.
But the mystery community has given me so much, not least among them permission to love obsessively anything I darn well please. Here are just a few of the little pretty things I’m an absolute sucker for.
Needing no explanation: French macarons
Not macaroons. Those have coconut. Macarons are, as my best friend and I decided, made of crushed baby angel wings and heaven. Fine, it’s almond powder, but they still mix in the heaven at the end.
YouTube videos of children saying amazingly funny or adult things
Remember the ice bucket challenge? The only one I ever watched more than once—the only one I ever watched willingly, let’s say—was the little English girl with the accent so thick you almost don’t hear her when she swears like a sailor.
My other favorite is the little girl who just wants to buckle her own seatbelt, thank you, and you should worry about yourself. I don’t have kids, but if either of those two came up for adoption, I’d be first in line.
The things I loved as a kid and still love without apology
You know about Muppets. I won’t Muppet-splain you. But I even love Muppet’s Treasure Island and I have no shame.
I also feel no reluctance to let you know that I am in fact a Goonie and that I still have the Winnie-the-Pooh I received upon my birth. Now I make sure all the little Goonies in my life get a Winnie-the-Pooh bear upon their birth. The world needs more nerds.
The under-recognized humorous mystery Heads You Lose
I’ve had about six separate conversations about this book since April. The first two happened on the same day, when I was in New York for [blatant brag] the Mary Higgins Clark Award and Edgar Awards events. This meta-fiction mystery is solid amateur-sleuth mystery despite its wacky premise—that co-authors Lisa Lutz and David Hayward’s friendship unravels in the notes as they take turns writing the story. The book is actually a pretty great mystery-writing how-to, by accident. It’s hilarious, and yet not enough people found it. If you like it, I like you.
Humor and wit in mysteries is underrated, I think. I give Catriona McPherson all the credit for showing us how enjoyable a witty turn of phrase can be.
Candy-colored nail polish despite how few times I paint my nails
Is it a girl thing? The collection of nail polish I have would rival just about anyone’s, and yet I only get my nails painted during one season a year, often at a salon. You know, where they have their own polish?
I love OPI’s names and collections. I had to have some of the Muppet-inspired colors, of course. But I also love the interesting colors of the lacquers from Butter London. And now you will, too.
Randy Pausch’s “last lecture” video oh God here come the tears
What is it about videos you know will make you cry? We’re gluttons for it. Don’t get me near a super-cut of videos where kids or dogs welcome home returning soldiers. I cannot.
Professor and (now deceased) husband and father Randy Pausch had already been sick for a while when he was invited to give a “last lecture.” That’s what university faculty members give before they retire. Usually. But Pausch was racing against a different clock. He knows it, and so does everyone else in the room. The video is an hour-plus long and I’ve watched it, oh, too many times. It’s amazing, truly. What I love about it, other than the moment where everything comes together at the end, is how much joy Pausch puts into it. You can bet he didn’t have “guilty” pleasures, just regular ones.
Agent Carter, the TV show you should all watch so I can keep watching it
I’ve never seen Mad Men. The one episode of Games of Thrones I watched telegraphed very handily how much incest viewers were in store for (a lot). The Walking Dead sounds really gross—literally, it sounds moist. Most zeitgeist TV has passed me by, but if you all ruin this for me by not watching Agent Carter, I will watch ahead on any show I can find and post spoilers on Facebook, Twitter, every-dang-where. Agent Carter #loveforever.
A Moscow Mule with extra mule—just kidding, extra lime
I’m drinking one right now.
Look, I know there are real things in this world to worry about, and I do worry about them. I work and vote and give to solemn, well-meaning charities. I write murder mysteries where society’s ills are, if not center stage, just outside the spotlight. I’m also obsessed with taking my ecological footprint down a bit. (My husband, in regards to our recycling bin, calls me “Captain Planet.”) But life is short. It’s a blink. In the time we have, let’s not fight who we are and what we like, and cut the people around us some slack for liking what they like. We’re all nerds in our own way, and there should be more of us.
HANK: Isn’t she wonderful? I am howling, and clicking like mad. I love the video of all the billions of quacking ducks, too. Google it. And I love Tyrant, even though it is ridiculous. How about you, Reds? Tell us some obsessions!
Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014), received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second mystery, Little Pretty Things, is out in July. Her short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled dog and is active in the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.
Little Pretty Things
OLD RIVALRIES NEVER DIE. BUT SOME RIVALS DO.
Juliet Townsend is used to losing. Back in high school, she lost every track team race to her best friend, Madeleine Bell. Ten years later, she’s still running behind, stuck in a dead-‐end job cleaning rooms at the Mid-‐Night Inn, a one-‐star motel that attracts only the cheap or the desperate. But what life won’t provide, Juliet takes.
Then one night, Maddy checks in. Well-‐dressed, flashing a huge diamond ring, and as beautiful as ever, Maddy has it all. By the next morning, though, Juliet is no longer jealous of Maddy—she’s the chief suspect in her murder.
Reviews for Little Pretty Things
“Rader-‐Day again proves herself (after The Black Hour, 2014) a deft manipulator of dark atmosphere, witty dialogue, and complex, charismatic characters. Highly recommended for psychological thriller groupies, especially those who walk on the literary side of the genreand favor books like Tana French’s Faithful Place (2010) and Cornelia Read’s Madeline Dare series.” ―STARRED Review, Booklist
“Once again, Chicago author Rader-‐Day delivers a breathless psychological thriller with a killer first line, an irresistible mystery, and lean chapters soaked with suspense. Comparisons to Tana French (A Secret Place) and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train) have become all too common in the mystery genre, but with two consistently great novels now under her belt, Rader-‐Day has proved their equal in crafting taut, literary mysteries with fascinating heroines.” —BookPage
“Rader-‐Day...writes absorbingly.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The writing style allows the mystery to unfold slowly, giving readers time to swallow everything they’ve learned, making the surprising end and reveal of the culprit more shocking and full of impact. It’s a great read for the mystery lover who prefers to leave the suspense for the final pages. Compelling. Page-‐Turner.” —RT Book Reviews
“Pack this one in your beach bag and get your book clubs ready -‐ I think we’ve found this year’s hottest summer title!” —Rachel Kray, Overdrive Book Bytes
Lori Rader-‐Day is available for interviews. Use the form at www.LoriRaderDay.com/contact