Friday, September 30, 2022

A Visit to Northern Scotland @lucyburdette

LUCY BURDETTE: you may remember back in 2019 that I went on a wonderful small musical tour in Scotland that became the basis for A Scone of Contention. As the pandemic locked us all down, I developed a terrible itch to visit the stomping grounds of Ann Cleeves, whose Shetland series is one of my very favorites. I was yearning to see the haunts of Jimmy Perez. Luckily, I found another small tour focusing on walking and music in northern Scotland, the Orkney islands, and Shetland, and was able to talk some friends and family into going with me. I will show you a few highlights, but I promise to keep this brief! 

We started out in Stirling, Scotland, where I realized right away that I should have learned to play the bagpipes when I had the chance in high school. (Our high school in New Jersey had the only all girl bagpipe band in the country back in the 70s.) I did dabble in trying the drums (unsuccessful), and then became a sword dancer for the bagpipe band.

Our next stop was in Wick up on the northeast corner of Scotland. We visited the most amazing Wick Heritage Museum, crammed with artifacts and history of the area including its strength as the center of a salted herring boom before WWI. While in that museum, we were treated to a concert by well-known fiddler Gordon Gunn, and his accompanist Isobel Harp. In the background of the video, you can see some of the herring fisherman wearing the sweaters that are famous in that area.

After a shortish ferry ride to Orkney, we visited the mystical standing stones of Stenness...

and then onto an incredible multi-level archeological site called the Ness of Brodgar—all seen in a driving, cold rain. This is the only photo I managed to get—you might think it was a dump rather than a fascinating archeological dig with layers and layers of historical artifacts and structures stretching over many thousands of years. 

The whole thing was accidentally discovered when a neighboring farmer plowed up a stone. We were so lucky to have our tour from site director Nick Card.

I had no idea there had been so much World War II action in this part of the world (I am no historian!) This was a church called the Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners during the war. I began to imagine the historical romance I could write between a prisoner and a local Orkney girl. 

At the bookstore in Kirkwall, I inquired whether such a book existed. Umm, yes. There was an entire shelf of them, which I figured saved me a lot of trouble researching and writing something totally unfamiliar. 

That night we heard the music of Douglas Montgomery, along with his musical partner Brian Cromarty, and Douglas’s astonishingly talented children Lily, Magnus, and Tom. 

(Magnus and Tom had played for then Prince Charles on the island of Hoy earlier in the day.) Oh how I wish I’d stuck with an instrument as a kid!

If you’ve read the Shetland series, you will have heard of the ferry from Orkney to Shetland (about ten hours overnight.) Here was our bunk—I was prepared for the high seas with a scopolamine patch, but it was one of the mildest crossings our guide had experienced. 

Photo by Steve C

Finally we reached Jimmy Perez’s stomping grounds…below, his home...

We were taken on so many amazing hikes…

with one stop at a small graveyard where our musician guide Ed played a lament at fiddler Tom Anderson’s grave.

And then a concert and storytelling from Maurice Henderson on this rugged beach near Tangwick...

There was one extra guest in the audience...

Back on the mainland, our last stop was with fiddler Dougie Lawrence in Findhorn. 

By this point, we’d obviously done in our guides…

A final goodbye concert (Sneug Water Waltz,) though I hope we’ll be back!

My brother-in-law sent me this, do you think it’s too late? 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Not Miss Havisham @MaddieDay

LUCY BURDETTE: Today we welcome prolific writer and friend of the Reds, Maddie Day aka Edith Maxwell to the blog!

MADDIE DAY: Thank you for welcoming me back to the front of the blog, Lucy! It’s always a pleasure to share a bit about my new book with you all, in this case, Murder in a Cape Cottage. 

But first, something remarkable happened this month – I marked the ten-year anniversary of being a published mystery novelist. That’s right. Novel Number One, Speaking of Murder (first published from a very small press under the name Tace Baker), released in September, 2012. I was such a newbie, but I decided to aim high and asked both Hank and Julia if they would blurb it. And they did, along with Kate Flora and Sheila Connolly. It was my first full-length mystery, and I’m sure all four of them were kinder to the story than they should have honestly been. Nobody has ever been more grateful than I. And the book is still in print, re-released with a much-improved new cover and a fresh edit from Beyond the Page two years ago. 

I also should thank all the Reds for supporting my career. Rhys blurbed my first Quaker Midwife mystery, native Hoosier Hank also blurbed my first Country Store mystery, Hallie and Lucy taught and mentored me early on, and Jenn and Debs have never been anything less than a cheerleader for my books. I feel blessed to have had such role models and friends in all of you. More detail about my last ten years as a published author was over on the Wicked Authors on the 19th.

Back to Novel Number Twenty-Eight, about which I am still pinching myself. 

I realized in all those years and twenty-seven manuscripts (plus another five completed), I’d never included a decades-old skeleton in the wall. With Murder in a Cape Cottage, which released two days ago, I thought it was about time to fix that oversight.

I wouldn’t be the first, of course. I read Judy Alter’s contemporary Skeleton in a Dead Space six years ago. Just last winter, after I had turned in my manuscript, my friend Ann Parker’s eighth Silver Rush mystery released, The Secret in the Wall, with a skeleton clutching a bag of gold in late nineteenth-century San Francisco. And Leigh Perry has an entire Family Skeleton series featuring a live skeleton. But, as with any plot, I knew I could make finding a skeleton behind the studs a unique and intriguing story.

The new book is the fourth Cozy Capers Book Group mystery. Not being a fan of stretching out fictional romances indefinitely – or heaven forbid, romantic triangles – I decided to let bike shop owner Mac Almeida and her hunky baker Tim (who is modeled on my own hunky boyfriend Tim of fifty years ago…) get married in this book (we didn’t…). Don’t worry, they had some conflict along the way.

Mac moves her tiny house from behind her shop to the yard of Tim’s Cape Cod cottage. They decide to create an ensuite bathroom out of a closet and begin the demolition five days before their wedding. But there’s a hidden space behind the closet wall, and Mac finds a skeleton in an antique wedding dress with her wrists chained to the wall behind her.

Ooh! Cool, says the author after this image pops into her head. Mac can solve the decades-old mystery as well as the one in the present. And then the research began. What would my bride look like ninety years later in terms of skin, bones, clothing? What might a wedding dress from about 1930 look like? What’s in that suitcase next to her feet? What color were passport covers back then? How does Mac figure out what happened to the bride and her erstwhile groom? Who chained her and left her to die – in her wedding dress? Off I went.

You’ll have to read the book for the details, but I will say how grateful I was to find forensic anthropologist Sean Tallman. The Boston University School of Medicine professor gave a presentation to the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America, but I had a conflict that evening. Still, he was happy to connect with me later. He told me what to expect (small bones of hands and feet often fall off, and sometimes the skull), how her skin would look (like leather) and her clothes (stained and or rotted away), and he even read over the discovery scene. Thanks, Professor – the book is in the mail.

After the book blurb started emerging, more than one person said, “You mean like Miss Havisham?” Having read Great Expectations almost as many years ago as poor Bridey’s skeleton was old, I had to go read up on the jilted bride. And no, my skeleton has nothing in common with Miss H except for wearing matrimonial garb.

Harry Furniss, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This is also my first ticking clock mystery. Mac knows she won’t be able to relax at her own wedding if she and her book group haven’t figured out the skeleton’s story – and put a stop to more than one contemporary attack, too. She has five days.

Readers: Do you know of other books or movies with a skeleton in the wall? If you found a human skeleton, would you lean in and investigate like Mac does or run screaming for help? I’d love to send two commenters a signed copy of the new book.

Murder in a Cape Cottage 

ʼTis the day after Christmas, following a wicked-busy time of year for Mac’s bike shop. It’s just as well her Cozy Capers Book Group’s new pick is a nerve-soothing coloring book mystery, especially when she has last-minute wedding planning to do. But all pre-wedding jitters fade into the background when Mac and her fiancé, Tim, begin a cottage renovation project and open up a wall to find a skeleton—sitting on a stool, dressed in an old-fashioned bridal gown . . .
As Mac delves into the decades-old mystery with the help of librarian Flo and her book group, she discovers a story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families worthy of the bard himself. Yet this tale has a modern-day villain still lurking in Mac’s quaint seaside town, ready to make this a murderous New Year’s Eve.

“She’s handcuffed to the wall,” I whispered. “The poor thing. Somebody seriously didn’t want her to get married.” My heart broke for her, but this was also feeling like a horror movie. My own wedding was only days away. 

Maddie Day pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, and the new Cece Barton Mysteries. As Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. Day/Maxwell lives with her beau north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at,, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and on social media:




Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Cozy Character Development by Allison Brook

 LUCY BURDETTE: Today the Reds welcome a return visit from Marilyn Levinson aka Allison Brook, who has a new book out in her popular haunted library series. She comes with a topic that is dear to my heart--character development. Welcome Marilyn/Allison!

ALLISON/MARILYN: Carrie Singleton, my sleuth in the Haunted Library series, has come a long way since she accepted the position as head of program and events of the Clover Ridge Library the previous October. She's gone from dressing like Goth Girl to becoming a responsible member of her community. In DEWEY DECIMATED, Carrie becomes a temporary member of the town council and has to weigh in on an important decision regarding a valuable piece of property bordering the Long Island Sound. Should the Seabrook Preserve remain a preserve, be converted into an upscale park with boating and swimming, or should the property be sold for condos? 

Becoming engaged is a serious matter, especially for a gal who grew up in a dysfunctional household. Carrie loves Dylan, but looking forward to a wedding and marriage is a scary proposition and isn't the same thing as helping your BFF with her marriage plans. Carrie's concerned because Dylan never says much about his parents or his growing-up years. She's worried—are there skeletons in the family closet?

Maybe, maybe not, but Dylan's uncle Alec's ghost turns up in the library, causing a whirlwind and scaring the patrons. Carrie and her ghostly friend Evelyn Havers have to whisk him away until they figure out how Alec ended up dead in the building next door that's being renovated to become the library's new addition. Can Carrie convince Dylan to talk to his uncle despite the fact that Alec has let him down several times in the past?

Then there's the in-your-face TV investigative reporter who wants to team up with Carrie to find out who killed Uncle Alec and a popular Clover Ridge resident. All this and more keeps Carrie on her toes, but she's strong and resilient and manages to deal with everything life throws her way.

For those of you who love to read cozies, are change and growth important qualities you like to see in characters as a series progresses? What cozy series do you read that show growth in characters? I enjoy writing about Carrie and Dylan’s relationship. Is romance something you like included when you read a cozy series?

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. DEWEY DECIMATED, the sixth in the series, was just published. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series, the Twin Lakes series, and GIVING UP THE GHOST. Her juvenile novel, RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, was an International Reading Association-Children's Book Council Children's Choice. It will soon be reissued, followed by three more books in the series. AND DON’T BRING JEREMY was a nominee for six state awards.

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting on FaceTime with her grandkids.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Ann Mah's Jacqueline in Paris

LUCY BURDETTE: You may or may not remember that I'm a huge fan of Ann Mah's books. I've read them more than once--Mastering the Art of French Eating, Kitchen Chinese, and my favorite, The Lost Vintage. You can imagine how excited I am that her newest, Jacqueline in Paris, is out today! She could not be here to celebrate with us, but her friend Lisa Brackmann is visiting to introduce the new book. Welcome Lisa!

LISA BRACKMANN: Dear Reds and Readers, thank you so much for this opportunity to introduce you to my friend Ann Mah’s new novel, Jacqueline in Paris, the story of Jacqueline Bouvier’s junior year abroad, before the world knew her as Jackie Kennedy. 

Jacqueline Bouvier arrived in France in September 1949, to a country still recovered from the devastation of World War 2, a time of deprivation and ration tickets and coming to grips with dangerous post-war politics. The year that followed Jackie would later say she loved most of any year of her life—and Paris itself would become one of her greatest influences. What she learned about Parisian politics and her remarkable fluency in French language and culture would serve her well as First Lady, in more ways than one. 

The novel’s genesis was a 2019 travel piece that Ann wrote for the New York Times (that’s a gift link so you can read it), retracing the First Lady’s footsteps in the City of Light, of her time spent in places like the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse. After the piece was published, Ann’s agent asked her to write a pitch for a novel based on this premise. She did, and the book sold almost immediately. 

While selling on a pitch and selling that quickly is not an everyday occurrence for your average working author, it’s not surprising to me that a publisher would want this book from Ann Mah, because Jackie Kennedy in post-war Paris? Who doesn’t want to read that? And I can’t think of a better person to write it than Ann. If you are unfamiliar with Ann’s work—well, I’m here to rectify that, because you will want to get to know it. 

Ann Mah has published five books, both fiction and non-fiction. She’s a travel and food writer whose work has appeared in everything from the Washington Post to Bon Appétit. Several of her books deal specifically with France: her novel, The Lost Vintage (a historical with a mystery at its heart, highly recommended!) and not one but two works about French cuisine, Mastering the Art of French Eating (a memoir about food, life and love), and Instantly French! (how to make classic French cuisine in your Instant Pot). And she lives in Paris and knows the city intimately: the perfect guide to Jacqueline’s time in the City of Light. 

Jackie Kennedy’s life was one filled with superlatives: impossibly dramatic, glamorous, tragic, history-making. But the Jacqueline Bouvier in Ann’s novel is a young woman on a journey of discovery that I think many of us can relate to. She was raised to be demure, to please others, to hide her wit and intellect. Paris allowed her a way to be. Away from her problematic parents and in an unfamiliar landscape, surrounded by people who did not know who she was supposed to be, she could discover who she really was, who she wanted to become. She could explore love on her own terms and experience pleasure, intimacy and heartbreak. Jacqueline learned about the complexities of global politics, challenged herself intellectually and even edited a novel for the first time, and she made life-long friends. Ann Mah shows us how Bouvier’s year in Paris was foundational to the American icon that she would become—and best of all provides a believable and sympathetic portrait of the person behind that mask of celebrity. 

REDS AND READERS: Did you ever find yourself navigating an unfamiliar environment at a pivotal time in your life? How did it change you? How did it help you change? 

ANN MAH is an American food and travel writer and the bestselling author of the novels Jacqueline in Paris, The Lost Vintage and other books. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Travel section, she lives in Paris and Washington, DC.

Lisa Brackmann is the NYT best-selling author of the Ellie McEnroe trilogy (Rock Paper Tiger, Hour of the Rat, Dragon Day), and suspense novels Getaway, Go-Between and Black Swan Rising.

KIRKUS, starred review: "A delightful and surprisingly insightful novel follows the junior year abroad of Jacqueline Bouvier, a few years before she became Jackie Kennedy… Mah, who clearly loves Paris and all the details of French living, affectionately and precisely captures life in the post–World War II city, with many deprivations but a spirit of hope. Her Jacqueline—bright, observant, and a little naïve—is an engaging and believable character, and it's easy to imagine how her experiences during this year shaped her future life…Staying within the consciousness of Jacqueline as she is at this point, Mah smoothly walks the line between biography and fiction. Fans of the former first lady and Paris should be beguiled.”

BOOKLIST: “Mah’s exemplary mix of literary and journalistic skills pays off in this extensively researched novel about the woman who became America’s most iconic and enigmatic first lady."

“In Jacqueline in Paris, Ann Mah brilliantly imagines what life was like in 1949 for a college student named Jacqueline Bouvier as she embarked on her junior year abroad. The alluring descriptions of postwar Paris (the food, the scenery) will make you want to hop on a plane, and the compelling storyline, set amid the rise of the Communist movement in France, is made even more thrilling by the fact that we know where this particular woman is headed.” ~Real Simple 

Buy link for Jacqueline in Paris

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Trouble with Characters

Mykhailo Dorokhov

: In addition to crime fiction, I enjoy smart women’s fiction. I bought a book recently from an author I like and started it eagerly. A chapter or two in, I was not enjoying the protagonist. She seemed pathetic in her life, with a recently deceased estranged mother, a dreadful boyfriend who had dumped her long after she should have cut him loose, and a work addiction. I persevered and the book got better. I realized that the way the character started out was an important beginning and launched an arc that allowed her to grow progressively open to love, and understanding of herself and others. But there must be a balance, because if a character is too unlikeable, who wants to read more?

I also realized that my own character Hayley Snow started out on the pathetic side. I’ve heard from a few reviewers and readers that they did not particularly like her at first, because she seemed self-absorbed and uncaring about dear friends. Over the course of 13 books, she’s improved, as my mother-in-law used to say about difficult grandchildren! And like the women’s fiction heroine, I think she needed to start low in order to have a place to grow. So that’s my question for the day, have you run into this in the books you’re writing, and definitely the books you’re reading? Is it a necessary part of a character's growth to start low? Are there books you’ve set aside completely because of this?

HALLIE EPHRON: One of the things I learned early on was to give my character room to grow. Either for things to get worse or better. If you start in the depths of despair you cut off your options. Constant pain makes a reader numb. And yes, I’ve put aside a book because I didn’t like the main character or found them annoying (too many tics, too snarky, not even a teeny bit nice…) But I love a character who’s snarky in interesting, revealing ways. It’s tricky.

RHYS BOWEN:  I have to like the character from the beginning. He or she doesn’t have to be perfect but I need to be rooting for them. I can’t tolerate whiny, self-absorbed characters!  But I do appreciate growth throughout a series. I think Molly Murphy has learned to control impulse behavior a little and Lady Georgie has definitely grown up a lot as the series has progressed.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I have to be interested in the main character from the beginning. What are they wanting, what are they doing to get it, what are the stakes? And it’s a different juggle in a series versus a standalone, because in a series–well, maybe you have a little more time. But re-thinking, no.  No matter what, you have to grab the reader.

So– I don’t mind snarky, if they have a goal. (Whiny victims are not my favorite–unless they see their problem, and work to change it.). A person with a plan, that’s what I love. No matter what it is. I think there has to be hope. And determination. And maybe a realization of foibles. Or an intrigue with the plan. Gah. Yeah.  I just have to be interested in them. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I agree with Hank - I’ll keep reading with “interesting.” I remember diving into Laura Lippman’s AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD and being struck how her protagonist - a suburban madam with a LOT of sharp edges - became compelling through a combination of making it interesting (who doesn’t want to know how a high-end call girl operation works?) and by carefully revealing the character’s rough back story, which transformed her often unlikeable shell into armor against a world that had been cruel to her.

Another thing that will keep me reading when the character is a sad sack? Humor. The great example of this is Bridget Jones, who is completely down on herself and kind of hopeless - but who leaves you laughing on every page. I’ll stick around to see if you can do anything with your miserable life if you tickle my funny bone.

JENN McKINLAY: It’s all so subjective. I’ve had friends recommend books, assuring me that I would love the characters so much. I start to read and discover I loathe the characters and then I have to re-evaluate my friendship with that person. Like Julia, humor will win me over with a difficult character but it’s not necessary. I recently read Lessons in Chemistry (my fave book of 2022 thus far) and the main character was interesting and engaging but not particularly funny or charming. I have discovered that I am not a fan of the angry character. The jilted woman/man who spends the length of the story in a fury over how she/he was mistreated. Hard pass. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Characters don't necessarily have to be "nice." But I do have to like something about them, or to find their situation interesting enough that I want to like them. Humor will pull me in, and I do like to see an opportunity for growth. But not too whiny, or I won't have the patience to stick with them.  As Jenn says, it's all so subjective. I loved Eleanor Oliphant, for instance, who was certainly not likable, but there was something relatable that pulled me in.

How about you reading Reds, what's your take on lovable vs non-starter characters?

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Hats!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: On Friday night, I finally finished watching the Queen's funeral. It was a busy week, but I had recorded the entire ten hour program on PBS, so I sneaked in bits as I could. The final service in St. George's Chapel was very moving, but I have to admit I was distracted by the hats!

I am a hat girl! I adore hats, and it really irks me that Americans aren't into millinery. I love visiting hat shops when I'm in the UK, and would be seriously tempted to carry hats home on the plane if I had any occasion to wear them.

So it was that I noticed the many fabulous hats worn by the women both at Westminster Abbey and St. George's Chapel. (Here's a nice piece from the Guardian.) But I kept wondering if there had been a huge run on hat shops. Did everyone have a suitable black hat on standby? Did milliners and dress shops and department stores keep back an appropriate selection? Who got first dibs?

And it seems that this was indeed an issue, with even the Queen's granddaughter Princess Beatrice forced to leave shops empty-handed. Dignitaries flying in for the services and assuming they could pick up a hat last minute in London must have had a panic! 

There were the broad-brimmed, the pillboxes, the feathered, the be-ribboned, the fascinators, the rakish. And the veils! 

REDs and readers, did you have a favorite? And what style would you choose to wear if you had the occasion?

P.S. I haven't forgotten that our Jenn has a new Hat Shop Mystery coming in January! I'd love to know what Scarlett and Viv thought of the finery on display!

JENN: Well, since you asked. I expect Viv and Scarlett would no doubt be thrilled by the last minute crush in business, despite being distraught over the death of the queen (Viv is a monarchist, you know, and not just because it's good for business). And given that upscale milliners can get a 600 pounds for a hat - it's not a bad industry to be in, if you're British.

P.S.S. Karen in Ohio, you are the winner of Michael Stanley's A DEADLY COVENANT! Email me your address!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

It's Time For a What We're Reading Check-in!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It's been awhile since we've checked in on our favorite things–books!--and I have a surfeit of riches to share! Here's just a glimpse.

I started the month with Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) massive (1000 pages!) new Cormoran Strike novel, THE INK BLACK HEART. I love this series, and have them all in hardcover, but because of the length I bought it on Kindle. This did not turn out to be the best idea–as you can see, I ended up buying the hardcover, too. Sections of the book consist of two or three simultaneous online chats, and it was hard to follow in the digital format. On the plus side, I really enjoyed the book and once I had the hardcover I went back and worked my way through parts of the plot again, just to make sure I'd followed it all.

Then I dived into the new Ann Cleeves Vera novel, THE RISING TIDE, which I'd ordered from the UK, and it was as good as you would expect. I won't say anymore because, spoilers. Now I've started the new Richard Osman, THE BULLET THAT MISSED, which I'd been looking forward to for ages.

Waiting for me I have Laurie King's BACK TO THE GARDEN, Blair Fell's THE SIGN FOR HOME, an ARC of Francine Mathew's new Merry Folger Nantucket mystery, DEATH ON A WINTER STROLL, Ruby Tandoh's essays, EAT UP (fans of The Great British Baker will remember her as a finalist a few years ago,) and an ARC of Margaret Mizushima's new Timber Creek mystery, STANDING DEAD.

And as soon as I get to London, I'm buying the new Elly Griffiths Harbinder Kaur novel, BLEEDING HEART YARD, and Alan Rickman's diaries, MADLY, DEEPLY. I adored Rickman so this read will be bittersweet.

Now all I need is more time to read! What's on your have read/coming up list, fellow REDs?

LUCY BURDETTE: I just finished THE LAST DRESS FROM PARIS by Jade Beer. If you love reading about high fashion and Paris and a thwarted love story, this is for you! I also loved the new Ann Cleeves. I was looking at it this morning and thinking how sad I was that I’d have to wait another year for the next one! Very much enjoyed Kent Krueger’s newest Cork O’Connor book. Ditto on having to wait! And I am super excited about Ann Mah’s new book coming out Tuesday, JACQUELINE IN PARIS. You’ll hear more about that one next week…

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I adored BACK TO THE GARDEN! Not to be missed! And STANDING DEAD  is on the way. But you all,  I have also been absolutely blown away by three other books, too,  books recently. I mean, they are intimidatingly good. One is  MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER N-KNOW  by Katie Gutierrez. And WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME by Gillian McAllister. And ALL THAT IS MINE I CARRY WITH ME by William Landay. Reds and readers, these are the books of the year.  Truly. Life-changing, writing-changing –and explosively, rule-breakingly great. 

HALLIE EPHRON: I’m in the middle of BONES UNDER THE ICE, a debut novel from Mary Ann Miller, with a rookie female sheriff in Indiana.

And slowly reading THE LAST CONFESSIONS OF SYLVIA P. by Lee Kravetz. I met Lee when I was at Book Passage’s mystery writing conference - he’s one of their local writers and the book is a knockout–a “literary mystery.” The eponymous “Sylvia P.” is of course poet Sylvia Plath. So far the story is set at the McLean psychiatric hospital where she spent a lot of time as a patient, and which was the setting for my “Dr. Peter Zak” series mystery novels.

JENN McKINLAY: LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus is my fave book of 2022…so far. I even mentioned this book in our upcoming convo about characters. I also recently read NOSY PARKER by Lesley Crew and adored it - a coming of age story set in the late sixties Montreal. Wickedly funny. And I am currently reading an ARC of  Annabel Monaghan’s SAME TIME NEXT SUMMER and absolutely loving it!


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I wish I could show you a stack of books, but I'm at a conference and everything I brought with me to read is virtual - and also not yet out! I'm loving SONS AND BROTHERS by Kim Hays, the next Linder and Donatelli mystery set in Bern, Switzerland. (Kim has been a guest here, so you may recognize her name.) Next up: UNDER A VEILED MOON, the second in Karen Odden's new Inspector Corravan series, set in 1870s London. It's not out until October, but you can read the first in the series, DOWN A DARK RIVER, right now. 


About to check out from the library: LUCY BY THE SEA, by Maine's own Elizabeth Strout. I'm not even sure what it's about; I read her based on her reputation alone. I've never been disappointed in one of her books.

DEBS: I've been really looking forward to the Ann Mah book, too, and I'm so intrigued by all the other suggestions. So interesting where we overlap and where we don't, and I love that these suggestions push me in new directions!

READERS, what's standing out for you at the moment? And what are you especially looking forward to?