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Tuesday August 26th at Noon - Jayne Castle signs The Hot Zone

Halloween—with its tricks and treats—is a dust bunny’s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow’s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it’s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn.

And now, Sedona’s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow…

SMB Exclusive: On Every title page in every reserved book there will be a special Halloween stamp next to Jayne's signature and date!

New Author Signings

Thursday August 14th at Noon - Mary Daheim signs Clam Wake

With the hectic tourist season over, cousins Judith and Renie head to one of the islands to house sit for their aunt and uncle. But all will not be relaxing on Whoopee Island. 

Tuesday August 19th at Noon - Martin Limón signs The Iron Sickle

In their 9th book, CID sergeants Bascom and Sueño are assigned to the black market duty, something that is really below their expertise. All the more puzzling because an 8th Army Claims officer has been murdered by a small man armed with a small, metal sickle. There was only one witness and she didn’t get a good look at the killer. With George and Ernie’s record and their knowledge of Koreans, it just seems odd. So, being George and Ernie, they investigate it anyway.

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Patricia Cornwell - Flesh And Blood

A complex tale involving a serial sniper who strikes chillingly close to the forensic sleuth herself.It's Dr. Kay Scarpetta's birthday, and she's about to head to Miami for a vacation with Benton Wesley, her FBI profiler husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids' game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there's been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one has heard or seen a thing. In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper.

The shots seem impossible, yet they are so perfect they cause instant death. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta investigates a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. And it is there that she comes face to face with shocking evidence that implicates her techo genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta's own flesh and blood

What We've Been Reading


Sean Pidgeon - Finding Camlann

Fran Recommends:

I was looking for something a little different to read, so I picked up Sean Pidgeon's Finding Camlann (published in softcover last Jan, hardcover at the beginning of 2013) because it had things I'm interested in - archaeology, linguistics, Arthurian legend, Wales. And it was wonderful.

Archeologist Donald Gladstone knows there's no actual proof of Arthur's existence but believes there has to be some truth behind the myth. A find in a barrow near Stonehenge begins a quest that will take Donald, and linguist Julia Llewellyn, in search of an ancient Welsh battle poem, and will force them both to examine their lives.

This is a quiet, well-written story. There are no car chases, no gun fights, and no high tension. There's no definitive time frame for it. There are cars and telephones, but no cell phones or computers. It's reminiscent of a book written in the 60's or 70's. I found myself comparing it to Charlotte Armstrong's writing, actually. It's intelligent, complex and - to me - fascinating. I needed to pay close attention to the various time periods discussed, and my knowledge of Welsh history is sadly lacking (along with my ability to pronounce much of the language), but the people and their overwhelming need to know what happened caught my interest and didn't let go.

There's no single mystery, per se. Of course, the biggest question is whether or not the bodies found in the barrow are Arthur and Guinevere, but there's the question of an explosion in the recent past and whether or not it was an accident or sabotage, what role Julia's husband might have played in that explosion, and there is a death, so there are mysterious elements, but I'm not entirely sure you can classify Finding Camlann as a true whodunnit.

Whatever you call it, it was a thoughtful, restful break from the more action-packed adventures I normally indulge in, and I was pleased to have spent time in the Welsh mountains, exploring the history of the area and the origins of the Arthurian legend.

Agatha Christie - The ABC Murders

Amber’s project for 2014: My 52 Weeks of Agatha Christie. Here’s her explanation.

First Published: January 1936.

I Read: The ABC Murders. William Morrow, New York, 2011. 

Detective: Poirot 

Summary: Poirot receives a series of letters boasting the sender is going to kill on a certain day in Andover, Bexhill-on-Sea, Churston and Doncaster. The question is can Poirot, Hastings and his legion of helpers stop this mad man before the killer works his way through twenty more letters? 

Review: It is funny on how often the solution to a Christie novel is one I have read/watched previously (in this case many, many times). What makes Christie great is the fact I didn’t spot it until very late in the game which solution it was. In many ways, this is a stroke of luck; otherwise I may have been let down as I was with The Murder On The Orient Express. The ABC Murders I found engaging and a fun read, as John Curran points out (in his book Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks) this book was among the first to feature the idea of a serial killer as the culprit.

In the book, one of the binding agents between the murders is the letters sent to Poirot where the killer crows over his success. Sadly this type of murder, where several are killed to disguise the one intended victim, isn’t exclusive to the pages of a book.  

While reading this mystery I was reminded of a case here in the Seattle area which made an impression on me even as a kid. Back in 1986 when I was twelve there was a huge scare over Extra-Strength Excedrin aspirin. Two people were murdered by someone who had laced capsules with cyanide. I remember the panic, never-ending news reports, people throwing away their bottles and others mailing off bottles to the police with the same lot numbers as the poison pills. The person convicted for perpetrating the murders was the wife of the first victim. She’d tampered with a total of five bottles, placing three back on store shelves (and two were still in her possession). Supposedly Stella Nickell killed her husband for insurance money (she forged his signature to obtain two additional policies) and the other victim (fortunately she did not succeed in murdering more people) was meant to conceal her true target. She might have gotten away with it had she not asked the police reexamine her husband’s death. The theory on this move maintains that she got greedy and decided she wanted to sue the manufacturer for additional money. The issue was she needed to prove her husband was murdered.  

Initially Nickell’s husband's death was attributed to natural causes due his age and medical history. The medical examiner who examined the body did not smell the classic bitter almonds associated with this poison. It wasn’t until the second sudden death when the medical examiner happened to notice what her nose was telling her during the autopsy that the cyanide poisoning was discovered. As it turns out forty percent of the population is unable to smell any of the tell-tale scent. In addition, the sensitivity of the sniffer in question plays a factor in the amount needed for detection (I have heard an unsubstantiated rumor that women can detect the scent more often, but I don’t have a source to cite for that assertion).

What I didn’t know until I started researching for this post is in 1982, less than four years before the Nickell’s case, there was the Chicago Tylenol Murders where seven people died due to the ingestion of cyanide laced capsules. The scariest part of this story is the murderer was never caught; the police believed they knew who did it but didn’t have enough proof for a conviction. The case was pulled out of the inactive file in 2009 and a new investigation of old evidence is underway.

Both Chicago and Nickell’s cases helped ensure new safety measures for products as well as the introduction of the caplet which replaced the capsule. There are other real life cases which share a similar vein to the ABC Murders, the Nickell’s case is just the one which I remember best. I remember the strange feeling of panic among the adults (I was too busy reading and stuff to worry much about it) when the story first hit and the slow growth of trust in buying any over-the-counter medicines. It will be interesting to see if Nickell makes the news again. She is eligible for parole in 2016. 

On a slightly happier note, one of my favorite versions of this story (fictional obviously I do not have  a favorite real life murder, in case you were wondering) is the very first episode of ABC’s dramity Castle, Flowers For Your Grave, where mystery writer Rick Castle first meets detective Kate Beckett, who is investigating a series of deaths which eerily resembles those in Rick’s books. Just like this week’s book one person is the target, while the other two murder victims are camouflage. The by-play between the two actors (all right the whole cast) even in a first episode is wonderful and I recommend this TV series to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

Favorite Quote:

“What do you call the unforgivable error? Overlooking the obvious.” (pg. 5) 

“Words, mademoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas.” (pg. 126) 

“Murder, I have often noticed, is a great matchmaker.” (pg. 136) 

Interesting Fact: Or should I say random fact? “To hum a tune is extremely dangerous. It reveals the subconscious mind.” (pg. 136) Do you know in "Angel" (the TV show created by Joss Whedon and canceled in 2004 unfortunately) had a character named Lorne who could read futures and auras while they were singing? Gleaning all kinds of information that he shared, most of the time, with them. Proving that Poirot was not the only person who found a person’s out of key humming revealing to their current mental state. Now mind you Lorne was a demon and Poirot human but I think we can skate over a small detail like this.... 

Cheating: Wish I had something snappy here for you guys, but just like the twenty eight weeks previous to this point...I have not cheated. It was even a Hasting narrated one and I still remained on the lighert side of the force. Perhaps Hastings is growing on me, I shudder at the thought! 

My 52 Weeks With Christie: A.Miner©2014



Collectible Corner

Jayne Castle - Affair Of Risk

Book Condition - Very Good.

New York: Dell, 1982. Mass Market. Mass Market Paperback.

Signed on title page. spine is creased in center, binding slightly cocked, tops of pages have a bit of spotting, page edges slightly darkened. #55 in the Candlelight Ecstasy Romonce series. pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz. never to be reprinted according to the author. In a protective plastic bag.

Jayne Castle - Conflict Of Interest

Book Condition - Very Good.

New York: Dell, 1983. Mass Market. Mass Market Paperback.

Signed on title page. general wear to edges, spine slightly creases and slightly cocked, page edges have darkened. #130 in the Candlelight Ecstacy Romance series. Pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz. Never to be reprinted according to the author. In a protective plastic bag.

YA Mysteries!

Rick Riordan - The Blood Of Olympus

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

Brandon Sanderson - Firefight

Newcago is free. They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart--invincible, immortal, unconquerable--is dead. And he died by David's hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.

Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it's the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David's willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic--Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.


Coming Soon In Mysteries!

Anne Perry - A New York Christmas

The year is 1904. Twenty-three-year-old Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, is crossing the Atlantic as companion to Delphinia Cardew, who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding—a grand affair that will join together two fabulously wealthy families, titans of the international financial world.

But Jemima senses a mysterious shadow darkening the occasion. Missing from the festivities is Delphinia’s mother, Maria, who is marked by disgrace. Nearly sixteen years ago, Maria abandoned young Delphinia and disappeared—and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name. But when Harley, the groom’s charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria and forestall the scandal that would surely follow if the prodigal parent turned up at the wedding, she agrees to assist him.

From Hell’s Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, the Lower East Side to Central Park, Jemima trudges through strange, snowy streets, asking questions but getting few answers—and never suspecting that she is walking into mortal danger, from which not even a handsome young police officer named Patrick Flannery may be able to protect her.

Anne Perry - Blood On The Water

On one summer afternoon, Monk witnesses the horrifying explosion of the pleasure boat Princess Mary, which sends to their deaths nearly two hundred merrymakers.

The tragedy is no accident. As commander of the River Police, Monk should handle the case, but the investigation is turned over to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. An Egyptian man is swiftly caught, tried, and sentenced to die. But almost as quickly, Monk presents evidence that Habib Beshara, though a nasty piece of work, was elsewhere at the time of the blast. The investigation, now in complete disarray, is hastily turned over to Monk.

Is the crime connected with the soon-to-be-opened Suez Canal, which will enormously benefit wealthy British shipping companies? Or did all of those innocent people drown to ensure the death of just one? How did the bomber board the ship, and how did he manage to escape? Is he an anarchist or a madman?

Backed up by his astute wife, Hester, and his old reliable friend Oliver Rathbone, Monk vows to find answers—but instead finds himself treading the dangerous waters of international intrigue, his questions politely turned aside by a formidable array of the powerful and privileged. Events twist and turn like the Thames itself, leading to the shattering moment when Monk realizes, perhaps too late, that he is the next target.


More Mysteries Coming Soon!

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Diana Muldrow - Everything I Need To Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book

A humorous "guide to life" for grown-ups! One day, Diane Muldrow, a longtime editor of the iconic Little Golden Books, realized that, despite their whimsical appearance, there was hardly a real-life situation that hadn't been covered in the more than 70-year-old line of children's books—from managing money, to the importance of exercise, to finding contentment in the simplest things. In this age of debt, depression, and diabetes, could we adults use a refresher course in the gentle lessons from these adorable books, she wondered—a "Little Golden guide to life"? Yes, we could!

Muldrow's humorous yet practical tips for getting the most out of life ("Don't forget to enjoy your wedding!" "Be a hugger." "Sweatpants are bad for morale."), drawn from more than 60 stories, are paired with delightful images from these best-loved children's books of all time—among them The Poky Little Puppy, Pantaloon, Mister Dog, Nurse Nancy, We Help Mommy, Five Pennies to Spend, and The Little Red Hen. The Golden greats of children's illustration are represented here as well: Richard Scarry, Garth Williams, Eloise Wilkin, J. P. Miller, and Mary Blair, among many others. Sure to bring memories and a smile, this book is a perfect gift for baby boomers, recent grads, lovers of children's literature—or anyone who cherishes the sturdy little books with the shiny cardboard covers and gold foil spines!

Tom Robbins - Tibetan Peach Pie

Tom Robbins's warm, wise, and wonderfully weird novels-including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Another Roadside Attraction, and Jitterbug Perfume-provide an entryway into the frontier of his singular imagination. Madcap but sincere, pulsating with strong social and philosophical undercurrents, his irreverent classics have introduced countless readers to hitchhiking cowgirls, born-again monkeys, a philosophizing can of beans, exiled royalty, and problematic redheads.

In Tibetan Peach Pie, Robbins turns that unparalleled literary sensibility inward, weaving together stories of his unconventional life-from his Appalachian childhood to his globe-trotting adventures-told in his unique voice, which combines the sweet and sly, the spiritual and earthy. The grandchild of Baptist preachers, Robbins would become, over the course of half a century, a poet interruptus, a soldier, a meteorologist, a radio DJ, an art-critic-turned-psychedelic-journeyman, a world-famous novelist, and a counterculture hero, leading a life as unlikely, magical, and bizarre as those of his quixotic characters.

Robbins offers intimate snapshots of Appalachia during the Great Depression, the West Coast during the sixties' psychedelic revolution, international roving before Homeland Security monitored our travels, and New York publishing when it still relied on trees.

Written with the big-hearted comedy and mesmerizing linguistic invention for which Robbins is known, Tibetan Peach Pie is an invitation into the private world of a literary legend.