Murder Circle

Verstraete Shrinks; Buehler Registers; Ryan Reveals Vegas

July 24th, 2009

Want to see your title in miniature print? Chris Verstraete offers “printies,” book covers for the well-read dollhouse. See her work and get your own book on tiny shelves at  What a collectible idea!

Like a bit of mysticism with your mystery? Luisa Buehler offers THE INN KEEPER: AN UNREGISTERED DEATH. Finding the bodies of a runaway slave and a socialite buried in the basement of an old boarding house is strange enough, but when forensics proves the burials were 80 years apart, amateur sleuth Grace Marsden has her 6th case to investigate. Spirits are raised when she spies the specter of the slave haunting the boarding house looking for justice.

What happened in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas! This year’s Public Safety Writers Conference nearly doubled in size from 2008. Videos are up at You Tube, just put in PSWA Conference. Kathleen Ryan posted a terrific description on Women of Mystery

I was in the room when Holli Castillo and W.S. Gager (Wendy) got the first glimpse of their debut novels. Remember that feeling? Castillo is a former New Orleans prosecutor and the author of GUMBO JUSTICE featuring Ryan Murphy, an assistant DA “who likes her Tequila cold and her cops hot.” A CASE OF INFATUATION lets Gager dust off her credits as a newspaper reporter with the creation of crime beat reporter Mitch Malone. Malone has 3 rules: blood & gore on the job doesn’t bother him, he always works alone, and he hates kids. Rules are broken when he is accused of murder and must go into hiding with a preschooler.   

Forensic handwriting expert Sheila Lowe gave a fascinating presentation of cases she’s worked on and samples of killer handwriting. Lowe uses her expertise in DEAD WRITE, the 3rd book in the Claudia Rose series. When a Russian matchmaker hires Claudia to find out why her clients are dying, the court qualified handwriting expert finds dating is more dangerous than ever before.

Keynote speaker Betty Webb told of death threats after the publication of DESERT WIVES. The book, featuring PI Lena Jones, is about polygamy practices in Arizona. Webb has launched a new zoo series with ANTEATER OF DEATH featuring zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley. Let’s hope there are no death threats from the animal kingdom.

THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS is another discovery I dug up at the Vegas conference. Author J. Michael Orenduff introduces Hubert Schuze, a man who digs for ancient pottery in the New Mexico soil. The government calls him a pot thief, but he believes in finders/keepers. When a customer comes to his shop asking him to steal a thousand-year-old pot from a museum, things really get dirty.

Civilized society meets the frontier when former president Ulysses S. Grant visits Leadville in Ann Parker’s 3rd novel, LEADEN SKIES. Set in a Colorado mining town, saloon owner Inez Stannert is the secret partner of the local madam. When a prostitute gets murdered, Inez must protect her investment. Even in the old West, girls gotta stick together!  

Juliet Blackwell (AKA half of the sister writing duo, Haily Lind) informs us that a group blog is known as a “grog.” She belongs to one with seven other California writers known as Pens Fatales.  Julie is also going woo-woo on us with SECONDHAND SPIRITS. Her protag is Lily Ivory, owner of a vintage clothing boutique in the Haight-Asberry area of San Francisco (and Julie’s stomping ground).

News on the street is that La-La Land has optioned Sue Ann Jaffarian’s first Odelia Grey mystery, TOO BIG TO MISS. The book’s a winner–how could it miss on the big screen?  

I want to give a shout-out to Murder Circle Favorites who made the short list for B-con nominees. Best novel: THE CRUELEST MONTH by Louise Penny; Best First Novel: PUSHING UP DAISIES by Rosemary Harris and DEATH OF A COZY WRITER by G.M. Malliet; Best Paperback Original: STATE OF THE ONION by Julie Hyzy; Best Short Story: KILLING TIME by Jane K. Cleland; Best Critical Nonfiction Work: ANTHONY BOUCHER: A BIOBIBLIOGRAPHY by Jeffrey Marks; and Best Children’s/YA: CROSSROADS by Chirs Grabenstein. Good luck to all in Indianapolis on Oct. 17.

Hart Gets Ghostly; Listfield Downsizes; Groundwater Goes To Hell

May 4th, 2009

As if the Death on Demand and Henry O series weren’t enough, Carolyn Hart is adding a new series starring ghostly busybody Bailey Ruth Raeburn. A member of Heaven’s Dept. of Good Intentions, she is obliged to help any Earth-bound person who needs her. When the pastor’s wife finds a corpse on the porch, Bailey Ruth grabs her sidekick Wiggins and becomes a GHOST AT WORK.

Speaking of BEST INTENTIONS, even the elite of New York City have to downsize their privileged lifestyle. Lisa Barkley is willing to give up those jaunts to Europe, but she draws the line at giving up her husband to another woman. The price is too high in Emily Listfield’s novel. 

Things are also on the downhill slope for Claire Hanover in the second Gift Bag Mystery, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. A ski trip turns chilly when a young woman gets killed. Beth Groundwater keeps it slippery! 

The Murder Circle found out that Jeri Westerson turned more than a few heads at the LA Times Festival of Books with her T-shirt that announced “Chaucer Is My Homeboy.” Westerson is up for a Macavity for VEIL OF LIES. In September, the Murder Circle will tout her latest, SERPENT IN THE THORNS.  

Is motherhood the best training for a Private Eye? The writing team of Evelyn David makes the case on a blog titled “Gumshoe Moms” over at  And MURDER TAKES THE CAKE is their latest Sullivan Investigation Mystery. 

Another confession a la blog comes from Jane Cleland. Over at  the author says her mom omitted details on her recipe cards so nobody could replicate her cooking. Is that “just desserts?” Cleland’s latest Josie Prescott Antique Mystery KILLER KEEPSAKES is on the shelves.

I had my own fun ride over at earlier this month. I have no filters and let my sassy mouth run the show. Good friend Marilyn Meredith is over there right now. Ask her a question about her latest, NO SANCTUARY.

Fellow Oak Tree Press author Dennis Griffin paid a visit to my hometown with mobster Henry Hill in tow. Henry is portrayed by Ray Liotta in the movie ”Goodfellows.” Griffin, who knows all about the Vegas mob scene, has just released his novel VEGAS VIXEN.

The three of us are part of the Public Safety Writers Association. We’re very proud of members Sarah Cortez and Liz Martinez, editors fo the 1st ever anthology of short crime fiction penned by Latino writers. HIT LIST: THE BEST OF LATINO MYSTERY takes readers on a trip through the barrios and imaginations of such writers as Mario Acevedo, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera and Steven Torres. Published by Arte Publico Press, this is a ground-breaking collection.

Congrats to Agatha winners and Murder Circle favorites G.M. Malliet, Louise Penny, Kathy Lynn Emerson andChris Grabenstein. Enjoy those teapots! For more on their award-winning books, scroll down to the previous MC.


April 25th, 2009

The Murder Circle is very excited about this year’s nominees for the Agatha, to be presented at Malice Domestic in May. Two of the authors up for Best First Novel are past Murder Circle favorites!

Rosemary Harris’ PUSHING UP DAISIES is pushing for the award. This Dirty Business Mystery stars Paula Holliday, media exec/gardener. While restoring the garden at a historical landmark, she uncovers a mummified body. A more recent corpse is found impaled on a gardening tool. Paula has to get her hands dirty digging for clues to find the killer. Harris already has the sequel out: THE BIG DIRT NAP.

Last month, I mentioned G.M. Malliet and DEATH OF A COZY WRITER because she was up for the Hawaii Five-O award. Her St. Just mystery just keeps drawing attention! When an English millionaire mystery writer announces his elopement to a woman who might be a murderess, an heir gets maced. No, not with the aerosol, but a real medieval mace. Detective Inspector St. Just is on the case! The next St. Just mystery, DEATH AND THE CHICK LIT, continues this “literary” series.

Scrapbookers get their day in Joanna Campbell Slan’s PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH. Scrappy heroine Kiki Lowenstein is the prime murder suspect after her husband and his college girlfriend both wind up dead. This is the first Scrap-N-Craft mystery and crafty tips are sprinkled like glitter throughout the novel. CUT, CROP & DIE will be on the shelves in June.

Run right out and buy THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME. This is the first of Krista Davis’ Domestic Diva mysteries starring Sophie Winston. Although she lost her husband to another cook, Sophie’s determined not to lose a contest for the best stuffing. Instead of finding a turkey to stuff, she finds a man snuffed out. What’s her name and photo doing in her car? Look for the 2nd in the series, THE DIVA TAKES THE CAKE in June.

Sarah Atwell’s intentions are clear in her first Glassblowing Mystery, THROUGH A GLASS, DEADLY.  Somebody got baked in Emmeline Dowell’s 2,000 degree furnace (ouch!) and now she has to work with her ex-lover, the Tucson police chief. And why is the FBI so interested in the case? The follow-up, PANE OF DEATH, should get readers fired up.    

I SHALL NOT WANT to miss the opportunity to mention this 6th mystery for Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Altstyne. Julia Spencer-Fleming serves up a tale involving Mexican immigrant workers in New York, drug smuggling and gang turf wars.

Award time is not THE CRUELEST MONTH for Louise Penny and the Quebec town of Three Pines. When the villagers gather for a seance in a haunted house, one person dies of fright. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache must scare up a suspect, even as he fears there is a mole in the investigation team. The 4th in the series, A RULE AGAINST MURDER, came out in January of this year.

Donna Andrews award-winning mysteries are strictly for the birds. #10 of the series, SIX GEESE A-SLAYING, has Meg Langslow in the middle of organizing a Xmas parade when somebody offs a not-so-jolly Santa. Look for COCKATIELS AT SEVEN in June. P.S. I met Donna at LCC Hawaii, there’s a photo of the two of us with Sue Ann Jaffarian on my News page.

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 34th in line for the throne in Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness Myseries. But, it’s 1930′s England and Georgiana is finding life A ROYAL PAIN as she earns a living as a maid. When called on by the royal relatives to chaperone the Prince of Wales and keep him from marrying the Ugly American divorcee, things become untidy with murder. ROYAL FLUSH, the 3rd in the series, is due out in July. And yes, that’s Rhys and me in Hawaii on my News page.

The Prince of Wales from Victorian times is also in trouble when a prostitute is found dead at BUCKINGHAM PALACE GARDENs after a stag party. Inspector Thomas Pitt takes on his 25th case in this series penned by Anne Perry

Want to know HOW TO WRITE KILLER HISTORICAL MYSTERIES like Rhys Bowen and Anne Perry? Check out Kathy Lynn Emerson’s Agatha nominee guide for writers of this genre.

Up for the non-fiction catagory is Frankie Y. Bailey’s AFRICAN AMERICAN MYSTERY WRITERS: A HISTORICAL & THEMATIC STUDY. From slave narratives to today’s fiction market, Bailey explores black genre fiction, the sleuths, victims and offenders as well as the cultural vernacular in mystery novels.

He was an American author, editor and critic by the name of William Parker White, AKA Anthony Boucher. In Jeffrey Marks’ ANTHONY BOUCHER: A BIOBIBLIOGRAPHY, we get the best of the man’s writing. No wonder the mystery community holds Bouchercon in his honor.

Final bit of gossip: My latest, WHERE ANGELS FEAR, just came out by Oak Tree Press. It follows FOOLS RUSH IN in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries.


February 13th, 2009

Left Coast Crime is just around the corner and here are some of the attendees I hope to hook up with!

A Canadian who writes about Los Angeles, Pat Brown creates a little LA MISCHIEF. LAPD homicide detective David Laine has trouble coming out of the closet. What’s worse is that a potential significant other is either the prime suspect in the investigation of a sadistic killer or the next victim. If you want to see Detective Laine’s hot ride, go on Brown’s website and take a gander at the ’56 Chevy sport coupe.   

A Hawaii Five-O nominee at LCC Hawaii is DEATH OF A COZY WRITER. In her debut novel, G.M. Malliet takes us to England where a millionaire mystery writer rewrites his life by announcing his elopement to a possible murderess. An heir falls when smashed with a medieval mace, and Detective Inspector St. Just is called in to break through the English reserve of the wealthy to solve the crime.

ANGEL FALLS, the third Mike Travis mystery by Baron R. Bircher, is also in the running for the Hawaii Five-O award. What can draw Travis away from his scuba charter business and back to being a detective? The disappearance of a teenage girl. Designer drugs, violent sex and his own demons turn paradise into a tropical hell. Bircher, who lives in Hawaii, is tempting LCC attendees to try two Kona lethal brews: Killer Coffee and Tropical Noir.

Where there’s A TRACE OF SMOKE, there’s fire. We’ll all have to wait until May to get copies of Rebecca Cantrell’s novel of 1931 Berlin, a crime reporter with a cross-dressing brother and an orphan who thinks they are both his parents. Hannah Vogel, devastated by her brother’s murder, conducts an investigation that goes to the top ranks of the Nazi party.

Fast forward 7 years to Jerusalem in 1938. WWII is on the horizon, but American graduate student Lily Sampson is busy with an important archeology dig. When murder, theft of artifacts and no help coming from British authorities, Sampson must conduct her own investigation. A FLY HAS A HUNDRED EYES and Aileen Baron has a terrific mystery.

Attorney Ken Isaacson makes his fiction debut with SILENT COUNSEL. When a wealthy man commits a hit-and-run, he contacts attorney Scott Heller. Keeping the man’s identity secret while negotiating a plea agreement brings in the question of attorney-client privilege.

Out just in time for Left Coast Crime is Sue Ann Jafferian’s latest, BOOBY TRAP. In the fourth outing, plus-size Odelia Grey is after the Blond Bomber, a serial killer who targets busty blonds. She would never suspect the plastic surgeon except that the info came straight from the doctor’s mother. Can she “bust” the killer? A titillating read (I did NOT just say that!).

Final note: Congrats to Murder Circle favorite Julie Hyzy for the Lovey win for STATE OF THE ONION, as well an award in the Thriller category with Michael Black for DEAD RINGER. Good show!

Hart & Maron on PW’s 2008 List; Webb Goes Wild; M.E. Kemp on a Witch Hunt

December 4th, 2008

The Murder Circle is operational again and there’s lots of news worth telling!

Two Murder Circle favorites were on Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2008: Carolyn Hart for GHOST AT WORK, and Margaret Maron for DEATH’S HALF ACRE. Both books are on my growing Christmas list.

Betty Webb announces: “Surprise! My new mystery is not a Lena Jones book, but the start of a humorous new series, beginning with THE ANTEATER OF DEATH, where a zoo’s innocent Giant Anteater gets framed for murder. California zookeeper Theodora  ‘Teddy’ Bentley must find the real murderer before her furry friend is shipped off to another zoo in disgrace.” Sounds “wild” to me!

She wasn’t a witch, so the DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE in 1692 Salem gets Hetty Henry and her sidekick, minister “Creasy” Cotton investigating. This is a long-anticipated release from author M.E. Kemp. Keep ‘em coming!   

One lump or two? G.M. Malliet is promoting DEATH OF A COZY WRITER with a spot of tea to keep warm while reading her British mystery. The novel was one of this year’s pick for bestseller by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

Sean Chercover provides a soundtrack to accompany TRIGGER CITY and BIG CITY BAD BLOOD. The music PI Ray Dudgeon listens to can be downloaded from iTunes.

It’s a CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE confronting journalist Clare Prentice in the latest from Martha Powers. Her assignment is to interview a reclusive novelist, but she’s also on the beat to uncover the murder of her birth mother. 

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest library and ask that they order EDEN PALMS MURDER. This is the request of author Dorothy Francis in support of her publisher, Five Star. Her latest Key West whodunit will make winter feel like a summer vacation.

For those of you who write about law enforcement or any other public safety characters in your novels, check out  PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association) is the organization connecting writers with law enforcement sources. The three-day June conference is in Las Vegas, with a group signing at Cheesecake and Crime afterward. I’ll be seeing Betty Webb and Marilyn Meredith there, as well as my publisher, Billie Johnson of Oak Tree Press. Read the newsletter and learn about us!

And yes, the second of my Christy Bristol Astrology Novels, WHERE ANGELS FEAR, will be out in time for the Left Coast Crime convention on the Big Island, Hawaii.  I’m going to wear a lei, drink Mai Tais and hang out with Victoria Heckman, Simon Wood, Tim Wohlforth and Deni Dietz. Hope to see some of you there! 





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