#BookBeginnings Careless in Red

I’m reading Elizabeth George’s nonfiction book about writing, Write Away. To see how she uses the techniques she writes about,  I picked up one of her novels, Careless in Red, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-elizabeth-george

Careless in Red by Elizabeth George (2008)

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Summary:  Grieving over the murder of his pregnant wife, former Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley has been on a long solo walk along the coast of Cornwell when he stumbles onto a body. Although the young man appears to have fallen accidentally, it becomes apparent his death is a murder. Usually the lead investigator, this time Lynley is a witness or even a possible suspect.

First Sentence:

He found the body on the forty-third day of his walk.

Discussion:

In the previous novel, Lynley had resigned because of the death of his wife. As a fan, I want to know will he go on with his life or will he return to Scotland Yard? Finding a body is promising that he will return in some capacity. Can’t wait to delve into this one.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Thomas Lynley returned to them then…He handed over the clothing the DI asked for. It’s absurd, Dairdre thought. He’s going to catch his death if he wandered round like that:  no jacket, no shoes, and just a thin white boiler suit of the type worn at crime scenes to ensure that the official investigators did not leave trace evidence behind.

Apparently a boiler suit is a pair of white coveralls.

Although Elizabeth George is an American who lives on the West Coast, she writes mysteries set in Britain with accurate details like this. I can’t imagine how she writes the setting and vocabulary so authentically.

What do you think? Have you ever read a novel by Elizabeth George? Would you like to give this one a try?

Conviction and The Less Dead by Denise Mina

Time to return two recent Denise Mina novels to the library, but let’s take a few minutes to discuss them first.

Conviction* by Denise Mina (2019)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Brief Summary:   Anna McDonald listens to true crime podcasts to distract herself from her personal problems. When she realizes she has a connection to one of the crimes and that she might be able to solve it, the stars align to send her in search of the truth.

 

Review — With Spoilers:

Anna McDonald’s life is in crisis. One morning her best friend Estelle shows up at the door and announces that she (Estelle) has been sleeping with Anna’s husband, he’s leaving Anna, and even worse, they are taking Anna’s two daughters away on a long trip. Dumbfounded and suicidal, Anna turns to a true crime podcast for distraction, only to realize she knows the victim Leon. Although someone else has been convicted of the crime, the podcaster accuses Leon of carrying out a murder/suicide. However, Anna is sure they’ve got it wrong. With Estelle’s husband as a sidekick, they begin to investigate Leon’s death.

The book is written in the first person, from Anna’s point of view. Right off the bat, Anna seems like an unreliable narrator. There are hints of violence in the scene where her husband and Estelle confront her and take off with her girls. There are also strong hints of secrets to be revealed. Even though I’m not fond of unreliable narrators, given the horrible events of the morning would knock anyone for a loop and I was willing to keep reading.

Mina is brilliant at delivering an astonishing bit of information right when the story is seeming to slow down. For example, readers learn that Anna’s husband has done the same thing before. One morning he asked his lover at the time to show up at his previous wife’s door in a similar scenario. The only difference was the first wife did not have children. The big surprise:  the lover in that case was Anna! This wrinkle/twist gives explains Anna’s complex, dark emotions — of being a gravely-wronged victim, but also the guilt of previously having been the perpetrator. What a position to be in!

The surprising twists continue right up to the end, including the revelation that Anna’s name is really Sophie and that even though she was the victim of a rape, she had be vilified by public opinion and changed her identity.  No wonder she was being secretive.

A compelling story.

 

The Less Dead* by Denise Mina

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Brief Summary:  Margo Dunlap’s adoptive mother has recently passed away and Margo is responsible for clearing out the house to get it ready for sale.  Instead, needing some sort of closure, she decides to search for her biological mother.  She meets with her biological aunt — a recovering addict — and learns her mother was murdered years before. Margo’s aunt says she knows who did the murder, but he’s gotten away with it. Can Margo trust her aunt enough to help bring the man to justice?

Review — With Spoilers:

The story is told mostly in the close third person from Dr. Margo Dunlap’s point of view, with a few short scenes from the point of view of an unnamed watcher — creepy.

At the outset, Margo is stressed out. The only mother she’s ever known has passed away and her brother is far away, which leaves her with the task of clearing out the house. At the same time, she’s worried about her best friend’s abusive relationship. Her own relationship is unsteady. She’s left her partner, Joe, even though she is pregnant with Joe’s baby and hasn’t told him.

Things don’t improve as she finds out about her mother’s murder. Before long she is getting threatening letters, but she continues to investigate, uncovering many heartbreaking aspects of her mother’s life.

Although the ending felt a bit more forced than Conviction‘s ending, I like the protagonist better. She is more stable, and up to the end, the instability in her life comes mostly from outside events and influences.

Overall, I liked both of these novels. I will be looking for more titles by Denise Mina.

#BookBeginnings The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

 

Today I’m catching up with The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Silent Patient* by Alex Michaelides

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  After Alicia Berenson shoots her husband Gabriel five times, she gives no explanation. In fact she doesn’t speak at all. Criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to unravel the mystery and begins to visit Alicia at the psychiatric hospital where she is held. Will he be able to reach her?

First Sentence Prologue:

Alicia Berenson’s Diary

July 14

I don’t know why I’m writing this.

 

First Sentence Chapter One:

Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.

Discussion:

I’ve been hearing about this book all over and now that the author has another book out, perhaps it is time to see what all the fuss is about.

The set up is pretty compelling. I want to know what happened.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

From the diary:

I bought an electric fan yesterday. I set it up at the foot of the bed on the top of the chest.

Gabriel immediately started complaining, “It makes too much noise. We’ll never sleep.”

If one of your main character’s doesn’t speak, I guess having a diary is about the only way to reveal her side of things? It does give a sense of what her life was like.

Have you ever read a novel where a portion of the story is told in diary entries or letters?

What do you think? Have you read The Silent Patient or Alex’s newest, The Maidens?

#BookBeginnings Conviction by Denise Mina

Today I’m reading Conviction by Denise Mina for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Mina

Conviction* by Denise Mina

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Anna McDonald listens to true crime podcasts to distract herself from her personal problems. When she realizes she has a connection to one of the crimes and that she might be able to solve it, the stars align to send her in search of the truth.

First Sentence Prologue:

Just tell the truth. I’ve said that to my own kids. What a ridiculous thing to teach children.

Discussion:

I like that opening. Sentence one. Sentence two. Okay, I know where this is going… Sentence three – bam! The author flips things 180 degrees from expected.

First Sentence Chapter 1:

The day my life exploded started well.

Discussion: 

What a hook! So far I like the first person voice.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

The screen blacked out. The narrator, Trina, delivered a trigger warning:  basically, don’t watch this. Don’t watch if you’re too young or old or nervous or squeamish,

 

Have you ever listened to true crime podcasts? Seems like they are pretty popular. I’ve read two novels (fiction) lately that have true crime podcasts as a central, crucial element.

What do you think? Have you read anything by Denise Mina? Would you continue reading this one?

#amwriting Mystery with a Pinch of Humor

Do you love your mysteries with a dose of humor? Want to find more about how to write them?

This week I discovered a wonderful webinar called Mirth & Mystery with Diane Kelly at Triangle Sisters in Crime.

 

 

First Diane sets the stage. As she explains, humor often doesn’t get as much respect as other genres, even though it is incredibly difficult to write. There is only one award for humorous mysteries, the Lefty (the archives is a great place to find books to add to your reading list).

That doesn’t mean it is impossible. Diane gives the names of several popular mystery authors known for their humor. Of the authors on her list, my husband is a huge fan of Carl Hiaasen, I love Janet Evanovich’s  Stephanie Plum series (previous post), and my son is a mammoth Dave Barry fan. What does that say about our family?

Next she delves deeply into the numerous ways that humor can improve your writing, from making your manuscript stand out to agents and editors, to  adding to the emotional range. If you have your readers biting their fingernails with tension, rather than charging forward with more,  provide a bit of relief via a lighter, comedic moment.

I’m not sure how long the video will be available, but this webinar is a gem. Seriously.

Here are Amazon Affiliate links to the two humor writing books she recommends (mainly so I remember to pick them up).

The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus

The Eight Characters of Comedy: Guide to Sitcom Acting And Writing by Scott Sedita

 

Then a few days later I found a webinar by mystery author Kathy McKintosh on “Humor in Mysteries.”  Is the cosmos trying to tell me something?

Look for it at Bear Canyon Library on YouTube (link).  Unfortunately sharing was disabled, so you will have to click through to watch it.

Do you have a favorite mystery author who incorporates humor in their novels? We’d love to hear about it!

@DesertSleuths anthology SO WEST: LOVE KILLS Coming Soon

Interested in mysteries? Like to read anthologies?

A short story I wrote is featured in the latest Desert Sleuths anthology, So West:  Love Kills*, arriving 9/10/2021.

(*Amazon affiliate link)

Here’s the blurb:

Betrayal. Deception. Greed. Love Gone Wrong. Brothers and sisters. Lovers and liars. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. From the wilds of Arizona’s Rim country to its dusty lowland deserts, you’ll find it all within the pages of So West: Love Kills. Bonds forged and broken. Covenants kept and cast aside. Love nurtured and left to rot. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone can be trusted. But one thing is for certain—love hurts. Sometimes it even kills!

 

Contributing authors:

  • Shannon Baker,
  • Mysti Berry,
  • Meredith Blevins,
  • Patricia Bonn,
  • Lauren Buckingham,
  • Susan Budavari,
  • William Butler,
  • Patricia Curren,
  • Meg E. Dobson,
  • Beverly Forsyth,
  • Denise Ganley,
  • Roberta Gibson,
  • Katherine Atwell Herbert,
  • Tom Leveen,
  • Susan Cummins Miller,
  • Charlotte Morganti,
  • Julie Morrison,
  • Claire A. Murray,
  • Kris Neri,
  • Karen Odden,
  • R K Olson,
  • D.R. Ransdell,
  • Kim Rivery,
  • Elena E. Smith.

 

Lead Editor: Maegan Beaumont.

Co-Editors: Deborah J Ledford, Susan Budavari, R K Olson, Shannon Baker, Meg Dobson

Cover Designer: Maegan Beaumont.

E-books available for preorder now. I’d love for you to check it out!

#BookBeginnings Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs

This week let’s revisit the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs starting with Déjà Dead, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Déjà Dead* by Kathy Reichs

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In the first book of the series, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan has left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina and moved to Québec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern that sends her on a search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her—her best friend and her own daughter—in mortal danger…

First Sentence:

I wasn’t thinking about the man who had blown himself up.

Discussion:

That first line is a stunner.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Birdie was waiting when I got home. He watched me from across the entrance hall  his white form reflected softly in the black marble floor. He seemed annoyed. Do cats feel such emotions? Perhaps I was projecting. I checked his bowl and found it low, but not empty. Feeling guilty, I filled it anyway,

If you are owned by a cat, you totally can relate to this.

I appreciate the bit about the cat’s white reflected on the black marble. It reveals both his color and what her home is like in a few brief words. Clever.

What do you think? Have you read any novels in this series? Have you seen the TV show Bones that is based on the novels? Did you enjoy it?

Author Post: Kathy Reichs

After seeing this incredible ZOOM video, I knew I had to get started reading Kathy Reichs novels again.

Wow, she had the manuscript for her first novel accepted after her very first submission to a publisher. That never happens!

Years ago I read several of the series from the library, but I didn’t keep a record of which ones. It is time to start over.

The Temperance Brennan series

1. Déjà Dead (1997)
2. Death du Jour (1999) -shelf
3. Deadly Decisions (2000)
4. Fatal Voyage (2001)
5. Grave Secrets (2002) -shelf
6. Bare Bones (2003)
7. Monday Mourning (2004) -shelf
8. Cross Bones (2005)
9. Break No Bones (2006)
10. Bones to Ashes (2007)
11. Devil Bones (2008) -shelf
12. 206 Bones (2009)
13. Spider Bones (2010) (Also published as Mortal Remains)
14. Flash and Bones (2011)
15. Bones are Forever (2012)
16. Bones of the Lost (2013)
17. Bones Never Lie (2014) -shelf
18. Speaking in Bones (2015)
19. The Bone Collection (2016) – A short story collection including First Bones (a prequel to Déjà Dead), Bones in her Pocket, Swamp Bones and Bones on Ice.
20. A Conspiracy of Bones (2020)
21. The Bone Code (2021)

 

Note:  Kathy Reichs also co-wrote a MG series with her son Brendan Reichs, which you can see on his website.

 

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

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