Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Books of Summer

by Holly West

On Saturday night, I saw James L'Etoile at Claire Booth's book launch for ANOTHER MAN'S GROUND. We got to talking and he asked me what I'd been reading lately. Authors do love to talk about books. Anyway, on the drive home I decided the question--what have you read and enjoyed recently--would make a good Do Some Damage post this week.

As I so often do, I turned to my author friends (or as I think of them, the Usual Suspects) and asked them to tell me what the books they've enjoyed recently. We'll start with James, since this was all his idea in the first place.


James L'Etoile (AT WHAT COST)

EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND by Glen Erik Hamilton
A terminally ill ex-con talks Van Saw into a quick score. The job backfires and Shaw has to question if he’s one of the good guys, as he tries to recover from the botched robbery. Van’s background story also comes into play in this third installment of the series.

COVER ME IN DARKNESS by Eileen Rendahl
Leaving the cult behind is more difficult than it seems. After Amanda Sinclair’s cult survivor mother commits suicide in a mental facility, Amanda discovers family secrets that connect to a cult leader's upcoming parole hearing.

SILENT RAIN by Karin Salvalaggio
Grace Adams tries to leave the past behind and gets pulled into a murder of a prominent novelist, who wants to turn the details of Grace's past into a salacious best seller, over her objection.The investigation unravels an entire town. This is the fourth in the detective Macy Greely series.

Then of course Danny [Gardner's] book [A NEGRO AND AN OFAY]. I really love that one.



I'm going with a terrific YA thriller, CITY OF ANGELS, by Kristi Belcamino (who's also a DSD alum). It’s set in Los Angeles, but a bit further back – during the 1992 riots. It’s a perfect backdrop for the story of a teenager who flees trauma in the Midwest only to get swept up in a movie director’s twisted child porn ring. Nikki Black rescues a twelve-year-old and they land in a residential hotel in LA’s gritty downtown. The whole novel has a fantastic sense of place and a great mystery as well. I loved it.

At the top of my TBR pile is THE SHATTERED TREE by Charles Todd. It's the latest in the mother-son writing duo's Bess Crawford mystery series. Bess, a WWI battlefield nurse, tends to a wounded soldier whose allegiance is mysterious. Is he French? German? When the soldier disappears, Bess starts to investigate. Todd's portrayal of a determined and intrepid heroine won them the 2017 Mary Higgins Clark Award for this book.


Everyone is going to say this but SHE RIDES SHOTGUN by Jordan Harper. I also enjoyed the second Nick Mason book from Steve Hamilton, EXIT STRATEGY. THE RIDGE by John Rector for something different but entirely compelling. THE SMACK by Richard Lange. His work is so good I haven't even read it yet but I can recommend it.



Zoë Sharp's latest comes out next month, so I finally read ABSENCE OF LIGHT, the novella in between her last and her next.

Holly's note: Read Neliza's Criminal Element review of A NEGRO AND AN OFAY here.



I read DOROTHY MUST DIE [by Danielle Paige] recently, the story of a Kansas girl who gets transported to Oz only to find out that Dorothy seems to have ruined the world and the witches are attempting to set things right. It's the first in what appears to be a lengthy, well developed series. The author has a degree from Columbia and wrote for soap-operas, so that should tell you how the book moves.

I also revisited ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott, the day after finishing his new book, BLAME. Both are top-shelf stuff, and I was struck by how strong the pacing of ADRENALINE is. As with DOROTHY, the hook for this one is irresistible: A spy gets a call from his wife to meet outside the office building. When he gets to the street, his office explodes above him and kills everyone there. He looks across the road to see his wife leaving with another man, who seems to be holding her against her will. And, we're off. 

Thomas Pluck (BAD BOY BOOGIE)

THE FORCE by Don Winslow is the summer crime blockbuster this year, and deservedly so. Winslow mastered the crime epic with THE CARTEL and now he aims his investigative skills northward to look into the abyss of the failed American Drug War.

I also enjoyed WORLD ENOUGH, by Clea Simon, which comes out in a month or two. It's a nostalgic trip back to the '80s Boston rock scene by someone who was there. Simon's best known for her cat mysteries like hardboiled (or should I say tough mouser?) THE NINTH LIFE but she is equally adept evoking the gritty past of the sleazy rock clubs of our youth. 


Jeff Abbott’s BLAME—super fascinating read...the kind of book that keeps “page-turner” from being a cliché.


I've got a thing for girls' schools, and my current work-in-progress features a kinda-creepy girl's school in which there's a murder (of course!). So, I'm re-reading two of my favorite girl's school mysteries: THE LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES by Carol Goodman and THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French. They're so different, but each illustrates an aspect of craft that interests me: Goodman deploys a gothic-style mood and atmosphere in most excellent fashion, including lore and myth. French is more about voice, and she deploys a parallel plot line like no one's business. Know any other girl's school mysteries that I should read? Let me know!

Lori Rader-Day (THE DAY I DIED)

This is not what I'm reading this summer, just books that came to mind when you said "books" and "summer" in the same sentence.

-THE HEAVENLY TABLE by Donald Ray Pollack. Difficult and lovely and holy crap.
-THE WRITING CLASS by Jincy Willett. Fun and oddly instructive on how to write a mystery.
-HEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward. I suggest this book any chance I get.
-THE END OF THE WASP SEASON by Denise Mina. Wasp season is summer, isn't it?
-THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE by Jessica Shattuck. Beautiful and slow, like summer should be.
-THE QUIET WOMAN by Terence Faherty. Like a refreshing drink on a hot day. Or maybe I just read it for the first time on summer vacation.
-THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx. When else are going to read about such cold surroundings?

What I'm HOPING to read this summer, yet:

-AMERICAN FIRE by Monica Hesse
-THE CRIME BOOK by DK Publishing
-WHERE CAN I SEE YOU by Larry D. Sweazy
-The last TWO Tana French novels, pre-ordered in hardcover and staring at me from my bookcase.

What I'll be reading as soon as it lands on my porch: the new Dandy Gilver mystery [A SPOT OF TOIL AND TROUBLE] from Catriona McPherson, ordered from the UK, as to get into my hands as fast as possible.


Nadine Nettmann (UNCORKING A LIE)

I just finished SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane and really enjoyed it. The story captivated me from the start and I couldn’t wait to find out the answers as the main character, Rachel, untangled them.

I also recently listened to the audiobook of THE PRINCESS DIARIST, written and narrated by Carrie Fisher. Because it was her voice, the words came out just like she meant them to and it felt as though she was still here with us. Even if you read it on the page, her wit still comes across and there’s some amusing tidbits about the filming of Star Wars.


Ending with Nadine is fitting since I've just read her two sommelier mysteries, DECANTING A MURDER and UNCORKING A LIE. They both tick all the right cozy boxes and I actually learned a lot about wine. The only problem is I wanted to open a new bottle every time I read a chapter's suggested wine pairing.

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