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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

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2011 Edgar Nominations

The nominations for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards were recently announced. Winners will be revealed on April 28. Here are two of the categories:

Caught by Harlan Coben
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Queen of Patpong on Timothy Hallinan
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron
The Serialist by David Gordon
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
Snow Angels by James Thompson

Now for something completely different – Deception by Denise Mina

I’m struggling, both to classify this novel and to decide if I liked it or not. Mina’s first three books put you in the world of the Scottish working class, following Maureen O’Donnell in her efforts to survive the murder of her boyfriend and the lingering effects of her sexual abuse at the hands of her father. They were straight forward, if grim, stories. Deception puts you in the world of Lachlan Harriot, whose psychologist wife has just been convicted of murder. The mystery is did she really do it and, if so, why? It is, in equal parts, fascinating, frustrating and compelling. Am I glad I read it? Yes, but I liked her first three better and I am told that her Paddy Meehan series is excellent. The first one is already on my reading list.

Britton’s back!

A couple of years ago I came across a paperback copy of Britton’s first book, The American (2006). It looked interesting, I bought it and read it and immediately went looking for more of his work. I read The Assassin (2007) and The Invisible (2008) and thoroughly enjoyed them. Then I discovered that Britton had died in 2008 of some undiagnosed heart condition at the age of 27. Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I came across a copy of his fourth book, The Exile, published in 2010. I have just finished reading and, while I don’t think it was as good as the first three, I still enjoyed it. The story is complex and the resolution pretty satisfying. It doesn’t go at the breakneck speed of the Thor book I just finished or the Vince Flynn books. According to a couple of websites, Britton left several manuscripts behind and they will be published. The Operative is scheduled to be out this summer. I’ll be looking for it!

Foreign Influence by Brad Thor

Yet another fine thriller from Brad Thor! Scot Harvath is at the top of his game chasing down terrorists plotting multiple attacks in Europe while Chicago Police Sergeant, and part time attorney, John Vaughan investigates a hit-and-run, which leads him into the Muslim community in Chicago. The action is fast and furious and includes re-appearance from The Troll and the introduction of an Athena Team from the Army. They were terrific and are featured in Thor’s next book: The Athena Project. I’ll get to that one soon!

The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke

I think I’m going to write a Dave Robicheax mystery.  In it Clete will get drunk and punch somebody out.  Dave will get drunk or he’ll really, really want to but will instead drink a Dr. Pepper in a tall glass full of crushed ice.  They’ll both go get po-boys, then they’ll drive to the mansion by the bayou to confront the rich guy.  He’s (pick two): Venal, dissolute, gay, a pedophile, a drug user, a drug dealer, suicidal or murderous.  His significant other will be Dave’s  old girlfriend or nemesis.  White people will treat black people badly. It will rain.  Oh, boy, will it rain!

The Glass Rainbow has it all.  What it doesn’t have is any sort of structure.  There’s no plot line drawing you in, no series of revelations that lead the you through the plot  so that, at the end you can say, “Yes!  Of course!”  No, Dave philosophizes a lot while he and Clete ricochet cluelessly around three counties for 400 pages until the book ends.

My latest trip to Wyoming

Being a city boy (suburban Detroit), I always enjoy a book that puts me in surroundings and circumstances that are completely out of my little world. C.J. Box did that in his first two Joe Pickett novels, Open Season and Savage Run, and succeeds once more in Winterkill. They are set in rural Wyoming, where young game warden Joe Pickett struggles with family matters, political bureaucracy, murder, social issues and personal morals in the middle of a bitter winter storm. The writing put me right in the middle of the mountains and made look for something warmer to put on. My only complaint is that a couple of the characters were too over the top. While that works for Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, I didn’t think it fit here very well. I know that Box made some effort to explain them, but they never seemed real to me. Having said that, this was still a good read and I raced through it and look forward to the next one, Trophy Hunt.

My latest Lee Child read

For those of you who already read Lee Child, I don’t really need to say anything. For those of you who don’t, what are you waiting for?

Jack Reacher, our wandering, untraceable, loner hero is sent a message only he can decipher. A member of his former team of elite Army investigators has died and he’s off to California to find out why. You get all you want from these books, plus Jack questions his life style choice. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out what he decides.

First in an epic fantasy series

I enjoy a good fantasy novel, so when my son recommended this book a couple of years ago I said bring it over and I’ll give it a try. It sat in my pile for some time and then I picked it up. I’m not sure what the problem was, perhaps I was distracted with other things; perhaps I was trying to read it in ten minutes sessions. Whatever the problem, I set in down finally after struggling through about 100 pages and it sat in the pile again for over a year. This holiday season I had some serious reading time and wanted to clean up my office area, so I picked it up again and started at the beginning once more. I’m very glad that I did.

Erickson has created a fantasy world immersed in war, filled with a huge array of interesting characters, political intrigue, magic and gods, worshipped and forgotten. He throws many balls in the air and manages to keep them all aloft with deft ease, changing their size and color when you least expect it, and bringing them together for a compelling climax.

This is the first book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, which now consists of ten books. I don’t know if I will read all of them, but the second in the series, Deadhouse Gates, is sitting in my pile and will be in my hands in the next few days.

Come to the Lansing book fair this weekend: 10/3/10

Glad to see fellow Spartan Bill Castanier posting about the book fair this weekend in Lansing.  We’ll be there!  Buy a book and you’ll get a free green (OK purple) tote bag!

Kathy Reichs – Bones to Ashes

New York Times mystery book critic Marilyn Stasio says that, despite the gruesome details,  Kathy Reichs new book is “all heart,”  and that Reichs shows a deft hand at balanacing the emotional light with the dark.”

Speaking at the Decatur Book Festival (see my earlier post), Reichs described the real cases, technological discoveries and personal experiences that provide such solid foundations for her books.  Bones to Ashes takes Temperance Brennan from Charlotte, NC to Canada, just as Reichs splits her professional time.  The book takes a contemporary theme — child pornography and the Internet — and lets Reichs explore the culture of Acadia, in the Canadian Maritime provinces.  She also continues to explore her relationship with Andrew Ryan.

I’m currently reading Bare Bones.  How’s this for an opening sentence:  “As I was packaging what remained of the dead baby, the man I would kill was burning pavement north toward Charlotte.” No Bulwer-Lytton award for her!