Archive for August, 2010

Photo by Ian Crysler

Canadian writer Louise Penny turned to novels after a successful career as a journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She is the author of the acclaimed mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache and his team from the Surete du Quebec. The sixth book in the series, Bury Your Dead, comes out in September. Penny’s mysteries have won awards and high critical praise.

Her first in the series, Still Life, won the New Blood Dagger in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel. The New York Times Book Review noted of her novels: “Although Penny is no slouch at constructing a whodunit puzzle, her great skill is her ability to create a charming mise-en-scène and inhabit it with complex characters.” Other reviewers have compared her to Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Elizabeth George, not bad company. Of her sixth in the series, Booklist declared: “Penny’s first five crime novels in her Armand Gamache series have all been outstanding, but her latest is the best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling….Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed and remarkably moving mysteries in years.” “Bring on the awards,” said Kirkus Reviews. (more…)

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Gabriel Cohen’s debut novel Red Hook was nominated for the Edgar award, and he is also the author of The Ninth Step, The Graving Dock, and Neptune Avenue, all of which feature Detective Jack Leightner of the Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force. You know a crime author is on the right track when he gets praise not just from the usual suspects of industry mags, but when it comes from pros like John Cornicello, Lt. Commander of the NYPD’s Brooklyn North Homicide Squad, who said of The Graving Dock: “A story that engages the reader from the first page, and a gripping tale of mystery and suspense. You will be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at a world known only to the New York detective.” (more…)

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“Nobody does unsettling undercurrents better than Ann Cleeves,” says Scottish writer Val McDermid, who knows a bit about unsettling undercurrents herself. British author Cleeves started her career in crime with the novels featuring George and Molly Palmer-Jones, a pair of “twitchers” or avid bird watchers, who travel the length and breadth of the British Isles managing to find murder and mayhem in the most bucolic of places. Cleeves published eight of the Palmer-Jones mysteries between 1986 and 1996, meanwhile also starting up a procedural series featuring Inspector Ramsay–a series of six books. (more…)

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Baron Freiherr Franz von Uchatius

More tales of Cold War Vienna:

That year I lived on Uchatiusgasse, a long and undistinguished street, not far from the Landstrasse stadtbahn station. It was a word so full of gutturals that I never questioned until years later the derivation of the name. My street, it turns out, was named after one of those curious nineteenth-century autodidacts, Baron Freiherr Franz von Uchatius, an inventor and military man who once ran the Vienna Arsenal. Among his inventions was a primitive projector for moving pictures that predated the American Edison’s by fifty years. He gained military renown and a general’s rank for his invention of a steel bronze alloy that proved effective in casting military weapons. However, when one of the cannon cast from this metal exploded while being demonstrated to the Emperor himself, Uchatius took the Viennese way out and killed himself. (more…)

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Elizabeth Sims is the creator of two well-received mystery series: one featuring Detroit-based reporter, Lillian Byrd, and the more recent Rita Farmer books: The Actress, The Extra, and On Location (August 2010 release). Sims has earned high praise for the Farmer books, set in L.A. Of the first in the series, The Actress, Booklist noted, “Intricate and surprising, this is a gripping read and a promising start to a new mystery series.” Publishers Weekly termed The Extra, an “entertaining second Rita Farmer misadventure,” while of the just published  On Location, Kirkus Reviews commented, “You just have to love Rita.”

Ez, thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us on Scene of the Crime. Congrats also on the reception of the third in the series. (more…)

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More tales of Vienna and Europe in the Cold War:

Agatha Christie did not title her novel Murder on the Orient Express for nothing. Thirty-plus hours of standing from Vienna to Athens is a kind of slow murder. Or sitting on the floor in the grimy vestibule by the cans until a conductor comes by to kick your feet and tells you, in languages from German to Serbo-Croate to Greek the get the hell up and out of the way of respectable passengers.

There are few respectable passengers traveling second class, mostly cars full of students going south from Vienna for the semester break. This is 1969; Greece, despite being ruled by the Junta, is the destination of every college age kid in Europe that February. The twice-weekly Orient Express is overbooked as usual.

I am traveling with a buddy from Oregon who has come over to Vienna for a visit. Said buddy is also trying to get me to stop smoking, so he hid my ciggies before we got on the train. Thus, I can’t even strike a romantic or existential pose with one of my cheapie Austrian oval-shaped nonfilters. We do come prepared with food and water, but the wurstsemmeln last only the first day, the bottled water is gone about the same time. So we live from stop to stop along the line in Yugoslavia, buying food from vendors at the stations where the train halts. (more…)

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Christopher G. Moore, author of the Bangkok novels featuring Vincent Calvino, a disbarred American lawyer turned private investigator, is our guest today on Scene of the Crime. There are eleven books in this series that began with the novel, Spirit House and has continued to The Corruptionist, from 2009. The first books in the series were published by a small Thai house; now Moore’s books come out in fine editions from Grove Press. (more…)

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