Archive for the ‘Sue Grafton’ Category

If you’re looking for a good, general, all around anthology of short story detective fiction then I’d recommend the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino. It will give novice and experienced mystery readers a good foothold into detective fiction.


The book is divided into three sections: The Amateur Detective, The Private Investigator and The Police. Each section begins with  a critical essay and commentary (which I skipped). There are also two appendices: Notable Annual Awards for Mystery and Detective Fiction and a Bibliography of Critical Essays and Commentaries.

But the heart of the book is stories. Each section contains stories by some of best authors, classical authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, pulp authors of the 1930s-1950s such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ed McBain and current authors such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Peter Robinson.

There is a short author bio before each story, suggested books by the author and suggested read-alike authors. Granted, there are some great mystery authors not included in the anthology, but if all the greats were included it would be a thousand pages, just like Otto Penzler’s Black Lizard books.

The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction is an entertaining way for mystery fans to spend some time. It also makes readers appreciate the art of the short story. Go for it.

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Any time we return to Kinsey Millhone is a treat and X by Sue Grafton is no exception. XIn some of this alphabet series books, the neighbors play an important role and some Millhone’s family plays a big part. In X, there’s no family (other than references to them every now and then) and some neighborly stuff.

There are three stories going on in X.

It is the 1989 drought in California and Kinsey’s neighbor and landlord, Henry Pitt is concerned about water consumption. Despite all his water conservation measures, his water bills are rising. Along with this, Henry and Kinsey appear to have needy, clingy new next door neighbors.

In early March, a woman contacts Kinsey. She’s being rather secretive and private and would prefer to meet at her home rather than in Kinsey’s office to discuss her services. However, she is also leaving the next morning on an extended trip. So in early evening, Kinsey takes the half hour drive along windy roads to meet Hallie Bettancourt in what can only be described as a mansion. Hallie wants to find the son she gave up for adoption many years earlier.

If you recall from other books, a fellow (somewhat slimy) detective, Pete Wolinsky was killed in a robbery attempt. His widow, Ruthie, is contacted by the IRS who is looking at Pete’s records as well as his former employer, Byrd-Shine Investigations, which ceased operations 15 years earlier. Ruthie has looked through whatever she has and come up empty handed and has asked Kinsey to look through the one box she has. While not finding any financial records, Kinsey did stumble across a sheet with 12 rows of numbers, each with 8 columns of 4 numbers, tucked into a folder. Additionally, underneath the bottom flap of the storage box was an envelope containing a rosary, a bible, and two greeting cards from a Lenore Redfern, who died a dozen years earlier. Apparently the envelope was meant for her daughter, who was four at the time of her death.

In X, nothing is as it appears to be, which of course, is why we like reading Sue Grafton mysteries. Other than the clothing Ms. Grafton describes, there is nothing that would set the book in 1989 vs. 2015–well maybe no cell phones and laptops. Her neighbors, Henry, William and Rosie play minor roles, as do her previous dalliances. Her new characters are interesting and the plots are new.

With only two more letters to go in the series, I’m hoping Ms. Grafton will think about doubling up on letters, AA is for Accidental Asphyxiation or start using numbers. I hate to think at she would stop writing. That would be T is for Tragic. Anyway, I’m sure there are many of you out there who have invested the time to read the 23 previous novels in the series. It would be silly to stop now. Go for it.

And don’t forget one of my favorite books by Grafton, Kinsey and Me. It is some of Grafton’s best and most interesting writing.

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TastreOfMurder1A few weeks ago I reviewed the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White. As I ,mentioned, I was surprised about the number of mystery related cookbooks that have been published. Two that whet my appetite were A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers and A second Helping of Murder edited by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezhal. Although not as good as the Mystery Writers Cookbook, they are still interesting. Once again, it reinforced the fact that I’ve just touched the surface of mystery authors. The majority of contributors were authors I’ve never read nor heard of.

Both A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings have snappy section headings such as Choose Your Poison, Pasta Mortem, Just Desserts (an obvious one), Murder Most Fowl and Tough Cookies. Both books have their share of authors I’ve read: Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Joanne Fluke (cute cooking mysteries), Dick Francis, Peter Robinson and April Henry to name a few. But the majority of contributors I’d never heard of. There was scant information about the authors, especially when compared to the Mystery Writers Cookbook. More information would have been nice in order to determine which authors might be of interest. There were also several extended narratives, such as Breakfast With David Dodge or Tea With Dame Agatha or Anthony Bourdain’s How to Cook Pasta Without Getting Whacked.

As far as the recipes go, some were great and some not so great, but that’s the truth in any cookbook and everyone’s palate is different. My favorites in A Taste of Murder were: Connie Shelton’s Green Chile Stew (I really like her Vacation books), Death By Chocolate and Annette Meyer’s Apricot Dessert for those who really can’t cook.

T. Jefferson Parker’s Triggerman’s Rattlesnake was probably the oddest recipe.TasteOfMurder2

Robert Parker was, at the time A Taste of Murder was published, writing his own cookbook, so his contribution consisted of Susan Silverman’s Boiled Water (whimsical? Not so much! Better he should have declined, in my opinion. One day I should outline my opinion of Parker, from what little I’ve read about him.)

Kinsey Millhone’s Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich were in both the Mystery Writers Cookbook and A Taste of Murder. (I’m sure a little research could have come up with a different recipe. She does have other food in her repertoire!)

Without a doubt, my favorite recipe in Second Helpings was my namesake’s, Ed Goldberg’s Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms. Now I know, if I ever write the mystery that’s hidden within me, I’m going to have to use a pen name. Archer Mayer’s The Gunther really turned my stomach and if that’s what Joe Gunther eats, I’m surprised he’s survived 25+ books. I’m glad that man’s best friend has not been forgotten. Patricia Guiver (who I’ve never read) contributed Watson’s Favorite Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits. I’m seriously thinking of trying that recipe.

MysteryWritersCookbookSo, my thoughts on A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings? These books are part conversation pieces, part cookbook. If I get two or three recipes I like out of any cookbook, I feel it was worthwhile. You’ll surely find some recipes you’d like to try. I wish these books, however, had more information on the authors and their mystery books, so I can decide whether I want to read them. In this aspect, as well as the whimsical nature and artwork, the Mystery Writers Cookbook surpassed A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings.

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MysteryWritersCookbookI’m a mystery fan and cooking fan, otherwise I wouldn’t be reading The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For, right? So, I thought I’d have a passing knowledge of the writers in this book. Well…let me tell you, there are more well known mystery writers than I had a passing knowledge of. Sure, some of my favorites are included in this book, such as Thomas H. Cook, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Louise Penny and Karin Slaughter. But there are a heck of a lot more that I haven’t heard of, such as Beth Amos, Alison Gaylin, Rita Lakin and L. J. Sellers…which of course, now adds to my mystery reading list.

Some people have called me obsessive. When I get ahold of something, I don’t let go until I’ve exhausted the topic (for those of you who read this, you might have gotten a sense of that from all the pulp mysteries I’ve written about). And, I could have sworn I’ve previously read a cookbook with recipes by mystery writers. But looking through my looseleaf binder of recipes, I couldn’t find it. So, I used my resources to try to find it and lo and behold, mystery author/character cookbooks are a hot topic (no pun intended). There’s a Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook, a Murder She Wrote Cookbook, a Cop Cookbook. There’s The Cat Who Cookbook by Julie Murphy, a Food to Die For cookbook by Patricia Cornwell, and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, which I’m putting on my reading list. Of course, none of these are the cookbook I was thinking of. So, I’ve requested A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers, A Second Helping of Murder: More Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers and Writers’ Favorite Recipes because I’m hoping one of these is the cookbook I was thinking of. I vaguely remember an Ed McBain recipe in the book.

Finally, my thoughts on The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. It’s definitely worth looking at. If you’re not a sophisticated chef (which I’m not), the cookbook is great because all the recipes are easy, such as Bill Pronzini’s Nameless’s Italian Garlic Bread and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich. The recipes run the daily eating range from breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert with a section on drinks. There are also recipes that sound intriguing such as Karen Harper’s Zucchini Bread, Brad Meltzer’s Italian Chicken, Greg Herren’s Greg’s New Orleans Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Bill Fitzhugh’s Spicy Beans.

To spice up the book (yes, pun intended), each section begins with a photo of an old fashioned typewriter with a page from a manuscript.  Interspersed with the recipes are pages about various authors’ writing such as PD James using poison as a means of murder, Nero Wolfe on Food, Poe Waxes Poetic on Food, and Lee Child’s Recipe for a Delicious Best Seller.

Since the recipes are based on mystery characters who like cooking or recipes mentioned in books, there’s a short intro preceding each recipe telling the reader what book or character it comes from. There’s a short author bio at the end of each recipe.

This book has everything a mystery lover, cooking aficionado would want. Information, recipes, pictures and more. Be sure to get a copy for your bookshelf.

P.S. I also found a new blog to subscribe to…Mystery Fanfare by Janet Rudolph, which is where I found the names of all these cookbooks.

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OK, so everyone has their ‘guilty reading pleasure’ and mine is Connie Shelton’s CompetitionCanBeMurderCharlie Parker mystery series. I’m a courtroom drama, police procedural man (think Harry Bosch, 87th Precinct) but something about this series struck my fancy many years ago. I thought they’d been discontinued in the early 2000s but found out Shelton’s been writing them continuously, the last one being published in 2012 (14 in the series, so far). Good for me….I have a few to catch up on.

I started catching up with number 8, Competition Can Be Murder. Towards the middle of the book, I realized I had read it, but really didn’t remember much.

Let me set the background. Charlie Parker (a CPA turned sleuth) and her brother run a private detective business in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her parents died when she was a teenager. The closest thing she has to a mother is her octogenarian next door neighbor (think the female version of Henry in Sue Granfton’s Kinsey Millhone series). She loves her dog, Rusty (I don’t remember the breed). In book 2, Vacations Can Be Murder, she meets Drake Langston, a helicopter pilot in Hawaii. They marry and move back to New Mexico. Between book 2 and 8, Charlie gets her helicopter pilot’s license. So, now you’re caught up.

In Competition Can Be Murder, Charlie and Drake head to Scotland to help out one of Drake’s pilot friends, Brian. Brian’s mother is not well and he must leave his business to be with her. The business, shuttling workers to and from oil rigs in the North Sea, is taking business away from boat operators, who are unionized. The pilots are not. Will the unions take matters into their own hands?

Additionally, Charlie and Drake are renting a cottage on the grounds of Dunworthy, owned by the Dunbars, an extremely old Scottish clan. One day Robert and Sarah Dunbar find their grandson, Richie, is missing when they receive a ransom note. Charlie made the mistake of saying she was in the sleuthing business and gets embroiled in finding Richie.

What do I like about this easy going series? I like the characters. Charlie and Drake truly love each other. There’s a relationship between them…the kind that married couples have. I don’t recall another series like this. Of course, I love the fact they have a dog, especially one named Rusty, which was the name of my first dog. There’s enough action to please most readers. I don’t remember any endings that come out of nowhere. If you can say that a mystery is an ‘enjoyable’ read, then this is the series.

Next is Balloons Can Be Murder, which there is a chance I’ve also read but since my memory is like a sieve, I’m sure I won’t remember until I’m half way through.

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I truly was not going to blog about Kinsey and Me Stories, figuring that the stories in the book were typical KinseyAndMeSue Grafton/Kinsey Millhone stories. And for the first two thirds of the book this is true. In Part 1: Kinsey, in true Grafton/Millhone style, Ms. Grafton has crafted interesting, fun short stories featuring Kinsey. In an introduction to this section, she talks about how difficult short stories are to write and I whole-heartedly agree. If this was all the book was, I would have put a brief note in Librarything and moved on.

However….that is not the sum total of this book. The stories in Part 2:…And Me were written in the 10 years following Grafton’s mother’s death and these are riveting, revealing, honest, emotional and unlike anything Grafton that I’ve read. The stories talk about feelings of a young daughter towards her alcoholic parents, the emotional toll when a mother is stricken with esophogial cancer and what it’s like when the child becomes a parent to a parent. I only reluctantly put these stories down and went back to work.

As you know, I’ve been reading a lot of pulp fiction mystery stories from the 1920s through the 1950s. These stories are typically gritty and descriptive, with the occasional comic story thrown in. However, that’s not the Kinsey Millhone style. The Millhone stories here are short extensions of the detective series books, so they are easy going, enjoyable and comfortable.

So, if you’re not a mystery fan, skip Part 1 (that would be silly) and go directly to Part 2. In it are life lessons about understanding and appreciating later in life those things we don’t quite grasp or appreciate in our youth. In the final story is a letter from a father to a daughter in which he reminisces about her as a girl and the daughter’s reaction to these events thirty years later. In it, she said “You want to tell him you treasure all the relics of the past. You know now that you are a living museum, full of rooms and crooked corridors that repeat themselves at every turn.” And so we are a sum of the events of the past and for many of us, it takes us a long time to appreciate that past, as well as the present.

Get to know a deeper Sue Granfton by reading Kinsey and Me Stories.

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