Tag Archives: Vinnie Hansen

Re-story-a-tion: Reviving An Old Creation

by Vinnie Hansen

If February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in an airplane crash, is The Day the Music Died, then 2016 is The Year The Music Died. Consider this partial list: David Bowie, Glen Frey, Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, and George Michael.

The deaths hit music lovers of a certain age hard. And, for me, 2016 went out with a bang—four deaths in my broader circle of friends, all people in their sixties and seventies.

My novel Lostart Street rose from these ashes.

The deaths prompted my husband and me to make a living trust. During the grueling process, I reviewed my old will in which I’d left money and directions for the publication of my file-cabinet novel Love on Lostart Street.

Over the years, a couple of publishers had nibbled at the novel, so I knew it contained tempting morsels. But what a task to leave to someone! I was the one best equipped to bring the novel to fruition, especially if the ladies at misterio press gave the project a nod.

One of the best parts of working with a small, collaborative press is the flexibility and freedom in what we can try. The ladies agreed to the publication although the title quickly changed to Lostart Street, because, as Kassandra Lamb pointed out, we don’t want readers to think the book is a romance.

But Lostart Street is not our usual mystery fare, either. It’s a cross-genre mash-up that I call “a novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. “

Even though the novel was already written and I had seven mysteries and numerous short stories under my belt, preparing Lostart Street for publication proved to be the toughest writing task I’ve faced.

First, the novel is personal. The protagonist is a twenty-eight-year-old would-be writer who abandons her life in San Francisco to accept a teaching position in a small California coast town.  This is my background, and the struggles of a first-year teacher certainly figure in the book.

A cartoon drawn for me by one of my first-year students. Bless his heart.

So I  worried myself into sleepless nights that readers would think the main character is me.

I reminded myself that when I created Carol Sabala, the protagonist in my mystery series, I went out of my way to make her different than I am. She’s half-Mexican American and a baker who becomes a P.I. She’s younger, taller, and more athletic with long wavy auburn hair. She grew up in California, came from a small family . . . .

It didn’t matter. Readers told me that they imagined Carol Sabala as me! Me—investigating murders, breaking and entering, propelling from rooftops? We can’t control what goes on in the minds of our readers, so why worry about it.

Nonetheless, in the front of Lostart Street I added to the usual disclaimer “not a single occurrence actually happened, or if it did, not at the time or in the context or with the people or in the manner depicted.”

But I faced another, much tougher issue. Lostart Street is set in 1982. I didn’t write it in 1982, but I started it much closer to 1982 than I am now. So when I pulled the book out of the file cabinet to rework it, I realized I’d become a better writer than I was then. The problem became how to apply my developed skills to this older work without erasing what made it unique and charming in the first place.

Twenty-eight-year-old self.

My sixty-year-old self.

Back in 1987, I was lucky enough to see the Sistine Chapel while the restoration of its ceiling was in progress. This project was, and remains, controversial. People had grown accustomed to the look of the art covered with hundreds of years of grime. Some art critics even argued that the change over the years was the natural evolution of the frescoes and cleaning them was a travesty.

Now, not to compare myself to Michelangelo, but the process of restoration, or re-story-a-tion, of Lostart Street, created a similar dilemma. How did I apply the cleaner—scrubbing at adverbs and metaphors and multiple points of view—without losing the book’s original appeal? How did I apply my 63-year-old wisdom to the 28-year-old voice? Yes, the story brightened and sharpened, but what was being lost?

The process was painstaking! But now I present the new and improved Lostart Street, available at Amazon. The launch party will be June 8th, 7 p.m. at Bookshop Santa Cruz.  For those of you farther away, I will be interviewed about Lostart Street tonight (June 6) at 7 p.m. on Universal Grapevine, KZSC 88.1 fm. Please tune in.

Have you ever tried to rework an older piece of writing or art? What challenges did you encounter?

Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Like Lostart Street, her Carol Sabala mystery series is set in Santa Cruz, California, where Vinnie lives with her husband and requisite cat.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

by Vinnie Hansen

In March, I visited the Santa Clara Crime Lab because hey, that’s the kind of thing crime writers do on a lovely spring day.

My husband, Danny, went along. He enjoys police info, too. I guess you better if you’re married to a mystery author.

We were disappointed to learn that we would not be able to traipse about the lab. Even though the event was advertised as a “virtual” tour, when Danny and I visited the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, our guide led us right up to the line of weapons waiting for rifling tests. But that was many years ago and our group consisted of just Danny, Cara Black and me.

Criminalist Cordelia Willis

Criminalist Cordelia Willis

The Santa Clara Crime Lab presentation drew over 20 sisters and misters from NorCal Sisters in Crime as well as a whole class from a local college. I was glad that criminalist Cordelia Willis did not try to herd such an unwieldy flock.

But even if there were only a few of us, we could not have entered the lab. Our very breath could contaminate DNA evidence!

Instead, we congregated in the training room for slides and an informative talk.

Here are a dozen fun facts from our two-hour stint:

  • The bane of criminalists: lawyers, lawyers, lawyers, and EMTs who trample evidence.
  • CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) has two parts, the usual one we think of which contains info only from criminals, and another part for unidentified persons, used to match bodies to missing people. The criminal and victim parts do not mix.
  • Red Bull is the drink of choice for burglars (and a nifty way to collect DNA).
  • Thirty is the magic number when a murderer stabs his victim.
  • A slice on the perpetrator’s hand is common in stabbings because the knife handle gets slippery. (Think O.J.)
  • Cordelia worked on a cold case where DNA evidence was taken from 22- year-old semen.
  • If a body is inside a structure, the police have to get a search warrant to call in the lab.
  • Digital/multimedia evidence is most backlogged. One case might yield 15 cellphones!IMG_1418
  • Bullet rifling is unique to each individual gun, but (sigh) many bullets get smooshed and can’t be tested.
  • BUT, cartridges can be compared via the firing pin impression.IMG_1420
  • Gun shot residue disappears quickly — no sense testing after 8 hours.
  • It’s blood spatter, not blood splatter.

Have you ever wondered how much of CSI is true? What’s a question you would like answered by a crime lab? 

 

Posted by Vinnie Hansen.

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Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her Carol Sabala mystery series is set in Santa Cruz, California.

Her forthcoming book, Lostart Street, is a stand-alone novel of mystery, manslaughter and moonbeams.

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover. If you saw the cover in the last post, you’ll notice the new iteration is slightly different. What do you think?

LostartStreet

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Honolulu Havoc: The Pros and Cons of a Conference in Paradise

Left Coast Crime 2017 convened in Hawaii. The allure is almost too obvious to mention. There’s—well—the setting, the elaborate Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki. Warm weather, sunsets on the beach, Diamond Head in the distance.

Beach in front of hotel.

Beach in front of hotel.

For many attendees the conference was a great excuse to escape a March roaring in like a lion. Almost every participant I talked to had extended his/her stay. Sisters in Crime Guppy President, Jim Jackson, and his wife, Jan Rubens, planned a month in Hawaii! Even Danny and I, who hale from temperate Santa Cruz, stayed a week. A conference in a vacation destination clearly entices writers to take a break.

The Hawaiian flavor permeated the conference from the POG (pineapple, orange, guava) juice served in the hospitality suite to the braided leis given to each award nominee at the reception—held outside on the Great Lawn. Toastmaster Laurie King literally let her hair down, releasing her famous bun into a cascade of silver. As we strolled around in our muumuus and shorts, Ghost of Honor, Earl Derr Biggers, and his creation Charlie Chan, haunted the setting. The first panel I attended, Real-Life Experience: Authors Tell All opened with free mimosas. Now there’s a ploy to get people to talk.

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As usual, the conference gave me an opportunity to see writing buddies from other parts of the country and to meet and read authors new to me, like Maia Chance who participated on the Eye to Eye With the P.I. panel with me. I am thoroughly enjoying the first book in her series, Come Hell or Highball. Our panel was moderated by my crime writing idol, Allen Eskens! As moderator, he read a book from each panelist. He liked  Black Beans & Venom enough to give me this blurb, “It is the mark of true talent for a writer to be able to deliver her readers completely and believably to another world, and in Black Beans and Venom Vinnie Hansen has done just that. Set in the vibrant and gritty back streets of Cuba, this cat-and-mouse hunt for a missing woman is full of intrigue, suspense and authenticity.I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.” That alone was worth the price of admission.

Me with Allen Eskens. Check out his thrillers. The first is The Life We Bury.

Me with Allen Eskens. Check out his thrillers. The first is The Life We Bury.

So what could possibly be wrong?

It’s difficult to organize a conference in a place where one poached egg costs $4.25! Compare the room-rate of $209-$249 a night to that for next year’s LCC in Reno–$82. And the room-rate in Honolulu didn’t even include room Wi-Fi or parking, both part of the package in Reno.

The time and expense of getting to Hawaii and staying in Hawaii clearly lowered attendance. Quite a few authors appeared on three different panels, good for them perhaps, but not as stimulating for the audience. And maybe its just my guilty conscience speaking, but I feel tourist distractions pulled attendees away from conference events. Usually the Liar’s Panel, a perennial favorite, packs the room. Not so this year, in spite of a stellar line-up–Rhys Bowen, Donna Andrews, Lee Goldberg, Parnell Hall, Catriona McPherson.

Finally, Honolulu isn’t my idea of paradise. It’s a bustling city, thick with tourists. Danny and I took a morning off to follow the ant trail of people up Diamond Head. I’m glad we did it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

View from Diamond Head through edge of pillbox.

View from Diamond Head through edge of pillbox.

The Sunset Pillbox Trail on the North Shore, where we spent our first few days on the island, was much more satisfying. On that hike, we encountered only a few locals, the vistas were just as spectacular, and the brightly graffitied pillboxes were more interesting than the structures atop Diamond Head.

Pillbox on North Shore.

Pillbox on North Shore.

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I have no regrets about attending Left Coast Crime 2017, but look forward to the more economical Left Coast Crime 2018. If I win enough at blackjack, it may not cost me a thing. 🙂

 

 

What’s the best or worst conference you’ve attended conferences? What made the conference that way? 

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Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her Carol Sabala mystery series is set in Santa Cruz, California.

Her forthcoming book, Lostart Street, is a stand-alone novel of mystery, manslaughter and moonbeams.

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover:

LostartStreet3

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

 

 

 

Spring Flowers: More Than Just a Pretty Face

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the gang)

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This post is part of a Spring Fling Blog Hop sponsored by our sister author, Kirsten Weiss. Below is a list of more fun and interesting posts about Spring!

We at misterio decided to do a group post about our favorite spring flowers and what they mean to us. This ended up evoking some interesting insights, emotions, and memories.

We’ll start with the newest member of our misterio press family, Gilian Baker.

Daffodils_flowering pub domain

My favorite flower is the daffodil. When I was a young girl, my grandmother had a big yard full of flower beds, including lots of these delicate yellow buds. Now, when I see them, I always think of her—she was so delicate and lovely too.

They are always the first flowers to come up and point their faces towards the sun in the spring. When I see daffodils and my first robin, I know spring has finally sprung! They don’t last long, but while they do, they bring me great joy.

Vinnie Hansen

poppies

I have to go with the big red and pink opium (shhhhhhh) poppies in my yard. These poppies will spring up from casually sprinkled seeds (my type of gardening). I received the original seeds for these flowers from a local woman who was growing the red ones in her yard.

Once I had the red poppies springing up in my yard, a strolling neighbor saw them and offered me seeds for pink ones, in exchange for seeds from my red ones. And so the beauty proliferated.

And we have another lazy gardener, Shannon Esposito.

butterfly flowers

Red Butterfly flowers (Asclepias) are my favorite. Mostly because their orange-scarlet flowers attract butterflies all summer long, but also because they thrive in our scorching Florida summers. All I have to do is sprinkle some seeds and leave them alone.

If my homeowners’ association allowed it, I’d have a yard full of wild flowers instead of grass!

(Then again, I should NOT make fun of lazy gardeners…)

hibiscus

Kass Lamb

My favorite flower is the hibiscus, although I’m fond of azaleas too, and roses… Actually, I love all flowers, but my garden only has a few that thrive (azaleas and camellias). I have a brown thumb, meaning I don’t kill plants right away (like a black thumb person does). Instead, I slowly torture them to death.

I like hibiscus best because they represent the subtropical climate of Florida that I love. Unforntualtey, I’m not quite far enough south to successfully grow them in my yard (and then there’s that whole brown thumb thing).

And another wonderful memory from Kathy Owen.

daylilly

My fave is the common daylily. It’s beautiful, nearly indestructible, and it reminds me of my dad. When I was growing up, my dad would be driving and pull off along country roadsides, dig up some plants and stick them in his car (if a house was nearby, he’d ask permission first, to the bemusement of the people who saw the flowers as pretty weeds). Then he’d transplant them along our split rail fence until the entire back and sides were lined with them. And of course, they multiply like crazy, so he’d give them away to anyone who wanted them.

When Paul and I moved to our first house, he brought boxes of them to Virginia from Pennsylvania. He and I planted them behind our fence and in the flower beds. Years later, we had to reconfigure the backyard and extend the deck over a patch of those prolific daylilies. I tried to salvage as many as I could but ran out of room, so we decked right over the rest.

irises

For three seasons they still pushed up through the wood slats, trying to bloom!

And last but not least…

Kirsten Weiss

Why I love the Iris? It’s purple. Yay!

And it’s just such a spring flower, reminding me of warmer days ahead.

How about you? What’s your favorite flower, and what emotional connections does it have for you?

And look what Kathy Owen made! A beautiful bouquet of our spring flowers here at misterio press

book covers as flowers

graphic (c) by KB Owen

You can check them out in our bookstore!

And here’s the list of other blogs participating in the Spring Fling Blog Hop!

Allyson Charles: https://www.allysoncharles.com/blog

Conniue di Marco http://www.conniedimarco.com/blog/

Gillian Baker: http://gilianbaker.com/blog/

K.B. Owen:  http://kbowenmysteries.com/blog

Layla Reyne:  https://laylareyne.tumblr.com

Kirsten Weiss: https://kirstenweiss.com/blog

Mona Karel:  https://mona-karel.com/blog/

Misterio Press: https://misteriopress.com

Shannon Esposito: http://murderinparadise.com/blog-2/

Victoria De La O: http://www.victoriadelao.com/

 

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

COPS AND WRITERS

by Kassandra Lamb

Two weeks ago, I attended the most amazing conference of my life, The Writer’s Police Academy. And that’s saying something since I’ve been to a lot of conferences through the years.

Mock "unknown assailant on campus" scenario

Mock “unknown assailant on campus” scenario

Real cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, lawyers and private investigators taught us how to Write it Right in our mysteries and thrillers. Sister mp author, Vinnie Hansen, also attended and she told us about her favorite takeaways last week.

Today, I’d like to share some of the many surprises I discovered during this eye-opening conference.

 

FIRE 101: Did you know that smoke burns? I didn’t.

It is full of particles of unburned fuel, which then will ignite when the fire gets hot enough. But even the vapors in it are solid fuel converted to gas, and they also burn. Burning smoke on the ceiling is called “rollover.”

building on fire

See the fire coming out of the TOP of the front window. That’s rollover from smoke burning near the ceiling. (Photo by Eric Hensley, CC-BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

Which burns faster, older buildings or newer, tighter buildings?

The answer is newer buildings. Older buildings (the instructor called them ”legacy” buildings), while draftier, were built of more solid materials. And older furniture was made of wood, cotton and wool.

Today, some construction materials and many components of furniture are plastic, i.e., petroleum products, i.e., OIL. They ignite sooner, burn faster and give off more toxic fumes.

A fire in a modern house will be “fully developed” in about 10 minutes. In a legacy house, it may take 20-25 minutes.

SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT: This involved video scenarios where participants (with fake guns) got to play cops (us) and bad guys (in the videos).

A police officer has to determine whether to use potential lethal force (they are shooting to “stop the threat,” not to kill, but their gun is a lethal weapon) based on 3 criteria:

● Does the suspect have a weapon?
● Do they have the means to deliver harm with that weapon?
● Do they intend to use that weapon?

The officer often has to make that assessment in less than a second.

Example 1: The person pulls a knife but they are fifty feet away. The officer has time to try to defuse the situation: “Police! Don’t move! Drop your weapon! Sir, put the knife down.”

But if the person is 20 feet away and running toward the officer (or someone else) with a knife in their hand, they are an immediate threat and the officer needs to shoot.

Example 2: The person has a gun, pointed down. “Police! Put your weapon on the ground!” But if they start to raise the gun, the officer doesn’t need to wait until it’s aimed at him/her. By then, it will be too late.

I came away from that workshop with a whole new respect for how stressful and dangerous police work is.

It is now lunch time of the first day and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

After lunch, I started with retired police detective/now writer Robin Burcell’s workshop…

THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE TALK:  “Perp” is East Coast; on the West Coast, they’re called “suspects.” And the FBI uses “subject,” or “unsub” if they don’t know the suspect’s identity.

Unlike on TV and in movies, female detectives do not wear skirts and high heels! (Except maybe in court.) And cops don’t point their guns toward the ceiling (not unless there’s a bad guy up there) nor do they rack a bullet into the chamber just before engaging.

They carry their guns “locked and loaded” (already racked and safety off) at all times, and when they pull them out, the finger is beside the trigger until time to fire. And they point them straight ahead, in the direction they will most likely need to shoot.

10 COMMON MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE ABOUT THE LAW:  Leslie Budewitz, lawyer and author, shared many interesting tidbits about how the law really works, including the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but my fave takeaway was that Miranda rights are not automatically read to someone when they are arrested.

Two things have to be in place for Miranda to be necessary — the person must be in custody AND interrogation must be happening. So if a “perp” (I’m East Coast 🙂 ) is arrested (in custody) and is on the way to the station, and s/he makes a spontaneous, incriminating statement (NOT during interrogation), it can be used even if no Miranda warning has been given yet. Likewise, if someone is questioned and they haven’t been arrested yet, no Miranda is needed to use whatever they say.

participants wearing service belts and weilding pistols

Pistol-packin’ Mamas ~ #2016WPA

End of Day 1, we thought…

We went back to the hotel, exhausted but happy, but that evening we were treated to more demos in the parking lot after dinner. And several volunteers got to wear real (and very heavy) police belts and learned how to wield a baton, and when to use it vs. your pistol.

Day 2…

PTSD: I almost didn’t go to this one because I am an expert myself on PTSD, but this workshop was about what it looks like in police officers.

It was awesome!! The presenter was a former police officer, who developed PTSD, and is now a therapist working with officers with this disorder.

And he has a service dog for his PTSD! (The man made the mistake of giving me his card; I am so going to pick his brain via email.)

I came away from that workshop with a great story idea for Book 10 in my Kate Huntington series!

FORCE ON FORCE ROOM CLEARING:

This one wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but it was still quite awesome. It involved more scenarios, and we got to shoot guns loaded with tiny paint pellets. Again, a whole new respect for how hard it is to judge how much force to use and when to use it.

But the biggest takeaway from this workshop was the presenter Randy Clifton’s comments about the recent controversial police shootings. He said he didn’t blame the officers (unless there seemed to be blatant racism involved). He blames the departments for insufficient training with real-life scenarios that replicate the stress levels of on-the-street confrontations.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me. #2016WPA

He made the excellent point that when the adrenaline is flowing, the rational brain shuts down, and one reverts to old learned patterns (this is psychologically sound). If those old learned patterns aren’t superceded by deeply ingrained new patterns during training, the officer is likely to make the wrong decision.

He demonstrated this via a scenario in which police have raided a house where a known felon is staying. The police have cleared the rest of the house, while yelling repeatedly that they are the police. The guy comes out of his bedroom with his hands in the air, but a gun in one hand. The young police recruit Randy used in this scenario yelled, “Sir, put the gun down. Sir, drop your weapon.”

Randy stopped the scenario and asked us how many of us would shoot. Only 2 out of 12 responded yes (I was a no). Then he demonstrated how quickly someone can lower a gun from that “hands up” position and shoot the officer, while said officer is so politely telling him to drop the gun.

His point: our old patterns tell us that hands up means the guy is surrendering, but why then does he have a gun in his hand? He knows the cops are all over his house. If he was truly surrendering, he would have left the gun in the bedroom.

After this little lecture, all 12 of us voted unanimously to shoot.

Two last takeaways from the last two workshops:
DEFENSE TACTICS: Did you know that if you splay your fingers out at the end of your arm, it is almost impossible for someone to force you to bend your arm? Try it!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION: OR HOW TO BE A DICK FOR FUN AND PROFIT: Do you know who the most accurate TV/movie private investigator is? (I’ll answer below in the comments section after some of you have made your best guess.)

Now, you may be thinking that I’ve “gone over to the side of the cops” regarding unnecessary police shootings.

Some of our amazing faculty!

Some of our amazing and very generous faculty!

No way! First, I don’t think it’s them against us. Another takeaway from this conference was how generous many police officers are. Every presenter gave out his/her email address and encouraged us to inundate them with questions. I believe the vast majority of officers are truly trying to “protect and serve.”

But many of them need better training, and PTSD needs to be identified and treated much more quickly in officers, because this disorder undetected can lead to more confrontations with the public, and bad decision-making due to lack of sleep (because of nightmares) and higher stress levels.

I still am pursuing investigating and improving these things in my own community, but I am so glad I went to this conference before my scheduled meetings with my sheriff and police chief. I now have a much better understanding of what their departments are up against!

Also, if you are planning to do the same in your own community, I found out that the place to start is with your local police department’s Public Information Officer.

Back to WPA. I’ve decided I will have to go again next year, since I never got to the Ballistics or Blood Spatter classes. 😀

So who do you think is the most accurate TV/movie P.I.? Have you gone to any professional conferences that were as good as this one?

By the way, one of the stories I was able to make more accurate, thanks to this conference, is now available for preorder. (I’ll bet you can figure out what I used when you read the story.)

$1.99 thru its release date of 9/5/16

ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

book cover

Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on:   AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO    NOOK

And Book #1, TO KILL A LABRADOR, is ON SALE for just $0.99 thru 9/3/16!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

Vinnie Hansen and I attended a rather unusual conference last week. It’s called the Writers’ Police Academy. Law enforcement and EMS faculty (among others) taught us how to get it right when we have cops, courtrooms and/or blood in our novels.

Which happens a lot when one writes murder mysteries.

I’ll be sharing some of my best moments from the conference next week but today Vinnie’s here to tell us about her experience.

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

by Vinnie Hansen

Attending the Writers’ Police Academy gave me a wealth of cop and EMS info. I offer these 10 nuggets:

  • A person will bleed out in three to five minutes.
  • If you’re bleeding out, I can improvise a tourniquet with a two-inch wide band of material and something to twist it up good.
  • In hand-to-hand combat, the rule is flesh to bone and bone to flesh

Read more…

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

What We’ve Been Reading Lately ~ #BookReviews

Time for another round of book reviews from some of our misterio press authors. Most writers don’t get to read nearly as much as they’d like to, because so much time is taken up with their writing. So when we discover a really good book, it’s an extra special treat!

book coverKirsten Weiss ~ The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Supermodel Lulu Landry takes a swan dive off her balcony. Is it suicide or murder? Down-on-his-luck PI Cormoran Strike has been hired to find out.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, this first-in-the-series mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowlings, is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long while. The characters are engaging and beautifully drawn – especially Cormoran and his new, temporary secretary, Robin, who has (quite realistic) fantasies of becoming a PI herself.

Cormoran’s lost part of one leg to Afghanistan and has just broken up with his larger-than-life girlfriend of over a decade. Plus, he’s got another albatross around his neck – the PI is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star. In the hands of a lesser writer, these could all have just been intriguing details, but Galbraith/Rowlings weaves them into a compelling picture of a three-dimensional tough guy.

The twists and turns in the mystery itself are worthy of Agatha Christie. Readers will need to draw a flowchart to figure this one out. I didn’t bother though; I was having too much fun enjoying the ride. Fortunately, the next two books in the series – The Silkworm and Career of Evil – are already available to fulfill my need for more of these can’t-put-down characters.

I did find the book depressing on one score. JK Rowlings initially pubished The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith” to see if she coukd “make it” under another name.

She couldn’t.

It wasn’t until it was leaked that JK Rowlings was Robert Galbraith that sales for The Cuckoo’s Calling took off. And the fact that such a well written, fun, and engaging mystery languished says something about the state of today’s publishing industry.

On the other hand, as a mystery writer, I love, love, love to see such a wonderful book out in the world. So if you love a good, twisty mystery, you might want to check out The Cuckoo’s Calling.

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Shannon Esposito ~ Four Seasons of Reno Hart by Stephen Campbell

book coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a new character in the mystery genre, but this book of short stories has done it. Reno Hart is one strong heroine! I love that she doesn’t need to use violence to crack cases, but instead uses her brains and creativity.

I do worry about how she’s dealing with her grief over losing her husband & if she’s shut off her emotions (See! I’m actually worried about this character! lol!)

Anyway, if you’re a fan of the mystery genre, you won’t be disappointed in these well-plotted, well-executed bite-sized stories that capture Florida in all her glory and corruption. Highly recommend & can’t wait for a full length Reno Hart novel! Five fingerprints!

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Kassandra Lamb ~ Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit by Marcia Meara

book coverI try to read indie as much as possible these days, to support my fellow authors. Sadly, some of these books aren’t very good, but now and again, I discover a real gem.

Such is the case with Marcia Meara’s Wake-Robin Ridge series. Book 1 is one of the most unusual novels I have read in a long time. It was a little hard to categorize. Is it a redemption story, or a mystery, or a romance? All of the above. There’s a healthy serving of each of these, plus some interesting and believable paranormal seasoning.

It probably fits best into the romantic suspense genre, because there is definitely a budding romance between Sarah Gray, who has relocated to North Carolina to try her hand at writing, and her handsome but haunted neighbor, MacKenzie Cole.

The book tells the stories of two women who both lived in the same cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge, 50 years apart–Ruthie in the 1960’s and Sarah in 2011. There are so many intriguing elements in this book. Just when you think you have it pegged, some new twist comes along.

The two women’s stories come crashing together in a mind-boggling way, and Mac and Sarah work together to solve the mysteries of Ruthie’s life and death, and to put to rest more than one ghost from the past.

book coverI purchased this book as part of a boxed set of two books. Book 2, A Boy Named Rabbit, also defies genre boundaries. It is one part mystery and one part family saga.

A young boy, who’s only human contact has been his grandparents, finds himself alone in the North Carolina hills after his grampa goes for supplies and doesn’t return and his sick grandmother dies. His gran’s last instructions to him are to go and find the Good People. Scared and lonely, ten-year-old Rabbit sets out to keep his promise to her, living off the land as his grampa taught him.

Mac and Sarah have settled into a comfortable routine on Wake-Robin Ridge as they await the birth of their child, but their well-ordered world is turned upside down when Rabbit stumbles into their lives. And their quest to find his kin resurrects a decade old mystery and attracts the attention of the one person his grandparents never wanted Rabbit to meet.

Both of these stories are great and well worth the investment of time and money. I’m knocking off a half fingerprint each because the story arc in Book 2 is a little off kilter in places, and the author sometimes is a bit heavy-handed with the descriptions of characters’ emotions–more so in Book 1, which is forgivable since this was the first book she wrote.

I am really looking forward to Book 3, Harbinger, which is already loaded on my Kindle.

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Vinnie Hansen ~ The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

book coverI often discover new authors via writing and mystery conferences. When I attended Left Coast Crime in Portland last year, I met Allen Eskens, whose book The Life We Bury was nominated as a best first mystery novel. It became my favorite book of 2015, the book I recommended to everyone, the way William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace had been the year before.

These two favorite books share Minnesota settings and young male protagonists with handicapped younger brothers. In both books, the need to shelter the younger brother provides motivation and pivotal tension. The two books are told in first person and center around a crime committed decades ago. However, the narrator of Ordinary Grace places us back in that time when he was young and death unfolded around him.

Most of the action in The Life We Bury unravels in modern times, with the main character unearthing the past. Joe Talbert, a college student, is given an assignment for an English class, and. . . .

I have two nits to pick with The Life We Bury. I don’t like the title, and I saw the last major plot twist coming from a mile away. The latter allowed me to feel like a smarty pants, so I’m still giving it 5 fingerprints. I’d give it a little plus if I could.

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How about you? What good mysteries have you read recently.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

4 Reasons Why I Love Being an American*

by Kassandra Lamb

(*Note: by American, I mean resident of the U.S. Please don’t take offense, my Canadian and Central/South American friends, but “resident of the United States” is just too big a mouthful to say again and again.)

This year, as I contemplated what to write for yet another patriotic post for Independence Day, I was tempted to go light again, as we have sometimes done in the past for Memorial Day or the 4th of July, with recipes and nostalgia about childhood cookouts and fireworks. With all the ranting and ravings by politicians right now, it’s easy to think, “No, no, no, I don’t want to get involved in any of that heavy stuff.”

And I don’t, but I think that I do want to remind myself and others of just how great this country is. In many ways, it’s one of the best in the world.

So here are my 4 top reasons why I love being an American:

1. This country was founded by some pretty smart people.

We humans have a tendency toward short memories. And thus history repeats itself again and again, because we forget the lessons of the past, and sometimes even the recent past.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

But our founding fathers got that this was a great hazard for our fledgling country. They wove into the very fabric of its foundation — in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — clauses that were designed to keep this new country they were forming from making the same mistakes the European monarchies had recently made.

Instead of designing a government that would stifle the populace in order to maintain control, they guaranteed certain “inalienable rights” to everyone in this country. That was a profound and rather novel concept at the time.

It might have taken a few generations for Americans to get it that everyone truly meant everyone (women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, etc.), but when these groups got up the gumption to speak up against their exclusion from those inalienable rights, we had to admit (grudgingly sometimes) that they had a point.

2. This country was founded on good moral values.

While the Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of religion and separation of church and state, the founding fathers were God-fearing men. They strove to shape a society that was based on Judeo-Christian values, such as tolerance and compassion.

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: "...designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. " -- Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: “…designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. ” — Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Again, we may have taken a couple of centuries to get anywhere close to fulfilling that vision, and we have a ways to go yet in certain areas, but we do strive toward these goals. Not all nations do, and not all societies even see tolerance as desirable.

3. Americans are survivors.

We come from gritty pioneer stock. Our ancestors braved the perils of a hostile ocean and an unknown land to start a new life. They had a variety of reasons for coming here, from escaping religious persecution to seeking a better life to being shipped here against their will as prisoners or slaves. But they survived a lot of hardship and struggled to carve out a life for themselves and their descendants.

That’s the genetic pool from which we’ve sprung.

So when something knocks us down, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep trucking. And when others are knocked down, we rally around with help and encouragement. I was never prouder to be an American than these past few weeks as this country supported the LGBT community after the horror in Orlando. Even most of those Americans who might not approve wholeheartedly of their lifestyle got it that it wasn’t okay for 49 people to go from happy dancing to dead in a matter of minutes. The whole country is still mourning their loss and praying for the fifty-some folks who were injured and the families of all of the above.

4. America grows over time.

We may do it in fits and starts and sometimes fight it tooth and nail, but we grow. We adjust. We move on. As I watch the evening news each night, I see a society that is struggling with letting go of the past, or what we perceive the past to have been, and at the same time, is struggling to keep up with a rapidly-changing world.

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced some of the good old days. Some of them were indeed good, and some not so much. Those are best left behind.

By the same token, we should not be too quick to toss out the old just because it is old (says the woman who recently gave up her flip phone and got her first smart phone). To paraphrase the saying from the 12-step programs, we should “keep what works and leave the rest.”

Our history as a country (and I’ve seen this personally for the last 6 decades) has been one of pendulum swings on a variety of issues – to the right, to the left, back and forth – and eventually we find the balance on each issue, often somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I have faith that the United States of America will continue to eventually find the balance. Because we are a great country!

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Birthday, America!!

(Please, no political rants in the comments.)

Note: Today’s the last day for Vinnie Hansen’s giveaway of 3 copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced, over on Goodreads! Check it out!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

This Ain’t Your Grandmother’s Old Age Home!

by Kassandra Lamb

My husband and I are starting to look into retirement communities. Now wait, before those of you under 50 freak out and click away to some other post… we’re not talking your grandmother’s old age home here.

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You get to a certain point where some of the candles represent a decade, not just a year. (cake for an 87-yr-old, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Seniors today have lots of options. And that’s a darn good thing, because people are living longer and living healthier for longer.

“Old age is not for sissies,” is one of my brother’s favorite lines. This is true, but aging isn’t all bad.

Retirement brings the freedom to do the things for which there just wasn’t time and energy when one had to make a living (for me, that was writing fiction!) And there are a variety of places we can live while doing those things.

The concept that old age means either living with one’s children (still an option) or deteriorating rapidly in a dehumanizing nursing home is – for lack of a better term – old-fashioned.

We’ve got 55+ communities and retirement communities and assisted living and multi-level care and…

A 55+ community is basically a housing development that is limited to those over age 55. Children under 18 aren’t allowed. These typically have community centers that offer activities ranging from cards to rumba lessons to monthly parties or shows. They have clubs and pools and fitness centers and shuffleboard and tennis courts, etc. – all right there.

My 68-year-old brother recently moved into a 55+ community. He had lived in the country, about 45 minutes from our home in a medium-sized city. He loved his house and his neighbors, but it got to be too quiet out there in the boonies. He was lonely and bored.

He is loving his new home, and all the activities available, including lots of clubs and an on-campus golf course and restaurant.

For us, the issue that will eventually prompt us to move is taking care of a house. Maintenance, cleaning, yard work gets harder as you age. For me, it’s not so much that I can’t do it, but rather that it takes so much out of me. I’m exhausted afterwards, which makes it hard to enjoy the glow of satisfaction of getting the task done.

me and bro in front of house

My brother and I love projects!  Just a little over a year ago, we painted our house. It took several months. We were glad we did it, but we knew it was our last hurrah!  Big projects now get hired out.

Hubs and I are back and forth between a 55+ community or a retirement community. The latter have apartments and cottages you rent (you own your house in a 55+), with more services such as housekeeping, and all maintenance, grounds upkeep, etc. is taken care of, plus there are many of the same amenities as 55+ communities. Retirement communities often, but not always, offer assisted living and hospice services as the residents’ needs change.

Assisted living is a step above the old-fashioned nursing home. Here the residents often can have some of their own belongings with them and retain a certain amount of autonomy. But professional nurses are available to administer medications and such.

I should pause and comment that these services are not free. Those who have a decent retirement plan–whether it be a pension, private IRAs or other savings, Social Security or some combination of these–have options. (For the working poor, retirement is not nearly so lovely.)

Another thing that has brought these options to mind recently has been my sister misterio author, Vinnie Hansen’s re-release of her book Squeezed and Juiced (previously titled Tang® Is Not Juice — see below). A subplot of this story is the protagonist’s mother’s search for the right retirement community. And the protagonist, Carol Sabala, is struggling with the fact that her mother is old.

It kind of tickles me when younger people freak out over aging. Often I got that reaction from students when I was teaching human development classes. I’d try to point out the positives that come with age – wisdom, more self-confidence, no longer caring all that much about what others think, more time and freedom to do what you really want. But I could tell by the expressions on their faces that all they wanted to do was stick their fingers in their ears and sing, “lalalalala.”

old woman

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

So what’s the take-away message here – old age is not necessarily a bad thing! As a good friend of mine likes to say, “It sure beats the alternative.”

Old age may mean wrinkles and moving slower, but most old people are actually pretty happy. It’s the young who fear aging.

And if you’ve got a decent retirement income (something to give serious thought to if you’re pre-retirement age. Those who stick their heads in the sand on the subject are called…wait for it…still working in their 70’s), there are lots of housing and lifestyle options.

Old age doesn’t have to mean boring, lonely or decrepit. It can be lots of fun actually!

How about you? Where are you in the “adjustment to the reality of aging” process? And where do you think you’ll want to live out your senior years?

Squeezed and Juiced, A Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen

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Her first real P.I. case, an ailing mother, and a stalled relationship. As Carol Sabala attempts to juggle the components of her life, they all threaten to crash.

Training to be a private eye, Carol wrangles a job to investigate a woman’s will. The more Carol probes the retirement home where the woman died, the more she grasps how easily one could kill an elderly person in such a facility. It is, after all, an expected last address.

With Carol’s mother intent on moving to the same retirement home, the stakes are high. Will Carol prevent this facility from being her mother’s final address? Can she keep all the pieces of her life in the air as she enters a world of drug addicts and murder?

For those of you who enjoy the grittier female protagonists like Kinsey Milhone or Aimée Leduc, discover how Carol Sabala reacts when squeezed.

AMAZON US      AMAZON UK     AMAZON PAPERBACK

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Mysteries We Love #BookReviews

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a group post, and since I’m still traveling for the next couple of days, we decided to do a book review post. Here are some stories we’ve parti- cularly enjoyed over the last few months.

Vinnie’s review of Woman With a Blue Pencil:

As I read Woman with a Blue Pencil, I wondered how author Gordon McAlpine pitched it to his publisher. This complicated story involves a Japanese-American crime writer starting a new book. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed.

On the advice of his editor, whose letters are embodied in Woman with a Blue Pencil, the writer adopts the pen name William Thorne. He changes his Japanese-American protagonist to a Korean-American superhero, and the plot of the book he’s writing evolves into jingoistic detective fiction.

However, the author’s excised Japanese-American protagonist continues his life in an alternate story. So, you have the story of the author, the new book he’s writing, the manipulative letters from his editor, and the tragic fallout for his deleted main character. All the stories brilliantly intertwine, exploring the idea of erased identities.

This original book lives at my favorite intersection, where literary fiction meets crime fiction. Five big perfect fingerprints!

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Shannon’s Review of The Vanished Priestess: Book 2 of the Annie Szabo Mystery Series

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Though it dealt with some serious topics–spousal abuse and the necessity of women’s shelters—the story never got bogged down by the heaviness of these issues. In fact, Meredith Blevins writes her characters with such wit and humor, I found myself smiling much of the time.

The main character, Annie Szabo, is a flawed but likeable character who gets caught up in trying to solve her neighbor’s murder while protecting her daughter from an abusive son-in-law. Margo, the murder victim, ran a circus which also doubled as a shelter for abused women. There are a lot of eccentric characters here, including Annie’s Gypsy fortune teller mother-in-law, who has moved in on Annie and brought her own version of a three-ring circus.

Overall this was a satisfying mystery. I’m giving it four fingerprints. I had to take one away for distracting errors and typos. (Apparently the errors come from the book being scanned from a hardback; the author has said they will be fixed.)

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Kirsten’s review of Some Buried Caesar:

I remember reading Rex Stout when I was young. But all I remembered about his hero, Nero Wolfe, were his orchids and obesity. What a delightful surprise when I found a Kindle version of Some Buried Caesar.

The writing is pithy, funny, and told from the point of view of Wolfe’s put-upon detective, Archie Goodwin. Wolfe can’t be bothered to actually walk around and look for clues, so Archie’s his man.

The novel starts with the aftermath of a car crash in-media-res style. Out in the countryside for an orchid show, the stranded Archie and Nero soon find themselves face to horns with a prize bull. And not just any price bull. Hickory Caesar Grindon is probably the most expensive bull in history.

To the horror of the local Guernsey association, his new, nouveau riche owner plans to barbeque Hickory as a promotional stunt for his string of fast-food restaurants. Enemies abound in this classic whodunit. The only foregone conclusion is who will win the orchid contest (Nero Wolfe, natch).

Originally published in 1938, you can forget about political correctness. The dames are conniving and hard talking, and Archie isn’t having any of it. But there’s something about the narrator’s whimsical attitude toward his adventures in crime-solving that make the outdated attitudes tolerable. For me at least. Five fingerprints!

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Kass’s review of Abandon by Blake Crouch

This book was selected as the February read in a book club I belong to. I was skeptical at first, not real sure what genre it was. Horror? Paranormal mystery? Historical fiction?

Well it’s definitely a mystery, and it has its gruesome and sometimes horrifying moments, but it’s not paranormal nor horror. It is a “hold onto your hat, don’t forget your heart medicine” roller coaster ride from hell.

It flips back and forth between the late 1800’s — when the town of Abandon is slowly sliding toward ghost town status — and the present time — when a group of explorers goes to the site to try to figure out why the entire town’s remaining population disappeared suddenly one snowy night in 1893, with absolutely no trace nor hint of what happened to them.

As the events of the few days leading up to the town’s disappearance unfold in the 1893 story, the reader is also discovering that some of the modern-day exploration party have hidden agendas. And the twists and turns just keep on coming.

I vacillated between 4 and 5 fingerprints for this book. On the one hand it was one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. On the other, it was a bit more gory and gruesome than was really necessary, and that level of gruesome didn’t quite mesh, for me at least, with the historical fiction quality of the story. In other words, I found it distracting. And I do wish the book description made it clearer that the book is a mystery.

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So four and a half fingerprints!

 

 

 

Have you read any great mysteries lately?

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )