Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: Reviews of mystery/suspense books

New in mystery and suspense; holiday gift suggestions

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Books are thoughtful holiday gifts.  Click on the book covers for buying options.   Prices on books in all formats are subject to change at the discretion of the store or website where they are purchased.

Martini Shot (An Eddie Collins Mystery Book 4)
Clive Rosengren
Coffeetown Press  November 2018
204 pages
Kindle $2.99   Trade paperback $13.99

Eddie Collins, private eye and part-time Hollywood actor, is hired by ageing actor, Sam Roth, to locate his disowned son, Jack Callahan. Roth hopes to reconcile their relationship before his “Martini Shot” last scene of the day, as he is in his 90s.

While working the Roth case, Eddie receives a letter from his daughter’s adoptive parents, that she would like to meet him and find out more about her mom. In spite of his uncertainty, Eddie agrees to meet her. What will this relationship lead to in the future and what will all parties make of it? Only time will tell.

Eddie locates Callahan, leading to a father and son meeting. However, he later gets a call from Roth, informing him that his son has been found, bludgeoned to death. Sam asks Eddie to find out what has happened to Jack. Eddie investigates Jack’s life, hoping to find clues to the murder. Little does he know that upon discovering the murderer, his own life will hang in the balance.

This is the fourth in the Eddie Collins series.  It is preceded by Murder Unscripted, Red Desert and Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon.

* * *

Clive Rosengren is a recovering actor. His career spanned more than forty years, eighteen of them pounding many of the same streets as his fictional sleuth Eddie Collins. He appeared on stages at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. Movie credits include Ed Wood, Soapdish, Cobb, and Bugsy. Among numerous television credits are Seinfeld, Home Improvement, and Cheers, where he played the only person to throw Sam Malone out of his own bar. He lives in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, safe and secure from the hurly-burly of Hollywood.  The first two books in the series were finalists for the Shamus Awards, sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America.

 

The Reversible Mask, an Elizabethan Spy Novel
Loretta Goldberg
Made Global Publishing   December 2018

449 pages
Kindle $4.99   Trade paperback $19.84

Summer 1566. A glittering royal progress approaches Oxford. A golden age of prosperity, scientific advances, exploration and artistic magnificence. Elizabeth I’s Protestant government has much to celebrate.

But one young Catholic courtier isn’t cheering.

Conflicting passions—patriotism and religion—wage war in his heart. On this day, religion wins. Sir Edward Latham throws away his title, kin, and country to serve Catholic monarchs abroad.

But his wandering doesn’t quiet his soul, and when Europe’s religious wars threaten his beloved England and his family, patriotism prevails. Latham switches sides and becomes a double agent for Queen Elizabeth. Life turns complicated and dangerous as he balances protecting country and queen, while entreating both sides for peace.

Intrigue, lust, and war combine in this debut historical novel.

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An Australian-American, Loretta Goldberg earned a BA in English literature, musicology and history at the University of Melbourne. After teaching English for a year, she came to the US on a Fulbright scholarship to study piano. She earned an MA in music performance at Hunter College, New York.  She built a financial services practice, which she sold recently to focus on writing. She’s written articles on financial planning, arts reviews and political satire.

 

The Blue
Nancy Bilyeau
Endeavour Quill
430 pages
Kindle $3.99    Trade paperback  $15.58

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities. Fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain manufacture, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue.

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

She also learns much about love.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

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Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyleDuJourRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York and a regular contributor to Town & CountryPurist, and The Vintage News.

She earned a BA at the University of Michigan. The Crown, her  first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, The Chalice, followed in 2013 and the third in the trilogy, The Tapestry, was published in 2015. This is her fourth novel.

 

Avoid the shadows when night falls

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Nightfall
David Goodis
170 pages
Black Curtain Press  1947
$8.49 paperback    Kindle $  .99

James Vanning is lonely, depressed, afraid and plagued by insomnia.  In other words he’s a classic protagonist in a noir novel.

The commercial artist and World War II vet is on the run from the police and a gang of bank robbers.  He’s holed up in a small New York City apartment selling his work to ad agencies to get by and feeling sorry for himself.  As an average guy entangled in a seemingly unexplainable criminal morass, he could be a character in a Cornell Woolrich novel.  Instead he’s the creation of another respected noir author, David Goodis, noted for his mystery, Dark Passage, that became a Bogart and Bacall movie.

In Nightfall, published in 1947, Goodis imperils Vanning without letting the reader know too many details.  Except for one thing: he’s killed someone, or is convinced he did. And, he’s scared.

 “He wanted to go out.  He was afraid to go out.  And he realized that.  The realization brought on more fright.”

A few sentences later a Woolrich-style premonition: “…something was going to happen tonight.”

Vanning knows that the story of the killing, as he remembers it, is so preposterous no cop or DA would believe him. We learn bits and pieces: A Seattle bank was robbed of $300,000.  One of the gang responsible for the robbery was murdered. The money disappeared.

The story unfolds through chapters of alternating points of view, that of Vanning and of Fraser, the NYC police detective following him.  Married with three children, Fraser (we never learn his first name) has been shadowing Vanning for months and thinks he knows nearly all aspects of the artist’s solitary life.  But he worries the case may be his undoing.  His superiors are calling for an arrest and return of the money.  And Fraser has doubts.

Despite overwhelming evidence against Vanning, Fraser thinks he might be innocent.  “With what they have on him already,” Fraser tells his wife, “they can put him on trial and it’s a hundred to one he’d get a death sentence.

“They’ve got witnesses, they’ve got fingerprints,” Fraser says, “they’ve got a ton of logical deduction that puts him dead center.  And what I’ve got is a mental block.”

Vanning’s faring no better.  His memory is full of holes.  He knows Continue Reading →

Bellingham, Wash., a nice place to die

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Washington State mystery author Elena Hartwell is today’s guest writer.

Fiction writers have to juggle many elements, the plot, the characters, the narrator’s point of view, the characters’ motivation.  And sometimes, just as important, where the story takes place.  In real estate it’s called location, location, location.

One of the nicest compliments I ever got in a rejection letter read, “…the location is described so well it functions like another character.” It may seem strange that I’d remember—and love—a line from a rejection letter, but it was an incredibly important moment for me as a writer.One-Dead-book-cover

My writing life began as a playwright. I described atmosphere in my scripts, but not specific details, which was something I left up to set and lighting designers. Turning my hand to fiction, I had to learn the art of bringing a specific location alive on the page.

One Dead, Two to Go is about a private eye named Eddie Shoes. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and I loved bringing our little corner of the country into the spotlight. As far as I know, there aren’t any other mystery series located in Bellingham. It’s a college town of 80,000 people not far from the Canadian border. Though I don’t live there, I’m not far away.

I live in North Bend—made famous by Twin Peaks, filmed in town and the surrounding area. My lovely little hamlet has a population of 6,000 people.  We had a double murder/suicide about four years ago and another one eight years ago (which makes for a scary cycle), but homicides are relatively rare and it didn’t feel right to start killing off my neighbors in such a small community. I didn’t want anyone to label me the “JB Fletcher of Snoqualmie Valley.” Cabot Cove might have been a hotbed of murder and mayhem for Murder She Wrote, but it wasn’t the right choice for me.

I also didn’t want to set my series in Seattle, as that didn’t interest me as much as somewhere more unique to fiction. Washington State is filled with marvelous towns, from La Conner to Walla Walla and Omak to Yakima.  I spent a lot of time thinking about where to place my private eye. First, I wanted a town less than a two-hour drive from home. Preferably not east of the Cascade Range, in case I needed to do “homework” there in the wintertime, when snow can close the pass.  I didn’t want to “commit murder” in our capital city, so Olympia was out, and the towns on the Olympic Peninsula, though stunningly beautiful, involved a ferry ride and a similar problem population-wise to North Bend.  

Bellingham felt perfect. I wanted to have a little bit of a small town feel, which it does, with enough population that everyone doesn’t know everyone else, which they don’t.

Bellingham eatery

Bellingham eatery

Research is one of my favorite things. And location visits are one of my favorite aspects of research. I love to visit places to learn about the architecture, the scenery, the people, and the nightlife. I sprinkle real places such as Pure Bliss, a fabulous and very real dessert shop, with locations inspired by real places, throughout the books. When a crime takes place, I fabricate the setting. In those instances, I take characteristics of multiple places I’ve visited and mash them together into an unrecognizable, but still representative, locale from Bellingham.

Bellingham has a diverse population, spectacular scenery, and roughly one homicide a year. So it fit the bill to a “T.”

The first book, One Dead, Two to Go, takes place in December. The second book, Two Dead Are Better Than One, is set in March, and while it starts in Bellingham, it concludes in Spokane, Washington. That gave me roughly one homicide a year. Book three takes place with Eddie Shoes on vacation.

She deserves it. She worked hard in books one and two. But trouble follows her wherever she goes, and a simple vacation turns deadly.

I can’t wait to do my site visits for Three Dead, You’re Out; travel for work is one of the great perks of a writer’s life.

We might find book four located in a tropical paradise.

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Elena Hartwell was born in Bogota, Colombia, while her parents were in the Peace Corps. Her first word was “cuidado.” At the age of nine months, she told two men carrying a heavy table to be careful—in their native tongue. She’s been telling people what to do ever since. After almost twenty years in the theater, Elena turned her playwriting skills to novels. The result is her first book, One Dead, Two to Go. The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series debuted last month, to be followed by Two Dead Are Better Than One and Three Dead, You’re Out. Visit Hartwell at elenahartwell.com.

Elena Hartwell, author

Elena Hartwell, author

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