Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trip to the library

I had three holds to pick up at the library. These books, if I read all of them, will have to jump the queue in front of the Laurie R King that I wanted to read so much because they're only 14-day books. These are the three: THE BROTHERS BOSWELL (2009)
The year is 1763.Twenty-two-year-old James Boswell of Edinburgh is eager to advance himself in London society. Today his sights are set on furthering his acquaintance with Dr. Samuel Johnson, famed for his Dictionary; they are going to take a boat across the Thames to Greenwich Palace. Watching them secretly is John Boswell, James’ younger brother. He has stalked his older brother for days. Consumed with envy, John is planning to take revenge on his brother and Johnson for presumed slights. He carries a pair of miniature pistols that fire a single golden bullet each, and there is murder in his heart.

Libby Day’s mother and two younger sisters were viciously slaughtered when she was seven, and her brother, Ben, against whom she testified, has been incarcerated ever since. Twenty-five years later, Libby is still suffering from the aftereffects of the notorious murders. Although it sometimes takes her days to work up the psychic energy to wash her hair, she is not quite the timorous victim the press makes her out to be. When she finds out that the trust fund set up in her name is about to run out of money (the do-gooders have long since moved on to fresh tragedies), she starts gouging money from members of the Kill Club, a group of true-crime fans obsessed with the Day murders. Greedily pricing family memorabilia, wondering how much the Kill Club creeps will pony up for an old birthday card, she learns that none of them believes her brother committed the crime. As she starts investigating, the narrative returns to the day of the murders, intercutting Libby’s current-day hunt with the actual events of the day.


Winner of the Minotaur Books/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel competition. This provocative debut is a dark and atmospheric tale of an ex-cop from Philadelphia who must face old ghosts. Louis Kline, PI, is asked to track down the missing teenage daughter of an old friend. In doing so, he uncovers truths about the alleged suicide of his friend, a fellow officer with the Philadelphia Police Department. They shared accusations that ended both their careers, and a love for the same woman. As Louis further investigates, he comes to understand the tortured life of the girl he’s trying to find, and some truths about himself. eith Gilman knows how cops think and he pulls back the curtain on a disturbing vision of a decaying urban world, haunted by shadows of deceit and death. Father’s Day, a novel of great psychological depth and stark visual imagery, is a terrifying exploration of what lies at the heart of our deepest fears.
I haven't had much time on the computer today therefore I don't have any other updates or Blog of the Day. Tonight, Steve and I will watch Survivor and then I'll be telling myself that I've got to catch up on episodes of Harper's Island or Southland but I still haven't and therefore won't remember to watch them and probably do some reading.

Tomorrow, coffee with Jody and Omi and the library sale. Woo hoo!

Much love,

PK the Bookeemonster

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's another word for Wednesday?

Today's Blog/Website of the Day is Meritorious Mysteries found at " attempt to bring good crime fiction to the attention of others. …an opportunity to share my mystery lecture topics with others. …an offering of mystery happenings."

I'm needing something uncomplicated to read right now so I'm going with VISION IN WHITE by Nora Roberts, book one in the Bride Quartet. Here is a description:

Wedding photographer Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera, but her focus is shattered moments before an important wedding rehearsal when she bumps into the bride-to-be’s brother…an encounter that has them both seeing stars.A stable, safe English teacher, Carter Maguire is definitely not Mac’s type. But a casual fling might be just what she needs to take her mind off bridezillas. Of course, casual flings can turn into something more when you least expect it. And Mac will have to turn to her three best friends—and business partners—to see her way to her own happy ending.

An excerpt was posted yesterday. It was published this month and has 352 pages.

I'm a bit tired and off spirits today after running some errands and walking Tug. Tonight will be a tv night with America's Next Top Model, Lie to Me, and Ghost Hunters -- again, I'm in the mood for uncomplicated stuff. Tomorrow I'll run to the library to pick up three holds. On Friday, I'm having tea with some friends in the morning and then hitting the Friends of the Library sale.

Until tomorrow...

Much love,

PK the Bookeemonster

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

While I'm still reading Deryn Lake's book, next up for me is THE LANGUAGE OF BEES by Laurie R. King featuring Mary Russell, student and then wife of Sherlock Holmes. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter One

First Birth (1): The boy came into being on a night of celestial alignment, when a comet travelled the firmament and the sky threw forth a million shooting stars to herald his arrival. Testimony, I:1


Portsmouth sweltered under a fitful breeze.

Sherlock Holmes paced up and down, smoking one cigarette after another, his already bleak mood growing darker by the minute. I sat, sinuses swollen with the dregs of a summer cold I’d picked up in New York, trying to ignore my partner’s mood and my own headache.

Patrick, my farm manager, had come to meet the ship with the post, the day’s newspapers, and a beaming face; in no time at all the smile was gone, the letters and papers hastily thrust into my hands, and he had vanished to, he claimed, see what the delay was about. Welcome home.

Just as it seemed Holmes was about to fling his coat to the side and set off for home on foot, whistles blew, doors clattered, and the train roused itself from torpor. We boarded, flinging our compartment’s windows as far open as they would go. Patrick cast a wary glance at Holmes and claimed an acquaintance in the third- class carriage. We removed as many of our outer garments as propriety would allow, and I tore away the first pages of the newspaper to construct a fan, cooling myself with the announcements and the agony column. Holmes slumped into the seat and reached for his cigarette case yet again. I recognised the symptoms, although I was puzzled as to the cause. Granted, an uneventful week in New York followed by long days at sea–none of our fellow passengers having been thoughtful enough to bleed to death in the captain’s cabin, drop down dead of a mysterious poison, or vanish over the rails–might cause a man like Holmes to chafe at inactivity, nonetheless, one might imagine that a sea voyage wouldn’t be altogether a burden after seven hard- pressed months abroad.* And in any case, we were now headed for home, where his bees, his newspapers, and the home he had created twenty years before awaited him. One might expect a degree of satisfaction, even anticipation; instead, the man was all gloom and cigarettes.

I had been married to him for long enough that I did not even consider addressing the conundrum then and there, but said merely, “Holmes, if you don’t slow down on that tobacco, your lungs will turn to leather. And mine. Would you prefer the papers, or the post?” I held out the newspaper, which I had already skimmed while we were waiting, and took the first item on the other stack, a picture post- card from Dr Watson showing a village square in Portugal. To my surprise, Holmes reached past the proffered newspaper and snatched the pile of letters from my lap.

Another oddity. In the normal course of events, Holmes was much attached to the daily news–several dailies, in fact, when he could get them. Over the previous months, he had found it so frustrating to be days, even weeks in arrears of current events (current English events, that is) that one day in northern India, when confronted with a threeweek- old Times, he had sworn in disgust and flung the thing onto the fire, declaring, “I scarcely leave England before the criminal classes swarm like cockroaches. I cannot bear to hear of their antics.” Since then he had stuck to local papers and refused all offers of those from London–or, on the rare occasions he had succumbed to their siren call, he had perused the headlines with the tight- screwed features of a man palpating a wound: fearing the worst but unable to keep his fingers from the injury. Frankly, I had been astonished back in Portsmouth when he hadn’t ripped that day’s Times out of Patrick’s hand.

Now, he dug his way into the post like a tunnelling badger, tossing out behind him the occasional remark and snippet of information. Trying to prise conversation out of Sherlock Holmes when he had his teeth into a project would be akin to tapping said preoccupied badger on the shoulder, so I took out my handkerchief and used it, and addressed myself first to the uninspiring view, then to the unread sections of the papers.

Some minutes passed, then: “Mycroft has no news,” my partner and husband grumbled, allowing the single sheet of his brother’s ornate calligraphy to drift onto the upholstery beside him.

“Is he well?” I asked.

My only reply was the ripping open of the next envelope. On reflection, I decided that the letter would not say if its writer was well or not: True, Mycroft had been very ill the previous winter, but even if he were at death’s door, the only reason he would mention the fact in a letter would be if some urgent piece of business made his impending demise a piece of information he thought we needed.

Holmes read; I read. He dropped the next letter, a considerably thicker one, on top of Mycroft’s, and said in a high and irritated voice, “Mrs Hudson spends three pages lamenting that she will not be at home to greet us, two pages giving quite unnecessary details of her friend Mrs Turner’s illness that requires her to remain in Surrey, two more pages reassuring us that her young assistant Lulu is more than capable, and then in the final paragraph deigns to mention that one of my hives is going mad.”

“ ‘Going mad’? What does that mean?”

He gave an eloquent lift of the fingers to indicate that her information was as substantial as the air above, and returned to the post. Now, though, his interest sharpened. He studied the next envelope closely, then held it to his nose, drawing in a deep and appreciative breath.

Some wives might have cast a suspicious eye at the fond expression that came over his features. I went back to my newspapers.

The train rattled, hot wind blew in the window, voices rose and fell from the next compartment, but around us, the silence grew thick with the press of words unsaid and problems unfaced. The two surviving aeroplanes from the American world flight were still in Reykjavík, I noted. And a conference on German war reparations would begin in London during the week- end. There had been another raid on Bright Young Things (including some lesser royals) at a country house gathering where cocaine flowed. Ah–but here was an appropriate interruption to the heavy silence: I read aloud the latest turn in the Leopold and Loeb sentence hearing, two young men who had murdered a boy to alleviate tedium, and to prove they could.

Holmes turned a page.

A few minutes later, I tried again. “Here’s a letter to The Times concerning a Druid suicide at Stonehenge–or, no, there was a suicide somewhere else, and a small riot at Stonehenge. Interesting: I hadn’t realised the Druids had staged a return. I wonder what the Archbishop of Canterbury has to say on the matter?”

He might have been deaf.

I shot a glance at the letter that so engrossed him, but did not recognise either the cream stock or the pinched, antique writing. I set down the newspaper long enough to read first Mrs Hudson’s letter, which I had to admit was more tantalising than informative, then Mycroft’s brief missive, but when I reached their end, Holmes was still frowning at the lengthy epistle from his unknown correspondent.

Kicking myself for failing to bring a sufficient number of books from New York, I resumed The Times where, for lack of unread Druidical Letters to the Editor, or Dispatches from Reykjavík, or even News from Northumberland, I was driven to a survey of the adverts: Debenhams’ sketches delivered the gloomy verdict that I would need my skirt lengths adjusted again; Thomas Cook offered me educational cruises to Egypt, Berlin, and an upcoming solar eclipse; the Morris Motors adverts reminded me that it was high time to think about a new motor- car; and the London Pavilion offered me a Technicolor cowboy adventure called Wanderer in the Wasteland.

“They are swarming,” Holmes said.

I looked up from the newsprint to stare first at him, then at the thick document in his hand.

“Who– Ah,” I said, struck by enlightenment, or at least, memory. “The bees.”

He cocked an eyebrow at me. “You asked what it meant, that the hive had gone mad. It is swarming. The one beside the burial mound in the far field,” he added.

“That letter is from your beekeeper friend,” I suggested.

By way of response, he handed me the letter.

The cramped writing and the motion of the train combined with the arcane terminology to render the pages somewhat less illuminating than the personal adverts in the paper. Over the years I had become tolerably familiar with the language of keeping bees, and had even from time to time lent an extra pair of arms to some procedure or other, but this writer’s interests, and expertise, were far beyond mine. And my nose was too stuffy to detect any odour of honey rising from the pages.

When I had reached its end, I asked, “How does swarming qualify as madn...

This book is 9th in series of 9. I'm not a big fan of Sherlock Holmes (blasphemy!) but I do like this series quite a lot.

After that book, I'll probably begin the new quartet by Nora Roberts, VISION IN WHITE. Here's an excerpt:


By the time she was eight, Mackensie Elliot had been married fourteen times. She’d married each of her three best friends—as both bride and groom—her best friend’s brother (under his protest), two dogs, three cats, and a rabbit. She’d served at countless other weddings as maid of honor, bridesmaid, groomsman, best man, and officiant. Though the dissolutions were invariably amicable, none of the marriages lasted beyond an afternoon. The transitory aspect of marriage came as no surprise to Mac, as her own parents boasted two each—so far.
Wedding Day wasn’t her favorite game, but she kind of liked being the priest or the reverend or the justice of the peace. Or, after attending her father’s second wife’s nephew’s bar mitzvah, the rabbi.
Plus, she enjoyed the cupcakes or fancy cookies and fizzy lemonade always served at the reception. It was Parker’s favorite game, and Wedding Day always took place on the Brown Estate, with its expansive gardens, pretty groves, and silvery pond. In the cold Connecticut winters, the ceremony might take place in front of one of the roaring fires inside the big house. They had simple weddings and elaborate affairs. Royal weddings, star- crossed elopements, circus themes, and pirate ships. All ideas were seriously considered and voted upon, and no theme or costume too outrageous. Still, with fourteen marriages under her belt, Mac grew a bit weary of Wedding Day. Until she experienced her seminal moment. For her eighth birthday Mackensie’s charming and mostly absent father sent her a Nikon camera. She’d never expressed any interest in photography, and initially pushed it away with the other odd gifts he’d given or sent since the divorce. But Mac’s mother told her mother, and Grandma muttered and complained about "feckless, useless Geoffrey Elliot" and the inappropriate gift of an adult camera for a young girl who’d be better off with a Barbie doll. As she habitually disagreed with her grandmother on principle, Mac’s interest in the camera piqued. To annoy Grandma— who was visiting for the summer instead of being in her retirement community in Scottsdale, where Mac strongly believed she belonged—Mac hauled the Nikon around with her. She toyed with it, experimented. She took pictures of her room, of her feet, of her friends. Shots that were blurry and dark, or fuzzy and washed out. With her lack of success, and her mother’s impending divorce from her stepfather, Mac’s interest in the Nikon began to wane. Even years later she couldn’t say what prompted her to bring it along to Parker’s that pretty summer afternoon for Wedding Day.
Every detail of the traditional garden wedding had been planned. Emmaline as the bride and Laurel as groom would exchange their vows beneath the rose arbor. Emma would wear the lace veil and train Parker’s mother had made out of an old tablecloth, while Harold, Parker’s aging and affable golden retriever walked her down the garden path to give her away. A
selection of Barbies, Kens, and Cabbage Patch Kids, along with a variety of stuffed animals lined the path as guests.
"It’s a very private ceremony," Parker relayed as she fussed with Emma’s veil. "With a small patio reception to follow. Now, where’s the best man?" Laurel, her knee recently skinned, shoved through a trio of hydrangeas. "He ran away, and went up a tree after a squirrel. I can’t get him to come down." Parker rolled her eyes. "I’ll get him. You’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck. Mac, you need to fix Emma’s veil and get her bouquet. Laurel and I’ll get Mr. Fish out of the tree." "I’d rather go swimming," Mac said as she gave Emma’s veil an absent tug. "We can go after I get married." "I guess. Aren’t you tired of getting married?" "Oh, I don’t mind. And it smells so good out here. Everything’s so pretty." Mac gave Emma the clutch of dandelions and wild violets they were allowed to pick. "You look pretty." It was invariably true. Emma’s dark, shiny hair tumbled under the white lace. Her eyes sparkled a deep, deep brown as she sniff ed the weed bouquet. She was tanned, sort of all golden, Mac thought, and scowled at her own milk white skin. The curse of a redhead, her mother said, as she got her carroty hair from her father. At eight, Mac was tall for her age and skinny as a stick, with teeth already trapped in hated braces. She thought that, beside her, Emmaline looked like a gypsy princess. Parker and Laurel came back, giggling with the feline best man clutched in Parker’s arms. "Everybody has to take their places." Parker poured the cat into Laurel’s arms. Mac, you need to get dressed! Emma—" "I don’t want to be maid of honor." Mac looked at the poofy Cinderella dress draped over a garden bench. "That thing’s scratchy, and it’s hot. Why can’t Mr. Fish be maid of honor, and I’ll be best man?"
"Because it’s already planned. Everybody’s nervous before a wedding." Parker flipped back her long brown pigtails, then picked up the dress to
inspect it for tears or stains. Satisfied, she pushed it at Mac. "It’s okay. It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony, with true love and happy ever after."
"My mother says happy ever after’s a bunch of bull." There was a moment of silence after Mac’s statement. The unspoken word divorce seemed to hang in the air. "I don’t think it has to be." Her eyes full of sympathy, Parker reached out, ran her hand along Mac’s bare arm. "I don’t want to wear the dress. I don’t want to be a bridesmaid. I—" "Okay. That’s okay. We can have a pretend maid of honor. Maybe you could take pictures." Mac looked down at the camera she’d forgotten hung around her neck. "They never come out right." "Maybe they will this time. It’ll be fun. You can be the official wedding photographer." "Take one of me and Mr. Fish," Laurel insisted, and pushed her face and the cat’s together. "Take one, Mac!" With little enthusiasm, Mac lifted the camera, pressed the shutter. "We should’ve thought of this before! You can take formal portraits of the bride and groom, and more pictures during the ceremony." Busy with the new idea, Parker hung the Cinderella costume on the hydrangea bush. "It’ll be good, it’ll be fun. You need to go down the path with the bride and Harold. Try to take some good ones. I’ll wait, then start the music. Let’s go!" There would be cupcakes and lemonade, Mac reminded herself. And swimming later, and fun. It didn’t matter if the pictures were stupid, didn’t matter that her grandmother was right and she was too young for the camera. It didn’t matter that her mother was getting divorced again, or that her stepfather, who’d been okay, had already moved out. It didn’t matter that happy ever after was bull, because it was all pretend anyway. She tried to take pictures of Emma and the obliging Harold, imagined getting the film back and seeing the blurry figures and smudges of her thumb, like always.
When the music started she felt bad that she hadn’t put on the scratchy dress and given Emma a maid of honor, just because her mother and grandmother had put her in a bad mood. So she circled around to stand to the side and tried harder to take a nice picture of Harold walking Emma down the garden path. It looked different through the lens, she thought, the way she could focus on Emma’s face—the way the veil lay over her hair. And the way the sun shined through the lace was pretty. She took more pictures as Parker began the "Dearly Beloved" as the Reverend Whistledown, as Emma and Laurel took hands and Harold curled up to sleep and snore at their feet. She noticed how bright Laurel’s hair was, how the sun caught the edges of it beneath the tall black hat she wore as groom. How Mr. Fish’s whiskers twitched as he yawned. When it happened, it happened as much inside Mac as out. Her three friends were grouped under the lush white curve of the arbor, a triangle of pretty young girls. Some instinct had Mac shifting her position, just slightly, tilting the camera just a bit. She didn’t know it as composition, only that it looked nicer through the lens. And the blue butterfly fluttered across her range of vision to land on the head of a butter yellow dandelion in Emma’s bouquet. The surprise and plea sure struck the three faces in that triangle under the white roses almost as one. Mac pressed the shutter. She knew, knew, the photograph wouldn’t be blurry and dark or fuzzy and washed out. Her thumb wouldn’t be blocking the lens. She knew exactly what the picture would look like, knew her grandmother had been wrong after all. Maybe happy ever after was bull, but she knew she wanted to take more pictures of moments that were happy. Because then they were ever after.

Much love,

PK the Bookeemonster

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm sorry I can't post today...

I'm so sorry. So many things needed to be accomplished today that I haven't had time to post. I had to take Tug to the vet for shots and annual checkup. Then I met with Jody for a few hours to work on business plan. Then I had to walk Tug. Then I had to clean out the old fridge (soooo gross). Then I had to run to the grocery store for a couple things. Now I need to start making dinner.

Tonight is tv night with Chuck, Paranormal State and maybe Castle. Otherwise I need to spend some time on the computer.

Tomorrow I'm going to the bookstore and maybe lunch with Mom. Then walk Tug, etc.

I'll be checking in at some point tomorrow, either before or after.

Still reading the Deryn Lake.
I'll leave you with a good/happy ending news story from our local paper about a dog being rescued:

Much love,

PK the Bookeemonster

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hello! Checking in...

Sunday again.

Currently reading DEATH AT THE BEGGAR'S OPERA by Deryn Lake. This is 2nd of 12 in series featuring John Rawlings, an apothecary and associate of John Fielding, mostly in 18th century London, England. Here is a description:

Apothecary, and occasional agent for Sir John Fielding of Bow Street, attends a performance of "The Beggar's Opera" with friends. The lead is played by Jasper Harcross, a handsome man and legendary lover of women. A critical scene calls for the hanging of Harcross' character. The play's the thing when the platform breaks, Harcorss is hung for real and Rawlings is, once again, asked to help find the killer. As Rawlings and the Blind Beak hunt for vital clues, they discover a hotbed of rivalry both on and off the stage which produces numerous suspects and questions. As the search takes on a new intensity, John Rawlings soon finds himself on an intriguing trail of obsession that leads to the dark heart of a cold-blooded murder.

First Sentence: It being an inclement day, plagued by needle-sharp rain and whipping winds, John Rawlings, after first safely locking up his shop in Shug Lane, hurried home beneath the protection of an umbrella, that useful invention from the Orient considered by many as too effeminate for a man to carry.

This book was first published in 1994 and has 192 pages.

Today's Blog/Website of the Day is Overkill found at This is a blog by author Vanda Symon.

I got my new fridge Friday night. Yay! and Oy, what a struggle that was to bring it in the house. Steve is amazingly strong with stuff like that. The problem now is that it has an ice/water dispenser and we've not had one of those in the house previously and the water source is eight feet away. So Steve is trying to run the water line under the floor over to the fridge. My kitchen is a mess of things pulled out of cupboards, various drills and saws and tools, two fridges, etc. However, last night was a monthly game night, so Steve didn't get home until late so I expect he'll sleep late so solving this mess won't happen until this afternoon.

Bits of business: I listed more books on the online bookstore yesterday. I'm doing edits on the business plan. I've got laundry to do today. Researching. TV involves watching The Tudors and the last episode of Little Dorrit tonight. We're expecting rain today and the next couple days I think. I will walk Tug this afternoon.

Tomorrow I have to take Tug to the vet to get some annual shots. Tuesday I'm going to the bookstore with Mom and maybe lunch. I'll be meeting up with Jody a couple times.
All right, off you go...

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Featured Historical Mystery Author: ARIANA FRANKLIN

Protagonist: Adelia (Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno), a “doctor for the dead” working for King Henry II in 12th century England MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH (2007) 2007 Historical Dagger; 2008 Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel
In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia - the king has been sent a mistress of the art of death. Adelia and her companions - Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .

Here they come. From down the road we can hear harnesses jingling and see dust rising into the warm spring sky.
Pilgrims returning after Easter in Canterbury. Tokens of the mi­tered, martyred Saint Thomas are pinned to cloaks and hats-the Canterbury monks must be raking it in.
They're a pleasant interruption in the traffic of carts whose ­drivers and oxen are surly with fatigue from plowing and sowing. These ­people are well fed, noisy, exultant with the grace their journey has gained them.
But one of them, as exuberant as the rest, is a murderer of children. God's grace will not extend to a child-killer.
The woman at the front of the procession-a big woman on a big roan mare-has a silver token pinned to her wimple. We know her. She's the ­prioress of Saint Radegund's nunnery in Cambridge. She's talking. Loudly. Her accompanying nun, on a docile palfrey, is silent and has been able to afford only ­Thomas à Becket in pewter.
The tall knight riding between them on a well-controlled charger-he wears a tabard over his mail with a cross showing that he's been on crusade, and, like the prioress, he's laid out on silver-makes sotto voce commentaries on the prioress's pronouncements. The prioress ­doesn't hear them, but they cause the young nun to smile. Nervously.
Behind this group is a flat cart drawn by mules. The cart carries a single object; rectangular, somewhat small for the space it occupies-the knight and squire seem to be guarding it. It's covered by a cloth with armorial bearings. The jiggling of the cart is dislodging the cloth, revealing a corner of carved gold-either a large reliquary or a small coffin. The squire leans from his horse and pulls the cloth straight so that the object is hidden again.
And here's a king's officer. Jovial enough, large, overweight for his age, dressed like a civilian, but you can tell. For one thing, his servant is wearing the royal tabard embroidered with the Angevin leopards and, for another, poking out of his overloaded saddlebag is an abacus and the sharp end of a pair of money scales.
Apart from the servant, he rides alone. Nobody likes a tax gatherer.
Now then, here's a prior. We know him, too, from the violet rochet he wears, as do all canons of Saint Augustine.
Important. Prior Geoffrey of Saint Augustine's, Barnwell, the mon­astery that looks across the great bend of the River Cam opposite Saint Radegund's and dwarfs it. It is understood that he and the ­prioress don't get on. He has three monks in attendance, and also a knight-another crusader, judging from his tabard-and a squire.
Oh, he's ill. He should be at the procession's front, but it seems his guts-which are considerable-are giving him pain. He's groaning and ignoring a tonsured cleric who's trying to engage his attention. Poor man, there's no help for him on this stretch, not even an inn, until he reaches his own infirmary in the priory grounds.
A beef-faced citizen and his wife, both showing concern for the prior and giving advice to his monks. A minstrel, singing to a lute. Behind him there's a huntsman with spears and dogs-hounds colored like the En­glish weather.
Here come the pack mules and the other servants. Usual riffraff.
Ah, now. At the extreme end of the procession. More riffraffish than the rest. A covered cart with colored cabalistic signs on its canvas. Two men on the driv­ing bench, one big, one small, both dark-skinned, the larger with a Moor's headdress wound round his head and cheeks. Quack medicine peddlers, probably.
And sitting on the tailboard, beskirted legs dangling like a peasant, a woman. She's looking about her with a furious interest. Her eyes regard a tree, a patch of grass, with interrogation: What's your name? What are you good for? If not, why not? Like a magister in court. Or an idiot.
On the wide verge between us and all these ­people (even on the Great North Road, even in this year of 1171, no tree shall grow less than a ­bowshot's distance from the road, in case it give shelter to robbers) stands a small wayside shrine, the usual home-carpentered shelter for the Virgin.
Some of the riders prepare to pass by with a bow and a Hail Mary, but the prioress makes a show of calling for a groom to help her dismount. She lumbers over the grass to kneel and pray. Loudly.
One by one and somewhat reluctantly, all the others join her. Prior ­Geoffrey rolls his eyes and groans as he's assisted off his horse.
Even the three from the cart have dismounted and are on their knees, though, unseen at the back, the darker of the men seems to be directing his prayers ­toward the east. God help us all-Saracens and others of the ungodly are allowed to roam the highways of Henry II without sanction.
Lips mutter to the saint; hands weave an invisible cross. God is surely weeping, yet He allows the hands that have rent innocent flesh to remain unstained.
Mounted again, the cavalcade moves on, takes the turning to Cambridge, its diminishing chatter leaving us to the rumble of the harvest carts and the twitter of birdsong.
But we have a skein in our hands now, a thread that will lead us to that killer of children. To unravel it, though, we must first follow it backward in time by twelve months. . . .
THE SERPENT'S TALE (2008) Finalist 2008 Historical Dagger Award
Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death bypoison-and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is probably the first move in Eleanor's long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth. Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry's summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king's trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans. Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan's home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth-a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia's investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund's rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor's henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion. Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .


The two men's voices carried down the tunnels with reverberations that made them indistinguishable but, even so, gave the impression of a business meeting. Which it was. In a way.
An assassin was receiving orders from his client, who was, the assassin thought, making it unnecessarily difficult for himself, as such clients did.
It was always the same; they wanted to conceal their identities, and turned up so masked or muffled you could hardly hear their instructions. They didn't want to be seen with you, which led to assignations on blasted heaths or places like this stinking cellar. They were nervous about handing over the down payment in case you stabbed them and then ran off with it.
If they only realized it, a respectable assassin like himself had to be trustworthy; his career depended on it. It had taken time, but Sicarius (the Latin pseudonym he'd chosen for himself) was becoming known for excellence. Whether it was translated from the Latin as "assassin" or "dagger," it stood for the neat removal of one's political opponent, wife, creditor, without suspicion being provable against oneself.
Satisfied clients recommended him to others who were afflicted, though they pretended to make a joke of it: "You could use the fellow they call Sicarius," they'd say. "He's supposed to solve troubles like yours."
And when pressed for information: "I don't know, of course, but rumor has it he's to be contacted at the Bear in Southwark." Or Fillola's in Rome. Or La Boule in Paris. Or at whatever inn in whichever area one was plying for trade that season.
This month, Oxford. In a cellar connected by a long tunnel to the undercroft of an inn. He'd been led to it by a masked and hooded servant-oh, really, so unnecessary-and pointed toward a rich red-velvet curtain strung across one corner, hiding the client behind it and contrasting vividly with the mold on the walls and the slime underfoot. Damn it, one's boots would be ruined.
"The . . . assignment will not be difficult for you?" the curtain asked. The voice behind it had given very specific instructions.
"The circumstances are unusual, my lord," the assassin said. He always called them "my lord." It pleased them. "I don't usually like to leave evidence, but if that is what you require . . ."
"I do, but I meant spiritually," the curtain said. "Does your conscience not worry you? Don't you fear for your soul's damnation?"
So they'd reached that point, had they, the moment when clients distanced their morality from his, he being the low-born dirty bastard who wielded the knife and they merely the rich bastards who ordered it.
He could have said, "It's a living and a good one, damned or not, and better than starving to death." He could have said, "I don't have a conscience, I have standards, which I keep to." He could even have said, "What about your soul's damnation?"
But they paid for their rag of superiority, so he desisted. Instead, he said cheerily, "High or low, my lord. Popes, peasants, kings, varlets, ladies, children, I dispose of them all-and for the same price: seventy-five marks down and a hundred when thejob's done." Keeping to the same tariff was part of his success."
Children?" The curtain was shocked.
Oh, dear, dear. Of course children. Children inherited. Children were obstacles to the stepfather, aunt, brother, cousin who would come into the estate once the little moppet was out of the way. And more difficult to dispose of than you'd think . . .
He merely said, "Perhaps you would go over the instructions again, my lord."
Keep the client talking. Find out who he was, in case he tried to avoid the final payment. Killing those who reneged on the agreement meant tracking them down, inflicting a death that was both painfully inventive and, he hoped, a warning to future clients.
The voice behind the curtain repeated what it had already said. To be done on such and such a day, in such and such a place, by these means the death to occur in such and such a manner, this to be left, that to be taken away.
They always want precision, the assassin thought wearily. Do it this way, do it that. As if killing is a science rather than an art.
Nevertheless, in this instance, the client had planned the murder with extraordinary detail and had intimate knowledge of his victim's comings and goings; it would be as well to comply....
So Sicarius listened carefully, not to the instructions-he'd memorized them the first time-but to the timbre of the client's voice, noting phrases he could recognize again, waiting for a cough, a stutter that might later identify the speaker in a crowd.
While he listened, he looked around him. There was nothing to be learned from the servant who stood in the shadows, carefully shrouded in an unexceptional cloak and with his shaking hand-oh, bless him-on the hilt of a sword stuck into a belt, as if he wouldn't be dead twenty times over before he could draw it. A pitiful safeguard, but probably the only creature the client trusted.
The location of the cellar, now . . . it told the assassin something, if only that the client had shown cunning in choosing it. There were three exits, one of them the long tunnel, down which he'd been guided from the inn. The other two might lead anywhere, to the castle, perhaps, or-he sniffed-to the river. The only certainty was that it was somewhere in the bowels of Oxford. And bowels, as the assassin had reason to know, having laid bare quite a few, were extensive and tortuous.
Built during the Stephen and Matilda war, of course. The assassin reflected uneasily on the tunneling that had, literally, undermined England during the thirteen years of that unfortunate and bloody fracas. The strategic jewel that was Oxford, guarding the country's main routes south to north and east to west, where they crossed the Thames, had suffered badly. Besieged and re-besieged, people had dug like moles both to get in and to get out. One of these days, he thought-and God give it wasn't today-the bloody place would collapse into the wormholes they'd made of its foundations.
Oxford, he thought. A town held mainly for King Stephen and, therefore, the wrong side. Twenty years on, and its losers still heaved with resentment against Matilda's son, Henry Plantagenet, the ultimate winner and king.
The assassin had gained a deal of information while in the area-it always paid to know who was upside with whom, and why-and he thought it possible that the client was one of those still embittered by the war and that the assignment was, therefore, political.
In which case it could be dangerous. Greed, lust, revenge: Their motives were all one to him, but political clients were usually of such high degree that they had a tendency to hide their involvement by hiring yet another murderer to kill the first, i.e.,him. It was always wearisome and only led to more bloodletting, though never his.
Aha. The unseen client had shifted, and for a second, no more, the tip of a boot had shown beneath the curtain hem. A boot of fine doeskin, like one's own, and new, possibly recently made in Oxford-again, like one's own.
A round of the local boot makers was called for.

England, 1176. Beautiful, tranquil Glastonbury Abbey— one of England’s holiest sites, and believed by some to be King Arthur’s sacred Isle of Avalon—has been burned almost to the ground. The arsonist remains at large, but the fire has uncovered something even more shocking: two hidden skeletons, a man and a woman. The skeletons’ height and age send rumors flying—are the remains those of Arthur and Guinevere? King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is particularly strong, Henry wants definitive proof that the bones are Arthur’s. If the rebels are sure that the Once and Future King will not be coming to their aid, Henry can stamp out the insurgence for good. He calls on Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to examine the bones. Henry’s summons comes not a moment too soon, for Adelia has worn out her welcome in Cambridge. As word of her healing powers has spread, so have rumors of witchcraft. So Adelia and her household ride to Glastonbury, where the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Church authorities—in this case, the Bishop of St. Albans.

And God was angry with His people of Somerset so that, in the year of
Our Lord 1154, on the day after the feast of Saint Stephen, He caused an
earthquake that it might punish them for their sins. . . .”
Thus wrote Brother Caradoc in Saint Michael’s chapel on top of
Glastonbury Tor, to which he’d scrambled, gasping and sobbing,
so as to escape the devastation that God with His earthquake had
wrought on everything below it. For two days he and his fellow
monks had been up there, not daring to descend because they
could still hear aftershocks making their abbey tremble and look
down, appalled, at more giant waves submerging the little island
villages in the Avalon marshes beyond it.
Two days, and Caradoc was still wet and had a pain in his poor
old chest. When the earthquake struck and his fellow monks had
scampered from the shivering abbey, making for the Tor that was
always their refuge in times of danger, he’d run with them, hearing
Saint Dunstan, strictest of saints though dead these one hundred
sixty-six years, telling him to rescue the Book of Glastonbury first.
“Caradoc, Caradoc, do your duty though the sky falls.”
But it was bits of masonry that had been falling, and Caradoc
had not dared to run into the abbey library and fetch the great
jewel-studded book—it would have been too heavy for him to
carry up the hill anyway.
The slate book that was always attached to the rope girdle
round his waist had been weighty enough, almost too much for an
old man laboring up a five-hundred-foot steeply conical hill. His
nephew Rhys had helped him, pushing, dragging, shouting at him
to go faster, but it had been a terrible climb, terrible.
And now, in the cold, dry but unshaken shelter of the chapel
that Joseph of Arimathea had built when he’d brought the cruets
containing Christ’s sacred blood and sweat from the Holy Land,
Brother Caradoc did his duty as the abbey’s annalist. In feeble taper
light and apologetically using Saint Michael’s altar as a table,
he chalked this latest event in Glastonbury’s history onto slate
pages so that, later, he could transcribe them onto the vellum of
the Great Book.
“And the Lord’s voice was heard in the screams of people and the squealing
of animals as the ground undulated and opened beneath them, in the fall
of great trees, in the toppling of candles and the roar of resultant flames
as houses burned.”
The pain in his chest increased, and the shade of Saint Dunstan
went on nagging him. “The Book must be saved, Caradoc.
The history of all our saints cannot be lost.”
“I haven’t got to the wave yet, my lord. At least let there be
some record of it.” He went on writing.

“Loudest of all, our Lord spoke in the noise of an approaching wave that
raised itself higher than a cathedral in the bay and ran up the tidal rivers
of the Somerset Levels, sweeping away bridges as it came and drowning
all in its path. Through His mercy, it only reached the lower reaches of
our Abbey so that it still stands, but . . .”
“The Book, Caradoc. Tell that idle nephew of yours to fetch it.”
Brother Caradoc looked to his fellow monks, immobile and
huddled for warmth on the choir floor, some of them snoring.
“He sleeps, lord.”
“When doesn’t he?” Saint Dunstan asked with some justice.
“Either sleeping or singing unsuitable songs, that boy. He’ll never
make a monk. Kick him awake.”
Gently, Brother Caradoc prodded a pair of skinny young ankles
with his foot. “Rhys, Rhys. Wake up, bach.”
He was a good boy in his way, Rhys the novitiate, a lovely tenor,
but Saint Dunstan was right, the lad cared more for singing profane
songs than psalms, and the other monks constantly berated
him for it, keeping him busy to cure his idleness. Tired out now, he
merely grunted and slept on.
Well, well, let him rest. Caradoc began writing again. He hadn’t
yet recorded the fissure in the graveyard. Yes, he must put that in.
For as he’d run from the quaking buildings, he had seen a deep
hole opening up in the abbey’s burial ground between the two
pyramids that had stood in it as long as time had gone. “As if,” he
wrote, “the end of the world had come and the Almighty had sounded the Last
Trump so that the dead might rise from their graves.”
“The Book,” Saint Dunstan shouted. “Caradoc, would you leave
the record of our days to looters?”
No, he couldn’t do that. So Brother Caradoc put down his
chalk and, though his shivers were becoming uncontrollable and
the pain across his chest an iron bar, he made for the door of the
chapel and began stumbling down the winding terrace of the Tor.
He knew now that the last trump had sounded for him and that
even if he couldn’t save the Book, he must die trying, or at least
take his last breath in the beloved abbey that had been his home.
A lot of precious breath it cost him as he wavered downward,
falling over hummocks, his gasps sending sheep galloping, but
gravity was on his side, and it propelled him down to the gate,
which swung open at his touch under the chevroned Norman arch
and into the grounds. He staggered onward as far as the vegetable
garden, where he collapsed among Brother Peter’s lettuces, unable
to go farther.
Now he could peer down the incline toward the towering
church. There had been damage; the old bell tower had collapsed,
and gapes showed where some corners were sheared away. The
waters that circled the grounds had not reached so far; therefore,
the Great Book and all the relics of the saints would still be untouched.
Beyond them, though, the village outside the walls was
still and smokeless, its pasture littered with dirty white lumps that
were the corpses of sheep.
Caradoc experienced anguish for the drowned people and animals,
for the ruined hayricks, cornfields—it would be a hard summer
for the survivors, and an even harder winter.
Yet holy Glastonbury still stood. Beautiful, beautiful it was,
crystalline under the bright new moon reflected in its skirt of
floodwater, an island of glass. The Island of Glass.
Sucking in breath that couldn’t fill his lungs, he turned his eyes
to the graveyard awaiting him.
A flicker of movement caught his eye. Three cowled figures
were pulling on ropes that dragged something up the slope from
the abbey’s great gate. Too far away for him to hear any sound they
made, they seemed like ghosts. And perhaps, Caradoc thought, that is
what they are—for what human could be abroad and busy in this
devastation when even the owls and nightingales were silent?
He couldn’t make out what it was they were hauling—it had
the shape of a great log, or a canoe. Then, as the figures came to
the fissure in the ground that the earthquake had opened, he saw
what it was. A coffin.
They were lowering it into the fissure. Now they were kneeling,
and from the throat of one of them came a great shriek.
“Arthur, Arthur. May God have mercy on your soul and mine.”
There was a moan from the dying monk. “Is King Arthur dead,
For Caradoc, though a Glastonbury monk these thirty years,
had believed that King Arthur was merely resting, waiting, until
he was called to rise and fight the devil’s hordes once more. And
he rested here.
Avalon was Glastonbury, Glastonbury was Avalon, the Isle of
Glass indeed, and Arthur slept somewhere among these hills,
with their hidden caves and crystal springs. Arthur the brave,
Arthur of the Welsh, who’d resisted the seaborne invaders and
kept the flame of Christianity flickering in Britain during its
Dark Ages.
It had been Caradoc’s joy that he could serve God in the place
where Arthur had been brought to be mended from his wounds
after the last great battle.
Was he dead, then? Was great Arthur dead?
The earth trembled again, lightly, like a dog settling itself to
sleep. Caradoc heard other voices, this time calling his name. An
arm went under his head, and he looked up into the frightened
eyes of his nephew.
“Look, bach,” Caradoc said, trying to point. “They are burying
King Arthur. Three of his lords in hooded cloaks, see.”
“Lie still now, Uncle,” Rhys said, and shouted up the hill to the
other searching monks, “I’ve found him. Here, he’s by here.”
“There, boy,” Caradoc said. “Between the pyramids, in the fissure.
I saw them lower his coffin; I heard them mourning him.”
“A vision, was it?” Rhys asked, peering toward the graveyard
and seeing nothing.
“A vision, clear as clear,” Caradoc said. “There’s sad it is that
Arthur is dead.”
“Whisht now, Uncle,” Rhys said. “There’s help on the way.” To
calm and comfort the old man, he began singing, not a hymn but
a song that Welsh mothers sang to their children—a song of
Arthur Pendragon.
“. . . when the land rang with minstrels’ song
the sharpening of weapons,
the splash of oars coming into harbor,
a ripple of water in the sea-cave . . .”
Caradoc’s eyes closed, and he smiled. “Good, good,” he whispered.
“At least I shall lie where King Arthur lies. There’s company.”
When the other monks came upon him, they found Rhys still
singing as he cradled a dead man.
They buried Brother Caradoc the next morning. If there had
ever been a fissure in the graveyard, the earthquake’s last tremor
had filled it in, for there was no sign of it.
Nor did Rhys ap Griffudd tell anybody of what his uncle had
seen. Rhys, who was not suited to be a monk and knew now that
he never would be, was a Welshman through and through, and it
would not do for these English to know that Arthur was dead.
So for twenty-four years the two pyramids guarded the place
where an old monk had seen Arthur buried, and nobody knew the
importance of what lay between them.
Until . . .

About the Author:
The author's website can be found at This is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman has written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels
Bookeemonster rating: 5 out of 5. Excellent series.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Forgotten Author: BARBARA PAUL

Barbara Paul wrote many mysteries. One of my favorites featured Marian Larch, a police officer in New York City. This seven-book series was published between 1984 and 1997.

Kelly Ingram is a rising star who has everything going for her -- great looks, a livewire personality, enough talent to get by on, a new TV series, and a new lover. She also has an agent and a producer who hate each other, but they still manage to work well enough together to keep Kelly's career moving in the right direction.But then a friend is murdered, a harmless scriptwriter who should have been no threat to anyone. The scriptwriter's mother enters Kelly's life, a history professor named Fiona Benedict who dislikes everything the actor stands for. Mediating between them is Sgt. Marian Larch of the NYPD, assigned to investigate the murder. What Marian turns up is a tale of ambition and envy and betrayal going back fifteen years. Kelly, Fiona, and Marian -- three women who have absolutely nothing in common except the act of murder that brings them together -- take turns telling the story, which ultimately demonstrates how friendship can blossom in even the unlikeliest of circumstances.


Financier A. J. Strode is accustomed to getting his own way even if unscrupulous tactics must be employed. He covets ownership of House of Glass, a company which has been stealing industrial jobs from his own firm, Lester Works. The tycoon has quietly acquired House of Glass stock and needs one more block to seize control of his competition. But the three shareholders who own the only available stock, concert violinist Joanna Gillespie, Jack McKinstry of McKinstry Helicopters and Richard Bruce of Bruce Shipping Lines, refuse to sell. Strode, though, is certain someone will eventually capitulate because he has uncovered their darkest secrets: each has literally gotten away with murder. He invites the trio to his Manhattan home for a weekend to decide among themselves who will sell their stock and go free while the other two face prosecution and ruin. There's just one problem with Strode's scenario: he's killed. Sgt. Marian Larch and her partner Ivan Malecki are sent to the scene of the crime.


The story is about a robot-designer who is not only clumsy in his personal relationships but physically clumsy as well. In fact, his carelessness causes the deaths of two of his co-workers. It was pure accident both times; but instead of owning up to his part in the mishaps, he ducks his responsibility and claims to know nothing about what happened -- which declaration starts the police looking for a murderer. The second half of the book is a cat-and-mouse game as Marian Larch and her partner Ivan Malecki come closer and closer to the truth.

An unprecedented shortage of sergeants in the NYPD splits up the team of Sgt. Marian Larch and her partner. She and Ivan Malecki are sent to separate precincts -- and Marian, unluckily, is assigned to the Ninth in the Lower East Side, one of the roughest precincts in Manhattan. One day, while Larch is on duty in Manhattan's Lower East Side, four top-level employees of a laser technology firm--all with some level of government security clearance--are found murdered, handcuffed together and shot through the eye. Everyone agrees that their deaths are meant as a warning, but to whom or about what neither the company's president nor anyone else can fathom. Hindered by a partner who resents her and an overly ambitious captain, Larch is coerced into working with two FBI agents brought in because of the victims' classified government connections.

Beleaguered detective Sergeant Marion Larch, of New York's Ninth Precinct is fed up with her lazy, loutish partner Foley and with her devious, self-serving Captain di Falco. Meanwhile, circumstances bring Marion to the Midtown South precinct to look into a burglary at the Broadhurst theater, where her actress friend Kelly Ingram is starring in The Apostrophe Thief. An odd assortment of objects has been taken--from costumes to scripts--the most valuable of which is a bejeweled jacket once owned by Sarah Bernhardt. Marion finds herself clue hunting in the strange, constricted world of collectibles--among besotted fans and not-too-ethical dealers. One of them--Ernie Nordstrom--is found murdered when Marion finally catches up to him. She's convinced that thief and killer are the same, and that it's someone in the
theater's production, cast or crew.

FARE PLAY (1995)
Marian Larch is promoted to lieutenant in the NYPD's Midtown South Precinct. Standing out from the usual round of crimes is the murder of elderly Oliver Knowles on a crowded bus, the killer escaping unseen, even by the detective agency operative who was trailing him. Larch is surprised to learn that the agency is owned by Curt Holland, her on-again, off-again lover. Knowles was the wealthy, retired head of O.K. Toys, now run by suave David Unger. In addition to Unger, Knowles's son and the family lawyer stand to profit most by the old man's death. Larch senses chicanery behind the urbane, respectable facade. A college student is similarly murdered in a packed subway train, but this time a description of the killer emerges. While working both cases, the new lieutenant grapples with the problems of her actress friend Kelly

A botched kidnapping attempt brings Marian in on an especially ugly child-custody battle. The four-year-old boy who is the only one who saw the kidnapper up close turns out to be the center of more than just a marital dispute. Then people connected with the case start dying. Marian is convinced neither parent is responsible, that a third person is manipulating both of them for some purpose of his own. But as Marian gets closer to identifying the killer, she unknowingly puts her lover Curt Holland into danger. Holland is forced to suffer pain and degradation on her account, and Marian needs all the strength she can summon to cope with this vicious series of events. Her
realization of what she could lose changes her forever.

Barbara Paul's website can be found at Bookeemonster rating: 4 out of 5.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Frost/Nixon; stuff

Sorry for the late post; I didn't have a chance to earlier today. Jody came over for lunch and to watch the DVD of Frost/Nixon. Here's a description from
Writer Peter Morgan's legendary battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to make, in the story of the historic encounter that changed both their lives. For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans (as well as a $600,000 fee). Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted.
It's directed by Ron Howard and stars Frank Langella and Michael Sheen and a cast of other very good actors. I enjoyed it. I don't remember much about that time period; I was in 2nd or 3rd grade when Nixon left office. I do remember hearing the adults talking about "watergate" and thinking how strange that there'd be a gate in the middle of beach. However, I've always loved ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and was the reason why I wanted to pursue journalism (which didn't stay with me after my freshman year in college, but ah well). Both Frank Langella and Michael Sheen repeat the roles they created on stage. Ron Howard would only agree to direct if the studio would allow both actors to appear in the film version. I now look forward to watching it again with the DVD commentary by Ron Howard.
So not much else accomplished today other than spot cleaning and walking Tug. It's gotten cold here again and they're saying rain/snow for tomorrow. I don't have any plans for tomorrow so I think I'll look up some business plan examples, list some more books on the online usedbookstore, and otherwise just relax and not clean anything. I have to admit, I like the way the house looks for the most part. There are rooms that cannot or will not be touched so we don't look at them. :)
Today's Blog/Website of the Day is A Work In Progress found at, "adventures in (mostly) reading, and (sometimes) needlework and other artsy endeavors..."
Tonight on tv we'll watch Survivor and Steve has shooting tv shows on one of the outdoor channels. One of these days I have to check out two new shows Harper's Island or Southland. At this point, I'm about three episodes behind, I think, so I'll have to make time to view them online. So I'll probably read or do some journaling.
Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Midweek check in

Today's Blog/Website of the Day is Reading Adventures found at Marg describes the blog as "My adventures through time and place, all without leaving the comfort of home. Reading is what I do to relax and escape. I enjoy lots of genres but mainly Historical Fiction, Romance, Cozy Mysteries and Young Adult fiction." Today's entry is about library loot -- my favorite kind!

I think I'll be sticking with MURPHY'S LAW by Rhys Bowen because it's due back to library ahead of some others. This is first in a series of of eight featuring Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant in early 20th-century who wants to be a private investigator, in New York City. Here's a description:
Defending herself from the unwelcome advances of the local landowner's son, Molly accidentally kills him and flees her village to escape hanging. She heads for the anonymity of London, where a twist of fate introduces her to Kathleen O'Connor. Kathleen has two small children and tickets for a ship to America, where she plans to join her husband. But knowing they won't let her on the ship because of her tuberculosis, Kathleen persuades the desperate Molly to take her children to America. On board, Molly attracts the loud attentions of a crude, boisterous type named O'Malley. Her public argument with him comes back to haunt her when he is found murdered on Ellis Island; Molly becomes a prime suspect, along with a young man she befriended. The handsome young policeman investigating the case, Daniel Sullivan, appears to believe Molly's protestations of innocence, but Molly decides her she'd better investigate on her own behalf and that of her friend. Wending her way through a vivid, Tammany Hall-era New York, Molly struggles to prove her innocence.
It was published in 2001 and has 224 pages. It won the 2001 Agatha Award for Best Novel.

I have to go to the post office today to send a book off, drop some books off at the library, go to Jody's and then get my haircut. Tug's walk will be a little early today which is not a bad thing. It's supposed to get up to 80 today and we both don't like the heat. Strange thing, the high temp on Friday is only supposed to get to 38. Sheesh.

Steve has shooting tonight. I have three shows at 7pm: Lie to Me, America's Next Top Model (because I like to see beautiful skinny girls being criticized (c)), and GhostHunters.

Tomorrow, Jody is bringing lunch over and we'll FINALLY see the Frost/Nixon movie. We were supposed to see it in the theatre but Jody got super sick and it was only here for two weeks so we've had to wait for the DVD. It came out yesterday. I'm excited to watch it.

That's about it. Gotta keep movin'.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In which I cease to like cleaning anymore...

Please, I don't want to do anymore cleaning!!

Taking a break from spring house cleaning. Three rooms completely done and others have been ventured into. I hate cleaning. And MAN do we collect stuff and junk and how it accumulates!

Today's Blog/Website of the Day is Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic found at Kathrin says that she's "a student, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a book addict, a movie fan, a music lover, a librarian and a few other things." She recently participated in a 24 hour read-a-thon going on around some blogs. Uff da.

So I ran to Walmart this morning to get cleaning supplies. Why do those "carpet cleaners" not really clean carpets? Hmmm???
Steve has a board meeting tonight that was suddenly and sumarily called about late last night so dinner will be quick and off he'll go. I just have one show to watch on tv tonight, Deadliest Catch. Otherwise I may either do some more cleaning or hold auditions for my next read. I don't know yet.
I finished Louise Ure's LIARS ANONYMOUS last night. This is a stand alone that is a classic text example on how to make the protagonist's world go from bad to worse and upping the stakes. I enjoyed it though the ending wasn't what I wanted.
All right, break over. No more slacking; back to it.
Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'd love to come play, but...

...I'm doing some Spring house cleaning.

This doesn't happen very often so I have to strike while the mood hits me. See you soon!

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Sunday, April 19, 2009


... and we come around to Sunday again.

I've not quite finished the Bernard Knight but I figure you're tired of seeing the same book day after day in the currently reading section. I did start a new one yesterday. LIARS ANONYMOUS by Louise Ure. This is her third stand alone. Here is a description:

Jessica Dancing Gammage got away with murder—as she admits in the opening sentence of Ure’s latest novel -- but she paid a price. Her new life three years after the event (revealed ever so gradually) involves a move, a dropped surname, estrangement from her adoptive family, a history that follows her, and a dreadful change to her own psyche (being found not guilty is not the same as being innocent). Working for a roadside assistance service, Jessie takes a disturbing call that indicates foul play, and she’s forced back to her old home ground, where her past is remembered and resented. To understand the call and absolve herself from blame in the situation, Jessie plays detective, uncovering a tangled plot as violence threatens and escalates around her, meanwhile turning up information about the truth of her past and ultimately proving herself a vigilante who puts justice first.

It was published this month and has 288 pages. Her website can be found at From this website, here is the first chapter:

I got away with murder once, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn't do it. Well, not all of it anyway.

The incoming call showed up as an "alert" on my computer screen at almost midnight Friday night. I balled up the paper wrapper from the cold burrito I'd called dinner and reached for the mouse. There were more than a hundred of us on the night shift, each sequestered in separate cubicles and hunched over our screens like penitents in a confessional. The room was super-cooled to keep us awake. I laughed at the irony that, although it was September, it was probably still ninety degrees outside in the Arizona desert.

According to the information on the screen, the client's name was Markson and he was driving a 2007 Cadillac Seville. The HandsOn service he'd signed up for included automatic notification to the Call Center if his airbag had been triggered.

"HandsOn Emergency. This is Jessie. Is there an emergency in the vehicle?"

A muffled response. Coughing. He was probably still patting back the doughy folds of airbag that had assaulted him, reeling from the sting of the high-powered blast of the nylon bag on his cheeks and chest. His face would be dusted with white powder from the explosion. His nose might be broken.

"I'm all right." More coughing. "Just got rear ended."

"Is anyone in your car injured? Do you want me to call an ambulance?" It must have been quite a hit; rear enders rarely set off the airbag.

Something like a groan. Then the metal-on-metal snick of a car door shutting.

"No, I'm okay. I'll check with the other guy."

Another car door opened and shut, the sound closer this time.

"Didn't you see ..." Markson's voice trailed off in the distance.

The map on my screen showed that the car was in Tucson. Weird. The Call Center was responsible for a thousand mile section from Southern California to East Texas. Funny to get a call from just down the road.

The blinking cursor showed Darren Markson's car near Agua Caliente Wash on the east side of town. The "hot water" in the name of the arroyo was pure wishful thinking; it would only see water during the monsoon runoffs. Probably not even a paved road out there, if the map markings were right. More desert than city, really. The creosote would be taller than the Cadillac's windows.

The sound of scuffling came through my earpiece. I pushed the plastic ear bud tight to my head in concentration. Panting. A soft thud.

"I told you ..." A deeper voice, it carried the hot, dusty smell of Mexico in the slurred bridge between the words. Almost "toll Jew."

Something slammed against nearby metal, then the sound of breaking glass.

"You lying sack of ..." A different voice. English as a first language. Beer as a second.

Deep, fight-for-air panting. Heavy thuds of elbows or boots against the Cadillac's solid metal door. A long exhaled breath. Then silence. A kicked pebble ricocheted off metal as someone moved away.

"Mr. Markson? Mr. Markson! Are you all right?"

The silence was louder than the voices had been.

Whatever was going on, it required the cops. I called the 911 Operator in Tucson. In most cases, I'd make the connection and then let the client and 911 Operator talk directly to each other, but Markson seemed to have his hands full right now.

"This is HandsOn emergency dispatcher, Jessie Dancing. One of our clients is having some trouble. He's been rear-ended out near Agua Caliente Wash, just north of Soldier Trail."

"Give me the details on the car."

"It's a white Cadillac Seville, Arizona plates, David-Edward-Nora Zero Six Six. I heard what sounded like a fight, and now I've lost contact with Mr. Markson."

"We'll send a patrol car."

I gave her my number and hung up, then flipped back to the open communications channel with Markson's car. If it was a fight, who'd started it? Markson or the guy who'd crashed into him? And I thought I'd heard three voices.

There was movement now—the susurration of fabric on fabric. And something that sounded like the glove box opening then clicking shut again.

"Mr. Markson? Are you okay?"

A grunted acknowledgment, then silence. The connection had gone dead.

I zapped an audio copy of the Markson conversation over to Mad Cow. Madeleine Cowell was her real name, but I treasured the friendship that allowed me to use the shortened honorific. She was on the concierge team tonight—the HandsOn operators that made hotel and restaurant reservations for clients—not the emergency dispatch group. Take a listen to this, I typed. Easy enough to walk right over to her cubicle and ask her myself, but this way I didn't have to leave my computer screen unattended.

Mad Cow's return email popped into view. Is this going to be one of the Dumb Questions? Mad Cow and I had adapted comedian Larry Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" skits to life at HandsOn. You know the ones. "Tire go flat?" "No. The other three just swelled right up on me." The current pick for the dumbest incoming call was the guy who phoned last week and asked if I could tell him if his car was running.

Not this time. I thought this guy was in trouble, but I'm not sure.

I thought it sounded like a couple of guys at a kegger, she answered.

Maybe she was right. Maybe I'd imagined the threat in those voices.

I tried to put the sounds in the most positive light. Say Markson wandered into this patch of trackless desert—got stuck in the sand—and somehow got tapped by another car that was trying to help push him out. The "I told you" and sounds of a scuffle could just be a couple of guys trying to dislodge a car from deep sand.

But I couldn't get around the third voice. The one who said "you lying sack of" something. That made it more serious than a couple of guys straining their calf muscles and debating whose insurance was going to cover the damage.

Now that Markson's first call had been disconnected I couldn't initiate another call to his car—well, not legally. Our customers frowned on the notion that we might listen in whenever we wanted to.

His personal cell phone information was listed on the screen, too. I listened through five rings and an even-tempered voice mail, then left my number for him to call back.

I turned the volume all the way up and replayed his incoming call. There was a breath of desert air and the scritch of creosote branches on metal, sounds I hadn't heard the first time around. Markson must have had the windows open. And I heard the same words as before, although Markson's voice sounded more nasal than I'd first thought. Maybe the airbag really had broken his nose.

There were at least three voices—one born in a big city in the East, one nurtured on the stony mesas of Mexico, and one coming straight from a bar. And there was definitely a fight.

I'd never had a call drop like this before. The satellite communications system we used was much more powerful than a regular cell phone, so it wasn't likely that he'd gone out of range or lost the connection. More likely, somebody inside the car had pushed the button to disconnect.

Fuck the privacy laws. I shut off the automatic recording system and pinged the car. It was still in the same spot.

I opened the phone channel to allow me to hear what was going on. Voices muttered in the distance—the cadence and consonants sounding more like Spanish than English. I couldn't tell how many voices or what they were saying. The sound of something dragged across brittle vegetation, and a rasping sound that I couldn't place. Heavy, smacking thumps of wood against something softer. A grunt of air with the effort. A scream and a groan in response.

I didn't say anything, unwilling—even though I was almost a hundred miles away—to let them know that I was a witness to the scene. A coward, hiding on the other end of a satellite phone.

The heavy thuds continued but the moaned responses stopped.

I called the cops back, but didn't tell them about listening in again on Markson's car. What good would that do anyway? It was against the law, it wasn't recorded, and I didn't have anything but a scary premonition to tell them about.

"Have your officers found the car yet?"

"They're on their way. We had a delay here with a drive by shooting."

"Call me when you find him. OK?"

* * *

It was almost two a.m. before I got a call back.

"This is Officer Painter."

Thank God it wasn't anybody I knew on the Tucson PD. I'd changed my name to Dancing—it was my middle name and my mother's maiden name—but there had been plenty of headlines back then that included it. Hopefully this guy wouldn't make the connection. "Did you find the Cadillac?"

"Yeah, just where you said it would be." He sounded young.

"How's Mr. Markson?"

"There's no one here."

Maybe Markson got a ride from the other driver or went to get a tow truck. But he wouldn't have needed to; I could have done that for him. HandsOn clients knew that. It's why they paid as much as my monthly food bill for the service.

"But ... ma'am?"

This kid was making me feel decades older than my thirty-two years.

"There's blood everywhere."

One of Ure's strengths is voice and drew me in immediately to where I found I was rather far into it when I looked up from the pages. This character of Jessie is a tough female, reminding me of the character in Charlaine Harris' Shakespeare series who survived a terrible trauma and vowed to become tough ever after.

Today's Blog/Website of the Day is First Offenders found at This author round table blog features Jeff Shelby, Alison Gaylin, Anthony Neil Smith, Karen E. Olson, and Lori G. Armstrong.

Stuff to do today. More laundry and vacuuming. Walking Tug. Go to birthday party in Absarokee for an old friend of ours, Jim Owens. TV watching of part 4 of Little Dorrit on PBS, and The Tudors, etc., etc. Steve and I both had a brush of some kind of bug this weekend and I'm still feeling a little run down. It would be nice to have a nap sometime soon.

Have a good 2nd half of the weekend...

Much love,

PK the Bookeemonster