Sunday, May 22, 2022

PaperBack: “Witness This Woman”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.



Witness This Woman, by Gardner F. Fox (Gold Medal, 1959). Cover illustration by Barye Phillips.

Sixteen Candles

Break out the cake, the party hats, and the beribboned gifts—today is The Rap Sheet’s 16th birthday! It’s now old enough to procure a driver’s license as well as to “legally engage in sexual intercourse in most [U.S.] states,” says this facts-of-the-day blog post.

Not a great deal has changed here since this time last year, though The Rap Sheet continues to rack up statistical advancements. It’s nearing its 8,300th post, and its eight-millionth pageview. (Weren’t we just crowing about it reaching 5,000,000?) I have a couple of design modifications in mind for the near future, and I’d really like to get back to interviewing authors more often—something I used to do quite frequently. I would also enjoy visiting a crime-fiction festival or two, but continuing waves of COVID-19 variants provide serious disincentives to gathering in large groups.

I’m not a frequent complainer, though if pressed, I could share my dissatisfaction with such matters as the worsening political crisis in the United States and the alarming spread of white supremacy. One thing I cannot grouse about is my work on this page. Sixteen years of writing and editing The Rap Sheet have brought me so many memorable joys, not merely from reading but from meeting other people with similar passions for crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. When I created this blog in 2006, I had no idea that I’d still be happily laboring over it all these years later.

So on those occasions when the woes of the world seem far too extensive to endure, I can refocus at least part of my attention on The Rap Sheet. And apparently, this Web page is now able to ask even more of me than it has in the past, because it’s legal in this country for a 16-year-old to finally demand fulltime work hours. 😀

Stay healthy, everyone, and thank you for following The Rap Sheet through all of these long years!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Let Us Hail the Anthony Hopefuls

The organizers of Bouchercon 2022—to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from September 8 to 11—have announced seven categories of nominees for this year’s Anthony Awards. Convention attendees will cast their votes between Thursday and Saturday of that week, with the winners to be revealed during a Saturday evening ceremony.

Best Novel:
Runner, by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)
The Collective, by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)
Clark and Division, by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Crime)
These Toxic Things, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer)

Best First Novel:
Her Name Is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe (Thomas & Mercer)
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria)
Walking Through Needles, by Heather Levy (Polis)
Arsenic and Adobo, by Mia P. Manansala (Berkley Prime Crime)
All Her Little Secrets, by Wanda M. Morris (Morrow)

Best Short Story:
“The Search for Eric Garcia,” by E.A. Aymar (from Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction from 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver; Crooked Lane)
“The Vermeer Conspiracy,” by V.M. Burns (from Midnight Hour)
“Lucky Thirteen,” by Tracy Clark (from Midnight Hour)
“Doc’s at Midnight,” by Richie Narvaez (from Midnight Hour)
“Not My Cross to Bear,” by S.A. Cosby (from Trouble No More: Crime Fiction Inspired by Southern Rock and the Blues, edited by Mark Westmoreland; Down & Out)
“The Locked Room Library,” by Gigi Pandian (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 2021)
“Burnt Ends,” by Gabriel Valjan (from This Time for Sure: Bouchercon Anthology 2021, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan; Down & Out)

Best Children’s/YA:
Cold-Blooded Myrtle, by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Algonquin Young Readers)
Bury Me in Shadows, by Greg Herren (Bold Strokes)
The Forest of Stolen Girls, by June Hur (Feiwel & Friends)
I Play One on TV, by Alan Orloff (Down & Out)
Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, by Nancy Springer (Wednesday)

Best Anthology:
Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression, edited by S.A. Cosby (Rock & A Hard Place Press)
Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction from 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver (Crooked Lane)
Trouble No More: Crime Fiction Inspired by Southern Rock and the Blues, edited by Mark Westmoreland (Down & Out)
This Time for Sure: Bouchercon Anthology 2021, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Down & Out)
When a Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta (Hanover Square Press)

Best Paperback/EBook/AudioBook (paperback publishers listed):
The Ninja Betrayed, by Tori Eldridge (Agora)
Warn Me When It’s Time, by Cheryl A. Head (Bywater)
Bury Me in Shadows, by Greg Herren (Bold Strokes)
The Mother Next Door, by Tara Laskowski (Graydon House)
Bloodline, by Jess Lourey (Thomas & Mercer)

Best Critical/Non-fiction:
The Combat Zone: Murder, Race, and Boston’s Struggle for Justice, by Jan Brogan (Bright Leaf Press)
Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession, by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (Andrews McMeel)
Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, by Elon Green (Celadon)
How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America, edited by Lee Child and Laurie R. King (Simon & Schuster)
The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story, by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)

Congratulations to all of this year’s contenders!

In addition, Minnesota’s Ellen Hart, author of the Jane Lawless and Sophie Greenway series, will be given the convention’s Life Achievement Award. And British novelist Alexander McCall Smith is slated to receive its International Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Revue of Reviewers: 5-19-22

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.















Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Drawing on Various Sources

Every day, I spot intriguing news items or blog features (or obituaries) that I’d really like to share with Rap Sheet readers. Unfortunately, I have not had time recently to compile one of my signature giant “Bullet Points” posts. So I take what free hours I can to gather smaller collections of such reports, and hope they’ll do. For now.

• Organizers of the UK’s annual Capital Crime festival this week previewed the highlights of their 2022 gathering, which will take place live “in the shadow of [London’s] iconic Battersea Power Station” from September 29 to October 1. “Consisting of over 40 events and over 150 panelists,” reads a press release, “the line-up will include appearances from Peter James, Kate Mosse, Mark Billingham, Richard Osman, Robert Harris, S.A. Cosby, Dorothy Koomson, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson, Jeffery Deaver, Lucy Foley, Bella Mackie, Ragnar Jónasson, Paula Hawkins, Reverend Richard Coles, Mark Edwards, Claire McGowan, Ben Aaronovitch and former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lady Hale, in conversation with Harriet Tyce.” A complete line-up of events is expected late this coming summer.

This item comes from Vancouver, British Columbia, author Dietrich Kalteis (Under an Outlaw Moon):
There’s good news for fans of Canadian crime and mystery writing. From May 24-28 some of Canada’s top mystery writers will be gathering for the first ever Virtual Canadian Mystery Conference. The idea for a Canadian conference has been brewing for years, ever since the demise of Bloody Words, a fabulous meet-up of writers and fans. Out of the ashes of the old comes the Maple Leaf Mystery Conference. This year on Zoom and next year … one can only dream.
Scottish novelist Ian Rankin and Toronto’s Maureen Jennings (Murdoch Mysteries) are among the invited guests. Register online here.

• London-based Herb Lester Associates, which already counts among its elegant foldout-guide offerings maps of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles and Agatha Christie’s England, has a new product for sale. And its text was researched and composed by British author Martin Edwards! As Kate Jackson explains in Cross-Examining Crime, This Deadly Isle: A Golden Age Mystery Map includes 51 locations given significance in GA stories—“private houses, buildings involving the criminal justice system, department stores, political landmarks, key London streets and even royal abodes. The artwork continues to be brilliant and is one of the reasons these products are pleasing to collect. Lots of attention is given to little details, so the map is enjoyable at a visual level as well as on an information level. It is a great gift to self, but also to others who enjoy classic crime fiction.” The map retails for £12 and can be ordered online.

• Martin Edwards writes here about that map project’s history.

• Journalist/true-crime author Keith Roysdon’s latest contribution to CrimeReads is a delightful piece about the history of newspaper crime comic strips, “a once wildly popular, now mostly forgotten art.”

• From the “Fun Facts to Know and Tell” file: The 1965-1969 CBS-TV western/espionage series The Wild Wild West, which starred Robert Conrad as James West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon—both of them U.S. Secret Service agents—went through at least two name changes before reaching the air. According to the MeTV Web site, “Early in production, the pilot was called The Wild West. Playing off the character’s name, The Wild West West was also up for consideration and thankfully scrapped. That’s just confusing.” Collier Young, who produced several of the show’s early episodes, later claimed responsibility for adding the second “Wild” to its title.

• I’m very much enjoying Ben Boulden’s new blog, Dark City Underground. Last week he gathered together newspaper ads for 10 Alistair McLean thrillers that became big-screen films.

• And if you’re a Washington Post subscriber, this new Paul Waldman column is well worth reading. It begins: “In recent years, and especially since the pandemic began, we’ve seen an explosion of our already extraordinary levels of gun manufacturing and sales. If gun advocates—a group that includes pretty much the entire GOP—are correct in their oft-stated assertion that more guns means more safety, shouldn’t we be enjoying a paradise of security, with crime plunging to never-before-seen lows? This isn’t happening, of course. How can we explain this mystery?”

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Back in Bristol, Back in Person

CrimeFest will conclude its four-day run tomorrow, in Bristol, England. But today brought news of that convention’s 2022 award winners.

Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award: Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Simon & Schuster)

Also nominated: Girl A, by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins); The Appeal, by Janice Hallett (Viper); The Khan, by Saima Mir (Point Blank); How to Kidnap the Rich, by Rahul Raina (Abacus); and One Night, New York, by Lara Thompson (Virago)

Audible Sounds of Crime Award: The Man Who Died Twice, by Richard Osman, read by Lesley Manville (Penguin Random House Audio)

Also nominated: Better Off Dead, by Lee and Andrew Child, read by Jeff Harding (Penguin Random House Audio); Girl A, by Abigail Dean, read by Holliday Grainger (HarperFiction); Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, read by Rosamund Pike (Penguin Random House Audio); The Night She Disappeared, by Lisa Jewell, read by Joanna Froggatt (Penguin Random House Audio); Apples Never Fall, by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee (Penguin Random House Audio); The Marriage, by K.L. Slater, read by Lucy Price-Lewis (Audible Studios/Bookouture); and False Witness, by Karin Slaughter, read by Kathleen Early (HarperCollins)

eDunnit Award (for the best e-book):
Girl A, by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: The Turnout, by Megan Abbott, (Virago); The Measure of Time, by Gianrico Carofiglio (Bitter Lemon Press); The Dark Hours, by Michael Connelly (Orion Fiction); Running Out of Road, by Cath Staincliffe (Constable); and The Royal Secret, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)

H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction): Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, by Patricia Highsmith (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Also nominated: The Detective’s Companion in Crime Fiction: A Study in Sidekicks, by Lucy Andrews (Palgrave Macmillan); Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith, by Richard Bradford (Bloomsbury, Caravel); Bond Behind the Iron Curtain, by James Fleming (The Book Collector); Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie, by Carla Valentine (Sphere); and Hank Janson Under Cover, by Stephen James Walker (Telos)

Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
Slough House, by Mick Herron, (Baskerville)

Also nominated: An Untidy Death, by Simon Brett (Severn House); Riccardino, by Andrea Camilleri (Mantle); Bryant & May: London Bridge Is Falling Down, by Christopher Fowler (Doubleday); The Appeal, by Janice Hallet (Viper); and The Rabbit Factor, by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda)

Best Crime Fiction Novel for Children (aged 8-12): Twitch, by M.G. Leonard (Walker)

Also nominated: Noah’s Gold, by Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Macmillan Children’s Books); Vi Spy: Licence to Chill, by Maz Evans (Chicken House); Nightshade, by Anthony Horowitz (Walker); The Five Clues, by Anthony Kessel (Crown House); Lake Evolution, by Jennifer Killick Crater (Firefly Press); Wishyouwas: The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters, by Alexandra Page (Bloomsbury Children’s Books); and The Secret Detectives, by Ella Risbridger (Nosy Crow)

Best Crime Fiction Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16): Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (Rock the Boat)

Also nominated: Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké Íyímídé (Usborne); The Girl Who …, by Andreina Cordani (Atom); The Outrage, by William Hussey (Usborne); As Good As Dead, by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey); Splinters of Sunshine, by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children’s Books); The Outlaws of Scarlett & Browne, by Jonathan Stroud (Walker); and The Island, by C.L. Taylor (HQ)

According to a CrimeFest press release, “This year also sees the introduction of the Thalia Proctor Memorial Award for Best Adapted TV Crime Drama. The award is named in honour of Thalia, a CrimeFest team member and a much-loved figure in the world of crime fiction, and who sadly died earlier this year. The award is decided entirely by public vote from a longlist of the 43 TV programmes broadcast on British TV in the last year, based on a crime book. Ann Cleeves won the inaugural gong for Shetland [Season 6], beating a strong shortlist that featured Anthony Horowitz for Alex Rider, M.C. Beaton for Agatha Raisin and James Runcie for Grantchester.”

CrimeFest is now in its 15th year. The 2022 convention is its first in-person gathering since 2019; the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of both intervening conferences.

READ MORE:CrimeFest 2022—A Wonderful Weekend,” by Martin Edwards (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’).

Friday, May 13, 2022

Lucky Contenders on the 13th

The British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) has announced its shortlists of nominees for the 2022 Dagger awards. Winners will be named during a “live gala dinner event” in London on June 29.

Gold Dagger:
Before You Knew My Name, by Jacqueline Bublitz (Little, Brown)
Sunset Swing, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Headline)
The Unwilling, by John Hart (Zaffre)
The Shadows of Men, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
The Trawlerman, by William Shaw (Riverrun)

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
Find You First, by Linwood Barclay (HQ)
The Pact, by Sharon Bolton (Orion)
The Devil’s Advocate, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Headline)
Dead Ground, by M.W. Craven (Constable)
Dream Girl, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)

John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
Welcome to Cooper, by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer)
Repentance, by Eloísa Díaz (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Mash House, by Alan Gillespie (Unbound)
The Appeal, by Janice Hallett (Viper)
Where Ravens Roost, by Karin Nordin (HQ)
How to Kidnap the Rich, by Rahul Raina (Little, Brown)
Waking the Tiger, by Mark Wightman (Hobeck)

Historical Dagger:
April in Spain, by John Banville (Faber and Faber)
Sunset Swing, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
Crow Court, by Andy Charman (Unbound)
Not One of Us, by Alis Hawkins (Canelo)
Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan)
A Corruption of Blood, by Ambrose Parry (Canongate)

Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger:
Hotel Cartagena, by Simone Buchholz,
translated by Rachel Ward (Orenda)
Bullet Train, by Kōtarō Isaka,
translated by Sam Malissa (Harvill Secker)
Oxygen, by Sacha Naspini,
translated by Clarissa Botsford (Europa Editions)
People Like Them, by Samira Sedira,
translated by Lara Vergnaud (Raven)
The Rabbit Factor, by Antti Tuomainen,
translated by David Hackston (Orenda)

Short Story Dagger:
“Blindsided,” by Caroline England (from Criminal Pursuits: Crime Through Time, edited by Samantha Lee Howe; Telos)
“London,” by Jo Nesbø (from The Jealousy Man and Other Stories, by Jo Nesbø; Harvill Secker)
“With the Others,” by T.M. Logan (from Afraid of the Shadows, edited by Miranda Jewess; Criminal Minds)
“Flesh of a Fancy Woman,” by Paul Magrs (from Criminal Pursuits)
“Changeling,” by Bryony Pearce (from Criminal Pursuits)
“When I Grow Up,” by Robert Scragg (from Afraid of the Shadows)

ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-fiction:
The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion, by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne (Faber and Faber)
The Dublin Railway Murder, by Thomas Morris (Harvill Secker)
The Unusual Suspect, by Ben Machell (Canongate)
The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice, by Julia Laite (Profile)
Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe (Picador)
The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Murders That Stunned an Empire, by Julie Kavanagh (Grove Press)

Dagger in the Library (“for a body of work by an established crime writer that has long been popular with borrowers from libraries”):
Cath Staincliffe
Edward Marston
Lin Anderson
• Mark Billingham
Susan Hill

Publishers’ Dagger (“awarded annually to the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year”):
Faber and Faber
HarperCollins; Harper Fiction
Penguin Random House; Michael Joseph
Pushkin Press; Pushkin Vertigo
Titan
Profile Books; Viper

Debut Dagger:
Henry’s Bomb, by Kevin Bartlett
Holloway Candle, by Laura Ashton Hill
The 10-12, by Anna Maloney
The Dead of Egypt, by David Smith
The Dieppe Letters, by Liz Rachel Walker

In addition, the CWA has decided to give Edinburgh-born historical crime novelist C.J. Sansom the 2022 Diamond Dagger “for a lifetime contribution to crime writing in the English language.”

* * *

Today also brings news—declared during the CrimeFest convention being held in Bristol, England—about the winner of the 2022 Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. As press materials explain, this competition is designed to suss out “the best unpublished short mystery, and not only that, but one which fits into Golden Age crime writer Margery Allingham’s definition of what makes a great story.”

The 2022 prize recipient is “Locked In,” by Scott Hunter. At least for the time being, you can read Hunter’s story here.

Shortlisted as well for this honor were “A Face for Murder,” by Judith O’Reilly; “Weights and Biases,” by Alexandre Sadeghi; and “Boxed In,” by Mark Thielman.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

In Case You Haven’t Heard …

• I’m fairly certain I have never read any works by Anglo-American author Alice Campbell. But In Reference to Murder says we may all have access to her entire oeuvre.
Dean Street Press is republishing the works of golden age crime novelist, Alice Campbell, beginning June 6th. They’ll be reissuing the first ten of her mysteries initially, with the remainder to follow next year. As the publisher noted, the novels are “not merely excellent detective stories, but atmospheric works of suspense, many set in France.” This is [the] first time these novels have been in print for over seventy years, and are prefaced by an introduction from crime-fiction historian Curtis Evans.

Campbell (1887-1955) came originally from Atlanta, Georgia, where she was part of the socially prominent Ormond family, before she moved to New York City at the age of nineteen and quickly became a socialist and women’s suffragist. She later moved to Paris, marrying the American-born artist and writer, James Lawrence Campbell, and ultimately to England just before World War One. Campbell wrote crime fiction until 1950, though many of her novels continued to have French settings. She published her first work (
Juggernaut) in 1928 and published nineteen detective novels during her career.
The aforementioned Mr. Evans offers the covers from Dean Street’s first 10 Campbell reissues here, plus this look back at classic Campbell dust jackets. A decade ago, he also reviewed her sixth crime novel, Desire to Kill (1934), for Mystery*File. If you’d like to sample Campbell’s work yourself, Juggernaut is due for release on June 6.

• The May edition of Mike Ripley’s Shots column, “Getting Away with Murder,” carries news about fresh releases from Tom Bradby (Yesterday’s Spy), Anthony Horowitz (With a Mind to Kill), Jo Spain (The Last to Disappear), and William Shaw (Dead Rich, published under his pseudonym G.W. Shaw); a glance back at the crime novels Ripley touted a quarter-century ago; odd publisher’s freebies; and the results of a poll asking readers to name their favorite Harry Patterson/Jack Higgins novel (other than The Eagle Has Landed).

• In a piece for CrimeReads, Connie Berry, author of the new historical mystery The Shadow of Memory, offers “10 Reasons Why Victorian England Is the Perfect Setting for Murder.”

• The series Bosch: Legacy just debuted last Friday on Amazon-owned Freevee (formerly IMDb TV), but the show—a follow-up to Prime’s Boschhas already been renewed for a second season.

The Guardian compares Ian Fleming’s long-forgotten and “much more serious,” 1956 film treatment for his novel Moonraker to the “lightweight” Roger Moore picture brought to theaters in 1979.

• And here’s an unlikely result of global warming. The water level at Lake Mead, a reservoir created by the Hoover Dam and located not far east of Las Vegas, Nevada, “has dropped more than 170 feet since 1983,” says NBC News. As a result, the drinking water supplies of homes, casinos, and farms in the area are at risk—and some disappearances linked to Vegas’ underworld history may finally be solved. In early May, “boaters spotted the decomposed body of a man in a rusted barrel stuck in the mud of newly exposed shoreline. The corpse has not been identified, but Las Vegas police say he had been shot, probably between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s, according to the shoes found with him. The death is being investigated as a homicide. A few days later, a second barrel was found by a KLAS-TV news crew, not far from the first. It was empty.” NBC goes on to quote Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as saying, “‘If the lake goes down much farther, it’s very possible we’re going to have some very interesting things surface. … I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that we’re going to solve who killed Bugsy Siegel,’ Green said, referring to the infamous gangster who opened the Flamingo in 1946 on what would become the Strip. Siegel was shot dead in 1947 in Beverly Hills, California. His assassin has never been identified. ‘But I would be willing to bet there are going to be a few more bodies,’ Green said.”

Monday, May 09, 2022

Of Sausages and Royal Residences

By Fraser Massey
Time moves on, though some things never change. I play a little game in my head every now and then when I’m reading crime novels. I try to work out how, if the stories in them were true, they’d be reported in the pages of newspapers.

I couldn’t help myself from doing this when I was reading Christina James’ Sausage Hall, which has just been re-issued by a new publisher and under a more meat-free title. The new version’s called The Sandringham Mystery.

At the heart of the plot is the discovery of the naked body of a young woman buried in the woods near Queen Elizabeth’s estate at Sandringham, in Norfolk, England.

When Sausage Hall first came out, back in 2013, any real-life event such as this would definitely have rated a mention in the national newspapers, because of where the corpse was discovered. But today, with Her Majesty’s second son, Prince Andrew, seemingly having chosen not to go to court to clear his name from the taint of a sex scandal, it would be right up in there on the front pages in 84-point headlines, with tabloid hacks trying to outdo each other’s efforts in screaming for the prince to be brought in for questioning.

Author James has sensibly opted to avoid mentioning any Royal shenanigans in The Sandringham Mystery. The book was originally written before we knew of Andrew’s woes. And the author has chosen, rightly so in my opinion, not to update it along those lines for the new version. She didn’t need to. Her plot works well enough without her having to sensationalize the story.

Intriguingly though, in a recent interview with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, James revealed that the people behind her new publisher, Bloodhound Books, told her they were renaming her novel so as to appeal more to the U.S. market, because so many Americans are fascinated with the Royal family. She said the publishers told her, “Americans are going to love this title because they connect Sandringham with the Queen.”

(Above) Sandringham House sits on a 20,000-acre estate.


Sandringham, for those not in the know, is one of the many Royal residences dotted around the UK and the one where the Queen and her family usually spend the Christmas holidays.

The Sandringham Mystery deals with a subject considerably more important than the misbehavior, or otherwise, of a minor Royal and deserves attention regardless of its geographical setting. In her plot, James draws parallels between how manufacturing giants active during the heyday of the British Empire flourished on the backs of slave labor, and how some companies in the UK today may be cutting costs by using smuggled immigrant labor, those foreign nationals being forced to work in exploitative conditions for tiny payments, a fraction of legal minimum wage rates.

Some things never change, it seems.

Worryingly, similar situations look likely to continue as the British economy (along with those of many other countries in the western world) struggles to cope in the wake of problems arising from the lengthy COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noted that Sausage Hall (as it still was known at the time) was last re-published as recently as December 2020, along with the eight other novels that comprise James’ excellent series of police procedurals starring Detective Inspector Tim Yates. (Sausage Hall was the third of those books to be released.) They came out then under the Poisoned Chalice banner, the crime-fiction imprint of an ambitious, freshly launched UK publishing venture called QuoScript, which planned to specialize in crime fiction, young-adult novels, and works of Ukrainian literature in translation.

Sadly, the company seems to have floundered disappointingly swiftly in the prevailing difficult commercial conditions. It ceased trading in November 2021, taking the DI Yates novels with it.

Bloodhound Books deserves praise for bringing Yates back so quickly in The Sandringham Mystery. For readers not familiar with James’ detective, this new edition makes a splendid introduction to both him and his team in the South Lincolnshire police force. Yates is one of those figures in crime fiction who stands out as a thoroughly decent man. His only fault seems to lie in not realizing how dependent he is on his deputy, Detective Constable Juliet Armstrong, for the smooth running of his department.

With luck, adding a dash of reflected Royal glamour to its title will help The Sandringham Mystery sell enough copies to prompt Bloodhound to reissue the rest of the Yates and Armstrong mysteries too.

I, for one, won’t care what names they come out under as long as they’re all soon available once more.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

A Belated Spotting

I know it’s quite late to be reporting on the victor in this year’s Spotted Owl Award contest, but the announcement was made in late March, during my post-concussion convalescence, and I missed it.

Anyway, you will probably remember that the Spotted Owl is given out annually by the Portland, Oregon-based fan group Friends of Mystery (FOM) to honor what its members believe is be “the best mystery novel of the year by an author who lives in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Idaho, Oregon or Washington).” The 2022 recipient is Newburg, Oregon, resident Warren C. Easley, who won for No Witness (Poisoned Pen Press), the eighth in his series of novels starring Cal Claxton, who now runs a small law office in the small town of Dundee, about 25 miles southwest of Portland.



As The Newburg Graphic newspaper reports,
The book centers around the theme of immigration and the plight of the group of people known as “Dreamers,” who came to the United States as children but do not have citizenship. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's aggressive searches for undocumented immigrants loom in the story.

“The police are stymied because this is the immigrant community and they really don’t want to talk to the cops. All the undocumented people were scared to death. Since they won’t come forward they trust Cal, and he goes forward to solve the case,” Easley said. “In fiction it’s all about walking around in someone else’s shoes. In this book you’re walking around in shoes you may not have walked in before.”
The FOM released this list of runners-up for the 2022 Spotted Owl:

2. Robert Dugoni for In Her Tracks (Thomas & Mercer)
3. Martin Limón for War Women (Soho Crime)
4. Dana Haynes for Sirocco (Blackstone)
5. John Straley for So Far and Good (Soho Crime)
6. Tie — Valerie Geary for The Ophelia Killer (Broken Branch)
6. Tie — Michael Niemann for The Last Straw (Coffeetown Press)
7. Marc Cameron for Bone Rattle (Kensington)
8. Tie — Dana Stabenow for Spoils of the Dead (Head of Zeus)
8. Tie — Amy Stewart for Miss Kopp Investigates (Mariner)

Among the authors who have previously been honored with the Spotted Owl are Bill Cameron, Earl Emerson, G.M. Ford, Mike Lawson, Phillip Margolin, Jon Talton, and last year’s winner, Robert Dugoni.

An overdue congratulations to all of the 2022 nominees!

Weighing MacDonald’s Works

Here’s an unenviable task for you: Massachusetts novelist Peter Swanson (Every Vow You Break, Nine Lives) put together, for CrimeReads, a ranked list of John D. MacDonald’s 21 books starring Florida beach bum and “salvage consultant” Travis McGee. No matter how Swanson had ordered those crime novels, readers were inevitably going to argue for a rearrangement. I’m no different; a couple of the yarns among Swanson’s top 10 would have been seriously demoted, had I been judging. But you’ve got to give the guy props for having the guts to make his opinions on this matter so well known. And I certainly agree that The Quick Red Fox (1964) and The Long Lavender Look (1970) are two of MacDonald’s best.

Having re-read at least a couple of McGee’s adventures over the last decade, I can also relate to these observations by Swanson:
One thing is sure: the quality of these books is pretty damn consistent. If you like one of them, you’ll probably like all of them. That made ranking them less than ideal. I was pretty sure about my favorites, and my least favorites, but it gets a little slapdash in the middle. When ranking, I thought about the flow of the story, the scariness of the bad guy, the complexity (or lack) of the heroine, and the quality of the writing (always very high). What I didn’t think about while ranking was the casual sexism and racism that pervades these books, and that I see more as an expression of the time than what seems like any real hostility or agenda on the author’s part.

Travis loves women, and there are some good, strong female characters in these books. But Travis also loves to save a damaged damsel, so that many of the females that show up are victims for Travis to put back together. He is a white knight, a man beholden to no one, constantly swept up into great adventures, and into the arms of fascinating bedmates. In other words, a male fantasy.
I wasn’t so aware of the incidental racism and sexism back when I was a college student first sampling the McGee tales. Decades later, however, both are rather evident, standing in contrast to modern norms. I like to believe the tendency of people today to presume guilt on the part of a Black man, simply due to the color of his skin, is less commonplace than it might’ve been during MacDonald’s heyday. And though there are still far too many white males living under the misapprehension that women exist principally to provide them with base amusements (“Grab ’em by the pussy!”), or that women need to in some fashion be saved or protected by men, that’s not the predominant viewpoint in early 21st-century America.

MacDonald and McGee were endowed with the prejudices and blind spots of their era. The stories they conspired to create remain enjoyable. But like a good deal of older crime fiction, they must on occasion be read as coming from a slightly alien society.

Again, you can find Swanson’s rankings here.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Prioritizing Paperbacks

Organizers of the annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award have announced their 2022 nominees. As In Reference to Murder's B.V. Lawson explains, “The award, now in its 18th year, is presented by Harrogate International Festivals and recognizes the best crime novels published in the UK and Ireland in paperback over the past year. Readers can vote online for their favorite book among the listed titles, with voting closing on [Thursday] May 26.”

Girl A, by Abigail Dean (HarperFiction)
The Heron’s Cry, by Ann Cleeves (Pan)
Tall Bones, by Anna Bailey (Penguin)
Blood Ties, by Brian McGilloway (Constable)
The Cut, by Chris Brookmyre (Abacus)
The Less Dead, by Denise Mina (Vintage)
The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
Watch Her Fall, by Erin Kelly (Hodder Paperbacks)
I Know What I Saw, by Imran Mahmood (Raven)
True Crime Story, by Joseph Knox (Penguin)
Daughters of Night, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Pan)
Dead Ground, by M.W. Craven (Constable)
Rabbit Hole, by Mark Billingham (Sphere)
Slough House, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton (Raven)
Midnight at Malabar House, by Vaseem Khan (Hodder Paperbacks)
The Last Thing to Burn, by Will Dean (Hodder Paperbacks)
The Trawlerman, by William Shaw (Riverrun)

The winner among these 18 books will be declared during this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, to be held in Harrogate, England, from July 21 to 24. He or she will receive a check for £3,000, plus an engraved oak beer cask, reportedly “hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.”

I’m going to have a hard time casting my single vote here. While I’ve not read all of the 2022 nominees, I have read most. My top three would probably be Turton’s Devil and the Dark Water (which was among my favorite books of 2020), Shepherd-Robinson’s Daughters of the Night (one of my top choices last year), and Shaw’s The Trawlerman (another favorite from 2021). What to do, what to do …

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Revue of Reviewers: 5-4-22

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.