Have I mentioned that my husband and I are taking a big trip this year? We've been married--gulp--30 years, so we're celebrating. Hold onto your sunscreen, because he's taking me to . . .
And then we're taking a cruise around Greece.
I am not kidding. I still can't believe it.
My first thought when he came home with the tickets was: Jeff must read Donna Leon! And THIS ROUGH MAGIC by Mary Stewart. (Set on Corfu! And with Shakespeare! How can a reader go wrong?) And---and--lots of books set in wonderful places we're going to see! (Quick! I need a recommedation. Mysteries set in Athens, anyone?)
Mystery novels set in exotic locales is apparently a time-honored tradition among the well-traveled set, but no less highbrow source than The New Yorker magazine recently decided--by way of an article by Clive Jones--that one mystery pretty much has the same plot as all the others, so what sets one crime novel apart from the rest is the location of the action. Have you read Cara Black's series set in Paris? Oo-la-la! And Denise Mina's series in Scotland? Great stuff.
This coming weekend, I'm taking a break from writing the final pages of my manuscript to travel to---well, not Venice, but a mystery convention, the delightful Malice Domestic. It's a chance to meet readers, re-connect with old friends, abase myself before my editor for being late with this manuscript and to sell a few more copies of A CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED DEATH. To celebrate the mystery genre with like-minded pals, too.
Lest you think I'm simply running off to sit in a bar and watch the passing parade, you're wrong. I've actually been doing some prep work.
For moderating a Malice panel addressing exactly the subject of exotic settings in mystery novels, I've been reading some books set in wonderful locations. So let me tell you about them:
Can I admit that I'm not a big fan of most paranormal books? Except I ADORE Charlaine's incomparable Sookie, which I thought could not be topped until I started reading her GRAVE series, which is dynamite. I find the relationship between the brother and sister totally compelling. The undercurrent of tragedy! The yearning! The hunger!
Anyway, thinking I didn't much care for ghosts, I didn't grab Hope McIntyre's HOW TO SEDUCE A GHOST until my favorite bookseller convinced me to drop it into my shopping basket. At home, I opened the book and discovered this series is about a ghostwriter, not a supernatural being, and it's set in London's Notting Hill neighborhood! What's not to love? This book is terrific! A wonderfully prickly protagonist who lives in a fabulous house in a ritzy place--all brought to life with the detailed authenticity of an author (and former editor) who has clearly walked those not-so-mean streets. Big fun, great stuff!
Author Libby Fischer Hellman is also serving on our Malice panel (which is called "Murder in Paradise: Death Among the Beautiful People") and I think she was at first puzzled about why her work would be included in this discussion. Libby writes about Ellie Foreman, a videographer in Chicago who often works with the wealthy and well-connected. In re-reading AN IMAGE OF DEATH recently, I immediately saw another reason why Libby was included: She's an author who truly steeps her setting into the mystery. This is a series with plots that slam along terrifically, but the author brings a bustling, bristling Chicago to life. If you haven't started this series yet, hop to it.
Okay, I really thought my husband wanted to go to Hawaii instead of Venice. So I grabbed Deborah Turrell Atkinson's PRIMITIVE SECRETS to get a head start on him. Debby's book gives us Hawaii through the eyes of my favorite kind of amateur sleuth---Storm Kayama, who comes from a rich cultural background. I really enjoyed this insider's view--the other side of a tourist Mecca. Eventually I will go to Hawaii (tax deductible Bouchercon!) and this book has made me eager to see more than the beautiful beaches.
A new author (to me, at least!) is Susan Goodwill, who has written a light and clever mystery called BRIGADOOM, which takes place in a community theater (one of the big loves of my life) in a community on the shores of Lake Michigan. I think Lake Michigan definitely qualifies as a beautiful place. (My brother has his B&B there.) And Susan's mystery is a very fun read. Big laughs, including a porta-potty on a golf course that---nevermind. Buy the book.
Up next I have Neil Plakcy's police procedural MAHU. It's set in Honolulu and features a Hawaiian surfer for a detective--more reason for me to sign up early for the Hawaii B-con, right? Neil is contributing the music for our Saturday panel and there's a rumor of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, so we're truly multi-media.
I'm looking forward to moderating the panel of these well-traveled writers. We've been emailing for weeks, and we've got some good material to talk about. Should be fun as well as informative.
Unfortunately, another of my duties at Malice this weekend was supposed to be the pleasure of interviewing this year's Toastmaster--our own Elaine Viets. Due to her illness, that's been postponed to another year. But I'm taking this chance to remind you that Elaine's new Dead End Job novel, MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS, has been released this week, and if you buy the book ASAP you'll boost Elaine's spirits greatly.
By the way, if you haven't heard yet, Elaine is out of ICU and into a regular hospital room! She's enjoying home repair TV shows (and if you know Elaine--hahahahahahahahha!) and racing up and down the physical therapy gym with all the knee replacement golfers. The best news of all--to my way of thinking--is hearing she'd got her sense of humor.
See you at Malice.