Is Mystery Dead?

My wonderful publisher just opened a new imprint for mysteries and thrillers. That got me thinking. I’ve always loved mystery, even as a child, and quite a few of my favorite TV shows fall–or fell–in that category. I always add an element of mystery or suspense in my romances too. So why am I not reading more of it? Or watching it?

Bones, NCIS, The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles… I watched and loved them all. But more recently I noticed I’m not getting into those shows anymore. Some are off the air but others, including some new ones, have either made it out of my list of preferences or never made it there. For someone who used to devour Agatha Christie’s books, Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfell’s series, even lots of the extremely sexist gumshoe series of the 70s I sure am not paying much attention to the genre.

Detective

In recent years I have read very few mysteries, at least those who fall entirely in that category. I’ve read many books that included mystery in the plot but that’s it. Some of those I read were The Gone Girl (hated it–a story for another time), a couple of Dan Brown’s books (loved it), one or two cozies (fun) and not much more.

A lot of the shows I used to watch faithfully (Criminal Minds, CSI, etc) became more and more gory as if their popularity depended on how gross and despicable the crime scene was. The mystery itself looked like was taking a back seat. I lost interest. I like the puzzle-side of mystery, the putting all the pieces together to solve a conundrum. Some shows quit doing that and began focusing more on the shoot-outs, the car chases, the bizarre ways killers were choosing to murder people. Not that interesting.

bloody water

I’m not against a bit of gore if it’s necessary to show the horror of the situation (I’ve written it myself: there’s a torture scene in Lavender Fields for example), but do we really need to see a body shred to pieces by a wood chipper or another literally smashed to smithereens and glued to the tires of a car? Don’t think so.

I’m just sorry that real mysteries seem to be a thing of the past or maybe I’m just reading the wrong ones. On the other hand I have read some excellent books that incorporated good mysteries within the plot such as Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours.

What do you think? Do you know of good mysteries that do not rely on gore, shoot outs, or any other shock-factors? What about cozies? Have you read any good ones lately? I have a couple written by a writer friend on my TBR. I was fortunate enough to read a couple chapters and loved it, so I have high hopes. What do you suggest?

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The Colonel and the Bee-New Release

The Colonel and the Bee

by Patrick Canning

New Release

Patrick blurb

 

  • Publisher: Evolved Publishing LLC; 1 edition (June 1, 2018)
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2018

 

Blurb

A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat span the globe on a building-sized hot air balloon, in search of a precious artifact and the murderous treasure hunter who seeks it.

Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.

One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.

Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.

The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.

What dangers await the Colonel and the acrobat?

 

Patrick

BIO

Patrick Canning was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Illinois, now live in California with his dog HANK, practicing the alchemy of writing: coffee turns into words, words turn into money, money turns back into coffee. Repeat until dead.

Patrick spends as much time as possible turning coffee into collections of words that look like books, shorts, and screenplays. Most of his stories attempt to look for the meaning of life in an adventurous way, and often employ humor, important since the search usually doesn’t turn up much. He is scared to use semi colons and rarely puts his seat back on airplanes.

Patrick event

Buy & Social Media Links

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Other Books by Canning

 

GIRL ON THE VERGE BY PINTIP DUNN RELEASE WEEK BLITZ

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn!

Check out the excerpt below, and
be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

Congratulations Pintip!!

 

 

 

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Kensington

Google Drive | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

 

A fish swims beneath the open staircase in my Khun Yai’s house. A real live fish, with its translucent fins fluttering in the water, its belly gold-scaled and bloated from regular feedings. If I part my knees, I can catch long glimpses of its lazy swimming through the gap in the stairs.

Of course, I’m not supposed to part my knees. It’s not ladylike for a twelve-year-old girl, not here, not in Thailand. The land where my parents grew up; the place that’s supposed to be my home, too. That’s what the banner said, when my relatives came to pick us up at the airport. “Welcome home, Kanchana.”

Never mind that I only come to Thailand every couple years. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone else here, with my American build and my frizzy, out-of-control hair. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone in my hometown, either, since I’m the only Asian girl in school. Never mind that the only reason we’re here now is because my father’s dead and my mom can’t keep it together.

For a moment, pain lances through me, so sharp and severe that it might as well slice my heart in half, like in one of those video games my friends like to play. I squeeze my eyes shut, but that doesn’t keep the tears from spilling out. Neither do the glasses sliding down my nose. And so the tears drip down, down, down, past my unladylike knees, through the gap in the stairs, into the fish basin below.

The drops scare the fish, who swims away with its tail swishing in the water, no longer languid, no longer lazy. So, even this creature wants to get away from me—from my grief, from my strangeness—as quickly as possible.

“There you are, luk lak,” Khun Yai says in Thai, coming down the stairs. She is my mother’s mother, and since we arrived, she’s used the endearment—child that I love—more often than my name.

“You’re up early.” She pats her forehead with a handkerchief. It’s only seven a.m., and already sweat drenches my skin like I’ve taken a dip in the basin. No wonder they take two or three showers a day here.

“Couldn’t sleep. Jet lag.”

“I’ve been up for a couple hours myself.” She eases onto the step next to me, her knees pressed together, her legs folded demurely to one side.

Immediately, I try to rearrange my body to look like hers and then give up. My legs just don’t go that way.

“What do you want to do today?” Khun Yai asks. “More shopping?”

“Um, no thanks.” I make a face. “Didn’t you hear those salesgirls at Siam Square yesterday? They rushed up as soon as we entered and said they didn’t have anything in my size.” My cheeks still burn when I think about their haughty expressions.

She sighs. “The clothes there are just ridiculously small. We’ll go to the mall today. They should have something that will fit you.”

I stare at her diminutive frame and her chopstick legs. “One of the salesgirls asked how much I weighed. Another grabbed my arm and said I felt like a side pillow.”

“They didn’t mean any harm. It is just the Thai way to be blunt.” She catches my chin and tilts up my face. “You are so beautiful. I wish you could see that.”

I could say so many things. I could tell her that I’m ugly not only in Thailand but also in the United States. Even though I’m not big by American standards—far from it—I could confess how the boys call me Squinty. How those Thai salesgirls snickered at my poodle-fuzz hair. I could explain how I’m from two worlds but fit in neither.

But I don’t. Because my words will only make her sad, and there have been enough tears in our family.

 

 

 

 

Pintip is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip’s first novel, FORGET TOMORROW won the RWA RITA® award for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella, BEFORE TOMORROW. She is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

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True Magic

As writers we often have to do a lot of world building. Some of us go to even bigger lengths and build maps and pictures to go with the world your mind and creative juices created. When I was in Portugal in July I got to experience the work of someone who not only created a fantastic world in his mind but actually built. Early in the 20th century a man with a lot of money and an obviously creative mind was able to hire someone equally creative (Luigi Manini who was among other things a set-designer for La Scala of Milan and many other theaters and opera houses around Europe) to make the musings of his fantasy world come to life. This was a 14 year long endeavor that, thanks to an ambitious restoration done by a local foundation (Cultursintra Foundation) is now open to the public.

Sintra, a little town built on a lonely mountain just a few miles north of Lisbon, has always been one of my favorite places in the world. With its own micro-climate and wealth of historical lore, Sintra is a magical place that shares its geography with lush forests and equally luxuriant architecture. It was once the place of choice as a summer residence of the Portuguese royal families who took refuge here from the hot summers in Lisbon. Poets like Lord Byron also favored this location and I can well understand why. You cannot visit Sintra without feeling inspired to write. For me, Sintra is a portal to live poetry and magic.

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Vila de Sintra

On the very top of the mountain, The Moorish Castle- often shrouded in clouds and mist – gives the visitor the illusion of stepping back in time. As you drive or walk through town you can’t miss the overwhelming feel of history. The architecture, the steep, narrow roads and streets, the palaces and the villas, even the humble homes remind you of another place, another time.

This time I had a mission. I had, since moving to the US too many years ago, found out about this mysterious place called Quinta da Regaleira. Pictures of its wrongly-named Inverted Well are everywhere in the internet. I pride myself of knowing my own country very well. I studied tourism and history and I have visited places no-one even knows about. However, this place had been a private property until after I left for the US and as such it had never been publicized. It was finally opened to the public in 1996 and it has become the fodder for many stories and fantasies. It is said (I couldn’t confirm it) that the Masons and the Rosicrucian still hold their secret meetings and rituals onsite.

This magical place is housed halfway up the Serra (mountain) and other than the turrets of the main house you cannot see it from the road. Like most properties in the area, Quinta da Regaleira is protected by tall stone walls. The main palace is amazing. I was drooling over the intricate wood-sculptured ceilings of the house (there aren’t two with the same design), the neo-manueline style of its architecture, the many towers, even a small lab reminiscent of classic literature. However, you quickly forget the house once you start your walk through the massive forested property.

Qt da Regaleira

I can almost guarantee that this is where all the fauns, fairies and other magical creatures came to live in as progress made them homeless around the country. The whole garden –a totally inadequate word for it – rises upwards. If you don’t like to walk and/or climb do not visit this place. You can’t avoid it. There are very few flat surfaces in the property. It would take me pages to describe the whole place because it is loaded with buildings and features that bespeak of wondrous things. There are lakes galore, caves, wells, towers and turrets, fountains and some statuary. I made friends with a few gods from mythology along the way.

Of course, the queen of the ball is the famous Inverted Well. This is actually a misnomer. There is indeed an inverted well but because of its much humbler characteristics it hasn’t made its way to Internet fame as yet. The so called Inverted Well of cyber-fame is actually called the Initiates’ Well (Poço Iniciático), a subterranean tower that sinks almost 100 feet into the earth.  A spiral staircase winds down and around it and its walls are punctured here and there with empty niches (ritual altars?) to the bottom, a beautiful mosaic floor that opens up into a dark (and I mean dark) maze of tunnels, one of which ends on a small lake. Here you have the rare opportunity of walking on water (not really. It just looks that way). When you stand on the bottom of the well and look up, you know you just left reality and entered some other realm.

Poço dos Iniciados                             On the bottom

I spent the whole day at the Quinta and I still didn’t see all I wanted to explore. I wanted to sit on a rock under the shade of the beautiful forest and write. I thought maybe I could buy a tent and just live on the grounds but I was told I wouldn’t be allowed. Too bad. Everyone should be able to experience the enchantment at least once in a lifetime. For now, I carry the magic with me, like a little pocket muse until such time that I can return.

View from the bottom