Books, Books and More Books!

By Brenda Buchanan

Fall is now rushing into view.  When I gaze at my shelf of just-read and to-be-read books I wish there were more hours in the day.

Here we go . . .

My writing schedule keeps me in front of the keyboard until 9:30 or so on weeknights and many hours on weekend days. Honoring my writing routine is essential to staying in the flow, but reading others’ work is how I wind down before bed. While some of my MCW colleagues prefer to read anything but crime fiction when they’re immersed in a book of their own, I like to nourish myself with the familiar.

That said, I kicked off the summer with a novel that you won’t find shelved with mystery or crime fiction, Lisa Carey’s wonderful The Stolen Child. Set in 1959 on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, it’s a superb tale of women with mystical power living in a close community.

Lisa Carey lives in Maine and in a couple of weeks will be teaching a Maine Writers & Publisher’s Alliance class on the Anatomy of a Novel. I’ve not only signed up but plan to sit in the front row.

In October I’m going to Bouchercon in Toronto—the big Mama of mystery conventions. I’m thrilled to have been chosen to moderate a panel discussion called The Reporters: Enemies of the People or Champions of the Oppressed?

Five terrific crime writers who’ve done time in the journalistic trenches will discuss their fictional reporters and how their own real life experience informs their fiction.

In preparation for the panel I’m reading the panelists’ work. I inhaled Julia Dahl’s stunning Conviction, about a freelance reporter exposing the wrongful conviction of a man imprisoned for murdering his foster family when he was just a boy.

I’m in the middle of Gwen Florio’s Disgraced about a female soldier who returns from Afghanistan with secrets and emotional wounds.

Next up will be Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine, about a reporter’s efforts to expose the environmental devastation of a mining operation in a small town in Northern Finland. Then Christina Kovac’s The Cutaway about a television news producer investigating the disappearance of a Washington D.C. lawyer, and Rich Zahradnik’s Lights Out Summer, featuring a journalist working during the 1977 blackout in New York City.

I had the pleasure of reading MCW colleague Richard J. Cass’s second Elder Darrow book, In Solo Time, actually a prequel to his Maine Literary Award nominated Solo Act. I’m crazy about Dick’s protagonist, a recovering alcoholic who finds salvation owning a bar, and I love the Boston jazz scene he evokes with his smooth prose.  If you haven’t discovered Elder Darrow yet, it’s high time.

I suspect many readers of this blog are well-familiar with MCW alum Paul Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series. Knife Creek is the eighth book and boy-oh-boy does it deliver. Paul’s creepy characters burrow deep, and his handling of the deepening relationship between Mike Bowditch and Stacey Stevens is deft. If you love Maine, especially its outdoors, you’ll love this book.

I’m also doing some reading in preparation for New England Crime Bake in November. This year’s Guest of Honor is Lisa Gardner, who’s called the Queen of Suspense for a reason. I recently finished the latest in her Pierce Quincy/Rainie Conner series, Right Behind You. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

My current read is Stuart Neville’s mesmerizing Those We Left Behind, which kept me up late over Labor Day weekend. The Belfast (Ireland)-based crime writer builds characters like nobody else. Neville’s prose is powerful, the plot is riveting.

So what’s lined up for fall?

First, two visits with old friends imagined to life by MCW colleagues.

I’m a longtime fan of Thea Kozak, Kate Flora’s fascinating protagonist in a series I was afraid had ended. But now Death Warmed Over, Thea #8, is winking from the top of my TBR pile. I can’t wait.

Bruce Coffin’s follow up to his first John Byron novel, Beneath The Depths, is also beckoning. It’s such a pleasure to read a police procedural by someone who really knows the life of a detective. Bruce has that world nailed, and I look forward to exploring it with him again.

I plan to read Louise Penny’s newest Three Pines mystery—Glass Houses—before I head to Bouchercon, where she’ll be the Canadian Guest of Honour.

I downloaded Lisa Alber’s Path Into Darkness this week. Family complexity dropped into a crime novel that unfolds in Ireland, where I spent a bit of time last spring. How can I resist?  I’m also keen to read my pal Amy Reade’s newest, Highland Peril. Set on a loch in Scotland, I look forward to diving in.

Speaking of Scotland, I also plan to reward myself soon (for what? I’ll think of something) with Ann Cleeves’ Cold Earth, the seventh book in her Shetland series, which has me dreaming of a trip that remote archipelago.

What books did you enjoy this summer? What’s on top of your TBR pile? For the writers among you, does reading books in your genre feed your muse or overwhelm your creativity?

Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available through the Carina Press website, http:// and everywhere else e-books are sold.


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7 Responses to Books, Books and More Books!

  1. Sennebec says:

    You’re so right about the plethora of good reads. Two I’ve just read that are really good are This Above All by Lindsey Roth Culli: An extremely intelligent and captivating story about a girl who has the courage to follow a dream while questioning everything she’s been taught to believe. Anyone who has dealt with the hate, homophobia and rigidity of Christian fundamentalism will relate to what Piper goes through in this story. It’s one I would encourage teens (and adults) to read and for all libraries to add to their collection.
    And Sarah Dessen’s newest book, Once and For All All: If we’re a product of our experiences, Louana’s the perfect example. Raised by a mom who struggled early, but found a niche as a workaholic wedding planner, then stripped of her first real love by a horrific event, she has every reason to be cynical and filled with doubt about happily ever after. Enter Ambrose, attention challenged and annoying, but with qualities that only become apparent at the most important moments. This is a book abundantly filled with emotion and extremely likable characters-an extremely satisfying read.

  2. Thanks, John. I love your librarian’s eye for books that deserve a wide audience. These two sound terrific!

  3. Kate Cone says:

    Great post, Brenda! Whew, you shame me with the sheer number of books you read in such a short time. I’ll reward myself with more reading time. Stolen Child is on my list. And I hope to get to that Lisa Carey workshop (son’s soccer game might interfere). I’m reading non-genre now, because Lee Smith’s writing is so great. On Agate Hill is narrated by a sassy 14 year old on a plantation in NC right after the Civil War. Racism, reconstruction and poverty seen through Molly’s eyes. I tend to be in the middle of a lot of books, but did just finish Bruce Coffin’s Among the Shadows. Love his character. I’m also reading The Body in the Piazza by Katherine Hall Page, whose first book in the Faith Fairchild series I reviewed for MWPA when they had Maine in Print. She’s at least 15 books in and I’m still trying to get mine published. (such is life moment). This book is instructive for my cozy mystery in progress, as one of her characters has a cooking school, as my protagonist does. Thanks! Question: is Bouchercon a good event for unpublished writers?

    • Bouchercon is more of a reader/fan conference than a writer conference (e.g. Crime Bake), so it is good for unpublished writers in the sense it presents the opportunity to meet published writers (and sometimes editors or agents) but the programming is not intended to help unpublished (or published!) writers hone their craft. It is huge (1,000+ people) and lots of fun, but more of a scene than a conference from which you would return saying “wow, I learned a lot about writing there.”

  4. Sandra Neily says:

    Oh Brenda! Thanks for the fabulous reading list that this piece delivers. I copied it and then just saved all the names and authors. How do you do it? And you are so generous with sharing. Congrats on panel with the big folks. My best,

  5. MCWriTers says:

    Dang it, Brenda, you’ve now made my TBR pile precariously taller!

    I’ve been binge reading Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novels set in Denmark, which a delightfully quirky cast of characters and can’t put it down plots. Right now, I am not reading crime fiction, but The Happiness Project.


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