What Maine Crime Writers Are Reading

Group Post: Here at MCW we talk a lot about what we’re writing, and recently, we posted about the books we’re giving as holiday gifts. This is our chance to talk about the books we’re reading now, or looking forward to reading. We’d love it if you would share the books you are reading, too.

Kate Flora: I’ve been reading books I have to read lately, for research, for friends, etc., so I am really looking forward to that week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when I curl up on the couch, do not go to my computer to write X-thousand words, and just read and read and read. There will likely be several new books as the packages are unwrapped, but on top of the list of books I’ve been saving for a quiet moment is A Stranger Here Below by Charles Fergus. I was on a panel with him at the most recent New England Crime Bake and was impressed. I was more impressed when I peeked inside and started reading. His writing is superb. Duty called, though, so the book has been put away until my reading week. Bought for the Christmas to New Year’s reading week, but read immediately, is Christmas Stories in the Tradition of Rod Serling by Richard Barre. Barrie is a write I knew years ago who writes brilliant noir-ish mysteries. These stories are brilliant and have the added bonus of introductions by writers we all know and love like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Harlen Coben. Get it. It’s a wonderful holiday treat.

KaitlynDunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: I read a lot, especially when the writing is going well. I’ll have read over 130 books in 2019 by the end of this month, up by about ten over last year’s total. I’m usually reading more than one at a time. On audiocassette (yes, cassette—I have a Walkman plugged into the dashboard of my Jeep) I’m currently listening to Elizabeth Peters’ Naked Once More, the last of her Jacqueline Kirby series. It usually takes me a few months of short drives to and from town to listen to entire book. In really cold weather, I have to remember to take the Walkman inside with me or it gets too cold to play at all. On days when I’ve forgotten to do that and really want to find out what happens next, I sometimes dig out my hardcover copy, purchased back when it was first published, and read the next chapter in print format! On my iPad, I’m reading one mystery, Triss Stein’s Brooklyn Legacies, and a biography, A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee. I’ve also been rereading, in mass market paperback format, the series of paranormal mysteries Tanya Huff wrote some years back, starting with Blood Price. I have the entire series on my keeper shelf but it’s a toss up whether I’ll read straight through them all or not. There are some pretty good books coming out at the end of December and in early January and they’ll be going to the top of my TBR pile.

Susan Vaughan: Like Kaitlyn/Kathy, I read a lot. Always I have more than one going at a time, one in print and one on my Kindle, which I use when I walk the treadmill. This month, I’m reading two more in print a little at a time, since they’re not novels. On the Kindle, I have The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick, a pseudonym of author Jayne Ann Krentz. This is a witty and intricate romantic mystery set in glamorous 1930’s Hollywood. The fascinating characters have dangerous secrets that intertwine and involve high-stakes suspense. I’m also enjoying the lack of technology, and how it adds to the suspense. My print novel is Michael Connelly’s The Late Show, the first installment in his new series featuring Detective Renee Ballard, a “complicated and driven detective fighting to prove herself in the LAPD’s toughest beat,” (The New York Times). Normally, cases caught by the midnight shift detectives would be passed to others the next day. But as the story begins, on that particular night, two cases grab Ballard, and she’s determined to see them through. This is a hard-hitting police procedural, but with Connelly’s skill and insight, also a very human tale with a fascinating heroine. As an author of romantic suspense, I often have male protagonists to portray as “guys,” so as I continue reading, I will observe how this talented male author has crafted this heroine. There are already two more in this series, so I expect to add them to my TBR list.

Dick Cass: I’ve been reading a very noir series set in Detroit by Steven Mack Jones. First in the series is August Snow, and a great gritty read which I’m gifting to my friend Tom who grew up in that city. Protagonist is a half-black, half-Mexican ex-cop who comes back to his inner-city neighborhood after winning a 12 million dollar settlement from the city. I’m also giving both Attica Locke novels: Bluebird, Bluebird, which won the 2018 Anthony and Edgar awards for Best Novel, and her followup, Heaven, My Home, second in an excellent series about a black Texas Ranger.

Sandra Neily: As I drive, I’ve been listening to Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. Yesterday I had to pull over and listen to her talk about the marsh over and over. That good! *(A murder mystery, a coming of age story, a celebration of nature, on New York Times best list for ages.)

I’ve been reading Peter Wohlleben’s, The Hidden Life of Trees . And while I thought I was paying special attention to them, visiting special tree friends and leaning on them, apparently I knew very little. Now I see more magic, more generosity, more drama … more life.  “There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet.” 

And also I’m rereading some chapters of What Happened. I think that same tree thing applies to  Hillary Rodham Clinton: perhaps we really did know very little.

“Donald Trump didn’t invent sexism, and its impact on our politics goes far beyond this one election. It’s like a planet that astronomers haven’t precisely located yet but know exists because they can see its impact on other planets’ orbits and gravities. Sexism exerts its pull on our politics and our society every day, in ways both subtle and crystal clear.”

“… women leaders around the world tend to rise higher in parliamentary systems, rather than presidential ones like ours. Prime ministers are chosen by their colleagues—people they’ve worked with day in and day out, who’ve seen firsthand their talents and competence. It’s a system designed to reward women’s skill at building relationships, which requires emotional labor.”

And whatever anyone thought of Hillary, we might think about this. To protest what the election brought us, “The Women’s March was the biggest single protest in American history.” 

John Clark is on a mix of YA dystopian/Science Fiction kick. Recent favorites include Gravemaidens / Kelly Coon, A River of Royal Blood / Amanda Joy, The Weight of A Soul / Elizabeth Tammi, The Ninth Floor / Liz Schulte, Eight Will Fall / Sarah Harian, Ride On / Gwen Cole, and Day Zero / Kelly DeVos. The book I’m drooling over is Katie McGarry’s Echos Between Us, due out on January 14th.

Charlene D’Avanzo is warming up with a couple of lovely cozies. I just finished a terrific read by my most excellent friend Connie Berry, “A Dream of Death”. Set on a remote Scottish island, the story features a Tartan Ball, a victim in the show with an arrow through her heart, a fancy antique little box, and amateur sleuth Kate Hamilton’s new love – a vacationing British detective. Katherine Hall Page’s latest Faith Fairchild mystery, “The Body in the Wake”, just appeared in my library and I snatched it right up. If you can believe it, this is number 25 in her “The Body In” series.

Maureen Milliken: I have trouble reading fiction when I’m writing, but that said, I just finished Paul Doiron’s Almost Midnight, because I got it for my brother for Christmas and I always like to read what I get people before I give it them.

My niece is getting NO CHILDREN, NO PETS, which was one of the first mysteries I read a as a kid.

I also found a vintage copy of one of the first mysteries I ever read, No Children, No Pets, by Marion Holland. I last read it in 1970, and it was written in 1956, so I’m reading it to make sure it holds up for my almost-9-year-old niece. It may not hold up physically, though. The pages are pretty much yellowed and coming out. It does, hold up, figuratively, surprisingly well given the era. She’s also getting Lost on a Mountain in Maine, by Donn Fendler and Joseph B. Egan, because every child in Maine (and adult!) should read it.

Donn Fendler and Paul Doiron chat at Books in Boothbay in 2016. (Maureen Milliken photo)

And I think as mystery writers, there’s a little bit of Lost on a Mountain in Maine in many of our books. I haven’t re-read it recently, so it’s not totally appropriate for this post, but I didn’t post about books I’m buying for gifts earlier this month because my family reads this blog. I’m guessing they’ll be too busy today to take a look before they get their gifts. And also, because all is connected in Maine, it gives me a chance to post my favorite photo of Fendler and Doiron chatting a couple years ago.

On the personal reading front, I just finished Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill and She Said, by New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. While both are about the same topic — Harvey Weinstein & Co. — they’re really different and both excellent in their own ways. Also, very good looks at how journalism is done for those who may not get it and think it’s all just made up.

I just finished The Pschopath Test by Jon Ronson and am immersed in A Descent Into Hell, by Kathryn Casey, about the murder of a young woman, Jennifer Cave, in Austin, Texas. I like true crime in general, but almost all of what I’m reading now has some connection to the book I’m writing. Stay tuned!

And for all of you who find your way here, a Christmas story, Angel’s Christmas Eve, for you:



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1 Response to What Maine Crime Writers Are Reading

  1. Sandra Neily says:

    Ohhh! Thank you, everyone, for the great reading lists! Much appreciated and such breathtaking diversity. Well, sums up our group. Best wishes.

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