Here it is folks, my Christmas Stack.
My family and friends know what I like, and bless them, they come through year after year. I received a boodle of wonderful books this holiday season, perfect timing because with Covid surging again, I’ll likely be sticking close to home for the next month or so.
Midnight Hour is an anthology of twenty original stories by crime authors of color, including by legend-in-our time Frankie Y. Bailey, the marvelous Tracy Clark, David Heska Wanbli Weiden (whose 2020 novel Winter Counts was one of my top reads last year), Delia Pitts (author of the terrific Ross Agency Mystery Series), the ever-talented Gigi Pandian and my pal E.A. Aymar, among others. I need an entire day with no commitments to inhale this collection of short stories. Published by Crooked Lane and edited by Abby L. Vandiver, you can find it in local bookshops or here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/673674/midnight-hour-by-abby-l-vandiver/
S.A. Cosby is the author of 2021’s runaway bestseller Razorblade Tears, one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a loooong time. Last year he somehow also found time to edit Under The Thumb, an anthology of stories about police oppression. Featured writers include some I read regularly (New Hampshire friend Zakariah Johnson, short story master Joseph S. Walker, the always stunning Hilary Davidson) and others whose work I look forward to reading for the first time. The topic is worthy of close examination and I’m eager to see how the various authors address it. Order Under The Thumb from your favorite bookseller or find it here: https://www.rockandahardplacemag.com/under-the-thumb-stories-of-police-oppression
Dharma Kelleher’s Chaser is the first in her Jinx Ballou series featuring a transgender bounty hunter in Phoenix who co-splays Wonder Woman on the side. Jinx is smart, she’s fearless and she’s very cool. I took part in a virtual reading with Dharma in 2021 and have been a fan ever since. She has an incredible work ethic and talent to spare. For more info about Dharma and her books, go here: https://dharmakelleher.com/
If you’ve not seen Whitstable Pearl on Acorn TV you’re missing something special. Set in a small North Sea town not unlike places we know in Downeast Maine, the show is based on a series of cozy mysteries written by Julie Wassmer. The protagonist, named Pearl, is a single mother who runs a restaurant and bar. As a sideline, she works as a private detective in a town where she knows everyone and everyone knows not only her, but her family secrets. I usually read a book before I watch a film or video treatment of the material, but we bumped into WP last year when searching for comfort shows, and I got hooked. FMI about the series, go here: https://greatbritishbookclub.com/all-of-julie-wassmers-whitstable-pearl-mystery-books-in-order/ For more about the Acorn videos inspired by the books, go here: https://acorn.tv/whitstablepearl/
I’m a big fan of Thomas Perry, especially his Jane Whitefield books about a Seneca woman who helps people whose lives depend on their ability to disappear. I’m so happy to have found both The Left-Handed Twin and Vanishing Act under the tree and cannot wait to dive in. I find his books unputdownable, so this will be a weekend’s worth of Thomas Perry immersion for me.
Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club lit me up last year. A fresh take on crime fiction with voice, voice, voice, it delighted me from the first page to the last. Now I’m keen to read his second in the series, The Man Who Died Twice, featuring the same cast of characters on a new case. I understand Steven Spielberg is turning the first book into a film, so the whole world soon will become acquainted with Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, the murder club’s creative and hilarious members.
Thomas Perry and Richard Osman’s books likely are stocked at many local bookshops, including, in Portland https://www.printbookstore.com/ https://www.longfellowbooks.com and https://www.letterpress-books.com/ or if you prefer concierge service (mail and sometimes home delivery) on these cold winter days, https://kellysbookstogo.com/.)
New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Kent made her mark with historical fiction (The Heretic’s Daughter, The Traitor’s Wife) before turning her talent to crime writing. The Pledge is the third in her Betty Rhyzyk series featuring a lesbian cop raised in a family of cops in Brooklyn, NY. She moves to Dallas, where she finds herself something of a fish out of water, but crime is crime and she’s damn good at tackling difficult cases. Betty is vulnerable beneath a hard-edged surface, and her lover has the ability to penetrate the cop armor when it threatens Betty’s mental health. I loved the first two books in the series—The Dime and The Burn—and can’t wait for an unscheduled afternoon to immerse myself in another Betty adventure. For more about Kathleen and her books, go here: https://www.kathleenkent.com/
Last but not least, Santa brought me Soup of the Day, indulging my love of cooking and, well, of soup. There’s a suggested soup for each day of the year, meaning the pandemic supper rut we slipped into in 2021 soon will be no more. This weekend I’m planning to make Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham. Later in January I’ll test the recipes for Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Soup and Smoked Trout Chowder. When February rolls around I’ll try Cheddar-Cauliflower Soup , Thai Squash and Coconut Milk Soup and Classic French Potage. If you’re envious, I’m sure your local bookseller (see list above) can order a copy for you.
In the meantime, picture me curled up in a comfy chair, book in one hand, mug of soup in the other, a big smile on my face.
Enjoy reading through your book stacks, friends. Happy new year!
What did your stack include this holiday season? Let us know in the comments what books you received as gifts and cannot wait to read. While you’re at it, what’s your favorite soup on a cold winter’s day?
Brenda Buchanan brings years of experience as a journalist and a lawyer to her crime fiction. She has published three books featuring Joe Gale, a newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Her short story, Means, Motive and Opportunity, was included in the 2021 anthology Bloodroot: Best New England Crime Stores. FMI, go to http://brendabuchananwrites.com