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School Days

$19.96 (20% off the $24.95 list price)

by Robert B. Parker

Published by Putnam

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Some good things in this new installment of the adventures of Boston PI Spenser, chief among them that Susan Silverman isn't around to annoy.  Someone will one day explain to me, however, why Spenser is hit on by young, attractive women, i.e., Clint Eastwood propositioned by Gwyneth Paltrow,  I don't think so.

Spenser is hired by a blue-blooded, tough-as-nails Yankee who doesn't think that her grandson was involved in the school shooting that left several classmates and teachers dead, in spite of his confession and implication by another boy.  Naturally, Spenser's problems start with the law enforcement establishment who like closing the matter expeditiously and neatly.  But there are also bad guys happy with the outcome, so Spenser has to shed some blood before the denouement. 

Not one of the old man's best, but it's good being in Spenser's company again.  And Boston in fiction is always a delight.



The Big Over Easy:  A Nursery Crime


by Jasper Fforde

Published by Penguin Viking: London


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Jasper Fforde. The name should be enough to get the giggles going, at least for those of us who have been enthralled by the various (!) adventures of Thursday Next and her daft family in the alternate England of The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, et seq. 

And now for something a bit different: think Stephen Sondheim's take on the fairy tale in Into the Woods.  Fforde brings all the apparatus of the tough crime thriller to bear on the nursery rhyme.

Minor baronet Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III has been found dead—and in pieces—beneath a wall in a less salubrious area of town. The perpetrator would appear to be his ex-wife, but she has shot herself. Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his colleague Mary Mary are assigned to the case, and soon find themselves knee-deep in money-laundering, bullion smuggling and major problems with beanstalks.

This is terrific fun, and the writing is up to the difficult task of merging fairy tales with the gritty mean streets.



The Stranger House


by Reginald Hill

Published by HarperCollins: London


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Reginald Hill is the finest practitioner of his craft now alive. He is the master of the crime thriller, the English mystery, the procedural, or however you want to delineate the particular subset of this genre. Although the more traditional of the reviewers would have to say he defies the limitations of the genre (whatever they are). In The Stranger House, Hill engages in a favorite pastime of having history play with present lives. Sam Flood, an Australian on her way to Cambridge, comes to a small village in search of information about her grandmother who had been deported forty years earlier. She encounters Miguel, an historian who left a Spanish seminary to search for an ancestor last seen setting sail with the Armada in 1588. When Hill engages history in his work, he is seldom better.



Ticket to Ride


by Janet Neel

Published by Allison & Busby: London


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A new thriller by prize-winning author Janet Neel. When the shallow graves of eight men are discovered on a deserted beach all leads point to a people smuggling attempt gone horribly wrong. Jules Carlisle, newly qualified lawyer, is approached by the distressed brother of one of the deceased, and soon learns that she needs to know who to trust if she is to remain alive herself. Janet Neel is an interesting writer who, like France Fyfield, pushes the boundaries of our expectations in approaching the genre. Her earlier series featuring Detective Chief Inspector John McLeish and Foreign Services Officer Francesca Wilson takes the plots inward, into the characters playing their parts, and not expanding outward in search of solutions or clues. Answers are found at home, not abroad. Intriguing.



The Works Of Jonathan Valin

Featuring Harry Stoner, Cincinnati Private Eye


When the conversation turns to the subject of writers who wrote entertaining series and then vanished from the scene, Jonathan Valin would join a short list of terrific novelists who gave birth to private eyes who became our friends and then went away. My list would start with Rob Kantner (Ben Perkins) and move on to Stephen Greenleaf (John Marshall Tanner) and Arthur Lyons (Jacob Asch).

For that matter, if we went back far enough... but that's a reminiscence for another day. Jonathan Valin wrote eleven Harry Stoner novels between The Lime Pit (1980) and Missing (1995). He won a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Extenuating Circumstance and probably deserved one for Final Notice.

Stoner follows in the footsteps of the classic predecessors in the genre, but he doesn't weigh the proceedings down with morbid introspection. He has his ghosts, but he's very much a product of a middle American city where the sun seems to shine more often than not.

If novels in the Private Eye tradition are to your liking and there aren't many being written that remind you of the best of the genre, try one of Jonathan Valin's and see how it fits your fancy.

Find books by Jonathan Valin



The Spenser Companion


by Dennis Tallett

From Contemporary Books

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Reference books about mysteries may not be on the top of everyone's list when they want to wallow in something mysterious; in fact, many of the mystery references out there are a mystery to us. But some references can be very helpful, day in and day out, when it comes to expanding our knowledge or refreshing our memories about our favorite books or books as yet undiscovered.

First among these, of course, has to be The Spenser Companion by Dennis Tallett. We find it a very sad irony that, coincidentally with our announcing the closing of our store, we learned of Dennis's death from cancer. An English-born architect and photographer, he lived in southern California for most of his adult life. In the midst of his careers, he managed to write not only The Spenser Companion but The Ruth Rendell Companion, as well. How he managed all this, we'll never know.

We never met Dennis, but we spoke with him on the phone often, and he was a gentleman and a true friend. Obviously, we appreciated the special love we shared for Robert B. Parker's Spenser. And Dennis must have, as well, because he asked that all the remaining copies of The Spenser Companion be shipped to us after he died.

So what other book could we feature? Particularly as a memorial to Dennis and as a tribute to the amount of work and dedication he put into this volume.

We think you'll want to visit the site Bullets and Beer (go to our LINKS page) where the particular data on each of the Spenser novels was contributed by Dennis.