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https://www.dallasnews.com/arts/books/2017/02/03/deborah-crombie-interview-mystery-garden-lamentations

EXCERPT:

By Joyce Sáenz Harris

Deborah Crombie, a native Texan who lives in McKinney, is the author of the popular Kincaid-James mystery series, which regularly appears on The New York Times‘ best-seller lists. The first novel was 1993’s A Share in Death; the new Kincaid-James novel, Garden of Lamentations, is the 17th in the series and will be published Feb. 7 by William Morrow.

Crombie’s protagonists, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his former investigative partner, now wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, are senior officers at the Metropolitan Police, a.k.a. Scotland Yard. Besides their police work, the two detectives also share a home, friends, several cats and dogs, and a blended family of three children.

All of Crombie’s novels take place in London and the United Kingdom, where she lived for a time. She spends part of each year there to absorb atmosphere, do research and begin drafting the next book in her series.

Deborah Crombie 2017

Deborah Crombie at home in McKinney. PHOTO: Rex Curry, Dallas Morning News

Crombie regularly blogs with seven other women writers of crime fiction at jungleredwriters.com. She is an avid reader who enjoys “good old-fashioned mysteries” more than psychological suspense. She also has mastered the art of brewing a perfect cup of tea.

FGarden of Lamentationsans can hear her speak Feb. 7 at Barnes & Noble on Northwest Highway as she gears up for a multicity book tour. She spoke with us first, from her historic Craftsman cottage, which she shares with with a husband, three cats and “two very demanding German shepherds.”

While your novels are police procedurals, they are very much about the characters’ personal and work relationships, as well. Ever since your protagonists got romantically involved and then married, the story arc has gotten more complex. Did you always know Gemma and Duncan would end up together?

No, I didn’t know that when I started out. One of the interesting things in the series has been the decision to marry Duncan and Gemma, because it was such a big thing. I had a lot of soul-searching, a lot of people saying, “Oh, you’ll kill the series if you have them get married.” But I thought their [married] relationship was going to be interesting, and it was going to get more complicated.

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https://www.dallasnews.com/arts/books/2017/02/03/deborah-crombie-interview-mystery-garden-lamentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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http://www.dallasnews.com/arts/books/2016/10/07/victorian-london-never-looked-creepier-steven-prices-mesmerizing-gaslight

By Gaslight
Steven Price 
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  $28)

By Joyce Sáenz Harris
Special Contributor

Steven Price, author of "By Gaslight."<p><span>Stephanie Rae Hull</span><br></p><p></p>    Canadian poet Steven Price’s second novel, By Gaslight, is a dark Victorian thriller that will put paid to such fancies. If you loved big, atmospheric period mysteries such as Charles Palliser’s The Quincunx or Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, here is a novel with similar hypnotic qualities. By Gaslight draws in and magically transports the reader, as if by time machine, to another world.

Price mesmerizingly blends history and imagination in a monster of a novel – some 750 pages – filled with the lurid, Dickensian realities of a great world capital. This is a London where you might not want to linger long, even with Holmes beside you. Here is a city celebrating itself at the height of its glittering power, even as it suffocates on filthy air, drowns in fetid water and wallows in the grimmest depravities.

By Gaslight begins with William Pinkerton, elder son of famed Scottish-American detective Allan Pinkerton, threading his way through London’s slums to find a friend, one of his late father’s old agency operatives. He wants to ask Sally Porter, an ancient African-American woman, about two local criminals, Edward Shade and Charlotte Reckitt. Sally says she doesn’t know Charlotte, and as for Shade, she advises: “There ain’t no catchin a ghost, Billy.”

Meanwhile, a dapper businessman named Adam Foole arrives in Liverpool aboard the RMS Aurania. Foole is not quite what he appears, but “he had lived among the very poor and the very rich both and he knew which one he preferred.” On the Aurania, Foole meets a “burly doctor from Edinburgh,” an affable and well-read Scotsman who is interested in spiritualism and thinks detective stories would be much improved if they featured a truly intelligent detective.

“Foole had smiled at the simplicity of it but the doctor only chuckled and said Deduction, my good man, deduction.” The unnamed doctor, of course, is Doyle, who published his first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887.

Like William Pinkerton, Foole heads to London in search of Charlotte Reckitt. But for him, Charlotte is not a fleeing perp; she is his lost love, the one who got away. The two of them are veterans of the flash life, operating in the shadows and pulling off nonviolent crimes in order to live well above their modest means. Though they’ve been apart for years, a letter now has called him back to her.

When Foole learns of Pinkerton’s quest for Charlotte, the men briefly become uneasy allies – after all, both want answers about her, albeit for very different reasons. Clues emerge with the investment of much shoe leather and risk-taking as the two men venture into some truly seamy parts of London.

William Pinkerton works his case with the aid of Scotland Yard, where he encounters the Met’s own Holmes in the person of a certain Dr. Breck, who has a “long thin figure [and] grey eyes” and an uncanny gift for deduction. By the end of By Gaslight, Pinkerton also has developed an eerie knack of sussing out the truth. Whether justice lies where truth does is, he discovers, another matter entirely.

Price drives his narrative at a leisurely yet relentless pace, segueing with ease to the characters’ recent past, and even further back to the American Civil War, as more and more secrets are uncovered. Every so often, he casually drops a dazzling twist for a big reveal that leads only to more questions.

Price’s writing style, with idiosyncratic punctuation eschewing quotation marks and most commas, is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. There are lines that you could swear came from Hemingway, such as: “But his brother also was a man of great physical courage and together they had ridden several times on the outlaw trail with loaded rifles and there was no man William would rather have at his back.”

In his acknowledgments, the author writes: “There are many excellent nonfiction accounts of the early Pinkerton Agency, the Civil War and the lives of criminals in Victorian London. This is not one of them.” That’s true, but By Gaslight nevertheless will make you feel as if you really had explored London in 1885.

It’s a deeply unsettling, fascinating place to visit. You probably wouldn’t want to live there.

Joyce Sáenz Harris is a Dallas freelance writer.

 

 

STILETTOhttp://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/books/20160617-fantasy-stiletto-by-daniel-omalley.ece

By JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS
Special Contributor
Published: 17 June 2016 06:35 PM

In early 2012, Daniel O’Malley’s debut novel, The Rook, was published to heady reviews, and enchanted fans immediately demanded a sequel. Fifty-three months later — not that we’ve been counting, or anything — we finally have Stiletto, a worthy successor to O’Malley’s original tale.

“Original” was the word for The Rook, a novel that defied easy description. Equal parts mystery, comedy, spy drama and supernatural fantasy yarn, it introduced heroine Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas as a seemingly shy, ordinary Briton who is, in fact, a ranking official on Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service.

Myfanwy is a Rook, an operations executive of the Court, which administers the Checquy Group, sort of MI5 and MI6 rolled together with Torchwood.

The Checquy is a super-powered, black-ops government agency dedicated to fighting Great Britain’s supernatural enemies, of whom there are many. The most formidable of these foes are the Grafters, a despised Belgian army of superhuman monsters and the Checquy’s worst nemesis throughout history.

In Stiletto, something entirely unexpected has happened: The Checquy and the Grafters have declared an uneasy truce, and a formal peace agreement is being brokered in London. This masterstroke is engineered by Rook Thomas and Graaf Ernst van Suchtlen, the wily, centuries-old patriarch of the Broederschap (as the Grafters call themselves). The big question in Stiletto is: Can sworn enemies become allies without spilling oceans of blood along the way?

Some readers may be disappointed that Myfanwy plays more of a supporting role, albeit an essential one, in Stiletto. But O’Malley’s pivot opens up his universe with a zest that demonstrates his mastery of it, plunging us into the hearts, minds and intrigues of two engaging new protagonists.

One is Felicity Clements, a feisty urban-assault warrior for the Checquy. The other is Odette Liliefeld, the five-times-great-granddaughter and protégée of Graaf van Suchtlen. Both regard Rook Thomas with respect — deservedly so, as she possesses truly fearsome supernatural powers.

Unfortunately, the two young women dislike each other, with mistrust turning to loathing when Felicity is assigned to protect Odette during the peace conference. Meanwhile, acts of supernatural terrorism keep breaking out in London and around the U.K., casting suspicion on both sides as their delicate diplomacy is endangered by a mysterious gang of Antagonists. If the peace process breaks down, both the Checquy and the Grafters know the resulting war will bring destruction so catastrophic that even the average Muggle might be forced to notice it.

Having encountered the Grafters in The Rook, we know that mere mention of them is enough to make a Checquy agent turn pale. Grafters are Frankenstein monsters, so chemically and surgically altered that the Checquy regards them as barely human. Odette, at 23, has retractable bone-spur stilettos implanted in her wrists, and she sleeps in a bathtub full of life-extending goop that slows her metabolism and heals her numerous surgical upgrades. As O’Malley puts it: “Everything about her was bespoke, specially made. Her whole body was couture.”

In Stiletto, the Grafters view the Checquy as equally weird and scary, if not more so. After all, Rook Thomas and her cohort possess inborn supernatural powers, whereas the Grafters’ peculiar abilities are acquired through their scientific, medical and alchemic skills. But as we get to know Odette, her little brother Alessio and their doughty great-grandfather, it becomes apparent that perhaps these mortal enemies are not so unalike after all.

O’Malley faced a classic sophomore challenge with Stiletto: How could he pull off a sequel that would satisfy his eager following of Rook fans? Whenever readers are subject to delayed gratification from a favorite storyteller, expectations are bound to be insanely high. Moreover, there’s no recapturing the delicious element of surprise at discovering something fresh and inventive, as happens in the reading of a writer’s first, unexpectedly wonderful book.

However, O’Malley works his magic in adroit new ways, recalling all the legerdemain that delighted us the first time around. Stiletto is laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally bawdy and paced like a spy thriller replete with chases, betrayals and tragedies. There is slime, there is heartbreak, and there are wardrobe malfunctions. We even get allusions to E. Nesbit’s classic fantasy The Enchanted Castle and to Sherlock Holmes’ villainous archenemy, Professor Moriarty. Fear not, dear reader: Daniel O’Malley’s in charge, and the Checquy Files are in masterful hands.

Joyce Sáenz Harris is a Dallas freelance writer.

Stiletto
Daniel O’Malley
(Little, Brown, $26)

http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/books/20151219-anthology-the-big-book-of-sherlock-holmes-stories-edited-by-otto-penzler.ece

Big Book of SherlockThe Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories
Edited by Otto Penzler
(Vintage Crime/ Black Lizard, $25)

By JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS
Special Contributor
Published: 19 December 2015 08:18 AM

Almost from his first appearance in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes inspired readers to try writing new adventures for him.

Some of these efforts were pastiches, faux Sherlockian tales written in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s energetic storytelling style. Others were parodies that played Holmes and his faithful partner, Dr. John H. Watson, for in-jokey laughs.

New York mystery bookseller and editor Otto Penzler, 73, is arguably the greatest mystery anthologist working, with more than 50 collections to his credit. No mystery fan’s library is complete without his 1977 Edgar Award winner, The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection. Until now, however, Penzler had never compiled a collection of Sherlock Holmes-related tales.

The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (and at 780 pages, it really is big) required Penzler to sort through more than a century’s worth of the best Sherlockian fan fiction and winnow it down to 83 pieces. Since Holmes’ fans are legion, the number of tales paying tribute to him — originally scattered through a dozen decades of vintage magazines, obscure chapbooks and previous story collections — must now be in the hundreds, if not the thousands. That’s amazing, considering that the Canon, as Doyle’s Sherlock output is reverently known, consists only of the four original Holmes novels and 56 short stories.

The Big Book brings together stories from Sherlock-addicted writers from Britain, the U.S. and even Russia, including many who are not primarily known as mystery writers. The anthology includes names as famous and diverse as Kingsley Amis, Poul Anderson, J.M. Barrie, Anthony Burgess, Neil Gaiman, O. Henry, Laurie R. King, A.A. Milne, Anne Perry, Carolyn Wells and P.G. Wodehouse.

I was particularly intrigued by “The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted,” rumored to be a long-lost Sherlock Holmes story when it turned up in a box of Doyle family documents in the early 1940s. But, although Cosmopolitan magazine published the story in 1948 under Doyle’s name and with much hoopla, even his children were unsure of its provenance.

The true author finally was revealed to be Arthur Whitaker, an obscure British architect who had written the story and sent it to Doyle in 1911, hoping that it might be published as a collaborative effort. Doyle declined, sent Whitaker a check for 10 guineas and then stashed the manuscript away, unaware that he was setting up a literary whodunit that would not be solved for almost 40 years.

Penzler includes a couple of short pieces by Doyle: “The Field Bazaar,” written for a University of Edinburgh fundraiser in 1896, and “How Watson Learned the Trick,” a 503-word story created for the miniature library in Queen Mary’s dollhouse at Windsor Castle. You won’t, however, find Doyle’s extracanonical tales “The Lost Special” and “The Man With the Watches” in this volume, perhaps because the detective in those stories is never named — although he sounds very much like Holmes.

Penzler took great care in selecting The Big Book’s Sherlockian pastiches, making sure that his choices were extremely well-written and clever enough that they might have come from Doyle’s own hand. Many of the best ones are here, including Vincent Starrett’s “The Unique Hamlet,” David Stuart Davies’ “The Darlington Substitution Scandal,” Barry Day’s “The Case of the Curious Canary” and Stephen King’s “The Doctor’s Case.”

It is heartening to peruse The Big Book and see so many modern mystery writers — including Texas’ own Bill Crider — proving to be adept at the art of Sherlockian pastiche. It is not as easy as one might think to imitate Doyle’s style and to do it well; he too often is imitated very badly indeed.

But from 85-year-old Colin Dexter to 35-year-old Lyndsay Faye, these mystery writers have learned the trick. Sherlock-loving readers everywhere can sink happily into The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories and let themselves believe, just for a few hours, that a brand-new game is afoot.

Joyce Sáenz Harris is a freelance writer in Dallas. She has been a Sherlock Holmes fan ever since she read “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” at the age of 10.