Recent Reading by Wendy - The Missing Clue - April 2018

I have always been exasperated by novels where the heroine (usually the heroine but not always) steps into a darkened room, a hidden passage etc., actions that scream out that they are not the sensible or safe thing to do. So when the blurb on the back of Cass Green’s In a Cottage, in a Wood read, ‘When Neve arrives alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister looking bungalow with bars across the windows…’you might think that I would not pick it up but for whatever reason I did and thoroughly enjoyed it. Cass Green is an English writer and is usually regarded as part of the Grip Lit group of writers, not usually my cup of tea, but this book a good old fashioned thriller with a very interesting and unexpected twist.

After a twelve-year gap Margaret Maron came back to Lt. Sigrid Harald in Take Out, just released in mass market ($10.49). Sigrid Harald had not completely disappeared as she was seen in a couple of the Judge Deborah Knott novels, including Three Day Town and the The Buzzard Table, when Sigrid and her mother are visiting family in North Carolina. The Judge and the Lieutenant are cousins. Take Out set in New York deals with the poisoning of two men, one of whom was homeless, on a park bench. Although I don’t remember where I read it or maybe heard it, I think this is the end of the Sigrid Harald series just as Long Upon the Land was the last Deborah Knott novel, there is a sense in both of them of I’s being dotted and t’s being crossed, If you have not read either of these series they are well worth a try.

Lynda La Plante has written a new series starting with Tennison, which is a prequel to the Jane Tennison/Prime Suspect series. Set in the early 1970s Jane Tennison has just graduated from the Metropolitan Police Academy and is at her first posting in Hackney. The four titles in the series are being published over the space of the next few months. Tennison is in stock and will be followed in short order by Hidden Killers, Good Friday and Murder Mile.

I must admit that to call After the Snow a mystery is stretching it more than a bit. Susannah Constantine’s novel set in 1969 may have some mysteries in it but so far none of them have involved the staples of the mystery novel. I am not sure why I ordered it, perhaps I was carried away by the comment from Elton John on the front cover “A modern day Nancy Mitford” whatever the reason we have it in stock and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A perfect book to get you through these less than perfect “Spring” days.

Gail Bowen has a new book out. Sleuth is not part of her Joanna Kilbourn series but is a non-fiction guide to mystery writing (in stock TP $18.95). The various chapters lay out the nuts and bolts of constructing a mystery novel, Setting, Characterization, Plot etc. But I think that probably the most important piece of advice to the aspiring writer is in the third chapter called Prewriting Your Mystery. Bowen describes how important it is to use the interstices of your daily life, no matter how short, to think about and plan the story you want to write, so that when you do have the time to sit down to write you already have a good idea of what you want to say. I think that many of our customers if pressed would admit to having or have had an idea for a mystery novel. This book might be just the thing to get on with it. The 18th Joanne Kilbourne novel, A Darkness of the Heart, will be released in hardcover ($32) in August. The 17th novel, The Winners Circle will be available in trade paper ($18) in July.

Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal, (in stock, trade paper $24.00), tells the story of British M.P. James Whitehouse whose own life and that of his wife, Sophie, descends into chaos and newspaper headlines after he confesses an affair to his wife. This is just the first step in what becomes a major scandal with James ending up being arrested for rape and standing trial at the Old Bailey. The book draws the reader in with the wonderful evocations of Oxford University, Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and Brighton at the Annual political party convention time. The novel certainly hits many chords in this era of #MeToo, but there is also an underlying plot of something that happened while James and some of his political associates were at Oxford University. Will both these events the present and the past end up being papered over.

On a lighter note Andrew Cartmel’s first title in the Vinyl Detective series, Written in Dead Wax, has just been released in mass market paperback (in stock $10.99). Cartmel’s main character is an avid and extremely knowledgeable collector of vinyl records. As such his expertise is often called upon to track down various rare and often valuable records. This series is extremely enjoyable with an interesting and quirky cast of characters. The third title in the series, Victory Disc, is due to be released in trade paper on May 8th ($16.95).


New and Forthcoming Books by Wendy - The Missing Clue - December 2017

I’ve just finished reading Elizabeth Wilson’s She Died Young (TP, $20.50). Set in 1956 much of the plot revolves around Hungarian student refugees who were based in Oxford. Some of them were attending classes at Oxford while others were waiting to go on to universities in other countries, including Canada. Elizabeth Wilson has written other standalone novels but this one seems to be set up as the first in a series. The two main characters are policeman DCI Jack McGovern and journalist Gerry Blackstone. I really enjoyed this book.

Reading She Died Young, reminded me of a book that I read back in January, Sara Sheridan’s Brighton Belle (TP, $16.95). That novel was set in Brighton in 1951, the main character Mirabelle Bevan, had formerly been a member of the British secret service. The second title in the series, London Calling, is being published in January (TP, $17.95). This time Mirabelle and her friend Vesta investigate the disappearance of debutante Rose Bellamy Gore, from a seedy Soho night club.

Both these books presented a very realistic description of postwar England and seem well rooted in the period with references various political and news events.

Minette Walters has set her first novel in ten years in quite a different period. The plot of The Last Hours, revolves around the arrival of the Black Death in the Dorset village of Melcombe in 1348. This is quite a departure from the author of The Scold’s Bridle. It is being published in April of 2018 (TP, $24.99).

Wendy's Pick - Bumsted Picks of 2017 - The Missing Clue - December 2017

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

(TP, $22.99, order here)

My book of the year is Plum Sykes, Party Girls Die in Pearls. This is a fun read. Set in the 1980s the plot centres around a disparate pair of students Ursula Flowerbottom, a studious girl from rural England and Nancy Feingold, an American exchange student from Saddle River, New Jersey. Neither of whom are really au fait with the lifestyle and expectations of the group of wealthy and/or aristocratic students with whom they are mixing. Sykes adds a few footnotes to inform readers who do not remember that far back e.g. comparison of outfit to one Sue Ellen might wear, Sue Ellen Ewing from the prime-time soap Dallas, which was the epitome of 80s glamour.

As Seen on TV (sort of) by Wendy -The Missing Clue - August 2017

While Sian and her wonderful new daughter Penelope have been visiting, Sian introduced me to a British quiz show called Pointless. Don’t ask me what the app is that gets this because, honestly, I have no idea (editors note: it’s called Filmon Television). I mention Pointless because last week’s celebrity round featured some mystery writers, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid and Tony Parsons. This gave me a hook for this month’s piece.

Mark Billingham was wearing a very country and western outfit and it seems that he is part of a country and western group, as well as being a standup comic in his spare time. His main series is the Tom Thorne series, the 14th title in the series Love Like Blood (trade paper $22.99) will be in the store on August 15th. We also have a spin off from the main series, featuring D.I. Tanner, Die of Shame, (trade paper $15.99).

Val McDermid is a major force in the British crime fiction scene, in addition to her own writing she was the founder of the Harrogate Mystery Conference, which has become one of the pre-eminent conferences in the United Kingdom. The conference has a number of awards including the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award. The winner receives £3000 and a small hand-carved oak beer cask carved by one of Britain's last surviving coopers. Old Peculiar is Theakstons most popular beer. McDermid’s next new title to be published in Canada is Insidious Intent, the 10th Carol Jordan and Tony Hill title which the will be published in December in hard cover. December also sees the publication of the trade paper of the 4th Karen Pirie title Out of Bounds ($24.95) She does have two anthologies coming this fall, Bloody Scotland, is a collection of stories by major Scotish crime writers; the stories are set between the Iron Age and the present day. Murder on Christmas Eve, is a collection of Christmas stories by writers from the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, we have not yet found a North American distributor for either of these titles but we are working on it.

Tony Parsons writes the Max Wolfe series this is a newer much shorter series. The main character Max Wolfe is a London police detective and as a single father adds a different dimension to the stories. The first novel in the series was The Murder Bag, published in 2014. The fourth title Die Last is arriving imminently. It is based on a relevant topic of people smuggling.

A few other new books which are good summer reads, Connie Willis, Crosstalk, (tp $24), M.C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin, Pushing Up Daisies (mm $10.99) Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (mm$12.99) which was recently a TV series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, we also have Moriarty’s newest title The Husband’s Secret (mm$12.99). This is also a good time to check out our used section as we have some great used titles at the moment. A good way of finding a new author or filling in gaps in existing series. Feel free to ask for recommendations based on what we have in stock.

The Missing Clue - April 2017 - Spring and Summer Reading Picks by Wendy

With the weather finally perking up a little, my thoughts gravitated towards summer and summer reading. This was in part due to the book that I was reading, Plum Sykes’ Party Girls Die in Pearls. This is Plum Sykes first mystery, launching the ‘Oxford Girl Mystery’ series although she has written a couple of other novels and writes regularly for Vogue magazine. The novel is set in Oxford in the late 1980s. The two main characters, Ursula Flowerbutton and American Nancy Feingold. Both are first year students from somewhat non-traditional backgrounds. It was a really fun read, and for those readers not familiar with 1980s clothing and popular culture the author provides footnotes explaining the reference, I am old enough not to need an explanation of references to various television shows like Dynasty. The book is due for release on May 9th in trade paperback just in time for a good Victoria Day weekend read.

Christina Kovac’s first novel is called The Cutaway. The novel is set in Washington D.C. a place that is probably higher in people’s consciousness these days. The plot revolves around the disappearance of a young female lawyer, she walks out of a fashionable D.C. restaurant and is never seen again. This disappearance catches the attention of a female news producer, Virginia Knightly, at a D.C. television station. Knightly becomes involved in the investigation when it seems that the authorities are not taking it seriously enough. Christine Kovacs was herself a TV journalist who worked on a number of political news shows including Meet the Press. A most enjoyable read with a very believable setting.

Sara Sheridan is a Scottish writer who has written many novels, including a series whose main character is Mirabelle Bevan. The first novel Brighton Belle was originally published in the UK in 2012 but was just released in North America in January of this year. Mirabelle Bevan had worked for British Intelligence during WWII now in 1951 she is living in Brighton, working as a secretary to debt collector, and mourning the death of her wartime boss and lover. When her boss is sick she becomes involved in a routine inquiry but as they say the plot soon thickens and nothing is what it seems. Book #2 in the series, London Calling, was just released in hardcover and is available to order.

Sally Andrew‘s first mystery Recipes for Love and Murder was published in 2015 and is now available in trade paperback. Set in Ladysmith, in the South-eastern part of South Africa, Andrew’s main character Tannie Maria writes the agony aunt column for the local newspaper. This advice column is slightly different as she always includes a recipe. The second novel in the series, The Satanic Mechanic, has just been released, also in trade paperback. It includes the same characters as the previous title. These books present a slightly harsher description of life in Southern Africa, than Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana series. Andrew herself lives in South Africa and has been an environmental and social activist, themes which are very clear in her books. These are not titles to read when you are hungry.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is the first in a new series by Max Wirestone, available in store in trade paperback. Set in present day California Dahlia is an un/underemployed 20 something. Being chronically short of money she agrees to act as a private detective for a friend of a friend who is trying to recover a stolen icon in a video game. I enjoyed the character and the plot but I did find the intricacies of online gaming somewhat beyond me. But it is an enjoyable read. Book #2 in the series, The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss, was just released in trade paperback and is available to order.

My book of the year for 2016, Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed, will be released in the mass market size on April 25th, ($12.50). Highly recommended. If I haven’t sold you a copy yet and you can’t wait for the mass market, we still have the trade paperback in stock. Also highly recommended Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, is now in a smaller size ($15.99). If you missed either of these the first-time round, great titles to slip into a beach bag or take on a plane.

The Missing Clue - February 2017 - Murder and Publishing by Wendy

One of the advantages of owning a book store is getting what are called ARCs (Advanced Readers Copies) In box that recently arrived there was a copy of a new book by Judith Flanders. One of my favorite books of 2016 was her A Murder of Magpies, the first title in a series set in a small publishing house based in London. Judith Flanders was born in England but grew up in Montreal. After university, she worked for 17 years as an editor in various UK publishing houses. Before venturing into fiction, she wrote a number of nonfiction books, including the 2011, The Invention of Murder. The subtitle of which was ‘How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Invented Modern Crime’. The main character in A Murder of Magpies, Sam Clair, is an editor. The character is believable and obviously the setting rings true. There are two further titles in the series, A Bed of Scorpions, (tp $22.99 due February 7th) and A Cast of Vultures (hc $36.99 due February 21st). If I have not tried to sell you A Murder of Magpies please think of trying it and if I have sold it to you A Bed of Scorpions is arriving imminently.

I went on to think about other titles that were set in publishing. P.D. James set Original Sin in the headquarters of the Peverell Press an old established publishing house. The offices are housed in a nineteenth century mock Venetian palace which is set on the banks of the River Thames in Wapping, London. Adam Dalgliesh works his usual magic to ferret out the murderer. We have a copy in used mass market (at time of press).

Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) also ventured into publishing in the second Cormoran Strike novel, Silkworm. It soon becomes clear to Cormoran Strike that what starts off as a bread and butter missing persons case, (missing author, worried wife, but he has done this before), is not straightforward. The author Owen Quine has just submitted a manuscript to his publishers which is full of less than charitable, easily recognizable portraits of people he knows. The publication of which is bound to cause mayhem if not worse. The discovery of Quine’s body leads Cormoran Strike into another murder investigation. I have really liked this series and hope that there will be another title soon. There have been rumours that one is coming but no definite date or title yet. We have the mass market in new in stock.

Another British series set in a publishing house is written by Julie Kaewert. The Plumtree Press is another well-established publishing house based in London. In Unsolicited, the first title in the series, the press is struggling to stay afloat but is about to publish what seems to be going to be a worldwide blockbuster. Unfortunately, the author goes missing with the last five chapters and a critic previewing the novel suggests that this is not fiction at all...It is left to Alex Plumtree, the present head of the company to sort it all out. There are six titles in this series and we have book #4 Untitled in new mass market and book #5 Unsigned in new and used mass market.

The main character in Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction, (tp$17) is Jo Donovan a literary agent. Donovan is the senior partner is a prestigious New York literary agency as well as the widow of a famous American writer, Hugo Donovan. A disgruntled would be author begins to stalk Jo and then some of her authors, when added to an about to be published tell all, unauthorized biography of her dead husband and jealousies and rivalries in the company, our heroine has her hands full. We have A Dangerous Fiction in stock in new trade paperback.

Set in California, Marlys Millhiser’s main character is literary agent Charlie Green. Not all the titles in this series are involved with authors or publishing but they do provide a backdrop to the busy detecting life of this amateur sleuth mom. We have book #2, Death of the Office Witch, and book #3, Murder in a Hot Flash, in used mass market.

The Missing Clue - February 2017 - Bits and Bobs by Wendy

Feeling pretty excited as I have just received a packing slip that shows that Deborah Crombie’s new novel, The Garden of Lamentation, is about to be shipped. This is the 17th title in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series. It has been too long (almost three years) since the previously published title in this series, To Dwell in Darkness. This remains one of my favourite series. We’ve got books 1,2, 6-10, 12, 14, and 15 in stock in a combination of new and used, mass market and trade paperback.

It is sometimes interesting how publishing works. Suddenly there will be a number of new books with the same theme/ background. Just recently we have received two new books by different authors set in Scotish bookshops. Shelton Paige’s, The Cracked Spine, (mm $10.99) is set in Edinburgh and is the first in a new series by this author. Molly Macrae has left the Haunted Yarn Shop and her new series is called Highland Bookshop Mystery. The first title is Plaid and Plagiarism (hc$34.95). We’ve got both in stock.

The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of the Year - Wendy's Pick

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
(TP, $22.99, order here)

Susie Steiner was a reporter for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Missing, Presumed is her first mystery novel. The novel is set in present day Cambridge and revolves around the disappearance of graduate student, Edith Hind. The main character Detective Sargent Manon Bradshaw is one of the officers involved in the search. There are many twists and turns in this well written novel. While the disappearance and its ramifications and final resolution are front and centre, this is a police procedural and so other crimes are also investigated. As with most police procedurals there is an undercurrent of the internal politics of the department and the jostling for position among the officers. This is exacerbated in this book as the father of the missing woman is one of the Queen’s physicians with lots of influential friends.  A sequel, Persons Unknown, will be published in June 2017 (pre-order here) with Missing, Presumed itself is coming out in mass market in April (pre-order here).

Later....Discovering that some nameless person had had two picks, I also have another title. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble With Sheep and Goats. Set in London in the very hot Summer 1976, (and yes, I was there), it involves two 10-year-old girls trying to work out what happened to a woman who seems to have disappeared.

Once I started to read both titles I could not put them down so a couple of very late nights.



The Missing Clue - August 2016 - My Recent (Summer) Reading by Wendy

If you were a fan of Dorothy Cannell, I found a new series that reminded me of her characters and her settings. Murder at Honeychurch Hall, (tp $18.50), is the first in the series and the second title, Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall, will be available in October. The main character is a Kat Stanford is a presenter of a TV show but she is giving it up to open an antique shop with her widowed mother, however, unbeknownst to our heroine her mother has moved away from London and bought a somewhat ramshackle property in the West of England. Kat tracks her down and she and her mother are soon embroiled in various rural shenanigans involving the local nobility. The author is Hannah Dennison who previously wrote the Vicky Hill series.

I had not read any of Deanna Raybourn’s previous series but I really enjoyed the first in her new series, A Curious Beginning (tp$20). The series is set in Victorian England and the main character is a young woman called Veronica Speedwell, who is an entomologist specializing in butterflies. The story begins with the death of her aunts who have raised her since she was a baby. Returning from the funeral an attempt is made to kidnap her and she is rescued by a somewhat enigmatic German nobleman.  From there on the plot, as they say, thickens. Veronica is a very appealing heroine and I am looking forward to the second title due out next year. 

I know that Sian has written about Darcie Wilde’s, A Useful Woman, a couple of times. I finally got around to reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was reticent to read it because I have since my teens been a super fan of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels all of which I have read. In fact all of which I own and had just finished a rereading.

Susie Steiner is a writer for the Guardian newspaper and Missing, Presumed is her first mystery novel. A graduate student has disappeared from the flat that she shares with her boyfriend. As the daughter of one of the Queen’s doctors, whose parents have many connections to the government of the day, the local police are from the get go under enormous pressure to find out what happened.  The plot has many twists and turns, and it is a very satisfying read.  The main police character is D.S Manon Bradshaw and I hope that this will be the beginning of a series.

Quintin Jardine’s Bob Skinner series has been a perennial favourite of mine. The newest title in the series has recently arrived in the store, Private Investigations (tp$22.99). Skinner has now officially left the Scottish police force and does have a private investigators licence. Two seemingly unconnected events, a request by the brother of one of his previous lovers to help settle an insurance claim and a rear-ender in a mall car park coalesce and lead Skinner and the Scottish police force to a series of much larger crimes. The involvement of the police of course brings in the usual cast of characters. An excellent way to while away a summer afternoon and evening.

Summer is always a good time to try new authors and a good way of doing that is to check out the used section. Despite what the sign on the door, might have led you to believe we have bought a fairly substantial amount of books for our used section.  As a result we do have many series where we have almost complete runs of titles in a series. So please come and check them out.

The Missing Clue - June 2016 - My Recent Reading by Wendy

I have just finished reading, The Arc of the Swallow, the second title in S,J. Gazan’s Soren Marhauge series. Set in Copenhagen, this book as well as the first centres around the University of Copenhagen’s Science complex. The death of world famous biologist Kristian Storm, just when his findings that vaccination sometimes causes more problems than it solves in sub-saharan Africa are being discussed. The investigation into the death leads to conflict with the World Health Organization and Big Pharma. The death of Kristian Storm provokes dissension not only in academic circles but also within the Copenhagen Police Dept. Soren Marhauge is not enjoying his newly promoted position as Chief Superintendent as it involves too much paperwork and not enough detection. Professional disagreements with his deputy and personal disagreements with his partner Anna lead Soren to drastic action. I think this book will appeal to readers of Helene Tursten and Lisa Marklund as well as fans of mysteries set in the academy.

Susie Steiner, has worked for a number of British newspapers, most recently The Guardian. Missing, Presumed...is her first mystery novel. Edith Hind, a graduate student at Cambridge University is missing. Her disappearance, not discovered for almost 24 hours, is made even more complicated by two facts.  Her father is a surgeon to the Royal Family and a close friend of the Home Secretary, who in the UK is in charge of policing. Also the Cambridgeshire Police Force is still smarting from criticism of an earlier missing person case which went disastrously wrong.  I am generally ambivalent about novels which are divided into chapters which are headed by the names of the characters and present their perspective, as I sometimes find that this interrupts the flow of the story. However, in this case I did not find it a hindrance. I hope that we will continue to follow the career of the lead detective Manon Bradshaw.

Many of our customers know that it is my habit when heading off to an appointment, or sometimes home at the end of the day, to pick something off the used shelves to read. This past week it was a used copy of John Buchan’s Greenmantle that ended up in my bag. I first read John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, the first in the Richard Hannay series, as a set book when I was in the UK equivalent of Middle School. I subsequently read the other titles but Greenmantle became and remains my favourite. Reading it this time for the first time in a number of years it dawned on me how much of a romantic Buchan was. He believed in goodness and honour.  Of course having finished Greenmantle, I had to read the rest of the series, and yes I enjoyed all of them.  These books are what used to be called a really good yarn. A few of the concepts might upset some modern day readers, but no more than Dorothy Sayers or Ngaio Marsh.

The Missing Clue - April 2016 - Mysteries on TV by Wendy

Masterpiece Mystery

On Sunday, March 26th the second series of Grantchester will begin. There will be six episodes. The fifth book in the Grantchester series, Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation, is being published in June (trade paper, $22).

On Sunday, May 8th the last series based on Henning Mankell’s character, Kurt Wallander, will begin. Wallander: The Final Season will include material from the last Wallander novel, The Troubled Man. Mankell’s autobiography, Quicksand, was published in the UK this past February. No date yet on a North American edition.

Other programmes

Part II of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, will air on CBC on Monday, April 4th. N or M, which is part of the Tommy and Tuppence series, has also been made into a TV movie. Both these titles have been issued with TV tie-in covers and we have them in stock, but we also have used copies of earlier editions.

Joanne Fluke’s A Plum Pudding Murder and Peach Cobbler Murder were shown on Hallmark earlier this year, a channel we do not get. I did see The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder which was released in 2015 on W fairly recently. I thought that it was very well done so I am hoping to catch up with the others. Joanne Fluke’s 19th, Hannah Swensen mystery, Wedding Cake Murder, is in stock (hardcover, $28.95).

Kate Collins ‘Flower Shop Mysteries’ are also being made into TV movies. Brooke Shields plays the part of Abby Knight, in Mum’s the Word. The newest Kate Collins, Moss Hysteria, will be in the store in early April (mass market, $10.49).