Our Library has a brand-new website, and all of our discussion group blogs have moved!    We will leave this WordPress blog up, so that readers may read our archived posts — but starting on March 1, 2014, you may find this book group in our new home: http://www.lislelibrary.org/murderamongfriends .

We will continue to have information on the group, and what we’re reading, on that website.   So please update your information if you have this particular site bookmarked or in a feed reader.    We look forward to seeing you visiting our new site!

"Love is Murder" Lovey Award Winners 2014 including Lisle author, Luisa Buehler

Luisa Buehler (on left) won the “Lovey” award for Best Short Story which was titled “Harry’s Loss of Grace”. Click on the picture to go to our catalog’s holdings for Luisa’s books!

Our sincere congratulations to Luisa, and to all the Lovey recipients. It was a warm and friendly night – both at the awards dinner and throughout this remarkable conference.  Click here for the Love is Murder link to the Lovey winners.

There were sessions for both aspiring and current writers, as well as readers & fans of all forms of mystery. The book discussion on Rebecca by Ghost of Honor, Daphne du Maurier was a ton of fun, and a wonderful chance to revisit Manderley again. I got to see Jamie Freveletti’s demo of aikido in which she kicked Naperville mystery author Shane Gericke’s butt (just kidding, Shane was a trooper & extremely nice to talk to)! The luncheon speaker related the story of how a perceptive comment made by his teenage son at a recent conference between Fidel Castro and representatives of the former Kennedy administration led to a luncheon invitiation from Castro to his son — and he got to go too. The Expert Panel track offered sessions on DNA, Polygraphs, Computer Forensics, and Guns, among other things. Other panels ran the gamut from romantic suspense, to red hot thrillers, editing, and publishing ebooks. There was definitely something for everyone!

And there will be even more for everyone next year when two of the Features Authors will be Anne Perry and Joyce Maynard (author of “Labor Day”; movie currently in theaters). Here’s the link out to Love is Murder‘s website: http://www.loveismurder.net/.

Murder Among Friends News Flash Author Appearance LogoAuthor Signing logo  Stashower_Peril

Our good friend Daniel Stashower, will be at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville tonight!! at 7:00 p.m. to talk about and sign his outstanding non-fiction work, The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, which curiously enough, reads like a mystery…

Very recently, it has also been nominated for an Edgar award and an Agatha award! This is not only a chance to pick up a great read, but to meet a great guy. Members are still telling me how much they enjoyed his call-in to our discussion on The Hound of the Baskervilles and its author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stop by and let Daniel know that Murder Among Friends is rooting for him, especially during the mystery award season.

To borrow the library’s copy of The Hour of Peril, click on the photo of Daniel & the book cover. For details on his appearance at Anderson’s, click on the Anderson’s logo.

Click to go to the 2014 Conference information!

As the conference date grows ever nearer… Love is Murder (a.k.a. LIM) will be announcing the winners of its coveted “Lovey” awards at the conference next weekend!! It’s still possible to register and come cheer on your favorites as well as enjoy some terrific  authors and panels. Click on the Love is Murder graphic to go to the conference website. Click the Lovey picture below to go to the list of nominees!

Click to go to Lovey 2014 nominees


MAF Book Summary

On The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

MAF members met over scones to discuss our latest turn on all things Sherlock Holmes: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. In the past year we have taken a look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tale, The Hound of the Baskervilles, talked to Doyle expert Daniel Stashower, author of Teller of Tales: the Life of Arthur Conan Doyle, joined members of the library’s film discussion group, Just Between Frames to see & discuss the BBC TV Sherlock episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and finished the year with the first original Sherlock Holmes story to be approved by the Doyle estate: Anthony Horowitz’s wonderful The House of Silk.

The Sherlockian gave us yet another perspective: that of the Holmes scholars who study all things possible about the great detective and what is known in their circles as “The Canon” – the 4 novels and 56 short stories that make up all the Sherlock stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The term is useful since many people have gone on to write pastiches and novels involving Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and even Moriarty in stories of their own.

The group talked about the ongoing appeal of Holmes, his world, his creator’s life, and how in this novel, that world is juxtaposed against  modern times, and real facts and events, in the alternating chapters that deal with “Sherlockian” Harold White.  White is just being admitted into the Baker Street Irregulars (a real Sherlockian society) when a (fictional) noted Holmes scholar, Alex Cale, is found strangled by a shoelace in his hotel room – just before he was to reveal the contents of Arthur Conan Doyle’s missing diary. Both the murder of a Sherlockian, and missing Doyle papers and journals, are historical facts as well. As the author mentions in the end notes, “the world’s foremost scholar of Sherlock Holmes”, Richard Lancelyn Green announced he had found Doyle’s lost papers, a dispute about them arose, and he rightly feared for his life when on March 27, 2004 he was found strangled with one of his own shoelaces. We talked about other things in the book that had been fictionalized but based on real facts – a style that occurred in both the storyline involving Doyle and Bram Stoker in the 1900s, and the current day events involving White and his “Watson”, Sarah Lindsay.

Several members commented on how some readers have read the book by reading only the chapters with Doyle & Stoker (who really were friends) and then reading the chapters about White’s search for the missing diary. They felt it was easier to keep track of the two storylines by reading it that way. We talked about what these readers may have lost by not reading the interweaving of the two. Some felt it works either way, some felt that Moore’s comparison between the age of Holmes and Doyle both when the stories were written and today comes across more strongly when you’re reading the past & current story lines together.

We talked about how the Holmes stories of “the Canon” are highly influenced by Romance (with the capital R) where there was “An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual’s expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/) Exemplified in some ways by Holmes (rebelling against established rules and conventions) and Watson/Doyle (who emphasize their expression of emotion and imagination), and how the Romantic poets and authors such as Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley would all have been influences on Doyle and his peers. At the same time, we also discussed how (particularly Sherlock) both story lines explore the advantages of rationalism, and the coming age of scientific discovery and modernization (shown through the installation of electric lights on Baker St. for example) can (literally!) bring clarity to situations.

What drives both story lines and brings home the universality of Holmes appeal, is how we are all driven by the “need to know“. One member mentioned how Harold – a lifelong fan of all things Holmes – is willing to smash anything in the Sherlock Holmes museum to find the diary and finally know: both that it exists and what it contains however unpleasant or ugly its contents may be. This led to talk about what happens concerning the diary and whether or not it was a fitting conclusion. We also speculated on whether the contemporary story’s ending will lead to a relationship and/or further adventures for Harold and Sarah. There was also discussion about the final story resolution about the diary that would create a spoiler here. Please click here to go to this point if you have read the whole story or do not care about spoilers.

While the group will be taking a break from the world of Sherlock for the remainder of the year, the group’s enthusiasm for it and all the books and shows we have covered on Holmes and Doyle prove Sherlock is doing fine in the 21st century!

Next month, the group is highly looking forward to talking with author favorite, Hank Phillippi Ryan when she calls in on Thursday, Feb. 20th to join us on the second Jane Ryland mystery, The Wrong Girl. The group is following this series, as we did with Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake trilogy.


Link to The Sherlockian on the LLD Catalog

Click on the book cover above to go to our catalog and reserve a copy!

Cozy Mystery Christmas TreeThe following seasonal gifts just came to  my attention through the latest issue of Mystery Scene. magazine, and I couldn’t resist sharing a few with you! Click on the graphic that is with each item to go to the site where you can buy them. Merry Murderous Holidays!

I couldn’t believe it when I saw this one in the magazine! I just may have to pick one of these up myself!Hound of the Baskervilles T shirt

These dolls are so fun, and have such great details!  Dashiell Hammet Doll

And you can top off your holiday celebrations with a nice cuppa No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency teas! Cheers to all!
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Teas

House of Silk, Holmes & Horowtiz

Last Thursday we gathered at Meeting Room B “Baker Street” to partake of our annual Holiday Yule Cake, and to discuss the fascinating tale related by author Anthony Horowitz called The House of Silk. Those who were particular readers and fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories of Sherlock Holmes and his best friend and biographer, Dr. John Watson, were not disappointed in reading Horowitz story – authorized by Doyle’s estate. In fact, that is understating the response: everyone loved this story! To paraphrase one member: ‘I kept waiting for him to blow it; to put things in that Holmes or Watson wouldn’t say or do, or to break with the period [the story is set in 1890s London] but he maintained the flow and the story just kept building – I couldn’t put it down!’

We talked about how both in language and period Horowitz does an outstanding job of capturing the feel of the original Doyle stories, while adding some depth of social consciousness, and even humanity to Holmes that is seen through pursuit of the killer of Ross, the young boy who’d been a new “Baker Street Irregular”. This group of street boys (or “ragamuffins” as Mrs. Hudson refers to them) act as Holmes eyes and ears in the more questionable parts of London, and in the “lower class” social circles he is not a part of. We talked a bit about these social circles, and how completely the enfranchised rich and aristocratic had power over the general population – and even Holmes himself.


The whole setting up of Holmes for the murder of Sally Dixon, Ross’ sister, and the lack of voice that he has as a defendant during the English prison court trial, showed a frightening lack of control over one’s personal life overall, and how criminal prosecution could so easily work against an individual if he was not part of those in control.

…End of SPOILER!

We really liked the layering of crime and social issues of the time and mentioned how it was reminiscent of Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries (which we’ve identified to be added to our titles for the next MAF Planning meeting in August!) This consciousness is expressed by Watson in particular about how little he’d thought about what the affect of being a Baker Street Irregular might be for these young boys. It certainly was not something on Holmes’ mind in a significant way until Ross is killed. We talked about how some critics have said that this death affected Holmes too much, and wasn’t believable given his solitary and unsociable style. We countered that it is completely within his character to become obsessed with justice for the boy – not only from a personal responsibility aspect, but because finding the true killer in a murder investigation is integral to what Sherlock is all about.

Patti mentioned a comment made on the New York Public library’s discussion on this book about how it employs a structure often used by Doyle of having Holmes solving “double mysteries”. In this case it is the adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap, and The House of Silk. Using this technique, Watson relates two criminal situations which appear to be completely unrelated, and part of the revelations that gives them such a fun twist, is seeing how very wrong that appearance is.

The group liked the timeline used by Horowitz to let us know that the story, while written in 1890 according to Watson, is not published until 1915 due to the scandalous nature of one crime – and the people involved in it – in particular. We felt it emphasized how despicable and horrific this crime would have been given the era when it occurred, and that, for his own well-being, Watson would not have been able to publish the story while certain key characters were still alive. Patti brought in a couple of other interesting incidents in history that would have taken place during this time frame, and have informed Doyle about both the social situation of street boys in London, and a pertinent trial that occurred between the story in 1890 and the publication in 1915 that relates to the scandal in the House of Silk: the first was the publication in 1839 of Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, (and the celebrated status of Dickens as a writer of fiction with social commentary), the later is the 1895 trials of Oscar Wilde.

We also spoke of some of the interesting places and characters that are mentioned here and used elsewhere in Sherlock Holmes stories. There will be links in the “Author Docket” on Horowitz and this story to such things as: the Diogenes Club, Gentlemen’s clubs, the prison at Holloway (where Oscar Wilde also resided for a time) , and a great article that one member sent to “The Ten Rules for Writing a Sherlock Holmes Novel”. That link is also here: http://www.mulhollandbooks.com/2012/10/05/1557/.

The other two characters we spent some time on were Mycroft, and the Mysterious Mathematician (as we call him in our Cast of Characters list!) Members new to Holmes wondered if we ever got background information about Holmes upbringing and family, and how he came to be a “consulting detective”. While he arrives on the scene in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, Holmes is already a consulting detective and details about his past are slim to none. It takes a while to even find out he has a brother at all! Having Mycroft in this story was in fact a very nice touch on Horowitz’ part as it helps to round out newcomers’ understanding of Holmes – plus the first exchange between the two is such a fun piece of observational one-upmanship:

“ ‘My dear Sherlock!’ Mycroft exclaimed as he waddled in. ‘How are you? You have recently lost weight, I notice. But I’m glad to see you restored to your old self.’

“ ‘And you have recovered from influenza.’

“ ‘A very mild bout. I enjoyed your monograph on tattoos. Written during the hours of the night, evidently. Have you been troubled by insomnia?’

“ ‘The summer was unpleasantly warm. You did not tell me you had acquired a parrot.’

“ ‘Not acquired, Sherlock. Borrowed. . . . You have just returned from Gloucestershire.’

“ ‘And you from France.’

“ ‘Mrs. Hudson has been away?’

“ ‘She returned last week. You have a new cook.’

“ ‘The last one resigned.’

“ ‘On account of the parrot.’

“ ‘She always was highly strung.’ ”

— Courtesy of a Washington Post article.

As you may tell, the group highly enjoyed this excellent addition to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes – and was very pleased to hear that there’s at least been a tweet that says Anthony Horowitz is working on a sequel. We can’t wait!

In the meantime we look forward to The Sherlockian, our January selection, where we’ll be taken into the world of today’s “Baker Street Irregulars” – the literary society that honors the works of Conan Doyle’s most famous character, and his unparalleled portrayal of the friendship of a lifetime he shares with Dr. Watson. If you would like to make comments on Holmes, Watson, or The House of Silk, please add them here!

Author Andrew Gross

Last night’s meeting on The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross held a few surprises, some raucous laughter, and lively commentary from all attendees. Our phone call with Andrew was postponed, but because he is a true gentleman, we are going to have a second chance at getting together with him by phone in July. We’ve scheduled a book discussion on his novel No Way Back for the third Thursday in July: July 17th.  Andrew also let us know that this book is being made into a TV series, possibly premiering in the fall of 214 – so we’ll get an early glimpse of what that has involved as well!

Once we got over Patti’s startling footwear, and the protagonist’s name in Jo Nesbø’s mystery series, discussion turned to The Blue Zone, and everyone had something to say. One of our members is a long-time fan of Andrew’s books, and this one is a particular favorite. Group members overall agreed that they’d enjoyed the book and that it filled the #1 requirement of good thrillers – it was very hard to put down!

There were a few comments made about points that were troublesome for readers. One comment mentioned that it was hard to believe that Kate would chance harm to her family by searching them out once they went into the witness protection program without her. There was some discussion on whether Kate’s decision to stay with, and marry her fiancé, was believable — which the group decided it was. This led to talk about her husband Greg and the twist in the story involving his personal background, the shock it brings to Kate, and if we thought they had a chance at making it as a couple. (We think they do!)  This brought up the topic of the main theme of the story, family – and what defines a family. At its most scary interpretation, Mercado and others offer the belief that fraternidad (where blood washes blood) is the most important aspect of family. It is certainly the driving force behind Ben’s motivation and more than one member found it difficult to relate to such a different concept of family, and family honor,; leading, as it does, to the deaths of two mothers, and the attempted death of two daughters, as well as the agents killed along the way. We also felt that the commitment to the “fraternidad” was intermixed with the desire for power.

One member felt that the most interesting character in the story was Ben, and the transition he makes from unquestioned supportive father, caring husband, and trustworthy businessman, to someone far different. We talked about how it would be possible for him to change his treatment of Kate, and felt that it was part of the process he needed to follow to distance himself from her and fulfill his reason for avoiding the witness protection agents and police.

We also talked about Andrew’s use of the female perspective – both in this book, and in other novels – particularly the two Women’s Murder Club books he co-authored with James Patterson. We felt that overall he had a very good grasp on creating believable, realistic, and strong women. His focus on them is so strong, that it even over shadowed the male child in this book, Justin. You know far less about him and his place in the story is relatively small, while both Em and Kate are strong, feisty young women who are smart and athletic. We liked how the sports they both are good at – sculling and squash – reflect the privileged background Gross created for them. We did question whether some of their reactions (Kate’s in particular) weren’t more “guy” oriented than a female writer would have made them.

Other points were made that entail spoilers, which we do not publish, but we do feel that the ending plot twists, while not always believable for a couple folks, were too much fun not to finish – and that we all very willingly will read more by this author, especially No Way Back this coming July!

In other business, the group has mentioned that they want to make sure we have both Jo Nesbø and Linwood Barkley down for authors we might want to vote for in our planning meeting in August 2014. We also noted that next month’s meeting, on Thursday, Dec. 5th is early in the month so we didn’t conflict with the holidays – but that folks will want to do some speed reading on our book: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz!

As you can see, a lot was said at this meeting – but there’s always more we can add, so if you’d like to leave comments, please do!

Lisle Library is hosting Lisa Scottoline tonight at Benet Academy’s Daniel Hall at 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. The first 200 attendees will get a free copy of one of Lisa’s books!  Don’t miss this rare chance to hear a major New York Times best-selling author – both for her suspense novels and her semi-biographical non-fiction.Click on the picture to get details from our calendar about this event.

Author Lisa Scottoline