The Face of Deception with Skeleton cupcakes Picture of author Iris Johansen

Skeletal cupcakes accompanied Iris Johansen’s The Face of Deception to last night’s mystery discussion – along with flyers for the upcoming Love is Murder mystery conference (the Chicago area’s only mystery conference!) that will be held at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare on February 7th & 8th , 2014. The bookmarks on the right are for our final discussion groups cross-over event: the BBC TV show Sherlock episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles shown by our Just Between Frames film group on Nov. 7th, to follow up on the book-based discussions MAF and Fixed on Fiction members had on this classic tale by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Click the links to go: The Love is Murder conference site, The InterContinental Chicago O’Hare hotel information, or the Just Between Frames blog info on the BBC Sherlock event.) Click on the picture of author Iris Johansen above, to go to her website or these bolded words to get  Fantastic Fiction‘s list of all her books – and some fun information on the author!

Accompanying enthusiastic cupcake consumption, the group discussion on The Face of Deception was lively and forthright. One member stated unequivocally, that she found the billionaire, John Logan, to be a manipulative, unappealing character and wondered what Eve was thinking to accompany him to Tahiti at the end of the novel. This led to a discussion about the two male leads who are strongly interested in Eve: John Logan, and Lieutenant Detective Joe Quinn. We found that both men are not being completely straight with Eve and are still treating her as though she was still as fragile as she was when her daughter was kidnapped and murdered. This tragic event happened eight years ago, and Eve has come a long way since then, although her ability to connect with people beyond a work context is still shaky.

Patti shared background about the author, and how she came up from the ranks of series romance writing, to writing historical romance, and then trying her hand at the evolving genre of romantic suspense and thrillers. We talked about how the structure of the story is unusual, and could be considered a “who-is-it” versus a “whodunit”. Logan finesses Eve into working on the skull of an unknown man. Initially it is strongly hinted that the skull could be that of a famous and powerful politician. All Eve knows, is that the people who do not want her to identify who it is, are willing to do any number of heinous things to keep the identification from happening. Once this occurs, the story shifts into a “how will they prove it” as well as a “can they survive it” – both classic elements of a thriller/suspense story. We discussed how the era of the late 90s romantic suspense was becoming more thriller-oriented and less gothic-romance based (as it was with past read, The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart).

Other writers who traveled the path from category romance to the new romantic suspense/thrillers were: Tess Geristen, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, & Sandra Brown among others. From this base, female authors in particular have launched into the current straight thriller camp, bringing an element of deeper relationships to their fast-paced thriller plots. We also talked about how Johansen has been something of a trail-blazer in “developing the habit of following characters from book to book, sometimes introducing minor characters in one novel who then become major figures in another. She developed families, relationships and even fictional countries in her romance novels, which stretched the boundaries of the standard formulas, “according to Barbara E. Kemp in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers.” (quote from Fantastic Fiction’s web page on this author.)

The group was very appreciative of the plot twists, although a couple of elements broke their suspension of disbelief, in particular, the scene where Joe has gone into the woods after the major evil henchman, and Eve blindly follows him – accompanied by Logan – when neither one of them is anywhere near as skilled as Joe, and the outcome of the scene shows what a mistake it was for them to attempt to help him. MAF members found the strongest element in this story was the character development. One member commented on how she liked the fact that even a secondary character who didn’t play a large part of the story, had some depth to him. We all liked the way Johansen hinted at the troubled past that both Eve and her mother endured and how – through Bonnie’s existence and tragedy – the two women establish a strong, and loving relationship.

We are also highly curious as to who Bonnie’s father was, and debated how come Joe held back his feelings for Eve and married Diane. We’re hoping that there’s more detail about this piece of Joe’s and Eve’s backgrounds in the next story. We also agreed that Eve needs some form of counseling to help her to break free from her obsession with Bonnie and to develop a life beyond her work. It becomes clear by the end that there are a couple of potential sources for her to establish a romantic relationship. Again, there were strong feelings expressed about whether or not Eve should do (or will do) more with Logan in Tahiti than bask on the beach!  The scene in the hospital where Joe and Logan face-off in a very, territory-staking way, annoyed one member and we all agreed that Eve would have had words with both of them, had she been party to the conversation.

In group voting at the end of the discussion, all members were glad they had read this book, and all plan to read at least one more book in the series. Other handouts at the discussion will be made available in the Johansen “Author Docket” currently under construction. Patti will send out a post when it is live on this  blog!

Monday, October 21, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM (CDT). Click graphic for link to tickets (required).

Monday, October 21, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM (CDT). Click graphic for link to tickets (required).

Nordic Noir genre graphic

Click on the graphic to learn more about the Nordic Noir mystery sub-genre.

Here’s a rare opportunity to get to hear and meet one of the stars of the whole “Nordic Noir” movement in mystery: Jo Nesbø. He will be appearing at Printers Row in Chicago on Monday, October 21st from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. As stated above, you can click the graphic of Nesbo and his books to go to the link for getting tickets to this event. The author will be talking about his latest book, Police, the 10th book in his Harry Hole series (that also includes best-sellers such as Nemesis, The Snowman, and The Leopard.)

Jo Nesbø (pronounced [ˈju ˈnɛsbø]; born 29 March 1960) is an Glass Key award winning Norwegian author and musician. As of September 2008 more than 1.5 million copies of his novels have been sold in Norway, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages, selling over 9 million copies (2013). Nesbø is primarily known for his crime novels about Inspector Harry Hole, but he is also the main vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. In 2007 Nesbø also released his first children’s book, Doktor Proktors prumpepulver (English translation: Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder). The 2011 film Headhunters is based on Nesbø’s novel Hodejegerne (The Headhunters). — excerpted from Wikipedia

The following is a current list of Jo Nesbø’s books in the Harry Hole series. Lisle Library has all of them! (With Police and Cockroaches on order)

Harry Hole
1. The Bat
2. Cockroaches (coming out in U.S. in Feb. 2014)
3. The Redbreast
4. Nemesis
5. The Devil’s Star
6. The Redeemer
7. The Snowman
8. The Leopard
9. Phantom
10. Police

Hound of the Baskerville Cover with Daniel Stashower & Conan Doyle

There will be more on our meeting last week on The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but for now we want to offer up sincere praise and thanks to author Daniel Stashower. We now know why your biography on Doyle (Teller of Tales: the Life of Arthur Conan Doyle) is an Edgar winner! BTW Daniel — it went out to one of our attendees right after the program!


We are off to a fine start on following The Hound as he travels next to be read by the library’s fiction discussion group, Fixed on Fiction, who’ll be discussing it on Oct. 10th @ 7:00 p.m.  The book’s afoot! (Well, sort of… – Enjoy anyway!)

Bits From Bouchercon 2013!

The World Crime Convention – better known to convention fans as the Bouchercon, was recently held in Albany, New York. This convention is for fans of all the sub-genres of mystery, be they thriller, police procedural, traditional, oriented! I was there to scope out participants whose books were picked for our 2014 mystery discussion books – and to see who might be interested – and interesting! — to consider when our planning meeting comes up next year.  I’m thrilled to share that Chris Pavone was there, and has agreed to call-in and join our discussion of his book The ExPats in 2014!   Chris had some great news of his own at this Bouchercon – he won the Anthony award for Best First Novel for The ExPats !

In terms of seeing favorite authors & friends, I got to spend time chatting with Lisle Library friend Zoe Sharp, and found out that she has a stand-alone that’s just out recently (and that we are ordering!) It is called The Blood Whisperer and features, as quoted from Amazon “the uncanny abilities of London crime-scene specialist Kelly Jacks” with a plot that promises to be typical Zoe: un-put-downable!

The Blood Whisperer by Zoe Sharp

The tag line’s a bit hard to read: “They took everything she had, but not everything she was.” – Makes me want to read it!

Author Zoe Sharp

One of the most fun panels at this year’s Bouchercon featured best buddies: Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, and Louise Penny allowing us all to be a fly on the wall to their very funny, and thoughtful conversation amongst themselves. You can get an idea of the mischief they got up to by looking closely at the picture

I took before the panel started. They were having a bit of fun with just who is who. (So the mystery will be solved for you, they are (from left to right): Rhys Bowen, Debbie Crombie, and Louise Penny. As with Chris Pavone, Louise also got wonderful news at the Anthony awards – she won Best Novel for The Beautiful Mystery

(Note: I’ll have all the Anthony award nominees & winners up under our “Awards” tab some time this week. I’ll comment here when it’s done.)

The last quick news I have to share with you is that I was successful not only in adding W is for Wasted to my Kinsey Milhone collection, but getting a picture taken with the wonderful Sue Grafton who was Bouchercon 2013’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner. What a way to end a con! Sue Grafton and Murder Among Friends moderator, Patti Ruocco

Murder Among Friends had an outstanding visitor who came to join our discussion of her book. At our June discussion of The Other Woman, Hank Phillippi Ryan came, saw, and conquered us with her warmth, inclusiveness and fascinating insights to what the life of an investigative reporter is really all about, and her transition into award-winning mystery author. We also think that she ably demonstrated her unique take on how to “Stake the Cake” that we handed out while she signed copies of her books for attendees. A great time was had by all as the pictures below will prove!

Another beautiful cover cake from Lisle Jewel!

Another beautiful cover cake from Lisle Jewel!

We had some fun with the cake design - indicating that for MAF there is no other woman we'd rather read about than Hank's new heroine: Jane Ryland

We had some fun with the cake design – indicating that for MAF there is no other woman we’d rather read about than Hank’s new heroine: Jane Ryland

Hank as an official member of our mystery tribe...

MAF making Hank an official member of our mystery tribe…

.. And then pointed a finger at their choice of suspect for The Other Woman we like best.

.. And then pointed a finger at their choice of suspect for The Other Woman we like best.

In which Hank not only "Stakes the Cake" (a MAF photo op fave) - she takes it too! Veddy well done.

In which Hank not only “Stakes the Cake” (a MAF photo op fave) – she takes it too! Veddy well done.

MPM_DisplayPic“You didn’t get ideas. You smelled them out, tracked them down, wrestled them into submission; you pursued them with forks and hope, and if you were lucky enough to catch one you impaled it, with the forks, before the sneaky little devil could get away.” – Naked Once More, p. 170.

This is a quote from one of my personal favorites of Barbara’s series characters, Jacqueline Kirby who has been something of a role model for me as a fellow librarian. 😉 It conveys a part of the  appeal of not only this character, but of the feel in all Barbara’s novels – and it is one of the more cogent things I’ve ever read about the “joys” of the writing process!


I have been so fortunate to not only read everything Barbara has written, but to have gotten to know her, paticularly while I was chairing the Agatha awards at Malice Domestic. I can honestly say that the breadth of her knowledge, humor and interests that readers discover in her books is completely characteristic of the author as a person — and is topped by her genuine warmth and care for her fans and friends. So as a way to celebrate her life and writing, we have a display in the library highlighting books we have (under all three names!) and handouts of the bibliography of all her works, so you can request the ones we don’t have as Inter-library Loans. If you have not had the chance to read her books before, I am pleased to be the one to introduce you to the redoubtable and wonderful, Barbara Mertz.


Click on the photo below of our MPM Bibliography — that’s currently available in the Mystery book section — to see the list here.


To see just a few of the many tributes to Barbara, click on the links below:

USA Today

The Washington Post

The Guardian (U.K.)

The Bunburyist: Dr. Barbara Mertz, Trailblazer.

PI_Smoking Murder Among Friends 2014 Discussion Books

Many thanks to all who participated in last night’s efforts to pick our discussion books for 2014! We had alot of wonderful books to consider — and to reconsider! In fact, one of the 2014 books is a book we first looked at during last year’s discussion. There are just too few months for all the good reads that are out there. It all helped us to form an excellent list we’re looking forward to reading!

Please note: this is just an alphabetical list of the books we’ll be doing. We won’t necessarily be reading them in this order. In fact the Dorothy L. Sayers’ book, “Whose Body?” will be our September book (marking when we traditionally go “back to school” and read one of the legendary authors of our genre.) Once I’ve been able to see which authors may be able to join us by phone or in person, the official list and bookmarks will be available.

Author Title Link to LLD Catalog!
Boyer, Susan M. Low Country Boil
Castillo, Linda Sworn to Silence
Ellison, J. T. Deeper Darkness

(Not Available Yet)

Not Available Yet
Galbraith, Robert The Cuckoo’s Calling
Lehane, Dennis To Be Determined
Moore, Graham The Sherlockian
Pavone, Chris The Expats
Ryan, Hank Phillippi The Wrong Girl
Sayers, Dororthy L. Whose Body?
Siguroardottir, Yrsa Last Rituals

Cover of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Just FYI – one of our sister discussion groups Fixed on Fiction, just had their own discussion on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl! Here’s a Link so you can see what they had to say.

MAF Thanks Hank Phillippi Ryan

Ryan_AuthorpicAndOtherWomanAnd if you haven’t visited Hank’s website yet, check out her fun “scoop”  captured on video below: