I love Robert B. Parker’s mysteries. I’m a big fan of both Spencer, his Boston boxer-detective, and Jesse Stone, his laconic small town police chief.

So when Mr. Parker passed away in 2010, I mourned not only one of my favorite authors, but Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .) as well.

And when I learned that Mr. Parker’s family had made to decision to allow other authors to continue these series, I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand: more Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .)! On the other: who could possibly write Robert B Parker’s characters as well as Mr. Parker himself?

Parker Lullaby AtkinsIn my opinion, Ace Atkins can. He picked up Spencer in Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby and ran with him through four more books, all of which have the snappy dialogue, moral quagmires, and occasional brute force that a reader could hope for. The style may not be identical, but it doesn’t have to be—Mr. Atkin’s isn’t ghostwriting for Robert B. Parker, he’s honoring him.

Fool Me Twice BrandmanI wish I could say I liked the Jesse Stone books as much, or at least the first one I’ve tried. Unlike the Spencer series, each of these new mysteries was written by a different author—I don’t know whether that was the publisher’s idea or the authors declined to pick up the series in favor of their own characters, or if the publisher hasn’t found the right fit yet.

Part of my troubles with Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice, by Michael Brandman, might be because I listened to the audiobook first. No matter how talented a voice actor is (and James Naughton is very talented), if the reading doesn’t match how my beloved characters sound in my mind’s ear—and I’ve had years to fix these voices the way I want them—I have trouble getting past how things are said to pay enough attention to what things are being said.

This isn’t a fair assessment of Mr. Brandman’s writing, so I tried it in print . . . and still didn’t care for it.

I know that these books aren’t going to be perfect—every writer will bring a different style to the same story, even Ace Atkins. But while I think the styles of Mr. Atkins and Mr. Parker mesh well, the style that Mr. Brandman brings is too far off what I expect from a Jess Stone novel. The dialogue is excellent, but there’s too much omniscient narration and parts of it—particularly the sections that aren’t from Jesse’s point of view—read more like background notes than a story. The bare bones of the plot are intriguing . . . but that’s what the whole book seems like to me: bare bones.

Or maybe I just miss Mr. Parker too much to enjoy Jesse Stone’s adventures without him.

Will I give a different author’s Jesse book a try? Sure.

But this time, I’ll read it in print first.

Do you think a book series should outlive its author?

Do you enjoy the post-Parker Spencer or Jesse Stone novels?

Can you recommend a post-Parker Jesse Stone novel you really enjoyed?

Did you love Fool Me Twice?  Please let me know why in the comments—I’m willing to be convinced!

Johannes Cabal the NecromancerHaving voluntarily given up his soul to the devil, thinking that such a useless thing would only get in the way of his more esoteric scientific experiments, Johannes Cabal, Necromancer and Not Nice Person, has reluctantly changed his mind. It turns out that souls may have a purpose after all.

So he pays a visit to the Netherworld to request the return of his most personal of property, baffling, intimidating—and occasionally terrifying–the demons in his relentless path.

As anyone who is not a stubborn necromancer might have guessed, the Devil refuses, on the simple grounds that he’s The Devil. Johannes, who is more desperate than he wants anyone to know, suggests a wager.

The Devil agrees, and sets the terms: Johannes has one year to collect 100 souls to free his own. If he doesn’t, his life will also be forfeit.   The devil hands over a timer, an assistant, a broken down traveling carnival, and a (very small) portion of his own dark power to run everything.

Johannes might know about dark magicks, scientific methods, and getting his own way, but he doesn’t understand people and the concept of “fun” simply doesn’t compute. To make his carnival work as a wondrous soul trap instead of a humiliating flop, he needs help.

The kind of help one can only find in a forgotten crypt at the bottom of a forgotten cemetery, where Johannes trapped it eight years ago . . . oops.


Considering the subject matter, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer shouldn’t be as hilarious as it is, but it’s well-written, snarky and impossible to put down.

I know I shouldn’t cheer for Johannes, who is thoroughly, unapologetically unloveable, but I do. And I really, really shouldn’t want him to successfully trick other people into handing over their souls to save his own –but I really, really did.

And I shouldn’t want to immediately check out the rest of the series and read them all at once, but, well . . . you know.

One might be forgiven for wondering if Jonathan L. Howard wove a little magic of his own into the (mis)adventures of Johannes Cabal, to make them so compulsively readable.

As long as he keeps writing them, I don’t think I’ll protest too much.

Looking for a good mystery?  We’ve got you covered!

Besides having one of the best website names ever, Stop, You’re Killing Me! is the best place to go if you’re a fan of mystery, crime, suspense, thriller and spy novels. Indexing the works of over 3.500 authors, you’ll find lists of books set in specific locations, during historical time periods, by diversity (for instance, Native Americans or Gypsies or Disabled detectives), by job title (such as wedding planners or pet sitters) and genres (vampires anyone?) New titles are listed each month, including new Large Print and new Audio Books. And there are extensive lists of mystery book award nominees and winners.

This site is fairly minimal – no fancy graphics or distracting ads. Titles are linked to amazon.com for further information (and where you can find a picture of the book cover), but this is mostly a presentation of lists, brief descriptions and links. It’s up to you to uncover your next favorite mystery – and with these tools, it should be an open and shut case!

Here’s our next tip for help in finding your next great read!

EarlyWord is the place to go to keep up with the latest in book news – what’s moving up the bestseller lists, award nominees and winners, forthcoming books with buzz, what book is being made into a movie. The emphasis is on connecting libraries to the publishing world, so you’ll also find reports on books that are showing a lot of reserves at a cross-section of libraries across the country, but this blog is packed with interesting and helpful information for any book lover.

The co-founders of EarlyWord – Nora Rawlinson and Fred Ciporen – each have strong ties to both the publishing and library worlds, but the tone of this blog is far from stuffy or academic. There’s a lot of humor and opinions but no snobbishness. Frequent postings – often 2 to 3 a day – keep things lively and current. With the end of the year approaching there has been a lot of information on award winners and “best of the year” lists with links to reviews for the big winners.

There are also links galore to all things book-related – publisher catalogs, book awards of all kinds, lists of “best” books from various publications, best seller lists, coming soon and previews, movies based on books (both finished films and those in various stages of production) including links to trailers for these movies. The “Consumer Media, Book Coverage” section will point you to that book you heard about on NPR last night, or the author Jon Stewart talked to last week.

Count on EarlyWord to entertain and inform – and to steer you to some great new books.

Try the new version of the PrairieCat catalog! Some neat things about itprairiecat:

  • Have you ever thought you’d like to write your own review of a book you loved (or hated) and have it appear in the catalog? Well, now you can (Look at the Community Reviews for  The Thing About Jane Spring). That Minniemutt has such good taste in literature.
  • You can also rate an item (1 star = I Hate It and 5 stars = I Love it)
  • You can add the tag “travel book” to make it easier for other users unfamiliar with official library subject headings. You can add adjectives, such as “grunge” for a Pearl Jam CD or physically descriptive, such as “yellow cover!”
  • You can register for a My Discoveries account; this is a great way to keep track of your reading lists or things you want to put on hold. (I have a list of dvds I don’t have time to watch right now, but don’t want to forget about them!)
  • The new catalog is more intuitive, faster, with more relevant search results, but the old or Classic Catalog is still available as a tab.

Edited: We’ve had to postpone our launch of the new catalog until tomorrow, March 31. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise!