Louise Penny , a former  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter, steeps her mysteries in the French culture of Quebec. Her Chief Inspector Gamache  series has been compared to Agatha Christie (a small village setting and large cast of characters and  surprise endings) .  In Brutal Telling, Gamache is called in when an unknown dead  body turns up in  local bistro. Penny’s skill is creating a place that is so appealing that  readers want to move there, bringing to life people you want to spend time with and describing meals that make you salivate.

Kathy Reichs works as a medical examiner in Quebec (and North Carolina). Apparently, the tv show Bones was inspired by Reichs’ work and she also works as a producer on the show.

The  heroine of her mysteries is Temperance Brennan, who, coincidentally, is a  forensic anthropologist who works in both Quebec and North Carolina. Monday Mourning is set in Montreal, where Tempe investigates the skeletons found in a pizzeria.  In this installment, her romance with detective Andrew Ryan is not going well, though the French Canadian setting is as magical as ever.

It throws one for a bit of a loop to write down dates like 2010 without seeing George Jetson puttering around in his airborne aquarium.

Similarly, assembling a list of fiction titles that hits shelves long after the subzero temps have left creates a warm feeling, albeit brief.  There will be a baseball game or two on the television, and, heck, I might finally be writing the correct date on my checks.  What’s crazy is you can place those holds now.

The possibilities of short-term time travel might not be that awe-inspiring, but given the bleakness of being Iowan right now, grade me on the curve.

Jodi Picoult — House Rules
Rita Mae Brown — Cat of the Century
Alexander McCall Smith — Double Comfort Safari Club
James Patterson — Worst Case
Tim LaHaye — Matthew’s Story

We have a display for you! At both Main Street and Fairmount Street libraries, we have mysteries and DVDs of Sherlock Holmes spinoffs.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King  is the first in a series featuring a feminist Mary Russell. A teenager at the time, she meets the great Holmes  while she is wandering the Sussex countryside. Holmes mentors Mary as they investigate the kidnapping of an American senator’s daughter. The World WarI era , an Oxford setting – where Mary is a student, and the evolving relationship in which Holmes mentors his young protegee are all strong points of the novel.

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr is a humorous paranormal twist on the Holmes canon. The setting is a ghostly Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh,Scotland. Watson and Holmes are called in by Sherlock’s brother to investigate murders that Mycroft fears may threaten Queen Victoria. The author of The Alienist “reflects a deep knowledge and understanding of Holmesiana.” Publisher’s Weekly

submitted by Georgann

MoralityI have thoroughly enjoyed these mild-mannered detective stories from the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, set in the country of Botswana, Africa. The characters are engaging, coming from a world-view different from my own, and a society with a somewhat different set of mores. Still, it is easy to identify with them and a delight to read about their adventures. The characters struggle with a rapidly changing Africa, and with changes that are good and not-so-good. Their cases are interesting, often solved with intuition and plenty of footwork. In Morality for Beautiful Girls, detective Precious Ramotswe investigates an alleged poisoning, and checks the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest.

For me, the best part of the books is the philosophizing, of which there is plenty, for a detective must understand human nature. How often it makes me smile or even laugh out loud. With 10 books in the series, I expect to be entertained for some time!

I always feel a little like Marty McFly when I listen to old-time radio shows on my iPod or computer. Here are several websites that give free downloads and/or streaming of a variety of programs:

WizzardRadioWizzard Radio hosts about 85 different podcasts relating to old Radio Broadcasts including:


Radio Lovers allows listeners to revisit the listening experience of hundreds of vintage radio programs such as western hero Hopalong Cassidy and comedy classic Amos & Andy.

Agatha Christie Radio MysteriesMy favorites are the Agatha Christie Radio Mysteries. Unfortunately, the site no longer produces new feeds, but you can still download old episodes from the website.

TrainsThose Stimulus dollars are raising the hopes of train-loving Quad-Citians; they are starting to dream of  riding the rails to Chicago and  Iowa City, and perhaps to even more exotic lands.

Trains are very cinematic and are excellent vehicles (ha!) to further the plot of mysteries and novels. In Falling in Love, DeNiro and Streep meet  and, of course, fall in love, on a commuter train. The Station Agent, a great indie film, is about a loner who inherits a train depot. Against his will,  he develops friendships with those he meets at his station.

Novels made into films include Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery , John Godey’s The Taking of Pelham 123 and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train – turned into a  wonderfully funny and creepy  Hitchcock movie.

Here’s hoping you find love and romance rather than crime, terrorism and murder on your next train ride.

play-deadLounging in the back yard with your pup? Pick up  Play Dead by David Rosenfelt to while away the afternoon. Lawyer Andy Carpenter is a smart aleck, with the redeeming quality of his love for dogs (he used a windfall to found the Tara Foundation – named for his golden retriever).

A trend in mysteries  is the deployment of pets as an integral part of the plot. There’s long been a tradition of cat mysteries (Lilian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown) and now man’s best friend is catching up. Try  The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Carol Lea Benjamin or one of Susan Conant’s many (such as New Leash on Death ). After reading about their crime-solving skills, you may look at your dog with new respect.

nevadabarrflashback.jpgDo you like to visit the National Parks? Do you like murder mysteries with a little romance thrown in? Check out the Nevada Barr mysteries. Her heroine is Anna Pigeon, a National Park Service Ranger who runs away from Manhattan after the death of her first husband. Each book deals with a murder in a National Park as Anna moves from post to post. Her descriptions of each park are great, making you want to visit. Flashback takes place in the Dry Tortugas National Park which is seventy miles off Key West. The story includes a current murder as well as the history and lore of the island, which is the site of historic Fort Jefferson. Anna’s sister Molly finds letters written by their great-great aunt who lived at the fort during the Civil War. With the letters providing the history of the fort and Anna’s description of her current posting at the park, you feel you are really there. After I read the book I had the opportunity to visit Key West and take a catamaran trip to Fort Jefferson; Nevada Barr’s vivid descriptions were right on the mark..