The Last Resort

I was fortunate to get my hands on an advance copy of the forthcoming Constable Twitten Mystery by Lynne Truss. Since the novel won’t hit the stores until November 9th, I’m limited in what I can say and I can’t quote the text — tempting as that is. What I can say is PSYCHO BY THE SEA gets my vote for the best title of the year. Indeed, it made me think Stephen Sondheim could come up with some amusing lyrics if the title were only a song.

This is the fourth book in the series, set in the British resort town of Brighton in 1957. If you didn’t think Brighton was a cesspool of crime and violence, well think again, because in the hands of Ms. Truss it’s nothing but trouble. And the poor — some might say pathetic — local police force is beset and besieged. Fans of the series will be pleased to learn that — in addition to the annoyingly clever Twitten, the cast includes the dimwitted Sergeant Brunswick, the neurotic Inspector Steine, and the almost (but not quite) lovable & larcenous Mrs Groynes, as well as some other familiar faces.

The author’s talent for concocting screwball plots, peppered with slapstick violence and mayhem, is at its peak here. And yes, a psycho does come to town, but that’s not giving anything away. The novel is funny, quirky, and delightfully odd.

I suggest new readers dip into the first three books in the series (The Man That Got Away; A Shot in the Dark; and Murder by Milk Bottle) before embarking on Psycho by the Sea since there are more than a few references to the previous titles. That said, pre-order it now so you’ll be ready to dive into Brighton’s choppy waters. Besides, it makes a great winter beach read.



Great Escape

The few spy thrillers I’ve read in recent years have been disappointing, but RED WIDOW is a shot in the genre’s arm. The novel is cleverly plotted, authentic,  and reveals a fierce intelligence (no pun intended) behind the scenes. The author has worked for the CIA and NSA which guarantees this is the real deal. Alma Katsu knows what goes on at CIA headquarters, and she masterfully paints a portrait of the internal paranoia. Who can you trust when everyone around you has been trained to lie?

RED WIDOW is set pre-pandemic, so the masks are metaphorical (think: John le Carré) and the adversary is Russia, Putin, and the FSB. But the real trouble is within. A mole is loose. A top Russian asset has been poisoned. Two female agents — one of whom may be a traitor — are drawn together during the internal investigation. It’s a wild ride and a great escape.


Excuse me while I….

…toot my own horn.


My collaboration with the brilliant writer, artist, translator, & musician, Doug Skinner PATENTS PENDING — has just been published in the Absurdist Texts & Documents series from Black Scat Books. This compendium of impossible inventions includes an afterword by France’s greatest humorist, Alphonse Allais, and collage illustrations by Norman Conquest. It’s packed with visionary prototypes such as the Ouija Billboard, Helium Bomb, Impossible Picture Frame, Trompe-l’œil Magic Kit, and many others. 

A fine divertissement during this bleak pandemic. 

You can order it on Amazon at this link.



The pauses were turning into silences and beginning to feel like the wrong kind of normal.
Don DeLillo, The Silence

DeLillo’s spare, startling new novel — only 116 pages — seems to echo Samuel Beckett’s legendary story “Lessness,” where language has broken down to its bare bones. In The Silence, his characters are confronted with a sudden, mysterious shutoff of digital technology: phones, laptops, iPads, TVs. And what do they say when faced with this unexpected severing of the contemporary lifeline? Not much. As if in a flickerless dream they grope for words. Or mumble, repeat themselves, curse, or slip into silence… staring into darkness, the empty dead screens that form the walls of our world.

One young man begins channeling his idol, Albert Einstein, quoting fragments from a manuscript in a German accent. What words can fill the terrible silence when our crutches are gone, without explanation. Is it a giant digital glitch, a terrorist attack, or Armageddon? No one knows , and people are wandering in the street like zombies.

DeLillo’s The Silence (Doubleday) is laced with subtle absurdist humor, but at heart unleashes a cold wind which seems perfectly timed to our lives during this seemingly unending pandemic.

CLICK HERE to order.

November Must-Reads

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Lawrence Wright is best known for his nonfiction, e.g.,  The Looming Tower — an extraordinary deep dive into the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  His new novel is a searing mind-blower. The author actually imagined his nightmare plot before Covid-19 swept the globe, and his dark, visionary tale will not be easily forgotten. In fact, there are two scenes in particular that are so horrific I had to shut my eyes and take a deep breath. If you think things are bad now, here’s what could happen if we don’t bring the virus under control.   CLICK TO ORDER

SQUEEZE ME is one of Carl Hiaasen’s best satirical novels — a funny, twisty, Palm Beach cocktail spiked with snakes. The outgoing (or so we hope) President and First Lady play prominent roles, but it’s the tough-as-nails heroine, Angie Armstrong, who steals the show in this delicious post-election day tonic. CLICK TO ORDER

Hat’s off to Ben Schott for this witty sequel to Jeeves and the King of Clubs, which begins with these ominous words: “Is it safe?”…. So you know you’re off to a good start in this worthy Wodehousian comic romp. Just to have Wooster and Jeeves back is cause enough for celebration, while lots of our favorite characters are along for the ride in Jeeves and the Leap of Faith: Gussie Fink-Nottle, Spode, Madeline Bassett, not to mention Bertie’s dreaded aunt (you know the one I mean). You couldn’t ask for anything more — except, of course, a sequel! CLICK TO ORDER

Antoine Laurain‘s THE READERS’ ROOM begins with a hilarious dissection of the contemporary French publishing scene (which mirrors our own), but soon turns into a deepening and suspenseful text. A series of actual unsolved murders haunt the pages of a manuscript destined to become a bestseller. Unfortunately for the publisher, the author cannot be traced. Cheers to Gallic Press for bringing this deft translation to English readers. Now I’ve got to track down Laurain’s other novels. CLICK TO ORDER

Murder by Milk Bottle is the latest Constable Twitten Mystery by Lynne Truss (author of the classic grammer guide, Eats, Shoots and Leaves). The odd title is fitting for this quirky series set in Brighton in the 1950s. To be specific, 1957 — not a good year for milkmen as bodies are piling up with one thing in common: death by milk bottle. The intrepid (albeit misunderstood) Constable Twitten is saddled with trying to catch the killer(s). Lucky for him the inimitable Mrs. Groynes — the crooked Brighton Police charwoman — is around to help. A delightful seaside escape during lockdown. CLICK TO ORDER

The Dog Days of August


With a vaccine for Covid-19 looking like a chimera, the only medicine I trust right now is laughter, and Bill Boggs’ new novel, The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog, offers up enough chuckles and guffaws for an overdose.

So there’s some good news in these dismal times. A injection to the funny bone is just what the epidemiologist ordered.

Now Spike is no run-of-the-mill English bull terrier—this “wonder dog”  has a mouth on him, i.e.,  he talks and tells his own tale (no pun intended) in an inimitable, hilarious voice. And in case you missed the warning on the cover, Spike  is not politically correct. No bull—he talks smack and is wickedly wiseass beyond his dog years. In short (move over, Lassie), he’s a four-legged superstar.

Spike is based on an  actual dog  who—like the fictional one—became a TV celebrity.  And since  Bill Boggs is an Emmy award-winning TV talk show host [and—full disclosure—a friend) he knows the territory inside and out, so there’s plenty of biting insider humor.

If you’re looking for satire that hasn’t been paper-trained, grab a copy on Amazon.



This is an old stack ‘o mine.  I’ve enjoyed the Martin Beck series during multiple reads. But with the pandemic raging outside, it’s time to stock up on new titles. So here are a few of my favorites.  Click on the covers to order on Amazon while all the bookstores and libraries are closed. And if  you can’t wait for slower delivery, snatch an e-book.

Let’s read our way out of this crisis. And remember this:



backlist treats THAT take my breath away:

Holiday Quick Picks

There could be no better travel companion than
Paul Theroux. Here he takes us on a deep dive
into Mexico — a fascinating journey with rich
portraits of people and the land, the mysterious
back roads  of Chiapas and Oaxaca. His humanistic
approach is particularly welcome in the age of Trump.


Dane Shitagi’s  Ballerina Project (Chronicle Books) —18 years in the making—presents 50 famed ballerinas — captured in mid-motion — off-stage, in the real world. Like rare birds in flight, they are framed in exquisite form, balanced, poised, poetic, sensual. The inherent beauty of ballet is heightened by the natural settings across the globe — cityscapes, beaches, parks and country lanes. This coffee table book will not simply appeal to aficionados of dance, but to all who appreciate gorgeous photographs exhibiting the grace and power of the female form.


If you take your noir black, with dollops of black humor,
then you’ll find satisfaction with every sip of Pascal Garnier.
His unique novelettes have been translated from the French
and published posthumously in uniform editions by Gallic Books.
C’est La Vie is as surprising as life itself.  CLICK TO BUY

Speaking of black humor… this disturbing little novel
from New Zealand by Annaleese Jochems will add some
chills and dark laughter to the holidays. Two young women
(and a dog named “Snot-head”) are on the lam on a rusty
boat called “Baby.” What could go wrong?   CLICK TO BUY


Cutting Edge is a box of dark chocolates —each piece unique —spicy, strange, twisty,
and electric — no two tastes alike. Joyce Carol Oates has hand-picked 17 sharp-edged, feminist-flavored tales of crime and mystery. An  anthology filled with noirish thrills.

Cara Black‘s series has been flourishing for — (can it really be?) —
twenty years! She has evocatively brought the neighborhoods
of Paris  to life,  and turned countless  thousands of readers into
hardcore Francophiles. If you haven’t met her Parisian private
investigator, Aimée Leduc, well prepare to fall in love. As always,
there’s an intricate plot, sublime dialogue,  suspense, and the charms
of this city. Murder in Bel-Air is Black at her best.