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.



Hong Kong Noir

photo: Sean Foley

As thousands protest in the streets of Hong Kong, it seems a fitting time to dive into Hong Kong Noir, edited by Jason Y. Ng & Susan Blumberg-Kason. This immersive anthology is part of the phenomenal “Noir Series” from Akashic Books which, by now, surely includes nearly every city on the planet.

Of course, you don’t need GPS to locate noir, it’s not a geographic hotspot, but a state of mind that’s everywhere. Indeed, as the world squirms in the grip of climate change, the angst at the heart of the genre is spreading like a black plague.

Hong Kong has historically existed in the dark shadows of foreign occupation, and today in the looming behemoth of the communist Mainland. To live there is to be wary, to look over your shoulder while surrounded by spirits and ghosts from the past. The city is a second skin that’s impossible to shed.

Hong Kong Noir offers 14 tales, set in the past and present, that are deeply darknoir at its most seductive and riveting. The writers you’ll discover inside will not be familiar, but they’ll mark you like a tattoo.


Rock Me!

You’ve surely seen some of Jim Marshall’s iconic rock photographs, but the sheer breadth of his work is pure “wow!”—and featured in JIM MARSHALL: SHOW ME THE PICTURE: IMAGES AND STORIES FROM A PHOTOGRAPHY LEGEND by Amelia Davis. This gorgeous boxed edition from Chronicle Books covers his early work in NYC’s black neighborhoods in the 1960s, through the blossoming California music scene; the historic festivals at Monterey and Woodstock. Marshall’s images capture the spirit of performance as well as intimate portraits of legends like Janis Joplin, Dylan, Hendrix, and Santana. A book to savor.

Excerpts below from:  Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture by Amelia Davis, published by Chronicle Books 2019

CLICK HERE to order on Amazon


Our nonfiction fix for July:












With two novels as chasers:








Reviews to follow. Stay tuned.



THESE Hot titles have just come in the door…

Can’t wait to dive into the new Peter Diamond Investigation by Peter Lovesey. I’m also heading off to Iceland for a badly needed escape on THE ISLAND with Ragnar Jonasson. Then I’m off to the streets of Hong Kong  for a full dose of HONG KONG NOIR,  And I’m also determined to find out WHO IS VERA KELLY? with a little help from Rosalie Knecht.

But first I’d better take Riley Sager‘s advice and LOCK EVERY DOOR.

Reviews of all coming soon.


Michael Wolff’s bestselling FIRE AND FURY rode into bookstores Friday on a fiery wave of buzz, hype, and hysteria. The latter response coming directly from the White House, when an enraged POTUS threatened the book’s publisher with a lawsuit, and Henry Holt responded by moving up the pub date and printing more copies.

The impulse to gobble down a behind-the-scenes political book is often a guilty pleasure. Hell, it’s fun to feast on nasty revelations and dive deep into  the “dirt.” FIRE AND FURY, however, offers more. Although many of the juiciest  tidbits have already leaked out, the  book is still well worth reading. It not only provides deft descriptions of its bizarre cast of characters, but  offers memorable passages that rise high above the usual political hack-job. The sheer transcendent style of the writing makes this special. It reads like a novel by Terry Southern (think Flash and Filigree  and The Magic Christian), with a strange menacing undertow below the surface.

Wolff dissects the dark heart of Trumpism with cunning, cadence, and wit, and  lays bare the chaos and malice that storms inside the administration. Hundreds of interviews are skillfully woven into the narrative  in a manner that dispels the fog with shocking clarity. The daily web of hard-to-follow machinations are shaped into a tale that — despite its absurdity — is graspable.

Since there were no physical copies of the book  available in Sonoma County, I bit the bullet and downloaded the e-book. While reading the first fifty pages, I found myself frequently using the highlighter tool to preserve paragraphs for reading aloud later or sharing with friends.

Here are two examples; the first on Trump’s inaugural address:

Much of the sixteen-minute speech was part of Bannon’s daily joie de guerre patter—his take-back-the-country America-first, carnage-everywhere vision for the country. But it actually became darker and more forceful when filtered through Trump’s disappointment and delivered with his golf face. The administration purposely began on a tone of menace—a Bannon-driven message to the other side that the country was about to undergo profound change. Trump’s wounded feelings—his sense of being shunned and unloved on the very day he became president—helped send that message. When he came off the podium after delivering his address, he kept repeating, “Nobody will forget this speech.”
George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”

Here’s Wolff’s description of the dual-realties theory of Trump politics:

This had led increasingly to the two-different-realities theory of Trump politics. In the one reality, which encompassed most of Trump’s supporters, his nature was understood and appreciated. He was the antiwonk. He was the counterexpert. His was the gut call. He was the everyman. He was jazz (some, in the telling, made it rap), everybody else an earnest folk music. In the other reality, in which resided most of his antagonists, his virtues were grievous if not mental and criminal flaws. In this reality lived the media, which, with its conclusion of a misbegotten and bastard presidency, believed it could diminish him and wound him (and wind him up) and rob him of all credibility by relentlessly pointing out how literally wrong he was.

Beyond the leaked revelations, exquisite writing and sharp analysis make FIRE AND FURY a must.

It’s not just another guilty pleasure.


Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
by michael wolff
henry holt & co. 336 pages

click to order on amazon



Merry Mystery Christmas!

We’re wishing everyone MERRY mysteries this year.

There’s plenty of mysteries and crime fiction to choose from., but here are four off the top of our list

We always start our shopping at SOHO CRIME  — this  imprint publishes some of the best mystery writers around, including Cara Black, James R. Benn, Francine Mathews, and  Peter Lovesey, to name a few.

Lovesey, of course, is best known for his stellar Peter Diamond series, and boy we’re in luck because his latest is Beau Death  which launches Dec. 5th. (Looking forward to reviewing it in 2018. That’s a hint to Paul Oliver!)

Lovesey has also contributed  to a delightful new anthology, THE USUAL SANTAS featuring holiday-themed tales by Helene Tursten, Mick Herron, Martin Limón, Timothy Hallinan, Teresa Dovalpage, Mette Ivie Harrison, Colin Cotterill, Ed Lin, Stuart Neville, Tod Goldberg, Henry Chang, James R. Benn, Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis, Sujata Massey, Gary Corby, Cara Black, Stephanie Barron. There’s also a  forward by Peter Lovesey. Lots of goodies in here, and one of our faves is Mick Herron‘s “The Usual Santas.” Set in a fashionable  mall in the UK on Christmas Eve, 8 Santas are  gathered in celebration of their gig’s end, when they suddenly realize there’s a mysterious ninth Santa among them.


Next stop is MINOTAUR BOOKS — .another hot mystery publisher which, this year, gifted us with Jane Casey’s LET THE DEAD SPEAK —  the latest in her Maeve Kerrigan series.

A richly plotted  thriller with wicked twists, this novel has  a drop-dead ending that will haunt you long after reading. Maeve is a character who lives and breathes,  thanks to Casey’s mastery.  Beyond  the carefully layered suspense, he relationship between Kerrigan and DCI Derwent  is complex and compelling. If you have yet to  encounter the series, you’re in for a treat.

Looking for noir under the tree, well the late French writer  Pascal Garnier writes novelettes  that are dark and laced with black humor . Gallic Books has been making all of his books available in excellent translations.

When we read  Garnier’s THE PANDA THEORY we were hooked. Had the late Terry Southern written a thriller, it might have been this. We recently read THE ESKIMO SOLUTION which is as noir as Simenon but with an edginess that is uniquely Garnier’s. Here a writer gets a tad too close to his protagonist

It’s not for the squeamish.

To end the year with laughter, our friend Norman Conquest asked us to mention two new Black Scat Books.

The first publication in English of the master humorist Alphonse Allais‘s collection, LONG LIVE LIFE! — stories culled from the pages of LE CHAT NOIR, packed with madcap (and bawdy) tales of love, adultery, the supernatural, military life, and fake news. These texts are quintessentially Allaisian, spiked with absurd digressions, parenthetical asides, footnotes, puns, jokes, military jargon, Parisian slang, neologisms, dog Latin, literary quotations, and other unmentionable forms of wordplay. This special Black Scat edition features four additional  short stories not included in the original French volume, as well as a lively introduction, illustrations, and fascinating notes on the text by Doug Skinner.

And in the stocking stuffer category comes this fictional reference book:

Le Scat Noir Encyclopædia contains entries from Acrostic to Zwine, and features contributors from around the world—some of whom are distinguished professors at prestigious universities. Others are Nobel Prize winners, while a few have been arrested on felony charges. Discover rare factoids, flash fiction, nubile moon spew, mythological arcana, cabalistic pathogens, pataphysical detritus, scatological schemata, crypto-heuristic scripture, and radical homomorphism.

Over 100 pages of profusely illustrated weirdness.


See y’all next year — have a blast!