Leslie Budewitz

Erin Hart’s fourth novel in her acclaimed Nora Gavin series blends Irish legend and archaeology with present-day murder in a sad tale tinged with sweetness. In The Book of Killowen, American pathologist Nora and Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire are building a quiet life together in Ireland, healing Nora’s wounds and caring for Cormac’s elderly father, Joseph. Absent for much of his son’s childhood, Joseph is now suffering from a stroke, his ability to speak frustratingly garbled. When a bog body is found in Tipperary, near Killowen Bog, the trio and Joseph’s new caregiver move to Killowen Farm, a nearly idyllic retreat center and artist’s colony, to take over the excavation.

But the bog body has a modern companion—a murder victim. Detective Stella Cusack is eager to solve the crime, and the string of incidents that follow it, before losing the case to higher ups. Fortunately, her assistant has the experience with antiquities that she lacks. The murdered man’s identity is quickly discovered, and suspicions center on his estranged wife and her companion, frequent guests at Killowen Farm. But despite his brilliance, he had no shortage of faults—or enemies.

While Cusack untangles the secrets of the residents and neighbors, and their ties to the victim, Nora and Cormac study the treasures found with Bog Man for clues to his identity and his relationship to an ancient scriptorium once located nearby. Could he be the mysterious 9th-century philosopher and author of the controversial Book of Killowen? And where is the book? New secrets touch on the old, leading to blackmail and fiery danger.

The first book in the Nora Gavin series, Haunted Ground (2003), was nominated for Agatha and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel. In The Book of Killowen—Killowen means “Church of Owen”—Hart explores not only the mysteries of the Irish bogs, but also the ancient and modern mysteries of language and the power of secrets. Hart’s own language sings with sharp and powerful observations, of what she calls “characters in the great book of human events.” Pour yourself a Guinness, or brew a pot of tea, and dig in.

 

Leslie Budewitz’s debut mystery, Death al Dente, first in The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, will be published by Berkley Prime Crime in August 2013. 

Erin Hart’s fourth novel in her acclaimed Nora Gavin series blends Irish legend and archaeology with present-day murder in a sad tale tinged with sweetness. In The Book of Killowen, American pathologist Nora and Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire are building a quiet life together in Ireland, healing Nora’s wounds and caring for Cormac’s elderly father, […]

“We aren’t us anymore,” one of the focal characters of Laura Lippman’s newest stand-alone thriller, The Most Dangerous Thing, thinks of her childhood clan. “Maybe we never were.”

Many of us can recall a time and a group of friends that seems to symbolize our childhoods, to represent those years forever—no matter how long they lasted or how they ended. For the Halloran brothers—Tim, Sean and Gordon (aka Go-Go)—and two neighborhood girls, Gwen and Mickey, that time was short but vivid. Kids still ran freely in the 1970s, and these five spent long hours exploring the wooded park near their Baltimore homes. As they began to mature, Gwen and Sean paired off. With Tim focused on school and a future scholarship, smart-but-reckless Mickey and impulsive young Go-Go spent more time in the woods, some of it with a reclusive man who lived in a shack, played the steel guitar and disappeared for months without explanation.

Then one night in 1979, in the midst of a hurricane, a tragedy simultaneously united and divided the five. No one individual knew the whole story, but what they did know, they kept to themselves, and they drifted apart.

Now, more than thirty years later, Go-Go, the youngest at 40, is found dead. Accident or suicide? After his death, the secrets of the past resurface, and the remaining four are thrown together again. Tim and Gwen, separately, learn facts that compel them to search for the truth, both past and present. Tim, Sean, Gwen and Mickey must confront the past for themselves, deciding what to do about it now, and how that knowledge will reshape their memories and influence the future. Lippman’s series character, private investigator Tess Monaghan, makes a brief appearance.

Lippman writes with confidence, using shifting point of view and even a section in second-person plural that captures perfectly that time of childhood when children are not yet fully conscious of themselves as individuals rather than as part of a group. She portrays the shifting sands of adolescent sexuality and relationships with insight and compassion, although Mickey’s revelations may unsettle some readers.

Lippman’s novels have won every major mystery and crime fiction award. They are less about crime, though, than about cause and effect: what we think we remember, and what memories mean to us. After you read The Most Dangerous Thing, you will not think of your own childhood in quite the same way.

Leslie Budewitz’s reference for writers, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure(Quill Driver Books) is just out.

“We aren’t us anymore,” one of the focal characters of Laura Lippman’s newest stand-alone thriller, The Most Dangerous Thing, thinks of her childhood clan. “Maybe we never were.” Many of us can recall a time and a group of friends that seems to symbolize our childhoods, to represent those years forever—no matter how long they […]

There is nothing a writer craves more than to be told she is on the right path, that her creative processes and habits will inevitably produce a head-turning work of fiction—and nothing a writer needs more than to be denied that assurance and told firmly by one who knows to get back to work. The Secret Miracle, edited by Peruvian-American novelist Daniel Alarcón, does both.

In a Q&A format, many notable writers contribute valuable insights. The book’s strength is the range of writers included: literary icons Amy Tan and Mario Vargas Llosa; crime novelist George Pelecanos; household names Stephen King and Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket); prize-winning novelists Edwidge Danticat, Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem and Roddy Doyle; and dozens more. The geographical spread is vast: writers live in Cairo, Mexico City, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Paris and across the United States. Several are published in English in translation. The questions asked range just as far: What, and how, do you read? Is there a book you return to over and over? What do you learn from other art forms? Do you research? Outline? Plan a novel’s structure or let it happen? Identify with a character? Draw from your own life? Writers talk about their schedules, where they write and how they measure a successful day. When do you share a draft, how do you revise, what about false starts?

That breadth is also the book’s weakness. With so many writers on so many topics, some answers are too short to offer much help. Contradictions are inevitable, but delightful, and may fan the occasional flames between writers and readers of literary and genre fiction. Still, it isn’t only genre writers who value plot, or literary novelists who savor language. These people stand on common ground, though their walk and talk varies tremendously.

Proceeds from the book will benefit 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring and writing centers in eight cities, named for its original location, at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. In 2009, more than 4,000 volunteers worked with 18,000-plus students ages 6 to 18 on creative and expository writing; offered 266 workshops for students and teachers; provided after-school tutoring for 130 students a day; and produced more than 600 student publications. Each center also sponsors roundtable discussions with published writers.

Read a page of The Secret Miracle when you’re stuck or need a break from your own writing, or if you’re a reader, when you want a glimpse of the world behind the page. Dip in, then get back to work.

Leslie Budewitz’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchock Mystery Magazine, and The Whitefish Review.

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Interview with editor Daniel Alarcón

There is nothing a writer craves more than to be told she is on the right path, that her creative processes and habits will inevitably produce a head-turning work of fiction—and nothing a writer needs more than to be denied that assurance and told firmly by one who knows to get back to work. The […]

In Erin Hart’s much-welcome third mystery, False Mermaid, pathologist Nora Gavin feels compelled to return to the States to investigate the five-year-old murder of her younger sister, Triona. It was Nora’s despair over that death, and her inability to pin it on Triona’s husband, Peter Hallett, that drove Nora to return to Ireland, her childhood home. Now Peter is remarrying, and Nora is determined—driven—to prove his guilt, even though it means temporarily leaving Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and their deepening relationship.

In Minnesota, Nora reconnects with Detective Frank Cordova, the original investigator still plagued by both the cold case and his interest—unrequited—in Nora. Cordova is as willing as she to focus on Peter, and as frustrated by their failure to link him to the murder. Wanting to prove her theory, and protect her niece Elizabeth, now 11, Nora pleads with Peter’s new wife to see what she is getting into. She is met with icy refusal and the same accusations Peter levels: that crazy Nora is still after him. Worse, the pair insist that Nora did not really know her younger sister, and that Triona’s own risky behavior led to her death.

But when another woman’s body is found, in the riverside park where Triona often ran and where evidence suggests she was killed, Nora believes Peter has struck again. Through her expertise in bog bodies—the remains are preserved in Ireland’s ancient bogs—and her contacts in the forensic community, Nora discovers the reverse: whoever the killer was, Triona was not the first victim. Working with Frank to review evidence old and new, Nora gets closer than ever to the proof she craves—and is led back to Ireland, where the old legend of the selkie might cast light on her sister’s death.

Erin Hart’s Haunted Ground (2003) was nominated for an Agatha and an Anthony for Best First Novel. Once again, Irish music, myth and history are integral to setting, character and even plot. The reader will find herself almost believing, along with Elizabeth and Triona, in the ancient stories of the selkies, humans on land and seals in the sea.

Leslie Budewitz sometimes sings Irish folk songs in her car while driving around western Montana.

In Erin Hart’s much-welcome third mystery, False Mermaid, pathologist Nora Gavin feels compelled to return to the States to investigate the five-year-old murder of her younger sister, Triona. It was Nora’s despair over that death, and her inability to pin it on Triona’s husband, Peter Hallett, that drove Nora to return to Ireland, her childhood […]

Set aside your spring chores and cancel the rest of your plans when you pick up The Winter Vault. Thirteen years after her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, Canadian writer Anne Michaels unfolds the unforgettable story of Avery and Jean, who meet near land flooded by the St. Lawrence Seaway project. After their marriage, they live in Egypt, where Avery is an engineer responsible for rescuing the temples at Abu Simbel from the floodwaters of the Nile, as part of the Aswan High Dam construction in the mid-1960s. In both projects, lives and memories are uprooted with the landscape as entire communities are relocated. Michaels uses the structure of the novel to portray this displacement and this dislocation, juxtaposing water against desert, flow against flood, showing some of the ways people respond to emotional and physical dislocation.

In Egypt, Avery works with old sandstone and modern plans, while Jean observes the locals and tries to understand their lives. When their first child dies in utero, their relationship breaks. Their loss is the stone in the river that a Nubian friend describes as the one that splits the waters.

Back in Canada, Avery does not know how to help Jean—or himself—grieve, and leaves her. She becomes involved with Lucjan, an older man who survived the war as a Jewish orphan in Warsaw, and is now known as the Caveman because of the paintings he creates on Toronto fences late at night. He draws Jean, and they become lovers. It is Lucjan’s stories—and his challenges—that help Jean start to return to life. A year after their daughter’s death, Jean and Avery meet, unplanned, at her grave, and begin to walk back to each other.

Michaels is the author of three books of poetry, and her phrases and images echo back and forth through the novel. The title refers to the buildings where bodies wait until the ground thaws and graves can be dug, a metaphor for the temporary holding place we all visit in our lives, but rarely name. The Winter Vault requires close reading, but when you finish, you’ll want to turn back and read it all again.

Leslie Budewitz lives and writes near Flathead Lake in western Montana.
 

Set aside your spring chores and cancel the rest of your plans when you pick up The Winter Vault. Thirteen years after her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, Canadian writer Anne Michaels unfolds the unforgettable story of Avery and Jean, who meet near land flooded by the St. Lawrence Seaway project. After their marriage, they live […]

Katrina's floodwaters have receded, and Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel have gone to western Montana for an extended fishing trip. No surprise, except perhaps to them, that they find themselves both fishermen and bait.

The murder of two college students near their host's property lures Dave and Clete, who soon find themselves threatened by the henchman of an old enemy who was killed in a plane crash at the end of the pair's last trip to Montana, chronicled in Black Cherry Blues (1989). When it seems that the young lovers' murders are linked to a wealthy family, the Wellstones, who have ties to Galveston and New Orleans, Dave is hooked.

Meanwhile, an Iraq war veteran turned private prison guard named Troyce Nix is on the trail of an inmate who stabbed him and escaped. His target, Jimmy Dale Greenwood, once sang with the wife of one of the Wellstone brothers, and fathered her child before being wrongfully imprisoned. Now, Greenwood is determined to take her away. But Nix is nearly as nasty as the Wellstones, and it seems clear that neither singer will ever be free – unless Dave and Clete can figure out the connections in time.

Swan Peak is James Lee Burke's 17th Dave Robicheaux novel. In the series, the Pulitzer nominee and two-time Edgar winner creates a world that is frightening yet comforting in its familiarity, unnerving yet satisfying, because while justice is not always obtained, it is sought unswervingly and fought for passionately.

Swan Peak is the story of old loves, old grudges and old crimes resurfacing. It is also a story of choosing redemption. Series fans may miss the bayou, but they'll be glad they took the trip west with Dave and Clete.

Leslie Budewitz lives and writes at the foot of the Swan Mountains in Montana.

 

Katrina's floodwaters have receded, and Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel have gone to western Montana for an extended fishing trip. No surprise, except perhaps to them, that they find themselves both fishermen and bait. The murder of two college students near their host's property lures Dave and Clete, who soon find themselves threatened by the […]

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