Tom Corcoran

The best mysteries, these days, go beyond mind puzzles and character studies to remote, unique locales and to a spectrum of lifestyles. This month we visit Hawaii, Alaska, England, and Southern California. Nowhere do we find plain settings or run-of-the-mill personalities.

Dana Stabenow's ninth Kate Shugak book, Hunter's Moon, pits boardroom treachery against the elements and occupants of Alaska's wilderness. Alaska regulates those who lead tourists to big game. Shugak is a resourceful 34-year-old native Aleut with a Class A Assistant guide's license and a dislike of cellular phones. For the first time in years, she finds herself close to romantic commitment, with former fellow Anchorage D.A. investigator and, now, fellow guide Jack Morgan. Kate and Jack help staff a hunting lodge leased by the nine-man, one-woman management team of a German software company. The firm's executive retreat, perhaps in response to international rumors of financial misdeeds, turns into an intramural range war with two accidental deaths and an abundance of motives and suspects. To survive the battle – especially after Jack is injured – Kate must summon deep survival instincts and backcountry knowledge, and use the wilderness as her best ally.

Perfect for fans of historical mysteries, Search the Dark, by Charles Todd, is a fine surprise for those accustomed to current-day plots. World War I changed everyone in England, throwing into turmoil the lives of surviving soldiers and those who awaited their return. Political and financial power changed the least. Even outside sophisticated London, power struggles and battles of jealousy and revenge lead to murder. The battered body of a young woman is found in a field. A distraught veteran is arrested. Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge, who also suffers post-war trauma, senses that the hurried case closure indicates a flawed investigation. Trespassing on local jurisdiction, charmed by a female suspect, Rutledge must travel village to country village to coax information from reluctant and conniving citizens. Then another body is found. Assisted by the voice in his head, words of a comrade who failed to return from war, Rutledge must unravel unspoken rules of social hierarchy and decipher clues from gossip. There are plenty of suspects; perhaps the wrong man sits in jail. Shell shock is real in the hunter and the hunted. Suspense holds to the final page.

Marcia Muller's 20th Sharon McCone mystery, A Walk Through the Fire is as fresh as any Muller effort. McCone is summoned to Hawaii where friend Glenna Stanleigh's film-in-progress is suffering mishaps aimed at shutting down production. This film, like previous Stanleigh documentaries intended to fight prejudice, is based on an unpublished manuscript on Hawaiian culture written by a wealthy man who vanished in 1992. McCone and longtime lover Hy Ripinsky arrive in Hawaii to a familial civil war and threat of terrorist action by a group inspired more by drugs than native rights. An attempted murder, a witnessed murder, and a bizarre suicide change the nature of McCone's investigation. Her attraction to a local helicopter pilot (and friend of the missing author) strains her relationship with Ripinsky. A web of financial treachery, greed, and grandiose plans must be untangled to dodge danger and survive.

In Heartbreaker, Robert Ferrigno's fifth mystery, there is no honor among thieves. Only distrust and layers of triple-cross. Ferrigno's characters inhabit the edges; night stars are the spilled milk of the Milky Way. In this high-octane interplay of scammers and the wealthy in sad tuxedos, separate agendas weave a tangle of lies, greed, violence, and misused intelligence. Contract hits, public taunts, and jokes in the face of death prove that Ferrigno's disaffected characters could be Elmore Leonard's. They spout the bizarre dialogue of Robert Crais's blase low-lifes; the most evil possess the twisted minds of James Ellroy's noir felons. This one works.

 

Tom Corcoran is the Florida-based author of The Mango Opera (St. Martin's) and the forthcoming Gumbo Limbo.

The best mysteries, these days, go beyond mind puzzles and character studies to remote, unique locales and to a spectrum of lifestyles. This month we visit Hawaii, Alaska, England, and Southern California. Nowhere do we find plain settings or run-of-the-mill personalities. Dana Stabenow's ninth Kate Shugak book, Hunter's Moon, pits boardroom treachery against the elements […]

Anyone who's observed Jimmy Buffett's music career and heard his song lyrics knows that his main product is carefree optimism. But Jimmy has a little secret: he's been a workaholic for 30 years. As we learn in his memoir, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, he works just as hard at having good times as he does earning them.

The book is a travelogue with flashbacks — and not the kind you might fear. Insightful and entertaining, this detailed instruction on how to live a rewarding life might well be deemed the ultimate self-help manual.

We spoke to Mr. Buffett recently, just after he'd spent several days in New Orleans, "revisiting his youth."

Tom Corcoran: In A Pirate Looks at Fifty you say that you squeeze 36 hours into every day. How did you find time to create a 400-page book?
Jimmy Buffett: I had a deadline! I'd started a novel before I got involved in the musical production of Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival. That was fun, but a creative sidetrack. I still owed the publisher a book. I pulled out my old journals and took a lesson from David Niven, who wrote a wonderful non-tell-all biography called The Moon Is a Balloon. It was informative, yet entertaining to the point of near-fiction in which he'd made himself a character. I decided to write about a journey during which I reflected on events in my life. A lot of it was already on paper. Plus, that deadline . . .

TC: How much of your wanderlust can we attribute to your reading?
JB: Almost all of it, from my youth up till today. I hate to mention age, but I come from an era when we weren't consumed by technology and television. My mother insisted that her children read. To describe my scarce leisure time in today's terms, I always default to reading. It didn't hurt that I came from a Gulf Coast storytelling tradition. I went to the Caribbean because my grandfather sang calypso songs. Simple as that.

TC: You state in this book that you've tried to follow your instincts and keep your sense of humor. Creativity aside, how much of your success can you attribute to instinct and humor?
JB: Ninety percent of it. Instinct taught me 20 years ago to pace a song or a concert performance. That translates into pacing a story, pleasing a reading audience. I don't know where I got it. It must be instinct. Humor has bailed me out of more tight situations than I can think of. If you go with your instincts and keep your humor, creativity follows. With luck, success comes, too.

TC: A Pirate Looks at Fifty demonstrates your fascination with many people, not necessarily for what they do, but how well they do it. Do you judge yourself the same way?
JB: I remember the excruciating school task of writing a three-page term paper. But, oh, that feeling when I was done! I think I drive myself for that feeling of accomplishment. Herman Wouk told me, "Write a page a day. It will add up." So I make sure to do it. Whether it's a letter, song lyrics, part of a novel, or instructions on how to fix a kitchen sink, it's writing. You keep your craft honed, you acquire the discipline to finish things. You turn into a self-taskmaster.

TC: Twenty years ago you were sailing the Caribbean. For the past decade you've been flying all kinds of aircraft, all over the hemisphere. How do you foresee your introduction to "A Pirate Looks at Sixty"?
JB: I'm inspired by people who keep on rolling, no matter their age. I've talked recently with Harry Belafonte and with Mose Allison, two musicians who continue to enjoy performing and life. Quitting doesn't enter my mind. I want to keep going as I have, to travel, read, perform, write, and enjoy my family. I've promised myself only this: no more Laundromats, no more two-shows-a-night, and no more deadlines. I'll work at my own pace.

Anyone who's observed Jimmy Buffett's music career and heard his song lyrics knows that his main product is carefree optimism. But Jimmy has a little secret: he's been a workaholic for 30 years. As we learn in his memoir, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, he works just as hard at having good times as he […]

In The Twisted Root by Anne Perry agent of enquiry William Monk is asked by Lucius Stourbridge to help locate his missing fiance, the widow, Mrs. Miriam Gardiner. Miriam departed a gathering at the Stourbridge estate and, along with coachman Treadwell and the coach and team, vanished. Lucius is crushed; his parents and maternal uncle Aiden Campbell act similarly. But they reveal that Miriam was perhaps a step down in station, over-familiar with servants, and at least nine years their son's senior.

Presently, the coachman is found murdered, and Miriam is presumed the killer. Monk, an ex-police officer fired for insubordination, believes there is more to the crime. With the assistance of his new wife Hester Latterly, Monk pursues an investigation that, with classic Anne Perry twists, leads into Victorian bedrooms and, eventually, the courtroom. ¦ Tom Corcoran is the Florida-based author of The Mango Opera and the new Florida Keys mystery, Gumbo Limbo, both from St. Martin's.

In The Twisted Root by Anne Perry agent of enquiry William Monk is asked by Lucius Stourbridge to help locate his missing fiance, the widow, Mrs. Miriam Gardiner. Miriam departed a gathering at the Stourbridge estate and, along with coachman Treadwell and the coach and team, vanished. Lucius is crushed; his parents and maternal uncle […]

Veteran NYPD detectives Joe Gregory and Anthony Ryan make their fourth appearance in Edward Dee's Nightbird. The longtime partners know the boroughs, the worlds, and underworlds of urban New York as intimately as the cop saloon they frequent. When Broadway actress Gillian Stone plunges many stories to her death, many assume suicide. This theory is bolstered when the detectives learn that her employer, producer Trey Winters, had requested that the young woman submit to a drug test. If she'd been using, her career would halt.

But word filters down that Gillian and Winters were lovers. And the case is complicated by the detectives' discovery that Danny Eumont, Ryan's nephew, had once been involved with the dead woman. What begins as a routine case becomes a complex and personal challenge to the partners.

Edward Dee, an ex-New York detective, paints backdrops with authenticity and cynicism. Gregory and Ryan, purposeful and sharp, take different approaches to crime solution, yet blend their insights to reach resolutions.

Tom Corcoran is the Florida-based author of The Mango Opera and the new Florida Keys mystery, Gumbo Limbo, both from St. Martin's.

Veteran NYPD detectives Joe Gregory and Anthony Ryan make their fourth appearance in Edward Dee's Nightbird. The longtime partners know the boroughs, the worlds, and underworlds of urban New York as intimately as the cop saloon they frequent. When Broadway actress Gillian Stone plunges many stories to her death, many assume suicide. This theory is […]

Shooting at Midnight by Greg Rucka begins not with the author's compelling character Atticus Kodiak, but with the bodyguard's sometime lover, Bridgett Logan. This New York cop's daughter is a streetwise investigator and recovering addict with a sense of justice and a weakness for drugs. Bridgett is asked to honor a promise made years ago to Lisa Schoof, a fellow down-and-out teenager. But the pledge to help protect her from an abusive ex-lover gets twisted. Lisa wants to murder Vince Lark.

Within hours, Lark has been killed in a shooting gallery, Lisa refuses to speak in her own defense, and Bridgett realizes that her father's service revolver is missing. Bridgett must risk her life to learn the circumstances of the murder. The investigation exacts horrendous sacrifice, and Atticus is delivered a mysterious summons. To tell more would ruin this gritty novel's true-to-life suspense.

Tom Corcoran is the Florida-based author of The Mango Opera and the new Florida Keys mystery, Gumbo Limbo, both from St. Martin's.

Shooting at Midnight by Greg Rucka begins not with the author's compelling character Atticus Kodiak, but with the bodyguard's sometime lover, Bridgett Logan. This New York cop's daughter is a streetwise investigator and recovering addict with a sense of justice and a weakness for drugs. Bridgett is asked to honor a promise made years ago […]

Stone Quarry by S. J. Rozan extends an award-winning series with plot and personal repercussions from last year's A Bitter Feast. Bill Smith and Linda Chin are attempting to mend their relationship by keeping a therapeutic distance she in the City, Bill at his upstate New York escape cabin. Even with classical music in the air, the boonies are not peaceful. Smith and Chin's resolutions of past situations have led to a grim expansion of problems. A body in the basement of Smith's favorite hangout and a woman requesting his expertise in tracking stolen art without police involvement force Smith to break his own policy of not working while on vacation. Rozan's seamless writing ranges from glorious to no-frills, the action is backwoods tough, and Stone Quarry is consistently believable.

Tom Corcoran is the Florida-based author of The Mango Opera and the new Florida Keys mystery, Gumbo Limbo, both from St. Martin's.

Stone Quarry by S. J. Rozan extends an award-winning series with plot and personal repercussions from last year's A Bitter Feast. Bill Smith and Linda Chin are attempting to mend their relationship by keeping a therapeutic distance she in the City, Bill at his upstate New York escape cabin. Even with classical music in the […]

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