Many Rivers To Cross by Peter Robinson brings back beloved DCI Detective Alan Banks. Robinson seems to be the master of the “who done it,” while
covering subject matters that are relevant.
This second book in
a trilogy takes over where the first book, Careless Love, left off. Zelda, a super recognizer, is working with law enforcement to identify those in the sex trafficking trade from Eastern Europe. She is a survivor
of that world, but still has PTSD. When she sees pictures of men who were involved in her past, she hesitates to share that knowledge, and decides to take matters into her own hands. Zelda is also the girlfriend of DI Annie Cabbot’s much older father
A parallel sub-plot is the murder of a young boy found dead in a trash can. No one has come forth to identify the body. Detective Banks wonders if there is a connection between this killing and the body of a lifelong drug user. Banks is looking for links that others miss, hoping this will give him the break needed to crack the case.
An added bonus is the music used to facilitate Banks’ mood. Composer Takemitsuh, singers Sinatra,
Vaughn, and Bach are part of the story. Readers are always introduced to songs that they can add to their playlist.
This series is very believable
and the sub-plots are fabulously interwoven. Because it is a trilogy there are some loose ends left dangling. This allows readers to look forward to the next book.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Peter Robinson: Since this is a trilogy I
wanted to continue Zelda’s story from the previous book. She is pursuing her own quest. The other sub-plot has these drug dealers using boys to distribute drugs. It was just becoming known in the news when I started to write about it. It is a big problem right now.
EC: So Alan Banks is having some trouble lately?
PR: I keep trying to have him in a relationship but he is resisting. Unfortunately, there is nothing positive at the moment. Part of
his depression is knowing he is getting closer to retirement age and is living all alone. I think he is more introspective. He is also depressed because of the kind of
job he does, which puts him in contact with some of the most depressing elements of society. He takes on the trouble that he deals with that drags him down.
EC: What is the NCA?
PR: National Crime Agency. It was set up a few years ago and works like the FBI. I don’t think it is fully functional yet. The NCA has a broader perspective than law enforcement. MI5 and MI6 both basically deal with espionage, while NCA handles crime.
EC: How would you describe Zelda?
PR: I want the readers to get to know her and become privy to her thoughts. They know her better than Banks. She is a conflicted character who had terrible
teenage years after being abducted and sex-trafficked. She has PTSD and now wants revenge; yet, strives for a peaceful life. I think the book quote sums her up, “Because I am a woman? Because I am a foreigner?
Because I was forced into prostitution? Because I don’t jump every time you tell me to?” She is trying to find her identity. I enjoy writing more about a character’s journey than the perils along
the way that involve more of the crime.
EC: How did you choose Zelda’s name?
PR: When I first wrote her I thought of Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character. But then I decided to go in another direction and found her name as a game character. I used to play games on Nintendo years ago. Zelda actually has three names: her Russian name, her Moldova
name, and this name.
EC: In the book there
is a reference to bacon butty?
PR: It is delicious. Americans always ask about it. It is a wonderful sandwich. It has bacon between two pieces of buttered bread. There is no need for lettuce or tomato.
EC: The TV show on Banks seems to have differentiated from the books?
PR: I did not like that they killed off DI Annie Cabot. This was an extreme thing to do. People were angry and asked why I killed her
off? I responded I didn’t do it, the TV show did. In the books, she is alive and well. The TV shows were writing their own stories. Originally, they used a few of
the books, but they changed those also. They even made up characters that were not in the books. The books and TV show were two parallel universes and never the twain shall meet.
EC: How do you choose the songs?
PR: I usually choose
it as I go along. I think about what could highlight, contrast, or underline what is going on. If I can’t do it while writing the scene I will put a question mark
and return later. Sometimes it just so happens I listen to something and realize it belongs here or there. Banks uses it to help his mood or to help him think. For example, I used Toru Takemitsu in this book because the sound of his music creates a certain mood with the drifting kind of music. But he also has an arrangement of certain pop songs that
sounds strange in contrast.
EC: In this book
Banks is thinking of taking up guitar and received a Martin D-28?
PR: I also play it and I am about as good
as Banks. I played the rhythm guitar for fun when I was young.
EC: What about Foyles Book Store in England?
It just moved and is larger than it was before. It has five floors of books, a café, and a basement. It has an incredible range of books and music. I am glad to see that there is an increase in the number of independent book
stores in England. I do miss book and music stores. I like to go down to a shop and rummage through the CDs and DVDs. Unfortunately, because there are not many left I have to buy them online, which is not as much fun.
EC: Can you give a shout out about the next book?
PR: It is titled, Not Dark Yet, from a Bob Dylan song. It will end Zelda’s story. There is also a number of cases that follow what happens at the end of this book. It will be the last book in the trilogy. I want readers to understand that I wrote each book so it can be
A new series, Sarah Blair Mysteries, is a fast-moving, intriguing plot set in the world of food. Readers should probably read the books in order, One Taste Too Many and then Two Bites Too Many.
These first two books have the main protagonist, Sarah Blair, trying to defend family members of murder. First her sister is accused, and in the second book her mother.
Sarah would rather catch bad guys than slave over a hot stove, and she seems to be good at being an amateur sleuth. The plot of One Taste Too Many explains how Sarah was married at eighteen and divorced ten years later. She is starting over
in Wheaton Alabama and has taken a receptionist job at a local law office, living in a studio apartment with her Siamese cat, RahRah. Her twin sister Emily has also come back to her small hometown to be a culinary guru in a restaurant run by the chef, Marcus,
who trained her. Now in a relationship, she decided to be the main chef in his restaurant, Southwind. The twins are direct opposites. Emily is ambitious, a free spirit, and a seriously talented chef with great people skills, while Sarah is insecure and
trying to find herself.
Trouble finds the sisters after Sarah’s ex-husband is found dead and Emily is accused of poisoning him. To make matters worse, Sarah’s
beloved cat Rah-Rah might not be hers anymore. The cat was rescued during Hurricane Katrina by Sarah’s ex-mother-in-law who wanted her to take Rah-Rah if and when she died. Yet, Sarah is shocked that her ex would will the beloved cat to the woman who
broke up her marriage. She is determined to clear her sister’s name and find a way to keep her cat.
In the second book, Two Bites
Too Many, Sarah investigates another murder. The president of the town bank has been killed. Her mother Maybelle becomes the prime suspect after she is found with his blood on her and was the last person to see him. Then there is Emily, who has created
tension in her relationship with chef Marcus after she takes a job at The Howellian. It is in competition with their proposed upscale restaurant/pub, Southwind as well as Marcus’ catering business. Sarah spends most of this book trying to clear her mother
of a murder charge, organizing a town-wide pet-themed fundraising event, and trying to keep her sister from making a major business-related mistake.
Both these great mysteries kept readers guessing until the very end. The many twists and turns confuse readers as to which of the possible suspects is the real killer. The characters are charming and likeable and the added bonus of humorous dialogue
enhances the story.
Elise Cooper: Why did you retire as a judge?
Debra H. Goldstein: The first book I wrote had the publicity, ‘judge writes a book.’ I was sitting on the bench when it was published. Right before I did my standard closing the defendant said, ‘I just want you to
know no matter how you rule I will still buy your book.’ I went home and decided to follow my passion to write, so I retired.
Did you associate with the main character, Sarah?
DHG: I identify with her being a cook of convenience. Like her, I prefer bringing in take-out, going out for dinner, or
using pre-made ingredients. My sister and mother are excellent cooks. While I watched Perry Mason, my sister would be in the kitchen with my mother. Just as with Sarah the kitchen kind of terrifies me.
EC: What about Sarah’s divorce?
DHG: Although I have never been divorced, many of my friends
and family members have, so I wanted to write about a woman’s vulnerability.
EC: How would you describe Sarah?
DHG: Because of being divorced she does not know what she wants to do. In the second book, she is taking more control over her life. I think she has been shattered and is insecure.
EC: How would describe her twin Emily?
DHG: She and
Sarah have personalities that are day and night. She is very confident and knows exactly what she wants. She can be stubborn, is a planner, and someone everybody wants to socialize with.
EC: Why twins?
DHG: I am the mother of fraternal twins. My son is the party animal and my daughter is the academic.
I went to schools like Stanford and Harvard, while my husband went to party schools.
EC: How would you describe the mother,
DHG: A typical Southern lady. I have based her a bit on my mother who is a Holocaust survivor. She takes nothing from anybody. She taught us to stand up for ourselves
and to believe we can do anything. Some of Maybelle’s personality also comes from my Southern friends who can be charming and behave like those in “Steel Magnolias.”
EC: How would you describe the cat Rah-Rah?
DHG: Because I never grew up with cats I relied on my friend that has Siamese
cats. She talked to me how they behaved and what are their nuisances. Her cat is on the cover of my book. I wrote Rah-Rah as very controlling and an alpha-male.
EC: Book 2 has a dog, Fluffy?
DHG: I grew up with dogs so I wanted to add a dog to balance Rah-Rah. He is naïve, subservient,
and will become friends with the cat.
EC: Why the Perry Mason references?
DHG: I love him and have had a crush on him since I was a child. In part, I became a lawyer because of the show.
EC: Will Sarah ever be involved in a relationship?
DHG: Harlan Endicott is her boss who is a lawyer. He had done her favors by defending her family.
He cares a lot for her and has approached her, but she does not want to cross any lines. I did not want to make him the romantic interest because of the boss/employee relationship. This comes from my time as a litigator of sexual harassment cases.
I want readers to understand she is coming out of a bad marriage and right now does not want to be tied down, especially since he emotionally abused her.
EC: How would you describe the neighbor Mr. Rogers?
DHG: I want to say I did not base him or the name of the child’s TV host. He is eccentric
and is the person who watches out for the rest of the block. He is loosely based on a neighbor I had after arriving in Alabama as a twenty-four-year-old single. He was seventy-eight and a widow. He would check out all the single female dates and tell
us what he thought of them, a fatherly type.
EC: Does the setting play an important role?
DHG: I like writing about small southern towns. I made up the town of Wheaton just fifteen minutes out of Birmingham so there would be a contrast. I wrote it as a composite of small towns with the white church, marvel
buildings, and a river. Mainstreet has some shops and businesses, a few blocks away has some gorgeous beautiful homes, and then a few blocks further are smaller homes.
EC: Your next book?
DHG: One of Emily and Sarah’s friends, Jacob, will be accused of a murder. They work together to try to
get him off along with his sister.
Matchmaking Can Be Murder by Amanda Flower, is the first in a new series for the New Year. This spin-off from the wildly popular “Amish candy-Shop Mysteries” has some of the beloved characters
including Deputy Sheriff Aiden Brody, and introduces some interesting others, some eccentric and some very appealing.
The plot has matchmaker Millie Fisher just returning to Harvest, Ohio after spending 10 years taking care of her ailing sister. Millie is a widow who lives on her own with an assortment of animals, including two goats with big personalities. She is
one of those who believes that a marriage should be for love, not financial gain or security. Having an uncanny ability to tell when two people are right for each other, she
is deeply concerned that her beloved niece Edith Hochstetler, a widow, is about to marry Zeke Miller, who’s emphatically not right for her. Yet, the pleasure she received from hearing that Edith called off her wedding
to Zeke Miller was short lived after Edith found Zeke’s dead body in the greenhouse she manages. Millie is afraid her niece will be blamed for the murder. Enlisting the help of her childhood, non-Amish friend, Lois Henry, to find the real killer, they
become amateur sleuths to solve Zeke’s murder and clear Edith’s name.
Millie’s friendship with Lois makes this book
even better than it would be without their teamwork. Lois is loyal and soft-hearted, underneath a brash, bold exterior. Millie knows Lois well since they grew up on neighboring farms. Lois will remind fans of Cass from the other series. Both Lois and Cass are fun-loving Englishers who appear outrageous in their actions and dress, and are an odd couple compared to the Amish.
The other interesting character types are Millie’s two goats, Phillip and Peter. They should remind readers of Jethro the pig from the other series.
It seems unconventional pets fit into the stories perfectly. These two are mischievous Boer goats, who do a bang-up job of keeping the property weed-free and chasing unwanted Amish around like the Bishop’s
As the plot thickens, the mystery gets more suspenseful with many twists and turns. The reader is also entertained by Lois and the two goat’s antics.
Now, people can look forward to not one series, but two that involve the Amish community.
Elise Cooper: Why a new series?
Flower: I wanted to write a book from an Amish character’s perspective. This is something I have not done in the past.
I also wanted the main character to be older, a 67-year-old woman who has more experience and insight. BTW: The other series is doing well, and I have no intention
of ending it. This is not replacing the “Amish candy-Shop Mysteries.”
EC: Will there be a cross-over of characters?
AF: Someone who reads both series will recognize the
timeline and some of the characters. They will not help each other solve the crimes but will be mentioned in a fun way. The only one who will play a large role in both books is Aiden Brody, the police officer of
the town. He might get a bit tired, because he is solving so many murders. (LOL)
it challenging to weave in a murder into this matchmaking series?
AF: Yes. I will have to associate any killing with a couple. Either
it will be centered around a break-up or a strong relationship. A common misconception is that the Amish have planned marriages. They actually want their children to marry for love.
EC: There are unconventional animals?
AF: The first series has a pet pig and this series has pet goats. Because the setting takes place in rural Ohio, I was able to write in these types of animals. My fiancé owns a farm so we will have goats. I think I am living vicariously through Millie until I get my own goats. I have done a lot of research on goats for my personal life. They can help clear the land by eating the weeds and grass.
EC: Do the Amish consider their animals as pets?
AF: You are referring to this book quote, “I had to defend my boys. For that was how I thought of Peter and Phillip. I knew it went against my upbringing
to regard animals as pets, but my boys were gut company for me, despite their tendency to get into trouble. I’m quite fond of those goats.” In general, the Amish do not consider the animals as pets. By and large the animals are for work. A dog is for hunting or herding, cats are to capture mice, and goats are to help clear the land. I think because she is widowed and lives alone the goats are Millie’s companions, who she cuddles.
EC: How would you describe Millie?
AF: Thoughtful, a
rule follower to a degree. Since she came back to Ohio, she is more open and accepting of people. She accepts that her best friend Lois is not at all like her, but the direct opposite.
EC: The Bishop’s wife, Ruth, plays a larger role in this book?
AF: She will be in this series more. She is a strict rule follower and can be grumpy. But she also has a tender side. I think she behaves differently, depending on who she is with. She can be compassionate and has a dry sense of humor that readers in the other series have not seen.
I think she likes to be in charge.
EC: How would you describe the person of interest,
Millie’s niece, Edith?
AF: She is a single mother raising three children who is running her own business, a greenhouse. In the beginning, she appears to be timid and tentative because the Amish community thinks she needs to marry to give her children a father. But by the end of the story she becomes strong.
I also think she is sensitive, sweet, kind, and spirited.
EC: In the books there
is a bit of Amish culture. This one has the rule that if there are any sons, they inherit the property instead of the daughters?
AF: The oldest male inherits the property. The other children have to find a livelihood so they tend to go to places like Wyoming or Montana to get land. The whole point of the Amish faith is to have the community geographically close to each other. Yet, this system has caused them to move away from each other.
EC: Why blueberry?
It is Millie’s favorite flavor. My favorite is strawberry.
EC: Your next book(s)?
AF: The next “Matchmaker book,” Courting Can Be A Killer, has a fire at a local flea market. A young man dies, and the main suspect is the father who did not want his daughter to marry him.
The “Candy-shop series” will have a few novellas, one of which is titled Botched Butterscotch. The main character, Bailey King have her parents visiting Harvest, Ohio. Bailey’s father
has rarely returned since leaving the Amish faith over thirty years ago, so to ease tensions Bailey is making a Mother’s Day Tea at the local church. All’s going well, until a sticky-fingered thief makes off with the money raised for a local women’s
The book in the “Candy-shop series,” Marshmallow Malice,
has Juliet Brody and Reverend Brook tying the knot. One guest calls the Reverend a traitor, and then is found dead on the Church’s steps.
No Man’s Land by Sara Driscollhas a unique plot. A suspenseful mystery, whose main characters include K-9 dog teams, brings the characters to life. For first time readers, Driscoll is the pen
name for Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan, who also wrote the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries.
The story begins with Meg Jennings and
her K-9 companion, Hawk, exploring the ruins of a deserted building to sharpen their skills without the life-or-death stakes they face as part of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team. While searching, Hawk finds the body of an elderly woman. The victim
was left to die alone and unable to save herself. Through the investigation it is discovered that there is a spree of such killings where the elderly is left at urbex sites to die. Meg and her team must find the culprit who is particularly cruel, first kidnapping
them, and then leaving them to die alone in a decaying and scary structure.
Interestingly, the writers put the vocabulary pertaining to the
plot at the beginning of each chapter. In this installment, urbex or urban exploration is an activity that people do to observe condemned sites that are left to deteriorate on their own.
The cast of characters teaming up with Meg are her sister Cara, who is a dog trainer and yoga instructor, Cara’s boyfriend Clay McCord, who is a journalist with connections and research skills, Chuck Smaill
who helps find the best urbex sites to search, Meg's boyfriend and EMS firefighter Todd Webb, and the rest of the search/rescue dogs: Blink, Saki, Coy, and Lacey.
This interesting premise has a subject matter that is endlessly captivating. Strong, confident, and likeable characters work together to help unmask danger and murder.
Elise Cooper: Sara Driscoll are two authors writing together in the same manner as Charles Todd?
Yes. I am Jen J. Danna and I write with dog trainer Ann Vanderlaan. We write remotely because we do not live close so we depend a lot on the Internet. At first, we wrote “trunk” novels, which means we put the stories in the trunk,
never to see the light of day.
EC: How do you write together?
We build an outline in the beginning. Then I write each chapter, and send it to Ann, who rips it apart. We then re-write it again. Ann always picks the themes and the chapter titles. We like to have vocabulary at the beginning of the chapters
to introduce the context and teach the lingo of the plot.
EC: Does the FBI really have canine teams?
SD: It is actually a little bit of a challenge to write this plot. We need to involve the dogs in the entire case, which is not usually how it happens in the real-life cases. Handlers associated
with the FBI are not really a part of them, but are more like external contractors that come with their own dog. To keep the FBI involved we made the murders happen across state lines.
EC: Why make Hawk a black lab?
SD: He is based on the dog I grew up with named Shady. Hawk is written in
Shady’s memory. Labs are great dogs with a good drive. They also make wonderful family dogs because they are very gentle. Professionally, he is partly based on Ann's therapy dog, Kane, who she trained for nose work so we could properly
write this series.
EC: How would you describe Hawk?
SD: Loyal, driven, and
goal oriented. He was rescued by Meg as a puppy. She was a canine officer who lost her partner, a German Shepherd while bringing down a suspect. To recuperate she went back to her parents and found a black lab puppy that had contracted the parvo
virus. Meg helped nurse the puppy back to health and trained her to be a rescue dog.
EC: How would you describe Meg?
SD: She is stubborn, loyal, takes on more than she should, and is a straight-shooter. She chose the canine career because she loves animals.
EC: Why the urban locations?
SD: For the thriller aspect. Many years ago, I stumbled
upon a website called Opacity that has photographs of abandoned places. Tom Kirsch runs it and takes fabulous pictures. I was impressed by his ability to create an atmosphere with his photography as well as the range of locations and type of structures.
It is not an exploration of nature, but of urban sites. We realized that urban exploration would provide interesting, challenging, and dangerous search locations for the K-9 teams. The title of the book comes from the space between the fence and the building.
EC: Did you ever do it personally?
I did a little bit of it. My daughter took a photography course in her final year at the University. Her project was on urban decay. Going into the sites was very dangerous.
EC: Can you give a shout out about your next book(s)?
SD: I will be writing on my own a new series out in July
about NYPD negotiators. The next canine book is titled Leave No Trace and will probably be out in November. It is about a hunter who is hunting people instead of animals in Georgia.
The Vanishing by Jayne Krentz is an action-packed story that relies heavily on the paranormal. The psychic element adds to the suspense along with murder, conspiracies, and a kidnapping.
The story opens fifteen years earlier where two teenage girls, Catalina Lark and Olivia Dayton witness a murder in a cave. Convinced the girls
were hallucinating, their story was dismissed.
Readers find out how the government was running paranormal experiments in the mountains
close to a town in Fogg Lake Washington. After a gas explosion, residents of the town started having visions. But after the government sent representatives to find out what happened the residents blamed their “hallucination” on food subjects, as
they were determined not to become research subjects. Some Fogg Lake descendants, including protagonists Catalina and Olivia, were later born with “another sight.”
Fast-forward to the present day where Cat and Olivia open a private investigation firm in Seattle. To help solve crimes they rely heavily on paranormal gifts: Cat has visions of the past and Olivia has the ability to read auras. After
Olivia suddenly disappears, Cat fears it has something to do with the murder they witnessed fifteen years earlier. She reluctantly agrees to help another investigator, Slater Arganbright, find who is behind a series of recent murders as long as he helps
her find Olivia. Needless to say, a romance forms between the two.
The story has passion, love, danger, and at times the dialogue is very
humorous. Krentz creates an atmosphere of tension, drama, and danger.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Jayne Krentz: In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, there was serious governmental paranormal research going on. There were a lot of facilities built. It was a type of arms race with the Soviet
Union who was also exploring paranormal research. In hindsight, I think both countries went a little crazy with it. But for me, it makes good plot material. I thought about what could happen after it was shut down.
EC: Did you base it on anything?
JK: My Bluestone Project is based
loosely on the Manhattan Nuclear Bomb project. There were several scattered lands that were isolated from each other for security reasons. These places were put in non-populated areas. I wanted to show how the government ran secret labs.
I wrote “The Foundation” as an undercover government agency that is devoted to studying the paranormal, policing those who went rogue, protecting those with ‘talents,’ and handles crimes that often go unobserved because they don’t
look like crimes to the police, but they look like natural disasters or deaths.
EC: Is the town of Fogg Lake real?
JK: I like the setting to be in Washington state. Making up my own town allows me to easy manipulate the pieces instead of having to stick to the reality on the ground. There are still so many tiny
towns and wild places in the state, and I’m always amazed that people still disappear in the mountains. I like drawing on the wild energy of nature for the storylines. And the energy of Seattle is at the core of the story: Almost any kind of character
can come out of our town.
EC: How would you define Catalina?
Regarding her talent, she is able work through a crime scene by having visions of what happened. She sees manifestations of the emotions of both the killer and victim with her intuition taking over. She is one of the adult grandchildren of those effected
that are the characters in the story. Cat is cool, controlling, brave, and smart.
EC: How would you describe
JK: She is Cats’ best friend who is much more of a free spirit. Knowing that her mother was murdered is an important part of her backstory. She has a lot of guts and is
very resourceful. Her talent is seeing auras.
EC: How would you describe Slater?
JK: Protective, kind, intelligent, and caring. A nice guy who is determined to take care of those in trouble. His greatest fear is he will become a monster like those he hunts. But Cat just shrugs him off
and tells him that she is too busy worrying about other things, like finding Olivia. Her attitude worked well to help ground Slater, and for him to realize that Catalina knows the difference between a real monster and someone whose powers are just a little
different, which doesn't bother her.
EC: Can you explain some of the vocabulary used?
What is a blank?
JK: It is a slang term for a sociopath.
EC: Normal versus Crazy?
JK: Where are the lines and who determines what is normal and what is not. A professor I once had in college said ‘you know
you are normal if you are not in an institution.’
EC: Going Dark?
JK: It is when the psychic senses are turned down. Those with it learn when to use it and when to tune it down. It is shutting down and controlling the sixth sense. All the characters have personal control.
EC: Can you tell us about your next book(s)?
Out in May is an Amanda Quick book titled Close-Up. It takes place in the 1930s where the heroine is a photographer who realizes another photographer is a murderer.
This series will be out in about a year and is titled All The Colors of Night. The hero and heroine are new characters. Several characters from this book will be returning except Slater and
Cat. The plot has someone who works for the Foundation trying to find who put his father into a coma.