Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Criminal Elements" is live!

The secret is now out of the bag. The new mystery/crime blog from Macmillan, Criminal Elements, is now live and ready for reading.

I have contributed a few entries so far and plan to be a regular contributor. To date, I've written about crime and mystery comics/graphic novels, but have already started to widen my scope.

I am extremely thrilled to be a part of this new web presence for crime fiction. And I look forward to reading all the great content, too. And, for you SF fans out there, be sure to check out Tor.com.

Here is the official press release:

NEW YORK, NY, 4/26/2011--Macmillan announces the launch of a new crime and mystery-focused community website with a focus on sharing and enriching the experience of crime story fandom. Liz Edelstein, Senior Manager and editor at Macmillan Community Network, made the announcement, and said that the site will highlight different areas of the genre, from noir to cozies and everything in between.

The site will feature pre-release excerpts, original short stories from various authors in the space, topical blog posts, and will eventually be offering downloads and podcasts. It’s a place for fans of the genre to come together in one exciting online space. At launch there will be excerpts, original fiction and articles by authors Joseph Finder, Steve Hamilton, Rosemary Harris, Charles Ardai, Luis Alberto Urrea and more.

Much like its successful sister sites, science fiction community Tor.com and romance community HeroesandHeartbreakers.com, CriminalElement.com is "publisher neutral," meaning that it will include author participation from all publishers and other content creators, and is not exclusive to Macmillan authors.

“This is not a typical review or promotions site,” says Edelstein. “We think of CriminalElement.com as a community for fans, by fans, and the focus is on editorial content rather than on marketing.”

CriminalElement.com will have a social media presence on both Facebook and Twitter as well; visit www.facebook.com/crimehq and www.twitter.com/crimehq respectively.

With CriminalElement.com, Macmillan is leading the charge in creating a themed community for authors and fans to interact and share their love of crime fiction and nonfiction.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

So Close the Hand of Death - Giveaway Winner

Thanks to all who replied. I really liked this book and I'm looking forward to reading other Ellison books.

After writing down each name on a slip of paper and having my wife draw a name, the winner of a copy of So Close the Hand of Death is Kathy.

Kathy, please send me your snail mail address and I'll get a copy of the book out to you. If you want to, you can send me your information via email. My address is linked to my profile.

Thanks to all who commented. Today, I finished the book that I'll likely review for Barrie's club in May. Hint: it combines historical fiction as well as contemporary fiction...and two mysteries.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Review Club: So Close the Hand of Death by J. T. Ellison (+ Giveaway)


(This is the April 2011 edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. For the complete list, click the icon at the end of this review.)


I've been meaning to head on up to Nashville and meet Lt. Taylor Jackson for some time now. Ever since I first started reading the Murderati group blog a few years ago, I've been wanting to read J. T. Ellison's series but, for whatever reason, never got around to it. Last month, when I was contacted about reviewing the latest book in the series, So Close the Hand of Death, I paused. Here was opportunity knocking. Dare I answer it? Dare I read book #6 first? Would I be hopelessly lost, not knowing the relationships or the back story?


I needn't have worried. Ellison eases the new reader into the fray. Well, “eases” is a poor word choice. Chapter one has four scenes, three of which involve murder, all of which are introduced by e-mail messages from three different cities. Each killer--not giving anything away here--is committing the crimes in the style of the Boston Strangler, Son of Sam, and the Zodiac Killer. As the book progresses, you get to experience these killers' road trip across the country. They are converging on Nashville, and to one person: Jackson. Who are they and why are they after Jackson?


When we first see Taylor Jackson, she is tormented by what has happened to her sergeant, Fitz. It seems her arch-nemesis, a serial killer nicknamed The Pretender, has decided it's time to "play" and has used poor Fitz to initiate the game. The bulk of this early section with Jackson does a good job of filling in new readers like me who hadn't read the previous book. The action seems to indicate that this book picks up right where the last one ended. If that's the case, Ellison must've packed one heck of a cliffhanger.


But she packs a pretty good punch early this book, too. Jackson and her fiancé, Dr. John Baldwin (FBI) fly out to North Carolina to collect Fitz. Can't let slip the next, surprising, sequence (because I didn't see it coming), but needless to say, the action kicks into high gear. Quickly, Jackson and Baldwin and their friends in Nashville must race to answer a simple question: who is the Pretender and why is he so fixated on Jackson? And they need to answer it fast, because he is coming for her. The thing is, she's ready for him. Or thinks she is.


For all the exciting stuff and action set pieces, where this novel really excels is in the quieter moments. I don't know what Jackson was like in the five previous books, but she's skating very close to the edge in this one. Her hatred for the Pretender is palpable, exuding off the page. It's so strong that you, the reader, can taste it. Over and over, Jackson questions her darker actions--carrying an unmarked weapon, all but ordering her bodyguards not to follow her, making herself an obvious target--and wonders from which place inside herself this hatred is bubbling. Yes, she's a cop and used to dealing with unlikeable people more than the rest of us, but I got a good sense of her normalness as well. Could we hunt down a killer and off him in cold blood?


Another aspect of Jackson I enjoyed was her femininity. Too often, the tough gal in a book or movie is overly macho, like it's supposed to be a man character with long hair and breasts. She forgets to be a woman. Jackson's pretty darn macho in this tale, but she's still a lady, a lady in love, mind you. Little tidbits here and there are sprinkled throughout the book to help you remember: a look between Jackson and Baldwin, the complicated nature of a romance between law enforcement types. For every action she decides to take, it’s believable and not just something that propels the action forward.


As an author, it's our job to tell the story the way we want to, manipulating our readers whenever we see fit. In almost every scene in which Jackson appears, she's the main POV character. Sometimes, when Ellison wants to reveal something about Jackson, she changes the POV and has other characters comment on Jackson. Tellingly, in one interrogation scene, the POV shifts to the person being interviewed by Jackson. It's extremely effective because the reader gets to see how hard-nosed, take-no-bull a homicide detective Jackson really is. In that other character's mind, Jackson comes off pretty gruff. I can't help but wonder if Ellison did that on purpose.


This is an onion book, with Ellison having Jackson peel away layers until the core truth is revealed. The tension is sustained well, even during standard investigation scenes because you just don't know what Jackson will uncover. The ending is pretty shocking, with uncomfortable echoes of current events. I can't say any more than that without giving anything away, but, needless to say, I am so there for the next book.


This is a very good book, one I'm glad I read. I'll certainly be reading the other books in this series. If you haven't given J. T. Ellison a try yet, there's no better place to start than So Close the Hand of Death. In fact, I'm going to be giving away a copy of the book to a lucky commenter of this post.


Here's how it'll work: Just comment on this post. After two days (Friday, 8 April), I will put the name of each commenter on separate slips of paper and have my wife draw a name. I'll contact the winner and send out the free copy of So Close the Hand of Death. Good luck!






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