Showing posts with label Peg Herring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peg Herring. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 17


Before a book is published, authors are expected to seek out blurbs from other authors to help readers in making a decision whether to read a book or not. So many authors are generous with their time, taking the time to read the books and craft a few lines about the story.

I'm honored by the four authors who agreed to comment on Allure of Deceit.

Mike Befeler
Author of Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse
“In Allure of Deceit, Susan Froetschel brings alive a country foreign to many readers. This provocative novel blends social conscience, long-held secrets, murder, and the reality of village mores.” 

Befeler is best known for his series about a elderly sleuth, which began with Retirement Homes Are Murder, published in 2007. His work was also nominated for a Lefty. 

 Likewise, the sleuth  featured in his Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse is retired and conducts the central murder investigation to escape boredom: "Gabe suddenly realized this retirement gig wasn't all it was cracked up to be." 

Befeler is an author and public speaker who addresses with eloquence and wisdom the secrets and art of growing old gracefully. 

I'm grateful for Befeler's assessment of Allure of Deceit because the leading male protagonist is a village leader who resists change but recognizes that the feelings stem from his own adjustments and fears due to aging. 

Peg Herring
Author of the Loser Mysteries
“Froetschel’s crystal clear picture of Afghanistan and its people fascinates me. Though her characters’ lives differ from ours, they are like us in the ways that really matter. They laugh, they love, they seek answers when things puzzle them. This is a mystery with a stunning sense of place.” 

Award-winning author Herring is a thoughtful colleague whom I've known since attending Sleuthfest in Boca Raton about six years ago. Her mysteries explore some of our society's most vulnerable citizens. She juggles three series, including the Loser Mysteries, the Dead Detective Mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth Tudor mysteries. with the promise of "Strong women, great stories."

Such is the case with the three-book Loser Series, the haunting story of a woman who is homeless after traumatic deaths in her family. Herring is sensitive yet forthright with her insights into how bad memories complicate a life: "A person can say she's not going to think about something. She can resolve to put it into the back of her mind, slam the door, and lock it away. But it isn't that easy. My voices hadn't spoken or months, but that night, they invaded my sleep, constant and demanding."

I value comment from Herring because of her own ability to craft complex characters whose lives can quickly spin out of control.

Martin J. Smith
Author of the Memory Series crime novels
“Celebrity philanthropy. Baby trafficking. A mysterious compound in the Afghanistan mountains. Allure of Deceit is an IED of a novel. Trust no one, and step carefully.” 

Smith is an award-winning journalist and author of non-fiction and fiction. Both combine his sense for detail and knack for storytelling. For example, The Wild Duck Chase describes the Federal Duck Stamp Contest and competitive duck painting. In his Memory Series, Straw Men was nominated for an Edgar, and Disappeared Girl is the fourth in the series:

"He wondered again about his daughter's life before adoption, five years that were mostly a puzzle to him... this wasn't the first time Melissa had described strange and disturbing images of early childhood - scary strangers, angry voices, desperate adults.... Christensen was all too familiar with the psychological condition known as confabulation - when someone creates a false narrative of their past as a subconscious way of dealing with a contemporary trauma too painful to confront on a conscious level." 

Smith employs the direct, no-nonsense voice of a journalist for stories that explore the intricacies of family relationships. We were both raised in Pittsburgh, and while we did not know each other well, also graduated from the same high school and attended the same college to study journalism. To have received early comment from a writer who understands some of influences for Allure of Deceit is ideal. 

Daniel Stashower
Author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War 
“A smart, sharply plotted thriller that puts the reader on the ground in Afghanistan. Susan Froetschel delivers.” 

Stashower, two-time Edgar winner, writes mysteries, biographies and narrative histories that  have featured historical figures including Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Houdini, Allan Pinkerton and Abraham Lincoln. Stashower selects subjects whose lives are rich with activity, failures and successes, during periods of sweeping social change. Motivation is never a simple affair. A rich array of details on their communities, circumstances and personal histories offer clues as to why each may respond as they do: 

"The events of February 1861 continue to capture attention, however, not only for the drama of the plot and its detection, but also because Lincoln's handling of the crisis and its fallout would be a  fateful early test of his presidency, with many dark consequences. In charting the sweep of events that carried the nation into war, it is customary to focus on the landmarks of policy and social change, such as the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision. Set against these milestones, the drama in Baltimore is often overlooked, pushed aside by the more pressing urgencies that were to come, and obscured by its own uncertainties and contradictions." 

Because Allure of Deceit focuses on the history and forces of globalization unfolding in Afghanistan, Stashower's assessment was particularly welcome.

Do check out the books from these four authors. And for a review copy of Allure of Deceit, contact Cheryl Quimba of Seventh Street Books,

Sunday, May 12

Malice Domestic 2013

Invisible sleuths, whether hidden, inconspicuous, discounted or vulnerable for any number of reasons, have advantages with an investigation. As others disregard their presence, the invisible sleuth - so often women - can quietly observe a scene. If confident, the invisible sleuth can form her own independent analysis without undue influence from others.

James Lincoln Warren, far left, drew out these contradictory qualities  as moderator of the panel "The Invisible Woman: Sleuths Who Hide in Plain Sight" at Malice Domestic 2013.  Two of the sleuths yearn for literacy - and the other two are quite skilled but marginalized. Such sleuths often earn respect from those outside their immediate environment where their abilities are taken for granted.

In Fear of Beauty, Sofi has little choice but to be invisible. Her community depends on power, hierarchy, outspoken religious devotion and secrecy rather than the rule of law. Illiteracy compounds the horrific effects of bullying. In Afghanistan, women do not have equal standing to men, and Sofi must keep her ambitions, opinions and suspicions to herself. She is a progressive in a true sense - wanting to improve her community for her children - while others see power and safety in maintaining the status quo. But of course, she must work in secret or otherwise put her family at risk.

Lucy Campion in A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (red sweater) is a chambermaid in a magistrate's household in 17th-century England. Like Sofi of Fear of Beauty, Lucy cannot forcefully protest the accepted assumptions about women, as voiced by a religious leader in her community: "Woman is a weak creature, not endued with the like strength and constancy of mind as men. They are prone to all manner of weak affectations and dispositions of mind..." Of course, Lucy's character and her own experiences defy such broad pronouncements.

Daniel Stashower's book, The Hour of Peril, is a nonfiction historical study and focuses on Allan Pinkerton, the methodical investigator who uncovers and disrupts a conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in February 1861.  The panel focused less on Pinkerton, himself a fascinating character of American history, and more on widow and assistant Kate Warne. Of all the invisible sleuths, Warne probably has the most choice and control, as well as respect from her peers. Joining the Pinkerton team in her early 20s, she became known as the first female detective - and as such was invisible to others during the course of the investigation, capable of passing herself off as woman from Alabama, collecting intelligence from Baltimore women who are Confederate sympathizers, and passing along secret correspondence between investigators and Lincoln's staff.

The Loser series by Peg Herring (turquoise), including Killing Silence and Killing Memories, features a homeless woman who barely speaks and does odd jobs in exchange for food, while watching the world pass her by on the streets of Richmond, Virginia.  "People have rules different from mine, and they make judgments based on those rules." Escaping what must be a troubled past, the woman tries to keep her mind clear of thoughts, but of course that is not easy. "Thinking of nothing worked for a while, but the mind has a mind of its own." By shedding personal possessions and attachments, Loser can determine who appreciates her for what she is willing to share.

The invisible sleuths in each of these books offer comment on social problems of each time period and location. Each woman has her own way of handling the very old process of globalization and the spread of new ideas and ways of thinking. With every century and technological innovation, globalization gains greater speed, followed by the outpouring of praise and condemnation. Individuals, especially the curious and aware, are open to new ideas and immediately decide which may work best for them. Others who fear change and shifting power resist these protagonists' observations.

Four very different protagonists and stories, yet James Lincoln Warren tied them together with his thoughtful questions in remarkable ways. Malice Domestic ranks high among my favorite mystery conferences.

Photo by D Olsen.