Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Wednesday, January 15, 2020


5 Stars!

I read this immediately after reading the first in the Series, MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE.  I adored this mystery equally.  Author Julia Nobel certainly comprehends the minds of her young adolescent subjects (12 in the first book, 13 in this) and makes me recall some of my thoughts and feelings from back in the day. I even more than once found myself responding and mentally speaking out on protagonist Emmy's behalf (especially in regard to certain authority figures and busybodies wannabe authority). I also appreciate the weaving in of English history in both books. These are like Fantasy,  but not quite; like Magical Realism but not quite. Just thoroughly enjoyable and wildly entertaining reading.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review: SHANTALLOW by Cara Martin

4 Stars

Canadian Challenge 

A multicultural coming-of-age story in which magical realism, fantasy, otherworldly dimensions, the nature of family and the nature of family dysfunctions all combine in significance (as do classism, crime, and ethnicism). 

Monday, January 13, 2020


5 Stars +!

I adored this novel from the beginning. Not only a delight to read, I found it extraordinarily easy to empathize with the young female protagonist, Emmy (Emmeline)-shunted around and shifted aside by her career-chasing,  child psychologist, Narcissist celebrity mother ["expert" at telling other parents what they do wrong, blind to her own child's needs.] Add on a setting eerily reminiscent of "The Secret Garden" and of "Another" by Yukimo Ayatsushi, delightfully Gothic, dark and brooding--and potentially dangerous. For all us "misfits" out there: what a glorious series debut! (This is Book 1 in the BLACK HOLLOW LANE Series. Book 2, THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE, will arrive 1 March 2020.)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Review: THE TAO OF THE VIPER by Linda Watkins (A Kate Pomeroy Mystery #2)

4 Stars

Dr. Kate Pomeroy has only just begun to recover from the shocks and griefs, and the horrifying revelations, of the summer on Storm Island, Maine. But she is determined to be both survivor and thriver, and as the new sole owner of one of the four family mansions at the island's compass points, Stormview Manor, Dr. Kate has converted it into a free island clinic.

But as a descendant of 17th century accused witch Maude Prichard, Kate will never cease to be the focus of those who have never forgiven Maude--or her descendants.


5 Stars

This consistently excellent series continues with two I rate as SCARY, and one in which for me the Scare was overlain by sorrow and grief.

"Gambling" by Ron Ripley : Foolishness is an unfortunate trait of Youth, whether it's racing, pranks, alcohol, controlled substances. In this case, it's pride and egotism, pricked by a dare and a wager. Implacable horror!

"Shadow Creature " by Anna Sinjin: I empathized with the protagonist. What she has to encounter should not happen to anyone. Again, implacable horror.

"Born Tonight " by Rowan Rook: historical French story weaving actual events. So sad.

Friday, January 10, 2020


4 Stars

Charlie Harmer is an endearing,  likeable--ghost. Yes: once upon a time Charlie was a  Chicago DJ, then he died, and his less-than-perfect record did not qualify him for entrance into Heaven.  So, instead of an eternity in the hot spot, Charlie gets to be an active ghost and do tasks for "the boss." (Not Hades' Big Boss, though; more like middle management.)

Charlie is endearing, but he's not always smart. He forgets that rules have consequences, and that maybe he's not the only rook in play on the chessboard.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review: STORM ISLAND by Linda Watkins (Kate Pomeroy Mysteries #1)

4 Stars

STORM ISLAND returned me to those good old days of upper childhood and adolescence when I daily devoured the likes of novels by Phyllis A. Whitney, Victoria Holt, and the plethora of Gothic paperbacks of the 1960's, stories of intrigue, adventure, suspense, commitment, betrayal, jealousy, insanity, gaslighting, love, romance. Of course those preceded the #Metoo Movement by decades, so there were no instances of sexual assault, date rape or Rohypnol. 

Author Linda Watkins successfully brings the Gothic Suspense genre into the rapid-paced 21st century, but yet there is still that underlying aura of past Gothics (especially the protagonist's encounters in the woods and in the tower room). I can see her as played by a young Ingrid Bergman, as evil villains in the shadows gaslight her and soon she cannot distinguish friend from those who wish her ill. A satisfying read, STORM ISLAND is Book 1 of the Kate Pomeroy Mysteries.  

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2020 NetGalley/Edelweiss Challenge!

Knock those ARCs out!!@


Many (not all) books read here will also apply to my 2020 Mount TBR Challenge  (NetGalley/Edelweiss ARCs).
2020 Mount TBR Challenge

My Goodreads shelf is 2020_netgalley-edelweiss_challenge

Books Read:
THE TENANT  by Katrine Engberg.  NetGalley. Read Jan. 3-4

  • https://mallorysmysteryclearinghouse.blogspot.com/2020/01/review-tenant-by-katrine-engberg.html?m=1
THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  NetGalley. Read Jan. 4-6.

THE GOD GAME by Jeffrey Round. NetGalley.  Read Jan. 6-7

STORM ISLAND by Linda Watkins (Kate Pomeroy Mysteries #1) Read Jan. 7

SHADOW PUPPET by Jeffrey Round (Dan Sharp Mysteries #6)

THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

LION'S HEAD REVISITED by Jeffrey Round (Dan Sharp Mysteries #7)

THE TAO OF THE VIPER by Linda Watkins (Kate Pomeroy #2)



MIDWINTER FOLK by Rebekah Clayton


THE GIRL WITHOUT SKIN by Mars Peder Norbo.

COLD FEAR by Mads Peder Norbo.

Mount TBR Challenge 2020


My Goodreads Shelf  is

2020 Mount TBR _ Ararat

Level: Mount Ararat. 48 Books.
Reading NetGalley & Edelweiss ARCs acquired by 31 December 2019.

Books read for this Challenge will automatically apply to the 2020 NetGalley/Edelweiss Challenge at:


Books I've Read:

  • 1. THE TENANT  by Katrine Engberg.  NetGalley. Read Jan. 3-4


2. THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  NetGalley.  Read Jan. 4-6.

3. THE GOD GAME by Jeffrey Round. NetGalley.  Read Jan. 6-7.

4. STORM ISLAND by Linda Watkins (Kate Pomeroy Mysteries #1) Read Jan. 7

5. SHADOW PUPPET by Jeffrey Round (Dan Sharp Mysteries #6)

6. THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

7. LION'S HEAD REVISITED by Jeffrey Round  (Dan Sharp Mysteries #7)

8. CHARLIE HARMER AND THE LADY IN RED by Brendan Detzner. Author's ARC acquired 2019

9. THE TAO OF THE VIPER by Linda Watkins (A Kate Pomeroy Mystery #2)


11. MIDWINTER FOLK  by Rebekah Clayton 

12. AND THROW AWAY THE SKINS by Scott Archer Jones. 

13. THE GIRL WITHOUT  SKIN by Mars Peder Norbo.

14. COLD FEAR by Mads Peder Norbo. 



My Goodreads Shelf is:

I don't have Library access, so my Virtual will be on Scribd and Kindle Unlimited.

Level: White Plume Mountain. 48 books.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Review: FEAST OF FEAR by Ron Ripley

5 Stars 

"Ghosts can't hurt you! All they can do is scare you." Haven't  you heard or read that all your life? Well, in the tiny community of Anger, Maine, that maxim is false. There, ghosts can scare you, they can hurt you, they can even kill you, causing excruciating agony  in the process. [Maybe the town should be renamed from "Anger" to "Agony."] The good die young, the good die old. The evil die and are brought to the town via whichever artifact to which they are attached, according to the  plans of a selfish medium herself controlled by a ghost who in turn is in the clutches of someone even worse.

This series is  engrossing to me for the characters--the good guys, such as protagonist Dan, elderly wise woman Mary, Detective Evan Coffin, remaining scion of a founding family--are individuals of integrity, personally flawed, but realistically human. I am also engrossed with the plot's incredibly creative Supernatural elements. Yet I must caution new readers that the violence level is extreme, especially so, I thought, in this novel.  People get hurt, and badly.  A lot suffer, extremely. There are scenes here which will be  especially disturbing to some readers, so exercise caution. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review: SHORT HORROR STORIES VOL. 8 (Scare Street)

5 Scare Stars!
This Volume starts off with a bang!

"Dead House" by Ron Ripley SCARED the living blazes out of me! Urban exploration opens the really wrong door!

"What We Call Home" by A. I. Nasser:  SCARED me to the point I felt like I had turned inside out. Classic-style ghost story, and oh! The chills!

"Sleepless Sister" by Rowan Rook: how close can two sisters be, on either side of the grave?

5 Stars!

THE DROWNING is incredible! A bizarre mystery that stretches the bounds of what seems plausible, with fully-fleshed characters holding the narrative in place. Exceptionally sneaky and elusive villains abound. The theme here is: What is Reality? Is Reality how we perceive it, or how someone else informs us it is? An unforgettable puzzler!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review: KULT by Stefan Malmstrom

5 Scandi Stars!

Prior to discovering KULT (my initial selection because  it's  Scandi-Noir) I had some time back read one crime mystery  in which the Church of Scientology played a significantly villainous role. So is the case here; the author asserts both personal experience and knowledge of experience of others with Scientology. I in fact was reminded of a case in 1961 involving a classmate, her parents, and a different (but somewhat similar) religious belief--one whose tenets denied, even forbade, intervention of medical science. So some of  the  situations narrated  herein affected me especially intensely. Is that after all not the nature of good fiction, to stir us and to provoke  us to ponder and to Evolve?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Review: WAKE OF THE SADICO by Jo Sparkes

4 Stars

WAKE OF THE SADICO is a complex, rollicking, adventure, in which not only are there mundane adventures (scuba-diving, exploring coral reefs and marine life, discovering shipwrecks) but also metaphysical adventures, into dreams, reincarnation, past-life regressions. The characters, who are both loosely (in mundane reality) and closely (in past lives) entice the reader's interests, and the plot is thought-inducing. What If?

Review: WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE by Michael Ridpath (Fire & Ice #1)

5 Stars

WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE is Book 1 in Michael Ridpath's Icelandic crime thriller FIRE AND ICE series. Set against the stunning scenery of Iceland, this novel also hinges on protagonist Magnus Jonsson's (in Iceland, Magnus Ragnarsson) life in Boston, where his father had been a professor. As a Boston homicide detective, Magnus is seconded to the Reykjavik Police for a two-year term after coincidentally uncovering police corruption in Boston. 

Magnus' first Icelandic investigation involves a professor at the University of Iceland, a long-lost Saga, and Lord of the Rings aficionados. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Review: WHITETOOTH FALLS by Justin Joschko

5 Stars!

Magnificently  lyrical, a literary  crime narrative  which in its expanse, characterization, and metaphorical  imagery reminded me of Norman Mailer's  The Executioner's Song. WHITETOOTH FALLS peels away the veneer of tourism and peaceful living in Niagara Falls, Ontario and the Greater Toronto metropolitan region, exposing crime, lowlifes, and scams; but also an unbelievable, life-altering (and life-destroying) paranormal element, one which will wreak untold havoc. 

Read this as a superb crime thriller.  Read it as an incredibly  imaginative paranormal exploration.  Read it to pause and savour  its literate imagery. Read it.

--Also read for Canadian  Challenge 2019/2020.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: EDGE OF NOWHERE by Michael Ridpath (Fire & Ice 2.5)

4 Ice Stars

EDGE OF NOWHERE is a novella introducing the backstory and foundation of Icelandic native Magnus Jonsson (Icelandic birth name Magnus Ragnarsson), who as a Boston homicide detective targeted by a Dominican criminal mob after accidentally uncovering police corruption, returns to Iceland, where policing is different and crime has historically been low.

Tour: FIRST CUT by Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

Dr. Jessie Teska is new to the San Francisco Medical Examiner's scene, but she is not new to forensic pathology. A star in LA, she finds the new conditions horrendous. As she struggles to fit in, she begins to notice unexpected patterns, too many non-accidental deaths, and conspiracy. Of course she won't stop prying, and soon her life is now in the crosshairs.

Author: Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell
ISBN: 9781335008305
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Judy Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.

T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.

Wife and husband duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell first enthralled the book world with their runaway bestselling memoir Working Stiff—a fearless account of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner. This winter, Dr. Melinek, now a prominent forensic pathologist in the Bay Area, once again joins forces with writer T.J. Mitchell to take their first stab at fiction.

The result: FIRST CUT (Hanover Square Press; Hardcover; January 7, 2020; $26.99)—a gritty and compelling crime debut about a hard-nosed San Francisco medical examiner who uncovers a dangerous conspiracy connecting the seedy underbelly of the city’s nefarious opioid traffickers and its ever-shifting terrain of tech startups.

Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals—on both sides of the law—that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.



Los Angeles
The dead woman on my table had pale blue eyes, long lashes, no mascara. She wore a thin rim of black liner on her lower lids but none on the upper. I inserted the twelve gauge needle just far enough that I could see its beveled tip through the pupil, then pulled the syringe plunger to aspirate a sample of vitreous fluid. That was the first intrusion I made on her corpse during Mary Catherine Walsh’s perfectly ordinary autopsy.
The external examination had been unremarkable. The decedent appeared to be in her midthirties, blond hair with dun roots, five foot four, 144 pounds. After checking her over and noting identifying marks (monochromatic professional tattoo of a Celtic knot on lower left flank, appendectomy scar on abdomen, well-healed stellate scar on right knee), I picked up a scalpel and sliced from each shoulder to the breastbone, and then all the way down her belly. I peeled back the layers of skin and fat on her torso—an ordinary amount, maybe a little on the chubby side—and opened the woman’s chest like a book.
I had made similar Y-incisions on 256 other bodies during my ten months as a forensic pathologist at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, and this one was easy. No sign of trauma. Normal liver. Healthy lungs. There was nothing wrong with her heart. The only significant finding was the white, granular material of the gastric contents. In her stomach was a mass of semidigested pills.
When I opened her uterus, I found she’d been pregnant. I measured the fetus’s foot length and estimated its age at twelve weeks. The fetus appeared to have been viable. It was too young to determine sex.
I deposited the organs one by one at the end of the stainless-steel table. I had just cut into her scalp to start on the skull when Matt, the forensic investigator who had collected the body the day before, came in.
Clean scene,” he reported, depositing the paperwork on my station. “Suicide.”
I asked him where he was going for lunch. Yogurt and a damn salad at his desk, he told me: bad cholesterol and a worried wife. I extended my condolences as he headed back out of the autopsy suite.
I scanned through Matt’s handwriting on the intake sheet and learned that the body had been found, stiff and cold, in a locked and secure room at the Los Angeles Omni hotel. The cleaning staff called the police. The ID came from the name on the credit card used to pay for the room, and was confirmed by fingerprint comparison with her driver’s license thumbprint. A handwritten note lay on the bed stand, a pill bottle in the trash. Nothing else. Matt was right: There was no mystery to the way Mary Walsh had died.
I hit the dictaphone’s toe trigger and pointed my mouth toward the microphone dangling over the table. “The body is identified by a Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s tag attached to the right great toe, inscribed LACD-03226, Walsh, Mary Catherine…”
I broke the seal on the plastic evidence bag and pulled out the pill bottle. It was labeled OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, and it was empty.
Accompanying the body is a sealed plastic bag with an empty prescription medication bottle. The name on the prescription label…”
I read the name but didn’t speak it. The hair started standing up on my neck. I looked down at my morning’s work—the splayed body, flecked with gore, the dissected womb tossed on a heap of other organs.
That can’t be, I told myself. It can’t.
On the clipboard underneath the case intake sheet I found a piece of hotel stationery sealed in another evidence bag. It was the suicide note, written in blue ink with a steady feminine hand. I skimmed it—then stopped, and went back.
I read it again.
I heard the clipboard land at my feet. I gripped the raised lip of my autopsy table. I held tight while the floor fell away.

Q&A with Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Q: Do you plan your books in advance or let them develop as you write?
A:The idea for First Cut was prompted by some of Judy’s actual cases when she worked as a San Francisco medical examiner. She has real experience performing autopsy death investigation, and she also has the imagination to apply that experience to a fictional framework for our forensic detective, Dr. Jessie Teska. Judy invented the story, and together we worked it up as an outline. Then T.J. sat in a room wrestling with words all day—which he loves to do—to produce the first complete manuscript. That’s our inspiration plus perspiration dynamic as co-authors.

Q: What does the act of writing mean to you?
A: It is, and has always been, something we can do together, an important part of our marriage. We’ve collaborated as a creative team since we were in college together many years ago, producing and directing student theater. We’ve also spent twenty years raising our four children, and have always approached parenting as a partnership. We find it easy to work together because we write like we parent: relying on one another, each of us playing to our strengths. It helps that, in our writing process, we have no overlapping skill set!

Q: Have you ever had a character take over a story, and if so, who was it and why?
A: Oh, yes! That’s our heroine, Dr. Jessie Teska. She has elements of Judy in her, and elements of T.J., but Jessie is a distinct individual and a strong-willed one. We’re often surprised and even shocked by the ways she reacts to the situations we put her in. There are times we’ll be writing what we thought was a carefully laid-out scene, and Jessie will take us sideways. She’s coming off T.J.’s fingertips on the the keyboard, both of us watching with mouths agape, saying, “What the hell is she up to?”

Q: Which one of First Cut’s characters was the hardest to write and why?
A: Tommy Teska, Jessie’s brother. He’s a minor character to the book’s plot, but the most important person in Jessie’s life, and he’s a reticent man, downright miserly with his dialogue. Tommy carries such great emotional weight, but it was hard to draw it out of him, especially because so much of his bond to our heroine is in the backstory of First Cut, not in the immediate narrative that lands on the page. We’re now working on the sequel, Cross Cut, and finding that Tommy has more occasion to open up in that story.

Q: Which character in any of your books (First Cut or otherwise) is dearest to you and why?
A: The late Dr. Charles Sidney Hirsch, from our first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Dr. Hirsch is not just a character: He was a real person, Judy’s mentor and a towering figure in the world of forensic pathology. Dr. Hirsch trained Dr. Melinek in her specific field of medicine and imbued in her his passion for it. He was a remarkable man, a great teacher and physician and public servant—a person of uncompromising integrity coupled with great emotional intelligence.

Q: What did you want to be as a child? Was it an author?
A: Judy’s father was a physician, and though she never wanted to follow in his immediate footsteps—he was a psychiatrist—she has always wanted to be another Dr. Melinek. T.J. has always been a writer, but also has theater training and worked in the film industry. As much as we enjoyed authoring the memoir Working Stiff, and as happy as we have been with its success, we are even more thrilled to be detective novelists.

Q: What does a day in the life of Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell look like?
A: Judy is a morning person and T.J.’s a night owl, so we split parenting responsibilities. Judy gets the kids off to school and then heads to the morgue, where she performs autopsies in the morning and works with police, district attorneys, and defense lawyers in the afternoon. T.J. takes care of the household and after-school duties. If we work together during the day, it’s usually by email in the late afternoon. T.J. cooks dinner, Judy goes to bed early, and he’s up late—at his most productive writing from nine to midnight or later.

Q: What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?
A: We go for a long walk together. Our far corner of San Francisco overlooks the Pacific Ocean, bracketed by cypress trees and blown over with fog, and serves as an inspiring landscape. We explore the edge of the continent and talk out where our characters have been and where they need to get, tossing ideas back and forth until a solution, what to do next on the page, emerges. Getting away for a stroll with our imaginary friends is always a fruitful exercise!

Q: What book would you take with you to a desert island?
A: T.J. would take the Riverside Shakespeare, and Judy would take Poisonous Plants: A Handbook for Doctors, Pharmacists, Toxicologists, Biologists and Veterinarians, Illustrated.

Q: Do you have stories on the back burner that are just waiting to be written?
A: Always! We are inspired by Dr. Melinek’s real-life work, both in the morgue and at crime scenes, in police interrogation rooms, and in courtrooms. Our stories are fiction—genre fiction structured in the noir-detective tradition—but the forensic methods our detective employs and the scientific findings she comes to are drawn from real death investigations.

Q: What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?
A: The hardest thing is juggling our work schedules to find uninterrupted time together to write. The most fun is meeting and talking to our readers at book events, especially those who have been inspired to go into the field of forensic pathology after reading our work.

Q: What advice would you give budding authors about publishing?
A: It’s all about connectivity. Linking up with other writers, readers, editors, and research experts is a crucial way to get your work accomplished, and to get it out to your audience. Yes, ultimately it’s just you and the keyboard, but in the course of writing your story, you can and should tap into the hive mind, online and in person, for inspiration and help.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: Judy last read The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, and T.J. last read The Witch Elm by Tana French.

Q: Your top five authors?
A: Judy’s are Atul Gawande, Henry James, Kathy Reichs, Mary Roach, and Oliver Sacks. T.J.’s are Margaret Atwood, Joseph Heller, Ed McBain, Ross Macdonald, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Q: Book you've bought just for the cover?
A: T.J.: Canary by Duane Swierczynski. Judy: Mütter Museum Historical Medical Photographs.

Q: Tell us about what you’re working on now.

A: First Cut is the debut novel in a detective series, and we’ve recently finished the rough draft of Cross Cut, its sequel. We are in the revision phase now, killing our darlings and tightening our tale, working to get the further adventures of Dr. Jessie Teska onto bookshelves next year!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review: THE POLAR BEAR KILLING by Michael Ridpath

5 Frozen Stars!

THE POLAR BEAR KILLING is an engrossing novella in Michael Ridpath's Iceland series. Vignis, a rare black Icelander (her American serviceman father was Black) is a police detective in Reykjavik, seconded to a fishing hamlet in NE Iceland on the investigation of the local police officer's killing. Fantastic scenic backdrop, wonderful characterization, puzzling plot, and a backstory of animal-rights activism combine into a compelling story.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


4 Strange Stars

4 Stars

A tale a day for the 12 Days of Christmastide: read all at once or savor like a ghostly Advent calendar. All are connected in some way to Rosie Strange's Essex Witch Museum and so this collection is included in that series. Beware: some will scare your socks off!