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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/07/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , arthur conan doyle, crime authors, curtain, , , , , , , new yorked, potter's field, rob hart, , sleeping murder, their time had come,   

    6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily 

    Having a hit series of books and a popular character that readers respond to is usually the dream of an author of an genre, but especially the authors of detective novels. But it can also become a burden, trapping the writer in a universe and a type of story that remains in literary amber. Still, most writers happily plug away at a series as long as readers keep showing up, and usually the only reason a popular detective stops accepting new cases is because the author retires…from this mortal coil. But not always; sometimes a writer decides to retire a character voluntarily for their own private reasons—like the six authors on this list.

    Sherlock Holmes, authored by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Doyle famously tried to walk away from Holmes in 1893’s The Final Problem, sending him over the Reichenbach Falls as he struggled with archenemy Professor Moriarity. Doyle regarded his Holmes stories as literary trifles and wanted to focus on more serious writing; he managed to resist the constant pleas for more Holmes stories for eight years before giving in and writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in 1901 and kicking off a second wave of Holmes stories that continued until Doyle passed away.

    Pete Fernandez, authored by Alex Segura
    Segura’s Pete Fernandez has been one of the most interesting noir detective characters in recent years, going from a shambling wreck of a life and career to something resembling stability over the course of four tightly plotted, Miami-infused novels. Segura has decided that Miami Midnight, the fifth book in the series, will be the last Fernandez mystery. Which is a shame, because Midnight digs deep into Pete as a character as he’s pulled from unofficial retirement from his unofficial career as a detective, asked by a local gang kingpin to look into the death of his son, a musician. One of the great things Segura has done with Fernandez is make his personal struggles as compelling as the cases he investigates without resorting to overblown mythology. Pete’s interesting because of the sort of personal mysteries we all carry around with us, and he’ll be missed.

    Ash McKenna, authored by Rob Hart
    McKenna’s an interesting character, a self-described “blunt instrument” who begins a journey to being a real, complete person in Hart’s New Yorked, and then continues that journey through three more books that take him all over the world. Hart’s decision to make Potter’s Field the last McKenna novel had everything to do with ending that story of personal development, of finishing the character’s tale purposefully. While he hasn’t ruled out another McKenna story at some point, it’s refreshing to see an author so in control of their character they end their series when the time feels right to them.

    Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, authored by Agatha Christie
    Christie is an unusual case, because she did, in fact, write about her two most popular characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, until she died. But she also voluntarily ended both series—three decades earlier. During World War II Christie worried she might not survive, and worried that meant her greatest literary creations would be orphaned without a proper send off. Her solution was to write a final case for both Poirot and Marple, then lock them away with a stipulation that they not be published until she passed away. As a result, Poirot’s final novel, Curtain published in 1975 and Marple’s, Sleeping Murder, published in 1976 just after Christie’s death. While locking novels away for thirty years on the assumption that people will still care in the future is pretty presumptuous, it certainly paid off for Christie and her fans.

    Peter Wimsey, authored by Dorthy Sayers
    Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey isn’t as famous as his contemporaries like Poirot, but he was one of the stars of early-20th century detective fiction—and the ultimate “gentleman detective” character. Wimsey was quite popular, but Sayers’ last Wimsey novel was 1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon, and aside from a short story and some references she never returned to the character. There’s speculation that Sayers, horrified at the violence and terror of World War II, decided she could no longer write about murders and the like. Which is a shame, because Wimsey, who began as a somewhat comical figure, developed into a marvelous and subtle character, and the world could have done with two or three more Wimsey novels.

    Kurt Wallander, authored by Henning Mankell
    Mankell seemed to be planning the end of Kurt Wallander, the depressed, junk food-addicted Swedish detective, more or less since his debut in 1991’s Faceless Killers. Wallander aged with the march of time, and Mankell at one point tried to pivot into a spinoff series with a new character before returning to Wallander. 2009’s The Troubled Man was the definitive final adventure for Wallander, and the character was depicted as dealing with the first symptoms of oncoming dementia, perhaps the worst thing that could afflict a man who relies on his mind and his memory. Mankell continued to write until his death in 2015, but he never returned to Wallander.

    There’s a power in deciding when and where to end your creation. What’s your favorite character’s ending?

    The post 6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:30 pm on 2016/09/12 Permalink
    Tags: arthur conan doyle, locked-room mysteries, , , , the woman in cabin 10,   

    6 Fiendish “Locked Room” Mysteries 

    Everyone loves a good mystery, but a with everything else in life, there’s a hierarchy to the genre, ranging from thrillers who make no effort to hide the identity of the killer, to the most hardcore of all mystery types: the locked-room whodunnit. What is a locked-room mystery? Exactly what it sounds like: a crime (usually a murder) is committed in a locked room or other inaccessible area, or  more abstractly, in another recognizably impossible way. After all, if the room was locked from the inside, how could the murderer have gotten out? Here are six unputdownable locked-room mysteries ever written.

    The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allen Poe
    Often recognized as the pioneering story in the sub-genre (which isn’t surprising, as Poe pioneered detective fiction in general, among a dozen other things), The Murders in the Rue Morgue sports the classic setup: two women are brutally murdered in a room locked from the inside. Witnesses report a plethora of odd clues, including someone talking in a language that everyone describes differently. Modern readers might find the ultimate solution a little odd, but Poe’s work to outline the detective’s investigative method is one of the most influential pieces of writing of all time.

    The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware
    Ware’s latest is a classic locked-room mystery with a Hitchkockian flare: Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a tightly-wound writer for a travel magazine, assigned to cover a luxury cruise while suffering from PTSD after a break-in at her apartment. She observes a woman in the cabin next to her and one night hears what sounds like a body splashing into the water. The next day, there is no record of the woman, Cabin 10 is locked up tight, and everyone thinks Lo is imagining things. That’s the sort of premise mystery writers have been working with for decades, and Ware manages a perfect balance between a classic and modern approach, resulting in a fantastic read.

    The Adventure of the Speckled Band, by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Doyle’s iconic Sherlock Holmes still defines much of the mystery genre today, especially when it comes to short fiction. Holmes investigated locked rooms four times in Doyle’s original stories, but The Adventure of the Speckled Band is probably the best known. Holmes is contacted by a woman living with her spiteful, unpleasant stepfather at their dilapidated estate. About to be married, the woman is haunted by the mysterious death of her sister, whose last words referred to “the speckled band;” now, she is being forced to sleep in her sister’s old room because of repairs to the house. Holmes does his thing, and the story resolves with a bit of the graceful action Doyle was so good at writing (but which often gets overlooked in favor of Holmes’ brainy deductions).

    The King is Dead, by Ellery Queen
    Ellery Queen was for a time the most famous fictional detective (and literary pseudonym) in the world, and this classic novel is a prime example of him at his best. A man makes a public threat that he will shoot his father at midnight; his father retreats to a secure room alone with his wife, while Queen, hired on, sits in another location with the son, who has an unloaded weapon. At midnight the son raises the empty gun and pulls the trigger—and the father is shot dead, seemingly impossibly. Queen eventually gets to the bottom of it, and the novels were always presented as a fair-play “challenge to the reader,” stating that all the clues necessary to solve the mystery were in the story, and if you paused before reading the explanation you would have a fair chance of figuring it out.

    The Mystery of the Yellow Room, by Gaston Leroux
    Another “fair-play” story, The Mystery of the Yellow Room is not only a cracking locked-room mystery, but also distinctive in its inclusion of detailed floor plans and other information for to the reader, inviting them to “play along” and try to solve the case before the fictional detective Joseph Rouletabille. A woman is found in her locked bedroom, severely beaten and confused. As the investigation proceeds, the perpetrator is spotted several times—but each time seems to vanish into thin air when pursued. As with any good mystery, the solution is more practical than sensational, but is still making people feel foolish to this day.

    Almost Every Book by John Dickson Carr
    Carr was more or less the King of Locked Rooms—his hard-to-find novel The Hollow Man was once selected as the best locked-room mystery of all time. Inspired by writers like Gaston Leroux and G.K. Chesterton, Carr plotted intricate puzzles for his readers, usually involving an “impossible” crime, and then followed the investigation to its inevitable conclusion. In fact, an entire chapter of The Hollow Man is dedicated to the detective Dr. Gideon Fell discussing locked-room mysteries in general, one of the greatest meta-moments in detective fiction of all time.


    The post 6 Fiendish “Locked Room” Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jenny Kawecki 7:00 pm on 2015/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: arthur conan doyle, , hit the road, , , , ,   

    8 Fictional Characters Who’d Make the Best Travel Companions 

    Picking a travel buddy is just as important as picking a roommate: you’re going to be stuck with them, probably one on one, for long periods of time, so you’d better make sure you choose someone you’re not going to regret. You’ve got to ask the big questions: will they be fun to be around? Do they have good taste in music? And, most importantly, can you trust them not to take weird photos of you while you’re sleeping? We’re not sure about your friends, but here are 8 fictional characters you wouldn’t regret bringing along on your cross-country road trip.

    Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    Hermione has all the traits of a great travel companion: she’s fun to be around (as long as you don’t have any homework assignments to do), she’s reliable, and she’s a great packer. You know she’ll always have your back, no matter what crazy hijinks happen along the road. Plus, as we learned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she can fit pretty much anything into her magical beaded bag, which means you can buy all the souvenirs you want and not have to worry about fitting them into your suitcase. What could be better? Plus, if you ever get lost, just ask her to do a point-me spell and you’ll be back on your way again.

    Merry and Pippin (The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R. R. Tolkien)
    With Merry and Pippin on your trip, you’ll never get bored. In between pulling pranks on each other (and you) when things get a little slow, you know they’d be finding all of the best places to eat and drink along the way. And because they, like you, understand the importance of every meal (including elevensies), you’d never have to feel guilty about wanting to stop for a snack. Besides all that, with their cheerful dispositions, they’d never complain about the weather or the lines or the dingy motel rooms—and definitely not about the lack of legroom.

    Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery)
    Feisty, talkative, and fun, Anne would make sure that your trip was always exciting and full of adventure. One of the best parts about traveling is getting to try new things, and with Anne on board, you’d be trying every new thing you came across—and loving it. And though you might sometimes have to reign her in a bit (there’s a 99% chance that Anne would be laughing in the streets of Paris way too late at night), you’d never run out of things to do. And anyway, chasing down crazy friends is half the fun, right?

    Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    This may not seem like an obvious choice at first—grumpy, silent Darcy on a road trip? No, thank you—but think about it. If Darcy liked you well enough to go on a trip with you, you know you could count on him to have your back at every turn, and to make hilarious snarky comments about the tour guide that only you can hear. And since he’s such a gentleman, he probably wouldn’t even consider snoring in the hotel room (way too unseemly). Extra bonus: he’s absolutely loaded, so you know you can count on him to pick up the tab on any emergency travel expenses that happen to come up.

    Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones)
    If you’re the type of person who enjoys a little friendly bickering, than Calcifer is the travel companion for you. He’s got the disagreeable-but-friendly thing down pat, and you know he’ll always follow through in the end. As a fire demon, he’s got loads of mysterious powers that cover everything from helping make a tasty breakfast (always important when you’re on the road) to moving entire castles when necessary. And anyway, a fire demon would make a great addition to your travel scrapbook.

    Dr. Watson (Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle)
    Watson is smart (without being completely obnoxious about it, unlike Sherlock) and resourceful, but most importantly, he’s just about the least selfish person in fiction. Always willing to sacrifice for the greater good, or even for the good of his friendships, Watson would make sure that you got to do everything you wanted to do on the trip, and he would always take the couch and let you have the bed. And, he’s used to all sorts of weird behavior from Sherlock, so he’d never judge you for any of your quirky habits. Bonus: it’s always a good idea to travel with a doctor.

    The Baudelaires (A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket)
    Imagine this: you’re on a road trip. You’ve been driving for eight hours already today, and it’s been fun so far, but then your car breaks down. And you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s right about then that you’ll be thinking back on your choices—why didn’t you get off at the last rest stop? Did you pack enough snacks to get you through this emergency?—but the one choice you absolutely would not question would be bringing the three Baudelaires along with you. Before you could even blink, Violet would be fixing the car, Klaus would have researched local places to stay, and Sunny would have prepared a delicious picnic. Plus, all their stuff was burnt in a fire, so they definitely wouldn’t pack heavy.

    Levi Stewart (Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell)
    If there’s one thing you need when you’re traveling, it’s coffee. Loads of coffee. Luckily, Levi is well aware of the importance of coffee, and you could absolutely trust him to keep you steadily supplied with it. Levi’s endless energy would also help him—and therefore you—make friends wherever you went, so you’d never have to worry about dealing with grumpy people. You can count on him to always be interested in whatever you want to talk about or whatever sights you want to see, and never complain about being bored. Plus, he’s nice to look at, which is definitely a bonus if you’re going to be spending lots of time in a plane/train/car with him.

    Which fictional character would you most like to travel as a travel companion?

  • Jeff Somers 4:30 pm on 2015/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: arthur conan doyle, , jeff lindsay, , ubermensch,   

    Five “Superpowered” Characters Found Outside of Sci-Fi Novels 

    As genres bleed into the mainstream, people who were blissfully unaware of superhero tropes in the past are now becoming mutant connoisseurs and experts on the effects of radiation exposure when combined with insects, animals, or mad scientists (or all three). This acceptance of the superhero as literary star shouldn’t be surprising—there have been superhero characters outside of science fiction for ages. To prove it, here are five characters that are basically superheroes, despite appearing in books that aren’t in any way speculative fiction. They would be an unstoppable team of literary Avengers.

    Marathon Man, by William Goldman
    Superpower: Endurance
    Goldman’s classic 1970s thriller not only inspired one of Laurence Olivier’s most memorable film performances (the phrase “Is it safe?” is still a monumental buzzkill), it introduced the titular character, real name Tom Levy, into the cultural landscape. Through no fault of his own, Levy is caught up in a world of espionage and assassination, and makes it through only because of his superpower: superhuman endurance. He survives horrific torture and manages to triumph in the end only because he can keep going when his enemies have to slow down to catch their breath. If you’ve only seen the movie, the book is not only more tense and exciting than you might think, it’s also much less sweaty than you might expect (although still plenty sweaty).

    Memory Man, by David Baldacci
    Superpower: Perfect memory
    Amos Decker’s life gets ruined twice. The first time, a head injury ends his professional football career, but blesses/curses him with a perfect memory stretching back even before the injury, allowing him to access details as if his brain were a DVR. The second time, he loses his family to a grisly murder, and is almost destroyed. When that tragedy turns out to have been the first step in a fiendish plan personally targeting him, his super memory is what helps him survive and solve the mystery. It’s a novel that seems to consciously draw on superhero tropes for much of its structure, including the origin story, the doppelgänger villain, and the “Moment of Despair” so common in superhero stories.

    Jack Reacher, by Lee Child
    Superpower: Reacherism
    Jack Reacher is one of the most popular modern fictional characters, a huge man who towers over everyone he meets, who maintains peak physical fitness despite never mentioning, even in passing, a workout regimen (although, to be fair, he walks everywhere and spends much of his time punching people). Reacher’s brawn and physical size is matched only by his big brain, and the two together, combined with a keen sense of justice and morality, make him every criminal’s worst nightmare. Remember how the A-Team used to show up and help folks fight villains more numerous, better funded, and more heavily armed? Reacher is large enough and smart enough to be his own self-contained A-Team, setting things right before walking off into the sunset while the “Lonely Man” theme from the old Incredible Hulk TV show plays.

    Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (and others)
    Superpower: Super logic
    The “Sherlock Scan” is so well-known it is literally a trope, but when viewed through a reality filter, some of Holmes’ deductions can seem a bit supernatural. Over the course of more than a century, Holmes has arrived at countless crime scenes and figured out what’s happening merely by observing available data and then engaging in some vaguely unsavory substances abuse. His immense intelligence is shown time and time again to prevail over just about every obstacle or threat—even his most evenly matched enemy, Professor Moriarity, could only mostly kill Holmes, who figured out a way to come back.

    Dexter Morgan, by Jeff Lindsay
    Superpower: Lack of empathy
    Most of us are prevented from doing terrible things through a complex combination of an inner moral sense, fear of consequences, and empathy for our fellow living creatures. Dexter Morgan has only one of those things, and it is only his fear of consequences that keeps him from more or less destroying the world. That very same lack of empathy, however, also makes him one of the most powerful people in the world—though whether he would count as a superhero or a supervillain is up for discussion, considering his efforts to employ his special skill exclusively against bad people.

    There you have it: superheroes have been lurking in our books all along, no need to look solely to science fiction and comic book movies.

    Shop all fiction >
  • Diana Biller 5:00 pm on 2015/05/13 Permalink
    Tags: arthur conan doyle, beatrix potter, colin meloy, , , paul goble   

    7 Adorable Book-Inspired Themes for Nurseries 

    Pro-tip: do not browse Pinterest looking for book-themed nursery ideas unless you want to be reduced to a puddle of squeeing goo for the rest of the day. The pastels! The stuffed animals! All the gorgeous murals! (I’m pretty sure murals are actually distributed at the hospital these days, right? Like that Finnish baby box?)

    To save you from that harrowing experience (the delicate artwork! the quilts! the handcrafted mobiles!), here are seven handpicked nursery book themes to give your literary baby the most stylish start possible.

    The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    Color Palette: Soft golds, lilacs, blues, and greens, in gentle, watery tones.

    Key Items: Statement stars, in a mobile or on the walls.

    Wall Quote: One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.

    The Little Prince is a book as well suited to an adult’s library as a children’s nursery: it’s beautiful, whimsical, and wildly imaginative, while also asking enormous questions about life and how we live it.

    The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
    Color Palette: Soft blue-grays and golden tans, accented with lettuce green.

    Key Items: Lots of plush bunnies.

    Wall Quote: Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits…

    It’s a classic for a reason. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is now well over a hundred years old, but the adorable illustrations, clean and clever prose, and surprisingly effective tension keep it evergreen.

    The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
    Color Palette: It depends on whether your progeny is likely to be a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw (let’s be real: the other two are not compelling nursery choices. Well, okay, a Slytherin nursery could be awesome. But maybe not the best parenting decision?). Whatever house you choose, the colors are going to be saturated and rich: think golds and scarlets, or bronze and royal blue.

    Key Items: A Platform 9 3/4 wall sticker, a plush Fluffy, and a Marauder’s Map. Oh, and the illustrated version of the novels when they come out in October.

    Wall Quote: It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

    Friendship, bravery, loyalty, love of knowledge, responsibility…the Harry Potter series has it all!

    The Wildwood Chronicles, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
    Color Palette: Bright reds, watery blues and greens, soft browns and tans.

    Key Items: At least one papier-mâché tree.

    Wall Quote: There’s as much benefit to wishing the world away as there is in demanding a bud to bloom.

    Wildwood‘s stunning illustrations and fantastical setting make it a great option for nursery decorating; the suspenseful adventures and moral quandaries contained within mean it will be welcome on the bookshelf long after the nursery has been transformed to a teenager’s den.

    The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, by Paul Goble
    Color Palette: Bright red, sage green, lots of warm browns, accents of light pink and lilac.

    Key Items: Beautiful woven textiles, squishy horse toys.

    Wall Quote: There was a girl in the village who loved horses…

    Paul Goble’s 1979 Caldecott Medal–winning book about a Native American girl who loves wild horses so much she eventually turns into one is as intriguing 30 years later as it was the day it was published. Its vivid, stylized illustrations provide excellent design inspiration.

    The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Color Palette: plaid (okay, plaid’s not precisely a color—green plaid, then), tan the color of an old crumpled newspaper, brown the color of tobacco. We’re being inspired by Baker Street here, not the opium dens, so we’ll skip the trippy visuals and contorted bodies.

    Key Items: At least one teddy bear dressed up as Sherlock, a Baker Street sign, the house numbers 221B.

    Wall Quote: When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. (Tragically, it appears that the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” never actually appears in Conan Doyle’s stories.)

    If there’s one thing years of reading The Babysitter’s Club and Encyclopedia Brown has taught me, it’s that you can never start solving mysteries early enough.

    The Avengers (Marvel Comics)
    Color Palette: Bright reds, rich blues and greens, gold and black accents.

    Key Items: Vintage comic illustrations, pillows made out of comic-book printed fabric, some sort of adorable plush hammer.

    Wall Quote: Avengers Assemble!

    They may be Earth’s mightiest heroes, but they’re going to need some new recruits eventually. Might as well start the next batch of superheroes young?

    What literary inspirations would you use to decorate your nursery?

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