A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Sunday, September 27, 2020

When Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship by Martha Teichner- Feature and Review


 A memoir of love and loss, of being in the right place at the right time, and of the mysterious ways a beloved pet can bring people together, from CBS Sunday Morning News correspondent and multi-Emmy-Award-winning Martha Teichner.

There are true fairy tales. Stories that exist because impossible-to-explain coincidences change everything. Except in real life, not all of them have conventional, happily-ever-after endings. When Harry Met Minnie is that kind of fairy tale, with the vibrant, romantic New York City backdrop of its namesake, the movie When Harry Met Sally, and the bittersweet wisdom of Tuesdays with Morrie.

There’s a special camaraderie among early-morning dog walkers. Gathering at dog runs in the park, or strolling through the farmer's market at Union Square before the bustling crowd appears, fellow pet owners become familiar–as do the personalities of their beloved animals. In this special space and time, a chance encounter with an old acquaintance changed Martha Teichner’s world. As fate would have it, her friend knew someone who was dying of cancer, from exposure to toxins after 9/11, and desperate to find a home for her dog, Harry. He was a Bull Terrier—the same breed as Martha’s dear Minnie. Would Martha consider giving Harry a safe, loving new home?

In short order, boy dog meets girl dog, the fairy tale part of this story. But there is so much more to this book. After Martha agrees to meet Harry and his owner Carol, what begins as a transaction involving a dog becomes a deep and meaningful friendship between two women with complicated lives and a love of Bull Terriers in common. Through the heartbreak and grief of Carol’s illness, the bond that develops changed Martha’s life, Carol’s life, Minnie’s life, Harry’s life. As it changed Carol’s death as well.

In this rich and touching narrative, Martha considers the ways our stories are shaped by the people we meet, and the profound love we can find by opening our hearts to unexpected encounters.


When Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and FriendshipWhen Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship by Martha Teichner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Harry met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship by Martha Teichner is a 2020 Celadon Books publication.

A melancholy, but touchingly poignant memoir about the love of dogs and a very special unexpected friendship.

When I received a copy of this book in the mail I was super excited because it came with a cute cover and title. Looked like my kind of book!!

Then I read the synopsis, which explains the book dealt with some very heavy and sad topics. Still, I had high hopes that this book would be a special one.

Many of you hear me speak often about my cats- but I also have two Cocker Spaniels. Trust me, I love dogs just as much as I do cats! While I am not all that familiar with bull terriers, I have seen them on television, in dog shows, and think they are absolutely adorable… and no, I never thought they resembled an anteater. 😁😁

So- from one dog lover to another- I was sure this book would resonate - at least from the standpoint that I’m as crazy and dedicated to my pets as Martha.

But, this book is not just a book about dogs- it's really a story about love and friendship and stepping up to help those you care about, being with them and for them, and holding close the time you got to spend with them.

When Martha realizes her bull terrier, Minnie, is in mourning and needs a companion, an acquaintance puts her in touch with Carol. Carol has terminal cancer and needs to find her bull terrier, Harry, a new home before she is no longer able to care for him.

Harry has a slew of health problems, but Martha is willing to see how Harry gets along with Minnie and if the situation will work out. While she has her reservations, Harry and Minnie adjust and bond with each other- eventually.

In the process, Martha and Carol also forge a special bond- one that deepens into a valued friendship, one that has such a big impact on Martha, she decided to write this book about their friendship and the two special dogs that brought them together.

As recently as yesterday evening, I warned a Goodreads friend, who expressed interest in reading this book, that despite that precious cover, and funny title- this book was NOT a ‘cute dog’ story.

In fact, I confided to my friend that I had found the book a bit depressing although I didn’t think that was ever the author's intention.

In cases like this, when my personal preference or misgivings could alter my opinion of a book, I faced a dilemma many reviewers will relate to. It's a good book, well written, deserves a positive score- even if it was little more reality than I was able to emotionally handle at the moment. 

But, I decided I owed the publisher a professional review- not a diatribe about my personal woes or losses. Everyone has had a tough year, and none of us are where we would like to be from an emotional or mental health standpoint.

To that end, I was determined to give this book the best, most positive critique possible. So, strapping on my critical thinking cap- I started writing...

Well, the more I wrote, the more I thought about the book, and the more I reflected on it, I came to realize that while the subject matter is depressing, and uncomfortable at times, it might be just the type of personal story one can draw strength from, or find comfort in...

Because-when you get right down to it, it’s a lovely, heartwarming journey about friendships- the one Minnie made with Harry- and the one between Martha and Carol- and how Martha did the right thing by both of them.

Martha, as many of you already know, is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning. So, it’s no surprise, really, that she can write a good story.

However, I felt she did an incredible job of introducing readers to Carol and bringing her memory alive in these pages. Naturally, she also did justice to Harry and Minnie, who played such a big role in making this friendship possible, and in highlighting the patience and love from both pet parents as they played 'matchmaker' for their beloved dogs.

So, after some introspection, I believe that overall, this book is a touching and sweet tribute to Carol, it’s an ode to friendship, to Harry and Minnie, and to the pride in pet ownership.

It’s about the special memories we create, and the time we cherish with friends and family.

Obviously, Martha’s life was enriched by Carol and Harry, but they too benefited from Martha’s dedication to them as well. This book is certainly a cathartic endeavor for Martha, I think, but there are life lessons in here we can all benefit from.

So even if your heart is heavy- especially if your heart is heavy- or you are in a funky mood or world weary- don't pass on a chance to read this wonderful, heartfelt memoir written around great dogs, love, good people, and friendship!!




Martha Teichner has been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since December 1993, where she’s equally adept at covering major breaking national and international news stories as she is handling in-depth cultural and arts topics. Since joining CBS News in 1977, Teichner has earned multiple national awards for her original reporting, including 11 Emmy Awards and five James Beard Foundation Awards. Teichner was also part of the team coverage of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting which earned CBS News a 2014 duPont-Columbia Award. Teichner was born in Traverse City, Mich. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She attended the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business Administration. Teichner resides in New York City. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Long and Faraway Gone


With the compelling narrative tension and psychological complexity of the works of Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Kate Atkinson, and Michael Connelly, Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead. 

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As fate brings these damaged souls together, their obsessive quests spark sexual currents neither can resist. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?


                                                          MY REVIEW:

The Long and Faraway GoneThe Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Long Ago and Far Away Gone by Lou Berney is a 2015 William Morrow/Harper Collins publication.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-

Wyatt is a private investigator who has been hired to check out the alleged harassment claims made by Candace Kilkenny, sister-in-law of another client. The case isn’t really all that worrisome on the surface, but the problem for Wyatt is that he’ll have to return to his home town of OKC, a place that holds dark memories for him- memories he’d rather not have floating to the forefront of his consciousness.

The past had power. The past was a riptide. That's why, if you had a brain in your head, you didn't go in the water.

But, he takes the case, which turns out to be far more complicated than he bargained for, and sure enough, almost right from the second he rolls into OKC, he fights a losing battle with the past, finally embracing the inevitable, hoping to find the answers to lingering questions so that he can finally come to peace with why he has survived a tragedy no one else did.

Julianna Rosales is a nurse in OKC, also haunted by the past. Years ago, her sister vanished from a carnival leaving Julianna stranded, never to be seen or heard from again. Her search for answers consumes her, all the more, as the detective who has worked on the case all these years is set to retire.

Humans, by nature, did this all the time. They wanted something, so they found reasons to support that desire. And then they convinced themselves that the reasons came first, that the reasons lead to the desire and not the other way around.

As Wyatt and Julianna each work their way out of the rabbit hole they’ve jumped into, their paths randomly cross one another in a peculiar sense of irony.

How is it that I am just now discovering this author? All I can say is -Wow!!

This literary mystery embodies two cold cases, each one doggedly pursued by the survivors of the events that transpired. The city, the spookiness of the crimes, even the nostalgia plays a part in setting the atmosphere of the novel. The characters are haunted, tortured by memories and evidence that holds the key to solving the mysteries that keep them firmly rooted in the past, but remain elusive, just out of their grasp.

Was memory like a river that slowed over time to a trickle? Or was it like a house with many rooms that become a house with fewer rooms and then finally just a single room you could never leave?

Wyatt and Julianna both put their lives at stake to free themselves from the agony of living in the continual limbo they have grown so accustomed to living in. Wyatt, however, has the added stress of working a live case for Candace, which is yet another, equally riveting mystery within this novel. It's like getting three mysteries for the price of one.

The writing is outstanding, the dialogue, the flashbacks, the poignancy, the suspense, the danger- it all grabs you and won’t let turn loose until you flip over that final page. I was sorely tempted to start re-reading this book the minute I finished it – it’s that good!

He liked to think that sometimes an ending cleared the way for a beginning.




                                                             ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lou Berney is the Edgar Award- winning author of November Road ( coming in October 2018- from William Morrow) , The Long and Faraway Gone, Whiplash River, and Gutshot Straight. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, the New England Review, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

MANGA MONDAY Catwoman- Trail of the Catwoman by Ed Brubaker and Darywn Cooke- Feature and Review


For years, Selina Kyle has prowled the skyline of Gotham City as its most famous thief, Catwoman. But when word spreads of Catwoman's demise, Selina decides to leave the costumed world behind and continue her trade cloaked in the shadows. Unable to enjoy her newfound anonymity for too long though, Selina decides that she must return to her infamous persona. Donning a new costume and attitude, Catwoman returns to the streets and sets her sights on the serial killer that has been preying upon the streetwalkers she calls friends.

This volume collects in chronological order an entire Catwoman epic from multiple award-winning creators Darwyn Cooke & Ed Brubaker.

CollectingCatwoman 1-9, Selina's Big Score & Detective Comics 759-762


Catwoman, Volume 1: Trail of the CatwomanCatwoman, Volume 1: Trail of the Catwoman by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catwoman Volume one: Trail of the Catwoman is a 2012 DC Comics publication. (Originally published in 2008)

Because I named my new kitten, Selina, after Catwoman, it was only fitting that I catch up on a few Catwoman comics for fun. There are SO many to choose from, I had a hard time deciding where to begin. This one was on Hoopla and it seemed to be well received- so I thought this might be a good place to dive in.

This volume is hefty. Selina’s Big score, plus detective comics 759-762 = Three hundred + pages.

Why I am drawn to the Catwoman character is her complexity. She’s got a painful past, has not always walked on good side of the law, but is a character who wants to be a good person-at least in this volume of stories.

In this collection, Selina has faked her own death. She returns to Gotham City, has a little bit of a makeover, and then begins doing some detective work, hoping to find a serial killer targeting sex -workers.

The action takes place in the East End where the people need an equalizer of Catwoman’s caliber.

The first part of the novel is part heist, part noir, and sets the stage Selina/Catwoman’s new outlook on life.

I enjoyed the graphics, dialogue and stories included in this collection. I have even more angles of Catwoman to ponder on and found this volume to be entertaining and a nice diversion for me. Now on to Volume 2.



Ed Brubaker (born November 17, 1966) is an Eisner Award-winning American cartoonist and writer. He was born at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

Brubaker is best known for his work as a comic book writer on such titles as Batman, Daredevil, Captain America, Iron Fist, Catwoman, Gotham Central and Uncanny X-Men. In more recent years, he has focused solely on creator-owned titles for Image Comics, such as Fatale, Criminal, Velvet and Kill or Be Killed.

In 2016, Brubaker ventured into television, joining the writing staff of the HBO series Westworld.

Darwyn Cooke was an Eisner Award winning comic book writer, artist, cartoonist and animator, best known for his work on the comic books Catwoman, DC: The New Frontier and Will Eisner's The Spirit.

In 1985, Cooke published his first comic book work as a professional artist in a short story in New Talent Showcase #19, but economic pressure made him leave the career and he worked in Canada as a magazine art director, graphic and product designer for the next 15 years.

In the early 1990s Cooke decided to return to comics, but found little interest for his work at the major publishers. Eventually he was hired by Warner Bros. Animation after replying to an ad placed by animator Bruce Timm.

He went on to work as a storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, and in 1999 he animated the main title design for Batman Beyond. He then worked as a director for Sony Animation's Men in Black: The Series for a year.

DC Comics then approached Cooke about a project which he had submitted to the publisher years earlier which eventually became Batman: Ego, a graphic novel published in 2000.

The critical success of that project led to Cooke taking on more freelance work, such as X-Force, Wolverine/Doop and Spider-Man's Tangled Web for Marvel Comics and Just Imagine... Stan Lee for DC.

In 2001, Cooke and writer Ed Brubaker teamed up to revamp the Catwoman character. They started with a 4 issue serial "Trail of the Catwoman" in Detective Comics #759-762 in which private detective Slam Bradley attempts to investigate the death of Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman).

The story led into a new Catwoman title in late 2001 by Brubaker and Cooke, in which the character's costume, supporting cast and modus operandi were all redesigned and redeveloped. Cooke would stay on the series, which was met with critical and fan acclaim, up until issue #4. In 2002 he would write and draw a prequel, the Selina's Big Score graphic novel which detailed what had happened to the character directly before her new series.
Cover to DC: The New Frontier #6.
Cover to DC: The New Frontier #6.

Cooke's next project was the ambitious DC: The New Frontier (2004), a six issue miniseries which sought to tell an epic storyline bridging the gap between the end of the golden and the start of the silver age of comic books in the DC Universe. The story, which was set in the 1950s, featured dozens of super-hero characters and drew inspiration from the comic books and movies of the period as well as from Tom Wolfe's non-fiction account of the start of the US Space Program The Right Stuff. The major DC characters are introduced in "The New Frontier" in the same order that DC originally published them, even down to the correct month and year in the story's timeline. In 2005, Cooke won an Eisner Award for "Best Limited Series", and a Joe Shuster Award for "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist" for his work on the series.

Most recently, Cooke contributed to DC's artist-centric anthology project Solo. His issue (#5, June, 2005) featured several different stories in different styles with a framing sequence featuring the Slam Bradley character. In 2006, Solo #5 won an Eisner Award for "Best Single Issue."

In July 2005, it was announced that in 2006 Cooke and writer Jeph Loeb would produce a Batman/Spirit crossover, to be followed shortly afterwards by an ongoing Spirit series written and drawn by Cooke. Batman/The Spirit was ultimately published in November 2006, followed in December by the first issue of Cooke's The Spirit. In June 2007, Cooke and J. Bone won a Joe Shuster Award for "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Artists" for their work on "Batman/The Spirit", and Cooke won "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist" for his work on "The Spirit".

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Long Bright River by Liz Moore- Feature and Review



Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn't be more different. Then, one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit--and her sister--before it's too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.



Long Bright RiverLong Bright River by Liz Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Long Bright River by Liz Moore is a 2020 Riverhead publication.

Mesmerizing, chilling, and heartbreaking!

Sisters, Mickey, and Kacey, though close as children, grew apart as teens and now their lives could not be any more different. Mickey is a police officer and single- parent, while Kacey, is a drug addict and a sex-worker in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Although they never speak, Mickey keeps tabs on Kacey, making sure she's still okay, despite the circumstances. But then Kacey disappears. Mickey uses her position as a police officer to try and find her, fearing the worse.

It is not just the drugs or the risky lifestyle that has Mickey in a near panicked desperation to find Kacey. Someone is killing women in Kensington- and Kacey could be an unknown victim.

Mickey’s private investigation leads her in directions she never imagined. Her memories of her teenage years haunt her, as the truth becomes harder and harder to discern, with everything going on seemingly tangled up with her own family or her complicated relationships in the past.

As the days pass, Mickey’s fear and despair drive her emotions, destabilizing her decisions. But as the past collides with the present, startling revelations uncover the ugly, but fragile and tender bonds of Mickey's relationship with Kacey and her family.

Will Mickey find her sister alive or has her addiction- or a murderer- stolen her away forever?

This is a compelling crime drama that examines the far-reaching toll of addiction, while at the same time profiling one of the most notorious drug addled neighborhoods in the United States.

Families are torn apart, communities decline, along with the economy, and even the most disciplined are no match for the lure of opioids. Many passages in this book feel so real, and even personal. It is sad and horrifying, making the urge to look away far too tempting.

I have heard people speak of the troubled Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. In fact, it was the true crime case of the "Kensington Strangler", that drew my attention to this neighborhood at one point.

But I still felt compelled to do a little more research and what I saw and read was shocking, terrifying and so sad.

This background brings the challenges Mickey faces, not only as a police officer, but as a mother and a sister, into sharp focus. Her confidence is rattled, understandably, as this case is very personal, often robbing her of her objectivity.

I cannot say I always understood Mickey, or found her character to be one I could easily relate to, but I sympathized with her fear and confusion, facing the possibility that she and her son could be in danger, and that her sister might be dead.

The story is tense, gritty, and very gripping with several stunning twists along the way, but at the end of the day, despite the odds, a glimmer of hope appears, leaving the reader with more of an inspirational vibe, helping to offset the overall austerity of the book.

I found this novel to be quite effective and well executed. It is dark and melancholy, but is also incredibly realistic, giving readers a stark and undaunted view of life in Kensington, and an up- close examination of addiction on its litter strewn streets. The book is timely, also touching on gaping social and class divisions amid the drug crisis.

Overall, I thought this was an excellent crime story and family drama! It was quite suspenseful and engrossing, as well as a real eye-opener. It stuck with me long after I turned the final p



Liz Moore is the author of four novels: The Words of Every Song, Heft, The Unseen World, and Long Bright River. A winner of the 2014 Rome Prize in Literature, she lives in Philadelphia and teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Temple University.

Friday, September 11, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth- Feature and Review


Two adolescent brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power after a tragedy shatters their family in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthy

An epic Western, a tough coming-of-age story, and a tension-laden tale of survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut that brings to vivid life a colonial Australian frontier that bears a striking resemblance to the American West in its formative years.

It is 1885 and the McBride family are trying to survive a crippling drought that is slowly eroding their lives and hopes: their cattle are starved, and the family can no longer purchase the supplies they need on their depleted credit. When the rain finally comes, it’s a miracle. For a moment, the scrubland flourishes and the remote swimming hole fills. Returning home from an afternoon swim, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy McBride discover a scene of heartbreaking carnage: their dogs dead in the yard, their hardworking father and mother shot to death, and their precocious younger sister unconscious and severely bleeding from a wound to her gut. The boys believe the killer is their former Aboriginal stockman, and, desperate to save Mary, they rush her to John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer, who promises to take care of them.

Eager for retribution, the distraught brothers fall sway to Sullivan, who persuades them to join his posse led by the Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power whose sole purpose is the “dispersal” of indigenous Australians to “protect” settler rights. The group is led by the intimidating inspector Edmund Noone, a dangerous and pragmatic officer whose intellect and ruthlessness both fascinates and unnerves the watchful Tommy. Riding for days across the barren outback, the group is determined to find the perpetrators they insist are guilty, for reasons neither of the brothers truly understands. It is a harsh and horrifying journey that will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

Set in a period of Australian and British history as raw and relevant as that of the wild frontier of nineteenth-century America, Only Killers and Thieves is an unforgettable story of family, guilt, empire, race, manhood, and faith that combines the insightfulness of Philipp Meyer’s The Son with the atmospheric beauty of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist and the raw storytelling power of Ian McGuire’s The North Water.



 Only Killers and ThievesOnly Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth is a 2018 Harper publication.

Absorbing coming of age tale of two brothers who took different paths in the harsh scrublands of Australia in the 1800’s-

When Billy and Tommy find their parents brutally murdered and their sister barely clinging to life, they make an uneasy bargain with the rich landowner, their father had not trusted, to hunt down the man accused of killing their family.

There is a horrible backstory that leads up this chain of events, as the boy witnessed something they probably shouldn’t have, which involved racism, and outright cruelty. Now they find themselves aligned with those same people on a quest that fuels their hate filled agenda.

The journey will prove to be a hard one, where both boys will take a side, one will follow the corrupt path, believing himself superior, stronger, and determined to get his share of the pie, while the other will follow his heart, his own moral code and his principles, refusing to sacrifice his convictions, even though his feelings forge a wedge between them.

The Australian landscape, the dry, parched land, creates a harsh backdrop that sets the mood and tone of the story perfectly. This coming of age tale is a poignant story, as well as one steeped in historical details, and examines the brutal realities indigenous Aborigines suffered through at the hands of white men who felt themselves superior, smarter, and entitled.

The story is quite violent and not for the faint of heart. There are several intensely uncomfortable passages in the book, that offended my sensitive nature, forcing me to put the book aside from time to time.

I can’t remember how or why this book caught my attention, but at some point, I’d put it on hold on it at the library. I can only guess that someone recommended it to me or I added it because of my love of historical fiction. However, this book also falls into the western category, which I have read sparingly and is certainly not a genre I would have chosen ordinarily.

However, the story is very thought provoking, and despite the brutal nature of the tale, is very absorbing, and suspenseful. Tommy is a character I found myself worrying over and wishing I could reach through the pages and give him a word of encouragement or maybe a little motherly nurturing. It’s too bad we have more people in this world who think like his brother, but that makes Tommy stand out all the more, and in my book, he was a true hero.

The story well written, very vivid and realistic, and a very impressive debut novel!





Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family. 

In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson- Feature and Review


A chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans: the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders.

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne's Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox's Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald's The Drowner, and Donna Tartt's A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects—and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.



Eight Perfect Murders (Malcolm Kershaw, #1)Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is a 2020 William Morrow publication.

A mystery lover’s delight!!

Malcom Kershaw is a bookstore owner whose main area of expertise happens to be crime fiction.

Several years back, Malcolm wrote a blog post in which he listed eight books he considered perfect fictional murders.

What books made the cut?

The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, The A.B.C. Murders, Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Drowner, Deathtrap and The Secret History.

The blog post in question is still floating around in the internet stratosphere, evidently catching the attention of a fiendish murderer, who is now using Malcolm’s list as a guide, duplicating the methods employed in the eight books on the list.

The list has also caught the attention of the FBI, bringing them straight to Malcolm's door- which is where our story begins...

Once the FBI made the connection between Malcolm’s blog and the murders, the investigation naturally draws Malcolm into the center of it.

As we follow Malcolm's narration, a tribute to mystery novels develops alongside the intriguing and puzzling plot, touching on many of the various representations of crime fiction over the years.

Even if you are only moderately familiar with the books on this list, you can see how diverse the list is. The eight books listed range from whodunits to inverted mysteries- and of the three books I’ve read, all were absolutely genius!

Malcolm’s narration is a brilliant touch, as the reader finds themselves caught up in his saga, especially when it becomes clear that he’s gotten himself into a real jam, going from quiet bookstore owner to a man with his own secrets, with danger lurking around every corner...

Personally, I thought Swanson did a great job with weaving a mystery around the eight novels on Malcolm’s list, showcasing their magnificence, while supplying a sly dose of irony and satire that often made me smile.

The thing that makes this story work, is the same thing that makes all mysteries work. My appetite for a good mystery never wanes. I can never go too long without reading some form of crime fiction.


Because mysteries are an addicting diversion, because they challenge my mind while I try to work out all the angles. Because mysteries make my heart race, as the suspense mounts and the twists leave me breathless and stunned!

Because crime fiction is fun and entertaining in a way no other genre can match- and Peter Swanson pushed every one of those buttons- knowing his audience, knowing the elements we avid fans enjoy about crime fiction, and weaving them into this story in subtle, shrewd ways, just the way we like it.

Now, to be honest, I wouldn’t go into this book with a super serious mindset. If you do, you might miss the all the deliberate little Easter eggs planted here and there, which are meant specifically for mystery buffs to discover.

It’s supposed to be lighthearted recreation, a tribute to the best crime writers, and gift to readers who love the genre, but it’s also everything a mystery novel should be- engrossing, intelligent, crafty, and....



It is not necessary to read the books on Malcolm’s list to enjoy this book. However, I’ve still added the books I haven’t read to my TBR pile. Can’t wait to read them- plus, I am mightily tempted to re-read the three books on list I have read.... especially The Secret History!



Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.