“Blade of the Samurai,” by Susan Spann: History and Murder

Historical mysteries offer the reader a great deal.  A good mystery novel features a solid plot, unique characters and, usually, a sense of justice. But a good historical mystery offers one thing more: a chance to vicariously experience another time and place. Today's case in point is "Blade of the Samurai," by Susan Spann. Spann's …

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“Colonel Sun,” a non-Fleming Bond novel that feels right

I have always divided the literary and cinematic James Bonds in my mind. I enjoy the movies, with the mini-helicopters and automobile ejector seats and explosions, but they seem to be about some other fellow, not the brooding but dutiful man Ian Fleming wrote about in his books. Sure, the two Bonds share some traits, …

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“The Man of Bronze,” by Lester Dent, or How in the Bloody Hell Did This Series Sell So Well?

I love the idea of Doc Savage.A man trained from birth to build his mind and body to perfection, in order to pursue a life of adventure and righting wrongs.  A man surrounded by top minds in numerous fields, each an expert in one or more areas of science or engineering or some other useful …

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“The Cold Cold Ground,” by Adrian McKinty

Take Ed McBain's 87th Precinct thrillers. Add first-person narrative from a smart, and funny, lead detective. Mix in a few large vodka gimlets and dark stouts, then set it all down in Ireland in 1981, when hunger strikes and protests lit a spark on the unrest fueled by political militias, gang violence and terrorism. All …

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How Pirate Batman rescued me from a book title problem

So ... while working on the Spider John historical mysteries, I have been working on another potential series as well -- a modern-day crime series set in a fictional Ohio county. And I had a title for the work in progress on that second series. I was going to call it "Powder Keg," as the …

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“The Spartan Dagger,” terrific historical fiction by Nicholas Guild

In the 4th century B.C., a few moments of violence set two young men on a collision course with one another. One, a Helot slave with much to avenge, escapes to join the Thebans who would throw off Spartan rule. The other, a Spartan, will move up in the ranks of  diplomacy while seeking to …

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“A Head Full of Ghosts,” by Paul Tremblay

At once an old-fashioned demonic possession story and a highly modern disruption of the genre, this book started off as a slow build and ramped up to a real page-turner. The characters seem very, very real, and the plot kept me wondering what was really, really happening all the while. I love the way the …

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