Mystery Scene Magazine

At the Scene, December 2011                        Solving the mystery of what to read next!
In this Issue
Matt Rees on Mary Renault
Sherlock Holmes Overheard
MS Gift Ideas
Morgue Drawer Four
Joanne Fluke Giveaway
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December Greetings

The Holiday Issue arrives, Matt Rees on Mary Renault's The King Must Die, holiday gift ideas, and Sherlock Holmes 2 at the movies!

#122 Holiday Issue
2011 Holiday Issue #122


 Hello everyone!


The writers we talk to in this issue couldn't be more different, but each of them has spun literary gold from the real-life straw of their circumstances and experiences. 
Stephen Hunter is a case in point. His lifelong interest in guns and the military are front and center in the hard-hitting Bob Lee Swagger novels (Point of Impact, Dead Zero). But the father and son dynamic is the real engine of his storytelling and Hunter traces that to his own abusive father. Be sure not to miss this fascinating profile. 
Small-town charm, good humor, and warm friendships characterize Livia J. Washburn's increasingly popular Fresh-Baked Mysteries and Literary Tour Mysteries. Her career began as a volunteer typist for her husband, the writer James Reasoner. "I kept telling him of other ways his stories could have gone until he finally suggested that I try to write my own," she recalls. Good advice! 
John C. Boland has had many different jobs - journalist, hedge fund manager, small press publisher. His books and short stories are just as varied, including his new, highly praised thriller Hominid, which draws on provocative issues of evolution, genetics, and archaeology. Our reviewer loved the book and I think you'll enjoy our chat. 
Marcia Muller has an unusual hobby: creating dollhouses and miniature rooms based on her popular Sharon McCone private eye novels. "They help me visualize certain scenes, so these do feed into my work," she says. "Some rooms I created and then wrote into the books; others, like the kitchen of the All Souls Co-op (shown on page 35 of the Holiday Issue), came from the books." Muller, of course, has had a long and distinguished career, and is generally credited with pioneering the female private eye novel in the 1970s. Particularly amusing in this interview are her thoughts on putting "social messages" in novels. 
This year the "Gift Guide for Mystery Lovers" offers some real gems. I've already bought a pair of the stylish Sherlock-Watson earrings and have my eyes on the Detective Montalbano and Commissario Brunetti DVDs... And if you often loan out your books, then the "Stolen From" Bookplates might come in handy.
Sticky-fingered friends aren't the only threats to your personal library. Nate Pedersen describes a multitude of ills that can afflict your books - pets, dust, tape, improper shelving-and offers solutions in "Building Your Book Collection." As he notes, "A first edition of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, commands over $50,000 with a fine dust jacket, but less than $4,000 without one." 


The next issue of Mystery Scene will arrive in February 2012. Over the next few months, we will be publishing original articles and book reviews at the MS Website. Oline H. Cogdill will continue to write for the MS Blog and we'll have some new contributors as well, including Jim Huang, Lynn Kaczmarek, and other well-known folks from the mystery community. 

We'll also be active on Twitter and Facebook so there's lots of ways to stay informed about great new books, films, and other mysterious offerings.

All of us here at Mystery Scene wish you a merry holiday season and a wonderful 2012. Happy reading!


Best wishes,
Kate Stine


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Matt Rees on Mary Renault's novel
The King Must Die
Mary Renault
Mary Renault


In 1999, King Hussein fell sick. I was a Middle East correspondent for a British newspaper. I poked through the used books at a store on a narrow lane in Jerusalem, wondering if I ought to head over to Jordan.


I picked up a 1958 edition of Mary Renault's The King Must Die, a novel based on the historical circumstances which may lie behind the myth of the Minotaur. The title decided me. I paid a few shekels for the book and went off across the Jordan Valley. From Renault, I learned the need for empathy in a novelist. Critics used to suggest "Mary Renault" was the pseudonym of a male homosexual, assuming that a woman couldn't write so vividly about men and sex. In Mozart's Last Aria I strove for that depth of empathy in writing about my female, eighteenth-century narrator, Nannerl Mozart.


Renault recast stories we all think we know - the Minotaur, the trial of Socrates, Alexander's conquests - and forced us to accept that the heroes of that period had views (in particular, about sexuality) starkly different from ours. Through fiction, she redirected us from myth to reality.


I've tried to do something similar in all my books - first, in my Omar Yussef mysteries, with the Palestinians, who're often depicted as stereotypical terrorists or victims, not as real people; and now with Mozart, who has come to be viewed in the popular imagination as a musically gifted buffoon, whereas he was actually an intellectual of enlightened beliefs.


A week after I arrived in Amman, King Hussein succumbed to lymphoma. As his funeral cortege passed through somber crowds in the wind and rain, I happened to laugh at a remark by another journalist. An old Bedouin turned tearful, red eyes on me. I was ashamed of my laughter. For him, this wasn't a news story or even history. It was the passing of someone he loved.

It's his emotion that I remember about that day, not its political implications, and emotion is the heart of a novel. Every time I write, I have that old Bedouin's face in mind. Throughout the funeral, The King Must Die was in my pocket.



Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees
Matt Ree's latest
book is Mozart's Last Aria (Harper Perennial, November 2011).

"Writers on Reading" is a special ongoing Mystery Scene series available as a first look exclusive to our newsletter subscribers. 
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Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Dr. John Watson: What? 


Sherlock Holmes: I agree, it's not my

best disguise. I had to make do. 


Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law return to Baker Street

in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.)

on December 16, 2011. 



X is for Xmas free ebook  
The Mystery Scene Elves Recommend...
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Death on the Nile earringsJezebel Charms, a literary-loving jewelry maker based in England makes earrings, cuffs, and necklaces "with a steampunk edge."

These Death on the Nile earrings ($29.00) inspired by Agatha Christie's mustached Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, caught our attention, but Jezebel Charms will let you request a book title at check out (but be warned late orders are not guaranteed to arrive before Christmas). 

The earrings are silver plated cabochon settings with a clear magnifying cabochon over the image, and nickel free ear hooks. 

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MS NEW2011 AdOffer valid for NEW one-year, first-time subscriptions and gift subscriptions in the US only. 

Morgue Drawer Four
A new German mystery series makes its US debut

Morgue Drawer Four by Jutta Profijt Morgue Drawer Four 

by Jutta Profijt

Amazon Crossing, Dec. 2011, $14.95 


Dr. Martin Gänsewein sees dead people. He certainly should because as coroner for the city of Cologne, autopsies are routine for him. But Martin's latest examination of the late Sascha "Pascha" Lerchenberg, a small-time car thief, takes a turn when the deceased starts to talk to him following the autopsy... (Read the review.)


Check out Mystery Scene's web exclusive review of  Morgue Drawer Four, as well as other special web content online at


Enter to win Mystery Scene's
Joanne Fluke Holiday Gift Basket
Joanne Fluke's Devil's Food Cake Murder Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook
Send us an "Our Readers Recommend" and be entered to win a Joanne Fluke Holiday Gift Basket! Includes her latest in the delectable Hannah Swensen series Devil's Food Cake Murder and her just-released collection of recipes, the Lake Eden Cookbook.
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