Smokey the Cat
Donis Casey

Sixty seconds with Donis Casey...

Donis was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma and graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in English, and earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Oklahoma University. After teaching school for a short time, she enjoyed a career as an academic librarian, working for many years at the University of Oklahoma and at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. She now lives in Tempe, AZ, with her husband, poet Donald Koozer. Her Alafair Tucker mystery series, set in Oklahoma in the booming 1910s, features the sleuthing mother of ten children. The most recent, FORTY DEAD MEN, came out last year.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Casey: I'm a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur who currently writes ripping tales of murder set in Oklahoma in the booming 1910s.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Casey: Cold Blow and the Rainy Night by Planxty. Or anything by Bob Dylan. Any era.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Casey: A writer (no kidding) or an artist.

Donis Casey

Sixty seconds with Donis Casey...

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July 13, 2019

Summertime and the readin' is easy, or not, depending on what you prefer. The books we review this time come from both ends of the spectrum and also from the middle, so there should be something here to suit your mood.

We begin with two of the most important women writing crime fiction today. Kate Atkinson brings back her long-absent detective, Jackson Brodie in BIG SKY and his is a triumphant return, though he would never admit it. While Atkinson revives a series, another resident of Scotland, Denise Mina, provides a standalone, CONVICTION, which, like BIG SKY, is at once brilliantly funny and deadly serious. Both of these should be very high on your list of what to read on your summer vacation.

Garry Disher's UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS is also a standalone, though I thought it makes a splendid foundation for a series. Its central character, a middle-aged police detective working cold cases, is something a bit different from the usual, I thought, and presents a certain challenge to the reader. Adrian McKinty's THE CHAIN also marks a significant departure in that the author has deserted his usual Northern Ireland haunts for the United States and the police procedural for a straight-out thriller. Barbara Fister says that he carries it all off with panache.

THE CHAIN deals with a complicated kidnapping scheme and Kelley Armstrong also centres WHEREVER SHE GOES on kidnapping, this time one that everyone denies having happened. Keshena Hanson enjoyed the book for its exciting narrative but valued the character study of the woman who tells the story even more.

BROKEN GROUND is the latest in Val McDermid's Karen Pirie series, in which the police protagonist pursues one cold case and another one quite a bit warmer. Jim Napier declares that it all makes for compelling reading and that the veteran Val McDermid has yet another winner on her hands.

Summer is certainly the time for a real thriller and Anne Corey suggests that Daniel Silva's THE NEW GIRL is just the ticket. This 19th outing for Gabriel Allon echoes the recent horrifying fate of Jamal Khashoggi with the names changed to shield both the innocent and the possibly guilty.

Crime is, of course, far from confined to the world stage or the big city. Paul Doiron's ALMOST MIDNIGHT continues the adventures of Mike Bowditch in rural Maine where, this time, someone is using a crossbow to kill a dog and where Mike has also been made aware of a drug-running scheme. Sharon Mensing enjoyed the book but does caution that, while it can be read as an entry into the series, much of the character development will then be lost. Sharon also read ARCHES ENEMY, by Scott Graham. This one is part of the author's National Park series and is set in Arches National Park, its fragile monuments under threat from oil exploration taking place too close to its borders. The environmental message is clear and frightening.

There's an environmental theme in Michael Stanley's SHOOT THE BASTARDS as well. This one, by the authors of the Inspector Kubu series, is transnational and cross-cultural in scope, since its protagonist, Crystal Nguyen, is of Vietnamese origin, resident in Minnesota, and looking into rhino poaching in South Africa and we follow her to all those places. Susan Hoover says she really loves Crys, intrepid and accomplished, a young woman after her own heart.

The other book that Susan read this time, the debut MAN OF THE YEAR by Caroline Louise Walker, is set in far more restrained Sag Harbor, Long Island. Not so restrained, however, that it is murder-free. Susan was awed by the brilliant plotting.

Lourdes Venard read two very different historical novels, set in very different eras and with very different tones. THE ALCHEMIST OF LOST SOULS, by Mary Lawrence, takes place in medieval London when ordinary life was grim indeed. It is, she says, a dark book filled with dark detail that many readers will find absorbing. On the other hand, A LADY'S GUIDE TO GOSSIP AND MURDER, by Dianne Freeman, is also set in London, this time in the late 19th century. It's a cosy, and the characters are well-off. But the detail is also well-researched and Lourdes enjoyed the characters and the well-developed plot.

Diana Borse has to admit that she never thought she'd read, let alone enjoy, a book narrated by a dog and she apologizes for her error after reading HEART OF BARKNESS by Spencer Quinn. (She does have a bit of trouble excusing the title, however.) Chet (the dog) is magnificent and Diana recommends this one as an ideal summer read.

And finally, it wouldn't be a cosy summer without a culinary cosy with recipes. PJ Coldren read CHAI ANOTHER DAY, by Leslie Budewitz and reports that it is "entertaining, educational, thought-provoking, and eminently readable." And the recipes look pretty good as well.

Our guest in the "Sixty Seconds With..." slot this week is Donis Casey and you can check out what she has to say in the box over to your left.

Our friends at CRIMEREVIEW have also been reading a lot and that's where to go to find out what is going on in UK crime these days.

We'll be back in the middle of August with more to say about what we've been reading. Please come back and take a look. And in the meantime, do drop us a note if there's anything you'd like us to hear.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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