In this issue of The Blood-Letter from Friends of Mystery: a preview of our January 2020 Bloody Thursday guest, Rene Denfeld, plus a remembrance of M.C. Beaton and mysteries down under!

January 2020

Bloody Thursday, January 23, 2020, FOM Welcomes Rene Denfeld

Photo: Rene Denfeld (Owen Carey) Rene Denfeld is the bestselling author of The Butterfly Girl, The Child Finder and The Enchanted. Her novels have won numerous honors, including a prestigious French Prix, an ALA Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a Carnegie listing, an IMPAC listing, Oregonian best book of the year and more. A longtime death row investigator, Book Cover: The Butterfly Girl by Rene DenfeldRene has won awards for her justice work, including a Break the Silence award in Washington, DC and being named Hero of the Year by the New York Times. Rene grew up in Portland, where she overcame severe poverty, abuse and homelessness. She lives in Portland with her children, all adopted from foster care.

Denfeld will be discussing the inspirations for her fiction and her advocacy work.

Please join us at TaborSpace, 5441 SE Belmont St., Portland, Oregon 97215. The event is free and open to the public. A social time with refreshments begins at 7:00 pm, with the program beginning at 7:30 pm. Free parking is available in the block across from the entrance. Bus line #15 will drop you off right by the door.

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Photo: M.C. BeatonM.C. Beaton, 1936-2019

In Memoriam

Scottish author Marion Chesney Gibbons passed away on December 30, 2019. Born in Glasgow, she worked as a book seller, theater critic, fashion editor, and as a reporter covering the crime beat for the Scottish Daily Express before beginning to write fiction in 1979. She wrote 100 Regency romances before turning to crime fiction. Her most well-known series featured Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin.

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Mysterious New Zealand

The Ngaios are annual literary awards in New Zealand intended to recognize excellence in crime fiction, mystery, and thriller writing. They were established in 2010, and named after Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Originally there was only one award, for Best Crime Novel. In 2016 a second category was added for debut crime novels (Best First Novel), and in 2017, a third category for true crime and other non-fiction writing (Best Non Fiction) was added.

The 2019 nominees and winners were:

Best Crime Novel

Book Cover: This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

  • This Mortal Boy, by Fiona Kidman (winner)
  • Money in the Morgue, by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy
  • The Quaker, by Liam Mcilvanney
  • Call Me Evie, by J.P. Pomare
  • The Vanishing Act, by Jen Shieff

Best First Novel

  • Call Me Evie, by J.P. Pomare (winner)
  • One for Another, by Andrea Jacka
  • Crystal Reign, by Kelly Lyndon

Best Non-Fiction

  • The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong, by Kelly Dennett (winner)
  • The Great New Zealand Robbery, by Scott Bainbridge
  • Behind Bars, by Anna Leask
  • The Cause of Death, by Cynric Temple-Camp

Paul Cleave was the 2016 winner of Best Crime Novel for Trust No One. Here is the publisher’s summary of the book:

Jerry Grey can trust no one. Least of all himself. Most of the world knows Jerry Grey by his crime-writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter – a name that’s been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. But now he’s been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s career is coming to an abrupt end.

His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia continues to break down the wall between his real life and the lives of his characters, Jerry confesses his most terrible secret: the stories are real. He committed the crimes himself. His friends, family, and caretakers insist that it’s all in his head, just a side effect of his devastating disease – but is it?

If you prefer to watch instead of read, try The Brokenwood Mysteries. The series has been compared to England’s Midsomer Mysteries, and is filmed in New Zealand. The first series is composed of four feature-length mysteries, and introduces Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd, who “arrives on assignment in Brokenwood, a small town where memories – and animosities – run deep. He’s an experienced cop with a 1971 “classic” car, a collection of country music cassettes, and an indeterminate number of ex-wives.” His new assistant is Detective Kristin Sims, “a by-the-book investigator nearly 20 years younger than her boss’s car, and who quickly has to get used to his lone-wolf ways.”

“As Shepherd adapts to the slower pace of life away from the city, he soon discovers that Brokenwood is a place of secrets and suspicions. Everyone and everything is connected, and the serenity of the countryside can easily be shattered by violence and death.”

Five series are available on DVD. Try your local library system to check them out, or they may be available on Acorn and/or Britbox.

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Ned Kelly Awards 2019

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious, honoring crime fiction and true crime writing.

Best Crime Fiction

  • Kill Shot, by Gary Disher
  • Gone by Midnight, by Candice Fox
  • The Spotted Dog, by Kerry Greenwood
  • The Lost Man, by Jane Harper (winner)
  • The Other Wife, by Michael Robotham
  • Live and Let Fry, by Sue Williams

Best First Crime Fiction

  • The Portrait of Molly Dean, by Katherine Kovacic
  • The Ruin, by Dervla McTiernan (winner)
  • The Yellow House, by Emily O’Grady
  • Greenlight, by Benjamin Stevenson

Best True Crime

  • Eggshell Skull, by Bri Lee (winner)
  • The Arsonist, by Chloe Hooper
  • Siege, by Deborah Snow
  • Waiting for Elijah, by Kate Wild

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Spotted Owl Committee Hard at Work

Our committee has been reading all year, and will have reached their decision by the beginning of March. Among the books getting high marks are:

  • Open Carry, by Marc Cameron
  • Crossroad, by W.H. Cameron
  • The Butterfly Girl, by Rene Denfeld
  • The Eighth Sister, by Robert Dugoni
  • No Way to Die, by Warren Easley
  • St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking, by Dana Haynes
  • River Run, by J.S. James
  • The A List, by J.A. Jance
  • Sins of the Fathers, by J.A. Jance
  • We All Fall Down, by Daniel Kalla
  • House Arrest, by Mike Lawson
  • G.I. Confidential, by Martin Limon
  • The Perfect Alibi, by Phillip Margolin
  • Beijing Payback, by Daniel Nieh
  • Lying Next to Me, by Gregg Olsen

-Jeannette Voss

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New Blood Dagger Winner

With Australia experiencing devastating fires as this newsletter goes to press, here’s a publisher’s summary of a book set in Australia that was awarded the New Blood Dagger by the Crime Writer’s Association (London, England.)

Scrublands, by Chris Hammer

Book Cover: Scrublands by Chris HammerAn isolated town devastated by drought is brought to its knees when a charismatic young priest commits an unthinkable last act…

One year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to see how the victims are coping as the anniversary of the tragedy approaches. What he finds is a town on the brink of collapse: failing businesses, residents fleeing to the city, and a community divided over the priest who has put them in the spotlight. Was he a sinner or a saint? And what was the real reason behind his shocking breakdown? The locals all have their own theories, and not everyone accepts the story the public has been told—the one Martin’s own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. What was supposed to be a simple assignment turns deadly when the town’s long-buried secrets finally come to light. Soon Martin can’t ignore his doubts about the facts of the case. As he risks it all to uncover a story darker and more complex than anyone first realized, Martin must ask himself if he’s doing this to find the truth…or to keep his own personal demons at bay.

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Membership Renewal

It’s never too late to consider renewing your membership to Friends of Mystery! Dues are $20.00 annually. FOM is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Dues and additional donations are deductible to the full extent of the law. Please mail your check, made out to Friends of Mystery, to PO Box 8251, Portland, Oregon 97207. Your newsletter will be sent electronically unless otherwise requested.

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Member News

Friends of Mystery is happy to publish news and press releases from our members in our Member News section, with the following considerations:

  • The news must be related to mystery or true crime writing, films, and television, as well as non-fiction examinations of the mystery genre.
  • Friends of Mystery will not be able to edit announcements, and will publish them as provided.
  • Friends of Mystery will include one image with each announcement, if provided.
  • Friends of Mystery is not responsible for the content of news announcements, and we reserve the right to not publish any announcements which we feel will reflect poorly on the organization and do not advance the organization’s mission.

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Submissions Needed

Members and readers are encouraged to submit book or film reviews, comments on authors, and recommendations for books to read or questions about mysteries, crime fiction and fact. If you have suggestions of mysteries worth sharing, please contact the editor at:

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