January 2024

In this issue of The Blood-Letter from Friends of Mystery: Bloody Thursday guest James Byrne, best of lists, reading and viewing recommendations, and more.


On January 25, 2024, Friends of Mystery Welcomes James Byrne

Photo: James Byrne, AKA Dana HaynesJames Byrne is the pen name of longtime Oregon novelist Dana Haynes. He lives and writes in one of the coolest cities on Earth, Portland, Oregon, with his wife, Katy King, and their cat, Violet. He also serves as editor-in-chief for the Pamplin Media Group’s locally owned chain of newspapers, including The Portland Tribune.

Under various names, he has published 12 novels in the realm of thrillers and mysteries, including 2023’s Deadlock, the sequel to the 2022 thriller, The Gatekeeper. He won the Spotted Owl Award for his novel Crashers. Find out more about James and his protagonist, Dez Limerick, at jamesbyrnethriller.com.

Please join us at TaborSpace, 5441 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon 97215, in person or via Zoom. 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 at the door.

Back to Top

Best of the Best

Deadly Pleasures Online Mystery MagazineGeorge Easter, of Deadly Pleasures Online Mystery Magazine, found 113 “best lists” of mystery, crime fiction and thrillers for 2023 and compiled them. Based on the number of times a book made these lists, the top ten books were:

  • Cosby, S.A. All the Sinners Bleed (51)
  • Lehane, Dennis. Small Mercies (35)
  • Herron, Mick. The Secret Hours (29)
  • Knoll, Jessica. Bright Young Women (27)
  • Osman, Richard. The Last Devil to Die (24)
  • Kapoor, Deepti. Age of Vice (24)
  • Jewel, Lisa. None of This is True (22)
  • King, Stephen. Holly (20)
  • Harper, Jordan. Everybody Knows (18)
  • Sutanto, Jesse. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers (17)

If you would like to look at the individual lists, you can go to: www.deadlypleasures.com.

Back to Top

Reading 2024

Did you receive gifts of books over the holidays or gift certificates to make your own choices? Here are some suggestions from Amazon’s Editor’s Picks: Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense – Standalones – January 2024:

  • Michaelides, Alex. The Fury
  • Blake, Matthew. Anna O
  • Brody, Kate. Rabbit Hole
  • Elston, Ashley. First Lie Wins
  • Kahler, Abbott. Where You End
  • Donovan, Kemper. The Busy Body
  • Hawkins, Rachel. The Heiress
  • Hallett, Janice. The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels
  • Willingham, Stacy. Only If You’re Lucky
  • Collins, Sarah-Jane. Radiant Heat
  • Pease, Amy. Northwoods
  • Corea, Armando Lucas. The Silence in Her Eyes
  • Plantinga, Adam. The Ascent

Back to Top


Do you enjoy reading English authors who may not be published in the United States? Or getting a “head start” by ordering a book published in England months before the U.S. publication date? And without paying shipping? A friend recently let me know about Blackwell’s.

Blackwell’s is an Oxford bookseller in operation since 1879. Delivery to the U.S. is included in the price of the book, and their delivery time is very good. Check them out at: www.blackwells.co.uk

Back to Top

In Memoriam

Tim Dorsey, 1961-2023

Tim DorseyTim Dorsey was the author of humorous crime fiction set in Florida. He was a police and courts reporter, as well as a general assignment reporter and editor before leaving to write full time in 1999.

His main protagonist was anti-hero Serge A. Storms over the course of 26 books, beginning with Florida Roadkill (1999) to The Maltese Iguana (2023).

Back to Top

For Your Viewing Pleasure

The Paris Murders

The Paris Murders(PBS/Masterpiece) 8 episodes.

In French with subtitles. The seventh season is currently streaming. I have watched all seven seasons – you get to see a lot of Paris scenery and after a few minutes into each season I forget about the subtitles and think I am understanding French. The main protagonists operate out of a Paris police station and solve crimes. Each season ends with a cliff hanger, but if you start with the current season, you won’t have any trouble with the storyline.


(Amazon Prime) 8 episodes.

Set in Tasmania, there is a murder and the woman officer running the investigation is forced to play second fiddle to a woman detective brought in from Australia to oversee the operation. They butt heads through most of the eight episodes. The detective is so obnoxious that I questioned whether I wanted to continue after watching the first episode, but I was very glad I did. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot as the number of bodies mounts. I hope there will be a second season.

Back to Top

New and Noteworthy

(summaries provided by the publisher)

This is How We End Things, by R.J. Jacobs

This is How We End Things, by R.J. JacobsIt’s almost spring break in the university town of Shepard, North Carolina and under the instruction of Professor Joe Lyons, five top graduate students are studying the psychology of deception. But uncovering the science behind lies isn’t making any of them more honest. In fact, it’s turning them into the most skilled liars of all.

Especially when they all have something to hide.

When a test goes awry and one of them is found dead, the grad students are trapped on an abandoned campus with a local detective investigating the case. As harbored secrets begin to break the surface, the graduates must find out who may have been capable of committing murder.

And if their studies have taught them anything, it’s that not all lies stay hidden for long.

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen, by Sarah James

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen, by Sarah JamesPerhaps the best place in 1943 Hollywood to see the stars is the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen staffed exclusively by those in show business. Murder mystery playwright Annie Laurence, new in town after a devastating breakup, definitely hopes to rub elbows with the right stars. Maybe then she can get her movie made.

But Hollywood proves to be more than tinsel and glamour. When despised film critic Fiona Farris is found dead in the Canteen kitchen, Annie realizes that any one of the Canteen’s luminous volunteers could be guilty of the crime. To catch the killer, Annie falls in with Fiona’s friends, a bitter and cynical group – each as uniquely unhappy in their life and career as Annie is in hers – that call themselves the Ambassador’s Club.

Solving a murder in real life, it turns out, is a lot harder than writing one for the stage. And by involving herself in the secrets and lies of the Ambassador’s Club, Annie just might have put a target on her own back.

When I’m Dead, by Hannah Morrissey

When I'm Dead, by Hannah MorrisseyOn a bone-chilling October night, medical examiner Rowan Winthorp investigates the death of her daughter’s best friend. Hours later, the tragedy hits even closer to home when she makes a devastating discovery – her daughter, Chloe, is gone. But not without a trace.

A morbid mosaic of clues forces Rowan and her husband to question how deeply they really know their daughter. As they work closely to peel back the layers of this case, they begin to unearth disturbing details about Chloe and her secret transgressions…details that threaten to tear them apart.

Amid the noise of navigating her newfound grief and reconciling the sins of her past, an undeniable fact rings true for Rowan: karma has finally come to collect.

Something Bad Wrong, by Eryk Pruitt

Something Bad Wrong, by Eryk PruittTrue-crime podcaster Jess Keeler has returned to Deeton County, North Carolina, to pick up where her grandfather left off. Sheriff’s Deputy Big Jim Ballard, her grandfather, was a respected detective – until it all came crashing down during a 1972 murder investigation.

For Jim, solving the murders of two teens should have been the highlight of his already storied career. Instead, he battled his own mind, unsure where his hunches ended, and the truth began.

Working from her grandfather’s disjointed notes, Jess is sure that she can finally put the cold case – and her family’s shame – to rest. Enlisting the help of disgraced reporter Dan Decker, Jess soon discovers ugly truths about the first investigation, which was shaped by corruption, egos and a family secret that may be the key to the crime.

Back to Top

Member News

Oregon Thriller Chasing Money Wins Best Indie Book Award

Chasing Money by Michael BalterMichael Balter, a new FOM member, was surprised and delighted to learn recently that his debut novel, Chasing Money, has won the 2023 Best Indie Book Award in the Crime Thriller category. An international literary contest, the Best Indie Book Award® (BIBA) recognizes the accomplishments of independent authors worldwide.

Chasing Money stood out among thousands of entries, impressing the judges with its compelling story, engaging narrative, seamless transitions, well-paced movement, gripping hooks, and the author’s mastery of voice, character, and dialogue.

“This is such an honor,” said Michael Balter. “There are so many excellent books that compete for this award each year. I am thrilled that Chasing Money was recognized as the Best Indie Crime Thriller of 2023 by BIBA.”

Released in August 2023, Chasing Money tells the story of two business partners in a struggling Oregon startup, Marty and Bo, who take money from the wrong person. When an angry Russian killer demands $10 million and a mysterious missing masterpiece, they find themselves in a desperate chase for survival.

“I was tired of thrillers with traditional heroes – grizzled detectives, secret agents, special forces,” said Balter. “It was more interesting to craft a story where ordinary people, people like you and me, find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. And that seems to be something readers like too.”

Gritty and darkly humorous, Chasing Money has garnered impressive reviews, with Midwest Book Review calling it “exceptionally clever and compelling,” Kirkus Reviews asserting it “will
keep readers hooked,” and The BookLife Prize praising its “strong voice paired with authentic dialogue.”

Chasing Money is available in hardback, paperback, and Kindle at Amazon, and may be ordered at Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere.

About the Author
Michael Balter is an award-winning author who has captivated audiences with tales of his extraordinary life as a German emigrant, a Vietnam War veteran, a Silicon Valley pioneer, and a serial entrepreneur. Michael lived in Oregon for 29 years and now makes his home in Charlevoix, Michigan. Learn more about him at mbalter.com

Linda Kuhlmann’s Water Launches 1/14/24

Water by Linda KuhlmannThe second novel in the Cal Jamison Mystery Series by Linda Kuhlmann takes place in Central Oregon. Available now at Amazon (including Kindle).

Deciding to change careers is never an easy decision. Throw in a missing person, a dead body, and winding up in the crosshairs of a killer and it’s a recipe for high anxiety. But then, new jobs always seem to have a few snags, at first.

For Cal Jamison, the decision to become a private investigator seemed only natural after solving the murder of his friend, Luther Greeves, and it would give him time to help his grandfather on the ranch, or so he thought. That is until one of his former military teammates disappeared. As the trail grows colder, a body and a cryptic clue surface, placing the next target squarely on Jamison’s back. Can he solve the mystery before he becomes the next victim?

Come join author, Linda Kuhlmann, for a complimentary glass of wine and snacks while she shares how this series began.

Sunday, January 14, 2024
6:00 to 8:00pm

Willamette Valley Vineyards Tasting Room
300 NE 3rd Street
McMinnville, Oregon

About the Author
Linda Kuhlmann grew up in Illinois and moved to Oregon over thirty years ago. She’s been writing and teaching about writing since 2004. In addition to the Triple Crown Series, her novel The Red Boots came out in 2011. Her lifelong love of the theatre has also inspired her to act, direct, and write for the stage. Learn more about Linda here.

Share Your 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.

Back to Top

Buy Books by Friends of Mystery Speakers Online at Annie Bloom’s Books

If you want to order any of our speaker’s books, you can find them at our special Friends of Mystery page at Annie Bloom’s Books!

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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: jlvoss48@gmail.com.

Back to Top

Winter is here – time to curl up with a good book in front of the fire or any cozy space and read to your heart’s content.