March 2024

In this issue of The Blood-Letter from Friends of Mystery: Bloody Thursday guest Susan Elia MacNeal, award nominations, reading and viewing recommendations, and more.


On March 28, 2024, Friends of Mystery Welcomes Susan Elia MacNeal

Susan Elia MacNealSusan Elia MacNeal is the author of the New York Times, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and USA Today-bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series, starting with the Edgar Award-nominated and Barry Award-winning Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, which is now in its 22nd printing.

Her books include Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, The Queen’s Accomplice, The Paris Spy, The Prisoner in the Castle, and The King’s Justice. Her first standalone, Mother Daughter Traitor Spy, came out last year. She’ll be wrapping up the Maggie Hope series with The Last Hope, out May 21, 2024.

The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity, the ITW Thriller, the Barry, the Dilys, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction awards. The Maggie Hope series is sold worldwide in English and has been translated into Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Turkish. It is also available in large print and audio. Magnolia Productions/Warner Bros. Pictures currently owns the film and television rights to the series.

MacNeal graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo, New York, and also cum laude and with honors in English from Wellesley College. She cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her first job was as the assistant to novelist John Irving in Vermont. She then worked as an editorial assistant at Random House, assistant editor at Viking Penguin, and associate editor and staff writer at Dance Magazine in New York City. As a freelance writer, she wrote two non-fiction books and for the publications of New York City Ballet.

She is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer, and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Floor Plan of McMenamin's Kennedy School

Map of McMenamin’s Kennedy School. Click to enlarge.

Change of Venue

Because of a schedule snafu, we will not be meeting at TaborSpace this month, but instead at the Concordia Neighborhood Association Community Room, located at:

McMenamin’s Kennedy School
5736 NE 33rd Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97211

Find on: Google Maps or Apple Maps

Please join us 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.

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And the Spotted Owl Award goes to…

The award will be announced at our meeting.

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Nominations and More Nominations

It’s that time of year again, when authors and their books are up for awards. How many of these nominees have you read?

Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

The 2023 LA Times Book Prizes will be announced on April 19, during this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The candidates in the Best Mystery or Thriller Novel are:

  • Dark Ride, by Lou Berney
  • Everybody Knows, by Jordan Harper
  • Sing Her Down, by Ivy Pochoda
  • All the Sinners Bleed, by S.A. Cosby
  • Time’s Undoing, by Cheryl A. Head

Agatha Awards

The Agatha Awards will be presented during the Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, Maryland on April 26-28th. The finalists for the awards are:

Best Contemporary Mystery Novel

  • Wined and Dined in New Orleans, by Ellen Byron
  • Helpless, by Annette Dashofy
  • The Weekend Retreat, by Tara Laskowski
  • A Case of the Bleus, by Korina Moss
  • A Raven Thief, by Gigi Pandian

Best Historical Mystery Novel

  • Death Among the Ruins, by Susanna Calkins
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord, by Celeste Connally
  • I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, by Amanda Flower
  • Time’s Undoing, by Cheryl A. Head
  • The Mistress of Bhatia House, by Sujata Massey

Best First Mystery Novel

  • Glory Be, by Danielle Arceneaux
  • The Hint of Light, by Kristin Kisska
  • Dutch Treat, by Josh Pachter
  • Crime and Parchment, by Daphne Silver
  • Mother-Daughter Murder Night, by Nina Simon

Best Mystery Non-Fiction

  • Finders: Justice, Faith and Identity in Irish Crime Fiction, by Anjili Babbar
  • Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder, by David Bordwell
  • A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe, by Mark Dawidziak
  • Fallen Angel: The Life of Edgar Allan Poe, by Robert Morgan

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards

The Mystery Writers of America will present their 78th annual awards on May 1st at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square Hotel. The nominees are:

Best Novel

  • Flags on the Bayou, by James Lee Burke
  • All the Sinners Bleed, by S.A. Cosby
  • The Madwomen of Paris, by Jennifer Cody
  • Bright Young Women, by Jessica Knoll
  • An Honest Man, by Michael Koryta
  • The River We Remember, by William Kent Krueger
  • Crooked Manifesto, by Colson Whitehead

Best First Novel by an American Author

  • The Peacock and the Sparrow, by I.S. Berry
  • The Golden Gate, by Amy Chua
  • Small Town Sins, by Ken Jaworowski
  • The Last Russian Doll, by Kristen Loesch
  • Murder by Degrees, by Ritus Mukerji

Best Paperback Original

  • Boomtown, by A.F. Carter
  • Hide, by Tracy Clark
  • The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, by Jesse Q. Sutanto
  • Lowdown Road, by Scott Von Doviak

Best Fact Crime

  • In Light of All Darkness: Inside the Polly Klaas Kidnapping and the Search for America’s Child, by Kim Cross
  • Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall, by Zeke Faux
  • Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders, by John Glatt
  • Crooked: The Roaring ‘20s Tale of a Corrupt Attorney General, a Crusading Senator, and the Birth of the American Political Scandal, by Nathan Masters
  • I Know Who You Are: How an Amateur DNA Sleuth Unmasked the Golden State Killer and Changed Crime Fighting Forever, by Barbara Rae-Venter
  • The Lost Sons of Omaha: Two Young Men in an American Tragedy, by Joe Sexton

Best Critical/Biographical

  • Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder, by David Bordwell
  • Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, by Max Allan Collins and James L. Taylor
  • A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe, by Mark Dawidziak
  • Fallen Angel: The Life of Edgar Allan Poe, by Robert Morgan
  • Love Me Fierce in Danger: The Life of James Ellroy, by Steven Powell

The Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award

  • Play the Fool, by Lina Chern
  • The Bones of the Story, by Carol Goodman
  • Of Manner and Murder, by Anastasia Hastings
  • The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard, by Kate Robards
  • Murder in Postscript, by Mary Winters

The G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award

  • Hard Rain, by Samantha Jayne Allen
  • An Evil Heart, by Linda Castillo
  • Bad, Bad Seymour Brown, by Susan Isaacs
  • Past Lying, by Val McDermid
  • A Stolen Child, by Sarah Stewart Taylor

The Lilian Jackson Braun Memorial Award

  • Glory Be, by Danielle Arceneaux
  • Misfortune Cookie, by Vivian Chien
  • Hot Pot Murder, by Jennifer J. Chow
  • Murder of an Amish Bridegroom, by Patricia Johns
  • The Body in the Back Garden, by Mark Waddell

The Thriller Awards

The Thriller Awards of the International Thriller Writers will be declared during
Thrillerfest XIX on June 1st at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City. The nominees are:

Best Hardcover Novel

  • All the Sinners Bleed, by S.A. Cosby
  • Her Deadly Game, by Robert Dugoni
  • It’s One of Us, by J.T. Ellison
  • The Secret Hours, by Mick Herron
  • Fixit, by Joe Ide
  • The Drift, by C.J. Tudor

Best First Novel

  • The Peacock and the Sparrow, by I.S. Berry
  • The Golden Gate, by Amy Chua
  • Scorched Grace, by Margot Douaihy
  • Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder, by Kerryn Mayne
  • Perfect Shot, by Steve Urszenyi

Best Paperback Original Novel

  • Hide, by Tracy Clark
  • The Paleontologist, by Luke Dumas
  • The Spy Coast, by Tess Gerritsen
  • To Die For, by Lisa Gray
  • Cave 13, by Jonathan Maberry
  • Call the Dark, by J. Todd Scott

Best Audiobook

  • The Peacock and the Sparrow, by I.S. Berry; narrated by Pete Simonelli
  • The Last Orphan, by Gregg Hurwitz; narrated by Scott Brick
  • The Housemaid’s Secret, by Freida McFadden; narrated by Lauryn Allman
  • The House of Wolves, by James Patterson and Mike Lupica; narrated by Ellen Archer
  • Bad Summer People, by Emma Rosenblum; narrated by January LaVoy

The Barry Awards

The Barry Awards will be presented on August 29th by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine at Bouchercon in Nashville, Tennessee. The nominees are:

Best Mystery or Crime Novel

  • Dark Ride, by Lou Berney
  • All the Sinners Bleed, by S.A. Cosby
  • Ozark Dogs, by Eli Cranor
  • Everybody Knows, by Jorden Harper
  • Small Mercies, by Dennis Lehane
  • The Detective Up Late, by Adrian McKinty

Best First Mystery Or Crime Novel

  • Better the Blood, by Michael Bennett
  • The Peacock and the Sparrow, by I.S. Berry
  • The Bitter Past, by Bruce Borgos
  • The Golden Gate, by Amy Chua
  • Age of Vice, by Deepti Kapoor
  • Mother-Daughter Murder Night, by Nina Simon
  • City Under One Roof, by Iris Yamashita

Best Paperback Original Mystery Or Crime Novel

  • Murder and Mamori, by Mia P. Manansala
  • Everything She Feared, by Rick Mofina
  • Who the Hell is Harry Black, by Jake Needham
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, by Jesse Sutanto
  • Expectant, by Vanda Symon
  • Lowdown Road, by Scott Von Doviak

Best Thriller

  • Burner, by Mark Greaney
  • The Secret Hours, by Mick Herron
  • Moscow Exile, by John Lawton
  • Going Zero, by Anthony McCarter
  • Drowning, by T.J. Newman
  • Zero Days, by Ruth Ware

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For Your Viewing Pleasure…

Vera, Season 13 Vera, Season 13

(Britbox) Two episodes are available so far – I don’t know how many there will be in total. Vera’s solving the murder of an unpopular local lad. Some of her team from previous seasons are gone, and one former team member returns.

Monsieur Spade, Season 1 Monsieur Spade, Season 1

(Acorn) 6 episodes featuring Clive Owen as Sam Spade. It’s been twenty years since the events in The Maltese Falcon, and Sam is a retired widower living in the small town of Bozouls, in the South of France. He is living a quiet life when he is pulled out of retirement to investigate the horrific murders of a group of nuns in a local convent. I hope there will be a second season.

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New and Noteworthy

Richard Osman is branching out with another mystery series this fall…We Solve Murders, featuring the father-in-law and daughter-in-law detectives Steve and Amy Wheeler. Osman still plans to continue his Thursday Murder Club novels.

(Summaries provided by the publishers)

Death Under a Little Sky by Stig AbellDeath Under a Little Sky, by Stig Abell

When Jake Jackson inherits his reclusive uncle’s property in the country, the high-flying detective seizes the opportunity for a new life away from the hustle of London.

The new home in this charming rural idyll is beautiful and the surroundings are stunning. While the locals are a bit eccentric, they’re also friendly and invite the newcomer to join their annual treasure hunt.

When a young woman’s bones are discovered, Jake finds himself pulled back into the role of detective and on the trail of a dangerous killer hiding within this most unlikely of settings.

The Expectant Detectives by Kat AilesThe Expectant Detectives, by Kat Ailes

For Alice and her partner, Joe, moving to the sleepy village of Penton is a chance to embrace life in the English countryside and prepare for the birth of their first child. He can take up woodwork, maybe she’ll learn to make jam? Bu the rural idyll they’d hoped for doesn’t quite pan out when the body of a shopkeeper is discovered at their local prenatal class, and they find themselves suspects in a murder investigation.

With a cloud of suspicion hanging over the heads of the whole group, “Alice and her newfound pregnant friends set out to solve the mystery and clear their names, along with the help of Alice’s troublesome dog, Helen. However, there are more secrets and tensions in the heart of Penton than first meet the eye. Between the discovery of a shady commune up in the woods, the unearthing of a mysterious death years earlier, and the near-tragic poisoning of Helen, Alice is soon in way over her head.

Radiant Heat by Sarah-Jane CollinsRadiant Heat, by Sarah-Jane Collins

When a catastrophic wildfire suddenly rips through a woman’s hometown, she thinks she is lucky to have survived…until she finds a dead woman in her driveway, clutching a piece of paper with her name on it…

The blaze came out of nowhere one summer afternoon, a wall of fire fed by blustering wind. Yet, somehow, Alison is alive. She rode out the fire on the damp tiles of her bathroom, her entire body swaddled in a wet woolen blanket. As flames crackled around her, the bitter char of eucalyptus settled in the back of her throat, each breath more desperate than the last.

The wildfire that devastated the Victoria countryside Alison calls home sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to obliterate the carefully constructed life she is living. When Alison emerges from her sheltering place, she spots a soot-covered cheery red car in her driveway, and in it, a dead woman. Alison has never met Simone Arnold in her life…or so she thinks. So what is she doing here?

As Alison searches for answers across Australia’s scorched bushlands, she soon learns that the fire isn’t the only threat she’s facing…

The Mountain King by Anders De La MotteThe Mountain King, by Anders De La Motte

In south Sweden, deep beneath a mountain, exists a dark underworld filled with pain and terror. When a woman goes missing, detective Leonore Asker, looking to make a name for herself, works the case.

She appears to have the lead position at Malmo’s Major Crime Division within reach. However, in the middle of a high-profile kidnapping case, management chooses to “promote” her to head of the so-called Department of Lost Souls, a unit for displaced employees and odd, forgotten cases that is situated in the basement of the police headquarters. Despite the humiliation, Asker is drawn into one of these peculiar cases. Someone is placing small ominous figures in a model train scene, and they seem to be pointing her in the direction of the missing woman.

The case’s connections to abandoned places causes “Asker to contact Martin Hill, professor in architecture with a strong interest in urban exploration. Soon Asker and Hill suspect that beyond the seemingly banal lurks an unusual kind of evil. Will Asker and Hill be able to save the woman in time?

The Last Word by Elly GriffithsThe Last Word, by Elly Griffiths

Natalka and Edwin, whom we met in The Postscript Murders, are running a detective agency in Sussex by the sea. Despite a stream of minor cases. Natalka is frustrated, longing for a big juicy one such as murder to come the agency’s way. Natalka is now living with her dreamer boyfriend, Benedict. But her Ukrainian mother Valentyna has joined them from her war-torn country and three’s a crowd. It’s annoying to have Valentyna in the tiny flat, cooking borscht and cleaning things that are already clean. To add to Natalka’s irritation, Benedict and her mother get on brilliantly.

Then a murder case turns up. Local writer, Melody Chambers, is found dead and her family are convinced it is murder. Edwin, a big fan of the obit pages, thinks there’s a link to the writer of Melody’s obituary who pre-deceased his subject.

The trail leads Benedict and Edwin to a slightly sinister writers’ retreat. When another writer is found dead, Edwin thinks that the clue lies in the words. The investigators turn to their friend, detective Harbinder Kaur, to find that they have stumbled on a plot that is stranger than fiction.

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Member News

Death Unfiltered by Emmeline DuncanDeath Unfiltered

A Ground Rules Mystery #4
by Emmeline Duncan

As the owner of Portland, Oregon’s popular Ground Rules coffee cart, hard-working young master barista Sage Caplin is excited to expand her business with a brick-and mortar store. But not everyone gives her a warm welcome …

Ground Rules isn’t the only newcomer set to open in Portland’s grand new Button Building. Fortunately, most of the fellow micro-restaurant owners and patrons are great—with two exceptions. There’s Rose, a true-crime podcaster and active TikToker who’s pestering Sage for an interview about her estranged con-artist mother; and Bianca, the familiar and perpetually unpleasant owner of Breakfast Bandits. Bianca is abrasive to everyone, so Sage doesn’t feel singled out … Until Bianca falls dead at the building’s grand opening—a to-go cup of Ground Rules coffee in her hand. Laced with Ketamine, also known as Special K.

It doesn’t help that just before she collapsed, Bianca was publicly rude to Sage. Or that Bianca’s boyfriend points the police toward Sage. Or that Rose, still hung up on investigating Sage’s mom, has declared she’ll solve the murder. Now it will be up to Sage to sift through a complex blend of motives, blackmail, and old and new rivalries to get to the truth of a very bitter brew …

Coming March 26 from member Emmeline Duncan.

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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!

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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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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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