1600 Bayview Avenue, Toronto. Ontario, Canada, M4G 3B7


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The Merchant of Menace

The official newsletter of SLEUTH of Baker Street

1600 Bayview Avenue, Toronto. Ontario, Canada, M4G 3B7

416-483-3111/Fax 416-483-3141/e-mail sleuthbooks@sympatico.ca



The Merchant of Menace,

SLEUTH of Baker Street's bi-monthly newsletter is available by subscription at an annual fee of CDN$35. Agree to buy at least $75 of books in any calendar year and we'll waive the fee. Ask for a complimentary copy. All subscriptions are for a calendar year, by the way, so we'll prorate as necessary.

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reetings November 2004

Dear, dear Princess has gone to her reward in that great big kitty heaven in the sky. She was twenty, as best as Marian and I can remember, and had been remarkably healthy until the last year or so when her hips started to go and she became increasingly immobile. She had been such a huge part of our lives, of course, and she is much missed. It was distressing to watch her lose her mobility--she had always been a very active little hunter—as that’ll likely be our fate as well. I only hope that when I get to that stage there will be someone around to look after me with the same dedication and love. Someone who won’t be in too great a rush to have me parked in an old folks home!
BoucherCon Toronto has come and gone. By all accounts the organizers did a great job, the attendees went home pleased with the convention and with Toronto, and we sold lots of books. A lot of hard work--done mostly by Marian, Wendy and Mary—went into first ordering tons of books and then dealing with the unsold portion. But the store is back in shape and we can take a breather before Christmas starts in. It was great to see old friends and colleagues, meet authors and drink the publisher’s booze. A great time was had by all. Chicago, next year. Magna cum Murder, in Muncie, Indiana, was two weekends later and that was a great success as well. Now book shows are over and done with for the next six months or so. Left Coast Crime is in El Paso, Texas, next February but I think Sleuth will give that a miss.

Talking about Christmas reminds me that the year is coming to a close and all of us here hope that you and yours have had a healthy year. And we hope for more of the same for next year. We thank you most sincerely for your friendship and your support this year. For your generous donations to both the Sunnybrook Run for Research and Give Girls a Chance. For making our job so much fun. For sharing your knowledge of and affection for detective fiction with us. As you have done for so many years now.

A number of seminal events took place in 2004. Besides Princess, BoucherCon Toronto, hard fought elections in both Canada and US, Sleuth completed its first quarter-century in business. We’ve decided to postpone any celebrations until we hit the half-century, just to be sure that we have the hang of running a bookstore. Doesn’t do to be too hasty, you know. Marian and I have only owned Sleuth for 22 years and have a lot to learn yet. In fact, had it not been for Judy Lelkes, Bill Booth, John Clark, Jill Abrams, and most importantly, Wendy Law, I doubt we’d still be here. Mary Whitfield, whose fingerprints are all over your mail orders and who does willingly all sorts of scud work that no one (read, me) wants to do, and Terry who allows us the odd Sunday off, make owning the store a lot more pleasant. So, be sure to mark your calendar; the first week of October 2029 we’ll do it up right.
Golf travel, however, is yet to start for the winter. There is a tentative plan for a week in Orlando in February—Singh Medium has access to a condo there—but I’m open to suggestions. And unlike last year when Singh Junior was in San Jose—he’s in Chicago this year—I can’t even pretend I’m going to visit Junior. I hear that golf in Chicago in February is not much fun. Anybody know of a place that’s warm and has cheap golf?
The re-election of President Bush bodes well for Canadian immigration. So many of our American friends have asked if there is any room for disaffected Blues that I’m thinking of starting up my own immigration consulting business. Of course, come one, come all; there’s lots of room. Maybe Canada should just annex the Blue States. California would make a great 12th province.

Of interest to locals will be St. Cuthbert’s Murder Mystery Night to be held Saturday, January 29, 2005. It’s being billed as “A fun-filled Whodunit Murder Mystery Night” at St. Cuthbert’s, 1399 Bayview Ave. For advance tickets or further information please call 416-485-0329.

Finally, this is the last issue of 2004. To get a complimentary subscription for 2005, all six jam packed issues, all we ask is that you have bought at least $75 worth of books in 2004. If you are concerned that may not have reached this level, call us and we’ll tell

you. You can also subscribe at C$35 for the calendar year 2005.

Wendy's Picks

It's November so there MUST be a new DEBORAH CROMBIE and it MUST be among my favourites so, surprise!, here it is: In a Dark House ($33.95, a few signed copies) is the tenth in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma Jones series, set in London. Superintendent Kincaid is working an arson case (complete with charred corpse) while Gemma is investigating the disappearance of a young woman. The deeper they both dig, the more entwined their two cases become. Is the charred corpse that of Gemma's missing woman? Maybe, maybe not. On the homefront, Duncan is facing a custody battle for his son Kit with Kit's maternal grandmother and Gemma is dealing with a personal crisis of her own. I really feel like I am catching up with old friends when I read these books, just like the DOROTHY SIMPSON Inspector Thanet mysteries, which I also highly recommend (available in Omnibum form, 5 of them, with three novels each, from $17.99 to $22.99 each).

I have been reading all the Scandinavian writers that we can get our hands on: HENNING MANKELL, KARIN ALVTEGEN, HELENE TURSTEN, KARIN FOSSUM, KJERSTI SCHEEN and GUNNAR STAALESEN (two new finds for this newsletter). I have thoroughly enjoyed all these writers and now an Icelandic author has been translated. Jar City ($27.95) by ARNALDUR INDRIDASON is the first to be translated from the bestselling (per the jacket) series of crime novels set in Iceland. Erlendur is a Reykjavik policeman, heading the investigation into the murder of an elderly man in his apartment. As the investigation unfolds, they discover that the man was accused of but never arrested for a vicious crime many years earlier. Now they have to figure out if the past has caught up to the victim or if his murder is a random act of violence. I would describe the style of writing as spare, not a lot of adjectives or personal details about the main characters, just enough to keep me hooked. I know very little about Iceland so this was an interesting book as I learned something of the history, the weather and the life of the people on a very small, isolated island. I won't explain what 'Jar City' is; I'll leave that up to you to discover.

One of my very favourite writers, JOHN CONNOLLY, has a new book out, Nocturnes (signed UK import $45, limited supply). This is a collection of John's short stories as well as 2 novellas, one of which is a Charlie Parker, The Reflecting Eye. This book is worth it just for that novella alone. I don't usually read short stories but I had to give these a try because I think that John is such a terrific writer. I was pleasantly surprised. The stories are dark, a little scary, suspenseful, and sometimes a bit creepy. Gotta love that!
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

Marian's Picks

Many heartfelt thanks to those who supported me and Give Girls A Chance when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, on October 31, 2004. The only word I can use to describe that run is HOT. My goodness, it was so hot and humid. The temperature in the low eighties and the sun shining brilliantly down on all us runner made it great spectator weather but tough, tough, tough for the runners. Ideal temperature would have been in the sixties. I finished the marathon, not in my best time, but I did get my hug from my marine, (so young, so cute), and Susan, you should have been there running it with us. Next year. Again, thank you to everyone who supported me in so many ways.

Most of you know that Princess is no longer with us, and it is so hard to accept. She was so much a part of our lives and of the store. She is dearly missed by everyone, everyone that is, except Paddington. He loves being top cat and he loves getting all the attention. JD is now able to breath a little easier as he has always been allergic to cats and with only one the air is a little clearer. Paddington, thirteen, is determined to make it to his third decade or people will forever be saying he got bested by a girl.

I have not been reading as much as I would like. Hopefully with less time devoted to running I will now have more time for reading. I read a couple of new writers this past week and enjoyed them both. Wishful Sinful ($9.99) by TRACY DUNHAM introduces Tal Jefferson, a lawyer with a drinking problem. Parts of the story were a bit too much “oh poor me”, but the overall plot was good, and I really liked the character once I got over her continual moaning about her drinking. Tal’s childhood school friend, Crystal Walker, is accused of killing her ex-lover and has asked that Tal represent her. The only problem is that Crystal has confessed to the crime but Tal doesn’t believe her. Small town politics with everyone knowing everyone elsexsz vcccccc1q ````````````````````````` (Paddington, just jumped up wanting lunch) else’s business is the order of the day.
I had not read any of SHARON FIFFER’s work until I picked up the latest paperback (number three in the series), The Wrong Stuff ($9.99). I quite enjoyed it. I loved the character, Jane Wheel, an antiques lover and a picker for various antique shops, and her long time friend Tim. I learned about antiques, fakes, and just general stuff about the antiques business. The other books in the series are Killer Stuff ($9.99), Dead Guy’s Stuff ($9.99), and the fourth has just been released in hardcover, Buried Stuff ($33.95).

Lord Byron expert Grace Hollister who was introduced to us in DIANA KILLIAN’s first novel, High Rhymes and Misdemeanors ($8.99), is back for her second escapade in Verse of the Vampyre ($10.50). Grace has extended her stay in the Lake District to do research and to act as advisor to a local production of The Vampyre, a play written by Lord Byron’s doctor John Polidori. While accidents and murder befall the cast, Grace is trying to sort out her feelings for ex-jewel thief Peter Fox. Light and charming.

My memory is not the greatest but I believe I picked both of the following books last year when they were published in hard cover (or was it Wendy?). They are now in paperback and if you like novels set in England you will enjoy both of these. Phoenix ($10.99) by JOHN CONNOR introduces DC Karen Sharpe and DCS John Munro. Bloodless Shadow ($10.99) by VICTORIA BLAKE introduces London PI Samantha Falconer. Samantha’s latest case takes her to Oxford where she must not only investigate the disappearance of a woman but also confront demons from her past. Especially when she receives a letter from her father who she thought had been dead for the past twenty years. Both excellent reads and I am looking forward to more.

J.D.'s Picks

One of the authors I met at BoucherCon was CHARLES BENOIT. I had been invited to the Poisoned Pen Press party and at one point, finding myself alone and not wanting to look like a total git, I sidled up to a small group of people and tried to horn in on the conversation. I did my best to look interesting and attractive, and, I guess I must have managed as they didn’t tell me to take a hike. But being authors and kind people, they have learned to not do that. Although, when I let on that I was a mystery book monger they wanted my bona fides--the noive—and they quizzed me rather well. Having passed the test, they deigned to accept me into the group and we spent a happy twenty minutes talking mysteries. Fast forward to a few weeks later and casting about for something to read I happened on Relative Danger ($34.95) by the one and same Charles Benoit. What a delight it turned out to be. I have started so many awful books, uninteresting, uninspired, badly written, that anything even approaching mediocre would have been acceptable. This one leaves mediocre so far behind, that I, like Booklist, which gave it a starred review, asked “Where has Charles Benoit been hiding? With a debut novel this good, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t published at least 10 previous books….” Booklist put it rather more elegantly than I would have. Here he’s been, lurking, on the other side of Lake Ontario and I had no clue; maybe they were right to question my bona fides. This was such a fun romp through Casablanca, Cairo and Singapore, full of such great characters, and so witty, that I just didn’t want it to end and I’m eagerly awaiting his next offering. Another great thing about the book: Charles knows when to end it. It’s not your bloated, here we go again, five hundred page tome. It’s half that and, for my money, just the right length. A debut novel that you should have in your collection. I’ve made arrangements for twenty signed first editions, so get ‘em while they’re hot.

Another debut novel, albeit one that I had a little bit of trouble with, that I want to bring to your attention, nonetheless, is Skin River ($33.95) by STEVEN SIDOR. Met him at BoucherCon Toronto, as well, got him to sign a few copies of his fine debut novel and learned that his name is pronounced “cider”, as in the juice pressed from apples. This is a very different debut novel than the one above but the reviews it’s been garnering are excellent. This one is a dark, chilling tale of the past not staying buried. Our hero is Buddy Bayes, a man with a past, who is trying to live a quiet, peaceful life as a tavern owner in Gunnar, Wisconsin. Dark enough, but not overly. My trouble with the book? Occasionally I found the author using unfamiliar syntax, using words in unfamiliar construction, at least unfamiliar to me, and that made the reading clunky at times. I like words to flow and these would feel like speed bumps. Now, it’s entirely possible, that given I’m a basic foreigner and English is my second language, that this is not a problem you’ll have. I did. Be that as it may, I’m quite pleased to have a copy of this book in my collection and look forward to the second Buddy adventure and would suggest you read it.

The group of independent mystery booksellers that we belong to is starting a new feature, Killer Books, as a way of recommending good mysteries to each other. A recent suggestion was The Alto Wore Tweed ($13.50), the first of two tongue-in-cheek spoofs of the genre, by MART SCHWEIZER. I’ve read the first one and it’s a delight. St. Germain is a quiet little town in the mountains of North Carolina. Quiet until full-time police detective, part-time Episcopal choirmaster and aspiring whodunit novelist Haden Konig begins his opus amidst murder and hilarous mayhem at St. Barnabas Church. “It’s like Mitford meets Jurassic Park, only without the wisteria and the dinosaurs.” I think you get the point.

And last, but not least, The Librarian ($22.50) by LARRY BEINHART. You might remember Larry as the author of No One Rides for Free (out of print), which won the Edgar for Best First Novel somewhere back in the late 80s and his novel American Hero (also, op) which was filmed as Wag The Dog. This new book, published as a trade paperback original, deals with very current events, the US presidential election, and the need to win by any means. Our hero is a nebbish librarian who is moonlighting for an eccentric, aging conservative billionaire whose final wish is to leave behind a memorial library about himself, lest he be totally forgotten ten minutes after his death. It all starts so innocently. How did our Librarian end up being hunted by Homeland Security and on Virginia’s Ten Most Wanted list for bestiality? A terrific read, and, but for a few didactic, preachy moments, perfect. Missing Ross Thomas? Give this one a whirl. It’s that good. I have a few signed copies.

Well, maybe one more. A.C. BAANTJER is the most widely read author in the Netherlands. A former Detective Inspector of the Amsterdam Police, his fiction reflects his thirty eight years in the business. Some of his work has been translated into English before--he’s written so much that I doubt if any publisher would have to patience to re-print it all—but about the only thing in print these days is Murder in Amsterdam ($17.95). This contains two novellas, Dekok and the Sunday Strangler and Dekok and the Corpse on Christmas Eve, and they are both excellent. Inspectore Dekok is an aging but well respected Amsterdam police officer who has his own unorthodox way of solving crimes. You’ll love this craggy old man. Here’s hoping that more will become available soon.

Well, that's it for this time. Enjoy.

Marian, Mary, Wendy, JD


ACKROYD, PETER LAMBS OF LONDON ($35.95) (Chatto & Windus) Mary Lamb reads what her brother Charles Lamb writes and falls for the seventeen-year-old son of a bookseller from whom Charles has just bought a book. It’s no ordinary book as it once belonged to William Shakespeare, and William Ireland is no ordinary seventeen-year-old.

AIRTH, RENNIE BLOOD DIMMED TIDE ($36.95) After what felt like a decade, the sequel to River of Darkness ($10.99) has finally arrived. It is 1932 and John Madden, former Scotland Yard Inspector, is retired and living in Surrey, with his wife and two children. The family’s peace is shattered when a young girl goes missing and it is Madden who discovers her body. He’s sure that he has encountered this killer’s work before… Available in trade paperback as well, $19.99.

ANDERSON, LOUISE PERCEPTION OF DEATH ($37.95) (Hutchinson) Erin Paterson runs her grandfather’s law firm in Glasgow and is an uncompromisingly aggressive negotiator. When her sister’s old school friend is brutally murdered, Erin’s life begins to unravel. We are waiting for more copies of this debut novel so please reserve one soon as supply is limited. Wendy loved it.

ANDERSON, W PAUL HUNGER’S BRIDES ($39.95) (Random House, Canada) There are six books, a timeline, footnotes and acknowledgements comprising this 1358 page tome. In the dead of a Calgary night academic Donald Gregory escapes from an apartment where a young woman lies bleeding. He carries with him a box he found on her table addressed to him. In the ensuing days, as the police investigation closes in around him, Gregory pieces together the contents of the box: a poetic journal of the woman’s two year travels in Mexico, diaries, research notes, unposted letters, and a strange manuscript, part biography, part novel, written largely in Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s own mesmerizing voice who at the time of her death from the plague in a Mexican convent in 1695 was arguably the greatest writer of the day. Wendy is reading and enjoying what she’s calling her ‘project’.

ATKINSON, KATE CASE HISTORIES ($45.95) (Doubleday, UK) Cambridge is sweltering, during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, his days are full of helping people clamouring for answers and explanations. Also available in trade paperback for $27.95.

BALDACCI, DAVID HOUR GAME ($39.95) (Warner) The criminal methods of some of the most infamous killers of all time are being replicated by a new predator. Two Secret Service agents turned private investigators, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, are drawn into the affair.

BALZO, SANDRA UNCOMMON GROUNDS ($36.00) (Five Star) A debut mystery set in an upscale coffee shop in fictional Brookhills, Wisconsin. Maggy Thorsen wants to know who killed one of her partners in the coffee shop on opening day. A quote on the jacket blurb by SJ Rozan reads: “If Nancy Drew grew up, got married, ditched her no-good husband, and opened a coffeehouse, she’d be Maggy Thorsen. This is a series I already want a refill on.” “That about sums it up”, says Marian, (who has started buying more upscale coffee beans ever since she has been reading coffee mysteries. See also On What Grounds
and Through the Grinder ($8.99 each) by CLEO COYLE.

BANKS, RUSSELL DARLING ($35.00) (Knopf, Canada) Set in Liberia and the USA from 1975 through 1991 this is an historical political-thriller, featuring Hannah Musgrave who is a radical member of the Weather Underground.

BEATON, M C DEADLY DANCE ($32.95) (St. Martin’s) Running her own detective agency in the Cotswolds is not quite what Agatha Raisin expected, especially when she is outclassed by her sixty-seven-year-old secretary, Emma Comfrey. Number fourteen in the series.


BLACK, INGRID DARK EYE ($34.95) (Headline) Former FBI agent turned crime writer Saxon reluctantly agrees to help a man who feels he can help Chief Superintendent Grace Fitzgerald of the Dublin Metrolitan Police track down a killer known as the Marxman. The first in the series is The Dead ($10.99).

BLANC, NERO WRAPPED UP IN CROSSWORDS ($14.50) (Berkley) A Christmas novella, with two crossword puzzles included, featuring Rosco and Belle and their very jealous dogs.

BLEVINS, MEREDITH VANISHED PRIESTESS ($33.95) (Forge) Annie Szabo and her mother-in-law, the Gypsy fortune-teller Madame Mina, search for a killer who is a master of disguises. Sequel to The Hummingbird Wizard ($9.99).

BOWEN, GAIL LAST GOOD DAY ($32.99) (McClelland & Stewart) A car drives off a dock at Lawyers’ Bay and although help is there within minutes the young lawyer inside the car dies. Was it suicide? Joanne Kilbourn wants to investigate but someone is determined to stop her.

BREWER, STEVE BOOST ($35.95) (Speck) Sam Hill steals cars but he knows he’s been set up when he finds the body of a junkie who was a DEA informant in the boot of his latest heist.

BROWN, DAN DA VINCI CODE ILLUSTRATED ED. ($48.00) (Doubleday) One of the few instances where an illustrated version of a novel actually works really well. Lavishly illustrated and, of course, the complete text of Da Vinci Code. Lots of beautiful full-colour photos of the locations, sights, symbols, artwork and architecture mentioned in the novel, and, of course, the controversial section of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Is it worth it? Marian says: “Well, if you haven’t read the Da Vinci Code and always intended to, then yes, it’s worth spending the extra $10.05 to get the whole picture. It really is a beautiful book.”.

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