Mailbox Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is still on tour, with March’s spot being at I’m Booking It.

Well, if you didn’t notice, I didn’t participate in last Monday’s edition of Mailbox Monday … why, you ask? Well, it’s because for the first time in AGES, I did not receive a single book. Not one book. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. It was actually kind of sad, but definitely a good thing because I’ve got 4 different PBS Box-of-Books going right now. I discussed my insanity in a post you can view here. However, some of these books I’m already second-guessing. They will probably be re-listed and not read, but I’ll go ahead and mention them anyway.

I had three PBS wishlist books come in this week:

     At first, it sounds like the answer to a parent’s prayers: an elite boarding school in the Oregon mountains where wayward kids turn their lives around. But behind the idyllic veneer lie disturbing rumors of missing students and questionable treatments. Jules Farentino knows her half-sister, Shaylee, has been going off the rails lately. She’s just not sure Blue Rock Academy is the answer. Accepting a teaching position there lets Jules keep an eye on Shay, but also confirms her fears. One student is found hanged, another near death. Something sinister is at hand – and Jules may already be too late to stop it. As a brutal snowstorm sweeps in, cutting off the remote campus from the rest of the world, Jules will discover the Academy’s darkest secrets, and confront a murderous evil without limits, without remorse, without mercy …

     There have been countless attempts to solve the brutal murders committed by Jack the Ripper more than a hundred years ago. It seems that almost everyone has their own theory and their own suspect, ranging from the reasonably likely to the entirely preposterous. What this most famous of British criminal cases has always required is a professional eye to analyze the evidence with all the benefits of modern investigative techniques. Now that has been provided in the shape of the man most qualified to solve the case: former British murder squad detective Trevor Marriott. His long and arduous investigation dispels the rumors, fantasies and urban legends which have for so long stalked through the shadowy world of this vile killer. The results are startling: for many years it has been accepted that Jack the Ripper killed only five women, but now it can be revealed that up to nine were victims. And, most astonishingly of all, a new prime suspect never previously considered has emerged, with evidence linking him not only to the Whitechapel cases, but to murders all over the world.

     On a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse, an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. The only other clue the police have is one that they wish they didn’t: the dying woman’s last word is “foreign.” In the first riveting installment in the internationally bestselling Wallander series, police inspector Kurt Wallander doggedly investigates the horrible crime, as he contends with his own demons and tries to keep the public outcry for vengeance against an already reviled immigrant community at bay.

Remember those PBS Box-of-Books I mentioned? Two of them came in this week (13 books):

     When a NASA satellite discovers an astonishingly rare object buried deep in the Arctic ice, the floundering space agency proclaims a much-needed victory – a victory with profound implications for NASA policy and the impending presidential election. To verify the authenticity of the find, the White House calls upon the skills of intelligence analyst Rachel Sexton. Accompanied by a team of experts, including the charismatic scholar Michael Tolland, Rachel travels to the Arctic and uncovers the unthinkable: evidence of scientific trickery – a bold deception that threatens to plunge the world into controversy. But before she can warn the president, Rachel and Michael are ambushed by a team of assassins. Fleeing for their lives across a desolate and lethal landscape, their only hope for survival is to discover who is behind this masterful plot. The truth, they will learn, is the most shocking deception of all.

     Despite a full schedule, frazzled suburban single mom Jan Jeffry has agreed to lend a hand during a two-day gathering of her friend Shelley’s former high school girls’ club. So while the reunited ladies are dishing dirt, Jane is sweeping it up – and she inadvertently becomes privy to all sorts of interesting postgraduate gossip and long-smoldering resentments. But then a corpse turns up among the one-time student body, the unfortunate victim of some rather nasty after-school activities. And unless Jan gets to the bottom of a sordid senior-year scandal, more alumnae are sure to die at the hands of a calculating classmate who’s majoring in murder.

     With the kids packed off on their summer road trips, suburban mom Jane Jeffry grabs the opportunity to enroll in a writing course at the community center. But when a classmate keels over dead after sampling a tasty treat from an impromptu student buffet, Jane realizes that the pen may be mightier than the sword … but poison beats them both. There’s a culinary killer among the local would-be literati. And before the demise of a disagreeable old biddy can be written off, Jane plans to cook the culprit’s goose in his or her own creative juices.

     Tom Clancy’s Op-Center is a beating heart of defense, intelligence, and crisis management technology. It is run by a crack team of operatives both within its own walls and out in the field. And when a job is too dirty, or too dangerous, it is the only place our government can turn. But nothing can prepare Director Paul Hood and his Op-Center crisis management team for what they are about to uncover – a very real, very frightening power play that could unleash new players in a new world order…

     Sleuth Regan Reilly is hired as a bodyguard for singer Brigid O’Neill, a rising country star who has been receiving threatening “love notes.” Brigid also possesses a “magical” Irish fiddle said to be cursed – whoever takes it out of Ireland will have an accident or face death. Still, Brigid brings it to the Hamptons, where her band will perform at a Fourth of July concert. Chappy Tinka, heir to a thumbtack fortune, and his ditzy wife, Bettina, are their hosts. Regan joins them at “Chappy’s Compound,” an oceanfront estate where they encounter Bettina’s guru Peace Man, Chappy’s bumbling sidekick Duke, a feng shui specialist obsessed with rearranging furniture – and a party guest found floating facedown in the pool. Is the curse of the fiddle real? Is there a murderer in the house? As the concert nears, the menace to Brigid grows, and Regan must discover the truth before it’s too late…

     When Alvirah and Willy become caught up in a Christmas mystery, all of Alvirah’s deductive powers and Willy’s world-class common sense are called upon. It begins when an unmarried woman leaves her newborn on the rectory doorstep of a Manhattan church. Meanwhile, a small-time thief and drug peddler is absconding from the church with a treasured artifact, a chalice adorned with a single star-shaped diamond. To elude the police, he grabs the stroller and disappears. Seven years later, the young mother returns to the church where her child was kidnapped while Alvirah and Willy are helping the neighborhood kids prepare for a Christmas pageant at an after-school shelter. But the future of the shelter is threatened when the city condemns the site and it is learned that the brownstone to which the shelter was moving has been willed to a smooth-talking couple, tenants in the building. Suspecting that the will is a fake and the tenants con artists, Alvirah sets out to discover the truth. Soon she finds herself in the middle of the puzzle of the missing child and chalice.

     Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner turned amateur sleuth, teams up with private investigator Regan Reilly to solve another Christmas mystery. This time they get in the middle of a case involving a beautiful eighty-foot blue spruce that has been chosen to spend the holidays as Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree. The folks who picked the tree don’t have a clue that attached to one of its branches is a flask chock-full of priceless diamonds that Packy Noonan, a scam artist just released from prison, had hidden there twelve years ago. An excited Packy breaks his parole and heads to Stowe, Vermont, to reclaim his loot. Once there, he is horrified to discover that his special tree will be heading to New York City the next morning. With a bumbling crew consisting of Jo-Jo, Benny, and an unsuccessful poet, Milo, he knows he has to act fast. What Packy does not know is that Alvirah and Regan are on a weekend trip to Stowe with Alvirah’s husband, Willy; Regan’s fiance Jack; Regan’s parents, Luke and Nora; and Alvirah’s friend Opal, a lottery winner who lost all her winnings in Packy’s scam. On Monday morning when they’re supposed to head home, they learn that the tree is missing, Packy Noonan may be in the vicinity, and Opal has disappeared.

     In picturesque Branscombe, New Hampshire, on the night before the village’s first (any many hope annual) Festival of Joy, a group of employees at the local market learn they have won $180 million in the lottery. But the one worker, Duncan, who decided at the last moment not to play, is nowhere to be found. And while a second winning ticket was purchased in the next town, that winner hasn’t come forward. Could Duncan have secretly bought it? Alvirah Meehan, amateur sleuth, and private investigator Regan Reilly have arrived in town for the festival. And as they dig beneath the surface, they find that life in little Branscombe is not as tranquil as it appears. But while Alvirah and Regan have to put aside their visions of an old-fashioned weekend in the country, this fast-paced holiday keeper is sure to keep you dashing through the pages.

     Sterling Brooks has been cooling his heels in the Celestial Waiting Room for forty-six years, waiting for admission to heaven. Finally, just days before Christmas, he’s summoned before the HEavenly Council and found unworthy; throughout his life he had been hopelessly self-absorbed. To redeem himself, he is given the chance to go back to Earth and find someone to help. At New York’s Rockefeller Center skating rink, Sterling encounters Marissa, a heartbroken seven-year-old whose father and grandmother have been forced into the Witness Protection Program; they had overheard two gangsters hatch a sinister plot to collect money from a debtor. Able to travel through time and space, Sterling devises a master plan to reunite little Marissa with her family in time for Christmas. Along the way, he discovers within himself what it takes to earn his wings.

     Accidents happen, as the saying goes. But three fatal accidents don’t happen within days of each other – at least not in Blacklin County, Texas. The first was bad enough: John West, burned to a crisp when he was hit by a car while holding a can of gasoline. Then Pep Yeldell, best known for stealing cars and wives, drowned in an old swimming pool. Sheriff Dan Rhodes has an itch he can’t scratch, a hunch that these two deaths were murder. A third body makes three to many and puts Rhodes onto the cleverly concealed trail of a killer. But it leads him literally up a tree and on the receiving end of a rifle, and definitely unprepared to meet his own death by accident.

     For Colorado caterer Goldy Schulz, accepting a series of bookings at Hyde Castle is like a dream come true. It’s not every day that she gets to cook authentic Elizabethan fare – especially at a real castle that was brought over from England and reassembled stone by stone in Aspen Meadow. Goldy is determined that everything will go right – which is why, she figures later, everything went terribly wrong. It begins when a shotgun blast shatters her window. Then Goldy discovers a body lying in a nearby creek. And when shots ring out for the second time that day, someone Goldy loves is in the line of fire. Could one of her husband Tom’s police investigations have triggered a murder? Or was her violent, recently paroled ex responsible? With death peering around every corner, Goldy needs to cook up some crime-solving solutions – before the only dish that’s left on her menu is murder.

     It’s been a rough month for Kendra. Her boyfriend and sidekick, Jeff Hubbard, P.I., has gone missing – right after they decided to move in together. It sounds like a case of cold feet until the authorities find his car submerged in a canal. Kendra’s panicked inquiries lead her to Jeff’s Aunt Lois, an ex-pole dancer and full-time eccentric, who had taken her dog Flisa, a sweet-natured Akita mix, to a company that promised to clone the pup. But poor Flisa never made it out alive. And then, one of the cloners is murdered… As Kendra picks up the scent of Jeff’s investigation, she wonders: Was Jeff kidnapped? If not, why hasn’t he contacted her? Is he protecting his revenge-driven aunt? Or worse … could he be the killer? Kendra is hounded by questions, and for the first time, she’s not sure she wants the answers…

     Someone knocking on the door at 3 a.m. is never good news. For V.I. Warshawski, the bad news arrives in the form of her wacky, unwelcome aunt Elena. The fire that has just burned down a sleazy SRO hotel has brought Elena to V.I.’s doorstep. Uncovering an arsonist – and the secrets hidden behind Elena’s boozy smile – will send V.I. into the seedy world of Chicago’s homeless … into the Windy City’s backroom deals and bedroom politics, where new schemers and old cronies team up to get V.I. off the case – by hook, by crook, or by homicide.

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