Monday, June 14, 2010

Forget the TIE ! Perfect Gifts for Father's Day


Father's Day is Sunday, June 20.

Why not get him a Gift Card from the Poisoned Pen? He can redeem it in person or by email, spend it all or hold a balance. You can purchase one in any amount by emailing


To listen to Alan Furst, widely acknowledged as one of the best espionage writers today, on Monday's NPR’s Morning Edition  GO HERE

 Furst talks about his new thriller, Spies of the Balkans (Random $28 Signed for you).  As he notes, few people have written about Greece’s role in WWII; his research proved there was a good story to tell about Balkans Greece.

Salonika, 1940. To the bustle of tavernas and the smell of hashish, a secret war is taking shape. In the backrooms of barbers, envelopes change hands, and in the Club de Salonique the air is thick with whispers. Senior cop Costas Zannis faces a myriad of Allied and Axis spies as Mussolini prepares a second invasion into Northern Greece. Zannis, who aids Jewish refugees coming to his country, winds up joining the army to repulse the Italians where he meets Capt. Marko Pavlic, who as a policeman in Zagreb investigated crimes committed by the Ustashi, Croatian fascists. Zannis and Pavlic, sharing views, soon become friends and allies as another of Furst's intricate plots unfolds. Subtle details foreshadow the coming crimes perpetrated by the Nazis in the Balkans as Furst again takes his stage to less frequented parts of wartime Europe. Zannis is great and the unusual love story compelling.


Carter, Stephen L. Jericho's Fall ($16).
A combination of country house murder (it's a log cabin in the Rockies) and intelligence-community thriller.

Downing, David. Stettin Station (Soho $25). 
Anglo-American journalist John Russell is trapped in 1941 Berlin by his love for his 14-year-old son by his divorced wife, and for the actress Effi, his lover. In efforts to protect himself and them he's struck bargains with American and German intelligence, and Russian, while he tries to get them out of Germany. And now those bargains come to roost. Titled for train stations, which evokes the movements of troops, prisoners, those transported to camps in a system not yet well understood, private citizens, and those with agendas like Russell's. Zoo Station; Silesian Station ($14 each).

Dryden, Alex. Red to Black ($15).
It bridges the Cold War with resurgent Russia, sending warning chimes. Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetrated deep into the dangerous labyrinth that is Russia under Vladimir Putin to discover some of its darkest secrets. The youngest female colonel in the KGB, Anna is the ambitious daughter of one of the former Soviet Union's elite espionage families. Charged with helping to restore Russia to power under Putin, she is ordered to spy on Finn and discover the identity of his mole.  These adversaries find themselves brought together by an unexpected love that surges between them.. When Finn uncovers a shocking and ingenious plan-hatched during the Cold War-to control the European continent. This marks a debut under the name "Dryden" for a British journalist.

Fesperman, Dan. The Arms Maker of Berlin ($15).
Fesperman's explored many theaters in his superb thrillers, but he may do Germany best of all. We saw it in A Small Boat of Great Sorrows ($13). And now, using the missing documents ploy, four from WWII, he explores more of that era linked to this. FBI hires Nat Turnbull, a Nazi expert at a second-tier New England university, to find the documents, but Nat soon discovers that the agency has reasons other than historical integrity for wanting them found: to keep a lid on certain war-era sins committed by a German industrialist whose enormous company has been a major weapons supplier to the West. As Turnbull shuttles between Europe and the U.S., he manages to stay a step ahead of a mysterious killer who's knocking off anyone who may know something about the missing files.

Duns, Jeremy. Free Agent ($14).
David Morrell, a critic with genuine expertise, writes, "Because the fine points of the "spy game" took place during the Cold War, Duns cleverly sets Free Agent in that period, specifically 1969, when British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, visited Nigeria during its harrowing civil war. East and West governments vied for control of the region. Espionage schemes were rampant. The main thrust of Duns' novel is an assassination plot against the prime minister, so if you're an action fan, you'll find plenty to your liking, but for my money, it's the true espionage details that kept me turning the pages of this remarkable novel."

Gruber, Michael. The Good Son (Holt $28 Signed).
Recommended by Sandford and Tom Perry. According to their most recent signing here Gruber is one of their favorite new authors. Surely one of the most unusual of the summer spy crop is this marvel by Gruber who paints what befalls Special Ops soldier Theo Bailey when his off-the-charts mother up and travels to Pakistan to attend a symposium organized by women, including his aunt, on peace. Mom, excelling at languages and Jungian psychotherapy (but an absolute nightmare to her family and a character so self-involved I wanted to whack her myself), is part of a group soon taken hostage and what follows his Theo's war with himself and the operation he leads to rescue them. Gruber, always a fluid moralist able to see multiple answers to principles and situations, outdoes himself here in a novel that will shake you up. Highly recommended-but hang on tight.

Pattison, Eliot. Lord of Death ($14).
What more praise can I give to a series of brilliant novels set in Tibet under the iron hand of China where a former police inspector came to grief investigating Party corruption, was sent to durance vile; sprung by Tibetan monks from the gulag; connected still to a former colleague; allied with American Indian kin; and has survived politics and intelligence activities high in the Himalayas? Skull Mantra won the 2000 Best First Novel Edgar, a First Mystery Pick. The quality of Pattison's work has remained at the same high level. Shan Tao Yun now finds himself arrested for the murder of China's Minister of Tourism when she is gunned down near Mount Everest along with an American, and near to where an avalanche has crushed a military bus filled with political prisoners. It plays out on the Roof of the World complicated by a consensus that the American, a veteran climber, is not dead, and Shan's conviction that only success here will release his son from a Chinese asylum. A nail biter!

Pears, Iain. Stone's Fall ($16).
This big, brilliant book is at once modern storytelling and a return to the Edwardian age when it was still about Empire, financial hubs, European politicking, and intelligence gathering before technology. Told backwards from the death of the central figure to the story's origin, this gem is at once hugely entertaining and educational, no surprise from Oxford's Pears whom mystery fans know best as the author of edgy contemporary art fraud mysteries and his big blend of history and mystery in bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost ($16).

Penzler, Otto, ed. Agents of Treachery (Vintage $16 trade original: Signed Limited Ed. $150 by all contributors;).

Among its various Starred Reviews is this from Booklist: "Spy fiction and short stories are usually mutually exclusive. As editor Penzler points out in his introduction, spy fiction is usually lengthy, as the authors weave byzantine plots bolstered with double crosses, red herrings, and dozens of characters. Tough to fit all that into a few thousand words. He also points out this is the first anthology of original short spy fiction. The 14 authors include Lee Child, James Grady, Stephen Hunter, Andrew Klavan, and Stella Rimington, who was the director-general of Britain’s MI5. David Morrell weighs in with the moral and professional dilemma of Andrew, a professional CIA interrogator who ultimately succumbs to...well, that’s the surprise. Stephen Hunter contributes a WWII tale in which love and a Mata Hari-like character play key roles. Charles McCarry introduces readers to a mysterious man on the Guinea coast in the fifties who assists an American agent and may have questionable motives. Espionage fans will absolutely love this collection of uniformly fine stories-a series of 500-page spy novels expertly distilled to their involving, suspenseful essence."

Steinhauer, Olen. The Nearest Exit (St. Martin's $27 Signed).
Worth another mention too is the second in a blistering, dark series for American agent Milo Weaver. Steinhauer "reprises the themes of bestseller The Tourist ($15) with even more success... skillfully rendering the game of espionage in the post-cold-war, post-9/11 era. Like Le Carré’s George Smiley, Weaver is a richly imagined creation with a scarred psyche and a complex back story that elevates him above the status of run-of-the-mill world-weary spook. [...] brisk pacing, sharp dialogue and convincing evocation of a paranoid subculture. -New York Times Book Review. Steinhauer lives in Eastern Europe and limns it with a laser-like, deft pen.

Stone, David. The Skorpion Directive (Putnam $26).
A former intelligence op, "Stone" is among several writers disaffected from this administration's stance on intelligence activities and fires a real rocket here at "patriots" too pusillanimous for the power they hold. The old delineation between the other side and us often becomes part of us against other parts of us with personal agendas rather than national welfare the driver. Stone's main man, cleaner Micah Dalton, is in Vienna for a top secret meeting with a Mossad agent when he senses surveillance by a professional team. And then all hell breaks loose.... Fast moving, unsparing, and winding up to an impressive climax (plus a coda), Stone keeps you firmly in his grip.


Hirsch, Reece. The Insider (Berkley $7.99 Signed).
A senior associate expecting to make partner swipes his card to get in, ignores the ringing phone signaling his supervisor is in as early in the day as he, and presses to finish work under pressure. Wait, was that someone falling past his window from the 39th floor? Rushing down, Will Connelly is horrified to realize his own building access card is in the dead lawyer's pocket-and the man's card is in his. Within days, Will is the prime suspect in a murder, the target of an SEC investigation, and the unwitting pawn in a complex scheme of international import. While the thrillers where the fast-track legal eagle gets derailed, the boot, and ends up either outside the profession or in some small but satisfying niche are plentiful, this one has a fresh voice making it fun to read.

Martini, Steve. Rule of Nine (Morrow $27 in stock).
Who knew Constitutional Law could power a thriller? Yes, in the second of three thrillers taking San Diego's Paul Madriani out of the courtroom and on to the national stage (and into an omniscient narrative voice so you can see what's going on from multiple points of view), Martini points out a vulnerability that may surprise you. Start with Guardian of Lies ($7.99).


Brackmann, Lisa. Rock Paper Tiger (Soho $25 Can be Signed June 25 but it's here now if Signing isn't necessary).
Ellie, the Iraqi vet with PTSD-will she even keep it together over the course of (unraveling) the conspiracy against the Chinese government? Here's your China, not the "foot-binding saga China" but the China as a kind of place with a Starbuck's on every corner and where on-line gaming is so huge-and so addictive it's led to bankruptcies and deaths-that a debate now is in progress over regulating it (true also in Korea). Ellie and the Uighur and all the rest are a fabulous rag-bag of characters and the suspense is dynamite. "A terrifying odyssey in present-day China...with the protagonist pursued by the Chinese and American governments alike in a global panorama. A totally captivating page-turner with vivid, first-hand details and nuanced multi-cultural facets."

Cardetti, Raphael. Death in the Latin Quarter (LittleBrown UK $24 trade).
It begins early one morning in Paris when the magnificent tranquility of the is shattered by the death of an eminent if unpopular (and oddly obscure) professor of medieval literature. Why would Albert Cadas have thrown himself out his office window to the cobblestones below? Meanwhile, Valentine Savi, a talented young restorer we learn was canned from her position at the Louvre after a project went hideously awry, receives a visit from an enigmatic elderly gentleman with a unique commission: to restore a priceless medieval manuscript by one Vasalis, a cleric up against Pope Clement IV. Naturally it contains a secret of eternal fascination to scholars. And naturally those who would wrest it from her are ruthless and probably part of a dark cabal. Her ebullient friend Hugo Vermeer, a larger than life Dutch aristocrat, epicure, and crook, and David Scotto, the one graduate student Cadas' death has screwed over, and her new mentor are all part of the action.  As it winds through the narrow streets and gloomily palatial mansions of the Latin Quarter, you discern Cardetti is having a lot more fun here than it appears on the surface. For fans of Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Johnson, Craig. Junkyard Dogs (Viking $26 in stock).
One blizzardy February day, Sheriff Walt Longmire and his deputies-Victoria Moretti and Santiago Saizarbitoria-visit the Durant, Wyoming, dump owned by the Stewart family to investigate a severed thumb found in a discarded cooler.. Then things escalate from there in Johnson's trademark blend of reality and zany as the resolve of the owners of a new housing development in Durant, to get rid of the Stewart family's dump/junkyard on its edge strengthens.

Karp, Larry. The Ragtime Fool (Poisoned Pen $25 Signed).
Kirkus reviews: "Scott Joplin died on April Fool's Day, 1917, but his legacy blazes brightly within Brun Campbell, once known as The Ragtime Kid and working, 34 years later, as a barber in Venice, Calif. A fan letter from Alan Chandler, an aspiring young musician in New Jersey, leads to a mutually satisfying correspondence as well as a parallel plotline. Meanwhile, in Sedalia, Mo., ragtime fans kick things up. Karp seamlessly weaves real people like Campbell into an interesting historical yarn with a whodunit kicker." PW says: "Karp handles the intricate plot well, but the best part of the book is its picture of people torn between what they want to forget and what they need to remember."

MacBride, Stuart. Dark Blood (Collins $34 Signed).
With no new book from Ian Rankin this year, why not visit Aberdeen? They are hard men in Granite City and in this 6th for copper Logan McRae, we meet others. Martin Knox has served his time, so why shouldn't he be allowed to live wherever he wants? Yes, he was convicted of the brutal rape and abduction of a 68-year-old man, but he's seen the error of his ways. Found God. Wants to leave his dark past in Newcastle and make a new start in an Aberdeen home. DSI Danby from Northumbria Police - the man who put Knox behind bars for ten years - is supposedly here to keep an eye on things. Edinburgh gangster Malk the Knife wants a slice of the Donald Trump golf course under development here. And three blokes from Newcastle want a "quiet word" with DSI Danby about a missing mob accountant. Local crime lord Wee Hamish Mowat has plans for Logan's future. And Martin Knox's dark past isn't done with him yet...  In short, there's a lot going on....

O'Donovan, Gerald. The Priest (LittleBrown UK $45 Signed).
The Irish crime writing renaissance continues with this fine first novel featuring Detective Inspector Mike Mulcahy. The veteran cop thinks he's seen it all, but he's never encountered anything like "The Priest," the name the Garda has given to a new killer stalking the Dublin streets at night. Mulcahy and his young partner Claire Brogan pick up the case after a Spanish diplomat's daughter is found horribly brutalized, her body branded with burns from a scalding cross. But this is just the beginning for a killer who is on a twisted sort of divine mission: before each attack, he makes the sign of the cross and ritually "sends each new victim to God."  This sort of plot isn't necessarily a new thing, and you could say that the Irish have a complicated relationship with the clergy-hey, it was Joyce who referred to the Irish as a "priest-ridden race."  What sets this book apart is O'Donovan's feel for his setting and characters. Mulcahy fits squarely into a long tradition of melancholy, loner cops like Rebus, Charlie Resnick and Jack Taylor."

Palahniuk, Chuck. Tell-All (Knopf $25 Signed).
A Sunset Boulevard-inflected homage to Old Hollywood when grand dames like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford ruled the roost. It is a Douglas Sirk-inspired melodrama full of big gestures and muted psychic torment. It is a veritable Tourette's Syndrome of rat-tat-tat name-dropping, from the A-list to the Z-list. A dark reimagining of "All About Eve" and an hilarious assault on celebrity, "Tell-All" is vintage Palahniuk.

Rose, MJ. The Hypnotist (Mira $27 Signed).
Haunted by a 20-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation-dedicated to the science of past life study-where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist. Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Steiner, Peter. The Terrorist (St Martins $24 Signed).
Retired 72-year-old ex-CIA agent Louis Morgan now lives in the South of France and just wants to enjoy his tranquil life. But the agency resorts to blackmail to get Morgan back to work. When he turns them down they keep applying pressure, ending with the arrest of his friend's 16-year old son, who is studying in the U.S., on charges of terrorism. Morgan complies with the CIA but conducts the mission his way, baffling his handlers...  Steiner has written another spy thriller that is tight, twisty, and fun to read. It's a general Staff Favorite and a story to please Dad for sure....

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