Welcome to the website edition of the Mystery Ahead newsletter, with fresh #booknews, thrilling #excerpts, and #reviews of must-read mysteries.
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1. Detecting Fake News
My blog series about life in the CIA is getting quite a bit of attention, especially this post about media analysis:
Inside my CIA Career: Media Matters – Studying the Cold War methodology of fake news https://carmenamato.net/cia-career-media-matters
Find other CIA-related content by clicking the #truestory hashtag in any post.
2 Ark Builders Wanted
My corner of the world has been pummeled of late. Tornadoes, pandemic, a mad Christmas bomber, and now torrential rains. My local bookstore, Harper’s Books, got flooded.
Along with other volunteers, I helped pack surviving inventory (why are books on cat health SO HEAVY??) so the store can be refurbished, which means it will be closed for some time. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it’s not getting knocked down that matters, it’s the getting back up.
If you are not aware of Bookshop.org, (https://bookshop.org/) it allows you to shop online from independent bookstores and find unique offerings not on Amazon. Between a GoFundMe and online gift certificates through Bookshop, my local independent bookstore will survive, but yours might not without a little help from friends.
Inspired by a writing contest sponsored by Moleskine, a black notebook immerses Detective Emilia Cruz in a strange case of names, dates, and cartels in Acapulco.
Acapulco Black Book, Part 3
Emilia was behind the wheel of her Suburban. The afternoon sun beat down on the roof of the vehicle. She wore the big dark sunglasses that always made her feel like a masked superhero. Sunshine reflected off the glossy covers of a couple of magazines sliding around the passenger seat.
Driving through the colorful Colonia Alta Progreso residential neighborhood meant traversing the hills on the west side of the bay. Houses with a sea view preened over their lowly neighbors.
Neither too close to the tourist areas nor too far, Colonia Alta Progreso clung to a slowly fading dignity. Violent crime was encroaching, like everywhere else, but the narrow streets were clean. No graffiti marred the walls enclosing each property. No litter lined the gutters. Each household probably paid a street sweeper a few pesos each week to collect trash and scrub stucco.
Up ahead, a truck swerved as if to avoid a pothole. With the sixth sense of a cop who’d beat the odds more than once, Emilia knew something bad was going to happen a split second before it did.
The truck jumped the curb and screeched to a stop. The passenger side tires left skid marks on the sidewalk. Two men with long guns leaped out and ran to an ornate wrought iron gate bisecting a cherry-colored stucco wall. The upper floor of a house in the same bright shade peeked over the top. The men didn’t jump the wall or bust down the gate but fired through the iron filigree at the house.
Sicarios. Cartel killers.
Even as she yelled into her radio for backup, Emilia threw herself out of the Suburban. Crouching behind her open door for protection, she trained her automatic on the shooters. “Stop! Police!”
One of the sicarios turned toward the Suburban, his weapon carelessly sweeping rounds that chipped cement off the sidewalk, chewed a mangy bush, and thudded into the passenger side of the SUV. The vehicle rocked. Her glossy magazines slithered onto the floor. Heart pounding, Emilia squeezed off four rounds. All hit the man in the center of his chest.
He pitched backwards and slumped against the wall by the still-closed iron gate. A young man’s soft mouth hung slack below glassy and sightless eyes.
The other shooter let out a cry. He grabbed his fallen comrade’s arm and headed for the truck.
“Stop right there,” Emilia shouted, her ears still ringing with the echo of gunfire. “Police!”
Even as the sicario kept his hold on the dead man, the ferocious rattle of his weapon shook the air. The windshield of the Suburban exploded like an atomic bomb, spewing a mushroom cloud of glass and chrome. Emilia flinched away and stumbled into the middle of the street, far from the protection of the big vehicle.
She saw the whole scene as though hovering above. The shooter vibrated with the constant recoil of his automatic weapon. His long hair danced against a high forehead.
Leaden fire raked Emilia’s body. She swayed and flopped, as helpless as a corn husk doll in a threshing machine.
The street became a slaughterhouse. Her skin was a sieve that leaked blood. Her screams went unheard in the bright afternoon sunshine.
“Em, Em. Wake up.” A quiet voice broke through the nightmare.
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman
What happens when the residents of a bucolic senior living community in England get together to investigate a murder? For starters, one murder becomes . . . many.
I’d read so many positive reviews of this book that I was primed to love it. And I did.
A local developer wants to add on to the Coopers Chase Retirement Village, home to Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron. They are the nucleus of the Thursday Murder Club, which gets together to review cold case files. The files belong to Penny, a retired police officer who has suffered a stroke and is incapacitated. The club is kept afloat by Elizabeth, Penny’s best friend and a wily former intelligence officer with contacts everywhere.
When the property developer dies under mysterious circumstances, throwing his plans to destroy the adjacent cemetery into disarray, the club decides to solve his murder. Elizabeth is the prime mover and uses the skills of each of the members to brilliant effect. Along the way, they’ll solve several other crimes that drift across the book like errant red herrings.
The novelty of the book is not only the subject matter, but the format. Joyce’s first-person diary entries are interspersed with scenes written from other points of view. All the voices carefully pull each other along through the complex case as each goes on their own small “hero’s journey.”
The more we get to know them, the more we love shrewd and mysterious Elizabeth, Joyce the man-chaser, Ibrahim the methodical retired therapist and Ron, the still-famous union activist and his son, a prize fighter making the circuit of talent competitions for the formerly famous. Add to the mix the two police officers who end up helping the club, as well as each other.
These well-drawn characters are so relatable that by the end of the book you’re ready for a drive to Coopers Chase. Luckily, I hear there is going to be a sequel.
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List of Carmen’s books
All the best,