Summertime and the reading is . . . WONDERFUL!

by Paula Gail Benson

A significant part
of my vacations as I grew up was participating in the library summer reading
program. Now, that I work for a state legislature with a session ending in
early June, the summer months still mean a time of less activity so I can catch
up on all those lovely books on my TBR pile. If you’re looking for some
terrific summer reads, here are my recommendations, in two categories. First,
short story collections, which are great travel companions, and, second, academic
mysteries, in case you crave a vicarious trip back to school.
B. Inglee’s The Case Book of Emily
(Wildside Books 2016)
writes historical mysteries and learns about the time periods in her stories by being a
reenactor and living interpreter. Her Case
features intrepid Emily Lothrop Lawrence, whose professor father
characterized as “intelligent” while calling her older sisters “beautiful” and “talented.”
Emily, with her husband Charles, operate a Pinkerton style detective agency in
post-Civil War Washington, DC. Reading about their investigations and
techniques is both a journey back in time and an appreciation for how
technology has influenced detection.
Stevens’ Her Infinite Variety (Wildside
Books 2016).
(or Bonnie’s) stories have frequently found a home in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. In this fascinating volume,
they’ve been collected, so you can enjoy four that feature her series
detectives, Iphigenia Wodehouse and Leah Abrams, and seven of her “stand-alones,”
including one of my favorites “Thea’s First Husband.” For excellent writing, intriguing
situations, and clever deductions, this collection is a true reader
’s delight.
Taylor’s On the Road with Del and Louise:
a Novel in Stories
(Henery Press 2015).
of two Agatha Awards, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, and three
consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction, Art uses a series of
stories to tell the adventures of two intricate and compelling characters.
Louise, a Southern girl working in a New Mexico 7-Eleven, is held up by the
ski-masked Del, a frugal man seeking enough to meet his “academic” expenses,
and gives him her telephone number because she thinks he has nice eyes. She
finds it exciting when he calls, then sets out with him on what becomes a cross
country journey with stops at such diverse locations as Southern California,
Napa Valley, Las Vegas, North Dakota, and Louise’s North Carolina hometown. At
first, I wasn’t sure I could like either of these complex characters, but after
following them through traditional crime stories and hilarious capers, I had to
wait as long as I could to finish the last installment so I didn’t have to say
goodbye. Winner of the Agatha Award for
Best First Novel and finalist for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, this
novel in stories is an engaging read.
Kuhn’s The Semester of Our Discontent
(Henery Press 2016).

The first book in a new series,
Cynthia’s novel features English professor Lila Maclean, who in her first year
at a prestigious university finds herself as involved in solving murders as
she is in steering clear of academic intrigue. Unfortunately, she keeps turning up on the
scene where her colleagues are being murdered. When her cousin becomes the
chief suspect, Lila has to find a way to clear her name. A fast-paced whodunit
with lots of quirky, yet familiar characters from higher education, which
received the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.

Rader-Day’s The Black Hour (Seventh
Street Books 2014).
suspenseful novel alternates between two narrators: (1) sociology professor
Amelia Emmet, who is returning to the campus where a student with whom she had
no apparent connection shot her, then killed himself, and (2) Amelia’s new
graduate assistant, Nathaniel Barber, who came to the college not just to earn
a degree, but to study her attack. As they each investigate separately, then in
tandem, the reader is plunged through every emotion watching the fascinating plot
unfold. Winner of the Anthony Award, Lovey
Award, and Silver Falchion for Best First Novel, this is truly superb reading!
want to assure you that you can’t go wrong with any of these books. So stay out
of the pool, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, and settle down for some
fabulous summer reading!

10 replies
  1. Art Taylor
    Art Taylor says:

    Thanks for the shout-out here! Such a great list overall–I've enjoyed several of these books already myself and bookmarking the others for later!

    • Paula Gail Benson
      Paula Gail Benson says:

      Thanks, Art. Another I would add is your edited anthology, Murder under the Oaks. I particularly enjoyed reading Karen E. Sayler's story about Poe's childhood in conjunction with Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye, featuring Poe as a cadet at West Point.

  2. KB Inglee
    KB Inglee says:

    Thanks for mentioning Emily. I am rather fond of her. These are the best of nearly 100 stories I've written about her.

  3. Paula Gail Benson
    Paula Gail Benson says:

    KB, what a wonderful record! I can see why you feel drawn to her. Not only is she a great character, but she lives in a fascinating historical period.

    • Paula Gail Benson
      Paula Gail Benson says:

      Not only have you taught me to write in person, but when I read your work, I learn so much about craft. Thank you so much, Lori!

    • Paula Gail Benson
      Paula Gail Benson says:

      Add in Shawn Reilly Simmons Red Carpet Catering Mysteries. Another group of great reads!

  4. Cynthia Kuhn
    Cynthia Kuhn says:

    Thanks, Paula! Honored to be included. I've read and loved half of these already–adding the others to my list immediately!

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