Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd

Proof of Guilt (Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book #15)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: January 29th, 2012
2012 William Morrow
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062015686
ASIN: B0089LOE36
Genre: Fiction / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher / Partners in Crime Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

An unidentified body appears to have been run down by a motorcar and Ian Rutledge is leading the investigation to uncover what happened. While signs point to murder, vital questions remain. Who is the victim? And where, exactly, was he killed?

One small clue leads the Inspector to a firm built by two families, famous for producing and selling the world's best Madeira wine. Lewis French, the current head of the English enterprise is missing. But is he the dead man? And do either his fiancée or his jilted former lover have anything to do with his disappearance-or possible death? What about his sister? Or the London office clerk? Is Matthew Traynor, French's cousin and partner who heads the Madeira office, somehow involved?

The experienced Rutledge knows that suspicion and circumstantial evidence are not proof of guilt, and he's going to keep digging for answers. But that perseverance will pit him against his supervisor, the new Acting Chief Superintendent. When Rutledge discovers a link to an incident in the family's past, the superintendent dismisses it, claiming the information isn't vital. He's determined to place blame on one of French's women despite Rutledge's objections. Alone in a no man's land rife with mystery and danger, Rutledge must tread very carefully, for someone has decided that he, too, must die so that cruel justice can take its course.

My Thoughts
Proof of Guilt is the fifteenth novel in a series of quite pleasant murder mysteries featuring the amiable Inspector Ian Rutledge.  There are not too many series out there where I try to keep up with the current new release and this series definitely has the honour of being one of those I tend to read as soon as the new release comes out.  I'm not really sure what has captured my attention about these novels, but perhaps it is Rutledge himself, with his steadfast ways, yet I always seem to sense an undercurrent of something else I am looking forward to seeing released one day.  That is hasn't quite happened yet is fine, I am willing to wait.

Rutledge is now faced with a new superior officer, Chief Superintendent Markham, as Inspector Bowles has been temporarily removed from the position.  Unsure whether he will be a better boss than Bowles, there have been indications that Markham feels the pressure to solve cases quickly rather than to really see the crux of the matter at hand.  At the same time, Rutledge is uneasy in his presence as Markham seems to have a sharp eye and can see right through people and their motives. Now why should this make Rutledge somewhat uneasy? Rutledge is hiding a big secret and the last person he wants to discover that secret is Markham as it could cost him his job, the one thing that is holding him together.  Intrigued?  That secret is one of the things I really enjoy about this series and the turmoil that Rutledge goes through each and every day, first trying to keep himself sane, and two, trying to make sure no one finds out what is happening, is an interesting storyline.  As someone who is ruthless, aggressive, and determined, it is his one great weakness, although I don't of it as such, and to see such a man struggle is quite interesting from a psychological perspective.

One of the things I had difficulty with in this novel is why Rutledge would be sent out to investigate a routine hit and run accident, even if turns out to be murder.  It seemed to me as something the local constabulary would normally deal with and some of the mundane things that Rutledge did during the investigation did not necessarily ring true in this novel.  It's not that I didn't enjoy the detective work, as in all Todd novels you have to pay attention to every detail or you will miss something important, but I found it odd that someone at his level would be doing some of the leg work himself.   He is a Detective Inspector for Scotland Yard so it did seem strange, after all.  And I had to pay particular attention to the history of the family being investigation, a couple of times actually re-reading the paragraphs just to make sure I got it right.  It was somewhat confusing as to who was who and who was related to who, and who was it who had the affair again?  Oh, yeah, that one.  Maybe I was tired from marking exams, and it could have played a role, so I'll be interested in reading other reviews to see if that was a problem for anyone else.

Proof of Guilt is an interesting addition to the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.  It definitely wasn't my favourite one of the series, but I enjoyed it and as always, the writing was fluid, with that understated flow of information and evidence that I've come to admire from these authors.  If you are new to the series, I don't recommend beginning with this one, but actually reading them from the beginning. As for this one, I don't feel like all of the ends were tied up at the end and I was left feeling a bit disappointed in that sense.  However, hopefully some of these threads will be picked up in the sixteenth novel, and that is one I will definitely be reading.

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Guest Post: H.W "Buzz" Bernard: Author of Plague

I am pleased to welcome H.W "Buzz" Bernard to Curling Up by The Fire, author of Plague, a rather fascinating novel about the effects of a devastating and horrifying Ebola that is released unawares upon the United States.  An intriguing thriller, Plague takes a look at a possible plague that could destroy everything we know in a matter of weeks and it takes a hard look at the institutions that run our country and the organizations that have the capacity to produce such a devastating biological weapon, for example terrorists. For me, this whole concept has always seemed far too real. Take a look:

In only a matter of days, 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers will be rivaled by a lone-wolf terrorist attack on America. Atlanta is targeted as Ground Zero for the most horrifying plague in modern times. Deep in the secret recesses of a Cold War lab, the Russians created tons of deadly bio-weapons. Now, decades later, a protégé of that Russian research is about to release weaponized Ebola into the heart of the South’s most iconic city: Atlanta, where the symbols of American “decadence” range from a happily diverse population to the Coca-Cola museum and CNN building.

A preliminary test of the horrifying virus demonstrates the unspeakable suffering of its victims — and alerts the Centers for Disease Control that a terrible pandemic is in the making. CDC Virologist Dr. Dwight Butler begins a frantic effort to track down the source before it’s too late. For new BioDawn CEO Richard Wainwright, it quickly becomes clear that the “accidental” plane crash that killed the pharmaceutical company’s entire executive hierarchy may have some connection to the evolving threat. Suddenly Richard is being stalked by a hit woman. He and Butler join forces to find the lone terrorist at the center of a plan that could unleash a modern Black Plague on the western world.

The Story Behind Plague
By H.W. “Buzz” Bernard

The inspiration for Plague sprang from, ironically, a nonfiction book: Richard Preston’s 1994 spine-tingling best seller about the Ebola virus, The Hot Zone.  As I read Preston’s book I became fascinated by Ebola and, quite frankly, scared to death by the thought there might be an airborne version of it.  Thriller writers, naturally, love things that scare folks.  So, I began thinking about how I could craft my fright into a terrifying novel.

But that didn’t didn’t happen immediately.  I didn’t really embark on becoming a novelist until 2000.  It took another three years afte after that before I began crafting Plague.  Even then, I set it aside for awhile to work on what  eventually became my first published novel, Eyewall, and didn’t get back to Plague until 2010.  The final version of the novel is the product of about five rewrites, both major and minor.

Now, let me tell you a few cool things--think of it as insider information--about Plague.

There probably should be a warning label on the book.  The opening scene is pretty darn graphic, as are parts of chapters 15 and 27 describing death by Ebola.  They’re paragraphs you wouldn’t want to read just before, during, or after eating.  Why so graphic?  I want the reader to realize just how high the stakes are for my protagonist . . . and society in general.

My editor described the ending as “kick ass.” That pleases me.  But here’s a point to ponder: How does a writer create a “kick-ass” ending with a female Methodist minister involved?

There’s a zinger in the epilogue. I thought that was kind of neat.  It’s not something you see often.  Usually epilogues merely wrap up what happened to the main characters in the wake of the drama.  (Hey, no peeking at the ending and epilogue before you read the book.)

The original title of the novel was The Koltsovo Legacy.  (The reason will become obvious as you read the book.)  The name derives from the Koltsovo Institute of Molecular Biology, a real place in Siberia.  But I didn’t want people to think the novel was set in Russia. It’s not.  The stage is Atlanta. Besides, my publisher, BelleBooks, wanted a one-word title, following along the lines of Eyewall and my work-in-progress, Supercell.

So, if you happen to have read and enjoyed Eyewall, I think I can offer you an equally as thrilling, but different, ride in Plague.

Just remember my caution about the rather graphic scenes of death by Ebola.

About the Author

H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is a writer and retired meteorologist.  His debut novel, Eyewall, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer read,” was released in May 2011 and went on to become a best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

His second novel, Plague, came out in September 2012. He’s currently at work on his third novel, Supercell.

Before retiring, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia, as a senior meteorologist for 13 years.  Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades.  He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit. His “airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135).
In the past, he’s provided field support to forest fire fighting operations in the Pacific Northwest, spent a summer working on Alaska’s arctic slope, and served two tours in Vietnam.  Various other jobs, both civilian and military, have taken him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama.

He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing.
Buzz currently is vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association.  He’s a member of International Thriller Writers, the Atlanta Writers Club and Willamette Writers.

He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy and sometimes overactive Shih-Tzu, Stormy.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine
by Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: January 8th, 2012
2012 Razorbill
Hardcover Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-59514-599-4
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal /Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Penguin Canada

3.5 / 5 Stars

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

My Thoughts
Paper Valentine is one of those novels that I really wanted to like simply because I really enjoy Ms Yovanoff's writing style; she has this way of describing scenes that makes you feel like you are right there with the characters, and she certainly can come up with similes and metaphors that are quite interesting and downright fascinating. That being said though, I have to admit that there were many aspects to this novel, though quite interesting, that did leave me feeling quite exasperated and unsatisfied and it was for this reason that I gave it the rating that I did.  

It was through the use of this descriptive writing though, that I was able to get a pretty clear picture of Hannah and her thoughts, her reactions to things and events, her inner reflections on her past behaviours and her relationships with others, in particular with Lilian, as well as her loneliness.  And even though she was somewhat frustrating as a character, her inability to fight back, her inability to stand up for herself, it was quite an interesting journey Hannah had to take as she learned about herself and her strengths and weaknesses.  This did not make her more empathetic as a character however, and I still found it difficult to be overly sympathetic towards her.  Yes, we see her grow and develop and understand why she is the person she is, and how she comes to terms with herself, but there was still something there I felt was held back, like I still felt shut out.  

The murder and the issue with the ghosts was an interesting twist in this story. Again, Ms. Yovanoff has a definite skill as I could feel Lillian's icy fingers trailing across my neck or arm as she looked over Hannah's shoulder and it always had that air of creepiness that seemed to be pervasive in this novel.  Despite this, I really wasn't sure why Lillian was in the novel in the first place other than someone for Hannah to have murder discussions with as she didn't seem to have much point. It was an interesting way for Hannah to face her issues as most of them stemmed from Lillian and her domineering ways, but for me, as a reader, I would have been content dealing with just Lillian and some of the issues with Hannah and their 'friends', which I don't feel was resolved, and get rid of the romance.  And as for the romance, it didn't sit well with me.  The whole scene where they gaze into each other's eyes for eternity turned me right off.  What bothered me about it was that there was no build-up to it, it just kind of happened as if it was a last-minute thing, although I know it probably wasn't, but the whole thing just   Don't get me wrong, I like Finny, but it could have more...something to feel authentic.

Paper Valentine is an enjoyable and engaging novel with a paranormal twist.  I enjoy any novel that has an element of "hauntings" to it so I sort of wished there was more to that aspect, but it was interesting nonetheless.  I do feel like there were definitely some unresolved issues in this novel between Hannah and her other friends, and that Hannah and Lillian never really talked through their main issues either, that Hannah seems to have so much repressed anger that she carefully keeps hidden from others.  I would have liked to have seen some of that anger unleashed as it would have been rather interesting.  Otherwise, this is another interesting novel by an author whose writing style  I really like.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: A Deal to Die For by Josie Belle

A Deal to Die For (Good Buy Girls Mystery #2)
by Josie Belle
Release Date: December 31st, 2012
2012 Berkley Prime Crime
Paperback Edition; 256 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-25185-0
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from Penguin Canada

4 / 5 Stars

Letting no good deal go undone, the Good Buy Girls are ready to pounce on the St. Stanley flea market, where wealthy Vera Madison is selling off her vintage clothing. The widow’s wardrobe is just what Maggie Gerber needs to give her second-hand shop, My Sister’s Closet, the edge over vindictive rival Summer Phillips, who’s opened her own second-hand shop across the street.

But when Vera is found dead, it turns out that she collected enemies like Dior gowns—and had more than a few skeletons in her walk-in closet. Now it’s up to Maggie and the Good Buy Girls to sort through the racks of suspects for the killer and get back to the business of bargains…

My Thoughts
A Deal to Die For is the second book in the Good Buy Girls Mystery series; and Josie Belle is one of the pen names used by Jenn McKinlay, one of my favourite cozy mystery writers, although it was something I discovered after reading this book.  I rather enjoyed this traipse into the world of bargain-hunters galore although to be honest, there really wasn't a whole lot in the way of bargain hunting in this fun murder mystery.

One of the things I enjoy with these types of series is the continuing storylines between characters and the fun it must be to explore these storylines.  As I haven't yet read the first one, I spent some time trying to put the relationships and assumptions together, but what was great about this book is that it could be read as a standalone if you wanted. And for those who aren't interested in investing in yet another series that isn't a bad thing. For others who may be looking for more, there are some fun storylines developing in this novel, ones that haven't really been solved either, and I rather like that as it makes me wonder what's next in store for these characters.

We have the prime suspect, Doc, who was there at the murder scene, and the on-going problems he is having with his long-time wife over something that happened in their past.  Who doesn't like secrets, perhaps dark ones, to set up an interesting dialogue / confrontation between people? There is the on-going issue between Maggie and Sam, the town sheriff.  More interesting secrets from the past that are about to be opened up like a can of worms. However, I do have to admit that there were times when Maggie's attitude towards Sam really got on my nerves as she sometimes behaved like a 13 year old hormonal girl rather than a grown adult; I just couldn't stand her outbursts towards Sam and her irrational justification to interfere in his job.  The one comment about how Sam behaved in the city is not how he will be behaving in her town and how she is not going to let him get away with arresting people or questioning people just made me grind my teeth.  Can we say obstruction of police? Or whatever the legal term is when you are interfering with a police investigation?  And then we have the conflict between Maggie and Summer. Too pat for my liking. And the fact that Summer just happened to buy the same type of shop across the street from Maggie? I have no words about that. Why can't adult issues be more adult sometimes rather than degenerating into something my two children would do? (It was fun to read though.)

A Deal to Die For is an interesting and fun cozy mystery populated by a host of quirky and enjoyable characters. I did have some moments with some of the relationships between the characters as the conflicts seemed to degenerate into children's squabbles but the plot did offer up a few surprises I wasn't expecting and caught me off guard a time or two simply because I was thinking too outside the box and not simply enough.  I am looking forward to Buried in Bargain, the next Good Buy Girls Mystery.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest Post: Bella Andre and The Sullivans

Please enjoy this guest post by Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

Alpha Heroes & Happily Ever Afters:  The Perfect Combo

A guest post by Bella Andre

Alpha heroes are my favorite kind of hero: sexy, rugged, independent and take-charge. Yum!

Take Chase Sullivan, the hero of THE LOOK OF LOVE, the first book in my best-selling Sullivan series. He’s a jet-setting photographer, a mind-blowing lover, and is surrounded by gorgeous models all day long. But it isn’t until he meets Chloe Peterson on the side of a road during a rainstorm in the Napa Valley wine country that he falls in love.

One of my favorite things about an alpha hero falling in love is that all those alpha traits – his single-minded determination, his focus – are then devoted entirely to the woman of his dreams. Chloe’s been burned by men before, but Chase is determined to show her that he’s worth trusting. What follows is his relentlessly sexy pursuit of Chloe, because now that Chase has found love, he won’t accept anything less.

Each of the Sullivan heroes is an alpha in his own way. Marcus (FROM THIS MOMENT ON) is the de-facto family patriarch. He looks after the rest of his family and takes care of them. Gabe (CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE) is a take-charge firefighter. He rushes into danger to save lives – what’s not to love? Zach (IF YOU WERE MINE) is a handy, self-sufficient mechanic and businessman. In addition to being wealthy and successful, he’s useful with a wrench.

What’s hot is when those alpha traits are turned towards pursuing – and catching – the women of their dreams.
The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW!

You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart.
All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:
  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)
About The SullivansIn this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.

Get the eBooks via Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & Noblethe iBookStore, or the Kobo Store.

Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers 

Bella Andre_1About the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo.

Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: A Function of Murder by Ada Madison

A Function of Murder (Sophie Knowles, Book #3)
by Ada Madison
Release Date: December 31st, 2012
2012 Berkley Prime Crime
Paperback Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-25175-1
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Penguin

3.5 / 5 Stars

At the math department’s graduation party, Sophie hears heated arguments coming from the graduates about Mayor Graves, the commencement speaker. Not the mayor’s biggest fan, Sophie is happy to escape the drama with an after-hours campus stroll accompanied by her helicopter-piloting boyfriend, Bruce Granville. However, their date is interrupted by the mayor himself—with a knife in his back.

As it turns out, the knife is actually a Henley College letter opener—something that is gifted to every member of the graduating class. Sophie is led to a complicated puzzle of scandal and corruption, and it seems that Mayor Graves is at the apex of it all. When Sophie finds out that the mayor was seeking her help on the day he was murdered, she must use her top-notch logic to crack the puzzle and catch the killer running free on campus…

My Thoughts
A Function of Murder was an enjoyable addition to the Sophie Knowles cozy mystery series.  As delightful as The Square Root of Murder and The Probability of Murder, I had fun revisiting Henley College and the antics of the professors and the students as they had to deal with another murder on their campus. And while it was fun, and the author has a wry and funny sense of humour, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this one as I couldn't really buy into why the mayor would have called upon Sophie for her help at the last minute when he really didn't know her very well. 

First of all, the story itself was fun and enjoyable, and the characters are always unique and witty and developed. I definitely had fun reading about all the different entanglements between the characters as well as some of the secondary storylines that Sophie had to deal with, such as having one of her students using Facebook to try and garner sympathy for a grade change which caused Sophie an enormous amount of stress, or dealing with another student who was a bit naive in the love department and sort of did something a bit rash and silly.  And some of the continuing conflicts that Sophie has with other colleagues, albeit minor, were also rather intriguing.  And to be quite honest, I found those to be somewhat more interesting than the murder/mystery storyline that I didn't quite buy into.  Why? For one thing, Sophie acknowledges at the graduation ceremony that she doesn't really know the mayor, but suddenly he was calling her for her help on the day he was murdered seems a bit too farfetched for me. The rest of the storyline works rather well, it's just that part that doesn't ring true to me and I couldn't really let it go.  Oh, and I figured out who the murderer was rather early on so the suspense build-up wasn't really there for me, but I did read on other sites that they were caught by surprise so perhaps it's just my twisted, rather suspicious mind that would have caught it early on.

The characters and their interactions with each other however, are what makes this series so enjoyable. Sophie is a bit sarcastic and I love that about her as I am somewhat sarcastic myself so I get her completely.  I really enjoy the conversations she has with others, and how she interacts with others, not always knowing the details to the case, having to learn from her boyfriend or even her students what is going on. It's really rather fun to see how she finagles the information she wants and needs from other people.  

A Function of Murder is an enjoyable addition to the Sophie Knowles cozy mystery series. You can either begin with The Square Root of Murder, the first novel in the series, but it's not necessary to read them in order as they function very well independently.  I didn't find this one to be quite as good as the first two in the series, but it was still a lot of fun and the characters and secondary storylines certainly make a very interesting read. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Guest Post: Flash Fiction with Mark S. Bacon

I would like to welcome Mark S. Bacon, author of the flash fiction collection Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words. What exactly is flash fiction you may be wondering? As an avid reader and literature coinnoisseur I wondered exactly the same thing.  Not to worry though, as Mr. Bacon is here to discuss the difference between flash fiction and the short story as well as give an example. But before we get there, take a look at his newest release:

A woman makes a daring escape from a bank robbery--with help from a cop. A detective sergeant outwits his inspector and solves the murder at a snowed-in manor. Two con men meet unexpectedly when they’re both plying their trade at the same resort hotel. These are some of the seemingly complex stories begun and resolved in exactly 100 words.

Seven of the stories in this collection have been published in five different online magazines: Stymie Magazine, 101 Words, Flashshot, 100-Word Story and MicroHorror.

Other stories include a man who discovers--and loses--his long-lost love at a ball game. A hit man receives an unusual request and is unable to comply. And a woman confides in a friend that she suspects her husband of indiscretions. But does she have the facts right?

Each entry is a complete story, most with a protagonist, a challenge and resolution. Here are 101 mini mysteries, mini puzzles with unexpected, satisfying endings.

Not just a short story, it’s flash fiction

A short story by any other name would still be short.  But would it be flash fiction?

A relatively new social phenomenon and literary discipline, flash fiction has multiplied in many directions and taken on many other names.  Yet a strict definition remains elusive.

More than 300 publications are devoted to it.  Universities across the English- speaking world, from Stanford to Cambridge, are teaching it.  And notable writers from Ernest Hemingway to Raymond Carver excelled at the genre.   But what do we call it, and how long should the stories be?

Among the more than 300 flash fiction journals and magazines listed in, a website that matches writers with publications, are a variety of other names for these tiny tales.  Nano fiction, fast fiction, micro fiction, sudden fiction, minute fiction, postcard fiction and even smoke-long fiction are some of the ways editors describe their stories.   The latter name comes from the idea that you can read a story in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette.   

Academia seems to favor “flash fiction.”  The English Dept. course at Stanford University is called, Topics in Intermediate Fiction Writing: Flash Fiction.   At University of Cambridge it’s, Flash Fiction, Unlocking the Writer Within.

How long should it be?  That too, depends.   I became attracted to stories of exactly 100 words.   A friend of mine told me he had assigned 100-word stories as an exercise in a writers’ group he was leading.  It seemed a daunting assignment to write a complete story in only 100 words.  But I did it.  Packing in an intriguing beginning, a protagonist, a problem and a satisfying conclusion made it all the more challenging to write but also more rewarding.    After some time, I realized I had enough stories to fill a small book, and “Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words” was born.   Since I’m a mystery/suspense fan, many of my stories take the form of very small mysteries or cop stories.   Here is one sample:

Just an Accident
Tim flipped a dashboard switch and a red light blinked.  When Larry got in the car, Tim pulled out.

“So,” Larry growled, “whadda want now?”

“You’re abusing her.  First, cuts and bruises.  Now broken bones?”

“Just an accident.  She wants to leave, it’s her choice.”

“She won’t.  She’s terrified.”

“Then you stay out of it.”

Tim’s speedometer said 45 mph.  He glanced in the mirror, saw no one, then swerved into a concrete wall.

Minutes later, bruised and aching but otherwise unhurt, Tim looked down.  “He was my son-in-law.  Didn’t believe in seatbelts.”

The policeman nodded.  “And his airbag malfunctioned.”

An abundance of publications, such as “100 Word Story” and the “Boston Literary Magazine”  specialize in flash fiction of 100 words.   This word limit is common, but editors at dozens of other flash fiction publications have different ideas.   Some ask for 50-word stories.  For others it’s 55 words, 66 words, 75 words and a few limit writers to a number of characters.   At the other extreme, some anthologies and flash fiction contests look for stories under 1,000 words and some editors consider a 2,000-word story to be flash fiction.  Certainly you couldn’t read that in a flash, and the number of smokes you could finish doesn’t bear calculating.

No matter what you call them--other names include skinny fiction, microstories and furious fiction--these literary tidbits make for fun, if short-lived, reading.

Author Biography

Mark S. Bacon began his writing career as a southern California newspaper reporter covering police and general assignments.  Since then he has written several business books and his articles have appeared in newspapers across North America.  Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words is available at and