Monday, February 11, 2013

Review of Michael Harvey's We All Fall Down

Michael Harvey was one of the featured authors at last weekend's Love Is Murder mystery conference here in Chicago. I'd previously read his novel The Fifth Floor, a chiller involving shenanigans dreamed up in the fifth floor office of the mayor of Chicago that led to murder and mayhem on the streets of the city. Considering my background as an ER nurse, I was naturally drawn to buy We All Fall Down, the latest in Harvey's Michael Kelly, P.I. series and a 2012 release that deals with bio-terrorism and black biology. I couldn't wait to start reading the book, and I have to tell you, I was not disappointed.

Kelly is an ex-cop turned P.I. with links to both the Chicago Police Department and the mayor's office. He's not surprised when he gets called in by Homeland Security on a case that could potentially affect the entire city, to say nothing of the career of Mayor Wilson. Someone has released a deadly pathogen in a subway tunnel, and so far three are dead and dozens more are deathly ill in multiple downtown hospitals. While two scientists from a Department of Defense lab work to identify the pathogen, Kelly teams up with CPD Detective Vince Rodriguez and reporter Rita Alverez to discover who is behind the attack.

Information supplied by Alvarez leads Kelly to a grocery store owned by Korean immigrant Jae Lee, then to Ray Ray Sampson, leader of a West Side gang called the Four Corner Stars, and ultimately to a band of rogue cops who are supplying both Lee and the "Fours" with illegal drugs confiscated by the CPD. The action ratchets up a notch when the feds impose a quarantine on the most affected section of the city. With bodies piling up in hospital morgues in every increasing numbers, Kelly knows there's precious little time left to find the person behind the attack. It's time to pull out all the stops, even if it means putting his own life on the line in the quarantine zone.

Well written and well edited, this nail biter of a yarn kept me reading into the wee hours of the night and beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the book -- characters, plot, setting, pacing, you name it. This is how suspense should be written, tightly worded and with that roller coaster pace that never lets you relax for more than a few minutes at a time. I highly recommend this book for lovers of thrills, chills, and realistic plots built on the news of the day. It's way too good a story to miss.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Love Is Murder 2013

This past weekend I attended Love Is Murder, Chicago's premier mystery readers' and writers' conference, at the InterContinental Chicago O'Hare Hotel. This was the 14th year for the 3-day event, and, as in years past, I had an enjoyable time talking with old and new friends alike and attending panel discussions, writing classes, and special presentations. It would be impossible to cover here everything that happened this weekend at LIM, but here are some highlights.

Friday started off with a bang with a presentation by Lee Williams, former Special Agent with the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS. Lee told of his years investigating money launderers, narcotics traffickers, and corrupt police and public officials. Following the money trail led to the successful prosecution of numerous individuals, including former Illinois governor George Ryan.

Dr. Dave Ciambrone taught us about poisons and what works or doesn't work in mystery novels. Dave's class was followed by a primer on guns by weapons experts William Zeller and TD Roe, and a presentation by Col. (ret.) Jill Morgenthaler on what it takes to be a spy and how spies recruit and manipulate potential informers.

While Lee Goldberg conducted a class on writing for television, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Rebecca Crowley presented a how-to workshop on promoting and marketing books. The Mystery Writers of America track of classes concentrated on plot, dialogue, and character development and the submission process, including how to write a hood query letter and synopsis. 

Fun events on Friday included a champagne tour of the InterContinental's amazing art collection, a discussion of Charles Dicken's unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, drinks and dinner with LIM's featured authors, and a presentation by Confidential Paranormal Investigator Kathy Santini-Richardson on the ghostly aspects of Willow Creek Farm, which has been listed as one of the most actively haunted sites in Illinois. 

Saturday's schedule featured many fun panels for both readers and writers, and included a LIM scavenger hunt. Police officer Michael Black demonstrated what really happens at a crime scene -- unlike CSI! Authors discussed their books and the many sub-genres of the mystery genre in which they write -- amateur sleuth, thriller, paranormal, etc. Discussions on short stories, mystery series, and humorous novels were held, and two fun craft workshops filled the afternoon schedule before a mass author signing and Saturday evening's banquet and Lovey Award presentation.  After the banquet, the Those Were the Days Radio Players entertained attendees with live renditions of classic radio programs.

Sunday's wrap-up started with a hot breakfast and attendee questions aimed at a stellar group of women writers. Other events included a round table discussion on e-publishing, advice by librarians on getting novels into libraries, a presentation on self-editing, and a talk by ex-CIA agent James Strauss that included real life spy stories from his past.

I'm already looking forward to 2014's Love is Murder. The featured writers for that event include Heather Graham, the best selling author of mystery, thriller, and romance novels; Jamie Freveletti, thriller writer who was recently tapped by the Robert Ludlum estate to continue Ludlum's Covert One series; Marcus Sakey, multi-published author and host to the Travel Channel's Hidden City; Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive's Chile and Cuba Documentation Projects and author of several non-fiction  books on politics; and Shane Gericke, local multi-published author of suspense novels.

If you enjoy reading mysteries -- or writing them! -- consider coming to Chicago next year for Love Is Murder. I'd love to meet you there! :)