Smokey the Cat
Dervla McTiernan

Sixty seconds with Dervla McTiernan...

Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved from Ireland to Western Australia and turned her hand to writing. Dervla lives in Perth, with her husband, two children and far too many pets. She is the critically acclaimed author of five novels, including The Murder Rule, which was a New York Times thriller of the year, and the bestselling Cormac Reilly Series and has won numerous prizes. Dervla is also the author of four novellas, and her audio novella, The Sisters, was a four-week number one bestseller in the United States.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

McTiernan: Introverted writer (with occasional short-lived burst of extroversion), book-mad, pet-mad, mother of two.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

McTiernan: Oh god. When it comes to music I’m such a philistine. I think I’d take my ‘Classical Music for Studying’ playlist, because that’s what I play when I’m writing.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

McTiernan: I wanted to be an actor/dancer, which would have been an excellent plan except for the minor obstacle of not being able to act or dance.

Gwendolyn Kiste

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Claire Coughlan

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April 27, 2024

Today just happens to be Independent Booksellers Day so if you'd like to own any of the books we're talking about, you might consider buying from an independent vendor if you're lucky enough to have one nearby.

We start with Anthony Horowitz's latest Horowitz and Hawthorne metafiction, CLOSE TO DEATH. While the tale starts off as a more or less conventional mystery, Rebecca enjoyed it more when H&H enter the scene and the digressions on Dame Agatha's techniques begin.

From the veteran Horowitz we move to THE RUSH, a North American debut by Australian Michelle Prak, which gripped Sharon Mensing so tightly she almost failed to walk her dog. She was impressed with the author's ability to include current social concerns without either preaching or disturbing the tension and suspense of the thriller.

Kim Hays' police procedural A FONDNESS FOR THE TRUTH also deals with contemporary social concerns, especially those affecting relatively conservative Switzerland. I think this may be the first Swiss crime fiction I've read and it's not a translation as its author is an American who has lived in Switzerland for many years. Though not suspenseful I enjoyed the quality and sensitivity of Hay's treatment of her characters.

Barbara Fister followed the journalist protagonist of Philip Miller's THE HOLLOW TREE to a small village in the north of England where the reporter found a heady mix of brand new ultra-conservative politics and good old-fashioned occult. Barabara says it's an engrossing trip accompanied by a writer who has a wild imagination and a way with words.

Mary-Jane Oltarzewski is a long-time admirer of Sarah Paretsky, but she was rather disappointed by her latest, PAY DIRT. VI is still worn down by the events in the last novel and the fact that this one takes place mostly in Kansas doesn't help. Things improve when Vic is back home, much to Mary-Jane's relief. Happily she found the collection of short stories by Charles Ardai, DEATH COMES TOO LATE, very satisfactory and was intrigued to observe that in addition to being about crime they were also about love.

Like Mary-Jane, Sharon Mensing was rather disappointed by the latest in a favorite series by Anne Hillerman - LOST BIRDS, the current entry in her continuation of the Leaphorn series her father developed to which she has added a female main character. Sharon thought this installment was unfocused and insufficiently developed to the point that if it hadn't been for the characters' names, she would not have thought Hillerman was the author.

Some fans of David Downing's Station series have expressed disappointment in UNION STATION, the unexpected second final entry in the account of spy John Russell's chequered career but I thought his account of the political shifts and realignments of the post-war period interesting and sometimes worrying. And Russell does briefly descend into the Berlin subway tunnel.

Happily, another return, this time in Christian Klaver's mashup THE CLASSIFIED DOSSIER: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DORIAN GRAY went down quite well with Rebecca. She says, "If you like how Hollywood or Hammer Horror does 'the classics,' you'll like Klaver's latest romp. I did." And what's not to like about a book in which Watson turns up as a vampire?

But there aren't all that many genuinely comic murder mysteries and there are good reasons why not. Rupert Holmes' MURDER YOUR EMPLOYER is an example of the difficulties standing in the way of a good laugh, I thought. The foremost problem of course is that murder is wrong. Holmes sets his work at an elite boarding school dedicated to preparing its adult students to commit a perfect murder and not get caught. But it is hard not to feel uneasy in the company an elite group of very well-to-do folks sharpening their knives. Catherine Mack's EVERY TIME I GO ON VACATION SOMEONE DIES is, according to Mary-Jane, simply not funny. Read her review for the details.

There's absolutely nothing funny about EXTINCTION, by Douglas Preston, nor was there ever intended to be. After all, it does deal with genetic mutation of extinct animals and apparent cannibalism. But as Ruth Castleberry observes, "it spins a compelling mystery about the recovery and manipulation of genetic material from extinct species" and has elements of a police procedural, suspense, and science fiction.

Now for some cozies. Sharon Mensing was happy to read Paige Shelton's THE POISONED PEN, the ninth in the Scottish Bookshop series, as it is like seeing old friends. But, she adds, it can be read with pleasure as a standalone as well. After all, the characters are just the sort of people we would want as friends. Ruth Castleberry also remarks on the warmth of the characters in Victoria Houston's AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS, part of a series that has been around for almost twenty-five years. This one features both fly-fishing and pickleball. Another series entrant Ruth reports on is Diane Kelly's FOUR ALARM FIRE, part of the House-Flipper series. Along with an historical fire house and arson, this also offers a favourite cat named Sawdust with chapters of his own conveying his take on what is going on.

And there you have it for April. Don't forget to pay a visit to another Australian, Dervla McTiernan, who is our guest in the 60 Seconds to your left.

We'll be back in a month with more to say about the books we've been reading and we hope you'll come back too. And if you have anything you'd like to bring to our attention, don't hesitate to drop us a note.

The Editors:

Yvonne Klein

Rebecca Nesvet

P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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