Between the lines: Holiday setting’s ideal for mysteries, romance novels

Brick-and-mortar and e-bookstores are crowded with holiday-themed titles. If you’re looking for some stocking-stuffers, consider this sampling.

“Silent Night” by Robert B. Parker, with Helen Brann (Putnam, $24.95, 240 pages): The late novelist was working on this title at the time of his death in 2010. The manuscript was finished by his trusted agent, Brann. In this Christmastime outing, P.I. Spenser and his “associate,” the deadly fixer named Hawk, help save a homeless shelter for the jobless and “the lost.” Behind its impending closure is a much bigger issue, one that threatens everyone involved.

“Ten Lords A-Leaping” by C.C. Benison (Delacorte, $25, 490 pages): Father Tom Christmas is happy to tend his tiny church in an English village until he is drawn into a murder mystery made complex by family secrets and nasty rumors. Benison is the author of the bestselling “Eleven Pipers Piping.”

“A Christmas Hope” by Anne Perry (Ballantiine, $18, 208 pages): In Perry’s 11th holiday novel, set in high-society Victorian London, a lonely lady finally finds meaning in Christmas by helping a poet wrongly accused of murder. Perry, an internationally renowned best-selling author, will appear May 1 for the Bee Book Club.

“Starry Night” by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, $18, 256 pages): Looking for an exclusive interview, a “a big-city society-page columnist” tracks an elusive novelist to his remote home in Alaska. Instead, she discovers a more meaningful relationship. No one handles this genre better than the acknowledged queen of romance.

“Time for Me to Come Home” by Dorothy Shackleford (NAL, $19.95, 272 pages): Country-music star Heath wants badly to make it home in time for Christmas, but getting to her remote hometown in Oklahoma is proving difficult. Why is fate against her? Maybe her unexpected travel companion knows the answer.

“Christmas Bliss” by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s, $16, 304 pages): As Christmas nears, antiques dealer Eloise “Weezie” Foley is surrounded by distractions, none more emotionally charged and personal than the absence of her intended, who’s in New York City on business. At the urging of her best friend, she takes off for the bright lights on a surprise visit – but the surprise turns out to be hers.

“Nantucket Christmas” by Nancy Thayer (Ballanatine, $18, 224 pages): Nicole Somerset has a new husband, and their life together on the Massachusetts island is especially ideal as Christmas approaches. Then Nicole’s stepdaughter comes for a visit, bringing with her a Grinch-like attitude and a plan to undermine the holidays.

“The Dogs of Christmas” by W. Bruce Cameron (Forge, $15.99, 240 pages): A litter of adorable puppies was the last thing Josh expected at the holidays, but he’ll take it – along with the attentions of the beautiful Kerri, who runs the local animal shelter.

Reich at CapRadio Reads

Capital Public Radio’s book club, CapRadio Reads, will celebrate its first anniversary with a major event. New York Times best-selling thriller novelist Christopher Reich will appear in conversation with “Morning Edition” host Donna Apidone, discussing his ninth title, “The Prince of Risk” (Doubleday, $25.95, 384 pages).

The $25 tab will include appetizers and wine, but act quickly – the venue holds only 100 people and is expected to fill fast. The party starts at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14. The book club hosts meetings the second Tuesday of each month in the radio station’s Community Room, 7055 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento. Register at

Nelson Mandela books

With the Dec. 5 passing of former South African president and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela comes this reminder of books written by and about him. This list was compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine:

• “A Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela (Harper, $14.99, 145 pages): The memoir is marked by his “wise reflection on his life.”

• “Nelson Mandela” by Kadir Nelson (Kataaherine Tagen, $17.99, 40 pages): An “extremely powerful picture-book biography” for young readers.

• “In the Words of Nelson Mandela,” edited by Jennifer Crwys-Williams (Walker & Co., $21, 160 pages): “A collection of quotes from one of the great humanitarian figures in history.”

• “Playing the Enemy” by John Carlin (Penguin, $16, 274 pages): How the then-president used a sporting event – the Sprinkboks rugby team in the 1995 World Cup – to mend South Africa.”

For ‘Downton Abbey’ fans

Fans are restless for Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” to get going on Channel 6 (KVIE), counting the days till Jan. 5. At the close of Season 3 on Feb. 17, this column suggested some titles to tide “Downton” addicts over. They included the novel “While We Were Watching Downton Abbey” by Wendy Wax; the anecdotal “The World of Downton Abbey” by Jessica Fellowes, reported from the series set; “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” by the Countess of Carnarvon, the true story of Highclere Castle; and “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines.

Now comes a riveting telling of how households were really run, “Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain From the 19th Century to Modern Times” by Lucy Lethbridge (W.W. Norton, $27.95, 400 pages). The author reports that in 1900 “domestic service was the single largest occupation in Edwardian Britain.”

The title might have been expanded to include mention of the “masters of the house,” whose demands and tantrums were spectacularly irrational. For instance, the Duke of Bedford insisted that his newspapers and shoelaces be ironed every morning. Then there was the lord who couldn’t get a stuck window to open and lacked the patience for assistance, so he threw a brick through it. Good stuff that separates the real “downstairs” from the TV depiction.

On the topic of new releases, best-selling thriller novelist James Rollins of El Dorado Hills has once again teamed with historical novelist Rebecca Cantrell to co-write for “Innocent Blood” (William Morrow, $27.99, 448 pages; after “The Blood Gospel”). An archaeologist, an Army sergeant and a priest team with “an immortal order founded on the blood of Christ” to find and “protect a boy believed to be an angel given flesh.”

If you want to explore the works of Ernest Hemingway and gain surprising insight into the Nobel laureate’s life and timeless characters, the go-to scholar is University of California English professor emeritus Peter L. Hays of Sacramento. His collection of erudite essays, “Fifty Years of Hemingway Criticism” (Scarecrow, $70, 278 pages), includes a fascinating chapter that shows the similarities between Papa and James Bond.


If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks@sacbee.comat least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to Questions? Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.