Thursday, August 22, 2013

My blog is moving to my website

I've finally completed the process of moving this blog to my website! Please join me for my latest posts and news at KarinKaufman.com. See you there!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

All Souls: Free Ebook

My thriller, All Souls, is now available on Amazon.com, under the pen name K.T. Kaufman. This is the first novel in my Gathehouse Thriller series. Currently, the book is free for Amazon Prime members and $3.99 for everyone else, but I will send a free ebook to the first ten readers who agree to post a short review on Amazon.

To claim your free ebook, just email me by clicking on the "Email Karin" button to the right, contact me via Facebook message (the Facebook link is on the right), or add your name and email address to the comments section below this post.

The first ten people to respond will receive a free gift copy. You must have a Kindle or a Kindle app on your computer or other device to read this ebook.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Palming the Magazine

Steve McQueen showing proper trigger discipline
with his Colt Government 1911 in The Getaway
At some point or another in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot rifles, pump-action shotguns, revolvers, and pistols—all of which came in handy when I wrote my soon-to-be-out thriller, All Souls (due June 2013).

My experiences with these weapons, and with talking to experts like my father, who knows just about everything there is to know about guns, kept me (I hope) from making embarrassing errors in my book. Not just silly errors like calling a magazine a "clip," but more obscure errors—at least obscure to us non-experts.

As I wrote my book, questions I hadn’t considered while plotting it kept coming up. How many shells can a pump-action shotgun hold? What caliber cartridge (never say "bullet" unless you’re talking about the projectile at the tip of a cartridge) should my characters, male and female, use? Which is better for concealed carry, a shoulder holster or a belt holster? If a character uses a belt holster, does she carry inside or outside the belt?

In one scene, my protagonist, Jane Piper, needs to rapidly switch magazines in her pistol. There’s a lull in the battle, but she knows the threat can and probably will return at any second. Wisely, while firing she counted down her shots, so she’s aware that there is one cartridge left in her mag (meaning the gun’s slide has not locked open, which it does when you’re out of ammo). Time to change mags.

So what does she do next? I knew she would drop the magazine by depressing the release, but how would she slip in a new mag? With her fingers? And where would the second mag come from, her pocket?

It turns out that the fastest and most accurate way to insert a new magazine is to extend your arm so your gun is in front of you at chest level. Then, as you release the mag, you (1) cant the gun so you can see or feel for the mag well, (2) take hold of the new mag, (3) palm it in (push it in with the palm of your hand), and (4) rack the gun’s slide.

You keep the magazine in a pouch on your belt, not in your pocket. The extra mags should be aligned properly so you don’t have to realign them before palming them in, and you always take hold of a mag in the correct way, with your index finger pressed along its front. My heroine has practiced this move so many times that she does it by feel—not by looking at the well—which allows her to keep her eyes on the threat.

Obviously I don’t describe every step of this process—that would stop the action and bore the reader—but I need to know what the process is so I don’t make an error. For instance, sometimes my heroine carries a Seecamp, a tiny pistol with a European-style magazine release (at the bottom rear of the grip, so you can’t depress it with your trigger finger or thumb). When she does, the process of changing magazines is slower, and she’d probably have to take her eyes off what’s going on for a second or two.

If you don’t have access to guns and firing ranges, or experts who can answer your questions, there are many helpful resources on the Internet. Youtube, a goldmine, has some great videos, covering everything from the basics to more advanced information. For instance, maybe you want your hero to turn his pistol sideways as he’s shooting, like they do on TV. First, I beg you, don’t. Second, watch this video on proper gun grips. There’s more to gripping a pistol than you think.

If you need to refresh your memory on a particular gun you’ve tested, or if you don’t have access to a gun but still want to use it in your book, do a Youtube search for it. Many videos feature specific guns, like the Ruger Security-Six .357, a super-reliable revolver with a great feel, and the classic Remington 870, a pump-action shotgun used in my thriller.

Of course, nothing beats hands-on experience, so the best thing you can do as an author, if you write scenes involving guns, is visit your local shooting range (every state has them) and try out your weapon of choice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Writer’s New Year’s Resolution: Write

I have plans to write two novels in 2013, the third Anna Denning mystery and a suspense novel. Even if I didn’t work full time at my "day job," that would be a tall order. Add to that all the marketing an unknown writer is supposed to do and it would be crazy-making impossible.

About six, seven months after I published The Witch Tree, several readers contacted me through my website to ask me when the second book in the series would be coming out. At the time I hadn’t even plotted the book. I didn’t have the vaguest idea what it would be about—and that bothered me. Writers write, don’t they?

But when I wasn’t working my day job, I was taking care of my house and two dogs and doing the social media thing during all the in-between times. I spent way too much time on the Internet and way, way too much time sitting in my not-too-comfy office chair. Some of the social media networking I thought was necessary, some of it I just enjoyed doing. And some of it, I have to admit, was delicious procrastination.

Some of it, too, was trying to reciprocate in a small way for the generosity of other writers I’ve "met" over the past year and a half—those who have kindly featured my books on their blogs or reviewed my books for Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble.

But there came a point when I realized that I can’t reciprocate. I spend eight to ten hours a day working (more some weeks), then I try to write for two hours, then I spend another hour or two on social media.

That’s what I did early in 2012, anyway, because when it came time for me to start writing Sparrow House this past August, I had to cut back on social media. Something had to give. I was finding that I didn’t have the time to do simple things like vacuum my floors, get my hair cut, or drive to the cheaper grocery store a few miles away rather than the more expensive one closest to my house. Ridiculous.

And aside from the time factor, I can no longer ignore the aches and pains, and blurry eyes, that come with sitting at the computer twelve or fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not good for the body.

It’s true that if you’re an unknown like me, you’ve got to do some marketing, but if I spend time marketing at the expense of writing, what have I got to market? (And when I say "marketing," I don’t mean hard-core marketing, because I think that sort of thing works only in very tiny doses—if at all. I mean just getting onto social media and talking about things I’m interested in.) If I have two free hours in a day, do I spend it writing or marketing what I’ve already written? For me, the answer has become obvious.

I have to face the fact that I’ve still got a day job, and it’s a huge time eater. It has to be; it pays the mortgage. I know many writers out there are in the same frustrating position, longing for the day they can write full time. (Imagine adding ten productive hours to your day.)

If, for you, it’s not a full-time job taking up your time, maybe it’s young children, or being a caretaker for an older family member. Or maybe you’re not a writer but you just want to garden more or finally start painting or learning a new language. It will be 2013 in a few days. How do you want to spend your precious time in the new year?

So, with all that in mind, here are my writing resolutions for 2013:

  • I will tweet no more than one day a week, and even then just a tweet or two. I’m sure I’ll lose Twitter "followers," but so be it. I love the people I’ve come to know through Twitter, but I’m not convinced of the site’s usefulness as a marketing tool, and Facebook is better for keeping up with friends’ and acquaintances’ goings-on.
  • I will cut back on Facebook and perhaps combine my personal page with my author page, which a lot of people seem to be doing these days. I don’t want to annoy Facebook friends by doing that, but something’s got to give. Maybe cutting back on both pages will solve the problem.
  • I will cut out Google+ altogether. I’ve never really liked the site’s format, anyway.
  • I will keep up with my blog, because writing a blog is writing and I enjoy it, but I won’t sweat it if two or even three weeks go by without a post.
  • I will not go back to LinkedIn or join any new social media site.
  • I will write, write, write every day I possibly can—not emails, not tweets, not Facebook posts, but stories.

Maybe this time next year I’ll discover I’ve made a mistake. Maybe I’ll have two new books to sell and no one who wants to buy them because no one knows who the heck I am. We’ll see.

But I think at the very least I’ll feel happier and less crazy-woman-with-dust-bunnies-everywhere next December than I do this December.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Welcome to the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour

Merry Christmas, all! I’m excited to be a part of the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour, which is sponsored by the Grace Awards and features twenty-two Christian authors promoting books we hope will bless you this season and beyond.

This post is about my latest release (published less than a week ago, as a matter of fact!), Sparrow House, the second book in my Anna Denning mystery series. The first book in the series, The Witch Tree, was nominated for a 2011 Grace Award.


When the owner of a mansion in the Colorado mountains hires Anna Denning to research his family tree, it’s Anna’s dream come true. A library brimming with old documents, an undiscovered family history—what more could a genealogist want?
 
Excited by the possibilities and fueled by a new love in her life, Anna, tenacious as ever, is undeterred by rumors that a ghost haunts the mansion. Until she uncovers records that suggest those rumors are more than idle talk.

So what makes Sparrow House perfect for Christmas reading and gifting? Ghosts! Christmas and ghosts go together like hot cocoa and marshmallows. There’s a long tradition of Christmas ghost stories in both America and the UK, the best-known such story being Dickens’s Christmas Carol. It’s dark out early, it’s cold and snowy, families are gathered around the fire—what better atmosphere in which to read a gently spooky story?

The Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour runs through December 22. Don’t forget to check out all the other authors on the tour. Click on the link below to find out who all the authors on the tour are and what dates they will be on their own blog sharing their novels.

http://graceawardsdotorg.wordpress.com/grace-filled-christmas-blog-tour-2012/

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Layman vs. the Vicar

Rob Bell
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is “Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the vicar; now he tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more.”

I knew Rob Bell left his church in Grandville, Michigan, for southern California, but I didn't know his Michigan congregation essentially fired him, so I was surprised to see this article in the Christian Post.

I had assumed Bell was at Mars Hill Bible Church so long because the congregation enjoyed having a "celebrity" pastor, in spite of Bell's sad, hip search for relevance, but that's not the case. In fact, 3,000 members of the church left after the publication of Bell's book Love Wins, in which he questions the existence of hell (because it's just not nice to think about), among other things. Now Bell is in California, looking for ways, the article notes, "to move beyond old-fashioned worship."

As an aside, isn't it interesting that all you have to do is call something "old-fashioned" and in some quarters you've won the argument? C.S. Lewis had a term for that logical fallacy: "chronological snobbery."

So God bless the Mars Hill congregation—the laymen. They knew more than the pastor and told him so.
 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sparrow House Now Out

I'm happy to announce that the second book in my Anna Denning mystery series, Sparrow House, is now available for your Kindle on Amazon and for your Nook at Barnes and Noble!

Here's the preview:

When the owner of a mansion in the Colorado mountains hires Anna Denning to research his family tree, it’s Anna’s dream come true. A library brimming with old documents, an undiscovered family history — what more could a genealogist want?

Excited by the possibilities and fueled by a new love in her life, Anna, tenacious as ever, is undeterred by rumors that a ghost haunts the mansion. Until she uncovers records that suggest those rumors are more than idle talk.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Second Anna Denning Mystery


I haven't posted in a while, but there's a good reason for my long absence. I've been working furiously on Sparrow House, the second book in my Anna Denning mystery series.

I just got the cover for it (left), and I think the artist nailed it. I wanted spooky but fun, creepy but cozy. The kind of mystery I love to read.

If all goes well, Sparrow House will be on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble about December 10. I'm looking forward to getting back to some semblance of a regular blog-posting life at that point. See you then!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Book!


I’m excited to announce that fellow authors Amy K. Maddox, Cynthia Bruner, and I just published a collection of short stories called Fount: Stories of Storms and Grace.
 
The book’s eight stories—inspired by the old hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”—follow characters as they navigate their way through depression, injustice, drug addiction, regret, supernatural powers, and other storms of life to find their way to grace.
 
The ebook is available on Amazon for your Kindle and Barnes and Noble for your Nook.
 
From the book’s introduction: “The storms of life will come. They will shape us but they will not define us; they will test us but they will not destroy us. For we have the promise of Living Water: life-giving, sustaining, cleansing, refreshing. And grace—sometimes trickling like a stream, sometimes flowing like a fountain—will come just as surely.”
 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing (part 4)

It’s time for the last two questions in The Next Big Thing (TNBT) blog hop event. The event consists of 10 questions about an author’s current work in progress (WIP). Each author who is tagged answers the 10 questions listed below about his or her current WIP. Then that author tags five (or fewer) other writers and links to their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers (see my blog entry for June 28 for more details).

Question #9: Which authors inspired you to write this book?

Going back to my teens, authors such as Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh inspired me, before I even knew I wanted to write mysteries. I was floored when I read Sayers’ The Nine Tailors. What a work of art. Much later, Tony Hillerman and Margaret Coel became inspirations. I discovered Hillerman only ten years ago, long after he’d written his first mystery, but when I found him, I devoured his books, one after another, until I’d caught up with his writing. I wish he were alive today, still writing about Joe Leaphorn.

Question #10: Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

I’m having a lot of fun writing it. I think readers can tell when a writer’s had fun! I try to write books I would like to read. I think of myself curling up in bed with my WIP at night—what would I want to read next? What would give me goosebumps or make me laugh?

I’ve tagged four more awesome writers whose work you want to watch. Check out their links and see what WIPs they’re crafting:
http://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/ Penny Zeller
http://sandirog.blogspot.com/ Sandi Rog
http://www.maureenamiller.com/ Maureen A. Miller

Here is the full list of TNBT questions for you to copy and paste to your blog along with your answers. Just tag five (or fewer, if you wish) awesome writers and add their links so we can all follow along.

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
3. What genre would your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6. Is your book published or represented?
7. How long did it take you to write?
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing (part 3)

It’s time for four more questions in The Next Big Thing (TNBT) blog hop event. The event consists of 10 questions about an author’s current work in progress (WIP). Each author who is tagged answers the 10 questions listed below about his or her current WIP. Then that author tags five (or fewer) other writers and links to their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers (see my blog entry for June 28 for more details). Thanks to Gail M. Baugniet for tagging me and getting me started.

Question #4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s a tough question. I really don’t know. Though I do know that I’d want an un-Hollywood type to play my protagonist, Anna Denning. Maybe an unknown. Someone who, like Anna, is somewhat pretty but far from gorgeous, and someone who, although she doesn’t lack for self-confidence, is totally lacking in finesse and glamour. Anna is the kind of person who walks out of a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to her shoe—and has no problem peeling it off and laughing about it.

Question #5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence? I have a one-sentence tag line in mind, but not a one-sentence synopsis. That’s why I write novels instead of flash fiction!

Question #6: Is your book published or represented?

It will be published as an ebook before the end of 2012.

Question #7: How long did it take you to write?

I haven’t finished writing it yet. It took months to plot, but that’s because I like mysteries with multiple story threads and intricate plots.

I’ve tagged five more awesome writers whose work you should watch. Check out their links and see what WIPs they’re crafting:

http://www.tegeorge.com/ T.E. George
http://peteturner.webs.com/ Pete Turner
http://gwendolyngage.blogspot.com/ Gwendolyn Gage
http://www.aearndt.com/ Angela E. Arndt
http://www.tericdarken.com / Teric Darken

Here is the full list of TNBT questions for you to copy and paste to your blog along with your answers. Just tag five awesome writers and add their links so we can all follow along.

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
3. What genre would your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6. Is your book published or represented?
7. How long did it take you to write?
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

Don’t forget my book giveaway! Five winners will receive an ebook copy of The Witch Tree. Just "like" my Facebook author page or follow this blog (see the previous blog post for a link and details). Contest ends this Sunday night.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Christmas in July: Book Giveaway

Tired of the heat? Me too. Officially summer is only a few weeks old, but already it's been way too sizzling in most parts of the country. That means it’s the perfect time to think about cold weather, snow, and . . . Christmas.

To celebrate my strange frame of mind, I’ve decided to give away five copies of The Witch Tree, my mystery ebook set in the Colorado mountain town of Elk Park in the days leading up to Christmas. Snowstorms, Christmas trees, and murder. Brrrr.

Ready? Here are the rules:
  • “Like” my Facebook author page or follow my blog between July 9 and July 15.
  • If you liked my author page or followed my blog before July 9, leave me a note on my Facebook author page or blog if you want to be entered.
  • If you follow my blog to enter, leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. If you liked my Facebook author page to enter, I’ll contact you through Facebook.
Winners will be chosen and announced on July 16. The ebooks will be sent as gifts from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble, so you need a Kindle or Nook or a Kindle or Nook app on your computer or other device.
Here’s a description of the book:

Four days before Christmas in Elk Park, Colorado, genealogist Anna Denning discovers a client's body. When she starts asking questions no one wants answered, she becomes the killer's next target. Still grieving the death of her husband, Anna must draw on her wounded faith to enter a world of wicca and paganism—reminders of a past she buried long ago—and discover the secret of The Witch Tree.

Good luck!

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing (part 2)

P.D. James
It’s time for two more questions in The Next Big Thing (TNBT) blog hop event. The event consists of 10 questions about an author’s current work in progress (WIP). Each author who is tagged answers the 10 questions listed below about his or her current WIP. Then that author tags five (or fewer) other writers and links to their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers. (See my blog entry for June 28 for more details.)

Question #2: Where did the idea for your upcoming book come from?

KARIN: First, I knew I was going to continue with the Anna Denning mystery series. I’ve come to love Elk Park and its inhabitants (my third Anna Denning mystery is already percolating in my mind!). Second, I’ve always enjoyed ghost stories. So I put the two together.
            But this is a ghost story from a Christian perspective. We know we die only once and then we’re judged (Heb. 9:27), so after death we’re hardly likely to wander the earth in ghostly form. But we also know there’s a supernatural realm. Do ghosts exist? If so, what are they really?

Question #3: What genre would your book fall under?

KARIN: Although the mystery revolves around an old Elk Park mansion and its ghostly reputation, it’s not a horror story. It’s a mystery.

I’ve tagged three more awesome writers whose work you want to watch. Check out their links and see what they’re up to:

http://mhgerberbooks.blogspot.com/ M.H.  Gerber (mystery)
http://brendabwallace.blogspot.com/ Brenda B. Wallace (mystery/thriller)
http://hopeofglory.typepad.com/ Nicole Petrino-Salter (contemporary Christian fiction)

Here is the full list of TNBT questions for you to copy and paste to your blog along with your answers. Just tag five awesome writers and add their links so we can all follow along.

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
3. What genre would your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6. Is your book published or represented?
7. How long did it take you to write?
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Gail M. Baugniet, author of the Pepper Bibeau mystery series, has invited me to participate in a blog event: The Next Big Thing (TNBT). The event consists of 10 questions about an author’s current WIP (work in progress.) Here’s the plan:

A. Answer the ten TNBT questions listed below about your current WIP.

B. Tag five other writers and link their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers.

It’s that simple.

Gail noted: “The handbook Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, lists the rules of mystery writing and which ones can be bent. The only one I actually break is having more than two characters in a scene. For the rules of TNBT, I will tag five other writers and link to their blogs so you can hop over and check out their sites. I am tweeking the other rule by dividing up the questions. I will answer one question per week, tag five more writers, and include links to their sites.”

I’m with Gail on this. One (or two) question a week, and with each question I’ll tag more writers (though not necessarily five). Here we go:

Question #1 of The Next Big Thing:

TNBT: What is the title of your book/WIP?

KARIN: My working title is Sparrow House.I don’t know if I’ll stick with that, but it’s what came to mind as I plotted the book, and considering that much of the book is set in an old, creepy mansion called Sparrow House, it fits. I’m so enjoying writing this one! It will be book 2 of my Anna Denning mystery series.

And now, five awesome writers whose work you want to watch:

http://www.montanaromance.blogspot.com/ Cynthia Bruner (romance)

http://www.onthesoulofavampire.com/ Krisi Keley (mystic vampire tales)

http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/ Nike Chillemi (historical mystery/crime fiction)

http://barbarajrobinson.blogspot.com/ Barbara Robinson (romantic suspense)

http://www.booksbyamanda.com/ Amanda Stephan (romance)

Here is the full list of TNBT questions for you to copy and paste to your blog along with your answers. Just tag five awesome writers and add their links so we can all follow along.

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

3. What genre would your book fall under?

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

6. Is your book published or represented?

7. How long did it take you to write?

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to?

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Top Ten TV Mystery/Detective Shows of All Time

Inspector George Gently
One of the simplest yet most enjoyable pleasures in life is settling down to a good mystery on TV. A little popcorn, maybe a glass of wine. Rain beating on the windows, dog sleeping by the fire . . . Well, you get the idea. It’s heaven for us mystery lovers. There have been some great mystery/detective series over the years. In fact, some of the finest programs on TV have been, and continue to be, crime shows. I’ve compiled a list of what I consider the ten best of the bunch (in no particular order) and added some honorable mentions at the end.

1. Midsomer Murders (1997–present)

Based on the mystery novels by Caroline Graham, this long-running show features DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and DS (Detective Sergeant) Ben Jones, who keep tripping over bodies in the various villages of England’s fictional Midsomer County. If you love English cozies, this is a must-see, the ultimate in cozies.

Nettles retired from the show in 2011 and was replaced by actor Neil Dudgeon, who plays his younger cousin, DCI John Barnaby. DS Jones is the third, and I believe the best, Midsomer detective sergeant, and he continues with the show. Dudgeon is fantastic as the new DCI, but the on-screen relationship with his wife, Sarah, lacks the warmth of the relationship between Tom Barnaby and his wife, Joyce—though the addition of John Barnaby’s dog, Sykes, largely makes up for that.

2. Jonathan Creek (1997–2010)

Jonathan Creek, who lives in a windmill in the English countryside and creates stage tricks for a professional magician, solves the most baffling crimes in this quirky mystery. The show is less about who did it and more about how it was done. In fact, the how it was done can be downright mind-bending—or at least appear that way before Creek solves the crime.

The first three seasons, which featured sidekick Maddy Magellan, an investigative journalist played by Caroline Quentin, were the best, though the last season, with sidekick Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha), was still far better than your average mystery. The show was discontinued in 2004, but two specials, "The Grinning Man" and "The Judas Tree," aired in 2009 and 2010. As always, American viewers will have to do a little scrounging on the Internet to find the specials.

3. The Closer (2005–present)

Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, an Atlanta detective hired by the LAPD to head its Major Crimes Division, is a "closer" because she closes tough cases, usually in unconventional ways involving wily interrogation techniques. Because she’s a woman, and a southern woman at that—with her butter-wouldn’t-melt accent and her junk-food sweet tooth—she’s underestimated, and she uses that to great advantage. Johnson’s syrupy "Thank yew," which she says at least five times in every episode, is classic.

TNT will run the final six episodes of The Closer beginning this July. The last episode will be followed by the premiere of a spinoff series, Major Crimes, featuring The Closer’s Captain Raydor.

4. Tony Hillerman mysteries on PBS (2002–2004)

In 2002, PBS presented Skinwalkers, the first Tony Hillerman mystery novel adaptation in its American Mystery! Specials series. After that came Coyote Waits (2003) and A Thief of Time (2004), all three starring Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn and Adam Beach as Jim Chee. Then, in one of those senseless TV production decisions that leaves you shaking your head in bewilderment, the Hillerman mysteries stopped . . . and the flood of Poirots and Sherlocks continued.

If you want to see these mysteries now, you’ll have to rent or buy them. All three are well worth their rather high purchase price as they’re so well produced and acted that you can watch them again and again (the New Mexico scenery is spectacular). Hopefully PBS, Wildwood Productions, et al. will come to their senses and produce another Hillerman mystery—or any American mystery. Seriously, PBS, I love Miss Marple, but come on!

5. Psych (2005–present)

Quite possibly the most underrated show currently on TV, Psych features Shawn Spencer, whose hyper-observant skills allow him to out-detective any detective, and his friend Burton Guster, a rather more stable pharmaceutical salesman. Together they form a psychic detective agency and solve crimes for the Santa Barbara Police Department.

This is one of those shows you have to watch because no explaining will do it justice. The dialogue is witty (and so rapid-fire that while you’re figuring out one joke, three more have zoomed by), the characters are engaging, and the returning themes and tics (Gus’s nicknames, Val Kilmer, Billy Zane, "Gus don’t be a . . . ," the hidden pineapple—you really do have to see it) are, as Shawn would say, "delicious."

6. Inspector Lewis (2006–present)

DCI Robbie Lewis and his DS, the scholarly and slightly mysterious James Hathaway, fight crime in Oxford in this spinoff of the Inspector Morse series.

For years I thought nothing could outdo the superb Inspector Morse, based on Colin Dexter’s novels and also set in Oxford, but I believe Inspector Lewis has. Lewis was DCI Morse’s sergeant in the older series, and here he plays a widower (his beloved wife Valerie has died, and he still grieves deeply for her) who accepts the DCI position with the Thames Valley Police.

With Lewis, you have that fantastic Oxford scenery, outstanding plots, and two fascinating lead characters. To top it off, with each season this show just gets better. It plays now on then on PBS, but you’re better off renting or streaming it from Netflix.

7. Jesse Stone (2005–present)

The Jesse Stone specials are based on Robert B. Parker’s mystery novels about an LAPD homicide detective who resigns his post in Los Angeles (because his bosses can no longer ignore his heavy drinking, which began after his divorce) and heads for fictional Paradise, Massachusetts, where, still drinking—though only at night—he is hired as the PPD’s new chief of police.

Jesse Stone is not a TV series proper but a series of movie specials on CBS. It’s brilliant in every way, from the scenery—it’s filmed in Nova Scotia, which is both moodier and prettier than Massachusetts—to the movies’ brooding opening sequences, which include the best theme music on television, period.

But the best thing about this series is Jesse Stone, a complex character played to perfection by Tom Selleck. If you’re new to this show, you should rent or buy the earlier movies, as there have been quite a few plot and character developments since the first movie in 2005.

8. Rosemary & Thyme (2003–2007)

If you like gardens, and breathtaking English gardens at that, you’ll want to see this series. Rosemary Boxer, a recently and unfairly fired plant pathologist, and Laura Thyme, a newly divorced amateur gardener, meet by chance and decide to form a business partnership. The two 50ish/60ish women restore gardens and diagnose plant diseases, but wherever they go, bodies crop (ahem) up.

The show is light fare—no blood sprays, no thriller tension—and that is its strong point. That and the fact that there are flowers in virtually every shot, and not just outside. It’s relaxing, fun, delightful.

The show was originally shown in three regular seasons (2003–2006) and two final episodes (2007). The cancellation of Rosemary & Thyme by the British network ITV is itself a mystery, as it was popular when it met its demise. ITV claims that the cancellation was part of an effort to "reinvigorate" the channel. I suspect that means ITV wanted more gore and fewer post-50 lead characters. Shame.

9. Inspector George Gently (2007–present)

Set in the mid-1960s and based on the books by Alan Hunter, this series features Scotland Yard’s Inspector George Gently, who, after the murder of his wife, travels to County Durham in search of the killer, who has committed another crime there.

Gently sees his younger self in his ambitious sergeant, John Bacchus, who in his enthusiasm to combat crime has a tendency toward the corruption-through-power Gently loathes. Gently decides to stay in Durham, and he makes it his mission to make a good and decent cop, and man, out of Bacchus. As a result, the chemistry between the two is terrific.

The 1960s setting means that political correctness is at a minimum, and because there are no CSI-type gadgets and tests, the cases are solved by sheer hard work and cop instinct. I normally don’t like historical mysteries, if you can call the 1960s historical, but this series is so well done you forget it’s set in the past. The producers don’t make a point of parading various 1960s products on screen as if to say, "Look, this is what radios looked like back then." The surroundings just are, they’re part of the story, and in that way they serve the story and become invisible.

10. NCIS (2003–present)

In this long-running series, special agents for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service solve crimes involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the Washington, D.C., area (though episodes have been set elsewhere).

If you haven’t seen this show, catch up on Netflix then start watching the current season, which is the show’s ninth. (Good news from last week: NCIS was picked up for a tenth season!) The writing on this show is second to none. Frankly, I don’t know how the writers keep it so fresh. So many other shows take a script nosedive after three or four years.

Although the show’s plots are first rate, this is a character-driven series. The six main characters are so well defined, such individual works of art, that you feel you know them. Best of all, while these characters have stayed true to themselves throughout the series, they also have grown and changed, which makes them seem all the more real.

Honorable mystery mentions go to Monk (2002–2009), Blue Murder (2003–2009), Inspector Morse (1987–2000), Veronica Mars (2004–2007), Wallander (2008–present), The Killing (2011–present), Magnum, P.I. (1980–1988), Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989–present), and Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996).

Have I missed any great TV mystery/detective shows?



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