Tag Archives: Stefanie Pintoff

Panels, panels, panels

Panels are the mainstay of fan conferences.  They’re typically five authors,  one moderator, and a topic.  Bouchercon has almost 100 panels, but the most you could go to is about 20 since there are five going on at any one time.

I’m not getting to 20, that’s for sure – my goal is three good ones a day.  What makes a panel good?  If it sounds like it would apply to my own writing, it goes to the top of my list.  If I particularly want to hear one of the authors on the panel, it goes in the middle.  Never heard of the authors and don’t get the topic?  Never mind.

So Comedy in Crime Fiction with Jerry Healy, Gary Alexander, Allan Ansorge, Jack Frederickson, Alan Orloff and (the lone female) Robin Spano was a winner for me – my Paula books are ostensibly funny and it would help to get some tips and ideas.  Needless to say these were funny people.  Key findings:

  1. How do you know something is funny?  You laugh.  It’s nice if other people laugh, too.
  2. Got something that’s hilarious but somewhat distasteful?  Don’t give it to your protagonist, give it to another character.  Is it really terrible?  Your main character may disapprove.  This falls into the eating your cake and having it, too, category.
  3. Mean humor?  Sparingly.  Self-deprecating humor?  Good but don’t overdo this either.

The Mermaids are Singing (a Taste of Magna Cum Murder, the Muncie conference that happens annually around Halloween) was on the list because it featured Val McDermid, Caroline and Charles Todd, and Parnell Hall.  Also on the panel was John Gilstrap, Stuart Neville, and moderator Kathryn Kennison.  Did I learn anything?  Yes, that Magna Cum Murder would be a ton of fun to attend and that Parnell Hall is a big ham.  See the proof here.

A Clear Cut Case of Murder was back to the “I will learn something good here” mode.  It featured moderator Leslie Budewitz, Jan Burke, Jonathan Hayes, Stefanie Pintoff, Doug Starr, and former O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark.  Highlights:

  1. The history of forensic science is long and Europe was way ahead of us.  The late 1800’s, early 1900’s was when it all began.
  2. Jan Burke is involved with The Crime Lab Project, raising awareness of the lack of funding for forensic science – huge backlogs of rape kits, DNA testing, etc., caused entirely by a lack of resources.   Now I want to work this my work.  Perhaps a short story.
  3. Marcia Clark shared that you have to push detectives into requesting forensic analysis.  OJ’s socks had his blood on them.  And Ron and Nicole’s.  And she had to nag a storm to get the analysis done.  Side note – when forensics isn’t enough.  If you don’t believe the chain of custody and you think the whole thing is faked, then you don’t care what the tests show.
Needless to say, more to come.

Best First Novel by American Author…

Just finished the final nominee for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for Best First Novel by an American Author, David Cristofano’s The Girl She Used to Be.  Someone once said that any book can be described using a “what if?” sentence.  In the case of this suspenseful story, the sentence would be “What if a girl in the Witness Protection Program fell in love with the son of the man who killed her parents?”

Melody Grace McCartney was only six when her desire for a special breakfast changed their lives forever, when the family witnessed a mob murder. Persuaded to give evidence by the promise of protection, the McCartneys entered into a nomadic existence that ended for the parents in a hail of bullets.  Since then, Melody’s been on her own, moving on when restlessness and vague anxiety spur her to do so.

Imagine her surprise when she finds out, from the man deputized to find and kill her, that he’s been following her movements for years… knows her intimately… and has a plan to save her.  Add in his abs of steel, intelligence, and numerous scars to show he’s been hurt, too, and who wouldn’t fall in love?

More romantic suspense than mystery, The Girl She Used to Be packs plenty of action and nail-biting tension into its pages, with a resolution that has a strong Gift of the Magi-like quality.  Overall, I liked it.  Melody has a certain sass and determination.  Jonathan – or Little Johnny as the family call him – has an air of quiet desperation and determination.  As I was reading it, it occurred to me that it would make a great date movie.  It’s just the right scope, the characters are just the right age, it has lots of tension, romance and action, and you’re filled with hope even as you are certain the lovers are doomed.  And sure enough, on David Cristofano’s web site is the news that the movie rights have been sold to the same folks who made The Notebook (book by Nicholas Sparks) and My Sister’s Keeper (author Jodi Picoult).

Still, the book doesn’t quite come up to the standard I set for a mystery.  As a result, The Girl She Used to Be lands smack in the midlist of the Literary Lunchbox Edgar Awards.  Congrats to winner Stefanie Pintoff for In the Shadow of Gotham… if the Edgar judges follow my lead, she’ll be picking up her award on April 29th!  Here’s the final line-up:

  1. In the Shadow of Gotham – Stefanie Pintoff
  2. Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley
  3. The Girl She Used to Be – David Cristofano
  4. A Bad Day for Sorry – Sophie Littlefield
  5. Blackwater Rising – Attica Locke
  6. The Weight of Silence – Heather Gudenkauf

In the Shadow of Gotham takes the lead!

In the race to the finish, In the Shadow of Gotham takes the lead for the MWA Edgar award for Best First Novel by an American Author!   It’s not terrifically surprising – Stefanie Pintoff’s debut was the winner of the Minotaur First Crime Novel Award Winner for 2010, and whether she takes the Edgar or not, this book will be honored at the Edgars awards ceremony in NYC on April 29.

Set in 1905, this mystery takes place in New York and features a well-educated and sensitive police detective, Simon Ziele, chasing a serial killer.  Backstory:  his fiance was killed in the General Slocum ferry disaster the previous year; as a policeman, Ziele was on hand to help with the rescue but was not able to save her.   Now he’s been called to partner with an old-style police detective north of the city to solve a brutal murder.  Victim Sarah Wingate is well-born, lovely, and an exceptionally insightful graduate student in mathematics at Columbia University, and she’s been slaughtered in her family home.   Complicating the situation: one of the family servants has disappeared.   Another victim?  A witness? An accomplice?

Even more interesting is Ziele’s opportunity to collaborate with the rich and brilliant criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who has been conducting an in-depth personal study of a serial killer in the making – Michael Fromley – whom he believes he caught before he crossed the line from fascination to murder.  He believes that Fromley killed Sarah Wingate, and he’s successful in convincing Ziele to look at the psychopathology in addition to investigating in his usual way.

The characterization is strong, the writing is smooth and self-assured, and the book has just the right amount of twists and turns.  I was about to take off points for obvious tipping to the actual bad guy… but then, surprise!  I was right, but not completely right.   The hint of Ziele’s romantic interest in Sinclair’s daughter-in-law Isabella (widow of Sinclair’s son, who was murdered in a robbery in Greece – something the reader may think has a bearing on the case… but nope) gives a little sweetness to the story.

As a brief sample of Stefanie Pintoff’s style, here’s Simon Ziele’s description of the day his fiancee died:

Hannah had worn red that day – a new dress that warmed her skin and lit up her auburn hair.  I had barely been able to breathe through thick, smoke-laden air as our boat came closer and closer, pulling up more survivors on the way.  I helped them all, barely noticing, for I as vainly searching the waters for Hannah.  Closer, closer, I had urged the helmsman, directing him toward the front bow of the ship where a young woman in red stood pressed against the ship’s rail.  I couldn’t make out her face … couldn’t tell whether or not it was indeed her… and as we came close, all went black in a wall of fire.

So, with five of the six books read, here’s the line-up!  Only David Cristofano’s The Girl She Used to Be left to go.

  1. In the Shadow of Gotham – Stefanie Pintoff
  2. Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley
  3. A Bad Day for Sorry – Sophie Littlefield
  4. Blackwater Rising – Attica Locke
  5. The Weight of Silence – Heather Gudenkauf