Murder Ink


Jeff Mannix   

Jeff Mannix is the owner and operator of Santa Rita Ranch and Santa Rita Press in Durango, CO. Jeff has been writing performance art and book reviews, as well as feature articles, for more than 20 years. Murder Ink, now in the Durango Telegraph online, has been his column for the past 3 years.

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Check out Murder Ink in the Durango Telegraph the first Thursday of every month. The book reviewed by Jeff Mannix will be 15% off for the entire month


The Aosawa Murders By Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator) Cover Image
By Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator)
ISBN: 9781912242245
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bitter Lemon Press - February 18th, 2020

This month’s Murder Ink comes with a disclaimer: The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda is not for everybody. Quit reading now and turn the page if that didn’t raise the hair on your neck. 

More to the point, this book is not for the amateur reader who coaxes a book along a few pages now and again. Murder Ink has recommended excellent crime fiction books that can be read piecemeal or as a soporific read in bed, but The Aosawa Murders is anything but a casual read...MORE

Perfect Little Children: A Novel By Sophie Hannah Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062978202
Published: William Morrow - February 4th, 2020

Jeffrey Mannix 2/04/2020 Family dynamics
'Perfect Little Children' by Sophie Hannah a wild ride

Sophie Hannah is a name you’ve seen in “Murder Ink” before. She lives, writes and noodles along a variety of creative projects in Cambridge, England, and is one of my favorite, unglamorous young writers of long-form fiction. She’s also the author you can’t help but love for writing the self-help book How to Hold a Grudge.

Hannah’s new book, Perfect Little Children, would not have made it to my reading pile on the dust jacket alone. There are so many mysteries shoehorning their way into publication these last few years to satiate the seemingly unquenchable appetite for crime fiction that plot cribbing is clearly manifest....MORE.

Your House Will Pay: A Novel By Steph Cha Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062868855
Published: Ecco - October 15th, 2019

Jeffrey Mannix 1/02/2020

Forgive me for the allocution, it’s just that this month’s “Murder Ink” features a contender for literary eminence. Your House Will Pay, written by Korean-American novelist Steph Cha and astutely purchased by HarperCollins Publishers for their Ecco imprint, may very well be one of those canonical books. We’ve read more than a few recognized and awarded writers of literature in “Murder Ink” reviews.

But Cha’s Your House Will Pay freezes a cultural wince in a snapshot of history that shouldn’t simply be understood as a headline in newspapers or from the pandering snippets of broadcast rectitude....MORE


The Fragility of Bodies By Sergio Olguín, Miranda France (Translator) Cover Image
By Sergio Olguín, Miranda France (Translator)
ISBN: 9781912242191
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Published: Bitter Lemon Press - October 22nd, 2019

Jeffrey Mannix 11/07/2019

Ah ... the alluring, venal Argentine; the salacious Buenos Aires. This history, the infamy of the most diverse ecosystem in the world, with its turbulent politics, revolutions, dictators, and the tango, like raw meat hanging at the bottom of South America. It’s the home of Juan Pero?n, with a whole political movement his namesake: Peronism and Peronists, uniforms and warships, militants and guerrillas, the villainous wife Eva, and a chicken in every pot – everybody works, everybody dances. Where else would novelists be sure to find the grift, and where else besides insatiate Paris would social dumpster divers find good stuff? And where would “noir” find the antiheroic and become a genre if not in Buenos Aires?...MORE

Stolen Things: A Novel By R. H. Herron Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781524744908
Published: Dutton - August 20th, 2019

 Jeffrey Mannix - 10/03/2019

It’s always exciting to come across a debut novelist with a quality book to show for all the anxiety and waves of incredulity that go into such an audacious act of actually writing a book. Writing a book – especially a book of fiction that depends on making up a long story with believable characters and a beginning, middle and end – is at once cathartic and terrifying. Like the standup comic “whose monstrous ego is matched only by the abject conviction that he stinks,” writing for others has the specter of always being a step away from ignominious failure. And the freshman novelist must be rhapsodized if she can illuminate a path through a dark sky that was a moment before nothing. MORE...

Throw Me to the Wolves By Patrick McGuinness Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781620401514
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - April 23rd, 2019

Today I’d like to introduce a book of crime fiction that really has no equal and that blindsided me into a literary-induced coma from sunset to sunrise. Throw Me to the Wolves, by Patrick McGuinness, was released last April and circulated down my stack of forthcoming releases because of its hideous cover and the books already queued for reading. Serious readers like myself are loathe to admit that a book’s dust-cover has any influence on us (it’s even cliche? that you can’t tell a book by its cover), but with a gun at our temple, we’d all admit that we have chosen and avoided books because of their covers. So, in my process of screening new books to bring real artistry to “Murder Ink,” I picked up Throw Me to the Wolves to give it the compulsory dozen pages before it followed its cover onto my donation pile with the other books that don’t live up to the hype. MORE...

The Bird Boys By Lisa Sandlin Cover Image
ISBN: 9781947627130
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Cinco Puntos Press - August 20th, 2019

We’re back with another world-beater from heroic Cinco Puntos Press, the varicolored storefront publisher in the Five Points (Cinco Puntos) section of El Paso. Husband and wife Bobby and Lee Byrd have been publishing literature there since 1985 – 130 books, about 15 a year. MORE...

The Chain By Adrian McKinty Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780316531269
Published: Mulholland Books - July 9th, 2019

Adrian McKinty is one of those rare writers who creates characters and dreams up stories that are consistently real and sizzling. He was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, and the viciousness of those times informs his noir procedurals. MORE...

Those People By Louise Candlish Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780451489142
Published: Berkley - June 11th, 2019

Great Britain’s celebrated crime fiction writer Louise Candlish specializes in claustrophobia. Not the fear of small places, but the fear of being trapped in your own mind with circumstances squeezing relentlessly until you’re going to explode or kill somebody. MORE...

Girl Gone Missing By Marcie R. Rendon Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781947627116
Published: Cinco Puntos Press - June 18th, 2019

We’ll be under the radar with today’s “Murder Ink” book. But I’m counting on loyal readers to delight in finding the undiscovered treasure all adventurers know is waiting in plain sight, where few find themselves or are too snow-blind to see. MORE...

Cemetery Road: A Novel By Greg Iles Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062824615
Published: William Morrow - March 5th, 2019

It’s going to cost you five cents a page to read Greg Iles’ 590-page cloth-bound Cemetery Road, released a month ago today. But when you figure it costs 27 cents a cigarette, five bucks for a rolled joint and $6 for a glass of wine, a nickel a page for Iles’ big-screen doorstop will be a bargain if you’re looking for some time off from the bewildering state of world affairs. Cemetery Road is a luscious story built by a writer who knows how to use the English language. MORE...

Article 353: A Novel By Tanguy Viel, William Rodarmor (Translated by) Cover Image
By Tanguy Viel, William Rodarmor (Translated by)
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ISBN: 9781590519332
Published: Other Press - March 12th, 2019

“Even the laughing terns perched on the sharp ridges of the few distant rocks jutting above the horizon seemed to think that what had just happened was normal, I mean a guy falling into cold water and trying to swim fully dressed, gasping and yelling to me for help ... I could already sense that even the seagulls, looking as white and cold as nurses because they never blink, even the seagulls approved.” MORE...

Trigger (Frank Marr #3) By David Swinson Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780316264259
Published: Mulholland Books - February 12th, 2019

I’ve got a real sleeper for you in this month’s “Murder Ink.” If you’ve become an aficionado of what can arguably be called “literary” crime fiction – the fare offered exclusively in “Murder Ink” columns – Trigger, David Swinson’s new book to be released by Mulholland Books on Feb. 12, will be below your standards, at least for the first 50 pages or so. After which it will be like straightening out the cut lines and nibbling the rest of the lemon merengue pie at three o’clock in the morning. MORE...

The Burglar By Thomas Perry Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780802129000
Published: Mysterious Press - January 8th, 2019

Thomas Perry’s new fiction, The Burglar, will be released next Tues., Jan. 8, and you should stop reading right now and call Maria’s Bookshop to hold a copy or get on the list at the library. Do it now, before you have to wait three months to read one of the most exciting books for which you will skip meals, showers, sex and call in sick to finish reading. MORE...

Pulse: A Novel By Michael Harvey Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062443038
Published: Ecco - October 23rd, 2018

The publicity release that came with my advance reader copy opened with “(Harvey) dares to take the traditional crime novel into the realm of the supernatural.” That’s all I needed to hear before putting the book onto a pile someday going to a rest home. I don’t do supernatural, and I apologize for feeling that way to those who adore the ilk. But, I am certain that with proper guidance and a slug or puff of suspension-of-disbelief, I would adore the immersion in time and space, as I did once upon a time for sci fi. MORE...

The Ruin: A Novel (A Cormac Reilly Mystery #1) By Dervla McTiernan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143133124
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - July 3rd, 2018

There’s nothing yelling to be heard in November crime fiction, and that gives me a chance to feature a few titles that should have been called to your attention these past few months but were eclipsed by other exceptional books. It’s always chancy for even the best of writers to come up with another book worthy of their reputation. Joe Ide, for instance, blew us all away with his debut IQ back in March 2017 but then did a face plant trying to keep with his next two hurry-up books, Righteous and Wrecked, the latter released a few
weeks ago. MORE...

November Road: A Novel By Lou Berney Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062663849
Published: William Morrow - October 9th, 2018

Every once in a while, I get a hold of something that’s beyond compare, something so nearly perfect that the French in their fastidiousness for language have a word for it: nonpareil. There is such a book being released by William Morrow on Oct. 9. And as we’re nearing the end of the year, I have to say that November Road, by Lou Berney, will be among the few “Murder Ink” books vying for my “Book of the Year” pick. (Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke comes right to mind, as does IQ by Joe Ide).

Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone was heralded as the best crime novel of 2015, with the Edgar, Macavity, Anthony and Barry awards. November Road will match those accolades, no doubt, and quite possibly be the crowning performance transcending the crime fiction genre into mainstream literary fiction and prove once and for all that mysteries cannot just be relegated blithely to the unwashed. MORE...

Under a Dark Sky: A Novel By Lori Rader-Day Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062560308
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Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - August 7th, 2018

Under a Dark Sky is what the sloganeers refer to as a “locked-room” murder mystery. It’s the type made famous by Agatha Christie, Anne Holt, Peter Lovesey, most of the French noir writers, and even Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes. The setting is inescapable for any number of characters, a murder occurs, and after frightened disbelief, everybody is suspect. A locked-room mystery is a puzzle, and with every puzzle, one false or imprecise clue is unforgivable and ruinous of the entire effort. It’s a risky venture and takes great confidence to attempt a locked-room mystery. Most mystery writers borrow some of the claustrophobic elements to create suspense, but few can make a locked-room mystery more engaging than tedious and predictable. And ultimately, most are boring. MORE...

A Stone's Throw: An Ellie Stone Mystery By James W. Ziskin Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781633884199
Published: Seventh Street Books - June 5th, 2018

In celebration of a horse called Justify and a 52-year-old jockey who were only the 13th pair since 1919 to win all three jewels of the Triple Crown, “Murder Ink” this month will feature another crafty longshot, A Stone’s Throw by veteran author James W. Ziskin.

This isn’t the first we’ve seen of a Ziskin entry in the “Murder Ink” stables. I’ve reviewed most of Ziskin’s six other Ellie Stone mysteries over the years.

As with Robin Yocum who was extolled in June’s “Murder Ink,” Ziskin is a top midlist author who writes flawlessly plotted narratives with Kodachrome-vivid characters at a length that doesn’t elicit a gasp. I especially look forward to the next Ziskin mystery because of his love for language – we both have an unhealthy adoration for the perfect sentence – and Ziskin nails it time after time. And, more germane to the reader, he has created a most charming character in the small-town newspaper reporter Ellie Stone. Percipient, wily, single and attractive, she is dedicated to uncovering the truth. She likes her scotch and admirers, and is manipulative and terrific. MORE...

A Perfect Shot By Robin Yocum Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781633884175
Published: Seventh Street Books - April 17th, 2018

“Murder Ink” has had a remarkable history of picking the meteoric mysteries – the advance reader copies sent to book reviewers months before publication – but most of the good reading comes from the midlist novels in between. These are the bench players, with all the skills to make the big leagues, and the go-to position players who hold the team together and, on occasion, show a talent worthy of celebrity. Robin Yocum is such a midlist author of very finely crafted crime fiction for Seventh Street Books in Amherst, N.Y., one of the top crime fiction publishers with perhaps the best midlist in the business. Yocum’s A Brilliant Death was an Edgar Award finalist in 2017, and he has a host of notable mentions from various publications and organizations in his native Ohio. There he was a crime and investigative reporter for the Columbus Dispatch for a decade before opening his own public relations firm in his hometown of Westerville, Ohio. He’s not schmoozing the literati crowd in New York or working the cadre of literary agents for better position and bigger advances. He’s home in Ohio working a day job and writing at night and on the weekends, and apologizing for being a part-time husband and father. But he’s producing excellent work, and A Perfect Shot is yet another gem of a story well told. MORE...