Monthly Archives: May 2013

Local writer’s Garage Sale Mystery filmed for Hallmark Movie Channel

NOTE: The information given below has changed. The initial broadcast of the film will be on Saturday, September 14. It will be on the more prestigious Hallmark Channel rather than the Hallmark Movie Channel.  See http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/garagesalemystery.

Also, Weinert’s follow-up novel, Garage Sale Diamonds, is now available.

In March 2011, I offered a review of Neapolitan Suzi Weinert’s first novel, “Garage Sale Stalker,” and also reported on the roles of the Naples Press Club Authors & Books Festival, Jeff Schlesinger of Barringer Publishing and editor-agent Carole Greene in the development and eventual publication of that book. In January 2012, we reported on the contract for a television movie based on the book to be developed by producer Jonathan Axelrod for the Hallmark Movie Channel.

Now we can report that the screenplay written by Walter Klenhard has been filmed and the movie will premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.

Loughlin, Weinert, Axelrod

Loughlin, Weinert, Axelrod

The movie was shot in Vancouver in April and early May.

“By filming time,” says the author, “my contribution to the production (the source novel) was long in the background. The TV movie now reflected the screenplay, the new bible on which the producer, director (Peter DeLuise, son of actor Dom DeLuise), the actors and crew concentrated,” she adds. . . .

See the entire review, as it appears in the May 30, 2013 Naples Florida Weekly, by clicking on this link: Florida Weekly — Garage Sale Mystery Movie. Here is a pdf from the June 5 Fort Myers edition:Florida Weekly – Garage_Sale_Movie

Below is some additional material that did not get into FW:

The members of the film’s creative team were happy to comment on the experience. Jonathan Axelrod related the genesis of his discovery: “My wife, Katy Garretson, knew I was looking for a mystery. She told me her best friend’s mother had written one. She nagged me until I read it, and afterwards I kissed my wife and knew she had found gold!” The producer “loved having Suzi in Vancouver. She enchanted everyone on the set. It was truly wonderful to see the author watch her characters come to life.”

 Director Peter DeLuise liked the challenge of “telling a story about a fully realized, 3-dimensional, strong female character with realistic family and friend relationships who is so observant and clever that she manages to solve a murder mystery.” He considered meeting that challenge “the highpoint of the project. It made me want to see this character solve a series of these mysteries, where we would get to enjoy her character again and again.”  [italics mine]

 The female lead, Lori Loughlin, “liked the fact that in addition to being a mystery, you got to know my character on many levels. I loved that the whole family was introduced and we got to experience Jennifer Shannon as a wife, mother and working woman as well as someone who is keenly observant and quite involved in trying to solve the mystery behind a rash of neighborhood burglaries as well as a murder.  And even though a murder has taken place, the movie is not dark. The piece has some nice comedic moments and the different relationships between the characters are fun.  It also appealed to me because this is a movie my mother would love and a movie that the whole family can watch.”  

 Ms. Loughlin adds, “It was a pleasure to meet Suzi and hang out with her on set while she was in Vancouver.  Suzi is very charming and was extremely excited to see her novel come to life on screen.  I was thrilled to be a part of that moment.”

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Identity quests drive thrilling psychological novel

The Imposter Bride, by Nancy Richler. St. Martin’s Press. 368 pages. $24.99.

This probing, dazzling fiction explores the nature – the relative stability and malleability – of identity. Its initial center of focus is the attractive but enigmatic Lily Azerov, a survivor of the Holocaust who as a young woman arrives in Montreal to fulfill an arranged marriage with Sol Kramer. Improbably, Sol severs the plan after glimpsing her at the train station. Nathan, Sol’s brother, partly out of genuine attraction but also motivated by family shame, takes Lily for his bride. Almost nothing is known about her background. ImposterBride

At the wedding , an uninvited guest suspects that something is wrong. Ida Pearl Krakauer, an immigrant diamond cutter and dealer, has crashed the event to see if this woman is her cousin Lily Azerov who vanished in the Holocaust. She is quite sure that this young woman is an imposter, even though she has identification papers. Ida’s suspicions eventually threaten Lily’s fragile cocoon of deception.

Lily lives reclusively among the Kramers, rarely venturing out of the room provided for her and Nathan. Her mother-in-law, Bella, cannot fathom Lily’s behavior. It’s clear that Lily is lost in her own thoughts, minimizes interaction, and probably has something to hide. A year goes by, during which Lily gives birth to Ruth, but soon after she disappears without a trace. Her legacy is a diary and an uncut diamond, which at one point she had brought to Ida’s shop for an estimate of its worth.

With her disappearance, the mystery of her true identity deepens, as does the reason behind her deceit.

Most of the story is told from the perspective of the daughter, Ruth, who is communally mothered in her Jewish Canadian Kramer family. She is raised in part by her grandmother Bella, and later also by her Aunt Elka, Ida’s young daughter whom Sol chooses to marry. The story eventually covers sixty years of history, from the late Holocaust years to 2005. During the journey, we receive a brilliant portrait of Jewish Montreal and an even more brilliant probing into the psychology of identity, the focus slowly shifting from Lily’s gradually uncovered secrets to Ruth’s need to define herself.

NancyRichlerCREDITMichaelBeaulieu_color

Generally, the story moves forward as it follows Ruth’s life: her school years at a Young Israel (modern Orthodox) day school, her college years at McGill University, her father’s remarriage and second family, her own marriage to the more religious Reuven, the births of her three children, her ongoing interaction with her father’s family, and the various degrees of emptiness and pain consequent upon being abandoned by her mother.

Interspersed throughout Ruth’s story are vignettes that go back to Lily’s time in Montreal, and Lily’s longer-reaching memories, each flashback revealing some important information. These occur, then, not where they fit into the larger timeline, but rather when they best serve readers’ needs to further understand Lily and when they maximize suspense.

Finding Lily is always somewhere in Ruth’s thoughts and reveries. The connection is fostered for a long time by mysterious gifts that Lilly sends to her without a return address. These are smooth stones, with notes about precisely where and when they were found. At first, they come at short intervals, then at much longer ones. Their colorings and other physical properties are provocative, but their meaning remains as elusive as Lily herself.  That Lily has touched them and remembers Ruth is what’s important.

Thus, these symbolic items connect to Ruth’s other items of inheritance: the uncut diamond and the diary of a young girl – the real Lily Azerov – that had been the imposter’s keepsakes since the war years. Like the stones sent by Lily, the diary and the diamond are totems of identity. The uncut diamond and the interrupted diary suggest unfinished processes. The stones are like ellipsis marks awaiting closure.

The final steps in Ruth’s quest are remarkable: courageous, revealing, and filled with a glimmering sadness all at the same time. I won’t give them away.

The Imposter Bride is meticulously constructed, and it is scored in glowing prose. Its combination of imagination and craft may remind readers of the novels of the late Canadian literary giant Mordechai Richler, Nancy Richler’s cousin. Ms. Richler, too, is highly acclaimed. Her first novel, Your Mouth Is Lovely, won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award. The Imposter Bride, first published in Canada last year, was short-listed for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize.

This review appears in the June issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties) and The Jewish News Jewish Federation of Sarasota / Manatee).

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Bad weather swirls around the coldest of cases

Heart of Ice, by P. J. Parrish. Pocket Books. 432 pages. $7.99.

By now, mystery readers are well aware of the many awards won by the writing sisters who publish their jointly written Louis Kincaid novels under the name of P. J. Parrish. One of the sisters, Kristy Montee, lives in Fort Lauderdale. The other, Kelly Nichols, lives in Michigan. Both states are used as settings for the adventures of Louis Kincaid, a black Florida private detective who hopes to resume his career as a policeman. Heart of Ice, as one might guess, brings Kincaid to northern Michigan – specifically to Mackinac Island. heart-of-ice-press

In the fall of 1990, two personal issues bring Kincaid to Michigan. First, he discovers that he is the father of a ten year old girl, Lily, who lives there. Secondly, he needs to reunite with girlfriend Joe Frye, who is working in Michigan as a law enforcement officer.  Exploring Mackinac Island with young Lily leads to an accident in an abandoned old lodge when Lily falls through rotting floorboards and onto a pile of bones.

Soon, Kincaid is assisting the local police chief, Jack Flowers, with the case. Flowers is a good man, but it seems as if he’s out of his depth with this case. Because of an initialed ring found at the site, a ring from a private school in the area, the remains are tentatively identified as those of a missing teenage girl from a prominent family who had disappeared some twenty-one years earlier. Julie Chapman never returned from Christmas break during her senior year. It looks like a murder case. Among the young woman’s bones are the bones of an unborn child.

The complications are many. The secrecy of the Chapman family makes the investigation difficult. The bad feeling between Kincaid and a higher-up police officer named Rasky as well as between Flowers and Rasky, causes additional tension. The background information about Julie Chapman’s boyfriend, the sexual abuse she suffered from her brother Ross, and the creepy skull collection of an autistic recluse (Julie’s skull was not found among the bones) who lives nearby pull the investigation in several directions.

The Sisters aka P. J. Parrish

The Sisters aka P. J. Parrish

Thinking at first that his contribution to the case will be extremely short-term, Kincaid soon needs to begin adjusting the time of his reunion with Joe Frye. Eventually, she travels to be with him and joins the investigation team. Author Parrish is extremely successful in giving a rounded picture of the pushes and pulls between these two characters. Kincaid’s need to find a deeper understanding about the future of their relationship is one more complication in the novel.

Then there is the weather. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 15, 2013 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 16 Naples edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Parrish

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Burdette tosses a hearty, humorous dish at reality television

Topped Chef, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pages. $7.99.

 This is the third in Ms. Burdette’s light and lovely Key West Food Critic Mysteries, following An Appetite for Murder and Death in Four Courses. The author has discovered and mastered the structural benefits of the classic space and time unities. These give the energy of compression to her plots. What better way to confine the spatial scope than to set a story on an island? What better island than the simultaneously familiar and remote Key West – a place where real history and legend combine? What better way to set temporal limits than to focus on an exciting, short-term event?  ToppedChef

In Death in Four Courses, Ms. Burdette explored laughs and deaths at a literary seminar given over to food writers. Now, in Topped Chef, it’s the short-term and on-the-cheap filming of a realty television cooking show. It’s a competition, of course. Not only are the contestants competing, but it seems as if the judges are as well. Though we’ll find out later how she was chosen for the task, intrepid foodie and amateur sleuth Hayley Snow, restaurant critic for “Key Zest” lifestyle magazine, is on the judging panel.  

After Hayley meets her fellow judges and the contestants, the somewhat irritable producer-director, Peter Shapiro, sets things in motion with assistance of Hayley’s acquaintance, the impeccable Deena Smith. A significant number of applicants had already been winnowed to six serious contestants. Now those six, with the judges on hand, would be chopped down to three finalists. The tension builds.

The four judges and three finalists are comprised of strongly individualized characters. Lucy Burdette draws them in broad strokes, allowing readers to sort them out. The judges include Sam Rizzoli, big shot local restaurateur who newest place has been given a negative review by Haley, causing serious friction. The other judges are the thoroughly conceited Chef Adam Boyd; the reserved and hesitant food-writer/memoirist Toby Davidson; and the overly curious motormouth, Hayley herself.

Lucy Burdette

Lucy Burdette

Even more sharply etched are the remaining contestants: flamboyant drag queen Randy Thompson; Buddy Higgs, creator of ingenious dishes based on “molecular gastronomy;” and ethnic combo expert Henrietta Stentzel, with whom Hayley once had a run-in.What’s most fun with this loony crew is Ms. Burdette’s perfect pitch parody of food talk as made familiar on “Chopped” and other popular food programs where judges and competitors try to top each in their descriptions of preparations, styles, successes, and failures.

But wait – this is a murder mystery. . . .

To see this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 1, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 2 Bonita Beach and Charlotte County editions, and the May 9 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Topped Chef

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From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel

An astounding study by Robert S. Wistrich

University of Nebraska Press.  648 Pages.  $55.00.

WistrichThis is a colossal undertaking, both in scope and intellectual weight. No scholar is likely to sift through the primary and secondary materials that bear upon the relationship between leftist ideology and the Jewish people with the thoroughness, patience, and boldness that Professor Wistrich has displ ayed. Though I’m not sure that he makes the strongest case for ambivalence about the Jews at the dawn of European socialist thought, he certainly demolishes any lingering notion that socialism and socialist democracies have been especially hospitable political environments for European, Palestinian, and world Jewry .

To read the entire review as it appears on the Jewish Book Council website, click here: From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel

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Cold case catches fire in latest Harry Bosch mystery

The Black Box, by Michael Connelly.  Little, Brown / Grand Central. 432 pages. Hardcover $27.99 / Paperback $14.99.

If you missed the November hardcover release of this latest title by the master of procedural detective fiction, the paperback is just now available. Mr. Connelly, who splits his time between California and Florida, challenges well-worn L. A. homicide Detective Harry Bosch with an intriguing cold case that had been abandoned some twenty years ago.  connelly_BlackBox_TP

During the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the police beatings of Rodney King, a younger version of Harry Bosch was assigned to that war zone. He came across the body of an attractive young Caucasian woman who had been shot close-up through the eye. Was she an intended victim or just someone in the wrong place as the wrong time? The immediate circumstances of the riots led the overworked LAPD to shelve the case. Now, in 2012, Harry and his partner, David Chu, have been assigned to look into it.

There isn’t much in the files or evidence locker to go by, not much more than a lone bullet casing from the scene. Yet something about the victim fires Harry’s sense of responsibility and his imagination. Progress is slow, and Harry’s superior – already on Harry’s case – urges him to wrap it up or reshelve it and pursue another cold case that has a better chance of being closed. A by-the-book, careerist bean-counter, Lt. O’Toole, is just the kind of guy Harry can’t stand – one who is more office manager than agent of justice. Naturally, Harry can’t hide his feelings.

Never could.

Michael Connelly

And though Harry makes some effort to hide his persistence with the “Snow White” investigation, O’Toole is watching him closely. Before long, Harry is facing charges regarding his professional behavior. An internal affairs detective begins checking accusations that Harry has misused his badge by making a personal visit to a prison inmate instead of carrying on official business.

The victim dubbed “Snow White” is Danish freelance newspaper reporter Anneke Jespersen. What was she doing in California in 1992 that brought her to the site of the L. A. riots? Contacting Anneke’s brother and drawing upon Chu’s computer search skills and database savvy, Harry hopes that the reporter’s trip to the First Gulf War theater shortly before her fateful visit to the U. S. might hold some clues.

And it does. Slowly, methodically, but also pushing the envelope of proper procedure, Harry connects her visits. He discovers how the first, which includes joining American servicemen for R & R on a Saudi ship, leads to the second. Then he discovers why the second leads to her Los Angeles death. . . .

To see the entire review, as it appears in the April 24, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 2 Naples edition, click here Florida Weekly – Black Box 1 and here Florida Weekly – Black Box 2

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