Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Special Meaning For This Year's Auld Lang Syne Rendition


Clockwise: Stan, Michael, Cara, Yrsa, Leighton, Jeff


Several years ago, a Mykonian lass who'd read my parody of "T'was the Night Before Christmas," suggested I take a crack at a similar treatment of a New Year's Eve standard derived from a poem by perhaps the most famous Scot of all (other than our Caro)–Robert Burns (1759-1796).  This year's re-posting of that parody takes on special meaning to me, for seeing it as I do as a paean to not forgetting old friends, I dedicate this post to our beloved MIE friend and colleague, Stan Trollip. Stan is an original member of the group of six that created MIE, and with his decision to retire at the end of 2022 from his regular MIE slot, we shall all dearly miss his insights and grand reporting on the state of our world.  
We love you, Stan.

Now on to Robert Burns.

Robert Burns
Burns wrote the poem (here’s the original version) in 1787, set to the tune of a traditional folk tune (Roud #6294).  Its seminal phrase, “Auld Lang Syne,” is traditionally translated as “long, long ago” though “old long ago” is more literally correct (based upon my deep understanding of the Lowland Scots language) and is a song about love and friendship in times past. For those of us who believe in time travel, astral planes, and questionable sobriety, I should point out that the phrase “auld lang syne” has been used by other poets in their work, including one Allan Ramsay (1686-1757), which I guess gives our Caro and her Alan a claim to have beaten me to the punch (bowl).

The other Ramsay...also with another career, a wigmaker

Happy New Year, everyone—and please forgive me, Scotland.

Should odd acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should odd acquaintance be for not,
And made to toe the line?

As in odd.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

And surely you’ll pick yours to hug!
And surely I'll pick mine!
And we'll show a lot o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

We all have run about the hills
In search of flower wine;
And wandered many a weary foot,
But we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

We too have paddled up the stream,
In mourning, fun, and grind;
And seas between us broad have roar'd,
But we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

And here's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give a hand o' thine!
And we'll drink to kindness and good will,
For we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

To get your head back in the holiday mood in case you missed the uplifting nature of my parody--and me hopefully back in the good graces of the Scots--here's the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing Auld Lang Syne accompanied by a journey to the timeless Scotland of Robert Burns' inspiration.

A Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year to ALL!


Friday, December 30, 2022

Tiktok Talk


 as shoppers

 rush to Aldi for

 energy drink' 

Yesterday I got a glimpse of what it must be like to be an animal in the zoo at feeding time, being peered at from the other side of the glass. I was having a quiet breakfast coffee in a chain coffee shop,  in a supermarket. Due to the holidays, the normal place was closed much to out chagrin.

It was eight a.m., and the three glass sides of the coffee shop were surrounded by a crocodile of teenagers accompanied by their very tired looking parents. The queue went on for some way round the cafe. At first I thought some charity might be doing packing at the tills but they normally have the kids in uniform, scouts/guides/ the youth football team. But no, these teenagers were impatient, bobbing around, eyes on the desk at the top of the queue that had two signs, ‘Opening soon’ and ‘Sold Out. One per customer.’ The parents looked at their phones, or at us, wishing they too were in a comfy seat drinking coffee and making notes on escap. In my case how person A escapes from the basement they have been imprisoned in. It was for a novel but the crowd surrounding us on the other side of the glass gave me food for thought.

 The lovely barista (he’s from Toronto!) told us what was going on. A tick talk ( my spelling and I don’t care) influencer had ‘put up’ that this store had the drink for £1.99.

I asked him what that meant in English.

Customers queue at 

Aldi at dawn for 


Hydration drink

It meant that ‘a young person’ had told other ‘young people’ that something that sold normally for £20 was selling for £2 and this place was the place to get it.

It was coconut water with a fruit drink added,  plus vitamins etc. I presume that the young person promoting this is some kind of health guru. If so, his followers could do with following him a wee bit closer from the look of them. It's an isotonic type of health drink, one would think it'd be targeted at distance runners and endurance athletes, marathon runners and the Grand Tour cyclists. Maybe it keeps the youngsters going while they wait in the queue.

I tried simple coconut water once. To me, it tasted like some specimen left by a dehydrated, pregnant wombat. But each to their own.

 The influencer on the Tick Talk thingy was mentioned by name. The other half texted his son, the 23 year old golfer (and generally hip and with-it dude) who texted back and seemed to know all about it, even naming the influencer by…errr… name.

 Influencer why? Talented at what? Famous for? These are the questions of this blog.

I think I know an influencer. Well I know his dad, does that count? The young chappie in question has a very good art degree and works as a photographic designer all over the world, but mostly in Paris, London and Barcelona and mostly for Vogue, Tatler etc. He pulls together the background scenes for photographic shoots. The model wears a frock, stands on the stairs and pouts, and this chap puts the props around the model etc. I can see he has a good eye for colour and style. He sees the world as a place of patterns and beauty. He could help folk like me who, as Victoria Wood says, always look as though they have stumbled up an embankment after a derailment. Or as Billy Connolly would have it ‘they wear good clothes as if they have stolen them.’ But then us folk who look like that,  look like that because we don’t listen to influencers. Or anybody else.

We don’t care. Why would anybody be interested in a 12 year old influencer when the influencer has no other discernible talent, apart from self promotion.

And what’s Tick Talk anyway? A help line for Lymes Disease?

Anyway, another friend of a friend has a child who is an influencer. That’s their full time job. This kid is not gifted at anything really, other than making Tick Talk videos. Or even Tik Tok but there’s no joke in that. There’s no skilled profession behind them, just a phone in their bedroom, and terrific self confidence that they are more interesting than the rest of their peer group. They have been engaged on and off, many times to the same partner, a side kick tic talker. It has got as far as booking the wedding venue twice. Then it gets called off. They don’t split up or fall out, they just disengage for a while then have another go.

 In general chit chat, I was told that this is what they do. It’s a way of merchandising. Promote clothes to get engaged in, places to get engaged, places to go to break up, clothes to wear when breaking up, clothes to when getting back together again. A whole life that marches to the beat of social media.

Its all very confusing. Is it normal? Is it healthy?

And what’s the matter with people.

 Who influenced me when I was wee? Agatha Christie. Ian Rankin. Kate Bush. Abba – the girls singing with their squinty teeth and not caring one Swedish jot. The odd Beatle or two. My modern studies teacher? Mark Spitz? Emil Zatopek? Eddie Merckx?

I wonder what they would have pushed on Tick Talk? Sorry TikTok ….triathalon mystery writing Swedish Noir with a Bronte soundtrack in a Liverpudlian accent....  

 P.S. There was a report in the newspaper that the drink was changing hands for £10 000 a bottle. I kid you not....

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


Stanley – Thursday


I remember it well.


Date: 17 October, 2009


Location: Indianapolis


Event: Bouchercon XL

I was on a panel chaired by the inimitable Leighton Gage. Other panellists were Cara Black, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and Tamar Myers.  There may have been one other. Dan Waddell? Maybe my memory isn't so good.


With panellists like that, the topic revolved around mysteries set in foreign lands – Brazil, Botswana, France, Iceland, and the Congo for the writers mentioned above. England too, if Dan was involved.


The panel went very well, as I remember it, with Leighton orchestrating the proceedings with a deft touch. Independent corroboration of the panel’s success is available from the totally unbiased Annamaria Alfieri, who was in the audience.


Afterwards Leighton proposed that several of us join him in starting a new blog written by writers who set their stories outside the United States. And thus the Murder is Everywhere blog was started with the inaugural blog being written by Cara Black on 11 November 2009.

I was part of that original group, and Murder is Everywhere has had 4,326 posts since then, with about 28,000 comments, and over 5 million page views. Bloggers have come and gone – Dan Waddell, Tim Hallinan, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, , Cara Black, Jørn Lier Horst, Lisa Brackmann to name a few, as well as many wonderful guest bloggers.


My contribution has been over 300 posts on a broad range of topics ranging from the West’s distorted view of Africa, to the Okavango Delta, to plastic surgery.


Recently, however, I have been struggling more and more to find topics to write about, let alone topics I’m excited to write about. I’ve become very unhappy with the quality of material I’m asking you, our readers, to read. You deserve better.


I’ve come to the conclusion that for now my well is dry. So I have decided to vacate my spot on every other Thursday. It will be good for all to have new blood, new ideas, new perspectives as Murder is Everywhere heads towards 10 million views.

It hasn’t been an easy decision. However, as I reflected on the past 13 years, I realised that whether I write a Murder is Everywhere blog or not, the Murder is Everywhere experience has become part of my life’s fabric, especially the remarkable bloggers I‘ve shared it with. Great writers they all are, but they are even better people. My deepest gratitude and thanks to all of you, present and past, for everything you’ve done for me.


A blog isn’t worth very much if it doesn’t have readers. The number of page views (nearly 34,000 last month alone) tells us that the blog is thriving. As I thank you, dear readers, for being an essential part of the MIE family, I have one HUGE request - actually a heartfelt invitation.


We writers often wallow in self-doubt, wondering whether anyone is paying attention to what we write and, if they are, whether they are enjoying it. 


So my invitation is for you to become more actively involved in Murder is Everywhere, to step forward every now and again and leave a comment online or send an email to the blogger. Tell them what your reactions are to what they’ve written. Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. With your more frequent input, the MIE bloggers will be filled with even greater energy and enthusiasm than they already show. Then you will enjoy the blogs even more.


I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2023 and many more years of great blogs.


And thank you, thank you, thank you for the truly wonderful ride I've had with you.

A Horticultural Holiday

 Sujata Massey

Deb Charles' work at BMore Blooms

Confession: I have been in love with flowers all my life. As a ten year old, I lay reading in the common garden area near my house when it filled with spring violets. Seventeen years later, I was a young Navy bride in Japan. The cultural practice to learn was ikebana, stylized, intentional, minimal flower design created by artists in Japan. I studied under a teacher who was highly ranked in the Sogetsu School, and the arrangements I made under her direction were all about branches and just a sweet hint of flowers.  The ideal was to recreate a realistic miniature landscape indoors; and it was all about line and fullness and quiet beauty.

When I returned to life in the United States in the mid-90s, flowers were big and blowsy and the seeming opposite of ikebana. I kept on with Sogetsu practice for a few years, grieving when my teacher Mary Sugiyama, who had been teaching since the 1950s, passed away. Then I put together flowers casually, without much thought to line. It was about celebrating the flowers themselves, especially if they grew in my own garden. 

As the decades passed, I've become close to native plants--mainly through my own garden, but also florists who are operating outside of the box. I've wanted flowers in my house again, on a regular basis, and I've started learning again--and also working on my own. I'm excited to see a fusion of the landscape idea with more individuality, and a bit of lavish fun.

My return to flower arranging started innocently enough when I walked into my neighborhood florist in Roland Park, Crimson and Clover, to buy some branches and blooms to make a Thanksgiving arrangement by myself at home. 

 The branches and flowers--the white rose-looking thing is actually baby kale--were fun to play with. Someone at the store mentioned they would conduct a workshop on holiday centerpiece making in late December. I'd never tried to make such a specific flower arrangement,  so  I signed up, and so did my friend Helen. We wound up at a pretty shop called Margaret Cleveland, in the old Baltimore city neighborhood of Bolton Hill, where Crimson&Clover set up shop in their handsome garage. Here's what I made, after watching the teacher's demo, with lots of roses, cedar, sweet peas and pepper berry:

Helen chose from the same wide range of flowers and greenery. Above is what she styled for her Christmas Eve dinner. The tiny lights make it even more magical.

Neither of us could believe what we, complete amateurs, had pulled off in a half-hour's time. I felt blessed to have a bonanza of materials at hand, as well as friendly classmates and a knowledgeable teacher offering encouragement. The teacher suggested our roses would last about three days; however, they are going strong six days later. The arrangements overall are very healthy, and I wonder if it has to do with the growers, and also the store's choice to select greenery and berries that are so maturalistic--and surprisingly sturdy.

In early December, a few friends and I had dinner at ABCV, an excellent vegetarian restaurant in New York City. Servers brought us housemade pasta with shaved truffle, dates stuffed with goat cheese, and many other delicate masterpieces. But nothing was more delicate than the simple glass of meadow flowers placed in front of us. Divine! 

On Christmas Eve, a dear friend asked a florist, BMore Blooms, to send me a tabletop arrangement. Full of dahlias and chrysanthemums, it's a small arrangement with so much heart and grace. 

I'm grateful for the evergreen nature of houseplants, and they add joy to most of my rooms in winter. Flowers from a shop are are an extreme luxury, which is probably the reason I didn't revisit my longest hobby until the holidays.  I don't like to ponder of the carbon footprint of the sweet peas grown in Japan that wound up in my house.  Yet I feel strongly about the impact of these fields of flowers, shrubs and tress on the environments where they are grown, and also the types of creative small businesses coming up that sell the horticultural splendors. This is a growth industry for good. 

Happy new year. May something surprising bloom in your life!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Merry Day After Christmas

Annamaria in Florence

Once again I have decamped to Florence to celebrate the holidays and to escape winter in my otherwise beloved NYC.  Given my superannuated condition, I don't think it's a good idea for me to fall down. A lot of the people in my age category who have taken a bad fall have never fully recuperated. And much as I love my vibrant, beautiful city, at this time of year the sidewalks can be treacherous. Fortunately for me, I have the choice of a choice place to go!

This week, I am feeling extra lucky.  Even benign weather places in the United States have faced an epic storm. I was fortunate to escape before the mega blizzard hit, so my flight even left on time.

Here are a couple of screenshots showing the temperature differences between New York City and Firenze during this holiday weekend:

I was traveling alone but had the company of a very dear friend of many years.  Kubu is a great travel companion, makes the hours (ahem) fly by!

The airports were festive with holiday decorations, and while changing planes in Frankfurt, I even spotted St. Nick and an elf:

It's been cloudy and a bit rainy here for my first few days, but still much better than I would have found back across the pond.

The atmosphere in the restaurants as elegant and subdued as ever.  The food... Far above par!

Breakfast is spectacularly good.

And the city is lit up!

After a spectacular Christmas lunch with my Italian family in the Chianti, on my way home I found the facade of the Palazzo Vecchio bathed in a mesmerizing projections.

My little Christmas tree, shown at the top, is doing its best to put its own little sheen of cheer on the  proceedings.

I am sending you all, readers and writers, my very best wishes for many many joys in the coming year.  Listen to this.  It will tell you where those joys can be found. 

I hope you will take it to heart!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Silly Gifts and Good Books

End-of-Year Round-Up

Zoë Sharp


So, Christmas Day is here again. Compliments of the season to you all. I hope you are spending the day among friends or family, that you have food, and warmth, and safety.


And I also hope that you have the time and the comfort to read. Because, that being the case, you may just be looking for a Good Book.


To celebrate the season, and the talents of my fellow bloggers at Murder Is Everywhere, I’d like to present you with a little snippet about each, and the recommendation of their latest book to add to your fireside TBR pile.


So, I asked each of the MiE crew for the following:

Their favourite short silly joke

The best/worst/most bizarre gift they’ve ever either given or received

A tradition they either practise with their loved ones, or would like to do

Their one Christmas indulgence

Their latest title


And I hope you enjoy them all. 

Annamaria Alfieri


Short silly joke


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“Since you do not specify a Christmas give, I will answer with the very best gift I have ever received. It is now nearly 22 years old and still makes me happy. I just LOVE being a little old lady in a hot car!”


A Christmas tradition

“For the past several years I have celebrated Christmas in Florence. I love that!”


Your one indulgence




Paraguay, 1868


A war against Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay has devastated Paraguay. Ninety percent of the males between the ages of eight and eighty have died. Food is scarce. In the small village of Santa Caterina, Padre Gregorio advises the women of his congregation to abandon the laws of the church and get pregnant by what men are available. As he leaves the pulpit, he discovers the murdered body of Ricardo Yotté, one of the most powerful men in the country, at the bottom of the belfry.


Suspects abound… but to avoid having an innocent person dragged off to torture and death, a band of villagers undertakes to solve the crime. Each carries secrets they seek to protect from the others, while they pursue their quest for the truth.


Ovida Yu


Short silly joke

From LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE by Nancy Mitford

(Lady Montdore is talking about her daughter Polly) 


"What can be the matter with Polly? So beautiful and no B.A. at all."

'"S.A.," said Lady Patricia faintly, "or B.O."


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“The best gift ever—from a Christmas three years back and subsequently renewed—was an Audible membership. I still get monthly 'free' (well, free to me thanks to Christmases past and this is a broad hint for Christmases future) and as well as audio books it makes me get out and walk because I only allow myself audiobooks when I'm moving.”


A Christmas tradition

“In Pre-Covid we used to run away to Paris for Christmas because Chinese New Year in Singapore is extended family duty time (I suppose closer to what Christmas is in the West?) and because I love the Christmas street fairs and window displays and getting really cold for a bit by choice and possibly seeing snow. I'd really like to get back to that!”


Your one indulgence

“My indulgence—sorry if it horrifies some—is our delicious durian. The 'Mao San Wang' or Mountain Cat King and Black Gold varieties come into season over the Christmas period. They're expensive--the beluga caviar and Kobe beef of the durian world, only vegan—and my favourite super indulgence of the season!”



The Allies have defeated Germany in Europe, but Japan refuses to surrender the East.


In Singapore, amid rumours the Japanese occupiers are preparing to wipe out the population of the island rather than surrender, a young aide is found murdered beneath the termite mushroom tree in Hideki Tagawa's garden and his plans for a massive poison gas bomb are missing. To prevent any more destruction it falls to Su Lin to track down the real killer with the help of Hideki Tagawa's old nemesis, the charismatic shinto priest Yoshio Yoshimo.



Jeffrey Siger


Short silly joke(s)

“What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations? Tinsillitis!”


“If Santa and Mrs. Claus had a baby, what would he be? A subordinate Claus.”


“Which famous playwright was terrified of Christmas? Noël Coward.”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“By far, my best received gift was an Arizona Marriage License because it allowed me to marry the most wonderful person in the world.”


“The worst was just that—two kilos of double smoked reindeer ‘wurst’ done up in tinsel and fancy ribbons that someone thought an elegant gift to give. I think that one also qualifies as my most bizarre.”


A Christmas tradition

“My favorite tradition is spending evenings with my grandchildren (and their parents) taking in the homes in their neighborhoods all wondrously decorated for the eight nights of Hanukah and twelve days of Christmas.”


Your one indulgence

“Too many desserts, too much eggnog, and way more than enough karaoke caroling.”


ONE LAST CHANCE (Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks, 2022) 


Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis’s longtime assistant, Maggie, returns to her ancestral home on Ikaria for her 104-year-old grandmother’s funeral, her grief quickly turns to suspicion. Not only had her yaya been in good health just a week before her death, but there are bruises on her arm that suggest a botched IV insertion that no one can explain. While chatting with the savanotria who prepared Yaya’s body for burial, Maggie learns that several other long-lived Ikariots had recently died under the same questionable circumstances.


Back in Athens, Andreas and his chief detective Yianni pursue a smuggling and protection ring embedded in the Greek DEA, and its possible involvement in the assassination of an undercover cop. As leads in the elder-killings on Ikaria and the DEA corruption case converge, Andreas and his crew realize there are international intrigues at play that might well stretch beyond the reach of the law. While they race to prevent yet another untimely death, Maggie’s faith in humanity, the church, and the very legal system she serves is tested in ways she never could have imagined. Can her boss’s Hail Mary pass at securing justice for the victims hope to hit its mark?

Caro Ramsay


Short silly joke

“A wee piece of string goes into a pub.

“‘Are you that wee piece of string that everybody’s talking about?’ asks the barman.

“‘No, I’m a frayed knot.’”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“A vague acquaintance once gave me a lovely framed photograph… Of themself!”


A Christmas tradition

“We eat eggs Florentine. We don’t aim high.”


Your one indulgence

“Bucks Fizz with the eggs Florentine—but not this year as we are driving on the 25th.”



In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, 'the devil stone', is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known Satanists—case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation. 


Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she's confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.


She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone. As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is danger! Will Caplan's first Highland murder case be her last?


Susan Spann


Short silly joke

“What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start.”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“Five years ago, the radiologist who read my mammogram results gave me a cancer diagnosis, early enough to treat it aggressively, and fight for a cure. It was both the worst (for obvious reasons) and the best (because we found it early enough that, five years later, I am cancer free and cured) gift I can remember.”

A Christmas tradition

“When I lived in the States, I used to take my son to the mall every year on Christmas Eve to eat soft pretzels, drink hot cocoa, and watch all the freaked-out people trying to finish their Christmas shopping. (I’ve always done my shopping way in advance.) I’m still trying to find the ‘right’ tradition for Christmas Eve in Japan, but I'm having great fun trying out different options!”


Your one indulgence

“Gingerbread Lattes from Starbucks. I’m not usually a sweetened coffee person, but I really, REALLY love the gingerbread latte.”



Edo, February 1566

When a samurai’s corpse is discovered in the ruins of a burned-out bookshop, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must determine whether the shopkeeper and his young apprentice are innocent victims or assassins in disguise. The investigation quickly reveals dangerous ties to Hiro’s past, which threaten not only Edo’s fledgling booksellers’ guild, but the very survival of Hiro’s ninja clan.



Michael Stanley (Stanley Trollip and Michael Sears)

Short silly joke

Stan Trollip: “If someone doesn’t know something, suggest they ask fruit salts.”


“Fruit salts?”


“Yes, fruit salts. Eno’s.” (I assume Eno’s is worldwide!)


Michael Sears: My favorite is Yogi Berra's response to criticism. It can be used in many situations. "It runs off my back like a duck."


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

ST: “The best gift I remember receiving was a box of magic tricks when I was about 14. My parents wrote to Hamley’s in London, who wrote back with their selection. My parents sent the money—how I don’t know—and there it was under the tree on Christmas Day. I proceeded to bore friends and family with magic shows. To this day I love watching good magicians. I’m such a sucker for being fooled!”


MS: “I once received a plaster copy of a human skull with a scroll of paper rolled up in its eye socket. The gift was from Stan, and if you've read A CARRION DEATH you'll know what it's about. One of my best gifts ever. Touch of the bizarre too...”


A Christmas tradition

ST: “I would very much like to get out of the tradition of giving big presents to adults. We all already have so much STUFF! Instead, my gift to Mette this year is to cook a celebratory dinner once a month for 2023 of a dish that neither of us has ever had before, each from a different country, with appropriate accompaniments.”


MS: “Champagne!”


Your one indulgence

ST: “I have become a fan of risalamande (Danish Almond Rice Pudding). The pudding is a wonderfully creamy almond rice pudding that is served topped with a delicious cherry sauce! There’s a fun Christmas tradition that accompanies this dessert: The cook hides one whole almond in the rice pudding and whoever finds it in their serving wins a present. The catch: Everyone has to keep eating until the almond is found, no matter how full they are! And, of course, if you find it early, you can conceal it in your mouth so everyone has to keep eating.”


 MS: “Champagne, vintage wines, more champagne!”




While building a pipeline near the Okavango Delta, a contractor unearths the remains of a long-dead Bushman. Rookie Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of Botswana CID and Scottish pathologist, Ian MacGregor, are sent to investigate, and MacGregor discovers eight more skeletons.


Shortly after the gruesome discoveries, the elder of a nearby village is murdered in his home. The local police are convinced it was a robbery, but Kubu isn’t so sure… and neither is the strange woman who claims that an angry river spirit caused the elder’s death.


As accusations of corruption are levelled and international outrage builds over the massacre of the Bushman families, Kubu and his colleagues uncover a deadly covenant, and begin to fear that their own lives may be in mortal danger… 

Craig Sisterson


Short silly joke

“I'm going with one my seven-year-old was excited to tell me when we were at the Mapua Wharf this week (reunited after an unexpected several weeks apart): ‘What happened when the red boat crashed into the blue boat…? They were marooned.’”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“Hmm... okay, let's embarrass myself rather than anyone else and dig into the archives. So probably my 'worst' (embarrassing more than awful) Christmas gift-buying experience - gift itself went down very well, but the purchasing was a shambles - was more than 20 years ago when I was at university and working a summer/Christmas job in a department store. The staff there liked to banter and tease each other, and included school mates and adults who'd known me for a few years (it was my weekend job at high school, and I'd come back and work full-time in the university break). I was one of a few guys among a predominantly female staff. I wanted to buy a nice present for my then-girlfriend at law school, and the department store had a big lingerie section. Lots of the male staff and shoppers were embarrassed to even walk into that section. But I'd zeroed in on a nice item I thought would be appreciated. But how to purchase it without letting the entire staff know what I'd got my girlfriend for Christmas and endure weeks of ribbing afterwards? Especially when she came to visit soon. So I waited until an evening when the store was quieter and a newer staff member less likely to sass me was on the register. Great plan eh? Until the new staff member fumbled the transaction and had to call the manager over the intercom to come over and fix it. Directing the entire staff's attention to red-faced me buying lingerie for his girlfriend. And for anyone not there to witness it, they put up jokes about it on the staffroom whiteboard for the next week! Oops.”


A Christmas tradition

“Something that had become an important tradition for me in the past several years—though like a few things, got disrupted by COVID—was volunteering with Crisis at Christmas in London. The first time, in 2015, was somewhat circumstantial. I was unable to go 'home' to New Zealand for the holiday season with my family due to a frustrating, bureaucratic passport snafu, so decided to volunteer with a homeless shelter for Christmas Day. I discovered Crisis at Christmas, which is so much more than meals on Xmas Day.


“They provide accommodation, food, activities, healthcare, clothing, job assistance, and much more for homeless people for several days at a time when some other shelters are closed. It was an eye-opening, humbling experience. I realised that homelessness is much broader than the public perception of people on the street (and how they got there). I ended up volunteering there for several seasons afterwards, delaying my trips home to New Zealand so I could both volunteer in London with my 'Crisis family' (vols and guests) and spend some southern hemisphere summer with friends and family. Due to unexpected circumstances, I can't volunteer this year as I'm on the other side of the world, but I have donated a place for a homeless person at this year's Crisis at Christmas - they are still doing great work even as they've had to massively adjust given the pandemic. If you'd like to help, you can here:


Your one indulgence

“Given New Zealand Christmases are a summertime thing (very jarring for my northern hemisphere friends—we southerners are quite cognisant of wintry Christmases even if we didn't grow up with them, because of all the imagery and movies etc, but several of my UK/US pals struggle to wrap their head around the idea of a beachy, barbecues, swimming and hot sunshine Xmas), one indulgence I love is a slice of pavlova—an antipodean dessert of soft and crunchy meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit. Perfect end to an Xmas barbecue.”


One of my highlights of 2022 was getting to edit a first-of-its-kind anthology celebrating Australian and New Zealand crime

writing. DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER showcases some amazing storytellers and is out now, with a second volume coming in the first half of 2023.


A vibrant southern constellation of crime writers.


Dark Deeds Down Under features the very best of modern Australian and New Zealand crime and mystery writing.


Spend time with some of your favourite Aussie and Kiwi cops, sleuths and accidental heroes, and meet some edgy new investigators.


A crew of beloved series characters—Corinna Chapman, Hirsch, Sam Shephard, Rowly Sinclair, Nick Chester, Murray Whelan—will lead you down dark alleys to meet our newer heroes—the Nancys, Penny Yee and Matiu, Alex Clayton, Kate Miles—and the stars of some cracking standalone tales.


Travel the criminal trails of two countries. From the dusty Outback to South Island glaciers, from ocean-carved coastlines and craggy mountains to sultry rainforests or Middle Earth valleys, and via sleepy towns to the seething underbellies of our cosmopolitan cities.


The 19 dark deeds herein are perpetrated by: 

Alan Carter - Nikki Crutchley - Aoife Clifford - Garry Disher - Helen Vivienne Fletcher - Lisa Fuller - Sulari Gentill - Kerry Greenwood - Narrelle M. Harris - Katherine Kovacic - Shane Maloney - R.W.R. McDonald - Dinuka McKenzie - Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray - Renee - Stephen Ross - Fiona Sussman - Vanda Symon - David Whish-Wilson


Kwei Quartey


Short silly joke

“What do you call people who use coitus interruptus? Parents.”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“A patient of mine, bless her heart, brought me a crocheted cushion as a Christmas gift. Regrettably, it smelled faintly but distinctly of urine.”


Your one indulgence

“Ginger snaps, apple pie.”




When a whirlwind romance leads to a brutal murder and the disappearance of a young Nigerian woman, PI Emma Djan resorts to dangerous undercover work to track her down in Accra.


Just as things at work are slowing down for PI Emma Djan, an old friend of her boss’s asks for help locating his missing daughter. According to her father, Ngozi had a bright future ahead of her when she became secretive and withdrawn. Suddenly, all she wanted to do was be with her handsome new beau, Femi, instead of attending law school in the fall. So when she disappears from her parents’ house in Nigeria in the middle of a summer night, they immediately suspect Femi was behind it and have reason to believe the pair has fled to Accra.


During Emma’s first week on the case, Femi is found murdered at his opulent residence in Accra. There are no signs of Ngozi at the scene, and fearing the worst, Emma digs further, discovering that Femi was part of a network of sex traffickers across West Africa.


Emma must figure out which of Femi’s many enemies killed him, but more urgently, she must find Ngozi before she, too, is murdered in cold blood.

Sujata Massey




Bombay’s first female lawyer, Perveen Mistry, is compelled to bring justice to the family of a murdered female Parsi student just as Bombay’s streets erupt in riots to protest British colonial rule. Sujata Massey is back with this third installment to the Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning series set in 1920s Bombay. 


November 1921. Edward VIII, Prince of Wales and future ruler of India, is arriving in Bombay to begin a four-month tour. The Indian subcontinent is chafing under British rule, and Bombay solicitor Perveen Mistry isn’t surprised when local unrest over the royal arrival spirals into riots. But she’s horrified by the death of Freny Cuttingmaster, an eighteen-year-old female Parsi student, who falls from a second-floor gallery just as the prince’s grand procession is passing by her college.


Freny had come for a legal consultation just days before her death, and what she confided makes Perveen suspicious that her death was not an accident. Feeling guilty for failing to have helped Freny in life, Perveen steps forward to assist Freny’s family in the fraught dealings of the coroner’s inquest. When Freny’s death appears suspicious, Perveen knows she can’t rest until she sees justice done. But Bombay is erupting: as armed British secret service march the streets, rioters attack anyone with perceived British connections, and desperate shopkeepers destroy their own wares so they will not be targets of racial violence. Can Perveen help a suffering family when her own is in danger?

Zoë Sharp


Short silly joke

“This is my step-ladder.”



“My real ladder left when I was a kid…”


Best/worst/most bizarre gift

“Definitely, the weirdest gift I ever received was a Talking Children’s Prayer Clock – shouldn’t that have been a Children’s Talking Prayer Clock? – which could recite prayers in both English and Spanish. (I was an adult at the time.) It was sent as a gag by Al Abramson—an American friend with the most British sense of humour I’ve ever encountered. At least, I hope it was a gag…”



A Christmas tradition

“I would love to introduce the Icelandic tradition to my friends and family in the UK—that of Jolabokaflod, or The Christmas Book Flood. In Iceland, books are exchanged as presents on Christmas Eve, to be started on and enjoyed, usually with chocolate in one form or another, to get you into the Christmas spirit. Iceland, I understand, publishes more books per head of population than any other country, and most of them are sold between September and November for the upcoming holiday. What’s not to like?”


Your one indulgence

“Since about October this year, I have been doing my best to lose some weight. So far, so good, and I don’t want to spoil all that hard work over the Christmas period, but I will be allowing myself maybe just a little more chocolate than normal, and the occasional homemade fruit gin.”




She came back on the day of her father’s funeral, ten years after she vanished. But she can’t be who she says she is…


When Blake disappeared as a teenager, on a cold dark night, her father never reported her missing. She is presumed dead.


Now, ten years later, a young woman with white-blonde hair sits comfortably in the family living room and smiles at the shocked faces around her.


“Don’t you recognise me?” she says. “I’m Blake.”


Detective John Byron isn’t sure whether she’s telling the truth. But as he investigates, he soon realises no one is happy to see her.


And the people who should be welcoming her back with open arms know she can’t be Blake. Because they killed her the night she vanished…


Didn’t they?


TRIAL UNDER FIRE: Charlie Fox prequel


The last thing Charlie Fox expected, when she headed out on routine patrol that day, was to end up riding into a firefight, on horseback, with the Spice Girls…


Before she was a bodyguard, she was a soldier.


Charlie Fox is one of the toughest cookies you could ever hope to meet. A word of advice—don’t try to get her to talk about her time in the military. Let’s just say it didn’t end well.


Before her fall from grace, Charlie was considered a rising star. She made it through one of the hardest challenges any soldier would have to face—Selection for Special Forces. The nightmare that came next is a story I’ve explored in scenes and flashbacks throughout the series.


But what happened before that? Back when Charlie was a young soldier in the regular army, on patrol in Afghanistan, being kept away from the front line fighting as stipulated by the regulations concerning female personnel. What did she do back then to prove her worth as a specialised soldier, under life-and-death conditions? How did she earn her chance?


That is a story I’ve never told.


Until now.


This week’s Word of the Week is courtesy of the SucceedWithDyslexia website of 20 Weird and Wonderful Christmas Words: eggnog, a distinctly festive drink made with warmed beer and egg. The 'nog' part of eggnog comes from a seventeenth-century word for a strong beer or ale, once brewed in the East of England, but that 'nog' actually comes from an even older Scots word 'nugg' or 'nugh', a term for beer warmed by putting a red-hot poker into it. And 'nugg' comes from an even older Old Norse word, 'knagg', for a metal peg or spur, kind of like an early poker.


And the Word of the Year is goblin mode, which was chosen as the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2022 Word of the Year. It is defined as ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’