Category Archives: Contest

Solving Crime Puzzles from Tucson to San Francisco

Destinations: Tucson and San Francisco Bay area

Book: Fracture (2011) by Susan Cummins Miller

Want this book? Find out at the end of this review how you can get an autographed copy.

Susan Cummins Miller’s last book, Fracture,  kept me guessing–and reading–until geologist Frankie McFarlaine and her boyfriend unravel the complex mystery that involves Philo’s family. That would be the boyfriend, oddly-named Philo Dain, a Special Forces kind of guy who runs a top-notch private detective agency in Tucson.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, Tucson

Frankie and Philo are just getting reacquainted after his recent return from Afghanistan when his uncle shows up wanting Philo’s help locating some valuable coins. Philo doesn’t like his Uncle, but because of inheritance, he partly owns the coins, so he agrees.  The uncles’ trophy wife turns up dead and Uncle Derek, a man used to buying whatever he wants–including respect– is the prime suspect.

The plot is too complex to summarize without giving something away. Tension builds and along with the physical threats to our hero and heroine, plenty of puzzle solving is involved. It even gets a bit Ludlum-esque when a rare coin dealer and an academic get involved trying to “decode” a family chess set that turns out to be museum-quality rare.

Meanwhile, Miller paints a realistic picture of her native Tucson, and similarly evocative scenes in a house on a cliff above the foggy San Francisco coast and the family ranch which holds the final clues to the secrets.

San Francisco fog
Photo from Wiki Commons

This review is another follow-up to the 2014 Tucson Festival of Books. See my earlier review of Townie by Andre Debus III.  And where I saw Susan Cummins Miller, here.

Miller’s Frankie McFarlane mystery series started with the the publication in 2002 of Death Assemblage. Since then she has published a total of five Frankie McFarlane mysteries and has finished a sixth–each with a geological reference in the title. Her newest book, out next year, is Chasm, set in the Grand Canyon.

The earlier books emphasized geology–Frankie seemed to stumble on bodies every time she takes students out in the field for research–and the skill set that being a scientist contributes to Frankie the myster-solver. The importance of Frankie’s geology background is dialed down in Fracture, as Frankie shares focus with the adventure-hero Philo. However, she still is independent, resourceful and smart as the dickens. And we do learn a few things about the composition of the earth around San Francisco–and fractures and earthquakes that take place in the ground as well as those that split families.

The characters are vivid  in Fracture. Miller provides us an almost tactile experience of the contrast between sweltering summer Tucson, and cool, damp San Francisco.  This mystery is a keeper.


Tucson Festival of Books
Susan Cummins Miller talks to reader at 2014 TFOB

At the Book Festival, Susan signed a copy of Fracture for me to give to one of my readers.

If you would like to have an exciting (virtual) trip to the Bay area by winning a signed, hardback copy of Fracture, leave a comment below mentioning the word ‘fracture.’  A winner will be chosen at random  on May 20. The book is valued at $30.

Winners must have a United States postal address and must be over 18. There is no limit on the number of entries. See other fine print here.

Notes: The author gave me a copy of the book for review and to use as a giveaway.  My opinions are still my own.  Links here to Amazon allow you to shop easily for this book and others and at the same time support A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.

Will You Win in Week Two?

New York City Fireworks on the Hudson River


We have two winners in the first weeks January book giveaway. Congratulations to

  • Catherine Sweeney of Traveling with Sweeney (Catherine tweeted and commented and listed us on Google +)
  • Kimberly Hayes from After Globe (Kimmy tweeted and favorited on Twitter)

Now it is your turn. Do any ONE of the following, or all for more chances.

  • Subscribe to our weekly e-mail updates (enhanced with breaking travel and book news). Go here.
  • Comment on any post between Monday morning, January 13 and 6:00 a.m. Monday January 20.
  • Tweet about A Traveler’s Library and include @pen4hire.
  • Post on Google + with a link to Vera Marie Badertscher

See complete rules here.

See list of books here.

Favorite Reads in Year Five–And Book Giveaway

world cake

Wow! Another Birthday.  A Traveler’s Library is Five Years Old.  As is the habit on our birthday, we’ll review the year and there will be presents.  But YOU get the presents. Read on for a Book Giveaway.

Photo by Sergey Melkonov
Photo by Sergey Melkonov

A Traveler’s Library hit the 1000 mark of published articles, and this one makes it 1,175. (You all go ahead and have some champagne while I take a nap.)





1.Besides my own book and movie reviews, you loved to read the contributions from


  • Kerry Dexter (Music Travel),
  • Jane Boursaw (Movie Travel,
  • Brette Sember (Food Travel),
  • Jennifer Close (Family Travel),
  • Pamela Douglas Webster (Pet Travel),
  • and Jessica Voigts (Cultural Travel).

Next year you will see some changes, as Brette Sember, Jennifer Close and Pamela Webster Douglas all had to leave ATL for other new exciting projects.

Perhaps you have met our new Family Travel contributor, Powell Berger. If not, read an interview with Powell here. She has already written a piece with suggestions on best family travel books.

Everybody on the team wants to contribute a bit of Food Travel, so we’ll all pitch in for a while, and the Pet Travel slot is not yet filled.

2. Some bad some good in the Spring.

We had a bit of bad luck in April and the site kept disappearing.  Everything is fine now, so we hope you’ll dig back in the archives and see if you missed anything during the “blackouts.” For guidance, see my list of Best Travel Books of 2013.

Also in April, A Traveler’s Library got a sister site, when I started Ancestors in Aprons. That’s where I write about family stories and share food nostalgia and vintage recipes. Come visit any time.

Okay, but didn’t you mention presents?

3. You stick around when you come to visit.

We feel gratified that when you come to A Traveler’s Library, you keep reading.  The length of time that people stay on the page is much longer than for an average site. We take that as a compliment.

Yeah, yeah, where are the presents?

4.  Did you say, “Where did we go?”

My travel was rather limited in 2013, but I did share with you a fantastic road trip to Oregon.

Through books and movies and music, we have traveled to a dozen states this year–several of them more than once; and to at least 28 countries and International regions, including places like Mongolia and Afghanistan and the South Pacific.  Paralleling American travel interest, we have visited Italy 7 times, France 5 and England, Vietnam, Canada, Japan and Scotland each more than once.


Here are the 20 new posts you liked the most in 2013. (Boy, you surely do love those “Best of” lists, don’t you?)

Traveling to the Bates Motel (in Canada) (on TV)

Best New  Books of 2012 to Inspire Travel

10 Great Websites to Inspire You to Travel with Your Pet

5 Best Movies of 2012 to Inspire Travel

Seven Children’s Books to Inspire Travel

Father and Daughter Travel

10 Best Travel Food Experiences

Best Music for Journeys Real and Spiritual

Father Son Bike  Across Japan

Ten More Books To Make You  Pack Your Bag

Cara Black Invites You to Paris

Hot Days Hot Jazz

What Happens at Disney World After the Family Goes Home?

Ten Perfect Gifts for Travelers Who Read (2013)

Irish Music for St. Patrick’s Day

Win Harry Potter Posters

Julia Child’s Cats

Exploring Scottish Food One Bite at a Time

Hudson River Valley Novel Takes New Look at July 4

Wyoming and a World Seen in a Flock of Sheep

NOW can we open the presents?

Yes, if you have finished your virtual cake and champagne, here’s the way you can enter the book giveaway where you choose from those we have reviewed that are still available…

YOU get to choose a book from This List if your name is drawn from among those who

  • subscribe to our updates,
  •  comment on any post,
  • tweet mentioning A Traveler’s Library and @pen4hire,
  • or mention Vera Marie Badertscher on Google +  .

Up to five people’s names will be drawn each week for the book giveaway.

  • Simple way to win–one chance per week: leave a comment or subscribe and in a comment, tell me you’re subscribed.
  • Better odds/more work: enter all four ways each week.
  • Each person can enter (and win) up to 4 times but only once by each method in one week.
  • Each person can enter each week  during January 2014.
  • If you already subscribed by e-mail and want an extra entry as a subscriber, be sure to tell me that in the comments.
  • See all the contest rules  about four ways to enter here.
  • You can comment on this post or on an earlier post. To be among the first week’s winners,  do it before Monday morning January 13 at 6:00 a.m. MST. All the deadlines for the book giveaway are listed in the Contest Rules.