Tag Archives: Becky Masterman

Brigid Quinn is Back and in Serious Trouble

Destination: Tucson, Arizona

Book: Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman



Becky Masterman, a Tucson resident, created a female character who stands out in the crowd of female detectives.  Fans who read her first novel,Rage Against the Dying, have been eagerly waiting for the second in what they hope will be a lengthy series  featuring Brigid Quinn. A retired FBI agent, married to a retired Episcopal priest, she has recently settled (not that Brigid actually settles) in Tucson.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, Tucson

You might guess by the “retired” that comes before FBI agent, Brigid Quinn is somewhere north of 55, but age is just a number, and she’s not counting.  She is insatiably drawn to mysterious situations with a dangerous edge, to the despair of her peace-loving husband.  Brigid still knows how to handle bad guys–and gals–both physically and through meticulous analysis of evidence and application of street smarts.

The new book, Fear the Darkness, shows Brigid trying to fit in to a ‘normal’ life.  She has followed through on a promise to her brother’s dying wife and brought the couples college-age daughter to Tucson to live so that the girl can establish residency for college.  As we learn more about Brigid’s former job as an undercover agent–adapting to roles of prostitute, drug runner, or other lowdown vermin– it is easy to see how she can have doubts about this normal-family-surrogate-mother thing.

I could do this.  I was tough.  I may be small and have prematurely white hair, but I’m as psychologically and physically fit as you can be at my age.  And as I’ve explained, I can disarm a grown man before he could say..anything….Next to somebody like me, Chuck Norris is just a wuss.  How hard could it be to be a good aunt.

To add to her angst, Gemma Kate, the neice, shows some odd quirks of her own.  In fact her behavior is so odd that Brigid begins to wonder if the clever girl is a psychopath. Bad things start happening all around, and Brigid herself becomes  a target of some sort of evil that she can’t quite identify.

The plot is complex–peopled with the sort of friends and neighbors you can recognize without thinking “stock characters.”  This complexity takes a lot of time to set up–the mysterious teenage suicide; the devotion of a friend (the only one Brigid has ever had) to her paralyzed husband; the appearance of an appealing man at church one day; even the rather unenthusiastic minister. Then there’s an arrogant doctor with a wife who seems unhinged; a cop who may be hiding family secrets.  Readers who want their thrillers to leap right in to the action are going to have to cool their heels while they meet these characters and experience how “normal” can slide into a horror show so gradually that you hardly notice.

The climax is frightening not just because of the violent action, presented in proper thriller fashion in a breath-taking sequence, but also because the “I never saw that coming” ending has you wondering about the assumptions you make in your own life. It’s not as though the author didn’t try to warn you.

I admit from the start it’s at least embarrassing to not recognize the devil, but I can understand because I’ve been there…During my time with the Bureau, I lived among killers who cheerfully attended their daughters’ ballet recitals, and men who trafficked in human flesh whole baby-talking their parakeets.

Although I was impatient with the slow setup of this book, I still am a big fan of Brigid Quinn and her smart-ass wisecracks and derring-do. The first book was a nominee for best first novel in the Edgars (mystery writing) and no doubt this one will garner some of the same recognition. Brigid’s dialogue is not the only smart thing about the writing.

Sunset and rain, Tucson
Sunset and rain, Tucson











If you’re wondering what Tucson is like–not just the mountain paths and the wildlife, but also the culture–Masterman weaves that kind of information into the story.  Just one thing threw me, and I’m probably petty for mentioning it, but I can’t resist.

Night Blooming Cactus
Night Blooming Cereus

Gemma Kate and her boy friend  take off for Sabino Canyon and tell Brigid that they are going to look at the “night-blooming cactus and the wildlife”.  Sabino Canyon does have moonlight walks. Except this scene takes place in March. The night-blooming cereus–the night-bloomer that makes the best show doesn’t bloom until late June or early July. Until then, all there is to see is a pathetic plant lying on the ground imitating a dead stick.  I know–picky, picky, picky.

Where you can absolutely depend on Masterman’s research, of course, is in forensic details.  She has worked for years as an editor of forensic medicine books or law enforcement officials, and has a wide array of experts to call on. These nitty gritty details make the novel come to life. And nothing is livelier than the terrific creation, Brigid Quinn.


The publisher sent me the book for review.  I have met Masterman personally, and interviewed her after her first book was published (you can read that interview here.) Neither of these things affects my giving you my honest appraisal of the book.

There are links to Amazon here, for your convenience. You need to know that I am an Amazon affiliate, so anything you buy through a link on this site makes a few cents to help keep A Traveler’s Library alive. Thank you.



The Edgars–Mystery Awards

Last night, May 1, The Edgar Awards were announced in New York City. Named for the guy who started the whole genre, Edgar Alan Poe, the Edgars honor all types of mystery and crime writing by American authors. A Traveler’s Library, as usual, is looking for those with a strong sense of place that might interest travelers.  Here are the big winners and some nominees that fit the bill.


Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.  [Setting: Minnesota]Here Krueger departs from his popular Cork O’Connor mystery series with a coming of age novel about a boy facing multiple deaths and searching for reason. In 2009, when we were on a virtual road trip around the United States, we featured an interview with Krueger about his book, Vermillion Drift. Now that he’s won the big Edgar, you might want to see how this author’s mind works, by reading that interview.

You might also be interested in the nominated How the Light Gets In [Setting: Quebec] by Louise Penny. Part of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, it follows one we reviewed here in 2011, A Trick of the Light. Penny does an excellent job of setting the scene, lus developing very interesting characters, although I was disappointed that I listened to an audio book rather than reading it in print.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave [Setting Edinburgh] features the a return of a retired character in a popular series by Ian Rankin.

Until She Comes Home [Setting Detroit] by Lori Roy.  Former Edgar award winner for Bent Road.

Best New Novel by an American Writer

Red Sparrow, by John Matthews [Setting: Russia] The cold war spy games between Russia and America (will they never end?) have been mined practically into extinction, but Matthews has a new angle–the spies who were specifically trained to use sexual wiles to get information.   Red Sparrow intrigued me when I heard about it and sounds like a very good read.

Others travelers who read might like:

I have to admit that I was pulling for Tucsonan Becky Masterman in this category for her excellent first crime novel, Rage Against the Dying [Setting: Tucson/Oro Valley] . We reviewed it after seeing her at the 2013 Tucson Festival of Books.

Ghostman [setting: Atlantic City] by Roger Hobbs. A casino robbery gone wrong and a mysterious “fixer.”

You can see the entire list of nominees and award winners at the Edgars website.  Please let me know if there are others I should have included here.

Note: Some titles and book covers here are linked to Amazon, in case you’d like to purchase a copy of a book. When you use these links, it costs you no more, but A Traveler’s Library gets a few cents to keep us in business. Thanks.

Award Winning Authors

ALICE MUNRO–NOBEL Award Winning Author

Award Winning Authors: Munro
Alice Munro. Photo from her Amazon author’s page.

The big book news of last week, of course, is the announcement that short-story writer Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since I’ve pledged to pay more attention to Canada and  Alice Munro is from rural Ontario, Canada, I am searching for some of her stories that strongly reflect Canada.

A Traveler’s Library frequently writes about award winning authors. So why not Alice Munro? That’s the downside of writing about books that influence travel, I sometimes have to bypass wonderful literature because it achieves universality.  Yes, universality is a good thing in literature.  But here at A Traveler’s Library, we have a narrower goal–books that emphasize place and culture and will encourage people to visit. So the main question is not–is Munro worth reading?–which she certainly is, but should we put her books on the Traveler’s Library Shelf because they inspire us to see Canada or understand Canada?

A rare negative review of Munro in the London Review of Books says she writes about ordinary people…

Ordinary people turn out to live in a rural corner of Ontario between Toronto and Lake Huron, and to be white, Christian, prudish and dangling on a class rung somewhere between genteel poverty and middle-class comfort. Occasionally they move to the vicinity of Vancouver, only to go back to Ontario again.

Are you a reader of Alice Munro’s work?  Do you have suggestions of her work that might help people understand Canada–as well as the human condition?


Award Winning Authors: book cover
We can’t help getting excited when a book that has been reviewed here is nominated for or wins a major award.  Becky Masterman, who sets Rage Against the Dying in Tucson, is on the short list for a Golden Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association.  This is a MAJOR accomplishment for a first novel, up against stiff competition for best crime novel recognition against many award winning authors. The nail biting ends on October 24th, when Crime Writers Association announces the winners. But being short listed, Becky is already a winner. Fingers crossed, Becky.


Award Winning Authors: Book Cover
If you have not yet discovered what a fan I am of Robert Wilson, take a look at my previous reviews of his books set in Portugal (That one won the Golden Dagger when it came out) and Spain and Spain.  His latest novel, Capital Punishment, which is set in London, is on the short list at Crime Writer’s Association for the Steel Dagger Award (for thrillers). My copy is in the mail, and I’m looking forward to it, particularly looking at the very mixed reviews on Amazon set against the fact that its short listed for this award. Wow! Time to form my own opinion–and take a tour of London. As for the award–best wishes, Robert.

CHRIS PAVONE–2013 EDGAR WINNER for Best First Novel by An American Author

Award Winning Authors: The Expats
My apologies to Chris Pavone. I somehow managed to miss the Edgars this year when they were presented in May, and I definitely should have been paying attention. The Expats: A Novel, which was reviewed here, won the Best First Novel Award.   I thought Expats was a delightful and creative novel, and it may be the ONLY book we ever have that is located in Luxembourg.

I would not have known who to cheer for, though, because I’m also a fan of Kim Fay, whose The Map of Lost Memories was also short-listed for that award that Chris Pavone won. Her book set in Cambodia combined archaeology and both present and past mysteries. Her nomination is certainly something to cheer.

The Edgars are the awards of the Mystery Writers of America and we’ll have to wait until around January 19, 2014 (Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday) to learn what award winning authors are on the next short list.

 KEEP READING A Traveler’s Library

Because despite the narrower focus of books chosen for A Traveler’s Library–we’ll keep introducing you to  Award Winning Authors.