Tag Archives: Tucson Festival of Books

Solving Crime Puzzles from Tucson to San Francisco

Destinations: Tucson and San Francisco Bay area

Book: Fracture (2011) by Susan Cummins Miller

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.


Tips if You Go to TFOB

Fountain Fun
Balloons and water to play in. Doesn’t get better than that

The Tucson Book Festival Starts March 15. Are you going? Here are some tips.


  • Parking is free at University lots and garages. Check the parking maps in advance on the TFOB site, or at the University of Arizona website  to see where the garages or handicapped parking are.
  • Look over the on line schedule and decide in advance what is most important to you.
  • Author Larry McMurtry
    Author Larry McMurtry signing books for a line of people that stretched two blocks long.

    Check the map of booths and buildings, also at the TFOB site, to be sure you have time to get from one to another presentation, leaving time to stand in line to get a signature if you buy a book.

  • Be prepared to stand in line at least an hour before the major presentations (in the larger auditoriums (capacity of each room is designated on the schedule).  There are long lines for some of the presentations in the rooms that hold 200-300 also.
  • Ronald McDonald at book festival
    Is Ronald McDonald meditating?

    Bring the kids. The huge children’s area has things for every age from infant to teen.

  • Don’t forget to eat. While there is some “junk food” available, there are also offerings from some of the best eateries in Tucsonlike Beyond Bread, Brushfire Barbeque, Pastiche, Rene’s Organic Oven, Tucson Tamale Company and Frost Gelato. The main eateries are gathered in a central area with plenty of seating. Others snack places are scattered and there is food in the Student Union.
  • TFOB Storybook Breakfast
    TFOB Storybook Breakfast, Skippyjon Jones

    Leave some time for shopping and for serendipity.


TFOB 2014 poster


Preview of Tucson Festival of Books 2014

Tucson Festival of Books
Where do we go?

Next weekend it’s BAAAACK! The great Tucson Festival of Books runs Saturday and Sunday March 15 and 16 with hundreds of authors, a mind-boggling array of panels and talks and book signings and entertainment .

Check out the nice weather in these pictures, and consider a quick trip to Tucson.


Flowers brighten cloudy day
Flowers brighten cloudy day on Saturday in 2013.








However, if you REALLY can’t get to Tucson for the festival, you can read sixteen reviews and interview of  authors who will be doing presentations this year. Yes, we have them all right here at A Traveler’s Library.

I must admit I may have missed some of the authors from this year’s TFOB list that we have previously written about or reviewed, because my eyes glaze over scanning a list of hundreds of writers.

NOTE: Special attractions this year include former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Click on the titles below to read my reviews of these author’s books, some of whom I met for the first time at the Tucson Festival of Books.

2014 Tucson Festival of Books logoMasha Hamilton

Staircase of a Thousand Steps (jordan), What Changes Everything (Afghanistan), The Afghan Women’s Writers Project.

Anne Hillerman

Tony HIllerman’s Landscape (American Southwest).

Rebecca Eaton

Making Masterpiece Reviewed at Reel Life With Jane

Jacquelyn Winspear

Maisie Dobbs (England)

2014 Tucson Festival of Books logoCara Black

Murder Below Montparnasse (Paris)

Jenn McKinlay

Author InterviewGoing, Going, Going Ganache (Scottsdale), Cloche and Dagger (London)

Becky Masterman

Rage Against the Dying (Tucson)

Kim Fay

Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, The Map of Lost Memories (Cambodia)

2014 Tucson Festival of Books logoC. J. Box

Back of Beyond (Yellowstone National Park); The Highway (Montana)

Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show (A guest essay by Ruth Pennebaker).

Roads (An American Road Trip)

Tom Miller

Jack Ruby’s Kitchen Sink (Borderlands)

Mara Purl

What the Heart Knows (An author interview)

Richard Shelton

Going Back to Bisbee (southern Arizona)

TFOB 2014 poster