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Tag Archives: hiatus

Your 2019 Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment — The Works of Margaret Frazer

During Just Desserts’ traditional end-of-year holiday hiatus in November and December 2019, we’re going to continue to remain active…but only in a virtual sense. During these two months, although we won’t be gathering for an in-person meeting, members are encouraged to read any of the 31 novels in any of three historical mystery series by Margaret Frazer, then visit this discussion post on the Just Desserts Blog, and leave a comment on Frazer and whichever series you sampled, as a response to this post.

For those who are unfamiliar with Margaret Frazer, here’s some general background, and an overview of her three series:

Margaret Frazer, born Gail Lynn Brown (November 26, 1946 – February 4, 2013), was an American historical novelist, best known for more than twenty historical mystery novels and a variety of short stories. The pen name was originally shared by Frazer and Mary Monica Pulver Kuhfeld in their collaboration on The Novice’s Tale, the first of the Sister Frevisse books featuring the Benedictine nun Dame Frevisse. Their collaboration came to an end with The Murderer’s Tale, the sixth book in the series. Starting with the Edgar Award-nominated The Prioress’ Tale, the Margaret Frazer pen name was used exclusively by Gail Frazer. She also wrote the Player Joliffe mysteries, starring the medieval actor Joliffe, and a trio of novels in the Bishop Pecock series.

Frazer was born and grew up in Kewanee, Illinois. An actress and member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, she lived and worked in Elk River, Minnesota. Frazer died February 4, 2013 from breast cancer, aged 66

The Sister/Dame Frevisse series (21 volumes): Frevisse is a nun at the small, fictional, 15th-century Oxfordshire convent of St. Frideswide’s,[2] with its ten (more or less) nuns; the neighboring village of Prior Byfield belongs partly to the priory and partly to Lord Lovell (an historical figure). Six of the novels are set entirely at the priory and/or village; in others Frevisse leaves the convent, either to accompany another nun on some family or convent business or on business of her own. Many of the novels have the quality of “English village” murder mysteries, in which we see at close hand the everyday material life (and the intellectual and spiritual life) of various classes of people and observe the tensions within and between them; but here, the “everyday” is of the 15th century, carefully researched. Some of the later novels are primarily historical novels, in which Frevisse serves as an observer of the well-documented events and characters which brought on the Wars of the Roses, though there is always a murder for her to solve. Frevisse is related to Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, by her aunt’s marriage to Geoffrey’s son, Thomas Chaucer. Titles of the Frevisse novels follow the format of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, e.g., The Novice’s Tale, The Prioress’s Tale. Each book begins with a chapter or passage focusing on the title character; this is followed by a change to Frevisse’s perspective, which dominates the novel, though we return from time to time to the point of view of the title character. The role of the title character varies from book to book: murderer, victim, a person in power or a victim of others’ power

The Joliffe the Player series (7 volumes): Frazer’s second set of mysteries, also set in 15th-century England, feature “Joliffe the Player”, a spin-off character from the Dame Frevisse series, appearing first in The Servant’s Tale and crossing paths with Frevisse again in The Prioress’s Tale, The Bastard’s Tale, and The Traitor’s Tale. The Joliffe series is set in the mid-1430s; thus these novels sometimes feel like “prequels” to his appearances in Dame Frevisse novels set in a later decade. The first three Joliffe novels present the life of an acting troupe traveling through the English countryside, with Lord Lovell as their patron after the end of the first novel. In the fourth, A Play of Lords, Joliffe is recruited as a spy for Bishop Beaufort and becomes involved in the political intrigues leading up to the Wars of the Roses. The fifth book, A Play of Treachery, takes him away from the players to France on behalf of Bishop Beaufort. When Joliffe again crosses paths with Dame Frevisse in The Traitor’s Tale, he is employed as a spy for the Duke of York, after the death of Bishop Beaufort.

The Bishop Pecock series (3 volumes): Come down the Paternoster Passage, cross the church’s yard, and knock on the doors of Master Whittington’s Almshouse. Master Pecock, a man of the cloth and the greatest detective of 15th century London, will answer your call.

(This above description comes (mostly) from the Wikipedia entry for Margaret Frazer)

Handout with plots of all 31 novels in all 3 of Margaret Frazer’s series — distributed at the October 2019 Just Desserts meeting.

Catalog Links: The libraries own several of the novels of Margaret Frazer, starting with The Novice’s Tale (1992) through Sins of the Blood (2012). The libraries own only scattered volumes from Frazer, in both print and digital formats but they are also commonly available in the used book market, or you can borrow her titles through our InterLibrary Loan service!

Your question: Which Margaret Frazer novel did you read, and what was your opinion?

Your 2017 Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment — Don Winslow

Don Winslow photographed at Fletcher Cove, Solana Beach, California, October 10, 2012.

During the Nov/Dec 2017 hiatus between meetings of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we encourage regular attendees to continue to participate as a group…but in a virtual way. While we may not have an actual meeting scheduled during these two months, this blog is available to keep everyone active with their mystery reading and discussions.

Because 2017 is the year we’re celebrating Nebraska’s Sesquicentennial, and all-year-long the libraries have been encouraging readers to sample works by Nebraska authors, our “hiatus assignment” for 2017 is the entire body of works by Nebraska author Don Winslow. Winslow has had 17 novels and one non-fiction book published, starting with 1991’s A Cool Breeze on the Underground, through 2017’s The Force.

The Lincoln City Libraries currently own 16 of Winslow’s 17 novels, excluding 1996’s Isle of Joy, and 15 of those 16 are available in circulating copies outside of the Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors collection. 1999’s California Fire & Life is only available for perusing in the Heritage Room. Several of Winslow’s novels are connected — his first five all featured Neal Carey, two later novels both feature Boone Daniels. Savages and Kings of Cool are connected. The Cartel and The Power of the Dog are connected. And there are several stand-alone volumes.

You can visit the Nebraska Author Don Winslow booklist on BookGuide for more information about Winslow, and for hotlinks into the libraries’ online catalog to check on the status of all of his books.

For the purposes of Just Desserts, we encourage you to read ANY of Winslow’s novels, and return to this Just Desserts blog post to leave a comment, in response to the following question. We look forward to seeing your comments here over the course of the next two months!

So…here’s your question:

Which of Don Winslow’s novels did you read, and what was your opinion?

Your Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment – 2016: The Gideon Oliver series

Just Desserts Logo 225fellowshipoffearDuring the Nov/Dec 2016 hiatus between meetings of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we encourage regular attendees to continue to participate as a group…but in a virtual way. While we may not have an actual meeting scheduled during these two months, this blog is available to keep everyone active with their mystery reading and discussions.

Our “hiatus assignment” for 2016 is the “Professor Gideon Oliver” series by author Aaron Elkins. Comprised of eighteen volumes (so far), published between 1982’s first volume (Fellowship of Fear), and 2016’s latest volume (Switcheroo). Aaron Elkins began writing the first novel in the Gideon Oliver series in 1978, and has been steadily putting out books by himself, or in collaboration with his mystery-writing wife, Charlotte Elkins, ever since.

For those who are unfamiliar with Gideon Oliver, here’s a general overview of the series: Professor Gideon Oliver is a forensic anthropologist, whose expertise (especially in ancient human cultures) frequently allows him to assist in various investigations. Together with his wife, Julie, Gideon Oliver travels the world to various historical dig sites, stumbling across murder mysteries in many international settings.

Catalog Links: The libraries own all 18 novels in the Gideon Oliver series, starting with “Fellowship of Fear” (1982) through “Switcheroo” (2016) — although there are only limited numbers of copies of each title — anywhere from a single copy to as many as 4 of some of the older entries. Although none of the Gideon Oliver series is available in audiobook or Large Type editions, it does appear that all of them are available as eBooks through the libraries Hoopla digital content service!

In 1989, when the ABC television network had revived the concept of a “mystery movie night” with rotating sleuths, including Columbo, Kojak and B.L. Stryker, Gideon Oliver was one of their stable of mystery solvers. Louis Gossett Jr. played the anthropologist in 5 two-hour tv-movies. Those have not been released on DVD, but can be found on various online streaming sites.

Discuss the Professor Gideon Oliver series by Aaron Elkins on the Just Desserts Blog!

Handout with plots of all 18 Gideon Oliver novels — distributed at the October 2016 Just Desserts meeting.

Here’s the official Elkins website:

We look forward to seeing your comments here over the course of the next two months!

So…here’s your question:

Which of the “Gideon Oliver” novels did you read, and what was your opinion?

Your Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment – 2015: Holiday Mysteries

Just Desserts Logo 225mistletoeminiDuring the Nov/Dec 2015 hiatus between meetings of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we encourage regular attendees to continue to participate as a group…but in a virtual way. While we may not have an actual meeting scheduled during these two months, this blog is available to keep everyone active with their mystery reading and discussions.

Our “hiatus assignment” for 2015 is “Holiday Mysteries” — including Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s.

One of the most popular annual book displays at the Bennett Martin Public Library every year is the Mistletoe Mysteries display that goes up at the beginning of December…in fact, it’s hard to keep it fully loaded for all of December, as so many titles get grabbed by eager readers. In conjunction with that display, a special Mistletoe Mysteries booklist was created several years ago, and is updated each year on our website to reflect new additions to the “Christmas Mystery” category, as well as withdrawals of older titles no longer being read.

You can certainly wait until the start of December and check out the book display downtown, or you can click on the Mistletoe Mysteries links in this blog entry to jump straight to the online booklist, which will give you dozens, if not hundreds, of mystery reading choices for this festive time of year! So — your assignment is: read one or more Holiday Mysteries (either novels or short story collections), and respond to the question at the bottom of this post!

We look forward to seeing your comments here over the course of the next two months, until Just Desserts meets again in January 2016!

So…here’s your question:

Which of the “Holiday Mystery” novel or short story collection did you read, and what was your opinion?

Your Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment – 2014: The Benjamin January series

freemanofcolorJust Desserts Logo 225November 07, 2014 by sdc

During the Nov/Dec 2014 hiatus between meetings of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we encourage regular attendees to continue to participate as a group…but in a virtual way. While we may not have an actual meeting scheduled during these two months, this blog is available to keep everyone active with their mystery reading and discussions.

Our “hiatus assignment” for 2014 is the “Benjamin January” series by author Barbara Hambly. Comprised of thirteen volumes, published between 1997’s first volume (A Free Man of Color), and 2014’s latest volume (Crimson Angel). Barbara Hambly was first published in 1982, and has been a prolific writer of genre fiction, including not just mysteries but also science fiction and fantasy. Her “Benjamin January” series is considered to be among the best of all of her works. This series was described as follows on Wikipedia:

“This historical mystery series begins with A Free Man of Color (1997) and features Benjamin January, a brilliant, classically educated, free colored surgeon and musician living in New Orleans during the antebellum years of the 1830s. At the time, New Orleans had a large and prosperous population of free people of color. Born a slave, as his mother was enslaved, January was freed as a young child by his mother’s lover, under the plaçage system. Provided with an excellent education, he gained fluency in several classical and modern languages, and was thoroughly versed in the whole of classical Western learning and arts. He studied medicine in Paris, where he trained as a surgeon. He returned to Louisiana to escape the memory of his late wife, a woman from North Africa. As a free black in Louisiana, he cannot find work as a surgeon. He earns a modest living by his exceptional talent as a musician.

Each title is a murder mystery, with a complex plot and well-developed characters. Each explores many aspects of French Creole and overall Louisiana society. Most tend to emphasize some particular element of antebellum Louisiana life, such as Voodoo religion (Graveyard Dust), opera and music (Die Upon a Kiss), the annual epidemics of yellow fever and malaria (Fever Season), fear of miscegenation (Dead and Buried), or the harsh nature of commercial sugar production by enslaved labor (Sold Down the River).

Important themes of the series are 1) the cultural clash between the rising Protestant English-speaking Anglo-Americans, and the declining Catholic, French-speaking Creoles, 2) skin color discrimination within the society of Creoles of color, with favor given to lighter-skinned persons 3) January’s bitterness at the many forms of racial injustice he observes, 4) the complex, partially race-based sexual politics of colonial French and United States society, and 5) January’s comparison of what he thinks of as the open and frank African outlook of his early childhood with the more restrained and rational European worldview he acquired through education and experience. This last theme occurs most often with respect to music, spirituality, and respect for law and social custom.”

We encourage Just Desserts participants to read any of the 13 books in this series, at some point in November or December 2014, then come back here to this blog post and leave a comment about whatever you read or watched, as a response to this discussion topic.

  • 1. A Free Man of Color (1997)
  • 2. Fever Season (1998)
  • 3. Graveyard Dust (1999)
  • 4. Sold Down the River (2000)
  • 5. Die upon a Kiss (2001)
  • 6. Wet Grave (2002)
  • 7. Days of the Dead (2003)
  • 8. Dead Water (2004)
  • 9. Dead and Buried (2011)
  • 10. The Shirt on His Back (2011)
  • 11. Ran Away (2011)
  • 12. Good Man Friday (2013)
  • 13. Crimson Angel (2014)

As a bit of background, here are some links to Barbara Hambly information:

We look forward to seeing your comments here over the course of the next two months!

So…here’s your question:

Which of the “Benjamin January” novels did you read, and what was your opinion?

Scott C. – Just Desserts coordinator and host