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Cold weather, mysteries from Minnesota authors are great companions

We’re going to be out and about on this above-zero day, after being housebound by recent cold weather, but night will come and it will get cold again. A good excuse for reading some Minnesota mysteries by the fire.

180121bks_eulogist“The Eulogist” by Jeffrey B. Burton (The Permanent Press, $29.95): Drew Cady, FBI special agent, is happy working with the Medical Fraud Strike Force after years in the Criminal Investigation Division. But when he’s in Washington, D.C., for a boring conference, his old boss persuades him to check out the assassination of a sitting  U.S. senator. Soon he’s sucked into the investigation with his friend and former colleague Special Agent Liz Preston.

The partners learn the senator and a drug addict in Baltimore were both killed with a knife, and a eulogy was left on their bodies. There’s a suspicious suicide and the death of the head of a giant pharmaceuticals company being run in the interim by a savvy lawyer. Is the company paying off someone, or killing off someone, to get their new blockbuster drug approved by the government.?

The agents also wonder why the dead rich man was friends with the head of an East Coast Mexican drug cartel. And who is the assassin known only as The Canadian.

Readers need to pay attention when reading “The Eulogist,” in which Cady and his colleagues bounce from Washington to other countries where they work with a lot of different law enforcement folks. Keeping all these secondary characters  straight takes careful reading. Tension builds as the agents think they have The Canadian cornered, only to see the person slip away despite their best efforts.

This is Cady’s third case, after “The Chessman” (2012) and “The Lynchpin” (2015). He seems like a decent guy, well trained and not trigger happy, mostly playing it by FBI rules. Compared to character-driven crime stories, he seems a little bland. But mystery/crime fans more interested in how a case is solved than who solves it won’t be disappointed as Cady finds out important information from his friend, a deep hacker who can crack any computer firewall. And Cady comes more vividly into focus when he confronts The Canadian, who has killed someone dear to him.

Burton grew up in St. Paul and received a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. His short stories have appeared in dozens of national genre magazines.

180121bks_marchOfcrime“March of Crime” by Jess Lourey (Midnight Ink, $14.99): Mira James, a budding private investigator who lives in Battle Lake, Minn., not only goes to jail but ends up inside a big doll in Lourey’s latest lighthearted Murder-By-Month mystery.

Since this cozy series began in 2006 with “May Day,” Mira has matured, although she still loves Nut Goodies (and who doesn’t?). Then she was looking to start a new life away from Minneapolis and ended up in her friend’s double-wide trailer in Battle Lake, where she found a sidekick in outspoken senior citizen Mrs. Berns, who’s often hilarious but never made to seem ridiculous. Mira’s been a part-time newspaper reporter and librarian and her love life is up and down.

“March of Crime” has a creepy premise: Nursing home resident Ida Gilbertson has a new hobby of crafting life-size dolls and displaying them around town. Then Mira sits next to one of the dolls, and discovers it’s a human corpse. Her nemesis, Police Chief Gary Wohnt, wants to pin the blame on her and locks her up. It’s up to Mrs. Berns and the city’s obnoxious but sort-of-endearing mayor to set Mira free.

In the romance department (spoiler ahead) Mira and her sweet boyfriend break up because the relationship isn’t working. Mira vows to win him back, but since the April installment will be the last of this series (unless Lourey goes into a second year), she only has one book left to get her man. She certainly deserves to live happily ever after.


“Murder Book” by Frank F. Weber (North Star Press, $15): A murder book is everything law enforcement has gathered about a cold case in which a homicide is suspected.

Jon Frederick spent his adolescence protecting his mentally ill brother and worrying about this family’s farm headed to bankruptcy near the town of Pierz. On the day he ended his relationship with alluring Mandy Baker, the young woman was found dead. She was last seen leaving Little Falls High School, and everybody in town thought Jon was guilty, although he was never tried.

“Mandy Baker was the biggest mistake of my life,” Jon tells the reader.

Now it’s a decade later and Jon is a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator who reopens the murder book on Mandy and sees similarities to his new case, the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl. As Jon begins digging around in the past, he reconnects with an old acquaintance, Serena Bell.

Jon is an intriguing character. He admits he is an obsessive person and Mandy’s disappearance exacerbated that trait: “My thoughts tormented me at times, but overall, I did pretty well at keeping them in check.” But he also knows his personality keeps people at a distance.

“Murder Book” is told in the voices of Jon, Serena and a coldblooded killer who calls himself Panthera, based on the scientific name for the North American lion.

This is a fast-paced, appealing book with plot and character complementing each other. Since the author is a forensic psychologist, he knows the nature of criminals and those who want to catch them.

Do film stars die in Liverpool? Find out at the movies this week


“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”: Annette Bening plays actress Gloria (“I’m just a girl who cain’t say no”) Grahame, whose May-to-December romance with Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) is the stuff of memoir and this movie. R

“Hostiles”: It’s 1892 and an Army captain is tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief and his family in this western starring Christian Bale. R

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure”: The finale of the “Maze Runner” saga finds Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) on a mission to find the cure for a fatal illness called “Flare.”


“Jigsaw”: More sadistic and deadly games to be played. Yeah. R

“Geostorm”: Satellites set up to control bad weather (surprise!) malfunction, threatening the world. Gerard Butler must save the day. PG-13

“Thank You for Your Service”: U.S. soldiers, including Miles Teller, try to readjust to civilian life after time in Iraq. R

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”: A bizarre and troubling movie from the director who brought you “The Lobster.” R ***

“Goodbye Christopher Robin”: The real boy and stuffed animals behind the stories in the film about the life of A.A. Milne and his son. PG **

How Minn. is trying to get out of the DMV software mess
ST PAUL, Minn.—Guess how it feels to be a state employee working mandatory overtime around the holidays on a computer system that's so messed up that members of the public and even state lawmakers are calling for your head on a mousepad. Not good.
Warmer temps offer more time outdoors

GRAND FORKS—The reprieve from cold weather came none too soon for my tastes, and a few days of above-zero temperatures have offered all the motivation I needed to get out...

Brad Dokken
Shining our light on a problem to help our communities

Journalism can be a tough gig. Even when we know that what we've written is important, it's tough to judge whether it makes a difference in the world. It's not...

Jenny Schlecht
Ghost bikes commemorate victims of bicycle crashes in Minn.

ST. PAUL—Dorian Grilley slows down whenever he sees a white bike.

The bikes — known as "ghost bikes" to commemorate bicyclists who have died in traffic — are spreading across...

A ghost bike sits in Newport, Minn., near the entrance ramp to westbound Interstate 494, on Jan. 11, 2018. That’s where a truck hit bicyclist Peter Morey, 39, of Cottage Grove. After he died in May 2017, his brother put up a ghost bike at the intersection, according to Morey’s wife, Krista Morey. Bob Shaw / Pioneer Press
Wil Totten pays his respects at the ghost bike honoring Jose Hernandez Solano on Sunday Dec. 17, 2017. Solano was struck by a SUV in St. Paul while biking home from work on Nov. 26 and later died from his injuries. Ghost bikes serve as a constant reminder to drivers and bikers to be vigilant while sharing the road. Matthew Weber / Pioneer Press
St. Cloud proud again! Hockey Day Minnesota scores!

The success of Hockey Day would not have come without the intense community collaboration, astounding volunteerism and important donations

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