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Goodbye to the Dead and Hello to Author Brian Freeman
By Doug Moe
I suspect most readers have had the experience of finishing a book they enjoyed and wishing they could speak with the author. Not to rub it in, but I recently finished a terrific new suspense thriller, Goodbye to the Dead, and the next day I had a chance to chat – via email – with author Brian Freeman. Good things happen to people who work (and shop) at Mystery to Me.

I was disappointed to miss Freeman when he was at the store in March, but he graciously agreed to answer some questions and reflect on his writing career, which began at the unlikely age of 41, when he was already a successful marketing and communications specialist in the Twin Cities.

Goodbye to the Dead is Freeman’s seventh novel featuring the Duluth police detective Jonathan Stride. It opens with a bang, a flashback to a decade earlier. Stride’s wife gives her close friend, a prominent female surgeon, a ride home from a party. A short time later, the surgeon’s husband, a controversial newspaper columnist, is fatally shot in their home. Stride gets the case.

Freeman’s first published novel, Immoral (2005), also featured Jonathan Stride. But it was not the novel Freeman had written – far from it. "Immoral was the sixth novel I’d written in my life, going back to when I was 13 years old,” he said.

Early on, Freeman was encouraged by a crime fiction-obsessed grandmother, and a middle school teacher who recognized his talent.

His grandmother said, “I’m ready for this great new book. It has a lot of bodies in it.” As for the teacher, in Freeman’s case she tossed the lesson plan and encouraged him to write fiction. By the following summer, he had finished a novel.

It would be nearly three decades, however, before he was actually published. “Publishing has always required a crazy amount of determination,” he said. “On the other hand, publishing is also one of those rare industries where people can still break through later in life.”

With Immoral, Freeman didn’t just break through, he grabbed the brass ring. “I think my life experience and craft experience finally all came together on that project,” he said.

Freeman landed a top London literary agent, who eventually sold the novel in 17 languages. Immoral was an International Book of the Month and a Main Selection of the Literary Guild and Book of the Month Club. “Not a bad way to finally make it,” Freeman said.
He was already plotting his second book, but the runaway success of Immoral led Freeman to refashion the manuscript into a Stride novel. Five more have followed. Freeman has also published three non-Stride novels. “I had put that man through such hell I thought he needed a vacation,” Freeman said.

One of the three, Spilled Blood, is what the industry calls a stand-alone. Freeman also has a two-book series featuring a character named Cab Bolton. The first Bolton title, The Bone House,is set in Door County.

Freeman said he was glad to reengage with Stride for the new novel, Goodbye to the Dead.  “He and I have a special relationship,” Freeman said. “We’ve older together, and we’ve changed and grown in the past decade.”

Look for the author and his character to continue to evolve. “People ask me whether I know how the Stride series will end,” Freeman said. “The truth is, I don’t have a clue.”

"Deftly plotted....Stride's heartfelt memories of Cindy and his reluctance to fully commit to Serena, coupled with an in-depth look at the book's supporting characters, make this police procedural a standout. "
– Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

 A Look Back at Selected March Events
by Doug Moe

I am not a neutral observer, but I think our events are getting better and better. If you haven’t come to see an author at Mystery to Me, I hope you will. The good news, if you can’t make an event, is that we still have signed copies of the authors’ books on hand at the store. I like seeing them because they remind me of the events.

In early March I had my first chance to interview both an author and the subject of the author’s biography, when Dan Smith and John Powless stopped by to talk about Dan’s new book, John Powless: A Life Well Played.The lively audience included members from John’s tennis club and a couple of his former UW basketball players. 

Andrea Thalasinos, who lives in the Monroe Street neighborhood – and at one time walked her half dozen sled dogs on the bike path – launched her novel novel, Fly by Night, at the store. The novel is both a “lost family” story and an environmental thriller involving the dubious practice of hunting wolves in Wisconsin.

I interviewed first-time author Steve Coss at Hotel Red, and told the overflow crowd that it was the first time I’d chatted with an author who had been favorably reviewed in both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in the past week. Steve’s book, The Fever of 1721, is a terrific non-fiction narrative that weaves together a number of story threads revolving around a small pox epidemic in Boston – and the early use of inoculation to fight it.

Novelist Libby Fischer Hellman came up from Chicago to talk about her new novel, Jump Cut, in which Libby reengages for the first time in a decade with her video-producer heroine, Ellie Foreman.

Finally, the store was packed to hear UW-Madison professor Kathy Cramer describe the statewide listening sessions that resulted in her fascinating new book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. I was proud of myself for going 15 minutes before I mentioned Donald Trump. His political rise can be read between almost every line of Kathy’s book.   

Upcoming Events

New Hours Begin April 1
Tuesday - Friday: Open 10 am to 7 pm (open later for events)
Saturday: Open 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: Open 11 am to 4 pm
Closed on Monday
....and open 24/7 on line at

Friday, April 1
7 pm -- SKYPE with Melissa Cistaro, author of Pieces of My Mother

Saturday, April 2 -- An event with activities for kids! 
11 am -- Children's author Susanne Benton is here to read from BIG is Small and SMALL is Big 

Sunday, April 3 
12:30 pm
History's Mysteries Bookclub
The Queen's Man by Sharon Penman

Sunday, April 3
2 pm -- An event for middle school kids!
Eleven-year-old Isabella Hollenbeck discusses her book Secrets of Detention

Tuesday, April 5
7 pm at HotelRED
Mystery to Me will be selling books for the launch of Erin Elizabeth Clune's book Sh*tty Mom for all Seasons

Thursday, April 7
5:30 pm
Madison Writers' Studio students read from their recent work in the creative fiction and non-fiction writing as well as advanced short story classes. The public is welcome. 

Tuesday, April 12
7 pm
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden discuss their newest mystery Death on a Starry Night

Wednesday, April 13
6 - 8 pm -- at the Monona Public Library
A Cook and Two Books! A unique mash-up of a cooking demo, author readings, Q&A, book signings and a salute to local partnerships. Chef Joel Olson from Hemmachef and Maddy Hunter - author of From Bad to Wurst and Nicholas Petrie - author of The Drifter. The event is free but registration is required. Please click on the link above or call 608-222-6127.

Saturday, April 16
11 am
Poet and bookseller Andrea Potos will have fun with her new broadside Coffee in Greece

12 pm - 4 pm 
Monroe Street Chocolate Walk
Click on the link here to learn more

7 pm
Doug Moe interviews Neal Griffin about his new book A Voice from the Field

Tuesday, April 19
7 pm
Doug Moe interviews Karla Jensen about her book Nobody's Hero - a story of a Marine Scout Sniper

Wednesday, April 27
5 - 7pm
Kathy Cramer will be discussing her book Politics of Resentment - Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker

Friday, April 29
7 pm
Doug Moe interviews Erika Janik about her new book Pistols and Petticoats - 175 years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction

Saturday, April 30
10 - 5 -- It's Independent Bookstore Day
What we're reading...

Joanne just finished several very different books. A bad head cold kept me snug by my fireplace where I needed something soothing. I turned to Rhys Bowen and read the last two Molly Murphy stories -- Time of Fog and Fire and The Edge of Dreams. Nothing like a good cozy to make you feel better.

After Rhys I had to get serious and read an advance reader copy (ARC) of Joe Hill's upcoming tome called Fireman (5/16). Joe Hill is Stephen King's son and he doesn't fall far from the family tree. Fireman is a dark dystopian tale of America being "attacked" by a powerful virus called dragonscale. Some people spontaneously combust and others live to build a new (and secret) society of folks who learn to live with the disease. It's compelling but, be prepared, it's more than 700 pages long!

Next up was another ARC - this one by local author, Shaun Harris. The book is called The Hemingway Thief (7/16) and is a masterfully told story about a long lost suitcase -- full of every last scrap of Hemingway's work. This is great crime fiction delightfully told with humor and pop-culture. If you like Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiasson, you'll love Shaun Harris. Harris will be at Mystery to Me on August 5.

Andrea has just finished The All of It, by by Jeannette Haien.  This 1986 short novel has recently been reissued, and praise be for that!  Set in Ireland, it tells the story of  an Irish priest pondering (while salmon fishing) a recent confession of one of his parishioners. The book is gorgeously written, constructed, and mesmerizing and surprising.  One of the most interesting comments about the novel came from the poet Mark Strand who wrote:  "The only book I know in which innocence follows experience.  A truly amazing thing."  

Victoria has gone in for non-fiction recently with Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. There isn't much about this National Book Award Winner that hasn't already been said. Coates' ability to put into words his experiences as an African-American and his feelings about those experiences is genius. This is the kind of book that changes the way you look at the world. Read it. She's also read On The Move by Oliver Sacks.
Years ago, I fell in love with Sacks and with cycads while reading "Island of the Color Blind". (I keep a sago palm in his honor.)  A true polymath, Sacks was a deft hand at intertwining all of his disparate interests into books that stirred the mind and the soul. Now in this autobiography, written as he was facing the end of his life, the physician and author takes a joyful look back at a life that was not always joyful and gives us a glimpse at a man who never lost his curiosity to know more about things that matter. If science had a poet laureate, it should be Oliver Sacks.

Jayne devours our bookcase of ARCS yet is only tempting you with the book she's currently reading -- Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan. This is the first in a new series (at least in the States!) featuring Mirabelle Bevan. It's 1951 Brighton and England is recovering from the war, ration books are still the rule of the day and the black market is still doing  a brisk trade. Not everyone is who they claim to be in Brighton and just who is Mirabelle and what did she do during the war? If you're a fan of Jacqueline Winspear and Susan Elia MacNeal, you're sure to love this new series. 

Tom just finished Mystery of the Lost Cezanne by M.L. Longworth.  This is a good read for fans of southern France and art history.  It weaves in a back and forth narrative happening to Cezanne in the 1880's and current Aix en Provence detective Antoine Verlaque.  It is well done and fun. And I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to pick up the new Jacqueline Winspear (signed first editions in stock). The book is called Journey to Munich, and for those of us who've already read it (Joanne and I), it's one of her best. 

It's not too early to start stocking up on good summer reading. All of us at Mystery to Me are happy to find you just the perfect books! 

What are you doing the morning of Saturday, May 21?

Put on your walking shoes and join us as we Walk for Dyslexia!

Click on the logo to register. 
If you would like to be part of the Mystery to Me team, just type in "Mystery to Me" under team name. 
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