KEY WEST, FL - Jeffery Deaver, the international bestselling and global multi-award winning suspense-thriller author of 40 novels, returns by popular demand to headline a sizzling Who’s Who of mystery writers at the 2019 Mystery Fest Key West, set for June 28-30 in America’s southernmost city.

Key West, Florida Keys -- Do you have a finished, but unpublished, mystery genre manuscript? Mystery Fest Key West has announced a call for entries for the 2019 Whodunit Mystery Writing Competition. The winner will claim a book-publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free Mystery Fest Key West 2019 registration, airfare, hotel accommodations for two nights and a Whodunit Award trophy to be presented at the 6th Annual Mystery Fest Key West, set for June 28-30 in Key West, Florida.

Spy fiction has many modes and guises, encompassing superspies like James Bond and more grounded characters like George Smiley. The tone often depends on how frankly the author wishes to engage with espionage's checkered history. For a not-so-brief primer on the CIA, I recommend Tim Weiner's excellent Legacy of Ashes (Anchor, $18.99). The title makes his perspective clear, but he backs up his laundry list of global misdeeds with mountains of evidence.

Landscape first appeared in print as an English word at the beginning of the 17th century. It meant what it meant. Over time, however, we've managed to co-opt it with adjectives like historical, political, sociological, economic, technological, cultural and many other variations on a... landscapian theme.   

Is it just me, or is everyone in the process of decluttering at the moment? I blame the new Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo for this resurgence of decluttering (originally made popular by Kondo's 2014 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; Ten Speed Press, $16.99). Which is not to say I'm not a fan of decluttering; on the contrary, it has me thinking about how to stick to the goal of a more minimalist lifestyle after the original clearing out.

The middle of winter is when I like to do a lot of armchair travel. This is partly a coping mechanism for the cold, dark, rainy days, and lately I've been thinking that a cruise sounds fun. I have been on only one in my life. I was a teenager and with my parents, so I was just along for the ride. What I remember most were the long days far from dry land, when I managed to devour the entirety of Steinbeck'sEast of Eden (Penguin, $18). While we did go parasailing in Cabo San Lucas and joined an excursion to a secluded beach in Puerto Vallarta on that trip, I wonder what it'd be like to take charge of such a trip myself.

I grew up reading books with strong female protagonists, books such as Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (Clarion, $7.99) and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Puffin, $8.99). So it's always surprising and a little dispiriting to me when a parent or grandparent at the bookstore asks for recommendations for a boy with the proviso that "he doesn't like reading about girls." At least half of the books I intended to hand them are immediately out of the running, including a number of classics. The reverse--girls who will only read books about girls--comes up much less frequently, in my experience.

As a newcomer to the U.S. several decades ago, I made my first foray into American literature with Edith Wharton's Custom of the Country (Vintage, $12), and soon I was devouring everything this fine lady had written. This week, as we celebrate what would have been Wharton's 156th birthday, it's an opportune time to highlight some of her most impactful work.

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