When Where's Billie? was released Publishers Weekly said:
"Readers will want to hear more of Skeeter's punchy, first-person voice."
Yesterday Publishers Weekly said the second in the series, Whose Hand? A Skeeter Hughes Mystery is a "diverting regional mystery with appeal to readers beyond the Twin Cities." Getting a review at Publishers Weekly is no easy task. Getting two reviews is amazing. Doing a happy typing fingers dance at my desktop beside the Mississippi.
The StarTribune review of Whose Hand? landed online last night and in the paper at my condo door this morning and I'm still doing a happy dance. The reviewer, Steve Weinberg, a collector of novels about journalists, said I'm:
"a skilled stylist ant the plot unfolds without flaws of logic." Delightful.
Steve's piece is especially interesting because he also favorably reviews "Killing Kate" by Julie Kramer and notes that it's unusual for two former journalists in the same city to be writing at the same time about women reporters. He notes that "Killing Kate" is Julie's fourth mystery and "Whose Hand?" is my second.
His words have caused my Kindle rankings to jump dramatically in just a few hours. Amazing!
Got an email last night from my friends at Once Upon A Crime Mystery Book Store that Mary Ann, meaning Mary Ann Grossmann, the grande dame of Minnesota reviewers, had done well by me in her review of Whose Hand? A Skeeter Hughes Mystery. It took me a while to find it, but here's the best part:
"Borger perfectly captures tensions in newspaper city rooms, including lack of staff because of buyouts and layoffs, reporters' desire to tell stories in-depth while bosses have to answer to stockholders who want profits and the challenges of competing with the Internet."
"Whose Hand?" includes vivid descriptions of snow-clad Minnesota landscapes (including a heart-stopping event on a frozen lake), a plot that keeps you guessing and colorful secondary characters, such as Skeeter's crime-reporting colleagues, Slick and Dick."
Here's an excerpt from the Pierce County (WI) Herald:
"On the regional front, Minneapolis’ Judith Yates Borger does for newspaper lore what White Bear Lake author Julie Kramer does for Television News."
Borger’s new book, “Whose Hand?”, finds her heroine Skeeter Hughes working for the Minneapolis Citizen. Skeeter explains how newspapering has drastically changed in the past few years:
“The folks at the top of the journalism food chain have been going through all kinds of contortions trying to stave off obsolescence. Hence, Thom (Skeeter’s boss) became a team leader instead of an editor, even though the bulk of his time is spent editing.
“The rest of his time he’s under tremendous pressure from managers above him and reporters below. Those on top want him to fill the paper every single day with interesting, informative stories that people will want to read. The people below him want to write those stories, but they usually want the time to do them well….That costs money the newspaper’s shareholders don’t have. To stanch the red ink, many papers have fired staff….some like our newspaper have filed for bankruptcy….”
So that’s the situation Skeeter finds herself in. She has to produce or get laid off.
But then a story drops in her lap. An old duffer named BJ tells her that last fall he was fishing in Lake Harriet when he reeled in a person’s hand.
Whose hand was it?
It’ll be Skeeter’s job to find out -- or lose her job.
Borger embellishes her story with all manner of local references: The Linden Hills neighborhood above Lake Harriet; Sebastian Joe’s wonderful ice cream parlor; and, of course, the local newspaper, The Citizen, which is obviously the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
But you don’t have to know much about Minneapolis to enjoy this crackling good story with a bizarre ending that will surprise the most jaded mystery reader.
Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book critics circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Call him at 715-426-9554.