Looking for a no-cook snack for these dog days of summer? Sarah Leah Chase's Seaside Guacamole is refreshing, simple and boasts some in-season vegetables as a bonus.
Once my son’s Little League schedule began taking me over to Martha’s Vineyard for baseball games, I quickly discovered Nantucket’s rival island had much to offer and it was there that I came across the idea of adding grilled local corn to my guacamole during the summer months. To heighten the smoky flavor of the corn kernels, I season this guacamole with smoked sea salt. My husband’s seasoning company, Coastal Goods, markets a smoked salt under the name of Sea Smoke and the Maine Sea Salt Company sells two smoked Maine sea salts, apple smoked and hickory smoked. Go with regular sea salt if you can’t get your hands on a jar of smoked, but do be sure to make this seasonal guacamole because it is just the thing to tide you and lots of hungry friends over until dinner after a summer day lazed away at the beach. And, it also pairs nicely with any number of New England’s microbrewed beers, the frostier the better. If you really want to gild the coastal lily, scoop some Seaside Guacamole onto tortilla chips and top each off with a whole cooked shrimp or a spoonful of fresh crab or lobster meat. Makes 5 cups; serves 8 to 10
1. Set up a charcoal or gas grill and preheat it to high.
2. To grill the corn: Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn and brush the kernels lightly all over with olive oil. Arrange the ears on the grate a few inches above the heat. Grill the corn, turning the ears, until the kernels are all nicely browned and slightly blistered, 5 to 7 minutes. Baste the corn with additional olive oil if the kernels appear to be getting too dry. Remove the corn from the grill and, when cool enough to handle, cut the grilled kernels off the cobs and set aside briefly. Discard the cobs.
3. Peel and pit the avocados and coarsely mash the pulp in a mixing bowl or molcajete. (If you don’t own a molcajete, a potato masher or wire whisk will work well to produce a coarse mash.) Add the grilled corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, and jalapeños and gently mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in enough lime juice and smoked salt to suit your palate. Fold in the cilantro and serve the guacamole at once with tortilla chips.
Reprinted from New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Workman Publishing. Photography credit: Matthew Benson. Photography © Workman Publishing 2015. Read our review of this book.
It's been nearly six years since Janice Y.K. Lee made her fiction debut with The Piano Teacher, an "exceptional first novel" set in postwar Hong Kong where Allied occupiers and the native people negotiate an uneasy peace and a brittle, stratified society (read our review). The novel was favorably reviewed and a national bestseller, so we're pleased to hear that a follow up, The Expatriates, will be coming in January from Viking.
Also set in Hong Kong and featuring a cast of expatriates, this novel is set in the modern day, and "explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong," according to the publisher.
Will you read it?
Vicki Pettersson's psychological thriller Swerve starts off at a dead sprint and doesn't let up through all of its twists and turns. Crossing the desolate expanse of road between Las Vegas and California becomes a struggle to survive when Kristine Rush and her fiancé, Daniel, are attacked at a rest stop (validating my long-held fear of rest stops). When she comes to, Daniel is gone. But the man who took him quickly contacts her, and she must decide how much she is willing to risk for the man she loves.
"We've run into some . . . some . . ."
"Yes." Emboldened by my stillness, the large crow has inched closer and is now just ten feet away. It tilts its head at my whisper. "I mean no." Except . . ."
I'm at the first rest stop outside of Vegas. A man just attacked me in the bathroom. He's gone now, but so is Daniel and there's nowhere to hide except . . .
"Except?" Imogene prods, still crisp, still projecting her voice, still playing her part.
Except the phone bleeps in my hand, the triptych chimes of a text coming through, and I look down. Daniel has his phone preferences set to show messages directly on the lock screen—every second counts when you're a trauma surgeon—and that's how I find myself staring at my own name in the sender's box: KRISTINE RUSH.
And in the body of the text?
Or he dies.
What are you reading?
It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.
Here's an after-hours summer reading plan—open a bottle of wine and curl up with one of these new paperbacks, on sale today:
By Elizabeth Little
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127369
Little made a big splash—and earned (inevitable) comparisons to Gone Girl—with this debut mystery narrated by a sassy socialite convicted of killing her mother. When her conviction is overturned 10 years later, Jane leaves prison with one goal: finding the real killer.
The Long Way Home
By Louise Penny
Minotaur • $15.99 • ISBN 9781250022059
The 10th entry in Penny's acclaimed series finds Chief Inspector Gamache happily retired in the Québec village of Seven Pines—until a neighbor solicits his help in solving the mystery of her husband's disappearance.
The Story Hour
By Thrity Umrigar
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062259318
In her sixth novel, the author of The World We Found captures the emotional turmoil of two very different women—African-American psychologist Maggie and her patient Lakshmi, an Indian immigrant—and the crisis that ensues when their friendship crosses professional lines.
Shadows in the Vineyard
By Maximillian Potter
Twelve • $16 • ISBN 9781455516094
Expanding on a story he first reported for Vanity Fair, Potter travels to a legendary vineyard in Burgundy to ferret out the intriguing details of a plot to poison some of the region's most valuable grapevines. For oenophiles, Francophiles and true crime fans, this suspenseful story is a well-balanced summer diversion.
Congratulations to the winners of the most prestigious awards in the romance writing community: the RITA awards! The winners were selected from a great line-up of finalists, and the winning authors were announced on Saturday night at a party during the 2015 Romance Writers of America conference in New York. Below are a few of the big winners, and you can see the full list here.
Long Contemporary Romance
Baby, It's You by Jane Graves
Mid-length Contemporary Romance
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis
Long Historical Romance
Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
Short Historical Romance
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Deceived by Irene Hannon
Evernight by Kristen Callihan
Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb (pen name of Nora Roberts)
It's been a fantastic month of mysteries and thrillers during Private Eye July, but fall is right around the corner, bringing with it a list of hotly anticipated new crime fiction. Here are just a few we're looking forward to:
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
New books in Penny's stellar Chief Inspector Gamache series are always cause for celebration, and the 11th installment returns once again to the little Quebec village of Three Pines for a mystery involving the disappearance of a young boy. Be on the lookout for an interview with Penny in our September issue, and check out all our coverage of her previous books. Out 8/25.
The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
Our anticipation for the continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series has been building since the news broke in January. The publisher isn't releasing review copies, so we're just as excited as you are to get our hands on a finished copy. Check out all our coverage of the Millennium series. Out 9/1.
Make Me by Lee Child
The new Jack Reacher brings this beloved series to 20. Nuff said. Check out all our coverage of Child's books. Out 9/8.
The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
We've long been a fan of Griffiths' popular Ruth Galloway series, starring an intrepid mystery-solving archaeologist. Griffiths kicks of a new series set in 1950 Brighton, starring characters inspired by a real-life group of magicians called the Magic Gang. Look for a Q&A with Griffiths in our September issue, and check out all our coverage of her previous books. Out 9/15.
The Killing Lessons by Saul Black
British novelist Glen Duncan (The Last Werewolf) makes a pseudonymous crime fiction debut with a nail-biter of a police procedural starring two sick serial killers and a substance-abusing homicide detective. Check out all our coverage of Duncan's books. Out 9/22.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
On the heels of last year's exceptional Cop Town, Slaughter is returning to her original publisher, Morrow, to publisher her 15th novel and her very first psychological thriller. Says Slaughter, "This is a novel about family secrets and betrayals, which can be just as riveting and life-changing as a crime that brings strangers together." Check out all our coverage of Slaughter's books. Out 9/29.
The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens
Eskens' debut novel, The Life We Bury, was a finalist for a long list of awards, including the 2015 Best First Novel Edgar Award. It was a well-loved sleeper, and we're expecting big things from the Minnesota author's second novel. Out 10/6.
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
Rowling, writing as Galbraith, continues the adventures of Detective Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott with the third in the series. If you haven't gotten into Rowling's traditional mystery series, now's the time. Out 10/20.
Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
Though the title rings a bit of "30 Rock"'s The Rural Juror, Grisham's latest legal thriller is one we won't miss. Check out all our coverage of Grisham's books. Out 10/20.
Tenacity by S.J. Law
Law served in the Royal Navy for 20 years, spending the latter half of this career in the Submarine Service, so there's no one better to take readers into the depths of a submarine-set thriller. Plus, the protagonist is the only female on board. Out 11/3.
What mysteries are you most looking forward to this fall? Be sure to check out all our mystery coverage.
Maggie Mitchell's debut novel, Pretty Is, follows the two grown victims of a bizarre kidnapping as their paths reconnect. Our reviewer writes, "As she peels back layers of her protagonists’ lives and memories, Mitchell carries readers through a thrilling, literary psychological adventure that examines how pivotal moments can echo throughout our lives." (Read the review.)
Here, Mitchell tells us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
I have long loved the Mountain Goats, John Darnielle’s band, so I was quick to order his novel when it came out. I was blown away by its strange beauty. A tangle of memory and imagination, love and pain, Wolf in White Van is narrated by a young man who runs a post-apocalyptic role-playing game through the mail and struggles with crushing, disfiguring injuries, the story of which unfolds gradually. Real life and fantasy intersect, blur—sometimes whimsically, sometimes dangerously—drawing us back and back to the devastating choice at the novel’s heart. I am excited to introduce my creative writing students to this novel, deservedly long-listed for the National Book Award.
Paris, He Said by Christine Sneed
I encountered Christine Sneed’s work through her short story “Quality of Life,” which features a young woman involved with a much older man who gives her money while keeping his own life strictly secret. Paris, He Said revisits this basic premise and complicates it in provocative ways: Sneed’s second novel is a richly layered narrative about interesting, likeably flawed, sometimes frustrating people. Jayne Marks, a young artist struggling (and not painting) in New York, takes up with a much older Frenchman, a wealthy gallery owner who invites her to come live with him in Paris. Rather shockingly, she says yes, and thus begins the novel’s exploration of desire and ambition, the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and our motives, and—above all—Paris itself, half modern city and half romantic myth. Narrated in turns by Jayne and by her lover, Laurent, skirting both sentimentality and cynicism, Paris, He Said is both unflinchingly honest and unfailingly sympathetic to its characters’ quests for love, pleasure, success and beauty.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
My Kindle died in the midst of my recent trip to Italy, and I dashed into a bookstore in the Rome airport with minutes to spare before my flight. I can’t explain why it was The Godfather, a runaway bestseller from 1978, that spoke to me, but I stuffed it into my carry-on with my water and gum. I don’t even know the films as well as I should. But it quickly drew me into its world of crime and vengeance, love and loyalty, and I was glad enough to trade my own muddled life for the company of gangsters and their long-suffering wives on the long flight home.
Thank you, Maggie! See any suggestions you'd enjoy, readers?
(Author photo by Jill Sutton)
Sometimes real-life experiences can lead to some truly unforgettable books. This is certainly the case for thriller writer Ed Kovacs, who has studied martial arts, holds many weapons-related licenses, certifications and permits, and is a certified medical First Responder. He now works as an "international security contractor," and here he shares a fascinating—even alarming—peek into some of the hairy situations he's gotten himself into around the world.
As a young boy I recall watching reruns of the TV show “Dangerous Assignment.” The fictionalized intrigue that played out in exotic locations every week struck a chord in me. Little did I know that I'd eventually spend years of my life on the road or overseas living through my own intrigues. Nor did I realize that I'd become a writer whose real life experiences on the edge would provide me with such good material for my thriller novels.
When I flew into New Orleans in a private jet with eleven other heavily armed security operators after Hurricane Katrina struck, writing a novel wasn't on my mind. I worked in dangerous environments and horrible conditions, and while doing so, learned about the last murder in New Orleans just before the hurricane struck. A murder with a missing corpse, no forensic evidence, and a destroyed crime scene sounded like a good premise to me, and ultimately resulted in my Cliff St. James crime novel trilogy, beginning with Storm Damage.
While researching my first novel, Unseen Forces, I traveled to Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle and crossed illegally into Burma (now Myanmar) to meet with a rebel group fighting the military dictatorship. When I got back to Mae Hong Song, Thailand, an employee of my hotel warned me there was a contract on my head from a local drug lord who suspected me of being an undercover DEA agent.
I was once taken into custody in Mongolia and accused (falsely) of antiquities smuggling. In Russia, I was detained at the airport in Irkutsk and not allowed to leave because my papers weren't in order. I came way too close to falling to my death in a cave in Belize, and once got lost in the jungle and accidentally crossed the border into Guatemala while trying to find a Mayan ruin.
I travel for research, adventure or to work on security contracts. I've had guns pointed at me many times. One of the most dangerous places I worked, believe it or not, was the U.S.-Mexico border. Gunfights are common. I had weapons aimed at me by cartel lookouts, soldiers and Mexican police. Due to our rules of engagement at the time, I knew I was simply in God's hands.
Beheadings and “stewings” are common down there. The bad guys will take a person and put them into a 55-gallon steel barrel, then add gasoline and lye flakes and seal the lid. An acid is created that dissolves a human being down to teeth and bones. The stewing thing made it into my novel, Burnt Black.
I've been to Russia many times. I worked with Russian military and intelligence people, and that helped me with material for my latest book, The Russian Bride. The villain is physically based on an acquaintance of mine, Viktor Kubetkin, a former KGB agent who operated undercover in London.
I've been to the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America, all over Asia and have had many close calls. Not that I go looking for trouble. I go looking for nuggets of gold; the characters I meet and situations I find myself in is the payoff that I file away to incorporate into my books.
Ed Kovacs is the author of five published thriller novels including his latest from Minotaur, The Russian Bride. He is currently on deployment in Eastern Europe as a security contractor. His website is www.edkovacs.com.
Author photo credit Neungreuthai Chanphonsean.
Discover more great new mysteries and thrillers during Private Eye July.
Mary Gaitskill returns to fiction with a long-awaited third novel, The Mare, on November 3.
Her two earlier novels (Two Girls, Fat and Thin and Veronica) were edgy explorations of the challenges women face in the world—and this time, she's turning her focus to cultural differences and the complicated bonds that can arise when a childless couple tries to mentor a teen from a different background. Comfortable in their Upstate New York suburb, Ginger and Paul never had children. But when they agree to sponsor the horse-riding lessons of an underprivileged young girl, a life-changing relationship begins to unfold.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.