The Literary Hill

March 2018


And So to Bed
Looking for some bedtime reading that will send your little one off to slumberland with a peaceful smile on her face? Laura Krauss Melmed has just the ticket.

Her newest book, “Daddy, Me, and the Magic Hour,” focuses on a little boy and his father who spend some quality time together in the twilight hour between supper and bedtime. They amble through the neighborhood, watching their neighbors water their roses, walk their dogs, and ride their bicycles. They tickle each other with feathers and swing together in the park. Not much happens—but then, not much needs to—until they arrive home again so Mommy can tuck the boy in for the night.

The gentle story depicts a joyful sense of play and love, enhanced by Sarita Rich’s warm, textured illustrations, which do an especially nice job of conveying things from a child’s-eye view. The rich pictures, paired with Melmed’s soft, even prose, have a soothing, almost lulling, effect.  Even harried parents will be breathing a quiet sigh by the time they get to the end of “Daddy, Me, and the Magic Hour.”

Laura Melmed is also the author of “Capital! A to Z,” as well as numerous other award-winning picture books, including “Lullaby I Love You as Much” and “The Rainbabies.” For more, go to

In the second in Con Lehane’s 42nd Street Library mysteries, a body pops up in the office of crime fiction curator Raymond Ambler. Photo by Norman J. Faria

The Body on the Bookshelf
Who knew working in a library could be such a risky business? In local author Con Lehane’s mystery series, New York City’s 42nd Street Library becomes a veritable hotbed of murderous secrets and intrigue. The first book in the series, “Murder at the 42nd Street Library” (2016), found the library’s curator of crime fiction, Raymond Ambler, ferreting out dark links among colleagues and scholars, as well as between a famous writer and his long-lost daughter.

Now in “Murder in the Manuscript Room,” Ambler is thrust back into the game when the body of a co-worker is found on a shelf in his office. Was she really the research assistant she claimed to be? Is her death linked to the murder of his boyhood friend, who took a murder rap to protect his younger brother and, shortly after asking Ambler for his help, gets knifed in prison? How do the donated papers of a former NYPD intelligence officer figure into the equation? And does a seemingly innocent Muslim researcher have more on his mind than Islamic manuscripts?

As before, Ambler pulls together his crime-fighting crew—NYPD detective Mike Cosgrove, girlfriend and co-worker Adele Morgan, and everybody’s favorite bartender and listening post, Brian McNulty—to fit together the pieces of a puzzle complicated by an apparent cover-up at the highest levels. It’s a fast-paced ride, but Lehane allows a little breathing room between the twists and turns to let Ambler take time for a drink at the Library Tavern or a walk in the snow with his grandson.

Invested with a wealth of knowledge about crime fiction, law enforcement, immigration politics, New York neighborhoods, and much, much more, “Murder in the Manuscript Room” is a great read: long on substance, refreshingly light on gore, and packed with heart.

In addition to the 42nd Street Library books, Con Lehane has published three previous crime novels featuring McNulty and more than a dozen works of short fiction. Find him at

Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve battle an army of vicious moles in this third installment of Grant Goodman’s action-adventure series.

The rip-roaring start of “Mecha-Mole Mayhem,” Grant Goodman’s latest installment in his Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve series, finds Steve in juvenile prison for using a fart bomb on the police (among other offenses). Suddenly, the prison is under attack by a pack of nasty mecha-moles wielding metal claws and drill bits. Afraid? Not our hero (well, maybe for a minute there), who manages to kick some mecha-mole butt (the best way to vanquish them, as it turns out).

Meanwhile his friend Agent Darcy, who has been expelled from the Bureau of Secrecy, is training nearby to become a Ninja. When the two of them are summoned to the Sensei’s office, the news is not good. Ninjastoria is at war—and they’re on the front lines, part of a secret mission to find the keys to the Nexus portal before the mecha-moles can open it and release their Mole Emperor.

Never fear, though. Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve have been tested before—in “Tiger Trouble” (2015) and “Robot Rumble!” (2016)—and are up to the task. It’s a pretty good bet not only that they’ll save Ninjastoria but that they may even be able to reschedule that ice-cream date that was interrupted by war.

Imaginative touches, such as talking cats and tennis balls filled with sneezing powder, lend a winning sense of whimsy to the proceedings. But it’s the strong young characters, fighting to overcome their doubts and fears, that give this series its positive message of confidence and achievement. Also, they kick butt.

DC author Grant Goodman, an English teacher in Montgomery County, started writing action-adventure novels for his middle-school students. Find more at

On the Hill in March
East City Bookshop presents graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu (“Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World”), March 8, 6:30 p.m.; Chloe Benjamin (“The Immortalists”), March 9, 6:30 p.m.; the book launch of an anthology, “The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls,” March 13, 6:30 p.m.; a celebration of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s 85th birthday with authors Debbie Levy (“I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark”) and Mary Harnett (“My Own Words”), March 15, 6:30 p.m.; and Mikkel Rosengaard (“The Invention of Ana”), March 29, 6:30 p.m.

Folger Shakespeare Library presents poets Sherwin Bitsui and Paisley Rekdal at a reading in response to “Ten American Artists: After Paul Klee,” an exhibition at the Phillips Collection, March 22, 6:30 p.m. Tickets and information at 202-544-7077 or

The Hill Center hosts “The Life of a Poet: Conversations with Ron Charles,” with poet Laura Kasischke, March 21, 7:00 p.m., and a book signing and release reception for Bill Press, author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire,” March 27, 7:00 p.m. Free but register at