Paula Brackston: The Silver Witch Sunday, Apr 19 2015 

With last year’s third novel, The Midnight Witch, now available in paperback, Paula Brackston’s reputation became firmly set infixing historical fiction with fantasy. She returns with this year’s offering, The Silver Witch, and fans won’t be disappointed.
Tilda Fordwells loves to run as much as she fears deep water, the stuff of childhood nightmares. After the death of her husband, Mat, she has come to the Welsh cottage meant to be their home to grieve and to find new purpose for her life. Ty Gwyn, despite it’s view of the lake with its island called a crannog, might seem a humble farmhand’s cottage, but Tilda imagines the garden she will resurrect even as she maintains routines and repetitive tasks like those of her newd pottery to keep her mind occupied. She’s still unpacking and setting up her new barn kiln and pottery, tasks to keep her busy.

The albino woman, used to strange reactions to her appearance, rescues a sickly lurcher, names it Thistle, and tries to ignore the strange things happening around her, like electricity, clocks, and watches stopping when she is near.

Seren Arianaidd is a prophet some call a witch, who sees things that frighten and dismay the villagers. She has the love of the prince but not his confidence in her visions when she tries to warn him of the vipers in his midst.

The woman have more than their strange looks in common: they each have a sensitivity to their surroundings and the ability to see things in the past or the future.

The worlds of these two unusual women are destined to collide, with spectacular consequences for both women after Tilda has a vision and that vision is Seren and her world, just as an archeological dig starts at the crannog.

Both women tell their stories so each one’s world comes alive. When Tilda meets the white-haired Professor Williams, he introduces her to the history of her new home. He also introduces her to his handsome nephew and the equally entrancing archeology student, Lucas. But it will take Seren to keep Tilda safe from the dark forces that wish to surround her.

Nicely done, with intriguing history woven into the story, this is a story of power, love and redemption.

AND for a lucky reader leaving a comment, there will be a FREE COPY of this compelling and imaginative book on its way to your direct from the publisher.

Tracy Weber: Downward Dog Mysteries Sunday, Apr 12 2015 

Please welcome Tracy Weber, author of the Downward Dog Mysteries. Her newest is Killer Retreat, but Tracy’s here to encourage us all to practice yoga~

Killer Retreat
Five Reasons Mystery Readers Should Practice Yoga:

I’ve been a mystery writer for the past three years, but I’ve been a fan for most of my life. Like most mystery enthusiasts, I love curling up on the couch and visiting crime scenes with my favorite sleuth, amateur or otherwise. Reading transports me to worlds I would otherwise never experience and introduces me to people I would otherwise never meet. But all of that armchair sleuthing takes a toll on my body, particularly my back.
Yoga is the perfect antidote. If you practice yoga, you already know what I mean. If not, here are a few reasons you should give it a try.

1. Reading is a sedentary activity and bodies need movement. Bodies don’t like to be stationary for long periods of time. Yoga, even simple, gentle yoga, gives our systems much-needed movement.

2. Most people read using very bad posture, which leads to over-stretched backs and tight chest, shoulder, psoas, and hamstring muscles. A well-conceived yoga practice can counteract all of it. Yoga in America is often thought of as stretching, but in reality, it’s much more than that. Yoga both strengthens and stretches, and it improves cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive health.

3. Yoga improves energy. When I’m in the middle of a great read, I can stay up all night, which is great until I need to get up the next morning. Yoga, even more than caffeine, helps me feel alert and rested. And if you prefer more suspenseful mysteries, the right breath practice can allow you to fall asleep, in spite of the psycho-killer lurking in the pages on your nightstand.

4. Yoga promotes focus, which allows mystery readers to sort through clues, pay attention to subtle details, maybe even figure out whodunit well in advance of their favorite sleuths.

5. Yoga helps readers live a longer, more pain-free life. And if we live longer, we can devour more mysteries!

Did I convince you? If so, here are some specifics:

Any yoga pose that helps counteract the effects of bad posture will be beneficial for readers. Back bends counteract readers’ C-shaped, slumped posture by opening the fronts of the shoulders, stretching the fronts of the hips, and strengthening the upper and lower back. Warrior I, Cobra, and Locust are great poses to start with.

I published an article about yoga poses for better posture at The photos are especially helpful and a great place to start.

Just ask Kate Davidson, the yoga teacher/sleuth in my newest mystery, A Killer Retreat. Yoga is good for everybody. Readers, writers—even yoga studio owners with overly tight hamstrings and embarrassingly bad tempers. Bella, her unruly German shepherd agrees. Nothing beats Downward Facing Dog to prepare a guard-dog’s body for chasing away evil yoga student intruders.

In A Killer Retreat, you will be introduced to yoga principles, breath work, even a pose here and there. Most importantly, you and Kate will solve a murder and hopefully have a few laughs along the way. You’ll also travel to the beautiful Elysian Springs Resort on Orcas Island and meet some crazy new characters, including a goat lawyer!

I hope you read my series and love it. And remember, practice a few yoga poses between chapters!

PS: Yee haw! My first book, MURDER STRIKES A POSE, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction! It’s also nominated for the Agatha award for best first novel! Wish me luck!
Murder Strikes Pose full size

About A Killer Retreat:
When Kate Davidson gets an offer to teach yoga classes to wedding guests at the Elysian Springs resort, she jumps at the opportunity, even though it means being forced to endure the wedding ceremony of the center’s two caretakers.

Avoiding the M-word turns out to be the least of Kate’s problems when a wedding guest is found floating face-down in the resort’s hot tub, shortly after a loud, public (and somewhat embarrassing) fight with Kate. The police pick Kate as their number-one suspect, so she’s forced to team up with boyfriend Michael, best friend Rene, and German shepherd sidekick Bella to find the real killer. But they’ll have to solve the murder before the police arrest Kate, or her next gig may last a lifetime–behind bars.

Tracy Weber Small Headshot

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, is available January 8, 2015, by Midnight Ink. Visit her at

Elizabeth Haynes: Behind Closed Doors Sunday, Apr 5 2015 

Behind Closed Doors

Auntie M cannot deny she is a huge Elizabeth Haynes fan. From her first stand-alones (Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains), Haynes has taken the crime thriller and stood it on its ear with her original and creative storytelling combined with empathy for the human condition. Last year’s Under a Silent Moon continued these hallmarks while adding a strong female protagonist to a new series.

Now Haynes brings back a second installment featuring DCI Lou Smith in Behind Closed Doors, set forty miles outside London in fictional Briarstone. Auntie M is pleased report it’s every bit as well written and compelling as Haynes’ other novels, led by a character who is a fully-formed woman with relationships and devotion to her job that often conflict.

Haynes draws on her background as a former police intelligence analyst to create the device that sets this procedural series apart. She notes in interviews that she’s fascinated by the documentary evidence that accumulates during an investigation, like a jigsaw puzzle to which pieces are added daily. She uses primary policing source materials reproduced for the reader, such as police reports, interviews, analyst research, even phone messages, which add a depth and texture to the books that allow the reader to become completely immersed in Sam’s investigation when a young woman missing for a decade suddenly reappears.

Scarlett Rainsford was a fifteen-year-old enjoying her first taste of love during a family holiday in Greece, until her abduction became Lou Smith’s biggest professional regret when the case went cold without Scarlett being found. Ten years later a raid on a brothel turns up Scarlett, alive and well, and Sam needs to find out where the young woman was for all of those years, and more importantly, how and why she reappeared in England without contacting her family.

Assisting Sam is her sergeant, Sam Hollands, and the rest of her team, and as with all detective teams, this is not the only case on their plates. Activity between rival gangs have led to a murder and a violent assault, yet no one is talking, making their investigation that much harder.

Here is Haynes in her own words, describing what prompted this intriguing novel where the past is revealed in stages in contrast to Sam’s current investigation, adding yet another layer to this absorbing and original story:

“The starting point for Scarlett’s story is inspired in part by the shocking number of people who go missing every year, many thousands, and by the number that are never heard of again. In Scarlett’s case, I wanted to tell the store of her ‘missing’ years, but in doing so to examine how she might handle the truth–what she might want to reveal, and what she holds back, and why. As well as researching the law enforcement research around trafficking, I read several first-person accounts of trafficked women and I found it terrifying to think of all the women effectively forced into slavery, with very little hope of escape. Trafficking in Europe is something that is under-reported and woefully misunderstood. People think of prostitutes as working in their profession by choice, but the majority is forced into it, and living a precarious, dangerous existence with no real way of getting out.”

Find out how Scarlett does manage to get out, and yet why she hasn’t let anyone know she’s made it back to England. One of the strengths of this story is Haynes’ ability to make her story revolve as much around Lou and her investigation as it does around a victim who is not a dead body but a living woman with a horrific past. Highly recommended.


The Shandra Higheagle Mysteries: Paty Jager Sunday, Mar 29 2015 

Please welcome guest Paty Jager, whose Shandra Higheagle series features a most unusual and engaging protagonist. And read through to see how to win an autographed copy of her first book in the series!

Deadly Aim (652x1024)
Tarnished Remains (652x1024)

Mystery and Mysticism

My brother is an artist who creates his own bronze statues and patinas bronze work for other artists. When he told me about a specific piece he’d put the patina on and how it had a unique configuration, he had my attention. His words: “This would make a great murder weapon.”

That sentence stayed with me for several years. The first two novels I wrote way back when I decided to try to write novels were mysteries. But when I couldn’t find the resources I needed to hone my craft, I jumped ship and started writing romance, where I’d found an abundance of support.

But my brother’s sentence kept playing in my head. And finally last year, I decided to write the murder using that weapon. Only, I had to come up with a plausible amateur sleuth and give her a profession. That is how Shandra Higheagle, potter and half Nez Perce Indian heritage, came to be. I wanted her to have the Native American background to keep with my tag line: “Tales of intrigue and romance starring cowboys and Indians.”

And I wanted Shandra to use her heritage to help solve the murders. That is where her Nez Perce grandmother came onto the scene. Shandra’s Nez Perce father was a rodeo bronc rider who died in a rodeo accident when Shandra was four. Her Caucasian mother and step-father kept her from her father’s family until Shandra rebelled as a teenager and spent a summer with her grandmother. While Shandra still wasn’t allowed to let people know of her Indian heritage, she kept in touch with her grandmother. Double Duplicity (652x1024)

The first book opens with Shandra returning from her grandmother’s funeral and seven drum ceremony. Where is this all going you ask? When Shandra is suspected of killing a gallery owner and then the county sheriff’s detective turns his interest to her best friend, Shandra’s grandmother comes to Shandra in her dreams, guiding her to the evidence that will help them find the murderer.

Shandra has a hard time believing in these dreams, yet the detective believes. Here are the blurbs for the first three books in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series.
Leave a comment and we’ll draw a name for an autographed copy of the first book in the series.

Double Duplicity: On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her. Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?
Available: Windtree Press Amazon Kobo Nook Apple

Tarnished Remains: Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame. Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved. Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?
Links: Windtree Press: Amazon: iBooks: Nook: Kobo:

Deadly Aim: The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Along with visions from her dead grandmother, Shandra knows she’s on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles—deadly ones. Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined that won’t happen, until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again? Coming Soon!

Head Shot (500x490) Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. She has published twenty novels, three anthologies, and seven novellas. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them, along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. You can learn more about Paty at her blog: Writing into the Sunset; her website:; or on Facebook:!/paty.jager
Goodreads and twitter; @patyjag.

The Chessmen/ The Lynchpin: Jeffery B. Burton Sunday, Mar 22 2015 


Auntie M is happy to have interviewed author Jeffery B. Burton, whose first thriller, The Chessman could be a game of chess, with strategy needed when ex-FBI agent, Drew Cady, finds himself on the trail of serial killer who left him physically and emotionally damaged, the reason for his early retirement.

When an SEC commissioner is murdered, a chess piece, this time a clear glass queen, is found inserted into the wound. This is the MO of the serial killer known as The Chessman, Cady’s nemesis.

But is the notorious killer back at work? Or is someone copycatting his methods, and how will the real killer react? And how does this all tie in to a host of investment CEO’s who can out Madox the real Bernie?

Cady will find himself mixed up in a far-reaching conspiracy as the chase to save lives heats up and takes him on a roller coaster investigation to bring down all of the players in this fast-paced thriller.

With its mix of high action and mental machinations, the unraveling of this political and economic thriller will keep readers flipping pages until the climax.

Burton follows this enthralling debut with The Lynchpin, out now, bringing back Cady and his fiancee’ Terri Ingram, just the right kind of love interest for the FBI agent who keeps trying to retire.

Recuperating from his injuries in the first book, Cady is helping Terri run her resort in northern Minnesota and works only part-time for the FBI’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force there. He should be low key now, he’s convinced, facing white collar criminals, and Cady is enjoying an easier lifestyle.

Then a young woman’s body is pulled from Lake Superior outside Duluth, and her manner of death bears the hallmark of a sadistic killer. Just as Cady is sucked back in to this investigation, he learns that his former boss, Assistant Director of CID Roland Jund, has killed a fellow agent and is accused of being a spy.

Cady knows nothing could be further from the truth, but even as he tries to clear Jund’s name, he must pursue this brutal murderer. Another fast-paced and compelling thriller.
Now let’s hear from Jeffrey Burton:

AUNTIE M: You Iive in the Minneapolis area as does some of my family. It seems such an innocuous, wholesome place for crime, yet John Sandford has made it seem downright obnoxiously filled with criminal activity in his Prey novels and you’re doing a grand job with Drew Cady in this second book. How much does writing about your own area feel comfortable and also spooky? Do you ever get hate fan mail from your neighbors?

JEFFREY BURTON: Nearly half of The Lynchpin takes place in northern Minnesota, predominantly in Duluth. I lived in Duluth for a couple of college years, absolutely loved the city, but noticed that on overcast, foggy or rainy days, if you spotted a mansion on a hillside with Lake Superior in the background, it had the look and feel of a castle from one of the old Hammer horror films (starring Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee) where Van Helsing and company would have to journey their way through in order to find the vampire’s lair. And though The Lynchpin doesn’t contain a supernatural element, it does contain a certain amount of creepiness, and I always thought it would be fun to weave that kind of imagery into a scene. Needless to say, the Duluth City Council will not be voting to have a parade in my honor anytime soon.

My favorite neighbor stopped by after reading one of my novels and said, “Jeff – you’re an awesome neighbor and I enjoyed reading your mystery, but, based on your writing, I think I’m going to get a restraining order.”

I like to think he was joking.

AM: Your publisher is from the Isle of Man; how did you connect?

JB: MP Publishing, based in the Isle of Man, is relatively new to the scene. They began acquiring and distributing e-books in 2008. They released their first original title, a touching collection of essays by the likes of John Grisham and Pat Conroy called Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit in 2010.

The first book in the Agent Drew Cady series, The Chessman, was published by MacAdam/Cage Publishing. MacAdam/Cage had some great success with novels like The Time Traveler’s Wife, but, sadly, David Poindexter, MacAdam/Cage’s President—nice guy and incredible mentor—passed away in 2013 and MacAdam/Cage spiraled into bankruptcy in 2014 (twists and turns not only exist in mystery novels). The Lynchpin then worked its way from MacAdam/Cage to MP Publishing through mutual editors and I signed with MP in the fall of 2013.

AM: An an author I tell people all that time that each writer must find the routine that works for him or her and that these vary widely. Tell readers what a typical writing day for Jeffrey Burton is like.

JB: I’ll jot ideas down on a piece of scratch paper and toss them in my idea drawer. Then I’ll let them ferment for a while in order to frame the rest of the story. A few years back I’d jotted down “serial killer in hot pursuit of his own copycat.” Originally it was going to be a short story, something like Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” where the killer has caught his copycat and, while slowly obtaining his vengeance, he explains exactly why the copycat should never have insulted him by stealing his M.O. But the story kept getting longer and longer, and eventually it grew into The Chessman.

I’m a bit of a binge writer where, if I get in the zone, twelve hours fly past and I have to remind myself to let the dogs out. Usually this occurs when I get it stuck in my noggin that it’s of paramount importance that I complete a series of related scenes or chapters before my ideas fly away or my brain leaks out of my ear. Sometimes this goes on for days, which is a good thing as I’m able to make huge strides. And the dogs have for the most part been good – only a few messes.

AM: As a mystery writer, I know the ending when I start: who is the murderer and why–but I leave what I call the ‘muddled middle’ to figure out as I write. Are you a writer who plots and outlines the entire novel or do you allow for happenstance?

JB: When I begin writing a mystery novel, I’ll come up with a concept that I feel would be interesting to pursue. I’ll put together an informal outline as everything is subject to change once I begin writing. Sometimes I’ll head off in a completely different direction – uncharted territory – and then I’m forced to go back and update my outline.

AM: What’s on your nightstand To Be Read pile?

JB: I’m all caught up on Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Sandford, Gillian Flynn, and Barry Eisler, but I’ve just begun reading novels by James Ellroy and William Kent Krueger. Plenty of page-turners to keep me up all hours of the night.

AM:Finally, what’s next for Drew Cady?

JB: I’ve begun work on the next Drew Cady mystery, tentatively titled The Eulogist.

JBurton Author Bio: Jeffrey B. Burton’s mystery/thriller, The Chessman (a serial killer is in hot pursuit of his own copycat), came out to excellent reviews in 2012. Jeff’s short stories have appeared in dozens of genre magazines (mystery, horror, sci-fi, literary). Jeff’s short story, “The Soul Fish,” received Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year in 2010. “High Score” and “In This the Era of the Great Wilting” were both published in Murky Depths in the time period that Murky Depths won the British Fantasy Award for Best Magazine. “The Mourning” and “Letters of Transit” were miniStory winners in the MNLit contest in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Jeff is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and International Thriller Writers (ITW).

The Winter Foundlings: Kate Rhodes Friday, Mar 20 2015 

Kate Rhodes is back with psychologist Alice Quentin in a series that has Auntie M anticipating each new adventure. The Winter Foundling has all of the hallmarks of the previous two in the series (Crossbones Yard and A Killing of Angels): a taut, psychological plot, a compelling story, and a protagonist you can’t help but admire.

After the events of her last two cases, Alice is taking a break from London life and is keeping clear of police work by taking a leave to study treatment methods at a high-security hospital outside London for the criminally insane. She’s rented out her flat for six-months on this unlikely sabbatical at the country’s largest psychiatric prison, and will stay in nearby Charndale, renting out Ivy Cottage, which sounds grander than it turns out to be.

Her friends, especially best friend, Lola, and her brother, Will, think Alice has taken leave of her senses, but she’s convinced that writing an in-depth study of the regime at the Laurels, part of Northwoods compound, would give her plenty of material for her book on DSPD, Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder. Alice feels being in close range to serial rapists and mass murderers will clear her of the ghosts that haunt her from her previous case.

Bubbling in the news is the murders of three young girls, kidnapped and subsequently found dead in North London. The most recent was found dressed in a white gown on the steps of the Foundling Museum. Then a fourth girl is kidnapped, and when Detective Don Burns asks for Alice to help, she finds she can’t refuse with these child’s lives at stake. There are too many ties to the prolific child murderer, Louis Kinsella, locked up in Northwood for almost twenty years, and the copycat aspect of those murders means Alice must get close to the killer who hasn’t spoken willingly in years. She must develop enough of a relationship with him to get inside Kinsella’s head to discover who is acting in his stead. Alice soon discovers a thread of connection with the Museum to Louis Kinsella that ratchets up the tension.

The case heats up quickly, just as Alice is getting used to the hospital’s staff. The Centre’s director, Dr. Alexk Gorski is known for his bad temper and is less than welcoming. Dr. Judith Miller, Alice’s supervising deputy, is warmer, and so is the fitness instructor who charms Alice, Tom Jensen. Chris Steadman is the IT chap, and Art Therapist Pru Fielding, with her disfiguring facial hemangioma, uses her blonde curls to hide her disfigurement. Garfield Ellis is the male nurse who manages Kinsella on a daily basis and who brings the killer to his meetings with Alice.

As she settles into her new cottage and her new assignment, Alice becomes more and more determined to save the newest kidnapped child, Ella. And then another child is kidnapped before Ella’s body is found, and the stakes are raised with an urgency that Alice must use to provoke Kinsella.

Getting inside the mind of a serial killer who feels he is smarter than she is, and who uses Alice’s own insecurities against her means her visits with Kinsella are upsetting and often demeaning as he parses out information Det. Burns can use. Alice follows her own leads, too, even as she senses someone outside her cottage, and there are incidents of vandalism.

It will all heat up to a smashing climax readers will find terrifying in this atmospheric read. Another compelling entry from Rhodes, highly recommended.

Jane Casey: Bet Your Life Sunday, Mar 15 2015 

Auntie M is a huge fan of Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series (The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, et al). So it should come as no surprise that when she turned her hand to YA novels and introduced Jess Tenant in How to Fall, that she had another hit series on her hands.
The second Jess Tenant Bet Your Life, has the same realistic teen dialogue and situations as the first.

There’s Jess’ complicated family life and her even more complicated attraction to Will, the person who makes her brain fuzzy and who she decides is better off without her. At sixteen, Jess is pretty mature, living in a tiny seaside English town for the past few months, keeping an eye on her mom while pretending she’s not missing Will, away at school.

Hallowe’en night changes everything. Seb Dawson has been left for dead at the roadside with a serious head injury. Jess isn’t a fan of Seb’s, but he didn’t deserve what happened to him.

With her feeling the police are not taking his attack seriously enough, it falls to Jess to find out who was behind Seb’s attack, and her investigation takes her places she doesn’t want to go. It turns out Seb wasn’t the nicest of young men, a secret predator who plays dangerous cakes to abuse girls, from blackmail to spiking their drinks with drugs.

The list of victims who could have a motive for revenge on Seb becomes long. Or could it have been a bunch of them banding together? Even more so, could there be someone else with a need to silence Seb?

The tension rises the deeper Jess finds herself involved until her own life is in jeopardy. Casey has created believable characters and situations that make Bet Your Life a gripping read for adults and teens alike.

Fear the Darkness: Becky Masterman Sunday, Mar 1 2015 

Becky Masterman took readers by storm with her retired FBI agent, Bridget Quinn, the protagonist of 2013’s Rage Against the Dying, which introduced the feisty newlywed in a suspenseful debut. She returns to Tucson with Bridget and her husband, Carlo, in this year’s Fear the Darkness, and it’s every bit as suspenseful and compelling as the first.

Much has been made of having a 50+ protagonist as the center of a series, and it’s a refreshing change to see a strong woman who knows her own mind and can give as good as she gets in many circumstances. With Carlo’s history as a lapsed priest, Bridget is trying out a church with him, and making friends in the community. Their life with their two pugs is starting to settle into suburban bliss when her ill sister-in-law dies, and Bridget’s brother begs them to take in his seventeen-year-old daughter for the summer to complete the residency requirement for college. The couple’s trip to Florida for the funeral gives readers a glimpse into Bridget’s family and background, and when Gemma Kate arrives, it’s bound to change the dynamic of their home.

With Gemma Kate suddenly thrust upon them, the adjustment period is rocky right from the start. And then one of their beloved pugs almost dies just as Bridget agrees to investigate the death of local couple’s son. Could the pugs illness been a deliberate poisoning by Gemma Kate? Was the boys death a suicide, a tragic accident, or a case of murder?

Bridget and Carlo soon realize they don’t really know the stranger in their midst, family or not, nor what she’s really capable of–and then Bridget starts to have unusual medical symptoms just as her investigation heats up and she will have to call on all of her skills and training.

How the two are connected will come as a surprise to most readers, and that’s one of the skills Masterman employs in this thoroughly satisfying outing. Auntie M enjoyed seeing another side of Carlo, the professor Bridget loves, and how this later-in-life marriage and its adjustments affects them both. Entertaining and quickly read, this sequel is another thrilling winner.

Maggie Barbieri: Lies That Bind Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

Auntie M enjoyed Maggie Barbieri’s first Maeve Conlon thriller, Once Upon a Lie, and had been looking forward to the sequel. Barbieri keeps up the promise of the first with her second installment of the Westchester baker’s life in Lies that Bind.

Who would ever think that a divorced mom of two teens, running her own bakeshop, could get into the kind of situations that Maeve does, yet once you know Maeve and her life, it all seems more than plausible. With her ex-husband and his new wife and son as part of her blended family, Maeve is very representative of a modern woman in most respects. Just don’t mess with her when she gets angry.

Maeve’s friend and bakeshop helper, Jo, is heavily pregnant, and somehow it’s Maeve taking Jo to birthing classes instead of Jo’s detective husband, Dave. This is just the tip of Maeve’s iceberg when her father, Jack, a former NYPD cop, dies suddenly. Despite his increasing dementia looming over her, Maeve thought she’d have him around a little longer. The two were inordinately close, as Jack raised Maeve after her mother’s death, the story that forms the basis of the plot of Barbieri’s first book, where Maeve unravels the mystery behind her mother’s death with startling consequences.

With Jack’s death blindsiding her now, Maeve receives another blow at Jack’s wake from the two sisters who were her arch enemies in the old neighborhood. One drunkenly suggests that Maeve had a sister she knows nothing about; the other seems to know more than she’s telling. Secrets, terrible secrets, have been kept from Maeve.

Maeve is desperate to find out if she had a sibling, and sets off to do her own investigation just as vandals break into her bakery, her shady landlord disappears, and an amputated finger suddenly appears in her bakeshop fridge. Add to that the usual issues with her daughters,stolen money, and a sudden interest from the local detective to add a little frisson to her missing love life, and Maeve has her hands very full.

The wry humor in this series balances the darkness that Maeve encounters. Maeve is a modern woman, a savvy businesswoman whose business is thriving thanks to her own incredible efforts. She’s a mother who keeps a fake personna on social media pages so she can friend her daughters and keep tabs on both teens. She’s a tiny, spunky woman you can’t help but admire, and it only seems fair that Barbieri allows Maeve to have a bit of a personal life along the way in this one, even as the baker uncovers what turns out to be a diabolical scheme. Nicely crafted fingers of the plot come together into a very satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

Wildalone: Krassi Zourkova Sunday, Feb 15 2015 

Bulgarian author Krassi Zourkova studied art history and wrote poetry at Princeton, the setting for her debut novel, Wildalone. After graduation from Harvard’s Law School, she’s practiced finance law, but her experiences at Princeton provide the descriptive and realistic setting for this wildly imaginative novel.

Thea Slavin is the protagonist whose journey we follow, a talented pianist in America at the tony institution, away for the first time from the protective cocoon of her Bulgarian family. With a host of universities to choose from, she’d been leaning toward attending Harvard until a relative reveals a long-held family secret: Thea had an older sister, also a talented pianist, whose Princeton experience ended in her early death. The manner of that death contains its own secret, ones Thea vows to unravel.

Within the circle of students at Princeton, she is intrigued by an elusive young man, Rhys, and his brother, Jake. Knowing them will catapult Thea into unseen layers of a sensual mythic underworld that becomes as irresistible to Thea as it is dangerous. There will be forest witches, mythic revelations, and the ultimate entrapment of men.

This is a mystery as Thea becomes more and more determined to find out the truth of what happened to her sister. But it’s also an exploration of a world that shadows aspects of Greek mythology. It is to Zourkova’s credit that she brings the reader along on Thea’s journey in a manner that allows readers to play the ultimate “What if?” game: What if dead doesn’t always mean gone forever, and people can be strung together by love and devotion in unlikely ways?

The background and history of the music Thea plays is an added bonus, evoking the emotions that she exhibits and connecting the bits of her story to the other main characters. The elements of magical realism are slowly introduced in such a way that just as Thea must come to accept that there are things beyond her ken, so does the reader. Very original and told in a deft manner.

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