Opposite Poles: Nele Neuhaus and Laura McHugh Sunday, Apr 13 2014 

German Nele Neuhaus and American Laura McHugh are two writers who couldn’t be more different in their writing or their settings, yet both of their works use setting to their advantage to add to the stories they want to tell.

Nele Neuhaus returns with Bad Wolf, the second in her series that started with last year’s Snow White Must Die. Set in Frankfurt and featuring Inspectors Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodonestein heading their team, the usual police procedural takes on a darker tone despite the nod to Grimm’s fairy tales in Neuhaus’ titles.

It’s hot in Frankfurt in June when a sixteen-year-old girl’s body turns up on a river bank outside of town. Despite the brutality of her injuries, her identity remains unknown and no one turns in a missing person report. Pia’s team is frustrated for weeks and then a new case takes precedence. A television reporter who’s become a known personality is attacked, raped, and locked in the trunk of her car, barely surviving.

Pia suspects the reporter’s investigations into a popular child welfare organization, run by an old, established family with an untarnished reputation, may provide the key to the woman’s attack.

Then a link is drawn with a child pornography ring, and overruns into both inspectors’ personal lives. This chilling tale has a huge emotional component as the different subplots connect. Well-crafted and engrossing, it’s an unpredictable and multi-dimensional book that will hook readers from the start.

Neuhaus started out selling her self-published books out of the trunk of her car before becoming Germany’s top crime writer. Don’t miss this powerful psychological thriller based on a police procedural.


Laura McHugh’s debut The Weight of Blood is a totally different kind of crime novel, yet every bit as disturbing. Told from the viewpoints of Lucy Dane and Lila, her mother who disappeared when Lucy was a child, the action revolves around the the murder of one of Lucy’s friends, the slow-witted Cheri.

The setting this time is the tiny village of Henbane, deep in the Ozark Mountains. Filled with strange ways and customs, and a fear of strangers, it’s an area the modern world has almost passed by. McHugh manages to make the landscape come alive, and the story is inspired by a true incident that took place in the Missouri town where the author went to school.

Small wonder then that its authenticity rings so true. Readers will be drawn in immediately by the voice of Lucy and then by that of her mother, Lila, a young woman whose destiny is not hers to decide. Lucy is haunted by the mystery surrounding Lila’s disappearance and by the murder of young Cheri. Here is McHugh in Lucy’s voice describing her emotions when Cheri’s body is found: “…Boys our age, the ones at school, were cruel. They called her a retard and make her cry. I told her to ignore them, but I never told them to stop, and that’s what I remembered when Cheri’s body turned up in the tree: the ways I had failed her.”

That sense of failure will drive Lucy to investigate Cheri’s death, while not forgetting her mother, and the result will call into question everything Lucy thinks she has come to learn about family and secrets.

This is beautifully written novel that will suck you in from its opening as the story gains momentum to its powerful conclusion. No spoilers here: read it yourself and you’ll find you’re flipping pages well past bedtime.

ALSO RECOMMENDED: Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman. This debut follows young widow Nora Hamilton, trying to make sense of the suicide of her police officer husband, a man who loved her, his job, and their Adirondack town–and died without leaving her a note of explanation? A taut and believable mystery.

Hard Going: Cynthia Harrod-Eagles newest Bill Slider crime novel brings back his family and partner in a complex mystery that interrupts his vacation week. A retired solicitor, known for his good deeds, has been bashed in the head with a statue in a frenzied attack that will have them searching into the man’s past for the culprit. Highly satisfying.

Hunting Shadows: Inspector Rutledge returns in Charles Todd’s sixteenth book in the post WWI series. The countryside of Cambridgeshire finds Rutledge to town to locate the murderer of a man at the doorstep to Ely Cathedral, on his way to a wedding. After a second murder, one witness’s description leaves the locals convinced a madman is on their doorstep. Great period details and a intricate plotting are the hallmark of this series.

AND NEW IN PAPERBACK: Jane Casey’s The Last Girl, the third DC Maeve Kerrigan novel. Compared to Tana French or Denis Mina, Casey’s series twists and turns through the investigation of the murder of a wealthy defense attorney. But was this a disgruntled client, or does the truth lie closer to home?

Elizabeth Haynes: Under a Silent Moon Sunday, Apr 6 2014 

When Auntie M met Elizabeth Haynes last summer at Bouchercon, she found a warm, funny family woman with a history of working in police intelligence. Haynes’ darkly creative imagination was behind her first three sterling thrillers: Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, and Human Remains.

Now Haynes is back with an incredible new book, the first of a series, where she brings her past experience into a startling procedural that has her trademark unusual way of telling a story. Under a Silent Moon introduces DCI Louisa Smith, heading up a investigation team in London’s suburbs.

What sets this novel apart from the usual police procedural is the device Haynes uses, containing a mix of police reports, witness statements, call logs and crime charts that add superb layers to the complex story and very human characters she creates. Haynes’ graphs and charts are the ones used in reality, and they add an extra layer to the book, while showing the inner workings of a real police investigation like never before. It also explains the role of the civilian police analyst and how their work aids and interweaves with the police.

Two women in horse country are dead, and Lou and her team must establish if their deaths are related. At a farm outside a small English village, a lovely young woman had been found murdered, the bloody scene a testament to her last minutes. In a nearby quarry, a car fallen into holds the body of an older woman and is at first considered a suicide. But is there a link between the two women and their deaths?

When it’s found that the first victim, Polly Leuchars, had open sexual relationships with many people of both sexes, the suspect list grows. Then an elusive woman who may have been involved in Polly’s circle brings drama of a different kind to a member of Lou’s team. There will be hasty decisions, regrets, and lives brought close to the brink of death before it all comes together.

Haynes has a wonderful grasp of human relations and emotions, and by telling the story from multiple points of view, she maintains a steady, growing tension that affects Lou and her team as they move to separate motive and opportunity within the lies they are being told. By having the same information Lou and her team are privy to at their fingertips, the reader feels they are uniquely involved in getting to the truth as Lou’s team investigates. It’s a wonderful device that immediately keeps the reader flipping pages to the next point of the view, the next interview, the next chart, at the same time as readers are caught up in the emotions and private stories of Lou and her team. It’s to Haynes’ credit that she manages to bring her police team off as every bit as human as the victims and suspects they are interviewing.

This is the first of a planned series and DCI Lou Smith is more than capable of holding the reader’s attention for future novels. Highly recommended.

Ab Fab: Best of Recent UK Crime Thursday, Mar 27 2014 

Absolutely Fabulous was the name of wildly offbeat British sitcom that premiered in the 1990′s and starred Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley and Julia Sawalha. Its nickname “Ab Fab” has become part of the lexicon of Brit slang that Auntie M is using here to describe the collection of UK crime novels you’ll want to explore.

Sophie Hannah’s Kind of Cruel continues in the vein she’s established for examining the investigations of married detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse. She uses the protagonist of each case to describe the majority of the action, including Zailer and Waterhouse, in an unusual device that is simply brilliant.

Readers will be caught up in the puzzle that is Amber’s Hwerdine’s life.Amber suffers from insomnia since the death of her best friend, a death that also gave Amber and her husband custody of the friend’s two young girls. Determined to make a safe home for Dinah and Nonie, Amber visits a hypnotist to help her with her insomnia and utters the words “kind of cruel,” which in turn alerts Waterhouse to a different murder case. These were the very words inscribed on a pad in the victim’s flat; but Amber doesn’t know this woman? So how did she know that unusual phrase?

Waterhouse is convinced Amber is innocent of the murder, yet somehow has knowledge that will help him solve the case. This complex novel is filled with clues that only become apparent at the end. This is literary writing at its finest with intelligent and thoroughly researched psychology that includes a stunning insight into Waterhouse’s psyche. If you weren’t a fan of Sophie Hannah before, you will be after absorbing this compulsively readable book. Hannah was chosen to write a new Hercule Poirot novel that will premiere this fall.

CWA Dagger Winner Cath Staincliffe brings the two protagonists of the popular series Scott and Bailey to life in Dead to Me
,a police procedural whose characters fairly jump off the page.

While both members of the Murder Investigation Team based in Manchester, these two women are polar opposites. Janet Scott is a consummate interviewer, able to obtain trust and confidences from her suspects, a reliable mum and worker with her own dry sense of humor. Rachel Bailey is impulsive, energetic and outrageously ambitious, but she also has great instincts that could make her a fine detective. Partnered with Janet, the two rub against each other at first but quickly join forces to find the killer of a teenaged girl, brutally murdered in a housing project.

Both women have their own demons to wrestle with in their pasts but when the case becomes complicated, they will face dangers neither could expect. The inner workings of a murder squad with its attendant relationships and vagaries are all on display in this fast-paced winner from the novelist and creator of hit UK TV series Blue Murder.

Chris Ewan’s deftly plotted thriller Safe House is set on the Isle of Man, a closed, often desolate community that is the perfect setting for this stand alone that offers up the first person perspective of Rob Hale, a heating engineer who races motorcycles.

When Rob wakes up in hospital after an horrific bike accident, he wonders immediately of the fate of his lovely blonde passenger. But his doctors and the police claim there was no woman found at at the scene. Rob’s memories of the lovely Lena are put down to his concussion by everyone but Rob. But how could a woman vanish into thin air?

With his sister’s recent suicide hanging over his family, Rob is determined to find Lena and why her very existence seems to be covered up. He’ll be aided by a private investigator from London, and together he and Rebecca Lewis must follow the clues that will lead to Lena and to the troubling truth behind his sister’s death. Filled with action and corruption, the story never loses sight of family love.

Backlash is Lynda La Plante’s newest entry in her Anna Travis series. The creator of the Prime Suspect series, La Plante’s eighth novel finds Travis a Detective Chief Inspector who will knock heads once again with her former lover, now boss, Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton.

Langton is supposed to be on sick leave after knee surgery, but somehow he manages to insinuate himself into Anna’s case, to her chagrin. While her case seems to be open and shut at first, with a suspect, an arrest, and a confession by the driver of a white van found with a dead woman in the back, it does appear connected to an earlier case of Langton’s. Five years before, a 13 yr-old girl disappeared and the unsolved case has haunted him since. Now he’s put himself into the midst of Anna’s case and there are sure to be complications when her suspect suddenly changes his story. And it doesn’t help when Langton trades on his complicated relationship with Anna to keep him updated on what should be her case.

Following the success of his strong debut Good People, Ewart Hutton returns with DS Glyn Capaldi in Dead People

Capaldi’s transfer to rural Wales after a professional fall from grace finds him dealing with the gruesome discovery of a long-dead skeleton found at a remote site during excavation work for a new wind farm in the hills. Missing its head and hands makes the corpse unidentifiable. Then more skeletons are found in the same area and it appears the site is the dumping ground of a serial killer. Capaldi’s not convinced this is accurate, but he fights his superiors’ when he insists this smacks of local knowledge. Complicating matters is a nearby archeological dig with a comely head archeologist who perks Capaldi’s interest. There will be trips to a claustrophobic series of caves, more bodies unearthed, and an apparent suicide before the real culprit is unmasked. Told in first person from Capaldi’s point of view, his self-deprecating humor adds a nice touch in this strong series.

Saints of the Shadow Bible is Ian Rankin’s latest entry into his dark, Edinburgh police procedurals that will find John Rebus and Malcom Fox knocking heads in a complicated cold case. When a 30 yr-old murder case is investigated, the one that Rebus would rather be investigating should take a back seat. But then, this IS Rebus we’re talking about.

A young woman has been found unconscious at the wheel of her car, with signs of another occupant and possible theft. Her boyfriend is the son of a high-ranking politician; neither the boyfriend nor the victim will talk to the police. While he aggravates people he’s investigating with his usual aplomb, Rebus must confront ghosts of his own past as Fox is assigned to look into a group from early in Rebus’ career known the the “Saints.”

Fox and Rebus together seem an unlikely duo and there’s no love lost between the two of them, yet at the bottom of it all the truth will come to the forefront. Will Rebus be exonerated or a victim of his past decisions? Highly readable.

Bad Blood is the newest DI Marjory Fleming novel in her absorbing series set in Scotland. A medical situation with Fleming’s husband, Bill, shadows their son’s triumph playing rugby, and forces Fleming to confront whether she puts her job over her family. Her sergeant, Tam McNee, will be forced to take on a greater role than he likes when a young woman returns to town to find out why the disappearance of her mother was never solved.

Marnie Bruce didn’t exactly have the best upbringing. After being knocked about the head as a child, she woke up to find her mother gone and herself taken into care, a situation she leaves at age 16. She’s been on her own ever since, working in London and saving to return to Scotland to discover what happened to the mother she has terribly mixed feelings about. MArnie’s appearance will set off a chain reaction of events that lead back to the murder of a young boy forty years ago. And then a woman is killed and Marnie becomes a prime suspect.

Deftly plotted, this investigation combines the difficult relationships of Fleming’s team as they struggle to put their personal feelings aside to solve a the murder that has fingers reaching back several decades. Another winner in a series Auntie M enjoys that she hopes you will discover.

Triss Stein: Brooklyn Graves Saturday, Mar 15 2014 

Please welcome guest author Triss Stein with her new release, Brooklyn Graves. One lucky person who leaves a comment will win a copy of one of her books, so lurkers, don’t be shy!

Brooklyn Graves 2
With every new book a writer has the challenge of writing something as good or better than the last one. In a series, as most mysteries are published these day, the special challenge is how to explain enough to interest the new reader, and not bore to death the reader who already knows the back story.

With Brooklyn Graves, my second book in the series, and with the work in progress, I have an extra challenge. The underlying idea for this series is to write books set in Brooklyn neighborhoods, with the stories woven around the unique character, history and issues of each. The first, Brooklyn Bones, was set in my own neighborhood. An area with beautiful architecture and parks, and all the issues that come with gentrification, it had plenty of old and new tensions to use in a story. And it was all right outside my door! No research required.

Can you see where I am going? I never thought of setting all the later books there too, turning it into a kind of urban version of Cranberry Cove or St. Mary Mead. So for Brooklyn Graves I had to look further.

Years ago, I had read some news items about a series of crimes taking place in some of New York’s most elaborate cemeteries. They were not creepy; this is not body snatching. In fact, they were almost comical and the idea was irresistible. With Brooklyn home to Green-Wood, one of the grand cemeteries of the 19th century, a place so lovely people used to take carriage rides there and have picnics, I had my special setting and it was a famous place, easy to research.

The challenge came with my need to have a manual worker who was a friend of my protagonist. That kind of work is most often done in New York by immigrants. Who could he be, this character? How could I write him and sound truthful? With English that has the correct foreign ring to it? Would I know the difference between a Puerto Rican and a Mexican accent? Between Jamaican and Trinidadian? Let alone the typical family interactions, standards, and fears of another culture? While some human emotions seem universal, they are always expressed in a local fashion.

The answer was to make him Russian. I have known a lot of Russian immigrants. I am familiar with Brighton Beach, the large Russian neighborhood now nicknamed Little Odessa. And I had people to ask if I was not sure about a detail. And though Russian immigrants are often better educated than some others, lack of English or lack of US certifications might keep them in manual jobs. My story took a whole new turn that I had not even planned.

Did I succeed? I will learn that from my readers.

The work in progress is the same challenge magnified. I wanted to write about the history of a very rough, poor neighborhood where I worked for a time, long ago. It wasn’t till I started writing that I realized that – duh!- I don’t know anything about it as it is now. Is it still tough, gang-ridden, depressed? Is my knowledge of street slang hopelessly outdated? (Of course it is) Does it still produce boxers and drug dealers? Finding out is the first challenge. Making it come alive on the page is the second. Look for the results next winter.

About Brooklyn Graves:
A brutally murdered friend who was a family man with not an enemy in the world. A box full of charming letters home, written a century ago by an unknown young woman working at the famed Tiffany studios. Historic Green-Wood cemetery, where a decrepit mausoleum with stunning stained glass windows is now off limits, even to a famed art historian.

Suddenly, all of this, from the tragic to the merely eccentric, becomes part of Erica Donato’s life. As if her life is not full enough. She is a youngish single mother of a teen, an oldish history grad student, lowest person on the museum’s totem pole. She doesn’t need more responsibility, but she gets it anyway as secrets start emerging in the most unexpected places.

In Brooklyn Graves, a story of old families, old loves and hidden ties merges with new crimes and the true value of art, against the background of the splendid old cemetery and the life of modern Brooklyn.

About Triss Stein:
Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York state’s dairy country who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. She is inspired by its varied neighborhoods and their rich histories. The first book in the series, Brooklyn Bones, is about the discovery of body as a brownstone is being renovated in gentrifying Park Slope. The next is Brooklyn Graves in 2014. It is about historic Green-Wood Cemetery, Tiffany glass, a turn-of-the -last century mystery and some up-to-date crimes. It is due out in February 2014.

Writing mysteries is Triss’s third career. She started out as a children’s librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library system, which is when she started learning about all those neighborhoods. Later she transitioned into business research at places as diverse as McKinsey, the global consultancy, and DC Comics. She is the chair of the Mystery Writers of America/New York chapter library committee.

Michael Robotham: Watching You Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

watching you

The incomparable Michael Robotham brings back psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, one of Auntie M’s favorite creations, along with his friend, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, in another stunner. Watching You introduces Marnie Logan, a woman in desperate shape after the disappearance of her husband thirteen months before.

With Daniel’s assets frozen, and unable to obtain have him declared dead to collect his life insurance, Marnie’s financially strapped, behind in her rent, and has just pawned the family’s television to pay for groceries. Her teenage daughter, Zoe, doesn’t understand why Daniel abandoned them. Her younger son, Elijah, a sickly boy with an imaginary friend, just knows that he misses his dad.

Then there’s the other issue: Marnie feeling she’s constantly being watched, something she can’t shake, like a shadow that disappears when she turns. To complicate matters, Daniel owes a huge gambling debt, which a signed contract shows Marnie to be liable for; she finds herself briefly working as an escort under duress. At least she’ll have a few pounds to pay the electric bill, but she’s still two months behind in their rent.

Reasonably depressed, her desperation increases, and she turns to clinical psychologist O’Loughlin for help. In his search to help Marnie, O’Loughlin uncovers Daniels’ Big Red Book; a collection of photos, interviews and anecdotes from Marnie’s past that Daniel was collating as a birthday surprise. It becomes the springboard O’Loughlin and Ruiz will use to investigate Daniel’s last days.

Things turn on their head when it soon becomes obvious that any one who crossed Marnie Logan in her life has been harmed in some terrible way. And O’Loughlin has just put himself in the sights of this personal crusader.

Robotham builds suspense and keeps readers connected with his masterful storytelling. In this case, nothing is quite as it seems on the surface, and the twists and twist-backs at the end will leave O’Loughin startled and the reader surprised. This is one you won’t want to put down. Highly recommended.

Winter Clearance: The Best of the Rest Sunday, Mar 9 2014 

Auntie M receives many more books during the year than she could possible review Reading 2-3 a week, she usually picks out her favorites to give a full review, and throws in guests here and there, so you can imagine the piles of books at her house. With the spring/summer catalogues starting to arrive, it seemed prudent to do a bit of book cleaning and sorting. Here are the fall/winter releases that didn’t make it to a full review, mostly because of timing issues, not because they weren’t good reads. Lurkers new to this blog should be aware that Auntie M does not waste space on a book she didn’t like, whatever the reason. The thrust of this blog is to bring great new authors or continued series winners books to your attention.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker is not the usual kind of crime book Auntie M reviews, but there is a mystery at the heart of this involved immigrant tale that focuses on elements of Arab and Jewish mythology. It’s an interesting mix of these two world and revolves around two supernatural creatures who arrive in New York in 1899 and adjust to a human city. There is adventure as they face adversity, and their once-hostile relationship changes through the strong bond they form. Surrounded by a colorful cast of secondary characters, this is a mix of fable and historical fiction in this tale of folklore and fantasy.

seance societyStaying with books written in another time, we head to 1956 and Michael Nehtercott’s The Seance Society. PI Lee Plunkett and Mr. O’Nelligan, his partner, pair up to solve a murder involved the “Spectricator,” a machine designed to communicate with the afterlife. The fresh cast of characters they meet, combined with witty dialogue, make for a great mystery.

It’s back to the post-Revolutionary War era when veteran Will Rees, a traveling weaver, finds his fragile happiness shattered by news of the murder of his old friend, Nate Bowditch, in Eleanor Kuhn’s Death of a Dyer.Kuhns’ won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award for A Simple Murder, which intruded Rees. She brings this tale of hidden motives and evil secrets alive with capturing the Shaker lifestyle of the period.
midwifes tale
Sam Thomas’ The Midwife’s Tale takes readers to 1644, when Parliament’s armies laid siege to York in a rebellion against the King. A different sort of rebellion faces midwife Bridget Hodgson, who resolutely sets out of clear her friend of murdering her husband. But will she find the real culprit before Estehr Cooper is burned alive? Enlisting savvy servant Martha Hawkins, the two will travel to unknown neighborhoods and delve into Puritan ethics run amok. Filled with historical details and breathing with realism of the era.

Julia Keller’s A Killing in the Hills brings her skills as a Pulitzer Prize-wining journalist to her first crime novel with powerful results. Bell Elkins returns to the depressed area of West Virginia that carries enough terrible childhood memories to keep her away. But returning to Acker’s Gap as the county’s prosecuting attorney will bring Bell’s daughter Carly into the fray after the girl is a witness to a fatal shooting. A wonderful sense of place with quick pacing finely-darwn characters.

Once Upon A Lie.JPG
Maggie Barbieri’s Once Upon a Lie is a departure from her Murder 101 series. This time a suburban mystery takes a dark turn in this debut featuring baker Maeve Conlon, a most unlikely protagonist. Trying to juggle her kids, an ex with a new family and a father with Alzheimer’s while running a successful business isn’t easy for Maeve but she manages–just. Then her cousin Sean Donovan is found dead and suddenly things get a lot more complicated. Unusual and surprising.

Helen Smith’s Emily Castle series are pure fun, what Auntie M calls brain candy. This time poor Emily, temp job queen, is convinced to travel for the weekend to beachside of Torquay for a weekend convention of paranormal research. Her neighbor, Perspicacious Peg, has had a premonition someone will drown at the convention, and Emily is hired as a “future-crimes” investigator, which translates to an all-expense paid vacation whilst keeping her eyes open. Magician Edmund Zenon’s bounty of 50,000 British Sterling pounds, offered to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal, dangles like a carrot on a stick in front of the resort and its inhabitants. Filled with quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek asides.

october list
Jeffrey Deaver’s October List
flips his usual crime novels on hits head by starting with the ending and working his way backwards to show how and why Gabriela is sitting in an apartment, watching the clock tick down after the kidnapping of her daughter. The story builds and rebuilds with device as reader’s work back, trying to spot clues. Deaver says he was inspired by Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along.

the good boy
Edgar Award-winning author Theresa Schwegel brings a noir look to Chicago with The Good Boy
, her look into 11 yr-old Joel Murphy’s journey with his father’s police dog, Butchie, who set out to protect Joel’s sister and end up running for their lives. With his father, Pete, facing a wrongful arrest suit, justice seems to be out of reach for this family. Schwegel’s authentic dialogue adds to the tension.

The Widows of Braxton County is Jess McConkey’s haunting family story with a mystery at its heart. When Kate Krauss marries into an Iowa farming family and only finds out after her wedding that her new mother-in-law will be living with the newlyweds, that’s not the only secret this family holds.

Cut to the Bone is the newest entry in the Jefferson Bass series set at the Body Farm in 1992. This one delves into Dr. Bill Brockton’s past and the Body Farm’s early beginnings. The launch of this macabre research facility are threatened to derail when he’s called to investigate a crime scene with chilling similarities to Brockton’s past.

Memphis is the setting for Jeff Crook’s The Sleeping and the Dead. featuring Jackie Lyons, a former vice detective on the edge of too many life changes to take hold of at once. There’s a mystical element here, as Jackie’s camera starts to capture images of ghosts and she must decipher the real world from the spirit world.

Carol Miller’s debut Murder and Moonshine features waitress Daisy McGovern, working at a Virginia diner, and overhearing far too many secrets to keep her safe. First in a new series.

Hoomy Menino debuts a gripping mystery surrounding horsewoman Tink Elledge in Murder, She Rode. Set outside Philadelphia in the Brandywine region, Tink becomes involved in unraveling the truth behind several supposedly freak accidents affecting the riders she knows.

It’s easy to figure out the setting for DE Johnson’s Detroit Shuffle. Will Anderson seems to have a knack for getting involved in sleuthing. This is the third entry in the times of suffrage rallies, conspiracies and murder against the backdrop of the infancy of the auto industry.

Steve Hamilton prolific Alex McKnight series had two entries last year: Let It Burn took the ex-cop back to his Detroit roots to revisit a case he thought he’d solved decided ago. Blood is the Sky came out in paperback and follows McKnight’s journey deep into Canada on a search for the missing brother of his good friend and was previously reviewed. Hamilton gets the balance of tension, action and atmosphere just right in this series from the two-time Edgar Award winner.

Shoot the Women First is Wallace Stroby’s third Crissa Stone caper, featuring the professional thief, an unlikely but engaging protagonist Kirkus calls “crime fiction’s best bad girl.” This time she’s in Detroit and finds herself on the run with a stolen cache of drug money, being pursued by the drug kingpin’s lethal lieutenant and a former cop with his own agenda. Action-packed and hard-boiled as you can get.

Dana Hayes fast-paced action thriller Ice Cold Kill will have readers leaving the light on long after bedtime. Working as an interpreter and living in exile in the US and under FBI protection is a very different way of life for former Shin-Bet agent Daria Gibron, who can’t resist taking on the occasional job as an operative. Alerted to an ambush but not knowing who’s at its heart, she finds herself on the run from a setup and pursued by the very people who are supposed to protect her.

Thriller writer James Rollins takes an apocalyptic turn with the comet set on a collision course with Earth in The Eye of God . Throw in behind-the-scenes government plots, add in a huge dose of action and startling secrets and you have a view of the future where Sigma Force, an elite and covert arm of the Department of Defense’s DARPA Unit exists. Combining high concept scientific theories with true historical and religious facts gives this thriller the ring of plausibility.

Stephen Leather has garnered an audience with his Spider Shepherd series and True Colors is out in paperback. His newest release is Lastnight, a Jack Nightingale thriller which finds Jack asked to track down a killer murdering Goths in a most horrific manner: skinning and butchering them. When Jack finds the common link to the victims, he sets himself and his family squarely in the firing line of a secretive Satanic cult.

Archer Mayor’s Paradise City came out in paperback and was quickly followed by Joe Gunther’s newest tale in Three Can Keep a Secret. Recovering after the devastation of Hurricane Irene is a full time job for Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation until they are handed three seemingly unrelated cases. How they are related provides the key as Gunther plows through the disaster trying to learn what is really at the base of these cases.

Tim O’Mara’s Crooked Numbers second novel brings back Sacrifice Fly‘s protagonist, NYC teacher Raymond Donne. This time Donne takes a break from middle-school teaching to solve the apparently gang-related killing of a former student on scholarship to a private Manhattan school–only the boy’s mother insists her son was never part of gang. Then another victim from the same school dies and a third is hospitalized.

The Other Woman is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s riveting entry featuring reporter Jane Ryland that won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. A Boston investigative reporter, Ryan brings her extensive history and knowledge to crime, wining the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards in the process. Jane will encounter Detective Jake Brogan in this mystery with tones of election connections and a serial killer at large. The Wrong Girl follows the duo into the investigation of a respected adoption agency. Are they reuniting birth parents with the wrong children? A strong series with compelling characters and nonstop action.

Sandra deHelen: The Illustrious Client Sunday, Mar 2 2014 

Marni, thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest on your fabulous crime review weekly, Auntie M Writes.

I’d like to start by introducing your readers to my protagonist and her sidekick. Shirley Combs is the world’s greatest detective (in her opinion, anyway), and Dr. Mary Watson, a naturopath, is her sidekick and narrator. They live and work in present day Portland, Oregon, just as I do.

They first met at a self-help weekend workshop in Seattle several years ago. That was when Shirley decided to pursue her passion for private investigation, and Mary started chronicling their exploits. One of the things that drew them together was they were both asexual. Shirley most likely always will be, but in the second book, Mary discovers her sexuality and falls in love.

In the first book,THE HOUNDING, Shirley is hired to find the true killer of Priscilla Vandeleur, a timber heiress, who had a phobia of dogs. Someone took advantage of that fear and set hounds on her to literally scare her to death. Sherlock Holmes fans will recognize this story as similar to The Hound of the Baskervilles. All the stories will be descended from Sherlock Holmes stories as written by A. Conan Doyle. Shirley often uses Sherlock’s methods to solve her crimes. She grew up reading the stories and because her name said fast sounds like his, she was teased all her life. She decided maybe having a name that sounded like his wasn’t a coincidence, but a pointer for her life.

The second book finds Shirley and Mary hired by an emissary for an illustrious client, to try their best to get a young French pop star out of the clutches of a billionaire Afghan player. They travel to France to meet with the young woman’s parents, only to be return immediately to Portland when a crime occurs. This novel is called THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT, as might be expected.

The third book, which is in its infancy, will be called THE VALLEY OF FEAR, and will introduce Shirley’s Moriarty.

It is not necessary to read the books in order. The relationship between Shirley and Mary will grow over time, but if you want to read a mystery, you don’t have to know anything about Sherlock Holmes or read them in a particular order.

THE HOUNDING is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The audiobook is set up with Whisper Sync, which allows the reader to listen for awhile, then pick up the Kindle and find it set at the place she left off — and vice versa. THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT is available in paperback and ebook. Both books can be found (or ordered) wherever books are sold. They are also available online through the usual sources.

Sandra de Helen’s books as well as short stories are available at bookstores, libraries, and online. Her poetry and plays are published in several journals. Samples of her works are on her website SandradeHelen.com.

Even though she says she isn’t a “joiner,” de Helen is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Oregon Writers Colony, the Golden Crown Literary Society, and International Centre for Women Playwrights.

Like her at FaceBook.com/drmarywatson, follow her on Twitter @dehelen, and read her blog at RedCrested.com. She lives with her cat Stanton in Portland, Oregon where they both type.

My website: http://SandradeHelen.com
My blog: http://Redcrested.com
Buy links:
The Hounding: http://amzn.to/1jFW42X
The Illustrious Client: http://amzn.to/1hKb6AH

If you have questions or comments, I’d love to have them. Also, I love book clubs, so if your book club would like me to Skype at your meeting, I’m available for that. If you happen to be within my driving distance, I’ll come in person.

Terry Shames: The Last Death of Jack Harbin Sunday, Feb 23 2014 

last death 2 copyWhile Auntie M is in Lumberton, NC this weekend for the literacy fundraiser Book’Em NC, please welcome guest Terry Shames.



Now What?



In my first book, A Killing at Cotton Hill, July 2013, I introduced ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock, the best lawman the town of Jarrett Creek ever had. The recent death of his beloved wife left him feeling like his life was basically over. Solving the mystery of an old friend’s death brought him back into action. When the book came out not only did I get some great reviews, but I received emails from people all over the country (as well as from England—who knew I would get an English audience for a series set in Texas?) telling me how much they loved Samuel.



The Last Death of Jack Harbin came out in January, 2014 to more good reviews—including the amazing declaration by a reviewer in the Toronto Times that Samuel Craddock was his favorite new American sleuth (who would have guessed that a Canadian reviewer would love a small-town Texas lawman?). It appeared that Samuel had traits people identified with.



Both of the first two books practically wrote themselves. It seemed as if the inhabitants of Jarrett Creek were eager to tell their stories. I heard the characters talk and watched them go through their daily lives as if I had a movie going in my head.



Then reality struck. When I started writing the third book in the series, the characters suddenly became coy—they refused to cooperate and seemed flat and uninspired. Thinking that I needed to re-spark my imagination, I took a trip back to the small town in Texas that Jarrett Creek is based on. Nope. Still the characters weren’t working. Now what?



I realized that I was confronted with what every writer of a series has to face—the need to have characters grow. Samuel Craddock and his supporting cast could not remain static and still be interesting to readers. The trick was to have characters change in ways that surprise readers—but not surprise them so much that they didn’t believe the characters would behave that way.






I realized that one of the ways to do this was to use secondary characters to highlight different aspects of the recurring characters. Almost by instinct, in both of the first two books I did this. Like people in real life, citizens of Jarrett Creek came and went, interacting with the main characters like a Greek chorus.

I knew that some of these characters may only appear in one book, while others may come back. I love the character of Walter Dunn in The Last Death of Jack Harbin, and although I don’t think he will ever be a major character, I know I’m not through with him. And one character from A Killing at Cotton Hill showed up to become the victim in book three, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek.



Settling into writing a series is like committing to a long-term relationship. People go along acting pretty much the same way they always have—and then they surprise you. Readers can look for changes as the series progresses. And as the writer, I have to be prepared for them to change as well.



Terry Shames is the best-selling author of A Killing at Cotton Hill and The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Seventh Street Books.

Her books are set in small-town Texas and feature ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock. Terry lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. She is Vice President of Norcal Sisters in Crime and on the board of MWA Norcal. For more information, please visit her website: www.Terryshames.com.

With the chief of police out of commission, it’s up to trusted ex-chief Samuel Craddock to investigate the brutal murder of a Gulf War veteran who was a former high school football star. Craddock uncovers a dark tale of greed and jealousy that extends into the past, and well beyond the borders of the small town of Jarrett Creek.





D. B. Corey: Chain of Evidence Tuesday, Feb 18 2014 

. ChainEvidenceD. B. Corey’s debut crime novel, Chain of Evidence, opens with one of the most chilling chapters Auntie M has read in a while, narrated by a devious and despicable necrophiliac pathologist who enjoys opera. This character grabs you by the throat on page one and doesn’t let up.

It’s a hot August in Baltimore and a killer the press has dubbed the CK Killer is on the loose. DS Moby Truax of the State’s Special Investigation Unit is tasked with finding the murderer who uses cyanide to kill, earning him his sobriquet.

Moby is interesting, a Willie Lomax of a character who is nearing the end of his sterling career, facing the loss of the memory that used to be one of his finest assets. The newest Baltimore victim is a 31 yr-old woman, two weeks after the dead body of 71 yr-old Rosa Neunyo. There were similar killings earlier in San Diego five months prior, but most of the murdered California women were in their late 60′s until this newest victim appears.

After thirty years detecting Moby’s instincts tell him there are TWO killers at work: one killing the older women, the second the younger, copycatting in the shadow of the original CK killer. Try telling his boss that. Under pressure to find the killer, his job on the line, Moby finds himself saddled with the unwanted assistance of an FBI agent from the California cases.

And this is where Corey really gets interesting. Who is smarter? The original CK killer, or the copycat? And how can Moby convince his colleagues and his narrow-minded boss that there are two murderers at work, while he’s

Corey’s meticulously plotted story revolves around Moby and the sick mind responsible for the copycats, evil personified. That the copier is smart enough to know how to mimic the real CK killer adds to the tension. When the end hits with a wallop, there will be one more twist that will surprise readers.

Corey’s book is available in print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and in Kindle format. You can order a personalized copy of his book through the Oxford, MD, bookstore Mystery Loves Company, too.

Here’s Corey in his own words from a previous interview:

When did you realize that you wanted to be an author?


                  In 2005, I challenged myself to write a novel; only because my new girlfriend (now my wife) said that my emails were so good I could be a writer. So I cobbled together my first novel just to see if I could write an entire book. After determining that a novel should be around 80-thousand words, I decided on a premise, and wrote the opening line:


“Call me Ishmael.”


                 HA! I wished!


                  Ok. I’m only kidding. But, the truth of the matter is that I started writing a book. After several days of Seek & Destroy on my laptop (I can’t type), I caught myself checking the word count every couple of pages. It was nowhere near 80-thousand words. That was when I decided that writing a novel was not about word count. When I finished about a year later, I had to admit that it was the worst thing I’d ever seen, that I couldn’t write a lick, and should have paid more attention in high school English. But … I also decided that I should try again. And this time, I should do it better.   

Do you think there is a difference between being an author and being a writer?


                  I think the difference between a writer and an author is the publishing part, of course. Being published allows you to claim the title of, author. But if you ask me what I am, I’ll tell you I’m a writer, unless I’m feeling especially full of myself. Then I’ll tell you I’m a novelist.


How did you find your current publisher?


                  Funny story. I stopped by a book signing for Austin Camacho held in Annapolis just off the Main Street docks. I’ve know Austin for several years and always tried to support him, knowing damn well he’d have to respond in kind if I ever managed to get a book into print. While chatting with him over a cup of coffee, he told me that he and his wife Denise were going to launch Intrigue as a full-fledged publishing house in the near future. I asked if he was looking for manuscripts, and he invited me to the Meet & Greet they set up to get it off the ground. As is my way, I couldn’t find the Meet & Greet because I didn’t have a GPS, so I emailed him the material several days later. After reading the manuscript, they requested a meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.


 What ritual do you have when writing? Is there something you do before, during and after you finish your story?


 I have a black tee-shirt my wife gave me. It reads, “Oh, this is SO going in my next novel.” I wear it when I sit down at the laptop. I also have a room that I set up for writing, and writing only. If you’d like a peek, it’s on my Facebook page.

Some writers say they write every day. As a rule, I don’t. I can’t. I have a day job to pay the bills. But I break that pattern when I have a reason. I just took two weeks vacation to finish the 1st draft of my 2nd novel. I wrote 8-10 hours every day because I set December’s end as a deadline, and it still took me into January.  


I write in pieces, or chunks, I guess. An idea for a story or novel will present itself to me (I don’t dream them up), and I’ll write the first scene or two; one Protag and one Antag—just enough so I don’t lose the story line, although this usually changes as things develop. Once that’s down, I mull it over, often during my work commute (radio off in the car) or at night, in bed. When I turn in, my mind doesn’t stop. It works and keeps me awake. Then a thought will occur and I have to get up to write it down. If I don’t, I’ll struggle to remember it over the next day or so and I hate that. Once I had a great idea for a character name and didn’t get up to put it on paper. It was the last name of an NFL player. The next day, I couldn’t remember it, and spent far too much time checking each NFL team roster trying to spark the recollection. It never came back.


            I get my best ideas at night, when my mind is free from the daily drudgery. I like to re-read the last scene or two that I’ve written, and start writing by re-writing to get to the next creative (and I use the term loosely) phase. It’s like picking up a book you’ve been reading,  but have laid aside for a day or so. You open to the bookmark, back up a few paragraphs, and refresh your memory. My writing process is much like that. Then it just kind of flows until I get tired, or my Muse goes to bed.


Who is your biggest supporter and why?


             That’s easy. My awesome wife, Maggie. Why? A few years back, before we were married, I wanted to quit “wasting my time”, as I put it.  She said, “Why do you want to quit now when you’ve learned so much?” She was right and I was wrong. Your writing is a learning process. A personal thing. It grows as you grow. If you stop, it dies.



What does it mean to you that you have a book in print?


              More than I can convey. It was never about the money (don’t tell my publisher that). It’s about accomplishment. I’m in my 60s. I’m a middle-class worker bee. I’ve done some cool things in my life, but never really achieved what I thought I could—what I thought I should—until now. I don’t expect to become  a household word because of one book, but it’s something to be proud of, a small mark I can leave behind that proves I was here,  and I just wish my mom were still alive to see it.



What advice can you give someone who is looking for a publisher?


              Don’t get discouraged. Many a successful writer forged their skills in the crucible of rejection.  Never give up. Keep improving. Become fireproof.



What advice would you give to a young person wanting to be an author?


                  Buy a thesaurus.



Give us five words that describe your novel?





What author would you compare yourself to?


                  A little Vince Flynn, a little Nelson DeMille, a little Lee Child.


                  Oh! Was I supposed to pick just one?



If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?


                  Avoid this question.



How long does it take you to write a story?


                  If I could make the living I am now with my writing, I think I could produce three full-length novels every two years.


Are you a pant’ser or an outliner?


                  You’ll pardon me if I have a little fun with this, but I am actually a little of both. I write outline form until I can’t stand it anymore, and then I cave and write the corresponding scenes to go with it. I guess that makes me an out-pantser … a term I like much better than pants-liner, which sounds like a feminine hygiene product.



Tell us in five sentences or less what your book is about….


                  Chain of Evidence is a story of a medical examiner who fulfills his own twisted urges by duplicating the acts of a serial killer, killing the women he wants. He uses his position to manipulate the evidence, hiding his own involvement while re-directing forensic blame toward the killer he copies. It’s a story of an aging cop confronted with forced retirement, an economically devastated pension, and diminished body and mind. Faced with rapid-fire changes to his world, solving this toughest of cases is his only chance to salvage his pension—and his reputation—before he’s ushered out the door.It’s the story of an attractive FBI agent, and her manipulation of a young, inexperienced state police commander to achieve the revenge she seeks.


I hope you like it.  



D.B. Corey is the debut author of the crime fiction thriller CHAIN OF EVIDENCE.


D. B. Corey lives in Baltimore with his lovely wife Maggie, and after a stint in college, spent twelve years with the U.S. Naval Reserves flying aircrew aboard a Navy P-3 Orion sub-hunter during The Cold War. During his time with the USNR, he began a career in the computer field.


His debut novel—Chain of Evidence—was released August 2013. He continues work on a political thriller, and a second police procedural.


Corey has contributed opinion columns to online periodicals and has appeared on local talk radio, all under the nom de plume, Bernie Thomas


For more information about the author; please visit http://dbcorey.com



James Oswald: Natural Causes & The Book of Souls Sunday, Feb 9 2014 




James Oswald is a Scottish livetock farmer who raises pedigreed Highland cattle and New Zealand Romney sheep. He’s also a writer with several different genres  under his belt, who happens to be friends with crime author Stuart MacBride. (MacBride writes a wonderful series featuring DS Logan McRae and several other stand-alones which Auntie M has reviewed at times; check him out.)

Oswald credits MacBride with pushing and supporting him as he turned his hand from other novels, comic scripts, an epic fantasy series, and even a travel book to writing a crime series. Readers will be happy that MacBride has such discerning taste.

Each of the first two books in Oswald’s series featuring DI Anthony MacLean have been shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award. It should be noted that in his own series, Oswald named a character DC MacBride for his friend and supporter. Ian Rankin gets a mention, and perhaps a character named Dalgliesh is an homage to P D James, although the name is of Scottish origins.

A SCOTS farmer dubbed the new Ian Rankin celebrated his six-figure crime book deal - by buying a new tractor.Natural Causes opens the series and introduces MacLean, man whose grandmother lies in a coma months after suffering a stroke. MacLean has his own demons to deal with in the form of the gruesome murder years before of his fiancee, Kirsty, killed by The Christmas Killer whom MacLean helped put behind bars.

Oswald starts off with one of the most horrifying and gripping first chapters Auntie M has read in a long time, reminiscent of Denis Mina’s early books, with powerful imagery of a grotesque act that is as haunting as the evil that MacLean seems to feel.

This is the same Edinburgh of Rankin, but vastly different in tone with the cast of recurring characters and a fantastical element that doesn’t hit the reader over the head but serves to give pause.

The killer of a prominent city elder is found less than a day after the murder and commits suicide. It appears as if this case closed itself, until  a second murder days later bears haunting similarities to the first, even though once more the murderer swiftly confesses and then kills himself. These scenes are horrifying in their own way as the reader is privy to information that eludes MacLean at first.

Meanwhile McLean is investigating the discovery of the body of a young woman who has been walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. She had been brutally murdered, and her internal organs removed and placed around her in six preserving jars. Forensic evidence suggests this happened over sixty years ago, and MacLean’s research shows is possibly linked to an attempt to re-enact an ancient ceremony to trap a demon in the dead girl’s body, thereby conferring immortality on the six men who each took one of her organs.

McLean’s grandmother, who raised him after his parents were killed when he was a young boy, finally dies. When he’s handed the investigation of a series of unusual, violent suicides, plus that of a cat-burglar who targets the homes of the recently dead, he feels fragile and overloaded, unable to process his grief.

Then another prominent Edinburgh businessman is killed, and McLean suspects there may be a connection between the murders, the suicides and the ritual killing of the girl found in the basement as the same names repeatedly appear. What he needs is a rational explanation as to how that connection works. But how can he stop the evil force he feels is behind these coincidences?

MacLean’s supporting cast is well-drawn: Emma, the SOCO he has a loose relationship; pathologist Angus Cadwallader; his friend and old school roommate, Phil; and of course, DC MacBride. They provide a counterpoint to MacLean and feel believably drawn.  Dark Edinburgh, as conceived by James Oswald, provides an excellent setting for this crime series. The multiple plot strands all come together  to create a tight, plausible tale of murder and deception that is as unusual as it is complex.

In the second MacLean outing, The Book of Souls,  it’s the Christmas season, a particularly difficult time for MacLean, as this was when      The-Book-of-Souls

Kirsty was murdered. The manner in which MacLean found Donald Anderson is unclear; most of all, to McLean himself. Something took him to the man’s antiquarian bookshop, and something else made Anderson, the Christmas Killer, let down his guard. In a cellar under the killer’s shop, his torture chamber was found. Anderson went to prison and the yearly murders stopped.

Then Donald Anderson is murdered in prison, and MacLean knows he lies in a grave. But soon after, another young woman is found murdered in the same manner as Kirsty: naked, her body washed, her throat slit, all after being kept prisoner and raped.

Did MacLean put the wrong man behind bars? Or is this a copycat killer? In MacLean’s mind he keeps seeing Anderson on the streets of Edinburgh, but he’s seen the man’s grave and knows he’s dead and buried.

Instead of the once a year murders of Anderson, similar abductions and murders start to pile up. Facing added stress from his nemesis, DCI Duguid, MacLean is tasked with investigation a series of arson fires, and these end up including MacLean’s own tenement home.

Once again, those responsible are too close to home and perhaps too close to people MacLean is growing to care for, so the stakes are upped. The fantastical element is subtle and yet the plot has twists and turns that will make it difficult for readers to put this one down. If anything, Oswald’s second is even stronger than the first.

There are two more in this series which will be reviewed at a future date: The Hangman’s Song, and not in print until this July, Dead Men’s Bones. Auntie M can’t wait to share these with you.

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