Perfect Sins: Jo Bannister Wednesday, Jan 28 2015 

Perfect Sins

Jo Bannister departed from her Brodie Farrell mysteries in Deadly Virtues, when she introduced a new series featuring young police constable Hazel Best, and the “Rambles with Dog” character of Gabriel Ash, a former government employee whose life has been turned upside down.

The two return in this compelling sequel, Perfect Sins, along with Ash’s dog, Patience, whose thoughts only Ash can hear, but who makes the kind of measured and sometimes snarky comments that add to the tone. Bannister doesn’t overdo Patience’s comments, either, keeping them to a minimum, but they lighten up what could be a somber tone, as Ash is trying to find out if his wife or two sons, kidnapped by pirates, could possibly still be alive.

Four years have past since their disappearance but Ash remains committed to following up any lead he possibly can in order to keep his fragile sanity and continues to follow his own path of questions. With Hazel still on leave after the shooting that ends Deadly Virtues, they finds themselves visiting Hazel’s father at the gatehouse of Byrfield House, an estate that has been in the aristocracy for generations.

The plot revolves around a mound near the ice house on the grounds belonging to Pete, Lord Byrfield, that is opened by a local archeologist, David Sperrin. Hazel has known Pete for years and considers him a friend, so it’s no surprise she becomes involved when the mound turns out not to be an ancient burial mound, but the more contemporary resting place for a little boy from about thirty years ago. Just who those bones belong to bring up more secrets kept than any of the participants can possibly imagine.

As Hazel is drawn back into the police work she loves, Ash finds his own questioning has stirred up some very nasty consequences for them both that put their lives in danger. One of the nicest things is that Hazel values friendship. Hers with Ash is not a sexually charged relationship, but one that shows that men and women can truly care about each other and remain caring friends without becoming romantically involved.

Intricately plotted, and with a nice touch for the vagaries of family life and relationships, this complex plot has a few surprises to reveal and its ending packs a wallop that will have readers searching for the next installment.

Nele Neuhaus: The Ice Queen Sunday, Jan 25 2015 

IceQueen

German author Nele Neuhaus’ series with Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein is almost a prequel of sorts to the other books that have been translated in the series, Snow White Must Die, and Bad Wolf, the latter now in paperback.

But nothing is lost in reading them in this order as the stories are so interesting and this one is no exception. The body of a Holocaust survivor, American citizen Jossi Goldberg, is found shoat to death in his home with a five-digit number scrawled nearby in his blood.

Why would anyone bother to murder a 92 yr old man near the end of his life? Then the autopsy reveals an old tattoo on his arm, a blood marker used for Hitler’s SS. Who was Jossi Goldberg after all? A survivor of the Holocaust, as he’d lived his life, or was he really a Nazi?

While investigation his murder, two more execution-style murders of elderly people occur. The only connection between these people turns out to be that they were lifelong friends of Vera von Kaltensee, a baroness and the well-respected head of a philanthropic family.

With Oliver and Pia treading a fine line of political correctness as they try to investigate the Baroness, their trail leads them all the way to Prussia and secrets of long ago. They will encounter secrets, lies, and treachery reaching back decades as they find their way to the heart of the mess that started so very long ago.

There is an excellent mystery at the heart of this novel, one that will startle the reader as the story reaches its conclusion. A continued series well worth reading. Highly recommended.

Ursula Archer: FIVE Sunday, Jan 18 2015 

FIVE

Austrian writer Ursula Archer is a science journalist who has previously published YA and children’s books. Now she turns her hand to police procedural thriller in FIVE and readers will be very happy with her decision.

The book starts out with a bang: “The place where his left ear used to be was throbbing to the rhythm of his heartbeat. Fast and panicked.”

And the pace never lets up as police detectives Beatrice Kaspary and Florin Wenninger become involved in solving a series of increasingly confusing murders. First is the body of a woman who fell from a cliff who turns out to have GPS coordinates tattooed on the soles of her feet.

When the detectives trace the spot of these coordinates, they find a severed hand and more taunts that lead them to yet another site and more body parts. It soon becomes clear they are on the trail of a murderer who is using the sport of geocaching in a far more sinister way than usual.

The clues they are given are frustrating and obtuse, sometimes leading to a witness who then disappears, and all the time the two detectives feel the killer is playing with them. Then he starts to leave Beatrice text messages on her phone and the tension, never abated, ratchets up.

This is a clever and well-plotted mystery with the puzzle at its heart that grabs you and doesn’t let go. That the detectives are compelling figures adds to the mix. Let’s hope this is the first of a series from Archer. Auntie M will be lining up to read the next translation.

Tony Lee Moral: Playing Mrs. Kingston Sunday, Jan 11 2015 

Please welcome Tony Lee Moral, who will describe the genesis of his new mystery, Playing Mrs. Kingston:

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How Alfred Hitchcock can influence Your Novel Writing by Tony Lee Moral

Alfred Hitchcock has been a huge influence on my life, ever since I saw my first Hitchcock film, I Confess, at the age of 10 years old. I was immediately struck by the moral ambiguity of the film and the conflicted viewpoint of the central character, a priest, played by Montgomery Clift. Since then I’ve written three books on Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense. Two books are on the making of specific films, The Birds and Marnie, which were made in the early 1960s and have a close production history; and a more general book called Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass, which is about all of his films, for aspiring screenwriters and film makers.

So when writing my murder mystery novel Playing Mrs. Kingston, I was immediately drawn to the Hitchcockian principles of suspense and characterization. The central character, Catriona Kingston, takes after many a Hitchcock blonde, particularly Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Eva Marie Saint. She is feisty, determined, action oriented, duplicitous and mysterious. The duel identifies she plays, both Catriona and Catherine, is reminiscent of Kim Novak’s character in Vertigo. Her boyfriend, Mario Montefiore, a saxophonist at the the Stork Club, was inspired by Henry Fonda’s character in The Wrong Man, who himself was based on the real life Manny Balestrero, wrongfully accused of a series of robberies in 1950s New York, the same time period in which my novel is set.

Hitchcock often spoke about the MacGuffin in his films, a key plot device that drives the story. The MacGuffin is the engine that propels the plot. It is the object around which the plot revolves and motivates the actions of the characters. In North by Northwest, the MacGuffin is the roll of microfilm in the pre-Columbian statue, which both Cary Grant, the hero, and James Mason, the villain, are after. In Playing Mrs. Kingston, the MacGuffin is the stolen Caravaggio painting, which Catriona’s arch enemy so desperately wants. But the real story is about Catriona and Mario, and finding out who the killer is. But in having a MacGuffin in my novel, the stolen painting, it drove the plot forward, and motivated the characters, especially in the second half of the book, when all seemed lost.

Good writing is subtext, reading between the lines, rather than on the nose dialogue. Much of the dialogue in Hitchcock’s best screenplays, such as Notorious, Rear Window and North by Northwest, have layers of meaning. Good dialogue should be full of conflict between the chracters and have a natural rhythm that’s easily spoken, like a verbal sparring game that resembles the epic tennis match in Strangers on a Train until someone scores a point. The writing between Catriona and Detective Radcliffe is like a cat and mouse game, with Catriona trying to stay a few steps ahead of the Detective who is chasing the real Catriona Benedict, while she is in disguise as Catherine Kingston.

Hitchcock loved counterpoint and contrast and often had two things happening at once. He built tension into a scene by having contrasting situations, with two unrelated things happening simultaneously. In Notorious, a big party is taking place in Ingrid Bergman’s honor, but she is too preoccupied in showing Cary Grant the wine cellar, which holds the MacGuffin, in this case the uranium ore stored inside the wine bottles. Upstairs the champagne is quickly running out, threatening to expose the couple to Nazi villain Claude Raines, who Bergman has married, which ratchets up the tension.

A good example of this in Playing Mrs. Kingston is when both Lowry, Catriona’s old theatre boss, and Detective Radcliffe are at the Kingston gallery, and Catriona is threatened to be unmasked at any moment for who she is really is. I had Notorious very much in my mind when writing the novel, especially the big party scenes, when the moral ambiguity of the conflicted heroine comes into play, and she marries into a family full of secrets and becomes trapped in the enemy’s house. Only by using all her wits is she able to escape.

Alfred Hitchcock's Masterclass Cover
Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass is published by Michael Wiese Books

Playing Mrs. Kingston is published by Zharmae Publishing Press

Lynda La Plante/Wrongful Death and M R Hall/The Burning Sunday, Jan 4 2015 

WrongfulDeath
Lynda LaPlante’s newest DCI Anna Travis novel, at close to 500 pages, could encompass two stories and then some. The London detective finds herself heavily embroiled in a case of suicide which is reopened after a criminal awaiting trial claims he has information that proves the man was murdered. With too many suspects to count, and far too many toes to step on, Travis is treading lightly when she’s handed a partner from the US, FBI profiler Jessie Dewar, part of the same exchange program that finds Travis seconded to an FBI course in the US.

Dewar’s brash approach soon ruffles feathers in everyone from suspects being interviewed to members of Travis’ team. It’s an uneasy alliance, even as Travis realizes Dewar has solid information to contribute.

Auntie M has a love-hate relationship with these books. La Plante’s dialogue with its lack of contractions often sounds stilted and formal. Yet there’s no question the author of the Prime Witness series has a knack for complex plots and that is certainly on view here. You’ll notice Auntie M keeps reading the series, because despite the reading flaws, the stories are compelling and the cases far from simple.

Always on the side is Travis’ boss, Langton, with whom she has her own complicated history. And there will be the potential for Travis to finally have some kind of private life after the death of her fiancé two years ago. A storyline in the US is conveniently cleared after Travis gets on the case, and it remains to be seen if she will return to the US in future entries in the series.

Burning

Auntie M is a huge fan of M R Hall’s series featuring Coroner Jenny Cooper and her complicated life. He gets inside a woman’s head well and writes in a believable voice. The cases are complex and yet have the ring of truth, and along the way, readers learn what constitutes the real job of a coroner.

In this outing, it’s the cold period between Christmas and New Year’s when Jenny is called to an horrific scene: a house has burned to the ground and it’s later discovered that three members of the family were inside; two daughters and stepfather Ed Morgan. With evidence of shotgun injuries to the three bodies, it is felt that Ed killed the girls and turned the gun on himself after starting the fire. But what has happened to his young son with wife Kelly, who was off premises at work that evening?

It’s a complicated case, made all the more so by some witnesses withholding information and others not realizing how important their information may be. And how does it tie in to the disappearance ten years ago of another young girl from the same village? There will come a time when Jenny isn’t certain who she can trust and that includes members of the police force who are supposed to be helping her investigation.

Add in the twists of Jenny’s personal life, and the return of her assistant after an accident from she sustained in the last book, helping to save Jenny’s life and that of her son, and it all adds up to a complex and compelling read.

Auntie M is surprised more readers haven’t discovered this always-satisfying series. Give it a try if you haven’t yet found the delightful and compelling novels in this series.

Across the Pond for the Holidays Tuesday, Dec 23 2014 

This will be Auntie M’s last post for 2014. She’ll be back on January 4th in 2015 with a whole new slew of great books for your reading pleasure.

But before the year ends, consider this: Many of Auntie M’s readers enjoy their mysteries set in England and here are a few of the best. Last minute shopperlooking for gifts for readers? Or just in the mood for a darn good mystery for yourself? Don’t forget to gift yourself this year! Enjoy your holidays and all the new books waiting to be read~ Happy New Year!

UK_Monogram_Murders_jacket
Award-winning writer Sophie Hannah was chosen by Agatha Christie’s estate to write a new Hercule Poirot mystery. The Monogram Murders is a glorious legacy to the Poirot stories, with the Belgian detective in fine form as he investigates the murders of three people at a fashionable London hotel. All have had a cufflink placed in their mouths. What is their connection to the young woman who has interrupted his meal at a local coffee house he’s been frequenting? For she has told him she is about to be murdered and that this will service justice.

1920’s London is accurately represented here, and Hannah gets Poirot’s dialogue just right. Fans will picture David Suchet, the very embodiment of Poirot, mincing his way through the locked room mystery with the aid of Edward Catchpool, a young Scotland Yard policeman sharing a lodging house with Poirot. It is Catchpool who has decided to write down what the calls “the Jennie story” and who learns quickly from the great detective, as the two visit the countryside to unravel the tendrils of this murder plot that has its beginnings in machinations from long ago.
And Then

An interesting gift would be this volume and Willam Morrow’s 75th Anniversary Edition of Chrisit’es timeless murder And Then There Were None, which The York Times has called ” …the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.” And The New Statesman chimes in with: ” …The most colossal achievement of a colossal career.” Forget the movie; read the original!

Soul Discretion

Susan Hill returns with the eighth Simon Serrailler case in The Soul of Discretion.
One of there reasons Auntie M enjoys this series so much is the risks Hill takes with her plots and action. There are unexpected and haunting consequences for her characters that follow real life, which sometimes hits us with unexpected happenings, and this is certainly true of Serrailler and his family.

In this outing, Serrailler’s family, who readers of the series have come to know and follow, will be shocked by events that envelop his father, just his sister, Cat, a widow with three young children to raise, is facing her own choices about work. Cat will be left to pick up the pieces as Simon accepts his most difficult case yet: he must leave town to go undercover without disclosing the details to anyone in his family, or to his love, Rachel, who has just moved in with him.

The case will lead him into a prison to befriend to the son of a lord, there because of his involvement with a ring who film children in the throes of sexual abuse. It is Serrailler’s brief to find the head behind the ring to bring it to a close. What he finds will do more than disgust him; it will almost cost him his life.

Hill knows how to wring emotion and capture reader’s attention and bring them to the brink of tears. Highly recommended.

The_Corpse_Bridge
Stephen Booth’s fourteenth in his Ben Cooper/Diane Fry series holds up well to longevity in The Corpse Bridge. Still grieving over the losses from a horrific previous case, Cooper is back at work and finding it difficult to concentrate on what is real and what is an overlay from his grief.

The one thing he knows clearly is the local history and that included the route taken by mourners for centuries to bury their dead across the River Dove, crossing by the old Corpse Bridge, to a cemetery on land now part of the stately home of Earl Manby.

When bodies start to appear on the road to the Corpse Bridge, the case will fall to Cooper, and to a reluctant Fry, helping him to sort out what is the death’s connection to the Earl’s plans to deconsecrate the burial ground for planned holiday cottages whose income will preserve his home, the majestic Knowle Abbey. As Cooper uses the resources of his team, combined with his local knowledge, he will learn that not everyone who offers information is telling the truth. A few surprising twists along the way add interest for readers of the series.

Race to Death

Leigh Russell’s second Ian Peterson mystery, Race To Death, follows the newly-promoted Detective Inspector on his move to York. With his new female DCI seeming to disapprove of most of his decisions, he’s facing pressure on the home front from his wife, Bev, bored and at odds. She finally agrees to take pressure off Peterson and find herself a job, and even though it seems to be beneath her qualifications, it gets her out of the house where Peterson hopes she will make new friends.

And it’s none too soon, as Peterson finds himself saddled with an unusual case with shades of Dick Francis: a young man falls to his death at the races off a balcony. Was it suicide or an accident? There with is brother and his attractive wife, both ideas are disproved by the pathologist, who finds the man was injected prior to his death with a paralyzing agent that would make it impossible to hurl himself over the barrier and off the balcony.

False witnesses abound, as the deaths start to mount up using the same method and Peterson races to find the link between the victims before there can be another death.

Friends to Die For

A British friend recommended Hilary Bonner and I’ve started with her newest, Friends to Die For. What starts as a fairly simple premise soon turns quite complicates: A group of friends meet on Sunday evenings for diner at a Covent Garden restaurant. The Sunday Club group spans varied members: there is the gay club bouncer, Tim and his partner, city lawyer, Billy; the actor, George; a married couple, Greg and Karen; senior waiter at a tony restaurant, Alfonso; Ari, a wealthy entrepreneur; Marlena, an older, highly made-up woman with a mysterious past; and even a policewoman, Michelle.

What do these have in common that would lead to them suddenly being picked on as a series of pranks and tricks occur? But when these incidents escalate to murder, it soon becomes clear that one of the group who is privy to the secrets of the others is the culprit.

The group starts to turn on each other as the fear increases–but will they find out who the murderer is before another has to die?

Dead Men's Bones
Oswald’s DI McLean series are a new favorite of Auntie M and Dead Men’s Bones continues in the strong vein the author has established for this series set in Edinburgh and its vicinities.

In northeast Fife, an influential politician kills his wife and two young daughters before turning the gun on himself. Why would prompt Andrew Weatherly to commit such an horrendous act?

It’s bitterly cold in Scotland, and McLean isn’t dressed warmly enough when he’s called to the site of a man’s body found in the River North. That the man was naked isn’t the most surprising thing noted when his corpse is brought to the shore. His body is covered head to foot, extremities and even genitals, in tattoos, some of them very recent.

This will be a strange case for McLean and his team. Is Super. Duguid starting to thaw towards McLean? With Gumpy Bob Laird as his DS and DC Stuart MacBride on board, McLean must sort through the evidence even as DS Ritchie falls ill to a serious ailment that seems to infect others who come into contact with one of their witnesses.

There will be evidence and clues from a variety of sources, including homeless Gordy and even the wealthy, influential and undeniably sexy Mrs. Saifre before McLean is able to unravel a mystery reaching back decades that will have Special Branch breaking into his house to leave him clues and photographs that spur on is investigation.

With its usual hint of otherworldliness, this complex mystery writer manages to enthrall readers once again. Discover this series if you haven’t yet, or better yet, turn a reader friend on to Oswald and his detective.

** New in Paperback: Moriarty
Michael Robertson’s Baker Street series’ fourth installment, Moriarty Returns a Letter
, is now available in paperback from Minotaur. Enjoy the Heath brothers as they sift through the mail that arrives at their law offices at 221B Baker Street addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Enchanting with deadpan comedic touches and that host of Sherlockian influences.

Emma Jameson: Marriage Can Be Murder Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

British author Emma Jameson has a new series premiering. The Dr. Benjamin Bones mysteries start out with Marriage Can Be Murder. MCBM Cover

On the eve of World War II, Dr. Benjamin Bones is at war with himself.

While most young men are being sent away to fight the Germans, Ben is chosen to serve on English soil. Ordered to move to wild, beautiful Cornwall, he must trade his posh London office and stylish city life for the tiny village of Birdswing, population 1,221 souls.

But leaving his home and shelving his career ambitions aren’t the only sacrifices facing Ben. His unfaithful wife, Penny, is accompanying him to Cornwall in a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. But moments after their arrival, Penny is run down in the street, and Ben is almost fatally injured. And while the villagers assume Penny’s death to be an accident, Ben quickly deduces it was murder.

As he convalesces in Fenton House, which the locals call haunted, Ben meets Birdswing’s eccentric inhabitants. Mr. Gaston, the volunteer air warden, obsessed with defending his remote village against Nazi spies; Mrs. Cobblepot, a thoroughly practical housekeeper who believes in fairies; and Lady Juliet Linton, a prickly, headstrong aristocrat who won’t take no for an answer.

While adapting to life during Britain’s “War at Home,” a time of ration books, victory gardens, bomb shelters, and the Blackout, Ben sets about solving the mystery of Penny’s murder—with a little help from Lady Juliet and the Fenton House ghost.

As a special treat for Auntie M readers, Jameson has provided an excerpt of the new book:

10 October, 1939

Ben didn’t need to leave his room over the Sheared Sheep to know it was getting colder; he felt it every time a southeaster blew through, penetrating the late Victorian heap as easily as a torn mack. Downstairs, raucous laughter and pint-fueled rows started in midafternoon and carried straight through till closing. After the issuing of the Call-Up Proclamation, it seemed most of the village’s young men were heading into the pub a little earlier each day, either to drown their fears or enjoy what might be a final pint with friends. Ben often overheard long snatches of conversation, provincial and circular in nature, that did nothing to entice him downstairs. And if not for the insistence of his nurse, a curt sister with very definite views on the curative power of sunlight, he would have kept his blackout screens in place night and day. What difference did it make?
The words of the publican, Angus Foss, floated up from the barroom. That is, if the perpetually aggrieved tones of a perpetually aggrieved Scot can ever be said to “float.”
“Aye, I’ll fetch him for ye. Just what my poor spine needs, another wee traipse down the stairs with a full-grown man in my arms. Devil of a way to start the day. And me due to unlock the doors in a quarter hour….”
Ben checked the alarm clock beside his bed. Was it really not yet three o’clock? Dawn was trundling toward dusk even slower than usual.
“… but ye know my temperament. Man o’ the people. Live to serve,” Foss continued morosely. “Still, martyrs and saints have their limits. The Council—meaning your ladyship’s mother, ye ken—had best make restitution for all I’m out in lost rent. That includes meals, housekeeping, and electric current. If I’m not assured payment by tomorrow morning, I’ll put him out, I swear by God I will.”
Foss’s threat didn’t trouble Ben. He’d overheard it many times during his slow convalescence, though never attached to a twenty-four hour deadline. The insistence of some unseen visitor to have him brought downstairs was what bothered him. Foss found the process inconvenient; Ben found it downright humiliating. As for whatever the visitor wished to discuss, it didn’t matter. Unless the person asking represented the British army, Ben would say what he always said: no.
Easing his Edwardian wheelchair, a ghastly contraption fashioned of blond wood and rattan, out of his room, Ben maneuvered onto the landing. There, near the top of the stairs, he couldn’t see the bar, where Foss and his visitor were standing, but he could hear her voice quite clearly.
“I understand he’s lodged here six weeks. So lost rent is fair enough,” she said in the flowing tones of an educated woman. “But surely you customarily provide meals to your guests? I’ve always pitied those souls unfortunate enough to squat in this hovel, but I refuse to believe even you would bill them separately for electric lights. Or what you call housekeeping, which amounts to Edith Hoovering twice a month and linens changed once per solstice?”
Foss cleared his throat. “Now, that’s verra hard—”
“Nonsense. I was being kind to Edith. If I were the sort of woman who engaged in gossip, and I assure you I am not, I would add that outside Birdswing, ‘Hoovering’ is not the common term for Edith’s primary occupation. I might also remark that you virtually never let that room upstairs, except for the sort of exchange that doesn’t require a hot meal to sizzle.”
“That’s a lie!” Foss thundered. “No immoral congress takes place within these walls.”
“Of course there’s no immoral congress. A physician with two broken legs occupies the requisite space.” As the woman laughed, Ben leaned forward, trying to get a look at her. “Mind you, I make no accusations. I never repeat gossip and would prefer not to hear the rumors about poor Edith and your tawdry little room. No doubt she’s a nearly adequate maid, and it’s a nearly bearable cell. So please believe me, my dear Mr. Foss, when I say I perceive your discontent. My mother perceives your discontent. Far away, nestled amongst the most distant stars, advanced life forms perceive your—”
“Dinna ken what you’re on about,” Foss said peevishly.
“Of course not. Being met with slack jaws and faintly suspicious eyes is both my blessing and my curse. But if you could just sublimate your habitual disgruntlement long enough to fetch down—”
“Blessing?” Foss cut in again. “How the deuce is it a blessing that regular folk can’t make heads nor tails o’ what ye say?”
“It reduces the volume of complaints directed toward my mother.” The visitor sounded cheerful. “She’s not a well woman, you know, and heaven knows my childhood travails contributed to her condition. How fortuitous that as I matured, I acquired sufficient vocabulary to speak my mind without ruining her day. Now. Mr. Foss. I’ve very much enjoyed our little talk, but the time draws nigh for you to ply your unsavory trade, and Edith to ply hers. So will you fetch down Dr. Bones, please?”
“Aye, Lady Juliet.” The cantankerous Scot sounded defeated.
Ben wheeled back into his room. Somewhere in the midst of listening to that acid-tongued woman, he’d lost his resolve to say no, at least without hearing her out. But what could she possibly want? Everyone in Birdswing knew of his injuries. His right leg, broken below the knee, was mostly healed, but his left leg had been shattered. During that titanic smack of impact, the moment his torso struck the lorry’s bonnet, his legs had connected with its iron grille, breaking the tibia and fibula in two places each. Moreover, his femur had snapped, either when the lorry hit him or when he struck the ground. Now Ben knew firsthand the truth of the medical school saying: a broken femur was the worst pain a man could experience. Its corollary, that childbirth was the worst pain a human being could experience, made him devoutly glad to be male.
Hearing the stairs creak under Foss’s heavy tread, Ben gripped the arms of his chair and slowly, carefully, tried to rise. His right leg trembled. It had grown weak during the long recuperation. Two seconds later, his left buckled, dropping him back in the wheelchair with a stab of agony.
Perspiration broke out across his forehead. Sighing, he wiped it away. There was no more morphine for him: since the declaration of war, narcotics and other essential medications were strictly rationed. As a result, he’d been undermedicated, at least by London hospital standards, but that was probably a blessing. Morphine didn’t eliminate pain, it just created detachment, placing the patient on a billowy cloud from which discomfort could be ignored. No other substance came close; not even single malt whiskey could compete with an injectable opioid. And Ben, who during his internship had struggled to comprehend the nature of morphine addiction, understood it now all too well. He’d survived the accident. Penny had not. The chance for them to repair their union, or at least face its dissolution together, had been snuffed out without amends or even goodbyes. When real physical pain was entwined with amorphous demons like heartbreak, guilt, or misery, and a substance existed that artificially detached the sufferer for a few precious hours, who on earth wouldn’t be tempted?
He looked around the little room. The books and magazines his mum and dad had brought were long read; the condolence cards and letters from the extended Bones family were tucked away. His last visitor had been an aunt on holiday who’d dropped by out of morbid curiosity; his last telegram, from Penny’s brother George, asking if Penny had any life insurance money due. A fresh distraction might be worth the price of venturing downstairs.
“Dr. Bones! Are ye decent?” Foss bellowed outside the door.
“Yes.” Only due to the efforts of his nurse, who insisted her patients be fully dressed by breakfast, no lazing about in pajamas or dressing gown. Most days, Ben didn’t see the point, any more than he saw the point of looking out the window at this sad little village he refused to call home. But defying such a grimly resolved sister wasn’t worth the wear and tear on his vocal cords. So not only was he decent, he was properly attired to meet this backwater aristocrat, from his silk necktie to his Oxford dress shoes. “Do come in.”
“Do come in,” Foss mimicked. As usual, his hair was wild, his shirt was stained, and a bit of egg clung to his bushy mustache. “I’ve not come to take tea with ye. Here to break me back again in service to her ladyship.”
“You sound like you don’t fancy the task. Shame. Being carried by you is the highlight of my week.” Ben kept his tone light. “So tomorrow morning I’m out on my ear, is that right?”
Foss had the decency to look abashed. “Ye heard?”
“As my mystery visitor put it, beings on faraway planets heard. Never mind, Foss, think nothing of it. If the government hasn’t paid you yet for my room and board, I don’t blame you for feeling ill-used. Tell me about that woman. What does she want?”
“Like anyone kens the answer to that. Beat down me door while I was at lunch and prattled on till I gave in. Her and her mother, Lady Victoria, come from people who once owned every acre of Birdswing. Reckon they still do, or near as makes no difference. I told her you’re fit for nowt, but she wouldn’t listen. That’s how she wound up married to a bounder—not listening.”
“Married to a bounder?” The revelation didn’t surprise Ben; Birdswing brimmed with gossip. Everyone, even his nurse, seemed incapable of simple discourse without tossing in a few nuggets of personal information about someone not present to defend themselves.
“Aye, and not just any bounder, the prince o’ the lot. As flamboyant as Valentino and as phony as they come, stuffed with lies and promises. Made off with half the family fortune, from what I hear. Course Lady Juliet and her mum are close-mouthed about it, but care to wager how it ended?” Foss lifted his eyebrows so high, small eyes gleamed within their narrow sockets. “The ‘d’ word.”
Ben knew he was supposed to respond with disapproval and chose to depart from the script. “Good on her.”
“There’s no call for sarcasm.” Foss adopted a tone of virtuous sorrow. “It’s a stain on Birdswing. All the manor staff deny it—high-minded and high-handed, the lot o’ them. But he’s gone, isn’t he, and Lady Juliet only wears her ring on formal occasions. Still, she’s Mrs. Bolivar, not Miss Linton. Remember that.” Taking a deep breath, he bent over the wheelchair. “Ready?”
“Ready.” Ben steeled himself. Foss, stringy but remarkably strong, slid one arm around his shoulders and another beneath his knees, lifting him out of the chair. Bad enough to be held close by another man, particularly one like Foss, but the mere experience of being carried downstairs set Ben’s left knee on fire. His thigh ached, too. By the time Foss deposited him on the pub’s lone sofa, a red velvet affair long past its prime, fresh perspiration stood out on Ben’s forehead and tears stung his eyes. Fortunately, Foss was too occupied with his own resentment to notice.
“You look like a slender wee lad, but you weigh more than a keg o’ me best. At least when I shift one o’ those, I’m padding me pocket while I strain me back.” Foss sighed theatrically. “Let me fill my lungs and I’ll fetch down your bloody chair.”
It was a bumpy transit via wheelchair down the pub’s front steps, beneath two elms, and into the dazzling afternoon sun. Parked by the curb was a Crossley 20/30, gleaming ebony and clean as a whistle. Its driver leaned against the bonnet, six foot two if she stood an inch, clad in what looked like waterproof trousers, a man’s green Macintosh, and galoshes. Dull brown hair was scraped back in a bun, exposing what seemed like too much face: a vast expanse of forehead and chin and cheeks, all of it sunburned. Ben, aware that during the war, unmarried women would temporarily fill the positions vacated by able-bodied men, thought this she-behemoth was better suited to farm or factory labor. Perhaps when it came to hiring drivers, Lady Juliet’s judgment was as questionable as her taste in men.
“Good heavens, it’s the man himself!” she called. “After such a long wait, I’d nearly succumbed to despair.”
Ben gaped at her. He hadn’t expected that smooth, educated voice to issue from those lips.
His expression must have amused the woman, who laughed. “Don’t look so frightened, Dr. Bones. I don’t eat injured men for lunch. Nor do I dress for dinner, as it were, to run midday errands. Unlike you.” She eyed him critically, as if his London wardrobe were wildly inappropriate. “If my arrival had been foretold, would you have received me in top hat and tails? Mr. Foss, I fear our new village physician is the achingly formal sort. Introduce us properly, would you please?”
Slightly overwhelmed by the torrent of words, Ben tried to frame a rebuttal, but Foss was already speaking.
“Lady Juliet Bolivar, this is—”
“Linton. I’ve taken back my family name,” she cut across him.
Foss’s bushy eyebrows lifted, tiny eyes gleaming again. That new kernel of information would soon take root in his pub’s fertile ground. “Lady Juliet Linton, this is Dr. Benjamin Bones. Old Sully says we ought to call him ‘Broken Bones’ on account of the accident.”
“Ah, yes. An accident which killed his wife.” Lady Juliet’s smile disappeared. “Has Old Sully produced a clever nickname for that aspect of the tragedy, too? ‘Wrecked Widower’? ‘Heartsick Husband’?”
“Come now, Lady Juliet. The lads were just having a bit o’ fun. No need to—”
“Dr. Bones, I see once again why it’s folly to rely on others for introductions or, indeed, almost anything else,” she said. “They omit what you care about, sprinkle in what you don’t, and tie up the package with a ribbon of indifference. Best speak for yourself. I’m Juliet. It’s a terrible name—curse of my life, next to my height—but there it is.” Looming over the chair, she stuck a large hand in his face. The thumbnail was torn off to the quick; the palm was crisscrossed with scratches.
“I’m Ben.” Quickly, aware he might be cut off if he gave her an opening, he continued, “You should know, my knee hurts like the devil and I have no idea why you insisted I come down to meet you. I don’t suppose you’ve received a message from the Army?” More hopefully, he asked, “Are they ready to transfer me to a small hospital or sanatorium where I can continue my convalescence?”
She gave an unladylike snort. “No. I did hear from the Army a week ago—or my mother heard, which is the same thing. They’re under the impression you’re fit to begin work in the village. Still, the Council elected to give you a bit more recuperation time, what with the magnitude of your loss.” She fixed him with light brown eyes. “My deepest condolences.” For the first time, the words weren’t tinged with acid.
“Thank you. But fit? I can’t even walk.”
“Must you walk to attend the sick?” From her great height, Lady Juliet studied him like a blue heron surveying a fish. “Old Dr. Egon was seventy-four. In the end he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, and most assuredly couldn’t walk, at least more than a few yards, without assistance. Also, he was drunk by eight o’clock every night. Nevertheless, in his final year he delivered eight babies, set eleven broken limbs, and treated any number of fevers and coughs. If the scotch hadn’t killed him, he’d be staggering toward me now, peering through his thick specs and asking me to repeat every third word.” She sighed. “Surely you can do better, even from a wheelchair. I have a—well, a delicate case, a situation that calls for a physician. Someone with discretion and a glimmer of human empathy,” she added, pitching her voice toward Foss. “Are you willing, Dr. Bones?”
It was on his lips to say no. The sun beat down with summer-like intensity, his knee throbbed, and even if Foss helped him into Lady Juliet’s car, heaven knew how much more pain a drive over rutted country roads would bring.
She stared at him, arms folded across her chest.
“Very well.” He heaved a great sigh calculated to let this bossy, ill-dressed woman know how far she’d overstepped. It was drowned out by her crow of delight.
“Capital! Mr. Foss, please help the good doctor into my car before he changes his mind. Yes, there’s room for his chair in back. This heap seats seven, don’t you know.”
“Wheels are a wee bit muddy,” Foss warned after depositing Ben on the front passenger seat’s threadbare upholstery.
“Never mind that.” Climbing behind the wheel, Lady Juliet slammed her door with gusto. “Do I look like the sort who’s afraid of a little mud?”
He struggled to come up with an answer. From this close, he noticed two things: her brown eyes were surprisingly soft, and there was a slender twig in her hair. It stood up, just atop her severe bun, like an intrepid climber who’d scaled a mountain.
“Oh, Dr. Bones, don’t be so taken aback. I wasn’t fishing for a compliment.”
“I know, it’s only… you have a stick in your hair. Now that I mention it—a walking stick. Insect, I mean.”
He expected a shriek. Instead, Lady Juliet looked mildly intrigued. “Do I? It’s a wonder I can’t feel it. Relieve me of this uninvited passenger, there’s a good man.”
Gently, he plucked the stick-insect from her hair. Lady Juliet grinned at it. “I suppose you think you’re terribly clever, catching a ride with me. Come on, then. Step this way,” she ordered the bug, linking her finger with Ben’s until the insect obeyed. “Let’s get you sorted.”
Ben watched her climb out of the Crossley, stride across the meadow opposite the pub, and deposit the insect on a tree stump. He heard her telling it something—parting advice, no doubt—and then she returned to the 20/30, leaving a swath of trampled grass in her wake.
“Now. Keys. Front pocket? Right,” she muttered as she got behind the wheel again. Apparently even she wasn’t exempt from her own constant stream of commands. “Sorry for the delay, Dr. Bones, but I couldn’t drop him too close to the pub. Wouldn’t that be a terribly ignominious end, flattened by Mr. Foss’s heel?”
“I suppose. But my wife, Penny, would have squashed that bug without a second thought.”
“Wrong. She would have screamed for you to do it.”
Ben chuckled. It was his first genuine laugh in ages. “You knew her?”
“Oh, my dear Dr. Bones.” Those soft brown eyes veered away as the car’s engine roared to life. “Everyone in this village knew Penny.”
“Yes, of course. I should have realized.” Ben groped for something more. Penny had mentioned Birdswing many times; she’d relied on it as a punchline while entertaining their metropolitan friends. Her only fond memory of the village, she’d often said, was watching it shrink into oblivion as the train chugged away. “Were you friends?”
For once, Lady Juliet didn’t soliloquize. She shook her head.
They were probably about the same age, Ben thought. They must have been thrown together constantly, at least at school.
“Did you have a falling out?”
“Oh. Well. You know what they say.” Another sidelong glance, quicker this time. “Nothing but good of the dead.” And to Ben’s surprise, she spoke not another word the entire way to Belsham Manor.

MARRIAGE CAN BE MURDER (Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries #1) is the new cozy mystery series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Emma Jameson. Blog Link: http://emmajamesonbooks.com/ Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/emmajamesonbooks?ref=bookmarks Buy Links: Amazon: http://amzn.to/10SMu6m BN: http://bit.ly/1xa1kiS Apple Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/marriage-can-be-murder/id936762241?mt=11&uo=4 Kobo Books: http://bit.ly/1ureZoB

Author Photo-2 Emma Jameson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Lord & Lady Hetheridge cozy mystery series. Book #1, ICE BLUE, Book #2, BLUE MURDER, and Book #3, SOMETHING BLUE, are available now. She is at work on Book #4, BLACK & BLUE, and also DIVORCE CAN BE DEADLY, the second of her new series starring amateur sleuth Dr. Benjamin Bones.

‘Tis the Season: Readers Favorites for Stockings Saturday, Dec 20 2014 

A huge thank you to Auntie M’s readers as the year changes and we all review our blessings. Hers include all of YOU who take the time to read the reviews she posts!

It’s coming down the wire for those of you still with shopping to do, so Auntie M is plunging in with a listing of great gift books for all kinds of readers left on your to-do list–or just for your personal New Year’s resolution lists to find for yourselves. Enjoy~

For those who like a cozy-type mystery, there’s Murder at the Brightwell, Ashley Weaver’s debut set in 1930’s England at a tony seaside resort called the Brightwell. Murder and mayhem ensue, along with missed connections and predicaments and a love triangle. Perfect for those who enjoy a bit of romance with their mystery.

Booty Bones is Carolyn Haines’ follow up to last year’s Smarty Bones (now in paperback). The Sarah Booth Delany series charms readers with its southern setting, when Booth’s fiancé, recovering from injuries in the first book, decides Graf Milieu needs a romantic getaway. A local historian soon convinces Sarah to get involved in an island case involving the murder of her father, and what started out as a peaceful vacation soon become so much more.

Staying south, readers visit the NC’s Outer Banks in Corolla in Murder on the Hoof, Kathryn O’Sullivan’s sequel to Foal Play. With Fire Chief Colleen McCabe leading rookie training, she’s also becoming more involved with Sheriff Bill Dorman as the local theatre troupe rehearses a new production. Then an actor is murdered just as Bill’s former fiancee’ turns up. Humorous and engaging.

Horses are in evidence in Holly Menino’s second Tink Elleridge mystery, A Distance to Death. Set in the mountains of Sierra Nevada, Tink finds her own plans is disarray when her husband’s new partner suddenly dies. As she searches for clues, Tink finds more intrigue and secrets than she’d thought possible, and those closest to her become in peril. Publisher’s Weekly calls the series “Gripping” with an “exciting insider’s view of the elite horse world.”

Talk about endurance and you have Mary Daheim’s Bed and Breakfast series, which serves up its 29th offering in Clam Wake. Featuring innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn owner of the B&B, Hillside Manor, Judith is housesitting for relatives on an island during her own slow period. But the discovery of a body soon leads her and her always-funny cousin to anything but the quiet vacation Judith had planned.

In the same amateur sleuth vein but taking a trip to Singapore comes Ovidia Yu’s delicious mystery Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials. Rosie “Aunty” Lee serves up more than her famous home cooking; it’s a hive for Singapore gossip, placing Aunty Lee right at the heart of things when a scandal erupts over organ donations. Then murders occur at an event Aunty Lee is catering and she must clear her own name while finding the real killer. Delightful

Turning to those readers who enjoy their books with a hint of myth and magic, The Patron Saint of Ugly is Marie Manilla’s West Virgina story featuring Garnet Ferrari, an unusual protagonist who is used to being an outcast due to her unusual appearance. Visiting pilgrims decide Garnet’s appearance is that of a saint who can heal skin ailments and perform miracles, forcing her to trace back into her own history as the lines of myth and reality start to blur.

The Season of the Dragonflies is Sarah Creech’s entry into the genre. The story focuses on the women of the Lenore family, whose secret formula for a unique perfume scented by a highly guarded flower has been used by women to realize their ambitions. It’s a love triangle of sorts, but between Willow, the mother of the clan, and her two daughters: Mya, who can read scents, and Lucia, the creative younger sister. Their roles will be called into question as the magical plants that provide the perfume’s secret ingredient start to die.

We turn to younger voices in Crooked River, Valerie Geary’s debut mix of coming-of-age and ghost story between two sisters, 15 yr-old Sam and 10 yr old-Ollie. Add in psychological suspense, and set in rural Oregon, Sam and Ollie’s journey will leave readers flipping pages to find out what secrets their eccentric father has kept buried, even as Ollie must confront her own startling talent.

Ghosts of the past are apparent in Linda Castillo’s newest Kate Burkholder thriller, The Dead Will Tell. When the police chief is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, it quickly turns to murder and she must marshall all of her wit and resources to unravel what’s really behind the killing. With an Amish town haunted by ghosts of its past and terrible secrets of a haunted farm, Kate must brush the cobwebs away to find a very real killer. Gripping and fast-paced.

Stephanie Feldman’s The Angel of Losses could be called a family saga but it is so much more, as grad student, Marjorie, finds her grandfather’s notebook and everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. Blending mythology with today’s world, Feldman successfully incorporates Jewish folktales with history and theology in a stunning literary thriller.

Cradle to Grave is Eleanor Kuhns newest Will Rees Revolutionary War tale. With Will newly remarried and working as a farmer, he will return to the Shaker community of Mount Unity to help Mouse, as his friend Hannah is called. Despite saving children in the course of her charity work, Mouse is soon the suspect when the children’s mother is murdered. Historically clear portrayal of life and social mores in this time.

It’s 1957 in Michael Nethercott’s Haunting Ballad, when the unlikely sleuths Lee Plunkett and Mr O’Nelligan visit Greenwich Village’s Bohemian music scene. They soon find themselves investigating a group of suspects after foul play is suspected when a folk song collector takes a fatal plunge off a rooftop. Nethercott gets the period right, and the charming O’Nelligan is the right foil to Lee Plunkett.

Moving across the pond, Oliver Harris’ crime novel, Deep Shelter, takes readers to the streets of London with his protagonist, Hampstead CID detective Nick Belsey. Venturing into London’s secret tunnels to impress a date, Belsey soon loses the woman and find himself avoiding arrest as he tries to find her abductors. With his flawed yet compelling Detective Belsey, Harris wraps readers up in this edgy page-turner that has a fast-paced psychological bent.

Paul Pilkington’s Emma Holden trilogy is another strong consideration. Staring with The One You Love, both recent entries continue to top charts with last year’s The One You Fear and this year’s The One You Trust. Featuring lies, kidnappings, and high suspense, the books all focus on the relationships between the characters who find themselves caught in unusual and nightmarish circumstances.

Historic London of 1876 is the setting Charles Finch chooses in The Laws of Murder, when his private investigator, Charles Lenox, must deal with the murder of his Scotland Yard friend. With peculiar details his only clues, Lenox leads himself into personal danger in this Victorian series that rivals those of Anne Perry and has a strong following. This is the fifth in the series, a continued winner.

Fast forward to 1917 Britain for Andrew Williams compelling The Suicide Club. Based on real events and drawing on the diaries and letters of several War Cabinet members, Captain Alexander Innes leaves undercover work abroad to investigate the heads of the Army in France with his goal to discover who is compromising intelligence chiefs–and why. He will find a deep distrust between the Army and the newly-established Secret Services, and a source who holds the lives of thousands of British soldiers in his hands.

With romance as a strong focus, consider I Adored A Lord, Duke University professor Katharine Ashe’s newest lush historical romantic mystery. This second in the “Prince Cathchers” series thrusts the wallflower Ravenna Caulfriend, with her interest in animals, into the arms of Lord Vitor Courtenay. With his own varied past, Vitor and Ravenna pair to solve a murder and a kidnapping as romance blossoms.

Turning to espionage and international intrigue brings readers to Sebastian Rotella and The Convert’s Song, which has the cover line: “Would you recognize a terrorist if he was your oldest friend?” It’s a question former US law enforcer-turned-private eye Valentine Pescatore must answer. Trying to establish a new life in Bueno Aires, a terrorist attack kills hundreds, putting Pescatore’s old friend Raymond in the frame, and himself for that matter. With its far-ranging settings from Paris to Baghdad to South America, this race-against-time plot is a satisfying action thriller.

Staying with action-oriented plots, Mark Sullivan’s Thief refers to his protagonist, Robin Monarch. This time Monarch and his team invade the Christmas party of a powerful behind-the-scenes player, Beau Arsenault, who deals in illicit profits. Using a legendary Christmas party as cover to break into Arensault’s vaults, Monarch discovers more than he’d bargained for in an explosive secret he must now keep from falling into the wrong hands. Bourne fans will be glued.

Roger Pearce’s The Extremist has the same kind of strong action, but here the setting is post-Olympic London, where DCI John Kerry intercepts two gold smugglers who have just murdered a fellow Special Branch agent. Seemingly random murders start to pile up as Kerr is forced to rely on an undercover operative to help him search for the perpetrators. The Guardian calls it: “Dramatic, fast-paced, code word-heavy fun.”

Moving to Missouri, Detective Jules Bettinger is busy settling his family into their new location in S. Craig Zahler’s Mean Business on North Ganson Street.The dying rustbelt city is a haven for criminals with the odds stacked against law enforcement. Investigating a double homicide of two policemen leads Bettinger to his worst fear: that the killings are just the first in a series of cop executions. Black humor relieves the tension.

Santa Barbara is the setting for Karen Keskinen’s Black Current, the sequel to Blood Orange, which introduced PI Jaymie Zarlin. In the vein of Kinsey Milhone, Jaymie is nevertheless her own person who is called to look into the death of a local teen found dead in a fish tank at the Santa Barbara Aquarium. With the teen’s parents urging her to prove the death was not accidental, Jaymie’s suspect list soon turns longer than imagined and points to a decades old mystery that might be behind the murder.

If noir is your reader’s thing, look no further than The Detective and the Pipe Girl, Michael Craven’s suspenseful LA mystery featuring strong-minded PI Jon Darvelle. When heavy-hitter filmmaker Arthur Vonz hires Davelle to find a young woman, the easy assignment soon takes a turn to the dark side, and Darvelle finds himself searching for the woman, and answers, amongst the Hollywood elite, the LAPD and an underground crime scheme. Rich and atmospheric.

Auntie M hopes some of these will find their way into the stockings of readers on your list–or perhaps to your own! Happy Holidays to all~

Wendy H Jones: Killer’s Countdown Friday, Dec 19 2014 

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Thank you Aunty M for hosting me on your blog and allowing me to talk about my first novel. It is an absolute honour to be on such an imaginative and interesting blog.

As you are aware, but many of your readers may not be, I released my first book in the Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie Mysteries in November this year. This is set in Dundee, Scotland, where I am originally from and live.

I say originally from as I left Dundee two weeks after my eighteenth birthday to join the Royal Navy as a Nurse. I served for six years and then joined the Army and served for a further seventeen. During this time I was fortunate enough to travel to many different countries and have some amazing adventures.

Three years ago I returned to Dundee to write and DI Shona McKenzie was conceived. Shona is a feisty young woman who, like me was born in Dundee. However at the age of two she moved to Oxford as her father took up a post at the University there.

She has only returned to Dundee a year before the novel starts, at the insistence of her now ex-husband. She is an excellent detective but relies on her team, DS Peter Johnston in particular, for local knowledge. This is her first major case and Shona is keen to prove herself to both her superiors and her team.

A number of women have been killed and the police are at a loss to find out what is linking them. The book is written from both the viewpoint of the police and the killer.
The book has been well received and most people who have read it are asking when the next book will be out. I have almost finished writing the second book and this is called Killer’s Craft. I am expecting it to be out in June or July 2015.
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Since the book came out, other than wanting the sequel, the burning question seems to be what does the H. in my name stand for? My middle name is Henderson, a fine Scottish name, and it also happens to be my great grandmother’s maiden name.

Thank you once again for allowing me to take over your blog for the day. If anyone wants to find out more about the book then here is the Amazon Universal Link. This will take you to the Amazon of the country in which you buy your books. http://mybook.to/KillersCountdown Website: http://www.wendyhjones.com Twitter: @WendyHJones

Susan Kroupa: Christmas Goes to the Dogs Wednesday, Dec 17 2014 

Please welcome guest Susan Kroupa and her Doodlebugged Mysteries:

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Christmas Goes to the Dogs, er, um, Sheep

The Doodlebugged Mysteries are humorous cozies narrated by Doodle, an obedience-impaired labradoodle who flunked out of service-dog training because in his mind, “smart and obedient don’t always go hand in hand.”

After a career change, where he’s trained to be a bed bug detection dog, Doodle gets adopted by “the boss,” Josh Hunter, and meets Molly, the boss’s ten- year-old daughter. Between Doodle’s nose and Molly’s independence, the two of them always seem to be in some kind of trouble.

The newly released fourth book, Bad-Mouthed, takes place over Christmas, and working on it got me thinking about dogs and their place or lack of it in Christmas tradition. There are plenty of songs featuring sheep and shepherds, and there are legends about donkeys and camels. But dogs?

Do a Google search on “dogs and Christmas” and beyond The Barking Dogs singing Christmas carols, there not much to find. No touching stories about dogs helping the baby Jesus or stories of dogs at the North Pole. Even in the song “The Friendly Beasts,” dogs are left out.

Of course, being a dog, Doodle’s knowledge about Christmas is limited to his experiences such as, “I know all about Christmas trees from my service dog days, of course, since our bosses took us into all sorts of stores, rest homes, and schools that had them. We learned that we were not allowed to eat anything on the tree, or even sniff it, and we absolutely weren’t allowed to lift our leg anywhere near it. Just sayin’.”

Doodle is baffled by the idea of a white Christmas. Does the day come in colors? And what’s with all the gift-giving? He notices that dogs don’t get mentioned much at Christmas, something he gripes about when he has to play a sheep in a pageant because his labradoodle coat is thick and curly. As he tells it, “I’m a sheep. Not really a sheep, of course. I’m a labradoodle who works as a bed-bug detection dog, which means I have a finely tuned, highly trained sense of smell . . . But in this Christmas pageant, I’m supposed to be a sheep. So, here I am onstage beside Molly and her best friend, Tanya, who are dressed as shepherds in long robes, wearing odd scarves held on their heads with thick ropes. I have what are supposed to be sheep’s ears—no sheep scent on them at all— tied onto my head. Why anyone would prefer a sheep to a dog is beyond me, but it seems to be a Christmas thing.”

Naturally, Doodle gets into trouble and he and Molly end up with mysteries to solve and, inDoodle’s case, bad guys to chase, but along the way, Doodle learns a lot more about Christmas. Because this is one book where Christmas goes to the dogs, or, um, dog.

Called “the perfect blend of mystery, suspense, and laugh-out-loud doggy observations,” by best-selling mystery author Virginia Smith, the Doodlebugged mysteries have delighted dog and cozy mystery lovers from ages 9 to 92. In Bad-Mouthed, Doodle’s back for another adventure.

Who knew chasing a rat in the middle of a Christmas pageant could cause so much trouble? Certainly not Doodle, the obedience-impaired labradoodle who works for “the boss,” Josh Hunter of Hunter Bed Bug Detection, nor Molly, the boss’s ten-year-old daughter. But then Doodle’s the first to admit he doesn’t quite get Christmas.
Doodle’s antics during the pageant draw the attention of a popular video-blogger, who asks to do a feature on his sniffer-dog skills. But when the blog airs, pretty much the opposite of what Molly and the boss expected, the boss’s phone rings off the hook with distraught customers who think Doodle’s bed bug “finds” can’t be trusted.

Throw in a handful of threatening letters, some lost dogs, and a devastating fire, and Molly and Doodle have their hands—well, in Doodle’s case, his paws—full finding out just who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Available at most ebook retailers and will be released in paperback on Dec 18th.

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Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville’s Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests. She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa.

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