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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like to think he was joking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Winter Foundlings: Kate Rhodes Friday, Mar 20 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Casey: Bet Your Life Sunday, Mar 15 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear the Darkness: Becky Masterman Sunday, Mar 1 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

Maggie Barbieri: Lies That Bind Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildalone: Krassi Zourkova Sunday, Feb 15 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

From The Cradle: Louise Voss & Mark Edwards Sunday, Feb 8 2015 

Voss and Edwards are co-authors of four other novels, as well as over eight solo novels between them. This offering, From the Cradle, introduces DI Patrick Lennon in the first of what promises to be an interesting and entertaining series that Auntie M will be certain to follow. fromcradle

It starts out with a fascinating prologue that sets up Lennon’s home situation, which Auntie M won’t reveal here but which is fraught with anxiety, and will shadow this big case, which starts when several young children go missing.

Three-year old Isabel Hartley is snatched from her home on a tony street, taken from the front room in the middle of the afternoon. Two days later two-year old Liam McConnell is abducted from his car when his mum runs into Sainbury’s to pick up her dry cleaning and returns to find the back door ajar and Liam missing.

Then Helen and Sean Philips go out for a rare evening, leaving their teenaged daughter to babysit three-year old Frankie. When they return that evening, teenaged Alice is zonked out on the sofa, and Frankie is missing from her bed.

There will be a host of witnesses who’ve seen noting and several unreliable narrators along the way as Lennon and his partner, DS Carmella Masiello, head a team in a race against time, trying to find the abducted children. Are these the work of a kidnapping ring? Or are there different reasons for the children to go missing just now?

In a most surprising twist, what would appear to be the end of the case instead turns into an even more involved plot switch. It would give away too much to tell more specifics except to say that nothing is what it seems on the surface as buried secrets from the past will return to haunt several of the main characters and affect the outcome.

Fine characterizations, realistic situations and a compelling plot all make this series one you’ll want to watch for. The second installment is due this fall and Auntie M will be in line. Highly recommended.

My Favorite Reads of 2014: 16 Who Rose to the Top Sunday, Feb 1 2015 

Auntie M reads between 2 and 3 books a week and last year reviewed 86. Out of those reviewed, these 16 authors were her top picks for those of you looking for an author to follow. In no particular order:

Jill Paton Walsh’s fourth Wimsey/Vane mystery, The Late Scholar, gets the tone of Sayers duo just right as the couple and their two sons have grown and mystery brings them back to Oxford.

Michael Robotham’s Watching You takes psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, one of Auntie M’s favorite characters, to one of his most twisted cases yet, when Marnie Logan asks for his help.

Frances Fyfield continues to write amazing psychological crime novels with strong characterizations that never fail to surprise Auntie M. The Goldigger is a case in point.

Sophie Hannah had a banner year. Her two, Kind of Cruel and The Telling Error are vastly different but both with compelling and complex plots. She was chosen by Agatha Christie’s estate to write a new Poirot novel, and in The Monogram Murders, gets the Belgian detectives voice just right.

Aline Templeton continues her DI Marjory Fleming series with a strong entry in Bad Blood.

Elizabeth Haynes Under A Silent Moon proves that there IS a new way to tell a crime story, with this strong entry into police procedurals that includes the forms used in an investigation to follow the clues.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series is a favorite, with two entries: The Last Girl and The Kill.

Harry Bingham’s DC Fiona Lewis brings her unusual background and personality to Love Story, with Murders.

Nicola Upson continues her Josephine Tey series with The Death of Lucy Kyte, based on a real historical murder, and filled with mid-20th century details.

A D Garrett’s debut, Everyone Lies, launched an unusual crime duo who they will bring back in Believe No One.

Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series keeps getting stronger, as evidence by this 16th offering in To Dwell in Darkness.

James Oswald’s Inspector MacLean series, set in Edinburgh, continues to be a page turner with Dead Men’s Bones.

Tana French has another strong crime novel, this one spanning just one very long day, in The Secret Place.

Tony Parson’s debuted a new series featuring DI Max Wolfe, a single parent to a young daughter, in The Murder Man.

Susan Hill’s Simon Serailler series is a continued delight. She never hesitates to take chances other writers would shy away from, and this is apparent in The Soul of Discretion.

Finally, last but certainly not least of all, we have John Harvey’s last Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, a fine tribute to the series of a well-loved detective.

Auntie M hopes if readers haven’t discovered these authors, you will seek them out!

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 


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.

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