In Memoriam: Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday, Sep 20 2022 

wsj.com

This week saw the passing of an extraordinary woman. Queen Elizabeth’s reign as the longest serving monarch eclipsed Queen Victoria; her death ends the second Elizabethan age and changes history as King Charles lll takes his crown.

Watching the television of the events and her funeral, I couldn’t help but think of how I would weave this event into the next Nora Tierney English Mystery. Would I ignore the Queen’s passing, as I did with Covid in the last book, reasoning that readers wanted a break from that reality?

But this reality seems too large in scope to ignore. Elizabeth didn’t set out to be Queen, yet rose to the occasion when it was thrust upon her with grace and dignity. Early on she vowed to serve her nation until her death, a promise she kept for over seventy years.

Few of us can imagine living our entire adult lives in front of the news and television, with our every move dissected, and our family (and outfits) gossiped about. It seems Nora would be affected by the Queen’s passing, despite being an American living in the UK. And how would it affect her fiancé and friends? Things to ponder . . .

Many citizens who care nothing for the monarchy are yet united in their admiration of this woman. We have friends who waited on the queue to pay their respects along with thousands of others, and said it was a moving and wonderful experience, a moment to be a part of living history as they paid homage to the life this woman gave to her country.

So I will ponder how to address this loss as I imagine the next Nora book, far down the road. And in the meantime, bid a fond adieu to an amazing woman, a working mother who dined with heads of state and could still share a marmalade sandwich with Paddington Bear.

Silver Falchion Finalist Wednesday, Aug 31 2022 

NOTE: After long health-related absence, Auntie M (Marni Graff) will be back from time to time. Here’s what she’s been up to:

Auntie M was thrilled to learn her fifth Nora Tierney English Mystery, THE EVENING’S AMETHYST was named a finalist by Killer Nashville for their Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy!

Along with this honor, Amethyst was also eligible to collect for their coveted Readers Choice Award.

Amethyst didn’t win either award, despite having strong support from readers and other writers. And you know what? That’s all right with me. As the Oscar non-winners say every year, just being nominated is an award in itself. And to be a finalist, even better. Sure, I’d have like this book to have won. But by having it on lists and blogs as a finalist, I hope that’s brought it’s attention to new readers everywhere. Such is the life of a writer. And I’m good with that as we head into the fall and I work on next year’s book, the third Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death at the Orchard. In case you missed The Evening’s Amethyst:

Garnering multiple 5 star reviews, Amethyst starts off with a frantic phone call to Nora at her Oxford home from her stepsister, Claire, a Master’s student at Exeter.

Nora’s fiancée, DI Declan Barnes, has just been asked to investigate the death of an Exeter student found at the bottom of a staircase.

Claire was friends with the dead young woman, and begs Nora to help her convince Declan that Bea would never have committed suicide.

Soon the sisters are unraveling what part a child named Verity played in Bea’s death, in this mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural. But what part does a cold case kidnapping two decades old play in the case?

Nicola Upson calls The Evening’s Amethyst “a fine addition to a wonderful series.”

Happy Merry Joyful Monday, Dec 27 2021 

Whatever holiday you celebrate, this time of year is always a mixed bag. The delight and the sorrows that accompany any major event are all here in a time of high expectation, and sometimes, regret.

So many of us have been dealt a harsh break, whether it’s the death of a loved one from Covid or other illness; the loss of a job or even a business; or the inability to perform and carry on as we have previously enjoyed our lives. It would be easy to be depressed. Many are.

But I’m here as a voice in the bleak midwinter to remind us that while we sometimes have to sift through tons of negativity to find one nugget of joy, it does indeed exist. Joy is always there, in the smallest detail or the biggest smile. Joy remains a beacon in the dark night, although at times we need strength and courage to see it.

I know a young woman in the UK whose parents were my close friends; they died within a year of each other. I’ve known E since she was in her teens and watched her blossom from a shy, indecisive child to a strong young woman with a loving partner. Now in her early 30s, she helped her father through the loss of her mother, and then soon after, became his caregiver and kept him home as they dealt with the cancer that took his life. She described to me crawling into bed beside him as he failed, to feel his warmth one last time. Exhausted and sad, she dozed off. When she woke, he was gone. She was sad, and probably on many days overwhelmed, yet she said to me, “I must keep my face turned to the sun.”

When my husband and I both had cancer diagnosed within a month of each other last year, I teased him that in thirty years of marriage, I knew we enjoyed doing things together, but this was carrying things a bit too far! There were days of indecision and fear, but ultimately, we’ve had more days of feeling blessed. Blessed that ours was found early and without spread. Blessed that our treatments, while uncomfortable and with side effects that still plague us both, are not as severe as those we’ve seen others go through. And we’re still here, looking for joy in the smallest parts of our day.

I was watching the news today and there was a story of travelers on a plane becoming combative over wearing a mask. Only a few minutes later, I came across a video someone sent me that said, “You need to watch this.” It showed a young boy opening a Christmas present, a photo of the foster family he’s been living with. Then he read out the letter that came with it, which I paraphrase here: “This is our family as we were before. Now we would like you to become a true member of our family; our son and brother. Would you like that?” This young man burst into tears–and so did I.

That simple act of love changed that young boy’s life forever. Those are the stories we need to focus on. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year I will try avoid negative news and seek out more joyful heartwarming stories that warm my heart, while I turn my face to the sun.

Happy New Year to you and those you love~

The Evening’s Amethyst: Nora Tierney #5 Monday, Oct 4 2021 

Auntie M is very pleased to announce that the fifth Nora Tierney English Mystery, THE EVENING’S AMETHYST, has made it through the Covid delays and the paperback is now available. Kindle and Audible version will follows in the next few weeks, but she’s excited to have the book on offer.

This time the majority of the story takes place in Oxford, where Nora is settling into her new home with her fiancé, DI Declan Barnes, her young son, Sean, and their puppy, Typo.

Who is Verity? That soon becomes the central question for Nora and Declan, after his new case at Exeter College coincides with a frantic call from Nora’s stepsister, Claire Scott: a fellow graduate student has died in a fall, and Claire begs Nora to help her prove Bea Jones would never commit suicide.

The sisters start their own snooping, while Declan and his team juggle this death investigation with a cold case that will prove to have a startling resolution. Over twenty years ago, toddler Donnie Walsh was kidnapped from his dirty playpen outside a Cumbrian pub. His body was never found. Now in the midst of Declan’s new case, a young man walks into St. Aldate’s Police Station claiming to be Donnie Walsh.

A mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural, The Evening’s Amethyst has garnered wonderful early reviews, including this one from Nicola Upson, author of the Josephine Tey series: “A fine addition to a wonderful series, Graff delivers her trademark blend of compelling mystery, vivid setting, and engaging characters—and in Nora Tierney she has created a sleuth whose humanity and insight are the stars of the show. I loved it.”

Available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Evenings-Amethyst-Tierney-English-Mystery/dp/0990828735/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+evening%27s+amethyst+by+m+graff&qid=1633376773&sr=8-1 OR

for signed copies contact the author at: bluevirgin.graff@gmail.com.

Hooked on a Feeling Monday, Sep 6 2021 

From humor author Jan McCanless, a memory for Labor Day:

 Hooked on a  Feeling
                                                                                     by Jan mcCanless


     One of the news magazines I subscribe to had a blurb this week about Lake  Leelanau, in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  That’s the place my family went to every summer;  my dad couldn’t take the summer heat of Florida, and went in search of cooler temps. He found it in northern Michigan. The article went on to tell about the delicious cherries found in the area, that every roadside stand had fresh cherries, and on our way up to our cabin, we would often stop by the side of the road, and watch the cherry pickers. This was before we had tv, so we had to watch something!  They were so good! There is nothing quite like Michigan cherries.


     Then, the article went on to describe the huge sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Park. They were like mountains to me, huge things, and the challenge was to see how easily you could climb one. Not an easy task, since you sank down into the sand a little bit, and the higher you went, the tougher it got. But once at the top, oh what fun to slide down, never mind the mouthful of sand one got on the way. It gave a terrific feeling of freedom and exhilaration.


     We generally stayed until the Labor Day weekend, when  it was time to go home and start a new school year.  That was not fun or exhilarating – – -to me. 


     To this day, I enjoy outdoor adventures, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching the summer Olympics this year.  I can’t help but admire the athletes and their prowess at these games. Imagine the work and practice it took to get there.  I wonder if they had as much fun as I did sliding down those sand dunes.


      Looking at the divers and swimmers really was enjoyable, and i can just imagine myself doing a graceful swan dive off the 16′ board into that beautiful, clear water.  Okay, so I thought I would try it, I mean, how hard could it be anyway ? I just pretended in my mind I was sliding down that huge sand dune toward the bottom.  


     You ever do a belly flop off a diving board?  I’m here to tell you, it ain’t fun! For one thing, it hurts like the dickens; for another, a snootful of pool water is not cool.


     
Back to the Olympics.  I am so proud of team USA for their outstanding performances, and every time I hear the National anthem played, and see our flag raised, I get goose bumps on top of goosebumps.  I am definitely hooked on that feeling, and haven’t had so much enjoyment out of sports since sliding down that sand dune—even if my brother pushed me.

Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

Word Refiner

This week Mark Schultz (and Grizz) from Word Refiner will be asking me questions about writing and my process.

Mark has an extraordinary eye for edits, does reviews, and these lovely, thoughtful interviews. Grizz ferrets them out. We are talking about THE GOLDEN HOUR, the fourth Nora Tierney English Mystery.

You can read Mark’s review of the book and our interview as the week progresses at: http://www.wordrefiner.com.

In other news, the fifth Nora Tierney mystery should be in print by September. Covid and cancer have caused many delays, but it looks like we’re on track for then. With fantastic early reviews coming in, and with gorgeous cover blurbs from Nicola Upson, Margaret Murphy, and Anne Cleeland, this one is my personal favorite of the series.

But then I say that about each newly finished book!

Stay cool and read~

News Update~ Sunday, Feb 21 2021 

Marni is thrilled that her newest Nora Tierney English Mystery, THE EVENING’S AMETHYST, has gone off to the copyeditor. With another round of edits this spring, it’s looking like this fifth in this series, set in England, will be in print late May.

At least, that’s what she’s been told, if the Covid gods allow it!

In the meantime, Marni will be moderating a panel March 6th for the Suffolk Mystery Author’s Festival, from 10-11 AM. Do sign up for this FREE event with interesting panels, reading recommendations, and more. With the topic “Somewhere in Crime: Global Mysteries,” Marni will be talking with Catriona McPherson, Sara E Johnson, and Wendy H Jones. Don’t miss it!

Change is coming. . . Sunday, Jan 17 2021 

Change is coming to Auntie M Writes Crime Reviews.

A little thing called breast cancer has Auntie M’s attention right now. While her prognosis is excellent, she needs time to rest, to get used to her new normal, and to fiddle with preventative drugs. Her stamina has taken a hike!

For the moment, look for Auntie M in Twitter under @GraffMarni. She’s still reading, and occasionally will tweet the cover and a few lines of a good book she’s read. Any energy between naps goes to reading and her own book for the foreseeable future.

She’s working (slowly) on revisions to her new Nora Tierney English Mystery, The Evening’s Amethyst. The fifth in this series finds Nora settling into life in Oxford, when a grad student falls to her death from a stairwell at Exeter College. The dead young woman was a friend of Nora’s stepsister, Claire Scott, who found the body. The title is from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem that has resonance to the victim. No pub date yet, but updates here and there.

In the meantime: Stay safe and healthy, get your vaccine, and keep reading!

MW Craven: The Washington Poe series Wednesday, Oct 28 2020 

MW Craven’s Washington Poe series features two highly unusual and creative characters: Poe himself, whose origins he wants to unearth, and Tilly Bradshaw, the sheltered genius who works as a civilian analyst and can run rings around any computer or hacker.

Starting the series off, which won multiple awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2019, is The Puppet Show, which introduces the suspended detective Poe.

In Cumbria, a serial killer had taken to burning people alive amongst the many stone circles in the area. There is no forensic clue left, and no doubt in anyone’s mind that these victims suffered terribly before their deaths. The press have dubbed the killer the Immolation Man.

On suspension from the National Crime Agency for a previous decision, and enjoying his time at the croft he’s bought in rural Cumbria, Poe and his springer spaniel, Edgar, have settled into a routine that doesn’t include policing one whit. Then his former sergeant, Stephanie Flynn, now in his old position as DI, shows up at the croft and proffers an Osman Warning.

When police receive information that a person is in significant danger, they issue an Osman Warning, which informs that person of the threat against him or her.

Flynn explains that her best civilian analyst at the Serious Crime Analysis Section has found multiple slashes on the third victim’s chest, which a multi-slice computed tomography has revealed, despite the heavily charred tissue, as spelling out “Washington Poe.”

Back working the case as a sergeant under Flynn is not only a new experience, it brings Poe into contact with Tilly, a young woman whose brain has allowed her to advance through universities and degrees at a young age but who has missed any chance of having a youth, and the social clues that go with it.

Tilly is direct, follows orders to the point of rudeness, and the smartest person Poe has ever met, with a mind that sees patterns. This is whom Poe will grudgingly come to respect in their hunt for the madman setting people on fire after torturing them.

The plot is carefully constructed, a real tour de force, as Poe and Tilly, aided by Flynn, try to find the thread that connects the victims. The resolution is as startling and sad and it is inventive. No wonder it won the CWA Gold Dagger!

Carven followed this series debut up with Black Summer, another compelling plot that seemingly has no solution.

One of Poe’s old cases put a celebrity chef, Jared Keaton, behind bars for life for the murder is his daughter, Elizabeth, despite no body being found. Poe had recognized the man as a psychopath and convinced the CPS and a jury that the man had killed his own daughter.

Then a young woman turns up at a police outpost and claims to be Elizabeth Keaton, abducted and kept prisoner for years. Blood DNA proves she is telling the truth. How is this possible, if is?

And if Elizabeth is alive, Poe is in deep trouble when the young woman once again disappears. Now he’s suspected of killing Elizabeth. Once again, he will depend on his own smarts and those of Tilly to figure out the workings of a psychopath.

The third installment finds Poe and Tilly investigating a strange case of body parts left in different parts of Cumbria with only the message “#BSC6” accompanying each one.

It appears some victims received anesthetic before being separated from their body part, while others were not. The only clue Tilly can unearth is that each victim took the same two weeks off work several years earlier. Then an FBI agent horns in on their investigation, saying that in the US they’ve had similar deaths.

It’s a slim lead, but it’s all they have to work on. Using the victim’s lives as the catalyst, Poe and Tilly will find their way through the labyrinth plot.

As the relationship between Poe and Tilly relaxes, he helps her grow her social graces while she grows to be someone he and Flynn can depend on. All three books in the series show original plots, based on the characters and their histories, and with such creativity that Auntie M is anxiously awaiting the next outing of Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw.

This entire series is Highly Recommended.

L. C. Shaw: The Silent Conspiracy Wednesday, Oct 21 2020 

L.C. Shaw brings back the duo of investigative reporter Jack Logan and free-lance television producer Taylor Parks in a dark thriller, The Silent Conspiracy.

With their young son in tow, they hope their lives will settle down two years after their debut in The Network. But then a pattern of murder-suicides raises its ugly head and Jack starts to investigate.

Meanwhile, Taylor’s newest story is a Supreme Court case, a class-action suit against a national insurance company, and has an all-too realistic feel about it.

Things take a complicated turn when it seems there may be an overlap in their stories. And all the while a nemesis returns, and family secrets that have been kept far too long impact the couple. There are political and religious ramifications, with conspiracies that are pure evil.

As the puzzle pieces come together, the stakes are raised and the couple find their family in more jeopardy than they could imagine.

This is a high-action thriller, with international settings and a whopper of an ending. The cliffhanger promises that the third in the series will be just as thrilling.

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S L Hollister, author

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Reading is a wonderful adventure!

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(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

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John Bainbridge Writer

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Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life

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