Roz Watkins: Cut to the Bone Sunday, Aug 9 2020 

Roz Watkins delivers direct wallop with the newest entry in her Peak District series featuring DI Meg Dalton with Cut to the Bone, series that keeps getting stronger and stronger.

Violet Armstrong has created a name for herself in social media by taking on the meat vs vegan culture, and along with that, the eighteen-year-old is working in a pig abattoir.

Violet barbecues meat while wearing a bikini, actions intended to stir up feminists and animal rights activists, and indeed she has managed to do just that.

When she disappears, with her car found at work but no sign of Violet, speculation turns to suspicion that harm has come to the young woman and there are many suspects for Meg to focus on.

With her team in tow, and her complicated feelings for her DS in the back of her mind, Meg is surprised when her estranged father suddenly appears for a visit. Still reeling over the recent death of her grandmother, Meg’s closer to her mother, and to her best friend, Hannah. With her emotions all over the place on a personal level, Meg finds herself bonding with a young man with a dicey history.

Then evidence found points to Violet being fed to the pigs, and Meg realizes things are getting out of hand. Not convinced Violet is dead, Meg faces public ridicule when one of her suspects turns up dead. The feeling that there are other forces at work here is too strong for the detective to ignore.

At the same time, chapters set in 1999 illustrate events of the Armstrong family that have a direct bearing on what’s happening now, and how that family, local gentry, have been courted to for years.

There is a complicated but nicely twisted plot, with characters who will gain your empathy, and one of the most startling climaxes Auntie M has read. Very original, with a taut pace and a most atmospheric setting, this chiller intricately weaves modern society into a stunning read that makes this Highly Recommended.

Ragnar Jonasson: The Island Friday, Aug 7 2020 

This is the original review for Jonasson’s The Island, NOW out in paperback!

Jonasson’s second Icelandic series with its compelling protagonist, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir, returns with its second installment in The Island.

The time period is set earlier than in last year’s The Darkness and its startling ending. It’s 1987 when the book opens with the details of a new young couple’s romantic but secret trip to the isolation of the Westfjords, a trip that ends in disaster when the young woman is found dead.

A decade later, four friends have a reunion to honor their dead friend, reconnecting with a trip to an old hunting lodge in an even more isolated area of southern Iceland. Cut off from the outside world for the weekend, only three will survive.

Hulda is determined to find the culprit, which means she must explore the history behind the initial investigation into the young woman’s death. She needs to explore the relationships between all of the principal’s involved, some of which had drastic and tragic results, as well as the way in which the investigation itself was handled by her police colleagues.

What she finds will reveal long held secrets that have ramifications for several families as well as Hulda herself.

With the dark, foreboding setting an adjunct character, Jonasson makes the most of Hulda’s tragic life and frustrations as she finds herself looking into the deepest recesses of the darkness that lurks within us. Masterful look into the human psyche.

Karen Dionne: The Wicked Sister Tuesday, Aug 4 2020 

Karen Dionne (The Marsh King’s Daughter) mines Michigan’s Upper Peninsula once again in her new thriller, The Wicked Sister. Her love and grasp of the dark woods and landscape coupled with the nature theme that runs through this bring the area alive and set the scene for a startling mystery.

Rachel Cunningham thought as a young girl she killed her parents. She’s lived in a psychiatric facility since then, until fifteen years after the grisly death of her parents.

When she finds out her memory had been tricked, and she was not responsible at all, she leaves the facility and moves to the UP and the family lodge that she’s inherited along with her sister, Diana.

Diana has lived at the lodge the entire time Rachel has been in her self-imposed exile, believing she deserved to stay away. Now she returns to the majestic area where her parents, research biologists in different fields of study, brought Diana as a young child. It’s the only home Rachel has ever known.

Flashbacks to the childhood of Diana tell the story of why the young family felt forced to flee their first home. Now that Rachel has returned, she must strike a balance and renew her relationship with her sister. So why does the home she loved feel as if it contains evil?

The psychology of families, and the lengths that will be taken to keep secrets, haunt this suspenseful tale.

Doug Johnstone: The Big Chill Sunday, Aug 2 2020 

Doug Johnstone introduced the women of the Skelf family in last year’s well-done A Dark Matter, prompting Twitter cries for #MoreSkelfs. He listened, and brings the trio back in The Big Chill.

Matriarch Dorothy, daughter Jenny, and university student grand-daughter Hannah, along with her partner, Indy, have kept the business running that has made the Skelfs a well-known Edinburgh name after the death of father Jim: a funeral home the older two women live over, and with it, a private investigation agency.

The events in A Dark Matter have led to the women healing physically but grieving emotionally in different ways. With Jenny’s ex-husband creating a startling wave of anxiety, the book opens with a car crashing into the open grave at one of the funerals the Skelfs are conducting.

Dorothy soon makes it her mission to discover the identity of the dead driver, and find out about his life. Jenny is caught up in a new romance, one she’s not certain she deserves, while dealing with her ex’s second wife. Could they have anything in common? And Hannah’s friendship with an elderly professor takes its own dark turn, causing her relationship with Indy to suffer in the process while she ponders life’s big questions.

It’s been said people grieve in their own way, and the women’s grief after Jim’s death was interfered with by the events in A Dark Matter. Now as they each explore the different ways to deal with their often overwhelming thoughts, more pressing needs at hand, such as a disappearing teen, often take precedence.

There are different kinds of mystery here, as each thread is followed, connections made, and unsettling events occur while life continues on in its way. There are surprises, too, that make the plot a twisted but realistic thing, one that readers will swear they can almost see happening to them.

This is a darkly funny tale, with so much knowledge of human nature running through it. Perhaps it is not that Johnstone understands humans better than some of us, but more that he is open to the many variations we offer as a response to situations, especially when we are emotionally vulnerable. In this, he has a clear eye. In these women, he’s created three strong, vastly different characters whose reactions reflect their individuality.

Auntie M loves this series and you will, too. #MoreSkelfs. Highly recommended.

David Rosenfelt: Muzzled Thursday, Jul 30 2020 

David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter Mysteries returns with his newest, Muzzled.

Andy is the consummate dog lover, which mirrors Rosenfelt, and like his creator, the funds and brains behind a rescue organization, the Tara Foundation. He’s also a retired lawyer but is not retired enough, often taking on cases that fall into his lap for one reason or another.

In this case, it’s his friend Beth Morris who gets him involved with a new request: she’s caring for a lab named Lucy, whose owner was a murder victim, a man who perished on his boat along with two others when it was blown up.
Only thing is, said victim contacted Beth to say he wants to come and pick up his dog.

After confirming Alex Vogel is indeed the dog’s owner, and more importantly, still alive, Andy finds himself listening to Vogel’s explanation that his life was in danger, and he disappeared to figure out what was going on.

Soon Andy, with the encouragement of his wife, Laurie, his chief investigator, finds himself involved against his will in defending Vogel of the murder of the two men who were on his boat when it exploded.

He reasons a man who loves his dog enough to come out of hiding to find her couldn’t be a murderer. Right? Unfortunately, the police don’t see it that way when evidence mounts up against Vogel.

As they prepare for trial, it soon becomes clear to Andy and his team that the only way to clear Vogel is to track down the real killer.

A treat for dog lovers, courtroom thrillers, or mystery fans, Muzzled is another treat for those who enjoy a dose of humor with their crime.

Anne Cleeland: The Spanish Mask Monday, Jul 27 2020 

Anne Cleeland turns from her modern Doyle and Acton series, set in London, to the seventh in her Regency series, The Spanish Mask, set in the Spanish countryside.

The time period is during the aftermath of the Napoleanic War, and beautiful Elena is a postulant at an Andalusian convent. She takes care of her ward, Eduardo, a young lad trusted to her care. When Frenchmen come to the convent, she hides Eduardo in the orchard she loves, only to be found by a band of others led by a British commander.

There is Spanish treasure, relics from the royal family, and Elena knows where it is hidden. Money and other valuable items abound, as does a Spanish mask, encrusted with precious jewels. This information must be withheld from everyone, even those she begins to trust.

Elena soon find herself traveling with Lord Raike, who mistakenly believe her to be a survivor of the royal family. But the chemistry between Elena and the British leader crackles, and adds to the delicious tension. Avoiding those who would kill them takes skill and the help of others along their route.

As they traipse the countryside, with Elena all the while explaining she is not the missing royal but knows where she is, the attraction between the English lord and the young postulant grows, as does the danger.

There will be switches in allegiance, battles, stolen identities, and intrigue galore before the truth is revealed.

An action-with-romance delight, with a mystery at its heart.

Ellison Cooper: Cut to the Bone Thursday, Jul 23 2020 

Ellison Cooper’s Sayer Altair series calls on her own experience with neuroscience, as a murder investigator, and as a certified K9 Searach and Rescue Federal Disaster worker to inform the series with a high degree of authenticity.

She returns with the third in the series, Cut to the Bone, an original story with the kind of didn’t-see-it-coming twists that will startle readers.

Sayer is still grieving for her dead fiance’and building her reputation with her work into the minds of serial killers for the FBI, as she builds her little untraditional family in Washington DC and its environs.

When she’s called to the scene of young girl’s body, left inside a circle of baboons by the Einstein Memorial outside the National Academy of Sciences.

It isn’t long before Sayer and her team, with several returning and interesting characters, learn that just hours before, the victim was one student on a bus filled with twenty-four high school STEM students.

Within the first hour that bus left DC, the bus, driver, chaperone and all of the students have completely disappeared. And then a grisly discovery leads to an all-out manhunt for the sick person who had engineered this tragedy.

But hope survives for some of the students, and Sayer finds herself thwarted at every turn as she tries to find the psychotic person with a fixation on Egyptology who is behind this.

But when she finds out who it is and how that has happened, her world will be turned upside down once again.

Cooper has created realistic characters who gain our attention and empathy. The setting brings DC and its neighborhoods to life. All of this is wrapped within a chilling tale of false leads, laced with real science, to create a story with fast pacing and a race against time.

Alexandra Burt: Shadow Garden Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 

Alexandra Burt brings a different kind of psychological thriller to the page with Shadow Garden.

She tells the story of the Pryor family and the glossy, extravagant life they live.

There’s plastic surgeon Edward, whose hands build the family’s wealth; mother Donna, whose obsessive love for their only child, Penelope, allows her oversee her dysfunction while she looks for new ways to spend Edward’s money; and Penelope, who has managed to get away with more than any young woman should by the time she’s grown.

It’s a study in family dynamics when Donna finds herself ensconced in a beautiful condo with a housekeeper after a fall that has broken her hip. She gets her therapy as her hip heals. But where is Edward, and most of all, why hasn’t Donna heard from Penelope recently?

Donna is befriended by a woman who keeps a journal, but soon becomes suspicious of everyone around here. Who is really on her side? Who can she trust?

A character study with a twist, Shadow Garden shows what can happen when a family will go to any lengths to keep their secrets from the outside world.

Margaret Murphy: Before He Kills Again Thursday, Jul 16 2020 


Margaret Murphy has a strong history in writing chilling psychological novels. Known for the Clara Pascal, and Rickman and Foster series, Murphy has also written as AD Garrett, and with a partner as Ashley Dyer. All of her books feature realistic characters and chilling plots that will have readers leaving the lights on long after they should have been asleep.

Now she brings DC Cassie Rowan to the page in a complex psychological novel that is tightly woven in Before He Kills Again.

Starting from its powerful opening, readers will be hooked immediately with the powerful image Murphy creates.

There’s a sadist on the loose named the Furman, who targets prostitutes and pretty young woman, terrorizing them then raping and beating them before leaving the victims to be found. DC Cassie Rowan spends her evenings undercover, trying to get picked up by this maniac.

And one night she almost succeeds in catching him, where it not for the incompetence of two of her team members. All the while, she juggles being the responsible adult for her teenaged brother after the death of their parents.

Then someone who’s become a friend is savaged by the Furman. Frustrated, Cassie becomes even more determined to bring this maniac to justice, despite at times feeling sabotaged by her own team.

Alan Palmer is a psychologist with his own fraught home situation. Separated from his wife, trying to mend fences to have access to his young daughter, he has private and NHS patients he’s trying to help, but one in particular has caught his attention. Could this young man be the Furman?

Then someone dies, and all bets are off for Rowan and Palmer, all the while bringing the danger closer to home than they would like to believe. The incidents ratchet up in intensity; someone is losing it, and Cassie and Alan are at the heart of it all.

How these two professionals lives intersect forms the basis for a quick-paced psychological thriller, part police-procedural, all parts skillfully written, that heralds the start of a complex new series from this accomplished author.

Highly Recommended.

Jo Spain: Six Wicked Reasons Sunday, Jul 12 2020 

Jo Spain’s Six Wicked Reasons is a wonderful study in characters so vividly drawn, readers will feel they’ve come to know the Lattimer family.

Six siblings have varied stories, and all of their stories of this dysfunctional family will become known: sisters Ellen, Kate and Clio; brothers James, Adam, and Ryan.

The thing that unites them is the treatment each has endured from their father, Frazer Lattimer. While seeking his approval, wanting his love, each has experienced the depths he would sink to with his own children. Each has suffered at some point, been the butt of his humiliation, or worse. Each has reached a breaking point.

Ten years ago Adam disappeared and was presumed dead, which led to Kathleen Lattimer’s early death. Since then the other siblings have been absent from the family home, in Dublin, France, Italy. Youngest daughter, Clio, has spent the last four years in New York.

Then Adam suddenly returns. His sibling are called to the family home by their father for a reunion weekend in Spanish Cover that Frazer orchestrates with surprises for all of his children.

The weekend culminates with a party aboard a yacht with an ultimate surprise but a huge one for Frazer, too. Nine people are aboard, but only eight will return.

An excellent read, atmospheric and chilling, where every character has a strong motive for murder. Highly recommended.

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Lee Lofland

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews