Brian McGilloway: Bad Blood: A Lucy Black Thriller Friday, Jun 23 2017 

Brian McGilloway’s Lucy Black series, set in Northern Ireland, returns with the compelling Bad Blood.

Not one to shy from controversial topics, McGilloway tackles Lucy’s latest case head on, when a community becomes overwhelmed with tragedy.

A young man is found in a park, dead from head wounds, and with a stamp from a gay club on his hand. Concurrently, a hate-speech pastor was heard spouting the advocacy of stoning gay people. Could the death be connected to his talks?

At the same time as Lucy and her boss, DI Tom Fleming, try to cool things off, a Gay Rights group become involved, showing up and demonstrating at the pastor’s talks, while a far-right group target new immigrants who’ve moved into the area.

There will be vandalism that escalates to assault, arson, and more deaths before Lucy and her team, who are undergoing their own stresses, can figure out who is behind the various issues. There are turf wars within the community, and an escalating drug problem that adds to the tension.

Set against the days leading up to the Brexit vote, this highly current and compelling thriller will have readers flipping pages as Lucy and her team try to figure out who is responsible for what, when she finds herself on the receiving end of some of the ugliness.

The complex plot all makes sense in this end in this enjoyable read that will have readers searching for others in the Lucy Black series.

Kristen Lepionka: The Last Place You Look Wednesday, Jun 21 2017 

Kristen Lepionka’s debut mystery, The Last Place You Look, introduces PI Roxanne Weary, daughter of a police detective who’s inherited her father’s keen instincts along with his affinity for alcohol.

This is not your typical, sweet protagonist, but a hard-drinking, sexually active woman who’s learning to deal with her grief after her father’s death on duty. When her brother Matt sends her a new client, she finds herself drawn to look for Sarah Cook, a young woman who vanished the same day her parents were murdered.

The man accused of those murders languishes in jail, and with his execution scheduled for two months down the road, time is of the essence to find the young woman who would know who really killed her parents. Brad Stockton has always claimed he’s innocent and refused to put any blame on Sarah.

Then Brad’s sister swears she sees Sarah at a local gas station, although police have long maintained Sarah was also one of Brad’s victims when something went wrong between the two young lovers. This prompts her to hire Roxanne in a last-ditch effort to prove her brother’s innocence.

It seems like a cold case destined to go nowhere, until Roxanne links Sarah’s disappearance to another of her father’s cold cases. And then a third body is found, and Roxanne is scrambling to get ahead of a serial killer, while the local police thwart her every move.

Readers will feel Roxanne’s frustration and her grief as she tries to sort out her own tumbled emotions at the same time as she solves a decades-old crime. Readers will look forward to a sequel featuring the gritty PI.

A tense and suspenseful thriller, Lori Rader-Day says of Lepionka: “A talented new voice and a character worth following anywhere she trespasses.”

Susan Kandel: Dream a Little Death Monday, Jun 19 2017 

With a sparkling protagonist, Susan Kandel introduces readers to Dreama Black, immortalized forever in a rock song, in Dream a Little Death.

To say Dream has experienced an unusual upbringing would be an understatement. Her free-spirit grandmother and still-hippie mother, both rock groupies, raised her to be independent and to explore her sexuality, and that she does.

But Dreama is also trying to get ahead in her business, providing custom tours to private groups of LA’s neighborhoods, specifically designed depending on the group’s forte, so it’s difficult for her to turn down a five figure offer to set up a tour for music producer Miles McCoy’s fiancee’.

Noir is Dreama’s forte, and readers will learn about many of Dreama’s favorite places and how they tie in to the story in a big way. But this is a mystery, and there will be murders before it’s over, with Dreama finding her own life in danger while she tries to figure out her own love life.

The characters are larger-than-life and spring off the page, accompanied by Dreama’s witty observations. When McCoy’s fiancee shoots herself during an onstage performance, it’s deemed a suicide attempt–or was it murder?

This is a fast read with more than a touch of humor, and an insider’s look of Los Angeles and its varied neighborhoods, alongside a cracking good plot.

Tom Walsh: Bless Me Father Sunday, Jun 18 2017 

Bless Me Father is a classic “who done it?”

It’s a story of love lost and love found amid contemporary social issues of homelessness, addiction, and bringing the untouchable to justice. Cloistered conversations in the confessional are sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous. It is a modern-day crime mystery with character depth, a forbidden love, and a resurrected cold case.

Early readers have described the debut novel of Tom Walsh as thrilling and entertaining. Parts of the story echoes themes such as: the forbidden love of “The Thorn Birds;” the scandal of “Spotlight;” and the mystery of crimes long past of “Mystic River.”

It’s a definite page-flipper and a worthwhile read.

Tom’s earliest education began in parochial schools in San Francisco. At 19 he took a summer job in the motor pool two floors underground at a large public utility. He finished his Management degree at night at St. Mary’s College of California and by the time he left the utility company 20 years later, he had ascended the management ranks, regularly meeting with company officers on the top floor. During that time, he honed his skills in writing business proposals while contributing articles to trade publications and company newsletters.

Outside of work and school he wrote and performed music with a rock band in clubs around Marin and Sonoma counties. Continually seeking new challenges, he took management positions in Bay Area startups that developed innovative consumer electronics. He saw the start-up environment wane and was asked to return to the utility now during bankruptcy. Then as a self-employed consultant he assisted utilities, consumer electronic start-ups, and companies in the food industry. Somewhere along the way he was also the owner-operator of a popular restaurant. All the while, Tom’s artistic endeavors continue to be freelance journalism and music.

Tom is married with two children and lives in Sonoma County.

Joanne Guidoccio: Too Many Women in the Room Thursday, Jun 15 2017 

Please welcome Canadian author Joanne Guidoccio, whose mystery Too Many Women in the Room has the tag line: Eight women–eight motives to kill a lecherous photographer! Don’t miss her special giveaway at the end of her discussion.

Joanne is going to share what she’s learned about prologues:

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

Whenever I’ve asked a writing instructor or workshop facilitator about prologues, I’ve encountered a variety of negative facial expressions—everything from a wince to a frown to a quick shake of the head. And the following responses: Agents hate prologues; Readers will skip to the first chapter; Prologues = Information Dumps.

One instructor offered a ray of hope: Use only if the prologue adds an interesting and integral layer to the narrative.

Interesting and Integral…Definitely a challenge and one I decided to tackle in my new release, Too Many Women in the Room.

But first, I needed to get more information about the Uses and Misuses of Prologues. Here’s what I discovered:

Use a Prologue to…

• Provide information that is crucial to understanding the rest of the story. In Too Many Women in the Room, I needed to introduce the victim’s voice. Having written the rest of the novel in the first-person POV, I wanted the reader to be privy to the thoughts and feelings of the victim in his final hour.

• Provide clues. Red herrings are an important component of cozy mysteries. In Too Many Women in the Room, the initial crime scene contains vital details that form the basis for these red herrings.

• Hook the reader. If the actual crime doesn’t occur for several chapters, it is a good idea to whet the reader’s appetite with a prologue. But—and a big but—the interim chapters also need hooks to keep the reader engaged.

Don’t Use a Prologue to…

• Introduce a voice or tone that is not as engaging as the rest of the novel.

• Dispose of the entire back story. Much better to incorporate bits and pieces throughout the novel.

• Introduce an overly-dramatic voice and then switch to a much quieter voice.

Here’s the idea of Too Many Women in the Room:

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.
Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

And here’s some of that opening prologue:
He couldn’t believe he was following his wife’s advice. After twelve years of paying lip service to deep yoga breaths, mindfulness, and all the other New Age crap she espoused, he had finally found a use for it. His midnight run usually sorted out all the stress, but tonight was different. He still couldn’t shake the venom that had been directed his way.
To make matters worse, it had come from eight women, eight very different and very annoying women. He had bedded four, but right now he couldn’t imagine having sex with any of them. As for the untouched four, well, only one interested him, and it had nothing to do with her feminine wiles and everything to do with her healthy bank account.
He would have to take something to get through the night, something a lot stronger than his wife’s herbal teas. The remnants of an old Percocet prescription came to mind. Two capsules might do the trick. The thought of a panacea, albeit a chemical one, calmed his racing thoughts. A good night’s sleep would make a world of difference. And tomorrow, he would sort it out.
The light patter of feet distracted him. Definitely a woman’s gait. Her breath was even, neither shallow nor panting. Younger, maybe in her thirties. His pulse quickened, and a smile spread over his features. A welcome distraction. Just what he needed to erase the built-up stress. To hell with deep breathing, affirmations, and Percocet.

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.
Where to find Joanne…


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Sharon Bolton: Daisy in Chains Wednesday, Jun 14 2017 

Sharon Bolton’s Daisy in Chains was previously reviewed by Auntie M. This is to let readers know that the intricate stand alone from the suspense writer known for her compelling, original plots is now available in paperback. If you missed it in hardcover, look for it now.

Just to refresh memories, here’s the original review, which received my “Highly Recommended” rating:

Daisy in Chains is Bolton at her finest, bringing an original plot to the mix in this twisty tale where each and every detail may have more than one meaning. It’s a masterful blend of sleight of hand and at the end, the reader will understand just how good a plotter and writer Bolton is–and clamor for her next outing.

We are introduced to Maggie Rose, the blue-haired writer and attorney whose specialty is reversing convictions for murderers. The books that come out of this have given her a nice house in the country, even while she shuns publicity and appears to be a loner.

Then she’s asked to investigate the case of a good-looking doctor, Hamish Wolfe, in jail for three or four murders, depending on who’s counting. What the victims all have in common is their body style, larger women whose heaviness has often caused them issues.

While an undergrad in Oxford, Hamish had a relationship with a heavy woman. There is the suggestion he filmed himself and his lover having sex, but the video has vanished, as did his girlfriend.

The police seemed to think this was reason enough for his suspicion when the newer murders occur and each woman was heavyset, with their bodies found in caves Wolfe is familiar with. They are his “type.” Forensic evidence places one of the dead women in his car. Game over.

Maggie agrees to see Wolfe but is cautioned by the detective who put him away, Pete Weston, that Wolfe is a dangerous, charismatic character. Stacks of letters from women who have fallen for his charms from afar arrive at his prison at the Isle of Wight daily. A group of misfits headed by his mother has formed a group to try to get his conviction overturned.

Maggie isn’t certain at all that she wants this particular case but finds herself drawn in. And then someone breaks into her house and leaves a strange message: He loves me.

Weston seems attracted to Maggie, a nice subplot as he’s going through a divorce and the man his own wife has left him for just happens to be his boss.

There’s a lot here and close readers will still be surprised at the twisted ending. Bolton successfully explores issues of body image as the tension heats up quickly and stays there. Life in prison, body image issues, and bullies, murder and mystery: it’s all here in letters and emails exchanged between various participants; and in the wonderful scenes between the well-drawn characters. Highly recommended.

Leonard Goldberg: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Tuesday, Jun 13 2017 

Leonard Goldberg is a physician whose name readers might recognize from his many medical thrillers. In this newest outing, Goldberg ventures into the past of 1910 and Edwardian London, and brings a twist to the Sherlock Holmes canon with The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a winning combination of an elderly Dr. Watson, his physician son, also John, and a young woman who assists them in unraveling the supposed suicide of a young man after she and her young son witness the death.

The brilliant mind of Joanna Blalock soon leads Watson to confide in his son that she is none other than the daughter of the late Sherlock Holmes and the only woman who ever outwitted the great mind, Irene Adler. Watson is entrusted with that knowledge, and now John, Jr. is the second person who knows the truth of the young widow’s lineage.

It’s a fine setup as the book moves along, and fans of anything Sherlock will be captivated. This time it’s a female who has the brains to observe and deduce, which Joanna does in fine fashion in a compelling and readable storyline.

That she also happens to be beautiful and captivates John’s heart is an aside that adds to the texture and gladdens Watson’s heart.

The mystery surrounding the death ties into hidden treasure stolen during the Second Afghan War. As the body count rises, it will be up to this trio to figure out how the culprit is managing to kill the members of a special quartet, and how they can protect the remaining member.

It’s a fast-paced story, containing a cipher, a secret room, and enough Sherlockian ties to make readers flip pages fast. A quick, entertaining read, Auntie M hopes Mr. Goldberg plans to bring readers more of this new detecting team.

Sandra Brown: Sting Sunday, Jun 11 2017 

Sandra Brown’s latest thriller, Sting, has all the hallmarks that made Brown a NY Times bestselling author: fast pacing; a story that twists and turns; and a hint of chemistry between the two protagonists.

But in this case, that chemistry between Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard has a huge mountain to cross: he’s been sent to the backwater bayou in Louisiana to kill her.

All is not what it seems when Kinnard kidnaps Jordie. She has the unfortunate luck to have a psychopath for a brother, and since he has stolen 30 million dollars, there are a lot of people who’d like to get their hands on the money–including the person it was stolen from.

With realistic characters and a plausible setup, readers will still be surprised at some of the turns the plot takes, especially when they can’t see how the ending can possibly turn out well.

Another terrific summer read from a master thriller writer~

Hallie Ephron: You’ll Never Know, Dear Tuesday, Jun 6 2017 

Hallie Ephron’s fifth suspense novel show how a talented writer can find an unusual premise and make it work. You’ll Never Know, Dear brings three generations of strong women in the Woodham family together to solve a decades-old mystery.

When Lissie and her sister Janey were outside their South Carolina low-country home when Lissie’s attention is diverted by a puppy. When she returns, Janey has disappeared, and remains so for forty years. Despite the length of time, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places an ad every year in the paper that shows the doll she made for Janey, and offers a cash reward for its return, hoping this will be the clue that finds Janey.

Miss Sorrel is Lisse and Janey’s mother. Aided now by her neighbor, nurse Evelyn Dumont, the duo repair dolls, after a career of making hand-painted one-of-a-kind dolls that bear the face of the child who becomes their owners. She’s hoping even after all these years that the doll will be returned and be the key to Janey. And then suddenly, a young woman shows up with what Miss Sorrel is convinced is Janey’s doll.

Then a horrid accident put Miss Sorrel and Lissie in the hospital, and Lissie’s daughter, Vanessa, leaves her research project on dreams to help out. The three women will bind together, despite their differences, to try to solve the cold case and find out if Janey could possibly be alive. The women will need all of their smarts when they face evil.

The setting is definitely a character here, with small-town secrets and lazy warm days leaping off the page and adding to the southern gothic feel. Along with a realistic portrait of differing personalties within one family, readers will be delighted to learn the ins and outs of doll making and restoration, too, an added bonus to the suspense.

Elly Griffiths: The Chalk Pit Tuesday, May 30 2017 

Elly Griffiths returns with her ninth Ruth Galloway mystery, The Chalk Pit, a strong addition to the popular series.

The series, set in Norwich, is such a favorite of Auntie M’s that her next Nora Tierney English Mystery, The Golden Hour, features a character is reading the latest mystery–and Elly appears briefly as a friend of Nora’s.

There are good reasons why the award-winning author is hugely popular. The anthropology details are accurate but never dry, and always couched in a really good mystery to be solved. Then there are the returning characters–Ruth, Detective Nelson, and several of their friends and colleagues–who reappear and catch readers in the tumble of their lives.

This keeps the reader involved in Ruth’s world, where she’s the single parent of young Kate, a precocious child who is offered a small role in an experimental version of Alice in Wonderland.

The play comes at the same time that Ruth is called to investigate bones found in an old chalk pit during excavation for an underground restaurant. When the bones turn out to be human, it involves Nelson, too, and the mystery takes off as the relationship between Ruth and Nelson becomes even more complicated.

Ruth notices the bones appear so translucent, they might have been boiled. A second body is found, and fear mounts. Is this the work of a cannibal killer? Could there be a secret society at work? Why are the homeless being targeted? When a homeless woman goes missing, Ruth and Nelson fear she’s the next victim.

As the tension mounts, someone close them will also go missing. The story twists in their efforts to find the killer in a tense climax that will have readers flipping pages to the conclusion.

Another rewarding read in this satisfying series from the author who also writes the The Magic Men Mysteries. Highly recommended.

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