Holiday Gifting at its Best: Cozy Mysteries Wednesday, Dec 13 2017 

Auntie M continues her thread about books that make great gifts. Let’s use today to bring you new cozy mysteries. Everyone likes a cozy!

Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series continues with The Ghost of Christmas Past. Recovering from depression after a miscarriage, Molly and her husband Daniel, their young son, Liam, and charge Bridie are suddenly invited to spend Christmas with a family who own a mansion along the Hudson River.

It’s a tough time for Molly, mourning the loss of her child, worried she won’t have another. And there’s news that her beloved Bridie is expected to be going home with her own father in the New Year, who wants to return and take her back to Ireland. Another impending loss to mourn.

The friend of Daniel’s mother is insistent having young people around will help the tenor of the house, and Molly soon finds out why: the Von Aiken’s young daughter, Charlotte, was lost a decade ago after wandering out into a snowstorm.

The unusual holiday, which has all of the occupants a bit on edge at the grandness of the house where they are guests, hits a decided snag on Christmas Even when a young girl appears at the door, claiming to be Charlotte.

It will be up to Molly, with Daniel as her accomplice, to figure out what really happened in that elite house ten years ago, and if the child who appear is really Charlotte.

Along the way, Molly heals her heart as the secrets of the family are revealed, even as those secrets take a dangerous and dramatic turn, but she soon finds her own Christmas blessings.


Donna Andrews returns with a new Meg Langslow Christmas Mystery, How the Finch Stole Christmas
.

Meg’s family goes home for the holidays to stage her husband Michael’s version of “A Christmas Carol,” including parts for Jamie and Josh.

Meg prefers to help behind-the-scenes as stage manager, a position she rues when she mets the aging actor, Malcolm Haver, who will play Scrooge. Besides being an alcoholic, the over-the-hill star isn’t very pleasant and soon needs a minder to keep him sober.

Then a body is found in a snowbank and with Malcolm a suspect, it will be up Meg to find the real killer and save the charity show. With Andrews’ trademark humor, a real holiday pleaser.

Maia Chance’s Prohibition-set capers continue with Gin and Panic. Assisted by hher Swedish sidekick Berta, private-eye Lola Woodby thinks the duo have landed an easy job. They’re hired to retrieve a hunting trophy, a rhinoceros, from Mongtgomery Hall, the mansion belonging to Connecticut big-game hunter Rudy Montgomery.

Things go horribly wrong for Lola when Montgomery is shot soon after their arrival, but that doesn’t stop the humor. There will be episodes with jewels, gangsters and a safari rifle in this screwball comedy before it’s resolution. Caper fun.

And if you missed Auntie M’s review of M C Beaton’s The Witches’ Tree from October, fans of the Agatha Raisin series will enjoy her latest adventure.

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Caz Frear: Sweet Little Lies Tuesday, Dec 12 2017 

Caz Frears accomplished debut, Sweet Little Lies, brings readers into the world of DC Cat Kinsella. It’s easy to see why this won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in the UK and readers will be looking for more of Cat. It’s not every gal who has to ask her father if he has an alibi for the night of a murder . . .

Cat has an unusual family and that background affects her every move. When a murdered woman is dumped not far from her shady father’s pub, she’s forced to consider he might be involved, especially as she’s always wondered if he had something to do with the disappearance of an Irish teen, Maryanne, when the family was on a trip to Ireland years ago.

The narration from Cat seesaws back and forth between that time years ago and the present, giving readers the history of what happened but only from the new detective’s point of view. It’s a complex story with twists in a compelling story.

As facts come to light and connections between the two women are made, Cat finds herself dug in deeper as she hasn’t mentioned her father to her bosses. It’s an impossible situation she’s put herself in, especially when it comes to light what really happened to Maryanne, and all of the truths Cat thought she knew become questioned.

With a host of flawed but believeable characters, this is a suspenseful police procedural, and with Cat’s wry humor added, it’s a sure winner. Don’t miss this one. Highly recommended.

Carol Western: Karma and the Singing Frogs AND Stranger and Angels Sunday, Dec 10 2017 


Publishing two new books in two months has been challenging to say the least. I had planned to bring out one book in August and the other in October, in an orderly and sensible fashion. Then my book designer and colleague suffered a bereavement and everything got pushed out of schedule. It may have been wiser to postpone publishing the second book, my first Victorian Murder Mystery, until next year but it is set in December and that would have meant putting it back eight months. Mentally and emotionally I was committed to publishing both of them this year, so I did. Sensible has never really been my major quality but determination – some call it stubborn – always has been.

Karma and the Singing Frogs is a contemporary crime novel featuring archaeologist turned CSI Mia Trent. Strangers and Angels is set in 1850 in the naval town of Gosport and features two determined young women, lady’s maid, Molly Bowman and her mistress, Lady Adelaide.

The two books have a lot in common. Both are set on the south coast of England in mid-December and both have female investigators as the viewpoint character. The major difference is the 157 years that separate them.

Mia is an independent career woman who lives alone. She has friends but also that touch of aloofness that is essential for people who have to separate their professional emotions from their personal life in order to deal with the death and suffering they witness every day.

Molly and Adelaide have no political or economic power and they and those around them would find it unthinkable that they should witness the sort of violence that Mia deals with every day.

I think the hardest task when writing Strangers and Angels was to get into the mind-set of strong, intelligent women who accepted that this limited subservience was their role in life. Adelaide, as the disgraced widow of a brutal man who lost everything through gambling and then committed suicide, is in a far worse position than Molly, the only child of a cooper (barrel-maker). Molly’s father wishes her to marry to ensure her safety if he dies but has promised not to force her into marriage. Adelaide accepts that her aristocratic father will arrange another marriage for her, whether she wishes it or not.

My contemporary crime novels are set in fictional settings, mainly because my son is a CSI and I didn’t wish to embarrass him, partly because cut-backs in UK policing mean that police stations and investigative facilities are disappearing quicker than I can write the books.

The Victorian novel is set in a real place and specific time, which involved a lot of research. The two training ships from the Ottoman Empire were really based in Gosport from late 1850 to early 1851 although there are few documents about this event and I have no evidence whether the majority of residents were hostile to the Turkish sailors or not. Some years after the action in this book, a Turkish graveyard was incorporated into the Clayhall graveyard, the only one in England. The memorial inscription reads, in Turkish and English: “They set sail for eternity met their creator and here they are laid to rest.”

In Karma and the Singing Frogs the victim is a young man who moved from Social Service Care to prostitution and the initial suspects are those who have also been in Care. In Strangers and Angels the immediate and convenient suspect is a young Turkish sailor, a stranger without friends in a foreign land.

For me, the main thing the two books have in common is the ageless theme of justice and how it is too often only for the powerful and privileged.

Carol Westron lives near the south coast of England and it is here that her fiction is set. She writes both contemporary and historical crime fiction, as well as non-fiction articles on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She also reviews books and interviews authors for Mystery People. A passionate believer in empowerment through creativity, she teaches creative writing to community classes and writes children’s picture books about a child who is different and ‘sees the secrets behind the darkness,’ which are illustrated by her severely autistic grandson.

Jack Huber: The Pat Ruger Series Wednesday, Dec 6 2017 

Please welcome Jack Huber, who will describe how he came to write the pat Ruger series

About Me
The third time was a charm for me in writing a novel. My first two attempts … well, let’s just say they were poor.

I had written poetry throughout my life, even having two poems published in a literary magazine when my 5th grade teacher submitted them for me. I began self-publishing poetry and my photography in earnest in 2009 and published over 300 poems over a 4-year period. I became a staff writer for Poetic Monthly Magazine and a mentor for novice poets on the on-line writing communities, Ryze and GotPoetry.com.

Soon, my wife asked me to write a novel. As I mentioned, I had tried twice and failed, so I wasn’t so sure I could do it. She is an avid reader and was having trouble finding quality books to buy and devour. She would tell me after each new author she tried, “You can write better than this.” Eventually, I relented and began my first Pat Ruger manuscript.

I wrote a few chapters and suffered from a lack of confidence. I noticed a local event at the Denver Post featuring three best-selling authors and decided to attend. Cornering one of them after their talk, we discussed my process and how in an initial project it might be best to let the characters direct the immediate plotlines.

He recommended I attend a writers conference put on by the Rocky Mountains Fiction Writers (it turned out he was president of the organization), that hosted hundreds of authors for a week-long event, and it was in my own backyard. At the event I signed up for my manuscript to be reviewed by a literary agent and her assessment was eye-opening. I guess my plot had real potential.

My confidence gained, I finished that book and feedback convinced me to make it a series. I’m now working on book number 5. For marketing advice, I’ve been fortunate to have the help of two other best-selling authors in my genre, Nick Russell and Jeff Carson. With their help, I actually had the number 1 crime novel in all of Amazon (for a day).

About the Pat Ruger Mystery Series
Pat Ruger is a retired detective who, with the help of two young call girls, starts up a private investigation firm, later to be joined by his ex-partner, Jimmy Stewart. Pat had lost his wife two years earlier and was still in mourning. Book 1, For Hire, takes place in the Denver area, with a side-trip to Wyoming, and Pat helps one of his soon-to-be business partners locate her missing sister, who had been kidnapped by a large cult. In this book, he meets Amanda, a special agent in the FBI and he becomes involved with her. By the end of the book, he finds the cult’s large bomb and has to decide what to do with the timer running down.

Following the crises in the first book, Pat and Jimmy decide to take a vacation cruise in Caribbean Shuffle. Jimmy brings his wife while Pat is good with going solo. Once on board, a woman he met is murdered and he and Jimmy are asked to investigate. When an earlier quip about pirates comes to life, they must navigate being boarded, a naval standoff and being adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

In the third book, Native Species, several recent brushes with death made Pat determined to rekindle his relationship with Amanda, who had taken an FBI position in New York City. He joins her on a murder investigation at a Native American casino in upstate New York, with tragic consequences.

The fourth book, Children’s Reprise, has the cult in For Hire reemerge to get revenge for Pat’s thwarting their plans for widespread destruction and terror, while possibly putting them back on course. This story takes place almost entirely in the Rocky Mountains, including the team being trapped in a previously abandoned mine.

Book 5 will be released at the end of the year. At this time I plan to make this a 6-book series.


Contact and Social Media
Pat Ruger Mystery Series- amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y2326PS
Jack Huber’s website: jackhuber.com
Email- jack@jackhuber.com
Amazon- amazon.com/author/jackhuber
Goodreads- goodreads.com/jackhuber
Facebook- facebook.com/JackHuberAuthor
Twitter- twitter.com/huberjack
LinkedIn- linkedin.com/in/jackhuber/en
Subscribe to my newsletter- http://www.jackhuber.com/subscribe.html

Ragnar Jonasson: Nightblind Sunday, Dec 3 2017 

Continuing with holiday gift ideas, this one is for those readers who enjoy a dose of noir, in this case, Icelandic noir.

Ragnar Jonasson introduced policeman Ari Thor Arason in last year’s Snowblind, quickly becoming a bestseller. He returns with the sequel Nightblind, which picks up five years after the events of the first book and continues Ari’s story in the small northern Iceland village.

With his mentor and boss, Tomas, given a promotion and living in Rekyakvik, Ari didn’t recieve the hoped-for promotion to Inspector to lead the team and has not gotten close to the man who landed it, Herjolfur. Recovering from the flu, he’s jolted out of bed by the man’s wife, who claims her husband never returned from a call out.

Ari finds his boss severly wounded in a remote location, and as the inspector is flown south for treatment, Tomas is seconded back to Siglufjordur to lead the investigation into who has taken a shotgun to a police officer.

It’s a tense time as the idea of a police officer being shot is unique in Iceland. All of the defenses of the people the two officers investigate come up and it’s difficult to make headway. Other secrets get in their way as the setting for the shooting was an abandoned house that is known as a spot for the local drug trade.

And at home, with a young son he adores, Ari is convinced his relationship with Kristin, his partner, is suffering. It will take him looking outside the box to piece together what really happened that fateful night as the deterioration of his relationship preys on his mind.

In true dark Icelandic noir fashion, the setting adds to the stark feel of the mystery as events from long-ago surface. Excerpts from an old diary add to the tension and heighten the story of domestic abuse in parellels.

Maggie McConnon: Bel, Book and Scandal Friday, Dec 1 2017 

Auntie M’s December reviews all feature books certain to please readers on your list, so get your pencils out for gift-giving ideas in the next week. First up is Maggie McConnon’s Bel, Book and Scandal.

The third in McConnon’s series featuring chef Bel McGrath brings closure to the mystery thread that appeared in the first two books revolving around her missing high school friend, Amy Mitchell. Being the last person to see Amy on the night she disappeared has led some people in Foster’s Landing to assume Bel knew what happened to Amy, but she never has known and has been more desparate than most to know the truth.

Back home and running the kitchen at Shamrock Manor, the wedding and event site her family own, Bel is trying to get on with her life. With one broken engagement behind her and a recently broken new relationship she had high hopes for, she’s sworn off men as the Christmas season approaches.

Then a photo in a newspaper left at the Manor catches her attention, and Bel is convinced Amy is in the photo. With concrete evidence, or so she thinks, that Amy survived that night, Bel heads to a former commune in upstate New York to find out just what really happened to her friend, uncovering long-held secrets along the way.

As her amateur investigation continues, she will uncover more than she wanted to know about several people living in the area, and put herself in more jeopardy than she’s bargained for.

One of the charms of this series is Bel’s large Irish family, and as the only female sibling, the band of brothers she endures. With slightly eccentric parents she keeps hoping she’ll please, Bel’s cooking skills have risen the Manor’s profile. The behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to please brides and their families adds to the humor that runs through this charming mystery series.

Add in Bel’s saucy asides to the reader, and her mouth-watering food descriptions, and you have a recipe for a fun read guaranteed to please any mystery reader on your list.

Kate White: Even If It Kills Her Wednesday, Nov 29 2017 


The return of Kate White to her Bailey Weggins series brings her seventh entry, Even If It Kills Her.

Bailey’s work as an investigative journalist that often puts her life in danger is having its effect on her personal relationship with the mysterious Beau.

Still, casting about for a subject for her next true crime book, it’s tough to turn down an old college friend from Brown when Jillian Lowe calls Bailey unexpectedly.

Years ago Jillians’ family were horrifically murdered during their second year of college, and Bailey has always felt regret that she wasn’t a better friend to Jillian at the time and allowed the young woman to slip from her life.

Now she has a chance to correct that when Jillian explains new DNA evidence most likely exonerates the man imprisoned for the murders, who unfortunately has died in prison. It’s too late for him, but not too late to find the real murderer.

It’s exactly the kind of case Bailey needs to soothe her guilt. The two women set off for the New England town of Jillian’s family home with Bailey set to investigate under the guist of helping Jillian write a memoir. Right from the outset it’s clear Bailey is being sent messages to leave things alone. It escalates when soon after being interviewed, an older woman from Jillian’s high school is killed, and as the suspects pile up, so do the attacks, culminating in a deliberate attack on Bailey.

It will take all of Bailey’s resources to stand firm and continue her investigation.

Written from Bailey’s perspective, which allows the reader to access her sometimes caustic humor, the story will draw them in as the suspense builds to a frightening climax.

Nicola Upson: Nine Lessons Saturday, Nov 25 2017 


The seventh entry in Upson’s remarkable series featuring Josephing Tey as a character is Nine Lessons, and if you haven’t found this series yet, now’s the time to pick up this one and then find your way to the previous six. All are intricately plotted, have researched settings of the period between the World Wars that brings that era to life, and perhaps most importantly, honest depictions of the characters who live within the pages, with all the foibles of humanity we recognize.

The focus this time revovles around Tey’s goood friend, DCI Archie Penrose and a case that seems almost unsolvable. He’s called to a churchyard where the corpse of the organist is found in an opened cryp. The man has died a horrific death; a photo of a manor house and a brief note as found with his body.

At the same time, Josephine is in Cambridge, helping to sort out a new house, when a series of attacks against women set the ancient city on edge.

When Archie’s next body is found near King’s College Chapel, it brings him to Josephine to help with old research on this case, as he’s discovered a connection between the two murders that has its genesis in the storied town when both victims were students. What could have happened twenty-five years ago that is making a murderer take his revenge now?

As if solving a complicated murder and finding a serial rapist were not enough, Upson continues the thread of Archie’s personal life and its own secrets in such a way that the final horrific twist in that story will have ramifications for years to come.

This is a complex and compelling story, encompassing what historical crime fiction should, blending true history with the fictional lives of these stunning characters into a whole book that moves the reader as it solves the crimes. Highly recommended.

DB Corey: The Lesser Sin Wednesday, Nov 22 2017 

Looking for a holiday gift for the suspense lover on your list? Look no farther than DB Corey’s THE LESSER SIN~

DB Corey lives in Richmond with his wife Maggie and a pair of rescue dogs, an offish Chocolate Lab named Murphy, and an ol’ hound dawg they call Dozer.

After a disastrous stint in college, he joined the USNR and VP-68, flying aircrew aboard Navy P-3 Orions chasing down Russian subs. He currently works in Information Technology, and began writing in his mid-50s.

His debut novel—CHAIN OF EVIDENCE—released on August 1, 2013 by Intrigue Publishing, and was re-released by Harlequin for their Mystery book club in March of 2016.

He self-published THE LESSER SIN in August of 2016 and is currently working on the second in that series.

Brenda Novak: Hello Again Sunday, Nov 19 2017 

Please welcome author Brenda Novak, whose Evelyn Talbot series has a new entry, Hello Again. Brenda will tell us ways to tell if we have psychopathic tendencies! You have our attention, Brenda!

Are YOU a Psychopath?

Dr. Evelyn Talbot, the psychiatrist heroine of my suspense series, which began with HANOVER HOUSE and HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE and now continues with HELLO AGAIN, studies psychopaths at a remote facility in Alaska.

Creating this unusual prison, where so many inmates are serial killers, has been a fascinating project for me, probably because Evelyn’s desire to know why these people do what they do—and why they are so difficult to detect and treat—mirrors my own. Although I don’t have Evelyn’s education in psychology, I have done a great deal of research in order to help me create believable characters with this personality disorder. Psychopaths are almost always portrayed as sadistic monsters, so you might be surprised to learn that some are “subclinical,” meaning they don’t kill people or get in trouble with the law. They are prone to wrecking lives in more subtle ways, however (i.e. using people, sabotaging people, manipulating people, blaming people, etc.), and there are a lot of them out there. Statistics indicate that psychopaths comprise about 4% of the population. That means, if you live in the United States, you have a greater chance of being a psychopath than of getting colon cancer! Here are six criteria that might indicate whether you have at least some antisocial traits.

1. Do you take your coffee black? A study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that people who like their coffee black are more likely to have psychopathic tendencies. Actually, the study tested “bitter foods” like coffee, but out of the 1000 people tested, there was a strong correlation between those who exhibit antisocial personality traits and those who prefer strong bitter flavors (such as coffee, beer, tonic water and radishes). Earlier studies seem to back this up. A dislike of bitter tastes is linked to greater emotional sensitivity in humans and rats.

2. Do you show lower levels of activity in the pre-frontal regions of your brain? Josh Buckholtz, associate professor of psychology at Harvard University, mapped the connections between the ventral striatum and other regions of the brain in 49 psychopaths. He found the connections between the striatum and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex were much weaker in people with psychopathy. “We need the prefrontal cortex to make prospective judgments on how an action will affect us in the future—if I do this, then this bad thing will happen… If you break that connection in anyone, they’re going to start making bad choices because they won’t have the information that would otherwise guide their decision-making to more adaptive ends.” He claims this is why psychopaths commit an astonishing amount of crime—they lack the ability to make good decisions.

3. To what extent, on a scale of 1 – 7 do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.” (1 being that you aren’t very narcissistic and 7 being that you are very narcissistic.) If you answered that you are very narcissistic, you’re probably right. According to Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, and the author of a study that claims to be able to determine whether you are a psychopath from this one question, “People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality—they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly.” Extreme narcissism is definitely one of the defining traits of a psychopath!

4. Are you a CEO, lawyer, salesman or surgeon? According to an article published in Forbes Magazine, psychopaths “display a fearless dominance over other people,” so they are perfect for these careers. The ones I’ve already named might not surprise you, but journalist, chef and even clergyman made the list of top ten careers that attract the most psychopaths!

5. Were you a callous and unemotional child? Dr. Eva Kimonis, a psychologist from the University of New South Wales, led an international research team who evaluated more than 200 children between three and six-years-old for these traits. The results, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, revealed that 10 percent of the children tested showed signs of CU traits, including lack of empathy, affection and remorse. According to Dr. Kimonis, “We essentially found that preschoolers that show impaired development of conscience are deficient in how they process emotions, similar to what we find in older adolescent and adult populations with the same problems. These children are poorer at recognizing other people’s emotional expressions, and images depicting others in distress don’t capture their attention like it does for typically developing children as young as age three.”

6. Can you turn your empathy on and off? For quite some time, it was believed that psychopaths felt no empathy. This was proven to be the case through brain imaging. In one study, 24 convicted psychopaths were transferred to a Dutch forensic clinic, where activity in the part of the brain that registers empathy was measured while they were shown movies of people hurting each other. Their scans revealed much less empathy than that of the normal control group. But when the psychopaths were asked to identify with the people who were being hurt, the activity level in this part of their brains rose to the point that it became difficult to tell their scans apart from that of the controls. In other words, psychopaths can feel empathy if they choose to engage in that way. It just isn’t their default.

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might be a little worried, but if that’s the case, you’re probably not a psychopath. Psychopaths don’t feel the same worry, anxiety and fear as normal people, which is why it’s so easy for them to do such terrible things. Also, many of these studies have their critics. Just because you like your coffee black might not indicate anything. Not only do tastes change over time, “bitterness” is subjective. And if you have lower levels of activity in the pre-frontal regions of your brain? Brain activity can vary widely within normal people. We certainly aren’t at the point where we can look at someone’s brain scan and claim, on that evidence alone, that they are or will become dangerous.

Still, the research in this field is fascinating, and I hope you’ll find Evelyn Talbot’s work with the serial killers in Hanover House just as intriguing. In HELLO AGAIN, she must match wits not only with a new inmate aptly nicknamed the Zombie Maker, but she might have to contend with the serial killer who nearly took her life when she was only sixteen (hence the title ).

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of sixty books. A five-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Silver Bullet. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.6 million. For more about Brenda, please visit http://www.brendanovak.com.

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