Sarah Ward: A Deadly Thaw Sunday, Sep 25 2016 


Sarah Ward’s debut In Bitter Chill brought her to reader’s attention quickly last year. After years of reviewing crime fiction, including acting as a judge for the Scandinavian translated crime novels’ Petrona Award, she has turned her hand to writing her own series, causing Booklist to call her “. . . a writer to watch.”

She returns with a second entry in the Derbyshire series, A Deadly Thaw, and fans of her first will be happy to know it’s every bit as well-written and suspenseful as her first. She brings back the compelling Bampton team of DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs, plus other members who will have an impact on the story to investigate this unusual case.

The setup is creative and pulls the reader in immediately. Lena Grey has just been released from prison after serving fourteen years for smothering her husband, Andrew Fisher, in their bed. But then Andrew’s recently killed body is found in an old morgue.

Once the identification is complete, the questions become overwhelming: Who was the man in Lena’s bed all those years ago, and why would she lie about his identity and spend all of the time in prison? Sadler’s team must uncover why this deception could have been pulled off, while Childs is convinced it took more than a bad marriage and a lover for Lena Grey to take prison time. But Lena vanishes, leaving questions unanswered and the investigation to flounder.

The team will be led to Lena’s sister Kat, a therapist living in their childhood home, who can’t explain her sister’s actions then or now. Then Kat starts receiving packages from a young man, and based on their contents, he must know where Lena is hiding. She starts searching through their lives, looking for answers in her family’s secrets, conducting her own investigation.

Those secrets hold the key to the mystery and it will be up to Sadler’s team to put the pieces together. Distractions from personal issues within the team threaten to disturb their cohesiveness and ability to figure out the truth, but add layers of complexity to the story.

Ward’s plot is complex and well-executed, with twists and turns that make red herrings fall like so much litter as one reality becomes another. This is gripping, with an edge that makes for compulsive reading. Highly recommended.

Louise Penny: A Great Reckoning Wednesday, Sep 21 2016 


Louise Penny’s twelfth Inspector Gamache/Three Pines Mystery, A Great Reckoning, is responsible for making Auntie M cry–twice.

That’s how movingly she writes and entwines readers with the characters they’ve come to know and love in the series, most especially Gamache and his extended family. And yet if a reader were to pick up this book and not know any of the history, they would still be impressed by the scope of its plot and the depth of the feeling she manages to wring out without any hint of melodramatic tricks–and to bring them to tears.

Gamache and his beloved Reine-Maire have retired to the little village of Three Pines, where both have accepted that retiring doesn’t mean eating croissants and sitting around the Bistro all day, but that they will find new work that interests them. For Reine-Marie, the former librarian at the National Archives Library becomes involved the historical society, organizing its papers and artifacts. For Gamache, after mulling over many offers, being courted for some and rejecting many, he’s accepted the role of Commander of the Surete Academy, the three year schooling for new police cadets. His goal is to clean the house of the former regime which sent out cruel and corrupt police.

To the surprise of everyone, including his wife, he invites an old friend who’s been living in exile to take a role as a professor, teaching the cadets how easily it is to be corrupted as he was. It’s an interesting concept, and one that will have personal and professional ramifications for the new Commander. At one time the two men were as close as brothers, until they took divided paths in their careers.

Gamache also deliberately leaves in place one corrupt instructor, believing him to be the mastermind behind a large financial swindle on top of corruption of the cadets. But he lacks enough concrete evidence to arrest him, nor does he have the name of the man’s accomplice. Serge Leduc had waited to be fired as so many of his colleagues were. Gamache openly explains his reasons to the man: he intends to find out the depth of his betrayal and to find his accomplice.

Then a professor is murdered, and four cadets who have been especially close to the man are the prime suspects. Gamache sends them to Three Pines to board there and gives them an unlikely assignment: find out the significance of an orienteering map found in the wall of the bistro that he’s been given as a gift, showing the tiny village along with other oddities. Is this work to keep the four occupied so he can observe them and find which one is a killer? Or is he trying to protect them from the killer? And is there more at hand, as a copy of that same map of Three Pines has been found in the professor’s effects.

Suddenly the list of possible suspects widens, and Gamache finds himself being scrutinized as a murder suspect. And what of his relationship with the tattooed and pierced cadet Amelia Choquet? Why is the angry and obstinate cadet being carefully groomed by the Commander? How does the map fit in, and what does it have to do with a stained glass window in Three Pines tiny chapel?

This is Penny at her complex plotting best, bringing all of the quilted threads of the story together in a satisfying and chilling climax. There is family time and high points, and many lows that Ganache must navigate. But now he has his son-in-law nearby, and a person he respects as Chief of Homicide of the Surety, his old job, in Isabelle Lacoste. But will he figure out the devious machinations of the killer before he strikes again–or worse, is arrested for the murder himself? Highly recommended.

A note to readers: Please take the time to read the Acknowledgements at the end of the book. For any author, and Auntie M knows this from experience, this is the time to express a personal and public thank you to readers and to the many people who help an author move his or her book from an idea to a reality to the one you hold in your hands or listen to or read on your Kindle. It this case, it is also clearly a love letter to Penny’s ill husband, Michael, and deserves to be read, both to honor him and his life, and to honor Penny and the wonderful and rich writing she continues to give her readers.

Christine Hale: A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Mediations Sunday, Sep 18 2016 

From time to time, Auntie M veers away from crime to feature something different in terms of genre. Today it’s novelist Christine Hale who has taken a turn to memoir and tells us about her unusual approach.


A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations
by Christine Hale
(Apprentice House Press, 2016)

People often ask why I wrote a memoir (since my first book Basil’s Dream, was a novel). The next thing they want to know is why I wrote the book in “collage” or kaleidoscope form instead of telling a story straight through from beginning to end.

I’ve come up with a lot of long-winded answers in the past but today, writing this note to readers who enjoy mysteries and crime stories, it dawned on me that there’s a very short, very true answer: my parents were mysteries to me.

Married for over 60 years, they were hard-working, God-fearing, honest and frugal country people, and they passed those qualities on down to their daughters. But my mother also did and said some shockingly mean things to me, my sisters, and our father. And he, it would turn out, was secretly physically abusive to her for most of their marriage. My sisters and I never knew that until he got caught in the act soon after they moved to assisted living in their late eighties. We were summoned to a meeting with the facility manager and the police, because my father was about to be thrown out for his behavior. We were dumbfounded–that he was in that kind of trouble at his age, and that we’d been blind to it for so long. My oldest sister said, while we wrung our hands in the waiting room, “Somebody should write about this.”

Some of you may remember something Flannery O’Connor says in Mystery and Manners. She attributes the remark to a neighbor with whom she’d shared her early work. The stories, the woman said, “just showed how some folks would do.” That phrase captures exactly the way I feel about my parents’ struggles and mistakes (and my own): people will do the most surprising, confounding things, and it’s an unsolvable mystery to ever really know why.

Well, I’m a writer, and I process what confounds me by writing about it. The result, after a number of years and many drafts, was a memoir in collage form. Layered and overlapping memories–a patchwork quilt–from many different points in time, about my parents, my children, my husbands, and other people and events that instructed me, bruised me, transformed me. My intent in structuring my memoir as a collage was to mimic the way we remember and strive to make sense of memories. In her blog Backporchervations, LuAnn Braley described the book’s effect this way: “When we meditate, or think over our lives…we pick and choose certain memories from certain points that do not arrive in neat chronological order. Then, our subconscious wants to join the fun and grabs memories we forget we have along the theme of what our active mind is considering.”

It’s been tremendous fun to hear readers’ take on my book. So many people have contacted me to say it caused them to remember things they’d forgotten, and that without quite knowing why–another mystery–recovering and re-inhabiting old memories helped them feel better about their lives.

Chris Hale Finals (Web-Res)-9

You can learn more about me and my work at: Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll be reading from A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations at McIntryre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro, NC, on October 22 at 11 am. The book will be available for purchase there. You can also buy it through independent booksellers anywhere, and online at IndieBound, Amazon, and Walmart.

Alex Dolan: The Empress of Tempera Tuesday, Sep 13 2016 


The protagonist of Alex Dolan’s thriller The Empress of Tempera is a young art student studying in New York, renaming herself and reinventing herself from the criminal Maine family she left behind, currently involved in a relationship with artist Derek Rosewood, whose exhibit is being hung at The Fern Gallery.

Paire Anjou heads there to meet up with Derek Rosewood, and as she approaches, she’s struck by the elderly gentleman staring at the painting hanging in the window. As she gets closer, the man moans, and suddenly stabs himself in the heart, dropping to the ground at her feet. Despite Paire’s efforts to resuscitate him, the man dies and she finds herself covered in his blood. It’s only then she finds her eyes drawn to the display window and the painting that mesmerized this man.

The Empress is an almost life-size portrait of a woman in a bright red embroidered Asian dress, sitting in a provocative pose, and she engenders powerful emotions in people who view her. Gallery visitors faint; some write her love letters; others try to steal her.

This is Paire’s introduction to the power art can exert, and in researching the painting, she finds it by a Chinese artist known as Qi, whose body of work has vanished. Qi had lived in the US and returned to China at some point and has died.

Paire also finds one of the wealthiest families in New York has wanted to possess the Empress, and a forty-year feud between them and Qi had been waged. And it’s still going on.

It’s an eye opener for Paire, who starts to work at the Fern Gallery and is exposed to the controversy. Meanwhile, her relationship with Rosewood leads her to escapes that speak to her genetic makeup, with unexpected results.

Dolan, the son of two artists, immerses the reader in the world of art and its effects on people’s natures as well as our culture. He’s also concocted an unusual thriller with unexpected twists and turns in the story that will attract readers as it exposes them to a world that many won’t have known existed in several planes.

Sophie Hannah: Closed Casket, Hercule Poirot #2 redux Sunday, Sep 11 2016 


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the year Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot. After last year’s first reincarnation in The Monogram Murders, it’s clear Sophie Hannah has inhabited Poirot’s world, to so many reader’s delight. She celebrates this anniversary with the second volume, Closed Casket,taking Poirot to Ireland and a house filled with bitter relatives, all with a motive for murder.

This is vintage Christie in style and Hannah does a grand job with a compelling plot that has a most clever climax at its end.

Lady Athelinda Playford has long inhabited the world of youths in her beloved children’s book series which feature the precocious juvenile Shrimp Seddon and her band of child detectives. Auntie M particularly enjoyed the description of Shrimp’s dog, as mentioned by Scotland Yard’s detective Edward Catchpool, (not a fan of Shrimp Seddon) as the ” . . . fat, long-haired Anita.”

Catchpool has been invited to Lady Playford’s estate Lillieoak in County Cork for no apparent reason he can discern, yet such is the Playford name’s weight that he decides the author must wish to have him correct her descriptions of detectives and he decides to attend. He is surprised to find his acquaintance, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, has also been invited for the week, as has Lady P’s two lawyers.

The household contains Lady P’s two children, the married son Harry, Viscount Playford, and his wife Dorothy; daughter, the Hon. Claudia and her fiancé, Dr. Randall Kimpton; Lady P’s secretary, Joseph Scotcher; his nurse, Sophie Bourlet; and the usual staff of a cook, a maid, and a peculiarly quiet butler.

Into this set up, classic Christie, comes the whopper that thrusts the action forward: Lady P has had Michael Gathercole, one of her lawyers, redo her will that afternoon. Instead of leaving her estate divided equally between her son and daughter, as had been expected, she now intends to leave her entire estate to . . . her dying secretary, Joseph Scotcher.

With only weeks to live, Scotcher is surely an unusual choice on so many levels, her action makes Poirot decide he and Catchpool have been invited in order to stop a murder.

Yet a murder does occur, and very soon after the dinner where the will change is announced, in spite of Poirot’s plan to stop it. Now his task is to determine the real reason why Lady Playford changed her will–and who is the murderer.

He soon finds out that most of the household had a motive for the killing, which might stump a normal brain, but then, we are dealing with those little grey cells. Kirkus’s says: ” . . . the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive is every bit as brilliant and improbable as any of Christie’s own decorous thunderclaps.”

Rebecca Tope: The Coniston Case Wednesday, Sep 7 2016 


Auntie M has to admit she has a certain fondness for Rebecca Tope, as the British author of several series kindly gave her a blurb for one of her own mysteries, The Scarlet Wench, set in the Lake District.

So it was a great delight to return to the Lake District in the newest in Tope’s series, The Coniston Case. It’s almost Valentines’ Day in Windermere and florist Persimmon–Simmy–Brown is feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are far too many red roses being ordered, she decides, and to add to her feeling of urgency, she’s suddenly being given a few anonymous deliveries that are sent without signatures to their cards, and which meet with unexpected unhappy explosions toward Simmy from their recipients.

An out of the way delivery to Coniston, which has its own florist and leaves Simmy wondering just why Persimmon’s Petals was chosen, bring DI Moxon to her shop. The unsigned bouquet for a Mr. Hayter of Rosebay Echoes has been found in his house, never put in water. And there’s no sign of Mr. Hayer himself until his bod is found on the fells, an apparent suicide.

Sammy’s upset by the rash of these anonymous orders. In the middle of trying to figure out this muddle comes her Worcester friend, Kathy, for a visit. Kathy’s daughter is in the area and Simmy agrees to put her up so Kathy can figure out what her daughter is keeping from her. Worcester is Simmy’s old hometown, and Kathy’s appearance adds to Simmy’s disquiet. As happy as she is to see her old friend, Kathy reminds her of her lost baby and marriage.

Running a floral shop, Simmy has learned flowers can be sent for reasons other than niceties, apology or revenge among them. “A florist put herself in the line of fire simply by being associated with major life events where emotions were heightened and families forced to confront disagreeable truths.”

Then a second man, a housemate of Mr. Hayter, is found murdered at Rosebay Echoes, and once again, Simmy finds herself involved in crime, against her better judgement.

With her helper, Melanie, and young friend Ben on the case, it will be up to Simmy to help DI Moxon figure out just what’s going on, and how climate change experiments and caves figure into the situation. It’s a perplexing mystery, almost a perplexing as Simmy’s feelings towards local potter, Ninian, and DI Moxon.

Marilyn Meredith: Seldom Traveled Sunday, Sep 4 2016 

Please welcome prolific author Marilyn Meredith, who will discuss writing her newest Tempe Crabtree mystery, Seldom Traveled.

Seldom Traveled Front Cover

Fiction Too Close to Fact

by Marilyn Meredith

This is not the first time this has happened to me—writing a book and then having a similar thing happen in real life after the book is finished.

When I began writing Seldom Traveled I didn’t know I’d be including a raging forest fire. But as happens so often, as the characters became defined and the mystery developed, I knew that a huge fire had to happen.

After I’d finished the book and sent it off, the first big fire of the season broke out in the rugged canyons and hillsides above Santa Barbara. Next came the horrendous fire at Lake Isabella that consumed 100 homes and took two lives.
Lake Isabella Forest Fire

In the foothills and the mountains where I live conditions are prime for a fire—a drought followed by enough rain to produce lots of growth that dried quickly when the weather turned hot. Many of the trees in the mountains are dying because of the several years of drought, creating plenty more fuel for a fire.

As I’m writing this, so far, we’ve been spared.

My heroine, Tempe Crabtree, in her role as deputy, is assigned to make sure all the residents of remote homes and cabin have left the area. The job itself is dangerous as she avoids the fast moving flames—but that’s not the only threat she must face.

Other stories I’ve written have had scenes and parts in them that ended up being repeated in part in real life—either something that was reported in the news, or happened to someone I knew.

I like it much better when something I write doesn’t end up happening later. . .

Marilyn Meredith
Seldom Traveled Blurb:
The tranquility of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Me at A Crushing Death Book signing
Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:
Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.
She’s also on Facebook and Twitter as MarilynMeredith.

New Contest: Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.

Tomorrow I’ll be with Maggie King at

End of Summer Beach Reads: Robertson, Korman, Ballard Friday, Sep 2 2016 

Auntie M has three lovelies coming your way, perfect for the Labor Day beach weekend:

Michael Robertson’s Baker Street Mystery series have a devoted following of the two brothers who receive and answer the mail for 221B Baker Street addressed to Sherlock Holmes. The hijinks continue in The Baker Street Jurors.

With barrister Reggie Heath finally off on his honeymoon, solicitor Nigel Heath is keeping the office running smoothly. Well, maybe not that smoothly. He’s actually been living in the office after his American adventure and its accompanying romance ended badly. It’s up to Lois, their receptionist/legal secretary/admin. assistant/ barrister’s clerk to keep him topped off with coffee, working on the wills and other legal papers that cross his desk and having an occasional shower to get him out of his depression.

Then Nigel receives a jury summons–but in that day’s mail, so does Sherlock Holmes! Nigel promptly makes a paper plane of Sherlock’s summons and sails it out the open window. He does, however, turn up to do his duty, and is immediately drawn to one of the young female jurors. This might not be too bad at all, he thinks.

But it couldn’t be worse when he’s assigned as an alternate juror to the case of the century: National hero Rory McSweeny is on trial for the murder of his wife, the victim of a horrendous beating with McSweeny’s own cricket bat. On the verge of leading England’s team to another international championship, the papers have been full of outraged talk mostly pro and con about the accused man playing in the games.

It’s not a case for the faint-hearted as the jurors start having unfortunate accidents. One of the alternates seems to be more than closely acquainted with the sayings of Holmes, too. And then the judge is persuaded that the jury must travel to Devon to see the site of McSweeny’s alibi, and things take a decided turn for the worse. Before it’s over there will be accidents during a storm, rumors of secret tunnels, and a locked room murder. Bright and sparkling with that Robertson irony.


The Killer Wasps Mysteries bring the four friends–antique dealer Kristin, tiny Sophie, Bootsie and Holly–back together for another outing. The annual Tomato Show is at the country club, and their goal is to outdo their nemesis Eula, just in the annual Tomato Show, but also in the tennis tournament.

But then a valuable painting of a pastoral scene disappears from the country club, and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else. What are the four friends to do but investigate? They secretly hope Eula is to blame, but can only find evidence of another crime: buying her tomato plant entry from a New Jersey dealer.

And as if the gals haven’t enough on their plates, a new Mega Wine Mart plans to open in their little village, cutting a swath right through their forest. Everyone’s in favor of cheap wine, but to take out their forest for it takes the cake. It’s not bad enough that Sophie is going through a tough divorce, and the details of that one will bring a smile to your face, she’s also hoping for a proposal from her loving Joe.

It’s enough to drive a gal to drink! A charming cozy series~

miss dimple_MECH_01.indd

Mignon Ballard bring her two series heroines together in a charming cozy set in the small Georgia town of Elderberry in Slightly Bewildered Angel.

It’s 1944 and schoolteacher Dimple Kilpatrick and her town do their best to help with the war efforts, while worrying about the ones they care for serving in the armed forces and trying to cope with rationing. Things are made worse when the boardinghouse cook, Odessa Kirby, who helps Miss Dimple’s friend Phoebe Chadwick run the house on a shoestring, has to leave to care for a relative.

But all is not lost when on the doorstep they find Augusta Goodnight, whose wise ways with cooking and even cleaning soon save the day. Then the shy Dora arrives, hoping to stay on the library’s porch, toting her things in a paper bag. She brings out the town’s charitable spirit and soon she’s being fed and cared for.

Miss Dimple is suitably shocked when Dora is found dead in the church, and Augusta persuades her she must find the culprit. She enlists her friends to search for clues, even traveling to Dora’s hometown, where her horrible married life is exposed. It will be up to Augusta to convince Miss Dimple to follow the threads that will solve the mystery that will change Miss Dimple’s life.

A heartwarming cozy with exacting period details and the the meeting of Ballard’s two sleuthing heroines.

Kermit Roosevelt: Allegiance Wednesday, Aug 31 2016 


Kermit Roosevelt (yes, he is President Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson) has taken an incident in our country’s history and thrusts the reader straight back in time to explore the inner workings of what to most Americans is a lofty but unknown world, The Supreme Court. Allegiance is his well-drawn legal thriller that brings that period to life and involves the reader totally in its compelling plot.

Set during World War II, when then-President Franklin Roosevelt signed an Executive Order that imprisoned Japanese=Americans in war camps, the author cannily focuses on one young Philadelphia lawyer and his experience to personalize and fictionalize that time in our history.

Caswell Harrison is known as Cash, and thinks he has his life on a known track, from his girlfriend to law school and after. Then Pearl Harbor occurs, and after flunking the army physical, Cash is given the honor of clerking for Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. Disappointed in not serving in the army, with his girlfriend unhappy that he is leaving her in Philly for Washington DC, Cash finally is convinced this is how he will serve his country.

He’s overwhelmed at first by the paperwork and learning how to fit in, but he soon adjusts, even to playing tennis with Justice Black at his home, where he becomes a substitute son for the justice’s own two enlisted sons. But soon he and a colleague uncover a conspiracy which points at pressure being brought to influence the Court’s decisions regarding these important cases.

It’s a difficult thing find evidence to prove, as the cases revolve around the constitutionality of the prison camps where the Japanese-Americans have been interred and documents they have been asked to sign. Then Cash’s friend and colleague dies under suspicious circumstances, and Cash finds himself embroiled in an surreptitious FBI investigation, colluding with J. Edgar Hoover himself to obtain evidence.

Along the way Cash will find himself questioning everything he thought he believed in–and everyone he thought he trusted. This could be called a loss of innocence story, and there is certainly that angle to the novel, but it’s more about Cash finding his true self and his values while he finds out just how good a lawyer his can be.

There are plenty of figures from history who are portrayed accurately and brought to life bedside Hoover and Black, such as Felix Frankfurter and Francis Biddle. And his exhaustive research informs the law around the cases of Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Endo that formed so much of the lasting history of this time. The time period is reflected accurately, from the clothing to the mores of our culture in the era.

It’s also a crime novel at its heart that is based on a thoughtful examination of our country and the values. In the author’s words: ” . . . the story I tell through my hero is that good people can do bad things. The internment decision has the form of a basic moral dilemma: when is it okay to hurt some people to help others?”

It’s a fascinating question that Roosevelt thoughtfully examines through Cash, and readers will easily be caught up this legal thriller that examines one of the worst civil rights violations in our country’s history.

Roosevelt’s knowledge and experience include clerking for DC Circuit Judge Stephen Williams and Supreme Court Justice David Souter before becoming a professor of constitutional law and creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Laura McHugh: Arrowood Sunday, Aug 28 2016 


Laura McHugh’s debute, The Weight of Blood, proved to be an exceptional read, a haunting tale of the Ozarks with a mystery at its heart.

So Auntie M was looking forward to her newest, Arrowood, set in Keokuk, Iowa, and she is happy to report this second book exhibits the same strengths that made McHugh’s debut outstanding. There is the compelling setup and plot; the characters and depths of human nature she plumbs; the way the setting becomes integrated to be a character itself. McHugh captures the lazy feel and slow deterioration of the southern Iowa town on the Mississippi, a town where protagonist Arden was raised, that once featured ornate and lovely grand houses lining the road along the riverside but now has the feel of something dying.

It’s to her recently inherited family home that Arden returns after the death of her father, abandoning her unfinished Master’s thesis in the process. Though the dust and leaks, the bones of the old house are still fine, and she sets about trying to recapture a part of the childhood she holds in her memory, the years before her younger twin sisters were kidnapped and presumed dead. Tabitha and Violet had never surfaced, and twenty years have passed with Arden’s memory giving her a snapshot of a gold car pulling away from the curb in the front of her house, a flash of white she assumed was her sister’s hair in the front seat. It’s a mystery that has never been solved, but part of Arden’s quest to return to her old home is to lay to rest the ghosts of that awful sunny day.

Arden will find, to her surprise, that some of her former neighbors and friends have never left the area and she wonders if she can rekindle old relationships. She will become suspicious of the new man who claims to be obsessed with unsolved crimes and is writing a book about her lost sisters. She will worry that the handyman who’s been caring for and preserving the house all of these years is hiding his own secrets.

Most of all, she will find that beneath the dust and the haze of her own memories of that day, lie more secrets than she could ever have guessed.

Auntie M’s writer friend, Linda Lovely, is from Keokuk, so she was familiar with the name and a bit of the area and its history. Under McHugh’s talented writing, the whole area comes to life in a sleepy way that is characteristic of towns succumbing to the ravages of time and slowed economics.

The suspense almost has a creepy value to it, in a mild way, but one that sustains the tension of suspense, hovering just under the surface: are the dead sisters trying to send Arden clues? But this is not a ghost story.

It is, instead, the story of a brave young woman trying to unravel what is real and what is not in her memory, as she tries to put her own ghosts to rest. The startling conclusion makes sense in a way that probes the psychology of Arden’s family and friends. Highly recommended.

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