Mariah Fredericks’: The Lindbergh Nanny Tuesday, Nov 15 2022 

Mariah Fredericks’ THE LINDBERGH NANNY takes readers inside the homes of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh, exploring their marriage, their travels, and the horrific kidnapping in 1932 of their first-born child, Charlie, all from the point of view of the young nanny they hire, Betty Gow.

A Scottish immigrant learning East Coast etiquette after a disastrous affair, Betty is often put off by the eccentricities of Colonel Lindbergh. She admires Anne Lindbergh for her attempts to live up to her husband’s expectations, despite her shy and nervous manner. Coming from a monied family, the young couple live with the Morrow’s as they renovate a house in New Jersey.

Charlie is a darling child, sweet-natured and adventurous, and well as he gets on with Betty, Anne Morrow often worries he’s growing more attached to his nanny when she’s away on world-wide jaunts with her famous husband. At times not understanding how the parents can be away from Charlie for such extended periods, she nevertheless spends her own money on his clothing when he outgrows what she’s been left with. Yet she carves out a life for herself and even has a new beau.

Then when Anne is heavily pregnant with the couple’s next child, tragedy strikes, becoming one of the most celebrated international cases when young Charlie is kidnapped and his body eventually found. 

Betty soon finds herself at the center of journalists and public scrutiny, when a suspect is arrested. She understands that to clear her name for the future, she must figure out what really happened that night when a loose shutter allowed the child she’d come to love to be abducted.

You may think they know this story, but Fredericks’ manages to bring readers into the closed off world of the Lindbergh’s and into Betty’s thoughts, as she adds a sense of tension and mystery to the story. The characters, real and fictional, are finely drawn. With its on-the-spot view, this is a book that speaks to the role of women in the 1930s and delves into what might have happened on that fateful night, and who was responsible. A gripping and suspenseful read.

 

Ausma Zehanat Khan: BLACKWATER FALLS Tuesday, Nov 1 2022 

Khan’s first in a dynamic new series, BLACKWATER FALLS, is set in Colorado and introduces readers to a fresh new protagonist, Detective Inaya Rahman, and her lieutenant, Waqas Seif.

Young girls from immigrant communities in the area have disappeared over the past months, but the sheriff seems disinterested in pursuing any real exploration of the situation. Then the body of a good student and Syrian refugee is found outside a mosque, hanging in a horrific crucifixion-like manner.

A right-wing evangelical biker group called The Disciples displays open hostility to any newcomer with their threatening attitudes, yet when Inaya and her team try to investigate, their efforts seem thwarted by the sheriff.

When their investigation uncovers links to the other missing girls, Inaya feels that Seif is obstructing their own case. It becomes difficult for her to understand his motives when she’s drawn to him, but she keeps her distance, instead gathering strength and help from her female colleagues. It’s a delicate balance when she doesn’t understand his true motives, which are revealed to the reader as the detectives race against time before another young girl is killed.

There will be connections to art, a layering of different interpretations of justice, with moments of terror balanced by poignancy. It’s a tour-de-force of timely fiction that teaches and educates, as it reflects how easily fears can escalate.

Khan gives us a clear picture of Inaya’s home life, and brings readers a deep perspective to cultural conflicts. She explores different expressions of faith contrasted with prejudices, all wrapped up in a strong and complex mystery.

With a PhD in international human rights law, Khan is the author of the Khattak/Getty series and also the Khorasan Archives fantasies. She has a clear talent for bringing a nuanced sensitivity to complex issues, including racial tension and police corruption.

Readers will be glued to the action and surprising twists, with deep characterizations that add to the tension. This reader is already waiting for the next in this evocative and insightful series. Highly recommended.

Marcia Clark: The Fall Girl Thursday, Oct 13 2022 

Hear the name Marcia Clark, and some of us think back to her work for the LA DA’s office prosecuting such trials as that of Robert Bardo and OJ Simpson.

But there’s so much more to this talented author, with two series in print that feature strong female lawyers, one a prosecutor (the Rachel Knight series) and one on the defense side (the Samantha Brinkman series).

So when a chance came to read her new stand alone, FALL GIRL, I was excited to crack this one open but not prepared for the wild ride she would take me on.

Charlie Blair leaves Chicago and assumes a new identity for very good reasons, moving to the Santa Cruz DA’s office to start over and protect her family. Assigned to work a murder case with high profile prosecutor Erika Lorman, Charlie tries to keep away from the limelight, even as she feels she’s being sidelined and soon start poking her investigative nose into their most recent case with surprising results. She starts to question who she can trust.

At the same time, the man who she lives in fear of, after devastating her family, is making his presence known…

This is a fast-paced legal thriller, but even more so, a nuanced look at the question: What is justice and how do ethics figure in? How does morality reside alongside one’s conscience?

With deep characterizations and troubled pasts for both lawyers, the cat-and-mouse game these strong, intelligent women play with each other is as fascinating as their drive. At one point you can’t see any way there can be a a satisfying outcome, and yet, Clark managed to do just that.

A strong, quickly-paced read, with excellent legal scenes balanced by the action that takes place out of the courtroom.

Jane Marple: An Icon for Crime Writers Wednesday, Oct 12 2022 

When Agatha Christie wrote a short story featuring Jane Marple in 1927, she didn’t think the character would have sustainability. It wasn’t until three years later, with The Murder at the Vicarage that she wrote the first Marple novel, “for a bit of fun,” her grandson Matthew Pritchard notes, and then she concentrated on Hercule Poirot and didn’t write another Marple mystery until twelve years later.

Yet Jane Marple proved to be a favorite of readers and many writers, myself included, with an enduring quality about her. I have always loved Miss Marple and her wry humor and retiring manner, and I’m not alone. Richard Osman of the Thursday Murder Club series notes she is his inspirational protagonist, and so it would seem, do many of the leading crime writers of today.

Forty-five years after the last Miss Marple mystery was published, William Morrow’s new book, MARPLE, is a collection of twelve new Miss Marple stories written by such crime writing luminaries as Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths, Ruth Ware, and Lucy Foley.

Each author exhibits a new take on Miss Marple, and while Elly Griiffths has her visit Italy,  Alyssa Cole takes her to Manhattan. Yes, Miss Marple visits New York! But while their settings and the age of Jane Marple may vary, what doesn’t is the spinster’s ability to read people who remind her of the inhabitants of her small village of St. Mary Mead. Each story brought Miss Marple back to life for me, and I had great fun reading the these stories. 

Agatha Christie’s estate has had author Sophie Hannah write new Hercule Poirot novels. The Mystery of Three Quarters is the most recent. Hannah captures Poirot’s voice and his mincing mannerisms, carefully bringing Hercule to live another day. I was delighted to see that while these authors each have a different take on Jane Marple, she does indeed, live again for another day in a very recognizable way.

While actresses such a Helen Hayes, Geraldine McEwan, and even Angela Lansbury played Jane Marple at different times, Margaret Rutherford’s take on the role over four films gives viewers a touch of nostalgia when seen today.

But Christie has said Jane was based on her grandmother and that woman’s cronies, and admitted that of all the actresses who played Miss Marple over the years, her favorite was Joan Hickson, who fit Christie’s visual image of a “bird-like and slightly twittery” spinster, and she is my personal favorite, too. 

Jane Marple’s endurance perhaps comes from her as a symbol of “Britishness,”  of country life that seems tranquil until it’s applied to murder. With one of my own series set in England, she remains a constant to turn to while evoking another era, a source of comfort as readers know at the end of it all, Miss Marple will figure out who is the murderer and justice will be served.

When I bought a Mini Cooper a few years ago, I had to name it for their marketing department to find in their computer. They then send you hilarious emails as it’s being made and shipped across the ocean.

I couldn’t think of a better name than Miss Marple.

Readers, what are your thoughts about an icon being resurrected in this way with new authors? Do you think you’d enjoy this story collection?

In Memoriam: Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday, Sep 20 2022 

wsj.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Falchion Finalist Wednesday, Aug 31 2022 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Merry Joyful Monday, Dec 27 2021 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to you and those you love~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooked on a Feeling Monday, Sep 6 2021 

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

 Hooked on a  Feeling
                                                                                     by Jan mcCanless


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

Word Refiner

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

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

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

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

But then I say that about each newly finished book!

Stay cool and read~

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