Carolina Girls Sunday, Mar 25 2012 

Auntie M had the good fortune to meet a lively bunch of “low country”  North and South Carolina authors a few weeks ago at the Cape Fear Crime Festival.

She came home loaded down with new books to interest readers. Here are a few you might want to check out:

Sin Creek is Susan Whitfield’s fourth mystery featuring North Carolina SBI agent Logan Hunter.

Logan is called from her bridal shower to attend the crime scene of a murdered woman, found on the nature preserve on the campus of UNC-Wilmington. Maeve Smoltz’s badly beaten, naked body has been shredded in the groin area with a razor-sharp Sawzall, her genitals found in a separate bag.

Contrary to her parents impression, the preliminary examination by the coroner shows Maeve to have been highly sexually active. A search of her room reveals pricey boots, a Prada bag and Jimmy Choo shoes she couldn’t possibly have afforded on her meager salary from the college canteen.

Maeve’s roommate, Antonella Beaujue-Dufour, sets Logan’s instincts on edge, and the girl’s evasiveness coupled with the people she hangs out with soon plunge Logan into the heart of an investigation that reveals a pornography business built on deceit and coercion. Logan manages to squeeze in her beach wedding to the love of her life, Chase Railey, also an SBI agent, with the help of her two best friends. But that doesn’t stop her from tracking down an unstable killer as the deaths mount up.

Whitfield captures coastal NC area details just right. The storyline will capture your attention, but nothing will prepare you for the dramatic ending that will irrevocably change Logan’s life.

Whitfield has done a ton of research into the chilling aspects of the porn business and how it endangers the lives of young women on college campuses.  A former high school administrator, the story was one that has lingered in her mind since hearing from one of her students how her older sister coped with college life by her lucrative sideline. Whitfield, a lifelong NC resident, also compiled recipes from mystery writers for the cookbook Killer Recipes. Its proceeds go to cancer research. Learn more about Susan and her book on www.susanwhitfieldonline.com.

 

In Dear Killer, Linda Lovely has given us a protagonist who has been sorely lacking from today’s mystery world: an attractive 52 year-old,  woman who wants a relationship and all that entails.

After retiring from military intelligence, widow Marley Clark has chosen to security on South Carolina’s low country Dear Island to keep busy.

On night patrol, she notices the pool gates have been left open at the Dolphin Club and sees a pile of clothing on a chair beside the Jacuzzi. The naked man floating in the spa has apparently drowned, but Marley still tries to resuscitate him, even as she realizes the dead man is a friend, Stew Hartwell.

It’s only when she’s waiting for help to arrive that she notices carrots, celery and whole onions bobbing in the water with him. Trying to take in the confusing scene, she sees a trail of folded towels, pointing to a message scrawled in the sand: “STEWED.”

This is only the first grizzly pun a sadistic killer will use as the killings continue. Marley soon becomes the liasion on the case with the lead investigator on the case, Deputy Braden Mann. It doesn’t hurt matters that romance sizzles between the two as the investigation ratchets up.

Marley’s independent streak but soft heart soon lead her deeper into the web of suspects on this small island. Her courage and skills will be put to the test as she and Braden are both put in jeopardy in their race to find a killer.

Sprinkled with a lively sense of humor and characters, Marley is a delightful creation and one to watch for in future offerings. Iowa native Lovely has been in the south for over thirty years and brings her readers a dose of Gullah history and a firm sense of place. You can read about Linda on her website: www.lindalovely.com.

 

Ellis Vidler’s romantic suspense Cold Comfort  starts off with a bang. She takes us to Virginia, where Claire Spencer runs her aptly-named Williamsburg Christmas shop, Mistletoe. The charming shop has been written up in Southern Living, which proves to be an important plot point down the road.

Still recovering from a broken engagement and the death of her mother, Claire’s entire world is hit with a heavy dose of violence when she’s mugged in her own driveway.

Her house and the shop are burglarized shortly after, and still sporting the stitches in her scalp from her mugger, Claire agrees to contact her assistant’s brother, Ray, who offers up the help of his own friend, Ben Riley.

Riley clearly isn’t happy to be involved, but he owes Ray a favor and reluctantly agrees to meet with Claire. When he has to keep Claire from being run over in the alley behind her shop, he starts to take the menace in her life seriously.

It soon becomes obvious that hired goons are trying to murder Claire, but neither she nor Riley can find a motive or a reason for someone to want her dead. As they try to search her history and follow clues, they also try to ignore the chemistry between them, complicating matters as they track down her killer who seems to know their movements before they make them.

Vidler moves the action around and never lets up on the chase, with characters who are vivid and well-rounded. This is an action-packed romance with a fast pace that doesn’t let up.

Even when the reader thinks they know what’s happening, Vidler manages to throw in one more twist. And when we think it’s over, it’s really not.

You can read more about Ellis and her two other novels at: www.ellisvidler.com.

 

Michael Robotham: Bleed for Me Sunday, Mar 18 2012 

Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is one of my favorite series characters. Dealing with the daily effects of “Mr. Parkinson,” Joe is separated from the wife he still loves. Living outside Bristol near them, his life is entwined with Julianne and their two girls, Charlotte and Emily.  In Bleed for Me, Joe is waiting for his marriage to formally end, and for his own acceptance of that: “I’m still thinking about what Coop said about life leading somewhere or meaning something. Mine doesn’t. I am living in a kind of limbo, a lull in proceedings. I am waiting for my wife to have me back–when I should be seizing every day and living it like it could be my last.”

O’Loughlin understands pain and grief: of losing a child, as he almost lost Charlotte in a previous novel; of losing his functioning, as he battles his disease on a daily basis and its effects; of losing the life he thought was perfect. When Sienna Hegarty, Charlotte’s best friend, tells him “You’re kind of broken,” we understand she is telling the truth.

But is Sienna telling the truth when she insists she hasn’t killed her father? She shows up at Julianne’s home, covered in blood, and runs away. Joe goes after her and finds her, shivering and almost catatonic, on the river bank. The blood is her dead father’s, a celebrated former policeman found in Sienna’s bedroom with his throat cut. Sienna’s trauma has pushed the details of the incident away but she is convinced that she isn’t a murderer–and so is Joe O’Loughlin.

Sienna is the obvious suspect when her history with her father comes to light, yet O’Loughlin is convinced there is a more devious murderer at work. Assigned to give the court a clinical profile of Sienna, he pursues his own investigation of her father’s murder in the hope at first it will win him back Charlotte’s affection. With the aid of a retired detective, he ferrets out a widening circle of hypocrisy and crime that may do more than explain Sienna’s actions. As the plot escalates, the circle of terror widens to a crushing climax.

Robotham’s disturbing storyline is all too realistic, as are the fine characters he creates, multifaceted and complex, at times downright chilling. His story is clever and compelling, a terrific psychological thriller that has a fast pace yet at times is achingly moving. There are flashes of unexpected humor, too, as when O’Loughlin unexpectedly finds himself conversing with the man who sees himself as Julianne’s next husband and is waiting to take her out. O’Loughlin doesn’t hesitate to explain she won’t be long because she’s just upstairs “taking her medication,” and instructs her suitor not to let her order dessert–even as he admits to himself that “the love you want to save won’t survive the constraints of jealousy … Love is either equal or a tragedy.”

Author Linwood Barclay says: “Michael Robotham doesn’t just make me scared for his characters; he makes my heart ache for them.”

Don’t miss this remarkable novel that combines subtlety with an intimate knowledge of human nature and builds suspense with a masterful touch.

Elly Griffiths: House at Sea’s End Sunday, Mar 11 2012 

Elly Griffiths has written another intriguing mystery in this third novel set along the remote Norfolk coast.

Grittiths created the crime series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a character Canadian author Louise Penny called an “inspired creation.” Crossing Places, the series debut, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. It brought Ruth into contact with DCI Harry Nelson, with surprising results that found Ruth pregnant. Griffiths advanced Ruth’s story in The Janus Stone, with a pregnant Ruth struggling to work and keep her baby’s father’s name to herself.

In The House at Sea’s End, Ruth is just back from maternity leave, learning how difficult it is to juggle being a mother with her demanding work. She’s called in to investigate when other members of her team, logging coastal erosion, investigate a rock fall and find human remains.

Handling childcare arrangements, leaving the infant daughter she’s fallen in love with, and worrying about this new case are all complicated for Ruth by the presence of Nelson, the child’s father. To make matters worse, Nelson’s lovely wife, Michelle, has grown fond of Ruth and enamored of the baby, remembering her two almost-grown daughters.

But back to those bones. Once exhumed, they turn out to be the skeletons of six men with their arms bound behind their backs, shot execution style. When bone testing confirms their age to be approximately seventy years old, Ruth and Nelson are led to investigating the history of the war years along this desolate stretch of coastline. Local Home Guard members patrolled the area at the time, anxious to protect the area from a German invasion.

When Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals a secret exists, he is killed before the details can come to light. Then a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer. As the deaths mount up, Ruth and Nelson will try to unravel the secret that old soldiers have vowed to protect with their lives.

Griffiths has created an interesting mix with Ruth and Nelson. Ruth isn’t a femme fatale who seduced Nelson. Her feelings as she adapts to motherhood, from fear to delight, are spot on. Nelson, too, struggles with the thought of having created this new child whose life he won’t have involvement in the way he wants to. And then there’s his wife …

The forensic details are interesting and the history and archaeology aspects well researched. Add Ruth’s unusual friends to the mix, and you’ve got a small band of people surrounding Ruth who exasperate her even as they offer their support in well-meaning ways. Griffiths has created flawed people who are decent at heart–unless they are contemplating murder.

Auntie M is amongst the scores of readers who await Griffiths next Ruth Galloway outing, A Room Full of Bones, due this spring.

Elizabeth George: Believing the Lie Sunday, Mar 4 2012 

In her latest novel, Elizabeth George writes a complicated plot that brings her wounded inspector, Thomas Lynley, to England’s glorious Lake District to conduct an undercover investigation. Still grieving over the deaths of his wife Helen and their unborn child, Lynley’s efforts to move ahead are causing him to question his actions in several quarters.

Wealthy Bernard Fairclough’s nephew has drowned, and his death has been ruled an accidental drowning. Yet through his highly-placed contacts at New Scotland Yard, the influential Lord manages to arrange for a discreet inquiry to determine if the death was really an accident, and Lynley finds himself summarily dispatched incognito to Cumbria. He’s tasked with determining whether Fairclough’s son, Nicholas, a reformed drug and alcohol addict, might be responsible for loosening the boathouse stones on which the unlucky Ian Fairclough slipped and fell to his death.

The coroner thinks not, but Lynley has asked his old friend, forensic specialist Simon St. James, and his photographer wife, Deborah, to nose around, hoping to find any evidence of foul play. Back in London, DS Havers is engaged in off-the-record research for Lynley, which will have its own affect on her position and put her an uncomfortable position with her superior. Her private life gets a good work out here, too.

There is plenty for all of them to investigate in the dysfunctional Faircloughs, who include: Fairclough’s distinctly different twin daughters, Manette and Mignon; his nephew Ian’s angry son Tim and sexually active ex-wife Niamh; as well as the man Ian left his family for, the foreign-born Kaveh. Add to the mix the Lord’s daughter-in-law, the beautiful and secretive Argentinean wife of Nicholas, Alatea, and there are scores of possibilities, real and imagined. Muddying the landscape is a tabloid reporter sent to find a sex scandal when he’d rather be writing poetry.

The Cumbrian landscape plays its part in the action, as deeply buried secrets will rise to the surface, with deception and delusion found to be at the heart of too many lives. Homophobia, infidelity, illegitimacy and greed all surface, but it is Deborah St. James, dealing with her own infertility and feeling a kinship to Alatea, who sets in motion the final tragedy.

Themes and subplots abound in this weighty tome, just over six hundred pages, that has a melodramatic feel at times that will try some readers patience. But fans will enjoy a few twists of the regular cast’s lives, and devour every page.

JoHanna Massey

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"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

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

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

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

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

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

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

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