Wendi Corsi Staub: Sleepwalker Sunday, Oct 28 2012 

Staub started her trilogy with the fateful backdrop of the horrors of 9/11 in Nightwatcher.  Now the second thriller featuring Allison Taylor, Sleepwalker, picks up her story ten years later.

Allison has married Mack MacKenna, her neighbor who’d lost his wife in the Twin Towers, and they have a lovely home in Westchester and three young children.

Allison has everything she’s always wanted, but the demands of three youngsters and a husband whose job keeps him away from home find her worn down at times. Mack’s chronic insomnia adds to the burden, until at her urging, he starts to take a sleeping pill that allows him to rest but brings back bouts of childhood sleepwalking. Things start to go missing their home; others are moved around. Allison tell herself this is simply due to Mack’s sleepwalking, but she harbors a fear it’s evidence of a far darker menace.

When the man in prison for the Nightwatcher murders commits suicide, Allison knows she should feel relieved. Then why does she have a huge sense of foreboding?

Then their next door neighbor is found by Allison brutally murdered in her own bed, wearing Allison’s nightgown, and killed with the same methodology as the previous murders. Suddenly Allison knows with certainty that the wrong man has been locked up in prison.

What happens next as more murders continue will have readers turning pages as fast as they can read. When a connection between the victims revolves around Mack, Allison must decide if she can trust the man she’s married or if she’s made the most horrific mistake of her life. Then the tension ratchets even higher when her children are kidnapped.

Staub brings back several characters from the first book in the trilogy, including Mack’s friend Ben and his wife, and the NYPD detective who helped clear the first case . . . or did he? She takes on the reality of survivor’s guilt and explores how it touches not only the survivor but those who surround them. And most chillingly, she illustrates the fallacy people have of the feeling of safety in one’s own home in today’s world of technology.

Staub’s third in the trilogy, Shadowkiller, premieres in February 2013. Before then, be prepared to follow Allison as she digs deeply to find the strength to face a killer once again.

 

Rosamund Lupton: SISTER and AFTERWARDS Sunday, Oct 28 2012 

Having a sister of my own, Auntie M was intrigued when another writer insisted I read this 2010 mystery by Londoner Rosamund Lupton, who wrote original screenplays before turning her hand to this debut novel that will knock your socks off. Sister has at its heart an unusual concept of a way to tell a story, and that story will leave you hooked and reeling from page one.

   Beatrice Hemmings has fled her native England to pursue a career in Manhattan and is engaged to be married in three months to an American. While hosting a dinner party with her fiance’ one Sunday,  a call from her mother interrupts the evening when Bee learns that her only sibling, younger sister Tess, has gone missing. Bee soon finds herself flying across the Atlantic to Tess’s Notting Hill apartment.

She find the flat tiny and cluttered. Not even owning a tea kettle, art student Tess has made her bedroom into her studio for the better light. Her bright paintings reflect her personality, open and nonjudgmental, young and talented, with a joy of live Bee has always envied. That central core of Tess’s life will drive Bee fiercely to protect her sisters’ memory.

The suspense starts with a wallop because this is written as Bee is describing the events and what she finds in a narrative to Tess, explaining her actions and tracing her search for her sister, which ends in tragedy. Then Bee’s real investigation starts, to unravel the truth the police would rather leave alone: what really happened to Tess?

Elegantly written, this poignant novel becomes a tribute to sisters as well as a harrowing detailing of the plundering toll of grief. But it is also a wickedly fine mystery that is at once riveting a it moves the reader. By having the reader in such intimate contact with Bee’s thoughts and actions to Tess, Lupton paints a picture of both sisters, the failings of those around them who are meant to do and be more, and the huge sense of loyalty that Bee brings to the forefront of her actions on her sister’s behalf.

There is an element of subdued suspense that heightens as surely as a Hitchcock movie, and indeed, this novel will soon be adapted for the screen. Grab a copy of this highly original book and read it first before the film version. As good as the movie will be, nothing can replace the psychological intensity of the novel and the twists at the ending.

With the same psychological depth of character found in the works of Kate Atkinson, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, Lupton’s riveting and chilling tale combines true tragedy with a sense of life-affirmation that moved me to tears in several places for the accuracy and depth of its compellingly told story. It’s a quickly-paced, stylish tale, literate and successful.

BookPage calls Sister “A poignant and perceptive depiction of the emotional bonds between two sisters … A superb thriller, full of twists and turns, false leads, and a surprise ending.”
Lupton follows Sister with the same original storytelling in Afterwards, with another clever premise and solid writing the makes her second novel as compelling as her first.

Grace Covey stands with other parents on a grassy field, attending sports day at her son’s school, which coincides with Adam’s eighth birthday. Her teenaged daughter, Jenny, is inside the school, taking the place of the school nurse for minor injuries. When Grace sees black smoke coming from the school, she realizes it’s on fire and races inside to save Jenny.

What happens next is the stuff that makes this book remarkable, as Grace, in an highly unconventional manner, tries to find the person responsible for setting the fire once it appears Jenny was the deliberate target. Grace desperately races to find the culprit to protect both of her children, and in the process, uncovers more than she ever expected to find about the people in her life.

This is a novel about love in its many forms, from that of a mother and her daughter, to the cushion of secure, married love. Ultimately is it about finding courage in the midst of the depths of a mother’s love for her child.

Jeffrey Deaver says of Afterwards: “Uncompromising emotional impact, a poet’s sonorous style, and a gripping story all come together to make this a transcendent literary experience. I guarantee this novel will touch everyone.”

Lupton’s powerful stories and  and her voice will captivate you; Auntie M defies you to put either of these books down once you’ve started reading.

Lisa Black: Defensive Wounds & Tilly Bagshawe: Angel of the Dark Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

Forensic scientist Lisa Black brings all of her expertise to play in Defensive Wounds, the newest forensic thriller featuring investigator Theresa MacLean.

This is the fourth in the series, and there’s no question Black knows her stuff, so the story spins out with enough CSI-like details to keep crime junkies happy. But Black balances these with a deft hand at sly humor, which keeps the story rolling without becoming too scientific.

The pace hums along when Theresa is called to the Presidential Suite of Cleveland’s Ritz-Carlton to attend the murder scene of defense attorney Marie Corrigan, which happens in the middle of a huge lawyer’s convention. Known her history of corrupting evidence and witnesses, as well as making most forensic and police testifiers look bad, Corrigan’s hate list is too numerous to count. Add in her rampant sex appeal and use of it, and even Marie’s lovers could have had a motive for her murder.

What immediately ratchets up the tension is that Theresa’s only child, daughter Rachael, is working the front desk, dating a young man from the hotel’s kitchen crew. Then a second lawyer is found murdered in the hotel, and just as she gets involved in this second murder, Theresa is given information that leads to serious misgivings about Rachael’s beau. Add in the forensic nightmare of trace evidence left at at the hotel by hundreds of former guests, and Theresa’s nightmare is only beginning.

Black does a fine job of making Theresa complicated and real, as the crime unfolds and the investigation includes a detective with terrific chemistry with her. The struggle between mother and daughter is nicely done, too, and adds to the layered feel of the novel.

Next up is Angel of the Dark, the combined work of the late master storyteller Sidney Sheldon, and using his archives, novelist Tilly Bagshawe to round out the story and the complicated action.

This is novel with a theme of obsessions, dark and brooding, with action and lies at its heart.

Continuing in Sheldon’s style of heavy violence and lusty scenes, Bagshawe introduced LAPD Detective Danny MacGuire and his the big murder case that threatened to do him in. Millionaire art dealer Andrew Jakes has been brutally murdered and his lovely wife raped and beaten, then left died to her husband’s dead body. Drawn to the beautiful widow, but when he tried to question Angela Jakes about an inconsistency in her statement, she’s vanished without a trace.

Ten years later, McGuire is happily living in France, working for Interpol and enjoying life with the love of his life, Celine. Until the day Andrew’s son Matt appears, bringing evidence of three other unsolved identical slayings. Soon the two men are flying around  the globe in pursuit of the most brilliant murderer McGuire has ever seen.

Bagshawe does an admirable job of coming close to the intensity of Sheldon’s original novels. This is one readers will be able to picture on the big screen, larger than life, and filled with those endings that are not real resolutions at all.

Laura Lippman: And When She Was Good Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

In an author’s note, Laura Lippman explains the genesis of the protagonist of And When She Was Good, Heloise Lewis, a character she first created in 2001 and wrote about years later in two short stories.

Now Lippman has taken the time to explore Heloise and her beginnings and her today, alternating her back story for a good part of the novel, so readers can understand this woman who is meticulously organized, financially comfortable, and oh, yes, a prostitute who runs an exclusive agency.

But Heloise so much more: she’s a successful businesswoman who protects her workers; she’s a self-educated reader with a fondness for history; and she’s fiercely protective of her son, Scott, whose biological father languishes in prison and is unaware of his child.

Despite her insistence on strict compartmentalization in her life between work and home, which has left her without close friends, Heloise finds the lines starting to blur. Her vice squad protector and friend is retiring and will no longer have her back. Then an employee or two break her firm rules. When the wisp of possibility that her son’s father may be released from prison, the carefully wrought life she has constructed is in danger. Heloise is not a perfect person, but she is one with an intelligent, thinking mind and a finely-honed instinct for survival.

Val Deluca has only one way to deal with people who have lied or become a threat to him: he has them killed. And it’s  only a matter of time before the former pimp and casual murderer discovers he is in prison in the first place because Heloise betrayed him.

It is to Lippman’s credit that she is not only able to satisfactorily explain how Helen Lewis became Heloise Lewis, in a direct and unflinching way, but she manages to create a tough and resilient character you will find yourself rooting for as the pages turn.

The New York Times has compared Lippman to England’s Ruth Rendell: “Ms. Lippman writes like a warmer-blooded American Ruth Rendell, keenly observant and giving a faintly spooky charge to every stray detail.”

 

 

The Desolate Garden: Danny Kemp Sunday, Oct 14 2012 

Please welcome UK author Danny Kemp, whose spy thriller THE DESOLATE GARDEN has been sold to a London production company.

To try is such a worthy thing. To wait; a worthless thing. Those who try stand to fall. While those who wait gain nothing at all. Danny Kemp.

Living ‘The Desolate Garden’ and the newly found frustrating life of a writer.

An image grows from a dream and becomes ‘real’ to the story teller. My story, The Desolate Garden, came directly from a dream. I saw, in my minds eye, an attractive woman sitting in the martini bar of a famous London Hotel, saying to a ‘supposed’ stranger, “tell me a joke.” I then enlarged on that dream, turning it into the tale that it became.

The writer in me lived that dream all day, going through the life of the central characters as if it was me walking those streets in their shoes.

My father, when alive, said I was deceitful, meaning I told lies . . . That’s really a story in the making, as you become aware that you have to remember the initial ‘lie.’ With a story you write that ‘lie,’ and easily refer back to it. Father was right, incidentally.

Some, I believe, over complicate storytelling with needless grammar that only the esoteric can recognize. I want to understand the tale, not have to refer to a dictionary.

All my life I’ve been around people of different breeding, speaking to them and hearing them speak and, perhaps more importantly, listening to them. Dialogue makes a story solid to me. As a writer you paint the broad strokes, then let the characters come alive and fill in the detail, as you or I would if you come across a stranger who asks about your life. The beginning, the hook, is important. The end is important. The middle is what joins the two together and makes or breaks that story.

If you live an interesting life, and are lucky, it never goes from point A, birth, straight to point B, death. It has many diversions . . . that’s the story.

I saw it once described as packing a suitcase. The stuff you pack in the middle are the essential bits; in my case, that’s the story. Some, I find, fill it with dull, bland prose that rolls on and on, full of dross. In the case of a film they use the bedroom to hide the mundane. To me, the story never stops being told. Never an item of clothing of waste in the suitcase, or a passage in the novel, that isn’t necessary.

I have always a beginning. I have two stories at various stages underway now, and another beginning of one in my head. The middle leads off from that . . . leading to an end that I never know when I start.

It excites me that way, as nothing is forced. If there is a defined ‘end’ when you start, it seems to me that you are governed by that ‘end.’ I’m open all the way until it’s obvious, to me, but not the reader. (There’s that deception that my father recognized.) Then I might go back and change something in that middle if needs be, or simply redefine the dialogue, perhaps a hint of that end. Here’s a brief synopsis of the story of The Desolate Garden, which I hope you will read and enjoy:

Only months before the murders of Lord Elliot Paterson and his youngest son Edward, an address in Leningrad is discovered hidden in the ledgers of the Families Private Bank in Westminster, dating back to the 1930’s.—-There is a spy in the Family, but on whose side?

Elliot’s eldest son, Harry, is recruited into the British Intelligence Service to uncover the traitor. Lord Harry Paterson, Earl of Harrogate, is introduced to an attractive woman from the Foreign Office and together, desperately, they try to unravel the intricate web before the killer strikes again.

The Desolate Garden is a twisting tale of deceit and intrigue, spanning decades when the truth was best not told!

The Desolate Garden is on forty worldwide internet sites and in major bookshops in the United Kingdom. It comes in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle and Nook.

The Amazon link where four chapters can be read from either the Book or The Kindle is: http://www.amazon.com/The-Desolate-Garden-ebook/dp/B008BJWJ2Y/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

Tana French: Broken Harbor Sunday, Oct 14 2012 

Auntie M is huge fan of Tana French’s novels set in Ireland, starting with Into the Woods, followed by The Likeness and the stunning Faithful Place. Now she’s back with Broken Harbor, and her novels get stronger and more compelling with each offering. In a recent essay on craft, French described her husband not allowing her to use dream sequences in her novels too much. She doesn’t need dreams; the world she creates is startling enough.

Mick Kennedy is a a top Murder Squad detective who’s earned the nickname “Scorcher” for his devotion to the job and its victims. He lands a tragic but high profile murder case on the half-deserted development now called Brianstown, one of the many high-end neighborhoods that have fallen with the down-turned economy, leaving their few owners to cope with shoddy construction and broken promises.

Mick brings along his new partner, Richie, a rookie detective on his first case, thrilled to learn from the master. But before it was Brianstown, the area was known as Broken Harbor, and Mick has his own disturbing and poignant memories of the area that will haunt him almost as much as the scene they find.

Patrick Spain is dead; his wife, Jenny, lies in intensive care. Their blood splatters the downstairs kitchen area. Upstairs, the Spain’s young son and daughter are found dead in their beds. The scene is shocking and disturbing.

What appears to be an easy case to solve quickly proves to be one of the most tangled and difficult of Mick’s career. There are unexplained things in the house: smashed holes in walls, with baby monitor cameras pointing at them; files have been erased from the Spain’s computer. And then Jenny’s sister Fiona tells the detectives her sister has been afraid of an intruder who slipped past their locks and alarms and helped himself to food from their refrigerator.

As he juggles teaching Richie about true detecting and not jumping to conclusions, Mick’s life is complicated by his younger sister, Dina. Her mental illness escalates and barges into his life and his thoughts, bringing back the memories of his family’s last summer at Broken Harbor. Adding to the layers are Mick’s new relationship with Richie. Partnerships are built on trust. But he doesn’t know Richie well enough to trust him–yet.

French’s sense of setting is acute; she brings all the senses to her descriptions and adds nuances that fill the atmosphere of the book with power and emotion. This is as gripping a novel as Auntie M has read this year, a mix of French’s usual police procedural and psychological thriller, created with realistic characters and situations, plot lines that weave and warp, and with a sense of setting so powerful you will feel as if you’ve been to Broken Harbor.

 

Donis Casey: The Wrong Hill to Die On: An Alafair Tucker Mystery Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

Please welcome Donis Casey, who will tell us about her newest  Alafair Tucker Mystery

The Wrong Hill to Die On: An Alafair Tucker Mystery. 

            Alafair Tucker is a woman in her early forties who lives with her husband, Shaw, and their ten lively children on a prosperous horse farm in eastern Oklahoma during the booming mid-1910s. How, you may ask, does a woman like Alafair go about solving mysteries?  After all, this is one busy woman, and the truth is that she is not at all interested in getting involved with local episodes of violence and mayhem. But when you have ten children ranging in age from early twenties to infancy, somebody is always getting himself or herself in trouble, and needs her mother to get her out of it.  Alafair may not always know exactly what to do, but you can bet she’ll do something. She’s not one to stand by and let anything threaten a child of hers.

When you begin writing the sixth crime novel featuring the same protagonist, you need to shake things up a bit if you want to keep the series fresh and interesting.   After all, how many people can you kill in one small town in Oklahoma before people start to wonder if the residents are crazy for living there at all?*

Nineteen-fifteen had been a tough year for the Tuckers, and 1916 hadn’t started out all that well, either. It had been a tough winter, and Alafair and her husband Shaw deserved a vacation. So I decided to send them on a trip to sunny Arizona to visit Alafair’s witty, brilliant, and beautiful sister, Elizabeth.

But once I started writing, it didn’t take me long to realize that this trip wasn’t going to work out as planned. In the first place, Alafair didn’t want to go.  A daughter was getting married soon, another having a birthday, a son going back to college. After the awful events the family endured in the previous novel, Crying Blood, Alafair simply wanted life to get back to normal.  How, then, was I going to persuade her to go to Arizona?

During my research I discovered that the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916 had been the rainiest months in decades, accompanied by severe flooding all over the Western United States.  Therefore, a lot of flu and bronchitis was going around that winter.  Handily for my story line, at the turn of the Twentieth Century, Arizona was known as a place for people with lung problems to come and be cured by the desert air.

Alafair may not want to go to Arizona, but her daughter Blanche, only ten years old, cannot shake the bronchitis that has plagued the family all winter. Her best chance to get well is to spend some time in a dry climate. So Alafair and Shaw bundle their sick child onto the train and make a nightmare trip–a thousand miles of diversions and detours due to damaged and washed-out track–from Oklahoma to Arizona.

Yet as soon as they arrive on a bright, seventy-two degree March day, Blanche begins to improve.  Alafair is overjoyed to see her sister Elizabeth again, and for added excitement, a Hollywood motion picture company is shooting a movie right on the streets of Tempe!

But no matter how wonderful it seems at first, all is not well in sunny Arizona.  Elizabeth’s marriage is falling apart, tensions are high between the Anglo and Latino communities following Pancho Villa’s murderous raid on Columbus, New Mexico, and Alafair suspects her sister is involved in an illegal operation to smuggle refugees from the Mexican Revolution out of Sonora and into the U.S.

On top of it all, here lies Bernie Arruda, on his back in a ditch, eyes wide open, seeing nothing on this side of the veil. Just the night before, he had been singing Mexican love songs at the party in Elizabeth’s back yard, his black eyes flashing as he winked at the ladies. He had been such a charmer! Or had he?  He may have romanced half the married women in town.  Or he could have been a spy for Pancho Villa.  Or was he a defector from Villa’s army?  Was it he who hid the money that rained down on the spectators when the movie company blew an abandoned building sky high? As Alafair is about to discover, there are a lot of people who have reason to want Bernie dead.

Alafair’s trip to Arizona didn’t turn out to be the restful get-away I had envisioned for her.  But it was quite an adventure.

___________________

*The fact is, if your book is set in 1910s Oklahoma, you can realistically kill off as many people as you want.  Everybody was armed and dangerous.

Donis Casey is the author of six Alafair Tucker Mysteries: The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, Crying Blood, and The Wrong Hill to Die On (Oct 2012).  Donis has twice won the Arizona Book Award and has been a finalist for the Willa Award and the Oklahoma Book Award. Her first novel, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book. Donis is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur. She lives in Tempe, AZ, with her husband, poet Donald Koozer. The Wrong Hill to Die On is available from Poisoned Pen Press in October, 2012. Readers can enjoy the first chapter of each book on her web site at www.doniscasey.com.

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