Auntie M has decided to give readers a holiday gift: here are selections for you to consider that would make great gift-giving for the readers on your list. And don’t forget to include yourself!
First up is Robin Burcell’s third Sydney Fitzgerald thriller, The Dark Hour, a series featuring the FBI-trained forensic artist whose skills go far beyond her artistic ability.
Right on the heels on the murder of a prominent Senator, Sydney finds herself, against her better judgment, on the way to Amsterdam to do a forensic drawing of a suspect seen by the victim’s niece near the site of her uncle’s murder. When the niece is murdered just as Sydney makes a harrowing escape, her drawing sets off a train of events that have heads turning everywhere from Washington to Europe and back. There’s every acronym in the book showing up, too, as the CIA, FBI, ATLAS and others all vie for answers when threats of biological warfare become apparent.
Making Sydney’s job more difficult is the realization that her drawing is the exact likeness of the supposed-dead wife of the agent she’s been attracted in previous books. Griffin’s wife died in an explosion–or has she become a double agent and faked her down death?
There’s plenty of action here as Burcell jumps between cities, including trips to France and the Amazon, and enough fast-paced suspense to keep those pages turning.
Following in the thriller genre is Laurence O’Bryan’s first in a series, The Istanbul Puzzle.
Sean Ryan is living in London, still grieving over the death of his beloved wife, Irene, when he receives a call that finds him traveling to Istanbul to identify the body of his colleague and friend, Alek Zegliwski.
He is shocked to find Alek has been beheaded, his body found near the sacred archeological site of Hagia Sophia where Alek had been monitoring and photographing ancient tesserae, tiny cubes that make up the beautiful mosaic that decorate the site.
The hunt begins with Sean and British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Alek’s liason officer from the British consulate, searching for Alek’s assassin. Aided by Peter Fitzgerald from the Consulate, the two are soon running from danger. But is Peter the friend he appears to be? A missing mosaic, which may provide the link between pagan gods and Christianity becomes a clue; then a lethal virus is unleashed on the city and the stakes are raised as the pace races along and Sean and Isabel face death and betrayal.
Watch for O’Bryan’s sequel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, which follows Sean and Isabel’s adventures, due early next year.
If Wall Street and finance get your pulse racing as much as espionage does, you’ll want to look for James Grippando’s Need You Now.
Set against the backdrop of investment banking, Grippando’s story could be ripped from the headlines of Ponzi schemes, SEC fraud, and interconnected groups who have no business being in business together.
When the craft-master of a $60 billion dollar Ponzi scheme commits suicide, his death means secrets remain. Into this mess steps Patrick Lloyd, the advisor for Wall Street of the world’s largest Swiss bank.
Abe Cushman’s leap out of a window starts a chain of events with repercussions felt especially keenly by Patrick, whose girlfriend, Lilly, had been fired from the Singapore branch of the bank. Despite claiming she knew nothing about the Cushman scheme, the FBI comes into the mix with the discovery of a Treasury memo identifying her involvement.
After escalating incidents, FBI agent Andie Henning is tasked with insuring Patrick’s safety as he follows where the money trail takes him. And then Lilly disappears, and Patrick’s silent identity becomes an issue.
Grippando brings the reader inside the minds of those who try to defraud the government in a realistic way. There will be kidnappings, murder, ties to gun runners and more in this complex thriller that will have you wondering who in the financial world is beyond reproach and if you should really trust that mild-mannered financial advisor with your assets.
Changing gears to more light-hearted fare, look for the delightful, long-running cozy series featuring feline P. I. Joe Grey from Shirley Rousseau Murphy, with Cat Telling Tales.
The bright seaside village of Molena Point has been hit hard by the economic downturn, bringing a spate of foreclosures, causing many residents to abandon their family pets.
While feline P. I. Joe Grey’s humans, Ryan and Clyde Damen, try to care for the starving cats, a fire leaves a twelve-year-old boy homeless. The body of his alcoholic guardian is discovered in the smoldering ruins, causing Joe to wonder if escape was really as impossible as it seems for the elderly woman, or if this is a case of murder.
Then Debbie Kraft descends uninvited on the Damens’ home with her two children. Her ex-husband has left her without funds and nowhere else to go.
But when Joe learns that the victim of the fire was Debbie’s estranged mother, and that Debbie is not broke at all but carrying plenty of cash, his fur is on end with suspicion.
As Debbie’s abandoned tomcat follows her all the way down the coast from Oregon with his own clues to add to the mix, Joe learns that Debbie’s ex-husband may be involved in a number of intricate real estate scams, and hisi sales partner may be missing.
Then while Joe and his pals prowl through the dead woman’s house, they discover that her reclusive neighbor has disappeared as well.
But it’s not until Debbie’s tomcat arrives that Joe and his feline detective pals find the biggest clue of all: a grave that the cops have missed.
The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, with help from Joe’s feline friends, who are exceptionally precocious. And there’s a hint of romance for Joe’s tortoiseshell friend, Kit.
Perfect for the holidays is the newest installment in this feline series, Cat Bearing Gifts, the 18th in the series.
Attractive divorcee Kate Osborne returns to California with a fairy-tale story to explain her sudden wealth. Joe Grey’s good friend, Kit, and her humans, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw have spent a wonderful shopping trip with Kate, piling up the backseat of their car with treasures Kit has helped them glean to redecorate their Molena Point home.
Then the unthinkable happens: a truck and pickup jockey for position on a narrow mountain road and end up causing a horrific accident that involves the Greenlaw’s Lincoln. Pedric and Lucinda have injuries, but Pedric is able to call for help.
But the situation dramatically worsens when two men from the pickup assault Kit’s humans and drive away in the Greenlaw’s battered but still drive-able Lincoln, carrying with them their own stash of money that had been hidden in the pickup.
What the men don’t know is that hidden inside the Lincoln’s door panels are a treasure trove Kate has given the couple. The Greenlaws are rescued by paramedics but Kit hides in the hills and waits to be rescued by her Molena Point friends–that’s if she doesn’t get eaten by hungry coyotes first.
Back at home, Joe Grey finds two men hiding in an abandoned stone cottage, along with the smell of mildewed money and blood. His friend, the yellow tomcat Misto, unearths an old photograph of a child who lived fifty years ago.
What can the connection be? And what ties in these incidents with the injuries to the Greenlaws and the theft of their car and money? Misto’s memories will help as Joe works hard to unearth a murderer. Delightful and filled with humor, the reader sees the world from the cat’s point of view. These are highly readable for mystery lovers, whether you are a cat lover or not.
For fans of historical mysteries, the holiday tale by the mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd offers The Walnut Tree, set in 1914 France and England at the start of WWI.
Lady Elspeth Douglas is the daughter of a Highland aristocrat who is visiting her best friend from school, the very pregnant Madeleine. Elspeth is helping her friend await the birth of her first child while she fights her growing boredom. Attracted for many years to Madeleine’s brother, Alain, their time together results in her promise to marry him–just as the war breaks out and she tries to return to England.
Finding herself stranded in Calais, Elspeth makes herself useful by carrying water to the soldiers near the Front, which nearly results in her getting herself killed when the enemy starts to bomb her position.
Captain Peter Gilchrist saves her, and she finds herself oddly drawn to the leader. Before she can learn more about him and thank him for saving her, they are separated and she returns to London, but remains haunted by the horrors of war she saw firsthand in France.
Always a headstrong girl, bristling against the firm and class conscious restraints of her guardian, her cousin Kenneth, she enrolls in a nursing course, making friends and sharing a flat with fellow nurse Bess Crawford. But her cousin has not given his consent for her to become a nurse, a profession he feels is beneath her class and his notions of what is appropriate for a woman.
Determined to return to the battlefields to do her part, and to find Peter, Elspeth is torn about her promise to Alain, recognizing her heart belongs to Peter. Then Alain goes missing before she can set things right with him, and Peter is seriously wounded.
Charles Todd’s twelve books in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series have shown the duo to be experts with this time period. With its romantic side fully developed, the realism of war is well represented in this heartwarming holiday tale. A must for Downton Abbey fans.
Advancing a bit into the period between the wars, Jacqueline Winspear returns with her newest in the ninth Maisie Dobbs series, Elegy For Eddie.
Maisie arrives at her Lambeth office one day to find a group of costermongers she knows from her fathers, there to ask for her help. The newest in the series follows private investigators Maisie’s quest to discover whether or not a childhood acquaintance, Eddie, a gentle horse trainer, was murdered.
Police have written off Eddie’s death at a paper factory as an unfortunate accident. These protective friends of Eddie’s don’t accept that verdict, and once Maisie starts to investigate, it becomes obvious that there are more powerful people involved in Eddie’s death. The gentle man, who had a gift for “calming ” horses, surely couldn’t have enemies–or could he?
Maisie’s own sense of right and wrong will be questioned, even as she struggles with her private life and her class-breaking romance with her former employer’s son, James Compton.
She will turn up people from Eddie’s past and seek out his interest in flying machines. And she soon must accept that there are others with a greater understanding of national security that must be protected and that reach up to Churchill himself, even as James and places like America and Canada enter their conversations.
Maisie’s employees are other eyes for the struggles of the era: her trusted assistant, family man Billy Beale, and her part-time secretary, Sandra, a recent widow, both beset with the financial difficulties of the time.
Compelling and haunting, Winspear expertly captures the emotion of the period and the people still healing from the first war and yet balanced on the brink of the next.
Last, but certainly not least, readers should check out the new line of paperback mysteries by HarperCollins called Bourbon Street.
They are starting with the reissue of the four Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries featuring Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of Britain’s foremost mystery novelists, first published in the 1930’s and set in that tine period.
Strong Poison opens the set and introduces mystery novelist Harriet Van to Lord Peter. When her fiance’ dies in the same manner of poisoning as described in one of her novels, it looks like Harriet is off to the gallows. But Lord Peter is determined to find the real murderer and clear this intelligent woman who intrigues him.
Have His Carcase starts off with Harriet seeking peace and solace on a deserted beach, until her idyll is cut short when she stumbles on the body of a man whose throat has been cut. Still stinging from her past, Harriet tries to shrug off Lord Peter’s growing infatuation for her, but doesn’t resist his aid in pursing the murderer.
Gaudy Night takes Harriet to her Oxford reunion. Mulling over her growing attraction to Lord Peter with great dismay, a series of bizarre pranks make her time there less fond than she’d hoped. Burnt effigies lead to poison-pen letters, including one to Harriet remarking on her past brush with poison. Now firmly a detecting couple, Harriet and Lord Peter are challenged to get to the bottom of the malice with scant clues to help them.
Busman’s Honeymoon ends the series, a delightful way for this most-intelligent couple to appear. Finally succumbing to his love, Harriet marries Lord Peter and becomes Lady Peter in a wedding uniquely her own. Navigating the demands and challenges of her new title and status, their honeymoon begins with a wallop when the former owner of their new country home is found dead in their cellar. Their romantic country stay becomes their most baffling case yet.
These new editions have smart covers featuring period photography and are accompanied by an introduction by mystery giant Elizabeth George. The entire set for the holidays would make any mystery lover glow.
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