For the next few posts, Auntie M is going to give reader gift suggestions for that reader on your list–and don’t forget it’s perfectly permissible to gift yourself!Poirotp0_v3_s260x420

Outsold by only Shakespeare and the Bible, Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time. Auntie M had the good fortune to visit her Devon home this this summer when in England. Greenway, on the River Dart, is just a few short miles from where Christie grew up and the home has been preserved as it was when she and her family were in residence, down to some of her clothes in her bedroom closet and her favorite lily of the valley in evidence on china jewelry boxes left on her nightstand. When entering her bedroom, a docent obligingly plays a brief taped interview of Christie talking about her writing process, and as her voice fills the room, her presence is felt everywhere. One expects hear the sound of her typewriter at any moment. The house was used as the setting for Christie’s Piorot novel, Dead Man’s Folly, and two others. The David Suchet/ITV televised version of the novel was filmed there. The home is only a brief ride from the seaside town of Torquay, where Christie frequently had tea with friends at The Grand Hotel across from the Torbay seafront. Don’t miss the chance to tour the house and lovely restored grounds that lead down to the river if you find yourself anywhere near this section of southwest England. But Auntie M digresses.

Golden Age writer Dorothy Sayers felt Hercule Poirot was “one of the few detectives with real charm” and there’s no mistaking readers’ fondness for the dapper Belgian, portrayed on television by actor David Suchet, causing Christie’s grandson, Matthew Pritchard, to regret she hadn’t lived to see his fine portrayal.

Now William Morrow has brought out a volume of over fifty of Christie’s short stories and novellas featuring Poirot, gathering them into one volume that would be the perfect gift for any mystery afficionado. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories has an introduction by Charles Todd. You cannnot go wrong with this one for any reader who enjoys mysteries, full stop. If Auntie M didn’t already own a copy, it would be the first thing on her list.

Morrow is also publishing Christie’s novels for e-book readers for the first time, so look for those, too.

 

Dennis Lehane teamed up with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, to bring out a line of books he’s chosen. The second was Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. pochoda-visitation_street

Vastly different from the usual crime novel, this is an exploration of the sociology of an urban area and surrounds the disappearance of a young woman in the rough neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Red Hook waterfront.

The setting is visually described, a reflection of Pochoda living across the street from a bar in the area and writing about the inhabitants she saw outside her window.

There are blocks to walk on and blocks to avoid; there are areas of gentrification and others of great demise, in a seemingly endless evolution that causes conflict between races and classes that she vividly and realistically describes.

June and Val are the two friends at the center of the story. The two fifteen year-olds are looking for adventure as summer is ending. June wants to find a party, but Val convinces her instead to forget boys and drinking and take a small raft out into the river.

When only Val returns, found semi-conscious in weeds along the shore, the story turns to exploring what really happened to June that night, and affects the community that suddenly becomes the focus of an investigation and will reveal the its secrets on more than one level.

The community’s response to June’s disappearance will be as varied as the complex but utterly believable characters Pochoda has created. Her lyrical prose led Lehane to comment: “Visitation Street is urban Opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry and pain, Ivy Pochoda’s voice recalls Richard Price, Junot Diaz, and even Alice Sebold, yet it’s indelibly her own.”

 

Sue Grafton’s iconic Kinsey Millhone has given readers over thirty years of quirky delight with her singular reporting voice. W is for Wasted is the newest entry in the grafton wasted_p0_v2_s260x420series and fans won’t be disappointed.

The opening lines hook the reader immediately: “Two dead men changed the entire course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.”

Kinsey doesn’t recognize the man she’s been called to the morgue to identify, but her name and phone number were found in his pocket.  He was a homeless man, known to sleep rough at times, and his body has been found on the beach.

Kinsey sets out to find out the man’s identity, not knowing how his death will merge with that of a murder six weeks earlier. A local private investigator Kinsey knows had been shot to death near the Santa Teresa beach in what looks at first like a robbery attempt that got out of control.

Things change dramatically when Kinsey identifies the homeless man and finds he’s linked to her in more ways than she could possibly image.

Grafton has kept Kinsey in first person throughout the series but recently added the points of view of several other characters in the later books. In this case, we see the dead PI, Pete Wolinsky, in third person and come to understand his last case and how it intersects with Kinsey’s own investigation.

All the usual people who are part of Kinsey’s circle are on hand, too, with some surprising additions. This is vintage and yet modern Grafton at her best.

 

Continuing with beloved series, we jump across the pond to England and Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford, which will soon mark its fiftieth anniversary.17Rendell571848

Learning to adjust to retirement has been difficult for Reg Wexford in No Man’s Nightingale. He’s decided as a project to work his way through The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Therefore it comes as a great relief when his old deputy, Mike Burden, asks him to tag along on some of the interviews after a female vicar is found strangled in her Kingsmarkham vicarge. They are each having difficulty getting used to their new roles but their friendship remains solid and honest, a hallmark of the series. That Burden has recently become a grandparent, in contrast to the five Dora and Reg Wexford have by their two daughters, shows Rendell has not hesitated to age her cast as time has gone by.

Vicar Sarah Hussain had many detractors: those who don’t believe women should be ordained; those who don’t agree with her outspoken views on church reform; those who object to her mixed race heritage. Born of a white Irish mother and an Indian father, Sarah is a single mother to a teenaged girl.

Adding to the complications that involve Wexford is that the same woman who cleans for him and his wife, Dora, cleaned at the vicarage and found the body. Maxine annoys Wexford to no end when she cleans, yet now she’s become a part of this murder investigation.

When Wexford finds a letter at Sarah’s house she was using as a bookmark, he sticks it in his pocket to look at later, but it’s several days before he remembers it and then has to confess his transgression to Burden. But it provides a clue to the dead woman’s past; a past that may have impacted on her death.

Rendell does her usual fine job of complex plotting and revealing character, while maintaining the banter between Wexford and Burden.

 

Ten-Lords-a-Leaping-265Ten Lords A-Leaping is the third installment in C. C. Benison’s series featuring mystery-solving and thoughtful protagonist, Father Tom Christmas.

This is the perfect book for Golden Age fans who aren’t looking for action-packed thriller but rather the kind of classic Christie cozy wrote, but in a contemporary setting.

There are red herrings, a host of suspects drawn from amongst the rivalries of an aristocratic family, and even a touch of magic.

Fr. Tom has been talked into skydiving for a fundraiser for his Thornfield Regis church’s new roof  , a prospect that leaves him wondering what he’s gotten himself into. Back on the terra firma after a rocky landing that sprains his ankle, he’s shocked to see two of the remaining skydivers appear to tangle in a mid-air fight before finally landing safely. The two brothers-in-law are Oliver, the 7th Marquess of Morboner, and Hector, the 10th Earl of Fairhaven.

That sprained ankle finds the widower vicar, his daughter Miranda, as well as their housekeeper Madrun, all guests for far longer than expected at the home of Lord and Lady Fairhaven, Eggescombe Hall. The vast castle with enormous grounds boasts a pool, tennis courts, ornate gardens, and a gatehouse for the staff.

When Fr. Tom finds one of the two men dead in the labyrinth on the castle’s grounds, the murder sets off a thinking man’s puzzle for Fr. Tom to solve.

Bennison thoughtfully provides a cast of characters and a family tree so readers can understand the quite complicated relationships between the many people staying on at the Hall. Bigamy, sex after hours, art forgery, and lies will all find their way into the mix during the days it takes Fr. Tom to unravel the murderer, and not before a second death.  Readers who enjoy British whodunits will have a ball.

 

1766Helensmith9963Helen Smith is the author of Invitation to Die, originally published in episodes as a Kindle serial. The award-winning author of novels, plays, and children’s books, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen at Bouchercon this year and found her as funny and original as her heroine in this new series.

At 26, Londoner Emily Castles finds herself once again looking for employment.

So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely, aunt of Emily’s neighbors, asks her to help out at a weekend romance writers’ conference she’s organized, she can hardly say no. How difficult can it be to organize gift bags and help out with a dinner?

When Emily shows up at the hotel, she’s immediately pressed into service and meets an odd assortment of attendees, some nursing old grievance, some holding hidden secrets, all determined to out do each other for the fans who will be present. There’s even an American blogger whose been invited to be a guest, but for some reason, Winnie Kraster hasn’t shown up.

Emily dutifully takes a call for Morgana and it’s from the missing Winnie, saying she’s been delayed. But hours later, a woman’s body is found on the estate bordering the hotel and it’s poor missing Winnie.

Detective Rory James is assigned to investigate the case, and it happens Emily met him when he was a constable. When Emily confides that she suspects someone involved with the conference is the murderer, Rory disagrees, hardly a happy event at a romance festival. Emily takes notes of things that occur to her or that she overhears, but it’s not until she has the help of philosophy professor Dr. Muriel that the pieces come together for her.

This is brain candy, as sweet as the violet cremes a chocolatier with a secret delivers to be put in each guest’s gift bag. Smith gives vivid scene-setting and over-the-top characters as suspects.  The humor is tongue-in-cheek about blogging, book reviewers, and writers. Emily Castles was introduced in a previous short story but will appear soon in her next adventure.

 

David Rosenfelt writes thrillers, too, but any of his Andy Carpenter novels  would make a great addition to anyone’s shelves. With his humorous bent alternating  with suspense, the series4000000leader00000000733689_s4

continues with Leader of the Pack  now in paperback. Andy is a lawyer and dog lover, and his own dog, Tara, accompanies him and is often a better judge of character than Andy. On the side, Andy runs a dog rescue, which mirrors Rosenfelt’s real life. More on that later.

One of Andy’s less successful cases led years ago to a murder conviction for his client, Joey DeSimone, but Andy has always believed the man innocent of the murders of Karen and Richard Solarno.

As a favor to Joey, Andy agrees to check on the man’s elderly and forgetful uncle, taking Tara along for the visits. Nicky Fats falls for Tara but once he starts muttering about taking out someone else, Andy’s interest clicks. Could Nicky know, in the confines of his confusion, who really murdered the Salerno’s? And how can Andy find out and get Joey a new trial?

With the help of his friends, Andy launches an investigation into the business dealings of Solarno’s company and soon finds himself almost dying. Coupled with other information he unearths, he’s able to convince a judge to give Joey a new trial.

This is where the fun starts, as the trial scenes will reach a verdict that gives Andy’s heart a twist. And then he really figures out what’s been happening.

This is a complex plot, despite the humor and the presence of Laurie, Andy’s love interest, and several friends from the series making reappearances. There will be the drug trafficking, the involvement of the FBI, and don’t forget the family business of the DeSimone’s, the Mafia.

While Rosenfelt manages to keep things light, he balances it nicely with intrigue, action, and a satisfying ending that ties up all the ends. And then some. An additional touch is the listing he adds at the end of every book of Acknowledgments to friends who happen to be famous, or maybe not even people, as in this volume where Andy and Cherry Garcia show up alongside Woody and Gracie Allen and Neil and Hope Diamond.

By the way, there is a real Tara Foundation that helps find homes for sick or injured dogs. To date the foundation has rescued over 4000 dogs from shelves, and Rosenfelt often houses dozens at a time in his Maine house. Another reason to buy this book for any dog lover on your list.

 

 

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