Jane Haddam: Fighting Chance Sunday, Oct 26 2014 

Auntie M’s News for Readers:

Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri AND Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming both now in paperback.
Two different and compelling reads previously reviewed here. If you missed them on first release, now’s time time to pick these up.

ALSO: Two great mysteries from Endeavour Press are FREE on Amazon Kindle’s store from 10/27-10/31. Don’t miss your chance to read these good reads for free:

Death on a Sunday Morning by J F Straker Death Sunday AM and

A Knife for Harry Dodd by George Bellairs Knife Harry

Now on to today’s review:

Fightin Chance
When you pick up what is the 29th book in a series, you know you are in the hands of a master. Jane Haddam’s Gregor Demarkian series has always given readers a tremendous sense of his Armenian community with a mystery to match. Haddam has been successful by moving Demarkian around on occasion, yet in this outing she keeps him close to home in Fighting Chance , and it’s one of her best.

Demarkian’s Armenian neighborhood in Philadelphia resounds with local foods and customs and superstitions. One institution is the parish priest and Demarkian’s best friend, Father Tibor Kasparian. Demarkian has always thought Tibor to be the most gentle soul he’s ever met.

Judge Martha Handling is a different kind of person. Known for her strict and overzealous sentences for youthful offenders, its rumored she is under investigation for being paid for her sentencing practices. She’s also highly suspicious of government interference and surveillance, and starts her daily routine at the courthouse by spray painting any camera lens she can find.

Tibor is at the courthouse to vouch for a young offender due to be sentenced that day. It’s a surreal shock when Tibor is arrested for murdering Judge Handling and refuses to talk to the detectives of to hire a lawyer. Demarkian swings into action, determined to uncover who really murdered the judge in her chambers. Tibor has been found with her bloody gavel in his hands, and a video soon surfaces showing him raising and lowering the blood-soaked instrument.

Demarkian will have lots of help in his investigation: from his wife, Bennis; from his neighbors on Cavanaugh Street; and from the Mayor himself. In a horrific ending, Demarkian will uncover the truth of the matter, but at tremendous cost to himself.

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Arnaldur Indridason: Strange Shores Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Strange Shores
Multi-award winning Nordic author sets his Inspector Erlendur series in Iceland, where the detective has had to tackle the ghosts of many other criminals’ lives. In Strange Shores he brings Erlendur to his childhood home to face the ghosts of his own past.

Erlendur’s entire life has been affected by the loss of his only sibling, a younger brother. Beggi’s disappearance in a sudden blizzard whilst the boys were on the moors with their father has left a hole in his heart. No trace of the boy was ever found, and he realizes he must discover what really happened to his brother.

The frozen fjords of Iceland, miles away from Reykjavik, present him with a distinct challenge as he camps out in the remains of his old home. The story of a woman who disappeared years before is brother has caught his interest, and he follows the scent of the two lost people, looking for clues to both of their endings.

It will be a long, plodding time, visiting people who are old and have tainted memories and secrets to hide. But Erlandur will persevere until he finds the answers to the questions he seeks. The ending will have readers riveted as Erlandur chases down a decadeds-old case.

These are moody, brooding novels that echo the chilly landscape, with subtle clues and a bone-chilling climax.

Tana French: The Secret Place Sunday, Oct 19 2014 

The Secret Place
Auntie M is a huge fan of Tana French’s books, so she was excited to read her newest, The Secret Place. And she’s happy to report it’s another incredible winner. This writer just keeps getting better and better, with complex and compelling plots, believable characters, and that gritty realism that has been her forte` all along.

One of the devices French uses is to bring a previously seen character into the new action, and she does just that in using Det. Frank Mackey (Faithful Place) and his daughter Holly as characters when Det. Stephen Moran, working Cold Cases, gets his chance at a murder case, and what a case it turns out to be.

Moran has been wanting to be part of Dublin’s Murder Squad and his chance appears in the form of Holly Mackey, who shows up at his precinct bearing a clue to the murder the previous year of a male student from the neighboring school of St. Kilda’s, where Holly boards.

The Secret Place is a board at St. Kilda’s where girls can leave notes, postcards and other messages of their secrets, a ventilation board if you will, and is usually a place of gossip and innuendo. This message is designed to bring back the stalled investigation, which has frustrated Detective Antoinette Conway, she of the sharp chin, slick clothes and demeanor to match.

Conway grudgingly allows Moran to accompany her to St. Kilda’s to interview the students. It quickly becomes whittled down to two sets of four friends, one including Holly Mackey. And here Moran gets his chance to shine. Conway interviewed all of these girls during the initial investigation. She allows Moran to play questioner and he lets his chameleon personality loose on each girl, divining which approach will lead to the most usable information.

The tension rises as the two detectives, not friends by any means, testing each other as they go along, throw out different theories and dig deeper and deeper into the lives of eight teenage girls. Who has the most to lose? Who would have the courage to whack a lone male teen over the head and leave him for dead? The dialogue is pure teen and yet they girls remain distinct and different. The two sets of four have completely different bonds, too, which in the end will lead to tragedy.

It is to French’s credit that we hardly realize all of these scenes take place over one tense day. She keeps the reader riveted to the page as the girls secrets are torn loose, with an ending so unexpected you will be as surprised as the girls are to find the real murderer. Just how far will someone go in the name of friendship an loyalty? Highly recommended.

Keigo Hiashino: Malice Wednesday, Oct 15 2014 

Keigo Higashino is Japan’s most widely read author and with good reason. His books are internationally translated, and include The Devotion of Suspect X, wihc was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and for the Barry Award.
Malice

He’s new to Auntie M, but this won’t be the last of his books that she reads. Hs newest, Malice, features Detective Kyochiro Kaga, a mentally adept man who’s ratiocination rivals that of Sherlock Holmes in modern Japan.

What appears to be a classic locked room mystery turns out to be so much more when a bestselling novelist is found murdered in his home the night before a planned move with his second wife to Vancouver. His strangled body is found in his locked office within his locked house by his wife and his best friend, whom both have solid alibis.

When Det. Kaga arrives at the crime scene, he recognizes the best friend of novelist Kunihiko Hidaka as a former colleagues at the same public school from earlier days when they were both teachers. Kaga has gone on to the police force; Osamu Nonoguchi has left teaching to become a writer, mostly of children’s books. He has not achieved the same high level of success as his friend, the dead Hidaka, but it was the murdered man who introduced Nonoguchi to his own editor and allowed for the transition.

Told in alternating tales of Det. Kaga and the friend, Nonoguchi, the reader is thrust into a creative mind game of cat and mouse. Is Nonoguchi really the good friend to Hidaka that he claims or an unreliable narrator? And when the truth finally comes out, is there still more to be uncovered?

Just when the reader thinks the novel is over, Higashino throws another curve and Kaga must take off yet again. It’s this increasing spiral that will keep readers riveted to the page as Kaga matches wits with an uncanny killer. Fans of a true puzzle mystery will be delighted.

Debut Series: Clare Donoghue and Karin Salvalaggio Sunday, Oct 12 2014 

Never Look Back
Across the pond, UK author Clare Donoghue’s new series features DI Mike Lockyer, racing to find a serial killer in Never Look Back.

Lockyer, aided by a decent team headed by DS Jane Bennett, and burdened with a snarky psychologist he’s forced to endure, has an added motive to stop this killer: the victims bear an increasing resemblance to his own daughter.

As Lockyer and Bennett look for clues to the brutal murderer, a young woman finally makes a report that she’s being stalking by an unseen man. Sarah Grainger’s phone rings, a mysterious van appears on her block, she feels she’s being followed. Is she losing it or are her fears real? And how can Lockyer convince her it’s safe for her to leave her home, which has become her prison, when he can’t know the answer to that question?

With the body count at three murders, the stalker who might or might be the culprit, Lockyer tries to reestablish a fragile relationship with his estranged daughter, all the while fearing she may be the next victim.

Donoghue’s device is to tell some chapters from the perpetrator’s point of view, which adds a chilling layer to the story. But which one is this–the stalker or the murderer?

A convincing debut with its sense of urgency and a well-constructed plot.
BoneDustWhite

In the US, Karin Salvalaggio takes readers to the cold of Collier, Montana, in her debut Bone Dust White.
The opening has a powerful start that will hook readers immediately. Looking out her window, young Grace Adams sees a woman on the trails behind her house, and as she watches in horror, a man emerges from the shadows, stabs the woman and flees.

After a frantic call to the police, Grace goes out to the woman and is shocked to realize it’s her mother, who abandoned her years ago. Now recuperating from a heart transplant, in a fragile state physically and emotionally, Grace yearns for answer from her mother but the woman is dead.

Enter Detective Macy Greeley, heavily pregnant and not happy to be back in Collier to face some of her own old ghosts. Those include a paramedic she shares a past with, and an unsolved case involving Grace’s mother Leanne. With the woman dead, Macy must try to piece together the answers that eluded her so many years ago.

The setting is as bleak as the future most of its inhabitants face, and adds to the cold and calculating feel of the mystery. This one has gained prominence from readers who enjoyed her portrayal of the gritty town and its inhabitants almost as much as the suspenseful plot. Who is keeping secrets, and why?

Salvalaggio reveals just enough of Macy’s life and issues for readers to want to follow her in the next highly anticipated novel in this series that will entertain fans of Longmire and Craig Johnson.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: These previously reviewed books are all available now in paperback–

THE EDGE OF WATER: Elizabeth George’s second in her YA series featuring Becca, a young girl who can hear people’s thoughts. Set on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington State.

THE GOOD BOY: Theresa Schwegel’s crime movie with eleven-year-old Joel Murphy and his father’s police dog, Butchie, highlight this thriller set in Chicago.

THE EGE OF NORMAL: Non-fiction author Carla Norton’s debut crime thriller featuring Reeve LeClaire, the young woman who was kidnapped and held captive from age twelve to sixteen. Helped by her therapist and friend, she can’t turn him down when Dr. Ezra lerner asks her to mentor a young girl rescued from a similar madman. A truly original protagonist.

Three Winners: Brown, Berry and Holt Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

Coldsleep Lullaby
Andrew Brown won the South Africa Sunday Time Fiction Prize with Coldsleep Lullaby, a mix of modern mystery and historical fiction.

The steady pace of this dramatic premise will hold readers to the page. Fighting his own demons after the collapse of his marriage and an addiction to cocaine, Detective Eberard Februarie is handed the investigation into the murder of a woman found floating down a river in the old university town of Stellenbosch. With only a part-time reservist policeowman to assist him, he glimpses the body of the young woman, hit in the head hard enough to cause a skull fracture, her body dumped into the river while she was still alive.

The dead woman’s father is a respected university law professor, probably the university’s next dean, and known for his outspoken views on protection Afrikaans culture on campus. Was this murder a message to him?

Eberard’s investigation will lead him to a world of sexual depravity, and Brown’s parallel story of the town’s 17th century residents becomes a counterpoint to the modern investigation. The ideas of prejudice and redemption are underlined by the lullabies that begin each chapter, and this juxtaposition creates a chilling device.

The-Lincoln-Myth-Steve-Berry

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thrillers have a juxtaposition of their own, balancing the historical thread of the story that propels the action of today.

In The Lincoln Myth, he successfully creates yet another page-turner from this internationally best-selling author.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln receives a package from his predecessor, James Buchanan, sending on a secret that has been passed down through all the presidents from Washington.

In the modern world, Cotton Malone keeps trying to run his bookshop in Denmark, but calls for his help keep the former Justice Department agent returning to action.

In Utah, the remains have been found belonging to Mormon pioneers, murdered during their expedition in the 1800’s.

How all of these intersect, and how Malone finds himself thrust into the heart of a secret war over two hundred years old, form the basis for this adventure that will involved the fast-paced action with the skillful mix of historical facts and supposition that is the hallmark of the series.

abduction

Jonathan Holt premiered his Carnivia trilogy with last year’s The Abomination and returns with the second installment in The Abduction.

Featuring the likable and unlikely duo of police detective Captain Kat Tapo and Lt. Holly Boland from nearby Camp Ederle, Venice in all its glory and squalor is the site of the action, with its virtual counterpart, Carnivia, in play. The hacker-proof world will be challenged, and force Carnvia creator Daniele Barbo to confront his ethics when the teenaged daughter of a US soldier disappears in Venice.

Then clues as to the girl’s whereabouts begin to appear on Carnivia’s site, leaving Kat Tapo flailing behind. She enlists intelligence analyst Holly Boland to help her rescue the girl. What they find will bring the darkest secrets to light they’ve encountered yet and have fingers reaching back into wartime Italy.

This is a skillful mix of history and terror that brings out an all-too plausible situation. Mia Elston, the abducted girl, is a resourceful young woman dealing with her kidnappers. The characters and setting are strong and the action is fast and furious as a second kidnapping occurs. An intelligent thriller.

killer-wasps-cover-amy-korman-400x602

And switching moods, new from Witness Impulse as an ebook comes this debut lighthearted fare:
Killer WASPs
A Killer WASPs Mystery

Crime really stings in Killer WASPs (Witness Impulse e-book, on sale 9/16/2014, $1.99), a Witness Original from debut author Amy Korman. If you love cocktails, antiquing, parties, shopping and the occasional crime-lite thrown in amid vodka tonics and tennis matches at the club, then you’ll love Killer WASPs. The first installment in this modern and cozy series features crime, romance, and fun amid the classic estates of Philadelphia’s Main Line.

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, is a haven for East Coast WASPs, where tennis tournaments and cocktails at the club are revered traditions. Little happens in the sleepy suburb, and that is the way the Lilly Pulitzer–clad residents prefer it. So when antiques store owner Kristin Clark and her portly basset hound stumble upon the area’s newest real estate developer lying unconscious beneath the hydrangea bushes lining the driveway of one of Bryn Mawr’s most distinguished estates, the entire town is abuzz with gossip and intrigue.

When the attacker strikes again just days later, Kristin and her three best friends—Holly, a glamorous chicken nugget heiress with a penchant for high fashion; Joe, a decorator who’s determined to land his own HGTV show; and Bootsie, a preppy but nosy newspaper reporter—join forces to solve the crime. While their investigation takes them to cocktail parties, flea markets, and the country club, they must unravel the mystery before the assailant claims another victim.

Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will enjoy shaking up the Philadelphia Main Line. To learn more, check out the Killer WASPs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/killerWASPsseries.

Deborah Crombie: To Dwell in Darkness Friday, Oct 3 2014 

One of the issues with writing a series where the main protagonists have conquered their romantic fear and plunged into a committed relationship is worrying if there will continue to be the same chemistry for readers to enjoy.
Dwell in Darkness

Deborah Crombie has successfully conquered this in her series featuring London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, married and raising a blended family. In her 16th outing, To Dwell in Darkness, she shows how it’d done: by creating a mystery plot that has tendrils that reach out into other areas, and by portraying the detectives family life with a sense of reality that keeps readers reaching for her books time and again.

Raising young children with parents who are detectives is always a juggling act, and readers see how Kincaid and James handle those demands that crop up in family life, whether it’s the disposition of suddenly acquired kittens or a young teen needing to clarify a house rule about letting strangers into their home.

The action this time centers around a small group of eco-protestors who live together and have decided to carry on a protest inside St. Pancras Station as a crowd gathers for a musical concert. Gemma’s sergeant, Melody Talbot, arrives at the event to watch her boyfriend, Andy Monahan, and his musical companion open the event. Both young musicians’ agents are in attendance when a sudden explosion changes everything.

A man is on fire, burned beyond recognition by what appears to be a bomb and turns out to a phosphorus charge. The results are horrific: besides the charred body of the dead man, Andy’s agent, Tam, suffers burns to his trunk. When Melody rushes to try to put out the fire, she’s momentarily aided by a distraught man who suddenly disappears. And her own respiratory system is affected by the bomb.

Duncan Kincaid will be the senior investigating officer on this case, his first after an unexpected transfer takes him from Scotland Yard to head a new murder team out of Holborn Station. He still questions the move and his one ally higher up the channels has taken a sudden leave and is unavailable. It feels like a demotion, without explanation, and Kincaid must adjust to his new team and how they work together–or don’t.

When it’s determined from the protestors that the dead man is indeed from their group, but was supposed to set off only a smoke bomb, Kincaid must investigate how the bomb was switched and who was behind it, even as he tries to find the other witness, the man who assisted Melody and appears to have vanished into thin air.

There are other threads here, as a good read should have, with Gemma sorting out her own case and missing Melody’s assistance. But the main thread this time is Kincaid’s, and not all of his questions will be answered at the surprising end of this well-wrought mystery.

Auntie M always enjoys reading Crombie’s work, with one of the highlights her chapter epigrams, which contain historical information about the area where that mystery is set. Readers learn about London and its suburbs as they are surprised by the turn of events. Highly recommended.