A huge thank you to Auntie M’s readers as the year changes and we all review our blessings. Hers include all of YOU who take the time to read the reviews she posts!

It’s coming down the wire for those of you still with shopping to do, so Auntie M is plunging in with a listing of great gift books for all kinds of readers left on your to-do list–or just for your personal New Year’s resolution lists to find for yourselves. Enjoy~

For those who like a cozy-type mystery, there’s Murder at the Brightwell, Ashley Weaver’s debut set in 1930’s England at a tony seaside resort called the Brightwell. Murder and mayhem ensue, along with missed connections and predicaments and a love triangle. Perfect for those who enjoy a bit of romance with their mystery.

Booty Bones is Carolyn Haines’ follow up to last year’s Smarty Bones (now in paperback). The Sarah Booth Delany series charms readers with its southern setting, when Booth’s fiancé, recovering from injuries in the first book, decides Graf Milieu needs a romantic getaway. A local historian soon convinces Sarah to get involved in an island case involving the murder of her father, and what started out as a peaceful vacation soon become so much more.

Staying south, readers visit the NC’s Outer Banks in Corolla in Murder on the Hoof, Kathryn O’Sullivan’s sequel to Foal Play. With Fire Chief Colleen McCabe leading rookie training, she’s also becoming more involved with Sheriff Bill Dorman as the local theatre troupe rehearses a new production. Then an actor is murdered just as Bill’s former fiancee’ turns up. Humorous and engaging.

Horses are in evidence in Holly Menino’s second Tink Elleridge mystery, A Distance to Death. Set in the mountains of Sierra Nevada, Tink finds her own plans is disarray when her husband’s new partner suddenly dies. As she searches for clues, Tink finds more intrigue and secrets than she’d thought possible, and those closest to her become in peril. Publisher’s Weekly calls the series “Gripping” with an “exciting insider’s view of the elite horse world.”

Talk about endurance and you have Mary Daheim’s Bed and Breakfast series, which serves up its 29th offering in Clam Wake. Featuring innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn owner of the B&B, Hillside Manor, Judith is housesitting for relatives on an island during her own slow period. But the discovery of a body soon leads her and her always-funny cousin to anything but the quiet vacation Judith had planned.

In the same amateur sleuth vein but taking a trip to Singapore comes Ovidia Yu’s delicious mystery Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials. Rosie “Aunty” Lee serves up more than her famous home cooking; it’s a hive for Singapore gossip, placing Aunty Lee right at the heart of things when a scandal erupts over organ donations. Then murders occur at an event Aunty Lee is catering and she must clear her own name while finding the real killer. Delightful

Turning to those readers who enjoy their books with a hint of myth and magic, The Patron Saint of Ugly is Marie Manilla’s West Virgina story featuring Garnet Ferrari, an unusual protagonist who is used to being an outcast due to her unusual appearance. Visiting pilgrims decide Garnet’s appearance is that of a saint who can heal skin ailments and perform miracles, forcing her to trace back into her own history as the lines of myth and reality start to blur.

The Season of the Dragonflies is Sarah Creech’s entry into the genre. The story focuses on the women of the Lenore family, whose secret formula for a unique perfume scented by a highly guarded flower has been used by women to realize their ambitions. It’s a love triangle of sorts, but between Willow, the mother of the clan, and her two daughters: Mya, who can read scents, and Lucia, the creative younger sister. Their roles will be called into question as the magical plants that provide the perfume’s secret ingredient start to die.

We turn to younger voices in Crooked River, Valerie Geary’s debut mix of coming-of-age and ghost story between two sisters, 15 yr-old Sam and 10 yr old-Ollie. Add in psychological suspense, and set in rural Oregon, Sam and Ollie’s journey will leave readers flipping pages to find out what secrets their eccentric father has kept buried, even as Ollie must confront her own startling talent.

Ghosts of the past are apparent in Linda Castillo’s newest Kate Burkholder thriller, The Dead Will Tell. When the police chief is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, it quickly turns to murder and she must marshall all of her wit and resources to unravel what’s really behind the killing. With an Amish town haunted by ghosts of its past and terrible secrets of a haunted farm, Kate must brush the cobwebs away to find a very real killer. Gripping and fast-paced.

Stephanie Feldman’s The Angel of Losses could be called a family saga but it is so much more, as grad student, Marjorie, finds her grandfather’s notebook and everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. Blending mythology with today’s world, Feldman successfully incorporates Jewish folktales with history and theology in a stunning literary thriller.

Cradle to Grave is Eleanor Kuhns newest Will Rees Revolutionary War tale. With Will newly remarried and working as a farmer, he will return to the Shaker community of Mount Unity to help Mouse, as his friend Hannah is called. Despite saving children in the course of her charity work, Mouse is soon the suspect when the children’s mother is murdered. Historically clear portrayal of life and social mores in this time.

It’s 1957 in Michael Nethercott’s Haunting Ballad, when the unlikely sleuths Lee Plunkett and Mr O’Nelligan visit Greenwich Village’s Bohemian music scene. They soon find themselves investigating a group of suspects after foul play is suspected when a folk song collector takes a fatal plunge off a rooftop. Nethercott gets the period right, and the charming O’Nelligan is the right foil to Lee Plunkett.

Moving across the pond, Oliver Harris’ crime novel, Deep Shelter, takes readers to the streets of London with his protagonist, Hampstead CID detective Nick Belsey. Venturing into London’s secret tunnels to impress a date, Belsey soon loses the woman and find himself avoiding arrest as he tries to find her abductors. With his flawed yet compelling Detective Belsey, Harris wraps readers up in this edgy page-turner that has a fast-paced psychological bent.

Paul Pilkington’s Emma Holden trilogy is another strong consideration. Staring with The One You Love, both recent entries continue to top charts with last year’s The One You Fear and this year’s The One You Trust. Featuring lies, kidnappings, and high suspense, the books all focus on the relationships between the characters who find themselves caught in unusual and nightmarish circumstances.

Historic London of 1876 is the setting Charles Finch chooses in The Laws of Murder, when his private investigator, Charles Lenox, must deal with the murder of his Scotland Yard friend. With peculiar details his only clues, Lenox leads himself into personal danger in this Victorian series that rivals those of Anne Perry and has a strong following. This is the fifth in the series, a continued winner.

Fast forward to 1917 Britain for Andrew Williams compelling The Suicide Club. Based on real events and drawing on the diaries and letters of several War Cabinet members, Captain Alexander Innes leaves undercover work abroad to investigate the heads of the Army in France with his goal to discover who is compromising intelligence chiefs–and why. He will find a deep distrust between the Army and the newly-established Secret Services, and a source who holds the lives of thousands of British soldiers in his hands.

With romance as a strong focus, consider I Adored A Lord, Duke University professor Katharine Ashe’s newest lush historical romantic mystery. This second in the “Prince Cathchers” series thrusts the wallflower Ravenna Caulfriend, with her interest in animals, into the arms of Lord Vitor Courtenay. With his own varied past, Vitor and Ravenna pair to solve a murder and a kidnapping as romance blossoms.

Turning to espionage and international intrigue brings readers to Sebastian Rotella and The Convert’s Song, which has the cover line: “Would you recognize a terrorist if he was your oldest friend?” It’s a question former US law enforcer-turned-private eye Valentine Pescatore must answer. Trying to establish a new life in Bueno Aires, a terrorist attack kills hundreds, putting Pescatore’s old friend Raymond in the frame, and himself for that matter. With its far-ranging settings from Paris to Baghdad to South America, this race-against-time plot is a satisfying action thriller.

Staying with action-oriented plots, Mark Sullivan’s Thief refers to his protagonist, Robin Monarch. This time Monarch and his team invade the Christmas party of a powerful behind-the-scenes player, Beau Arsenault, who deals in illicit profits. Using a legendary Christmas party as cover to break into Arensault’s vaults, Monarch discovers more than he’d bargained for in an explosive secret he must now keep from falling into the wrong hands. Bourne fans will be glued.

Roger Pearce’s The Extremist has the same kind of strong action, but here the setting is post-Olympic London, where DCI John Kerry intercepts two gold smugglers who have just murdered a fellow Special Branch agent. Seemingly random murders start to pile up as Kerr is forced to rely on an undercover operative to help him search for the perpetrators. The Guardian calls it: “Dramatic, fast-paced, code word-heavy fun.”

Moving to Missouri, Detective Jules Bettinger is busy settling his family into their new location in S. Craig Zahler’s Mean Business on North Ganson Street.The dying rustbelt city is a haven for criminals with the odds stacked against law enforcement. Investigating a double homicide of two policemen leads Bettinger to his worst fear: that the killings are just the first in a series of cop executions. Black humor relieves the tension.

Santa Barbara is the setting for Karen Keskinen’s Black Current, the sequel to Blood Orange, which introduced PI Jaymie Zarlin. In the vein of Kinsey Milhone, Jaymie is nevertheless her own person who is called to look into the death of a local teen found dead in a fish tank at the Santa Barbara Aquarium. With the teen’s parents urging her to prove the death was not accidental, Jaymie’s suspect list soon turns longer than imagined and points to a decades old mystery that might be behind the murder.

If noir is your reader’s thing, look no further than The Detective and the Pipe Girl, Michael Craven’s suspenseful LA mystery featuring strong-minded PI Jon Darvelle. When heavy-hitter filmmaker Arthur Vonz hires Davelle to find a young woman, the easy assignment soon takes a turn to the dark side, and Darvelle finds himself searching for the woman, and answers, amongst the Hollywood elite, the LAPD and an underground crime scheme. Rich and atmospheric.

Auntie M hopes some of these will find their way into the stockings of readers on your list–or perhaps to your own! Happy Holidays to all~

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