John Farrow: The Storm Murders Monday, Aug 31 2015 


Auntie M had been intrigued to read about Farrow’s creation, Emile Cinq-Mars, compared to Louise Penny’s Inspt. Gamache and to Christie’s Hercule Poirot, for the lyrical passages written inside Emile’s mind, and for the use of his little grey cells in solving crime.

So she was excited to crack open the first page of The Storm Murders and plunge in and she was not disappointed, from the chilling opening, through the suspenseful twists and turns to a most surprising ending.

It’s brilliantly cold in the countryside outside Montreal after a blizzard, where the former Sergeant-Detective is badly adjusting to his new life of retirement and trying to help his wife, Sandra, with her horse business. He has a painful back and is just recovering from fractured ribs broken during a fall off a ladder with subsequent pneumonia and wondering where his future lies.

Then his longtime partner, Bill Mathers, who has inherited Emile’s job, calls to ask if he can visit.But this is not any visit.

Mathers wants to bring an FBI agent along, and to have Emile consult on a series of crimes that have escalated to encompass a married couple found dead in their home not far from where Emile lives. Despite the tension in his marriage, Emile agrees.

Two police called to the scene have been found dead at the scene of the murders. And here’s the thing that has everyone on high alert: there were no other tire tracks or footprints in the freshly fallen snow than those of the two officers found dead inside the house.

Emile will bring Sandra with him to New Orleans to follow a lead, half-vacation, half-investigation, when the unthinkable happens: after being mugged in their room, Sandra is kidnaped. And that’s just the tip of Emile’s iceberg in this twisted and compelling plot.

There are interesting side characters readers meet along the way, including New Orleans detective Pascal Dupree, one of Auntie M’s favorites. Each character is drawn distinctly and imagined well. That adds to the tension that alternates between passages of Emile’s thoughts with action-packed scenes that will have readers flipping pages to find the resolution.

Farrow writes this crime series under a pen name. He is literary novelist and playwright Trevor Ferguson, and his background and expertise, as well as his love of language, shows on every page. This is the kind of brilliant writing that creeps up on you and leaves you pondering the book and its characters long after the last page. Highly recommended.

H. Scott Butler: Night Journey and Voice From the Shadows Sunday, Aug 30 2015 

Please welcome author H. Scott Butler, who will answer some questions about becoming a writer later in life, something Auntie M can identify with~

H. Scott Butler grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from LSU, went on to earn a doctorate in English at Duke University, and taught literature and film at a community college in eastern Virginia for many years.

Since his early retirement he has devoted his time to writing and to participating in a grassroots effort to preserve Fort Monroe, a former Army post of deep historic significance. He and his wife, Susan, currently live in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Night Journey

What have you written? Three novels, the first unpublished, as should be. The other two–Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows–are mystery thrillers about a female sheriff’s investigator in Northern Virginia. My heroine, Cynthia Westbrook, is a tall thirty-something with a serious interest in literature.

Why a woman for your main character?
Not sure. Although in retrospect, I’ve found it a sort of freeing thing to do. In Night Journey, Cynthia has never dealt with a profoundly traumatic event in her childhood, so in much of the novel she’s a little detached from herself. If she were a man with the same problem, the usual macho baggage would dictate, by my lights, a less cathartic outcome.

Also, I’m drawn to underdogs, and in America as in most countries women aren’t treated as equals.

Is Night Journey, then, primarily about a detective solving a crime or someone with a personal issue?
The two are intertwined. Cynthia’s evasion of her past interferes with her ability to interpret the evidence. She can’t solve the mystery until she confronts herself.

As a reader of mysteries I’m always more interested in the personality of the detective than in the crime, and I wanted to reflect that inclination in my mystery–without, of course, neglecting the crime-solving element.

You said Cynthia’s a serious reader. Why did you emphasize that about her?

Literature has always been important to me. I’m a retired English and film teacher. I spent my working life trying to help students see that art, as Hamlet says, holds the mirror up to nature. It’s a way of understanding ourselves and the world.

So I wanted Cynthia to have that sort of appreciation of literature. And in Night Journey, a poem by Robert Frost becomes in fact both an emotional touchstone for her and a significant clue.

Does literature also play a role in Voice from the Shadows? Voice cover

Yes. There it isn’t a clue but a means of self-understanding. Cynthia feels compelled to confront the traumatic event in her past, a still unsolved murder, by returning to her Alabama hometown and doing her own investigation. For something to read she takes along, not really by accident, as she comes to see, The Scarlet Letter.

You said you were retired. Is writing fiction a recent or a long-time ambition?

I’ve always wanted to do it, but I lacked both the time and impetus–the impetus being, in my case, the sense of time growing short. To quote Andrew Marvel: But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

How does becoming a writer at your age make you feel?

Young. ………….. H. Scott Butler

Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows, by H. Scott Butler, published by High Tide Publications, are both available from Amazon.

Night Journey.jpgVoice cover.jpgH. Scott Butler.jpgSelf Interview.doc

Louise Penny: The Nature of the Beast Tuesday, Aug 25 2015 

Nature Beast
Readers of this blog know that Auntie M is a huge fan of Louise Penny’s series. She thinks if he were real she could marry Inspector Gamache, even in his retirement!

But is retirement really for Gamache or his wife, Reine-Marie? That’s the question the two are asking themselves as they enjoy their home in Three Pines. They spend their days involved in the rhythm of the village, enjoying Myrna’s bookstore, helping Clara with her grief, eating at the Bistro. There is a play being cast amongst the villagers, and the stories that 9 yr-old Laurent Lepage tells whomever who will listen, big whoppers of walking trees and alien invasions.

So it’s not a huge surprise that when the small boy with the big imagination he runs into the bistro with his story of a giant monster and an even bigger weapon hidden in the woods, that his story is passed off as one more day of the antics of the boy who cried wolf. Until Laurent disappears…

His body is found in the woods, a victim of an apparent biking accident. But something about the death appears off, and Inspt. Gamache finds himself asked to consult on the case after he insists the boy was murdered.

With his son-in-law Jean Guy Beauvoir on the case and a surprising new head of the Surete’, Gamache will assist them as they stumble deeply into the woods on the hunt of a murderer–and come upon a secret so surprising that it will turn the village on its head.

This secret will draw outsiders to the village as an old crime becomes the reason for the new one–and then there is a second murder, and Inspt. Gamache knows that the secrets of the past have come back to haunt those still living in Three Pines.

Penny consistently writes an absorbing book, and this entry is no exception. Her characters are always many-layered, complex individuals, and her writing style allows readers to see the story from many points of view.

Tackling an unusual subject, readers will be transported back to the village and its inhabitants as they do battle with secrets held and kept for far too many years. Highly recommended.

Duncan Simpson: The History of Things to Come Sunday, Aug 23 2015 

Author Duncan Simpson will tell readers of the interesting story behind his novel, the first in a planned DARK HORIZON trilogy:HOTTC-Book-Cover-(Web)


My novel THE HISTORY OF THINGS TO COME was inspired by a true but little-known fact about the celebrated scientist Isaac Newton.

More than any other person, Newton’s extraordinary contributions in the field of science have laid the foundations for the modern study of optics, mathematics, gravity and motion. However, far from being the ultimate rationalist, the scientist was obsessed with unlocking the secrets hidden within Holy Scripture.

It has been estimated that out of Newton’s surviving writings, 700,000 words are concerned with scientific research, 600,000 words relate to alchemy and 1,700,000 relate to his biblical research. Certain of its accuracy, Newton described biblical prophecy as a ‘history of things to come’.

According to John Maynard Keynes, Newton regarded “the universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty”; through his intellect and incredible ability to focus on a problem, Newton’s mission was to decode it.

Convinced that encoded in the design of Solomon’s first temple was some divine hidden knowledge, Newton became consumed with recreating the floor plan of the Temple from descriptions contained within the Book of Ezekiel. He even learned Hebrew so that he could read the original Old Testament books.

In some ways, Newton perceived himself as the new Solomon and believed that it was his God-given purpose in life to unlock the secrets of Nature.

As a physics graduate with a keen interest in comparative faiths, I have always been fascinated by Newton and the myths surrounding the man. THE HISTORY OF THINGS TO COME interweaves a fast-paced, modern-day thriller with gripping extracts from a fictional Newton notebook. The story centers upon the search for a shocking biblical secret discovered by Newton and kept hidden for over 300 years.

THE HISTORY OF THINGS TO COME is the first book in the Dark Horizon trilogy. I am currently working hard on the second instalment. For more information and updates on new releases, please come and join my mailing list at:


Read a synopsis of Duncan’s book: The mind of a genius can hold the darkest of secrets.

A Bosnian gangster is gunned down in a packed London restaurant. In his possession is a notebook once belonging to Isaac Newton. This is just the latest in a series of shocking crimes connected to objects once belonging to the famous scientist. The police are stumped and the pressure for an arrest is mounting.
Enter Vincent Blake, London’s leading stolen-art investigator. As Blake sets out to solve the case, a series of devastating events threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. Broken but undeterred, he comes upon a shocking discovery: within the coded pages of a mysterious crimson book, annotated in Newton’s own handwriting, is an explosive revelation. Possessing this secret knowledge turns Blake into a marked man.
Caught in the crosshairs of two sadistic hitmen, Blake is propelled into a breathtaking race through London and its dark historical secrets.
With time running out, will Blake solve Newton’s deadly puzzle before the world is plunged into a catastrophe of biblical proportions?

Set in the murky world of stolen and forged manuscripts, The History of Things to come combines threads of well-researched historical fact with undercurrents of the supernatural and ancient legend. The celebrated scientist Sir Isaac Newton himself once wrote, biblical prophecy is, indeed, ‘the history of things to come’.

‘Taut, razor-sharp, and clever crime fiction.’
‘An endlessly twisting, multi-layered supernatural thriller.’
‘Perfect for fans of Dan Brown’


Thriller writer, Duncan Simpson spent his childhood in Cornwall, England. As a teenager he gained experience in a variety of jobs: from working in a mine, to doing shifts as a security guard in an American airport. After graduating from the University of Leeds with a physics degree, he spent a year backpacking around the world. On returning to the UK, he embarked on a successful career in business. Along the way, he became the finance director for a technology company and a partner in a leading management consultancy firm.

His debut novel, The History of Things to Come was born out of his lifelong fascination with the relationship between science and religion. A keen student of the history of London, he loves exploring the ancient stories and myths surrounding the city. When he’s not writing or consulting, you’ll find him: playing guitar in a rock band, running by the Thames, or drinking tea with his wife and three children in their home in Berkshire, England.

Website & Blog:

Across the Pond Winners: Casey, Donoghue, Robinson, Williams Saturday, Aug 22 2015 

Auntie M would like to mention that her second Nora Tierney Mystery, THE GREEN REMAINS, has won First Place in the Mystery and Mayhem Awards given by Chanticleer Media for BEST CLASSIC BRITISH COZY. Auntie M doesn’t use the term cozy herself: she describes hers as a mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural. But there’s no question her murders are set in small communities and that the puzzle is the highlight, not gore and violence. She’s not writing about psychopaths or serial killers (although she does enjoy reads that do), but rather she’s interested in what motive would allow an otherwise reasonable person to feel it’s reasonable to take another life.

In a related note, she’s also debuting her second series this month. The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, DEATH UNSCRIPTED, will be in print shortly in hard copy and ebook. Here’s a peek at the cover:
Death Unscripted cover

Frequent readers of this blog know that the Nora Tierney’s are set in England, Auntie M features a host of authors from across the pond. Part of this is because she enjoys reading these books and they keep her mind in the UK when she’s writing. But even more is her desire to turn American readers on to great crime fiction they may be missing by not knowing of these authors.

Here are a few of her recent favorite reads:
The Kill

The Kill is Jane Casey’s fifth Maeve Kerrigan mystery and these procedurals keep getting stronger and stronger.

A wedding reception for a colleague is interrupted when Maeve and her Detective Inspector Josh Derwent are called back to London for a most unusual case: the murder of a fellow policeman in a park, in what could only be called a compromising position.

One of the highlights of the series is the abrasive Derwent and how Maeve handles and defends him. The two are surprised at the reaction of the victim’s wife and even his daughter when told the news. They have the feeling they are keeping things back from the investigators, and as their case heats up, they soon realize they are not the only ones with secrets to hide.

And Maeve find herself torn with the secret she knows about her boss, Superintendent Godley, whom she once admired. Things will come to a head in that direction in this taut and complex mystery that won’t disappoint.

no place to die

Darker and grittier is the second offering from Claire Donoghue in No Place to Die.

This second mystery featuring DS Jane Bennett opens where Never Look Back left off, and things are still in upheaval after the lousy end of that case for Jane and her boss, Mike Lockyer. Feeling the rift between them, his inability to concentrate on the work in hand heavily impact them both when their friend, retired police, goes missing.

Some of the creepiest scenes are set in the underground tombs that are found after a young woman’s body is found one, apparently buried alive and watched by a camera feed.

Once the woman is identified, other tombs are discovered and the threads appear to lead to a local college and its psychology department. And then another young woman is taken and may still be alive, but can Jane and Lockyer find her in time to save her? And who is behind this?

Surprising and shocking at the end, Donoguhe is one who readers should add to their reading lists.

Dark Places
Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks are repeat favorites and this 22nd outing is no exception with In the Dark Places
, also Abattoir Blues in the UK version. It boggles the mind to think of an author who can consistently write creative and entertaining mysteries time after time, yet Robinson never disappoints.

An ex-soldier walking his dog, recovering from injuries that leave him limping, is annoyed when his dog goes under a fence and disappears inside an abandoned hanger. When the dog refuses to return and barks consistently, Terry Gilchrist has not choice but to find his way inside and see what’s troubling Peaches.

He finds the dog circling and sniffing and barking around a stain that can only be blood.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, a missing van leads Banks and his team into the countryside. Then a delivery truck falls over a cliff during bad weather and uncover the driver, killed on impact… and his grisly cargo: in addition to the dead animals he was tasked with collecting they find another body, dead before the crash.

Banks will have one of his toughest cases to crack in this repeat winner. Annie Cabot is back, and a nice side story features DS Winsome Jackson.

Black Valley

Black Valley is Charlotte Williams’ followup to The House on the Cliff, which introduced Welsh psychologist Jessica Mayhew.

In this outing Jessica is separated from her husband as they try to decide if their marriage is over. She feels strangely numb to emotions and feelings as she listens all day long to her patients personal drama. So she’s when surprised shortly after said husband confesses to having a relationship with a younger newsreader, that she’s attracted to a stranger she meets at an art exhibit.

That she’s there at all is down to the exhibit’s connection to her newest patient, artist Elinor Powell. Elinor presents with a bad bout of claustrophobia that hits her after her mother is murdered in Elinor’s art studio. A twin, she also is developing paranoid ideation about her sister and brother-in-law, an art dealer whose business may not quite be as above board as she’d like the public to believe.

The issue revolves around a reclusive artist who seems to be the next big thing in the art world. Refusing to give interviews, the unschooled young man nevertheless has captured his share of attention with his huge, brooding canvasses that echo the miners and their broken lives.

The hills of Wales outside Cardiff come alive under Williams skillful retelling, the countryside, lovely and nature-filled during the day, turns bleak and uncompromising at night, filled with caves and towers that haunt the landscape–and figure in the rushing climax as Jessica tries to find the truth about the ghosts who haunt Elinor Powell.

The writing is skillful and the psychological aspect well-handled. Therefore, it comes as a painful surprise to learn that shortly after finishing the first draft of this novel, Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer and died at the age of 59. Sadly, there will be no more Jessica Mayhew thrillers, but the two that are in print are worth readers’ time and investigation.

Late Scholar

And just to remind readers of last year’s terrific Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery by Jill Paton Walsh, The Late Scholar is now available in paperback. This installment finds the duo adjusting after World War II and to the growth of their two boys when they are called to Peter’s alma mater, St. Severin’s at Oxford, to unravel a perplexing situation: the faculty and its warden have been unable to agree on selling a rare manuscript to keep St. Severin’s open, and now the warden has vanished. Paton Walsh captures the tone and language of the time and of these two sparkling characters and does Sayers proud.

5 Great Reads from Other Eras~ Wednesday, Aug 19 2015 

Auntie M has a stack of great reads written in other eras, so here’s a wealth of resources for those of you who prefer your crime to be set in other than contemporary times.

Reaching back into time is Laura Lebow’s The Figaro Murders, which brings 1786 Vienna to life.Figaro

Venetian Lorenzo Da Ponte has lived in Vienna for five years but still misses Venice. As court librettist, his current job for Emperor Joseph II is to finish the libretto for a revised version of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro , to please the Emperor, before its premiere the following week. It’s a tense situation as his previous libretto for a Salieri opera in the recent past closed after just one performance. The job is not as glamorous nor as well paid as it sounds, and a morning trip to his barber will change Lorenzo’s life.

The barber, Vogel, is on his way to debtor’s prison for a year, unable to pay the loan he used to open his shop, and begs Lorenzo to visit his fiancee, Marianne. He gives Lorenzo a box he’s found hidden in the closet of his recently-deceased mother–who told him shortly before her death that he had been adopted. Convinced his real family is one of noble origins and as a way to get him out of prison, Vogel expects that Lorenzo will aid Marianne to unearth his real family connections and save him and his marriage.

The box contains three innocuous items as Lorenzo’s only clues: a white fur ladies muff, a French grammar book, and a small ring, perhaps a betrothal ring. These three things will turn out to be the only link left to Lorenzo, and at first glance they appear to be of little value.

Lorenzo has an unusual visit to the Palais Gabler, home to a well-placed diplomat, where Marianne is employed. And then the unthinkable happens: he is arrested for a murder that apparently occurred during his visit to the Gabler home. Now the only way to clear his name is to undercover and find the real murderer, or be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit.

Filled with characters like Mozart and Salieri, the music matters of the Court and the time spring to life in this perspective of a certain period. A solid historical mystery.

We switch to Dublin in 1887 for Conor Brady’s intriguing debut, A June of Ordinary Murders. The former editor of The Irish Times has written of the time in Victorian Dublin when crimes were classified as either “special” or “ordinary.” Special was for political crimes; murder was deemed ordinary.

The city readies for its celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee during an oppressive heatwave that everyone suffers under, just as they are under the threat of growing nationalist violence and a rising underworld of master criminals.

Enter DS Joe Swallow, tasked with investigating two murders when the mutilated bodies of an adult and a young boy are found in Phoenix Park. As he digs deeper, he learns he must be politically correct as he delves into the upper reaches of Dublin society. With his own success rooted in the past, Swallow his been a copper long enough to have enemies in the press and in his own department, and he needs to get this one right.

It seems the two deaths are connected, and then a woman’s body is found floating in the Grand Canal, and as the body count rises, so does the pressure on Swallow to effect an end to the string of killings.

Brady’s vivid descriptions bring this time of long ago to life, from the land wars to the country readying itself for the Queen’s visit during the heat, adding to the sense of languidness everyone involved feels. And Swallow has his own dark life to contemplate.

There are plenty of layers and different nuances as the police investigation unfolds. An interesting side component is to see the ‘forensics’ of 1887. Fans of The Murdoch Mysteries will eat this one up.

Dead Assassin
Vaughn Entwhistle introduced “the paranormal casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” in last year’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall. This second installment, set in 1895, brings back Doyle and his good friend Oscar Wilde as characters, to the readers delight, in The Dead Assassin.

The atmosphere is tense in London, with bombs detonating and causing anyone of a foreign nature to be suspected of being an anarchist.
Doyle’s dinner out is interrupted when a senior member of the government is brutally murdered, as is his assassin. One of the detectives recognizes the assassin as a pickpocket and petty thief, Higginbotham, who’s lived a life of low level crime. Then it turns out this same man couldn’t be the assassin–he was hanged two weeks ago. So how did he appear to be able to carry off the murder from his grave?

This obvious attempt at obfuscation brings Doyle and Wilde into the midst of a bizarre investigation with so many lives in peril readers will be surprised at how far the tendrils reach. This sequel is heavier and darker than the debut, especially once it’s established that the ongoing killings appear to be committed by criminals who are already dead.

Frankenstein meets Holmes, or in this case, Doyle, in this look at dark Victorian times–what can only be expected from an author who once ran a business that sculpted gargoyles.

Andrew Williams takes readers to 1917 Britain with a spy thriller based on real events in The Suicide Club
, a convincing and atmospheric mystery that is as well written as it is well researched.

Passchendaele is a nightmare, and Captain Alexander Innes of the Cameron Highlanders, badly wounded at the Somme, is taken off the front lines and seconded to the Secret Service, working in Belgium with the Resistance.

When he’s recalled to London to General Haig’s headquarters, his new assignment as a spy is to ascertain if the intelligence being delivered to the High Command is reliable.

What he learns is that the intelligence is suspect, and with the leaders using Innes for their own devices, the political tension–and the stakes for the outcome–rise sharply. Innes will find himself send back to Belgium, where the book’s action heats up even more.

The horrors of war are not glossed over, nor are the terrible outcomes for many devoted Resistance members of an occupied country. Fair to its real life characters, even Innes’ love affair feels grounded in reality.

Written with a deft hand, perfect for fans of John LeCarre’ and Alan Furst.

A Woman Unknown
It’s 1920’s England in Frances Brody’s fourth Kate Shackleton mystery, A Woman Unknown.

The accidental private investigator is first called on to uncover where a young woman goes when she tells her husband she is visiting her ill mum.
Cyril Fitzpatrick is concerned about his wife, Deirdre, and wants to know just where his wife really disappears to. Kate is wary of the job–she has come across Deirdre Fitzpatrick before.

When Chief Inspector Marcus Charles of Scotland Yard, Kate’s presumptive love, asks her to meet him at the Hotel Metropole, it’s to identify a man known to Kate who has been found by a chambermaid, dead in bed and not from natural causes. Everett Runcie, a banker facing ruin and disgrace by devious dealings faced divorce from his American heiress wife, tired of his infidelities. But Everett Runcie had not been alone when he checked into the hotel, so who, was his companion?

Could these seemingly unrelated events be connected? As she investigates, Kate recalls an accidental shooting at the start of the grouse season a few weeks back, and begins to wonder if there could be a tie to these cases. The more she delves, the more convoluted and sinister do matters appear. Can Kate untangle the complex threads and get to the truth?

Cleverly plotted, the story is told by Kate in the first person, and by third person narratives from Kate’s assistant Sykes and Deirdre Fitzpatrick. Brody weaves an intriguing set of events for the reader to unravel, which also highlights the difficult divorce laws of the time. The period details add much to the texture of this satisfying entry in the series. Don’t miss this entertaining series if you haven’t found Brody yet.

Linda Castillo: After the Storm Tuesday, Aug 18 2015 

After the Storm

Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series is a consistent favorite with readers for compelling thrillers featuring the ex-Amish midwestern Chief of Police. After the Storm, continues in the same vein, where the beauty of the area almost heightens the ugly crimes Kate faces.

The tension quickly builds with a tornado heading through Painters Mill, and in the ugly aftermath as Boy Scout help with clean up efforts, human remains are discovered.

Kate must determine the identity and cause of death, which is gruesome indeed, and will have far-reaching consequences for Kate as well as the tight-knit community.

Kate’s personal life is a continues to evolve across the books. Her relationship with State Agent John Tomasetti has reached a new level – and new hurdles are put in their path as they adjust to living together. Kate’s supporting cast is solid and dedicated to their Chief, while Kate’s personal conflicts between the community she was raised in and the world she now lives in provide a great secondary story line.

Meanwhile, a killer waits in the shadows to protect family secrets.

Castillo’s use of details bring the Amish settings, culture and language to life. The series is driven as much by the characters as by the cases Kate must solve. Another strong entry in a consistently strong series.

Michael Wallace: Not Death, But Love Sunday, Aug 16 2015 

While Auntie M is attending St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference in Oxford, please welcome California author Michael Wallace, who will describe the genesis of his third mystery, Not Death, But Love:
Not Death,But Love

The Book That Wanted to Be Written

Most authors, I’m guessing, are carrying around several unwritten books in their heads. Typically we have an idea of which one will get written next, but sometimes one of the stories insists on muscling its way from the back of the queue to the front.

Something rather like that took place with my third Quill Gordon mystery, Not Death, But Love, which was published on Amazon May 27. This wasn’t originally going to be the third book in the series, but things happened.

In 2012 I was hired by a family foundation to write the family’s history. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, because it paid generously and the work was fascinating. By the end of it, I felt the long-deceased family members had come alive inside my head and that I was able to convey a reasonably good sense of them to the readers.

In the course of that work, I came across several things that were a surprise to the people who hired me. There were no terrible scandals, but there were lawsuits and family schisms they hadn’t known about until I started digging. At the time, I was simultaneously working on my second mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away, and at some point it occurred to me that a family history with a deep secret — one worth killing to keep — could make the basis for a good mystery.

One of my plans for a future book had been a story centering on a controversial land-use plan, something that would make use of the knowledge I picked up working as a consultant for Wells Fargo Bank and The Home Depot more than a decade ago. That one had been on the back burner, but I decided to combine ideas to make the land development part of the family history, and was off to the races.

When I was working on the real family history, I often lamented that none of the family members had kept journals (at least none that had survived). I decided to give my murder victim, a retired English teacher named Charlotte London, a journal. It was originally supposed to provide a set of clues to complement those in the family history, but it ended up being much more than that.

Simply put, in the course of creating the journal sections, I discovered that Charlotte had come to life most vividly, and, surprisingly to me, became one of the most dominant and complex characters in the book. Not to be gooey, but I got to be rather fond of her, and I’m hoping the book’s readers will, too.

The history aspect carried through the rest of the book as well. I found myself wondering about, and inventing, histories of various elements of the book. These included the lake, the Italian restaurant where the characters ate dinner, the Rotary Club, where community and political alliances were cemented, and the town where the story was set. Such details, I feel, are what add richness to a book. They can often be what a reader remembers long after he or she has forgotten whodunit.
book cover 2 first proof revised


MICHAEL WALLACE is a native and lifelong resident of California. He received an A.B. degree in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, worked for 19 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has had a long second career as a public relations and publications consultant. He has been an avid reader of mysteries since childhood and a fly fisherman for more than three decades. He lives in the Monterey Bay area with his wife, Linda Ogren, a university lecturer in biology. Their son, Nick, is in the army.

LINKS The McHenry Inheritance Book: Video: Wash Her Guilt Away Book: Video: Not Death, But Love Book: Video: In production Website: Blog: Twitter: @Qgordonnovel Facebook:

Steph Cha: Dead Soon Enough Friday, Aug 14 2015 

Dead Soon Enough

Steph Cha’s Juniper Song Mysteries feature the unusual Korean-American protagonist who is now a licensed private detective in Dead Soon Enough.

The series with a modern LA noir feel finds Song having her own cases at the newest PI for Lindley and Flores. When she’s hired by Dr. Rubina Gasparian, it’s for a most unique reason: Rubina wants Song to follow her cousin, Lusig, who is acting a surrogate for Rubina and her husband Van, a surgeon. Carrying their baby and remaining stress free and healthy should be Lusig’s primary job right now, as far a Rubina is concerned. For Lusig, that goal has been usurped by looking for her best friend, Nora, missing for a month now.

Lusig, Rubina and Nora are all linked by their Armenian roots. Rubina soon realizes that keeping Lusig safe means moving Song into her home for now and letting her look for Nora in the evenings when she is home to keep an eye on her cousin. Song’s investigative threads for the missing Nora revolve around Nora’s battle to allow a memorial honoring the Armenian genocide by the Turks to be installed.

A Turkish group has been fighting the installation, claiming that the genocide a hundred years ago that coined the term in the first place was a war. Heavily funded, Song suspects more and more that this group had something to do with Nora’s disappearance. Along the way she will visit a strip club, just one situation she finds herself in as she tries to find Nora.

This is a fast-paced mystery that allows Song to deliberate her own feelings about motherhood and where she sees her future heading. There is plenty of action but even more interesting to Auntie M is the way Song is constantly examining herself and her feelings–and just how far she’s prepared to compromise herself to catch a killer.

By the end, long-held secrets will be revealed and just when the reader thinks they know what’s happened, the story turns into itself and Song finds herself in jeopardy.

Cha has a nice way of getting into Song’s head and the series has a visual feel that would translate well to the big screen. Auntie M particularly liked the young lawyer Song comes across and hopes readers will see more of him in the next installment.

Jessica Barraco: The Butterfly Groove: A Mother’s Mystery, A Daughter’s Journey Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

From time to time Auntie M sneaks off the crime fiction curve and brings you something different. This time it’s a mystery of sorts, revolving around a real life events belonging to journalist and former HarperCollins publicist Jessica Barraco, which she recounts in The Butterfly Groove:


The Reasoning Behind My Research for The Butterfly Groove: A Mother’s Mystery, A Daughter’s Journey
By Jessica Barraco

As a journalist, my training has revolved around knowing the truth. A lot of people like to say that journalists are too curious, that they like to expose people or situations, they can’t let sleeping dogs lie. A true journalist will counter: “But that is what life is about: facing the music.” If you are afraid to see reality, evolving as a person will prove to be very difficult.

My mother passed away when I was 12 years old after an almost 20-year long battle with cancer and its devastating complications. In her life, she was a very private person, and when she died, many rumors came up, mostly all negative about her childhood and teenage years. She wanted to be a writer, but never had the opportunity to receive a proper education. On so many levels: spiritually, emotionally and professionally, I felt it was only fair to my mom to find out the truth about her life; the life she had before she was sick. I was the only one in my family who was interested in learning my mother’s truths, and that made it a lonely journey. Until I researched, found and met all of the wonderfully open strangers who helped me create this book, and ultimately, to put the pieces together of the mystery that was my mom.

I did for my mom what I hope anyone would do for me. I chose to not believe whatever distorted memories and passed down information her relatives claimed to know about her. I chose not to believe anything at face value. Believing gossip is the easy thing to do. I chose the harder path – the path that leads to the truth.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey and get to know both me and my mom a little better in The Butterfly Groove.

Comments/questions? Interested in having your book club read my book? Feel free to reach me at and I will be happy to help in any way.

Indie Bound is available too.

Journalist by heart, marketing professional by day, and writer by moonlight, Jessica Barraco is a graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She published her first newspaper article at nineteen years old, after which she wrote for 944 magazine and The Denver Post. She also spent three years working at HarperCollins Publishers across all of its imprints, working on both nonfiction and fiction books. A contributor to EliteDaily and marketing professional, Barraco resides in California.

Next Page »