Susan Bernhardt: The Kay Driscoll Mysteries Sunday, Sep 27 2015 

Just in time for the holidays – The Kay Driscoll mystery series, cozy mysteries for Halloween and Christmas.

Ginseng
The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1) – http://amzn.to/1oPTsiw – On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

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Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2) – http://amzn.to/1tC5krR – While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate.

Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims. Kay’s first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. ‘Tis the season to be sleuthing!
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Susan Bernhardt is the author of The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree, the first two holiday novels involving amateur sleuth, Kay Driscoll. Susan’s hometown in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her mysteries. Her third Kay Driscoll mystery, Murder by Fireworks, is due out this Fall.

An avid reader of mysteries, Susan is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the Wisconsin Writers Association. Her holiday mysteries are listed on Cozy-Mystery.com and Cozy Mysteries Unlimited under Halloween and Christmas.

When not writing, Susan loves to travel, bicycle, kayak, and create culinary magic in her kitchen. She works in stained-glass, daydreams in her organic garden, stays up late reading, and eats lots of chocolate.

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Maia Chance: Come Hell or Highball Thursday, Sep 24 2015 

While Auntie M is off on the first leg of a book tour for DEATH UNSCRIPTED (now available from Bridle Path Press or on Amazon, soon to be Kindle), please welcome author Maia Chance and her third mystery: Come Hell or Highball, to talk about forcing creativity. And be ready for a treat, folks–this is cute!

Come Hell or Highball

On Not Reinventing the Wheel

When I was in elementary school and junior high, I enjoyed competing (oh so nerdily) in something called Odyssey of the Mind, a sort of team-oriented creativity Olympics for kids. One of the coolest things I learned from O. M. w
as that you can deliberately mobilize or even, under pressure, force yourself to be creative.

Sounds so . . . inartistic, doesn’t it? I mean, what about the fairylike muse and her feelings?

Forget her. When you have work to do, creative work, and if you’ve got deadlines looming, you need tools, not temperamental pixies.

What I took away from all my time in Odyssey of the Mind (which is evidently still going strong) is that if you can’t think of a new idea, you can sort of smush two things together, and if you push hard enough, voilà!, there’s your fresh new idea. It’s like plate tectonics creating new mountains ranges.

For instance:

Random thing 1: DOG
Random thing 2: CHOPSTICKS

New idea: OMG! A children’s picture book about a King Charles Spaniel food critic. And his fatal flaw is dipping his ears in his soup. (I swear I just thought of that right now. I kind of like it. . . .)

It’s mash-up. Pastiche. Synthesis. Synergy. And this is, at its heart, what I think the creative process really is. Although our culture clings to a fantasy of an independent genius who is capable of reinventing the wheel (and isn’t that the Apple company’s whole shtick?), older ways of Making Stuff were more communal.

Fairy tales, for instance, rarely have a single author but are instead the culmination (still going on today!) of long traditions. Some historians even think that Homer was (is?) really an amalgamation of an oral tradition. And really, anyone working inside a genre is simply building upon and tweaking the ever-changing conventions and reader expectations of their genre. Cozy mystery writers like me have Agatha Christie omnipresent, hovering over our writing desks like the North Star.

Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” First of all, if that’s how PICASSO worked, then by gum, it’s good enough for me. Second, let’s unpack this. To me, this quote means:

Borrowing is kind of . . . wimpy. Borrowing is tentative and all “I PROMISE I’ll give it back and I won’t rip it or stain it. You’ll never even notice it’s gone!” Borrowing results in things like those Sweet Valley High books, all written by different people but with Created by Francine Pascal stamped on their covers. Ugh.

On the other hand, stealing means you take it and make it your own, with audacity and aplomb. You don’t give it back because you can’t give it back, because by the time you’ve had your way with it, it’s unrecognizable.

Speaking purely for myself, I am wholly incapable of producing anything, and I mean anything, out of thin air. Instead, I absorb, fragment, synthesize, and repeat. Over and over. Until I have something to work with.

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Maia Chance writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller and her latest releases are Cinderella Six Feet Under and Come Hell or Highball.

Oh, a creative influences include P. G. Wodehouse, Janet Evanovich, Are You Being Served?, Agatha Christie, Nathaniel Hawthorne, M. C. Beaton, The Real Housewives of Orange County, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Visit Maia on the web at:

maiachance.com
https://www.facebook.com/MaiaChance?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8127322.Maia_Chance
https://twitter.com/maiachance

COME HELL OR HIGHBALL

31-year-old society matron Lola Woodby has survived her loveless marriage with an unholy mixture of highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake, until her husband dies suddenly, leaving her his fortune…or so Lola thought. As it turns out, all she inherits from Alfie is a big pile of debt. Pretty soon, Lola and her stalwart Swedish cook, Berta, are reduced to hiding out in the secret love nest Alfie kept in New York City. But when rent comes due, Lola and Berta have no choice but to accept an offer made by one of Alfie’s girls-on-the-side: in exchange for a handsome sum of money, the girl wants Lola to retrieve a mysterious reel of film for her. It sounds like an easy enough way to earn the rent money. But Lola and Berta realize they’re in way over their heads when, before they can retrieve it, the man currently in possession of the film reel is murdered, and the reel disappears. On a quest to retrieve the reel and solve the murder before the killer comes after them next, Lola and Berta find themselves navigating one wacky situation after another in high style and low company.

Fine Crime Fiction for Fall Reading Monday, Sep 21 2015 

Auntie M has been reading up a storm this summer and brings you some of the finest crime novels out there for your perusal. These have things in common, which is why these particular novels are grouped together: darn fine stories supported by great writing. Enjoy~

ToyTaker
Luke Delany’s third DI Sean Corrigan police procedural will grab you from its creepy opening. The Toy Taker starts out strong and never lets up, with Corrigan’s team at Scotland Yard covering the sickest criminals that roam the metropolitan mecca.

Delany’s experience as a former CID investigator serves him well and makes the story jolt into reality when a young boy is discovered missing from his bed one morning in a tony London suburb. There’s no sign of an intruder and no alarms were tripped; there are no signs of a struggle. Corrigan has a knack of being able to put himself into the mind of the criminal he’s seeking, a device that seems to have left him in this installment, frustrating him, his wife, and his colleagues.

The action doesn’t let up, even when another child is taken. What is the hold this predator has over the children who appear to have gone willingly with a stranger? Tautl written and gGuaranteed to keep you up late at night.

SongDrownedSouls
After the huge success of Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead, Auntie M was not the only reader looking forward to the sequel featuring Commandant Martin Servaz of the Toulouse Crime Squad. A Song for Drowned Souls
is the kind of crime novel that presents a fascinating look at the lives of the perpetrator and of the team on the hunt.

A young man is found, stunned, sitting by a swimming pool where dolls float on its surface. He’s discovered his teacher, drowned in her bath in a horrific manner, and is arrested for her murder. Servaz is called by his former college lover, Marianne, and immediately rushes over and takes over the investigation. The arrested boy is her son and she implores Servaz to clear Hugo.

To do so, he must reopen old wounds of his time at the Marsac school in the Pyrenees at the elite school where the victim taught. He will run into former students now teaching there during the case and find a former friend and competitor for Marianne’s affections figures in the case. Servaz’s daughter has just started in the prep division there and her presence will provide both a distraction and a boon to his investigation as it soon becomes apparent there are ties between students at the school and the murdered woman.

Miner examines the way the past haunts our present in a way that is chilling and highly believable.

Even if you’ve never visited the area, Minier will have you breathing in the scent of the trees in this evocative thriller that takes police procedurals to a new height. Highly recommended.

Open Grave
Kjell Eriksson’s Ann Lindell series continues with an unusual installment, not your usual hurried murder investigation at all, in Open Grave. The idea here is one more of a series of incidents that may or may not lead to murder. And the tension is palpable.

An aging professor has just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, yet instead of rejoicing, the announcement brings problems to the doctor’s upper-class neighborhood. There are jealousies amongst his colleagues, some who are his neighbors, and even his housekeeper of decades seems to be on on the verge of leaving. What is there about the man that causes this reason for celebration to bring out the worst in people?

Eriksson spools out the story of the participants by delving into their pasts as unusual incidents start to happen. When Inspector Ann Lindell tries to sort out what is happening, her own past rears its head into the carefully arranged present she’s trying to fashion. And the expected outcome is far from the ending twist. The author knows human nature and describes it well in this psychological study that is subtle and character-driven.

run you down

Julia Dahl’s first crime novel, Invisible City, garnered multiple award nominations and is still nominated for more. It was a highly rated debut for Auntie M last year so she was looking forward to its newest, run you down, featuring young reporter Rebekah Roberts.

Rebekah’s ties to the Hasidic community started in the first book, her interested piqued by trying to find the mother she doesn’t know after Aviva Kagan abandoned her as a baby to be raised by her Christian father. Not sure she’s ready to meet the woman she’s finally found, Rebekah is drawn into Aviva’s community in Roseville, NY, by a man who contacts her about his young wife’s mysterious death.

Pessie Goldin’s body was found in her bathtub, an apparent accident or unmentionable suicide–but her husband believes she was murdered. As she investigates, Rebekah will find others like her mother who left the ultra-conservative sect and formed their own group. Some rage about the restraints they were forced to live under in their old community. And others find themselves inexplicably mixed up with groups who would kill without a clear thought for the lives and beliefs of others.

Dahl does a lovely job of letting Rebekah tell readers her story from her point of view as an outsider to a culture she’s trying to understand, while developing a wallop of a story that is its own mystery. One aspect Auntie M particularly enjoyed was seeing the protagonist’s growth and maturity in her job and in her personal life, which adds to the compelling aspect of the mystery. Don’t miss this one.

Slaughter Man
Auntie M enjoyed UK author Tony Parson’s foray into crime novels with The Murder Man, which introduced DI Max Wolfe, his daughter Scout, and their personable dog, Stan. With The Slaughter Man,
Max returns to investigate a heinous crime that jumps off the page from the Prologue describing the horrific slaughter of an entire family, except for the youngest child, apparently kidnapped.

It’s New Year’s Day when this occurs and the day after this wealthy family is found inside their gated-community home, all dead from a most unusual method: a cattle gun, used to stun cattle before butchering. When Max visits Scotland Yard’s Black Museum for background, he comes across a murderer who used just this method three decades ago and was dubbed The Slaughter Man by the press. Could the man, now released from prison, be on a murdering rampage? And why this particular family?

The happy family included two teens and parents who were former Olympians. There’s history here and Max is determined to find out how the past of the parents has led to this slaughter, always aware that as time goes by, his chances of finding the kidnapped boy alive grow dimmer.

Auntie M marveled at Max’s ability to withstand physical punishment, but Parsons does a good job illustrating his physical prowess and workouts at a local boxing club to balance what could be seen as super-human. For Max is definitely a very human detective, devoted to his daughter and her safely and happiness, and this makes him a very real character who leaps off the page and who readers will follow anywhere he takes them. Highly recommended.

GameFamily
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Sophie Hannah seems to be everywhere, and Auntie M says this with all due respect and admiration. Last year's The Telling Error has been published in the US recently under the title Woman with a Secret and was previously reviewed on this blog on February 1st. It’s the tale of a woman keeping a secret and brings back the unusual husband-and-wife detective duo of Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, an interesting and intriguing pair, and if you haven’t made their acquaintance yet, now’s the time to do it.

Hannah was also the author of the new Hercule Poirot novel authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate, The Monogram Murders, notable for her outstanding voice of Poirot, which so many readers miss. Now she has a standalone in A Game For All The Family, which shows her deft hand at psychological thrillers, as well as her ability to create an intriguing story from the most seemingly innocuous bits of people’s lives that somehow escalate before the reader’s eyes into full-blown terror.

Justine Merrison is moving with her family to escape London and her high pressure job to the lovely Devon countryside, home to Dame Agatha, by the way. She has huge plans to do nothing at all, at least for a while, but the family is no sooner moved in than teen daughter Ellen withdraws and changes personality.

It seems Ellen has written a story that describes a grisly murder set in the family’s gorgeous new home and just happened to name a character after herself. What starts out as a school assignment morphs into the story of someone else’s family. Her good friend is expelled from school for a trifle and when Justine goes to the school to ask the head to reconsider, she’s told the student doesn’t exist and that he never attended the school. Who is going crazy–Ellen or the school? And then the anonymous calls start, and Justine finds herself accused of sharing a murderous past with the caller whose voice she doesn’t recognize.

How this falls out is part of the fun of reading the unique novel where Justine must find out just whom she’s supposed to be in order to stop the threat to her family. Twisted and entertaining.

James D. Terry: The Paladin and The Paladin Project Sunday, Sep 20 2015 

Do you enjoy a good mystery? Do you love intelligent dogs? Would you like to learn the secret to eternal life? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might enjoy James D. Terry’s first mystery novel, The Paladin, set in Cornwall. http://www.amazon.com/Paladin-James-D-Terry/dp/1507651767/
The Paladin cover

In his first mystery novel, The Paladin, James D. A. Terry explored one of the most baffling human concepts, that of murder and yet, in the Bible’s account of Cain and Able, it is a concept which has long played a role in society. Murder cases frequently go unsolved not only for decades, but for centuries and for many people this fact is just as disconcerting as the murder case itself.

Terry, born in Canada in 1949, feels a special affinity for Great Britain because of his deep roots in Hindolveston, Norfolk; West Hartlepool, north east England. Reaching further back in his past are Lochwood Castle, Dumfriesshire, Scotland and Ulster, Ireland. Moreover, his wife of thirty years was born in Greenwich, London, England with family still in England and Scotland.

An avid reader of mysteries, particularly British Mysteries, he has crafted his first British mystery. He discovered the intense appeal of mysteries by reading Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie when he was young which inform his writing. The Paladin is a spellbinding tale of ancient curses, murder most foul and an international plot by a very powerful and mysterious organization. The yarn is laced with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Terry has always felt more comfortable communicating through his writing. He was born with an innate comprehension of words, their meanings and uses. As a young boy he dreamt of fantasies he would like to share. Then as a youth he began writing poetry, but it didn’t give him a sense of personal fulfillment. Later he set out to write a science fiction-mystery-adventure novel. Along the way he realized that there were scores of great writers and his aspiration was unattainable.

But the dream of creating an everlasting legacy has always remained an aspiration for Terry. As a father his ambition of leaving a lasting legacy became focused on his son. When the baby boomer recently retired from more than three decades in financial consultation, he decided it was time to create his legacy, The Paladin Project Chronicles.
BookCoverPreview

Dog lovers will appreciate the very gifted canine sidekicks. Human and dog interaction is always an opportunity for some canine sarcasm. These
intelligently written mysteries are infused with dry British wit and interspersed with double entendres and hidden meanings. The author keeps you guessing up until the very end, while building suspense and dread.

His most recent offering is a collection of short stories that will acquaint the reader with the origins of the Paladin and The Paladin Project. The pages also allude to the many adventures to come in The Paladin Chronicles, as well as revealing the amazing secrets of the mysterious Stroma Island.

The Paladin and The Paladin Project can be found on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.eu, Amazon.uk, CreateSpace eStore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Kindle and many other fine book stores.

You are invited to learn more about the author and his books including what he’s working on next on his blog: http://www.jamesdaterryauthor.com/ and follow him on Facebook at: The Paladin Project and Twitter at: James D. A. Terry.

Elly Griffiths: The Zig Zag Girl–the first Magic Men Mystery Tuesday, Sep 15 2015 

Fans of Elly Griffith’s wonderful Ruth Galloway Mysteries have eagerly anticipated this first of her new Magic Men Mysteries, and readers will be delighted with THE ZIG ZAG GIRL.
zigzaggirl

Brighton in 1950 springs off the pages in all its sparkling and sometimes tawdry glory. DI Edgar Stephens faces a most unusual case: the head and legs of a young woman have been found in two separate black boxes in Left Luggage. Then her center midriff is delivered to Stephens at his police station. The killer is mimicking the famous magic trick where the body of a young magician’s assistant is supposedly cut into three pieces, a trick known as The Zig Zag Girl.

It brings into Edgar’s sphere his former mate, Max Mephisto, from a WWII group called the Magic Men, whose specialty was sleight of hand and camouflage for the Germans benefit, in one case a Highlands posting requiring them to simulate a huge warship. The trick had disastrous results, the brainchild of the magician Mephisto, who still performs and into whose world Stephens is soon introduced.

When the identity of the dead woman is established, followed by a second death built around another magician’s trick, the link to the Magic Men gives Stephens a pattern to follow, and soon he and Mephisto will be off to interview the remaining members of their team as the tricks–and the deaths–multiply. The tension rises as lives are at risk and soon it will be the two old friends who are at in danger–all amidst Mephisto trying to keep up his act from town to town.

Griffiths has done a grand job of illustrating the era’s variety shows and the life the performers led. And there are behind-the-scenes looks at some of the tricks. She shows the days of post-war policing, too, when there were no cell phones or computers to rely on or aid police investigations, and how the detecting must rely on personal visits, long car rides to interview people, and the detective’s reasoning and intuition.

The interesting side bit here is the personal story attached to the series; While Mephisto and the Magic Men are fictional creations, they are based on a real team of camouflage experts call the Magic Gang who served in Egypt during WWII and are credited with impressive illusions, including the supposed disappearance of the Suez Canal! Rich fodder for any writer, but there’s even more of a personal connection for Griffiths: the group was led by the famous magician Jasper Maskelyn, who appeared on villa on the variety show circuit with none other than Griffith’s own grandfather, Frederick Goodwin.

Stephens and Mephisto form a new alliance that will have readers clamoring for the next installment. Rumor to Auntie M has it that Griffiths is hard at work on a sequel, The Demon King, but keep that under your hat or a rabbit may appear!

M. C. Beaton: Dishing the Dirt Sunday, Sep 13 2015 

dishing dirt
Agatha Raisin is back and this may be her most unusual case yet–and this time she’s dishing the dirt in more ways than one, including giving out sage dating advice:
Iyer Indiscretion

It’s spring time in the Cotswolds and Agatha should be in a great mood, but the book opens with a grumpy Raisin after one elderly woman, Victoria Bannister, manages to goad Agatha by reminding her of her humble beginnings. Aware of her encroaching middle age, this is a touchy subject for Agatha.

Agatha's Dating Tip 2

With her ex-husband, travel writer James, living next door, and her good friend, Sir Charles Fraith the only ones who know of her Birmingham slum days, Agatha is convinced it must be the therapist, Jill Davent, whom James has been seen with lately. She’s even taken it so far as to visit the therapist, but when Agatha poured out a sanitized version of her background, the therapist had the temerity to accuse her of lying! Even though she was . . .

Agatha's Dating Tip 3

Things are rarely simple for Agatha. Jill also sees Gwen Simple as a patient, and Agatha is convinced the woman assisted her son in grisly murders in the past, although she hasn’t been able to provide proof. That doesn’t stop Agatha from telling anyone and everyone that Jill the therapist is incompetent, a charlatan better off dead. Then Jill moves her office and Agatha breathes a short-loved sigh of relief.

Agatha's Dating Tip 6

Unfortunately, Agatha meets a PI Jill hired to investigate her roots, and goes off as only Agatha can do, yelling into the Randolph bar “I’ll kill her!”, overheard by scores of witnesses. And she drives to Jill’s office, with it’s open windows, and repeats her threat.

Agatha's Dating Tip 7

And we’re off and running, when two days later Jill is found strangled in her office–and this time it’s Agatha who’s in the hot seat. She must use her wits and her team to prove her own innocence while bringing the real murderer to justice on a wild ride that takes her all the way to Venice. Vintage Agatha~

Agatha's Dating Tip 10

Sarah Hilary: No Other Darkness Sunday, Sep 6 2015 

No Other Darkness
Sarah Hilary introduced DI Marni Rome in Someone Else’s Skin. Now she’s back with its sequel, No Other Darkness, as strong an entry as the first, a fast page-turner chock full of unforeseen events.

Auntie M should note that it’s weird reading about a main character who shares her nickname, but casting that aside, Marnie Rome is an interesting character to drive this series. She’s in a relationship with Victim Care Officer Ed Belloc, who understands the pressures of her job and helps to soothe her ragged past. And she’s proud of the team she’s put together, including her DS Noah Jake.

A particularly awful case has them in its grip: two young boys have been found dead in a bunker hidden under the garden of a young family. The Doyle’s have two little children, foster a teen, Clancy, and are expecting their third child when gardener and father Terry unearths a manhole cover and the grisly contents of the bunker it serves.

Clancy reminds Marnie of her own foster brother, serving time for the murder of her parents, and the threads of the two cases seem to overlap to her frazzled nerves. Her past interrupts on more levels than she can cope with in the form of a reporter Marnie knows from her past.

With no known identity for the boys, Marnie’s team tries to identify the two lads, probably brothers who appear to have been left in the bunker with tins of food, a bed and a bucket, until they died of starvation and exposure. Was this the work of a prepper, someone who carried apocalyptic preparations to the extreme?

Once the boys identities are known, things shift horribly: their mother had reported their drowning death years before, and that of their infant sister, although only the sister’s body had been found. She’s been in prison after confessing to the murders, a victim of postpartum psychosis. But now she’s close to being released on parole with a new identity.

How those boys came to be in the Doyle’s bunker, how Clancy figures in, along with several neighbors who appear to not be what they seem, will all cloud Marnie’s investigation as things turn on a dime when the Doyle’s young children go missing.

This is a a briskly-paced police procedural where the stakes are high and the terror never far from the next page. Competently done and filled with surprising twists and creative characters who are complex and real.