Auntie M divided her recommendations into Holiday Joy for other sites across the pond on Dec, 8th, and this version where the settings are all in the US. While you’re shopping for the readers on your list, don’t forget you deserve one, too!

Up first is a thriller writer Auntie M met at Thrillerfest a few years when she was meeting favorite UK author Peter James. “Come and meet my tennis friend,” James said, and I was introduced to the tall and charming Simon Toyne, whose Santus trilogy Auntie M has previously reviewed.


Readers familiar with that Trilogy will be more than pleased with his new thriller, The Searcher, set in Arizona this time, the first in his new Solomon Creed series. The white-haired albino is just the kind of Jason Bourne-like character who can sustain several books with ease.

A funeral in the town of Redemption is interrupted by a plane crash, and the man running away from the site not only has no shoes, he has no memory of how he got there–or who he is. His clothes provide minimal clues and his name: Solomon Creed.

Creed understands he’s in Redemption for a reason, and his questions will lead him to the town’s secrets, filled with people who have something to hide. There are lines drawn between good and evil and a touch of the supernatural. Two main points of view of Creed and the town’s founder in the form of diary entries allow the story to keep the reader knowing more than Creed. A strong start to a new series with a complex character, great images, and a vivid story.

Canadian author Elizabeth Duncan’s Penny Brannigan series, set in the North Welsh countryside, have been previously reviewed by Auntie M. Now Duncan’s turned to a new setting to debut the first in her second series, the Shakespeare in the Catskills Mysteries, kicking it off with Untimely Death.

Duncan takes readers to a Catskill resort, the Jacobs Grand Hotel, whose production of Romeo and Juliet starts off with a bad turn when the leading lady is poisoned. Lauren Richmond is later stabbed and it seems there are far too many suspects who would have wanted the thespian out of their way.

At the center is Charlotte Fairfax, the costume designer who was formerly mistress for the Royal Shakespeare Company and whose shears have been used to commit the murder. The Catskills may not be London, but Charlotte remains Queen of her domain and inserts herself into the lives of her cast and crew as the investigation commences.

There is a nephew of the owner of the hotel who has fingers pointed at him. The aging actor who was the victim’s lover has his own near-death experience, and it turns out he was Charlotte’s former fiancee. Lots of reasons for her to find herself pushed into the middle of the muddle, not the least of which is that she is dating the Chief of Police. An interesting setup for future installments.

At NE Crimebake this year, Auntie M took a police class from Brian Thiem, a former Oakland Homicide Detective Commander with years of Army experience, too. So it was a pleasure after listening to his expertise, designed for writers to ‘get it right’ about police actions, guns, and forensics, to come home and read his debut crime novel featuring Detective Matt Sinclair, Red Line.

RED LINE is an excellent police procedural with an engaging main character who comes across as real, someone readers can identify with and will want to follow, and that extends to his new partner, Cathy Braddock. Catching his first case after desk duty for a series of incidents that have stained his reputation, Sinclair needs a good case to get back into action.

A teenage boy has been found dead at a bus stop outside a hospital, the son of surgeon at that hospital who lives in an affluent neighborhood. Then a second body is dumped at the same bus stop, and Sinclair and Braddock try to find the connection between the victims.

It doesn’t help that the cases bring back an old case of Sinclair’s from two years ago, when two girls were left at that same bus stop. One in a dazed state wandered into the line of traffic and died as a result of being hit by cars. Sinclair realizes he was too deep into his alcoholism at the time to devote as much time to the case as he should have and works even harder to do them justice.

The daily routine of police work is recreated in perfect detail: the interviews, the reports, the way small bits of information come together to build a case. And as Sinclair works this case he must deal with superiors who want to force him out of homicide.

With a girl friend who is a television reporter whose job often puts them in conflict, readers will come to understand the grueling long hours and high stress of a murder investigation, all as Sincalir struggles with his desire to take to the bottle again. Chapters from the murderer’s point of view add to the well-plotted mystery. A strong debut which will leave readers looking for a sequel, from someone who knows the drill inside out.

Douglas Schofield has crafted a most unusual police procedural in Time of Departure. Drawing on his own legal experience, he introduces Claire Talbot, a Florida State prosecutor trying to prove herself to her colleagues in her new post a head of their Felony Division.

The action kicks off when a highway construction crew find two skeletons sharing a grave, and Claire is forced to reopen a cold case investigation into a series of abductions. Perusing the case file, she comes across retired fellow cop Marc Hastings, who becomes too close for comfort with some aspects of Claire’s life and this case.

Is his interest more than affection? And what does Hastings know about Claire’s life that she doesn’t?

A compelling debut that shows a clever mind behind it all, mixing genre expectations.

Linda Lovely takes readers to her hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, in the year 1938 for Lies. Using real landmarks and historical happenings mixed with her fictional story and elements, this is a strong showing from a great storyteller. The period leading up to WWII comes alive under Lovely’s talented hand.

Catherine Reedy Black knows she needs to leave her abusive husband, a swindler and con man, in order to have a reasonable future for her two-year old son, Jay. With her family’s support, she just might be able to do it, too, until Dirk Black’s corpse is pulled out of the river, and Cat becomes the prime suspect.

New to the police department, Ed Nelson knows Cat from school, and remembers the bright girl he was attracted to. But he’s hiding his own secrets, and even as he tries his best to help clear Cat, he’s fighting the corrupt police chief who wants nothing more than to see Cat convicted of murder.

With the annual Street Fair in town, the glitzy lights and rides will prove a scary setting as Cat tries to clear her name and almost dies in the effort. It seems there are many in town who are hiding secrets, and among them is the killer with a motive Cat needs to unearth.

A perfect mix of compelling mystery and love story in a well-drawn setting. And a great gift for any reader who enjoys this period.

Multi-award winner Hank Phillipi Ryan returns with her fourth Jane Ryland thriller, What You See.

The journalist and her detective boyfriend, Jake Brogan, are in the midst of still trying to figure out how to handle their conflicts of interest in their jobs. She’s interviewing with a new channel, and rushes to the site of a big story: the stabbing death of a man at historic Faneuil Hall–and it’s Jake’s case.

You would think with multiple tourists capturing the murder on their cell phones that this would be one case that’s an easy solve, but Jake and his partner Paul find this investigation isn’t at all what they’d predicted. There’s an injured man in addition to the victim to consider, too.

In the midst of this, Jane’s sister is about to be married, what should be a joyous occasion–until her fiancé’s daughter, the young flower girl, is abducted by her stepfather. Nine-year-old Gracie’s disappearance is just the tip of the iceberg as this story overlaps with the case Jake is following, with fingers leading to dark places.

It gets more and more complicated. Neither the murder victim or the injured man in the alley have any ID on them, making motive and solving the case difficult. Jane is juggling with trying to establish a new place at Channel 2 when her family situation takes precedence. Jake is finding that a murder in broad daylight in front multiple witnesses is full of challenges and directions of interest that have far reaching connections and consequences.

It all places Jake and Jane in a position to test their loyalties to each other and to their jobs.

Ryan does a bang-up job of showing how even in this digital age, looks can still deceive. Filled with family secrets, merciless ambition, and deceitful maneuverings. JT Ellison says, “This is Ryan at the top of her game.” A perfect mix of mystery and romance.
Silent City
Carrie Smith’s first Manhattan police procedural, Silent City, features protagonist Claire Codella, a detective just back on the case after grueling chemotherapy for an aggressive lymphoma. Still dealing with its after-effects, which Smith details accurately, Codella’ first murder case turns out to a well-liked school principal. And Codella must prove to her colleagues, and to herself, that she’s up to the task.

Hector Sanchez’s murder investigation hands Codella a new partner to break in, newly promoted Eduardo Munoz. They, along with Codella’s former partner, Brian Haggerty, follow numerous leads in their search for Sanchez’s killer. The staging of his body makes it appear that his murder is connected to his job as principal at PS 777 and the three investigators quickly learn there are far too many suspects with a motive to kill him.

Codella is an intelligent detective who follows where the evidence leads her, and whose new boss is not exactly her biggest fan. Yet despite his attempts to undermine her authority, Codella relentlessly pursues all the of the leads in the case, despite battling her cancer treatment’s side effects.

Munoz and Haggerty, also excellent investigators, know they must be loyal to Codella. Munoz must also prove himself worthy of his promotion; Haggerty and Codella are trying to put to bed an old rift that came between them.

This mystery has an engaging storyline and appealing characters. With plenty of suspects, no clear cut motive for the crime and stunning plot twists, Carrie Smith skillfully conceals the killer’s identity until the novel’s climax. A strong series debut.

Susan Cox won Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel award. The Man on the Washing Machine is a delightful mix of humor and murder, taking place in San Francisco, and introducing a most unusual sleuth, former party girl and society photographer Theophania Bogart, who hides her own family secrets.

Theo unfortunately sees her neighbor, Tim Callahan, fall from his apartment window, plunging her right into the middle of his murder investigation. Her already complicated new life comes under intense scrutiny. Surrounded by neighbors and friends, Theo is the owner of a small bath and body shop as well as the building housing it, but she is constantly afraid her sordid past will be unearthed.

What will a police investigation do to her carefully crafted identity?

When the police detective suspects murder, not suicide, she lists the entire neighborhood as suspects and that includes Theo. Then another body with direct ties to Theo turns up, making her the number one suspect.

Filled with eccentric characters, this fast-paced mystery is filled with humor and action. A perfect gift for those readers who enjoy a dose of humor with their mystery.

That’s it for the gift listing, folks. Remember that books make wonderful presents for anyone on your holiday list. And enjoy yours, with a few for your stocking as well~