Action + Thrills = Great Reads Sunday, Mar 27 2016 

Auntie M has read a stack of high tension, high action books recently, so she’s grouped them for your reading pleasure.

Eric Rickstad’s Lie in Wait starts out with the murder of a young babysitter. The savage attack takes place at the Canaan, Vermont home of the lead attorney in a high-profile case, which convinces detective Sonja Test they must be related. With two children of her own, viewing the girl’s body as her first murder victim while her kids wait outside in the car is a neat juxtaposition to all things normal suddenly gone wrong.

Test will keep digging, uncovering past acts hidden for years that impact on the murder. This fast-paced thriller is heavy with the psychology of the characters which increases the tension. There will be several unexpected twists before the ending. The tension between Test and her job, and her allegiance to her husband and children ramps up the emotions.

Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle
finds Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan still reeling from the tragic loss of his wife and young son in a car accident a year ago. It doesn’t help that his wife was driving Danny’s car at the time. He’s not been back at work since the tragedy. Then his friend, journalist Michael Cohen drives his car right into the pond in front of Danny’s house after being shot.

An obvious murder, Danny is looked at with suspicion, which only adds to the tension as he tries to find out why Michael had to die. He digs into his friend’s last article, supposedly on restaurant reviews, but which turns more to be about Philly politics mixed with a twisted, secret nightlife. It doesn’t help that his father-in-law is a senator, implicated heavily in the secrets he uncovers, secrets the most powerful people in the city are desperate remain hidden. And is it possible that Danny was really meant to die in that accident?

Danny’s migraines interfere with his investigation, a nice side touch that makes him feel very human. A determined detective and a friend of Michael’s, legislative aide Kate Reid, are two other characters whose presence adds to the tension as Danny gets closer and closer to a truth he can’t ignore, one he won’t have seen coming at all.

John Clarkson debuts a new series with Among Thieves with an unlikely protagonist, ex-con James Beck.

The Brooklyn setting has a gritty, noir feel with Beck at the lead of this action-packed thriller. Beck’s spent his years since getting out of prison building a team operating out of the Red Hook area. Then one of the team, partner Manny Guzman, asks for Beck’s help: his cousin, Olivia, working at a NYC brokerage firm, noticed suspicious investment practices that led to her getting a few of her fingers broken, after which she was fired and blackballed from the industry.

Leave it to Beck to right the wrong, but in doing so, he realizes Olivia has found something far more compelling than anyone thought at first. And then all hell breaks loose as there’s a far too much money at stake. Beck and company will face threats from several sources, including Bosnian war criminals, with violence on terrifying levels.

There will be several surprising twists, a bit of sex and a whole lot of action before Beck’s team is finished.


Author Gregg Hurwitz has had many bestselling and award-nominated thrillers in the past, so it’s no surprise the first of his new series, Orphan X, is already being adapted by Hurwitz for a Warner Bros. movie starring Bradley Cooper.

Creating a character for the likes of Jack Reacher fans, there’s all the high-tech gadgets and action readers could want. Evan Smoak was raised in the secret Orphan Program, where the goal was to produce assassins who were so off the grid they didn’t officially exist.

All of his training and skills come into play when Evan breaks away and assumes a new name and persona, and decides to use these to help people pushed to the limit by murderers or kidnappers. Called the “Nowhere Man,” he lives with many layers of protection around him, until someone from his past turns up to ruin everything.

Yes, there’s a lovely woman or two in here, and even the occasional hint of humor to relieve the stress, but that doesn’t stop the heart-rending action nor the sense of outlandishness at times that makes this read even more cinematic. Lee Child says: “Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is his best yet–a real celebration of all the strengths he brings to a thriller.”


New Zealander Ben Sanders fourth novel is his first published in the US, and in concert with high-action thrillers, it’s been sold to Warner Bros with the attached star and producer none other than the afore-mentioned Bradley Cooper. The actor is one busy guy, but he knows how to pick projects with fast-moving action. American Blood introduces Marshall Grade, a likable sort if you like your cops living in a New Mexico Witness Protection Program, trying to keep a low profile.

Marshall’s a bit of a rogue who reminded Auntie M of a tortured New York Longmire–not afraid to get his hands dirty and very persistent. There’s a contract out on Marshall and he’s supposed to be living a quiet life. But his undercover past is littered with bodies and he can’t quite forget them.

Instead he decides to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Alyce Ray may have been taken by drug traffickers, and the opening scene in a diner where Marshall meets up with two whom he feels have information is a choreographed dance in itself and a clue to his steely nerves.

The plot is more complex than at first glance, with language that flows and lets readers experience a different kind of hero, one who treads a fine line to find justice.

First Response
Auntie M has reviewed thriller author Stephen Leather’s multiple previous books in two series. Stand-alone First Response is ripped from today’s headlines, and all too easily believed.

In London, several scenarios go off at once in nine different locations. Suicide bombers claiming to be from ISIS hold hostages in all of these locations, and they vary from a church to a pub to a childcare center. Their mission is to force the release of jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh prison, and their demands are firm: they are to be released that same evening.

But when Mo Kamran, Superintendent of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met investigates, he and his team find no links to ISIS, and none of the men are on known-terrorist watch lists. Are these clean skins, terrorist without a link to any particular group? Or is something else pulling these men together?

Imagine the chaos that would reign in such a situation with a deadline looming. Now imagine trying to coordinate Special Forces, EMS, and armed tactical units, and you have an idea of Mo’s day. The Muslim detective won’t have it easy, especially when he realizes the agenda being played out is not what it seems.

Leather couples clever plotting with detailed knowledge of the way the Government and the Police would respond with strong characterizations. For fans of his two other series, this one’s a sure-fire read. For readers new to Leather, there’s no better place to start than with this contemporary thriller.

Jonathan Moore: The Poison Artist Wednesday, Mar 23 2016 

Poison Artist

Auntie M met Jonathan Moore at Bouchercon last October. When Elly Griffiths recommended his book, how could I say no? The quiet, good-looking attorney-and-author currently living in Hawaii caught my interest with his quiet demeanor. But his eyes lit up when talking about his book, and what a book this one is. The Poison Artist starts out strong and stays that way, building with tension that proves unnerving.

The sense of noir is fully realized in the beautiful but lonely San Francisco setting where Dr. Caleb Maddox, a chemist and toxicologist whose specialty revolves around studying pain, lives and works. He’s not in a happy place, having just broken up with the girlfriend he’d thought was his destiny, and in a physically painful way: she’s thrown a glass at his forehead and he’s in the midst of picking out shards and staying in a hotel for the night.

After cleaning up, he heads for the bar across the street, The House of Shields. Meeting an exotic woman drinking absinthe is just the first step on Caleb’s route to obsession. Soon he’s searching for Emmeline, then responding to her calls and meeting at unusual times and places, always with a mysterious air about each event as well as the woman herself. These scenes have the strongest noir setting, from Emmeline’s clothing to her actions and her seductive air.

Caleb embarks on a week of binge-drinking in his quest to find her, right around Christmas that threatens the grant work he’s doing at his specialty lab, just as he becomes involved in helping his medical examiner friend, Henry, hunt for a serial murderer. Henry has realized that a series of men whose bodies wash up under the Golden Gate bridge all show signs of severe and cruel torture and Caleb is determined to find the killer.

There are scenes that feel so real they jump off the page, whether it’s in the autopsy room, at a bar, or simply inside Caleb’s head. This is a book filled with precise details that add to the sense we are experiencing a real situation, which only serves to increase the terror. Moore talked his way into the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office for hands-on research and it shows.

This is a heart-pounding thriller that Auntie M could see Hitchcock filming, if only he were alive to do it justice. And thankfully for readers, it’s the first in a planned trilogy of thrillers set in San Francisco. THE DARK ROOM will be out in January 2017, followed the following year by THE NIGHT MARKET.

Barbara Ross: Fogged In, A Maine Clambake Mystery Sunday, Mar 20 2016 


Please welcome author Barbara Ross, speaking about the influences on her writing and her newest Maine Clambake Mystery, Fogged In.

The Twists and Turns in the Mystery Road

Recently my colleague on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog, Julie Hennrikus, wrote about book-to-movie and book-to-TV adaptations, particularly mystery adaptations. In the comments, people wrote about their favorites and the ones they just couldn’t watch.

It didn’t take me but a second to identify the book-to-movie adaptation that had the most profound impact on my life. On a rainy day at the beach, my grandmother, desperate to keep me entertained, took me to see Murder She Said, the first Miss Marple mystery starring Margaret Rutherford. I was eight and I loved it. In fact, I think I still remember some of the visuals from it. (I haven’t seen it since then, so I must, right?)

Agatha Christie’s novels gave me a natural place to “graduate to” as I outgrew Nancy Drew and kept me in the mystery fold. From there, I discovered Dorothy L. Sayers and a whole host of others.

There followed a long hiatus through college and young adulthood, until I discovered P.D. James and Ruth Rendell and once again became a mystery fan. All these women are the reason I love mysteries and read and write mysteries. Rendell had another impact. She got me reading mystery short stories, which I also write. I spent six years as a co-editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books working on the Best New England Crime Stories series.

What if I’d never seen that movie or discovered these authors? My life would be profoundly different. I’ve pondered that many times recently because my latest Maine Clambake Mystery, Fogged Inn, is about a group of retirees. What twists and turns did their lives take that led them all to a fogbound restaurant in Maine on the night a man was murdered? If any one of them had done one thing differently, would all they have been there on that fateful night?

That’s the question I enjoyed finding an answer to as I wrote, and I hope my readers enjoy discovering as they read.

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries: Clammed Up, Boiled Over, Musseled Out and Fogged Inn. Clammed Up was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Barbara blogs with a wonderful group of Maine mystery authors at Maine Crime Writers and with a group of writers of New England-based cozy mysteries at Wicked Cozy Authors.

She is always thrilled to hear from readers. You can find her via her website at, or on Facebook at, on Twitter @barbross, or on Pinterest at

Arnaldur Indridason: Into Oblivion Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

Arnaldur Indirdason’s Icelandic thriller series, featuring Inspector Erlendur, continues with this look into his early days as a detective in Into Oblivion, an aspect first explored in last year’s acclaimed Reykjavik Nights. The CWA Gold Dagger Award winner is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, and with good reason.

The book opens a few years after Erlandur decides he wants to be a detective. It’s 1979 and the year springs to life, the mood set by the music, clothing and social mores of the era. The detective is working with Marion Briem, an older, more experienced detective, when the body of man is found in a blue lagoon known for its healing waters.

Examination reveals that the man has fallen from a great height and died before his body was moved to the lagoon. Could he have fallen from a plane? The only immense height in the area is an aircraft hanger on the grounds of the controversial US military base nearby.

When it becomes apparent the base is involved, Erlandur and Briem find themselves tiptoeing around the base to investigate after the US powers that be have stalled their investigation and denied them access to the hanger. It will take an unlikely accomplice to help them get to the bottom of the man’s death, thwarted by a rogue CIA agent.

As the action unfolds, Erlandur also takes it upon himself to run a parallel cold case investigation. A young teen went missing on her way to school, her body never found, and as both cases heat up, the young detective finds himself in his element, conducting interviews and following slender leads to find resolution.

Another hit that gives insight into what made Erlandur the detective he becomes.

Paula Brackston: The Return of the Witch Monday, Mar 14 2016 


Readers, I’m in cahoots with St. Martin’s to offer you THREE giveaway copies of Paula Brackston’s sequel to last year’s debut novel The Witch’s Daughter. This was the little book that could–with a captivating story, remarkable heroine, and eye-catching package, it has now netted over 200,000 copies in all formats.

Now Paula returns with its sequel The Return of the Witch, another bewitching tale of love and magic, featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, a fabulous and intriguing historical backdrop, and a headstrong and relatable heroine readers will cheer for.

After five years in the Summerlands, Gideon has gained his freedom. Elizabeth knows he will go straight for Tegan, and that she must protect the girl she had come to regard as her own daughter. In the time since the dramatic night in Batchcombe woods, Tegan has traveled the world learning from all manner of witches, and she is no longer the awkward teenager and novice spellcaster she once was.

However, her skills are no match for Gideon’s dark, vengeful power, and he succeeds in capturing her. Will Elizabeth be able to find her? Will they be able to defeat their nemesis once and for all?

In a breathless journey that takes them through history to the 17th and 19th centuries, witch pursues warlock. Three people steeped in magic weave a new story, but not all will survive until the end. Crime of a different kind here, with suspense and action.

In case you missed The Witch’s Daughter, this is its synopsis:

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters.

Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan.

Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?

THREE lucky winners who leave a comment will be sent copies of the sequel directly from the publisher. To enter the drawing, leave a comment and we’ll use an impartial draw to find the lucky winners. Good luck!!

Cheri Crystal: Across the Pond Sunday, Mar 13 2016 

Auntie M first met Cheri Crystal through a mutual writing friend and did some editing for her. Things have changed dramatically for Cheri, who now lives in Devon, England, right in the heart of Agatha Christie country~



Born and raised in New York, I never imagined I’d leave America to live in England.

But the game plan changed when I fell madly in love with a British woman. Unable to live without her, I married her in New York when same-sex marriage became legal; left my conventional life and native land and moved across the pond.

I’ve been settled in Devon for four years now and still have to pinch myself to believe I’m really here.

The Devon Moors devonmoors-ashburton-dartmoor-foot

While I miss America and visit as often as I can, the southwest of England is a lovely part of the world and it’s a pleasure to live here. I’m fortunate to have ample opportunity to travel and explore, and I love that I get to work in a foreign country. It’s been quite the adventure.

After writing short lesbian fiction for many years, including a 2010 GCLS winner for lesbian erotica, Attractions of the Heart, I’m proud to announce that Across the Pond, my first novel published by Ylva, is finally here.

While the story may be loosely based on my experiences, I promise the characters and plot are purely fictitious. I’ve even taken some liberties with the setting.

Fingle Bridge, Devon fingle-bridge-inn

It’s not easy leaving family, country, and everything you’ve ever known, but had I not ventured and questioned the status quo, had I not allowed myself the freedom to be me, then I’d have missed out on what was clearly meant to be.

Let the adventure continue . . . Thanks for reading!


You can buy Cheri’s book Across the Pond here…

Thom Satterlee: The Stages Wednesday, Mar 9 2016 

The Stages

One of Auntie M’s favorite books in past years was Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. So when she was offered a chance to read Thom Satterlees’ The Stages, she knew she would enjoy the chance to follow an adult character with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Daniel Peters is an American translator living in Copenhagen and working at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center. He’s become known as one of the philosopher’s best translators, and frequently lapses into interior monologues with the reader about what Kierkegaard has to say on a particular subject. His mentor and friend, and former love, Metta Rasmussen, is also his supervisor, who has diagnosed correctly, helped him learn techniques to handle living in a world where he doesn’t ‘get’ social clues, facial tics or body language. There’s a defined rhythm to his days and habits, including a propensity for eating danishes, and where better to find them?

Then the unthinkable happens: Mette is found murdered, and a new manuscript he’d been translating has been taken. Daniel was the last person to see her alive, but although he comes under suspicion, he thinks he’s able to persuade a female detective that he’s innocent. But it means she needs him to help with her investigation, if only to help him clear his name. And as he does that, he needs to learn how to express his grief for the friend he’s loved and lost.

Stepping outside his comfort zone is a mild way of describing how Daniel must act and react in this compelling mystery set inside a totally different world to most readers. It’s a satisfying read and one that brings Copenhagen alive on the pages.

Satterlee speaks Danish, and lived with a family in Denmark for his junior year in high school. The informs the novel with a vast sense of reality. Reading and understanding Kierkegaard is an entirely different matter, yet it’s obvious Satterlee has more than a grasp of the iconic philosopher’s life and work. Who would have thought an author could create a mystery surrounding Soren Kierkegaard and make it compelling and highly entertaining at the same time–Thom Satterlee did, and it’s a worthy accomplishment.

Kate Parker: Deadly Scandal Sunday, Mar 6 2016 


Please welcome author Kate Parker and her new historical mystery, set in 1930’s London, Deadly Scandal. Kate will describe how she came to create her protagonist, Olivia Denis.

Murder and Fashion Sense

When I was a girl, there was a comic strip in the newspaper called Brenda Starr, star reporter. She was a tall, slender, leggy redhead who worked for a metropolitan daily and went after the hard news, the big stories. She got the exclusives. She never took no for an answer. She was tough and sexy and bright and lucky. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

In the spirit of truth in journalism, I have to admit the only resemblance was in my reddish hair. I might pass as a reporter; no one would ever mistake me for Brenda Starr.

I saved this icon from my childhood, and when it came time to write a mystery about an unprepared woman who lands a job on a metropolitan daily newspaper in 1930s London, I knew what she looked like. She’s a tall, slender, leggy redhead. She’s bright and sexy and lucky.

And that’s where I stopped the similarities.

I gave Olivia Denis a love and flair for fashion. I gave her a talent for sketching dresses, hats, and shoes as well as a fabulous wardrobe. And I gave her a love of shopping that she couldn’t indulge once she was widowed at twenty-five.

But since she had Brenda Starr’s luck, she has a good friend whose father published one of the biggest daily newspapers in London. And so she landed a job as a society reporter, where the publisher thought she couldn’t do much damage.

However, Olivia Denis doesn’t have Brenda Starr’s street savvy. When offered a much higher salary than she expected, along with a requirement to carry out certain unspecified clandestine assignments that she is not to mention – ever – she says yes. She knew no one else would pay her that much. She doesn’t ask about the nature of these assignments. She doesn’t stop and consider. She just thinks about the money and says yes.

So here you have Olivia Denis, young widow, who is going to hunt for her husband’s killer. She owes her livelihood to the father of a school friend who needs her to carry out clandestine assignments under the guise of society page reporting.

Olivia is young and pretty like Brenda Starr. And while she’s a novice, she has something else Brenda Starr had: Determination.

Find out how it all works out in Deadly Scandal by Kate Parker.

Learn more about Kate and her books at

Order now at Amazon:

Katherine Ashe: The Rogue, Devil’s Duke #1 Tuesday, Mar 1 2016 

Author Katherine Ashe delights readers with her historical romances that have mystery and action all rolled into one. A professor of European History at Duke University, it’s only fitting that her new series is called Devil’s Duke.

The first one in the series, The Rogue, will captivate readers who like a hint of sensuality with their swordplay.

Throw in a secret society practicing dark arts, and of course, a rogue with a heart of gold who will anything for the woman he loves, and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic read.

What sets this one apart is the appearance of TWO rogues and ravishing heroine in the form of a duke’s daughter, Lady Constance Read. The lovely but very independent woman needs a husband, despite her penchant for riding astride a horse instead of the usual side-saddle of ladies. She’s also a great shot with both pistols and bows, a match for any man wishing to share her life.

Here’s Katherine’s recent Q/A that will shed light on her new series~

1. Q: Your new Devil’s Duke series kicks off with a bang in The Rogue; there’s plenty of intrigue, action, and some cameos from Falcon Club members of your previous novels. Yet you’re also telling a very deep love story that touches on many issues, including second chances, abuse, and honesty. As a writer—and as a reader!—what appeals to you about mixing “spy stuff” and adventure with the kind of intensely emotional narrative going on in The Rogue?

A: Truth? I want to be completely swept away. I love getting so immersed in a story that I can’t put it down. I am totally addicted to intense, deep, powerful romance. When I read and write, I want to experience every emotion: I want to laugh, weep, shout, feel my heart racing, and go a little insane-in-love right along with the hero and heroine. If they’re opponents or allies in exciting intrigue—Saint and Constance are both in The Rogue—I get completely caught up in the excitement. It’s romance, so I know they’ll be together by the end. But the more intense the journey to falling in love is, the more I adore it.

2. Q: You write historical romance novels—but you’re also a professor of history! How much does your academic work as a professor overlap with your writing?

A: Now that I teach popular fiction — both romance fiction and other fiction based on medieval history — I can pour my experience with researching, writing and publishing novels into my teaching. And it goes the other way too; teaching nourishes me. I learn from my students all the time. Also, oftentimes I’ll read something to use in class and it will inspire a character or scene or even an entire plot of a novel.

3. Q: The title of the novel, The Rogue, refers to Saint, our roguish hero. But he’s not the only one known to break the rules every now and again: Constance is an extremely independent woman. At every turn, she refuses to let society make her dependent on someone else, and she continually rises against every challenge she is faced with. What inspired you to write such a strong, forward-thinking heroine?

A: Constance is incredibly strong and independent, but she’s also damaged and vulnerable. In a world dominated by men who want to use or control her, she’s come to a place where she’s simply refusing that. She wants to make her own decisions, and she wants to be her own hero (it’s why she asks Saint to teach her how to fight with a sword and dagger). But she wants—and needs—love too. I think this is the struggle of modern women: to be independent and take care of themselves, as well as others who need them, but also to allow themselves to be loved by a good man—a man who won’t try to control them, but will love them for the entire woman that they are.

4. Q: You often speak at conferences and give interviews regarding your views on the romance genre. We’ve seen romance get more time in the mainstream media spotlight this year than ever before—do you think that’s an indicator of things to come? Where do you see the genre going from here?

A: The good press is wonderful! It’s a good sign for the future. We’ve a long way to go, though. I think the new openness to romance fiction in the mainstream media has as much to do with the fabulous novels authors are writing now, featuring independent heroines with real agency, as it has to do with our society very, very slowly shifting toward an honest recognition of the latent misogyny and anti-feminist biases in our culture. These biases are so deeply rooted (they’re thousands of years old!) that it’s going to take more than few decades for real equality. When the romance genre is treated the same way that the mystery or sci-fi or thriller genres are treated, that’ll be a good indicator we’ve come to true equality between the sexes.

5. Q: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects!

A: The Earl is next! Through several books my readers have been following the heated banter of Peregrine, the secretary of the Falcon Club, and popular London pamphleteer Lady Justice. She has skewered him again and again in the public press for being an idle elitist, but now she needs his help. They’re thrown together in an unexpected (and dangerous) adventure across the Scottish Highlands. It’s a super intense, funny and exciting love story, and I cried and laughed and gasped and sighed and loved loved loved writing it.

After that, the duke everybody’s calling The Devil gets his story!