Different Worlds: Japan, Luxembourg, Iceland, Australia x 2 Wednesday, Apr 27 2016 

Auntie M reads more books to review than there are days to review them, it seems at times. So gathering a few together by theme, setting or type often works to get more information out to readers.

This time it’s different worlds, and we’re going around the world to exotic locales, where the unusual setting adds to the crime story.

Midsummer's Equation

We start in Japan, with Keigo Higashino’s thoughtful A Midsummer’s Equation, which brings back the physics professor the author introduced in the highly popular The Devotion of Suspect X.

Manabu Yukawa is known as “Detective Galileo,” and in this book, he’s at the summer resort town of Hari Cove, now fallen down on its luck, to take part in a conference on the proposal for an underwater mining operation. The plan has critics on both sides of the issue, with those opposing concerned about the impact on the town’s pristine waters, and those in favor of it believing it is the town’s only hope for survival.

When a guest at one of the resorts is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, what is deemed at first a simple accident becomes looked at more closely when it’s determined the victim is a former policeman and his death was anything but natural. Galileo finds himself drawn to the inhabitants of the resort, and feels the clue to the murder lies in the complicated relationships he’s observed.

A look at policing in Japan, tied to cultural differences, and how a man who knows human nature most of all can find the answers to questions others miss.

Candidate

Daniel Pembrey writes nonfiction, but his thrillers and psychological suspense stories have been led Susan Hill to note that he “Tells a cracking tale with verve and style.” In The Candidate, he takes us to Luxembourg, a place he knows well, for a novella you will zip through and be left yearning for more.

Brit Nick Thorneycroft is new to his headhunting job in Luxembourg. When he’s tasked with recruiting a new executive with specific talents to work with a Russian company, the best candidate may turn out to be the worst for Nick. Beautiful and definitely smart, Yekaterina Novakovich may be the best–or the worst–person to enter Nick’s life.

With his ex-girlfriend muddying the waters, Nick has to decide whom to trust, if anyone can be. Smart and complicated, a twisted ride from start to finish.

the-mystery-of-the-venus-island-fetish

From the land Down Under comes a tale set in 1932 Sydney, a wickedly funny mystery set in a museum. The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish is Tim Flannery’s outlandish title that matches an equally outlandish tale that captivates readers with its humor, science and portrayal of anthropologists.

A former museum director, Flannery is currently a Sydney professor who pulls on his science and literary background to delight us with a tale of Depression-era Sydney, when the town was right on the edge of wild land. Any director would have been challenged to keep a museum open and running in the face of a starving population. Enter Archie Meek, newly returned from years on a field trip to Venus Island, where he’s appropriated some of the island’s customs for his own, with interesting outcomes.

It’s Meeks who notices that the island’s famous gift, a ceremonial mask surrounded by 32 human skulls, has been tampered with, and leads to his firm supposition that the differences are caused by substituting skulls of missing museum staff. There will be romance and mayhem before it’s all over. Filled with eccentric characters and charm, this outlandish caper is a delight from start to finish, and you’ll learn about museums, science and how things worked in that era–or didn’t.

WebDeceit

Katherine Howell’s Ella Marconi series are filled with telling details, whether of character, emotion or the contemporary Sydney setting. In Web of Deceit, the Davitt Award-winning author brings the series to the USA.

Paramedics Jane Koutoufides and Alex Churchill had given care to a man earlier in the day, when he crashed his car deliberately into a pole and told them he was escaping from someone. Left at the hospital awaiting a psych consult, Marko Meixner absconds before he’s seen. The next time they’re confronted with Marko, he’s dead under the wheels of a train. Did he jump or was he pushed?

Detective Ella Marconi and her partner, Murray Shakespeare, share the paramedics feel that Marko was not paranoid, but truly afraid of someone. But she has trouble convincing her boss of that. When Marko’s boss tries to commit suicide shortly after he’s been questioned, she’s convinced she’s right. Then a woman tangential to the story is attacked in front of Jane’s house, and in another twist, Alex’s daughter goes missing.

Howell does a nice job of blending in the personal stories of the four main characters, and the Sydney setting comes alive under her detailed descriptions. A complex mystery with a determined detective at its heart.

SilenceSea

Next we head north to Iceland and Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s newest, The Silence of the Sea, named Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of 2015.

The latest Thora Gudmundsdottir novel brings the lawyer her most intriguing case yet: a luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbor with no one on board. There’s no crew, none of the expected family traveling as passengers, and no captain. The entire passenger list, on board from embarkment in Lisbon, have disappeared.

When the grandparents of the missing family enlist Thora’s help to keep custody of their one remaining granddaughter, left in their care, she becomes embroiled in what is clearly much more than a custody case. The case is reminiscent of locked room murders and the tension ratchets up when rumors that this yacht was cursed reach Thora’s ears. Then a body washes up on the shore, connected to this boat, adding to the complexity of the case, with identity issues adding to the horror.

Under the author’s skilled hands, what could be billed a ghost story becomes a frightening case of murder and intrigue. You will be as spooked as Thora, who thinks she’s seen one of the children when she boards the boat, looking for clues. So atmospheric, even when the explanation is given, you’ll feel unsettled and chilled.

Advertisements

Mike Sherer: Blind Rage Sunday, Apr 24 2016 

Please welcome guest Mike Sherer, whose new YA/New Adult thriller, BLIND RAGE debuted April 19th~

covertitleimage

Welcome to the Brave New World

Or, How BLIND RAGE Got Published

For any author, getting a book published is a big deal, an exciting time. So I’m thrilled that BLIND RAGE, the first book in my Tess Barrett young adult/new adult thriller series is coming out on April 19th.

While there are more roads to publication these days than ever, they are rarely smooth. My own journey has taken twists and turns, traveling down broad highways only to abruptly end up on a scenic dead end. Somehow, I keep finding a way forward.

Here are the roads taken and how they led to the publication of BLIND RAGE. My first mystery was published in 1988 by an old, traditional NYC publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co. (The story of how that book came to be published is too long to relate here.) Through no fault of mine, I’m glad to say, the publisher went under shortly after my book came out.

Two years later, however, I sold the paperback rights to that book, plus the next two books in the series, to HarperPaperbacks. Harper was just starting its paperback mystery line, anchored by Tony Hillerman’s books, and I was excited about my prospects with them. Alas, one month after the first of my three books came out, Harper declined its option on the fourth book based on four weeks of sales. That meant, of course, that they put no marketing effort behind books #2 and #3.

Ten years went by (raising kids, working a regular job, etc., etc.) before Ed Gorman called to tell me of an opportunity to get back into print with a small library edition publisher. I ended up publishing three more books in the Emerson Ward mystery series with Five Star, as well as a standalone suspense novel.

I knew, though, that to get back to the big leagues, to get sent up to The Show from the minors, I had to come up with a new series. I decided to try my hand at a thriller this time, and after a casual conversation with my local bookstore owner, I came up with a character I loved and a crazy, but just plausible plot. After a year-and-a-half of research and writing, I finished my first Blake Sanders thriller, NIGHT BLIND.

I also knew that the publishing industry had changed dramatically since I sold my first books. Back then, (an era I refer to as “B.K.”), editors at traditional NYC publishing houses still responded to query letters from unagented authors. If I wanted to this new book to land at a big house, I’d have to get an agent. After a two-year search, I was lucky enough to get picked up by Lukas Ortiz at the Philip Spitzer Literary Agency, the shop that represents Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke and her dad James Lee Burke.

But even the weight of that esteemed agency couldn’t get me a contract in NY. And the earth shifted once again. During the process of writing NIGHT BLIND, e-books were a novelty that started to gain steam. But suddenly, an online bookstore called Amazon introduced its own e-reader, the Kindle.

Not long after, Amazon also announced that it was creating its own publishing imprints in different genres. I talked with Lukas about it, and we agreed that Thomas & Mercer might be receptive to my new series. They were, and brought NIGHT BLIND out in 2012. The book was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. But five days prior to the announcement, T&M told Lukas and me that they didn’t plan to publish the rest of the Blake Sander series.

Self-publishing “Before Kindle” was a nice way of describing vanity publishing, wherein authors pay a press to print copies of their books and then use the subsequent unopened boxes of books to weight their car trunks for traction in snow in the winter. But Kindle, with Amazon’s algorithms and marketing muscle, leveled the publishing playing field somewhat. So, I ended up self-publishing the next couple of Blake Sanders thrillers.

In the meantime, I woke from a bizarre dream one morning in which phrases incorporating the word “blind” had tumbled through my brain—blind rage, blind justice, blind instinct… I shook myself and wondered what the heck it meant, and realized that they were book titles for a thriller series featuring a blind girl.

With dismay, after waking further and drinking a cup of coffee, I realized that a blind girl couldn’t solve crimes or mysteries, let alone be the protagonist of a thriller series. Until a few moments later I was struck by the brilliant thought that she was assisted not by the traditional see-eye dog, but by a seeing-eye guy. I liked the idea so much that before starting on my fourth Blake Sanders novel, I dove into BLIND RAGE, finished it, then wrote a second Tess Barrett book called BLIND INSTINCT, and developed an eight-book story arc.

Lukas, though, isn’t well-connected to the YA/NA genre, and felt uncomfortable representing the series. But after my experience in self-publishing, I felt strongly about having some sort of publisher put out BLIND RAGE.

See, the thing about self-publishing is that e-readers and platforms like Kindle, Nook, and iBooks have made it incredibly easy to “publish” a book. But you still have to find an audience. And now that self-publishing is so easy, you’re trying to make your voice heard over literally a million other authors.

I approached an editor at Skyscape, Amazon’s YA imprint, whom I’d met before, and asked if she’d like to take a look at BLIND RAGE. She said she would, so I sent it to her. And waited. And waited some more. When two years went by with no response to my follow-up queries, I took the hint and decided to try a new Amazon feature, Kindle Scout, where readers nominate books they’d like to read based on excerpts. Those books with a high level of reader interest are selected by Kindle for publication on the Kindle platform. Amazon pays a small advance ($1,500), and modestly promotes the books.

Our younger daughter is a design major at UW, and I asked her if she’d be interested in designing a cover for the book. She agreed, and came up with one of the most striking book covers I’ve ever had. By January, 2015, all was ready for me to pull the trigger. I took a deep breath and uploaded both the file and cover image to Kindle Scout and began my 30-day campaign to find readers. Five days after the campaign ended, Kindle Scout e-mailed with the good news that BLIND RAGE had been selected.

If there’s any moral to the story, it’s that persistence can pay off. If you believe strongly enough in your work and don’t give up, there’s always a way.

MWS Author Photo BW

Michael W. Sherer is the author of the Seattle-based Blake Sanders thriller series, including the just-released Night Strike. Night Blind, the first in the series, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. In addition to the Tess Barrett thriller series, his other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, and the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life.

Please visit him at http://www.michaelwsherer.com or you can follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thrillerauthor and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Ava Marsh: Untouchable Wednesday, Apr 20 2016 

Untouchable
Take one unusual, flawed protagonist, add in the details of her life as an elite London call girl and some explicit sex scenes, wrap it all in a damn good mystery and you have Untouchable, former journalist Ava Marsh’s strong debut.

“Stella” has a complicated past that has made her turn to her life as high class escort. When she’s not working she’s taking night shifts at a rape crisis center. Then one of the escorts she knows is murdered, and it quickly becomes apparent that a group party she shared with the dead woman makes her a likely victim. What is it that she knows but isn’t aware she knows?

The way the women are exploited will make some readers blood boil, but Stella’s unapologetic approach makes this most unlikely woman a striking protagonist as she tries to unravel what happened to the young murdered woman. She knows that the death of a prostitute will not be taken as seriously as would the murder of a society matron or a young mother. And when she feels some of the powerful men in London she’s come across might be involved, it’s only a matter of time before she finds herself on their list for extermination.

What started out as way to explain a death quickly becomes a race to save her own life for Stella.

This is a fascinating look at the life these women live, from waxing and personal appearance woes to the sadistic men they encounter. There are powerful men, too, and others who are lonely, merely looking for a connection to a woman who will listen to them. For that’s one thing Stella is paid to do, besides perform sex acts, and that’s listen. It’s a gift that may end up saving her life before it’s all over.

A gritty, unusual debut Auntie M found highly readable.

Maggie Barbieri: Lie in Plain Sight, Maeve Conlon #3 Sunday, Apr 17 2016 

LiePlainSight

Maggie Barbieri’s father was a New York City policeman whose stories have given the author great background for her Maeve Conlon series. She’s back with the third in this darkly humorous mystery series with Lie in Plain Sight.

Maeve’s a single mom to two girls, one in college now and the other, Heather, getting ready to choose a college. Maeve’s relationship with her younger daughter is strained, as it often is with any teen, and more so when that teen’s personality resembles the parent’s.

But Maeve is doing her best, juggling her beau, a local detective, her remarried ex-husband and his new family, and her busy bakery. She’s so busy she hires a local woman, Trish Dvorak, someone she knew in elementary school, to help out.

Things escalate when Trish is out on a delivery and Maeve finds out she’s been named a school contact by Trish for her own teen, Taylor, when the school nurse calls for Maeve’s permission to let an ill Taylor walk the short distance home from school.

But Taylor vanishes before making it home, and suddenly Maeve is not only feeling hellishly responsible, town gossip is adding to her guilt. With her own investigating history and help from a few friends we’ve seen before, Maeve tries to find Taylor on her own, creating tension in several relationships when it becomes obvious there’s more to Taylor’s disappearance than meets the eye.

One of the delights of this series is that the reader knows that Maeve has her own view of what constitutes justice, one that differs significantly from that of her police boyfriend and most of other legal institutions. And when Heather disappears, all bets are off.

Another delightful entry with a likable and different protagonist, with well-crafted characters, and a look into the community where she lives providing a setting and story that will hook and surprise readers from page one.

Jeanette DeBeauvoir: Deadly Jewels Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

deadly jewels_MECH_01.indd

One of Auntie M’s favorite novels last year was Jeannette DeBeauvoir’s debut Asylum, a chilling and often terrifying mystery that introduced Martine LeDuc, the engaging protagonist who is publicity director for the city of Montreal.

Auntie M recently had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about her work:

Auntie M: You have developed a backdoor to these crime investigations for your protagonist, PR director Martine LeDuc. What made you choose her position and that approach?

Jeannette de Beauvoir: I was looking for someone whose work would, first of all, allow access to a range of different situations, and secondly, be flexible in terms of how the protagonist spent her time. Public relations could arguably have its hand in a lot of different problems, and the person at the top of the department can come and go with staff to cover day-to-day operations if she needs to be elsewhere.

AM: Everyone’s family has a story, and Martine’s home life is grounding, yet it feels very realistic. How important do you feel it is for readers to see that there are other forces pulling at her that require her attention?

JDB: It’s truly about making her a whole person. We’re all made up of mosaics, aren’t we—no one is *only* their job, or *only* their family life, or *only* anything… so it is always important to me to give characters a backstory and a personal life. Doing that offers so many opportunities, especially for a series such as this one, for the character to grow and change, to make mistakes and learn from them… in other words, to develop fully as a human being. The Martine of Deadly Jewels is different from the Martine of Asylum, and will be different from the Martine of the next book should there be one. If the books were *just* about the mysteries, I think they’d be a lot less interesting.

AM: After growing up in Angers, France, you now divide your time between Montreal and Cape Cod. Do you see a difference between the Canadian mind and the American mind when it comes to readers of crime novels and their questions for you? Between the French and the American?

JDB: I’m half-French and half-American, and I often think that if I were a city, I’d be Montréal… with part of me reflecting each culture. But we’re really talking about three different cultures, and three different ways of approaching literature. Readers from the U.S. tend to want to be plunged directly into the story, whereas French readers are looking for more depth—more philosophy, if that makes sense. Neither book has been translated (yet) so it would be interesting to see people’s reactions to them.

AM: A consistent thread is Martine’s love of Montreal, and a highlight for me as a reader is exploring the city through her eyes. The research you’ve done for both Asylum, a first-rate novel, and Deadly Jewels, another winner, adds so many layers to the books. Have you found it easy to obtain access to what might otherwise be off-limits areas for these projects? I’ve found assuring a contact’s name will appear in the Acknowledgments is often a great enticement. Have you had a similar response to your requests?

JDB: I have found people to be amazingly generous with their time and expertise in every project I’ve undertaken. I’ve asked difficult questions and I have never had anyone refuse to help. And people really are the best resource. One of the classes I teach online is writing historical fiction, and I tell students two things: do your research before you talk to people (so that you are suitably immersed in the subject and you don’t ask the questions whose answers you could have Googled), but then find the experts and ask them. Someone who has lived through an era can give so much more information than just reading secondary sources about it. And the same goes for mystery writing: find the experts, be respectful of their time, and you will be astonished at the results.

AM: Your background includes poetry and plays. What made you decide to write a crime series?

JDB: Ah, the poetry and plays are pretty much accidents: I’m really a novelist. I wrote historical fiction for quite a while but realized at some point that what I love to read most is mystery fiction, and I wasn’t writing it—there was a disconnect there. So I co-authored my first mystery novel (mostly because I didn’t think I was terribly good at plots!), got braver and wrote one on my own, then finally discovered what works for me: combining mystery and historical fiction. Not in the same way that an Ellis Peters does, with a character in the past solving a crime from the past—but rather with someone in the present-day finding that the past doesn’t in fact really go away. I think it makes for good storytelling and has the added advantage of teaching a little history as well.

AM: When you have precious down time, whose books would readers find waiting to be read on your nightstand?

Phil Rickman: he’s a brilliant writer, his stories are intricately plotted, his characters are haunting, and he’s just spooky enough to keep your heart rate up. He writes a series about a female Anglican priest who’s also an exorcist, but also has wonderful standalone books that borrow characters from the series, so that you can follow them from book to book. He is one of the authors I admire most for making the *geography* as much a character as the people: he writes about the border between England and Wales and makes the liminality of such a place intrinsic to the plot.

AM: Thank you for that recommendation. I’ve just ordered his first in the series to try. Now on to the review of DEADLY JEWELS:

De Beauvoir’s sequel brings Martine LeDub back for another adventure that has the same chilling suspense as her first, yet manages to be a different book entirely. It still pivots on moral questions, and she shows her love for the city in its exploration by the main characters as they try to stop what amounts to a cult operation from decades ago that has reached fingers into present day Montreal.

Martine has a mutual dislike relationship with the Mayor who serves as her boss. But this time when she’s called to his office, it’s not to be rebuked, but to be introduced to an graduate student who just may have pulled off a PR coup: she’s found proof that long-held rumors are true and that proof has been found during underground excavations taking place under the city. The British crown jewels were once housed there in Montreal during WWII and then returned to London.

It promises to be a grand revelation for all, until Martine accompanies Patricia Mason to the excavation site. Sure, they do find several diamonds, left behind from the original cache. But they also find the skeleton of man shot execution-style decided ago. It appears he swallowed these remaining jewels.

Now it’s a job of containment, as Martine and her colleagues in several places determine how to handle the scandal. And this won’t be great PR for Montreal or for her job.

But then Mason is shot, and she turns to her detective friend from the first book, Julian Fletcher, to help her out with the cold case. And just as things heat up, her stepchildren arrive for a visit and her husband disappears that same weekend to have a meeting with his ex-wife.

There will be several twists and turns along the way as the case unravels, with surprising results. Along the way, Martine will be introduced to and interview Nazi survivors and their families, and those trying to resurrect that regime in a startling way.

As the action heats up, it’s not just Martine who will find herself in jeopardy.
One of the things that set this apart from the usual series is the way De Beauvoir skillfully weaves the modern with the historical. Flashbacks to two key characters explain the historic journey of the jewels and the men involved with them and add substance and key clues to the action.

The author bio for De Beauvoir states in part: “. . . She finds that the past always has some hold on the present and writes mysteries and historical fiction that reflect that resonance.”
You’ll understand the meaning of that line once you read this fine mystery that evaluates many sides of a situation. Highly recommended.

Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Edith Maxwell is one of the hardest working authors Auntie M knows, juggling now four series and bringing out books that have a wide readership. Today she’s talking about her new historical mystery, Delivering the Truth, the first in her Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Check out that neat cover and discover the mystery inside.

Delivering the TruthCover

Learning about the Past

Thanks for having me back, Auntie M!

My latest venture – historical mystery – involves a level of research I don’t need to do when I write my contemporary mysteries. I had so much to learn about the late 1800s. And there’s nobody still alive to ask.

How would a Quaker speak and act? What did women wear under their outer clothes? Did a modest New England home have indoor plumbing, gas lamps, a coal stove? What were matches like?
MissParloas-2

I’ve found a couple of good reference books for everyday life. Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Victorian describes everything from toothbrushes to underwear. Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide from 1890 has all kinds of handy tips about the kitchen and foods available in the end of the century. Pinterest provides images of clothing. And then there’s Sarah Chrisman – who lives like someone in 1888 and writes about it! http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/

MontWardCarriages
I needed to learn about all the different types of horse-drawn vehicles. Carriages, wagons, buggies, drays, runabouts, broughtons, phaetons, surries – and so many more. Luckily for me, the town where the series is set, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is where I live and it was world-famed for its carriage manufacturing. There are antique carriages all over town, a thriving Carriage Museum, and many enthusiastic history buffs to call on.

MidwiferyBookLeish
Because my protagonist is a midwife, I delved into medical care of the time. Basic uncomplicated childbirth hasn’t changed that much. But did they know about the importance of washing hands yet? I learned that the germ theory of infection was known. Was there a hospital nearby in case of emergency? Yes, the hospital in the next town was eight years old at the time of Delivering the Truth. I found a midwifery textbook from the era. I learned that blood typing wasn’t yet used but that a lab could find out from a snip of hair if arsenic had been ingested.

Reading local newspapers from a hundred and thirty years ago provide much detail about both news and the prices of goods and services, as do the Sear & Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, both of which are available on Amazon as reproductions. For example, you could buy a two-spring Phaeton (a single-horse kind of buggy with a roof) for $70, a drop-leaf desk for $9.50, and a pair of Irish lace curtains for $2.35. My midwife Rose bought a new bicycle for $45.
PoliceManualCover
And because I write mysteries, there’s the all-important question of police procedure. I’ve found pictures of the local police force in town, and dug up The Massachusetts Peace Officer: A Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and other Civil Officers from 1890. An officer had to lay a hand on the shoulder of someone he was arresting, for example. I also learned that they didn’t yet use fingerprinting.

There’s more, of course. Local historical societies and museums are a rich resource. But at some point you just have to write the book!

Readers, do you like doing research? Where do you find resources to learn about the past, or about your current passion, whatever it is?

MaxwellCrop

Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site, edithmaxwell.com.

Judith Flanders: A Bed of Scorpions Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

Auntie M enjoyed Judith Flanders first mystery, A Murder of Magpies, and was happy to receive the ARC of her second, A Bed of Scorpions, featuring the smart and savvy London editor, Sam Clair. There’s a nice balance of humor in the series, with Sam’s first person point of view providing a running commentary on the people she runs across, too.
BedScorpions

Fast forward to the summer after the happenings in “Magpie” and Sam is happy in her routine: work, the occasional drink or lunch out, and many evenings spent with her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, who now has a key to Sam’s flat.

Summer also means Sam is busy setting up her schedule for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and one can’t help but wonder if the next installment will take us there . . . but in the meantime, Sam has enough on her plate with the personalities at work. And a long-planned lunch with an old friend, Aidan Merriam, an art dealer, who is an old ex of Sam’s.

But lunch takes a sour note when Aiden tells her that he had the great misfortune to be the one to find his business partner dead of a gunshot wound. Is this an apparent suicide by Frank or his murder? Aiden needs Sam’s help, both to clear himself and to find out if anyone else would want Frank dead. And guess who is the one of the detective’s on the case from Scotland Yard? And who was on the from the night before–a night he spent with Sam, when he neglected to tell her about the death of her friend’s business partner: None other than that same detective, Jake Field.

What’s a girl to do? Sam calls the person she nows who knows the law, and is straight up and business-like to a fault without turning a hair: her mother, Helena, who rushed in to defend Aiden and sort this case out.

Now Sam finds herself stuck between her mother, Aiden, and Jake, and soon after realizes she’s put herself right in the sights of a murderer who assumes she knows more than she really does.

A few of the characters from the first installment return with welcome scenes. There are her upstairs neighbors, including the delightful Mr. Rudiger. There is talk of where Jake and Sam are headed in their relationship, which is clearly not well defined. And then there’s also the pretty big matter of a killer to be caught.

The mixed worlds of books and art are sharply and cleverly defined with Flanders’ trademark humor spiking the pages as the action speeds along. The author’s work as an editor stands her well here, especially her work for the publications department of the National Portrait Gallery in London. That knowledge infuses these books with the kind of inside look readers love, a way to see inside a different world. Wrap that up with a darn good mystery, a hint of romance, and a believable protagonist you wish was your friend, and you’ll surely enjoy A Bed of Scorpions as much as Auntie M did.