John Bainbridge: Deadly Quest Sunday, Oct 30 2016 

Please welcome John Bainbridge, who along with his wife, Anne, write the Gaslight Crime blog, and who will explain to readers just what IS a Penny Dreadful, a delightfully creepy topic for Hallowe’en!


Writing a Penny Dreadful
By John Bainbridge

A couple of years ago I wrote the first adventure of a Victorian vigilante called William Quest, a gentleman adventurer with a swordstick who seeks to right wrongs and even up the injustices of society. That book was called The Shadow of William Quest.

Now I’ve written a sequel called Deadly Quest.
The whole project arose from my interest in the Victorian underworld. I’ve always wanted to write a novel that is part detective story, part thriller, and which hearkens back to the traditions of the Victorian Penny Dreadful tales and the Newgate Novels.

Many a Victorian writer wrote these popular tales, which were the staple fiction diet of the newly-literate classes in 19th century England. I’ve read a lot of them over the years. The best ones are fast-moving, often sinister and have lots of action. They are occasionally subversive, pricking at the mores of the day with often undiluted social criticisms.

Most of the writers are forgotten these days, but some went on to great heights. Even Charles Dickens used elements of the Newgate novel in Oliver Twist.

My first novel was set in London and Norfolk. The new book, Deadly Quest, is set entirely in London, mostly down by the River Thames. I’ve tried to capture a real feeling of London in 1854.

Fortunately, I’ve spent years studying Victorian history – I did it as a minor subject in my university degree. I’ve devoted a lot of time since to an expanded study of the Victorian underworld, particularly as regards London.

I’ve walked the streets and alleys used by my characters, by day and night. London has changed a great deal in 160 years, of course. Much of the Victorian cityscape has been bombed or swept away by developers. The London that is in my imagination is more real to me now than the modern city. There are traces of Quest’s London still to be seen, but they get fewer year by year . . .

Deadly Quest has scenes in a notorious rookery of the time called Jacob’s Island. A district of appalling poverty in Victorian times, Charles Dickens visited it with a police guard. It features in the climax of Oliver Twist.

It was already partially demolished by the 1850s. The area was bombed by the Luftwaffe in the London Blitz, and redevelopment accounted for much of the rest. Today that once dreadful slum is a development of luxury flats. You can still visit Jacob’s Island, but it takes quite a leap of imagination to get back to Victorian times.

One problem I encountered in my sequel was that I revealed virtually the whole of Mr Quest’s back story in the first novel, explaining why he decided to take the law into his own hands, fighting for truth and justice and so on. In the new book we start with a completely clean slate.

It’s my intention to do a whole series of William Quest novels, though the original conception of a Victorian avenger has changed since the first book. The outsider now finds himself working on both sides of the law.

This wasn’t unusual in Penny Dreadful novels of the Victorian Age, where the author often found his or her villain transformed into the hero.

With the creation of e-book readers, we are finding ourselves in a very similar situation to those Victorian readers. A whole new audience has appeared, eager for books. It seems to me that we should study the methods of the writers of Penny Dreadfuls and Pulp Fiction to cater for this expanding market.

They found a popularity after all, and created their own genres.

Deadly Quest can be found at:

Clella Murray: Murder at the University Friday, Oct 28 2016 

A friend recently said she had just read my book, Murder at the University and remarked, “Why Universities are just like businesses. They have the same good guys and villains!”

It had never occurred to me that some people thought universities were a heavenly never, never land! When a university women’s book group reviewed my book all twelve said they knew who the villain was – and each had pinpointed a different person in a different department. So it seems members of a university have no problem envisioning their coworkers capable of murder!

In Murder at the University, when John Paul Davis, a wealthy, computer alumni, returns to his alma mater, he becomes involved in solving a murder to protect a lovely young post-doc suspect, Rachael Howard.

Davis finds himself in a dilemma. Who killed Professor Dewit and wife…another professor or a professor’s wife, perhaps a student or maybe even Rachael Howard? Davis calls for help from three people: Richard Moore, his old mentor; Bagley, an overweight policeman; and Davis’s boarding house owner, the intriguing Chloe Manning. Ultimately, Davis has to solve the murder in order to save his own life.

I wish I could say I outlined the book, planned all the chapters and did all the things a writer is supposed to do. Unfortunately I have a tendency to just tell tale tales, my grandmother called them lies, my mother called them an active imagination! My husband has Alzheimer’s and is handling it beautifully but the thought of losing him is ever present. To me writing is an escape. 50% of everything I write goes to the Alzheimer’s foundation.

C. B. Murray grew up in Iowa, graduated from Smith College, did graduate work at the University of Michigan and performed research work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where she met her husband. After the birth of two daughters, she moved to Delaware where her husband taught physics at the University of Delaware and Murray wrote the Noir Series of mysteries: Murder at the University was the first murder book written, but was never published, until now. Others include The Chinese Treasure, A Pox on You, and VX: A Deadly Mist. She has three books in the Magic Series: A Bite of Magic, A Second Helping of Magic and Matrimonial Magic With Mayonnaise. Dangerous Journey, her first children’s book, won first place in the young adult fiction section from the National Federation of Press Woman. Murray has published non-fiction in Delaware Today magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit the website for book reviews and comments.
50 % of all profits go to the Alzheimer’s Fund

Interview: Connie Johnson Hambly/The Jessica Trilogy Wednesday, Oct 26 2016 

Connie and Auntie M met having fun and frivolity at New England Crimebake. Welcome to her very interesting world as she describes how she came to write her Jessica Trilogy:

Auntie M: The first time we met at New England Crime Bake’s costume dinner, you were dressed as a jockey and I flashed immediately on the Dick Francis mysteries set in the racing world. You’ve given Jessica Wyeth, the protagonist of The Jessica Trilogy, horse riding ability and talents, too. It seemed so natural to you to write that for Jessica that I’m guessing you took that experience from your life?

CJH: I did! I often say that the best fiction hangs on the bone of fact, so taking experiences from my riding past and infusing them into my main character made sense. Most readers want two things from spending hours between the cover of a book: They want to be entertained and they wouldn’t mind learning a thing or two. The more realism an author can weave into a story, the more engaged the reader is. As for Crime Bake, I definitely channeled my inner “Chick Francis.” I had to put those silks and breeches into use!

AM: From a dairy farm to Boston lawyer and investment banking–what made you decide to transition to fiction?

CJH: True confessions: Pursuing a career in law was a really bad career choice for someone who is conflict adverse! All kidding aside, going to law school was a terrific way to learn to write.

The craft of writing a brief and sculpting a legal argument is very similar to constructing a tightly woven thriller. Also, law school focuses writing on how your words will interpreted by your reader. Manipulating a bias for the benefit of your story (or argument) is essential.

Good writing means taking in a lot of information, throwing a lump of clay on the word wheel then sculpt, sculpt, sculpt. I’ve used my skills in law and as a writer for Bloomberg BusinessWeek and other journalism adventures. I wrote my first book, The Charity, mostly as a legal thriller. Trust me – compared to law or banking, writing fiction is a heck of a lot more fun!

The Charity - Cover_new.indd
AM: The first book in the trilogy, The Charity, involves a case of arson. Your family’s dairy barn burned down in a case of arson. How much of that imbued the first book? What’s different?

CJH: The loss of our barn devastated my family both financially and emotionally. We experienced a profound loss of security one would normally expect to feel growing up in a small town. The man who tossed a match into our hayloft confessed to having a grudge and wanting to get even. Two things happened that continue to shape my world view.

The first is that he was a beloved husband and father. He had a wife and family. People loved him, yet he did something reprehensible. As a child, when I was still seeing the world in black and white, knowing that people could consider him a “good man” boggled my brain.

The second thing is that he signed a written confession. He admitted his guilt, but because of a technicality, he never was found guilty and was set free. Knowledge that the world can be an unfair and scary place solidified inside of me. People can do evil things and get away with it. What’s not so great in life makes for great reading.

My books skirt the edges of good and bad. Is the Irish Republican Army a group of freedom fighters or a terrorist organization? How far does a person need to be pushed before he (or she!) sees violence as a viable option? The answer to that all depends on what side of the match your barn is on.

AM: You’ve decided to write about a strong woman who doesn’t have superhero qualities yet gets herself out of hot water a lot. She’s smart and devious at the same time, in the best possible way. How is Jessica Wyeth different from Connie Hambley?

CJH: Ha! For starters, Jessica Wyeth is a lot more cool, strong, clever, and beautiful than I am! I know women who tend families while undergoing chemotherapy, who have experienced profound and sudden losses, who have climbed mountains, or started successful companies. They did all of this without special powers or an Uzi.

Jessica Wyeth resonates with readers because she wakes up in the morning and makes it through her days any way she can. She’s a strong woman because she doesn’t give up. Describing her as devious hints that there is something diabolical or evil about her. Jessica has a strong moral code that keeps her true even while circumstance is exerting a magnetic force to pull her off center. She has an unbreakable will to survive.

AM: In Book Two in the series, The Troubles, you use Jessica’s search for her background to bring her to Ireland and explore the situation of Northern Ireland and the IRA. How did you conduct your research? Please tell me you got a trip to Ireland out of this!

CJH: I have traveled to Ireland, but that was before I knew my story was going to go there, too! Still, the impact of that trip infuses my settings and characters with a realism my readers enjoy.

The sunlight comes in at a different angle there. The earth smells different. There is a fourth dimension that flirts with your peripheral vision, giving you glimpses of another world. Those impressions have stayed with me and bringing them to life on the page was a way for me to relive my visit.

I was recently interviewed for IrishTV and the question turned to me having one last document to obtain before I can receive my Irish citizenship. The interviewer wanted to know why was citizenship important?

Walking where my ancestors walked–where my grandparents were born–made me feel connected and whole in a way I had never felt. Researching the book explained many family mysteries–including why my grandmother’s birth certificate listed her nationality as English even though she was born in the Republic of Ireland! My goal for the readers of The Troubles is to come away with a greater sense of what regular people experience while history swirls around them.

AM: What’s the idea percolating for Book Three–any firm plot lines yet?

CJH: Oh yeah! The working title of Book 3 is The Wake, and if you’ve ever been to an Irish wake, you know that they are a blend of sorrow and song, laughter and tears. Looking at the timeline of my story, Jessica returns to the U.S. weeks before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

The horrific Centennial Park bombing provided a historical event I could hub my story around. The equestrian disciplines I focus on are eventing and equine therapy. Oh, and remember that bad people can come wrapped in pretty packages? I have a few new characters to challenge readers and a few established characters back by popular demand.

AM: Whose work was the biggest influence on your decision to write this kind of suspense thriller?

CJH: If Colleen McCullough and Stieg Larsson had a child, Jessica Wyeth would be their baby girl. The Troubles is McCullough-like as a sweeping, multi-generational tale and the whole story arc of my three books unfolds like Larsson’s Girl With a Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

AM: When you’re not concocting plots and coming up with characters, who’s book do you like to read for relaxation today?

CJH: Hmm. Good question. I read all the time and both established traditional authors and independently published authors are in my TBR pile. I try to read different genres and not focus in on one author, although I admit to reading almost all of Jo Nesbo’s books. I love a well-crafted thriller and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkin’s Girl on a Train hit that mark.

I have a short story in the upcoming Level Best’s New England’s Best Crime Stories: Windward. Giving Voice unfolds the story of a survivor of human trafficking during her equine-assisted therapy session. Horses? Crime? I think I see a theme here.

You can find Connie’s books here:
Connie Johnson Hambley
Twitter: @conniehambley

Paul Cleave: Trust No One Sunday, Oct 23 2016 


Ngaio Marsh Award Winner Paul Cleave’s Trust No One is as wholly original and creative a psychological thriller as you’re likely to read this year.

Protagonist Jerry Grey is struggling with rapid onset Alzheimer’s after being known to readers everywhere under his pen name, Henry Cutter, as a terrific crime novelist. His books have a wide audience and their following have kept Jerry and his lawyer wife, Sandra, and their only daughter in comfort. He is forty-nine years old.

When he’s diagnosed shortly before his daughter announces her engagement, the parents give Eva a few days to enjoy her glow before changing her world forever. She rises to the occasion and she and her fiancé agree to push the wedding up so Jerry can walk her down the aisle. Involved in these hasty wedding preparations, Sandra and Eva don’t seem to notice Jerry is busily scribbling in a journal that he’s keeping so when his mind goes–and there is evidence every day that he is rapidly losing touch with himself–he can read it remind himself of the process, and of who he used to be.

The wedding goes off without a hitch, but there’s an unfortunate bit at the reception apparently. And the next thing Jerry knows, he’s in a home and he keeps confessing to the murder of a woman who turns out to be a character in one of his crime novels. Now he’s really confused. Why has Sandra stopped visiting? How did he manage to ruin his daughters wedding when it went off so well? And what’s really happening in those moments Captain A, as he calls his Alzheimer’s, rob him of conscious thought and memory? Because Jerry has become the police’s number one suspect in a number of recent murders that occur when he manages to escape fro the home.

Who can he trust? Maybe no one. And there’s no good ending in sight.

At once a terrific psychological thriller, this is also an up close and personal look at a mind that is deteriorating. All of the stages of rage and grief are here, as is the sense of betrayal in so many areas, personal, physical, and mental.

Yet with Cleaves ironic sense of humor, the reader learns about the dreaded disease while Jerry goes on the hunt to figure out what’s really happening in his life. A mix of entries from earlier when Jerry’s succumbing to the disease are interspersed with present day action, ratcheting up the tension.

You’ll be flipping pages like Auntie M was to figure out who Jerry really can trust, and who he can’t.

Tana French: The Trespasser Saturday, Oct 22 2016 


French’s The Secret Place introduced Stephen Moran as its narrator, the young detective itching to get into Dublin’s Murder Squad, and paired temporarily with the tough Det. Antoinette Conway. He gets his wish months later, only as the youngest and unmarried members of the team, they both get more than their fair share of night shifts. And it’s Conway who’s the narrator as the now-partners are handed a new case to work together in The Trespasser, another strong novel that shows how well French understands human nature.

Their Superintendent is convinced he’s handing the newbies a simple domestic case, easily solved. Pretty, polished and dressed for a date: that’s the impression victim Aislin Murray gives the detectives when her body is found in a pool of blood in her flat, right next to a dining table set for two, complete with candles, uneaten meal in the warming oven.

It appears to be simple, a lover’s quarrel gone bad at first glance, except that Conway is convinced she’s seen the victim before and just can’t place her. Conflicting stories from people who knew Aislinn set off the detectives radar, and further investigation shows that the young woman underwent a remarkable makeover in her appearance and manner.

Rory Fallon has been dating Aislinn, and when he’s put under the glare of being a suspect, he doesn’t redeem himself well, yet Conway isn’t convinced he’s the killer. Not so DI Breslin, the experienced detective assigned to oversee the case with the duo. He presses them hard for an arrest of Fallon, stressing out Conway and getting to Moran. His insistence leads the two to all sorts of wild conspiracy theories that keep them from seeing the truth of the case that lies right in their midst.

Adding to Conway’s stress is the harassment she’s received from her coworkers, including pranks and messing about with her reports and evidence, which doesn’t seem to apply to her male partner. Is she paranoid or is this the height of sexism? And more to the point, can she wait it out or will she crumple and make her colleagues point for them?

This is a power struggle on all fronts, sometimes between Conway and the suspect; at others between Conway and the detective sitting next to her, whether it’s Moran or Breslin. And most of all, it’s a struggle for Conway between the person she is and her urban working-class origins, and the person she wants to be.

An accomplished look inside the psychology of the narrator, and of the far-reaching implications of actions not always understood. Highly recommended.

Catch-Up #3: Homegrown Thursday, Oct 20 2016 

Auntie M is keeping things close to home with a batch of books read whilst recovering that are all set in the US.

Having won the Pulitzer Prize for her series about an equally small town, Julia Keller has brought Acker’s Gap, West Virginia to many readers who have come to know the area through her protagonist, prosecutor Bell Elkins.

She returns with yet another character-driven mystery in Sorrow Road, one that has memory at the heart of it all.

Bell isn’t happy when an acquaintance from law school contacts her. She and Darlene Strayer were never the best of friends, so what does the woman want from her?

Darlene asks Bell to look into the Alzheimer’s care facility where her father has just died. Bell reluctantly agrees to have her assistant take a quiet look, and tries to leave their meeting place in a snowstorm. Before she can get away, her daughter Carla calls and lets her mother know she’ll be arriving in the morning, once the snow lets her get through from Arlington, Virginia. She’s moving in with Carla.

This is just the tip of the case and the events that will soon have Bell looking into multiple deaths, the past lives of several WWII vets, and her daughter’s own troubles. What is Carla running away from? And why are more people dying?

Keller gets people and their surroundings just right, from the way life in a rural area affects their actions and lives, to the way past memories are often more vivid than present.

by Kevin Wolf won the Tony Hillerman prize audit’s easy to see why this debut mystery shines.

Bringing readers to the wide open skies of the prairies of Colorado, Chase Ford is a man returning to his hometown for a bit of hunting. With his storied NBA career in tatters after an injury, Ford will find home friends and enemies almost unchanged.

This is set in another small town, but of the West, and Wolf has created shining characters who jump off the page when the death of the town’s basketball star is found murdered in a field, along with four slain bison. Then more deaths occur and suddenly it’s hard to know whom Chase can trust.

All eyes turn to the man who’s just returned and is still finding his footing. The lifestyle of the West, small town policing, and the rolling plains will catch you up the way they catch up Chase Ford in the murder investigation and affect him and those closest to him.

An accomplished debut.


C. B. McKenzie is a past winner of that Tony Hillerman prize, for his debut Bad Country, now out in paperback. He returns with Burn What Will Burn, moving from the southwest to the plains of Arkansas.

McKenzie introduces newcomer Bob Reynolds, who already found a few licks against him: he and the sheriff seem to have a conflict over the affections of one Tammy Fay Smith.

So when Reynolds finds a body in the creek near the land he inherited, he doesn’t run too fast to let the sheriff know.

And when that body disappears, Reynolds won’t know whom he can trust, because small towns are like that, and people seem to disappear all the time.

There will be plenty of wild relationships for Reynolds to decipher, even as he tries to steer clear of the law, as this raw and gritty mystery races to a startling conclusion.


After a disturbing prologue to Rise the Dark, set in Montana, Michael Koryta takes the action changes to Florida, where PI Mark Novak is out fishing with a good friend. He’s trying to ignore that today is the day the man he’s certain killed his wife previously will be released from prison after winning an appeal on a sexual assault case for another woman.

He can’t ignore Graham Webb any longer. His search starts out in Florida with interesting events but takes him eventually to Montana, where he will encounter a megalomaniac whose obsessions are not limited to taking over the country’s electric grid.

As his search continues, Novak will meet a female investigator and sparks fly, but the memory of his dead wife keeps getting in the way. There will be physical as well as mental struggles as Novak grapples with the maniac and disciples. Action-packed and resonant against the beauty of Montana.

*** Cover Without Mercy

The tenth Body Farm thriller, Without Mercy, is just as macabre and fascinating as the first nine, bringing forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton to a truly personal case.

Brockton is investigating a truly gruesome murder when he learns a sadistic serial killer has escaped from prison.
Nick Satterfield is bent on revenge against Brockton, but first he wants to make him suffer by hurting all those Brockton holds dear.

Justice versus revenge become the theme as Brockton has to decide how he can protect those he loves and at what cost, and he can compromise his own principles to accomplish that.
If you’ve read any of the series, you’ll already be prepared for the gory bits. If not, this is great for upcoming Halloween!

** COVER Among the Wicked

Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series continues with Among the Wicked, her follow-up to the recent After the Storm.

The former-Amish, now-Chief of Police in Ohio finds herself going undercover to infiltrate an ultra-strict Amish community whose charismatic leader has a cult-like following.

Due to her familiarity with the Amish culture, Kate is tasked with appearing as an Amish widow in upstate New York to find out about the death of a young woman.

Once a flourishing part of the local community, the new Bishop has drawn people away and kept them separate. Kate is the only one whose expertise allows her to figure out, amidst the many rumors flying, what’s really going on, and with young children at stake, she feels she doesn’t have a choice but to try to find out the truth.

There will be late night calls to her lover, Tomasetti, as Kate tries to figure out what’s really happening, but whatever it is, she knows well it isn’t a normal Amish community that she’s inside. As the deaths continue, Kate won’t know whom she can trust.

Stephanie Gangi: The Next Tuesday, Oct 18 2016 


Stephanie Gangi has written a very different kind of ghost story in The Next. Don’t let the idea of a ghost story pull you away from reading this debut that is a commentary on love and revenge, on illness and life, and on the thread between mothers and daughters, and yes, even dogs and their owners.

Joanna DeAngelis thinks she has found her solace after fighting breast cancer in her soulmate, Ned. Their passion will save her life, she believes, and it invigorates her physically and mentally. When her cancer returns and she’s betrayed by Ned, she becomes obsessed with tracking him on all the social media she can find on her phone. Even as her days wane down, time she should be spending with her two daughters, Laney and Anna–even as she leans on her standard poodle, her lifeline, Tom, to get to and from the bathroom from her hospital bed–even then, she is following Ned and his glamour fiancee in their upscale world– and boy, is her anger growing as she realizes she’s become the ultimate unseen older woman.

It grows until it glows, and as Joanna takes leave of her physical body, she finds herself in a dark place in her Upper West Side neighborhood and soon starts to zero in on Ned, releasing her fury in an attempt to reconcile her life and find her own peace.

Joanna’s voice is strong and determined and gutsy and heroic, even as she’s honest with the reader. Her daughters go through their own grief cycles. Music is a theme here, too, and the strength of memories. The strong voice of Joanna as she releases her rage at times has comedic qualities that lift the reader from the sadness and the depth of emotion. Regrets, secrets, the thrill of being connected intimately to another being are all explored with remarkable candor.

And a word about Tom. Any dog owner will recognize the strong bond between a dog and its owner. Anyone not a dog owner will still be able to clearly understand the unconditional love a dog has for its owner, a rare faithfulness and pure love that Joanna has lost when Ned deserts her, just when she needed him most.

This has a very visual feel and Auntie M can see if up on the big screen. Now who would play the vivid Joanna??

An accomplished debut in an original premise.

Elly Griffiths: Smoke and Mirrors; Magic Men #2 Sunday, Oct 16 2016 


Readers most often connect author Elly Griffiths with her award-winning Ruth Galloway series, one of Auntie M’s favorites. But last year she introduced the Magic Men Mysteries, and she brings 1951 Brighton to life in the second in that series with Smoke and Mirrors.

DI Edgar Stephens and his old friend from the service, magician Max Mephisto, find themselves together again when two children’s bodies are found in frozen snow, arranged in an arresting image straight out of the fairy tales they’d been enacting.

Max is in town for the Christmas season, starring in Aladdin, but Edgar has his own case to worry about. Annie and Mark are the two missing children whose bodies are subsequently found after being strangled. With a trail of candy near them, the scene is eerily reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel.

Edgar’s investigation reveals that Annie was a precocious, if somewhat dark-natured, child, who wrote seemingly gruesome plays that her circle of friends acted out in the garage-stage of Brian Baxter, a retired man who immediately becomes a suspect. Max was her closest friend and confident, despite their age difference. Edgar will interview the children’s teachers and friends and their families to try to figure out why these two friends, who attended different schools, had to die.

Max has his own troubles. His cast is less than award-worthy, while his relationship with his landlady is heating up. Then, too, there are historical cases that bring some of his colleagues to Edgar’s attention. Unresolved between the two friends is the relationship of Ruby, Max’s daughter, who Edgar thinks is probably his girlfriend, but he hesitates to use that term. It’s a confusing and complex time in the city of the brightly lit pier.

Once again, Edgar will look to Max to sort his thoughts on the case and help him find the trail that leads to a murderer. Griffiths brings the chill of Brighton in December to life, as well as the backstage antics of the theatre, in a complex tale that frustrates Edgar the more he investigates. A delightful and solid entry in the series.

More Catching UP #2: Historicals Wednesday, Oct 12 2016 

The next part of Auntie M’s catching up from her reading-while-recuperating summer blitz is here! These are historical, set in different eras and sometimes different countries. All are great reads for your fall enjoyment.


Eva Makis won the Aurora Maradiganian Gold Medal form the Armenian Geoncide Museum-Institute for The Spice Box Letters.

This is a mix of eras, 1985 and 1915, alternating the voice in 1915 of Mariam and in 1985, that of her grand-daughter, Katerina. It’a also a story of how love, culture, food and memory can survive atrocities, and how family ties can make for powerful redemption.

Katerina’s inheritance of her grandmother’s letters and a journal, written in Armenian and kept in a handmade spice box, spark her interest in her heritage. Her grandmother refused to talk about the past, but Katerina, in a visit to Cyprus, does her own investigation to lay the ghosts of the past to rest.

What she finds makes for fascinating and sometimes tragic reading, as the story of the Armenian Genocide becomes tangled with Mariam’s life. There is humor along with the Armenian food and culture.

Once the reality is known and the mystery is sorted, there will be reunions and tears, but there will also be a future filled with new love.


The sixth Kate Shackleton Mystery proves that there’s no stopping Frances Brody and her sleuth in Death of an Avid Reader.

Widow Kate is making something of a reputation for herself as an investigator. Think of a more genteel Phrynne Fischer, in the same time period, only set in England instead of Australia.

When Kate is engaged by former London society beauty Lady Coulton to find her illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption 20 years ago, she soon hits a dead end.

Her attention focuses on a case closer to home after she agrees to take part in a ceremony to expel the ghost of a dead librarian. That’s when the body of a respected professor is found in Leeds Library and Kate wonders if the two cases can be linked. Finding a sick organ grinder and his monkey living in the basement, the police make him their prime suspect, but Kate has other ideas.

Her investigation takes her from respectable drawing rooms into the grimy back streets of Leeds, and will lead her into physical danger as she uncovers a deeply buried past crime. And don’t forget that monkey!

Accomplished and complex, filled with accurate period details and enough twists to keep any mystery reader turning pages.


The mother-son writing duo Charles Todd return with their eighth Bess Crawfod mystery featuring the WWI nurse who finds herself on the wrong side of the bed in The Shattered Tree.

In France at work after a brief leave, a sniper’s bullet takes Bess out of circulation temporarily. Recovering slowly, her mother’s even allowed a brief hour’s visit before Bess is moved to Rouen for newfangled X-rays after a fever spike.

A bit of missed button in her wound is the culprit, but she’s not fit for work yet, and is sent to Paris to a convalescent clinic. This fits in with her plans completely, for it’s here that another patient has also been sent: a man she’d treated who spoke German but was found wearing a French officer’s uniform.

Told he’s from the Alsace-Lorraine area should explain his ability to speak German. But Bess is concerned about where his sympathies lie, and when she runs across him in Paris, she has to decide whether to pursue his true identity, and at what cost.

Another compelling entry in the series.

Jonathan Putnam draws on his own trial experience in addition to his wealth of knowledge about Abraham Lincoln to pull off a most amazing debut mystery in These Honored Dead

He introduces a newly-minted lawyer in Lincoln, also newly arrived in Springfield, and sharing bedspace (yes, literally the same bed as those with spaces were rented out in 1837) with Joshua Speed above the man’s general store. Speed is the book’s narrator, a nice touch that allows Lincoln to be seen from his point of view.

Lincoln accompanies Speed when he’s called out to the site of a murder. It’s to the home of the Widow Harriman, a fellow store owner in the next hamlet, and Rebecca Harriman had caught Speed’s eye several months before. Their brief affair has left Speed hoping for more.

Therefore it’s no surprise that when Rebecca’s niece is found murdered and she’s the prime suspect, that Speed and Lincoln begin an investigation to clear her and find the real murderer of her young ward.

But more deaths occur before it’s over. There will be threads to do with slavery and a courtroom scene as Lincoln finds his footing before it’s all ended. The accomplished start of a new historic mystery series, this is chock full of period details and customs that most readers won’t be aware of, written in the style and language of the time.


Maia Chance writes the Fairy Tale Fatal Mysteries, but last year she debuted her second series, the Discreet Retrieval series, which started with Come Hell or Highball and continues with Teetotaled.

Set during Prohibition New York, the investigating duo of former socialite Lola Woodby and her Swedish cook, Berta, have set up shop in Lola’s dead husband’s bolthole–or would secret love nest be more accurate?

But setting up a new business in these dicey times isn’t easy, and they take what cases they can. The Discreet Retrieval Agency promises no job is too trivial, so when Sophronia Whiddle appears at their door, requesting what seems an easy job, one look at their bank account has the two heading to the health farm where Grace Whiddle is staying.

Their goal is to retrieve Grace’s dairy so any compromising information would not come to light as she is to be married shortly to a senator’s son. The promise of their $500 fee once the diary is delivered is a healthy inducement, despite Lola’s misgivings.

There are several catches: this health farm is run by Lola’s brother-in-law, for a start; Lola doesn’t want her mother to know of her work. Things quickly go from bad to worse when Grace leaves, along with her diary, after her future mother-in-law is found murdered on the grounds. Soon the ladies have a new client and new case: to find the murderer. There will be more death, a tie in with history, and the breakup of the agency before it’s all sorted.

Chance’s love of all things vintage shines through, with a nice dollop of humor.


Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series has developed a nice following after the previous two entries. The third, A Most Novel Revenge, brings us into the 1930s.

Amory and husband Milo, together happily for a change, are planning a winter trip to Italy when her cousin Laurel intervenes. They are needed at Lyonsgate, the English country estate of Reginald Lyons.

The house is filled with a nicely eccentric cast, including a notorious socialite, Isobel Van Allen, whose visit at the house has everyone on edge.

Isobel’s first book, The Dead of Winter, was a fictionalized version of a murder that took place at Lyonsgate. Now she’s back to write a sequel and tell all about that night, and except for Amory and Milo, everyone else was present during that murder–and many of them have been Isobel’s lover.

Of course it will be Amory who finds the dead body and comes into the sights of the inspector on the case. But it will also be Amory who untangles long-held secrets from the past to break the case.

A classic country house English mystery.

Laurel Peterson: Shadow Notes Sunday, Oct 9 2016 

Please welcome Laurel Peterson to discuss psychic gifts that appear in her new book, Shadow Notes:
Shadow Notes Cover compressed

by Laurel S. Peterson

Right now, I want a crystal ball to tell me who the next U.S. president will be. Then, I can decide if I need to pack my bags and move to a small tropical island.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been gifted psychically, unlike Clara Montague, the protagonist of my mystery novel, Shadow Notes. That’s one of the reasons I chose to write a character who had intuitive gifts; I was curious—and I think a lot of other people are, too.

Clara has dreams that give her pieces of a puzzle—images of her mother or a friend in danger, symbolic colors, animal guides. She has to take these clues and piece together from them the solution to the puzzle. She has a clear reason for wanting to know what her dreams mean, but for the rest of us, what does knowing mean to us?

When people talk about what they want to know, it rarely has to do with world events, but instead with lottery numbers, their love lives and their health. We want to know if we will suffer pain and find happiness. The answer to those questions is always yes.

I suppose it’s the specifics that torment us. Will being happy mean finding my one true love or having a cat? Will I be rich enough to buy an island or will I have a house in the suburbs or will I never get out of debt? Will I be made to suffer greatly or only a little? And who can measure suffering?

I don’t think psychics can give us the answers we want. And I don’t want to believe my actions can’t change the future. In fact, I would suggest most of us know already the answers to the questions we ask. I have a friend whose psychic has been telling her for years that she needs to write. I have another friend whose psychic told her she had been deeply wounded. Neither of them needed a psychic to tell them those things. They knew already, as did most of their friends. But being told by a stranger was affirming in a way that sometimes a friend can’t be.

Then there was the “psychic” working the coffee bar in a wealthy town near me doing grief counseling. My (now) husband engaged him in discussion one day shortly after losing his first wife, and the man never once mentioned my husband’s obvious emotional trauma.

I’m not saying psychics can’t surprise us, or turn us in a direction we might not have seen before, or warn us. But perhaps the most present benefit of seeing someone we believe can tell us the future is that she reaffirms the version of ourselves we hold in our secret hearts, the self we want to be but haven’t yet found the courage to put forward.

What do you think? Do you believe in or visit psychics yourself? What advantages have you gained from this? Or perhaps you yourself are psychic—and can demolish my theories (and tell me the outcome of the election)! I’d love to hear from you—and thanks so much for reading!

About Shadow Notes:
Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

You can purchase Shadow Notes at: or at Amazon:

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