Jorge Brekke: The Fifth Element Friday, Mar 31 2017 


Jorge Brekke’s Inspector Odd Singsaker series brings the stark Norwegian cold to life in his most ambitious novel yet in The Fifth Element.

Odd is recovering from the short-term effects of the last book, and the long-term effects of a brain tumor that’s been mostly removed. With his wife, Felicia, missing, he’s still on sick leave, but returns to this station to help search for his wife. Felicia was on her way to reconcile with Odd after their brief separation when she disappeared.

Told in what at first seems to be unconnected storylines, the novel pulls all of the threads together in a manner so complex yet compelling, it’s like reading a Rubrik’s cube that makes complete sense by the end in a masterful way.

But what a ride it is to that point. There will be the college student who has stolen a huge amount of cocaine at a party, and the thugs sent to find it. There is a corrupt policeman who may or may not be an abusive husband who has murdered before. There will be a young boy kidnapped and left to die, as well as a woman, tired of her abusive husband, who hires a hit man to kill him. But is she all she seems? It seems these are disparate issues, but they all come together.

And then there’s Odd, who finds himself holding a shotgun, with a corpse next to him. Who’s in trouble now?

Outgragously plotted in the most intricate puzzle Auntie M has read in a while, readers will be amazed at how the threads are pulled together in a surprising and satisfying ending.

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Mandy Morton: The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency Wednesday, Mar 29 2017 

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Auntie M previously reviewed this book, but now that it’s being published here in the US, the series deserves a second look in case you missed it the first time around.

Welcome to the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best friend, Tilly, in The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.

And what a world it is! Not one for inserting a cat as a companion to a human, Morton has these cats inhabit their own world, complete with sly references and ripe with innuendo. In the true spirit of the books, sales will help feed, shelter and find loving homes for less fortunate cats.

Hettie Bagshot and Tilly live in the Butter Sisters Bakery back room, a perfect spot for warming ovens, and replete with staff luncheon vouchers to hold hunger at bay as the dynamic duo await their very first case. (The idea for becoming a private detective occurred to Hettie when she was watching the long-running play A Mouse Trapped.) When that case turns out to be a search for missing dead cats, the reader knows the hijinks can’t be far behind.

Marcia Woolcoat, the matron of the Furcross Home for slightly older cats, promises a Dignicat burial when each cat’s time has come. Unfortunately for her, three recently deceased cats have been dug up and their corpses stolen, reminding Hettie of the infamous grave robbers Bert and Hair.

The fun keeps piling on as Hettie knows the Furcross cook from her touring days with her band, echoing Morton’s earlier professional days as a songwriter-musician. Marley Toke specializes in Jamaican food for the cats and grows her own catnip in the garden. With financial transactions providing rent and food for Hettie and Tilly, the fact that they have no idea what they’re doing seems besides the point.

Readers will meet Hettie’s plumber friend Poppy Phene, who drives the cats around in his van, while they chorus to Tabby Wynette’s version of “Stand By Your Van.” It’s not like Hettie is the FBI–the Feline Bureau of Investigation–so she has to use her wits to keep her retainer with Marcia going. The guests at Furcross range from the gardner, Digger Patch, to the dashing Marilyn Repel, late of The Prince and the Showcat, with star Larry O’Liver. Marilyn’s daughter, Cocoa is a fashion designer, working in concert with nail specialist Oralia Claw. And there’s the nurse, Alma Mogadon, who is keeping dark secrets of her own.

If Hettie has the brains, Tilly keeps the duo going on a daily basis with her housekeeping and secretarial chores. And don’t forget Tilly’s favorite author, mystery writer Polly Hodge, an homage to the cat of P D James, friend and mentor to Morton. Tilly’s reading Hodge’s newest: An Unsuitable Job for a Cat, along with others by Nicola Uptide and Alexander McPaw Spit. Any mystery lover will find themselves smiling at Morton’s sly humor.

Auntie M quite enjoyed the twisted plot–yes, there IS a plot–and a mystery to be solved in Hettie’s inimitable fashion, assisted by Tilly. There is genuine love between the two cats, and anyone who isn’t enamored with the series needs to run right out and adopt a cat–or two.

Their world without humans is quite entrancing, from the details of the food eaten, to the clothes worn. Morton has a real winner for cat lovers everywhere and a cozy series for mystery lovers. More volumes soon to be published, too.

Enter the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best mate, Tilly, and be prepared to be besotted.

Sally Andrews: The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Marie Mystery Tuesday, Mar 28 2017 

Sally Andrews created a most unusual protagonist in Tannie Maria in last year’s Recipes for Love and Murder. The sequel is just as captivating–perhaps even more so–with The Satanic Mechanic, filled with eccentric characters, a budding romance, and an interesting mystery. Set in South Africa’s Klein Karoo, the landscape becomes a character all its own. Here’s the author on a bench in the Karoo:

Photo by Andrea Nixon

Mixing Tannie Maria’s recipes with her love and advice column, the woman uses food as a means to help others solve their issues for the local Gazette. The South African Klein Karoo comes alive under Andrews talented writing, as Maria inexplicably finds herself investigating another murder, to the chagrin of Henk Kannemeyer, the detective with whom she is trying to build a relationship.

When Slimkat, a local Bushman activist, is poisoned in her presence, Tannie Maria feels a responsibility to become involved, despite Henk’s warning. She’s seen something in his eyes, something primal that speaks to her as much as it warns her. She feels compelled to find his killer.

At the same time, flashbacks of the abuse from her dead husband, and the secret she holds surrounding his demise, threaten any intimacy she tries to achieve with Henk. Maria soon becomes part of a counseling group for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers, run by a man known as the Satanic Mechanic.

How the counseling group, a second murder, and Slimkat’s murder are related, plus how the counseling helps Maria to heal, form the prongs of this most delightful murder mystery. Maria’s inclination is to deal with life’s highs and lows with food, and her descriptions of the meals and sweets she devises add a lovely visceral texture to the book. She’s also in touch with the animals that surround her, sometimes to interesting effect. This is a common occurrence when trying to navigate the roads of the Karoo and a herd of cows have their own idea:


Photo: Andrea Nixon

Andrews, who lives on a Klein Karoo nature preserve most of the year, also brings the landscape and its creatures to life, imbuing them both with a sense of wonder and connection to Maria. Here she is with a friendly leopard.

Photo: Bowen Boshier

Thankfully, Andrews also includes many recipes of the dishes Maria prepares, even describing how a hotbox works. Readers will end the book feeling they wish they knew Sally Andrews AND Tannie Maria.

Photo: Andrea Nixon

This inventive mystery series is one readers won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

New and Different: DePoy, Oregon, Greaney, Grippando, Kline, Mignola/Sniegoski Friday, Mar 24 2017 

Auntie M receives many new books and decided to group these with most unusual settings or premises together to bring you something new and different.


Philip DePoy is best known for his plays and mysteries, several which feature Fever Devilin, so it’s no surprise that his new historical series features a most unusual protagonist: Christopher Marlowe, in The English Agent.

It’s 1583 and young Christopher is morose after a new play, held in a downtrodden Cambridge pub, is a dismal flop. When he’s attacked in the streets he decides he’s had enough, and gladly accepts when Francis Walsingham, spymaster to the Queen,sends him on assignment to Holland. His goal is to stop the Spanish assassination plot directed toward William the Silent.

Marlowe proves a witty and capable spy, as he navigates his way to unmask the Spaniards behind the scheme. He neatly sidesteps disaster and becomes almost an action hero in the process. Coupled with DePoy’s meticulous research, the action is balanced with humor that serves the fictional story, set alongside really historical figures. Thoroughly engrossing and engaging.

Off to Tokyo, with Nicolas Oregon’s original debut, Blue Light in Yokohama. Inspector Iwata is trying to overcome a painful case, and reinstated to the Homicide Division, must prove himself when he’s assigned to a multiple murder investigation. His reluctant partner, Noriko Saki, is less than thrilled to be his partner.

And it’s a disturbing case, the brutal slaughter of an entire family with no motive or suspects on the horizon. Indeed, the former detective assigned to case has committed suicide.

The case has all the hallmarks of a serial killer, with ritualistic details including incense and a large black sun symbol, which earn the killer his sobriquet: The Black Sun Killer.

This moody, complex mystery sustains a level of suspense with an intricate plot that has a real depth of characters. The dark setting adds to the feeling of jeopardy that pumps up this original detective into someone who will soon have an army of followers.

Mark Greaney already had the successful Gray Man series when he was tapped as Tom Clancy’s co-writer. Now juggling the Jack Ryan and Gray Man novels, Greaney’s newest Gray Man offering is Gunmetal Gray.

Greaney’s novels are known for their realistic details, the outcome of his exhaustive research and travels. He brings the Gray Man, Court Gentry, to Hong Kong where he almost loses his life to Chinese agents. With his friend Donald Fitzroy being held captive by the Chinese, Gentry swings into action to find the man who’s intel is wanted by the Chinese. Add a assassin squad led by a sexy agent, action readers will be thrilled to take this new adventure.

James Grippando brings his Miami criminal defense lawyer his toughest case yet in Most Dangerous Place, when a woman stands trial for murdering the man who sexually assaulted her a decade ago. It’s a sad truth that one in four female college students will be sexually assaulted during her college years.

The master of legal thrillers blends a wild story with legal issues, when Jack’s high school friend, Keith Ingraham begs him to help Kieth’s wife Isabelle, arrested for conspiracy to murder her college rapist.

Jack readily agrees to represent his friend’s wife, known as Isa, but the tension rises when he starts to doubt his own client. Is Isa who she seems to be? With surprises hitting Jack as he tries to craft his case, readers will be shocked at the ending.

Inspired by a true case, Grippando wrote the book to bring awareness to the difficult road rape victims still travel.

Think of a most unusual premise and you’ll reach for Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World, which is the fictional tale inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, “Christina’s World.”

In real life, Christina Olson was the muse of Wyeth portrayed in the painting, which features the mysterious Christine in the pink dress sitting in the grass and gazing at a weathered house in the distance. The original hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Kline brings Christina to life, and we learn of her birth in the remote Maine farmhouse of the painting. Incapacitated by a generative muscular illness, she has difficulties ambulating and would probably have remained a hermit, until the young painter finds her and she becomes his focus.

A most unusual and highly entertaining tale.

Auntie M saved the most unusual for last, with the illustrated book of Mike Mignola and Thomas E Sniegoski: Grim Death and Bill, the Electrocuted Criminal.

Moody illustrations accompany the dark fantasy tale, perfectly capturing this mix of steampunk-horror-mystery in an adventure tale that feels like an action adventure thrown into the middle of a 1930s pulp novel, where organized crime is rampant on the streets in war between good and evil.

Bentley Hawthorne, accompanied by his manservant, Pym, must punish murderers. Taking on the persona of Grim Death, he hunts down those pointed out to him by graveyard voices who deserve to be punished. Bill is William Tuttle, on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and soon to become part of a dynamic duo with Grim Death.

The two join forces, and of course, there’s a beautiful woman involved, in a creative and compelling story that’s unlike anything you’ve read. This will delight fans of illustrated novels, anyone who enjoys creative crime novels, and teen YA readers as well. Good creepy fun.

Maine Crime Wave: Saturday, April 22nd Friday, Mar 17 2017 

Readers, here’s a note from Gayle Lynds on the NEW Maine Crime Wave conference. Auntie M hopes to attend next year, but this inaugural year looks outstanding:

Writers conferences are like tea and cookies for me, or maybe like an AK-47 and a cyanide pill embedded in a molar. They’re exciting and often memorable in unexpected ways. They can range widely in our mystery-suspense-thriller field. I love the big ones; I love the small ones. Some of my very best friends in the world I met when we sat next to or bumped into each other, or I heard speak. Plus, although I’ve been publishing for some thirty years, I still learn at every one.

If you, too, love books and write in the crime field. Please join us at this year’s Maine Crime Wave on Saturday, April 22, in Portland. It’s going to be outstanding. Here are some details:

Ever wonder about the process of developing from debut author to New York Times bestseller? Hear the inside scoop from TESS GERRITSEN—winner of our inaugural CrimeMaster Award—and her renowned New York literary agent MEG RULEY of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

What’s the truth about crime at the state level? Join us for insider tales from MAINE ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET MILLS, who will give the day’s luncheon keynote talk.

PLUS The conference includes panel discussions, theme-specific craft sessions, manuscript workshops, one-on-one agent critiques, and more:

★ Experts discuss how to write winning query letters
★ Debut authors reveal how they got published
★ Attorneys and law enforcement officers unveil inside info about crime & punishment
★ Top authors describe how they develop ideas into selling manuscripts
★ Break-out craft sessions give you the inside scoop on Plot, Character, & Scenes
★ A special hands-on manuscript workshop for four attendees
★ And join us at 4:00 p.m. for Two Minutes in the Slammer, an opportunity to read your own prose

All the details are here: http://mainewriters.org/maine-crime-wave/

Looking forward to meeting you! Gayle Lynds

[Gayle Lynds is a New York Times bestseller and multiple award winner of international espionage novels. Please visit her at http://www.GayleLynds.com]

Judith Flanders: A Cast of Vultures Sunday, Mar 12 2017 

castofvultures

Judith Flanders’ series featuring editor Samantha Clair is one Auntie M looks forward to reading, with good reason. The series has grown stronger, and with this third outing, A Cast of Vultures, demonstrates everything that’s good about Sam, mixing the smart and witty amateur sleuth-by-default with her Scotland Yard partner, Jake. There’s something to be said for a strong heroine who doesn’t really need anyone, but who chooses to be human enough to let people into her world.

An elderly friend traps Sam into helping her check on a missing neighbor while a series of minor arson fires range in the area. Then one fire turns deadly, with a body whose identity changes everything, and Sam unwittingly finds herself in the midst of being chased by thugs, forced to take drastic measures to defend herself.

The highlights of this series are many: Sam’s self-deprecating humor gives readers a clear-eyed, wry view of herself and those around her. Her mother and the neighbors who pepper the stories range from eccentric to phobic, but all are realistically drawn multi-faceted people. Auntie M is especially fond of Sam’s reclusive, brilliant, and understated upstair neighbor, Mr. Rudiger. We all wish we had a neighbor like Mr. Rudiger at times.

Then there’s the mystery itself, with a many-pronged approach that makes it complex and satisfying, overlapping at times with Jake’s work. And don’t forget Sam’s work world, which in this story provides a nice subplot as her publishing house undergoes what might be a restructuring.

From her Goth assistant, Miranda, who keeps an eye on Sam, to navigating the nature of her relationship with Jake, Sam Clair is someone you will want to spend time with as she finds herself embroiled in what turns out to be a humorous yet fast-paced mystery. Highly recommended.

Frances Brody: A Death in the Dales Wednesday, Mar 8 2017 

deathdales

Frances Brody’s newest Kate Shackleton mystery is one of her finest, an intricately plotted tale of crimes old and new, in A Death in the Dales.

Kate has taken her niece, Harriet, recovering from diphtheria, to stay for two weeks holiday at the Langcliffe home of Freda Simonson, now deceased, whose nephew, Dr. Lucien Simonsson has been courting Kate.

It’s to be a time to build up Harriet’s health, but the shadow of an old crime hangs over the town. Freda Simonsson was the only witness to the murder of the landlord of the tavern across the road, and believed till her dying day that the wrong man had been convicted of that murder.

Kate will soon find herself reading Freda’s notes on the crime, her voice reaching out to Kate from the grave, while Harriet befriends a young girl whose brother is missing. Her quiet vacation time suddenly seems very full indeed, with sleuthing around the various farms.

For if Freda was correct and the wrong man has been put to death, that means a murderer is still on the loose in the Yorkshire town.

This was one of Auntie M’s favorite Brody novels to date. The several plot lines come together in a way that’s extremely satisfying, as does the personal part of Kate’s life. Of course, her partner Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs. Sugden make an appearance, but it’s Kate who rules the day.

A satisfying entry in the series; Highly Recommended.

And don’t miss these two, new in paperback:

Redemption Road is John Hart’s thriller featuring cop Elizabeth Black, who rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot her kidnappers dead. But she’s also hiding a secret, and so are those around here. Filled with twists and turns.

A Banquet of Consequences is Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley/Havers mystery, a mix of complex plotting and psychological suspense, when a troubled young man’s suicide sets off a string of events that culminate in another death. This one was Highly Recommended when it debuted and readers who missed it at first can find it now in paperback.

Michelle Kelly: A Death at the Yoga Cafe’ Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

deathyogacafe

Kelly’s second Keeley Carpenter cozy, Death at the Yoga Cafe’, brings readers back to the small english village of Belfry, where Keeley has opened her vegetarian cafe’ and is gaining a steady clientele,despite competition from her arch rival, Raquel.

Things are going well in her love life, too, with Detective Ben Taylor, who seems understanding about her nervousness when her mother comes for a visit. Never one to throw around compliments, Darla Carpenter arrives unexpectedly early and brings her superior attitude and criticism with her.

The timing couldn’t be worse. The annual Belfry Arts Festival is right around the corner, bringing several artistic types to the town. The Raquel’s boyfriend, the town’s mayor, is found dead, and the focus is on Raquel, especially after a nasty argument they had right in front of Keeley’s cafe’ with several witnesses.

Despite Ben’s warning, Keeley just can’t let an innocent person be framed for murder, and soon finds herself up to her elbows in more than a Sun Salutation, when the culprit turns his eye on her.

Complete with descriptions of yoga poses and even a few vegetarian recipes, this is delightful brain candy set in a small English village.

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Scott Frank: Shaker Friday, Mar 3 2017 

shaker

Scott Frank is a talented screenwriter and director, penning movies such as Dead Again, one of Auntie M’s favorite movies, Get Shorty,Out of Sight, Minority Report and The Wolverine, to name just a few.

So it’s no surprise that his debut thriller, SHAKER, has short, declarative chapters and is filled with characters whose lives you will become immersed in, all wrapped up a well-plotted novel that comes alive on the page as it explores the dark underbelly of LA.

Hit man Roy Cooper is unlike any other character. You will not come to like him but you will understand him. You may even have empathy for the predicament he finds himself in. Just days after a major earthquake hits the area, and after fulfilling his most recent contract, Roy becomes a media hero after an onlooker catches him on video standing up to a gang where a mugging in an alleyway has turned deadly.

Soon everyone wants Roy, and no one more so than the hit man who taught him everything he knows, and who thought Roy was long dead.

Frank does a remarkable job of exploring the history and psychology of Roy Cooper, the gang members, and LA detective Kelly Maguire. There are themes of family and political corruption, as well as race, but what stands out is Frank’s ability to craft a book that will take readers on a bloody wild ride before the gripping conclusion.

There’s humor and pathos along with the action. Readers will be flipping pages faster and faster–Auntie M read it in one night. What Frank has done is to allow the reader to clearly understand each of these tormented and damaged characters. Stunning.

Tracee de Hahn: Swiss Vendetta Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 

swiss-vendetta

Tracee deHahn’s debut bring readers to Lausanne, Switzerland, in Swiss Vendetta.

Perfectly capturing the setting during an ice storm, she introduces detective Agnes Luthi, a Swiss-American who has left behind her work with Financial Crimes to shed her old life before her husband’s death. Being new to Violent Crimes, Agnes is juggling her three sons’ care and grief, while living with a mother-in-law who blames her for her husband’s death.

Her first case will turn out to be a locked-room style, when she is called to investigate the murder of a young woman at the grand Chateau Vallotton, on Lac Leman. The ensuring blizzard and ice storm will keep Agnes and several others at the Chateau for days as the investigation continues and they are cut off from the outside world.

It’s not just the intense cold that has Agnes in its grip–it’s the eerie candlelit vastness of the Chateau, with too many rooms to count or explore; it’s the emotions and guilt she carries after her husband’s death; and it’s the knowledge that a murderer is among the people she’s staying with, eating with, talking with.

This Swiss family includes servants loyal to them for generations, and so Agnes worries her questions are not being answered truthfully when a young appraiser for a London auction house is found stabbed to death on the grounds.

Everyone she comes into contact with is a suspect; and she despairs of trusting anyone.

An complex mystery with plays out on several emotional levels, making it an accomplished debut. Highly recommended.