Spring Cozies: Chapman, Cooper, Shea and Harris Sunday, Apr 30 2017 

Julia Chapman debuts a new cozy series with tons of charm, sure to please readers, set amongst the Yorkshire Dales. Date with Death introduces Delilah Metcalfe and her seeming nemesis, Samson O’Brien.

It’s been a rough two years for Delilah, dealing with two deaths: one of her brothers was killed in the service, and there’s the disappointment of her marriage ending in divorce. Determined to keep her IT and Dating Agency businesses afloat, she’s teetering on the edge of financial ruin.

So she has little choice but to allow a new renter to use the ground floor of her Dales Dating Agency building–until she finds out her tenant is none other than Samson, returned to his hometown in disgrace after leaving suddenly fourteen years before. He didn’t make it home for her brother’s funeral, despite being Best Man at his wedding and godfather to his now-teenaged son. Locals aren’t happy Samson has returned, either, especially one of Delilah’s brothers, Will.

There’s a whole cast of characters to fill the dales, and while the names may take some getting used to, soon they all make sense and readers will be able to follow when the mother of a young man who committed suicide hires Samson, on leave from the police and working as a private detective, to find out the real reason behind his death. She’s convinced her son wouldn’t have committed suicide.

Delilah wants nothing to do with Samson, but finds herself working in concert with him when it becomes apparent someone is killing men who sign up for her Speed Dating nights. She will use her computer skills to find the pattern, and then enlists Samson to help her investigate to find the perpetrator.

There are family squabbles, fell running, Samson’s alcoholic father, now sober and living in a retirement home, and twists and turns to keep both Samson and Delilah in danger. And don’t forget Delilah’s pup, Tolpuddle, her companion who just may have his own role to play.

Samson carries his own secrets from his past undercover work, and to Chapman’s credit, these are not all revealed in this volume, giving her an ample storyline for the next installment. A winning debut.

The second in Marla Cooper’s series gives readers an eye into the job of a wedding planner. This time Kelsey McKenna has a destination wedding in wine country on tap in Dying on the Vine.

The Napa Valley setting on the Higgins Estate is lovely, but this event has already been planned by Babs Norton, who would have people believe is the Queen of Wine Country Weddings–until the bride’s father fired her.

Enter Kelsey, newly hired, who feels the need to clear the air between her and Babs. Sounds like the right thing to do, but unfortunately Kelsey finds Babs dead in her office and the finger of suspicion pointing right at her.

It doesn’t help when Babs’ assistant cancels the contracts for the vendors, sending Kelsey and bride Haley Bennet into a tailspin. She’ll rely on her photographer friend Brody and assistant Laural to salvage the day, while she tracks down a murderer to clear her name–and keep the wedding on track.

There’s humor, murder and even a bit of romance in this charming sequel.

Susan Shea leaves her Dani O’Rourke mystery series to inaugurate a second series set in the French countryside in Love and Death in Burgundy

American ex-pat Katherine Goff wanted to be accepted by her Burgundy neighbors, but after three years it’s still dicey going in the small village of Reigny-sur-Canne.

Then an elderly inhabitant is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Was this a tragic accident or a case of murder? Tongues start wagging in the town, and Katherine soon finds herself caught up in their secrets.

Filled with French food and wine, Katherine lives amongst a cast of eccentrics, trying to solve a murder. Think of a young Miss Marple sent to the French countryside, and you’ll delight in this new series.

Sherry Harris has a winning series with her Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries. Her first, Tagged for Death, was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel.

Sarah, with her fluffernutter sandwiches, is an engaging protagonist.
She returns in the fourth in the series, A Good Day to Buy, with Sarah’s estranged brother showing up unexpectedly after years apart.

Sworn to silence on his appearance, Luke especially means that to include Sarah’s ex, the chief of police. To his chagrin, CJ and Sarah are having something of a reconciliation, which means the chief is often at her apartment in a lovely old house.

It puts Sarah in an awkward position, to say the least, coming on the heels of her most recent garage sale, where the bodies of her clients, the Spencers, were discovered during the sale, hidden behind sheets Sarah hung to keep their private area off limits. The Vietnam vet is dead, and his wife critically injured.

But what’s the connection to Luke? Before Sarah can pin him down, he’s disappeared again. Is he really doing investigative journalism work?

The tenor of small town New England, coupled with the life of veterans and the work Sarah does in their thrift shop bring an added dimension to the compelling plot. Just when readers will think they have it figured out, think again.

Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop Mysteries debuted with The Cracked Spine last year and introduced Kansas native Delaney Nichols, who’s moved to Edinburgh to find adventure, working in a bookshop filled with characters who keep secrets as rare as the manuscripts they sell.

The sequel is Of Books and Bagpipes, and it continues Delaney’s efforts to get to know her coworkers and her job. With her landlord, taxi drive Elias and his wife Aggie adopting her and keeping an eye out for her safety, it’s Elias who drives Delaney to Castle Doune on an errand for her boss. Edwin has sent her to retrieve and annual of the Scottish comic, “Oor Wullie.”

Only the castle appears deserted, and when Elias and Delaney have a look around the ramparts up top, they find the body of the young man they were sent to meet, a William Wallace re-enactor.

Calling the police, Delaney discovers the book she was sent to find fluttering around a side wall, and she impulsively hides it under her jacket. Edwin’s secrets revolve around a long-dead friend, and the complications that ensure from a long-ago buried secret.

But there will be more deaths, and it will take all of Delaney’s investigative skills, and a bit of help from the voices of books that reach out to her, to find the killer.

A sequel rich in Scottish dialect and customs, with a hint of romance and a decades-old mystery to unravel.

Stephen Booth: Secrets of Death Sunday, Apr 23 2017 

It might be tough for some authors to keep coming up with an original story when they approach writing their 16th installment in a series. But Stephen Booth manages to keep reader’s attention with his creative plot in his newest Cooper and Fry mystery, Secrets of Death.

With Diane Fry in Nottingham, re-evaluating her relationship with her sister and working on a triple homicide, Ben Cooper as DI in Derbyshire’s E Division keeps trying to get back out on the streets he loves. In his new cottage, hoping to start afresh, he’s looking for a pattern in a spate of recent suicides in the Peak District, just in time for tourist season.

With no way to predict where the next body will be found, it’s an unlucky task before Ben and his team, who will find a surprising new member before the case is solved.

Then he finds a clue, a black business card from “Secrets of Death,” and realizes someone is encouraging depressed people to commit suicide right in his backyard. It gets personal when a body is found on his home farm, upping the urgency.

The landscape of the area is lovingly defined as the bodies continue to mount, and when it seems Fry’s case might be connected to Ben’s after all, and the two are forced to work together once again.

A highly satisfying entry in this series.

Donna Fletcher Crow: The Monastery Murders Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

Please welcome Donna Fletcher Crow, to explain the path her historical Monastery Murders series has taken. One lucky reader who leaves a comment will win a copy of one of Donna’s books, print or e-book, your preference! So all you lurkers out there who read but don’t comment, today’s your day!

The Monastery Murders: A Year of Life-changing Adventures

Felicity Howard is a young American woman studying in a theological college in a monastery in rural Yorkshire. And no one finds that more surprising than Felicity herself.

But teaching school was so boring (even in London) and what else can she do with a classics major? Besides, she makes all her decisions on impulse.

When she finds her favorite monk brutally murdered and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, covered in his blood, however, she begins to question the wisdom of this decision. An enigmatic book of poetry Father Dominic gave Felicity just before his death catapults Felicity and Antony into an adventure chasing and being chased by murderers across northern England.

Thus A Very Private Grave begins the Monastery Murders, a series that follows Felicity and Antony through the most tumultuous and transformative year of their lives.

In book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, Felicity is off to become a nun, in spite of the fact that Antony begs her to help him find a stolen valuable icon. Then her difficult mother arrives unexpectedly and a good friend turns up murdered. The ensuing chase takes them from London to the water-soaked Norfolk Broads.

In An Unholy Communion, Antony is leading a youth pilgrimage across Wales, and Felicity joins him for some much-needed relaxation—until their idyllic ramble turns into a life-and-death struggle between good and evil.

Book 4, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, finds Felicity off to translate a manuscript in a convent in Oxford. “What could be safer?” she asks Antony when he warns her to be careful. When severed body parts start showing up in ancient reliquaries, Felicity learns that murder can stalk even Oxford’s hallowed shrines.

An All-Consuming Fire brings the year full circle as Felicity plans their Christmastide wedding while Antony narrates a mini-series for the BBC. It will all be perfect. If only Felicity can keep her mother from turning the event into a royal production and escape the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors.

Donna Fletcher Crow is a lifelong Anglophile, former English teacher, and a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection, the monastery that serves as a model for this series. She conceived the series when her daughter Elizabeth found teaching classics in London to be boring, went off to study in a monastery in Yorkshire and married…

You can see information about all her books and pictures from her research trips at http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Donna-Fletcher-Crow-Novelist-of-British-History-355123098656/

Sarah Hilary: Quieter Than Killing Sunday, Apr 16 2017 

Sarah Hilary’s fourth in her Marnie Rome series, Quieter than Killing, is one fellow author Jane Casey calls ” . . . a fine addition to a superb series.”

Severe winter cold is affecting everyone in London, making seemingly random attacks on victims unrelated, until a pattern starts to appear. Could they have a vigilante seeking justice on their hands?

With DS Noah Jake as her right-hand man, Marnie becomes intrinsically involved when the family home she’s rented is broken into and ransacked, her tenants beaten up, and the only thing taken was a childhood memory that Marnie had lost sight of.

Someone has decided to make this deeply personal, and for Marnie, that involves going to the prison the face the man who murdered her parents.

Who is pulling the strings here? What does Noah’s brother’s old gang have to do with it all? And when a child goes missing, why has no one reported his disappearance?

In a series of remarkable scenes, the compelling plot unfolds as Marne and Jake embark on their toughest investigation yet. Hilary’s characters are terribly human, and the story is filled with deep emotions on all sides of the equation.

An original story, with hard, gripping scenes, this one’s a real knockout. Highly recommended

Steve Berry: The Lost Order Friday, Apr 14 2017 

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series have a huge following for good reason: his complex and well-researched plots, mingled with real historic facts and woven into a fictional action adventure story that just doens’t quit.

This time in The Lost Order, Malone is hunting for a treasure trove of hidden gold, hidden by a secret organization that once counted Malone’s own great-great-grandfather among its members.

Despite Anngus Adams being a Confederate spy ring the Civil War, Malone soon discovers that his group, The Knights of the Golden Circle, are still operating today.

With several disparate people succumbing to the lure of the gold, its secret is something people will kill to protect. Filled with a race across the country, changing landscapes and bits of clues. Another stunner from a master of the action hero adventure that combines reality with fiction.

Readers should be interested to know that the author and his wife co-founded History Matters, a non-profit organization that to date has raised over $900,000 or the preservation and conservation of historic sites.

Lori Rader-Day: The Day I Died Tuesday, Apr 11 2017 

Anthony Award and Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Lori Rader-Day returns with her most captivating thriller yet in The Day I Died.

Anna Winger has developed a life for herself and her 13 yr-old son, analyzing handwriting for a variety of purposes, whether it’s for someone evaluating a romantic hopeful, or for a business looking for the best employee to hire.

She also has a habit of leaving towns quickly, and not forming attachments, leaving her past domestic abuse behind in order to save her son’s life.

In her newest town, she’s asked to analyze a note left at a murder scene that involves the kidnapping of a child. While the local sheriff barely tolerates her work, he soon admits she may hold the only chance he has to find the kidnapped child.

Anna will face the scrutiny of many in the town, as well as the mixed reaction she gets at the police department she’s trying to help. Who is her friend and who is her foe? And her bottom line always is: who can she really trust?

And then Anna’s own son goes missing, and suddenly all bets are off as she must explore every option and go anywhere she can to try to rescue her son and another small child.

A totally absorbing thriller, filled with realistic characters and a complex story.

Wilbur Smith: War Cry Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family historical thrillers are so popular due to their complex plots and adventure focus. The newest is War Cry , set in the 1920s near the end of World War I onward.

The setting starts in Africa, Smith’s own homeland, but Leon Courtney’s daughter Saffron has left Kenya to study in Oxford, England. Another young man affected by history is Gerhard von Meerbach, the younger brother of the heir to an industrial fortune.

When the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi question, it threatens everything Gerhard thought he knew about his family.

And into this is thrust Saffron and Leon and the spies and traitors who will cross their paths.

Filled with dramatic intrigue yet based on real events, this is a complex plot that feels made to be on the big screen, with its sweeping storylines and vistas.

New in Paperback: Wednesday, Apr 5 2017 

The wisteria is in bloom in NC and Auntie M is happy Spring is finally here. Along with Sping comes many new releases in paperback. Here are few of the top ones for your reading pleasure:

Maggie McConnon brings us the second in her Belfast McGrath Mysteries with Bel of the Brawl.

The gourmet chef is now working at her parent’s Irish wedding venue, handling the catering after a tough leap from her NY job. The weddings are a family affair, with her brothers in the band, performing everything from the BeeGees to Irish reels.

But the loss of Bel’s best friend in high school still haunts her. Amy Mitchell went missing after a party on a small isle in the center of the town’s rive,r and was never seen again. At the end of the debut in the series, Wedding Bel Blues, Amy’s backpack surfaced in the river. At the opening of book two, the investigation in her case has been reopened, and no one is more interested in finding out what really happened than Bel.

Haunted by her friend’s disappearance, feeling she’s dead, Bel decides to ask the groom of the current wedding to help out, as he’s a private detective. Only things don’t go according to plan, and right in the middle of the reception, the groom is found dead in the ladies room. There will be issues of undocumented workers and missing money from her parents safe, too.

Filled with humor and intrigue, a delicious sequel.

Bernard Minier’s Insp. Servaz series is one of Auntie M’s favorites, and his newest is now out in paperback and ebook. Don’t Turn Out the Lights brings him into the case of Christine Steinmeier, a radio presenter whose life is turned inside out with mysterious happenings, kicked off by a letter from someone blaming her for her suicide.

With someone determined to undermine her job, her love life, and even her pet, Christine comes to the attention of Servaz, who is recovering from his own trauma, who has received a key to the hotel room of young woman driven to suicide. Complicated and riveting.

Also new in paperback is Daniel Silva’s masterful Gabriel Allon spy novel, Black Widow. His timely story revolves around ISIS, who detonate a bomb in Paris’ traditionally Jewish Marais district, right as Allon is poised to take over as chief of Israel’s intelligence.

Filled with intrigue in a powerful story, Allon’s final operation will be to find and take down the man responsible before he can strike again. A captivating thriller.

A stunner when it debuted, Spencer Kope’s Collecting the Dead introduces Steps Craig, a member of the FBI’s Special Tracking Unit who has a most unusual talent: he can sense places people have been and routes they’ve taken, even if they’ve touched an item.

Pulling on his own experience as a crime analyst, Kope’s story centers on tracking the Sad Face Killer, as he hopes to find him before he strikes again. And just maybe, he’ll find victims the killer has taken who might still be alive. Tightly plotted, with enough twists and turns to keep readers up at night, they will be drawn to Steps Craig.

Carolyn Haines’ Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries have a devoted cozy following. Now in paperback is Rock-A-Bye Bones
, where the discovery of a baby left on her doorstep leads the private eye to search for the newborn’s mother.

Enlisting her partner, Tinkie Richmond, after having the little girl checked out at the hospital, the two soon figure out the mother was fleeing for her life. Sarah must follow the woman’s last movements to find out who has put her life in jeopardy so badly she’s given up her child. With appearances by the ghostly Jitty, and a wide dose of humor, Sarah is over-the-top fun.

Charlot King: Poison Sunday, Apr 2 2017 

Charlot King’s new Cambridge Murder Mysteries debuts with Poison. Bringing her personal knowledge of Cambridge, its colleges, and environs, written in present tense, with a prodigious use of commas, this delightful first in a series proves to be one readers will enjoy.

King’s sense of Cambridge as a setting brings it to life under her talented pen–she also takes lovely photos of the area she posts on Twitter, and has an artistic eye. Readers will feel they’ve been there, walking through the colleges, punting on the Cam, and following Dr Elizabeth Green as she solves a murder of a colleague who lands right at the end of her garden.

A specialist in plants and their poisons, King has done exhaustive research to show Green’s expertise and it shows. Still grieving over the loss of her husband, Green teams with Inspector Abely, the golf-playing detective who admires her and whom she’s helped previously. Aided by her grandson, living with her for the term, they will sleuth out the murderer from amongst the victim’s family and close friends.

King was kind enough to answer a few questions for Auntie M, and here are her thoughts:

Auntie M: Your debut mystery, Poison, introduces Professor Elizabeth Green. What made you decide on this particular person to be your protagonist, as your research is meticulous on her plants/poisons knowledge?

Charlot King: Thank you. It’s a really interesting question, how characters develop. For me Professor Elizabeth Green just came to me, like I’d known her all my life (that doesn’t often happen). I wanted to write about a woman who on some level is invisible, who has been sidelined, or who society categorises as an irritant. When women hit their forties, fifties I think this happens all too frequently. They become invisible in stories too, a lot. I like the writer Nancy Meyers in the states, who is bringing back this age group into the movies – with ‘Somethings Gotta Give’ and ‘It’s Complicated’. It’s not just women she writes about, older men too (in ‘The Intern’). They get written off, when they’ve still got a lot to give. Anyway, I’m talking about the movies when I should be talking about books (!). I guess I am interested in those women and how they deal with the society that does that. After all, she (Elizabeth) was a little girl once too, a young woman, someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Women do so much and yet society finds it harder to applaud them for their achievements. Elizabeth’s flaw is that she is strong, very strong. What’s wrong in that? That makes her annoying by society’s standards. It makes her a closed book, and an island. Not the vulnerable woman, not deferential or ‘ladylike’. I wanted to read more of that, so I wrote it (I guess that’s what writers do)… As for the research, I bought books on poisons. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. My oh my, it’s easy. I did wonder if anyone looked at my online search history and purchases whether they might think I was trying to bump someone off. But Poison is a work of fiction, not a reference book of accuracy or to give anyone ideas.

AM: Elizabeth is aided by her grandson. How did you decide to have Godric be involved? I thought him a bit like Bertie Wooster. Since Elizabeth’s cat is named Bertie, I’m assuming you’re a Wodehouse fan, too?

CK: I am a huge Wodehouse fan, huge, and yes you are right the cat is named Bertie because of that. Ha ha. I once stayed in Tuscany for a month and it was early spring and quite cold when we woke up. In the mornings I would lay in bed waiting for the sun to heat up the day, and I would read Wodehouse. I must have read them all. And I was completely in love with Bertie Wooster by the end of it. His enthusiasm, optimism and just irrepressible jollity, well, it is intoxicating. I didn’t deliberately think of Bertie for Godric. I guess they are not totally dissimilar. Godric is posh, a buffoon, and by his very nature he always gets into scrapes. But he’s different in that he’s also a bit of a chip off his nanna. Ultimately he’s much smarter than Wooster. What I find enjoyable to write about Godric is his air of mischief and play. And I wanted to bring Godric into Elizabeth’s life as ultimately – although she’d never admit it – she’s alone right now and at a low ebb after losing her husband. So Godric is the joy in her heart and her life. Perhaps he’s what saves her.

AM: Then there’s Cambridge detective Inspector Abley. He admires Elizabeth, but is frustrated by her, too, although her involvement gets him to the golf course faster. Does he continue in the series as her police link?

CK: Yes, he’s in all the books. He was the person who first asked Elizabeth to help the police force, and he’s been leaning on her ever since. Not because he’s a bad policeman, just because she’s of a superior intelligence. He’s a man of honour, who is loyal to his friends, who has a warm demeanour (cuddly jumpers and a kind heart). It’s true, he’s not always great at his job – and I’m sure in the real world he wouldn’t last in the force – but then I’m writing fiction. When Elizabeth’s husband dies, to a certain extent Abley fills a little of his shoes for her. He’s her rock, or most of the time. He is dependable, he cares about Elizabeth and is one of the few who understands her and sees beneath her hard exterior. She doesn’t need him as she doesn’t need anyone, but he makes her life better than it would be without him.

AM: Elizabeth’s husband has died in an accident. Will that be an issue down the road or remain part of her backstory?

CK: That would be telling . . .

AM: Poison really brings Cambridge alive. The town and the colleges spring to life. I have friends who live there, but have only visited them for a day, and need to go back. What’s it like to live there?

CK: I lived in Cambridge through a lot of my twenties, and there was something about it that stuck with me after I’d moved away. I think places do that to people. We all travel more these days, but places still have a huge effect on us. Yes, I found myself at a crossroads in my life and it wasn’t hard to decide where to move back to when I needed to escape and feel free again. I feel like I’m on holiday all the time in Cambridge and it suits me living in the centre, as the river runs through it, there are commons (large expanses of fields often with cattle), so although you can pop to the cinema or restaurant with your friends you only have to turn and walk the other way and you can feel like you are in the countryside. Well, you are in a way. I mean if you walk to Fen Ditton or to Grantchester. And these places just outside the centre feel like villages from the old days to me. So much has been done in Cambridge to preserve the best of the city. And of course then there is the university, which oozes culture. I have met so many interesting people here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s in my veins.

AM: Your photography showcases some of the best of Cambridge. Is that a new interest for you?

CK: Ah, I like walking and I am lucky enough to live somewhere where around almost every corner there is something beautiful. So I just snap things, nothing more. I’m no photographer, I just use an old phone. Cambridge does the rest. You really don’t need any talent to take a beautiful picture here. They are to share with people who feel the same way about Cambridge as I do. We do have quite good weather in Cambridge – as it is on the drier side of the country, and often sunny so we are lucky for that too.

A: Your second in the series, Cursed, is out in the US in Kindle now. Can you give readers a tickler to interest them?

CK: I’d say read Poison first, as they are in order. But if you fancy reading on, and have already tried the first book, then Cursed will take you on another journey through Cambridge with the three key characters – Elizabeth, Inspector Abley and Godric. You will get to know them more and hopefully like them more. As for the plot, I don’t want to say much, but a tease would be that a porter dies in College in suspicious circumstances. Inspector Abley is not on the ball with the case, and Elizabeth steps in to help find out what’s happened. So she starts to lead the investigation. As curses, death threats and other witchy goings on are left at the Porters’ Lodge, Elizabeth is left wondering if it’s an inside job. But at the same time a very important stone has gone missing at another College. The story is set right in the heart of university life, with students and professors caught up in it, alongside townsfolk. Everything starts to unravel, as Abley isn’t helping and Sergeant Lemon struggles. Will Elizabeth be able to find out the truth before more are dead? If you like puzzles and Cambridge, then hopefully you might enjoy reading the book.

AM: Why do you write mysteries vs another genre? Who were your influences in crime writing?

CK: I have always been drawn to books by people like Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, Raymond Chandler, the whodunnit authors have always appealed. I’m fascinated by that stereotypical British under reaction, too. Someone’s been murdered, so let’s have a cup of tea. We are taught not to reveal our feelings when catastrophes happen. And to a certain extent, we also have that Dunkirk spirit, and almost a black comedy about us. So when you have a murder and people react that way, then the story becomes all about the puzzles and the clues. I like reading stuff like that. I’m currently writing a fiction book about dogs, departing entirely from the Cambridge Murder Mysteries for a short break. But will be back to write Book 3 soon, as I’ve already plotted it out. I just need to sit down and write.

AM: Who’s books are on your nightstand, waiting to be read?

CK: I read a lot of autobiographies, mainly by comedians. I think often comics are the most brutally honest about themselves and about the human condition. They hold up a mirror and tell us the truth. There is often a lot of tragedy in there, too, and the juxtaposition often makes for an interesting read. I finished Paul Merton’s book recently. At the moment I’m also reading the Old English Training Guide (!) as we have just been joined in the family by an Old English Sheepdog puppy, who recently chewed my glasses (good job they’re not reading glasses). In terms of crime, I’m about to start reading P.D. James The Lighthouse. Not sure why I’ve never read it before. But it’s queued up and I’m looking forward to that.

And I’m sure Charlot King will enjoy the James as much as readers will enjoy Poison and Cambridge.