Donna Andrews: Gone Gull Thursday, Aug 31 2017 

With it’s clever twist on the title, Donna Andrews’ newest Meg Langslow cozy, Gone Gull, keeps up the promise of this long-running series with her trademark delightful humor. Meg has the honor of being a blacksmith; her Michael runs the children’s drama class, and their twin sons are along for the ride.

Classes are off to a good start, until vandals interrupt what should be a summer idyll. Grandmother Cordelia worries the students will demand their money back.

Meg worries there are almost too many suspects for her to follow: a rival craft center could be the culprit; so could the resort developers who want to push Cordelia into selling so they can keep to their plans for Biscuit Mountain?

And then there’s Meg’s grandfather, who is convinced the non-greenies have it in for him. Dr. Blake’s ornithology background has him searching for a rare gull.

Meg keeps watch on the studios to be certain they are locked against intruders, and its on one her rounds that she finds the body of the most difficult artist she’s encountered, Edward Prine.
Prine has insisted he has seen a species of gull thought to be extinct. What’s the truth of the situation? While staff and students alike might agree the womanizing artist wasn’t everyone’s favorite, it’s hardly grounds for murder.

And then a second body is found. . .

Meg’s eccentric family are front and center in this charming outing, which has a light, breezy pacing and interesting story.

Jane Casey: Let the Dead Speak Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 

Jane Casey’s newest Maeve Kerrigan mystery, Let the Dead Speak, brings the homicide detective her strangest case yet.

Maeve is saddled with a new detective constable who rubs her wrong, whilst trying to navigate things between the DC and her unpredictable DI, Josh Derwent, and as always, trying to appease her prickly DCI, Una Burt. On a quiet residential street in Putney, a horrific crime scene–blood splatters walls and stairs and is dotted on the ceiling–is missing one key component: the victim.

Chloe Emery is the 18-yr-old daughter of the owner, Kate Emery, who hasn’t been seen in a few days. With Chloe off visitng her father and his new family, she’s returned early from this visit to find the grissly scene.

Chloe is bundled off to a friend’s house to stay. Chloe staunchly refuses to return to her father’s house, with stories of abuse at the hands of her stepbrother.The religious Norris family act suspiciously to Maeve, but Chloe is being taken care of by them and her friend, Bethany.

In the neighborhood lives a charismatic youth, who is believed to have gotten away with stabbing a schoolfriend, and attracts and befriends both of the girls. There is the cleric of the Norris’ church, who sets off warning bells in Maeve’s intuition, too.

It’s a complicated situation as Maeve and her team investigate Kate Emory’s life. It’s obvious that people are lying to them, but who and why? The complex plot unspools gradually through dedicated police work and Maeve’s keen insights. And always, she is trying to balance juggling Derwent who remains exasperating and yet Maeve’s biggest supporter knows her all too well.

Auntie M is a huge fan of this character-driven series, with just the right amount of eccentricity mixing with reality. Casey has done a grand job of giving readers a story they will have to figure out as she does–there’s plenty of twists and surprises. The strong development of the players will leave readers flipping pages as the suspense builds to the surprising ending. Highly recommended.

Louise Penny: Glass Houses Tuesday, Aug 29 2017 

Louise Penny’s 13th Inspector Gamache novel takes readers back to Three Pines in a most creative way.

Readers are introduced to a trial in process with Gamache as a prime witness. But who the defendant and the victim are is parsed out in a way that heightens the suspense in the first part of the book.

But that’s not the only challenge that Penny has up her sleeve. By going back to the beginning of this crime, Gamache and the other Three Pines residents tell the story of a dark figure who suddenly appears on the village’s green. Cloaked in black and with its face hidden behind a mask, the figure causes a disruption in the town, but since it has done nothing illegal, Gamache is powerless to do anything.

Readers learn the unusual history behind this kind of figure, and not long after it disappears is when the victim’s body is found.

Gamache almost appears on trial, as the animosity between him and the prosecutor on the case is quite evident. His every move and action is questioned. It’s a tense standoff, and there’s more at the bottom of this than meets the eye.

It’s difficult to explain more without giving away the plot, but it involves old friends in a reunion, the bounding drug culture, drugs being transferred, and the feel that Quebec is losing its footing against the drug barons. How these disparate things tie in to Three Pines is once again the genuis that is Penny’s, and the difficult decisions she visits on Gamache.

There will be real threat and pain to those he loves before it’s over, and even then the outcome will be devastating on several levels. Absorbing and complex, the richly layered plot is highlighted by Penny’s trademark details and the wry humor that creeps in, despite the enormity of the situation.

It’s a fine balance that tackles a real life issue with an insprired and controversial solution. Highly recommended.

Bruce Coffin: Beneath the Depths Sunday, Aug 27 2017 

Beneath the Depths is Bruce Coffin’s sequel to Among the Shadows, his debut featuring Portland detective John Byron, and it’s a solid sophmore offering.

Juggling his sobriety along with his romance with Detective Diane Joyner that must be kept hidden, Byron doesn’t hide his feelings when a lawyer he dislikes is found dead by a lobsterman in a stretch called Floater Alley. A possible suicide or accidental drowning is ruled out once a slug is removed from the victim’s head.

Paul Ramsey’s recent loss of a huge case is one point that interests Bryon, but there soon seem to be no shortage of suspects in the growing list of people who would want the obnoxious lawyer dead. This is a man whose vanity plate reads: I WIN.

There are past clients, a drug connections, mistresses and a grieving widow, and that’s just the start. Complicating their investigation is a reporter who seems to have inside information on the case. And it doesn’t help when Diane is offered a position that might solve their problem with keeping their relationshop under the table but keeps the offer to herself.

With the Portland PD having its own issues, Byron is often caught between a rock and a hard place, which intensifies when the Chief makes it clear that Ramsey’s law office makes huge donations to his pet projects.

Coffin draws on his own experience and knowledge as a former homicide detective to make this a solid police procedural. The Portland setting is well drawn and provides a strong backdrop to the action. This is a great read with a tight plot and believeable characters.

Mandy Morton: The Michaelmas Murders Friday, Aug 25 2017 

Mandy Morton’s highly original No. 2 Feline Detective Agency is back with The Michaelmas Murders, with the detecting team of Hettie Bagshot and her assistant Tilly Jenkins being handed their strangest case yet.

Back from their late summer holiday, the cats are in need of funds, so when Fluff Wither-Fork of Wither-Fork Hall asks them to come around immediately, they are hopeful of adding to their coffers.

The new case is that of a bludgeoned cat found on the allotments that Fluff owns, across the road from Wither-Fork Hall. A stranger to the area, the male cat’s coat and fine clothing are drenched from the overnight rain and his body found right on Bonny Grubb’s onion patch.

None of the other cats on the allotments can identify the body, and are soon busy as preparations gear up for the Michaelmas Festival, and the Flower and Vegetable Show on the following day, as Hettie and Tilly try to interview the various cats.

This is where the real fun comes in. Morton’s world of cats is divine and the felines who people the allotments stand out as distinct personalities, with different families, appearances, backgrounds, and eccentricites. Many have heartaches in their pasts, too–could any of those incidents have triggered this murder?

Then a second cat is found dead in her bed, savagely stabbed, and Hettie and Tilly ramp up their efforts and their investigation to find the culprit.

This charming series, set in a world without humans, nevertheless examines foibles that affect us all. There are sly references to human deeds and fun names for the cats residing alongside this irresistible world where happiness can often be a warm bed and full, purring belly.

Not just for cat fanciers, Morton delivers a fine cozy mystery readers everywhere will enjoy.

Jorn Lier Horst: Ordeal Thursday, Aug 24 2017 

Chief Inspector William Wisting heads this solid Norwegian police procedural, one of a series being translated into English. Ordeal begins with a thoughtful two-page summary of Wisting’s life up to this stage, as this book is fifth in a series of ten.

Once a senior investigating officer himself, Horst gets those details just right, but it’s the interplay of the man’s detective nose with his sensibilities and his own emotions that make this a great read.

Wisting’s daughter, Line, has moved near him to await the birth of the child that will make him a grandfather and his daughter a single mother. She becomes friends with a young mother nearby, living in an inherited house with her little girl.

It’s a good fit for the two women, one pregnant and the other alone and new to the area. The house Sofie Lund has inherited belonged to her grandfather, a man who thwarted police efforts to tie him to several criminal activities.

There is also a missing mand, a taxi driver, whose case appears to have grown cold with leads. Then a locked safe in the basement of her grandfather’s house reveals secrets that put everyone connected in danger.

It’s a dance Wisting must make with his bosses as he fights the bureaucracy and the media while trying to protect his daughter.

Horst writes fully realized characters and well-plotted book that doesn’t race along but rather meanders in a totally realistic way as most police investigations do. Readers will be looking for the next translation to appear, even as the series is developed for Danish television.

J. D. Tafford: Little Boy Lost Wednesday, Aug 23 2017 

J. D. Tafford departs from his Michael Collins series to introduce Justin Glass, a mixed-race lawyer trying to get out from the depression that has plagues him since his young wife’s death. Raising his daughter alone, he’s also under the shadow of his political family. His black senator father, a civil rights proponet, and state congressman brother are pressuring him to run for office. His law practice suffered greatly after his wife’s death, and Justin is squeaking by as a public defender, while he and his daughter live in the carriage house of his white mother’s family home with her judge father.

Into his sweltering St. Louise office on a hot summer day comes an 8 yr-old girl with a jar full of change. Tanisha Walker wants to hire him to find her missing brother. With racial tensions high in the area between the African-American and the mostly white police department, Glass reluctantly takes her case and soon finds himself on the receiving end of police mistreatment. It’s a rude awakening, but doesn’t prepare him for when the brother’s body is found buried in the woods, along with over a dozen other teens.

Soon Justin finds many missing teens’ families lined up outside his offic asking for help for locating the “Lost Boys,” the media’s name for the missing boys. The common thread at first is that all had been troubled youths. As he juggles issues with his daughter at school and tries to make decisions about his future, he hires an assistant who smartens his office and gets him organized. And then his searching turns up another commonality that will leave Justin in jeopardy, and all bets are off.

Tafford covers topical issues without over-preaching. His own legal background makes the court system echo with reality. St. Louis simmers in the hot summer and readers will feel they are immersed in the city and in a great mystery.

Linda Castillo: Down a Dark Road Monday, Aug 21 2017 

The character of former Amish Ohio Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is one who consistently garners attention. Linda Castillo brings Kate back in Down a Dark Road, where Kate’s point of view allows readers an inside glimpse to her mind and the heavy burdens she carries.

Kate is trying to catch a convicted murderer, a fallen Amish man with a drug problem who killed his wife and was to serve a life sentence. But Joseph King has escaped and is headed to Painters Mill.

King reaches his children and takes them hostage, but at least one person believes he is not violent and never killed his wife. And Kate’s feelings are torn, because growing up, she and Joseph were the best of friends.

There is a tense standoff and Joseph agrees to let Kate go to prove his innocence. A sudden turn of events dramatically change the situation, but not Kate’s determination to find the truth.

A tense and tight mystery that belies its idyllic setting

John Burley: The Quiet Child Sunday, Aug 20 2017 

Readers will think they know what’s happening in John Burley’s thriller, The Quiet Child–but they are most likely to be wrong.

It’s a distubing story of the McCray family in small-town California of 1954. Already hanging on by a thread, teacher Michael McCray is struggling to handle his wife’s illness. The vibrant woman he loves has been struck by ALS, a ‘new’ disease with not a lot known about it at this time.

Danny, who doens’t speak, and his older brother, Sean, are both affected by the changes in their lives.Their situation is worsened by town gossip that Danny’s inability to speak is somehow responsible for illnesses in the town, even his own mother’s.

The two accompany their dad to pick up ice cream at the local grocery. Michael leaves Danny in the back seat of the car when the unthinkable happens: a man comes out of nowhere and tries to enter the car. Sean sees what’s happening and tries to stop the man and ends up being kidnapped, too, as the car roars off.

Sheriff Jim Kent has seen the situation before the kidnapping and worried someone in town would take drastic measures against Danny. Now he’s invovled with the two lead detectives in tryiing to find the boys.

It’s a horrendous situation all around with both boys missing. Everyone is suspicious of the parents, who are devastated. It will be difficult to discuss more of the plot without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that the ending is not what anyone is expecting on many levels.

With attention to little details that bring the setting into sharp relief, Burley’s latest is a haunting tale.

Hollie Overton: The Walls Thursday, Aug 17 2017 

The Walls is Hollie Overton’s second thriller, and introduces us to single mom Kristy Tucker, juggling her teenaged son and her ill father who lives with them. Her work as a public information officer for the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice makes her the mediator between the inmates, the prison system and the media. Part of her job is to conduct interviews and develop relationships with inmates awaiting execution on Death Row, and to be present as a witness when that execution takes place.

It’s an interesting setup that makes her vulnerable to the emotions of so many others, and to their violent sides. We see her develop a relationship with an inmate, Clifton Harris, accused of murdering his two children, who stoically maintains his insistence on his innocence.

This is a smart woman helping others, including her teenaged son, managing her father’s illness and holding down the fort alone. She craves adult companionship and someone she can lean on.

When her son’s mentor Lance Dobson enters her life, she marries him believing his stosries of his love and dedication to her and her family. But things change radically in just a few short months when Lance’s dedication becomes stifling and his insistence on how she dresses and acts soon becomes physically abusive.

Just as she gathers the strength to admit she’s made a mistake and tells him she wants a divorce, Lance threatens to murder her son and father if she leaves him. It is Clifton Harris who gives her the idea that haunts Kristy.

You may think you know this story, but you would be wrong on many counts. This is a woman at the end of her rope with not only her future but that of her son and her father hanging in the balance. How she decides to handle the situation, and how that affects her, form the second half of this absorbing look at how far someone may have to go to protect their family.

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