Alex Gray: Keep the Midnight Out Sunday, Apr 29 2018 

Auntie M is a huge fan of Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series, so with the advent of Keep the Midnight Out publishing here in the US, she jumped at the chance to throw a few questions to Gray about her process:

Auntie M:How much of a story arc for Lorimer and his Maggie have you thought out ahead of whatever book you’re writing? Do you throw wobbles in their path as you write each book; have a plan devised or a combination of both?

Alex Gray: Well, I don’t have a story arc at all. I begin with an idea and perhaps a theme in mind and see the opening scene and simply write what I see in my head, then take it from there. My focus is normally on Maggie and Lorimer supporting each other in different ways, although in a few books they have problems that need to be resolved. In Keep The Midnight Out, Maggie is stricken when their favourite holiday island becomes a place of danger following the discovery of a body on their very own beach. I rarely have any plan in mind, just vague ideas that gather momentum as I write.

AM: How do you keep a series character fresh?

AG:I am not really sure, except that my mind is so full of different ideas that Lorimer has a lot to do and works in different places. I tend to throw problems at him to solve, not just crimes but domestic situations too, the sorts of things that everyday ordinary folks will face during a lifetime. Getting to know Lorimer as I have done over the years helps a lot as I now have the confidence to let him tackle some pretty scary stuff!

AM: It sounds like you don’t do a lot of outlining then for a new book before plunging in!

AG: Um, well, hardly anything! Just enough to keep my publisher happy and confident that I know what I am writing about! Never do a synopsis, hopefully never will.

AM: Who were your early influences who made you turn to crime fiction?

AG: Probably the earliest writer who made me think I wanted to write crime fiction was William McIlvanney, the ‘godfather of tartan noir’ (as he hated being called!) I adore Willie’s work and was proud to call him a friend before he died. I was delighted that my suggestion to rename the Scottish Crime Book of the Year be renamed the McIlvanney prize in his honour was taken up.

AM: Who are some of your favorite crime fiction authors to read right now? Who’s on Alex Gray’s nightstand waiting to be read?

AG: Ah, Louise Penny is definitely one of my favourite writers at the moment, as well as Alexander McCall Smith. I love Chris Brookmyre’s writing too.
On my nightstand are two teetering piles of crime books! Next on the list to read is TF Muir’s The Killing Connection.

Thank you, Alex! And now let’s push on to the new book. This one takes Lorimer out of hometown Glasgow and into his holiday with Maggie. Readers of the series have heard them talk about the holiday home they like to escape to Isle of Mull, and finally have a chance to visit the area during a case.

It’s meant to be a happy time for the couple, a tranquil holiday, until early on the body of a red-haired young man washes up on the shore in front of their cottage.

The bound body has an unnatural position that reminds Lorimer of an unsolved case from 20 before, when he was a young detective constable. That bound man was also red-haired. Is it possible their is a link in these cases?

Having found the body places Lorimer in an awkward position with the local SIO, DI Stevie Crozier, who makes it clear to him that this is her case and she does not want him interfering.

With chapters reflecting on the older case, readers get a sense of the Lorimer’s at the start of their marriage and now, and the personal tragedy they carry with them.

Could it be possible a killer has been on the loose for two decades without being caught?

The Isle of Mull and its environs come alive under Grey’s skillful pen, as Lorimer tries to stay at the fringes of the case while casting his eye back on the older one.

It’s a complex dance and a twisted case, and this one will try all of Lorimer’s skills while he tries to keep the place he and Maggie consider a santuary from being forever tainted.

Mary Torjussen: The Girl I Used To Be Wednesday, Apr 25 2018 

Mary Torjussen’s Gone Without a Trace debuted to critical acclaim. She returns with The Girl I Used to Be, every bit as strong in the psychological suspense arena.

Gemma Brogan runs her own real estate agency and worked hard to get there. Married to house-husband Joe, with young son, Rory, she’s tired all the time and trying to find a way to spend more time with her son, feeling like an outsider in her own family.

She’s still haunted by the events of fifteen years ago,
and when an overnight business trip throws her into contact with a client she’s shown houses to, and hoping to court him into selecting one, she agrees to have dinner with him.

But the next morning she wakes disoriented, with a tough headache and only a hazy recollection of part of the evening. She assumes she had too much to drink and suffers through a painful day. But little does she know that her pain is just about to start.

Shortly after she begins receiving tidbits of that evening. A photo of a stolen kiss in the hallway outside her room and a video of her complaining about Joe are only the tip of the iceberg. Soon Gemma will finds things running out of control as she faces an adversary out for revenge.

Twisting blackmail, revenge and ultimate betrayal, Gemma’s push to find the truth will have her up against uncomfortable truths that race to a pounding finish. A suspenseful and compelling read.

Ellen Byron: Cajun Country Mysteries Monday, Apr 23 2018 


Around awards season here in Hollywood, you hear the phrase, “It’s an honor to be nominated” a lot. I used to roll my eyes. Now I know through my own amazing luck that it’s absolutely true.

There are so many fantastic books launched every year that I go into mystery awards season with zero expectations. Yet I’ve somehow been the recipient of both Lefty and Agatha nominations for my Cajun Country Mysteries.

I feel like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar and uttered the words that have haunted her ever since: “You like me. You really like me!”

To be honest, I also feel like the characters in Wayne’s World, who uttered these immortal words: “Not worthy.” Like so many writers, I’ve had to contend with insecurity, fear of success, and yes, bouts of depression, throughout my career. On top of that, as someone with the combined ethnic background of Jewish and Italian, oy maron, the guilt! Why me? Is it fair? Managing this emotional stew ain’t easy.

But I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the news that I was nominated for an Agatha Best Contemporary Novel award this year – making a right turn onto Oakdell Street in Studio City.

I’d spent the afternoon at the Getty Museum with a friend, an outing that turned into a nightmare when the last day of an exhibit coincided with Free Museum Day. After an hour in a line of cars trying to park, we raced through the exhibit in forty-five minutes to beat the museum’s closing hour.

While zooming past Mayan gold artifacts, I got a text that my friend and fellow Chicks on the Case blogmate, Kellye Garrett, had been nominated for a Best Debut Mystery Agatha. We Chicks text-celebrated with confetti bitmojis, and I put the nominations out of my head.

When the phone rang with my own news as I made that right turn into my neighborhood, I was so surprised that I burst into tears and sobbed, slightly freaking out the lovely Malice board member on the other end of the call.

The best part about being a mystery award nominee is that you get to share a panel with wonderful authors. For me, this year’s joy is magnified by the fact that not only will fellow panelists be the terrific writers Annette Dashofy and Marilyn Levinson (as Allison Brook), the slate also includes two of my mystery idols, Louise Penny and Margaret Maron. I’m not kidding when I say I choked up just writing that sentence.

Chicks on the Case recently published a group post with all the Best Contemporary Novel nominees. Louise, winner of countless awards for her Inspector Gamache series, answered the question, “What would you do differently starting out as a writer again?” by saying, “I think I’d enjoy it more…. I was riddled with insecurities. My agent finally sat me down and spoke quite sternly. ‘You’re not only living your dream, but the dream lots of other people have, who don’t get this far. If you can’t enjoy it, then it’s wasted on you.’”
Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees: We Asked, They Answered

When I get to Malice next week, I’m going to get over my Wayne’s Worldian not-worthiness, take Louise’s honest response to heart, and enjoy every minute of the nomination- especially that Best Contemporary Novel panel. Because it’s more than an honor to be nominated. To paraphrase Louise’s agent, it’s a dream come true.

Ellen Byron, author of the Cajun Country Mystery series, is perhaps best known as a former cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots for major network and cable outlets. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. A native New Yorker, Ellen now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.

Margaret Maron: Take Out Friday, Apr 20 2018 

Named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013, North Carolina author Margaret Maron has decided to retire. She’s completed her judge Deborah Knott series, set in NC, and brings back her Detective Sigrid Harald series, set in NYC, to tie up loose ends in her final book, Take Out.

Maron was one of Auntie M’s first interviews when she moved to NC, and she somehow missed Take Out when it came out last year, but it deserves to be brought to readers’ attention, especially if, like Auntie M, you were a fan of Sigrid.

It’s the mid-1990s and two homeless men are found dead on park bench. Sigrid soon finds that while one of the men may have died from a drug overdose, the other shows no signs of drug use.

When it turns out they were poisoned, and that poison traced to take out containers found near the victims, her investigation centers of the residents of the street near where the men were found.

At the same time, Sigrid is still grappling with waves of grief over the accidental death of her artist lover, and the huge responsibility she’s inherited as executor of his art estate. It’s a nice subplot that brings readers into the world of art Maron knows well, as her husband is an artist.

As Sigrid and her team meet the various residents of the street, the complications rise. A retired opera star lives near the a mafia widow, sworn enemies. Then there’s the woman who runs an SRO, but what is she really renting time for?

And the burning question remains: which of the two men was the intended victim?

It’s a classic Maron mystery, and readers will enjoy this last book from the writer who in 2016 was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

Sasscer Hill: The Dark Side of Town Tuesday, Apr 17 2018 

Sasscer Hill’s second Fia McKee mystery packs a whallop from the opening scene of a jockey committing suicide in The Dark Side of Town, set at the Saratoga Racetrack.

The undercover detective and former police officer is working for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, the TPRB, investigating trainer Mars Pizutti, believed to be fiddling with illegal drugs on his horses, who have been far too successful. She’s also a sucker of someone in need.

But the suicide has Fia on high alert, and soon she’s involved deeper than she’d like investigating a young jockey who’s been told to throw races or his young sister will be harmed. She aided by another undercover detective, the charismatic Calixto Coyune, a coffee heir whose wealthy playboy cover is perfect for him to hang around the track.

Despite their steamy attraction, sleuthing is the first order of business. Then Fia’s estranged mother contacts her, and it seems the stepfather who caught her mother’s eye and led to her abandoning Fia’s family 17 years ago may be involved in an illegal hedge fund manuveur. And then there’s the abused former Miss Jamaica Fia just has to help.

It will take all of Fia’s smarts, and Calixto’s protective eye, to help the young jockey while sorting out mob connections. There are scenes where Fia’s changing appearance comes in handy, and others, fast-paced, where it seems Fia can’t survive.

With her own knowledge as an amateur steeplechase jockey, as well as a horse owner and breeder, Hill’s knowledge shines through. The working side of the glamourous racing world rings true, as does Hill’s love of horses.

Jim Jackson: Empty Promises Sunday, Apr 15 2018 


Marni invited me to write a guest post based on a bit of serendipity. My series amateur sleuth is named Seamus McCree.

I don’t plot my novels ahead of time. I know what the inciting incident will be, and then I let the characters take the stage—and we both find out what happens as I compose at the keyboard.

In the first five novels, readers discover Seamus has an estranged sister—but that’s all we know. Much to my surprise, she appeared on stage in the first draft of the sixth novel, False Bottom. She even came with a name: Fiona.

As you may know, Marni has two dogs: Seamus and Fiona. When I discovered that on Facebook, I let Marni know of the coincidence, and that led her to invite me to write this blog.

I love serendipity. It’s the basis for all the “small-world stories” we share about standing in line three thousand miles from home only to discover the person behind us went to the same high school we did. It’s why I don’t mind getting lost—provided I don’t have an appointment to make; then it drives me bonkers.

I never know what experience, or piece of knowledge, or acquaintance I’ll gain while bumbling about. The same thing with writing blogs: I never know where my research will take me.

Serendipity can be a driving force for many amateur sleuth stories. If the sleuth trips over a dead body, it is almost always serendipitous. Often while trying to go about their normal business or investigating one thing, they will uncover something that later becomes a lead. Their curiosity about the world, combined with their power to reason things out, allows them to succeed at pulling clues together into a coherent pattern and eventually solve the crime.

It turns out that the invention of the word serendipity was related to a story of detection. Merriam Webster produced a podcast that touches on this when they selected serendipity as their 2/13/14 word of the day. I also came across a blog I found very interesting that provides a longer version of the story.

How about you? Anything serendipitous happen recently?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can find information about Jim and his books at You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

In Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5) Seamus’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His granddog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body.
Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back the love of his life. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

It’s available at your favorite physical or online bookstore. You can find more information about it including a link to download the first four chapters at

Elizabeth George: The Punishment She Deserves Wednesday, Apr 11 2018 

Elizabeth George clocks in with her newest Lynley-Havers, The Punishment She Deserves, at a meaty 595 pages. But don’t let the long length deter you from reading the continuing story of so many characters readers have come to know and love, especially Barbara Havers.

It’s a fine line Barbara has danced since her crossing the line in Italy two books ago. “Dancing” has a secondary meaning here, as the redoubtable Dorothea Harriman has had the sergeant accompanying her to tap dancing class. Yes, you read that correctly. Barbara Havers is tap dancing.

It’s a tap dance around Det. Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, too, when she’s told she must accompany Ardery to be a second set of eyes on an investigation into the apparent suicide of the son of a wealthy brewer while in police custody.

It’s a twisted tale, and Lynley cautions Barbara to watch herself with Ardery, knowing that she and the Assistant Commissioner would love to see Barbara transferred to some small outpost and out of their hair.

And Barbara is up to the task, even as she tries to keep herself from going off kilter into her own threads of investigation. She manages to do enough to convince herself there is something seriously off in the medieval town of Ludlow. But Arder wants to rush back to London to do legal battle with her ex over her twin sons,and is willing to overlook important points Barbara’s uncovered.

Which is when DI Lynley becomes involved.

George’s class distinctions form the bit of wry humor Havers exhibits and as usual, we learn about the extended characters and their lives to the point that they become real. Several absorbing subplots play out against the background of Barbara’s investigation.

And there’s that tap recital to look forward to…

Another winner from the master of psychological depth. Highly recommended.

Pamela J. Castrucci: Down the Staircase Sunday, Apr 8 2018 

Pamela J. Castrucci’s first novel, Down the Staircase, is a work of Magical Realism enriched with elements of crime, suspense and mystery.

Inspired by true events in her own life, Castrucci currently anticipates releasing the next installment of The Staircase Series by the end of 2018. Castrucci, a successful attorney and single mom, shares what moved her to write her novel. *****

When I was young, I was fairly certain that my parents feared that I would run off and join the circus someday. A good student, I was keenly focused on the arts, particularly literature and theater. I indulged my passions by obtaining a degree in literature, but life events occurred, as they so often do, which caused me to choose another path.

My love of the arts, particularly writing, were eclipsed by my need to pursue justice. I obtained my law degree and entered the Navy. My time in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) Corps, while brief, was intense, challenging and fulfilling.

Once I got over the initial shock and dismay when I learned that my cases largely involved domestic violence and crimes against children, I felt a fire ignite within me. I needed to do whatever I could to deliver justice for those victims, especially the youngest, who had no voice.

Like Cara Stone, the protagonist in Down the Staircase, those cases both haunted me and spurred me onward. Even after leaving the service, the lessons I had learned in prosecuting those cases formed a foundation for the rest of my legal career, while thoughts of pursuing my writing becoming more remote with each year.

I have had Cara’s story rattling around in my brain for more than twenty years. Like so many, I promised myself I would one day bring her story to life. Other priorities allowed me to keep her story safely tucked away on a quiet, dusty shelf in my mental filing cabinet, enabling me to procrastinate and avoid being vulnerable.

But then life has a way of getting one’s attention, drawing our deeply held needs to the surface and into the light. And so it was for me this past October, when various coincidences converged. Every year, I ask my young twins, my Raptors, the same series of questions, delighting in how their interests and priorities change and evolve.

I’d had a very challenging day at a job I truly enjoy last October. I chose to ask my children their annual questions as an antidote to that difficult day. Their answers were as fun and as satisfying as ever, but this year, there was a twist. When I had finished by asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they then asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. We discussed my dream of becoming a novelist and with the clear- eyed pragmatism of young children, they could not see any reason why I couldn’t fulfill that dream.

Their wisdom gave me pause. Earlier that day, I’d received an email from a business coach I’d met earlier in my career, promoting a self-publishing school for new authors. These coincidences – the difficult day, the confidence of my children, and the seemingly-random receipt of an email with the promise of tools to make my dream come true – were just what I needed to take Cara’s story “off the shelf.”

I signed up for the course that very night. I hope readers will enjoy Cara’s story and will look forward to the next installment in the series. I also hope that my story will encourage other writers to take the leap and bring their stories into the world.

You can find Down the Staircase on Amazon~

Carol Goodman: The Other Mother Wednesday, Apr 4 2018 

Carol Goodman’s gothic thriller, The Other Mother, touches base with thriller, laden with motherhood and identity, resonates with its tale of who can be trusted.

Daphne Marist is suffering from Post-Partum Mood Disorder when she meets her doppelganger in Laurel Hobbes. Both women have daughter’s named Chlore.Soon the two women are mirroring each other in an intense friendship , matching clothes and haircuts with their deepest secrets.

When Daphne decides to run from the controlling husband she is afraid will take her daughter away from her, she takes a position as archivist for her favorite author, Schuyler Benedict. It’s a live-in position that will allow her to take her baby. The big issue is that she’s appropriated her friend’s name and identity, and that’s not all.

Benedict’s house, complete with a tower room, is isolated and hidden in the trees, quite near a mental asylum. As she works, she comes across notes about Edith Sharp, a resident of the asylum. But is the same women who she’s trusting to care for her baby?

A harrowing tale~

Peter Swanson: All the Beautiful Lies Tuesday, Apr 3 2018 

Peter Swanson’s newest psychological thriller, All the Beautiful Lies, resonates with the kind of manipulative sociopaths who made The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, The Kind Worth Killing, and Her Every Fear such stand out reads.

We are introduced to Harry Ackerman, literally days away from college graduation, when news of his father’s death changes his world forever.

Hurrying to Maine and the home his father shared with Harry’s stepmother, Alice, he soon finds what he thought was an accidental fall off a cliff may be a deliberate act of murder.

But who would want to kill the kindly man who ran a bookshop and whose life was devoted to scouting out first editions? A lover of crime, many of Bill Ackerman’s favorite crime novels line Harry’s shelves.

He helps Alice with the funeral and stays to help run the bookshop for the summer, aided by his father’s assistant, John, as detectives investigate. Alice insists finally that a local woman and her husband must be involved, as she feels Bill was having an affair with the woman.

Then a young woman enters the bookshop one day, asking for work. Harry can’t help but feel she’s lying to him, and although Grace McGowan claims she just moved to the area, Harry feels she’s more entwined to his family than she’s admitting.

And on the homefront, his stepmother’s clinginess starts to cross a line that leaves Harry confused about her real motives. Alice seems to exist in her own kind of Wonderland. Where does the reality fall?

All Harry knows for certain is that there are secrets being kept and he’s at the center of it all.

Told in alternating time periods, “Then” concentrates on the history of Alice and her upbringing, and “Now” on what is happening to Harry after his father’s death.

It’s a clever way to reveal information as this story of revenge and obsession unfolds, along with cold-blooded murder, in a way that will have readers wondering just who can be trusted, if anyone at all.