Women: Sharon Bolton/Dead Woman Walking & Nicola Moriarty/Those Other Women Tuesday, Jul 17 2018 

Two written by women with women who figure in the plots:

Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking earned Auntie M’s highly recommended status, and with the out in paperback, it’s the perfect summer read if you missed it the first time, a deftly-handled psychological suspense novel you won’t be able to put down.

What starts off a seemingly idyllic hot air balloon ride over Northumberland Park near the Scottish border soon turns horrific. Drifting low near ancient ruins, the various passengers from all walks of life witness a young woman being brutally murdered.

One of the passengers manages to capture the murderer’s photo–only he’s seen her face just as she’s seen his.

This sets off a chain reaction when the killer retaliates and the balloon crashes. Now that young woman is fleeing not only the accident scene, but she’s on the run from a killer who can recognize her. Dazed and hurt, does she have the presence of mind to evade a murderer?

It’s a complicated maze that includes two sisters who are close but whom have chosen different paths in their lives and the secrets they hide. There is a cloister of nuns, and a policeman trying to salvage his life. There will be a Romani family seemingly bent on destruction. And there will be suspense and tension as all of these threads come together to create a resoundingly good read.

Those Other Women is Nicola Moriarty’s very different female-centric story, one that follows a group of young Australian professional women who have consciously decided not to have children, and the fallout that decisions causes them. These reach from office flextime to nagging from families who don’t understand the women’s decision.

The story focuses on one such woman, Poppy, reeling after her best friend and her husband confess to an affair. Still getting used to the idea of her divorce, it’s compounded when another friend tells her that the former-husband who had agreed with her on remaining childless, is now having a baby with his new wife.

Poppy’s decision to start a social media group of like-minded women finds a wide audience, until the group’s private posts start being leaked. The ramifications will surprise you.

Workplace drama comes into play, too, and soon things begin to veer out of control. It’s a fascinating look at how social media can be used to create conflict and plump up rivalries.


Three for Summer: Cleland, Stanley, Bannalec Sunday, Jul 15 2018 

Three delightful reads for summer fun:

Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott series, set along the New Hampshire coast, brings antiques into focus. Her newest, Antique Blues, revolves around her friend Mo, who asks Josie to appraise a Japanese woodblock print Mo has acquired.

The woodblock has come from Mo’s sister’s boyfriend, who raises Josie’s hackles in all the wrong ways, including questioning the provenance of the print.

It doesn’t help that Cal appears to be abusing Mo’s sister, Lydia. And when Mo is found murdered and Cal disappears, he’s the likely suspect.

All the usual characters are here, from the young reporter Wes Smith and Rocky Point’s own police chief, Ellis Hunter, as Josie tried to track Mo’s killer. And don’t forget her fiance, Ty. There’s a bit of controversy over just how big their wedding should be.

There will be an appraisal of a vintage guitar, and a chance to merge businesses on the Josie’s horizon. With all she has going on, she still manages to pull off a murder investigation.

Josie’s job as an antique expert and appraiser teaches readers about many areas that Cleland has knowledge of, having once owned her own antique business.

City of Sharks is Kelli Stanley’s new Miranda Corbie Mystery, and takes readers into the world of the San Francisco private detective in the 1940s. The strong and capable protagonist is evocative of the era and woman’s new roles with the world on the brink of WWII.

When a secretary at a publishing house, Louise Crowley, convinces Miranda she’s afraid of being killed, with multiple good reasons, the PI puts her England travel plans on hold to investigate.

Then Louise’s publisher is killed, with Louise and possibly her sister targeted as suspects. Miranda’s investigation will bring up a host of other possible suspects, and there are even encounters with John Steinbeck and CS Forester, as well as newpaperman Herb Caen.

With period details that bring that height of that time to life, this one’s like having a noir movie play out in front of readers in an interesting mystery.

It’s atmosphere of a different sort when Jean-Luc Bennalec takes his Commissaire Georges Dupin away from his job in Concarneau to the salt marshes in The Fleur De Sel Murders.

The landscape is lovingly described, the scent of violets in the air from the harvested salt in the strange completely flat area. This is where Dupin has come, to the Brittany area, after a tip from a journalist he knows that something odd is going on in the marshes involving blue barrels. As he sniffs around, almost hallucinating by the scent of the area, trying to decide what might be wrong, Dupin is grazed by a shot coming at him. Is this to warn him away?

It’s hardly the way he’d hoped the case to proceed, and he’s not in his own district. It makes him miss a planned birthday dinner in Paris with his girlfriend, and thrusts him into an investigation with the local commissaire, a woman who is less than happy to have him on her patch.

When the journalist is found dead, Dupin stays to uncover her killer, amidst the wonderful cuisine in the area that will have readers’s mouths watering. The area is presented beautifully, with details galore that bring it to life.

You’ll feel you’ve been to Brittany. Now where are my fleur de sel caramels?

Mary Feliz: Disorderly Conduct Tuesday, Jul 10 2018 

Please welcome Mary Feliz, who write the Maggie McDonald Mysteries. Book Four is the newest release, Disorderly Conduct:

Dynamite-worthy dirt

In Disorderly Conduct, the fourth book in my Maggie McDonald Mystery series featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer, one of the characters becomes a murder suspect after wounding himself with a gardening implement while digging in the region’s rock-hard adobe soil.

While injuries and accusations of murder aren’t the typical outcomes of gardening pursuits in San Francisco’s Bay Area, adobe causes infamous headaches for anyone who would till the soil.

In the early 1800’s when the area was settled, adobe made the perfect low-cost building material. Adobe (which means mudbrick and has existed as a term for thousands of years in a variety of languages) is easily formed from a combination of mud and straw. Once dried, the material is durable. Heat retention properties of the bricks, coupled with Silicon Valley’s warm days and cool nights, means they’ve offered passive heating and air conditioning systems for hundreds of years.

But that same durability makes the soil a nightmare to garden. It’s crippled many a home roto-tiller, makes a pick-ax a necessity, and tempts landscapers to consider the efficacy of dynamite.

Soil amendments are the topic of many a spring newspaper article, with various experts recommending a combination of sand, manure, compost, peat, wood chips, shredded bark, and other materials. Yet the truth, as locals boasting a green thumb will tell you, is that you’ll need to add those soil amendments annually and blisters are inevitable for anyone trying to make a comfortable bed for flowers, vegetables, and any other plantings.

But those amendments offer better and more even distribution of the Bay Area’s most precious resource, water. They also protect plants from mid-summer heat, which increasingly reaches triple digits. In recent years, for sheer ease-of-use, raised beds filled with commercially available potting soil have exploded in popularity.

senior farmer checking the apricot in his orchard

Apricots were once the premium product of the fertile agricultural area now known as Silicon Valley.

It’s hard to imagine that Silicon Valley was once known as the Valley of Hearts Delight, and was the world’s largest fruit production and packing region. Nearly forty canneries once operated within its borders, along with flower and seed production facilities. How those early settlers farmed the region’s adobe soil boggles my mind. Perhaps the easy availability of building resources helped them save up energy from housing construction and dedicate it to cultivation.

While I struggled to work the adobe soil for decades, telling myself that well water and abundant sunshine made up for the hard work of getting the ground seedling-ready, my ultimate solution was to move. Now, I garden in the sandy soil of the Monterey Bay area. Though it offers its own challenges and demands for soil amendments, it can be easily worked with a plastic shovel. The characters in my series are jealous, particularly the uber-organized efficiency expert, Maggie McDonald.

Maggie McDonald’s golden retriever Belle is an avid gardener.

Curious dog watching when working with a pitchfork in the garden.

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms, and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races, and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

Debra Jo Immergut: The Captives Thursday, Jul 5 2018 

Debra Jo Immrgut’s The Captives brings two disparate people together in a most startling way in this psychological thriller with a surprise ending.

Miranda Greene, daughter of a one-term congressman, languishes in prison under a long sentence after losing herself in a brutal crime.

Frank Lundquist is the prison psychologist who is treating her, laboring under his own broken dreams and setbacks.

Despite knowing the ethics are off, Frank continues to treat Miranda when he recognizes her as the object of a severe high school crush.
Frank and Miranda’s own tragedies make them ripe for a series of events that will have dangerous consequences as the book unfolds and readers see the backgrounds that shaped their young lives.

There’s a balance here between male and female, power and who has it. There are choices to be made on both sides, too.

With a devastating look inside a woman’s correctional facility and the life there, this has a noir feel to it as it unspools and hooks the reader in as an obsession takes hold.

Unpredictable and smart.

Sarah Vaughn: Anatomy of a Scandal Monday, Jul 2 2018 

Auntie M had read a lot about Sarah Vaughn’s book, Anatomy of a Scandal, garnering great reviews in the UK, and decided to see what all the commotion was about.

Kate Woodcroft is a divorced London barrister who lives for her work, and who’s just lost a case and is looking for a meaty one. She thinks she’s found it when a young woman brings a rape suit against a James Whitehouse, a junior minister with a storied career ahead of him. He’s a friend and Oxford buddy of the Prime Minister, no less.

Sophie is James’s wife, and with their young son and daughter, she can hardly believe the way their world has been turned upside-down by her husband’s infidelity. He’s had to confess to an affair with an aide, Olivia Lytton, and swears the rape charge is due to him realizing the error of his ways and ending the brief affair.

Sophie wants to believe James. But should she?

There are many facets to what at first appears to be a straight-forward case. Was James disarmed by the charming Olivia and she reacted badly when he called their affair off? Or is he a spoiled, privileged man who feels what he wants is there for the taking?

Kate’s case takes a personal turn she hides from the court that will have disastrous results.

Told from alternating points of view of Sophie and Kate, and sometimes James himself, the three young people’s lives are dissected with chapters in the past showing how each has reached this stage of their lives, with past traumas revealed.

A fascinating look at whether we really know someone.