Deborah Crombie: A Bitter Feast Sunday, Dec 29 2019 

Crombie brings her married detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, outside their home turf in A Bitter Feast.

The Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent and his Inspector wife are having a lovely weekend with their three children in the Cotswolds’ Glouchestershire valley, courtesy of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s sergeant.

Melody’s palatial family home, Beck House, befits the publisher of one of London’s largest newspapers. A charity harvest luncheon will take place this weekend, catered by local chef Viv Holland, once at a Michelin-starred restaurant, now running a local pub.

But a car accident coupled with several resultant murders have a deep impact on the gathering, and lead Duncan and Gemma to lead the sleuthing, helping the locals. It’s soon apparent that there’s a strong connection to Viv’s pub, and the weekend gets getting extended as the couple, along with members of their team, try to figure out who’s doing the killing, and why.

One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s series is how deeply she researches the neighborhoods of her mysteries, and the rolling hills and golden stone homes are a delight. Vintage Crombie.

Elly Griffiths: Now You See Them Wednesday, Dec 25 2019 

Merry Christmas! And to celebrate, here’s a gift for you, a great read from Elly Griffiths:

Elly Griffiths’ Brighton series takes a leap eleven years after The Vanishing Box to 1964 in New You See Them. The swinging 60s bring readers into time of mods, rockers, and a changing culture.

An awful lot has changed in the intervening years. Edgar Stephens is now the police Superintendent, married to Emma Holmes, with three young children. His former sergeant finds being sidelined after marriage an uncomfortable place to be, even though she loves her children and husband.

Edgar’s Army pal, magician Max Mephisto, has gone Hollywood, marrying a star, with two young children of his own, after starring in a movie. His talented daughter, Ruby, took television by storm, and stars in her own British series.

They reunite in Brighton for the funeral of their mutual old friend when Edgar’s new case puts out fingers that have them all involved. A young girl from the tony girl’s school, Roedean, has gone missing. Has she really left to go to London, as evidenced by the note she left behind?

Then the connection is made between two other missing woman, all who left notes behind, and some of the Roedean girl’s clothing is found in a most unexpected place.

Exploring the dark side of Brighton in this strange new world, with change all around them, soon has each main character questioning her or her choices, as the race heats up to find the missing young women.

The period details and Griffiths’s wit add to the crackling mystery. Here she brings out Emma Holmes’ character: “Reading Film Frolics was one of Emma’s weaknesses; her photographic memory was one of her strengths.”

A highly delightful read with deeper layers to the characters than at first glance. @ellygriffiths

Vanda Symon: The Ringmaster Tuesday, Dec 24 2019 

After introducing Sam Shepherd in Overkill, the newly-minted New Zealand detective returns in The Ringmaster.

With a move to the university town of Dunedin, rooming at the home of her best friend’s aunt and uncle, Sam is a lowly detective constable with an unerring sense of human nature.

Sam clashes with her boss, who keeps her under his thumb, yet is forced to include her on the fringes of an investigation into the murder of a university researcher. The young woman’s work was the envy of her doctoral colleagues, yet Sam suspects the motive to be far more personal.

With a local circus in town, Sam connects several unsolved murders to dates of visits by this traveling circus, and soon the interviews are interminable. This is where Symon shines, as she manages to bring humanity to the various workers, and even the animals. There will be more tragedy, some that impacts Sam personally, before the stunning and unforeseen climax.

Symon brings the New Zealand setting wrapped into the story so well its stark beauty becomes another character with her vivid imagery. The series will make you want to visit the area.

But the story belongs to Sam, feeling her way in what is still very much a man’s police world here. Her wit and foibles make her a very likable and identifiable young woman, one readers will have no difficulty following.

Look for book 3 in the series, Containment, in the US in early 2020. Highly recommended. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon.

Karen Odden: A Trace of Deceit Sunday, Dec 22 2019 

Karen Odden returns with the next in her Victorian mysteries with A Trace of Deceit.

With its strong setting and hint of romance, there’s something for every reader as Odden introduces Annabel Rowe, one of the first female art students at the Slade School in London.

Despite the difficult relationship she had with her only brother, a talented artist, she’s determined to find who murdered the young man when she finds Scotland Yard’s Matthew Hallam searching his flat. The inspector soon comes to find Annabel’s knowledge of the art world helpful in his investigation, and the two team forces to flush out a killer.

With his checkered past, Edwin Rowe was restoring a painting for an auction house but it’s been stolen from its frame. Did Edwin surprise thieves, and was stabbed trying to prevent their theft? Or had his past caught up with him?

Things become more involved when it’s learned the painting’s owner had claimed insurance after it had supposedly been lost in a warehouse fire.

Odden uses her own knowledge of work at Christie’s, along with extensive research, to bring this period to life as the unlikely duo delve into corruption and politics of the art world.

Ruth Ware: The Death of Mrs. Westaway Wednesday, Dec 18 2019 

Auntie M missed Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and decided to make up for it now–and was happy she did. An homage to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and reminiscent of the more contemporary Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries, Ware’s brings that same gothic feel to her story.

Hal Westaway is doing here best to survive in Brighton after being orphaned suddenly a few years earlier. With her mother gone, she’s taken over her booth on Brighton’s West Pier, where she tells fortunes and reads tarot cards.

But she’s deeply in debt and worried about her future when a letter arrives that tells her she’s in line for part of an inheritance from her grandmother and she should prepare to travel to Cornwall for the woman’s funeral and reading of the will.

This could be the answer to Hal’s financial issues, except for one thing: she’s certain she’s not the Harriet Westaway the letter refers to, as her own grandparents are long dead.

Circumstances make Hal decide to brazen it out; she travels to the funeral and meets the enigmatic Westaway family, a collection of three brothers, a sister-in-law, two rowdy teens, and in the role of Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper Mrs. Warren.

As Hal learns to read the family, her forte, and learns of their differing relationships, she is shocked when the reading of the will leads to even more complications. And that’s where the real mystery begins.

Readers will become caught up in a clever and suspenseful tale that tracks back on itself as the eerie setting adds to the increasingly tense situation Hal finds herself in. A satisfying and surprising read.

Stuart Neville: Those We Left Behind & So Say The Fallen Sunday, Dec 15 2019 

Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.

Stuart MacBride: All That’s Dead Wednesday, Dec 11 2019 

It’s been a year since the events of the last Inspector Logan McRae novel, and the detective is back at work hoping for a simple case. Assigned to Professional Standards should be an easy assignment, but nothing is ever easy for Logan.

He’s sent to follow-up and then to monitor DI King, after a reporter has sent copy he intends to publish, indicating King was once in a Scottish National terror group.

The bad press alone would be bad enough, but King has just been assigned to the disappearance of a professor known for his Scottish anti-independence stance. Nicholas Wilson isn’t at home, but the amount of blood left behind in his kitchen indicates a severe injury if not murder.

Logan will find himself seconded to the inquiry and the usual suspects become involved, from the eccentric DI Steel to his old friend Tufty. Infighting within the police appears rampant, too, with officers on both sides of the equation.

Using the political heat of the times, MacBride offers a complex and dark plot relieved by the lightness of some of his characters. Logan is the voice of reason, the sane one in the pack.

Readers familiar with the series and those new to it will find themselves swiftly submerged in the story and all of its tendrils. MacBride just keeps getting stronger with each novel. Highly recommended.

Laura Lippman: Lady in the Lake Sunday, Dec 8 2019 

Lippmans’ new stand-alone, Lady in the Lake, brings readers a strong atmosphere of the mid-60s with the turmoil of that era as women fight to redefine themselves and their definitions. She also brings the newsrooms of the time to life, with all of its politics and hierarchy.

Encased within is a really good mystery, one that revolves around Maddie Schwartz and her bid to insert herself into a newspaper to attain her dream of becoming a columnist. Leaving behind her marriage and grown son, she’s determined to live a life on her own terms with surprising results.

Maddie must start at the bottom of the paper’s jobs, doing scut work for others while she investigates on her own time what happened to a missing black woman whose body is found in the fountain at a city park. Her instincts tell her this case may make her career.

Cleo Sherwood is the young woman in question, and Lippman provides her running commentary in brief snatches that give a window onto her life and what led up to the final acts of her existence in Baltimore.

It’s a skilled rendition on so many levels, with each character ringing true to her background and culture. Chapters from each of the people Maddie encounters add to the feel of the era and lay out the lines of investigation and of Maddie’s changing life.

With her ability to explore human emotions and entanglements of the heart within accomplished storytelling, Lippman brings her characters to life by providing an unflinching view of their thoughts and actions.

Keigo Higashino: Newcomer Friday, Dec 6 2019 

Tokyo’s Detective Saga has been transferred to a new district in Newcomer. Experienced, and with his own way of unraveling truths, Kaga is part of the team sent to investigate the murder of a woman.

As he follows the trail of clues, Kaga comes across more than one story, told in linked chapters, and manages to get to the bottom of several others, all having smaller secrets in this neighborhood.

He will trace the woman’s last days, visiting shops and cafes she visited, piecing her movements together, and delving into her past.

One of the things Kaga knows is human nature. Readers will learn Japanese culture while Kaga unravels the stories of those in the realm of the dead woman.

Yet he never loses sight of the real target: the killer of a woman who was just coming into her own.

Auntie M enjoys Kaga for his inscrutable nature, which manifests itself in his infinite patience and in his ability to read people. A highly satisfying read.

G R Halliday: From the Shadows Wednesday, Dec 4 2019 

GR Halliday introduces DI Monica Kennedy in From the Shadows, a stunning thriller with an unusual protagonist whose secrets we haven’t unearthed. Tall to the point she struggles with her body image, Kennedy is an original creature readers will care about at once, with her vulnerabilities hidden beneath a calm exterior.

Set in the Highlands, the raw Scottish landscape adds to the sense of darkness and tragedy when the body of a young man is found posed, with unusual mutilation marks. Kennedy knows this may be only the start of a string of tragedies and her instincts prove true.

A single mum relying on her own mother to help with her young daughter, Lucy, Kennedy has the usual struggle between the demands of her job and time spent with her daughter. But in the stark area where they live, this is even more of a liability when she’s stuck driving long distances for interviews, arriving home late and exhausted.

Michael Bach is another tall person, a social worker who’s running out of steam when one of his clients goes missing. While he pursues his search for the missing boy, it soon becomes apparent he may be one of the victims of this serial killer who takes his time to get to know his victims, and has his own ideas about what he’s accomplishing.

Halliday keeps the pressure on and the last third of the book can’t be put down as the plot tightens and horrific things happen. As Kennedy enlists Bach with her investigation, an autistic client of Michael’s may just hold the clue that unravels the case.

From its creative plot to its original characters, Halliday’s start to his series is one that will have readers clamoring for the next in the DI Monica Kennedy series. Highly recommended.

Lee Lofland

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

An online writing community

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews