Charles Todd: A Divided Loyalty Saturday, Feb 29 2020 

The duo team known as Charles Todd brings Inspector Ian Rutledge his most difficult cases in their 22nd outing, A Divided Loyalty.

Rutledge is giving evidence in a case while he walks a fine edge with his superiors. His colleague and war-time friend, Brian Leslie, is the one sent to Avebury where an unidentified woman’s body has been found near the prehistoric stone circle.

But Leslie recognizes the victim, but chooses to keep that information to himself, and then is unable to find the murderer; meanwhile Rutledge is instead sent to find the killer of a second murdered woman found in a recently dug grave.

After solving his case, Rutledge finds himself assigned to take a second look at the case his friend couldn’t solve. He must try to identify the victim and re-do the investigation of his friend, a thankless task to begin with, and his failure would give his superintendent the reason he needs to fire Rutledge.

Aware he’s in a tough situation, Rutledge struggles to find the clues he needs to solve the case, and when he does, it will bring with it the ammunition his superiors need to fire him. The ending puts twists to an unusual climax that puts everyone involved in jeopardy.

For fans of this post-WWI era, the historic details are atmospheric and add to the story in this popular long-running series.

Lori Rader-Day: The Lucky One Wednesday, Feb 26 2020 

Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Winner Lori Radar-Day brings her newest psychological thriller to the page with The Lucky One.

Two strong women, Alice and Merrily, tell their stories that will eventually converge.

Alice Fine works in the Chicago office of the construction business her father and Uncle have run together for her entire life. With a recently broken engagement behind her, Alice spends her down time searching the pages of the true-crime volunteer site The Does Pages, searching for clues that would bring closure to unknown victims.

With her mother dead a few years, she’s close to her father, who often despairs of her volunteering. Once a policeman, he rescued her from a kidnapping in Indiana when she was a young child, which prompted the family’s move to Chicago. Part of Alice’s quest is to find her kidnapper, and one day she sees his photo on The Doe Pages website.

After that she must search for the truth of who this man was, even though the post with his photo is quickly deleted. That search brings her and two local amateurs from the Doe Pages to Merrily Cruz, a young woman who knew the man Alice seeks, and has her own history with him.

The dark truth they seek will surprise readers as the women research the pasts of this man and the people whose lives he touched. A stunning climax turns everything Alice and Merrily thought they knew on its head.

Rarer-Day uses a clever device of excerpts from the Doe chat page that enhances the story. This terrific story has a chilling effect as it’s all-too believable, as are the characters. It will leave readers wondering just who really was the lucky one. Highly recommended.

Art Taylor: The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 Sunday, Feb 23 2020 

Please welcome award-winning author Art Taylor, to talk about choosing the order of the stories in his new suspense collection The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense:

Plans are afoot for me to teach a course on short story collections at George Mason University in Spring 2021—not reading collections but creating them. This would be a creative writing course, not a literature course.

What choices should student authors (or any author) make in selecting their stories or writing new ones with an eye toward a cohesive book? Should the stories adhere to some specific genre? have some thematic focus? And once they’ve chosen/written their stories, how should they arrange them to choreograph an experience for the reader? Would the strongest story be first or last, for example, or somewhere in between?

These won’t be simply academic questions for those creative writing students. They’ll sift through drafts from their college workshops and craft new stories within our own class. And those questions weren’t academic for me either, when I pulled together my own collection into a full manuscript more than a year ago.

That collection—The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense—was released this month by Crippen & Landru, and while I’ll leave it to readers to determine whether the book ultimately coheres as a satisfactory read, I’m glad to share my thoughts on organizing it.

The stories here cover 25 years in my writing career (has it been that long?) from “Murder on the Orient Express” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’s Department of First Stories in December 1995, to the collection’s title story, which first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s January/February 2020 issue. Rereading the stories, I was intrigued myself to see how certain themes persisted over that quarter-century—this writer’s own interests and obsessions revealing themselves. A focus on relationships predominated, for example—family ties, romances, core friendships—and on the responsibilities of being in those relationships, the costs of betraying them.

While that focus helped provide a core thread here, the stories also loosely follow some chronological progression: The title story, about childhood and coming-of-age, appears early in the collection, while “When Duty Calls,” the second-to-last story, features an aging character, a retired serviceman now in his dotage. Midway through the book, “Parallel Play” explores parenthood and its many perils.

I also tried to situate stories next to others that resonated with them or offered some counterpoint. “Ithaca 37,” for example, begins with the line “Family takes care of family”—but it’s sandwiched between two stories that directly challenge the idea of family being a place of safety and support: “The Care & Feeding of Houseplants” and “Parallel Play,” mentioned above. (And truth be told, “Ithaca 37” challenges that notion too.)

For the stories that open and close the collection, I chose two experimental stories—also among the shortest. An amuse-bouche and a taste of dessert perhaps? As an added bonus they respectively feature small welcomes and farewells. The first story, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” includes the line “Take that first bite”—a welcome of sorts to the collection ahead. And the final story, “English 398: Fiction Workshop,” actually ends with the phrase “the last word.” Can’t get more final than that.

Maybe these organizing principles and small flourishes won’t stand out explicitly to readers, but they gave me a sense of direction in assembling the manuscript—and I hope they’ll add some sense of subtle cohesion to the collection as a whole.

Art Taylor

You can find Art’s new book here:

In addition to the new collection, Art Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He won last year’s Edgar Award for Best Short Story for “English 398: Fiction Workshop,” and his story “Better Days” has recently been named a finalist for this year’s Agatha Award. Find out more at

Mandy Morton: The Ice Maid’s Tail Thursday, Feb 20 2020 

Many Morton returns with the eighth in The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency in The Ice Maid’s Tail. This time Hettie Bagshot and her partner, Tilly Jenkins, must brave the snow and ice to find out what’s happened to a trio of missing kittens.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of this creative and sparkling series set entirely in a world of cats and dedicated to animal rescue centers across the country, rest assured you will be delighted with Morton’s ability to bring sly humor and a sense of humanity to her feline characters, as well as a cracking good mystery.

It’s been a very harsh winter and February sees a blizzard that has roads cut off and ice ponds of the sidewalks. Most businesses are closed, and staying warm and getting enough to eat have become priorities. Even Lavender Stamp has closed the post office and the unkind feline may be in jeopardy.

Hettie and Tilly are trying to stay warm in their rooms behind the Butter sisters bakery, where their food is part of the rent and the warm ovens help to keep them toasty.

Then Fluff Wither-Fork calls from Wither-Fork Hall. She’s set up an orphanage in the Folly in Wither-Fork Woods, managed by Anthea and Preston Munch, where three young kittens in their care have gone missing after playing in the snow.

With their cadre of helpers, the detectives manage to arrive slipping and sliding at the Hall and set to work, augmented by the cooking of Blackberry Tibbs, Fluff’s maid and cook and companion, also a talented cat artist. Many of the Hall’s rooms are not used, and the warren of hallways, attics and hiding places lend themselves to three kittens trying to hide but stay warm.

What they find has them compelled to wonder whether the kittens are missing or have run away from the strict and uncompromising dictates of the Munches. It will take Hettie and Tilly’s smarts and hunches in equal to unravel the truth, with a bit of help from the witch in the woods.

Another highly recommended offering from the author who manages to create a world we simply believe and sometimes wish we could join, especially if the Butters sisters would bake for us.

Luanne Rice: Last Day Monday, Feb 17 2020 

Luanne Rice’s newest thriller is a family drama that encompasses the art world in New England in Last Day.

It’s been twenty-three years since sisters Kate and Beth were tied up with their mother in the basement of the family’s art gallery while thieves stole a valuable painting.

Their mother died during the incident, and when it came to light that their father was involved in the theft, the girls handled their trauma very differently. Beth fell in love and married and had a daughter and is pregnant again; Kate closed her heart and took her wounded self to the skies, becoming a pilot without entanglements.

But everything changes when Kate discovers Beth has been strangled, killing her unborn son. Grief-stricken, Kate is determined to find who’s responsible.

One of the first responder’s the initial incident has risen to become a detective, always watching and tracking the two young women he rescued. Conor Reid is on Beth’s murder case, and his suspicion focuses on Beth’s husband, Peter, and arrogant womanizer.

But is he missing the real murderer? Kate and Conor will each try to solve Beth’s murder in different ways, ferreting out the secrets Beth’s circle carry.

The perfect New England homes where Beth, Kate and their close friends live all hide betrayal at its deepest level.

Matt Brolly: The Crossing Saturday, Feb 15 2020 

Matt Brolly used his law degree and an MFA in Creative Writing to bring readers the DCI Lambert series and several stand-alones. He debuts a new thriller series featuring DI Louise Blackwell in The Crossing.

Working in a new CID department in Weston-super-Mare, getting used to her bungalow in Worle, Louise is still haunted by her last case two years ago in Bristol, as part of the MIT team that saw her and DI Finch on a case that would change her career trajectory.

With Finch promoted to DCI and still sneering over his shoulder at her, Louise has been sent to the seaside town and its environs and finally lands her first murder case as Senior Investigating Officer. A woman’s body has been found on the beach near the pier. Her injuries are horrific, yet it’s apparent from the lack of blood that her body was moved.

Miles away in Cornwall, a cleaning woman in St. Ives arrives at the home of an older gentleman who’s become her friend, only to find him out. As she makes her rounds of the clean rooms, it appears that Mr. Lanegan hasn’t been home for several days at least. With great misgivings, she will report him as a missing person.

While Louise sets up an incident room and gathers her team, the murderer is planning his next kill. With insight into his mind and actions, as the killings continue, it’s the connecting thread that must be unraveled.

Louise Finch has a lot on her plate: dealing with a widowed brother with an alcohol issue and his young daughter; receiving anonymous texts that taunt her on her case; having the Bristol team try to take over her case. And then the killings continue.

The plot is fascinating and creative, constructed so well in that even through the reader is aware of the identity of the killer, Louise and her team’s investigation and the hunt for him as they bring the clues together increase the tension as a man’s life hangs in the balance.

A strong start to a compelling new series. This is one to watch for its sequel.

Sarah Pinborough: Dead to Her Wednesday, Feb 12 2020 

Sarah Pinborough captures the sleepy grandeur of Savannah, Georgia, and gives a lesson in greed and passion in her newest suspense thriller, Dead to Her.

Two women are the center of the story. Marcie hides her background when she becomes the second wife of Jason Maddox. His world of old money and friendships is one Marcie has always yearned to be a part of.

She strikes up an uneasy friendship with Keisha, the new second wife of Jason’s widowed boss. Definitely of the old money scheme in Savannah, William has returned from a London trip surprisingly remarried to the slender, gorgeous black hostess who hides her own secrets.

This is sly suspense builds on itself and the main characters, as the story advances with the two women at the center of the storied circle that men travel in. Other members of that elite circle have varied reactions to Keisha and her exotic looks. There’s a whirl of lust and greed that swirls around all of the characters until a tragedy strikes and suddenly new and old friendships are tested.

The hanging Spanish moss is not the only elusive thing in Savannah. There are the dark mysteries that lurk in the shadows, following both women, and in the secrets they hide. But they are not the only ones with secrets.

An intricate plot enhances the thrills, with a sinister surprise for almost everyone involved.

Alan S Orloff: I Know Where You Sleep Monday, Feb 10 2020 

Alan Orloff’s newest PI thriller features investigator Anderson West and his sister Carrie, who helps, mostly, in I Know Where You Sleep.

Wen Jessica Smith turns up, complaining of a stalker who leaves her increasing calls and is now leaving notes on her car, Carrie is the one who reassures the restaurant hostess that they will take her case pro bono.

A widower with two kids, whose mother lives with them to help out, Anderson does his best to juggle his kids, his job and his impulsive sister.

He starts out investigating Jessica’s former flames and co-workers, as well as the church where she spends a fair portion of her off time. As far as Anderson is concerned, everyone is a suspect, including the church’s minister.

Jessica is seriously scared, to the point of carrying a gun with her, especially after she finds a note on her car at the church. But will she have the courage to use it?

And what secrets is Jessica covering up from her past? It’s a past that may come to haunt her as things escalate and she puts herself, Anderson and Carrie in the stalker’s crosshairs.

Anderson will soon find out that Jessica is not the only one hiding secrets. A fast-paced ride that begs for another installment with the PI and his over-the-top sister.

Lisa Gabriele: The Winters Sunday, Feb 9 2020 

NOW IN PAPERBACK! If you missed this when it debuted, here’s your chance to get it in softcover.

Lisa Gabriele retells du Maurier’s classic Rebecca by bringing it across the pond to the Hamptons of Long Island in The Winters.

The story follows the same thread of the naive bride, unnamed, quickly married to the wealthy Max Winter, in this outing a state senator. Left alone as he travels, adjusting to Asherley on Long Island after her Cayman Islands home, there are reminders in her new home filled with references to Max’s first wife, Rebekah.

This time instead of a jealous servant, we have Dani Winters, Max’s teen daughter, who is the disruptive influence. But Dani is successful in causing the new bride to question how well she really knows her new husband.

And that’s when this new book deliciously diverts from the former and takes on a life of its own.

For fans of REBECCA, this contemporary twist satisfies~

Sarah Stovell: The Home Thursday, Feb 6 2020 

Sarah Stovell brings an unflinching look inside children brought into care in The Home.

There are the underpaid staff, the head trying to do her best for the charges in her care while her own family waits for her attention, and then there are the girls themselves.

In this case, the remote Cumbrian home in question houses three young girls: Lara, who doesn’t speak; and Annie and Hope, who form an attachment that will affect their lives, and one of their deaths.

The connecting thread is a harrowing examination of the violent pasts of all three girls and the circumstances that brought them to the home.

There are secrets between the girls in different permutations, but one secret that must be held is the name of the murderer.

As the investigation examines each member of the home, budget cuts, staff attitudes, and the prior lives of each girl will be torn apart, looking for justification or a reason why one of these young women had to die.

A harrowing and compulsive read readers won’t be able to look away from.

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