Kjell Ola Dahl: Sister Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Sister, by Kjell Ola Dahl, brings detective Frank Frolich to the forefront. After several books with Frank and his partner in the Oslo PD, Frank has been suspended and is working to get a private investigator’s office off the ground.

When he meets Matilde, he feels his luck is definitely on the upswing. As the two learn about each other, Matilde soon convinces him to help Guri, her good friend who works at a refugee center. Guri wants Frank to find the sister of a Middle Eastern refugee there so the young woman can remain in Norway.

Then an author writing an expose on illegal immigration and how the refugees are treated shows up in Frank’s office and offers him cash for his help. Frederik Andersen’s first book revolved around a ferry tragedy decades ago. Was the police investigation stilted at that time? How are the two threads of the missing sister connected to this?

Soon several people are dead, and Frank has only one friend he can trust.

Frank is such an authentic characters with a shrewd sense of humanity that readers will follow him eagerly. Dahl establishes his sense of place with exquisite details, and his tightly-woven plot will keep readers flipping pages long after the light should be turned out.

Helen Fitzgerald: Ash Mountain Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Ash Mountain is Helen Fitzgerald’s newest novel that brings the most creative and human characters to leap off the page. With its strong sense of setting and a distinct knowledge of human character, the book will creep up on you and catch you unaware as you know—you KNOW—there is not a pretty ending in sight, yet are compelled to read on and see how it all turns out.

That’s one of Fitzgerald’s talents, getting you to care about her quirky characters. In Ash Mountain, when Fran comes home to her small bushtown to care for her father after his severe stroke, it’s not because she misses the town she’s escaped from that holds some of her most awful memories and secrets.

With her sulky teenaged daughter in tow, escaping from the city job she loathes and a failed relationship is a minor positive factor for the single mom of two children. With her son in the area, she can almost kid herself she’ll be fine here—almost.

Fran picks away at her secrets, told in chapters alternating with a present where the oppressive heat has people do anything for relief. And those secrets will have their comeuppance as Fran is not the weak child she once was, all as she tentatively forges new relationships. When a bushfire starts and surges toward Fran and those she loves, the tension for the reader is almost unbearable.

This has been called a ‘disaster thriller’ and there’s good reason for that, as this catastrophe will change Fran and the town forever, but it doesn’t begin to explain the dark humor of Fran and the real feel of the people she’s created. The scenes with her taking her father-on-a-stick to get him out of the house are worth the read alone.

It’s dark, yes, but with an effusive sense of humanity at its heart that makes this read highly recommended.

(Don’t forget to read the Author’s Note where Fitzgerald describes where the cover photo originated.)

Simone Buchholz: Mexico Street Wednesday, Apr 29 2020 

Chastity Riley is the state prosecutor who works with Hamburg police while she tries to figure out her complicated personal life in the newest entry to Simone Buchholz’s series titled Mexico Street.

With vandals routinely setting cars on fire, the Special Forces team, led by Ivo Stepanovic, are called in when one of these cars is found to contain a body.

Nouri Saroukhan is the estranged son of a Bremen gang of thugs who treat their family worse than their enemies at times. The tight-lipped and even tighter-wound clan have a feud with a rival family. It doesn’t help that Nouri loves a girl from the other clan.

What could be a simple feud gone too far turns instead to have threads connecting it to the financial district, while both families look for Aliza, a strong young woman on the run.

Tightly plotted, the story shows how some cultures within Germany are stuck in the past in terms of male dominance and female roles. There are difficult stories Riley confronts, and they add to her own darkness.

Riley is the quintessential noir heroine: this is a woman who drinks too much and smokes too much, yet there is something attractive about her tough exterior that draws people to her.

Buchholz’s writing has a dark tone awash with sparkling and observant prose that adds to the noir feel of the book. While this is book three in the series, it is Auntie M’s first brush with Buchholz and Riley, and it certainly won’t be her last.

Elizabeth George: Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel Monday, Apr 27 2020 

Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series is one of Auntie M’s favorites. She was also fortunate to take a Master class from George one year at New England Crime Bake, and that experience alone made her relish the thought of reading through George’s new book on the complicated task of putting together a novel in Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel.

George is quick to point out that her method may not suit everyone, although it closely mirrors Auntie M’s own. Indeed, finding one’s particular method that works for that individual is part of the challenge for any writer. Still, there will be something in these pages for any writer, even if one’s own way of writing doesn’t follow George’s.

She starts off with setting, the backdrop for her crime novels, and uses actual photographs she took on her research trip for her novel Careless in Red to illustrate her points. The landscape is the stage upon which writers place their action and their characters, so it’s one the reader must come to understand, and sometimes, manipulate. It influences what can and cannot be found between the pages, and often suggests plot.

While the area may be changed or rearranged to fit the writer’s plot, having done thorough research eliminates a blank page as the starting point. Any points that are needed afterward that memory or photos can’t provide, of course, can be added by Google, maps, and other information about the chosen area.

George moves on to characters and how she develops them, as her plot starts to form. She emphasizes understanding the core needs and also the psychopathology for each one. By creating background needs, combined with an underlying behavior that influences reactions, the character become fully fleshed out. This helps the writer understand how a particular character would act, react, and even speak.

Of course there are chapters on dialogue, viewpoint, plot development, scene structure, and more, all aided by concrete examples from this same novel. By using pages from her book to illustrate each point, the reader comes away with a clearcut view of how George puts together her book. She even includes a special device she calls a THAD, the Talking Heads Avoidance Device.

You’ll have to read the book to find out exactly how that functions, but reading this book is not something that should be just limited to writers. Any reader looking for a clearer understanding of a writers process, or any fan of George’s novels, for that matter, who wants to understand her personal process, will enjoy this book that contains so much useful information, written in a clear and entertaining way.

And many will find, just as Auntie M did, that a re-reading of Careless in Red after brought the entire thing together in a way that showed what was explained in delightful action. Highly Recommended.

Mary Torjussen: The Closer You Get Sunday, Apr 26 2020 


Mary Torjussen’s suspense thrillers have all been hailed as suspense-filled (Gone Without a Trace; The Girl I Used to Be) and her newest, The Closer You Get, continues to deliver a nicely twisted psychological suspense novel.

She introduces readers to Ruby, who had fallen in love with her boss, Harry. Her marriage with the controlling Tom has long been over and it’s taken her a while to understand that he’s made her miserable. After a secret affair with Harry, Ruby prepared to leave Tom and Harry to leave his wife, Emily.

Their plan is to meet up at a pre-arranged hotel on a certain Friday night after telling their spouses they are leaving. Ruby girds herself, packs her car with those belongings she can fit in it, and waits for Tom to return from work. She announces she’s leaving him, and while he lets her go, she can’t believe it was that easy.

She waits at the hotel for Harry…and waits…and waits. Harry never shows up. Devastated, she finds on Monday she’s been fired from her job. Now she has no home, no job, and no self-esteem.

While she will eventually find out why Harry never showed, it does little to soften the blow or her situation. Renting a tacky apartment, Ruby takes a temp job and tries to pull herself together. That’s when she gets the distinct feeling someone has been in her apartment, which is strengthened when someone starts following her.

Is Ruby losing her mind? Or is there someone really out there menacing her. Ruby and Emily are finely drawn, and while each woman has her own point of view, the twists Torjussen builds into her plot will take unlikely turns.

An intense look at a torn marriage, an affair gone wrong, and tension that ratchets up and up as readers flip the page.

Carol Westron: This Game of Ghosts Wednesday, Apr 22 2020 


Carol Westron’s This Game of Ghosts introduces characters so real they leap off the page.

Honey Alder lost more than her teenaged son when he died seven years ago. She lost her marriage, her self-confidence, and became anxious and depressed.
With those things finally under control, she’s teaching again and helping her teenaged daughter care for her infant son, Ben. Honey’s not as fond of Ross, Ben’s father, who’s around far too often for her tastes, but she admits he’s good with Ben.

Honey’s also started to see a new man, Terry, a social worker. It’s Easter weekend and they are to spend it at a folk festival seeing her favorite band and meeting several of Terry’s friends. And then her ex, Matt, shows up at her house and tells her he’s seen a ghost.

Soon Matt’s ghost is appearing in more places, causing accidents, too. Honey knows that Matt doesn’t lie. It’s simply not in his makeup. So what is she to make of his insistence that this old woman keeps appearing? Is he cracking up, or is he being haunted by a past he can’t recall? Or worse, is someone gaslighting him?

Terry’s friends turn out to be a mixed bag, too, with most highly unlikeable. Terry’s also become possessive in light of Matt staying at Honey’s house after an accident. That’s when Honey realizes she doesn’t really like Terry, and the attention he’d paid her was what she’d longed for.

Honey will have to call on all of her new-found strength to figure out what’s really happening to Matt, while trying to fend Terry off. People are complicated, but Honey needs to see through them and the various masks they are wearing in order to save Matt, and ultimately, herself.

A wholly satisfying read from the author Mystery People calls “A born storyteller.”

Jane Mosse: Barking Mad! Monday, Apr 20 2020 

From time to time, Auntie M likes to throw in something vastly unconnected to a crime novel. With things the way they are in today’s world, here’s some candy for the brain that will both delight and distract you.

Jane Mosse’s Barking Mad! is subtitled: Confessions of a Dog-Sitter, and is based on the adventures she and her husband have had taking up house-sitting in their retirement. A published poet, non-fiction author and researcher, the couple live on the lovely island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

With wonderful illustrations by North Herefordshire artist Iain Welch, Mosse brings readers the escapades of Christine and Rob, whose early retirement has left them at loose ends when the last of their dogs dies.

It’s Christine’s suggestion to combine travel with pet-sitting, one her brother calls “barking mad.” She soon finds a wealth of options on the internet on offer. Not all of these are in desirable places, but they try to choose carefully.

Having the dogs and cats and often other animals to care for is what they enjoy, as well meeting different owners, and living in homes that vary as much as the pets do. The chapters range from Treviso, Italy, to a home that’s a small castle, to a small cottage filled with ornaments near a damp and scraggly lock.

Mosse is quick to point out that her episodes are inspired by their adventures but that the owners animals and homes are mostly fictional. That doesn’t detract one whit from the joy of reading about them.

If you enjoy Iain Welch’s dog art, more information about his work (yes, he does commissions) can be found on his website: iainwelch.co.uk.

James Rollins: The Last Odyssey Sunday, Apr 19 2020 


James Rollins’s Sigma Force novels return with the 15th in the series, The Last Odyssey.

The page-turner takes its cues from Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad. He brings his group of modern day researchers, and gives them a family life back home to return to, to Greenland.

Using part myth, part-creativity, Rollins brings his crew on an adventure that if it goes wrong, could allow a version of Hell to bring an apocalypse to the world and change society as we know it.

Research is key in a book such as this, and Rollins extensive knowledge shows, from the colds of Greenland to the warmth of the Mediterranean where a Bronze Age war changed society then. With Leonardo Da Vinci appearing, it’s a no-holds barred look at ancient societies and the early technology they fostered.

Rollins clarifies after the read what is based on fact and what has come from his imagination. Yet this tale of a cult how want to control the End of Days feels all too real and believable, supported by his continuing cast.

Louise Beech: I Am Dust Thursday, Apr 16 2020 

At once a gothic mystery and a kind of ghost story, Louise Beech’s I Am Dust incorporates all of the elements of both, along with the kind of astute look into the human psyche that has become her hallmark.

Twenty years after the first mounting of a musical called Dust, it’s due to return to the same theatre that hosted its debut.

The musical is the stuff of lore, as its lead actress, Morgan Miller, was murdered a few performances in, and is said to haunt the Dean Wilson Theatre. Is there any truth to the curse surrounding this place and this play?

Working as a theatre usher is Chloe Dee, whose career choices have been affected by the original musical, and who is scarred by life in many ways. A teen who has her own relationship with theatre, Chloe is surprised to find the woman taking on Morgan Miller’s role is someone she knows, and knows well.

With the story told in alternating time periods of Chloe’s life, the mounting tension encapsulates all of the yearning undercurrent of a young woman’s heart. When Chloe starts to hear staticky messages on her work radio, coupled with seeing flashes of movement, is she hallucinating?

The tone of the backstage workers, the backstabbing theatre community, and the workers who make it all happen add perfect layers of verisimilitude of that life.

Beech’s lyrical prose, not a word out of place, creates just the right atmosphere to in this twisty plot to suck you in and make you stay up far too late to finish this emotional and surprising read.

Matthew Quirk: Hour of the Assassin Sunday, Apr 12 2020 

Matthew Quirk brings a former Secret Service agent on the run in the fast-paced thriller Hour of the Assassin.

Nick Averose has a most unusual job. He fiction as a ‘red teamer’, someone who tests the security used around high officials and those in the limelight at risk. Looking for holes in the security, he’s a mock killer, and part of his job is to try to slip past the elaborate defense already in place.

His newest assignment finds him trying to infiltrate security at the Washington DC home of the former CIA director. Suddenly Nick finds himself convincingly framed, and as he runs from the very people he is supposed to protect, he must figure out who is framing him to clear his name.

It’s a high-octane tale of power and corruption; of secrets held and exposed. And Nick is at the center of it all.

Inspired by real-life assassins Quirk knew in his former career as a DC reporter that insider knowledge lends tremendous credibility and reality to the novel.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

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