Lucy Foley: The Hunting Party Monday, Aug 31 2020 


Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party is one a friend recommended that was on the towering TBR pile for ages. The one thing Covid has done is allow Auntie M to time to read more than usual, and from the opening two pages, she knew this one would be a read she’d recommend, too.

A group of old friends gather every New Year’s for a reunion, taking turns on choosing and planning where they will gather. This time the choice has fallen to Emma, partner of one of the original group. She finds Loch Corrin in the Scottish Highland wildness, an exclusive retreat that only takes four groups a year.

There are several couples who were all at Oxford together, and include Kate, part of the group without a current partner; also the gamekeeper, Doug, and the woman who runs the retreat, Heather.

The one thing everyone has in common are the secrets they hold.

The book opens knowing one of these people is dead. Subsequent scenes from several points of view unfold the previous days leading up to the murder on early New Year’s Day. A snowstorm muddies the waters, as well as any help from outside, but doesn’t tamp down the high emotions running wild.

Foley carefully exposes each of the character’s using others’ points of view. The secrets being held are slowly revealed, as is the identity of the victim, an amazing feat in itself, especially as the reader knows someone has been killed but is not certain whom.

Yet as more and more of the days are described, the victim is ultimately the one person all of the suspects have a reason to loathe. With everyone in attendance a suspect, the tension keep rising and the pace gets tighter.

A fascinating study of characters that is an absorbing read, one Alex Michaelides, author of The Silent Patient, calls “Reminiscent of Agatha Christie at her best–with an extra dose of acid.”

Robert Pobi: Under Pressure Wednesday, Aug 26 2020 

Robert Pobi’s Under Pressure has the same strong opening as City of Windows, which introduced protagonist Lucas Page. A private event held at NY’s Guggenheim Museum ends catastrophically when an explosion literally vaporizes over 700 people attending or working that evening.

That Lucas is a vastly different hero is a major part of the story. His quick mind is only one of his many gifts. The talented astrophysicist can break down data at a glance, while his bionic parts help.

It’s no surprise when the FBI calls him in to help, despite his wife misgivings for his safety. Their unusual family is yet another aspect of this intriguing setup.

This blast was clearly planned with precision, and as Lucas delves into whether it was a terrorist attack, or whether someone attending that night was the target and all the hundreds of others collateral damage, he rubs up against difficult agents and experts all set out to prove Lucas wrong.

It’s an action-packed novel, with Lucas and his unusual talents surprising readers over and over. The political and sometimes even social comments embedded meld well with Lucas’s wry humor. Think a Lincoln Rhyme who’s able to get around more and you get an idea of the person leading the charge.

When a second bomb goes off, Lucas and his pattern sensing are twitched. Is there a misdirection or is his thinking wrong? Through the ensuing chaos, Lucas is somehow able to unravel this puzzle, and a deadly one it turns out to be.

Great thrills and one helluva read.

Mary Westmacott: Absent in the Spring Sunday, Aug 23 2020 

Agatha Christie wrote six non-crime books under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. Absent in the Spring is the one about which she is quoted as saying:
“The one book that has satisfied me completely–the book I always wanted to write.”

The story is a character study of Joan Scudamore, returning from a visit to her youngest daughter, son-in-law, and baby granddaughter in Iraq. Barbara’s husband works there and the young woman has been ill. Joan rushed out to tend to her daughter, despite the arduous journey to get there.

On the trip home, she finds herself stranded in an isolated rest house by rains that prevent her train from getting through flooded tracks. Forced to have only herself for company, Joan decides to treat the unexpected time alone as a retreat of sorts.

She’s not a person who often pauses to examine her life. Quickly running out of books to read, and soon after, paper to write letters to friends, she takes to wandering in the desert near the rest home and ends up taking a good hard look at herself and her life.

She finds that the person she’s believed herself to be is perhaps not the person she has been, in actuality, to others. With the words of her former headmistress from school running her head, Joan has what could be called an epiphany.

The question remains: what will she do about it?

A completely different kind of book, short and bittersweet, from the woman who is outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.

Jacqueline Rohan: How to Marry Your Husband Sunday, Aug 23 2020 

From time to time, Auntie M veers away from crime fiction, and here’s one that’s just the ticket for the long hot days of August, when a smile or giggle will be most welcome.

Jacqueline Rohan’s debut, How to Marry Your Husband, is filled with charm and warmth, the perfect antidote for the ills of today.

Rachel and David have been married for fifteen years, after he swept her off her feet. Then on their anniversary she sees him kissing another woman. Is the marriage over? Should she confront him or try to win him back?

Rachel twists herself in knots trying to decide what to do, before she finally confides in a friend who has more experience with men. She visits a divorce lawyer, only to find out that her marriage may not even be legal.

Now she’s in the unusual position of trying to decide if she wants to marry him legally only to divorce him; to let him go; or to get her revenge. The hijinks she gets up to for revenge are hilarious.

All of this is couched in amongst the usual things readers can identify with: the relationships of those nearest and dearest to us. It doesn’t help that Rachel’s firm as event planners will be called in to plan David’s sister’s nuptials, just as she’s trying to decide if she wants to divorce him or win him back.

This is a very modern book, filled with wit and the kind of visuals that would light up the big screen, the book has been shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for Romantic Fiction.

Lindsey Davis: The Grove of the Caesars Wednesday, Aug 19 2020 

In her 28th outing over two series––Marcus Didius Falco is the other–Lindsey Davis brings Falco’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, to another case in The Grove of the Caesars.

Following her father’s footsteps, Flavia’s investigations have their become known. Inadvertently, it’s Flavia’s husband, away on business, who puts her in the position to become involved in the hunt for a serial killer who has used the public gardens as his dumping ground.

Exploiting women goes against Flavia’s nature, and once a wealthy man’s wife is claimed as the latest victim, she puts aside her loathing of the man she must work with whose been assigned the case, Julius Karas.

Think a classic police procedural for a serial killer, set in first century Rome. And this a Rome Davis knows inside out, with the historical fiction she’s plumbed coming alive. Her extensive knowledge of the people, its mores and customs, and the city itself reveals Rome to be a vibrant city throbbing with a deadly, sinister undercurrent.

Davis interjects Roman’s casualness toward slaves, addresses immigration, and of course, women’s issues, all in a time where readers will be surprised to see these things considered.

Fans of historical fiction will revel in Ancient Rome brought to life and set amidst crime fiction.

Aline Templeton: Devil’s Garden Sunday, Aug 16 2020 

Aline Templeton brings her Serious Rural Crime Squad, headed by DI Kelso Strang, to a new case in a rural border town in Devil’s Garden.

Alerted by a former police college friend to suspected corruption at her local station, Strang manages to place DC Livvy Murray, whom he is mentoring, at the station to ferret out what’s going on.

The local celebrity is the ultra-reclusive Anna Harper, an international best-selling author known for avoiding the limelight or interviews. When her son dies of an overdose, and soon after her daughter, Cassie, who runs a foundation Harper has founded, has an accident, it becomes apparent to Strang that there is more going on here than accidents and Harper is at the heart of it all.

There are plenty of suspects, from several writers at the Foundation for a writers retreat and employees at the Foundation, to the majordomo housekeeper/best friend of Harper, Marta Morelli, who has been at the author’s side for years and keeps her secrets.

When the major snowstorm called the Beast from the East isolates everyone, Murray and Strang will face even more obstacles in keeping Harper and her daughter safe from a killer bent on revenge.

Strang is a strong lead character, a man who has lost his family, scarred emotionally and physically, and is trying to put his life back together. Murray could be his nemesis, but under his careful tutelage, is fast becoming a decent sidekick for him, albeit one who must learn to stop going off on her own.

A grand addition to a series that should be better-known in the US, Templeton is the author of the beloved DI Marjory Fleming series. With Strang going to rural places, Auntie M isn’t the only one hoping at one point these two detectives will have a case that overlaps and work together, even for one outing. Let’s hope Templeton is listening!

Elsa Hart: The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne Wednesday, Aug 12 2020 

Elsa Hart’s historical Asian series set a standard for creating an atmosphere in a foreign setting, coupled with plotting that gives the reader suspense and shows the mores of the culture of the time.

She turns that same eye for historical detail from 18th century China to London in 1703 in The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne.

It’s a time when men wear wigs, and science has beckoned to collectors of strange objects in what is perhaps an attempt to understand the wonders of the world. Magic and merman rest alongside the known science of the day.

Lady Cecily Kay’s passion for plants brings her to the household of Sir Barnaby Mayne, whose huge collection has been garnered from across the globe and covers objects, books, maps and artifacts he’s gathered.

It’s the envy of many, who wish to acquire similar collections. Collectors, Cecily soon learns, can have their needs become obsessions.

With Cecily’s husband at his post in Smyrna, she has been extended an invitation into the Mayne household to identify plant specimens she’s brought with her. What she doesn’t expect is for her host to be killed.

With a confessed killer awaiting death in gaol, Cecily will lead an investigation into what has really happened in a house where the collections inspire greed, at a time when women’s roles were highly circumscribed.

A period mystery with an intelligent protagonist, who must battle a fascination with the fantastical alongside scientific principles to unmask a killer.

Roz Watkins: Cut to the Bone Sunday, Aug 9 2020 

Roz Watkins delivers direct wallop with the newest entry in her Peak District series featuring DI Meg Dalton with Cut to the Bone, series that keeps getting stronger and stronger.

Violet Armstrong has created a name for herself in social media by taking on the meat vs vegan culture, and along with that, the eighteen-year-old is working in a pig abattoir.

Violet barbecues meat while wearing a bikini, actions intended to stir up feminists and animal rights activists, and indeed she has managed to do just that.

When she disappears, with her car found at work but no sign of Violet, speculation turns to suspicion that harm has come to the young woman and there are many suspects for Meg to focus on.

With her team in tow, and her complicated feelings for her DS in the back of her mind, Meg is surprised when her estranged father suddenly appears for a visit. Still reeling over the recent death of her grandmother, Meg’s closer to her mother, and to her best friend, Hannah. With her emotions all over the place on a personal level, Meg finds herself bonding with a young man with a dicey history.

Then evidence found points to Violet being fed to the pigs, and Meg realizes things are getting out of hand. Not convinced Violet is dead, Meg faces public ridicule when one of her suspects turns up dead. The feeling that there are other forces at work here is too strong for the detective to ignore.

At the same time, chapters set in 1999 illustrate events of the Armstrong family that have a direct bearing on what’s happening now, and how that family, local gentry, have been courted to for years.

There is a complicated but nicely twisted plot, with characters who will gain your empathy, and one of the most startling climaxes Auntie M has read. Very original, with a taut pace and a most atmospheric setting, this chiller intricately weaves modern society into a stunning read that makes this Highly Recommended.

Ragnar Jonasson: The Island Friday, Aug 7 2020 

This is the original review for Jonasson’s The Island, NOW out in paperback!

Jonasson’s second Icelandic series with its compelling protagonist, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir, returns with its second installment in The Island.

The time period is set earlier than in last year’s The Darkness and its startling ending. It’s 1987 when the book opens with the details of a new young couple’s romantic but secret trip to the isolation of the Westfjords, a trip that ends in disaster when the young woman is found dead.

A decade later, four friends have a reunion to honor their dead friend, reconnecting with a trip to an old hunting lodge in an even more isolated area of southern Iceland. Cut off from the outside world for the weekend, only three will survive.

Hulda is determined to find the culprit, which means she must explore the history behind the initial investigation into the young woman’s death. She needs to explore the relationships between all of the principal’s involved, some of which had drastic and tragic results, as well as the way in which the investigation itself was handled by her police colleagues.

What she finds will reveal long held secrets that have ramifications for several families as well as Hulda herself.

With the dark, foreboding setting an adjunct character, Jonasson makes the most of Hulda’s tragic life and frustrations as she finds herself looking into the deepest recesses of the darkness that lurks within us. Masterful look into the human psyche.

Karen Dionne: The Wicked Sister Tuesday, Aug 4 2020 

Karen Dionne (The Marsh King’s Daughter) mines Michigan’s Upper Peninsula once again in her new thriller, The Wicked Sister. Her love and grasp of the dark woods and landscape coupled with the nature theme that runs through this bring the area alive and set the scene for a startling mystery.

Rachel Cunningham thought as a young girl she killed her parents. She’s lived in a psychiatric facility since then, until fifteen years after the grisly death of her parents.

When she finds out her memory had been tricked, and she was not responsible at all, she leaves the facility and moves to the UP and the family lodge that she’s inherited along with her sister, Diana.

Diana has lived at the lodge the entire time Rachel has been in her self-imposed exile, believing she deserved to stay away. Now she returns to the majestic area where her parents, research biologists in different fields of study, brought Diana as a young child. It’s the only home Rachel has ever known.

Flashbacks to the childhood of Diana tell the story of why the young family felt forced to flee their first home. Now that Rachel has returned, she must strike a balance and renew her relationship with her sister. So why does the home she loved feel as if it contains evil?

The psychology of families, and the lengths that will be taken to keep secrets, haunt this suspenseful tale.

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Lee Lofland

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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.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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