Alex Gray: The Silent Games Sunday, Mar 18 2018 

Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series are proven winners. She returns with The Silent Games, with its nicely twisted plot adding it to the list of ones to read.

A bomb explodes in the rural area near Lorimer, and it seems this may have been a rehearsal for terrorists planning a bigger event at The Commonwealth Games being held this summer in Glasgow.

The area is wrapped up the Games and all of the commerce this will bring, but Lorimer is sworn to secrecy as the hunt for extremists commences. Then a young black woman’s body is found near the site, strangled, and they have no idea of her identity.

He decides to attend what we in the US call a high school reunion, run by a former flame. He finds the beautiful red-head who once entranced him is still gorgeous, with nostalgic memories surfacing. In Glasgow with her wealthy husband for the Games and a theatre business enterprise he’s running, Vivien Gilmartin calls Lorimer in hysterics after returning to her rented flat as she’s found Charles dead in bed.

With no one else in the area to turn to, Lorimer takes Vivien into the home he shares with his lovely wife, Maggie. Despite her best efforts to be kind to the woman who has just lost her husband, Maggie gets a strange vibe from the woman and isn’t happy the longer her guest stays.

When its deemed Charles Gilmartin died from poison, suicide versus murder must be ruled out. Due to her personal connection, the case is turned over to Lorimer’s colleague, but he’s aware of events as they unfold.

The reader knows more than Lorimer through the eyes of a young African girl who has been kidnapped from her village and brought to Glasgow to be part of a human trafficking ring for sex. The harsh realities of her existence contrast with the outside environment with people gaily
preparing for the games.

And it’s tied in to the identification of the troupe preparing to make everyone’s worst nightmare come true at the Games.

Grey’s skillful plotting lets readers in on the mechanics and realities of police investigating while her characters are always realistic and well-drawn. Several continuing characters make their appearance, too, and while readers can handle this as a stand-alone, for those fans of the series, the familiar souls that populate the book have become old friends.

Another winning entry in a long-running series, not to be missed.


Frances Brody: Death in the Stars Friday, Mar 16 2018 

Frances Brody newest Kate Shackleton mystery bring Yorkshire in 1927 to life in Death in the Stars.

The great eclipse is on its way, and Kate has been contacted by the msyterious but beloved singing star Selina Fellini to arrange her transport and accompany her to a viewing party at Gigglewsick School.

Kate is certain there’s more to Selina’s fretfullness over not having flown before, but arranges the flight for herself, Selina and the singer’s good friend and co-star, comedian Billy Moffatt.

When Billy goes missing right after the eclipse, he’s ultimately found by the chapelon the grounds of the school. An alert senior student who plans to go into medicine helps Kate figure out that Billy’s cigar was tainted.

While Kate sits by the comatose Billy so Selina can keep her theatre committment that evening, she ponders the underlying nature of Selina’s anxiety: two other performers in their theatre troupe were killed in different but also mysterious ways.

Soon Kate has Bill Sykes and Mrs. Sugden on board as they investigate all three murders and find far too many suspects, which include Selina’s husband, a talented songwriter with a disfiguring war wound who’s mentally distraught. It’s a race to find the culprit to keep the next person close to Selina from being killed.

One of the things that remains consistently charming in the series is the depth of research Brody maintains. The feel of postwar England with authentic period details adds to this look inside the world of British music halls of the era.

This ninth in the series, with its well-plotted mystery and colorful characters, is a pure delight. Readers will wonder why this engaging series hasn’t been picked up yet by Masterpiece Mystery.

Clare Mackintosh: Let Me Lie Tuesday, Mar 13 2018 

Clare Mackintosh’s newest psychological thriller, Let Me Lie, has a double meaning in its title that becomes apparent after readers have finished the complex story. There are enough twists in this story to keep you flipping pages long after the light should have been out.

Anna Johnson is a new mum to little Ella, living with her partner, therapist Mark, in the family home she loves, Oak View. She should be happy, but Anna is still grieving her parents’ suicides.

Her father, Tom, threw himself off Beachy Head, with her mother followin seven months later, killing herself in the exact same way in her grief. It’s a concept Anna has found difficult to reconcile with her parents, who she insists were never suicidal. She can’t conceive of a reason why her father would kill himself to being with and set off this tragic chain of events. It’s natural that she’s angry with both of them for leaving her alone with questions unanswered.

Then on the anniversary of her mother’s death, a note is pushed through her letter box. In a touch of cruelty, it’s an anniversary card, but inside it says: Suicide? Think again.

Anna takes the card to her local police station, where retired detective Murray Mackenzie, working the desk as a civilian, is on duty. Despite there being little that would tempt a detective to re-open two cases cleared as suicides, Murray has a inkling something is not as it should be and decides to do a bit of background checking to see if Anna’s parents really did commit suicide, or if, as Anna believes, they were murdered.

Both Anna and Murray search in their own ways, until the incidents escalate and Anna realizes someone wants the investigation to end.

With a shocking turn in the second part of the book, Anna will have to put aside all of her preconceived notions about her family. But she soon realizes she has no idea who can she really trust.

The plot has so many surprises readers will be out of breath as it races on. With Murray working his own investigation, he involves his wife, Sarah, a subplot that nicely rounds out the story and the reader’s involvement in these characters.

The ending will startle even the savvy reader, and just when you think it’s over, two extra twists at the end show you just how talented Macintosh can be. Highly recommended.

Kate Rhodes: Hell Bay Sunday, Mar 11 2018 

Kate Rhodes’ Alice Quentin series are a favorite, so it was with great interest that Auntie M turned to the debut of her new series, set on the Scilly Island of Bryher, Hell Bay.

Still grieving the death of his long-time undercover partner, saddled with her dog, Shadow, DI Ben Kitto returns to the remote island to rest and decide if he can continue to be a detective.

With his reclusive Uncle Ray, a boatbuilder, still on the island, and knowing the majority of the small population from his youth, Ben has a few months to decide if the resignation his boss refused goes into effect or not.

But he’s barely settled back into island life when the teenaged daughter of high school friends is found on the beach at Hell Bay, and soon he’s asked to become Senior Investigating Officer on the case.

Sixteen year-old Laura Trescothick was saving to attend drama school with her boyfriend, Danny Curnow. He soon finds out neither set of parents were happy with the youths plans or relationship.

With a two-day storm having cancelled all ferries to the island, Ben knows Laura’s killer must still be on the island. There are enough suspects to make it interesting, and enough secrets being held.

Rhodes skillfully draws the isolated locale for those who haven’t been to the area off Cornwall’s Lands End. And in Benesek Kitto, she’s drawn an interesting figure readers will want to follow. Highly Recommended.

Alison Gaylin: If I Die Tonight Thursday, Mar 8 2018 

Alison Gaylin ratchets up the anxiety level in her new psychological suspense novel, If I Die Tonight.

The plot focuses on the Reed family: Jackie, single mom to teens Wade and Connor. All of the teen angst of any family is here, with the added layer that the boys’ father has a new family and has had no relationship with his boys for a decade. Artistic Wade has become withdrawn and an outcast at school, which rubs off on Connor and his own friends.

There are other families in the small Hudson River town, too, those who have money, and some like police officer Pearl, who wants to forget her own tragic secret and just get on with her life.

Then former pop icon Aimee En rushes into the police station, claiming she’s been highjacked by someone who then ran over a local teen trying to help her. But discrepancies are found in her story, and Pearl becomes suspicious of the woman.

Popular senior Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance as Wade asks his younger brother to throw out a bag without looking inside it. Liam’s case becomes fodder for social media, and suddenly Wade, who was out of the house the night Liam was hit, is tried by his friends and convicted in social media as a killer. This will escalate to have a devastating effect on the entire family.

But is the moody teen really a murderer? What’s behind his personality change?

Shifting points of view gives readers a window into each character’s thoughts and emotions, as Jackie, determined to believe in Wade, tries to protect them both.

All of the characters could be people you know, which is what makes this so believeable. Kirkus says: “This anxiety-fueled stand-alone . . . takes the gulf that naturally develops between teenagers and their families and stocks it with sharks.”

The twists keep coming as the ending nears. You won’t be able to put this rivetiing read down.

Jan McCanless: The Beryl’s Cove Mysteries Wednesday, Mar 7 2018 

Please welcome Jan McCanless, author of the Beryl’s Cove Mysteries, to share her trademark humor on her thoughts of space travel:

All Aboard for Mars and Beyond

I used to think that self cleaning ovens and automatic can openers were the end all be all, and nothing could be more fantastic than that.

Do you remember, as a kid, every time a plane flew over, we’d stop and watch it awhile, marveling at the science that brought it to fruition? I never dreamed, in a million years, I’d ever fly in one of the things.

It was exciting to think of soaring thousands of feet in the air, with nothing below you but earth. I still feel the excitement, but, not in the same way, my heart races, my palms sweat, and I have to pee. I pray the entire time that we land safely, and nobody falls out of it or it plummets thru the air like a great fireball from the sky. Hey, you get excited your way, I’ll do mine! I never said I liked to fly, only that it excited me.

We had a neighbor family when I was a kid–they lived behind our house, and their daughter, Ann Karen, was pal of mine. Her dad bought the first Thunderbird I ever saw in my life, and of course, the first one in the entire world, as far as I was concerned. It was back in the early 50’s, and her Dad wanted to take all us kids for a ride in it. It was a two-seater, so, we were literally hanging off it anywhere we could grab ahold. I was sitting up on the back of the convertible top as we cruised the streets(try doing that now without a jail sentence). It was fun though, and we thought we were really special.

Ann Karen and her family were what you might call “avant garde”, even back then, Her dad was an architect, and their house resembled an unfurled sheet, with a winding driveway, colored stones for a walkway, and Ann Karen was the first person I ever knew who had a telephone in her bedroom. Oh man, I lusted after that phone. Didn’t have anyone to call, but, still I wanted one, too. How could society advance any further than having a Thunderbird and private telephone?

When America shot Alan Shepherd up into space, I was working as a laboratory technician at Rowan Hospital (as it was called then), and as many employees as could fit in the place crowded the front waiting room, watching a small screen TV to catch it all. Mesmerized as we were, we had to go back to work, and each of us, in our own way, thought we had truly entered another realm of reality. Never, never, could we get any further than that.

Now, this, the Starman in his car, racing towards Mars and the android belt. Who’d a thunk it !!! I saw on the news this morning too, where China has developed a flying car, tooling along at treetop level, above all the traffic. It looks like a giant drone, with a driver. Now THAT I could probably go for. Treetop level is not high, how badly could I get mangled if I fell out of the thing?

I was a science major in college, and it still fascinates me, as I have always been interested in all branches of science. It excites me, in a good way, so the flying car is definitely on my bucket list.

I’ll let the dummy in the orbiting car have at it, though. I have no desire to go to Mars or any other planet–I haven’t completely conquered this one yet !!!

About Jan:
Jan McCanless has been a best selling author for 15 books. A mother of three, and grandmother to nine, she started as a high school teacher, sequed into freelance newspaper work, and from there, she moved into murder mysteries with a humorous twist. She compiled 2 volumes of humor columns, winning the 2013 Mother Vine award for best stories for her first compilation, titled Wyatt Earp, GAP Pickles and Thoughts of Home,. Her 2nd compilation, Tire Patch Cookies are Good for the Soul , is a continuation of the fun, with more award nominations for the year it was published.

Her mysteries have been called a combination of Murder, She Wrote, and Mayberry RFD, and have all been best sellers. The Beryl’s Cove mysteries have lovable, quirky characters that are positively addictive, and Jan’s humor shines through all of them.

Listed in Who’s Who as a noted Southern Humorist, she is a mix of lecturer, stand up comedienne,and teacher, giving talks and workshops around the country. Rowan County’s Woman of the Year in 1978, she was a nominee for International Woman of the Year in 2005. Jan’s interests are varied, and she takes pride in being an ordained Lutheran Lay minister.

Her books and access to them are listed on her website, http://www.janmacbooks,com,. and they may be found on, Barnes and Noble and in bookstores throughout the southeast.

Laura Lippman: Sunburn Sunday, Mar 4 2018 

Laura Lippman’s new stand-alone, Sunburn, carries the patina of noir in its character-driven story where she shows her strength at observing humans in all their tawdry glory.

At once realistic, this is book set in the mid-90s is about the lies we tell each other as much as the lies we tell ourselves. A fan of Anne Tyler, Lippman pays homage to her with a reference to her book Ladder of Years, which the central figure, Polly, has heard everyone talking about in her Baltimore neighborhood. Polly develops her own plan, and you will think you know what it is, but the plan changes according to her needs.

She decides to simply walk away from her second husband and young daughter on a beach day, getting a ride to the small town of Bellevue, Delaware, where she finds work as a waitress in a bar-cafe that’s seen better days, as has most of the small town.

It’s here that Polly meets the central characters who will form the plot of the book: Adam, a handsome stranger who is keeping his own secrets, and Cath, the long-time waitress at the cafe who becomes jealous of the slender red-head who beguiles women.

Having learned how to be quiet, Polly is an enigma to Adam, and their relationship will rise and fall on her ability to be different from other woman as she keeps her own counsel. One thing Polly has learned is that she’s lousy at picking husbands–until she meets Adam.

When a possible murder rears its ugly head, there will be heartbreaking plot twists for all of the characters, as Polly keeps trying to leave her past behind her.

Another idol of Lippman’s is James M. Cain, and with its fear of betrayal at its heart, this is as stylish as his Double Indemnity. Exploring the idea of a woman walking out on her child is a thread here, too, and how reactions to this once its learned about are different because Polly is the mother. Readers will find themselves asking if the ends justify the means, but they will come to see that Polly has realized that to save her child, she first needs to save herself.

An accomplished and literate psychological suspense novel from a master of the genre who certainly knows people inside and out. Highly recommended.

Stuart MacBride: A Dark So Deadly & Now We Are Dead Wednesday, Feb 28 2018 

Stuart MacBride is a favorite of Auntie M’s. She recently had the good fortune to catch up on two new releases. First up is A Dark So Deadly, featuring DC Callum MacGregor, who complains he gets all the boring cases.

His team is made up of misfits, but when an ancient mummy turns up in a landfull site, his job is to find which museum it’s been stolen from.

But things heat up and a chance to redeem themselves occurs when Callum finds a link between the mummy and three missing men. The Misfit Mob is handed the assignment, and although the higher-ups doubt they will succeed–well, that would spoil all the fun if Auntie M told you it all, now, wouldn’t it?

Callum’s big brother Alastair, a washed-up celebrity, gets thrown into the mix and adds to the delightful read. A new character written with MacBride’s trademark humor, making this a strong read. We can hope we see more of Callum and his friends.

With Now We Are Dead, MacBride centers on one of the most imaginative characters he’s created, Logan MacRae’s thorn in his side, DCI Roberta Steel, that not-so-paragon of virtue who has been caught during In the Cold Dark Ground setting up a defendant, despite his badness and more than deserving prison actions.

You don’t have to read the previous book to get this one, although you should read the entire series, but in this one Roberta takes on center stage. With his trademark humor, MacBride gets down and dirty with Roberta.

Demoted and given DC Stewart Quirrel to keep her company, Roberta and Tufty, as he’s known, start off following a pack of shoplifters.

Jack Wallace, the creep Roberta was caught fitting up to get a solid conviction, is back on the streets. With women being attacked again, she’s certain it’s Wallace up to his old tricks.

But there are the solid alibis he’s manufactured for himself, complete with CCTV coverage, plus the similarity to his MO, leaving Roberta to think he’s schooled assistants to replicate his attacks.

But when Wallace and his cronies decide to go after Roberta’s wife and two daughters, it’s no-holds-barred in one of the most action-packed and fitting climaxes MacBride could have written.

Makes Auntie M’s heart sing just to think about it again. Don’t miss this one, either. Just get the whole darn series. Highly recommended.

Kathryn Markup: Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Sunday, Feb 25 2018 

February marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus. Kathryn Markup has done a wonderful job of researching the origins of the story in Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Auntie M already owned Markup’s book A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, so she knew she was in for a treat when asked to review this book.

How could a 19-yr-old woman with no formal education imagine what would be deemed the first science fiction novel, combined with gothic fiction, into an extraordinary novel?

Markup examines what was happening in Mary’s world at the time leading up to the writing and when the story was finished in 1818. Exploration of distant lands is a theme in Frankenstein, spurred by Walton’s expedition to the North Pole. At the same time, scientific ideas and experiments centered on a fascination with electrical phenomena, resulting in galvanism, the use of electricy to stimulate muscles.

America and its slave trade were deplored by the Shelleys, and the idea of people who look different from the majority being treated horribly probably had its roots here.

There had also been sensational demonstrations using the corpses of hung criminals to show electricity had the power to reanimate the dead by making their muscles jump. Mary’s use of Prometheus as a subtitle illustrates the classical mythology she had been taught in her own home schooling.

These are just some of the contributing factors to the final story. Ghost stories were a popular form of entertainment, too, and the summer of 1816 saw Mary, husband Shelley, Lord Byron and others escaping a cholera epidemic on the shore of Lake Geneva. At Villa Diodati, Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story led to Mary’s amalgamation of the monster, especially after Bryon read aloud from Coleridge’s unfinished supernatural horror poem, Christabel.

Also present was John William Polidori, a young doctor with literary aspirations, whou would take Byron’s unfinished tale of his own monster and write of an aristocratic vampire. Thus that summer saw the dawn of two enduring gothic figures.

With meticulous detail, Markup explores Mary’s family history, too, and that of Shelley and their time together, leading to Shelley’s drowning death. The rest of her life became centered on the plays that were drawn from Frankenstein, and on her future writings, which while poplular, made her famous but did not increase her wealth substantially. Indeed, she never met her father-in-law, as Shelley’s father did not approve of their union.

Still, Mary must be admired for having the wits and courage to write such a story at a time when women were not given the status they are now.

As Markup notes: “Frankenstein stands out as something new and different because it tapped into contemporary advances in science. The terryfying spectacle of a creature brought to life from a collection of dead flesh, scavenged from dissection rooms and graveyards, was all the more terrifying because it felt all too possible.”

This is a fascinating look at one woman’s life, the influences on her, and the fruits of her imagination. Interested in this in-depth look at the life of a female writer who had a significant impact on gothic horror and science fiction? Leave a comment to be entered in a cahnce for a giveaway copy~

James Oswald: The Gathering Dark Friday, Feb 23 2018 

The Gathering Dark is the eighth Inspector McLean novel in James Oswald’s series, one of Auntie M’s favorites, with another strong entry in the series that does not disappoint.

The UK’s The Guardian says about the author: “Oswald easily outstrips the formulaic work of bigger names,” with good reason. If Oswald isn’t on your reading list yet, he should be.

DI Tony McLean happens to be on scene at the junction of the Lothian Road and the Western Approach Road when a truck traveling far too fast jacknifes and overturns, the cab smashing into a crowded bus stop, bodies falling, people screaming and running as the trailer falls and splits open, spilling thousands of gallons of some kind of toxic chemical onto the street and over pedestrians.

The noxious chemicals give McLean a headache he’ll have for days, and his suit is ruined after he plunges in to help triage the victims. The carnage is profuse and the end result is 20 dead, including the driver, and another 50 injured.

Heading the investigation, McLean brings home the toxic fumes to Emma, the forensic specialist he lives with who is carrying their baby. A second suit will be ruined and in the garbage as the investigation continues, throwing up all sorts of questions and secrets as the dead need to be identified.

There are several businesses in the chain of the removal trailer to be investigated, which was supposed to be carrying nontoxic digestate, which is indeed found in several of the trailer’s compartments, but the rest had been filled with the toxic substance that clings to McLean’s senses.

The complex plot twists and turns around the investigation, with tangents running in several directions and McLean keeping his finger involved in all of them.

With a sparse team to help him, and discretion needed, he even will call in an old foe to assist him when the Chief Superintendent’s son goes missing and was last seen near the crash site. Could he be one of the unidentified bodies?

Able to twine McLean’s personal life into the fabric of his investigations, the detective will soon learn the not everything is as it seems, and that decades-old secrets are a small part of the big picture.

With his trademark curve of the supernatural making its appearance, this is pure Oswald at the height of his game. Highly recommended.

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