Jan McCanless:The Opera House Murders Wednesday, Mar 27 2019 

Please welcome Jan McCanless, whose two series are filled with humor, to describe her newest book, The Opera House Murders:

The Opera House Murders is the 15th book by award-winning author Jan McCanless. Her Beryl’s Cove Mystery series has been hugely popular, as has her Brother Jerome books. This is the third in her Brother Jerome series, and all those endearing characters are back, along with some visitors from Beryl’s Cove, including Dawg and Elvis.

This time around Abbot Jerome, everybodys favorite misfit monk, is called to England by his feisty, favorite relative, his Aunt Jessie. She has a family secret she wants to impart to “Chip”, the Abbot, but, somehow she can’t seem to get around to it. Someone has killed the Lord of the manner, Lord Julian Spencer, and everyone is a suspect. Her Ladyship proves to be a formidable character herself.

Things that go bump in the night, and hidden rooms are in the offering, as Chip tries to remain the one ‘adult in the room.” Once back at the Monastery of the Blue Ridge, in North Carolina, things don’t improve any, as the Abbot is called to Charlotte by his Bishop, due to things being amiss in the diocese. Chip is just the one to solve the mystery, the Bishop thinks.

With hardly a moment to himself and his misfit monks, Chip’s life is complicated further by a fire that destroys the monk’s barn, and the appearance on the scene of a comely female Episcopal priest, in the mountains on retreat.

How Abbot Jerome balances all this turmoil and solves his crises of faith makes for another interesting, fun read by Author Jan McCanless.

The book is available in area gift shops ( Statesville and mid western gift shops expecially), the public library, Amazon.com, and can be purchased at Jans website : http://www.janmacbooks.com

ALSO AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

Mary Daheim: A Case of Bier Sunday, Feb 24 2019 

Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mysterys now number an astounding thirty-one with the publication of A Case of Bier!

The bed-and-breakfast Judith McMonigle Flynn runs with her husband, Joe has been turned over for the week to her neighbor so she and Joe can travel with her cousin Renie to the Canadian Rockies. Renie’s Bill and Joe have booked a nice fly-fishing jaunt their first weekend. It’s a trip they are all looking forward to, if they can get Renie awake and in the car.

Off they go, only to find their expected lovely stay has been booked in not quite the place they imagined. No matter. While the men rest, the ladies take a walk along the river.

They find members of the Stokes family camping out, waiting for the patriarch’s demise so he can have the sendoff he’d requested, at just this spot on the Bow River on a bier, borrowed from a local funeral home.

At their motel, the gals meet the Odells, other members of the Stokes family. It’s a weird gathering when on their walk the next morning, the campsite is filled with crying family members. Codger has died, it would seem.

But wait! He’s actually been murdered! Stabbed twice in the back while he slept. Who would have bothered to kill an old man waiting to die?

It’s too much for Judith to leave alone. And then it appears the dead man might not be Codger at all.

Another fun entry in this long-running cozy series, the quirky case is filled with wry humor and wit.

Michael Robertson: A Baker Street Wedding Wednesday, Dec 19 2018 

    One of Auntie M’s favorite series for your holiday consideration:


    Michael Robertson’s fifth Baker Street Mystery, A Baker Street Wedding, features modern solicitor Reggie Heath, whose offices with his brother, Nigel, at the infamous 221B Baker Street London address bring them letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

    This latest installment revovles around Reggie’s wedding to actress Laura Rankin, and as the book opens, the disasterous day has taken off literally. There is the leak to paparazzi of the Cornwall location, which makes the reception as short-lived as the wedding cake. With the newleyweds desperate for peace and quiet, they escape to a remote village where Laura once attended school.

    The design for this comes early in the story, but Laura doesn’t mention that she has this destination in mind when she pulls Reggie into a plane he didn’t know she could pilot and flies them away from the hounding photographers.

    The small village where they arrive, in a valley between the cliffs and the moors, is one long block long. The school Laura attended has been closed, and the local theatregroup are doing a fundraiser of the Scottish play in hopes of reopening it.

    Small wonder, then, that Laura ends up here, and when the local gal playing Lady M dies tragically, Laura is seconded to not only save the show, but figure out if the young woman’s accident might be murder.

    With Reggie in the dark at first, groping blindly as secrets from Laura’s past come to the forefront, he will scramble to save her and himself. And when his best efforts fail, it will be up to an unlikely source to pitch in.

    The wry tone of the book will delight readers as much as the clever plot. Perhaps Auntie M’s favorite of the series so far.

Shawn Reilly Simmons: Murder with all the Trimmings Tuesday, Dec 18 2018 


Please welcome Shawn Reilly Simmons, with her new release Murder With All the Trimmings, a grand gift for the holidays, who will graciously share her writing methods.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Auntie M!

Whenever I’m speaking at an author event at a bookstore or library and the audience is prompted to ask questions, I generally get at least one about my writing process. The questions typically revolve around how I got started writing or how I’ve managed to write so many books so quickly (six in about seven years, and close to a dozen published short stories).

Every writer has their own routine and method of getting their work done, and my way may not work for everyone. But in the event it might be helpful to some, here is how I approach my writing.

I wrote my first book early in the mornings from five to around seven or eight, or whenever my infant son woke up for the day. When he was born, I left my day job to stay home with him, and that’s also when I got serious about my writing.

I’d always wanted to write for a living, but as it often does, life (and luxuries like paying rent and buying groceries) got in the way, and I ended up pursuing a marketing career in New York City after graduating college.

Those early days as a new parent are exhausting, and your time really isn’t your own until they’re through those first crucial years. And forget about sleep, at least in my situation. Those early morning hours, however, are unique in their serenity, and they were always when I could get the most work done. The habit has stuck and to this day I still get 90% of my writing done at that time of the day.
I prefer to write while it’s quiet, no music or TV background noise, with just a laptop and a cup of coffee on my desk. Besides the early mornings being quiet in my house, they’re also quiet out in the rest of the world, generally speaking. At that time of the day, I typically haven’t gotten any emails or texts or Facebook messages that have to be dealt with right away, or that provide a distraction from the task at hand.

Another skill that I cultivated in those early years of motherhood was contemplating the next morning’s work during those quiet moments at the end of the day. While listening to my infant son fall asleep, I’d think about the next scene in the book I’d write. I’d work out how the plot would progress, and what my characters would be up to. It worked so well, that I still practice this quiet meditation seven years later. My last thought as I’m falling asleep is my work in progress and the next scenes to be written.

I think because of this habit, I’ve never experienced writers’ block. I’m ready to go every morning, having worked out the way ahead in the plot before I’ve sat down.

The last tip I’d suggest to writers who are working on being more productive is to find that magic hour or hours that works for them, and write every day during that time. Magic time is when you feel the most creative and relaxed, and when you can tune out the world for a while, and focus on your story. This timeframe will be different for everyone. I have author friends who are early risers like me, and others that swear those late hours after everyone else has fallen asleep are their most creative. Once you find the time of day that works best for you, commit to writing during that time, be consistent, and really write (no Facebook or research!) You can research outside your magic time.

Before you know it, you’ll have a finished story or book. And the added benefit of holding yourself to a routine is that self-discipline brings confidence with it, and as writers we’re always grateful for more of that!

Hopefully one or more of these pointers can help a writer or two out there. Keep writing, everyone, and Happy Holidays!
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Murder With All the Trimmings, the sixth book in The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, was released on November 13, 2018. Shawn’s books are available online and in book stores and libraries everywhere. For a listing of events, to join Shawn’s monthly email newsletter (recipes included!), and for a complete list of published books and stories, please visit http://www.shawnreillysimmons.com/
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Shawn Reilly Simmons

Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several short stories appearing in various anthologies including “Burnt Orange” in Passport to Murder: the 2017 Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books), and “The Prodigy” in Mystery Tour, the Crime Writers’ Association Anthology (Orenda Books).

Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then Shawn has worked as a book store manager, fiction editor, convention organizer, wine rep, and movie set caterer. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, and is an editor at Level Best Books.

Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers’ Association in the U.K.

Cooking behind the scenes on movie sets perfectly combined two of her great loves, movies and food, and provides the inspiration for The Red Carpet Catering series, published by Henery Press.

Cozy Christmas: Cozies for Holiday gift-giving Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

Around the holidays, Auntie M likes to give her readers choices for great gift books for those on their list. No matter what holiday you celebrate, a new book holds the promise of a story yet to be told. Today we’re talking cozies:


MB Shaw’s new series debuts with Murder at the Mill
, where artist Iris Grey, coping with a disintergrating marriage, rents a house to give herself mental breathing space. Enjoying the nature-filled area and sketching soon give way to a commission to paint the portrait of her cottage’s owner, celebrated crime writer Dominic Wetherby. Iris meets the extended family and more at the Christmas Eve party the Wetherby’s hold.

Becoming entangled with the entire Wetherby family, the idyllis Hampshire village soon turns nightmarish after the youngest son finds a body in the water on Christmas Day. Was this an accident or a murder? Attracted to the family attorney, Iris finds herself sleuthing when she becomes frustrated with the local police, just as she soon feels herself being stalked.

A terrific puzzle and an engaging start to a new series.


Ellen Crosby’s newest in her Wine Country series, Harvest of Secrets, takes readers to Virginia and the Montgomery Estate Vineyards during their busy season. Mixing an unearthed skull on Lucie Montgomery’s family property with a modern mystery, Lucie also has a new murder to contend with when shortly after arriving in the area at a neighboring vineyard, head winemaker Jean-Claude de Marignac is found dead.

The prime suspect is an immigrant worker, Miguel Otero, who had quarreled with the new winemaker. But with Lucie’s own immigrant helped ready to revolt during the harvest, she plunges into figuring out the real culprit. It doesn’t help that the dead man was one of Lucie’s first crushes decades ago.

A nice mix of old and new mysteries, with Lucie facing buried secrets.


The 27th Agatha Raisin mystery, Dead Ringer
, features all of MC Beaton’s usual wit and eccentric characters. The Bishop’s visit means the bellringers are practicing up a storm when Agatha manages to convince the lawyer Julian Brody of their team to hire her to investigate the Bishop’s missing fiancee`. Local heiress Jennifer Toynby disappearance years ago, with no body found, remains unsolved.

But that’s not the only thing occupying Agatha. There’s the body of the local policeman discovered in the crypt; one of the bellringers twins is murdered near the church; and a journalist who was once briefly Agatha’s lover is found dead in her very own sitting room. Just how is the Bishop connected to these deaths?

Now a British TV show, the Agatha Raisin series remains a favorite and a classic cozy series.

From its charming cover to the the cast of cats in the characters, Melissa Daley’s Christmas at the Cat Cafe` glows with all that is merry and bright. Set in the town of Stourton-on-the-Hill, owner Debbie allows her sister to move in after a heartbreak. But that doesn’t sit well with the cat side of the home, Molly and her three kittens, who are soon at the mercy of Linda’s dog, Beau. Things go from bad to worse when another cat threatens Molly’s home ground.

With Molly’s point of view at the forefront, this tale is a holiday delight for cat and animal lovers.

Olga Wojtas: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar/The Bunburry Mysteries Wednesday, Dec 5 2018 

Please welcome Olga Wojtas, author of the new Bunburry series, which has been described as a mix between Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders. She’s here to talk about Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, a time-travel mystery with an inept sleuth, written as an homage to writer Muriel Spark.

Greetings from Edinburgh, Scotland, where I went to high school, and where I still live and work. The writer Muriel Spark was a fellow alumna of James Gillespie’s High School, which she immortalised as Marcia Blaine School for Girls in her iconic novel, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

That’s what inspired my novel, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar. It’s a wacky romp featuring 50-something librarian Shona McMonagle, a former pupil sent on a time-travelling mission to 19th century Russia by Miss Blaine herself.

Shona has a generally sunny disposition, apart from her deep loathing of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated, and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, she is thrilled to be chosen for the one- week mission, which she deduces is to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But despite having had the finest education in the world, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. In fact, she arguably qualifies for the grand Scottish word “numpty” (according to The Urban Dictionary, “A person who is incapable of performing the simplest of tasks correctly”). As the body count rises, will she discover in time who the villain is?

It’s unusual to have a crime novel in which the protagonist is completely inept. But my aim is to have that as part of the comedy. Astute readers like yourself will pick up on the clues long before Shona does, and I hope you’ll have fun watching her get into deeper and deeper water (literally, at one point, when she’s the victim of an attempted drowning). If you’re a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, one of the loveliest reviews I’ve had described my book as “Anna Karenina written by P G Wodehouse”. Shona is something of a female Bertie Wooster, touchingly unaware of her own limitations and, I hope, endearing with it.

She’s surrounded by a host of extraordinary Russian characters, from the serf Old Vatrushkin (a young man who’s terrified of being emancipated) and an elderly nanny who knits (though never produces anything recognisable) to a snobbish countess with a dangerous cleavage, and her ill-trained lapdog which Shona describes as an animated floormop. Will it all work out in the end?

I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that it does – but whether Miss Blaine thinks Shona deserves to be sent on another mission is another matter. I’m thrilled that the novel is one of the Christian Science Monitor’s top ten books for November 2018, and one of the Kirkus best books of 2018.

I also write the Bunburry e-book series of novellas under the name Helena Marchmont. These are short cosy crime mysteries which can be read in a couple of hours, set in the rolling hills of the English Cotswolds. I’m half-Scottish and half-Polish, and figured that my real name didn’t fit very well with the quintessential Englishness of the subject matter. So I took my middle name, Helena, and the street I grew up on, Marchmont Road, to create a new persona who I think sounds suitably Anglicised.

The main character is Alfie McAlister, a self-made millionaire who has relocated from London to the idyllic village of Bunburry following a personal tragedy, but finds himself playing amateur detective alongside his late aunt’s best friends, Liz and Marge.

He’s touchingly unaware of how attractive he is (less to do with his money than his good looks), and it never crosses his mind that local policewoman Emma and American environmental activist Betty might be interested in him. Each novella contains an individual mystery. But there’s also a mystery in his family background which gradually unfolds as the series continues: the first e-book came out in September 2018, and the others are being published at two-monthly intervals.

Alfie doesn’t remember his Aunt Augusta who left him a cottage in the village, although he has fond memories of his grandparents who were killed in a car crash when he was twelve. Through Liz and Marge, he begins to discover more about the crash and about his family.

These are more mainstream stories than the quirkiness of Shona, but I’ve still introduced some humour. Alfie’s best friend is the aristocratic Oscar de Linnet, who refuses to leave Bunburry to visit the country, which he dismisses as “pub grub, mud and cows”. He sees himself as a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, and is always prepared with a Wildean quip.

News Flash: The Bunburry Mysteries will soon be available in Audio in GERMANY, performed by none other than Nathaniel Parker of Inspector Lynley fame.

If you read either Shona or Bunburry (or even both), I do hope you enjoy them! And thank you, Marni, for this opportunity to introduce myself! https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2018/1114/10-best-books-of-November-the-Monitor-s- selections https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/olga-wojtas/miss-blaines-prefect-and-the- golden-samovar/

Holiday Gifting at its Best: Cozy Mysteries Wednesday, Dec 13 2017 

Auntie M continues her thread about books that make great gifts. Let’s use today to bring you new cozy mysteries. Everyone likes a cozy!

Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series continues with The Ghost of Christmas Past. Recovering from depression after a miscarriage, Molly and her husband Daniel, their young son, Liam, and charge Bridie are suddenly invited to spend Christmas with a family who own a mansion along the Hudson River.

It’s a tough time for Molly, mourning the loss of her child, worried she won’t have another. And there’s news that her beloved Bridie is expected to be going home with her own father in the New Year, who wants to return and take her back to Ireland. Another impending loss to mourn.

The friend of Daniel’s mother is insistent having young people around will help the tenor of the house, and Molly soon finds out why: the Von Aiken’s young daughter, Charlotte, was lost a decade ago after wandering out into a snowstorm.

The unusual holiday, which has all of the occupants a bit on edge at the grandness of the house where they are guests, hits a decided snag on Christmas Even when a young girl appears at the door, claiming to be Charlotte.

It will be up to Molly, with Daniel as her accomplice, to figure out what really happened in that elite house ten years ago, and if the child who appear is really Charlotte.

Along the way, Molly heals her heart as the secrets of the family are revealed, even as those secrets take a dangerous and dramatic turn, but she soon finds her own Christmas blessings.


Donna Andrews returns with a new Meg Langslow Christmas Mystery, How the Finch Stole Christmas
.

Meg’s family goes home for the holidays to stage her husband Michael’s version of “A Christmas Carol,” including parts for Jamie and Josh.

Meg prefers to help behind-the-scenes as stage manager, a position she rues when she mets the aging actor, Malcolm Haver, who will play Scrooge. Besides being an alcoholic, the over-the-hill star isn’t very pleasant and soon needs a minder to keep him sober.

Then a body is found in a snowbank and with Malcolm a suspect, it will be up Meg to find the real killer and save the charity show. With Andrews’ trademark humor, a real holiday pleaser.

Maia Chance’s Prohibition-set capers continue with Gin and Panic. Assisted by hher Swedish sidekick Berta, private-eye Lola Woodby thinks the duo have landed an easy job. They’re hired to retrieve a hunting trophy, a rhinoceros, from Mongtgomery Hall, the mansion belonging to Connecticut big-game hunter Rudy Montgomery.

Things go horribly wrong for Lola when Montgomery is shot soon after their arrival, but that doesn’t stop the humor. There will be episodes with jewels, gangsters and a safari rifle in this screwball comedy before it’s resolution. Caper fun.

And if you missed Auntie M’s review of M C Beaton’s The Witches’ Tree from October, fans of the Agatha Raisin series will enjoy her latest adventure.

Maggie McConnon: Bel, Book and Scandal Friday, Dec 1 2017 

Auntie M’s December reviews all feature books certain to please readers on your list, so get your pencils out for gift-giving ideas in the next week. First up is Maggie McConnon’s Bel, Book and Scandal.

The third in McConnon’s series featuring chef Bel McGrath brings closure to the mystery thread that appeared in the first two books revolving around her missing high school friend, Amy Mitchell. Being the last person to see Amy on the night she disappeared has led some people in Foster’s Landing to assume Bel knew what happened to Amy, but she never has known and has been more desparate than most to know the truth.

Back home and running the kitchen at Shamrock Manor, the wedding and event site her family own, Bel is trying to get on with her life. With one broken engagement behind her and a recently broken new relationship she had high hopes for, she’s sworn off men as the Christmas season approaches.

Then a photo in a newspaper left at the Manor catches her attention, and Bel is convinced Amy is in the photo. With concrete evidence, or so she thinks, that Amy survived that night, Bel heads to a former commune in upstate New York to find out just what really happened to her friend, uncovering long-held secrets along the way.

As her amateur investigation continues, she will uncover more than she wanted to know about several people living in the area, and put herself in more jeopardy than she’s bargained for.

One of the charms of this series is Bel’s large Irish family, and as the only female sibling, the band of brothers she endures. With slightly eccentric parents she keeps hoping she’ll please, Bel’s cooking skills have risen the Manor’s profile. The behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to please brides and their families adds to the humor that runs through this charming mystery series.

Add in Bel’s saucy asides to the reader, and her mouth-watering food descriptions, and you have a recipe for a fun read guaranteed to please any mystery reader on your list.

Nicola Upson: Nine Lessons Saturday, Nov 25 2017 


The seventh entry in Upson’s remarkable series featuring Josephing Tey as a character is Nine Lessons, and if you haven’t found this series yet, now’s the time to pick up this one and then find your way to the previous six. All are intricately plotted, have researched settings of the period between the World Wars that brings that era to life, and perhaps most importantly, honest depictions of the characters who live within the pages, with all the foibles of humanity we recognize.

The focus this time revovles around Tey’s goood friend, DCI Archie Penrose and a case that seems almost unsolvable. He’s called to a churchyard where the corpse of the organist is found in an opened cryp. The man has died a horrific death; a photo of a manor house and a brief note as found with his body.

At the same time, Josephine is in Cambridge, helping to sort out a new house, when a series of attacks against women set the ancient city on edge.

When Archie’s next body is found near King’s College Chapel, it brings him to Josephine to help with old research on this case, as he’s discovered a connection between the two murders that has its genesis in the storied town when both victims were students. What could have happened twenty-five years ago that is making a murderer take his revenge now?

As if solving a complicated murder and finding a serial rapist were not enough, Upson continues the thread of Archie’s personal life and its own secrets in such a way that the final horrific twist in that story will have ramifications for years to come.

This is a complex and compelling story, encompassing what historical crime fiction should, blending true history with the fictional lives of these stunning characters into a whole book that moves the reader as it solves the crimes. Highly recommended.

Michelle Birkby: The House at Baker Street Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 

Former library assistant Michelle Birkby has long been a fan of the Conan Doyle stories and especially of his female characters, so it’s no surprise her debut, The House at Baker Street, concentrates on the giving those women their own stories to tell.

Shortlisted for Best Historical Crime Novel by the CWA, her story takes two beloved women, Mary Watson and Mrs. Hudson, and given them full-depth characterizations. Her fresh take on Mrs. Hudson, always so much more than just his housekeeper, pushed the action. After working with Sherlock Holmes and observing him at work, when he turns down a case, she and Mary Watson decide they will take it on themselves.

Laura Shirley is a society woman who is being blackmailed, but the two sleuths quickly discover she’s just one of a long list of women trying to preserve their reputations when women’s rights meant something entirely different that that phrase conjurs up now, and when a whiff of any impropriety, justified or not, could ruin a woman. Despite not demanding money, the blackmailer is ruining lives, and Mrs. Hudson, who’s voice is grand in this, determines she cannot abide the practice and sets out to stop him. When the women realize the depth of the tragic ends some of the women come to, their resolve deepens.

This feminist take on the classic detective investigation will see the two women using the Baker Street irregulars and even Irene Adler to follow clues to bring the perpretrator to justice. There are appearances by Holmes and Watson, and references to the Canon, but the story belongs to the women.

Original and entertaining, with a second book already set for next year.

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