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.

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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.

Frances Brody: Death at the Seaside Thursday, Sep 14 2017 

In Death at the Seaside, the 8th Kate Shackleton Mystery, the private eye is taking a little vacation at the seaside–or so she plans, in 1920s England. Driving to the Northumbriann coast of Whitby, she plans to visit her old school friend, Alma, and Kate’s god-daughter Felicity.

But nothing goes as planned when Kate arrives to find Alma is now working as a fortune teller, and shortly after, she stumbles over the body of the local jeweler, Jack Phillips.

It turns out that Alma thought that she and Jack were something of an item. And Felicity, instead of stickng around to see her godmother has disappeared with her boyfriend on her own important journey.

It’s a rocky investigation for Kate, as the local police seem to think she might be responsible for killing Jack, a man she’s never met, or a the very least, be involved in smuggling! It will take an old Scotland Yard friend to set them straight on that score.

But Kate will have to call on Mrs. Sugden and her capable sidekick, Jim Sykes, both vacationing nearby, to temporaily join her. Even Jim’s wife gets pressed into service to find a killer.

One of the hallmarks of Brody’s series is the historical detail and settings she details just right. Readers will feel they’ve been to Whitby. If you adore Golden Age mysteries, look no further than this entertaining and always compelling series.

Kellye Garrett: Hollywood Homicide Tuesday, Aug 8 2017 


Please welcome Kellye Garrett, whose debut Hollywood Homicide is set in the glamour of Hollywood:

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As a long-time book lover, I love when I recognize a place I’ve actually been in a book I’m reading. So it was important that I used as many real-life Los Angeles locations in Hollywood Homicide as possible. Here are three of my favorites.

Melrose Avenue:
Television shows aside, Melrose isn’t just a “place.” It’s one of LA’s most iconic streets. You’ll find shoe stores, fashion boutiques, amazing restaurants, and, interestingly, one really fancy auto customization shop.

The ArcLight on Sunset Boulevard:
The ArcLight is the Rolls Royce of movie theatres. It’s also the home of many a movie premiere. The best part? It doesn’t close for these premieres. The rest of the theaters still show other films and anyone can buy a ticket, which means prime celeb spotting. You can catch a movie and a glance at Channing Tatum or Queen Latifah to boot. I’ve spotted both there!

Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank:
Every book has a climax and mine suitably takes place on a studio lot. I’ve worked at Warner Bros. twice, once while interning for George Clooney’s production company, and later when I wrote for Cold Case. From the outside, a movie studio looks like a collection of really big warehouses. But step inside a soundstage and you’re transported into a completely different world—literally. They house the sets for your favorite movies and TV shows. When I was there, they shot the latest Indiana Jones movie. The temple that held the Crystal Skull was actually a Warner Bros. soundstage. I loved walking back from lunch and taking a peek inside. It was just as impressive in real life as it was on screen.

What about you? Have you been to any of these places? What’s your favorite place to visit in L.A.? Maybe you’ll find it in Book #2 of the Detective by Day series.

Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink on August 8, 2017. It was named Library Journal’s August Mystery Debut of the Month.

BOOK SUMMARY
THE SURPRISE HIT OF THE SEASON!
ACTRESS DAYNA ANDERSON’S DEADLY NEW ROLE: HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money—she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it—until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.

BUY LINKS
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/BuyHollywoodHomicide
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hollywood-homicide-kellye-garrett/1125099089?ean=9780738752617
Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780738752617

Liz Mugavero: Cat About Town Wednesday, Aug 2 2017 

Cats and Cafes
by Cate Conte

What is it about cats and coffee that seems to go so well together?

It’s not just me who thinks that, even though it’s no secret those two things have a huge influence on my life. No, it’s actually a worldwide phenomenon, as evident when the first cat cafe opened in Japan in 1998.

For those who’ve never heard of a cat cafe, it’s a coffee shop, but with cats AND coffee. And pastries. And while you’re having your snack, you can hang out with a cat or two. The cats who live at the cafes come from local rescue organizations that partnered with the cafes. That means people can adopt them if they’d like.

Cat cafes are typically found in urban areas. They originated from the idea that people who couldn’t have cats could have a place to go and visit with them. And of course they need coffee (the humans, that is) so they can keep their energy up to play with the cats.

In recent years, cat cafes have migrated to the U.S. – New York, San Francisco, Boston to start, and now they’re popping up everywhere.

So of course, I had to put one on my island in Cat About Town.

Not your typical urban area, but since there’s lots of coffee on the island—and lots of cats—I think it’s going to work out just fine. As it turns out, Daybreak Island has only the local dog pound to care for any strays, ever since the local rescue closed its doors. So the cat cafe pro-vides a temporary home for the cats who would otherwise be locked in small cages at the pound, or worse, out on the street.

And, since the island attracts lots of tourists, it will never be short on visitors.

Especially with all the attention around the recent murder in town . . .

Cat About Town is out now, so grab a cup of coffee, find a cat to snuggle with at your local cat cafe, and enjoy!

Liz Mugavero writes the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the first of which was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. The sixth book in the series, Purring Around the Christmas Tree, is out in October of this year. As Cate Conte, Liz also writes the Cat Cafe Mysteries, the first of which, Cat About Town, was released August 1. She lives in Connecticut with her rescue pals.

THE GOLDEN HOUR: A Nora Tierney English Mystery #4 Monday, Jul 31 2017 


THE GOLDEN HOUR is Auntie M’s 4th Nora Tierney English Mystery. It’s always exciting bringing out a new book, akin to birthing a baby. After the initial first draft, that lump of clay goes through multiple revisions: workshopping with colleagues to find the story; more revisions after beta readers chime in and point out areas that don’t make sense or need fixing; more rewrites after the “Britspeak” is corrected by wonderful UK friends. P D James told Auntie M years ago that “the real writing gets done in revision,” something she repeats to herself as a mantra when the going gets tough.

While the book tour isn’t until October into November, you can order trade paperbacks now on Amazon or through Bridle Path Press, and she recommends that latter if you’d like a signed copy! http://www.bridlepathpress.com.

Thanks to the talented Giordana Segneri who did the layout and that lovely domestic cover design; to Becky Brown, copyeditor; to Eagle Eye Pam Desloges; and to Beth Cole who did the Kindle files.

The book will be on Kindle later this week and this fall, in conjunctin with the tour, on Audible, with the wonderful British narrator, Nano Nagle, who’s done a wonderful job on the others in the series.

This one’s a bit different from her usual and Auntie M hopes you will enjoy it as much as Ausma Khan, Elly Griffiths and Sarah Ward, who all gave her cover blurbs. Great crime writers all, and she’s chuffed to have their names on her cover~

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