Lori Rader-Day: Under a Dark Sky Friday, Aug 10 2018 


Lori Rader-Day’s new psychological thriller, Under a Dark Sky, lives up to the promise of the Mary Higgins Clark and Anthony Award winner’s previous novels.

The care and attention to detail in setting, character emotions and plot make this a compelling read, when young widow Eden Wallace arrives at a Michigan dark sky park on what she thinks will be a solo vacation arranged as a surprise by her dead husband.

She couldn’t be more wrong on several fronts, but she’s battling night terrors, and needs to conquer both her fear of the dark and a future without her husband.

But her private retreat turns out to be a multi-guest lodge, and the six others are all college friends there for a reunion. It’s an odd assortment of varying personalities, some paired off, others not, but Eden is clearly the outsider and plans to return to her Chicago home the next day.

Then one of the friends is murdered in the middle of the night, and being on the premises puts Eden in the unfortunate position of being both a suspect and a witness.

That distance from the group gives her a certain clarity as to their actions–or does it? Cordoned together at a seedy motel, deprived of the little sleep she’s able to get in daylight, Eden suffers under a grueling investigation with only one certainly in sight: one of the others is a killer.

As horrific accidents pile up, secrets are revealed and Eden realizes her own life is in danger. But how can she figure out who has been prepared to commit murder over and over?

Narrated by Eden, we see things from her point of view and her impressions of the group, which are all shaded by her own experience with her dead husband, a vet who suffered from PTSD whos carried secrets of his own that have devastated her.

Rader-Day builds the suspense page by page in a relentless way. The setting has that closed-house feel reminiscent of a Christie mystery with added layers of depth to characters who feel distinct and real.

Auntie M heard Rader-Day talk about the dark night sky part at Malice Domestic this year and knew that choice of setting alone was an inspired choice for the book.

A superb, riveting read. Highly recommended~

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Rhys Bowen: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding Wednesday, Aug 8 2018 


Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries are a continued delight, and fans will be especially happy to follow Lady Georgina on her way to her long-planned wedding in Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

The 12th addition contains all the charm of a royal wedding–yes, the King and Queen and those two little princesses will be there. But it seems Georgie’s amateur sleuth days are far from over.

Wedding details need to be honed down and the list keep growing, thanks to the Queen. The year is 1935, and King George V is at the end of his reign while Mrs. Wallis Simpson is annoyingly dating the Prince of Wales.

Assorted relatives are having their own nuptials, and the groom, charming fiance` Darcy O’Mara, is cagey on his profession, as usual. But Georgie’s househunting is what’s disappointing her.

From the lackluster houses available in the 1930s, Georgie is surpised by an invitation to live at Eynsleigh Manor, which she will one day inherit. But when she arrives to get the estate in order, she finds the run-down house matched by the shoddy attitudes of the staff.

Chaos ensures, along with murder, robbery, servants not doing their job–and Georgie’s mother and grandfather deciding to move in. Which is worse for the secondary royal who’s down at the heels? And those funerals will affect Georgie and those closest to her.

But despite the trials and tribulations, Georgie manages to pull off the wedding of the year. You’ll be charmed by the history and the descriptions of the manor, as well as the confidence Georgie finds.

A grand addition to the long-running series, sure to be a reader favorite.

Stephen Booth: Dead in the Dark Wednesday, Aug 1 2018 


A new Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mystery is always a read to look forward to, and Auntie M was happy to finally get her hands on Dead in the Dark, the 17th in a series that has lost none of its attraction and only grown over the years.

Ben is a DI now and reviews an old case that was never solved. A decade ago police believed that Reece Bower had killed his wife, Annette, but the case was never brought to court after the woman’s own father thought he saw her alive several weeks after she disappeared.

Now Reece himself has disappeared, and this time the old and new case are being investigated together. Reece’s new wife is pushing for answers for her and their two sons.

Ben would like the aid of the Major Crimes Unit and his old compatriot, DS Diane Fry, but can’t until he can produce a body.

A body is exactly what Diane Fry has on her hands, in a town that has a large Polish population who concern the locals to varying degrees. When a man is found dead at home, stabbed to death, it appears he was knifed in the alley outside his rented flat.

The victim’s landlord is someone being watched for right-wing extremist activites, and just might be involved in something more dangerous.

Add in arson cases, and family issues for both Ben and Diane, and you have a nicely plotted set of cases to keep both detectives busy.

Once again, the landscape will prove itself to be more than just a setting in this very satisfying addition to a prime series.

Sheila Connolly: Murder at the Mansion Monday, Jul 30 2018 


Sheila Connelly debuts a new series that sure to be winner, right off the bat. Introducing Kate Hamilton, a Maryland gal who’s just lost her great job at a tony Baltimore hotel due to a foreign takeover, readers will be immediately drawn to the loner who’s put her career first and now finds herself with time on her hands.

Her high school friend Lisbeth entices Kate back to her home town of Asheboro to talk to the town council about any ideas she has to save the town from bankruptcy.

Using its last funds to buy the large Victorian mansion just outside town, they hoped the place would attract tourists with its period details.

While Kate has misgivings about her own memories of the site, she does begin to formulate an idea of turning the entire downtown into a Victorian village that people might want to visit, wtih the mansion the jewel in the crown.

Then the only person who might thward her plan, Kate’s nemesis Cordelia Walker, is found dead right on the doorstep of the mansion as Kate is viewing the inside, putting her on the suspect list.

As Kate’s search for enticement for her idea grows, so will her own investigation into who really killed Cordelia. A historian living onsite as a caretaker adds a nice bit of interest and just might make it worthwhile for Kate to stick around.

A nice blend of history and mystery, with a hint of romance.

Peter James: Dead If You Don’t Sunday, Jul 29 2018 


Peter James returns with his newest Roy Grace police procedural in Dead If You Don’t, where the Brighton Detective Superintendent has a strange case to solve.

He’s at the new Amex Stadium for a highly anticipated football match with his older son when a bomb threat is called in and he’s on high alert, eventually acting in a heroic manner Auntie M won’t spoil.

Kipp Brown, seen previously as a suspect, figures as the main character when his gambling debts merge with the kidnapping of his teen son, Mungo, from the stadium.

But that’s just the beginning of the twisted tale, as Kipp contacts the police, despite being warned not to by the kidnappers. That’s when Roy’s path crosses that of Jorgji Dervishi, son of a reputed Albanian mobster. Jorgji’s son, Alek, is Mungo’s best friend, and he’s not returned home that same evening. Could both boys have been kidnapped?

The race is on to chase down those responsible while battling the bomber, whose threats continue. And when photos sent of Mungo show hi battling for his life, Roy and his team know the time they have to find the boy is fast running out.

With the action taking place over just a few days, detailed chapter headings with the time show the pressure the police are under as the plot unspools. Shorter chapters heighten the suspense and allow of points of view to change and illustrate different characters’ movements.

It all adds up to a masterful suspense procedural. One of the highlights of this series is the detailed account of how police really work, and the stumbling blocks they often come up against, from budgetary concerns to paperwork.

Of course, James’ mention of the police’s “Golden Hour” gave Auntie M a chill of delight to see her own THE GOLDEN HOUR Nora Tierney Mystery title explained.

Another winner from the CWA Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

Women: Sharon Bolton/Dead Woman Walking & Nicola Moriarty/Those Other Women Tuesday, Jul 17 2018 

Two written by women with women who figure in the plots:

Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking earned Auntie M’s highly recommended status, and with the out in paperback, it’s the perfect summer read if you missed it the first time, a deftly-handled psychological suspense novel you won’t be able to put down.

What starts off a seemingly idyllic hot air balloon ride over Northumberland Park near the Scottish border soon turns horrific. Drifting low near ancient ruins, the various passengers from all walks of life witness a young woman being brutally murdered.

One of the passengers manages to capture the murderer’s photo–only he’s seen her face just as she’s seen his.

This sets off a chain reaction when the killer retaliates and the balloon crashes. Now that young woman is fleeing not only the accident scene, but she’s on the run from a killer who can recognize her. Dazed and hurt, does she have the presence of mind to evade a murderer?

It’s a complicated maze that includes two sisters who are close but whom have chosen different paths in their lives and the secrets they hide. There is a cloister of nuns, and a policeman trying to salvage his life. There will be a Romani family seemingly bent on destruction. And there will be suspense and tension as all of these threads come together to create a resoundingly good read.

Those Other Women is Nicola Moriarty’s very different female-centric story, one that follows a group of young Australian professional women who have consciously decided not to have children, and the fallout that decisions causes them. These reach from office flextime to nagging from families who don’t understand the women’s decision.

The story focuses on one such woman, Poppy, reeling after her best friend and her husband confess to an affair. Still getting used to the idea of her divorce, it’s compounded when another friend tells her that the former-husband who had agreed with her on remaining childless, is now having a baby with his new wife.

Poppy’s decision to start a social media group of like-minded women finds a wide audience, until the group’s private posts start being leaked. The ramifications will surprise you.

Workplace drama comes into play, too, and soon things begin to veer out of control. It’s a fascinating look at how social media can be used to create conflict and plump up rivalries.

Author Spotlight on Micki Browning: Adrift & Beached Sunday, Jun 24 2018 


Auntie M had the pleasure of meeting author Micki Browning at Malice Domestic this year, where she was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel for Adrift. That led to Auntie M asking Browning several questions about her two releases, Adrift, and Beached, the Mer Cavallo Mysteries. In addition, the retired law enforcement commander saw her debut net the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award.

Let’s hear from Browning:

Auntie M: You retired as a division commander in law enforcement. What drove you to write crime fiction? Why chose NOT to do a police procedural?

Micki Browning: I’d be silly to squander twenty-two years of law enforcement experience! I speak the language. I’ve felt the buck of a handgun, the kick of a shotgun, and the steadiness of a rifle. I learned how to manage a four-wheel drift on a tight curve and not end up in a pile of twisted metal along the side of the road. I’ve also experienced the less exciting aspects of law enforcement: the tedium of paperwork, the heartbreak that goes with certain types of investigations, the long hours, missed birthdays.

After all that, I needed to decompress a bit, so while I knew all my stories would have a criminal element, they wouldn’t all be procedurals. My husband and I moved to the Florida Keys to take advantage of its gin-clear waters and dive. While living in Key Largo, I hit upon the inspiration for Adrift. It could only be told from the point of view of an amateur sleuth and Mer Cavallo was born. She’s had two adventures. She’ll return for a third in Chum, after I complete the procedural I’m currently writing.

AM: Ah, so there IS a procedural in the works! Louise Penny has said after the success of Still Life, she had a difficult time writing the second Gamache. You won the Dapnhe du Maurier and Royal Palm Literary Awards for your debut, ADRIFT. Did that early success and notice make writing BEACHED easier or harder for you?

MB: I had an easier time writing Beached, but I attribute that to already knowing many of the characters that would romp across the pages. I’d also learned more about the mechanics of writing and structuring a novel. I’ve since been named an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. I have to confess, I’m glad I had Beached wrapped up before that was announced. The book I’m currently writing gave me fits until I realized I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Once I realized who really needed to tell the story, the elements started to fit together nicely. Is there pressure? Yes, but it’s self-imposed and only because I want every book I write to be better than the one that came before it.

AM: You have made your protagonist, Dr. Mer Cavallo, currently work at a Key Largo dive shop. Those scenes are the height of realism. How long have you been diving? What is it about SCUBA you enjoy most?

Before I became a cop, I briefly entertained becoming a marine biologist. I earned my open water scuba certification in 1986. I was living in California and did the majority of my diving off the Channel Islands. The kelp forests were captivating and the water was cold. Flash forward to the Keys where I discovered warm water and coral reefs. I became a professional divemaster and worked in the industry. Being able to explore the depths is both humbling and liberating. The barrier reef that runs along the coast took a beating from Hurricane Irma, but it is rebounding. I particularly enjoy diving the many shipwrecks that dot the Keys. There are stories found around every corner, on every deck. Plus, there are no cell phones.

AM: Who are your influences in crime fiction? Whose books do you enjoy reading now when you have down time?

MB: Gosh, how much time do you have? Recent favorites include Jane Harper, Anthony Horowitz, Lou Berney, and Lori Roy. I’ve recently discovered Alafair Burke. Some of my go-to crime fiction authors include Dennis Lehane, Lisa Gardner, and Daniel Woodrell. I’m looking forward to the next release from Bruce Robert Coffin. For beauty in all its simplicity, I turn to Kenneth Rexroth’s translations of Chinese poems from the early dynasties. I revisit Tolkien every five years or so, and I blame him for my love of all things medieval and/or mythical.

And Harry Potter. Because there is a bit of Harry, Hermione, and Ron in us all.

AM: Well said, Micki Browning! And now to discuss the books themselves.

Adrift introduces Dr. Meredith Cavallo, sea researcher whose specialty is octopuses, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s octopi. She’s been in the Arctic at the North Pole doing research but these last two months she’s warming up by working at a dive shop in Key Largo.

When the dive boat she’s out on rescues an unconscious diver, not from her boat, he comes to with the story of seeing a ghost on the Spiegel Grove, a wreck five miles from where he’s picked up. Impossible. But Rob Price insists it’s true, and soon ghost hunters and reproters clog the docks, with more who appear to film aboard the Spiegel.

This ghostly news has spread to YouTube and brought The Spirited Divers to the Keys. Documentarians known for their work on deep sea paranormal activities, the team is led by Ishmael Styx. Soon Cavallo is sent on their night dive as safety diver on their latest film project.

But a number of unexplained events occur as the dive commences, followed by a panic attack by a less experienced member of the team. As Cavallo seeks to assist with the ascent, she leaves Styx behind, believing him capable of reaching the surface alone.

When he doesn’t appear, he is presumed dead after days of searching, and Cavallo is the suspect in the sights of the detective on the case. It doesn’t help that Cavallo doesn’t believe in ghosts but in scientific process and searches for a rational explanation.

With the rest of the Spirited Divers mourning the likely loss of their leader, Cavallo is forced to help them finish the documentary, only to discover that things may be more paranormal that meets the eye.

Complicating things is someone from Cavallo’s past who resurfaces, and the biologist must wrestle with relaxing her strong scientific mind when presented with much she cannot explain.

The supporting cast of recurring characters is strong and finely drawn, different and distinct. The characters that people this particular mystery are also individuals. As Cavallo battles to disprove there are ghosts and clear her name, the stakes are raised when there’s a second murder.
A strong debut that will lead readers to quickly reaching for Beached.
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After the events of the first book, Mer Cavallo has decided to stay for a while in the Keys, and continues her work at the dive shop while she evaluates her complicated relationship with Selkie, the man who broke her heart 12 years ago and now is her next-door neighbor.

Against this backdrop, she’s out on a dive with Captain Leroy when they come across what she learns is called a “square grouper,” a bale of marijuana wrapped in black garbage plastic and bound with twine. Leroy explains they will call the Coast Guard when they are closer to the dock and turn it in.

Checking the bundle, the two find a coin from 1733, and a list of names on a brittle page in between the drugs. Also in the bundle is a GPS tracker, and before they can get their divers aboard and take off for safety, a speed boat appears and starts shooting at them.

As they speed for the dock, Mer pushes the bale off the boat and the speedboat veers off.

But this is the just the start of the troubles that will come to roost upon Cavallo, as she’s kept the coin to track its provenance.

Cavallo sounds finds herself drawn into the world of pirates, legends, and an 18th century shipwreck in her research, but brushing up agianst. modern pirates, also after the treasure aboard this centuries-old Spanish galleon.

There will be museum paintings, a wheelchair-bound philanthropist and soon it turns personal against Cavallo and her home. With a man’s life hanging in the balance, she will do everything she can to find the culprit and the treasure.

In each book, the author describes what is real and what is fictional, but the strength of her diving background lends a serious realistic feel to those scenes. If you’re not a diver, you will learn about the process as you read. Likewise, her police background allows the investigation by the professionals to follow established procedures, even when those are sometimes at odds with what Cavallo would wish.

A fine action-packed series with a likeable protagonist.

Arnaldur Indridason: The Shadow Killer Tuesday, Jun 19 2018 


The second book in Indridason’s new series, The Shadow Killer, builds on the tone set in The Shadow District.

It’s 1941 and Iceland is occupied by British forces, with American GIs arriving, too. When a man is found murdered in a basement apartment in Reykjavik, shot in the head with an American pistol, it’s up to the thinned out resources of officer Flovent, assisted by serviceman Thorson, to investigate. The Canadian/Icelandic officer knows the language, which becomes a boon to Flovent.

The two officers complement each other, and the suspense builds through the tone of their investigation, which illustrates how sometimes tedious investigative work can be, as they split their interveiwing duties, following threads they find.

The dead man is first identified incorrectly, adding to the confusion, but soon turns out to have been a traveling salesman whose girlfriend left him recently.

Whether this has bearing on the case is unknown, but what is known is equally disturbing: shot in the head, the man’s killer then drew a swastika on the victim’s forehead.

One avenue the men follow concerns another salesman, whose family had Nazi ties at one time, and questions of wild experiments done on youths add to the secrets being kept. And just what does a possible visit from Winston Churchill have to do with it all, if anything?

The two men will face a wall of suspicion and untruthful answers from many of the people they investigate. Each man will also face his own concerns amid the wild days when the world is turned upside down, strangers walk amongst the small towns, and nothing is as it seems during the days of occupation.

A realistic look at what it must have been like during those days with period details creates a haunting, dark mood.

Sharon Bolton: The Craftsman Saturday, Jun 2 2018 


Sharon Bolton’s novels are always original and well-crafted. Elly Griffith’s notes that her newest, The Craftsman, is ” . . . an absolutely terrific crime novel that takes your darkest fear and makes it real” in this first of a planned trilogy.

It’s 1999 and Florence Lovelady has returned to Lancashire for the burial of Larry Glassbrook, who has died in prison for burying three teens alive, thirty years before. She travels with her teen son, Ben, to Larry’s funeral, and stays on when a new piece of evidence comes to light. The case made Florence’s career, and yet she wonders now if she put the right person behind bars all those years ago.

The book swtiches to 1969, when the third of three teens has gone missing. Trying to fit in to her Lancashire posting, southerner Flossie is a WPC whose manner, posh education, and sex all come into play with her disparaging colleagues.

Three young children have gone missing over as many months. The town is scared, and it’s down to Florence to suggest a re-enactment of the day the third, Patsy Wood, went missing. It’s a novel approach, but one her Superintendent decides to try.

But it’s down to Flossie, who decides she must investigate a freshly-dug grave, after young children admit to hearing someone calling for help from it days before. Uncovering the grave means she’s the one who finds Patsy’s body, buried on top of another corpse. It’s evident at once the teen was alive when she was put into the casket.

The horror of such a death is immediately apparent and haunts the reader. Indeed, it is the stuff of nightmares for most people, and the dark and disturbing images stay with readers as the book advances and the perpetrator is caught.

Or is he?

With its history of Pendle Hill witches in the area adding to the terrifying atmosphere, this is the kind of gothic novel that grips you by the back of your neck and doesn’t let go even after the last page is turned. You’ll learn the difference between caskets and coffins and why that matters. You’ll learn how the moon affects witches. And you’ll learn to be terrifed and then in awe of Florence. Highly recommended.

Elly Griffiths: The Blood Card Sunday, May 27 2018 

Elly Griffiths, known for her Ruth Galloway series, has a wonderful second series, and if readers haven’t yet had the pleasure, now’s the time to read a Stephens and Mephisto Mystery.

The newest is The Blood Card, with DI Edgar Stephens and his old Army buddy, premiere magician Max Mephisto heading up the cast of characters. It’s the summer of 1953 and the country is gearing up for the big Coronation, all over but especially in Max’s London and Edgar’s Brighton, where the DI is supposed to be looking into the suicide of a gypsy fortune teller.

Then murder of their men’s former wartime commander sets the two friends right in the midst of the investigation, after the victim is found with the ace of hearts, known as the Blood Card, on his body. Added to this, there are rumors of a plot to have something dramatic happen to ruin the Coronation.

It’s a case that has both men working different points, with Max in London, and Edgar traveling from Brighton to New York State, of all places, to follow a clue.

The advent of television adds to the stress and to the plot, as well as to Max’s future, when he’s asked to perform for a new show that will bring him into the homes of millions of people.

It’s a race to the finish as the gypsy family overwhelms Edgar’s team and puts them in danger. The two men must solve the murder of two men in different countries to stop the threat to hundreds more.

One of the highlights of this series in the complicated relationship between Edgar and his fiancé, Ruby, who is Max’s daughter. Adding to this are the period details that Griffiths gets just right, as she brings to life this era when television took over from dance hall and variety shows as the public’s major form of entertainment.

Not to be missed~

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