Jo Spain: The Confession. Sunday, Nov 25 2018 


Jo Spain is the Irish international number one bestseller of the DCI Tom Reyolds series and the standalone psychological thriller The Confession. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, former parliamentary assistant and vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland, Jo now writes full-time.

In 2018 she co-wrote her first original television show, TAKEN DOWN, currently airing in Ireland, bought by ARTE Europe and also picked up for international distribution by industry giant Fremantle. Jo has now been headhunted to work on several European dramas.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four small children. Auntie M recently had the opportunity to speak with Jo about her writing and her books.


Auntie M: What drew you to writing crime fiction in the first place?

Jo Spain: Crime fiction is my favourite genre to read and to watch. I love the thrill of the mystery, the adrenaline of the whodunnit, and the satisfaction of the resolution. I think crime fiction storytellers are the hardest working writers.

AM: Your new release, The Confession, is your first stand-alone thriller after writing the popular Tom Reynolds series. Why the switch?

JS: The story had arrived fully formed in my mind and I knew it didn’t fit with the DCI Reynolds series. Tom is police procedural – each is a whodunnit. In The Confession, we know who did it, we just don’t know why.
I also wanted to stretch myself. I write really quickly and am currently averaging two books a year and two TV series. To keep on top of it all, I like variety, because each time I pick up a project it’s like a holiday from the other writing. If that makes sense!

AM: Did you find the experience of writing a stand-alone differed from writing for the series?

JS: Very much so. Over the course of a series you can develop much-loved characters so your readers have the satisfaction of the soap of their lives on top of the plots. But it’s hard, because you have to keep them going, with new developments for the same people in each book.
In a standalone, you have to create characters that readers will instantly love/hate. There’s no second chance, it’s all within the four-hundred-odd pages. Then you have to mentally wrap them up in your own head, and move on, so it’s a bit like mourning a set of characters each time.


AM: Will you go back to Tom now? Any other books percolating?

JS: The fourth Tom came out in Europe this year, The Darkest Place. I’ve a new standalone out in February, Dirty Little Secrets, and a new Tom, The Boy Who Fell next summer. And I just completed my latest standalone, due in 2020.

AM: You’re a busy woman! With four youngsters and jobs aplenty, how do you find time to write?

JS: I write full-time and my husband is here full-time, too. He works for me now, editing and proofing (he’s a former editor) and does the heavy lifting with the children. But we’ve managed to establish a lovely family/work routine and we’re both at home pretty much all the time. And I am a fast writer, which really helps.


AM: And publicity, how do you reconcile accomplishing that with family, job and writing demands?

JS: That’s harder, especially now I’m writing for TV. I try to condense all my publicity outings to short periods in and around book releases (but I make exceptions for very lovely bloggers). When my new TV show Taken Down, (which is based on an original idea) came out this month there was more publicity than I’ve ever had to handle. It was fun but exhausting.

AM: What piece of advice would you give to a new writer starting out in crime fiction?

JS: We all say it – read, read, read. Know your genre, hone your craft. I always advise the masters; Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle etc. And I personally plan out all my books because I feel excellent plots take a lot of organisation. At least, I hope that’s what my readers feel about my plots…!

AM: Who would we find on your nightstand waiting to be read?

JS: When I find an author I love I buy everything they’ve ever written and wait eagerly for the next. Some of my favourites include Fred Vargas, Louise Penny, Pierre LeMaitre, Chris Whitaker, Donato Carrisi, J.P. Delaney and Liane Moriarty. I’m a huge fan of well-written crime, I don’t tend to read formulaic-type thrillers, though I respect their skill.

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Four set in England: Bolton, Cleeland, Westron, French Wednesday, Nov 21 2018 

Auntie M loves her trips to England and enjoyed being there for two weeks this summer doing setting research. Cornwall and Cambridge figured highly in the trip, so you can expect Nora Tierney to be spending time in each place in future books.

It seems appropriate then to feature several books set in the UK for your reading pleasure.

Auntie M previously reviewed Sharon Bolton’s The Craftsman when it was published in the UK, but it’s just out here in the US, so let’s revisit a snipped of what she said then:
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. 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.

When Flossie decides she must investigate a freshly-dug grave, 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 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.


Anne Cleeland’s Doyle and Action series returns with Murder in Spite, and this time the action takes place in Doyle’s Irish home. What starts as a supposed holiday takes on an entirely different tenor when a priest implicated in earlier London case is found dead on the steps of the Garda station Acton visits, a knife through one eye the implement of his death.

Doyle, with her special ability to see through people, quickly susses out that there’s more to Acton’s helping out in this case, just as there’s more to be seen with an African cab driver who seems to appear at the most needed times.

Having their young son along only cramps Doyle’s sleuthing abilities a small bit. Another entertaining entry in a well-drawn series known for its complicated plots and charming protagonists.


Carol Westron’s Strangers and Angels
is a Victorian Murder Mystery of the highest kind, filled with realistic period details, backed up by a complex plot that supports intriguing characters.

She takes readers to Gosport in 1850, along England’s the southern coast. Kemal is the Turkish midshipman on a training mission, accused of murder. With feelings running high against the Turkish sailors to begin with, it seems likely Kemal will face the gallows.

That is, until he finds help from two unlikely women: widow Adelaide and lady’s maid Molly. With little power or privilege between, the women have an almost insurmountable task to try to save the young Turk.

In a nice twist, Westron brings her sleuths into contact with real people from the era. A strong start to what should be a recurring series.


It’s always sad to see a beloved series come to an end, but Frieda Klein, Nicci French’s London-walking psychologist, perhaps deserves a rest more than most. Day of the Dead brings with it the resolution of the Dean Reeve case, the psychopathic killer who has eluded Frieda and the police for more than a decade, often with disastrous results to those Frieda cared about.

Charming and likeable, Reeves has been able to disappear and reappear at will, and become obsessed over the years with Frieda. After a decade of working with the police on cases, she now finds herself in hiding to protect those she loves.

But a showdown looms, and she must step out in public once again in order to bring Reeves to justice if she can. It will take a criminology student who tracks Frieda down to make the psychologist see that she herself holds the key to stopping Reeves, despite the cost to her personally.

As Frieda plays off against Reeve and his twisted games, she finds herself running up against her most formidable opponent. It’s a chilling climax that will stay with the reader long after the last page is read. A worthy conclusion to an addictive series.

Elly Griffiths: The Vanishing Box Tuesday, Nov 13 2018 

Elly Grifftiths delightful period series, The Magic Men Mysteries, returns with The Vanishing Box, and it’s Auntie M’s favorite yet in a compelling series.

It’s almost Christmas in Brighton, and magician Max Mephisto is headlining a special act at the Hippodrome with his daughter, Ruby. With a television show in the offing, the Vanshing Box trick wows the audience. Things are changing for the magician duo in more ways than one.

An act gaining a lot of interest and controversy in the same show is the “living statues” act, where near-naked women freeze in a strange tableau of historic moments. While some appreciate the stillness of the women and others their strategic feathers and leaves, there are cries of obscenity in the town that pale in comparison when one of the young women is murdered.

Max’s good friend, DI Edgar Stephens, who happens to be Ruby’s fiance, leads the investigation into the death of the lovely young woman. He also must deal with his conflicted feelings for a colleague, with surprising results.

There will be secrets from the past woven into the fabric of the mystery Edgar must solve as the deaths mount up. And when the danger hits close to home, Edgar will realize this is his most important case yet.

A fine entry in the series, with the period details spot on. And don’t miss Griffiths’ new stand-alone Gothic thriller, The Stranger Diaries.

Catriona McPherson: Go To My Grave Sunday, Nov 11 2018 

Catriona McPherson’s newest standalone, Go To My Grave,
with a gothic thriller that’s eerie even as it’s a study in characterization.

For Donna Weaver and her mother, restoring Galloway beach house The Breakers and turning it into a posh inn has been the stuff of their dreams. Redecorated, filled with fresh flowers, Donna awaits the arrival of their first guests for a long weekend where she will cook and wait on them.

She’s juggling this alone as her Mum is at a wedding venue getting new clients when the gang of relations arrive for one couple’s tenth anniversary. It’s not long before most of them realize they’ve been at this very house decades before, for a sixteenth birthday party that didn’t end well.

Things soon start to happen that catch them off balance, playing games with their memories and the events of that party. Until the unthinkable happens and a body is found.

At once atmospheric, the tangle of people at this party confound Donna with their interwoven histories that are slowly revealed to her, as are the details of exactly what happpened at the party, when the participants swore to keep the details secret in a vow of silence they would take to their graves.

For some of them, this might just come true.

Disturbing and twisted, this is a deliberately devious mystery with a shocking and unexpected ending.

Andrew Michael Hurley: Devil’s Day Sunday, Nov 4 2018 


Andrew Michael Hurley’s mines the Lancashire landscape when he brings John Pentecost an his young wife back to the Endlands in Devil’s Day.

Unsettling from the outset, John brings his newly pregnant wife, Katherine, home for the funeral of his grandfather, known as the Gaffer.

Dadda, John’s father, has his own agenda, and the funeral is the backdrop to the local legends and tales that are told and retold as preparations for the ritual to keep the Devil away from the sheep begin. Everything has a superstition behind it, and everyone on the moors is affected. But it’s all just tales and nonsense, isn’t it?

The unsettled landscape comes alive under Hurley’s talented pen, as the gripping tale shows Nature at her finest and her cruelest. The eerie feel to the entire tale had the Daily Mail note: “This impeccably written novel tightens like a clammy hand around your throat.”

With Katherine’s growing apprehension, is John merely failing to see the menace she sees, or does he know something more?

An accomplished followup to Hurley’s award-winning first novel, The Loney.

Michael J McCann: The March and Walker Crime Novels Wednesday, Oct 24 2018 

Please welcome Hammett Prize Finalist Michael McCann, to talk to readers about his March and Walker Crime Novel series:

Is setting important to readers when it comes to crime fiction?

For most of us, it can be more or less transparent, particularly in Scandinavian noir by Henning Mankell, for example, where our familiarity with rural and small-city Sweden is limited. For readers of William Kent Krueger or Anne Hillerman, on the other hand, a sense of place is more important for an appreciation of the story, even if we’ve never been to Minnesota or New Mexico.

As far as my novels are concerned, a Canadian setting might be equally unfamiliar to crime fiction fans, but it offers a different perspective to homicide investigation that will appeal to readers looking for an international flavour to their mysteries.

During 15 years with the Canada Border Services Agency, I had an opportunity to learn about law enforcement procedures common to all professionals, including interviewing and interrogation techniques, search procedures, firearms handling, and evidence processing.

I also worked alongside experienced officers from other agencies and was exposed to a wide range of Canadian legal requirements for policing in our country.

This time spent in public service provided an ideal training ground for writing crime fiction in a Canadian setting. As a result, my March and Walker novels reflect how the Ontario Provincial Police actually investigates homicides in their jurisdiction.

Given that the OPP is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in North America, a strong sense of verisimilitude is very important to my work.

It was a great honour when the first novel in the series, Sorrow Lake, was named a finalist for the prestigious Hammett Prize for excellence in crime fiction in North America. I hope that the next two in the series, Burn Country and Persistent Guilt, come close to matching that high standard.

I hope you’ll consider trying crime fiction set in Canada!

Find the March and Walker Crime Novel series on Amazon, in paperback or eBook, at my author page here: https://www.amazon.com/Michael-J.-McCann/e/B0031LPGCC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1.

Electronic versions in epub format are also available from Kobo for any epub reader here: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?query=The%20March%20and%20Walker%20Crime%20Novel%20Series&fcsearchfield=Series&seriesId=8a03a5f5-a99d-537e-9aae-3f2f93609102.


Michael J. McCann

Michael J. McCann lives and writes in Oxford Station, Ontario, Canada. He was born and raised in Peterborough. A former production editor with Carswell Legal Publications (Western), he holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Trent University with a major in English Literature and a Master of Arts in English from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

He worked for fifteen years with Canada Customs (Canada Border Services Agency) as a training specialist, project officer, and national program manager (duty free shop program, complaints investigation, commercial compliance management) before leaving the public service to write on a full-time basis.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Michael J. McCann also reviews mysteries and thrillers for the New York Journal of Books.

Peter Blauner: Sunrise Highway Sunday, Oct 14 2018 

As a native Long Islander, Auntie M has long been intrigued with the string of unsolved murders from the place where she grew up and lived until her mid-40s. Now Peter Blauner delivers a possible solution with the story of one man who manages to hide his pyschopathy enough to cover his tracks for years in the very compelling Sunrise Highway.

Told in advancing years, readers figure out soon enough who the culprit is, watching Joey Tolliver rise from a teen on the cusp of a criminal career to becoming a decorated policeman.

Along the way he gathers supporters and people who owe him and look the other way, which allows his outrageous and horrific behavior to continue.

Then in 2017, when Tolliver is Chief of Police, a Latina NYPD detective, Lourdes Robles, finds that her investigation into the body of a young woman washed up on her patch leads her to similarities of a multitude of other female victims, a trail along Sunrise Highway in Long Island all the way to Brooklyn.

She’s tenacious and relentless, despite career and personal threats, in following the evidence, as she must fight against the political powerhouses in of the justice system itself. And just as it seems she’s making headway, she finds herself on the opposite site of the law.

The chapters alternate between Tolliver’s rise and Robles’ investigation, heightening the tension to a terrific pitch.

This read so plausibly it made Auntie M’s hair rise on her arms. It’s too believeable to see one person make a life’s work of extreme misogyny while supposedly upholding law and order.

The setting rings true with its familiarity, but the main attraction here are the strong characters, easily pictured and believed, along with the grunt police work and the thrill of escalating twists that will keep readers glued to the book. Highly recommended.

Paul Doiron: Stay Hidden Thursday, Sep 27 2018 

Paul Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series reflects the beauty and hardiness of Maine. He returns in a new mode for Bowditch in Stay Hidden, when the newly promoted Warden Investigator receives his first case.

Maquoit Island is isolated, and at first Bowditch isn’t surprised that a flash of white clothing has caused a deer hunter to mistake that for a deer, fatally shooting a woman.

But the hunter in question denies the shooting, and when the ballistics don’t match his rifle, he’s cleared.

Suddenly the accidental death appears far much more, especially when Bowditch learns Ariel Evans was an investigative journalist. She was supposed to interview and research the islan’ds hermit with a view to writing about his past life.

Bowditch confronts his most secretive community yet, and his efforts are thwarted.

And then the dead woman alights from a ferry, unharmed. It’s a case of mistaken identity, but it soon becomes clear the murderer thought he was killing Ariel.

The two will team up to find who wanted her dead, and why.

With taut action against the backdrop of the rugged terrain and sometimes walls of fog, this is a strong entry in the Bowditch series.

Allison Brennan: Abandoned Monday, Sep 24 2018 

Allison Brennan’s newest thriller, Abandoned, revolves around her investigative reporter Max Revere, about to tackle her most important case yet: finding out who murdered her mother.

Martha Revere will never win awards for Mother of the Year, and indeed she leaves Max with her grandparents after dragging the young girl around the world without formal schooling.

Postcards sent from Martha’s travels erratically are the only clue the young woman has when she decides to put her cable show on hold to find out why those cards stopped coming seven years ago.

With her only clue her mother’s disappearance from a small Chesapeake Bay town sixteen years ago, Max heads there, renting a cottage and determined to find the truth.

She will find that Martha was with a true con man before her disappearance, and they lived off Martha’s trust fund income and what they swindled from others they’d duped.

And when the FBI indicates they have an active investigation into the con man, Max knows she’s on the right track.

Where her probing leads her is straight into the heart of long-held secrets, from her family and others, with surprsing twists in store. Along the way, Max learns about creating a family.

A strong entry in Brennan’s cannon, with interesting characters, an idyllic setting, and a twist of romance to sweeten the plot.

Aline Templeton: Human Face Thursday, Sep 20 2018 


Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming series is one of Auntie M’s favorites, so it was with great anticipation that she dove into the first of Templeton’s new series, Human Face.

Featuring DI Kelso Strang, dealing with the after effects of a life-changing accidnet, he’s sent to unravel the case of a missing woman on the Isle of Skye.

The isolated landscape in the shadow of the Black Cuillin range proves threatening to Strang and matches his bleak mood. He’s been sent to followup on the disappearance of a housekeeper, Eva, at Balnasheil, the isolated manor that houses the charity Human Face, which helps bring food and medical care to Third World children.

The charity’s founder and biggest donor, Beatrice Lacey, is a woman with her own secrets; enigmatic co-founder Adam Carnegie has charmed her with the promise of a life for them together. They live together but separately at Balnasheil, across the bay from the small town.

When Strang finds out Eva is actually the second housekeeper to disappear, the case becomes a probable murder investigation–until a confirmed murder happens on the premises, throwing Strang and his cobbled-together team into a whirlwind case.

Strang’s a believeable protagonist, needing the responsibility of the case and decisive position to blot out his memories. But he also becomes an unwilling mentor to a young PC determined to prove her chops as a budding detective.

A nicely twisted plot, weather that turns on a dime, landscape that functions as more than a setting, and complex characters hiding secrets all add up to grand mystery.

This debut promises the new series will bring all of these hallmarks that make Templeton’s books ones that have won a legion of faithful readers.

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