Stephen Booth: Secrets of Death Sunday, Apr 23 2017 

It might be tough for some authors to keep coming up with an original story when they approach writing their 16th installment in a series. But Stephen Booth manages to keep reader’s attention with his creative plot in his newest Cooper and Fry mystery, Secrets of Death.

With Diane Fry in Nottingham, re-evaluating her relationship with her sister and working on a triple homicide, Ben Cooper as DI in Derbyshire’s E Division keeps trying to get back out on the streets he loves. In his new cottage, hoping to start afresh, he’s looking for a pattern in a spate of recent suicides in the Peak District, just in time for tourist season.

With no way to predict where the next body will be found, it’s an unlucky task before Ben and his team, who will find a surprising new member before the case is solved.

Then he finds a clue, a black business card from “Secrets of Death,” and realizes someone is encouraging depressed people to commit suicide right in his backyard. It gets personal when a body is found on his home farm, upping the urgency.

The landscape of the area is lovingly defined as the bodies continue to mount, and when it seems Fry’s case might be connected to Ben’s after all, and the two are forced to work together once again.

A highly satisfying entry in this series.

Sarah Hilary: Quieter Than Killing Sunday, Apr 16 2017 

Sarah Hilary’s fourth in her Marnie Rome series, Quieter than Killing, is one fellow author Jane Casey calls ” . . . a fine addition to a superb series.”

Severe winter cold is affecting everyone in London, making seemingly random attacks on victims unrelated, until a pattern starts to appear. Could they have a vigilante seeking justice on their hands?

With DS Noah Jake as her right-hand man, Marnie becomes intrinsically involved when the family home she’s rented is broken into and ransacked, her tenants beaten up, and the only thing taken was a childhood memory that Marnie had lost sight of.

Someone has decided to make this deeply personal, and for Marnie, that involves going to the prison the face the man who murdered her parents.

Who is pulling the strings here? What does Noah’s brother’s old gang have to do with it all? And when a child goes missing, why has no one reported his disappearance?

In a series of remarkable scenes, the compelling plot unfolds as Marne and Jake embark on their toughest investigation yet. Hilary’s characters are terribly human, and the story is filled with deep emotions on all sides of the equation.

An original story, with hard, gripping scenes, this one’s a real knockout. Highly recommended

Steve Berry: The Lost Order Friday, Apr 14 2017 

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series have a huge following for good reason: his complex and well-researched plots, mingled with real historic facts and woven into a fictional action adventure story that just doens’t quit.

This time in The Lost Order, Malone is hunting for a treasure trove of hidden gold, hidden by a secret organization that once counted Malone’s own great-great-grandfather among its members.

Despite Anngus Adams being a Confederate spy ring the Civil War, Malone soon discovers that his group, The Knights of the Golden Circle, are still operating today.

With several disparate people succumbing to the lure of the gold, its secret is something people will kill to protect. Filled with a race across the country, changing landscapes and bits of clues. Another stunner from a master of the action hero adventure that combines reality with fiction.

Readers should be interested to know that the author and his wife co-founded History Matters, a non-profit organization that to date has raised over $900,000 or the preservation and conservation of historic sites.

Lori Rader-Day: The Day I Died Tuesday, Apr 11 2017 

Anthony Award and Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Lori Rader-Day returns with her most captivating thriller yet in The Day I Died.

Anna Winger has developed a life for herself and her 13 yr-old son, analyzing handwriting for a variety of purposes, whether it’s for someone evaluating a romantic hopeful, or for a business looking for the best employee to hire.

She also has a habit of leaving towns quickly, and not forming attachments, leaving her past domestic abuse behind in order to save her son’s life.

In her newest town, she’s asked to analyze a note left at a murder scene that involves the kidnapping of a child. While the local sheriff barely tolerates her work, he soon admits she may hold the only chance he has to find the kidnapped child.

Anna will face the scrutiny of many in the town, as well as the mixed reaction she gets at the police department she’s trying to help. Who is her friend and who is her foe? And her bottom line always is: who can she really trust?

And then Anna’s own son goes missing, and suddenly all bets are off as she must explore every option and go anywhere she can to try to rescue her son and another small child.

A totally absorbing thriller, filled with realistic characters and a complex story.

Wilbur Smith: War Cry Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family historical thrillers are so popular due to their complex plots and adventure focus. The newest is War Cry , set in the 1920s near the end of World War I onward.

The setting starts in Africa, Smith’s own homeland, but Leon Courtney’s daughter Saffron has left Kenya to study in Oxford, England. Another young man affected by history is Gerhard von Meerbach, the younger brother of the heir to an industrial fortune.

When the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi question, it threatens everything Gerhard thought he knew about his family.

And into this is thrust Saffron and Leon and the spies and traitors who will cross their paths.

Filled with dramatic intrigue yet based on real events, this is a complex plot that feels made to be on the big screen, with its sweeping storylines and vistas.

Sally Andrews: The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Marie Mystery Tuesday, Mar 28 2017 

Sally Andrews created a most unusual protagonist in Tannie Maria in last year’s Recipes for Love and Murder. The sequel is just as captivating–perhaps even more so–with The Satanic Mechanic, filled with eccentric characters, a budding romance, and an interesting mystery. Set in South Africa’s Klein Karoo, the landscape becomes a character all its own. Here’s the author on a bench in the Karoo:

Photo by Andrea Nixon

Mixing Tannie Maria’s recipes with her love and advice column, the woman uses food as a means to help others solve their issues for the local Gazette. The South African Klein Karoo comes alive under Andrews talented writing, as Maria inexplicably finds herself investigating another murder, to the chagrin of Henk Kannemeyer, the detective with whom she is trying to build a relationship.

When Slimkat, a local Bushman activist, is poisoned in her presence, Tannie Maria feels a responsibility to become involved, despite Henk’s warning. She’s seen something in his eyes, something primal that speaks to her as much as it warns her. She feels compelled to find his killer.

At the same time, flashbacks of the abuse from her dead husband, and the secret she holds surrounding his demise, threaten any intimacy she tries to achieve with Henk. Maria soon becomes part of a counseling group for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers, run by a man known as the Satanic Mechanic.

How the counseling group, a second murder, and Slimkat’s murder are related, plus how the counseling helps Maria to heal, form the prongs of this most delightful murder mystery. Maria’s inclination is to deal with life’s highs and lows with food, and her descriptions of the meals and sweets she devises add a lovely visceral texture to the book. She’s also in touch with the animals that surround her, sometimes to interesting effect. This is a common occurrence when trying to navigate the roads of the Karoo and a herd of cows have their own idea:


Photo: Andrea Nixon

Andrews, who lives on a Klein Karoo nature preserve most of the year, also brings the landscape and its creatures to life, imbuing them both with a sense of wonder and connection to Maria. Here she is with a friendly leopard.

Photo: Bowen Boshier

Thankfully, Andrews also includes many recipes of the dishes Maria prepares, even describing how a hotbox works. Readers will end the book feeling they wish they knew Sally Andrews AND Tannie Maria.

Photo: Andrea Nixon

This inventive mystery series is one readers won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Frances Brody: A Death in the Dales Wednesday, Mar 8 2017 

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Frances Brody’s newest Kate Shackleton mystery is one of her finest, an intricately plotted tale of crimes old and new, in A Death in the Dales.

Kate has taken her niece, Harriet, recovering from diphtheria, to stay for two weeks holiday at the Langcliffe home of Freda Simonson, now deceased, whose nephew, Dr. Lucien Simonsson has been courting Kate.

It’s to be a time to build up Harriet’s health, but the shadow of an old crime hangs over the town. Freda Simonsson was the only witness to the murder of the landlord of the tavern across the road, and believed till her dying day that the wrong man had been convicted of that murder.

Kate will soon find herself reading Freda’s notes on the crime, her voice reaching out to Kate from the grave, while Harriet befriends a young girl whose brother is missing. Her quiet vacation time suddenly seems very full indeed, with sleuthing around the various farms.

For if Freda was correct and the wrong man has been put to death, that means a murderer is still on the loose in the Yorkshire town.

This was one of Auntie M’s favorite Brody novels to date. The several plot lines come together in a way that’s extremely satisfying, as does the personal part of Kate’s life. Of course, her partner Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs. Sugden make an appearance, but it’s Kate who rules the day.

A satisfying entry in the series; Highly Recommended.

And don’t miss these two, new in paperback:

Redemption Road is John Hart’s thriller featuring cop Elizabeth Black, who rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot her kidnappers dead. But she’s also hiding a secret, and so are those around here. Filled with twists and turns.

A Banquet of Consequences is Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley/Havers mystery, a mix of complex plotting and psychological suspense, when a troubled young man’s suicide sets off a string of events that culminate in another death. This one was Highly Recommended when it debuted and readers who missed it at first can find it now in paperback.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Undesired Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

undesired
Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s latest novel veers from her outstanding series featuring Reykjavik lawyer Thora Gudmundosdottir into a different realm. The queen of Icelandic Noir has written a chilling stand-alone in The Undesired.

Alternating between to storylines, she tells of a bleak boys home in the 1970s, where young Aldis slaves away under the unsympathetic couple who run the home, saving her money to leave for the big city. Drawn to one young man, Einar, that decision will have disastrous consequences.

In the present, Odinn has been given his full charge of his 11-yr old daughter, Run, after the accidental death of his ex-wife. The government employees has been given the task of investigating alleged abuse that boys home, decades after the time.

The creepy factor ratchets up high once the two storylines being to merge with the accident that killed his wife.

This not the fast-paced ride of a thriller, but a slow, psychological build to a chilling and inexorable climax.

Lynn Chandler Willis: Tell Me No Lies Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, to talk to readers about:
Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction:

tell-me-no-lies-front

Title: Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction
By: Lynn Chandler Willis

When it comes to writing advice, one of the more common statements is write what you know. We writers hear it all the time. I usually ignore it all the time. My newest release, Tell Me No Lies, is the exception.

I never intended for the main character, Ava Logan, to be a shadow of myself. Yes, she’s the publisher and owner of a small town newspaper. So was I. Yes, she’s the single mom of two kids—a son and a daughter. So am I. Yes, she has a border collie named Finn. So do I.

But that’s where the similarities end. The other 97% of what makes fictional Ava Logan, well, fictional, is—-fiction.

Ava tends to be hot-headed. I’m laid back like my father. I’m the apologizer—you know, the one who apologizes even when I shouldn’t just to keep the peace. Ava struggled through a not-so-happy childhood. I was raised by Ozzie and Harriet. Well, not really, but pretty darn close. Couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

So what part of Ava Logan is real? Not so much Ava, as it is the what—the newspaper she owns. The Jackson Creek Chronicle is fictitious. But is it real. Every small town newspaper publisher struggles with the issues Ava faces in Tell Me No Lies.

How many different ways can you write a story about the local pumpkin festival and make each one new and exciting? How many “public service announcements” for fundraisers, benefits, and soccer sign ups are going to run before someone actually buys ad space? And how many town council members are going to be livid at something published that more-or-less refers to them as nitwits? Since small town councils rarely ever totally agree on anything, at least one, maybe more, will at one time or another be on the publisher’s side.

Small town politics can be, and often are, downright ruthless. It pits neighbor against neighbor. That guy across the street, the one whose son plays T-ball with your kid, asked for a special use permit to build some chicken houses on his property. The neighborhood is against it, but the guy is within his rights. How are you going to vote Mr. Council Member? And better yet, how is the newspaper going to cover it? Will they make the council look like a bully if the council denies it? Or will they take the neighborhood’s side? Or will they present both sides equally and fairly?

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an awful lot of gray area in the world of small town newspapers which often lead to a moral dilemma for the publisher. That makes for great conflict and good drama. Which makes great fiction.

Tell Me No Lies: Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television industry, and owned a small-town newspaper. Her novel, Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye, (Minotaur, 2014) won the SMP/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel, making her the first woman in a decade to win the national contest. Tell Me No Lies is the first title in the Ava Logan Mystery Series with Henery Press. She lives in North Carolina with a border collie named Finn.

Website: lynnchandlerwillis.com

Ausma Zehanat Khan: Among the Ruins Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 

amongruins

Among the Ruins is Khan’s third novel featuring the unusual Canadian detecting team of Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. Once again, Khan has crafted a story that surprises with its ability to reveal and educate issues of the world at large within the framework of a mystery.

After the powerful and sobering ending to last year’s The Language of Secrets, Khattak is on leave from Canada’s Community Policing Department. Estranged at this time from his sister, who figured heavily in that book, he travels to Iran to gather peace from his cultural heritage in the country’s gardens and museums.

But when he’s approached by a Canadian agent and asked to look into the death of a famous Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker, he finds himself embroiled in the murder of Zahra Sobhani, killed while trying to have a political prisoner released.

To this end, he enlists Rachel’s help without government sanction. The people Esa meets in his investigation form a microcosm of the many groups in Iran, from officers of the regime, to a ring of young dissidents whose actions have landed several of them in jail, suffering abuse, horrific torture, and even death. Many are there on false charges and are tried without legal counsel.

Back in Canada, it’s Rachel’s job to visit Zahra’s son and other family while Esa delicately tries to probe into the woman’s murder at the infamous Evin prison. It seems her death is a politically-motivated one, but Rachel soon uncovers other possibilities which are linked to the past. It will involved a museum, jewels, and the Shah of Iran. Rachel will need Esa’s high-placed friend to help with her investigation, but it soon becomes apparent she needs to travel to Iran.

The pervading tension intensifies and the threads come together after Rachel travels to meet up with Esa in Iran, where she goes undercover to find the details and evidence they require. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with Iran officials at their back, and the real threat of being thrown into prison themselves haunting their every move and upping the tension.

Khan allows readers to discover what Esa discovers: that there is real beauty and history to a culture that has been ransacked by extremists, both in their physical monuments and achievements, and in the poisoning of the minds of most of the world against a culture and tradition trying to live an ethical life.

Through the plot lines, Khan successfully explores the pressures on western Muslims who are seen by the world through the lens of the faction of ultra-conservative extremists who garner the news. Bringing Esa to Iran places him, with his Sunni background, in the minority in a Shia country. The detective will be forced to examine his own assumptions in a more critical manner, as he and Rachel unravel a decades-old mystery with a startling conclusion, at the same time as he strives to protect his partner and protege amidst the interplay the encounter between politics and religion, revenge and deceit, theft and greed.

Khan lovingly describes the beauty of the mosques and museums the duo visit, while not shying away from the violence some factions will inflict. It’s this dichotomy that makes the Iran of today spring to life under her talented pen. This a complex mystery that will have readers glued to the page. Highly recommended.

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