Ausma Zehanat Khan: A Deadly Divide Wednesday, Feb 13 2019 


Asuma Zehanat Khan returns with the fifth in her series featuring Canadian detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty in A Deadly Divide.

Bearing her hallmark observation of each character’s story, imbuing each with realistic emotion, Khan’s elevates her novels from simple crime stories. While increasing the suspense as the book progresses, she manages to tell all sides of complex human rights issues, a nod to her background in international law.

This time the Community Policing detectives are called to a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. The local priest, found with a weapon in his hands, is released, while the Surete` detain a young Muslim helping the wounded on the scene.

But this is not a typical hate crime, and Khattak and Getty try to keep raging emotions calmed in a community reacting with fear, their efforts thrwarted by both a heavily right-wing university group and a right-wing radio host who inflames the popoulation.

Also at work are young Muslims trying to counteract his efforts with their own radio show, but there are secrets being kept from all of the detectives from all of these factions. And within the Surete` a mole is at work, adding to the fractures of the community with ill-timed leaks.

As if it isn’t enough to have this tension of political and religious differences, it soon becomes apparent that Esa and those he loves are in the crosshairs of someone else, someone egging him on and anticipating his moves and shadowing his circle.

How these things are connected is only half of the situation, as the two detectives grapple with their personal lives at the same time, making this a well-rounded portrayal of characters with emotional lives outside their jobs. Their very humanness, from postive to negative thoughts and actions, helps readers see everyone as fully fleshed. There are no cardboard characters here.

This ability to people her novels with characters who hold passionate beliefs, coupled with her thought-provoking, suspenseful plot, quietly educates readers while at the same time illustrating the complexities of living in the Western world as a Muslim.

Highly recommended.

Rhys Bowen: The Victory Garden Tuesday, Feb 12 2019 

Rhys Bowen’s newest stand-alone, The Victory Garden, brings the horrors of WWI close to home with its young protagonist, Emily Bryce.

The judge’s daughter, with a mother who is class conscious, has lost her beloved brother to the war. When she meets an Australian pilot convalescing at a local home, they fall in love, only to have that love thwarted by more than her parents.

Determined to make a difference, like her nurse friend Clarissa has done, Emily joins the Women’s Land Army, to her parents chagrin. Learning things that will come in useful brings Emily and a few of her cohorts to the small village of Bucksley Cross to work the garden of Lady Charlton, a widow who has lost her son and grandson to the war.

An unlikely friendship breaks out between the older woman and the educated girl, and when things change dramatically for Emily, she returns to the small, dark cottage Lady Charlton owns, where the journal of another young woman soon finds Emily concocting herbal potions that will do more than she could ever have imagined for the village and for herself.

With a hearty dose of self-determination, Emily finds a new family of unlikely friends at the same time that she finds her own strength.

Bowen encapulates the huge horrors of war by bringing them to the heartache of one young woman on a voyage of self-discovery. A satifying read from a talented writer at the top of her game.

Bernard Minier: Night Thursday, Feb 7 2019 

The fourth Commander Servaz thriller, Night, brings the Toulouse detective under the scrutiny of all of those around him after a death-defying opening, with its resultant effects.

In a church in Norway, a woman’s body is found on the altar. A female detective, Kirsten Nigaard, is investigating that case due to her own name being discovered. Then she becomes coupled with Martin Servaz, when photos of the French detective are found on the offshore oil rig where the dead woman worked.

Both feel this is the work of serial killer Julian Hirtman, Servaz’s nemesis, the most dangerous man Servaz has encountered. Indeed, the Daily Mail has called Hirtman “…a villain possessing the intelligence of Thomas harris’ immortal Hannibal Lecter…”

It’s a chase throughout Europe, from France to Austria, in search of Hirtman and young boy in his custody who desperately needs to be saved. Along the way, they will encounter acolytes of Hirtman, and foes in the form of parents of his victims, until the ultimate surprise is coupled with a huge betrayal.

This has a complicated and complex plot, with fast action and yet Minier never stints of the emotions behind several of the main characters. It’s easy to see why this was a number one bestseller in France, where Servaz’s first case, which introduced Hirtman, was made into a six-part series now available on Netflix.

Christian White: The Nowhere Child Wednesday, Jan 30 2019 


Melbourne writer Christian White’s manuscript for The Nowhere Child won last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, along with its $15,000 prize. It didn’t stay unpubbed long, and besides the book, with a second to follow, there’s a planned mini-series on this first.

And with good reason as readers will see once they read this story that has the feel it could happen to anyone, one of its attractions.

Photographer Kim Leamy is teaching evening classes in Melbourne when a stranger approaches her. The American man insists she is really Sammy Went, kidnapped from her Kentucky home when she was 2 years old. With her mother dead from cancer, her step-father refused to answer her questions but acknowledges there is a secret to her Australia origins. Kim flies to the US to visit Kentucky with this man who says he is her brother, determined to find out the truth.

Small-town Kentucky comes alive under White’s skilled pen, with anyone who has ever traveled through remote southern towns able to recognize the dusty woods and small town minds that populate Manson. It’s perhaps coincidence that the town’s name echoes one of the US’s most recognizable madmen, but the name resonates with readers and adds to the creep factor Kim finds.

Seeing the US for the first time, Kim’s accent is remarked upon, but DNA shows she really is Sammy Went. She has an entire family she doesn’t remember. Who took her and why becomes her driving force as she visits people and tries to get to the bottom of a life she’s forgotten.

Alternating between NOW, Kim’s first person account, and third person accounts of THEN, when Sammy was taken, make this a most interesting and creative way to tell this story. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal snake-wielding congregation, held sway over a good portion of the town’s inhabitants when Sammy was taken. Being different, or trying to leave the fold, wouldn’t have been easy when Sammy was kidnapped.

Parsing out the historical details adds to the tension, and armchair detectives will swear they’ve worked things out–until a final twist shows they’re not quite there.

The sustained tension is impressive, with shifting points of view adding to the intensity. This is elevated psychological suspense, with its crackerjack pace and all-too believable characters that will not only have readers glued to the page, but have them anticipating White’s next novel. Highly recommended.

Joanna Schaffhausen: No Mercy Friday, Jan 18 2019 

Schaffhausen brings back tenacious police officer Ellery Hathaway in No Mercy, the follow-up to The Vanishing Season with FBI profiler Reed Markham. Readers will pick up on the action from the last book with Ellery on forced leave.

After shooting a murderer, and refusing to apologize for it, political correctness has forced Ellery into group therapy. Not a people person to start with due to her childhood horrors, she has difficulty getting close to people and this is a kind of torture for her.

Two people there come to her attention: a wheelchair-bound woman, scarred from the fire that cost her young toddler’s life decades ago, and a young woman whose life has been changed forever after a brutal in-home rape.

Ellery turns to Markham on both counts, the man who freed her from a killer’s closet when she near death as a child. The event tied the two together in a way that neither has tried to investigate–until now, when the threat to Ellery is raised in a way she might not survive.

With Ellery determined to explore both of these cases, divorced father Markham finds himself involved at a level that may cost him the promotion that would let him spend more time with his beloved daughter, especially when his boss and mentor’s former actions are called into question.

The flawed Ellery allows affection only from her adorable basset hound, Bump. Along with Markham, both unusual characters do more than carry this suspenseful plot. With fast pacing as the two cases heat up, Ellery is never far from the memories of her own violent past.

Stefan Ahnhem: Eighteen Below Thursday, Jan 10 2019 


Stefan Ahnhem’s Fabian Risk novels have a growing audience for the international bestelling author. His third, Eighteen Below, brings the same twisted plot to the Swedish detective and his well-drawn team.

Risk has always been torn between his family and his job, and this dilemna takes center stage with a serial killer on the streets of Helsingborg. The opening is particularly strong, bringing a whiff of the monster they are dealing with, slotted alongside the head of the crime squad, Tuvesson, who can’t get over her divorce and is drinking too much.

There are more secrets within the team, but they often must take a back seat when dealing with the evil at work here, for most victims are found to have been frozen alive at eighteen below, and their identity taken over for financial gain.

How Risk and his team, with great personal jeopardy, must uncover who is behind this sophisticated scheme and stop it.

There’s a lot of darkness here, and the resolution, while it answers some questions, raises different ones for the next book. An intricate plot will have readers glued to the book.

Louise Penny: Kingdom of the Blind Tuesday, Dec 25 2018 


Merry Christmas to all of Auntie M’s readers, and Happy Holidays if you celebrate another.

And the merriest of holidays to readers everywhere for Louise Penny’s newest, Kingdom of the Blind, a holiday gift to her readers everywhere that many thought wouldn’t occur this year.

No one would have blamed Penny for not giving us an Inspector Gamache book this year after the death of her beloved husband, Michael, the model for Armand Gamache. And indeed while it is later than her usual August publication, it’s a wonder and a delight she found the courage and stamina to write at all. So thank you to Louise Penny for giving her readers another Gamache to savor and enjoy.

With Gamache on suspension and still being investigated after the events of last year’s Glass Houses, the detective is enjoying Three Pines and his lovely wife, Reine-Marie, but is intrigued when a letter arrives expecting him to be present at an old farmhouse outside of town. Derelict and looking ready to collapse, it is there he meets, to his surprise, his good friend, bookstore owner and former psychologist Myrna Landers, also summoned, plus a rather eccentric young builder named Benedict.

All three are puzzled to learn they have been named the liquidators, or executors we would say in the US, of the will of a local cleaning woman most knew by sight, who liked to be called “the Baroness.”

Why did Bertha Baumgartner entrust the liquidation of her estate to three people she barely knew? And what of the odd bequests in the will itself?

What starts out as an oddity soon turns into tragedy when a body is found, connected to the old woman, and under most unusual circumstances. While the case begins for some, and leads to surprising quarters, Gamache is still bound up in trying to find the opiods he allowed to be brought into Quebec in order to end the large US-Quebec cartel operating in the area.

It’s why he’s on suspension, and with the deadly drug ready to hit the streets, the reason he’s racing against time, using any means possible to find the location of the drug. And he will find help in a most unlikely quarter, but at what cost to himself, his career, and others he cares about?

In her books Penny always manages to bring tears to Auntie M’s eyes, and this one is no exception. As the climax approaches with tremendous suspense, readers will be flipping pages wildly to seek the result.

With her keen ability to use Gamache to illustrate her characters as he sees them, readers become entwined with even the most secondary character and their outcomes. And to those who are repeat characters, readers attach a deep affection and interest in their lives.

While able to pierce the darkest parts of a human soul, Penny has a unique gift that allows those holes to let in the light and grace deep within us all.

Highly Recommended~

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.

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.

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