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.

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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~

Elly Griffiths: The Dark Angel Tuesday, May 15 2018 

Elly Griffiths is celebrating TEN years of Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries, one of Auntie M’s favorite series. She takes Ruth from her Norwich salt marsh to Italy in her newest, The Dark Angel. And while she brings us complex mysteries to unravel at home and abroad, Griffiths keeps Ruth’s voice entertaining, with her own wry humor that brings her close to her readers.

When Ruth is contacted by a colleague she once spent the night with, the memory of Angelo Morelli comes back with a vengence. A fellow archeologist, his impeccable English overlaid with that sexy Italian accent, he invites Ruth to appear on his television program at a dig in the Liri Valley, not far from Rome.

He hints at anomalies in bones he recently found on a dig, and offers the use of a family apartment for a two-week holiday before Ruth’s classes start again. She can bring her friend, Shona, whose young son Louis could be a playmate for her Kate.

Once they are off to Italy, to the chagrin of DCI Nelson, whom Ruth has not told of the trip, she tries to relax and enjoy the mix of work and vacation, even as she wonders what Nelson will think. Nelson is Kate’s father, and his wife is in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy. With two grown daughters, the new baby has kept Nelson at home with Michelle, when he was on the verge of leaving for Ruth.

It’s a complicated life and readers who know the series look to the familiarity of these characters as much as they do the mysteries that envelop Ruth. For once in the little town of Castello degli Angeli, Ruth becomes aware that the secretive town does not look kindly on strangers.

The Liri Valley is connected to tales of a strong resistance movement during World War II, but Ruth can’t think why these stories would have an implication for her work on the newly discovered bones. She quickly becomes involved in the people and traditions she meets, to our delight, and befriends a young horse rider.

Then a murder occurs in the small town, rocking its foundations, and Ruth finds herself involved. When Nelson appears, bringing along Ruth’s druid friend Cathbad, things become even more complicated. And at home, things go seriously, badly wrong.

One of the pleasures of reading a strong series is the chance to follow the characters we’ve grown to love. Griffiths does a wonderful job of keeping the threads of all of these familiar souls alive, and makes a heartbreaking choice with one of them.

This is a clever and complex book, which resonates on so many levels with readers. Highly recommended.

Alex Gray: Keep the Midnight Out Sunday, Apr 29 2018 


Auntie M is a huge fan of Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series, so with the advent of Keep the Midnight Out publishing here in the US, she jumped at the chance to throw a few questions to Gray about her process:

Auntie M:How much of a story arc for Lorimer and his Maggie have you thought out ahead of whatever book you’re writing? Do you throw wobbles in their path as you write each book; have a plan devised or a combination of both?

Alex Gray: Well, I don’t have a story arc at all. I begin with an idea and perhaps a theme in mind and see the opening scene and simply write what I see in my head, then take it from there. My focus is normally on Maggie and Lorimer supporting each other in different ways, although in a few books they have problems that need to be resolved. In Keep The Midnight Out, Maggie is stricken when their favourite holiday island becomes a place of danger following the discovery of a body on their very own beach. I rarely have any plan in mind, just vague ideas that gather momentum as I write.

AM: How do you keep a series character fresh?

AG:I am not really sure, except that my mind is so full of different ideas that Lorimer has a lot to do and works in different places. I tend to throw problems at him to solve, not just crimes but domestic situations too, the sorts of things that everyday ordinary folks will face during a lifetime. Getting to know Lorimer as I have done over the years helps a lot as I now have the confidence to let him tackle some pretty scary stuff!

AM: It sounds like you don’t do a lot of outlining then for a new book before plunging in!

AG: Um, well, hardly anything! Just enough to keep my publisher happy and confident that I know what I am writing about! Never do a synopsis, hopefully never will.

AM: Who were your early influences who made you turn to crime fiction?

AG: Probably the earliest writer who made me think I wanted to write crime fiction was William McIlvanney, the ‘godfather of tartan noir’ (as he hated being called!) I adore Willie’s work and was proud to call him a friend before he died. I was delighted that my suggestion to rename the Scottish Crime Book of the Year be renamed the McIlvanney prize in his honour was taken up.

AM: Who are some of your favorite crime fiction authors to read right now? Who’s on Alex Gray’s nightstand waiting to be read?

AG: Ah, Louise Penny is definitely one of my favourite writers at the moment, as well as Alexander McCall Smith. I love Chris Brookmyre’s writing too.
On my nightstand are two teetering piles of crime books! Next on the list to read is TF Muir’s The Killing Connection.

Thank you, Alex! And now let’s push on to the new book. This one takes Lorimer out of hometown Glasgow and into his holiday with Maggie. Readers of the series have heard them talk about the holiday home they like to escape to Isle of Mull, and finally have a chance to visit the area during a case.

It’s meant to be a happy time for the couple, a tranquil holiday, until early on the body of a red-haired young man washes up on the shore in front of their cottage.

The bound body has an unnatural position that reminds Lorimer of an unsolved case from 20 before, when he was a young detective constable. That bound man was also red-haired. Is it possible their is a link in these cases?

Having found the body places Lorimer in an awkward position with the local SIO, DI Stevie Crozier, who makes it clear to him that this is her case and she does not want him interfering.

With chapters reflecting on the older case, readers get a sense of the Lorimer’s at the start of their marriage and now, and the personal tragedy they carry with them.

Could it be possible a killer has been on the loose for two decades without being caught?

The Isle of Mull and its environs come alive under Grey’s skillful pen, as Lorimer tries to stay at the fringes of the case while casting his eye back on the older one.

It’s a complex dance and a twisted case, and this one will try all of Lorimer’s skills while he tries to keep the place he and Maggie consider a santuary from being forever tainted.

Margaret Maron: Take Out Friday, Apr 20 2018 

Named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013, North Carolina author Margaret Maron has decided to retire. She’s completed her judge Deborah Knott series, set in NC, and brings back her Detective Sigrid Harald series, set in NYC, to tie up loose ends in her final book, Take Out.

Maron was one of Auntie M’s first interviews when she moved to NC, and she somehow missed Take Out when it came out last year, but it deserves to be brought to readers’ attention, especially if, like Auntie M, you were a fan of Sigrid.

It’s the mid-1990s and two homeless men are found dead on park bench. Sigrid soon finds that while one of the men may have died from a drug overdose, the other shows no signs of drug use.

When it turns out they were poisoned, and that poison traced to take out containers found near the victims, her investigation centers of the residents of the street near where the men were found.

At the same time, Sigrid is still grappling with waves of grief over the accidental death of her artist lover, and the huge responsibility she’s inherited as executor of his art estate. It’s a nice subplot that brings readers into the world of art Maron knows well, as her husband is an artist.

As Sigrid and her team meet the various residents of the street, the complications rise. A retired opera star lives near the a mafia widow, sworn enemies. Then there’s the woman who runs an SRO, but what is she really renting time for?

And the burning question remains: which of the two men was the intended victim?

It’s a classic Maron mystery, and readers will enjoy this last book from the writer who in 2016 was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

Elizabeth George: The Punishment She Deserves Wednesday, Apr 11 2018 

Elizabeth George clocks in with her newest Lynley-Havers, The Punishment She Deserves, at a meaty 595 pages. But don’t let the long length deter you from reading the continuing story of so many characters readers have come to know and love, especially Barbara Havers.

It’s a fine line Barbara has danced since her crossing the line in Italy two books ago. “Dancing” has a secondary meaning here, as the redoubtable Dorothea Harriman has had the sergeant accompanying her to tap dancing class. Yes, you read that correctly. Barbara Havers is tap dancing.

It’s a tap dance around Det. Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, too, when she’s told she must accompany Ardery to be a second set of eyes on an investigation into the apparent suicide of the son of a wealthy brewer while in police custody.

It’s a twisted tale, and Lynley cautions Barbara to watch herself with Ardery, knowing that she and the Assistant Commissioner would love to see Barbara transferred to some small outpost and out of their hair.

And Barbara is up to the task, even as she tries to keep herself from going off kilter into her own threads of investigation. She manages to do enough to convince herself there is something seriously off in the medieval town of Ludlow. But Arder wants to rush back to London to do legal battle with her ex over her twin sons,and is willing to overlook important points Barbara’s uncovered.

Which is when DI Lynley becomes involved.

George’s class distinctions form the bit of wry humor Havers exhibits and as usual, we learn about the extended characters and their lives to the point that they become real. Several absorbing subplots play out against the background of Barbara’s investigation.

And there’s that tap recital to look forward to…

Another winner from the master of psychological depth. Highly recommended.

David Rosenfelt: Fade to Black Wednesday, Mar 28 2018 

David Rosenfelt is perhaps best known for his Andy Carpenter series, with the dog rescuing lawyer echoing his own dog rescue efforts in real life.

With a new series and a new character introduced in Blackout, Rosenfelt brings a sequel in Fade to Black, continuing the story of New Jersey policeman Doug Brock. Shot in the line of duty, Brock’s ammesia produces intersting conversations that pepper his life and his work as people refer to cases and things he has no memory of in the past decade.

It’s not all bad news, for Doug is reunited with his almost-fiance` and is attending an amensa support group at her insistence. It’s after one of these meetings that a new member approaches him and asks Doug to investigate a cold case.

Sean Conner has found a scrapbook in his attic containg clippings of an unsolved murder case, but he has memory of the victim or why he would have kept the story. After Doug convinces his captain to let him look into the case, he finds he has a connection to the murder, one he doesn’t remember.

Soon there are more things that don’t add up, and as the threads come together, there will be more murders tied to this case. But what’s really going on? It will be up to Doug and his partner to find out in this well-plotted procedural that has Rosenfelt’s trademark touch of wry humor.

Phillip Margolin: The Third Victim Saturday, Mar 24 2018 

Phillip Margolin’s newest legal thriller, The Third Victim, debuts a new series featuring young lawyer Robin Lockwood. Just landing her dream job working with Regina Barrister, the legend of criminal defense attorney, after a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court.

The strong opening gives readers a dark rural Oregon road and a lone driver, who slams on the brakes when a young woman–dehydrated, starved and beaten–runs across his path asking for help.

She’s escaped from a cabin where she’s been held prisoner, and soon the cabin’s owner, a prominent attorny in his own right, is arrested for the beating and kidnapping, as well as the deaths of two other women in similar circumstances.

With evidence against him mounting, Robin’s firm take on the defense of Alex Mason, who insists he’s innocent. Second chair on this very public trial is Robin, but she’s seeing things with her renowned boss that lead her to worry about Barrister’s behavior.

Then several details in their case seem at odds, and it will take Robin and Barrister’s team to figure out what is really going on. The complicated plot hangs together well, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing as the story unfolds, inside the courtroom and out.

An interesting lead character, Robin Lockwood’s past as an MMA fighter just might find her in good stead when things turn ulgy. Margolin’s own experience as a criminal defense attorney shines through, turning the legalese and court proceedings into interesting scenes.

This crafty story with its tight plot will leave readers looking for the next installment featuring Robin Lockwood and the legal team.

Clare Mackintosh: Let Me Lie Tuesday, Mar 13 2018 

Clare Mackintosh’s newest psychological thriller, Let Me Lie, has a double meaning in its title that becomes apparent after readers have finished the complex story. There are enough twists in this story to keep you flipping pages long after the light should have been out.

Anna Johnson is a new mum to little Ella, living with her partner, therapist Mark, in the family home she loves, Oak View. She should be happy, but Anna is still grieving her parents’ suicides.

Her father, Tom, threw himself off Beachy Head, with her mother followin seven months later, killing herself in the exact same way in her grief. It’s a concept Anna has found difficult to reconcile with her parents, who she insists were never suicidal. She can’t conceive of a reason why her father would kill himself to being with and set off this tragic chain of events. It’s natural that she’s angry with both of them for leaving her alone with questions unanswered.

Then on the anniversary of her mother’s death, a note is pushed through her letter box. In a touch of cruelty, it’s an anniversary card, but inside it says: Suicide? Think again.

Anna takes the card to her local police station, where retired detective Murray Mackenzie, working the desk as a civilian, is on duty. Despite there being little that would tempt a detective to re-open two cases cleared as suicides, Murray has a inkling something is not as it should be and decides to do a bit of background checking to see if Anna’s parents really did commit suicide, or if, as Anna believes, they were murdered.

Both Anna and Murray search in their own ways, until the incidents escalate and Anna realizes someone wants the investigation to end.

With a shocking turn in the second part of the book, Anna will have to put aside all of her preconceived notions about her family. But she soon realizes she has no idea who can she really trust.

The plot has so many surprises readers will be out of breath as it races on. With Murray working his own investigation, he involves his wife, Sarah, a subplot that nicely rounds out the story and the reader’s involvement in these characters.

The ending will startle even the savvy reader, and just when you think it’s over, two extra twists at the end show you just how talented Macintosh can be. Highly recommended.

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