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

deathdales

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.

Deborah Crombie: Garden of Lamentations Sunday, Feb 12 2017 

garden-of-lamentations

Deborah Crosbie returns with the seventeenth novel in her English mysteries featuring detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in this popular and complex series that remains fresh and compelling. This is far more than a garden-variety police procedural, as the cases the two investigate affect their marriage and threaten lives.

The married duo have a blended family that includes adopted Charlotte, and live in Notting Hill but work out of different stations. Gemma finds herself seconded to the Notting Hill team for her local knowledge when the body of a young nanny is found in one of the private gardens in the area. It’s a death that has her puzzled, especially when she finds out another youth from the same block has previously died. ARe the two connected?

Duncan’s case couldn’t be more different. Loose threads from the last case have left him feeling he doesn’t know whom he can trust in Scotland Yard. His old chief had disappeared and he’d been transferred. Now Denis Childs is back with an obtuse explanation that sounds more like a warning–and then suddenly attacked. As he lies in critical condition, Duncan distances himself from everyone close to him to protect them, even his wife.

Both cases have emotional components and danger, and both detectives will find they need their friends more than ever. A satisfying read in a series that is always anticipated. Highly recommended.

New in Paperback: Leather, Berry, Brekke, Kappes, Sigurdartdottir, and Armentrout Sunday, Feb 5 2017 

Several crime novels are new in paperback, and while being previously reviewed by Auntie M, she wanted to bring them to your attention. Near the end are two making their debut in paperback and she will spend more time with you on those.

darkforces

Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd thrillers are hugely popular. In Dark Forces, the MI-5 undercover agent find himself posing as a hitman and crossing the paths of terrorists. Can Spider stop a massacre?

14thcolony

Cotton Malone returned in Steve Berry’s The 14th Colony, with a tale that reflects his usual meticulous research and will have readers riveted to their reading. He will face Zorin, a Soviet operative headed to our Inauguration, with his deadly weapon right out of the archives of America’s oldest fraternal organization.

dreamless

Jorge Brekke’s suspense novels have been called “addictive” with good reason. Dreamless bring Chief Inspector Odd Singasker his most unusual case, when a young singer’s body is found staged with an antique music box playing a sad lullaby. How the song and the boxes are critical details is just one aspect of this compelling investigation into a race with a serial killer with a missing woman’s life at stake.

silence

Yrs Sigurdardottir’s The Silence of the Sea was named Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year with good reason. The chilling case for Thora Gudmundsdottir seems to have no solution when a huge yacht crashes into a pier in Reykjavik and is found to be completely empty. What happened to the crew and to the family on board?

NEW in Paperback:

aghostlyreunion

Tony Kappes’ Ghostly Southern Mysteries return with A Ghostly Reunion. Owner Emma Lee can speak to the ghosts of the murdered people at her Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. The action centers close to home, when an old friend, Jade Lee Peel, who made Emma’s high school life miserable, is found dead. Emma needs to be rid of the woman once and for all, before Jade Lee can cause trouble between Emma and her boyfriend, the Sheriff. Her solution is to solve the murder so Jade can cross over and leave Emma alone.

Only Jade Lee has other ideas. Still riding on her high school popularity, she’s not quite so keen to leave town as Emma would like. Filled with charm and Kappes’ usual brand of humor.

tilldeath

This one debuts on March 1st, so readers have a month to look for Jill Armentrout’s newest romantic suspense, Till Death. The book takes off with Sasha Keaton returning to the West Virginia inn her mother runs, ten years after escaping the serial killer The Groom.

Sasha wants to help her mother run the inn and put her old ghosts to rest. When women start to disappear, FBI agent Cole Landis swings into action to protect Sasha the way he wasn’t able to a decade ago. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with The Groom calling the shots.

But he hasn’t counted on the steely determination of Sasha, who wants her life back. A satisfying read for those who want a dose of romance with their suspense.

Action + Thrills = Great Reads Sunday, Mar 27 2016 

Auntie M has read a stack of high tension, high action books recently, so she’s grouped them for your reading pleasure.

LieinWait
Eric Rickstad’s Lie in Wait starts out with the murder of a young babysitter. The savage attack takes place at the Canaan, Vermont home of the lead attorney in a high-profile case, which convinces detective Sonja Test they must be related. With two children of her own, viewing the girl’s body as her first murder victim while her kids wait outside in the car is a neat juxtaposition to all things normal suddenly gone wrong.

Test will keep digging, uncovering past acts hidden for years that impact on the murder. This fast-paced thriller is heavy with the psychology of the characters which increases the tension. There will be several unexpected twists before the ending. The tension between Test and her job, and her allegiance to her husband and children ramps up the emotions.

8thCircle
Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle
finds Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan still reeling from the tragic loss of his wife and young son in a car accident a year ago. It doesn’t help that his wife was driving Danny’s car at the time. He’s not been back at work since the tragedy. Then his friend, journalist Michael Cohen drives his car right into the pond in front of Danny’s house after being shot.

An obvious murder, Danny is looked at with suspicion, which only adds to the tension as he tries to find out why Michael had to die. He digs into his friend’s last article, supposedly on restaurant reviews, but which turns more to be about Philly politics mixed with a twisted, secret nightlife. It doesn’t help that his father-in-law is a senator, implicated heavily in the secrets he uncovers, secrets the most powerful people in the city are desperate remain hidden. And is it possible that Danny was really meant to die in that accident?

Danny’s migraines interfere with his investigation, a nice side touch that makes him feel very human. A determined detective and a friend of Michael’s, legislative aide Kate Reid, are two other characters whose presence adds to the tension as Danny gets closer and closer to a truth he can’t ignore, one he won’t have seen coming at all.

AmongTheives
John Clarkson debuts a new series with Among Thieves with an unlikely protagonist, ex-con James Beck.

The Brooklyn setting has a gritty, noir feel with Beck at the lead of this action-packed thriller. Beck’s spent his years since getting out of prison building a team operating out of the Red Hook area. Then one of the team, partner Manny Guzman, asks for Beck’s help: his cousin, Olivia, working at a NYC brokerage firm, noticed suspicious investment practices that led to her getting a few of her fingers broken, after which she was fired and blackballed from the industry.

Leave it to Beck to right the wrong, but in doing so, he realizes Olivia has found something far more compelling than anyone thought at first. And then all hell breaks loose as there’s a far too much money at stake. Beck and company will face threats from several sources, including Bosnian war criminals, with violence on terrifying levels.

There will be several surprising twists, a bit of sex and a whole lot of action before Beck’s team is finished.

OrphanX

Author Gregg Hurwitz has had many bestselling and award-nominated thrillers in the past, so it’s no surprise the first of his new series, Orphan X, is already being adapted by Hurwitz for a Warner Bros. movie starring Bradley Cooper.

Creating a character for the likes of Jack Reacher fans, there’s all the high-tech gadgets and action readers could want. Evan Smoak was raised in the secret Orphan Program, where the goal was to produce assassins who were so off the grid they didn’t officially exist.

All of his training and skills come into play when Evan breaks away and assumes a new name and persona, and decides to use these to help people pushed to the limit by murderers or kidnappers. Called the “Nowhere Man,” he lives with many layers of protection around him, until someone from his past turns up to ruin everything.

Yes, there’s a lovely woman or two in here, and even the occasional hint of humor to relieve the stress, but that doesn’t stop the heart-rending action nor the sense of outlandishness at times that makes this read even more cinematic. Lee Child says: “Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is his best yet–a real celebration of all the strengths he brings to a thriller.”

AmericanBlood

New Zealander Ben Sanders fourth novel is his first published in the US, and in concert with high-action thrillers, it’s been sold to Warner Bros with the attached star and producer none other than the afore-mentioned Bradley Cooper. The actor is one busy guy, but he knows how to pick projects with fast-moving action. American Blood introduces Marshall Grade, a likable sort if you like your cops living in a New Mexico Witness Protection Program, trying to keep a low profile.

Marshall’s a bit of a rogue who reminded Auntie M of a tortured New York Longmire–not afraid to get his hands dirty and very persistent. There’s a contract out on Marshall and he’s supposed to be living a quiet life. But his undercover past is littered with bodies and he can’t quite forget them.

Instead he decides to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Alyce Ray may have been taken by drug traffickers, and the opening scene in a diner where Marshall meets up with two whom he feels have information is a choreographed dance in itself and a clue to his steely nerves.

The plot is more complex than at first glance, with language that flows and lets readers experience a different kind of hero, one who treads a fine line to find justice.

First Response
Auntie M has reviewed thriller author Stephen Leather’s multiple previous books in two series. Stand-alone First Response is ripped from today’s headlines, and all too easily believed.

In London, several scenarios go off at once in nine different locations. Suicide bombers claiming to be from ISIS hold hostages in all of these locations, and they vary from a church to a pub to a childcare center. Their mission is to force the release of jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh prison, and their demands are firm: they are to be released that same evening.

But when Mo Kamran, Superintendent of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met investigates, he and his team find no links to ISIS, and none of the men are on known-terrorist watch lists. Are these clean skins, terrorist without a link to any particular group? Or is something else pulling these men together?

Imagine the chaos that would reign in such a situation with a deadline looming. Now imagine trying to coordinate Special Forces, EMS, and armed tactical units, and you have an idea of Mo’s day. The Muslim detective won’t have it easy, especially when he realizes the agenda being played out is not what it seems.

Leather couples clever plotting with detailed knowledge of the way the Government and the Police would respond with strong characterizations. For fans of his two other series, this one’s a sure-fire read. For readers new to Leather, there’s no better place to start than with this contemporary thriller.

Jonathan Moore: The Poison Artist Wednesday, Mar 23 2016 

Poison Artist

Auntie M met Jonathan Moore at Bouchercon last October. When Elly Griffiths recommended his book, how could I say no? The quiet, good-looking attorney-and-author currently living in Hawaii caught my interest with his quiet demeanor. But his eyes lit up when talking about his book, and what a book this one is. The Poison Artist starts out strong and stays that way, building with tension that proves unnerving.

The sense of noir is fully realized in the beautiful but lonely San Francisco setting where Dr. Caleb Maddox, a chemist and toxicologist whose specialty revolves around studying pain, lives and works. He’s not in a happy place, having just broken up with the girlfriend he’d thought was his destiny, and in a physically painful way: she’s thrown a glass at his forehead and he’s in the midst of picking out shards and staying in a hotel for the night.

After cleaning up, he heads for the bar across the street, The House of Shields. Meeting an exotic woman drinking absinthe is just the first step on Caleb’s route to obsession. Soon he’s searching for Emmeline, then responding to her calls and meeting at unusual times and places, always with a mysterious air about each event as well as the woman herself. These scenes have the strongest noir setting, from Emmeline’s clothing to her actions and her seductive air.

Caleb embarks on a week of binge-drinking in his quest to find her, right around Christmas that threatens the grant work he’s doing at his specialty lab, just as he becomes involved in helping his medical examiner friend, Henry, hunt for a serial murderer. Henry has realized that a series of men whose bodies wash up under the Golden Gate bridge all show signs of severe and cruel torture and Caleb is determined to find the killer.

There are scenes that feel so real they jump off the page, whether it’s in the autopsy room, at a bar, or simply inside Caleb’s head. This is a book filled with precise details that add to the sense we are experiencing a real situation, which only serves to increase the terror. Moore talked his way into the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office for hands-on research and it shows.

This is a heart-pounding thriller that Auntie M could see Hitchcock filming, if only he were alive to do it justice. And thankfully for readers, it’s the first in a planned trilogy of thrillers set in San Francisco. THE DARK ROOM will be out in January 2017, followed the following year by THE NIGHT MARKET.

Arnaldur Indridason: Into Oblivion Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

IntoOblivion
Arnaldur Indirdason’s Icelandic thriller series, featuring Inspector Erlendur, continues with this look into his early days as a detective in Into Oblivion, an aspect first explored in last year’s acclaimed Reykjavik Nights. The CWA Gold Dagger Award winner is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, and with good reason.

The book opens a few years after Erlandur decides he wants to be a detective. It’s 1979 and the year springs to life, the mood set by the music, clothing and social mores of the era. The detective is working with Marion Briem, an older, more experienced detective, when the body of man is found in a blue lagoon known for its healing waters.

Examination reveals that the man has fallen from a great height and died before his body was moved to the lagoon. Could he have fallen from a plane? The only immense height in the area is an aircraft hanger on the grounds of the controversial US military base nearby.

When it becomes apparent the base is involved, Erlandur and Briem find themselves tiptoeing around the base to investigate after the US powers that be have stalled their investigation and denied them access to the hanger. It will take an unlikely accomplice to help them get to the bottom of the man’s death, thwarted by a rogue CIA agent.

As the action unfolds, Erlandur also takes it upon himself to run a parallel cold case investigation. A young teen went missing on her way to school, her body never found, and as both cases heat up, the young detective finds himself in his element, conducting interviews and following slender leads to find resolution.

Another hit that gives insight into what made Erlandur the detective he becomes.

Thom Satterlee: The Stages Wednesday, Mar 9 2016 

The Stages

One of Auntie M’s favorite books in past years was Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. So when she was offered a chance to read Thom Satterlees’ The Stages, she knew she would enjoy the chance to follow an adult character with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Daniel Peters is an American translator living in Copenhagen and working at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center. He’s become known as one of the philosopher’s best translators, and frequently lapses into interior monologues with the reader about what Kierkegaard has to say on a particular subject. His mentor and friend, and former love, Metta Rasmussen, is also his supervisor, who has diagnosed correctly, helped him learn techniques to handle living in a world where he doesn’t ‘get’ social clues, facial tics or body language. There’s a defined rhythm to his days and habits, including a propensity for eating danishes, and where better to find them?

Then the unthinkable happens: Mette is found murdered, and a new manuscript he’d been translating has been taken. Daniel was the last person to see her alive, but although he comes under suspicion, he thinks he’s able to persuade a female detective that he’s innocent. But it means she needs him to help with her investigation, if only to help him clear his name. And as he does that, he needs to learn how to express his grief for the friend he’s loved and lost.

Stepping outside his comfort zone is a mild way of describing how Daniel must act and react in this compelling mystery set inside a totally different world to most readers. It’s a satisfying read and one that brings Copenhagen alive on the pages.

Satterlee speaks Danish, and lived with a family in Denmark for his junior year in high school. The informs the novel with a vast sense of reality. Reading and understanding Kierkegaard is an entirely different matter, yet it’s obvious Satterlee has more than a grasp of the iconic philosopher’s life and work. Who would have thought an author could create a mystery surrounding Soren Kierkegaard and make it compelling and highly entertaining at the same time–Thom Satterlee did, and it’s a worthy accomplishment.

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