Sophie Hannah: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill Tuesday, Sep 15 2020 

Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot mysteries capture the essence of Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. She returns with her newest, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, the fourth approved by the Christie estate.

Poirot and Inspector Catchpool are to take a coach to the private gated community at Kingfisher Hill. The Belgian detective has been begged by Richard Devonport to visit his family home with an eye to finding the real murderer of his estranged brother, Frank.

Frank Devonport had just reconciled with his family and a few hours later was dead after a fall from a high staircase. His fiancee, Helen, has confessed to pushing Frank over the banister, but Richard is convinced she is innocent, and hires Poirot to prove it while he’s convinced Helen to marry him.

After a startling and almost bizarre coach ride to journey to Kingfisher Hill, Poirot and Catchpool start their investigation and meet the unpleasant Devonport family and several close friends. With strong personalities dominating everyone’s actions, the red herrings abound. And then there is a second murder . . .

This is a mystery of the mind, with alibis crisscrossing each other and secrets being held. Hannah does a fine job of capturing Poirot’s voice, and has created her most twisted plot yet, one even Christie would find complex.

Catchpool is not Hastings, but he is coming into his own with his relationship with Poirot deepening as the detective mentors the young man to impart how the inspector can better use his little grey cells.

What could be better than an outing with Poirot under the skilled pen of Sophie Hannah. Now who will tackle Miss Marple?

Highly recommended.

Alexander McCall Smith: The Quiet Side of Passion and The Geometry of Holding Hands Sunday, Sep 6 2020 

Auntie M loves Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Scotland. Today she’s caught up on two Isabel Dalhousie novels. The Quiet Side of Passion takes the philosopher to new territory. Working from home has its challenges, as does Isabel’s inability to say “no” to her niece whenever she asks for help.

The wife, mother of two, and editor of a philosophy magazine clearly needs help around the house. With her husband, Jamie, suggesting they go forward with help, Isabel soon finds her life turned upside down.

The new au pair from Italy has a very different idea of what an au pair should do or behave. And is she giving Jamie the wandering eye?

The young woman who seems the perfect fit as an assistant editor is intelligent, and seems dedicated to her work and her studies. But does she place too much emphasis on her work?

Alongside these distractions, Isabel meets the single mother of one of Charlie’s friends at nursery. Raising her son without help from his father, Isabel soon finds herself entangled in the kind of mess only she can get herself into. It’s her unfailing kindness, often in short supply at times in others, and her ability to question both sides of every question, that is Isabel’s undoing.

The Geometry of Holding Hands brings Isabel several of her most difficult decisions. A wealthy Edinburgh gentleman who has large land holdings and once knew Isabel’s father asks her to be the executor of his will.

After initially thinking she was not the person to do this, she soon learns he has little time left to live, and seeks her guidance on which of three cousins would be the best to leave his large Highland estate in care of.

Then, too, her niece, Cat, has increased her demands on Isabel’s time at the deli she runs. This seems tied in to her new man, the leonine Leo, who looks as lion-like as his name, with the same cunning attitude. Is Leo sincere in his affection for Cat, or for her part of the family trust?

These are the kinds of dilemmas Isabel most navigate with her usual intelligence and grace, and often a major jolt of good sense from Jamie. Set these inside a loving and realistic portrayal of Edinburgh, and you have books readers will enjoy and often think of long after the last page is turned.

One of the hallmarks of the series is Smith’s ability to illustrate the character’s and their personalities. His dialogue is astute and often hilarious. But it’s his warmth toward Isabel and her determined search for what she sees as the truth to complex situations where Smith shines and makes reader return again and again.

Margaret Murphy: Before He Kills Again Thursday, Jul 16 2020 


Margaret Murphy has a strong history in writing chilling psychological novels. Known for the Clara Pascal, and Rickman and Foster series, Murphy has also written as AD Garrett, and with a partner as Ashley Dyer. All of her books feature realistic characters and chilling plots that will have readers leaving the lights on long after they should have been asleep.

Now she brings DC Cassie Rowan to the page in a complex psychological novel that is tightly woven in Before He Kills Again.

Starting from its powerful opening, readers will be hooked immediately with the powerful image Murphy creates.

There’s a sadist on the loose named the Furman, who targets prostitutes and pretty young woman, terrorizing them then raping and beating them before leaving the victims to be found. DC Cassie Rowan spends her evenings undercover, trying to get picked up by this maniac.

And one night she almost succeeds in catching him, where it not for the incompetence of two of her team members. All the while, she juggles being the responsible adult for her teenaged brother after the death of their parents.

Then someone who’s become a friend is savaged by the Furman. Frustrated, Cassie becomes even more determined to bring this maniac to justice, despite at times feeling sabotaged by her own team.

Alan Palmer is a psychologist with his own fraught home situation. Separated from his wife, trying to mend fences to have access to his young daughter, he has private and NHS patients he’s trying to help, but one in particular has caught his attention. Could this young man be the Furman?

Then someone dies, and all bets are off for Rowan and Palmer, all the while bringing the danger closer to home than they would like to believe. The incidents ratchet up in intensity; someone is losing it, and Cassie and Alan are at the heart of it all.

How these two professionals lives intersect forms the basis for a quick-paced psychological thriller, part police-procedural, all parts skillfully written, that heralds the start of a complex new series from this accomplished author.

Highly Recommended.

Mark Billingham: The Killing Habit; Their Little Secrets Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

For some reason, Mark Billingham’s last two Tom Thorne novels didn’t make it to Auntie M’s To Be Read shelf, but she’s bought them herself to catch up.

The Killing Habit bring Thorne at first into the world where pets are being killed. A classic sign of a psychopath in the making, his goal is to find the culprit before his crimes can escalate.

To that end, he enlists DI Nicola Tanner, a welcome addition to the series. With her own quirks and the secret that binds them together, she’s working her own murder, a shooting by a motorcyclist that has drugs at its heart.

When the two find a serial killer is using a dating agency to target his victims, the chase is literally on before more women can be killed.

The opposing natures of Thorne and Tanner make them a dynamic couple with their interplay and dialogue some of the best in the book. Both are struggling with their personal lives, too. A great installment in one of Auntie M’s favorite series.

In Their Little Secret, with the personal aspects still looming for Thorne and Tanner, they duo become involved in the tragic suicide of a woman who has been the victim of a swindler.

At the same time, readers follow Sarah as she drops her young son off at school. She’s a devoted mum, has a strict routine, and couldn’t appear nicer.

When a young man’s bloodied body is found, CCTV shows a woman he was with shortly before his death. The reader knows more about how these two cases overlap than Thorne and Tanner do, and only heightens the suspense.

Coroner Phil Hendricks is back, too, a great character who manages to stay friends with Thorne and now Tanner. It’s a race to the finish between a couple who bring new meaning to the term psychopath.

This one is the 16th in an a police procedural series that is as authentic as it is filled with humanity.

Both books are Highly Recommended.

Sara Paretsky: Love & Other Crimes Wednesday, Jul 1 2020 

Sara Paretsky brings out a collection of stories she’s written over the past twenty years in Love & Other Crimes. There are fourteen stories in the collection, which include eight featuring her creation, VI Warshawski.

It’s a mixed collection, all with that twisting plot that has been the hallmark of her books. They range from a very young VI’s first investigation, to the title story, where a modern VI uses her investigative experience from the years to clear a family friend of a murder charge, and end with a surprise twist.

In the introduction, Paretsky notes her early reading of the Golden Agers, and her love of late Victorian and early 20th-century crime fiction. Notes at the end of the stories describe their genesis and often give clues to bits within the stories.

Her story “Murder at the Century of Progress” pays homage to two greats: she brings back Race Williams, the first hardboiled detective originally created by Carroll John Daly (1923) and mixes his investigation with that of a woman who is the ultimate mix of Miss Marple and Amelia Butterworth, another favorite.

She uses the cover of the dithering spinster and gives her Charlotte Palmer a more adventurous back story we discover, as the two manage to foil the murder of none-other than fan dancer Sally Rand at the World’s Fair of 1933 called the Century of Progress.

PD James called Paretsky “the most remarkable” of modern crime writers. Readers who sift through this collection will surely agree.

Elly Griffiths: The Lantern Men Tuesday, Jun 16 2020 

NOTE: This review was first published back in April. Auntie M is repeating it today, on its US publication date. If you aren’t already a fan of Elly Griffiths, get on board now! She’ll leave it up for a while so you can look for your copy, and while you’re at it, check out Griffith’s standalone, The Stranger Diaries, too, as well as her Stephens and Mephisto series set in 1950s Brighton.

It’s no secret Elly Griffiths long-running Dr. Ruth Galloway series is one of Auntie M’s favorites. She brings readers the newest, The Lantern Men, as accomplished as any of those preceding, one to read and savor, containing her wit and original and creative voice.

It’s been two years since Ruth left her marsh side cottage and her position at the North Norfolk University and as the police’s resident forensic archaeologist. She’s moved Cambridge to teach, and plan a future with historian Frank, and brought her daughter with DCI Nelson, Kate, and their cat, Flint. But where has she left her heart?

This is the subtext as the current story plays out. Having completed a week’s writing residency to finish what will be third book on forensic archaeology, Ruth is surprised when DCI Nelson appears for a visit.

Ivor March, in prison for life for murder, has offered to give up the site of more murdered bodies than he’s in prison for, but only if Ruth oversees the dig.

Reasonably wary, Ruth can hardly turn down a chance to bring closure to the families of the two missing young women, Nicola Ferris and Jenny McGuire. The Norfolk site where March insists the women are buried borders the fens in an area where local legend has it being haunted by figures holding lights and capturing travelers to bring them to their death. They are known as the Lantern Men.

The cast includes many of those readers will have met before and continues their stories but the case can be read as a stand alone. The setting continues its role as central to the case and to Ruth’s feelings as she becomes immersed in the case. But she’s chosen a new life in Cambridge; so why is she having panic attacks?

When a third body is found at the site, and another young woman is murdered, all bets are off. Nelson isn’t happy to entertain the thought that Ivor March is innocent? But if he isn’t the killer, then who is? While he keeps his feelings for Ruth buried as deeply as one of Ruth’s archaeological digs, he misses her, and that adds to his frustration over her new life with Frank in Cambridge.

It’s a finely wrought plot, with enough suspects to keep the reader at bay, while adding in terrific plot twists that will keep the reader on their toes with a building sense of urgency. Who is really at risk from a killer here?

All the balls Griffiths juggles stay afloat and lead to a stunning climax that finds this one Highly Recommended.

Ngaio Marsh: Black Beech and Honeydew Friday, Jun 12 2020 

Here’s one of Auntie M’s reviews for a book that’s both older and non-fiction: the autobiography Dame Ngaio Marsh wrote of her life, titled Black Beech and Honeydew.

Readers expecting to read a primer on how Marsh wrote her famous series, starring Detective Roderick Alleyn, might be disappointed to find that the books are almost an aside to Marsh.

Her real love was the theatre, acting early on and then directing and producing plays, often her beloved Shakespeare, in her native New Zealand and in the UK.

There are lots of references to her family and its friends who people her life, as well as her travels. There is a center section with a host of photos from various stages of her life.

She admits to feeling somewhat as a poser at times when at literary events, as to her mind the books were a means to an end. Her income allowed her to direct the next play. She was fond of Alleyn, and didn’t take him for granted, but nevertheless was astounded at how popular the books became, for which she grateful.

Her love of the arts also explains why she set so many of the book in theatre settings. It was one she knew well and loved. Her choice of his wife to be a portrait painter was deliberate, too.

It’s a fascinating look at one of the Golden Age authors whose mysteries still serve as a primer for crime writers interested in writing an endearing series. While styles change, and the emphasis on psychology is more modern, the books hold up well in terms of plot and story.

James Oswald: Bury Them Deep Wednesday, May 13 2020 

James Oswald’s tenth Inspector McLean novel, Bury Them Deep, reinforces why he’s one of Auntie M’s favorites, whether its the newest McLean or in his equally well-written, yet vastly different series featuring detective Constance Fairchild (No Time to Cry; Nothing to Hide).

This time the Scottish detective mixes with a highly politicized operation when he sets out to find a missing administrative member of the Police Scotland team who’s not shown up for work. It doesn’t help that the woman’s mother is a retired Detective Superintendent Grace Ramsey, recovering from a broken hip, but still as intimidating as McLean remembers.

Assigned to the team working on an huge anti-corruption scheme, Anya Renfrew’s disappearance sets off alarm bells. With her access to many of the systems in place that unlock the secrets of Edinburgh’s most powerful businessmen, none of the possibilities look good. With fears Anya may have been bought off for the information she could share, another possibility is that she been silenced to keep her knowledge quiet.

Last seen in ancient hills where the maps are difficult to follow and the stories from folklore imbue the atmosphere, McLean and his team set out to find out all they can about Anya Renfrew, her current life, and her past.

At the same time, just to muddy the waters, an old foe of McLean’s at a long-term psychiatric hospital claims to have information about the missing woman.

It’s a race against time to find Anya as the team investigates a disturbing pattern of other women having disappeared from the same area where Anya is last seen.

One thing about Oswald’s plots: they are consistently creative and bring a new level of knowledge to the reader, as he explores areas most readers won’t be familiar with.

This ability to hit on unique stories, inhabited by a familiar cast of characters led by McLean, all set in the city and surrounding area of Edinburgh, make this a Highly Recommended read.

Sujata Maseey: The Satapur Moonstone Sunday, May 10 2020 

Sujata Massey’s Award-winning The Widows of Malabar Hill introduced Bombay lawyer Perveen Mistry, one of a few female lawyers in India in the early 1920s. Massey brings Perveen back for another adventure in The Satapur Moonstone, and it’s every bit as exciting a mystery as the first.

It’s 1922 and Perveen is asked to journey to the remote Sahyadri mountains to the state of Satapur. The royal family has recently seen its share of disasters: its maharaja died suddenly after taking ill and his eldest son died soon after in a hunting accident.

Now the dowager queen and her daughter-in-law maharani are at odds with how the next in line, a young crown prince, should be educated. With the British Raj agent involved in their rule, a woman is required as the two maharani’s live in purdah and do not speak to men.

After reluctantly agreeing to this venture, Perveen’s journey to the circuit house run by the Englishman Colin Sandringham is arduous, and it is even further to the royal palace in Satapur where the women await her visit. But Colin is interesting company and after a slight delay, Perveen is on her way inside a palanquin, being carried through the forest for the long and dangerous journey to the palace.

What she finds there, and show Perveen will cope with it, show her strength as well as her sleuthing skills. There are power plays and old secrets that threaten the young prince and his little sister, even as Perveen comes under threat. It will take all of her wiles to protect the royal children and carry out her commission.

The time and mores, the landscape and its dangers, all come alive under Massey’s graceful language and extensive research. Perveen is an interesting, intelligent woman, bound by Parsi customs and chafing at them due to her own history. It all makes for an absorbing read this is highly recommended.

Elizabeth George: Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel Monday, Apr 27 2020 

Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series is one of Auntie M’s favorites. She was also fortunate to take a Master class from George one year at New England Crime Bake, and that experience alone made her relish the thought of reading through George’s new book on the complicated task of putting together a novel in Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel.

George is quick to point out that her method may not suit everyone, although it closely mirrors Auntie M’s own. Indeed, finding one’s particular method that works for that individual is part of the challenge for any writer. Still, there will be something in these pages for any writer, even if one’s own way of writing doesn’t follow George’s.

She starts off with setting, the backdrop for her crime novels, and uses actual photographs she took on her research trip for her novel Careless in Red to illustrate her points. The landscape is the stage upon which writers place their action and their characters, so it’s one the reader must come to understand, and sometimes, manipulate. It influences what can and cannot be found between the pages, and often suggests plot.

While the area may be changed or rearranged to fit the writer’s plot, having done thorough research eliminates a blank page as the starting point. Any points that are needed afterward that memory or photos can’t provide, of course, can be added by Google, maps, and other information about the chosen area.

George moves on to characters and how she develops them, as her plot starts to form. She emphasizes understanding the core needs and also the psychopathology for each one. By creating background needs, combined with an underlying behavior that influences reactions, the character become fully fleshed out. This helps the writer understand how a particular character would act, react, and even speak.

Of course there are chapters on dialogue, viewpoint, plot development, scene structure, and more, all aided by concrete examples from this same novel. By using pages from her book to illustrate each point, the reader comes away with a clearcut view of how George puts together her book. She even includes a special device she calls a THAD, the Talking Heads Avoidance Device.

You’ll have to read the book to find out exactly how that functions, but reading this book is not something that should be just limited to writers. Any reader looking for a clearer understanding of a writers process, or any fan of George’s novels, for that matter, who wants to understand her personal process, will enjoy this book that contains so much useful information, written in a clear and entertaining way.

And many will find, just as Auntie M did, that a re-reading of Careless in Red after brought the entire thing together in a way that showed what was explained in delightful action. Highly Recommended.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews