Stuart Neville: Those We Left Behind & So Say The Fallen Sunday, Dec 15 2019 

Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.

Stuart MacBride: All That’s Dead Wednesday, Dec 11 2019 

It’s been a year since the events of the last Inspector Logan McRae novel, and the detective is back at work hoping for a simple case. Assigned to Professional Standards should be an easy assignment, but nothing is ever easy for Logan.

He’s sent to follow-up and then to monitor DI King, after a reporter has sent copy he intends to publish, indicating King was once in a Scottish National terror group.

The bad press alone would be bad enough, but King has just been assigned to the disappearance of a professor known for his Scottish anti-independence stance. Nicholas Wilson isn’t at home, but the amount of blood left behind in his kitchen indicates a severe injury if not murder.

Logan will find himself seconded to the inquiry and the usual suspects become involved, from the eccentric DI Steel to his old friend Tufty. Infighting within the police appears rampant, too, with officers on both sides of the equation.

Using the political heat of the times, MacBride offers a complex and dark plot relieved by the lightness of some of his characters. Logan is the voice of reason, the sane one in the pack.

Readers familiar with the series and those new to it will find themselves swiftly submerged in the story and all of its tendrils. MacBride just keeps getting stronger with each novel. Highly recommended.

Laura Lippman: Lady in the Lake Sunday, Dec 8 2019 

Lippmans’ new stand-alone, Lady in the Lake, brings readers a strong atmosphere of the mid-60s with the turmoil of that era as women fight to redefine themselves and their definitions. She also brings the newsrooms of the time to life, with all of its politics and hierarchy.

Encased within is a really good mystery, one that revolves around Maddie Schwartz and her bid to insert herself into a newspaper to attain her dream of becoming a columnist. Leaving behind her marriage and grown son, she’s determined to live a life on her own terms with surprising results.

Maddie must start at the bottom of the paper’s jobs, doing scut work for others while she investigates on her own time what happened to a missing black woman whose body is found in the fountain at a city park. Her instincts tell her this case may make her career.

Cleo Sherwood is the young woman in question, and Lippman provides her running commentary in brief snatches that give a window onto her life and what led up to the final acts of her existence in Baltimore.

It’s a skilled rendition on so many levels, with each character ringing true to her background and culture. Chapters from each of the people Maddie encounters add to the feel of the era and lay out the lines of investigation and of Maddie’s changing life.

With her ability to explore human emotions and entanglements of the heart within accomplished storytelling, Lippman brings her characters to life by providing an unflinching view of their thoughts and actions.

Stephen Booth: Drowned Lives Sunday, Nov 17 2019 

Stephen Booth’s long-running Cooper and Fry series is a consistent winner, so Auntie M was interested when she heard the news that he had written a standalone, Drowned Lives.

One of the hallmarks of his Peak District series is the strength of his familiarity with his Derbyshire setting and the descriptions and history of the area that imbue the novels. She’s happy to note that he brings this same strong sense of setting and its history to Drowned Lives in the canals surrounding Lichfield.

Chris Buckley is an odd duck with few friends and no remaining family, depressed after the deaths of both parents close to each other, with his council job hanging in the balance and a new business venture bringing him to the brink of financial chaos.

He’s moved into the family home he inherited and is trying to break back into his freelance journalism career, writing articles and taking his own photographs of the project underway to recreate part of the canal waterway in the Staffordshire countryside that has been buried for decades.

He’s working on one of these articles when a member of the work party brings him to meet an old gentleman who’s come to see him. Samuel Longden hints at knowing Chris’s family, claims to be an old family friend of his grandfather particularly, and is disappointed that Chris has no knowledge of him.

But Samuel challenges Chris with tidbits of family history he parses out, trying to enlist Chris to tell a story he’s begun, and urges him to help heal a rift in the Buckley family. Frustrated by the man’s guile, Chris is on the point of refusing and fails to meet Longden for an appointment, when tragedy strikes.

Samuel is murdered and his only daughter refuses to talk to Chris, but Samuel had one more trick up his sleeve from the grave: he’s left Chris his beginning manuscript of the Buckley family of canal engineers and workers, with notes and letters.

This will reluctantly thrust Chris into an investigation not only of Samuel’s murder but of the history that reaches back into the 1800s. He enlists his neighbor, Rachel, a librarian with research, and a mysterious woman who suddenly appears and offers to help.

It’s a twisted tale as more and more facts emerge but one thing is certain: Chris has put himself in jeopardy and he can’t figure out why.

A tale of secrets that transcend years and affect family histories, Booth’s language has a gothic feel that adds to the dark atmosphere in this novel from a writer The Guardian calls “A modern master.”

Louise Candlish: Those People Monday, Nov 11 2019 

Auntie M was blown away by last year’s Our House, which won Louise Candlish the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the Briish Book Awards and was long listed for 2019 Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. She hurriedly ordered Candlish’s new Those People, just as strong a read in the domestic thriller genre.

Readers are introduced to the residents of Lowland Way, a London suburb of burgeoning worth where cars are moved off the street on Sundays for the children to play. It’s kind of the neighborhood where the adults look out for each other, and we are introduced to many of them when a new couple buy one half of the house on the corner.

Darren and Jodie are vastly different from the other residents. He quickly sets up a used car business on the corner property and begins dramatic renovations on the house, doing the work himself and using whining electric tools from early in the morning throughout the day. When he’s not using power tools, he’s playing music so loudly that the couple in the attached house next door are forced to buy hearing protection for their infant son. And the cars become a huge issue as “Play Out Sunday,” which once won an urban spaces award, becomes a tug of war on the street with serious consequences.

Things soon spiral out of control as the neighborhood rules are not only NOT followed, they’re distinctly flaunted. The local council has a long-winded process for complaints, which seem mostly ineffective, and Darren continues his marauding, while the other residents form a tighter and tighter group of us vs them.

It’s a situation destined to spiral out of control and it soon does with devastating effects.

Candlish tells the story from the viewpoint of the neighbors living closest to Darren and Jodie, and all vary in circumstance and personality, but one thing unites them: their love for their street and their animus against the new couple who won’t conform.

Interspersed with police interviews, the once-united neighbors soon delve to their dark sides, revealed to the reader as things deteriorate and the already fraught pace ramps up.

The observations of the varied temperaments of the residents contrast as the tension escalates; Candlish adds several surprising twists as the darkness grows and spirals down until there’s nothing funny at all about Lowland Way.

Catriona McPherson: Strangers at the Gate Sunday, Nov 10 2019 

Catriona McPherson’s complicated plot for Strangers at the Gate will make perfect sense as readers near the end of the book, but in such a surprising way that readers will have as much confusion at times as the protagonist, Finn.

When she and her husband, Paddy, move to the small town of Simmerton, it seems to be the perfect chance for the young couple to move their professions forward. Paddy has been offered a partnership in a law firm; Finn’s slot as a deacon at a local church is full time.

The move comes with the rental of the gate house of the wealthy landowner, an almost perfect situation. Lovatt Dudgeon and his wife seem like the perfect neighbors, and as it’s his law firm Paddy will work in, Finn is relieved that she finds she quite likes his wife, Tuft. The older woman’s wit and affability impress Finn and start to dash away the odd feelings she experienced, until a bloody murder changes everything, and Finn and Paddy make choices they soon regret.
Soon the couple find they’ve each kept back information the other should have had; and as their secrets become compounded, things spiral out of control.
Events of the past run together with the present in a stunning climax that stands everything on its head.

McPherson draws fine characters, down to Finn and Paddy’s families and the local neighbors. The dark and gloomy setting only adds to the gothic feel of the novel.
Mix in the plot that twists back on itself, and readers will have no choice but to stay up late to find the resolution. With a strong atmosphere, this rather creepy yet clever mystery is perfect for Rebecca fans, or those who loved Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries.

Peter Lovesey: Killing with Confetti Friday, Nov 8 2019 

Peter Lovesey’s Peter Diamond series, set in Bath, brings the detective with his out challenging case yet in Killing with Confetti. Louise Penny calls Lovesey “a masterful plotter” with all good reason.

The son of Bath’s Deputy Chief Constable, George Brace, presents Diamond with an unusual problem. His son, Ben, is marrying a lovely girl, Caroline Irving, but there’s a major hitch: Caroline’s father is the notorious and wealthy criminal Joe Irving, a gang leader who will be released from his latest prison term just in time to walk the bride up the aisle to her groom.

What this means for Diamond is that Brace puts him in charge of Irving’s security. It’s no secret Irving has enemies and many rival gangs who would be happy for a chance to take him out. With the elaborate wedding set at Bath’s Abbey and a reception at the Roman baths that evening, Diamond must see that the father of the bride remains alive throughout the day.

His role as secret agent not a comfortable one, Diamond is uncomfortably armed, and draws on his team to help him watch Irvings’ back, while he tries all day and evening to keep Irving in his sights, despite the parents, photographers, and bridesmaids he encounters.

This is vintage Lovesey, a case Diamond takes on sufferance and executes flawlessly, although at times it won’t seem that there’s a good end in sight. Another from the master of mystery who’s received Lifetime Achievement Awards in both the US and the UK.

Val McDermid: How the Dead Speak Wednesday, Oct 30 2019 

Just in time for Hallowe’en, a tale about bodies in a hidden graves . . .

Fans of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series have been waiting to read the next installment after the shocking ending of Insidious Intent. How the Dead Speak brings all of those threads into the present while it illustrates McDermid’s ability to plot like no one else.

An old convent has been sold, and when the developers start to dig, human remains are found on the grounds–lots of human remains in unmarked graves, despite the graveyard with some of the former nuns on the other side of the building.

But that’s not the only surprise those grounds will turn up. When more bodies are found of a more recent vintage, a serial killer is suspected as using the grounds as his private hiding place.

Meanwhile both Tony and Carol are adjusting to new roles outside the police force with surprising results for both of them. It’s to McDermid’s credit that she doesn’t take the easy way out and gives them both challenges to fight for. It’s also difficult to discuss the plot without spoilers; suffice it to say readers need to find out for themselves that the duo are up to.

The crew of the ReMIT team have changed in a few respects, not the least their leader, whom DI Paula McIntyre struggles to connect with, while the team has a political conflict with another team that doesn’t bode well for a rating deemed plays well with others. It all adds to the tension of trying to track down nuns who are dispersed and either poor witnesses or taking a vow of silence.

Another winner that will have readers gobbling up the pages that proves that McDermid is the Queen of Crime, this one is highly recommended.

Kate Atkinson: Big Sky Sunday, Oct 20 2019 


Kate Atkinson has been off writing fantastic standalone so readers haven’t seen Jackson Brodie in a decade. She brings him back in Big Sky, and it’s a pleasure to be in his company again, self-deprecation thoughts and all.

Now working as a private investigator after relocating to the east coast of Yorkshire, near Whitby, Jackson is trying to make headway with a summer spent with his teenaged son, Nathan, while the boy’s mother, actress Julia, films her television show nearby.

On the PI front, he’s proving a husband’s infidelity, which seems vastly easy to do. But it’s the sly humor and the imagined voices that Brodie hears that has always set this series apart and Auntie M was happy to see that intact, despite the dark plot revolving around sex trafficking and child abuse.

That plot emerges when Brodie is hired by Crystal Holroyd, a trophy wife who feels she’s being followed. With her own young daughter and a teenaged stepson in tow, Crystal is a unique and engaging character, despite her surgical enhancements. She’s also the victim of a pedophile ring from the past she’s keep running away from.

That cold case is being investigated by a pair of female officers, one of whom saved Brodie’s life in an earlier novel. Their investigations start to cross lines, bringing home Brodie’s adage that “if you get enough coincidences, they add up to a probability.” And there are plenty of coincidences, coupled with characters from previous novels, and a sense that Brodie is having this happen to him while poking at the tenets and conventions of detective novels.

Jackson still has that depressive thread that runs through him due to the absurdity of life in general, he thinks, balanced by his fondness for quoting country music lyrics just when he needs them. There are plenty of pages where the character’s and their mundane lives take center stage, filled with little details that breed familiarity; and bigger scenes where the evil men make is justified in unbelievable ways.

It all adds up to a book that is unconventional yet satisfying, and that’s just the way we like our Brodie’s to be.

Donna Andrews: Owl Be Home for Christmas Tuesday, Oct 15 2019 

Donna Andrews bring Christmas to Caerphilly Inn in Owl Be Home for Christmas.

Just before the holiday, Meg’s grandfather hosts a conference on owls at the inn, bringing together the extended family to help out, and in a rare nod to peace on earth, includes Meg’s grandmother, Cordelia, mostly for her expertise on rehabbing large birds.

Owl Fest even manages to find temporary homes for the visiting ornithologists’ owls at the Caerphilly Zoo. As conference organizer for her grandfather, Meg’s to-do list boggles the mind and her three-ring binder as snow closes them all in and she has to listen to the hoots from the ornithologists, not the owls.

At least Meg has her husband and twin sons in tow to keep her sane, with the rest of her family running around. With the power lines down, Meg has the generator running and enough food to satisfy everyone snowed in——and there are black widow spiders and potential frostbite to contend with. There’s even a Secret Santa and dancing owls.

And then one of the esteemed attendees dies during dinner. With all the suspects closeted at the Inn, and Chief Burke in touch but not able to get there, Meg takes his orders to heart and investigates the death of a not-well liked ornithologist.

Along the way, Andrews’ grand research will teach you about barred and spotted owls, too. Who knew a group of owls is called a parliament? Makes one think …

With her trademark humor backed up by a cozy mystery plot, Owl Be Home for Christmas is just what Santa ordered to put readers in the holiday mood.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

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Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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

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.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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