The Seven Sinister Sisters Tour with a GIANT Giveaway! Monday, Feb 19 2018 

Hello Auntie M, and thanks so much for hosting The Seven Sinister Sisters today. Let me first introduce us, we are: Becky Clark, Edith Maxwell, Leslie Karst, Cathy Perkins, Shawn McGuire, Sue Star and Patricia Hale. We all have new releases coming out between January and April. At each stop of our tour, we’re answering a different question about our own work or writing in general. Today’s question is:

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

Becky Clark will start us off…

Best? Connecting with readers. Back when I wrote for kids I got a letter that said, “I didn’t like to read until I read your book.” I could have stopped writing right then and still come out ahead. There’s simply nothing better than having a reader tell you they like what you do.

The worst is probably struggling with a manuscript and falling into the abyss of self-doubt. “I can’t write a mystery! Nobody thinks I can do this. It’s hopeless. I’M hopeless. Wah.” But then I usually remember that I’ve done it before and can probably do it again.

And while Becky values connecting with readers, it’s fellow writers that give Leslie Karst a boost.

By far the best part of being an author has been the relationships I’ve established with other mystery writers, for they are the most generous, helpful, warm, and supportive people I’ve ever encountered.

As for the downside, I’ll quote my law professor father: “There are only two times I’m miserable—when I’m writing and when I’m not writing.” Because when you’re in the middle of a book, you’re nervous about getting it right and angsting that you should be working on it whenever you’re not. But when you’re not in the middle of a book, you feel as if there’s something deeply missing from your life.

Ahhh… the dreaded MIDDLE. Edith Maxwell gives us her insight on keeping things moving.

The best is when I’m typing away and a character does something I had not planned. I don’t know why she did it, and, like the reader, I have to keep going to see what happens next. Those are the magical moments of writing.

For me the worst part is the big sloppy middle of a book. It’s so hard to stretch my arms around the first thirty thousand words or so. It’s hard to keep all of it in my mind, even with my handy scene synopsis cards in Scrivener. But I have to, and I have to make the action move forward without boring either me or the reader, until we get to the exciting last ten thousand words of the story. But, as I now know having finished eighteen novels, if I keep pushing, I’ll get there! And ya can’t fix what ya haven’t written.

Eighteen novels? Pretty impressive, Edith. Which brings us to the thing we all agree on…

LACK OF TIME. But according to Sue Star, time is both the best and the worst.

Tough question, because the answer is the same for best and worst: time. Being a writer is all playtime. I get to spend my time making up stories to myself, stories that I want to read and maybe can’t find in bookstores. I get to build worlds and create people, playing god, and I get to vent my frustrations with the real world in a humorous way. The consequence of all this fun ultimately leads to the “worst” thing: sacrificing real time with the family while writing to deadline. It’s a tough balance!

The balancing act continues with Shawn McGuire’s inability to unplug.

The best is that I get to go to wonderful places in my head and hang out with people I wouldn’t otherwise encounter in daily life. I get to go on wonderful adventures and pretend to be someone I’m not.

The worst thing is that I sometimes feel like I’m always working. Even when I’m not at my computer, plot points are flowing through my head, the characters are talking to me, and new books are asking for attention. I guess I prefer that to writer’s block, but it’s good to unplug, as I’m always telling my husband to do!

Cathy Perkins battles time, but loves the process.

I love the entire writing process, but if I have to pick one element, it’s developing the characters. You often hear authors say they don’t like plotting, but I enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together, making sure the plot holds together and that all the characters (including the villains!) have a good motive for whatever they’re doing. I love twisty mysteries where so many people, I mean characters, have a motive for the crime. Adding layers of complexity to the characters really draws me into the story.

Worst part? Beyond promo (shudder): it’s time. There’s never enough! I try to write in the morning (at an obscenely early hour) before the day job kicks into high gear.

Shudder at promo? More like shake, rattle and roll for Patricia Hale.

The best? No question, spending long, quiet hours alone doing what I love. Finding my way into “the zone” and losing all track of time. When I’m writing, I’m most content with myself and nothing is as fulfilling as a successful day at the computer.

The worst? Promotion. I have a hard time “selling myself”. I could never make a living in sales. At my first signing a woman was going to buy one of my books for herself and one for her mother. I suggested they just share one. A friend reminded me that I was supposed to be “selling” my work. See what I mean? For me, promoting and selling myself is like traveling to a country where I don’t speak the language.

To celebrate our new releases, the Seven Sinister Sisters are having a giveaway!

Seven lucky winners will receive an ebook from one of us.

One GRAND PRIZE winner will receive a signed copy from each of us!

Enter to win by leaving a comment below. Our tour runs from January 6th to April 30th and we’re answering a different question at each blog. Leave a comment at each blog for more entries! We’ll draw the winner from all the combined comments at the end of our tour.

Watch our Facebook page for the next stop on the tour.


Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Legacy Thursday, Feb 15 2018 

The Queen of Icelandic Noir debuts a thrilling new series with The Legacy, introducing detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja.

The two share an uncomfortable event before being assigned to a case that’s fraught with misery: A woman is horrifically murdered in her own home, and the only witness is her seven-year-old daughter, who hid under her mother’s bed during the killing.

Using Freyja’s talents with the child, Huldar must test his new promotion to its limits as he tries to make sense of the unusual murder method.

Pushing young Margaret has produced little effect, but once it’s known she was a witness, her life becomes in danger and Freyja ends up taking her into her home for safety when the killings continue.

But is that really a safe environment? And how can Hildar figure out why the seemingly unrelated victims are related to the killer, who seems aware of forensic concerns?

A complicated thread of evidence with short-wave radios and a series of numbers that impact the investigation provide an unusual subplot that adds to the horrid murder methods the killer uses.

It will take all of Huldar’s smarts and savviness to figure out what Margaret has obliquely told him. Named Best Crime Novel of the Year in Iceland, this is one Auntie M dares you to figure out until the end. Highly recommended.

Ausma Zehanat Khan: A Dangerous Crossing Wednesday, Feb 14 2018 

A Valentine’s Day treat for readers~

Ausma Khan’s newest installment in her Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty series takes the two detectives to Greece and other environs in A Dangerous Crossing.

Turning a bold spotlight on the plight of Syrian refugees and the Greek camps where they await permanent homes, Esa and Rachel are tasked by none other than their own Prime Minister to find a missing person in Greece.

That person turns out to be Audrey Clare, sister of Esa’s friend Nathan, who has been working in Greece to fast-track refugees to Canadian homes. But the unthinkable has happened: An Interpol worker and a young male refugee are shot with Audrey’s gun inside her tent, and Audrey has disappeared.

The Greek police center their thoughts on Audrey being the culprit, but Rachel and Esa, who know the young woman, understand that not only would Audrey not be able to kill someone, but that her own life may be in danger.

Khan manages to bring home to readers the very sad and seriously depraved situation Syrian’s face. The torture, beatings, murders and chemical warfare against his own population that Assad has committed have provoked a humanitarian crises for those who manage to escape that has impacted many nations.

What Khan manages to do is to personalize this affront to humans by narrowing the focus to several people Esa and Rachel become involved with, all the while educating readers to what is happening in Syria. This allows readers to get close to the situation and become invested in it while elucidating the harsh realities of the situation beyond what we glean from news reports.

Khan manages to convey the lost history and civilization of a people, not just their cultural icons, but their humanity, as well as their respect and their faith in each other as families are torn apart. This hallmark depth of research is balanced by the unfolding relationships of Esa and Rachel as each find themselves deciding who to allow into their lives as they gain mutual respect for each other.

It’s a delicate balance, and one that Khan handles well as the thrilling story escalates and Esa and Rachel must decide whom they can trust in their race to find Audrey Clare. Highly recommended.

Gregg Hurwitz: Hell Bent, An Orphan X novel Thursday, Feb 8 2018 

Gregg Hurwitz’s popular Orphan X series continues with Hell Bent, featuring Evan Smoak, the man with many identities.

The vigilante this time responds to a call for help from Jack Johns, the only father Evan has known. While the government is trying to erase all traces of the Orphan program they used on Evan, they have found Jack, who needs Evan to protect Jack’s last recruit for the program, a young woman named Joey.

Of course Evan’s not alone in his search. Van Sciver is the new head of the Orphan program in its current incantation and has the power to take out Evan and the target he’s supposedly protecting.

It’s a wild ride to the finish in this latest installment. If you enjoy a fast-paced stylish thriller, this one’s for you.

New in Paperback: Jonasson, Sigurdardottir, Berry Wednesday, Jan 31 2018 

Three great books are now out in paperback if you missed their original release dates.

Jagnar Jonasson’s Snowblind is the first Ari Thor Arason thriller. Ari abandoned his theology studies to become a police officer at the height of Iceland’s severe financial crisis in 2008. Sent to a remote fishing center in the north, a local prominent writer dies, sending Ari his first big case. Another death soon follows, and what Ari thought would be a quiet start to his career soon becomes anything but. Nice twists keep readers glued to the page.

A chilling standalone thriller from the talented Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Undesired has a supernatural bent that will keep you awake long after you’ve put the book down. In the 1970s, a young woman takes a job she hates, working at a juvenile detention center in a rural area of Iceland. Two boys go missing under unusual circumstances. Many years later, Odinn is the person tasked with looking into alleged abuse at the same center. He comes to believe those events of years ago might be connected to the accident that killed his ex-wife and left him a single parent. Complex and chilling.

Steve Berry’s The Lost Order continues his Cotton Malone series with its hallmark research that weaves a fantastical story into real events in history. In this outing, Malone’s own great-great-grandfather, a Confederate spy, is part of a secret society that Malone discovers still operates in the present day. Their secrets and hidden wealth are tied to a plot that could change our government forever. Power and greed are at the forefront in this winning addition to the series that has Malone and his allies racing around the country to save it.

Stephen Leather: The Shout Thursday, Jan 25 2018 

Thriller writer Stephen Leather surprises readers by leaving his multiple series behind and writing a stand-alone that enters the world of London’s Fire Brigade in The Shout.

Filled with realistic details and insider knowledge that makes that dangerous profession spring to life, Leather introduces Vicky Lewis, a strong member of the brigade and already a crew manager, despite not having reached her thirtieth birthday.

Then tragedy strikes during a fire as Vicky is saving a man’s life. She receives catastrophic injuries that change her appearance and her life, and threaten her livelihood.

After months of painful recovery and therapy, Vicky returns to work at the Fire Investigation Unit, under the veteran firefighter known as The Grouch, Des Farmer.

Forced to work together, the two form an uneasy alliance until Vicky learns of Farmer’s investigation into a series of fire-related deaths of young women and decides to help him find their murderer.

Chapters from the killer’s point of view show his meticulous care in setting up the scenes, adding to the ghoulish tension. Soon Vicky and Farmer find themselves racing against a killer who knows how to set a scene so he can’t be found–and then it gets personal.

Tense and with Leather’s tradmemark storytelling.

Nicki French: Sunday Silence Wednesday, Jan 17 2018 

This compelling psychological thriller series returns with Sunday Silence, featuring therapist Frieda Klein.

At once strong and resilient, the Frieda who walks London to examine her thoughts is shaken to the core when the body of dead policeman is found under the floorboards of her own living room. At once a person of interest in the case, Frieda is more concerned that appears killer Dan Reeve is making his existence known, to the chagrin of the police commissioner who has refused to take Frieda seriously when she tried to explain that contrary to his own supposed death he’d orchestrated, Reeve was alive and well, and circling Frieda.

She’s already lost a former lover to this maniac who is obsessed with Frieda and vows it won’t happen again to any one close to her.

Then Frieda’s niece is abducted and other horrible events occur to those in her circle. Is this the work of Reeve, confirming he’s alive? Or is there a copycat out there, trying to impress either Reeve? Or even far, far worse: could it be down to both killers at work?

It’s a difficult time for anyone close to Frieda, and soon her friends are staying together as Frieda and the few police who believe her try to flush out the killers. She will use her instinct and keen awareness of body language to figure out who the copycat is, and when and where he will strike again.

The married duo forming Nikki French bring another fascinating installment to readers as Frieda will cross a line even she never thought she would professionally in a bid to save those she loves. Louise Penny calls this series “fabulous, unsettling, and riveting,” with good cause. Highly recommended.

Best Reads of 2017: Horowitz, Upson, Khan, Griffiths, McDermid, Crombie, MacBride, Oswald, Bolton, Penny, Billingham, Ward, Flanders and more… Sunday, Jan 7 2018 

The Best Reads of 2017

Last year was a banner year for wonderful books. Of the 174 books Auntie M reviewed, 25 of them received her coveted “Highly Recommended” rating. All of these have longer reviews archived on the site, but just to refresh your memory, here they are listed simply in the order I read them:

Everything You Want Me To Be/Mindy Meja: The story of a small-town high school senior’s murder, told from three voices including the dead girl. Well-crafted and surprising.

Garden of Lamentations/Deborah Crombie: the 17th Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James police procedural finds James’s newest case revolving around the murder of a young nanny in Notting Hill while Kincaid is involved in high espionage.

Among the Ruins/Ausma Zehanat Khan: the third Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery takes the duo from their Canadian home to Iran, where intrigue swirls around them both as they investigate the murder of a Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker.

Swiss Vendetta/Tracee de Hahn: this debut introduces Swiss-American detective Agnes Luthi, trapped during an ice storm at the castle-like chateau of a wealthy family to investigate a murder, just as she’s recovering from her husband’s suicide.

A Death in the Dales/Frances Brody: Kate Shackleton, supposedly on vacation, finds herself investigating an old murder and becomes convinced the wrong man was hung as the killer in this entertaining historical series.

A Cast of Vultures/Judith Flanders: Editor Sam Clair finds herself wrapped up in a murder when a body is found after a neighborhood fire, to the chagrin of her detective partner. Entertaining and well-plotted with a self-deprecating protagonist.

The Satanic Mechanic/Sally Andrews: Visit South Africa’s Karoo where Tannie Maria, baker extraordinaire, must investigate when a man is poisoned in her presence. Creative and unique and complete with recipes.

Quieter Than Killing/Sarah Hilary: the fourth detective Marnie Rome series brings the detective facing her own ghosts when she and partner Noah Jake tackle a series of what might be vigilante crimes. Deeply emotional and highly original.

Conviction/Julia Dahl: the third Rebekah Roberts novel takes the investigative journalist’s newest story too close for comfort when she tries to free an innocent man convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.

Written in Bones/James Oswald gives Insp. Tony McLean a strange case when a body is dropped from the sky and lands in a tree.

The Chalk Pit/Elly Griffiths: the series featuring forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway takes on a personal threat when she’s called to investigate old bones found during a chalk pit excavation for a new restaurant. Highly absorbing.

Magpie Murders/Anthony Horowitz: the mystery-within-a-mystery by the author of Foyle’s War and many Midsomer Murders scripts creates a prickly homage to the Golden Age authors, as an editor searches for the final chapter of the last book of her publishing house’s most lucrative series.

Die of Shame and Love Like Blood intertwines two of Mark Billingham’s grand novels, bringing DI Nicola Tanner and Tom Thorne together in a most creative way. Complex and compelling reads.

Perish the Day/ John Farrow: highlights the Canadian author’s series featuring retired detective Emile Cinq-Mars with weather always an issue, as he and his wife travel to her NH roots and become involved with the killing of her niece’s friend.

The Marsh King’s Daughter/ Karen Dionne: a sophisticated tale of revenge and heartache, told compellingly from the POV of a young woman whose mother was held in captivity since before she was born. A distinct sense of place adds to the atmosphere.

The Child/Fiona Barton: Book 2 Auntie M read out of order in the series featuring reporter Kate Waters –see Jan 8th for the review of The Widow, Book 1, also HR. Here an infant’s bones are found from a decades-old burial, sparking a new investigation.

Glass Houses /Louise Penny: an Inspt. Gamache tour de force, when murder hits Three Pines and Gamache is forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his career. Unsettling, creative and very Gamache.

Let the Dead Speak /Jane Casey: Detective Maeve Kerrigan is saddled with a rookie and a strange case where the victim is missing from the murder scene. Inventive, with twists and turns that keep the series fresh.

Dead Woman Walking/Sharon Bolton: a stand-alone with two sisters who take a fated balloon ride and only one survives. A fascinating story that will surprise readers from a master plotter.

A Patient Fury/Sarah Ward: Third DC Childs mystery, where the young detective is faced with a possible murder-suicide of a entire family, but suspects it’s what she’s meant to believe. Compelling, with a super-surprise ending.

Insidious Intent/Val McDermid: the Queen of Scottish Noir at the top of her game, as Tony Hill and Carol Jordan investigate when a series of burned out cars containing bodies lead them to an elusive killer. Has an ending readers can’t possibly predict that has left everyone shocked and more than one in tears.

Nine Lessons/Nicola Upson: continues her series set between the World Wars with Josephine Tey as the main character, this time in Cambridge when a rapist is on the loose just as her friend, Detective Archie Penrose, has a strange case to investigate, and their private lives become entangled. Literary prose, compelling plotting and great characters.

Sweet Little Lies /Caz Frear: introduces DC Cat Kinsella, whose must ask her father if he has an alibi for the night a woman is murdered near his pub. An accomplished debut.

Sleep No More/P D James: a slim collection of short stories by the master of crime fiction, with stories that will have readers thinking long and hard with their atypical murders and often surprising twists. Engrossing and readable.

Anthony Horowitz: The Word is Murder Friday, Jan 5 2018 

Continuing a January run of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reads for readers:

Anthony Horowitz is a man Auntie M would like to interview. The author of the Alex Rider teen spy series, he’s responsbile for some of the UK’s best television series, including Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War, and wrote what was one of Auntie M’s favorite reads last year, Magpie Murders. He’s also written two Sherlock Holmes and one James Bond novels, is on the board othe Old Vic Theatre, and oh yes, don’t forget his OBE from the Queen for servies to Literature.

Now he’s turned to the start of a new series that promises to be just as successful and entertaining. The Word is Murder brings his creative bent to the forefront in the debut, which features Detective Daniel Hawthorne and . . . author Anthony Horowitz.

That’s right. Horowitz appears as a character in his own series, when Hawthorne approaches him to write a book about the detective’s newest case, and it’s a humdinger Howorwitz can’t ignore: victim Diana Cowper arranged her own funeral service and is murdered later that same day. Did she anticipate her murder, or was she just doing as many older people do and putting her affairs in order?

Hawthorne is known for solving tough cases and Horowitz soon finds that he is also very good at holding clues and secrets to himself until they need to be shared. This leads Horowitz as assistant detective into some hot water at times, even as he struggles to like the detective he’s shadowing. It’s an interesting mix of personalities and Horowitz-Author parses out information on Hawthorne to Horowitz-Character.

With the writer reluctantly gaining respect for Hawthorne’s talents, it’s still a dark and dangerous path they follow with surprising twists and turns in a pleasing mystery with a surprise ending.

A masterful and complex mystery that has Auntie M waiting in anticipation for the next in the series. Highly recommended.

Jan McCanless: Gold, Frankincense and Murrrrder Tuesday, Dec 26 2017 

A funny one for Boxing Day delights!

Humorist Jan McCanless returns with a new murder to hit Beryl’s Cove: Gold, Frankincense and Murrrder.

Chief Nathan Sowinski has to sink his teeth into an investigation when a yacht sinks off the coast, setting off a round of action that has him bothered and bewildered, if not bewitched.

The usual cast of eccentric characters people what McCanless calls her “happy murders,” added to this time by a federal agent, vandals at the campground, and don’t forget the Christmas pageant coming together–or falling apart.

Gold,Frankincense and Murrrder is the eleventh in the Beryl’s Cove Mystery series.

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