Nicola Ford: The Hidden Bones Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


Drawing on her own experience in the field as a National Trust Archaeologist for Stonehenge and the Avebury World Heritage Site, Nicola Ford’s debut teaches readers about a dig, wrapped up in a riveting mystery.

Introducing Clare Hills, recovering from grief over the loss of her husband, she jumps at the chance to help her former university colleague, Dr. David Barbrook, catalogue the research of a deceased archelolgist, Gerald Hart, whose archives were believed lost in a fire shortly before his death.

Hart’s big find is in the British Museum, a gold and amber coin from the Hungerbourne Barrows dig supervised decades ago, and suddenly closed down.

When Clare finds Hart’s unpublished archives, she and David set out to document Hart’s excavation, and soon have funding for a dig of their own.

But the records indicate a second coin has been found, yet where is it? As Clare and David search follow the investigative trail for the missing coin, the star of Hart’s archive, accidents begin to befall members of the dig team. And then someone is killed and they realized they’re in the path of a killer who won’t hesitate to do it again.

Nicola Ford is the pen name of distinguished archaeologist Dr. Nick Snashall, who says she spends far more time than most people thinking about the dead.

An accomplished debut, the first in a planned series.

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Daniel Cole: Hangman Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


After the success of his debut Ragdoll, Daniel Cole returns with Detective Emily Baxter in Hangman.

The acerbic British Baxter travels to New York City as part of an investigation into copycat murders that echo the Ragdoll killings.

The serial killer case left Baxter reeling and this time she doesn’t have the help of missing colleague Wolf Fawkes. She’s trying to move on at work and in her personal life until she’s seconded to assist the FBI and CIA in these new cases.

With “BAIT” carved into the chest of victims, and soon, “PUPPET” in the chest of others, the killings escalate to both shores of the Atlantic, adding a fierce depravity to the killings.

Tense and conflicting personalities within the task force don’t make Baxter’s job any easier, not does her tendency to piss people off.

This is a dark, distrubng read of increasing suspense as Baxter realizes she doesn’t know whom she can trust. And that bottom of it all is a twisted killer who knows no bounds.

Lori Rader-Day: Under a Dark Sky Friday, Aug 10 2018 


Lori Rader-Day’s new psychological thriller, Under a Dark Sky, lives up to the promise of the Mary Higgins Clark and Anthony Award winner’s previous novels.

The care and attention to detail in setting, character emotions and plot make this a compelling read, when young widow Eden Wallace arrives at a Michigan dark sky park on what she thinks will be a solo vacation arranged as a surprise by her dead husband.

She couldn’t be more wrong on several fronts, but she’s battling night terrors, and needs to conquer both her fear of the dark and a future without her husband.

But her private retreat turns out to be a multi-guest lodge, and the six others are all college friends there for a reunion. It’s an odd assortment of varying personalities, some paired off, others not, but Eden is clearly the outsider and plans to return to her Chicago home the next day.

Then one of the friends is murdered in the middle of the night, and being on the premises puts Eden in the unfortunate position of being both a suspect and a witness.

That distance from the group gives her a certain clarity as to their actions–or does it? Cordoned together at a seedy motel, deprived of the little sleep she’s able to get in daylight, Eden suffers under a grueling investigation with only one certainly in sight: one of the others is a killer.

As horrific accidents pile up, secrets are revealed and Eden realizes her own life is in danger. But how can she figure out who has been prepared to commit murder over and over?

Narrated by Eden, we see things from her point of view and her impressions of the group, which are all shaded by her own experience with her dead husband, a vet who suffered from PTSD whos carried secrets of his own that have devastated her.

Rader-Day builds the suspense page by page in a relentless way. The setting has that closed-house feel reminiscent of a Christie mystery with added layers of depth to characters who feel distinct and real.

Auntie M heard Rader-Day talk about the dark night sky part at Malice Domestic this year and knew that choice of setting alone was an inspired choice for the book.

A superb, riveting read. Highly recommended~

Louise Candlish: Our House Tuesday, Aug 7 2018 


Louise Candlish’s Our House is being called ‘domestic suspense’ and I suppose that fits, but it doesn’t do justice to this compelling story that had Auntie M abandoning the dinner cooking because she opened the first page and started to read when it arrived in the post.

This story sucks readers in and makes them turn pages to find out how it could possibly all end.

Fiona Lawson and her husband Bram are separated after she catches him with another woman in their son’s playhouse at the bottom of the garden of the house she loves. While she is bitterly disappointed in this repeat offense, Bram is an excellent father.

Worried about her two young boys, she decides to try a parenting arrangement becoming popular in the US: bird’s nest custody, where the children stay in their home and the parents come and go. They agree to try this arrangement out for several months, with Bram arriving every Friday afternoon and staying until Sunday.

It’s an interesting way to deal with keeping young children secure and seems to be working well. Fi has even started to date a bit, an attractive man, as the months roll by.

Until the day she arrives home earlier than expected after a few days with her new beau to find a moving van pulled up outside her house and a new couple in the process of moving in.

It’s the stuff of nightmares. Surely there is a huge mistake! And where are all of her belongings and furniture? Yet the new couple claim they closed on the house that very morning and Bram was involved. But when Fi tries to reach him, she can’t find him or her sons.

Through alternating bits of the story, Bram and Fi tell their stories of what led to this betrayal. But that’s not all that happens. In cruel twists, the worst is yet to come.

This is a dark and gripping read, one that will have readers up until long after the lights should be out to find out the ending, which packs a punch that kept Auntie M thinking about it for days.
Highly recommended.

Mandy Morton: Magical Mystery Paws Sunday, Aug 5 2018 


Drawing on her own singer-songwriter folk rock days from the 70s, Mandy Morton brings an authentic feel to her 6th No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series with Magical Mystery Paws.

This time her pair of sleuths are between cases when Hettie Bagshot, whose own folk rock career bears more than a passing resemblence to Morton’s, and her sidekick, Tilly Jenkins, enlist their friend Bruiser when they become convinced to travel the “Summer of Fluff” tour bus to aid the comeback of blind punk rock cat, Patty Sniff, on her new tour.

Crammed together on Psycho Derek’s bus along with Patty are her backups, the Cheese Triangles, Kitty O’Shea’s Irish dance troupe with their wheelchair-bound Russian choreographer, and very bad magician Derek and assistant Belisha Beacon.

It’s a real hodgepodge of chararacters who take off in the psychedelic bus, if the wheezing crate makes it to the first stop.
When the drummer is found dead after the first performance, Hettie and Tilley must solve the murder as well as assist on the tour.

And what a tour it is, from mini-skirts and guitars, lighting and sound, to the sweet smell of memories for Hettie, as well as from something most of the cats are smoking. The puns galore add a light touch, from the mysteries of Agatha Crispy Tilly loves to the Tabby Road Recording Studios. There’s M. Balm, the town’s undertaker, and a jab to Morton’s partner, Nicolette Upstart, the famous writer. Auntie M may have to ask Morton about that sobriquet!

But don’t let the puns and mild humor distract you from what is a really well done mystery. If you look beyond the anthropomorphic business, all of the vagaries of humans are there, as well as telling details about human nature and emotions like jealousy and greed.

Morton’s extensive knowledge of cats lets her incorporates their mannerisms, likes and dislikes into these crime-solving realistic cat detectives. Readers will be entranced with this humanless world of cats Morton has designed.

Jolly good fun wrapped up in a darn good mystery.

Stephen Booth: Dead in the Dark Wednesday, Aug 1 2018 


A new Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mystery is always a read to look forward to, and Auntie M was happy to finally get her hands on Dead in the Dark, the 17th in a series that has lost none of its attraction and only grown over the years.

Ben is a DI now and reviews an old case that was never solved. A decade ago police believed that Reece Bower had killed his wife, Annette, but the case was never brought to court after the woman’s own father thought he saw her alive several weeks after she disappeared.

Now Reece himself has disappeared, and this time the old and new case are being investigated together. Reece’s new wife is pushing for answers for her and their two sons.

Ben would like the aid of the Major Crimes Unit and his old compatriot, DS Diane Fry, but can’t until he can produce a body.

A body is exactly what Diane Fry has on her hands, in a town that has a large Polish population who concern the locals to varying degrees. When a man is found dead at home, stabbed to death, it appears he was knifed in the alley outside his rented flat.

The victim’s landlord is someone being watched for right-wing extremist activites, and just might be involved in something more dangerous.

Add in arson cases, and family issues for both Ben and Diane, and you have a nicely plotted set of cases to keep both detectives busy.

Once again, the landscape will prove itself to be more than just a setting in this very satisfying addition to a prime series.

Peter James: Dead If You Don’t Sunday, Jul 29 2018 


Peter James returns with his newest Roy Grace police procedural in Dead If You Don’t, where the Brighton Detective Superintendent has a strange case to solve.

He’s at the new Amex Stadium for a highly anticipated football match with his older son when a bomb threat is called in and he’s on high alert, eventually acting in a heroic manner Auntie M won’t spoil.

Kipp Brown, seen previously as a suspect, figures as the main character when his gambling debts merge with the kidnapping of his teen son, Mungo, from the stadium.

But that’s just the beginning of the twisted tale, as Kipp contacts the police, despite being warned not to by the kidnappers. That’s when Roy’s path crosses that of Jorgji Dervishi, son of a reputed Albanian mobster. Jorgji’s son, Alek, is Mungo’s best friend, and he’s not returned home that same evening. Could both boys have been kidnapped?

The race is on to chase down those responsible while battling the bomber, whose threats continue. And when photos sent of Mungo show hi battling for his life, Roy and his team know the time they have to find the boy is fast running out.

With the action taking place over just a few days, detailed chapter headings with the time show the pressure the police are under as the plot unspools. Shorter chapters heighten the suspense and allow of points of view to change and illustrate different characters’ movements.

It all adds up to a masterful suspense procedural. One of the highlights of this series is the detailed account of how police really work, and the stumbling blocks they often come up against, from budgetary concerns to paperwork.

Of course, James’ mention of the police’s “Golden Hour” gave Auntie M a chill of delight to see her own THE GOLDEN HOUR Nora Tierney Mystery title explained.

Another winner from the CWA Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

Robin Minnick:The Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat Mysteries and more: author spotlight Friday, Jul 27 2018 

Today’s Author Spotlight is on NC writer Robin Minnack, whom I first had the pleasure of meeting at a Fayetteville writers festival. Here’s Robin’s story with a little prodding from Auntie M:

Auntie M: Tell Auntie M’s readers a bit about your background and how you started writing.

Robin Minnack: When I was a child, I loved playing let’s pretend. I had a partner in crime who loved to play the hero and rescue me from burning buildings and play cowboy to my cowgirl. My imagination also activated whenever I rode the school bus or had to wait for someone. At home, reading over lunch or even informal dinner was the norm. Soon I was applying vocabulary and story structure I learned from reading to stories of my own. In 5th grade, I wrote a mystery in my notebook in cramped, ballpoint-smudged script that was 11 tightly-written pages long. All I remember about it now is that it was a mystery involving a magic vase. But I had completed my first mystery, and I was hooked on the idea of writing more stories from the ones that played inside my head.

AM: What genre do you write in and how did you come to choose this?

RM: Primarily mystery, although I’ve written a mainstream novel as well and have others planned. I have three books in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, with two more planned. All four of my books are available at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
I was raised on Agatha Christie, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. My mother loved Christie, and it was she who started me collecting Christie’s books. I love the puzzle; I love the idea of drama and justice; and I love the romance that is inevitable in so many mysteries, the relationship that develops when people are thrown together in dramatic circumstances.

AM: What was the genesis for your storylines? Where do you find your ideas?
RM: As it turns out, that little boy who always rescued me? He went into law enforcement. When I wrote WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED, he became the model for Lt. Bryan Jamison. I hasten to add, he knew nothing of this, and it was only so I could have a mental model for the character. That’s one thing I do. I take people I’ve seen – actors and real people – to play the roles of my characters. Having a physical image in my head to build on helps.
The other feature of my books, the classic boat part, comes from the vintage or antique boats my husband introduced me to in his hometown of Clayton, New York. Clayton is home to both the Antique Boat Museum and the Antique & Classic Boat Society. Every August since 1964 classic boats from all over the country converge on Clayton (Clayton is located on the St. Lawrence river, in the Thousand Islands region.) My husband took me to my first show, and I fell in love with these wonderful wooden boats. Sleek and shiny with layer upon layer of varnish after they’ve been restored, they carry history with them. Antique boats set my books a little apart, I think, and allow me to share my interest through my protagonist (Mackenzie’s) passion.

WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED stemmed from a nightmare I had as well as the experience of growing up in a small town/rural area.


SWEET CORN, FIELDS, FOREVER
came about from our living a good portion of our lives in Nashville TN. Our kids did some recording work there, and I got a peek at the inside of the music industry. Now I’ll admit to being a frustrated songwriter. Best compliment I ever got was when I attended a workshop with a Nashville songwriter. I showed him a song I wrote for SWEET CORN, FIELDS, FOREVER, and he liked it. I floated home from that workshop and went on to write all the songs for the book. Probably not good enough to be real songs, but good enough to be believable.


The third book, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER, was actually inspired by a 1938 Chris Craft cruiser that we were privileged to board. My mother-in-law made friends with a couple who brought their boat across Lake Ontario each year to the Antique Boat Show. The year we had our first baby, when she was only 6 weeks old, they took us aboard the cruiser for the Antique Boat Show Parade. Then again when we visited with our oldest three, and one more time when we brought all six of our kids with us. When I was finished writing the book, I tracked down the owner via the internet. At 91 he still enjoys life and his boat, and he was happy to give us permission to devise the book’s cover from a photo my husband had taken of his boat, The Roscommon.

My novel, REMAINDER, stems from life in a small town, events in 2001, and from living in Nashville for 24 years. The initial inspiration was when my daughters’ godfather died from pancreatic cancer. He was deeply involved in our church, and to keep up with his journey in the illness, a listserv was set up to send out communications. This was a new thing at the time, and it kept everyone in close touch in a moving way. REMAINDER is also available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

AM: Readers love to hear about a writer’s process. Can you describe a typical writing day in your life?

RM: Writing day is nearly every day for me. Other than when I work my morning job or when I’m cooking (which I do for pleasure as well as preparing meals) I might be writing. Before work, after work, after dinner, if there is writing needing to be done, I might be at it.

For many years, raising our family, I fit my writing into bits and pieces wherever I could. With more time at my disposal, I am still in the habit of writing whenever I can. I am so in love with the process that I lose track of how much time I spend at it. I actually feel uncomfortable when I go for a few days without writing.

I confess to usually writing with music playing or the tv on. It’s a habit left over from when I used to do homework – I didn’t say it was a good habit! Sometimes I walk or stretch out in the hammock while I plot. If a scene is particularly difficult, I might even lie face down on my bed, hands cupped around my eyes, reciting ‘concentrate, concentrate’ or ‘focus, focus, focus,’ until I am unable to think of anything other than my story.

While all my submission drafts are done on the computer, I get a kick out of handwriting outlines and early drafts on different papers with things like colored pens or pencils. Or maybe I switch the program I’m using on the computer. Changing up my tools helps freshen my mind and stimulates the process.

And while I never thought I’d like research, I’ve gotten a kick out of what the Internet can turn up for me. I’ve browsed some strange goods on eBay, the weirdest being shoe tops sold to morticians for use by the dearly departed in the casket. I’ve looked up the types of guns carried by the Coast Guard Investigative Service as opposed to other branches of law enforcement.

Off-computer, I’ve traipsed around boat shows bugging owners about how they restored their boats and begged my doctor to vet a scene I’ve written for medical accuracy. I’ve interviewed servers at the Biltmore estate about how they handle it when attendees at the wine tastings taste too much and taken a helicopter tour of the Smokeys for the experience my characters are going to have.

AM: Who were your influences in reading? Who do you enjoy reading now for pleasure?

RM: My influences were Agatha Christie, Anne McCaffery, Isaac Asimov, and Dick Francis, with just a touch of James Michener (something I didn’t realize until just now, answering your question!) Also Anne George, writer of the Southern Sisters mysteries, poet laureate of Alabama, and one of the most delightful speakers I’ve ever heard. If any of my work evokes her writing, I am tremendously pleased.

Currently I enjoy J. Evanovitch for her Stephanie Plum series, a certain Marni Graff for modern classical-style cozies, and Fannie Flagg for Southern humor. My reading is eclectic, as I enjoy a touch of nonfiction, and authors as wide-ranging as Celia Rivenbark, Craig Johnson, and Piers Anthony. I will not read Stephen King, however. He’s too darn good at what he does. I can’t handle it.

AM: What’s next for Robin in her writing life?

RM: I have two more books to complete in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, two mainstream novels, and a Christmas epic to finish as well. That makes 5 books already planned. First drafts are mostly completed for 3 of them. I am also contributing to and editing an anthology our writing group is putting together. My son joined our group, and he headed up the committee to build the world all our stories are set in. After that, I am not sure. I was thinking about the state of things the other day, and an idea sort of came to mind, something I might call The Last Smuggler…. We’ll see.

RJ Minnick was born in the Capital District region of New York State. The youngest of five girls, she spent her childhood in a centralized school district on a farm that grew – when it grew anything – Christmas trees. She went to the State University of New York at Oswego in the days Al Roker was a student there; she can actually say she knew him then, although he might not remember her. Her major was sociology, and she knew she was destined for great things in that field. What she was actually destined for turned out to be quite different.

She’s spent a lifetime working at various jobs (she even sold Fuller Brush!) and another lifetime raising six terrific offspring with her husband. During all that time she kept writing – poetry, reviews, short stories, nonfiction, mysteries, mainstream novels, and Christmas epics. Some of it was for hire, some was freelance, some independently published.

Currently RJ Minnick lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, four cats and – from time to time – a child or two.

Contact Robin here:
http://www.findingrobinsstory.com website and blog

https://www.facebook.com/MWCBauthorRJMinnick facebook page for the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries

https://www.facebook.com/authorRJMinnick facebook page for Remainder (novel)

Elizabeth Haynes: Never Alone Wednesday, Jul 25 2018 

Elizabeth Haynes has a gift for psychological suspense that holds the reader in its plausible grip and never lets go until the last page.

In Never Alone, alternating points of view tell the story of Sarah Carpenter, a widow getting used to her empty nest; Aiden Beck, her college flame and friend of her husband, who needs a place to stay and rent Sarah’s vacant cottage; and an unnamed narrator who’s watching them both.

Sarah has her close friend, Sophie, nearby, and her two dogs. Daughter Kitty is at university; son Louis is estranged from Sarah and she doesn’t understand the reasons. But she’s hardly alone. And yet … the menace she comes to feel at times is very real.

Then married Sophie starts an affair with a much younger man, a friend of Louis, and people start disappearing. Shorter chapters up the ante as the suspense piles on. What exactly does Aiden do for a living, and can he be trusted?

The alternating point of view adds to the suspense and builds a dark thriller, while the elusive narrator tells his/her part of the story from an outsider’s view.

With the setting in North Yorkshire, the brooding landscape provides the perfect noir-ish backdrop to a story steeped in sexual imagery. Add in Hayne’s creation of fascinating characters, a creepy house cut off in heavy snow, and a clever plot, and you have all the ingredients for heightened danger and a whopping good thriller.

Three for Summer: Cleland, Stanley, Bannalec Sunday, Jul 15 2018 

Three delightful reads for summer fun:

Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott series, set along the New Hampshire coast, brings antiques into focus. Her newest, Antique Blues, revolves around her friend Mo, who asks Josie to appraise a Japanese woodblock print Mo has acquired.

The woodblock has come from Mo’s sister’s boyfriend, who raises Josie’s hackles in all the wrong ways, including questioning the provenance of the print.

It doesn’t help that Cal appears to be abusing Mo’s sister, Lydia. And when Mo is found murdered and Cal disappears, he’s the likely suspect.

All the usual characters are here, from the young reporter Wes Smith and Rocky Point’s own police chief, Ellis Hunter, as Josie tried to track Mo’s killer. And don’t forget her fiance, Ty. There’s a bit of controversy over just how big their wedding should be.

There will be an appraisal of a vintage guitar, and a chance to merge businesses on the Josie’s horizon. With all she has going on, she still manages to pull off a murder investigation.

Josie’s job as an antique expert and appraiser teaches readers about many areas that Cleland has knowledge of, having once owned her own antique business.

City of Sharks is Kelli Stanley’s new Miranda Corbie Mystery, and takes readers into the world of the San Francisco private detective in the 1940s. The strong and capable protagonist is evocative of the era and woman’s new roles with the world on the brink of WWII.

When a secretary at a publishing house, Louise Crowley, convinces Miranda she’s afraid of being killed, with multiple good reasons, the PI puts her England travel plans on hold to investigate.

Then Louise’s publisher is killed, with Louise and possibly her sister targeted as suspects. Miranda’s investigation will bring up a host of other possible suspects, and there are even encounters with John Steinbeck and CS Forester, as well as newpaperman Herb Caen.

With period details that bring that height of that time to life, this one’s like having a noir movie play out in front of readers in an interesting mystery.

It’s atmosphere of a different sort when Jean-Luc Bennalec takes his Commissaire Georges Dupin away from his job in Concarneau to the salt marshes in The Fleur De Sel Murders.

The landscape is lovingly described, the scent of violets in the air from the harvested salt in the strange completely flat area. This is where Dupin has come, to the Brittany area, after a tip from a journalist he knows that something odd is going on in the marshes involving blue barrels. As he sniffs around, almost hallucinating by the scent of the area, trying to decide what might be wrong, Dupin is grazed by a shot coming at him. Is this to warn him away?

It’s hardly the way he’d hoped the case to proceed, and he’s not in his own district. It makes him miss a planned birthday dinner in Paris with his girlfriend, and thrusts him into an investigation with the local commissaire, a woman who is less than happy to have him on her patch.

When the journalist is found dead, Dupin stays to uncover her killer, amidst the wonderful cuisine in the area that will have readers’s mouths watering. The area is presented beautifully, with details galore that bring it to life.

You’ll feel you’ve been to Brittany. Now where are my fleur de sel caramels?

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