Karen Rose: Say You’re Sorry Saturday, Feb 16 2019 

Starting a new series set in Sacramento, Say You’re Sorry is perfect for fans of high-octane thrillers with more than a hint of romance, the hallmark of author Karen Rose.

Main characters Daisy Dawson and FBI Special Agent Gideon Reynolds both hold secrets of their pasts that have affected their relationships. Their paths cross when Daisy thwarts a would-be attacker, in the process tearing off a necklace he wears.

That locket holds the key to the personal cold case Gideon has been investigating that revolves around his own upbringing and family. The two join forces to outwit the serial killer, who’s reach is far more than either expects. All they know is that this forensically-savvy killer carves certain letters into his victims.

Told from all three of these points of view, and laces with a few steamy scenes for the romantics out there, Rose gets into the mind of a serial killer with a fondness for dogs.

All of the characters have extended backstories, a great setup for the start of a new series, making this start intense and filled with suspense in a character-driven story.

Ausma Zehanat Khan: A Deadly Divide Wednesday, Feb 13 2019 


Asuma Zehanat Khan returns with the fifth in her series featuring Canadian detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty in A Deadly Divide.

Bearing her hallmark observation of each character’s story, imbuing each with realistic emotion, Khan’s elevates her novels from simple crime stories. While increasing the suspense as the book progresses, she manages to tell all sides of complex human rights issues, a nod to her background in international law.

This time the Community Policing detectives are called to a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. The local priest, found with a weapon in his hands, is released, while the Surete` detain a young Muslim helping the wounded on the scene.

But this is not a typical hate crime, and Khattak and Getty try to keep raging emotions calmed in a community reacting with fear, their efforts thrwarted by both a heavily right-wing university group and a right-wing radio host who inflames the popoulation.

Also at work are young Muslims trying to counteract his efforts with their own radio show, but there are secrets being kept from all of the detectives from all of these factions. And within the Surete` a mole is at work, adding to the fractures of the community with ill-timed leaks.

As if it isn’t enough to have this tension of political and religious differences, it soon becomes apparent that Esa and those he loves are in the crosshairs of someone else, someone egging him on and anticipating his moves and shadowing his circle.

How these things are connected is only half of the situation, as the two detectives grapple with their personal lives at the same time, making this a well-rounded portrayal of characters with emotional lives outside their jobs. Their very humanness, from postive to negative thoughts and actions, helps readers see everyone as fully fleshed. There are no cardboard characters here.

This ability to people her novels with characters who hold passionate beliefs, coupled with her thought-provoking, suspenseful plot, quietly educates readers while at the same time illustrating the complexities of living in the Western world as a Muslim.

Highly recommended.

Hot Thrillers for a Chilly Day:Leather, Quirk, Hurwitz,Krentz Saturday, Feb 9 2019 

With the arctic chill hovering over so much of our nation, here are new action-packed thrillers for your reading enjoyiment. Stay home with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate!


Stephen Leather’s fast-moving Spider Shepherd and his photographic memory are back. The series includes Tall Order now available in paperback, where Spider is present at a suicide bombing at a football ground. With Spider knowing that the killer looks like, he’s the logical choice to track him and his cell. Topical and addictive.

Leather’s new thriller Last Man Standing, takes readers on one wild ride and into the world of SAS trooper Matt Standing, who will call on old friend Spider to help him save his own friend.

When Standing hears from the sister of the navy SEAL who once saved his life that he’s needed, he flies to LA to help Bobby-Ray Barnes.

Barnes is now working as a bodyguard, but the tables are turned when the man he was guarding is killed, along with three other bodyguards. With Barnes accused of the murders, he’s in hiding for his life.

The dead client turns out to be none other than a Russian oligarch, whose Kremlin connections made him a target. But who actually is behind the murders, and the framing of Barnes?

These are the questions Standing must answer as he calls on his network of friends and that includes Spider. Before it’s over, there will be torture, crashes, and non-stop twists in what turns out to be often brutal action. Leather’s in-depth characterizations are present with Matt Standing as one to watch.

The Russians are at it again in Matthew Quirk’s The Night Agent, this time with a mole in the White House.

FBI Agent Peter Sutherland is working in the in the White House Situation Room at the night desk, determined to leave his father’s breach and downfall behind. That alone puts Sutherland at a disadvantage, but he’s fought to do things by the book, until a call comes that changes everything.

Rose is the caller and she brings him news that will start a chain of events Sutherland will rise to master, without knowing who he can trust.

Tough and realistic, and in current times, believeable, this is non-stop action with the threat of foreign influence reaching deep inside our government. Anyone in the White House could be the secret agent, a deeply unsettling thought.

With its topical storyline, quick action, and moral dilemnas, this is one to grab.

Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series has a huge following who have eagerly awaited the new installment, Out of the Dark.

Evan Smoak is Orphan X, who’s recast himself as The Nowhere Man, someone who helps those who have desperate problems. But this time he’s after the killer of his mentor, when the remaining Orphans, along with their trainers, are being eradicated.

The man behind this trail of murder is none other than the current President of the US, a man surrounded by Secret Service agents at all times. With a very small coterie of help available to him, Evan must outwit all of the President’s counter moves in an effort to save himself, just as the Nowhere Man receives his next call.

With nearly constant action and a tight plot, this is one action thriller that piles complication upon repeated twists in breatahless fashion.

Jayne Ann Krentz has moved into the thriller category with several books and brings readers Untouchable as her latest entry. FBI Consultant Jack Lancaser was raised in a cult until a fire changed everything he’d known.

Drawn to cold cases where arson is involved, his expertise has become his ability to crawl inside the mind of the killers. The satisfaction he feels at closing these old cases also bring him closer to the person from his past who is to blame for that original fire, long presumed dead.

Quinton Zane is that person. With vengence his motivating thrust, Jack is in his sights as the prime target who could threaten his future plans.

Before it’s over, there will be romance, family entanglements, and an adoptive father. This can be read as a stand-alone, but readers of Krentz will see ties to two others with several of these characters in this series.

Quirky characters keep readers’ interested, and there’s plenty of clever dialogue.

Bernard Minier: Night Thursday, Feb 7 2019 

The fourth Commander Servaz thriller, Night, brings the Toulouse detective under the scrutiny of all of those around him after a death-defying opening, with its resultant effects.

In a church in Norway, a woman’s body is found on the altar. A female detective, Kirsten Nigaard, is investigating that case due to her own name being discovered. Then she becomes coupled with Martin Servaz, when photos of the French detective are found on the offshore oil rig where the dead woman worked.

Both feel this is the work of serial killer Julian Hirtman, Servaz’s nemesis, the most dangerous man Servaz has encountered. Indeed, the Daily Mail has called Hirtman “…a villain possessing the intelligence of Thomas harris’ immortal Hannibal Lecter…”

It’s a chase throughout Europe, from France to Austria, in search of Hirtman and young boy in his custody who desperately needs to be saved. Along the way, they will encounter acolytes of Hirtman, and foes in the form of parents of his victims, until the ultimate surprise is coupled with a huge betrayal.

This has a complicated and complex plot, with fast action and yet Minier never stints of the emotions behind several of the main characters. It’s easy to see why this was a number one bestseller in France, where Servaz’s first case, which introduced Hirtman, was made into a six-part series now available on Netflix.

CJ Tudor: The Hiding Place Tuesday, Feb 5 2019 

CJ Tudor had a huge hit out of the box with last year’s The Chalk Man, and follows that up with another terrific stand-alone, The Hiding Place (in the UK, The Taking of Annie Thorne).

Joe Thorne has returned to the place he grew up, ostensibly to fill the place left open by a teacher who had killed her young son and then herself. Arnhill, an old mining town, hasn’t changed all that much, and Joe finds to his suprise that some of his old gang are still around, but none seem too happy to see him.

Renting an old cottage, the same one where the gruesome murder/suicide took place, Joe comes across the woman he yearned for all those years ago, now married to his worse enemy.

But Joe has hidden the real reason for his return, and while it seems fitting that he should, his appearance sets off a chain of events from which there will be no going back.

Joe’s young sister, Annie, disappeared when she was young, but returned, apparently unharmed a few days later. That was truly when things changed forever for Joe and his family.

Now as he struggles to keep an open mind and figure out what really happened to Annie all those years ago, he must face the ghosts of his past who are ever present.

To say this is a compelling, suspense-filled plot with multiple twists doesn’t do justice to Tudor’s knack for keeping readers glued to the page. Highly recommended.

Lars Kepler: The Sandman Sunday, Feb 3 2019 

Lars Kepler’s The Sandman is the kind of action-packed book that will have readers nibbling their nails as they read the short, sharp chapters, bouncing back and forth between the two main characters and the trail of bodies they find.

Detective Joona Linna has lost more than his family in tracing the serial killer, Jurek Walter, who languishes in a secure psychiatric facility after Linna caught him. But the detective has always maintained that Walter couldn’t have pulled off the family-linked murders he’s in prison for without an accomplice.

One man who’s lost his children to Walter is Reider Frost, a renowned author–until his son Mikael is found wandering a railroad track, emaciated and confused. Thirteen years ago the boy and his sister were both abducted and feared dead, but finding Mikael confirms what Linna has felt: that some victims were often kept alive, under cruel conditions, until their deaths.

When Mikael recovers enough to tell police his sister, Felicia, is also still alive, a race starts to find the young woman. Linna will enlist the help of agent Saga Bauer to enter the hospital undercover where Walter is being held as a patient. Her goal is to post as a schizophrenic patient and plant a microphone to record any conversations she has with Walter, in hopes of obtaining clues to his accomplice and his hideout.

It’s a highly charged cat and mouse game. Walter is a genius at manipulation, making Linna use every bit of his intelligence and his intuition to outsmart the killer, if such a thing is possible, as the body count rises to a startling climax.

This is the sixth Linna novel, written by a husband and wife writing team of novelists under the pen name of Lars Kepler. One can only wish to be a fly on the wall during their daily writing routine, developing the twisted, unrelenting plot, and these characters whose fates hang in the balance.

Gabriel Valjan: The Company Files: 2. The Naming Game Friday, Feb 1 2019 

Please welcome Gabrile Valjan, to give readers an insight into his writing and talk about his newest release in The Company Files, 2. The Naming Game:

Auntie M: You have two distinct series from Winter Goose Publishing. Your first series, the Roma Series, is presently at five novels. Readers receive a panoramic sweep of Italian culture and food, along with some light humor, while your characters solve crimes. Then you go dark into John le Carré territory with The Company Files. Why the switch?

GV: It’s important to me that I show readers that I have range. I make no distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, yet I’ve encountered both readers and agents who do. All writers, myself included, want to tell an engaging story and, in the case of a series, want repeat readers. The two series are indeed different. The Roma Series owes a debt of gratitude to the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, who created Inspector Salvo Montalbano. I wrote the Roma Series while I was dealing with a life-threatening illness, which is why food is prevalent, and because I respect Italian culture.

I have two books in The Company Files series. Both The Good Man and The Naming Game look back at the US during the Cold War, and I try to show that some attitudes have changed, while others have not. For instance, contemporary ICE raids can be traced back to J. Edgar Hoover’s response after the Wall Street bombing in 1920. Same MO. Same extrajudicial deportations.
Hoover pushed for a concentration camp for political dissidents. Not internment or detention camps, but a concentration camp.

AM: Your last Roma Series novel, Corporate Citizen, was quite violent, yet showcases your love for animals. Have you always loved animals?

GV: I do love animals. Bogie and Bacall are two cats in that novel. One of my characters, Silvio, agrees to take care of them for a friend. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I post pictures of my two cats on Saturday aka #Caturday on Twitter, and dogs for #WoofWednesday at a local dog park near me in Boston’s South End. Pets are family.

AM: Let’s jump back to your Company Files series. Book 2: The Naming Game is out in May, 2019. You said earlier that you wanted to show range. What do you do in this series that sets you apart from other authors in contemporary crime fiction?

GV: Crime is about transgression, in all its perverse and violent forms. Psychopaths. Serial killers. Sexual predators. There’s no escaping it. However, I explore crimes that governments commit for a variety of motives. When it comes to characters in most contemporary crime fiction, I have difficulty with unlikeable protagonists as the good guys, and I have an issue with profanity and violence for its own sake. Do you really need to have the f-word fifteen times within the first three pages to be ‘gritty’? I accept ‘realism’ but it sometimes seems slathered on thick. Also, give me a glimmer of hope in a dark story because I don’t read to get depressed. Real life and politics accomplishes that, thank you. I also question the logic of how effective a detective can be at his job if he’s an alcoholic or alienates everyone in the room. I’m weary of the battles with the bottle, the bitter ex-wife, the kid who won’t talk to mom or dad. I question how a character who doesn’t change over the course of several books can keep a reader coming back for more.

I offer readers different flaws in my characters. For instance, I show vulnerability as an asset. I have a character, Walker, in The Company Files, whose major obstacle is his lack of confidence. He fell in with the CIA, because he’s trying to find his way in life and love after the trauma of World War II. You’ll meet Leslie, an experienced operative who doesn’t want to return to the kitchen just because she’s a woman and the war is over; Sheldon, a damaged person with a complicated past who does the wrong things for the right reasons; Tania, the beautiful and traumatized refugee child brimming with rage; and then there’s Jack Marshall, the boss and mastermind who somehow orchestrates everything and everyone, while staying one step ahead of his nemesis, J. Edgar Hoover.

Another thing I do differently than most authors is I write three to five books and then revise the character development of all of my characters for a better arc before I search for a publisher for the novels. As for violence in my works, I prefer to imply it, or not go into graphic detail because we have all become desensitized to violence, whether it’s from media or, sadly, real life experiences. There are creative ways to imply sex, violence, and criminal misconduct. Watch Fritz Lang’s M, or any of the Pre-Code films, or catch the subtext about poverty and class distinction in most films from the 1930s.

Another major difference: one of the joys in writing The Company Files is I get to dispel the myth that life was better in the past. It wasn’t. Racism and sexism were so ingrained in American culture that it was accepted without question. I’ve talked to educated people who came of age in the 40s and 50s and was told nobody blinked at using the N-word, or at calling an adult African-American man ‘boy.’ How far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

AM: Who were your influences in crime fiction when you started writing?

GV: My first foray into crime fiction was reading Agatha Christie. I read all her mysteries in the seventh and eighth grades. Then I discovered Margaret Millar, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, in that order. I ventured to discover other writers: Cain, Highsmith, etc. Christie appealed to me for her plotting and how her detectives solved mysteries. Hammett and Millar wrote in a clean direct style I admired, while Chandler introduced a seductive and poetic use of language, often at the expense of plot. I enjoy crime fiction because I found that most (but not all) ‘literary fiction’ can get tedious and the stories go ‘nowhere.’

AM: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

GV: Exercise and shower. Coffee. Write for three hours.

AM: A controversial question. Do you think writing can be taught?

GV: I think techniques can be taught, but here’s the catch: it requires critical thinking, and I think that’s Hit or Miss in today’s education. I’m not saying education in the past was better; it was different, for better or worse. Overall – and I know it’s generalization — education in America is not about becoming a better human being; it’s about getting a job. There’s a terrible irony in this drive for the practical and pragmatic approach. Formal education shouldn’t encourage conformity; it should unbridle curiosity and teach you analysis and critical thinking, so you can teach yourself. For example, I did not know how to edit until I read Dave King’s book, Self-Editing. I realized I had a deficit, and my curiosity compelled me to find a solution, determine whether the content of his book would work for me (it did). A curious and critical writer reads everything they can find to improve their writing and broaden their horizons as a human being.

Education that fosters regurgitation of one interpretation of a literary text so you can earn the high grade kills critical thinking; kills curiosity. Education should convey an understanding of how a story works or doesn’t. Follow? All that aside, there’s more to telling a story than book smarts. I’ve met some very intelligent people in my life, people with advanced degrees, best scores on all the standardized tests; and yet, when they write, their stories are dead, they lack heart, or their ego interfered with the story.

No, I don’t think writing can be taught because we all have our unique relationship to language, and we all interrupt the world around us in unique ways, and that is the special something nobody can teach you. What I am saying is you have to know yourself and the gift for storytelling – if it’s there – comes from decades of reading, of curiosity and wrestling with language. Literature comes from empathy and connection. When I pick up a book, I don’t look to an author to validate my existence and my life experiences. I couldn’t care less about gender and ethnicity either. I want a story. I want an experience. Transport me and call it entertainment, or rip my skin off and call it Art. I don’t care. For me to write well, I need the sum of all possibilities.

The fundamentals of the human condition have not changed: we need stories to survive and better ourselves. Stories are essential. I have no doubt that out there somewhere in this country’s slums and cornfields or in the cube farms of corporate America, language is alive and there are stories worth being told. The question is, Visibility, access to those authors, so they are read and heard?

AM: Finally, whose books would we find on your nightstand, waiting to be read, and what’s on the immediate horizon for you?

GV: Jane Goodrich’s The House at Lobster Cove and Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. I’m waiting to edit five novellas that precede my Roma Series with my publisher, and I’m writing the third book in another series, set in Shanghai.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Gabriel. You are one busy writer! See you at Malice Domestic in May~

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series available from Winter Goose Publishing. The Roma Series features forensic accountant Bianca on the lam from a covert US agency in Italy. Drawn from the historical record, Gabriel’s second series, The Company Files series introduces readers to the early days of the CIA and its subsequent rivalry with the FBI. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize, once for the Bridport Prize, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Christian White: The Nowhere Child Wednesday, Jan 30 2019 


Melbourne writer Christian White’s manuscript for The Nowhere Child won last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, along with its $15,000 prize. It didn’t stay unpubbed long, and besides the book, with a second to follow, there’s a planned mini-series on this first.

And with good reason as readers will see once they read this story that has the feel it could happen to anyone, one of its attractions.

Photographer Kim Leamy is teaching evening classes in Melbourne when a stranger approaches her. The American man insists she is really Sammy Went, kidnapped from her Kentucky home when she was 2 years old. With her mother dead from cancer, her step-father refused to answer her questions but acknowledges there is a secret to her Australia origins. Kim flies to the US to visit Kentucky with this man who says he is her brother, determined to find out the truth.

Small-town Kentucky comes alive under White’s skilled pen, with anyone who has ever traveled through remote southern towns able to recognize the dusty woods and small town minds that populate Manson. It’s perhaps coincidence that the town’s name echoes one of the US’s most recognizable madmen, but the name resonates with readers and adds to the creep factor Kim finds.

Seeing the US for the first time, Kim’s accent is remarked upon, but DNA shows she really is Sammy Went. She has an entire family she doesn’t remember. Who took her and why becomes her driving force as she visits people and tries to get to the bottom of a life she’s forgotten.

Alternating between NOW, Kim’s first person account, and third person accounts of THEN, when Sammy was taken, make this a most interesting and creative way to tell this story. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal snake-wielding congregation, held sway over a good portion of the town’s inhabitants when Sammy was taken. Being different, or trying to leave the fold, wouldn’t have been easy when Sammy was kidnapped.

Parsing out the historical details adds to the tension, and armchair detectives will swear they’ve worked things out–until a final twist shows they’re not quite there.

The sustained tension is impressive, with shifting points of view adding to the intensity. This is elevated psychological suspense, with its crackerjack pace and all-too believable characters that will not only have readers glued to the page, but have them anticipating White’s next novel. Highly recommended.

Fiona Barton: The Suspect Tuesday, Jan 22 2019 

Fiona Barton returns with her series featuring reporter Kate Waters, along with detective Bob Sparkes, in a startling third novel that kept Auntie M up all night to finish it. The Suspect is that good and that compelling. Once it’s started, readers won’t be able to stop.

When two girls go missing in Thailand, Bob reaches out to Kate to involve the press. This hits close to home, as Kate’s son Jake dropped out of university two years ago to travel in Thailand and has rarely been heard from since.

Kate soon finds herself on the way to Thailand to investigate a fire that involves the girls, but also finds to her surprise and dismay that Jake might have been on the premises at the time. Turning her usual position on its head, Kate soon finds she is the one being hounded by her reporter colleagues, not all well-meaning, as she tries to find her son while investigating what happened to the girls.

Things escalate, if that’s possible, from there. The parents of both girls have very different reactions to the situation. Social media posts from one of the girls tracks their trip, but is this the reality?

It’s a complicated situation, one that explores the complexities of families,husbands and wives, sons and mothers, and loss and grief, alongside one humdinger of a thriller. No character is left untouched by this story. The inner voices of each character ring true in a moving and realistic way that will bring a catch to your breath. It’s a complicated tour de force of emotions and situations, a beautifully written novel that delves into the psychology of us all.

By turning the tables on Kate and involving her own family, the reporter who usually tells other peoples stories must acknowledge that we can’t really know the people we love totally and completely. Highly recommended.

Joanna Schaffhausen: No Mercy Friday, Jan 18 2019 

Schaffhausen brings back tenacious police officer Ellery Hathaway in No Mercy, the follow-up to The Vanishing Season with FBI profiler Reed Markham. Readers will pick up on the action from the last book with Ellery on forced leave.

After shooting a murderer, and refusing to apologize for it, political correctness has forced Ellery into group therapy. Not a people person to start with due to her childhood horrors, she has difficulty getting close to people and this is a kind of torture for her.

Two people there come to her attention: a wheelchair-bound woman, scarred from the fire that cost her young toddler’s life decades ago, and a young woman whose life has been changed forever after a brutal in-home rape.

Ellery turns to Markham on both counts, the man who freed her from a killer’s closet when she near death as a child. The event tied the two together in a way that neither has tried to investigate–until now, when the threat to Ellery is raised in a way she might not survive.

With Ellery determined to explore both of these cases, divorced father Markham finds himself involved at a level that may cost him the promotion that would let him spend more time with his beloved daughter, especially when his boss and mentor’s former actions are called into question.

The flawed Ellery allows affection only from her adorable basset hound, Bump. Along with Markham, both unusual characters do more than carry this suspenseful plot. With fast pacing as the two cases heat up, Ellery is never far from the memories of her own violent past.

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