Julia Keller: The Cold Way Home Thursday, Aug 22 2019 

Keller’s returns with Bell Elkins in The Cold Way Home, and proves that the stories of Bell and her compatriots are still compelling even though their individual situations have vastly changed over the arc of the series.

Family is at the heart of this one, pride in one, what makes up one, and what we will do for ours. One of the strengths of this series is the realistic characters of rural West Virginia and Acker’s Gap, Bell’s hometown.

The former prosecutor is now a private investigator, helped by two other friends and compatriots: Nick Fogelsong and Jake Oakes, former sheriff and deputy respectively. There’s a missing girl they need to find, but there’s also a murder, with the body found on the burned-out grounds of a former psychiatric hospital.

Wellwood had a notoriety even before it burned to the ground, which is where the body of Darla Gilley, sister of Nick’s best friend, Joe, is found. These woods are where Bell and her sister Shirley played as children, and she knows them well, down to the nickname for a twisted tree.

Trying to find the root of the murder of Darla means going through all of her connections in town. It also means looking into the death of her grandmother, a former employee of Wellwood when it was functioning. Is it too much to believe there’s no coincidence between both murdered bodies being found at Wellwood?

While just a burned out shell now, the ghosts or Wellwood hang over the story and inhabit the investigation. And help will come to Bell from an unlikely source.

One of the best in a strong series, this could easily be read as a stand-alone if you aren’t already a fan of Bell Elkins and her crew.

Joshilyn Jackson: Never Have I Ever Tuesday, Aug 13 2019 

Never Have I Ever, the old party game, takes on a sinister meaning in Joshilyn Jackson’s new thriller.

Hiding an old secret, Amy Whey has a husband, baby and step-daughter she adores. Giving diving lessons soothes her and keeps her past compartmentalized. She has a circle of local friends who participate in a book club, run by best friend Charlotte, held at Amy’s larger home as the group has expanded.

When a renting neighbor shows up unexpectedly, everything changes in that evening. Roux is charming but has an unsettling quality that both beguiles Amy yet puts her on high alert. It’s her idea to pour the drinks more liberally and entice the women into playing “The Game.”

Roux’s ulterior motive is to blackmail Amy over the secret she knows. It will take all of Amy’s wits to challenge Roux and beat her at the game she’s playing that will ruin Amy’s life, one she’s yearned for, one she’s finally built.
And in order to do that, she must find out just what secrets Roux is keeping——because we all have secrets.

Visual and with building suspense, Jackson keeps this cat-and-mouse game between the two women on high tension as the secrets of both women’s pasts come back to haunt them. Who will be the victor? Because betrayal is rife on both sides, yet love is, too.

A complex character dissection with startling results.

Hallie Ephron: Careful What You Wish For Friday, Aug 9 2019 


Five-time Mary Higgins Clark finalist Hallie Ephron returns with a new mystery that’s as timely as it is realistic in Careful What You Wish For.

With the influence of Marie Kondo and her little organization book and show, it’s no small surprise that people everywhere are putting more tidying in their lives. Emily Harlow has a natural bent for that, just short of OCD, and with a partner, Becca Jain, has started a business the two women call Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers.

One caveat they use is: the client is only allowed to declutter his or her own crap. She’s learned that the hard way, keeping her marriage to a hoarder-collector lawyer by following this rule of thumb.

Emily uses videos of her own decluttering to attract new clients, and she’s in the middle of her closet reorganization when she needs to meet Becca to see a new client, an elderly woman who’s husband has died and left her a storage unit to sort through. The contents have Emily on instantly on alert.

And then her husband’s partner brings them a new client: a much-younger wife whose new husband, a pack rat, hasn’t allowed her to bring her own things from the garage into his house. Quinn Newell has decided to dump the lot and be done with it, but brings out the prosecco on her way to show Emily the garage, and soon both women has had a bit too much bubbly and are giggling about losing their hoarding husbands——for good.

It’s a line Emily never crosses, blurring professional and personal relationships, but she figures it couldn’t really hurt——until it does, in ways unexpected and dangerous.

Soon Emily is trying to figure out who to believe, and who’s exactly whose mess she needs to be clearing out. With several surprising turns, this has a nicely twisted plot and a likeable main character. Ephron adds a touch of sly humor that makes this a refreshing and enjoyable read.

Stacie Giles for Deadly Southern Charm Monday, Aug 5 2019 

Please welcome Stacie Giles, to talk about the new anthology, Deadly Southern Charm:

Deadly Southern Charm is a celebration of Southern women and a labor of love. Proceeds from this collection of 18 mystery short stories, mostly by fledgling authors (like me!), go to the Sisters in Crime chapter here in Central Virginia (SinC-CVa). Stories are under a 4000 word limit, are set in the South, and a woman is the main character. The stories range from real estate troubles in the Outer Banks to feuds in the hills; from spooky swamp stories to winery shenanigans. All are engaging and clever, with varying levels of whimsy and twistiness, but amazingly different. My story is historical, and the crime isn’t even murder – lots of crimes out there threaten women!

Mary Burton and Mary Miley, both prolific authors with many publications and awards as well as past presidents of SinC-CVa, donated their time, their reputations, and their expertise to promote more junior authors and the chapter. The editors selected 14 stories out of submissions nearly double that number. They served as editors and liaised with the publisher, Wildside Press, and also invited 4 well-known authors to join the effort. Mollie Cox Bryan, Lynn Cahoon, Barb Goffman, and Sherry Harris contributed great stories. The remaining 14 authors not only had the benefit of the editors’ helpful comments on their writing, they have also been coached on the business side of writing, everything from social media marketing to tax law. Authors like Hank Phillippi Ryan – who called the volume “deliciously devious” – and Ellery Adams – who said it is “a keep-you-up-all-night collection”– graciously praised the book with their comments.

My story, “Southern Sisters Stick Together,” is set in a tea shop in Memphis in 1920. That was a time of rapid social change — Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment in August 1920, finally giving women the right to vote – and I use the culture, society, and crime of that time to consider how a young woman fresh from the farm can protect herself and her friends against big city slickers. My heroine faces questions of submission versus defiance, proof versus suspicion, and keeping her job versus exposing a villain preying on women.

There are times when you need a woman to get justice. Now THAT is a theme that comes up over and over in this collection.

Stacie Giles: after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist. Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.
amazon.com/author/staciegiles tiny.cc/StacieGWriteNow

Marlowe Benn: Relative Fortunes Sunday, Aug 4 2019 


Marlowe Benn’s debut, Relative Fortunes, is filled with issues and social mores, not to say fashion, too, of 1924. It’s a stylish mystery that evokes the blues of the Jazz Age in which it’s set.

Benn introduces American Julia Kydd, who returns to New York after living in England where she’s incubating the germ of an idea for a small, elite press. Loving all things type, font, and paper, she dreams of establishing her own imprint. With women just able to vote, this is a heady time for women.

Julia’s half-sibling, Philip, controls her allowance until her soon-to-occur 25th birthday, but brings a suit to attempt to claim her half of their father’s estate. While this battles out, Julia is forced to stay in Philip’s home, and learns more than she wanted to about the brother she’s been estranged from and never really knew growing up.

Then the sister of a friend dies and she’s pulled into what she comes to believe is a murder, not a covered-up suicide the family hopes to pass off as a brief illness. Naomi Rankin was a well-known suffragette, and her younger sister, Glennis, is Julia’s new friend. Present with Glennis at the family home for a closed memorial service for Naomi, Julia is shocked to see the lack of regard for Naomi and the miserly way this wealthy family has treated her because of her beliefs in woman’s rights.

When Glennis begs Julia to help her prove Naomi was murdered, Philip’s wager that if she can find out what happened she will keep her inheritence is too good to pass up.

Peopled with real figures from the era in the world of bibliophiles, Benn brings her own love of book arts to Julia, while exploring the few options open to women at this time. If one didn’t have money, those options shrunk even smaller.

Benn also shows Julia and Glennis, and even Naomi through her friends, who must consider their futures and how those differ for men and women. In the stunning climax, this disparity between genders is brought to the forefront in a tragic yet realistic way.

An accomplished debut.

Summer Selections from Those I Bought Myself: Horowitz, Robinson, Michaelides, Casey, Green Friday, Aug 2 2019 

A few times a year Auntie M lets readers know about books she’s bought herself that she’d enjoyed. With review copies of books coming almost daily, her house a towering To Be Read pile, but that doesn’t stop her from buying book from some of her favorite authors.

The multi-talented Anthony Horowitz (just read his bio to see what he’s written that you have read or watched) returns with the second book in his series featuring private investigator Daniel Hawthorne and a writer fellow named … Anthony Horowitz in The Sentence is Death.

The two men are not exactly fans of each other, but Horowitz has signed on to document Hawthorne’s escapes for a series of books about his exploits. He soon finds himself enmeshed in Hawthorne’s new case, when wealthy barrister Richard Pryce is found battered to death inside his modern home on Hampstead Heath.

With an eye for detail, killer instincts on plot, and the relationship between the two men a focal point, Horowitz has created his alter ego’s narrative that neatly explores Hawthorne’s secrets while at the same time thinking he’s helping to solve the case. Highly readable, filled with sly asides, mocking humor, and a complex plot.

Peter Robinson’s DS Alan Banks series is one other crime writers mention when asked how they read. The award-wininng author brings Banks a pair of crimes what confuse his entire team, when the body of an lovely woman dressed for an evening out is found in the countryside in an abandoned car in Careless Love. It quickly becomes clear the car not only wasn’t the victim’s, it had been in an accident the week before and left where she is found.

Compounding things a second death, a well-dressed man found on the moors with injuries sustained in a fatal fall. But was this an accident, or was he pushed? His tony clothes indicate he wasn’t a hiker and there are no signs of how he could have arrived at this spot.

Neither victim carried identification; both died around the same time. With his DI Annie Cabot running the man’s case, Banks concentrates on the dead woman. Until the cases become connected and all bets are off. A strong entry in a compelling series Auntie M won’t miss.

Screenwritere Alex Michaelides turns to a debut crime novel with a wholly original and creative premise in The Silent Patient. Forensic psychotherapst Theo Faber is determined to treat his new patient where others have failed. Artist Alicia Berenson is a devoted wife to Gabriel——until the night she shoots him, not once or twice but five times, and then never speaks again.

What happened to lead to that fateful night? Only Alicia’s diary can give the clues that will help Theo get to the bottom of this inexplicable murder. This one packs a wallop with such a twist at the end you will lose your breath. Trust me.

Another of Auntie M’s favorites series is Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan, and Cruel Acts brings the detective sergeant and her DI, Josh Derwent, a complex crime, amdist their own complicated relationship.

Leo Stone had been convicted of murdering two women and was to spend his life in prison. But suddenly that conviction is deemed a miscarriage of justice and he’s out, free to kill again. Unless he wasn’t guilty the first time.

Meticulous police investigation coupled with a copper’s instinct soon has Maeve questioning what she believed. Then another woman disappears, and soon Maeve is desperate to find what’s happened to her.

This is one that will have you flippng pages way after the light should be out. With chilling creepiness, Casey manages to find the humanity in her character’s story while having Kerrigan be the smartest gal around.

A UK friend recommended Cass Green’s In a Cottage in a Wood. Neve is a young gal who needs income and more than that, a future. She’s on her way across Waterloo Bridge after a one-night stand when she meets a woman called Isabelle, who thrusts an envelope in her hands before jumping to her death in the Thames.

Neve soon finds out Isabelle has left her a little cottage in Cornwall. Suddenly she can see a future, a way out, but when she arrives to stay, the cottage is isolated in dark woods. What could be a charming cottage has bars across the windows. Why did Isabelle have to have bars on her windows? And most of all, why did she leave this nightmare of a place to Neve?

A gripping psychological mystery readers will gobble up.

Tana French’s Wych Elm is everything one wants in a thriller: an original premise, a strong cast of interesting characters, and a way to tell a story that will leave the reader paying rapt attention.

When Toby is attacked, it leaves him mentally frail and traumatized, having memory issues and having to relearn things. He recuperates at his family’s home, he Ivy House, where his memories of teenaged parties and years growing up alongside cousins reverberate.

But soon after his arrival, a skill is found neatly tucked inside the elderly wych elm in the house’s garden. And then the rest of the body is unearthed.

Who does the body belong to? Could one of Toby’s own family be responsible, and if not, what do they know? Could Toby himself be the culprit and he can’t remember? With a suspenseful plot, French knows how to construct a story that manages to be unstinting in its view of families. Tragic yet clever.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: The Murder List Thursday, Aug 1 2019 

Hank Phillippi Ryan knocks it out of the park again with her compelling legal thriller, The Murder List, showing that her writing skills cover more than one subgenre of crime after last year’s wonderful Agatha award-nominated Trust Me, which was named a Best Thriller by the New York Posst, CrimeReads, and Real Simple Magazine, among others.

Rachel North is a law student married to well-known defense lawyer, Jack Kirkland. She’s gone to law school as an older student and brings a wealth of knowledge with her from her days working for a State Senator. Excited to only have one year left, she’s doing her summer internship to learn the ropes.

The county’s top prosecutor, Martha Gardiner, is known as a fierce competitor, someone who hates to lose, especially against Jack North. So when Rachel is assigned a summer internship to Gardiner’s office, it’s the first wrinkle in their otherwise perfect marriage. Jack is less than thrilled that Rachel’s internship will be with his nemesis.

Ryan competently shows how events from Rachel’s past jury duty six years earlier led to Rachel meeting Jack. Readers also see her at her job for the Senator at that time, and how that ties in to what’s happening in the present.

And some present it is, with Rachel getting a first-hand look at the machinations and lengths Gardiner will go to for a conviction. With her long-term goal to be Jack’s defense partner, Rachel’s goal is to learn Gardiner’s methods. That will only help them when they go up against the formidable prosecutor in court as Kirkland and North.

But things are not as they seem on several levels. Ryan plays fair while challenging the reader to see the climax as the twists keep coming. Auntie M went back after the surprising end to re-read places where the clues were all laid out.

This is a complex and compelling story, set within a realistic world, with duplicity the stakes of the game. And this one’s highly recommended.

Vivian Barz: Forgotten Bones Thursday, Aug 1 2019 

Vivian Barz brings the most unusual and highly original protagonist Auntie M has read about in a long time to be one half of an investigating team in her thriller Forgotten Bones. With a strong storyline and two equally strong characters leading, this promises to be a the start of thrillers readers will be clamoring for.

A car accident leads to the discovery of a young boy’s buried body in small town California. But despite this body being decades old, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Soon FBI are soon swarming the town, unearthing multiple bodies in various stages of decomposition, and closing out the local police, including Susan Marlan, one of their officers. Dedicated, smart, and tenacious, Susan can’t let the thought of that little boy go, or the others as the numbers mount to double digits. Someone has been killing people for a very long time, most of them children. Frustrated by her own boss and the FBI, Susan takes it upon herself to do a bit of off the record investigating.

Meanwhile, Eric Evans is new to the area, starting work as a geology professor at the local community college. He knows no one in the area, has no friends or relatives near by, and right now he likes it that way. He’s running from his former life and marriage in Philadelphia, in the throes of a divorce from the wife who he discovered having an affair with his older brother.

As if that’s not enough to be dealing with, Eric is a schizophrenic who’s learned to take his medication and manage its side effects, until the day he starts to see a young boy in denim overalls.

The overall suspect for the killings is a pedophile recently released from prison. Not only are the bodies on his property, he disappeared the day the first boy’s body was found. What could be clearer?

As more and more bodies are found, what Eric thinks are hallucinations starat to increase, until there are physical things happening inside his house that lead him to suspect that little boy is trying to send him a message. But how can he get anyone to believe him?

When Susan’s path ovelaps Eric’s, an unlikely duo are formed as the two try to figure out the clues they are being given amid secrets held for decades. And can they do it in time to save themselves?

This is the first in a planned trilogy, and Auntie M won’t be surprised if Barz finds herself giving these two a series of their own beyond that. The contemporary romance writer (writing as Sloan Archer) has found an exhilarating way to combine a police procedural with a modern ghost story while illustrating how some people suffering from mental illness can lead almost-normal lives.

Natalie Daniels: Too Close Wednesday, Jul 31 2019 

Natalie Daniels’ has written a psychological thrillerToo Close that is at once as cinematic as it is haunting.

Connie is in a mental institution, being evaluated to see if she can stand trial for a horrific crime involving children that she claims to have no memory of. Emma is the psychiatrist assigned to treat her dissociative amnesia, and try to coax out the story of what led to those events, in order to help Connie remember.

Connie is a writer, and Emma appeals to that instinct and brings in a laptop for Connie to use the word processor. In detailing the memories she does have, Emma is shown what led up to Connie’s emotional breakdown. Connie is a strong woman that everyone depends on, and she can see the truth through things. That can be a fortunate and unfortunate thing when she can no longer hide from her own truths.

The story alternates between the women’s points of view, with Emma learning from Connie about her own insecurities and marriage. Connie’s marriage is complicated; so is her friendship with her beautiful neighbor, Ness, who Emma comes to see is at the heart of what has led Connie to snap.

Making connections between the women, Emma must lead Connie to remember the events leading up to that horrific day and what caused Connie to go mad. Readers won’t be able to put this one down as the story spirals out in the same way Connie’s life seems to spiral out of control.

A terrific debut, filled with insights into women, their friendships, and their relationships with their families and the men in their lives. Highly recommended.

Vanessa Westerman: An Excuse for Murder Tuesday, Jul 30 2019 

Vanessa Westerman’s An Excuse for Murder introduces Kate Rowan, bookshop proprietor and soon to be unwilling amateur sleuth.

Kate lives in her Great-Aunt’s London suburban home, a turreted house large enough to take in boarders. With her gay best friend, Marcus, a local realtor, and two local boys who love crime, Kate is surrounded by murder in her books and the investigations the boys like to play.

When Kate finds one of boarders dead at the bottom of the basement stairs, she’s relieved to find the 40-something man died from natural causes of a simple heart attack. Or did he?

Known the neighborhood as “The Eternal Wife,” Great-Aunt Roselyn has begun behaving strangely. And soon Kate is certain someone is watching the house.

Then Gary, a security expert in the area, starts to watch out for Kate, too, and things escalate with a break-in at the house. What was the thief really looking for? Why is Gary present whenever Kate turns around?

And what really happened to the dead man in the basement and how does that tie in with the murder of a beautiful young woman two years ago?

Readers will enjoy the hint of sexual tension between Gary and Kate, and the twists of the plot. With interesting its characters, and Kate’s skills in many areas, this is an ambitious start to a clever series filled with promise.

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Book promotion & authors BLOG

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

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

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