New and Different: DePoy, Oregon, Greaney, Grippando, Kline, Mignola/Sniegoski Friday, Mar 24 2017 

Auntie M receives many new books and decided to group these with most unusual settings or premises together to bring you something new and different.


Philip DePoy is best known for his plays and mysteries, several which feature Fever Devilin, so it’s no surprise that his new historical series features a most unusual protagonist: Christopher Marlowe, in The English Agent.

It’s 1583 and young Christopher is morose after a new play, held in a downtrodden Cambridge pub, is a dismal flop. When he’s attacked in the streets he decides he’s had enough, and gladly accepts when Francis Walsingham, spymaster to the Queen,sends him on assignment to Holland. His goal is to stop the Spanish assassination plot directed toward William the Silent.

Marlowe proves a witty and capable spy, as he navigates his way to unmask the Spaniards behind the scheme. He neatly sidesteps disaster and becomes almost an action hero in the process. Coupled with DePoy’s meticulous research, the action is balanced with humor that serves the fictional story, set alongside really historical figures. Thoroughly engrossing and engaging.

Off to Tokyo, with Nicolas Oregon’s original debut, Blue Light in Yokohama. Inspector Iwata is trying to overcome a painful case, and reinstated to the Homicide Division, must prove himself when he’s assigned to a multiple murder investigation. His reluctant partner, Noriko Saki, is less than thrilled to be his partner.

And it’s a disturbing case, the brutal slaughter of an entire family with no motive or suspects on the horizon. Indeed, the former detective assigned to case has committed suicide.

The case has all the hallmarks of a serial killer, with ritualistic details including incense and a large black sun symbol, which earn the killer his sobriquet: The Black Sun Killer.

This moody, complex mystery sustains a level of suspense with an intricate plot that has a real depth of characters. The dark setting adds to the feeling of jeopardy that pumps up this original detective into someone who will soon have an army of followers.

Mark Greaney already had the successful Gray Man series when he was tapped as Tom Clancy’s co-writer. Now juggling the Jack Ryan and Gray Man novels, Greaney’s newest Gray Man offering is Gunmetal Gray.

Greaney’s novels are known for their realistic details, the outcome of his exhaustive research and travels. He brings the Gray Man, Court Gentry, to Hong Kong where he almost loses his life to Chinese agents. With his friend Donald Fitzroy being held captive by the Chinese, Gentry swings into action to find the man who’s intel is wanted by the Chinese. Add a assassin squad led by a sexy agent, action readers will be thrilled to take this new adventure.

James Grippando brings his Miami criminal defense lawyer his toughest case yet in Most Dangerous Place, when a woman stands trial for murdering the man who sexually assaulted her a decade ago. It’s a sad truth that one in four female college students will be sexually assaulted during her college years.

The master of legal thrillers blends a wild story with legal issues, when Jack’s high school friend, Keith Ingraham begs him to help Kieth’s wife Isabelle, arrested for conspiracy to murder her college rapist.

Jack readily agrees to represent his friend’s wife, known as Isa, but the tension rises when he starts to doubt his own client. Is Isa who she seems to be? With surprises hitting Jack as he tries to craft his case, readers will be shocked at the ending.

Inspired by a true case, Grippando wrote the book to bring awareness to the difficult road rape victims still travel.

Think of a most unusual premise and you’ll reach for Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World, which is the fictional tale inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, “Christina’s World.”

In real life, Christina Olson was the muse of Wyeth portrayed in the painting, which features the mysterious Christine in the pink dress sitting in the grass and gazing at a weathered house in the distance. The original hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Kline brings Christina to life, and we learn of her birth in the remote Maine farmhouse of the painting. Incapacitated by a generative muscular illness, she has difficulties ambulating and would probably have remained a hermit, until the young painter finds her and she becomes his focus.

A most unusual and highly entertaining tale.

Auntie M saved the most unusual for last, with the illustrated book of Mike Mignola and Thomas E Sniegoski: Grim Death and Bill, the Electrocuted Criminal.

Moody illustrations accompany the dark fantasy tale, perfectly capturing this mix of steampunk-horror-mystery in an adventure tale that feels like an action adventure thrown into the middle of a 1930s pulp novel, where organized crime is rampant on the streets in war between good and evil.

Bentley Hawthorne, accompanied by his manservant, Pym, must punish murderers. Taking on the persona of Grim Death, he hunts down those pointed out to him by graveyard voices who deserve to be punished. Bill is William Tuttle, on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and soon to become part of a dynamic duo with Grim Death.

The two join forces, and of course, there’s a beautiful woman involved, in a creative and compelling story that’s unlike anything you’ve read. This will delight fans of illustrated novels, anyone who enjoys creative crime novels, and teen YA readers as well. Good creepy fun.

Judith Flanders: A Cast of Vultures Sunday, Mar 12 2017 

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Judith Flanders’ series featuring editor Samantha Clair is one Auntie M looks forward to reading, with good reason. The series has grown stronger, and with this third outing, A Cast of Vultures, demonstrates everything that’s good about Sam, mixing the smart and witty amateur sleuth-by-default with her Scotland Yard partner, Jake. There’s something to be said for a strong heroine who doesn’t really need anyone, but who chooses to be human enough to let people into her world.

An elderly friend traps Sam into helping her check on a missing neighbor while a series of minor arson fires range in the area. Then one fire turns deadly, with a body whose identity changes everything, and Sam unwittingly finds herself in the midst of being chased by thugs, forced to take drastic measures to defend herself.

The highlights of this series are many: Sam’s self-deprecating humor gives readers a clear-eyed, wry view of herself and those around her. Her mother and the neighbors who pepper the stories range from eccentric to phobic, but all are realistically drawn multi-faceted people. Auntie M is especially fond of Sam’s reclusive, brilliant, and understated upstair neighbor, Mr. Rudiger. We all wish we had a neighbor like Mr. Rudiger at times.

Then there’s the mystery itself, with a many-pronged approach that makes it complex and satisfying, overlapping at times with Jake’s work. And don’t forget Sam’s work world, which in this story provides a nice subplot as her publishing house undergoes what might be a restructuring.

From her Goth assistant, Miranda, who keeps an eye on Sam, to navigating the nature of her relationship with Jake, Sam Clair is someone you will want to spend time with as she finds herself embroiled in what turns out to be a humorous yet fast-paced mystery. Highly recommended.

Scott Frank: Shaker Friday, Mar 3 2017 

shaker

Scott Frank is a talented screenwriter and director, penning movies such as Dead Again, one of Auntie M’s favorite movies, Get Shorty,Out of Sight, Minority Report and The Wolverine, to name just a few.

So it’s no surprise that his debut thriller, SHAKER, has short, declarative chapters and is filled with characters whose lives you will become immersed in, all wrapped up a well-plotted novel that comes alive on the page as it explores the dark underbelly of LA.

Hit man Roy Cooper is unlike any other character. You will not come to like him but you will understand him. You may even have empathy for the predicament he finds himself in. Just days after a major earthquake hits the area, and after fulfilling his most recent contract, Roy becomes a media hero after an onlooker catches him on video standing up to a gang where a mugging in an alleyway has turned deadly.

Soon everyone wants Roy, and no one more so than the hit man who taught him everything he knows, and who thought Roy was long dead.

Frank does a remarkable job of exploring the history and psychology of Roy Cooper, the gang members, and LA detective Kelly Maguire. There are themes of family and political corruption, as well as race, but what stands out is Frank’s ability to craft a book that will take readers on a bloody wild ride before the gripping conclusion.

There’s humor and pathos along with the action. Readers will be flipping pages faster and faster–Auntie M read it in one night. What Frank has done is to allow the reader to clearly understand each of these tormented and damaged characters. Stunning.

Tracee de Hahn: Swiss Vendetta Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 

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Tracee deHahn’s debut bring readers to Lausanne, Switzerland, in Swiss Vendetta.

Perfectly capturing the setting during an ice storm, she introduces detective Agnes Luthi, a Swiss-American who has left behind her work with Financial Crimes to shed her old life before her husband’s death. Being new to Violent Crimes, Agnes is juggling her three sons’ care and grief, while living with a mother-in-law who blames her for her husband’s death.

Her first case will turn out to be a locked-room style, when she is called to investigate the murder of a young woman at the grand Chateau Vallotton, on Lac Leman. The ensuring blizzard and ice storm will keep Agnes and several others at the Chateau for days as the investigation continues and they are cut off from the outside world.

It’s not just the intense cold that has Agnes in its grip–it’s the eerie candlelit vastness of the Chateau, with too many rooms to count or explore; it’s the emotions and guilt she carries after her husband’s death; and it’s the knowledge that a murderer is among the people she’s staying with, eating with, talking with.

This Swiss family includes servants loyal to them for generations, and so Agnes worries her questions are not being answered truthfully when a young appraiser for a London auction house is found stabbed to death on the grounds.

Everyone she comes into contact with is a suspect; and she despairs of trusting anyone.

An complex mystery with plays out on several emotional levels, making it an accomplished debut. Highly recommended.

Clare MacKintosh: I See You Sunday, Feb 26 2017 

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After Clare MacKintosh’s I Let You Go comes the chilling tale of an average woman in an average town, where nothing about her life becomes average at all, in I See You.

Zoe Walker has two children still living at home and a partner who adores her. She’s even civil with her ex, after a failed marriage. Working means a long commute into London, which she uses to people-watch and she passes the time reading magazines and newspapers.

Then an ad catches her eye: is that her own picture staring back at her from the site FindTheOne.com? What starts out as a possible mistake soon turns into something much more, when Zoe’s nervousness at the ad has her scouring back issues and she uncovers sees a pattern. Other women whose photos were in these ads were raped, had their houses broken into, or worse–were murdered.

Kelly Swift it a policewoman on a mission, determined to show her superiors she’s learned from an early mistake when she let her rage get the best of her when dealing with a rapist. After time spent paying her dues on different details, she begs for a chance to prove herself once she and Zoe convince the powers-that-be that these cases are connected.

They soon uncover that these women were stalked by people who pay into a website to gain their daily routine. It’s a nightmarish concept that has Zoe and everyone around her looking over their shoulders.

This is a multi-layered story, with Kelly’s as strong as Zoe’s, and interlaced with snippets of the voice of the person behind the scheme. Soon Zoe doesn’t trust anyone, and the spectacular twist at the end evolves into a double twist.

MacIntosh’s twelve years on the police force give her police scenes authenticity, whether Kelly is dealing with police politics or interviewing a suspect in the custody suite.

Readers won’t be able to put down this accomplished psychological thriller.

As a special treat, here’s a short video of Clare MacKintosh talking about her first piece of writing and the surprises of a writer’s life:

https://youtu.be/bY0ku9BwfcU

Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Undesired Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

undesired
Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s latest novel veers from her outstanding series featuring Reykjavik lawyer Thora Gudmundosdottir into a different realm. The queen of Icelandic Noir has written a chilling stand-alone in The Undesired.

Alternating between to storylines, she tells of a bleak boys home in the 1970s, where young Aldis slaves away under the unsympathetic couple who run the home, saving her money to leave for the big city. Drawn to one young man, Einar, that decision will have disastrous consequences.

In the present, Odinn has been given his full charge of his 11-yr old daughter, Run, after the accidental death of his ex-wife. The government employees has been given the task of investigating alleged abuse that boys home, decades after the time.

The creepy factor ratchets up high once the two storylines being to merge with the accident that killed his wife.

This not the fast-paced ride of a thriller, but a slow, psychological build to a chilling and inexorable climax.

Lynn Chandler Willis: Tell Me No Lies Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, to talk to readers about:
Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction:

tell-me-no-lies-front

Title: Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction
By: Lynn Chandler Willis

When it comes to writing advice, one of the more common statements is write what you know. We writers hear it all the time. I usually ignore it all the time. My newest release, Tell Me No Lies, is the exception.

I never intended for the main character, Ava Logan, to be a shadow of myself. Yes, she’s the publisher and owner of a small town newspaper. So was I. Yes, she’s the single mom of two kids—a son and a daughter. So am I. Yes, she has a border collie named Finn. So do I.

But that’s where the similarities end. The other 97% of what makes fictional Ava Logan, well, fictional, is—-fiction.

Ava tends to be hot-headed. I’m laid back like my father. I’m the apologizer—you know, the one who apologizes even when I shouldn’t just to keep the peace. Ava struggled through a not-so-happy childhood. I was raised by Ozzie and Harriet. Well, not really, but pretty darn close. Couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

So what part of Ava Logan is real? Not so much Ava, as it is the what—the newspaper she owns. The Jackson Creek Chronicle is fictitious. But is it real. Every small town newspaper publisher struggles with the issues Ava faces in Tell Me No Lies.

How many different ways can you write a story about the local pumpkin festival and make each one new and exciting? How many “public service announcements” for fundraisers, benefits, and soccer sign ups are going to run before someone actually buys ad space? And how many town council members are going to be livid at something published that more-or-less refers to them as nitwits? Since small town councils rarely ever totally agree on anything, at least one, maybe more, will at one time or another be on the publisher’s side.

Small town politics can be, and often are, downright ruthless. It pits neighbor against neighbor. That guy across the street, the one whose son plays T-ball with your kid, asked for a special use permit to build some chicken houses on his property. The neighborhood is against it, but the guy is within his rights. How are you going to vote Mr. Council Member? And better yet, how is the newspaper going to cover it? Will they make the council look like a bully if the council denies it? Or will they take the neighborhood’s side? Or will they present both sides equally and fairly?

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an awful lot of gray area in the world of small town newspapers which often lead to a moral dilemma for the publisher. That makes for great conflict and good drama. Which makes great fiction.

Tell Me No Lies: Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television industry, and owned a small-town newspaper. Her novel, Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye, (Minotaur, 2014) won the SMP/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel, making her the first woman in a decade to win the national contest. Tell Me No Lies is the first title in the Ava Logan Mystery Series with Henery Press. She lives in North Carolina with a border collie named Finn.

Website: lynnchandlerwillis.com

Ausma Zehanat Khan: Among the Ruins Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 

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Among the Ruins is Khan’s third novel featuring the unusual Canadian detecting team of Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. Once again, Khan has crafted a story that surprises with its ability to reveal and educate issues of the world at large within the framework of a mystery.

After the powerful and sobering ending to last year’s The Language of Secrets, Khattak is on leave from Canada’s Community Policing Department. Estranged at this time from his sister, who figured heavily in that book, he travels to Iran to gather peace from his cultural heritage in the country’s gardens and museums.

But when he’s approached by a Canadian agent and asked to look into the death of a famous Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker, he finds himself embroiled in the murder of Zahra Sobhani, killed while trying to have a political prisoner released.

To this end, he enlists Rachel’s help without government sanction. The people Esa meets in his investigation form a microcosm of the many groups in Iran, from officers of the regime, to a ring of young dissidents whose actions have landed several of them in jail, suffering abuse, horrific torture, and even death. Many are there on false charges and are tried without legal counsel.

Back in Canada, it’s Rachel’s job to visit Zahra’s son and other family while Esa delicately tries to probe into the woman’s murder at the infamous Evin prison. It seems her death is a politically-motivated one, but Rachel soon uncovers other possibilities which are linked to the past. It will involved a museum, jewels, and the Shah of Iran. Rachel will need Esa’s high-placed friend to help with her investigation, but it soon becomes apparent she needs to travel to Iran.

The pervading tension intensifies and the threads come together after Rachel travels to meet up with Esa in Iran, where she goes undercover to find the details and evidence they require. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with Iran officials at their back, and the real threat of being thrown into prison themselves haunting their every move and upping the tension.

Khan allows readers to discover what Esa discovers: that there is real beauty and history to a culture that has been ransacked by extremists, both in their physical monuments and achievements, and in the poisoning of the minds of most of the world against a culture and tradition trying to live an ethical life.

Through the plot lines, Khan successfully explores the pressures on western Muslims who are seen by the world through the lens of the faction of ultra-conservative extremists who garner the news. Bringing Esa to Iran places him, with his Sunni background, in the minority in a Shia country. The detective will be forced to examine his own assumptions in a more critical manner, as he and Rachel unravel a decades-old mystery with a startling conclusion, at the same time as he strives to protect his partner and protege amidst the interplay the encounter between politics and religion, revenge and deceit, theft and greed.

Khan lovingly describes the beauty of the mosques and museums the duo visit, while not shying away from the violence some factions will inflict. It’s this dichotomy that makes the Iran of today spring to life under her talented pen. This a complex mystery that will have readers glued to the page. Highly recommended.

Deborah Crombie: Garden of Lamentations Sunday, Feb 12 2017 

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Deborah Crosbie returns with the seventeenth novel in her English mysteries featuring detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in this popular and complex series that remains fresh and compelling. This is far more than a garden-variety police procedural, as the cases the two investigate affect their marriage and threaten lives.

The married duo have a blended family that includes adopted Charlotte, and live in Notting Hill but work out of different stations. Gemma finds herself seconded to the Notting Hill team for her local knowledge when the body of a young nanny is found in one of the private gardens in the area. It’s a death that has her puzzled, especially when she finds out another youth from the same block has previously died. ARe the two connected?

Duncan’s case couldn’t be more different. Loose threads from the last case have left him feeling he doesn’t know whom he can trust in Scotland Yard. His old chief had disappeared and he’d been transferred. Now Denis Childs is back with an obtuse explanation that sounds more like a warning–and then suddenly attacked. As he lies in critical condition, Duncan distances himself from everyone close to him to protect them, even his wife.

Both cases have emotional components and danger, and both detectives will find they need their friends more than ever. A satisfying read in a series that is always anticipated. Highly recommended.

Stephen Leather: Takedown Friday, Feb 3 2017 

takedown
Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd series has made him one of the UK’s top selling thriller writers.

His newest, Takedown, veers to a standalone, but retains the high action he’s known for, this time with a female protagonist.

Charlotte Button, ex-MI-5, has been seen before in Leather’s series, and is now tasked with taking out a rogue Special Forces soldier. He’s already hatched one deadly plot. What she needs to do if figure out his next plan and stop him before he can act.

She has help in the form of Lex Harper, who assembles a team who are capable of stopping the rogue soldier before the massive attack they fear he’s planned. Readers of the Shepherd series will know Lex, and here they’ll see another side to him.

Having these two previously seen characters in their own book brings a fresh look to this kind of adventure-filled thriller.

While this is whirling, Charlotte finds that two of three flash drives, hidden in secret places, have been stolen. Containing information on dirty government operations from the past, their loss means her life is on the line if they can get to the third. Who is after her and why?

The storylines are expertly woven in a satisfying read. If you are a fan of Leather’s work, don’t miss this one.

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