Margaret Maron: Take Out Friday, Apr 20 2018 

Named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013, North Carolina author Margaret Maron has decided to retire. She’s completed her judge Deborah Knott series, set in NC, and brings back her Detective Sigrid Harald series, set in NYC, to tie up loose ends in her final book, Take Out.

Maron was one of Auntie M’s first interviews when she moved to NC, and she somehow missed Take Out when it came out last year, but it deserves to be brought to readers’ attention, especially if, like Auntie M, you were a fan of Sigrid.

It’s the mid-1990s and two homeless men are found dead on park bench. Sigrid soon finds that while one of the men may have died from a drug overdose, the other shows no signs of drug use.

When it turns out they were poisoned, and that poison traced to take out containers found near the victims, her investigation centers of the residents of the street near where the men were found.

At the same time, Sigrid is still grappling with waves of grief over the accidental death of her artist lover, and the huge responsibility she’s inherited as executor of his art estate. It’s a nice subplot that brings readers into the world of art Maron knows well, as her husband is an artist.

As Sigrid and her team meet the various residents of the street, the complications rise. A retired opera star lives near the a mafia widow, sworn enemies. Then there’s the woman who runs an SRO, but what is she really renting time for?

And the burning question remains: which of the two men was the intended victim?

It’s a classic Maron mystery, and readers will enjoy this last book from the writer who in 2016 was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.


Sasscer Hill: The Dark Side of Town Tuesday, Apr 17 2018 

Sasscer Hill’s second Fia McKee mystery packs a whallop from the opening scene of a jockey committing suicide in The Dark Side of Town, set at the Saratoga Racetrack.

The undercover detective and former police officer is working for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, the TPRB, investigating trainer Mars Pizutti, believed to be fiddling with illegal drugs on his horses, who have been far too successful. She’s also a sucker of someone in need.

But the suicide has Fia on high alert, and soon she’s involved deeper than she’d like investigating a young jockey who’s been told to throw races or his young sister will be harmed. She aided by another undercover detective, the charismatic Calixto Coyune, a coffee heir whose wealthy playboy cover is perfect for him to hang around the track.

Despite their steamy attraction, sleuthing is the first order of business. Then Fia’s estranged mother contacts her, and it seems the stepfather who caught her mother’s eye and led to her abandoning Fia’s family 17 years ago may be involved in an illegal hedge fund manuveur. And then there’s the abused former Miss Jamaica Fia just has to help.

It will take all of Fia’s smarts, and Calixto’s protective eye, to help the young jockey while sorting out mob connections. There are scenes where Fia’s changing appearance comes in handy, and others, fast-paced, where it seems Fia can’t survive.

With her own knowledge as an amateur steeplechase jockey, as well as a horse owner and breeder, Hill’s knowledge shines through. The working side of the glamourous racing world rings true, as does Hill’s love of horses.

Elizabeth George: The Punishment She Deserves Wednesday, Apr 11 2018 

Elizabeth George clocks in with her newest Lynley-Havers, The Punishment She Deserves, at a meaty 595 pages. But don’t let the long length deter you from reading the continuing story of so many characters readers have come to know and love, especially Barbara Havers.

It’s a fine line Barbara has danced since her crossing the line in Italy two books ago. “Dancing” has a secondary meaning here, as the redoubtable Dorothea Harriman has had the sergeant accompanying her to tap dancing class. Yes, you read that correctly. Barbara Havers is tap dancing.

It’s a tap dance around Det. Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, too, when she’s told she must accompany Ardery to be a second set of eyes on an investigation into the apparent suicide of the son of a wealthy brewer while in police custody.

It’s a twisted tale, and Lynley cautions Barbara to watch herself with Ardery, knowing that she and the Assistant Commissioner would love to see Barbara transferred to some small outpost and out of their hair.

And Barbara is up to the task, even as she tries to keep herself from going off kilter into her own threads of investigation. She manages to do enough to convince herself there is something seriously off in the medieval town of Ludlow. But Arder wants to rush back to London to do legal battle with her ex over her twin sons,and is willing to overlook important points Barbara’s uncovered.

Which is when DI Lynley becomes involved.

George’s class distinctions form the bit of wry humor Havers exhibits and as usual, we learn about the extended characters and their lives to the point that they become real. Several absorbing subplots play out against the background of Barbara’s investigation.

And there’s that tap recital to look forward to…

Another winner from the master of psychological depth. Highly recommended.

Pamela J. Castrucci: Down the Staircase Sunday, Apr 8 2018 

Pamela J. Castrucci’s first novel, Down the Staircase, is a work of Magical Realism enriched with elements of crime, suspense and mystery.

Inspired by true events in her own life, Castrucci currently anticipates releasing the next installment of The Staircase Series by the end of 2018. Castrucci, a successful attorney and single mom, shares what moved her to write her novel. *****

When I was young, I was fairly certain that my parents feared that I would run off and join the circus someday. A good student, I was keenly focused on the arts, particularly literature and theater. I indulged my passions by obtaining a degree in literature, but life events occurred, as they so often do, which caused me to choose another path.

My love of the arts, particularly writing, were eclipsed by my need to pursue justice. I obtained my law degree and entered the Navy. My time in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) Corps, while brief, was intense, challenging and fulfilling.

Once I got over the initial shock and dismay when I learned that my cases largely involved domestic violence and crimes against children, I felt a fire ignite within me. I needed to do whatever I could to deliver justice for those victims, especially the youngest, who had no voice.

Like Cara Stone, the protagonist in Down the Staircase, those cases both haunted me and spurred me onward. Even after leaving the service, the lessons I had learned in prosecuting those cases formed a foundation for the rest of my legal career, while thoughts of pursuing my writing becoming more remote with each year.

I have had Cara’s story rattling around in my brain for more than twenty years. Like so many, I promised myself I would one day bring her story to life. Other priorities allowed me to keep her story safely tucked away on a quiet, dusty shelf in my mental filing cabinet, enabling me to procrastinate and avoid being vulnerable.

But then life has a way of getting one’s attention, drawing our deeply held needs to the surface and into the light. And so it was for me this past October, when various coincidences converged. Every year, I ask my young twins, my Raptors, the same series of questions, delighting in how their interests and priorities change and evolve.

I’d had a very challenging day at a job I truly enjoy last October. I chose to ask my children their annual questions as an antidote to that difficult day. Their answers were as fun and as satisfying as ever, but this year, there was a twist. When I had finished by asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they then asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. We discussed my dream of becoming a novelist and with the clear- eyed pragmatism of young children, they could not see any reason why I couldn’t fulfill that dream.

Their wisdom gave me pause. Earlier that day, I’d received an email from a business coach I’d met earlier in my career, promoting a self-publishing school for new authors. These coincidences – the difficult day, the confidence of my children, and the seemingly-random receipt of an email with the promise of tools to make my dream come true – were just what I needed to take Cara’s story “off the shelf.”

I signed up for the course that very night. I hope readers will enjoy Cara’s story and will look forward to the next installment in the series. I also hope that my story will encourage other writers to take the leap and bring their stories into the world.

You can find Down the Staircase on Amazon~

Carol Goodman: The Other Mother Wednesday, Apr 4 2018 

Carol Goodman’s gothic thriller, The Other Mother, touches base with thriller, laden with motherhood and identity, resonates with its tale of who can be trusted.

Daphne Marist is suffering from Post-Partum Mood Disorder when she meets her doppelganger in Laurel Hobbes. Both women have daughter’s named Chlore.Soon the two women are mirroring each other in an intense friendship , matching clothes and haircuts with their deepest secrets.

When Daphne decides to run from the controlling husband she is afraid will take her daughter away from her, she takes a position as archivist for her favorite author, Schuyler Benedict. It’s a live-in position that will allow her to take her baby. The big issue is that she’s appropriated her friend’s name and identity, and that’s not all.

Benedict’s house, complete with a tower room, is isolated and hidden in the trees, quite near a mental asylum. As she works, she comes across notes about Edith Sharp, a resident of the asylum. But is the same women who she’s trusting to care for her baby?

A harrowing tale~

Peter Swanson: All the Beautiful Lies Tuesday, Apr 3 2018 

Peter Swanson’s newest psychological thriller, All the Beautiful Lies, resonates with the kind of manipulative sociopaths who made The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, The Kind Worth Killing, and Her Every Fear such stand out reads.

We are introduced to Harry Ackerman, literally days away from college graduation, when news of his father’s death changes his world forever.

Hurrying to Maine and the home his father shared with Harry’s stepmother, Alice, he soon finds what he thought was an accidental fall off a cliff may be a deliberate act of murder.

But who would want to kill the kindly man who ran a bookshop and whose life was devoted to scouting out first editions? A lover of crime, many of Bill Ackerman’s favorite crime novels line Harry’s shelves.

He helps Alice with the funeral and stays to help run the bookshop for the summer, aided by his father’s assistant, John, as detectives investigate. Alice insists finally that a local woman and her husband must be involved, as she feels Bill was having an affair with the woman.

Then a young woman enters the bookshop one day, asking for work. Harry can’t help but feel she’s lying to him, and although Grace McGowan claims she just moved to the area, Harry feels she’s more entwined to his family than she’s admitting.

And on the homefront, his stepmother’s clinginess starts to cross a line that leaves Harry confused about her real motives. Alice seems to exist in her own kind of Wonderland. Where does the reality fall?

All Harry knows for certain is that there are secrets being kept and he’s at the center of it all.

Told in alternating time periods, “Then” concentrates on the history of Alice and her upbringing, and “Now” on what is happening to Harry after his father’s death.

It’s a clever way to reveal information as this story of revenge and obsession unfolds, along with cold-blooded murder, in a way that will have readers wondering just who can be trusted, if anyone at all.

Beth Gutcheon: The Affliction Friday, Mar 30 2018 

If you like your mystery with a dose of humor, you’ll enjoy Beth Gutcheon’s second book featuring retired headmistress Maggie Detweiler and her good friend and cohort, Hope Babbin, The Affliction.

Currently heading a team evaluating a girls’ boarding school on the Hudson River, Maggie soon finds the high and low points. She also finds Florence Meagher, the art history teacher, working on a book on Velasquez. She also had “the affliction” of not being able to stop talking once she gets started–and not knowing when to stop.

Until suddenly Florence is silenced forever when her body is found floating in the school’s pool. Asked to stay on as the crime is investigated, students and faculty alike come under the microscope of the local detectives, and of Maggie and Hope, running their own parellel investigation.

The women’s society contacts and friends in high places give them information the police detectives won’t uncover. Picture Rosemary and Thyme let loose in New York’s Hudson Valley and you’ll enjoy the adventures of this mature sleuthing duo who provide humor and suspense in equal measure.

David Rosenfelt: Fade to Black Wednesday, Mar 28 2018 

David Rosenfelt is perhaps best known for his Andy Carpenter series, with the dog rescuing lawyer echoing his own dog rescue efforts in real life.

With a new series and a new character introduced in Blackout, Rosenfelt brings a sequel in Fade to Black, continuing the story of New Jersey policeman Doug Brock. Shot in the line of duty, Brock’s ammesia produces intersting conversations that pepper his life and his work as people refer to cases and things he has no memory of in the past decade.

It’s not all bad news, for Doug is reunited with his almost-fiance` and is attending an amensa support group at her insistence. It’s after one of these meetings that a new member approaches him and asks Doug to investigate a cold case.

Sean Conner has found a scrapbook in his attic containg clippings of an unsolved murder case, but he has memory of the victim or why he would have kept the story. After Doug convinces his captain to let him look into the case, he finds he has a connection to the murder, one he doesn’t remember.

Soon there are more things that don’t add up, and as the threads come together, there will be more murders tied to this case. But what’s really going on? It will be up to Doug and his partner to find out in this well-plotted procedural that has Rosenfelt’s trademark touch of wry humor.

Christi Daugherty: The Echo Killing Monday, Mar 26 2018 

Christi Daughterty’s accomplished debut, The Echo Killing, will have readers looking for a sequel (it’s in the works for next spring), after meeting crime reporter Harper McClain.

The lushness of antebellum Savannah, Georgia, lends its setting to the story of the determined reporter, and Daugterty’s own experience in that job shines through, as does her love for the city which echoes Harper’s own.

Harper enjoys her job, despite her sad family history. At the age of twelve, she walking home from school to find her artist mother’s brutally murdered body. With the unsolved murder never far from Harper’s thoughts,she works evenings on the crime beat, spending time following the police radio to crimes that will bring headlines and please her editor.

Then a new murder takes her to the house of a murder, where she watches the victim’s young daughter being led away from the scene, just as she was years ago. Harper is determined to glimpse the actual murder scene, and soon is sorry she did. It’s eerily familiar to her mother’s murder, from the naked victim,being found in the kitchen to the multiple stab wounds.

Only someone who had seen her mother’s killing could replicate it in so much detail. Does this mean her mother’s killer is on the loose again? The killer is forensically aware, too, leaving no clues for detectives.

The new case becomes an obsession with Harper, despite being warned by the cops she’s close to, her photographer friend, and her editor to leave it alone. This victim turns out to have a very different background from Harper’s mother, and as she investigates her life, Harper soon finds a disturbing tie to several prominent people, including someone on the police force.

Her probing could cost Harper more than just her job–it cost her life as she unravels the complicated case.

This atmospheric, engrossing tale is filled with realistic characters and dialogue, and a romantic subplot only adds to the layers of the book, which aptly illustrates what it means when murder is so personal.

A suspenseful mystery that will have readers lined up for its next installment. Highly recommended.

Phillip Margolin: The Third Victim Saturday, Mar 24 2018 

Phillip Margolin’s newest legal thriller, The Third Victim, debuts a new series featuring young lawyer Robin Lockwood. Just landing her dream job working with Regina Barrister, the legend of criminal defense attorney, after a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court.

The strong opening gives readers a dark rural Oregon road and a lone driver, who slams on the brakes when a young woman–dehydrated, starved and beaten–runs across his path asking for help.

She’s escaped from a cabin where she’s been held prisoner, and soon the cabin’s owner, a prominent attorny in his own right, is arrested for the beating and kidnapping, as well as the deaths of two other women in similar circumstances.

With evidence against him mounting, Robin’s firm take on the defense of Alex Mason, who insists he’s innocent. Second chair on this very public trial is Robin, but she’s seeing things with her renowned boss that lead her to worry about Barrister’s behavior.

Then several details in their case seem at odds, and it will take Robin and Barrister’s team to figure out what is really going on. The complicated plot hangs together well, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing as the story unfolds, inside the courtroom and out.

An interesting lead character, Robin Lockwood’s past as an MMA fighter just might find her in good stead when things turn ulgy. Margolin’s own experience as a criminal defense attorney shines through, turning the legalese and court proceedings into interesting scenes.

This crafty story with its tight plot will leave readers looking for the next installment featuring Robin Lockwood and the legal team.

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