Ashley Dyer: The Cutting Room Wednesday, Jun 19 2019 

Ashley Dyer’s debut last year was the wonderful Splinter in the Blood, which had one of the most intriguing openings Auntie M had read in a long time. The writing duo of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper return with a second one featuring the detective team of Ruth Lake and Greg Carver in The Cutting Room, every bit as good as the first.

A psychopath has hit on a new way to attract gawkers to his crime scenes: digital invites to the gruesome tableaus he’s set up that he considers art installations.

The plot shows the public’s fascination with reality television and true-crime, as the narcissist behind these disturbing murders uses social media to advertise himself and court popularity.

Soon he’s earned the nickname The Ferryman, and both Lake and Carver are determined to bring his spree to an end. Carver is still recovering from the effects of the head wound that nearly killed him in the first book, with unusual side effects that play into the plot. Lake is hiding her own secrets from her friend and co-worker.

Readers who enjoy shows such as Criminal Minds will enjoy the look into this engrossing procedural, filled with suspense and not for the squeamish, but yet totally believeable as the detectives realize to find this demented killer, they must get inside his mind to anticipate his actions.

Highly recommended.

Doug Johnstone: Breakers Wednesday, Jun 12 2019 

A strikingly rich thriller that shows the pull of family in different directions underlines Doug Johnstone’s stunning Breakers.

A dysfunctional family to the hilt underscores the story, living in one of Edinburgh’s remaining tower estates, home to Tyler and his family of half-siblings, an addicted mum, and a lovely younger sister, Bean, whom Tyler wants more than anything to protect.

Forced to accompany his older siblings on their string of robberies in more affluent neighborhoods, it’s clear Tyler is only making money to put food on the table. Along the way he meets Flick, from another lifestyle entirely. She is the beam of goodness in Tyler’s life, the one who understands his situation and sees his inner strengths.

Then during one of their jobs, the wife of a crime lord interrupts them and Tyler’s brother stabs the woman and leave her for dead. Soon they are all on the run: from the police, from the crime lord, and for Tyler, maybe even from his older brother with the psychotic streak.

This is an unflinching look at a life lived in the squalor of the estates, which is matched by the gang and abusers who people it. Toxic people come in many forms, and the characterizations here are rich and harrowing. It’s a story you can easily imagine on the big screen, unfolding like a movie you can’t stop watching.

John DeDakis: FAKE Monday, Jun 10 2019 

FAKE is John DeDakis’s newest entry in his Lark Chadwick thriller series with a look inside the Beltway that will seem all too believeable.

Auntie M liked Lark as a character, and readers will, too: feisty and smart, she’s nevertheless aware of her own shortcomings and foibles, and still in the midst of deciding what she wants to be when she grows up.

Reeling from a series of losses that would decimate a lesser woman, Lark is currently working as a White House correspondent when First Lady Rose Gannon agrees to a set of interviews that will form the basis for a biography Lark plans to write.

Rose has already told Lark off the record of her pancreatic cancer, with Lark agreeing to hold that news for now. Then during one of her interviews, Rose collapses and dies suddennly, leaving the new President and his two young children dealing with their grief just as a serious international issue springs to light and he must try to avert a nuclear war.

Soon Lark has an interview with a fascinating job offer dangled in front of her with another network owned by a woman she’s considered an idol. When that idol turns out to have clay feet, the aftermath will affect Lark in ways she could never imagine, with tendrils affecting everyone she cares for. Suddenly Lark finds herself on the wrong side of a thirsty media frenzy.

Who’s behind it all and the lengths will they go to to secure the prize they want form the mystery part of this gripping ride.

This is a clear-eyed look at the supposed line journalists walk every day, juggling their personal feelings with fast-breaking news while trying to figure out the truth from the fake news we all hear about these days. Fast-pacing means the reader is in for one quick ride, with surprising results.

DeDakis has a good handle on writing emotions, too, which allows the reader to connect with all of the main characters here. Calling on his own experience as a former White House correspondant and Senior Copy Editor for CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” DeDakis brings a view of reality mixed with tidbits of behind-the-scenes information to the reader that make this mystery a standout.

Helen Fitzgerald: Worst Case Scenario Friday, Jun 7 2019 

Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald features one of the most original characters Auntie M has read in a long time.

Set in Glasgow, we meet Mary Shields, an overburdened probation officer whose job is almost impossible. It doesn’t help that Mary is burned out, missing her partner away in Australia, obsessing about her young adult son trying to find himself, and physically unwell. Everything affects her mood and then some.

And now Liam Macdowall is being released onto Mary’s care, after being imprisoned for murdering his wife. He’s published a book that contains a series of letters to the dead woman, and become the poster boy for Men’s Rights Activists.

It’s a case of instant dislike between Mary and Liam, especially when he flounts the rules of his probation, and in an unanticipated twist, her son and Liam’s daughter start a relationship. It’s enough to put a woman on edge, and with Mary already on edge, enough to topple her over.

It’s difficult to describe the plot without spoilers, but suffice it to say that this doesn’t end up where any reader thinks it will at first. There are moments of high humor contrasted with others of dark perception as the story plays out. Readers won’t be able to put it down.

Peter Hanington: A Single Source Tuesday, Jun 4 2019 


BBC reporter Peter Hanington’s second topical thriller, A Single Source, features veteran BBC reporter William Carver, bringing the type of verisimulitude to the story only someone who’s lived it can affect.

This realistic light fills the timely story, as Carver, who’s seen it all, teases out the angle others miss when reporting from the Middle East on the cusp of the Arab Spring.

With Patrick at this side, a young BBC producer determined to win Carver’s approval, the duo ferret out stories of ordinary people in a time of crisis. There’s a fresh look at how the decisions of a removed government affect everyday citizens, while a second storyline overlaps and illuminated the tortuous journey of two brother making their way from Eritrea to Europe.

Having Carver see evidence various government’s would rather he not report grounds the story in today’s world as Carver fights to tell his story, as he looks behind the obvious and isn’t always happy with what he finds.

Well-plotted, with snappy dialogue and at times a dry wit, Carver can carry this atmospheric story with authenticity and with a shift in the various things happening that will defy readers to put the book down.

Ragnar Jonasson: The Island Saturday, Jun 1 2019 

Jonasson’s second Icelandic series with its compelling protagonist, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir, returns with its second installment in The Island.

The time period is set earlier than in last year’s The Darkness and its startling ending. It’s 1987 when the book opens with the details of a new young couple’s romantic but secret trip to the isolation of the Westfjords, a trip that ends in disaster when the young woman is found dead.

A decade later, four friends have a reunion to honor their dead friend, reconnecting with a trip to an old hunting lodge in an even more isolated area of southern Iceland. Cut off from the outside world for the weekend, only three will survive.

Hulda is determined to find the culprit, which means she must explore the history behind the initial investigation into the young woman’s death. She needs to explore the relationships between all of the principal’s involved, some of which had drastic and tragic results, as well as the way in which the investigation itself was handled by her police colleagues.

What she finds will reveal long held secrets that have ramifications for several families as well as Hulda herself.

With the dark, foreboding setting an adjunct character, Jonasson makes the most of Hulda’s tragic life and frustrations as she finds herself looking into the deepest recesses of the darkness that lurks within us. Masterful look into the human psyche.

JR Ripley: Cardinal Sin Tuesday, May 28 2019 

Please welcome author JR Ripley, to tell readers about his new release, CARDINAL SIN, just published May 14th~

Hi, I’m JR Ripley, author of the A Bird Lover’s Mystery series. Book #9, CARDINAL SIN, is out!

CARDINAL SIN has got a rare yellow cardinal, a voodoo doll deity who refuses to go away, and a dead body or two. None of which belong to birds, by the way. We kill people here, not birds. Although, as I always like to say: “Plenty of people get killed but nobody really gets hurt!”

You DO NOT have to know a thing about birds or even be a bird lover to enjoy these books. That’s Amy Simm’s job. Amy is the owner of Birds & Bees, a store for bird watching enthusiasts in the small, fictional town of Ruby Lake, in western North Carolina.

And now a blurb from our sponsor, er, publisher, whose publicist/marketing whiz has this to say:

Birds & Bees owner Amy Simms will need help from her fine-feathered friends when an uncommon bird sighting plunges her into a hornet’s nest of black magic and murder most foul…

Amy’s enjoying a rare moment of relaxation when a customer shows up seeking her expertise in ID-ing an unusual bird she’s seen flying around her wooded cabin at the edge of town. Ruby Lake, North Carolina, newcomer Yvonne Rice resembles an exotic bird herself——apparently the kind that doesn’t fly. When she’s found shot to death in her locked cabin, the only witness is a statue of a voodoo deity staring down from the mantel.

Does the rare yellow cardinal Yvonne spotted hold any clues to her demise? What about the Ouija board spelling out the words “I am murdered?” As Amy delves deeper into Yvonne’s life and meets her strangely secretive neighbors, she’s determined to stop a fowl-hearted murderer from migrating to a new killing ground . . .

DIE, DIE BIRDIE, book #1 of A Bird Lover’s Mystery series was issued in mass-market in August 2018. Book #2 in the series, TOWHEE GET YOUR GUN, released March 26th of this year and book #3 releases on August 27th.

Confused? Don’t feel bad. I get that way sometimes too!

That is because my publisher, Kensington (whom I love at least as much as I love chocolate cake), releases the epub editions ahead of the print editions. This does lead to some occasional confusion by readers and a great deal of confusion on the part of yours truly because I sometimes forget, in making public appearances, just what it is I am supposed to be promoting.

I blame my parents. It is their fault I went to a traditional university rather than Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College where I might have learned something useful, like juggling. Instead, I write books. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. If not, one of us is going to be in trouble – and we know who that is…

Bio: JR Ripley is a novelist and musician, currently writing the Bird Lover’s Mystery series, the Maggie Miller mysteries, and the TV Pet Chef mysteries (writing as Marie Celine). Unfit for the real world, prior to writing full-time, JR slaved away at a multitude of jobs including: archaeologist, cook, factory worker, copy & technical writer, editor, musician, entrepreneur, window washer and more – all grist for the writer’s mill. You can connect with JR at Facebook.com/JRRipley & Twitter @JRRipleyAuthor.

Three for Me: Susan Hill; Aline Templeton; Sophie Hannah Sunday, May 26 2019 

Despite receiving multiple books for review, Auntie M often buys books she wants to read and these three were from her spring crop, presented her for your Memorial Day reading pleasure. All three rate high marks are from some of Auntie M’s favorite authors, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting their acquaintance, dive in now! Highly recommended!!


After an absence that seemed far too long, Susan Hill brings us a new Chief Superintendant Simon Serrailer mystery with The Comforts of Home.

After the horrendous ending to The Soul of Discretion, one could have wondered if we would see Serrailler again, but here he is, adjusting to a new life after his near-fatal injuries, which provides a shocker of an opening. Without melodrama, Serarrailler must learn to cope with his new situation, an enormous adjustment.

His recuperation on a small Scottish island is cut into when the local police ask him to become invovled in a murder inquiry. Despite being relatively new to the island, the popular victim is mourned after being found in unusual circumstances and the death creates a wave of fear that sweeps through the isolated community.

A second case, a cold case assigned by Serrailler’s new brother-in-law, brings its own thorny situation. Now married to his doctor sister, Cat, Kieron Bright relies on Serrailler’s insights, even as Cat struggles with her new marriage and an important professional decision. Her children’s futures are an additional strain on Serrailler, as is his understandably thorny relationship with his father.

This is not a fast-paced thriller, but a superb meditation on loss, family, change, and home, wrapped up in two mysteries that must be untangled. Serrailler heals his mind as well as his body with walks, meditating on his future, his new abilities, and of course, solving the cases.

Aline Templeton’s new detective, after the wonderful DI Fleming series, is DCI Kelson Strang of the Serious Rural Crime Squad in Scotland. His second outing in Carrion Comfort cements this character as strong enough to carry his weight even as he feels his way in this new position.

The small village of Forsich retains many of the old habits, which come with old lingering hatreds, too, and none is stronger than that of Gabrielle Ross, blamed for her father’s destruction of the village.

But whether the woman is benign or evil is something Strang must decide when the body of a drowning victim is found being eaten ravens in aruined croft house. Who bothered to put the body there?

Gabrielle is recovering after losing a baby with her devoted husband, but is she also losing her mind? With her sanity at question, and the villager’s loathing for her, Gabrielle is in tenuous position with fingers pointing at her as the culprit after the blowback from her dead father’s failed local business venture.

Templeton weaves in the social conflicts of modern Britain, from law enforcement budget cuts to the impact of vulture capitalism on small towns. Her descriptions of the local landscapes and the natural environment bring it to life as another character that has its own part to play in the life cycle of this rural area.

Different from the Fleming mysteries, these are edgier characters and there is a darker tone. Strang is still settling into his job, although he’s provided with a female DC who needs his tutoring and should become a series regular. The locals take center stage, with flawed characters whose grudges propel the narrative even as they blind themselves to reality.

Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot is magnificently resurrected under Hannah’s skillful writing in The Mystery of Three Quarters, which starts off with Poirot immediately put on the wrong foot after arrving home from a luncheon to find a woman angrily demanding to know why he sent her a letter accusing her of murder.

Of course, Poirot has done no such thing, and the man the letter accuses Sylvia Rule of killing, one Barnabas Pandy, is someone neither Sylvia nor Poirot have ever met. As if that’s not enought to shake his equanimity, he finds another visitor waiting, claiming to have a received a similar letter from Poirot, accusing him of murdering Pandy.

It’s a lively premise and one Poirot, completely innocent, yet annoyed at being dragged into this farce, must get to the bottom of as eventually there will be four letters, seemingly from Poirot, and yes, Pandy is indeed dead, but not under suspicious circumstances.

Poirot’s “Hastings” in this series is Scotland Yard’s Edward Catchpool, whom Poirot enlists to look into each of the four people who’ve received forged letter, as well as Pandy and his seemingly innocuous death. Several secondary characters contrast nicely to Poirot; the three quarters of the title refers to a ‘church window’ cake that plays an important part in helping solve the case.

This is an elegant mystery, one that takes its due from Christie’s knack for inspecting the English way of doing things as well as keen insights into human nature. While allowing Hannah her own way of telling us these new Poirot cases, nothing of Christie’s original character is lost and, indeed, rests well in Hannah’s most capable hands. A sheer delight.

Roz Watkins: The Devil’s Dice & Dead Man’s Daughter Wednesday, May 22 2019 

It’s Roz Watkins Day, and if you’re not familiar with that name, keep an eye out for this strong new series that mixes a police procedural with the best of psychological suspense.

Roz Watkins burst onto the crime fiction scene introducing DI Meg Dalton, in the atmospheric The Devil’s Dice. The Peak District setting evokes Stephen Booth’s Fry and Cooper series, but with its own spin readers will enjoy.

A strong protagonist is required to carry a series, and Meg Dalton does the job here, despite having her own baggage to carry, when a local patent lawyer, Peter Hamilton, is found dead inside a cave known as a suicide point, part of a network of caves known as The Labyrinth for their complexity.

A local legend of The Labyrinth revolves around ancient witch sagas, with the the lore that a large chamber holds a noose. If your initials are found carved into the cave wall, the noose is there for you. Spooky and creepy but the stuff that makes legends like this endure.

So it’s even creepier when a carving of the grim reaper is found by Hamilton’s body, along with an inscription that says ‘Coming for PHH.’ DI Meg Dalton isn’t a stranger to suicide, but she’s hoped to leave her past in the past.

When Meg interviews Hamilton’s his wife and sister,the wife fears the local rumours about a curse attached to her home have come true. Hamilton’s business partners are soon added to Meg’s suspect list with good reason.

The plot is nicely contorted, with the setting taking on its own part to play. Meg’s family have a unique contribution to the story, and her colleagues are a mixed bunch of different characters who leap off the page in their individualism, including a lapsed Sikh and a misogynistic DC who enjoys putting Meg down.

This is a strong start to the series and since we’re having a bit of a Roz Watkins day, we’ll go on this sequel, Dead Man’s Daughter.

Starting off with a strong opening, Meg finds a ten-year old girl running barefoot through woods in a blood-stained nightdress toward a spot called Dead Girl’s Drop by the locals.

When she rescues Abbie Thornton and inspects her home, the girl’s father has been stabbed to death in his bed. There’s a history of death in the family before, and medical transplant issues that have bearing on this family, but right now Meg is convinced she can’t take on this big case, with a family committment due next week that runs like a thread throughout the book and may have consequences for Meg’s professional life.

But reluctantly, and with great misgivings, when Abbie is considered to have killed her father, Meg does become involved as she digs deeply into the history and the suspects surrounding this case to clear Abbie’s name.

This leads to dark and often surprising places for Meg as she pushes the investigation forward where others on her team would settle for the easy path out. Using vivid descriptions adds to the feeling readers are there with Meg on her investigation, and Watkins knows how to ratchet up the tension with a complex plot that twists at just the right moment.

The difficult themes of organ donation and of assisted suicide are explored with sensitivity by Watkins. Meg must deal with office politics, too, and her own quirks as she tries to heal her past. These issues add a layer and thoughtfulness to the series, and tied with the exhaustive research Watkins must have done, pays off beautifully.

In Meg Dalton, Watkins has a created a spontaneous detective who relies on her hunches at times but never loses her heart. Highly recommended series.

Vanda Simon: Overkill Monday, May 20 2019 

Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Overkill is Vanda Symon’s debut featuring police constable Sam Shephard and promises to be a strong series.

With the natural setting intriguing to readers unfamiliar with the area, this New Zealand procedural starts off with a bang with the disappearance of a young mother.

The reader knows more than the police in this case, and what is first deemed a suicide is quickly ferreted out to be a murder. The chilling opening creates a picture of a young mother desparate to save her child and is all the ore compelling for what she is forced to endure.

For Sam, the knowledge that there is a killer in the small town of Mataura is compounded by the victim being the wife of Sam’s former lover. With a young child left behind complicating matters, Sam is determined to find the killer, especially after her invovlement and close ties finds her suspended from duty and on the list of suspects.

Sam has a no-nonsense approach to policing that makes her a feisty woman on a mission and also her a prime candidate to carry a series that weaves together the unusual rural landscape with the harsh realities of gossip that is small-town life. Sam must face prejudice and ignorance as she realizes that people she’s known her entire life must be involved in the young mother’s murder.

With the tension mounting, Sam and those close to her will find themselves in danger as the stakes rise higher and higher. An accomplished debut.

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the care and feeding of our little fish

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(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

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