Three Thrillers: Berry, Margolin,Ryan Sunday, Mar 10 2019 

For your reading pleasure this March, as the rains come and the winds blow: three thrillers certain to keep your mind off the weather! Watch this spot for Margolin and Ryan later this week!

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thriller, The Malta Exchange, has been compared to Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with its ties to the Vatican, but it has a more complex plot that will capture your attention.

Malone sure does get around, and readers have to hope Berry and his wife, who are co-founders of History Matters, a non-profit that preserves historic sites, manage to get in some travel to the places Malone does when Berry is doing research for a new novel.

In Italy on Lake Como, Malone is trying to track letters between Churchill and Mussolini. Having disappeared in 1945, these could literally change our experience of the history of that time. But as if that alone is not enough of a storyline, of course Malone is not the only one who’s on their trail.

This is all happening at the same time a conclave is in progress to elect a new pope. Kastor Cardinal Gallo, however, is off looking for a document in Malta that stretches back to the 4th Century, but are his motives pure?

The two trails will soon merge. Readers will learn the older history of the Catholic Church as well as the more recent the role of the popes during the rise of Fascism and Mussolini in Italy. The Knights of Malta play an important role and readers learn their history (they exist to this day), as one of the smallest sovereign nations in the world. All the settings are well described, readers will feel they have been there, without it ever coming across as a travelogue.

Because the story starts a day before the Conclave is about to begin, that time constraint adds to the fast pacing. There are older characters readers know, like Stephanie and Luke, but also new ones, including twin brothers. Sure to delight readers new to the series and repeaters.

Elly Griffiths: The Stranger Diaries Tuesday, Mar 5 2019 


Fans of Elly Griffiths will be delighted to read The Stranger Diaries, the stand-alone that’s an homage to gothic literature of the highest quality.

At once atmospheric and stylish, this is a mystery chock full of literary gems, a very modern mystery with echoes of the past. Clare Cassidy is a literature teacher that her daughter attends, where she teaches a class on Gothic writer RM Holland, whose papers and library are at the school, a gothic marvel of its own.

When one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from relating to an RM Holland story by her body, detectives feel Holland’s works somehow hold the key to the case. Fearful the killer is someone she knows, Clare writes about her terror and suspicions in her journal, as is her routine, until the day she sees new writing in the diary in a different hand from hers. A second point of view is that of Clare’s daughter, Georgia, at once the quintessential teen, embarassed by her mother, but hiding her own secrets.

Both of these are engaging points of view, especially as Clare has the propensity to be rather snarky at times in a delightful way, as when directed toward her ex-husband, whom we loathe and pity at the same time. It keeps her very real.

And the there’s the third point of view. The investigating detective, DS Harbinder Kaur, is one early readers have been clamoring to see more of, and we can only hope that Griffiths will allows us that hope and bring her back in another book. At once highly original, Harbinder and her unlikely background make her an instant character who could support a series of her own, if Griffiths, already writing two popular series (The Ruth Galloway and the Magic Men mysteries) has that inclination.

Holland, the subject of a book Clare keeps intending to write, and his gothic story, “The Stranger,” become part of the plot and bring Clare into the sights of Harbinder. Notice Auntie M keeps calling these characters by their first names, as that is the level of identification readers will have for them.

As the bodies start to pile up, any preconceived notions we have about all of the characters seem to slip away and the suspense becomes tighter and tighter. This is an accomplished storyteller, a lover of literature, at the top of her game. Not to be missed. Highly recommended.

Charles Cumming: The Moroccan Girl Saturday, Mar 2 2019 

What happens when an author is asked by MI6 to carry out a mission while at a Morocco literary conference?

That’s the premise behind Charles Cumming’s The Moroccan Girl, a neat twist on the spy genre.

Getting funds to someone and keeping and eye open for Lara Bartok sounds like a fairly simple mission to Kit, who likes the cloak-and-dagger aspect of it all. He’s written thrillers for years, and here’s a chance to actually participate in what until now have been fictional adventures.

In Morocco, Kit finds Bartok, only to discover that she’s the former lover of Ivan Simakov, the leader of Resurrection, a terrorist group targeting right-wing journalists and politicians. After starting as a peaceful organization designed to fight opposing political views, Resurrection quickly turned violent, brutally killing when necessary to further their cause.The Russian and American governments are only two of the signficant parties after Ivan and his group.

Kit suddenly finds himself at the center of this international mess, perhaps with more heavy espionage and danger than he first thought. And the enigmatic Lara finds Kit whipping out his best spy cloak and dagger bits as the novice soon becomes determined to save her while he saves himself.

With locales as widespread as Gibraltar and England, the easy pacing early on in this novel takes off at warp speed once it heats up.

A departure from Cumming’s Alec Milius and Thomas Kell books, this one has the amateur spy giving the feel of Cary Grant in a romantic North by Northwest.

Richard Montanari: The Buried Girl Tuesday, Feb 26 2019 

Richard Montanari’s The Buried Girl will hook readers on page one and never let them go. The complicated story resonates long after the last page is turned.

Dr. William Hardy, forensic psychologist, teaches at NYU, consults on television crime shows, and is basking in his first book, revolving around psychopaths in certain movies.

When he agrees to see a troubled young man, he cannot anticipate how that encounter will change his entire world. Suddenly he finds himself without a wife, left with a fifteen-year old daughter who blames him for her mother’s death.

Then Will finds he’s inherited an old mansion that used to be run as a bed and breakfast in rural Ohio. Taking a reclusive Detta away from New York City and bringing her to this small town, he hopes to restart their lives and their relationship.

At the same time, Chief of Police Ivy Lee Holgrave of Abbeville, Ohio and a police family, goes about her day, helping her mother after surgery, taking down low-lifes she encounters. But Ivy hides a secret investigation she’s pursued for decades: her own missing sister, Delia, whom she believes to yet another victim of the unclosed cases of young women who’ve gone missing in her area over the years.

When Will and Detta move to Abbeville, the two adults must join forces to run to ground this murderer, not realizing that Detta is in his crosshairs and might be the key to everything.

This suspenseful thriller had moments of warm reflection, whether it was of the setting or the character’s inner thoughts. Readers will be caught up in the story of Will and Detta, and of Ivy. No wonder James Ellroy calls Montanari “a master storyteller.”

Sophie Hannah: The Next to Die Friday, Feb 22 2019 

The multi-faceted Sophie Hannah does it all: compelling stand-alones, resurrecting Hercule Poirot for Agatha Christie’s estate, and her Culver Valley police procedural series. But she doesn’t stop there–the hallmark of this series is that the protagonist of each book is a character involved in the action, not the detectives, centered on Simon Waterhouse and his wife, Charlie Zailer.

We learn of the continuing saga of the married duo as a secondary plot, insinuating itself into the main plot of the newest in the series, The Next to Die. And a strong feminist will muddy the waters by insisting the killer being sought is a misogynist pig, as three of the four victims are women. Could she be right?

There’s more than a bit of sly humor when your protagonist is a professional stand-up comedian. Kim Tribbeck has received a little white book, mostly blank, with a few lines of poetry inside. She’s tossed it away, but she does remember receiving it.

The importance of this becomes clear when a murderer takes to killing pairs of best friends, four in all over the last four months. In each case he’s given the victim one of these same hand-made books before killing them. Each contains a line of poetry. Each poet was a woman whose name started with an E. So where does that lead them?

Dubbed “Billy Dead Mates” by the police, the detectives have exhausted ways to link the victims. It becomes clear the case revolves around books, but in what way? And if these are truly killings of best friends, why was Kim Tribbeck given a copy and left to live? Could it be that the fact she hasn’t had a best friend in years have saved her life?

At once convoluted yet sharply intelligent, the plot wraps around itself until the superb mind of Simon Waterhouse allows him to see beyond the obvious and pull the case together.

There’s an almost gothic feel to the book, as the story unfolds by way of excerpts from a book Kim writes after the case is over, added to by conventional chapters of interviews and the thoughts of the various detectives on the team searching for this killer.

The characters are true to themselves, with distinctly-drawn personalities that show Hannah’s expertise at describing the psychology of different people with that wry edge that smacks of verisimilitude until they seem to leap off the page. The Independent has compared Hannah to Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendall with good reason.

Peter Robinson: Careless Love Wednesday, Feb 20 2019 

Peter Robinson’s 25th Inspector Banks novel, Careless Love, adds to his string of hits with a complex mystery at its heart.

When a young student’s body is found in a car on a lonely road, waiting to be towed, it first appears to be a suicide, but it soon becomes apparent the victim died elsewhere, raising questions about who else was involved.

At the same time, man in his sixties is found dead at the bottom of a gulley, his neck broken in a fall. Did he slip and fall, or was he pushed? Another suspicious death soon has Banks and his team sharing duties to figure out if these could possibly be connected, while waiting for forenscis tests.

And then a third victim is found, this one a clear murder, with ties to the first two victims, and the case heats up and extends.

The stakes get higher when an old foe of both Banks and his long-time patner, Annie Cabot, is found to be back in England. This side twist occupies both of their minds as the two head the team that will take them into the world of students and high finance to find what really happened to these victims.

Any fan of police procedurals will appreciate the solid police work amongst the Yorkshire setting. One of the delights of this series is the three-dimensional characters who populate it, and how readers see the threads of their investigations brought together to a rewarding conclusion.

Banks’s devotion to music has always been a hallmark of the series, and readers will learn about his preferences, from classical to 60s rock. Auntie M confesses to seeking out a classical violinist Banks recommended, and was thoroughly rewarded. The loner detective who yearns for companionship is never more attractive than here, seeking to understand poetry, playing his music to suit his moods, and figuring out the details of a complex murder investigation.

Highly recommended.

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.

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