Carolyn Haines: Charmed Bones Monday, May 21 2018 

Carolyn Haines series featuring Sarah Booth Delaney brings southern charm to mysteries featuring the private detective. Charmed Bones starts out with an intriguing premise, when Sarah is watching The Wizard of Oz, and her very own ghost, Jitty, materializes as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Still smarting over her abruptly interrupted session with boyfriend, Sheriff Coleman Peters, the two haven’t been able to consummate their relationship–yet.

But Jitty insists with Coleman working, Oz must wait because there’s a
school board meeting in the Mississippi county that Sarah must attend: a trio of witches want to open a Wiccan boarding school in their sweet little town of Zinnia. Faith, Hope and Charity are smart and sexy, too.

With her partner, Tinkie Bellcase, the duo try to figure out the Wiccan’s real reasons for choosing Zinnia, and for renting land from reclusive artist Trevor Musgrove.

Then a young boy goes missing and the Delaney Detective Agency is on the hunt for the cutup. Of course, the boys mother argues the witches have kidnapped him.

But then soemone is found dead, and the witchy sisters are in the crosshairs. Or they criminals, or just victims? It’s up to Sarah Booth and Tinkie to solve the case.

Another hilarious installment in the comic series.

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Judith Flanders: A Howl of Wolves Thursday, May 17 2018 

Judith Flanders’ Sam Clair series has been called “Hilarious, bighearted, clever, whip-smart, and devious” by Louise Penny, with good reason. Flanders returns with the fourth installment, A Howl of Wolves, where she fuses Sam Clair’s irreverant humor and keeps readers entertained with a mystery that gives a backstage look at the theater.

One of the highlights is the publishing world that Sam inhabits, and that’s here, too, a nice constant to the series. Sam and her Scotland Yard boyfriend Jake are doing the good neighbor thing, supporting upstairs Kay and her son, Bim, who have parts in West End play. The play is filled with gory deaths that 6 yr- old Bim relishes.

The couple are good sports, until the second act curtain reveals a dummy hanging from the rafters, made up to look like the play’s director, Campbell Davison. Poor taste, Sam thinks, until she realizes along with everyone else that this is no dummy, but the director himself strung up grotesquely.

Seeing Kay upset is all Sam needs to ‘help’ Jake and his team try to find the murderer, a man not extremely well-liked. As the suspect list grows, so does Sam’s need to keep death at bay.

With a very likeable cast of characters and a nicely twisted plot,when you throw in the satire that makes Sam a hoot to read, and you have one clever mystery indeed.

Elly Griffiths: The Dark Angel Tuesday, May 15 2018 

Elly Griffiths is celebrating TEN years of Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries, one of Auntie M’s favorite series. She takes Ruth from her Norwich salt marsh to Italy in her newest, The Dark Angel. And while she brings us complex mysteries to unravel at home and abroad, Griffiths keeps Ruth’s voice entertaining, with her own wry humor that brings her close to her readers.

When Ruth is contacted by a colleague she once spent the night with, the memory of Angelo Morelli comes back with a vengence. A fellow archeologist, his impeccable English overlaid with that sexy Italian accent, he invites Ruth to appear on his television program at a dig in the Liri Valley, not far from Rome.

He hints at anomalies in bones he recently found on a dig, and offers the use of a family apartment for a two-week holiday before Ruth’s classes start again. She can bring her friend, Shona, whose young son Louis could be a playmate for her Kate.

Once they are off to Italy, to the chagrin of DCI Nelson, whom Ruth has not told of the trip, she tries to relax and enjoy the mix of work and vacation, even as she wonders what Nelson will think. Nelson is Kate’s father, and his wife is in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy. With two grown daughters, the new baby has kept Nelson at home with Michelle, when he was on the verge of leaving for Ruth.

It’s a complicated life and readers who know the series look to the familiarity of these characters as much as they do the mysteries that envelop Ruth. For once in the little town of Castello degli Angeli, Ruth becomes aware that the secretive town does not look kindly on strangers.

The Liri Valley is connected to tales of a strong resistance movement during World War II, but Ruth can’t think why these stories would have an implication for her work on the newly discovered bones. She quickly becomes involved in the people and traditions she meets, to our delight, and befriends a young horse rider.

Then a murder occurs in the small town, rocking its foundations, and Ruth finds herself involved. When Nelson appears, bringing along Ruth’s druid friend Cathbad, things become even more complicated. And at home, things go seriously, badly wrong.

One of the pleasures of reading a strong series is the chance to follow the characters we’ve grown to love. Griffiths does a wonderful job of keeping the threads of all of these familiar souls alive, and makes a heartbreaking choice with one of them.

This is a clever and complex book, which resonates on so many levels with readers. Highly recommended.

Susan C. Shea: Dressed for Death in Burgundy Friday, May 11 2018 


Auntie M had the pleasure of meeting Susan Shea in person at Malice Domestic recently when we shared a panel about mystery series set in foreign countries.

Following her new series debut, Love & Death in Burgundy, she returns to the small French community of Reigny-sur-Canne for a sequel in Dressed for Death in Burgundy.

With Burgundy local finally seeming to become more accepting of American painter Katherine Goff and her musician husband, Michael, who is off in Memphis recording a new album.

Neighbor Sophie Bellegarde up at the Chateau has started a small tour company, and pressed Katherine to drive American tourists for the chilly month of December when her regular tour driver is unavailable. And she had the company of young Pippa, the English mystery writer she’s befriended.

But one tour takes a spectacular twist when Katherine finds a dead body smack in the local museum during her tour. It’s not bad enough she’d the talk of the neighborhood again, but Pippa comes under scrutiny as a suspect, and the two women naturally must find the real killer to clear Pippa’s name.

As they get closer and closer to the truth, threats start coming their way, and suddenly all bets are off in their race to find a killer before he finds them.

The delight of the area, the fish-out-of-water storyline, and the engaging cast of characters, including a young mother ready to have her own Christmas baby, all add to the delight.

Catriona McPerhson calls Dressed for Death in Burgundy ” . . . a real head-scratcher of a murder plot.”

Kristen Lepionka: What You Want To See Tuesday, May 1 2018 


A May Day treat for readers:
Kristen Lepionka burst on the scene last year with The Last Place You Look, which introduced PI Roxane Weary. She returns with What You Want To See, a sequel that has Lee Child noting: “That rare and precious thing–a sequel as good as–or even better than–the outstanding first in the series. It’s wise, knowing, propulsive, and perfectly pitched. Lepionka is a major new talent.”

High praise indeed, and most apt, for this sequel is every bit as complex and telling as the Lepionka’s first PI thriller.

Roxane has been hired by Arthur Ungless to trail his fiance`, Marin Strasser. He’s worried she’s having an affair instead of planning their upcoming wedding.

The reality is that Marin is not having an affair, but she’s not planning their wedding, either. What she is–is dead. Shot in an apparent mugging, Arthur is soon the prime suspect, but Roxie is convinced he was really in love with Marin and would never have killed her.

This theory is at odds with a detective on the case, Sanko, who shows up to question Roxie, accompanied by Roxie’s detective friend, Tom, her father’s detective protogee`. Roxie and Tom have a complicated relationship–but then there’s also her complicated relationship with the lovely Catherine.

None of this deters Roxie from investigation Marin, where she finds the pretty woman has more than a shady past, including her own criminal record and a son just out of prison. Roxie soon uncovers an accident to an elderly woman, and cases of real estate scams and fraud.

Then Arthur and a young woman are gunned down outside his office, and the complications rise as the secrets start to unravel. With Arthur struggling to survive and a young woman dead, everyone who knows any of the players is in jeopardy, even Roxie’s mother and Catherine.

One of the highlights of this series is the modern, bisexual Roxie, who tells the story from her point of view. This adds to the reality of the story as readers come to know Roxie, her insecurities and troubles, as well as her motivations. When you add in a nicely twisted plot, you have the recipe for a killer read.

It makes for a refreshing style of hardboiled PI fiction, a series that made Laura Lippman say ” . . . reminds me of everything that made my fall in love with PI fiction.”

Highly recommended.

Alex Gray: Keep the Midnight Out Sunday, Apr 29 2018 


Auntie M is a huge fan of Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series, so with the advent of Keep the Midnight Out publishing here in the US, she jumped at the chance to throw a few questions to Gray about her process:

Auntie M:How much of a story arc for Lorimer and his Maggie have you thought out ahead of whatever book you’re writing? Do you throw wobbles in their path as you write each book; have a plan devised or a combination of both?

Alex Gray: Well, I don’t have a story arc at all. I begin with an idea and perhaps a theme in mind and see the opening scene and simply write what I see in my head, then take it from there. My focus is normally on Maggie and Lorimer supporting each other in different ways, although in a few books they have problems that need to be resolved. In Keep The Midnight Out, Maggie is stricken when their favourite holiday island becomes a place of danger following the discovery of a body on their very own beach. I rarely have any plan in mind, just vague ideas that gather momentum as I write.

AM: How do you keep a series character fresh?

AG:I am not really sure, except that my mind is so full of different ideas that Lorimer has a lot to do and works in different places. I tend to throw problems at him to solve, not just crimes but domestic situations too, the sorts of things that everyday ordinary folks will face during a lifetime. Getting to know Lorimer as I have done over the years helps a lot as I now have the confidence to let him tackle some pretty scary stuff!

AM: It sounds like you don’t do a lot of outlining then for a new book before plunging in!

AG: Um, well, hardly anything! Just enough to keep my publisher happy and confident that I know what I am writing about! Never do a synopsis, hopefully never will.

AM: Who were your early influences who made you turn to crime fiction?

AG: Probably the earliest writer who made me think I wanted to write crime fiction was William McIlvanney, the ‘godfather of tartan noir’ (as he hated being called!) I adore Willie’s work and was proud to call him a friend before he died. I was delighted that my suggestion to rename the Scottish Crime Book of the Year be renamed the McIlvanney prize in his honour was taken up.

AM: Who are some of your favorite crime fiction authors to read right now? Who’s on Alex Gray’s nightstand waiting to be read?

AG: Ah, Louise Penny is definitely one of my favourite writers at the moment, as well as Alexander McCall Smith. I love Chris Brookmyre’s writing too.
On my nightstand are two teetering piles of crime books! Next on the list to read is TF Muir’s The Killing Connection.

Thank you, Alex! And now let’s push on to the new book. This one takes Lorimer out of hometown Glasgow and into his holiday with Maggie. Readers of the series have heard them talk about the holiday home they like to escape to Isle of Mull, and finally have a chance to visit the area during a case.

It’s meant to be a happy time for the couple, a tranquil holiday, until early on the body of a red-haired young man washes up on the shore in front of their cottage.

The bound body has an unnatural position that reminds Lorimer of an unsolved case from 20 before, when he was a young detective constable. That bound man was also red-haired. Is it possible their is a link in these cases?

Having found the body places Lorimer in an awkward position with the local SIO, DI Stevie Crozier, who makes it clear to him that this is her case and she does not want him interfering.

With chapters reflecting on the older case, readers get a sense of the Lorimer’s at the start of their marriage and now, and the personal tragedy they carry with them.

Could it be possible a killer has been on the loose for two decades without being caught?

The Isle of Mull and its environs come alive under Grey’s skillful pen, as Lorimer tries to stay at the fringes of the case while casting his eye back on the older one.

It’s a complex dance and a twisted case, and this one will try all of Lorimer’s skills while he tries to keep the place he and Maggie consider a santuary from being forever tainted.

Ellen Byron: Cajun Country Mysteries Monday, Apr 23 2018 

AND THE AWARD FOR WORLD’S LUCKIEST AUTHOR GOES TO…

Around awards season here in Hollywood, you hear the phrase, “It’s an honor to be nominated” a lot. I used to roll my eyes. Now I know through my own amazing luck that it’s absolutely true.

There are so many fantastic books launched every year that I go into mystery awards season with zero expectations. Yet I’ve somehow been the recipient of both Lefty and Agatha nominations for my Cajun Country Mysteries.

I feel like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar and uttered the words that have haunted her ever since: “You like me. You really like me!”

To be honest, I also feel like the characters in Wayne’s World, who uttered these immortal words: “Not worthy.” Like so many writers, I’ve had to contend with insecurity, fear of success, and yes, bouts of depression, throughout my career. On top of that, as someone with the combined ethnic background of Jewish and Italian, oy maron, the guilt! Why me? Is it fair? Managing this emotional stew ain’t easy.

But I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the news that I was nominated for an Agatha Best Contemporary Novel award this year – making a right turn onto Oakdell Street in Studio City.

I’d spent the afternoon at the Getty Museum with a friend, an outing that turned into a nightmare when the last day of an exhibit coincided with Free Museum Day. After an hour in a line of cars trying to park, we raced through the exhibit in forty-five minutes to beat the museum’s closing hour.

While zooming past Mayan gold artifacts, I got a text that my friend and fellow Chicks on the Case blogmate, Kellye Garrett, had been nominated for a Best Debut Mystery Agatha. We Chicks text-celebrated with confetti bitmojis, and I put the nominations out of my head.

When the phone rang with my own news as I made that right turn into my neighborhood, I was so surprised that I burst into tears and sobbed, slightly freaking out the lovely Malice board member on the other end of the call.

The best part about being a mystery award nominee is that you get to share a panel with wonderful authors. For me, this year’s joy is magnified by the fact that not only will fellow panelists be the terrific writers Annette Dashofy and Marilyn Levinson (as Allison Brook), the slate also includes two of my mystery idols, Louise Penny and Margaret Maron. I’m not kidding when I say I choked up just writing that sentence.

Chicks on the Case recently published a group post with all the Best Contemporary Novel nominees. Louise, winner of countless awards for her Inspector Gamache series, answered the question, “What would you do differently starting out as a writer again?” by saying, “I think I’d enjoy it more…. I was riddled with insecurities. My agent finally sat me down and spoke quite sternly. ‘You’re not only living your dream, but the dream lots of other people have, who don’t get this far. If you can’t enjoy it, then it’s wasted on you.’”
Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees: We Asked, They Answered

When I get to Malice next week, I’m going to get over my Wayne’s Worldian not-worthiness, take Louise’s honest response to heart, and enjoy every minute of the nomination- especially that Best Contemporary Novel panel. Because it’s more than an honor to be nominated. To paraphrase Louise’s agent, it’s a dream come true.


Ellen Byron, author of the Cajun Country Mystery series, is perhaps best known as a former cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots for major network and cable outlets. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. A native New Yorker, Ellen now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.
http://www.ellenbyron.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/cajuncountrymysteries/

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.

Jim Jackson: Empty Promises Sunday, Apr 15 2018 

Serendipity

Marni invited me to write a guest post based on a bit of serendipity. My series amateur sleuth is named Seamus McCree.

I don’t plot my novels ahead of time. I know what the inciting incident will be, and then I let the characters take the stage—and we both find out what happens as I compose at the keyboard.

In the first five novels, readers discover Seamus has an estranged sister—but that’s all we know. Much to my surprise, she appeared on stage in the first draft of the sixth novel, False Bottom. She even came with a name: Fiona.

As you may know, Marni has two dogs: Seamus and Fiona. When I discovered that on Facebook, I let Marni know of the coincidence, and that led her to invite me to write this blog.

I love serendipity. It’s the basis for all the “small-world stories” we share about standing in line three thousand miles from home only to discover the person behind us went to the same high school we did. It’s why I don’t mind getting lost—provided I don’t have an appointment to make; then it drives me bonkers.

I never know what experience, or piece of knowledge, or acquaintance I’ll gain while bumbling about. The same thing with writing blogs: I never know where my research will take me.

Serendipity can be a driving force for many amateur sleuth stories. If the sleuth trips over a dead body, it is almost always serendipitous. Often while trying to go about their normal business or investigating one thing, they will uncover something that later becomes a lead. Their curiosity about the world, combined with their power to reason things out, allows them to succeed at pulling clues together into a coherent pattern and eventually solve the crime.

It turns out that the invention of the word serendipity was related to a story of detection. Merriam Webster produced a podcast that touches on this when they selected serendipity as their 2/13/14 word of the day. I also came across a blog I found very interesting that provides a longer version of the story.

How about you? Anything serendipitous happen recently?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can find information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

In Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5) Seamus’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His granddog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body.
Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back the love of his life. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

It’s available at your favorite physical or online bookstore. You can find more information about it including a link to download the first four chapters at https://jamesmjackson.com/novels/empty-promises.html.

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