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.

Frances Brody: A Death in the Dales Wednesday, Mar 8 2017 

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Frances Brody’s newest Kate Shackleton mystery is one of her finest, an intricately plotted tale of crimes old and new, in A Death in the Dales.

Kate has taken her niece, Harriet, recovering from diphtheria, to stay for two weeks holiday at the Langcliffe home of Freda Simonson, now deceased, whose nephew, Dr. Lucien Simonsson has been courting Kate.

It’s to be a time to build up Harriet’s health, but the shadow of an old crime hangs over the town. Freda Simonsson was the only witness to the murder of the landlord of the tavern across the road, and believed till her dying day that the wrong man had been convicted of that murder.

Kate will soon find herself reading Freda’s notes on the crime, her voice reaching out to Kate from the grave, while Harriet befriends a young girl whose brother is missing. Her quiet vacation time suddenly seems very full indeed, with sleuthing around the various farms.

For if Freda was correct and the wrong man has been put to death, that means a murderer is still on the loose in the Yorkshire town.

This was one of Auntie M’s favorite Brody novels to date. The several plot lines come together in a way that’s extremely satisfying, as does the personal part of Kate’s life. Of course, her partner Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs. Sugden make an appearance, but it’s Kate who rules the day.

A satisfying entry in the series; Highly Recommended.

And don’t miss these two, new in paperback:

Redemption Road is John Hart’s thriller featuring cop Elizabeth Black, who rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot her kidnappers dead. But she’s also hiding a secret, and so are those around here. Filled with twists and turns.

A Banquet of Consequences is Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley/Havers mystery, a mix of complex plotting and psychological suspense, when a troubled young man’s suicide sets off a string of events that culminate in another death. This one was Highly Recommended when it debuted and readers who missed it at first can find it now in paperback.

Michelle Kelly: A Death at the Yoga Cafe’ Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

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Kelly’s second Keeley Carpenter cozy, Death at the Yoga Cafe’, brings readers back to the small english village of Belfry, where Keeley has opened her vegetarian cafe’ and is gaining a steady clientele,despite competition from her arch rival, Raquel.

Things are going well in her love life, too, with Detective Ben Taylor, who seems understanding about her nervousness when her mother comes for a visit. Never one to throw around compliments, Darla Carpenter arrives unexpectedly early and brings her superior attitude and criticism with her.

The timing couldn’t be worse. The annual Belfry Arts Festival is right around the corner, bringing several artistic types to the town. The Raquel’s boyfriend, the town’s mayor, is found dead, and the focus is on Raquel, especially after a nasty argument they had right in front of Keeley’s cafe’ with several witnesses.

Despite Ben’s warning, Keeley just can’t let an innocent person be framed for murder, and soon finds herself up to her elbows in more than a Sun Salutation, when the culprit turns his eye on her.

Complete with descriptions of yoga poses and even a few vegetarian recipes, this is delightful brain candy set in a small English village.

N

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.

New in Paperback: Leather, Berry, Brekke, Kappes, Sigurdartdottir, and Armentrout Sunday, Feb 5 2017 

Several crime novels are new in paperback, and while being previously reviewed by Auntie M, she wanted to bring them to your attention. Near the end are two making their debut in paperback and she will spend more time with you on those.

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Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd thrillers are hugely popular. In Dark Forces, the MI-5 undercover agent find himself posing as a hitman and crossing the paths of terrorists. Can Spider stop a massacre?

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Cotton Malone returned in Steve Berry’s The 14th Colony, with a tale that reflects his usual meticulous research and will have readers riveted to their reading. He will face Zorin, a Soviet operative headed to our Inauguration, with his deadly weapon right out of the archives of America’s oldest fraternal organization.

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Jorge Brekke’s suspense novels have been called “addictive” with good reason. Dreamless bring Chief Inspector Odd Singasker his most unusual case, when a young singer’s body is found staged with an antique music box playing a sad lullaby. How the song and the boxes are critical details is just one aspect of this compelling investigation into a race with a serial killer with a missing woman’s life at stake.

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Yrs Sigurdardottir’s The Silence of the Sea was named Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year with good reason. The chilling case for Thora Gudmundsdottir seems to have no solution when a huge yacht crashes into a pier in Reykjavik and is found to be completely empty. What happened to the crew and to the family on board?

NEW in Paperback:

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Tony Kappes’ Ghostly Southern Mysteries return with A Ghostly Reunion. Owner Emma Lee can speak to the ghosts of the murdered people at her Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. The action centers close to home, when an old friend, Jade Lee Peel, who made Emma’s high school life miserable, is found dead. Emma needs to be rid of the woman once and for all, before Jade Lee can cause trouble between Emma and her boyfriend, the Sheriff. Her solution is to solve the murder so Jade can cross over and leave Emma alone.

Only Jade Lee has other ideas. Still riding on her high school popularity, she’s not quite so keen to leave town as Emma would like. Filled with charm and Kappes’ usual brand of humor.

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This one debuts on March 1st, so readers have a month to look for Jill Armentrout’s newest romantic suspense, Till Death. The book takes off with Sasha Keaton returning to the West Virginia inn her mother runs, ten years after escaping the serial killer The Groom.

Sasha wants to help her mother run the inn and put her old ghosts to rest. When women start to disappear, FBI agent Cole Landis swings into action to protect Sasha the way he wasn’t able to a decade ago. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with The Groom calling the shots.

But he hasn’t counted on the steely determination of Sasha, who wants her life back. A satisfying read for those who want a dose of romance with their suspense.

Greg Hurwitz: The Nowhere Man Sunday, Jan 22 2017 

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After the huge success of last year’s Orphan X, Greg Hurwitz returns with The Nowhere Man.

Evan Smoak has learned a set of unique skills he uses to his advantage. With no financial issues at hand, Evan is playing vigilante to assuage his guilt over his past crimes as a deniable assassin.

But it isn’t easy to break completely with a government program, especially when you know where all the bodies are buried–and put some of there yourself. Evan’s knowledge makes him the target of the new head of the Orphan X program, with a price on Evan’s head.

With the victim of a child sex ring waiting to be rescued, Evan finds himself trapped in a secluded mansion and has only his knowledge and smarts to help him escape to save the girl–and himself. How he does that form the basis of a book filled with nonstop action. It’s also an incredible look inside the mind and thought process of this highly intelligent young man who has been thoroughly trained to outwit even the people who trained him.

A comprehensive thriller with a complex plot and clever twists make this much more than a sequel. A compelling read that mixes elements of James Bond, Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne.

Karen Pullen: Cold Heart Wednesday, Jan 18 2017 

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Karen Pullen returns with the second in her Stella Lavender Mysteries, Cold Heart. With her debut, Cold Feet, readers were introduced to the NC State Bureau of Investigations agent, who’s been doing undercover drug work. But Stella keeps hoping for something more. Always on the lookout for a homicide, she quickly becomes involved in an investigation after giving a ride to a hitchhiker.

The teen needs to get to her babysitting job, but once inside the wealthy neighborhood where her employer lives, Stella and the girl find the father in the family lying dead in the backyard. The toddler in question is missing. Stella gets herself assigned to the case and finds it particularly unusual.

Family photos have gone missing. It appears the victim was unconscious for a period of time before being killed. Why does he have a new huge deposit in his bank account? With the toddler’s mother pregnant and due to deliver soon, the child’s disappearance takes on a new urgency, even as Stella strives to find the father’s killer.

Stella’s backstory includes being raised by her very modern grandmother after her own mother went missing when Stella was a baby. This underlines much of her drive and motivation, and it comes into play in this case in an unusual manner.

Pullen creates her North Carolina setting and her characters well. A strong entry in a compelling series.

4 UK Treats: Russell, Tope, Mitchell, Ireland Sunday, Jan 15 2017 

Auntie M had a ball over the holidays reading on her Kindle between wrapping gifts, having family over and celebrating with friends and family. Here’s four for readers to check out, all set in the UK~

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Blood Axe is Leigh Russell’s newest DI Ian Peterson mystery. As the young detective struggles to adjust to his posting in York, and to the issues in his marriage, he’s confronted with a grisly murder scene.

A Viking axe goes missing after a festival and becomes the tool the murderer uses to carry out what soon becomes a series of murders. Peterson and his team, still adjusting to each other, must go full out to find who could possibly be the perpetrator. This is a canny killer, and it isn’t an easy task.

York springs to life, with plot points carefully worked out, and the gritty tasks, long hours and often frustrating work detectives face nicely illustrated. Russell’s police procedural’s hum with realism and this one is a fine addition to the series.

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Rebecca Tope brings back florist Simmy Brown in The Troutbeck Testimony, the young woman’s fourth outing. This time Simmy is walking with her father when an overheard conversation leads to a mix-up that ties in with a local murder. It doesn’t help that they find a dead dog.

Simmy is a most reluctant sleuth. She becomes embroiled in cases, to the delight of her young assistants. There will be changes in those closest to Simmy, too, and a surprise twist that has some of her preconceived notions shaken to her core. There are plenty of red herrings and mixed messages to keep readers on their toes.

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The writing duo known as DE Ireland return with Eliza Doolittle, Professor Henry Higgins, and the whole cast of My Fair Lady in Get Me to the Grave on Time.

It’s wedding season, which Higgins abhors, yet when the groom dies at the first one they attend, Eliza and Higgins find themselves sleuthing again. There are plenty of suspects as the plot thickens, and more deaths to come. Several in their close circle will be hurt as things start to get out of control.

The period details, especially the mores and customs, plus the emphasis that was placed on clothing, are detailed and specific, lending an air of plunging the reader back into Edwardian times. A looted Indian temple becomes the basis for the investigation and raises the question of British supremacy and the taking of antiquities for British museums. There are more layers here than first meet the eye.

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Caroline Mitchell debuts a new series with a most interesting protagonist in the first DS Ruby Preston, Love You to Death.

Ruby’s unlike most other police detectives. She’s pulled herself up to rise in the police after being raised in a neighborhood known more for its criminals. Her ties to her old life can’t seem to be cut, with good reason. She finds herself involved in complicated relationships at every turn, unable to lose the baggage of her past.

It makes for a very interesting and different approach, as Ruby must decide where her allegiance lies: to her old neighborhood and those she’s loved for years; or to the letter of the law she’s sworn to uphold.

A serial murderer is abducting and killing women after gaining entrance to their homes. It’s soon apparent that the thread connecting them is that each woman gave up a child for adoption.

The killer is looking for the mother who gave her up, and for a fairytale ending to their relationship. A wonderful twist occurs when Ruby receives emails allegedly from the daughter she gave up at birth as a teenager, implying that she is the killer. The child’s father is Nathan, a gangster who is not a part of Ruby’s life any longer–or is he?

An very different kind of character to lead a new series. It will be interesting to see where Mitchell takes Ruby next.

Jonathan Moore: The Dark Room Tuesday, Jan 10 2017 

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On the heels of last year’s thrilling Poison Artist, Moore returns with The Dark Room, a police procedural thriller that will leave readers flipping pages long past bedtime.

San Francisco and its communities spring to life in their dreary, rainy season when Gavin Cain, experienced homicide investigator, is pulled from an exhumation surrounding and old case to spearhead one that has the FBI involved: someone has sent the city’s mayor photographs of a beautiful blonde woman being systematically brutalized, forced to swallow a handful of pills, then raped. The accompanying letter hints there are worse photos to follow unless the Mayor, hard-hitting Castelli, commits suicide first.

As he and his team investigate the photos and the cold case that surfaces, it becomes obvious there’s a connection to the exhumation case he was on.
The mayor’s family and staff become entwined, and with the FBI’s help, Cain is on a roller-coaster ride he can’t get off until he finds the evil behind the actions.

Cain’s entire team and his personal life will be affected as one unthinkable action after another occurs. The dialogue-heavy action bring Moore’s realistic individuals to life in this intricately-plotted novel that Stephen King calls “heart-pounding” with good reason. Highly recommended.

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