Stephen Booth: Secrets of Death Sunday, Apr 23 2017 

It might be tough for some authors to keep coming up with an original story when they approach writing their 16th installment in a series. But Stephen Booth manages to keep reader’s attention with his creative plot in his newest Cooper and Fry mystery, Secrets of Death.

With Diane Fry in Nottingham, re-evaluating her relationship with her sister and working on a triple homicide, Ben Cooper as DI in Derbyshire’s E Division keeps trying to get back out on the streets he loves. In his new cottage, hoping to start afresh, he’s looking for a pattern in a spate of recent suicides in the Peak District, just in time for tourist season.

With no way to predict where the next body will be found, it’s an unlucky task before Ben and his team, who will find a surprising new member before the case is solved.

Then he finds a clue, a black business card from “Secrets of Death,” and realizes someone is encouraging depressed people to commit suicide right in his backyard. It gets personal when a body is found on his home farm, upping the urgency.

The landscape of the area is lovingly defined as the bodies continue to mount, and when it seems Fry’s case might be connected to Ben’s after all, and the two are forced to work together once again.

A highly satisfying entry in this series.

Donna Fletcher Crow: The Monastery Murders Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

Please welcome Donna Fletcher Crow, to explain the path her historical Monastery Murders series has taken. One lucky reader who leaves a comment will win a copy of one of Donna’s books, print or e-book, your preference! So all you lurkers out there who read but don’t comment, today’s your day!

The Monastery Murders: A Year of Life-changing Adventures

Felicity Howard is a young American woman studying in a theological college in a monastery in rural Yorkshire. And no one finds that more surprising than Felicity herself.

But teaching school was so boring (even in London) and what else can she do with a classics major? Besides, she makes all her decisions on impulse.

When she finds her favorite monk brutally murdered and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, covered in his blood, however, she begins to question the wisdom of this decision. An enigmatic book of poetry Father Dominic gave Felicity just before his death catapults Felicity and Antony into an adventure chasing and being chased by murderers across northern England.

Thus A Very Private Grave begins the Monastery Murders, a series that follows Felicity and Antony through the most tumultuous and transformative year of their lives.

In book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, Felicity is off to become a nun, in spite of the fact that Antony begs her to help him find a stolen valuable icon. Then her difficult mother arrives unexpectedly and a good friend turns up murdered. The ensuing chase takes them from London to the water-soaked Norfolk Broads.

In An Unholy Communion, Antony is leading a youth pilgrimage across Wales, and Felicity joins him for some much-needed relaxation—until their idyllic ramble turns into a life-and-death struggle between good and evil.

Book 4, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, finds Felicity off to translate a manuscript in a convent in Oxford. “What could be safer?” she asks Antony when he warns her to be careful. When severed body parts start showing up in ancient reliquaries, Felicity learns that murder can stalk even Oxford’s hallowed shrines.

An All-Consuming Fire brings the year full circle as Felicity plans their Christmastide wedding while Antony narrates a mini-series for the BBC. It will all be perfect. If only Felicity can keep her mother from turning the event into a royal production and escape the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors.

Donna Fletcher Crow is a lifelong Anglophile, former English teacher, and a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection, the monastery that serves as a model for this series. She conceived the series when her daughter Elizabeth found teaching classics in London to be boring, went off to study in a monastery in Yorkshire and married…

You can see information about all her books and pictures from her research trips at and follow her on Facebook at

Sarah Hilary: Quieter Than Killing Sunday, Apr 16 2017 

Sarah Hilary’s fourth in her Marnie Rome series, Quieter than Killing, is one fellow author Jane Casey calls ” . . . a fine addition to a superb series.”

Severe winter cold is affecting everyone in London, making seemingly random attacks on victims unrelated, until a pattern starts to appear. Could they have a vigilante seeking justice on their hands?

With DS Noah Jake as her right-hand man, Marnie becomes intrinsically involved when the family home she’s rented is broken into and ransacked, her tenants beaten up, and the only thing taken was a childhood memory that Marnie had lost sight of.

Someone has decided to make this deeply personal, and for Marnie, that involves going to the prison the face the man who murdered her parents.

Who is pulling the strings here? What does Noah’s brother’s old gang have to do with it all? And when a child goes missing, why has no one reported his disappearance?

In a series of remarkable scenes, the compelling plot unfolds as Marne and Jake embark on their toughest investigation yet. Hilary’s characters are terribly human, and the story is filled with deep emotions on all sides of the equation.

An original story, with hard, gripping scenes, this one’s a real knockout. Highly recommended

Steve Berry: The Lost Order Friday, Apr 14 2017 

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series have a huge following for good reason: his complex and well-researched plots, mingled with real historic facts and woven into a fictional action adventure story that just doens’t quit.

This time in The Lost Order, Malone is hunting for a treasure trove of hidden gold, hidden by a secret organization that once counted Malone’s own great-great-grandfather among its members.

Despite Anngus Adams being a Confederate spy ring the Civil War, Malone soon discovers that his group, The Knights of the Golden Circle, are still operating today.

With several disparate people succumbing to the lure of the gold, its secret is something people will kill to protect. Filled with a race across the country, changing landscapes and bits of clues. Another stunner from a master of the action hero adventure that combines reality with fiction.

Readers should be interested to know that the author and his wife co-founded History Matters, a non-profit organization that to date has raised over $900,000 or the preservation and conservation of historic sites.

Wilbur Smith: War Cry Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family historical thrillers are so popular due to their complex plots and adventure focus. The newest is War Cry , set in the 1920s near the end of World War I onward.

The setting starts in Africa, Smith’s own homeland, but Leon Courtney’s daughter Saffron has left Kenya to study in Oxford, England. Another young man affected by history is Gerhard von Meerbach, the younger brother of the heir to an industrial fortune.

When the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi question, it threatens everything Gerhard thought he knew about his family.

And into this is thrust Saffron and Leon and the spies and traitors who will cross their paths.

Filled with dramatic intrigue yet based on real events, this is a complex plot that feels made to be on the big screen, with its sweeping storylines and vistas.

New in Paperback: Wednesday, Apr 5 2017 

The wisteria is in bloom in NC and Auntie M is happy Spring is finally here. Along with Sping comes many new releases in paperback. Here are few of the top ones for your reading pleasure:

Maggie McConnon brings us the second in her Belfast McGrath Mysteries with Bel of the Brawl.

The gourmet chef is now working at her parent’s Irish wedding venue, handling the catering after a tough leap from her NY job. The weddings are a family affair, with her brothers in the band, performing everything from the BeeGees to Irish reels.

But the loss of Bel’s best friend in high school still haunts her. Amy Mitchell went missing after a party on a small isle in the center of the town’s rive,r and was never seen again. At the end of the debut in the series, Wedding Bel Blues, Amy’s backpack surfaced in the river. At the opening of book two, the investigation in her case has been reopened, and no one is more interested in finding out what really happened than Bel.

Haunted by her friend’s disappearance, feeling she’s dead, Bel decides to ask the groom of the current wedding to help out, as he’s a private detective. Only things don’t go according to plan, and right in the middle of the reception, the groom is found dead in the ladies room. There will be issues of undocumented workers and missing money from her parents safe, too.

Filled with humor and intrigue, a delicious sequel.

Bernard Minier’s Insp. Servaz series is one of Auntie M’s favorites, and his newest is now out in paperback and ebook. Don’t Turn Out the Lights brings him into the case of Christine Steinmeier, a radio presenter whose life is turned inside out with mysterious happenings, kicked off by a letter from someone blaming her for her suicide.

With someone determined to undermine her job, her love life, and even her pet, Christine comes to the attention of Servaz, who is recovering from his own trauma, who has received a key to the hotel room of young woman driven to suicide. Complicated and riveting.

Also new in paperback is Daniel Silva’s masterful Gabriel Allon spy novel, Black Widow. His timely story revolves around ISIS, who detonate a bomb in Paris’ traditionally Jewish Marais district, right as Allon is poised to take over as chief of Israel’s intelligence.

Filled with intrigue in a powerful story, Allon’s final operation will be to find and take down the man responsible before he can strike again. A captivating thriller.

A stunner when it debuted, Spencer Kope’s Collecting the Dead introduces Steps Craig, a member of the FBI’s Special Tracking Unit who has a most unusual talent: he can sense places people have been and routes they’ve taken, even if they’ve touched an item.

Pulling on his own experience as a crime analyst, Kope’s story centers on tracking the Sad Face Killer, as he hopes to find him before he strikes again. And just maybe, he’ll find victims the killer has taken who might still be alive. Tightly plotted, with enough twists and turns to keep readers up at night, they will be drawn to Steps Craig.

Carolyn Haines’ Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries have a devoted cozy following. Now in paperback is Rock-A-Bye Bones
, where the discovery of a baby left on her doorstep leads the private eye to search for the newborn’s mother.

Enlisting her partner, Tinkie Richmond, after having the little girl checked out at the hospital, the two soon figure out the mother was fleeing for her life. Sarah must follow the woman’s last movements to find out who has put her life in jeopardy so badly she’s given up her child. With appearances by the ghostly Jitty, and a wide dose of humor, Sarah is over-the-top fun.

Jorge Brekke: The Fifth Element Friday, Mar 31 2017 

Jorge Brekke’s Inspector Odd Singsaker series brings the stark Norwegian cold to life in his most ambitious novel yet in The Fifth Element.

Odd is recovering from the short-term effects of the last book, and the long-term effects of a brain tumor that’s been mostly removed. With his wife, Felicia, missing, he’s still on sick leave, but returns to this station to help search for his wife. Felicia was on her way to reconcile with Odd after their brief separation when she disappeared.

Told in what at first seems to be unconnected storylines, the novel pulls all of the threads together in a manner so complex yet compelling, it’s like reading a Rubrik’s cube that makes complete sense by the end in a masterful way.

But what a ride it is to that point. There will be the college student who has stolen a huge amount of cocaine at a party, and the thugs sent to find it. There is a corrupt policeman who may or may not be an abusive husband who has murdered before. There will be a young boy kidnapped and left to die, as well as a woman, tired of her abusive husband, who hires a hit man to kill him. But is she all she seems? It seems these are disparate issues, but they all come together.

And then there’s Odd, who finds himself holding a shotgun, with a corpse next to him. Who’s in trouble now?

Outgragously plotted in the most intricate puzzle Auntie M has read in a while, readers will be amazed at how the threads are pulled together in a surprising and satisfying ending.

Mandy Morton: The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency Wednesday, Mar 29 2017 


Auntie M previously reviewed this book, but now that it’s being published here in the US, the series deserves a second look in case you missed it the first time around.

Welcome to the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best friend, Tilly, in The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.

And what a world it is! Not one for inserting a cat as a companion to a human, Morton has these cats inhabit their own world, complete with sly references and ripe with innuendo. In the true spirit of the books, sales will help feed, shelter and find loving homes for less fortunate cats.

Hettie Bagshot and Tilly live in the Butter Sisters Bakery back room, a perfect spot for warming ovens, and replete with staff luncheon vouchers to hold hunger at bay as the dynamic duo await their very first case. (The idea for becoming a private detective occurred to Hettie when she was watching the long-running play A Mouse Trapped.) When that case turns out to be a search for missing dead cats, the reader knows the hijinks can’t be far behind.

Marcia Woolcoat, the matron of the Furcross Home for slightly older cats, promises a Dignicat burial when each cat’s time has come. Unfortunately for her, three recently deceased cats have been dug up and their corpses stolen, reminding Hettie of the infamous grave robbers Bert and Hair.

The fun keeps piling on as Hettie knows the Furcross cook from her touring days with her band, echoing Morton’s earlier professional days as a songwriter-musician. Marley Toke specializes in Jamaican food for the cats and grows her own catnip in the garden. With financial transactions providing rent and food for Hettie and Tilly, the fact that they have no idea what they’re doing seems besides the point.

Readers will meet Hettie’s plumber friend Poppy Phene, who drives the cats around in his van, while they chorus to Tabby Wynette’s version of “Stand By Your Van.” It’s not like Hettie is the FBI–the Feline Bureau of Investigation–so she has to use her wits to keep her retainer with Marcia going. The guests at Furcross range from the gardner, Digger Patch, to the dashing Marilyn Repel, late of The Prince and the Showcat, with star Larry O’Liver. Marilyn’s daughter, Cocoa is a fashion designer, working in concert with nail specialist Oralia Claw. And there’s the nurse, Alma Mogadon, who is keeping dark secrets of her own.

If Hettie has the brains, Tilly keeps the duo going on a daily basis with her housekeeping and secretarial chores. And don’t forget Tilly’s favorite author, mystery writer Polly Hodge, an homage to the cat of P D James, friend and mentor to Morton. Tilly’s reading Hodge’s newest: An Unsuitable Job for a Cat, along with others by Nicola Uptide and Alexander McPaw Spit. Any mystery lover will find themselves smiling at Morton’s sly humor.

Auntie M quite enjoyed the twisted plot–yes, there IS a plot–and a mystery to be solved in Hettie’s inimitable fashion, assisted by Tilly. There is genuine love between the two cats, and anyone who isn’t enamored with the series needs to run right out and adopt a cat–or two.

Their world without humans is quite entrancing, from the details of the food eaten, to the clothes worn. Morton has a real winner for cat lovers everywhere and a cozy series for mystery lovers. More volumes soon to be published, too.

Enter the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best mate, Tilly, and be prepared to be besotted.

Sally Andrews: The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Marie Mystery Tuesday, Mar 28 2017 

Sally Andrews created a most unusual protagonist in Tannie Maria in last year’s Recipes for Love and Murder. The sequel is just as captivating–perhaps even more so–with The Satanic Mechanic, filled with eccentric characters, a budding romance, and an interesting mystery. Set in South Africa’s Klein Karoo, the landscape becomes a character all its own. Here’s the author on a bench in the Karoo:

Photo by Andrea Nixon

Mixing Tannie Maria’s recipes with her love and advice column, the woman uses food as a means to help others solve their issues for the local Gazette. The South African Klein Karoo comes alive under Andrews talented writing, as Maria inexplicably finds herself investigating another murder, to the chagrin of Henk Kannemeyer, the detective with whom she is trying to build a relationship.

When Slimkat, a local Bushman activist, is poisoned in her presence, Tannie Maria feels a responsibility to become involved, despite Henk’s warning. She’s seen something in his eyes, something primal that speaks to her as much as it warns her. She feels compelled to find his killer.

At the same time, flashbacks of the abuse from her dead husband, and the secret she holds surrounding his demise, threaten any intimacy she tries to achieve with Henk. Maria soon becomes part of a counseling group for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers, run by a man known as the Satanic Mechanic.

How the counseling group, a second murder, and Slimkat’s murder are related, plus how the counseling helps Maria to heal, form the prongs of this most delightful murder mystery. Maria’s inclination is to deal with life’s highs and lows with food, and her descriptions of the meals and sweets she devises add a lovely visceral texture to the book. She’s also in touch with the animals that surround her, sometimes to interesting effect. This is a common occurrence when trying to navigate the roads of the Karoo and a herd of cows have their own idea:

Photo: Andrea Nixon

Andrews, who lives on a Klein Karoo nature preserve most of the year, also brings the landscape and its creatures to life, imbuing them both with a sense of wonder and connection to Maria. Here she is with a friendly leopard.

Photo: Bowen Boshier

Thankfully, Andrews also includes many recipes of the dishes Maria prepares, even describing how a hotbox works. Readers will end the book feeling they wish they knew Sally Andrews AND Tannie Maria.

Photo: Andrea Nixon

This inventive mystery series is one readers won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Judith Flanders: A Cast of Vultures Sunday, Mar 12 2017 


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.

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