Deanna Raybourn: A Dangerous Collaboration Tuesday, Mar 12 2019 

Deanna Raybourn continues her Veronice Speedwell series with the compelling entry A Dangerous Collaboration.

The fourth in the Victorian-era mysteries to follow the intrepid lepidopterist, Veronica and her colleague Stoker, the adventurous brother of a titled Lord. When said brother, Tiberius, asks Veronica to accompany him to a house party thrown by his oldest friend in Cornwall, Veronica readily accepts with the promise of a rare species of butterfly to add to her vivarium. She’s turned her attention to preserving the species instead of pinning them.

That she must pretend to be Tiberius’s fiancee` for the Catholic Lord Malcolm Romilly doesn’t bother the broad-minded and modern Veronica, until Stoker shows up and she finds her self juggling the brothers and their egos.

It soon becomes clear that under the guise of a house party, Lord Romilly has assembled several of his extended family who were present on his wedding day when his bride disappeared, wedding dress and all. Locals on the remote Cornwall island are only too happy to invoke the piskies and other spirits that might have taken the lovely Rosamund away, but Veronica knows the woman’s disappearance has a more human culprit.

It’s not quite the party Veronica had imagined, but the island is ruggedly beautiful and the locals gossip easily, twigging her sleuthing antenna. Soon she enlists Stoker’s help. Before it’s over, there will be deeply-held secrets revealed that affect them all, as well as seances destined to bring out the spirit of the presumed-dead Rosamund.

With a nicely twisted plot and more than a touch of romance, the era’s details are accurate and pleasing, as is Veronica’s independence. She’s an intelligent woman to admire, as well as a daunting sleuth.

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.

Mary Daheim: A Case of Bier Sunday, Feb 24 2019 

Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mysterys now number an astounding thirty-one with the publication of A Case of Bier!

The bed-and-breakfast Judith McMonigle Flynn runs with her husband, Joe has been turned over for the week to her neighbor so she and Joe can travel with her cousin Renie to the Canadian Rockies. Renie’s Bill and Joe have booked a nice fly-fishing jaunt their first weekend. It’s a trip they are all looking forward to, if they can get Renie awake and in the car.

Off they go, only to find their expected lovely stay has been booked in not quite the place they imagined. No matter. While the men rest, the ladies take a walk along the river.

They find members of the Stokes family camping out, waiting for the patriarch’s demise so he can have the sendoff he’d requested, at just this spot on the Bow River on a bier, borrowed from a local funeral home.

At their motel, the gals meet the Odells, other members of the Stokes family. It’s a weird gathering when on their walk the next morning, the campsite is filled with crying family members. Codger has died, it would seem.

But wait! He’s actually been murdered! Stabbed twice in the back while he slept. Who would have bothered to kill an old man waiting to die?

It’s too much for Judith to leave alone. And then it appears the dead man might not be Codger at all.

Another fun entry in this long-running cozy series, the quirky case is filled with wry humor and wit.

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.

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.

Lars Kepler: The Sandman Sunday, Feb 3 2019 

Lars Kepler’s The Sandman is the kind of action-packed book that will have readers nibbling their nails as they read the short, sharp chapters, bouncing back and forth between the two main characters and the trail of bodies they find.

Detective Joona Linna has lost more than his family in tracing the serial killer, Jurek Walter, who languishes in a secure psychiatric facility after Linna caught him. But the detective has always maintained that Walter couldn’t have pulled off the family-linked murders he’s in prison for without an accomplice.

One man who’s lost his children to Walter is Reider Frost, a renowned author–until his son Mikael is found wandering a railroad track, emaciated and confused. Thirteen years ago the boy and his sister were both abducted and feared dead, but finding Mikael confirms what Linna has felt: that some victims were often kept alive, under cruel conditions, until their deaths.

When Mikael recovers enough to tell police his sister, Felicia, is also still alive, a race starts to find the young woman. Linna will enlist the help of agent Saga Bauer to enter the hospital undercover where Walter is being held as a patient. Her goal is to post as a schizophrenic patient and plant a microphone to record any conversations she has with Walter, in hopes of obtaining clues to his accomplice and his hideout.

It’s a highly charged cat and mouse game. Walter is a genius at manipulation, making Linna use every bit of his intelligence and his intuition to outsmart the killer, if such a thing is possible, as the body count rises to a startling climax.

This is the sixth Linna novel, written by a husband and wife writing team of novelists under the pen name of Lars Kepler. One can only wish to be a fly on the wall during their daily writing routine, developing the twisted, unrelenting plot, and these characters whose fates hang in the balance.

Gabriel Valjan: The Company Files: 2. The Naming Game Friday, Feb 1 2019 

Please welcome Gabrile Valjan, to give readers an insight into his writing and talk about his newest release in The Company Files, 2. The Naming Game:

Auntie M: You have two distinct series from Winter Goose Publishing. Your first series, the Roma Series, is presently at five novels. Readers receive a panoramic sweep of Italian culture and food, along with some light humor, while your characters solve crimes. Then you go dark into John le Carré territory with The Company Files. Why the switch?

GV: It’s important to me that I show readers that I have range. I make no distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, yet I’ve encountered both readers and agents who do. All writers, myself included, want to tell an engaging story and, in the case of a series, want repeat readers. The two series are indeed different. The Roma Series owes a debt of gratitude to the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, who created Inspector Salvo Montalbano. I wrote the Roma Series while I was dealing with a life-threatening illness, which is why food is prevalent, and because I respect Italian culture.

I have two books in The Company Files series. Both The Good Man and The Naming Game look back at the US during the Cold War, and I try to show that some attitudes have changed, while others have not. For instance, contemporary ICE raids can be traced back to J. Edgar Hoover’s response after the Wall Street bombing in 1920. Same MO. Same extrajudicial deportations.
Hoover pushed for a concentration camp for political dissidents. Not internment or detention camps, but a concentration camp.

AM: Your last Roma Series novel, Corporate Citizen, was quite violent, yet showcases your love for animals. Have you always loved animals?

GV: I do love animals. Bogie and Bacall are two cats in that novel. One of my characters, Silvio, agrees to take care of them for a friend. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I post pictures of my two cats on Saturday aka #Caturday on Twitter, and dogs for #WoofWednesday at a local dog park near me in Boston’s South End. Pets are family.

AM: Let’s jump back to your Company Files series. Book 2: The Naming Game is out in May, 2019. You said earlier that you wanted to show range. What do you do in this series that sets you apart from other authors in contemporary crime fiction?

GV: Crime is about transgression, in all its perverse and violent forms. Psychopaths. Serial killers. Sexual predators. There’s no escaping it. However, I explore crimes that governments commit for a variety of motives. When it comes to characters in most contemporary crime fiction, I have difficulty with unlikeable protagonists as the good guys, and I have an issue with profanity and violence for its own sake. Do you really need to have the f-word fifteen times within the first three pages to be ‘gritty’? I accept ‘realism’ but it sometimes seems slathered on thick. Also, give me a glimmer of hope in a dark story because I don’t read to get depressed. Real life and politics accomplishes that, thank you. I also question the logic of how effective a detective can be at his job if he’s an alcoholic or alienates everyone in the room. I’m weary of the battles with the bottle, the bitter ex-wife, the kid who won’t talk to mom or dad. I question how a character who doesn’t change over the course of several books can keep a reader coming back for more.

I offer readers different flaws in my characters. For instance, I show vulnerability as an asset. I have a character, Walker, in The Company Files, whose major obstacle is his lack of confidence. He fell in with the CIA, because he’s trying to find his way in life and love after the trauma of World War II. You’ll meet Leslie, an experienced operative who doesn’t want to return to the kitchen just because she’s a woman and the war is over; Sheldon, a damaged person with a complicated past who does the wrong things for the right reasons; Tania, the beautiful and traumatized refugee child brimming with rage; and then there’s Jack Marshall, the boss and mastermind who somehow orchestrates everything and everyone, while staying one step ahead of his nemesis, J. Edgar Hoover.

Another thing I do differently than most authors is I write three to five books and then revise the character development of all of my characters for a better arc before I search for a publisher for the novels. As for violence in my works, I prefer to imply it, or not go into graphic detail because we have all become desensitized to violence, whether it’s from media or, sadly, real life experiences. There are creative ways to imply sex, violence, and criminal misconduct. Watch Fritz Lang’s M, or any of the Pre-Code films, or catch the subtext about poverty and class distinction in most films from the 1930s.

Another major difference: one of the joys in writing The Company Files is I get to dispel the myth that life was better in the past. It wasn’t. Racism and sexism were so ingrained in American culture that it was accepted without question. I’ve talked to educated people who came of age in the 40s and 50s and was told nobody blinked at using the N-word, or at calling an adult African-American man ‘boy.’ How far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

AM: Who were your influences in crime fiction when you started writing?

GV: My first foray into crime fiction was reading Agatha Christie. I read all her mysteries in the seventh and eighth grades. Then I discovered Margaret Millar, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, in that order. I ventured to discover other writers: Cain, Highsmith, etc. Christie appealed to me for her plotting and how her detectives solved mysteries. Hammett and Millar wrote in a clean direct style I admired, while Chandler introduced a seductive and poetic use of language, often at the expense of plot. I enjoy crime fiction because I found that most (but not all) ‘literary fiction’ can get tedious and the stories go ‘nowhere.’

AM: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

GV: Exercise and shower. Coffee. Write for three hours.

AM: A controversial question. Do you think writing can be taught?

GV: I think techniques can be taught, but here’s the catch: it requires critical thinking, and I think that’s Hit or Miss in today’s education. I’m not saying education in the past was better; it was different, for better or worse. Overall – and I know it’s generalization — education in America is not about becoming a better human being; it’s about getting a job. There’s a terrible irony in this drive for the practical and pragmatic approach. Formal education shouldn’t encourage conformity; it should unbridle curiosity and teach you analysis and critical thinking, so you can teach yourself. For example, I did not know how to edit until I read Dave King’s book, Self-Editing. I realized I had a deficit, and my curiosity compelled me to find a solution, determine whether the content of his book would work for me (it did). A curious and critical writer reads everything they can find to improve their writing and broaden their horizons as a human being.

Education that fosters regurgitation of one interpretation of a literary text so you can earn the high grade kills critical thinking; kills curiosity. Education should convey an understanding of how a story works or doesn’t. Follow? All that aside, there’s more to telling a story than book smarts. I’ve met some very intelligent people in my life, people with advanced degrees, best scores on all the standardized tests; and yet, when they write, their stories are dead, they lack heart, or their ego interfered with the story.

No, I don’t think writing can be taught because we all have our unique relationship to language, and we all interrupt the world around us in unique ways, and that is the special something nobody can teach you. What I am saying is you have to know yourself and the gift for storytelling – if it’s there – comes from decades of reading, of curiosity and wrestling with language. Literature comes from empathy and connection. When I pick up a book, I don’t look to an author to validate my existence and my life experiences. I couldn’t care less about gender and ethnicity either. I want a story. I want an experience. Transport me and call it entertainment, or rip my skin off and call it Art. I don’t care. For me to write well, I need the sum of all possibilities.

The fundamentals of the human condition have not changed: we need stories to survive and better ourselves. Stories are essential. I have no doubt that out there somewhere in this country’s slums and cornfields or in the cube farms of corporate America, language is alive and there are stories worth being told. The question is, Visibility, access to those authors, so they are read and heard?

AM: Finally, whose books would we find on your nightstand, waiting to be read, and what’s on the immediate horizon for you?

GV: Jane Goodrich’s The House at Lobster Cove and Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. I’m waiting to edit five novellas that precede my Roma Series with my publisher, and I’m writing the third book in another series, set in Shanghai.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Gabriel. You are one busy writer! See you at Malice Domestic in May~

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series available from Winter Goose Publishing. The Roma Series features forensic accountant Bianca on the lam from a covert US agency in Italy. Drawn from the historical record, Gabriel’s second series, The Company Files series introduces readers to the early days of the CIA and its subsequent rivalry with the FBI. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize, once for the Bridport Prize, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Fiona Barton: The Suspect Tuesday, Jan 22 2019 

Fiona Barton returns with her series featuring reporter Kate Waters, along with detective Bob Sparkes, in a startling third novel that kept Auntie M up all night to finish it. The Suspect is that good and that compelling. Once it’s started, readers won’t be able to stop.

When two girls go missing in Thailand, Bob reaches out to Kate to involve the press. This hits close to home, as Kate’s son Jake dropped out of university two years ago to travel in Thailand and has rarely been heard from since.

Kate soon finds herself on the way to Thailand to investigate a fire that involves the girls, but also finds to her surprise and dismay that Jake might have been on the premises at the time. Turning her usual position on its head, Kate soon finds she is the one being hounded by her reporter colleagues, not all well-meaning, as she tries to find her son while investigating what happened to the girls.

Things escalate, if that’s possible, from there. The parents of both girls have very different reactions to the situation. Social media posts from one of the girls tracks their trip, but is this the reality?

It’s a complicated situation, one that explores the complexities of families,husbands and wives, sons and mothers, and loss and grief, alongside one humdinger of a thriller. No character is left untouched by this story. The inner voices of each character ring true in a moving and realistic way that will bring a catch to your breath. It’s a complicated tour de force of emotions and situations, a beautifully written novel that delves into the psychology of us all.

By turning the tables on Kate and involving her own family, the reporter who usually tells other peoples stories must acknowledge that we can’t really know the people we love totally and completely. Highly recommended.

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