Jane Harper: The Dry, and Force of Nature Wednesday, Sep 2 2020 

Jane Harper’s debut The Dry, set in the outskirts of Melbourne, was such a hit that Auntie M had to see what all the fuss was about. After reading it, she immediately ordered the sequel, Force of Nature, and anxiously awaits a third.

The Dry introduces Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who left Kiewarra twenty years ago and hasn’t looked back. With his unusual looks, he’s always been a standout.

Then he find out his best friend from childhood, Luke, and his entire family have been found murdered. Hesitating, his visit home is clinched when he receives a note saying that the sending knows that Aaron and Luke lied about a childhood event, and tells him to come for the funeral.

The worst drought in decades has hit the rural area yet most of it is still recognizable to Aaron. Leaving with his father, now dead, had been a defining moment of his youth.

Returning will thrust him into the world of buried secrets, long-held grievances, and the question of who really killed Luke and his family.

Force of Nature bring Aaron back to a natural area, this time to a corporate retreat on a wilderness site. Five women have gone the trek, ostensibly to bond out of their office comfort zone in a weekend away that is to build trust——but only four return.

Aaron’s involvement rests on the missing hiker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his most recent case. She was supposed to be bringing him documentation that would topple her company and several people in it. And several of those people were in the woods with her.

As Aaron adds himself to the searchers and the investigation, the stories the four returning hikers give vary slightly, and just enough to raise his suspicions. Who betrayed the hiker?

Both books are tightly plotted, and illustrate a detail for characters that make them realistic and how that Harper is a great study of human nature. With their compelling story and the lead character perhaps the most intriguing of all, Harper’s books are both Highly Recommended.

Robert Pobi: Under Pressure Wednesday, Aug 26 2020 

Robert Pobi’s Under Pressure has the same strong opening as City of Windows, which introduced protagonist Lucas Page. A private event held at NY’s Guggenheim Museum ends catastrophically when an explosion literally vaporizes over 700 people attending or working that evening.

That Lucas is a vastly different hero is a major part of the story. His quick mind is only one of his many gifts. The talented astrophysicist can break down data at a glance, while his bionic parts help.

It’s no surprise when the FBI calls him in to help, despite his wife misgivings for his safety. Their unusual family is yet another aspect of this intriguing setup.

This blast was clearly planned with precision, and as Lucas delves into whether it was a terrorist attack, or whether someone attending that night was the target and all the hundreds of others collateral damage, he rubs up against difficult agents and experts all set out to prove Lucas wrong.

It’s an action-packed novel, with Lucas and his unusual talents surprising readers over and over. The political and sometimes even social comments embedded meld well with Lucas’s wry humor. Think a Lincoln Rhyme who’s able to get around more and you get an idea of the person leading the charge.

When a second bomb goes off, Lucas and his pattern sensing are twitched. Is there a misdirection or is his thinking wrong? Through the ensuing chaos, Lucas is somehow able to unravel this puzzle, and a deadly one it turns out to be.

Great thrills and one helluva read.

Lindsey Davis: The Grove of the Caesars Wednesday, Aug 19 2020 

In her 28th outing over two series––Marcus Didius Falco is the other–Lindsey Davis brings Falco’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, to another case in The Grove of the Caesars.

Following her father’s footsteps, Flavia’s investigations have their become known. Inadvertently, it’s Flavia’s husband, away on business, who puts her in the position to become involved in the hunt for a serial killer who has used the public gardens as his dumping ground.

Exploiting women goes against Flavia’s nature, and once a wealthy man’s wife is claimed as the latest victim, she puts aside her loathing of the man she must work with whose been assigned the case, Julius Karas.

Think a classic police procedural for a serial killer, set in first century Rome. And this a Rome Davis knows inside out, with the historical fiction she’s plumbed coming alive. Her extensive knowledge of the people, its mores and customs, and the city itself reveals Rome to be a vibrant city throbbing with a deadly, sinister undercurrent.

Davis interjects Roman’s casualness toward slaves, addresses immigration, and of course, women’s issues, all in a time where readers will be surprised to see these things considered.

Fans of historical fiction will revel in Ancient Rome brought to life and set amidst crime fiction.

Aline Templeton: Devil’s Garden Sunday, Aug 16 2020 

Aline Templeton brings her Serious Rural Crime Squad, headed by DI Kelso Strang, to a new case in a rural border town in Devil’s Garden.

Alerted by a former police college friend to suspected corruption at her local station, Strang manages to place DC Livvy Murray, whom he is mentoring, at the station to ferret out what’s going on.

The local celebrity is the ultra-reclusive Anna Harper, an international best-selling author known for avoiding the limelight or interviews. When her son dies of an overdose, and soon after her daughter, Cassie, who runs a foundation Harper has founded, has an accident, it becomes apparent to Strang that there is more going on here than accidents and Harper is at the heart of it all.

There are plenty of suspects, from several writers at the Foundation for a writers retreat and employees at the Foundation, to the majordomo housekeeper/best friend of Harper, Marta Morelli, who has been at the author’s side for years and keeps her secrets.

When the major snowstorm called the Beast from the East isolates everyone, Murray and Strang will face even more obstacles in keeping Harper and her daughter safe from a killer bent on revenge.

Strang is a strong lead character, a man who has lost his family, scarred emotionally and physically, and is trying to put his life back together. Murray could be his nemesis, but under his careful tutelage, is fast becoming a decent sidekick for him, albeit one who must learn to stop going off on her own.

A grand addition to a series that should be better-known in the US, Templeton is the author of the beloved DI Marjory Fleming series. With Strang going to rural places, Auntie M isn’t the only one hoping at one point these two detectives will have a case that overlaps and work together, even for one outing. Let’s hope Templeton is listening!

Roz Watkins: Cut to the Bone Sunday, Aug 9 2020 

Roz Watkins delivers direct wallop with the newest entry in her Peak District series featuring DI Meg Dalton with Cut to the Bone, series that keeps getting stronger and stronger.

Violet Armstrong has created a name for herself in social media by taking on the meat vs vegan culture, and along with that, the eighteen-year-old is working in a pig abattoir.

Violet barbecues meat while wearing a bikini, actions intended to stir up feminists and animal rights activists, and indeed she has managed to do just that.

When she disappears, with her car found at work but no sign of Violet, speculation turns to suspicion that harm has come to the young woman and there are many suspects for Meg to focus on.

With her team in tow, and her complicated feelings for her DS in the back of her mind, Meg is surprised when her estranged father suddenly appears for a visit. Still reeling over the recent death of her grandmother, Meg’s closer to her mother, and to her best friend, Hannah. With her emotions all over the place on a personal level, Meg finds herself bonding with a young man with a dicey history.

Then evidence found points to Violet being fed to the pigs, and Meg realizes things are getting out of hand. Not convinced Violet is dead, Meg faces public ridicule when one of her suspects turns up dead. The feeling that there are other forces at work here is too strong for the detective to ignore.

At the same time, chapters set in 1999 illustrate events of the Armstrong family that have a direct bearing on what’s happening now, and how that family, local gentry, have been courted to for years.

There is a complicated but nicely twisted plot, with characters who will gain your empathy, and one of the most startling climaxes Auntie M has read. Very original, with a taut pace and a most atmospheric setting, this chiller intricately weaves modern society into a stunning read that makes this Highly Recommended.

Doug Johnstone: The Big Chill Sunday, Aug 2 2020 

Doug Johnstone introduced the women of the Skelf family in last year’s well-done A Dark Matter, prompting Twitter cries for #MoreSkelfs. He listened, and brings the trio back in The Big Chill.

Matriarch Dorothy, daughter Jenny, and university student grand-daughter Hannah, along with her partner, Indy, have kept the business running that has made the Skelfs a well-known Edinburgh name after the death of father Jim: a funeral home the older two women live over, and with it, a private investigation agency.

The events in A Dark Matter have led to the women healing physically but grieving emotionally in different ways. With Jenny’s ex-husband creating a startling wave of anxiety, the book opens with a car crashing into the open grave at one of the funerals the Skelfs are conducting.

Dorothy soon makes it her mission to discover the identity of the dead driver, and find out about his life. Jenny is caught up in a new romance, one she’s not certain she deserves, while dealing with her ex’s second wife. Could they have anything in common? And Hannah’s friendship with an elderly professor takes its own dark turn, causing her relationship with Indy to suffer in the process while she ponders life’s big questions.

It’s been said people grieve in their own way, and the women’s grief after Jim’s death was interfered with by the events in A Dark Matter. Now as they each explore the different ways to deal with their often overwhelming thoughts, more pressing needs at hand, such as a disappearing teen, often take precedence.

There are different kinds of mystery here, as each thread is followed, connections made, and unsettling events occur while life continues on in its way. There are surprises, too, that make the plot a twisted but realistic thing, one that readers will swear they can almost see happening to them.

This is a darkly funny tale, with so much knowledge of human nature running through it. Perhaps it is not that Johnstone understands humans better than some of us, but more that he is open to the many variations we offer as a response to situations, especially when we are emotionally vulnerable. In this, he has a clear eye. In these women, he’s created three strong, vastly different characters whose reactions reflect their individuality.

Auntie M loves this series and you will, too. #MoreSkelfs. Highly recommended.

David Rosenfelt: Muzzled Thursday, Jul 30 2020 

David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter Mysteries returns with his newest, Muzzled.

Andy is the consummate dog lover, which mirrors Rosenfelt, and like his creator, the funds and brains behind a rescue organization, the Tara Foundation. He’s also a retired lawyer but is not retired enough, often taking on cases that fall into his lap for one reason or another.

In this case, it’s his friend Beth Morris who gets him involved with a new request: she’s caring for a lab named Lucy, whose owner was a murder victim, a man who perished on his boat along with two others when it was blown up.
Only thing is, said victim contacted Beth to say he wants to come and pick up his dog.

After confirming Alex Vogel is indeed the dog’s owner, and more importantly, still alive, Andy finds himself listening to Vogel’s explanation that his life was in danger, and he disappeared to figure out what was going on.

Soon Andy, with the encouragement of his wife, Laurie, his chief investigator, finds himself involved against his will in defending Vogel of the murder of the two men who were on his boat when it exploded.

He reasons a man who loves his dog enough to come out of hiding to find her couldn’t be a murderer. Right? Unfortunately, the police don’t see it that way when evidence mounts up against Vogel.

As they prepare for trial, it soon becomes clear to Andy and his team that the only way to clear Vogel is to track down the real killer.

A treat for dog lovers, courtroom thrillers, or mystery fans, Muzzled is another treat for those who enjoy a dose of humor with their crime.

Anne Cleeland: The Spanish Mask Monday, Jul 27 2020 

Anne Cleeland turns from her modern Doyle and Acton series, set in London, to the seventh in her Regency series, The Spanish Mask, set in the Spanish countryside.

The time period is during the aftermath of the Napoleanic War, and beautiful Elena is a postulant at an Andalusian convent. She takes care of her ward, Eduardo, a young lad trusted to her care. When Frenchmen come to the convent, she hides Eduardo in the orchard she loves, only to be found by a band of others led by a British commander.

There is Spanish treasure, relics from the royal family, and Elena knows where it is hidden. Money and other valuable items abound, as does a Spanish mask, encrusted with precious jewels. This information must be withheld from everyone, even those she begins to trust.

Elena soon find herself traveling with Lord Raike, who mistakenly believe her to be a survivor of the royal family. But the chemistry between Elena and the British leader crackles, and adds to the delicious tension. Avoiding those who would kill them takes skill and the help of others along their route.

As they traipse the countryside, with Elena all the while explaining she is not the missing royal but knows where she is, the attraction between the English lord and the young postulant grows, as does the danger.

There will be switches in allegiance, battles, stolen identities, and intrigue galore before the truth is revealed.

An action-with-romance delight, with a mystery at its heart.

Ellison Cooper: Cut to the Bone Thursday, Jul 23 2020 

Ellison Cooper’s Sayer Altair series calls on her own experience with neuroscience, as a murder investigator, and as a certified K9 Searach and Rescue Federal Disaster worker to inform the series with a high degree of authenticity.

She returns with the third in the series, Cut to the Bone, an original story with the kind of didn’t-see-it-coming twists that will startle readers.

Sayer is still grieving for her dead fiance’and building her reputation with her work into the minds of serial killers for the FBI, as she builds her little untraditional family in Washington DC and its environs.

When she’s called to the scene of young girl’s body, left inside a circle of baboons by the Einstein Memorial outside the National Academy of Sciences.

It isn’t long before Sayer and her team, with several returning and interesting characters, learn that just hours before, the victim was one student on a bus filled with twenty-four high school STEM students.

Within the first hour that bus left DC, the bus, driver, chaperone and all of the students have completely disappeared. And then a grisly discovery leads to an all-out manhunt for the sick person who had engineered this tragedy.

But hope survives for some of the students, and Sayer finds herself thwarted at every turn as she tries to find the psychotic person with a fixation on Egyptology who is behind this.

But when she finds out who it is and how that has happened, her world will be turned upside down once again.

Cooper has created realistic characters who gain our attention and empathy. The setting brings DC and its neighborhoods to life. All of this is wrapped within a chilling tale of false leads, laced with real science, to create a story with fast pacing and a race against time.

Mark Billingham: The Killing Habit; Their Little Secrets Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

For some reason, Mark Billingham’s last two Tom Thorne novels didn’t make it to Auntie M’s To Be Read shelf, but she’s bought them herself to catch up.

The Killing Habit bring Thorne at first into the world where pets are being killed. A classic sign of a psychopath in the making, his goal is to find the culprit before his crimes can escalate.

To that end, he enlists DI Nicola Tanner, a welcome addition to the series. With her own quirks and the secret that binds them together, she’s working her own murder, a shooting by a motorcyclist that has drugs at its heart.

When the two find a serial killer is using a dating agency to target his victims, the chase is literally on before more women can be killed.

The opposing natures of Thorne and Tanner make them a dynamic couple with their interplay and dialogue some of the best in the book. Both are struggling with their personal lives, too. A great installment in one of Auntie M’s favorite series.

In Their Little Secret, with the personal aspects still looming for Thorne and Tanner, they duo become involved in the tragic suicide of a woman who has been the victim of a swindler.

At the same time, readers follow Sarah as she drops her young son off at school. She’s a devoted mum, has a strict routine, and couldn’t appear nicer.

When a young man’s bloodied body is found, CCTV shows a woman he was with shortly before his death. The reader knows more about how these two cases overlap than Thorne and Tanner do, and only heightens the suspense.

Coroner Phil Hendricks is back, too, a great character who manages to stay friends with Thorne and now Tanner. It’s a race to the finish between a couple who bring new meaning to the term psychopath.

This one is the 16th in an a police procedural series that is as authentic as it is filled with humanity.

Both books are Highly Recommended.

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Auntiemwrites Crime Review-Mystery Author M K Graff

Award-winning Mystery Author on books, reading and life: If proofreading is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

INTERIOR DESIGN

The Department of Designs

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama