Jeffrey B. Burton: The Finders Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

Jeffrey B. Burton introduces a new series that will grab dog lovers and mystery hounds alike with The Finders.

Set in Chicago, trainer Mace Reid specializes in cadaver detection dogs. When he adopts a golden retriever he names Elvira he calls Vira, the star of the show, her unique talents go beyond his usual training.

Still recovering from the death of a beloved companion, and also a divorce, Mace’s head had been down for too long. After a horrid beginning, it will turn out that Vira’s instincts have been right all along.

Young women have been disappearing, and as Mace and the police start to connect the dots and widen the field of victims, Vira brings Mace to the culprit.

But it turns out this killer has been groomed by one even more despicable. Called Everyman, he’s become a master of hiding himself in plain sight. And now he has his sights set on Mace.

It will take all of Vira’s talents pushing Mace toward the right person in a chilling climax. It’s a high tension ride, but one that will leave readers anxious for the next installment featuring Mace, Vira and pals.

Sarah Stewart Taylor: The Mountains Wild Saturday, Jun 27 2020 


The author of the Sweeney St. George series bring the first in a new series to readers in The Mountains Wild.

Featuring an American police detective investigating in Ireland, with scenes on Long Island, Taylor captures the landscape and the people in both places.

Auntie M grew up on Long Island and the North Shore is well represented. She’s never been to Ireland, but after this book, it’s gone up a few notches on her bucket list.

When her cousin Erin disappeared twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’Arcy flew over to Ireland, spending weeks there trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Erin.

Small clues left didn’t help, and there was no trace of Erin when she left to come back home. Told with flashbacks to Long Island in 1993 and the cousins lives then, contrasted with Maggie’s first trip over, the current time frame is interspersed in a new investigation.

The case and its influence turned Maggie into the detective she’s become. Then the Gardai get in touch again: Erin’s scarf has been found; another young woman has gone missing.

Maggie is now is a divorced mom of a teen who works for the homicide squad. She takes time off when the cold case calls her back to Dublin and its outskirts. She’s also determined to face the ghosts she left behind, as she must find out what happened to Erin. Maggie will use all the skills she’s learned in the intervening years to do that, while hoping to save the lift of the most recently abducted young woman, despite the cost to herself.

It’s a compelling mix with a startling twist at the end that leaves the reader in no doubt Taylor has a hit new series on her hands. Highly recommended.

Kate Weinberg: The Truants Wednesday, Jun 3 2020 

Kate Weinbeg’s The Truants is another of those books that came recommended to me. A woven tale of strong personalities, this one is a smashing read that moves in lazy circles to its conclusion while exploring the actions of the characters.

She focuses on Jess Walker, the middle child of five siblings who has felt lost in her family, and has decided to attend a Norfolk university to follow the author of a book that had impressed her.

The book, The Truants, was written by Lorna Clay, Agatha Christie expert, and Jess soon finds herself immersed in the unconventional teacher’s world on many levels. Lorna ferrets out Christie’s life and history for her students while challenging them to dig deeper. With her fiery red hair, unconscious way of dressing, and erratic lifestyle, Clay is the darling of the literature group.

Jess soon finds herself swept up in group of four friends, with the usual sense of pairings. Georgie is her friend and classmate, the other woman in the foursome. Nick is ostensibly Jess’s lover. But Jess finds herself drawn to Georgie’s partner, Alec Van Zanten, a South African journalist on a fellowship. Enigmatic, prone to storytelling, Alec has some very good ones to tell that rival Lorna’s and soon casts a forbidden spell on Jess.

The foursome become inseparable until actions spiral out of control. As Jess moves closer to Lorna and her influence, inconsistencies in the history of everyone arouond her have Jess floundering. She reaches out to the one person she feels can save her when she has her own crisis, only to be brought up short by shocking news.

Trying to separate the reality from the fiction, Jess soon realizes half the stories she’s been fed are fabrications.

With more than a nod to Christie, Weinberg’s very modern story grips the reader in the same insidious way that the Alec and Lorna grip Jess Walker. A terrific read.

Jennifer Ryan: The Chilbury Ladies Choir Wednesday, May 27 2020 

In this time of a forced stay-home with more reading time, Auntie M is catching up on several books she missed when they first came out that friends recommended.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir is Jennifer Ryan’s debut, set in the first days of World War II. The vicar has put up a notice that as the men of the town are mostly gone to war, the village choir is to close.

But he hasn’t reckoned on the strong women of the town, led by the colorful Prim, who knows music inside and out, and is giving Kitty singing lessons. The women continue the choir without male voices, a newfangled idea that soon catches on and leads to adventures even as they become the voice of solace for the village.

Ryan introduces us to the wonderful ladies of the village and tells their stories with devices such as “Excerpt from Mrs. Tilling’s Journal” and “Letter from Miss Edwina Paltry to her sister, Clara.” There’s the young Kitty Winthrop’s diary, too, and letters from Kitty’s sister, Venetia, to her friend from the village now living in London.

Introducing the characters in this way allows the different women to speak of their fellow villagers from their own points of view, and that vary from insightful to naive.

A clever map on the interior allows readers to plot the course of the action in a time when walking was how most people got around.

After Dunkirk there will be losses from the village, and more closer to home. There are intrigues, affairs, crushes, and even the hush of homosexuality. And could there be spies in their little town?

It all adds up to a book that’s full of hope, absorbing to read, and a perfect way to wile away a few hours with a good cuppa and a few biscuits for company.

Nell Pattison: The Silent House Sunday, May 24 2020 

Nell Pattison calls on her own experience with the deaf community to create a protagonist so unique you’ll be drawn to Paige Northwood form the outside in her debut thriller The Silent House.

Working freelance, taking assignments at interviews for the police is one aspect of Paige’s work. When she’s pulled from a warm bed to attend at the home where a ghastly murder had taken place, she realizes immediately she’s into foreign territory.

A little girl has been savagely murdered, and with the Hunter family being deaf, no one heard the intruder who took the child’s life in the middle of the night.

It’s a dicey line Paige walks, as her sister was dead child’s godmother. She hides this at first until she’s embroiled in the case. Competent sign language interpreters are thin on the ground.

Soon, threats come to Paige to leave the case alone, and that only shores up her determination to see the case through and help the police find a killer. But that decision leave her and those she loves in harm’s way.

Pattison gives a window to the deaf world with all of its challenges, while letting readers inside the way a BSL interpreter really works. This gives a view into how body language and facial features add to the interpretation.

A terrific debut that will leave readers hoping there’s a sequel in the works—there is, out this fall.

Susan Allott: The Silence Tuesday, May 19 2020 

Auntie M had the good fortune recently to interview Susan Allott, after reading and thoroughly enjoying her debut THE SILENCE. Here are a few questions to head the review and give readers a better sense of the author:


Susan Allott (photo by John Yabrifa)

Auntie M: The setting comes alive in both time periods of this mystery. I understand you spent time in Australia and used your own homesickness for England to inform the main character’s mother. What made you decide to set the The Silence in Australia?

Susan Allott: I wrote about Australia because of my time living there as a homesick ex-pat, and also because when I got back to London I met my future husband who was, by crazy coincidence, Australian. Louisa, my protagonist’s British mother, goes through an experience of extreme homesickness that was close to my own, and I originally thought her story would be more central to the book. But over time the Australian characters and settings took over and The Silence became a book about coming back to Australia rather than leaving it.

AM: It seems remarkable that a person could disappear for thirty years and not be asked after, yet you’ve skillfully set up those parameters. How did the Faber Academy course you took help with those kinds of plot points? Could you describe the course for readers?

SA: The Faber Academy course that I took part in runs over six months and is held in the Faber offices in central London. There were a dozen students, and we met up every Tuesday evening for six months. I already had a draft of The Silence when I enrolled but I had doubts about whether it was worth pursuing. The course gave me confidence and helped me to see myself as someone who could be published one day. Once you have that, the lessons about plot, structure, voice and so on start to take hold.

AM: The Isla who returns to Australia is not the same person who leaves for England, nor will she be at the end of the book. How did you decide on her pathway to growth and change?

SA: The subject that fascinated me from the outset of writing The Silence was the enormous pull of home, and how we form our identity around the place we come from. I also think we sometimes idealize the place we call home if we live far away, so that after a while home can become an idea without much grounding in reality. So Isla’s return to Australia to find out what happened to Mandy was also about Isla’s personal quest to figure out where she really came from, separating the idea from the reality.

AM: The colonial situation revolving around Aboriginal children is skillfully handled. What was it about that period in Australia’s history that made you decide to illustrate it? Which came first: that idea or the mystery?

SA: I’d written several chapters of The Silence, and had a whole cast of characters, when I read a book called Australia, the History of a Nation by Philip Knightley. He mentions a policeman living in Victoria, a southern Australian state, who gets home from work and cries on his veranda because part of his job is to remove Aboriginal children from their families and take them to state institutions. I already knew about the Stolen Generation but hadn’t thought of writing about it. But this policeman and his personal conflict felt like a way in. It fascinated me and the mystery grew out of that.

AM: What are you working on now, for readers who will be looking for your next book?

SA: I’m working on a spooky mystery set in my part of South London, where the new inhabitants of a Victorian house start knocking down walls and unsettling the secrets that have been locked into the building for decades. They unwittingly open up a long-buried pocket of time which starts to bleed into the present. Can they stop history repeating itself?

AM: Whose books would we find on your nightstand’s To Be Read pile?

SA: The new Elizabeth Strout, Olive Again, is next to my bed and will probably be my next read. But I’m also very tempted by Sadie Jones’ The Snakes, and Anna Hope’s Expectation. And although they aren’t physically on my nightstand, I SO want to read Hamnet, the new Maggie O’Farrel, and Bass Rock, the new Evie Wyld. Deciding what to read next is my favorite dilemma.

Many thanks for these insights, Susan. And now on to the review:

Susan Allott’s remarkable debut, The Silence, brings a mystery to the forefront, set in a Sydney suburb.

Alternating between 1967 and 1997, it tells the story of Isla Green, whose father calls her Hackney flat, a call that sees Isla return to Australia. The police have been to see him, in connection with a former neighbor’s disappearance thirty years a before.

Mandy and her husband Steve were the Green’s neighbor’s, and Isla’s father, Joe, told the police that they moved away together, but it appear Joe may have been the last person to see Mandy alive. In 1997, now that Mandy’s own father has died, her brother hasn’t been able to trace her for her part of the inheritance. In fact, he hasn’t heard from her in the past thirty years.

In 1967, Isla’s mother, Louisa, is homesick for the England she left when she and Joe emigrated to Australia. Mandy and Louisa have become friends, and Mandy watched little Isla while Louisa went out to work. Mandy’s husband was a police officer whose job had taken its toll on him emotionally.

With her father under suspicion and his drinking out of control, Isla searches for the secrets each couple hid all those years ago, determined to find the truth about Mandy’s disappearance, and about her father.

Handing the tough subject of aboriginal children under Australia’s colonial habits adds a sense of tension to the plot and increases the emotion. Will Isla find out the truth? And when she does, will she be able to handle it?

An accomplished debut with finely drawn, realistic characters. Highly recommended.

Victoria Dowd: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder Thursday, May 14 2020 

Please welcome Victoria Dowd, to describe debuting a mystery amidst the Corona virus:

My debut crime novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, was released on 6th May. After people say ‘Congratulations!’ the next sentence, however, is often ‘How has it been releasing a book at the moment?’

This is not an easy question to answer for someone who is a debut novelist. There’s very little I have to compare it to. There were some very obvious differences. The launch party was not a collection of friends and relatives clustered in a bookshop clutching glasses of warm white wine.

Instead, a group of very close, life-long friends appeared on my laptop screen in various fancy dress outfits which revolved throughout the evening with clothing cobbled together from childrens’ dressing up boxes and outfits left over from parties twenty years ago. It was definitely a night to remember!

There was the Facebook party organised with fellow authors from my publishers, involving (virtual) food, drinks and quizzes – with real prizes that were up for grabs that people had taken the time to make. These included miniature copies of my book, key rings and beautiful crotched book ‘merchandise.’ There have been fridge magnets of the book and cocktails created to drink alongside the book (a Fortune Teller, if you’re interested and it’s very potent!).

I have been overwhelmed by the lengths people have gone to. I can have a ‘normal’ launch for all the rest of the books and probably will do for this one as well. But I can never recapture the extraordinary efforts of those surrounding this book: the wonderful editor, Emma, who worked with me tirelessly and completely remotely, on every word and page right up to the very last minute; parties that we Zoomed, Facebooked and Skyped; the presents, cards and messages; independent bookshop owners such as Venetia Vyvyan operating her bookshop single-handedly from home, who telephoned to ensure she could obtain copies to sell; established authors such as Margaret Murphy taking the time to speak on the phone with invaluable advice for a new author.

We really did just carry on. It has been remarkable just how adaptable people have become so quickly and how incredibly generous and supportive others are in their efforts. It is no understatement to say that I have been utterly overwhelmed by the tide of goodwill.

In some ways, it was quite fitting that it should come out under such adversity. The book itself is, after all, a modern take on the crime novels of the Golden Age – a time of extraordinary upheaval and deprivation. From wars to depressions and rationing, these authors were not simply writing at a time of cocktail parties and country house weekends.

Although the books are often referred to as ‘cozy mysteries’ there is always the underlying ripple of people in dire straights, those who have lost loved ones to war and disease, or characters who will go to any lengths to obtain that longed for financial security. Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime herself, published many of her greatest works during the Second World War (And Then There Were None, Evil Under the Sun, The Body in the Library, The Moving Finger, Sparkling Cyanide – to name a few of many). The Golden Age of crime may well have had Lord Peter Wimsey whipping around in a sports car and Miss Marple solving crimes from the comfort of a drawing room, but it also had the constant undercurrent of those who will kill for inheritance, to hide past misdemeanours and avoid certain ruin – people who are desperate enough to carefully and coldly plan the taking of another human life.

In The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder I wanted to test those sort of characters to their limits. There is the familiar setting of the isolated country mansion. There are five women in a book club, again something very recognisable to many readers. And there is the narrator, a troubled young woman who, although not officially a member of the book club, tags along with her mother. Their dysfunctional, spiky relationship instantly causes an acerbic tension between them and the other members of the group.

There is also a dark humour to their interactions which I think is very much a trope of Golden Age crime. The sharp wit of authors such as Josephine Tey and Margery Allingham is very often dismissed or over-looked. I wanted to create that environment we expect from these sort of crime novels, so the unexpected can happen. I wanted the familiarity of the difficult mother and daughter relationship, a book club who don’t really read books, a group of friends where not everyone likes one another. Then they become isolated, snowed in and the murders begin.

Under this level of constant extreme pressure there is only one escape, to figure out who the killer is. And that is the glory of the Golden Age of crime. It’s not about the body, the blood or death – at least not all of it. It’s the puzzle, working out every single tiny clue before the denouement.

Can you solve it before the author gets to the final page? I hope not.

Victoria Dowd is a crime writer and her debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, is available to buy in paperback or ebook on Amazon, published by Joffe Books. It’s the first part of a crime series that is an updated dark, humorous take on the Golden Age of crime and the works of authors such Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey.

Victoria is also an award winning short story writer, having won the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction awarded by Go Gothic. She was runner up in The New Writer’s Writer of the Year Award; her work has been short listed and Highly Commended by Writers’ Forum magazine. She was also long-listed for The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition. She has had short stories published in BTS Literary and Arts Annual, Gold Dust magazine and also by Stairwell books in their literary and arts journal Dream Catcher. She lives with her husband and two children and can frequently be found in Devon swimming/floating/drinking around Burgh Island, reading Agatha Christies. Originally from Yorkshire, after studying law at Cambridge University, Victoria was a criminal law barrister for many years before becoming a full time writer.

Jane Healey: The Animals at Lockwood Manor Wednesday, Mar 25 2020 

Jane Healey’s debut, The Animals at Lockwood Manor, illustrates how a grand atmospheric story with exhaustive research, backed by a great story, can bring a resounding mystery to life.

It’s 1939 and with London on the brink of World War II, a young museum director is tasked with moving the majority of the animals from the Natural History Museum out of harm’s way to Lockwood Manor.

The enormous country mansion owned by Major Lockwood is as overbearing as its owner. It’s a difficult adjustment for Hetty Cartwright, a young woman working in a man’s world with no friends nearby and the only ally the Major’s nervy daughter, Lucy, still reeling from the deaths a few months previously of her mother and grandmother in a car accident.

It doesn’t help that the villagers whisper about Lucy’s dead mother, mad by all accounts, haunted since her marriage by a woman in white. Lucy’s own nightmares center on a room she can’t find anywhere in the monstrosity she lives in of over ninety rooms, now stuffed with mammals and birds in some rooms in reality, but she soon makes her peace with the stuffed varieties.

With a friendship blooming between the two young women, countered by the Major’s abrasive manner and a haughty housekeeper, the huge house labors with a dearth of animals and a disappearing staff. Things don’t just go bump in the night, but move around or disappear. Lucy’s nightmares increase, her fragile emotions escalating, and soon Hetty’s own nightmares match Lucy’s in strength and foreboding.

Soon it’s apparent that not all of the ogres are stuffed. Just who is going mad?

After air raids start, things culminate when a party the Major holds runs amok with tragic consequences.

The gothic feel of the novel resounds with a haunting feel that matches the emotions of the two young women, who soon become entwined. With mirrors, sightings, and ghosts making their appearance, it is grounded with the research Healey has completed and absorbed at several natural history museums.

For fans of Rebecca, even Jane Eyre, and anything with a period or gothic feel, coupled with a darn good mystery. An impressive debut.

Stephanie Wrobel: Darling Rose Gold Sunday, Mar 22 2020 

Stephanie WRobel’s debut, Darling Rose Gold, brings a complicated mother-daughter relationship to the forefront.

Convicted of Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy, Patty Watts is finally getting out of prison. Her daughter, Rose Gold, has been her victim for eighteen years without doctor’s being able to figure out what ailed her. Then it seemed it was her mother who ailed her, on purpose.

Rose Gold also testified against her mother at Patty’s trial. So it leads to many heads scratching when upon Patty’s release, Rose Gold allows her mother to come and live with her.

With Patty in her thrall, all Rose Gold wants is for Patty to finally admit that she poisoned her own daughter. But revenge is a powerful emotion, and one that drives Rose Gold on.

With the story told from both points of view, readers will have a good feel for just how devastating MSBP can be. It’s no wonder that dear little Rose Gold has finally found some strength. It’s what she does with it that will shock and surprise readers.

Maryla Szymiczkowa: Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing Tuesday, Mar 17 2020 

Two writing partners form the pseudonym author for the engaging Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing. Auntie M loves when a book also teaches her new information, and this one will take readers to a fresh look at turn-of-the century Poland.

It’s 1893 in Cracow and Zofia Turbotynska fills her days as an anatomy professor’s wife with the usual parts of being a socialite who is not expected to do more than govern the maids, take in the local gossip, read the crime novels she enjoys, and participate in Good Works.

But Zofia yearns for more, composing poetry, and striving to be noticed. She decides a charity auction sponsored by a countess living at a local nursing home would be a good idea. After all, she is friendly with one of the nuns who run the place.

But when one of the residents, Mrs. Mohr, disappears and is later found dead, Zofia has found her new vocation. She soon enlists Sister Alojza as her sidekick and entree to the home to various residents she visits to elicit information in her investigation.

After bringing her ideas to the local police, who scoff at her inquisitiveness, Zofia has no choice but to take matters into her own hands, especially when another resident is murdered.

Fully researched and true to the time period, the mores and social niceties, as well as the politics of the era are illustrated. There is a sly wit about the writing as Zofia’s decisions are made and justified. And all the time her dear husband continues in his routine as usual, unaware the he lives with a surprising amateur sleuth.

A delightful and surprising read, and first in a new series.

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Lee Lofland

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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.

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, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

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

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews