Cozy Christmas: Cozies for Holiday gift-giving Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

Around the holidays, Auntie M likes to give her readers choices for great gift books for those on their list. No matter what holiday you celebrate, a new book holds the promise of a story yet to be told. Today we’re talking cozies:


MB Shaw’s new series debuts with Murder at the Mill, where artist Iris Grey, coping with a disintergrating marriage, rents a house to give herself mental breathing space. Enjoying the nature-filled area and sketching soon give way to a commission to paint the portrait of her cottage’s owner, celebrated crime writer Dominic Wetherby. Iris meets the extended family and more at the Christmas Eve party the Wetherby’s hold.

Becoming entangled with the entire Wetherby family, the idyllis Hampshire village soon turns nightmarish after the youngest son finds a body in the water on Christmas Day. Was this an accident or a murder? Attracted to the family attorney, Iris finds herself sleuthing when she becomes frustrated with the local police, just as she soon feels herself being stalked.

A terrific puzzle and an engaging start to a new series.


Ellen Crosby’s newest in her Wine Country series, Harvest of Secrets, takes readers to Virginia and the Montgomery Estate Vineyards during their busy season. Mixing an unearthed skull on Lucie Montgomery’s family property with a modern mystery, Lucie also has a new murder to contend with when shortly after arriving in the area at a neighboring vineyard, head winemaker Jean-Claude de Marignac is found dead.

The prime suspect is an immigrant worker, Miguel Otero, who had quarreled with the new winemaker. But with Lucie’s own immigrant helped ready to revolt during the harvest, she plunges into figuring out the real culprit. It doesn’t help that the dead man was one of Lucie’s first crushes decades ago.

A nice mix of old and new mysteries, with Lucie facing buried secrets.


The 27th Agatha Raisin mystery, Dead Ringer
, features all of MC Beaton’s usual wit and eccentric characters. The Bishop’s visit means the bellringers are practicing up a storm when Agatha manages to convince the lawyer Julian Brody of their team to hire her to investigate the Bishop’s missing fiancee`. Local heiress Jennifer Toynby disappearance years ago, with no body found, remains unsolved.

But that’s not the only thing occupying Agatha. There’s the body of the local policeman discovered in the crypt; one of the bellringers twins is murdered near the church; and a journalist who was once briefly Agatha’s lover is found dead in her very own sitting room. Just how is the Bishop connected to these deaths?

Now a British TV show, the Agatha Raisin series remains a favorite and a classic cozy series.

From its charming cover to the the cast of cats in the characters, Melissa Daley’s Christmas at the Cat Cafe` glows with all that is merry and bright. Set in the town of Stourton-on-the-Hill, owner Debbie allows her sister to move in after a heartbreak. But that doesn’t sit well with the cat side of the home, Molly and her three kittens, who are soon at the mercy of Linda’s dog, Beau. Things go from bad to worse when another cat threatens Molly’s home ground.

With Molly’s point of view at the forefront, this tale is a holiday delight for cat and animal lovers.

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Olga Wojtas: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar/The Bunburry Mysteries Wednesday, Dec 5 2018 

Please welcome Olga Wojtas, author of the new Bunburry series, which has been described as a mix between Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders. She’s here to talk about Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, a time-travel mystery with an inept sleuth, written as an homage to writer Muriel Spark.

Greetings from Edinburgh, Scotland, where I went to high school, and where I still live and work. The writer Muriel Spark was a fellow alumna of James Gillespie’s High School, which she immortalised as Marcia Blaine School for Girls in her iconic novel, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

That’s what inspired my novel, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar. It’s a wacky romp featuring 50-something librarian Shona McMonagle, a former pupil sent on a time-travelling mission to 19th century Russia by Miss Blaine herself.

Shona has a generally sunny disposition, apart from her deep loathing of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated, and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, she is thrilled to be chosen for the one- week mission, which she deduces is to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But despite having had the finest education in the world, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. In fact, she arguably qualifies for the grand Scottish word “numpty” (according to The Urban Dictionary, “A person who is incapable of performing the simplest of tasks correctly”). As the body count rises, will she discover in time who the villain is?

It’s unusual to have a crime novel in which the protagonist is completely inept. But my aim is to have that as part of the comedy. Astute readers like yourself will pick up on the clues long before Shona does, and I hope you’ll have fun watching her get into deeper and deeper water (literally, at one point, when she’s the victim of an attempted drowning). If you’re a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, one of the loveliest reviews I’ve had described my book as “Anna Karenina written by P G Wodehouse”. Shona is something of a female Bertie Wooster, touchingly unaware of her own limitations and, I hope, endearing with it.

She’s surrounded by a host of extraordinary Russian characters, from the serf Old Vatrushkin (a young man who’s terrified of being emancipated) and an elderly nanny who knits (though never produces anything recognisable) to a snobbish countess with a dangerous cleavage, and her ill-trained lapdog which Shona describes as an animated floormop. Will it all work out in the end?

I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that it does – but whether Miss Blaine thinks Shona deserves to be sent on another mission is another matter. I’m thrilled that the novel is one of the Christian Science Monitor’s top ten books for November 2018, and one of the Kirkus best books of 2018.

I also write the Bunburry e-book series of novellas under the name Helena Marchmont. These are short cosy crime mysteries which can be read in a couple of hours, set in the rolling hills of the English Cotswolds. I’m half-Scottish and half-Polish, and figured that my real name didn’t fit very well with the quintessential Englishness of the subject matter. So I took my middle name, Helena, and the street I grew up on, Marchmont Road, to create a new persona who I think sounds suitably Anglicised.

The main character is Alfie McAlister, a self-made millionaire who has relocated from London to the idyllic village of Bunburry following a personal tragedy, but finds himself playing amateur detective alongside his late aunt’s best friends, Liz and Marge.

He’s touchingly unaware of how attractive he is (less to do with his money than his good looks), and it never crosses his mind that local policewoman Emma and American environmental activist Betty might be interested in him. Each novella contains an individual mystery. But there’s also a mystery in his family background which gradually unfolds as the series continues: the first e-book came out in September 2018, and the others are being published at two-monthly intervals.

Alfie doesn’t remember his Aunt Augusta who left him a cottage in the village, although he has fond memories of his grandparents who were killed in a car crash when he was twelve. Through Liz and Marge, he begins to discover more about the crash and about his family.

These are more mainstream stories than the quirkiness of Shona, but I’ve still introduced some humour. Alfie’s best friend is the aristocratic Oscar de Linnet, who refuses to leave Bunburry to visit the country, which he dismisses as “pub grub, mud and cows”. He sees himself as a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, and is always prepared with a Wildean quip.

News Flash: The Bunburry Mysteries will soon be available in Audio in GERMANY, performed by none other than Nathaniel Parker of Inspector Lynley fame.

If you read either Shona or Bunburry (or even both), I do hope you enjoy them! And thank you, Marni, for this opportunity to introduce myself! https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2018/1114/10-best-books-of-November-the-Monitor-s- selections https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/olga-wojtas/miss-blaines-prefect-and-the- golden-samovar/

Robert Scragg: What Falls Between the Cracks Wednesday, Nov 28 2018 

Robert Scragg has a cracking good debut of a new series with What Falls Between the Cracks.

Introducing the London detective duo Jake Porter and Nick Styles, their latest case is a mix of old and new, when a severed hand is found in a freezer.

It’s strange enough to find a hand, in this case one missing a finger. Yet once DNA matches the hand to the apartment’s owner, Nina Barclay, its even stranger that her family agrees Nina hasn’t been since since 1983.

Why no one has been looking for Nina is just one of the many questions Porter and Styles must answer as they investigate Nina’s extended family and acquaintances, and find far too many unsavory characters.

As their search extends itself, everywhere they turn the team come up against walls thwarting their progress, from interior police structure politics and a drug squad case that has been slowly gathering evidence against one of their main suspects.

One of the highlights is the nice banter between the two detectives, balanced by Porter’s struggle to restart his life after a tragic personal loss.

This is the kind of police procedural Auntie M eats up. An accomplished debut, one that will have readers seeking the second Porter and Styles outing. Highly recommended.

Matt Ferraz: Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game Monday, Nov 12 2018 

Please welcome Matt Ferraz, to tell readers about his new release based on two very popular figures, Sherlock Holmes, and Pollyanna:

Writing Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game By Matt Ferraz

The genesis of Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game was a challenge I made to myself: pick two characters in public domain that apparently have nothing to do with each other, and somehow make them work together.

I’ve been a Sherlockian all my life, and have wanted to write a book with the detective for some time. But who could I match him with? Other writers already had him meeting Jack the Ripper, Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and so many others. What could I bring to the table that was new and fresh?

I was at a bookshop in my town when I saw brand new editions of Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up, by Eleanor H. Porter. Those were books I had never read, but knew the basic premise: a girl who always sees the bright side of everything no matter what.

I had seen the 1920 movie with Mary Pickford, one of my favourite actresses, but remembered little of it. So I got myself copies of those two books, and while reading them, a novel started to form in my mind. No one had ever had the idea of putting Holmes and Pollyanna Whittier in the same story. After all, they’re so different!

But my mind was made up: I was going to write a book where she comes to London and assists Holmes and Watson in an investigation. People didn’t believe I could pull it off. In fact, my fiancée thought it was a crazy idea to begin with, but decided to give me the benefit of doubt.

I wrote the first draft of this book in a month – which is faster than I had ever worked before! For that whole month, I was completely immersed in the book, having re-watched several Holmes movies for inspiration and re-reading big sections of Porter’s books. My idea wasn’t simply to have Pollyanna ringing at 221b Baker Street offering a case for the detective to solve. I wanted to fit her in the Holmes cannon as organically as possible.

My book starts with Pollyanna becoming a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Watson while Holmes was considered to be dead after facing Professor Moriarty. Pollyanna is in London to see a special doctor during an injury she suffered in her childhood – which is shown in the first Porter book. She eventually returns to America but shows up in London two years later, when Holmes is already back from the dead, with a brand new husband and a lot of trouble on her back. The best part of writing this story were the comedic possibilities in the interaction between these characters.

I tried to avoid making Pollyanna too annoying and naive – she’s actually pretty smart and kicks some butts. It was also nice to create a more humane Holmes, different from the stubborn and arrogant versions we’ve seen in movie and TV in the past few years. It’s a little, quirky and funny book I’m very proud of.

British sleuth Sherlock Holmes can solve any mystery from a small clue. American traveler Pollyanna Whittier can only see the good side of every situation. The only thing they have in common is their friendship with Dr. John Watson. When Pollyanna shows up in London with a mystery for Holmes to solve, she decides to teach the detective the Glad Game: a way of remaining optimistic no matter what. A dangerous – and hilarious – clash of minds, where these two characters of classic literature need to learn how to work together in order to catch a dangerous criminal.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K7W4PQL/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42648425-sherlock-holmes-and-the-glad-game/

Jim Eldridge: Murder at the Fitzwilliam Monday, Oct 8 2018 


London-born author Jim Eldridge had a host of jobs before teaching led him to writing scripts for radio and television. He’s written SciFi, Children’s and YA fiction, including books for early readers and reluctant readers.

But Auntie M’s readers will be happy to hear Jim has turned his pen to crime fiction, with a new series that debuts with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. Set in 1894, it introduces private enquiry agent Daniel Wilson, retired from his Detective Inspector duties after investigating the Jack the Ripper case. Assisting him in this case at the Cambridge museum is archeologist Abigail Fenton.

Auntie M had the opportunity recently to ask Jim about his new series.

Auntie M: You started as a teacher before turning to writing full time. Was that always your intention?

Jim Eldridge: As well as teaching (which I loved doing), I had a variety of jobs before being able to afford to become a full-timer writer in 1978. I’d worked in offices, at a petrol station, done labouring jobs in an abattoir and even been a stoker on a blast furnace, but my ambition was always to be a full-time writer.

AM: Auntie M noticed your interest in history throughout your many series, from the early and reluctant readers books to your YA series. Is this a chance to teach readers or your natural interest?

JE: I have a deep love of history. I am a great believer in we are where we are now because of the historical events that have gone before, and that as a species we seem to keep repeating the same errors. So, yes, I do tend to stress the similarities between what’s happened in the past and what’s happening now – so readers say “we never learn.”

AM: The new Museum series starts out powerfully with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. How did you decide to choose 1894 for this series?

JE: The publishing director at Allison & Busby and I discussed various potential eras (modern, early 20th century), but we both felt that the late Victorian era heralded so many changes, both in society and technologically, that it would be a great backdrop for the series.

AM: Why the Fitzwilliam and Cambridge?

JE: Once we’d agreed for the series to use Museums for the settings of the series, we began by selecting the most famous of the oldest museums in Britain, and they were The British Museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, and the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. We felt that Cambridge had received less attention than Oxford out of the two oldest British University cities, so we decided to set the first adventure there.

AM: Nice to see a strong female character in archaeologist Abigail Fenton. Will she appear in the other books?

JE: Yes, she and Daniel become an investigating duo, as well as her continuing her own career as an archaeologist.

AM: Where does the series head next?

JE: Book 2 is MURDER AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM, which comes out early in 2019. Book 3, MURDER AT THE ASHMOLEAN, comes out in Autumn 2019.

AM: With three planned as of this writing, might that be extended?

JE: I hope so, if the series finds its readership, so my fingers are firmly crossed for that to happen.

AM: Mine,too, as I loved this first book. How does the radio and TV work inform your adult fiction? Do you see the books in scenes unfolding as you write?

JE: From 1971 until 2010 I was primarily a scriptwriter for TV and radio (with 250 TV scripts and 250 radio scripts broadcast). Scriptwriting is very different to novel-writing. In a script there is no place for the “interior monologue” from the characters – in a screenplay the emotions the character is feeling have to be shown by their expression and their movements. In a novel you have room to expand on what a character is feeling. However, I feel my long scriptwriting career has helped me when writing novels in developing plots (and sub-plots) and the vital importance of creating characters that readers want to know about. And you’re right, I also view a scene visually so I can write it.

AM: Who would we find on your nighttable, waiting to be read?

JE: At this moment, THE RAILWAY DETECTIVE by Edward Marston, but the one I’m really looking forward to arriving in my mailbox is DEATH UNSCRIPTED: A TRUDY GENOVA MANHATTAN MYSTERY by Marni Graff. As a former scriptwriter, this sounds my ideal mystery!

AM: You’re very kind, and I hope you will enjoy it, Jim. Thanks for giving readers insight into this new series. And now for a review of Murder at the Fitzwilliam.

Archeologist Abigail Fenton has enough hard work cataloguing recent Egyptian artificts sent to the famed Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, while she makes her way in a largely male profession, when she stumbles across a modern body inside an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.

Daniel Wilson has been called in by the Museum’s director to protect the museum’s reputation by quickly bringing the case to a discreet close. The former London detective brings his intuition and his experience with him, and soon finds himself going head-to-head with the local Cambridge detective, who has decided the murder was an accident.

With Abigail and Daniel agreeing this could hardly be the case, Daniel calls on the archeologist to assist him in his investigation into the identity of the dead man and how his body came to be found in the Egyptian Collection room.

Then the local papers circulate a story about a murderous mummy, destined to shake up the populace, and a second body is soon found, raising the stakes and making Daniel’s investigation harder.

There will be several paths of enquiry for them to follow; red herrings abound with distractions for both sleuths as they find their way to the the answers they seek.

Abigail and Daniel are an engaging pair of sleuths, bound by the mores of the time, which include the women’s suffragete movement. They take each other’s measure and like what they see while moving the case forward.

With accurate period details, Eldridge perfectly recreates the Cambridge of the Victorian era. A highly successful start to a captivating new series.
Available in the US November 19th~

Aline Templeton: Human Face Thursday, Sep 20 2018 


Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming series is one of Auntie M’s favorites, so it was with great anticipation that she dove into the first of Templeton’s new series, Human Face.

Featuring DI Kelso Strang, dealing with the after effects of a life-changing accidnet, he’s sent to unravel the case of a missing woman on the Isle of Skye.

The isolated landscape in the shadow of the Black Cuillin range proves threatening to Strang and matches his bleak mood. He’s been sent to followup on the disappearance of a housekeeper, Eva, at Balnasheil, the isolated manor that houses the charity Human Face, which helps bring food and medical care to Third World children.

The charity’s founder and biggest donor, Beatrice Lacey, is a woman with her own secrets; enigmatic co-founder Adam Carnegie has charmed her with the promise of a life for them together. They live together but separately at Balnasheil, across the bay from the small town.

When Strang finds out Eva is actually the second housekeeper to disappear, the case becomes a probable murder investigation–until a confirmed murder happens on the premises, throwing Strang and his cobbled-together team into a whirlwind case.

Strang’s a believeable protagonist, needing the responsibility of the case and decisive position to blot out his memories. But he also becomes an unwilling mentor to a young PC determined to prove her chops as a budding detective.

A nicely twisted plot, weather that turns on a dime, landscape that functions as more than a setting, and complex characters hiding secrets all add up to grand mystery.

This debut promises the new series will bring all of these hallmarks that make Templeton’s books ones that have won a legion of faithful readers.

Rea Frey: Not Her Daughter Wednesday, Sep 19 2018 


With a strong debut, Rea Frey’s Not Her Daughter forces readers to examine their feeling about mothering, and if everyone is cut out to be a good mother.

Five year-old Emma Townsend is missing. A lonely child whose father is emotionally absent, her mother could be called cruel. Amy Townsend is not a good mother and is aware of it. Does she want her child to return?

Sarah Walker is desperate to be a mother. Abandoned by her own mother, she find herself in the role of kidnapper. She takes Emma far away and the question that centers the book is: is it truly kidnapping if Sarah has rescued Emma from a mother who doesn’t want her?

While on the run together, Emma bonds with Sarah in a way she never has with her biological mother. It’s an emotional journey for the them as well as a harrowing physical one.

With flawed but believeable characters, Frey manages to keep the suspense up while challenging readers to examine their feelings about motherhood. A clever and compelling debut sure to resonate with readers long after the last page has been turned.

Ellison Cooper: Caged Sunday, Sep 9 2018 

Welcome to the world of FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair, coming to grips iwth a personal tragedy even as she delves into her research into the minds of serial killers.

Then an horrific crime scene in Washington DC becomes Sayers newest investigation. A young girl had been slowly starved to death, held in a cage like an animal.

That the victim is the daughter of a US senator means Sayer is suddenly in everyone’s crosshairs.

Then a second girl is taken and Sayer must up her game to find the obsessed killer behind these kidnappings and deaths. Partnered with agent Vik Devereaux of Crimes Against Children, they find little evidence but a video that is as graphic as it is strange.

It’s a public relations nightmare once the senator gets involved, too, as the team races to find the second girl. The action heats up and the tension rises with each page. Readers who like their forensics and what lurks in the mind of a serial killer will keep flipping pages.

A strong debut.

C J Tudor: The Chalk Man Sunday, Aug 19 2018 

One of Auntie M’s favorite authors, James Oswald, recommended CJ Tudor’s debut The Chalk Man, so she had to read it and could see why he was so enthusiastic.

It’s a strong debut with distinct characters, and a cleverly twisted plot. A whopper of an ending will have you re-reading the last page in disbelief.

Fat Gav, Hoppo and Metal Mickey are all friends of Eddie, the narrator whose story alternates between 1986, when he was 12, and 2016 when he is an English teacher and comes up against the secrets of his youth.

1086: The chalk men are the secret code Eddie and his friends use to summon each other. But it becomes corrupted when a chalk man message sends Eddie into the woods where he finds the dismembered body of a teenaged girl, changing everything.

Fast forward to 2016, where Eddie is living in his childhood home, teaching at his old school, and probably drinking far too much. He’s taken in a boarder, a young woman, and muddles along until he receives a letter with the figure of a chalk man.

His friends soon admit they have all received the same letter, but after the death of one of their group, Eddie knows he must find out who was responsible for that awful murder.

The bouncing back and forth between time periods allows the reader to see the earlier events as they unfolded while keeping pace with the current time and what is happening to Eddie.

It also works to heighten the suspense of this thoroughly chilling novel that marks the debut of a write to be taken seriously. Highly recommended.

Liz Milliron: Root of All Evil Wednesday, Aug 15 2018 

Please welcome guest Liz Milliron to discuss the genesis of Laurel Highlands series:

One of the questions I get asked when I tell folks about my series is “Why the Laurel Highlands?”

Located about 50-ish miles southwest of Pennsylvania, the area is very picturesque. Frank Lloyd Wright built two houses there (Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater). There are several upscale resorts. Ohiopyle National Park is beautiful. And there’s a lot of history, starting around the French and Indian War.

On the surface, not an area associated with crime.

In September 2011, I wandered into a meeting of my local Sisters in Crime chapter, a manuscript clutched in my sweaty hands. The group welcomed me, and I was invited to go on their annual writing retreat in the Laurel Highlands.

Spend a weekend in a house with 11 other women, none of whom I knew, and all of whom plotted fictional murder? Sure, why not!

The house’s guest book had this note: Watch out for the Creeper.

Kitty-corner to the rental was a dilapidated trailer on a patch of scruffy grass. The owner got very . . . irritated when renters parked on his grass, which was easy to do because nothing was marked.

What crime writer could ignore the possibilities?

Thus, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jim Duncan appeared. What’s a good foil for a cop? A defense attorney. Enter Fayette County Assistant Public Defender Sally Castle.

After six short stories, I wrote the novel, Root of All Evil. I found a publisher, Level Best Books, willing to give Jim and Sally a literary home.

I’m in love with these characters and excited to tell their stories. I hope you enjoy reading them, too.

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