Lauren North: The Perfect Son Saturday, Aug 17 2019 

Lauren North will startle readers with her new psychological suspense thriller, The Perfect Son. This debut packs a wallop, making North a writer to watch.

Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital after being stabbed, yet her only concern is for her missing son. Readers learn what led up to this event, and why she mistrusts Shelley, the grief counselor who’d become her friend.

Tess has been moving through the sludge of grief after the shocking death of her husband. Caring for son Jamie alone, trying to find a new rhythm to her days, she comes to depend on the friendship of the grief counselor her mother recommended. Even Jaime likes Shelley, a good thing, surely. But does Shelley have an ulterior motive?

Missing Mark terribly, his brother Ian can’t stop harrassing Tess for money he insists Mark borrowed that he needs repaid immediately. Tess can’t find any record of this supposed loan. Was Mark keeping secrets from her? Or is Ian lying?

With Tess’s world coming apart at the seams, she can’t trust anyone. And who could blame her? Soon she’s convinced the very people she should be able to trust are the ones she should be afraid of. Is she being paranoid, or careful?

With the sense of isolation Tess feels apparent on every page, North’s story lurches from unknown to unknown, while all the time there is a searing truth hiding just out of sight.

A skillful debut that ends with a resounding twist, that then turns back on itself. Worth every moment of lost sleep.

Marlowe Benn: Relative Fortunes Sunday, Aug 4 2019 


Marlowe Benn’s debut, Relative Fortunes, is filled with issues and social mores, not to say fashion, too, of 1924. It’s a stylish mystery that evokes the blues of the Jazz Age in which it’s set.

Benn introduces American Julia Kydd, who returns to New York after living in England where she’s incubating the germ of an idea for a small, elite press. Loving all things type, font, and paper, she dreams of establishing her own imprint. With women just able to vote, this is a heady time for women.

Julia’s half-sibling, Philip, controls her allowance until her soon-to-occur 25th birthday, but brings a suit to attempt to claim her half of their father’s estate. While this battles out, Julia is forced to stay in Philip’s home, and learns more than she wanted to about the brother she’s been estranged from and never really knew growing up.

Then the sister of a friend dies and she’s pulled into what she comes to believe is a murder, not a covered-up suicide the family hopes to pass off as a brief illness. Naomi Rankin was a well-known suffragette, and her younger sister, Glennis, is Julia’s new friend. Present with Glennis at the family home for a closed memorial service for Naomi, Julia is shocked to see the lack of regard for Naomi and the miserly way this wealthy family has treated her because of her beliefs in woman’s rights.

When Glennis begs Julia to help her prove Naomi was murdered, Philip’s wager that if she can find out what happened she will keep her inheritence is too good to pass up.

Peopled with real figures from the era in the world of bibliophiles, Benn brings her own love of book arts to Julia, while exploring the few options open to women at this time. If one didn’t have money, those options shrunk even smaller.

Benn also shows Julia and Glennis, and even Naomi through her friends, who must consider their futures and how those differ for men and women. In the stunning climax, this disparity between genders is brought to the forefront in a tragic yet realistic way.

An accomplished debut.

Natalie Daniels: Too Close Wednesday, Jul 31 2019 

Natalie Daniels’ has written a psychological thrillerToo Close that is at once as cinematic as it is haunting.

Connie is in a mental institution, being evaluated to see if she can stand trial for a horrific crime involving children that she claims to have no memory of. Emma is the psychiatrist assigned to treat her dissociative amnesia, and try to coax out the story of what led to those events, in order to help Connie remember.

Connie is a writer, and Emma appeals to that instinct and brings in a laptop for Connie to use the word processor. In detailing the memories she does have, Emma is shown what led up to Connie’s emotional breakdown. Connie is a strong woman that everyone depends on, and she can see the truth through things. That can be a fortunate and unfortunate thing when she can no longer hide from her own truths.

The story alternates between the women’s points of view, with Emma learning from Connie about her own insecurities and marriage. Connie’s marriage is complicated; so is her friendship with her beautiful neighbor, Ness, who Emma comes to see is at the heart of what has led Connie to snap.

Making connections between the women, Emma must lead Connie to remember the events leading up to that horrific day and what caused Connie to go mad. Readers won’t be able to put this one down as the story spirals out in the same way Connie’s life seems to spiral out of control.

A terrific debut, filled with insights into women, their friendships, and their relationships with their families and the men in their lives. Highly recommended.

Vanessa Westerman: An Excuse for Murder Tuesday, Jul 30 2019 

Vanessa Westerman’s An Excuse for Murder introduces Kate Rowan, bookshop proprietor and soon to be unwilling amateur sleuth.

Kate lives in her Great-Aunt’s London suburban home, a turreted house large enough to take in boarders. With her gay best friend, Marcus, a local realtor, and two local boys who love crime, Kate is surrounded by murder in her books and the investigations the boys like to play.

When Kate finds one of boarders dead at the bottom of the basement stairs, she’s relieved to find the 40-something man died from natural causes of a simple heart attack. Or did he?

Known the neighborhood as “The Eternal Wife,” Great-Aunt Roselyn has begun behaving strangely. And soon Kate is certain someone is watching the house.

Then Gary, a security expert in the area, starts to watch out for Kate, too, and things escalate with a break-in at the house. What was the thief really looking for? Why is Gary present whenever Kate turns around?

And what really happened to the dead man in the basement and how does that tie in with the murder of a beautiful young woman two years ago?

Readers will enjoy the hint of sexual tension between Gary and Kate, and the twists of the plot. With interesting its characters, and Kate’s skills in many areas, this is an ambitious start to a clever series filled with promise.

Allison Montclair: The Right Sort of Man Sunday, Jun 16 2019 

Allison Montclair’s new series starts off with a delightful bang with the charming The Right Sort of Man.

The second World War has just ended in 1946 London, and two young women who couldn’t be more opposite are thrown together. Iris Sparks is the unmarried, savvy woman with an Oxford education and a shady past; Gwen Bainbridge is the war widow with a young son, still grieving the loss of her handsome husband, and subjected to living with her staid in-laws.

The two meet at a wedding and agree to start a new business to cement their independence, and do it in one of the Mayfair buildings that escaped bombing with The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. They approach it in an organized manner, trying to match suitables, and even have had a few marriages from their pairings.

New client Tillie La Salle sets off Iris’ warning bells as someone who might have her own checkered past, but the women set her up with her first date. Then Tillie is found murdered, and the man arrested for the crime is Dickie Trower, the man they matched to Tillie, who claims he never met with her at all.

Now the duo have a two-fold problem: try to rescue Dickie from the hangman’s noose, and try to reclaim the reputation of their new business. The two will ennlist their friend, Sally, a budding playwright who reminded Auntie M of Stephen Fry, to cover the office as they take turns sleuthing Tillie’s life.

The thing that struck Auntie M about these two well-developed characters (make it three if you include Sally) was their snappy dialogue, which hums and zings off the page. The period details are spot on, and the the light-hearted feel is contrasted with moments of the realities of a post-war nation.

An assured start to what promises to be a wonderful and interesting series for fans of historicals, this one will be snapped up and not put down until it’s done.

Vanda Simon: Overkill Monday, May 20 2019 

Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Overkill is Vanda Symon’s debut featuring police constable Sam Shephard and promises to be a strong series.

With the natural setting intriguing to readers unfamiliar with the area, this New Zealand procedural starts off with a bang with the disappearance of a young mother.

The reader knows more than the police in this case, and what is first deemed a suicide is quickly ferreted out to be a murder. The chilling opening creates a picture of a young mother desparate to save her child and is all the ore compelling for what she is forced to endure.

For Sam, the knowledge that there is a killer in the small town of Mataura is compounded by the victim being the wife of Sam’s former lover. With a young child left behind complicating matters, Sam is determined to find the killer, especially after her invovlement and close ties finds her suspended from duty and on the list of suspects.

Sam has a no-nonsense approach to policing that makes her a feisty woman on a mission and also her a prime candidate to carry a series that weaves together the unusual rural landscape with the harsh realities of gossip that is small-town life. Sam must face prejudice and ignorance as she realizes that people she’s known her entire life must be involved in the young mother’s murder.

With the tension mounting, Sam and those close to her will find themselves in danger as the stakes rise higher and higher. An accomplished debut.

Angie Kim: Miracle Creek Monday, May 6 2019 


It’s tough to believe Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is her first novel, as the legal thriller is so well done, but Kim’s trial attorney experience has been put to good use in making readers feel they are residing in the courtroom and heightens the suspense.

The premise revolved around the “miracle submarine” of early hyperbaric chambers. Miracle Creek, Virginia is a small rural town and the Yoos operate their miracle submarine in their backyard. There are different uses and different people using the device when an explosion occurs and the tragedy affects so many people.

The medical issues that drive people to use a hyperbaric chamber are thoroughly discussed but never boring, and bring hope to so many. So the question revolves around who would set this fire and why?

Told from multiple points of view, this is as much a haunting character study as it is a courtroom drama when one of the parents, Elizabeth, whose autistic son was using the chamber, is put on trial for murder when her child and another adult die in the fire, not to mention severe injuried to others.

There is the family drama here, plus the wonderful courtroom scenes, and also the underlying mystery of what really happened that day. There is the cultural situation of the Korean family, too, and the story is heightened by the way Kim chooses to have her characters tell it.

This is an accomplished debut by a writer who must have more stories to tell that we’ll be reading.

A. M. Peacock: Open Grave Thursday, Apr 18 2019 

Auntie M just finished reading A. M. Peacock’s debut serial killer thriller, Open Grave, which introduces DCI Jack Lambert. Having managed to hurt or offend pretty much everyone in his life, struggling with his own choices, Lambert is a workaholic who heads a team tasked with unraveling murders where two victims are buried and then dug up. Whether they two know each other is just one of the many items under investigation. In a realistic light, this isn’t the only case on the team’s plate. An effective start with a Newcastle setting to what promises to be a strong series, here’s Peacock’s story on is inspiration for the book. And Happy Birthday!

My inspiration for Open Grave:

Before I began writing Open Grave, my education consisted of a healthy obsession with reading crime fiction. A number of years ago, I discovered Stuart MacBride and read Cold Granite cover to cover in two days. From then on, I was hooked. I got the chance to see MacBride at a local library event, before he became a household name, and took the opportunity to pick his brains regarding the process of writing a book and how he came to be published.

In fact, this is a common thread in my journey to publication. A number of authors I admire have provided both inspiration and advice to me, whether this was due to a question at an event, or having the opportunity to meet them in another capacity. Authors such as Mari Hannah, Tess Gerritsen and Ann Cleeves all contributed to my own journey to publication in different ways.

Like most writers, I also write short fiction, and I have been published on multiple occasions. Before migrating onto writing longer fiction, this gave me confidence in my ability to pen something worthwhile. Also, like most writers, I wrote a very ‘autobiographical’ 70k word novel that is currently sitting in a drawer never to be read again. Once this was out of my system, and the stabilisers had been removed, it felt natural for me to delve into the world of crime.

I am constantly inspired by a number of other writers. Other than those highlighted above, I absolutely adore books by Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Lee Child and Dennis Lehane. I think the ability to create characters that you care about, with interesting crimes and a strong sense of environment, is the key to good crime writing. The authors I mention above all do this.

It’s no coincidence that my novel is set in the bleak Newcastle winter. Granted, we don’t get much sun in the North East of England anyway, but there is something much more atmospheric about a cold, grey, miserable setting, than a sunny jaunt by the seaside in my hometown of South Shields.

With regards to my main character, I was keen to bring Jack Lambert to life by giving him an interesting back story, one which would impact on everything he does. Jack, the hero of the book, is one of the only gay male detectives I can think of. When Open Grave begins, we see that he has only recently admitted this to the people around him. Because of this, we see a tension amongst those who know him and within Jack himself. He also comes from a troubled background, with links to a local gang.

This may or may not impact heavily on the story as things progress…

Open Grave, the first in the DCI Jack Lambert series, is available now in paperback, audiobook and ebook, via Amazon and other book retailers. As for book two, it’s just about done, so watch this space…

A.M. Peacock grew up in the North East of England before leaving to study for a degree in music technology at the University of Hull. A subsequent return to his hometown of South Shields saw him spend seven years as a teacher in a local college before changing careers to become a trade union official.

Having always been an avid reader, he took to writing after being encouraged to do so by his PGCE tutor. He has since gone on to produce a number of short stories, winning the Writers’ Forum Magazine competition on two occasions, as well as producing articles for both the local press and a university magazine.

A.M. Peacock is passionate about crime fiction and his debut novel, Open Grave, is the first in what will become a series of books featuring Newcastle-based detective, DCI Jack Lambert.

Away from writing, A.M. Peacock enjoys watching films, playing guitar and can often be found pavement pounding in preparation for the odd half marathon.

A.M. Peacock can be found on Twitter at @ampeacockwriter.

James Oswald: No Time to Cry Sunday, Mar 17 2019 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! But we’re going to England and Scotland today with a debut that will knock your shellelagh to the floor.

It’s no secret James Oswald’s Inspt. McLean series is a favorite of Auntie M’s. So it was with great interest that she looked forward to reading the first of his new series, featuring DC Constance (Con) Fairchild, No Time to Cry.

It’s an ambitious start in a London setting when Con, working undercover, finds the body of her boss, executed after being tortured. DI Peter Copperthwaite has her mentor and friend, and his influence is seen throughout the book, a device Auntie M quite liked and hopes will continue.

It seems the higher-ups want the blame for Pete’s death to fall to Con, unfair as it is, and she’s on suspension while it’s sorted out, but it seems clear there’s more here than her being named a scapegoat for the ruined operation. Who she can trust soon becomes Con’s primary question.

At a loose end, Con decides to help her brother’s girlfriend and agrees to search for the woman’s younger sister, a run away from the same school Con attended as a child. This secondary plot line adds to the trickiness when the two lines of her invesstigation overlap.It soon becomes clear that this is yet another situation where there is more going on than meets the eye.

At one point Con finds herself at her aunt’s Scottish home, a lovely setting. A secondary character, Madame Rose, is introduced during this visit. She’s one Auntie M fervently hopes will return in the next book, along with her lovely vintage car. A highly original character, she will be one to watch out for.

Con Fairchild is a unique and steadfast gal who can easily carry a new series. It will be interesting to see what kind of path Oswald takes her down in book two. Highly recommended.

Christian White: The Nowhere Child Wednesday, Jan 30 2019 


Melbourne writer Christian White’s manuscript for The Nowhere Child won last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, along with its $15,000 prize. It didn’t stay unpubbed long, and besides the book, with a second to follow, there’s a planned mini-series on this first.

And with good reason as readers will see once they read this story that has the feel it could happen to anyone, one of its attractions.

Photographer Kim Leamy is teaching evening classes in Melbourne when a stranger approaches her. The American man insists she is really Sammy Went, kidnapped from her Kentucky home when she was 2 years old. With her mother dead from cancer, her step-father refused to answer her questions but acknowledges there is a secret to her Australia origins. Kim flies to the US to visit Kentucky with this man who says he is her brother, determined to find out the truth.

Small-town Kentucky comes alive under White’s skilled pen, with anyone who has ever traveled through remote southern towns able to recognize the dusty woods and small town minds that populate Manson. It’s perhaps coincidence that the town’s name echoes one of the US’s most recognizable madmen, but the name resonates with readers and adds to the creep factor Kim finds.

Seeing the US for the first time, Kim’s accent is remarked upon, but DNA shows she really is Sammy Went. She has an entire family she doesn’t remember. Who took her and why becomes her driving force as she visits people and tries to get to the bottom of a life she’s forgotten.

Alternating between NOW, Kim’s first person account, and third person accounts of THEN, when Sammy was taken, make this a most interesting and creative way to tell this story. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal snake-wielding congregation, held sway over a good portion of the town’s inhabitants when Sammy was taken. Being different, or trying to leave the fold, wouldn’t have been easy when Sammy was kidnapped.

Parsing out the historical details adds to the tension, and armchair detectives will swear they’ve worked things out–until a final twist shows they’re not quite there.

The sustained tension is impressive, with shifting points of view adding to the intensity. This is elevated psychological suspense, with its crackerjack pace and all-too believable characters that will not only have readers glued to the page, but have them anticipating White’s next novel. Highly recommended.

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