Kristen Lepionka: The Last Place You Look Wednesday, Jun 21 2017 

Kristen Lepionka’s debut mystery, The Last Place You Look, introduces PI Roxanne Weary, daughter of a police detective who’s inherited her father’s keen instincts along with his affinity for alcohol.

This is not your typical, sweet protagonist, but a hard-drinking, sexually active woman who’s learning to deal with her grief after her father’s death on duty. When her brother Matt sends her a new client, she finds herself drawn to look for Sarah Cook, a young woman who vanished the same day her parents were murdered.

The man accused of those murders languishes in jail, and with his execution scheduled for two months down the road, time is of the essence to find the young woman who would know who really killed her parents. Brad Stockton has always claimed he’s innocent and refused to put any blame on Sarah.

Then Brad’s sister swears she sees Sarah at a local gas station, although police have long maintained Sarah was also one of Brad’s victims when something went wrong between the two young lovers. This prompts her to hire Roxanne in a last-ditch effort to prove her brother’s innocence.

It seems like a cold case destined to go nowhere, until Roxanne links Sarah’s disappearance to another of her father’s cold cases. And then a third body is found, and Roxanne is scrambling to get ahead of a serial killer, while the local police thwart her every move.

Readers will feel Roxanne’s frustration and her grief as she tries to sort out her own tumbled emotions at the same time as she solves a decades-old crime. Readers will look forward to a sequel featuring the gritty PI.

A tense and suspenseful thriller, Lori Rader-Day says of Lepionka: “A talented new voice and a character worth following anywhere she trespasses.”

Matt Ferraz: The Convenient Cadaver Monday, May 22 2017 

Matt Ferraz was an ocean away from home when he wrote The Convenient Cadaver, the first volume of Grandma Bertha Solving Murders.

Having lived in the same house in Brazil his entire life, Matt had to spend a year in a college accommodation in Buckingham, UK, where he took his masters. Writing a novel that took place entirely within the walls of a family house was literary a way to feel cozy again.

Having always been close to both his grandmothers, Matt decided to create a book that would treat old age in a light and positive way. His best friend was also an old lady named Silvia, who used to call him “my little Stephen King”, as a homage to their favorite author. The book is dedicated to these three ladies, with a sad note that Silvia passed away before she had the chance to read it.

Grandma Bertha is a wacky old lady who loves her dogs, her beer and her horror movies.

One day, a corpse appears near her house, and she decides she’s going to find out who did it. Her family obviously doesn’t like it, but Grandma Bertha won’t give up, as she want to prove that being old does not mean being useless.

And she’s going to continue proving that in future instalments of the series, that will continue later this year with a second volume.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34728968-the-convenient-cadaver?ac=1&from_search=true

Author of all trades, Matt Ferraz has written thrillers, sci-fi, cozy mysteries and a lot of witty e-mails that sadly can’t be published. With a degree in journalism and a masters in biography, Matt has works published in English, Italian and Portuguese, and loves trying out new genres.

Peggy O’Neal Peden: Your Killin’ Heart Wednesday, May 10 2017 

Peggy O’Neal Peden won the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel with Your Killin’ Heart.

The debut of this new series is set in Nashville where Peden has lived for most of her life, and she captures the feel of the place from the point of view of Campbell Hale, a travel agent with her place in the Hillsboro Village area near Music Row and Vanderbilt U.

She’s become friends with Doug Elliot, and pushes her way into joining him to visit the home of dead country icon Jake Miller, one of her father’s favorite musicians.

It’s only later when she hears of the death of Hazel Miller that Campbell realizes the widow she saw taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom she just had to check out might already have been dead. It seems Campbell is just a wee bit nosy at the best of times, and she doesn’t hesitate to start to ask questions.

As the bodies start to pile up, and a painting becomes a focal point,a lanky detective seems to take more than a casual interest in Campbell. She will fine her tendency to sleuth is perhaps not always in her own best interests.

A refreshing setting for a new cozy series.

Charlot King: Poison Sunday, Apr 2 2017 


Charlot King’s new Cambridge Murder Mysteries debuts with Poison. Bringing her personal knowledge of Cambridge, its colleges, and environs, written in present tense, with a prodigious use of commas, this delightful first in a series proves to be one readers will enjoy.

King’s sense of Cambridge as a setting brings it to life under her talented pen–she also takes lovely photos of the area she posts on Twitter, and has an artistic eye. Readers will feel they’ve been there, walking through the colleges, punting on the Cam, and following Dr Elizabeth Green as she solves a murder of a colleague who lands right at the end of her garden.

A specialist in plants and their poisons, King has done exhaustive research to show Green’s expertise and it shows. Still grieving over the loss of her husband, Green teams with Inspector Abely, the golf-playing detective who admires her and whom she’s helped previously. Aided by her grandson, living with her for the term, they will sleuth out the murderer from amongst the victim’s family and close friends.

King was kind enough to answer a few questions for Auntie M, and here are her thoughts:

Auntie M: Your debut mystery, Poison, introduces Professor Elizabeth Green. What made you decide on this particular person to be your protagonist, as your research is meticulous on her plants/poisons knowledge?

Charlot King: Thank you. It’s a really interesting question, how characters develop. For me Professor Elizabeth Green just came to me, like I’d known her all my life (that doesn’t often happen). I wanted to write about a woman who on some level is invisible, who has been sidelined, or who society categorises as an irritant. When women hit their forties, fifties I think this happens all too frequently. They become invisible in stories too, a lot. I like the writer Nancy Meyers in the states, who is bringing back this age group into the movies – with ‘Somethings Gotta Give’ and ‘It’s Complicated’. It’s not just women she writes about, older men too (in ‘The Intern’). They get written off, when they’ve still got a lot to give. Anyway, I’m talking about the movies when I should be talking about books (!). I guess I am interested in those women and how they deal with the society that does that. After all, she (Elizabeth) was a little girl once too, a young woman, someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Women do so much and yet society finds it harder to applaud them for their achievements. Elizabeth’s flaw is that she is strong, very strong. What’s wrong in that? That makes her annoying by society’s standards. It makes her a closed book, and an island. Not the vulnerable woman, not deferential or ‘ladylike’. I wanted to read more of that, so I wrote it (I guess that’s what writers do)… As for the research, I bought books on poisons. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. My oh my, it’s easy. I did wonder if anyone looked at my online search history and purchases whether they might think I was trying to bump someone off. But Poison is a work of fiction, not a reference book of accuracy or to give anyone ideas.

AM: Elizabeth is aided by her grandson. How did you decide to have Godric be involved? I thought him a bit like Bertie Wooster. Since Elizabeth’s cat is named Bertie, I’m assuming you’re a Wodehouse fan, too?

CK: I am a huge Wodehouse fan, huge, and yes you are right the cat is named Bertie because of that. Ha ha. I once stayed in Tuscany for a month and it was early spring and quite cold when we woke up. In the mornings I would lay in bed waiting for the sun to heat up the day, and I would read Wodehouse. I must have read them all. And I was completely in love with Bertie Wooster by the end of it. His enthusiasm, optimism and just irrepressible jollity, well, it is intoxicating. I didn’t deliberately think of Bertie for Godric. I guess they are not totally dissimilar. Godric is posh, a buffoon, and by his very nature he always gets into scrapes. But he’s different in that he’s also a bit of a chip off his nanna. Ultimately he’s much smarter than Wooster. What I find enjoyable to write about Godric is his air of mischief and play. And I wanted to bring Godric into Elizabeth’s life as ultimately – although she’d never admit it – she’s alone right now and at a low ebb after losing her husband. So Godric is the joy in her heart and her life. Perhaps he’s what saves her.

AM: Then there’s Cambridge detective Inspector Abley. He admires Elizabeth, but is frustrated by her, too, although her involvement gets him to the golf course faster. Does he continue in the series as her police link?

CK: Yes, he’s in all the books. He was the person who first asked Elizabeth to help the police force, and he’s been leaning on her ever since. Not because he’s a bad policeman, just because she’s of a superior intelligence. He’s a man of honour, who is loyal to his friends, who has a warm demeanour (cuddly jumpers and a kind heart). It’s true, he’s not always great at his job – and I’m sure in the real world he wouldn’t last in the force – but then I’m writing fiction. When Elizabeth’s husband dies, to a certain extent Abley fills a little of his shoes for her. He’s her rock, or most of the time. He is dependable, he cares about Elizabeth and is one of the few who understands her and sees beneath her hard exterior. She doesn’t need him as she doesn’t need anyone, but he makes her life better than it would be without him.

AM: Elizabeth’s husband has died in an accident. Will that be an issue down the road or remain part of her backstory?

CK: That would be telling . . .

AM: Poison really brings Cambridge alive. The town and the colleges spring to life. I have friends who live there, but have only visited them for a day, and need to go back. What’s it like to live there?

CK: I lived in Cambridge through a lot of my twenties, and there was something about it that stuck with me after I’d moved away. I think places do that to people. We all travel more these days, but places still have a huge effect on us. Yes, I found myself at a crossroads in my life and it wasn’t hard to decide where to move back to when I needed to escape and feel free again. I feel like I’m on holiday all the time in Cambridge and it suits me living in the centre, as the river runs through it, there are commons (large expanses of fields often with cattle), so although you can pop to the cinema or restaurant with your friends you only have to turn and walk the other way and you can feel like you are in the countryside. Well, you are in a way. I mean if you walk to Fen Ditton or to Grantchester. And these places just outside the centre feel like villages from the old days to me. So much has been done in Cambridge to preserve the best of the city. And of course then there is the university, which oozes culture. I have met so many interesting people here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s in my veins.

AM: Your photography showcases some of the best of Cambridge. Is that a new interest for you?

CK: Ah, I like walking and I am lucky enough to live somewhere where around almost every corner there is something beautiful. So I just snap things, nothing more. I’m no photographer, I just use an old phone. Cambridge does the rest. You really don’t need any talent to take a beautiful picture here. They are to share with people who feel the same way about Cambridge as I do. We do have quite good weather in Cambridge – as it is on the drier side of the country, and often sunny so we are lucky for that too.

A: Your second in the series, Cursed, is out in the US in Kindle now. Can you give readers a tickler to interest them?

CK: I’d say read Poison first, as they are in order. But if you fancy reading on, and have already tried the first book, then Cursed will take you on another journey through Cambridge with the three key characters – Elizabeth, Inspector Abley and Godric. You will get to know them more and hopefully like them more. As for the plot, I don’t want to say much, but a tease would be that a porter dies in College in suspicious circumstances. Inspector Abley is not on the ball with the case, and Elizabeth steps in to help find out what’s happened. So she starts to lead the investigation. As curses, death threats and other witchy goings on are left at the Porters’ Lodge, Elizabeth is left wondering if it’s an inside job. But at the same time a very important stone has gone missing at another College. The story is set right in the heart of university life, with students and professors caught up in it, alongside townsfolk. Everything starts to unravel, as Abley isn’t helping and Sergeant Lemon struggles. Will Elizabeth be able to find out the truth before more are dead? If you like puzzles and Cambridge, then hopefully you might enjoy reading the book.

AM: Why do you write mysteries vs another genre? Who were your influences in crime writing?

CK: I have always been drawn to books by people like Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, Raymond Chandler, the whodunnit authors have always appealed. I’m fascinated by that stereotypical British under reaction, too. Someone’s been murdered, so let’s have a cup of tea. We are taught not to reveal our feelings when catastrophes happen. And to a certain extent, we also have that Dunkirk spirit, and almost a black comedy about us. So when you have a murder and people react that way, then the story becomes all about the puzzles and the clues. I like reading stuff like that. I’m currently writing a fiction book about dogs, departing entirely from the Cambridge Murder Mysteries for a short break. But will be back to write Book 3 soon, as I’ve already plotted it out. I just need to sit down and write.

AM: Who’s books are on your nightstand, waiting to be read?

CK: I read a lot of autobiographies, mainly by comedians. I think often comics are the most brutally honest about themselves and about the human condition. They hold up a mirror and tell us the truth. There is often a lot of tragedy in there, too, and the juxtaposition often makes for an interesting read. I finished Paul Merton’s book recently. At the moment I’m also reading the Old English Training Guide (!) as we have just been joined in the family by an Old English Sheepdog puppy, who recently chewed my glasses (good job they’re not reading glasses). In terms of crime, I’m about to start reading P.D. James The Lighthouse. Not sure why I’ve never read it before. But it’s queued up and I’m looking forward to that.

And I’m sure Charlot King will enjoy the James as much as readers will enjoy Poison and Cambridge.

Scott Frank: Shaker Friday, Mar 3 2017 

shaker

Scott Frank is a talented screenwriter and director, penning movies such as Dead Again, one of Auntie M’s favorite movies, Get Shorty,Out of Sight, Minority Report and The Wolverine, to name just a few.

So it’s no surprise that his debut thriller, SHAKER, has short, declarative chapters and is filled with characters whose lives you will become immersed in, all wrapped up a well-plotted novel that comes alive on the page as it explores the dark underbelly of LA.

Hit man Roy Cooper is unlike any other character. You will not come to like him but you will understand him. You may even have empathy for the predicament he finds himself in. Just days after a major earthquake hits the area, and after fulfilling his most recent contract, Roy becomes a media hero after an onlooker catches him on video standing up to a gang where a mugging in an alleyway has turned deadly.

Soon everyone wants Roy, and no one more so than the hit man who taught him everything he knows, and who thought Roy was long dead.

Frank does a remarkable job of exploring the history and psychology of Roy Cooper, the gang members, and LA detective Kelly Maguire. There are themes of family and political corruption, as well as race, but what stands out is Frank’s ability to craft a book that will take readers on a bloody wild ride before the gripping conclusion.

There’s humor and pathos along with the action. Readers will be flipping pages faster and faster–Auntie M read it in one night. What Frank has done is to allow the reader to clearly understand each of these tormented and damaged characters. Stunning.

Tracee de Hahn: Swiss Vendetta Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 

swiss-vendetta

Tracee deHahn’s debut bring readers to Lausanne, Switzerland, in Swiss Vendetta.

Perfectly capturing the setting during an ice storm, she introduces detective Agnes Luthi, a Swiss-American who has left behind her work with Financial Crimes to shed her old life before her husband’s death. Being new to Violent Crimes, Agnes is juggling her three sons’ care and grief, while living with a mother-in-law who blames her for her husband’s death.

Her first case will turn out to be a locked-room style, when she is called to investigate the murder of a young woman at the grand Chateau Vallotton, on Lac Leman. The ensuring blizzard and ice storm will keep Agnes and several others at the Chateau for days as the investigation continues and they are cut off from the outside world.

It’s not just the intense cold that has Agnes in its grip–it’s the eerie candlelit vastness of the Chateau, with too many rooms to count or explore; it’s the emotions and guilt she carries after her husband’s death; and it’s the knowledge that a murderer is among the people she’s staying with, eating with, talking with.

This Swiss family includes servants loyal to them for generations, and so Agnes worries her questions are not being answered truthfully when a young appraiser for a London auction house is found stabbed to death on the grounds.

Everyone she comes into contact with is a suspect; and she despairs of trusting anyone.

An complex mystery with plays out on several emotional levels, making it an accomplished debut. Highly recommended.

Susan Alice Bickford: A Short Time to Die Wednesday, Feb 1 2017 

shorttime-3d-1

Susan Alice Pickford’s debut crime thriller, A Short Time to Die, tells the story of two women who become linked in a most unlikely way.

Marly Shaw has the misfortune to be born into an extended family whose relations rule her rural area of Central New York with an iron and physical grip, dispensing their own brand of revenge or twisted justice in often lethal ways.

After years of abuse and a narrowly missed brush with her own death, Marly vows to find a way out of the town and that life. She becomes the protector of her young niece and nephew, and soon finds what she thinks may be a way to leave Charon Springs behind her.

Over a decade later, human remains found in California are traced to this same family, both with criminal records. Detective Vanessa Alba needs to know how these two felons died, and who is responsible. She and her partner head to the Finger Lakes region to conduct interviews with the remaining members of the Harris clan, determined to figure out why these two would have traveled all the way to California, out of their element, to be killed–and soon come to see that they were perhaps not so undeserving of their fate.

The brisk cold and rugged terrain are vividly described, as are the tough characters that are cut from a mold some could mistakenly take for extinct. Marly is an intelligent young woman with a honed set of instincts borne out of her desire to survive this pathological family she’s attached to by way of her mother.

The action alternates between the year 2000 when the Harris clan sets in motion the deeds that will culminate in the two deaths of 2013. This allows the reader to see how the situation developed, and how desperately Marly wanted to escape and save her sister’s children.

A fascinating look at a diabolical family with an unlikely ending that develops. A strong debut with a unique cast of characters. Readers will be rooting for Marly from the first chapter.

Ava Marsh: Untouchable Wednesday, Apr 20 2016 

Untouchable
Take one unusual, flawed protagonist, add in the details of her life as an elite London call girl and some explicit sex scenes, wrap it all in a damn good mystery and you have Untouchable, former journalist Ava Marsh’s strong debut.

“Stella” has a complicated past that has made her turn to her life as high class escort. When she’s not working she’s taking night shifts at a rape crisis center. Then one of the escorts she knows is murdered, and it quickly becomes apparent that a group party she shared with the dead woman makes her a likely victim. What is it that she knows but isn’t aware she knows?

The way the women are exploited will make some readers blood boil, but Stella’s unapologetic approach makes this most unlikely woman a striking protagonist as she tries to unravel what happened to the young murdered woman. She knows that the death of a prostitute will not be taken as seriously as would the murder of a society matron or a young mother. And when she feels some of the powerful men in London she’s come across might be involved, it’s only a matter of time before she finds herself on their list for extermination.

What started out as way to explain a death quickly becomes a race to save her own life for Stella.

This is a fascinating look at the life these women live, from waxing and personal appearance woes to the sadistic men they encounter. There are powerful men, too, and others who are lonely, merely looking for a connection to a woman who will listen to them. For that’s one thing Stella is paid to do, besides perform sex acts, and that’s listen. It’s a gift that may end up saving her life before it’s all over.

A gritty, unusual debut Auntie M found highly readable.

Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Edith Maxwell is one of the hardest working authors Auntie M knows, juggling now four series and bringing out books that have a wide readership. Today she’s talking about her new historical mystery, Delivering the Truth, the first in her Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Check out that neat cover and discover the mystery inside.

Delivering the TruthCover

Learning about the Past

Thanks for having me back, Auntie M!

My latest venture – historical mystery – involves a level of research I don’t need to do when I write my contemporary mysteries. I had so much to learn about the late 1800s. And there’s nobody still alive to ask.

How would a Quaker speak and act? What did women wear under their outer clothes? Did a modest New England home have indoor plumbing, gas lamps, a coal stove? What were matches like?
MissParloas-2

I’ve found a couple of good reference books for everyday life. Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Victorian describes everything from toothbrushes to underwear. Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide from 1890 has all kinds of handy tips about the kitchen and foods available in the end of the century. Pinterest provides images of clothing. And then there’s Sarah Chrisman – who lives like someone in 1888 and writes about it! http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/

MontWardCarriages
I needed to learn about all the different types of horse-drawn vehicles. Carriages, wagons, buggies, drays, runabouts, broughtons, phaetons, surries – and so many more. Luckily for me, the town where the series is set, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is where I live and it was world-famed for its carriage manufacturing. There are antique carriages all over town, a thriving Carriage Museum, and many enthusiastic history buffs to call on.

MidwiferyBookLeish
Because my protagonist is a midwife, I delved into medical care of the time. Basic uncomplicated childbirth hasn’t changed that much. But did they know about the importance of washing hands yet? I learned that the germ theory of infection was known. Was there a hospital nearby in case of emergency? Yes, the hospital in the next town was eight years old at the time of Delivering the Truth. I found a midwifery textbook from the era. I learned that blood typing wasn’t yet used but that a lab could find out from a snip of hair if arsenic had been ingested.

Reading local newspapers from a hundred and thirty years ago provide much detail about both news and the prices of goods and services, as do the Sear & Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, both of which are available on Amazon as reproductions. For example, you could buy a two-spring Phaeton (a single-horse kind of buggy with a roof) for $70, a drop-leaf desk for $9.50, and a pair of Irish lace curtains for $2.35. My midwife Rose bought a new bicycle for $45.
PoliceManualCover
And because I write mysteries, there’s the all-important question of police procedure. I’ve found pictures of the local police force in town, and dug up The Massachusetts Peace Officer: A Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and other Civil Officers from 1890. An officer had to lay a hand on the shoulder of someone he was arresting, for example. I also learned that they didn’t yet use fingerprinting.

There’s more, of course. Local historical societies and museums are a rich resource. But at some point you just have to write the book!

Readers, do you like doing research? Where do you find resources to learn about the past, or about your current passion, whatever it is?

MaxwellCrop

Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site, edithmaxwell.com.

Thom Satterlee: The Stages Wednesday, Mar 9 2016 

The Stages

One of Auntie M’s favorite books in past years was Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. So when she was offered a chance to read Thom Satterlees’ The Stages, she knew she would enjoy the chance to follow an adult character with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Daniel Peters is an American translator living in Copenhagen and working at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center. He’s become known as one of the philosopher’s best translators, and frequently lapses into interior monologues with the reader about what Kierkegaard has to say on a particular subject. His mentor and friend, and former love, Metta Rasmussen, is also his supervisor, who has diagnosed correctly, helped him learn techniques to handle living in a world where he doesn’t ‘get’ social clues, facial tics or body language. There’s a defined rhythm to his days and habits, including a propensity for eating danishes, and where better to find them?

Then the unthinkable happens: Mette is found murdered, and a new manuscript he’d been translating has been taken. Daniel was the last person to see her alive, but although he comes under suspicion, he thinks he’s able to persuade a female detective that he’s innocent. But it means she needs him to help with her investigation, if only to help him clear his name. And as he does that, he needs to learn how to express his grief for the friend he’s loved and lost.

Stepping outside his comfort zone is a mild way of describing how Daniel must act and react in this compelling mystery set inside a totally different world to most readers. It’s a satisfying read and one that brings Copenhagen alive on the pages.

Satterlee speaks Danish, and lived with a family in Denmark for his junior year in high school. The informs the novel with a vast sense of reality. Reading and understanding Kierkegaard is an entirely different matter, yet it’s obvious Satterlee has more than a grasp of the iconic philosopher’s life and work. Who would have thought an author could create a mystery surrounding Soren Kierkegaard and make it compelling and highly entertaining at the same time–Thom Satterlee did, and it’s a worthy accomplishment.

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