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.

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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.

Nicola Ford: The Hidden Bones Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


Drawing on her own experience in the field as a National Trust Archaeologist for Stonehenge and the Avebury World Heritage Site, Nicola Ford’s debut teaches readers about a dig, wrapped up in a riveting mystery.

Introducing Clare Hills, recovering from grief over the loss of her husband, she jumps at the chance to help her former university colleague, Dr. David Barbrook, catalogue the research of a deceased archelolgist, Gerald Hart, whose archives were believed lost in a fire shortly before his death.

Hart’s big find is in the British Museum, a gold and amber coin from the Hungerbourne Barrows dig supervised decades ago, and suddenly closed down.

When Clare finds Hart’s unpublished archives, she and David set out to document Hart’s excavation, and soon have funding for a dig of their own.

But the records indicate a second coin has been found, yet where is it? As Clare and David search follow the investigative trail for the missing coin, the star of Hart’s archive, accidents begin to befall members of the dig team. And then someone is killed and they realized they’re in the path of a killer who won’t hesitate to do it again.

Nicola Ford is the pen name of distinguished archaeologist Dr. Nick Snashall, who says she spends far more time than most people thinking about the dead.

An accomplished debut, the first in a planned series.

Sheila Connolly: Murder at the Mansion Monday, Jul 30 2018 


Sheila Connelly debuts a new series that sure to be winner, right off the bat. Introducing Kate Hamilton, a Maryland gal who’s just lost her great job at a tony Baltimore hotel due to a foreign takeover, readers will be immediately drawn to the loner who’s put her career first and now finds herself with time on her hands.

Her high school friend Lisbeth entices Kate back to her home town of Asheboro to talk to the town council about any ideas she has to save the town from bankruptcy.

Using its last funds to buy the large Victorian mansion just outside town, they hoped the place would attract tourists with its period details.

While Kate has misgivings about her own memories of the site, she does begin to formulate an idea of turning the entire downtown into a Victorian village that people might want to visit, wtih the mansion the jewel in the crown.

Then the only person who might thward her plan, Kate’s nemesis Cordelia Walker, is found dead right on the doorstep of the mansion as Kate is viewing the inside, putting her on the suspect list.

As Kate’s search for enticement for her idea grows, so will her own investigation into who really killed Cordelia. A historian living onsite as a caretaker adds a nice bit of interest and just might make it worthwhile for Kate to stick around.

A nice blend of history and mystery, with a hint of romance.

Peng Shepherd: The Book of M Monday, Jul 23 2018 


Welcome to the future as seen by Peng Shepherd in The Book of M.

This is not Auntie M’s usual fare, but this debut is as creative as it is disturbing, and ultimately, sad.

It starts when a man’s shadow disappears, something science is unable to explain, and soon spreads at a terrible price: those afflicted have a new power, but it’s at the price of their memories.

Soon, memory gaps are filled with imaginings made real, a distorted Dali kind of existence.

Ory and his wife Max are hiding in the forest to escape this new Shadowless world when she loses hers. Desparate to leave Ory before she becomes a danger to him, Max takes off.

And so their dual journeys begin in this strange, almost unrecognizable world. It’s almost a family drama, too, with the characters both Ory and Max cross in their journeys interesting and vivid.

This is a thought-provoking novel, and while it won’t be for every reader, it’s haunting quality describes our humanity, with its mix of magical realism, in a post-apocalyptic world. It will certainly leave you thinking about questions you’ve never had to consider before.

Ashley Dyer: Splinter in the Blood Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

Ashley Dyer is the pen name of the UK writing team of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper. Their debut, Splinter in the Blood, introduces DS Ruth Lake and her boss, Greg Carver.

In an explosive opening, Ruth stands over Greg, shot in his own home, and cleans up the crime scene, wiping fingerprints and hiding evidence.

Then she realizes he’s not dead.

Carver is lucky to be alive, and has only a hazy memory of what happened the night he was shot. Worried about threats to his wife, his frustration is palpable as he tries to heal his mind and his body quickly.

Ruth and Carver decide he was shot because he was close to uncovering the killer’s identity. It falls to Ruth to figure out what’s happened by taking Carver’s private files home and working the case in addition to her normal work. The Thorn Killer case that obsessed Carnver took his attention over the last year and cost him his marriage.

The Thorn Killer uses a most unusual method to tattoo his female victims and keeps them alive for weeks, undergoing horrific torture before the release of death. While Ruth investigates, she knows more than she’s telling, putting her at odds with her superiors. It’s a engrossing game Ruth’s playing, hiding her own secrets, enlisting the aid of a new co-worker.

Dyer manages to balance detailed forensic information with realistic characters. Ruth is especially intriguing, and readers will be looking forward to the next in the series.

This is a fascinating story, highly original and filled with complex twists you won’t see coming until they are upon you. Ann Cleeves calls Splinter: A taut and compelling thriller, as sharp as the thorns that feature in the plot.” Highly recommended.

Pamela J. Castrucci: Down the Staircase Sunday, Apr 8 2018 

Pamela J. Castrucci’s first novel, Down the Staircase, is a work of Magical Realism enriched with elements of crime, suspense and mystery.

Inspired by true events in her own life, Castrucci currently anticipates releasing the next installment of The Staircase Series by the end of 2018. Castrucci, a successful attorney and single mom, shares what moved her to write her novel. *****

When I was young, I was fairly certain that my parents feared that I would run off and join the circus someday. A good student, I was keenly focused on the arts, particularly literature and theater. I indulged my passions by obtaining a degree in literature, but life events occurred, as they so often do, which caused me to choose another path.

My love of the arts, particularly writing, were eclipsed by my need to pursue justice. I obtained my law degree and entered the Navy. My time in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) Corps, while brief, was intense, challenging and fulfilling.

Once I got over the initial shock and dismay when I learned that my cases largely involved domestic violence and crimes against children, I felt a fire ignite within me. I needed to do whatever I could to deliver justice for those victims, especially the youngest, who had no voice.

Like Cara Stone, the protagonist in Down the Staircase, those cases both haunted me and spurred me onward. Even after leaving the service, the lessons I had learned in prosecuting those cases formed a foundation for the rest of my legal career, while thoughts of pursuing my writing becoming more remote with each year.

I have had Cara’s story rattling around in my brain for more than twenty years. Like so many, I promised myself I would one day bring her story to life. Other priorities allowed me to keep her story safely tucked away on a quiet, dusty shelf in my mental filing cabinet, enabling me to procrastinate and avoid being vulnerable.

But then life has a way of getting one’s attention, drawing our deeply held needs to the surface and into the light. And so it was for me this past October, when various coincidences converged. Every year, I ask my young twins, my Raptors, the same series of questions, delighting in how their interests and priorities change and evolve.

I’d had a very challenging day at a job I truly enjoy last October. I chose to ask my children their annual questions as an antidote to that difficult day. Their answers were as fun and as satisfying as ever, but this year, there was a twist. When I had finished by asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they then asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. We discussed my dream of becoming a novelist and with the clear- eyed pragmatism of young children, they could not see any reason why I couldn’t fulfill that dream.

Their wisdom gave me pause. Earlier that day, I’d received an email from a business coach I’d met earlier in my career, promoting a self-publishing school for new authors. These coincidences – the difficult day, the confidence of my children, and the seemingly-random receipt of an email with the promise of tools to make my dream come true – were just what I needed to take Cara’s story “off the shelf.”

I signed up for the course that very night. I hope readers will enjoy Cara’s story and will look forward to the next installment in the series. I also hope that my story will encourage other writers to take the leap and bring their stories into the world.


You can find Down the Staircase on Amazon~

https://www.amazon.com/Down-Staircase-1-Pamela-Castrucci/dp/1986845028/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522700628&sr=8-2&keywords=down+the+staircase

Christi Daugherty: The Echo Killing Monday, Mar 26 2018 

Christi Daughterty’s accomplished debut, The Echo Killing, will have readers looking for a sequel (it’s in the works for next spring), after meeting crime reporter Harper McClain.

The lushness of antebellum Savannah, Georgia, lends its setting to the story of the determined reporter, and Daugterty’s own experience in that job shines through, as does her love for the city which echoes Harper’s own.

Harper enjoys her job, despite her sad family history. At the age of twelve, she walking home from school to find her artist mother’s brutally murdered body. With the unsolved murder never far from Harper’s thoughts,she works evenings on the crime beat, spending time following the police radio to crimes that will bring headlines and please her editor.

Then a new murder takes her to the house of a murder, where she watches the victim’s young daughter being led away from the scene, just as she was years ago. Harper is determined to glimpse the actual murder scene, and soon is sorry she did. It’s eerily familiar to her mother’s murder, from the naked victim,being found in the kitchen to the multiple stab wounds.

Only someone who had seen her mother’s killing could replicate it in so much detail. Does this mean her mother’s killer is on the loose again? The killer is forensically aware, too, leaving no clues for detectives.

The new case becomes an obsession with Harper, despite being warned by the cops she’s close to, her photographer friend, and her editor to leave it alone. This victim turns out to have a very different background from Harper’s mother, and as she investigates her life, Harper soon finds a disturbing tie to several prominent people, including someone on the police force.

Her probing could cost Harper more than just her job–it cost her life as she unravels the complicated case.

This atmospheric, engrossing tale is filled with realistic characters and dialogue, and a romantic subplot only adds to the layers of the book, which aptly illustrates what it means when murder is so personal.

A suspenseful mystery that will have readers lined up for its next installment. Highly recommended.

Christina Lynch: The Italian Party Tuesday, Mar 20 2018 

Accomplished writer and editor, in fiction and journalism, Christina Lynch’s debut novel under her own name is the delightful The Italian Party.

Filled with wry humor that runs alongside the romance of Italy, she tlle the story of newlyweds Scottie and Michael Messina, who arrive in Siena in the spring of 1956.

Scottie has been told Michael is to open a new Ford office selling tractors, but the reality of his job is just one of the secrets he’s keeping.

Scottie has her own secrets, too, and as their married life commences, they come to know each other as their lives become involved in local politics and the complex dance they both do to keep their secrets.

The Cold War comes alive just as Scottie does. The naivete of both of the young marrieds reflects their upbringing and the mores of the time. It’s a powerful read as we to watch them slowly begin to trust each other.

Twist together a spy story, a missing boy, and a romance of unexpected sorts, and you have a pastiche that rings true. The delicious food, the rugged landscape, and the historic buildings and squares are all lovingly described. Horses figure here, as do Communists, ex-pats, sex, and Italian culture.

A delicious romp that will have you expecting Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday to turn up as you turn the pages, with a startling ending that feels satisfying.

Lexie Elliott: The French Girl Tuesday, Feb 20 2018 

Lexie Elliott’s debut, The French Girl, is a strong entry in the psychological suspense category.

A decade after six Oxford friends spend time in a farmhouse in the French countryside, the week comes back to haunt them in a way that no vacation should.

Kate Channing narrates the story of the week she and her boyfriend, Seb, and four others left London for a carefree summer escape. Tensions between several of the friends escalate by the end of the week, added to by girl living next door, who uses the pool at their house with the owner’s permission.

Severine is mysterious, lithe and beautiful and knows her power over men. When she disappears just as the group is leaving, it’s a horrid ending to a week that’s been ruined by revelations inside the group that broke up Kate and Seb.

Now years later Severine’s body has been found in a well at the farmhouse next door, and the primary suspects are Kate and her band of friends.

As a persistent French detective interrogates the friends, alliances shift and reform, exposing old secrets and complications. Misunderstandings surface; old opportunities are exposed and rued.

When it’s recommended that Kate hire her own lawyer, the tension rapidly escalates and as Kate’s memories of that last evening start to coalesce, she fancies that she sees Severine watching her try to figure out what really happened to the French Girl.

A captivating read that will leave readers asking how well they really know people they call their friends.

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