Matt Brolly: The Crossing Saturday, Feb 15 2020 


Matt Brolly used his law degree and an MFA in Creative Writing to bring readers the DCI Lambert series and several stand-alones. He debuts a new thriller series featuring DI Louise Blackwell in The Crossing.

Working in a new CID department in Weston-super-Mare, getting used to her bungalow in Worle, Louise is still haunted by her last case two years ago in Bristol, as part of the MIT team that saw her and DI Finch on a case that would change her career trajectory.

With Finch promoted to DCI and still sneering over his shoulder at her, Louise has been sent to the seaside town and its environs and finally lands her first murder case as Senior Investigating Officer. A woman’s body has been found on the beach near the pier. Her injuries are horrific, yet it’s apparent from the lack of blood that her body was moved.

Miles away in Cornwall, a cleaning woman in St. Ives arrives at the home of an older gentleman who’s become her friend, only to find him out. As she makes her rounds of the clean rooms, it appears that Mr. Lanegan hasn’t been home for several days at least. With great misgivings, she will report him as a missing person.

While Louise sets up an incident room and gathers her team, the murderer is planning his next kill. With insight into his mind and actions, as the killings continue, it’s the connecting thread that must be unraveled.

Louise Finch has a lot on her plate: dealing with a widowed brother with an alcohol issue and his young daughter; receiving anonymous texts that taunt her on her case; having the Bristol team try to take over her case. And then the killings continue.

The plot is fascinating and creative, constructed so well in that even through the reader is aware of the identity of the killer, Louise and her team’s investigation and the hunt for him as they bring the clues together increase the tension as a man’s life hangs in the balance.

A strong start to a compelling new series. This is one to watch for its sequel.

Gabriel Valjan: Dirty Old Town Monday, Jan 20 2020 

Please welcome Gabriel Valjan, whose new mystery, DIRTY OLD TOWN is just out. We sat down recently to talk about it.

Auntie M: Your new book, Dirty Old Town, is the first in the Shane Cleary Mystery with Level Best Books. What drew you to create Shane and after five books in your Roma Series with Winter Goose Publishing, what drew you to writing this new series?

Gabriel Valjan: The Roma Series novels were written out of my love and appreciation of Italy, having spent time abroad and reading the late Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series. What I continue to admire in Camilleri’s writing is the way he braided food, history, and humor while serving up a slice of crime and corruption to readers. I should also mention that the end notes from his translator Stephen Sartarelli are brilliant.

As a writer I like to challenge myself. With the Shane series, I’m working on my goal to write historical fiction, and the Seventies were a part of my childhood. I didn’t live in Boston at the time, so I think being an outsider is a positive because I can see and appreciate New England from a different angle. The Seventies is a maligned decade for its fashion, music, and even its headless sense of direction after the tumultuous Sixties; it was, for me, an era full of cults and conspiracies—Watergate being the foremost political debacle—and an era that wanted to feel passionate about something, whether it was the environment, feminism, or other forms of social justice.

AM: The title brings a reader immediately to asking questions and investigating the setting, making this reader feel that Boston will function as a strong character. Was the title always Dirty Old Town, or was it an editorial suggestion?

GV: Dirty Old Town was my title. People might think “Dirty Old Town” is a riff on Jim Botticelli’s book Dirty Old Boston (2014), which started out as a Facebook group page, or the Pogue’s track, “Dirty Old Town” from their 1985 album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash, but the truth is I was thinking of how dirty the Charles River and Boston Harbor were in the Seventies.

I remember vividly the campaign ads George Bush, Senior ran against Governor Dukakis in 1988. Bush drilled down on Dukakis’s failure to clean up Boston Harbor, which is ironic, given the Exxon Valdez spill in 1990.

AM: How does the world of this private investigator function? Do you think you’d like being a PI in reality?

GV: Shane becomes a PI, after a failed career with the Boston Police Department. Why he left the BPD is part of a longer story arc. He believes in Right or Wrong, but he also understands Life in Boston is often gray and ambiguous. He’s knows class distinction and prejudices.

His best friend is another Vietnam vet and cop, who happens to be closeted gay. Shane himself came up working-class, aware of the difference between ‘lace curtain Irish’ and ‘shanty Irish.’ He is educated among the Elites, until his father’s suicide changes his life’s direction. His client in this first novel is the husband of his ex, who married up “because she had a name and no money, and he had money and a name.”

I’d like to think I’d make a decent PI. Research has always been a strength for me. Back in the day, I worked in a lab, which taught me procedure. Once upon a time I was in engineering, which taught me structure. I was a nurse, which helped me ‘read people.’

We’ve talked about this last point at Malice Domestic. Nurses rely on Observation and Assessment, which lead to hypotheticals and POE, Process of Elimination. I know this will sound terrible, but nurses are the most ruthless people I know. We don’t have luxuries when it comes to saving lives. We see and we respond. Like a PI or a cop, sometimes a hunch is involved.

We shouldn’t be surprised if past experiences influence writing. We have several journalists among our ranks (RG Belsky, Hilary Davidson, and Hank Phillippi Ryan); lawyers (Shannon Capone and Connie Hambley Johnson); health care professionals (me, you, and Alexia Gordon), and we have folks from law enforcement (Micki Browning, Bruce Coffin, and Lissa Marie Redmond).

AM: To expand on my earlier question of ‘Why the Seventies?’ Were there any pitfalls or dangers of this era?

GV: Like trying not to sound like George V. Higgins, Robert Parker, or Dennis Lehane? Let’s be honest, each decade of American history is a continuum of unresolved social issues, however we label or repackage them. Black Power. Gay Liberation. Women’s Lib.

We’re having the same conversation today, albeit with a different vocabulary. Any cynicism, like cologne, varies with intensity. Power and Money still rely on desire and division, whether it’s your vote or how much is in your wallet. Aware of history, I try to avoid clichés and caricatures in my writing when I take the reader into the Seventies.

People want stories. I try to tell one that’ll make you experience a different reality. I want you to feel the people I create, cringe and shudder with them, and laugh at them or with them. Life is about learning, living, and dying. Learning about yourself or others is on you.

Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End where he enjoys the local restaurants. When he isn’t appeasing Munchkin, his cat, with tuna, he documents the #dogsofsouthendboston on Instagram. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. He has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest. Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. Dirty Old Town is the first in the Shane Cleary series for Level Best Books. You can find him on Twitter (@GValjan) and Instagram (gabrielvaljan). He lurks the hallways at crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. Gabriel is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.

Raymond Fleischmann: How Quickly She Disappears Sunday, Jan 19 2020 

The remote Alaskan bush of the 1940s provides the compelling and remote backdrop to Raymond Fleischmann’s How Quickly She Disappears.

Elisabeth Pfautz has come to Tanacross, Alaska, with her daughter, Margaret, due to her husband’s teaching job. Homeschooling Margaret, a brilliant young girl, Else, as she’s called by her husband, John, puts her own teaching career on hold as the little family adjust to the barren landscape.

It’s a lonely life as Else reacts to the Alaskan culture, beautifully described in many scenes, and based on the Fleischmann’s grandparents stories of living in Tanacross for several years during this time.

Else sees in Margaret the twin sister who disappeared when the girls were eleven. No trace of Jacqueline has ever been found, yet Else believes firmly that she is alive.

When a German pilots lands in Tanacross, an act of horrible murder brings him to prison but with an unexpected result: the pilot, Alfred, contends he knows what happened to Jacqueline, even where she is, and will share this with Else only after she completes three requests for him.

Determined to find out the truth about her sister, Else will brave her marriage and her safety to follow her conviction that the pilot, whatever his own obsessions, does indeed have information about what happened to Else’s twin all those years ago.

Fleischmann parses out the twins’ history so readers follow the events leading up to Jacqueline’s disappearance. His scenes between Else and Alfred are cat-and-mouse at first glance, who is actually toying with whom?

There’s an element of rising tension as the story advances that will keep readers glued to the pages with a very layered tension that builds to a stunning climax. A dark but absorbing debut. Highly recommended.

G R Halliday: From the Shadows Wednesday, Dec 4 2019 

GR Halliday introduces DI Monica Kennedy in From the Shadows, a stunning thriller with an unusual protagonist whose secrets we haven’t unearthed. Tall to the point she struggles with her body image, Kennedy is an original creature readers will care about at once, with her vulnerabilities hidden beneath a calm exterior.

Set in the Highlands, the raw Scottish landscape adds to the sense of darkness and tragedy when the body of a young man is found posed, with unusual mutilation marks. Kennedy knows this may be only the start of a string of tragedies and her instincts prove true.

A single mum relying on her own mother to help with her young daughter, Lucy, Kennedy has the usual struggle between the demands of her job and time spent with her daughter. But in the stark area where they live, this is even more of a liability when she’s stuck driving long distances for interviews, arriving home late and exhausted.

Michael Bach is another tall person, a social worker who’s running out of steam when one of his clients goes missing. While he pursues his search for the missing boy, it soon becomes apparent he may be one of the victims of this serial killer who takes his time to get to know his victims, and has his own ideas about what he’s accomplishing.

Halliday keeps the pressure on and the last third of the book can’t be put down as the plot tightens and horrific things happen. As Kennedy enlists Bach with her investigation, an autistic client of Michael’s may just hold the clue that unravels the case.

From its creative plot to its original characters, Halliday’s start to his series is one that will have readers clamoring for the next in the DI Monica Kennedy series. Highly recommended.

Chad Zunker: An Equal Justice Friday, Nov 1 2019 

Chad Zunker’s An Equal Justice introduces lawyer David Adams in a legal thriller that addresses the homeless population while whipping up a dense plot of corporate greed, power, and violence.

Adams had a tough childhood, including living in the family car for a while with his mother and older sister. Through hard work he’s triumphed to become a Stanford graduate who’s just taken his first job with a prestigious law firm in Austin. His dream is in reach.

Leaving poverty quickly behind, in a matter of days he owns a high-rise condo and a pricey car, as well as a glossy girlfriend to match his new unbelievable salary. He also has the pressure of billable hours, working almost around the clock to prove himself to the partner who’s taken a shine to him.

Then the unexpected suicide of a colleague, coupled with a brush with Austin’s homeless community, leads him to feel a connection to the lost souls who have formed a camp where they support each other.

As some of Adams’ assumptions are proven false, a trail of blackmail leads to murder, and an innocent young man is arrested. Adams knows he must choose between these two disparate worlds while he decides if wealth is more important than justice.

As the danger rises, so does Adams determination, with the pace quickening to a pounding resolution. Adams knows Austin and brings its many sides to life. He also knows how to add plot twists so that just as the reader thinks they know what’s going on, they’re proved wrong. A page-turning read with a protagonist Auntie M will gladly follow on his next adventure.

Zunker writes the Sam Callahan thriller series (The Tracker, Shadow Shepherd, Hunt the Lion) but the inspiration for the David Admams series comes from his own work with Austin’s homeless community. You can check his website to learn more about his volunteer work at Community First! Village, a 51-acre planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and support to the chronically homeless: <a href="http://www.chadzunker.com/bennys-village/&quot;.

Vanessa Lilllie: Little Voices Thursday, Oct 3 2019 

Little Voices starts off with a scene that packs a wallop and glues readers to the pages of Vanessa Lillie’s debut thriller.

Told in the first person by Devon Burges, a former prosecutor out on maternity leave, her emergency delivery and tough recuperation are rocked by the murder of a young nanny who has become her friend.

Despite hearing mocking voices in her head, Devon grabs onto the investigation of the nanny’s death. Her intentions intensify when her college friend, the employer of the nanny, becomes the prime suspect in Belina’s murder.

As the voices increase, so does the tension, with the backstory to those voices a counterpoint to the murder investigation. Drawing on her “outside the box” skills, Devon is soon embroiled in the events that led up to this death.

The ramifications have fingers that reach to the businessmen and politicians of Providence, Rhode Island, as long-held secrets are revealed that affect far too many people in Devon’s circle.

A climax that has a surprise twist will leave readers stunned in this complex story, one that will have readers racing the get to the finish of a suspenseful tale Daniel Ford calls a ” . . . serpentine whodunit.”

Tara Laskowski: One Night Gone Tuesday, Oct 1 2019 

Please welcome award-winning author Tara Laskowski, to talk to readers about switching from short stories her writing her debut thriller. One Night Gone, told in two voices, is garnering stellar reviews. Don’t miss it!

I have always considered myself a short story writer. A very very short story writer, to be specific. I feel most comfortable at about 745 words, two pages max. I’ve been editing a journal of flash fiction for nearly 10 years, where we publish stories that are 1000 words or less, so I’ve been trained to think at that length. I like tiny moments, small epiphanies. I like seeing a story in its entirety.

So, I never really thought I’d be able to write a novel. I tried it several times. My MFA thesis was a doorstop 500+ page novel that spanned over several decades, that I worked on for 6 years. For the longest time, my longer projects never really seemed to work out.

But then after I published two short story collections, I felt like I needed a next step. A new challenge. And so I decided to try writing a novel one more time. Just to see what happened.

I took the plunge, immersed myself in my book, determined not to come up for air until I had a first draft. The alluring Siren calls of flash fiction ideas tried to beckon me away, but I ignored them as best I could. I dealt with the pain of not being able to see my plot in its entirety. If I had an idea for a short story, I wrote the idea down in my notebook and carried on with the novel.
It worked, for the most part. I was able to complete the draft of my book, One Night Gone, in a little over a year. I had done it. I’d written a novel, bird by bird, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Somewhere along the way, I’d gotten into a rhythm with it. Dare I say it—I even liked it?

Then, once the editing was over and my book was on its way, I turned to all those notebook ideas. I thought—yay! Now I can go back to my short story babies and make them happen.

Except for one problem. I’d trained myself so well on writing a novel that I had forgotten how to write a short story.

That summer was painful. All these ideas! And none of them were working. I couldn’t write a succinct story to save my sanity. It all felt dull and tired.

There are writers who say they can switch back and forth between forms—writing poetry alongside their novels, flash fiction while working on a nonfiction book. I’ve realized I am not one of them. I have so little time to write in my packed, hectic schedule that I need to focus or I’ll be lost forever, shipwrecked on the beach endlessly searching for the seashell pieces of my fiction. Therefore, I realized that since it takes me a while to get in my groove, once I get in it, it’s very hard to pull out of it into another one.

That summer, I did end up getting a few decent short stories completed. But there is still an embarrassing amount of stories started and never finished, ones I may never be able to work out. Or maybe I will. Maybe, like wine, they just need to sit and age for a bit.

They have plenty of opportunity to do so, as I’m about to start writing my second book soon. And when I do take that deep breath and plunge under the surface, I probably won’t be emerging for a while!

Wish me luck! And while I’m out at sea, be sure to keep those Sirens entertained!

Tara Laskowski


TARA LASKOWSKI is the award-winning author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which was named a Best Book of 2017 by The Guardian. Her debut novel One Night Gone was published in October 2019 by Graydon House Books. She is the editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly, an Agatha Award winner, and a member of Sisters in Crime. A graduate of Susquehanna University and George Mason University, Tara grew up in Pennsylvania and lives in Virginia.

LA Naylor: The Land of Trees Monday, Sep 30 2019 

Please welcome guest L A Naylor to talk about her debut novel, The Land of Trees:

ABOUT THE BOOK
The Land of Trees is my debut novel and the result of 20 years of rumination and rewriting.

Adoptee Lia has followed her Spanish teacher, Rafael, to Guatemala, for romance and adventure. She doesn’t know much about the country but she’s happy because she’s finally living life on her own terms. On their first night together, Lia decides to declare her feelings, but before she gets the chance, the unimaginable happens and Rafael is brutally killed.

Devastated, Lia travels to Rafael’s family home in the countryside, where she becomes determined to find out why. But not everyone is keen on her investigation. Lia has to decide what is more important: living without answers or taking the deadly consequences that come with the truth.

I’ve carried this story around in my mind, in various versions, ever since I went to Guatemala in 1996. I was young, but it was a hugely important time because it was the year a rebel group would sign a peace treaty with the government, formally ending over three decades of civil war.

At the centre of the story is the tragic death of Rafael, so to a certain extent the theme of loss defines itself and how we come to terms with death. The story is told through the point of view of three characters: feisty, morally principled Lia, who needs to find paid work; Richard, the affluent but ultimate non-traveller; and Macy, who is hiding serious mental health issues. Although it’s ultimately Lia’s story, I think my favourite character is Macy because she’s so strong and brave.

My motivation to write often stems from a sense of injustice. Today in Guatemala, rates of crime remain very high with an average of 101 murders reported per week in 2018, and 97% of homicides remaining unsolved. I wanted to write a book that would buck that trend, because rightly or wrongly, I’m still an optimist!

The book has been described as a gritty, intelligent and evocative coming of age thriller. You can buy the print and Ebook here from 28th September 2019 onwards: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Land-Trees-L-Naylor/dp/0954743717

You can also connect with me here: https://lanaylor.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L.A. Naylor has been the CEO of a charity, a wreck diver and English teacher. She was awarded a grant from the Campaign for Learning to write a non-fiction book on miscarriages of justice in the UK. She interviewed people convicted of murder and learned a great deal about crime, the law and how elusive justice can be. That book, Judge for Yourself: How Many are Innocent was a best seller and was praised by The Guardian, Michael Mansfield QC and many more.

Bella Ellis: The Vanished Bride Sunday, Sep 22 2019 

Bella Ellis brings a new series set in the Yorkshire moors, and starring none other than the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, in The Vanished Bride.

Becoming ‘detectors’ after their governess friend at a neighboring house two miles away asks for their help, they are tracking the disappearance of the second wife and young mother who’s missing from her home.

In her bedroom, there’s enough blood to leave little hope that the young woman survived, yet the two sisters try to help their friend, Mattie French, find out the circumstances of her disappearance.

It doesn’t help that her husband’s first wife committed suicide under shady circumstances, not that Elizabeth Chester has left behind not just her young stepson but her own infant boy, Archie.

With the sometimes help of their brother, Branwell, the sisters set out on various journeys to gather evidence and to follow clues left by Elizabeth. One of their first discoveries is that Robert Chester, the missing bride’s husband, is subject to cruel rages and horrible beatings of his wives, and becomes the likely suspect in Elizabeth’s disappearance.

The three women, as different in nature and personality as they are in appearance, must at times flaunt the conventions of the time as they travel to unmask the truth behind the evil at Chester Grange.

A grand start to a new series under a very Bronte-esque name by children’s author and novelist Rowan Coleman,

AB Jewell: The Man Who Wouldn’t Die Wednesday, Aug 21 2019 

Welcome to the not-too-distant future of Silicon Valley, in AB Jewell’s satirical mystery, The Man Who Wouldn’t Die.

Picture Silicon Noir, a world of SnipChat, Starbacks, and the Video Game Olympic Training Center. It’s a place where being fast is a virtue and greed is the name of the game.

William Fitzgerald, former ATF agent, prefers Fitch, and his PI agency takes on the usual cases. Until the day a wealthy woman asks him to take on his most unusual case yet: she claims her father, Captain Don Donogue, sent her a tweep saying he was murdered. But he’s already been dead for two weeks…

There’s a black box involved, a host of nasty characters, and someone keeps trying to kill Fitch, who appears to be the only sane person in the Valley. And what of this woman who claims her father is communicating from the beyond? Does she have any brain cells besides money?

There will be car chases, kidnapping, murders, and all kinds of the usual things you’d find in Raymond Chandler, but set in a future where couples get on waiting lists for kindergarten as soon as they freeze their eggs.

Filled with wry humor, this clever plot spins the hardboiled detective mystery into high tech with a huge aside on tech dependency. Creative and original.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

An online writing community

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

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

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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