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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AM: Why the Fitzwilliam and Cambridge?

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

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

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

AM: Where does the series head next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aline Templeton: Human Face Thursday, Sep 20 2018 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rea Frey: Not Her Daughter Wednesday, Sep 19 2018 


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

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

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

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

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

Ellison Cooper: Caged Sunday, Sep 9 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

A strong debut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the surface, not an area associated with crime.

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

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

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

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

What crime writer could ignore the possibilities?

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

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

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

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.

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