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.

Daniel Cole: Hangman Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


After the success of his debut Ragdoll, Daniel Cole returns with Detective Emily Baxter in Hangman.

The acerbic British Baxter travels to New York City as part of an investigation into copycat murders that echo the Ragdoll killings.

The serial killer case left Baxter reeling and this time she doesn’t have the help of missing colleague Wolf Fawkes. She’s trying to move on at work and in her personal life until she’s seconded to assist the FBI and CIA in these new cases.

With “BAIT” carved into the chest of victims, and soon, “PUPPET” in the chest of others, the killings escalate to both shores of the Atlantic, adding a fierce depravity to the killings.

Tense and conflicting personalities within the task force don’t make Baxter’s job any easier, not does her tendency to piss people off.

This is a dark, distrubng read of increasing suspense as Baxter realizes she doesn’t know whom she can trust. And that bottom of it all is a twisted killer who knows no bounds.

Lori Rader-Day: Under a Dark Sky Friday, Aug 10 2018 


Lori Rader-Day’s new psychological thriller, Under a Dark Sky, lives up to the promise of the Mary Higgins Clark and Anthony Award winner’s previous novels.

The care and attention to detail in setting, character emotions and plot make this a compelling read, when young widow Eden Wallace arrives at a Michigan dark sky park on what she thinks will be a solo vacation arranged as a surprise by her dead husband.

She couldn’t be more wrong on several fronts, but she’s battling night terrors, and needs to conquer both her fear of the dark and a future without her husband.

But her private retreat turns out to be a multi-guest lodge, and the six others are all college friends there for a reunion. It’s an odd assortment of varying personalities, some paired off, others not, but Eden is clearly the outsider and plans to return to her Chicago home the next day.

Then one of the friends is murdered in the middle of the night, and being on the premises puts Eden in the unfortunate position of being both a suspect and a witness.

That distance from the group gives her a certain clarity as to their actions–or does it? Cordoned together at a seedy motel, deprived of the little sleep she’s able to get in daylight, Eden suffers under a grueling investigation with only one certainly in sight: one of the others is a killer.

As horrific accidents pile up, secrets are revealed and Eden realizes her own life is in danger. But how can she figure out who has been prepared to commit murder over and over?

Narrated by Eden, we see things from her point of view and her impressions of the group, which are all shaded by her own experience with her dead husband, a vet who suffered from PTSD whos carried secrets of his own that have devastated her.

Rader-Day builds the suspense page by page in a relentless way. The setting has that closed-house feel reminiscent of a Christie mystery with added layers of depth to characters who feel distinct and real.

Auntie M heard Rader-Day talk about the dark night sky part at Malice Domestic this year and knew that choice of setting alone was an inspired choice for the book.

A superb, riveting read. Highly recommended~

Rhys Bowen: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding Wednesday, Aug 8 2018 


Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries are a continued delight, and fans will be especially happy to follow Lady Georgina on her way to her long-planned wedding in Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

The 12th addition contains all the charm of a royal wedding–yes, the King and Queen and those two little princesses will be there. But it seems Georgie’s amateur sleuth days are far from over.

Wedding details need to be honed down and the list keep growing, thanks to the Queen. The year is 1935, and King George V is at the end of his reign while Mrs. Wallis Simpson is annoyingly dating the Prince of Wales.

Assorted relatives are having their own nuptials, and the groom, charming fiance` Darcy O’Mara, is cagey on his profession, as usual. But Georgie’s househunting is what’s disappointing her.

From the lackluster houses available in the 1930s, Georgie is surpised by an invitation to live at Eynsleigh Manor, which she will one day inherit. But when she arrives to get the estate in order, she finds the run-down house matched by the shoddy attitudes of the staff.

Chaos ensures, along with murder, robbery, servants not doing their job–and Georgie’s mother and grandfather deciding to move in. Which is worse for the secondary royal who’s down at the heels? And those funerals will affect Georgie and those closest to her.

But despite the trials and tribulations, Georgie manages to pull off the wedding of the year. You’ll be charmed by the history and the descriptions of the manor, as well as the confidence Georgie finds.

A grand addition to the long-running series, sure to be a reader favorite.

Louise Candlish: Our House Tuesday, Aug 7 2018 


Louise Candlish’s Our House is being called ‘domestic suspense’ and I suppose that fits, but it doesn’t do justice to this compelling story that had Auntie M abandoning the dinner cooking because she opened the first page and started to read when it arrived in the post.

This story sucks readers in and makes them turn pages to find out how it could possibly all end.

Fiona Lawson and her husband Bram are separated after she catches him with another woman in their son’s playhouse at the bottom of the garden of the house she loves. While she is bitterly disappointed in this repeat offense, Bram is an excellent father.

Worried about her two young boys, she decides to try a parenting arrangement becoming popular in the US: bird’s nest custody, where the children stay in their home and the parents come and go. They agree to try this arrangement out for several months, with Bram arriving every Friday afternoon and staying until Sunday.

It’s an interesting way to deal with keeping young children secure and seems to be working well. Fi has even started to date a bit, an attractive man, as the months roll by.

Until the day she arrives home earlier than expected after a few days with her new beau to find a moving van pulled up outside her house and a new couple in the process of moving in.

It’s the stuff of nightmares. Surely there is a huge mistake! And where are all of her belongings and furniture? Yet the new couple claim they closed on the house that very morning and Bram was involved. But when Fi tries to reach him, she can’t find him or her sons.

Through alternating bits of the story, Bram and Fi tell their stories of what led to this betrayal. But that’s not all that happens. In cruel twists, the worst is yet to come.

This is a dark and gripping read, one that will have readers up until long after the lights should be out to find out the ending, which packs a punch that kept Auntie M thinking about it for days.
Highly recommended.

Mandy Morton: Magical Mystery Paws Sunday, Aug 5 2018 


Drawing on her own singer-songwriter folk rock days from the 70s, Mandy Morton brings an authentic feel to her 6th No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series with Magical Mystery Paws.

This time her pair of sleuths are between cases when Hettie Bagshot, whose own folk rock career bears more than a passing resemblence to Morton’s, and her sidekick, Tilly Jenkins, enlist their friend Bruiser when they become convinced to travel the “Summer of Fluff” tour bus to aid the comeback of blind punk rock cat, Patty Sniff, on her new tour.

Crammed together on Psycho Derek’s bus along with Patty are her backups, the Cheese Triangles, Kitty O’Shea’s Irish dance troupe with their wheelchair-bound Russian choreographer, and very bad magician Derek and assistant Belisha Beacon.

It’s a real hodgepodge of chararacters who take off in the psychedelic bus, if the wheezing crate makes it to the first stop.
When the drummer is found dead after the first performance, Hettie and Tilley must solve the murder as well as assist on the tour.

And what a tour it is, from mini-skirts and guitars, lighting and sound, to the sweet smell of memories for Hettie, as well as from something most of the cats are smoking. The puns galore add a light touch, from the mysteries of Agatha Crispy Tilly loves to the Tabby Road Recording Studios. There’s M. Balm, the town’s undertaker, and a jab to Morton’s partner, Nicolette Upstart, the famous writer. Auntie M may have to ask Morton about that sobriquet!

But don’t let the puns and mild humor distract you from what is a really well done mystery. If you look beyond the anthropomorphic business, all of the vagaries of humans are there, as well as telling details about human nature and emotions like jealousy and greed.

Morton’s extensive knowledge of cats lets her incorporates their mannerisms, likes and dislikes into these crime-solving realistic cat detectives. Readers will be entranced with this humanless world of cats Morton has designed.

Jolly good fun wrapped up in a darn good mystery.

Stephen Booth: Dead in the Dark Wednesday, Aug 1 2018 


A new Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mystery is always a read to look forward to, and Auntie M was happy to finally get her hands on Dead in the Dark, the 17th in a series that has lost none of its attraction and only grown over the years.

Ben is a DI now and reviews an old case that was never solved. A decade ago police believed that Reece Bower had killed his wife, Annette, but the case was never brought to court after the woman’s own father thought he saw her alive several weeks after she disappeared.

Now Reece himself has disappeared, and this time the old and new case are being investigated together. Reece’s new wife is pushing for answers for her and their two sons.

Ben would like the aid of the Major Crimes Unit and his old compatriot, DS Diane Fry, but can’t until he can produce a body.

A body is exactly what Diane Fry has on her hands, in a town that has a large Polish population who concern the locals to varying degrees. When a man is found dead at home, stabbed to death, it appears he was knifed in the alley outside his rented flat.

The victim’s landlord is someone being watched for right-wing extremist activites, and just might be involved in something more dangerous.

Add in arson cases, and family issues for both Ben and Diane, and you have a nicely plotted set of cases to keep both detectives busy.

Once again, the landscape will prove itself to be more than just a setting in this very satisfying addition to a prime 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.

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