Tony Parsons: Girl on Fire Friday, Jun 22 2018 

Auntie M doesn’t understand why she doesn’t see Tony Parsons’ name on more short lists for UK crime fiction awards. His series featurning DC Max Wolfe and his daughter, Scout, is one of her personal favorites, and mixes a darn good police procedural with a huge dose of humbling humanity in his little daughter and the family dog, Stan.

Parsons returns with Girl on Fire, the latest crime novel that touches on a timely situation in England. The opener is strong: Max is in a West End London shopping centre getting Scout a new backpack when an Air Ambulance is shot out of the sky and falls into the shopping centre, killing over forty, injuring scores of others.

Seeing the first-hand devastation in close quarters brings the situation home to Max. When ties to a particular family are shown and missing grenades for further devastation sought, a manuveur goes terribly wrong when the lead of the Specialist Firearms Unit is gunned down right in front of her team as they attempt to apprehend the Khan brothers.

That sets off a chain reaction that will have repercussions for the entire team, Max included. How this is interwoven with the Khan family members judged to be innocent forms the most devastasting part of the book. It’s a close look at a complicated situation, touching on assimilation of immigrants and innocent family members tainted by others who might be terrorists.

Max has had a complicated emotional life, especially when his wife, Anne, left him and Scout behnd for a man she’s now married and their new son. Max has been the best father he can be to Scout, but somehow Anne decides it’s time Scout lived with her. Then an ugly court hearing is in the offing, with judges and social workers who don’t know Scout planning to interview her and take away even more of her innocence. But the silver lining is the new depth of his relationship with fellow cop Edie Wren.

How it all turns out will surprise readers, who will be carried away on a wave of emotion with the end results on all fronts. A stunning entry in a wonderful series. If you’re ot a Max Wolfe fan yet, start now. Highly recommended.


Arnaldur Indridason: The Shadow Killer Tuesday, Jun 19 2018 

The second book in Indridason’s new series, The Shadow Killer, builds on the tone set in The Shadow District.

It’s 1941 and Iceland is occupied by British forces, with American GIs arriving, too. When a man is found murdered in a basement apartment in Reykjavik, shot in the head with an American pistol, it’s up to the thinned out resources of officer Flovent, assisted by serviceman Thorson, to investigate. The Canadian/Icelandic officer knows the language, which becomes a boon to Flovent.

The two officers complement each other, and the suspense builds through the tone of their investigation, which illustrates how sometimes tedious investigative work can be, as they split their interveiwing duties, following threads they find.

The dead man is first identified incorrectly, adding to the confusion, but soon turns out to have been a traveling salesman whose girlfriend left him recently.

Whether this has bearing on the case is unknown, but what is known is equally disturbing: shot in the head, the man’s killer then drew a swastika on the victim’s forehead.

One avenue the men follow concerns another salesman, whose family had Nazi ties at one time, and questions of wild experiments done on youths add to the secrets being kept. And just what does a possible visit from Winston Churchill have to do with it all, if anything?

The two men will face a wall of suspicion and untruthful answers from many of the people they investigate. Each man will also face his own concerns amid the wild days when the world is turned upside down, strangers walk amongst the small towns, and nothing is as it seems during the days of occupation.

A realistic look at what it must have been like during those days with period details creates a haunting, dark mood.

Two Historicals: Marco Vichi and Tessa Arlen Friday, Jun 15 2018 

Auntie M has two from very different eras to recommend:

The lastest Bordelli mystery from Marco Vichi, Ghosts of the Past, take readers back to Florence of 1967, a year after the flood that devastated the area and claimed Bordelli’s conscience.

The Inspector’s new case revolves around the murder of Antonio Migliorini. The wealthy businessman was loved by all who knew him–so who could have wanted him dead?

That’s the question Brodelli must answer, and it will take him to unusual places. The victim was killed with the thrust of a fencing foil to his heart. Some jewelry was stolen,, perhsaps to muddy the waters, but no other forensic evidence is on hand to help the detective.

Revisiting the victim’s past days find Bordelli crossing paths with a war friend, Colonel Arceri, whom he invites into his home. That sets off a chain of events that will lead to Bordelli finding the murderer in a most unexpected way.

The series is filled with Bordelli’s dreams, his memories and recollections, and his yearning for the beautiful Eleanora. There is humor, too, and Florence and its environs come alive under Vichi’s talented pen, set within a complex mystery.

Tessa Arlen’s Lady Montfort series takes readers to WW1 England in Death of an Unsung Hero.

Lady Montfort has convinced her husband to offer their dower house for soldiers suffering from what is now called PTSD, with her no-nonsense, practical housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, serving as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Such a good deed comes under scrutiny when Sir Evelyn Bray is found dead in the garden from blunt force trauma to his head. Add in the local farming community’s disapproval of this easy way out for men they consider cowards, and the two women become afraid the War Office will close their hospital in an upcoming visit.

It doesn’t make sense to either woman that someone would want to murder a soldier suffering from amnesia, unless it’s to kill him before that memory fully returns. With his brother due to visit, his death is tough news to break.

When a local man is arrested, to the women’s chagrin, it adds impetus to their resolve to find the real killer. Readers also gain more knowledge of Lady Montfort’s family. With the war on, Edwardian values became more relaxed, especially for women, and this is illustrated well.

The historical details are well-researched, and eccentric characters add to the texture of the mystery. A high note is the relationship between the two women of different social stratas, and how well they work in concert, bringing their individual strengths to a murder investigation.

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.

More Thrillers: David Gibbins and Ben Saunders Sunday, Jun 10 2018 

Two more thrillers that make great summer reading:

The 10th Jack Howard thriller brings the archeologist to a wreck off the Cornish coast in Inquisition.

In the manner of Steve Berry, blending real history with fiction, the Holy Grail is the subject this time. With action spanning 258, 1684, and present day, there’s something here for any reader.

This is a nice mix of action and adventure, with an enjoyable relationship between Howard and his buddy Costas. Both are intelligent and believable, but are up against villains who are smart and resourceful.

This makes the read entertaining and adds to Gibbins ability to be thought-provoking as the story unfurls. The brutality of the Inquisition adds to the backdrop, and there will be pirate ships and secret societies before the adventure is over.

Gibbins experience in underwater archeology shines through and adds an aura of authenticity that makes this shine.

The Stakes, by New Zealand author Ben Sanders, brings readers Miles Keller, the NYPD detective who steals from criminals, a real rip-off artist. The dirty cop is a veteran of the robbery division, currently suspended over shooting a hitman.

At least that has been his MO until he runs up against Nina Stone. The anti-hero crime thriller takes a surprising turn when she convinces Keller to put it all on the line for a big heist before he retires and fades away into the sunset with his bounty.

But there’s another hitman on Keller’s trail and things turn decidedly dicey. With action in LA and New York, there is a strong visual quality to Sanders’ writing. And there’s plenty of action, from page one, almost unrelentless, wiht layers to the story and differing points of view.

A highly charged thriller, well-plotted and complex.

Two Thrillers: Spencer Kope and Steve Berry Thursday, Jun 7 2018 

Auntie M has a pile of read but not reviewed books to catch readers up on. There are great beach reads in here and others that will catch your fancy and keep you up at night that she’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks. Let’s start off with two thrillers:

Steve Berry takes readers back to the days before Cotton Malone had his adventures and working as a Navy lawyer in The Bishop’s Pawn, his 13th Malone story.

It’s the 1990s and secret files about Martin Luther King’s 1968 assasination are the center of attention when Malone is helped out of a bad situation by someone in the Justice Department who calls in her own return favor.

A complicated plot involving a rare coin turns into much more when Malone discovers what he’s really holding are files relating to James Earl Ray, King’s assassin, which lead Malone to realize he was intentionally misled in what his mission was to be.

Factions within the Justice Department, the FBI, and others are at war over the possession of the files. Soon it seems they will stop at nothing to keep long-buried secrets hidden.

This prequel to the others in the series explain more of Malone’s history than readers have experienced before. The action never lets up, with Berry doing his usual grand job of blending history with mystery. Berry’s research is impeccable, and he ends up offering hreaders fact-based fiction that is startling and new.

Kope’s Whispers of the Dead brings Steps Craig and his 3-men elite team to find a killer after they identify the victim, when a pair of severed feet is found stored in a cooler in the house of a Texas Federal judge, soon after solving a gruesome murder in Washington State.

Steps’ synesthesia, something he calls “shine,” allows him to see a unique color in whatever a person has touched. Known only to a few people, he guards his secret but uses it to help solve difficult cases. And this certainly is one.

When more victims are found, the killer earns the sobriquet “The Icebox Killer.” With partner Jimmy Donovan in tow to find the hard evidence needed for a successful prosecution–Steps’ special skill is inadmissiable in court–it soon becomes apparent they are on the trail of a serial killer.

That trail leads them all over the West Coast, and the two have their work cut out for them. One of the things that elevates this series from a standard police investigation is the well-drawn characters and their relationships and interactions, with Steps’ wry humor and a bit of snarkiness adding to the read.

Readers will never be bored reading how this case is solved. Hold onto your hats.

Linda Lovely: Picked Off Tuesday, Jun 5 2018 

Linda Lovely’s Brie Hooker series debuted with Bones to Pick, and Lovely’s back with the sequel, Picked Off, every bit as filled with humor, wrapped in a great mystery.

Vegan Brie Hooker finds herself living with her Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy goat farm in South Carolina. Their barn is hosting a costume fund-raiser for Eva’s friend, Carol Strong, running for Governor. Carol’s hunkey football player son is scheduled to arrive, too, a nice prospect as Brie can’t decide between to equally attractive men, good friends, who both want to date her.

Then an scary incident that night brings injury and makes the barn a crime scene. It sets off a string of events that include a kidnapping, blackmail, and lead to murder.

There’s a serious string of crimes happening, despite the humor Lovely injects to balance the happenings. Brie finds herself using doing her darndest to get to the bottom of things, often putting herself at risk.

Brie’s a gutsy gal, and easy to like, but she’s not a pushover. Smart and strong, Brie somehow manages to to stay on top of the eccentric characters while she gets to the bottom of the nastiness. There are hijinks coupled with real terror and life-threatening action at times.

With the southern setting perfectly drawn, Lovely’s mysteries provide plenty of action with a complex plot. This is the perfect series for summer beach reading.

Sharon Bolton: The Craftsman Saturday, Jun 2 2018 

Sharon Bolton’s novels are always original and well-crafted. Elly Griffith’s notes that her newest, The Craftsman, is ” . . . an absolutely terrific crime novel that takes your darkest fear and makes it real” in this first of a planned trilogy.

It’s 1999 and Florence Lovelady has returned to Lancashire for the burial of Larry Glassbrook, who has died in prison for burying three teens alive, thirty years before. She travels with her teen son, Ben, to Larry’s funeral, and stays on when a new piece of evidence comes to light. The case made Florence’s career, and yet she wonders now if she put the right person behind bars all those years ago.

The book swtiches to 1969, when the third of three teens has gone missing. Trying to fit in to her Lancashire posting, southerner Flossie is a WPC whose manner, posh education, and sex all come into play with her disparaging colleagues.

Three young children have gone missing over as many months. The town is scared, and it’s down to Florence to suggest a re-enactment of the day the third, Patsy Wood, went missing. It’s a novel approach, but one her Superintendent decides to try.

But it’s down to Flossie, who decides she must investigate a freshly-dug grave, after young children admit to hearing someone calling for help from it days before. Uncovering the grave means she’s the one who finds Patsy’s body, buried on top of another corpse. It’s evident at once the teen was alive when she was put into the casket.

The horror of such a death is immediately apparent and haunts the reader. Indeed, it is the stuff of nightmares for most people, and the dark and disturbing images stay with readers as the book advances and the perpetrator is caught.

Or is he?

With its history of Pendle Hill witches in the area adding to the terrifying atmosphere, this is the kind of gothic novel that grips you by the back of your neck and doesn’t let go even after the last page is turned. You’ll learn the difference between caskets and coffins and why that matters. You’ll learn how the moon affects witches. And you’ll learn to be terrifed and then in awe of Florence. Highly recommended.

Laura Andersen: The Darkling Bride Thursday, May 31 2018 

Carragh Ryan could never imagine what awaits her when she agrees to inventory the historic library of the Gallagher family at Deeprath Castle in the Irish countryside.

With her own complicated background but a dgree in English lit and postgrad work in Irish Studies at Trinity, Carragh has been doing freelance editorial work in Dublin.

She’s interested in this temporary job to get closer to the Norman castle where Evan Chase, the Victorian novelist she has studied, lived for three years, before leaving a widower who never wrote again. Could there be a his missing manscript hidden there?

Then she meets the current Viscount of the Gallaghers, Aidan, and her job becomes even more unusual when she becomes caught up in the renewed investigation of the deaths of his parents two decades before.

Deciding to put the castle into a public trust, he agrees Carragh can work on the archive so he can keep family papers private.

That these deaths of the Gallagher parents are similar to those of Chase’s wife and infant adds to the myths Carragh learns about The Darkling Bridde, a legend that the deaths have kept fueled.

At once a gothic mystery, fans of Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart will recognize the conventions–and be sucked in by them. There’s something for everyone here, between the romance, the legend, and the mystery to be solved. There are multiple time lines to follow the stories and it all adds up to a ghostly atmospheric read, filled with suspense.

Elly Griffiths: The Blood Card Sunday, May 27 2018 

Elly Griffiths, known for her Ruth Galloway series, has a wonderful second series, and if readers haven’t yet had the pleasure, now’s the time to read a Stephens and Mephisto Mystery.

The newest is The Blood Card, with DI Edgar Stephens and his old Army buddy, premiere magician Max Mephisto heading up the cast of characters. It’s the summer of 1953 and the country is gearing up for the big Coronation, all over but especially in Max’s London and Edgar’s Brighton, where the DI is supposed to be looking into the suicide of a gypsy fortune teller.

Then murder of their men’s former wartime commander sets the two friends right in the midst of the investigation, after the victim is found with the ace of hearts, known as the Blood Card, on his body. Added to this, there are rumors of a plot to have something dramatic happen to ruin the Coronation.

It’s a case that has both men working different points, with Max in London, and Edgar traveling from Brighton to New York State, of all places, to follow a clue.

The advent of television adds to the stress and to the plot, as well as to Max’s future, when he’s asked to perform for a new show that will bring him into the homes of millions of people.

It’s a race to the finish as the gypsy family overwhelms Edgar’s team and puts them in danger. The two men must solve the murder of two men in different countries to stop the threat to hundreds more.

One of the highlights of this series in the complicated relationship between Edgar and his fiancé, Ruby, who is Max’s daughter. Adding to this are the period details that Griffiths gets just right, as she brings to life this era when television took over from dance hall and variety shows as the public’s major form of entertainment.

Not to be missed~

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