Kate Atkinson: Big Sky Sunday, Oct 20 2019 


Kate Atkinson has been off writing fantastic standalone so readers haven’t seen Jackson Brodie in a decade. She brings him back in Big Sky, and it’s a pleasure to be in his company again, self-deprecation thoughts and all.

Now working as a private investigator after relocating to the east coast of Yorkshire, near Whitby, Jackson is trying to make headway with a summer spent with his teenaged son, Nathan, while the boy’s mother, actress Julia, films her television show nearby.

On the PI front, he’s proving a husband’s infidelity, which seems vastly easy to do. But it’s the sly humor and the imagined voices that Brodie hears that has always set this series apart and Auntie M was happy to see that intact, despite the dark plot revolving around sex trafficking and child abuse.

That plot emerges when Brodie is hired by Crystal Holroyd, a trophy wife who feels she’s being followed. With her own young daughter and a teenaged stepson in tow, Crystal is a unique and engaging character, despite her surgical enhancements. She’s also the victim of a pedophile ring from the past she’s keep running away from.

That cold case is being investigated by a pair of female officers, one of whom saved Brodie’s life in an earlier novel. Their investigations start to cross lines, bringing home Brodie’s adage that “if you get enough coincidences, they add up to a probability.” And there are plenty of coincidences, coupled with characters from previous novels, and a sense that Brodie is having this happen to him while poking at the tenets and conventions of detective novels.

Jackson still has that depressive thread that runs through him due to the absurdity of life in general, he thinks, balanced by his fondness for quoting country music lyrics just when he needs them. There are plenty of pages where the character’s and their mundane lives take center stage, filled with little details that breed familiarity; and bigger scenes where the evil men make is justified in unbelievable ways.

It all adds up to a book that is unconventional yet satisfying, and that’s just the way we like our Brodie’s to be.

Sherry Thomas: The Art of Theft Wednesday, Oct 16 2019 

Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock Series returns with the fourth, The Art of Theft, another in the feminist series that has Sherlock as Charlotte, who solves crimes with Mrs. Watson.

With a complicated family situation and lots of tendrils of involved relationships that Thomas explains, the case comes down to the theft of a painting that has secrets hidden behind the canvas.

Those secret letters are need to be recovered for an old and close friend of Mrs. Watson, and Charlotte agrees to help. Enlisting the aid of her aristocratic team brings them to a gaudy Parisian costume ball during the holiday season at a French chateau where the painting in question is hidden, waiting to be auctioned off.

There will be an elaborate scheme that starts with the architectural drawings of the chateau and advances to include the dreaded Moriarty and his own team. Soon dessert-loving Charlotte is disguised in such an ingenious way even her own mother wouldn’t know her.

A wealth of historical details show the depth of Thomas’s research. She weaves this tale with social mores of the times and shows the difficult position of women yearning to be acknowledged for their brains as well as their beauty.

A strong thread of romance and wit add to prose that reflects the era in this historical re-imagining with Charlotte’s formidable and accomplished brain at the forefront.

Donna Andrews: Owl Be Home for Christmas Tuesday, Oct 15 2019 

Donna Andrews bring Christmas to Caerphilly Inn in Owl Be Home for Christmas.

Just before the holiday, Meg’s grandfather hosts a conference on owls at the inn, bringing together the extended family to help out, and in a rare nod to peace on earth, includes Meg’s grandmother, Cordelia, mostly for her expertise on rehabbing large birds.

Owl Fest even manages to find temporary homes for the visiting ornithologists’ owls at the Caerphilly Zoo. As conference organizer for her grandfather, Meg’s to-do list boggles the mind and her three-ring binder as snow closes them all in and she has to listen to the hoots from the ornithologists, not the owls.

At least Meg has her husband and twin sons in tow to keep her sane, with the rest of her family running around. With the power lines down, Meg has the generator running and enough food to satisfy everyone snowed in——and there are black widow spiders and potential frostbite to contend with. There’s even a Secret Santa and dancing owls.

And then one of the esteemed attendees dies during dinner. With all the suspects closeted at the Inn, and Chief Burke in touch but not able to get there, Meg takes his orders to heart and investigates the death of a not-well liked ornithologist.

Along the way, Andrews’ grand research will teach you about barred and spotted owls, too. Who knew a group of owls is called a parliament? Makes one think …

With her trademark humor backed up by a cozy mystery plot, Owl Be Home for Christmas is just what Santa ordered to put readers in the holiday mood.

Laura McHugh: The Wolf Wants In Saturday, Oct 12 2019 

Laura McHugh’s previous novels (The Weight of Blood, Arrowood) have won or bee nominated for awards, bringing the Midwest to life in each stunning portrayal. In The Wolf Wants In, she uses her strengths of language and pathos to what is essentially a mystery, while at the same time balancing that with effective and complex characters.

Told in two points of view months apart that eventually overlap, the device gains momentum at the weeks converge to a stunning climax.

Sadie Keller is a social worker who can’t let the sudden death of her brother, Shane, fade lightly. Determined that there’s more to investigate, she isn’t able to get the local detective to take her seriously. With her daughter off at her ex-husband’s house during the week for a better school option, she has the time to talk to people and sniff around, using her older sister as a sounding board.

When a child’s skull is found in the woods, that death overshadows any help Sadie might have received. But Sadie makes it her mission to keep looking, all while working full time, taking care of her brother’s ill dog, and caring for her daughter at weekends.

Henley Pettit knows her family are talked about in town. With relatives selling drugs as their side business, an addicted mother in and out of jail or rehab, she’s had to bring herself up in rural Kansas. There are loyalties to some, but more to herself, as she tries to save from her cleaning job for the trip that will take her to the cool mountains of Colorado where she yearns to reinvent herself, away from her history and the influence of others.

There are few good choices but many good people living in rural areas, with the struggle of opioid addiction affecting far too many families, its tendrils snaking into poverty, robbery, murder and more. McHugh shows how this impacts these families in heartbreaking and sad ways of betrayal.

Yet there is an element of hope and light in this story that makes the resolution even more bittersweet. An insightful journey of these two women who will know each other only tangentially, but whose impact on each other will be felt for decades. Highly recommended.

Nicola Upson: Sorry for the Dead Tuesday, Oct 8 2019 

After the tremendous success of the stand-alone Stanley and Elsie, Nicola Upson’s tour de force of the artist Stanley Spencer’s complicated marriage and art from the view of his housekeeper, Elsie Munday, the author gives us the the eighth in her series the Sunday Times calls “historical fiction at its very best” featuring Josephine Tey as its main character in Sorry for the Dead.

Upson takes readers in part to Tey’s younger years, alternating with the time period associated with the majority of the previous novels in the 1930s, with a few brief forays a decade later. It is to Upson’s credit that the details for each period ring true and cement each era without confusing the reader. Indeed, the reader becomes immersed in each time frame, in its details and its mores within history.

These periods are needed to tell the story that starts in 1915, when a young Josephine is present as a teacher at Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs when a young girl dies under suspicious circumstances.

Decades later when Josephine returns to the same house, the memories of those days already brought to the forefront of her mind by recent events, she remembers the two women who ran the farm and taught horticulture to young women during the Great War.

Georgina Hartford-Wroe and Harriet Barker had a difficult time with the neighboring farmers, with whispers about their personal relationship they might have overcome, if not for the tragic death of the girl in their care. That death will turn out to haunt both women for the rest of their lives.

Deftly weaving the storylines between young Josephine’s life and choices then to the path she has chosen as an adult, readers are given privy to her backstory and the events surrounding the death; and later as an adult as she determines she must follow up on the death of that young woman.

In each period, Upson’s language captures the essence of any scene, such as when Josephine as an adult peers into the former site of the girl’s death: “Everything was covered by a silver labyrinth of spiders’ webs, miraculously strong enough to hold the past in place,” presenting a wonderful foreshadowing of the secrets from that long-ago day.

In the earlier time frame, she illustrates the pathos of a WWI train station:

“The platform had filled up quickly, with no one willing to board the train before the last possible moment. She scanned the faces of those who had come to see their loved ones off: wives who talked too much to hide their fear; fathers standing strict and silent; children for whom a uniform hadn’t lost its glamour … As for the men themselves, their faces were set and impassive, and she noticed how few of them dared to look for long at the people they loved.”

This sense of loss, the effects of war, the horrors it brought to those who fought and to those left behind, are indicated in such a subtle but discerning way that it is impossible to forget the aura of the day in the earlier chapters, and in those of 1938, the lead up to the brink of new horrors.

The ending brings with it not so much a sense of justice as that of survival and ultimately, unending love. This is an accomplished novel, as moving as it is complex, with the mystery of a young woman’s death at its heart. Highly recommended.

Nicci French: The Lying Room Sunday, Oct 6 2019 

Auntie M was not the only disappointed reader when the duo of Nicci French decided to end their Frieda Klein series, but they’ve made up for that with a brilliant stand-alone, The Lying Room.

Neve Connolly is the gal everyone admires: a working mom of three who cooks and keeps it all together, and remembers to feed the guinea pig, she’s a great friend, too. So when her small print design company is bought out by a larger one, she decides to drop to 3 1/2 days a week to give herself some breathing room.

That her breathing room for herself means seeing one of the new bosses in an exciting fling has her feeling guilty but exhilarated——until the morning she receives a text to meet her lover at his tiny town flat and finds him dead, brutally attacked with hammer.

Unable to process any other thought but self-preservation, Neve sets out to eradicate any trace of herself and their relationship from the apartment, literally scrubbing herself away, all the while feeling she’s forgotten something.

The detective investigating Saul Stevenson’s murder seems to keep turning up at Neve’s door with questions, while her usually hectic household erupts into even more chaos with visiting friends from uni outstaying their welcome and her best friend’s marriage disintegrating at the same time.

Worried over her oldest child, Mabel, a young woman off to uni with her own ghosts she battles, Neve is consumed with worry and anxiety.

And all the time she exhausts herself to find a way out of the morass, while the detective intent on digging to the bottom of the case keeps turning up with more questions for Neve in a way that soon feels like the two of them are playing a strategic game.

But there’s another person out there watching as all the pieces fall into place, and that’s the real killer. As Neve tries to figure out who the killer must be, several on her list are those she loves, and she can’t begin to imagine how her life can continue if it is one of them.

The complicated plot adds to the very real feel of these characters, finely drawn with problems and issues all families and marriages entertain and their secrets emerge. As Neve’s attempts at misdirection rise, so does the tension, inexorably, toward a stunning climax that isn’t as much of an ending as a new beginning for some.

Eminently readable, this unsettling thriller is justly deemed highly recommended.

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.

Agatha Christie: The Last Seance: Tales of the Supernatural Sunday, Sep 29 2019 

The Last Seance is the newest compilation of twenty stories by Agatha Christie and features a story never before published in the USA.

Subtitled Tales of the Supernatural, that theme runs through the stories. There are some old favorites readers might have read before: “The Blue Geranium,” a Miss Marple story that includes science in its deciphering, and several Poirot’s, including “The Dream,” where Poirot debunks the supernatural.

The story never before seen in the US is “The Wife of Kenite,” a revenge tale that echoes the horrors of war and while it has none of Christie’s familiar characters, it’s at once a tale of war and its travesties as much as it is a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time–or is it exactly the right time?

One of Auntie M’s personal favorites has to be “Philomel Cottage,” where a young wife finds out that the husband she’s married is not whom he seems and sets out to rectify her situation.

Devilishly clever, and just in time for the spooky time of the fall. A great addition to any Christie fans collection, or for those who enjoy sinister tales.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

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.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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