Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Legacy Thursday, Feb 15 2018 

The Queen of Icelandic Noir debuts a thrilling new series with The Legacy, introducing detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja.

The two share an uncomfortable event before being assigned to a case that’s fraught with misery: A woman is horrifically murdered in her own home, and the only witness is her seven-year-old daughter, who hid under her mother’s bed during the killing.

Using Freyja’s talents with the child, Huldar must test his new promotion to its limits as he tries to make sense of the unusual murder method.

Pushing young Margaret has produced little effect, but once it’s known she was a witness, her life becomes in danger and Freyja ends up taking her into her home for safety when the killings continue.

But is that really a safe environment? And how can Hildar figure out why the seemingly unrelated victims are related to the killer, who seems aware of forensic concerns?

A complicated thread of evidence with short-wave radios and a series of numbers that impact the investigation provide an unusual subplot that adds to the horrid murder methods the killer uses.

It will take all of Huldar’s smarts and savviness to figure out what Margaret has obliquely told him. Named Best Crime Novel of the Year in Iceland, this is one Auntie M dares you to figure out until the end. Highly recommended.


Ausma Zehanat Khan: A Dangerous Crossing Wednesday, Feb 14 2018 

A Valentine’s Day treat for readers~

Ausma Khan’s newest installment in her Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty series takes the two detectives to Greece and other environs in A Dangerous Crossing.

Turning a bold spotlight on the plight of Syrian refugees and the Greek camps where they await permanent homes, Esa and Rachel are tasked by none other than their own Prime Minister to find a missing person in Greece.

That person turns out to be Audrey Clare, sister of Esa’s friend Nathan, who has been working in Greece to fast-track refugees to Canadian homes. But the unthinkable has happened: An Interpol worker and a young male refugee are shot with Audrey’s gun inside her tent, and Audrey has disappeared.

The Greek police center their thoughts on Audrey being the culprit, but Rachel and Esa, who know the young woman, understand that not only would Audrey not be able to kill someone, but that her own life may be in danger.

Khan manages to bring home to readers the very sad and seriously depraved situation Syrian’s face. The torture, beatings, murders and chemical warfare against his own population that Assad has committed have provoked a humanitarian crises for those who manage to escape that has impacted many nations.

What Khan manages to do is to personalize this affront to humans by narrowing the focus to several people Esa and Rachel become involved with, all the while educating readers to what is happening in Syria. This allows readers to get close to the situation and become invested in it while elucidating the harsh realities of the situation beyond what we glean from news reports.

Khan manages to convey the lost history and civilization of a people, not just their cultural icons, but their humanity, as well as their respect and their faith in each other as families are torn apart. This hallmark depth of research is balanced by the unfolding relationships of Esa and Rachel as each find themselves deciding who to allow into their lives as they gain mutual respect for each other.

It’s a delicate balance, and one that Khan handles well as the thrilling story escalates and Esa and Rachel must decide whom they can trust in their race to find Audrey Clare. Highly recommended.

Emily Winslow: Look for Her Tuesday, Feb 13 2018 

Names are important in Emily Winslow’s newest, Look for Her. The author’s Cambridge mysteries are so much more than standard police procedurals, plumbing the depths of a complex psychological thriller.

With each chapter in first person point of view, suspects and detectives alike spring off the page as we enter their thoughts and see how they act and react. Detective Chloe Frohmann in particular has a wry humor that freshens up her scenes and keep readers hooked in seeing how she and her old boss, Morris, now on Cold Case reviews, will handle things when he asks her to for help on his first case, even though she’s technically still on maternity leave and trying to decide what to name her newborn daughter.

The small town of Lilling had never gotten over the disappearance and presumed death of a young teen in 1976, and when a decomposed body wearing her clothes is found in 1992, wearing the missing girl’s clothing, as least her end result is known. Or is it? New DNA evidence complicates more than it solves.

What’s still unknown is who took Annalise Wood and killed her. It’s a name that becomes important as the celebrity of the missing girl lingers. For one young woman, Annalise becomes the object of her jealous obsession, leading to catastrophic events as secrets long buried rise to the surface, just like the body found by a dog walker after the roots of a tree gave up their secret bounty.

An accomplished addition to the series, Winslow’s ability to shade people and show their many sides adds texture and believeability to the story, even as both obfuscate the complicated truth.

Cambridge and its environs are also meticulously woven into the fabric of the story, so that even if a reader hasn’t visited that storied city, they will come away feeling the presence of the ancient colleges residing alongside more modern buildings as yet another character, almost essential to the story.

A compelling and intricate plot makes this an evocative read. Highly recommended.

Alex Gray: The DCI Lorimer Series Sunday, Feb 11 2018 

Award-winning Scottish author Alex Gray’s DCI Lorimer series is one Auntie M has read in its early novels. The co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, the series secondarily highlights the friendship and entwined lives between Lorimer and Dr. Soloman Brightman, psychologist and profiler, and their wives. Lorimer’s Maggie is an English teacher; Rosie Solomon is the medical examiner who catches many of his cases. These four repeating characters appear in each novel and bring their own undercurrent to the crime stories in a very human way. With strong characterizations and plot lines that twist and turn, this is a highly recommended series with varied cases to keep you interested.

Here are reviews of three in this rewarding series, with more to come in the US this spring:

Sleep Like the Dead

Sleep Like the Dead opens with Lorimer and his new DC Fahey investigating the death of Kenneth Scott, a man who doesn’t seem to have enemies or a reason to be murdered.

Missing from questioning is his ex-wife, Marianne, and her brother, petty criminal Billy Brogan. Readers learn their whereabouts but they elude Lorimer at first.

There’s an angry hit man waiting for his pay check set loose on the streets of Glasgow. It doesn’t help that Lorimer’s profiler, Brightman, has been cut loose due to budget cuts on this case.

A personal subplot revolving around Maggie and her friend Rosie’s pregnancy adds a touching note to the story as it advances.

The seedier side of Glasgow is on diplay in A Pound of Flesh, with Lorimer temporariiy in charge of a new unit, out of his familiar setting, and charged with investigating a string of deaths of prostitutes. Men are being killed, too, with a certain Mercedes being involved.

Then a prominent deputy first minister is among the murdered men, and Lorimer is told to concentrate on finding his killer instead of finding the murderer of the women.

Being the man of compassion and instinct that he is, Lorimer continues with both investigations until he finds where they overlap and how the two threads are connected.

Interesting chapters from one of the killers point of view illuminate the reasons for the men’s murders. Different and interesting.

Five students rent rooms together in a flat owned by the father of one of them, The Swedish Girl. Eva Magnusson is the lovely young student whose father has carefully chosen the mix of young men and women who will room with his daughter.

Then Eva is found murdered, and the detective on the case, Jo Grant, arrests one of the male students for the killing. But flatmate Kirsty Wilson comes to Colin’s defense. The daughter of a colleague of Lorimer’s, she enlists his aid to prove her friend is not the murderer.

When a series of women who all look like Eva are found dead, Lorimer starts to agree with Kirsty that Jo Grant has arrested the wrong man.

Lorimer will travel to Stockholm to interview the dead girl’s father, and learn Eva’s background. There are plenty of twists and turns, with people keeping secrets, even the Swedish girl.

Look for the next in this series to be reviewed this spring. If you haven’t discovered Alex Gray yet, you’re in for a treat.

Tracee de Hahn: A Well-Timed Murder Tuesday, Feb 6 2018 

Tracee de Hahn returns with the second installment of her Luthi Mysteries with A Well-Timed Murder, a wonderful sequel to her debut Swiss Vendetta, featuring Swiss-American mother of three, detective Anges Luthi.

With the title and cover art, it’s no surprise to learn the story revolves around watchmakers and Baselworld, the huge watch and jewelry convention held in Basel each year.

The Lausanne, Switzerland detective is techinically still on leave after a bad leg injury suffered in the debut novel, but she comes to Baselworld to witness the capture of a man she’s hunted for years when still with Financial Crimes, known as The Roach.

With a less-than satisfactory ending to that capture, she’s taken away from the scene by an urgent call from Julian Vallatton, from the supremely wealthy family she met in Swiss Vendetta, and who has stirred her broken heart after her husband’s suicide earlier in the year.

Julien asks to meet Agnes inside Baselworld, and introduces her to a family friend, Christine Chavanon, whose watchmaker father died tragically just days before. Allergic to peanuts, Guy Chavanon went into anaphylactic shock at his son’s nearby boarding school during a reception.

Guy’s death has been deemed a tragic accident, until Christine produces a note she’s found from her father after his death, convincing her he was murdered. Guy was known for his flights of fancy, but had been especially erratic lately and working on an idea he deemed would turn the watchmaking industry on its head and save the family business.

Agnes swings into action, her investigation bringing her to the Institute where Guy died, and with which Julian’s family is entwined, to interview the boys and others present at Charvanon’s school.

But everything is not what it should be at the tony boarding school. Several students have peanut allergies. Could one of them been the original target? One student especially seems targeted for accidents.

Other unusual occurrences keep drawing Agnes back to the school, as she balances her investigation between the world of watchmaking and the wild fantasies of the talented mind of Guy Chavanon.

Agnes has no idea which area of her investigation will reveal a murderer. The complex plot builds to a resounding climax, but not before another death occurs.

The Swiss setting is gorgeously described, as is the Baselworld trade show, events and places most people would never get to visit. Agnes working through her grief, her relationship with her unapproving mother-in-law, and Mrs. Luthi’s reaction to Agnes’s friendship with Julien Vallottan are all added pleasures in this solid sequel to the first book. A Well-Timed Murder and Agnes Luthi will entrance you and keep you flipping pages. Highly recommended.

Douglas Light: Where Night Stops Sunday, Feb 4 2018 

Douglas Light’s references to noir stories will have fans of that genre enjoying this literate thriller from the outset in Where Night Stops.

With strong, observant diaglogue that often shows a dry wit, Light’s unnamed protagonist is living in a homeless shelter when he’s befriended by a man who gives him an assignment that allows him to survive financially.

The naive narrator sinks deeper and deeper into a money-laundering scheme, looking over his shoulder, as his own complicated backstory spools out. He’s clearly out of his depths as he makes poor choices and convinces himself he’s really doing just fine, even as he feels he’s on the run from his shadowy employer.

The literary tone sets this one apart from a standard thriller and will provide readers with a gripping and interesting read.

New in Paperback: Jonasson, Sigurdardottir, Berry Wednesday, Jan 31 2018 

Three great books are now out in paperback if you missed their original release dates.

Jagnar Jonasson’s Snowblind is the first Ari Thor Arason thriller. Ari abandoned his theology studies to become a police officer at the height of Iceland’s severe financial crisis in 2008. Sent to a remote fishing center in the north, a local prominent writer dies, sending Ari his first big case. Another death soon follows, and what Ari thought would be a quiet start to his career soon becomes anything but. Nice twists keep readers glued to the page.

A chilling standalone thriller from the talented Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Undesired has a supernatural bent that will keep you awake long after you’ve put the book down. In the 1970s, a young woman takes a job she hates, working at a juvenile detention center in a rural area of Iceland. Two boys go missing under unusual circumstances. Many years later, Odinn is the person tasked with looking into alleged abuse at the same center. He comes to believe those events of years ago might be connected to the accident that killed his ex-wife and left him a single parent. Complex and chilling.

Steve Berry’s The Lost Order continues his Cotton Malone series with its hallmark research that weaves a fantastical story into real events in history. In this outing, Malone’s own great-great-grandfather, a Confederate spy, is part of a secret society that Malone discovers still operates in the present day. Their secrets and hidden wealth are tied to a plot that could change our government forever. Power and greed are at the forefront in this winning addition to the series that has Malone and his allies racing around the country to save it.

Phyllis M. Newman: The Vanished Bride of Northfield House Monday, Jan 29 2018 

Please welcome Phyllis A Newman to describe the impetus behind her new gothic novel, The Vanished Bride of Northfield Hall:

There’s nothing like a good haunting!

Case in point, several years ago I re-read my favorite gothic novel from my youth (I will refrain from revealing the title.) As a teenager, I was entranced with the mystery, the romance, and the shocking climax. What a delicious read.

When someone commenting on a blog mentioned that it was her favorite book as well, I decided to read it again. I went on Amazon and found a copy available at a Catholic church library in California for $1.67. What a deal! It cost more to mail it across the country. I waited with great anticipation until it arrived.

That night, I propped myself up in bed with a cup of cocoa, a scented candle, and began reading. What a disappointment. It was over-written, pedestrian, and totally boring. (I guess my tastes had changed.)

Then I went on a great hunt for an honest to goodness creepy ghost story that recreated the suspense and wonder that the book from my youth had elicited. When I was unable to locate one that really grabbed me (so to speak), I decided to write one. (I didn’t just ‘lick this off the ground’, as the English say. I had written 3 books by that time.)

Enter The Vanished Bride of Northfield House. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and a ghost to make it lively.

The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of otherworldly spookiness and gothic horror. I poured every ounce of imagination into realizing characters that are haunted, either by disappointment, the unresolved past, unmet desire, or guilt. I am pleased to have written a thriller that unfolds bit by bit, death by death.

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a career at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. Phyllis published a noir mystery, Kat’s Eye, in 2015. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghostwatchers all.

You can find her at http://www.readphyllismnewman.com, or https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/

Stephen Leather: The Shout Thursday, Jan 25 2018 

Thriller writer Stephen Leather surprises readers by leaving his multiple series behind and writing a stand-alone that enters the world of London’s Fire Brigade in The Shout.

Filled with realistic details and insider knowledge that makes that dangerous profession spring to life, Leather introduces Vicky Lewis, a strong member of the brigade and already a crew manager, despite not having reached her thirtieth birthday.

Then tragedy strikes during a fire as Vicky is saving a man’s life. She receives catastrophic injuries that change her appearance and her life, and threaten her livelihood.

After months of painful recovery and therapy, Vicky returns to work at the Fire Investigation Unit, under the veteran firefighter known as The Grouch, Des Farmer.

Forced to work together, the two form an uneasy alliance until Vicky learns of Farmer’s investigation into a series of fire-related deaths of young women and decides to help him find their murderer.

Chapters from the killer’s point of view show his meticulous care in setting up the scenes, adding to the ghoulish tension. Soon Vicky and Farmer find themselves racing against a killer who knows how to set a scene so he can’t be found–and then it gets personal.

Tense and with Leather’s tradmemark storytelling.

Ursula Archer and Arno Strobel: Strangers Sunday, Jan 21 2018 

Auntie M enjoyed Ursula Archer’s Five with it’s solid plotting and great characters. So she was anxious to read her new book, written with Arno Strobel, and Strangers is their dual result.

The book hooks readers from the outset, when Australian Joanna, looking forward to an evening alone e, finds a strange man in the house she’s renting in Germany as she works on her photography. After a heart-pounding few moments–and after ascertaining he’s not a rapist–he claims to be her fiance.

Erik can’t understand why Joanna not only doesn’t recognize him or remember their last months together, what’s happened to all of his clothes and other belongings while he’s been at work.

For all traces of Erik have been wiped out of the house, reinforcing Joanna’s feeling that the man standing before her is one she’s never met before. Being the daughter of am Australian millionaire, she’s always been wary of people taking advantage of her. What game is Erik playing?

The more this couple try to unravel what’s happened, the more confusing their situation becomes until it becomes obvious that they are in jeopardy and must learn to trust each other to overcome the forces that have put them in this weird and uncomfortable situation.

It’s a wild ride they find themselves on, with people they thought they could trust making them question which one of them is crazy–or perhaps they are both going insane.

A complex plot has increased tension by alternating the points of view of Joanna and Erik. We see each one’s confusion as it mounts that drives the action as the suspense builds. A clever read.

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