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.

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.

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.

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.

Bella Ellis: The Vanished Bride Sunday, Sep 22 2019 

Bella Ellis brings a new series set in the Yorkshire moors, and starring none other than the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, in The Vanished Bride.

Becoming ‘detectors’ after their governess friend at a neighboring house two miles away asks for their help, they are tracking the disappearance of the second wife and young mother who’s missing from her home.

In her bedroom, there’s enough blood to leave little hope that the young woman survived, yet the two sisters try to help their friend, Mattie French, find out the circumstances of her disappearance.

It doesn’t help that her husband’s first wife committed suicide under shady circumstances, not that Elizabeth Chester has left behind not just her young stepson but her own infant boy, Archie.

With the sometimes help of their brother, Branwell, the sisters set out on various journeys to gather evidence and to follow clues left by Elizabeth. One of their first discoveries is that Robert Chester, the missing bride’s husband, is subject to cruel rages and horrible beatings of his wives, and becomes the likely suspect in Elizabeth’s disappearance.

The three women, as different in nature and personality as they are in appearance, must at times flaunt the conventions of the time as they travel to unmask the truth behind the evil at Chester Grange.

A grand start to a new series under a very Bronte-esque name by children’s author and novelist Rowan Coleman,

James Oswald: Nothing to Hide Friday, Sep 20 2019 

James Oswald returns with his second DC Constance Fairchild novel in Nothing to Hide, as strong and compelling an entry as his first in this new series, No Time to Cry. Fans of Oswald’s Inspector acClean series will recognize Oswald’s touch with creative characters and bringing his settings to life, with an added touch of something ‘other.’

On paid leave after her last case ended with several high-profile arrests within the police system, and including one of Britain’s wealthy power men, Con finds herself at loose ends trying to keep a low profile until a big trial, when she returns from time in the Highlands to her London flat, and comes across a mutilated young man who’s barely alive.

This is the first of a string of such mutilations which leave most of its victims dead, and Con is determined to find out who is responsible for these horrific acts, even as she receives the cold shoulder at work from some colleagues and strict instructions from her higher-ups to leave the investigation alone, especially when the National Crime Agency becomes involved.

Worse still, she’s hounded at home by the tabloid press and often can’t sleep in her own bed when her privileged upbringing comes back to haunt her. Oswald brings readers strong women to surround Con, from her neighbor who makes great coffee, Mrs. Feltham, to her Aunt Felicity; from a PC assigned to her, Karen Eve, who just might be a friend, to the fabulous Madame Rose.

But staying out of trouble and not investigating is not Con’s way, and soon she’s embroiled in a case that will take her to the most unlikely places, including Scotland, and even worse, back to her own home, with her title of Lady Constance.

While the evil is there for all to see, taking down the responsible parties is complicated. Con’s mother is involved; her brother is trying to keep the press away from his wedding; and then a friend in Scotland offers her an unlikely refuge to keep her face out of the papers and helps her go undercover.

Oswald doesn’t shirk from today’s issues plaguing young people, but balances them with Con’s sly humor. The Daily Mail calls this “A cracking story beautifully told,” and Auntie M heartily agrees. Highly recommended.

Elizabeth Duncan: Remembering the Dead Tuesday, Sep 10 2019 

Elizabeth Duncan’s tenth Penny Brannigan mystery, Remembering the Dead, takes readers to north Wales and the lovely rural area where Penny runs a spa with her friend, Victoria the town of Llanelan.

By now everyone in the area is aware of Penny’s propensity for uncovering details that are helpful to police in an investigation, so the amateur sleuth has the ear of the local detective when a tragedy occurs.

Her good friend Emyr is delighted to have custody for a few nights of a special chair given posthumously to the great WWI Welsh poet, Held Wyn, who was awarded the bard’s chair during the 1917 National Eisteddfod. After restoration, the chair is making its way to Wyn’s hometown and his museum with a reception by the Prince of Wales. But this stopover for a few nights means a special dinner party thrown at Emyr’s manor house. The unveiling of the carved chair after the meal is to be the highlight of the evening, but goes at once awry when the black cloth covering it is removed to display one of Emyr’s library chairs.

Penny’s been asked to coordinate the dinner party and is on the premises all evening when tragedy strikes twice. Besides the missing chair, she stumbles in the mist over the rain-soaked body of dying young man outside the scullery, who succumbs to his injuries. He’s the nephew of the spa’s receptionist, which gives Penny even more of a vested interest in uncovering what’s happened.

To unravel the threads, Penny will need to carefully explore a young witness and speak to her friend Jimmy, a former thief now residing at the local nursing home.
This will include bringing Penny on a brief trip to Ireland, with a surprising subplot.

Readers will be fairly certain they know who the culprits are from the outset, but it’s the masterminds behind the events of the evening that need to be outed.
With her books steeped in Welsh history and her lovely descriptions of the countryside, Duncan shows once again that Penny is a force to be reckoned with as she pulls together the disparate pieces that form the whole story.

A charming cozy for a series that continues to delight.

Gilly Macmillan: The Nanny Sunday, Sep 8 2019 

Gilly Macmillan takes the usual ideas related to British mystery and turns them on their unlucky heads in The Nanny.

Alternating between several main points of view while going back and forth between the events of the late 1970s and the current time, we are introduced to Jo, a grieving widow, who has just moved with her young daughter, Ruby, from their California home to Jo’s English home, Lake Hall.

Ruby is immediately smitten with her Granny, Virginia, and wants to learn all things British. Jo is worried about their closeness. She has brought Ruby here only due to the financial hardship she finds herself thrust into, not through any sense of love for her mother.

While the child Jo was fond of her father, she remembers her mother as not being able to stand the sight of her,an absent parent while her parents partied and turned her care over to her nanny, Hannah, This sets up an uncomfortable dynamic as both try to placate Ruby, who is adjusting to a new home and a new school while missing her dead father.

It doesn’t help that Jo never understood why Hannah suddenly disappeared one day when she was seven. Sent to boarding school after that, Jo became distant from the parents she already had a fraught relationship with; her current situation makes her depression deepen and she and Virginia are frequently at odds.

Then human remains are found on the small island in the middle of the lake when Jo takes Ruby kayaking. This leads to suspicions from everyone in their small town, and only increases Jo’s determination to find a job and take Ruby away from the claustrophobic atmosphere and the clutches of her mother.

But Jo’s family have grown adept at keeping secrets, and some of them revolve around the circumstances under which Hannah left. Until——suddenly——she’s back. Jo sees Hannah’s return as a rescue, bringing her the support she craves. But it sets up a struggle between Virginia and Hannah that soon has Jo questioning everything she’s believed about her mother.

It doesn’t help that the detective looking into the identity of the human remains believes the family at Lake Hall belong to a faded aristocracy he loathes.

There will be memories that resurface as the secrets become revealed, but the twists and turns keep coming in this wholly satisfying psychological thriller with an unforgettable ending.

Fred Vargas: This Poison Will Remain Thursday, Sep 5 2019 

Translated from the French, Fred Vargas’s This Poison Will Remain beings Commissaire Adamsberg his most devilish and complicated mystery yet.

The four-time winner of CWA’s International Dagger, Vargas has a creative bent with an imagination that makes the books as whimsical as her protagonist while at the same time detailing a complex plot and storyline.

Adamsberg is called back from a trip to Iceland for a hit-and-run investigation, but his imagination is caught by the deaths of three men killed by brown recluse spider bites.

With the first case ingeniously and quickly solved, the detective must fight some members of his own team while pursuing what some feel is a ridiculous investigation as he follows his hunch.

Yet his own research has assured him that these spiders haven’t mutated or suddenly been transformed. To die the way these men have died would have been a Herculean task of collecting their venom.

Adamsberg is convinced these are murders. He has his team set out to find what the possible link there could be between these three men, and finds more than he expected. Is it possible these are revenge murders for incidents that took place decades ago? And the murders continue.

The members of Adamsberg’s team are an unlikely bunch, from a narcoleptic to a strong female lieutenant, from a childhood friend of Adamsberg’s to a naturalist who’s eel stinks up their offices.

There’s no question that Adamsberg’s thought processes range from quirky to odd, but his brilliance in making connections makes this an imaginative read that Auntie M found captivating.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

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A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

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Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

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