Stuart Neville: Those We Left Behind & So Say The Fallen Sunday, Dec 15 2019 

Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.

Stuart MacBride: All That’s Dead Wednesday, Dec 11 2019 

It’s been a year since the events of the last Inspector Logan McRae novel, and the detective is back at work hoping for a simple case. Assigned to Professional Standards should be an easy assignment, but nothing is ever easy for Logan.

He’s sent to follow-up and then to monitor DI King, after a reporter has sent copy he intends to publish, indicating King was once in a Scottish National terror group.

The bad press alone would be bad enough, but King has just been assigned to the disappearance of a professor known for his Scottish anti-independence stance. Nicholas Wilson isn’t at home, but the amount of blood left behind in his kitchen indicates a severe injury if not murder.

Logan will find himself seconded to the inquiry and the usual suspects become involved, from the eccentric DI Steel to his old friend Tufty. Infighting within the police appears rampant, too, with officers on both sides of the equation.

Using the political heat of the times, MacBride offers a complex and dark plot relieved by the lightness of some of his characters. Logan is the voice of reason, the sane one in the pack.

Readers familiar with the series and those new to it will find themselves swiftly submerged in the story and all of its tendrils. MacBride just keeps getting stronger with each novel. Highly recommended.

Keigo Higashino: Newcomer Friday, Dec 6 2019 

Tokyo’s Detective Saga has been transferred to a new district in Newcomer. Experienced, and with his own way of unraveling truths, Kaga is part of the team sent to investigate the murder of a woman.

As he follows the trail of clues, Kaga comes across more than one story, told in linked chapters, and manages to get to the bottom of several others, all having smaller secrets in this neighborhood.

He will trace the woman’s last days, visiting shops and cafes she visited, piecing her movements together, and delving into her past.

One of the things Kaga knows is human nature. Readers will learn Japanese culture while Kaga unravels the stories of those in the realm of the dead woman.

Yet he never loses sight of the real target: the killer of a woman who was just coming into her own.

Auntie M enjoys Kaga for his inscrutable nature, which manifests itself in his infinite patience and in his ability to read people. A highly satisfying read.

Alex North: The Whisper Man Wednesday, Nov 27 2019 

The Whisper Man is Alex North’s well-plotted thriller that is disturbing yet manages to be heartfelt. If you think that is a dichotomy, read this story that manages to be deeply touching without maudlin, while it scares the hell out of you.

Tom Kennedy and his young son, Jake, are both still grieving after the sudden death of Rebecca, wife and mother. In a bid to give them both a fresh start, they move to a house that Jake likes in the small town of Featherbank.

Right on the heels of their move, Tom finds out a local boy has vanished. His disappearance has too many things in common with a string of murders of young boys from two decades ago that DI Pete Willis remembers all too well.

While Pete captured that murderer, still in prison for life, he and his younger colleague, DI Amanda Beck, try to unravel this new crime, believing the perpetrator to be an accomplice of the man Pete captured, The Whisper Man.

It’s a diabolical battle of wills between the detective and the prisoner, as the two detectives work every angle. And then Jake, a sensitive child, hears someone whispering to him.

This manages to pack a powerhouse of creepiness into its pages as the terrifying plot advances. Yet there’s an underlying thread of the way fathers and sons relate and impact each other in all of their guises that elevates the story from a simple thriller.

Not to be missed, this unnerving novel leaves its haunting presence long after the last page has been turned. Highly recommended.

Anne Cleeland: Murder in the Blood Sunday, Nov 24 2019 

Anne Cleeland’s Doyle & Acton series returns with another grand installment in the series Publisher’s Weekly praises with: “Distinctive characters compliment the finely wrought highly charged plot.”

The time the fey police sergeant Doyle and her Chief Inspector and multi-titled husband run into a nest of Spanish aristocrats with murder on their minds. As the bodies have mounted up, the person behind the murders has been difficult to pin down.

And it isn’t Doyle’s imagination that her husband, prickly and evasive at the best of times, has something on his mind. With threads of several cases adding up, Doyle fears her husband has something up his titled sleeve.

Add to that the dreams Doyle has at time, with portentous visits of spirits and even the ghost of a knight at her husband’s family home, and you have enough ingredients for a fast-paced mystery that takes the usual procedural and twists it on its head.

Doyle’s Irish accent adds a charm to her character as the new mother juggles her young son with work, overlapping cases, and the designs of her husband behind the scenes. She’s also the voice of reason to Acton, and she despises the trappings of his aristocratic heritage as much as she loves the man.

There will be a wedding and christening before Doyle has to assume yet another title at her husband’s familial estate. Being Lady Acton there is bad enough. It’s a cracking good mystery with a most unusual married pair at the helm.

Con Lehane: Murder Off the Page Tuesday, Nov 19 2019 

Lehane’s 42nd Street Library series feature the curator of the crime fiction archive-turned-sleuth Ray Ambler. Along with his colleague, Adele, whom he shares a cloudy relationship, his favorite bartender, McNulty, and detective friend, Mike Cosgrove, also return.

An attractive researcher has been using the archives of author Jane Galloway. Ray decides Shannon Darling not the usual scholar, a theory firmed up when he sees her with McNulty as he and Adele share a drink at the popular Library Tavern.

His curiosity blows up when a security man is murdered in Shannon’s room and she disappears, along with McNulty. With the spotlight falling on McNulty, the woman’s real identity is soon confirmed. She’s a married Connecticut physician who has a young daughter.

So why is she with McNulty? And why are they on the run from the law?

Believing his friend hasn’t murdered anyone thrusts Ray and even Adele into the investigation. Soon Shannon’s lifestyle choices turn up a slew of suspects that Cosgrove must whittle down, while Ray follows his own threads.

There will be more deaths, a missing professor, and even a parrot as the story unfolds and Ray tests the bounds of friendship to solve the mystery surrounding the deaths.

The personal life of Ray and his grandson Johnny fills out the complicated life of this archivist. Ray’s emotional reticence grinds his relationships into a layer of frustration he carries around, as he does the guilt he feels at not being a better father to Johnny’s dad, his own son. These counterpoints, plus a domineering grandmother Ray shares Johnny’s custody with, add a nice texture to the life illustrated on the streets of New York.

Stephen Booth: Drowned Lives Sunday, Nov 17 2019 

Stephen Booth’s long-running Cooper and Fry series is a consistent winner, so Auntie M was interested when she heard the news that he had written a standalone, Drowned Lives.

One of the hallmarks of his Peak District series is the strength of his familiarity with his Derbyshire setting and the descriptions and history of the area that imbue the novels. She’s happy to note that he brings this same strong sense of setting and its history to Drowned Lives in the canals surrounding Lichfield.

Chris Buckley is an odd duck with few friends and no remaining family, depressed after the deaths of both parents close to each other, with his council job hanging in the balance and a new business venture bringing him to the brink of financial chaos.

He’s moved into the family home he inherited and is trying to break back into his freelance journalism career, writing articles and taking his own photographs of the project underway to recreate part of the canal waterway in the Staffordshire countryside that has been buried for decades.

He’s working on one of these articles when a member of the work party brings him to meet an old gentleman who’s come to see him. Samuel Longden hints at knowing Chris’s family, claims to be an old family friend of his grandfather particularly, and is disappointed that Chris has no knowledge of him.

But Samuel challenges Chris with tidbits of family history he parses out, trying to enlist Chris to tell a story he’s begun, and urges him to help heal a rift in the Buckley family. Frustrated by the man’s guile, Chris is on the point of refusing and fails to meet Longden for an appointment, when tragedy strikes.

Samuel is murdered and his only daughter refuses to talk to Chris, but Samuel had one more trick up his sleeve from the grave: he’s left Chris his beginning manuscript of the Buckley family of canal engineers and workers, with notes and letters.

This will reluctantly thrust Chris into an investigation not only of Samuel’s murder but of the history that reaches back into the 1800s. He enlists his neighbor, Rachel, a librarian with research, and a mysterious woman who suddenly appears and offers to help.

It’s a twisted tale as more and more facts emerge but one thing is certain: Chris has put himself in jeopardy and he can’t figure out why.

A tale of secrets that transcend years and affect family histories, Booth’s language has a gothic feel that adds to the dark atmosphere in this novel from a writer The Guardian calls “A modern master.”

Will Thomas: Lethal Pursuit Tuesday, Nov 12 2019 

Will Thomas returns with his Barker and Llewelyn series in Lethal Pursuit. The enquiry agents, whose chambers are in the shadow of Whitehall, have risen to annoy most of the higher-ups in government and Scotland Yard, yet continue to solve the most recalcitrant cases.

A Foreign Office agent has fled home to England carrying an important satchel from Eastern Europe, but murdered soon after arriving. With tensions rising between Germany and England, it’s imperative that the contents are kept out of German hands.

When no less than the Prime Minister gives them a simple assignment, newlywed Llewelyn, now a partner, can’t understand why Barker is taking his time to carry out the easy charge: deliver the satchel to Calais into the hands of a waiting monsignor from the Vatican.

Just what the satchel holds is unclear, but it’s rare and ancient, from the first century. Soon there are personal agents, secret societies, and political groups all vying to retrieve the satchel and its contents, and all putting Barker and Llewelyn at serious risk. And this time, Llewelyn has a bride waiting for him at home.

With his research nailing the details of the Victorian era, from the clothing and social manners to crimes and politics, Thomas delivers a satisfying read that advances both the characters and the times.

Louise Candlish: Those People Monday, Nov 11 2019 

Auntie M was blown away by last year’s Our House, which won Louise Candlish the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the Briish Book Awards and was long listed for 2019 Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. She hurriedly ordered Candlish’s new Those People, just as strong a read in the domestic thriller genre.

Readers are introduced to the residents of Lowland Way, a London suburb of burgeoning worth where cars are moved off the street on Sundays for the children to play. It’s kind of the neighborhood where the adults look out for each other, and we are introduced to many of them when a new couple buy one half of the house on the corner.

Darren and Jodie are vastly different from the other residents. He quickly sets up a used car business on the corner property and begins dramatic renovations on the house, doing the work himself and using whining electric tools from early in the morning throughout the day. When he’s not using power tools, he’s playing music so loudly that the couple in the attached house next door are forced to buy hearing protection for their infant son. And the cars become a huge issue as “Play Out Sunday,” which once won an urban spaces award, becomes a tug of war on the street with serious consequences.

Things soon spiral out of control as the neighborhood rules are not only NOT followed, they’re distinctly flaunted. The local council has a long-winded process for complaints, which seem mostly ineffective, and Darren continues his marauding, while the other residents form a tighter and tighter group of us vs them.

It’s a situation destined to spiral out of control and it soon does with devastating effects.

Candlish tells the story from the viewpoint of the neighbors living closest to Darren and Jodie, and all vary in circumstance and personality, but one thing unites them: their love for their street and their animus against the new couple who won’t conform.

Interspersed with police interviews, the once-united neighbors soon delve to their dark sides, revealed to the reader as things deteriorate and the already fraught pace ramps up.

The observations of the varied temperaments of the residents contrast as the tension escalates; Candlish adds several surprising twists as the darkness grows and spirals down until there’s nothing funny at all about Lowland Way.

Catriona McPherson: Strangers at the Gate Sunday, Nov 10 2019 

Catriona McPherson’s complicated plot for Strangers at the Gate will make perfect sense as readers near the end of the book, but in such a surprising way that readers will have as much confusion at times as the protagonist, Finn.

When she and her husband, Paddy, move to the small town of Simmerton, it seems to be the perfect chance for the young couple to move their professions forward. Paddy has been offered a partnership in a law firm; Finn’s slot as a deacon at a local church is full time.

The move comes with the rental of the gate house of the wealthy landowner, an almost perfect situation. Lovatt Dudgeon and his wife seem like the perfect neighbors, and as it’s his law firm Paddy will work in, Finn is relieved that she finds she quite likes his wife, Tuft. The older woman’s wit and affability impress Finn and start to dash away the odd feelings she experienced, until a bloody murder changes everything, and Finn and Paddy make choices they soon regret.
Soon the couple find they’ve each kept back information the other should have had; and as their secrets become compounded, things spiral out of control.
Events of the past run together with the present in a stunning climax that stands everything on its head.

McPherson draws fine characters, down to Finn and Paddy’s families and the local neighbors. The dark and gloomy setting only adds to the gothic feel of the novel.
Mix in the plot that twists back on itself, and readers will have no choice but to stay up late to find the resolution. With a strong atmosphere, this rather creepy yet clever mystery is perfect for Rebecca fans, or those who loved Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries.

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Lee Lofland

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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