A. M. Peacock: Open Grave Thursday, Apr 18 2019 

Auntie M just finished reading A. M. Peacock’s debut serial killer thriller, Open Grave, which introduces DCI Jack Lambert. Having managed to hurt or offend pretty much everyone in his life, struggling with his own choices, Lambert is a workaholic who heads a team tasked with unraveling murders where two victims are buried and then dug up. Whether they two know each other is just one of the many items under investigation. In a realistic light, this isn’t the only case on the team’s plate. An effective start with a Newcastle setting to what promises to be a strong series, here’s Peacock’s story on is inspiration for the book. And Happy Birthday!

My inspiration for Open Grave:

Before I began writing Open Grave, my education consisted of a healthy obsession with reading crime fiction. A number of years ago, I discovered Stuart MacBride and read Cold Granite cover to cover in two days. From then on, I was hooked. I got the chance to see MacBride at a local library event, before he became a household name, and took the opportunity to pick his brains regarding the process of writing a book and how he came to be published.

In fact, this is a common thread in my journey to publication. A number of authors I admire have provided both inspiration and advice to me, whether this was due to a question at an event, or having the opportunity to meet them in another capacity. Authors such as Mari Hannah, Tess Gerritsen and Ann Cleeves all contributed to my own journey to publication in different ways.

Like most writers, I also write short fiction, and I have been published on multiple occasions. Before migrating onto writing longer fiction, this gave me confidence in my ability to pen something worthwhile. Also, like most writers, I wrote a very ‘autobiographical’ 70k word novel that is currently sitting in a drawer never to be read again. Once this was out of my system, and the stabilisers had been removed, it felt natural for me to delve into the world of crime.

I am constantly inspired by a number of other writers. Other than those highlighted above, I absolutely adore books by Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Lee Child and Dennis Lehane. I think the ability to create characters that you care about, with interesting crimes and a strong sense of environment, is the key to good crime writing. The authors I mention above all do this.

It’s no coincidence that my novel is set in the bleak Newcastle winter. Granted, we don’t get much sun in the North East of England anyway, but there is something much more atmospheric about a cold, grey, miserable setting, than a sunny jaunt by the seaside in my hometown of South Shields.

With regards to my main character, I was keen to bring Jack Lambert to life by giving him an interesting back story, one which would impact on everything he does. Jack, the hero of the book, is one of the only gay male detectives I can think of. When Open Grave begins, we see that he has only recently admitted this to the people around him. Because of this, we see a tension amongst those who know him and within Jack himself. He also comes from a troubled background, with links to a local gang.

This may or may not impact heavily on the story as things progress…

Open Grave, the first in the DCI Jack Lambert series, is available now in paperback, audiobook and ebook, via Amazon and other book retailers. As for book two, it’s just about done, so watch this space…

A.M. Peacock grew up in the North East of England before leaving to study for a degree in music technology at the University of Hull. A subsequent return to his hometown of South Shields saw him spend seven years as a teacher in a local college before changing careers to become a trade union official.

Having always been an avid reader, he took to writing after being encouraged to do so by his PGCE tutor. He has since gone on to produce a number of short stories, winning the Writers’ Forum Magazine competition on two occasions, as well as producing articles for both the local press and a university magazine.

A.M. Peacock is passionate about crime fiction and his debut novel, Open Grave, is the first in what will become a series of books featuring Newcastle-based detective, DCI Jack Lambert.

Away from writing, A.M. Peacock enjoys watching films, playing guitar and can often be found pavement pounding in preparation for the odd half marathon.

A.M. Peacock can be found on Twitter at @ampeacockwriter.

Max Allan Collins: Girl Most Likely Tuesday, Apr 16 2019 

Max Allan Collins takes on a Midwest high school reunion in Girl Most Likely, a thriller where no one is who they seem to be, except perhaps Krista Larson, Galena, Illinois police chief.

Known as the youngest female chief in the country, Krista is merely following in the footsteps of her father, a rencetly retired homicide detective. This is a scenic area, filled with tourists at times, a place where the crime rate is refreshingly low.

That is, until this reunion, where the young woman voted “Girl Most Likely to Succeed” returns to flaunt her career as a TV news anchor and investigative reporter. Astrid Lund has left many hearts broken in her wake, and friends who she’s left in the dust. Krista has just broken up with her boyfriend, and takes her father to the main event, held at a lodge where many of those from out of town are staying, thanks to yet another classmate.

Several teachers show up at the reunion, and there’s the usual rash of broken romances and gossip to talk about. Then Astrid is found dead and the page-turner takes off, but will her death be the last?

Instead of partying with her classmates, Krista slips into her chief’s role and begin the arduous task of flushing out the killer. To help her with this, she enlists the best detective she knows—her father–as a pro bono consultant. With a department as small as Galena’s, she needs all the expertise she can muster, while hoping to avoid calling in state authorities. While Keith Larson finds himself traveling Chicago and getting involved in a mob subplot (remember, this is fiction!) he adds a nice counterpoint to Krista’s moves back in Galena.

With a death of another student found in Florida tied into one in Galena,Krista looks for connections. Although this is her first homicide investigation,she forms a plan and runs a tight investigation with her small crew, Tinterviewing everyone who attended the reunion. Krista chooses her “favorites” to interrogate herself, those she deems more suspicious than the others, based on their shared history and her own knowledge. There will be several friends she upsets as she pursues a killer, those not used to Krista in her role as chief.

Part police procedural, part mystery, there’s enough here in terms of character and setting for Krista and her dad to form a detecting team for a series, if Collins is so inclined.

Diane Les Becquets: The Last Woman in the Forest Wednesday, Apr 10 2019 


Author Les Becquets calls on her love of nature, coupled with a a string of real-life murders, and brings the experience of her own horrific assault to meld The Last Woman in the Forest into a consuming and deliberate high tension thriller.

Loner Marian Engstrom loves working with rescue dogs to help her track endangered wildlife amidst conservation efforts from the oil industry. A personal tragedy in northern Alberta has her questioning everything she once believed about the man she loved, Tate, and puts Marian on a quest to find the still-open serial killer of at least four women.

There are scenes of breath-takiing beauty and wilderness survival as Marian enlists the help of a retired forensic profiler, Nick Shepherd, to help her reach the truth–could the man she loved have been a serial killer?

With victim reports interspersed throughout, this character-driven thriller moves around timelines. Getting inside the head of a serial killer is done well, and as the two investigate, every time Marian thinks she’s uncovered something that points to Tate’s innocence, another clue points to his guilt.

With a startling climax, this is one that will keep readers wondering until its climax. The result is that women must take their own instincts into account, perhaps more than they are trained to do. A suspenseful thriller that will grip readers.

Jan McCanless:The Opera House Murders Wednesday, Mar 27 2019 

Please welcome Jan McCanless, whose two series are filled with humor, to describe her newest book, The Opera House Murders:

The Opera House Murders is the 15th book by award-winning author Jan McCanless. Her Beryl’s Cove Mystery series has been hugely popular, as has her Brother Jerome books. This is the third in her Brother Jerome series, and all those endearing characters are back, along with some visitors from Beryl’s Cove, including Dawg and Elvis.

This time around Abbot Jerome, everybodys favorite misfit monk, is called to England by his feisty, favorite relative, his Aunt Jessie. She has a family secret she wants to impart to “Chip”, the Abbot, but, somehow she can’t seem to get around to it. Someone has killed the Lord of the manner, Lord Julian Spencer, and everyone is a suspect. Her Ladyship proves to be a formidable character herself.

Things that go bump in the night, and hidden rooms are in the offering, as Chip tries to remain the one ‘adult in the room.” Once back at the Monastery of the Blue Ridge, in North Carolina, things don’t improve any, as the Abbot is called to Charlotte by his Bishop, due to things being amiss in the diocese. Chip is just the one to solve the mystery, the Bishop thinks.

With hardly a moment to himself and his misfit monks, Chip’s life is complicated further by a fire that destroys the monk’s barn, and the appearance on the scene of a comely female Episcopal priest, in the mountains on retreat.

How Abbot Jerome balances all this turmoil and solves his crises of faith makes for another interesting, fun read by Author Jan McCanless.

The book is available in area gift shops ( Statesville and mid western gift shops expecially), the public library, Amazon.com, and can be purchased at Jans website : http://www.janmacbooks.com

ALSO AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

Kjell Ola Dahl: The Courier Sunday, Mar 24 2019 

Kjell Ola Dahl’s The Courier starts out in Oslo, where in 1942 a young Jewish courier, Ester, escapes the Gestapo and the horrors of Auschwitz.

Turid is the young daughter of Ester’s best friend, Ase, murdered after Ase helped Ester flee to Sweden. And then there is Falkum, Ase’s husband, baby Turid’s father, and years later, Ester’s lover?

With the action alternating between events of the time, and now with Turid almost grown, the plot resonates with emotion in each period. The complex story never loses the reader yet brings the horrors of WWII to the forefront and it reverberations to so many.

It is an accomplished writer who can combine the tragedies of historical fiction with what is essenntially a murder mystery. The thriller aspects of each time period, the 1940s, the 1960s and the close present, are highly articulated and create a visual and cinematic timeline.

Dahl does a great job keeping the tension up as the narrative threads become increasingly intertwined and the truths of each era become apparent. The jumps in this timeline, far from disturbing, feel natural as the characters are well developed both in physical appearance and the way they change over the years.

The pace continues to pick up, from the opening when Ester sees her father being arrested, to the climax as the story becomes increasingly gripping.

A solid, dark mystery with elegant prose, Dahl won two award for The Courier when it was first published before being translated into English.

Marianne Kavanagh: Disturbance Thursday, Mar 21 2019 

Marianne Kavangh’s Disturbance is well done with such a subtle hand that its creepy factor sneaks up on you–and becomes all the more terrifying for it.

Sara and Mike live in the beautiful Old Rectory, renovated and gorgeous, with a huge back garden and plenty of bedrooms to spare. Their oldest son, James, is finishing school and soon to be off at university if he scores the marks he’s been studying for, while younger son, Edward, is on the autism spectrum and needs constant reassurance and a routine.

So when Mike’s back goes out and he’s in excruciating pain, hE must work from home and their happy household routine goes out the door. Not the best patient, Mike takes his pain and anger at being disabled out on Sara, who takes leave from her part-time lawyering job to help out at home. It’s a situation that quickly deteriorates for all four, relieved only when Sara finally hires a local gal, Katie, to walk their energetic Springer Spaniel twice a day.

Despite Katie’s lack of self-confidence, shy Sara finds herself drawn to the young girl, and understands Katie has only Sara’s best interests at hand when she encourages Sara to make friends in the village and get out of the house, away from Mike’s thunder a bit. Sara finds herself becoming Katie’s confidante, as she learns of her heartsick broken relationship to the unsuitable Danny.

Then an unspeakable tragedy occurs, followed on its heels by the appearance from Australia by Mike’s sister, Ursula, and the tension ratchets up. Soon, far too many questions are being asked, and Sara fears for her future and that of her sons. You will hold your breath as Sara holds hers, unsure what is the truth at work here.

This is a clever and complex novel, and as the readers’ suspicions rise, the mood of unease grows and expands. The title is apt, as there is a lingering sense of disturbance throughout the entire novel that advances to a smoldering climax that will leave readers reeling.

James Oswald: No Time to Cry Sunday, Mar 17 2019 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! But we’re going to England and Scotland today with a debut that will knock your shellelagh to the floor.

It’s no secret James Oswald’s Inspt. McLean series is a favorite of Auntie M’s. So it was with great interest that she looked forward to reading the first of his new series, featuring DC Constance (Con) Fairchild, No Time to Cry.

It’s an ambitious start in a London setting when Con, working undercover, finds the body of her boss, executed after being tortured. DI Peter Copperthwaite has her mentor and friend, and his influence is seen throughout the book, a device Auntie M quite liked and hopes will continue.

It seems the higher-ups want the blame for Pete’s death to fall to Con, unfair as it is, and she’s on suspension while it’s sorted out, but it seems clear there’s more here than her being named a scapegoat for the ruined operation. Who she can trust soon becomes Con’s primary question.

At a loose end, Con decides to help her brother’s girlfriend and agrees to search for the woman’s younger sister, a run away from the same school Con attended as a child. This secondary plot line adds to the trickiness when the two lines of her invesstigation overlap.It soon becomes clear that this is yet another situation where there is more going on than meets the eye.

At one point Con finds herself at her aunt’s Scottish home, a lovely setting. A secondary character, Madame Rose, is introduced during this visit. She’s one Auntie M fervently hopes will return in the next book, along with her lovely vintage car. A highly original character, she will be one to watch out for.

Con Fairchild is a unique and steadfast gal who can easily carry a new series. It will be interesting to see what kind of path Oswald takes her down in book two. Highly recommended.

Two thrillers: Ryan and Margolin Friday, Mar 15 2019 

Auntie M’s been down with strep throat but starting to rally. Here are the other two thrillers for your reading pleasure:

Chris Ryan’s action-packed Red Strike brings readers his fourth installment with Porter and Bald, the wise-cracking unlikely duo.

With Ryan’s own SAS time bringing terrific realism to the page, this timely plot swims along with his insider knowledge as the two try to comlete thier mission, bringing down a suspected russian agent before a secret meeting.

How their mission runs connects with that of a Russian agent who defected to the UK is only part of the tense action. Nilolai Volkov has been poisoned but the assassination was botched and he’s on the run after being kdnapped from a safe house by the Russians.

Personal motives sometimes interfere but help spur the two heroes on as the pace rises higher and higher. This is the kind of action perfect for the cinema, especially with the ending that will leave readers gaping.

Phillip Margolin’s legal thrillers return with The Perfect Alibi, a nicely twisted plot that will captivate readers.

This is a twisted tale of a rapist, possibly wrongly convicted, and a murder conviction that young lawyer Robin Lockwood is convinced should be dismissed as self defense.

This is the second book featuring Lockwood, a former MMA fighter who’s a good investigator, too. Burdened with the heaviness of both of these cases, she manages to somehow navigate a sea of lawyers, rapes, threats, lies, and murder–– and then some. There will be legal dilemnas, twists and turns, and one feisty gal at the heart of it all.

This is an intricate plot with lots of characters, but it all comes together to a satisfying conclusion with Lockwood at its core.

Thomas Enger: Inborn Tuesday, Mar 12 2019 

Thomas Enger’s Inborn is a subtley-wrought thriller that centers on one young man and his first taste of love.

Seventeen-year-old Even is in love with Mari Lindgren. When her body is found at their school’s music room, along that of another teen, Johannes Eklund, in the stairwell, he’s a natural suspect.

Mari had just broken off their budding relationship without giving Even a reason. Johannes’s death, despite being killed with a different method, is tied to hers. Gossip is rampant and far-reaching; soon social media is ablaze with accusations against Even.

With the action alternating between Even giving testimony and his thoughts going back over his actions leading up to this time, he soon realizes there is more at simmering beneath the surface.

A decade ago Even’s father was killed in a car accident that injured his mother, who survived. Even and his brother live with their mother in the house inherited from his grandmother. With his mother frequently absent at her lover’s home, Even keeps an eye on his reclusive, gamer brother, Tobias. An uncle, Imo, is helpful to the boys and involved in their lives.

So where did it all go wrong and who is keeping secrets in this small town? Was it Mari or is it Even or someone else? And then a third death occurs and the tension, already high, escalates.

With surprising twists and an ending readers won’t see coming, this is a chilling thriller from the Norwegian author that Auntie M read in one day.

Deanna Raybourn: A Dangerous Collaboration Tuesday, Mar 12 2019 

Deanna Raybourn continues her Veronice Speedwell series with the compelling entry A Dangerous Collaboration.

The fourth in the Victorian-era mysteries to follow the intrepid lepidopterist, Veronica and her colleague Stoker, the adventurous brother of a titled Lord. When said brother, Tiberius, asks Veronica to accompany him to a house party thrown by his oldest friend in Cornwall, Veronica readily accepts with the promise of a rare species of butterfly to add to her vivarium. She’s turned her attention to preserving the species instead of pinning them.

That she must pretend to be Tiberius’s fiancee` for the Catholic Lord Malcolm Romilly doesn’t bother the broad-minded and modern Veronica, until Stoker shows up and she finds her self juggling the brothers and their egos.

It soon becomes clear that under the guise of a house party, Lord Romilly has assembled several of his extended family who were present on his wedding day when his bride disappeared, wedding dress and all. Locals on the remote Cornwall island are only too happy to invoke the piskies and other spirits that might have taken the lovely Rosamund away, but Veronica knows the woman’s disappearance has a more human culprit.

It’s not quite the party Veronica had imagined, but the island is ruggedly beautiful and the locals gossip easily, twigging her sleuthing antenna. Soon she enlists Stoker’s help. Before it’s over, there will be deeply-held secrets revealed that affect them all, as well as seances destined to bring out the spirit of the presumed-dead Rosamund.

With a nicely twisted plot and more than a touch of romance, the era’s details are accurate and pleasing, as is Veronica’s independence. She’s an intelligent woman to admire, as well as a daunting sleuth.

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Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

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Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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