Sophie Hannah: Perfect Little Children Wednesday, Feb 5 2020 

Sophie Hannah, plotter extraordinaire, brings a stand-alone that will have readers empathize with protagonist Beth Leeson as she tries to figure out what’s happened to her best friend, Flora Braid, in Perfect Little Children.

The former friends haven’t been in touch in twelve long years, since the Flora and her family moved away. Their friendship has started to flag at that time, right after the Braids had a third child. Then when Beth’s son’s football game takes her to the same town where the Braids now live, Flora can’t resist driving past their new home.

What she sees as she watches the large house behind gates shocks her: Flora’s son and daughter, surely teenagers by now, appear to be the same age they were when the Braids moved away five and three. But they should be seventeen and fifteen.

What starts as an oddity becomes an obsession for Beth. Her husband at first doesn’t believe her, and then isn’t quick to support her as Beth feels compelled to pursue the situation. She involves her own teenage daughter to help her figure out the mystery of these children who don’t age.

Convinced Flora and her children have to be in danger, Beth will put herself and her own family in danger to help Flora, who used to be her best friend.

The plot of this one is a real humdinger readers won’t be able to put down as Beth tries to make sense of all the ways this creepiness could possibly make sense.

Bruce Robert Coffin: Within Plain Sight Tuesday, Feb 4 2020 

Within Plain Sight, Bruce Robert Coffin’s newest Detective Bryon novel takes the best of police procedurals and adds an element of reality that others miss in his Portland-set series.

The opening scene is packs a wallop that is explained later but sets this up in a way that lets the reader know this is not your usual killing. The mutilated body of a young woman is found inside an abandoned lumber yard, and soon enough the suspect list is growing.

Det. Byron has his personal struggles but his dedication to his job is unquestionable. He’s acclimating to the first female police Chief Portland has had, stepping through the political hoops of the job he tries to avoid, when he catches a new murder case.

For Byron, this means interviews, footwork, relying on his team members to gather more information, and trying to see the pattern through the evidence. With his instincts for the job highly developed, Bryon often sees threads others miss, and this will lead him to figure out the subterfuge that’s at hand.

The city of Portland comes to life under Coffin’s talented pen. An accomplished realism painter, he applies that same technique to his writing, allowing readers will feel they’re in on the investigation. This is a series that keeps getting stronger and more satisfying. Highly recommended.
@BruceRobertCoffin

Nicci French: Losing You Wednesday, Jan 29 2020 

William Morrow is reissuing some of Nicci French’s backlist, which brought Auntie M Losing You, one she hadn’t read and is glad she did.

The dynamic duo bring readers the story of Nina Landry on her fortieth birthday, getting ready to head out later that day on a special trip from her home on Sandling Island off England’s coast for a holiday in the US with her new boyfriend.

With her son and daughter excited, this past year of divorce and upheaval should soon be behind her. As soon as 15 yr-old Charlie returns from a slumber party, they plan to head off with her younger brother in tow to the airport.

But first Nina needs to get that rattle looked into at a friend’s house, and when she arrives home, not only is Charlie not there yet, but a surprising number of people start to arrive bearing gifts, flowers, and booze.

It seems Charlie has set up a surprise party for her Mum’s birthday before they leave for their trip–but where is Charlie? She needs to finish packing, and besides, Nina is convinced her daughter would never plan a party and then not show up for it.

As her annoyance changes to real concern, Nina has difficulty getting the local police to believe there’s an issue. Teens run away all the time, and they are loathe to feel this is any different.

As the minutes turn into hours with no sign of Charlie, Nina retraces her daughter’s morning activities after the sleepover, including her last paper route before their trip. It’s only when Charlie’s bike is found that Nina is able to convince the police that something is terribly wrong.

Readers will ache for Nina, racing around the tiny island searching for her daughter. Charlie’s father becomes involved; the new boyfriend gets caught in a traffic nightmare on his way home from the airport.

Things keep going wrong as Nina finds more and more revelations about what’s happened to Charlie and her activities of the past few weeks and months. But one thing stands out: Nina’s determination to find and save the daughter she’s convinced is at risk.

With the action taking place over the course of one terrible day that leads to a stunning climax, this is one readers will gobble up as fast as Auntie M did.

Stephen Leather: The Runner Sunday, Jan 26 2020 

Stephen Leather steps away from his previous two series to bring a young MI5 agent to the forefront in The Runner.

Sally Page is a London junior agent who maintains a fake legend. She travels on the Tube, shops, acts as a normal Londoner under an assumed identity called a legend.

When Sally returns from a coffee run to a Wimbledon safe house, she finds her colleagues dead, and the computers completely destroyed but the hard drives holding all of the information they’ve collected is gone.

Worse of all, the killers are still in the house and can identify her.

Sally is on the run, and must leave her phone to avoid them being able to track her. But it soon becomes apparent they are still able to find her, leading Sally to suspect a colleague is feeding the killers information on her whereabouts.

She will have encounters with Mexican drug cartels, other agents, and need to call on all of the subterfuges she’s designed for other agents to keep herself safe.

It’s literally a run for her life as she figures out if there’s anyone left she can trust.

An action-packed thriller from a master of the genre who has already had two of his previous thrillers made into feature films.

Doug Johnstone: A Dark Matter Thursday, Jan 23 2020 

Meet the Skelf’s, an Edinburgh family of three strong women who will engage readers in Doug Johnstone’s winning A Dark Matter.

Matriarch Dorothy is struggling with her grief after her husband Jim dies suddenly. Running a funeral home and a private investigation business is a strange dichotomy.

Jim’s unusual assistant helps with the mortuary side of things, while divorced daughter Jenny moves home and steps in to help by taking on several of the PI cases her father started.

Granddaughter Hannah, a university student, has her own grief, dealing with the loss of her grandfather while she grapples with the disappearance of one of her roommates, Mel.

When Dorothy discovers that Jim was making monthly payments to an unknown woman, and needs to find out the secrets he kept. Was he not the upright husband and man she’d known and loved?

Meanwhile, Jenny’s adultery case takes on the several twists as she investigates and doesn’t find what she expects. And Hannah leans on her father when it comes to light at the friend she thought she knew had her own cadre of secrets.

There will be a murder, twists that stand everything on their head, and a wry humor that brings out Johnstone’s deft touch.
Auntie M loved this book and hopes it will be the start of a series featuring the Skelfs. Don’t miss this entertaining, completely absorbing read–highly recommended.

James Ziskin: Turn to Stone Wednesday, Jan 22 2020 

Please welcome award-winning author James Ziskin, to talk about his newest Ellie Stone mystery, where he takes Ellie–and us!–to Florence:

Benvenuti a Firenze! Ellie Stone goes to Italy in TURN TO STONE

I write a series of traditional mysteries set in the early 1960s, featuring plucky young newspaper reporter Ellie Stone. Since the first book, Ellie has moved around quite a bit. That’s because she’s living and working in an upstate New York mill town and I wanted to avoid Cabot Cove syndrome. You know, that disorder characterized by too many murders in a small village? Ellie has solved crimes in her adopted upstate home of New Holland, New York City, the Adirondacks, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs, and now—in the latest installment, TURN TO STONE—in Florence, Italy.

It’s September 1963. Ellie is in Florence to attend an academic symposium honoring her late father. Just as she arrives on the banks of the Arno, however, she learns that her host, Professor Alberto Bondinelli, has been fished out of the river, quite dead. Then a suspected rubella outbreak leaves ten of the symposium participants quarantined in a villa outside the city with little to do but tell stories to entertain themselves. Making the best of their confinement, the men and women spin tales and gorge themselves on fine Tuscan food and wine. And as they do, long-buried secrets about Bondinelli rise to the surface, and Ellie must figure out if one or more of her companions is capable of murder.

One of the perks of sending Ellie out on the road is that I get to write about the interesting places she visits. From Paramount Studios, Malibu, and the Hollywood Hills in CAST THE FIRST STONE, to the famed Saratoga Race Course in A STONE’S THROW, I get to accompany Ellie on her adventures. Next up is a late-summer visit to Florence. Let’s have a look at some of the sites she visits.

First, here’s a map, including a legend that identifies some of the places that appear in the book.

Number 1 is Albergo Bardi. This is a fictional hotel that I placed on the Oltrarno, the section of the city on the southern bank of the Arno river. Oltrarno, by the way, means “beyond the Arno.” You can see it identified on the map as well. The Palazzo Pitti museum and the Boboli Gardens can be found on the Oltrarno, as well as Piazzale Michelangelo, where you’ll find the best views of Florence. San Miniato al Monte is also located on the south side of the river, perched high above the city. Depending on the time of year, the basilica’s façade glows golden in the late afternoon sun. A magnificent sight to behold.

Number 2 is Ponte Vecchio. Ellie crosses this ancient bridge several times in the novel. Today, Ponte Vecchio is home to jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir shops. The famous Vassari Corridor, an enclosed passageway connecting Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, was built above the shops to provide a private thoroughfare for Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1565.

Number 3 is the Porcellino, a bronze statue of a boar in the Mercato Nuovo. This is a popular stop for tourists, who, for good luck, have rubbed the boar’s nose to a bright shine. Ellie remembers having seen the Porcellino in The Light in the Piazza with George Hamilton just a year before her visit to Florence.

Number 4 is the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. This is Florence’s town hall. Construction began in 1299. The opening ceremony of the symposium honoring Ellie’s father is held here. A large replica of Michelangelo’s David stands outside the entrance.

Number 5 is Trattoria Cammillo on Borgo San Jacopo on the Oltrarno. This is a real restaurant that has been a popular eating place since the 1940s. It’s still there today. Ellie has her first dinner in Florence there.

https://www.cntraveler.com/restaurants/florence/trattoria-cammillo

Number 6 is Ponte Santa Trinita. This is the next bridge downstream from Ponte Vecchio. It’s also the place where Professor Bondinelli’s body is first spotted in the river. Like so many other bridges and landmarks, Ponte Santa Trinita was destroyed by retreating German troops in World War II. It was rebuilt in the 1950s with many of its own stones that were retrieved from the river.

Number 7 is the Basilica of Santa Croce. Ellie recalls having visited Santa Croce in 1946 with her father when he took her to Italy for an academic tour. Dante’s empty cenotaph is located inside the church (he’s buried in Ravenna), as are the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. Ellie lights three candles here, one each for her brother, her mother, and father.

Number 8 is the Tempio Maggiore. This is the Great Synagogue of Florence. Completed in 1882, it is one of the largest synagogues in Southern Europe. Ellie meets a special witness at the temple in TURN TO STONE and gets a private tour.

Number 9 is the Church of Santa Maria Novella. The church was where the ten young people in Boccaccio’s Decameron met to begin their journey to Fiesole to escape the Black Death in 1348. This is also where Ellie and her nine companions meet to begin their trip to Fiesole.

Number 10 is the Santa Maria Novella train station, located opposite the church. Built in 1934 during the fascist Ventennio, the station is a example of Italian modernism.

Number 11 is San Domenico in Fiesole. This is near Villa Bel Soggiorno, where Ellie and her companions go for their weekend in the country.

Number 12 is Villa Bel Soggiorno itself. This is a fictional house on via Boccaccio in Fiesole, high above Florence. Ellie and her companions spend an eventful few days here, telling stories and enjoying fine Tuscan food and wine, just as the young people did in the Decameron.

Numbers 13, 14, and 15 are locations that play a role in the resolution of the story and, therefore, I will leave them to the reader to discover.

I hope you enjoy your sojourn in Florence! Buon viaggio!

TURN TO STONE launches January 21, 2020. Like all the Ellie Stone mysteries, TURN TO STONE can be read as a standalone. Readers needn’t start from the beginning of the series.

James W. Ziskin, Jim to his friends, is the author of the seven Ellie Stone mysteries. His books have been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Lefty, and Macavity awards. His fourth book, Heart of Stone, won the 2017 Anthony for Best Paperback Original and the 2017 Macavity (Sue Feder Memorial) award for Best Historical Mystery. He’s published short stories in various anthologies and in The Strand Magazine. Before he turned to writing, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. He spent fifteen years in the Hollywood postproduction industry, running large international operations in the subtitling and visual effects fields. His international experience includes two years working and studying in France, extensive time in Italy, and more than three years in India. He speaks Italian and French. Jim can be reached through his website http://www.jameswziskin.com or on Twitter @jameswziskin.

Gabriel Valjan: Dirty Old Town Monday, Jan 20 2020 

Please welcome Gabriel Valjan, whose new mystery, DIRTY OLD TOWN is just out. We sat down recently to talk about it.

Auntie M: Your new book, Dirty Old Town, is the first in the Shane Cleary Mystery with Level Best Books. What drew you to create Shane and after five books in your Roma Series with Winter Goose Publishing, what drew you to writing this new series?

Gabriel Valjan: The Roma Series novels were written out of my love and appreciation of Italy, having spent time abroad and reading the late Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series. What I continue to admire in Camilleri’s writing is the way he braided food, history, and humor while serving up a slice of crime and corruption to readers. I should also mention that the end notes from his translator Stephen Sartarelli are brilliant.

As a writer I like to challenge myself. With the Shane series, I’m working on my goal to write historical fiction, and the Seventies were a part of my childhood. I didn’t live in Boston at the time, so I think being an outsider is a positive because I can see and appreciate New England from a different angle. The Seventies is a maligned decade for its fashion, music, and even its headless sense of direction after the tumultuous Sixties; it was, for me, an era full of cults and conspiracies—Watergate being the foremost political debacle—and an era that wanted to feel passionate about something, whether it was the environment, feminism, or other forms of social justice.

AM: The title brings a reader immediately to asking questions and investigating the setting, making this reader feel that Boston will function as a strong character. Was the title always Dirty Old Town, or was it an editorial suggestion?

GV: Dirty Old Town was my title. People might think “Dirty Old Town” is a riff on Jim Botticelli’s book Dirty Old Boston (2014), which started out as a Facebook group page, or the Pogue’s track, “Dirty Old Town” from their 1985 album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash, but the truth is I was thinking of how dirty the Charles River and Boston Harbor were in the Seventies.

I remember vividly the campaign ads George Bush, Senior ran against Governor Dukakis in 1988. Bush drilled down on Dukakis’s failure to clean up Boston Harbor, which is ironic, given the Exxon Valdez spill in 1990.

AM: How does the world of this private investigator function? Do you think you’d like being a PI in reality?

GV: Shane becomes a PI, after a failed career with the Boston Police Department. Why he left the BPD is part of a longer story arc. He believes in Right or Wrong, but he also understands Life in Boston is often gray and ambiguous. He’s knows class distinction and prejudices.

His best friend is another Vietnam vet and cop, who happens to be closeted gay. Shane himself came up working-class, aware of the difference between ‘lace curtain Irish’ and ‘shanty Irish.’ He is educated among the Elites, until his father’s suicide changes his life’s direction. His client in this first novel is the husband of his ex, who married up “because she had a name and no money, and he had money and a name.”

I’d like to think I’d make a decent PI. Research has always been a strength for me. Back in the day, I worked in a lab, which taught me procedure. Once upon a time I was in engineering, which taught me structure. I was a nurse, which helped me ‘read people.’

We’ve talked about this last point at Malice Domestic. Nurses rely on Observation and Assessment, which lead to hypotheticals and POE, Process of Elimination. I know this will sound terrible, but nurses are the most ruthless people I know. We don’t have luxuries when it comes to saving lives. We see and we respond. Like a PI or a cop, sometimes a hunch is involved.

We shouldn’t be surprised if past experiences influence writing. We have several journalists among our ranks (RG Belsky, Hilary Davidson, and Hank Phillippi Ryan); lawyers (Shannon Capone and Connie Hambley Johnson); health care professionals (me, you, and Alexia Gordon), and we have folks from law enforcement (Micki Browning, Bruce Coffin, and Lissa Marie Redmond).

AM: To expand on my earlier question of ‘Why the Seventies?’ Were there any pitfalls or dangers of this era?

GV: Like trying not to sound like George V. Higgins, Robert Parker, or Dennis Lehane? Let’s be honest, each decade of American history is a continuum of unresolved social issues, however we label or repackage them. Black Power. Gay Liberation. Women’s Lib.

We’re having the same conversation today, albeit with a different vocabulary. Any cynicism, like cologne, varies with intensity. Power and Money still rely on desire and division, whether it’s your vote or how much is in your wallet. Aware of history, I try to avoid clichés and caricatures in my writing when I take the reader into the Seventies.

People want stories. I try to tell one that’ll make you experience a different reality. I want you to feel the people I create, cringe and shudder with them, and laugh at them or with them. Life is about learning, living, and dying. Learning about yourself or others is on you.

Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End where he enjoys the local restaurants. When he isn’t appeasing Munchkin, his cat, with tuna, he documents the #dogsofsouthendboston on Instagram. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. He has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest. Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. Dirty Old Town is the first in the Shane Cleary series for Level Best Books. You can find him on Twitter (@GValjan) and Instagram (gabrielvaljan). He lurks the hallways at crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. Gabriel is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.

Raymond Fleischmann: How Quickly She Disappears Sunday, Jan 19 2020 

The remote Alaskan bush of the 1940s provides the compelling and remote backdrop to Raymond Fleischmann’s How Quickly She Disappears.

Elisabeth Pfautz has come to Tanacross, Alaska, with her daughter, Margaret, due to her husband’s teaching job. Homeschooling Margaret, a brilliant young girl, Else, as she’s called by her husband, John, puts her own teaching career on hold as the little family adjust to the barren landscape.

It’s a lonely life as Else reacts to the Alaskan culture, beautifully described in many scenes, and based on the Fleischmann’s grandparents stories of living in Tanacross for several years during this time.

Else sees in Margaret the twin sister who disappeared when the girls were eleven. No trace of Jacqueline has ever been found, yet Else believes firmly that she is alive.

When a German pilots lands in Tanacross, an act of horrible murder brings him to prison but with an unexpected result: the pilot, Alfred, contends he knows what happened to Jacqueline, even where she is, and will share this with Else only after she completes three requests for him.

Determined to find out the truth about her sister, Else will brave her marriage and her safety to follow her conviction that the pilot, whatever his own obsessions, does indeed have information about what happened to Else’s twin all those years ago.

Fleischmann parses out the twins’ history so readers follow the events leading up to Jacqueline’s disappearance. His scenes between Else and Alfred are cat-and-mouse at first glance, who is actually toying with whom?

There’s an element of rising tension as the story advances that will keep readers glued to the pages with a very layered tension that builds to a stunning climax. A dark but absorbing debut. Highly recommended.

Jane Shemilt: The Playground Thursday, Jan 16 2020 

Jane Shemilt’s The Playground brings rising suspense to a hot London summer with unexpected consequences.

Three very different couples with children converge w hen their children join Eve’s tutoring classes. An earth mother, type, she vastly differs from Melissa, an interior designer with an abusive husband, and from Grace, the Zimbabwe wife who keeps her novelist husband and children afloat while her own writing is put on hold.

While the husbands also differ, their relationships with their wives will change and morph.

That summer the couples becomes close–almost too close–and lose sight of how their children are behaving. When tragedy upon tragedy strikes, the couples will turn to each other, wanting to learn the truth behind what happened, but afraid of that very truth.

There’s a destructive force at work, and with harrowing twists, including a surprising courtroom scene, the suspense builds to a shattering climax.

Peter Robinson: Many Rivers to Cross Tuesday, Jan 14 2020 

Peter Robinson’s 26th Alan Banks mystery, Many Rivers To Cross, brings today’s issues to the forefront in the long-running series. Robinson manages to remain timely while bringing a fresh perspective to Banks, his colleagues, and detecting.

A young Middle Eastern boy’s body is found stuffed into a garbage bin, and with no identifiers or missing persons report, it takes Banks and his team a while to find his identity.

Found on the East Side Estate, interviews with the few neighbors provide little information other than that of a car engine leaving the area of the old woman whose bin has been used as a dump site.

Then a heroin addict is found dead in his home in an estate scheduled to be torn down for redevelopment. Are the two deaths related and are drugs involved? Or are illegal immigrants and trafficking at the bottom of these deaths?

With information from other squads pointing Banks toward organized crime in his beloved Eastvale, Banks must separate the twisted threads to find out the truth.

A fascinating subplot follows a friend grappling with her past and dealing with the trauma. Add to that Banks’s musical choices, and readers will be treated to a police procedural that keeps on winning on all fronts.

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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

Being Author

An online writing community

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.

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