Donna Fletcher Crow: The Monastery Murders Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

Please welcome Donna Fletcher Crow, to explain the path her historical Monastery Murders series has taken. One lucky reader who leaves a comment will win a copy of one of Donna’s books, print or e-book, your preference! So all you lurkers out there who read but don’t comment, today’s your day!

The Monastery Murders: A Year of Life-changing Adventures

Felicity Howard is a young American woman studying in a theological college in a monastery in rural Yorkshire. And no one finds that more surprising than Felicity herself.

But teaching school was so boring (even in London) and what else can she do with a classics major? Besides, she makes all her decisions on impulse.

When she finds her favorite monk brutally murdered and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, covered in his blood, however, she begins to question the wisdom of this decision. An enigmatic book of poetry Father Dominic gave Felicity just before his death catapults Felicity and Antony into an adventure chasing and being chased by murderers across northern England.

Thus A Very Private Grave begins the Monastery Murders, a series that follows Felicity and Antony through the most tumultuous and transformative year of their lives.

In book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, Felicity is off to become a nun, in spite of the fact that Antony begs her to help him find a stolen valuable icon. Then her difficult mother arrives unexpectedly and a good friend turns up murdered. The ensuing chase takes them from London to the water-soaked Norfolk Broads.

In An Unholy Communion, Antony is leading a youth pilgrimage across Wales, and Felicity joins him for some much-needed relaxation—until their idyllic ramble turns into a life-and-death struggle between good and evil.

Book 4, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, finds Felicity off to translate a manuscript in a convent in Oxford. “What could be safer?” she asks Antony when he warns her to be careful. When severed body parts start showing up in ancient reliquaries, Felicity learns that murder can stalk even Oxford’s hallowed shrines.

An All-Consuming Fire brings the year full circle as Felicity plans their Christmastide wedding while Antony narrates a mini-series for the BBC. It will all be perfect. If only Felicity can keep her mother from turning the event into a royal production and escape the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors.


Donna Fletcher Crow is a lifelong Anglophile, former English teacher, and a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection, the monastery that serves as a model for this series. She conceived the series when her daughter Elizabeth found teaching classics in London to be boring, went off to study in a monastery in Yorkshire and married…

You can see information about all her books and pictures from her research trips at http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Donna-Fletcher-Crow-Novelist-of-British-History-355123098656/

Wilbur Smith: War Cry Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family historical thrillers are so popular due to their complex plots and adventure focus. The newest is War Cry , set in the 1920s near the end of World War I onward.

The setting starts in Africa, Smith’s own homeland, but Leon Courtney’s daughter Saffron has left Kenya to study in Oxford, England. Another young man affected by history is Gerhard von Meerbach, the younger brother of the heir to an industrial fortune.

When the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi question, it threatens everything Gerhard thought he knew about his family.

And into this is thrust Saffron and Leon and the spies and traitors who will cross their paths.

Filled with dramatic intrigue yet based on real events, this is a complex plot that feels made to be on the big screen, with its sweeping storylines and vistas.

Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Edith Maxwell is one of the hardest working authors Auntie M knows, juggling now four series and bringing out books that have a wide readership. Today she’s talking about her new historical mystery, Delivering the Truth, the first in her Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Check out that neat cover and discover the mystery inside.

Delivering the TruthCover

Learning about the Past

Thanks for having me back, Auntie M!

My latest venture – historical mystery – involves a level of research I don’t need to do when I write my contemporary mysteries. I had so much to learn about the late 1800s. And there’s nobody still alive to ask.

How would a Quaker speak and act? What did women wear under their outer clothes? Did a modest New England home have indoor plumbing, gas lamps, a coal stove? What were matches like?
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I’ve found a couple of good reference books for everyday life. Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Victorian describes everything from toothbrushes to underwear. Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide from 1890 has all kinds of handy tips about the kitchen and foods available in the end of the century. Pinterest provides images of clothing. And then there’s Sarah Chrisman – who lives like someone in 1888 and writes about it! http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/

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I needed to learn about all the different types of horse-drawn vehicles. Carriages, wagons, buggies, drays, runabouts, broughtons, phaetons, surries – and so many more. Luckily for me, the town where the series is set, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is where I live and it was world-famed for its carriage manufacturing. There are antique carriages all over town, a thriving Carriage Museum, and many enthusiastic history buffs to call on.

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Because my protagonist is a midwife, I delved into medical care of the time. Basic uncomplicated childbirth hasn’t changed that much. But did they know about the importance of washing hands yet? I learned that the germ theory of infection was known. Was there a hospital nearby in case of emergency? Yes, the hospital in the next town was eight years old at the time of Delivering the Truth. I found a midwifery textbook from the era. I learned that blood typing wasn’t yet used but that a lab could find out from a snip of hair if arsenic had been ingested.

Reading local newspapers from a hundred and thirty years ago provide much detail about both news and the prices of goods and services, as do the Sear & Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, both of which are available on Amazon as reproductions. For example, you could buy a two-spring Phaeton (a single-horse kind of buggy with a roof) for $70, a drop-leaf desk for $9.50, and a pair of Irish lace curtains for $2.35. My midwife Rose bought a new bicycle for $45.
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And because I write mysteries, there’s the all-important question of police procedure. I’ve found pictures of the local police force in town, and dug up The Massachusetts Peace Officer: A Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and other Civil Officers from 1890. An officer had to lay a hand on the shoulder of someone he was arresting, for example. I also learned that they didn’t yet use fingerprinting.

There’s more, of course. Local historical societies and museums are a rich resource. But at some point you just have to write the book!

Readers, do you like doing research? Where do you find resources to learn about the past, or about your current passion, whatever it is?

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Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site, edithmaxwell.com.

Arnaldur Indridason: Into Oblivion Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

IntoOblivion
Arnaldur Indirdason’s Icelandic thriller series, featuring Inspector Erlendur, continues with this look into his early days as a detective in Into Oblivion, an aspect first explored in last year’s acclaimed Reykjavik Nights. The CWA Gold Dagger Award winner is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, and with good reason.

The book opens a few years after Erlandur decides he wants to be a detective. It’s 1979 and the year springs to life, the mood set by the music, clothing and social mores of the era. The detective is working with Marion Briem, an older, more experienced detective, when the body of man is found in a blue lagoon known for its healing waters.

Examination reveals that the man has fallen from a great height and died before his body was moved to the lagoon. Could he have fallen from a plane? The only immense height in the area is an aircraft hanger on the grounds of the controversial US military base nearby.

When it becomes apparent the base is involved, Erlandur and Briem find themselves tiptoeing around the base to investigate after the US powers that be have stalled their investigation and denied them access to the hanger. It will take an unlikely accomplice to help them get to the bottom of the man’s death, thwarted by a rogue CIA agent.

As the action unfolds, Erlandur also takes it upon himself to run a parallel cold case investigation. A young teen went missing on her way to school, her body never found, and as both cases heat up, the young detective finds himself in his element, conducting interviews and following slender leads to find resolution.

Another hit that gives insight into what made Erlandur the detective he becomes.

Paula Brackston: The Return of the Witch Monday, Mar 14 2016 

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Readers, I’m in cahoots with St. Martin’s to offer you THREE giveaway copies of Paula Brackston’s sequel to last year’s debut novel The Witch’s Daughter. This was the little book that could–with a captivating story, remarkable heroine, and eye-catching package, it has now netted over 200,000 copies in all formats.

Now Paula returns with its sequel The Return of the Witch, another bewitching tale of love and magic, featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, a fabulous and intriguing historical backdrop, and a headstrong and relatable heroine readers will cheer for.

After five years in the Summerlands, Gideon has gained his freedom. Elizabeth knows he will go straight for Tegan, and that she must protect the girl she had come to regard as her own daughter. In the time since the dramatic night in Batchcombe woods, Tegan has traveled the world learning from all manner of witches, and she is no longer the awkward teenager and novice spellcaster she once was.

However, her skills are no match for Gideon’s dark, vengeful power, and he succeeds in capturing her. Will Elizabeth be able to find her? Will they be able to defeat their nemesis once and for all?

In a breathless journey that takes them through history to the 17th and 19th centuries, witch pursues warlock. Three people steeped in magic weave a new story, but not all will survive until the end. Crime of a different kind here, with suspense and action.

In case you missed The Witch’s Daughter, this is its synopsis:

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters.

Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan.

Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?

THREE lucky winners who leave a comment will be sent copies of the sequel directly from the publisher. To enter the drawing, leave a comment and we’ll use an impartial draw to find the lucky winners. Good luck!!

Kate Parker: Deadly Scandal Sunday, Mar 6 2016 

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Please welcome author Kate Parker and her new historical mystery, set in 1930’s London, Deadly Scandal. Kate will describe how she came to create her protagonist, Olivia Denis.

Murder and Fashion Sense

When I was a girl, there was a comic strip in the newspaper called Brenda Starr, star reporter. She was a tall, slender, leggy redhead who worked for a metropolitan daily and went after the hard news, the big stories. She got the exclusives. She never took no for an answer. She was tough and sexy and bright and lucky. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

In the spirit of truth in journalism, I have to admit the only resemblance was in my reddish hair. I might pass as a reporter; no one would ever mistake me for Brenda Starr.

I saved this icon from my childhood, and when it came time to write a mystery about an unprepared woman who lands a job on a metropolitan daily newspaper in 1930s London, I knew what she looked like. She’s a tall, slender, leggy redhead. She’s bright and sexy and lucky.

And that’s where I stopped the similarities.

I gave Olivia Denis a love and flair for fashion. I gave her a talent for sketching dresses, hats, and shoes as well as a fabulous wardrobe. And I gave her a love of shopping that she couldn’t indulge once she was widowed at twenty-five.

But since she had Brenda Starr’s luck, she has a good friend whose father published one of the biggest daily newspapers in London. And so she landed a job as a society reporter, where the publisher thought she couldn’t do much damage.

However, Olivia Denis doesn’t have Brenda Starr’s street savvy. When offered a much higher salary than she expected, along with a requirement to carry out certain unspecified clandestine assignments that she is not to mention – ever – she says yes. She knew no one else would pay her that much. She doesn’t ask about the nature of these assignments. She doesn’t stop and consider. She just thinks about the money and says yes.

So here you have Olivia Denis, young widow, who is going to hunt for her husband’s killer. She owes her livelihood to the father of a school friend who needs her to carry out clandestine assignments under the guise of society page reporting.

Olivia is young and pretty like Brenda Starr. And while she’s a novice, she has something else Brenda Starr had: Determination.

Find out how it all works out in Deadly Scandal by Kate Parker.

Learn more about Kate and her books at http://www.KateParkerbooks.com

Order now at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AU0KC8E
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadly-scandal-kate-parker/1123286621
Apple: https:geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/deadly-scandal/id1076628067?ls=1&mt=11

Katherine Ashe: The Rogue, Devil’s Duke #1 Tuesday, Mar 1 2016 

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Author Katherine Ashe delights readers with her historical romances that have mystery and action all rolled into one. A professor of European History at Duke University, it’s only fitting that her new series is called Devil’s Duke.

The first one in the series, The Rogue, will captivate readers who like a hint of sensuality with their swordplay.

Throw in a secret society practicing dark arts, and of course, a rogue with a heart of gold who will anything for the woman he loves, and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic read.

What sets this one apart is the appearance of TWO rogues and ravishing heroine in the form of a duke’s daughter, Lady Constance Read. The lovely but very independent woman needs a husband, despite her penchant for riding astride a horse instead of the usual side-saddle of ladies. She’s also a great shot with both pistols and bows, a match for any man wishing to share her life.

Here’s Katherine’s recent Q/A that will shed light on her new series~

1. Q: Your new Devil’s Duke series kicks off with a bang in The Rogue; there’s plenty of intrigue, action, and some cameos from Falcon Club members of your previous novels. Yet you’re also telling a very deep love story that touches on many issues, including second chances, abuse, and honesty. As a writer—and as a reader!—what appeals to you about mixing “spy stuff” and adventure with the kind of intensely emotional narrative going on in The Rogue?

A: Truth? I want to be completely swept away. I love getting so immersed in a story that I can’t put it down. I am totally addicted to intense, deep, powerful romance. When I read and write, I want to experience every emotion: I want to laugh, weep, shout, feel my heart racing, and go a little insane-in-love right along with the hero and heroine. If they’re opponents or allies in exciting intrigue—Saint and Constance are both in The Rogue—I get completely caught up in the excitement. It’s romance, so I know they’ll be together by the end. But the more intense the journey to falling in love is, the more I adore it.

2. Q: You write historical romance novels—but you’re also a professor of history! How much does your academic work as a professor overlap with your writing?

A: Now that I teach popular fiction — both romance fiction and other fiction based on medieval history — I can pour my experience with researching, writing and publishing novels into my teaching. And it goes the other way too; teaching nourishes me. I learn from my students all the time. Also, oftentimes I’ll read something to use in class and it will inspire a character or scene or even an entire plot of a novel.

3. Q: The title of the novel, The Rogue, refers to Saint, our roguish hero. But he’s not the only one known to break the rules every now and again: Constance is an extremely independent woman. At every turn, she refuses to let society make her dependent on someone else, and she continually rises against every challenge she is faced with. What inspired you to write such a strong, forward-thinking heroine?

A: Constance is incredibly strong and independent, but she’s also damaged and vulnerable. In a world dominated by men who want to use or control her, she’s come to a place where she’s simply refusing that. She wants to make her own decisions, and she wants to be her own hero (it’s why she asks Saint to teach her how to fight with a sword and dagger). But she wants—and needs—love too. I think this is the struggle of modern women: to be independent and take care of themselves, as well as others who need them, but also to allow themselves to be loved by a good man—a man who won’t try to control them, but will love them for the entire woman that they are.

4. Q: You often speak at conferences and give interviews regarding your views on the romance genre. We’ve seen romance get more time in the mainstream media spotlight this year than ever before—do you think that’s an indicator of things to come? Where do you see the genre going from here?

A: The good press is wonderful! It’s a good sign for the future. We’ve a long way to go, though. I think the new openness to romance fiction in the mainstream media has as much to do with the fabulous novels authors are writing now, featuring independent heroines with real agency, as it has to do with our society very, very slowly shifting toward an honest recognition of the latent misogyny and anti-feminist biases in our culture. These biases are so deeply rooted (they’re thousands of years old!) that it’s going to take more than few decades for real equality. When the romance genre is treated the same way that the mystery or sci-fi or thriller genres are treated, that’ll be a good indicator we’ve come to true equality between the sexes.

5. Q: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects!

A: The Earl is next! Through several books my readers have been following the heated banter of Peregrine, the secretary of the Falcon Club, and popular London pamphleteer Lady Justice. She has skewered him again and again in the public press for being an idle elitist, but now she needs his help. They’re thrown together in an unexpected (and dangerous) adventure across the Scottish Highlands. It’s a super intense, funny and exciting love story, and I cried and laughed and gasped and sighed and loved loved loved writing it.

After that, the duke everybody’s calling The Devil gets his story!

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett: Keeping More Than One Book in the Air! Wednesday, Dec 30 2015 

Please welcome Kathy, er…Kaitlyn, who will try to explain how she juggles so many fine books!
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Keeping More Than One Book in the Air
(or, How to Juggle)

byKathy Lynn Emerson (aka Kaitlyn Dunnett)

It isn’t at all uncommon for writers of genre fiction to produce more than one novel a year, nor is it all that rare for the same person to write more than one series.

Sometimes they do so under more than one name, but not always. I’ve been juggling two or three books a year for a long time now, going way back to the late 1990s, when I alternated category romances with historical mysteries.

How do I keep more than one book in the air? By not trying to do everything at once. By that I mean that I focus on Book One but never completely lose sight of Book Two. I write myself notes about Two and let my subconscious noodle plot problems. I can see Two out of the corner of my eye even as I’m spending my actual writing time on Book One.

Inevitably, the day comes when I need a break. Perhaps I’ve hit a snag and don’t know what comes next. Maybe I’ve completed a draft and just want a little time to pass before I try to revise it.

Whatever the reason, by then I’m more than ready to tackle Book Two and, because I took a break from it, my enthusiasm for that project is high. I’m brimming with fresh ideas that occurred to me while I concentrated on Book One, so I’ll work on Book Two until, as with Book One, I come to a point where I need a break. That’s when I go back to Book One, armed with a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm.

All that sounds fairly simple and if I was completely in charge of my writing time, it would be. It’s both good news and bad news that I currently write for two different publishers. They set the deadlines. Despite my best efforts, those deadlines can end up being uncomfortably close together.

Then, too, time has to be budgeted for revisions an editor asks for, line edits, copy edits, and reading page proofs. When each book is published, add in blogs, interviews, and other publicity-related tasks. Some of that is ongoing. I also chime in twice a month at http://www.MaineCrimeWriters.com and maintain a presence on Facebook (as Kaitlyn Dunnett) and at Goodreads.

I admit there are times when all the books and book-related tasks I have in the air threaten to fall and land squarely on my head. It can be downright dangerous to juggle too many things at once. I have been asked to write faster and produce more than one book in a series in the same year. I resist. That way lies potential disaster. Yes, I could come up with 75,000 words in three months, but they wouldn’t be the best words. I firmly believe that any manuscript needs time to rest before it is revised. Without a break, I’d skim right past trouble spots without noticing them. Ideally, I’d like a year to write each book. I produce two a year by alternating between them. Each manuscript undergoes several complete revisions before I’m satisfied with it. The end result is the best novel I am capable of writing.
Murder in the Merchant's Hall
What am I juggling right now? Book One is the third Mistress Jaffrey mystery set in Elizabethan England. It’s due in June. Book Two is a proposal for a new contemporary mystery series—synopsis, first three chapters, and brief pitches for future books. Kilt at the Highland Games, the tenth Liss MacCrimmon mystery will be published at the end of July, so it is in production with assorted edits and page proofs still to come. And I’m still doing publicity for the second Mistress Jaffrey mystery, Murder in the Merchant’s Hall, which came out in ebook earlier this month. That’s four books in the air.

Maybe, if I’m very careful, I can add that short story I’ve been meaning to revise . . .

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Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are http://www.KaitlynDunnett.com and http://www.KathyLynnEmerson.com

Merry Christmas! Friday, Dec 25 2015 

Yes, it’s Christmas, and despite being mostly in a recliner with an ice pack on her operated back, Auntie M has found her holiday spirit. And to that end, she’s sharing two books with you that are perfect for the season.

AwayManger
Rhys Bowen’s new Molly Murphy Mystery, Away in a Manger, is filled with Bowen’s usual knack for historical details that bring Manhattan in 1905 to life.

Molly has her own family: her husband, Daniel, a police captain whose business Molly would greatly like to become involved in; their baby son, Liam, and their 12 yr-old ward, Bridie, so Molly is looking forward to these holidays, even with Daniel’s mother there helping out.

A visit to see FAO Schwartz sets the tone for the little family. Then a set of carolers in their New York City neighborhood adds to the festiveness, and one young girl with the voice of an angel catches Bridie’s attention. The family try to help by giving the girl a quarter, which an older boy immediately takes from her.

This is her older brother, and they’ve emigrated with their mother from England, only to have their mother disappear. The aunt they are staying with mistreats them, yet Molly soon sees these children are educated and have been given a proper upbringing before coming to America. So what has happened to their mother?

Molly’s efforts to find the children’s mother soon leads to a tale of family intrigue and probably murder, with more planned unless Molly can stop the villain and save the two children in time to be home to celebrate Christmas. Vintage Bowen, nicely plotted and atmospheric.

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Jane Cleland’s Ornaments of Death is the next offering perfect for the holidays. The tenth Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery blends her own knowledge of antiques with a mystery during the Christmas season.

Josie’s New Hampshire Antique shop in the coastal town of Rocky Point is dressed as a winter wonderland for her annual holiday party. Josie is excited as Ian Bennington, her distant relative, will be there for the holiday. The recently discovered descendent is the hit of Josie’s party and gives her ties to a royal mistress.

And then Ian suddenly vanishes, and it’s soon discovered that he’s not the only thing that’s missing: two valuable watercolor miniatures Ian had given his daughter are also missing.

It will take Josies’ knowledge of antiques to track the miniatures and wend her way to Ian and solve the dual mystery. A perfect holiday treat for cozy readers who enjoy antiques and New England.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from Auntie M to all of you! Enjoy your celebrations and take time to read a good book~

More Holiday Joy: The US edition Wednesday, Dec 9 2015 

Auntie M divided her recommendations into Holiday Joy for other sites across the pond on Dec, 8th, and this version where the settings are all in the US. While you’re shopping for the readers on your list, don’t forget you deserve one, too!

Up first is a thriller writer Auntie M met at Thrillerfest a few years when she was meeting favorite UK author Peter James. “Come and meet my tennis friend,” James said, and I was introduced to the tall and charming Simon Toyne, whose Santus trilogy Auntie M has previously reviewed.

Searcher

Readers familiar with that Trilogy will be more than pleased with his new thriller, The Searcher, set in Arizona this time, the first in his new Solomon Creed series. The white-haired albino is just the kind of Jason Bourne-like character who can sustain several books with ease.

A funeral in the town of Redemption is interrupted by a plane crash, and the man running away from the site not only has no shoes, he has no memory of how he got there–or who he is. His clothes provide minimal clues and his name: Solomon Creed.

Creed understands he’s in Redemption for a reason, and his questions will lead him to the town’s secrets, filled with people who have something to hide. There are lines drawn between good and evil and a touch of the supernatural. Two main points of view of Creed and the town’s founder in the form of diary entries allow the story to keep the reader knowing more than Creed. A strong start to a new series with a complex character, great images, and a vivid story.
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Canadian author Elizabeth Duncan’s Penny Brannigan series, set in the North Welsh countryside, have been previously reviewed by Auntie M. Now Duncan’s turned to a new setting to debut the first in her second series, the Shakespeare in the Catskills Mysteries, kicking it off with Untimely Death.

Duncan takes readers to a Catskill resort, the Jacobs Grand Hotel, whose production of Romeo and Juliet starts off with a bad turn when the leading lady is poisoned. Lauren Richmond is later stabbed and it seems there are far too many suspects who would have wanted the thespian out of their way.

At the center is Charlotte Fairfax, the costume designer who was formerly mistress for the Royal Shakespeare Company and whose shears have been used to commit the murder. The Catskills may not be London, but Charlotte remains Queen of her domain and inserts herself into the lives of her cast and crew as the investigation commences.

There is a nephew of the owner of the hotel who has fingers pointed at him. The aging actor who was the victim’s lover has his own near-death experience, and it turns out he was Charlotte’s former fiancee. Lots of reasons for her to find herself pushed into the middle of the muddle, not the least of which is that she is dating the Chief of Police. An interesting setup for future installments.

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At NE Crimebake this year, Auntie M took a police class from Brian Thiem, a former Oakland Homicide Detective Commander with years of Army experience, too. So it was a pleasure after listening to his expertise, designed for writers to ‘get it right’ about police actions, guns, and forensics, to come home and read his debut crime novel featuring Detective Matt Sinclair, Red Line.

RED LINE is an excellent police procedural with an engaging main character who comes across as real, someone readers can identify with and will want to follow, and that extends to his new partner, Cathy Braddock. Catching his first case after desk duty for a series of incidents that have stained his reputation, Sinclair needs a good case to get back into action.

A teenage boy has been found dead at a bus stop outside a hospital, the son of surgeon at that hospital who lives in an affluent neighborhood. Then a second body is dumped at the same bus stop, and Sinclair and Braddock try to find the connection between the victims.

It doesn’t help that the cases bring back an old case of Sinclair’s from two years ago, when two girls were left at that same bus stop. One in a dazed state wandered into the line of traffic and died as a result of being hit by cars. Sinclair realizes he was too deep into his alcoholism at the time to devote as much time to the case as he should have and works even harder to do them justice.

The daily routine of police work is recreated in perfect detail: the interviews, the reports, the way small bits of information come together to build a case. And as Sinclair works this case he must deal with superiors who want to force him out of homicide.

With a girl friend who is a television reporter whose job often puts them in conflict, readers will come to understand the grueling long hours and high stress of a murder investigation, all as Sincalir struggles with his desire to take to the bottle again. Chapters from the murderer’s point of view add to the well-plotted mystery. A strong debut which will leave readers looking for a sequel, from someone who knows the drill inside out.

TimeDeparture
Douglas Schofield has crafted a most unusual police procedural in Time of Departure. Drawing on his own legal experience, he introduces Claire Talbot, a Florida State prosecutor trying to prove herself to her colleagues in her new post a head of their Felony Division.

The action kicks off when a highway construction crew find two skeletons sharing a grave, and Claire is forced to reopen a cold case investigation into a series of abductions. Perusing the case file, she comes across retired fellow cop Marc Hastings, who becomes too close for comfort with some aspects of Claire’s life and this case.

Is his interest more than affection? And what does Hastings know about Claire’s life that she doesn’t?

A compelling debut that shows a clever mind behind it all, mixing genre expectations.

Lies
Linda Lovely takes readers to her hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, in the year 1938 for Lies. Using real landmarks and historical happenings mixed with her fictional story and elements, this is a strong showing from a great storyteller. The period leading up to WWII comes alive under Lovely’s talented hand.

Catherine Reedy Black knows she needs to leave her abusive husband, a swindler and con man, in order to have a reasonable future for her two-year old son, Jay. With her family’s support, she just might be able to do it, too, until Dirk Black’s corpse is pulled out of the river, and Cat becomes the prime suspect.

New to the police department, Ed Nelson knows Cat from school, and remembers the bright girl he was attracted to. But he’s hiding his own secrets, and even as he tries his best to help clear Cat, he’s fighting the corrupt police chief who wants nothing more than to see Cat convicted of murder.

With the annual Street Fair in town, the glitzy lights and rides will prove a scary setting as Cat tries to clear her name and almost dies in the effort. It seems there are many in town who are hiding secrets, and among them is the killer with a motive Cat needs to unearth.

A perfect mix of compelling mystery and love story in a well-drawn setting. And a great gift for any reader who enjoys this period.

WhatYouSee
Multi-award winner Hank Phillipi Ryan returns with her fourth Jane Ryland thriller, What You See.

The journalist and her detective boyfriend, Jake Brogan, are in the midst of still trying to figure out how to handle their conflicts of interest in their jobs. She’s interviewing with a new channel, and rushes to the site of a big story: the stabbing death of a man at historic Faneuil Hall–and it’s Jake’s case.

You would think with multiple tourists capturing the murder on their cell phones that this would be one case that’s an easy solve, but Jake and his partner Paul find this investigation isn’t at all what they’d predicted. There’s an injured man in addition to the victim to consider, too.

In the midst of this, Jane’s sister is about to be married, what should be a joyous occasion–until her fiancé’s daughter, the young flower girl, is abducted by her stepfather. Nine-year-old Gracie’s disappearance is just the tip of the iceberg as this story overlaps with the case Jake is following, with fingers leading to dark places.

It gets more and more complicated. Neither the murder victim or the injured man in the alley have any ID on them, making motive and solving the case difficult. Jane is juggling with trying to establish a new place at Channel 2 when her family situation takes precedence. Jake is finding that a murder in broad daylight in front multiple witnesses is full of challenges and directions of interest that have far reaching connections and consequences.

It all places Jake and Jane in a position to test their loyalties to each other and to their jobs.

Ryan does a bang-up job of showing how even in this digital age, looks can still deceive. Filled with family secrets, merciless ambition, and deceitful maneuverings. JT Ellison says, “This is Ryan at the top of her game.” A perfect mix of mystery and romance.
Silent City
Carrie Smith’s first Manhattan police procedural, Silent City, features protagonist Claire Codella, a detective just back on the case after grueling chemotherapy for an aggressive lymphoma. Still dealing with its after-effects, which Smith details accurately, Codella’ first murder case turns out to a well-liked school principal. And Codella must prove to her colleagues, and to herself, that she’s up to the task.

Hector Sanchez’s murder investigation hands Codella a new partner to break in, newly promoted Eduardo Munoz. They, along with Codella’s former partner, Brian Haggerty, follow numerous leads in their search for Sanchez’s killer. The staging of his body makes it appear that his murder is connected to his job as principal at PS 777 and the three investigators quickly learn there are far too many suspects with a motive to kill him.

Codella is an intelligent detective who follows where the evidence leads her, and whose new boss is not exactly her biggest fan. Yet despite his attempts to undermine her authority, Codella relentlessly pursues all the of the leads in the case, despite battling her cancer treatment’s side effects.

Munoz and Haggerty, also excellent investigators, know they must be loyal to Codella. Munoz must also prove himself worthy of his promotion; Haggerty and Codella are trying to put to bed an old rift that came between them.

This mystery has an engaging storyline and appealing characters. With plenty of suspects, no clear cut motive for the crime and stunning plot twists, Carrie Smith skillfully conceals the killer’s identity until the novel’s climax. A strong series debut.

ManWashingMachine
Susan Cox won Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel award. The Man on the Washing Machine is a delightful mix of humor and murder, taking place in San Francisco, and introducing a most unusual sleuth, former party girl and society photographer Theophania Bogart, who hides her own family secrets.

Theo unfortunately sees her neighbor, Tim Callahan, fall from his apartment window, plunging her right into the middle of his murder investigation. Her already complicated new life comes under intense scrutiny. Surrounded by neighbors and friends, Theo is the owner of a small bath and body shop as well as the building housing it, but she is constantly afraid her sordid past will be unearthed.

What will a police investigation do to her carefully crafted identity?

When the police detective suspects murder, not suicide, she lists the entire neighborhood as suspects and that includes Theo. Then another body with direct ties to Theo turns up, making her the number one suspect.

Filled with eccentric characters, this fast-paced mystery is filled with humor and action. A perfect gift for those readers who enjoy a dose of humor with their mystery.

That’s it for the gift listing, folks. Remember that books make wonderful presents for anyone on your holiday list. And enjoy yours, with a few for your stocking as well~

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