Elly Griffiths: The Vanishing Box Tuesday, Nov 13 2018 

Elly Grifftiths delightful period series, The Magic Men Mysteries, returns with The Vanishing Box, and it’s Auntie M’s favorite yet in a compelling series.

It’s almost Christmas in Brighton, and magician Max Mephisto is headlining a special act at the Hippodrome with his daughter, Ruby. With a television show in the offing, the Vanshing Box trick wows the audience. Things are changing for the magician duo in more ways than one.

An act gaining a lot of interest and controversy in the same show is the “living statues” act, where near-naked women freeze in a strange tableau of historic moments. While some appreciate the stillness of the women and others their strategic feathers and leaves, there are cries of obscenity in the town that pale in comparison when one of the young women is murdered.

Max’s good friend, DI Edgar Stephens, who happens to be Ruby’s fiance, leads the investigation into the death of the lovely young woman. He also must deal with his conflicted feelings for a colleague, with surprising results.

There will be secrets from the past woven into the fabric of the mystery Edgar must solve as the deaths mount up. And when the danger hits close to home, Edgar will realize this is his most important case yet.

A fine entry in the series, with the period details spot on. And don’t miss Griffiths’ new stand-alone Gothic thriller, The Stranger Diaries.

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Matt Ferraz: Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game Monday, Nov 12 2018 

Please welcome Matt Ferraz, to tell readers about his new release based on two very popular figures, Sherlock Holmes, and Pollyanna:

Writing Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game By Matt Ferraz

The genesis of Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game was a challenge I made to myself: pick two characters in public domain that apparently have nothing to do with each other, and somehow make them work together.

I’ve been a Sherlockian all my life, and have wanted to write a book with the detective for some time. But who could I match him with? Other writers already had him meeting Jack the Ripper, Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and so many others. What could I bring to the table that was new and fresh?

I was at a bookshop in my town when I saw brand new editions of Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up, by Eleanor H. Porter. Those were books I had never read, but knew the basic premise: a girl who always sees the bright side of everything no matter what.

I had seen the 1920 movie with Mary Pickford, one of my favourite actresses, but remembered little of it. So I got myself copies of those two books, and while reading them, a novel started to form in my mind. No one had ever had the idea of putting Holmes and Pollyanna Whittier in the same story. After all, they’re so different!

But my mind was made up: I was going to write a book where she comes to London and assists Holmes and Watson in an investigation. People didn’t believe I could pull it off. In fact, my fiancée thought it was a crazy idea to begin with, but decided to give me the benefit of doubt.

I wrote the first draft of this book in a month – which is faster than I had ever worked before! For that whole month, I was completely immersed in the book, having re-watched several Holmes movies for inspiration and re-reading big sections of Porter’s books. My idea wasn’t simply to have Pollyanna ringing at 221b Baker Street offering a case for the detective to solve. I wanted to fit her in the Holmes cannon as organically as possible.

My book starts with Pollyanna becoming a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Watson while Holmes was considered to be dead after facing Professor Moriarty. Pollyanna is in London to see a special doctor during an injury she suffered in her childhood – which is shown in the first Porter book. She eventually returns to America but shows up in London two years later, when Holmes is already back from the dead, with a brand new husband and a lot of trouble on her back. The best part of writing this story were the comedic possibilities in the interaction between these characters.

I tried to avoid making Pollyanna too annoying and naive – she’s actually pretty smart and kicks some butts. It was also nice to create a more humane Holmes, different from the stubborn and arrogant versions we’ve seen in movie and TV in the past few years. It’s a little, quirky and funny book I’m very proud of.

British sleuth Sherlock Holmes can solve any mystery from a small clue. American traveler Pollyanna Whittier can only see the good side of every situation. The only thing they have in common is their friendship with Dr. John Watson. When Pollyanna shows up in London with a mystery for Holmes to solve, she decides to teach the detective the Glad Game: a way of remaining optimistic no matter what. A dangerous – and hilarious – clash of minds, where these two characters of classic literature need to learn how to work together in order to catch a dangerous criminal.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K7W4PQL/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42648425-sherlock-holmes-and-the-glad-game/

Alyssa Palombo: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel Wednesday, Oct 31 2018 

Happy Hallowe’en! And what better book to present than Alyssa Palombo’s retelling of the classic legend of Sleepy Hollow in The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

Palombo’s previous historicals,The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, were both hailed for their accurate period details woven into an intriguing story. Spellbook continues in that vein, and as a New Yorker who grew up on Washington Irving’s story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this retelling of that story combines aspects of a sweeping romance with a gothic thriller that are delight to read.

Katrina Van Tassel is heiress to her father’s extensive farms along the Hudson River Valley, and a suitable husband must soon be found for the attractive girl. When the new schoolmaster arrives and begins music lessons, Ichabod Crane and Katrina are immediately drawn to each other.

So begins their love story, one that is threatened by the courting of Brom Van Brunt, son of a neighboring farmer. Katrina’s father is convinced the melding of the two farms would be a boon and is in favor of this union, which Katrina is definitely not.

Growing up with her best friend, Charlotte, daughter of the local midwife and herbalist, Charlotte was called a witch by Brom when the three were young, and Katrina has never forgiven him. Indeed, the friendship between Charlotte Jansen, supposed ‘white witch’ and the heiress Katrina are at the heart of the novel.

As Ichabod and Katrina begin their love affair, the ghost of the local legends surround them, until Ichabod suddenly disappears on All Hallows Eve. While locals whisper the Headless Horseman has claimed Ichabod, Katrina fears a more human element. Than how to explain the visions she sees when staring into a candle’s flame?

At the heart of the bool is the story told through the eyes of Katrina. Readers see the time period spool out before them with its customs and mores, as well as the lovers secret life.

Set against the backdrop of the country as its first President is searching for a replacement, the novel gives a feminist version of the haunting legend and its consequences as they revolve around Katrina. An intriguing and new way to look at an old legend.

Elsa Hart: City of Ink Thursday, Oct 18 2018 

Elas Hart’s new Li Du novel, City of Ink, finds the 18th Century librarian’s return to Beijing to uncover the murderer of his mentor. With sidekick storyteller Hamza by his side, Li Du investigates when two bodies are found in a tile factory.

The period details add to the richness of the story as the idea of crime of passion doesn’t sit well with Li Du. For the second victim is the factory owner’s wife, and their supposed secret meeting led to their murders by her jealous husband.

Now a lowly secretary to the Chief Inspector, Li Du finds the husband refusing to confess to the murders. While admitting he was drunk that night, he has no memory of killing either victim.

It’s a twisted path he follows that will lead him to corruption of the highest order, with the future of thousands of Chinese in the balance.

Even his own past will come under scrutiny, which brings Li Du under the microscope and endangers his own well-being.

Hart’s research shows, in the way she brings this era to life, in the texture and colors and sights and sounds of a bygone time that seem just around the corner under her talented pen. Her characters are as well-woven as a Chinese silk tapestry.

There are enough twists and turns for any experienced mystery writer, but there is so much more here than that puzzle that keeps readers flipping pages. An accomplished addition to a satisfying historic series.

And if you enjoy historicals, Steve Berry’s The Lost Order is new in paperback. Gold from a secret Civil War society plays a role when it comes to light the secrets of the Knights of the Golden Circle, still operating, might be revealed. Cotton and his team find themselves racing around the US to piece together the plot that would cause disaster to the country.

Jim Eldridge: Murder at the Fitzwilliam Monday, Oct 8 2018 


London-born author Jim Eldridge had a host of jobs before teaching led him to writing scripts for radio and television. He’s written SciFi, Children’s and YA fiction, including books for early readers and reluctant readers.

But Auntie M’s readers will be happy to hear Jim has turned his pen to crime fiction, with a new series that debuts with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. Set in 1894, it introduces private enquiry agent Daniel Wilson, retired from his Detective Inspector duties after investigating the Jack the Ripper case. Assisting him in this case at the Cambridge museum is archeologist Abigail Fenton.

Auntie M had the opportunity recently to ask Jim about his new series.

Auntie M: You started as a teacher before turning to writing full time. Was that always your intention?

Jim Eldridge: As well as teaching (which I loved doing), I had a variety of jobs before being able to afford to become a full-timer writer in 1978. I’d worked in offices, at a petrol station, done labouring jobs in an abattoir and even been a stoker on a blast furnace, but my ambition was always to be a full-time writer.

AM: Auntie M noticed your interest in history throughout your many series, from the early and reluctant readers books to your YA series. Is this a chance to teach readers or your natural interest?

JE: I have a deep love of history. I am a great believer in we are where we are now because of the historical events that have gone before, and that as a species we seem to keep repeating the same errors. So, yes, I do tend to stress the similarities between what’s happened in the past and what’s happening now – so readers say “we never learn.”

AM: The new Museum series starts out powerfully with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. How did you decide to choose 1894 for this series?

JE: The publishing director at Allison & Busby and I discussed various potential eras (modern, early 20th century), but we both felt that the late Victorian era heralded so many changes, both in society and technologically, that it would be a great backdrop for the series.

AM: Why the Fitzwilliam and Cambridge?

JE: Once we’d agreed for the series to use Museums for the settings of the series, we began by selecting the most famous of the oldest museums in Britain, and they were The British Museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, and the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. We felt that Cambridge had received less attention than Oxford out of the two oldest British University cities, so we decided to set the first adventure there.

AM: Nice to see a strong female character in archaeologist Abigail Fenton. Will she appear in the other books?

JE: Yes, she and Daniel become an investigating duo, as well as her continuing her own career as an archaeologist.

AM: Where does the series head next?

JE: Book 2 is MURDER AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM, which comes out early in 2019. Book 3, MURDER AT THE ASHMOLEAN, comes out in Autumn 2019.

AM: With three planned as of this writing, might that be extended?

JE: I hope so, if the series finds its readership, so my fingers are firmly crossed for that to happen.

AM: Mine,too, as I loved this first book. How does the radio and TV work inform your adult fiction? Do you see the books in scenes unfolding as you write?

JE: From 1971 until 2010 I was primarily a scriptwriter for TV and radio (with 250 TV scripts and 250 radio scripts broadcast). Scriptwriting is very different to novel-writing. In a script there is no place for the “interior monologue” from the characters – in a screenplay the emotions the character is feeling have to be shown by their expression and their movements. In a novel you have room to expand on what a character is feeling. However, I feel my long scriptwriting career has helped me when writing novels in developing plots (and sub-plots) and the vital importance of creating characters that readers want to know about. And you’re right, I also view a scene visually so I can write it.

AM: Who would we find on your nighttable, waiting to be read?

JE: At this moment, THE RAILWAY DETECTIVE by Edward Marston, but the one I’m really looking forward to arriving in my mailbox is DEATH UNSCRIPTED: A TRUDY GENOVA MANHATTAN MYSTERY by Marni Graff. As a former scriptwriter, this sounds my ideal mystery!

AM: You’re very kind, and I hope you will enjoy it, Jim. Thanks for giving readers insight into this new series. And now for a review of Murder at the Fitzwilliam.

Archeologist Abigail Fenton has enough hard work cataloguing recent Egyptian artificts sent to the famed Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, while she makes her way in a largely male profession, when she stumbles across a modern body inside an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.

Daniel Wilson has been called in by the Museum’s director to protect the museum’s reputation by quickly bringing the case to a discreet close. The former London detective brings his intuition and his experience with him, and soon finds himself going head-to-head with the local Cambridge detective, who has decided the murder was an accident.

With Abigail and Daniel agreeing this could hardly be the case, Daniel calls on the archeologist to assist him in his investigation into the identity of the dead man and how his body came to be found in the Egyptian Collection room.

Then the local papers circulate a story about a murderous mummy, destined to shake up the populace, and a second body is soon found, raising the stakes and making Daniel’s investigation harder.

There will be several paths of enquiry for them to follow; red herrings abound with distractions for both sleuths as they find their way to the the answers they seek.

Abigail and Daniel are an engaging pair of sleuths, bound by the mores of the time, which include the women’s suffragete movement. They take each other’s measure and like what they see while moving the case forward.

With accurate period details, Eldridge perfectly recreates the Cambridge of the Victorian era. A highly successful start to a captivating new series.
Available in the US November 19th~

Rhys Bowen: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding Wednesday, Aug 8 2018 


Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries are a continued delight, and fans will be especially happy to follow Lady Georgina on her way to her long-planned wedding in Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

The 12th addition contains all the charm of a royal wedding–yes, the King and Queen and those two little princesses will be there. But it seems Georgie’s amateur sleuth days are far from over.

Wedding details need to be honed down and the list keep growing, thanks to the Queen. The year is 1935, and King George V is at the end of his reign while Mrs. Wallis Simpson is annoyingly dating the Prince of Wales.

Assorted relatives are having their own nuptials, and the groom, charming fiance` Darcy O’Mara, is cagey on his profession, as usual. But Georgie’s househunting is what’s disappointing her.

From the lackluster houses available in the 1930s, Georgie is surpised by an invitation to live at Eynsleigh Manor, which she will one day inherit. But when she arrives to get the estate in order, she finds the run-down house matched by the shoddy attitudes of the staff.

Chaos ensures, along with murder, robbery, servants not doing their job–and Georgie’s mother and grandfather deciding to move in. Which is worse for the secondary royal who’s down at the heels? And those funerals will affect Georgie and those closest to her.

But despite the trials and tribulations, Georgie manages to pull off the wedding of the year. You’ll be charmed by the history and the descriptions of the manor, as well as the confidence Georgie finds.

A grand addition to the long-running series, sure to be a reader favorite.

Two Historicals: Marco Vichi and Tessa Arlen Friday, Jun 15 2018 

Auntie M has two from very different eras to recommend:


The lastest Bordelli mystery from Marco Vichi, Ghosts of the Past, take readers back to Florence of 1967, a year after the flood that devastated the area and claimed Bordelli’s conscience.

The Inspector’s new case revolves around the murder of Antonio Migliorini. The wealthy businessman was loved by all who knew him–so who could have wanted him dead?

That’s the question Brodelli must answer, and it will take him to unusual places. The victim was killed with the thrust of a fencing foil to his heart. Some jewelry was stolen,, perhsaps to muddy the waters, but no other forensic evidence is on hand to help the detective.

Revisiting the victim’s past days find Bordelli crossing paths with a war friend, Colonel Arceri, whom he invites into his home. That sets off a chain of events that will lead to Bordelli finding the murderer in a most unexpected way.

The series is filled with Bordelli’s dreams, his memories and recollections, and his yearning for the beautiful Eleanora. There is humor, too, and Florence and its environs come alive under Vichi’s talented pen, set within a complex mystery.

Tessa Arlen’s Lady Montfort series takes readers to WW1 England in Death of an Unsung Hero.

Lady Montfort has convinced her husband to offer their dower house for soldiers suffering from what is now called PTSD, with her no-nonsense, practical housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, serving as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Such a good deed comes under scrutiny when Sir Evelyn Bray is found dead in the garden from blunt force trauma to his head. Add in the local farming community’s disapproval of this easy way out for men they consider cowards, and the two women become afraid the War Office will close their hospital in an upcoming visit.

It doesn’t make sense to either woman that someone would want to murder a soldier suffering from amnesia, unless it’s to kill him before that memory fully returns. With his brother due to visit, his death is tough news to break.

When a local man is arrested, to the women’s chagrin, it adds impetus to their resolve to find the real killer. Readers also gain more knowledge of Lady Montfort’s family. With the war on, Edwardian values became more relaxed, especially for women, and this is illustrated well.

The historical details are well-researched, and eccentric characters add to the texture of the mystery. A high note is the relationship between the two women of different social stratas, and how well they work in concert, bringing their individual strengths to a murder investigation.

Laura Andersen: The Darkling Bride Thursday, May 31 2018 


Carragh Ryan could never imagine what awaits her when she agrees to inventory the historic library of the Gallagher family at Deeprath Castle in the Irish countryside.

With her own complicated background but a dgree in English lit and postgrad work in Irish Studies at Trinity, Carragh has been doing freelance editorial work in Dublin.

She’s interested in this temporary job to get closer to the Norman castle where Evan Chase, the Victorian novelist she has studied, lived for three years, before leaving a widower who never wrote again. Could there be a his missing manscript hidden there?

Then she meets the current Viscount of the Gallaghers, Aidan, and her job becomes even more unusual when she becomes caught up in the renewed investigation of the deaths of his parents two decades before.

Deciding to put the castle into a public trust, he agrees Carragh can work on the archive so he can keep family papers private.

That these deaths of the Gallagher parents are similar to those of Chase’s wife and infant adds to the myths Carragh learns about The Darkling Bridde, a legend that the deaths have kept fueled.

At once a gothic mystery, fans of Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart will recognize the conventions–and be sucked in by them. There’s something for everyone here, between the romance, the legend, and the mystery to be solved. There are multiple time lines to follow the stories and it all adds up to a ghostly atmospheric read, filled with suspense.

Christina Lynch: The Italian Party Tuesday, Mar 20 2018 

Accomplished writer and editor, in fiction and journalism, Christina Lynch’s debut novel under her own name is the delightful The Italian Party.

Filled with wry humor that runs alongside the romance of Italy, she tlle the story of newlyweds Scottie and Michael Messina, who arrive in Siena in the spring of 1956.

Scottie has been told Michael is to open a new Ford office selling tractors, but the reality of his job is just one of the secrets he’s keeping.

Scottie has her own secrets, too, and as their married life commences, they come to know each other as their lives become involved in local politics and the complex dance they both do to keep their secrets.

The Cold War comes alive just as Scottie does. The naivete of both of the young marrieds reflects their upbringing and the mores of the time. It’s a powerful read as we to watch them slowly begin to trust each other.

Twist together a spy story, a missing boy, and a romance of unexpected sorts, and you have a pastiche that rings true. The delicious food, the rugged landscape, and the historic buildings and squares are all lovingly described. Horses figure here, as do Communists, ex-pats, sex, and Italian culture.

A delicious romp that will have you expecting Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday to turn up as you turn the pages, with a startling ending that feels satisfying.

Frances Brody: Death in the Stars Friday, Mar 16 2018 


Frances Brody newest Kate Shackleton mystery bring Yorkshire in 1927 to life in Death in the Stars.

The great eclipse is on its way, and Kate has been contacted by the msyterious but beloved singing star Selina Fellini to arrange her transport and accompany her to a viewing party at Gigglewsick School.

Kate is certain there’s more to Selina’s fretfullness over not having flown before, but arranges the flight for herself, Selina and the singer’s good friend and co-star, comedian Billy Moffatt.

When Billy goes missing right after the eclipse, he’s ultimately found by the chapelon the grounds of the school. An alert senior student who plans to go into medicine helps Kate figure out that Billy’s cigar was tainted.

While Kate sits by the comatose Billy so Selina can keep her theatre committment that evening, she ponders the underlying nature of Selina’s anxiety: two other performers in their theatre troupe were killed in different but also mysterious ways.

Soon Kate has Bill Sykes and Mrs. Sugden on board as they investigate all three murders and find far too many suspects, which include Selina’s husband, a talented songwriter with a disfiguring war wound who’s mentally distraught. It’s a race to find the culprit to keep the next person close to Selina from being killed.

One of the things that remains consistently charming in the series is the depth of research Brody maintains. The feel of postwar England with authentic period details adds to this look inside the world of British music halls of the era.

This ninth in the series, with its well-plotted mystery and colorful characters, is a pure delight. Readers will wonder why this engaging series hasn’t been picked up yet by Masterpiece Mystery.

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