Will Thomas: Old Scores Sunday, Oct 8 2017 

Will Thomas’ historical series featuring private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his right-hand assistant, Thomas Llewelyn returns with an intricately-plotted mystery, Old Scores.

It’s 1890 and things are becoming modernized when a Japanese delegation, in England to form a new embassy, arrive to visit Barker’s own Japanese garden along with the new ambassador. The team he arrives with are varied, and Llewelyn fancies that Barker recognizes one of the men.

When the ambassador is shot that same evening, Barker is found across the street and immediately arrested, although that doesn’t last long. Despite the Foreign Branch subjecting him to a more than necessary interrogation, his lawyer manages to procure his release. At the behest of the new ambassador, Barker and Llewelyn undertake an investigation to find the real murderer.

This time readers learn more of Barker’s past and his time in Japan, as well as the cultural overtones of the political situation of the era. There are personal details that come with personal revelations. Authentic period details spring off the page and speak to Thomas’ research. Llewelyn’s own situation comes into play, as does the ward Barker keeps an eye on, now married.

It’s a complex unraveling they must undertake, chock full of sly humor and a bit of suspense in a most atmospheric London.


Juliana Grey: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit & A Strange Scottish Shore Tuesday, Oct 3 2017 

Juliana Gray debuted her series last year with A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, featuring Emmeline Truelove, private secretary to the Duke of Olympia, a position her father held before her.

After an intriguing prologue set in contemporary times, the book goes back to Edwardian times. It’s 1906 when the Duke dies in a fishing accident, and Truelove suddenly finds herself, against her better judgement and that of the ghost of the Queen who advises against it, on her way to find the Duke’s heir.

Only the heir is missing from Crete, where he’s been uncovering archeological treasures, and Truelove is sent packing off that same night as the funeral to travel by the Duke’s private yacht. Her travel companion, friend of the missing Arthur Maximillian Haywood, is none other than the cad Lord Silverton, who had the temerity to introduce himself to Truelove earlier as Freddie.

This young woman is a paragon of virtue for several reasons, and is Freddie’s attentions as the trip progresses to Crete. Once there, they will face ransacked rooms, murders and more following Max’s trail to a surprising conclusion, one that includes facets of the paranormal. It will end with Truelove’s new position and some hanging details that carry over.

After the novella, The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, Gray returns with this year’s entry in the series, A Strange Scottish Shore. The new Duke and Truelove travel to the Orkney Islands, a remote destination off Scotland’s coast, to investigate a strange find in an ancient castle.

The artifact is supposed to be the the skin of a selkie, a being who rose from the sea and supposedly married the castle’s first laird. Silverton makes his appearance in a most unusual way, as does a stalker for Truelove. It’s a complex plot of time travel and fighting foes, and with Max’s special talent coming into play. The banter from Silverton and Truelove continues and deepens.

The series, with its mix of historical mystery, fantasy, time travel and romance will interest many readers for that very reason. This one highlights the time travel. Perfect for Outlander fans.

Ashley Weaver: The Essence of Malice Saturday, Sep 30 2017 

Ashley Weaver’s series set in the time of Nick and Nora Charles returns with the 4th entry, The Essence of Malice, that starts with Amory receiving the gift of a new perfume, Shazadi, a heady gardenia and sensual scent, and scents will overlay the entire story.

Readers have become engaged with Amory Ames and her somewhat rakish husband Milo. The upper classes shine brightly, filled with glamour, as Amory finds out more than she ever wanted to know about the world of perfumers. Of course, her maid, Winnelda, and Milo’s valet, Parks, are on hand to smooth their travels.

After Milo receives a letter from his childhood nanny, he convinces Amory to travel from the lovely Lake Como in Italy with him to Paris to see Madame Nanette. Her wealthy employer, a premiere parfumier, has died just as his newest perfume is to be released, and the nanny feels that Helio Belanger’s death, after a plane accident the day before that he walked away from, apparently unhurt, was not natural. Belanger was a beau of Nanette 30 years before and she had consented to be a nanny to his young child with his second wife.

Amory and Milo become wrapped up in the unhappy family and the perfume industry as they investigate what really happened to Belanger, which has a heavy share of rivals, as well as family members who want to control the empire he built. Amory learns about creating new perfumes, layering scents, and that Belanger has three grown children as well as that new wife, all of whom live together, all suspsects vying for control of his business.

This is chock-full of snappy dialgue, romantic tension, lies and secret, all wrapped up in a darn good mystery. Add in the world of perfumers and you’ll learn while you deduct.

My favorite in the series to date, with a surprising ending.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express Friday, Sep 15 2017 

“All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express. When I had travelled to France or Spain or Italy, the Orient Express had often been standing at Calais, and I had longed to climb up into it.” Agatha Christie: An Autobiography.

Today is the 127th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie, the author whose works are outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. She’s also the most translated author, with more than 2 billion books published in over 100 languages.

In honor of Twentieth Century Fox’s new version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, premiering this fall, HarperColliins/William Morrow is offering the book in every form from hardcover and paperback to E-book and Digital Audio. There’s even a large print version. In the movie, Poirot will be played by a dashing Kenneth Branagh, with Judi Dench, Derek Jacopi, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Leslie Odom, Jr. among the talented cast.

Auntie M thought her readers might be interested in some background on this long-time favorite, starring Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot. If you haven’t read this classic, she hopes this will whet your appetite to read the original before the movie premieres. Here’s Branagh as Poirot, different from David Suchet, who to Auntie M was always the embodiment of Poirot, but dashing in his own way. Branagh directs the film:

Agatha’s wish to travel on the famed train came true a year after the end of her first marriage, the same year her mother died. She visited Iraq on what would be the first trip of many with second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist with yearly digs in Iraq and Syria. A snippet from Mallowan’s Memoirs describes how Agatha almost didn’t get to write the book:

It was luck that she lived to write the book, for not long before penning it while standing on the railway station at Calais, she slipped on the icy platform and fell underneath the train. Luckily, a porter was at hand to fish her up before the Orient Express started moving.

This is Agatha with Max:

The book had its genesis when Agatha was travelling alone on the OE and it was stopped after being stuck due to heavy rains. As the passengers talked, she heard stories of snow storms that had stranded the train for days at a time. Her story was also greatly influenced by the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby during this period. Agatha is thought to have written the book during 1931, and it was first published in September of 1933 as a series in the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post under the title Murder in the Calais Coach. It was published at the same time in the UK as Murder on the Orient Express and is dedicated to M.E.L.M: Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

In a letter to Max, Agatha describes the rain and several other travellers on that train trip which clearly influenced her future mystery. She noted details such as cabin layouts, and the placement of door handles and light switches, which would all serve her in good stead when she decided to have Poirot solve the case she develops.

Agatha wrote her first mystery on a bet with her sister at the age of 26 (1916), and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Hercule Poirot, was published four year later. Many readers know that her play, The Mousetrap, is the longest running play in the world after its debut in 1952, and visitors to London can see it at The St Martin’s Theatre.

If you haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express, now’s the time to pick up a copy of the story, which revolves around Poirot on the Orient Express when it gets stuck in a snowbank. There will be a murder, concealed identities, and the incomparable Belgian sleuth figuring it all out, with a twist at the end.

Happy Birthday, Dame Agatha!

Frances Brody: Death at the Seaside Thursday, Sep 14 2017 

In Death at the Seaside, the 8th Kate Shackleton Mystery, the private eye is taking a little vacation at the seaside–or so she plans, in 1920s England. Driving to the Northumbriann coast of Whitby, she plans to visit her old school friend, Alma, and Kate’s god-daughter Felicity.

But nothing goes as planned when Kate arrives to find Alma is now working as a fortune teller, and shortly after, she stumbles over the body of the local jeweler, Jack Phillips.

It turns out that Alma thought that she and Jack were something of an item. And Felicity, instead of stickng around to see her godmother has disappeared with her boyfriend on her own important journey.

It’s a rocky investigation for Kate, as the local police seem to think she might be responsible for killing Jack, a man she’s never met, or a the very least, be involved in smuggling! It will take an old Scotland Yard friend to set them straight on that score.

But Kate will have to call on Mrs. Sugden and her capable sidekick, Jim Sykes, both vacationing nearby, to temporaily join her. Even Jim’s wife gets pressed into service to find a killer.

One of the hallmarks of Brody’s series is the historical detail and settings she details just right. Readers will feel they’ve been to Whitby. If you adore Golden Age mysteries, look no further than this entertaining and always compelling series.

Susan Sloate: On Historical Research Sunday, Aug 6 2017 

Please welcome Susan Slaote, to explain about the historical research she loves!

It’s Not Laziness—It’s Research!!

I love, love, LOVE American history, and have been reading and studying it all my life. I’ve also written a fair number of books based on history: 5 biographies (Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Clara Barton, two books about Ray Charles), a book about baseball (BASEBALL’S HOTSHOTS: Greats of the Game When They Were Young), a history of Alcatraz Island (MYSTERIES UNWRAPPED: The Secrets of Alcatraz), and in later years, a time-travel thriller about the JFK assassination (FORWARD TO CAMELOT).
When I’m looking into a subject that fascinates me, like the Earhart disappearance, days and weeks can go by before I come out of the fog. I dive into old books, magazines, photographs, films, and everything that comes up on YouTube. I’ve traveled to Oklahoma City (home of the 99’s, the women’s aviation group) to read rare documents about Amelia Earhart. I’ve flown to Chicago and Dallas to attend forums about the Kennedy assassination. I even married a guy I met at a JFK assassination symposium, even though I guess that’s a little extreme.
As I said, I can easily get lost in mountains of facts and not surface until I’ve had my fill of information. (The latest one is about a conspiracy surrounding the Titanic, which will be my next book.) I keep digging for facts, until I usually have enough to write at least two books on the subject.
All this research, I hope, results in some very good books. Sometimes, I even manage to find an obscure fact so interesting that I build an entire book around it.
A case in point is my research for FORWARD TO CAMELOT, when in my reading I came across a paragraph in William Manchester’s DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, about LBJ taking the presidential oath of office on Air Force One in Dallas on November 22, 1963, with his hand on a Bible belonging to President Kennedy. According to Manchester, the Bible disappeared completely right after the ceremony, and no one had seen it since.

That was all I needed. I’d found the ultimate McGuffin, lost in history, and wasted no time deciding that my heroine, a time traveler, would travel back in time SPECIFICALLY to recover JFK’s lost Bible at the very moment when it was lost. (It took about two years to figure this out, but once we knew we were sending her back in time for the Bible, we got a lot more clarity on the storyline.) I checked, just to be sure, with the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, who said no, they didn’t have it, and no, they didn’t know where it was.
The book was published, in its original edition, in 2003, and a few years later, my co-author, Kevin Finn, called me in great agitation. “We have to pull the book,” he told me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I know where the Bible is,” he said. “It was the answer to a question on Jeopardy!”
Turns out the Bible had been given to Mrs. Johnson after the swearing-in, and she in turn gave it to Liz Carpenter, her press secretary, so she could show it to reporters who asked about the ceremony.
Except nobody asked. Nobody ever cared. The story was the dead president, not the new president (which must have been a real kick in LBJ’s massive ego). And when the LBJ Presidential Library was being built in Austin, Texas, the Johnsons offered the Bible (actually a Catholic missal, or prayer book) to the Kennedys, who said they felt it belonged in the Johnson presidency, not with Kennedy, who didn’t even own it for very long.
It’s on display, as it has been for years, in the LBJ Presidential Library, complete with JFK’s initials on the stamped leather. And it was never a McGuffin at all.
But we kept the book in print, until we re-edited and re-published it in a new edition in 2013. We kept the same storyline, and even kept the Bible as the McGuffin. No one has been the wiser.
Among the other fantastic tidbits of info we came up with, through diligent research, were that Joe Kennedy kept medicines for JFK stashed in multiple safe-deposit boxes in banks around the country, so no one would learn of his Addison’s disease. And Lee Oswald’s being a terrific dancer. All those endless hours of reading and research have paid off big-time, with most readers unable to determine what is fact and what is fiction in FORWARD TO CAMELOT.
And after all, isn’t that the whole point??

SUSAN SLOATE is the award-winning, best-selling author of 20 published books, both fiction and nonfiction. STEALING FIRE, her 2013 autobiographical love story, went to #2 in its category on Amazon, was a Hot New Release for its first 90 days and was honored in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Book Award competition. FORWARD TO CAMELOT (co-authored with Kevin Finn), which was first published in 2003 and re-published in 2013, took honors in 3 literary competitions, went to #6 on Amazon and was optioned for film production by a Hollywood company. For REALIZING YOU (co-authored with Ron Doades), she invented a new genre: Self-Help FICTION.

“Susan lives in South Carolina, coaches aspiring authors and speaks frequently at writers conventions. Visit her online at www.susansloate.com.

Alyssa Palombo: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli Sunday, Jul 9 2017 

Palombo merges reality with history in a captivating way and returns to do it again with a story of Botticelli in The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Inspired by Botticelli’s iconic painting The Birth of Venus, readers will be plunged into the Florence of the Medicis that has a surprisingly feminist view.

Palombo has the artist’s muse, Simonetta Vespucci, appearing here not just as his muse but as his mistress. Not difficult to imagine this might have been true, when in reality the artist asked to be buried at her feet.

Born into a glittering circle of the time, with writers, artists, and politicians of the day fawning over her, men are enthralled with Simonetta’s beauty. She saves her heart for the young Botticelli, becoming his muse after he invites her to pose for him.

Once she married Maraco Vespucci, Simonetta must learn how to massage both her marriage and her place in Medici society, while she and the painter dance around their growing love for each other, until they finally consummate their passion that leads to his most famous painting of her.

Don’t miss the author’s note that explains the historical research the author conducted and how she choose this version of events.

Christina Baker Kline: Oprhan Train Girl Sunday, Jun 25 2017 

Kline’s adult novels have been reviewed here, but Auntie M wanted to make mention of a wonderful middle grad reader, as many of you out there have young readers at home or may be looking for a gift for one. Great for summer reading, Kline’s Orphan Train Girl follows two storylines that overlap, and introduces real history in a version for this age group.

Vivian is now an adult living in Maine when young Molly comes to her to help her cleanup her attic, but before that, she was an Irish immigrant who was brought to New York and put on an “orphan train” that would take her to the Midwest and to a new home in Minnesota.

The real orphan trains existed between 1854 and 1929, carrying an estimated two hundred and fifty thousand children from the East Coast to the Midwest to being new lives. Many of them, like Vivian, were immigrants to the US.

As her story unwinds, Molly, who had resided in more foster homes than she should have, finds that she and the elderly widow have more in common than she could have imagined. Molly learns of other children Vivian met on the train, and she learns of the homes and adjustment Vivian has had to endure, even to having her name changed.

The lovely story included a brief history of the orphan trains at the end for young readers. A satisfying read for any age.

Leonard Goldberg: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Tuesday, Jun 13 2017 

Leonard Goldberg is a physician whose name readers might recognize from his many medical thrillers. In this newest outing, Goldberg ventures into the past of 1910 and Edwardian London, and brings a twist to the Sherlock Holmes canon with The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a winning combination of an elderly Dr. Watson, his physician son, also John, and a young woman who assists them in unraveling the supposed suicide of a young man after she and her young son witness the death.

The brilliant mind of Joanna Blalock soon leads Watson to confide in his son that she is none other than the daughter of the late Sherlock Holmes and the only woman who ever outwitted the great mind, Irene Adler. Watson is entrusted with that knowledge, and now John, Jr. is the second person who knows the truth of the young widow’s lineage.

It’s a fine setup as the book moves along, and fans of anything Sherlock will be captivated. This time it’s a female who has the brains to observe and deduce, which Joanna does in fine fashion in a compelling and readable storyline.

That she also happens to be beautiful and captivates John’s heart is an aside that adds to the texture and gladdens Watson’s heart.

The mystery surrounding the death ties into hidden treasure stolen during the Second Afghan War. As the body count rises, it will be up to this trio to figure out how the culprit is managing to kill the members of a special quartet, and how they can protect the remaining member.

It’s a fast-paced story, containing a cipher, a secret room, and enough Sherlockian ties to make readers flip pages fast. A quick, entertaining read, Auntie M hopes Mr. Goldberg plans to bring readers more of this new detecting team.

William Christie: A Single Spy Sunday, May 7 2017 

William Christie’s newest thriller will be a hit with readers who enjoy spy novels, espionage plots, or are World War II aficionados. A Single Spy brings to life a young thief who catches the eye of the Soviet secret police, and is given a no-choice ultimatum: he can choose to be trained as a spy and infiltrate Nazi Germany under the identity of his best friend, no less, or he can be consigned to be lost forever.

What makes it even tougher is that Alexsi’s new identity is also the lost nephew of a Nazi leader, making it even harder as he assumes the mantel of this young man and pretends to be enamored of the Nazi ethos.

When Alexsi is promoted to an intelligence agent for a German spymaster, he lives to avoid the Gestapo finding out he’s sending reports back to the Soviets. Talk about being trapped between two bad choices. Yet Alexsi knows he must remain loyal to neither Stalin nor Hitler, but to one person: himself–if he is to survive.

Filled to the brim with accurate history, the Tehran conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin becomes the focal point for Alexsi in this fascinating novel that takes readers behind the scenes of what really happened during this period.

In Alexsi, Christie has the smarts to create a man readers can’t help but admire as he fights to survive on his wits. There’s something here for everyone, from action scenes to the history to the charming Aleksi, as Christie brings this period in our history to life.

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