Michelle Birkby: The House at Baker Street Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 

Former library assistant Michelle Birkby has long been a fan of the Conan Doyle stories and especially of his female characters, so it’s no surprise her debut, The House at Baker Street, concentrates on the giving those women their own stories to tell.

Shortlisted for Best Historical Crime Novel by the CWA, her story takes two beloved women, Mary Watson and Mrs. Hudson, and given them full-depth characterizations. Her fresh take on Mrs. Hudson, always so much more than just his housekeeper, pushed the action. After working with Sherlock Holmes and observing him at work, when he turns down a case, she and Mary Watson decide they will take it on themselves.

Laura Shirley is a society woman who is being blackmailed, but the two sleuths quickly discover she’s just one of a long list of women trying to preserve their reputations when women’s rights meant something entirely different that that phrase conjurs up now, and when a whiff of any impropriety, justified or not, could ruin a woman. Despite not demanding money, the blackmailer is ruining lives, and Mrs. Hudson, who’s voice is grand in this, determines she cannot abide the practice and sets out to stop him. When the women realize the depth of the tragic ends some of the women come to, their resolve deepens.

This feminist take on the classic detective investigation will see the two women using the Baker Street irregulars and even Irene Adler to follow clues to bring the perpretrator to justice. There are appearances by Holmes and Watson, and references to the Canon, but the story belongs to the women.

Original and entertaining, with a second book already set for next year.


Peggy O’Neal Peden: Your Killin’ Heart Wednesday, May 10 2017 

Peggy O’Neal Peden won the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel with Your Killin’ Heart.

The debut of this new series is set in Nashville where Peden has lived for most of her life, and she captures the feel of the place from the point of view of Campbell Hale, a travel agent with her place in the Hillsboro Village area near Music Row and Vanderbilt U.

She’s become friends with Doug Elliot, and pushes her way into joining him to visit the home of dead country icon Jake Miller, one of her father’s favorite musicians.

It’s only later when she hears of the death of Hazel Miller that Campbell realizes the widow she saw taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom she just had to check out might already have been dead. It seems Campbell is just a wee bit nosy at the best of times, and she doesn’t hesitate to start to ask questions.

As the bodies start to pile up, and a painting becomes a focal point,a lanky detective seems to take more than a casual interest in Campbell. She will fine her tendency to sleuth is perhaps not always in her own best interests.

A refreshing setting for a new cozy series.

Tracee de Hahn: Swiss Vendetta Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 


Tracee deHahn’s debut bring readers to Lausanne, Switzerland, in Swiss Vendetta.

Perfectly capturing the setting during an ice storm, she introduces detective Agnes Luthi, a Swiss-American who has left behind her work with Financial Crimes to shed her old life before her husband’s death. Being new to Violent Crimes, Agnes is juggling her three sons’ care and grief, while living with a mother-in-law who blames her for her husband’s death.

Her first case will turn out to be a locked-room style, when she is called to investigate the murder of a young woman at the grand Chateau Vallotton, on Lac Leman. The ensuring blizzard and ice storm will keep Agnes and several others at the Chateau for days as the investigation continues and they are cut off from the outside world.

It’s not just the intense cold that has Agnes in its grip–it’s the eerie candlelit vastness of the Chateau, with too many rooms to count or explore; it’s the emotions and guilt she carries after her husband’s death; and it’s the knowledge that a murderer is among the people she’s staying with, eating with, talking with.

This Swiss family includes servants loyal to them for generations, and so Agnes worries her questions are not being answered truthfully when a young appraiser for a London auction house is found stabbed to death on the grounds.

Everyone she comes into contact with is a suspect; and she despairs of trusting anyone.

An complex mystery with plays out on several emotional levels, making it an accomplished debut. Highly recommended.

Lynn Chandler Willis: Tell Me No Lies Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, to talk to readers about:
Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction:


Title: Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction
By: Lynn Chandler Willis

When it comes to writing advice, one of the more common statements is write what you know. We writers hear it all the time. I usually ignore it all the time. My newest release, Tell Me No Lies, is the exception.

I never intended for the main character, Ava Logan, to be a shadow of myself. Yes, she’s the publisher and owner of a small town newspaper. So was I. Yes, she’s the single mom of two kids—a son and a daughter. So am I. Yes, she has a border collie named Finn. So do I.

But that’s where the similarities end. The other 97% of what makes fictional Ava Logan, well, fictional, is—-fiction.

Ava tends to be hot-headed. I’m laid back like my father. I’m the apologizer—you know, the one who apologizes even when I shouldn’t just to keep the peace. Ava struggled through a not-so-happy childhood. I was raised by Ozzie and Harriet. Well, not really, but pretty darn close. Couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

So what part of Ava Logan is real? Not so much Ava, as it is the what—the newspaper she owns. The Jackson Creek Chronicle is fictitious. But is it real. Every small town newspaper publisher struggles with the issues Ava faces in Tell Me No Lies.

How many different ways can you write a story about the local pumpkin festival and make each one new and exciting? How many “public service announcements” for fundraisers, benefits, and soccer sign ups are going to run before someone actually buys ad space? And how many town council members are going to be livid at something published that more-or-less refers to them as nitwits? Since small town councils rarely ever totally agree on anything, at least one, maybe more, will at one time or another be on the publisher’s side.

Small town politics can be, and often are, downright ruthless. It pits neighbor against neighbor. That guy across the street, the one whose son plays T-ball with your kid, asked for a special use permit to build some chicken houses on his property. The neighborhood is against it, but the guy is within his rights. How are you going to vote Mr. Council Member? And better yet, how is the newspaper going to cover it? Will they make the council look like a bully if the council denies it? Or will they take the neighborhood’s side? Or will they present both sides equally and fairly?

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an awful lot of gray area in the world of small town newspapers which often lead to a moral dilemma for the publisher. That makes for great conflict and good drama. Which makes great fiction.

Tell Me No Lies: Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television industry, and owned a small-town newspaper. Her novel, Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye, (Minotaur, 2014) won the SMP/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel, making her the first woman in a decade to win the national contest. Tell Me No Lies is the first title in the Ava Logan Mystery Series with Henery Press. She lives in North Carolina with a border collie named Finn.

Website: lynnchandlerwillis.com

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?

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/

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.

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.
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?


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.

Kate Parker: Deadly Scandal Sunday, Mar 6 2016 


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 

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!

Favorite Reads of 2015 Tuesday, Jan 5 2016 

London Rain
My Favorite Reads of 2015

Last year Auntie M reviewed around 145 books in 85 posts plus hosting guests. Those don’t include the books she reads for herself, like the one her grand-daughter loved and insisted she read (Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See—she loved it, too!); or for sheer delight, like the Judi Dench photo-autobiography Behind the Scenes (huge Dench fan).

Out of all of those books, there are always those that remain firmly in her mind as ones where she’s looking forward to more from these authors. They impress her for their creativity, their characters, their storytelling. In no particular order, she went through her posts and pulled out these highlights, most of which received her “highly recommended” citation. There could have been even more . . .

Series continuations:
London Rain by Nicola Upson: Her Josephine Tey series continues with a strong entry, set in 1927 London at the time the BBC ruled the radio and broadcasting. Well-researched and written, with absorbing characters and a few twists you won’t see coming, set against the backdrop of the Coronation of George VI. An accomplished series.

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths and This Thing of Darkness by Harry Bingham: One of the most unusual and compelling characters to head a series, Griffiths remains a feisty detective in search of her past and herself whilst she figures out how to be human. The second was not formally reviewed so let Auntie M add here that Fiona’s story continues with a punch that proves Bingham deserves to be more widely known in the US.

The Kill and After the Fire by Jane Casey: The Maeve Kerrigan series just keeps getting stronger with each installment. With irascible DI Josh Derwent as her partner, the duo are working together like a well-oiled machine, despite the occasional dig. Could grudging respect be far behind?

Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes: DCI Lou Smith heads a team investigating when a young woman missing for a decade suddenly reappears. Haynes uses primary policing source materials reproduced for the reader: police reports, interviews, analyst research, even phone messages, which add a depth and texture to the books.

The Ghost Fields and The Zig-Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths: The next Ruth Galloway installment is a grand mix of the kind of ancient mystery only working mum Ruth could solve, coupled with tremors in her personal life. A satisfying series with original characters. Griffiths also debuted a second period series, and Brighton of the 1950’s comes to life with two unlikely friends, a detective and his magician friend, who need to stop a killer.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny: Inspt. Gamache and his lovely wife try to settle down to retirement in Three Pines, until a young boy prone to telling tall tales turns out to be telling the truth. All the eccentric regulars appear to help solve the mystery, a bit different from Penny’s usual but just as engaging, a mix of bittersweet and heartwarming.

Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George: After taking time to introduce the family who feature largely in the case to follow, Lynley manages to have Havers and Nkata assigned to investigate a poisoning case. A piece of bacon figures here. Just read it. The plot is as complex as the players involved, and will leave readers thinking about what constitutes justice.

The Slaughter Man by Tony Parsons: A slaughtered family and a missing child prove a tough case for DI Max Wolfe, juggling his young daughter and personable dog, Stan. The weapon used fits the MO of an earlier murder years ago, and that man is now out of jail. Could this be history repeating itself?

The Secret Place by Tana French: With a few characters you’ll recognize if you’ve read her others, and you should, detectives investigate the murder of a young man at a private school. You hardly realize until it’s over that the action takes place all in one day—she’s that good.

Deadly Measures by Jo Bannister: Policewoman Hazel Best and her friend, Gabriel Ash, face their most dangerous and upsetting period together when arms pirates who have kidnapped Ash’s family agree to return them—if he’ll kill himself online for all to see. And yes, Patience, the dog who talks to Ash, is along for the ride.

A Song for Drowned Souls by Bernard Minier: Minier’s second French crime novel finds Commandant Servaz trying to prove his former lover’s son is not a murderer while he protects his own daughter. A rich tale of history and emotion mixed up in murder and secrets from the past.

The Storm Murders by John Farrow: Newly-retired detective Emile Cinq-Mars is known as the Poirot of Canada and can’t get used to not working. Then murders inside a snowed-in house in his neighborhood catch his eye—there are no footsteps in the snow. And he’s asked to intervene and finds himself in New Orleans and his own wife kidnapped.

Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes: The psychologist with interesting friends and family returns, working short-term at a hospital for the criminally insane. A taut plot, a compelling story and a protagonist you can’t help but admire in Alice Quentin who should have it all and keeps getting very close.

Run You Down by Julia Dahl: Journalist Rebekah Roberts finds herself investigating the possible murder of a young ultra-Orthodox woman whose contacts might just put Rebekah in touch with the mother she’s not sure she wants to find. Dahl’s first, Invisible City, won multiple awards this year, with good reason. An equally impressive follow-up.

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan: An undeniably strong debut, backed with meticulous and absorbing research, this Toronto mystery introduces a Muslim detective working with his Canadian female partner to unravel if a dead man fell, committed suicide, or was pushed off a cliff. A series to watch for, with a sequel out soon that’s every bit as good as the first, and will be reviewed shortly.

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew: The South African Klein Karoo landscape, nature, food, language and habits of the area come alive through the eyes of Tannie (Auntie) Maria, a widow who happens to be a brillant cook. Mevrou van Harten knows that her food works magic in people’s hearts, not just their stomachs, and uses her knowledge to help solve the murder of an abused woman. Recipes included.

Crucifixion Creek by Barry Maitland: Anyone who reads Maitland’s English Brock and Kolla series know he’s far from a debut novelist, but this marks the debut of a new series set in Australia, Maitland’s home. He introduces detective Harry Belltree, suddenly overwhelmed with three homicides to investigate: a woman shot during a meth-addict biker siege; an elderly couple who commit apparent suicide at their favorite outdoor cafe’; and a white male stabbed to death in the street, who turns out to be his brother-in-law. A strong start to a new and absorbing series.

Five by Ursula Archer: The Austrian children’s lit author tries her hand at mystery and writes an absorbing police procedural with geo-caching at its heart and a realistic, harried, divorced mother of two as the detective.

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders: A wry inside look at London publishing with the protagonist an editor who fears one of her favorite authors has been murdered and becomes drawn into the investigation. With humor and a hint of romance, book two arrives soon.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward: Accomplished debut procedural finds detectives looking into a cold-case murder of a young girl when her mother suddenly commits suicide over thirty years later. Absorbing and well-developed characters. First in a series.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight: A most unusual premise explores a family torn apart when a woman’s hidden secret appears suddenly as the plot of a book in her own home. Original and creative.

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne: Ballantyne masterfully connects two threads: a young girl’s kidnapping, and a grown woman traumatized in a car accident, to show how secrets buried in the past have come full circle. Creative and compelling.

Sheer Delight:
The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton: Of all the humorous novels Auntie M read, this one stands out for its sheer ingenuity and creative premise: a world of cats, peopled and run by cats, who sometimes resemble humans we might recognize. PI Hettie Bagshot and her sidekick Tilly, their team of friends and their world are filled with Morton’s wry humor. Sales help find homes for less fortunate cats. CCat Amongst the Pumpkins coming soon.

Barry Maitland: Crucifixion Creek Sunday, Dec 27 2015 

Auntie M is a huge fan of Aussie Barry Maitland’s England series featuring DCI Brick and DI Kolla. Now he’s on his home turf, premiering a new series with a most unusual protagonist, Sydney’s homicide detective Harry Belltree in Crucifixion Creek.

With echoes of his Afghanistan military experience haunting his dreams, Belltree is suddenly overwhelmed with three homicides to investigate: a woman shot during a meth-addict biker siege; an elderly couple who commit apparent suicide at their favorite outdoor cafe’; and a white male stabbed to death in the street.

Then he’s shocked when the stabbing victim turns out to be his brother-in-law Greg, his wife’s sister’s husband, who owned a contracting business.

Journalist Kelly Poole will become far too involved for Belltree’ liking, but does she have a point when she insists these three incidents are all connected? She’s uncovered ties between Greg and the elderly couple to a corrupt money man who has influential friends.

While Belltree can’t officially be a part of Greg’s investigation, the links to the others allow him some latitude and he wants to be the one to brig the person responsible to justice for his wife’s sister and her family. And in doing so, he will bring danger to himself and his family.

With his blind wife becoming his unofficial sidekick, this is an intriguing and suspenseful mystery by a master at work. Highly recommended.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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~

Next Page »