Margaret Murphy: Before He Kills Again Thursday, Jul 16 2020 

Margaret Murphy has a strong history in writing chilling psychological novels. Known for the Clara Pascal, and Rickman and Foster series, Murphy has also written as AD Garrett, and with a partner as Ashley Dyer. All of her books feature realistic characters and chilling plots that will have readers leaving the lights on long after they should have been asleep.

Now she brings DC Cassie Rowan to the page in a complex psychological novel that is tightly woven in Before He Kills Again.

Starting from its powerful opening, readers will be hooked immediately with the powerful image Murphy creates.

There’s a sadist on the loose named the Furman, who targets prostitutes and pretty young woman, terrorizing them then raping and beating them before leaving the victims to be found. DC Cassie Rowan spends her evenings undercover, trying to get picked up by this maniac.

And one night she almost succeeds in catching him, where it not for the incompetence of two of her team members. All the while, she juggles being the responsible adult for her teenaged brother after the death of their parents.

Then someone who’s become a friend is savaged by the Furman. Frustrated, Cassie becomes even more determined to bring this maniac to justice, despite at times feeling sabotaged by her own team.

Alan Palmer is a psychologist with his own fraught home situation. Separated from his wife, trying to mend fences to have access to his young daughter, he has private and NHS patients he’s trying to help, but one in particular has caught his attention. Could this young man be the Furman?

Then someone dies, and all bets are off for Rowan and Palmer, all the while bringing the danger closer to home than they would like to believe. The incidents ratchet up in intensity; someone is losing it, and Cassie and Alan are at the heart of it all.

How these two professionals lives intersect forms the basis for a quick-paced psychological thriller, part police-procedural, all parts skillfully written, that heralds the start of a complex new series from this accomplished author.

Highly Recommended.

Tony Parsons: #taken Sunday, Mar 29 2020 

Tony Parson’s sixth DC Max Wolfe police procedural #taken starts out with a bang.

A beautiful woman has been kidnapped from a car in Hampstead, her young son left behind in his car seat in the back.

Max’s inquiry into Jessica Lyle’s disappearance isn’t helped by her father, retired Met detective. Could one of his enemies have been the culprit?

Then it comes to light that Jessica was driving her friend’s car, and the roommate comes under his microscope. Snezia Jones leant Jessica her car. So who was the real intended victim?

When it comes to light at Jessica was the girlfriend of drug kingpin Harry Flowers, things rapidly escalate. And when Harry shows up at the home Max shares with his young daughter, Scout, and their dog, Stan, he gets quickly up Max’s nose.

But Harry’s determined to help find Jessica, and soon Max has an unwanted partner. If only he can find a way to use Harry to help instead of hinder him, they just might get Jessica back before she’s killed.

One of the best parts for Auntie M is the way Parsons weaves a darn good thrilling case around the lives of Max, Scout and Stan. It rings of realism and the ugliness and beauty of life raising a loved child of divorce. This is another grand installment in a fantastic series that doesn’t get enough attention. Highly recommended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanda Symon: The Ringmaster Tuesday, Dec 24 2019 

After introducing Sam Shepherd in Overkill, the newly-minted New Zealand detective returns in The Ringmaster.

With a move to the university town of Dunedin, rooming at the home of her best friend’s aunt and uncle, Sam is a lowly detective constable with an unerring sense of human nature.

Sam clashes with her boss, who keeps her under his thumb, yet is forced to include her on the fringes of an investigation into the murder of a university researcher. The young woman’s work was the envy of her doctoral colleagues, yet Sam suspects the motive to be far more personal.

With a local circus in town, Sam connects several unsolved murders to dates of visits by this traveling circus, and soon the interviews are interminable. This is where Symon shines, as she manages to bring humanity to the various workers, and even the animals. There will be more tragedy, some that impacts Sam personally, before the stunning and unforeseen climax.

Symon brings the New Zealand setting wrapped into the story so well its stark beauty becomes another character with her vivid imagery. The series will make you want to visit the area.

But the story belongs to Sam, feeling her way in what is still very much a man’s police world here. Her wit and foibles make her a very likable and identifiable young woman, one readers will have no difficulty following.

Look for book 3 in the series, Containment, in the US in early 2020. Highly recommended. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon.

Ann Cleeves: The Long Call Tuesday, Sep 3 2019 

Ann Cleeves, the celebrated author of the Vera and Shetlands series, creates a new series that take readers to the area of North Devon where she grew up in The Long Call.

Introducing DI Matthew Venn, we see his own complicated family history in the area. Leaving an evangelical family made Matthew an outcast to his family, and so he’s on the periphery at his own father’s funeral. The book’s title refers to the call of a herring gull that has always sounded to him like someone in pain, a window onto his brooding nature.

Matthew barely has time to examine his grief when he’s called away to the site of a murder on the beach. A man has been stabbed to death and Matthew heads the case with his new team.

Living in a cottage with his husband, Jon, Matt is chagrined when this case becomes tied to The Woodyard, an arts and crafts centre Jon runs that contains a day center for disabled adults where the murdered man was a volunteer.

The dead man, Simon Walden, had been rooming with two young women while hiding secrets of his own. A recovering alcoholic with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck to remind him of prior guilt he carries, Simon is a cipher that Matt must learn.

With his more formal dress hiding an introspective bent, Matt is a different kind of detective, still feeling his way around his unit and having pangs of insecurity he hides from his team. But it’s his strong mind and ability to line up clues that make him stand out and ultimately figure out who would have wanted to kill Simon Walden.

As the investigation advances and people connected tangentially to both The Woodyard and to Simon are interviewed, Matthew starts to form his impression of what has happened while getting used to his new team. His DS in particular, Jen Rafferty, is a strong character in this atmospheric story that deals well with Down’s Syndrome adults. And when one of these adults goes missing, the tension ramps up.

A complicated plot adds to this character-driven procedural that brings an enticing new detective to follow. Highly recommended.

Roz Watkins: The Devil’s Dice & Dead Man’s Daughter Wednesday, May 22 2019 

It’s Roz Watkins Day, and if you’re not familiar with that name, keep an eye out for this strong new series that mixes a police procedural with the best of psychological suspense.

Roz Watkins burst onto the crime fiction scene introducing DI Meg Dalton, in the atmospheric The Devil’s Dice. The Peak District setting evokes Stephen Booth’s Fry and Cooper series, but with its own spin readers will enjoy.

A strong protagonist is required to carry a series, and Meg Dalton does the job here, despite having her own baggage to carry, when a local patent lawyer, Peter Hamilton, is found dead inside a cave known as a suicide point, part of a network of caves known as The Labyrinth for their complexity.

A local legend of The Labyrinth revolves around ancient witch sagas, with the the lore that a large chamber holds a noose. If your initials are found carved into the cave wall, the noose is there for you. Spooky and creepy but the stuff that makes legends like this endure.

So it’s even creepier when a carving of the grim reaper is found by Hamilton’s body, along with an inscription that says ‘Coming for PHH.’ DI Meg Dalton isn’t a stranger to suicide, but she’s hoped to leave her past in the past.

When Meg interviews Hamilton’s his wife and sister,the wife fears the local rumours about a curse attached to her home have come true. Hamilton’s business partners are soon added to Meg’s suspect list with good reason.

The plot is nicely contorted, with the setting taking on its own part to play. Meg’s family have a unique contribution to the story, and her colleagues are a mixed bunch of different characters who leap off the page in their individualism, including a lapsed Sikh and a misogynistic DC who enjoys putting Meg down.

This is a strong start to the series and since we’re having a bit of a Roz Watkins day, we’ll go on this sequel, Dead Man’s Daughter.

Starting off with a strong opening, Meg finds a ten-year old girl running barefoot through woods in a blood-stained nightdress toward a spot called Dead Girl’s Drop by the locals.

When she rescues Abbie Thornton and inspects her home, the girl’s father has been stabbed to death in his bed. There’s a history of death in the family before, and medical transplant issues that have bearing on this family, but right now Meg is convinced she can’t take on this big case, with a family committment due next week that runs like a thread throughout the book and may have consequences for Meg’s professional life.

But reluctantly, and with great misgivings, when Abbie is considered to have killed her father, Meg does become involved as she digs deeply into the history and the suspects surrounding this case to clear Abbie’s name.

This leads to dark and often surprising places for Meg as she pushes the investigation forward where others on her team would settle for the easy path out. Using vivid descriptions adds to the feeling readers are there with Meg on her investigation, and Watkins knows how to ratchet up the tension with a complex plot that twists at just the right moment.

The difficult themes of organ donation and of assisted suicide are explored with sensitivity by Watkins. Meg must deal with office politics, too, and her own quirks as she tries to heal her past. These issues add a layer and thoughtfulness to the series, and tied with the exhaustive research Watkins must have done, pays off beautifully.

In Meg Dalton, Watkins has a created a spontaneous detective who relies on her hunches at times but never loses her heart. Highly recommended series.

Death at the Dakota: Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries 2 Wednesday, May 1 2019 

Auntie M is happy to announce that her second Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery. DEATH AT THE DAKOTA, is out and availabLe on in trade paperback and soon to be in Kindle. Coming in Audible later this summer, too, read by the wonderful Lucinda Gainey, Dakota is already garnering 5-Star reviews.

Part procedural, part cozy, Death at the Dakota is a well-crafted and highly entertaining mystery.- Bruce Robert Coffin, #1 bestselling author of the Detective Byron mysteries.

Nurse Trudy Genova is making plans to take her relationship to NYPD detective Ned O’Malley to the next level, when she lands a gig as medical consultant on a film shoot at the famed Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, which John Lennon once called home. Then star Monica Kiley goes missing, a cast member turns up dead, and it appears Trudy might be next. Meanwhile Ned tackles a mysterious murder case in which the victim is burned beyond recognition. When his investigations lead him back to the Dakota, Trudy finds herself wondering: how can she fall in love if she can’t even survive?

Readers of Death Unscripted, the first book in the Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery series, will find the same pleasures in this sequel: fast pacing, engaging characters, twists and turns on the way to a satisfying close. Once again M.K. Graff reveals her talents in crafting this delightful mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural.

I fell in love — not only with co-protagonists, Trudy and Ned, the richly detailed and historic setting of The Dakota, and the unique cast of characters, but with the unusual plot of Death at the Dakota. Sherry Harris, Agatha Award nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries.


Robert Scragg: What Falls Between the Cracks Wednesday, Nov 28 2018 

Robert Scragg has a cracking good debut of a new series with What Falls Between the Cracks.

Introducing the London detective duo Jake Porter and Nick Styles, their latest case is a mix of old and new, when a severed hand is found in a freezer.

It’s strange enough to find a hand, in this case one missing a finger. Yet once DNA matches the hand to the apartment’s owner, Nina Barclay, its even stranger that her family agrees Nina hasn’t been since since 1983.

Why no one has been looking for Nina is just one of the many questions Porter and Styles must answer as they investigate Nina’s extended family and acquaintances, and find far too many unsavory characters.

As their search extends itself, everywhere they turn the team come up against walls thwarting their progress, from interior police structure politics and a drug squad case that has been slowly gathering evidence against one of their main suspects.

One of the highlights is the nice banter between the two detectives, balanced by Porter’s struggle to restart his life after a tragic personal loss.

This is the kind of police procedural Auntie M eats up. An accomplished debut, one that will have readers seeking the second Porter and Styles outing. Highly recommended.

Bruce Robert Coffin: Beyond the Truth Friday, Oct 26 2018 

Coffin’s third Detective Bryon crime mystery, Beyond the Truth, just may be his best yet.

The former Portland, Maine detective brings his knowledge of the town and his feel for the politics of crime management to the forefront in this newest addition to his series.

Both of the previous mysteries in the series, Among the Shadows, and Beneath the Depths, have a feel realistic feel because of Coffin’s background, and that truthfulness rings through here as well. The lousy food, long hours, mixed emotions and job culture are all exhibited.

Beyond the Truth has multiple layers that elevate it from the usual crime drama. There are issues haunting Byron that must be addressed and the status of his personal relationship, but at the center of it all is an officer-involved shooting, when a colleague and good cop shoots a teen fleeing from an armed robbery.

It doesn’t help that the gun the teen pointed at the officer isn’t found at the crime scene, and with echoes of so many recent officer-involved shootings, protests and riots soon break out.

Then there are the politics that revolved around that kind of crime, from the Mayor’s office to the police hierarchy. At the heart of it all is a dead boy and a good officer who feels he’s become undone by the circumstances and must face the fact he killed a young man.

This is topical on so many levels, yet has a very personal feel about it. Portland and its environs come alive under Coffin’s pen as he captures the many faces of that town. The investigation feels real, with families and friends of the dead youth investigated, his school and mates, and above all, the seedy underbelly of the town.

A tense and exciting read with a swiftly-paced storyline. Engrossing.

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