Kate Rhodes: The Locked-Island Mysteries Sunday, Jan 22 2023 

Kate Rhodes has been a favorite author of Auntie M’s, starting with her compelling Alice Quentin series. Now that’s she’s branched out to her Locked-Island Mysteries, set in the Scilly Isles, Auntie M caught up with the series that features local detective DI Ben Kitto, with the 5th and 6th in this compelling series.

Devil’s Table centers on the island of St. Martin’s, where young Jade and her twin brother, Ethan, are attacked after leaving their shared bedroom at night. Ethan escapes but Jade is nowhere to be seen, and an island-wide search starts with residents and police battling the incessant fog that permeates the island.

Then a body is found in a dramatic, posed fashion, and Ben and his small team scramble to redouble their efforts to find the missing girl, while at the same time searching for a killer amidst the seemingly innocent narcissi harvest. The juxtaposition between the fields of fragrant bulbs, to be picked and flown to the mainland for Christmas and New Years clashes with the tiny community burdened by suspicion. 

Having grown up on nearby Bryher, Ben knows most of the people on St. Martin’s, who suddenly become suspects in this baffling murder of a man who is seen differently by people. Grudges held from long ago surface, and he must question everyone, regardless of his history with them.

A tense and gripping plot combine with an atmospheric mystery that make this an instant classic.

The Brutal Tide has Ben looking for clues to a set of old bones found during the excavation for a new outdoor activities center on Bryher, spearheaded by two locals who married and have returned home to complete this project.

Not everyone is a fan of the new center, and as Ben tries to find the identity of these bones, they suddenly disappear, and one of the  loudest critics of the project is found dead.

At the same time, a young woman whose father has been a crime kingpin sets up a plot to take out the officers whose information sent her father to prison. Now dying, Craig Travis has constructed this plan for his daughter Ruby with a devious way to take his revenge on those he hates, all from his prison hospital bed.

Ben Kitto, whose undercover past has returned to haunt him with a vengeance, must search for a killer on his home island while he avoids being Ruby’s last victim—all while his partner reaches the end of her difficult pregnancy.

A taut, clever mystery, with a very real protagonist at the heart of this series, makes this a tense and beautifully written mystery. 

Rhodes abilities as a poet surface in her lyrical prose and beautifully constructed descriptions and prose; her talents at creating tension have Elly Griffiths calling her “An absolute master of pace.”

Do yourself a favor if you haven’t already discovered the wildly talented Kate Rhodes, and immerse yourself in her wonderful sense of place and character, wrapped in stunningly good crime stories.

Ausma Zehanat Khan: BLACKWATER FALLS Tuesday, Nov 1 2022 

Khan’s first in a dynamic new series, BLACKWATER FALLS, is set in Colorado and introduces readers to a fresh new protagonist, Detective Inaya Rahman, and her lieutenant, Waqas Seif.

Young girls from immigrant communities in the area have disappeared over the past months, but the sheriff seems disinterested in pursuing any real exploration of the situation. Then the body of a good student and Syrian refugee is found outside a mosque, hanging in a horrific crucifixion-like manner.

A right-wing evangelical biker group called The Disciples displays open hostility to any newcomer with their threatening attitudes, yet when Inaya and her team try to investigate, their efforts seem thwarted by the sheriff.

When their investigation uncovers links to the other missing girls, Inaya feels that Seif is obstructing their own case. It becomes difficult for her to understand his motives when she’s drawn to him, but she keeps her distance, instead gathering strength and help from her female colleagues. It’s a delicate balance when she doesn’t understand his true motives, which are revealed to the reader as the detectives race against time before another young girl is killed.

There will be connections to art, a layering of different interpretations of justice, with moments of terror balanced by poignancy. It’s a tour-de-force of timely fiction that teaches and educates, as it reflects how easily fears can escalate.

Khan gives us a clear picture of Inaya’s home life, and brings readers a deep perspective to cultural conflicts. She explores different expressions of faith contrasted with prejudices, all wrapped up in a strong and complex mystery.

With a PhD in international human rights law, Khan is the author of the Khattak/Getty series and also the Khorasan Archives fantasies. She has a clear talent for bringing a nuanced sensitivity to complex issues, including racial tension and police corruption.

Readers will be glued to the action and surprising twists, with deep characterizations that add to the tension. This reader is already waiting for the next in this evocative and insightful series. Highly recommended.

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.

James Oswald: Bury Them Deep Wednesday, May 13 2020 

James Oswald’s tenth Inspector McLean novel, Bury Them Deep, reinforces why he’s one of Auntie M’s favorites, whether its the newest McLean or in his equally well-written, yet vastly different series featuring detective Constance Fairchild (No Time to Cry; Nothing to Hide).

This time the Scottish detective mixes with a highly politicized operation when he sets out to find a missing administrative member of the Police Scotland team who’s not shown up for work. It doesn’t help that the woman’s mother is a retired Detective Superintendent Grace Ramsey, recovering from a broken hip, but still as intimidating as McLean remembers.

Assigned to the team working on an huge anti-corruption scheme, Anya Renfrew’s disappearance sets off alarm bells. With her access to many of the systems in place that unlock the secrets of Edinburgh’s most powerful businessmen, none of the possibilities look good. With fears Anya may have been bought off for the information she could share, another possibility is that she been silenced to keep her knowledge quiet.

Last seen in ancient hills where the maps are difficult to follow and the stories from folklore imbue the atmosphere, McLean and his team set out to find out all they can about Anya Renfrew, her current life, and her past.

At the same time, just to muddy the waters, an old foe of McLean’s at a long-term psychiatric hospital claims to have information about the missing woman.

It’s a race against time to find Anya as the team investigates a disturbing pattern of other women having disappeared from the same area where Anya is last seen.

One thing about Oswald’s plots: they are consistently creative and bring a new level of knowledge to the reader, as he explores areas most readers won’t be familiar with.

This ability to hit on unique stories, inhabited by a familiar cast of characters led by McLean, all set in the city and surrounding area of Edinburgh, make this a Highly Recommended read.

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.
@BruceRobertCoffin

G R Halliday: From the Shadows Wednesday, Dec 4 2019 

GR Halliday introduces DI Monica Kennedy in From the Shadows, a stunning thriller with an unusual protagonist whose secrets we haven’t unearthed. Tall to the point she struggles with her body image, Kennedy is an original creature readers will care about at once, with her vulnerabilities hidden beneath a calm exterior.

Set in the Highlands, the raw Scottish landscape adds to the sense of darkness and tragedy when the body of a young man is found posed, with unusual mutilation marks. Kennedy knows this may be only the start of a string of tragedies and her instincts prove true.

A single mum relying on her own mother to help with her young daughter, Lucy, Kennedy has the usual struggle between the demands of her job and time spent with her daughter. But in the stark area where they live, this is even more of a liability when she’s stuck driving long distances for interviews, arriving home late and exhausted.

Michael Bach is another tall person, a social worker who’s running out of steam when one of his clients goes missing. While he pursues his search for the missing boy, it soon becomes apparent he may be one of the victims of this serial killer who takes his time to get to know his victims, and has his own ideas about what he’s accomplishing.

Halliday keeps the pressure on and the last third of the book can’t be put down as the plot tightens and horrific things happen. As Kennedy enlists Bach with her investigation, an autistic client of Michael’s may just hold the clue that unravels the case.

From its creative plot to its original characters, Halliday’s start to his series is one that will have readers clamoring for the next in the DI Monica Kennedy series. Highly recommended.

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.

Ian Patrick: Rubicon and Stoned Love Sunday, Jul 14 2019 

Please welcome guest Ian Patrick, to discuss writing a series. Ian’s the author of the DS Sam Batford thrillers, with the third, Fools Gold due later in 2019. Rubicon and Stoned Love are books 1 and 2 in this series hailed for its authenticity:

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Ian Patrick and I’m a crime fiction author in Scotland. Whenever I’m talking about writing I always present the caveat that it’s just my experience. Use what you can and discard what’s unimportant. If we all follow the same path and write the same way then the world of story telling would be poorer for it.

I’ve been asked to talk about what it’s like to write a series now that I have two books out and another in August. I never set out to write a series but the initial response to my debut, Rubicon, led to it happening. It’s one thing capturing the attention of a publisher but it’s readers that keep an author and publisher in employment.

One thing to consider from the outset is the age of your protagonist. Will he or she be able to age with your books or does it matter? Lee Child and Ian Rankin have successful leads after many years with the same lead so it really is up to you. With a detective lead be mindful that at some point they will be too old to be in the force. Rankin has survived this with Rebus but it’s worth bearing in mind all the same.

Make sure you enjoy the protagonist and that you want to stay with them book after book. If you tire of them then so will the reader. Keeping ideas and storylines fresh is also a challenge. I carry a notebook and record observations and conversations. Despite twenty-seven years policing experience, times change so you have to keep up to date.
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I was based in London and my experience of procedures will be different to my colleagues elsewhere in the UK. There are police consultants out there who will help writers. Some charge for a service and others don’t. Twitter is a great place to find ex-cops and consultants. Twitter is a great platform for engaging with readers and was where I connected with Marni.

Above all, enjoy what you’re doing. It’s not an easy industry to be a part of and it will have its good and not so good days. Treat your work with respect and before you send it out on submission get it professionally edited. A good editor will work with you not against you. They will maintain your voice while improving your story. I recommend Emma at

https://edmcreatingperfection.com

Watch out for Rubicon hitting your TV screens as it’s in development with the BBC for a six part series. Links to my books and more about me can be found at https://www.ianpatrick.co.uk

Fahrenheitpress.com also offer a free ebook of the same title with every paperback bought direct from them.

http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_rubicon.html

Many thanks to Marni for being a great host.

I was educated in Nottingham, leaving school at sixteen. I spent three years in the Civil Service paying out giro cheques. I enjoyed public service but wanted something more. My career choice happened while standing on a picket line and seeing the way the police operated. Calmly and professionally doing their job of maintaining order while letting us peacefully protest against government cuts. I was sold and applied to join the Metropolitan Police. I spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. I retired as a Detective Sergeant. I’ve investigated many offences from theft to murder and completed my final seven years within SO10 – Covert Policing.
Ill health forced my retirement. Muscular Dystrophy was the culprit and a very rare form at that. I’m still young and needed an outlet that would lead to an income.
A career in policing is a career in writing. I’ve been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes. I found the need to explore a different type of public service and found that writing fiction was something I could do.
Rubicon is my debut novel published by Fahrenheit Press. Stoned Love the second in the series with another, Fools Gold, out later in 2019. The BBC has optioned Rubicon for a six part TV series currently being written.
I now live in rural Scotland where I divide my time between family, writing, reading, and photography.

Ashley Dyer: The Cutting Room Wednesday, Jun 19 2019 

Ashley Dyer’s debut last year was the wonderful Splinter in the Blood, which had one of the most intriguing openings Auntie M had read in a long time. The writing duo of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper return with a second one featuring the detective team of Ruth Lake and Greg Carver in The Cutting Room, every bit as good as the first.

A psychopath has hit on a new way to attract gawkers to his crime scenes: digital invites to the gruesome tableaus he’s set up that he considers art installations.

The plot shows the public’s fascination with reality television and true-crime, as the narcissist behind these disturbing murders uses social media to advertise himself and court popularity.

Soon he’s earned the nickname The Ferryman, and both Lake and Carver are determined to bring his spree to an end. Carver is still recovering from the effects of the head wound that nearly killed him in the first book, with unusual side effects that play into the plot. Lake is hiding her own secrets from her friend and co-worker.

Readers who enjoy shows such as Criminal Minds will enjoy the look into this engrossing procedural, filled with suspense and not for the squeamish, but yet totally believeable as the detectives realize to find this demented killer, they must get inside his mind to anticipate his actions.

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.

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