Tony Parsons: Girl on Fire Friday, Jun 22 2018 

Auntie M doesn’t understand why she doesn’t see Tony Parsons’ name on more short lists for UK crime fiction awards. His series featurning DC Max Wolfe and his daughter, Scout, is one of her personal favorites, and mixes a darn good police procedural with a huge dose of humbling humanity in his little daughter and the family dog, Stan.

Parsons returns with Girl on Fire, the latest crime novel that touches on a timely situation in England. The opener is strong: Max is in a West End London shopping centre getting Scout a new backpack when an Air Ambulance is shot out of the sky and falls into the shopping centre, killing over forty, injuring scores of others.

Seeing the first-hand devastation in close quarters brings the situation home to Max. When ties to a particular family are shown and missing grenades for further devastation sought, a manuveur goes terribly wrong when the lead of the Specialist Firearms Unit is gunned down right in front of her team as they attempt to apprehend the Khan brothers.

That sets off a chain reaction that will have repercussions for the entire team, Max included. How this is interwoven with the Khan family members judged to be innocent forms the most devastasting part of the book. It’s a close look at a complicated situation, touching on assimilation of immigrants and innocent family members tainted by others who might be terrorists.

Max has had a complicated emotional life, especially when his wife, Anne, left him and Scout behnd for a man she’s now married and their new son. Max has been the best father he can be to Scout, but somehow Anne decides it’s time Scout lived with her. Then an ugly court hearing is in the offing, with judges and social workers who don’t know Scout planning to interview her and take away even more of her innocence. But the silver lining is the new depth of his relationship with fellow cop Edie Wren.

How it all turns out will surprise readers, who will be carried away on a wave of emotion with the end results on all fronts. A stunning entry in a wonderful series. If you’re ot a Max Wolfe fan yet, start now. Highly recommended.

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Arnaldur Indridason: The Shadow Killer Tuesday, Jun 19 2018 


The second book in Indridason’s new series, The Shadow Killer, builds on the tone set in The Shadow District.

It’s 1941 and Iceland is occupied by British forces, with American GIs arriving, too. When a man is found murdered in a basement apartment in Reykjavik, shot in the head with an American pistol, it’s up to the thinned out resources of officer Flovent, assisted by serviceman Thorson, to investigate. The Canadian/Icelandic officer knows the language, which becomes a boon to Flovent.

The two officers complement each other, and the suspense builds through the tone of their investigation, which illustrates how sometimes tedious investigative work can be, as they split their interveiwing duties, following threads they find.

The dead man is first identified incorrectly, adding to the confusion, but soon turns out to have been a traveling salesman whose girlfriend left him recently.

Whether this has bearing on the case is unknown, but what is known is equally disturbing: shot in the head, the man’s killer then drew a swastika on the victim’s forehead.

One avenue the men follow concerns another salesman, whose family had Nazi ties at one time, and questions of wild experiments done on youths add to the secrets being kept. And just what does a possible visit from Winston Churchill have to do with it all, if anything?

The two men will face a wall of suspicion and untruthful answers from many of the people they investigate. Each man will also face his own concerns amid the wild days when the world is turned upside down, strangers walk amongst the small towns, and nothing is as it seems during the days of occupation.

A realistic look at what it must have been like during those days with period details creates a haunting, dark mood.

Ashley Dyer: Splinter in the Blood Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

Ashley Dyer is the pen name of the UK writing team of Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper. Their debut, Splinter in the Blood, introduces DS Ruth Lake and her boss, Greg Carver.

In an explosive opening, Ruth stands over Greg, shot in his own home, and cleans up the crime scene, wiping fingerprints and hiding evidence.

Then she realizes he’s not dead.

Carver is lucky to be alive, and has only a hazy memory of what happened the night he was shot. Worried about threats to his wife, his frustration is palpable as he tries to heal his mind and his body quickly.

Ruth and Carver decide he was shot because he was close to uncovering the killer’s identity. It falls to Ruth to figure out what’s happened by taking Carver’s private files home and working the case in addition to her normal work. The Thorn Killer case that obsessed Carnver took his attention over the last year and cost him his marriage.

The Thorn Killer uses a most unusual method to tattoo his female victims and keeps them alive for weeks, undergoing horrific torture before the release of death. While Ruth investigates, she knows more than she’s telling, putting her at odds with her superiors. It’s a engrossing game Ruth’s playing, hiding her own secrets, enlisting the aid of a new co-worker.

Dyer manages to balance detailed forensic information with realistic characters. Ruth is especially intriguing, and readers will be looking forward to the next in the series.

This is a fascinating story, highly original and filled with complex twists you won’t see coming until they are upon you. Ann Cleeves calls Splinter: A taut and compelling thriller, as sharp as the thorns that feature in the plot.” Highly recommended.

Two Thrillers: Spencer Kope and Steve Berry Thursday, Jun 7 2018 

Auntie M has a pile of read but not reviewed books to catch readers up on. There are great beach reads in here and others that will catch your fancy and keep you up at night that she’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks. Let’s start off with two thrillers:

Steve Berry takes readers back to the days before Cotton Malone had his adventures and working as a Navy lawyer in The Bishop’s Pawn, his 13th Malone story.

It’s the 1990s and secret files about Martin Luther King’s 1968 assasination are the center of attention when Malone is helped out of a bad situation by someone in the Justice Department who calls in her own return favor.

A complicated plot involving a rare coin turns into much more when Malone discovers what he’s really holding are files relating to James Earl Ray, King’s assassin, which lead Malone to realize he was intentionally misled in what his mission was to be.

Factions within the Justice Department, the FBI, and others are at war over the possession of the files. Soon it seems they will stop at nothing to keep long-buried secrets hidden.

This prequel to the others in the series explain more of Malone’s history than readers have experienced before. The action never lets up, with Berry doing his usual grand job of blending history with mystery. Berry’s research is impeccable, and he ends up offering hreaders fact-based fiction that is startling and new.

Kope’s Whispers of the Dead brings Steps Craig and his 3-men elite team to find a killer after they identify the victim, when a pair of severed feet is found stored in a cooler in the house of a Texas Federal judge, soon after solving a gruesome murder in Washington State.

Steps’ synesthesia, something he calls “shine,” allows him to see a unique color in whatever a person has touched. Known only to a few people, he guards his secret but uses it to help solve difficult cases. And this certainly is one.

When more victims are found, the killer earns the sobriquet “The Icebox Killer.” With partner Jimmy Donovan in tow to find the hard evidence needed for a successful prosecution–Steps’ special skill is inadmissiable in court–it soon becomes apparent they are on the trail of a serial killer.

That trail leads them all over the West Coast, and the two have their work cut out for them. One of the things that elevates this series from a standard police investigation is the well-drawn characters and their relationships and interactions, with Steps’ wry humor and a bit of snarkiness adding to the read.

Readers will never be bored reading how this case is solved. Hold onto your hats.

Linda Lovely: Picked Off Tuesday, Jun 5 2018 


Linda Lovely’s Brie Hooker series debuted with Bones to Pick, and Lovely’s back with the sequel, Picked Off, every bit as filled with humor, wrapped in a great mystery.

Vegan Brie Hooker finds herself living with her Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy goat farm in South Carolina. Their barn is hosting a costume fund-raiser for Eva’s friend, Carol Strong, running for Governor. Carol’s hunkey football player son is scheduled to arrive, too, a nice prospect as Brie can’t decide between to equally attractive men, good friends, who both want to date her.

Then an scary incident that night brings injury and makes the barn a crime scene. It sets off a string of events that include a kidnapping, blackmail, and lead to murder.

There’s a serious string of crimes happening, despite the humor Lovely injects to balance the happenings. Brie finds herself using doing her darndest to get to the bottom of things, often putting herself at risk.

Brie’s a gutsy gal, and easy to like, but she’s not a pushover. Smart and strong, Brie somehow manages to to stay on top of the eccentric characters while she gets to the bottom of the nastiness. There are hijinks coupled with real terror and life-threatening action at times.

With the southern setting perfectly drawn, Lovely’s mysteries provide plenty of action with a complex plot. This is the perfect series for summer beach reading.

Elly Griffiths: The Blood Card Sunday, May 27 2018 

Elly Griffiths, known for her Ruth Galloway series, has a wonderful second series, and if readers haven’t yet had the pleasure, now’s the time to read a Stephens and Mephisto Mystery.

The newest is The Blood Card, with DI Edgar Stephens and his old Army buddy, premiere magician Max Mephisto heading up the cast of characters. It’s the summer of 1953 and the country is gearing up for the big Coronation, all over but especially in Max’s London and Edgar’s Brighton, where the DI is supposed to be looking into the suicide of a gypsy fortune teller.

Then murder of their men’s former wartime commander sets the two friends right in the midst of the investigation, after the victim is found with the ace of hearts, known as the Blood Card, on his body. Added to this, there are rumors of a plot to have something dramatic happen to ruin the Coronation.

It’s a case that has both men working different points, with Max in London, and Edgar traveling from Brighton to New York State, of all places, to follow a clue.

The advent of television adds to the stress and to the plot, as well as to Max’s future, when he’s asked to perform for a new show that will bring him into the homes of millions of people.

It’s a race to the finish as the gypsy family overwhelms Edgar’s team and puts them in danger. The two men must solve the murder of two men in different countries to stop the threat to hundreds more.

One of the highlights of this series in the complicated relationship between Edgar and his fiancé, Ruby, who is Max’s daughter. Adding to this are the period details that Griffiths gets just right, as she brings to life this era when television took over from dance hall and variety shows as the public’s major form of entertainment.

Not to be missed~

David Mark: Dead Pretty Thursday, May 24 2018 

Dead Pretty was Auntie M’s first DS McAvoy novel but it won’t be her last.

The dark Hull crime novel is filled with realisism and an eye for the telling detail. It’s been called “gritty” and “atmospheric,” and those terms certainly apply when McAvy and his Superintendent friend, Trish Pharaoh, try to solve what turns out to be a string of horrific murders.

McAvoy’s devotion to his cases is unshakeable, the unsolved ones haunt him. It’s been 9 months since Hannah Kelly went missing, and he can’t pretend she’s still alive when a second young woman is found murdered with striking similarities.

He’s looking for a connection between the two young woman just as Reuben Hollow is released from a murder conviction on appeal. Hollow has taken a liking to Super Pharaoh and it’s a dicey relationship, especially when her home is broken into and her young family threatened.

The way the two story lines come together is twisted but realistic, as is the complex ending with twists that will leave readers breathless. Adding to the haunting feel is McAvoy’s own family, who become involved. With strong characters, especially McAvoy’s wife, and a supporting cast who add texture, the bleak city streets of Humberside come alive under Mark’s talented pen.

One to look for, with a totally unique main character who defies being put in a box.

Judith Flanders: A Howl of Wolves Thursday, May 17 2018 

Judith Flanders’ Sam Clair series has been called “Hilarious, bighearted, clever, whip-smart, and devious” by Louise Penny, with good reason. Flanders returns with the fourth installment, A Howl of Wolves, where she fuses Sam Clair’s irreverant humor and keeps readers entertained with a mystery that gives a backstage look at the theater.

One of the highlights is the publishing world that Sam inhabits, and that’s here, too, a nice constant to the series. Sam and her Scotland Yard boyfriend Jake are doing the good neighbor thing, supporting upstairs Kay and her son, Bim, who have parts in West End play. The play is filled with gory deaths that 6 yr- old Bim relishes.

The couple are good sports, until the second act curtain reveals a dummy hanging from the rafters, made up to look like the play’s director, Campbell Davison. Poor taste, Sam thinks, until she realizes along with everyone else that this is no dummy, but the director himself strung up grotesquely.

Seeing Kay upset is all Sam needs to ‘help’ Jake and his team try to find the murderer, a man not extremely well-liked. As the suspect list grows, so does Sam’s need to keep death at bay.

With a very likeable cast of characters and a nicely twisted plot,when you throw in the satire that makes Sam a hoot to read, and you have one clever mystery indeed.

Elly Griffiths: The Dark Angel Tuesday, May 15 2018 

Elly Griffiths is celebrating TEN years of Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries, one of Auntie M’s favorite series. She takes Ruth from her Norwich salt marsh to Italy in her newest, The Dark Angel. And while she brings us complex mysteries to unravel at home and abroad, Griffiths keeps Ruth’s voice entertaining, with her own wry humor that brings her close to her readers.

When Ruth is contacted by a colleague she once spent the night with, the memory of Angelo Morelli comes back with a vengence. A fellow archeologist, his impeccable English overlaid with that sexy Italian accent, he invites Ruth to appear on his television program at a dig in the Liri Valley, not far from Rome.

He hints at anomalies in bones he recently found on a dig, and offers the use of a family apartment for a two-week holiday before Ruth’s classes start again. She can bring her friend, Shona, whose young son Louis could be a playmate for her Kate.

Once they are off to Italy, to the chagrin of DCI Nelson, whom Ruth has not told of the trip, she tries to relax and enjoy the mix of work and vacation, even as she wonders what Nelson will think. Nelson is Kate’s father, and his wife is in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy. With two grown daughters, the new baby has kept Nelson at home with Michelle, when he was on the verge of leaving for Ruth.

It’s a complicated life and readers who know the series look to the familiarity of these characters as much as they do the mysteries that envelop Ruth. For once in the little town of Castello degli Angeli, Ruth becomes aware that the secretive town does not look kindly on strangers.

The Liri Valley is connected to tales of a strong resistance movement during World War II, but Ruth can’t think why these stories would have an implication for her work on the newly discovered bones. She quickly becomes involved in the people and traditions she meets, to our delight, and befriends a young horse rider.

Then a murder occurs in the small town, rocking its foundations, and Ruth finds herself involved. When Nelson appears, bringing along Ruth’s druid friend Cathbad, things become even more complicated. And at home, things go seriously, badly wrong.

One of the pleasures of reading a strong series is the chance to follow the characters we’ve grown to love. Griffiths does a wonderful job of keeping the threads of all of these familiar souls alive, and makes a heartbreaking choice with one of them.

This is a clever and complex book, which resonates on so many levels with readers. Highly recommended.

Susan C. Shea: Dressed for Death in Burgundy Friday, May 11 2018 


Auntie M had the pleasure of meeting Susan Shea in person at Malice Domestic recently when we shared a panel about mystery series set in foreign countries.

Following her new series debut, Love & Death in Burgundy, she returns to the small French community of Reigny-sur-Canne for a sequel in Dressed for Death in Burgundy.

With Burgundy local finally seeming to become more accepting of American painter Katherine Goff and her musician husband, Michael, who is off in Memphis recording a new album.

Neighbor Sophie Bellegarde up at the Chateau has started a small tour company, and pressed Katherine to drive American tourists for the chilly month of December when her regular tour driver is unavailable. And she had the company of young Pippa, the English mystery writer she’s befriended.

But one tour takes a spectacular twist when Katherine finds a dead body smack in the local museum during her tour. It’s not bad enough she’d the talk of the neighborhood again, but Pippa comes under scrutiny as a suspect, and the two women naturally must find the real killer to clear Pippa’s name.

As they get closer and closer to the truth, threats start coming their way, and suddenly all bets are off in their race to find a killer before he finds them.

The delight of the area, the fish-out-of-water storyline, and the engaging cast of characters, including a young mother ready to have her own Christmas baby, all add to the delight.

Catriona McPerhson calls Dressed for Death in Burgundy ” . . . a real head-scratcher of a murder plot.”

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