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.

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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.

Jim Eldridge: Murder at the Fitzwilliam Monday, Oct 8 2018 


London-born author Jim Eldridge had a host of jobs before teaching led him to writing scripts for radio and television. He’s written SciFi, Children’s and YA fiction, including books for early readers and reluctant readers.

But Auntie M’s readers will be happy to hear Jim has turned his pen to crime fiction, with a new series that debuts with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. Set in 1894, it introduces private enquiry agent Daniel Wilson, retired from his Detective Inspector duties after investigating the Jack the Ripper case. Assisting him in this case at the Cambridge museum is archeologist Abigail Fenton.

Auntie M had the opportunity recently to ask Jim about his new series.

Auntie M: You started as a teacher before turning to writing full time. Was that always your intention?

Jim Eldridge: As well as teaching (which I loved doing), I had a variety of jobs before being able to afford to become a full-timer writer in 1978. I’d worked in offices, at a petrol station, done labouring jobs in an abattoir and even been a stoker on a blast furnace, but my ambition was always to be a full-time writer.

AM: Auntie M noticed your interest in history throughout your many series, from the early and reluctant readers books to your YA series. Is this a chance to teach readers or your natural interest?

JE: I have a deep love of history. I am a great believer in we are where we are now because of the historical events that have gone before, and that as a species we seem to keep repeating the same errors. So, yes, I do tend to stress the similarities between what’s happened in the past and what’s happening now – so readers say “we never learn.”

AM: The new Museum series starts out powerfully with Murder at the Fitzwilliam. How did you decide to choose 1894 for this series?

JE: The publishing director at Allison & Busby and I discussed various potential eras (modern, early 20th century), but we both felt that the late Victorian era heralded so many changes, both in society and technologically, that it would be a great backdrop for the series.

AM: Why the Fitzwilliam and Cambridge?

JE: Once we’d agreed for the series to use Museums for the settings of the series, we began by selecting the most famous of the oldest museums in Britain, and they were The British Museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, and the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. We felt that Cambridge had received less attention than Oxford out of the two oldest British University cities, so we decided to set the first adventure there.

AM: Nice to see a strong female character in archaeologist Abigail Fenton. Will she appear in the other books?

JE: Yes, she and Daniel become an investigating duo, as well as her continuing her own career as an archaeologist.

AM: Where does the series head next?

JE: Book 2 is MURDER AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM, which comes out early in 2019. Book 3, MURDER AT THE ASHMOLEAN, comes out in Autumn 2019.

AM: With three planned as of this writing, might that be extended?

JE: I hope so, if the series finds its readership, so my fingers are firmly crossed for that to happen.

AM: Mine,too, as I loved this first book. How does the radio and TV work inform your adult fiction? Do you see the books in scenes unfolding as you write?

JE: From 1971 until 2010 I was primarily a scriptwriter for TV and radio (with 250 TV scripts and 250 radio scripts broadcast). Scriptwriting is very different to novel-writing. In a script there is no place for the “interior monologue” from the characters – in a screenplay the emotions the character is feeling have to be shown by their expression and their movements. In a novel you have room to expand on what a character is feeling. However, I feel my long scriptwriting career has helped me when writing novels in developing plots (and sub-plots) and the vital importance of creating characters that readers want to know about. And you’re right, I also view a scene visually so I can write it.

AM: Who would we find on your nighttable, waiting to be read?

JE: At this moment, THE RAILWAY DETECTIVE by Edward Marston, but the one I’m really looking forward to arriving in my mailbox is DEATH UNSCRIPTED: A TRUDY GENOVA MANHATTAN MYSTERY by Marni Graff. As a former scriptwriter, this sounds my ideal mystery!

AM: You’re very kind, and I hope you will enjoy it, Jim. Thanks for giving readers insight into this new series. And now for a review of Murder at the Fitzwilliam.

Archeologist Abigail Fenton has enough hard work cataloguing recent Egyptian artificts sent to the famed Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, while she makes her way in a largely male profession, when she stumbles across a modern body inside an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.

Daniel Wilson has been called in by the Museum’s director to protect the museum’s reputation by quickly bringing the case to a discreet close. The former London detective brings his intuition and his experience with him, and soon finds himself going head-to-head with the local Cambridge detective, who has decided the murder was an accident.

With Abigail and Daniel agreeing this could hardly be the case, Daniel calls on the archeologist to assist him in his investigation into the identity of the dead man and how his body came to be found in the Egyptian Collection room.

Then the local papers circulate a story about a murderous mummy, destined to shake up the populace, and a second body is soon found, raising the stakes and making Daniel’s investigation harder.

There will be several paths of enquiry for them to follow; red herrings abound with distractions for both sleuths as they find their way to the the answers they seek.

Abigail and Daniel are an engaging pair of sleuths, bound by the mores of the time, which include the women’s suffragete movement. They take each other’s measure and like what they see while moving the case forward.

With accurate period details, Eldridge perfectly recreates the Cambridge of the Victorian era. A highly successful start to a captivating new series.
Available in the US November 19th~

Matthew Hall: A Life to Kill Sunday, Sep 2 2018 

Matthew Hall’s Coroner Jenny Cooper series returns with A Life to Kill, where Cooper finds herself in strange territory on and off the case.

The last British combat soldiers are leaving Helman province to return to their waiting families in Highcliffe after a 6-moth deployment.

But disaster strikes only a few hours before they leave, when a young private is abducted. The officers sent to locate him come are taken by surprise after trusting locals, an ambush that leaves one dead and two severely injured.

it’s a somber return, complicated by trying to figure out how this could have happened. Jenny Cooper’s inquest will stir up the army as much as the secrets the families hold.

Add in a grandstanding group of lawyers and she has her hands full with trying to get to the bottom of her toughest case yet.

With the military breathing down her neck and affecting her private life, Cooper must decide whether to follow her instincts or cave to an outcome where the truth will never be out.

A strong entry in a continued complex series.

Ann Cleeves: The Seagull Friday, Aug 31 2018 


It’s no secret Auntie M is a huge fan of anything Ann Cleeves writes, and reading THE SEAGULL was made even more special after meeting Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera Stanhope, at Malice Domestic this year.

In interviews with Cleeves, it became clear that a deep affection exists between the award-winning actor and the award-winning author. Cleeves indicated that she trust Blethyn to interpret her Vera well, and indeed to readers who are fortunate to see the series, Vera does jump off the page.

The newest Vera novel takes the formidable detective to visit her old nemsis, Detective Superintendent John Brace, languishing in prisone after his conviction for high-level corruption and his involvement in the death of a gamekeeper.

Brace has information about the disappearance of one Robbie Marshall, information he will part with if Vera promises to keep his own daughter and grandchildren under her wing.

However, the promised site of the burial of Marshall’s body turns up not one corpse but two. Who is also buried in that sandy grave? And what ties does it have to Vera’s own father?

All were regular visitors to a tony nightclub of the time called The Seagull. Vera will travel back in time to her memories and dig deeply to solve the coldest case she’s come across yet.

Highly recommended.

Roger Johns: River of Secrets Tuesday, Aug 28 2018 


Roger Johns’ returns with a sequel to last year’s stunning debut, Dark River Rising, which introduced intriguing Baton Rouge homicide detective Wallace Hartman. River of Secrets is a compelling read that will have readers placing Johns on their favorites list and waiting anxiously for the next installment.

The case Wallace is handed hits close to home when the half brother of her best friend from childhood is the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Controversial state senator Herbert Marioneaux has been murdered in a disturbing way, and his past and present behavior leads to a long list of suspects. But Eddie Pitkin heads that list when his DNA is found on Marioneaux’s body.

As Wallace investigates, she learns the chameleon-like senator changed his views as often as some people change their clothes, leading to factions on many sides of hot-button issues who had reason to distrust the man. Is Eddie being set up?

Protests from many factions clog Wallace’s investigation, and she receives political pushback from higher ups, while dealing with a snarky new partner. Then it becomes obvious there’s a leak, and suddenly she doesn’t know whom she can trust. A touch of romance hits just the right note as Wallace tries to cram a personal life into a detective’s hours.

This is a well-plotted and crafted procedural readers will gobble up with its quick pacing and engaging characters. Johns balances literate prose with a strong sense of his setting and natural dialogue. A series to follow. Highly recommended.

Daniel Cole: Hangman Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


After the success of his debut Ragdoll, Daniel Cole returns with Detective Emily Baxter in Hangman.

The acerbic British Baxter travels to New York City as part of an investigation into copycat murders that echo the Ragdoll killings.

The serial killer case left Baxter reeling and this time she doesn’t have the help of missing colleague Wolf Fawkes. She’s trying to move on at work and in her personal life until she’s seconded to assist the FBI and CIA in these new cases.

With “BAIT” carved into the chest of victims, and soon, “PUPPET” in the chest of others, the killings escalate to both shores of the Atlantic, adding a fierce depravity to the killings.

Tense and conflicting personalities within the task force don’t make Baxter’s job any easier, not does her tendency to piss people off.

This is a dark, distrubng read of increasing suspense as Baxter realizes she doesn’t know whom she can trust. And that bottom of it all is a twisted killer who knows no bounds.

Three for Summer: Cleland, Stanley, Bannalec Sunday, Jul 15 2018 

Three delightful reads for summer fun:

Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott series, set along the New Hampshire coast, brings antiques into focus. Her newest, Antique Blues, revolves around her friend Mo, who asks Josie to appraise a Japanese woodblock print Mo has acquired.

The woodblock has come from Mo’s sister’s boyfriend, who raises Josie’s hackles in all the wrong ways, including questioning the provenance of the print.

It doesn’t help that Cal appears to be abusing Mo’s sister, Lydia. And when Mo is found murdered and Cal disappears, he’s the likely suspect.

All the usual characters are here, from the young reporter Wes Smith and Rocky Point’s own police chief, Ellis Hunter, as Josie tried to track Mo’s killer. And don’t forget her fiance, Ty. There’s a bit of controversy over just how big their wedding should be.

There will be an appraisal of a vintage guitar, and a chance to merge businesses on the Josie’s horizon. With all she has going on, she still manages to pull off a murder investigation.

Josie’s job as an antique expert and appraiser teaches readers about many areas that Cleland has knowledge of, having once owned her own antique business.

City of Sharks is Kelli Stanley’s new Miranda Corbie Mystery, and takes readers into the world of the San Francisco private detective in the 1940s. The strong and capable protagonist is evocative of the era and woman’s new roles with the world on the brink of WWII.

When a secretary at a publishing house, Louise Crowley, convinces Miranda she’s afraid of being killed, with multiple good reasons, the PI puts her England travel plans on hold to investigate.

Then Louise’s publisher is killed, with Louise and possibly her sister targeted as suspects. Miranda’s investigation will bring up a host of other possible suspects, and there are even encounters with John Steinbeck and CS Forester, as well as newpaperman Herb Caen.

With period details that bring that height of that time to life, this one’s like having a noir movie play out in front of readers in an interesting mystery.

It’s atmosphere of a different sort when Jean-Luc Bennalec takes his Commissaire Georges Dupin away from his job in Concarneau to the salt marshes in The Fleur De Sel Murders.

The landscape is lovingly described, the scent of violets in the air from the harvested salt in the strange completely flat area. This is where Dupin has come, to the Brittany area, after a tip from a journalist he knows that something odd is going on in the marshes involving blue barrels. As he sniffs around, almost hallucinating by the scent of the area, trying to decide what might be wrong, Dupin is grazed by a shot coming at him. Is this to warn him away?

It’s hardly the way he’d hoped the case to proceed, and he’s not in his own district. It makes him miss a planned birthday dinner in Paris with his girlfriend, and thrusts him into an investigation with the local commissaire, a woman who is less than happy to have him on her patch.

When the journalist is found dead, Dupin stays to uncover her killer, amidst the wonderful cuisine in the area that will have readers’s mouths watering. The area is presented beautifully, with details galore that bring it to life.

You’ll feel you’ve been to Brittany. Now where are my fleur de sel caramels?

Mary Feliz: Disorderly Conduct Tuesday, Jul 10 2018 

Please welcome Mary Feliz, who write the Maggie McDonald Mysteries. Book Four is the newest release, Disorderly Conduct:

Dynamite-worthy dirt

In Disorderly Conduct, the fourth book in my Maggie McDonald Mystery series featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer, one of the characters becomes a murder suspect after wounding himself with a gardening implement while digging in the region’s rock-hard adobe soil.

While injuries and accusations of murder aren’t the typical outcomes of gardening pursuits in San Francisco’s Bay Area, adobe causes infamous headaches for anyone who would till the soil.

In the early 1800’s when the area was settled, adobe made the perfect low-cost building material. Adobe (which means mudbrick and has existed as a term for thousands of years in a variety of languages) is easily formed from a combination of mud and straw. Once dried, the material is durable. Heat retention properties of the bricks, coupled with Silicon Valley’s warm days and cool nights, means they’ve offered passive heating and air conditioning systems for hundreds of years.

But that same durability makes the soil a nightmare to garden. It’s crippled many a home roto-tiller, makes a pick-ax a necessity, and tempts landscapers to consider the efficacy of dynamite.

Soil amendments are the topic of many a spring newspaper article, with various experts recommending a combination of sand, manure, compost, peat, wood chips, shredded bark, and other materials. Yet the truth, as locals boasting a green thumb will tell you, is that you’ll need to add those soil amendments annually and blisters are inevitable for anyone trying to make a comfortable bed for flowers, vegetables, and any other plantings.

But those amendments offer better and more even distribution of the Bay Area’s most precious resource, water. They also protect plants from mid-summer heat, which increasingly reaches triple digits. In recent years, for sheer ease-of-use, raised beds filled with commercially available potting soil have exploded in popularity.

senior farmer checking the apricot in his orchard


Apricots were once the premium product of the fertile agricultural area now known as Silicon Valley.

It’s hard to imagine that Silicon Valley was once known as the Valley of Hearts Delight, and was the world’s largest fruit production and packing region. Nearly forty canneries once operated within its borders, along with flower and seed production facilities. How those early settlers farmed the region’s adobe soil boggles my mind. Perhaps the easy availability of building resources helped them save up energy from housing construction and dedicate it to cultivation.

While I struggled to work the adobe soil for decades, telling myself that well water and abundant sunshine made up for the hard work of getting the ground seedling-ready, my ultimate solution was to move. Now, I garden in the sandy soil of the Monterey Bay area. Though it offers its own challenges and demands for soil amendments, it can be easily worked with a plastic shovel. The characters in my series are jealous, particularly the uber-organized efficiency expert, Maggie McDonald.

Maggie McDonald’s golden retriever Belle is an avid gardener.

Curious dog watching when working with a pitchfork in the garden.

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms, and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races, and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

MJ Arlidge: Love Me Not Friday, Jun 29 2018 

This Helen Grace thriller opens with a jolt, as Helen finds the body of a woman killed savagely at the side of the road. Readers are aware of the circumstances that Helen can only guess at, which adds to the tension.

Out of prison for 9 months after a wrongful conviction was finally overturned, Helen is struggling to maintain her team at Southampton Central, many of whom had turned on her, and she is finding it difficult to know whom to trust. Only Charlie Brooks has been a stalwart defender and the one person Helen can trust.

But this case turns the team on its head when the killings continue and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the chosen victims. It soon becomes apparent there are two killers, and the reasons for the young couple’s killings are dire.

The action is swift and non-stop, taking place over the course of one day, highlighted by the time as chapter headings.

Of course, arch enemy reporter Emilia Garanita is on hand to record everything. And then the impossible happens and one of Helen’s team is lost, leading Helen to question if she can continue to live herself.

A strong entry in a compelling series.

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