Carol Western: Karma and the Singing Frogs AND Stranger and Angels Sunday, Dec 10 2017 


Publishing two new books in two months has been challenging to say the least. I had planned to bring out one book in August and the other in October, in an orderly and sensible fashion. Then my book designer and colleague suffered a bereavement and everything got pushed out of schedule. It may have been wiser to postpone publishing the second book, my first Victorian Murder Mystery, until next year but it is set in December and that would have meant putting it back eight months. Mentally and emotionally I was committed to publishing both of them this year, so I did. Sensible has never really been my major quality but determination – some call it stubborn – always has been.

Karma and the Singing Frogs is a contemporary crime novel featuring archaeologist turned CSI Mia Trent. Strangers and Angels is set in 1850 in the naval town of Gosport and features two determined young women, lady’s maid, Molly Bowman and her mistress, Lady Adelaide.

The two books have a lot in common. Both are set on the south coast of England in mid-December and both have female investigators as the viewpoint character. The major difference is the 157 years that separate them.

Mia is an independent career woman who lives alone. She has friends but also that touch of aloofness that is essential for people who have to separate their professional emotions from their personal life in order to deal with the death and suffering they witness every day.

Molly and Adelaide have no political or economic power and they and those around them would find it unthinkable that they should witness the sort of violence that Mia deals with every day.

I think the hardest task when writing Strangers and Angels was to get into the mind-set of strong, intelligent women who accepted that this limited subservience was their role in life. Adelaide, as the disgraced widow of a brutal man who lost everything through gambling and then committed suicide, is in a far worse position than Molly, the only child of a cooper (barrel-maker). Molly’s father wishes her to marry to ensure her safety if he dies but has promised not to force her into marriage. Adelaide accepts that her aristocratic father will arrange another marriage for her, whether she wishes it or not.

My contemporary crime novels are set in fictional settings, mainly because my son is a CSI and I didn’t wish to embarrass him, partly because cut-backs in UK policing mean that police stations and investigative facilities are disappearing quicker than I can write the books.

The Victorian novel is set in a real place and specific time, which involved a lot of research. The two training ships from the Ottoman Empire were really based in Gosport from late 1850 to early 1851 although there are few documents about this event and I have no evidence whether the majority of residents were hostile to the Turkish sailors or not. Some years after the action in this book, a Turkish graveyard was incorporated into the Clayhall graveyard, the only one in England. The memorial inscription reads, in Turkish and English: “They set sail for eternity met their creator and here they are laid to rest.”

In Karma and the Singing Frogs the victim is a young man who moved from Social Service Care to prostitution and the initial suspects are those who have also been in Care. In Strangers and Angels the immediate and convenient suspect is a young Turkish sailor, a stranger without friends in a foreign land.

For me, the main thing the two books have in common is the ageless theme of justice and how it is too often only for the powerful and privileged.

Carol Westron lives near the south coast of England and it is here that her fiction is set. She writes both contemporary and historical crime fiction, as well as non-fiction articles on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She also reviews books and interviews authors for Mystery People. A passionate believer in empowerment through creativity, she teaches creative writing to community classes and writes children’s picture books about a child who is different and ‘sees the secrets behind the darkness,’ which are illustrated by her severely autistic grandson.

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Julia Dahl: Conviction Wednesday, May 17 2017 

Megan Abbott calls Julia Dahl’s third Rebekah Roberts novel “. . . a thrilling, utterly absorbing crime novel” with good reason.

The young intrepid journalist becomes intrigued when a prisoner in jail for over two decades sends a letter: “I didn’t do it.”

With her job at the tabloid newspaper frustrating her, especially after she’s been passed over for a well-deserved promotion, Rebekah starts to investigate DeShawn Perkins’ claim that he did not kill the foster parents who had taken him in, nor his little foster sister.

What she finds will stand his conviction on its ear as an eyewitness changes her testimony–but will the woman have the courage to admit this in court? Her digging also brings her into conflict with her newly discovered mother and the cop who has been on her side in previous investigations in the Hasidic community.

While part of the history leading up to the Crown Heights riots and this particular murder are told from the viewpoint back in the early 90’s, the chapters in current time as Rebekah investigates will bring her face to face with a difficult decision of her own: who does she owe allegiance to–the people she loves, or the truth?

With a fine eye for reality, Dahl brings another story with layers and layers of humanity in it to light. Highly recommended.

She

Judith Flanders: A Cast of Vultures Sunday, Mar 12 2017 

castofvultures

Judith Flanders’ series featuring editor Samantha Clair is one Auntie M looks forward to reading, with good reason. The series has grown stronger, and with this third outing, A Cast of Vultures, demonstrates everything that’s good about Sam, mixing the smart and witty amateur sleuth-by-default with her Scotland Yard partner, Jake. There’s something to be said for a strong heroine who doesn’t really need anyone, but who chooses to be human enough to let people into her world.

An elderly friend traps Sam into helping her check on a missing neighbor while a series of minor arson fires range in the area. Then one fire turns deadly, with a body whose identity changes everything, and Sam unwittingly finds herself in the midst of being chased by thugs, forced to take drastic measures to defend herself.

The highlights of this series are many: Sam’s self-deprecating humor gives readers a clear-eyed, wry view of herself and those around her. Her mother and the neighbors who pepper the stories range from eccentric to phobic, but all are realistically drawn multi-faceted people. Auntie M is especially fond of Sam’s reclusive, brilliant, and understated upstair neighbor, Mr. Rudiger. We all wish we had a neighbor like Mr. Rudiger at times.

Then there’s the mystery itself, with a many-pronged approach that makes it complex and satisfying, overlapping at times with Jake’s work. And don’t forget Sam’s work world, which in this story provides a nice subplot as her publishing house undergoes what might be a restructuring.

From her Goth assistant, Miranda, who keeps an eye on Sam, to navigating the nature of her relationship with Jake, Sam Clair is someone you will want to spend time with as she finds herself embroiled in what turns out to be a humorous yet fast-paced mystery. Highly recommended.

Frances Brody: A Death in the Dales Wednesday, Mar 8 2017 

deathdales

Frances Brody’s newest Kate Shackleton mystery is one of her finest, an intricately plotted tale of crimes old and new, in A Death in the Dales.

Kate has taken her niece, Harriet, recovering from diphtheria, to stay for two weeks holiday at the Langcliffe home of Freda Simonson, now deceased, whose nephew, Dr. Lucien Simonsson has been courting Kate.

It’s to be a time to build up Harriet’s health, but the shadow of an old crime hangs over the town. Freda Simonsson was the only witness to the murder of the landlord of the tavern across the road, and believed till her dying day that the wrong man had been convicted of that murder.

Kate will soon find herself reading Freda’s notes on the crime, her voice reaching out to Kate from the grave, while Harriet befriends a young girl whose brother is missing. Her quiet vacation time suddenly seems very full indeed, with sleuthing around the various farms.

For if Freda was correct and the wrong man has been put to death, that means a murderer is still on the loose in the Yorkshire town.

This was one of Auntie M’s favorite Brody novels to date. The several plot lines come together in a way that’s extremely satisfying, as does the personal part of Kate’s life. Of course, her partner Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs. Sugden make an appearance, but it’s Kate who rules the day.

A satisfying entry in the series; Highly Recommended.

And don’t miss these two, new in paperback:

Redemption Road is John Hart’s thriller featuring cop Elizabeth Black, who rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot her kidnappers dead. But she’s also hiding a secret, and so are those around here. Filled with twists and turns.

A Banquet of Consequences is Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley/Havers mystery, a mix of complex plotting and psychological suspense, when a troubled young man’s suicide sets off a string of events that culminate in another death. This one was Highly Recommended when it debuted and readers who missed it at first can find it now in paperback.

Marilyn Meredith: A Crushing Death, #12 in the Rocky Bluff P. D. series Sunday, May 1 2016 

Please welcome author Marilyn Meredith, bringing out #12 in her Rocky Bluff P D series, A Crushing Death. She’ll describe how she’s managed to keep her long-running series fresh. Be certain to read to the bottom and learn how you can enter a contest to be a character in her next book!

KEEPING A SERIES FRESH

In order to keep people wanting to read the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, these are the things that I try to do:

This is a mystery series first, so of course, there must be an intriguing mystery and usually that means someone is murdered, though not always. As with any mystery, there will be several possible suspects and it’s up to my detectives to figure out who is the guilty person.

Because Rocky Bluff is a beach community, there always is something new, as well as reminders, about the setting.

However, what is most important is what happens to the characters. I’ve always said that this series is as much about what happens to the men and women on the Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families as the mystery. Of course, the mystery itself is going to have some affect, but as with all of us, the characters have had life problems, such as: having to care for and make decisions for a parent with Alzheimers’; the birth of a child with Down Syndrome; dealing with a teen’s problems; having had a loved one risk his or her life, disappear, make a decision about the job itself; and so much more.

At times, something unexpected will happen, like when the Milligans moved into a haunted house in Violent Departures.

I’m probably more anxious to know what’s going to happen in the next book than anyone, because I’ve come to know and care about the people who inhabit Rocky Bluff and work for the police department there. Hopefully, my curiosity will keep the series fresh enough that my readers will want to continue on with me.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

A Crushing Death

http://www.amazon.com/Crushing-Death-Rocky-Bluff-P-D/dp/1610092260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457618775&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Crushing+Death+by+F.M.+Meredith

A pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for violent attacks on women, and Detective Milligan’s teenage daughter has problem.

Me at Coalesce2

F. M. Meredith, who is also known as Marilyn Meredith, is nearing the number of 40 published books. Besides being an author she is a wife, mother, grandma and great-grandmother. Though the Rocky Bluff she writes about is fictional, she lived for over twenty years in a similar small beach town. Besides having many law enforcement officers in her family, she counts many as friends. She teaches writing, loves to give presentations to writing and other groups, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, three chapters of Sisters in Crime and on the board of Public Safety Writers Association.

Website: http://fictionforyou.com
Blog: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com
Facebook: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: MarilynMeredith

Contest: Once again, the person who comments on the most blogs during this tour, can have a character named after them in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Tomorrow you can find me here:
http://www.gumbojustice.blogspot.com/

Maggie Barbieri: Lie in Plain Sight, Maeve Conlon #3 Sunday, Apr 17 2016 

LiePlainSight

Maggie Barbieri’s father was a New York City policeman whose stories have given the author great background for her Maeve Conlon series. She’s back with the third in this darkly humorous mystery series with Lie in Plain Sight.

Maeve’s a single mom to two girls, one in college now and the other, Heather, getting ready to choose a college. Maeve’s relationship with her younger daughter is strained, as it often is with any teen, and more so when that teen’s personality resembles the parent’s.

But Maeve is doing her best, juggling her beau, a local detective, her remarried ex-husband and his new family, and her busy bakery. She’s so busy she hires a local woman, Trish Dvorak, someone she knew in elementary school, to help out.

Things escalate when Trish is out on a delivery and Maeve finds out she’s been named a school contact by Trish for her own teen, Taylor, when the school nurse calls for Maeve’s permission to let an ill Taylor walk the short distance home from school.

But Taylor vanishes before making it home, and suddenly Maeve is not only feeling hellishly responsible, town gossip is adding to her guilt. With her own investigating history and help from a few friends we’ve seen before, Maeve tries to find Taylor on her own, creating tension in several relationships when it becomes obvious there’s more to Taylor’s disappearance than meets the eye.

One of the delights of this series is that the reader knows that Maeve has her own view of what constitutes justice, one that differs significantly from that of her police boyfriend and most of other legal institutions. And when Heather disappears, all bets are off.

Another delightful entry with a likable and different protagonist, with well-crafted characters, and a look into the community where she lives providing a setting and story that will hook and surprise readers from page one.

Jeanette DeBeauvoir: Deadly Jewels Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

deadly jewels_MECH_01.indd

One of Auntie M’s favorite novels last year was Jeannette DeBeauvoir’s debut Asylum, a chilling and often terrifying mystery that introduced Martine LeDuc, the engaging protagonist who is publicity director for the city of Montreal.

Auntie M recently had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about her work:

Auntie M: You have developed a backdoor to these crime investigations for your protagonist, PR director Martine LeDuc. What made you choose her position and that approach?

Jeannette de Beauvoir: I was looking for someone whose work would, first of all, allow access to a range of different situations, and secondly, be flexible in terms of how the protagonist spent her time. Public relations could arguably have its hand in a lot of different problems, and the person at the top of the department can come and go with staff to cover day-to-day operations if she needs to be elsewhere.

AM: Everyone’s family has a story, and Martine’s home life is grounding, yet it feels very realistic. How important do you feel it is for readers to see that there are other forces pulling at her that require her attention?

JDB: It’s truly about making her a whole person. We’re all made up of mosaics, aren’t we—no one is *only* their job, or *only* their family life, or *only* anything… so it is always important to me to give characters a backstory and a personal life. Doing that offers so many opportunities, especially for a series such as this one, for the character to grow and change, to make mistakes and learn from them… in other words, to develop fully as a human being. The Martine of Deadly Jewels is different from the Martine of Asylum, and will be different from the Martine of the next book should there be one. If the books were *just* about the mysteries, I think they’d be a lot less interesting.

AM: After growing up in Angers, France, you now divide your time between Montreal and Cape Cod. Do you see a difference between the Canadian mind and the American mind when it comes to readers of crime novels and their questions for you? Between the French and the American?

JDB: I’m half-French and half-American, and I often think that if I were a city, I’d be Montréal… with part of me reflecting each culture. But we’re really talking about three different cultures, and three different ways of approaching literature. Readers from the U.S. tend to want to be plunged directly into the story, whereas French readers are looking for more depth—more philosophy, if that makes sense. Neither book has been translated (yet) so it would be interesting to see people’s reactions to them.

AM: A consistent thread is Martine’s love of Montreal, and a highlight for me as a reader is exploring the city through her eyes. The research you’ve done for both Asylum, a first-rate novel, and Deadly Jewels, another winner, adds so many layers to the books. Have you found it easy to obtain access to what might otherwise be off-limits areas for these projects? I’ve found assuring a contact’s name will appear in the Acknowledgments is often a great enticement. Have you had a similar response to your requests?

JDB: I have found people to be amazingly generous with their time and expertise in every project I’ve undertaken. I’ve asked difficult questions and I have never had anyone refuse to help. And people really are the best resource. One of the classes I teach online is writing historical fiction, and I tell students two things: do your research before you talk to people (so that you are suitably immersed in the subject and you don’t ask the questions whose answers you could have Googled), but then find the experts and ask them. Someone who has lived through an era can give so much more information than just reading secondary sources about it. And the same goes for mystery writing: find the experts, be respectful of their time, and you will be astonished at the results.

AM: Your background includes poetry and plays. What made you decide to write a crime series?

JDB: Ah, the poetry and plays are pretty much accidents: I’m really a novelist. I wrote historical fiction for quite a while but realized at some point that what I love to read most is mystery fiction, and I wasn’t writing it—there was a disconnect there. So I co-authored my first mystery novel (mostly because I didn’t think I was terribly good at plots!), got braver and wrote one on my own, then finally discovered what works for me: combining mystery and historical fiction. Not in the same way that an Ellis Peters does, with a character in the past solving a crime from the past—but rather with someone in the present-day finding that the past doesn’t in fact really go away. I think it makes for good storytelling and has the added advantage of teaching a little history as well.

AM: When you have precious down time, whose books would readers find waiting to be read on your nightstand?

Phil Rickman: he’s a brilliant writer, his stories are intricately plotted, his characters are haunting, and he’s just spooky enough to keep your heart rate up. He writes a series about a female Anglican priest who’s also an exorcist, but also has wonderful standalone books that borrow characters from the series, so that you can follow them from book to book. He is one of the authors I admire most for making the *geography* as much a character as the people: he writes about the border between England and Wales and makes the liminality of such a place intrinsic to the plot.

AM: Thank you for that recommendation. I’ve just ordered his first in the series to try. Now on to the review of DEADLY JEWELS:

De Beauvoir’s sequel brings Martine LeDub back for another adventure that has the same chilling suspense as her first, yet manages to be a different book entirely. It still pivots on moral questions, and she shows her love for the city in its exploration by the main characters as they try to stop what amounts to a cult operation from decades ago that has reached fingers into present day Montreal.

Martine has a mutual dislike relationship with the Mayor who serves as her boss. But this time when she’s called to his office, it’s not to be rebuked, but to be introduced to an graduate student who just may have pulled off a PR coup: she’s found proof that long-held rumors are true and that proof has been found during underground excavations taking place under the city. The British crown jewels were once housed there in Montreal during WWII and then returned to London.

It promises to be a grand revelation for all, until Martine accompanies Patricia Mason to the excavation site. Sure, they do find several diamonds, left behind from the original cache. But they also find the skeleton of man shot execution-style decided ago. It appears he swallowed these remaining jewels.

Now it’s a job of containment, as Martine and her colleagues in several places determine how to handle the scandal. And this won’t be great PR for Montreal or for her job.

But then Mason is shot, and she turns to her detective friend from the first book, Julian Fletcher, to help her out with the cold case. And just as things heat up, her stepchildren arrive for a visit and her husband disappears that same weekend to have a meeting with his ex-wife.

There will be several twists and turns along the way as the case unravels, with surprising results. Along the way, Martine will be introduced to and interview Nazi survivors and their families, and those trying to resurrect that regime in a startling way.

As the action heats up, it’s not just Martine who will find herself in jeopardy.
One of the things that set this apart from the usual series is the way De Beauvoir skillfully weaves the modern with the historical. Flashbacks to two key characters explain the historic journey of the jewels and the men involved with them and add substance and key clues to the action.

The author bio for De Beauvoir states in part: “. . . She finds that the past always has some hold on the present and writes mysteries and historical fiction that reflect that resonance.”
You’ll understand the meaning of that line once you read this fine mystery that evaluates many sides of a situation. Highly recommended.

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?
MissParloas-2

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/

MontWardCarriages
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.

MidwiferyBookLeish
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.
PoliceManualCover
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?

MaxwellCrop

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.

Judith Flanders: A Bed of Scorpions Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

Auntie M enjoyed Judith Flanders first mystery, A Murder of Magpies, and was happy to receive the ARC of her second, A Bed of Scorpions, featuring the smart and savvy London editor, Sam Clair. There’s a nice balance of humor in the series, with Sam’s first person point of view providing a running commentary on the people she runs across, too.
BedScorpions

Fast forward to the summer after the happenings in “Magpie” and Sam is happy in her routine: work, the occasional drink or lunch out, and many evenings spent with her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, who now has a key to Sam’s flat.

Summer also means Sam is busy setting up her schedule for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and one can’t help but wonder if the next installment will take us there . . . but in the meantime, Sam has enough on her plate with the personalities at work. And a long-planned lunch with an old friend, Aidan Merriam, an art dealer, who is an old ex of Sam’s.

But lunch takes a sour note when Aiden tells her that he had the great misfortune to be the one to find his business partner dead of a gunshot wound. Is this an apparent suicide by Frank or his murder? Aiden needs Sam’s help, both to clear himself and to find out if anyone else would want Frank dead. And guess who is the one of the detective’s on the case from Scotland Yard? And who was on the from the night before–a night he spent with Sam, when he neglected to tell her about the death of her friend’s business partner: None other than that same detective, Jake Field.

What’s a girl to do? Sam calls the person she nows who knows the law, and is straight up and business-like to a fault without turning a hair: her mother, Helena, who rushed in to defend Aiden and sort this case out.

Now Sam finds herself stuck between her mother, Aiden, and Jake, and soon after realizes she’s put herself right in the sights of a murderer who assumes she knows more than she really does.

A few of the characters from the first installment return with welcome scenes. There are her upstairs neighbors, including the delightful Mr. Rudiger. There is talk of where Jake and Sam are headed in their relationship, which is clearly not well defined. And then there’s also the pretty big matter of a killer to be caught.

The mixed worlds of books and art are sharply and cleverly defined with Flanders’ trademark humor spiking the pages as the action speeds along. The author’s work as an editor stands her well here, especially her work for the publications department of the National Portrait Gallery in London. That knowledge infuses these books with the kind of inside look readers love, a way to see inside a different world. Wrap that up with a darn good mystery, a hint of romance, and a believable protagonist you wish was your friend, and you’ll surely enjoy A Bed of Scorpions as much as Auntie M did.

Action + Thrills = Great Reads Sunday, Mar 27 2016 

Auntie M has read a stack of high tension, high action books recently, so she’s grouped them for your reading pleasure.

LieinWait
Eric Rickstad’s Lie in Wait starts out with the murder of a young babysitter. The savage attack takes place at the Canaan, Vermont home of the lead attorney in a high-profile case, which convinces detective Sonja Test they must be related. With two children of her own, viewing the girl’s body as her first murder victim while her kids wait outside in the car is a neat juxtaposition to all things normal suddenly gone wrong.

Test will keep digging, uncovering past acts hidden for years that impact on the murder. This fast-paced thriller is heavy with the psychology of the characters which increases the tension. There will be several unexpected twists before the ending. The tension between Test and her job, and her allegiance to her husband and children ramps up the emotions.

8thCircle
Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle
finds Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan still reeling from the tragic loss of his wife and young son in a car accident a year ago. It doesn’t help that his wife was driving Danny’s car at the time. He’s not been back at work since the tragedy. Then his friend, journalist Michael Cohen drives his car right into the pond in front of Danny’s house after being shot.

An obvious murder, Danny is looked at with suspicion, which only adds to the tension as he tries to find out why Michael had to die. He digs into his friend’s last article, supposedly on restaurant reviews, but which turns more to be about Philly politics mixed with a twisted, secret nightlife. It doesn’t help that his father-in-law is a senator, implicated heavily in the secrets he uncovers, secrets the most powerful people in the city are desperate remain hidden. And is it possible that Danny was really meant to die in that accident?

Danny’s migraines interfere with his investigation, a nice side touch that makes him feel very human. A determined detective and a friend of Michael’s, legislative aide Kate Reid, are two other characters whose presence adds to the tension as Danny gets closer and closer to a truth he can’t ignore, one he won’t have seen coming at all.

AmongTheives
John Clarkson debuts a new series with Among Thieves with an unlikely protagonist, ex-con James Beck.

The Brooklyn setting has a gritty, noir feel with Beck at the lead of this action-packed thriller. Beck’s spent his years since getting out of prison building a team operating out of the Red Hook area. Then one of the team, partner Manny Guzman, asks for Beck’s help: his cousin, Olivia, working at a NYC brokerage firm, noticed suspicious investment practices that led to her getting a few of her fingers broken, after which she was fired and blackballed from the industry.

Leave it to Beck to right the wrong, but in doing so, he realizes Olivia has found something far more compelling than anyone thought at first. And then all hell breaks loose as there’s a far too much money at stake. Beck and company will face threats from several sources, including Bosnian war criminals, with violence on terrifying levels.

There will be several surprising twists, a bit of sex and a whole lot of action before Beck’s team is finished.

OrphanX

Author Gregg Hurwitz has had many bestselling and award-nominated thrillers in the past, so it’s no surprise the first of his new series, Orphan X, is already being adapted by Hurwitz for a Warner Bros. movie starring Bradley Cooper.

Creating a character for the likes of Jack Reacher fans, there’s all the high-tech gadgets and action readers could want. Evan Smoak was raised in the secret Orphan Program, where the goal was to produce assassins who were so off the grid they didn’t officially exist.

All of his training and skills come into play when Evan breaks away and assumes a new name and persona, and decides to use these to help people pushed to the limit by murderers or kidnappers. Called the “Nowhere Man,” he lives with many layers of protection around him, until someone from his past turns up to ruin everything.

Yes, there’s a lovely woman or two in here, and even the occasional hint of humor to relieve the stress, but that doesn’t stop the heart-rending action nor the sense of outlandishness at times that makes this read even more cinematic. Lee Child says: “Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is his best yet–a real celebration of all the strengths he brings to a thriller.”

AmericanBlood

New Zealander Ben Sanders fourth novel is his first published in the US, and in concert with high-action thrillers, it’s been sold to Warner Bros with the attached star and producer none other than the afore-mentioned Bradley Cooper. The actor is one busy guy, but he knows how to pick projects with fast-moving action. American Blood introduces Marshall Grade, a likable sort if you like your cops living in a New Mexico Witness Protection Program, trying to keep a low profile.

Marshall’s a bit of a rogue who reminded Auntie M of a tortured New York Longmire–not afraid to get his hands dirty and very persistent. There’s a contract out on Marshall and he’s supposed to be living a quiet life. But his undercover past is littered with bodies and he can’t quite forget them.

Instead he decides to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Alyce Ray may have been taken by drug traffickers, and the opening scene in a diner where Marshall meets up with two whom he feels have information is a choreographed dance in itself and a clue to his steely nerves.

The plot is more complex than at first glance, with language that flows and lets readers experience a different kind of hero, one who treads a fine line to find justice.

First Response
Auntie M has reviewed thriller author Stephen Leather’s multiple previous books in two series. Stand-alone First Response is ripped from today’s headlines, and all too easily believed.

In London, several scenarios go off at once in nine different locations. Suicide bombers claiming to be from ISIS hold hostages in all of these locations, and they vary from a church to a pub to a childcare center. Their mission is to force the release of jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh prison, and their demands are firm: they are to be released that same evening.

But when Mo Kamran, Superintendent of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met investigates, he and his team find no links to ISIS, and none of the men are on known-terrorist watch lists. Are these clean skins, terrorist without a link to any particular group? Or is something else pulling these men together?

Imagine the chaos that would reign in such a situation with a deadline looming. Now imagine trying to coordinate Special Forces, EMS, and armed tactical units, and you have an idea of Mo’s day. The Muslim detective won’t have it easy, especially when he realizes the agenda being played out is not what it seems.

Leather couples clever plotting with detailed knowledge of the way the Government and the Police would respond with strong characterizations. For fans of his two other series, this one’s a sure-fire read. For readers new to Leather, there’s no better place to start than with this contemporary thriller.

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