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.
d
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

()

Gabriel Valjan: The Company Files: 2. The Naming Game Friday, Feb 1 2019 

Please welcome Gabrile Valjan, to give readers an insight into his writing and talk about his newest release in The Company Files, 2. The Naming Game:

Auntie M: You have two distinct series from Winter Goose Publishing. Your first series, the Roma Series, is presently at five novels. Readers receive a panoramic sweep of Italian culture and food, along with some light humor, while your characters solve crimes. Then you go dark into John le Carré territory with The Company Files. Why the switch?

GV: It’s important to me that I show readers that I have range. I make no distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, yet I’ve encountered both readers and agents who do. All writers, myself included, want to tell an engaging story and, in the case of a series, want repeat readers. The two series are indeed different. The Roma Series owes a debt of gratitude to the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, who created Inspector Salvo Montalbano. I wrote the Roma Series while I was dealing with a life-threatening illness, which is why food is prevalent, and because I respect Italian culture.

I have two books in The Company Files series. Both The Good Man and The Naming Game look back at the US during the Cold War, and I try to show that some attitudes have changed, while others have not. For instance, contemporary ICE raids can be traced back to J. Edgar Hoover’s response after the Wall Street bombing in 1920. Same MO. Same extrajudicial deportations.
Hoover pushed for a concentration camp for political dissidents. Not internment or detention camps, but a concentration camp.

AM: Your last Roma Series novel, Corporate Citizen, was quite violent, yet showcases your love for animals. Have you always loved animals?

GV: I do love animals. Bogie and Bacall are two cats in that novel. One of my characters, Silvio, agrees to take care of them for a friend. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I post pictures of my two cats on Saturday aka #Caturday on Twitter, and dogs for #WoofWednesday at a local dog park near me in Boston’s South End. Pets are family.

AM: Let’s jump back to your Company Files series. Book 2: The Naming Game is out in May, 2019. You said earlier that you wanted to show range. What do you do in this series that sets you apart from other authors in contemporary crime fiction?

GV: Crime is about transgression, in all its perverse and violent forms. Psychopaths. Serial killers. Sexual predators. There’s no escaping it. However, I explore crimes that governments commit for a variety of motives. When it comes to characters in most contemporary crime fiction, I have difficulty with unlikeable protagonists as the good guys, and I have an issue with profanity and violence for its own sake. Do you really need to have the f-word fifteen times within the first three pages to be ‘gritty’? I accept ‘realism’ but it sometimes seems slathered on thick. Also, give me a glimmer of hope in a dark story because I don’t read to get depressed. Real life and politics accomplishes that, thank you. I also question the logic of how effective a detective can be at his job if he’s an alcoholic or alienates everyone in the room. I’m weary of the battles with the bottle, the bitter ex-wife, the kid who won’t talk to mom or dad. I question how a character who doesn’t change over the course of several books can keep a reader coming back for more.

I offer readers different flaws in my characters. For instance, I show vulnerability as an asset. I have a character, Walker, in The Company Files, whose major obstacle is his lack of confidence. He fell in with the CIA, because he’s trying to find his way in life and love after the trauma of World War II. You’ll meet Leslie, an experienced operative who doesn’t want to return to the kitchen just because she’s a woman and the war is over; Sheldon, a damaged person with a complicated past who does the wrong things for the right reasons; Tania, the beautiful and traumatized refugee child brimming with rage; and then there’s Jack Marshall, the boss and mastermind who somehow orchestrates everything and everyone, while staying one step ahead of his nemesis, J. Edgar Hoover.

Another thing I do differently than most authors is I write three to five books and then revise the character development of all of my characters for a better arc before I search for a publisher for the novels. As for violence in my works, I prefer to imply it, or not go into graphic detail because we have all become desensitized to violence, whether it’s from media or, sadly, real life experiences. There are creative ways to imply sex, violence, and criminal misconduct. Watch Fritz Lang’s M, or any of the Pre-Code films, or catch the subtext about poverty and class distinction in most films from the 1930s.

Another major difference: one of the joys in writing The Company Files is I get to dispel the myth that life was better in the past. It wasn’t. Racism and sexism were so ingrained in American culture that it was accepted without question. I’ve talked to educated people who came of age in the 40s and 50s and was told nobody blinked at using the N-word, or at calling an adult African-American man ‘boy.’ How far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

AM: Who were your influences in crime fiction when you started writing?

GV: My first foray into crime fiction was reading Agatha Christie. I read all her mysteries in the seventh and eighth grades. Then I discovered Margaret Millar, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, in that order. I ventured to discover other writers: Cain, Highsmith, etc. Christie appealed to me for her plotting and how her detectives solved mysteries. Hammett and Millar wrote in a clean direct style I admired, while Chandler introduced a seductive and poetic use of language, often at the expense of plot. I enjoy crime fiction because I found that most (but not all) ‘literary fiction’ can get tedious and the stories go ‘nowhere.’

AM: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

GV: Exercise and shower. Coffee. Write for three hours.

AM: A controversial question. Do you think writing can be taught?

GV: I think techniques can be taught, but here’s the catch: it requires critical thinking, and I think that’s Hit or Miss in today’s education. I’m not saying education in the past was better; it was different, for better or worse. Overall – and I know it’s generalization — education in America is not about becoming a better human being; it’s about getting a job. There’s a terrible irony in this drive for the practical and pragmatic approach. Formal education shouldn’t encourage conformity; it should unbridle curiosity and teach you analysis and critical thinking, so you can teach yourself. For example, I did not know how to edit until I read Dave King’s book, Self-Editing. I realized I had a deficit, and my curiosity compelled me to find a solution, determine whether the content of his book would work for me (it did). A curious and critical writer reads everything they can find to improve their writing and broaden their horizons as a human being.

Education that fosters regurgitation of one interpretation of a literary text so you can earn the high grade kills critical thinking; kills curiosity. Education should convey an understanding of how a story works or doesn’t. Follow? All that aside, there’s more to telling a story than book smarts. I’ve met some very intelligent people in my life, people with advanced degrees, best scores on all the standardized tests; and yet, when they write, their stories are dead, they lack heart, or their ego interfered with the story.

No, I don’t think writing can be taught because we all have our unique relationship to language, and we all interrupt the world around us in unique ways, and that is the special something nobody can teach you. What I am saying is you have to know yourself and the gift for storytelling – if it’s there – comes from decades of reading, of curiosity and wrestling with language. Literature comes from empathy and connection. When I pick up a book, I don’t look to an author to validate my existence and my life experiences. I couldn’t care less about gender and ethnicity either. I want a story. I want an experience. Transport me and call it entertainment, or rip my skin off and call it Art. I don’t care. For me to write well, I need the sum of all possibilities.

The fundamentals of the human condition have not changed: we need stories to survive and better ourselves. Stories are essential. I have no doubt that out there somewhere in this country’s slums and cornfields or in the cube farms of corporate America, language is alive and there are stories worth being told. The question is, Visibility, access to those authors, so they are read and heard?

AM: Finally, whose books would we find on your nightstand, waiting to be read, and what’s on the immediate horizon for you?

GV: Jane Goodrich’s The House at Lobster Cove and Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. I’m waiting to edit five novellas that precede my Roma Series with my publisher, and I’m writing the third book in another series, set in Shanghai.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Gabriel. You are one busy writer! See you at Malice Domestic in May~

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series available from Winter Goose Publishing. The Roma Series features forensic accountant Bianca on the lam from a covert US agency in Italy. Drawn from the historical record, Gabriel’s second series, The Company Files series introduces readers to the early days of the CIA and its subsequent rivalry with the FBI. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize, once for the Bridport Prize, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Fiona Barton: The Suspect Tuesday, Jan 22 2019 

Fiona Barton returns with her series featuring reporter Kate Waters, along with detective Bob Sparkes, in a startling third novel that kept Auntie M up all night to finish it. The Suspect is that good and that compelling. Once it’s started, readers won’t be able to stop.

When two girls go missing in Thailand, Bob reaches out to Kate to involve the press. This hits close to home, as Kate’s son Jake dropped out of university two years ago to travel in Thailand and has rarely been heard from since.

Kate soon finds herself on the way to Thailand to investigate a fire that involves the girls, but also finds to her surprise and dismay that Jake might have been on the premises at the time. Turning her usual position on its head, Kate soon finds she is the one being hounded by her reporter colleagues, not all well-meaning, as she tries to find her son while investigating what happened to the girls.

Things escalate, if that’s possible, from there. The parents of both girls have very different reactions to the situation. Social media posts from one of the girls tracks their trip, but is this the reality?

It’s a complicated situation, one that explores the complexities of families,husbands and wives, sons and mothers, and loss and grief, alongside one humdinger of a thriller. No character is left untouched by this story. The inner voices of each character ring true in a moving and realistic way that will bring a catch to your breath. It’s a complicated tour de force of emotions and situations, a beautifully written novel that delves into the psychology of us all.

By turning the tables on Kate and involving her own family, the reporter who usually tells other peoples stories must acknowledge that we can’t really know the people we love totally and completely. Highly recommended.

Next Page »