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.

Charlot King: The Cambridge Murder Mysteries, and Animal Tales Sunday, Jan 6 2019 


Auntie M recently had a chance to interview Cambridge author Charlot King. She’ll tell readers about her two series, The Cambridge Murder Mysteries, and Animal Tales.

Auntie M: You write the Cambridge Murder Mystery series but just brought out a new series, Animal Tales, very different. What prompted the switch?

Charlot King: Stories pop into my head, and I write them. I reckon it’s more of an addition than a switch. I’m still writing a lot more Cambridge Murder Mysteries if I’m spared, as I enjoy writing them. But sometimes, it’s nice to try something different, and the two series could not be more different. I hope that those readers of the Cambridge Murder Mysteries who try the Animal Tales will enjoy them. I don’t have a long-term plan; the strongest story or character at the time gets my attention.

AM: The covers on both series are wonderful, very eye-catching. Who designs them for you, and do you have input?

CK: I’ve commissioned Robin Howlett to illustrate all my stories so far. I have initial ideas of how I’d like each of the covers to look. I then give Robin a brief, and he brings each one to life. I wanted to find an illustrator who could draw art deco well. I struck lucky with Robin. I found him by spotting his poster illustrations and only afterwards discovered that he lives really near me. We have since been to the pub together on more than one occasion, and I count him as a friend!

AM: The mysteries give readers a great setting in Cambridge. Was it always on your mind to set them there?

CK: Places leave a strong impression on me, like they’re a living character or someone I know. I’m sure lots of people feel the same way. I write about other places in other books that I love, too, but the Cambridge Murder Mysteries are an homage to the city I live in that’s captured my heart. Cambridge is a very beautiful place, and there are so many little streets and alleyways, perfect for setting a murder or two. I don’t think I’d ever run out of places to stage the next murder mystery.

AM: You do a series of photographs of Cambridge taken on walks with your dog, Moobear . I keep telling you they should be made into notecards or postcards; they’re that good. Is your photographer’s eye something you call on when writing the mysteries?
Charlot King and Moobear:

CK: That is kind of you, I’m a total amateur, and all the photos are on my iPhone. Just snaps. I like to capture moments, steal them for later. I’m in awe of beauty generally. Who isn’t? I don’t set out to photograph Moobear either, she just mostly walks into the shot! I find walking more than therapeutic. It is part of who I am. Wherever I am, if I’m indoors for too long I get a strong urge to get outside. I don’t mean that I’m a mountain climber, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d love to walk from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. At rambling or wandering pace. With lots of stop offs for tea and cake. Perhaps it’s something about slowing down? Chatting to people through happenstance? The photographs are just something I do when I’m out walking. If I had to give up one of them, it would be the photography.

AM: The Animal Tales showcase your affinity for animals. Have you always loved animals?

CK: Wouldn’t it be a boring and strange planet without them? If they could talk, everything would be so different… When I was younger, the family always had dogs and cats. We mostly lived in towns, and when I was very little, I wanted a pony, mainly from reading the Norman Thelwell books. I also wanted a lion, after watching Daktari on Saturday morning television. I suppose as I grew older I realised that would be a bad idea. But I’ve always wanted to share my life with animals as I think they teach us so much. They are humbling and awe-inspiring. And they deserve better than they get from humanity.

AM: Elizabeth Green is the professor who does the sleuthing in your Cambridge Murder Mysteries. How did you develop her character?

CK: Back in the early 2000s, I was on a walk in Chilham near Canterbury in Kent – of all places. My father had been the head teacher in the village, and I wanted to go back and take my family to see it. While walking, we saw this lady standing outside her back gate. She had such an intelligent face and was engrossed in conversation. Her voice boomed out as we walked by. The idea came to me as I was walking past her. I have no idea who she was, but she inspired me. As we drove back home, I already had the first murder in my head.

AM: There’s a lot of science involved in those plots. Do you do the research yourself or have a good resource?

CK: I studied politics for my first degree, but then for my PhD, I studied public policy and biotechnology. Specifically, I looked at the deliberate release of genetically manipulated organisms and public policy. I am not a biologist, but I did have to read up on an awful lot of genetics, biology and botany. So I draw heavily on memory and books on poisons. I try as best I can to be accurate, but my novels are in no way police procedural. They are just stories, so I’d hope my readers like them for other reasons than for their scientific precision.

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

CK: Colin Dexter and Agatha Christie for sure, but I don’t read crime fiction these days. I used to read a lot when I was younger. I think the books that influenced me the most – which I think this question is about – came to me when I studied the Politics of English Literature as a module for part of my first degree at the L.S.E. It covered the whole sweep of political novelists, poets and playwrights. I was in heaven on that course, reading Woolf, Wilde, Shaw, Thomas, Huxley, Yeats, Joyce, Orwell, the list goes on. Our teacher, Professor Black, would take us to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for some of our lessons.

I also like a bit of poetry. Favourites at the moment include: ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’, by Rupert Brooke (there’s a lovely recording of that poem on YouTube by the way!) Also, love listening to Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’, read by Richard Burton. Dylan Thomas’ poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ was particularly helpful recently, as I lost my father just last year. Perhaps that’s why I’m going through a phase of reading a number of autobiographies by comedians. My heart belongs to comedy. I’m just not a funny writer. I’ve tried.

AM: What’s a writing day like for Charlot King when you’re working on a manuscript?

CK: I aim to write 1,000 words a day. Sometimes it comes quickly. Sometimes it takes ages. I find writing the first draft the most enjoyable. But, I spend most of the time rewriting a book. Probably 80% is rewriting for me. That is a much more agonising task. I much prefer making up the story in the first place. I like the puzzle. I expect one day a computer will do all the hard rewriting for us. Can’t wait.

AM: Finally, whose books would we find on your nightstand, waiting to be read?

CK: I’ve mentioned I like reading autobiographies about British comics. I’ve just bought Paul O’ Grady’s ‘Country Life’. I don’t tend to read at night, as my eyes are pretty shot and need the rest.

AM: Where can readers find your books?

CK: Amazon around the world, and if they are in Cambridge, Heffers Bookshop. And if any of your readers are on Twitter, please do get in touch. I’m @queencharlot. Or Instagram is charlot_king_cambridge, and my website is charlotking.com.

Michael Robertson: A Baker Street Wedding Wednesday, Dec 19 2018 

    One of Auntie M’s favorite series for your holiday consideration:


    Michael Robertson’s fifth Baker Street Mystery, A Baker Street Wedding, features modern solicitor Reggie Heath, whose offices with his brother, Nigel, at the infamous 221B Baker Street London address bring them letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

    This latest installment revovles around Reggie’s wedding to actress Laura Rankin, and as the book opens, the disasterous day has taken off literally. There is the leak to paparazzi of the Cornwall location, which makes the reception as short-lived as the wedding cake. With the newleyweds desperate for peace and quiet, they escape to a remote village where Laura once attended school.

    The design for this comes early in the story, but Laura doesn’t mention that she has this destination in mind when she pulls Reggie into a plane he didn’t know she could pilot and flies them away from the hounding photographers.

    The small village where they arrive, in a valley between the cliffs and the moors, is one long block long. The school Laura attended has been closed, and the local theatregroup are doing a fundraiser of the Scottish play in hopes of reopening it.

    Small wonder, then, that Laura ends up here, and when the local gal playing Lady M dies tragically, Laura is seconded to not only save the show, but figure out if the young woman’s accident might be murder.

    With Reggie in the dark at first, groping blindly as secrets from Laura’s past come to the forefront, he will scramble to save her and himself. And when his best efforts fail, it will be up to an unlikely source to pitch in.

    The wry tone of the book will delight readers as much as the clever plot. Perhaps Auntie M’s favorite of the series so far.

Shawn Reilly Simmons: Murder with all the Trimmings Tuesday, Dec 18 2018 


Please welcome Shawn Reilly Simmons, with her new release Murder With All the Trimmings, a grand gift for the holidays, who will graciously share her writing methods.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Auntie M!

Whenever I’m speaking at an author event at a bookstore or library and the audience is prompted to ask questions, I generally get at least one about my writing process. The questions typically revolve around how I got started writing or how I’ve managed to write so many books so quickly (six in about seven years, and close to a dozen published short stories).

Every writer has their own routine and method of getting their work done, and my way may not work for everyone. But in the event it might be helpful to some, here is how I approach my writing.

I wrote my first book early in the mornings from five to around seven or eight, or whenever my infant son woke up for the day. When he was born, I left my day job to stay home with him, and that’s also when I got serious about my writing.

I’d always wanted to write for a living, but as it often does, life (and luxuries like paying rent and buying groceries) got in the way, and I ended up pursuing a marketing career in New York City after graduating college.

Those early days as a new parent are exhausting, and your time really isn’t your own until they’re through those first crucial years. And forget about sleep, at least in my situation. Those early morning hours, however, are unique in their serenity, and they were always when I could get the most work done. The habit has stuck and to this day I still get 90% of my writing done at that time of the day.
I prefer to write while it’s quiet, no music or TV background noise, with just a laptop and a cup of coffee on my desk. Besides the early mornings being quiet in my house, they’re also quiet out in the rest of the world, generally speaking. At that time of the day, I typically haven’t gotten any emails or texts or Facebook messages that have to be dealt with right away, or that provide a distraction from the task at hand.

Another skill that I cultivated in those early years of motherhood was contemplating the next morning’s work during those quiet moments at the end of the day. While listening to my infant son fall asleep, I’d think about the next scene in the book I’d write. I’d work out how the plot would progress, and what my characters would be up to. It worked so well, that I still practice this quiet meditation seven years later. My last thought as I’m falling asleep is my work in progress and the next scenes to be written.

I think because of this habit, I’ve never experienced writers’ block. I’m ready to go every morning, having worked out the way ahead in the plot before I’ve sat down.

The last tip I’d suggest to writers who are working on being more productive is to find that magic hour or hours that works for them, and write every day during that time. Magic time is when you feel the most creative and relaxed, and when you can tune out the world for a while, and focus on your story. This timeframe will be different for everyone. I have author friends who are early risers like me, and others that swear those late hours after everyone else has fallen asleep are their most creative. Once you find the time of day that works best for you, commit to writing during that time, be consistent, and really write (no Facebook or research!) You can research outside your magic time.

Before you know it, you’ll have a finished story or book. And the added benefit of holding yourself to a routine is that self-discipline brings confidence with it, and as writers we’re always grateful for more of that!

Hopefully one or more of these pointers can help a writer or two out there. Keep writing, everyone, and Happy Holidays!
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Murder With All the Trimmings, the sixth book in The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, was released on November 13, 2018. Shawn’s books are available online and in book stores and libraries everywhere. For a listing of events, to join Shawn’s monthly email newsletter (recipes included!), and for a complete list of published books and stories, please visit http://www.shawnreillysimmons.com/
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Shawn Reilly Simmons

Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several short stories appearing in various anthologies including “Burnt Orange” in Passport to Murder: the 2017 Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books), and “The Prodigy” in Mystery Tour, the Crime Writers’ Association Anthology (Orenda Books).

Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then Shawn has worked as a book store manager, fiction editor, convention organizer, wine rep, and movie set caterer. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, and is an editor at Level Best Books.

Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers’ Association in the U.K.

Cooking behind the scenes on movie sets perfectly combined two of her great loves, movies and food, and provides the inspiration for The Red Carpet Catering series, published by Henery Press.

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.

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.

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