Laura McHugh: The Wolf Wants In Saturday, Oct 12 2019 

Laura McHugh’s previous novels (The Weight of Blood, Arrowood) have won or bee nominated for awards, bringing the Midwest to life in each stunning portrayal. In The Wolf Wants In, she uses her strengths of language and pathos to what is essentially a mystery, while at the same time balancing that with effective and complex characters.

Told in two points of view months apart that eventually overlap, the device gains momentum at the weeks converge to a stunning climax.

Sadie Keller is a social worker who can’t let the sudden death of her brother, Shane, fade lightly. Determined that there’s more to investigate, she isn’t able to get the local detective to take her seriously. With her daughter off at her ex-husband’s house during the week for a better school option, she has the time to talk to people and sniff around, using her older sister as a sounding board.

When a child’s skull is found in the woods, that death overshadows any help Sadie might have received. But Sadie makes it her mission to keep looking, all while working full time, taking care of her brother’s ill dog, and caring for her daughter at weekends.

Henley Pettit knows her family are talked about in town. With relatives selling drugs as their side business, an addicted mother in and out of jail or rehab, she’s had to bring herself up in rural Kansas. There are loyalties to some, but more to herself, as she tries to save from her cleaning job for the trip that will take her to the cool mountains of Colorado where she yearns to reinvent herself, away from her history and the influence of others.

There are few good choices but many good people living in rural areas, with the struggle of opioid addiction affecting far too many families, its tendrils snaking into poverty, robbery, murder and more. McHugh shows how this impacts these families in heartbreaking and sad ways of betrayal.

Yet there is an element of hope and light in this story that makes the resolution even more bittersweet. An insightful journey of these two women who will know each other only tangentially, but whose impact on each other will be felt for decades. Highly recommended.

Nicci French: The Lying Room Sunday, Oct 6 2019 

Auntie M was not the only disappointed reader when the duo of Nicci French decided to end their Frieda Klein series, but they’ve made up for that with a brilliant stand-alone, The Lying Room.

Neve Connolly is the gal everyone admires: a working mom of three who cooks and keeps it all together, and remembers to feed the guinea pig, she’s a great friend, too. So when her small print design company is bought out by a larger one, she decides to drop to 3 1/2 days a week to give herself some breathing room.

That her breathing room for herself means seeing one of the new bosses in an exciting fling has her feeling guilty but exhilarated——until the morning she receives a text to meet her lover at his tiny town flat and finds him dead, brutally attacked with hammer.

Unable to process any other thought but self-preservation, Neve sets out to eradicate any trace of herself and their relationship from the apartment, literally scrubbing herself away, all the while feeling she’s forgotten something.

The detective investigating Saul Stevenson’s murder seems to keep turning up at Neve’s door with questions, while her usually hectic household erupts into even more chaos with visiting friends from uni outstaying their welcome and her best friend’s marriage disintegrating at the same time.

Worried over her oldest child, Mabel, a young woman off to uni with her own ghosts she battles, Neve is consumed with worry and anxiety.

And all the time she exhausts herself to find a way out of the morass, while the detective intent on digging to the bottom of the case keeps turning up with more questions for Neve in a way that soon feels like the two of them are playing a strategic game.

But there’s another person out there watching as all the pieces fall into place, and that’s the real killer. As Neve tries to figure out who the killer must be, several on her list are those she loves, and she can’t begin to imagine how her life can continue if it is one of them.

The complicated plot adds to the very real feel of these characters, finely drawn with problems and issues all families and marriages entertain and their secrets emerge. As Neve’s attempts at misdirection rise, so does the tension, inexorably, toward a stunning climax that isn’t as much of an ending as a new beginning for some.

Eminently readable, this unsettling thriller is justly deemed highly recommended.

Vanessa Lilllie: Little Voices Thursday, Oct 3 2019 

Little Voices starts off with a scene that packs a wallop and glues readers to the pages of Vanessa Lillie’s debut thriller.

Told in the first person by Devon Burges, a former prosecutor out on maternity leave, her emergency delivery and tough recuperation are rocked by the murder of a young nanny who has become her friend.

Despite hearing mocking voices in her head, Devon grabs onto the investigation of the nanny’s death. Her intentions intensify when her college friend, the employer of the nanny, becomes the prime suspect in Belina’s murder.

As the voices increase, so does the tension, with the backstory to those voices a counterpoint to the murder investigation. Drawing on her “outside the box” skills, Devon is soon embroiled in the events that led up to this death.

The ramifications have fingers that reach to the businessmen and politicians of Providence, Rhode Island, as long-held secrets are revealed that affect far too many people in Devon’s circle.

A climax that has a surprise twist will leave readers stunned in this complex story, one that will have readers racing the get to the finish of a suspenseful tale Daniel Ford calls a ” . . . serpentine whodunit.”

Tara Laskowski: One Night Gone Tuesday, Oct 1 2019 

Please welcome award-winning author Tara Laskowski, to talk to readers about switching from short stories her writing her debut thriller. One Night Gone, told in two voices, is garnering stellar reviews. Don’t miss it!

I have always considered myself a short story writer. A very very short story writer, to be specific. I feel most comfortable at about 745 words, two pages max. I’ve been editing a journal of flash fiction for nearly 10 years, where we publish stories that are 1000 words or less, so I’ve been trained to think at that length. I like tiny moments, small epiphanies. I like seeing a story in its entirety.

So, I never really thought I’d be able to write a novel. I tried it several times. My MFA thesis was a doorstop 500+ page novel that spanned over several decades, that I worked on for 6 years. For the longest time, my longer projects never really seemed to work out.

But then after I published two short story collections, I felt like I needed a next step. A new challenge. And so I decided to try writing a novel one more time. Just to see what happened.

I took the plunge, immersed myself in my book, determined not to come up for air until I had a first draft. The alluring Siren calls of flash fiction ideas tried to beckon me away, but I ignored them as best I could. I dealt with the pain of not being able to see my plot in its entirety. If I had an idea for a short story, I wrote the idea down in my notebook and carried on with the novel.
It worked, for the most part. I was able to complete the draft of my book, One Night Gone, in a little over a year. I had done it. I’d written a novel, bird by bird, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Somewhere along the way, I’d gotten into a rhythm with it. Dare I say it—I even liked it?

Then, once the editing was over and my book was on its way, I turned to all those notebook ideas. I thought—yay! Now I can go back to my short story babies and make them happen.

Except for one problem. I’d trained myself so well on writing a novel that I had forgotten how to write a short story.

That summer was painful. All these ideas! And none of them were working. I couldn’t write a succinct story to save my sanity. It all felt dull and tired.

There are writers who say they can switch back and forth between forms—writing poetry alongside their novels, flash fiction while working on a nonfiction book. I’ve realized I am not one of them. I have so little time to write in my packed, hectic schedule that I need to focus or I’ll be lost forever, shipwrecked on the beach endlessly searching for the seashell pieces of my fiction. Therefore, I realized that since it takes me a while to get in my groove, once I get in it, it’s very hard to pull out of it into another one.

That summer, I did end up getting a few decent short stories completed. But there is still an embarrassing amount of stories started and never finished, ones I may never be able to work out. Or maybe I will. Maybe, like wine, they just need to sit and age for a bit.

They have plenty of opportunity to do so, as I’m about to start writing my second book soon. And when I do take that deep breath and plunge under the surface, I probably won’t be emerging for a while!

Wish me luck! And while I’m out at sea, be sure to keep those Sirens entertained!

Tara Laskowski


TARA LASKOWSKI is the award-winning author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which was named a Best Book of 2017 by The Guardian. Her debut novel One Night Gone was published in October 2019 by Graydon House Books. She is the editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly, an Agatha Award winner, and a member of Sisters in Crime. A graduate of Susquehanna University and George Mason University, Tara grew up in Pennsylvania and lives in Virginia.

Linwood Barclay: Elevator Pitch Friday, Sep 27 2019 

Linwood Barclay’s Elevator Pitch will have readers thinking twice about using an elevator and gravitate toward taking the stairs after this suspenseful read.

New York City finds itself in the grip of a terror-filled nightmare when several elevator accidents cause horrific deaths. People are afraid to get on an elevator in what is essentially a vertical city with its plethora of skyscrapers.

At the same time, a duo of detectives is investigating the death of a man found on the High Line, his face a bloodied pulp and his fingertips cut off to blur his identity. What’s this man’s connection, if at all, to these elevator incidents?

In town, ostensibly to celebrate his wedding anniversary, is the head of an alt-right group called the Flyovers, who are trying to bring attention to their cause.

The terror notches up higher when a taxi explodes, claiming more lives. Are the incidents connected? Is this a way to bring a city that’s a haven for finance, fashion, and entertainment to the verge of collapse?

The mayor does what he can but his own history betrays him. Not known to be the nicest of men at times, his own son ridiculed at every turn, the mayor tries to contain the panic in the city with his eye on his political future. And a hard-talking reporter with a secret of her own takes on the mayor when things start to spiral out of control and involve the one person she loves.

There are plenty of twists and surprises as Barclay keeps upping the suspense until an ending that a reader might begin to anticipate but that will turn on itself with devastating and unforeseen consequences.

Barclay invokes the backstories of many of his characters so that readers become involved in them and their outcome. Addictive and enthralling.

Robert Pobi: City of Windows Sunday, Sep 1 2019 

City of Windows is Robert Pobi’s thriller set mostly in New York City that will have readers on edge with its relentless pace during the worst blizzard NY has seen.

The whiteout conditions and slippery roads mean it’s doubly difficult to track a sniper when an FBI agent in a moving car is killed. It’s not just a tough shot–between the the winds, low visibility, and moving vehicle, it’s almost impossible. Almost.

Only one man can figure out where the shot came from, former FBI agent and astrophysicist Lucas Page. His ability to see trajectories means he’s the person who can give them an edge to finding this killer. But Page has already given an eye, one arm, and a leg to the FBI, and now teaches at Columbia.

So when the agent who heads up Manhattan, Brett Kehoe, tries to get Page onboard, it’s not surprising he at first resists. Married, with a slew of adopted and foster kids, he’s ready to settle in for a few weeks at home during the Christmas holidays.

Then Page finds out the murdered man was his former partner, and he agrees to help pinpoint the site on just that one case. But more deaths of law enforcement officers occur, all in impossible situations. Soon Page finds himself being ferried around the city but his own FBI agent and dealing with Bureau political hacks, with a surprising lack of crucial evidence to assist him.

And then his family becomes the target.

A well-crafted and fast-paced plot make this a thriller that’s tough to put down. Auntie M started it one morning and the rest of her day became consumed by the read. Lucas Page and his unusual family add a nice counterpoint to the stark plot, and this reader is hoping to see them all in print again. Highly recommended.

Vivian Barz: Forgotten Bones Thursday, Aug 1 2019 

Vivian Barz brings the most unusual and highly original protagonist Auntie M has read about in a long time to be one half of an investigating team in her thriller Forgotten Bones. With a strong storyline and two equally strong characters leading, this promises to be a the start of thrillers readers will be clamoring for.

A car accident leads to the discovery of a young boy’s buried body in small town California. But despite this body being decades old, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Soon FBI are soon swarming the town, unearthing multiple bodies in various stages of decomposition, and closing out the local police, including Susan Marlan, one of their officers. Dedicated, smart, and tenacious, Susan can’t let the thought of that little boy go, or the others as the numbers mount to double digits. Someone has been killing people for a very long time, most of them children. Frustrated by her own boss and the FBI, Susan takes it upon herself to do a bit of off the record investigating.

Meanwhile, Eric Evans is new to the area, starting work as a geology professor at the local community college. He knows no one in the area, has no friends or relatives near by, and right now he likes it that way. He’s running from his former life and marriage in Philadelphia, in the throes of a divorce from the wife who he discovered having an affair with his older brother.

As if that’s not enough to be dealing with, Eric is a schizophrenic who’s learned to take his medication and manage its side effects, until the day he starts to see a young boy in denim overalls.

The overall suspect for the killings is a pedophile recently released from prison. Not only are the bodies on his property, he disappeared the day the first boy’s body was found. What could be clearer?

As more and more bodies are found, what Eric thinks are hallucinations starat to increase, until there are physical things happening inside his house that lead him to suspect that little boy is trying to send him a message. But how can he get anyone to believe him?

When Susan’s path ovelaps Eric’s, an unlikely duo are formed as the two try to figure out the clues they are being given amid secrets held for decades. And can they do it in time to save themselves?

This is the first in a planned trilogy, and Auntie M won’t be surprised if Barz finds herself giving these two a series of their own beyond that. The contemporary romance writer (writing as Sloan Archer) has found an exhilarating way to combine a police procedural with a modern ghost story while illustrating how some people suffering from mental illness can lead almost-normal lives.

Victoria Helen Stone: False Step Friday, Jul 19 2019 

A young boy goes missing from his Denver home, and Veroncia Bradley, along with everyone else in the area, looks at her own young daughter and prays he will be found safely in Stone’s compelling False Step.

When the miracle happens, it’s her own husband, the charming Johnny who finds young Tanner Holcomb, grandson of a wealthy local family, when he’s out on one of his hikes. The rescue brings Johnny notoriety and something he needs even more: new clients for his fitness trainer business. With Veronica an occupational therapist, the little family has struggled financially.

Their young daughter, Sydney, is the focus of Veronica’s life. With her own father a philanderer who broke her mother’s heart before their divorce, Veronica never plans to divorce Johnny, even if their marriage has gone stale.

But Veronica does have a secret life that keeps her going, and it revolves around Johnny’s best friend. It’s an intense time at the Bradley house, made worse by the media focus, and all of Johnny’s fair weather friends coming to party.

Then news comes that Tanner didn’t just wander off, and suddenly things are changed. Veronica’s secret under threat, she treats everyone Johnny has in his circle with suspicion, as the police circle Johnny and the scrutiny becomes intense.

With a twisted tension that never leaves, readers will watch as Veronica desperately tries to maintain the facade she’s set up to get through her life. Until it all falls apart in a devastating manner.

A page-turner that feels all too believable.

Alex Dahl: The Heart Keeper Wednesday, Jul 17 2019 

Alex Dahl’s newest Scandanavian Noir, The Heart Keeper, comes with a giveaway! One lucky reader who leaves a comment will be chosen to receive a copy of the book, so all you readers and lurkers out there, leave a comment today!

The book has a harrowing premise that makes it irresistible. Alison is the former celebrated journalist who became a mother later in life, and then lost her little girl to a drowning accident. The tragedy is one she cannot get over, and she’s consumed with grief. It’s ruining her health and her marriage.

But one thought helps her through her sorrow: that other children have been helped by the donation of Amalie’s organs.

Iselin has her own daughter, a sickly child who needed a heart transplant. She has received Amalie’s heart, and two struggle to find normality after the effects of the huge surgery Kaia’s had.

The single mother, hurting for money, is surprised but welcomes Alison’s interest in her and her child, not realizing the connection.

Alison becomes convinced that Amalie lives in Kaia as things start to spiral out of control. The pace becomes frenetic as Alison puts in force a plan she’s been working on–a plan that will allow her to recapture Amalie, even a little bit.

It’s an all-too believeable premise that makes for a gritty tale of motherhood and obsession as Alison spirls out of control. A dark thriller.

Paul Burston: The Closer I Get Friday, Jul 12 2019 

Paul Burston’s The Closer I Get, examines the world of social media and how strong the connection can be between people who meet there—and how those relationships can sometimes go disastrously wrong.

Tom Hunter’s a successful novelist with a first book made into a movie that’s brought notoriety, who’s stumbling with his third book after a bomb of a second. He blames his writer’s block on the suffocating admiration of a woman he’s met online who won’t—or can’t—leave him alone.

Evie is a bit unstable, and has become obsessed with Tom. But online relationships are necessarily two-sided. Just how culpable is Tom? And what of his close friend, Emma? Despite Tom’s homosexuality, Emma has always been a shoulder for Tom to lean on, and he does so now.

What’s at play here for the reader is the idea that perhaps neither Evie nor Tom as reliable narrators, when the police become involved after Tom lodges a complaint about Evie’s obsession with him and her behavior. Cyber-stalking is very real, which makes this a timely and completely believeable story.

Here are two manipulative main characters, finely drawn, and the reader will find themselves siding with each one at times. There are mind games and reversals and lies told to others, but more interestingly, those we tell to ourselves.

A fascinating look at the personas that can be created online that come to be believed. Burston’s observant eye lends total credence to a plausible and chilling tale.

Next Page »

Lee Lofland

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews