Margaret Murphy: Before He Kills Again Thursday, Jul 16 2020 


Margaret Murphy has a strong history in writing chilling psychological novels. Known for the Clara Pascal, and Rickman and Foster series, Murphy has also written as AD Garrett, and with a partner as Ashley Dyer. All of her books feature realistic characters and chilling plots that will have readers leaving the lights on long after they should have been asleep.

Now she brings DC Cassie Rowan to the page in a complex psychological novel that is tightly woven in Before He Kills Again.

Starting from its powerful opening, readers will be hooked immediately with the powerful image Murphy creates.

There’s a sadist on the loose named the Furman, who targets prostitutes and pretty young woman, terrorizing them then raping and beating them before leaving the victims to be found. DC Cassie Rowan spends her evenings undercover, trying to get picked up by this maniac.

And one night she almost succeeds in catching him, where it not for the incompetence of two of her team members. All the while, she juggles being the responsible adult for her teenaged brother after the death of their parents.

Then someone who’s become a friend is savaged by the Furman. Frustrated, Cassie becomes even more determined to bring this maniac to justice, despite at times feeling sabotaged by her own team.

Alan Palmer is a psychologist with his own fraught home situation. Separated from his wife, trying to mend fences to have access to his young daughter, he has private and NHS patients he’s trying to help, but one in particular has caught his attention. Could this young man be the Furman?

Then someone dies, and all bets are off for Rowan and Palmer, all the while bringing the danger closer to home than they would like to believe. The incidents ratchet up in intensity; someone is losing it, and Cassie and Alan are at the heart of it all.

How these two professionals lives intersect forms the basis for a quick-paced psychological thriller, part police-procedural, all parts skillfully written, that heralds the start of a complex new series from this accomplished author.

Highly Recommended.

Helen Fitzgerald: Ash Mountain Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Ash Mountain is Helen Fitzgerald’s newest novel that brings the most creative and human characters to leap off the page. With its strong sense of setting and a distinct knowledge of human character, the book will creep up on you and catch you unaware as you know—you KNOW—there is not a pretty ending in sight, yet are compelled to read on and see how it all turns out.

That’s one of Fitzgerald’s talents, getting you to care about her quirky characters. In Ash Mountain, when Fran comes home to her small bushtown to care for her father after his severe stroke, it’s not because she misses the town she’s escaped from that holds some of her most awful memories and secrets.

With her sulky teenaged daughter in tow, escaping from the city job she loathes and a failed relationship is a minor positive factor for the single mom of two children. With her son in the area, she can almost kid herself she’ll be fine here—almost.

Fran picks away at her secrets, told in chapters alternating with a present where the oppressive heat has people do anything for relief. And those secrets will have their comeuppance as Fran is not the weak child she once was, all as she tentatively forges new relationships. When a bushfire starts and surges toward Fran and those she loves, the tension for the reader is almost unbearable.

This has been called a ‘disaster thriller’ and there’s good reason for that, as this catastrophe will change Fran and the town forever, but it doesn’t begin to explain the dark humor of Fran and the real feel of the people she’s created. The scenes with her taking her father-on-a-stick to get him out of the house are worth the read alone.

It’s dark, yes, but with an effusive sense of humanity at its heart that makes this read highly recommended.

(Don’t forget to read the Author’s Note where Fitzgerald describes where the cover photo originated.)

Linda Howard and Linda Jones: After Sundown Friday, Apr 10 2020 

After Sundown is the creation of two talents combining forces to bring this tale of romantic suspense with an edge to the page.

Sela Gordon is the shy owner of a small shop in rural Tennessee who keeps herself to herself in Wears Valley. Ben Jeringan is the equally reclusive ex-military man who lives alone on Cove Mountain and keep his distance from everyone in the surrounding area, stopping in Sela’s shop for gas and groceries on occasion.

The day he breaks that pattern it’s to tell Sela that a solar storm is coming and will take down the power grid. His warning allows her to make some preparations for herself, her aunt Carol she cares for, and Carol’s teen granddaughter whom she’s raising.

When the worst happens and it’s clear the townspeople need a leader, Sela will find the strength to step up. And Ben will have to lower his guard enough to allow this woman he finds undeniably sexy into his life.

There will be a ‘before’ world and an ‘after’ world, with grievances as people adjust to their new lives and learn new skills. How to cook, medical care, teaching the children all will be done by the donated talents of those living in the valley and mountainside.

But there will also be a standoff from some who feel they have a right to take more of what their small community is meant to be sharing. And that’s when the guns come out.

A startling and all-too-believeable thriller.

Peter Swanson: Eight Perfect Murders Wednesday, Mar 18 2020 

Award-winner Peter Swanson brings readers the captivating Eight Perfect Murders, with a protagonist readers will follow in a heartbeat.

It’s an imaginative premise worthy of Anthony Horowitz which opens the story. An old blog entry for his mystery bookshop, penned by owner Malcolm Kershaw, listed eight books that represented murders that were considered unsolvable at first.

Showing his familiarity with Christie, Highsmith, Levin and even A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery (yes, of the Pooh world), the crime stories Malcolm lists have one thing in common: the murderer gets away with it.

When an FBI agent shows up and asks for his help with a series of killings that highly resemble those of the methods used in the books, Mal can’t help but become involved. But Mal is hiding his own secrets, that are parsed out to the reader in such a way that as the twists grow, so does Mal’s certainty he must know the killer.

Swanson does a tremendous job of piling on the turns and guessing as more and more information is revealed to the reader and the tension and suspense rise. Showing his expertise in the plots of these eight novels, and with asides to many others, it’s a crime readers delight.

Imaginative, twisted, and with a hint of pathos that intensifies everything, this is one not to miss. Highly recommended.

Matt Wesolowski: BEAST Friday, Mar 13 2020 

Matt Wesolowski returns with the fourth in his Six Stories series in BEAST, at once a mystery, a ghost story, and a critical look at social media and its effect on today’s youth.

The windswept, depressed area of the UK’s north-east brings the coastal town of Ergarth as the setting for the creative ideation of the series. True-crime podcaster Scott King is there to investigate the death of popular vlogger, Elizabeth Barton.

Found in a bizarre situation during the arctic freeze, naked and frozen to death, Elizabeth’s body is discovered inside Tankerville Tower, an ancient clifftop ruin that supports the local myth that calls it the Vampire Tower.

The three young men convicted of this grisly crime have all called it a “prank gone wrong” and seem willing to take their punishment. But graffiti on the Barton’s garden wall suggests that the youths may not indeed be guilty. Then who killed Elizabeth?

As King speaks to six witnesses, hence the title, he unearths the online craze that Elizabeth was party to that led her to the tower. He finds that in this desolate, hopeless area, the youth are tied to their internet crazes, and Elizabeth was local celebrity. While many looked up to her and wanted to be near her and be in her circle, there were others who seemed set on her ruin.

Elizabth is seen as a study in contrasts when King compares her presence online to the witness statements about what she was really like. With absent parents providing ‘things’ instead of attention to her and her brother, the need her to feel she was the center of attention and adoration grew.

The device alternates transcripts of “Lizzie” and her last vlogs with transcripts of the interviews that King conducts, with his voice-over narration and dialogue from those witnesses. It’s an intriguing concept that brings a brooding darkness to the story.

Stark in its reality of our attention-seeking society, BEAST manages to convey a striking and well-plotted thriller within the clever structure that takes the genre and bends it into something totally gripping and original. Highly recommended.

Steve Berry: The Warsaw Protocol Wednesday, Mar 11 2020 

Steve Berry’s adventures have taken Cotton Malone to many places in the world. In The Warsaw Protocol, the action starts in Bruges, a place Auntie M has visited and loved, where a cloth supposedly dabbed in Christ’s blood is stolen from a church there.

It’s not the first religious artifact revolving around the crucifixion to be stolen. Termed Arma Christi, these relics are usually sold to collectors.

But on the blackmarket comes news of an auction with information sold that will affect power between Russia and the US with Poland. And the price of admission to bid is an object from the Arma Christi collection.

Malone finds himself evading an unusual Polish agent while trying to steal the last relic to gain admission to the auction. It’s a race against time in this action-packed suspense thriller, with an emphasis on the strength of Poland.

The hallmark of this series is Berry’s ability to combine his exhaustive historical research with a novel plot that thrills readers. Perfect for fans of Dan Brown.

Sarah Stovell: The Home Thursday, Feb 6 2020 

Sarah Stovell brings an unflinching look inside children brought into care in The Home.

There are the underpaid staff, the head trying to do her best for the charges in her care while her own family waits for her attention, and then there are the girls themselves.

In this case, the remote Cumbrian home in question houses three young girls: Lara, who doesn’t speak; and Annie and Hope, who form an attachment that will affect their lives, and one of their deaths.

The connecting thread is a harrowing examination of the violent pasts of all three girls and the circumstances that brought them to the home.

There are secrets between the girls in different permutations, but one secret that must be held is the name of the murderer.

As the investigation examines each member of the home, budget cuts, staff attitudes, and the prior lives of each girl will be torn apart, looking for justification or a reason why one of these young women had to die.

A harrowing and compulsive read readers won’t be able to look away from.

Stephen Leather: The Runner Sunday, Jan 26 2020 

Stephen Leather steps away from his previous two series to bring a young MI5 agent to the forefront in The Runner.

Sally Page is a London junior agent who maintains a fake legend. She travels on the Tube, shops, acts as a normal Londoner under an assumed identity called a legend.

When Sally returns from a coffee run to a Wimbledon safe house, she finds her colleagues dead, and the computers completely destroyed but the hard drives holding all of the information they’ve collected is gone.

Worse of all, the killers are still in the house and can identify her.

Sally is on the run, and must leave her phone to avoid them being able to track her. But it soon becomes apparent they are still able to find her, leading Sally to suspect a colleague is feeding the killers information on her whereabouts.

She will have encounters with Mexican drug cartels, other agents, and need to call on all of the subterfuges she’s designed for other agents to keep herself safe.

It’s literally a run for her life as she figures out if there’s anyone left she can trust.

An action-packed thriller from a master of the genre who has already had two of his previous thrillers made into feature films.

Michael J. Malone: In the Absence of Miracles Saturday, Jan 4 2020 

Michael J. Malone’s haunting thriller, In the Absence of Miracles, has the distinction of garnering Auntie M’s first “Highly Recommended” rating of the New Year, thanks to @orendabooks.

The novel brings John Doherty to the page, a teacher whose mother is recovering from a massive stroke that will leave her in a facility. With his job and relationships in turmoil, John’s younger brother arrives to help with the selling of the family home.

It’s while John roots through stored items in the attic that he comes across a photo of himself as a toddler being held by an older brother he never knew existed. Setting out to find the truth behind that photo, along with other scarce evidence he uncovers, John plays detective-of-sorts, investigating the knowledge both of his parents hid from their other two sons, even while he discounts memories he might have buried.

John’s younger brother finally comes on board to help in the search once it becomes clear there was indeed an older brother neither boy knew about. But things continue to twist as the plot becomes as complicated as John himself.

Are there other secrets to uncover? What about the memories John can’t recall? Whose truth and memories are the right ones? How did growing up in this particular home affect these three young men and their choices?

Ian Rankin calls this novel “Vivid, visceral and compulsive” with good reason. Readers may be shocked by one particular twist, but Malone manages to capably illustrate what happens in a family where secrets are kept and hidden, and the long-term repercussions of growing up in such a home.

There’s heartbreak here, but also redemption for some characters. Malone has a gift for perceiving facets of human nature as he combines the inexplicable with a degree of sensitivity that brings a simple beauty out of tragedy. Not to be missed.

Alex North: The Whisper Man Wednesday, Nov 27 2019 

The Whisper Man is Alex North’s well-plotted thriller that is disturbing yet manages to be heartfelt. If you think that is a dichotomy, read this story that manages to be deeply touching without maudlin, while it scares the hell out of you.

Tom Kennedy and his young son, Jake, are both still grieving after the sudden death of Rebecca, wife and mother. In a bid to give them both a fresh start, they move to a house that Jake likes in the small town of Featherbank.

Right on the heels of their move, Tom finds out a local boy has vanished. His disappearance has too many things in common with a string of murders of young boys from two decades ago that DI Pete Willis remembers all too well.

While Pete captured that murderer, still in prison for life, he and his younger colleague, DI Amanda Beck, try to unravel this new crime, believing the perpetrator to be an accomplice of the man Pete captured, The Whisper Man.

It’s a diabolical battle of wills between the detective and the prisoner, as the two detectives work every angle. And then Jake, a sensitive child, hears someone whispering to him.

This manages to pack a powerhouse of creepiness into its pages as the terrifying plot advances. Yet there’s an underlying thread of the way fathers and sons relate and impact each other in all of their guises that elevates the story from a simple thriller.

Not to be missed, this unnerving novel leaves its haunting presence long after the last page has been turned. Highly recommended.

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

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Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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

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.

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