Ellison Cooper: Buried Friday, Jul 26 2019 


Ellison Cooper introduced FBI Senior Special Agent Sayer Altair in Caged, and returns with an equally compelling and twisted tale of serial killers in Buried.

Off-duty FBI agent Max Cho and his human-cadaver dog, Kona, start to enjoy a day off in the Shenandoah National Park when his dog alerts. Knowing her skills, he notifies the local park ranger and sets Kona to find her quarry. A sinkhole brings him in close contact with what appear to be the bones of several skeletons.

Figuring out who was the serial killer working inside the FBI saw Sayer take a bullet to her shoulder in the first book. After physical therapy, she’s healed and ready to head back to work shortly. But a call from her Assistant Director soon finds her meeting with Cho and a rag-tag team assembled to figure out who the bones belong to.

During the bones recovery, with a patholgist Sayer knows and respects, two more recent bodies are found near the bones. Now the hunt for the killer of the older bones and the killer of the new ones takes off. With limited resources, the group still puts everything they have into figuring out who the fresh corpses belong to.

One ghastly clue on a body proves a tie to a newly kidnapped woman and her young child. The hunt intensifies as Sayer’s boss, one of the few she trusts, comes under the scrutiny and political microscope of Congressional hearings looking for a scapegoat for the serial killer who had been in their midst in Caged.

And then the killer starts to try to pick off members of Sayers small team. In a race against time with the lives of two young children and their mothers at risk, the strident pace ratchets up even higher. Working without sleep, the team cracks on, each member bringing his or her expertise to the forefront.

There will be politicking, a highly placed psychopath in DCs elite who wants Sayers’ work to continue, and the bizarre ideas of a psychopath who wants to prove that any person can become a murderer.

Cooper mixes neuroscience with mythology to create a fascinating tale of how inhumane humans can be to each other. Nonstop action, a strong but compassionate protagonist with tons of smarts, and a fascinating team make this a step above the typical serial killer thriller.

Louise Beech: Call Me Star Girl Sunday, Apr 21 2019 

Louise Beech is an author Auntie M had been wanting to read, so it was with great anticipation that she opened the pages of Call Me Star Girl–and she was not disappointed.

Stella McKeever is an unusual young woman. The book alternates between THEN and NOW, as her past story is spooled out in a chilling way that heightens the tension. Working in radio, Stella has decided to leave her show, and on her last night, she urges listeners to call in and share their secrets and she will share some of her own.

Stella’s secrets include her mother, Elizabeth, who walked out on Stella fourteen years ago, leaving the young girl in the care of a neighbor. Elizabeth is now back in her life, wanting to repair things. Stella’s never met her father; but she does know the scent of the perfume bottle her mother left with her that has become her talisman. Its star-shaped stopper brings good memories of Stella’s mother, memories Stella holds onto as her life takes an unexpected turn when she falls in love, hard, for Tom.

Then a young woman is found murdered in an alley. After, a man calls the station and tells Stella he knows who killed the pregant girl. Stella is determinined to get him to come forward to tell what he knows, despite the consequences. She dangles telling her own secrets to find out the truth. For Stella has been keeping a giant, horrific secret, one that will have a devastating effect.

A psychological thriller with a dark side to it, this complex story will have readers totally engrossed in Stella, her life and her secrets. Taut writing will keep readers flipping pages long after the lights should be out.

Bernard Minier: Night Thursday, Feb 7 2019 

The fourth Commander Servaz thriller, Night, brings the Toulouse detective under the scrutiny of all of those around him after a death-defying opening, with its resultant effects.

In a church in Norway, a woman’s body is found on the altar. A female detective, Kirsten Nigaard, is investigating that case due to her own name being discovered. Then she becomes coupled with Martin Servaz, when photos of the French detective are found on the offshore oil rig where the dead woman worked.

Both feel this is the work of serial killer Julian Hirtman, Servaz’s nemesis, the most dangerous man Servaz has encountered. Indeed, the Daily Mail has called Hirtman “…a villain possessing the intelligence of Thomas harris’ immortal Hannibal Lecter…”

It’s a chase throughout Europe, from France to Austria, in search of Hirtman and young boy in his custody who desperately needs to be saved. Along the way, they will encounter acolytes of Hirtman, and foes in the form of parents of his victims, until the ultimate surprise is coupled with a huge betrayal.

This has a complicated and complex plot, with fast action and yet Minier never stints of the emotions behind several of the main characters. It’s easy to see why this was a number one bestseller in France, where Servaz’s first case, which introduced Hirtman, was made into a six-part series now available on Netflix.

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.

Andrew Michael Hurley: Devil’s Day Sunday, Nov 4 2018 


Andrew Michael Hurley’s mines the Lancashire landscape when he brings John Pentecost an his young wife back to the Endlands in Devil’s Day.

Unsettling from the outset, John brings his newly pregnant wife, Katherine, home for the funeral of his grandfather, known as the Gaffer.

Dadda, John’s father, has his own agenda, and the funeral is the backdrop to the local legends and tales that are told and retold as preparations for the ritual to keep the Devil away from the sheep begin. Everything has a superstition behind it, and everyone on the moors is affected. But it’s all just tales and nonsense, isn’t it?

The unsettled landscape comes alive under Hurley’s talented pen, as the gripping tale shows Nature at her finest and her cruelest. The eerie feel to the entire tale had the Daily Mail note: “This impeccably written novel tightens like a clammy hand around your throat.”

With Katherine’s growing apprehension, is John merely failing to see the menace she sees, or does he know something more?

An accomplished followup to Hurley’s award-winning first novel, The Loney.

Alyssa Palombo: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel Wednesday, Oct 31 2018 

Happy Hallowe’en! And what better book to present than Alyssa Palombo’s retelling of the classic legend of Sleepy Hollow in The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

Palombo’s previous historicals,The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, were both hailed for their accurate period details woven into an intriguing story. Spellbook continues in that vein, and as a New Yorker who grew up on Washington Irving’s story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this retelling of that story combines aspects of a sweeping romance with a gothic thriller that are delight to read.

Katrina Van Tassel is heiress to her father’s extensive farms along the Hudson River Valley, and a suitable husband must soon be found for the attractive girl. When the new schoolmaster arrives and begins music lessons, Ichabod Crane and Katrina are immediately drawn to each other.

So begins their love story, one that is threatened by the courting of Brom Van Brunt, son of a neighboring farmer. Katrina’s father is convinced the melding of the two farms would be a boon and is in favor of this union, which Katrina is definitely not.

Growing up with her best friend, Charlotte, daughter of the local midwife and herbalist, Charlotte was called a witch by Brom when the three were young, and Katrina has never forgiven him. Indeed, the friendship between Charlotte Jansen, supposed ‘white witch’ and the heiress Katrina are at the heart of the novel.

As Ichabod and Katrina begin their love affair, the ghost of the local legends surround them, until Ichabod suddenly disappears on All Hallows Eve. While locals whisper the Headless Horseman has claimed Ichabod, Katrina fears a more human element. Than how to explain the visions she sees when staring into a candle’s flame?

At the heart of the bool is the story told through the eyes of Katrina. Readers see the time period spool out before them with its customs and mores, as well as the lovers secret life.

Set against the backdrop of the country as its first President is searching for a replacement, the novel gives a feminist version of the haunting legend and its consequences as they revolve around Katrina. An intriguing and new way to look at an old legend.

Ellison Cooper: Caged Sunday, Sep 9 2018 

Welcome to the world of FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair, coming to grips iwth a personal tragedy even as she delves into her research into the minds of serial killers.

Then an horrific crime scene in Washington DC becomes Sayers newest investigation. A young girl had been slowly starved to death, held in a cage like an animal.

That the victim is the daughter of a US senator means Sayer is suddenly in everyone’s crosshairs.

Then a second girl is taken and Sayer must up her game to find the obsessed killer behind these kidnappings and deaths. Partnered with agent Vik Devereaux of Crimes Against Children, they find little evidence but a video that is as graphic as it is strange.

It’s a public relations nightmare once the senator gets involved, too, as the team races to find the second girl. The action heats up and the tension rises with each page. Readers who like their forensics and what lurks in the mind of a serial killer will keep flipping pages.

A strong debut.

Daniel Cole: Hangman Sunday, Aug 12 2018 


After the success of his debut Ragdoll, Daniel Cole returns with Detective Emily Baxter in Hangman.

The acerbic British Baxter travels to New York City as part of an investigation into copycat murders that echo the Ragdoll killings.

The serial killer case left Baxter reeling and this time she doesn’t have the help of missing colleague Wolf Fawkes. She’s trying to move on at work and in her personal life until she’s seconded to assist the FBI and CIA in these new cases.

With “BAIT” carved into the chest of victims, and soon, “PUPPET” in the chest of others, the killings escalate to both shores of the Atlantic, adding a fierce depravity to the killings.

Tense and conflicting personalities within the task force don’t make Baxter’s job any easier, not does her tendency to piss people off.

This is a dark, distrubng read of increasing suspense as Baxter realizes she doesn’t know whom she can trust. And that bottom of it all is a twisted killer who knows no bounds.

Todd Merer: The Extraditionist Wednesday, Nov 1 2017 

Lawyer Todd Merer spent the bulk of his career defending drug crime bosses and brings that experience to his thriller The Extraditionist. It’s a strong debut with that insider’s knowledge, one that Auntie M bets will soon be on the Big Screen due the violent and yet seductive world it describes.

Lawyer Benn Bluestone has a name for getting results, and then basking in the glory as he represents cartel bosses and feeds their secrets to the Justice Department in return for reduced sentences for his grateful clients.

He’s a man who flirts with danger and walks on the edge, and decides to walk away after three final cases that will represent his biggest challenges and biggest thrill. Could one of his clients in reality be a Colombian drug king? That case could fund a very nice retirement for Benn. Only he doesn’t contemplate the cost.

It will be a race for Benn to escape with his life as he juggles the cases, beautiful women, hit men and corrupt cops and how they merge and threaten his own life. There will be shootouts, hidden videos, and druggings as things spiral out of control. And all along, Benn feels he’s being played.

Brief snippets from the head villain that the reader knows but Benn doesn’t intersect the action and add to the tension, with the villain counting on Benn’s greed to get him what he wants, while Benn’s life hangs in the balance. This world of drugs, DEA agents, unscrupulous women and drug-war funding will make the reader’s head spin trying to figure out who is clean and who isn’t.

A startling and dark debut.

Jeffrey B Burton: The Eulogist Wednesday, Oct 11 2017 

FBI Special Agent Drew Cady is in Minneapolis in a boriing but safe job for him in The Eulogist. Sent to Washington DC to testify on more boring stuff, he is seconded to the investigation into the stabbing death of Senator Taylor Brockman.

He will be assisted by Special Agent Elizabeth Preston, whose black belt and smarts make Liz an able partner.

They quickly establish a link between this murder and a similar stabbing death, that of a privileged youth-turned-drug trafficker whom Brockman pardoned when serving as Governor of Virginia.

Burton has added a most unusual premise: what happens when a murderer leaves eulogies with each body? These two deaths are just the beginning of the killings of a man known as The Canadian. Scenes in Toronto and Minneapolis add to the frenetic pacing.

There will be hackers and those eulogy notes from what turns out to be a hired assasin before Cady and Preston unravel the complex plot. With difficulty obtaining evidence from the families, it soon appears the Eulogist’s notes may offer the best clues they have.

A thriller with action scenes, Cady is a hero with old-fashioned sensibiities thrust into a thoroughly modern world. An exciting read.

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