Nicola Upson: Stanley and Elsie Thursday, May 2 2019 

In a departure from her Josephine Tey crime series (London Rain, Nine Lessons), Nicola Upson beguiles readers with a stand-alone with her trademark historical realism in the compelling story of Stanley and Elsie.

Stanley Spencer is an artist, as is his wife, Hilda Carline. Elsie Munday is the housemaid they hire soon after the birth of their first daughter, Shirin. Living in rural Burghclere after the First World War for Stanley to work on the vast commission that will be Sandham Memorial Chapel, we see their marriage through the lens of Elsie’s eyes, as well as their artistic temperaments. The chapel’s many paintings represent the war through Stanley’s eyes, a series that recreates moments of redemptive camp life mixed with the trauma he experienced.

Elsie quickly learns Stanley is charming but stubborn, and as she and Hilda bond, so do Elsie and Stanley over his art as he explains it to her. His yearning to return to his hometown of Cookham, with Hilda missing her own home in Hampstead, is only one of the many hurdles the couple will face in the strong light of Stanley’s obsessions.

Elsie’s keen observations form an important part of the book; so does Stanley’s capacity for genius and torment. There are themes of unity and of what is sacred that run throughout the novel, while the harsh reality of what really happened between the couple cannot be denied. Yet their art is something that had control over them both at times, and after finishing the book, Auntie M was driven to research the images that haunted them both.

This look at two tortured souls, one trying to heal the wounds of war through his art, the other trying to prove her love over and over, is captivating reading as Upson beautifully renders the period after the war in her elegant prose. Highly recommended.

Gabriel Rheaume: The Shores We Walk Sunday, Sep 2 2012 

Auntie M believes in bringing new voices to your attention from time to time, so please welcome author
Gabriel Rheaume. Gabriel will describe his history and what led to his unusual premise for his book book, as well as sharing an excerpt.
Before I tell you a little bit about myself and my novel, I’d like to announce that my novel The Shores We Walk is on sale at Amazon
Kindle for 99 cents for the month of September!

The idea to write The Shores We Walk came from a statement I made to my
girlfriend, who is now deceased. I told her that her family was so
dysfunctional that someone should write a book about them. As time
passed, I became more interested in the idea and of pursuing it

When she took her life at the age of 19, I made a vow that
this book would transpire. I took a creative writing
class in college and it started there.

But her death led me to alcoholism and drug addiction. As my addiction
became worse, my writing style transformed into surreal and delusional
accounts of memories and life itself. As time progressed, my best
friend died of a heroin overdose in my apartment while I was sleeping,
and another one of my close friends passed away due to unexplained

All of these things continued to come out in my writing, and I
decided to write the book as a tribute to all of them, and to write it
in a way that felt like being on drugs, combined with bouts of psychosis
and visits from beyond the grave.

The book grew while I was in and out of rehab, but it wasn’t until I
got my own addictions under control that I was able to wrap up the
story, obtain an editor and self-publish The Shores We Walk.

Although it is a tragedy, there is a ray of hope. I recommend the book
to those struggling with addiction or who have a family member who is an
addict, and even to those just curious about the lifestyle of a junkie.

It is a fast-paced read, brutally honest and painful, but also
written in lyrical prose.

What is the book about?

When all of the people close to Francis end up dying, a lot of
questions are left in the air while he falls into a deep psychosis.
The story is written through a veil of drugs and visits from beyond
the grave. It is a love story and a tragedy; a struggle with faith and
some brief moments of hope. Through the darkness there is also much

Francis, based on a postmodern St. Francis of
Assisi, narrates this story of four people as they slowly self-destruct
and battle drug addiction, homelessness and poverty. When I
attended Wayne State University, I saw such tragic things every day.

But I was inspired by the fact that even though these people had nothing,
they never lost sight of what really mattered to them. I realized
that life contains more joy than sorrow and wished more people would
recognise that simple fact. When asked about my experiences in
downtown Detroit,  I simply say, “When you see a homeless man with a
larger smile than a rich man, you have to question what’s actually
important in your life” (Sandusky Tribune).


“If the weathered barns along the road did not reveal their age, it
would seem like going back in time. He had not visited her cottage
since the snow had fallen. It is off one of Michigan’s Great Lakes
with a beach that has a coast with no near end. There is no view
beyond the lake and sky. Sometimes freight ships sit near the horizon,
slowly drifting in time with the clouds. At times the sky and the lake
become indistinguishable. There is not a better easel for the sunset
than the framed sky above this vast oasis. To sit afloat in the center
of any large mass of water has an unfathomable magnificence. It is
like analyzing the one infinite living second that is recognizable as
life. The horizon can be divided by two shades, that of the water, and
of the air. There is no end to this one-second as there is seemingly
no end to the polar vision of the water and the sky.
Each season is equally enchanting. Lake Huron in winter is deep
blue with waves frozen to the white beach. The barren rolling,
snow-covered hills are like a desert. The wind forms drifts that are
small cliffs.
The spring is a time of new life. The green is so vibrant that
plants glow in the daylight. Blossoms decorate trees like white and
pink ribbons. The air is as fresh as rich, black, soil.
In the summer, the purple chicory grows in fields of grass. Queen
Anne’s Lace makes groups of wild plants flowers look like bouquets.
The breeze from the lake is cool and comforting.
The colors of the leaves in autumn are almost unnatural. A
rainbow falls from the sky and the land becomes a palette of trees.” 




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The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots by Tamar Myers Sunday, May 27 2012 

Tamar Myers is the author of two extensive mystery series set in the US, but in her newest tale, she brings her personal history and knowledge of the Belgian Congo to the forefront. Born and raised there, this is the third in her Belgian Congo series, following The Witch Doctor’s Wife (2009) and The Headhunter’s Daughter (2011). Myers parents were missionaries to a headhunting tribe who used human skulls for drinking cups. Her family was the first white one to live peacefully with the tribe. These rich and searing experiences all come to the forefront in this compelling novel.

Myers’ deft hand mingles superstitions, rites, and evil omens with an historical look at changing life in colonial Africa and the social changes of that time as colonial rule neared its end, as she moves her story moves back and forth between two eras.

In the Belgian Congo of 1927, villages thrive in an era filled with witch doctors, headhunters and cannibalism and wild names given to children, often based on their physical attributes, such as Protruding Navel. After the chief of a Bapende village slays a man-eating leopard that has terrorized his village, he returns to find his favorite wife had given birth to twins. The superstition around twins means an evil spirit has entered one of the infants–but how to tell which one? The village witch doctor would have both boys left to die after torturing them, but the chief manages to convince the tribe that the spirit of one of the twins has stolen the dead leopard’s spots, so both twins are spared, only to have one molested by a white man. When this is revealed, a young priest must take part with the tribe in eating the offender.

Fast forward decades later to 1958, and these same twins are now known as Jonathan Pimple and Chigger Mite, and become the central figures in a secret that will shock the residents of Belle Vue, a scenic town whose inhabitants are separated by much more than the bridge crossing the Kasai River that separates whites and natives.

All the clashes of culture, religion, language, superstition, and discrimination rear up in the various factions trying live together. There’s the voluptuous Colette Cabochon, born in the Congo to Belgian parents and living the life of other wealthy whites. She is bored and unfulfilled, residing with her alcoholic, abusive husband in a villa that sprawls the top of the hills. There is the Protestant missionary, Amanda Brown, whose growing attraction to the police chief, Capt. Pierre Jardin brings out the worst in Colette. Amanda  and a few of the other character’s appear in the first novels in the series.

Amanda’s pregnant servant Cripple is one of the most interesting characters, a wise, clever woman married to a failed witch doctor. There are also Roman Catholic priests, determined to save what they see as heathen souls in sometimes unorthodox ways, and one who arrives and is thrown into the rich mix is a childhood friend of Colette, a Monsignor Clemente.

Despite the growing resistance to decades of oppression by the indigenous people, tired of being used as personal servants or as workers in the diamond mine, when a murder occurs, this wild tale becomes, after all, a mystery to be solved.

This is a highly unorthodox novel that paints a vivid picture of a society far removed from what readers are used to and what they can imagine. The lush, tropical feel of the place is reverberates off the page; the characters are drawn with wit and a heavy dose of acumen relating to human nature.      

Mary Alice Monroe, author of Last Light over Carolina, says of this book: “Only an author with an intimate knowledge of the Congo–its people, landscape, and culture–could write … with such confidence and authority.” Myers experiences of living in Africa, where she grew up eating elephant, hippopotamus and monkey, make this book glow in a vivid and compelling manner that will delight fans of historical fiction who appreciate a mystery laced with a hint of romance and dry humor.




Carolina Girls Sunday, Mar 25 2012 

Auntie M had the good fortune to meet a lively bunch of “low country”  North and South Carolina authors a few weeks ago at the Cape Fear Crime Festival.

She came home loaded down with new books to interest readers. Here are a few you might want to check out:

Sin Creek is Susan Whitfield’s fourth mystery featuring North Carolina SBI agent Logan Hunter.

Logan is called from her bridal shower to attend the crime scene of a murdered woman, found on the nature preserve on the campus of UNC-Wilmington. Maeve Smoltz’s badly beaten, naked body has been shredded in the groin area with a razor-sharp Sawzall, her genitals found in a separate bag.

Contrary to her parents impression, the preliminary examination by the coroner shows Maeve to have been highly sexually active. A search of her room reveals pricey boots, a Prada bag and Jimmy Choo shoes she couldn’t possibly have afforded on her meager salary from the college canteen.

Maeve’s roommate, Antonella Beaujue-Dufour, sets Logan’s instincts on edge, and the girl’s evasiveness coupled with the people she hangs out with soon plunge Logan into the heart of an investigation that reveals a pornography business built on deceit and coercion. Logan manages to squeeze in her beach wedding to the love of her life, Chase Railey, also an SBI agent, with the help of her two best friends. But that doesn’t stop her from tracking down an unstable killer as the deaths mount up.

Whitfield captures coastal NC area details just right. The storyline will capture your attention, but nothing will prepare you for the dramatic ending that will irrevocably change Logan’s life.

Whitfield has done a ton of research into the chilling aspects of the porn business and how it endangers the lives of young women on college campuses.  A former high school administrator, the story was one that has lingered in her mind since hearing from one of her students how her older sister coped with college life by her lucrative sideline. Whitfield, a lifelong NC resident, also compiled recipes from mystery writers for the cookbook Killer Recipes. Its proceeds go to cancer research. Learn more about Susan and her book on


In Dear Killer, Linda Lovely has given us a protagonist who has been sorely lacking from today’s mystery world: an attractive 52 year-old,  woman who wants a relationship and all that entails.

After retiring from military intelligence, widow Marley Clark has chosen to security on South Carolina’s low country Dear Island to keep busy.

On night patrol, she notices the pool gates have been left open at the Dolphin Club and sees a pile of clothing on a chair beside the Jacuzzi. The naked man floating in the spa has apparently drowned, but Marley still tries to resuscitate him, even as she realizes the dead man is a friend, Stew Hartwell.

It’s only when she’s waiting for help to arrive that she notices carrots, celery and whole onions bobbing in the water with him. Trying to take in the confusing scene, she sees a trail of folded towels, pointing to a message scrawled in the sand: “STEWED.”

This is only the first grizzly pun a sadistic killer will use as the killings continue. Marley soon becomes the liasion on the case with the lead investigator on the case, Deputy Braden Mann. It doesn’t hurt matters that romance sizzles between the two as the investigation ratchets up.

Marley’s independent streak but soft heart soon lead her deeper into the web of suspects on this small island. Her courage and skills will be put to the test as she and Braden are both put in jeopardy in their race to find a killer.

Sprinkled with a lively sense of humor and characters, Marley is a delightful creation and one to watch for in future offerings. Iowa native Lovely has been in the south for over thirty years and brings her readers a dose of Gullah history and a firm sense of place. You can read about Linda on her website:


Ellis Vidler’s romantic suspense Cold Comfort  starts off with a bang. She takes us to Virginia, where Claire Spencer runs her aptly-named Williamsburg Christmas shop, Mistletoe. The charming shop has been written up in Southern Living, which proves to be an important plot point down the road.

Still recovering from a broken engagement and the death of her mother, Claire’s entire world is hit with a heavy dose of violence when she’s mugged in her own driveway.

Her house and the shop are burglarized shortly after, and still sporting the stitches in her scalp from her mugger, Claire agrees to contact her assistant’s brother, Ray, who offers up the help of his own friend, Ben Riley.

Riley clearly isn’t happy to be involved, but he owes Ray a favor and reluctantly agrees to meet with Claire. When he has to keep Claire from being run over in the alley behind her shop, he starts to take the menace in her life seriously.

It soon becomes obvious that hired goons are trying to murder Claire, but neither she nor Riley can find a motive or a reason for someone to want her dead. As they try to search her history and follow clues, they also try to ignore the chemistry between them, complicating matters as they track down her killer who seems to know their movements before they make them.

Vidler moves the action around and never lets up on the chase, with characters who are vivid and well-rounded. This is an action-packed romance with a fast pace that doesn’t let up.

Even when the reader thinks they know what’s happening, Vidler manages to throw in one more twist. And when we think it’s over, it’s really not.

You can read more about Ellis and her two other novels at:


Guest Blogger Susan Sloate: Book Research: When You Do It Right and It Still Comes Out Wrong Sunday, Dec 4 2011 

Folks, Auntie M’s son is getting married, so the next two posts will feature guest bloggers.

Please welcome Susan Sloate and her very interesting story~     I’ll admit it up front: I’m a real snob about book research. When I read historical fiction, I expect the author to have gotten the facts right. I love losing myself not only in a great story, but a story that’s teeming with details, large and small, which make me believe I’m there.

A writer’s job, first and foremost, is to tell a good story. But in the process of telling that good story – and persuading the reader of its truth – the writer also owes the reader something critical: factual accuracy.

If an author is sloppy with facts, how can a reader believe the rest of the tale? The bond between writer and reader – that pledge to tell the truth – is broken when there are misspellings, bad grammar (except in dialogue), and most glaringly, errors of historical fact.

I am severe on such errors. (Think of a schoolmarm wielding a big hickory stick.) It takes work to check the details, correct the spelling errors and see to the punctuation. But it’s part of the job.

I’ve always accepted that, and enjoyed writing stories with historical backgrounds. The challenge of burrowing for facts – often obscure ones – and populating my stories with them, to surprise and (hopefully) fascinate the reader, was part of the pleasure (also an excellent excuse for putting off the actual writing, which as any writer knows is half the job, anyway). There is endless room for creativity after you’ve founded it on historical fact.

… Which brings me to my own novel, FORWARD TO CAMELOT, co-authored with Kevin Finn. CAMELOT is a story about an actress who travels back in time from the year 2000 to November of 1963, and while trying to retrieve  priceless artifact, finds a way to save President Kennedy from assassination in Dallas.

We did plenty of research. Years worth. Probably a hundred books, a dozen films, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, audio tapes, trips to Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the JFK Library in Boston and Arlington National Cemetery, several symposia on the assassination, conversations with archivists, historians, researchers. We really tried.

Getting it right was important, because we were presenting historical figures as major characters in the story, and we wanted to show them, as much as possible, as they really were. Finding both President Kennedy and Lee Oswald in the mists of fantasy, legend and just plain prejudice, was not easy. But we think we finally did.

We were also blending historical fact with the plot we created, such as the car crash in Dallas on November 18th (4 days before the assassination) that revealed hundreds of stolen rifles, part of a gunrunning operation that had been going on for years, and was tied to the perpetrators of the assassination. (True; you can look it up.)

That gunrunning operation was originally set up by – wait for it – Jack Ruby, the man who shot Oswald. (I am not inventing this.) And it did become an important part of our plot, which most people thought we had made up. (Wish we were that creative.)

So getting the details right in this case was important because we were mixing them right into the creative stew of our story.

So what happens when you realize you’ve committed the cardinal sin – you’ve gotten it wrong?

     The plot of FORWARD TO CAMELOT turns on an artifact that our heroine, Cady, is sent back in time to retrieve: The Bible owned by JFK, which was used to swear in Lyndon Johnson as president on November 22, 1963. According to William Manchester’s excellent DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, the Bible disappeared after Sara Hughes, the judge who swore in LBJ, left Air Force One in Dallas and was asked by an unknown man at the bottom of the ramp to give it back.

Intriguing? You betcha. This is a novelist’s dream – to find some obscure fact no one else has ever used, that we can then work up into a grand story.

But … we also wanted to be sure of the facts. Manchester’s book is the ONLY one of the hundreds we read that even mentioned the Bible’s disappearance. (The other books, understandably, dealt with the continuing questions over whodunit.) Jim Bishop’s excellent book on the same subject says the Bible was in fact a Catholic missal (prayer book), but never mentions that it was lost.

What’s a mother to do?

What we did was call the Kennedy Library in Boston, asking if the Bible had ever been returned. Manchester says the Kennedy family wanted it back, but that was in 1967. The archivist said very definitely that the Bible had not been returned.

That’s when we knew we had a winner: A totally original take on the assassination story, a treasure worthy of the hunt, that if recovered today would be priceless. Jackpot!

      The book was published in November 2003, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the assassination. It became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in three literary competitions and was optioned (though alas not yet made) by a Hollywood film company.

Everything was grand – until Kevin called me in despair a few years ago and said, “We have to pull the book. We made a huge mistake.”

Uh – excuse me?

He then told me that two of his friends had called to let him know that they knew where the Bible (rather, the prayer missal – Jim Bishop was right) actually was, and of course it was the one place you would never expect.

According to them, it was at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, where it had been, on display, since the library opened.

To make matters worse, they had found out this interesting fact on JEOPARDY. Yes, America’s game show had mentioned it, in front of millions.

Who knew?

Apparently, according to the LBJ Library archivist I belatedly consulted, Sara Hughes, the judge, did hand off the Bible to a Secret Service agent, who returned it to Mrs. Johnson (not Mrs. Kennedy), who then turned it over to her own press secretary, Liz Carpenter, because she knew that reporters covering the story would be interested in the details of the swearing in.

But … nobody ever asked. No one was interested in how LBJ was sworn in; to them, the story was the dead president, not the live one. (That must have been a real kick to LBJ’s considerable ego.)

So the Johnson family kept the missal and when they were setting up the LBJ Presidential Library, asked the Kennedy family whether they wanted it back. The Kennedys said it had been a recent gift to JFK from an admirer; it did not have sentimental value for them, and they didn’t care about it.

Thus it landed in the LBJ Library – which neither of the authors ever thought of consulting. We figured a JFK librarian would have information on JFK’s possessions and spent considerable time cross-checking other books about the assassination, looking for references to it.

So there you are. Our Bible, which was really a prayer missal, was never a cherished possession of JFK’s (as Manchester stated) and in fact was never `missing’.

We did not pull the book, though. I suppose there’s egg all over our faces, but even so, it’s hard to get mad about this one. We read something in a well-written, well-researched book that turned out to be wrong, and tried hard to corroborate the facts in logical places, except that the people we consulted knew less about it than we did. And therefore, we believed our assumptions to be true, and acted on them.

Frankly, I can’t feel too bad about it. Because if we had gone to the right source in the first place and learned that the Bible (missal) had never really been misplaced, we might have thought twice about trying to save JFK from assassination in FORWARD TO CAMELOT. And I’m convinced that giving up on this novel would have been the real mistake.

I’m still very proud of the book – glaring inaccuracy and all – and if I need comfort, I go back to my favorite time-travel book, Jack Finney’s TIME AND AGAIN. Finney’s classic was set in New York in 1882 and featured the Dakota apartment house in the plot. In a research note at the end of the novel, Finney said that the Dakota was actually built in 1885, but … he needed it for his story in 1882, so he used it.

Well, that works for me. We needed a lost Bible, and using it helped us save JFK (on paper anyway) from tragedy. Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

So to you writers of historical fiction: Sometimes getting it wrong helps you to surprising new revelations. I wish you lots of interesting research, and many wonderful surprises along the way.

Susan Sloate is the author of 17 young-adult books and the co-author (with Kevin Finn) of FORWARD TO CAMELOT, the 2003 time-travel novel about the JFK assassination, which became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned for Hollywood film production. Her biography for children, RAY CHARLES: FIND ANOTHER WAY!, was honored in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards. Her unpublished 2007 novel, STEALING FIRE, was a semi-finalist in the 2008 and 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contests. She has written and co-directed two one-act plays in their world premieres, optioned two screen properties to Hollywood film companies, written feature articles for sports publications, and is a sought-after speaker for conferences and classrooms. She appears in volumes of WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA, WHO’S WHO IN ENTERTAINMENT and WHO’S WHO AMONG AMERICAN BUSINESSWOMEN. Visit her online at

Simon Beckett: The Calling of the Grave Sunday, Nov 27 2011 

Simon Beckett’s novels featuring forensics expert Dr. David Hunter display the kind of in-depth research that keeps readers like Auntie M coming back. With his painstaking approach to detail Beckett’s novels have a sense of authenticity that at times is eerie, and which applies to other character’s specialties, as well.

When Beckett was writing for the Daily Telegraph Magazine, one assignment took him on a field trip to the world-famous Anthropological Research Facility in Tennessee known as The Body Farm. That visit inspired not only the character of David Hunter, but this recent offering in the series, The Calling of the Grave. “Nothing stays hidden forever” is the last line of the prologue and an apt theme for this absorbing novel that will end in an entirely different way from the reader’s first expectations.

Almost a decade ago a body was found buried on Dartmoor, presumably the work of the psychotic rapist and multiple murderer Jerome Monk. The bodies of two other victims, twin sisters, were never recovered. Called upon to be a part of the recovery team, Hunter is eager to be included in a search of the area when Monk offers to point to where the bodies are buried. The premise allows us to go back into Hunter’s private life as he recalls the the days of the first search, and brilliantly ties those events to others that have severely affected his life.

On the moors Hunter meets Leonard Wainwright, a Cambridge don turned consultant to the police, renowned as a forensics expert, especially in the area of archeology. Part of the team will be the local pathologist, Dr. Pirie, and also Sophie Keller, a Behavioral Investigative Advisor, who will advise on offender’s characteristics and motivations, and will help to plan the strategy and assessment of Monk. DI Terry Connors is a surprise: his wife and Hunter’s own were friends years ago and the men used to see each other socially.

The moor is beautiful described, in all its dark and wild glory, and provides the perfect setting for the shackled prisoner as he arrives after a decoy has shaken reporters off in a different direction. The real prisoner has a hulking presence, powerful presence, with a ghastly congenital indentation in his forehead, “as though he’d been struck with a hammer and somehow survived.” With his crooked mouth and small, empty eyes, the murderer has a chilling effect on those present.  

The the unthinkable happens: a nightmarish scenario develops and Monk tried to escape. With great difficulty the police manage to subdue and contain him, but not before he has ruined the career Sophie Keller. With Monk safely behind bars, Hunter returns to London and his wife and daughter–until his own nightmare begins.

Eight years later, Hunter is surprised to find Terry Connor on his doorstep. Both of their lives have changed, not for the better, and Hunter is not happy to see Connor. Then the detective tells him his news: Jerome Monk had suffered a heart attack, and on transfer to a civilian hospital, managed to break his restraints, subdue his guards, and escape into the night. When a panicked Sophie Keller contacts Hunter a few days later, begging him to visit her, he acquiesces. But Keller fails to show up at the pub where they were to meet, and Hunter drives out to her house, only to find her beaten into unconsciousness.

What happens next will bring Hunter into the realm of a murderer, as the members of the original search team begin to be hunted down and murdered, and Hunter realizes he only knows half the real story of the events of eight years ago.

This is a gripping and solid read, with the pacing ratcheted up as Hunter and Sophie try to flee from a maniac on the loose. Or is the real threat closer to home?

Another solid offering from Simon Beckett.

Denise Mina: The End of the Wasp Season Sunday, Nov 20 2011 

Ian Rankin calls fellow Scot Denise Mina: “The most exciting crime writer to have emerged in Britain in years.” Readers of Auntie M will know that she follows Mina’s crime novels, from her stand alones to her Paddy Meehan series. With a law degree in her pocket, Mina also writes short stories, has authored a play, and is a regular contributor to TV and radio.

Mina is back with a new protagonist, as original as any of her others. DS Alex Morrow is pregnant with twins when she catches a murder case that will send shock waves through the wealthy suburb of Glasgow where the victim lived. It will also touch Morrow’s personal life and impact her career as she tries to keep her own ghosts at bay.

Sarah Erroll had taken exceptional care of her ailing mother until the woman’s recent death, providing round-the-clock care in the home Joy Erroll loved. When Sarah is found brutally murdered at the bottom of the stairs of that home, it appears to be a vicious but random attack. Then Morrow listens to the recording made when Sarah tried to call 999 and hears her tell one of her murderers: “I know you.” The case is further complicated when stacks of cash are found hidden under the kitchen table, totaling close to $700,ooo Euros. What was the source of Erroll’s money? Who knew about it?

In a seemingly unrelated event in Kent, millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from the oak tree standing on the sacred lawn of his mansion. Under investigation for fraudulent business practices that have left his clients destitute, his death is seen by many as a penance for his lifetime self-serving attitude, a just decision in a world damaged by ever-widening recession. Although left in financial straits, his deeply damaged family mostly feel  a sense of release at his death. But just how damaged are they?

Stonewalled by DCI Bannerman, a man who’s learned how to turn rudeness into an art form, it will be up to Morrow to sort out the tangled web that connects both deaths. Travel to London follows as Morrow begins to unravel the threads that will lead to a shattering resolution.

This is a complex and multilayered novel, full of plot turns, with Mina illustrating a deft rendering of the complicated emotions of the people in the book’s world. This talent makes her characters eminently human, and her novels are ones easily gobbled up as the pages turn.



S J Watson: Before I Go To Sleep Sunday, Oct 23 2011 

Before this novel hit, ninety percent of its readers thought S J Watson must be a woman.

Instead, the author is a 40 yr-old audiologist with the British National Health System. Before I Go To Sleep is one of the finest psychological thrillers I’ve read in years.

The jacket blurb reads: Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? This is the rich premise that Watson mined when he was accepted in 200 into the first Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. The result is nothing short of spectacular, leaving Dennis Lehane to comment: “Exceptional . . . It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page.”

Watson’s protagonist wakes up in the morning in a strange bed, lying next to a man she doesn’t recognize. When she went to sleep she was in her twenties; the face that looks back at her in the mirror is middle-aged and unfamiliar. So begins the Christine’s journey, over and over, as each day her husband has to explain that she has suffered a terrible accident twenty years ago that has left her without the ability to form new memories. Her husband, Ben, is the soul of patience as he explains that Christine is now forty-seven, has been in and out of hospitals and institutions, and that he has to go through this with her each morning when she wakes up.

Christine is stunned, and the reader feels her struggle every day to comprehend what has happened to her. Then one day she is at home when Ben is working and she answers a call from a Dr. Nash, who claims he is a neurologist she’s been working with without Ben’s knowledge. He explains she has a hidden journal and tells her where to find it in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, she has been recording her thoughts and actions. Christine turns the pages, reading past entries about her mornings with Ben’s patient explanation, her secret sessions with Dr. Nash, and even small flashes of memories of scenes from her former life.

The reader cannot help but be drawn into Christine’s plight. Even as the awfulness of her situation becomes apparent, it raises unsettling questions. Is it possible to love or trust without memory?

As she reads more and more of her journal, and documents the memories she is having, her questions to Ben also become unsettling. What was their life like before her accident? What happened to her plans to be a novelist?

Christine reads more and more of her journal each day and keeps documenting the memories she is having, while her  questions to Ben become unsettling. What was their life like before her accident? What happened to her plans to be a novelist? Why has her former best friend deserted her? And perhaps most disturbing: why didn’t they have a child? For inside, deep down in an irrevocable place, Christine is convinced that she’s a mother.

As Christine’s makes journal entries build, she begins to pick up inconsistencies in Ben’s story. A huge one concerns the details of the accident that robbed her of her memory. She tries to reconstruct her past as her memory flashes start to build. The tensions rises as the pieces of Christine’s past life don’t seem to hang together, and the story builds to a stunning climax.

It would be a shame to tell you any more of this intriguing plot; you’ll simply have to read it for yourself, and I promise you’ll stay up at night to have the resolution revealed.

Watson says this past year has been “the weirdest year of my life.” His debut novel has quickly risen in the charts, and been translated into several languages and published in foreign countries. Ridley Scott has optioned the movie and signed Rowan Jaffe to write the screenplay and direct. It will be interesting to see how this novel translates to the screen, and who is cast as Christine, as the entire novel is told from her point of view. Don’t miss the chance to read this original story before the movie hits the screen.


On the Nickel: Maggie Toussaint Sunday, Aug 21 2011 

Auntie M has been showcasing UK authors you to investigate, and now she turns her focus to home. Georgia author Maggie Toussaint is a trained scientist who loves a good puzzle, which is why she tackles mysteries in addition to writing romantic and contemporary suspense novels.

Of interest to note is one of Toussaint’s romantic suspense novel, No Second Chance, whose proceeds benefit Day’s End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon, MD, which rescues horses from all over the country.

One to look for on or in Barnes & Noble is Toussaint’s second Cleopatra Jones novel, On the Nickel.

In For A Penny introduced single mother Cleopatra Jones an avid-but-awful golfer and competent accountant, who lives in rural Maryland and has an engaging family life. On the Nickel is the second in this series, and finds Cleo is watching over her hugely pregnant St. Bernard, two teenaged daughters, and her strong-willed mother, all while trying to contend with a new love in her life and an ex-husband who wants her back.

As if that wasn’t enough drama for any woman to handle, her mother becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation, when Mama’s church-lady rival, Erica Hodges, is run over with a car–several times. Then Cleo finds a huge dent in Mama’s Olds, and Mama refuses to discuss her movements on the night in question.

Toussaint gets all the points right: love-able but demanding teenagers; the push from an ex wanting a second chance; the pull of an exciting new love; even the behind-the-scenes hierarchy and drama of Southern churchwomen groups.

This is perfect for summer reading, with its lighthearted, balanced storyline combining more than a hint of romance, as Cleo scrambles find the real murderer of Erica Hodges, and all before her St. Bernard delivers those puppies!

Maggie Toussaint is a member of numerous organizations including Sisters in Crime. To learn more about her and her other novels, visit:

Guest Blogger Esri Allbritten: Plot Holes on the Writing Road Sunday, Jul 17 2011 

                                                                                                                                                      Plot Holes on the Writing Road

[Note: I’m coming at this from the perspective of writing mysteries, where plot is king, but this applies to all stories.]

My husband and I recently watched an Inspector Lewis episode on Masterpiece Mystery (Episode title: Expiation). I won’t go through the entire, terrifically convoluted plot, but here’s the part that gave us problems. A man finds out that when his wife was a little girl, she had a moment of insanity and killed her infant brother rather horrifically. She’s grown up and apparently normal now, but when the man finds out about her past, he worries that she’ll harm their two kids. However, he still loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her, so he manipulates her into a romance with a friend. She obligingly leaves the husband and marries the friend. That’s all fine, except that the kids go with her. Wait, didn’t the first husband push her away because he was worried about the kids? Plot hole.

This was one hitch in an otherwise satisfying plot, but it deflated our suspended disbelief with an audible hiss. When characters in a story behave in a nonsensical way, they don’t feel real.

I’ve found that the best way to detect plot holes is by listening to my overworked inner voice. Are you making any of the following excuses?

The events in my book take place over a long period of time, so it’s natural that the details are a little fuzzy. (A book plot is not a memory. It’s a narrative of events, and the details should all be there and all make sense.)

It’s not acting out of character if the character changes. People change over time. The readers will understand that. (Not unless you map out the reasons for your character’s change. If you don’t, your character has become a mere plot device, and not a very good one.)

There’s so much great stuff going on in my plot, the reader won’t notice this one little problem. (My husband and I did. Your readers are the same people who leave comments on IMDB like, “In the bar scene, the knot on Simon’s tie changes size.”)

When the action takes place, the reader won’t have enough information to know that it doesn’t quite make sense. (Bad author. No biscuit.)

Plot holes happen. You’re writing away, secure in your outline, when you discover that lawyers don’t have access to certain files. A DUI conviction keeps someone from driving for longer than you thought. Your character needs to have been in a certain military action but is then too old to bear a child. You won’t know about a lot of details until you’re well into your first draft. Ideally, you want a fix that doesn’t require a big rewrite. Here are a couple of methods I’ve used successfully.

Give two characters a shared past that makes sense of the problematic plot point. This back story doesn’t have to be integral to the central plot, and you can keep it secret until it’s convenient to trot it out.

Add a character. If it doesn’t make sense for your existing characters to do something necessary to the plot, give the action to someone new. The nice thing is, characters can be introduced at any point in the story. I had an expedient new character suddenly take center stage and add a tremendous amount to the book.

Add another secret. In the Inspector Lewis plot I described earlier, the author could have had the husband suspect that the kids were fathered by someone else. In that scenario, he wants to avoid the trauma of seeing them hurt, but doesn’t feel as compelled to protect them. After all, his worries might come to nothing. He doesn’t want to take his wife’s children away on a mere suspicion, he just doesn’t want to be involved.

Change your villain. In a mystery, your reader doesn’t know who the murderer is until the story’s end (you hope). If you have a great plot but one of the key points doesn’t quite work, give the gun/pillow/poison to someone else. I’ve done this twice, and couldn’t believe what an easy fix it was. After all, each of your suspects should have some reason to kill the victim, in order to provide red herrings. Until you reveal everything at the end, it could be any of them. Use that to your advantage.

A rich, complex plot is satisfying to the reader, but it’s also more work. Review your plot periodically while you’re writing. Be flexible. This kind of quality control is part of being a good writer. Your readers will notice and appreciate it.


Esri Allbritten is the author of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books  and available in hardback and ebook.   

Tripping Magazine is a low-budget travel rag that covers destinations of paranormal interest. The problem is, every time the staff tries to cover a supposedly supernatural event, there’s a crime behind it (think Scooby Doo for adults). In Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, the staff of Tripping Magazine hears about a ghostly Chihuahua seen by Charlotte Baskerville. Charlotte is the rich founder of Petey’s Closet, a clothing catalog for small dogs. Editor Angus MacGregor, photographer Suki Oota, and writer Michael Abernathy travel to Manitou Springs, where the ghost howls advice and spells out threats in tiny paw prints. But is the glowing apparition really Petey’s ghost, or is someone in Charlotte’s household trying to teach a dead dog new tricks – like murder? It’s up to Tripping Magazine to save Charlotte Baskerville, preferably without losing the story.

Visit to read an excerpt of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles.

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Lee Lofland

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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

(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.


#1 for Crime


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... 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