Lynn Chandler Willis: Tell Me No Lies Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, to talk to readers about:
Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction:


Title: Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction
By: Lynn Chandler Willis

When it comes to writing advice, one of the more common statements is write what you know. We writers hear it all the time. I usually ignore it all the time. My newest release, Tell Me No Lies, is the exception.

I never intended for the main character, Ava Logan, to be a shadow of myself. Yes, she’s the publisher and owner of a small town newspaper. So was I. Yes, she’s the single mom of two kids—a son and a daughter. So am I. Yes, she has a border collie named Finn. So do I.

But that’s where the similarities end. The other 97% of what makes fictional Ava Logan, well, fictional, is—-fiction.

Ava tends to be hot-headed. I’m laid back like my father. I’m the apologizer—you know, the one who apologizes even when I shouldn’t just to keep the peace. Ava struggled through a not-so-happy childhood. I was raised by Ozzie and Harriet. Well, not really, but pretty darn close. Couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

So what part of Ava Logan is real? Not so much Ava, as it is the what—the newspaper she owns. The Jackson Creek Chronicle is fictitious. But is it real. Every small town newspaper publisher struggles with the issues Ava faces in Tell Me No Lies.

How many different ways can you write a story about the local pumpkin festival and make each one new and exciting? How many “public service announcements” for fundraisers, benefits, and soccer sign ups are going to run before someone actually buys ad space? And how many town council members are going to be livid at something published that more-or-less refers to them as nitwits? Since small town councils rarely ever totally agree on anything, at least one, maybe more, will at one time or another be on the publisher’s side.

Small town politics can be, and often are, downright ruthless. It pits neighbor against neighbor. That guy across the street, the one whose son plays T-ball with your kid, asked for a special use permit to build some chicken houses on his property. The neighborhood is against it, but the guy is within his rights. How are you going to vote Mr. Council Member? And better yet, how is the newspaper going to cover it? Will they make the council look like a bully if the council denies it? Or will they take the neighborhood’s side? Or will they present both sides equally and fairly?

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an awful lot of gray area in the world of small town newspapers which often lead to a moral dilemma for the publisher. That makes for great conflict and good drama. Which makes great fiction.

Tell Me No Lies: Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television industry, and owned a small-town newspaper. Her novel, Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye, (Minotaur, 2014) won the SMP/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel, making her the first woman in a decade to win the national contest. Tell Me No Lies is the first title in the Ava Logan Mystery Series with Henery Press. She lives in North Carolina with a border collie named Finn.


Ausma Zehanat Khan: Among the Ruins Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 


Among the Ruins is Khan’s third novel featuring the unusual Canadian detecting team of Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. Once again, Khan has crafted a story that surprises with its ability to reveal and educate issues of the world at large within the framework of a mystery.

After the powerful and sobering ending to last year’s The Language of Secrets, Khattak is on leave from Canada’s Community Policing Department. Estranged at this time from his sister, who figured heavily in that book, he travels to Iran to gather peace from his cultural heritage in the country’s gardens and museums.

But when he’s approached by a Canadian agent and asked to look into the death of a famous Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker, he finds himself embroiled in the murder of Zahra Sobhani, killed while trying to have a political prisoner released.

To this end, he enlists Rachel’s help without government sanction. The people Esa meets in his investigation form a microcosm of the many groups in Iran, from officers of the regime, to a ring of young dissidents whose actions have landed several of them in jail, suffering abuse, horrific torture, and even death. Many are there on false charges and are tried without legal counsel.

Back in Canada, it’s Rachel’s job to visit Zahra’s son and other family while Esa delicately tries to probe into the woman’s murder at the infamous Evin prison. It seems her death is a politically-motivated one, but Rachel soon uncovers other possibilities which are linked to the past. It will involved a museum, jewels, and the Shah of Iran. Rachel will need Esa’s high-placed friend to help with her investigation, but it soon becomes apparent she needs to travel to Iran.

The pervading tension intensifies and the threads come together after Rachel travels to meet up with Esa in Iran, where she goes undercover to find the details and evidence they require. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with Iran officials at their back, and the real threat of being thrown into prison themselves haunting their every move and upping the tension.

Khan allows readers to discover what Esa discovers: that there is real beauty and history to a culture that has been ransacked by extremists, both in their physical monuments and achievements, and in the poisoning of the minds of most of the world against a culture and tradition trying to live an ethical life.

Through the plot lines, Khan successfully explores the pressures on western Muslims who are seen by the world through the lens of the faction of ultra-conservative extremists who garner the news. Bringing Esa to Iran places him, with his Sunni background, in the minority in a Shia country. The detective will be forced to examine his own assumptions in a more critical manner, as he and Rachel unravel a decades-old mystery with a startling conclusion, at the same time as he strives to protect his partner and protege amidst the interplay the encounter between politics and religion, revenge and deceit, theft and greed.

Khan lovingly describes the beauty of the mosques and museums the duo visit, while not shying away from the violence some factions will inflict. It’s this dichotomy that makes the Iran of today spring to life under her talented pen. This a complex mystery that will have readers glued to the page. Highly recommended.

Deborah Crombie: Garden of Lamentations Sunday, Feb 12 2017 


Deborah Crosbie returns with the seventeenth novel in her English mysteries featuring detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in this popular and complex series that remains fresh and compelling. This is far more than a garden-variety police procedural, as the cases the two investigate affect their marriage and threaten lives.

The married duo have a blended family that includes adopted Charlotte, and live in Notting Hill but work out of different stations. Gemma finds herself seconded to the Notting Hill team for her local knowledge when the body of a young nanny is found in one of the private gardens in the area. It’s a death that has her puzzled, especially when she finds out another youth from the same block has previously died. ARe the two connected?

Duncan’s case couldn’t be more different. Loose threads from the last case have left him feeling he doesn’t know whom he can trust in Scotland Yard. His old chief had disappeared and he’d been transferred. Now Denis Childs is back with an obtuse explanation that sounds more like a warning–and then suddenly attacked. As he lies in critical condition, Duncan distances himself from everyone close to him to protect them, even his wife.

Both cases have emotional components and danger, and both detectives will find they need their friends more than ever. A satisfying read in a series that is always anticipated. Highly recommended.

Ron Liebman: Big Law Wednesday, Feb 8 2017 


Ron Liebman uses his years as a prosecutor and then litigator to inform his legal thriller, Big Law</em, as he skewers the legal system in all its glory and dismay.

Carney Blake is a young partner at a prestigious NY law firm. When the junior man is given a huge case, he hopes his suspicions as to the firm's involvement won't be founded.

But he's soon stuck as the pawn between two firms, in a place where he can't see a way out that will salvage his career–or his future, when he finds himself on the wrong side a criminal charge.

This is a fast read with larger-than-life characters. You don't need to understand law to enjoy the sticky situation Blake lands in. Having him address the reader directly in the first person narrative gives the reader a feeling of being in on the action from the first page.

Throw in a dose of humor and great New York City settings, and you'll read a satisfying legal thriller.

New in Paperback: Leather, Berry, Brekke, Kappes, Sigurdartdottir, and Armentrout Sunday, Feb 5 2017 

Several crime novels are new in paperback, and while being previously reviewed by Auntie M, she wanted to bring them to your attention. Near the end are two making their debut in paperback and she will spend more time with you on those.


Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd thrillers are hugely popular. In Dark Forces, the MI-5 undercover agent find himself posing as a hitman and crossing the paths of terrorists. Can Spider stop a massacre?


Cotton Malone returned in Steve Berry’s The 14th Colony, with a tale that reflects his usual meticulous research and will have readers riveted to their reading. He will face Zorin, a Soviet operative headed to our Inauguration, with his deadly weapon right out of the archives of America’s oldest fraternal organization.


Jorge Brekke’s suspense novels have been called “addictive” with good reason. Dreamless bring Chief Inspector Odd Singasker his most unusual case, when a young singer’s body is found staged with an antique music box playing a sad lullaby. How the song and the boxes are critical details is just one aspect of this compelling investigation into a race with a serial killer with a missing woman’s life at stake.


Yrs Sigurdardottir’s The Silence of the Sea was named Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year with good reason. The chilling case for Thora Gudmundsdottir seems to have no solution when a huge yacht crashes into a pier in Reykjavik and is found to be completely empty. What happened to the crew and to the family on board?

NEW in Paperback:


Tony Kappes’ Ghostly Southern Mysteries return with A Ghostly Reunion. Owner Emma Lee can speak to the ghosts of the murdered people at her Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. The action centers close to home, when an old friend, Jade Lee Peel, who made Emma’s high school life miserable, is found dead. Emma needs to be rid of the woman once and for all, before Jade Lee can cause trouble between Emma and her boyfriend, the Sheriff. Her solution is to solve the murder so Jade can cross over and leave Emma alone.

Only Jade Lee has other ideas. Still riding on her high school popularity, she’s not quite so keen to leave town as Emma would like. Filled with charm and Kappes’ usual brand of humor.


This one debuts on March 1st, so readers have a month to look for Jill Armentrout’s newest romantic suspense, Till Death. The book takes off with Sasha Keaton returning to the West Virginia inn her mother runs, ten years after escaping the serial killer The Groom.

Sasha wants to help her mother run the inn and put her old ghosts to rest. When women start to disappear, FBI agent Cole Landis swings into action to protect Sasha the way he wasn’t able to a decade ago. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with The Groom calling the shots.

But he hasn’t counted on the steely determination of Sasha, who wants her life back. A satisfying read for those who want a dose of romance with their suspense.

Stephen Leather: Takedown Friday, Feb 3 2017 

Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd series has made him one of the UK’s top selling thriller writers.

His newest, Takedown, veers to a standalone, but retains the high action he’s known for, this time with a female protagonist.

Charlotte Button, ex-MI-5, has been seen before in Leather’s series, and is now tasked with taking out a rogue Special Forces soldier. He’s already hatched one deadly plot. What she needs to do if figure out his next plan and stop him before he can act.

She has help in the form of Lex Harper, who assembles a team who are capable of stopping the rogue soldier before the massive attack they fear he’s planned. Readers of the Shepherd series will know Lex, and here they’ll see another side to him.

Having these two previously seen characters in their own book brings a fresh look to this kind of adventure-filled thriller.

While this is whirling, Charlotte finds that two of three flash drives, hidden in secret places, have been stolen. Containing information on dirty government operations from the past, their loss means her life is on the line if they can get to the third. Who is after her and why?

The storylines are expertly woven in a satisfying read. If you are a fan of Leather’s work, don’t miss this one.

Susan Alice Bickford: A Short Time to Die Wednesday, Feb 1 2017 


Susan Alice Pickford’s debut crime thriller, A Short Time to Die, tells the story of two women who become linked in a most unlikely way.

Marly Shaw has the misfortune to be born into an extended family whose relations rule her rural area of Central New York with an iron and physical grip, dispensing their own brand of revenge or twisted justice in often lethal ways.

After years of abuse and a narrowly missed brush with her own death, Marly vows to find a way out of the town and that life. She becomes the protector of her young niece and nephew, and soon finds what she thinks may be a way to leave Charon Springs behind her.

Over a decade later, human remains found in California are traced to this same family, both with criminal records. Detective Vanessa Alba needs to know how these two felons died, and who is responsible. She and her partner head to the Finger Lakes region to conduct interviews with the remaining members of the Harris clan, determined to figure out why these two would have traveled all the way to California, out of their element, to be killed–and soon come to see that they were perhaps not so undeserving of their fate.

The brisk cold and rugged terrain are vividly described, as are the tough characters that are cut from a mold some could mistakenly take for extinct. Marly is an intelligent young woman with a honed set of instincts borne out of her desire to survive this pathological family she’s attached to by way of her mother.

The action alternates between the year 2000 when the Harris clan sets in motion the deeds that will culminate in the two deaths of 2013. This allows the reader to see how the situation developed, and how desperately Marly wanted to escape and save her sister’s children.

A fascinating look at a diabolical family with an unlikely ending that develops. A strong debut with a unique cast of characters. Readers will be rooting for Marly from the first chapter.

Ragnar Jonasson: Snow Blind Sunday, Jan 29 2017 


Ragnar Jonasson’s Snow Blind introduces a new crime series set in Iceland. Jonasson hones his crime chops translating fourteen Agatha Christie mysteries into Icelandic, and is a founding member of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

Snow Blind introduces Ari Thor Arason, a new policeman who has just moved to the tiny northern fishing village of Siglufjordur. It’s a place where white is the predominant color many weeks of the year, and where avalanches can cut off the small mountain tunnel that allows access to the rest of the world.

Taking this position meant leaving his girlfriend behind, and Ari Thor is still smarting at the way their relationship is floundering. When a young woman, half-naked, is found bleeding and near death in her backyard, he becomes quickly involved in his new community. While he seeks the perpetrator, he suspects not everyone is telling the truth.

That new community involves a local theatre group, one of whom is giving Ari Thor piano lessons. Then someone at the theatre dies, and he must ascertain if this was a tragic accident, or a case of murder.

Is it possible these two instances are connected, as the woman’s partner is a member of the theatre troupe? With only two other members of his police team, and his Chief intent on smoothing troubled waters, it will be left to Ari Thor to investigate on his own.

With its complex plot to keep readers flipping pages, the stark coldness emphasizes Ari Thor’s alienation and sense of claustrophobia. Then his own house is broken into, and the young policeman must figure out if he’s been put on the killer’s list, and why.

A classic whodunit set in a stark place with a twisted ending.

Peter Swanson: Her Every Fear Wednesday, Jan 25 2017 


Reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Grace Kelly/Jimmy Stewart classic, Rear Window, Peter Swanon’s thriller Her Every Fear has the same kind of see-through-a-window aspect to parts of his book. But this is even more suspenseful, as we see the action through the eyes of several of the key players at the same time.

After a traumatic experience with a boyfriend, British Kate agrees to a six-month swap with a Boston cousin she’s never met. Corbin will stay in her flat and she will live in his much more spacious and lovely place that Corbin inherited from his father in one of Boston’s nicest neighborhoods. Forget any similarities to the romantic movie “Holiday,” for there the similarities end.

A young woman in the apartment next to Kate’s new home is found murdered. Audrey was killed in such in a bizarre fashion that is kept out of the media. A young man in the apartment directly across from Audrey’s can see into her place, and has developed a a habit of looking at her. He’s also seen Corbin in the Audrey’s apartment.

Yet Corbin disavows a relationship with the dead woman, and soon Kate starts to look for evidence incriminating her cousin with the murder.

Swanson is currently writing a sonnet cycle on all of Hitchcock’s films, and his influence is strongly here. It’s written in a cinematic style that is just aching to be translated to the big screen, too.

This is a fascinating look at how easily people can learn not to trust their own instincts; and the devastation that comes from the fervor of others who live in their own moral universe. It’s also a tense, gripping thriller with a twisted plot. Leave the lights on for this one.

Sandra de Helen: Till Darkness Comes Tuesday, Jan 24 2017 


Please welcome Sandra de Helen, to talk about her new thriller, Till Darkness Comes, and give us an exciting and suitably creepy excerpt. Don’t miss the buy links for all of her work at the end of the excerpt~

If you’re a thriller lover, I may have just the book for you. Chelsea Cain (she of the famous Gretchen and Archie thrillers) says “I wish I had half the plotting talent that Sandra de Helen has. This is such a terrific and totally satisfying book.”

Till Darkness Comes is set in Kansas City, Missouri, where I used to live. A serial killer first kills a pedophile, then moves on to killing insurance executives. Two young women who were best friends in high school get caught up in the murders. One because her uncle is killed; the other because she’s a young rookie cop with big ambitions.

I had been merrily writing along, working on my Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson mystery series, set in modern day Portland, basing their stories on tales of Sherlock Holmes, when I was seized with a desire to go darker. Much darker.

The first two books in the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series are The Hounding and The Illustrious Client. I’m currently at work on the third Shirley Combs book A Valley of Fear, but the next one will be a follow-up to the thriller.

An Excerpt from Till Darkness Comes:

A sliver of crescent moon rises through the clouds as an unseen watcher leans near the closed window of the shed. The ramshackle building is covered with English ivy, honeysuckle, and a wild rambling rose that makes it difficult to see into the one-story woodworking shop. A Coleman lantern is the only light in the building. Even though the sun has set, the Missouri heat is oppressive, the humidity so high the watcher is sweating. Cicadas, tree frogs, and nearby traffic provide the soundtrack. The honeysuckle scent disappeared a month before. The odors of this night are sweat, dust, and cigarette smoke.

Jerry Vogelsang puffs his cigarette while sitting on a stack of burlap bags in his underwear, a can of Budweiser at his side. A small boy is in a heap on the floor, wearing only a tee shirt, his back heaving with sobs.

“Get it together you little shit. You got to go inside and you got to act like everything’s okay.”

The boy jerks away from Jerry, but raises his head and faces him.

“Wipe your face and stuff. Straighten up.”

The boy wipes his nose with the back of his hand, stands up, covering his private parts with his other hand.

Jerry slaps the boy’s hand away.

“Now get dressed and go in the house. Just act like you always do. Everything’s okay as long as you don’t tell. All right?”

The boy scurries to put his clothes and shoes on, and runs out the door, letting it slam behind him. As soon as he is gone, the watcher goes to the door, opens it, steps inside, and locks it.

Before Jerry can express more than surprise, the watcher crosses the room and hits him in the head with a crowbar, knocking him out. The watcher prepares the room. First the window is covered with a black cloth. The door is barred to make it more secure. Next the workbench is cleared to make room for Jerry. The watcher uses the firefighter’s carry to hoist the man onto the bench. He is of average height and weight, but he is unconscious, and of no help. Using a nail gun, the watcher secures him to the table with three-quarter-inch galvanized metal strapping. Jerry is strapped at neck, biceps, wrists, waist, thighs, knees, shins, and ankles. And one across the forehead for good measure. The watcher opens Jerry’s mouth and stuffs it with a sock, wraps a bandana around the back of his head, and ties it over his gagged mouth.

Jerry groans and begins to squirm. The watcher holds up a pair of scissors where Jerry can see them. Jerry tries to yell and when he can’t, he begins to thrash, his eyes wild. The scissors, held in hands encased in black rubber gloves, come at his face, stopping just short of his right eye. Jerry presses the back of his head into the workbench. Beads of sweat pop up on his forehead and a deep growl issues from his throat. The warm building reeks of bodily fluids.

“That’s better. Stay still. I’m going to give you some injections so the things I do won’t hurt so bad. Shh. Be quiet now. You know we like to be quiet. We don’t want anyone to know what you do out here in the shed, do we? I’m going to cut your underpants off, here we go. Don’t wiggle, you’ll make me cut you. Oops, you see? I did cut you, these scissors are really sharp. Let’s cut these all the way off, see what you’ve got down here. Well, that’s not so much, is it? What’s the matter, you cold? All the time I was thinking I’ll bet you hurt that little boy you had in here, but maybe you didn’t hurt him so bad with this little old thing. Oh, but I’m forgetting. It gets hard when you’re around little kids, right? Both little boys and girls, right? You’re equal like that, huh? A real man. Maybe you need to be a bit less of a man. Maybe you need to be castrated. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll give you a shot. Hold still. Here we go. Are you numbing up yet? How about now? Look, it’s not going to hurt that much anyway, right? I’m not going to cut them off with the scissors. No. I’m going to use dental floss. I’ll tie them real tight and they’ll fall off in a couple of weeks. Hold still. Hold still!”

As Jerry twists and turns, the metal banding loosens. At the first sound of the nails pulling from the workbench, the watcher grabs the scissors and stabs Jerry in the stomach, then again higher in the chest, and finally in the throat. Blood is gushing from Jerry’s body, but he is still. The watcher gathers up all the tools, including the black cloth from the window, the bar from the door, the crowbar, the nail gun, and the leftover metal strapping. These items go into the duffel bag they bought at the Army surplus store. With a last look around, the watcher leaves the shed, shuts the door, pulls off the rubber gloves and stows them in a pocket.

Sandra de Helen, author of the thriller Till Darkness Comes, also pens the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series. She is a poet, journalist, and a playwright. Her plays have been produced in the Philippines, Ireland and Canada, Chicago, New York City, and in thirteen states. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Dramatists Guild. Her books are available online, at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. Samples of her work are available on her website.


Till Darkness Comes:
Barnes & Noble Nook:
The Illustrious Client:
Barnes & Noble:
Tanum (Norway):
The Hounding:
Barnes & Noble:
Tanum (Norway):

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