New Fall Thrillers: Bleeker, Chapman, Johns, Rickstad, Keller Sunday, Sep 24 2017 

Auntie M has gathered new thrillers to add delight to your fall reading. What these have in common is fast pacing and twisted plots. Enjoy!

Emily Bleeker’s Working Fire takes readers to the Midwest, where Ellie Brown has returned from her ticket out of Illinois–med school–to care for her father after he suffers a stroke. Her job as a paramedic is not as interesting as she’s thought it would be, but at least she sees her sister, Amelia, and enjoys dinner with her sister’s husband, Steve, and their two girls.

The book opens with a punch, with Ellie and her partner, Chet, getting an unbelieveable call: it’s Amelia’s address and there are reported gunshots. That’s just the beginning of a story is told from Ellie’s point of view in the present, with action from six weeks ago in Amelia’s point of view.

This alternating style allows readers to see both sisters, who have a tight relationship, as individuals. There are secrets here being kept, which adds to the emotional tension. What really happened inside Amelia’s house that led to the shooting?

As Amelia’s life hangs in the balance, Ellie will try to find whom she can really trust, which turns out to be a very complicated situation. One final ending twist is totally unexpected.

Tim Chapman’s background as a forensic scientist gives him the gravitas he needs for his protagonist, Sean McKinney in The Blue Silence. The Chicago scientist with an interest in Tai Chi has a huge hole in his heart at the moment.

Sean’s a widower with a large dog, Hendrix, whose daughter is newly away at college. A recent breakup from his girlfriend leads Sean to accept when Angelina begs him to look into the disappearance of her roomate’s twin sister.

Sean soon finds himself at Tulane in New Orleans, getting more than he bargained for when he and his dog, Hendrix, reach Angelina, and her friend, Madeleine. Sean meets the twins parents, too, but it soon becomes more than complicated on the hunt for Sylvie.

There will be a hint of romance for Sean, intrigue in the art world, a hidden diary, and Hendrix and Angelina in jeopardy before it’s all over. A satisfying thriller and hopefully the first of a series featuring the forensic expert.

Readers can go from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in Roger Johns’ Dark River Rising.

Wallace Hartman is a police detective who heads this new series. Saddled with her partner on medical leave and missing his advice, Wallace is nevertheless quickly immersed in the scene of a grisly murder. It’s evident the drug dealer victim was tortured before being killed and left in a most horrific manner that captures attention immediately.

Wallace grudgingly accepts DEA agent Mason Cunningham’s help as they agree he needs her local knowledge and she needs his resources, especially after a scientist tied to the first victim disappears. She will meet the Staples family, whose have a personal motive for wanting revenge on the drug dealer, but that’s just the start of the investigation.

This is a compelling police procedural with enough action and twists, plus a hint of romance to keep the pages flipping. A good hard look at the dark underbelly of Baton Rouge with a compelling new protagonist.

The sequel to Eeric Rickstad’s The Silent Girls heats up quickly. The Names of Dead Girls takes readers to rural Vermont in the expert company of detectives Sonja Test and Frank Rath and their team.

It starts out with the cliffhanger of the first book, when Rath’s nemesis, Ned Preacher is paroled early and is watching Rath’s niece, Rachel, whom Rath has raised after Preacher murdered his sister and her husband.

After protecting Rachel for years, she’s just found out the truth of her parentage. Then several local girls go missing and when their bodies are found, it’s too much of a coincidence for Rath to feel that anyone but Preacher is to blame.

Preacher’s style is to terrorize Rachel while he taunts Rath, and the detective’s investigation will take him into Montreal. This is dark and terrific suspense with great imagery that makes the setting a secondary character. Keep the lights on for this one.

Julia Keller’s series featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins and the rural area of Acker’s Gap, WV, continues with Fast Falls the Night.

It starts out with a death from an overdose and the suspense ratchets up quickly as they spread like wildifire. Bell finds herself and her team working at top speed to stop the wave as it escalates.

They race to find the heroin batch that’s been laced with a lethal tranquilizer, searching for the source as the overdoses mount and the bodies pile up. Bell will be fighting more than just the drug lords though, as some within the law enforcement community believe the addicts should be left to die.

Bell sees how the addicts actions affect more than themselves, but readers also have other perspectives from different points of view. There will be a hostage at one point, and also dark fammily secrets for Bell to be revealed before it’s all over.

All of the action takes place in a compressed 24-hr period, adding to the urgency and the swift pacing. Definitely a cliffhanger of an ending.


Sophie Hannah: Keep Her Safe Thursday, Sep 21 2017 

Sophie Hannah’s newest stand-alone shows readers why she’s the author Agatha Christie’s estate chose to write two new Hercule Poirot mysteries. Keep Her Safe brings readers to a stateside setting when Brit Cara Burrows escapes her family to spend time alone in a world-class resort in Arizona. She’s immediately acutely aware that she’s an Englishwoman in an American country, for many reasons.

Cara needs time to just think about a surprise and very unplanned pregnancy, but she hardly gets there before she’s thrust into a nightmare. Exhausted from her long flight, already questioning her desperate need to flee her family, she enters what should be her welcome hotel room, only to find it already occupied by a man and teen girl.

It’s a simple front desk mistake and Cara is immediately upgraded to a lovely casita, but the resort comes with too many options to choose from–which pool, massage, therapy, class should she take? And it seems filled with eccentric characters. Cara soon comes across a hint of menace directed toward herself. Events spiral and she finds herself convinced that the teen she saw is a young murder victim whose body was never found.

The missing girl, Melody Chapa, has been gone from age 7, would be 14 now, and fits the description Cara finds online of the teen she came across on her first night, right down to the stuffed animal buddy the girl carries. At the moment, Melody’s parents languish in prison, serving sentences for her murder. But if Melody is alive and well, they should be freed and an awful miscarriage of justice has occurred. Or has it?

Cara will meet a mother/daughter duo vacationing who at first seem unlikely friends and an elder woman who swears on each visit she’s seen Melody and agrees with Cara that Melody is at the resort.

When Cara disappears along with a resort employee, it will be up to two seemingly disinvolved detectives to investigate her disappearance, along with the arrival of a former prosecutor-turned-TV host whose specialty is people unjustly convicted of crimes.

Cara will meet the man who she must outwit to bargain for her life and that of her child. The unlikely center of the storm, Meloday Chapa, has her story told through a book writtten about her life at home with her parents which is excerpted as the chapters unfold.

Hannah examines both our justice system, especially in our media-driven culture where many defendants are convicted in the press before any trial occurs, and America’s obsessional interest in true crime stories. The question that’s raised is: Is there any such thing as a personal responsibility to protect a victim? And what lengths would be reasonable to accomplish this?

An ending twist that’s pure Hannah will leave heads spinning in this complex book, the germ of its plot planted on a book tour visit by Hannah to the US during the Casey/Caylee Anthony case.

Ronald H Balson: The Trust Tuesday, Sep 19 2017 

Balson’s compelling fourth novel featuring former-CIA-turned PI Liam Taggarat and his lawyer wife Catherine Lockhart is called The Trust with good reason.

Estranged from his Irish family for 16 years, Liam receives a call that his uncle has died and he reluctantly agrees to return to Antrim, leaving Catherine and their infant son, Ben, at home.

What he finds confounds him as much as the rest of his family: his uncle has left his considerable farm and investment estate to a secret trust, with Liam as its Trustee.

The kicker is that Liam’s Uncle Fergus feared he would be murdered, and has directed that the trust not distribute any assets nor announce beneficiaries until his killer is found–and he felt Liam would be the only one who could unravel who that would be.

It puts Liam into a tenuous situation with the cousins and uncles he grew up around. His own history with them had him leaving in tense and bitter circumstances, and while he feels welcomed back by some family members, others make it clear he should return to the US, and go to great lengths to enforce this idea.

Then the danger to his family becomes clearer as more murders and accidnets occur, and soon no one is safe from a deranged killer out for revenge. But is the culprit tied to Ireland’s Troubles and the Taggart family from long ago? Or a member of the Taggart’s inner circle, out to reduce the number inheriting from Fergus.

The mystery deepens as the characters reveal themselves, and Liam does his best to protect his Irish family and his own family back home, and often feels he is faiing at both. Having to face his demons of the past, including the Irish woman he almost married, come at a personal price, too.

As the killings mount, so does the pace, to a breathtaking climax. Antrim and its environs come alive under Balson’s pen, with the history of The Troubles elucidated for those who might not have lived through them in history. And just when the story is done and dusted, there’s one more twist at the end. A satifying read where the suspect pool keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express Friday, Sep 15 2017 

“All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express. When I had travelled to France or Spain or Italy, the Orient Express had often been standing at Calais, and I had longed to climb up into it.” Agatha Christie: An Autobiography.

Today is the 127th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie, the author whose works are outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. She’s also the most translated author, with more than 2 billion books published in over 100 languages.

In honor of Twentieth Century Fox’s new version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, premiering this fall, HarperColliins/William Morrow is offering the book in every form from hardcover and paperback to E-book and Digital Audio. There’s even a large print version. In the movie, Poirot will be played by a dashing Kenneth Branagh, with Judi Dench, Derek Jacopi, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Leslie Odom, Jr. among the talented cast.

Auntie M thought her readers might be interested in some background on this long-time favorite, starring Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot. If you haven’t read this classic, she hopes this will whet your appetite to read the original before the movie premieres. Here’s Branagh as Poirot, different from David Suchet, who to Auntie M was always the embodiment of Poirot, but dashing in his own way. Branagh directs the film:

Agatha’s wish to travel on the famed train came true a year after the end of her first marriage, the same year her mother died. She visited Iraq on what would be the first trip of many with second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist with yearly digs in Iraq and Syria. A snippet from Mallowan’s Memoirs describes how Agatha almost didn’t get to write the book:

It was luck that she lived to write the book, for not long before penning it while standing on the railway station at Calais, she slipped on the icy platform and fell underneath the train. Luckily, a porter was at hand to fish her up before the Orient Express started moving.

This is Agatha with Max:

The book had its genesis when Agatha was travelling alone on the OE and it was stopped after being stuck due to heavy rains. As the passengers talked, she heard stories of snow storms that had stranded the train for days at a time. Her story was also greatly influenced by the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby during this period. Agatha is thought to have written the book during 1931, and it was first published in September of 1933 as a series in the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post under the title Murder in the Calais Coach. It was published at the same time in the UK as Murder on the Orient Express and is dedicated to M.E.L.M: Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

In a letter to Max, Agatha describes the rain and several other travellers on that train trip which clearly influenced her future mystery. She noted details such as cabin layouts, and the placement of door handles and light switches, which would all serve her in good stead when she decided to have Poirot solve the case she develops.

Agatha wrote her first mystery on a bet with her sister at the age of 26 (1916), and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Hercule Poirot, was published four year later. Many readers know that her play, The Mousetrap, is the longest running play in the world after its debut in 1952, and visitors to London can see it at The St Martin’s Theatre.

If you haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express, now’s the time to pick up a copy of the story, which revolves around Poirot on the Orient Express when it gets stuck in a snowbank. There will be a murder, concealed identities, and the incomparable Belgian sleuth figuring it all out, with a twist at the end.

Happy Birthday, Dame Agatha!

Frances Brody: Death at the Seaside Thursday, Sep 14 2017 

In Death at the Seaside, the 8th Kate Shackleton Mystery, the private eye is taking a little vacation at the seaside–or so she plans, in 1920s England. Driving to the Northumbriann coast of Whitby, she plans to visit her old school friend, Alma, and Kate’s god-daughter Felicity.

But nothing goes as planned when Kate arrives to find Alma is now working as a fortune teller, and shortly after, she stumbles over the body of the local jeweler, Jack Phillips.

It turns out that Alma thought that she and Jack were something of an item. And Felicity, instead of stickng around to see her godmother has disappeared with her boyfriend on her own important journey.

It’s a rocky investigation for Kate, as the local police seem to think she might be responsible for killing Jack, a man she’s never met, or a the very least, be involved in smuggling! It will take an old Scotland Yard friend to set them straight on that score.

But Kate will have to call on Mrs. Sugden and her capable sidekick, Jim Sykes, both vacationing nearby, to temporaily join her. Even Jim’s wife gets pressed into service to find a killer.

One of the hallmarks of Brody’s series is the historical detail and settings she details just right. Readers will feel they’ve been to Whitby. If you adore Golden Age mysteries, look no further than this entertaining and always compelling series.

Melissa Pimentel: The One that Got Away Tuesday, Sep 12 2017 

From time to time Auntie M veers away from crime just to broaden reader’s horizons. The One that Got Away is Meliisa Pimentel’s retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion in a modern setting. Being a huge Austen fan, Auntie M decided to read this one and it’s a well-paced romance where the real mystery turns out to be why Ruby ended their seemingly fairy tale romance a decade before.

Alternating in past chapters, showing the meeting and attraction of Ruby and Ethan and their growing committment to each other, ten years later the scenes in the present find them meeting up in England where Ruby’s sister, Piper, is marrying Ethan’s best friend Charlie at a castle.

It’s a setting for instant disaster. While Ruby has prospered and risen in the marketing world, Ethan has had a meteoric rise in the tech world and is the media’s darling, a wealthy and kind philanthropist whose photo is on the cover of any magazine Ruby finds. Ruby’s satirical voice adds to the relatable feel of the tale as it evolves.

The lead up to the wedding is fraught with the usual tensions and mishaps, which include Ruby and Piper’s blowsy stepmother; a wedding planner who gets it all wrong; and a medical crisis at the rehearsal dinner that changes everything.

The ultimate question is: if timing in life is everything, will Ruby and Ethan’s time come again or has that ship sailed? The highs and lows of the action and the appearance of a handsome doctor to the scene add elements that will keep readers guessing if there isn’t a sunny future to be had after all.

Tetsuya Honda: Soul Cage Sunday, Sep 10 2017 

Tetsuya Honda’s popular Japanese police procedural, headed by Tokyo Metropolitan Police homicide detective Teiko Himekawa, debuted in translation in the US with last year’s The Silent Dead. The sequel, Soul Cage, bring another complex plot with clever twists and a cast of interesting characters that include the detectives who work alongsdie Reiko.

Don’t let the unfamiliar names throw you–a few chapters in their personalities become distinctive and easy to follow. There is a sly humor underpinning some of Reiko’s thoughts as her scenes are from her point of view and add to the complexities of the characters. There are also scenes from several of the others involved in this twisted case when a severed hand leads to a garage full of blood and no body in what is deemed an obvious murder.

The missing man is Kenichi Takaoka, a building contractor, and his severed hand was found in his work garage by his only employeed, a young orphan Takaoka has taken under his wing and raised to take over his business. Where is the rest of the man’s body? And who would murder him and yet leave behind his hand?

The case becomes more and more twisted, as Reiko navigates not only the personalities of the teams she must work with, but the history behind the dead man. Too many of her leads end without resolution, but one thread connects to the yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, and a scheme of forcing suicides to repay debts.

Then a friend of the missing Takaoka declares that a recent photo he’s shown is that of Takaoka. So whose hand do they have?

The fact of Reiko’s sex and her quick rise within the Met are also factors, as is the ‘crush’ of one of her colleagues and the competition she feels from the head of another team. More of these characters are revealed, making the working environment and its struggles another factor Reiko faces. A whodunit for mystery fans within the workings of a police procedural makes this a solid read.

E. J. Copperman: Dog Dish of Doom Friday, Sep 8 2017 

Please welcome E. J. Copperman, who will describe the genesis of his new release, Dog Dish of Doom, and yes, it’s just as charming and hilarious a mystery as you think~

By E.J. Copperman
So there was this dog, see.

A friend of mine who lives in New York City has a dog, and it came about in conversation one day that the dog (his name was Fred) was a stage actor before my friend Chris Grabenstein (accomplished author of mysteries and middle grade supernatural stories) adopted him. In fact, Fred was featured in the cast of the Broadway production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. On Broadway.

Fred in Chitty:

Once the show closed and Fred was between gigs, he ended up being brought by his agent (oh yes, Fred had an agent) to Chris and his wife, who fell in love with Fred and adopted him.

That story stuck with me. Fred had been a stray, found by the agent/trainer in an ASPCA shelter and brought in to audition for his role. He turned out—with a good deal of training—to be a natural and got the job. A star was trained.

Somewhere in the recesses of my diseased author mind Fred’s story became a murder mystery because that’s what I do. And the main character of the book became the dog’s agent because . . . well, a theatrical agent working with animals is rife with possibilities.

The book is called DOG DISH OF DOOM and it begins the Agent to the Paws mystery series from Minotaur Books.

It’s not like I knew Fred well, or actually at all. But I’d heard about him and seen pictures of him on Chris’s web site. And the truth is, the more facts I knew, the worse it would be for my story. With only the basic information of Fred’s journey in my head I could make up pretty much anything I wanted without feeling obligated to be accurate.

So in the book Fred, who was a rather small terrier mix, became Bruno, a very large, very shaggy dog of indeterminate breed who had already been adopted when my agent character Kay Powell took him on as a client. Bruno is up for the role of Sandy in a Broadway revival of Annie because find me a role for a dog people know better. Okay, besides Lassie.

I don’t know if that counts as “inspiration” of if I just let my mind wander until it came across an idea lying in the road, but either way the book started with Fred. He has, sadly, since passed on after a very good life, but Bruno, having the advantage of being fictional, can hang in there for as long as people decide to read my book.

So it’s up to you, readers: Keep Bruno going! And say a quick thanks to Fred along the way.

E.J. Copperman is the author of DOG DISH OF DOOM, the first book in the Agent to the Paws mystery series, as well as the Haunted Guesthouse series, the Asperger’s mystery series (with Jeff Cohen) and the Mysterious Detective mystery series, making E.J. a very busy writer who owns a beagle named Gizmo, who has no theatrical ambitions.

Jo Furness: All the Little Children Thursday, Sep 7 2017 

Jo Furniss’ debut novel will leave readers shattered, thinking long and hard after its emotional ending. All the Little Children brings them a strong female protagonist who faces horrific circumstances and choices.

It’s supposed to be a wonderful camping trip in the Shropshire woods when Marlene sets off with her sister-in-law Joni and their assorted children. With her husband moving out that same weekend, this is designed to upset her children less, instead of watching their father pack his bags.

Things rapidly deteriorate when it appears something has killed the local villagers. And the resourceful Marlene soon finds it’s not restricted to that area.

There will be a band of Wild Children, accidents, and deaths as this little troupe try to reach safety. There will be threats from within and without the woods, and those whom readers would think would be helpful turn out to be some of this group’s worst enemies for their own reasons.

It would be difficult to describe the action more without spoiling the plot, but suffice it to say that there are moments of high tension that are relieved with tender moments. Marlene and the rest of the characters spring off the page as literally drawn, very human with foibles and warts and hearts.

The ending allows for a sequel readers will assume is on the horizon as Marlene must decide if she will save her own children or save them all.

Peter Robinson: Sleeping in the Ground Wednesday, Sep 6 2017 

It takes a skilled writer to find a creative way to draw readers in with the 24th novel in a series. Peter Robinson is a master storyteller, and he does just that in his new Inspector Banks outing, Sleeping in the Ground.

It’s a horrific opening: a sniper shoots a wedding party standing outside an ancient Yorkshire church, then desappears before into the hills. The casualties mount, the injuries severe where there are survivors who’ve been hit. One of the wounded is a member of Banks’ team, Winsome Jackson.

Banks is on his way back from the funeral of his first love when he gets the news. His mood is already somber, his mind cast back to those early days when he loved Emily and the world was fresh and full of promise. He’s abruptly faced with this newest devastation, and into the investigation comes an old face from twenty years ago: psychologist Jenny Fuller has returned from Australia after a divorce and been assigned to profile the killer.

Her presence adds to Bank’s mixed emotions as he examines his life and finds one important area wanting in his quiet moments alone.

Into this mess comes an unexpected house guest: Ray Cabbot, Annie’s artist father, has decamped from Cornwall and decided to move nearer his daughter, Banks’ right-hand detective. Looking for a house, Ray stays with Banks, providing music, distraction and more than enough to drink.

Then a member of a local gun and rifle club is found a few days later in his basement, an apparent suicide, with the weapon used in the carnage beside him. Case closed. Or is it?

The investigating team includes the lovely DC Gerry Masterson, whose instincts for detecting are being honed on Banks’ team. It’s a race to find a killer who just might not have finished what he started.

This is classic Robinson, with all the details here that make his series so enduring: the Yorkshire setting and the differing music Banks listens to; the strong characterizations and plot twists; and the way he makes Banks so vulnerable and so human, yet never losing his edge for his case. You’ll eat this one up quickly and wish there were more. Highly recommended.

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