Peter James: Dead If You Don’t Sunday, Jul 29 2018 


Peter James returns with his newest Roy Grace police procedural in Dead If You Don’t, where the Brighton Detective Superintendent has a strange case to solve.

He’s at the new Amex Stadium for a highly anticipated football match with his older son when a bomb threat is called in and he’s on high alert, eventually acting in a heroic manner Auntie M won’t spoil.

Kipp Brown, seen previously as a suspect, figures as the main character when his gambling debts merge with the kidnapping of his teen son, Mungo, from the stadium.

But that’s just the beginning of the twisted tale, as Kipp contacts the police, despite being warned not to by the kidnappers. That’s when Roy’s path crosses that of Jorgji Dervishi, son of a reputed Albanian mobster. Jorgji’s son, Alek, is Mungo’s best friend, and he’s not returned home that same evening. Could both boys have been kidnapped?

The race is on to chase down those responsible while battling the bomber, whose threats continue. And when photos sent of Mungo show hi battling for his life, Roy and his team know the time they have to find the boy is fast running out.

With the action taking place over just a few days, detailed chapter headings with the time show the pressure the police are under as the plot unspools. Shorter chapters heighten the suspense and allow of points of view to change and illustrate different characters’ movements.

It all adds up to a masterful suspense procedural. One of the highlights of this series is the detailed account of how police really work, and the stumbling blocks they often come up against, from budgetary concerns to paperwork.

Of course, James’ mention of the police’s “Golden Hour” gave Auntie M a chill of delight to see her own THE GOLDEN HOUR Nora Tierney Mystery title explained.

Another winner from the CWA Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

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Robin Minnick:The Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat Mysteries and more: author spotlight Friday, Jul 27 2018 

Today’s Author Spotlight is on NC writer Robin Minnack, whom I first had the pleasure of meeting at a Fayetteville writers festival. Here’s Robin’s story with a little prodding from Auntie M:

Auntie M: Tell Auntie M’s readers a bit about your background and how you started writing.

Robin Minnack: When I was a child, I loved playing let’s pretend. I had a partner in crime who loved to play the hero and rescue me from burning buildings and play cowboy to my cowgirl. My imagination also activated whenever I rode the school bus or had to wait for someone. At home, reading over lunch or even informal dinner was the norm. Soon I was applying vocabulary and story structure I learned from reading to stories of my own. In 5th grade, I wrote a mystery in my notebook in cramped, ballpoint-smudged script that was 11 tightly-written pages long. All I remember about it now is that it was a mystery involving a magic vase. But I had completed my first mystery, and I was hooked on the idea of writing more stories from the ones that played inside my head.

AM: What genre do you write in and how did you come to choose this?

RM: Primarily mystery, although I’ve written a mainstream novel as well and have others planned. I have three books in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, with two more planned. All four of my books are available at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
I was raised on Agatha Christie, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart. My mother loved Christie, and it was she who started me collecting Christie’s books. I love the puzzle; I love the idea of drama and justice; and I love the romance that is inevitable in so many mysteries, the relationship that develops when people are thrown together in dramatic circumstances.

AM: What was the genesis for your storylines? Where do you find your ideas?
RM: As it turns out, that little boy who always rescued me? He went into law enforcement. When I wrote WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED, he became the model for Lt. Bryan Jamison. I hasten to add, he knew nothing of this, and it was only so I could have a mental model for the character. That’s one thing I do. I take people I’ve seen – actors and real people – to play the roles of my characters. Having a physical image in my head to build on helps.
The other feature of my books, the classic boat part, comes from the vintage or antique boats my husband introduced me to in his hometown of Clayton, New York. Clayton is home to both the Antique Boat Museum and the Antique & Classic Boat Society. Every August since 1964 classic boats from all over the country converge on Clayton (Clayton is located on the St. Lawrence river, in the Thousand Islands region.) My husband took me to my first show, and I fell in love with these wonderful wooden boats. Sleek and shiny with layer upon layer of varnish after they’ve been restored, they carry history with them. Antique boats set my books a little apart, I think, and allow me to share my interest through my protagonist (Mackenzie’s) passion.

WHERE THE BODIES LIE BURIED stemmed from a nightmare I had as well as the experience of growing up in a small town/rural area.


SWEET CORN, FIELDS, FOREVER
came about from our living a good portion of our lives in Nashville TN. Our kids did some recording work there, and I got a peek at the inside of the music industry. Now I’ll admit to being a frustrated songwriter. Best compliment I ever got was when I attended a workshop with a Nashville songwriter. I showed him a song I wrote for SWEET CORN, FIELDS, FOREVER, and he liked it. I floated home from that workshop and went on to write all the songs for the book. Probably not good enough to be real songs, but good enough to be believable.


The third book, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER, was actually inspired by a 1938 Chris Craft cruiser that we were privileged to board. My mother-in-law made friends with a couple who brought their boat across Lake Ontario each year to the Antique Boat Show. The year we had our first baby, when she was only 6 weeks old, they took us aboard the cruiser for the Antique Boat Show Parade. Then again when we visited with our oldest three, and one more time when we brought all six of our kids with us. When I was finished writing the book, I tracked down the owner via the internet. At 91 he still enjoys life and his boat, and he was happy to give us permission to devise the book’s cover from a photo my husband had taken of his boat, The Roscommon.

My novel, REMAINDER, stems from life in a small town, events in 2001, and from living in Nashville for 24 years. The initial inspiration was when my daughters’ godfather died from pancreatic cancer. He was deeply involved in our church, and to keep up with his journey in the illness, a listserv was set up to send out communications. This was a new thing at the time, and it kept everyone in close touch in a moving way. REMAINDER is also available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

AM: Readers love to hear about a writer’s process. Can you describe a typical writing day in your life?

RM: Writing day is nearly every day for me. Other than when I work my morning job or when I’m cooking (which I do for pleasure as well as preparing meals) I might be writing. Before work, after work, after dinner, if there is writing needing to be done, I might be at it.

For many years, raising our family, I fit my writing into bits and pieces wherever I could. With more time at my disposal, I am still in the habit of writing whenever I can. I am so in love with the process that I lose track of how much time I spend at it. I actually feel uncomfortable when I go for a few days without writing.

I confess to usually writing with music playing or the tv on. It’s a habit left over from when I used to do homework – I didn’t say it was a good habit! Sometimes I walk or stretch out in the hammock while I plot. If a scene is particularly difficult, I might even lie face down on my bed, hands cupped around my eyes, reciting ‘concentrate, concentrate’ or ‘focus, focus, focus,’ until I am unable to think of anything other than my story.

While all my submission drafts are done on the computer, I get a kick out of handwriting outlines and early drafts on different papers with things like colored pens or pencils. Or maybe I switch the program I’m using on the computer. Changing up my tools helps freshen my mind and stimulates the process.

And while I never thought I’d like research, I’ve gotten a kick out of what the Internet can turn up for me. I’ve browsed some strange goods on eBay, the weirdest being shoe tops sold to morticians for use by the dearly departed in the casket. I’ve looked up the types of guns carried by the Coast Guard Investigative Service as opposed to other branches of law enforcement.

Off-computer, I’ve traipsed around boat shows bugging owners about how they restored their boats and begged my doctor to vet a scene I’ve written for medical accuracy. I’ve interviewed servers at the Biltmore estate about how they handle it when attendees at the wine tastings taste too much and taken a helicopter tour of the Smokeys for the experience my characters are going to have.

AM: Who were your influences in reading? Who do you enjoy reading now for pleasure?

RM: My influences were Agatha Christie, Anne McCaffery, Isaac Asimov, and Dick Francis, with just a touch of James Michener (something I didn’t realize until just now, answering your question!) Also Anne George, writer of the Southern Sisters mysteries, poet laureate of Alabama, and one of the most delightful speakers I’ve ever heard. If any of my work evokes her writing, I am tremendously pleased.

Currently I enjoy J. Evanovitch for her Stephanie Plum series, a certain Marni Graff for modern classical-style cozies, and Fannie Flagg for Southern humor. My reading is eclectic, as I enjoy a touch of nonfiction, and authors as wide-ranging as Celia Rivenbark, Craig Johnson, and Piers Anthony. I will not read Stephen King, however. He’s too darn good at what he does. I can’t handle it.

AM: What’s next for Robin in her writing life?

RM: I have two more books to complete in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat series, two mainstream novels, and a Christmas epic to finish as well. That makes 5 books already planned. First drafts are mostly completed for 3 of them. I am also contributing to and editing an anthology our writing group is putting together. My son joined our group, and he headed up the committee to build the world all our stories are set in. After that, I am not sure. I was thinking about the state of things the other day, and an idea sort of came to mind, something I might call The Last Smuggler…. We’ll see.

RJ Minnick was born in the Capital District region of New York State. The youngest of five girls, she spent her childhood in a centralized school district on a farm that grew – when it grew anything – Christmas trees. She went to the State University of New York at Oswego in the days Al Roker was a student there; she can actually say she knew him then, although he might not remember her. Her major was sociology, and she knew she was destined for great things in that field. What she was actually destined for turned out to be quite different.

She’s spent a lifetime working at various jobs (she even sold Fuller Brush!) and another lifetime raising six terrific offspring with her husband. During all that time she kept writing – poetry, reviews, short stories, nonfiction, mysteries, mainstream novels, and Christmas epics. Some of it was for hire, some was freelance, some independently published.

Currently RJ Minnick lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, four cats and – from time to time – a child or two.

Contact Robin here:
http://www.findingrobinsstory.com website and blog

https://www.facebook.com/MWCBauthorRJMinnick facebook page for the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries

https://www.facebook.com/authorRJMinnick facebook page for Remainder (novel)

Elizabeth Haynes: Never Alone Wednesday, Jul 25 2018 

Elizabeth Haynes has a gift for psychological suspense that holds the reader in its plausible grip and never lets go until the last page.

In Never Alone, alternating points of view tell the story of Sarah Carpenter, a widow getting used to her empty nest; Aiden Beck, her college flame and friend of her husband, who needs a place to stay and rent Sarah’s vacant cottage; and an unnamed narrator who’s watching them both.

Sarah has her close friend, Sophie, nearby, and her two dogs. Daughter Kitty is at university; son Louis is estranged from Sarah and she doesn’t understand the reasons. But she’s hardly alone. And yet … the menace she comes to feel at times is very real.

Then married Sophie starts an affair with a much younger man, a friend of Louis, and people start disappearing. Shorter chapters up the ante as the suspense piles on. What exactly does Aiden do for a living, and can he be trusted?

The alternating point of view adds to the suspense and builds a dark thriller, while the elusive narrator tells his/her part of the story from an outsider’s view.

With the setting in North Yorkshire, the brooding landscape provides the perfect noir-ish backdrop to a story steeped in sexual imagery. Add in Hayne’s creation of fascinating characters, a creepy house cut off in heavy snow, and a clever plot, and you have all the ingredients for heightened danger and a whopping good thriller.

Peng Shepherd: The Book of M Monday, Jul 23 2018 


Welcome to the future as seen by Peng Shepherd in The Book of M.

This is not Auntie M’s usual fare, but this debut is as creative as it is disturbing, and ultimately, sad.

It starts when a man’s shadow disappears, something science is unable to explain, and soon spreads at a terrible price: those afflicted have a new power, but it’s at the price of their memories.

Soon, memory gaps are filled with imaginings made real, a distorted Dali kind of existence.

Ory and his wife Max are hiding in the forest to escape this new Shadowless world when she loses hers. Desparate to leave Ory before she becomes a danger to him, Max takes off.

And so their dual journeys begin in this strange, almost unrecognizable world. It’s almost a family drama, too, with the characters both Ory and Max cross in their journeys interesting and vivid.

This is a thought-provoking novel, and while it won’t be for every reader, it’s haunting quality describes our humanity, with its mix of magical realism, in a post-apocalyptic world. It will certainly leave you thinking about questions you’ve never had to consider before.

Linda Greenlaw: Bimini Twist Friday, Jul 20 2018 


Linda Greenlaw’s fourth Jane Bunker mystery is Bimini Twist
.

This time the Maine deputy and insurance investigator she takes on a missing person’s case when a young girl in the country on a work exchange visa for the summer goes missing from the Bar Harbor resort where she’s employed.

After first suspecting that Bianca, a Roumanian exchange student, has run off with a lover, a local naval cadet, Jane has to revise that fairly quickly.

There will be the death of a fisherman and more missing students before Jane figures out what’s really going on. And what about that good-looking Pete, the boat captain who becomes her date to the exclusive Summer Solstice Soiree?

A blend of mystery and mayhem with a nautical theme and just a hint of romance.

Women: Sharon Bolton/Dead Woman Walking & Nicola Moriarty/Those Other Women Tuesday, Jul 17 2018 

Two written by women with women who figure in the plots:

Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking earned Auntie M’s highly recommended status, and with the out in paperback, it’s the perfect summer read if you missed it the first time, a deftly-handled psychological suspense novel you won’t be able to put down.

What starts off a seemingly idyllic hot air balloon ride over Northumberland Park near the Scottish border soon turns horrific. Drifting low near ancient ruins, the various passengers from all walks of life witness a young woman being brutally murdered.

One of the passengers manages to capture the murderer’s photo–only he’s seen her face just as she’s seen his.

This sets off a chain reaction when the killer retaliates and the balloon crashes. Now that young woman is fleeing not only the accident scene, but she’s on the run from a killer who can recognize her. Dazed and hurt, does she have the presence of mind to evade a murderer?

It’s a complicated maze that includes two sisters who are close but whom have chosen different paths in their lives and the secrets they hide. There is a cloister of nuns, and a policeman trying to salvage his life. There will be a Romani family seemingly bent on destruction. And there will be suspense and tension as all of these threads come together to create a resoundingly good read.

Those Other Women is Nicola Moriarty’s very different female-centric story, one that follows a group of young Australian professional women who have consciously decided not to have children, and the fallout that decisions causes them. These reach from office flextime to nagging from families who don’t understand the women’s decision.

The story focuses on one such woman, Poppy, reeling after her best friend and her husband confess to an affair. Still getting used to the idea of her divorce, it’s compounded when another friend tells her that the former-husband who had agreed with her on remaining childless, is now having a baby with his new wife.

Poppy’s decision to start a social media group of like-minded women finds a wide audience, until the group’s private posts start being leaked. The ramifications will surprise you.

Workplace drama comes into play, too, and soon things begin to veer out of control. It’s a fascinating look at how social media can be used to create conflict and plump up rivalries.

Three for Summer: Cleland, Stanley, Bannalec Sunday, Jul 15 2018 

Three delightful reads for summer fun:

Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott series, set along the New Hampshire coast, brings antiques into focus. Her newest, Antique Blues, revolves around her friend Mo, who asks Josie to appraise a Japanese woodblock print Mo has acquired.

The woodblock has come from Mo’s sister’s boyfriend, who raises Josie’s hackles in all the wrong ways, including questioning the provenance of the print.

It doesn’t help that Cal appears to be abusing Mo’s sister, Lydia. And when Mo is found murdered and Cal disappears, he’s the likely suspect.

All the usual characters are here, from the young reporter Wes Smith and Rocky Point’s own police chief, Ellis Hunter, as Josie tried to track Mo’s killer. And don’t forget her fiance, Ty. There’s a bit of controversy over just how big their wedding should be.

There will be an appraisal of a vintage guitar, and a chance to merge businesses on the Josie’s horizon. With all she has going on, she still manages to pull off a murder investigation.

Josie’s job as an antique expert and appraiser teaches readers about many areas that Cleland has knowledge of, having once owned her own antique business.

City of Sharks is Kelli Stanley’s new Miranda Corbie Mystery, and takes readers into the world of the San Francisco private detective in the 1940s. The strong and capable protagonist is evocative of the era and woman’s new roles with the world on the brink of WWII.

When a secretary at a publishing house, Louise Crowley, convinces Miranda she’s afraid of being killed, with multiple good reasons, the PI puts her England travel plans on hold to investigate.

Then Louise’s publisher is killed, with Louise and possibly her sister targeted as suspects. Miranda’s investigation will bring up a host of other possible suspects, and there are even encounters with John Steinbeck and CS Forester, as well as newpaperman Herb Caen.

With period details that bring that height of that time to life, this one’s like having a noir movie play out in front of readers in an interesting mystery.

It’s atmosphere of a different sort when Jean-Luc Bennalec takes his Commissaire Georges Dupin away from his job in Concarneau to the salt marshes in The Fleur De Sel Murders.

The landscape is lovingly described, the scent of violets in the air from the harvested salt in the strange completely flat area. This is where Dupin has come, to the Brittany area, after a tip from a journalist he knows that something odd is going on in the marshes involving blue barrels. As he sniffs around, almost hallucinating by the scent of the area, trying to decide what might be wrong, Dupin is grazed by a shot coming at him. Is this to warn him away?

It’s hardly the way he’d hoped the case to proceed, and he’s not in his own district. It makes him miss a planned birthday dinner in Paris with his girlfriend, and thrusts him into an investigation with the local commissaire, a woman who is less than happy to have him on her patch.

When the journalist is found dead, Dupin stays to uncover her killer, amidst the wonderful cuisine in the area that will have readers’s mouths watering. The area is presented beautifully, with details galore that bring it to life.

You’ll feel you’ve been to Brittany. Now where are my fleur de sel caramels?

Mary Feliz: Disorderly Conduct Tuesday, Jul 10 2018 

Please welcome Mary Feliz, who write the Maggie McDonald Mysteries. Book Four is the newest release, Disorderly Conduct:

Dynamite-worthy dirt

In Disorderly Conduct, the fourth book in my Maggie McDonald Mystery series featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer, one of the characters becomes a murder suspect after wounding himself with a gardening implement while digging in the region’s rock-hard adobe soil.

While injuries and accusations of murder aren’t the typical outcomes of gardening pursuits in San Francisco’s Bay Area, adobe causes infamous headaches for anyone who would till the soil.

In the early 1800’s when the area was settled, adobe made the perfect low-cost building material. Adobe (which means mudbrick and has existed as a term for thousands of years in a variety of languages) is easily formed from a combination of mud and straw. Once dried, the material is durable. Heat retention properties of the bricks, coupled with Silicon Valley’s warm days and cool nights, means they’ve offered passive heating and air conditioning systems for hundreds of years.

But that same durability makes the soil a nightmare to garden. It’s crippled many a home roto-tiller, makes a pick-ax a necessity, and tempts landscapers to consider the efficacy of dynamite.

Soil amendments are the topic of many a spring newspaper article, with various experts recommending a combination of sand, manure, compost, peat, wood chips, shredded bark, and other materials. Yet the truth, as locals boasting a green thumb will tell you, is that you’ll need to add those soil amendments annually and blisters are inevitable for anyone trying to make a comfortable bed for flowers, vegetables, and any other plantings.

But those amendments offer better and more even distribution of the Bay Area’s most precious resource, water. They also protect plants from mid-summer heat, which increasingly reaches triple digits. In recent years, for sheer ease-of-use, raised beds filled with commercially available potting soil have exploded in popularity.

senior farmer checking the apricot in his orchard


Apricots were once the premium product of the fertile agricultural area now known as Silicon Valley.

It’s hard to imagine that Silicon Valley was once known as the Valley of Hearts Delight, and was the world’s largest fruit production and packing region. Nearly forty canneries once operated within its borders, along with flower and seed production facilities. How those early settlers farmed the region’s adobe soil boggles my mind. Perhaps the easy availability of building resources helped them save up energy from housing construction and dedicate it to cultivation.

While I struggled to work the adobe soil for decades, telling myself that well water and abundant sunshine made up for the hard work of getting the ground seedling-ready, my ultimate solution was to move. Now, I garden in the sandy soil of the Monterey Bay area. Though it offers its own challenges and demands for soil amendments, it can be easily worked with a plastic shovel. The characters in my series are jealous, particularly the uber-organized efficiency expert, Maggie McDonald.

Maggie McDonald’s golden retriever Belle is an avid gardener.

Curious dog watching when working with a pitchfork in the garden.

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms, and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races, and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

Debra Jo Immergut: The Captives Thursday, Jul 5 2018 

Debra Jo Immrgut’s The Captives brings two disparate people together in a most startling way in this psychological thriller with a surprise ending.

Miranda Greene, daughter of a one-term congressman, languishes in prison under a long sentence after losing herself in a brutal crime.

Frank Lundquist is the prison psychologist who is treating her, laboring under his own broken dreams and setbacks.

Despite knowing the ethics are off, Frank continues to treat Miranda when he recognizes her as the object of a severe high school crush.
Frank and Miranda’s own tragedies make them ripe for a series of events that will have dangerous consequences as the book unfolds and readers see the backgrounds that shaped their young lives.

There’s a balance here between male and female, power and who has it. There are choices to be made on both sides, too.

With a devastating look inside a woman’s correctional facility and the life there, this has a noir feel to it as it unspools and hooks the reader in as an obsession takes hold.

Unpredictable and smart.

Sarah Vaughn: Anatomy of a Scandal Monday, Jul 2 2018 

Auntie M had read a lot about Sarah Vaughn’s book, Anatomy of a Scandal, garnering great reviews in the UK, and decided to see what all the commotion was about.

Kate Woodcroft is a divorced London barrister who lives for her work, and who’s just lost a case and is looking for a meaty one. She thinks she’s found it when a young woman brings a rape suit against a James Whitehouse, a junior minister with a storied career ahead of him. He’s a friend and Oxford buddy of the Prime Minister, no less.

Sophie is James’s wife, and with their young son and daughter, she can hardly believe the way their world has been turned upside-down by her husband’s infidelity. He’s had to confess to an affair with an aide, Olivia Lytton, and swears the rape charge is due to him realizing the error of his ways and ending the brief affair.

Sophie wants to believe James. But should she?

There are many facets to what at first appears to be a straight-forward case. Was James disarmed by the charming Olivia and she reacted badly when he called their affair off? Or is he a spoiled, privileged man who feels what he wants is there for the taking?

Kate’s case takes a personal turn she hides from the court that will have disastrous results.

Told from alternating points of view of Sophie and Kate, and sometimes James himself, the three young people’s lives are dissected with chapters in the past showing how each has reached this stage of their lives, with past traumas revealed.

A fascinating look at whether we really know someone.

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