James Oswald: Written in Bones Sunday, May 28 2017 

James Oswald’s Inspector McLean series is one of Auntie M’s personal favorites. Written in Bones continues the compelling Edinburgh-based mystery series with its strong protagonist. And yes, the award-winning and nominated author really does raise pedigree Highland cattle and New Zealand Romney sheep on his North East Fife farm. You can see amazing photos of his livestock on his website and Facebook pages.

This case seems to be one without an answer. A young boy walking his dog early in the morning talks of a dragon flying overhead; then a body drops into a tree in the Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic park. It’s not a crime scene of the faint of heart.

The victim is an ex-cop who had a criminal past, and after serving his time, had reinvented himself as a philanthropist for addicts and other causes. Was his death an accident? Or a message to those left behind?

It will take McLean back to digging out past cases and history, while he comes into contact with someone he thought he’d left behind, just as he’s trying to sort out his personal life.

One of the highlights of the series is the way Oswald brings Edinburgh, and his band of characters, to life. This is gritty stuff with an edge or realism that sharpness the focus. And as always, McLean needs to avoid exacerbating his already-ugly relationship with most of his superiors, as he doesn’t always play by the book–perhaps never.

Another outstanding entry in the series. Highly recommended.

Pamela Wechsler: The Graves Wednesday, May 24 2017 

The Boston setting comes alive in former prosecutor Pamela Wechler’s second Abby Endicott novel, The Graves, where the young assistant district attorney known for crime convictions is still recovering from the attempts on her life in the debut, Mission Hill.

The strong protagonist has a passion for putting murderers away, but that same dedication has cut her off from her wealthy family’s backing. Her parents hope that putting her in financial straits will prompt Abby to turn to a career more in line with their thinking, along with ditching her musician boyfriend, even while ignoring the faults in their marriage.

But when a string of young women start turning up murdered around Boston, the case only makes Abby more determined to find the killer. Then another young woman goes missing, and Abby, working with Detective Kevin Farnsworth, investigates to find the man who’s been at the heart of the matter, with surprising and troubling complications.

The prosecutor will have to bring all of her smarts and wiles to bear to bring a killer to justice, and the outcome is not a foregone conclusion once a senator and his son become implicated in the crimes.

There’s enough here to keep any reader happy. Abby’s interior narrative is a strong voice, as the young, pampered woman who took personal shoppers and trendy shops for granted suddenly has to learn to economize. Wechsler also paints a realistic picture of a woman whose drive for her job makes others unhappy, while at the same time, it confuses Abby about what–or who–she really wants.

Auntie M likes Abby. She’s not a cardboard figure, but a realistic heroine with strong opinions who can sometimes see her own weaknesses and frailties, and so can we.

And in other news: Nele Neuhaus, one of Germany’s foremost crime authors, has her latest now out in paperback. I Am Your Judge brings the team of Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Van Bodenstein facing a complex killer whose victims appear to have no enemies. The fourth installment in the bestseller series.

Matt Ferraz: The Convenient Cadaver Monday, May 22 2017 

Matt Ferraz was an ocean away from home when he wrote The Convenient Cadaver, the first volume of Grandma Bertha Solving Murders.

Having lived in the same house in Brazil his entire life, Matt had to spend a year in a college accommodation in Buckingham, UK, where he took his masters. Writing a novel that took place entirely within the walls of a family house was literary a way to feel cozy again.

Having always been close to both his grandmothers, Matt decided to create a book that would treat old age in a light and positive way. His best friend was also an old lady named Silvia, who used to call him “my little Stephen King”, as a homage to their favorite author. The book is dedicated to these three ladies, with a sad note that Silvia passed away before she had the chance to read it.

Grandma Bertha is a wacky old lady who loves her dogs, her beer and her horror movies.

One day, a corpse appears near her house, and she decides she’s going to find out who did it. Her family obviously doesn’t like it, but Grandma Bertha won’t give up, as she want to prove that being old does not mean being useless.

And she’s going to continue proving that in future instalments of the series, that will continue later this year with a second volume.


Author of all trades, Matt Ferraz has written thrillers, sci-fi, cozy mysteries and a lot of witty e-mails that sadly can’t be published. With a degree in journalism and a masters in biography, Matt has works published in English, Italian and Portuguese, and loves trying out new genres.

Richard Montanari: The Killing Room Sunday, May 21 2017 

This was the first of the long-running Byrne and Balzao novel’s that Auntie M has had the pleasure to read, but it certainly won’t the last. She loves when she finds a new series to dig into, and she will now go back and read what leads up to the action in Richard Montanari’s newest, The Killing Room.

Set in Philadelphia neighborhoods, from its highest to its lowest, an abandoned church becomes the setting for the team’s latest murder. Despite its brutality, neither detective is prepared when a second body and then a third is found, also in deconsecrated churches, all in different methods of horrific brutality causing the death of the victim.

For the seasoned detectives, the crimes are more than disturbing and hit them on a personal level in different ways. It only adds to Byrne’s stress that he’s taken on trying to be a kind of mentor to troubled young teen.

With an obvious killer seemingly ahead of them at each step, the two homicide detectives will need all of their smarts to outwit the chilling killer. The ties to the Church and theology are fascinating and an important clue will come to them from an unlikely source.

The interplay between senior partner Kevin Byrne, living alone with his daughter at college, and the younger Jessica Balzano, married to a detective and with a young family at home, is a highlight of the series where two professionals who have each other’s back can exist in well-practiced teamwork that allows them to mine each other’s strengths.

Readers who haven’t discovered this series, like Auntie M, will find themselves hunting for the previous novels on the strength of this absorbing story.

Julia Dahl: Conviction Wednesday, May 17 2017 

Megan Abbott calls Julia Dahl’s third Rebekah Roberts novel “. . . a thrilling, utterly absorbing crime novel” with good reason.

The young intrepid journalist becomes intrigued when a prisoner in jail for over two decades sends a letter: “I didn’t do it.”

With her job at the tabloid newspaper frustrating her, especially after she’s been passed over for a well-deserved promotion, Rebekah starts to investigate DeShawn Perkins’ claim that he did not kill the foster parents who had taken him in, nor his little foster sister.

What she finds will stand his conviction on its ear as an eyewitness changes her testimony–but will the woman have the courage to admit this in court? Her digging also brings her into conflict with her newly discovered mother and the cop who has been on her side in previous investigations in the Hasidic community.

While part of the history leading up to the Crown Heights riots and this particular murder are told from the viewpoint back in the early 90’s, the chapters in current time as Rebekah investigates will bring her face to face with a difficult decision of her own: who does she owe allegiance to–the people she loves, or the truth?

With a fine eye for reality, Dahl brings another story with layers and layers of humanity in it to light. Highly recommended.


Lisa Scottoline: One Perfect Lie Sunday, May 14 2017 

Lisa Scootline’s thrillers are classics of the genre, and she returns with One Perfect Lie, where things are not as they seem from the outset.

Chris Brennan is the perfect teacher to step into the role of teaching government in the high school, as well as coaching assistant for the small town of Central Valley, PA. It is to Scottoline’s credit that the real purpose of his application is hidden from readers at first, as everything he’s told his new principal is a lie.

And lying is what Chris is particularly good at.

Small town life springs alive as we meet three very different families and the secrets they hide. Chris has a hidden agenda, and his classes and his coaching are set up to allow him to find which young student he can bring on side–but to what purpose? What is the dark reason behind his actions that drives him, and how will that affect these three young men, and the entire town?

The baseball team is important to this community and to these three families in particular. There’s the surgeon’s wife whose spoiled son drives a BMW to school while she indulges in too many G&Ts; the new widow whose talented pitcher son needs the scholarship he’s after, just as he searches for a new father figure; and the single mom whose shy son, also talented, may allow him to be easily influenced by darker forces. Which one is most at risk? And from whom?

The pace keeps ratcheting up as the book progresses, until there’s an almost cinematic climax, worthy of the big screen and an action movie. But there’s also heart and emotion that allows readers inside the lives and minds of the characters, and that’s a winning combination, even as the anticipation escalates. A fast-paced, satisfying read.

Peggy O’Neal Peden: Your Killin’ Heart Wednesday, May 10 2017 

Peggy O’Neal Peden won the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel with Your Killin’ Heart.

The debut of this new series is set in Nashville where Peden has lived for most of her life, and she captures the feel of the place from the point of view of Campbell Hale, a travel agent with her place in the Hillsboro Village area near Music Row and Vanderbilt U.

She’s become friends with Doug Elliot, and pushes her way into joining him to visit the home of dead country icon Jake Miller, one of her father’s favorite musicians.

It’s only later when she hears of the death of Hazel Miller that Campbell realizes the widow she saw taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom she just had to check out might already have been dead. It seems Campbell is just a wee bit nosy at the best of times, and she doesn’t hesitate to start to ask questions.

As the bodies start to pile up, and a painting becomes a focal point,a lanky detective seems to take more than a casual interest in Campbell. She will fine her tendency to sleuth is perhaps not always in her own best interests.

A refreshing setting for a new cozy series.

William Christie: A Single Spy Sunday, May 7 2017 

William Christie’s newest thriller will be a hit with readers who enjoy spy novels, espionage plots, or are World War II aficionados. A Single Spy brings to life a young thief who catches the eye of the Soviet secret police, and is given a no-choice ultimatum: he can choose to be trained as a spy and infiltrate Nazi Germany under the identity of his best friend, no less, or he can be consigned to be lost forever.

What makes it even tougher is that Alexsi’s new identity is also the lost nephew of a Nazi leader, making it even harder as he assumes the mantel of this young man and pretends to be enamored of the Nazi ethos.

When Alexsi is promoted to an intelligence agent for a German spymaster, he lives to avoid the Gestapo finding out he’s sending reports back to the Soviets. Talk about being trapped between two bad choices. Yet Alexsi knows he must remain loyal to neither Stalin nor Hitler, but to one person: himself–if he is to survive.

Filled to the brim with accurate history, the Tehran conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin becomes the focal point for Alexsi in this fascinating novel that takes readers behind the scenes of what really happened during this period.

In Alexsi, Christie has the smarts to create a man readers can’t help but admire as he fights to survive on his wits. There’s something here for everyone, from action scenes to the history to the charming Aleksi, as Christie brings this period in our history to life.

Spring Cozies: Chapman, Cooper, Shea and Harris Sunday, Apr 30 2017 

Julia Chapman debuts a new cozy series with tons of charm, sure to please readers, set amongst the Yorkshire Dales. Date with Death introduces Delilah Metcalfe and her seeming nemesis, Samson O’Brien.

It’s been a rough two years for Delilah, dealing with two deaths: one of her brothers was killed in the service, and there’s the disappointment of her marriage ending in divorce. Determined to keep her IT and Dating Agency businesses afloat, she’s teetering on the edge of financial ruin.

So she has little choice but to allow a new renter to use the ground floor of her Dales Dating Agency building–until she finds out her tenant is none other than Samson, returned to his hometown in disgrace after leaving suddenly fourteen years before. He didn’t make it home for her brother’s funeral, despite being Best Man at his wedding and godfather to his now-teenaged son. Locals aren’t happy Samson has returned, either, especially one of Delilah’s brothers, Will.

There’s a whole cast of characters to fill the dales, and while the names may take some getting used to, soon they all make sense and readers will be able to follow when the mother of a young man who committed suicide hires Samson, on leave from the police and working as a private detective, to find out the real reason behind his death. She’s convinced her son wouldn’t have committed suicide.

Delilah wants nothing to do with Samson, but finds herself working in concert with him when it becomes apparent someone is killing men who sign up for her Speed Dating nights. She will use her computer skills to find the pattern, and then enlists Samson to help her investigate to find the perpetrator.

There are family squabbles, fell running, Samson’s alcoholic father, now sober and living in a retirement home, and twists and turns to keep both Samson and Delilah in danger. And don’t forget Delilah’s pup, Tolpuddle, her companion who just may have his own role to play.

Samson carries his own secrets from his past undercover work, and to Chapman’s credit, these are not all revealed in this volume, giving her an ample storyline for the next installment. A winning debut.

The second in Marla Cooper’s series gives readers an eye into the job of a wedding planner. This time Kelsey McKenna has a destination wedding in wine country on tap in Dying on the Vine.

The Napa Valley setting on the Higgins Estate is lovely, but this event has already been planned by Babs Norton, who would have people believe is the Queen of Wine Country Weddings–until the bride’s father fired her.

Enter Kelsey, newly hired, who feels the need to clear the air between her and Babs. Sounds like the right thing to do, but unfortunately Kelsey finds Babs dead in her office and the finger of suspicion pointing right at her.

It doesn’t help when Babs’ assistant cancels the contracts for the vendors, sending Kelsey and bride Haley Bennet into a tailspin. She’ll rely on her photographer friend Brody and assistant Laural to salvage the day, while she tracks down a murderer to clear her name–and keep the wedding on track.

There’s humor, murder and even a bit of romance in this charming sequel.

Susan Shea leaves her Dani O’Rourke mystery series to inaugurate a second series set in the French countryside in Love and Death in Burgundy

American ex-pat Katherine Goff wanted to be accepted by her Burgundy neighbors, but after three years it’s still dicey going in the small village of Reigny-sur-Canne.

Then an elderly inhabitant is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Was this a tragic accident or a case of murder? Tongues start wagging in the town, and Katherine soon finds herself caught up in their secrets.

Filled with French food and wine, Katherine lives amongst a cast of eccentrics, trying to solve a murder. Think of a young Miss Marple sent to the French countryside, and you’ll delight in this new series.

Sherry Harris has a winning series with her Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries. Her first, Tagged for Death, was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel.

Sarah, with her fluffernutter sandwiches, is an engaging protagonist.
She returns in the fourth in the series, A Good Day to Buy, with Sarah’s estranged brother showing up unexpectedly after years apart.

Sworn to silence on his appearance, Luke especially means that to include Sarah’s ex, the chief of police. To his chagrin, CJ and Sarah are having something of a reconciliation, which means the chief is often at her apartment in a lovely old house.

It puts Sarah in an awkward position, to say the least, coming on the heels of her most recent garage sale, where the bodies of her clients, the Spencers, were discovered during the sale, hidden behind sheets Sarah hung to keep their private area off limits. The Vietnam vet is dead, and his wife critically injured.

But what’s the connection to Luke? Before Sarah can pin him down, he’s disappeared again. Is he really doing investigative journalism work?

The tenor of small town New England, coupled with the life of veterans and the work Sarah does in their thrift shop bring an added dimension to the compelling plot. Just when readers will think they have it figured out, think again.

Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop Mysteries debuted with The Cracked Spine last year and introduced Kansas native Delaney Nichols, who’s moved to Edinburgh to find adventure, working in a bookshop filled with characters who keep secrets as rare as the manuscripts they sell.

The sequel is Of Books and Bagpipes, and it continues Delaney’s efforts to get to know her coworkers and her job. With her landlord, taxi drive Elias and his wife Aggie adopting her and keeping an eye out for her safety, it’s Elias who drives Delaney to Castle Doune on an errand for her boss. Edwin has sent her to retrieve and annual of the Scottish comic, “Oor Wullie.”

Only the castle appears deserted, and when Elias and Delaney have a look around the ramparts up top, they find the body of the young man they were sent to meet, a William Wallace re-enactor.

Calling the police, Delaney discovers the book she was sent to find fluttering around a side wall, and she impulsively hides it under her jacket. Edwin’s secrets revolve around a long-dead friend, and the complications that ensure from a long-ago buried secret.

But there will be more deaths, and it will take all of Delaney’s investigative skills, and a bit of help from the voices of books that reach out to her, to find the killer.

A sequel rich in Scottish dialect and customs, with a hint of romance and a decades-old mystery to unravel.

Stephen Booth: Secrets of Death Sunday, Apr 23 2017 

It might be tough for some authors to keep coming up with an original story when they approach writing their 16th installment in a series. But Stephen Booth manages to keep reader’s attention with his creative plot in his newest Cooper and Fry mystery, Secrets of Death.

With Diane Fry in Nottingham, re-evaluating her relationship with her sister and working on a triple homicide, Ben Cooper as DI in Derbyshire’s E Division keeps trying to get back out on the streets he loves. In his new cottage, hoping to start afresh, he’s looking for a pattern in a spate of recent suicides in the Peak District, just in time for tourist season.

With no way to predict where the next body will be found, it’s an unlucky task before Ben and his team, who will find a surprising new member before the case is solved.

Then he finds a clue, a black business card from “Secrets of Death,” and realizes someone is encouraging depressed people to commit suicide right in his backyard. It gets personal when a body is found on his home farm, upping the urgency.

The landscape of the area is lovingly defined as the bodies continue to mount, and when it seems Fry’s case might be connected to Ben’s after all, and the two are forced to work together once again.

A highly satisfying entry in this series.

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