Two thrillers: Ryan and Margolin Friday, Mar 15 2019 

Auntie M’s been down with strep throat but starting to rally. Here are the other two thrillers for your reading pleasure:

Chris Ryan’s action-packed Red Strike brings readers his fourth installment with Porter and Bald, the wise-cracking unlikely duo.

With Ryan’s own SAS time bringing terrific realism to the page, this timely plot swims along with his insider knowledge as the two try to comlete thier mission, bringing down a suspected russian agent before a secret meeting.

How their mission runs connects with that of a Russian agent who defected to the UK is only part of the tense action. Nilolai Volkov has been poisoned but the assassination was botched and he’s on the run after being kdnapped from a safe house by the Russians.

Personal motives sometimes interfere but help spur the two heroes on as the pace rises higher and higher. This is the kind of action perfect for the cinema, especially with the ending that will leave readers gaping.

Phillip Margolin’s legal thrillers return with The Perfect Alibi, a nicely twisted plot that will captivate readers.

This is a twisted tale of a rapist, possibly wrongly convicted, and a murder conviction that young lawyer Robin Lockwood is convinced should be dismissed as self defense.

This is the second book featuring Lockwood, a former MMA fighter who’s a good investigator, too. Burdened with the heaviness of both of these cases, she manages to somehow navigate a sea of lawyers, rapes, threats, lies, and murder–– and then some. There will be legal dilemnas, twists and turns, and one feisty gal at the heart of it all.

This is an intricate plot with lots of characters, but it all comes together to a satisfying conclusion with Lockwood at its core.

Thomas Enger: Inborn Tuesday, Mar 12 2019 

Thomas Enger’s Inborn is a subtley-wrought thriller that centers on one young man and his first taste of love.

Seventeen-year-old Even is in love with Mari Lindgren. When her body is found at their school’s music room, along that of another teen, Johannes Eklund, in the stairwell, he’s a natural suspect.

Mari had just broken off their budding relationship without giving Even a reason. Johannes’s death, despite being killed with a different method, is tied to hers. Gossip is rampant and far-reaching; soon social media is ablaze with accusations against Even.

With the action alternating between Even giving testimony and his thoughts going back over his actions leading up to this time, he soon realizes there is more at simmering beneath the surface.

A decade ago Even’s father was killed in a car accident that injured his mother, who survived. Even and his brother live with their mother in the house inherited from his grandmother. With his mother frequently absent at her lover’s home, Even keeps an eye on his reclusive, gamer brother, Tobias. An uncle, Imo, is helpful to the boys and involved in their lives.

So where did it all go wrong and who is keeping secrets in this small town? Was it Mari or is it Even or someone else? And then a third death occurs and the tension, already high, escalates.

With surprising twists and an ending readers won’t see coming, this is a chilling thriller from the Norwegian author that Auntie M read in one day.

Deanna Raybourn: A Dangerous Collaboration Tuesday, Mar 12 2019 

Deanna Raybourn continues her Veronice Speedwell series with the compelling entry A Dangerous Collaboration.

The fourth in the Victorian-era mysteries to follow the intrepid lepidopterist, Veronica and her colleague Stoker, the adventurous brother of a titled Lord. When said brother, Tiberius, asks Veronica to accompany him to a house party thrown by his oldest friend in Cornwall, Veronica readily accepts with the promise of a rare species of butterfly to add to her vivarium. She’s turned her attention to preserving the species instead of pinning them.

That she must pretend to be Tiberius’s fiancee` for the Catholic Lord Malcolm Romilly doesn’t bother the broad-minded and modern Veronica, until Stoker shows up and she finds her self juggling the brothers and their egos.

It soon becomes clear that under the guise of a house party, Lord Romilly has assembled several of his extended family who were present on his wedding day when his bride disappeared, wedding dress and all. Locals on the remote Cornwall island are only too happy to invoke the piskies and other spirits that might have taken the lovely Rosamund away, but Veronica knows the woman’s disappearance has a more human culprit.

It’s not quite the party Veronica had imagined, but the island is ruggedly beautiful and the locals gossip easily, twigging her sleuthing antenna. Soon she enlists Stoker’s help. Before it’s over, there will be deeply-held secrets revealed that affect them all, as well as seances destined to bring out the spirit of the presumed-dead Rosamund.

With a nicely twisted plot and more than a touch of romance, the era’s details are accurate and pleasing, as is Veronica’s independence. She’s an intelligent woman to admire, as well as a daunting sleuth.

Three Thrillers: Berry, Margolin,Ryan Sunday, Mar 10 2019 

For your reading pleasure this March, as the rains come and the winds blow: three thrillers certain to keep your mind off the weather! Watch this spot for Margolin and Ryan later this week!

Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thriller, The Malta Exchange, has been compared to Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with its ties to the Vatican, but it has a more complex plot that will capture your attention.

Malone sure does get around, and readers have to hope Berry and his wife, who are co-founders of History Matters, a non-profit that preserves historic sites, manage to get in some travel to the places Malone does when Berry is doing research for a new novel.

In Italy on Lake Como, Malone is trying to track letters between Churchill and Mussolini. Having disappeared in 1945, these could literally change our experience of the history of that time. But as if that alone is not enough of a storyline, of course Malone is not the only one who’s on their trail.

This is all happening at the same time a conclave is in progress to elect a new pope. Kastor Cardinal Gallo, however, is off looking for a document in Malta that stretches back to the 4th Century, but are his motives pure?

The two trails will soon merge. Readers will learn the older history of the Catholic Church as well as the more recent the role of the popes during the rise of Fascism and Mussolini in Italy. The Knights of Malta play an important role and readers learn their history (they exist to this day), as one of the smallest sovereign nations in the world. All the settings are well described, readers will feel they have been there, without it ever coming across as a travelogue.

Because the story starts a day before the Conclave is about to begin, that time constraint adds to the fast pacing. There are older characters readers know, like Stephanie and Luke, but also new ones, including twin brothers. Sure to delight readers new to the series and repeaters.

Elly Griffiths: The Stranger Diaries Tuesday, Mar 5 2019 

Fans of Elly Griffiths will be delighted to read The Stranger Diaries, the stand-alone that’s an homage to gothic literature of the highest quality.

At once atmospheric and stylish, this is a mystery chock full of literary gems, a very modern mystery with echoes of the past. Clare Cassidy is a literature teacher that her daughter attends, where she teaches a class on Gothic writer RM Holland, whose papers and library are at the school, a gothic marvel of its own.

When one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from relating to an RM Holland story by her body, detectives feel Holland’s works somehow hold the key to the case. Fearful the killer is someone she knows, Clare writes about her terror and suspicions in her journal, as is her routine, until the day she sees new writing in the diary in a different hand from hers. A second point of view is that of Clare’s daughter, Georgia, at once the quintessential teen, embarassed by her mother, but hiding her own secrets.

Both of these are engaging points of view, especially as Clare has the propensity to be rather snarky at times in a delightful way, as when directed toward her ex-husband, whom we loathe and pity at the same time. It keeps her very real.

And the there’s the third point of view. The investigating detective, DS Harbinder Kaur, is one early readers have been clamoring to see more of, and we can only hope that Griffiths will allows us that hope and bring her back in another book. At once highly original, Harbinder and her unlikely background make her an instant character who could support a series of her own, if Griffiths, already writing two popular series (The Ruth Galloway and the Magic Men mysteries) has that inclination.

Holland, the subject of a book Clare keeps intending to write, and his gothic story, “The Stranger,” become part of the plot and bring Clare into the sights of Harbinder. Notice Auntie M keeps calling these characters by their first names, as that is the level of identification readers will have for them.

As the bodies start to pile up, any preconceived notions we have about all of the characters seem to slip away and the suspense becomes tighter and tighter. This is an accomplished storyteller, a lover of literature, at the top of her game. Not to be missed. Highly recommended.

Charles Cumming: The Moroccan Girl Saturday, Mar 2 2019 

What happens when an author is asked by MI6 to carry out a mission while at a Morocco literary conference?

That’s the premise behind Charles Cumming’s The Moroccan Girl, a neat twist on the spy genre.

Getting funds to someone and keeping and eye open for Lara Bartok sounds like a fairly simple mission to Kit, who likes the cloak-and-dagger aspect of it all. He’s written thrillers for years, and here’s a chance to actually participate in what until now have been fictional adventures.

In Morocco, Kit finds Bartok, only to discover that she’s the former lover of Ivan Simakov, the leader of Resurrection, a terrorist group targeting right-wing journalists and politicians. After starting as a peaceful organization designed to fight opposing political views, Resurrection quickly turned violent, brutally killing when necessary to further their cause.The Russian and American governments are only two of the signficant parties after Ivan and his group.

Kit suddenly finds himself at the center of this international mess, perhaps with more heavy espionage and danger than he first thought. And the enigmatic Lara finds Kit whipping out his best spy cloak and dagger bits as the novice soon becomes determined to save her while he saves himself.

With locales as widespread as Gibraltar and England, the easy pacing early on in this novel takes off at warp speed once it heats up.

A departure from Cumming’s Alec Milius and Thomas Kell books, this one has the amateur spy giving the feel of Cary Grant in a romantic North by Northwest.

Richard Montanari: The Buried Girl Tuesday, Feb 26 2019 

Richard Montanari’s The Buried Girl will hook readers on page one and never let them go. The complicated story resonates long after the last page is turned.

Dr. William Hardy, forensic psychologist, teaches at NYU, consults on television crime shows, and is basking in his first book, revolving around psychopaths in certain movies.

When he agrees to see a troubled young man, he cannot anticipate how that encounter will change his entire world. Suddenly he finds himself without a wife, left with a fifteen-year old daughter who blames him for her mother’s death.

Then Will finds he’s inherited an old mansion that used to be run as a bed and breakfast in rural Ohio. Taking a reclusive Detta away from New York City and bringing her to this small town, he hopes to restart their lives and their relationship.

At the same time, Chief of Police Ivy Lee Holgrave of Abbeville, Ohio and a police family, goes about her day, helping her mother after surgery, taking down low-lifes she encounters. But Ivy hides a secret investigation she’s pursued for decades: her own missing sister, Delia, whom she believes to yet another victim of the unclosed cases of young women who’ve gone missing in her area over the years.

When Will and Detta move to Abbeville, the two adults must join forces to run to ground this murderer, not realizing that Detta is in his crosshairs and might be the key to everything.

This suspenseful thriller had moments of warm reflection, whether it was of the setting or the character’s inner thoughts. Readers will be caught up in the story of Will and Detta, and of Ivy. No wonder James Ellroy calls Montanari “a master storyteller.”

Mary Daheim: A Case of Bier Sunday, Feb 24 2019 

Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mysterys now number an astounding thirty-one with the publication of A Case of Bier!

The bed-and-breakfast Judith McMonigle Flynn runs with her husband, Joe has been turned over for the week to her neighbor so she and Joe can travel with her cousin Renie to the Canadian Rockies. Renie’s Bill and Joe have booked a nice fly-fishing jaunt their first weekend. It’s a trip they are all looking forward to, if they can get Renie awake and in the car.

Off they go, only to find their expected lovely stay has been booked in not quite the place they imagined. No matter. While the men rest, the ladies take a walk along the river.

They find members of the Stokes family camping out, waiting for the patriarch’s demise so he can have the sendoff he’d requested, at just this spot on the Bow River on a bier, borrowed from a local funeral home.

At their motel, the gals meet the Odells, other members of the Stokes family. It’s a weird gathering when on their walk the next morning, the campsite is filled with crying family members. Codger has died, it would seem.

But wait! He’s actually been murdered! Stabbed twice in the back while he slept. Who would have bothered to kill an old man waiting to die?

It’s too much for Judith to leave alone. And then it appears the dead man might not be Codger at all.

Another fun entry in this long-running cozy series, the quirky case is filled with wry humor and wit.

Sophie Hannah: The Next to Die Friday, Feb 22 2019 

The multi-faceted Sophie Hannah does it all: compelling stand-alones, resurrecting Hercule Poirot for Agatha Christie’s estate, and her Culver Valley police procedural series. But she doesn’t stop there–the hallmark of this series is that the protagonist of each book is a character involved in the action, not the detectives, centered on Simon Waterhouse and his wife, Charlie Zailer.

We learn of the continuing saga of the married duo as a secondary plot, insinuating itself into the main plot of the newest in the series, The Next to Die. And a strong feminist will muddy the waters by insisting the killer being sought is a misogynist pig, as three of the four victims are women. Could she be right?

There’s more than a bit of sly humor when your protagonist is a professional stand-up comedian. Kim Tribbeck has received a little white book, mostly blank, with a few lines of poetry inside. She’s tossed it away, but she does remember receiving it.

The importance of this becomes clear when a murderer takes to killing pairs of best friends, four in all over the last four months. In each case he’s given the victim one of these same hand-made books before killing them. Each contains a line of poetry. Each poet was a woman whose name started with an E. So where does that lead them?

Dubbed “Billy Dead Mates” by the police, the detectives have exhausted ways to link the victims. It becomes clear the case revolves around books, but in what way? And if these are truly killings of best friends, why was Kim Tribbeck given a copy and left to live? Could it be that the fact she hasn’t had a best friend in years have saved her life?

At once convoluted yet sharply intelligent, the plot wraps around itself until the superb mind of Simon Waterhouse allows him to see beyond the obvious and pull the case together.

There’s an almost gothic feel to the book, as the story unfolds by way of excerpts from a book Kim writes after the case is over, added to by conventional chapters of interviews and the thoughts of the various detectives on the team searching for this killer.

The characters are true to themselves, with distinctly-drawn personalities that show Hannah’s expertise at describing the psychology of different people with that wry edge that smacks of verisimilitude until they seem to leap off the page. The Independent has compared Hannah to Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendall with good reason.

Peter Robinson: Careless Love Wednesday, Feb 20 2019 

Peter Robinson’s 25th Inspector Banks novel, Careless Love, adds to his string of hits with a complex mystery at its heart.

When a young student’s body is found in a car on a lonely road, waiting to be towed, it first appears to be a suicide, but it soon becomes apparent the victim died elsewhere, raising questions about who else was involved.

At the same time, man in his sixties is found dead at the bottom of a gulley, his neck broken in a fall. Did he slip and fall, or was he pushed? Another suspicious death soon has Banks and his team sharing duties to figure out if these could possibly be connected, while waiting for forenscis tests.

And then a third victim is found, this one a clear murder, with ties to the first two victims, and the case heats up and extends.

The stakes get higher when an old foe of both Banks and his long-time patner, Annie Cabot, is found to be back in England. This side twist occupies both of their minds as the two head the team that will take them into the world of students and high finance to find what really happened to these victims.

Any fan of police procedurals will appreciate the solid police work amongst the Yorkshire setting. One of the delights of this series is the three-dimensional characters who populate it, and how readers see the threads of their investigations brought together to a rewarding conclusion.

Banks’s devotion to music has always been a hallmark of the series, and readers will learn about his preferences, from classical to 60s rock. Auntie M confesses to seeking out a classical violinist Banks recommended, and was thoroughly rewarded. The loner detective who yearns for companionship is never more attractive than here, seeking to understand poetry, playing his music to suit his moods, and figuring out the details of a complex murder investigation.

Highly recommended.

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