MC Beaton: Beating About the Bush Sunday, Jan 12 2020 

MC Beaton brings Agatha Raisin back for a new adventure in Beating About the Bush.

The private detective’s newest case concerns an elderly woman whose body–or parts of–are found in the shrubbery on the road out of town.

Soon Agatha and her accomplice, Toni, are involved in a case of espionage at a factory. And did Auntie M mention there’s a donkey involved? And Russians?

There’s also Sir Charles Fraith back on the scene, complicating Agatha’s heartstrings.

In her 30th outing, Agatha’s irascible personality veers from harsh to witty to charming. Fans will not be disappointed, and the general consensus is that the books far outweighs the charms of the television series.

Johana Gustawsson: Blood Song Wednesday, Jan 8 2020 


Gustawsson’s third in her award-winning Roy and Castells series, Blood Song, ties in events of the heinous acts during the brutal dictatorship of Franco’s regime with a series of murders in Falkenberg, Sweden, during contemporary times.

If this seems an unlikely connection, it will be clarified as readers become involved with Scotland Yard’s newest profiler. Alienor Lindbergh’s family have died under especially horrific circumstances, murdered in the wealthy family’s Swedish home.

With her profiler mentor, Canadian Emily Roy, accompanying Alienor home for the investigation, and French true-crime writer Alexis Castells involved, the unlikely trio will soon find that there is a tie to fertility clinics as well as to the sad and terrifying brutality of the orphanages of Franco’s Spain.

As the body count continues to rise, the women use the Swedish police resources as well as their own knowledge to figure out what’s been happening. There will be side trips and tough interviews as the darkness that happened decades ago deeply shadows modern times.

Gustawsson’s Authors Note bears reading first to ground the reader in the research and reasoning in connecting the two time periods. It’s a dark and unpredictable story, with an ending that is extraordinary.

Michael J. Malone: In the Absence of Miracles Saturday, Jan 4 2020 

Michael J. Malone’s haunting thriller, In the Absence of Miracles, has the distinction of garnering Auntie M’s first “Highly Recommended” rating of the New Year, thanks to @orendabooks.

The novel brings John Doherty to the page, a teacher whose mother is recovering from a massive stroke that will leave her in a facility. With his job and relationships in turmoil, John’s younger brother arrives to help with the selling of the family home.

It’s while John roots through stored items in the attic that he comes across a photo of himself as a toddler being held by an older brother he never knew existed. Setting out to find the truth behind that photo, along with other scarce evidence he uncovers, John plays detective-of-sorts, investigating the knowledge both of his parents hid from their other two sons, even while he discounts memories he might have buried.

John’s younger brother finally comes on board to help in the search once it becomes clear there was indeed an older brother neither boy knew about. But things continue to twist as the plot becomes as complicated as John himself.

Are there other secrets to uncover? What about the memories John can’t recall? Whose truth and memories are the right ones? How did growing up in this particular home affect these three young men and their choices?

Ian Rankin calls this novel “Vivid, visceral and compulsive” with good reason. Readers may be shocked by one particular twist, but Malone manages to capably illustrate what happens in a family where secrets are kept and hidden, and the long-term repercussions of growing up in such a home.

There’s heartbreak here, but also redemption for some characters. Malone has a gift for perceiving facets of human nature as he combines the inexplicable with a degree of sensitivity that brings a simple beauty out of tragedy. Not to be missed.

Happy New Year: My Highly Recommended of 2019 Wednesday, Jan 1 2020 

Happy New year to all the readers of the Auntie M Writes Crime blog! This year Auntie M is stepping out from behind the personality of Auntie M to myself, Marni Graff, writer and mystery author of two series. I wish you all a healthy and happy 2020!

Over the past year, it has been my distinct honor to review 148 books on the blog. This doesn’t include the occasional guest I give a slot to, because the writing community is one of the most generous and giving I’ve been a part of, and it is my pleasure to share in that.

It’s also the time of year when I want to thank my followers of the blog, and hope you will continue reading into 2020.

I read about 3 books a week in all kinds of places and always carry a book with me wherever I go. This year there were only 3 books I didn’t review as they were not for me–hey, it happens.

But of those 148 I’ve shared, 37 of them received my “Highly Recommended” rating. That’s about a quarter of the many books to receive HR, so you can see that a book knocks my socks off to receive that rating.

So here they are, in the order they were reviewed. Clumps of HRs reflect publishing cycles and my time to read, nothing more. If an author or title strikes your fancy and you missed the original review, all reviews are archived by month:

Jan: Louisa Luna/Two Girls Down
Fiona Barton/The Suspect
Christian White/The Nowhere Child

Feb: CJ Tudor/The Hiding Place
Ausma Zehanat Khan/Deadly Divide
Peter Robinson/Careless Love

Mar: James Oswald/No Time To Cry

Apr: Lexie Elliot/The Missing Years

May: Nicola Upson/Stanley and Elsie
Elly Griffiths/The Stone Circle
Mandy Morton/Beyond the Gravy
Roz Watkins/The Devil’s Dice & Dead Man’s Daughter
Susan Hill/The Comforts of Home
Aline Templeton/Carrion Comfort
Sophie Hannah/The Mystery of 3 Quarters

June: Ashley Dyer/The Cutting Room

July: Natalie Daniels/Too Close

Aug: Anthony Horowitz/The Sentence is Death
Jane Casey/Cruel Acts
Alex Michaelides/The Silent Patient
Louise Penny/A Better Man
Kate Rhodes/Fatal Harmony & Ruin Beach

Sept: Ann Cleeves/The Long Call
James Oswald/Nothing to Hide

Oct: Nicola Upson/Sorry for the Dead
Laura McHugh/The Wolf Wants In
Kate Atkinson/Big Sky

Nov: GR Halliday/From the Shadows
Paula Munier/Blind Search
Alex North/The Whisper Man

Dec: Stuart MacBride/All That’s Dead
Stuart Neville/So Say the Fallen & Those We Left Behind
Vanda Simon/The Ringmaster

Now get reading!

Deborah Crombie: A Bitter Feast Sunday, Dec 29 2019 

Crombie brings her married detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, outside their home turf in A Bitter Feast.

The Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent and his Inspector wife are having a lovely weekend with their three children in the Cotswolds’ Glouchestershire valley, courtesy of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s sergeant.

Melody’s palatial family home, Beck House, befits the publisher of one of London’s largest newspapers. A charity harvest luncheon will take place this weekend, catered by local chef Viv Holland, once at a Michelin-starred restaurant, now running a local pub.

But a car accident coupled with several resultant murders have a deep impact on the gathering, and lead Duncan and Gemma to lead the sleuthing, helping the locals. It’s soon apparent that there’s a strong connection to Viv’s pub, and the weekend gets getting extended as the couple, along with members of their team, try to figure out who’s doing the killing, and why.

One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s series is how deeply she researches the neighborhoods of her mysteries, and the rolling hills and golden stone homes are a delight. Vintage Crombie.

Elly Griffiths: Now You See Them Wednesday, Dec 25 2019 

Merry Christmas! And to celebrate, here’s a gift for you, a great read from Elly Griffiths:

Elly Griffiths’ Brighton series takes a leap eleven years after The Vanishing Box to 1964 in New You See Them. The swinging 60s bring readers into time of mods, rockers, and a changing culture.

An awful lot has changed in the intervening years. Edgar Stephens is now the police Superintendent, married to Emma Holmes, with three young children. His former sergeant finds being sidelined after marriage an uncomfortable place to be, even though she loves her children and husband.

Edgar’s Army pal, magician Max Mephisto, has gone Hollywood, marrying a star, with two young children of his own, after starring in a movie. His talented daughter, Ruby, took television by storm, and stars in her own British series.

They reunite in Brighton for the funeral of their mutual old friend when Edgar’s new case puts out fingers that have them all involved. A young girl from the tony girl’s school, Roedean, has gone missing. Has she really left to go to London, as evidenced by the note she left behind?

Then the connection is made between two other missing woman, all who left notes behind, and some of the Roedean girl’s clothing is found in a most unexpected place.

Exploring the dark side of Brighton in this strange new world, with change all around them, soon has each main character questioning her or her choices, as the race heats up to find the missing young women.

The period details and Griffiths’s wit add to the crackling mystery. Here she brings out Emma Holmes’ character: “Reading Film Frolics was one of Emma’s weaknesses; her photographic memory was one of her strengths.”

A highly delightful read with deeper layers to the characters than at first glance. @ellygriffiths

Vanda Symon: The Ringmaster Tuesday, Dec 24 2019 

After introducing Sam Shepherd in Overkill, the newly-minted New Zealand detective returns in The Ringmaster.

With a move to the university town of Dunedin, rooming at the home of her best friend’s aunt and uncle, Sam is a lowly detective constable with an unerring sense of human nature.

Sam clashes with her boss, who keeps her under his thumb, yet is forced to include her on the fringes of an investigation into the murder of a university researcher. The young woman’s work was the envy of her doctoral colleagues, yet Sam suspects the motive to be far more personal.

With a local circus in town, Sam connects several unsolved murders to dates of visits by this traveling circus, and soon the interviews are interminable. This is where Symon shines, as she manages to bring humanity to the various workers, and even the animals. There will be more tragedy, some that impacts Sam personally, before the stunning and unforeseen climax.

Symon brings the New Zealand setting wrapped into the story so well its stark beauty becomes another character with her vivid imagery. The series will make you want to visit the area.

But the story belongs to Sam, feeling her way in what is still very much a man’s police world here. Her wit and foibles make her a very likable and identifiable young woman, one readers will have no difficulty following.

Look for book 3 in the series, Containment, in the US in early 2020. Highly recommended. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon.

Karen Odden: A Trace of Deceit Sunday, Dec 22 2019 

Karen Odden returns with the next in her Victorian mysteries with A Trace of Deceit.

With its strong setting and hint of romance, there’s something for every reader as Odden introduces Annabel Rowe, one of the first female art students at the Slade School in London.

Despite the difficult relationship she had with her only brother, a talented artist, she’s determined to find who murdered the young man when she finds Scotland Yard’s Matthew Hallam searching his flat. The inspector soon comes to find Annabel’s knowledge of the art world helpful in his investigation, and the two team forces to flush out a killer.

With his checkered past, Edwin Rowe was restoring a painting for an auction house but it’s been stolen from its frame. Did Edwin surprise thieves, and was stabbed trying to prevent their theft? Or had his past caught up with him?

Things become more involved when it’s learned the painting’s owner had claimed insurance after it had supposedly been lost in a warehouse fire.

Odden uses her own knowledge of work at Christie’s, along with extensive research, to bring this period to life as the unlikely duo delve into corruption and politics of the art world.

Ruth Ware: The Death of Mrs. Westaway Wednesday, Dec 18 2019 

Auntie M missed Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and decided to make up for it now–and was happy she did. An homage to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and reminiscent of the more contemporary Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries, Ware’s brings that same gothic feel to her story.

Hal Westaway is doing here best to survive in Brighton after being orphaned suddenly a few years earlier. With her mother gone, she’s taken over her booth on Brighton’s West Pier, where she tells fortunes and reads tarot cards.

But she’s deeply in debt and worried about her future when a letter arrives that tells her she’s in line for part of an inheritance from her grandmother and she should prepare to travel to Cornwall for the woman’s funeral and reading of the will.

This could be the answer to Hal’s financial issues, except for one thing: she’s certain she’s not the Harriet Westaway the letter refers to, as her own grandparents are long dead.

Circumstances make Hal decide to brazen it out; she travels to the funeral and meets the enigmatic Westaway family, a collection of three brothers, a sister-in-law, two rowdy teens, and in the role of Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper Mrs. Warren.

As Hal learns to read the family, her forte, and learns of their differing relationships, she is shocked when the reading of the will leads to even more complications. And that’s where the real mystery begins.

Readers will become caught up in a clever and suspenseful tale that tracks back on itself as the eerie setting adds to the increasingly tense situation Hal finds herself in. A satisfying and surprising read.

Stuart Neville: Those We Left Behind & So Say The Fallen Sunday, Dec 15 2019 

Stuart Neville’s 5th and 6th Belfast novels center around DCI Serena Flanagan. In Those We Left Behind, Flanagan flashes back to an old case years earlier, a bloody massacre that left a foster father dead and the younger of two brothers the family had taken in confessing to the killing.

Now this younger brother, Ciaran Devine, is out of prison, and back in her radar. With his older brother, Thomas, out for a year already and working in a kitchen, Flanagan knows the brothers have kept a secret for all of their time in prison.

There’s an almost unnatural attachment between the brothers, one that leads to renewed violence. Ciaran’s probation officer is a young woman with good instincts, and she brings her fears to Flanagan’s attention, just as a series of brutal attacks start.

How culpable is Ciaran? Who is committing these crimes and can they be traced to the brothers? It’s a tough situation, especially when these brothers cost Flanagan time away from her own family and impact her strained marriage.

When the fear enters her own home, Flanagan will do anything to protect those she loves. Compelling and creepy.

In So Say The Fallen, Flanagan is trying to salvage her marriage and her family when she’s called to the site of an apparent suicide. The loss of his legs and extensive burns suffered in a traffic accident have left Harry Carrick, owner of a car dealership empire, at the mercy and care of his wife. It’s not a surprise when he decides to take an overdose of his pain medicine.

But two things are at odds to Flanagan: the man’s apparent strong faith, and the family photos arranged on his night stand that are turned away from his view. It’s enough for her to question his widow, Roberta, already suffering the loss of the couple’s only child a few year’s earlier in a tragic drowning accident. Not everyone appreciates Flanagan’s viewpoint.

Roberta’s stalwart friend and defender is the Reverend McKay, a man who’s own faith has been under examination. With Flanagan’s suspicions aroused, she decides to pursue an investigation to assure that Harry Carrick really did take his own life. Her tenacity is one of her strongest characteristics, as is her determination to get to the truth.

A spooling out of the plot leads to a climax with a depth of betrayal by one of the characters that leads Flanagan to question everything she understands about relationships.

Both books are well-plotted and smack of the weary realism of real investigative work, while expounding the life force such a job takes, and how it impacts the detective’s family. These are terrific police procedurals that will please any reader. Neville gets inside his character’s heads with a mix of deep chill and at times great compassion. Highly recommended.

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Lee Lofland

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Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

An online writing community

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews