Elly Griffiths: Smoke and Mirrors; Magic Men #2 Sunday, Oct 16 2016 

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Readers most often connect author Elly Griffiths with her award-winning Ruth Galloway series, one of Auntie M’s favorites. But last year she introduced the Magic Men Mysteries, and she brings 1951 Brighton to life in the second in that series with Smoke and Mirrors.

DI Edgar Stephens and his old friend from the service, magician Max Mephisto, find themselves together again when two children’s bodies are found in frozen snow, arranged in an arresting image straight out of the fairy tales they’d been enacting.

Max is in town for the Christmas season, starring in Aladdin, but Edgar has his own case to worry about. Annie and Mark are the two missing children whose bodies are subsequently found after being strangled. With a trail of candy near them, the scene is eerily reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel.

Edgar’s investigation reveals that Annie was a precocious, if somewhat dark-natured, child, who wrote seemingly gruesome plays that her circle of friends acted out in the garage-stage of Brian Baxter, a retired man who immediately becomes a suspect. Max was her closest friend and confident, despite their age difference. Edgar will interview the children’s teachers and friends and their families to try to figure out why these two friends, who attended different schools, had to die.

Max has his own troubles. His cast is less than award-worthy, while his relationship with his landlady is heating up. Then, too, there are historical cases that bring some of his colleagues to Edgar’s attention. Unresolved between the two friends is the relationship of Ruby, Max’s daughter, who Edgar thinks is probably his girlfriend, but he hesitates to use that term. It’s a confusing and complex time in the city of the brightly lit pier.

Once again, Edgar will look to Max to sort his thoughts on the case and help him find the trail that leads to a murderer. Griffiths brings the chill of Brighton in December to life, as well as the backstage antics of the theatre, in a complex tale that frustrates Edgar the more he investigates. A delightful and solid entry in the series.

Continued Series Winners: James, Mays, Cleeves, Toyne, Rhodes, Billingham & Haddam Sunday, Oct 27 2013 

Auntie M is reading a ton of great series and wants to suggest you check out these continued winners.

dead man's time by peter james Peter James’ Roy Grace novels have captivated readers in the millions and he continues his powerful series with Dead Man’s Time. Set in Brighton, these police thrillers follow the Detective Superintendent and his relationship. The newest has the unusual premise of a prologue from 1922, when five-year-old Gavin Daly and his sister board a ship for Dublin after the death of their parents.

At the dock in New York, a messenger carries two things that will haunt Gavin for the rest of his life: his father’s pocket watch, and a paper with four names and eleven numbers written on it. Gavin pledges to find out the meaning of these things and spends a lifetime searching.

Fast forward to current time, and Grace is getting used to being a new father and the lack of sleep that brings. A string of burglaries have captured the attention of Brighton’s residents.

When an old woman is murdered and a huge cache of antiques she kept stolen, he is surprised when her family are only interested in one item: a vintage pocket watch. The victim’s brother is none other than an aged Gavin Daly, still on the hunt having amassed incredible wealth as the years have passed.

What Grace will find as he probes is a mixed bag of old revenge and new hatreds. He will become mired in the machinations of several trails, leading to the antiques world of Brighton, to Marbella and its crime world, and back in time to the crime families of New York.

And all the time he seeks to unravel this twisted scheme, a madman plots against his beloved Cleo and their infant son. A wonderful addition to the series, meticulously researched and intricately plotted.

Auntie M had the pleasure of meeting with Peter James this summer and found him warm and likeable, with a wicked sense of humor not unlike his protagonist.

 

Peter Mays’ Lewis trilogy captures the remoteness of the Outer Hebrides area and its stark beauty in his award-winning series that serves up the complexity of human relationships.

After the success of The Blackhouse, Mays second offering, lewisman300The Lewis Man, finds his protagonist, former DI Fin Macleod, bound by his past to help the family of islanders he is linked to by history and familial ties.

The father of his lover, Marsaili, has always maintained he was an only child, and enters a care home suffering from dementia when Marsaili’s mother has her fill of taking care of him.

Then a corpse is found in a peat bog, and far from being the historic body it is first thought, it is quickly ascertained that this body is far more recent–and is a DNA match to Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili’s father.

This winning novel shows the plot through Fin’s eyes and through the remembrances and clouded memory of Tormod, an interesting device that allows the story of Tormod’s upbringing to unfold, while explaining why he felt it necessary to claim he had no family at all. The climax will keep you reading well past lights out time to seek the improbable resolution to this complicated novel.

43627_TheLewisMan_TPB-Red.indd The Chessmen completes the trilogy. With his divorce final, Fin Macleod has moved back to Lewis and is working as a private investigator.

He is putting his life in Edinburgh and his police skills behind him. Or so he thinks.

He takes an assignment as head of security to track down poachers working a huge island estate, and finds himself reunited with old friends including Whistler Macaskill. Their history and that of their friends form the basis for the action that follows when a body is found in a crashed plane at the bottom of a loch.

May’s uses the device again of showing the past in episodes, this time through Fin’s remembrances. The 1919 tragedy of the Iolaire is recounted and haunts the action.

That loch discovery will change the very foundation upon which Macleod’s memories are built, for a secret being kept for decades by people Macleod thought he knew. At stake will be lives, his and others, and a girl who needs to be saved.

This gritty series has given readers surprising plot twists and brilliant characterizations throughout.

Readers can only hope May will take a page from Ann Cleeves, whose Shetland trilogy so thoroughly engaged readers that she decided to bring out a fourth volume.

 

Dead Water continues the story of Shetland Island detective inspector Jimmy Perez. Blue Lightning Spoiler alert: In a shocking twist in the third volume, Perez’s fiancee was murdered, Dead_Water_HB_fc_and the detective is still struggling with that loss as he shares custody of her daughter with the girl’s biological father.

Jerry Markham is a journalist from Shetland whose family run a pricey hotel and restaurant in the area. The young man had left the island for London and work on a bigger and more important paper.

He left in his wake a scandal involving a young woman he made pregnant, who has gone on to make a life for herself on the island and whose impending marriage to an older seaman nears.

Then Markham’s body is found in a boat right outside the home of the Procurator Fiscal, Rhona Laing, a contained woman with a tidy, bleak house, who outlet in a crew team marks an otherwise lonely existence, one she prefers on her road to political advancement.

With Perez on leave, a young DI from the Hebrides is called in to conduct the investigation. Willow Reeves represents an unusual character and she’s able to bring Perez into the case by using his local knowledge. She also gets him to start to look past his grief, as his detecting skills are brought into play.

The case seems to revolve around Sullum Voe, where Shetland’s oil and gas industry are centered, and the big story Markham was following that brought him home.

Then a second death occurs, muddying the waters, and Perez and Reeves will team up to unmask a killer. Readers will hope Cleeves, who also writes the wonderful Vera Stanhope series, will keep Perez afloat.

 

a-killing-of-angels-by-kate-rhodesKate Rhodes knocked our socks off with her first Alice Quentin novel, Crossbones Yard, a complex mystery whose shocking ending resounded with readers.

In this second installment, A Killing of Angels, the behavioral psychologist is back with a new case that finds her assisting the police again, despite her reservations after the nightmare of the first book.

Fiercely independent Alice is training for a marathon, despite London’s hottest summer on record. Her specialty in personality disorders makes her an expert at character analysis and an enormous help to the police.

The body in question was a suspected suicide, until a picture of an angel and a few white feathers are found stuffed into the victim’s pocket.

The killings continue and it’s obvious that the Square Mile and the banking world is the locus for the crimes. As Alice tries to help detective Don Burns with the case, she finds herself dragged deeper into the intrigue and the lives of the people involved.

Complicating matters are the journalists who keep the murders high profile, suggesting the killings are retribution for the banking world and its self-absorption.

Readers can’t help but be engaged with Alice and her complicated history, with Rhodes’ intricate plotting, and with her facility for choosing prose that matters, echoing her poetry background. This is a thumping good read.

 

Simon Toyne’s Ruin trilogy has captivated readers with the world he created in his series of a haunting conspiracy thrillers. Tower-2 p0_v2_s260x420Nonstop action and breakneck twists continue in The Tower.

Santus introduced readers to Liv Adamson and the prophecy that caused her brother’s death and changed her life.

The Key left Liv trapped in the Syrian Desert, with her erstwhile savior, ex-special forces Gabriel Mann, suffering from the deadly virus that originated in the Citadel, an ancient monastery at the center of the conspiracy.

Enter new FBI agent Joe Shepherd, at first glance an unlikely choice to work the case after a cyber-attack at the Goddard Space Center that disables the Hubbard telescope and the subsequent disappearance of the prize-winning scientist in charge, who has left behind a cryptic and chilling message.

But Shepherd’s background with degrees in astrophysics and computer science make him the perfect choice. Despite the secrets he is hiding, Shepherd’s investigation leads him to connect these new incidents with the explosion months ago at the Citadel and the viral outbreak that ensued.

Readers will be engrossed in Shepherd’s journey with the added pressure of the device ofa  countdown clock dogging his heels. Then unusual things start to happen around the globe, and it remains to be seen if humanity can be saved.

Things will come full circle, but what is that meaning of that phrase? It it the ending of everything known before, or an entire new beginning?

For the woman at the heart of it all, Liv and her destiny will change the way the world survives–if it can. This third novel successfully answers all the questions raised in the other two, while providing a meaning and reason for the episodes of the others.

Auntie M met with Simon Toyne this summer and his outrageous good looks and charm belie the complicated mind needed to create this new world and the roller-coaster ride his readers will find.

 

Hearts Sandp0_v2_s114x166 Jane Haddam’s Gregor Demarkain novels continue to entertain. In this 28th installment, Hearts of Sand takes the investigator to the old-monied town of Alwych, Connecticut.

Although Chapin Waring disappeared thirty years ago, the quarter of a million dollars she had with her from a series of bank robberies was never recovered. There have been no sightings of the woman and she’s rumored to be dead.

Then new rumors fill the town: that Chapin has been seen on the beach or in a store, and these prove true when her body is found in the family’s vacant home, a knife sticking out of her back.

As a retired profiler, Demarkian excels at reading people and this kind of situation is right up his alley. With the local police stumped, he’s asked to help them narrow their field of suspects, and there are far too many of them.

Research into Chapin’s life shows her to have been a manipulative girl within an inner circle, whose attraction to danger led to the bank robberies and a car crash that killed her accomplice. The remaining people of her inner circle are just as delectable suspects as are the victim’s own sisters. Haddam gets small town snobbery just right.

 

We’re back across the pond with Mark Billingham’s wonderful DI Tom Thorne series. Number eleven doesn’t disappoint: it’s vintage Thorne  The Dying Hoursat his crankiest and most recalcitrant in The Dying Hours.

Busted back to uniform after the horrific events in Good as Dead  and losing the title ‘detective’ while remaining an inspector hasn’t changed the way Thorne’s analytical mind works. Despite his demotion, and putting his budding relationship in jeopardy, Thorne’s instincts run true when he’s called to the scene of a suicide that doesn’t feel right to him.

Unable at first to pinpoint his unease, it soon becomes apparent, at least to Thorne, that a series of suicides of elderly people don’t ring true. One thing they all have in common is a lack of depression or sadness other suicides exhibit.

Try convincing the Murder Squad of that, though. The new head of the very team he once ran refuses to accept these might be the killings of a sick mind.

But any Thorne reader knows he will not take dismissal well, and he plunges into his own parallel investigation, calling on his former colleagues and few remaining friends to help out, despite that they must put their own careers on the line, and jeopardizing any sliver of career he might have left of his own.

This is vintage Thorne, from his predilection for country music to his doggedness once he becomes convinced he’s right.

Adding to the texture is Billingham’s ability to get inside the mind of the creepy villain, bent on revenge and justifying his horrific actions. By adding in the point of the view of the perpetrator, Billingham creates a wily adversary and gives readers a chilling glimpse inside the mind of a murderer.

 

Three Hot Summer Reads Sunday, Jun 23 2013 

not-dead-yetIn Not Dead Yet, the incomparable Peter James is back with Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who intends to spend the weekend with his pregnant partner, Chief Mortician Cleo Morey. Coping with preparation for a major trail looms for Grace, but the couple hope to steal some together before their infant is born.

That notion comes to an abrupt halt with the finding of a torso embedded in chicken excrement under the gridded steel floor at an East Sussex chicken farm. Other than some bits of clothing and a multitude of flies, the head and all four limbs are missing.

Grace’s team are stressed, too, between illness and divorce, and all take their toll on Grace’s worry, even as he waits for the papers to come through that will declare his wife, Sandy, legally dead, after her disappearance ten years ago.

All Grace needs now is the call he receives from the Chief Constable, and despite the cases he’s dealing with, he’s handed an unwelcome assignment: setting up a security strategy for rock singer and actress Gaia Lafayette.

Gaia is a Brighton native, arriving back home to star in an historical film about King George the Fourth and his mistress. Significant scenes will be filmed on location at Brighton’s jewel, The Royal Pavilion.

But threats against Gaia’s life follow her from California where an assistant has been murdered, and Grace is tasked with coordinating several teams to assure the star’s safety. The star arrives with her young son in tow and a multitude of Hollywood types whose mere presence adds to Grace’s stress and workload.

Add to these worries a Brighton villain Grace put away who has been released, and the maniac fans who follow Gaia around, and Grace’s pressure is rising. Then Cleo’s car is vandalized and all bets are off as he races between caring for her and saving Gaia’s life, while his own literally hangs in the balance.

How the cases intersect is a prime example of the intricate plotting that is the hallmark of this entertaining and rewarding series. An extra twist at the end will stop your heart for a moment. This series just keeps getting better and better with its overarching plot points keeping readers eager for the next installment.

 

Award-winner S. J. Bolton had several stand-alone successes before bringing back DC Lacey Flint, a most unusual character who is on leave from the ordeal she suffered in Dead Lost Scared, after being introduced in Now You See Me.

In this outing, Lost, the title refers to any number of characters in this thrilling ride as a serial killer terrorizes young boys, draining their blood and leaving their bodies to be found.

Bolton cleverly tosses in narrated sections a psychiatrist’s sessions with an unnamed client at the same time as she realistically gets inside the head of Lacey’s young neighbor, 11-year old Barney. He and his friends are affected by the gruesome murders with fearsome results.

Despite his father’s efforts to create some kind of home life for the two of them, Barney is desperate to find the mother who abandoned him and enlists Lacey in his search.

Readers also enter the points of view of Lacey’s former boss, DI Dana Tulloch, saddled with the task of tracking down this heinous killer, and Lacey’s colleague DI MArk Joesbury, whom Lacey may have let get too close to her.

As Lacey struggles with the aftermath of her last case and tries to decide if her future lies in the police force, Barney realizes he may have a personal connection to the murderer. With trust gone, he has no one he can trust except Lacey.

This is part police procedural, part thriller as the suspense escalates and the violence continues until it gets out of control in this beautifully written tale of one young courageous lad and his friendship with the very wounded and fragile Lacey Flint.

 

16045062Crossing the pond to New England and the world of Martha’s Vineyard, A. X. Ahmad brings readers into the world of Sikh culture with his mesmerizing debut The Caretaker.

Ranjit Singh is coping with a military career gone horribly wrong and has fled with his family from India to Boston, living first with his wife’s family until he starts his own landscaping business in the posh neighborhoods of the Vineyard.

But summer’s jobs have faded with the onset of winter and Singh is desperate for work, which lands in his lap when the beautiful wife of a popular Senator hires him to be a caretaker for their closed summer home. This soon leads to other similar positions and a sense that he may make a new life for himself and his family.

He watches as his wife and young daughter try to assimilate into American culture and just as he thinks they may all thrive, he finds himself caught up in an unwanted scheme that brings him perilously close to losing everything and everyone he loves.

Ahmad’s thriller is filled with action, as Singh becomes the man of action he used to be in the Indian Army before his fall from grace. As he tries to safeguard his family, he becomes inexplicably entwined with the comely Senator’s wife, a longtime Vineyard resident, and falls prey to the machinations of the powerful Senator whose rise from poverty is the stuff of legends.

Themes of class and race, culture and above all, a man forced to face his own morality all come to bear in this tale that is lovingly crafted. There are scenes filled with grace and others with surprise and intrigue, all graced with the haunting prose and deep personal reflection. A sensational newcomer not to be missed.