Elly Griffiths: The Woman in Blue, Ruth Galloway Mystery #8 Tuesday, May 3 2016 

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Elly Griffiths’ wonderful Ruth Galloway Mysteries are one of Auntie M’s secret delights. Each new book is like a treat, waiting to be devoured.

In book #8 in the series, THE WOMAN IN BLUE, Griffiths takes Ruth to Little Walsingham, a medieval town with a huge religious history. Her friend, the druid Cathbad, is housesitting near the cemetery of one of the town’s churches, St. Simeon’s, when he sees a woman standing near one of the tombstones. Dressed in white with a flowing blue cloak, is the woman real, or an apparition of the Virgin Mary that many pilgrims come to the town to worship?

When the same woman is found dead in a ditch the next day, it’s clear she was very human. There will soon be religious overtones to the investigation, and DCI Nelson and his team on the case. Ruth finds herself involved through the back door this time. An old friend coming to the area soon on a course asks Ruth to help her as she’s been receiving threatening letters. The fact that this old friend is now an Anglican priest is not the only thing Ruth must get used to. There is a change in Nelson and they’re both afraid of it.

Then a second woman is murdered, and Ruth and Nelson race to find a murderer before he or she can strike again. With Easter season in full bloom, pageants and services abound, and the local churches of all denominations come under scrutiny. Old faces we’ve seen before appear, and threads from past stories come full circle–or do they?

One of Griffith’s gifts is making Ruth, Nelson and their circle face the same things we each face in our daily lives in a most realistic way. There aren’t always neat solutions to life’s questions. Police and forensic archaeologists, no matter how devoted or how good at their jobs, have the same insecurities and the same longings as anyone else. Griffiths’ consistently captures our attention with a delicious mystery while echoing the realities many readers face.

Couple all of this with a murderer on the loose and a Good Friday Passion Play in progress and you have all the ingredients for a mystery rich with drama and intrigue as very modern dilemmas play out on several levels. Highly recommended~

A note to readers: Three of Auntie M’s other highly recommended mysteries from last year are out in paperback. If you missed any of these in hardcover, now’s your chance for great adventures reading from three authors skilled at weaving setting and character with compelling mysteries:

LONDON RAIN, Nicola Upson’s sixth Josephine Tey mystery takes readers to 1937 London, still reeling from the abdication of Edward VIII and bustling in readiness for the coronation of his brother. This behind-the-scenes look at a murder at the BBC involves scandals old and new, all set against the backdrop of a national moment in history.

AFTER THE FIRE brings Jane Casey’s London detective Maeve Kerrigan into the cement high-rise estates where a fire has left three dead–and one of them is a wealthy and outspoken politician. What was he doing on this motley estate, and how does his death tie in to the other two victims?

A SONG FOR DROWNED SOULS by Bernard Minier bring his Commandant Martin Servaz of the Toulouse crime squad face to face with his own past, when the son of a former lover is the chief suspect in the murder of a teacher at the same university his own daughter is attending.

NEW in Paperback: Casey, Bolton, Haynes, Dahl, Margolin Wednesday, Apr 29 2015 

Auntie M reads so many books but that you’d think they’d all run together after a while …

But in the case of the following, these are new in paperback, already been reviewed in hardcover, but were some of my favorites. So in case you missed them then, for your consideration:

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Jane Casey’s THE STRANGER YOU KNOW was chosen by the UK Times as one fothe top 10 crime novels of 2014. This is a terrific series with a strong female protagonist who has a frustrating relationship with her partner DCI Josh Derwent. The series delves into the interoffice relationships all detectives must face in a realistic manner. Here they face unraveling a series of three stranglings that point to a sadistic killer and right now, all of the evidence points right to Jane’s partner.

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Sharon Bolton’s Lacey Flint series have the young detective with the secret past working on London’s marine unit in A DARK AND TWISTED TIDE. When Lacy finds the shrouded body in the river, it will lead her to investigate other murders that have their origins in Afghanistan and may include Lacey’s newest friend on the river.

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Elizabeth Hayne’s stand-alones (Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains) all earned Auntie M’s ‘highly recommended’ listing with good reason. Her first of a series, introducing DCI Louisa Smith and her team, was UNDER A SILENT MOON, a gripping police procedural that finally lets a female investigator have a private life while it doesn’t take a whit away from the strong and compelling plot. In this debut, Louisa is tasked with two murders of two woman in a horse and farm suburb outside London. Haynes’ use of graphs and charts as well as investigative reports, witness statements and call logs that are in use in real investigations give the books a sense of being plunged into the life of a working detective.

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Julia Dahl’s debut, INVISIBLE CITY, was an instant hit and has been nominated for all kinds of awards. She brings the world of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews to life as a young reporter, Rebekah Roberts, tries to solve the mystery behind the death of a woman from the community whose life may have ties to Rebekah’s own mother. A strong mystery with a compelling narrator, it also gives readers a look into the world of tabloid journalism.

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Phillip Margolin’s pioneer saga, WORTHY BROWN”S DAUGHTER, is a mix of Old West, legal drama, and racism in a portrait of small town justice. It’s 1860 in the new state of Oregon, and judges often held court in fields or taverns, and were often put up by families as they traveled their territory. The story was inspired by a real case from that era, when freed slaves tried to find and have their children returned to them. Raw in authenticity, Margolin’s years of research will bring you back to a forgotten era.

Elizabeth Haynes: Behind Closed Doors Sunday, Apr 5 2015 

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Auntie M cannot deny she is a huge Elizabeth Haynes fan. From her first stand-alones (Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains), Haynes has taken the crime thriller and stood it on its ear with her original and creative storytelling combined with empathy for the human condition. Last year’s Under a Silent Moon continued these hallmarks while adding a strong female protagonist to a new series.

Now Haynes brings back a second installment featuring DCI Lou Smith in Behind Closed Doors, set forty miles outside London in fictional Briarstone. Auntie M is pleased report it’s every bit as well written and compelling as Haynes’ other novels, led by a character who is a fully-formed woman with relationships and devotion to her job that often conflict.

Haynes draws on her background as a former police intelligence analyst to create the device that sets this procedural series apart. She notes in interviews that she’s fascinated by the documentary evidence that accumulates during an investigation, like a jigsaw puzzle to which pieces are added daily. She uses primary policing source materials reproduced for the reader, such as police reports, interviews, analyst research, even phone messages, which add a depth and texture to the books that allow the reader to become completely immersed in Sam’s investigation when a young woman missing for a decade suddenly reappears.

Scarlett Rainsford was a fifteen-year-old enjoying her first taste of love during a family holiday in Greece, until her abduction became Lou Smith’s biggest professional regret when the case went cold without Scarlett being found. Ten years later a raid on a brothel turns up Scarlett, alive and well, and Sam needs to find out where the young woman was for all of those years, and more importantly, how and why she reappeared in England without contacting her family.

Assisting Sam is her sergeant, Sam Hollands, and the rest of her team, and as with all detective teams, this is not the only case on their plates. Activity between rival gangs have led to a murder and a violent assault, yet no one is talking, making their investigation that much harder.

Here is Haynes in her own words, describing what prompted this intriguing novel where the past is revealed in stages in contrast to Sam’s current investigation, adding yet another layer to this absorbing and original story:

“The starting point for Scarlett’s story is inspired in part by the shocking number of people who go missing every year, many thousands, and by the number that are never heard of again. In Scarlett’s case, I wanted to tell the store of her ‘missing’ years, but in doing so to examine how she might handle the truth–what she might want to reveal, and what she holds back, and why. As well as researching the law enforcement research around trafficking, I read several first-person accounts of trafficked women and I found it terrifying to think of all the women effectively forced into slavery, with very little hope of escape. Trafficking in Europe is something that is under-reported and woefully misunderstood. People think of prostitutes as working in their profession by choice, but the majority is forced into it, and living a precarious, dangerous existence with no real way of getting out.”

Find out how Scarlett does manage to get out, and yet why she hasn’t let anyone know she’s made it back to England. One of the strengths of this story is Haynes’ ability to make her story revolve as much around Lou and her investigation as it does around a victim who is not a dead body but a living woman with a horrific past. Highly recommended.

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Summer Standouts: Penny, Garrett, Casey, Cha and Adler Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

Auntie M has guests this summer to give authors you might not have heard of a chance to tell you about their books. But today she wants to share the best of what she’s been reading whilst others are blogging away. These are some of summer’s best reads for crime.

LongWayHome After last year’s profoundly moving How The Light Gets In, it is difficult to imagine how Louise Penny could conjure up a way to bring Armand Gamache out of his hard-won retirement. In The Long Way Home, it takes his friendship with artist Clara Morrow to do just that.

After a year’s separation due to her husband jealousy over Clara’s career upturn, Peter Morrow was supposed to return home for them to sort out their marriage and decide if it could continue. Yet that deadline has come and gone and Clara knows something has happened to keep Peter from getting in touch with her. Despite not knowing what his feelings are, she insists he would never not have tried to contact her.

Together with Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache will assist Clara and her friend Myrna as they retrace Peter’s steps in an effort to locate him. Their journey will take them from the art school where Clara and Peter met, to some of his unusual and despised family, to a desolate place deep into Quebec where few have ventured and where few have returned from intact.

The usual characters for Three Pines make their appearance, but it come down to this group of four to unravel where Peter has gone to find his soul–and why. As they find themselves drawing closer and closer to Peter, the foursome will face some unanticipated scenarios and dark moments. Written with her usual style and an unerring sense of human nature, Penny’s newest will bring readers on a journey where things are turned upside down, just as the book jacket suggests, to final unexpected climax.

A. D. Garrett is the pen name for two authors collaborating in a way that brings forensics and mystery to the forefront in Everyone Lies. everyone-lies-usa-800px
Auntie M has read and enjoyed other mysteries by Margaret Murphy and here she teams up with forensic scientist Professor Dave Barcaly. Their main characters echo their expertise. DI Kate Simms was demoted in the past for her work on a case involving Prof Nick Fennimore, a one-time advisor to the National Crime Faculty, a man whose mind and forensic knowledge equal none other.

Despite their complicated past, Simms will reach out to Fennimore for his expertise when a string of drug addicts die and she suspects the drugs are laced with more than the usual cutting agents. Her investigation becomes high profile with the death of a celebrity in the mix and the media becomes involved. There will be whore houses to search and drugs to chase, and a convenient fall guy for what may turn out to be a hidden agenda of the deepest proportions Simms could imagine.

Seemingly thwarted by her superiors and her own past, Simms struggles to find out why these deaths are occurring, along with the identity of one of the girls, a prostitute who may or may not have been involved on her own. Her own family life suffers. The plot is complicated but satisfying, filled with all kinds of the best scientific analysis and facts for those of us who like those angles. With two unusual protagonists, readers can hope this duo will be brought back for a sequel, and soon.

Steph Cha’s sequel to Follow Her Home is the compelling Beware, Beware, featuring one of the most original protagonists to come along in a long time: Juniper Song, a Marlowe noir fan working as an apprentice to the PI firm she found herself involved with in Book One.

Song’s Hollywood location brings her right into the glitzy scene with her first case when New York artist Daphne Freamon asks the young investigator to follow her screenwriter boyfriend around. Jamie may be using drugs again, and Song quickly establishes this to be the case. Working for an aging movie star, Jamie is soon the prime suspect after a night of partying finds the star dead in his bathtub. Is it suicide or murder?

Now Song’s job becomes proving Jamie’s innocence. With lies, blackmail and hidden secrets coming to light each time she turns around, Song will find things hitting too close to home for her comfort. And then things turn on a dime and she must decide how much her conscience can bear in the name of justice and revenge. Fast-paced and definitely with an different edge, Steph Cha has created an Asian American character whose culture adds a layer to the action.

LastToKnow2 Elizabeth Adler continues her Mallory Malone-Harry Jordan series by taking readers to western Massachusetts Evening Lake in Last to Know.

Smarting from Mallory’s departure to Paris after breaking up with him, the Boston detective is spending time at his lake house with his dog, Squeeze. The small close-knit community is about to be blown apart by two newcomers: Lacey Havnel and her daughter Bea. One family, the Osbournes, will become particularly involved. Husband Wally is a well-known writer of horror stories; wife Rose is the ultimate wife and earth mother. Four children in varying ages occupy their home near Harry’s. All will become involved with Be a Havnel when Lacey is killed when the duo’s house explodes.

Then it’s determined that Lacey was murdered before the explosion, and that the mother-daughter team are not who they claim to be. Harry must decide if he can keep his job if it means living without Mallory just as the murderers begin to pile up. One device Adler uses is to tell the story through varied points of view, so that readers are getting more information than Harry is privy to. A page-turner and great beach read.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series returns with the fifth, The Kill.TheKill
With an intriguing plot and fast pacing, this is a smooth read that will translate well to television, and Auntie M won’t be surprised to see the series has been sold for that purpose very soon.

DC Maeve Kerrigan and DCI Josh Derwent are working alongside the rest of the MIT to unravel a series of police killings in metropolitan London. Someone is killing their police colleagues and everyone is on high alert to find the murderers. Are they killings all the work of one chief or is there more happening here than meets the eye?

Casey’s hallmark of the series is how she combines police procedural information alongside relationship development and subplots, especially as pertains to her superior officers, and most importantly, the misogynist DCI Derwent, as complex a character as there ever was to leap off the page. Kerrigan is tough, yet has human frailties, not the least of which is her worry about her handsome live-in boyfriend. When things turn upside down there, you will feel her ache as she’s unable to to comfort him when his colleague is murdered.

This is subtle, smart writing at its best. A great series if you haven’t found it.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: Jane Haddam’s Hearts of Sand, previously reviewed, is now in paperback for fans of retired FBI profiler Gregor Demarkian, who visits a Connecticut beach town to resurrect a decades-old disappearance and murder.

Elizabeth Haynes: Under a Silent Moon Sunday, Apr 6 2014 

When Auntie M met Elizabeth Haynes last summer at Bouchercon, she found a warm, funny family woman with a history of working in police intelligence. Haynes’ darkly creative imagination was behind her first three sterling thrillers: Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, and Human Remains.

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Now Haynes is back with an incredible new book, the first of a series, where she brings her past experience into a startling procedural that has her trademark unusual way of telling a story. Under a Silent Moon introduces DCI Louisa Smith, heading up a investigation team in London’s suburbs.

What sets this novel apart from the usual police procedural is the device Haynes uses, containing a mix of police reports, witness statements, call logs and crime charts that add superb layers to the complex story and very human characters she creates. Haynes’ graphs and charts are the ones used in reality, and they add an extra layer to the book, while showing the inner workings of a real police investigation like never before. It also explains the role of the civilian police analyst and how their work aids and interweaves with the police.

Two women in horse country are dead, and Lou and her team must establish if their deaths are related. At a farm outside a small English village, a lovely young woman had been found murdered, the bloody scene a testament to her last minutes. In a nearby quarry, a car fallen into holds the body of an older woman and is at first considered a suicide. But is there a link between the two women and their deaths?

When it’s found that the first victim, Polly Leuchars, had open sexual relationships with many people of both sexes, the suspect list grows. Then an elusive woman who may have been involved in Polly’s circle brings drama of a different kind to a member of Lou’s team. There will be hasty decisions, regrets, and lives brought close to the brink of death before it all comes together.

Haynes has a wonderful grasp of human relations and emotions, and by telling the story from multiple points of view, she maintains a steady, growing tension that affects Lou and her team as they move to separate motive and opportunity within the lies they are being told. By having the same information Lou and her team are privy to at their fingertips, the reader feels they are uniquely involved in getting to the truth as Lou’s team investigates. It’s a wonderful device that immediately keeps the reader flipping pages to the next point of the view, the next interview, the next chart, at the same time as readers are caught up in the emotions and private stories of Lou and her team. It’s to Haynes’ credit that she manages to bring her police team off as every bit as human as the victims and suspects they are interviewing.

This is the first of a planned series and DCI Lou Smith is more than capable of holding the reader’s attention for future novels. Highly recommended.