HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Great reads for your gift list Thursday, Dec 1 2016 

At this time of year, Auntie M likes to give readers a compendium, if you will, of stacks of books to choose from for gifts for the readers on your list. Don’t forget her axiom that it’s perfectly reasonable to buy a few for yourself!

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Let’s start off with a little goodie that should soon appear in stockings all over the world: Short stories from the Queen of British Mystery, P D James, gathered into a slim volume perfect for stockings. The Mistletoe Murder and other Stories contains four classic short stories, two featuring her detective, poet Adam Dalgliesh. For a brief moment in time, readers can hear James’ voice in their reader ear once again. A delightful foreword by Val McDermid and a preface by James herself frame the perfect holiday treat. These are delicious: a snapshot of a setting, a crime to be solved, and you’re off! That’s the US cover on the left and the UK cover on the right. Enjoy!

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Keeping with the holiday theme is Ann Myers’ third Santa Fe Cafe` Mystery, Feliz Navidead
. Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Cafe has her mom visiting from Minnesota to entertain, while keeping track of her teenage daughter performing in the outdoor Christmas play. When Rita discovers a dead actor during the first performance, she swears off investigating, but soon finds herself involved in a very dangerous situation. The Knit and Snitchers, her elderly group of knitting ladies, are back, giving information and clues to Rita even as they sneak their knitting onto statues and stop signs. There are a host of other entertaining characters, and don’t forget Rita’s mom. Who can resist Santa Fe at Christmas? Watch Rita solve a murder and drool over Myers’ recipes, too.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
is David Rosenfelt’s newest Andy Carpenter mystery in the long-running series. This time he and his trusty golden retriever are helping his friend “Pups” Boyer, accused of murder when said neighbor is found dead–by Pups. It doesn’t help that the neighbor had filed a complaint against Pups and the noise of her local dog rescue. While Andy doesn’t believe Pups is guilty, his digging will bring him closer than he’d like to the real murderer. Rosenfelt’s real Tara Foundation, which finds home for injured or sick dogs, is the basis for Andy’s foundation.

Maggie Patterson is helping out her sick sister, covering for her at The Wine and Bark, the dog-friendly bar Rachel runs in a usually-quiet seaside town in California in Trigger Yappy. It’s Maggie who hears the argument between her friend Yolanda and Bonnie, the gal who runs the Chic Chickie shop. When Bonnie is murdered, the Roundup Crew and the very cute Officer Brad Brooks are on hand to help Maggie investigate to clear Yolanda, even if means putting her purser job on hold to do so. Filled with good humor, charm and a bit of romance.

We’ll stick with humor in Agatha Raisin’s latest adventure, Pushing Up Daisies. M. C. Beaton’s beloved character is the kind of sleuth Miss Marple wouldn’t recognize, with her hard-drinking man lust. A land developer is murdered and there are far too many suspects. Lord Bellington wanted to turn the community garden into a housing development, so there are few tears shed at his death. The villagers seem happy enough that his heir and son, Damian, doesn’t intend to follow his father’s plans, but he does want to find his father’s killer, and hires Agatha to investigate. This time a retired detective is on hand to assist Agatha, and it helps that he’s handsome. Agatha doesn’t let a second murder of a woman seen kissing the new detective deter her from her case–or him. Vintage Beaton.

A switch to historicals, and we start of with the continuing Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch with The Inheritance. With fine attention to Victorian detail, Lenox is thrust into his most personal case yet. His friend from Harrow, Gerald Leigh, asks for help from Lenox, only to disappear. Knowing that in the past Leigh has been the recipient of a bequest from an anonymous benefactor, he finds Leigh has received a second bequest. Could they be from the same person? And what does either had to do with his friend’s disappearance? His investigation will take him from the highs of society to the lows of the gangs of the east end of London before it’s over. An intricate plot with realistic and finely-drawn period details.

Ian Sansome’s new County Guides novel, Westmoreland Alone
, with Stephen Sefton as narrator, Professor Morley (the People’s Professor) and his daughter Miriam, newly engaged, set out to conquer the Lake District. Owing to the the rather unusual end to Sefton’s night at the pub and cards before leaving, he persuades Morley he should take the train, with disastrous effect. A horrid crash reminds Sefton of his time in Spain and there is a tragic death. It’s the juxtaposition of the three personalities that provides a lot of the humor in the strained setting. Stranded after the fatal train crash, the three become involved in a suspicious death when the body of a woman is found at an archeological dig. It’s 1930’s England with all of the mores of the time. We see more of Sefton’s PTSD as the trio investigate gypsies, wrestling habits, country fairs and more.

Wilbur Smith has been called “the best historical novelist” by Stephen King, and he brings that talent to ancient Egypt in Pharaoh
. This action-packed epic follows the Pharaoh’s advisor, Taita, where Egypt is under a brutal attack and Pharaoh Tamose is gravely injured. Despite leading the army to victory, Taita is branded a traitor after Tamose dies by the new Pharaoh. With his first person narrative bringing Taita and Egypt to life, sometimes in a boastful way, history feels present under Smith’s skilled hands when a kidnaping leads to preparation for another war.
1967 Florence and Italian culture come alive under Mario Vichi’s hands in the fifth Inspector Bordelli mystery, Death in the Tuscan Hills. Florence is getting over the tragic floods of the previous winter but Bordelli has resigned after failing to solve the investigation into a young boy’s murder at that time. He leaves the city, determined to find peace in his new home in the Tuscan hills, despite the nagging thorn in his side by leaving the boy’s killers free. While he learns a new way of life, tending to an olive grove, gardening, cooking, and worries about his confused love life, he still obsesses about the men at large. Retribution is at hand when he discovers all the cohorts’ identities. But now what will he do about it? An absorbing tale with Vichi’s usual footnotes for clarification in several places.


Will Thomas’ latest Barker and Llewellyn novel put their detecting skills to the test in Hell Bay, an impossible crime set in 1889 Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall. Barker has been tasked with providing security for a secret meeting with the French government at the estate there of Lord Hargrave. The security team fails miserably, with two deaths on the island and no means of leaving or signaling for help. It’s a classic locked-area mystery, as Barker and Llewelyn race to uncover the killer among them before he strikes again and dashes all hope of negotiating a new treaty with France. Chock full of historical details and rising tension.

Andrew Hunt’s Desolation Flats captures 1930s Salt Lake City in his Art Oveson series. The famed Bonneville Salt Flats are the site of international racers, there to break the land speed record. Then Nigel Underhill, a wealthy English participant, is murdered, and his brother disappears. It’s a case for Art in the Missing Person’s Bureau, and he’s been handed a helper: a former Scotland Yard detective the Underhill family has hired to assist Art. The trail will lead them between Utah and London and end in a most unlikely manner. A gritty and engrossing read.

For readers who enjoy books set in different countries, check out these:


Adam LeBor’s Yael Azoulay series have been praised for the geopolitical thrillers’ realistic and intelligent plotting and savvy yet human protagonist. Yael has managed to stop the plans of the powerful Prometheus Group and its leader is out for revenge. This third installment, The Reykjavik Assignment, takes the covert UN negotiator to Iceland for a secret meeting she’s arranged during a UN conference between three key players: the US Secretary of State, The UN Secretary General, and the President of Iran. She soon discovers a plan to disrupt it as an act of revenge against Yael herself. As the tension rises, and with the US President on hand, Yael races to stop the murder of the UN Secretary by unmasking the killer, who has his own motives for wanting the man dead. A chilling climax with a surprising twist at the end will answer some of Yael’s long-held questions. A stunning end to the trilogy.

realtigers It’s off to England and London’s Slough House in Mick Herron’s Real Tigers, a Jackson Lamb spy thriller that’s been called some of the finest spy fiction of the last 20 years. Slough House is where a disgraced spy is sent to push paper. But when one is the victim of a revenge kidnapping, it leads to a group of private mercenaries within the Security Service. Enter Jackson Lamb to sort it all out in a manner that will convince readers the spy novel with sharp dialogue and filled with sly wit is still around.

The Patriarch brings Bruno, Chief of Police, to the French countryside for the birthday celebration of the man who is Bruno’s childhood hero: Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix, a WWII flying ace. He knows many of the attendees, and is enjoying himself immensely, far away from his daily grind, when a longtime friend of the family is found dead. What started as a pleasant day turns into the kind of investigation he’d hoped to avoid, as what at first appears to be a tragedy may just be a murder. With his hero’s family all coming under suspicion, he must tread lightly in the Dordogne, from the river chateaus to the prehistoric cave paintings to find a killer.

To North Korea and the enigmatic Inspector O, in James Church’s sixth in the series, The Gentleman from Japan
. Living with his nephew, Bing, the director of state security in northeast China near the border of North Korea, Inspt. O becomes involved when Bing needs his help after there are seven deaths in one night, apparent poisonings in noodle shops. Despite not wanting to investigate them, Bing needs O’s help more than ever. Their investigation will take them to Spain and Portugal before it’s straightened out as a world-wide plot develops. Satisfying and complex.

Back to the US for some great mysteries. Douglas Schofield’s Storm Rising fits that bill, with cop’s widow Lucy Hendricks leading the charge. After leaving for Florida, Lucy decides its time to move home to New Jersey and lay her old ghosts to rest. Yet the mystery surrounding her husband’s death becomes even stronger when her young son, Kevin, experiences a change in his behavior. With Hurricane Sandy quickly approaching, the elements conspire to destroy more than Lucy’s home as she tries to unpick the mystery surrounding her husband’s death. A true mystery laden with supernatural elements.

Not supernatural, but with a substance not known in earth: that’s the crux of the case before Kay Scarpitta in Patricia Cornwell’s new CHAOS
. A bicyclist has been killed with superhuman force and Kay and her investigating partner, Peter Marino, are on the case in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the body has been found near the Kennedy School of Government. What doesn’t add up are the calls Kay’s husband, FBI agent Benton Wesley, have received before the incident from Interpol. Or were they? And when her tech-savvy niece Lucy fails to be able to trace the sender, all bets are off with a cyberbully involved. High tension, detailed forensics, and a whopping good story.

Ellen Crosby brings back her Virginia Wine Country Mysteries under the Minotaur umbrella in The Champagne Conspiracy. Vintner-sleuth Lucie Montgomery investigates an older mystery with her partner, Quinn Santori, when his uncle Gino enlists their help solving the 1920s death of Zara Tomasi, the first wife of his grandfather, who died under suspicious circumstances in 1923. Is there a connection to her death the day after President Warren Harding died at the same San Francisco hotel? With a blackmailer breathing down their necks, Gino and Lucie search for the truth before a family secret is revealed. Everything they hold dear will come under threat as a murderer tries to keep the truth about Zara’s death buried in time.

Gritty crime fiction takes to the streets of the Bronx in John Clarkson’s
Bronx Requiem
. James Beck is back, and he takes it hard when an ex-con, determined to change his ways, is murdered just hours after his release before he can change his life. Enter James Beck, whose ring of ex-cons in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn try to find justice for the murdered man. But a deeper look into a street killing turns into something more complicated, and soon Beck and his ring need to watch their own backs to uncover the truth. Fast-paced and action filled.

And for those who want a paperback for stocking stuffers or maybe that grab bag gift, look no further than these:

Her Last Breath is Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder entry new in paperback, and she’s a favorite of readers with good reason. Investigating the world of the Amish isn’t easy, but it’s a world Kate knows, and as Chief of Police, she’s called in to a hit-and-run that leaves an Amish deacon and of two of his children dead, with a third clinging to life. The Amish lifestyle is accurately portrayed, its simplicity a stark contrast to the rapid pace and high tension. The widow was Kate’s friend as youths, and while she’s determined to find the killer, she starts to suspect it’s much more than a simple case in Painters Mill.

Sophie Hannah’s The Narrow Bed
is part of her Culver Valley crime series with the highly interesting married detective duo, Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. A serial killer is murdering pairs of best friends after giving the victim a hand-made white book containing a line of poetry before their death. Their search centers around stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck, who was a recipient of one of the white books, but is still alive a year later. How they solve this crime and it all comes together shows the hallmark of Hannah’s complex plotting for a read that’s filled with pathos and psychological ambiguity.

Carla Norton’s What Doesn’t Kill Her is the second Reeve Le Clair thriller. Now a college student after surviving being the captive of killer Daryl Wayne Flint, she’s getting her life back on track. Then the unthinkable happens: Flint manages to escape from the psychiatric hospital where he’s been held, and starts killing people from his past, settling old scores. And that included Reeve, and she knows she’s on his list. Not only that: she realizes she’s the one who knows him best and is the only one who can stop him. Chilling and tautly plotted.

And one for your true crime aficionado: possessed
True crime writer Kathryn Casey earned Ann Rule’s two thumbs up as one of the best in the business. Now Casey explores the “Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder” in Possessed
, taking readers to Houston and what at first glance is a domestic murder. The details include the magnetic and erratic Ana Trujillo, who had a reputation in Houston for her supposed occult powers. Stefan Andersson is the gentle, Swedish man who falls for Ana and comes under her spell. A fascinating look at the forensic evidence and witness testimony comes under the microscope as Ana tries to claim she killed Stefan in self defense. Meticulously presented.

Summer Thrillers X 4: Meltzer, Hamilton, Kovacs, Freedland Friday, Aug 7 2015 

Here are four great summer thrillers for readers out right now, whether you’re at the beach or reading before bed. And if you missed Steve Berry’s The Lincoln Myth when it first came out, that one is now in paperback and ebook formats.

Brad Meltzer’s Culper Ring Triology has captivated readers, who are waiting for this third installment. The President’s Shadow shows his love of the National Archives and his relationship with former US President George H. W. Bush and First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush, who helped to inform the book, adding to the sense of reality that pervades the read.

The book opens with a wallop and never lets up, with First Lady Shona Wallace keeping her secret: she’s stolen a small section of the White House Rose Garden for her own flower garden. As she digs in the dirt early one morning, a persistent root finally gives way–and proves to have fingers attached to it.

That severed arm is only the start of trouble for Beecher White, erstwhile employee of the Nation Archives, who’s been visiting his mentor, Tot Westman, every day. Tot lies in a coma after brain surgery on the bullet wound in his frontal lobe.

The discovery of the arm immediately raises questions about security, the victim and the culprit. Beecher is called to a secret meeting of the Culper Ring, where President Wallace tells him that an item discovered with the arm links back to Beecher’s dead father.

That mystery surrounding what happened to his father has consumed Beecher, and this discovery might finally bring some answers. His membership in the secret organization that dates back to before George Washington became President holds the key, especially since the clue left was meant for Beecher alone.

Meltzer blends history with his fascinating story, mixed with that insider knowledge that lends authenticity to the conspiracy that is unveiled. This is great storytelling in an interesting and absorbing trilogy that blends fact with fiction in a compelling manner.

Past Crimes
Switching to a debut, Glen Erik Hamilton and Past Crimes
introduces Army Ranger Van Shaw, who has returned to his Seattle home after receiving a terse message from his grandfather after a decade apart. With flashbacks showing readers Van’s unusual childhood, the reason he joined the Rangers, Van Shaw promises to be an entertaining protagonist in this accomplished book.

Van finds his grandfather, Dono Shaw, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. With their complicated past and Dono Shaw’s shady life, Van knows he will be the prime suspect in the shooting and must clear his name. But the only way to do that is to plunge himself into the life he thought he’d left behind when he joined the Rangers.

There will be an enormous diamond theft to handle as Van hunts for the shooter, using the skills he’s learned in his Ranger training, combined with his sharp wit to find the assailant as he works with the team Dono put together for his big jobs and realizes he can trust no one.

Filled with action sequences, the book’s visuality and sharp dialogue will lend itself well to being filmed and Auntie M has no doubt this will be picked up by Hollywood if it hasn’t been already.

Best known for his Cliff St. James crime novels, author Ed Kovacs is debuting a new series in The Russian Bride.

His protagonist is an elite agent in military intelligence, working undercover in Moscow to find moles in the US Embassy. Major Kit Bennings suddenly finds himself and his family the targets of a former KGB general-turned-Mafia don in a complicated coercion scheme when mobster Viktor Popov has Kit’s mother killed in California.

Popov threatens to do the same to Kit’s sister, Staci, whom he has already kidnapped. To free his sister, Kit must agree to marry a Russian woman, Popov’s niece, Yulana Petkova, and take her to the U.S.

Desperate to save his sister, Kit reluctantly agrees to the marriage but soon learns what Popov really wants: Kit’s help in stealing an electromagnetic-pulse device that could disable the economic and intelligence infrastructure of a large percentage of the U.S. and open the door to massive cyber-theft opportunities.

Now Kit finds himself hunted by killers on both sides of the ocean and saddled with a new wife,\ as he tries to rescue Staci and stop Popov’s plans from coming to fruition. He will call on all of his talented action-oriented friends for help and there’s plenty of specialists who rise to the occasion. There’s so much going on at times readers will feel breathless at the fast pace.

3rd Woman
Jonathan Freedland’s unusual premise makes The 3rd Woman an intriguing read.

Picture an alternate world where US has borrowed more money from China than it can repay–not too hard to imagine–and is forced to allow them a permanent military presence on American soil. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But to journalist Madison Webb, it’s her reality to live in this America of crisis in every quarter: economic, political and social.

Then the unthinkable happens: her own sister is murdered, and Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. There are local political elections in process, with Maddy’s ex-boyfriend working for a candidate, and Abi’s murder soon becomes a hot political issue.

After Maddy uncovers evidence that points to Abi as actually being the third victim in a series of killings, she realizes the deaths are being hushed up as part of a major conspiracy. In the new US climate, there are shades of truth and reality.

Maddy will be forced to use all of her connections to get to the truth. The use of social media adds a nice touch as her own life comes into the line of fire.

This is a clever, fast-paced political thriller. Maddy is a strong and capable female lead with a realistic edge who readers will want to see in action again.

Daniel Palmer: Desperate Sunday, May 25 2014 

Just when you think there can’t be a new twist to a story, along comes Daniel Palmer, who surprises readers yet again with his newest thriller, Desperate.

Told strongly in first person from the point of view of Gage Dekker, he and his second wife Anna Miller are desperate to adopt. Both have survived the loss of a child, and for Gage, the added loss of his first wife, Karen, compounds his despair when he meets Anna in a grief survivor’s group. After a whirlwind courtship, a meeting of the minds and hearts, the two are married six months when they decide to adopt after Anna experiences a miscarriage.

A chance meeting with unwed mother Lily turns their anticipated long wait to adopt into a sudden rush when Lily asks them to adopt her baby. With their upstairs tenant gone, Lily is installed over their heads to await the blessed event.

And then things start to horribly go wrong for Gage in several areas of his life, and Lily seems to be at the bottom of it all.

But Anna refuses to believe Gage when he insists Lily is sabotaging his life. The two women have bonded and Anna is desperate for this child to complete their family; she blames Gage for the seemingly innocuous incidents that have him believing Lily is not who she seems to be.

As the stakes are raised, Gage will find himself embroiled in a fantastical plot he can’t find a way out of, one that leads to murder, and he’s stuck at the heart of it.

This compelling thriller will appear to leave Gage no way out, and then the complicated plot takes yet another twist until it careens around a sharp curve and readers will be left breathless and amazed at the audacity Palmer infuses into his novel.

Compelling and intelligently written, Palmer will hook readers and draw you in, in this inventive thriller with its surprising events. Unexpected and original.

Around the World in Crime: Norway, France, Iceland, Denmark and Venice Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

Auntie M’s reading list includes many fine Nordic and European authors she hopes you’ll investigate. These books are all great reads, and with the holidays approaching, make great gifts for the bibliophiles on your list.

blessed-are-those-who-thirst.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Y23Pst4KrgHanne Wilhelmsen is a police investigator first introduced in Holt’s Blind Justice. Blessed are Those Who Thirst finds her battling a brutal Oslo heat wave, which has set off a huge upward spiral in violent crime in the area. She’s balancing it all with an unsolved rape case which disturbs her.

The newest crime scene she is sent to baffles her at first: in an abandoned shed, covered with blood, an eight-digit number is scrawled in blood on one wall. Is it human blood?

But there’s no victim, at least none at this site. Is this a terrible prank or the mark of a more sinister killer?

More of these bloody crime scenes start to crop up, all in isolated locations throughout the city, all with different numbers. Then Hanne’s colleague discovers the significance of those numbers: they belong to female foreign immigrants who have gone missing.

As her team races to track down this killer, the rape victim and her father separately plan their own vengeance.

How these intersect, with horrifying consequences, will keep readers rooted to the page. This is a well-plotted mystery in a fascinating series.

Holt’s inclusion of Hanne’s domestic situation adds nice texture and reminds us that police personnel all have home lives.


Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead was first published in French with the title Glace`, but this translation loses none of the chilling aspects frozen1444732252-detailof the original.

Minier draws on little-known facts to build his suspense, from the bizarre psychiatric methods at some points, to the subterranean power plant that becomes a plot point.

When a headless horse is found suspended from a frozen cliff in southwest France, it annoys the city cop assigned to investigate. Servaz should be dealing with three teens suspect of killing a homeless man.

Yet he cannot ignore this highly unusual and disturbing crime as the rumbling of a cable car brings the horse’s corpse into view. Everyone in attendance is disturbed.

Only miles away, a young psychiatrist named Diane Berg embarks on a journey that will mean so much more than just a year’s assignment in the Pyrenees at the Wargnier Institute.

When DNA from the Institute’s most infamous inmates is discovered on the animal, it is the first hint to Servaz of the nature of the madment he seeks, and sparks a series of horrific murders.

There’s no escaping the cold as theme in this thriller, from the gritty settings to the dark, grisly deeds carried out in the names of healing, and of revenge.

Minier’s novel explains the complicated and different police investigation method of France’s system, which adds to the tone. Readers will look for more by this talented crime writer and await the reappearance of Servaz and his music.


17286708Staying with the cold, we head to Reykjavik, Iceland’s setting for the Erlendur series. This tenth entry is Black Skies, by award-winning author Arnaldur Indridason, who won the CWA Golden Dagger Award for Silence of the Grave.

This time it’s Sigurdur Oli in the spotlight of this subtle and superbly crafted police procedural. Oli finds himself reluctantly agreeing to a friend’s request to head off a blackmail attempt in a scheme of wife swapping. Then he finds the woman accountant found bludgeoned to death was involved with her husband in the scheme.

But Oli is forced to look beyond this obvious motive when the victim’s association with a group of disreputable bankers becomes known.

This has an almost sociological feel to it, without judging or hitting the reader over the head, as Oli follows leads that will take him to the heads of high-finance and the lowest criminals on the economic ladder.

That he becomes disgusted with both extremes speaks volumes. The laziness of the criminals he encounters stands in stark contrast to the greed and flagrantly accepted corruption of the upper class.

By showing how these encounters affects Oli’s own thoughts about his family and marital history, we become involved with him as a real person who happens to be a policeman. That he is tasked with this unenviable job that is sometimes at odds with his personal feelings becomes the heart of the book.


Another Nordic entry not to be missed comes from Denmark’s sibling team of Lotte and Soren Hammer. 16044964The Hanging brings readers the unusual team of lead detective Konrad Simonsen in this startling novel that starts off with a bang and never lets up.

When two Turkish children get to school early, they find the mutilated and naked bodies of five men hanging from the gymnasium ceiling. It doesn’t help the investigation when a prejudiced policeman takes his time responding to the call.

The horrific crime sees Simonsen recalled from a vacation, which stirs a media frenzy that is compounded when the link between the victims is known: all were pedophiles.

Fighting public opinion that their killer should be overlooked complicates his team’s investigation. At the heart of the matter will be the lingering question: when is justice served?

Adding texture to the book is the feel for Copenhagen the authors transmit, as is the team the authors they give to Simonsen. These include a young policewoman feeling her way through the start of her career, and another with independent financial means who doesn’t need the job.

The first of a planned six-part series, Lotte and Soren Hammer have fans already clamoring for the next translation.


n401410The lovely vintage feel and VW bug on the cover of Marco Vichi’s Death in Florence tell the reader immediately that we are not in contemporary times but rather in 1966.

This is the fourth in the series featuring the novel’s protagonist, Inspector Bordelli, owner of the VW.

“How can a boy vanish into thin air?” That’s the question absorbing Bordelli at the moment.

Giacomo Pellissari seems to have melted into the pouring rain leaving his school. When his mother’s car won’t start, his lawyer father arrives to the school to pick him up an hour late. The boy was seen running into the downpour–and there his trail grows cold.

Bordelli begins an increasingly desperate investigation into the boy’s disappearance with the help of his young sidekick, Piras. They will uncover abuse of power, rape, murder and a ring of homosexuals as they delve deeply into the case.

But he is thwarted by the flood that overwhelms Florence. Based on a real occurrence in November of that year, the swollen river Arno laps over the arches of the Ponte Vecchio, breaks its banks, and completely overwhelms the city.

While streets become rushing torrents, the force of the water sweeps away vehicle and trees, doors and even a coffin lid. Mud piles of debris line the city Bordelli calls home, yet the obstinate detective persists in finding a resolution to the disappearance of a little boy.

Written in an atmospheric and literary style, the ending will leave readers surprised and questioning the next volume to follow.


Moving from Florence to Venice, the debut novel The Abomination by Jonathan Holt has been hailed for its complex plot involving two forceful abominationwomen, the Carabiniere Captain Kat, and her American counterpart, Holly.

Their case kicks off when the body of a woman washes up from the Grand Canal wearing the robes of a priest, a desecration seen by the Catholic Church as The Abomination. That this happens on the night of the Feast of the Epiphany with its masked balls add to the drama.

Duality is enhanced with the idea of, a virtual Venice, a social network revolving around a simulated world that gives users complete anonymity by letting them hide their identities behind carnival masks.

The narrow canals and thick, sewage-scented fog that envelops Venice at times is aptly represented, a counterpoint to the usual image of artworks and tourist cathedrals, and provides the backdrop for the corruption and conspiracy the two women will find.

The action never flags in this combination of mystery, tech thriller and conspiracy. The two worlds of Venice and its cyber-counterpart create a compendium of mysteries that are skillfully rendered.

There are two more volumes in the works from this talented author who blends and balances intriguing characters with multiple story-lines of action.



Louise Penny: How The Light Gets In Sunday, Jul 21 2013 

51zx6howlightgets inXip6GL Can a novel be both heartbreaking and breathtaking?

Louise Penny’s ninth Chief Inspector Gamache mystery answers that question with a resounding YES~ How The Light Gets In continues her compelling series with a book that readers won’t be able to put down. And when they do, they’ll pick it up and read the last few chapters again. Yes, it’s that good.

It’s just before Christmas and cold in Quebec, and that coldness extends to the decimated team Gamache finds himself surrounded by, as his own team has been dispersed to other sections, and the new members’ allegiance to Chief Superintendent Francoeur is barely hidden. Gamache’s nemesis has gutted his team in the process of breaking Gamache down.

Only Inspector Isabelle Lacoste remains, his new second in command in the absence of Jean-Guy Beauvoir, watching the erosion of Gamache’s command. After the startling events in last year’s The Beautiful Mystery, Beauvoir, once Gamache’s friend, and lover of the man’s daughter, Annie, hasn’t spoken to his old chief in months.

Then a message arrives from Myrna Landers, owner of the bookstore in Three Pines, worried about an old friend who has failed to arrive for a planned Christmas visit. When Constance Pineault’s body is found, Gamache is given the case and seems relieved to be able to escape to Three Pines.

But is escape possible when there are dark forces at work with years of planning a conspiracy? And what of the mysterious past of Myrna’s murdered friend? Only poet Ruth Zardo seems to have recognized that Constance was once one of the most famous people in North America, echoing a real-life incident.

Three Pines will become both a haven for Gamache and some of his closest friends, and the site of some of the most suspenseful and tense scenes Penny has written, with the outcomes of several lives hanging in the balance and the futures of many more to be decided. The decisions that have to made at the climax bring the reader to the height of suspense in the frigid snowy forests of Three Pines.

All of Three Pines wonderful eccentric characters are here, as Gamache unravels the mystery of Constance and decides who needs to be saved and how to do that.Penny__Louise_CREDIT_Sigrid_Estrada

Despite writing about murder and what she calls “rancid emotion and actions,” Penny stresses that ultimately her books are about goodness, enduring love, and the choices we humans make. “If you take only one thing away from any of my books I’d like it to be this: Goodness exists.”

How that goodness is achieved will startle readers. With Penny’s talented achievement, they follow Gamache into the deepest heart of betrayal he has ever faced.  Highly recommended.


You can listen to the wonderful Ralph Cosham reading an excerpt from How The Light Gets In from going to the audio section of Macmillan here:


Minotaur Trifecta: Michael Robertson, Brad Parks, Joseph Olshan Sunday, Apr 28 2013 

This week Auntie M has three goodies courtesy of Minotaur Books for your reading pleasure.

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First up is the third installment in the delightful Heath Brothers series written by Michael Robertson, Baker Street Translation.

Reggie and Nigel didn’t realize the lease of their Baker Street law offices included the famous number 221B, but quickly learned that one of their responsibilities as tenants is to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.  This delights Nigel as much as it frustrates Reggie.

Previous escapades have taken the brothers to California, but this one takes place on London home turf, with ties to Sherlock Holmes the pivotal point.

When a wealthy American heiress decides to leave her impressive fortune to Sherlock Holmes, she unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that have Reggie summoning Nigel back from his Los Angeles stay.

It also connects in some way to the kidnapping of Robert Buxton, Reggie’s rival for the lovely actress Laura Rankin. Deciding to pop the question, ring in his pocket, Reggie’s attempts to become engaged fall by the wayside as the kidnappers insist Laura is the only one who can provide the ransom to save Buxton.

Reggie can’t allow Laura to put herself in jeopardy, but then Laura isn’t your average actress. Thwarting Buxton’s security team and Reggie’s attempts to protect her, Laura feels responsible for Buxton’s return and follows the kidnapper’s demands, wit unexpected results.

Along with his sleuthing, Reggie will lock horns with a feisty Texan, decipher the riddle presented by nursery rhymes gone wild in a talking duck, and learn more than he ever wanted to know about London’s sewer system, and all before a royal event goes haywire.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in references to the canon but you don’t have to be a Holmes fan to enjoy Robertson’s deadpan delivery or his improbable and whimsical plotting. A delight for mystery readers who enjoy a puzzle.


The puzzle in Brad Parks’ The Good Cop seems more clear cut but has the same comic elements as the Baker Street series. Parks uses the first-person narration of reporter Carter Ross to inform us of the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey, that he covers.

Rushing to be the first to interview a dead policeman’s widow, Ross succeeds and gathers great material for a killer article. Darius Kipps loved his job, had a lovely wife, and two young children he doted on who he was planning to take to Disney World.

But as Ross wonders why no other reporters have shown up, his boss informs him the article is off. The cop has committed suicide.

Yet something else seems off to Carter, and the widow agrees, making a public statement to that effect. Her husband had everything to live for and would never have taken his own life.

Added to the mix is a charismatic preacher who has the widow’s ear. Then calls Ross makes to the medical examiner are blocked, and his instincts kick in.

Using his contacts, and sufficiently sustained by his diet of two slice of pizza and a cold Coke Zero, Ross sets out to unearth the truth about what really happened to Good Cop Kipps.


Changing tones a bit but still with a sense of wry humor in his protagonist, Joseph Olshan gives us his debut thriller, Cloudland.


The rural Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire is an area with tough weather and even tougher people.

The wealthy, the artistic, and the working class have more than their love of the area in common. They have a sense of safety where residents rarely bother to lock their doors.

Things change radically when a serial killer targets young women in their region. Whether jogging on a back road or stopped at a rest stop, the victims share more than their youth: being alone at the times of their murder made them easy targets.

Into the mix comes Catherine Winslow, a former reporter who lives simply and earns a living writing a household hints column. Her reporter’s instincts, coupled with her own sense of survival, all contribute to the urge she feels to uncover the murderer when she finds the body of one of his victims. Suddenly the killer has invaded her turf and made his threat real.

Teaming up with her  forensic psychologist neighbor and the detective on the case, she investigates the murders and finds close friends and neighbors on the suspect list. Adding to her stress is her strained relationship with her only child, a daughter living in New Jersey, and her past relationship with a much-younger lover that still haunts her.

Olshan does a fine job describing the impact to this rural landscape that these killings leave. With echoes of the gothic literature Catherine loves, as well as a clue in an obscure Wilkie Collins novel, the reader will absorb Olshan’s elegant prose and evocative language as this compelling story explores not only the mystery but the psychology of its characters.

Jo Bannister: Deadly Virtues Sunday, Apr 14 2013 

images_049Northern Ireland is the home to Jo Bannister, author of the Brodie Farrell and four other series, but in her newest she takes us to the small British town of Norbold, in the highly satisfying read, Deadly Virtues.

Protagonist Hazel Best the newest recruit in Norbold’s force, a woman who chose to enter the force for her own reasons. She is determined to do a good job and gain the attention of her popular and effective Chief Superintendent,  John Fountain.

Gabriel Ash is a man haunted by an unexplained tragedy in his life. Known as Ash, his rescued dog, Patience, is the only reason he has to get out of bed in the morning most days.

These two unlikely people will join forces after law student Jerome Cardy is killed by a crazed maniac while on remand in police custody.

Sleeping off an assault and concussion with his dog in the safe haven of a Norbold cell, Ash crosses Cardy’s path when the two are temporarily housed together. Before leaving Ash’s cell, Cardy tells him: “I had a dog once. Othello. That was its name. Othello.”

After Cardy’s death, Ash enlists Hazel to uncover the truth behind the young man’s death. At first suspicious and later determined, Hazel knows her young career lies in the balance if she pursues the thread of a case Ash has handed her.

By showing Cardy’s knowledge of his impending death, even before he winds up a cell, Bannister dangles a provocative hook that will have readers turning pages as Hazel and Ash figure out why Cardy had to die.

The growing strength of friendship between Hazel and Ash leads to the novel’s unexpected ending, when it seems no one can be trusted, and their lives hang in the balance.

Bannister’s dry wit is on show here. Nicely nuanced characters and a fair amount of tension and tension will have readers hoping this is not the last appearance of this unlikely duo.

Simon Toyne: Sanctus Sunday, Jun 17 2012 

Simon Toyne’s first novel in a new trilogy has been compared to The Da Vinci Code with good reason, but this reader was reminded more of Umberto Eco’s wonderful The Name of the Rose. In any case, Sanctus will leave readers looking forward to the next book in the Ruin series. The Daily Mirror (UK) says: “Hard to think of it as a debut, better to think of it as the beginning of a massive new adventure.”

This bold thriller has an almost relentless quality as Toyne builds a remarkable, twisted world, complete with futuristic details housed within the very epitome of antiquity. Nothing is as it seems on the surface, and this soon becomes apparent to the reader in this stylish and entertaining novel that is built upon a foundation of its character’s lies and deceit.

Sanctus opens with a monk climbing a high cliff to top the mountain called the Citadel, a closed off Vatican-like city towering above the lower city of Ruin in what we know of as Turkey. His bold gesture, seen and documented worldwide by the media, sends a message to several groups with far-reaching circumstances. The Citadel is the oldest inhabited place on earth, and the monk’s climb brings attention to this group living within, the Sancti, who hold a terrible secret, built upon thousands of years of protection and tradition.

Liv Adamsen is an American reporter seeking answers to a tragic personal loss. She finds herself suddenly traveling to Turkey to unravel a message left to her from beyond the grave.  The monk’s gesture also has particular meaning to a foundation worker, Kathryn Mann, and her family. What Liv finds with Kathryn’s help, and how she solves this mystery will change the very foundations of what the world has known from the beginning of Man.

This is highly ambitious thriller, with an imaginative plot. It’s high concept will immediately draw fans of grand conspiracies, with its plots and subplots, relentless action and superb writing. It is to Toyne’s credit that his mix of action, history and suspense seem almost credible as the reader is plunged into a cinematic ride that reveals Toyne’s background in television as a writer, director and producer.

The second book in the trilogy, The Key, will be released June 19th, and Auntie M has no doubt readers will be lined up to buy it.

Ian Rankin: Impossible Dead Sunday, Feb 26 2012 

Fans of Rankin’s creation Inspector Rebus were more than disappointed when he retired that character. But his newest creation, Matthew Fox, is proving a strong contender for our interest. First introduced in The Complaints, Fox and his team are called that because they work in the oft-despised area of Internal Affairs. “How come you hate cops so much?” is the question they are often asked.

The Impossible Dead brings readers into close contact with Fox and his team in this second installment, and we’re liking him more and more. Different from Rebus, he has his own tough job, with the team never welcomed. What is supposed to be a temporary assignment leaves Fox wondering how he can meld back into the CID department. Now they’ve been asked to investigate off their home area, in Val McDermid’s turf of Kirkcaldy, and their reception is less than warm. Detective Paul Carter has been found guilty of misconduct, a charge led by his own uncle, retired from the same force. Fox’s team are to clear up allegations that Carter’s colleagues had been covering up for him, turning a blind eye to the sexual favors Carter had supposedly exchanged with a variety of women, from drug addicts to casual offenders, to drop their charges.

But when they arrive to start their interviews, the three men they’ve arranged to see are at not at the station, and Tony Kaye, Fox’s colleague, can’t contain a nasty comment, to Fox’s chagrin. “News would now travel through the station: job done. The Complaints had come to town, found no one home, and let their annoyance show. The desk sergeant shifted his weight from one foot to the other, trying not to seem too satisfied at this turn of events.”

And so it goes: the lack of cooperation; the inadequate office space; the interviewees, when they are finally approached, sullen and uncooperative. There are hints of corruption, and a possible conspiracy, and Fox needs to widen his investigation. Then suddenly a murder occurs, and forensics show the weapon used should not even exist.

This sets off a chain of events that will take Fox back to ties within his own family, and with political connections to the social and politically-charged era of 1985. Fox finds himself following the past, which leads him to a visit the state mental hospital, where a patient with history and information Fox needs will correct his definition of power. “It’s something you hold in both hands like a weapon, something you can choose to use to strike at your enemies’ hearts.”

As Fox’s team concentrate on the current problem, Fox will delve into these buried secrets from the past, flushing out dangerous truths that could ruin reputations and threaten lives, even Fox’s own, and leave him questioning his role as a detective.

This is an intricately-plotted thriller, entangled with subplots involving Fox’s ill father and the damaged relationship he has with his sister. People are not whom they seem on the surface, in small and large ways. Rankin knows crime, and he knows human nature. A thoroughly satisfying read that will leave readers anticipating the next outing with Rankin and Matthew Fox.