HOLIDAY GIFTS FOR READERS Sunday, Dec 9 2012 

Auntie M has decided to give readers a holiday gift: here are selections for you to consider that would make great gift-giving for the readers on your list. And don’t forget to include yourself!

First up is Robin Burcell’s third Sydney Fitzgerald thriller, The Dark Hour, a series featuring the FBI-trained forensic artist whose skills go far beyond her artistic ability.images

Right on the heels on the murder of a prominent Senator, Sydney finds herself, against her better judgment, on the way to Amsterdam to do a forensic drawing of a suspect seen by the victim’s niece near the site of her uncle’s murder. When the niece is murdered just as Sydney makes a harrowing escape, her drawing sets off a train of events that have heads turning everywhere from Washington to Europe and back. There’s every acronym in the book showing up, too,  as the CIA, FBI, ATLAS and others all vie for answers when threats of biological warfare become apparent.

Making Sydney’s job more difficult is the realization that her drawing is the exact likeness of the supposed-dead wife of the agent she’s been attracted in previous books. Griffin’s wife died in an explosion–or has she become a double agent and faked her down death?

There’s plenty of action here as Burcell jumps between cities, including trips to France and the Amazon, and enough fast-paced suspense to keep those pages turning.

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Following in the thriller genre is Laurence O’Bryan’s first in a series, The Istanbul Puzzle.

Sean Ryan is living in London, still grieving over the death of his beloved wife, Irene, when he receives a call that finds him traveling to Istanbul to identify the body of his colleague and friend, Alek Zegliwski.

He is shocked to find Alek has been beheaded, his body found near the sacred archeological site of Hagia Sophia where Alek had been monitoring and photographing ancient tesserae, tiny cubes that make up the beautiful mosaic that decorate the site.

The hunt begins with Sean and British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Alek’s liason officer from the British consulate, searching for Alek’s assassin. Aided by Peter Fitzgerald from the Consulate, the two are soon running from danger. But is Peter the friend he appears to be? A missing mosaic, which may provide the link between pagan gods and Christianity becomes a clue; then a lethal virus is unleashed on the city and the stakes are raised as the pace races along and Sean and Isabel face death and betrayal.

Watch for O’Bryan’s sequel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, which follows Sean and Isabel’s adventures,  due early next year.

If Wall Street and finance get your pulse racing as much as espionage does, you’ll want to look for James Grippando’s Need You Now. 183349165

Set against the backdrop of investment banking, Grippando’s story could be ripped from the headlines of Ponzi schemes, SEC fraud, and interconnected groups who have no business being in business together.

When the craft-master of a $60 billion dollar Ponzi scheme commits suicide, his death means secrets remain. Into this mess steps Patrick Lloyd, the advisor for Wall Street of the world’s largest Swiss bank.

Abe Cushman’s leap out of a window starts a chain of events with repercussions felt especially keenly by Patrick, whose girlfriend, Lilly, had been fired from the Singapore branch of the bank. Despite claiming she knew nothing about the Cushman scheme, the FBI comes into the mix with the discovery of a Treasury memo identifying her involvement.

After escalating incidents, FBI agent Andie Henning is tasked with insuring Patrick’s safety as he follows where the money trail takes him. And then Lilly disappears, and Patrick’s silent identity becomes an issue.

Grippando brings the reader inside the minds of those who try to defraud the government in a realistic way. There will be kidnappings, murder, ties to gun runners and more in this complex thriller that will have you wondering who in the financial world is beyond reproach and if you should really trust that mild-mannered financial advisor with your assets.

Changing gears to more light-hearted fare, look for the delightful, long-running cozy series featuring feline P. I. Joe Grey from Shirley Rousseau Murphy, with Cat Telling Tales.

The bright seaside village of Molena Point has been hit hard by the economic downturn, bringing a spate of foreclosures, causing many residents to abandon their family pets.

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While feline P. I. Joe Grey’s humans, Ryan and Clyde Damen, try to care for the starving cats, a fire leaves a twelve-year-old boy homeless. The body of his alcoholic guardian is discovered in the smoldering ruins, causing Joe to wonder if escape was really as impossible as it seems for the elderly woman, or if this is a case of murder.

Then Debbie Kraft descends uninvited on the Damens’ home with her two children. Her ex-husband has left her without funds and nowhere else to go.

But when Joe learns that the victim of the fire was Debbie’s estranged mother, and that Debbie is not broke at all but carrying plenty of cash, his fur is on end with suspicion.

As Debbie’s abandoned tomcat follows her all the way down the coast from Oregon with his own clues to add to the mix, Joe learns that Debbie’s ex-husband may be involved in a number of intricate real estate scams, and hisi sales partner may be missing.

Then while Joe and his pals prowl through the dead woman’s house, they discover that her reclusive neighbor has disappeared as well.

But it’s not until Debbie’s tomcat arrives that Joe and his feline detective pals find the biggest clue of all: a grave that the cops have missed.

The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, with help from Joe’s feline friends, who are exceptionally precocious.  And there’s a hint of romance for Joe’s tortoiseshell friend, Kit.

Perfect for the holidays is the newest installment in this feline series, Cat Bearing Gifts, the 18th in the series.       186148889

Attractive divorcee Kate Osborne returns to California with a fairy-tale story to explain her sudden wealth. Joe Grey’s good friend, Kit, and her humans, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw have spent a wonderful shopping trip with Kate, piling up the backseat of their car with treasures Kit has helped them glean to redecorate their Molena Point home.

Then the unthinkable happens: a truck and pickup jockey for position on a narrow mountain road and end up causing a horrific accident that involves the Greenlaw’s Lincoln. Pedric and Lucinda have injuries, but Pedric is able to call for help.

But the situation dramatically worsens when two men from the pickup assault Kit’s humans and drive away in the Greenlaw’s battered but still drive-able Lincoln, carrying with them their own stash of money that had been hidden in the pickup.

What the men don’t know is that hidden inside the Lincoln’s door panels are a treasure trove Kate has given the couple. The Greenlaws are rescued by paramedics but Kit hides in the hills and waits to be rescued by her Molena Point friends–that’s if she doesn’t get eaten by hungry coyotes first.

Back at home, Joe Grey finds two men hiding in an abandoned stone cottage, along with the smell of mildewed money and blood.  His friend, the yellow tomcat Misto, unearths an old photograph of a child who lived fifty years ago.

What can the connection be? And what ties in these incidents with the injuries to the Greenlaws and the theft of their car and money? Misto’s memories will help as Joe works hard to unearth a murderer. Delightful and filled with humor, the reader sees the world from the cat’s point of view. These are highly readable for mystery lovers, whether you are a cat lover or not.

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For fans of historical mysteries, the holiday tale by the mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd offers The Walnut Tree, set in 1914 France and England at the start of WWI.

Lady Elspeth Douglas is the daughter of a Highland aristocrat who is visiting her best friend from school, the very pregnant Madeleine. Elspeth is helping her friend await the birth of her first child while she fights her growing boredom. Attracted for many years to Madeleine’s brother, Alain,  their time together results in her promise to marry him–just as the war breaks out and she tries to return to England.

Finding herself stranded in Calais, Elspeth makes herself useful by carrying water to the soldiers near the Front, which nearly results in her getting herself killed when the enemy starts to bomb her position.

Captain Peter Gilchrist saves her, and she finds herself oddly drawn to the leader. Before she can learn more about him and thank him for saving her, they are separated and she returns to London, but remains haunted by the horrors of war she saw firsthand in France.

Always a headstrong girl, bristling against the firm and class conscious restraints of her guardian, her cousin Kenneth, she enrolls in a nursing course, making friends and sharing a flat with fellow nurse Bess Crawford. But her cousin has not given his consent for her to become a nurse, a profession he feels is beneath her class and his notions of what is appropriate for a woman.

Determined to return to the battlefields to do her part, and to find Peter, Elspeth is torn about her promise to Alain, recognizing her heart belongs to Peter. Then Alain goes missing before she can set things right with him, and Peter is seriously wounded.

Charles Todd’s twelve books in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series have shown the duo to be experts with this time period. With its romantic side fully developed, the realism of war is well represented in this heartwarming holiday tale. A must for Downton Abbey fans.

Advancing a bit into the period between the wars, Jacqueline Winspear returns with her newest in the ninth Maisie Dobbs series, Elegy For Eddie.                                    elegyforeddie

Maisie arrives at her Lambeth office one day to find a group of costermongers she knows from her fathers, there to ask for her help. The newest in the series follows private investigators Maisie’s quest to discover whether or not a childhood acquaintance, Eddie, a gentle horse trainer, was murdered.

Police have written off Eddie’s death at a paper factory as an unfortunate accident. These protective friends of Eddie’s don’t accept that verdict, and once Maisie starts to investigate, it becomes obvious that there are more powerful people involved in Eddie’s death. The gentle man, who had a gift for “calming ” horses, surely couldn’t have enemies–or could he?
Maisie’s own sense of right and wrong will be questioned, even as she struggles with her private life and her class-breaking romance with her former employer’s son, James Compton.

She will turn up people from Eddie’s past and seek out his interest in flying machines. And she soon must accept that there are others with a greater understanding of national security that must be protected and that reach up to Churchill himself, even as James and places like America and Canada enter their conversations.

Maisie’s employees are other eyes for the struggles of the era: her trusted assistant, family man Billy Beale, and her part-time secretary, Sandra, a recent widow, both beset with the financial difficulties of the time.

Compelling and haunting, Winspear expertly captures the emotion of the period and the people still healing from the first war and yet balanced on the brink of the next.

Last, but certainly not least, readers should check out the new line of paperback mysteries by HarperCollins called Bourbon Street.

They are starting with the reissue of the four Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries featuring Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of Britain’s foremost mystery novelists, first published in the 1930’s and set in that tine period.

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Strong Poison opens the set and introduces mystery novelist Harriet Van to Lord Peter. When her fiance’ dies in the same manner of poisoning as described in one of her novels, it looks like Harriet is off to the gallows. But Lord Peter is determined to find the real murderer and clear this intelligent woman who intrigues him.

Have His Carcase starts off with Harriet seeking peace and solace on a deserted beach, until her idyll is cut short when she stumbles on the body of a man whose throat has been cut. Still stinging from her past, Harriet tries to shrug off Lord Peter’s growing infatuation for her, but doesn’t resist his aid in pursing the murderer.

Gaudy Night takes Harriet to her Oxford reunion. Mulling over her growing attraction to Lord Peter with great dismay, a series of bizarre pranks make her time there less fond than she’d hoped. Burnt effigies lead to poison-pen letters, including one to Harriet remarking on her past brush with poison. Now firmly a detecting couple, Harriet and Lord Peter are challenged to get to the bottom of the malice with scant clues to help them.

Busman’s Honeymoon ends the series, a delightful way for this most-intelligent couple to appear. Finally succumbing to his love, Harriet marries Lord Peter and becomes Lady Peter in a wedding uniquely her own. Navigating the demands and challenges of her new title and status, their honeymoon begins with a wallop when the former owner of their new country home is found dead in their cellar. Their romantic country stay becomes their most baffling case yet.

These new editions have smart covers featuring period photography and are accompanied by an introduction by mystery giant Elizabeth George. The entire set for the holidays would make any mystery lover glow.

G. M. Malliet: Wicked Autumn & A Fatal Winter Sunday, Dec 2 2012 

Tis the season for murder and Agatha Award winning author (for Death of a Cozy Writer) G. M. Malliet brings a new series to life with vicar Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent seeking a different kind of life. The tragic killing of his partner had left him guilty and resulted in a depression, a leave of absence,  and finally resignation and the search for something more meaningful. He entered the Anglican Church after schooling at Oxford and seminary training. This backstory fuels Max’s ability to get involved in murder.

In the first installment, Wicked Autumn,  Max thinks he’s found the peace and quiet he desires at his post at St. Edwold’s in Nether Monkslip, until murder erupts and spoils any sense of the idyllic village Max thought he’s found.

Wanda Batton-Smythe has led the Nether Monkslip’s Women’s Institute with an iron hand and a shrill voice that shuts out any contenders for her role. Browbeating the residents into performing as she wishes for the annual Harvest Fayre has only increased their general dislike of the formidable woman. When her body is found on the day of the Fayre, any sense of leaving his past behind vanishes for Max, thrust into the middle of distraught parishioners and suspecting what looks like an accident is actually a case of well-planned murder.

DCI Cotton, whom Max knows from the past, quickly ropes Max into helping with the investigation. Although familiar with the petty grievances and animosities of small-town life, Max is thrown by the idea that one of the residents of his lovely English village is capable of murder; yet he is realistic enough to see that there are many villagers who might have wished for Wanda’s demise. The suspects include Lily Iverson, a timid woman who nonetheless owns a local knitting business but often bore the brunt of Wanda’s assaults. There’s the owner of the Cavalier Team Room, Elka Garth, who often felt Wanda’s pressure, especially when it came to donating her services to the Harvest Fayre; and the chef and restaurateur Guy Nicholls, who felt the same pressures. Then there’s Frank Cuthbert, the local historian an author who often clashed with Wanda over his books. And that’s just the start of the list.

As the investigation heats up, readers will meet more villagers, several who will reappear in Malliet’s second book in the series, A Fatal Winter. But not before Max and Cotton team up to unmask a murderer.

In Book Two, winter has come to Nether Monkslip, and finds Max struggling with his Christmas sermon, but even more with the feelings he’s developed for Awena Owen, the New Age goddess who runs a shop in town. What would his bishop have to say about such an alliance? And should he care?

These are Max’s thoughts as he returns to the village after a brief London stay. A chance meeting on an early train between Max and Letitia, Lady Baynard, of nearby Chedrow Castle is soon put out of Max’s thoughts until Cotton calls him late that same night. The DCI has been at Chedrow Castle since earlier in the day, called just after the body of Lord Footrustle, Letitia’s brother Oscar, has been found murdered in his bed.

Only minutes after that call on his way to the castle, a second call had notified Cotton of the finding of a second body in the garden, that of Letitia herself, at first glance of natural causes. But with assorted relatives ensconced for the holidays in an extremely poor excuse for a family a reunion as orchestrated by the fated Oscar, Cotton knows his handful of CID officers, good as they are, won’t be enough to find this wiley killer.

His ace up his sleeve is his good friend Max Tudor, who will be his feet on the ground and his ears to the family.  Max is called to the castle by Lamorna, Lady Baynard’s religious grand-daughter, as special advisor to the family on the double funeral to be held.  Pastoral duties farmed out, Max leaves for a few days at the castle, and for an experience he’s not soon to forget.

The assorted Footrustle family  includes Letitcia’s Baynard side: two sons and the grand-daughter Lamorna, who had been adopted by Letitia’s dead daughter and son-in-law and left for her to raise. But Oscar’s side is well-represented, as he’d been married twice; three assorted children and one ex-wife are in attendance. This eccentric group includes the washed up actress, Lady Jocasta, Oscar’s daughter, and her American husband Simon Jones. Oscar’s ex-wife, Gwynyth Lavener, brings her teenaged children: Alec, Viscount Edenstarted, and his sister, Lady Amanda, two indulged but intelligent youths.

If this sounds like too much Debrett’s for you, Malliet thoughtfully includes a family tree, which you will find yourself consulting until the character’s become firmly rooted in your mind.

Basically a locked room puzzle, Max will eventually figure out who’s behind the deaths, but not before a third murder is committed, in a great twist that readers won’t see coming.

Readers of the Golden Age mysteries will be entertained by this series, which has all the hallmarks of village mysteries: that lovely English setting, a handsome protagonist, and just a hint of romance to round things out. Booklist says: “Malliet has mastered the delights of the cozy mystery so completely that she seems to be channeling Agatha Christie.”

Mary Daheim and James Runcie: Polar Opposites Sunday, Jul 29 2012 

This week Auntie M brings you a repeat performer AND she introduces a new series from across the pond.

Seattle native Mary Daheim’s newest in hardcover from William Morrow is The Wurst is Yet to Come. It continues her hallmark bed-and-breakfast mystery series filled with word play and humor.

This time Judith and her cousin Renie travel by train over the mountains to man a booth featuring B&B’s at Oktoberfest in Little Bavaria.

Every German association you can think of has been put into the town for the event, from lederhosen and oompah bands to sauerbraten and wursts. There’s even a life-szied dancing bear running around the streets.

Judith is stinging from criticism from the state B&B association, threatening to pull her license due to the number of bodies that have piled up at her B&B, Hillside Manor. When she enlists Renie and heads off to Little Bavaria, she’s hoping to avoid murder and mayhem and bring new business to her inn.

But things kick off decidedly differently from her plans. In the middle of the opening celebration, which includes a band of German dancers, the town’s beloved patron, Dietrick Wessler is murdered.

Despite her best efforts to avoid being involved, Judith finds her reputation has preceded her. When the local police chief, a man with a huge appetite and dubious investigating skills, begs her to help solve the murder, Judith knows she can’t refuse.

Then she finds herself also investigating a death from the previous summer, and amidst a bewildering number of locals thrown in with the various people showing up for Oktoberfest, she agrees to help out, but with one twist:  Renie will pose as the sleuth to keep her reputation from becoming even more tarnished.

She’ll meet more of Wessler’s extended family than she wants to, and come to know the menu of the local pancake house inside and out as she tries to juggle her hours at the association booth while using her investigative prowess without calling attention to herself.

Whether this works out or not is half the fun for fans of the series in this 27th offering, who will enjoy the goofy turns of events and pure brain candy as a murderer is unmasked.

Next we have The Grantchester Mysteries from the artistic director of the Bath Literature Festival, James Runcie, author of four other novels, and with a resume that includes stints as a theater director, award-winning filmmaker, and scripts for several BBC television films. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death takes a leap to Cambridge and a trip back to 1953, where Runcie introduces his unlikely sleuth: the Canon Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester, an unusual detective at first glance, whose guilty pleasure is an affection for jazz and warm beer.

The 32 year-old bachelor, an unconventional clergyman at best, also has an unconventional friend: Inspector Geordie Keating, whom he meets every Thursday night at the pub for an evening of mutual relaxation–until the night Keating convinces Sidney to help him investigate the suicide of  Cambridge solicitor Stephen Staunton.

Sidney can go where Keating cannot, and that includes talking at length with the dead man’s wife, partner and secretary. He also finds the company of the new widow, the German Hildegard Staunton, an accomplished pianist, to be surprisingly soothing. Sidney’s own gentle manner and unassuming ways soon lead him to unearth the truth behind Staunton’s tragic death, but this is only the first of a string of crimes where he will find his tact and position called into play to use in an investigation.

Sidney’s detecting skills will try the patience of his housekeeper and his own conscience, as he continues his church duties and takes tutorials at his old college, Corpus Christi, while defining what a vicar should be for himself and for his parish family.

A jewelry theft will occur right under his nose at a New Year’s Eve dinner party; the murder of the daughter of a former mob boss at a jazz club will find him closely involved; a death which may be a mercy killing will find him questioning ethics; a case of art forgery will bring involve him and bring danger to his friend, Amanda, whom Keating thinks Sidney should marry; and a murder in the middle of an amateur production of Julius Ceasar becomes a matter of reputation.

Runcie has done a lovely job with the period details, down to the music and behaviors that match the time. In Sidney Chambers, we have a vicar who quotes poetry and muses on the meaning of love: ” … It was the most unpredictable and chameleon of emotions, sometimes sudden and unstable, able to flare up and die down; at other times loyal and constant, the pilot flame of a life.”

These consecutive stories were a pleasure be immersed in, transported back to a time when the world was regaining its footing after World War II. It is to be hoped that Runcie will continue the Canon’s adventures for our reading pleasure, brain candy of a very different sort, but just as satisfying.

Mary Daheim: All the Pretty Hearses Sunday, Jun 24 2012 

Seattle-native Mary Richardson Daheim writes the Alpine mystery series, but this new-to-paperback offering is in her Bed-And-Breakfast Mysteries, featuring Judith McGonigle Flynn.

Judith’s assorted friends and relatives feature in the series, and with the huge roster of players in this installment,newcomers to the series may feel overwhelmed and wish for a Cast of Characters to keep them straight. But long time readers of the series will figure out who’s who in this quick and snappy summer cozy.

January is a slow time for Judith at the B&B, so she’s grateful her former-detective-turned-PI husband, Joe, has a new assignment. Unfortunately, his surveillance job ends almost as quickly as it started, with the death of an insurance fraud suspect he was supposed to be shadowing. The negatives pile up when it turns out the victim has been shot with Joe’s gun–or has he?

With Joe sequestered away at the police station, Judith faces the prospect of a houseful of laborious guests, the winners of an overnight stay she donated to her parish school auction earlier in the year. It’s pay-up time, and while Judith copes with the Paine family’s various allergies and special diets, other guests come and go in seemingly unrelated one night stays.

Adding to the tension is Judith’s mother, Gertrude, a persnickety gal who lives behind the B&B in a converted tool shed and manages to show up in her motorized wheelchair just in time to stamp on Judith’s last nerve.

Judith’s cousin Renie is also on hand to be a hot-wire foil to Judith’s more laid back personality, and Renie’s calmer husband Bill manages to get involved as the plot thickens with overlapping and numerous threads. There are sick parish schoolkids, a horse lodging in her garage, and a missing house guest. In the middle of the chaos, Judith is conned into housing two villagers without heat in their own home who turn up to stay the night with their Irish Wolfhound in tow.

The plot is convoluted with tons of mayhem causing distractions that may or may not be involved with the main plot. It is to Daheim’s credit that she manages to pull these threads together and keep Judith whole, although she does allow her  protaginist the occasional sorely needed medicinal drink.

New this month in hardcover is the next in the series, The Wurst is Yet to Come; readers of the paperback of All the Pretty Hearses will be treated to an excerpt of the new hardcover at the books’ end.

 

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Book promotion & authors BLOG

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

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

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interior design student - maker

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

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