Tana French: Broken Harbor Sunday, Oct 14 2012 

Auntie M is huge fan of Tana French’s novels set in Ireland, starting with Into the Woods, followed by The Likeness and the stunning Faithful Place. Now she’s back with Broken Harbor, and her novels get stronger and more compelling with each offering. In a recent essay on craft, French described her husband not allowing her to use dream sequences in her novels too much. She doesn’t need dreams; the world she creates is startling enough.

Mick Kennedy is a a top Murder Squad detective who’s earned the nickname “Scorcher” for his devotion to the job and its victims. He lands a tragic but high profile murder case on the half-deserted development now called Brianstown, one of the many high-end neighborhoods that have fallen with the down-turned economy, leaving their few owners to cope with shoddy construction and broken promises.

Mick brings along his new partner, Richie, a rookie detective on his first case, thrilled to learn from the master. But before it was Brianstown, the area was known as Broken Harbor, and Mick has his own disturbing and poignant memories of the area that will haunt him almost as much as the scene they find.

Patrick Spain is dead; his wife, Jenny, lies in intensive care. Their blood splatters the downstairs kitchen area. Upstairs, the Spain’s young son and daughter are found dead in their beds. The scene is shocking and disturbing.

What appears to be an easy case to solve quickly proves to be one of the most tangled and difficult of Mick’s career. There are unexplained things in the house: smashed holes in walls, with baby monitor cameras pointing at them; files have been erased from the Spain’s computer. And then Jenny’s sister Fiona tells the detectives her sister has been afraid of an intruder who slipped past their locks and alarms and helped himself to food from their refrigerator.

As he juggles teaching Richie about true detecting and not jumping to conclusions, Mick’s life is complicated by his younger sister, Dina. Her mental illness escalates and barges into his life and his thoughts, bringing back the memories of his family’s last summer at Broken Harbor. Adding to the layers are Mick’s new relationship with Richie. Partnerships are built on trust. But he doesn’t know Richie well enough to trust him–yet.

French’s sense of setting is acute; she brings all the senses to her descriptions and adds nuances that fill the atmosphere of the book with power and emotion. This is as gripping a novel as Auntie M has read this year, a mix of French’s usual police procedural and psychological thriller, created with realistic characters and situations, plot lines that weave and warp, and with a sense of setting so powerful you will feel as if you’ve been to Broken Harbor.

 

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.

 

Two New in Paperback Sunday, Apr 29 2012 

Avon is reprinting two great mysteries in paperback for readers to gobble up.

J. A. Jance’s twentieth novel featuring J.P. Beaumont is titled Betrayal of Trust, and after reading this Seattle-based detective novel, you’ll understand the title refers to the many layers of trust that have been violated.

Telling the story from Beaumont’s first person point of view allows for the narrator’s dry wit and digressions to provide relief from the grim crime scenes he will face. Beaumont and his wife, fellow detective Mel Soames, work for the Attorney General’s Special Homicide Investigation Team on Squad B. It’s a recurring point of humor that the acronym for their team gets bandied about, but there’s nothing humorous about the case they find themselves seconded to, in Olympia’s Squad A, at the direct request of the Attorney General.

They meet with the AG at the hotel they’ll be living out of for the duration of the case, and the snuff film he shows them on a cell phone will lead them to unravel a twisted tale that revolves around murder, bullying, and blended families, thrusting them at the door of the governor’s mansion.

The cell phone belongs to the governor’s step-grandson, a troubled boy who denies knowledge of the apparent juvenile prank gone wrong. At least that’s what Beaumont and Soams are led to believe–until there’s a second death, and as the bodies pile up, it’s obvious there are deeper implications and layers of corruption with multiple perpetrators, who just might be minors.

The horrific case changes from being a part of Beaumont’s job to a more personal quest when he identifies with one of the dead young men. An interesting subplot concerning Beaumont’s own family roots is handled well, never detracting from the forward thrust of the investigation.

Jance’s characters feel authentic and her plot twists will grab your attention as she illustrates how dogged police work puts the pieces of a puzzle together and lead to a satisfying conclusion. The next in this series is titled Judgement Call. Jance is also the author of the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, and four Walker family thrillers.

 

Next up is Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild mystery, The Body in the Gazebo, the Agatha Award winner’s nineteenth in the series. Having a caterer and ‘foodie’ as a protagonist leads to the hallmark of the series: the inclusion at the end of the book of many of the recipes caterer Faith Fairchild mentions or uses during the course of the story. She also has a gift for weaving in historical details of the northeast.

Faith’s best friend, Pix Miller, is out of town at pre-wedding festivities, meeting her son’s soon-to-be in-laws. When Faith agrees to keep an eye on Pix’s mother, Ursula Rowe, it’s a gesture of born of friendship and genuine liking for the older woman, home recovering from a bout of pneumonia.

But Ursula’s recuperation is hampered by a story she feels she must confide to Faith: a secret tale of long-ago intrigue and murder that dates back to the Great Depression. It will take her days to tell Faith the story due to her weakened condition and the emotions attached to it. Faith hadn’t known until this time that Ursula once had an older brother; a brother who was brutally murdered, with an innocent man accused of his death.

As Faith becomes embroiled in the story, told often with flashbacks to the period from Ursula’s memory, she’s also trying to keep her children cared for competently and her business going, even as she worries about her assistant, newly-pregnant Niki Theodopolous.

Then Faith’s husband, Reverend Thomas Fairchild, is accused of embezzling from his church’s discretionary fund, and Faith swings into action to unravel all the mysteries affecting those she loves, putting herself squarely in danger in the process.

Page writes a lively mystery with a fast pace. Her gift for story-telling leads her readers down many avenues as her novels combine a balance between lightness and the deeper personal dramas that envelop her characters. Love, faith and redemption reside alongside murder, theft and intrigue, all wrapped up tighter than a good egg roll.

The next in this series is The Body in the Boudoir.

Deborah Crombie: No Mark Upon Her Sunday, Apr 1 2012 

In the latest installment of her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma Jones series, Texas author Deborah Crombie’s  love and affinity for England once again shine through.

Detective Inspector Gemma Jones is finally very married to Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family is adjusting to its newest member. Crombie skillfully weaves the tapestry of their lives into the investigation of their latest case.

Preparing to trade Gemma’s domestic leave to take his own turn, Duncan finds himself at the last minute involved in a murder investigation filled with far-reaching tendrils, as the victim was a detective with the Metropolitan Police and an Olympic-grade rower. A subplot includes a high-ranking predatory policeman which complicates his investigation at every turn.

Becca Meredith is a solitary and competitive rower, hoping to regain her footing in a controversial bid for a place on the Olympic team. Her dreams are ended when a training row ends with her being tipped from her scull and drowning in the Thames River near Henley. Her lover, Kieran Connolly, struggles with post-war injuries. Part of the volunteer K9 search and rescue team with his Labrador Retriever, Finn, he is among the first to find Becca’s body, caught near the downstream weir near Mill End.

When the mysterious drowning becomes Duncan’s case, his team investigates Becca’s past, including her rowing for Oxford Blue, and her ex-husband, a former rower. It quickly becomes obvious that Becca’s talented but difficult personality has led her to acquire many admirers and just as many enemies. Complicating matters is a politically fraught work situation that will spill over into a  separate investigation Gemma has gotten entangled with just as her family leave is ending, and this widens the list of suspects for both detectives.

Then Kieran is targeted in a horrid accident, it becomes obvious that there is a killer who needs to silence people and it’s up to Duncan to stop him before he can kill again.

Rooted in reality, Crombie’s endpapers on the hard-covered books contain a lovely hand-drawn map by Laura Maestro of the area, which goes a long way to helping readers unfamiliar with the area visualize the main places of the action. The descriptions and feel of The Leander Club, a revered Henley rowing club, as well as the grueling routine of an elite rower, add to the pleasure. One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s books is the way she brings to life pockets of the UK we readers vicariously come to know, and the clubby, status-conscious world of Oxford rowing blends well with the routines of the K9 rescue team and their dogs.

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Auntiemwrites Crime-Mystery Author M K Graff

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Romantic Suspense she writes...

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!

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Emma Kayne

The Department of Designs

K.R. Morrison, Author

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

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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Mellotone70Up

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