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.

Wicked Prey Monday, Jun 29 2009 

John Sandford is one of those writers whose books hit the road running and never look back.  I can devour one of his in an evening and a day, or two evenings.  The pacing is always frenetic, the characters absorbing, the danger palpable.  And all too believable.

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In Wicked Prey, 19th in the “Prey” series set in Minneapolis/St. Paul that is Sandford’s longest running of the several he writes, Lucas Davenport is getting ready to adopt his ward, Letty West.  Married to surgeon Weather, with whom he shares young son, Sam, family life is the most stable it has ever been for the intelligent and intuitive cop, whose many outings have taken him through several incarnations throughout the world of detecting, politics, bad guys and crime.

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This time the Republican Convention is is town, so the verisimiltude is apt.  Most of the available cops and agents are taken up providing security and watching that protesters don’t get out of hand.  There is plenty of Secret Service and FBI around, too, but not enough, it turns out, when it comes to foiling a crew of experienced professional thieves who are using the convention and its attendees to fund their retirements.

A young white supremacist loaded with heavy ammo hits town, and the plot is complicated by a wheelchair-bound pimp who blames Lucas for putting him there.  Aided by a young masochistic prostitute and a drug addict with a fried brain, he is determined to make Lucas suffer by kidnapping Letty and torturing her.

Are you hooked yet?  Sandford is a master at setting up all of his characters, showing us their distinct personalities and quirks.  There are twists, surprises, and one totally enterprising young woman.  This is quick, interesting reading at its best.

Life Sentences Monday, Jun 15 2009 

Laura Lippman is one of my favorite authors because she’s so darn consistent.  Whether it’s her Tess Monaghan series or her spectacular stand alones, her storytelling has only gotten finer the more she writes.  Last year’s What the Dead Know is one of my all-time favorite books, an almost perfect example of how to write a great story that will knock your readers socks off.

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That holds true for her newest stand alone, Life Sentences.  Cassandra Fallows has made a profitable living selling her own story.  Her two memoirs have left her financially comfortable; her first fictional novel, not so much.  Realizing non-fiction is her best format, searching for a new book idea, she comes across a real-life unsolved mystery surrounding a former high school friend accused of killing her infant son.

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Calliope has never spoken about the child in the seven years she’s been in prison for refusing to speak about his whereabouts.  Out now, living a proscribed life and taking care of her mother in a nursing home, she faces her remaining years in a time warp or boredom.

Enter Cassandra, determined to find the answer to her story, entwined with her own memories of Calliope and three other friends who formed their ‘group’ for several years in school.  She find their memories all have different takes while unraveling the threads of Calliope’s life, and taking a good, hard look at her own.

This is social realism at its best, as Lippman knows the Baltimore neighborhoods of all classes she writes about.  The plot twists and turns hit Cassandra, the white girl in the group, and point out the separation from her black friends that mostly escaped her in school.  It’s a tour de force from author who never disappoints.

Shatter Tuesday, Jun 2 2009 

Australian writer Michael Robotham has done it again, bringing a book’s characters and its plot to life.

The author of three other suspense novels, he introduced us to psychologist Joe O’Loughlin in Suspect, an intriguing novel that I highly recommended.  Newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, father to two young children, O’Louglhin had to prove to detectives that he did not commit a murder he uncannily knows features of that no one, except the murderer, should know.

In Shatter, four years have passed.  Joe has moved his family out of London and suspended clinical practice.  He’s the house husband, only lecturing at a local Bath university twice a week, while his wife Julianne has become the breadwinner, traveling frequently.  Called to a bridge to try to stop a woman from jumping, he becomes haunted by the woman’s suicide, and cannot forget that she was crying into her cell phone before letting go.

When the woman’s daughter turns up on Joe’s doorstep, she insists that her mother was not suicidal, and would never have committed that act in that way as she was terrifed of heights.  Joe becomes caught up in discovering who was on the other end of the phone.  What evil mind could drive a woman to commit such a desperate act?  His drive to discover the psychopath capable of finding a person’s weakest point and worming his way inside their mind to break it apart will have profound impact on his own life and that of his family.

Robotham takes us along on a ride that is all too believeable.  His dialogue and characters are pitch perfect; Joe and his family and the other characters come alive on the page.  And the spectacular plot twists will keep you reading long after you should have shut the light.

One of the best I’ve read this year, from a master storyteller.

Posed for Murder Tuesday, May 19 2009 

I  read Meredith Cole’s Posed for Murder out of sheer curiosity.  She was the winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition sponsored through St. Martin’s Press-Minotaur Books.  I’d entered one of my own and it didn’t make the cut, so I wanted to see what did.

At first the premise was kind of creepy: a young NY photographer has mounted her first big gallery show, based on unsolved murders.  She’s used friends to recreate the settings and toned them out to black and white images.  Her aim is to draw attention to the nameless victims.

Then I remembered the recent MFA graduation I’d attended of one of my Screw Iowa Writers Group members.  Whilst Mariana’s English mystery was very readable and entertaining, one of her fellow students had done his thesis as a series of poems based on murders, the victims sometimes recounting their last moments.  Now THAT was creepy.

Once I launched into the novel, it got more interesting, as the protagonist Lydia McKenzie describes the different vibes in her Brooklyn neighborhood, and one of Lydia’s friends and models for a photo is murdered–and found in just the same pose as is hanging on the gallery wall.

Lydia gets involved after being questioned and suspected by the detectives on the case.  A nice side bit is her interest in vintage clothing.  And is there a glimmer of romance with the male detective?  We’ll see in the next volume, as this is surely the start of a series.

Great summer reading, fast and enjoyable.