Across the Pond Winners: Casey, Donoghue, Robinson, Williams Saturday, Aug 22 2015 

Auntie M would like to mention that her second Nora Tierney Mystery, THE GREEN REMAINS, has won First Place in the Mystery and Mayhem Awards given by Chanticleer Media for BEST CLASSIC BRITISH COZY. Auntie M doesn’t use the term cozy herself: she describes hers as a mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural. But there’s no question her murders are set in small communities and that the puzzle is the highlight, not gore and violence. She’s not writing about psychopaths or serial killers (although she does enjoy reads that do), but rather she’s interested in what motive would allow an otherwise reasonable person to feel it’s reasonable to take another life.

In a related note, she’s also debuting her second series this month. The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, DEATH UNSCRIPTED, will be in print shortly in hard copy and ebook. Here’s a peek at the cover:
Death Unscripted cover

Frequent readers of this blog know that the Nora Tierney’s are set in England, Auntie M features a host of authors from across the pond. Part of this is because she enjoys reading these books and they keep her mind in the UK when she’s writing. But even more is her desire to turn American readers on to great crime fiction they may be missing by not knowing of these authors.

Here are a few of her recent favorite reads:
The Kill

The Kill is Jane Casey’s fifth Maeve Kerrigan mystery and these procedurals keep getting stronger and stronger.

A wedding reception for a colleague is interrupted when Maeve and her Detective Inspector Josh Derwent are called back to London for a most unusual case: the murder of a fellow policeman in a park, in what could only be called a compromising position.

One of the highlights of the series is the abrasive Derwent and how Maeve handles and defends him. The two are surprised at the reaction of the victim’s wife and even his daughter when told the news. They have the feeling they are keeping things back from the investigators, and as their case heats up, they soon realize they are not the only ones with secrets to hide.

And Maeve find herself torn with the secret she knows about her boss, Superintendent Godley, whom she once admired. Things will come to a head in that direction in this taut and complex mystery that won’t disappoint.

no place to die

Darker and grittier is the second offering from Claire Donoghue in No Place to Die.

This second mystery featuring DS Jane Bennett opens where Never Look Back left off, and things are still in upheaval after the lousy end of that case for Jane and her boss, Mike Lockyer. Feeling the rift between them, his inability to concentrate on the work in hand heavily impact them both when their friend, retired police, goes missing.

Some of the creepiest scenes are set in the underground tombs that are found after a young woman’s body is found one, apparently buried alive and watched by a camera feed.

Once the woman is identified, other tombs are discovered and the threads appear to lead to a local college and its psychology department. And then another young woman is taken and may still be alive, but can Jane and Lockyer find her in time to save her? And who is behind this?

Surprising and shocking at the end, Donoguhe is one who readers should add to their reading lists.

Dark Places
Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks are repeat favorites and this 22nd outing is no exception with In the Dark Places
, also Abattoir Blues in the UK version. It boggles the mind to think of an author who can consistently write creative and entertaining mysteries time after time, yet Robinson never disappoints.

An ex-soldier walking his dog, recovering from injuries that leave him limping, is annoyed when his dog goes under a fence and disappears inside an abandoned hanger. When the dog refuses to return and barks consistently, Terry Gilchrist has not choice but to find his way inside and see what’s troubling Peaches.

He finds the dog circling and sniffing and barking around a stain that can only be blood.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, a missing van leads Banks and his team into the countryside. Then a delivery truck falls over a cliff during bad weather and uncover the driver, killed on impact… and his grisly cargo: in addition to the dead animals he was tasked with collecting they find another body, dead before the crash.

Banks will have one of his toughest cases to crack in this repeat winner. Annie Cabot is back, and a nice side story features DS Winsome Jackson.

Black Valley

Black Valley is Charlotte Williams’ followup to The House on the Cliff, which introduced Welsh psychologist Jessica Mayhew.

In this outing Jessica is separated from her husband as they try to decide if their marriage is over. She feels strangely numb to emotions and feelings as she listens all day long to her patients personal drama. So she’s when surprised shortly after said husband confesses to having a relationship with a younger newsreader, that she’s attracted to a stranger she meets at an art exhibit.

That she’s there at all is down to the exhibit’s connection to her newest patient, artist Elinor Powell. Elinor presents with a bad bout of claustrophobia that hits her after her mother is murdered in Elinor’s art studio. A twin, she also is developing paranoid ideation about her sister and brother-in-law, an art dealer whose business may not quite be as above board as she’d like the public to believe.

The issue revolves around a reclusive artist who seems to be the next big thing in the art world. Refusing to give interviews, the unschooled young man nevertheless has captured his share of attention with his huge, brooding canvasses that echo the miners and their broken lives.

The hills of Wales outside Cardiff come alive under Williams skillful retelling, the countryside, lovely and nature-filled during the day, turns bleak and uncompromising at night, filled with caves and towers that haunt the landscape–and figure in the rushing climax as Jessica tries to find the truth about the ghosts who haunt Elinor Powell.

The writing is skillful and the psychological aspect well-handled. Therefore, it comes as a painful surprise to learn that shortly after finishing the first draft of this novel, Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer and died at the age of 59. Sadly, there will be no more Jessica Mayhew thrillers, but the two that are in print are worth readers’ time and investigation.

Late Scholar

And just to remind readers of last year’s terrific Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery by Jill Paton Walsh, The Late Scholar is now available in paperback. This installment finds the duo adjusting after World War II and to the growth of their two boys when they are called to Peter’s alma mater, St. Severin’s at Oxford, to unravel a perplexing situation: the faculty and its warden have been unable to agree on selling a rare manuscript to keep St. Severin’s open, and now the warden has vanished. Paton Walsh captures the tone and language of the time and of these two sparkling characters and does Sayers proud.

Jill Paton Walsh: The Late Scholar Sunday, Jul 20 2014 

Jill Paton Walsh has the daunting task of continuing the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries in a fashion Dorothy L Sayers would have approved. After completing two unfinished Sayers’ manuscripts (Thrones, Dominations and A Presumption of Death, Paton Walsh followed with her original story The Attenbury Emeralds, and now follows it with the fourth, The Late Scholar.
Auntie M had the great good fortune to meet Paton Walsh, along with her husband, children’s literature author and world-known scholar, John Rowe Townsend, at St Hilda’s in Oxford last summer, where Paton Walsh was the keynote speaker. Townsend died this March and Paton Walsh has Auntie M’s sincerest condolences.

In her keynote speech, Paton Walsh described the joys and heartaches of publishing. A Booker-Prize nominated and Whitebread Prize-winning author of children’s books, mysteries and novels, she spoke with passion of her love for literature in all its forms, and displayed a comprehensive knowledge of its history.
the late scholar

So it is no surprise that Paton Walsh has embraced the Sayers canon and with each successive novel, drawn even closer to the originals. With this fourth incantation, The Late Scholar, she has created a love letter to Oxford in all its glory, while maintaining the personalities and charm of the original characters.

Now the Duke and Duchess of Denver, roles that do not rest easily on their shoulders, the Wimsey’s are adjusting to British life after WWII. Their son’s, Bredon and Paul, are both at prep schools and eyeing their futures in the new world order when Peter is approached by Oxford’s St Severin’s College. As Duke, he wears the title of their Visitor, the college’s royal patron, a mostly ceremonial position.

But in this instance, the college faculty and its warden have been unable to agree on whether to sell a rare manuscript in their possession to allow the purchase of land that may or may not raise enough funds to allow the college to pull out of financial hardship. According to St. Severin’s charter, the Visitor is the tie-breaker in these situations, requiring a visit to Oxford, land of both Wimsey’s alma maters. Accompanying them is Peter’s long-time butler and family friend, Bunter.

It’s a hornets nest that awaits them, as the Warden has suddenly disappeared without explanation, and faculty member starts to die by methods that echo those in Harriet’s detective novels. There are several accidents that may or may not be other attempts, and the Wimsey’s must call on old friends to get to the bottom of a very dodgy situation at the college.

It’s like coming home again for Peter and Harriet–Sayers’ fans will understand references to Gaudy Night–and they and the reader will revel in the time-honored traditions that both Wimsey’s understand only too well. The sights and feel of Oxford and its environs is captured perfectly, and anyone who has never been to Oxford should well take note: this volume will make you want to visit.

The story spins out along complicated lines, with discreet questioning and investigation on both of their parts, feeling out personalities at High Table dinners, consulting former Fellows and colleagues for gossip. Their personal lives jut in and out as well, with a surprise visit from their sons, as well as facing the aging of Peter’s mother, the beloved Dowager Duchess. The proximity of murder pushed death into their thoughts far too often, but is balanced by the romantic reminiscing of the couple.

Absolutely a must for fans of Golden Age mysteries, where Harriet Vane holds her own in what is still largely a man’s world.