Three Winners: Brown, Berry and Holt Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

Coldsleep Lullaby
Andrew Brown won the South Africa Sunday Time Fiction Prize with Coldsleep Lullaby, a mix of modern mystery and historical fiction.

The steady pace of this dramatic premise will hold readers to the page. Fighting his own demons after the collapse of his marriage and an addiction to cocaine, Detective Eberard Februarie is handed the investigation into the murder of a woman found floating down a river in the old university town of Stellenbosch. With only a part-time reservist policeowman to assist him, he glimpses the body of the young woman, hit in the head hard enough to cause a skull fracture, her body dumped into the river while she was still alive.

The dead woman’s father is a respected university law professor, probably the university’s next dean, and known for his outspoken views on protection Afrikaans culture on campus. Was this murder a message to him?

Eberard’s investigation will lead him to a world of sexual depravity, and Brown’s parallel story of the town’s 17th century residents becomes a counterpoint to the modern investigation. The ideas of prejudice and redemption are underlined by the lullabies that begin each chapter, and this juxtaposition creates a chilling device.

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Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thrillers have a juxtaposition of their own, balancing the historical thread of the story that propels the action of today.

In The Lincoln Myth, he successfully creates yet another page-turner from this internationally best-selling author.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln receives a package from his predecessor, James Buchanan, sending on a secret that has been passed down through all the presidents from Washington.

In the modern world, Cotton Malone keeps trying to run his bookshop in Denmark, but calls for his help keep the former Justice Department agent returning to action.

In Utah, the remains have been found belonging to Mormon pioneers, murdered during their expedition in the 1800’s.

How all of these intersect, and how Malone finds himself thrust into the heart of a secret war over two hundred years old, form the basis for this adventure that will involved the fast-paced action with the skillful mix of historical facts and supposition that is the hallmark of the series.

abduction

Jonathan Holt premiered his Carnivia trilogy with last year’s The Abomination and returns with the second installment in The Abduction.

Featuring the likable and unlikely duo of police detective Captain Kat Tapo and Lt. Holly Boland from nearby Camp Ederle, Venice in all its glory and squalor is the site of the action, with its virtual counterpart, Carnivia, in play. The hacker-proof world will be challenged, and force Carnvia creator Daniele Barbo to confront his ethics when the teenaged daughter of a US soldier disappears in Venice.

Then clues as to the girl’s whereabouts begin to appear on Carnivia’s site, leaving Kat Tapo flailing behind. She enlists intelligence analyst Holly Boland to help her rescue the girl. What they find will bring the darkest secrets to light they’ve encountered yet and have fingers reaching back into wartime Italy.

This is a skillful mix of history and terror that brings out an all-too plausible situation. Mia Elston, the abducted girl, is a resourceful young woman dealing with her kidnappers. The characters and setting are strong and the action is fast and furious as a second kidnapping occurs. An intelligent thriller.

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And switching moods, new from Witness Impulse as an ebook comes this debut lighthearted fare:
Killer WASPs
A Killer WASPs Mystery

Crime really stings in Killer WASPs (Witness Impulse e-book, on sale 9/16/2014, $1.99), a Witness Original from debut author Amy Korman. If you love cocktails, antiquing, parties, shopping and the occasional crime-lite thrown in amid vodka tonics and tennis matches at the club, then you’ll love Killer WASPs. The first installment in this modern and cozy series features crime, romance, and fun amid the classic estates of Philadelphia’s Main Line.

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, is a haven for East Coast WASPs, where tennis tournaments and cocktails at the club are revered traditions. Little happens in the sleepy suburb, and that is the way the Lilly Pulitzer–clad residents prefer it. So when antiques store owner Kristin Clark and her portly basset hound stumble upon the area’s newest real estate developer lying unconscious beneath the hydrangea bushes lining the driveway of one of Bryn Mawr’s most distinguished estates, the entire town is abuzz with gossip and intrigue.

When the attacker strikes again just days later, Kristin and her three best friends—Holly, a glamorous chicken nugget heiress with a penchant for high fashion; Joe, a decorator who’s determined to land his own HGTV show; and Bootsie, a preppy but nosy newspaper reporter—join forces to solve the crime. While their investigation takes them to cocktail parties, flea markets, and the country club, they must unravel the mystery before the assailant claims another victim.

Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will enjoy shaking up the Philadelphia Main Line. To learn more, check out the Killer WASPs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/killerWASPsseries.

Alyssa Maxwell: The Gilded Newport Mysteries Sunday, Jun 8 2014 

Please welcome the author of the Gilded Newport Mystery series, Alyssa Maxwell, who will give us look into her historical series:

Write What You Know? No! cover front

If you take a look at my website, you’ll see that writing my Gilded Newport Mystery series has been a very special and personal experience for me. With my husband and his family having deep roots in Newport, you could say that I’ve taken the advice so often quoted to aspiring writers: Write what you know.

In many ways, that’s true. I’ve gotten to know the city much better than if I’d merely vacationed there, and having that “insider’s” view has certainly allowed me to breathe more life into these stories.

So yes, I wrote what I know, but there was also so much I didn’t know when I started writing. The Newport of 1895 was much different than the one we know today. To make my stories believable and true to the times, I had to research the burgeoning technologies of the late 19th century – for example my heroine has a telephone and uses a typewriter, and electric trolleys run through town – as well as notions of class consciousness and the relationships between employers and servants.

No books about Gilded Age Newport would be complete without a look at yacht racing, luxury steam ships, and the kinds of carriages people drove. Fashions, occupations, pastimes – these were all on my “to be researched” list. And, of course, since my heroine is also a newspaper reporter, I needed insight on real women reporters of the times – and yes, there were a few, and some of them even managed to push beyond the limitations of society page news.

Besides my main characters, who are fictional, people like the Vanderbilts play important roles in the books. I’d heard of them, of course, and knew they were incredibly wealthy, lived in huge, ornate houses, and were connected to the railroad industry. But I had no knowledge of them as individuals, or how they interacted with each other. I had to get to know them on a much more personal level so I could remain true to their personalities and their family dynamics.

All of these elements, and more, I had to learn. But what kept it exciting for me was my desire to dig around in the past, find the puzzle pieces, and put them together. Let’s face it – after a while what you already know becomes one big bore. Staying inspired means taking risks and forging into new territory. It’s an adventure that keeps your writing fresh and makes you eager to sit down at the keyboard every day. So for me, it’s not “write what you know,” but “write what you want to know, and what you’re excited to learn about.” In other words, find your passion (or passions) and take off running!

Do you have a passion for something? Share below and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Murder at The Breakers! Or just leave any old comment – you’ll still be entered!

About Murder at The Breakers:

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder darkens a glittering affair at the Vanderbilt summer home, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood…

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom, passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…

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Bio:
Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries, a historical mystery series featuring the glamor of a bygone era and a sleuth who’s a less “well-heeled” cousin of the illustrious Vanderbilts. The series debuted in March with MURDER AT THE BREAKERS, to be followed by Murder at Marble House
in September, and Murder at Beechwood in 2015. Alyssa will also be debuting an English-set historical series, The Foxwood Hall Mysteries, in October 2015. Alyssa and her family live in South Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime, and The Florida Romance Writers.

For review quotes, an excerpt, pictures, and all kinds of other fun stuff about The Gilded Newport Mysteries, please visit my website: http://alyssamaxwell.com. I love to hear from readers, so while you’re there feel free to drop me a line!

You can also find me at:
https://www.facebook.com/alyssa.maxwell.750
https://twitter.com/Alyssa__Maxwell

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7163135.Alyssa_Maxwell

Nicola Upson: The Death of Lucy Kyte Sunday, Apr 20 2014 

Readers know that Auntie M has long been a fan of Nicola Upson’s series set in the 1930s and featuring Josephine Tey as the protagonist. Starting with An Expert in Murder, through the stunning Fear in the Sunlight, each book is carefully researched and an enjoyable read.

So it was with great delight that after this brief review she is able to bring you an interview with Upson with questions based on her newest offering. THE DEATH OF LUCY KYTE is perhaps the author’s most challenging novel to date, a mystery within a mystery, meticulously researched, and a resounding read. It’s complex plot features the Suffolk countryside as the setting, where Tey has inherited a remote and crumbling cottage from her godmother.
Death of Lucy Kyte

Along with the hard work needed to make it habitable comes just the sort of intrigue to pique the interest of a mystery writer. A centuries-old murder still resonates on the minds of the villagers; yet the young woman named as the beneficiary in Tey’s godmother’s will seems to have disappeared from their memories. How Tey solves the mystery of Lucy Kyte forms the basis of this intelligent and rewarding read. Highly recommended.

And now in her own words, learn the story behind this book and please welcome Nicola Upson:

Auntie M: You obviously spend a great deal of time doing research on your novels and their settings and history: Angel With Two Faces and the Minack Theatre in Cornwall; Fear in the Sunlight and the Hitchcock’s in Portmeirion, Wales. Now with The Death of Lucy Kyte you’ve indicated that Polstead and the story of Maria Marten and William Corder is one you grew up with and wanted to explore in this book. How did you decide on the storyline to bring Josephine Tey to the area and involve her in its history?

Nicola Upson: I felt justified in bringing Josephine to Suffolk, as she had Suffolk ancestry on her mother’s side – her family brewed beer in the county – and it’s clear from her letters that she often visited many of the places that are referred to in the book – Stoke, Lavenham and, of course, Newmarket for the horseracing. ‘Josephine Tey’ was a pseudonym (her real name was Elizabeth MacKintosh) and she claims to have taken that name from her Suffolk great-great-grandmother. But you’re right – the decision to set a book in Suffolk was a personal one, and much more about me than it was about her! It’s my home county, where I grew up and where most of my family still lives, and it’s where my roots are. So – perhaps inevitably – Josephine’s story is a very personal one in this book, a story that touches on her family and her past, and in which she feels very strongly the presence of the people she’s lost, and the book feels very personal to me as well.

The Red Barn Murder – the killing of Maria Marten by her lover, William Corder in May 1827 – is certainly the first crime story I was ever aware of. As a child, I remember summer days out in the Suffolk village of Polstead with my parents, walking past Maria’s house or William’s, fascinated even then by what had happened there and by the real people behind the legend. I lived in Bury St Edmunds, the town where Corder was hanged, and every weekend I passed the Gaol where the execution took place on the way to my grandmother’s house. Bury’s museum, Moyse’s Hall, has a macabre collection of exhibits from the crime – Corder’s scalp and death mask, an account of the trial bound in his skin – and those things were so thrilling and so horrifying to a little girl. And we know from Tey’s work that she was fascinated by true crimes from the past – The Franchise Affair and The Daughter of Time are both based on historical crimes – so I felt she would have loved the facts and the mythologies that circle around the Red Barn Murder, too.

Choosing and getting to know the setting for each book is, for me, one of the greatest joys of writing. Lucy Kyte was different in that Polstead was a place I knew well as a child and have now rediscovered; most of my other novels have been set in locations that I’ve come to know primarily through the act of writing and research, places like Portmeirion or areas of London which were unfamiliar to me before I set books there. So it was special for me to revisit those childhood landscapes, to see Polstead in each new season and to imagine myself back there in a different time – first Josephine’s, and then Maria’s. 



AM: We don’t learn who Lucy Kyte is until the storyline is well-established and unravels, yet her death forms the last part of the book. After reading it, I realized this was absolutely the best title for this book. Did that come to you after writing the book, or was it always your premise from the start?

NU:

It’s the only one of my books that has had and kept its title from the very beginning. Titles are so hard because it’s not just your decision: you have to find something that feels right to you for the story, but your publisher has an input and it has to be something which tells a reader what to expect and which fits with the genre you’re working in. It wasn’t until Two for Sorrow that I titled one of my own books! My editor suggested An Expert in Murder, and PD James gave me the poem that’s titled Angel With Two Faces, because she felt it was exactly what the book was about. But there was never any question about this one: as soon as the character was named Lucy Kyte, the book had its title and I’ve never thought of it as anything else.

AM: Even as you’re promoting Lucy Kyte I’m certain you’re researching and writing the next Tey book. What’s in store for Josephine that you can share, and will her cottage figure in the future you have planned for her?

NU:The sixth book in the series – which currently has two titles! – is indeed underway, and it sees Josephine back in London in May, 1937, where she is involved in a cycle of radio plays at the BBC to celebrate the coronation of George VI. The repertory company of characters is back for this book, with Archie and Bridget, the Motleys and Lydia, but there will be other books that are more intensely focused on Josephine in the way that Lucy Kyte is.

Josephine’s cottage will be a very important part of her future, particularly as we head towards the war years. It’s funny, but when I started Lucy Kyte I deliberately held back on making a decision as to whether or not she would keep it at the end of the book: I wanted to feel my way into it as she did, and see how we both settled in! But there was no doubt in my mind by the end that she’d fallen in love with it, and I certainly haven’t finished with Suffolk as a novelist. And in all the books, there is an element of wish-fulfilment, of giving Josephine things in life that I genuinely believe she would have enjoyed under different circumstances. She wrote very movingly to friends about wanting one day to make a home for herself – she’d always lived in digs or the family house – but never got the chance to do that as she died so shortly after her father; I think she’d have liked the one I’ve chosen for her. I hope so, anyway.



AM: Besides Tey, whose writing has been an influence on your own?

NU: PD James. I think it’s significantly down to Phyllis and to Ruth Rendell that people like me are able to write detective fiction with the freedom and popularity that we enjoy today. When they began to publish in the early 1960s, crime fiction was at a crossroads: it could be relegated to the realms of slightly outdmoded entertainment, or it could become the living, breathing reflection of society that it is today; they set us out on the right path, and really expanded those boundaries – and they’re still doing it, creating benchmarks for writers to aspire to and books for readers to love, and I’m hugely grateful to them for that. And when you pick up a PD James novel, you get a brilliant fusion of theme, setting and character which makes the book about so much more than the plot; her descriptive passages take your breath away. For me, Death in Holy Orders is the perfect (crime) novel.

Reginald Hill is another huge influence. He has inspired me to be brave with a series, to try to develop characters whom readers will feel a real ownership of, and to play with the format and not be afraid of trying something a bit unexpected between one book and the next. He was a writer who really trusted his readers to go with him, and that takes a lot of courage.

Pat Barker is a remarkable novelist – I loved Toby’s Room; it’s a brilliant book, and her blend of fact and fiction is truly inspirational.



AM: When you read for pleasure, whose books are on your nightstand?

NU: I love Irish fiction, so Sebastian Barry, William Trevor, Jamie O’Neill and Colm Toibin are favourites. Susan Hill amazes me every time with her versatility. I treasure a book that makes me laugh, and I’m particularly keen on Barbara Pym, Stella Gibbons and Angela Thirkell – that wry, female humour with a real sting in its tail. Every summer, I re-read JL Carr’s A Month in the Country, which is probably the novel I wish I’d written, short and very, very beautiful. Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen have always been important to me. Wuthering Heights – which I first read when I was seven because of Kate Bush! – is a book I return to often, and it’s never disappointed me at any age – very few books grow with you in that way. Other than Tey, the Golden Age writers I love are Christianna Brand and Edmund Crispin. And the book I’m saving because I don’t want it to be over is The Days of Anna Madrigal, the most recent volume in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

AM: We share many of the same affections and mentors. Many thanks for sharing your influences, your insights and especially the background regarding this newest addition to your exceptional series.

A Quartet of Wickedness Sunday, Jul 14 2013 

Auntie M is traveling this week to meet British author Peter James in New York City at a FanFest event that’s part of their Thrillerfest that weekend. Details from that meeting will post at a future date, as she also hopes to connect with him on her stop in Brighton in August when she’s doing setting research, as the city is home to James and to his detective Roy Grace.

This week she’s bringing you four fantastic reads with wickedness in common.  BlackhouseCover

Scottish author Peter May’s The Blackhouse  is from his Lewis series. May’s The Lewis Man is on the shortlist for Crime Novel of the Year to be awarded next week at Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Old Peculiar is a beer. This is the first of the Lewis series and readers may want to start with the first to follow the trajectory of the protagonist’s personal life.

The Blackhouse gives a fascinating look into the life and culture of the Outer Hebrides as it takes Edinburgh detective Fin McLeod back to his native isle of Lewis where a murder bears too many similarities to a serial killer on the Scottish mainland. Has the murderer moved to the remote island and taken his grisly methods with him?

MacLeod must face his own troubled past on the island while coping with his present life choices and the demise of his marriage. Reconnecting with childhood friends and the places he once called home is often painful, yet MacLeod is determined to find the answer to the killings, even as he battles the ancient customs and traditions and his own bitter past, one he thought he’d long left behind.

How past events collide with what is happening now form a brilliant literary thriller from this prolific author of the award-winning China Thrillers and the Enzo Files series.

May’s history as scriptwriter and editor on British television is evident in his vivid descriptions and haunting prose. The contrast of MacLeod’s past remembrances are skillfully balanced with the events driving the present investigation. Book Three in the series is Chessman and Auntie M has it on her TBR pile.

 

Florida author Steve Berry is back in fine form with his newest thriller, The King’s Deception, featuring the eighth adventure of Cotton Malone, a recently retired Justice Department operative who is hoping to leave his past behind.

The Kings DeceptionOn his way back to the Amsterdam bookstore he owns, his son, Gary, in tow for a planned Thanksgiving holiday, Malone is asked to escort teenage fugitive Ian Dunne to England.  Gary and Malone are both reeling from personal information Malone’s ex-wife recently admitted that casts a pall on the trip, and in a startling plot twist, effect actions and outcomes.

The planned quick handover at Heathrow of Ian to the authorities soon turns into much more when the trio are greeted at gunpoint and Ian disappears with Gary.

What follows is a complex plot and a highly compelling read that is a tour de force of mixing true historical events with a twist of fiction that will leave readers breathless.

Balancing Tudor secrets with a startling theory, Malone finds himself running against agents from several countries in an international scheme that goes as far up the chain as possible in MI6, and revolves around a political disaster fueled in part by the release of the Libyan terrorist convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

Operation King’s Deception has the power to change history as it intersects with the Tudor secret. Gary, Ian and Malone must get to the bottom of it all, aided by a few sympathetic women who cross their paths. There are far too many involved, and too many lives at stake, for Malone to fail.

Hats off to Berry for his meticulous research and the weaving of true facts into his plot. This will leave you yearning for a trip to England to see his settings, while turning pages to find out the resolution of his twisted plot. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a bit of history mixed in with a contemporary thriller.

 

Jane Casey introduced DC Maeve Kerrigan in The Missing to rave reviews. The second in her series The Reckoning, shows another well-plotted, suspense-filled novel. reckoning

Still recovering from wounds she received in the prior novel, Maeve is torn not just physically but emotionally, as she’s ended an intimate relationship, yet must face London’s darkest places in her new case.

On the hunt for a killer targeting sex offenders, Maeve and her team find ties to a mobster who may be trying to track down a missing girl. The wicked murders prey on Maeve’s mind as the killings start to mount up.

Complicating the already-intense case is the addition of two new members to her team.

She finds herself saddled with DI Josh Derwent, who has the confidence of her superintendent but a reputation for aggressiveness, and as she soon finds out, a decided lack of tact. He also finds great pleasure in deriding Maeve’s detecting skills.

Their abrasiveness in trying to work together is one aspect of the hard reality of police work, as the team follows up leads on the men being tortured in horrific ways before their deaths.

It doesn’t help that she’s just moved house and her flat is a mess, or that DC Rob Langton and her own extended Irish family add to the complications of her days.

Then a flash drive arrives for Maeve and the pictures make it clear she’s being followed. How does this tie in to the murders, or has she attracted her own kind of nutter?  And will she be forced to move home yet again, just as she’s finished unpacking?

Casey does a fine job of detailing human behavior as well as the politics and squabbles of Maeve’s workplace as she heats up the plot. Maeve is tough to resist as a character, so it’s a treat for readers to know Casey continues her storyline.

400000000000001012418_s4 The Last Girl is Maeve’s next case at The Met, as the police thriller series continues. Still sorting out her confused feelings for Rob Langton and dealing with that stalker from the last book, Maeve and the irascible DI Derwent are called to a crime scene at the house of wealthy defense attorney Philip Kennford.

Kennford’s reputation for getting convicted criminals released makes it difficult for Maeve to summon sympathy–until she views the ghastly scene of the murder of his wife and one of his twin daughters. Her investigation reveals this was a deeply unhappy family, and that the surviving sister was the least favored daughter.

Immediately falling under suspicion, Kennford has secrets he refused to divulge, despite the high stakes of the investigation. The remaining twin, Lydia, is in shock after finding the bodies of her sister and mother. Yet sending her to her mother’s sister only seems to make things worse.

Maeve knows there is far more beneath the surface and that all of her witnesses are holding back information. She worries over protecting Lydia, until Kennford’s daughter from his first marriage arrives and seems eager to help.

Then in the midst of this complicated case, Maeve’s beloved boss, Superintendent Godley, starts acting in what seems an underhanded way, and her entire world seems to collapse. Who is her enemy and who can be trusted?

With a decided theme of wickedness running through the novel’s subplots, Maeve will race against time to save a young girl–and herself.

This series will engage readers who enjoy Tana French’s novels, for the same level of thoroughness in describing the workings of a police investigation, and for Casey’s creation of a host of engaging characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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