HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Great reads for your gift list Thursday, Dec 1 2016 

At this time of year, Auntie M likes to give readers a compendium, if you will, of stacks of books to choose from for gifts for the readers on your list. Don’t forget her axiom that it’s perfectly reasonable to buy a few for yourself!

mistletoemuder mistletoe2

Let’s start off with a little goodie that should soon appear in stockings all over the world: Short stories from the Queen of British Mystery, P D James, gathered into a slim volume perfect for stockings. The Mistletoe Murder and other Stories contains four classic short stories, two featuring her detective, poet Adam Dalgliesh. For a brief moment in time, readers can hear James’ voice in their reader ear once again. A delightful foreword by Val McDermid and a preface by James herself frame the perfect holiday treat. These are delicious: a snapshot of a setting, a crime to be solved, and you’re off! That’s the US cover on the left and the UK cover on the right. Enjoy!

<img src="https://auntiemwrites.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/feliznavidead.jpg?w=93" alt="feliznavidead" width="93" height="150" class="alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-3072″ />
Keeping with the holiday theme is Ann Myers’ third Santa Fe Cafe` Mystery, Feliz Navidead
. Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Cafe has her mom visiting from Minnesota to entertain, while keeping track of her teenage daughter performing in the outdoor Christmas play. When Rita discovers a dead actor during the first performance, she swears off investigating, but soon finds herself involved in a very dangerous situation. The Knit and Snitchers, her elderly group of knitting ladies, are back, giving information and clues to Rita even as they sneak their knitting onto statues and stop signs. There are a host of other entertaining characters, and don’t forget Rita’s mom. Who can resist Santa Fe at Christmas? Watch Rita solve a murder and drool over Myers’ recipes, too.

the-twelve-dogs-of-christmas-by-david-rosenfelt
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
is David Rosenfelt’s newest Andy Carpenter mystery in the long-running series. This time he and his trusty golden retriever are helping his friend “Pups” Boyer, accused of murder when said neighbor is found dead–by Pups. It doesn’t help that the neighbor had filed a complaint against Pups and the noise of her local dog rescue. While Andy doesn’t believe Pups is guilty, his digging will bring him closer than he’d like to the real murderer. Rosenfelt’s real Tara Foundation, which finds home for injured or sick dogs, is the basis for Andy’s foundation.


Maggie Patterson is helping out her sick sister, covering for her at The Wine and Bark, the dog-friendly bar Rachel runs in a usually-quiet seaside town in California in Trigger Yappy. It’s Maggie who hears the argument between her friend Yolanda and Bonnie, the gal who runs the Chic Chickie shop. When Bonnie is murdered, the Roundup Crew and the very cute Officer Brad Brooks are on hand to help Maggie investigate to clear Yolanda, even if means putting her purser job on hold to do so. Filled with good humor, charm and a bit of romance.

pushingupdaisieshc
We’ll stick with humor in Agatha Raisin’s latest adventure, Pushing Up Daisies. M. C. Beaton’s beloved character is the kind of sleuth Miss Marple wouldn’t recognize, with her hard-drinking man lust. A land developer is murdered and there are far too many suspects. Lord Bellington wanted to turn the community garden into a housing development, so there are few tears shed at his death. The villagers seem happy enough that his heir and son, Damian, doesn’t intend to follow his father’s plans, but he does want to find his father’s killer, and hires Agatha to investigate. This time a retired detective is on hand to assist Agatha, and it helps that he’s handsome. Agatha doesn’t let a second murder of a woman seen kissing the new detective deter her from her case–or him. Vintage Beaton.

inheritence
A switch to historicals, and we start of with the continuing Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch with The Inheritance. With fine attention to Victorian detail, Lenox is thrust into his most personal case yet. His friend from Harrow, Gerald Leigh, asks for help from Lenox, only to disappear. Knowing that in the past Leigh has been the recipient of a bequest from an anonymous benefactor, he finds Leigh has received a second bequest. Could they be from the same person? And what does either had to do with his friend’s disappearance? His investigation will take him from the highs of society to the lows of the gangs of the east end of London before it’s over. An intricate plot with realistic and finely-drawn period details.

westmorlandalone
Ian Sansome’s new County Guides novel, Westmoreland Alone
, with Stephen Sefton as narrator, Professor Morley (the People’s Professor) and his daughter Miriam, newly engaged, set out to conquer the Lake District. Owing to the the rather unusual end to Sefton’s night at the pub and cards before leaving, he persuades Morley he should take the train, with disastrous effect. A horrid crash reminds Sefton of his time in Spain and there is a tragic death. It’s the juxtaposition of the three personalities that provides a lot of the humor in the strained setting. Stranded after the fatal train crash, the three become involved in a suspicious death when the body of a woman is found at an archeological dig. It’s 1930’s England with all of the mores of the time. We see more of Sefton’s PTSD as the trio investigate gypsies, wrestling habits, country fairs and more.

pharoah
Wilbur Smith has been called “the best historical novelist” by Stephen King, and he brings that talent to ancient Egypt in Pharaoh
. This action-packed epic follows the Pharaoh’s advisor, Taita, where Egypt is under a brutal attack and Pharaoh Tamose is gravely injured. Despite leading the army to victory, Taita is branded a traitor after Tamose dies by the new Pharaoh. With his first person narrative bringing Taita and Egypt to life, sometimes in a boastful way, history feels present under Smith’s skilled hands when a kidnaping leads to preparation for another war.
deathtuscanhills
1967 Florence and Italian culture come alive under Mario Vichi’s hands in the fifth Inspector Bordelli mystery, Death in the Tuscan Hills. Florence is getting over the tragic floods of the previous winter but Bordelli has resigned after failing to solve the investigation into a young boy’s murder at that time. He leaves the city, determined to find peace in his new home in the Tuscan hills, despite the nagging thorn in his side by leaving the boy’s killers free. While he learns a new way of life, tending to an olive grove, gardening, cooking, and worries about his confused love life, he still obsesses about the men at large. Retribution is at hand when he discovers all the cohorts’ identities. But now what will he do about it? An absorbing tale with Vichi’s usual footnotes for clarification in several places.

hellbay

Will Thomas’ latest Barker and Llewellyn novel put their detecting skills to the test in Hell Bay, an impossible crime set in 1889 Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall. Barker has been tasked with providing security for a secret meeting with the French government at the estate there of Lord Hargrave. The security team fails miserably, with two deaths on the island and no means of leaving or signaling for help. It’s a classic locked-area mystery, as Barker and Llewelyn race to uncover the killer among them before he strikes again and dashes all hope of negotiating a new treaty with France. Chock full of historical details and rising tension.

desolation-flats-ex
Andrew Hunt’s Desolation Flats captures 1930s Salt Lake City in his Art Oveson series. The famed Bonneville Salt Flats are the site of international racers, there to break the land speed record. Then Nigel Underhill, a wealthy English participant, is murdered, and his brother disappears. It’s a case for Art in the Missing Person’s Bureau, and he’s been handed a helper: a former Scotland Yard detective the Underhill family has hired to assist Art. The trail will lead them between Utah and London and end in a most unlikely manner. A gritty and engrossing read.

For readers who enjoy books set in different countries, check out these:

reykjavikassignment

Adam LeBor’s Yael Azoulay series have been praised for the geopolitical thrillers’ realistic and intelligent plotting and savvy yet human protagonist. Yael has managed to stop the plans of the powerful Prometheus Group and its leader is out for revenge. This third installment, The Reykjavik Assignment, takes the covert UN negotiator to Iceland for a secret meeting she’s arranged during a UN conference between three key players: the US Secretary of State, The UN Secretary General, and the President of Iran. She soon discovers a plan to disrupt it as an act of revenge against Yael herself. As the tension rises, and with the US President on hand, Yael races to stop the murder of the UN Secretary by unmasking the killer, who has his own motives for wanting the man dead. A chilling climax with a surprising twist at the end will answer some of Yael’s long-held questions. A stunning end to the trilogy.

realtigers It’s off to England and London’s Slough House in Mick Herron’s Real Tigers, a Jackson Lamb spy thriller that’s been called some of the finest spy fiction of the last 20 years. Slough House is where a disgraced spy is sent to push paper. But when one is the victim of a revenge kidnapping, it leads to a group of private mercenaries within the Security Service. Enter Jackson Lamb to sort it all out in a manner that will convince readers the spy novel with sharp dialogue and filled with sly wit is still around.

thepatriarch
The Patriarch brings Bruno, Chief of Police, to the French countryside for the birthday celebration of the man who is Bruno’s childhood hero: Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix, a WWII flying ace. He knows many of the attendees, and is enjoying himself immensely, far away from his daily grind, when a longtime friend of the family is found dead. What started as a pleasant day turns into the kind of investigation he’d hoped to avoid, as what at first appears to be a tragedy may just be a murder. With his hero’s family all coming under suspicion, he must tread lightly in the Dordogne, from the river chateaus to the prehistoric cave paintings to find a killer.

gentlemanjapan
To North Korea and the enigmatic Inspector O, in James Church’s sixth in the series, The Gentleman from Japan
. Living with his nephew, Bing, the director of state security in northeast China near the border of North Korea, Inspt. O becomes involved when Bing needs his help after there are seven deaths in one night, apparent poisonings in noodle shops. Despite not wanting to investigate them, Bing needs O’s help more than ever. Their investigation will take them to Spain and Portugal before it’s straightened out as a world-wide plot develops. Satisfying and complex.

storm-rising
Back to the US for some great mysteries. Douglas Schofield’s Storm Rising fits that bill, with cop’s widow Lucy Hendricks leading the charge. After leaving for Florida, Lucy decides its time to move home to New Jersey and lay her old ghosts to rest. Yet the mystery surrounding her husband’s death becomes even stronger when her young son, Kevin, experiences a change in his behavior. With Hurricane Sandy quickly approaching, the elements conspire to destroy more than Lucy’s home as she tries to unpick the mystery surrounding her husband’s death. A true mystery laden with supernatural elements.

chaos
Not supernatural, but with a substance not known in earth: that’s the crux of the case before Kay Scarpitta in Patricia Cornwell’s new CHAOS
. A bicyclist has been killed with superhuman force and Kay and her investigating partner, Peter Marino, are on the case in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the body has been found near the Kennedy School of Government. What doesn’t add up are the calls Kay’s husband, FBI agent Benton Wesley, have received before the incident from Interpol. Or were they? And when her tech-savvy niece Lucy fails to be able to trace the sender, all bets are off with a cyberbully involved. High tension, detailed forensics, and a whopping good story.

champagne
Ellen Crosby brings back her Virginia Wine Country Mysteries under the Minotaur umbrella in The Champagne Conspiracy. Vintner-sleuth Lucie Montgomery investigates an older mystery with her partner, Quinn Santori, when his uncle Gino enlists their help solving the 1920s death of Zara Tomasi, the first wife of his grandfather, who died under suspicious circumstances in 1923. Is there a connection to her death the day after President Warren Harding died at the same San Francisco hotel? With a blackmailer breathing down their necks, Gino and Lucie search for the truth before a family secret is revealed. Everything they hold dear will come under threat as a murderer tries to keep the truth about Zara’s death buried in time.

bronxrequiem
Gritty crime fiction takes to the streets of the Bronx in John Clarkson’s
Bronx Requiem
. James Beck is back, and he takes it hard when an ex-con, determined to change his ways, is murdered just hours after his release before he can change his life. Enter James Beck, whose ring of ex-cons in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn try to find justice for the murdered man. But a deeper look into a street killing turns into something more complicated, and soon Beck and his ring need to watch their own backs to uncover the truth. Fast-paced and action filled.

And for those who want a paperback for stocking stuffers or maybe that grab bag gift, look no further than these:

herlastbreath
Her Last Breath is Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder entry new in paperback, and she’s a favorite of readers with good reason. Investigating the world of the Amish isn’t easy, but it’s a world Kate knows, and as Chief of Police, she’s called in to a hit-and-run that leaves an Amish deacon and of two of his children dead, with a third clinging to life. The Amish lifestyle is accurately portrayed, its simplicity a stark contrast to the rapid pace and high tension. The widow was Kate’s friend as youths, and while she’s determined to find the killer, she starts to suspect it’s much more than a simple case in Painters Mill.

narrowbed
Sophie Hannah’s The Narrow Bed
is part of her Culver Valley crime series with the highly interesting married detective duo, Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. A serial killer is murdering pairs of best friends after giving the victim a hand-made white book containing a line of poetry before their death. Their search centers around stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck, who was a recipient of one of the white books, but is still alive a year later. How they solve this crime and it all comes together shows the hallmark of Hannah’s complex plotting for a read that’s filled with pathos and psychological ambiguity.

what-doesnt-kill-her
Carla Norton’s What Doesn’t Kill Her is the second Reeve Le Clair thriller. Now a college student after surviving being the captive of killer Daryl Wayne Flint, she’s getting her life back on track. Then the unthinkable happens: Flint manages to escape from the psychiatric hospital where he’s been held, and starts killing people from his past, settling old scores. And that included Reeve, and she knows she’s on his list. Not only that: she realizes she’s the one who knows him best and is the only one who can stop him. Chilling and tautly plotted.

And one for your true crime aficionado: possessed
True crime writer Kathryn Casey earned Ann Rule’s two thumbs up as one of the best in the business. Now Casey explores the “Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder” in Possessed
, taking readers to Houston and what at first glance is a domestic murder. The details include the magnetic and erratic Ana Trujillo, who had a reputation in Houston for her supposed occult powers. Stefan Andersson is the gentle, Swedish man who falls for Ana and comes under her spell. A fascinating look at the forensic evidence and witness testimony comes under the microscope as Ana tries to claim she killed Stefan in self defense. Meticulously presented.

A. D. Garrett: Truth Will Out Thursday, Nov 3 2016 

truth-will-out-350x532px

Forensics expert Nick Fennimore and DI Kate Simms return in their third outing Truth Will Out/, a strong entry in the series that finds the two struggling against the professional boundaries that restrain them from working together.

While Fennimore is always on the hunt for his kidnapped daughter, Suzie, a possible sighting in Paris from Believe No One has the action switching back and forth between Scotland, England and France.

Simms is still feeling the sting from her family after being away for several months spent in the US. This undercurrent will play throughout the book when a mother and child are kidnapped driving away from what should have been a day out at the cinema. Police politics keep Simms at arms length in the investigation as she’s supposed to be home on leave.

Julia Meyers and her young daughter Lauren are leaving a movie, the little girl on a high as only a six year-old entranced with a princess movie can be. Yellow food coloring the child is sensitive to, eaten in sweets, set Lauren off on a temper tantrum that is only subdued when she has a near miss with a car leaving the car park.

A chastened Lauren is soon strapped into her car seat, and the harried mother joins the cars leaving the car park. Then the unthinkable happens: What appears to be a monster breaks through the trunk where he’s been hiding into the back seat, taking mother and child captive, and starting a nationwide search for them both.

The case has a eerie resemblance to an eight year-old kidnapping/murder Fennimore has just been using to illustrate his summer course. DNA evidence had arrested the wrong man, whom Fennimore had been able to have released–but the real killer was still at large.

Along with Fennimore’s search for Suzie, these cases form the compelling and distinctive plot of this book, which has several surprises near the end, with twist piled upon twist. Just when you think it’s over, there’s another plot point curve to keep you immersed.

Auntie M loves this series for what she learns about forensics, thanks to one of the co-authors, forensic scientist and Senior Policing Lecturer Helen Pepper. Award-winning psychological thriller author Margaret Murphy is the flip side of the duo, and the series illustrates her complex plotting and rapid-fire pacing.

The chemistry between the widowed Fennimore and the married Simms adds to the tension, and the dialogue is realistic. Highly recommended.

Summer Thrillers X 4: Meltzer, Hamilton, Kovacs, Freedland Friday, Aug 7 2015 

Here are four great summer thrillers for readers out right now, whether you’re at the beach or reading before bed. And if you missed Steve Berry’s The Lincoln Myth when it first came out, that one is now in paperback and ebook formats.

Meltzer_ThePresidentsShadow(HC)
Brad Meltzer’s Culper Ring Triology has captivated readers, who are waiting for this third installment. The President’s Shadow shows his love of the National Archives and his relationship with former US President George H. W. Bush and First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush, who helped to inform the book, adding to the sense of reality that pervades the read.

The book opens with a wallop and never lets up, with First Lady Shona Wallace keeping her secret: she’s stolen a small section of the White House Rose Garden for her own flower garden. As she digs in the dirt early one morning, a persistent root finally gives way–and proves to have fingers attached to it.

That severed arm is only the start of trouble for Beecher White, erstwhile employee of the Nation Archives, who’s been visiting his mentor, Tot Westman, every day. Tot lies in a coma after brain surgery on the bullet wound in his frontal lobe.

The discovery of the arm immediately raises questions about security, the victim and the culprit. Beecher is called to a secret meeting of the Culper Ring, where President Wallace tells him that an item discovered with the arm links back to Beecher’s dead father.

That mystery surrounding what happened to his father has consumed Beecher, and this discovery might finally bring some answers. His membership in the secret organization that dates back to before George Washington became President holds the key, especially since the clue left was meant for Beecher alone.

Meltzer blends history with his fascinating story, mixed with that insider knowledge that lends authenticity to the conspiracy that is unveiled. This is great storytelling in an interesting and absorbing trilogy that blends fact with fiction in a compelling manner.

Past Crimes
Switching to a debut, Glen Erik Hamilton and Past Crimes
introduces Army Ranger Van Shaw, who has returned to his Seattle home after receiving a terse message from his grandfather after a decade apart. With flashbacks showing readers Van’s unusual childhood, the reason he joined the Rangers, Van Shaw promises to be an entertaining protagonist in this accomplished book.

Van finds his grandfather, Dono Shaw, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. With their complicated past and Dono Shaw’s shady life, Van knows he will be the prime suspect in the shooting and must clear his name. But the only way to do that is to plunge himself into the life he thought he’d left behind when he joined the Rangers.

There will be an enormous diamond theft to handle as Van hunts for the shooter, using the skills he’s learned in his Ranger training, combined with his sharp wit to find the assailant as he works with the team Dono put together for his big jobs and realizes he can trust no one.

Filled with action sequences, the book’s visuality and sharp dialogue will lend itself well to being filmed and Auntie M has no doubt this will be picked up by Hollywood if it hasn’t been already.

RussianBride
Best known for his Cliff St. James crime novels, author Ed Kovacs is debuting a new series in The Russian Bride.

His protagonist is an elite agent in military intelligence, working undercover in Moscow to find moles in the US Embassy. Major Kit Bennings suddenly finds himself and his family the targets of a former KGB general-turned-Mafia don in a complicated coercion scheme when mobster Viktor Popov has Kit’s mother killed in California.

Popov threatens to do the same to Kit’s sister, Staci, whom he has already kidnapped. To free his sister, Kit must agree to marry a Russian woman, Popov’s niece, Yulana Petkova, and take her to the U.S.

Desperate to save his sister, Kit reluctantly agrees to the marriage but soon learns what Popov really wants: Kit’s help in stealing an electromagnetic-pulse device that could disable the economic and intelligence infrastructure of a large percentage of the U.S. and open the door to massive cyber-theft opportunities.

Now Kit finds himself hunted by killers on both sides of the ocean and saddled with a new wife,\ as he tries to rescue Staci and stop Popov’s plans from coming to fruition. He will call on all of his talented action-oriented friends for help and there’s plenty of specialists who rise to the occasion. There’s so much going on at times readers will feel breathless at the fast pace.

3rd Woman
Jonathan Freedland’s unusual premise makes The 3rd Woman an intriguing read.

Picture an alternate world where US has borrowed more money from China than it can repay–not too hard to imagine–and is forced to allow them a permanent military presence on American soil. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But to journalist Madison Webb, it’s her reality to live in this America of crisis in every quarter: economic, political and social.

Then the unthinkable happens: her own sister is murdered, and Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. There are local political elections in process, with Maddy’s ex-boyfriend working for a candidate, and Abi’s murder soon becomes a hot political issue.

After Maddy uncovers evidence that points to Abi as actually being the third victim in a series of killings, she realizes the deaths are being hushed up as part of a major conspiracy. In the new US climate, there are shades of truth and reality.

Maddy will be forced to use all of her connections to get to the truth. The use of social media adds a nice touch as her own life comes into the line of fire.

This is a clever, fast-paced political thriller. Maddy is a strong and capable female lead with a realistic edge who readers will want to see in action again.

Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act and The Edge of the Water Sunday, Aug 31 2014 

Don’t let the size of Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley-Havers novel put you off. Just One Evil Act finds her back in fine form with an engrossing read and a case that has unexpected turns and settings.JustOneEvilAct

Readers of the series know Sergeant Barbara Havers has grown fond of her neighbor, Taymullah Azhar, and his daughter, Hadiyyah. Never married to the child’s mother, Angelina had nevertheless reappeared in an previous book and charmed her way into the life of both Havers and Azhar before disappearing with the child. Havers can’t really help—Azhar had never married Angelina, and his name isn’t on Hadiyyah’s birth certificate so he has no legal claim. In desperation, Azhar and Barbara hire a private detective to find her without success.

Then Angelina reappears with shocking news: Hadiyyah is missing, kidnapped from an Italian marketplace. The Italian police are investigating, and the Yard won’t get involved–that is, until Havers takes matters into her own hands at the risk of her own career. And there’s no doubt her career is in jeopardy: Lynley’s brief affair with her superior now over, the woman seems out to end Haver’s career and a colleague gleefully assists her.

Havers travels to Italy to the town of Lucca, charmingly and faithfully described, and what she finds there will have Inspector Lynley joining her as they try to unravel what soon becomes a far more complex case than a typical kidnapping, revealing secrets that have far-reaching effects outside of the investigation. There will be disputes with the Italian police and a diabolical politician as both Havers and Lynley find themselves in unknown territory and with their authority in question. With both her job and the life of a little girl on the line, Barbara must decide what matters most, and how far she’s willing to go to protect it.

At times there seems to be no good ending for either Havers or Azhar and his daughter; and yet at the end of this book readers will feel that the resolution is the only one that could have happened.

the-edge-of-the-water-book-cover

George has also tested the waters in the YA department with the publication of the first in a new series last year, The Edge of Nowhere, which introduced teen Becca, who has a sixth sense about people and who is on the run from her criminal stepfather. Its sequel The Edge of the Water,, finds Becca still living in secret on Whidbey Island, even hiding from her boyfriend, the Ugandan orphan Derric.

This is not as simple a book as you might expect if you’re an adult reading a novel intended for the YA audience, and there is a lot of exploration of the sex lives of teenagers. There is also a story line of a black seal named Nero who returns to the same place every year that gives a different kind of edge to the mystery which might frustrate adults reading it but Auntie M suspects it will delight YA readers.

Becca’s ability to hear people’s thoughts are there, along with a supernatural mystery and plenty of teen drama for the intended audience. The main characters’ arcs show development and the discoveries within the community are an added facet. There will be resolution to some of the issues at the end with enough open to lead YA readers to the next installment.

Hot Summer Reads and Rory Flynn Interview Tuesday, Jul 22 2014 

Auntie M has a huge stack of crime fiction waiting to be read and she likes to take the middle of the summer, when guest blogs build up, to remind you of those books that are in print that you will enjoy. Seek out the ones that appeal to you for some fun summer readings.

First up is an interview with author Rory Flynn, whose first crime novel, THIRD RAIL: An Eddy Harkness Novel, is in print. Auntie M had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Flynn when she was in Concord, MA, recently with her writing group visiting the literary sites. Not far from the homes of Emerson and Alcott, we talked about Mr. Flynn’s character Eddy, his hometown of Nagog, not unlike Concord, and Flynn’s writing process.

stona_fitch_portrait

Auntie M: When a former principal remarks that what happened to Eddy’s family is Shakespearian, Eddy answers:” And you don’t mean the comedies do you?” How much of that comes from your own history and from living in a small town? You have a line: “Cities churn, suburbs strive, but small towns stay the same.”

Rory Flynn: My real mother disappeared from my life over twenty years ago so that’s a part of it. I choose when to go in and out of focus on that kind of stuff and end up taking out more after the first draft. The idea of small town’s never gets lost, but people know where they are they are in small town living. It’s a microcosm of the whole world, and when Eddy turns over a stone it’s familiar to readers. The monument crash in the book and its subsequent controversy over fixing it or not actually occurred here, and like us, there are elements that convey a bigger story about behavior and life.

AM: We see the action unfold from Eddy’s shoulder which gives the book a tremendous sense of immediacy. Despite his fall from grace that paints him as a tragic figure, he handles it all gracefully.

RF: Eddy’s a walking-around kinda guy, especially when he’s collecting meter change. When he loses his gun, it’s a metaphor for him losing face on the job that got him demoted in the first place. I like to throw everything into a chapter and then take out what’s not needed but something’s always got to be happening. There’s darkness and there should be dimensions in each chapter where something happens. I have fun writing him.

AM: “Morning is about flaws.” These lines of realism smack the reader in the face with a universal truth. Do you create them out of the writing or have them in mind first?

RF: I liked lines that resonate and have that universal truth. It’s like a filter of Life. I fit them in with when I can work them into the lines around what’s happening; it can’t be forced. But sometimes that kind of line resonates.

AM: Some of your characters are way out there, eccentric to say the least. Where does that come from?

RF: I played in a grotty urban punk band and we’d do these gigs, often in college towns, I’d meet and see so many different kinds of people, always with a nightlife I was supporting. And I like being wild, throwing in characters who are out there.

AM: You write and work but you’re very community-mnded. You work with Gaining Ground, a community farm group.

RF: My wife and I both do. It’s a 100-acre farm run by volunteers who grow and give produce to the people who need it. There’s a real give and take with the surrounding community and it’s a program that’s spread to fifteen countries.

AM: Yet you find time to write, time to volunteer, time to work at a copyediting job, and time to run the Concord Free Press.

RF: I need that job to put two daughters through college! Very few writers, unless you’re Stephen King or JK Rowling, can make a living off their writing. I have other novels (under his real name, Stona Fitch) and one was made into a movie and another optioned by Harry Connick, Jr, but only a very small percentage of writers support their families just on their writing. The Press came about from an idea, again, of giving back to the community. Fitch-Give and takeBWCHoU3kL._AA160_
Generosity is infectious and I find the whole concept fascinating. It’s an odd publishing model, Concord Free Press, with underwriting from Kodak that covers printing costs. We reach out to people and the books choose us. We ask them to let us give 3,000 copies of a book away for free and then ask the recipient to make a donation to any charity of their liking and then pass the book on. Once you take money out of the equation all things are possible. To date we’ve raised over $400,000 dollars to various charities and given the author exposure. People are reading their books who might never have seen them and readers are making donations they wouldn’t have thought about. We’d like to expand next to books out of print.

AM: What’s on your nightstand waiting to be read and who do you like in crime? And more importantly, what’s up next for Eddy Harkness?

RF: In crime, Megan Abbott’s The Fever–she’s on CFP’s editorial board. I like Alan Guthrie and Robert Parker, too. I like Jess Walter, Stephen Zweig, Martin Walser; that night stand has Bohumil Hrabel’s I Served the King of Englandand Herman Koch’s The Dinner. Eddy? In Third Rail, the fictional drug loosens people and their problems up, until they have a monumental crash. I liked that and its effects. The sequel, Dark Horse, is a tale of personal responsibility on many levels.

AM: Thanks for your time, Mr. Flynn. Now for THIRD RAIL, the first Eddy Harness novel.ThirdRail_cover_277x419
Eddy Harkness is a young detective with a sixth sense for finding hidden things: cash, drugs, guns, bodies. But Eddy’s place in an elite narcotics unit is derailed by the death of a Red Sox fan in the chaos of a World Series win, a death some feel he could have prevented. The incident is not told in great detail; just enough to interest readers and explain Eddy’s fall from grace. Eddy finds himself exiled to his hometown just outside Boston, where he empties parking meters and struggles to redeem his disgraced family name with its own history.

After a night of crazed drinking with a wild new companion, Eddy’s police-issue Glock disappears. Unable to report the theft, Eddy starts a secret search for it, using a plastic model for cover, just as a string of fatal accidents lead him to uncover a new, dangerous smart drug, Third Rail. There is a cast of characters filled with eccentricities who rival Monty Python, too. With only that plastic gun to protect him, Eddy’s investigation leads him into the darkest corners of his hometown, where it soon becomes tough to tell the politicians from the criminals. There will be death and revealed secrets as Eddy turns over stones in the town he thought he knew. With a highly developed setting, a very human protagonist, and a story that takes off from page one and never lets up until its startling finale, Third Rail readers will be looking for the next Eddy Harkness novel.

On to other recommended reads.

grimes
Martha Grimes has been off writing other novels, so her return to a Richard Jury novel after four long years is anxiously awaited in Vertigo 42. Jury as a Superintendent has more flexibility, although he still has Carole-anne Palutski as his comely upstairs neighbor. The whole eccentric crew revolving around Melrose Plant is back for a few scenes, too, although their presence has more to do with comic relief and less do with Jury’s investigation when he’s asked by an old friend to look to the death of the friend’s wife seventeen years ago.

Tess Williiamson died in a fall down stone steps at her Devon home, several years after coming under suspicion for the death of a child, there for a day’s outing with a group of other children at the home, in a similar way. Her husband, Tom, can’t believe it was accidental, or that Tess committed suicide. Tom asks Jury to look into the case, and as it falls on the turf of his friend, Brian Macalvie, only too eager to establish the real cause of death. Jury soon finds himself at the house, called Laburnum.

The scene seems staged to Jury, but then so does the death near Ardy’s house in Sidbury of a young woman who has fallen from a high tower. The Hitchcock movie “Vertigo” comes into play here. Dressed impeccably in designer clothes and shoes, the woman’s death investigation runs parallel to Jury’s old one, until a man dead from gunshots is found in an alley and things really get complicated after that.

Auntie M was happy to be with the familiar cast but the ending seemed to be almost anti-climatic, or perhaps the pace was off a tad. Whatever, it’s still a pleasure to be back with Richard Jury and his unlikely crew of friends.

Gold-Digger-Frances-Fyfield

Witness Impulse has brought out Frances Fyfield’s Gold Digger, in ebook and trade paperback, and its a tour de force from this talented writer who gets inside the psyche of her characters. Readers will also learn about the art world as that world is the pivot point of the entire plot. But it’s so much more, in the talented way Fyfield has of creating engaging and very real characters who leap off the page, all damaged by life.

Thomas Porteous sees something in the urchin Diana Quigley, who enters his house as a thief only to steal his heart and become his wife, despite a huge age difference.

Thomas is an art collector, with an eye that rivals Di’s own, and he sets about teaching her to see art and nature with new eyes. Theirs is a happy if brief marriage, and one of the highlights of the novel are Di’s descriptive cards of the paintings they share in the huge old house by the sea that was once a school.

Thomas’ first wife turned their two daughters against him in a most horrendous way, but that doesn’t stop either of the daughter’s from plotting to get their hands on what they feel is their wealth by right, instead of going to Di. Despite his best try at reconciliation before his death, his daughters abandon him until Thomas is gone. The only family member who adores him, along with Di, is one young grandson, Patrick.

Now the family has planned to rob Di and gain back what they feel is theirs, and she enlists a motley group of compatriots to help her foil their plan. Suspenseful and compelling.
DarkandTwisted
Sharon Bolton made a name for herself with engaging stand-alone suspense novels before launching her Lacey Flint series. The newest, A Dark and Twisted Tide
, shows once again why this unusual protagonist is the perfect foil for the gritty settings Bolton chooses and the unusual stories she tells.

Lacey is living on a houseboat on the Thames and starts to feel she’s becoming part of the river’s community until the shrouded body of a young woman is found in the river. She’s recently joined the marine police unit and is fast becoming used to the ins and outs of the river and its byways.

When she realizes this body has been deliberately left for her to find, Lacey knows she’s being watched. But by who and why? And with her fragile relationship with Joesbury on hold while he does undercover work, she’s feeling exposed and vulnerable.

Then someone starts leaving creepy gifts on the deck of Flint’s houseboat just as the bodies being to pile up of more young woman, garbed in the same kind of unusual shroud. That’s when her former boss Dana Tulloch gets involved and Lacey’s investigation takes on a new angle: are young women being kidnapped and kept prisoner after being lured her from places like Afghanistan? And what of the brother and sister team Lacey comes to know and befriend who live on a tributary? How are they involved? This is a first-rate mystery with all the twists and plot turns any reader could want,and a solid nail-biter ending. But it’s the characters that infuse A Dark and Twisted Tide with such heart and reality— not just the damaged Flint but her friends and colleagues as well. Highly recommended.

Around the World in Crime: Norway, France, Iceland, Denmark and Venice Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

Auntie M’s reading list includes many fine Nordic and European authors she hopes you’ll investigate. These books are all great reads, and with the holidays approaching, make great gifts for the bibliophiles on your list.

blessed-are-those-who-thirst.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Y23Pst4KrgHanne Wilhelmsen is a police investigator first introduced in Holt’s Blind Justice. Blessed are Those Who Thirst finds her battling a brutal Oslo heat wave, which has set off a huge upward spiral in violent crime in the area. She’s balancing it all with an unsolved rape case which disturbs her.

The newest crime scene she is sent to baffles her at first: in an abandoned shed, covered with blood, an eight-digit number is scrawled in blood on one wall. Is it human blood?

But there’s no victim, at least none at this site. Is this a terrible prank or the mark of a more sinister killer?

More of these bloody crime scenes start to crop up, all in isolated locations throughout the city, all with different numbers. Then Hanne’s colleague discovers the significance of those numbers: they belong to female foreign immigrants who have gone missing.

As her team races to track down this killer, the rape victim and her father separately plan their own vengeance.

How these intersect, with horrifying consequences, will keep readers rooted to the page. This is a well-plotted mystery in a fascinating series.

Holt’s inclusion of Hanne’s domestic situation adds nice texture and reminds us that police personnel all have home lives.

 

Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead was first published in French with the title Glace`, but this translation loses none of the chilling aspects frozen1444732252-detailof the original.

Minier draws on little-known facts to build his suspense, from the bizarre psychiatric methods at some points, to the subterranean power plant that becomes a plot point.

When a headless horse is found suspended from a frozen cliff in southwest France, it annoys the city cop assigned to investigate. Servaz should be dealing with three teens suspect of killing a homeless man.

Yet he cannot ignore this highly unusual and disturbing crime as the rumbling of a cable car brings the horse’s corpse into view. Everyone in attendance is disturbed.

Only miles away, a young psychiatrist named Diane Berg embarks on a journey that will mean so much more than just a year’s assignment in the Pyrenees at the Wargnier Institute.

When DNA from the Institute’s most infamous inmates is discovered on the animal, it is the first hint to Servaz of the nature of the madment he seeks, and sparks a series of horrific murders.

There’s no escaping the cold as theme in this thriller, from the gritty settings to the dark, grisly deeds carried out in the names of healing, and of revenge.

Minier’s novel explains the complicated and different police investigation method of France’s system, which adds to the tone. Readers will look for more by this talented crime writer and await the reappearance of Servaz and his music.

 

17286708Staying with the cold, we head to Reykjavik, Iceland’s setting for the Erlendur series. This tenth entry is Black Skies, by award-winning author Arnaldur Indridason, who won the CWA Golden Dagger Award for Silence of the Grave.

This time it’s Sigurdur Oli in the spotlight of this subtle and superbly crafted police procedural. Oli finds himself reluctantly agreeing to a friend’s request to head off a blackmail attempt in a scheme of wife swapping. Then he finds the woman accountant found bludgeoned to death was involved with her husband in the scheme.

But Oli is forced to look beyond this obvious motive when the victim’s association with a group of disreputable bankers becomes known.

This has an almost sociological feel to it, without judging or hitting the reader over the head, as Oli follows leads that will take him to the heads of high-finance and the lowest criminals on the economic ladder.

That he becomes disgusted with both extremes speaks volumes. The laziness of the criminals he encounters stands in stark contrast to the greed and flagrantly accepted corruption of the upper class.

By showing how these encounters affects Oli’s own thoughts about his family and marital history, we become involved with him as a real person who happens to be a policeman. That he is tasked with this unenviable job that is sometimes at odds with his personal feelings becomes the heart of the book.

 

Another Nordic entry not to be missed comes from Denmark’s sibling team of Lotte and Soren Hammer. 16044964The Hanging brings readers the unusual team of lead detective Konrad Simonsen in this startling novel that starts off with a bang and never lets up.

When two Turkish children get to school early, they find the mutilated and naked bodies of five men hanging from the gymnasium ceiling. It doesn’t help the investigation when a prejudiced policeman takes his time responding to the call.

The horrific crime sees Simonsen recalled from a vacation, which stirs a media frenzy that is compounded when the link between the victims is known: all were pedophiles.

Fighting public opinion that their killer should be overlooked complicates his team’s investigation. At the heart of the matter will be the lingering question: when is justice served?

Adding texture to the book is the feel for Copenhagen the authors transmit, as is the team the authors they give to Simonsen. These include a young policewoman feeling her way through the start of her career, and another with independent financial means who doesn’t need the job.

The first of a planned six-part series, Lotte and Soren Hammer have fans already clamoring for the next translation.

 

n401410The lovely vintage feel and VW bug on the cover of Marco Vichi’s Death in Florence tell the reader immediately that we are not in contemporary times but rather in 1966.

This is the fourth in the series featuring the novel’s protagonist, Inspector Bordelli, owner of the VW.

“How can a boy vanish into thin air?” That’s the question absorbing Bordelli at the moment.

Giacomo Pellissari seems to have melted into the pouring rain leaving his school. When his mother’s car won’t start, his lawyer father arrives to the school to pick him up an hour late. The boy was seen running into the downpour–and there his trail grows cold.

Bordelli begins an increasingly desperate investigation into the boy’s disappearance with the help of his young sidekick, Piras. They will uncover abuse of power, rape, murder and a ring of homosexuals as they delve deeply into the case.

But he is thwarted by the flood that overwhelms Florence. Based on a real occurrence in November of that year, the swollen river Arno laps over the arches of the Ponte Vecchio, breaks its banks, and completely overwhelms the city.

While streets become rushing torrents, the force of the water sweeps away vehicle and trees, doors and even a coffin lid. Mud piles of debris line the city Bordelli calls home, yet the obstinate detective persists in finding a resolution to the disappearance of a little boy.

Written in an atmospheric and literary style, the ending will leave readers surprised and questioning the next volume to follow.

 

Moving from Florence to Venice, the debut novel The Abomination by Jonathan Holt has been hailed for its complex plot involving two forceful abominationwomen, the Carabiniere Captain Kat, and her American counterpart, Holly.

Their case kicks off when the body of a woman washes up from the Grand Canal wearing the robes of a priest, a desecration seen by the Catholic Church as The Abomination. That this happens on the night of the Feast of the Epiphany with its masked balls add to the drama.

Duality is enhanced with the idea of Carnvia.com, a virtual Venice, a social network revolving around a simulated world that gives users complete anonymity by letting them hide their identities behind carnival masks.

The narrow canals and thick, sewage-scented fog that envelops Venice at times is aptly represented, a counterpoint to the usual image of artworks and tourist cathedrals, and provides the backdrop for the corruption and conspiracy the two women will find.

The action never flags in this combination of mystery, tech thriller and conspiracy. The two worlds of Venice and its cyber-counterpart create a compendium of mysteries that are skillfully rendered.

There are two more volumes in the works from this talented author who blends and balances intriguing characters with multiple story-lines of action.

 

 

Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

Don’t let the length of over seven hundred pages deter you from plunging into Elizabeth George’s new novel, Just One Evil Act. The eighteenth Inspector Lynley novel will leave readers knowing much more than a few Italian phrases once they’ve finished this tome.    images_012

The action centers on the reaction of Lynley’s sergeant, Barbara Havers, to the news her handsome neighbor’s daughter has disappeared.

Havers’ friendship with the girl, Hadiyyah Upman, and her father, microbiolgist Taymullah Azhar, has grown over the two years the duo were the detective’s neighbors.  In the last installment, Believing the Lie, Hadiyyah’s mother had waltzed back into her daughter’s life, surprising the girl, her father, and Havers, all seduced by the woman’s easy manner and ability to fabricate a believable friendship. Angelina Upman is a complicated woman keeping multiple secrets, a beauty whose family has disowned her for having a child with the married Pakistani scientist.

Months pass with no word on the child’s whereabouts, despite Havers’ digging and helping Azhar hire a private detective.

Then Hadiyyah is kidnapped from a market in Lucca, Italy, where she’s been with her mother and Angelina’s fiance. Desperate to help Azhar, worried for the child, Havers makes the fatal mistake of enlisting a tabloid journalist to force the British police to become involved in the British citizen’s abduction. To her dismay, it is Lynley who is sent to Italy to liaise with the British family.

This splendidly plotted novel takes readers to Italy, introducing their very different policing system, and the wily detective Salvatore Lo Bianco. While Italian phrases liberally dot these scenes, George cleverly manages to convey their meaning without direct translations. The intriguing setting is well-described and adds another layer to this complex novel.

In London, Havers finds herself embroiled deeper and deeper into career-killing choices. On the personal front, Lynley is trying to convince himself he is starting to put his wife’s death behind him, and finds himself drawn to an unsuitable zoo veterinarian. His past fling with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery confuses everything, and will impact heavily on Havers’ future.

At one point readers will think the novel has reached its climax right in its middle, only to find that what would have been an ending for another writer is merely a step into the convoluted story that continues to branch off and have fingers reaching right into the lives of all these characters on different levels. At one point a resolution will appear completely out of sight, yet there is an ending that will satisfy readers, even as it does not satisfy every character.

This is a multi-layered story of love and betrayal, and what lengths we will choose when the heart is involved.

Val McDermid: The Vanishing Point Sunday, Nov 11 2012 

Prolific Scots writer Val McDermid is back with a stand alone that will grab you from page one and keep you flipping until its surprising and eventful resolution. If you aren’t a McDermid fan by now, despite Auntie M expounding this gifts through reviews of her several series and excellent stand alones, now is the time to meet her acquaintance.

The Vanishing Point opens with UK ghost writer Stephanie Harker and her adoptive son trying to enter the US for a much-needed vacation.

The metal in Stephanie’s leg always sets off the security alarm, and she’s prepped young Jimmy to mind their luggage whilst she’s escorted to the clear cubicle to await her pat-down.

Then a kidnapper, disguised as a TSA agent, leads Jimmy away, and Stephanie’s attempts to rescue him are seen by the real TSA agents as an attempt to breach security. She’s detained over her protests and ultimately tasered, helpless to prevent Jimmy being kidnapped as they disappear into the crowded airport.

Once the situation is finally explained, valuable time has been lost, but FBI agent Vivian McKuras soon realizes this is a highly unusual situation, one heightened by the confusing first moments which have allowed a kidnapper to spirit Jimmy away. The boy’s birth mother was the reality star Scarlett, who gave Stephanie custody of her only child when she was dying of cancer, believing the writer would be the best person to provide Jimmy a stable life after her death.

Scotland Yard detective Nick Nikolaides, who knows Stephanie and her complicated background, investigates in England. Both Stephanie and Scarlett have had negative relationships with men in their pasts, and Nick and Stephanie are all too aware of the various ways Jimmy’s abduction could turn out very badly.

This compelling thriller touches every parent on a visceral level, while the possible causes for the kidnapping multiply as McDermid has Stephanie explain the back story to the FBI agent.

The reader follows the timeline of Stephanie’s relationship with Scarlett and their blossoming friendship that led to Stephanie being named as Jimmy’s legal guardian. There are enough players and possibilities for suspects to chose from as their story unfolds: the boy’s pampered, drug-addicted father’s family; a stranger after ransom from the wealthy Scarlett’s estate; or even a demented fan who might have wanted a piece of Scarlett.

When the truth of the situation is made evident, this well-plotted thriller will have you in awe of McDermid’s talents to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Her powerful and unexpected climax is nothing short of a writer’s dream, which is why McDermid recently received the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing.

Blue Monday by Nicci French Thursday, May 31 2012 

Nicci French is the pen name of the married team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, known for their psychological suspense novels. Starting with The Memory Game in 1996 through their twelfth, Complicit, in 2009, the team now brings forth a new character to start what promises to be a thoroughly intriguing series in Blue Monday.Image

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein is a solitary woman who suffers from insomnia that pushes her to walk nights following the course of the ancient London rivers that now run underground. Order matters to Frieda, as she believes the world to be an uncontrollable place, and her personal integrity sets her apart as she gets involved with her patients and helps them to see that what is controllable are their thoughts. Her entire world is interesting, and Auntie M can see this as the start of a compelling series.

Matthew Farraday is a five-year-old who has been abducted. Along with a strong police response, his photograph is splashed regularly across UK papers. When one of Frieda’s patient’s starts having dreams of a child who closely matches Matthew’s description, Frieda cannot ignore the coincidence and turns to Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson for help.

Karlsson is the perfect foil for Frieda; equally intelligent, and just as prickly, his first response is to dismiss her fears–until a connection with an eerily similar unsolved abduction of twenty years ago emerges and Frieda and Karlsson race as the tension builds to find a kidnapper and rescue the child.

The plotting here is meticulous, with extravagant details given to the characters and their lives so that they jump off the page in gritty detail. There is a wealth of raw emotion, too, as people are misunderstood, and the suspense piles on. The twists and turns will keep you turning pages to the stunning ending.

Don’t miss this new start of what promises to be a wonderful series. The second Frieda Klein novel, Tuesday’s Gone, will be published this July, and this reader can hardly wait.

 

I’ll Walk Alone Sunday, Jun 5 2011 

Mary Higgins Clark’s newest fits her traditional pattern: readers know the hero and heroine, don’t ever doubt they’ll somehow find their way to each other, despite the odds the author throws in their pathway. Readers know exactly what they’re getting when they pick up one of her books, which is exactly Clark’s reason for continued popularity.

Still, it’s not the way her books will turn out that keep readers in droves flocking back; it’s the obstacles and plot she comes up with, the familiar and realistic New York setting, and the look at the way some people get to live their lives. Clark pointed this out in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, where she felt her detractors claims of ‘formulaic’ fiction don’t understand her audience the way she does. Why change a pattern that has been shown readers adore? she noted. Why indeed? I’ll Walk Alone is her 37th novel to hit the best selling lists, not counting the 5 she’s written with her daughter Carol.

This time identity theft plays a part in the life of interior decorator Zan Moreland. Still reeling from the kidnapping of her son, Matthew, two years before, Zan is a gifted designer on the brink of a huge career break when she discovers someone is using her credit cards and manipulating her bank accounts to destroy her reputation.

Clark ratchets up the heat when she adds kidnapping and murder to the perpetrator’s brutal crimes. Then on what would be Matthew’s fifth birthday, photo’s emerge of what seem to show Zan kidnapping her own child. Plot twists tell Zan someone has literally stolen her identity, down to ordering the clothing she wears.

The press is baying, her ex-husband is attacking her, and the police think she’s a schizophrenic kidnapper–Zan certainly has lot on her plate, in true Clark style. I’ll let you spot the hero for yourselves. For brain candy that you know will have the heroine triumphing, no one is better than Mary Higgins Clark.

Next Page »