Deborah Crombie: To Dwell in Darkness Friday, Oct 3 2014 

One of the issues with writing a series where the main protagonists have conquered their romantic fear and plunged into a committed relationship is worrying if there will continue to be the same chemistry for readers to enjoy.
Dwell in Darkness

Deborah Crombie has successfully conquered this in her series featuring London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, married and raising a blended family. In her 16th outing, To Dwell in Darkness, she shows how it’d done: by creating a mystery plot that has tendrils that reach out into other areas, and by portraying the detectives family life with a sense of reality that keeps readers reaching for her books time and again.

Raising young children with parents who are detectives is always a juggling act, and readers see how Kincaid and James handle those demands that crop up in family life, whether it’s the disposition of suddenly acquired kittens or a young teen needing to clarify a house rule about letting strangers into their home.

The action this time centers around a small group of eco-protestors who live together and have decided to carry on a protest inside St. Pancras Station as a crowd gathers for a musical concert. Gemma’s sergeant, Melody Talbot, arrives at the event to watch her boyfriend, Andy Monahan, and his musical companion open the event. Both young musicians’ agents are in attendance when a sudden explosion changes everything.

A man is on fire, burned beyond recognition by what appears to be a bomb and turns out to a phosphorus charge. The results are horrific: besides the charred body of the dead man, Andy’s agent, Tam, suffers burns to his trunk. When Melody rushes to try to put out the fire, she’s momentarily aided by a distraught man who suddenly disappears. And her own respiratory system is affected by the bomb.

Duncan Kincaid will be the senior investigating officer on this case, his first after an unexpected transfer takes him from Scotland Yard to head a new murder team out of Holborn Station. He still questions the move and his one ally higher up the channels has taken a sudden leave and is unavailable. It feels like a demotion, without explanation, and Kincaid must adjust to his new team and how they work together–or don’t.

When it’s determined from the protestors that the dead man is indeed from their group, but was supposed to set off only a smoke bomb, Kincaid must investigate how the bomb was switched and who was behind it, even as he tries to find the other witness, the man who assisted Melody and appears to have vanished into thin air.

There are other threads here, as a good read should have, with Gemma sorting out her own case and missing Melody’s assistance. But the main thread this time is Kincaid’s, and not all of his questions will be answered at the surprising end of this well-wrought mystery.

Auntie M always enjoys reading Crombie’s work, with one of the highlights her chapter epigrams, which contain historical information about the area where that mystery is set. Readers learn about London and its suburbs as they are surprised by the turn of events. Highly recommended.

Great Holiday Gifts for Readers #1 Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

For the next few posts, Auntie M is going to give reader gift suggestions for that reader on your list–and don’t forget it’s perfectly permissible to gift yourself!Poirotp0_v3_s260x420

Outsold by only Shakespeare and the Bible, Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time. Auntie M had the good fortune to visit her Devon home this this summer when in England. Greenway, on the River Dart, is just a few short miles from where Christie grew up and the home has been preserved as it was when she and her family were in residence, down to some of her clothes in her bedroom closet and her favorite lily of the valley in evidence on china jewelry boxes left on her nightstand. When entering her bedroom, a docent obligingly plays a brief taped interview of Christie talking about her writing process, and as her voice fills the room, her presence is felt everywhere. One expects hear the sound of her typewriter at any moment. The house was used as the setting for Christie’s Piorot novel, Dead Man’s Folly, and two others. The David Suchet/ITV televised version of the novel was filmed there. The home is only a brief ride from the seaside town of Torquay, where Christie frequently had tea with friends at The Grand Hotel across from the Torbay seafront. Don’t miss the chance to tour the house and lovely restored grounds that lead down to the river if you find yourself anywhere near this section of southwest England. But Auntie M digresses.

Golden Age writer Dorothy Sayers felt Hercule Poirot was “one of the few detectives with real charm” and there’s no mistaking readers’ fondness for the dapper Belgian, portrayed on television by actor David Suchet, causing Christie’s grandson, Matthew Pritchard, to regret she hadn’t lived to see his fine portrayal.

Now William Morrow has brought out a volume of over fifty of Christie’s short stories and novellas featuring Poirot, gathering them into one volume that would be the perfect gift for any mystery afficionado. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories has an introduction by Charles Todd. You cannnot go wrong with this one for any reader who enjoys mysteries, full stop. If Auntie M didn’t already own a copy, it would be the first thing on her list.

Morrow is also publishing Christie’s novels for e-book readers for the first time, so look for those, too.

 

Dennis Lehane teamed up with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, to bring out a line of books he’s chosen. The second was Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. pochoda-visitation_street

Vastly different from the usual crime novel, this is an exploration of the sociology of an urban area and surrounds the disappearance of a young woman in the rough neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Red Hook waterfront.

The setting is visually described, a reflection of Pochoda living across the street from a bar in the area and writing about the inhabitants she saw outside her window.

There are blocks to walk on and blocks to avoid; there are areas of gentrification and others of great demise, in a seemingly endless evolution that causes conflict between races and classes that she vividly and realistically describes.

June and Val are the two friends at the center of the story. The two fifteen year-olds are looking for adventure as summer is ending. June wants to find a party, but Val convinces her instead to forget boys and drinking and take a small raft out into the river.

When only Val returns, found semi-conscious in weeds along the shore, the story turns to exploring what really happened to June that night, and affects the community that suddenly becomes the focus of an investigation and will reveal the its secrets on more than one level.

The community’s response to June’s disappearance will be as varied as the complex but utterly believable characters Pochoda has created. Her lyrical prose led Lehane to comment: “Visitation Street is urban Opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry and pain, Ivy Pochoda’s voice recalls Richard Price, Junot Diaz, and even Alice Sebold, yet it’s indelibly her own.”

 

Sue Grafton’s iconic Kinsey Millhone has given readers over thirty years of quirky delight with her singular reporting voice. W is for Wasted is the newest entry in the grafton wasted_p0_v2_s260x420series and fans won’t be disappointed.

The opening lines hook the reader immediately: “Two dead men changed the entire course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.”

Kinsey doesn’t recognize the man she’s been called to the morgue to identify, but her name and phone number were found in his pocket.  He was a homeless man, known to sleep rough at times, and his body has been found on the beach.

Kinsey sets out to find out the man’s identity, not knowing how his death will merge with that of a murder six weeks earlier. A local private investigator Kinsey knows had been shot to death near the Santa Teresa beach in what looks at first like a robbery attempt that got out of control.

Things change dramatically when Kinsey identifies the homeless man and finds he’s linked to her in more ways than she could possibly image.

Grafton has kept Kinsey in first person throughout the series but recently added the points of view of several other characters in the later books. In this case, we see the dead PI, Pete Wolinsky, in third person and come to understand his last case and how it intersects with Kinsey’s own investigation.

All the usual people who are part of Kinsey’s circle are on hand, too, with some surprising additions. This is vintage and yet modern Grafton at her best.

 

Continuing with beloved series, we jump across the pond to England and Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford, which will soon mark its fiftieth anniversary.17Rendell571848

Learning to adjust to retirement has been difficult for Reg Wexford in No Man’s Nightingale. He’s decided as a project to work his way through The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Therefore it comes as a great relief when his old deputy, Mike Burden, asks him to tag along on some of the interviews after a female vicar is found strangled in her Kingsmarkham vicarge. They are each having difficulty getting used to their new roles but their friendship remains solid and honest, a hallmark of the series. That Burden has recently become a grandparent, in contrast to the five Dora and Reg Wexford have by their two daughters, shows Rendell has not hesitated to age her cast as time has gone by.

Vicar Sarah Hussain had many detractors: those who don’t believe women should be ordained; those who don’t agree with her outspoken views on church reform; those who object to her mixed race heritage. Born of a white Irish mother and an Indian father, Sarah is a single mother to a teenaged girl.

Adding to the complications that involve Wexford is that the same woman who cleans for him and his wife, Dora, cleaned at the vicarage and found the body. Maxine annoys Wexford to no end when she cleans, yet now she’s become a part of this murder investigation.

When Wexford finds a letter at Sarah’s house she was using as a bookmark, he sticks it in his pocket to look at later, but it’s several days before he remembers it and then has to confess his transgression to Burden. But it provides a clue to the dead woman’s past; a past that may have impacted on her death.

Rendell does her usual fine job of complex plotting and revealing character, while maintaining the banter between Wexford and Burden.

 

Ten-Lords-a-Leaping-265Ten Lords A-Leaping is the third installment in C. C. Benison’s series featuring mystery-solving and thoughtful protagonist, Father Tom Christmas.

This is the perfect book for Golden Age fans who aren’t looking for action-packed thriller but rather the kind of classic Christie cozy wrote, but in a contemporary setting.

There are red herrings, a host of suspects drawn from amongst the rivalries of an aristocratic family, and even a touch of magic.

Fr. Tom has been talked into skydiving for a fundraiser for his Thornfield Regis church’s new roof  , a prospect that leaves him wondering what he’s gotten himself into. Back on the terra firma after a rocky landing that sprains his ankle, he’s shocked to see two of the remaining skydivers appear to tangle in a mid-air fight before finally landing safely. The two brothers-in-law are Oliver, the 7th Marquess of Morboner, and Hector, the 10th Earl of Fairhaven.

That sprained ankle finds the widower vicar, his daughter Miranda, as well as their housekeeper Madrun, all guests for far longer than expected at the home of Lord and Lady Fairhaven, Eggescombe Hall. The vast castle with enormous grounds boasts a pool, tennis courts, ornate gardens, and a gatehouse for the staff.

When Fr. Tom finds one of the two men dead in the labyrinth on the castle’s grounds, the murder sets off a thinking man’s puzzle for Fr. Tom to solve.

Bennison thoughtfully provides a cast of characters and a family tree so readers can understand the quite complicated relationships between the many people staying on at the Hall. Bigamy, sex after hours, art forgery, and lies will all find their way into the mix during the days it takes Fr. Tom to unravel the murderer, and not before a second death.  Readers who enjoy British whodunits will have a ball.

 

1766Helensmith9963Helen Smith is the author of Invitation to Die, originally published in episodes as a Kindle serial. The award-winning author of novels, plays, and children’s books, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen at Bouchercon this year and found her as funny and original as her heroine in this new series.

At 26, Londoner Emily Castles finds herself once again looking for employment.

So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely, aunt of Emily’s neighbors, asks her to help out at a weekend romance writers’ conference she’s organized, she can hardly say no. How difficult can it be to organize gift bags and help out with a dinner?

When Emily shows up at the hotel, she’s immediately pressed into service and meets an odd assortment of attendees, some nursing old grievance, some holding hidden secrets, all determined to out do each other for the fans who will be present. There’s even an American blogger whose been invited to be a guest, but for some reason, Winnie Kraster hasn’t shown up.

Emily dutifully takes a call for Morgana and it’s from the missing Winnie, saying she’s been delayed. But hours later, a woman’s body is found on the estate bordering the hotel and it’s poor missing Winnie.

Detective Rory James is assigned to investigate the case, and it happens Emily met him when he was a constable. When Emily confides that she suspects someone involved with the conference is the murderer, Rory disagrees, hardly a happy event at a romance festival. Emily takes notes of things that occur to her or that she overhears, but it’s not until she has the help of philosophy professor Dr. Muriel that the pieces come together for her.

This is brain candy, as sweet as the violet cremes a chocolatier with a secret delivers to be put in each guest’s gift bag. Smith gives vivid scene-setting and over-the-top characters as suspects.  The humor is tongue-in-cheek about blogging, book reviewers, and writers. Emily Castles was introduced in a previous short story but will appear soon in her next adventure.

 

David Rosenfelt writes thrillers, too, but any of his Andy Carpenter novels  would make a great addition to anyone’s shelves. With his humorous bent alternating  with suspense, the series4000000leader00000000733689_s4

continues with Leader of the Pack  now in paperback. Andy is a lawyer and dog lover, and his own dog, Tara, accompanies him and is often a better judge of character than Andy. On the side, Andy runs a dog rescue, which mirrors Rosenfelt’s real life. More on that later.

One of Andy’s less successful cases led years ago to a murder conviction for his client, Joey DeSimone, but Andy has always believed the man innocent of the murders of Karen and Richard Solarno.

As a favor to Joey, Andy agrees to check on the man’s elderly and forgetful uncle, taking Tara along for the visits. Nicky Fats falls for Tara but once he starts muttering about taking out someone else, Andy’s interest clicks. Could Nicky know, in the confines of his confusion, who really murdered the Salerno’s? And how can Andy find out and get Joey a new trial?

With the help of his friends, Andy launches an investigation into the business dealings of Solarno’s company and soon finds himself almost dying. Coupled with other information he unearths, he’s able to convince a judge to give Joey a new trial.

This is where the fun starts, as the trial scenes will reach a verdict that gives Andy’s heart a twist. And then he really figures out what’s been happening.

This is a complex plot, despite the humor and the presence of Laurie, Andy’s love interest, and several friends from the series making reappearances. There will be the drug trafficking, the involvement of the FBI, and don’t forget the family business of the DeSimone’s, the Mafia.

While Rosenfelt manages to keep things light, he balances it nicely with intrigue, action, and a satisfying ending that ties up all the ends. And then some. An additional touch is the listing he adds at the end of every book of Acknowledgments to friends who happen to be famous, or maybe not even people, as in this volume where Andy and Cherry Garcia show up alongside Woody and Gracie Allen and Neil and Hope Diamond.

By the way, there is a real Tara Foundation that helps find homes for sick or injured dogs. To date the foundation has rescued over 4000 dogs from shelves, and Rosenfelt often houses dozens at a time in his Maine house. Another reason to buy this book for any dog lover on your list.

 

 

Hot summer reads: A multitude of goodness. Sunday, Jul 28 2013 

Auntie M has read so many good books lately, she wants you to look for a few of these to take on vacation. Or read at the beach. Or just to veg out with at home.

guilty Lisa Ballantyne’s debut, The Guilty One, is a sophisticated and disturbing novel that revolves around London solicitor Daniel Hunter, who’s been hired to defend an eleven-year-old boy, Sebastian, accused of murdering an eight-year-old friend.

Sebastian’s home life is troubled, a factor that comes into play as Daniel struggles to get at the truth of the case and explores just what forgiveness means.

For Daniel, whose own childhood was fraught with turbulence and upheaval, the case brings back his history in foster homes until he settled with the one woman who saved him and allowed him to flourish as an adult. But memories of Minnie Flynn bring their own ghosts and Daniel finds himself disturbed at trial and in his home time.

Told in alternating chapters between the present case with Sebastian, and Daniel’s life with Minnie on a remote Cumbrian farm, Ballantyne ties the subplots together in a resounding ending that manages to be suspenseful and unsettling, yet gives a whiff of hope.

This is an author whose next book Auntie M is anticipating.

 

Emily Winslow takes readers to the world of Cambridge in the complex plot of The Start of Everything.the_start_of_everything

When the decomposed body of a teenager washes up on the flooded fens, the case falls to DI Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene. Establishing the victim’s identity is their first order of business and they investigate even tiny clues that might lead them from the hallowed squares of Cambridge to the name of the dead girl.

This search leads them to Deeping House, where several families reside and were snowed in together over Christmas. Three families include two nannies, and a young writer who were all housebound together.

Chloe becomes swept up in the long-buried secrets of old crimes and their more recent counterparts as she seeks the truth. There will be misaddressed letters and hints of affairs buried alongside murder.

Along this road, her loyalty to her partner is severely tested as the tales of the separate lives are examined through their eyes.

As Chloe looks deeply inside the minds of her involved suspects and the story hurtles toward its tangled conclusion, readers will be caught up  in this deft and unusual mystery.

 

More great summer reading:

Steve Hamilton: Die A Stranger and North of Nowhere: Lee Child calls award-winner Hamilton “a proven master of suspense.” North of Nowhere is fourth in his Alex McKnight series, and a superb entry to the series for readers who may have missed the ex-cop turned private detective and his solitary northern world of Paradise, Michigan. When a poker game turns into a robbery, Alex’s search for answers proves much more than a simple robbery. Die A Stranger gives readers a huge window into Alex’s reclusive world and his friendship with Ojibwa Vinnie Leblanc. When a plane is found with five dead bodies aboard, Vinnie’s subsequent disappearance sends Alex into a search across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for his friend, despite the danger to himself.

The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva: Art restorer and once-again spy Gabriel Allon returns in an international thriller that starts within the walls of the Vatican, when the body of beautiful antiquities curator is found beneath the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. He’ll face sabotage, looting, and vengeance as he travels Europe to find the culprits, all rendered with Silva’s trademark blend of history and strong settings.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French: The second Frieda Klein mystery continues the series with the psychotherapist once again working a case with DCI Karlsson when a mentally disturbed woman is found in her flat with an unknown decomposed body–and she can’t tell them the body’s identity.

The Reviver by Seth Patrick: Reviver Joan Miller works in the forensics department whose talented members revive corpses to find justice. When a terrifying presence enters his mind during a revival, Jonah becomes convinced there is a sinister force at work that may affect all of mankind. Edgy and different, with the addition of the paranormal into the police in a blurring of genre lines. First of a trilogy already optioned for the big screen, it reads big with a large cast and many subplots that intertwine.

Ready to Die by Lisa Jackson: Bringing back detectives Regan Pescoli and Selena Alvarez, Jackson’s thriller follows their search for a murderer who is killing law enforcement officers in Grizzly Falls, Montana. A twisted ending will involve Pescoli’s son and blow away what she thought was the resolution to a murder’s hit list.

True Colours by Stephen Leather: Spider Shephard returns with an unusual assignment from MI-5–track down the assassin of some of the world’s richest men, including Russian oligarchs. With international settings and Leather’s flare for action, Spider will deal with political and personal intrigue, as well as a Taliban sniper from his past, in this fast-paced thriller.

Heroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl: This Sam Jenkins mystery with a hint of romance follows the ex-NY detective in his current job as Chief of Prospect, TN Police. When TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s exclusive story on Jenkin’s fraud investigation leads to her kidnapping. Feeling responsible and a whole lot more, Jenkins will need all of his friends, including those from the FBI, to help him track Rachel down.

My Name is Hardly by Martin Crosbie: Following the success of My Temporary Life, Crosbie returned with his second in a planned trilogy featuring his protagonist, the Scottish soldier Hardly whose Irish lost postings are taking their toll as much as the Provo’s he fights. Filled with action and insights into the realities of aa soldier’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minotaur Trifecta: Michael Robertson, Brad Parks, Joseph Olshan Sunday, Apr 28 2013 

This week Auntie M has three goodies courtesy of Minotaur Books for your reading pleasure.

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First up is the third installment in the delightful Heath Brothers series written by Michael Robertson, Baker Street Translation.

Reggie and Nigel didn’t realize the lease of their Baker Street law offices included the famous number 221B, but quickly learned that one of their responsibilities as tenants is to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.  This delights Nigel as much as it frustrates Reggie.

Previous escapades have taken the brothers to California, but this one takes place on London home turf, with ties to Sherlock Holmes the pivotal point.

When a wealthy American heiress decides to leave her impressive fortune to Sherlock Holmes, she unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that have Reggie summoning Nigel back from his Los Angeles stay.

It also connects in some way to the kidnapping of Robert Buxton, Reggie’s rival for the lovely actress Laura Rankin. Deciding to pop the question, ring in his pocket, Reggie’s attempts to become engaged fall by the wayside as the kidnappers insist Laura is the only one who can provide the ransom to save Buxton.

Reggie can’t allow Laura to put herself in jeopardy, but then Laura isn’t your average actress. Thwarting Buxton’s security team and Reggie’s attempts to protect her, Laura feels responsible for Buxton’s return and follows the kidnapper’s demands, wit unexpected results.

Along with his sleuthing, Reggie will lock horns with a feisty Texan, decipher the riddle presented by nursery rhymes gone wild in a talking duck, and learn more than he ever wanted to know about London’s sewer system, and all before a royal event goes haywire.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in references to the canon but you don’t have to be a Holmes fan to enjoy Robertson’s deadpan delivery or his improbable and whimsical plotting. A delight for mystery readers who enjoy a puzzle.

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The puzzle in Brad Parks’ The Good Cop seems more clear cut but has the same comic elements as the Baker Street series. Parks uses the first-person narration of reporter Carter Ross to inform us of the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey, that he covers.

Rushing to be the first to interview a dead policeman’s widow, Ross succeeds and gathers great material for a killer article. Darius Kipps loved his job, had a lovely wife, and two young children he doted on who he was planning to take to Disney World.

But as Ross wonders why no other reporters have shown up, his boss informs him the article is off. The cop has committed suicide.

Yet something else seems off to Carter, and the widow agrees, making a public statement to that effect. Her husband had everything to live for and would never have taken his own life.

Added to the mix is a charismatic preacher who has the widow’s ear. Then calls Ross makes to the medical examiner are blocked, and his instincts kick in.

Using his contacts, and sufficiently sustained by his diet of two slice of pizza and a cold Coke Zero, Ross sets out to unearth the truth about what really happened to Good Cop Kipps.

 

Changing tones a bit but still with a sense of wry humor in his protagonist, Joseph Olshan gives us his debut thriller, Cloudland.

2Cloudland-Joseph_Olshan

The rural Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire is an area with tough weather and even tougher people.

The wealthy, the artistic, and the working class have more than their love of the area in common. They have a sense of safety where residents rarely bother to lock their doors.

Things change radically when a serial killer targets young women in their region. Whether jogging on a back road or stopped at a rest stop, the victims share more than their youth: being alone at the times of their murder made them easy targets.

Into the mix comes Catherine Winslow, a former reporter who lives simply and earns a living writing a household hints column. Her reporter’s instincts, coupled with her own sense of survival, all contribute to the urge she feels to uncover the murderer when she finds the body of one of his victims. Suddenly the killer has invaded her turf and made his threat real.

Teaming up with her  forensic psychologist neighbor and the detective on the case, she investigates the murders and finds close friends and neighbors on the suspect list. Adding to her stress is her strained relationship with her only child, a daughter living in New Jersey, and her past relationship with a much-younger lover that still haunts her.

Olshan does a fine job describing the impact to this rural landscape that these killings leave. With echoes of the gothic literature Catherine loves, as well as a clue in an obscure Wilkie Collins novel, the reader will absorb Olshan’s elegant prose and evocative language as this compelling story explores not only the mystery but the psychology of its characters.

Deborah Crombie: The Sound of Broken Glass Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

One of the delights of Deborah Crombie’s novels are the British neighborhoods and environs she explores for her murder mysteries. images_067

In this 15th outing between her now-married detective pair of Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid, The Sound of Broken Glass remains firmly rooted in foggy London in the Crystal Palace area. Chapter epigraphs, a device Auntie M highly enjoys, all pertain to the history and destruction of the Crystal Palace building that gave the area its name.

Crombie has kept the series fresh and humanizing by moving along the personal relationships in the Kincaid household and allowing for the growth of the marriage between the main characters. With the addition to their family of a three year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, it is Duncan’s turn to be at home to assist the traumatized little girl through her integration into their family and a more normal life. These moments remind us that police men and women have families of their own, whose absences are noted when normal routines must be adjusted around the demands of a murder investigation.

The main case belongs to Gemma this time, aided by DS Melody Talbot. They investigate the murder of a barrister who has been taking sole care of his wife, suffering from increasing dementia. The body of Vincent Arnott is found in a seedy hotel in the Crystal Palace area, naked, trussed and strangled. The contrast between the man’s public and private faces becomes immediately apparent and startling.

Then a second barrister is killed in the same way and additional evidence ties the cases together. The deaths tie in with a band playing in the area, and especially their talented guitarist, perched on the edge of fame. Is a serial killer at work?

Gemma and Melody must unravel connections going back over fifteen years to tie these murders together. At the heart they will find a bullied and lonely thirteen year-old boy and his relationship with a recently widowed teacher and neighbor. Duncan’s fears rise when a personal connection ties him to one of the suspects and provides the thread between the two murder victims.

When the past and the present collide, Gemma and Melody find themselves in the middle of an ice storm, racing through the steep streets of Crystal Palace to prevent more deaths.

Consistent and compelling, fans of the series won’t be disappointed with Crombie’s latest offering.

 

Crossbones Yard: Kate Rhodes Sunday, Feb 17 2013 

Poet Kate Rhodes brings London’s neighborhoods vividly alive to readers in her debut psychological thriller, Crossbones Yard.

These areas, some glitzy and others tawdry, are all known to psychologist Alice Rhodes, whose daily runs take her places that don’t usually faze her, but do give her the endorphin high that keeps her own painful memories at bay.  Fighting claustrophobia on a daily basis, she sublimates her nightmares by helping others battle theirs.

Life for Alice includes a busy practice schedule and a brother battling his own demons who often ends up on her doorstep, but it is balanced by a good-looking boyfriend and close friends who care about her. Then one evening run brings complications Alice could never expect. Searching the roads for the quickest way home, Alice sees two ironwork gates she’s never noticed before, decorated with dozens of ribbons, cards and bits of paper.

But it’s what she spies inside that will radically change her life: an open hand reaching out for her through the railing, connected to a fragile wrist and from there to the very dead body of a young woman on the other side of the gate.                                                                                        9781444738766

This is Crossbones Yard, a former graveyard for prostitutes. Trying to conceal her emotion, the surly detective who shows up and takes Alice home is annoyed at her pretense of composure.

As part of her duties, Alice has just evaluated a convicted killer about to be released from prison at the behest of the overweight DCI Burns. She’s only mildly surprised to find he’s the investigating detective on the case. He has an uncanny knack for getting Alice to do his bidding, and she soon feels as if she’s become his personal research assistant.  And that surly detective? He’s Burns’ detective sergeant, Ben Alvarez, and soon Alice finds herself in his company more than she’d like.

Then it becomes apparent that the dead woman’s injuries are vastly similar to those of the style of a team of serial killers. Ray and Marie Benson tortured and killed thirteen women before being caught; five of their victims were never found. Before long, Burns has Alice working on a psychological profile of this copycat killer.

Marie is still alive, languishing in prison. Does she hold the key to this gruesome murder? Will she tell Alice is she does?

And what of Morris Cley, the just-released murderer whom Alice feels is not capable of this kind of planning. Cley lived with the Bensons. How is he connected with the new murders?

With ties to her own background, Alice will find herself and those she loves in jeopardy as this case comes too close to home.

This wonderful debut sports an ending that has a switchback twist that will leave you breathless. With it’s swift pacing and brief, staccato scenes, readers will find themselves swept up into Alice’s story. The plotting is complex, and Alice is a protagonist readers will want to follow.

Rosamund Lupton: SISTER and AFTERWARDS Sunday, Oct 28 2012 

Having a sister of my own, Auntie M was intrigued when another writer insisted I read this 2010 mystery by Londoner Rosamund Lupton, who wrote original screenplays before turning her hand to this debut novel that will knock your socks off. Sister has at its heart an unusual concept of a way to tell a story, and that story will leave you hooked and reeling from page one.

   Beatrice Hemmings has fled her native England to pursue a career in Manhattan and is engaged to be married in three months to an American. While hosting a dinner party with her fiance’ one Sunday,  a call from her mother interrupts the evening when Bee learns that her only sibling, younger sister Tess, has gone missing. Bee soon finds herself flying across the Atlantic to Tess’s Notting Hill apartment.

She find the flat tiny and cluttered. Not even owning a tea kettle, art student Tess has made her bedroom into her studio for the better light. Her bright paintings reflect her personality, open and nonjudgmental, young and talented, with a joy of live Bee has always envied. That central core of Tess’s life will drive Bee fiercely to protect her sisters’ memory.

The suspense starts with a wallop because this is written as Bee is describing the events and what she finds in a narrative to Tess, explaining her actions and tracing her search for her sister, which ends in tragedy. Then Bee’s real investigation starts, to unravel the truth the police would rather leave alone: what really happened to Tess?

Elegantly written, this poignant novel becomes a tribute to sisters as well as a harrowing detailing of the plundering toll of grief. But it is also a wickedly fine mystery that is at once riveting a it moves the reader. By having the reader in such intimate contact with Bee’s thoughts and actions to Tess, Lupton paints a picture of both sisters, the failings of those around them who are meant to do and be more, and the huge sense of loyalty that Bee brings to the forefront of her actions on her sister’s behalf.

There is an element of subdued suspense that heightens as surely as a Hitchcock movie, and indeed, this novel will soon be adapted for the screen. Grab a copy of this highly original book and read it first before the film version. As good as the movie will be, nothing can replace the psychological intensity of the novel and the twists at the ending.

With the same psychological depth of character found in the works of Kate Atkinson, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, Lupton’s riveting and chilling tale combines true tragedy with a sense of life-affirmation that moved me to tears in several places for the accuracy and depth of its compellingly told story. It’s a quickly-paced, stylish tale, literate and successful.

BookPage calls Sister “A poignant and perceptive depiction of the emotional bonds between two sisters … A superb thriller, full of twists and turns, false leads, and a surprise ending.”
Lupton follows Sister with the same original storytelling in Afterwards, with another clever premise and solid writing the makes her second novel as compelling as her first.

Grace Covey stands with other parents on a grassy field, attending sports day at her son’s school, which coincides with Adam’s eighth birthday. Her teenaged daughter, Jenny, is inside the school, taking the place of the school nurse for minor injuries. When Grace sees black smoke coming from the school, she realizes it’s on fire and races inside to save Jenny.

What happens next is the stuff that makes this book remarkable, as Grace, in an highly unconventional manner, tries to find the person responsible for setting the fire once it appears Jenny was the deliberate target. Grace desperately races to find the culprit to protect both of her children, and in the process, uncovers more than she ever expected to find about the people in her life.

This is a novel about love in its many forms, from that of a mother and her daughter, to the cushion of secure, married love. Ultimately is it about finding courage in the midst of the depths of a mother’s love for her child.

Jeffrey Deaver says of Afterwards: “Uncompromising emotional impact, a poet’s sonorous style, and a gripping story all come together to make this a transcendent literary experience. I guarantee this novel will touch everyone.”

Lupton’s powerful stories and  and her voice will captivate you; Auntie M defies you to put either of these books down once you’ve started reading.

John Harvey: Good Bait Sunday, Aug 19 2012 

Auntie M is a huge John Harvey fan, and he doesn’t disappoint in his newest Good Bait, teaming up characters from previous novels in a winning way with overlapping storylines.

DCI Karen Shields heads the Homicide & Serious Crime Team, always working a multitude of cases and hoping for a result. Shields is still grieving over the death of her father and realizing her work commitments have left her with only one good friend. When the body of a teenaged boy is discovered on Hampstead Heath, their investigation leads to a connection with the small Eastern European country of Moldova. At first drugs or illegal trading is suspected as the impetus for the boy’s death.

Miles away on the western coast in Cornwall, DI Trevor Cordon is nearing retirement, which can’t come quickly enough. Passed by for promotions by colleagues with more modern attitudes, he’s part of the old guard and set in his ways. Then the mother of an young woman he’d taken under his wing in the past appears on his doorstep, begging him to look into her daughter’s disappearance. Cordon had tried to put Letitia on a different path from her mother’s life of drug addiction and prostitution. Cordon is soon drawn to London after the mother’s unexpected death, where he enlists the aid of former colleague Jack Kiley, now a private detective.

The working methods, personalities and private lives of Shields and Cordon couldn’t be more different, but the one thing they have in common is that both feel like outsiders. We feel their loneliness in their private lives as we follow the complicated path of Shields’ many cases and the thread of Cordon’s hunt for Letitia.

International money laundering, drug operations, and people trafficking are all involved, along with a heavy dose of Cordon’s music. It is the contrast of Shield’s aggressive and exhausting police work against Cordon’s melancholy and slower investigation that will result in an overlapping link in both cases that will lead to the ultimate resolution.
Harvey manages to weave in socio-economic issues by illustrating how they impact on police work without hitting the reader over the head with these issues. One of Harvey’s greatest strengths is his ability to develop his characters on a rich but subtle level, and this in inherent in all of his works, including the Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder novels.

This is a skilled craftsman writing at the top of his game, and any reader who enjoys a well-crafted police procedural illustrating different detecting methods will enjoy Good Bait.

Portobello Sunday, Jun 19 2011 

Ruth Rendell is a writer whose awards alone make any writer drool: Three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America; three Gold Daggers, a Silver Dagger, and even a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writers’ Association. Considered a national treasure, she’s a member of the House of Lords, and also happens to be a good friend of my idol, P. D. James. I’ve written before about her Chief Inspector Wexford series and her other stand-alones. This newest takes us inside the Portobello section of London, home to a street market since 1927. “Those who love and those who barely know it have called it the worlds’ finest street market” Rendell tells us in the opening as she describes its history. Remember the Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant movie “Notting Hill?” This is that neighborhood, in all its seedy glory.

The theme here is obssession. The thread of the story weaves through the lives of several people the reader will come to know intimately and psychologically.

A wealthy bachelor, art dealer Eugene Wren discovers an envelope on the street as he walks to his shop. Bulging with cash, Wren’s plan to find the rightful owner eventually has  extraordinary consequences. Struggling with a ridiculous addiction that shames him, Wren’s actions start a chain of events that link him with other people who struggle with their own obsessions. Wren’s fiance’, a lovely physician, struggles to take care of several patients whose oddities and obsessions intrigue and repel her at the same time. An unrepentant thief appears to get away with the theft of his career but is accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Religious fanatics appear as a subplot. The characters are convincing and highly original. On the other hand, we can identify with most of their oddities, something that makes Rendell a universal writer.

If you think these disparate themes cannot be brought together, you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Ruth Rendell. With her accessible prose, Rendell manages to make escalating madness appear clear and rational.