Maggie Barbieri: Lies That Bind Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

Auntie M enjoyed Maggie Barbieri’s first Maeve Conlon thriller, Once Upon a Lie, and had been looking forward to the sequel. Barbieri keeps up the promise of the first with her second installment of the Westchester baker’s life in Lies that Bind.

Who would ever think that a divorced mom of two teens, running her own bakeshop, could get into the kind of situations that Maeve does, yet once you know Maeve and her life, it all seems more than plausible. With her ex-husband and his new wife and son as part of her blended family, Maeve is very representative of a modern woman in most respects. Just don’t mess with her when she gets angry.

Maeve’s friend and bakeshop helper, Jo, is heavily pregnant, and somehow it’s Maeve taking Jo to birthing classes instead of Jo’s detective husband, Dave. This is just the tip of Maeve’s iceberg when her father, Jack, a former NYPD cop, dies suddenly. Despite his increasing dementia looming over her, Maeve thought she’d have him around a little longer. The two were inordinately close, as Jack raised Maeve after her mother’s death, the story that forms the basis of the plot of Barbieri’s first book, where Maeve unravels the mystery behind her mother’s death with startling consequences.

With Jack’s death blindsiding her now, Maeve receives another blow at Jack’s wake from the two sisters who were her arch enemies in the old neighborhood. One drunkenly suggests that Maeve had a sister she knows nothing about; the other seems to know more than she’s telling. Secrets, terrible secrets, have been kept from Maeve.

Maeve is desperate to find out if she had a sibling, and sets off to do her own investigation just as vandals break into her bakery, her shady landlord disappears, and an amputated finger suddenly appears in her bakeshop fridge. Add to that the usual issues with her daughters,stolen money, and a sudden interest from the local detective to add a little frisson to her missing love life, and Maeve has her hands very full.

The wry humor in this series balances the darkness that Maeve encounters. Maeve is a modern woman, a savvy businesswoman whose business is thriving thanks to her own incredible efforts. She’s a mother who keeps a fake personna on social media pages so she can friend her daughters and keep tabs on both teens. She’s a tiny, spunky woman you can’t help but admire, and it only seems fair that Barbieri allows Maeve to have a bit of a personal life along the way in this one, even as the baker uncovers what turns out to be a diabolical scheme. Nicely crafted fingers of the plot come together into a very satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

Summer Standouts: Penny, Garrett, Casey, Cha and Adler Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

Auntie M has guests this summer to give authors you might not have heard of a chance to tell you about their books. But today she wants to share the best of what she’s been reading whilst others are blogging away. These are some of summer’s best reads for crime.

LongWayHome After last year’s profoundly moving How The Light Gets In, it is difficult to imagine how Louise Penny could conjure up a way to bring Armand Gamache out of his hard-won retirement. In The Long Way Home, it takes his friendship with artist Clara Morrow to do just that.

After a year’s separation due to her husband jealousy over Clara’s career upturn, Peter Morrow was supposed to return home for them to sort out their marriage and decide if it could continue. Yet that deadline has come and gone and Clara knows something has happened to keep Peter from getting in touch with her. Despite not knowing what his feelings are, she insists he would never not have tried to contact her.

Together with Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache will assist Clara and her friend Myrna as they retrace Peter’s steps in an effort to locate him. Their journey will take them from the art school where Clara and Peter met, to some of his unusual and despised family, to a desolate place deep into Quebec where few have ventured and where few have returned from intact.

The usual characters for Three Pines make their appearance, but it come down to this group of four to unravel where Peter has gone to find his soul–and why. As they find themselves drawing closer and closer to Peter, the foursome will face some unanticipated scenarios and dark moments. Written with her usual style and an unerring sense of human nature, Penny’s newest will bring readers on a journey where things are turned upside down, just as the book jacket suggests, to final unexpected climax.

A. D. Garrett is the pen name for two authors collaborating in a way that brings forensics and mystery to the forefront in Everyone Lies. everyone-lies-usa-800px
Auntie M has read and enjoyed other mysteries by Margaret Murphy and here she teams up with forensic scientist Professor Dave Barcaly. Their main characters echo their expertise. DI Kate Simms was demoted in the past for her work on a case involving Prof Nick Fennimore, a one-time advisor to the National Crime Faculty, a man whose mind and forensic knowledge equal none other.

Despite their complicated past, Simms will reach out to Fennimore for his expertise when a string of drug addicts die and she suspects the drugs are laced with more than the usual cutting agents. Her investigation becomes high profile with the death of a celebrity in the mix and the media becomes involved. There will be whore houses to search and drugs to chase, and a convenient fall guy for what may turn out to be a hidden agenda of the deepest proportions Simms could imagine.

Seemingly thwarted by her superiors and her own past, Simms struggles to find out why these deaths are occurring, along with the identity of one of the girls, a prostitute who may or may not have been involved on her own. Her own family life suffers. The plot is complicated but satisfying, filled with all kinds of the best scientific analysis and facts for those of us who like those angles. With two unusual protagonists, readers can hope this duo will be brought back for a sequel, and soon.

Steph Cha’s sequel to Follow Her Home is the compelling Beware, Beware, featuring one of the most original protagonists to come along in a long time: Juniper Song, a Marlowe noir fan working as an apprentice to the PI firm she found herself involved with in Book One.

Song’s Hollywood location brings her right into the glitzy scene with her first case when New York artist Daphne Freamon asks the young investigator to follow her screenwriter boyfriend around. Jamie may be using drugs again, and Song quickly establishes this to be the case. Working for an aging movie star, Jamie is soon the prime suspect after a night of partying finds the star dead in his bathtub. Is it suicide or murder?

Now Song’s job becomes proving Jamie’s innocence. With lies, blackmail and hidden secrets coming to light each time she turns around, Song will find things hitting too close to home for her comfort. And then things turn on a dime and she must decide how much her conscience can bear in the name of justice and revenge. Fast-paced and definitely with an different edge, Steph Cha has created an Asian American character whose culture adds a layer to the action.

LastToKnow2 Elizabeth Adler continues her Mallory Malone-Harry Jordan series by taking readers to western Massachusetts Evening Lake in Last to Know.

Smarting from Mallory’s departure to Paris after breaking up with him, the Boston detective is spending time at his lake house with his dog, Squeeze. The small close-knit community is about to be blown apart by two newcomers: Lacey Havnel and her daughter Bea. One family, the Osbournes, will become particularly involved. Husband Wally is a well-known writer of horror stories; wife Rose is the ultimate wife and earth mother. Four children in varying ages occupy their home near Harry’s. All will become involved with Be a Havnel when Lacey is killed when the duo’s house explodes.

Then it’s determined that Lacey was murdered before the explosion, and that the mother-daughter team are not who they claim to be. Harry must decide if he can keep his job if it means living without Mallory just as the murderers begin to pile up. One device Adler uses is to tell the story through varied points of view, so that readers are getting more information than Harry is privy to. A page-turner and great beach read.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series returns with the fifth, The Kill.TheKill
With an intriguing plot and fast pacing, this is a smooth read that will translate well to television, and Auntie M won’t be surprised to see the series has been sold for that purpose very soon.

DC Maeve Kerrigan and DCI Josh Derwent are working alongside the rest of the MIT to unravel a series of police killings in metropolitan London. Someone is killing their police colleagues and everyone is on high alert to find the murderers. Are they killings all the work of one chief or is there more happening here than meets the eye?

Casey’s hallmark of the series is how she combines police procedural information alongside relationship development and subplots, especially as pertains to her superior officers, and most importantly, the misogynist DCI Derwent, as complex a character as there ever was to leap off the page. Kerrigan is tough, yet has human frailties, not the least of which is her worry about her handsome live-in boyfriend. When things turn upside down there, you will feel her ache as she’s unable to to comfort him when his colleague is murdered.

This is subtle, smart writing at its best. A great series if you haven’t found it.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: Jane Haddam’s Hearts of Sand, previously reviewed, is now in paperback for fans of retired FBI profiler Gregor Demarkian, who visits a Connecticut beach town to resurrect a decades-old disappearance and murder.

Charles Todd: Proof of Guilt Sunday, Feb 10 2013 

000290326In their fifteenth outing together, mother-and-son team Caroline and Charles Todd follow Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge into the countryside in search of a murderer in Proof of Guilt.

Those new to the series learn enough of his back-story and WWI experience to understand his personal demons and the reason for the ever-present Hamish, the voice who alternately guides and chides the detective, just over his shoulder and always out of sight.

Readers familiar with the series will enjoy Rutledge’s careful but frustrating investigation. His sister Frances, whom Rutledge has come to depend upon for companionship in his darker days, has her own surprising news.

This time Rutledge is dealing with getting to know his new Acting Chief Superintendent, a man who decides on a course based on reading reports and refuses to listen to Rutledge’s instinctual alternate theories. At times it seems the Super is deliberately thwarting Rutledge in his investigation.

When a car runs over the body of young man, the heirloom pocket watch found on him is the only clue to his identity. It soon becomes apparent the man did not die on the quiet but dignified street where he was found, but was dumped there.

Is this a clue to who he is, or a warning to someone living on that street?

The search for the man’s identity leads Rutledge to the co-owner of a Madeira wine company. Lewis French has gone missing, but it’s not his body on the slab in the morgue. Then how did the dead man end up with French’s watch?

And where is Lewis French?

Rutledge finds French’s sister to be an angry and jealous person who had quarreled with her brother just before his disappearance; his fiancee` seems less concerned than she might be. He also finds himself drawn to the man’s former jilted fiancee`. There seem to be plenty of people who might want French dead.

But if French is dead, where is his body? And how does a second disappearance of a war veteran tie in?

The time period necessitates a slower pace, as Rutledge must navigate by his own motor car to the various country villages outside London that eat into his precious time to follow the slender threads he uncovers.

This is not a fast-paced thriller but more the deliberate and tenacious unraveling of a plot with fingers lasting decades. Rutledge must find evidence to trap the killer before he becomes the latest victim.


Lynda LaPlante: Blood Line Sunday, Nov 18 2012 

Prime Suspect‘s Lynda LaPlante is back with a new Anna Travis novel.

Blood Line follows Anna’s new case as a DCI, heavily watched over with increasing annoyance to her by her mentor and former lover, Superintendent James Langton.

Her first case was a slam dunk that she made her way through numbly, dealing with the aftermath of the death of her fiance`. The pacing here is different from the usual murder novel, as the case starts out as something entirely different and meanders its way into a murder investigation, when a court clerk whose son has disappeared asks Anna to look into the case. Langton concurs, trying to give Anna time to grieve before getting her feet under her in a real murder case.

Alan Rawlins is a good-looking chap, engaged to be married to salon owner Tina Brooks. A shy gentleman, Alan’s sudden disappearance has his father and fiancee` stumped.

Anna’s initial interviews reveal nothing specific. At first glance, Alan is a paragon of virtue, with savings in the bank and a steady job. Tina arrived home from her salon one day after he’d come home early from work with a migraine to find Alan gone; it is his father who insisted a Missing Person’s report be filed when there’s no word from Alan after two weeks.

Meeting Tina for the first interview leaves Anna with a gut feeling something is wrong. The flat is too neat, compulsively so. And despite supposedly in the midst of shopping for a wedding dress and ordering invitations, Tina shows little emotion when discussing her missing partner, stating she feels he’s gone off with another woman. At first Anna feels it’s possible Alan has taken off to escape marriage to Tina and the pressures of his mother’s dementia, especially when a potential second source of income is identified.

Then a better search of the apartment Alan and Tina shared turns up evidence of a blood pool behind the head of the bed, and more Luminol work shows a massive cleanup in the bathtub as the full-scale murder investigation swings into action.

Despite the evidence, the question of the identity of the victim becomes an issue. Someone was murdered in that flat, but just who it was becomes more and more difficult to establish in a series of twists that have Anna, under pressure to solve the case, becoming almost obsessed with all the trails she finds. And over it all, Langton is watching her like a hawk.
The book follows the extensive details and delays of real police work, from waiting for forensic reports to traveling to interview witnesses, always with the budget in mind. Anna also deals with the personalities of her hastily-thrown together team.

LaPlante’s lack of contractions may take some readers aback as it gives her dialogue a more formal feel; but it also serves to keep the British tone in the reader’s ear. This edition comes through the new line of mysteries from HarperCollins, Bourbon Street books.