Catching Up #1: Thrillers and Out of US Friday, Sep 30 2016 

Auntie M is still trying to catch up on reviews of books she’s read while recuperating from extensive back surgery. She’s finally been given the go-ahead to sit at her laptop for longer periods of time, and boy are there a LOT of books to tell you about! So she’s going to break these longer review days into several postings to catch you–and her–up.

These reads are perfect for that swing time when you’re getting used to the change in seasons, if it ever comes. Or for those nights when there’s nothing on television that sparks your interest. Or waiting for an appointment. Or–well, for Auntie M, reading is something she does in all of these places. And then some. She usually has two books in progress at all times and brings at least one with her wherever she goes. WHEREVER she goes. Think about it . . .

She’s grouped these into general categories. Here are Thrillers and Out of the US:

First up are thrillers:

Glen Erik Hamilton’s Past Crimes won the Anthony for Best First Novel the other night at the New Orleans Bouchercon Mystery Convention. His follow up, Hard Cold Winter, shows why he’s an award winner you’ll be hearing more and more of as his Van Shaw series, featuring the former Army Sergeant Ranger, remains gritty and powerful.

The vigilante expects to find a missing girl in the Olympic Mountains when he searches the woods as the behest of an old friend of his grandfather’s. Instead he stumbles across a ghastly murder scene, and this one has a victim whose family is one of Seattle’s rich and famous.

He will encounter an old friend, Leo, who brings his own trouble, as Van tries to contain his own PTSD and figure out his relationship with his girlfriend, Luce. Then a bomb goes off at his house, and when more people are murdered, the detectives are eyeing Van. When betrayal comes in an unexpected form, all bets are off.

For Jack Reacher fans, this is fast-paced action with an unexpected ending.


And a second Anthony winner, this time for Best Novel, beating out the likes of Louise Penny, Catriona McPherson, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Matt Coyle, is Chris Holm’s The Killing Kind.

Following up on that debut, Special Agent Charlie Thompson’s newest case starts off on an eerie note in Red Right Hand. Tourist video has captured a terrorist attack on the Golden Gate Bridge, but that’s not all the video reveals. It also shows the image of Frank Segreti, who was thought to have been blown up after turning against the organized crime mob known as the Council after giving away their secrets.

But Charlie’s racing against another element as he deals with both the terrorist attack and the idea of Segreti: a hit man on his way to San Francisco to join in the action.

Unrelenting and hard hitting, easily gulped down, and with a cinematic feel as it all unfolds.

Booklist called Brian Thiem’s debut Red Line “a top-notch new series” with good reason. His followup, Thrill Kill
continues the promise of the Matt Sinclair series.

The Oakland homicide detective’s newest case starts when a woman murdered in a particularly horrific way is found hanging from a tree–and Sinclair recognizes her. He’d arrested her as a teen runaway a decade before.

Dawn Gustafson died a particularly awful death, and the fact that she was a prostitute doesn’t matter to Sinclair or his partner, Cathy Braddock. They’re sworn to find justice for Dawn, no matter where it leads them. Most of Dawn’s clients don’t want their names to be known,making their investigation more difficult.

They will both be surprised where that is before it’s over. Once the killer makes himself known, Sinclair must find out Dawn’s secrets even as he confronts his own.

An accomplished and intricate police procedural.
Gina Wahlsdorf’s Security brings a new dimension to thrillers with a strong debut that close readers will find pays a nod to many literary influences, including Stephen King, Poe and Auntie M’s own fave, Daphne Du Maurier.

Manderley is the most of everything a hotel can be in Santa Barbara: most luxurious, most exclusive, and most security conscious. It’s a few days until their grand opening, and readers have the dizzying effect of watching the action on multiple floors, from the rose garden to the ballroom’s champagne fountain, from the hotel manager covering every detail to the murderer in room 717.

Yes, there’s been a murder and the gore is only starting. The twists are scary and come at the reader in a fast and furious matter that rivals the best of Hitchcock with its omniscient narrator. Original and creative.

We turn now to several set outside the US and we head to Chile first.


Lance Hawvermale’s Face Blind is set in Chile’s Atacama desert, a bland, lifeless place that’s made more bland by his protagonist’s inability to distinguish people by their looks due to prosopagnosia.

Astronomer Gabriel Traylin sees a murder happen right before his eyes when he steps out to have a cigarette. He races inside and has colleagues call the police, but by the time they arrive, the dead body has been moved, leaving only a few blood drops behind. Due to his condition, he’s viewed as a nutcase, unable to even give a description of the dead man.

Gabe has taught himself to focus on people’s voices and their clothing and shoes to recognize them again. He will need these skills when a series of mutilations in the area make him the police’s prime suspect.

He must also trust in strangers whose faces he can’t recall, including a lovely young woman, her twin brother with Down’s syndrome, and a novelist they seek. How these disparate threads come together in a wholly satisfying way is part of what makes this thriller so readable.

To Italy, with Antonio Manzini, riding on the success of Black Run. He returns with Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone in Adam’s Rib
, with Rocco still banished from Rome to the small town of Aosta.

Rocco is a strange but endearing character, full of negatives, hearing the voice of his dead wife, trying to move on in a relationship–and despite the help of one officer and one inspector he trusts, he’s decided the rest of his police squad are simply idiots. He’s also corrupt himself, but don’t let that deter you.

The case opens when a cleaning woman finds her employer hanging from a chandelier. Despite the original assessment of suicide, the messed up kitchen and missing items from the house leave Rocco convinced Esther Baudo was murdered.

That’s when the highly unconventional detective swings into action. An ending twist will surprise readers, as will the actions of this police chief whose methods are so unusual that the satire shines through with a hint of Italian noir.


In 1938 Berlin, Noel Macrae and his wife, Primrose, arrive to take his new posting at the British Embassy in Berlin. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less certain this is the path to take.

Convinced Hitler can only be stopped by means other than appeasement, Macrae finds his is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy. Several senior officers in the German military are prepared to turn against the Fuhrer. But can they be trusted?

To gather intelligence, Macrae is drawn to a Nazi bordello and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein, who has a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets.
But does Sara hold the key to actually thwarting Hitler and his plans? Or is Macrae being manipulated, even as his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact for her own information?

Well-drawn and atmospheric of these days, with the added spy element.

Winner of Minotaur/MWA’s Firsts Crime Novel Award, John Keyse-Walker’s Sun, Sand, Murder
takes readers to the remote British Virgin Island of Anegada. Auntie M visited here during a sailing vacation with Doc and it’s tough to imagine a less “rural” island unless it’s one that’s uninhabited.

Off the beaten track for many tourists, it’s police presence is all down to Teddy Creque, who hasn’t really had much to do in the way of real crime. The last murder was in 1681 . . .

That all changes when he’s called to the body of a biologist he knows lying on the beach, shot in the head. Paul Kelleher visited every winter to study the iguanas, but seems to be an unknown person elsewhere, as Teddy finds out when he tries to notify his next of kin about the murder. He can’t find any trace that the man exists.

Against the “real” police wishes, and despite his complicated family life and three jobs, Teddy investigates this murder, finally having real police work to do–if he survives it.

A fascinating look at island mores and life, with a charming protagonist. The story is told from his point of view and this island springs to life.

Terry Shames: The Last Death of Jack Harbin Sunday, Feb 23 2014 

last death 2 copyWhile Auntie M is in Lumberton, NC this weekend for the literacy fundraiser Book’Em NC, please welcome guest Terry Shames.



Now What?



In my first book, A Killing at Cotton Hill, July 2013, I introduced ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock, the best lawman the town of Jarrett Creek ever had. The recent death of his beloved wife left him feeling like his life was basically over. Solving the mystery of an old friend’s death brought him back into action. When the book came out not only did I get some great reviews, but I received emails from people all over the country (as well as from England—who knew I would get an English audience for a series set in Texas?) telling me how much they loved Samuel.



The Last Death of Jack Harbin came out in January, 2014 to more good reviews—including the amazing declaration by a reviewer in the Toronto Times that Samuel Craddock was his favorite new American sleuth (who would have guessed that a Canadian reviewer would love a small-town Texas lawman?). It appeared that Samuel had traits people identified with.



Both of the first two books practically wrote themselves. It seemed as if the inhabitants of Jarrett Creek were eager to tell their stories. I heard the characters talk and watched them go through their daily lives as if I had a movie going in my head.



Then reality struck. When I started writing the third book in the series, the characters suddenly became coy—they refused to cooperate and seemed flat and uninspired. Thinking that I needed to re-spark my imagination, I took a trip back to the small town in Texas that Jarrett Creek is based on. Nope. Still the characters weren’t working. Now what?



I realized that I was confronted with what every writer of a series has to face—the need to have characters grow. Samuel Craddock and his supporting cast could not remain static and still be interesting to readers. The trick was to have characters change in ways that surprise readers—but not surprise them so much that they didn’t believe the characters would behave that way.






I realized that one of the ways to do this was to use secondary characters to highlight different aspects of the recurring characters. Almost by instinct, in both of the first two books I did this. Like people in real life, citizens of Jarrett Creek came and went, interacting with the main characters like a Greek chorus.

I knew that some of these characters may only appear in one book, while others may come back. I love the character of Walter Dunn in The Last Death of Jack Harbin, and although I don’t think he will ever be a major character, I know I’m not through with him. And one character from A Killing at Cotton Hill showed up to become the victim in book three, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek.



Settling into writing a series is like committing to a long-term relationship. People go along acting pretty much the same way they always have—and then they surprise you. Readers can look for changes as the series progresses. And as the writer, I have to be prepared for them to change as well.



Terry Shames is the best-selling author of A Killing at Cotton Hill and The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Seventh Street Books.

Her books are set in small-town Texas and feature ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock. Terry lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. She is Vice President of Norcal Sisters in Crime and on the board of MWA Norcal. For more information, please visit her website:

With the chief of police out of commission, it’s up to trusted ex-chief Samuel Craddock to investigate the brutal murder of a Gulf War veteran who was a former high school football star. Craddock uncovers a dark tale of greed and jealousy that extends into the past, and well beyond the borders of the small town of Jarrett Creek.





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.



Continued Series Winners: James, Mays, Cleeves, Toyne, Rhodes, Billingham & Haddam Sunday, Oct 27 2013 

Auntie M is reading a ton of great series and wants to suggest you check out these continued winners.

dead man's time by peter james Peter James’ Roy Grace novels have captivated readers in the millions and he continues his powerful series with Dead Man’s Time. Set in Brighton, these police thrillers follow the Detective Superintendent and his relationship. The newest has the unusual premise of a prologue from 1922, when five-year-old Gavin Daly and his sister board a ship for Dublin after the death of their parents.

At the dock in New York, a messenger carries two things that will haunt Gavin for the rest of his life: his father’s pocket watch, and a paper with four names and eleven numbers written on it. Gavin pledges to find out the meaning of these things and spends a lifetime searching.

Fast forward to current time, and Grace is getting used to being a new father and the lack of sleep that brings. A string of burglaries have captured the attention of Brighton’s residents.

When an old woman is murdered and a huge cache of antiques she kept stolen, he is surprised when her family are only interested in one item: a vintage pocket watch. The victim’s brother is none other than an aged Gavin Daly, still on the hunt having amassed incredible wealth as the years have passed.

What Grace will find as he probes is a mixed bag of old revenge and new hatreds. He will become mired in the machinations of several trails, leading to the antiques world of Brighton, to Marbella and its crime world, and back in time to the crime families of New York.

And all the time he seeks to unravel this twisted scheme, a madman plots against his beloved Cleo and their infant son. A wonderful addition to the series, meticulously researched and intricately plotted.

Auntie M had the pleasure of meeting with Peter James this summer and found him warm and likeable, with a wicked sense of humor not unlike his protagonist.


Peter Mays’ Lewis trilogy captures the remoteness of the Outer Hebrides area and its stark beauty in his award-winning series that serves up the complexity of human relationships.

After the success of The Blackhouse, Mays second offering, lewisman300The Lewis Man, finds his protagonist, former DI Fin Macleod, bound by his past to help the family of islanders he is linked to by history and familial ties.

The father of his lover, Marsaili, has always maintained he was an only child, and enters a care home suffering from dementia when Marsaili’s mother has her fill of taking care of him.

Then a corpse is found in a peat bog, and far from being the historic body it is first thought, it is quickly ascertained that this body is far more recent–and is a DNA match to Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili’s father.

This winning novel shows the plot through Fin’s eyes and through the remembrances and clouded memory of Tormod, an interesting device that allows the story of Tormod’s upbringing to unfold, while explaining why he felt it necessary to claim he had no family at all. The climax will keep you reading well past lights out time to seek the improbable resolution to this complicated novel.

43627_TheLewisMan_TPB-Red.indd The Chessmen completes the trilogy. With his divorce final, Fin Macleod has moved back to Lewis and is working as a private investigator.

He is putting his life in Edinburgh and his police skills behind him. Or so he thinks.

He takes an assignment as head of security to track down poachers working a huge island estate, and finds himself reunited with old friends including Whistler Macaskill. Their history and that of their friends form the basis for the action that follows when a body is found in a crashed plane at the bottom of a loch.

May’s uses the device again of showing the past in episodes, this time through Fin’s remembrances. The 1919 tragedy of the Iolaire is recounted and haunts the action.

That loch discovery will change the very foundation upon which Macleod’s memories are built, for a secret being kept for decades by people Macleod thought he knew. At stake will be lives, his and others, and a girl who needs to be saved.

This gritty series has given readers surprising plot twists and brilliant characterizations throughout.

Readers can only hope May will take a page from Ann Cleeves, whose Shetland trilogy so thoroughly engaged readers that she decided to bring out a fourth volume.


Dead Water continues the story of Shetland Island detective inspector Jimmy Perez. Blue Lightning Spoiler alert: In a shocking twist in the third volume, Perez’s fiancee was murdered, Dead_Water_HB_fc_and the detective is still struggling with that loss as he shares custody of her daughter with the girl’s biological father.

Jerry Markham is a journalist from Shetland whose family run a pricey hotel and restaurant in the area. The young man had left the island for London and work on a bigger and more important paper.

He left in his wake a scandal involving a young woman he made pregnant, who has gone on to make a life for herself on the island and whose impending marriage to an older seaman nears.

Then Markham’s body is found in a boat right outside the home of the Procurator Fiscal, Rhona Laing, a contained woman with a tidy, bleak house, who outlet in a crew team marks an otherwise lonely existence, one she prefers on her road to political advancement.

With Perez on leave, a young DI from the Hebrides is called in to conduct the investigation. Willow Reeves represents an unusual character and she’s able to bring Perez into the case by using his local knowledge. She also gets him to start to look past his grief, as his detecting skills are brought into play.

The case seems to revolve around Sullum Voe, where Shetland’s oil and gas industry are centered, and the big story Markham was following that brought him home.

Then a second death occurs, muddying the waters, and Perez and Reeves will team up to unmask a killer. Readers will hope Cleeves, who also writes the wonderful Vera Stanhope series, will keep Perez afloat.


a-killing-of-angels-by-kate-rhodesKate Rhodes knocked our socks off with her first Alice Quentin novel, Crossbones Yard, a complex mystery whose shocking ending resounded with readers.

In this second installment, A Killing of Angels, the behavioral psychologist is back with a new case that finds her assisting the police again, despite her reservations after the nightmare of the first book.

Fiercely independent Alice is training for a marathon, despite London’s hottest summer on record. Her specialty in personality disorders makes her an expert at character analysis and an enormous help to the police.

The body in question was a suspected suicide, until a picture of an angel and a few white feathers are found stuffed into the victim’s pocket.

The killings continue and it’s obvious that the Square Mile and the banking world is the locus for the crimes. As Alice tries to help detective Don Burns with the case, she finds herself dragged deeper into the intrigue and the lives of the people involved.

Complicating matters are the journalists who keep the murders high profile, suggesting the killings are retribution for the banking world and its self-absorption.

Readers can’t help but be engaged with Alice and her complicated history, with Rhodes’ intricate plotting, and with her facility for choosing prose that matters, echoing her poetry background. This is a thumping good read.


Simon Toyne’s Ruin trilogy has captivated readers with the world he created in his series of a haunting conspiracy thrillers. Tower-2 p0_v2_s260x420Nonstop action and breakneck twists continue in The Tower.

Santus introduced readers to Liv Adamson and the prophecy that caused her brother’s death and changed her life.

The Key left Liv trapped in the Syrian Desert, with her erstwhile savior, ex-special forces Gabriel Mann, suffering from the deadly virus that originated in the Citadel, an ancient monastery at the center of the conspiracy.

Enter new FBI agent Joe Shepherd, at first glance an unlikely choice to work the case after a cyber-attack at the Goddard Space Center that disables the Hubbard telescope and the subsequent disappearance of the prize-winning scientist in charge, who has left behind a cryptic and chilling message.

But Shepherd’s background with degrees in astrophysics and computer science make him the perfect choice. Despite the secrets he is hiding, Shepherd’s investigation leads him to connect these new incidents with the explosion months ago at the Citadel and the viral outbreak that ensued.

Readers will be engrossed in Shepherd’s journey with the added pressure of the device ofa  countdown clock dogging his heels. Then unusual things start to happen around the globe, and it remains to be seen if humanity can be saved.

Things will come full circle, but what is that meaning of that phrase? It it the ending of everything known before, or an entire new beginning?

For the woman at the heart of it all, Liv and her destiny will change the way the world survives–if it can. This third novel successfully answers all the questions raised in the other two, while providing a meaning and reason for the episodes of the others.

Auntie M met with Simon Toyne this summer and his outrageous good looks and charm belie the complicated mind needed to create this new world and the roller-coaster ride his readers will find.


Hearts Sandp0_v2_s114x166 Jane Haddam’s Gregor Demarkain novels continue to entertain. In this 28th installment, Hearts of Sand takes the investigator to the old-monied town of Alwych, Connecticut.

Although Chapin Waring disappeared thirty years ago, the quarter of a million dollars she had with her from a series of bank robberies was never recovered. There have been no sightings of the woman and she’s rumored to be dead.

Then new rumors fill the town: that Chapin has been seen on the beach or in a store, and these prove true when her body is found in the family’s vacant home, a knife sticking out of her back.

As a retired profiler, Demarkian excels at reading people and this kind of situation is right up his alley. With the local police stumped, he’s asked to help them narrow their field of suspects, and there are far too many of them.

Research into Chapin’s life shows her to have been a manipulative girl within an inner circle, whose attraction to danger led to the bank robberies and a car crash that killed her accomplice. The remaining people of her inner circle are just as delectable suspects as are the victim’s own sisters. Haddam gets small town snobbery just right.


We’re back across the pond with Mark Billingham’s wonderful DI Tom Thorne series. Number eleven doesn’t disappoint: it’s vintage Thorne  The Dying Hoursat his crankiest and most recalcitrant in The Dying Hours.

Busted back to uniform after the horrific events in Good as Dead  and losing the title ‘detective’ while remaining an inspector hasn’t changed the way Thorne’s analytical mind works. Despite his demotion, and putting his budding relationship in jeopardy, Thorne’s instincts run true when he’s called to the scene of a suicide that doesn’t feel right to him.

Unable at first to pinpoint his unease, it soon becomes apparent, at least to Thorne, that a series of suicides of elderly people don’t ring true. One thing they all have in common is a lack of depression or sadness other suicides exhibit.

Try convincing the Murder Squad of that, though. The new head of the very team he once ran refuses to accept these might be the killings of a sick mind.

But any Thorne reader knows he will not take dismissal well, and he plunges into his own parallel investigation, calling on his former colleagues and few remaining friends to help out, despite that they must put their own careers on the line, and jeopardizing any sliver of career he might have left of his own.

This is vintage Thorne, from his predilection for country music to his doggedness once he becomes convinced he’s right.

Adding to the texture is Billingham’s ability to get inside the mind of the creepy villain, bent on revenge and justifying his horrific actions. By adding in the point of the view of the perpetrator, Billingham creates a wily adversary and gives readers a chilling glimpse inside the mind of a murderer.


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.


True Crime Twofer Sunday, Sep 30 2012 

Kathryn Casey is the critically-acclaimed writer Ann Rule has called “one of the best in the true crime genre.” In Deadly Little Secrets, she’s written a meticulously researched account of a cold-blooded pastor in Texas who is convicted of killing the mother of his children. There is also lingering suspicion around the earlier death of his physically ill daughter.

After marrying Matt Baker, a charming and seemingly pious man, Kari Baker gives birth to two daughters, Kensi and Kassidy. Always upbeat and positive, Kari seems to take her husband’s frequent church relocations in stride, never questioning his stories of the reasons for their moves. Matt appears to be a devoted husband and father, but others tell stories of unwanted sexual approaches and inappropriate comments and behavior with young women that Kari refuses to believe.

When Kassidy becomes gravely ill and subsequently dies, to the surprise of her doctors, Kari falls into the very reasonable depression the death of a child would cause, but manages to pull herself up to have another child, Grace. She finishes school and begins teaching. Life was sorting itself out: until the day Kari’s parents receive the inexplicable phone call that their daughter has committed suicide. Just days later Matt is seen with a pretty blond companion who he brings into his daughter’s lives.

What happens next will unravel years of the elaborate show Matt Baker has put on for the public to cover his trail of sexual predator behavior. With only her parents to fight for justice for Kari, a relentless legal battle ensues over years, with the safety and futures of Kari’s two remaining daughters at the heart of her grandparents brave struggle.

This is the well-drawn portrait of a narcissistic individual who believes his own lies and chafes at his family responsibilities. How he is brought to justice by a dogged team of investigators prompted by Kari’s parents will show the dogged determination of a handful of people who became convinced that Kari Baker deserved the justice in death she was denied in life.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a case of Imperfect Justice, prosecutor Jeff Ashton’s account, written with Lisa Pulizer, of the Casey Anthony trial.

With exhaustive detail, Ashton takes readers inside the evidence and trial that captured the nation’s attention when the body of missing two-year old Caylee Anthony was found.

Inside the prosecution team, evidence is sifted through and statements compared and contrasted. For most of the thirty-one days Caylee was missing, her mother partied with then-boyfriend Tony Lazzaro. Photos surface of Casey’s antics which as a parent, didn’t make any kind of sense to the prosecutor. He makes particular note that both before and after Casey’s arrest, she exhibited little behavior to suggest she was grieving for her daughter.

Detailed photos accompanying the text show the evidence and Ashton points out little things that were not public knowledge during the trial, like the closeness to the roadside of Kaylee’s remains, which indicated to him the laziness of their placement. He explains the team effort that went into building a case, at times literally sifting through garbage to counter a point made by a defense witness. He explains Casey’s conflicting testimony and contradictions. And he describes how the person he felt most sorry for was George Anthony, Casey’s father.

Everyone who could read a paper knows the stunning outcome of that trial, one that Ashton postponed his retirement for over six months to see to its end. He believes that ultimately little Caylee Anthony was lost sight of in the media circus and trial that followed. In giving this behind-the-scenes story of the complete investigation and trail, he reveals information why he remains convinced to this day of Casey Anthony’s guilt.

Simon Beckett: The Calling of the Grave Sunday, Nov 27 2011 

Simon Beckett’s novels featuring forensics expert Dr. David Hunter display the kind of in-depth research that keeps readers like Auntie M coming back. With his painstaking approach to detail Beckett’s novels have a sense of authenticity that at times is eerie, and which applies to other character’s specialties, as well.

When Beckett was writing for the Daily Telegraph Magazine, one assignment took him on a field trip to the world-famous Anthropological Research Facility in Tennessee known as The Body Farm. That visit inspired not only the character of David Hunter, but this recent offering in the series, The Calling of the Grave. “Nothing stays hidden forever” is the last line of the prologue and an apt theme for this absorbing novel that will end in an entirely different way from the reader’s first expectations.

Almost a decade ago a body was found buried on Dartmoor, presumably the work of the psychotic rapist and multiple murderer Jerome Monk. The bodies of two other victims, twin sisters, were never recovered. Called upon to be a part of the recovery team, Hunter is eager to be included in a search of the area when Monk offers to point to where the bodies are buried. The premise allows us to go back into Hunter’s private life as he recalls the the days of the first search, and brilliantly ties those events to others that have severely affected his life.

On the moors Hunter meets Leonard Wainwright, a Cambridge don turned consultant to the police, renowned as a forensics expert, especially in the area of archeology. Part of the team will be the local pathologist, Dr. Pirie, and also Sophie Keller, a Behavioral Investigative Advisor, who will advise on offender’s characteristics and motivations, and will help to plan the strategy and assessment of Monk. DI Terry Connors is a surprise: his wife and Hunter’s own were friends years ago and the men used to see each other socially.

The moor is beautiful described, in all its dark and wild glory, and provides the perfect setting for the shackled prisoner as he arrives after a decoy has shaken reporters off in a different direction. The real prisoner has a hulking presence, powerful presence, with a ghastly congenital indentation in his forehead, “as though he’d been struck with a hammer and somehow survived.” With his crooked mouth and small, empty eyes, the murderer has a chilling effect on those present.  

The the unthinkable happens: a nightmarish scenario develops and Monk tried to escape. With great difficulty the police manage to subdue and contain him, but not before he has ruined the career Sophie Keller. With Monk safely behind bars, Hunter returns to London and his wife and daughter–until his own nightmare begins.

Eight years later, Hunter is surprised to find Terry Connor on his doorstep. Both of their lives have changed, not for the better, and Hunter is not happy to see Connor. Then the detective tells him his news: Jerome Monk had suffered a heart attack, and on transfer to a civilian hospital, managed to break his restraints, subdue his guards, and escape into the night. When a panicked Sophie Keller contacts Hunter a few days later, begging him to visit her, he acquiesces. But Keller fails to show up at the pub where they were to meet, and Hunter drives out to her house, only to find her beaten into unconsciousness.

What happens next will bring Hunter into the realm of a murderer, as the members of the original search team begin to be hunted down and murdered, and Hunter realizes he only knows half the real story of the events of eight years ago.

This is a gripping and solid read, with the pacing ratcheted up as Hunter and Sophie try to flee from a maniac on the loose. Or is the real threat closer to home?

Another solid offering from Simon Beckett.