Matt Marinovich: The Winter Girl Saturday, Dec 10 2016 


Just when you think you know what’s going on in Matt Marinovich’s thriller, The Winter Girl, you realize you really don’t–not by a long shot.

The isolation of the Hamptons in winter is the perfect backdrop for this tale of a young couple, Elise and Scott, staying in her father’s home as they wait for the old man to die of cancer.

Victor is not a nice person, Scott always thought, and readers will readily agree with him as more and more of his actions are revealed over the weeks and then months the couple spend catering to him. With his photography career stalled and Elise’s speech therapy clients all on hold, boredom sees them sneaking into the vacant house next door.

But is it really vacant? And what does all that blood signify? A twisted and twisting psychological tale that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. And then some. Out in paperback on the 13th. Chill up someone’s stocking with this one!

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

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

mistletoemuder mistletoe2

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

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Keeping with the holiday theme is Ann Myers’ third Santa Fe Cafe` Mystery, Feliz Navidead
. Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Cafe has her mom visiting from Minnesota to entertain, while keeping track of her teenage daughter performing in the outdoor Christmas play. When Rita discovers a dead actor during the first performance, she swears off investigating, but soon finds herself involved in a very dangerous situation. The Knit and Snitchers, her elderly group of knitting ladies, are back, giving information and clues to Rita even as they sneak their knitting onto statues and stop signs. There are a host of other entertaining characters, and don’t forget Rita’s mom. Who can resist Santa Fe at Christmas? Watch Rita solve a murder and drool over Myers’ recipes, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Cleave: Trust No One Sunday, Oct 23 2016 


Ngaio Marsh Award Winner Paul Cleave’s Trust No One is as wholly original and creative a psychological thriller as you’re likely to read this year.

Protagonist Jerry Grey is struggling with rapid onset Alzheimer’s after being known to readers everywhere under his pen name, Henry Cutter, as a terrific crime novelist. His books have a wide audience and their following have kept Jerry and his lawyer wife, Sandra, and their only daughter in comfort. He is forty-nine years old.

When he’s diagnosed shortly before his daughter announces her engagement, the parents give Eva a few days to enjoy her glow before changing her world forever. She rises to the occasion and she and her fiancé agree to push the wedding up so Jerry can walk her down the aisle. Involved in these hasty wedding preparations, Sandra and Eva don’t seem to notice Jerry is busily scribbling in a journal that he’s keeping so when his mind goes–and there is evidence every day that he is rapidly losing touch with himself–he can read it remind himself of the process, and of who he used to be.

The wedding goes off without a hitch, but there’s an unfortunate bit at the reception apparently. And the next thing Jerry knows, he’s in a home and he keeps confessing to the murder of a woman who turns out to be a character in one of his crime novels. Now he’s really confused. Why has Sandra stopped visiting? How did he manage to ruin his daughters wedding when it went off so well? And what’s really happening in those moments Captain A, as he calls his Alzheimer’s, rob him of conscious thought and memory? Because Jerry has become the police’s number one suspect in a number of recent murders that occur when he manages to escape fro the home.

Who can he trust? Maybe no one. And there’s no good ending in sight.

At once a terrific psychological thriller, this is also an up close and personal look at a mind that is deteriorating. All of the stages of rage and grief are here, as is the sense of betrayal in so many areas, personal, physical, and mental.

Yet with Cleaves ironic sense of humor, the reader learns about the dreaded disease while Jerry goes on the hunt to figure out what’s really happening in his life. A mix of entries from earlier when Jerry’s succumbing to the disease are interspersed with present day action, ratcheting up the tension.

You’ll be flipping pages like Auntie M was to figure out who Jerry really can trust, and who he can’t.

Frederick Wysocki: On careers, lessons and sagas Sunday, Feb 21 2016 

Please welcome thriller writer Frederick Wysocki, who will explain to Auntie M’s readers how he changed careers, the lessons he’s learned, and how he gets his inspiration for new books~

My wife has always called me a storyteller, as if it were a bad thing. However, I never thought I could muster the patience to write a hundred-thousand word novel. Now I have written five within in just over two years and I’m currently working on number 6. (My imaginary friends keep telling me more of their secrets.)

In my first career, I was in high technology having started my first company in 1975. It involved constantly flying somewhere. During those trips, I always packed a thriller or two to read.

I retired early and was finally inspired to start my second career of writing while sharing a golf cart with a movie producer. It turned out he was playing slow because he was finalizing the writing of a novel. We talked. I told him some stories about the tech industry and he told me they were fascinating and to write them down.

I decided to try it and started to learn the craft by going to writer’s groups I found on I am now a Mister with the Sisters in Crime and DesertSleuths.
I still find I’m drawn to writing crime fiction novels inspired by real events.

The most important lessons I’ve come to learn are:
• That one should only write something you truly enjoy, as you will have to reread the darn thing a hundred times before it’s ready.
• That readers love obstacles, suspense and twists.

I find myself inspired daily by what I hear on the news and read about in technology blogs. I start by doing research then writing out a rough plot. Then I layer in subplots and decide how my characters will change. I avoid lengthy descriptions. I tend to write short chapters that are heavy on dialogue.

THE START-UP for example, started with a news headline about a still ongoing FBI investigation.
I was curious. How does someone (Anthony Rizzo) start a computer software company and sell it months later for billions of dollars? Then the buyer finds out that it was all a scam and calls in the FBI. With a diverse Board of Directors and countless lawyers and investment bankers, how does a large tech company get duped? How does the FBI deal with it? And yes, it is still in the news today. That was the plot behind THE START-UP.


Against that backdrop I layered in a ‘Hero’s Quest’ character arc of a young man (Frank) facing increasingly ruthless tasks in order to make his share and how it changed him and his girlfriend.
Upon publishing, I discovered eighty percent of my readers of THE START-UP were women and they wanted to know what happened to Frank. The answer came in the form of books 3 & 4. (More on them in a minute.)

Reader feedback also gets my creative juices flowing. Two examples of reader feedback:
• A former FBI agent told me that his first undercover job with the Bureau was similar to my plot for A Timely Revenge. He told me I got the era, events and motives of the crooks just right.
• A relative of a mob family told me she recommended my books to her family as they were the best portrayal of modern Mafia white collar crime she had ever read.

It seems every reader that meets me thinks they know each books’ inspiration and are asking me things like: is Anthony Rizzo (insert name of major CEO)?


What happened to Frank and his girlfriend? That was the question I explored in BLOOD RIVALS and NO TIME FOR FOOLS.
The inspiration behind BLOOD RIVALS came from an interview I did with Fiona Quinn of I told her about a case where the FBI had mistakenly focused on the wrong suspect from an inconclusive fingerprint.

Naomi Dolphin was introduced in BLOOD RIVALS as a young female bodyguard who Frank hires.
My next novel – THE ARABIAN CLIENT – should be out in a few months and is a prequel of how Naomi went from being a maid and nanny on the island of Anguilla to becoming the bodyguard for a Saudi princess in Saudi Arabia. She struggles to overcome the Islamic culture and terrorists, as well as her clients.

THE ARABIAN CLIENT is very different for me since it’s a psychological thriller and is written from a female point of view. It goes behind the headlines and answers the questions about what is really happening in the Middle East. I’ve had Middle Eastern Muslim women review it for accuracy.

A critical part of my process is reaching out to friends who seem to know unique ways to kill someone.
For example in NO TIME FOR FOOLS:
• A doctor from Florida gave me three methods of killing someone with a cigar lighter.
• The former helicopter pilot for a USA President explained the best way to crash a jet plane without using a bomb.

I did not start out to write more than one book, nor did I want to do a series. Now with prequels and sequels, I find myself in the midst of writing a saga.

At first, I thought I was writing a single novel, THE START-UP. Readers were all asking me what happens next for the main characters. I had already started on a prequel of Anthony Rizzo – the family crook. That became A TIMELY REVENGE.
Readers were unanimous in asking me what happened to Anthony’s nephew – Frank Moretti. Thus were born BLOOD RIVALS and NO TIME FOR FOOLS. Both those books feature a female bodyguard – Naomi – for Frank.
Readers asked me how she became a bodyguard and that is why I am currently finishing THE ARABIAN CLIENT. It chronicles Naomi, her time in Israel and her first assignment in Saudi Arabia.

Book 6 (takes place in Russia) will pick up where NO TIME FOR FOOLS left off.
As long as my real world readers keep asking me about my imaginary friends, I’ll keep writing.

Thanks very much for hosting me!


My novels are available on Amazon in print and ebook.

Website Links:
Twitter: @FredWysocki

The Book of You: Claire Kendal Sunday, Aug 9 2015 

Book of You

If you read and enjoyed Elizabeth Haynes Into the Darkest Corner then you will definitely want to read Claire Kendal’s The Book of You.

University administrator Clarissa, getting used to a painful split from her partner, can’t wait for her jury duty to begin. She’s thrilled when she’s assigned to a case where she will have to be off work for at least seven weeks. Every day in the protected courtroom means a day out of sight of the man whose stalking is ruining her life and haunting her dreams on the rare nights she’s able to sleep.

Rafe is the academic who turned one night’s encounter with her into his obsession. An expert on fairy tales, especially those of a dark nature, Rafe uses these to add chilling texture to the terror that has become Clarissa’s life. She’s unable to walk home from the train station or leave her home without seeing his shadow. Even a walk in a nearby park becomes the stuff of nightmares until a stranger walking his dog interrupts what she increasingly fears could have been her murder, after researching Rafe’s personal history and learning that a young woman he’d stalked previously has disappeared.

He is ever present in her life, showing up at her house with gifts she must save as evidence of his stalking and harassment to go to the police with enough incidents that they will take her seriously. A talented sewer, Clarissa uses her this sideline to keep hold of her sanity, as her physical health deteriorates and she must detail the conversations and presence of this sick man in her life in a small black book she calls the Book of You.

Now as she takes solace in the jury room, making a few friends, attracted to a fireman in particular, Clarissa can’t help but notice the case they are trying of a young woman raped and brutalized mirrors her worst fears if Rafe should ever get in close contact with her again. The defendant’s grueling days on the witness stand point out that Rafe will try to twist her story around to his benefit, and Clarissa must have enough proof before going to the police of the seriousness of his intent.

The power of the book comes from illustrating how much psychological damage an obsessive like Rafe can incur simply by his continued and annoying presence. And when his threats escalate, so does the horror that Clarissa feels and what she ultimately faces.

This well-written thriller will have readers hearts beating as hard and fast as Clarissa’s does on a regular basis. A harrowing story of the ability to enact cruelty on another human being with Kendal’s knack bringing the reader right into Clarissa’s churning anxiety.

Sharon Bolton: Little Black Lies Wednesday, Jun 10 2015 

Sharon Bolton attracted attention with her fabulously-plotted stand-alines, such as Sacrifice and Awakening, and more recently with her Lacey Flint series (A Dark and Twisted Tide). She returns with a new stand-alone, LITTLE BLACK LIES, as well done as her others and not to be missed.


Bolton takes readers to the remote wilds of the Falkland Islands, off South America’s southeast coast, where remnants of the UK’s conflict with Argentina still resonate, and which prove an attractive draw for former soldier Callum Murray. The islands are home to Catrin Quinn, nature conservationist, a woman swallowed up in grief after the death of her two young sons, and harboring a terrible secret she plans to act on.

They are also home to Rachel, her childhood friend, who Catrin holds responsible for their deaths. And to Ben, Catrin’s ex-husband, who has moved on in to remarry and has a new child with his second wife. Into this mix are the murmurs of of two missing children whose bodies have never been found. And then a third child goes missing, and it becomes impossible to ignore that there is a killer in their midst.

Told in sections from the viewpoints of Catrin, Callum and Rachel, the readers sees different parts of the story from each view, as what has happened comes together to form a vivid whole. There are lies and untruths told, as the tensions rises and Catrin finds herself the object of people’s suspicions. Each character’s voice is compelling and individual as the various secrets that have held come tumbling out in ways that the reader can’t possibly anticipate.

The setting adds to the story, a place of wild and natural beauty, of fierce and unexplained natural happenings that augment the troubles that fall to these people. It is a well-told story of the ways people can damage each other, deliberately and even without meaning to–and of the terror parents feel when their child is missing.

Publishers Weekly says: “This brilliantly plotted thriller, filled with lies and betrayals, builds to an unexpected, mesmerizing ending.”
Auntie M quite agrees~

The Winter Foundlings: Kate Rhodes Friday, Mar 20 2015 

Kate Rhodes is back with psychologist Alice Quentin in a series that has Auntie M anticipating each new adventure. The Winter Foundling has all of the hallmarks of the previous two in the series (Crossbones Yard and A Killing of Angels): a taut, psychological plot, a compelling story, and a protagonist you can’t help but admire.

After the events of her last two cases, Alice is taking a break from London life and is keeping clear of police work by taking a leave to study treatment methods at a high-security hospital outside London for the criminally insane. She’s rented out her flat for six-months on this unlikely sabbatical at the country’s largest psychiatric prison, and will stay in nearby Charndale, renting out Ivy Cottage, which sounds grander than it turns out to be.

Her friends, especially best friend, Lola, and her brother, Will, think Alice has taken leave of her senses, but she’s convinced that writing an in-depth study of the regime at the Laurels, part of Northwoods compound, would give her plenty of material for her book on DSPD, Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder. Alice feels being in close range to serial rapists and mass murderers will clear her of the ghosts that haunt her from her previous case.

Bubbling in the news is the murders of three young girls, kidnapped and subsequently found dead in North London. The most recent was found dressed in a white gown on the steps of the Foundling Museum. Then a fourth girl is kidnapped, and when Detective Don Burns asks for Alice to help, she finds she can’t refuse with these child’s lives at stake. There are too many ties to the prolific child murderer, Louis Kinsella, locked up in Northwood for almost twenty years, and the copycat aspect of those murders means Alice must get close to the killer who hasn’t spoken willingly in years. She must develop enough of a relationship with him to get inside Kinsella’s head to discover who is acting in his stead. Alice soon discovers a thread of connection with the Museum to Louis Kinsella that ratchets up the tension.

The case heats up quickly, just as Alice is getting used to the hospital’s staff. The Centre’s director, Dr. Alexk Gorski is known for his bad temper and is less than welcoming. Dr. Judith Miller, Alice’s supervising deputy, is warmer, and so is the fitness instructor who charms Alice, Tom Jensen. Chris Steadman is the IT chap, and Art Therapist Pru Fielding, with her disfiguring facial hemangioma, uses her blonde curls to hide her disfigurement. Garfield Ellis is the male nurse who manages Kinsella on a daily basis and who brings the killer to his meetings with Alice.

As she settles into her new cottage and her new assignment, Alice becomes more and more determined to save the newest kidnapped child, Ella. And then another child is kidnapped before Ella’s body is found, and the stakes are raised with an urgency that Alice must use to provoke Kinsella.

Getting inside the mind of a serial killer who feels he is smarter than she is, and who uses Alice’s own insecurities against her means her visits with Kinsella are upsetting and often demeaning as he parses out information Det. Burns can use. Alice follows her own leads, too, even as she senses someone outside her cottage, and there are incidents of vandalism.

It will all heat up to a smashing climax readers will find terrifying in this atmospheric read. Another compelling entry from Rhodes, highly recommended.

Elizabeth Corley: Grave Doubts Wednesday, Sep 24 2014 

This fall Auntie M is departing from her usual weekly post routine. Instead, every few days there will be new review of a great book or books she’s read all summer long for your fall reading.

First up is a UK writer you should be reading if you haven’t yet: Elizabeth Corley.

Grave Doubts
Elizabeth Corley’s third DCI Andrew Fenwick mystery, Grave Doubts, is every bit as complex and thrilling as the first two.

Described as “part psychological thriller and part haunting crime novel” by Minotaur, the journey she takes her characters and readers on will leave you reading on the edge of your seat.

The story focuses on Fenwick’s recovering Sergeant, Louise Nightingale, who survived and ordeal from a serial rapist who would have murdered her. Trying not to dwell on the case, she finds herself a jumble of nerves, and after the car accident that takes both of her disapproving parents lives, seeks solace in a run-down and remote mill house that has been in the family.

At the same time, DCI Fenwick is coping with the continued coma of his wife while he parents his two young children and tries hard not to let his job interfere with his time with them. With the arrest of horrible serial murderer, he thinks the country is that little bit safer. Then the murders start again, but with the perpetrator behind bars, have they arrested the wrong man?

Despite many colleagues’ and superiors’ misgivings, it becomes clear to Fenwick that Nightingale is the killer’s ultimate revenge. If he can only figure out where she’s hidden herself away and get to her in time …

This has more twists and turns than usual and will keep you flipping pages, with its complicated plot and the feeling that evil people do exist. Chilling and disturbing with high suspense.

Leigh Russell: DI Geraldine Steel Sunday, Jan 26 2014 

Leigh Russell’s Geraldine Steel series is finally available in the US, in paper back on and now through the Witness Impulse series as ebooks. Jeffrey Deaver calls the debut of the series: “A stylish top-of-the-line crime tale” and readers on both sides of the pond are quick to agree.

These are intricately plotted crime novels that  find readers quickly flipping pages as the stories race along, and all in the psychological style of Ruth Rendell or Frances Fyfield. Steel is likeable and human, with her own ghosts that haunt her, and her insecurities and errors in relationships feel realistically drawn.

First in the series is Cut Short, which introduces Geraldine and her complicated background as she starts a new job in Kent.  cut-short

Relocating near the small village of Woolmarsh, Steel fully expects her life to take a quiet turn. Still smarting from the end of a six-year relationship to a man who couldn’t handle her commitment to her work, Steel moves into a new flat and prepares to turn a page and start a new chapter. Her flat on a pretty tree-lined street promises to become a haven at the end of her work day for the mobile Murder Investigation Team based in southeast England.

Steel is still unpacking boxes when the call comes to attend the Incident Room being set up in Woolmarsh, a lucky break for Steel for it means she can stay at home instead of traveling to a different site. She’s introduced to her new colleagues, and the DCI she’ll be working with, Kathryn Gordon, a tough but fair detective.

The body of 22 yr-old Angela Waters has been found by children with their nanny, partially hidden in the leaves and shrubs of a nearby park. The crime scene has been compromised by the children, the nanny, and a variety of small animals that have been at the corpse in the day and night she’s lain there.

This is the first of a series of murders by a sick mind preying on young woman. In an interesting twist, several chapters are from the killer’s point of view, so the reader has a very different feel for the motives behind what Steel and her team think is a typical serial murderer.

A great start to an interesting series, with Steel finding her footing in a new environment amongst a new team who may or may not be watching out for her. And of course, one very sick killer who may just get away with murder unless Steel can figure out the culprit.

road-closed-coverRoad Closed finds Steel and her team called in after a gas explosion takes the life of a man in his home. Was this a case of arson or that of a desperate woman trapped in a hasty marriage finding a way to end it?

In the midst of the new case, Steel’s affair with a young man seems to waffle. Is that on her end or his? And what of the grieving widow Sophie? Was her husband’s death the result of a pair of bumbling burglars or did he die at her own hand?

An old woman falls down the stairs during a burglary. Or was she pushed? And are these incidents in any way related?

These are some of the questions facing Steel and her team as they try to pick apart what is real and what is not in this second outing that starts with the death of Steel’s mother.

At the funeral, she is forced to face the ambivalence she felt toward her mother as her older sister’s mourning takes its toll. With her small family reduced to just her sister Celia and her husband and their daughter, Steel ponders what it means to have felt throughout her life as an outsider in her own family. the answer will shock her and rock her very core.

But that answer opens up even more for Steel, and will be almost as difficult as Steel’s investigation. With her team not solidly behind her, Steel has to decide if a witness to the previous crimes who dies in a hit-and-run accident is part of the larger picture or just an untimely coincidence.

Book Three continues with Dead End, the most disturbing case Steel will have to date. The trail will lead to York and back as her team struggles to find a killer9781DeadEnd just as Steel seems to heat things up with the handsome pathologist, Paul Hilliard.

Abigail Kirby is a determined woman, pushing her way to a new position as headmistress at a private school, uprooting her two teenagers from their schools and homes, despite the crumbling state of her marriage. Young Ben seems to have settled in well to his new school, but 14 yr-old Lucy is socially awkward and on the verge of an eating disorder. Plus, she’s furious with her father for having a relationship outside his broken marriage.

Then Abigail’s corpse is found and as horrible as the fact of murder seems, it takes a decided turn for the worse at the postmortem when it’s discovered her tongue had been cut out while she dying. Could her husband have decided to take the easy way out to have the relationship he wants?

As Steel’s team gets their investigation underway, a second corpse is found, that of a potential witness, who has been blinded. Then Lucy runs away from home to find her new internet friend, the only person who seems to understand her.

Meanwhile, Steel’s DS, Ian Peterson, is having his own troubles at home. He’s gained Steel’s trust, but then goes off on his own to follow a tangent in the investigation.

Steel soon finds herself on the receiving end of a surprising twist as the climax builds to a swift conclusion that will jeopardize her own life.

These complex procedurals are tightly written and the new change in store for Steel at the end of this novel promises to keep the series from becoming formulaic or stale.

Death BedBook Four follows Steel’s relocation to London in Death Bed. After a surprise discovery about her personal life, which has affected her deeply, she’s forced to tell her sister that she’s received a transfer she’s hoped for: to the Met to work as Detective Inspector on their Murder Squad in London.

Another move for Steel, this time to Islington, with more boxes and new people to meet and fit in with, and this time she’s also fighting what she perceives as their idea that she’s a country bumpkin who won’t be able to handle the hectic pace of the Hendon Squad.

Her new DS is a woman, an adjustment for both of them, but that becomes the least of the two women’s problems when a young black woman is found murdered in North London. Showing signs of severe abuse, dehydration and marks of being held with chains, the discovery is quickly followed by a second body in similar circumstances.

Worried about calls of racism against black women, the team realizes the two murders are connected, especially when it’s found that two teeth are missing from both women. But their individual circumstances are clearly different. So what is the reason this killer has taken them? Is this his idea of a trophy?

In the midst of their investigation, chapters show the victims chained in the attic of their captor, and the chilling account of his rationale for doing what he believes to be a spiritual purpose, adding to the highly unusual “collection” that readers will find a haunting premise.

This is the darkest of the series, and probes the mind of a sociopath who only sees what he needs for his own purposes. It will be up to Steel to put the pieces together to unmask a canny and highly unusual murderer.

This gritty addition to the series delivers a powerful wallop. There are two more in the series with Steel in London that will be reviewed this spring when they are released by Witness Impulse here, along with an interview with the charming Russell. Stay tuned for more with DI Geraldine Steel from Leigh Russell.

Three Hot Summer Reads Sunday, Jun 23 2013 

not-dead-yetIn Not Dead Yet, the incomparable Peter James is back with Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who intends to spend the weekend with his pregnant partner, Chief Mortician Cleo Morey. Coping with preparation for a major trail looms for Grace, but the couple hope to steal some together before their infant is born.

That notion comes to an abrupt halt with the finding of a torso embedded in chicken excrement under the gridded steel floor at an East Sussex chicken farm. Other than some bits of clothing and a multitude of flies, the head and all four limbs are missing.

Grace’s team are stressed, too, between illness and divorce, and all take their toll on Grace’s worry, even as he waits for the papers to come through that will declare his wife, Sandy, legally dead, after her disappearance ten years ago.

All Grace needs now is the call he receives from the Chief Constable, and despite the cases he’s dealing with, he’s handed an unwelcome assignment: setting up a security strategy for rock singer and actress Gaia Lafayette.

Gaia is a Brighton native, arriving back home to star in an historical film about King George the Fourth and his mistress. Significant scenes will be filmed on location at Brighton’s jewel, The Royal Pavilion.

But threats against Gaia’s life follow her from California where an assistant has been murdered, and Grace is tasked with coordinating several teams to assure the star’s safety. The star arrives with her young son in tow and a multitude of Hollywood types whose mere presence adds to Grace’s stress and workload.

Add to these worries a Brighton villain Grace put away who has been released, and the maniac fans who follow Gaia around, and Grace’s pressure is rising. Then Cleo’s car is vandalized and all bets are off as he races between caring for her and saving Gaia’s life, while his own literally hangs in the balance.

How the cases intersect is a prime example of the intricate plotting that is the hallmark of this entertaining and rewarding series. An extra twist at the end will stop your heart for a moment. This series just keeps getting better and better with its overarching plot points keeping readers eager for the next installment.


Award-winner S. J. Bolton had several stand-alone successes before bringing back DC Lacey Flint, a most unusual character who is on leave from the ordeal she suffered in Dead Lost Scared, after being introduced in Now You See Me.

In this outing, Lost, the title refers to any number of characters in this thrilling ride as a serial killer terrorizes young boys, draining their blood and leaving their bodies to be found.

Bolton cleverly tosses in narrated sections a psychiatrist’s sessions with an unnamed client at the same time as she realistically gets inside the head of Lacey’s young neighbor, 11-year old Barney. He and his friends are affected by the gruesome murders with fearsome results.

Despite his father’s efforts to create some kind of home life for the two of them, Barney is desperate to find the mother who abandoned him and enlists Lacey in his search.

Readers also enter the points of view of Lacey’s former boss, DI Dana Tulloch, saddled with the task of tracking down this heinous killer, and Lacey’s colleague DI MArk Joesbury, whom Lacey may have let get too close to her.

As Lacey struggles with the aftermath of her last case and tries to decide if her future lies in the police force, Barney realizes he may have a personal connection to the murderer. With trust gone, he has no one he can trust except Lacey.

This is part police procedural, part thriller as the suspense escalates and the violence continues until it gets out of control in this beautifully written tale of one young courageous lad and his friendship with the very wounded and fragile Lacey Flint.


16045062Crossing the pond to New England and the world of Martha’s Vineyard, A. X. Ahmad brings readers into the world of Sikh culture with his mesmerizing debut The Caretaker.

Ranjit Singh is coping with a military career gone horribly wrong and has fled with his family from India to Boston, living first with his wife’s family until he starts his own landscaping business in the posh neighborhoods of the Vineyard.

But summer’s jobs have faded with the onset of winter and Singh is desperate for work, which lands in his lap when the beautiful wife of a popular Senator hires him to be a caretaker for their closed summer home. This soon leads to other similar positions and a sense that he may make a new life for himself and his family.

He watches as his wife and young daughter try to assimilate into American culture and just as he thinks they may all thrive, he finds himself caught up in an unwanted scheme that brings him perilously close to losing everything and everyone he loves.

Ahmad’s thriller is filled with action, as Singh becomes the man of action he used to be in the Indian Army before his fall from grace. As he tries to safeguard his family, he becomes inexplicably entwined with the comely Senator’s wife, a longtime Vineyard resident, and falls prey to the machinations of the powerful Senator whose rise from poverty is the stuff of legends.

Themes of class and race, culture and above all, a man forced to face his own morality all come to bear in this tale that is lovingly crafted. There are scenes filled with grace and others with surprise and intrigue, all graced with the haunting prose and deep personal reflection. A sensational newcomer not to be missed.

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