Wendy Walker: All is Not Forgotten Monday, Aug 1 2016 

all-is-not-forgotten

In All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker examines the implications of the use of a drug being developed which would be used to treat soldiers with PTSD which wipes out their memories of the incidents that haunt them. She skillfully blends fact with fiction in creating its use in this story filled with intrigue.

When teen Jenny is raped in the woods near her Connecticut home, her mother consents to her being given the controversial drug to erase the memory of the horrific assault she’s suffered.

But wiping out the memory also disturbs the police investigation into any relevant information Jenny could have given them regarding her attacker. As she heals from the wounds left behind, Jenny struggles with flashes of emotional memory of feelings that have no facts attached to them.

Her parents are at odds, with her father crazed that he cannot bring her attacked to justice. Her mother pretends the event didn’t really affect the tony country club circle they live in. With their entire family relationships torn apart by the attack, it will be Jenny’s psychiatrist who sets in the motion the revelations that will shock the family, the community, and Jenny, as the truth worms its way to the surface.

Walker uses a deft hand as she examines our place in society, the importance of memory, and how manipulation can be used in devastating and cleansing ways. Readers will be surprised and shocked at the ending. Reese Witherspoon’s production company has purchased the film rights, and Auntie M can see this on the big screen, suspenseful and taut with emotion, highly visual and emotionally charged. A winner.

Fine Crime Fiction for Fall Reading Monday, Sep 21 2015 

Auntie M has been reading up a storm this summer and brings you some of the finest crime novels out there for your perusal. These have things in common, which is why these particular novels are grouped together: darn fine stories supported by great writing. Enjoy~

ToyTaker
Luke Delany’s third DI Sean Corrigan police procedural will grab you from its creepy opening. The Toy Taker starts out strong and never lets up, with Corrigan’s team at Scotland Yard covering the sickest criminals that roam the metropolitan mecca.

Delany’s experience as a former CID investigator serves him well and makes the story jolt into reality when a young boy is discovered missing from his bed one morning in a tony London suburb. There’s no sign of an intruder and no alarms were tripped; there are no signs of a struggle. Corrigan has a knack of being able to put himself into the mind of the criminal he’s seeking, a device that seems to have left him in this installment, frustrating him, his wife, and his colleagues.

The action doesn’t let up, even when another child is taken. What is the hold this predator has over the children who appear to have gone willingly with a stranger? Tautl written and gGuaranteed to keep you up late at night.

SongDrownedSouls
After the huge success of Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead, Auntie M was not the only reader looking forward to the sequel featuring Commandant Martin Servaz of the Toulouse Crime Squad. A Song for Drowned Souls
is the kind of crime novel that presents a fascinating look at the lives of the perpetrator and of the team on the hunt.

A young man is found, stunned, sitting by a swimming pool where dolls float on its surface. He’s discovered his teacher, drowned in her bath in a horrific manner, and is arrested for her murder. Servaz is called by his former college lover, Marianne, and immediately rushes over and takes over the investigation. The arrested boy is her son and she implores Servaz to clear Hugo.

To do so, he must reopen old wounds of his time at the Marsac school in the Pyrenees at the elite school where the victim taught. He will run into former students now teaching there during the case and find a former friend and competitor for Marianne’s affections figures in the case. Servaz’s daughter has just started in the prep division there and her presence will provide both a distraction and a boon to his investigation as it soon becomes apparent there are ties between students at the school and the murdered woman.

Miner examines the way the past haunts our present in a way that is chilling and highly believable.

Even if you’ve never visited the area, Minier will have you breathing in the scent of the trees in this evocative thriller that takes police procedurals to a new height. Highly recommended.

Open Grave
Kjell Eriksson’s Ann Lindell series continues with an unusual installment, not your usual hurried murder investigation at all, in Open Grave. The idea here is one more of a series of incidents that may or may not lead to murder. And the tension is palpable.

An aging professor has just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, yet instead of rejoicing, the announcement brings problems to the doctor’s upper-class neighborhood. There are jealousies amongst his colleagues, some who are his neighbors, and even his housekeeper of decades seems to be on on the verge of leaving. What is there about the man that causes this reason for celebration to bring out the worst in people?

Eriksson spools out the story of the participants by delving into their pasts as unusual incidents start to happen. When Inspector Ann Lindell tries to sort out what is happening, her own past rears its head into the carefully arranged present she’s trying to fashion. And the expected outcome is far from the ending twist. The author knows human nature and describes it well in this psychological study that is subtle and character-driven.

run you down

Julia Dahl’s first crime novel, Invisible City, garnered multiple award nominations and is still nominated for more. It was a highly rated debut for Auntie M last year so she was looking forward to its newest, run you down, featuring young reporter Rebekah Roberts.

Rebekah’s ties to the Hasidic community started in the first book, her interested piqued by trying to find the mother she doesn’t know after Aviva Kagan abandoned her as a baby to be raised by her Christian father. Not sure she’s ready to meet the woman she’s finally found, Rebekah is drawn into Aviva’s community in Roseville, NY, by a man who contacts her about his young wife’s mysterious death.

Pessie Goldin’s body was found in her bathtub, an apparent accident or unmentionable suicide–but her husband believes she was murdered. As she investigates, Rebekah will find others like her mother who left the ultra-conservative sect and formed their own group. Some rage about the restraints they were forced to live under in their old community. And others find themselves inexplicably mixed up with groups who would kill without a clear thought for the lives and beliefs of others.

Dahl does a lovely job of letting Rebekah tell readers her story from her point of view as an outsider to a culture she’s trying to understand, while developing a wallop of a story that is its own mystery. One aspect Auntie M particularly enjoyed was seeing the protagonist’s growth and maturity in her job and in her personal life, which adds to the compelling aspect of the mystery. Don’t miss this one.

Slaughter Man
Auntie M enjoyed UK author Tony Parson’s foray into crime novels with The Murder Man, which introduced DI Max Wolfe, his daughter Scout, and their personable dog, Stan. With The Slaughter Man,
Max returns to investigate a heinous crime that jumps off the page from the Prologue describing the horrific slaughter of an entire family, except for the youngest child, apparently kidnapped.

It’s New Year’s Day when this occurs and the day after this wealthy family is found inside their gated-community home, all dead from a most unusual method: a cattle gun, used to stun cattle before butchering. When Max visits Scotland Yard’s Black Museum for background, he comes across a murderer who used just this method three decades ago and was dubbed The Slaughter Man by the press. Could the man, now released from prison, be on a murdering rampage? And why this particular family?

The happy family included two teens and parents who were former Olympians. There’s history here and Max is determined to find out how the past of the parents has led to this slaughter, always aware that as time goes by, his chances of finding the kidnapped boy alive grow dimmer.

Auntie M marveled at Max’s ability to withstand physical punishment, but Parsons does a good job illustrating his physical prowess and workouts at a local boxing club to balance what could be seen as super-human. For Max is definitely a very human detective, devoted to his daughter and her safely and happiness, and this makes him a very real character who leaps off the page and who readers will follow anywhere he takes them. Highly recommended.

GameFamily
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Sophie Hannah seems to be everywhere, and Auntie M says this with all due respect and admiration. Last year's The Telling Error has been published in the US recently under the title Woman with a Secret and was previously reviewed on this blog on February 1st. It’s the tale of a woman keeping a secret and brings back the unusual husband-and-wife detective duo of Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, an interesting and intriguing pair, and if you haven’t made their acquaintance yet, now’s the time to do it.

Hannah was also the author of the new Hercule Poirot novel authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate, The Monogram Murders, notable for her outstanding voice of Poirot, which so many readers miss. Now she has a standalone in A Game For All The Family, which shows her deft hand at psychological thrillers, as well as her ability to create an intriguing story from the most seemingly innocuous bits of people’s lives that somehow escalate before the reader’s eyes into full-blown terror.

Justine Merrison is moving with her family to escape London and her high pressure job to the lovely Devon countryside, home to Dame Agatha, by the way. She has huge plans to do nothing at all, at least for a while, but the family is no sooner moved in than teen daughter Ellen withdraws and changes personality.

It seems Ellen has written a story that describes a grisly murder set in the family’s gorgeous new home and just happened to name a character after herself. What starts out as a school assignment morphs into the story of someone else’s family. Her good friend is expelled from school for a trifle and when Justine goes to the school to ask the head to reconsider, she’s told the student doesn’t exist and that he never attended the school. Who is going crazy–Ellen or the school? And then the anonymous calls start, and Justine finds herself accused of sharing a murderous past with the caller whose voice she doesn’t recognize.

How this falls out is part of the fun of reading the unique novel where Justine must find out just whom she’s supposed to be in order to stop the threat to her family. Twisted and entertaining.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stona_fitch_portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to other recommended reads.

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

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

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

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

Gold-Digger-Frances-Fyfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Kickoff: Hannah, Casey, Dahl, Mina, Russell, French, Eriksson Sunday, Jul 13 2014 

Summer beckons with new books ready for you to investigate. Here’s some of the newest summer crop to get you started with great reads:
tellingerror
Sophie Hannah’s The Telling Error is her newest entry in the Zailer/Waterhouse series, an unconventional procedural set in England, where the action centers on a participant in the murder.

Nicki Clements is the unlikely focus pulled in for questioning after the unusual murder in her neighborhood of a controversial columnist. Nicki is an easy liar, a woman who holds secrets of her own, but she’s not a murderer. How she’s gotten herself deeply into trouble, and the reasons behind her inability to tell the truth and to fabricate stories, all converge into this tale that has the feel of a nightmare too easily imagined by the average person.

Here’s Nicki in her own words: “This is the thing about deception that some people forget: its practitioners don’t do it solely for their own sakes. Often they do it to make others happy. It’s embedded in the training programme we liars o through; we see that when we tell the truth, our instructors scowl, raise their voices, turn red in the face. Anyone who cares more about pleasing other people than about their own happiness–anyone who believes, deep down, that everyone else matters more than they do–learns fluent dishonesty at a young age.”

Award-winning Hannah has developed the art of telling a story that resonates with readers for her ability to decipher human emotions and actions. Her first Poirot novel will be published this fall.
stranger

In her fifth Maeve Kerrigan mystery, Jane Casey’s The Stranger You Know brings readers the newest case for the London detective. Three women have been brutally murdered and arranged in a ritualistic manner. Each has had her eyes cut out, their hair sheared off, and lie on a bed or flowers.

The killings echo a death from the past of Maeve’s partner, DCI Josh Derwent, the frustrating man she admires at the same time as he exasperates her with his unprofessional remarks and hot temper. Now she must decide if this man she works beside is wrongfully accused of murder–or if he’s being framed in a most horrendous manner.

A vibrant addition to the series, Kerrigan’s frailties in terms of her own relationships add to the mix.
invisible

Journalist Julia Dahl makes her crime fiction debut with the riveting Invisible City.
Using her experience in several areas, she bring to life an new protagonist readers will want to follow: Rebekah Roberts, born to a Hasidic Jewish mother from Brooklyn and the Christian preacher from Florida who raised her. Rebekah takes a job in New York to bring her closer to the mother who abandoned her as an infant, convinced her motives are to be in the center of the journalistic scene.

Working as a stringer she’s called to cover the story when the body of a Hasidic woman is found brutally murdered in a junk yard. Calling into question the NYPD’s relationship with the ultra-Orthodox community, she’s shocked to learn the woman will be buried without an autopsy, her husband never questioned by police. She’s determined to find the truth, and perhaps along the way, unravel a thread that may lead to her mother. Original and readable.

Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow series finds the mother of young twins investigating the death of a businessman, only to discover a complicated network of corruption and deceit that reaches back to the Glasgow to the night Princess Diana died, when a 14 yr old girl found herself sitting in a car with a dead body and the murder weapon in her hand.

How Morrow uncovers the real story, and finds a murderer, make for compelling reading in the unsentimental but very well-written series that never shirks at the realities in our world.
Stop Dead

Leigh Russell’s Geraldine Steel series has been reviewed here before. The newest addition, Stop Dead, finds Steel in her Met job in London, investigating the murder of a highly successful and unorthodox businessman. At first the victim’s business partner are prime suspects–until he, too, is killed in the same gruesome manner, and Morrow races to find the culprit with only one clue in hand: DNA that leads to two women, one dead and the other in prison.cold sacrifice

Russell brings back Steel’s former partner, DS Ian Peterson, in his own series in Cold Sacrifice. Still adjusting to marriage and thinking he may have made a mistake, Peterson’s newest case will take him away from his bride more than ever when three dead bodies pile up quickly. When the first victim, a middle-class housewife, is found stabbed in a nearby park, her husband comes under suspicions, but is soon cleared. That is, until the prostitute who gave him an alibi turns up dead, followed soon by the murder of another prostitute. Peterson will have his hands full trying to placate his wife at home while devoting his time to unearthing a killer.
Waiting

The husband and wife duo of Nicci French have a winner in the Frieda Klein series. Waiting for Wednesday finds a weakened Frieda recuperating from the events that ended Tuesday’s Gone and have left her with physical and emotional wounds. Then DCI Karlsson asked her insights when a health visitor and mother of three is found dead in her home, the victim of a horrific attack. When her niece befriends one of the teens left motherless, Frieda finds the answers may lie closer to home than she thinks. And she’s very aware of her own teeming emotions and fragility, which affects her impulsive actions on several fronts. Another satisfying entry in the series.
black-lies-red-blood

New to Auntie M but not new to Swedish fans everywhere, Kjell Eriksson’s Ann Lindell series brings the fifth entry, Black Lies, Red Blood. With an interesting protagonist, the female police inspector finds her newest case coming too close to home, when the journalist she’s been having an affair with is implicated in the murder of a homeless man. After his disappearance, Ann must decide if the man she’s fallen in love with could be a killer, while keeping the news of their relationship from her colleagues as she searches for another explanation. Filled with psychological and descriptive details.

Kill Call
Stephen Booth’s wonderful Fry and Cooper series returns with Kill Call,this time exploring the world of hunting and horses.

The case presents in a strange way, when on a rainy Derbyshire moor, hounds from the local foxhunt find the body of a well-dressed man whose head has been crushed. Yet an anonymous caller has reported the same body lying half a mile away.

DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper investigate and find themselves embroiled in the violent world of hunting and the saboteurs against it, Throw in horse theft and a connection to the meat trade and you have a mystery. Fry tries to unwind the complex and shady business interests of the murder victim, while Cooper decided that the answer to the case just might lie deep in the past.

History is everywhere around him in the Peak District landscape — particularly in the ‘plague village’ of Eyam, where an outbreak of Black Death has been turned into a modern-day tourist attraction. Cooper can’t ignore the instinct that tells him this is at the heart of the case.

New in paperback and in ebook from Witness Impulse, one of the slower-paced books in the series but nonetheless with an interesting and arresting case to follow.

Also from Witness Impulse, the 10th Ben Cooper/Diane Fry Booth, Lost River; previously reviewed. This strong entry in the popular Peak District series revolves around a May Bank Holiday ruined by the tragic drowning of an eight-year-old girl in picturesque Dovedale. For DC Ben Cooper, a helpless witness to the tragedy, the incident is not only traumatic, but leads him to become involved in the tangled lives of the Neilds, the dead girl’s family.

Cooper begins to suspect that one of them is harbouring a secret – a secret that the whole family might be willing to cover up. DS Diane Fry finds herself drawn into an investigation of her own among the inner-city streets of Birmingham, and quickly Fry realises there is only one person she can rely on to provide the help she needs, and that’s Ben Cooper.

Daniel Palmer: Desperate Sunday, May 25 2014 

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Just when you think there can’t be a new twist to a story, along comes Daniel Palmer, who surprises readers yet again with his newest thriller, Desperate.

Told strongly in first person from the point of view of Gage Dekker, he and his second wife Anna Miller are desperate to adopt. Both have survived the loss of a child, and for Gage, the added loss of his first wife, Karen, compounds his despair when he meets Anna in a grief survivor’s group. After a whirlwind courtship, a meeting of the minds and hearts, the two are married six months when they decide to adopt after Anna experiences a miscarriage.

A chance meeting with unwed mother Lily turns their anticipated long wait to adopt into a sudden rush when Lily asks them to adopt her baby. With their upstairs tenant gone, Lily is installed over their heads to await the blessed event.

And then things start to horribly go wrong for Gage in several areas of his life, and Lily seems to be at the bottom of it all.

But Anna refuses to believe Gage when he insists Lily is sabotaging his life. The two women have bonded and Anna is desperate for this child to complete their family; she blames Gage for the seemingly innocuous incidents that have him believing Lily is not who she seems to be.

As the stakes are raised, Gage will find himself embroiled in a fantastical plot he can’t find a way out of, one that leads to murder, and he’s stuck at the heart of it.

This compelling thriller will appear to leave Gage no way out, and then the complicated plot takes yet another twist until it careens around a sharp curve and readers will be left breathless and amazed at the audacity Palmer infuses into his novel.

Compelling and intelligently written, Palmer will hook readers and draw you in, in this inventive thriller with its surprising events. Unexpected and original.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More great summer reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three to Die For: Hutton, Cha and Haines Sunday, Jun 16 2013 

Ewart Hutton’s debut Good People features a most unusual detective: DS Glyn Capaldi, half-Welsh but also half-Italian, and it’s those dark good looks that set him as an outsider.

images_030A case with an less-than-happy ending has sent Capaldi on exile from Cardiff to the rolling Welsh countryside where he’s learning the back roads and mores of the locals.

A call for a minibus hijacking looks like a routine call, especially when the missing van is found the next morning, an apparent prank.

But all is not well: six young men and one young woman appear to be missing, and when not all of them are found, Capaldi smells a case with his detective’s instinct.

Despite the villager’s assurances of the men’s goodness, Capaldi investigates and runs into opposition from the townspeople, who staunchly defend the mens pranking. These rural landowners command a high influence in the area; their word is taken as gospel.

It will be left to Capaldi to unravel what really happened that night, with consequence reaching into the past he could never foresee. Betrayals leading to depravity only scratch the surface when the truth is known, and not before a suicide occurs–or is it murder?

Hutton brings the reader into Capaldi’s world of dark woodlands and small towns that survive by their own code of justice. This is a crime thriller with an edge, and readers will hope the cynical voice of Capaldi returns, and soon.

Steph Cha is a fresh new voice in the noir thriller Follow Her Home, one that will smack you over the head with its heroine, Juniper Song, a devotee of Philip Chandler and LA Noir. images_022

Juniper has a cadre of friends and a troubled past that her favorite noir fiction keeps at bay. Known as “Song” by her friends, she responds to her good friend Luke’s request to find out if the new paralegal at his father’s firm is also his newest mistress.

Song as no real idea how to proceed, but armed with her pack of Lucky Strikes, in best Chandler fashion she tails various suspects and the young woman herself–and finds herself up against more than she’d bargained for when she agreed to help Luke.

At one point she is knocked unconscious and wakes up as the body in the trunk of her own car. This is carrying things to far for Song, and she steels her determination to conquer her past and plunges into LA’s underground, determined to find out whose buttons her minor investigation have pushed.

Cha gives readers a fascinating and yet disturbing lesson as she examines young Asian woman as fetish objects, which will come as a surprise to many readers. This adds a depth to this already compelling story while keeping the twists and turns flwoing as the story plays out.

What starts out in an almost playful mood turns serious, yet Cha keeps Song’s voice smart and crisp in an almost heartbreaking worldy manner, in this striking debut with a modern twist on old town noir.

 

images_003Taking a leap across the nation and a huge change in tone, Carolyn Haines returns with the twelfth Sarah Booth Delany Mystery in Smarty Bones.

Enjoying time with her hunky fiance Graf before his next Hollywood shoot, Sarah Booth’s usual friends surround her: her partner in their PI firm, Tinkie; her long-time friend CeCe; and even Jitty, the Civil War ghost who inhabits Dahlia House and drives Sarah Booth to distraction when she appears in various guises.

This time around Jitty is hooked on cartoon characters, but her words of wisdom are destined to revive Sarah Booth’s spirits when she reluctantly agrees to look into the claims of a professor who has arrived in her hometown of Zinnia, Mississippi.

Prof. Olive Twist is indeed the product of Dickens scholar parents, but she resemble Olive Oyl more accurately, with her thin frame and huge feet. But those big feet hide an even bigger brain, and Twist has arrived to prove that the mysterious Lady in Red, found in an anonymous grave and lovingly preserved, was involved in the plot to kill Lincoln–and she plans to implicate the families of Sarah Booth’s best friends.

Then Twist’s  young assistant is murdered at a nearby Bed & Breakfast where they were staying and things take a dramatic turn despite the large amount of humor that fills the pages.

Complicating matters are the family secrets and devious plots of some of these very families, and Sarah Booth soon finds herself and Graf involved on a level that turns deadly and will have far-reaching consequences for several of those Sarah Booth has come to love.

 

Father’s Day Recommendations Sunday, Jun 9 2013 

With Father’s Day looming, Auntie M is here to rescue you from buying your favorite male yet another tie. Here are some great reads for anyone, but with an eye to the men in your life:

 

Ian Rankin soothed his many readers by bringing John Rebus out of retirement in Standing in Another Man’s Grave.Another-Mans-Grave

Back as a retired civilian investigating cold cases, Rebus finds himself caught up in old cases of women missing from the same area. As he follows the trail, he enlists the aid of Siobhan Clarke, his former colleague and reluctant ally.

Yet as he follows his instincts of their connection, he manages to find he’s unsettled people on both sides of the law.

These includes Matthew Fox, Rankin’s newer protagonist from The Complaints, members of the team he’s working on, and even his old pal, Ger Cafferty. Rankin weaves a tale that will have his fans panting for more as he dangles the idea of Rebus going back to work on the force.

 

reactor 417046679 Ukrainian-American author Orest Stelmach debuts with The Boy From Reactor 4, fast-paced a thriller set against the backdrop of the Chernobyl disaster.This character-driven story is based on the author’s personal experiences in the region.                                                                                                                                                       There’s more than enough action here as the story follows Nadia Tesla to Russia and the dreaded Zone, where she follows a trail of intrigue that will affect the order of the  world. Filled with tough characters living in a different kind of reality from what Nadia has known back in New York, help will come to her from a most unlikely source: a teen hockey prodigy named Adam.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That this story is not really so far-fetched makes it all the more interesting, as the scars of radiation syndrome in the area make themselves known in ways that threaten more than just Nadia’s existence.

The fourth in Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu series,  Deadly Harvest  takes readers to Botswana, where girls have been disappearing in increasingly alarming numbers, Deadly Harvestgiving rise to the theory they are being used as part of witch doctor’s potion called “muti” which is thought to be strengthened by adding human body parts. The team of Micahel Sears and Stanley Trollip do a fine job of creating the atmosphere of the sub-Saharan area, and a glossary at the end deciphers Botswanan words sprinkled throughout. Adding to Detective David Bengu’s force is the only woman detective and the team’s newest member, Detective Samantha Khama. Her personal connection to the case ratchets up the tension, and when a local politician takes the law into his own hands, the two detectives have more on their plates with another high profile murder case. They must race to find a serial killer who is killing to satisfy a very special kind of customer.

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Adam Lebor’s Yael Azoulay thriller, The Geneva Option, opens with a riveting prologue that sets the stage for the action that will follow which centers around the UN.  Yael is most unusual protagonist: an Israeli who works as a negotiator for the UN Secretary-General, where she finesses unlikely deals and barters for diplomatic solutions to untenable situations. When an expose threatens her livelihood and her reputation, Yael is shocked when she is not supported by the very man she worked for whose instructions she’d been carrying out. Gripping and raw in its reality, Yael is a character who can easily carry off this planned trilogy.

As she sets off to clear her name, you’ll come to appreciate this unusual and feisty heroine in the first thriller from the author whose investigative work on the international stage is already well-known.

 Fans of Andrew Kaplan’s Scorpion series will be delighted to find their favorite spy caught up once again in the newest entry in the series, Scorpion Deception.

    

 

 

 

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This highly charged thriller takes Scorpion on a fast-paced race through Europe and the Middle East. Classified CIA asset files have been stolen from the US Embassy in Switzerland. The challenge of squashing the hit team will be severe and Scorpion is at first not happy to take it on–until he finds his identity is at the head of the stolen list.

With the knowledge the hit team is after him, Scorpion travels to Iran to try to find the mastermind power broker behind the theft in an attempt to thwart all out war.

Fact-paced and action-packed, just the thing to keep readers flipping pages.

 

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North Carolina author Bill Cissna takes readers to an area he knows well: the streets of Pittsburgh, where Jack Larson has left the police after eight years to start his own private investigation firm. Freedom and independence called to Larson and he bought into that siren call, only to find that being employed for himself is not all it’s cut out to be.

When he finds a body at a trailer part during what should have been a simple child-support dead beat case, Larson thinks his case is over before its begun. But he would be wrong, dead wrong, as it turns out, when the victim’s daughter turns up the following week and asks him to find her father’s killer.

What starts out as a simple investigation soon turns into a trail of broken families, girlfriends and hidden guns.

Cissa plans on bringing Jack Larson back in two more in this  shades-of-noir series that entertains with its grasp of setting and history, and with Larson’s dry wit.

 

 

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