Dark Tide: Elizabeth Haynes Sunday, Jun 2 2013 

Auntie M highly recommended Elizabeth Haynes’ debut novel Into the Darkest Corner.darktide

With her newest, Dark Tide, Haynes’ proves her complex skill at plotting suspense novels was not an accident, in this page-turning thriller about what happens when the protagonist’s past catches up with her.

Told in alternating time narratives in a similar fashion to her first novel, this device proves successful in ratcheting up the chill factor without seeming stale.

Genevieve wants to leave her high-pressure job and thinks she’s found a way to fund her dream of living on houseboat in Kent: working weekends as a pole dancer at a gentleman’s club will finance her refuge.

She tries her best to keep this job a secret as she starts her boat fund and becomes a master at ignoring the dicey business the club conducts on the side.

She’s very good at dancing and learns to chat up the men, but also good at keeping her distance from the men and from the shady owner, Fitz, and his staff.

Becoming a favorite of Fitz, her lithe body and dancing coupled with her cool grace earn her a place doing special parties and her bank account starts to bulge. Soon the barge that will be her home is within her sights.

Genevieve is having a housewarming party on her new boat, including her neighbors from her boatyard, tossed in with a handful of London friends.

Then a body surfaces right next to her boat. When Genevieve recognizes a dancer from the club who was her friend, everything changes and she’s in for a fight for her survival as her past catches up with her.

Complicating matters are the policeman she’s drawn to and the security man who has had her back all along, the dark figure Dylan.

Genevieve’s a likable character, a gal readers will understand, who finds herself all too quickly out of her depth and unable to control the chain reaction of events that will threaten her and those she’s come to love.

Haynes builds tension as the pages flip and the story pans out. A police intelligence analyst, she uses her knowledge of the patterns of offenders’ behavior to build completely realistic and ruthless criminals.

She’s also done a good job of allowing Genevieve to feel she has her life in control, her decisions reasonable and well thought out–until suddenly she doesn’t have the control she’s used to and everything rapidly falls apart.

Highly entertaining and filled with tension and suspense, this is a sexy, taut thriller that will have you keeping your eye out for the next Elizabeth Haynes thriller.

Hodder & Stoughton Duo: Elizabeth George and Lisa Jackson Wednesday, May 8 2013 

Elizabeth George, best-selling author of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, changes tactics with her new entry to the Young Adult world with The Edge of Nowhere.images_015

Becca King and her mother are on the run from her abusive and criminal stepfather, heading north to the state of Washington, far away from her California home and his reach.

But fourteen year-old Becca brings with her something she is only learning how to use: her talent for hearing the whispers of other people’s thoughts.

The safe haven her mother has set up with a friend on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle’s coast, tragically falls through. With her mother heading to find them a new home in British Columbia and out of touch, Becca must rely on her wits and wiles to survive.

Her hair has been cut and darkened, and she’s wearing glasses she doesn’t need to change her appearance even more. Feeling more and more out of herself, Becca must make her own way. But which one of her new acquaintances can she trust?

Seth, the drop-out who finds her lodging and seems like a friend? Debbie, the motel owner Becca finds work with, who struggles with grief over the loss of her daughter? Then there’s Derrick, the Ugandan orphan hiding his own past secrets, and Diana, the woman who seems the most comfortable with Becca’s special talent.

This unusual grouping becomes the framework for Becca’s survival as she waits to hear from her mother. Then a tragic accident changes everything and suddenly Becca has nowhere to turn.

This is the first of a planned series which will cover roughly one semester of Becca’s time on Whidbey Island. George gets the tone for YA audiences just right, and weaves her usual tight plot. The prose is clever and precise, and the book is peopled with characters who emerge as real people, not cardboard cutouts. The issues teens struggle with: identity, drugs, bullying–are all addressed. A fine start to an exciting new line.

For fans of the Lynley series: Just One Evil Act will be published by Hodder this September.

You-dont-want-to-know-by-Lisa-Jackson-9781444757170Romantic suspense writer Lisa Jackson returns with the terrifying thriller You Don’t Want to Know.

Ava Garrison’s beloved son Noah disappeared two years ago at the tender age of two.

Without a ransom demand, most people believe Noah is dead, but Ava stubbornly refuses to believe that and holds on to the thought that he is alive.

After a breakdown, surrounded by a host of family she doesn’t trust, the formerly strong businesswoman Ava used to be has disappeared. In its place is a woman haunted by visions of Noah. Her family say they are concerned for her mental state and hover annoyingly over her.

Living on her isolated family estate, Ava slowly realizes she can’t trust anyone. Not her estranged husband nor the multiple cousins and friends who people her world. She feels she is being pushed to the brink of suicide when she decides she’s being driven there by a very twisted murderer.

Into the mix comes Austin Dern, hired by Ava’s husband to tend to the large estate and its livestock. Ava feels drawn to the tough stranger but can she trust him? Or is he the instrument of her destruction?

Jackson’s suspense novels are the complete package: twisted plots, more than enough romance to keep readers happy, and a mystery to solve that has high stakes and a surprising twist at the end.

Becky Masterman: Rage Against the Dying Sunday, Apr 21 2013 

images_009Brigid Quinn, the protagonist and wonderful heroine of Becky Masterman’s new thriller Rage Against the Dying, reminds Auntie M of a female Jethro Gibbs from NCIS–one with a more visceral bent but with a past that haunts her dreams.

This is one strong lady who doesn’t hesitate to get her hands dirty, whether it’s searching river beds for unusual rocks in a dry Tucson river bed, or dealing with maniacal murderers who threaten her and those she loves.

After a life in the FBI, the retiree in her late 50’s–and how nice to have a protagonist of a certain age–finds love with new husband, Carlo,  a retired professor she met auditing his class. They have Pugs and wine and easy days together, building a life where she may even try to learn to cook. Maybe.

But Brigid lives in fear of the mask she’s created slipping, and of Carlo seeing her through her violent past and what she has seen and the person she was, instead of who she’s become. This is one strong gal who can kill with her bare hands, and shivers at the thought of Carlo having that knowledge.

Then an incident occurs that threatens her new-found peace and with that hanging over her shoulder, Brigid is thrust back into the cold case when a man confesses to the string of murders and offers to lead police to the murdered woman’s body in exchange for a plea bargain. This is the one case her team had to leave unsolved. It  left a member of her team dead and the young agent’s murder remains unsolved. It’s an incident that haunts Brigid in her quiet moments, one for which she feels a sense of culpability. She must be involved.

Yet Brigid knows something is wrong, and with her own horrendous secret to keep, she fears everything she works so hard to build will come tumbling down as she matches wits with a terrifying killer. Adding to the confusion is that the new FBI agent on the case believes the confession is faked, and Brigid finds herself at the center of violence once again.

This is a chilling, smart debut. Readers will not only be rooting for Brigid, they will be eager to read the next adventure of this vibrant character who has seen far too much of the heinous side of humanity yet craves normality for herself.

Sophie Hannah: The Carrier Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

images_031Prolific author Sophie Hannah’s newest thriller, The Carrier, won’t answer every question it raises but will provide a rollicking ride as she examines lie and obsession.

Featuring her detective team of Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, in of themselves an unusual mix of characters, the book revolves around their investigation but features the first person narrative of the strong character of Gaby Struthers, genius and entrepreneur.

Delayed overnight on a flight from Germany back to England, Gaby finds herself sharing a tacky room with the terrified, outspoken Lauren Cookson.

Despite their initial antagonism, when Lauren’s blurts out that Gaby would never let a man go to jail for a murder he didn’t commit, Gaby does research and realizes Lauren’s presence on her flight was not a coincidence.

What follows is a duel of the minds of several highly intelligent people, one of them the confessed murderer, Tim Breary, the love of Gaby’s love. Tim insists he has  murdered his incapacitated wife, giving police the evidence they need to convict him in addition to his confession.

Supporting his version of events are the friends Tim and his wife, Francine, have lived with since her stroke, Kerry and Dan Jose.  Gaby soon becomes convinced they are lying, and Charlie agrees. But why would Tim’s best friends, who are vocal in their dislike of Francine, aid him in going to prison if he really didn’t murder his wife?

Several subplots surrounding Charlie’s sister and the duo’s colleague, as well as a work politics on Simon’s end, will satisfy readers of the series. But readers won’t have to have read the others for this psychological thriller to grip them and carry them along to the end.

 

 

The Death of Bees and Shadowkiller Thursday, Mar 21 2013 

Two new Harper imprints to tell readers about.

First up is the highly unusual debut novel of Lisa O’Donnell, The Death of Bees.images_011 O’Donnell’s screenwriting background gives the novel a visual immediacy of the dramatic action as it unfolds that will draw readers in to this story.

This novel is told in rotating narratives, starting with that of fifteen year-old Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, with their distinctive voices describing their personalities and actions and reactions.

The book opens on Christmas Eve in Glasgow’s Maryhill housing estate, and the girls’ have just finished burying their parents. “Neither of them were beloved,” Marnie tells us.

In their narrative we learn that Izzy and Gene were far from the best parents, negligent and abusive. Marnie’s goal becomes to secretly take care of Nelly without them entering the foster system. Once she turns sixteen she will be legally be allowed to care for them both. There is a mystery surrounding the death of Gene, although their mother has committed suicide, that hangs over this year’s events.

Then their gay neighbor, Lennie, notices the parents’ absence. Grieving over the loss of his own partner, his voice is added to the mix, and the story of the unlikely trio unfolds. Lennie becomes the lynchpin in their little unit, cooking for the sisters, doing their wash, keeping them safe from the system by showing up at Parents Night pretending to be their grandfather.

An unlikely friend, Vlad, also coping with his own grief, is added to their mix, and adds to the affecting nature of the story.

Marnie’s story is that her parents have left them in Lennie’s care to travel to Turkey. But deals Gene has made before his death soon unravel that lie, and one lie leads to another, until the day the sisters’ real grandfather shows up on their doorstep, demanding to know where his daughter has gone.

The characters are gritty and real, with all the flaws humans possess, and with an added dark humor that will have you rooting for these girls.

This is a most unlikely family story that is oddly compelling, as it addresses just what family means and what lengths those who love us will go to in order to protect us.

 

images_005Next up is the third in Wendy Corsi Staub’s trilogy featuring Allison Taylor, Shadowkiller. 

Allison has had to live through the tragedy of 9/11 while fighting a serial killer in Nightwatcher; but that led to her meeting her future husband, Mac MacKenna. In Sleepwalker, set a decade later, terror entered Allison’s life once again, threatening her family, now expanded to include three young children, in their suburban home.

Just when Allison and Mac should be able to take a deep breath, a predator will again enter their life.

A stranger’s death in the Caribbean leads to the string of events that seem far unrelated to Allison, yet will prove threatening and connected.

Memories of Allison’s troubled childhood bring back that threat as the MacKenna’s travel to the Midwest for a family reunion with Allison’s half-brother and his family.

A madwoman from Allison’s past, with ties to Mac, has bided her time to seek revenge on Allison, at one point staying next door to their Westchester home and watching the family’s every move as they prepare to take off on what should be a relaxing vacation. Tapping into their wireless network, the killer knows every move Allison and Mac have planned, and will stop at nothing to bring off the plan she’s hatched to kidnap and eventually murder Allison.

Several key characters of the series return, and readers who have followed the books will be surprised at the twist that opens the novel when the identity of the killer is revealed.

Fast-paced and filled with suspense, readers have been anticipating this final installment in the trilogy.

P M Terrell: Dylan’s Song Sunday, Mar 17 2013 

dylans-song With past clients ranging from the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense, it’s no wonder that author P. M. Terrell uses her computer expertise and technical knowledge to highlight the drama in the fourth book in her Black Swamp Mystery series. Dylan’s Song is a romantic suspense novel with just a hint of the paranormal.

The book is a rousing good read. Suspense Magazine calls Terrell’s books “powerfully written and masterfully suspenseful; you have to hang on for the ride of your life.”

Terrell brings the reader to the Irish homeland of Dylan Macquire, whose character was first introduced in Vicki’s Key, a finalist in the 2012 International Book Awards and 2012 Best Book Awards in mystery/suspense.The charming Irishman is running from secrets in his homeland, secrets which will be laid bare in this latest episode.

Vicki Boyd is a psychic who uses her abilities in conjunction with the CIA. Able to travel to remote locations in her mind, Vicki provides startlingly realistic information for her boss Sam. Rounding out the main characters is Brenda Carnegie, a brilliant computer hacker related to Vicki and the best traveling companion Vicki could have when Sam sends the trio to Ireland on a dangerous retrieval mission.

Vicki and Dylan are a couple, which tangles Dylan’s proposed mission on several levels. She’s withholding important information from him, and the stubborn Dylan doesn’t want to go anywhere near his home town. Then a call from Father Rowan, who had been like a brother to Dylan, draws him back reluctantly to the village. The grandmother who raised him is dying and wants to see him one more time.

Suddenly, retrieving operative Stephen Anders seems more urgent. But a tricky complication exists: Vicki’s images show Anders has been kept in the cells of a former castle, one that now exists under one of Ireland’s famous peat bogs.

Dylan is a charmer and his love for Vicki is a big as it can be exasperating. Brenda proves herself to be a necessary compatriot, and Father Rowan in Ireland comes to the trios aid in several important ways. The spy angle is tinged with the sadness of Dylan’s last visit with his Mam, while the local traditions and customs are winningly described.

There will be local intrigue, too, as Dylan returns to the village he escaped from years ago, after hoping his past and its secrets would never catch up with him. All this raises the tension and the hurdles Dylan and the women will have to conquer: to rescue Anders, and to save their own lives.

Terrell does a fine job of getting inside each character while she transports readers from the small southern town of Lumberton, NC, where Vicki and Dylan have been living, to the rolling, fertile countryside of Ireland and the small village where they stay. The tension mounts as the retrieval operation for Anders goes horribly wrong, and just when it seems there’s time for readers to catch their collective breath, terror and danger strike again.

NC author Terrell has written fifteen books, including the historical suspense novel River Passage, which won the 2012 Best Book Award. Her original manuscript is so accurate it is now housed in the Nashville Metropolitan Government Archives for future use by researchers and historians in Tennessee. She is also the co-founder of The Book’Em Foundation, committed to raising public awareness of the correlation between high crime and illiteracy rates. You can read more about the yearly NC wing of Book’Em North Carolina, held in the town of Lumberton that features in her series, by visiting www.bookemnc.org.

 

 

Nele Neuhaus: Snow White Must Die Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

German author Neuhaus is making news with the first English translation of a police procedural that will surprise readers and introduce them to a new detective duo to follow.

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Actually the second in the series, the international best seller features Detective Oliver von Bodenstein, troubled and distinctive, and his partner, Pia Kirchhoff. In this first US import, the Grimm fairy tale describing Snow White becomes a refrain to the story Neuhaus tells of 30-year old Tobias Sartorius. It opens as he leaves prison after serving ten years following the disappearance of two teenaged girls last seen in his company. Having no recollection of most of the events of the evening, his time in prison has been tortuous as he’s come to accept he must have murdered the two girls, despite having no memory of the night in question.

Of the two missing girls, the dark-haired Stefanie Schneeberger had been cast to play Snow White in the local play. On the night the girls disappeared, she was supposed to have broken off her dating relationship with Tobias.

Returning to his small home town, Tobias is shocked to learn the pretense his parents maintained while he imprisoned. They’ve lost their business and separated, and while his father still lives on in the same house, the town has made the family pay for what they feel is Tobias’ murder of the two missing girls by outcasting his parents and damaging their property, with continued harassment.

When Tobias’ mother is pushed from a pedestrian bridge onto the hood of a car below, the two detectives investigation is met with stony silence from the villagers. Then a young girl disappears, and the past seems to be repeating itself. With the villagers certain Tobias is to blame, his life hangs in jeopardy as the Oliver and Pia race against time to find the truth before the villagers take matters into their own hands.

This is lively nuanced mystery, with increasing suspense, and well-crafted characters. The effects of gossip, the use of local power, and the idea of keeping up appearances for outsiders will all be explored, even as Oliver and Pia have their own domestic issues barging into their hectic days. The novel is surprising at times as the events kick up and the pace surges ahead. Readers will become addicted to turning pages as the story engages them. Neuhaus lets them in early on a secret to that they have more information than the detectives, a device which serves to nicely up the suspense factor.

The well-drafted thriller will allow readers to see why Neuhaus is Germany’s top crime writer. In Europe the sixth in the series is in print, and readers here in the US can only hope the translators are hard at work to bring us the next installments of this complex and widely-read crime writer.

Wendi Corsi Staub: Sleepwalker Sunday, Oct 28 2012 

Staub started her trilogy with the fateful backdrop of the horrors of 9/11 in Nightwatcher.  Now the second thriller featuring Allison Taylor, Sleepwalker, picks up her story ten years later.

Allison has married Mack MacKenna, her neighbor who’d lost his wife in the Twin Towers, and they have a lovely home in Westchester and three young children.

Allison has everything she’s always wanted, but the demands of three youngsters and a husband whose job keeps him away from home find her worn down at times. Mack’s chronic insomnia adds to the burden, until at her urging, he starts to take a sleeping pill that allows him to rest but brings back bouts of childhood sleepwalking. Things start to go missing their home; others are moved around. Allison tell herself this is simply due to Mack’s sleepwalking, but she harbors a fear it’s evidence of a far darker menace.

When the man in prison for the Nightwatcher murders commits suicide, Allison knows she should feel relieved. Then why does she have a huge sense of foreboding?

Then their next door neighbor is found by Allison brutally murdered in her own bed, wearing Allison’s nightgown, and killed with the same methodology as the previous murders. Suddenly Allison knows with certainty that the wrong man has been locked up in prison.

What happens next as more murders continue will have readers turning pages as fast as they can read. When a connection between the victims revolves around Mack, Allison must decide if she can trust the man she’s married or if she’s made the most horrific mistake of her life. Then the tension ratchets even higher when her children are kidnapped.

Staub brings back several characters from the first book in the trilogy, including Mack’s friend Ben and his wife, and the NYPD detective who helped clear the first case . . . or did he? She takes on the reality of survivor’s guilt and explores how it touches not only the survivor but those who surround them. And most chillingly, she illustrates the fallacy people have of the feeling of safety in one’s own home in today’s world of technology.

Staub’s third in the trilogy, Shadowkiller, premieres in February 2013. Before then, be prepared to follow Allison as she digs deeply to find the strength to face a killer once again.

 

Tana French: Broken Harbor Sunday, Oct 14 2012 

Auntie M is huge fan of Tana French’s novels set in Ireland, starting with Into the Woods, followed by The Likeness and the stunning Faithful Place. Now she’s back with Broken Harbor, and her novels get stronger and more compelling with each offering. In a recent essay on craft, French described her husband not allowing her to use dream sequences in her novels too much. She doesn’t need dreams; the world she creates is startling enough.

Mick Kennedy is a a top Murder Squad detective who’s earned the nickname “Scorcher” for his devotion to the job and its victims. He lands a tragic but high profile murder case on the half-deserted development now called Brianstown, one of the many high-end neighborhoods that have fallen with the down-turned economy, leaving their few owners to cope with shoddy construction and broken promises.

Mick brings along his new partner, Richie, a rookie detective on his first case, thrilled to learn from the master. But before it was Brianstown, the area was known as Broken Harbor, and Mick has his own disturbing and poignant memories of the area that will haunt him almost as much as the scene they find.

Patrick Spain is dead; his wife, Jenny, lies in intensive care. Their blood splatters the downstairs kitchen area. Upstairs, the Spain’s young son and daughter are found dead in their beds. The scene is shocking and disturbing.

What appears to be an easy case to solve quickly proves to be one of the most tangled and difficult of Mick’s career. There are unexplained things in the house: smashed holes in walls, with baby monitor cameras pointing at them; files have been erased from the Spain’s computer. And then Jenny’s sister Fiona tells the detectives her sister has been afraid of an intruder who slipped past their locks and alarms and helped himself to food from their refrigerator.

As he juggles teaching Richie about true detecting and not jumping to conclusions, Mick’s life is complicated by his younger sister, Dina. Her mental illness escalates and barges into his life and his thoughts, bringing back the memories of his family’s last summer at Broken Harbor. Adding to the layers are Mick’s new relationship with Richie. Partnerships are built on trust. But he doesn’t know Richie well enough to trust him–yet.

French’s sense of setting is acute; she brings all the senses to her descriptions and adds nuances that fill the atmosphere of the book with power and emotion. This is as gripping a novel as Auntie M has read this year, a mix of French’s usual police procedural and psychological thriller, created with realistic characters and situations, plot lines that weave and warp, and with a sense of setting so powerful you will feel as if you’ve been to Broken Harbor.

 

Simon Toyne: The Key Sunday, Sep 2 2012 

Simon Toyne, author of the first in the Ruin trilogy Sanctus, returns with book two in the series and The Key is every bit as compelling as the first.

A vertical mountain of carved rock, The Citadel of Ruin is the oldest continually inhabited edifice known to Man, and the seat of the Catholic Church.

After the events detailed in Sanctus, an explosion has left three people with intimate knowledge of the secret of the Sacrament, previously only known to a handful of elevated Santi monks.

One of those three is New Jersey journalist Liv Adamsen, who traveled to Ruin to find the truth surrounding the death of her Sancti brother. As The Key opens, Liv lies in a hospital bed, suffering the effects of post-traumatic amnesia. Four doors away, survivor number two, Kathryn Mann, nearly deaf from the explosion, ponders her fate and that of her only son, Gabriel, survivor number three.

In the Vatican City, The Group, composed of three world financial heads, hastily meet with their fourth member, Cardinal Secretary Clementi. Clementi holds his own key: to the Vatican’s Bank. He’s used the Church’s independence and secrecy for the past years to hide the practices of past centuries that have left the Church rich in priceless arts and property but virtually without cash.

For The Group, Liv and the others represent ticking time bombs, threatening to destroy their carefully crafted plan. While inside The Citadel, with the abbot and prelate both dead from the explosion, elections must take place to secure The Citadels’ hierarchy. But their centuries-old secrets are slowly unraveling, as disease spreads and with it, unrest inside the compound.

The Key sucks you in, with its detailed settings and complex sense of history and traditions. The Globe and Mail says:  This is a gripping read, as fast-paced as any action movie and covering Rome to Ruin, and New York to the Middle East deserts, as Toyne fits together his complicated plot until it all makes horrible and terrific sense.

 

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