Natalie Barelli: Until I Met Her Sunday, Aug 14 2016 

Please welcome Australian author Natalie Barelli, who will describe the influences on the thread of her new novel, UNTIL I MET HER:

Until I Met Her_Ebook-300

Writers and Lies Natalie Barelli

Writers and lies

My new suspense novel, Until I Met Her, is loosely about a woman who pretends to be
the author of very successful novel.

I didn’t set out to write a novel about a writer, I set out
to write a novel about a lie, but the two are strangely intertwined: after all, it can be argued
that all crime writers are also consummate liars: they set out to tell you a story, which we,
the readers, take at face value, only to find out at the last minute that we were led up the
garden path and we are left to reel in shock at the deceit that was played out.

In Until I Met Her, Emma isn’t a writer at all, and she doesn’t harbour any ambitions of being
one, either. In her case, it all starts out as a favour to a friend. Put that way, if you were asked to put your name to a novel you didn’t write, would you?

That depends on who’s doing the asking, I hear you say. Which is a fair comment, so
let’s assume it’s your favourite thriller author: your favourite thriller author has asked you to
pretend that you wrote his or her latest book. Why? because it’s different from anything
she’s written before, because she’s typecast, she wants the novel to be received at face

Why not write under a pseudonym? you ask. Sure, but there’s a publicity tour to be
done, there are TV interviews lined up, magazine profiles wanting to be written.
Would you be Jill Emerson? Rosamond Smith? Robert Galbraith?

Of course you would.

These are all pen names, but here is a real life story: In the mid 70s, the famous French
author Romain Gary wrote a novel under the pseudonym Emile Ajar. The novel became so
successful that it became impossible for “Ajar” to stay out of the public eye. But no one
had ever met Ajar, not even his publisher. So under such pressure, Romain Gary enlisted
his nephew to front up and pretend to be “Ajar”.

It may have been decades before the age of the internet, but it still didn’t take long for
someone to point out that Ajar was in fact a man called Paul Pavlowitch. So Paul
Pavlowitch did yet more interviews admitting that yes, he had been writing under a
pseudonym. He was the nephew of a very famous author after all, he wanted some
anonymity. This multilayered subterfuge went on for a few years, during which “Emile Ajar”
published three more novels, and when Romain Gary died in 1980, Pavlowitch/Ajar came
out publicly and revealed the duplicity.

Back in the fictional realm, writers and lies make for some gripping thrillers, and some of
my favourites are John Colapinto’s About the Author, Sascha Arango’s The Truth and
Other Lies
, and Lie with Me, the beautifully written latest novel by the brilliant Sabine
Durrant. In all these, the protagonist is either a writer who lies about what they’ve written,
or someone who lies about being a writer.

In Until I Met Her, Emma has only recently met Beatrice, a famous crime writer, a woman
Emma admires, and they are fast becoming friends. Then Beatrice asks for a favour: she
needs someone to be “the author” of her yet to be published novel, someone not shackled
by the expectations of fame and genre. Would Emma be willing?

Of course she would.

Neither Beatrice nor Emma have any expectations of the novel breaking any records. It’s well and truly a literary effort, it might do well with the critics, but such novels
traditionally sell little on the commercial front.

Except that it does do well. So well, in fact, that very quickly, Emma becomes rich, famous,
and hailed as one of the most talented authors of her generation.

And now, Beatrice wants her novel back.
Until I Met Her is published on


You will usually find Natalie Barelli reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a psychological thriller. When not absorbed in the latest gripping page-turner, Natalie works as an IT professional, loves cooking when she has the time, knits very badly and spends far too much time at the computer. She lives in rural NSW, in Australia.

Until I Met Her is her first novel.

James Hayman: The Girl in the Glass Saturday, Jun 4 2016 

Auntie M is late to James Hayman’s McCabe and Savage series, but she’ll be back for more after reading The Girl in the Glass, its fourth installment.

The action fluctuates between Whitby Island, Maine, in a case from 1904 and the tragic death of the lovely Aimee Whitby, a French artist, whose murder remains filled with speculation but unsolved. This is contrasted against the June 2012 murder of her descendant, Veronica Aimee Whitby, and closely resembles the hallmarks of the first, with the action split between Portland and Whitby Island.

Veronica is the valedictorian of her school, a manipulative young woman killed on the night of her graduation party. Enter McCabe and Savage, determined to find the killer as quickly as possible. Despite the revelations that perhaps Veronica wasn’t the nicest young woman, she was still only eighteen and at the cusp of her life when she is murdered.

But their investigation is thwarted by the different personalities at hand. There’s the dead girl’s father, wealthy to the point of absurdity, her stepmother, and her half sister. There are petty and real jealousies, sibling rivalry, and the kind of complex family situation that you know you wouldn’t want to be at their Thanksgiving dinners.

Hayman gives McCabe and Savage their own relationship issue to struggle with as the case pushes forward, under the eye of a a strident media, dogging their heels. One of the highlights of this is seeing the duo at work, balancing their case and their emotions, trying to make sense out of the various strands. The past come into play in surprising ways as the case races to its finale. Fast paced and reminded Auntie M of the quick read in one gulp action of a John Sanford novel.

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

Hakan Oslundh: The Intruder Wednesday, Oct 7 2015 

The isolated island of Sweden’s Faro is the setting for Hakan Oslundh’s crime novel, The Intruder.
Auntie M finds the Scandinavian writers have different conventions to their crime novels, a more leisurely developed pace that allows for the characters lives to be examined before the hunt for a perpetrator sets in. There’s a large sense of setting, too, which looms over the action and in this case, helps to narrow down the suspects when a truly horrific crime sets in.

But long before we get to the terrible act to come, there are small incidents occurring to this family with two small children. Malin Andersson is a food blogger; her husband Henrik Kjellander is a professional photographer who travels extensively on photo shoots with glamorous models, those print ads paying the bills and helping the couple renovate the house and outbuildings they’ve purchased on Faro. Their plan is to have an artists colony there, a place where other photographers will gather to recharge their batteries, refreshed by the stark landscape and Malin’s food.

The family returns to their home after a four week vacation that has allowed them to rent the house out for decent prices. But immediately upon their return, Malin is frustrated not just by the uncleanliness the last tenant left, but by missing times from the home. There are pieces of glass on the floor, too, found only when Malin steps on one and cuts her foot just as their daughter calls them to her room: someone has defecated in her toy basket.

And then Malin notices that family photos are missing, and when she finds one shoved amongst their linens she calls the police in fear, for the photograph has been damage in that all of their eyes have been poked out.

Gotland detective Fredrik Broman is sent to interview the couple. Just returning after a lengthy medical leave from fall that almost killed him, he’s finding his footing again at work and at home, concerned he doesn’t have what it takes to work at policing again. These incidents on Faro could be a joke, but Broman takes them as a warning. Then the couple’s daughter disappears at lunch from her school, and the action ratchets up.

Henrik has returned to the island under unusual circumstances. Estranged from his mother’s second family, a lawsuit between the two arms of the family seems the obvious place to look for suspects. When the incidents turn deadly, Broman and his team will find themselves rapidly trying to save this family as they exhaust all possible suspects, hampered by the remoteness of the setting.

The language is lovely; there is a depth of characterization of all of the participants Auntie M enjoys that makes the heartbreak later on particularly poignant. This mystery is rich with the psychology of the participants, filled with secrets of the past, and vastly enjoyable.

Lynn Chandler-Willis: The Rising Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

Jesse to the Rescue

When I started writing The Rising, I had a very rough idea of where the story was going. I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea how I was going to make it happen. Getting from Point A to Point Z was going to take some planning.

The main character, Detective Ellie Saunders, was a thirty year-old woman with a bad habit of looking for love in a one-night stand. One of those one-night stands turns out to be a co-worker, Jesse Alvarez, a former vice cop with a gorgeous smile. To Ellie’s horror, Jesse is assigned to help with her case.

But as often happens with fictional characters, they have a mind of their own. Jesse was not only pushing himself into Ellie’s case, he was pushing himself into my novel! Jesse Alvarez was intended to be a very secondary character. A character’s whose only purpose was to illustrate Ellie’s spiraling out of control personal life.

So I gave him a few lines of dialogue. And then a few more. And then a couple more. And before I knew it, Jesse was more than Ellie’s former one-night stand. He was her partner. And trust me, I never intended for Ellie to have a partner. This was her story. I wanted her to face certain fears on her own. I wanted her to come to terms with her life, on her terms. But what was I to do? Every time I tried holding him back, he pushed himself right back in the scene.

And then I found myself, and Ellie, in a situation I wasn’t comfortable being in. Not only was Jesse taking over Ellie’s personal life, he was taking over the case. He was becoming her rescuer. Every scene where Ellie faced even a small amount of danger, it was Jesse to the rescue.

I wanted Ellie to be strong from the start. I wanted her to be clear-headed and independent. But I also wanted her to be vulnerable. In the book, she has a very tender spot for the little boy dubbed Johnny Doe. Yet, she forms a strong maternal protectiveness over the child. A mamma grizzly at its worst. In another aspect, she has a very real fear of facing the media, stemming from a childhood trauma. Once the “Johnny Doe” case goes public, the media is stirred into a feeding frenzy, forcing Ellie to deal with those fears. I purposely held Jesse back in these instances, forcing Ellie to step-up-to-the-plate and face the issues on her own.

When the time came for the final showdown between Ellie and the suspect, again, I left Jesse at home. Although he played an important role, to the case and in Ellie’s personal life—I wanted it to be all Ellie in the end. I wanted Ellie to save herself and not rely on a handsome partner with a gorgeous smile.

Yes, Jesse’s around in the end—but he’s not Ellie’s rescuer. She did that all by herself.

Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.

She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. Her debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group, 2013) won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith Based Fiction and was a finalist for an INSPY award. In October 2013, she was the first woman in a ten-year span to be named winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Novel Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition for her novel, Wink of an Eye. It will be released by Minotaur in Nov. 2014.

D. P. Lyle: Original Sin Sunday, Jul 27 2014 

What if?: The Crucial First Question OS 200X300-72

So you have a cool idea for a story. Big deal. Ideas are a dime a dozen. And ideas aren’t stories. To become a story, your idea must evolve into a premise, or what many call “The Central Story Question.” It’s what the story is really about.

To become a premise, the original idea must ultimately lead to the question: What if?

What if this happened? What if that person did this? What if that dude hanging out at your local coffee shop is actually a rogue undercover agent with a deadly agenda? Or a serial killer? Or is stalking one of the baristas?

It is from those two words–What if?—that stories arise.

The power of your story’s What If? can’t be overestimated. It is the single guidepost that will keep you on track as your churn out those 100,000 words. A good What if? states the main character, the situation, the stakes, and, most importantly, the central story question.

It is the answering of this question that is the story.

The What If? should be stated in about 25 words or so. Because the What If? is brief, it’s often called the elevator pitch or the agent pitch. It communicates your story in the most efficient terms. We’ve all heard writers respond when asked what their story is about by saying things like, “Well, there’s this guy who lives on an island. And he hates the water. And a big shark is killing people and this is threatening to shut down the town’s beaches on a holiday weekend. And then there’s this other guy who is a shark expert and he has a really cool boat. Oh, I forgot, the first guy is the chief of police.” Yawn.

What if a hydrophobic, island-community police chief must go out on the water to kill a predatory shark to save the town’s summer economy and to prove his own self worth?

What if an FBI trainee must exchange personal information with a sadistic serial killer in order to track another serial killer and save a Senator’s daughter?

What if the youngest son of a mafia family takes revenge on the men who shot his father and becomes the new godfather, losing his own soul in the process?

These are of course Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, and The Godfather, respectively. See how these What If?s reveal the protagonist and clearly state the story premise? Read these books or watch the movies and you will see that each scene moves toward answering the story’s What If? Each of your scenes should, too. If not, consider cutting, or at least reworking, those that don’t.

Here’s a tip: When your What If? is completed to your satisfaction, print it out and tape it to your computer or the front of your writing pad so you will see it every time you sit down to write. Before writing each scene, read your What If? and ask yourself, “Does this scene help answer the Central Story Question?” If you do this, you will never lose sight of what your story is about. Particularly in the dreaded middle, where so many stories get lost in the jumble of character and backstory and cool dialog and all the other stuff that goes into a manuscript. The What If? keeps you focused and on track.

What if a female cardiovascular surgeon must unravel why so many of her post-op patients succumb to bizarre homicidal rages and to do so must dig deeply into her family history?

That’s the What If? for ORIGINAL SIN, my latest Samantha Cody thriller.


Dr. Lucy Wagner was on top of her game. The only cardiac surgeon on staff, a new pediatric cardiac unit dedicated to her, and an impeccable reputation not only put her at the apex of the local medical pyramid but also garnered a few powerful enemies. Such is the nature of jealousy and greed. Turf wars can get ugly. Still all was good until the day old John Scully, the spiritual founder and leader of a local snake-handling church, died on her operating table. Fainting spells, nightmarish dreams, and patient after patient succumbing to some violent psychosis followed, putting her career, and her life, in jeopardy. Aided by long time friend and ex-boxer, ex-cop Samantha Cody, Lucy must reach deeply into her family’s past and into her own soul to find the strength to confront old and very powerful forces she never knew existed.

Read the First Chapter Here:


D. P. Lyle is the Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Silver Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Scribe, and USA Best Book Award nominated author of many non-fiction books (MURDER & MAYHEM; FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES; FORENSICS & FICTION; MORE FORENSICS & FICTION; HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS; and ABA FUNDAMENTALS: UNDERSTANDING FORENSIC SCIENCE) as well as numerous works of fiction, including the Samantha Cody thriller series (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, DOUBLE BLIND, and ORIGINAL SIN); the Dub Walker Thriller series (STRESS FRACTURE; HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL, and RUN TO GROUND); and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels (ROYAL PAINS: FIRST, DO NO HARM and ROYAL PAINS: SICK RICH). His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS and his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER.

Along with Jan Burke, he is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.

Crime and Science Radio:

Daniel Palmer: Desperate Sunday, May 25 2014 

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.

Charlotte Williams: The House on the Cliff Sunday, Jan 12 2014 

charlotte-williams-the-house-on-the-cliff.jpg?w=450Welcome to Cardiff, Wales, home to psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew and her family.

Jessica has it all: lovely home, two great kids, a successful practice, and a loving marriage. Or so she thinks.

She’s sharp and notices small details with her clients, yet somehow misses that things are wrong in her marriage when her frequent-flyer husband, Bob, admits to a one-night stand while away on business.

Think: frosty at home, and you’d be right. She struggles with picturing Bob and his lover while trying to co-parent young Rose and 16 yr-old Nella. Is her marriage over?

But the thaw for Jessica comes in the form of an interesting new client, actor Gwydion Morgan, who arrives asking for her help with a phobia that may affect his career. The son of Evan Morgan, a womanizing, overbearing man with a string of infidelities to his name, Jessica admires Gwydion’s insistence not to trade on his father’s name and to make his own way.

It seems buttons are a huge problem for the incredibly handsome young man, and Jessica feels drawn to him, especially after Bob’s confession and her inability to forgive him.

Jessica soon susses out that the young man’s button phobia masks a deeper issue, and Gwydion admits to a frightening and recurrent dream involving being locked in a box and hearing a man and woman fighting. He wakes before the end of the scene, and soon Jessica is pushing him to remember more. She’s convinced the end of the dream is the way to his recovery.

When Gwydion’s mother calls and says her son has sunk into a deep depression and she thinks he’s suicidal, Jessica breaks one of her own rules and makes a house call. The foreboding Craigfa House reminds the reader of something out of Rebecca, a cliffside Jacobean melange on West Wales. Arianrhod Morgan is grateful Jessica has come to the house. Beautiful but unhappy, the woman has withstood her husband’s ferocious philandering for years. It’s obvious she is concerned about her son.

A drowning off their cliff years before is glossed over until Jessica learns that the young woman, Elsa Lindberg, was actually Gwydion’s nanny. Jessica begins to delve into the case, never imagining the repercussions she will dreg up. Her snooping into the young woman’s death will coincide with Gwydion remembering more and more of his dream until he reaches the devastating end.

How that will impact Jessica and her family run alongside her own distrust of her husband and her growing attraction to the young actor. Who is telling the truth? And who can she really trust?

With her instincts clouded, Jessica tries to find the answers, only to see that the truth may be harder to take than she ever imagined.

A powerful debut thriller, with an interesting family behind it and a keen sense of the psychology that Jessica practices. Williams has a long history or writing for the arts in journalism and making documentaries for the BBC. More recently she’s worked in radio drama on original plays and adaptations. Readers will hope she brings back Jessica for round two down the road.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Libby Fischer Hellmann: Havana Lost Sunday, Sep 8 2013 

FINALHL ebookWhilst Auntie M recovers from jet lag from her England odyssey, please welcome author Libby Fischer Hellmann, talking about her newest thriller HAVANA LOST:

Where Did HAVANA LOST Come From Anyway?



So…I was talking to my sister on the phone after I finished A BITTER VEIL. I was already about 60 pages into my next Georgia Davis thriller, but something was keeping me from diving back in. I started thinking about writing a World War Two thriller—I’m continually drawn back to that period of time, where some people were heroes, others cowards, and you never knew whom to trust. Unfortunately, I realized right away there was probably nothing I could write about that time period that hasn’t been done better by someone else.


Our phone conversation turned to other time periods and settings, and my sister brought up Cuba. As soon as she mentioned it, I started to get that itch—the kind of itch that can only be scratched by delving more deeply into a subject. We both remembered my parents flying down to gamble in Havana. This was when Batista was still in power. I must have only been about 6 or 7, but I remember being jealous that they were going to a foreign country and culture. I wanted to go. Of course, they didn’t take me.


A few years later Fidel took over and Cuba was suddenly off limits to Americans. Soon afterwards it turned Communist, and Communism was our enemy! Because of that, Cuba seemed even more mysterious and exotic than ever, and I wanted to know more about it. Then, of course, came the Bay of Pigs, followed fifteen months later by the Cuban Missile Crisis, which made Cuba even more impenetrable and threatening. So close and yet so far. Fidal Castro with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow, 1963


Finally, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I recalled one of the Godfather films where Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Lee Strasberg (Meyer Lansky) are on a rooftop supposedly in Havana discussing how they’re going to own the island. Shortly after that, Michael sees a rebel willing to die in order to overthrow Batista. Michael changes his mind about doing business with Lansky. 4godfather65989754_8200a37e1a_z


That clinched it. I realized I had most of the elements for a terrific thriller: revolution, crime, conflict, an exotic setting. And while I knew it would be a stand-alone story, rather than a series, there is a thematic link between HAVANA LOST, and the two previous stand-alone thrillers I’d written: A BITTER VEIL and SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE. That theme is revolution and what it does to an individual, a family, a community, a country, a culture.


There was only one other element I needed.  I enjoy—actually it’s more than that… it’s probably an obsession at this point—writing about women and the choices they make. I needed a female character who would have been thrown into the middle of the volatile situation. It would be fascinating to see what she did and how she coped. Once I came up with Frankie Pacelli, the daughter of a Mafia boss who owns a Havana resort, the rest was, as they say, history.


 299260_1015lfhellman1404827983406_767050619_nYou can learn more about Libby and her books at:






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