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

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

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

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

First up are thrillers:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Standouts: Penny, Garrett, Casey, Cha and Adler Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

Auntie M has guests this summer to give authors you might not have heard of a chance to tell you about their books. But today she wants to share the best of what she’s been reading whilst others are blogging away. These are some of summer’s best reads for crime.

LongWayHome After last year’s profoundly moving How The Light Gets In, it is difficult to imagine how Louise Penny could conjure up a way to bring Armand Gamache out of his hard-won retirement. In The Long Way Home, it takes his friendship with artist Clara Morrow to do just that.

After a year’s separation due to her husband jealousy over Clara’s career upturn, Peter Morrow was supposed to return home for them to sort out their marriage and decide if it could continue. Yet that deadline has come and gone and Clara knows something has happened to keep Peter from getting in touch with her. Despite not knowing what his feelings are, she insists he would never not have tried to contact her.

Together with Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache will assist Clara and her friend Myrna as they retrace Peter’s steps in an effort to locate him. Their journey will take them from the art school where Clara and Peter met, to some of his unusual and despised family, to a desolate place deep into Quebec where few have ventured and where few have returned from intact.

The usual characters for Three Pines make their appearance, but it come down to this group of four to unravel where Peter has gone to find his soul–and why. As they find themselves drawing closer and closer to Peter, the foursome will face some unanticipated scenarios and dark moments. Written with her usual style and an unerring sense of human nature, Penny’s newest will bring readers on a journey where things are turned upside down, just as the book jacket suggests, to final unexpected climax.

A. D. Garrett is the pen name for two authors collaborating in a way that brings forensics and mystery to the forefront in Everyone Lies. everyone-lies-usa-800px
Auntie M has read and enjoyed other mysteries by Margaret Murphy and here she teams up with forensic scientist Professor Dave Barcaly. Their main characters echo their expertise. DI Kate Simms was demoted in the past for her work on a case involving Prof Nick Fennimore, a one-time advisor to the National Crime Faculty, a man whose mind and forensic knowledge equal none other.

Despite their complicated past, Simms will reach out to Fennimore for his expertise when a string of drug addicts die and she suspects the drugs are laced with more than the usual cutting agents. Her investigation becomes high profile with the death of a celebrity in the mix and the media becomes involved. There will be whore houses to search and drugs to chase, and a convenient fall guy for what may turn out to be a hidden agenda of the deepest proportions Simms could imagine.

Seemingly thwarted by her superiors and her own past, Simms struggles to find out why these deaths are occurring, along with the identity of one of the girls, a prostitute who may or may not have been involved on her own. Her own family life suffers. The plot is complicated but satisfying, filled with all kinds of the best scientific analysis and facts for those of us who like those angles. With two unusual protagonists, readers can hope this duo will be brought back for a sequel, and soon.

Steph Cha’s sequel to Follow Her Home is the compelling Beware, Beware, featuring one of the most original protagonists to come along in a long time: Juniper Song, a Marlowe noir fan working as an apprentice to the PI firm she found herself involved with in Book One.

Song’s Hollywood location brings her right into the glitzy scene with her first case when New York artist Daphne Freamon asks the young investigator to follow her screenwriter boyfriend around. Jamie may be using drugs again, and Song quickly establishes this to be the case. Working for an aging movie star, Jamie is soon the prime suspect after a night of partying finds the star dead in his bathtub. Is it suicide or murder?

Now Song’s job becomes proving Jamie’s innocence. With lies, blackmail and hidden secrets coming to light each time she turns around, Song will find things hitting too close to home for her comfort. And then things turn on a dime and she must decide how much her conscience can bear in the name of justice and revenge. Fast-paced and definitely with an different edge, Steph Cha has created an Asian American character whose culture adds a layer to the action.

LastToKnow2 Elizabeth Adler continues her Mallory Malone-Harry Jordan series by taking readers to western Massachusetts Evening Lake in Last to Know.

Smarting from Mallory’s departure to Paris after breaking up with him, the Boston detective is spending time at his lake house with his dog, Squeeze. The small close-knit community is about to be blown apart by two newcomers: Lacey Havnel and her daughter Bea. One family, the Osbournes, will become particularly involved. Husband Wally is a well-known writer of horror stories; wife Rose is the ultimate wife and earth mother. Four children in varying ages occupy their home near Harry’s. All will become involved with Be a Havnel when Lacey is killed when the duo’s house explodes.

Then it’s determined that Lacey was murdered before the explosion, and that the mother-daughter team are not who they claim to be. Harry must decide if he can keep his job if it means living without Mallory just as the murderers begin to pile up. One device Adler uses is to tell the story through varied points of view, so that readers are getting more information than Harry is privy to. A page-turner and great beach read.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series returns with the fifth, The Kill.TheKill
With an intriguing plot and fast pacing, this is a smooth read that will translate well to television, and Auntie M won’t be surprised to see the series has been sold for that purpose very soon.

DC Maeve Kerrigan and DCI Josh Derwent are working alongside the rest of the MIT to unravel a series of police killings in metropolitan London. Someone is killing their police colleagues and everyone is on high alert to find the murderers. Are they killings all the work of one chief or is there more happening here than meets the eye?

Casey’s hallmark of the series is how she combines police procedural information alongside relationship development and subplots, especially as pertains to her superior officers, and most importantly, the misogynist DCI Derwent, as complex a character as there ever was to leap off the page. Kerrigan is tough, yet has human frailties, not the least of which is her worry about her handsome live-in boyfriend. When things turn upside down there, you will feel her ache as she’s unable to to comfort him when his colleague is murdered.

This is subtle, smart writing at its best. A great series if you haven’t found it.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: Jane Haddam’s Hearts of Sand, previously reviewed, is now in paperback for fans of retired FBI profiler Gregor Demarkian, who visits a Connecticut beach town to resurrect a decades-old disappearance and murder.

Amy Shojai: Thrillers With Bite! Sunday, Jun 22 2014 

Auntie M is a real dog fan. She and Doc share their river home with a 7 yr-old Italian Spinone, Radar, a goofy clown of a sweet pup. So when she read about Amy Shojai’s series, she decided to ask Amy about what drove her to her books. Welcome Amy!

Auntie M: You wrote nonfiction pet books and articles for years before penning your first novel. What prompted you to decide on this career change?

Amy Shojai: I haven’t stopped writing nonfiction books and articles, but have simply expanded my audience by writing what I call THRILLERS WITH BITE! They incorporate my love for dogs and cats and pet behavior expertise—I’m a certified animal behavior consultant for both cats and dogs. That’s a fancy way of saying I help pet lovers understand problem behaviors and find solutions for them, and preserve the bond we share.

When I first began writing more than twenty years ago, I wanted to publish fiction and wasn’t able to get an agent or publisher interested. When I submitted a YA horror novel to one agent, she had no interest because “YA doesn’t sell” but encouraged me to submit nonfiction book ideas. I became her client and we sold a couple dozen nonfiction pet care books and I became so busy fulfilling those deadlines, the fiction fell by the wayside.

More recently, though, the publishing industry has changed. My nonfiction pet books are prescriptive, information-heavy works and these days, people prefer to “google” and find information for free in the Internet—never mind if it’s accurate or not. Publishers care most if the book sells, so the market for my nonfiction titles shrunk. Today a lot of my pet nonfiction is online at my site. And it occurred to me that I could still provide solid pet information—with entertainment—but in fiction books as well. That’s how the September Day Thriller Series was born.

AM: Tell us about your new mystery, and why you decided to write from a dog’s point of view?

AS: HIDE AND SEEK is a stand-alone suspense thriller and the sequel to my debut book LOST AND FOUND. The story picks up where the first one ended, but you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy HIDE AND SEEK.

Now, I’ve read LOTS of novels that include “animal viewpoint” and some are done well while others leave me cold. Most are written as if the animal character is a human wearing a fur coat, LOL! That’s fine in fantasy, and may work in other types of fiction. But I wanted my animal characters to BE ANIMALS in all their furry glory, and to act, react, and sense their world as would their true animal counterpart.

So in other words, the dog character, Shadow, truly behaves like a ten-month-old puppy, and he doesn’t talk—-but he scents, sees and feels the world around him and reacts to that world in a realistic way. I’ve had readers tell me they now understand their dog’s behavior and reactions in a fresh way, and better recognize how easily dogs and people misunderstand each other. Basically I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

I was delighted to receive wonderful praise from one of my favorite authors, veterinarian James Rollins, who also writes in “dog viewpoint” in his Tucker Wayne novels:

“Amy Shojai’s LOST AND FOUND wraps family secrets, murder, and medical miracles around the small form of an autistic child. Riveting, heart-wrenching, and brilliant, here is the debut of a stunning talent.” –James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of Bloodline and The Kill Switch

The first book LOST AND FOUND was so successful that my publisher, Cool Gus Publishing, wanted me to write a series. September’s tragic past that caused her PTSD was only hinted at in the first book, and that past comes back to haunt her in HIDE AND SEEK: A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.
A STALKER hides in plain sight.
A VICTIM faces her worst fear.
AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—-except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

HIDE AND SEEK is a creepy must-read mystery for animal lovers. Animal behaviorist Amy Shojai knows her stuff.” –J.T. Ellison, NYT bestselling author of “When Shadows Fall”

HIDE AND SEEK proves Shojai’s masterful skill at blending ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Add in revelatory dose of animal psychology and behavior, and you have a thriller that had me turning pages deep into the night. Here is a novel written with authority and with a deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.” –James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of “The Eye of God”

The series continues in the third book SHOW AND TELL, with more adventures for September, her service dog Shadow and trained Maine Coon cat Macy.

AM: You have several pets. Did you model any of your four-legged characters after your own cats or dogs?

AS: Ha! Absolutely! In my first draft of LOST AND FOUND, the dog character’s name was Magic—that’s my own German shepherd. I began writing LOST AND FOUND when Magic wasn’t too much beyond that puppy-stage and it was very easy to “channel my inner dog” with him as an example.

My cat Seren, though, has only a few things in common with Macy, the trained Maine Coon cat in the book. Seren is also trained, and she does some of the same tricks as Macy. But while Seren is a 6-pound Siamese wannabe and now an old-lady cat at about 17 years old—and very persnickety about strangers—Macy weighs over twenty pounds, is a young boy cat in his prime, and never met a stranger. Although Macy does “nail” the bad guy at the end of the book, it’s not out of meanness but only when prompted by September’s command. I suspect that the new story SHOW AND TELL will incorporate a goofy and clueless young cat, since this year we welcomed a stray (Karma) into our home. Karma has become best friends with Magic and it’s great fun to see the 90+ pound shepherd race around with the pudgy kitten.

AM: Tell us about your work(s) in progress?

AS: I’m recording audiobooks! The first four are already available. Three are nonfiction pet titles covering cat and dog behavior, along with LOST AND FOUND. Fiction is quite a challenge because different voices for characters are needed.

I’m working hard on SHOW AND TELL which will continue September and Shadow’s story. I like to include some kind of animal/pet “issue” in each story to provide some edu-tainment along with the roller coaster ride. I also love medical thrillers, so that aspect will be interwoven in this story as well. LOST AND FOUND focused on autism; HIDE AND SEEK examines animals and people exhibiting Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. You’ll have to wait and see what the third book covers. Bwaaa-hahaha!

AM: Other than writing, what gives you the most pleasure in life?

AS: Music and theater. I have degrees in both and love to perform. This past year, I’ve had the great pleasure to combine my three great loves—writing, music and theater—and collaborated with a co-writer to create and perform my second orginal musical comedy, STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Together we wrote the script, the 12 original songs, orchestrated the show, and will cast and direct the show this fall at the local theater. What a rush!

Currently I’m performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the first annual Shakespeare In the Grove summer event here in Sherman, Texas.

AM: Who designed your book cover? Did you have any say in the final result?

AS: I’m blessed to work with a small independent publisher, Bob Mayer and Jen Talty, who created Cool Gus Publishing. Jen is my editor, and she also designs a good number of the book covers, and asked me for input. She sent mock ups and we worked through eight or nine versions before we had the final versions. At one point the only dog pictures she could find just weren’t right—-wrong color dog, too old, the look simply wrong. So I offered to find pictures of a young black German shepherd, and set up a photo shoot. The cover dog is a nine-month-old bred and owned by Magic’s breeder.

AM: Tell us a bit about your schedule and work habits as a writer.

AS: I’m a fulltime freelance writer, with weekly and monthly deadlines that pay the bills. So it’s a “real job.” Generally I start work at 9 am, work at least 6 days a week (I try to take Sunday off), and am at my computer until the day’s to-do list is done. For instance, as I type this, it is 3:50 pm on a Sunday night. Play rehearsal in an hour, so I need to wrap up quickly.

AM: How do you motivate yourself to write when you’re not in the mood to create even one more sentence?

AS: I look at what bills are due. That’s a great motivator!
Amy & Magic & Seren-karma copy

Amy Shojai ( has been reinventing herself for years. She’s a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 27 best selling pet books that cover furry babies to old-fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soup-icity. She is the Puppies Guide at, the cat behavior expert at, and hosts a weekly half hour Internet Pet Peeves radio show. Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. She’s been a consultant to the pet products industry and a host/program consultant for select “furry” TV projects.

Amy blogs at her Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog at She is also a musician, actor and playwright, and brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances and performances, audio books (her own and others), writer webinars, conference keynotes/seminars and THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Holiday Goodies #2 Wednesday, Dec 18 2013 

Auntie M gave you a great listing last time of good books for gifts for readers. Now she’s going to give you a huge compendium of wonderful reads in different categories for those last minute gifts. And then take off between Christmas and New Year’s 🙂 To all a good night and a wonderful holiday season. Here are some great ideas for gifting and don’t forget to gift yourself in the process!

For fans of the Tried and True Series:

crossVal McDermid is one of Auntie M’s favorite authors. Every stand alone, each series, all of the books shine with the craft of a wordsmith who understands people and manages to add complex plots that keep your interest and your mind reeling.

Cross and Burn is the latest in the Tony Hill-Carol Jordan series and you will be shocked and surprised at how she handles the complicated rift in their relationship.

The effects of the last case (The Retribution) has left the two estranged and both blame Tony for the havoc a sick killer brought into Carol’s life. She’s been on extended leave, with no one seeing her for the past three months.

He’s been cut from his service to the police and is working full time at a nearby psych hospital and living on a long boat.

What neither expects is a killer with a penchant for murdering women, and how that case will bring a connection neither Hill or Jordan can ignore. As Paula McIntyre works to adapt to her new position and investigates what soon becomes a series of murders, one thing soon become clear: all the women bear a disturbing resemblance to Carol Jordan.

And then the unthinkable happens when the evidence points to Tony Hill and he finds himself behind bars.

This one will keep you turning pages as all of McDermid’s do and you won’t want it to end but will race to find the conclusion anyway. Somehow McDermid always manages to keep her stories fresh and her ideas intriguing. Highly recommended.

Julia Spencer-Fleming kept fans waiting for the next in her series featuring the Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. evil-days-new-lg

Through the Evil Days finds the newly married couple finally stealing away for a honeymoon. With Clare’s pregnancy evidently preceding their marriage, she faces trouble with her diocese for conduct unbecoming a priest.

Although there is an arson case on board, Russ leaves the case to his deputies to take Clare for a week of ice fishing in a lakeside cabin in the Adirondack’s he’s hoping she will agree they should buy.

Running between the couple is the difficulty Russ is having with the idea of Clare’s pregnancy, unplanned and unanticipated after agreeing they would not have children; but now a fact she is willing to accept and which threatens to drive a wedge between the couple.

Trouble comes early in the form of a suspected kidnapping in their vacation neighborhood whose tendrils reach into the arson case.

A snowstorm blankets the area and makes travel impossible, with frigid weather an added element to fight besides the meth heads whose hideout they stumble across.

With officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn struggling to work out the case in the midst of their own relationship issues, there’s plenty of trouble to go around.

Soon the trouble comes too close to their cabin and Russ and Clare will be fighting for not only their own lives, but for that of their unborn child.

The-Ravens-EyeBarry Maitland’s Brock and Kolla series returns with his twelfth entry, The Raven’s Eye.

While Brock as DCI must wrestle with budget cuts and a new Commander at work, DI Kathy Kolla’s instincts kick in when she’s called to investigate what appears to be an accidental death on a narrow boat.

Vicky Hawks lived on the houseboat and is found by one of her neighbors, the apparent victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. The poor ventilation system on the boat supports that and nothing at the crime scene seems out of sort.

Kathy’s patience will be tested as she teases out information about the dead woman from those around her.

There will be doctors and scientists and a case of wrong identity as Kathy follows a trail that keeps doubling back on her. Who was Vicky Hawks and why would anyone have wanted her dead?

This one is well-plotted with dead ends that keep frustrating Kathy as much as the budget cutbacks that ruin Brock’s day. And when it appears Vicky’s death may be related to a previous murder, they know they are facing a shrewd killer who will stop at nothing to keep the status quo.

What adds a deep layer to this one is the world if surveillance and how it can be used to help and to hinder. A fine and shrewd mystery.

Other series winners: M. R. Hall’s Coroner Jenny Cooper returns in The Chosen Dead. Finished with therapy for the debilitating panic attacks she’s had for years, Jenny is trying to salvage her relationship with her son, Ross, and her lover, Michael. Somehow the death of an Arizona research scientist and his Russian counterpart seeking asylum become part of Jenny’s case when a young man leaves his toddler son and leaps to his death off a traffic bridge onto the highway. The dead man’s wife insists her husband would never commit suicide–and Jenny finds herself agreeing.

Inger Ash Wolfe’s A Door in the River brings back the unusual detective Hazel Micallef in the Canadian town of Port Dundas. Struggling with a new commanding officer as the policing is being rearranged, disturbed by her mother Emily’s apparent depression, the death of friend Henry Wiest of a heart attack after a bee sting hits her hard. But what was Henry doing near Queesik Bay outside a smoke shop, because Henry didn’t smoke? What follows is a disturbing tale of human trafficking and a traitor in a most unlikely place.

Alison Bruce brings DC Gary Goodhew and Cambridge to life in The Silence, when a series of  suicides appear to Gary to be much more than they seem on the surface. To make matters worse, one of the deaths is related to an earlier case of his, a gruesome death he’s never forgotten. And then there’s the subject of is inheritance and how he is or is not handling that.

Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming is a great character, a Scottish detective inspector married to a sheep farmer. She’s back in rare form in Evil for Evil, when murder strikes the little village of Innellan, perched on the Fleet Ba towards a series of small islands. Old scores to settle, soldiers with past secrets and even dead babies all come into play in this satisfying addition to the series.

And don’t forget Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) in her book-within-a-book, The Child’s Child, a complex story of siblings, friendship and cultural history from the master of psychological suspense.

For something New and Different:

Carla Norton takes her experience working on a real 1977 kidnapping case, where the victim was held for seven years, and uses it to bring a most unusual 1728neggers6850new protagonist to the page with a high degree of authenticity in The Edge of Normal.

Twenty-two year-old Reeve LeClaire is making a life for herself in San Francisco, working part-time, and seeing psychiatrist Ezra Lerner. Dr. Lerner is an expert on captivity syndromes and has slowly gained Reeve’s trust after her own harrowing experience, which is parsed out in an intriguing manner.

Working as a waitress, she is living in her own apartment and trying to feel normal while repairing her relationship with her family.

Then kidnapped teenager Tilly Cavanaugh is rescued after being locked in a basement for over a year. Tilly asks to speak with Reeve about her own experience and survival, and Lerner feels it may help Reeve to be of help to another teen and asks her consider it.

With the confessed kidnapper in custody, there should be little threat to Reeve. But Tilly is hiding a secret, one she will only share with Reeve. And soon it appears there are at least two other teens who have gone missing in similar circumstances in the past two years. Could either of them still be alive?

Soon Reeve is doing a bit of investigating on her own, assisted by the liaison assigned to Tilly, Deputy Nick Hudson, who works with both the district attorney’s office and the county sheriff’s department.

What they can’t know is that someone with the perfect cover is monitoring her every move, and Reeve is in more danger than she could ever anticipate.

This is a chilling thriller which becomes quickly engrossing as much as it gives insight into kidnap victims. The best aspect is Reeve’s refusal to see herself as a victim, and one can only hope she will reappear in a sequel.

TheRedQueenDies_CoverIn the not-too-distant future of 2019, The Red Queen Dies is the newest novel by author and criminal justice professor Frankie Y. Bailey.

In an all-too believable scenario. she takes a hard look at criminal law and what police work will become, set during a time when there is a drug available that will allow victims of brutal crimes to erase the memory of their attacks. “Lullaby” also takes away evidence as witnesses lose these important points of recall.

This happens to Detective Hannah McCabe, working in Albany, and hits home when a witness is given by the drug. With a killer on the loose, she needs all the witnesses she can find.

Then the killer’s third victim becomes actress Vivian Jessup, nicknamed the Red Queen for her hair color and for her dedication to Alice in Wonderland. Her extensive collection of Lewis Carroll and Wonderland memorabilia is legendary.

Is The Red Queen’s death connected to the first two? Or is there a savvy killer out there trying to tag his murder onto the other two.

Written with a wry sense of humor from Hannah, Bailey succeeds in showing the heat of an Albany September just out of reach of today.

Readers who appreciate a highly original approach will appreciate this fast-paced mystery featuring a biracial detective from a literary family who decides crime is her game.

For Historical Fans:

Award-winner Catriona McPerson brings back aristocratic-turned-detective Dandy Gilver with Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses. 9Dandy781250030009.340x340-75

For fans of , this series set in 1920’s Scotland continues to charm with the cases of Gilver and Osborne.

This time Dandy responds to the frantic call from an old friend, one of three sisters she has fond memories of, and soon finds herself traveling to a girls school where one of the sisters, Fleur, has been teaching.  It seems teachers are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Soon Dandy finds herself at St. Columba’s in the seaside town of Portpatrick, where Fleur is less than pleased to see her old friend.

It seems Fleur is convinced she’s responsible for four or even five  deaths and it’s up to Dandy and Osborne to get to the bottom of such nonsense.

There are murders and kidnappings and enough secrets to keep the coziest person happy.

This pleasing series has been optioned for television by the BBC, where it will no doubt find a popular home.

dunnCarola Dunn follows  A Colourful Death in her Cornish mystery series with the third installment The Valley of the Shadow.

It’s sometime in the 1960’s or 70’s, before the advent of computer or mobile phones, and Port Mabyn may be a fictional village but the rest of Cornwall as Dunn describes it is real and lovely.

Series regular Eleanor Trewynn has retired in her widowhood after being a world traveler to be near her niece Megan Pencarrow, a detective sergeant with the local police.

But Eleanor is by no means a shy or retiring widow and in the past has helped do more than her fair share of investigating, aided by her dog, Teazle. In this volume, out along the seaside cliffs for a walk with Teazle and her neighbor, artist Nick Gresham, they spot a half-drowned Indian man afloat in the water.

With no identification, saved from the brink of death, the young man is taken to the hospital while Eleanor and Megan try to find out who he is and how he came to in the water in their remote area of Cornwall.

There will be talk of Immigration, of smugglers and caves, of family needing to be rescued, and Eleanor and Megan will be in the thick of it.

The duo Charles Todd became known for the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, but they’ve had equal success with the Bess Crawford mysteries and return with 978Todd0062237170_p0_v2_s260x420A Question of Honor. English nurse Bess manages to find herself in the middle of a criminal investigation in the series which vividly describes the horrors of war.

The time is near the end of WWI and Bess is brought back to memories her childhood in India, where her colonel father was stationed. Despite her happy memories, the dark cloud of that time was the murder of five people by an officer from her father’s regiment who was never brought to trial.

It has remained an issue for Bess and her family because her father had trained this man.

Now tending to the wounded in France, Bess learned from a dying Indian sergeant that this murderer, Lieutenant Wade is alive and indeed, serving at the front.

She’s shocked and determined to find out how he had escaped–and what had driven him in the first place to commit murder when her beloved father had placed such faith in the man.

The bulk of the book concerns Bess taking leave to investigate Wade, and she’s surprised by what she learns from different witnesses.

It will take all of her wiles and intelligence to piece together the reality of the murders from years ago, and she will end up enlisting her mother and father in a fascinating twisted ending that will involve Rudyard Kipling.

97803tremayne12658625Going back to Ireland AD 670, Peter Tremayne has a huge following with his series featuring Fidelmma of Cashel.

This time Fidelma’s brother enlists her aid investigating the murder of a nobleman in The Seventh Trumpet.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the protagonist is not only the sister of a king, but a dailaigh, an advocate of the Brehon Law Courts.

With the help of her companion Eadulf, they try to find out if the murder could be tied to a violent wave running through the western lands.

In those parts a fanatical figure claims to have been summoned by the seventh angel with the express desire to remove those impure of faith.

Despite the number of bodies that begin to pile up, it remains to be seen how they are connected, and why in the midst of this turmoil, an abbot would turn his monastery into a fortress.

When Fidelma becomes abducated, it will be up to Eadult to rescue her while finishing their work and solving the mystery surrounding the deaths.

Tremayne does a fine job of describing a time period so remote to today’s reader, with authenticity and ties to the history of the time.

For Cozy Fans:

Mary Daheim’s newest Bed and Breakfast mystery, Gone with the Win, turns a different spin when Judith McMonigle Flynn actually gets her husband Joe to help in her investigation.This is the 28th in the long-running series and this time when Judith books a reservation for a Mary Smith from New York City, mayhem is sure to follow. And it does, in the form of a cold case “Mary” is determined Judith can help her solve.

The first in a new series, Rosemary and Crime debuts Gail Oust’s charming southern cozy, featuring amateur sleuth Piper Prescott, who owns a spice shop in Georgia’s small town of Brandywine Creek. Divorced and determined to bloom where she’s planted herself, Piper is a Yankee who’s pursuing her dream of owning her own business. But the grand opening takes a dramatic turn when the chef doing a cooking demo is stabbed and Piper finds herself the chief suspect. Filled with humor and a lot of sass, readers will get a kick out of Piper and her outspoken friend Reba Mae Johnson.

For Young Adult Readers:

John Grisham’s Theodore Boone: The Activist stars a 13 year-old whose history includes kidnapping and murder.   This is the fourth in the series starring the young

lawyer whose books can be read by the entire family.

Theo is a loyal friend to Hardie Quinn and gets justifiably upset when he learns the Quinn family home is about to be bulldozed for a bypass. This will affect other homes and businesses and even a school that lie in the path of the proposed bypass.

It’s tough for Theo to explain to Hardie that the law is not on his friend’s side and there’s not much that can be done.

Despite this, Theo joins in the campaign organized to stop the bypass and that’s when things gets really interesting. Theo finds corruption, but he’s learned it in an illegal way. How can he keep the developers from going ahead with his plan while exposing the corruption without breaking the law himself.

Any in this series provide thoughtful, engaging stories for young readers in the tween category.


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.






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.







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.



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.



Nicola Upson: Fear in the Sunlight Sunday, May 19 2013 

Nicola Upson’s fourth mystery featuring real-life Golden Age mystery writer Josephine Tey proves once again that Upson is a master at plotting, and at figuring out the complexities of personality and psychology.


An intriguing setting is provided by Portmeirion, Wales, the imaginative architectural transformation of Clough Williams-Ellis, who created an Italianate village out of a section of northwest Wales’ coastal wilderness.

Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit at the resort, and it was frequented by actors and writers, including Tey and her circle, as a place of undeniable beauty and peace, a refuge from the hectic reality of their celebrity lives. It is to Upson’s credit that Portmeirion springs to life in the reader’s mind.

Into this tranquil setting of medieval buildings and fragrant gardens, Josephine has arrived to celebrate her fortieth birthday with the circle of friends readers will recognize, including detective Archie Penrose. Also present are celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville and a few of their company.

Hitchcock wants to convince Tey she should allow him to adapt her mystery, A Shilling for Candles, for the screen. (The film was made as Young and Innocent, released in 1937 and was Hitchcock’s favorite British film.) But Tey needs to meet the Hitchcock’s first before granting her approval.

It is the eve of World War II, and the Hitchcock’s are being wooed to come to America, a move that will certainly change their lives. This decision weighs heavily on the director’s mind, as he listens to the wise counsel of his wife, the woman who served as his editor, writer and confidante.

But Hitchcock was known for elaborate and sometimes perverse pranks, a master manipulator of people and their reactions, fodder for his superb psychological thrillers. As Josephine and Archie each struggle with their own private demons, the group at Portmeirion will fall prey to one of the filmmaker’s most unusual and absurd tricks.

Then a grande dame of cinema is found horrifically murdered in a nearby cemetery, and each person at Portmeirion will have their past explored.

The bodies continue to pile up until a resolution is reached that leaves more questions than answers.

For Archie, the case had a very unsatisfying conclusion. It is only in the opening and closing chapters, set in 1954, that readers will learn the truth behind the string of killings that had deep-seated roots.

For readers not familiar with the series, Upson does exhaustive research into the 1930’s in the entire series, so readers are transported to the spell of that era. She has immersed herself in the life of Elizabeth Mackintosh, the Scottish author who wrote her mysteries as Tey and historical plays under the name of Gordon Daviot.

In Fear in the Sunlight, the resort village will spring to life. Portmeirion in all its glory becomes a character in itself, in this compelling mystery that hints at the future of several of its major characters. Each character is finely drawn, visually imagined, with distinct voices and sometimes surprising viewpoints.

Don’t miss this newest blend of fact and fiction from an author whose stories leap off the page. Highly recommended.


Auntie M has decided to give readers a holiday gift: here are selections for you to consider that would make great gift-giving for the readers on your list. And don’t forget to include yourself!

First up is Robin Burcell’s third Sydney Fitzgerald thriller, The Dark Hour, a series featuring the FBI-trained forensic artist whose skills go far beyond her artistic ability.images

Right on the heels on the murder of a prominent Senator, Sydney finds herself, against her better judgment, on the way to Amsterdam to do a forensic drawing of a suspect seen by the victim’s niece near the site of her uncle’s murder. When the niece is murdered just as Sydney makes a harrowing escape, her drawing sets off a train of events that have heads turning everywhere from Washington to Europe and back. There’s every acronym in the book showing up, too,  as the CIA, FBI, ATLAS and others all vie for answers when threats of biological warfare become apparent.

Making Sydney’s job more difficult is the realization that her drawing is the exact likeness of the supposed-dead wife of the agent she’s been attracted in previous books. Griffin’s wife died in an explosion–or has she become a double agent and faked her down death?

There’s plenty of action here as Burcell jumps between cities, including trips to France and the Amazon, and enough fast-paced suspense to keep those pages turning.


Following in the thriller genre is Laurence O’Bryan’s first in a series, The Istanbul Puzzle.

Sean Ryan is living in London, still grieving over the death of his beloved wife, Irene, when he receives a call that finds him traveling to Istanbul to identify the body of his colleague and friend, Alek Zegliwski.

He is shocked to find Alek has been beheaded, his body found near the sacred archeological site of Hagia Sophia where Alek had been monitoring and photographing ancient tesserae, tiny cubes that make up the beautiful mosaic that decorate the site.

The hunt begins with Sean and British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Alek’s liason officer from the British consulate, searching for Alek’s assassin. Aided by Peter Fitzgerald from the Consulate, the two are soon running from danger. But is Peter the friend he appears to be? A missing mosaic, which may provide the link between pagan gods and Christianity becomes a clue; then a lethal virus is unleashed on the city and the stakes are raised as the pace races along and Sean and Isabel face death and betrayal.

Watch for O’Bryan’s sequel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, which follows Sean and Isabel’s adventures,  due early next year.

If Wall Street and finance get your pulse racing as much as espionage does, you’ll want to look for James Grippando’s Need You Now. 183349165

Set against the backdrop of investment banking, Grippando’s story could be ripped from the headlines of Ponzi schemes, SEC fraud, and interconnected groups who have no business being in business together.

When the craft-master of a $60 billion dollar Ponzi scheme commits suicide, his death means secrets remain. Into this mess steps Patrick Lloyd, the advisor for Wall Street of the world’s largest Swiss bank.

Abe Cushman’s leap out of a window starts a chain of events with repercussions felt especially keenly by Patrick, whose girlfriend, Lilly, had been fired from the Singapore branch of the bank. Despite claiming she knew nothing about the Cushman scheme, the FBI comes into the mix with the discovery of a Treasury memo identifying her involvement.

After escalating incidents, FBI agent Andie Henning is tasked with insuring Patrick’s safety as he follows where the money trail takes him. And then Lilly disappears, and Patrick’s silent identity becomes an issue.

Grippando brings the reader inside the minds of those who try to defraud the government in a realistic way. There will be kidnappings, murder, ties to gun runners and more in this complex thriller that will have you wondering who in the financial world is beyond reproach and if you should really trust that mild-mannered financial advisor with your assets.

Changing gears to more light-hearted fare, look for the delightful, long-running cozy series featuring feline P. I. Joe Grey from Shirley Rousseau Murphy, with Cat Telling Tales.

The bright seaside village of Molena Point has been hit hard by the economic downturn, bringing a spate of foreclosures, causing many residents to abandon their family pets.


While feline P. I. Joe Grey’s humans, Ryan and Clyde Damen, try to care for the starving cats, a fire leaves a twelve-year-old boy homeless. The body of his alcoholic guardian is discovered in the smoldering ruins, causing Joe to wonder if escape was really as impossible as it seems for the elderly woman, or if this is a case of murder.

Then Debbie Kraft descends uninvited on the Damens’ home with her two children. Her ex-husband has left her without funds and nowhere else to go.

But when Joe learns that the victim of the fire was Debbie’s estranged mother, and that Debbie is not broke at all but carrying plenty of cash, his fur is on end with suspicion.

As Debbie’s abandoned tomcat follows her all the way down the coast from Oregon with his own clues to add to the mix, Joe learns that Debbie’s ex-husband may be involved in a number of intricate real estate scams, and hisi sales partner may be missing.

Then while Joe and his pals prowl through the dead woman’s house, they discover that her reclusive neighbor has disappeared as well.

But it’s not until Debbie’s tomcat arrives that Joe and his feline detective pals find the biggest clue of all: a grave that the cops have missed.

The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, with help from Joe’s feline friends, who are exceptionally precocious.  And there’s a hint of romance for Joe’s tortoiseshell friend, Kit.

Perfect for the holidays is the newest installment in this feline series, Cat Bearing Gifts, the 18th in the series.       186148889

Attractive divorcee Kate Osborne returns to California with a fairy-tale story to explain her sudden wealth. Joe Grey’s good friend, Kit, and her humans, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw have spent a wonderful shopping trip with Kate, piling up the backseat of their car with treasures Kit has helped them glean to redecorate their Molena Point home.

Then the unthinkable happens: a truck and pickup jockey for position on a narrow mountain road and end up causing a horrific accident that involves the Greenlaw’s Lincoln. Pedric and Lucinda have injuries, but Pedric is able to call for help.

But the situation dramatically worsens when two men from the pickup assault Kit’s humans and drive away in the Greenlaw’s battered but still drive-able Lincoln, carrying with them their own stash of money that had been hidden in the pickup.

What the men don’t know is that hidden inside the Lincoln’s door panels are a treasure trove Kate has given the couple. The Greenlaws are rescued by paramedics but Kit hides in the hills and waits to be rescued by her Molena Point friends–that’s if she doesn’t get eaten by hungry coyotes first.

Back at home, Joe Grey finds two men hiding in an abandoned stone cottage, along with the smell of mildewed money and blood.  His friend, the yellow tomcat Misto, unearths an old photograph of a child who lived fifty years ago.

What can the connection be? And what ties in these incidents with the injuries to the Greenlaws and the theft of their car and money? Misto’s memories will help as Joe works hard to unearth a murderer. Delightful and filled with humor, the reader sees the world from the cat’s point of view. These are highly readable for mystery lovers, whether you are a cat lover or not.


For fans of historical mysteries, the holiday tale by the mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd offers The Walnut Tree, set in 1914 France and England at the start of WWI.

Lady Elspeth Douglas is the daughter of a Highland aristocrat who is visiting her best friend from school, the very pregnant Madeleine. Elspeth is helping her friend await the birth of her first child while she fights her growing boredom. Attracted for many years to Madeleine’s brother, Alain,  their time together results in her promise to marry him–just as the war breaks out and she tries to return to England.

Finding herself stranded in Calais, Elspeth makes herself useful by carrying water to the soldiers near the Front, which nearly results in her getting herself killed when the enemy starts to bomb her position.

Captain Peter Gilchrist saves her, and she finds herself oddly drawn to the leader. Before she can learn more about him and thank him for saving her, they are separated and she returns to London, but remains haunted by the horrors of war she saw firsthand in France.

Always a headstrong girl, bristling against the firm and class conscious restraints of her guardian, her cousin Kenneth, she enrolls in a nursing course, making friends and sharing a flat with fellow nurse Bess Crawford. But her cousin has not given his consent for her to become a nurse, a profession he feels is beneath her class and his notions of what is appropriate for a woman.

Determined to return to the battlefields to do her part, and to find Peter, Elspeth is torn about her promise to Alain, recognizing her heart belongs to Peter. Then Alain goes missing before she can set things right with him, and Peter is seriously wounded.

Charles Todd’s twelve books in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series have shown the duo to be experts with this time period. With its romantic side fully developed, the realism of war is well represented in this heartwarming holiday tale. A must for Downton Abbey fans.

Advancing a bit into the period between the wars, Jacqueline Winspear returns with her newest in the ninth Maisie Dobbs series, Elegy For Eddie.                                    elegyforeddie

Maisie arrives at her Lambeth office one day to find a group of costermongers she knows from her fathers, there to ask for her help. The newest in the series follows private investigators Maisie’s quest to discover whether or not a childhood acquaintance, Eddie, a gentle horse trainer, was murdered.

Police have written off Eddie’s death at a paper factory as an unfortunate accident. These protective friends of Eddie’s don’t accept that verdict, and once Maisie starts to investigate, it becomes obvious that there are more powerful people involved in Eddie’s death. The gentle man, who had a gift for “calming ” horses, surely couldn’t have enemies–or could he?
Maisie’s own sense of right and wrong will be questioned, even as she struggles with her private life and her class-breaking romance with her former employer’s son, James Compton.

She will turn up people from Eddie’s past and seek out his interest in flying machines. And she soon must accept that there are others with a greater understanding of national security that must be protected and that reach up to Churchill himself, even as James and places like America and Canada enter their conversations.

Maisie’s employees are other eyes for the struggles of the era: her trusted assistant, family man Billy Beale, and her part-time secretary, Sandra, a recent widow, both beset with the financial difficulties of the time.

Compelling and haunting, Winspear expertly captures the emotion of the period and the people still healing from the first war and yet balanced on the brink of the next.

Last, but certainly not least, readers should check out the new line of paperback mysteries by HarperCollins called Bourbon Street.

They are starting with the reissue of the four Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries featuring Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of Britain’s foremost mystery novelists, first published in the 1930’s and set in that tine period.


Strong Poison opens the set and introduces mystery novelist Harriet Van to Lord Peter. When her fiance’ dies in the same manner of poisoning as described in one of her novels, it looks like Harriet is off to the gallows. But Lord Peter is determined to find the real murderer and clear this intelligent woman who intrigues him.

Have His Carcase starts off with Harriet seeking peace and solace on a deserted beach, until her idyll is cut short when she stumbles on the body of a man whose throat has been cut. Still stinging from her past, Harriet tries to shrug off Lord Peter’s growing infatuation for her, but doesn’t resist his aid in pursing the murderer.

Gaudy Night takes Harriet to her Oxford reunion. Mulling over her growing attraction to Lord Peter with great dismay, a series of bizarre pranks make her time there less fond than she’d hoped. Burnt effigies lead to poison-pen letters, including one to Harriet remarking on her past brush with poison. Now firmly a detecting couple, Harriet and Lord Peter are challenged to get to the bottom of the malice with scant clues to help them.

Busman’s Honeymoon ends the series, a delightful way for this most-intelligent couple to appear. Finally succumbing to his love, Harriet marries Lord Peter and becomes Lady Peter in a wedding uniquely her own. Navigating the demands and challenges of her new title and status, their honeymoon begins with a wallop when the former owner of their new country home is found dead in their cellar. Their romantic country stay becomes their most baffling case yet.

These new editions have smart covers featuring period photography and are accompanied by an introduction by mystery giant Elizabeth George. The entire set for the holidays would make any mystery lover glow.