PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton

May 15, 2016
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Book 1 in the Van Shaw Series

“Come home, if you can.”

Van Shaw might have chosen to ignore his grandfather if Dono hadn’t added the latter part of the request. And if he wasn’t already laid up recuperating from a recent surgery. The request is an odd one considering the two men haven’t spoken in a decade, but the fact that Dono reached out to begin with leads Van to believe it must be serious.

Unfortunately, Van arrives in town and at his grandfather’s house just moments after the old man has been shot and left for dead. Before he can even connect with 911, the police have arrived and it’s only a neighbor’s confirmation that Van appeared after the shots were fired that saves him from becoming a suspect. Dono has always been into shady business but nothing that would have him gunned down in his own home. And with his grandfather laid up in a coma, it’s up to Van to find out exactly who has it in for the old criminal.

Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut is the start of a brand new series featuring a kick ass hero.

Van Shaw is an ex criminal himself, trained at his grandfather’s knee from a very early age. But Van left that life way behind him the day he joined the military. His leaving was prompted by circumstances that also caused the two men to break any and all contact, circumstances the author lays out through a series of flashbacks outlining Van’s life with Dono.

Van dons the hat of amateur investigator, using the skills and connections Dono himself passed on, at the risk of angering the local authorities but (of course) turns out to be much better equipped for breaking Dono’s case than anyone else. It makes for fabulous reading and is sure to be a hit for readers looking for another Reacher-esque hero/antihero to follow.

5/16 Becky LeJeune

PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton. William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 23, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0062344564. 448p.

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MWA Announces 2016 Edgar Award Winners

April 29, 2016
Edgar Statues

April 28, 2016, New York, NY:  Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 70th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

 

BEST NOVEL

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

BEST FACT CRIME

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins)

BEST SHORT STORY

“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)

BEST JUVENILE

Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins Publishers – Katherine Tegen Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTER

Walter Mosley

RAVEN AWARDS

Margaret Kinsman
Sisters in Crime

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD

Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International

THE SIMON SCHUSTER – MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)


THE STRANGLER VINE by M. J. Carter

April 16, 2016
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A Blake and Avery Novel (Book 1)

It’s 1837 and the East India Company reigns almost supreme in India. William Avery was drawn to the country thanks to the work of his favorite writer, Xavier Mountstuart. But the India Avery discovers after joining the Company isn’t quite what Mountstuart’s adventures led him to expect. Then Mountstuart himself goes missing and Avery is tapped to be part of the mission to find him. It’s not an assignment Avery relishes in spite of the fact that it revolves around his personal hero. First off it means leaving the relative comfort of Calcutta. And second, his superior in the assignment is a man whose distaste for Avery rivals the soldier’s own feelings. Jeremiah Blake is, in Avery’s eyes, a man on the brink of madness. He’s unkempt to the point of resembling the natives more so than the company man he’s said to be and his methods are beyond questionable.

Mountstuart was last said to have been seen in Jubbulpore, home of the famed Thuggee Department, where Mountstuart was rumored to have been studying the fearsome Thuggee culture for the purpose of his next piece. But months have passed with no sign of Mountstuart and, in light of his more scandalous recent release, the Company has reason to want him found and ejected from the country quickly.

This first in the Avery and Blake series is equal parts mystery and adventure, but in addition to that, there’s history too. Through Avery and Blake, Carter offers readers two different perspectives of colonialism and India.

Blake is one of the old guard, somewhat encouraged to learn the language and cultures of the region the Company was commandeering. As such, he sympathizes with the natives and has understandably come to reconsider the Company’s position in the country.

Avery on the other hand has very little interest in Indian culture or the natives. In fact, when faced with leaving Calcutta and its overwhelmingly English atmosphere, he immediately tries to turn down the assignment. Fortunately Avery is still able to be molded and influenced, but only if he can set aside his prejudices long enough for Blake to reach him.

The mystery of Mountstuart’s fate and the threat of the Thuggee draw the reader in, propelling the story and giving it a fantastic suspense element perfect for any mystery/thriller fan. Even more appealing is the fact that Carter does this all the while staying true to the history of the region itself. Cameo appearances by actual historic figures help lend an air of authenticity to the tale, making it that much more entertaining.

The Strangler Vine is a fantastic series opener and has even been nominated for the Edgar Award for First Novel this year. The second title in the series, The Infidel Strain, is out now.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE STRANGLER VINE by M. J. Carter. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (February 23, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0425280744 400p.

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BYE BYE BONES by Lala Corriere

April 11, 2016
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A Cassidy Clark Novel, Book 1

Jaxon Giles’ beloved dog is dead. He can’t prove it, but he knows who killed Gecko. His stalking ex-wife wants to take away anything and anyone he loves. 

Private investigator Cassidy Clark agrees to run surveillance, while in the midst of helping the city of Tucson. Women are disappearing. Gone. Were they murdered? Kidnapped and being held captive? A cult that enticed them to leave all belongings behind? 

Without bodies and any crime scenes, there is no DNA. No evidence. No trace.

My first read of a Corriere book, but certainly not the last. Potty mouth PI Cassidy Clark is at the center of this novel, but leaves room for other characters as well – the Tucson Chief of Police, the perp, and the victims. Not your usual fem-jep scenario which I liked.

A recommended read.

4/16 Jack Quick

BYE BYE BONES by Lala Corriere. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; one edition (October 20, 2015).  ISBN: 978-1518705946. 308p.

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THE POISON ARTIST by Jonathan Moore

April 10, 2016
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Dr. Caleb Maddox is one of the top toxicologists in the field. His research into the chemical analysis of pain is highly admired and heavily funded, which means his own lab is better equipped than most. And so when his friend Henry Newcomb, San Francisco’s medical examiner, asks for help on a case, Caleb doesn’t turn him down. Henry fears there may be a serial killer in their midst, but one whose methods are so obscure that even the police haven’t caught the connection. What’s worse, Henry suspects his own lab could have made the link but for faulty equipment or possible oversight on the part of his own employees. Sure enough, Caleb does find a connection in the cases that indicates undeniably foul play. And Caleb himself is considered a witness in one of the murders.

Caleb doesn’t know anything about the victim in question except that they spent the same evening at a local bar one weekend night. But Caleb only had eyes for one particular patron that evening – the mysterious woman who ordered absinthe. And it’s this woman he’s determined to keep all to himself, obsessed with tracking her down and keeping her out of the attention of the police.

From the start, I had no real idea where this story was taking me but I knew I was in it for the long haul. First, there’s the murder mystery: the idea that someone is killing men in and around San Francisco for so long with just one person making the connection was definitely intriguing. Maddox’s research and eventual discovery about the connection between the cases leads to a secret investigation that hinges completely on Maddox staying uninvolved as far as the police are concerned. Which creates something of a secondary mystery – what exactly is in Maddox’s past and why is he so determined not to have to be a witness should a case go to court?

And then there’s Maddox’s obsession with the absinthe woman. At first, this element was a bit jarring. It felt like two different stories at times – Maddox’s hunt for his mystery woman and the hunt for San Francisco’s twisted serial killer. But as Maddox chases this strange woman down a rabbit hole of modern speakeasies and cocktails, his story becomes more and more entwined with that of the city’s murders.

The Poison Artist is a brilliantly plotted psychological thriller, the kind that definitely stays with you well beyond the final page.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE POISON ARTIST by Jonathan Moore. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (January 26, 2016). ISBN-13: 978-0544520561. 288p.

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THE BIRD EATER by Ania Ahlborn

April 2, 2016
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Aaron Holbrook was just a baby when his mother committed suicide. Her own sister happily took him in and raised him as her own, never revealing the truth about his mother’s fate. But then his aunt died, leaving a teen Aaron orphaned and alone.

Years later, Aaron’s life is rocked once again by tragedy and death. The loss of his son has dragged him deep into the depths of despair and drink, breaking up his marriage and causing Aaron to question everything. Determined to prove he can come back, though, he returns to Holbrook House intent on fixing it up. It’s to be his chance to win his wife back and show that he can beat the depression and alcohol that’s been eating away at him. But Aaron is haunted by more than his own tragedy. A boy appears at Holbrook House. A boy Aaron believes is harassing him. A boy no one but Aaron seems to be able to see.

Ania Ahlborn must take great pleasure in freaking out her readers. As the new reigning queen of horror, though, it’s quite appropriate.

The Bird Eater is definitely freaky. As the reader, we’re privy to at least one detail that Aaron himself is not and that’s exactly what happened to his mother. Her own sister has kept it from him, determined that Aaron will live a normal and happy life. And her secret is twofold considering the dead teen (Aaron’s mom) was said to have been pretty unstable. But of course Aaron’s adoptive mother soon learns there was much more to her sister’s ramblings than she ever gave her credit for.

And that’s just what’s revealed in the opening chapter.

Ahlborn keeps a lot hidden even by the time the story has ended. There’s a bit of reading between the lines that’s required, a history behind Holbrook House that’s never delved very deeply into (but would make a fabulous book on its own.). I personally would have loved more of that history and more about Birdie himself. Some might argue that the lack of detail and explanation makes the story more focused and creepy, though. The Bird Eater is Aaron’s story, after all, not Birdie’s or even Aaron’s mother’s. In that sense I actually agree. As stated above, Aaron never learns the truth about his mother. In fact, the little bit the reader learns about her and Holbrook house and Birdie is saved just for us and never revealed to Aaron at all.

Even without a deeper backstory, The Bird Eater is still a quick and satisfyingly creepy haunted house story. It has a killer ending, too.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE BIRD EATER by Ania Ahlborn. 47North (April 1, 2014).  ISBN 978-1477817605. 267p.

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A MUDDIED MURDER by Wendy Tyson

March 31, 2016

muddied murderA Greenhouse Mystery, Book 1

After the death of her husband, lawyer Megan Sawyer decides it’s time for a big change. A desire to return to her roots sends her home to the family farm in Winsome, Pennsylvania. Here, Megan plans to revamp the land into a certified organic farm that will provide produce for the local farmers market as well as her own café and market.

Everything is rolling along well enough until the local zoning commissioner who, for reasons mostly unknown to Megan and everyone around her, becomes intent on making Megan’s plans difficult bordering on impossible. And when that same zoning commissioner is found dead in Megan’s barn, the authorities can’t help but turn an eye her way.

This first in Tyson’s new Greenhouse Mystery series is a bit lighter in tone than her Allison Campbell books.

The small town setting and tight-knit community make this an appealing read on many levels. Anyone with any inkling as to how small towns work will know there’s the picture perfect public façade and a sometimes not so hidden catty underbelly. This cattiness in particular proves to be a big part of the tension in this first outing of the series. And, as it turns out, there are way more potential killers out there than just our struggling heroine.

Tyson gives readers a really great look at the inner workings of Winsome, the small town politics, and the characters that make their home here. There’s even a little bit of romance wound up in this mystery, too.

All in all, this is a fine outing from Tyson and a fun new series (and town) I’m looking forward to seeing more of.

3/16 Becky LeJeune

A MUDDIED MURDER by Wendy Tyson. Henery Press (March 29, 2016).  ISBN 978-1635110050. 276p.


RELIC by Gretchen McNeil

March 17, 2016
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Annie Kramer’s post graduation trip to Slaughterhouse Island was supposed to be a fun start to her final months before college. She and a group of friends rented a houseboat, spent their first night camping on the beach with booze, and planned to hike one of the nearby abandoned mines the following day. Everything went basically according to that plan with just two hiccups: the arrival of a couple of cops intent on making sure the group was aware of just how off limits the mines are and a passerby who attacked Annie before running off into the woods.

The mine itself was something of a nightmare for the group. With passages shooting off from the entrance, they split into four pairs to explore. Each pair ended up separated in the maze of tunnels, eventually finding their way back to home base only to discover their radio had been demolished while they were inside. What’s worse, they arrived home in time to hear that a body was discovered just outside the mine that very day. And that was when the horror really began.

Gretchen McNeil’s latest is a fantastic return to horror for the author. Readers may wonder, though, why it’s an ebook release only. Sadly, the book was orphaned with the shuttering of Egmont last year. But fortunately for us all it was rescued by Epic Reads, hence the ebook release.

I would have loved for the book to have been longer (much longer, maybe). More detail of Slaughterhouse Island (where did THAT name come from?.) and time focused on building the setting and ominous tone would have made this book so much more of an intense read, in my opinion.

That said, it’s still fantastic fun. There’s a bit of history around the mine, some creative area folklore, and plenty of murders to make this a worthy successor to McNeil’s previous horror releases, Possess and Ten. There’s even a sample of McNeil’s upcoming I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl to tempt your reading palate as well.

Fans of Gretchen McNeil are sure to be satisfied by this latest and it’ll make a perfect diving in point for new readers too.

3/16 Becky LeJeune

RELIC by Gretchen McNeil. Epic Reads Impulse (March 8, 2016).  ASIN: B00ZP5WPBC 352p.

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THE BIG REWIND by Libby Cudmore

March 4, 2016
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One misdelivered piece of mail lands Jett smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation.

It’s a mix tape, on cassette no less. And when it arrives, Jett, being the nice neighbor she is, heads over to KitKat’s apartment to hand deliver it. After her knocking brings no answer but the desperate cries of KitKat’s cat, Jett starts to worry and lets herself in, discovering that someone has very recently (based on the burning pot brownies) bludgeoned the party planner and baker with her own rolling pin.

KitKat’s boyfriend is the prime suspect in the case, especially when a neighbor claims to have seen him at the apartment just hours before the crime took place. But KitKat’s friends aren’t so sure. And Jett, a temp at a PI agency (proofreading, not investigating) can’t say no when KitKat’s own sister begs for her help. Jett is sure the mix tape itself is a big clue, and intends to start there. But how do you track down an anonymous mix tape creator in a city as big as the Big Apple?

Libby Cudmore’s debut is a fantastic. A mystery set around a mix tape? I grew up in the days of mix tapes and was seriously craving an amateur sleuth read as well. The Big Rewind not only hit the spot mystery wise but proved to be a nostalgic trip through music and mix tape history, too.

Mix tapes are so deep. Or they can be. Some are just samplings of music meant to widen your horizons (most of the ones I received were) but a tape like the one here represents the creator’s deepest feelings. So it makes sense that when Jett finally tracks down a cassette player to listen to said tape, she realizes this is someone who could very well have killed KitKat.

The investigation and the tape prompt Jett to go on a journey through her own mix tapes and ex boyfriends, even going to far as to track some of them down, forcing her to reevaluate her own past as she digs deeper into KitKat’s.

The Big Rewind is funky and fun. A mystery filled with music and the sights and sounds of Brooklyn.

(There’s even a Spotify playlist to listen to as you read.)

3/16 Becky LeJeune

THE BIG REWIND by Libby Cudmore. William Morrow Paperbacks (February 2, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062403537. 256p.


GRETEL AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING FROG PRINTS by P. J. Brackston

February 25, 2016
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A Brothers Grimm Mystery

Gretel of Gesternstadt (of Hansel and Gretel fame) has made quite a name for herself throughout Bavaria as a private investigator of some note. And so, when Albrecht Durer the Much Much Younger has two of his ancestor’s famous paintings stolen from right under his very nose, Gretel is the one he seeks out.

The case starts on a sour note, however, when Durer’s messenger dies in Gretel’s front hall. Fearing a delay due to questioning in the matter, Gretel absconds to Nuremberg to get started on the case. With the lure of a payday and a chance to shop in Nuremberg’s fine establishments bolstering her on, she immediately gets started. But when the Kingsman from Gesternstadt arrives in Nuremberg intent on arresting Gretel, things become somewhat complicated. Eluding the officials while attempting to catch a thief is a bit above and beyond, but Gretel is determined to solve this one and reap the rewards.

Readers may already know P. J. Brackston and her work as Paula Brackston, but this first in her new Brothers Grimm Mysteries is a bit of a change from her Witch books.

Set in eighteenth-century Bavaria, the series, helmed by a thirty-year-old Gretel, features Grimm characters galore. In fact, this first outing finds Gretel and Hans calling on an old friend who has a penchant for crying wolf for a place to stay.

At times, the actual mystery of the missing frog prints does take a backseat to the overall setting of the story. Brackston’s unique premise and Gretel’s hilarious antics are quite fun reading, though, making this a very promising start to a fun and quirky new series.

2/16 Becky LeJeune

GRETEL AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING FROG PRINTS by P. J. Brackston. Pegasus (January 15, 2015).  ISBN 978-1605986722. 352p.