The best mysteries unlike any other

The Books I Picked & Why

Thirteenth Night: A Fool's Guild Medieval Mystery

By Alan Gordon

Book cover of Thirteenth Night: A Fool's Guild Medieval Mystery

Why this book?

In which Feste, the fool from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night returns to Thirteenth Century Illyria to solve the mystery of Duke Orsino. And why is a fool investigating crime? Because he’s part of the Fool’s Guild, a  group of fools, bards, and jugglers that act as secret agents to influence the politics of the day. Really. Exciting, well-researched, and plenty of puns, so what’s not to love? There are six books and a handful of stories in the series, and each one is a delight.

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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

By T. Kingfisher

Book cover of A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

Why this book?

The title and the sword-wielding gingerbread man on the cover sold me immediately. A fourteen-year-old magicker, who isn’t considered powerful enough to be a real wizard, uses her dough-based powers in her aunt’s bakery to make tough dough fluffy and keep bread from burning. Oh, and telling gingerbread men to dance and making sourdough starter into a quasi-pet named Bob. When she finds a body in the bakery, she gets caught up in larger mysteries and learns how a little baking can save a lot of lives. Plus there are some insightful reflections on why we need heroes. It’s the first of Kingfisher’s books I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

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Dead Until Dark

By Charlaine Harris

Book cover of Dead Until Dark

Why this book?

I started the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries when Dead Until Dark was first released, and after all the Draculas and Lestats I’d read about before, the idea of a vampire named Bill totally charmed me. I love the way the books blend the horror and mystery of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures with the reality of having to serve drinks at a bar, do laundry, and get the driveway paved. I enjoyed every Sookie book and story, and the fact that Harris ended the series on her own terms was such a power move!

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Pandora's Orphans: A Fangborn Collection

By Dana Cameron

Book cover of Pandora's Orphans: A Fangborn Collection

Why this book?

I’m a big fan of vampires and werewolves in fiction, and I think the Fangborn series is one of the most original takes on the legends I’ve encountered. Vampires and werewolves are parts of the same family—as in a vampire sister and a werewolf brother in the first Fangborn storyand both types of supernatural creatures use their special abilities to fight evil. After debuting the series in the mystery story “The Night Things Changed,” Cameron went on to write three excellent Fangborn books, but I really enjoy the variety of the short stories, and I’m so pleased that she recently collected them into this volume. 

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Crocodile on the Sandbank

By Elizabeth Peters

Book cover of Crocodile on the Sandbank

Why this book?

While planning a trip to England, I saw that Deeds of the Disturber was set in London and grabbed it to read on the airplane. That’s not the book I’m recommending, but I want to save you from my mistake. Deeds is the fifth Amelia Peabody book – you should start with the first, Crocodile on the Sandbank. Amelia Peabody, an English spinster in 1884, comes into money and decides to travel. When she arrives in Egypt, she falls in love both with the country and with archelogy. The backdrop of historical Egyptology is fascinating, and the book could make my list for that alone, but what really sparkles is Amelia’s voice and her way of dealing with a mysterious wandering mummy. Plus there’s a romance that is equally touching and hilarious.

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