The best novels about families disguised as mysteries

Who am I?

Being an immigrant from India, a culture that places family values above all else, I am drawn to books that explore family conflicts, secrets, and the triumph of love against all odds. When an author incorporates these themes into a mystery, the book becomes more than a simple formulaic whodunnit story that educates me about the complexities of our lives.

I wrote...

Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery

By Vee Kumari,

Book cover of Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery

What is my book about?

Rekha Rao, an Indian American professor of Art History, propelled by her sense of duty, dharma, sets out to find the killer of her mentor and father figure. She walks a thin line between her match-making family and the Homicide Detective she is attracted to, but also distrusts. Her genuine concern for others allows her to connect with them and learn hidden secrets. Despite suffering bodily harm following a break-in of her home, Rekha tracks down the killer and, in that process, tastes the prospect of an unexpected romance, and discovers her true calling.

The books I picked & why

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In the Presence of the Enemy

By Elizabeth George,

Book cover of In the Presence of the Enemy

Why this book?

Threat of exposure of a scandalous affair takes Lynley and his sidekick Havers from London into the countryside, where they reveal how a hidden past and the mistaken identity of a father by his son, led to murder. I love it for the writing style – George's later books became too big for me – the characters she creates with such clarity and passion, who are put into situations that threaten their lives, reputation, and ideals.

Death in Lover's Lane: A Henrie O Mystery

By Carolyn Hart,

Book cover of Death in Lover's Lane: A Henrie O Mystery

Why this book?

One of the best Henrie O novels, I love it that this takes place within the hallowed halls of the academia at the fictitious Thorndyke University, where the sixty-something journalism professor-turned sleuth encourages an ambitious student to dig up the dirt on three unsolved local crimes. Of course, the student gets killed, and against the wishes of the police and the powers-that-be Henrie O gets involved, dredging up a past everyone wants to keep buried. I now realize that not knowingly, but at a subconscious level, this novel inspired me to write mine!

The Sinner: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel

By Tess Gerritsen,

Book cover of The Sinner: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel

Why this book?

This novel gave me an insight into the cloistered grounds of a convent where two nuns are found, one dead, one mortally wounded. The killings appear to be without motive, without an obvious suspect, and are further complicated by the murder and mutilation of a third woman. A medical examiner Maura Isles and a homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (both introduced in earlier Tess Gerritsen novels) uncover an ancient horror that connects these terrible slaughters. I love the camaraderie between Isles and Rizzoli despite their contrasting personalities, and the fact that the story takes us to a distant land where it all started.

The Life We Bury

By Allen Eskens,

Book cover of The Life We Bury

Why this book?

College student Joe Talbert takes on a writing assignment for an English class to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe finds a dying Vietnam veteran in a nursing home and discovers that he is also a murderer convicted for the crimes of rape and murder, for which he served thirty years in prison. Carl has only a few months to live, as Joe attempts to reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts for which he was convicted. Joe finds the truth while dealing with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, his autistic brother, and a haunting childhood memory. This story about a young man used to taking on burdens beyond his years touched my heart and reaffirmed my passion for family values.

In the Midst of Winter

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of In the Midst of Winter

Why this book?

Having loved Allende’s previous novels, this tale of history and suspense took me into the magical worlds of South American culture, to gain a better understanding of what the immigrant experience is really like for other people. Redacting from a reviewer’s comment, “this story filled with Allende's signature lyricism and ingenious plotting, teaches us what it means to respect, protect, and love.”

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