The best mystery books with unique, moody settings

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved mysteries since I was a kid and became hooked on the Fear Street books by RL Stine. In college, I took a class on suspense and mystery and was introduced to the greats: Chandler, Hammett, Collins, Christie, Doyle… I could go on and on. As I consumed more, I became enamored with mysteries that were more than just stories about victims but also used crime as a vehicle to comment on the region’s social and economic issues. My favorite mysteries are more than the sum of its body parts. They also scrutinize the worlds where these heinous crimes were allowed to occur.   

I wrote...

A Chain of Pearls

By Raemi A. Ray,

Book cover of A Chain of Pearls

What is my book about?

When the body of a celebrated journalist is fished from the Edgartown Harbor, the official report rules his death accidental. But why was Ed Gibson alone on a senator’s yacht during a winter storm? That’s just the first question London lawyer Kyra Gibson has when she arrives at Martha’s Vineyard to settle her estranged father’s affairs. The questions pile up until she’s forced to ask herself, ‘Was it an accident, or was it murder?’

With the help of jaded police detective Tarek Collins, Kyra uncovers the secrets lurking beneath the island’s picturesque façade and exposes the darkness hidden by wealth and privilege.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Raven Black

Raemi A. Ray Why did I love this book?

I loved visiting the Shetland isles with world-weary police inspector Jimmy Perez. The islands, the unique culture, weather, and the remoteness were such compelling components of the story. I loved how Ms. Cleeves used Scotland as one of her characters. She created this lush and detailed world that’s eerie and uncomfortable, the perfect setting for a murder mystery.

I’m also a sucker for a grumpy detective, and Jimmy Perez is such an understandably jaded character, but he still has a kind, warm heart under his crusty exterior that comes out when he’s interacting with his more novice colleagues and members of the community. 

By Ann Cleeves,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Raven Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Inspector Jimmy Perez. Raven Black is the first book in Ann Cleeves' bestselling Shetland series - now a major BBC One drama, starring Douglas Henshal.

A remote community with a killer in their midst . . .

On New Year's Day, Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .

The body is found…

Book cover of The Blackhouse

Raemi A. Ray Why did I love this book?

The Black House is a Scottish-based mystery featuring the remote Hebridean island of Lewis. I loved how May captures the essence of this island in this trilogy and uses actual historical and cultural events to weave the plot. Each of the Scottish Isles has its own unique culture, and I love how May explores this through the interactions between the characters from Lewis and mainland Scotland. 

I also really enjoyed the character arc and the prodigal-son-esque storyline of jaded detective Fin Macleod returning home. As he solves the murders, he has to face his own dark past.  

By Peter May,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Blackhouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'One of the best regarded crime series of recent years' Independent

A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.


Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.



Book cover of Rebecca

Raemi A. Ray Why did I love this book?

You can’t mention du Maurier’s Rebecca without mentioning Manderlay. The estate is essential to the entire spooky tale. I loved the way the house on a cliff feels sentient and antagonistic without the story ever venturing into the paranormal or supernatural. The reader is in the narrator’s head the entire time, and we’re left wondering what she’s imagining and what’s real. It’s such a well-crafted, haunting story. 

I also enjoyed the exploration of realistic morally gray characters: Maxim, Rebecca, Mrs. Danvers, and Jack. Everyone was at odds with the second Mrs. DeWinter, and their motivations were all complex and wonderfully twisted. 

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…

Book cover of In the Woods

Raemi A. Ray Why did I love this book?

French’s Dublin Murder Squad series introduces readers to the Dublin-based Gardai, who investigate and solve violent crimes in and around Dublin, Ireland. What I love most about this series is that each book follows a different detective within the same unit and their unique relationships with Dublin and the surrounding areas. French explores not just the crime but also the men and women who solve it. I love how these people are flawed, and they make mistakes while doing their jobs. 

In this installment, Rob Ryan returns to the site of his own childhood trauma to investigate a repeat of a twenty-year-old crime. I love a facing-one-demons plot, and this one doesn’t disappoint. 

By Tana French,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked In the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling debut, with over a million copies sold, that launched Tana French, author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher and "the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years" (The Washington Post).

"Required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting." -The New York Times

Now airing as a Starz series.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only…

Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

Raemi A. Ray Why did I love this book?

In this book, the protagonist escapes to modern-day London and uncovers a centuries-old mystery. The story is told in parallel timelines juxtaposing modern-day and Victorian London, and it’s such a cool vibe. I loved how the FMC, Caroline, walks the same roads and travels the same paths as the long-dead apothecary and how their stories of women in a misogynist society mirror each other.  

I loved following Caroline as she pieced together the story of the poisoners and the “crimes” they committed and how she stepped into her own and found her confidence.

By Sarah Penner,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Lost Apothecary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Named Most Anticipated of 2021 by Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Hello! magazine,, Bustle, Popsugar, Betches, Sweet July, and GoodReads!

March 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

“A bold, edgy, accomplished debut!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised…

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Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

Patrick G. Cox Author Of Ned Farrier Master Mariner: Call of the Cape

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

Captain Heron finds himself embroiled in a conflict that threatens to bring down the world order he is sworn to defend when a secretive Consortium seeks to undermine the World Treaty Organisation and the democracies it represents as he oversees the building and commissioning of a new starship.

When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

What is this book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built. He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon. The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. When Pantheon Agent Bast and her team kidnap Felicity Rowanberg, a Fleet agent…

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